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 .......
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I can let deer pass or take what I want. I enjoy just watching and listening. The day I shot my 11 pointer I was watching 3 squirrels "road racing" around a tree. All last year I enjoyed two fawns around me, passing under me and not 3 feet under my feet. Years back I had this gorgeous blue roan doe come in. Most beautiful deer I'd ever seen. I let her come and go as she pleased. Nice about my hunting, it's right in my back yard, so to speak. I get tired or bored the house is within 400 yards of my farest tree stand. I took the 11 pointer 250 yards from the house.
As far as deer numbers, it all depends where you're at and what they like. Our deer like corn. Bean fields are a far second choice. Field plots are a joke for our area unless you plant something different that gets their attention. We have more clover and alfafa growing wild than most farmers plant. Water, we have creeks and ponds enough out county could be called county of 1000 ponds (lakes if you consider 1 and 2 acre ponds lakes). Fulton County is ranked 3rd in the state for deer harvest.
place within 3 miles of me. If you can't count 100 deer in a evening it's because you can't count. Yeah, 100 deer and more can be counted every morning and every evening. It's a no hunting area of several hundred acres.
Between my house and the archery club 7 miles from me I used to count 30 deer and more in the fields I passed by.
Heck, our driveway goes between our two fields and I have to watch for deer coming and going out. Had one jump right over the hood of my Oldsmobile. Slammed the brakes on once coming in to keep from hitting 3 deer. I looked where they went and there were 6 of them. 26 acre field next to ours, counted 32 deer 3 evenings in a row. Must have been 8 bucks in with the does and fawns.
If anything has effected deer hunting in our area it's Outfitters. They lease up more and more property every year. It's getting hard to find a place to hunt, period. And when that one guy, RealTree, says "Take a kid hunting" I'd like to choke him. $2000 is getting the fee for a 6 day deer hunt. Shotgun season, a 3 day is $2500 and the 4 day is $3500. Who can afford $4000 to $7000 to go deer hunting with their kid?
I sell my 31 acres I'll more than likely quit hunting altogether.
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I agree with ya mike I also hunt public land cause its all i got besides a 15 acre piece of prvate. I like hunting the public land as much if not more even tho there is many hunters who hunt the wildlife refugee i hunt. I have shot many nice bucks and an awesome 330 bull elk from my private land and ive been the only hunter there for 15 years, the thing about the private land that makes it easier is im the only hunter but i have sat many of sits to see no deer but that dont matter to me as i just like being in the tree or blind. One thing I like about the public is that there is other hunters, you never know when someone will bump a giant your way and when u get a good buck on public land it is a real trophy cause not only did u outsmart the deer u also outsmarted 30 or more hunters. I like settin up my bow to scouting and plannin the hunt. I also think the kill is anti climatic cause it is over when it happens. I am in my early 30s and I become more patient and more willing to let deer walk every year I hunt . I have ate a few tags goin for the big one and am guilty of wanting to get the big ones but when u scout and see the big deer it is easier to let the smaller ones walk. As I get older I just enjoy bein outside there is always more to deer huntin than killn deer its about bein one with nature and outsmartn one of the smartest animals in the woods. I guess u could say I just enjoy bein in the woods cant stand the city would rather be in the sticks.Oh and I got my buck on public land this year and has to be one of my proudest deer huntin moments. I love public land and can get it done every year from it . I also think some people dont spend the time that it takes I hunted 77 straight days last year before I tagged a buck only took 23 days this year . Always been a firm believer about bein at the right place at the right time and it takes bein there to find that time out. I consider a qualtiy hunt as any hunt i get to do and returnin home safely if i seen deer or not its just bout bein in the woods for me. Sorry if I rambled , happy huntin.
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Don't know if whitetail hunting has changed but I think hunting in general sure has. I remember growing up most of what we hunted was private land we had permission to be on. Lots of different properties by different owners. These days people don't want hunters on their property even if you're friends of the family because they've either been burned by someone who didn't respect the land owner or because leasing land has become so lucrative and if you don't pay you can't hunt.
Now I hunt almost all public land. Archery season has lent me a longer season with more options to fill a tag, and fewer hunters in the woods competing over game. The last time I rifle hunted I was disgusted by the sea of hunter orange all around me. I'm pretty sure the were more hunters around than deer lol.
Washington state only gives you one deer tag a year unless you're lucky enough to draw a second. It's hard enough to fill one tag around here so I never try for a second. More than anything I enjoy being out in the woods and as long as I come home safe and have a story to tell it was a good hunt.
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I know I'm rambling on about this and I don't ask to be forgiven, it's how I feel.
Sonny, like you've said, I'm starting to see Outfitters leasing up large tracks of land or even the small farms. Lease prices are raising for hunting land and I can understand people saying they can't afford it. I do think however because of our "instant society" that the younger people live in, they think they should just be able to walk out into the woods, any woods and see deer. Not just 1 deer but a lot of deer. They are used to being instantly served and pleased. I have young people enter into our work force and grumble because they don't have enough time off work. They expect to make more money quick. I don't have 7 weeks of paid vacation a year because I just started working a few years ago. I worked full time and went to school, raised a family all at the same time to get where I am, I didn't have it handed to me. The same way, I learned how the deer and other animals I hunt move and live by observing and spending time out in the woods. Just like GBYO said I put in a lot of time to get what I get. I am happy to hear guys like GBYO say "its just bout bein in the woods".
