The Deer Hunter’s Playbook: Trick Plays
A twisted take on how to play dirty.
Trick play #1 — The Fakeout
Modern hunting literature clings to the romantic notion that woodsmanship rewards the diligent hunter. Today, a far more useful skill is crowd control, the art of persuading your competition that better hunting is to be found elsewhere. Head to your favorite public hunting area and try some subterfuge:
1. Make some scrapes within sight of parking areas. First, minimize your footprints by using a belt sander to remove all tread from your boots. Next, push leaves to one side using your foot and create a 3-foot circle underneath an overhanging limb. Strip the last 6 inches of the limb clean and chew the tip ragged. Pee into the scrape. A lone hunter wearing a CamelBak filled with coffee can create up to 20 of these in an afternoon.
2. Simulate rub lines using any good plastic windshield scraper and a sharpened chopstick to create the grooves left by tines. The most effective are on trees of 4 inches or more in diameter to appear like the work of a big buck. Rub lines should lead in the direction of the nearest shopping mall.
3. Bedding areas are a snap. Just find some soft grass and lie down for a few minutes. Does often bed in groups of three to six, whereas bucks bed alone and frequently prefer elevated areas from which they can observe potential threats. A slight knoll overlooking new townhome construction is ideal, as you may be able to see the hunter on stand while you’re driving to your hotspot. When making beds, take care that spare change and cellophane wrappers from tobacco cans and convenience-store pastry remain in your pockets.
4. Nothing says deer to a hunter like deer droppings. Rabbit pellets, available in virtually unlimited quantities from pet stores, need only be hand-formed into ovals to become convincing counterfeits. Treated with spray shellac, they will appear dark and fresh for several weeks. Drop them in clumps of 20 to 30 near scrapes, along rub lines, and in bedding areas. If you are in a hurry, substitute Raisinets.
[NEXT “Read Heavey’s Trick play #2”] Trick play #2 — Seeing Success
It is entirely possible that after zero activity for seven hours, a buck with a bone chandelier on his head will offer you a standing broadside shot at 12 yards for three seconds before vanishing forever. If, at this moment, you are trying to see how much of your bow release will fit into a single nostril or are reading the ingredients of your Hershey’s chocolate bar and wondering what, exactly, an “emulsifier” does, you will not shoot this buck. So how do you stay ready? Try this mental exercise. Imagine your paycheck as it wafts out of its envelope onto a flat surface. Now picture a sharp knife cutting it into thirds. One third bursts into flame and turns to ash. That is the part that goes to the government. Another third does the same. That is your mortgage or rent. The remaining third begins to smolder and to slowly consume itself. There goes your vehicle payment, groceries, and beer. That leaves (let’s add it up) nothing. In fact, you are so far in debt that you could work for the rest of your life and die owing money. And on the day of your funeral (cremation, actually, since the state is footing the bill) you will receive three notices congratulating you on your eligibility for new credit cards.
Your whole consciousness changes as you realize that killing a deer means survival: You will need the meat to live through the winter. You will tan the hide using the animal’s brain and your own urine as softeners, and fashion a shirt, breeches, and moccasins from the leather. From the antlers you will make buttons and simple tools. The hooves will be boiled down to make glue to seal the envelope informing the collection agency and the government that you are no longer responsible for debts incurred in your name. Something has shifted. You no longer measure time in hours and minutes. You are likee the Inuit who sits tirelessly with his spear raised by the seal’s breathing hole in the ice, knowing that everything depends on one split second. It is not even difficult. It is simply necessary.
[NEXT “Read Heavey’s Trick play #3”] Trick play #3 — The Ultimate Seduction
When explaining the rut to nonhunters, I tell them it’s the deer equivalent of a Florida State University fraternity party that lasts two weeks. A big buck at this time is as horny, belligerent, and vulnerable to suggestion as a sophomore after three-quarters of a bottle of J¿¿germeister. To take advantage of this, make use of the many excellent techniques listed throughout this issue. Come early and stay late, and if it means missing your own wedding, maybe she wasn’t the right girl in the first place. Grunt, snort, and wheeze like a man in the terminal stages of emphysema. Make liberal use of that pricey doe-in-heat pee (even though it could just as easily be leftover product from drug-testing clinics for all your ability to distinguish its true origin).
If these methods don’t produce, however, don’t hesitate to think outside the specimen cup. I try to put myself in the buck’s mind-set and think, Well, what would I fall for? Accordingly, I have an electronic caller that plays digitized recordings of the following, all of which take place in a crowded bar:
Angelina Jolie cooing, “Gosh, those great big antlers must get awfully hard to carry around. Let me rub your neck for you.”
A German woman’s voice saying, “Oh, you are most kindsome. I would love a beverage. It’s so not easy to be meeting guys with funny name like Heidi Klum.”
Sylvester Stallone worriedly asking, “Paulie, my antlers look okay? I think I just cracked one workin’ over that chump who was sniffin’ around my Adrian. It’s broke! Whaddya mean, Â¿Â¿Â¿It’s broke’? It can’t be broke!”
[NEXT “Read Heavey’s Trick play #4”] Trick play #4 — The Sneak
Most hunters know to return to the woods to scout for the coming year before spring vegetation obscures trails and bedding areas. The best deer hunters understand that even this is too late. Actually, you don’t even need to go home. As legal light dwindles on closing day, drive immediately to the nearest taxidermist. You will almost certainly find a blood trail that ends at the steps leading to his freezer behind the house. Follow this trail backward using a powerful light, such as the Streamlight Ultra Stinger, which combines a sunlike 75,000 candlepower with the ability to recharge off your vehicle’s cigarette lighter. This ancient skill is no longer taught in outdoor schools because so few modern hunters have the patience and determination to master it. It commonly requires several tanks of gas, gallons of coffee, and endless creative explanations to enraged drivers behind you, but it’s trouble well worth taking. The trail will lead you to the home of a hunter, and ultimately to the woods where that fool took your buck.
No more scouting is necessary. Big bucks are like big largemouth bass; when one is dislodged from a prime hole, another big one invariably takes its place. On the first day of the next season, rise early from your bed. Disable your competitor’s vehicle by employing nondamaging techniques (such as the potato-in-the-tailpipe routine or benign tire deflation). Return to the woods and reap your reward. Sure, it’s a lot of trouble, but in my experience nothing attracts luck better than old-fashioned hard work.