Hunting season has begun, in most states, and it is high time we dedicated a post to that subject and to rifles. I am most familiar with hunting white tailed dear, so that’s what I’ll be primarily focusing on. I’ll cover turkey hunting soon.
Hunting is a lot of fun….for some people. It really just depends on the type of girl that you are. Do you like being in nature? Do you like the challenge of stalking an animal over the river and through the woods? Do you mind being in extreme temperatures? Does camo appeal to you? Do you mind getting your hands dirty (and bloody)? If you think this is for you, let’s get started on learning how to hunt like a pro (or at least get started on the right track).
North America is home to Whitetail deer, Mule deer, Elk, Moose and some Caribou. There are also some Coastal Black Tailed deer which are a sort of variation of Mule deer.
A female deer is called a ‘Doe’. The male deer is called a ‘Buck’. For Elk and Moose, the male is a ‘Bull’ and the female is a ‘Cow’.
Mating season is in autumn and each doe goes into ‘heat’ only once during the fall. Bucks loose their antlers in the spring, but grow them back in the fall. As their antlers mature the bucks go into ‘rut’ i.e. they become obsessed with chasing down the females. They also start scraping the velvety covering off their antlers (you can look for scrapes on trees as a sign that a buck has been there). When a buck in in ‘full rut’ his neck will be swollen from the extra testosterone and the meat may be rather gamy. Bucks have territory that they will walk and mark every day. If you can find their trails and marking spots, you can stay there and wait for them to come along.
To go hunting you’re going to need 3 major things.
- A place to go hunting. Property. There are a few options if you don’t own land, one is to go on a guided hunt. This is probably best for someone who is new to all of this. Another option is to hunt on rented land or a friend’s land. There is also the option on going in on the purchase of some land with a few friends.
- A license and permit. Depending on the state in which you are hunting, you will need to get a license and probably pull a permit. I would say that it is ESSENTIAL to look over the laws and restriction for the area you are hunting in. Thankfully there’s a pretty convenient little booklet with all the info you need for any kind of hunting and fishing for your area. It’s called (originally enough) the Hunting and Trapping Guide for …. [enter your state here]. You should be able to get these anywhere that sells hunting or fishing supplies.
- A rifle. The type of rifle sort of depends on the state you live in. It also depends on what you’re hunting and what season you’re hunting*.
*In Tennessee, ‘whitetail hunting season’ is actually three different seasons – Bow, Muzzle loader, and Rifle. There are also a few youth hunt weekends in there. During each season, you hunt with whatever is ‘in season’.
If you need more info on this topic, check out this website.
I was raised hunting whitetail. My daddy first took me hunting with him when I was 7 years old. If I remember correctly, I scared away a nice sized buck that time – he couldn’t get me to quit talking. I’ve gotten better at the whole “being quiet” thing since then. I never have, to the date of this writing, actually killed a deer. (Maybe this year!) Usually I didn’t have a gun, or dad sees the deer first so he gets to shoot it. Etc. However, I have helped him field dress, drag out and then process more deer than I can count. I always loved the challenge. Getting all wrapped up and going out in the freezing cold, just dad and I. Walking super quietly, so as to not scare anything away. There’s nothing quite like it. You see nature at it’s best. My favorite time to go out is early morning (4 or 5 am depending on the hike). It’s generally coldest right before the sun comes up. There’s frost in the air and sometimes snow on the ground. Experiencing the sun come up, seeing the first fingers of light shift through the trees, watching a deer walk through the peaceful morning mists. It’s really awesome. Rather addicting, actually.
Just to make one thing clear.
Killing deer isn’t bad. Death is a natural part of life. However. If you are just hunting for the trophy, then I have a bone to pick with you. God gave us dominion over the ‘beast of the field’. We are to be good stewards of what He has given us. This means that if we are going to kill something, we need to use as much of it as we can (the exception to this is if the buck is in heavy rut, because the only thing not gamy tasting will be the back straps). Many will disagree with me on this, but this is my stance. That said, killing a deer is not bad, because in all honesty, there is an abundance of deer and, unchecked, it can become an overpopulation which causes serious problems. In our area the biggest problems are deer crossing the roads and causing accidents, and deer devouring gardens. In the 13 years that we have lived in TN, we have hit 10 deer.Twice, they totaled our car. It’s not because we aren’t careful drivers, it simply because there are so many!
For those with delicate hands and no intention of getting blood under their nails:
Either bring a guy along to gut your catch for you or get some gloves. As soon as you bring the deer down, it needs to be field dressed. This means cutting it open and de-gutting it. (See why you need a guy along, now?) After you get it back home/to camp you can butcher it out or, depending on the temperature outside, ‘hang it’ to keep the meat till you can get around to processing it. If you don’t want to do the butchering (it is a lot of work) you can bring your trophy to a processing place and they will do it for you. A word of caution, here though, if you plan on eating the meat, be very careful where you take it to get processed. A reputable place might be a bit more expensive, but it’ll be worth it. You don’t want to get sick from tainted meat.
Venison is considered a delicacy by most people, but where I live, it’s a staple that takes the place of beef at the table until spring comes around and people have to hang up their guns. Most good processing plants have options for you to choose how you like your meat, whether in special cuts, ground, sausage or jerky. You can also do it all at home, although I’d suggest getting ‘The Complete Venison Cookbook’ by Harold W. Webster. It shows all the special cuts and has some amazing recipes.
Stay tuned for part 2!