An ancient sport, but modern hunters find a high-tech edge
The sky was just beginning to lighten in the east when I heard a muffled rustle of wings. The short, desperate cry of an unlucky creature followed.
I was sitting in a tree in a stand of pines and oaks off North Road. The sound took me by surprise. It reminded me that there was another hunter in the woods at dawn more capable than I.
I did not see what I assumed was a hawk. The raptor disappeared just as quickly as it had struck.
Ned Casey of Edgartown with a nice buck taken during the archery season.
Several times while deer hunting I have caught a glimpse of a hawk flying silently through the woods. It is always a marvel to watch one dip and weave through the tree `branches.
The hawk relies on instinct and strong talons to hunt its prey. Man relies on technology and intellect.
Thousands of years ago some hunter figured out a way to chip a stone in order to fashion a sharp point for a wooden throwing stick. A thawed-out stone age hunter come to life today would be amazed to find the items available in a modern hunting catalog.
The average well-equipped hunter is a testament to the fusion of new technologies and sport, and marketing. There is clothing designed to keep a wearer warm, dry, and odor free, laser range finders for accurately gauging shot distance, ear pieces that amplify the sound of an approaching animal walking down a trail and digital trail cameras that take a photo and record the day and time an animal used a trail, including a cellular model that can be accessed remotely by computer.
Primitive hunters could finger droppings to tell when any animal had passed. Modern hunters simply click on the Internet.
The E-Buck cam sells for about $700 and delivers images via the Internet and T-mobile to a web site where hunters sign on and check it out. "By combining the latest
cellular technology with
e-BuckMail.com's patent-pending communication software, it is now possible for you to keep tabs on what is happening in your favorite hunting spots 24 hours a day and seven days a week - without ever leaving the comfort of your home or office," says the company's web site. "Patterning that trophy buck and/or checking on other game - whether on the back 40 or across the country - is now as easy as checking your daily e-mail messages."
The Outdoorsman from Surefire.
It might appear that a deer would have little chance of survival against all this technology. But nature has provided the North American whitetail deer with acute natural defenses that include the ability to see, hear, and smell a hunter in the woods at a considerable distance.
The most difficult challenge the bow hunter faces is getting close enough to take a well-aimed shot without being detected by the deer's keen sense of smell. Catalogs carry a whole selection of unscented specialized soaps, laundry detergents, and odor-eliminating sprays. My amused wife recently observed that even the grubbiest Island guy suddenly becomes fastidious about his personal grooming and clothing when it is deer hunting season.
A good set of camouflage clothing - including pants, jacket, gloves, hat, and facemask - costs more than $350 and puts a hunter in a weak position to criticize a spouse for favoring designer labels. Most incorporate a layer of carbon elements to soak up human odors.
The Scent-Lok Company, one of the better known trademarks, is located in Muskegon, Michigan. When I called to speak with the marketing manager about scent control technology the woman who answered the phone said that he was not there. "He's hunting, of course," she said. I like the idea of calling a hunting company and finding out that no one can speak with me because they are all out hunting instead of getting a customer service technician in Kuala Lumpur.
According to the company's web site, which provides a whole section on the technology behind Scent-Lok, "activated carbon is the most effective odor-eliminating substance known to man.... Militaries around the world use carbon in chemical warfare suits to protect soldiers. While these military suits are designed very different from a Scent-Lok hunting suit, their basic applications are the same."
I learned something else. Scent-Lok branded clothing uses 100 percent coconut carbon, which is more porous and therefore more absorbent than charcoal, and the odor-absorbing linings are designed so that the human odors, gases, and moisture pass through the fabrics, make contact with the activated carbon, and are then expelled as filtered air. "The scientific name for this molecular attraction to carbon is called the Van der Waal's bond," according to the (www.scentlok.com) web site, where hunters who are also interested in making chemistry small talk with their friends over breakfast can learn more.
I do know that there are people whose clothing would need the air scrubbing capability of a nuclear submarine to filter their early morning flatulence. I have put my own gear to the test and decided that it is a good thing to avoid split pea soup during hunting season.
Some products used by hunters have interesting stories associated with their development. Last year, Danny Bryant of Chilmark, an experienced hunter who shares his enthusiasm for new gear held up a small flashlight and shot a beam into the woods. "Check this out," he said as he made my own flashlight look like a candle by comparison.
My new Surefire Outdoorsman flashlight is a marvel of technology. It uses a power-regulated light-emitting diode (LED) to produce an extremely bright beam of focused white light that is perfect for following a minute blood trail when tracking a downed deer through the woods at night.
I used it once while fishing at night. My friend said he thought the Islander was coming into the beach.
The company's interesting history began when Dr. John Matthews, a researcher from Cal Tech and shooting enthusiast, started a company to develop laser sights for guns that could be used by law enforcement. That paved the way for weapon-mounted flashlights.
The Surefire company had been producing flashlights for police and military uses for years before it expanded into the hunting market with its unique brand of high-energy, rugged lights. The Outdoorsman retails for $129. A smaller version goes for $99. For more information, go to the company's website www.surefire.com.
The item hunters require most they will not find available in a catalog. A sense of hunting ethics and hunting courtesy comes from other hunters we know and learn from and each person's sense of right and wrong.
Ethical hunters take the time to practice to develop accuracy, they are willing to pass up a shot so as not to risk wounding an animal, and they search diligently for downed game. Courteous hunters respect private property and do not infringe on other hunters' stands by tramping around and scaring the deer.
The Island's six-week archery season ends in nine days, on Saturday, Nov. 25. It is followed by the Island's newly expanded two-week shotgun season and a three-week muzzleloader season that ends along with the state deer hunting season one-half hour after sunset on Saturday, Dec. 30.