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A Cutting-Edge Education on Deer
written by Michael D. Faw

Modern instructional media is helping hunters grasp basic and advanced concepts of deer hunting. Read on to learn how computers, software, DVDs and other tools are helping the development of fledgling hunters.
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A quality education can help get you close to the hunting action.

It's a fact; the more you know about deer, the easier you'll be able to make important decisions as a hunter. And as an educated hunter you'll be able to better analyze the deer sign you see before you on the ground, or understand what a deer is doing -- or possibly going to do next -- as you observe from afar. Another important process as an educated hunter will be that you are better able to track and recover a deer after a firearm shot or release of the arrow when you begin thinking like a deer. You can also better understand the "what happened" details when dealing with deer in our forests and fields. Being an educated hunter offers many rewards.

The good news is that now you have options when it comes to learning about deer, and these programs definitely beat the "school of hard knocks." For some hunters, their education is reading magazines, and this approach generally lays a basic knowledge about deer. Some hunters also take elaborate field notes -- that are studied -- to track important dates, moon phases and observations, and other details on deer behavior as they understand it. Other hunters read books, do online research, and attend hunting shows to sit in on seminars from experts.

Education and understanding follows several routes and has several degrees of impact. Some estimates are that you retain 20% of the information you read, 60% of the details you observe, and more than 80% of the information that you participate in as a hands-on exercise. This is the reason high schools and colleges have science labs and mandatory attendance. Your degree of deer education will definitely affect your hunting abilities.

Electronic Education

Nearly any student in today's classroom can tell you that books have been replaced by computers as an important source of learning. Some classes that students once had to attend and struggle to sit through are now offered online. In recent times, computers and online education technology have increased greatly in acceptance and use. Hunters have also accepted the computer challenge. If you look deep enough, hunter education courses and some biology classes are now offered online.

Cyber Deer from QDMA
A sample screen shot from the Cyber Deer educational software program from Quality Deer Management Association.

There are also educational audio CDs or DVDs that will impart useful deer knowledge to the user. These are not to be confused with hunting DVDs that simply retell the details of broadcast hunting trips. Learning is limited with TV shows that are meant to entertain.

Recently, however, the deer hunting arena has had two educational CDs enter the market. Cyber Deer, by the Quality Deer Management Association, is a new release that permits users to "shoot" deer from selected heights, distances and angles with a bow or firearm on the computer screen. Users can study the shot path and other details. The real discovery comes as you zoom in and strip away the skin and look at the layers while studying your shot's impact on the skeleton and organs. This program also cautions the student against low percentage shots. It's not entertainment; the program is designed to teach adults and children ethical hunting and effective shot placement.

"The program covers ethical shots, and is definitely a good tool for a new hunter to learn about shot placement," said Randy Bowden, QDMA's Marketing Director. "You can also use this program in hunting camp to recreate that shot after it is made and see the projectile path. This will help determine if the wound is deadly, or also get more details on how long you need to wait. It's a tool that outfitters and hunters can use to aid with recoveries." The program permits entry of the hunter's stand height in feet and other details when searching for the fine details of the shot and wounded deer. The CD can be ordered at www.qdma.org.

Viewing camera buck footage on computer
Hunters everywhere can use the computer to study deer and improve hunting skills.

Whitetails Unlimited also has an educational CD geared towards kids that teaches about wildlife habitat. The "Youth Series CD" additionally covers deer distribution, wildlife wonders and deer talk. This organization offers many other booklets on deer. Visit www.whitetailsunlimited.com for a full overview.

Some call companies offer instructional audio CDs and DVDs that provide details on how to call and hunt deer. You'll have to read the fine print or ask questions to be certain again that you are not purchasing repackaged TV shows. You can learn and listen, and these audio CDs are great when you must take a road trip and want more to do than look out the windshield.

Class is in Session

For students of hunting who want to obtain that 80% or more "learn-and-retain" rate, you normally must enroll in a class. The good news is that classrooms combining hands-on practice and useful information for hunters are growing.

Among your top options is a series of Deer Steward Certification courses being offered by the QDMA. The first seminar in this series is 21/2 days long and covers herd-, habitat- and hunter management and deer monitoring. The second part in this series provides more on-the-ground experience and students will develop a deer management plan. These classes are held at various locations in the US.

There are also demonstration farms that teach about food plots and planting for deer. Some of these also give great insight into hunting tactics around food plots. A leading one is NorthCountry Whitetails (www.northcountrywhitetails.com). You have the option of visiting their demonstration farm and taking classes, or having staff visit your property. Another option is having a state biologist visit your property and give pointers or conduct game surveys.

Hunters can also learn via the various seminars held at hunting shows. Several top-rate consumer hunting shows attract informative speakers who can provide "from-the-field" insight into deer behavior and hunting. Look at the show schedule and ask questions to determine if it's educational or a pitch to book a hunt with an outfitter. Seminars I've seen have effectively covered calling, food plots, habitat management, treestand safety and other important topics. And you'll get to possibly see some top deer trophies on the surrounding show floor.

Deer head wall
Hunting shows are popular and can be educational.

And while the standard hunter education courses focus mostly on firearms safety and very vague hunting basics, several states now offer advanced hunter education courses that actually teach hunting tactics, like hanging a treestand, reading deer sign, or following a blood trail. For young hunters, some states and hunting organizations also offer summer camps that have hunting courses. Ask questions and get answers before enrolling and dropping the bucks -- dollars, that is -- or you could possibly learn more about butterflies and basket weaving than how to turn a deer into dinner.

The more you know, the better you can understand deer and possibly apply that knowledge when you hold a firearm or bow.  Deer's the topic, class is in session, so sit up and pay attention.

Read Up

When it comes to deer and an education avenue for hunters wanting to learn more, there are many volumes of books about deer and the science of all things deer. If you like to read, among the most detailed books on everything deer is White-tailed Deer, Ecology and Management by the Wildlife Management Institute. This book can be found in used book stores or on some websites, and expect to pay about $100 for the used book that is by some considered as the bible on deer. This detailed manual covers deer vocalization, restocking efforts, and many more deer details that are used by the country's game biologists.

Another source for detailed books on deer is the QDMA web site. I found more than a dozen titles, and topics covering scoring deer on the hoof to food plots. One particular book, Observing and Evaluating Whitetails, focuses on antlers and gives readers and hunters a full understanding of these fascinating bones.

There are also several management and deer specific organizations that hunters can join to learn. Many of the magazines these groups distribute have pages of deer management and hunting information, but you'll also have to wade through the advertising and "me and Joe went hunting" stories. A little entertainment can help keep education fun!

After you obtain an education about deer, hunting is the test. Putting your tag on a deer after the shot means you have passed the test.

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