Deer Camp '09 archive

Grass is greener

It's human nature to want to see what's over the next hill. For some reason, we all believe what's over there has got to be better than what's over here.

Don Mulligan
With the post marking the property line, the stand only five yards away and a shooting lane cut to the fence, it's not difficult to predict this brazen line hunter is planning on trespassing.This idea that "the grass is greener on the other side" has served some hunters well. It motivates wilderness hunters to press on in the face of adversity, and if channeled appropriately, is the purest definition of perseverance.

But the need to explore the other side of the fence can create problems, too.

Where wide-open vistas have been replaced with property lines and boundary fences, human nature collides with hunting regulations and ethics. Story

Wildlife officers in the crosshairs

Call these professionals what you will — wildlife officers, conservation officers, game wardens — their job is inherently dangerous.

And never more so than during fall, when deer poaching ramps up. This was pointed out in spades just a few weeks ago (October 30) when two Ohio wildlife officers had their vehicle fired upon by poachers. Here's how the incident went down.

State wildlife officers Jeff Tipton and Adam Smith were seated in their patrol vehicle, a pickup truck, parked along a field edge at night, on surveillance for spotlighters. A vehicle pulled into the same field, opposite the officers, and directed its headlights at the patrol vehicle. Story

Targeting one buck can be done with sacrifice, hard work and luck

In the Midwest, where baiting deer is mostly illegal and high fences are far and few between, hunting a single, mature whitetail buck is generally futile. Unless a hunter has access to the kind of large, managed properties television hunters use across America's midsection, it's a good way to waste an entire deer season.

Don Mulligan with the 2009 Indiana buck that he hunted exclusively all season.If a person is prepared to end the season empty-handed, however, the quest can be the greatest challenge in the hunting world.

Few hunters start their season focused on a single animal. The obsession usually requires a glimpse of a buck bigger and better than anything previously encountered.

At least, that's how it happened to me this year. Story

Trail cams can be blessing or a curse

Though completely nocturnal, the big buck barely made a move without my knowing it. I tracked his progress starting on Indiana's opening day of deer season as he crossed a county road, until he eventually found his way into my rutting field.

His journey took about a week to complete, and thanks to several trail cameras spread out over a mile, I recorded nearly every leg of his pilgrimage.

Despite hunting the area hard for a month, without trail cameras, I would never have known he existed. Like most mature bucks that live in heavily hunted areas, this bruiser was completely nocturnal.

Exposing nocturnal deer is just one of the unmatched benefits of modern trail cameras.

When used and interpreted correctly, they can provide subtle clues about the world hunters never see and be the most important tool in bagging anything from a big buck, to a thief.

But despite the clear advantage they give deer hunters, if used improperly or misread, they can also ruin a hunt or even an entire season. Story

Undercover omnivores: At times, deer eat meat
There is very little about deer behavior that isn't already common knowledge. Whether they like it or not, deer are probably the most watched, photographed and filmed animals on earth.

Every once in a while, however, someone catches deer doing something completely out of character. If the people who catch the bizarre behavior happen to be a deer biologist and a physician with a long history of deer management, a scientific study is sure to follow.

Two such researchers recently stumbled across some crazy deer behavior, and what they uncovered has to be seen to be believed.

According to their research, deer aren't the strict vegetarians we thought they were. Sometimes deer prefer corn, apples, acorns or clover, and sometimes they just want a nice steak.

That's right. Deer eat meat. Story

Hunters best insurance against collisions

First, the good news: there are more deer roaming the country now than at any time in the nation's history. The bad news: a lot more of them are getting hit by cars these days, which doesn't make deer, drivers or insurance companies happy.

According to State Farm Insurance, the country's largest auto insurer, the number of collisions involving deer and vehicles keeps creeping up. West Virginia, the statistical leader, isn't the only state where deer-vehicle collisions are forcing states and municipalities to take a second look at hunting as a control device. Story