We are on the eve of deer season. By now your blinds or deer stands should be set and your rifles sighted in. There is no substitute for being ready on opening morning.
Strange weather patterns this fall have made the deer rut. I believe there will be a lot of deer harvested this season if the weather cooperates and hunters want to leave their warm beds. There have been many mornings when I thought about rolling over and sleeping a few more hours. No doubt waking up and leaving a warm bed is the hardest part of any hunt.
I once did oversleep, walked to my deer stand and killed a nice buck within 15 minutes. This happens, but don’t count on it.
Once awake many of us stop at a gas station for drinks and some kind of snack, not the best thing to do if you are trying to remain scent free as possible.
Personally, I have never totally bought into the scent-free theory because of a deer’s amazing sense of smell. They can smell a dozen different scents on any human. That is why we always hunt with the wind blowing in our faces. I have had bucks walk within a few feet of my blind.
Many of you are experts, but for those just starting here are some facts about deer you need to know:
• Whitetail deer are survivors. City deer are tame compared to those that survive in hunting areas. Likely the biggest threat for city deer is being hit by a vehicle. Deer are fringe animals that can live close to a neighborhood in limited cover and are seldom seen. Some herds become somewhat tame and may be visible daily. You will likely see bigger bucks at dusk or dawn, unless the rut is in full swing. Deer in rural areas become master survivors by staying in deep cover to avoid humans and predators.
• Acute eyesight is their first line of defense. A whitetail’s eyes are found on the sides of its head, enabling the deer to have a field of view of about 310 degrees. This means a deer’s blind spot is only about 50 degrees – less than a third the size of a human’s. In comparison, humans with two healthy eyes have a 180-degree field of view.
Scientists found that deer actually do see some colors, especially blues. They, too, don’t have an ultraviolet lens, so their eyes are easily damaged by direct sunlight. This big difference provides better eyesight in low lights, explaining why some bigger bucks become nocturnal. Deer feeding in an open field at night is common and you might see this in city parks.
• A deer’s second line of defense is sound. Their hearing is much like ours, except they have a better ability to hear high-pitched sounds. Deer learn to associate human sounds as danger. For example, talking, shutting a car door and other sounds.
Deer and most wild animals learn early that only humans walk like a human in the woods. Deer take a step or two, stop and listen. Humans walk through the woods, crunching leaves and sticks while taking numerous steps without pause.
• Please don’t mistake city deer herds as approachable or tame in the sense of a favorite dog. Does go in season and bucks rut this time of year, becoming extremely dangerous. Bucks are territorial and ready to fight with sharp antlers and hooves. People have lost their lives or been seriously injured by mistaking an approaching buck as friendly.
If attacked, find cover quickly. In the worst-case scenario, curl up in a fetal position. The buck may butt you a couple times and then walk away, deciding you are not a threat, but only do this as a last means of surviving. A full-grown buck can kill a person, so be careful.
The fact is, bucks get somewhat nutty during the rut, running in front of speeding tractor trailers and doing all kinds of crazy things. Does go in season and drive them crazy.
• Many older bucks are killed during deer season because of their desire to breed. This is good news for hunters who may shoot a major buck that is nocturnal most of the year.
Most of us will soon be driving to our deer stands. This, too, is a time of caution. Hunters have deer/vehicle accidents every year. Here are 10 tips from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
1. When at all possible, avoid driving between dusk and dawn.
2. Try to avoid rural roads and poorly lit areas.
3. Be particularly vigilant when driving through areas with high foliage or low hanging branches on the roadside. If there are two people in the car, ask your passenger for help watching the sides of the road.
4. Reduce your speed, and don't overdrive your lights. The most common remark people make after they've been in a car-deer collision is that the animal "came out of nowhere."
5. If you see one deer on the side of the road and you're fortunate enough not to hit it, be sure to slow down, because where there is one deer, there will often be others.
6. Always wear your seatbelt.
7. Use high beam headlights as much as possible to light the sides of the roadway.
8. Do not ride motorcycles in areas with high deer populations. Riding a motorcycle leaves you much more vulnerable to serious injury in an accident than does driving a car.
9. Finally, if a collision with a deer is eminent, brake and hold the wheel straight. Too often, drivers swerve trying to avoid the animal, and drive off the road or into the path of another car. These accidents can often be more serious than hitting the deer would have been.
10. If you do hit a deer, stay in your car until help arrives. If the deer is still alive, it may be stunned and could become very aggressive if aroused.
Be safe and tag that big buck!
– Kenneth Kieser, a veteran outdoors writer and member of the Waterfowlers Hall of Fame and National Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame, writes a weekly outdoors column for The Examiner. Reach him at email@example.com.