November 04, 2010
Whenever the topic of whitetail deer comes up, one word comes to my mind. Diversity. And that word was only magnified as we compiled and edited this issue -- with 156 pages and 32 features, our biggest Whitetail Special ever -- because it demonstrates the infinite diversity of the whitetail deer.
Geographic diversity of whitetails is obvious. The prototypical whitetail deer seems to be a big 10-pointer poised in a woodlot at the edge of a Midwestern corn or soybean field. And that is an appropriate picture. But it hardly captures the diversity of the whitetail deer. I've personally hunted whitetails from Mexico to Montana, from Alabama to Washington state, and I know from personal experience that the're dwellers of the swamps, the deserts, the city streets, the wilderness, the mountains, the bottomlands. In this issue we've tried to capture this geographic and habitat diversity, with stories from the backyards of New England to the mountains of Idaho, from pine plantations of the Deep South to croplands of the Upper Midwest.
Attitudes among whitetail hunters are equally diverse. In today's hunting circles, the emphasis seems to be on big deer. Trophies. And for good reason. Modern agriculture has created conditions that spawn monstrous bucks in as little as 3 years, and QDM (Quality Deer Management) further enhances the availability of mature bucks. Thus, interest in monster whitetails is rampant among bowhunters these days, and we must respond by bringing you plenty of stories about mega bucks. In this issue, those of you with an intense interest in monster bucks should find plenty of grist for your passion with stories from Kansas, Wisconsin, and New England.
However, Bowhunter is by no means purely a trophy hunting magazine. We always try to represent a cross section of bowhunters, and we know that not all of you hold out strictly for mature bucks -- or even care a whole lot about giant deer. In his article "Lowering the Bar" (page 108), Curt Wells offers a unique concept -- that bowhunting is supposed to be fun and that pure trophy hunting can take a big bite out of the fun at times. In "The Doe Hunter" (page 78), Mike Lapinski unabashedly promotes the hunting of does not only as a management tool (the politically correct reason) but as a fulfilling end unto itself (the honest reason).
In considering diversity, look at the approaches used in hunting whitetails. In the section "Northeast Spotlight" (page 68), Rob Lucas gains access to hunt on private estates by writing letters to editors of local newspapers, and he hunts by walking up peoples' driveways. In "Better Judgment" (page 90), I talk about hiking miles into the wilderness to hunt in solitude. Talk about diversity in approach! Yet we're both hunting the same deer -- and probably feeling the same satisfaction. And while Lon Lauber advocates getting down and stalking prairie whitetails, Judy Kovar actually gets her feet off the ground -- for the first time! Diversity indeed.
Consider, also, the diversity of emotions elicited by whitetail deer. I absolutely love "Finally, My Story," by Ken Padilla (page 127), possibly because it demonstrates so well what whitetail deer can do to a hunter's mind. Padilla's emotions swing from virtual depression to euphoria several times -- in one day. Dr. Mark Wade undergoes a similar roller coaster of emotions as he dreams of a giant Texas buck. While whitetail hunting can be a calculated, analytical endeavor at one extreme, it can also be highly emotional at the other. Again, that's diversity. And these pages bring you that diversity.
So abundant and universal are whitetails that many of us take them for granted, assuming that these deer have been a constant in North American history. But even whitetail history is diverse. Historically, whitetails apparently were numerous, but by about 1900, they had all but disappeared. In 1950, Alabama had an estimated 3,000 deer, and as Bob McNally points out (page 86), in 1960, bowhunters killed two deer in Alabama. In Kansas, deer were considered extinct from 1904 until 1933, and that state had no deer season until 1965. Now contrast that with today. Alabama has an estimated 1.6 million deer and an annual archery harvest well over 40,000, while Kansas spits out giant bucks like watermelon seeds (see pages 18 & 24). Deer hunters have never had it so good. That's a diverse history.
Unfortunately, diversity and change never cease, and today's bounty won't necessarily last forever. We see dark clouds looming even now, such as disease (Wisconsin is wiping out an entire deer herd because of CWD), land development, and changing farming practices. But at the moment, whitetails and whitetail hunters are riding high. And even in all their diversity, whitetails everywhere have one thing in common -- they incite an epidemic of adrenaline and passion among us bowhunters every fall. This largest-ever Whitetail Special seeks to capture that essence. Enjoy it!