Can you see Tiger Woods out there with a Bear Bryant hound's tooth hat? No, he has to be wearing a cap with that fancy "TW" inscribed on the front.
It's the same for deer hunters. We have come to accumulate a bunch of gadgets and gizmos that we assume will not only help us attract big bucks; these special items serve the purpose of giving us confidence.
For example, when I climb into my stand, the first thing I do after getting settled is to reach into a certain pocket in my backpack, pull out the buckeye ball I've carried with me for several years and gently rub it before putting it back in its special place. Does rubbing a buckeye ball help me kill a big buck? It hasn't so far, but since a friend gave it to me, assuring me it would bring good luck in the deer woods, I'm afraid not to try it.
Kenneth Edwards feels the same way about the gadget he always takes along with him. My buckeye ball does nothing auditory nor visual to attract a deer, neither does it carry a smell to appeal to a buck's olfactory senses. Edwards' gadget, though, does more than act as a mojo when he has it in his hand. He has come to trust the realistic sounds made by his "Can," marketed by Primos Calls in Mississippi.
Edwards, GIS manager and wildlife biologist for Timber Star Southwest near Mansfield, has come to rely on the Can whenever he heads out to hunt deer.
"Once I was hunting on some International Paper land in Cherokee County in Texas, an area where I'd found some big scrapes, indicating that a big buck was in the area," Edwards explained.
"I sat down on the ground, took out my grunt call and my Primos Can, but before I could get all my stuff laid out, I heard something that sounded like a cow lowing. I knew we owned the land for miles around there and there were no cows on the property, and I was puzzled until I heard a buck grunt. I assumed the 'cow' sound must have been a doe bleating.
"I pulled out the Can, tipped it over and back to produce the bleating sound, then hit my grunt call. About that time, I saw the outline of a deer on the ridge nearby, but couldn't tell if it was buck or doe. I hit the Can again, and watched the deer come off the ridge and head my way.
"Just as I identified the deer as a good buck, it jumped the creek and stood 35 yards from me, looking at me. The deer spooked, I hit the call again, he stopped and I shot him."
Last year, I hunted with Edwards and several other friends on Timber Star land near Mansfield in DeSoto Parish. At the end of the hunt, Edwards told about how the Can worked for him again that day.
"I was sitting on a ladder stand, made a couple of calls on the Can," he said. "I waited a few minutes, hit the Can again and almost immediately I saw movement to my left. It was a doe, coming up the creek bank, obviously looking for me. While I was watching her, I saw a buck walking away from me. I hit the Can again, and here comes the buck. He spied the doe and started toward her. The buck, an 8 pointer, had a rack only about 15 inches wide and I decided to let him go.
"I waited a few minutes after the buck and doe left, hit the Can again and here comes a 4-point buck. Then here comes another doe across in front of me, and I watch her disappear. I hit the Can again, and here comes the 4-point chasing the doe. He's grunting with his nose down behind the doe. There is no doubt in my mind that hearing the sounds coming from the Can brought all these deer around me."
I have talked with other deer hunters who will not go to the woods without certain items they feel are important or at least make their stay in the stand more positive. I regularly visit a website where hunters who have become cyber-friends over the years have their own ideas of what no self-respecting deer hunter would leave at home.
CHUCK FROM NEW YORK says he always takes along his range finder, a scent drag, buck scent and tarsal gland, a roll of orange ribbon (to mark trails), reflective twist ties to help you find your stand before dawn, a clip-on light for his cap, two-way radios with extra batteries and waterproof matches.
TIM FROM NEW YORK believes in the bleat can; he uses the Quaker Boy model. He also takes along his H.S. Strut rattle bag, a snort/wheeze deer call, a ThermaSCENT unit, Code Blue scents, binoculars, an Ultra-flex rifle sling to keep his rifle from slipping off his shoulder and a Butt Out big-game field-dressing tool (use your imagination a bit on that one).
