Ask Dr. Dave About Whitetails: Whitetail Myths

Josh D. from Virginia says that this will be his first year deer hunting. “I’ve been told that I need to bleed the deer out after harvesting, by cutting its throat. Is that true?”

No, Josh, that is a myth that has long been perpetuated by some hunters.

Dead deer shot by bow or gun will normally be bled out when you recover them. If you approach the animal and it is still alive, place a second arrow or bullet into the vital area immediately. Do not attempt to cut the throat. Not only does this ruin the cape for mounting, it is not necessary to do this to a dead deer. And you sure don’t want to do it to a live deer!

Dr. Dave Samuel

There are other myths that hunters spread that make little sense. One is that game agencies have stocked coyotes to help keep the deer herd down. No game agency has ever stocked coyotes. Coyotes arrived on their own. Another one is that turkeys and deer are in direct competition with each other. That’s not true either. True, turkeys may eat small acorns in the fall as do deer, but when there is a good acorn crop, there are more than enough to go around.

Another myth is that a dead deer with a swollen abdomen is inedible. That’s wrong! Unless that deer was left in the heat for a lengthy period before gutting, it probably is edible. Most deer (and elk, moose, caribou) bloat rather quickly after death from gasses in the stomach, even when the weather is cold.

Dr. Dave writes a weekly column for If you have a deer question for Dr. Dave, e-mail your question to Dr. Dave in care of Tom Kacheroski, senior editor of‘s content at

Dr. Dave studied deer for 30 years as a wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. In addition he has been a bowhunter for over 40 years, with deer being his main prey. He’s also an outdoor writer and has been with “Bowhunter” magazine for 30 years.

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