Deer Hunting in the USA: All About the Hunt
Hunting is a popular pastime among many Americans. Hunting is partly related to our heritage of wilderness survival and obtaining food. Americans hunt all kinds of large animals (deer, elk, moose, bighorn sheep, and bears) as well as smaller animals (geese, ducks, pheasants, quail, rabbits, and squirrels). Probably the best known kind of hunting is deer hunting. In this post, I’ll present the main concepts of the actual hunt. In a third part, I’ll discuss the reasons Americans (both men and women) go hunting. This information relates specifically to Michigan, but most facts presented here apply across the nation.
Buck rub: A male deer lowers his head to scrape his antlers against a tree for two reasons: 1) to help polish and clean away velvet growth on them and 2) to get ready for competition of the breeding season. The chosen tree is usually less than 4 inches in diameter, so the antlers can fit around the tree, and the tree has some “give” or flexibility in pushing.
Camouflage: coloration that helps the body blend in with the surrounding environments. For a fawn, it’s the spots; for a hunter, it’s special clothing.
Blind: a structure which hides a hunter in order to observe (and shoot) animals without being seen. On the ground, it can consist of a few logs and branches pulled together or be a small, portable building. Up in the air, it may be a free-standing structure on poles or a platform attached to a tree (a “tree blind” ).
Bait: food which hunters leave in the wild to attract deer to a certain area. May include corn, carrots, or sugar beets. In some states, the practice of baiting deer is restricted or illegal.
Opening day (or Opener): the first day of hunting season. Often the most successful day of the year.
Shining deer: This involves the locating of deer in the night time with headlights of a truck or jeep. Deer are naturally mesmerized by bright lights at night and do not know to run away, making them easy to see. Hunting deer in this manner is illegal, as is any discharge of a firearm after sundown.
Firearm season: the hunting season when hunters can only use guns. In Michigan, this is between November 15 and November 30.
Firearms: Most firearm hunters use rifles, but some use shotguns or handguns. A special kind of hunting is done with old-fashioned rifles called muzzle loaders. The long part of a rifle is called the “barrel.” A telescope (called a “scope” ) on top of the gun is used to see the deer from a longer distance. A “safety” is a mechanism which prevents the gun from being accidentally discharged until the hunter releases it and then pulls the “trigger” (shooting mechanism) with the index finger.
Bow (or archery) season: the hunting season when hunters can only use bows and arrows. Most hunters today use a “compound bow” which employs a system of wires and pulleys to maximize the force and accuracy of the shot. In a few states, hunters may use a crossbow, which shoots an arrow from a trigger-fired mechanism. In Michigan, the bow and firearm seasons do not overlap, so bow hunters and firearm hunters are not in the woods at the same time.
Good shot: If the hunter is accurate (or lucky), the first shot will “drop the deer in its tracks” and the animal will die instantly. If the shot is poor, the deer may be only injured and will run off into the woods. The hunter must then track it down, hoping to find it and properly kill it. If the animal is not found, it may slowly bleed to death or die of injury and infection.
Gutting: After the deer has been shot, the hunter must cut open the deer and remove all the internal organs (informally called the “guts” ). This procedure of gutting the deer makes it lighter to drag or carry out of the woods to the hunter’s vehicle or cabin.
Buck pole: At hunting camp, a long wooden beam or tree trunk is tied across two trees about 8 feet off the ground. As hunters return with their deer, the carcasses are hung from the buck pole, head down, allowing any remaining blood to drip out of the gutted body and the hunters to store their kills in the outside cold until the animal is ready to be slaughtered. It also allows proudest hunters to show off the size of the prize deer they shot.
DNR: Department of Natural Resources, the governmental unit which regulates natural areas and hunting.
Conservation officer: a DNR official who has the responsibility to patrol the woods and enforce hunting laws.
Poaching: the hunting of wild game without a license. Many rural people may shoot animals without a license in order to feed their families.
Check station: a highway station where drivers are required to check in and show the license used to shoot the deer they’re transporting. Citizens in possession of a killed deer but no license are subject to fines of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Making conversation with a co-worker or neighbor who is a hunter:
- Are you going hunting this weekend?
- Where do you usually hunt?
- Are you going with friends?
- How did you do on opening day?
- Did you get your buck?
- How was the weather?
- Did you have to wait a long time to see any deer?