MIKE FROM MISSOURI suggests when the weather is cold, take along hand and foot warmers.
JACKIE FROM SOUTH CAROLINA is a veterinarian and a serious deer hunter. She always has her ThermaCell unit handy to ward off mosquitoes "because it never gets cold here during deer season." She also suggests bright-orange scent dispensers that can be hung from branches around the stand, and are easy to locate when the hunt is over. She also uses Primos bleat calls — she recently purchased a three-pack of a buck call, doe call and fawn call.
JOE FROM ALASKA suggests taking along a roll of electrician's tape to cover the end of the gun barrel during inclement weather. He also takes a bottle of Prell sanitizing lotion to clean his hands after field-dressing a deer.
MIKE FROM LOUISIANA has discovered that deer love rice bran as much or more than corn, and he keeps it out around his stands. He also suggests never going out without a cell phone in case of an emergency — or to call to brag about the big buck he just bagged.
GENE FROM WEST VIRGINIA has only one suggestion — he always takes along a hot-water bottle. Why? He says it is an ideal container to "relieve yourself" after consuming four cups of coffee before climbing into a stand.
Regarding Gene's suggestion, I found and purchased a "deer stand urinal," which serves the same purpose, and frankly, its camo canvas cover fits my décor better than a pink hot water bottle.
Recently, I browsed through the catalog of a well-known outdoor products company, and the array of gadgets for deer hunters almost defies description. If I purchased one of each of these do-dads, I would have to drive a U-Haul to my stand to pack it all in.
Shooting rests are big this year, probably the result of hunters watching television shows featuring hunters using crude shooting sticks on safari. One of the more unique ones I've seen is the Sling Stix, which features shooting sticks concealed inside a rifle sling. When the target presents itself, a flick of the wrist releases a three-pronged set of shooting sticks that can quickly be utilized a number of ways, allowing the hunter to shoot standing, kneeling or in the prone position.
Hearing enhancers are big again this year, and these wonderful items really work. I have both the hearing aide-type device as well as the muff-type enhancer that features cups for both ears connected with a band going over the head.
Remote trail cameras are among the most popular hunter's toys that scout for you while you're back home asleep. While film cameras are still around, most companies are going digital, and some even have satellite connections that allow you to log onto your computer at home and see what pictures the camera just took back in the woods.
Deer calls of all sorts are available this year. The catalog showed buck-growl calls, grunt-snort-wheeze calls, heat bleat calls, inhale/exhale calls and hands-free calls.
Deer stands and blinds of all sorts are on this year's market. From ladder stands to box stands to lock-on stands to climbing stands, all are designed to get the hunter above the deer's line of sight. For the hunter preferring to stay closer to planet earth, a wide variety of ground blinds are available.
I purchased one this year I'm anxious to try. It's a "chair blind." I take a seat in a comfortable folding chair, and pull the blind attached to it over and around me, giving me a cushy seat and protection from the elements. The chair blind even has windows on all sides, and is designed to be easily packed in and set up in a few seconds.
Flashlights have reached a new price level this year. You can still buy the little mag-lights for under $10, but I saw one in the catalog that will set you back $450. Perhaps it also boosts you up into your deer stand, field dresses your deer for you, scratches you where you itch and prepares tenderloin medallions while you hunt.
After studying this fancy flashlight, its main feature is to illuminate your path for you when you turn it on and when you hit the "off" switch, it turns off. My $10 mag-light will do that.
Thinking about all these wonderful tools and gadgets available to today's deer hunter has caused me to reflect on my first deer hunt. I wore blue jeans, green shirt, brown jacket and black cap. The "heat" I was packing was a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with buckshot. I was sitting on the ground against a big hickory when the 10-point buck came out. I shot him, and took him home; it was as simple as that.
I have to wonder how in the world I was able to pull that off without carrying along a single gadget or do-dad — not even a buckeye ball.