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Separating deer hunting myths, facts

A whitetail buck in the rut abandons his wariness during daylight as he pursues a doe. (Associated Press)
A whitetail buck in the rut abandons his wariness during daylight as he pursues a doe. (Associated Press)

Deer hunters can lighten their load as they head out to the field this week by dumping some common assumptions and myths. Among them:

Myth – A well-placed heart and/or lung shot will drop a deer in its tracks, or shortly thereafter.

Fact – Sometimes yes, oftentimes no. If a deer shot in the heart or lungs doesn’t drop, it can travel much farther than many hunters believe, even when it appears to be bleeding seriously. It’s not uncommon for a lung-shot deer to travel 100 yards or more.

A study using beef blood to simulate a bleeding deer showed a pool of blood 12 inches across could be created by only 6 ounces of blood.

A deer must lose about 42 ounces of blood to bleed to death, according to Leonard Lee Rue III, author of the encyclopedic “The Deer of North America.”

Deer shot through the heart in almost all instances will drop sooner than those shot only through the lungs.

Myth – Timing a hunt to the rut is the most important factor leading to the harvesting of a buck by a firearms hunter.

Fact – The amount of time a hunter spends in the field is the key factor in harvesting a buck.

James Kroll, aka “Dr. Deer,” the new Wisconsin Deer Czar hired to review whitetail management in the Badger State, advises that hunters who stay in their stands during daytime significantly increase their odds of killing deer, big bucks in particular.

“The best time to kill a mature buck is midday,” Kroll says, adding that deer do a better job of patterning hunter movement than vice versa.

“Since most hunters are in their stands the first two hours of daylight and the last two hours of daylight, mature bucks often move at midday. I’m amazed at how anxiously hunters await the deer season, then they only hunt four hours a day,” Kroll said. “Hunt all day and you’ll be surprised how many more deer you will see.”

The role of the rut in whitetail hunting success can’t be discounted. Whitetail bucks actively seek mates in November building up to the Nov. 20-21 peak of breeding in northeastern Washington and North Idaho. They lose some of their wariness during this period as they pursue does.

Myth – All bucks are uniformly affected by the rut.

Fact – While the rut inspires some careless roaming by bucks, old bucks didn’t reach their tender age by wandering aimlessly in daytime. Trail cameras show that when confronted by hunter pressure, older bucks often move only at night.

Similarly, older bucks seem more inclined to hide from danger than to flee it.

Myth – Weather affects deer movement, just as it affects fishing success.

Fact – Deer are affected by weather, but usually in a way opposite to how weather affects fishing success.

Example: Fish often bite best ahead of a front, or change of weather. Movement of deer, on the other hand, is often more predictable after a front moves through.

During a snow storm, and leading up to it, deer sightings can be few. But the day after the weather clears, deer often resume traditional movements, particularly those related to feed.

Myth – Dumb luck plays a role in firearms deer hunting success.

Fact – Actually this can be true. Some hunters are bound to stumble into big bucks.

But over time, deer hunting success, like success in any other venture, is enjoyed most often by those who prepare.

Hunters who scout, erect stands in strategic locations or otherwise pick hunting spots with knowledge of how deer move, and refine their skills with grunt calls, rattling antlers and other gear, will lead to the most deer encounters.

Of course, straight shooting helps, too.

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