Whitetail deer: gentle, shy, and not at all dangerous. Or are they…?
“Nature, red in tooth and claw.” The saying’s meant to remind us that wild animals can be dangerous to human beings, but it’s easy to forget that when the animal in question doesn’t have claws, canines, or carnassials. It’s even easier to forget it when the human in pursuit of that animal is in possession of a firearm. But when it comes to whitetail deer, it’s important to remember that they’re not defenseless…sometimes, even long after the killing shot. So here, as a public service announcement and an open admission of the yellow stripe that runs right down the center of my back, are three deer that kinda give me the foot-sweats (and maybe they should you, too).
1. The “Dead” Deer
There’s a saying among experienced hunters: “It’s the ‘dead’ ones that run.” If you’re not familiar, what that means is that sometimes a bullet that hits a little too high will “shock” the spinal cord of your deer. If that happens, the deer will drop in its tracks like a marionette with its strings cut, and it will look for all the world as if that deer has just officially become venison. That is, of course, until you walk up to it. At that point, the deer’s adrenaline (and the fact that the spinal column hasn’t been severed, just stunned) might just jolt it right back onto its hooves. For most herbivores, their first instinct is going to be to the “flight” part of “fight or flight,” but sometimes it doesn’t quite work out that way. Here’s a video that shows what can happen next.
2. The Actually Dead Deer
“OK, Trace,” you might be saying. “You are indeed a sniveling coward of the first water if you are nervous around an actually dead deer.” That’s because you don’t know my cousin Bobby, who’s killed more deer than I’ve ever seen. One day, after having downed an eater doe, he set its head into the crook of a tree, turned it upside down, and prepared to start the least pleasant part of the field-dressing process. “It was just a reflex muscle twitch,” he remembers. “The last thing I remember is seeing those back hooves coming at me. Based on the bruising, it must have kicked me in the solar plexus. I woke up later–how much later, I don’t know–about 10 yards downhill of the deer.”
Now is as good a time as any to remember that a whitetail’s long, delicate legs are powerful enough to effortlessly send a 150-pound animal over an 8-foot fence. That blow to the solar plexus could just as easily have reduced the Munson family by one that day. Since then, we all secure the hooves before we start to cut.
The Randy Deer
A buck in rut is basically the cervine version of a 13-year-old boy. They barely eat, they barely sleep. They’re after one thing, and one thing only. The fact that you are not a doe may or may not penetrate that buck’s thick and heavily armored skull, as this hunter learned when he covered himself up with some particularly ripe deer scent in an attempt to attract a big ‘un. It worked…a little too well.
Have you ever been spooked by a deer, instead of the other way around? Tell us in the comments!
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