There are only twelve days of the year when you can take a shotgun into the woods and shoot a deer. Ten of them, as of sunset this evening, are over. We hunted six of those ten days, including a sojourn to the National Seashore yesterday, and saw nary a deer.
We assume we’re making many, many mistakes, and we’ve been talking to as many hunters as we can to figure out where we’re going wrong. Last night, Kevin and some of his fellow oystermen shucked oysters for a charity event, and I took advantage of a break in the action to talk to Dave Ryan, of Wianno Oyster.
You know how we’re making a big hairy deal about trying to source as much of our food first-hand as we can? Dave Ryan actually does it, but just doesn’t feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. He and his wife have taught their three sons about seasonal eating by hunting, fishing and gardening with them from the time they were small. Every year, Dave harvests two or three deer, and that’s the bulk of his family’s meat until next year’s deer season rolls around.
Did you get that? Every year, Dave harvests two or three deer!
This will give you a clue as to the level of Dave’s hunting expertise. Granted, he has property in New York where the hunting isn’t quite as maddening as it is here on Cape Cod, but lots of New York hunters go deerless. Just not Dave.
He was good enough to give me some tips about how and where to hunt, and then he said, offhandedly, “You do have the whole scent thing down, right?”
It seems deer have very sensitive noses, and as soon as they catch a whiff of you, they’re off and running. So you’re supposed to wash your clothes and yourself, early and often, with scent-free detergents and soaps. You can’t smell human.
This requirement does not play to our strengths. Once the weather gets cold, we play by hygiene’s winter rules, which specify that you don’t have to remove your base layer except when A) there’s a freakishly warm day, B) people you really like have invited you to their home, or C) it’s April again. Just so you don’t think we’re total barbarians, I’ll point out that it’s whichever comes first.
Some Cape hunters point out that deer populations in densely peopled areas don’t bolt at the first smell of Homo sapiens. If they did, they’d run for the hills every time somebody took out the garbage within a half-mile radius. They’re certainly attuned to human scent, but don’t necessarily flee, we’re told.
Still, Dave’s opinion on hunting carries a lot of weight with me, and I’m going scent-free as soon as I can stock up on the right kinds of detergent.
In the meantime, there are two days left of deer season. Tomorrow, we’re going to try a section of the National Seashore that a friend of Kevin’s, also an experienced hunter, recommended to us. I’ll be showered and ready at daybreak.