Still Hunting in Massachusetts

AHM

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More like the first one but it was me sitting on the stump and the buck walked right up to me. I could have thrown my shotgun and hit it the thing got so close!
But with an ambiguous label like that, some caution is necessary.
 

Mark from MA

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Tree stands are very helpful but definitely not necessary. I shot my buck this year sitting on a stump.
Not really necessary for shotgun...... but if you had to move and draw a bow, the deer see you and GTF out.

I've shot 4 deer from the ground with a bow, all bucks, all looking at me like they could kick my ass, because they were rut filled, they just stand there and take the arrow. Some spooky doe? Forget it. Treestand or ground blind makes it way easier to draw, and shoot at an unalamed animal. Unalarmed is the key. Deer that have your number in a tree or on the ground, are string jumpers, and things go bad shooting at the head bobbing big doe. The arrow is usually a miss, or ends up in a non intended spot.

Shotgun....different story. Ive shot 30 deer with a gun sitting or still hunting ranging from 4 to 200 yards. Some knew something was up, but I didn't have to make any real movement, so that made the difference.
 
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Mark from MA

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No joke. Ive seen shooters in some crazy places lately. Medford, Melrose, Reading. My own backyard. And not little six pointers either. Bucks you would absolutely not hesitate a second on. Next year I’m taking off some serious time. A friend found a shed in his yard in Groton that looked like it belonged on the milk river. I might even have to upgrade the bow.
They have some nice sanctuary in towns like this...... Some of these bucks hang around in behind houses and in industrial parks and never get hunted. Most of the time they are noctournal, but if there are deer around, you can bet theres a smasher or two in the mix. Even in Suburbia.

I see it in Southern CT all the time. My last deer taken there was a 220 pound dressed, 9 point...in the 135 class. Shot it at 7 yards. People think because it's overpopulated with deer they are all small...that's not the case. Yes youll see a bunch of dinky does in the mix. But the deer we have up here are big breed northern deer, not the smaller southern deer. Put a cam out and you'll be surprised what's walking around at night....some big northern maine style brutes out there.
 

rocket500

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Bow hunting for sure very helpful to be in a stand. You have to be much closer to the deer in addition to all of the below.


Not really necessary for shotgun...... but if you had to move and draw a bow, the deer see you and GTF out.

I've shot 4 deer from the ground with a bow, all bucks, all looking at me like they could kick my ass, because they were rut filled, they just stand there and take the arrow. Some spooky doe? Forget it. Treestand or ground blind makes it way easier to draw, and shoot at an unalamed animal. Unalarmed is the key. Deer that have your number in a tree or on the ground, are string jumpers, and things go bad shooting at the head bobbing big doe. The arrow is usually a miss, or ends up in a non intended spot.

Shotgun....different story. Ive shot 30 deer with a gun sitting or still hunting ranging from 4 to 200 yards. Some knew something was up, but I didn't have to make any real movement, so that made the difference.
 

tuna

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I cannot stand to be in a tree stand so I only still hunt. It’s more fun, but I’m terrible at it and didn’t even bother last year.
Most people that I know that are successful use stands, but some still hunt. Hope you have better luck than I.
 

BigTimber

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They have some nice sanctuary in towns like this...... Some of these bucks hang around in behind houses and in industrial parks and never get hunted. Most of the time they are noctournal, but if there are deer around, you can bet theres a smasher or two in the mix. Even in Suburbia.

I see it in Southern CT all the time. My last deer taken there was a 220 pound dressed, 9 point...in the 135 class. Shot it at 7 yards. People think because it's overpopulated with deer they are all small...that's not the case. Yes youll see a bunch of dinky does in the mix. But the deer we have up here are big breed northern deer, not the smaller southern deer. Put a cam out and you'll be surprised what's walking around at night....some big northern maine style brutes out there.
My trail cam seconds this.
 

