A Book Review: Shoot Deer

My book was reviewed by Free Northerner on his blog.

I’d like to point out that I was unhappy with the editing of it and I’ve had it edited by someone other than me.  I am in the midst of making some changes, and adding pictures.  I am particularly reworking the chapters on public land, rifles, muzzleloaders, and how to shoot a bow.

I would recommend waiting to buy my book until I re-release it.

Let me know in the comments if you have any questions, or would like to have your pictures posted.

 

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Shooting Does

I know a fair few successful deer hunters, and I’ve noticed a common trend among them: they [we] don’t shoot any does.

If you haven’t yet shot a deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you see.

If you want to hunt just for the meat, then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

If you enjoy hunting and are happy with shooting any deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you can.

If you have only very few days in the woods each year, then you should shoot does.

If you are required by law to shoot a doe before you can shoot a buck, then you should shoot the first doe that you can.

If you hunt where there are very, very few deer (and maybe lots of wolves, coyotes, and bears, like in Northern WI), then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

But if your goal is to shoot as many bucks as possible, or to shoot the biggest bucks possible, then every doe that you shoot will make it harder to shoot bucks.

If the does in your area are not comfortable where you hunt, then they will move elsewhere and take the bucks with them.  The does will be where the best food, water, and cover that they can find is.  When you shoot any deer you will, almost invariably, do more wandering around in the woods and make more noise exactly where you do not want to do any of that.

Many guys like to shoot the first doe they can and then hunt for bucks.  This can be a huge problem becasue when you cause all the ruckus in an area the deer may want to avoid it, and if there were several deer in a group when you shot one, then the others may well stay away from that area forever after.  And if those other group members avoid the area, then the bucks that will be after them during the rut won’t be around either.

If you need to shoot a doe, and still want to hunt bucks, then I would suggest shooting your doe at some public land that you do not normally hunt.

And the worst problem with shooting does is that bucks almost never lead does.  You may well shoot a doe that had a buck behind it that you did not see.

Absolutely nothing good (for your buck hunting) can come from shooting does.

Thoughts on the Conclusion of 2013

Today will be the last time I hunt the 2013 deer season, becasue I work through Sunday when the season in WI ends. An assortment of thoughts on the past year:

A point my dad learned is that we get little out of hunting the first week or two of October. Here in Wisconsin the archery season starts in the middle of September and the first week or two can be a good time to hunt. But after a week or two the deer seem to disappear until the rut begins in the end of October. Dad wonders if we shouldn’t be muskie fishing for those weeks instead of hunting.

My biggest mistake this past year was to put all my stands up in the same old places. We had a large scrape line in a new spot and it did not occur to me to hunt there until it was too late. I was too set in my ways and old stands to move where the deer were. The buck I did shoot was from the only spot I had not hunted before this season, and the first time I sat there. Next year, I aim to forget about where I used to hunt, and will put my stands in the places that seem best on the lay of the land. I’m going to adapt to my circumstances better next year.

My time working in a bow shop has taught me a few things. More guys than you’d think want to hunt with less efficient traditional bows, traditional muzzleloaders, and bows during the gun season. To get to be an above average deer hunter is not terribly hard; merely prioritize becoming a good hunter and you may well surpass your neighbors in ability and success. DO NOT BUY A USED COMPOUND BOW!!!!! EVER!!

Gorilla Treestands must have gone out of business this year. This is a shame because their stands were arguably the best, and half the cost of the only remaining quality stand on the market: the Lone Wolf Alpha Hang-On II ($250).

The equipment for your favorite hobby should be the best you can get. Saving a few bucks is no excuse for getting less than the best. Don’t buy cheap stuff and then complain about your failures. If something is your favorite hobby, then prioritize your funds to pay for the best.

Aluminum treestands creak in the cold and are therefore useless.

Metal ladder-stands are horrifically awful. You need to be totally out of your mind to buy a stand that weighs near as much as you do. Three men are the minimum for moving a ladder stand. I’m shocked no one was hurt with the one I moved this year. Don’t hunt from ladder stands!

Having all of your equipment ready to go before the season is great. If something was not great for you this past year, then right now is the time to find its replacement. Now, if not sooner.

If you wait until the last minute to get something, don’t be surprised when the store is out becasue everyone else forgot too.

