Do you have a hunter in your house? It seems to me that recently there has been a renewed national interest in hunting, so when Walmart asked the Walmart Moms to do a post on hunting, I knew it was the perfect time to write “Hunting Season–The Spouse Guide”.
Now I grew up in a hunting household back in Maine–but my dad was a bird hunter. That meant he got kitted up in the morning, loaded the dogs into the car, and headed out. He would sometimes be gone all day, sometimes just a morning or afternoon, depending on his schedule–but he always came home at night after tromping through the brush following the dogs as he hunted woodcock, grouse and pheasant. When he came home he’d chuck the birds out on the porch and it was my brother and my job to clean them–I think my sisters must have brushed the dogs (they would get terribly tangled in burdock and mud).
Fast forward many years and I married a hunter of my own. Yankee Bill has been hunting deer since he was a teen. He used to take hunting season off in the military (when he could) and hit the woods with his dad up until he passed. Now he hunts each year with his friends, their sons, my brother and last year even taking Buddy out for a morning in the tree stand (which is more like a tree house). Princess even wants to get in on the action, having been given her first long gun for her 12th birthday and completing the NY state hunters safety course.
So for those of you out there who are new to this whole hunting thing, I thought I’d share a bit about deer hunting–from the spouse’s perspective.
Well to start with when you go deer hunting you need to have a hunting license. Your license says what you are allowed to legal hunt in your state (deer–specific to bucks or does, bear, boar etc), with what kind of weapon (rifle, muzzleloader and bow–all of which have different “start” dates for their season, although they overlap) and where what region within the state. note: some states might have rules about the type of gun used and restrict hunting to a shotgun only–with a slug rather than shot. NY was like this while my husband was growing up, but now allows rifles.
In New York for regular season rifle hunting you get a regular tag (for a buck) and then if eligible you may get additional doe tags. Tags are specific to geographic locations–when we go for our tags we have to say what regions we want and hope we get them before they run out for that region. So I always head off to Walmart’s sporting goods section as soon as possible to purchase my tags. Also in NY if you receive a doe tag you can sign it over to another hunter. So I always get my license and then sign my doe tag over to Yankee Bill. Each state has it’s own rules about licenses and tagging–so make sure you know yours.
The hunter also needs a rifle which they are familiar with, have practiced on and have sighted in for the year. . . and of course ammunition. There are still a lot of ammunition shortages out there for certain calibers–so I’d suggest stocking up on your practice and hunting ammunition sooner rather then later.
So let’s talk about a typical day hunting.
While Yankee Bill will hunt on and off all during hunting season, he and the “boys” will take the first full week of hunting season off from work and go to “deer camp”–basically our friend’s unimproved property in the woods. Some folks have an actual cabin or camp built–but we have our campers. It’s usually the week just before Thanksgiving here in NY, so the weather is chilly–especially early in the morning. Sometimes there is snow.
Deer hunting starts very early in the morning. Deer move at dawn and dusk–and a hunter wants to be hunkered down in their stand (ie their hunting spot) well before that movement starts. You see deer are very skittish and have a good sense of smell. Sudden movements, noises, or smells will scare them away before a hunter has time to line up a shot–so you need to be in place, waiting silently, before they get there. Although the guys all get up at the crack of dawn together, eat some quick chow and fill their thermoses with coffee, they all head off in different directions for their various stands and blinds.
There are several kinds of stands/blinds. Most folks in my area favor some sort of “Tree Stand“–basically a type of stool or chair attached to a tree where the hunter sits. There are also ground blinds that range from what seems to be a tent to a small camouflage cover for a chair. No matter what is chosen, it needs to help hide the hunter from the view of the game and *hopefully* give them a somewhat comfortable place to wait. It also needs to be placed where there is a good chance of actually seeing a deer (as shown by scat, footprints/game trails, rubs/scrapes on trees or previously noted patterns from trail cameras). Yankee Bill checks his trail camera fairly frequently, and this year we’ve already seen evidence of two does hanging out in the area, as well as both a 6 point and 8 point buck. (note: the “points” refer to how many spikes they have on their antlers–larger racks are on older/larger deer and are more prized for bragging rights-although I think the little guys with fewer “points” taste better!)
Several years back, Yankee Bill chose his perfect site for deer hunting and rather then using a tree stand or a blind he decided to build what the guys refer to as “the condo”. Yup. My hubs built an actual tree house for his hunting stand. He pre assembled it at home, took it down to large pieces, hauled them into the woods on the 3 wheeler and then reassembled it scarily far up in a tree–at least by my estimation. So he gets to be out of the wind, sitting on a chair, with a little propane heater taking the chill off each year. On the other hand, unlike the guys with the portable tree stands, he can’t just move to a new spot if that one isn’t panning out after a few days.
