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Archive for Sunday, December 12, 2004

Commentary: Hunters forget they’re amateurs, deer are pros

December 12, 2004

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There were four tower blinds in the pasture where Bill Glendening sat shivering in a cold, misty rain. Glendening could see one of the cozy, dry towers from his makeshift ground blind.

The deer he was hunting, however, had never been seen from any of the established blinds, so Glendening's guide, Jason Sekula, figured the best tactic was to huddle on the ground, hoping for the element of surprise.

Sekula's gamble paid off when a 7-year-old buck suddenly appeared and Glendening made an accurate shot.

Glendening's buck, taken on the Shiner Ranch, is the highest-scoring 10-pointer reported in Texas. Its massive antlers, with four tines longer than 13 inches, would catch the attention of the most jaded whitetail hunter. The net Boone and Crockett score is 189.

How could such a deer exist on a hunting ranch and only be seen from a helicopter during game surveys?

A mature buck is a pro at surviving, while humans are amateurs when it comes to hunting. For us, hunting is a game briefly played on unfamiliar terrain. For the deer, it's a life-or-death drama played every day on a field with which the deer is intimately familiar.

Dr. James Kroll, a well-known whitetail researcher and author, often monitors deer movements electronically. Kroll says deer do a good job of patterning hunters.

"By the time a buck is 5 years old, he's learned through experience that he's most likely to encounter people early and late. That's when most hunters are active because that's when they think most deer are active. What the deer sometimes do is restrict their movements to midday hours. They've learned that they won't be disturbed in the middle of the day."

It's not hard for deer to tell when hunters are in the woods. Hunters drive through the habitat on ATVs or in trucks, or walk through, talking loudly and generally making their presence known to the game.

Kroll says a quiet approach is the best approach. Consider the wind direction not only as it applies to your chosen stand location but to the route you take to reach the stand.

Kroll has as many approach routes to his stand as he has stand sites. He may travel a mile out of his way to reach the stand site while disturbing as little habitat as possible. Walk upwind of a bedding area to your stand and the deer know there's danger in the woods.

Another thing deer remember is that hunters are often found in elaborate, comfortable blinds. Once the deer sense hunting pressure, they learn to avoid blinds, particularly new blinds constructed just prior to hunting season.

Deer are good at remaining still, and that's a talent deer hunters should cultivate. In the cat-and-mouse game of deer hunting, whoever moves is at a disadvantage.

Whitetails don't really have a good memory. Evolution has honed them into animals with a remarkable ability to adapt to the presence of people. Neither do deer hunters have a good memory.

For the last 10 generations, our hunting skills have diminished as supermarkets replaced woodlands as our primary source of food.

Attention to the simple details is what most hunters forget and most deer remember.

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