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Deer hunting baby steps

Tent in woodsCamp out beside the deer entrance to garden.

Theory: If I spend my nights and evenings along this thoroughfare, I'll keep deer at bay and perhaps shoot one for the freezer.

Reality: I adore sleeping close to the earth, but miss spending evenings with my husband.  Nights with Lucy nearby aren't nearly as much fun, and I wake up every time she moves thinking she's a deer.  And --- about the hunting idea --- how am I going to shoot a deer in the dark again?  On the plus side, the deer stop using this path and the garden is momentarily safe.

Carry the gun while walking Lucy.

Theory: Hey, it worked the first time!

Reality: The only deer I see are far away in the neighbor's hay field.  I'm unwilling to trespass and they're too distant to hit anyway.

Nook in woodsHang out on the plateau overlooking the floodplain in the evening.

Theory: From this perfect vantage point, I can survey a wide area and will shoot a deer as she unwittingly passes by.

Reality: No deer pass by.  When I pay more attention, I notice that all tracks in the area are at least a week old.

Deer trackFind out where the deer actually go and stake out the spot with a book.

Theory: The deer have to be somewhere (other than the neighbor's field.)  If I can find their most recent tracks and scats and then keep returning to the spot, they'll eventually show up.

Reality: Lucy follows me and makes a ruckus for half an hour, but she finally settles down.  By the time I'm well engrossed in my book, I barely notice the two does walking down the trail toward me.  They snort in alarm and my adrenaline turns me stupid.  Rather than waiting in hopes they'll come closer or at least turn broadside so I'll have more of a target, I fire from my lounging bookworm position at one deer's front-on chest...and miss.

I really am making progress...or so I tell myself.  At least I finally shot at a deer on my third hunting day.  Now, if I can just shoot at a deer and hit it.  Do you think they'll come back to that same spot twenty four hours later?

Our chicken waterer takes the trial and error out of clean water.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Among the problems with trying to kill deer to save your garden is that the deer have an endless supply of new recruits to fill their ranks. Hunting seems to be an inefficient way to solve your problem.
Comment by doc Sun Aug 14 08:06:26 2011

To answer your question, yes and no on deer returning to same spots 24 hours later. In my experience if the deer didnt know you were there the gunshot sound they cant pinpoint so they arent sure where it came from or where to run away to. If they knew you were there, that deer itself might not be back for a few days.

Not sure of your trees but around here we pretty much always set up in treestands anywhere between 14-20 feet up. In your case, if you get up a little higher by climbing a good sized tree, you can see them coming and get ready before they are right on top of you. Also it may help them not be able to catch your smells if your up above their area a bit.

Any further questions feel free to email, Good Luck!!!

Comment by David Z Sun Aug 14 10:20:10 2011

Doc --- I totally agree that more deer will just move in to take any fallen deer's place. However, in this one case, I think it would be worthwhile. As I've mentioned before, we're pretty certain this deer got through our defenses during a power outage and learned that the garden was a safe spot despite the deterrent. We hope that if we take out the one smart deer, we can keep fooling the rest of the stupid deer for another six months or a year until someone else wises up. :-)

David --- Interesting distinction between a deer returning to a spot where they saw me vs. just heard a gunshot. This deer definitely saw me, and I didn't see any signs of life when I staked out a nearby spot this morning.

People around here use deerstands a lot too. I was hoping to not have to go to the expense/effort of building or buying one (and just wasn't sure enough of myself to know where to put it!), but I'm thinking I may have to. I may be about hunted out, though, and willing to put effort into our boundary instead and wait to hunt again until the fall. It was just so nice when I could see through the leaves and have a better idea where the deer were at!

Comment by anna Sun Aug 14 13:14:29 2011
Brian wants to know whether or not your rifle has adjustable sights. (snort -- you can tell where my brain is -- I typed "cites" first.) He said if you're shooting and missing, the sights on the gun might need readjusting.
Comment by Heather Sun Aug 14 14:18:44 2011
Mark got his friend to adjust the sights when we got the gun, so I think they're okay (especially since I seemed to be doing okay during target practice.) I think I just got excited and shot too soon! :-/
Comment by anna Sun Aug 14 16:25:43 2011

Iron sights in general are adjusted for a certain yardage. Many have adjustments you can make at the time of the shot. Especially with your carbine using what is ostensibly a handgun cartridge, distance of the shot is important.

