Your identity, please.

I went out for my second day of deer hunting, yesterday. The wind was down to 15 to 20 km/h, out of the west and southwest. I got to one of my favorite spots and began my slow, tedious, still hunt through the woods.

Still hunting is by far my favorite method of deer hunting. It is not as productive as other methods, such as stand or blind hunting, which I will also do from time to time. However, for me the still hunt satisfies my desire to see the bush for what it is in the fall and observe a lot of wildlife doing many different things.

“Still hunt” is really a misnomer, while at the same time being the most accurate description of what is involved. While still hunting,  a hunter moves through the woods as slowly and as quietly as possible. The idea is to be as “still” as possible while still moving and remaining undetected. Or if detected by a possible prey, not be recognized as a hunter. To me, it is the master-work of hunting–an art you can never master but you try to come as close as possible.

 My technique involves moving ahead two or three steps at a time and then stopping, looking and listening, and then moving ahead another two or three steps, etc. The noise you make while moving can cover the noise made by a deer or other animal moving through the bush. Thus moving only short distances and stopping increases your chances of seeing or hearing an animal before it sees or hears you.

Yesterday, I pulled a draw in a test of my skill at still hunting. The bush was reasonably quiet. The snow of the previous week was mostly gone but the leaves on the ground were moist, reducing the crunching that can give you away. As I slowly approached a familiar opening, I heard a deer stepping through the leaves. I stopped and watched a set of impressive antlers moving through the tall grass and trees at the top of the ridge ahead of me. I scoped them and saw tines probably 5 to 6 inches long, but split—mule deer. Now, mule deer licences are on a draw in this area and I was successful in that draw last year. So, this year I had no tag for a mule deer. (White-tailed deer in this area are on a ‘general’ licence–which can be purchased ‘across the counter’.) But I couldn’t be certain it wasn’t a white-tailed deer (distinguished by looking at the rear-end of the animal). So, I wanted a closer look. I took out my deer grunt tube and grunted. The deer stopped but all I could see were the antlers and a nose. He started moving again and I grunted. He circled me and I tried to get a look at him to confirm he was a mulie and not some misshaped white-tail. All I could ever see were those impressive antlers—a real wallhanger. Finally he got downwind of me, caught my scent, and crashed through the trees. However, I saw no white flag–the distinguishing feature of a white-tailed deer. So, I am pretty sure it was a mule deer.

Such are the trials of a deer hunter. If you carry only the tags for one of the two species, you have to be very careful when seeing an animal. I could not make a positive identification, so I held off. It was the proper decision. To me, the excitement at seeing such a magnificent animal close-up was worth the price of admission.

The rest of the day passed without incident, but I indeed had a successful day. I will return to check out what the white-tailed bucks are doing.

So, what’s wrong with that?


About Don Meredith

I am a writer and biologist living in Alberta, Canada. I wrote a monthly column for the Alberta Outdoorsmen magazine, and have published articles for several other magazines.
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