Believe it or not, one of the things hubs loves most about hunting is this quiet time in the deer stand. Although the guys all have portable 2 way radios to keep in contact–they are not for idle chatter. Keying the mike at the wrong time or talking out of boredom may spook a deer just as someone is lining up a shot. Trust me, you DON’T want to mess up someones shot! And woe be to the spouse who sends a text message or tries to call and scares away the game–especially if the hunter forgot to put their phone on mute!
My husband says there is something meditative about hunting. During much of your hunting day you are being completely silent, but your attention is turned outward–taking in the nature around you as you wait and hope for that deer, and that shot. Yankee Bill says that he always feels closer to God out there in that quiet.
Because the hunters are sitting out in the woods for long stretches of time in the uncertain fall weather without moving, clothing is important. You want layers. Each layer traps in a bit of air, adding insulation–and if you need to as the day progresses you can remove layers. Wool socks, long johns and thermal undergarments are key elements to any hunting wardrobe. There are lots of awesome performance fabrics out there these days, but remember, wool is one of the few things that will still help you retain heat when wet–which is why it is still the gold standard for hiking and hunting socks.
While we are talking about clothes, I would be remiss not to mention the infamous “Blaze Orange”. Deer can’t see it (color blind!), but people can–so it is a great safety precaution to keep you from being accidentally shot by an overzealous hunter. Some states actually require that you wear a certain amount of blaze orange. (note: any hunter worth his or her salt does not shoot at ANYTHING unless they have positively identified it–but why take chances when it’s easy to add an orange hat or vest to your hunting gear)
By late morning the deer have stopped moving and it’s time to head back to camp for a bit. The hunters make some grub (like my husband’s famous Two Can Stew), swap stories and hang out around the campfire taking off the chill. It’s just good old fashioned guy time. By mid afternoon it’s time to head back out, hunker down and watch the deer start moving again. . . hopefully. . .
When night falls, they call it quits and head back to camp for dinner, time around the fire, a few cold beers and then an early night–after all, they were up at the crack of dawn and need to be again tomorrow!
Now what happens if they actually get a deer?
Sometimes you get a shot, but the deer isn’t killed right away and the hunter will have to track it through the woods to find either where it expires or to put it out of it’s misery. Other times it will go down. Either way–once the deer is dead you need to field dress it right away. According to wikipedia:
Field dressing is the process of removing the internal organs of hunted game, and is a necessary step in preserving meat from animals harvested in the wild. Field dressing must be done as soon as possible in order to ensure rapid body heat loss, and prevent bacteria from growing on the surface of the carcass. Field dressing helps maintain the overall quality of the meat. It also makes it considerably easier for a hunter to carry larger game from the hunt area.
To field dress the game, the hunter needs a good knife or a field dressing kit, field dressing gloves (which are long), and of course the knowledge on how to actually do it. The entrails are just left in the woods for animals to scavenge and then the deer is removed from the woods. Yankee Bill uses the 3 wheeler and bungie cords to bring deer back to camp–otherwise you might need a friend to help you drag it out.
Your deer tag has to be filled out and attached to the deer, and then most folks will hang their deer from a tree using just a rope or a special game hoist–as long as the weather is going to stay below 40 degrees and above zero. Hanging tenderizes and “ages” the meat. Field and Stream had a nice article explaining “Deer Hang Time“.
After hanging you can either butcher your deer yourself (using butchering tools of course) or you can take it to someone who does the processing for you. We just pay the guy the $70 and have them do the messy part for us–getting back nice clean butcher paper wrapped packages. As an added bonus, the name of our butchering guy is “Beaver Bob”–so I get to toss out “Beaver Bob” in conversation a few times every fall, which is totally worth it
Finally, with your freezer full of venison (hopefully) you are ready for the winter!
So what do I, the spouse do for hunting season? Well first, I clean out the freezer in anticipation of extra meat. Then I head off to Walmart to pick up camp food–including the ingredients for the Two Can Stew, plenty of coffee and fixings, a case of beer, luncheon meat and bread, chocolate bars, poptarts (this is the only time we really buy them), sunflower seeds and beef jerky.
Then I call the girls, set up a babysitter for the kiddos, and make plans with all the other hunting widows to spend the first Saturday the guys are hunting hitting the stores for a group Christmas Shopping extravaganza and girls night out! As my one friend always says “They do their kind of hunting, we do ours”