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Think Like A Deer

Growing up in North West Pennsylvania gave me the opportunity to learn white-tail deer hunting with the help of an unlikely partner, which was snow.

What I wouldn’t realize until much later is just how much those tracks in the snow educated me on how Whitetail lived their lives in the forest. If you have ever hunted in the snow then you have seen the tracks going here and there throughout the forest. It would make me wonder where they went, why they went a certain direction, why did they lay down in a certain spot?  That wondering mind was the spark that ignited my obsession with getting in the mind of a deer to better understand what they are thinking.

The best time to do this was right after a fresh dusting of snow, that way you know about what time the deer had been in the area. I did this both in the morning and the evening. It was a rather simple task, enter the woods find a deer track and follow it until you got tired of walking. At eleven years old, I could walk a long time. It was very exciting because I really never knew where I might end up. Walking in those tracks looking around as I walked made me try to understand what a deer was looking at while they walked.

Most tracks usually ended up in the thickest most briar-infested areas in the forest. Many times I would be amazed that a group of tracks would end up going right behind a barn or a small patch of tall grass out in pastures. I would think the deer were crazy until I realized those were where I would find their beds. Then I noticed they only seemed to cross creeks and streams at certain locations. Whenever I was on a track that had multiple tracks traveling together, there always seemed to be a set of tracks off to one side or the other by several yards always traveling in the same direction as the group. Later, I would realize the bucks were the ones on the side trails. I would always take note of the direction the tracks were going in relation to the wind direction.

Trails could always be found in areas where the forest necked down to narrow sections of timber. We lived not far from interstate I-79 and I would always have tracks walking along the barrier fences put up along these highways to keep the deer off the highway. On tracks of land that had a more hilly terrain, the deer seemed to travel closer to the top than the bottom stopping every so often I assume to take a look around.

After many years of following deer tracks, the one thing I realized was that no matter what state I was in, what type of forest or what the terrain was, deer seemed to have a typical travel pattern. Developing an understanding of these travel patterns through the help of something as simple as snow created a thought process that had me stop and think: If I were a deer, where would I be going?