One thing I would like to remove from my bucket list is to shoot a deer over a GWP point. I have had a couple dozen times I could have shot a deer over point, or maybe even killed them with a spear since I was able to get real close, but it wasn’t legal. In most of states especially out west, big game hunting with dogs is not allowed. I think here in Wyoming you can’t even have dog in the vehicle if you are big game hunting. I know some of the states in the southeast allow hunting with dogs so maybe I’ll have to get a tag down south. I’ll list a few of the times where I had some up close encounters.
I’m not sure how many deer/dog meetings I have witnesses, but it’s in the thousands. I would say 75% of the time they are mule deer, and 25% white tailed deer. Probably 99.9 % of the time there is no chance for a point on a deer. The most common thing that happens when I’m hunting with the dogs and a deer is in the area is the deer will just run away once they see the dog. The deer usually see you or the dog at a distance and they will maintain that distance, or increase it. I think most of the deer have probably been pursued by coyotes, and some in a few states now have wolves chasing them around. I have had many dogs chase deer, and once I had one dog catch and kill an adult deer, but usually the deer out run them or I’m able to convince the dog not to chase deer.
The 1st deer point I can remember was in South Dakota with my dog Zoie, and her daughter Dilly. I can’t remember which one was pointing, but the other was backing. It was out on the open prairie with perfect scenting conditions, and about an hour before dark. I had seen two white tail does lying down up on a small hill, and I watched the dogs work that direction. I’m not sure if the deer had seen me or not, but they were watching the dogs the entire way. When the dogs locked up about 75 yards out the deer lowered their heads slightly and just froze. I decided to see how close I could get to them. I knew the dogs would hold point until I released them since they were both completely trained, so I came in perpendicular to the deer. When I got about 20 yards away the one doe looked at me, but then locked on to the dogs and didn’t move. I kept going and got about 7 yards from the closest doe and I stopped. She looked at me for a few seconds then finally both of them bolted. I don’t know how close I could have gotten if I just kept walking and didn’t stop.
Another time I was out in the prairie in South Dakota working some rolling hills with three young dogs. It was pretty warm and dry, and they hadn’t found anything in about an hour of running. I decided to go down over a hill to a stock pond to give them a swim. This pond was the only water for a couple miles and it was well used by lots of animals, including ducks once in a while. I watched the dogs head for the pond and they all locked up with a divided find about ten yards from the bank. The pond was surrounded by cattails and a little taller grass and I just assumed some ducks were just over the bank. I eased up to jump the ducks and when I got a couple yards in front of the dogs I looked into the cattails. At 1st it was one of those times you see something, but it’s not what you are expecting so it doesn’t register quickly. I was a few feet from a very nice 150 class 4 X 4 whitetail buck staring right at me and the dogs. He was just lying in the tall grass perfectly still. I actually had a deer tag for that area and it was deer season, and I’m sure the 12 gauge a few feet away would have killed him, but shooting him didn’t even come to mind. I wasn’t sure if it was legal, and I was in a state of disbelief that this big whitetail buck was right there out in the middle of nowhere in the prairie a few feet away. After we stared at each other for what seemed like a week, but might have only been one second he busted out the back of the cattails. Of course the young dogs took off right after him, and I only had two e-collars at the time. Two dogs came back to me quickly, but the other chased across the open prairie for a few hundred yards before coming back.
Another trip out on the prairie of South Dakota I had a couple of broke dogs working some rolling grasslands. This was an area where I had shot a few antelope over the years, and once in a while I would see a mule deer. That day the wind was perfect, and the temperatures in the 20’s so it was a great day for a GWP to go hunting. I crested a small ridge and I could see the antlers of a deer in the valley maybe 500 yards ahead of me. They were pretty tall so I assumed a mule deer. I sat down in some tall grass and watched the dogs work that direction. They were just over a rise where the deer couldn’t see them with the wind blowing away from the deer towards them. When they got to where I thought they would be in the scent they both turned and started working into the deer. They both slowed way down and locked up right on top of the rise about 20 yards from the deer. From where I was at I couldn’t tell if the deer could see them or not. I started walking right at them and none of them moved. I got about 50 yards away and I could tell both dogs could see and smell the deer, and the deer could see them. I kept going and about ten yards away from the deer it looked at me then back at the dogs. He was a tall spindly 3X3 mule deer, and very old looking. I actually pointed my gun at him and kept walking. When I got maybe three yards away from the deer it was still just laying there head down, but it was shaking like a leaf. I thought maybe it was injured and couldn’t move then it finally jumped up and ran. Both dogs stood and watched it run off and I thought this is a once in a life time experience.
I had these same two dogs out in Wyoming a couple years later and they pointed a small mule deer buck on a sagebrush covered ridge. This deer was standing looking right at the dogs pointing it. When I walked up to it I can still remember the trance like state it was in. His eyes were huge and bugged out, and it was just kind of twisting its head back and forth. I had a large bull elk do this in front of me when I was bugling it in for a buddy to try and shoot with an arrow, but that is the only time I have witness this behavior up close. The deer was so focused on the dogs I just walked right up between it and the dogs before it even knew I was in the area. Once it knew I was there it changed its stance and shortly after turned and ran off in the direction of the other deer watching from across the canyon.
I have had a few other points where I got close to Mule deer in the mountains of Wyoming while hunting blue grouse. My theory is that if the dogs get close to the deer and point without the deer seeing them at a distance the deer will freeze. The surprise of seeing the dogs up close locks the deer up, and then when the dogs don’t move it becomes a standoff. I think this is how they deal with predators when the predators get too close without them knowing. Most deer have probably learned this from an early age.
So if you can hunt deer with a dog in your areas maybe give it a try and see if you can shoot one over point, and then have the GWP go detain it for you after you shoot it. I let Cruiser got after a nice whitetail buck my brother shot on our place in South Dakota right after he shot it. Cruiser grabbed it by the neck and started dragging it down the hill while it was still kicking, and didn’t want to give it up. The chances are probably slim a point will happen, but I know from experience you can get GWP’s to point deer, and the deer will hold for you.