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Tag Archives: Whitetail Deer

Success Misses Something, Sets Course for New Traditions

The setting was magical and paid off countless dreams my imagination summoned for the last several months.

I was in my favorite tree on the west side of the Mississippi. The wind was ideal and delivered what this day’s forecast had predicted over the previous five days. The calendar corresponded to

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The author with his 2016 Midwestern Whitetail Success.

those supreme days of November that eons of history have shown to be premium for having a shot at a buck-of-a-lifetime.

And I did.

It was an amazing feeling – euphoric in every way. Through the hours of jubilation that followed, though, I was quick to realize that something was missing. I knew it immediately, and I’d be lying if I didn’t forget for a moment that this great tale would miss an important piece that all others of its kind had held over the last two-plus decades of bowhunting.

Immediately following a moment like this, I have a small checklist of folks to communicate with to follow along with a fruitful hunt’s conclusion. My dad was always position No. 1 on that list. On this successful day, one of the most memorable and enjoyable of my hunting career, he was not there.

He passed away nearly three years ago, but him following along via phone calls or text messages when I connected with a big buck was among some of the best parts of the journey. No matter which state I was hunting.

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Another view of the beautiful deer.

I think it was fun for him too. He often offered advice or positive reinforcement from afar, doing his part to feel like he was alongside me the way he was all those years tracking deer on our farm in Western New York.

I wiped away a few small tears selfishly wishing I could call him.

I knew I couldn’t reach him, but prayed he was following from afar this time too.

Don’t get me wrong. Being able to connect on a majestic Midwestern whitetail remains one of the best feelings a hunter could have. This time was no different.

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A magical day, only one thing was missing from making it even better.

I celebrated success with some of the dearest friends a deer dude could ask for – both in person and by phone. It was just missing some of the individual tradition that had for so long accompanied the joy.

Like all traditions, this one must change too. For me, I welcomed the updated version of celebrating with my own kids, who are still too young to hunt, but know the passion the outdoors has sowed in my soul. I look forward to their successes afield someday. Then, I hope to become part of their small checklist too.

Maybe even position No. 1!

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Chasing Game Through a New Lens

It would be a fib if I insinuated that the thrills were equal. They’re not.

But there is something about chasing the perfect photo that sparks a fire in me that closely resembles hunting success.

Bobber reflection on the water

Bobber reflection on the water (click photo to enlarge)


My wife commemorated my last birthday with a new D-SLR camera that has more bells and whistles than I remember on my SLR piece long before digital came about. I’ve enjoyed taking all kinds of shots since.

The good news is most of your professional style camera equipment today is fool proof … with limitations. For instance, I’ve been getting pretty solid photos in the first two months I’ve been shooting, but can understand where some of the accoutrements available can improve your shots.

Redheads swimming in their familiar lines on the water

Redheads swimming in their familiar lines on the water


Simply put, you can be as good as your wallet will let you!

Within this post are a few of my early shots with the camera and lenses I currently have. I’ve enjoyed the chase so far, trading my gun for the camera when seasons have gone out, or I’ve taken a hike on a Sunday (when hunting is closed here in NC).

I look forward to sharing more photos, and hope that one day I look at these and make jokes about the infancy of my photo-taking career!

An 8-point not seeming to mind the snow covering his face

An 8-point not seeming to mind the snow covering his face

Mallards in flight

Mallards in flight

My daughter and nephew having fun on a winter day

My daughter and nephew having fun on a winter day

A Greenhead's colors glowing on retrieve

A Greenhead’s colors glowing on retrieve

The familiar curiosity of a mature doe.

The familiar curiosity of a mature doe.

All Business!

All Business!

A winter day's meal

A winter day’s meal

From acorns grow mighty oaks

From acorns grow mighty oaks

Eyes into a best friend's soul

Eyes into a best friend’s soul

Lots o' divers

Lots o’ divers

The kiss

The kiss

Mallards retreat

Mallards retreat

American Widgeon

American Widgeon


A Hunting Future in Peril?

If you’re anything like me, the next couple statistics will scare you. They will make you think. And they may just make you consider introducing someone new to hunting next time you hit the woods.

According to a recent management plan released to the public by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the number of deer hunters in that state has decreased by 40 percent in since the mid-1980s.

Management Plan for White-tailed Deer in New York State 2011-2015


Further, an article by John Ozoga in the August 2011 issue of Deer & Deer Hunting notes that only 69 hunters replace every 100 who stop hunting nationally. Some states are as low as 26 new hunters per 100 churned out.

Not one thing about those statistics is good.

Few who follow the hunting industry can be surprised by those numbers. For years, we’ve been exposed to the steady decline of hunters in the woods. The aging population of America coupled with the growing movement of our country’s population to more urban environments is driving the significant drop.

As hunters, it’s time for us to put our crosshairs on recruitment – not just to save the future of our sport, but also to introduce new people to a sport that is cherished by so many of us.

I applaud New York’s DEC (something I rarely do, by the way) for initiating and developing a plan that includes a significant recruitment plan as part of its deer management. While still in the review stages, the DEC invested more than two years researching, assessing and developing the current plan. It currently includes six goals:

“1) Manage Deer Populations at levels that are appropriate for human and ecological concerns; 2) Promote and enhance deer hunting as an important recreational activity; 3) Reduce the negative impacts caused by deer; 4) Foster understanding and communication about deer ecology, management, economic aspects and recreational opportunities while enhancing DEC’s understanding of the public’s interest; 5) Manage deer to promote healthy and sustainable forests and enhance habitat conservation efforts to benefit deer and other species; and 6) Ensure that the necessary resources are available to support the proper management of white-tailed deer in New York.”

I personally think six goals is a bit lofty. In reading the 50+-page plan, I think No. 3 could be whittled down as it would be a likely output of accomplishing several of the other goals. That said, with the exception of getting a few objectives that really would be defined as strategies or tactics, the plan is well thought out and includes consideration for much of the feedback the DEC heard from hunters via several research-gathering tools.

So how does NY plan to recruit to help the hunter deficit? There are five objectives laid out in the plan.
1) Promote recreational hunting among all New Yorkers, as a safe, enjoyable and ethical activity and as the primary tool to manage deer populations.

2) Establish deer hunting seasons, regulations, and programs that are effective for deer population management and that encourage hunter participation, recruitment, retention and satisfaction.

3) Promote efforts to reduce harvest of young (less than 1.5 years old) bucks.

4) Improve hunter access to public and private lands.

5) Consider other forms of outdoor recreation with or affected by deer management.

The plan dives further into each of those strategies with several strategies for each objective. I encourage you to read these, and other elements of the plan. There are several elements of the plan that can help each of us come up with little ways we can do our part in recruiting new hunters.

Our sport’s tomorrow depends on us doing something about hunter recruitment today.