Deer (Hunting) Baloney

At deer camp a few years ago, one of the boys had made a good hit and was recruiting a search party. As we were heading out, a voice from in back of the cabin shouted, “Make sure you bleed it out as soon as you find it.”

Our adviser, that quaint combination of lazy and dumb, got me thinking. Why do people keep saying that? How can they not realize dead things don’t “bleed out?” And what about all that other baloney hunters are always quoting like scripture?

So I decided to make a list. Here are seven “slices” of hunting baloney I’d most like to see go away:

Seven Myths Debunked
1. “I don’t shoot does — that’s too easy. I always hold out for a buck.”

Where did people get the idea that a buck is a greater challenge than a doe? It’s all about age and experience: An older doe is cagier than a younger buck. She’s spent years taking care of not just herself, but fawns as well. Actually, a year-and-a-half-old buck — the type we most often harvest — is the most vulnerable deer in the woods. Why? Not only is he lacking in experience; he’s recently been sent packing by his mother and is probably alone on unfamiliar turf. If real challenge is what you seek, go after mom and let junior get a couple more years of experience under his rack.

2. “When bowhunting, wait till the animal moves its front leg forward before taking the shot.”

Supposedly the leg bone clears the chest cavity and provides a larger vital zone target. This may be good advice for ground-level shots, but we bowhunters are doing most of our shooting from trees. In many, if not most cases, the animal’s vitals are more protected from high-angle shots when it moves its leg forward. The shoulder blade comes down to cover more of the rib cage and the leg bone never was in the way to begin with. From a high angle, it’s often better to wait till the animal’s front leg comes back. (Check for yourself next time you’re processing a deer.)

3. “I’m going to wait till the second rut before I go out hunting again.”

It sounds good in theory: a month after the peak rut, unbred does come back into heat, and the bucks again go nuts, creating a secondary rut. But it’s not supported by scientific evidence.

Throughout most of the country, whitetail breeding starts in September, increases gradually to a definite peak in early to mid-November, and tails off gradually into January.

There is no “secondary peak” a month later. Don’t wait for a second rut — there’s more activity earlier, depending on gun seasons, and other factors in your region.

Accuracy More Important Than Distance
4. “No bowhunters should ever shoot from 50 yards at an animal.”

The baloney here is in the absolutism. Most people shouldn’t ever shoot arrows at deer at 50 yards. Of course, there are some that shouldn’t shoot arrows at 20 yards. But there are others who through dedication and practice are quite capable of deadly accuracy at 50 yards and beyond — and are beyond reproach for taking it in the right situation.

5.Hey, squirt some of this on my backside so the deer don’t smell me.”

Sure, go ahead and spray down, use a laser rangefinder, and bolt all those high-tech accessories to your bow. But don’t let reliance on all that replace woodsmanship and hunting skills. You’ll eventually be disappointed.

One of the most common and disastrous mistakes hunters make is using a tree stand too low and too open.

6. “I like to get about 10 feet up in a tree.”

I can’t believe how many hunters take the trouble to set up a tree stand, and then put it only 8-, 10-, 12 feet off the ground. It’s exactly the worst place to be. You’d be better off staying on the ground. The best scenario is a tree stand 16- to 22 feet up.

7. “It takes a miracle to recover a deer that’s been shot too far back.”

No, all it takes is perseverance and enough common sense to not blow it. If it happens to you, sneak out of the area carefully; if you avoid disturbing the animal, it will usually bed down in 100 yards to 600 yards and expire there. Wait as long as you can –six hours at least. Bring experienced help. If you lose the blood trail, a disciplined grid search should locate the deer.

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