An Open Letter to Whitetail Hunters

Below are hunting related thoughts to consider as we drift into the 2022 season. These talking points are not common knowledge. I learned them from making mistakes and paying attention to the many land stewards that invited me to hunt over the past 3 decades.

This is not to sound preachy. I know some of y’all have rather thin skin. I’ve been guilty of every item below. I decided to write this because hunting media won’t cover these subjects.
They are too busy covering the latest 200” buck and developing the newest gimmick guaranteed to kill a booner.

Knowledge comes with experience. It’s perfectly fine to not know everything in the hunting woods. Asking questions is how you progress as a hunter and conservationist. I’m always asking questions to learn from those with expertise.

Mistakes happen but humility is the way to be invited back. As my father has always told me “manners will open doors that money cannot”.

Aiming for the head is the most unethical shot you can take on a whitetail. Many hunters fancy themselves marksmen because they can drill a target at 300yds. Well, the paper target doesn’t move. It’s not a wild prey animal with a sole purpose to survive and continue the species. The head moves more than any other part of a deer. I’ve been on way too many headshot tracking jobs. You either hit a bullseye or you blow the jaw or nose off. Head wounded deer are typically never recovered and will ultimately die from complications stemming from the poorly placed shot.

Never attempt to hunt with a rifle that hasn’t been zeroed in during the current season. If you need to shoot at the landowner’s range, discuss it prior and make arrangements to show up early. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hunted with someone that claimed their rifle is “absolutely on” only to learn it is indeed off after they wound or miss a deer. Furthermore, checking the zero is also practice which every hunter should do every year.

If your bullet or arrow hit is off from where you were aiming, don’t blame the deer, wind, bullet or broadhead. Only the hunter is to blame for a bad shot. Read that one again. If you don’t know what happened, ask someone with experience. 97% of dreadful shot placements come from making poor decisions.

Unloaded guns kill. Plain and simple. Many accidents happen when the person “thinks” the gun is unloaded. I witnessed this in college when a friend decided to prove that a .270 rifle was unloaded. He pulled the trigger and the blast was deafening. Always keep your bolt or action open. I know you know it’s unloaded but others want to see for themselves. Kids pay attention to what adults do and don’t do.

Bowhunting is a high level, top tier skill. Treat it that way. This may be a hard pill to swallow but a bow and arrow is far less effective than a rifle. You should never take a risky shot and always understand your limitations. Anything beyond a 50 yard bow shot on a whitetail deer is highly unethical. It’s ok if the deer wins.

The ultimate goal for hunting should be wild game meat. Read that sentence again. It’s not a competition. We are all on different playing fields both literally and metaphorically.

Bigger bucks can’t be grown in a year. There’s no “easy button”. Shoot more does and improve the habitat. Those are sure fire solutions to increase antler size.

Unfortunately, I actually have to say this next point. I wish I were kidding but I’ve been with several “experienced” hunters that have done this and saw no issue. Use a real flashlight. Your cell phone light does not count. You owe it to the dead deer you shot that has a faint blood trail.

Never point the muzzle at anything you don’t plan to shoot. Unfortunately, this happens all too often.
The majority of buck mistakes happen at dusk. I really don’t want to look up how many buttons and spikes were shot at our farm because hunters jerked the trigger too late and couldn’t see the small antlers. It’s ok if the deer wins.

If you kill more bucks than does, don’t complain about not seeing more mature bucks.

When in doubt, don’t shoot. Only pull the trigger if you are 125% sure what you’re looking at. Specifically, if it’s a buck, you should know the antler size and age estimation based on the body. If not, it’s ok if the deer wins. I used a buck as the example but the truth is hunters shoot other hunters all the time. Way, way too often in our advanced society.

“Ground shrinkage” and “He’s not the biggest” is an excuse for regret. You pulled the trigger and you killed the deer. Own it and respect the animal that’s now dead. Celebrate the wild meat and learn from your mistake. There is nothing more irritating to me when someone has a blunder and disrespects the animal that they tagged to make themselves feel better.

A scoped rifle is not a gimme shot. Practice. Practice without a hunkered down vice grip. Know what your bullet will do. Without a foundation of instinctual shooting, one can absolutely
have a bad shot when a large buck steps out. Which unfortunately, I have seen countless times at our farm. Sometimes, the deer is hit and never recovered and sometimes it’s a clean miss.

Good luck this season. Remember, conservation is above all.

Mark Haslam
Southeast Whitetail

One thought on “An Open Letter to Whitetail Hunters

  1. What wonderful advice to all those who need it…and more importantly….those who think they don’t. I’m proud of you for proffering advice…saving lives…2 and 4 legged….Mark Haslam, you’re the best!

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: