191103_PECKCOLM (copy)

Looking at a phone can distract hunters from seeing their prey during the upcoming nine-day gun season.

Almost every Badger State human between diapers and Depends knows that Saturday marks the opener of Wisconsin’s traditional nine-day gun deer season.

Between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website (dnr.wi.gov) and YouTube, anybody with a 5G smart phone can access pretty much anything a person might want to know about an event that has been part of our state’s fabric since before Grandpa’s red-and-black checkered Mackinaw was new technology.

A growing number of deer hunters will enter the woods next weekend dependent on the 5G experience in their personal shiny object to find success, rather than the “1G experience” known as Grandpa.

It is ironic that technology feeds Pavlovian behavior of instant gratification, which is the doppelganger of Grandpa’s two most important lessons; remaining silent and still.

One stat that is missing from the huge amount of DNR deer-hunting information is the number of missed opportunities caused by slack-jawed focus on a shiny object instead of the woods.

There is no honest way to calculate this statistic. Most hunters would not admit that they were texting or receiving “seen any?” texts when they were startled by a buck snorting 10 feet behind their stand.

My texting efforts could be compared to a bear cub with a paw-full of shelled corn. Several years ago, I was attempting to respond to this text from my long-time hunting buddy, Dave, when that precise nightmare scenario unfolded.

The buck’s “blow” was so loud that my first thought was “what is a Burlington Northern locomotive doing behind me in the woods?”

I don’t blame Dave. He has more deer knowledge and experience than most folks.

Dave also knows his own limitations. He doesn’t bowhunt because he can’t afford to buy the plywood it would take to build a circuit between nine white oak trees, 20 feet off the ground so he could fidget and pace, hopefully unseen.

There was a time when treestands were not permitted. Conventional wisdom from Grandpa’s day said treestands wouldn’t be a fair chase, because deer don’t look up.

Grandpa got that one wrong!

But those other two lessons: Sit silent and still—especially in a well-concealed ground blind—have provided more venison than tag soup over the years.

The Evansville crew is comprised of serious hunters. Their game plan is similar to many bands of hunters across Southern Wisconsin: sit in the stand until 9 a.m., then meet at a local watering hole and figure out the particulars of an orchestrated drive.

I wouldn’t even consider entering the woods carrying rifles with any other bunch of guys. On a typical deer drive, drivers with rifles try to push deer toward blockers who also have rifles.

Successful blockers who follow Grandpa’s two rules sometimes have deer sneak up a snowball’s toss away.

If the animal is tag-worthy, Grandpa’s third rule, solemnly growled while holding a novice by the ears is, “KNOW WHAT LIES BEYOND WHERE YOU SHOOT.”

No deer that has been born can outrun a slug, bullet or ball.

Aim slowly, but with haste.

Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.

Savor the moment for a nanosecond, and then press the trigger if everything is right.

I truly pity the lost soul who needs to pull up a YouTube video to field dress a deer that had the misfortune to stumble into a bullet from a hunter who was enthralled with their shiny object.

It is much more rewarding to recall a 1G memory from 1962 when the Old Man field-dressed my first deer then blooded both cheeks with a wrinkled, stinky finger.

You’ve got almost a week to read the DNR’s almost-50-page treatise on deer hunting, sight in the gun and air out the orange vest.

Next Saturday, leave that shiny object at home—or at least turn it off. But don’t forget to stuff a hard copy of the DNR’s deer-hunting info into a quickly accessible pocket.

Paper still has value when it comes to completing certain specific tasks.

Ted Peck, a certified Merchant Marine captain, is an outdoors columnist for The Gazette. Email him at tedpeck@acegroup.cc