Has Whitetail Deer Hunting changed?
There is a lot of talk of Quality Deer Management these days. People where I work that have their own land, some have just a 40 acre parcel and some have quite large parcels. Then there are the ones that hunt as I do on public lands. All year long I hear of people with trail cameras out on their lands and the deer they get pictures of. Most seem to emphasize the large racked bucks they get pictures of and the amount of deer pictures on their cameras. I am always hearing the question: "How big?" or "How many Points?" or "What is the spread of the rack?" or "What does it score?" The other question I hear a lot of is; "How many deer did you see?" What I don't hear a lot of, and I think I am the only one that asks it is: "Did you have fun? Did you enjoy the hunt?"
I had two younger guys this year tell me that they might quit deer hunting because they haven't been seeing many deer the last couple of years. One of them told me he hasn't seen a decent buck in about 4 years. Another guy at work was complaining because he says he doesn't have anywhere decent to hunt, only the public lands and that he can't afford to lease or buy land.
I hunt public lands not because I have to, but because I want to. In the past I have hunted private lands where I was given permission to hunt because I either leased the hunting rights or gained permission because I helped the farmer work his lands. One farm I had permission to hunt I was allowed on because the owner knew me and how I hunted. He owned about 600 acres. He asked me if I wanted to bow hunt his land. He told me he had been in QDM for 6 years and didn't have enough people hunting it to remove enough does and wanted me and my brother and sons to remove as many does as we could legally take and in return could hunt the large bucks he said he had on his land. He wasn't kidding. We could sit and see 30 deer just about any day. Still we had to hunt smart and hard to get the larger bucks. Mature does were abundant and it seemed like when we would shoot one it was replaced by two more. I would hunt a specific buck each year. My boys became spoiled, thinking this was what deer hunting was all about. We were the only bow hunters on the property. After a couple of very successful years of taking a few large bucks and many does both years I guess he didn't like that we took BIG bucks. His family only gun hunted and we didn't have permission to gun hunt his property. His family was never very successful at taking as large of bucks or many deer. So he one day asked me not to come back, that he had decided to let someone else hunt it. No problem, it was great fun while it lasted.
I then decided to hunt a public Wildlife Area that people say is heavily pressured and it is. The reason I hunt it is because it is challenging to be successful at getting any deer. Being consistently successful on the public land is rewarding to me, no matter what the size of buck it is. I run into hunters all the time that tell me they don't think there are any deer left. Many say they have never had an opportunity to shoot a buck on the public lands I hunt. Quite a few this year told me they didn't know we had bear there.
Even in the years that I decide to hold out for a large buck and end up eating my tag, I still enjoy the hunt.
My question to all of you is: What do you consider a "Quality Hunt" ?
Mine is being out in the woods and doing my best to take the quarry I am after with a quick kill and good shot. Whether or not I get what I'm after isn't a must, the kill is anti-climatic to me. It means the hunt is over. I enjoy the journey more from setting up the bow, to scouting, to waiting .......