Categorized | Opinion

Deer season in the Heartland

By Josh Gowan

Laila Muller from Portageville, Mo., poses with a big Mississippi crappie. She caught it while fishing with her dad Nathan.

Laila Muller from Portageville, Mo., poses with a big Mississippi crappie. She caught it while fishing with her dad Nathan.

With Missouri and Tennessee’s archery season open, and youth season just a few days away (Oct. 26-27 in Tennessee and Nov. 2-3 in Missouri), now seems like a good time to focus on backstraps, I mean deer!
While many of us in the heartland pursue a variety of fish and game, and get excited as each season commences, there is nothing quite like whitetail deer hunting. The largest of wild game in Missouri and Tennessee (Elk doesn’t count, yet!) draws thousands of hunters to the woods each year in hopes of bagging a trophy buck.
Even the meat hunters who are only concerned with filling their freezer would be lying if they said the thought of a monster rack lumbering through the woods didn’t cross their minds in the pre-dawn hours of a hunt.
Deer hunters aren’t just greedy trophy hunters out for a new mount to display in their living room (or a different room if your wife isn’t a fan of backwoods motif), they are easily the most philanthropic group of outdoorsmen. With an extremely healthy population of deer, thanks to private land owners and the conservation department’s efforts, Missouri’s Share the Harvest program and Tennessee’s Hunters for Hunger program puts food on the table for those less fortunate.
In the 2012-2013 season alone, Missouri hunters donated 317,882 pounds of venison, and Tennesseans donated 125,670 pounds. Both of these numbers are increases from the year before, and the outlook on the programs predict a continual rise in donations again this year. This is healthy, free-range, and lean meat, packed full of protein and void of any steroids or hormones.
There has been a ton of scientific studies about deer done in the last year, and you’d think knowing more about them would make it much easier to have success in the woods, but that’s just not always the case. Everyone knows deer are mostly colorblind, but much more has been revealed about their eyesight in recent years. Deer have huge eyes, and this allows them to see their surroundings in a panoramic view. They also have the ability, like many animals, to see in the dark. The most interesting tidbit of new information is the actual clarity with which they see.
If a deer were human, it would have 20/100 vision, which is pretty bad. This blurred eyesight, along with being colorblind, is the reason (don’t tell the guys from Realtree I said this) that your camo pattern is a lot less important than you think.
The best pattern to blend in to the surroundings are actually bigger shapes of camo as opposed to the chaotic, brushy patterns. The perfect camo for winter hunting is probably that brown and tan “old school” duck pattern you sold at a yard sale 5 years ago!
Either way, there is no doubt that being up in a tree and staying still are the most important factors in being undetected by a deer’s eyes, now his nose, that’s another story! Another study done on the ears of the whitetail may surprise you as well. Deer have about the same hearing that we do. The difference is their ears, which they use like satellites to pinpoint a sound and amplify it.
Why they stop in their tracks when I crackle one leaf, and never even look up when a squirrel is bulldozing his way through the underbrush like a front end loader pushing a burning fireworks stand, remains a mystery!
One way to sharpen skills in the woods prior to getting in the stand, is squirrel hunting. Both stealth and accuracy are required to bag these tasty little fur bearers, which makes them perfect game for hunters getting ready to deer hunt.
This is especially helpful if you’re taking kids hunting. While we savvy outdoorsmen enter the woods like a cat with socks on, short legs and big boots often make for a clumsy and loud approach! Not to mention it’s just great to get back in the woods, especially with a kid. Right now is a great time to go too, since the squirrels are cutting acorns and are very active, making them easy to spot from a distance and plan a sneak attack.
Remember if you have pictures with your trophy, especially if it’s a young hunter or fisher-person, email them to me at
Josh M. Gowan, Outdoors Writer, Crappie Angler Magazine,

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October 2013
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