45collector

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I don't like climbing trees, so for me deer hunting is either with a small group of buddies on short, small area drives (we mainly only hunt on the Cape), or still hunting if I'm alone.
Your best bet is to learn how to be absolutely still, silent, and when possible facing the wind. And don't stand around with your gun slung over your shoulder once you've found a nice spot to sit/stand. Keep aware of your surroundings with all of your senses and keep the gun in-hand, low ready or whatever. Assuming you have good trigger discipline, keep the safety off. Your gun needs to be ready to raise and fire in a second, without making any unnecessary noise. More than a few deer have escaped from the hunter not being ready when the opportunity presents itself, than anyone will ever know. And that's because most hunters won't admit to anyone that they goofed and let a nice one walk away, when there was no one around to witness it. ;)
Have fun and be safe, and remember: Don't be the "I threw my gun at a tree" guy.
 

whacko

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I don't like climbing trees, so for me deer hunting is either with a small group of buddies on short, small area drives (we mainly only hunt on the Cape), or still hunting if I'm alone.
Your best bet is to learn how to be absolutely still, silent, and when possible facing the wind. And don't stand around with your gun slung over your shoulder once you've found a nice spot to sit/stand. Keep aware of your surroundings with all of your senses and keep the gun in-hand, low ready or whatever. Assuming you have good trigger discipline, keep the safety off. Your gun needs to be ready to raise and fire in a second, without making any unnecessary noise. More than a few deer have escaped from the hunter not being ready when the opportunity presents itself, than anyone will ever know. And that's because most hunters won't admit to anyone that they goofed and let a nice one walk away, when there was no one around to witness it. ;)
Have fun and be safe, and remember: Don't be the "I threw my gun at a tree" guy.
After missing a chance at a buck because I had my gun slung over my shoulder I removed the sling. I never hunt with a sling anymore. Too tempting to get lazy and actually use it when I'm in the woods. Low ready....all the time.
 

Mark from MA

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The late 80's early 90's was before my time but was the Berkshire's herd better back then?
We used to hunt New Marlboro, we'd shine farm fields at night and see 50 deer back then. When we shined the same fields in the mid 2000's when I stopped hunting there, we'd see a few or none. During that time, the doe permits went up, they switched from one buck to two, added days to archery, muzzleloader and shotgun. The quality of the woods went down, few new cuttings, few active farms anymore, coyotes came in as well. You would never see a coyote in the 80's.......or very rare. Hunting pressure decreased because it was either better to hunt near home, or the old timers aged out, and a lot of towns closed in the 90's. All of it adds up to poor hunting now...though I'm sure there are some nice deer there, but the deer per square mile is really low probably.

My dad and I talk about going back some day and just hunting there for old times sake. We took a lot of deer, some of our best deer, and got a lot of memories.

Same thing in my area of North Central, MA.....90's to early 2000's were good.....I remember the center of Barre being a big check station and having a high deer kill. Now.....its gone and the area checks on a meager amount of deer. The quabbin was a great feeder property and sanctuary, and the state beat the shxt out of it. Sure...its forest is healthy, but the local deer herd sucks.
 

Onecrazyoldman

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Check with the closest Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife District office to your location. The people that work there are more than happy to help you find a location to hunt that is close to your location. Great bunch of people there and that is their reason for being and their bread and butter. You won't be disappointed.
 
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The late 80's early 90's was before my time but was the Berkshire's herd better back then?
Define better . Better than out east for sure . I grew up on the south shore in the 70s and 80s . There were no deer there then . Everyone went where they were to hunt them back then and that was the Berkshires . So yes the Berkshires were better than eastern Mass back then .
 
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The #1 problem in MA remains accessibility - as in there isn't enough of it. They say the population is too high... Yet they don't mention anything about how they determine that. Yea sure it's high.... on land you can't hunt. Take a walk around any WMA - different story. The herd is very sparse.

Cities like NB have to call in "sharpshooters" to contend with deer making it onto the airport runway... But bowhunting... no no.... can't have that. In fact New Bedford has a town ordinance that prohibits the discharging of a firearm, archery, or even a slingshot within city limits. So no hunting in NB anywhere.. Gee - wonder why they've had problems with deer at the airport.

You want to solve the population problem, then you need only know two words... Accessibility - as in we don't have enough... Balance - as in the herd size isn't balanced between accessible lands and closed lands. A fact the state - for the most part - ignores in its management. The state just lumps it all in when calculating the size of the herd and then doles out doe permits like peanuts around here.

If the state were serious about managing the herd they would enact the following.

1. At the state level - invalidate all town ordinances that prohibit hunting... Like NB's discharge ban. Hunting should be a protected activity under state law in this regard. The state laws that regulate hunting should be the only laws that apply. Local politics should not interfere with the state's management objectives. It's detrimental to the people of that community, the state, and the herd.

2. No more putting state land - like the blue hills - off limits. If its legal in that it meets setback requirements - then it's legal. Period.

