How do you go about actually hunting deer?
I’ve come to believe it’s a pretty simple process. By following some straightforward guidelines your chances of success will be greater than if you just wander willy-nilly through the bush. You have to hunt where the deer are. You could be the most skilful hunter in the world; you will never get one in the Sylvia Park carpark.
As I mentioned in an earlier piece, the bloke who puts in the most work gets the most tails.
The next thing to keep in mind is that deer need food. Only a small proportion of our native forest has areas of good browse. Most of our forest hunting areas have been significantly modified by browsing animals to where there simply isn’t anything for deer to eat. It was a revelation to me to see the proliferation of palatable species when I first started hunting in the Raukumara. Deer were just getting established in the area I hunted. The deer were huge, twice the size of the Urewera deer, but very few of them. Another interesting observation for me was the clear delineation in browsed to untouched areas caused by cattle feeding. The browsed areas looked like they had been bombed.
So, if there is so little tucker in the bush, where is it? Simply, anywhere the light can get into the bush and where there is a source of nutrients. Natural senescence and catastrophic events create gaps in the foliage which encourage new growth. But a more significant influence is that of water. The natural sequence of erosion means weathering rock will break away from parent material and be transported to the sea by water. As the rock weathers, nutrients are released. The significance for the hunter is that there will be slips and creeks in a lot of bushed areas. The slips and creeks allow plenty of light into the bush and release and transport nutrients. These are the areas where the most abundant regenerating growth is found. This accounts for the advice given to new shooters, hunt the creeks and the head guts.
Deer will seek the best food sources available to them. The best tucker of the lot is topdressed pasture or crops. Wait till you see the deer pour out of the kanuka onto the topdress on the back paddocks of East Coast stations. The cockies who put in chou in deer country know all about the attraction of crops.
Modifying the lure of high quality feed is the instinct, particularly in hinds, to remain in a distinct home range. You will find skinny hinds in areas some distance from good feed. It is fair to say, though, that higher numbers of deer will be found in areas of good food.
Another viable hunting method is ” hunt the hot spots”. These are often clearings. A lot of them are man made, sometimes by fire, some by logging, and some by previous habitation. Once you have found them they will usually keep producing well. As a working hunter I could not rely on just hotspots for a good tally. I know hunters who have bought cars by just hunting hotspots.
One thing that doesn’t change is that deer leave marks. They cannot fly. They have to defecate. If there are no marks, there are no deer.
I will have to leave some other aspects of hunting till next epistle but will say again the successful hunter knows the botany, hydrology, and geology of his area and puts the work in.