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11

It was the eve of the 2009 firearms season and as was their nature the hunters in our family deer camp were bantering around the campfire.  Their normally jovial mood was slightly tempered, however, and I knew why.  The lack of deer sign had subdued their usually high expectations. 

Then, at a quiet moment, “Guys, this year if you have a choice, shoot the bucks and let the does walk” spilled out of my mouth.  Although I was saying what everyone was thinking, I still cannot believe I said it.  We have always let small bucks walk so this was quality deer management in reverse.  It was like reliving the hunts of the sixties and early seventies when deer were scarce.  I could swear it was my father speaking, not me. 

We did not easily arrive at this decision.  It came about after many years of watching the deer herd intentionally depleted (reason for this is a future article).  With deer numbers lower than ever, it made sense to hunt the way our mentors had.  Our father told us that shooting a buck kills one deer but shooting a doe kills two, three or four.  “Quantity” deer management was going to be implemented.  We were going back to the way we first hunted to improve our future hunts.

For us the chance to spend time with family and friends while enjoying the outdoors is paramount to a successful hunt.  A good time would be had if the kill count was zero, but we are meat hunters, and our goal is to fill our freezers with venison.  We eat what we kill and would like to kill a lot of deer.  Last on our list of priorities but first on our list of dreams is bagging the huge antlered trophy.

With low expectations but high spirits the gang hunted hard for the first four days.  The combination of few deer and unusually warm weather produced two deer sightings with zero shot opportunities.  It was time for a break to rest and regroup.

The second weekend found us riding a wave of renewed enthusiasm.  There was a new hunter in camp.  Vinny is a friend of my youngest son and although he has hunted deer before, he has never had an opportunity to shoot one and was thinking about giving up the sport.  He immediately gained our respect simply by showing up knowing about our deer challenged situation. 

You can probably guess what happened.  Yep, we put Vinny on a stand no one was using and he shot a doe Thursday afternoon and a six-point buck Saturday morning.  We were disappointed that those were the only deer shot, much less seen, but were ecstatic that a wavering hunters’ passion had been restored.  The smile plastered on that young mans’ face spoke volumes about what constitutes a successful hunt.  Vinny is already looking forward to next year.

To date, the first year of our “quantity” deer management has produced that doe and small buck.  I have a month and a half of archery season still to hunt, and rest assured I would shoot the first young buck that presents a shot.  Of course I’ll have to see one to shoot one. 

I know many trophy hunters are probably shaking their heads and muttering indecencies while reading this, but that’s all right.  Not all hunters hunt for the same reasons.  The important thing is that they hunt.  Our camp understands that bucks cannot grow old if shot young, but we also know that deer herds cannot grow if there is no breeding stock.  For quality deer management to work you need to have a quality deer herd.  That can only be accomplished if does drop lots of fawns.  So for the foreseeable future at the Isackson deer camp, if the choice is buck or doe, it will be the buck.

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