Gazette writer Zeke Wilson

The regular firearms season for antlered deer is underway with those meeting antler restrictions legal to harvest through Dec. 14.

In our area, the antler restriction varies depending on whether hunting in WMU 2D or 2E. Junior hunters are not subject to the antler restrictions and can harvest any buck with an antler over 3 inches in length or having at least two points.

Hunters should be aware of what restrictions apply for their hunting area by consulting the hunting regulations digest. I enjoy thumbing through the

digest and attempt to know the rules and regulations by heart before entering the woods.

In addition to the general rules related to hunting, hunters should make it a point to respect the ground on which they hunt and the animals they pursue. While in public dressed in hunting attire, hunters should be courteous and polite to others to portray the image of hunters in a positive manner. Hunters are a minority in our society and it is important that non-hunters accept and understand the benefits the activity offers.

While emphasis is often placed on the size of the antlers, the health of the herd and habitat is just as important as the delicious venison served at the table as a result of a successful hunt.

On Saturday those in possession of antlerless deer tags may harvest a deer commonly known as a doe. While not required, harvesting an adult doe rather than yearlings is recommended because it will put more meat on the table and better balance the herd. Quite often a single doe is a button buck, and waiting until several deer are present will better the chances of harvesting a mature doe.

Hunters will have the entire second week of the season to attempt to fill their antlered or antlerless tags. In most of the area the herd is healthy and there should be ample opportunity to fill a tag or two.

Deer quickly respond to human activity and often will seek out sanctuary in areas where hunting pressure is limited. If permission is not allowed on the ground in which the deer are bedding, hunting the adjacent properties will allow for a chance during morning or evening hours.

Food and water are necessary for deer, and positioning yourself between where the deer bed and these essentials can result in a shot opportunity.

Shot selection should be stressed as a single well-placed shot is all that is necessary to cleanly kill a deer while preserving as much meat as possible. Aim point on a broadside deer should be just behind the front shoulder, and careful attention should be given as to where the deer flees upon the shot. Fatally shot deer can offer a minimal blood trail, and by marking where the deer was last seen, recovery can be easier and more successful. Deer are tough animals and on occasion a follow-up shot is necessary and should be taken as quickly as possible once it is determined that the first shot was not fatal.

Hunters can stack the deck in their favor by setting up in an area that will offer a clear and close shot opportunity.

The recent precipitation will make it easier to sneak through the woods, and hunters can enjoy success by still-hunting through a woodlot where deer are known to bed. Binoculars are a great tool for this style of hunting and allow the hunter to dissect the area ahead for the flicker of an ear or curve of an antler.

Stealth is essential in this type of hunting, and if all that is seen is white tails waving, it is an indicator to slow down your approach. Three-steps-and-stop is a proven method for seeing deer before they see you, but one must be careful as to not stop where brush impedes the action of taking a shot.