- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 27, 2002

As the various deer hunting seasons approach or already are under way in the Middle Atlantic states, why not heed the advice of one of the best deer hunters in America, Jackie Bushman? He's the man who founded the national Buckmasters organization, which boasts several hundred thousand members in the United States, Canada and Mexico.
During a recent conversation with the 6-foot-3 Alabamian, Bushman said, "Deer hunting strategy is not rocket science. Show a little common sense and a willingness to change. You'll realize success."
With a smile, he added, "Use some basic fundamentals." The redundancy was intentional.
According to Bushman, the most critical factor in deer hunting is the wind. "Learn which way the wind is blowing and get downwind. You've got to learn to play the wind," he said.
Other Bushman advice:
Walking in the woods is a huge factor. Do you know how to walk properly? Bushman says not to put weight on your heel. Put weight on the front of the foot. And don't break your silhouette. Take small steps. Don't spread your legs wide apart while walking or stalking deer, because you'll suddenly appear much larger and far more visible.
Learn to identify a deer's food sources. Learn the differences among white, red and shag bark acorns. That also goes for other deer delicacies, such as beechnuts, clover, buckwheat, fresh soybean fields or sugar corn. Learn about the deer's eating habits, which can vary from state to state, especially when hunting agricultural lands. For example, in Maryland and Virginia, a deer might nibble on the sweet blossoms of tobacco plants; in North Carolina and other Deep South states, it will readily dig up peanuts on farms where the tasty nut is grown.
cLearn how to place a tree stand, says Bushman. In fact, become familiar with at least four suitable deer stand locations so you can readily move from one to the other, knowing that any of them can produce venison.
Place a stand at least 25 feet up a tree if possible. "I believe that lower stands can present scent problems," he said. "Remember, your scent might be harmlessly drifting up and away from a 10-foot-high stand, but what if there's a rise in the woods across a field from where you hunt? That land elevation, which is a distance from you now, has reduced the actual effectiveness of your stand to five feet, maybe four or less. So don't just look around the area where your stand is located. Think about all the land your deer are walking around on."
Watch where a buck has made a scrape a cleared out ground area, usually under an overhanging branch of some kind, into which he urinates and eventually attracts females in anticipation of them being in estrus, ready to breed. Eventually, it all comes together, so Bushman finds an active scrape and places a bow-hunting stand within 50 yards. For guns he places a stand approximately 100 yards away.
As far as proper deer hunt clothing is concerned, don't try to look like a catalog model. "Get comfortable. Wear layered clothing and don't worry about the Boone & Crockett image. Look like Betty Crocker if that's what it takes to get a deer," Bushman said. When it's cold and long waiting periods are called for up in a tree, Bushman recommends loose-fitting, quality long underwear, sweaters, shirts, wool pants and jackets that are a size larger than normal to accommodate the extra layers of clothing. Be sure nothing feels real tight on you.
And for older hunters, he noted, "The older you get, the more you hyperventilate when a deer shows up." Is he right? Is Bushman saying we older hunters get a real bad case of buck fever?
Finally, if you follow Bushman's advice you won't ever have to worry about where the word "vegetarian" originated. As my friend H. Lea Lawrence says, "Vegetarian is an old Indian word meaning bad hunter."
Think about it.
Look for Gene Mueller's Outdoors column every Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report every Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: [email protected]

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