Editor’s Note: To understand how baiting for deer with corn has become one of the most-effective wildlife management tools a deer hunter has today, we have to look at the history of how hunters once took deer and the changes that have occurred in deer management since then. I’ve been learning and studying deer hunters’ philosophies from the 1960s until today. In the past few years, I just have begun to realize why baiting with corn and using trail cameras are so effective at finding and taking older-age-class bucks, while the younger ones are growing to maturity. So, I’ll share with you too what my son and I have learned about managing a deer herd to only harvest older-age-class bucks during hunting season. I’ve never been a fan of baiting. Now having said that, I’ve hunted over corn feeders in Texas and bait piles in Canada. However, I’ve always felt like baiting was cheating when you’re trying to take deer. But I’ve learned differently.
My dad, William Archie Phillips, and my brother, William Archie Phillips. Jr., always took me hunting and fishing with them. My dad’s philosophy was, “If my sons aren’t welcome on fishing and hunting trips, then I’m not going because I want to hunt with my boys.” This philosophy is the same one that my brother and I adopted with our families. I learned as I grew older that my taking game or catching fish was far more important to my dad than him having the opportunity to take game. For this reason, he always tried to put me on the best stands or in the most-productive places to try and take a buck. He also would put me in the front of the boat, where I’d always have the best chance of taking bass, crappie and/or catfish.
When my son John, Jr., (JJ) came along, I taught him how to hunt and catch fish, using the same philosophy that my dad had. I experienced more joy and accomplishment when JJ was successful than I would have experienced if I’d been successful. And, I think this is a tradition that many hunters pass down to their sons and daughters.
But this past year I realized how terribly I had negatively impacted the most-important ingredient in teaching my family about taking deer, turkeys and other game. The real sense of accomplishment in hunting is not when you squeeze the trigger on a trophy buck because that just shows how proficient you are with your chosen hunting weapon, and that you can shoot accurately. The thrill of taking a trophy buck comes when you’ve pinpointed an older-age-class buck that you want to take, and you’ve learned where he feeds, beds and travels, and when he’s most likely to appear during daylight hours. When you take a buck like this, that you’ve studied and learned all you can about him, there’s an emotional bond that occurs between the hunter and the buck. That emotional bond is often most dramatically seen when the hunter finally harvests the buck he’s been hunting for one year or perhaps for several years. You can see that emotional bond when the hunter gets so shook up he has to wait on his stand before he feels safe enough to climb out of a tree. Many dedicated deer hunters will cry after they’ve hunted an older-age-class buck and finally taken him. As in any other sport, the journey to success in hunting deer is much more valuable and creates a stronger memory than actually taking the prize does. Also, if and when a hunter gets physically upset after taking a buck that he’s been studying for a while, he realizes he’s finally accomplished the goal that he’s set out to accomplish when he’s first seen this buck of his dreams, and he knows when he’s harvested that buck that he’ll never get to hunt the same buck again.
I’ve been fortunate enough to interview some men and women who have taken their dream bucks. Many of these hunters have been trying to take a specific buck for several years. They may have had close encounters with this buck, and they may have sat on their stands from daylight to dark, hoping to see this buck within shooting range. I mention this aspect of deer hunting because in my enthusiasm for wanting to help my son John hunt and harvest deer, I overlooked this aspect of hunting and allowed him to skip the other steps that would have allowed him to be successful at harvesting deer with or without my presence. I essentially cheated him out of a hunting education. The old saying, “You can give a man a fish and feed him for a day, or you can teach a man to fish and he’ll be able to eat for a lifetime,” still remains true today. In allowing John to harvest deer without teaching him how to hunt deer, I cheated him out of the richest values that hunting can provide for the hunter.
To learn more about hunting deer, check out John E. Phillips’ book, “How to Hunt and Take Big Buck Deer on Small Properties,” available in Kindle, print and Audible versions at (http://amzn.to/1vIcj4m). You may have to copy and paste this click into your browser. (When you click on this book, notice on the left where Amazon allows you to read 10% of the book for free, and you can listen to 10% of the books for free).
Tomorrow: Change the Sin of Not Teaching Your Family How to Hunt Deer