I’m up to four stands where the first time I hunted them was the time I shot a buck there. I doubt the coincidence. My property size is limited and all the spots will have been hunted quite soon. I wonder if the trick is to pick, say, a third of your property each year to avoid hunting, so the deer always have a place to feel unpressurized where you hunt.

More, bigger and better tools should mean that the jobs get done in half the time. With my new atv, do you suspect that I will spend half the time putting things like food plots in, or have twice as many food plots?

Hunting vs. Everything Else

I’m pretty good at shooting hunting whitetail deer. I generally do better than everyone that I know. Excepting a few guys twice my age, I’ve shot more an bigger deer than anyone that I’ve met.

One reason for this is because I have spent more time in the woods than anyone that I know.

My dad decided long ago that he would spend his time hunting whitetail deer and catching muskies. Rather than do everything “half-assed” he decided to get good at two things only.

An awful lot of people try to catch all types of fish, hunt all kinds of animals, watch all sorts of TV, and so on.
Spending your time split amongst lots of things means that your experience in any one of them will be limited and your results will suffer.

If you only spend a few days per year doing something, then it will take you a lot of years to get any good at it.

I’d guess that I spent about as much time in a tree as the average guy does in five years. I’m getting five of their years of experience in one year. That means ten of their years of experience in two years. Very quickly my increased experience should hugely surpass the average hunter. Even if I’m not as smart, not as talented, more stubborn, etc. the vast experience that I have in the woods should give me an advantage over the average hunter.

Another way that spending your time on few rather than many hobbies improves your success is in the costs associated with participating.

Buying a rifle, and a muzzle loader, and a bow is expensive. If I also need to buy a fishing boat, a snowmobile, a motorcycle, a big tv, a big house, travel the world, etc, then the only way I can do everything is do do everything on the cheap. Most of us cannot afford to by all of the best stuff for every hobby that we have.

Buying lots of cheap stuff means we’ll end with lots of junk and nothing of quality. This will negatively affect your success. If you don’t know the name of your riflescope and I have a Swarovski on mine, then I’ll gain maybe a half hour of extra time at the beginning and ending of each day when it is too dark for you to see. Big bucks rarely appear during the day, and often appear at dawn and dusk. If I can see them and you can’t then don’t be surprised when I shoot more and bigger bucks than you.

One more problem with spreading your hobbies around is that you’ll often miss the best days.

As far as hunting and fishing goes some days are awful, many days are bad, some days are good, and a few days are awesome. The more days in the field, or on the lake, means that you’ll be more likely to hit the best days.

When its cold, windy, raining and you’re watching football, I’ll be up a tree.

A Resumption of Posting

I haven’t posted here in a while. I was hunting deer. How would I get good at it if I spend all my time writing about it rather than doing it?

I plan on resuming my posting here (now that most people have stopped being interested in the subject until next year).

I did acquire some digital versions of some of the deer that I have shot in the past.

New interesting posts beginning tomorrow.

2nd Buck

2nd Buck

First Buck with a Bow

First Buck with a Bow

Deer Tim Gun 2007 a

Deer Tim Gun 2011

Is Cold; Deer Need Food

Its December now, and that means that much of the whitetail deer habitat is covered in snow. The snow, and the fact that deer need more calories to keep their bodies warm, means that wherever there is deer food, there will be deer.

Find the food; find the deer.

One other note is that “deer corn” is made up of corn that is unsuitable for farm animals. “Deer corn” may contain diseases, or other bad shit.

If you want to feed your deer corn, then go to a feed mill and get livestock quality corn.

Oh…and putting a few pounds of food out today won’t bring deer running in today. To get constant deer action you need a regular supply of food in the same place all the time.

Baiting isn’t your only option either. You can plant foods that aren’t eaten until it gets cold. I have lots of turnips which aren’t eaten until the frost turns the starches into sugar.

Give food lots of a variety of foods and maintain the supply so the deer always know where to look.

(And watch your local baiting laws. Don’t blame me if you break your laws.)

Chapter 17: Hunting Methods

Now that you’ve found your deer hunting property, perhaps improved it, and maybe identified a particular buck, then it is time to plan your actual hunt.

There are a few methods used to hunt deer.

Hunting deer with dogs was not uncommon at one time. These days it is often illegal to hunt deer with the aid of dogs. I have not hunted deer with dogs, and don’t know how it is done. My understanding is that it is not much practiced these days.

