For a large majority of American hunters, the whitetail deer is the first big-game animal they ever hunted. It’s also the most common. Currently, it is estimated that there are approximately 25 million whitetail deer in North America, and they are hunted, annually, by some 11 million hunters.
Growing up in Texas, I began hunting whitetails while in my early teens. At that time, there were about 2.5 million deer in the state. However, with the eradication of the screwworm and development of improved game management, that figure has increased to between 4 and 5 million whitetails that make the Lone Star State their home.
Although I’ve been fortunate enough to hunt big game all over North America and some foreign countries, just about everything I know about hunting was learned while on the trail of the whitetail deer. As a kid, trying to bring home some venison, I learned the rudiments of tracking, the importance of wind direction, the use of concealment and the importance of studying game habits. In all of this, the whitetail deer was my teacher. And, in most cases, the whitetail deer that I hunted taught those lessons by making a fool out of me.
For all that, deer hunting still provides a thrill that only another deer hunter can understand. There is the crisp fall morning, the flash of a tan hide through the brush, the sound of your safety going off and the silent prayer to the gods, “Please don’t let me screw this up!” It gets in your blood.