I do think that now a days there is too much emphasis on the size of the rack, instead of the journey. I guess though it doesn't make a good video just seeing someone trying to find deer and watching other people walk past while you're sitting in a tree stand. I have learned though to quietly let the grouse hunters walk past with their dogs and watch for that buck to circle in behind them after they are gone. I've learned from sitting all day in a tree that some of those biggest supposedly nocturnal bucks like to cruise in the middle of the day, not just during the rut. I enjoy watching fishers hunt and chase squirrels. Most people that hunt the lands I hunt have never seen one in the wild. I see bear quite frequently while in the woods and have had them walk right under me while bow hunting whitetails. I enjoy even just sitting with my camera taking pictures of wildlife.
Enjoy the journey!!!!
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Times change. People change. I hate to pay to hunt but do it. I will still ask anyone if they will let me hunt for free. To answer your question, a quality hunt to me is being able to sit in the woods and allow my senses to take over and enjoy nature for a couple of hours. I do like to shoot deer though. I don't want to shoot a 2 year old deer. I am fortunate to see a lot of young deer. My goal for a buck is "bigger then the last buck", which is not that big. Hunting to me is spiritual....the soul and mind coming together.
2013 PANTERA w/ cloaked cams, PINK Meta peep, PINK/BROWN BSD strings, PINK/BROWN BowJax, Truglo Range Rover Pendulum Site, Shockwave Stabilizer
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2010 G5 Quest Primal
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Well, first shotgun season has come and gone. Reports are that deer harvest was down 20,000! One local Outfitter removed a 5 room Quick Put Up house. I didn't see the people from Georgia this year. Can't miss them. They drive this flat bed Semi truck in with 2 cabins on it. One offered me $130,000 for my place a couple years ago. Had one of those Sports Realtors come in. Told me if I wanted to sell to put it up for $200K. Says you can always go down. Well, I ain't put our place for sale yet....
I see that alot around here too. People from the bigger cities come in and lease up all the farm ground they can. The old farmer I hunt on has 360 acres. He's had people offer him as much as $5000 for a year lease. Fortunately, he tells them no, and lets me hunt for free. The biggest problem landowners have around here is, the majority of people in the bigger cities have no respect for the land they lease. They'll cut fences, leave trash, etc. Most lose their lease after 1-2 years.
As far as hunting goes, I think it's a sad trend that hunting is taking. Very few people are hunters anymore. Most are just shooters. The only thing that matters is rack size to them. Granted, we all like big racked, mature bucks. That's the goal of alot of hunters, me included. I'll only eat one deer a year, and I don't NEED the meat, so I wait for a nice trophy class animal. However, if I don't get a shot at one, I still consider it a successful hunting season. As long as I learn something while I'm out in the woods, it's a good season for me. This year the farm I hunt has turned into a cattle ranch. No food crops at all. It's been a rough time trying to figure out the new bedding areas, travel routes, etc. Most of the deer have left the property for a neighboring farm that has crops. Still a few nice bucks running around the place, but much fewer and farther between. Been finding beds in areas that have never been bedding areas before, and are much closer to neighboring properties. I've been trying to get my girlfriend her first deer as well. She got the archery bug after watching me shooting my bows, and has become a pretty decent shot herself. If she gets a deer, I'll consider it a very rewarding year, even if I have to eat tag soup. THAT is what deer hunting is to me. Learning, experiencing, and sharing my knowledge with others. The big racks and kills are all secondary. I'd be just as proud of the girlfriend if she shot a spike or doe as I would if she shot a big 10 point.
It's just sad that so many people don't understand it's about the greatness of nature, and what you can learn from it, not about how much money you can spend trying to get a big buck. Learn woodsmanship, not accounting.
My rambling is done now. lol
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Yeah, I know I'm grumpy and opinionated.
I couldn't agree more with you, on all fronts. My father and I have been lucky enough to hunt our very close family friend's 174 acres for 25 plus years now and it has always been about time spent with each other rather than big bucks. We don't hunt extremely hard, weekend mostly, but we have managed to harvest some nice trophies for our area of NYS. Most important to us has always been the campfire, a few beers and some shared venison on the grill. Not all of us tag out each year with a monster buck, but there is always venison for next season grill and always a story for the campfire. To me it's all about what you are taught and the example that is set for you. My father did a great job at that and I hope to do as well for my son. The age of IPhones and Monster Buck videos has done well to get people into the sport and start an interest, but if you don't have a mentor there to set you straight about reality, you'll maintain a false idea of what hunting means and the effort it involves. I guess that's why I'm always looking to DIY, bowhunt vs gun hunt, fly fish vs gear fish. It's all about the challenge and getting there!
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I agree Mike, I think it's a shame that so many hunters become fixated on inches. To me they miss the meaning of being out there and witnessing the sights and sounds of nature. We get to be in and see what the masses only see on television, for me I am blessed to just to be able to get out there. Not only do we get to spend time out in the field, but if we fill a tag we get to share that good fortune with our friends and family. While I am out in the woods hunting in the hopes of putting a big buck or doe in the freezer it is far from the only reason to be there hunting. In my opinion every hunt that I return home from is a successful day in the field and more often then not I have a story about an encounter that I have had on stand.