If you want your dog to be involved in your deer hunting, then training him to collect shed antlers is a fine way to do so. Search the internet for dog trainers to help you with that. Or visit a hunting exposition. There will likely be dog trainers exhibiting there, and they should be able to help you out. But keep in mind that a dog chasing deer is a fine way to drive deer away from your property.

One of the reasons that hunting with dogs is not common is the same reason tracking deer is uncommon in much of the country. The owner of many hundreds, or thousands, of acres may have enough land to track deer, but the average hunter will not have the amount of land necessary to do so. There is not much point in tracking deer across your 40 acres if you can only do so for a few hundred yards before the deer moves onto your neighbor’s property.
It is my understanding that the deer hunters in Northern New England are the hunters who hunt by tracking. There is lots of public hunting land in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The public hunting in those states is large enough for you to follow a deer’s tracks for miles without trespassing.

The family that is always mentioned as the best deer hunters is the Benoits. There are several books written to describe how they hunt deer by tracking them and that is where you’ll want to turn your attention if tracking deer is what you want to do.

I wouldn’t recommend tracking deer in the large uninhabited lands if you are not at least very familiar with the area in particular. By wandering for miles, you’ll need to keep a close eye on where you are, and pay attention to the weather. Deer season runs through the fall and winter. Your survival skills will need to be good if order for you to track deer safely.

Many parts of the country still hunt deer by doing deer drives. Deer drives require lots of hunters, and lots of land to do well. With our culture of not being as friendly with our neighbors as we once were, and the preference to own our own land and not lets friends walk all over it, many places have seen a large decline in the number of deer drives.

The way a deer drive works is a few hunters stand in a line at a designated place, these hunters are on post. Then another line of hunters, walking spitting distance apart will walk, as a line, towards the hunters on post. All might carry guns, but those doing the walking will rarely see the deer that they are flushing out in front of them, and it will be the hunters on post that do most of the shooting. Much care must be taken to not shoot other hunters because many of them are out and it is difficult to tell where everyone is at any given time.

When deer are driven from their hiding places their path will often be a large arc. They seem to want to prefer to return to where they were, and to see whatever it is that drove them out.

Running shots at deer will be expected and hitting a fast moving target is always more difficult than hitting a stationary target.

One more thing to note about driving deer is that does will often make lots of noise when they are spooked. They will snort, and not make any effort to run away quietly. Does usually want to let all nearby deer know that there is danger around. Bucks are more likely to just try and disappear. Does will sometimes just try and disappear too, but if a deer is moving quietly it is most likely a buck.

Another deer hunting method is to walk around in the woods very slowly and quietly hoping to see a deer. I have tried this but have found it to be extremely ineffective and difficult. You are much better off stand hunting. When attempting this method you do not want to walk faster than around one step every ten minutes, or so I’m told. I’m no where near patient enough for that, and that would explain my poor results while attempting it (one miss with a muzzleloader).

All of the above mentioned deer hunting methods are of most use while hunting with a gun. It is incredibly difficult to get into archery range while hunting any of those ways. Hitting a running deer, during a deer drive, with an arrow would be a near impossible feat; almost no one would even try it.

The method of hunting deer most used today, and nearly exclusively by me, is stand hunting. The plan with stand hunting is to pick a good spot and then wait for the deer to arrive. The spot might be improved with bait, water, or food plots, but that is not always necessary.

Much like the tracker, a stand hunter needs to know the land. Deer need food, water, and cover. A stand hunter needs to know where all of those things are. Deer will spend their days in the cover and move to where there is food at dawn and dusk.

Ideally a stand hunter will have his stand located between the cover, parts of which are a deer’s bedding area, and the food, and/or water. Putting your stand in the cover will drive the deer away from that cover and looking for cover somewhere else. Putting your stand directly over the food, or water, means that there will be times when there are so many deer around that you won’t be able to move to shoot a deer. Deer are always looking out for danger and when you’re over food, they may be lots of deer, and lots of deer noses, eyes, and ears looking out for trouble.

Stand hunting deer has lots of advantages. Hunting from a stand means that you’ll rarely get lost, you get to hunt your own property, even if it is small, and you get to create and improve your own habitat. Its really the only way to hunt with a bow as well. (Unless your hunting skill vastly exceeds the author’s, and if so, you’d not need to read a book like this.)