Science of Hunting and The Good Old Days

O. Vohringer

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I learned a lot about the woods, plants and animals from my father and the old men of the hunting camp. Today I sometimes have to force myself to recall the wisdom of those men. Each time I do so my hunting success improves dramatically.
The recent controversy surrounding the Scent-Lok company and their supposed promise that their carbon lined apparel is 100% capable of eliminating human odor got me thinking about how hunting is today compared to the time of our fathers and grandfathers.
Today hunting is all about science and modern technology. Hunting has moved from a simple outdoor activity to a space age, technology driven race to sell hunting-success promising products. From the technologically advanced compound bow that can shoot carbon arrows at lightening speeds to the image stabilizing, high precision rifle scope; it's all here to help us kill that elusive monster buck and the moment we purchase one of the high tech products it is outdated by even better high tech products.

Technology and science does not stop with products that guarantee 100% hunting success. One of the newer fashions in the world of QDM (Quality Deer Management) is ‘growing’ better and bigger deer with the purpose, obviously, of growing larger antlers. Scientifically designed and mixed seeds will make sure that the deer in your area will all grow into record book trophies. No bull, it has been scientifically proven to work! And then there is, of course, the plethora of products that promise to take care of human odor, the age-old problem hunters face when dealing with the fine nosed whitetail deer.

Clothing lined with carbon, soaps, shampoos or laundry detergent all have one thing in common. They promise instant success that has been scientifically proven. Or how about the all-synthetic, better than nature, deer attractant lures? Doe and buck urine that never saw the inside of a bladder but which science will have you know is a chemical mix that is 100% better than the real stuff. If we are to believe the advertising dominating every hunting magazine and TV screen, we hunters have nothing to do but sit and wait for all the gadgets and gizmos to bring a trophy buck our way.

Let's stop right here for a minute and make a leap back in time.

I fondly remember my childhood, sharing hunting camps with my father and his hunting friends in the days where we didn't have all that science available and the gadgets derived from that science. We wore lots of wool clothing, not camouflaged, which was washed with any old laundry detergent available. Game calls were not invented yet. There were a few old men that could produce a perfectly pitched buck grunt with the mouth and a blade of grass. I admired these men. The only deer scent we had available was the urine of harvested deer.

What I remember really well was that the game pole on any given trip was quickly filled to capacity with deer and other critters- often to the breaking point.
I honestly cannot remember a time where any hunter in our camp went home empty handed. What I do remember is that besides deer a lot of small game and birds were brought to the camp as a welcome addition to the otherwise boring camp meals.

How did they do it? Nobody had high-powered magnum rifles with synthetic stocks and stainless steel barrels firing composite ammunition. Most game was shot with the trusted old .30-06 and open iron sights. The next popular deer hunting gun was a shotgun loaded with buckshot and the odd lever action rifle. Game was taken at very short ranges compared with the ranges we take game today. Back then we rarely saw a rifle topped with a scope; that was something only wealthy hunters could afford to buy.

And yet miraculously, despite the lack of technology, backs then hunters have been successful in shooting game too. They probably killed more game than the average hunter does today. Another puzzling aspect to this hunter success rate was the fact that the deer population then was nowhere close to what it is today. Today's deer numbers are several millions stronger than they were forty years ago, yet we harvest less deer today than when I was a child. How come?

Sure these days bag limits are not as generous as they were forty years ago or even longer ago. There was little true wildlife management and most certainly no Quality Deer Management and planting food plots with scientifically mixed seeds. In those days most hunters went to the woods each fall to provide nutritious sustenance for the families.

So how did they do it?

Here is what I think has happened. Today we have come to rely too much on modern products. I lost count of how many times I heard something like: “Since I started shooting with bow ‘x’ I kill more deer.” or “The deer saw me because I didn't wear the right camouflage.” And even this one: “I missed the buck because the scent lure I was using was no good- it spooked the buck.” Rarely if ever do I hear somebody say. “I messed it up because I didn't know better”.

The hunters of yore had no high tech products to blame for mess-ups. They only had to blame themselves. These hunters knew that their hunting success was in direct relation to how much they knew about the animals they pursued, the lay of the land and the weather conditions. A good hunter was also a good woodsman and animal biologist. I remember listening to my father and the older hunters with an intense thirst for wisdom. Their knowledge of animals and habitat was simply stunning to me. Some of the hunters could tell by looking at broken grass, leaves, or twigs what direction the deer was headed.

I have learned a lot about the woods, plants and animals from my father and the old men of the hunting camp. Today I sometimes have to force myself to recall the wisdom of those men. Each time I do so my hunting success improves dramatically. We have come to rely so much on gadgets, gizmos and expert advice that we have forgotten how to think, how to observe, and how to register it all and then put that information together in our noggins to formulate a hunting strategy. It seems we can't function anymore without the aid of modern technology and if success fails us we’re quickly ready to blame it on the technology and not where the blame should really go - ourselves. In no way do I attempt to diminish modern science and technology but these things should be viewed as useful aids and not as do-all and be-all necessities. Once all is said and done hunting success boils down to one thing: us! We make it or break it- not our guns and not our camouflage or any other product.

The most modern rifle or bow will not shoot a deer for you if you don't have the time or inclination to practice and become proficient with it. Reading hunting magazines explaining the latest tactics will not make you a better hunter. Spending time in the field observing and studying will make you a better hunter. The best scent control product will not work if you do not hunt with the wind in your face. The best scientifically written book on scouting will not reveal where you have to hang the stand if you do not go out and scout the area thoroughly and figure out how the deer travel and what time of the season they use an area and why. It's all about YOU!

Othmar Vohringer is a freelance outdoor writer, seminar speaker and founder of SHS (Smart Hunting Strategies), established in 2001, from British Columbia, Canada. He can be contacted via his blog located at the link below.

Posted by O. Vohringer under Hunting on July 19, 08 07:38 AM | Permalink

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