DEER TRAILS: Hunters strategic even about snacking

November 18, 2018

Fresh, cold air and snow has a way of activating a deer hunter’s digestive system, taste buds and making a stomach feel empty.

What are some favorite stomach fillers, which are transportable and not likely to freeze or scare deer?

Snack foods need to have quiet packaging because deer can hear very well. Most hunters believe deer possess super olfactory systems and may not like the smell of some of our foods. Maybe they associate those smells with danger and it sends them packing.

Scott Craven, an avid gun deer hunter, has a simple lunch box of goodies that came recommended by his father, who was also a hunter.

Craven, a retired wildlife ecologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison, said his father never went into the woods during deer season without a Hershey’s chocolate bar, but not any Hershey’s bar. It had to have almonds. Well before this season, Craven had those chocolate bars counted out for the four or five days he believed he’d be in the woods with his adult son.

Alongside the Hershey’s bars are apples. Craven’s father preferred russet apples, but those are rare now even in an apple state like Wisconsin. Any fresh, crisp apple will do, he said; honey crisp, red delicious, even McIntosh.

Some might prefer bananas, but Cfraven holds tight to the myth that cruise ship captains held: Bananas are bad luck. Maybe that carries over to hunting, too. There’s no point in pushing luck away, particularly in a whitetail’s world. Plus, unlike apples that are neatly packaged, bananas bruise easily and while the banana peel is certainly biodegradable, stepping on a banana peel when readying for an important shot at 75 pounds of venison could mean a miss.

Granola bars or Clif bars are good fillers. All-day hunts might require a sandwich of sorts, but hunters usually stay away from spicy or smelly meat, especially venison sausage from last year, even though there is little proof it keeps deer away.

Water is the favored drink of most, but Gary Howards of Oregon demands his hunting companions stay away from those flimsy plastic water bottles that sound like hail on tin when they’re collapsed for disposal. Even a full bottle is as noisy as a layer of frozen leaves walked on by a pair of LaCrosse Footwear Ice Kings.

Cookies and muffins are preferred by some, but don’t last long and usually aren’t as filling as energy bars.

Some purchased foods come in noisy wrappers, too, so Howards will often unwrap a snack and put it in a plastic bag for easy, silent access.

I remember my mother making ground ring bologna, boiled, ground and mixing with minimal salad dressing and putting it on buttered, white homemade bread. Deer season was the only time she ever made that sandwich.

Compared to prepackaged snacks, these ideas are likely less expensive, taste better, don’t bring on a stomachache and may be healthier, too.

Many hunters stay clear of caffeine and alcohol until after closing time.

Any crumbs, crusts or dropped pieces are likely to be consumed by birds and other wildlife before the next day’s hunt.

Season Snippet: The first chief warden was appointed in 1890.

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