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Toward Better Deer Hunting Memories

by Jon Mitzel

Deer hunting is a once-a-year event, but the memories are 24/7.  While we can sometimes get lucky, most of our efforts involve planning, time and effort. Here’s some thoughts I regularly entertain to make the hunt more memorable.


   Stalk a Bedded Buck

  A stiff breeze will be the key to success in this situation. The most important thing to take note of is that you’ll want to approach the buck from downwind. Before doing so, put together a plan of attack and decide on a route that will keep the wind in your favor, and follow cover that helps you blend in.

   It’s uncommon to be able to stalk deer, especially whitetail bucks. However, mule deer often allow hunters to sneak within close range. It’s more common for hunters to stalk mule deer than whitetail yet the same rules apply.

   Stalking a bedded buck means conditions must be pretty darn close to perfect for you to even make an attempt at closing the distance. A stiff wind helps so you can approach the buck from downwind. Also, you’ll need to be sure there’s enough cover to enable you to get within effective range without being detected. Not only do you need to pay close attention to wind direction, but make sure you’re moving quietly and slowly toward you’re target.

   When you catch up to the animal you’ve hunted, you want to preserve the moment and the memory.


    Track a Wounded Deer

   It’s always nice to see a deer go down. But it’s not always easy to find it.

   There are essentials when it comes to tracking a wounded (or dead) deer. Deer hunters seem to prefer hunting over snow because it aids in the recovery of the animal. Blood trails are highly visible in fresh snow.

   However, tracking without snow cover is substantially more difficult and the hunter needs to not only be able to track an animal, but to recover it was well.

   The effort to recover an animal after it’s been hit shows the mark of an ethical hunter.

   Once you’ve hit a deer, work your way to the last place you saw it or made the shot. It’s from that area the search will begin. First, inspect the area for blood. Look for fresh tracks to determine where exactly the shot took place.

    Following tracks will help you in determining whether the deer is running, walking, bleeding or limping. Judging from the distance between the tracks, you should be able to get an estimate how fast the deer is covering ground.

   After the shot, look for blood and try to stay on the trail. By now you should have a good idea how much the deer is bleeding and how badly its wounded.

   Following a blood trail without snow on the ground can be a very trying and tedious task, but close examination will reveal blood.

   Fresh tracks in snow will have a powdery fresh look to them, while older tracks will likely be crusted over.

   When tracking, before you get to far into it, work the area of impact well and do your best to make sure you’re on the right set of tracks before moving forward. If you’ve shot a deer, whether with a bow or gun, and are not able to see or hear the animal crashing to the ground or making noise ahead of you, you’ve got a tracking job on your hands.


   Take the Perfect Photo

   The last thing you need is a bad photo of your buck. With a little practice and logical thinking you’ll be ready to take a good photo. In fact, plan on taking lots of photos. Eventually you’ll get that one great shot.

   If you’re alone, which is often the case, you’ll want to use the timer on your camera. Many of us aren’t familiar with this camera feature, so locate it and practice before the hunt.

   Clean and prep the deer for the photo shoot. Clean any blood around the wound and make sure the face is clean. Have the sun at your back, which avoid shadows especially on the face of the animal. Take a look at your background and try to position yourself is such a manner where you can avoid any buildings, fences, roads, etc. Also, when looking through the view finder of your camera, before snapping a photo, make sure the horizon line is actually horizontal and parallel.

   Some of the better photos I’ve taken are with sky-lined antlers. But the situation and place need to be right. Try taking a skyline shot of your deer deep in the woods. Try some pictures with a flash and some without. Arrange both yourself and your buck in various positions.

   If you take a little prep time and have somewhat of a plan you’ll get away with the perfect photo.


   Make a European Deer Skull

   Once you’ve shot, tracked and cleaned the biggest buck of you’re life, you’ll want to display the rack for all your buddies to see. If money is tight and you can’t afford a $650 shoulder mount, a bleached deer skull will not only save you money but diversify your trophy room.

   To prepare for this, first remove the hide and skin, then trim as much of the flesh off as possible. Next, boil the skull for at least 30 minutes, then remove and continue to cut and trim flesh and skin.

   Make sure to keep the base of the antlers out of the boiling water, and have several sharp trimming knives on hand. A drill to open up the brain cavity and a coat hanger work well for removing brain tissue. Continue to cut and boil until all tissue has been removed to the best of you’re ability.

   Next, strong bleach is known for weakening skull structures. Rather, you can purchase peroxide at any beauty salon or drug store. You’ll want to use 40 percent peroxide.

   With a wet rag soaked in peroxide begin to cover the bone well and repeat once dry. Last, lightly super glue any pieces in place. Be sure the skull is dried, then spray antlers with a clear semigloss polyurethane to preserve the mount for years.

   You likely performed a lot of effort to hunt and kill an animal, especially if it’s a trophy. The meat is valuable, of course, but so is the memory. Photos and antler preservation make the memory even more treasured.