Master of Deception

Most hunters, whether they admit it or not, dream of taking a big buck - one like their grandfather used to kill, one that everyone would gather around and speak of with awe. But shooting an older buck with a large set of antlers is difficult. Is it because they are rare or exceptionally wary? A window on the life of a big buck can answer those questions.

Most of our deer hunters don't get the chance to shoot a big buck. During a typical firearm season only 18 percent of hunters take an antlered buck and anywhere from 50 to 70 percent of these bucks are yearlings.

Statistics tell us that opening morning is the best time to get your deer. During past firearms deer seasons, more than 39 percent of the total kill took place on opening day; almost 60 percent of the deer killed are harvested opening weekend. By midweek only 3 percent of the harvest occurs each day. Hunters harvest so many deer the first weekend because deer are less wary and more abundant, the rut is usually in full swing and the large number of hunters keep deer moving.

But what if you don't get a deer opening morning or even opening weekend; should you give up? Certainly your chances of taking that big buck have diminished. In fact you would think these animals are virtually nonexistent four or five days into the season, especially on public areas. Obviously, however, some bucks do survive each year. What follows is the story of a deer that adds new meaning to the phrase "don't give up."

Two wildlife technicians, Rick Gann and Marty Stratman, captured deer 4149 on private land next to Thomas Hill Conservation Area - between Moberly and Macon - with a net propelled by rocket charges on New Year's Eve, 1991.

They tagged and measured the 1.5-year old buck, then fit him with a radio collar. Radio collars emit signals that can be detected with a receiver attached to an antenna. Deer can be pinpointed because the strongest signal is received when the antenna is pointed in the direction of the deer with the radio-equipped collar. This deer was 1 of 97 deer captured in 1991 that would be located frequently using radio equipment. He was now part of a study designed to measure causes of deer mortality in north central Missouri. The information gathered