The majestic white-tailed deer is by far the most coveted big-game animal in North America, and there is little wonder why we hunters go wacky for them each fall. They are indeed polarizing! But why do white-tailed deer and deer hunting mean so much to hunters? If you ask an animal rights advocate why we hunt, they might suggest we hunters lust after shooting something, anything and it all about the kill. This could not be further from the truth!

After spending more than 4 decades conversing, interviewing, chatting and writing about deer and deer hunting, I can tell you, unequivocally, the act of ‘killing’ a animal is not what whitetail hunting is about. Not even close.

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Contrary to what some believe, deer hunters are among the most caring animal lovers out there.  Hunters are deeply passionate about pursuing whitetails, not because we dislike them, but because we love and care for these animals on a different level altogether. This paradox may seem difficult to grasp so perhaps outlining the reasons WHY we deer hunt; one may gain better insight into the hearts and minds of the avid deer hunter.

Conservation angle

Source: USA Park Service

World-renowned conservationist and deer enthusiast, the Late “Teddy” Theodore Roosevelt once stated; “The wildlife of today is not ours to do with as we please. The original stock was given to us in trust for the benefit both of the present and the future. We must render an accounting of this trust to those who come after us.” Roosevelt’s poignant suggestion echoes the idea of ‘sustainable yield’, a concept all deer hunters can attest to. This conservation of the species is one huge reason why we pursue this formidable beast. The act of regulated and authorized hunting is our way of contributing to wildlife management. By supporting local hunting organization, purchasing a game tag and seal and getting out in the woods, we are actively ensuring the future of white-tailed deer. Hunters’ are the true ambassadors of the deer woods. We are consulted by wildlife biologists’ whose goal is it to manage, and maintain, herds at sustainable levels. Without even realising, deer hunters help to ensure the future of the game animals they love.

Tradition and hunting heritage

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Pursuing the majestic white-tailed deer is heavily steeped in tradition, both in celebration of our hunting heritage and activities within our own circle of family and friends. I recall my first deer hunt like it was yesterday. At the impressionable age of 13, I was thrust into the family hunt camp tradition for the first time. Though intimidating, to say the least, being at camp that year with my Dad and Uncles was perhaps one of the greatest character building experiences on my life. Surrounded by boisterous, seasoned hunters offering morsels of wisdom and recounting old tales late into the night, I soaked it all in.

Our family hunt camp, constructed by my grandfather with his bare hands was now mine to enjoy, and the deer woods mine to explore. I was the future of hunting in the Morrison family, and though I had no concept of that at the time, I certainly do now. The act of perpetuating the hunt tradition by celebrating our hunting heritage is the cornerstone of a whitetail hunt, and perhaps this sport’s greatest calling. I pity those who have never enjoyed the benefits of this tradition. Though it has been 43 years since that pivotal first deer season, I am as excited today for the hunt as I was all those years ago.

Hunt camp camaraderie

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Another important component of the deer hunt tradition, which cannot be discounted, is the camaraderie found at deer camp. Your deer camp could be a 4-man tent while others might use a summer cottage transformed into a makeshift hunt camp, as the leaves start to fall. You could be a member of a private hunt club, or an organized lodge, while some even rent chalets, cabins or quinzhee huts. You could  convert a trapping camp into a deer camp in the fall and really, in the end who cares. Regardless of what four walls make-up your home for the season, camp life a time to celebrate the sport we know and love. Sharing the experience with friends and hunting companions serves to enrich the experience.

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Though it may come off sounding snooty, the hunt camp mentality is something only a true hunter will experience and ever really understand. Sorry to animal rights people, environmentalists and other ‘non-hunters’ out there, you simply cannot comprehend the importance of deer camp camaraderie. We do however invite all non-hunters to join us, I will gladly show you the way.

It is a time of year when other aspects of our busy lives take a backseat to this special place.  We dream about deer camp at night and long for that glorious day when it arrives. Camp life is crucial component of the deer hunt tradition and one more reason why we hunt.

Organic advantage

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The final, and certainly most palatable reason we pursue the beloved whitetail, is as fine table fare as nature’s most perfect food! Venison is incredibly low in fat and cholesterol, high in protein and not contaminated with growth hormones or unwanted chemicals like store-bought protein. As my spirit Blood Brother ‘Uncle’ Ted Nugent told me, the bulk of his diet is composed of deer meet, the purest nourishment provided by mother earth – all natural and pristine like a cold mountain stream, with a unique flavor and texture. Far superior to anything you will find at the nearest grocery store.

Wild game meat truly is nature’s most perfect food and should you be fortunate to harvest one this fall, try this recipe from my Canadian Wild Game Cookbook:

Horseradish Venison Burgers

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Serves 4

Millions of dollars are spent across Canada and the United States each year researching, carrying out population studies and managing whitetail to the utmost. Hunters and conservationists are the ones responsible for the whitetail’s recovery in this country. Wildlife agencies rely heavily on funding from the sale of hunting licenses and taxes levied. When managing the white-tailed deer parameters such as habitat, predation and environmental factors must all be considered. Although population numbers fluctuate from year-to-year, in most regions white-tailed deer population remains strong.

Serves 4

1 lb medium ground beef

1 lb minced deer meat

2 tbsp horseradish

1 carrot, grated

1 medium onion, finely chopped

½ cup Italian Dressing

1 ½ cups bread crumb

1 egg

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and form into six hamburger patties.  Grill burgers on medium high until slightly pink in middle.  Serve on hamburger buns with side salad or French fried potatoes.