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This article looks at the unnatural way that many of today's whitetail hunters try to hunt deer and try to grow or "manufacture" deer on their land.
You've spent the last three years passing buck, planting food plots, creating sanctuaries and maintaining several trail cameras. It's the first week of November and from what you've seen on camera, it's going to be an amazing season. You know that all of your work is going to pay off this year. You've positioned your stand right between your best food plot and your man-made bedding area. No doubt, that 170" monster you've nicknamed Brutus will come walking by when the rut heats up and you will finally harvest the 7.5 year giant that has frequented your land for the past five years. Or maybe Split Brow will meet his demise this year, after all, you have over 300 pictures of him this year.
Now, fast forward two months, things didn't quite work out like you had planned and you end the season again without a mature buck. How could you not have harvested one of those four mature bucks you have been keeping tabs on all year? The deer eat better than you do and you've given them a dry shaded place to bed and a water hole and the list goes on. Not to worry, this winter and next spring you can create more bedding areas and more food plots and put out more cameras so you will have even more mature bucks (bigger than this year). Next year will be the year you harvest a Boone and Crocket buck.
Sound familiar? Although hunting started as a tool for survival, over time, it became a hobby and family tradition that many enjoy. It is an opportunity to lose your self and just become a spectator of nature. A chance to relax... It seems though, in the last decade or so, hunting has become more of an infomercial than an appreciation and enjoyment of nature.
No one can deny the fact that every hunting book and magazine, every video, every forum and online hunting site you visit, has at least a couple advertisements (if not allot more) for how you can grow and harvest bigger bucks. There are even weekend camps that you can pay money to attend so you too can make a deer lay down exactly where you want it to. It seems that we have digressed from an enjoyable sport of relaxing and just taking it all in, to growing, or manufacturing, the very thing that good old Mother Nature had figured out many, many years ago.
In a way, the whole commercialism of deer hunting really irritates me. My kids will grow up in a time where they will learn more about how to grow a big buck than they will learn about the simple joys of nature. Nature is really what hunting is all about. The real challenge and enjoyment of deer hunting for me, has always been hunting deer in a natural state doing what they were programmed to do, survive. It seems though, that the hunting industry has come up with a grand plan to outsmart Mother Nature and make deer do what we want them too.
I know a few of the younger generation hunters that have prime hunting land and spend a great deal of time, money and effort making their property a deer haven. They plant as much food as they possible can and create bedding areas and all sorts of other things to make things easier for the deer. Then, of course, they want to make sure what they are doing is paying off, so they hang 5-10 trail cameras all over their food plots to see what they have on the property. They have obviously gained most of their deer hunting knowledge from books and the internet and haven't taken advice and learned from the best teacher of all, the whitetail deer. They have grown up in a time of deer hunting infomercials and they believe they can manufacture their own deer. The problem, I believe, with a lot of this is the amount of messing around one has to do to get all of this work done. We end up spending so much time on our land, that the deer decide they would rather live elsewhere where there is less traffic. If only the deer would understand that we were doing it all for them and we intend to leave them alone until they are at least 4.5 years old, then they wouldn't leave.
Truth is, deer don't think like humans, they simply react to what happens around them. Their number one priority in life is to survive. In most of the country, the biggest threat to their survival is us, humans. Deer naturally will seek areas where hunting pressure is less. I guess you could say that deer like things natural. I think this is the single most important ingredient in the successful deer hunting recipe.
Think for a moment of that piece of property you drool over every time you drive by. The fields are littered with deer and several times a year you see a whopper of a buck cruising the property. Or maybe it is right next door to where you hunt, if only you could get permission to hunt the neighbor's property, then you would harvest a big buck every year. How could you not be successful? I mean the deer are everywhere. My guess is that the only thing that the property is lacking is hunting pressure and that is exactly why it is full of deer. I think that in today's deer hunting culture, we spend so much time making things better for our deer that we tend to actually do just the opposite and end up putting too much pressure on them and they leave (or become very keen to our presence and avoid us).
There is a piece of property that is just a few hundred yards from my house. It is a creek bottom that is long and narrow and probably consists of about 10 acres in all. The property is mostly low-land with a fair amount of willows and aspen trees. Directly east of this property is a huge block of timber and marsh and croplands. When I first started hunting the area, I would drool over the huge block of timber to the east of this creek bottom and dream about hunting it. Well, as things turn out, every year there is at least one big buck that lives in that small creek bottom next to my house. It is not the best hunting land in the area by any means and lacks food plots and good bedding areas, so why then does it consistently hold mature bucks year after year. Simple, nobody hunts there. The deer have figured out that they are safe there. They are willing to travel a little ways at night to eat and return to the creek bottom before daybreak. I am willing to bet that if I started hunting that creek bottom, it might be good for a year or two, but sooner or later the deer will figure out my presence, and become much more aware of my location.
I am not saying that food plots are all bad and that creating bedding areas can't improve your property. What I am saying is that I think in today's society of bigger is better, we need to be extremely careful of ruining our property by trying to improve it.