Deer hunting is a year round process
That's what the last paragraph of last week's column should have said, but somewhere between my office and the printed page, most of it went astray. I think the Florida vote counters were involved.
Anyway, deer seasons are over for this year, so right now is an excellent time to hunt. I can explain that contradiction by pointing out that I did not suggest shooting. Yet the hunting regulations booklet says, "Hunt means to take or attempt to take...," so maybe I'd better just say that right now is an excellent time to scout.
The Fall issue of Mule Deer magazine has an article that details how Will Henderson, takes bragging-sized bucks within a short distance of his home in Terrebonne. Experienced hunters know our region doesn't produce a lot of trophy bucks, but you don't need a lot. Just one per year.
Will is successful because he hunts...er...scouts year around. He also hangs around taxidermy shops, feed and seed stores, certain restaurants and coffee shops, sporting goods stores, and other spots where ranchers, farmers and hunters tend to meet. He talks with those whose jobs get them out and about - state wildlife biologists, U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management employees, rural mail and United Parcel Service drivers, real estate agents and ranchers.
If Will hears of a huge buck, he checks it out personally. If it's on private land, he either obtains permission, or doesn't go there. Will often hunts public lands adjoining ranches, because he knows that while big bucks may feed on the irrigated fields, they tend to drift back onto the rough, rocky public lands to bed in seclusion. While many mule deer migrate from lowland winter range to high-country summer range, many deer have learned to stay near agricultural lands all year.
Scouting right now has the advantage of the rut, when bucks lose much of their natural caution, and can be spotted in the open, in daylight, as they chase does.
After bucks shed their antlers in the winter, scouting is put on hold until the new antlers get some growth the following summer.
In late summer Will cranks up his second phase, which is locating specific trophy animals. He searches for huge tracks by riding his mountain bike on little-used dirt roads. He then follows those tracks on foot, to get sight of the buck, to decide if it's big enough for consideration. Will tries to line up several deer, in case somebody else kills his first choice.
Then about two weeks before the season, Will stalks each buck as if it were hunting season, to learn each buck's bedding pattern, and how it reacts when jumped.
All this knowledge is used during hunting season, for by then Will has 2-3-4 bucks picked out, knows their tracks, home range and the types of places they like to bed, and knows how they react to hunters.
Will practices shooting year around, so he stands an excellent chance of hitting his chosen buck when he jumps it.
I've seen Will Henderson's trophy room, and I'm amazed that such big bucks are found in our area. As Will told me, all it takes is dedication to year around study.
Ed Park has been a full-time freelance outdoor writer and photographer since 1961.