Here are some hunting tactics that have gotten a little outdated.
Hunting is totally different than it was hundreds of years ago. Heck, it's different than it was just 20 or 30 years ago.
Technology and the times are changing fast and hunting is changing with it, like it or not.
There are some old hunting tactics that are losing some steam in the modern era of wildlife management.
If fact, we'll be controversial enough to say these are some methods that should probably be phased out. We won't tell you that you CAN'T use these methods, but we will say they are making less sense in the modern era of hunting.
When used so extensively for deer hunting, baiting runs in to a whole slew of problems legally here in the United States. Many state agencies have tried to crack down on it to stop the spread of deer diseases like chronic wasting disease (CWD). Yet, baiting persists.
Here in Michigan, many of the stores and gas stations start piling up bags of corn, apples and sugar beets sometime in late September and it continues until the season ends in January. Never mind the fact the DNR outlawed it for the entire lower peninsula this year.
I'm betting officers will be handing out a lot of tickets this year, especially on public land, where I've noticed illegal bait for years.
In my experience, bait just seems to turn most whitetail deer nocturnal and trail cameras usually prove it. It really makes me scratch my head even more because this seems to be mostly an eastern and Midwest thing. I lived for a few months in the northwest part of Wyoming. In the Equality State, probably one out of every two people has a hunting license in their back pocket.
Yet in Wyoming and many western states, I never heard bait discussed. Hunters there go out and earn their venison every deer season the old-fashioned way. Through scouting, stalking and just plain determination, bowhunters are able to successfully harvest mule deer and elk every season. Perhaps it's a regional and cultural thing.
It seems that most modern hunters who are looking to use a food source as an attractant employ food plots. Creating a growing food source may take more work, but it's a heck of a lot more natural than a pile of corn dumped on the forest floor or poured into a feeder.
Also, once you start hunting, you don't need to keep replenishing it, spreading more human scent through your hunting area. Strategically, food plots just make more sense.
Even if you can't use a food plot, there are food scents you can spray in the air. During the rut, some take advantage of the deer's instincts with decoys, grunt and rattling antler calls and attractant scents.
The only hunting activity where baiting sort of makes sense for me anymore is for black bears. That's only because it can be tough to pin these animals down without something to draw them out or keep them in an area. But even then, I'm noticing more and more hunting personalities on YouTube and TV who seem to be abandoning the bait in favor of spot and stalking for bruins. Personally, I think that makes for a more exciting hunt than waiting over a pile of food scraps.
When you compare the many modern ways of luring in a big game animal to baiting, dumping food on the ground seems quite primitive by comparison.
Big game hunting with dogs
I'm sure I will catch some flak for saying this method is outdated in the modern era. I'm fine with that. Go ahead and send your angry emails. Although I guarantee I've gotten worse ones in the past.
I'm not saying you can't do it, as it's still legal in some places. If you hunting regulations allow it, have at it. But in my opinion, it is an outdated way of hunting.
For the record, I'm not trashing the use of dogs for upland game birds, small game or waterfowl hunting. I think the use of canines still makes a lot of sense on those areas. It's tough to find a small pheasant or grouse hiding in the long grass. And when you're duck hunting in a marsh with even a moderate amount of cover? It's hard to find those birds you shot without one.
I'm talking about the use of dogs for things like deer, black bear or mountain lions. For the record, I've never tried any of these hunting methods myself. I have, however, watched a lot of videos on some of the more popular hunting YouTube channels out there. It just doesn't seem very ethical or sporting to me.
I'd just never feel comfortable shooting a bear or mountain lion out of a tree where it's cornered and frightened by a bunch of barking dogs. But that's just me.
I get why people historically hunted these animals with dogs. It made a lot more sense hundreds of years ago when there were no excuses. Hunters had to put meat on the dinner table, one way or another.
But very few of us are going to die of starvation if we don't fill the freezer these days, so this kind of blunt force method of hunting doesn't seem like such a vital tactic.
The other thing I don't like is what a high impact approach it is. A big focus of modern hunting, especially deer hunting, is on human presence in the woods. You've probably read plenty of articles on this: things like rotating treestands, only hunting prime times, extreme scent control.