For example, if you're using Federal jacketed hollowpoints in 180 grain (muzzle velocity of 1000 feet per second) then the bullet will drop a foot from the point at which it exits the barrel at 80 yards distance. Depending on the yardage your sights are adjusted to, depends on how high you will actually have to aim. At what distance did y'all sight in the gun? At 150 yards, the drop is over 4 feet! A carbine like yours is great for short range... short means 50-75 yards or less in most cases. Dense summer woods like yours most likely mean most of your shots would be under 50 yards, at which bullet drop is about 5".

Comment by Shannon Sun Aug 14 17:52:18 2011
By the way, is that a nook in the photo? How well do you like it? I've resisted buying an ereader so far.
Comment by Shannon Sun Aug 14 17:55:32 2011

Clearly, you need to come up this winter and give me some gun lessons...

I was remembering that the bullet drops after target practicing and having to aim a bit higher than I thought I should have. I'm not sure what distance the sight was adjusted for.... I'm pretty sure I'm not going to try any shots more than 50 yards away (I'd be hard pressed to try something at 50 feet! :-) )

About the nook --- I've been meaning to write a review, but haven't gotten around to it. Here're the highlights:


  • I definitely like having a separate ebook reader. It's just like reading a book, and I don't get distracted by email, looking up answers to questions that drift through my head on the internet, etc. I can read it outside in the sun or inside in dim light. I just wish my childhood dream had become a complete reality and they'd not only invented ereaders and electronic books but also made the ereader waterproof so I could read it in the bathtub. :-)

  • It's awesome to have two dozen books saved up on my nook. My most recent trip was the first one I'd ever been on where I didn't need to fill half my luggage with heavy paper books!

  • I chose the nook over the kindle because it reads pdf documents. That definitely makes it easier to download books by non-huge authors!


  • The battery life is not all it's cracked up to be. I think that the figures the manufacturers quote are based on you not turning any pages, and I turn a lot of pages. It barely lasts me through two or three books before I have to plug it back in.

  • It crashes a lot. Yes, I run linux that even I can't crash more than once a year or so, so I guess I'm spoiled. But the nook seems to have a bad habit of crashing when it's hot, when I knock it (not too hard!) on a hard surface, and just when it feels like I'm reading too fast. Total crashes in the last six months that I've owned the nook have been around 50.

  • I hate touch pads. Most people probably won't find the touch-sensitive screen at the bottom annoying, but I detest the things and would highly prefer just having arrow keys or something. If it has to have a touch pad, can't there be a way to turn it off so that I don't accidentally brush it and end up exiting my book or skipping to a random page?!?!

  • I think it's rude of Barnes and Noble that they won't let you download their free ebooks without inputting your credit card information. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn't buy any more books by getting the nook, and I've stuck to it, but since I can buy a book with one click now that they've saved my payment information (I wanted some free, old chicken books), it's enticing.

  • I thought I'd like having reference books on the nook, but I don't. The only books I buy nowadays are thinks like cookbooks and how to manuals that I'll be referring back to a lot, and I've bought a grand total of one book like that this year to try out the nook. Since Barnes and Noble sells their books in a non-pdf format, I can't just download the file to my computer and have it easily searchable, and the search function on the nook is clunky. I found myself wishing I'd bought a paper copy so that I'd really have that information at my fingertips.

  • Barnes and Noble doesn't have nearly as good of a selection of ebooks as Amazon does. And, of course, Amazon won't sell ebooks in a format readable by the nook. This doesn't really bother me since I very rarely buy books, but it should factor into your decision. (On the other hand, the kindle won't read pdf files, so you won't be able to read many free books if you go that route.)

I guess that wasn't really the short version.... :-)

Comment by anna Sun Aug 14 18:17:37 2011

Anna, I haven't tried it myself, but the Amazon site says that you can read an Acrobat (pdf) file on the Kindle. Check this link -

I know it doesn't matter to you since you already have the Nook, but I thought others might like to know.


Comment by Jeremy Sun Aug 14 21:01:50 2011
That's good to know! I'm pretty sure the version of kindle that was around when I was researching didn't read pdfs, but maybe it was just the lack of epub that turned me off at the time? (I know they've come out with a new kindle since I was doing my research.)
Comment by anna Mon Aug 15 07:05:22 2011

Thanks for your long review... I'll definitely take the PDF issue into account if I decide to purchase an ereader. I know many focus on the different display technologies (e-ink vs. the other) but I haven't really done much research since I've been resisting purchasing another gadget. My life is filled with more than enough tech already... but an ereader could certainly be useful in my line of work.

As for shooting, if I can make it up that way again this winter, I'd love to give you some pointers. Sorry I missed you guys a month ago. I had a great trip to NC and accomplished my first stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Many more trips in the future I think.

