50 Years A Deer Hunter – What Have I Learned?

Posted on January 1, 2019



A great hunt need not be measured in game harvested.
It often results in the peace and tranquility of sitting motionless,
feeling no more than the wind in your face
and seeing autumn leaves dropping to the earth. – Primal Dreams



As I sat on my $9.99 tri-pod stool overlooking the largest scrape I’ve ever discovered, the thought came to me that this was my 50th hunting season. Sitting motionless on a stool is as foreign to this deer tracker as walking on land would be to a fish. However, due to medical issues I was relegated to far more sitting than hiking. Hunting from your ‘bottom’ gives one lots of time to think.



Ruminating on past hunts, successes and failures was the impetus behind scribing this piece. Bringing kind sentiments back to mind was warming such as Dan Schmidt, editor of Deer & Deer Hunting who wrote, “R.G. Bernier is really a living legend. He has perfected the craft of outsmarting wilderness bucks, having tracked down and killed dozens of hog-bodied whitetails and knows more about deer behavior than many professional biologists.” And then there is this penned by the late Charles Alsheimer, “There is no such thing as being a master when it comes to hunting whitetails. However, some come close. Dick Bernier is such a hunter. The hunting resume he’s assembled puts him on a plane few have experienced. He truly is a master tracker.”


Such humbling, yet appreciative accolades extolled by my peers in recognition of a career spanning many years.

Thus, for your enjoyment, education and entertainment here are 50 things that I have learned since beginning my deer hunting career at the age of ten, when high pop flies, whitetail deer and RBI’s were all I cared for then:

1. Deer hunting does indeed have a name: Deer hunting.

2. Whitetails adapt, they don’t change behaviorally.

3. The rut happens annually, but changes in its timing year to year.

4. Shooting a buck isn’t any easier today than it was when I was a boy of 10.

5. Following deer prints will indeed lead you to the deer making them…eventually.

6. Being a successful deer hunter has far more to do with dedication, persistence and time than it does being good at deer hunting.

7. If the whitetail is not the star of the show, you really have no show. Nobody gets up in the morning to go follow a hunting celebrity, they go to find a deer.

8. Not everything written, spoken or filmed is as it seems.

9. There are no short-cuts to success, yet, many a gullible deer hunter shells out cash for such illusions.

10. Hunting apparel is a choice, none of which is going to make you disappear or help you become successful even if it does have someone’s name or company logo on it.

11. Deer can and will show up unexpectedly at any time of the day.

12. Be Ready… Always.

13. You might not tag a deer each season, even after your best efforts.

14. If you want a big buck, don’t shoot a small one.

15. Shooting only mature bucks doesn’t make me a better hunter than anyone else, it just makes me more selective.

16. Big woods is a relative term with a connotation of remoteness. As a boy of 10, my backyard forest seemed vast.

17. Big bucks are what drives the whitetail hunting industry – green ones.

18. Slow is far better than fast when it comes to still-hunting, and slower is best. Use your eyes more than your legs.

19. No method of hunting is superior to another, it all comes down to choice, gratification and opportunity.

20. Choose a weapon that fits you and your style of hunting rather than selecting one that is popular.

21. Don’t compare your measures of success to someone else’s.

22. If you must apologize or pretext a deer you chose to shoot, you should not have pulled the trigger or released the arrow.

23. Tracking a buck on fresh snow is an adventure, not a premise for superiority.

24. If you catch up to and kill three out of every ten bucks tracked you’ve done well.

25. Nobody is shooting mature bucks in their bed after tracking them for only 20-minutes. NOBODY!

26. Whitetails, big bucks, deer hunting, tracking, deer kill statistics etc., don’t define me. It’s not who I am, it is what I do.

27. Memories born from adventurous experience far out-weigh even the heaviest bucks I’ve taken.

28. Deer hunting, which was once a recreation and pastime that filled the freezer for the tough winter months ahead, has now become a spectator sport to be viewed, a competition to be had, not so much with the animal, but against other hunters for bragging rights, and for some, to become noticed.

29. Enjoy each hunt to the fullest, regardless of the bag as you never know when it may be your last.

30. Surround yourself with great hunting partners. Choose them wisely and treat them better than yourself and the times afield will be priceless.

31. Always remember, it’s a hunt, not a shoot. When you must have a deer at any cost, the joy and uncertainty vanish.



32. Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.

33. When you pass up a deer, let it go by not second guessing yourself.

34. It is okay to pee in scrapes, I do it all the time.

35. Whitetails are curious regarding both scents and sounds, which is why they sometimes respond favorably to us.

36. Double-team: transitive verb; to block or guard (an opponent) with two players at one time. Deer hunting is not a basketball game.

37. Whitetails can see the colors of yellows and blues, but not red, green or orange.

38. Bucks are not territorial.

39. Understanding deer behavior is a far better edge than sharpening your knife on unproven gimmicks.

40. You cannot beat a whitetail’s nose…PERIOD. Hunt downwind.

41. Scent far more than sight governs a buck’s life.

42. No other creature so large lives so silently, so secretively and so self-effacingly.

43. Deer hunting is a recreation (fun) not a job.

44. Deer hunters are not super-heroes regardless of their success. It has more to do with where they hunt than it does how they hunt.

45. A buck does not live his entire life in a one-square mile area.

46. Simplicity overrides technology.

47. Dragging a deer out really is a drag, regardless of distance.

48. Hunt each hunt as if it were your last.

49. Deer hunting is not about the kill, it’s about the process.

50. Never lose the wonderment that you had as a boy of 10.

It is difficult for me to get my arms around the fact that 50 deer seasons have come and gone in my life. I’ve had some great hunts, incredible results and shared many deer camps with super friends and family. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and have enjoyed the entire ride. I guess at this point in my career I would have to concur with Gene Wensel when he stated, “A mature hunter will admit, hunting eventually becomes more important than shooting.”

How many seasons are yet to come for me? That I cannot answer, although I’m quite certain it will not be 50 more. So, I’ll leave it at this, for as long as I have breath in my lungs, and strength in my legs, I’m sure to found, on the track!

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