3. All publically held lands are open to hunting. No more allowing land trusts who take taxpayer money to close off their properties to hunting... Example: Dartmouth's DNRT. You take public dollars, in one way or another, then ALL of your lands are open to all legal public use... hunting included. It needs to be a protected activity.

Political bias against hunting is the single most dangerous thing for the health of the herd. It's because of it we have the issues we now have.
 

rocket500

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Hunting access isn’t going to improve. The state and cities/towns would rather pay for dumb stuff like deer sterlization and sharp shooters because hunters are bloodthirsty savages.

My advice is don’t be afraid to bang on a few doors (and have a few slammed in your face). Get online and figure out who owns huntable private property. Ask their permission to hunt it. Yes there are plenty of tree huggers in MA that are offended by hunting. But there are also plenty of people sick of having their garden chewed up, or that have had Lyme disease affect them or a family member.

The towns inside 495 are just rotten with deer.
 
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Hunting access isn’t going to improve. The state and cities/towns would rather pay for dumb stuff like deer sterlization and sharp shooters because hunters are bloodthirsty savages.

My advice is don’t be afraid to bang on a few doors (and have a few slammed in your face). Get online and figure out who owns huntable private property. Ask their permission to hunt it. Yes there are plenty of tree huggers in MA that are offended by hunting. But there are also plenty of people sick of having their garden chewed up, or that have had Lyme disease affect them or a family member.

The towns inside 495 are just rotten with deer.
I fear you are correct, and consequently the problem will not improve.
 

Mark from MA

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The #1 problem in MA remains accessibility - as in there isn't enough of it. They say the population is too high... Yet they don't mention anything about how they determine that. Yea sure it's high.... on land you can't hunt. Take a walk around any WMA - different story. The herd is very sparse.

Cities like NB have to call in "sharpshooters" to contend with deer making it onto the airport runway... But bowhunting... no no.... can't have that. In fact New Bedford has a town ordinance that prohibits the discharging of a firearm, archery, or even a slingshot within city limits. So no hunting in NB anywhere.. Gee - wonder why they've had problems with deer at the airport.

You want to solve the population problem, then you need only know two words... Accessibility - as in we don't have enough... Balance - as in the herd size isn't balanced between accessible lands and closed lands. A fact the state - for the most part - ignores in its management. The state just lumps it all in when calculating the size of the herd and then doles out doe permits like peanuts around here.

If the state were serious about managing the herd they would enact the following.

1. At the state level - invalidate all town ordinances that prohibit hunting... Like NB's discharge ban. Hunting should be a protected activity under state law in this regard. The state laws that regulate hunting should be the only laws that apply. Local politics should not interfere with the state's management objectives. It's detrimental to the people of that community, the state, and the herd.

2. No more putting state land - like the blue hills - off limits. If its legal in that it meets setback requirements - then it's legal. Period.

3. All publically held lands are open to hunting. No more allowing land trusts who take taxpayer money to close off their properties to hunting... Example: Dartmouth's DNRT. You take public dollars, in one way or another, then ALL of your lands are open to all legal public use... hunting included. It needs to be a protected activity.

Political bias against hunting is the single most dangerous thing for the health of the herd. It's because of it we have the issues we now have.
This X 1000.
 

Mark from MA

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I fear you are correct, and consequently the problem will not improve.
Yes and no. It all depends. Down in suburban CT in the 80's it was almost impossible to get land to hunt People would look at you crosseyed. The herd was just coming in, and deer were being seen for the first time, cute, cuddly, beautiful creatures. (This is like eastern MA is now) Then in the 90's after 10-15 years of dealing with terrible Lyme, car collisions, millions in landscape damage, and deer rutting and running does thru yards with kids playing in them, and the popuation just spiraling out of control..... The deer became pests, the state embraced bowhunting as the answer.....the state did a great job of educating and promoting the towns about it. The towns had deer committees to address it, and open up land to hunting. No....not everyone agreed with it, and they never will. But, people who didn't know hunting from a hole in the ground were willing to give it a chance, a lot of them old ladies, and moms who didn't want their kids and grandkids getting lyme. I've had old ladies down there flat out tell me when talking to them the first time about bowhunting......"kill every one of those bastards!" They didn't like the idea of hunting but they let it happen....because it was better for their kids and the community. Then, once they realized and saw a few deer taken by hunters on their neighboring properties....without issue, without anyone getting hurt, without them even knowing 99% of the time. It all became accepted and no one was "scared" anymore.

