To drive, or not to drive, that is the question

By on November 28, 2017

I’m almost sure that driving deer was what Shakespeare was writing about when he put my title line in his famous play “Hamlin” …or was “Kendall” …one of those two towns.  I’m certain Bill must have been a deer hunter. He looks like a guy that would drive deer, with those beady eyes, and his magician’s goatee. It’s not that those hunters that push deer are bad people, they are just aggressive types. They aren’t going to sit around and wait for something to happen, they are going to make it happen. There is something to be said for that, especially as the deer season progresses.

Brandon Molinari put the hammer down on this monster 10-point on opening day in West Sparta, NY. Provided photo

Brandon Molinari put the hammer down on this monster 10-point on opening day in West Sparta, NY. Provided photo

Most whitetails that have had an encounter with a hunter either by catching their wind or a visual meeting will head for the thickest cover they can find, and most will not move again until after dark. Especially the big old boys who bury deep and become completely nocturnal after the first shot goes off. So the million dollar question to most deer hunters this far into the season is whether or not to sit knowing that the deer will not be moving on their own accord or get a group of hunters together and make them move. The purists will say to sit quietly in a tree or ground blind; it is sacrilege to disturb the woods in such an obnoxious manner. But the meat hunters will say that if the deer aren’t moving on their own we will make them move. Which, by the way, does benefit the stand hunters as the drivers get the deer stirred up in all directions.

One of the biggest problems for hunters who decide to push deer, other than the huge safety issue, is all the posted property there is in this area. Almost every acre of good hunting ground has yellow signs hanging on its borders. The hardest challenge is finding out who owns the property to ask permission. There is a fantastic smart app out now, ONX Hunt maps, and for $30 a year it not only shows you the property borders, it will tell you who owns that block of land and provide the property owner’s address.

Permission to gun hunt someone’s property for deer is the hardest permission of all to obtain. Most landowners who say no have had a bad experience when they did allow people to deer hunt their land, so it’s often all but impossible to break that stigma and get the OK.

In many cases the successful groups of deer pushers are from small townships and know everybody who owns land for a fifty miles radius. If you can get in with an established group of drivers you’re all set; but be careful hunting with people you do not know. Remember that you are literally trusting those people with your life. I know that sounds dramatic, but you must be able to have complete faith that the hunter next to you will not shoot in your direction if a deer jumps between you.

In my early deer hunting career, I got in with group of deer drivers. This was a sketchy lot to say the least and this crew bent the game laws like a hula hoop on a regular basis. I remember one hunt when the head of this troop had six of us pile in the bed of his pick-up truck and said: “On this next spot I’m just going to slow down but not stop. You guys jump out, one every thirty yards and cut right into the woods quickly. If you hear anyone yell just keep moving.” I naively asked, “You do have permission the hunt here, don’t you?” “Sure, sure kid…just get moving when you hit the ground.”

Thinking back on it now, I must have been crazy. I didn’t know half of those guys and they had my life in their trigger finger.

I remember another hunt a couple three decades ago when I was invited to go with a group that was going to drive deer down in the southern tier. As we gathered around to go over our push strategy that morning, someone said we had a foreign exchange student with us today. I looked around and saw a small dark-haired boy; he couldn’t have been more than 14 years old. The kid didn’t carry a gun or anything, but was just another walker these guys had somehow corralled to cover more ground on that day’s deer drives. Well I just happened to be on watch on the first drive of the morning and here comes this Mexican kid walking through the woods as one of the pushers. The poor kid was in street clothes and sneakers and there were a few inches of snow on the ground. He was dressed in all dark colors with no orange on whatsoever. Against all deer hunting protocol, I yelled to the kid to come over…surely spooking any deer heading my way and put the orange hat I was wearing on his head. At least that way the other hunters could see him much better and he wouldn’t get shot by mistake, I can see them trying to explain that one to the Mexican foreign exchange group.

Well, I believe that by putting my orange hat on that kid I saved his life that day. The lad never told me his name but I heard the other hunters calling him El Chapo. I later found out that as an adult he went on to do some great things in the export business. So yes, feel free to call me a hero, and I promise you almost all of that story is true.

So with one week already gone in the gun season and you have no venison in the freezer, it might just be time to think about moving some deer. You don’t necessarily need a big group. As a matter of fact, a small band of hunters can push deer out of those small out of the way spots that the smart bucks hang out in.

Just be safe, know who you are hunting with, and always get permission. If you wear down enough boot leather, I believe you will soon be enjoying the healthiest meat in nature’s grocery store.

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