Deer Hunting, the Way It Should Be

The plot in the hunt for Dave Hurteau Junior thickened this week. DH Jr., you may recall, is a buck that lives in my neighborhood. Though we (me, my dad, and my neighbors Dave and Alan, who all bowhunt the two farms and public ground in the area) have never seen this buck outside of trail-cam pics, he sure gets talked about a lot. We don’t keep a “hit list”, but I suppose if we did, DH Jr. would be at or near the top.

Last week I noted in this space that neighbor Dave had found DH Jr.’s right-side shed antler on his farm. Well just the other day, Alan found the matching side on his farm, nearly a half-mile away. We were all excited, because we don’t find many matched sets around here, and because it’s just plain cool to know there still walks a mature buck that (a) we kind of “know” and (b) likes the area enough to call it home. Dave, Alan, and I do a lot of habitat and food-plot work for deer, and we do it all together—helping each other with labor, equipment, seed, etc. We trade trail-cam pics and sightings, and if one of us is lucky enough to tag a buck, we all share in the celebration.

I mention this not to toot our horns, but to point out that this type of camaraderie is, I’m told, increasingly rare in modern deer hunting. Someone gets a trail-cam pic or finds a shed or spots a buck, and suddenly the deer is “his.” Secrets are kept. Jealousy reigns. And sometimes friendships are broken and rivalries made. As a good friend in Wisconsin often says, “Deer season around here has become hate-your-neighbor season.”

I’m lucky that this doesn’t seem to exist in my circle, and DH Jr. is the proof. The buck is not old enough to be a legend, but he might be if he keeps up his nocturnal lifestyle and—as mature bucks often do—gets smarter and lazier. But even old bucks make mistakes, and if DH Jr. slips up one day and one of us gets him, I know exactly what will happen. Phones will light up. Messages will be sent. And we’ll all get together to hear the tale of whoever is lucky enough to bag a deer we have all pursued with zeal and passion.

Take a look at the photo above. Dave (on the left) walked hours to find his antler. Alan (on the right) did the same. But guess what? Whoever kills DH Jr.—assuming one of us actually does—gets both of these sheds. It’s just the way things work around here….