Antlerless deer. We can debate about the merits
of an early antlerless deer season – I’ve done it twice and love it
– but there’s one argument folks who are against it use that really
In a variety of forums, I’ve heard people wonder about how many
bucks were “accidentally” shot during the two-day season.
They go on to say that puts the hunter in a sticky situation: Call
a conservation officer and admit the mistake, or leave the deer on
True, the early antlerless season is meant to reduce the number
of does, those deer that drive the population. True, shooting a
buck during that season counters the season’s intended effect.
But how you can “accidentally” shoot a buck is a little
fuzzy to me, given that one of the main rules in hunting is to be
sure what you’re shooting at. Just as hunters – most of us, anyway
– wouldn’t shoot at movement and a flash of brown in the brush,
hunters during an antlerless-only season wouldn’t shoot at a deer
until they’re sure it doesn’t have antlers.
Right? Apparently not, for some.
If you can’t tell whether the deer has antlers or not, why would
you shoot at it? Am I missing something here?
During the antlerless season this year, I was hunting with a
friend of mine, Mark Tuchscherer, in Clearwater County. By Saturday
around 5 in the evening, Mark had a doe in the bag – there were
deer with antlers in the same field, but he was able to pick out
and shoot a doe – and I was sitting and waiting for something to
Around 5:30, I heard some rustling behind me, and a short time
later saw a shadow moving toward me. I hoped it was a doe, and that
it would walk past me enough to offer a shot. I readied my rifle,
and peered through the scope, waiting for that deer to appear.
It did, about 10 feet away. Darn near filled the scope. While my
first instinct was to shoot as soon as it was in my scope- after
all, the deer was this</> close – a quick look at the
head showed a couple of spikes. It was a buck. My heart was
pounding and I wanted some venison, but I didn’t shoot.
With a deer staring me down from 10 feet, it was a
split-second decision to shoot or not to shoot. Since it was a
buck, I removed my finger from the trigger. The buck took off (the
wind was right, so he never scented me and ended up coming back a
couple more times to try, I imagine, to figure out what in the heck
I was) and I never did shoot a deer that weekend.
There’s always the firearms season that starts next week.
Then, I’ll be able to shoot either a doe or a buck, but I can’t
imagine a scenario in which I’ll be surprised by the sex of the
deer when I walk up to it.