In last week’s post, I wrote a bit about a specific area that I have been focusing on as of late. Though I do not consider myself a trophy hunter per say, like many hunters, within the confines of hunting, I spend a lot of time hunting deer, I don’t necessarily kill or seek to kill every deer that I encounter, and, following the “anything worth doing is worth obsessing over” mantra, I constantly seek to improve my hunting skills in all ways. In terms of hunting Whitetail deer in a part of the country with an abundant population, this philosophy tends to translate into a certain degree of selectivity and, when the opportunity arises, matching myself head to head with a particular mature deer who has become masterful in the art of avoiding hunters. If you are a hunter, you may very well consider that philosophy “trophy hunting”, though the general public seems to take exception with that term as it implies a style of hunting where the procurement of meat is not emphasized. Though not necessarily true, that is the implication, for better or worse.
While filling the freezer with super high quality protein is my ultimate goal with regards to hunting, that does not mean that I demphasise the overall experience, look for ethical shortcuts in the procurement of that meat, nor does it mean that I avoid improving my overall skills as a hunter and/or avoid challenging the skill set that I presently possess.
Within the parameters of hunting Whitetail deer, there is no better way to establish a benchmark than to pursue a specific animal whose will to survive, use of the terrain, and acute senses are far greater that your actual desire and willingness to go to great efforts to attempt to kill that same animal, much less your comparative woodmanship skills. Enter the mature Whitetail buck; A loner by nature who tends to avoid encounters with humans by remaining hidden during daylight hours and stay within or very close to terrain features that are unhuntable or extremely difficult to hunt.
Despite having access to about 1,000 acres, this 70 yard wide “pinch point”, an overgrown ravine compressed by the corner of an adjacent field and a unmaintained, severely overgrown fence line that separates the woods from a super dense CRP field (on land where there is no hunting access), became my immediate focus of attention due to its funnel like features, overlooked qualities (too thick to hunt when there is the option of open fields) and ample cover.
Over the course of several hunts, I had numerous astoundingly fine days of deer hunting, catching glimpses of this buck in particular as well as encountering a near constant flow of deer activity throughout the day, presumably due to the safe cover and terrain “edges” (Whitetails love edges) this area provides. The three of us who are permitted regular access to this property had all experienced encounters with this particular buck and had all three gone about hunting him along this same terrain feature using varying tactics. The landowner, who had the longest history and most encounters with this buck, commented how the deer did not seem to ever leave this particular core area during daylight -seldom, if ever, exposing himself to hunting pressure.
On Friday Dec 19th, I got delayed setting up camp for the weekend and ended up afield rather late. With sunset at 4:30 this time of year, I would normally try to be in place by 1:30 PM, certainly no later than 2 PM for an evening hunt. Since I was hunting inside the woods and deer tend to be on their feet several hours earlier in cover before exposing themselves in open fields and, since previous experience with this terrain feature had constant deer encounters throughout the day, I did not want to risk spooking any deer (in particular, this buck), so I flopped down on the nearby field edge, a mere 70-80 yards from where I intended to hunt inside the woods. I’ll be honest, I did not have expectations to see much, if anything at all. The further we get into the “late season”, the more sensitive to hunting pressure deer become and often respond by exposing themselves less in daylight hours, particularly in open fields. Much to my surprise, the buck in question stepped out on the field edge. I had the immediate jolt of adrenaline most hunters get when you encounter a big buck and, with a quick turn of the head, confirmed it was indeed the buck in question, took a 167 yard shot without much more than a second to think and watched the buck run as fast or faster than I have ever seen any deer run, crossing the field and disappearing into the dense woods. All of this happened in less than 3 or 4 seconds.
I ended up finding the buck a short 25 yards inside of the treeline, back in his core habitat and only about 250-300 yards up the fence line from where I had been hunting him. At the end of the day, one is left to ponder how much of successfully targeting a mature deer is wiring down their behavioral tendencies and relying on your skill set as a hunter versus pure, dumb luck. Over the weekend, I have been back and forth on this many times. Sure, I had previous encounters with that particular deer. Sure, my observations as well as the other hunter’s observations who hunt this property indicated that this deer tended to stay, if not exclusively stayed, in this thick, core area along the overgrown fence line. We each took our own approach to hunting this core area. I cannot say for certain that my tactics were any better than anyone else’s. I also would likely not have hunted that field edge since I’m not much of a field hunter to begin with. Based on that, I can only credit my hunting skill set a limited amount in this case, though I can say that the overall A-to-Z experience of hunting this deer improved that skill set.
As a footnote, being a meat-centric, wild game & hunting blog, we are no strangers to antihunting sentiments, hate mail and threats. In particular, pictures of dead animals, “Grip n Grin” photos and, of course, photos of “trophy” (whatever that means) animals seems to generate more hate mail than usual. If it makes any difference, all of the meat from this animal will be used, respected and revered. Though this is a story about a deer that was hunted and killed, many other deer were not killed during the pursuit of this animal. If you are already formulating your hate mail, this likely makes no difference to you, however, I would encourage to invest your time and energy in another pursuit since heavy filters and comment approval will likely send your hate mail sentiments directly to internet limbo. You are the one, after all, visiting a blog called “Go Carnivore” and any of your sentiments, ideas, arguments and agendas have long been played both here and elsewhere.