By Some Guy:
Every time you read a deer hunting article the author never seems to mention anything about “sticking” the deer. Is it left out of the story because the act of cutting a deer’s throat can come across as ruthless or barbaric? And they don’t want to “offend” anyone? Probably not. Anyone who would be “offended” by this would most likely already be “offended” by the act of shooting the deer in the first place. I think it is not mentioned simply because they don’t do it. Maybe they don’t want to jack-up the trophy cape. Or maybe it’s because these guys know what my dad taught me when I was a boy, dead animals don’t bleed!
Personally I never try to stick a deer. In my estimation it is a completely unnecessary activity. First off there’s the fact that dead animals don’t bleed. In order for an animal to bleed it needs two things. It needs an unnatural opening in the body for the blood to escape. Deer hunters will generally use an arrow or bullet to install the unnatural opening in the deer. Then the heart needs to beat to be able to push the blood out. If the animal is dead it will generally lack a heartbeat. Therefore it cannot bleed.
The second reason I never try to stick a deer is it can be extremely dangerous. If a deer is in such a state where bleeding is possible, it is not dead. Coming into direct contact with any crippled critter can result in bodily harm. This was another thing I learned from my dad. He always said, “If it isn’t dead, you don’t have any business grabbing it.” He always said that grabbing wild animals that weren’t dead was a good way to get hurt! Dad always recommended using another shot to fully dispatch the critter.
Another theory on sticking a deer is so that the animal will bleed out properly. This is somehow supposed to prevent the meat from getting a “gamey” taste. I can’t subscribe to this theory either. It seems to me that the deer spent its entire life with blood in it. I really don’ think another half an hour or so before you field dress it will make all that much difference in the taste. I believe that opening up the deer from the bung hole to the brisket to remove the guts pretty much gets rid of all the blood from the animal that you can.
There are many deer hunters that believe the same way as Dad and I. However there are many others who do not. Maybe because they just don’t think about the fact that grabbing a crippled deer can get you hurt. Or maybe they just don’t know about the whole dead animals don’t bleed thing. I know most guys who stick deer do it because “that’s what you’re supposed to do”!
I used to hunt with a guy named Hoss who was a sticker. He was a gruff, grizzly bear looking type of guy and weighed about 300 lbs. He was a sticker because “that’s what you’re supposed to do”. Hoss shot a deer one time when I questioned him about his desire to stick it. When we approached the deer it was pretty obvious it was dead. Generally speaking when a deer is laying completely motionless in a contorted position with its tongue hanging out and half its chest gone from two 12 ga slugs, the thing is dead!
The first thing Hoss did was pull out his 12” Bowie knife and start jabbing the dead deer in the neck. I asked, “Why are you doing that?” He replied, “You’re supposed to stick deer so they bleed out good!” “Didn’t your daddy ever teach you that?” After about the fifth or sixth stick Hoss said, “Damn, I can’t seem to find a good vein so it will bleed.” I asked, “You don’t suppose the deer won’t bleed because it’s dead, do you?” After Hoss had the head half removed he gave up on the sticking. “I guess he’s bled out good enough.” I said, “Yeah I suppose.” “Anyway, it kind of looks like the only blood flowing now is coming out of your thumb!”
Hoss and I always seemed to disagree on the need to stick a deer. Every time we were standing over a dead deer we had the same conversation. He of course would always revert back to what his father taught him, which it needed done because that’s what you’re supposed to do. I in turn would revert back to what my dad taught me. One particular buck left Hoss rethinking his father’s advice on sticking deer. It’s amazing how blunt trauma can cause a guy to rethink things!
Hoss and I were going to hunt a small wooded gully one time. Hoss walked down to one end to block while I went to the other end in hopes of pushing the deer to him. I was about half way through the timber when I kicked up a buck. I didn’t have a clear shot so I just let him go figuring Hoss would get him anyway. In a minute or so I heard him shoot. I thought, “Hey this worked good!” When I cleared the end of the timber I was fully expecting to see Hoss standing over a dead buck. I didn’t see any dead buck, but I did see Hoss. Except he wasn’t standing, he was laying on his back. I thought, “This is strange!” “What the heck is he doing?”
The closer I got to Hoss the stranger the situation looked. He was laying flat on his back with his left arm pinned behind his shoulder blades. His knife was sticking in the snow about a foot from his kneecap. His gun was also sticking in the snow about 10’ away. Hoss was not moving but he was emitting an eerie, agonizing, guttural noise. This was a good sign that the guy wasn’t really dead like it appeared. When I got to him I asked, “You O.K.?” “What the heck is the matter with you?” He answered, “Um . . . ah, yeah . . . I think I am . . . I’m not sure . . .” “Damn my chest hurts!”
Being the concerned person that I am, I asked, “Did you get the buck?” “Well . . . yeah . . . I think so . . . you know I’m not sure.” I glanced around the immediate area but didn’t see any deer. I did notice a spot in the snow where it looked like something had rolled around and bled a little. Then I realized that the only tracks in the fresh snow that I hadn’t made myself were a good 20 feet from where Hoss was laying! By this time Hoss was sitting up and had the front of his coat and shirt open exposing the basketball sized bruise on his chest.
As Hoss regained his senses he was able to piece together what had happened. “Well the buck came out and I shot.” “He dropped and I ran over to stick him.” “I was standing over his body, and grabbed the rack and pulled his head back.” “Just as I was getting ready to stick the knife in, I saw his back foot coming up at my face.” “The next thing I remember is you standing over me asking if I was O.K.”
As Hoss was rubbing his chest he said, “My God, you’re telling me that buck launched me 20 feet!” “Yeah, you’re lucky it didn’t kill you!” Hoss said, “I don’t think I’ll do that again.” “I think next time I’ll just shoot the damn thing again if it ain’t dead!” Hoss stayed true to his words after we caught up to his crippled buck. Well, he didn’t actually shoot it himself. He had me do it for him. It seems having a deer kick you in the chest and launch you 20’ makes it kind of difficult to shoulder a gun for awhile.