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More to deer hunting than meets the eye

The Outdoors
Lead Summary
Scott Rall, outdoors columnist

I have never really been much of a deer hunter. I have purchased a Minnesota firearms deer license for the past 37 years and have never pulled the trigger on a Minnesota deer. I have participated and helped in the harvesting of many deer over that same time frame.
A few years back I set a record of five youth, all ages 12-13, who all shot their very first deer out of my box stand in a single firearms deer season, which lasts nine days. I watched as a gal, age 62, shot her very first deer two years ago as well. Yet another gal, age 47, who had not shot a deer since she was about 16, harvested a deer out of this same stand a few years back.
I am very fortunate this season to be able to spend some time in the stand with my son Brandon, who between deployments and working a job in Denver, Colorado, was totally absentee balloting from the hunting game for the past 15 years.
You might wonder why I would ever buy that many licenses and then never shoot a deer? I am waiting for the big one.
I love venison. Deer are tasty creatures, and hunters help keep their populations in check. When you live in the flat lands of southwest Minnesota, deer have very few places to hide and thus they don’t very often live very long. Even if you owned a 640-acre section of ground, planted it to great deer habitat, and let not one single soul hunt there, it still would not hold very many, if any, bucks that would reach the age of 4.
A 4-year-old buck can have a nice rack. Most of the deer shot in farm country are less than 2 years old. Anyone can shoot whatever deer makes them happy. I don’t have a problem with this. Deer hunting is different for each person that participates. Some hunters want a deer on the wall with a big rack and others only want the sticks, sausage and other products deer are processed into.
Minnesota hunts deer during the rut. This is the breeding season for deer. Bucks can and do get really stupid during this period and will act and travel in ways they would not even consider the remainder of the year. This is why your 640-acre deer paradise will still not have many mature bucks that live there.
Bucks will chase available does halfway across the county in an attempt to propagate their genes into the next generation. If our season dates closed during the rut, many older, more mature deer would never be seen during daylight hours. Big bucks are often almost totally nocturnal.
When I am sitting in my stand with a youth or other adult on-set hunter, I am always hopeful that a nice mature buck will give me an opportunity to harvest it. In all of those years, I have not had a single deer of the age and size that I am looking for ever show up. But I will always have a deer tag stuck in my wallet just in case. I hunt in a location where there are very high numbers of deer, but the opportunity to shoot a mature 4-year-old is in my mind more remote than me getting struck by lightning twice.
As I mentioned earlier, deer meat tastes great. When this season is completed, I will have all kinds of friends and acquaintances that will have a fresh deer to put in the freezer. This is when I will get the call asking if I want any of the leftover last year’s deer meat, and my answer is always yes. I can get all the venison I could ever want, and some of this meat comes from those who hunted on my property.
Deer hunting for me is watching the sun come up, a hot cup of coffee, and a comfortable place to watch the natural world wake up and go about its day-to-day activities. If there is a harvested deer in this photo, all the better, but killing one does not make my outing any more of a success or failure.
By the time you read this column, the season may be over, but the memories of spending time with my son will last forever.
Whether this will be my year or not is yet to be seen, but the coffee will still be hot.  Be safe everyone.
Scott Rall, Worthington, is a habitat conservationist, avid hunting and fishing enthusiast and is president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. He can be reached at or on Twitter @habitat champion.

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