Most hunters out there are being stealthier than a jewel thief breaking in a museum getting into and out of their hunting spots.
Heck, they even recommend wearing scent control clothing when checking your trail cameras these days.
There's a reason for that. These methods work. They also allow you to hunt the same area all season long.
But when you run dogs through an area, there is no concealing your presence to the deer. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. If that big buck slips by your dogs and hunting party, he's probably never going to return to the same area. At least not this year.
Here's another thing I'm sure will upset some folks, but I say deer drives are a little outdated. That's just my opinion on the matter, and yes, I know that dog hunting is a form of driving when it comes to deer. But I wanted to separate this out because there are a few other things I want to discuss about drives that are relevant whether you're using them or not.
I already mentioned how drives with dogs are a high-impact method. It's the same with humans. Do they work? Absolutely. But as I noted earlier, if you don't bag that buck on your first drive of the season, odds are you won't get him in that area.
Although, your neighbor might thank you for running the deer onto their property!
There are a couple other reasons why I think hunters should ditch the deer drives these days besides just messing up your spot for the rest of the year. They have to do with hunter safety and ethics. We'll tackle safety first.
First off, I don't think my hunter education course even covered deer drives, even though this is an extremely popular method of hunting here in Michigan.
As a result, you've got people hunting deer with this method who probably aren't checking their surroundings and what's behind their target before they start taking shots. Almost every hunting accident I hear about here in the Great Lakes State every year involves a group that was driving.
I simply don't like any method of hunting where you're ever uncertain where the other members of your party might be. Sure, you can use walkie-talkies or phone texts to communicate, but things happen and sometimes messages don't get conveyed. Next thing you know, someone walks into the back of a shooting lane. That's a problem.
I know there are safety methods for doing drives, and I'm sure there are plenty of people who do them safely. But to me there are just too many variables in play, and I'd rather not risk it.
The second thing I don't like about drives is the ethical side. Almost every video I've ever watched of a successful deer drive involved a running shot. Most of the time, when the hunter walks up on the deer, it's still kicking and twitching from a less-than-lethal hit.
As a responsible sportsman, I believe we owe it to the animal to take them down quickly and cleanly and to minimize their suffering as much as possible the first time we shoot, not the third or fourth.
Unfortunately, with a deer drive, that's hard to do. You also run the risk of shots being deflected or ricocheting somewhere else if they hit trees, limbs or water. I watched one video where a hunter shot through a clump of limbs at a deer instead of waiting for the open shot. That bummed me out.
A few other videos I watched had hunters shooting at multiple in deer in one video. In one I watched, the guy shooting lost track of how many animals he shot at! In my opinion, that's just not a good look for hunters or hunting, especially at a time when we're put under microscope more than ever before.
It's a new era for hunting
I know it's likely I ruffled some feathers in my criticisms of these old hunting methods. It's one of those "a few bad apples spoil the bunch" type of deals. I'm sure there are plenty of ethical hunters utilizing these methods, but I feel that in this modern age, these tactics are three of the most outdated.
Unfortunately, hunting is at a point where we need to think about image more than ever. We need to consider how we are presenting ourselves to the non-hunting public at large. I've written about this many times already. We do it to ourselves.
The biggest enemy to hunting isn't PETA or other anti-hunting organizations. It's the people who have no opinion on it until they're presented with the worst and most questionable hunting has to offer.
It could be your kid's teacher or soccer coach, your non-hunting neighbor, or your co-worker who has never set foot in the woods once in his or her life. All it takes is them seeing one bad photo or one questionable video on social media to change their opinion on hunting forever.
It's how hunters get doxed on the internet, and how laws get changed and seasons are ended permanently.
I notice more and more often that the three methods I outlined above seem to cause the most division, and it's not just between us and the public. I see the division between hunters as well.
Considering that there are dozens of other proven tactics for hunting out there that don't cause as much controversy or bring up as many ethical questions, it makes me wonder. If even we as hunters can't agree on them, perhaps it's time to abandon the tired old tactics I outlined above for the greater good? At the very least think on it.
If not for the sake of your season, then for the future of hunting in general.