Whitetail Credibility

Posted on July 22, 2014



“Time has a way of modifying almost everything in our lives.” – Gene Wensel, Buckskin and Bone


Wensel goes on to write:

I quickly realized how wrong I was in many of my initial thoughts and theories on whitetail deer and how to hunt them…Whitetails have a way of humbling us. Our hunting methods, equipment, attitudes, habitat, management ideas, and general deer knowledge will continue to change for centuries because we’ll never know all there is to know about the species. Given enough time, theories on almost any subject eventually prove to be either right or wrong. Enough right answers ultimately build useful information that later hopefully becomes common knowledge. Except for adaptation, whitetails have modified themselves very little over the centuries. Whitetail deer will always be whitetail deer.”


It takes a big man to admit his mistakes, honest as they may be, especially someone whom so many have followed over the past three decades. Seldom in any field of expertise do we find integrity trumping pride and politics. After all, as the thought process so often goes, if I admit that I may have been wrong in my assumption, or misguided with early thoughts on the subject of deer I may well lose my fans, endorsements, good standing in the ‘Good ole boys club’ and quite possibly be declassified as an ‘expert’, whatever that may mean.

With every new article written the risk of making a mistake is ever before you. With each successive speaking opportunity the hazard of verbal misspeak mounts. A theory that I am working on can easily be misconstrued as ‘Bernier’s emphatic opinion.’ With hundreds of articles in print, five books and scores of speaking engagements under my belt I know a little bit about the dangers of expressing opinions with little-to-no evidence to back up the claim.

I believe wholeheartedly that integrity is indeed the bedrock from which all communication must flow, written or spoken. I’ve maintained since beginning my career that if a certain aspect of whitetail knowledge is still undergoing scrutiny, at least in my mind, it is nothing more than a theory. When enough experience and facts supporting the supposition become available, that theory then becomes fact. I owe that to my audience. I bare a responsibility to those that dole out hard earned cash each month to read what I have to write. With that privilege – and yes, I count it an honor for someone to take time out of their life to read what I write – comes the accountability to be accurate with my whitetail insight. Unfortunately, as we all know that is not always the case with all writers. If it were, would there be such a disparity of conflicting opinions within the pages of deer hunting magazines?


I understand that sensationalism sells copy. I get it that hype and personalities garner lots of attention. And, I know full well the mantra that is routinely exercised, ‘When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.’ But where does that leave the reader? How do they go about disseminating fact from fiction? Who is actually believable? I am acutely aware that a large sector of our deer hunting fraternity does not have the same opportunities as I when it comes to time spent in the field, in and out of hunting season. They have jobs to work, families to support, and kids to raise. They squeeze in whatever time they have left to their whitetail passion. That is not to diminish the fact that these same folks have become students of the whitetail. They build food plots, hang trail cameras, watch hunting videos and TV shows, read, listen, and digest whitetail insight. For the most part, in the information age we now reside, deer hunters are informed. But again, I reiterate and ask how can we differentiate the facts from that which may only be someone’s limited experience, desire to sell us something or make a name for themselves?

I’m thankful that the white-tailed deer is, and continues to be a mysterious creature. We all need that mystery. It becomes the attraction that keeps us coming back and thirsting for more knowledge, more insight and more answers. After all, solving hunting challenges provides us with the greatest self-satisfaction. Despite what anyone may tell you, there are no short cuts; experience and common sense are the avenues by which wisdom and knowledge come. Just because someone is hailed as a hunting celebrity doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what they are talking or writing about. Just because a personality’s face is attached to a certain product is no guarantee that the product actually works. Let’s face it, it’s far easier to be gullible than to do your homework.


For those of us that are older, we can still remember Walter Cronkite on the CBS evening news signing off with, “And that’s the way it is for (date, year)”. Walter was believable and seldom did anyone question what he had to say during that thirty-minute span. Whether or not Cronkite was always accurate with his reporting would be speculative for me to comment, however, just because it’s spoken or in print doesn’t make it true. If we are to satisfy our curiosity regarding the validity of anyones communication, and that includes me, we must be diligent to question when what we see or read doesn’t match up with either our own experience or common sense. When some part of hunting is made to look far easier than what you’ve experienced, it’s probably been manipulated. If you read something that sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

No one knows all there is to the simple, yet complex life of the white-tailed deer. The only true expert is the whitetail himself. Anyone stating otherwise is either a liar or delusional. With each and every interaction with this magnificent animal, in or out of hunting season, with weapon, camera or note pad we bring back something more to build upon. Life is a school and when it comes to whitetails, there is no graduation; only further insight. Trust your instincts – your gut – when faced with information that may contradict already established beliefs. Follow up dead end trails that cause doubt, ask lots of questions, and always expect the unexpected. One important lesson that I have learned when it comes to whitetails is there is never an “always”.


I applaud Gene for his integrity, may the feet of all that take up the pen in this profession be held to the same fire!



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Posted in: Whitetail Deer