Monday, October 01, 2007

The Science of Hunting and The Good Old Days

© By Othmar Vohringer

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it’s all here to help us kill that elusive monster buck and the moment we purchase one of the high tech products it is outdated by even better high tech products.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 us 100% hunting success. One of the newer fashions in the world of QDM 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 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. Obtaining doe urine was usually left to an older hunter. He would head into the woods and about half an hour later he would return with a still steaming doe bladder full of urine. How did he do that in such a short time without the aid of scientifically proven products?

What I remember really well was that the game poll on any given trip was quickly filled to capacity with deer and other critters- often to the breaking point.
I honesty 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 where 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 topped with scopes . 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, back then hunters were very successful. Back then we 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 a million 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. Back then nobody ever heard of wildlife management and most certainly not of Quality Deer Management. Back then 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 will not shoot a deer for you if you don’t have the time or inclination to practice and become a proficient rifleman. Reading hunting magazines with the latest tactics will not make you a better hunter; spending time in the field observing and studying will. 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!


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15 comments:

deerPhD said...

Othmar,

Great perspective and great insight to the 'evolving' hunting industry. Though I'm just a young gun, I've worn my fair share of Woolrich Plaid (checkered red). My early days of hunting at what sounds like a similar deer camp were much like you described.

Editor said...

your best post in a long time. it reminds me of my time growing up and the things I learned by being a part of it. good luck this year.
as soon as I get that nice buck wearing your cap, I will send a pic.

Kristine said...

This is a great post, and I think you make a very good point. New gadgets and technology will never replace simple skill. We may want to think they will, but they won't.

This should be a must read for every hunter, novice or experienced.

Arthur said...

Very well said! So many people have lost the woodsman skills of yesteryear and rely on technology to fill that void.

I have to say that I didn't have a figure that could really show me the ropes early so I am still learning everyday. The last two years of not being successful has taught me plenty.

Very good post!

Andy said...

Great post, Othmar! Lucky for you, you had those early guys to learn from. I don't have a mentor for deer hunting, so I have to pick that knowledge up somewhere else. you are right on talking about the flood of gadjets. I find myself wading through commercial testimonials to gather a few pieces of good information. I may just have to take a look through one of the books you reviewed earlier.

Matt said...

This is an excellent post Othmar. It makes me feel better about not having some of the gadgets and gizmos for which I have not been able to justify the expense.

Kevin/huntinglife.com said...

Othmar,

Very well written and something that is very true for most of the hunters I know. The growth of hunting shows and the growth of products to make us better hunters has most of these hunters bogged down with so much crap in their packs they can barely move in the woods

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

A very well written post, it brings to mind the often quoted bushcraft adage, 'the more you know the less you carry' not very fasionable theses days, but truer than ever.
That's the hunting i want to learn.
best wishes
SBW

deerslayer said...

Othmar; this article is probably the best and truthfull that I've read by far. your right also that hunters today need to stop and think of what they learned from their fathers and friends when they were growing up or just listen to what the older hunters have to say about the good ole days of hunting when they were young hunters. Even if you can't remember or didn't have anyone to teach you I'll bet if you find someone in their late 80's or 90's and have the time to sit and talk, just ask them about their old days of hunting and you can learn alot more then any books, magazines or internet articles can ever teach you. Any story an ole hunter can tell to anyone is well worth the time to listen to and learn from with thought about todays deer being smarter. the deer aren't smarter we're just dumder for not thinking before entering the woods to hunt them. Great article ,I really enjoyed this one and thanks for posting it. Hopefully everyone who reads it will stop and think before going hunting next time and use the advice you've given them for a memorable hunt.

Marc - Founder and Editor of NYbowhunter.com said...

Well said Othmar, sometimes I wish I could go back in time and hunt like they did in the old days, that's real hunting. I don't believe that all these high tech gadgets will bring the bucks to us, but I do know that sometimes they help tip the odds in our favor slightly. However, nothing can replace the skills learned out in the field, time spent scouting, paying attention to the wind and other factors, and just plain old luck!

Phillip said...

Great post, and dead on.

I like to play with the occasional gadget, but the marketing of so many new things really makes you wonder who's the quarry here... wildlife or hunters? I think you and I know the answer to that one though.

Othmar Vohringer said...

Thank you everybody for your comments and kind words. I am glad to see that to many see this issue the way I do. From all the comments I will pick one to answer, not because I think it is noteworthy but because the commenter made a remark that I think needs to be addressed.

Marc you wrote:
“…sometimes I wish I could go back in time and hunt like they did in the old days, that's real hunting.”

You can make hunting what you want it to be. You can be a high-tech hunter using the latest gizmo available. Or you can be a minimalist hunter shooting a traditional recurve bow and wearing buckskin clothing. Like I said in the article. It’s all about YOU!

Thank you everybody for your comments and kind words. I am glad to see that to many see this issue the way I do. From all the comments I will pick one to answer, not because I think it is noteworthy but because the commenter made a remark that I think needs to be addressed.

Marc you wrote:
“…sometimes I wish I could go back in time and hunt like they did in the old days, that's real hunting.”

You can make hunting what you want it to be. You can be a high-tech hunter using the latest gizmo available. Or you can be a minimalist hunter shooting a traditional recurve bow and wearing buckskin clothing. Like I said in the article. It’s all about YOU!

If you all appreciated this article then perhaps you also will like the one I am working on now, which is about how I became a bowhunter possessed with gadgets until the day I had a great realization. Stay tuned.

-Othmar Vohringer


-Othmar Vohringer

Moose said...

Great Wisdom in your words. I'm afraid we forget the ways of the old and put to much trust in technology.
-Moose-

Othmar Vohringer said...

Couldn’t have it said better myself Moose. Thanks for stopping by.

-Othmar Vohringer-

manik said...

what a great blog!
I just made a new website www.recurvebow.org
Good work!

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