Huntin’ Blues

An acquaintance of mine has been grousing about his hunting “luck” recently on Facebook. By luck I mean his lack of success. There is luck involved in hunting. My first whitetail was a 135-inch buck that stumbled into an Alabama green field one afternoon as I sat in an elevated stand drawn by chance. But if you are simply interested in freezer meat and relying on luck to bless you, well…

My amigo from my NRA days was lamenting that he was headed to Walmart for “every ounce of deer urine.” Doe pee may help if there are rutting bucks using the area and there are does in estrus. I really don’t know whether it works because I’ve never used doe pee.

One estimate of the annual expenditure by deer hunters on their passion is $22 billion—yep, billion with a “b.” I don’t know what all is taken into account, but a partial list would include: property leases, guides, trucks, fuel, calls, guns, bows, ammo, arrows, scent-concealing clothing, doe pee, baits of various kinds, optics and so on. That’s a lot of scratch just to persuade an animal with the IQ of a rock come into range.

When I first started chasing critters to eat and hang on the wall I had no idea what I was doing. I recall stopping in a sporting goods store in Bridgeport, California, early in my deer hunting career. The store had some “deer lures,” one apple scented and another doe-in-heat lure. I asked the owner if they really worked. His answer, “Well, deer like to eat and have sex!” Fortunately, I wasn’t all that gullible and kept my money in my pocket.

10 pointer

This 10-point (eastern count) buck was so used to the Jeeps coming around and feeding him corn that he would come out and pose. He stood 15 yards away for several minutes while Dave snapped several pictures of him.

Hunting and investing in real estate have a lot in common. The most important factor in success for each is location, location and location. If you are hunting where your prey isn’t, you won’t have much success, despite camouflage, doe pee, food and neon signs proclaiming deer nirvana. Most of the hunting shows on television are done on private land and usually the landowner makes a special effort to provide the game animals with more desirable habitat than the surrounding country. I’m not saying that those young studs (and studettes) on TV don’t know how to hunt. They do, mostly. But you are a big part of their success by buying the products and places they tout, because the purveyors are counting on you buying their products or booking a hunt on their property.

These whitetails could not care less that there was a Jeep full of rednecks ready to kill them 20 yards away. Yellow corn is the all-time best camouflage extant.

These whitetails could not care less that there was a Jeep full of rednecks ready to kill them 20 yards away. Yellow corn is the all-time best camouflage extant.

Several years ago I was on a well-known and very large ranch in south Texas with Winchester on a cull-deer and hog hunt. Unlike most of the places I hunt on my own—even private land—where the roads are often deep two-tracks that turn to muck at the hint of a heavy fog, the roads on this beautiful ranch were surfaced with caliche and groomed to be highway smooth. The brush in this country is about the height of a one-story house and as thick as the winter fur on a bobcat. The hunting method is to tour the roads in an open-top Jeep with the front window down. Atop that window is a custom made padded bag that keeps expensive rifles from getting scratched. When the “guide”—driver, really—gets to an area where he knows deer are present he flips a switch on the dash that starts a corn feeder mounted on the rear of the Jeep. It spreads kernels of corn noisily down a stretch of the caliche. He then stops, turns the Jeep around, and we observe the deer evacuating the brush for the much-desired corn.

Dave shot this nice cull buck on this hunt. Unfortunately he vanished somewhere between the ranch and the taxidermist.

Dave shot this nice cull buck on this hunt. Unfortunately he vanished somewhere between the ranch and the taxidermist.

At the time I smoked a pipe, and I was smoking it. We had camo shirts on, but the Jeep was running and we were talking in a normal tone of voice, discussing whether this buck or that was a cull, or perhaps we should cull a doe or two from this bunch. The wind was blowing directly from behind us toward the deer. They knew perfectly well that we were there—in some cases there were more than a dozen deer anywhere from 10 to 50 yards in front of us. If memory serves, I shot four or five bucks, three does and a half dozen javelina over the three-day “hunt.” One of the bucks was a dandy 140-inch 3×3 whitetail that was eventually stolen somewhere between the ranch and the taxidermist. I recall thinking one time as we evaluated the deer in front of us, “Who needs doe pee and scent blockers or even camo clothes? All a guy needs is a ten dollar sack of feed corn!”

Dave Campbell
Dave Campbell began his hunting career with a spear off the southern California coast in the late 1960s. It did not take long for him to graduate to the gun on land. Campbell is the founding editor in chief of the NRA’s tremendously successful Shooting Illustrated magazine. In 2006 he also edited the iconic book of terminal ballistics, Rifle Bullets for the Hunter—A Definitive Study. He returned to his beloved Wyoming in 2007 as a freelance writer, though he usually refers to himself now as a “recovering editor.”
  1. Lisa Reply

    It’s always great to read advice from experts like yourself. I must admit I’m one of the suckers who buy sophisticated materials used for the hunt, even when there’s a much cheaper and much better alternative.

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