I finally got to go deer hunting this past Saturday. After all the prep work and target practice, it was nice to get back out in the woods again. This was my first experience hunting whitetail in the Midwest. The differences between this and hunting muleys or blacktail in the West are striking when you experience them first-hand.The area I hunt in is only about a half-hour drive from the house. It’s around 10 miles, but due to low speed limits it’s a slow drive. I had some things I needed to do early in the day, so I didn’t get out to the field until mid-day. I would have found the spot I hunted from much sooner if I had been bolder around the people. I had intended to park on the public land in one spot, then walk down the road about half a mile past someone’s private property to get to the spot I wanted to enter the woods. I’m sure it would be fine, but my experiences in California openly carrying a hunting bow had me nervous to encounter people during my daylight trek. As a result, I hiked through the woods over the hills, got myself overheated, and arrived at my hunting spot an hour later than if I had just taken the road.
It was a beautiful day. Sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree 15 yards or so off the game trail, I thought about my work and my family. I had a nice long talk with God about all the things that are good and not-so-good in my life. I saw the squirrel in the tree 25 yards away before I heard it. Quiet time, away from all of the normal sights, sounds, and smells of my life was rejuvenating. I stayed until almost sundown, then made my way back to the road. This time, I did take the route back that I had intended when I started. Nobody challenged me; in fact, the one car that drove past slowed way down to make sure they didn’t disturb me much. On the upside, too, I found another place I could park that is closer to where I came out of the woods.
Similarities between Midwest and Western hunting
Sitting there in the quiet of the woods, I got to thinking about what is similar and what is different between the two styles of hunting. Out West, spot-and-stalk is much more prevalent than in the Midwest. Scent control and paying attention to how and where you walk are universal, I think. You still need to “hunt your way in” to wherever you’re going to set up (paying attention to wind direction, thermals, and trying to not work so hard you sweat), and working as quietly as possible is always a good idea. For me, with my limited experience, this is where the similarities end.
Differences between Midwest and Western
Yes, you need to work quietly and pay attention to scent control; I think it’s almost more important in the Midwest. Instead of spotting from a quarter- or half-mile away and making a plan for the stalk, you do your scouting and research up front then set yourself up in one spot to wait for the deer to come within range. You can sometimes rattle or call, but those lures depend very heavily on the time of season to be appropriate.
I understand tree stands far better after one day sitting on the ground 12 yards off the trail. I had two usable shooting lanes. If I had been in a tree stand, I would have been able to shoot anything for 180 degrees around me. I wouldn’t have had to worry so much about fidgeting or shifting positions on the ground spooking deer, either. The downside for the stand, maybe, would have been taking my nose out of the equation. There were a couple of times I knew I was downwind from a deer. It just was farther away. If I had been in a tree stand, I’m not sure I would have noticed that.
I really enjoy hunting deer, even if I don’t get a shot off. I like the constant learning. The quiet time to spend in prayer and with my own thoughts without the distractions of my normal life helps when Monday rolls around again. I would love to bring home a deer to put in the freezer, but just trying is a great reason to spend a day in the woods. I’ll make some changes next weekend, but I will continue to hunt from the ground and I will have a great time whether I get a shot or not.