Consider the Source

Published by Bob Humphrey on

I find it particularly interesting what deer hunters do and do not consider to be reliable sources for hunting advice. Some folks tend to favor the local experts, specialists, while others seek the advice of those with a more diverse and exotic resume. Some look to both, at different times.

There are two types of local experts. One is the real local expert, who may be known within his hometown or even several local communities. He knows it all and, “Ain’t none of them so-called experts gonna teach him anything he don’t already know.” Guess what, Obie? Someone can claim to have, “20 years of experience.” But if they hunt the same ground, using the same tactics, then they’ve really only have one year of hunting experience, 20 times. You’re decades of experience will serve devotees in town well, but might not do them much good in the next county, or state.

Then there are the colloquial experts. Many regions of the country are known for a specific style of hunting particularly well suited to its endemic region. Northern New Englanders are enamored of their deer trackers. Through a combination of keen woodsmanship and mental and physical endurance they literally track down their prey, much like a wolf. But their tactics aren’t very applicable to the New Jersey suburbs, the rolling hardwood ridges of Ohio or just about anywhere south of central New Hampshire and northern Minnesota.

The midwesterners, which includes most of the TV stars, kill more big bucks than all the rest of us combined. These guys, mostly bowhunters, must be meticulous students of deer behavior, and experts at blending into their environment. Rather than wolves, their hunting style is more like that of a big cat, involving sedentary surprise and patience.

I don’t mean to disparage my midwestern brethren, but if you’re a serious deer hunter with exclusive access to a good piece of ground in states like Iowa, Illinois, Kansas or Missouri and you’re not killing at least a 140 buck every year, with your bow, you should probably consider taking up golf. In fact, most midwesterners who can legitimately claim the title of “serious deer hunter” are passing up deer that most folks from the northeast, southeast and a whole lot of other places might consider the buck of a lifetime.

In the deep south they hunt from box blinds and shooting houses, often over green fields. Say what you want about that but it works. In Texas, they hunt over feeders. In Pennsylvania they drive deer with humans, and down south they use dogs. That may not be your style, but if you end up hunting in those parts, it certainly would be helpful to know how deer are hunted there, and how those practices influence the deer you are hunting.

In the far west they spot from a long way off then stalk within range. They’re not worried about being out at the crack of dawn on opening day, like hunters from more populous states. They don’t hurry to get on a deer as soon as it’s sighted, like the big woods guys, or the midwestern shotgunners. They watch, study and wait, often for the deer to bed, then make their move.

The point is, a lot of the colloquial experts become fish out of water when taken away from their home turf. I once did a deep south hunt with a fellow outdoor scribe and somewhat noteworthy public figure (I won’t mention any names) who had more than a few deer seasons under his belt. Thus I was totally taken aback when he mentioned how excited he was as this would be his first experience hunting from a treestand. Say What!? Nationwide, the vast majority of deer hunters ply their avocation from an elevated platform. If you’re going to write magazine articles and books for them, you should at least be familiar with how they hunt.

For my money, I’m going to seek out the generalist, the guy who has been there and done that. His, or her perspective is much broader and well rounded. He, or she can legitimately claim to have 20, 30 or 40 years of deer hunting experience, and the title of “expert,” though most real authorities won’t. They’re less concerned with what you think of them and more concerned with finding answers to the questions that only occur to you when you reach an elite level of hunting experience.

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