“It’s beginning to look a lot like…” No, not Christmas -- it’s mid-November. It’s deer season, the most wonderful time of the year!
Now, don’t get me wrong. My sister and I love Christmas as much as anyone, but in our family, second only to Christmas season is deer season and all the family bonding that comes along with it. Because we’ve been at deer camp and hunting since we were old enough to walk, my sister and I have learned a few tips that every great deer hunter should know.
Tip #1: Prepare early!
Twas the night before deer season, and all through the house, everyone was yelling, “Where is my orange cap?” “Where are my boots?” “Why can’t anyone get this stuff ready before now?” That last comment would certainly have come from my dad who probably had just finished with harvest the day before, had moved cows all that day, and then had come home to a house frantically readying to head to the cabin for deer camp.
Tip #2: Bring food, lots of it!
The best way to achieve this is to have multiple Betty Crocker members in the family. Fortunately, we have two: Grandma and my mom. Key food items will typically include chili and chicken noodle soup, country fried chicken, crockpot pizza, and every imaginable hor devours. Of course, all of this food leads to two things: If we don’t get any deer, we’ll have comfort food to fall back on, and, well, the cabin is not the most pleasant-smelling place, if you know what I mean.
Tip #3: Dress appropriately.
Our apparel during deer camp not only symbolizes the type of hunters we want to be but also what we thought was a plan to keep Cabela’s in business. Hmmm. The “What Not to Wear List” at our cabin is endless. Don’t wear a hunter orange hat that is a combination between a cowboy hat and a sombrero complete with a feather and chin string like Cousin Larry, and please, please wash your deer hunting coat. Scent lock stinks, and it stinks even more after years of hunting without ever washing! Also, don’t wear children’s ski pants as they tend to make a lot of swish swish noises when walking, which, of course, is great when trying to sneak up on that big buck. My sister and I learned this early on as we were always blamed for scaring the 30 pointer away.
Tip #4: Stake out a place to sleep.
Although excitement is high the night before opening day, sleep is still a necessity. Having a spot to sleep at deer camp, however, is not easy. The rules are usually that anyone with small children gets the one and only “bedroom” in our cabin while everyone else has to fend for themselves crashing on any one of the beds in the loft or couches in the living room. This might seem fine unless you are in the loft with one of the many snorers in our family. Sleep? Who needs it, right?
Tip #5: Wake up early, or at least wake-up.
The key to a successful hunt is getting up and getting out to the deer stand before dawn so that the deer don’t know you are there. Well, our family may tend to stay up a bit late telling deer stories so that the 5:00 a.m. wake-up call turns into a 6:30 scramble with some yelling, some complaining, some staying in bed, and some committing to get up earlier the next morning. Yeah, it never happens.
Tip #6: Know the way to your deer stand.
Deer season requires early mornings and late nights, so knowing where you’re going and where you are is important. After all, in the dark, all trees look the same, and climbing into a deer stand occupied by your neighbor would not be a good start to the season.
Tip #7: Stay young.
In my family, there is an unwritten rule that the youngest hunters get first chance at the big bucks. The idea is that the young hunter can shoot first, and if he or she misses, then the experienced marksman will drop the buck. Unfortunately, my sister and I have proven to be superior marksmen, as we have both shot trophy bucks over the past few years. In fact, we are so good that my dad hasn’t shot a deer in five years. Of course, he says he hasn’t shot because of all the trophies he already has on the wall. My sister and I, however, know the truth.
Tip #8: Walk or drive the draws to flush out deer.
Our cabin sits on a hilled area of 1,000 acres, so there are plenty of places for the deer to hide. That means we walk or drive the canyons to flush them out. This causes some concern for me and my little sister. I soon found that, along with deer, snakes also hide in the canyons, and my sister has a constant fear of being mistaken as a deer.
Tip #9: Know when to shoot and when not to shoot.
We have learned to determine quickly whether the deer we see through our scope is big enough to shoot or small enough to let go. My sister and my trophy deer would attest to that. My cousins, however, seem to have a little problem with this. They say that they see a “monster deer,” but when it hits the ground, and we see the deer, that deer seems to have experienced ground shrinkage. For this reason, they are known as Bambi killers.
Tip #10: Know when to take a break.
Along with deer season in Nebraska is Husker football season. Not seeing any deer? Watch the Huskers. Tired of walking? Watch the Huskers. Freezing in your deer stand? Watch the Huskers. If all else fails, there’s always the Huskers to turn to. Go Big Red!
Tip #11: Make it memorable.
Remember that hunters come in all shapes, sizes, and sexes! When my sister and I tell people we hunt deer, they’re usually shocked, but it’s just another one of our family traditions. All of our cousins are boys, but that has never stopped us from bagging the biggest of bucks. We have story upon story that we will someday be able to share with our children about deer camp.
In the end, deer season really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. However, at our cabin, if you think you smell chestnuts roasting over that open fire, it’s probably just the peanut shells on the floor catching fire or the toy jeep full of deer hunters melting that my cousin carelessly left on top of the wood burning stove. Either way, every year we are making family memories that are as “deer” to us as those at Christmas. So with this being the opening week of deer season, best of luck to all, and to all a good night.