Well, it’s that time of year again. Deer season opens in New York State this weekend and — would you believe it — I have to leave my plush surroundings at The Breakers in West Palm Beach to make it back for that all important first shot at a big, beautiful buck.
I’m here in sunny southern Florida for David Horowitz’s Restoration Weekend, which will I’m sure make sitting in a frozen blind on the damp forest floor seem even less comfortable than usual, but I wasn’t going to miss opening day for anything — even a poolside cabana, a daiquiri and Doug Schoen’s delightful badinage.
Opening day always makes me think of my first time out. I was nervous, excited, and spent a week wrestling 10-pointers in my dreams before actually hitting the hunt. My expectations were ridiculously high (“What if I fill all my tags?”) and also ridiculously naive. Sure, I’d watched hunting shows, flipped through my Field & Stream fall issues, and listened patiently as my hunting elders tried to explain what was about to happen.
But nothing can prepare you for the real thing. So this year, I thought I’d pass on some wisdom for those of you who are thinking about getting out there, this season or some time in the near future. Because there are some things the experts think are just too obvious to tell you. But trust me, they aren’t. And yes, you are that dumb. These are in fact precisely the things you need to hear.
For one, deer in the field don’t look at all the way they do in your mind. While you’re probably expecting something like this to mosey on up in front of your gun barrel…
…the reality is deer are really, really hard to see. They don’t have paper targets taped on them either. One year I sat in a blind for eight hours, expecting that when a deer rolled up, he’d look like something out of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. It took a long time to learn how to look, and what subtle color variations and movements to look for. If you can spot the deer in this photo, you’re on your way. Hint: It’s in the open, nowhere near the tree line.