Why Do We Deer Hunt?

This year’s archery deer hunt is in full swing and in a few short weeks the flag will drop on the rest of the bread and butter hunting seasons. There will be more people in the woods than any other time of the year. But some may wonder why?

There is no doubt our deepest ancestors lived as hunter-gathers in small family based clans. But, in today’s world, if you look at it in the strictest sense, no one really needs to hunt in order to survive. After all, we have mega-supermarkets with miles of isles providing us with every type of food imaginable, and some that can’t, like head cheese and tripe!

But if you look beyond the human stomach, you encounter something equally as important, the human spirit. For some the compulsion to hunt is the same as why some people feel compelled to compose music, write novels or even worship a higher being.

Whether you want to believe it or not, since the beginning of time, things like seeking shelter and hunting have not only allowed man to survive, but has made us what we are. And to some degree, that genetic hardwiring is still ingrained in many of us.

The few precious months we are allowed to spend in the woods is a pivot on which the rest of the year balances. For throngs of sportsmen and sportswomen, hunting is the fifth season wedged between fall and winter.

We dream of distant wild places and big game animals like bear, elk and moose. We may also be fortunate to occasionally travel to remote hunting destinations, but for the most part, living in Indiana we are still fortunate, thanks to our robust native whitetail deer herd.

It is our state’s only true big game animal that draws us from our cozy homes taking us to local woodlots and creek bottoms. They are sought after for venison, vanity and because we love to be in beautiful places where deer live. The reflections of huge bucks seen but never taken become as special a memory as the trophies hanging on our walls.

Essentially there are two main reasons for the whitetail’s preeminence. First, they are abundant. There is not a single Indiana county that doesn’t boast a sizeable deer population and hunting has become a necessary tool for proper game management.

Second, as a trophy, they take a backseat to no other big game animal. A record book whitetail is just as impressive and beautiful, garnering equal respect as any other big game species. And besides, what else can dance you around the woods with such ease?

Each fall, when in the woods with bow in hand, I always recall an outdoor trade show I attended. I asked Chuck Adams, a master whitetail deer hunter who has written several books on deer hunting, how to outsmart the really big ones. “You can’t!” he said emphatically. “About the best you can do is spend as much time in the woods as possible and try to be around when an old buck runs out of luck,” he added.

I think deep down many of us already know this and that’s what keeps us coming back year after year. The thought that maybe this time luck will be on our side and we will see the envy in the eyes of our fellow hunters.

There is magic in the deer hunting woods and it’s this magic that keeps us coming back until we are physically unable. It is also the same reason why hunters who have reached the end of the trail can still tell you every detail of the day they took their first deer or biggest buck.

Yes, for many hunters, the whitetail deer season is the calendar by which we mark our lives.

Feature photo by Alps Outdoors