Illinois Outdoors at
RulesIllinois Outdoors at
Jeff Lampe

Jeff Lampe has been outdoor writer at the Journal Star in Peoria for 12 duck seasons. He lives in Elmwood with his wife Monica, sons Henry, Victor and Walter, and Llewellin setter Hawkeye. A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is an avid fan of the Bills and still has mental scars from four consecutive Super Bowl losses. Outside of hunting and fishing, Lampe's main passion in Illinois was Class A boys basketball (which sadly no longer exists). Former publisher of the Class A Weekly newsletter, Lampe is a co-author of "100 Years of Madness" and "Classical Madness," both books focusing on prep basketball in Illinois.


Non-typical Hunter

A Web log by Marc Anthony

Preseason readiness for bowhunters

September 21, 2008 at 04:51 PM

The beginning of deer season doesn’t just begin with scouting, it should be much more involved than that. Although I spend many, many hours in the woods each year looking for that “sleeping buck,” there are other points of interest that can’t be overlooked; safety and deer preparation.

The safety Issue

It’s so boring talking about safety. As I write about safety, I can just “feel” my readers skipping over this topic looking for the next exciting subject to be entertained by. But safety is absolutely everything! I reminded myself this weekend on how dangerous deer hunting can be and how fast things could go south if we don’t heed precautions. There is no excuse for falling out of a tree, cutting yourself field dressing a deer or having your gun go “off” when you trip and fall any more, in my not-so-humble opinion.

Basic techniques

Teaching a new hunter basic techniques in their early stages of the game can really pay off. For instance, walking with their firearm pointed away from anyone nearby, safety switch always “on” until ready to fire, safety switch back “on” after downing a deer BEFORE HIGH FIVING each other or crawling down from a stand, are just some of the subjects needed to be introduced to today’s new outdoorsmen/outdoorswomen. Teaching safety issues by rote (the definition of rote means to be trained repeatedly until that technique becomes habit) can be one of the most successful methods in preparing anyone to become a responsible and safe hunter.

Some things to consider when teaching new hunters safety:

  • When field-dressing deer, always, always, always cut away from your body. Too many people have slipped causing self-induced femur artery wounds in the field, far away from medical aid, only to die in the woods waiting for an ambulance to arrive. Basic cutting technique could have prevented such a disaster.
  • ALWAYS wear a safety harness in a tree stand. Today’s body harnesses are second to none when it comes to tree safety. The older safety belts are all but obsolete and have been replaced with the body harness. When used properly, the body harness will not only prevent serious injury or even death, but also can allow you to step back in to your tree stand, continuing with the hunt if you were unfortunate enough to have fallen out. They’ve come a long way and using them is a must. 
  • Bracing a young child with your hand while they are about to shoot from a tree stand can prevent a good time gone bad. Too many parents overlook this safety issue under the excitement of the moment. With today’s overcrowded public hunting places it is absolutely imperative to teach young hunters good firearm techniques. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure the next person’s safety. 
  • For crying out loud, bring a cell phone! In the worst case scenario if you were too injured to respond, most cell phones have a GPS chip embedded within that can aid in locating you, even if you don’t subscribe to that service!
  • If your tree stand has been out in the weather all year long, the time to test it is not on opening day! Check those stands out extensively. Nuts and bolts rust, wood rots, nails loosen (should always use galvanized screws) and trees grow, twisting brackets and so forth. 

The harvested deer

Another overlooked (or not thought of issue) is the preparation of your deer. I’ve broken this down into two basic categories;

The meat issue

You often hear people say “I tried venison once but I didn’t like the gamy taste.” Gamy? Do you think they would serve “gamy” tasting venison in “high end” Chicago restaurants if it tasted gamy? I don’t believe so. Then what’s the difference?

Think about this for a minute. How do you think your delicious Angus steak would taste if the butchers who killed the animal let it sit on the ground for several hours with its entrails still in it, soaking up 70 degree or so heat? While most of us have two tags to fill, it’s pretty common for hunters to shoot their first deer and wait several hours for another one to come by. In the meantime, that first deer is filling up full of gas almost immediately after being shot, thus causing the meat to fill with bacteria, gas and all sorts of stuff that we would normally find disgusting. The trick to good tasting venison is to get that deer field-dressed NOW and to COOL DOWN that meat! If you want to make an impression on who you serve (or just want good tasting meat), heed this advice.

The trophy issue

If only I could be a fly on the wall every time a customer brought a cape and a set of antlers to their taxidermist with the cape cut too short or the hide ruined, (and to have listened what was said after the customer left). But wait! I am a taxidermist, so I can tell you all of those nasty, mean and degrading thoughts that go through our heads (but I won’t, instead, just read below).

Cool it down
The same bacteria that causes gamy tasting meat is also the same bacteria that can cause your hide to spoil. That bacteria will also cause the hair follicles to lose their grip in the hide causing “slipping”. Slipping will ruin your cape. Slipping can’t always be detected right away and very often it is not until the hide is already tanned (and at that point you find out it is ruined). So as mentioned in the “meat issue” above, when harvesting a trophy head, make sure you get that hide cooled down NOW thus preventing any bacteria that will cause such a disaster. 

Cut it correctly
If you have a trophy head and want it to be mounted, do yourself and your taxidermist a favor….don’t cut the cape too short! You cut it short, you don’t get a mount. This happens all too often. A general rule of thumb is to cut the cape past the front legs about 4”. Remember, it’s better to cut too much then it is to cut not enough. If in doubt, just pick up the phone and call your favorite taxidermist for advise.

The brisket
One other point I would like to make when cutting your cape is to NOT cut too far up the brisket when field-dressing your buck. You can field dress your buck just fine by stopping the knife just before the front legs. Now cutting the brisket isn’t the end of the world for your mount as it can be sewn back up, but you will most likely get charged and extra fee by your taxidermist. Bottom line; just be careful where you cut the hide.

The other stuff

OK, now that the technical stuff is behind us, it’s time to have fun! Don’t forget to clean your clothes with no scent suds, have your bleat/grunt calls ready and working, face mask, gloves, etc. handy. For those of you who like to run videos while hunting, make sure your camera braces work as planned and so forth.

I’m taking my wife Jan with me this year for her very first whitetail hunt right here in central Illinois. I’ll probably run the video while she pursues her first deer. There’s no better way to generate a solid interest in hunting than to involve as many people in your family as you can. Now that I will be a regular blogger here on PSO, I personally invite anyone to write me to share any deer or turkey experiences with me. Photos are welcome also! 

Good luck this season everyone!


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