The Armchair Outfitter

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Pass – Fail

January 31st, 2011 · 2 Comments


Taking a pass, letting one walk; these are euphemisms for making a conscious decision not to take an animal that should be yours dead to rights.  As a confirmed “meat hunter” I have not had much occasion to use such phrases in the past.  A unique set of circumstances on a 2008 Tennessee deer hunt gave me new insight into the decision not to drop the hammer.

My wife’s uncle Gary has been managing his land for deer for the past few years.  A fire set by a neighbor burned a large portion of the timber on the property, so in some sense, he began his whitetail project with a clean slate.  Comparing the racks of two bucks similar in other respects but taken three years apart suggests that he is having some success in bettering the overall condition of his deer herd.  I was therefore quite excited by Gary’s invitation to hunt this property over the Thanksgiving holiday.  It was the first time I’d ever hunted there, so I was also keen to know Gary’s expectations as to my conduct while hunting.  I learned from talking to Gary that due to some bad experiences in the past, I would be one of only a handful of people allowed access to over 200 acres.  Some nimrod who was to kill a few does to reduce the population took two button bucks instead, thereby ending his hunting career on the place.  Gary had a ladder stand hung for me to use, and although he graciously offered for me to kill anything I chose, I was determined not to wear out my welcome.

The first afternoon I hunted on the property, a young buck of no more than 140 pounds came strolling within 40 yards of the stand.  I mistook him for a spike at first, but on closer inspection I discovered that both antlers forked just at the tips.  His rack was well inside his ears, and if he had any brow tines, I couldn’t make them out even through my scope.  Whatever standards Gary had in mind, I knew neither an immature 4-point nor a basket-rack 6 would fit the bill.  My .270 remained silent, and the young buck kept walking.

The next morning, I had two does playing and eating acorns under my stand.  One urinated not ten feet in front of the ladder.  Ordinarily either of them would have been fair game, but after a long and confusing review of the Tennessee regulations I had concluded that I could not legally take a doe.  There was no “quota” hunt for does listed in “Unit L” where I was hunting.  As it turns out, I could not have legally taken either doe, but only because I had not purchased a “non-quota” tag for the princely sum of $12.  Unit L has no doe hunt because you can kill does there.  Makes sense, right?  I literally had to call a state wildlife office to understand it, and I have been practicing law for 16 years.  But then again, what do you expect from a state that has three deer hunting units and labels them A, B, and L?

I forked over the dough the next day and got my permit, and this of course guaranteed that I would not get an opportunity to shoot a doe again for the duration of the trip.  The same two came by the stand again in search of more acorns, but this time they were skittish because a young spike was worrying them.  He sniffed the spot where one had urinated the day before and then went back to dogged pursuit.  What he lacked in technique, he was trying to make up in enthusiasm. The ladies, unimpressed, soon left the area.  I would have been upset had the little buck not reminded me so much of myself during my college years.

I didn’t manage to take a deer off the Tennessee property that first year, but the last weekend of the Alabama season, I got this nice consolation prize.


The 2009 season yielded a nice Tennessee doe as pictured in an earlier post, but there was no real story.  I don’t have notes from that hunt, but if I did, they would read something like, “Deer walked by stand; shot deer.  Field dressed and took to processor.  Drank beer.  Slept well.”  Ted Trueblood it ain’t, folks.

This year as the Alabama season is winding down, I find myself without a deer for the first time in several seasons.  It does not help my feelings that another blog (yeah, it was Field and Stream) just pointed out that the average Alabama deer hunter takes just over two deer per year.  Well at least I ain’t average!

I saw some true monsters in Kansas while bird hunting, but I was armed with handloads of nickel plated #5s.  They are pure poison on pheasants, but they would not make a dent in the 200 pound 12 or 14 point I had at a dead stop 35 yards away.  It’s certainly not that I didn’t see deer in Tennessee this year either.  I saw many more than normal, but every one of them could have been the same deer.  This year’s doe, just out of spots, about 40 pounds.  I had the crosshairs on more deer this year than I ever have, and I almost took one just to continue my streak, but the Sporting Wife said, “Don’t go out there and kill an animal that is less than what you want just to preserve some stupid streak.  That would not make me happy.”  She is annoying like that, with the moral compass bit.

Jimbo Fishman was good enough to listen to my tale of woe and offer that those deer had better be glad they didn’t walk out in front of him.  He said at that size they are easy to tote, easy to skin out, and they taste great.  He’s right on all three counts, but I still think all that bowhunting has affected his brain.  Streaks must come to an end I suppose.  Heck, look at Brett Favre.  Well maybe don’t look, but remember better days.

Tags: Whitetail Deer Hunting

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Beata // Feb 1, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    I agree with the Sporting Wife! I’ve bragged to everyone about those country fried venison steaks you made – delicious!

  • 2 armchairoutfitter // Feb 1, 2011 at 4:48 pm

    In response to your question, yes we do eat like that at the deer camp all the time. You’ve seen the guys from the deer camp, right? How about that deer camp salty dog too? Of course, you didn’t have the authentic deer camp version because I couldn’t see through yours. The best ones are mixed half-and-half or better.

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