Like any deep rooted love affair, almost any hunter’s obsession with our whitetail deer cannot be explained by facts. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of deer in Indiana, readily available in all of our state’s 92 counties, in numbers not seen since colonial days.
Seasons are longer than ever, spanning over three months. Bag limits are at unprecedented highs and venison provides tasty, healthy and organic meat to thousands of Hoosiers each season.
But the best explanation for the love lies somewhere beyond facts and in the realm of mystery. For starters, most hunters consider the whitetail deer, especially those carrying substantial headgear, as one of the smartest, fastest and craftiest of all big game animals. Trying to match wits with one ignites some deep rooted nerve that everyday life just can’t. A hunter’s first kill may happen within a matter of seconds but lasts a lifetime. A memory emblazoned in your mind forever.
What about their striking beauty? Face it, how many of us don’t like seeing whitetail deer regardless of how many we’ve seen before. Whether they are bounding across a brushy field or trotting across a neighborhood yard before disappearing into an urban woodlot, deer bring a sense of wildness within everyone’s reach.
Finally, we can’t ignore their highly acclaimed status as a great outdoor trophy. Their regal, outstretched antlers evoke distinct memories and are just at home taking their place on a wall of other, bigger, game species. They serve as a reemergence of the hunt as well as a tribute to the animal that wore them and the country it lived. I know it may be hard for some to understand but for others the deer hunting seasons are the calendar for which we mark our lives.
Deer can also provide instant gratification. We’ve all heard of beginner’s luck and probably know a first time hunter, young or old, who succeeded in taking a great trophy on their inaugural hunt. But those same animals can dance a well-seasoned hunter around the woodlots with ease.
As with any large gathered obsession, sometimes greed comes into play. Poachers killing big bucks strictly for their antlers whittles away at traditional honor. Or how about scientists breeding huge bucks like livestock for high-fence hunts that make a mockery of true sportspeople and fair chase. Thankfully the majority denounce these behaviors.
When deer are considered a hot commodity that can be bought, regular guys end up priced out, which erodes the connection between hunting and society’s largest culture. For some, large bucks become a way to feed an ego and become tempted to cut ethical corners. This violates a true hunters core values and forfeits the place hunting holds as something more important than just a regular hobby.
Yes there is a growing number of our population who are considered “deer crazy.” But while we are in the midst of our whitetail obsessions never forget who we really are and that is conservationists, ethical hunters and ambassadors for our hunting heritage.
So this season enjoy each second you get to spend in the woods and be appreciative for every opportunity. Respect our freedoms to be able to take part in such a natural, traditional activity. But never lose sight the hunt is not so much about the final destination, as it is the entire ride.