Columns » Bob Lancaster

Field guide



A primer for novice deer hunters.

If it has rubber tires, it's probably not a deer, and not shooting it, or shooting at it, might save you some of that pain-in-the-ass wrongful-death compensation.

If it can climb trees, it's probably not a deer, and it certainly isn't if it has a nest up there.

If its exterior — its hide, if you will — is sheet metal, or a combination of metal and vinyl, and is red or blue or green or white or black, it is much less likely to be a deer than if it is covered with a brown or gray coarse hairy fur.

If the combination is metal and fur, it might be a dead deer draped victoriously on a successful hunter's veehickle, and you don't want to be shooting it in that case, either.

 If it has a saddle on it, and especially if there's a human-looking rider perched on the saddle, the likelihood that it is a legally baggable deer is not great. The likelihood is even smaller if it neighs or whinnys while you are drawing your bead.

 If it shows evidence of being able to fly, it probably isn't a deer. Flying deer are mostly confined to seasonal fables. Before you shoot, rule out blimps and crop dusters. Remember it might very well be just an ordinary-sized Arkansas mosquito.

 If it has the look of being a member of a Scout troop, it's either not a deer or a damnably clever one.

 If there's something about it that suggests it might have its own website, it's probably not a deer.

 If it's wearing an orange vest, it's probably not a deer. If it is a deer in an orange vest, it's one that's obviously worked very hard to develop its survival skills, and it would be sort of a shame to shoot it.

 If it's smoking a cigarette, it's probably not a deer.

 If it's driving a school bus, it's probably not a deer.

 If it is walking along, pausing every few steps to shout in a very loud human-sounding voice, perhaps amplified by a bullhorn, I'M NOT A DEER! PLEASE DON'T SHOOT ME!, there's only a small chance that it's a deer trying to pull a fast one on you.

 If it texts, it's definitely not a deer. No way.

 If it has a license plate on its rump, it's probably not a deer.

 If there's commercial lettering on either of its sides, it is more likely to be an off-course delivery veehickle than a deer. Sure confirmation of this is if it has doors.

 If it has “Eat mor chikin” scrawled on it, it's more likely to be a cow than a deer, but it could be a deer if the cows have enlisted deer support in that advertising campaign. That seems improbable, but the whole business is pretty improbable.

 If it's up walking on its hind legs and shows no particular awkwardness in doing so, it's probably not a deer.

 If you're not sure whether it's a deer or a mailbox, hold your fire momentarily, and if a postal truck arrives and a uniformed human-looking creature inside it inserts letters and-or packages into the “mouth” of the “deer,” then it's probably a mail box and not a deer disguised as one, and by your restraint in not shooting it you will have avoided committing a federal crime.

 If it is handing out Watchtower leaflets, it's probably not a deer. That word “handing” would seem to prove the contention, although not so much after a couple hours' worth of Bud Lights.

 If it is holding a Bud Light to its lips, taking long draughts, and then saying things like “Hot dam, podner, it just don't git no better than this,” it's probably not a deer, and, after weighing the pros and cons, you'd probably decide not to shoot it.

 If it has a patio, it's probably not a deer.

 If by squinting you can see what appears to be wood grain, it's probably the broad side of a barn rather than a deer. Notoriously hard even for some experienced hunters to tell the difference between the two.

 If it has headphones, it's probably not a deer.

 If it has a hood ornament, it's probably not a deer.

 If it has a decal of a churlish-looking, human-type peeing little boy on one of its haunches, it's probably not a deer.

 If it has people on its deck as it proceeds along a watercourse, and one of them is playing a banjo and singing “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee,” then it's more likely a boat, perhaps a paddle-wheeler, than a deer in need of harvesting.

 If you're not sure whether it's a deer or a microwave transmission tower, it's more likely the latter.

 If it is operating a rotary tiller, and with apparent competence, it's probably not a deer.

 If it's being milked by what to all appearances is a dairy farmer, or by a milking machine, it's probably not a deer.

 Most things that move about in the woods these days ARE deer, however, and you don't want to miss out. So don't go overboard with this caution business. Before you shoot, just try to be halfway sure — in the ballpark, anyhow — of what it is you're shooting at. 

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