But however, some towns were very proactive and it opened up a lot of opportunity. I and a group of friends have personally killed a shxt ton of deer there, and some nice bucks as well, all with the bow, the largest lot I had to hunt was 5 acres. Now....hunting is still good, but the population is down, and starting to be in control, also thanks to coyotes that have come in as well. The state opened up a lot of state forest down there as well, that was never hunted, or hunted sporadically on control hunts.

Here is about three caveats that have to happen.....#1, CT has no setback for shooting a bow, you are protected as long as you are on land you have written permission on, setup on the lot line, doesn't matter as long as you are legally on their land. #2, Towns cannot be closed to hunting in CT, basically the whole state is landowner permission, and that supersedes any town permission. You do NOT need to go to the town hall and deal with bullshxt. #3, On the occasions that I've legally taken game and it's ended up on an anti property...the game warden and police have backed my play.

Without all the above and more, urban bowhunting fails......controlled hunts are OK, but only get certain areas. All areas need to be opened up, the reason why the population is still high in southern CT, is because there is sanctuary on non huntable private land. But, the overall deer per square mile, which was once 60-80, is now more like 30-40 or less in areas with huntable state land. Some people are even saying is getting bad now.

The one or two things that will likely stop MA from becoming as bad as southern CT. The forest down there is mostly white oak,and red oak. Very little pine and hemlock. The deer have food like no tomorrow down there. Up here, soils are not as good, and the carrying capacity is less. Places like the Quabbin prove that.....it took many years for the Quabbin deer population to become "high". It took like 3 years of shotgun hunting to piss it down to 5-10 deer per mile....even less now probably.

Also, the herd grew so fast because Coyotes hadn't really taken a foothold yet. They have now, they eat fawns like no tomorrow (even though our state says they don't) , especially in urban habitats where there is little or no cover and protective woods to hide. This will stem the growth big time. Although, having coyotes around eating fawns on your patio wont be all that pleasant for your Brookline mansion owner, and that might be an issue in itself.
 
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Mark from MA

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Hunting access isn’t going to improve. The state and cities/towns would rather pay for dumb stuff like deer sterlization and sharp shooters because hunters are bloodthirsty savages.

My advice is don’t be afraid to bang on a few doors (and have a few slammed in your face). Get online and figure out who owns huntable private property. Ask their permission to hunt it. Yes there are plenty of tree huggers in MA that are offended by hunting. But there are also plenty of people sick of having their garden chewed up, or that have had Lyme disease affect them or a family member.

The towns inside 495 are just rotten with deer.
Personally, I wouldnt ask permission on smaller properties less than 10-15 acres because I feel the anti hunting sentiment around here is too thick. I feel even a lot of MA Game Wardens would not back your play. They would be looking for excuses to hang you due to some setback limit, town violation, etc, etc.....too many rules. Maybe I'm wrong but some of them at the classes I've teached and attended seemed like just Dicks looking for any reason to nail you. I didn't get a good vibe at all from most of them, the vibe I got was they would use any good reason to take your deer. Fxck that. Cops....same thing for the most part.

Contrast with the CT. ones Ive dealt with that basically have checked my lisc, permission slip and said....hey, I'll go deal with the anti bullshit from the landowner...that's my job. Just head back to your property and we will drive or drag the deer over to you once we are done dealing with these tree huggers.
 

AHM

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... having coyotes around eating fawns on your patio wont be all that pleasant for your Brookline mansion owner, and that might be an issue in itself.
The wake-up call will be coyotes eating millionaires' cats on their patio.
 

rocket500

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Depends on the property. You might be able to successfully hunt 5 acres that abuts conservation land or wetland. Alternatively 10 acres surrounded by houses might be tough. Especially if there are antis in the hood. Obviously bow hunting is much more low profile.


Personally, I wouldnt ask permission on smaller properties less than 10-15 acres because I feel the anti hunting sentiment around here is too thick. I feel even a lot of MA Game Wardens would not back your play. They would be looking for excuses to hang you due to some setback limit, town violation, etc, etc.....too many rules. Maybe I'm wrong but some of them at the classes I've teached and attended seemed like just Dicks looking for any reason to nail you. I didn't get a good vibe at all from most of them, the vibe I got was they would use any good reason to take your deer. Fxck that. Cops....same thing for the most part.

Contrast with the CT. ones Ive dealt with that basically have checked my lisc, permission slip and said....hey, I'll go deal with the anti bullshit from the landowner...that's my job. Just head back to your property and we will drive or drag the deer over to you once we are done dealing with these tree huggers.
 