Comment by Shannon Mon Aug 15 13:50:26 2011

A Patient hunter eats.

I believe you are accomplishing your goal with your ten day hunt.
Goal: Remove deer predation of garden. Process: Spend time in deer safe zone and cause deer to find another location to hang out.

Hunters will not cross or hang around the trail that they expect the deer to follow. Scent is the hunters enemy. This is the main reason for much of our prehunt rituals. You are letting your presents be known. And hopefully after a few pot shots they will see you as a predator. DEER WILL STAY AWAY FROM HIGH PRESSURE AREAS. Neighboring hunting areas can have major differences in population just due to hunting pressure.

I think in your case, if my main priority was not meat, I would take walks in the deer traffic areas with my gun in hand at dusk and dawn. Use this time to study the terrain and deer trails. Learn where they come from and are going to and possible bedding down. Block trails that bring them near you crops and maybe clear some that take them around the other way. Often all it takes is one well placed limb at a fork in the trail. Maybe if your quiet enough or find a curious deer you can fill your freezer. Either way you win. There is nothing better than a walk in the woods just before the sun rises.

After your ten days, keep up your presence with a walk 2 or 3 times a week. Re-acquaint yourself with those out of the way areas of your acreage. Keep up you barricades and block any new trails.

Good Luck and now I am going to have to go soak up some nature since talking about it has got me worked up.

Comment by Erich Mon Aug 15 17:56:02 2011

Shannon --- If you're better at focusing on reading on your computer than I am, you may not need an ereader. Joey has no problem reading books on his computer, but I'm distractible....

We were sorry to miss you too, though it was a good thing we didn't try to set anything up. We were sick for the entire week plus time you were in the area! Very strange....

Erich --- Excellent points and advice! I totally agree with you that even if I don't get a deer, just being a predatory presence (and finally starting to hone my skills a bit) will be worth it. I think I'll also start taking your advice about changing their paths with bits of brush --- I've been walking the hillside this afternoon, and it's clear that a fallen tree across a path takes it out of use. I really appreciate your continued advice!

Comment by anna Mon Aug 15 20:09:02 2011

Distraction is the bane of my existence the last few years. Sitting in front of a computer for a living means endless sources of distraction... constantly.

I tend to prefer the feel of a real book in my hands, but maybe that's because I am used to being on the laptop and being distracted. Maybe an ereader would have the convenience of an electronic gadget without having to lug dead wood around all the time but still allow me to focus.

Hmm... I must give this some more thought.

Sorry to hear y'all were so sick.

Comment by Shannon Mon Aug 15 22:31:32 2011
Random dumb question: Can you trap deer?
Comment by irilyth [] Tue Aug 16 00:11:38 2011
I suppose you could, but what would you do with them then? You certainly wouldn't want to get very close to a live, wild deer --- they look gentle, but their hooves could do serious damage.
Comment by anna Tue Aug 16 13:27:10 2011

Looks like fun. With a little pre-planning next time you get a kill permit, you might be able to trap and then dispatch the deer.

Comment by Shannon Tue Aug 16 20:31:58 2011
Or on second thought, even without a kill permit, a couple of traps set around the garden with proper bait... might be a good discouragement for a deer to ever come back to your property if it has to spend a day or two in a trap. Even if you don't kill it, you might be able to make it not want to come back, or have it relocated.
Comment by Shannon Tue Aug 16 20:34:25 2011
Wow --- it seems unbelievable that a deer would crouch down to go into a trap like that, but I guess they must. I wonder if it's illegal to trap your deer, then shoot it? :-)
Comment by anna Wed Aug 17 08:11:55 2011
That's what I had in mind: Once the deer's trapped, if the trap doesn't actually kill it, you could dispatch it at your leisure. If you can only kill a trapped deer with a hunting permit, you'd have to only set the traps when you've got a permit; but it still might be more fun than having to sit out there all day. (Or maybe not, if you enjoy the hunting experience -- if hunting is more like a fun hobby than like a tedious chore, than traps probably aren't so useful. :^)
Comment by irilyth [] Wed Aug 17 16:08:15 2011
When you put it that way, trapping does sound a lot more efficient. I love being in the woods, but we're also always far too busy, and it's just hard to find the time to sit there for hours waiting for our garden predators to arrive. Plus, after shooting at that one deer, I think they all figured out what I was doing --- I've spent several hours out "hunting" since and seen nothing.
Comment by anna Wed Aug 17 18:21:18 2011
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