Deer Hunters Just Want to Hunt Deer

Posted on July 2, 2019



Deer hunters don’t hunt deer because they can,
they hunt deer because they want to. – RGB



We whitetail deer hunters may well be one of the most impassioned minority groups in America today. We have very opinionated beliefs, ingrained and passed down from generations of hunters before us. Although we may argue amongst ourselves over petty differences and preferred methods, weapons, Sunday hunting, antler restrictions, antlerless permits, winter feeding, etc., when necessary, we come together like the ragged troops of Scotland’s own William Wallace to stand as one voice.



If you doubt that last sentence, show up to a meeting where a State Fish & Game wants to change something regarding deer hunting that may well have a dire affect on previous provisions. Contentious, loud, and vociferous may well be an understatement. These open-to-the-public meetings are typically packed by huntsmen and women clad in traditional hunting attire, ready to go to battle. You can almost smell the tension in the air.

The only change we want is the change in our pocket

Deer hunters, like so many others in society are resistant to change, whether beneficial or not. For example, never in my lifetime have we witnessed a more fervent battle between hunters and a game department than the one waged in Pennsylvania that began in 1999.

“You cannot fix problems without making changes and you cannot make changes without controversy. You become seen as a problem. You become seen as dangerous. But you can’t fix problems without upsetting people.” – Gary Alt – Former PA Game Commission Deer Management Supervisor



Change is never easy. Traditions die hard, if ever. Pennsylvania had a hundred-plus-year-old tradition of seeing lots and lots of deer. According to Natural Resource Consultant Bryon Shissler:
“The tradition in Pennsylvania has been that you have this high density of deer and a high density of hunters and you stir them all up and wait for a deer to run past you.” While that may seem like a ‘deer hunting utopia’ on the outside, in reality, whitetails in Pennsylvania have literally eaten themselves out of house and home. And because for decades the whitetail herd had been grossly mismanaged and allowed to proliferate beyond what land could sustain, much of the habitat in Pennsylvania has been severely impacted. Alt simplified what has become a rather contentious, and often misunderstood relationship between deer and their environment,

“It’s okay to like to catch fish, but if you like fish you had damn sure better be pretty interested in clean water, too. If the water is polluted, you can throw all the fish in the world back but they’re not going to survive. The habitat is just not there. It’s the same with deer. You can pass on shooting does all day long, but if there’s no habitat for them, if there’s nothing for them to eat, if you aren’t getting regeneration of oaks and other seedlings, you can never grow more deer. They won’t be there when you want to hunt them because there’s nothing for them to survive on…Hunter expectations were developed in an era with extremely high deer densities. That caused a love affair with seeing lots of deer. They loved it so much they (hunters) got hooked on it. That fueled their desires. The result, though, was that those desires prevented proper deer management, and caused billions of dollars in ecological damage.”

Don’t confuse us with facts.

Facts are important and have their place, just not in deer camp. We want to know what is going on within the industry, deer herds, management and so on, but once we are engaged in the hunt, no facts, if you please. We just want to hunt. We want to return to the idyllic days of Daniel Boone and Davey Crockett. We wish to believe the acreage we’re hunting, no matter its size, is endless and contains bucks the size of which spurred the Boone & Crockett club establishment.



We are not interested in all the hoopla, convoluted facts and Fake News shrouding CWD, a potential mysterious killer of deer. It’s understandable that hunters should be warned, but not frightened. The only zombie deer are those contrived by them who wish to rob us of our God given right to hunt.

War on vermin

Deer hunters have a hatred of anything that competes with them for the same game; the white-tailed deer. Wolves, where prevalent, and coyotes everywhere are the number one enemy. Yes, I have stated this on many occasions: wolves and coyotes must eat. Despite our best efforts, they will never completely be eliminated, nor should they be. But they indeed should be managed to an acceptable level.



In our mind, it’s tough enough to kill a whitetail without having to compete with four-legged carnivores that by their very presence put deer on edge 24/7.

How to

Wildlife photographer Mike Biggs writes in The Whitetail Chronicles, “Will technology eventually create such an artificiality that it could destroy the mystique which brought us here in the first place? In extreme cases that might be possible. Certainly, we don’t want to see whitetails come to share the same status as livestock. Nobody wants to hunt a Hereford.”



With the advancement of phone apps, game cameras and the like, I just wonder how much of that mystique is lost by some of us? For me, being a tracker that hunt’s primarily in the wilderness, everything I learn is gained by the sign that I find traversing the countryside. Every rub, scrape, track and contact with the deer is a new experience that is compared with prior interactions. You see, as Mike continues, “For most of us, the real frontier of whitetail enlightenment lies in the accurate perception of their lives and times – the true understanding of how whitetails live, develop, behave and age under natural circumstances. We want the knowledge. We need the mystery.”



We want to know as much as possible about the animal. That, in and of itself, will put more deer before us than all the gimmicks that promote success. Every deer hunter wants to succeed, but deep down, we want all the qualities that will make for lasting memories beyond just a pile of dead deer flesh.


Cyndi Lauper’s hit song Girls Just Want to Have Fun should be the rally cry for deer hunters. If you’re not having fun, what went wrong? Deer hunters hunt because they want to have fun doing it. Sure, it takes sweat equity, toil, enginuity, persistence, practice, proficiency, and even a bit of good fortune every now and again.



When we take a son/daughter, grandchild or youngster hunting, our priority is and must be to make it fun for them. If they have fun, they’ll be inclined to want to come back and do it again. This simple rule is too often lost on us veterans of the sport. When opportunities fail us, for whatever reason the fun is let out of the balloon. We tend to angst, second guess and berate ourselves for, in many instances something that is completely out of our control.

We must remember, the animal we pursue has a great will to live that is greater than our will to rob him of his life. QDMA founder, Joe Hamilton encapsulates the spirit of the hunt as he writes, “This is my creed. A seasoned hunter, one with the hunting spirit, pursues his quarry on each occasion with the enthusiasm of his first encounter and with the reverence as though it were his last.”


Primal Dreams producer Gene Wensel weighs in with this: “Why we hunt is far more important than where, when, or how. Hunting for the right reasons is much more important than the act itself – it defines fair chase – our level of passion – our future – our very existence.”

Although each hunter’s level of passion will differ, the fun of the hunt should always be the same.


Wensel aptly opines, “Wonderment, Hope, Anticipation, Self-reliance, Responsibility, Sustenance, Pride – When these 7 cannot be bought, we are left with God’s gifts and a way of life where memories and dreams flourish.”



Make every hunt memorable for yourself and those you choose to hunt with. With that as the chief end you and I will never have to look back with regret. After all, it’s not the ‘bag’ that is important, it is how we get to the bag that provides the memories lasting for a lifetime.

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Posted in: Whitetail Deer