Are you a hunter or a harvester? Do you hunt or harvest? In my opinion, and many may disagree, if you put out bait for deer or any other animals, even when legal, you are not hunting, you are harvesting. You are not hunting, you are waiting on the quarry to come to you.
The same applies to planting food plots. Don’t get me wrong, I plant food plots and sit in a stand watching the for deer. And I would put out corn and other bait if legal in this area. But sitting near a food plot waiting on a deer to come to feed is not hunting.
Hunting is going out into your quarry’s natural habitat, studying its movements and patterns and then trying to intercept it on its terms. That is why we go quail hunting and dove shooting. To find quail you go into their habitat and try to find them, usually with the help of a dog. But for doves you sit around a food source someone has planted, waiting on them to come to you.
I am not interested in killing a big buck with a pretty rack. The only reason I go after deer is to harvest three or four for the freezer. I am happy to shoot does.
Most of the time I am sitting where I can watch a field where I plant clover, peas and wheat each year. The deer come to it to feed, usually right at dark, and I can harvest one to eat.
Early in the season I do actually hunt. I go out and look for signs like rubs and scrapes near white oak trees. And I put up my climbing stand in an area where I can be hidden from approaching deer but get a shot at one.
I have shot some nice bucks with big racks but most were by accident while I was out harvesting, not hunting. I can take no pride in killing a big buck when all I did was plant something that attracted it. I am much more proud of my first deer, a small eight pointer I killed when I was 18. I actually went out and studied the area where it lived, set up my stand in a good place and was able to shoot it.
It takes some effort to plant a food plot, much more than just putting out corn for deer. But neither is anywhere near the effort it takes to go out and hunt a deer.
The bottom line to me is hunting is going out looking for your quarry, harvesting is waiting on them to come to you because of something you have done to alter their habitat.
There are exceptions. I grew up hunting wild quail and it was hard to find them, even with a dog. And you never knew exactly where they might be until the dog pointed. But one time I went to a paid trip on a quail plantation. It was fun, but it was not really hunting.
A few plantations where you pay to hunt have wild birds but they are rare and expensive. Most put out pen raised birds in an area and you follow a guide with a dog. You do get the experience of watching the dog point the bird, walking close to make it fly then shooting it.
But the guides know where the birds were placed and they usually don’t go far, so they can help the dogs find them. And pen raised birds don’t fly very fast or far. The one time I went I hit 12 birds with 14 shots, highly unusual for me. They are much easier to hit than wild birds.
To show how slow they are, on one point on my trip the bird got up a couple of feet in front the dog. The dog jumped as it flushed and caught it in the air. In a video on the internet you can see a guy actually reach out and catch a quail as it flies by him. That had to be a pen raised bird.
Doves are fun to shoot at, which describes what I do much better than saying I shoot them. And it takes some skill to pick a good place to set up you blind so you will be where they fly coming into the field. But that effort pales in comparison with going out looking for wild quail.
I have never had much interest in killing a bear. Most bear hunting is done by putting out bait and waiting on them to come to it. In many cases it is impossible to find them without bait since they range over such a wide area and are very hard to pattern. In some areas it is also legal to chase them with dogs, letting them do most of the work of finding the bear.
I doesn’t bother me when people say they are hunting when I think they are really harvesting. As long as it is legal it is fine. But I do make a distinction in my mind between hunters and harvesters.