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Passing it on

Tom Lounsbury

Thu, 01 Oct 2020 15:56:32 EDT


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I truly believe that the youth deer hunt held in Michigan this past weekend is a very good thing. It allows seasoned deer hunters an excellent opportunity to pass on the hunting heritage to a younger generation that are beset these days by high-tech entertainment and other matters which tends to keep them more indoors than outdoors. The primary goal of youth hunts is, in fact, meant to recruit young hunters, something that has been falling by the wayside in recent years, and more than most folks realize.
The youth I was able to mentor when the first youth deer hunt entered the scene was my youngest son Joe, and I was very impressed and appreciative of the atmosphere it allowed. The mentoring adult is (usually) not allowed to hunt with any sort of hunting arm. The idea being, that the adult places a total focus on instructing the youth during the hunt and remains close at hand during the entire process. All I carry (and still to this day) is only a deer call, knife and rubber gloves for field dressing (and showing the youth how to do it,) and a binocular for glassing. Being a fulltime deer hunting guide/mentor during this special weekend is something I look forward to each year, and enjoy very much.
When my son Joe became too old for the youth hunt, I've taken other kids that I have "adopted", so to speak, for hunting during the weekend. I believe it is very important that I make every opportunity to do my part in passing on a hunting heritage that I so dearly love.
There are, of course, some who are opposed to the youth deer hunt. The majority I've listened to believe that the youths are given an unfair advantage to hunt deer that are in a relatively ignorant timeframe, and therefore bagging big trophy bucks that won't be available when the regular deer seasons arrive. Also, bagging those big trophy bucks that early is removing them from the proverbial gene pool before they've had a chance to breed and pass on their ever important genes. Some say the youth deer hunt is fine, but that the youths should only shoot does (and, heaven forbid, as well, if the antlerless deer shot turns out to be a button-buck, and a proverbial, potential big buck in the future).
Other detractors to the youth deer hunt claim that it allows unscrupulous adults to take a kid out hunting, so the adult can instead shoot the ever special trophy big bucks.
My response to all of this, is that the youth deer hunt only accounts for not much of Michigan's annual deer harvest. I also firmly believe there is no such thing as an "ignorant" whitetail, as they are instinctively very wary and true wild creatures of their environment during any timeframe. As for removing trophy bucks from the gene pool, I've taken my share of big bucks during the early October bow season that weren't around when the annual rut period occurred, which usually starts up near Halloween, and I've personally never seen any effects on that proverbial gene pool (younger bucks even carry it and pass it on). And if a youth happens to bag the biggest bruiser in my neck of the woods, well folks, more power to the kid. I have yet to see any deer with my initials branded on it, causing it to be my personal property. It belongs to whoever legally and ethically, kills and tags it.
As for the unscrupulous adults using the youth hunt for their personal gain, I'm sure there are some out there (you can never change stupid). A few greedy, obtuse idiots seem to be figured into any sort of population counts. I have no sympathy at all for complainers who claim to know about a violator, but have failed to report the game violation to MDNR law enforcement officials (there is the Rap line at the finger-tips of most folks).
Some years back, I had the opportunity to guide 12 year old Tre Selling of Akron for the two-day youth deer hunt. Tre's only experience with firearms had been with a .22 rifle during a recent Hunter Education course. So a few days prior to the hunt, I had Tre come and visit my shooting range in the backyard, and I introduced him to a youth model H&R 20 ga single-shot shotgun that I have in my collection. Topped with an electronic red dot sight, I've found the combination to be ideal for small framed, beginning shooters. Tre quickly adapted to the little shotgun, and after plinking at targets from various positions (in this case, a cardboard box) using birdshot loads, we then went to deer slugs at some paper targets on my backstop. Tre turned out to be a real natural at hitting the bullseye, and he thoroughly enjoyed shooting.
The opening morning found us sitting in a clump of goldenrod near a soybean field, waiting for a particular big buck I knew had been following a set pattern. Patterning deer can work to a certain degree prior to the rut, and a reason trail cameras (which I have yet to use) are becoming quite popular. However, here in the Thumb, annual crop harvests can change deer activity dramatically in a set area overnight due to removal of a primary food source. Weather, of course, can impact everything, and then there are the moon phases. There truly is something to be said about the effects of the moon phases on deer activity. I especially don't care for full moon timeframes, and wouldn't you know the youth hunt that weekend had a full moon. Combine that with strong, near gale force winds and rain, and you have a rather challenging hunting atmosphere, especially with a new, young hunter in tow.
The buck of course, didn't make an appearance that morning, and in fact no deer did with the wind that picked up at daylight sweeping hard over and through the soybean field. Actually Tre let me know he'd be happy with any deer, and that was quite comforting for me to know, although I personally was hoping he would bag a dandy buck.
With deer not moving in our area, I decided to show Tre how to go and find them. This entailed still-hunting some heavy cover, including standing corn, and spot and stalking the more open areas, such as CRP grass fields. I taught Tre a few hand signals which entail that when I hold up a closed fist, it means freeze, and if the fist turns into a palm-down mode, get down. We used our eyes more than our feet, and I explained to Tre how to be sure to carefully peek around corners in the cover before stepping out. It was during one such moment that Tre received the closed fist signal immediately followed by the palm down. 100 yards away, a pair of does were feeding in a small, sheltered opening, and since I wanted Tre's shot to be about half that distance, we began our stalk, first stooped over, and then belly-crawling. Tre discovered right away there is nothing boring at all about stalking wary whitetails.
It was my orange cap that blew our position and our stalk, when a strong gust of wind tore it from my head and sent it twirling above us. One doe in particular didn't like suspended caps twirling about. Shortly after this we encountered a rather large bedded buck in heavy cover, less than 10 yards away that spotted me just before I spotted him. However I'm a bit taller than Tre, who couldn't see the buck as it jumped up and disappeared. Since we were downwind of the buck, it did leave behind its unique, pungent odor. When Tre acknowledged he could smell it too, I told him to always remember that odor, because it meant a buck was in the near vicinity, even if Tre never saw it.
Tre did eventually get a shot as our hunt was nearing a close. We spotted a large doe 250 yards away in prairie grass. We brought this range down to 60 yards when the shot presented itself. Things happened quickly as the doe sensed our presence and paused broadside for just a second. Although Tre's shot missed, he didn't freeze up during the moment of truth, and fired on cue during the quickly changing situation.
That's when I explained misses occur, and that I have done it myself many, many times. It is why it is called hunting. And, nope, he didn't get a deer during the hunt, and such happens, and we had a great time together, trying to get 'er done! It is what it truly about, and with no guarantees.
I've "adopted" a number of kids over the years since the beginning of the special youth deer hunt, and all have remained devoted hunters. One even went on recently to become a MDNR Conservation Officer, much to my delight (he told me when had I took him hunting, that was his goal in life, and he certainly has carried through).
My most recent kid to take hunting during the special youth deer season this past weekend was 13 year old Mason Brown of Cass City. We had a great time together, and he was full of the typical questions while we were hunting, which I expect and much appreciate. Nope, folks, we didn't get a deer. It isn't as easy as the naysayers say, but we came real close to deer a couple times, but no cigar, it is what it is.
Mason Brown got a raincheck from me. Deer hunting is far from over yet, and I hope to make matters happen for him. It is my way.
The future of hunting depends upon that attitude.


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click on the picture to enlarge




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