Deer hunting season is rapidly approaching, with some western states already into deer and elk bow hunting and muzzle-loader seasons.
While many women will become “hunting widows,” another 3 million women enjoy the hunting sport themselves — it’s a fact that whether it’s for sport, trophy or pleasure, more women are going into the wilderness because the challenge of hunting for wild game, the pre-season scouting, trips to the woods in early fall, setting deer stands, or taking photographs can be enjoyed by women and men alike.
Whitetail deer (Odocoileus) are the most plentiful big game animal in North America. They have superb senses and ability to live near man. When hunting whitetails, a bow hunter will be matching wits with one of the smartest game animals in the country.
Today, the whitetail population is probably at its all time high, living in forests, forest edges, cornfields and brushy areas. In North America, sport hunters kill about 1 million Mule deer and 2 million whitetails annually.
There are three ways to hunt deer: Bow, muzzleloader and firearms. This is said to be true with the Mule deer also. Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), whose habitat is the western half of North America, gets its name from its large mule-like ears.
Some differences between whitetails and mule deer are: Whitetails have a tail tipped in white, branched antlers from a main beam, a top speed of 35 to 40 mph, an ability to jump over high windfalls, a keen sense of smell, and a good sense of hearing by flicking their ears back and forth, listening for danger.
The Mule deer has a black-tipped tail, forked antlers and large mule-sized ears that move constantly and independently. They also have a very distinct V-shaped mark extending from a point between the eyes upward, and large feet to claw out water or dig through snow for food. They do not run, but have a distinctive bounding leap called stotting over distances up to 8 yards with all four feet coming down together. They can do this at speeds of 45 mph for short periods.
One of my whitetail deer hunting experiences with a deer stand goes something like this: After numerous trips to the woods and fence rows in early fall, searching for trails, feeding areas or bedding spots, my husband and I found a trail that looked like a major highway. It was here that he and our son built deer stands for the three of us.
All ready for opening morning, using a flashlight and trying to be very quiet, we walked in different directions toward our stands. Reaching my area, dressed in hunting gear with hunting boots, and carrying my single-shot 20-gauge, with slugs in my coat pocket, I made my way to the stand.
With gun unloaded, I started up the ladder, only to find I was not able to climb to the second step. So, I decided to stand beside the tree. The sun was rising and the woods coming alive with the sounds of squirrels and birds. I was listening intently for sounds of deer walking on leaves, when a red fox came creeping down the trail.
It walked past me, seemingly not knowing I was there. But later, a fox squirrel became very agitated at my presence. Running back and forth on the ground off to the right of my stand, he jawed me out with his barks, then ran up a different tree, then jumped to the tree with my stand.
From there he came down the tree on the back side. Apparently thinking he was hidden, he moved over to check me out. As he peeked around the tree, I moved my glove-covered hand toward him. Startled, the squirrel fell from the tree at my feet — and it couldn’t get up and run off quickly enough.
I stood there laughing until, a few trees away, this squirrel gave me a “what for” lecture. Hoping not to have caused such a ruckus that it scared everything into the next county, I could only wait to see if anything else would use the trail.
Finally, a slight breeze came up, making it harder to hear the crushing of leaves caused by three does quietly appearing on the trail, strolling toward my stand. They stopped just a few feet from me and stomped their feet and snorted, raising their noses to pick out my scent.
As I stood very still, they came closer. still not discerning my scent or movement, they left the trail to circle around my stand. But since I had a buck tag only, the does were safe to proceed with their journey. As they moved around the stand, I moved, too, ever-so-slightly with them, so as to keep hidden.
Finally, the deer moved to a safe distance, stopped and looked over their shoulders, still trying to figure out what was back there — they knew something wasn’t right but couldn’t figure it out.
Time passed into early afternoon. My husband and son came walking toward my stand, surprised to find me standing next to the tree instead of sitting in it. My husband, Don, said he could see my tree from where his stand was located, and he didn’t think too much about not seeing me in the stand, because he thought I had gotten cold or bored and returned to the house.
It was then that I asked my guys which one of them built my stand, and my son, Scott replied he did. That might explain why the steps were so far apart — he is 6 feet 2 inches tall, compared to my 5 feet 4 inches. We had a good laugh, and I was promised that another step would be added.