HorizontalHunter

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Depends on the property. You might be able to successfully hunt 5 acres that abuts conservation land or wetland. Alternatively 10 acres surrounded by houses might be tough. Especially if there are antis in the hood. Obviously bow hunting is much more low profile.
Not really. You still need permission.

I wouldn’t want to get caught on conservation land with a bow retrieving a deer; especially as a non-resident. Connecticut takes its private land permissions seriously. It is very different in that regard compared to Massachusetts.

Bob
 

Mark from MA

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Depends on the property. You might be able to successfully hunt 5 acres that abuts conservation land or wetland. Alternatively 10 acres surrounded by houses might be tough. Especially if there are antis in the hood. Obviously bow hunting is much more low profile.
Yeah...5 or 10 acres, bowhunting would be the only way. Ideally you take only very close broadside shots at relaxed deer with a very sharp broadhead and shoot thru both lungs. I've never had a deer go more than 80 yards and fall within 5 seconds with a double lung shot. Average is like 40 yards...and like 3 seconds on their feet after the shot. Anything other than that can be problematic as deer go a long way in a very short time.

I don't do quartering away anymore.......you usually get one lung and liver or heart, and miss the other lung and the deer can be on its feet for a while, on a small property they can end up somewhere you don't want them. Both lungs....deer just cannot walk or run that far, they go down.
 

Fritz the Cat

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I have 5 or 6 areas I can hunt here in the Berkshires, all private land. Most of the people I hunt with use game cameras and they have been tracking lots of sizable deer for years. I get a couple of 6 pointers wandering about my house in the evening. One will likely be in the freezer next year.
All of my hunting has been still hunting or from a natural blind. Often I'm at one end of a field or clearing just waiting for dusk/dawn. Some of my hunting crew use stands but most also bow hunt (I don't).
I've harvested a deer every year for the past 30ish years as most of the locals do. The key is to know your hunting grounds and do your pre season scouting. Cameras make it easy. I still don't use a camera partly because I'm cheap.
I've heard rumor that some of the locals use centerfire rifles while hunting private lands, usually their own. Doesn't get talked about. Nobody cares. I think we have 2 EPOs for the whole county and they patrol the state forests which is about half the county.
Good luck out there and keep yer powder dry.
 

Mark from MA

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Depends on the property. You might be able to successfully hunt 5 acres that abuts conservation land or wetland. Alternatively 10 acres surrounded by houses might be tough. Especially if there are antis in the hood. Obviously bow hunting is much more low profile.
Honestly, I think MA wardens would Fxck you hard if you hunted an abutting conservation property and the deer ended up on the conservation land, and tried to retrieve it and some one saw you.

Like Bob said, CT wardens might too....however, in southern CT, they are in tune with bowhunters. As long as you had permission on the land you shot the deer on, and could prove you shot the deer there, they wouldn't give you any issues. I've hunted as little as 2 acres abutting conservation and never had an issue.

MA wardens...Im not so sure of that....they are looking to take your deer or write you up...for almost any reason is what I get out of most of them.
 

HorizontalHunter

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Honestly, I think MA wardens would Fxck you hard if you hunted an abutting conservation property and the deer ended up on the conservation land, and tried to retrieve it and some one saw you.

Like Bob said, CT wardens might too....however, in southern CT, they are in tune with bowhunters. As long as you had permission on the land you shot the deer on, and could prove you shot the deer there, they wouldn't give you any issues. I've hunted as little as 2 acres abutting conservation and never had an issue.

MA wardens...Im not so sure of that....they are looking to take your deer or write you up...for almost any reason is what I get out of most of them.
I have had multiple interactions with game wardens in both states over the years. My only bad experience was in Connecticut.

As always, it’s the luck of the draw.

Bob
 

Mark from MA

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I have had multiple interactions with game wardens in both states over the years. My only bad experience was in Connecticut.

As always, it’s the luck of the draw.

Bob
Yes....agree. My friends who hunt Northern CT say wardens aren't so friendly there.....in fact one of my friends hunting STATE land that was 100% huntable, was given some grief over it because a local abutting farmer didn't like it. (of course he was hunter) The warden gave a lot of leeway to the local farmer and nearly took his side for crying out loud. In the end my buddy told them both to screw and just hunted there, but got dropped off, because he absolutely felt that farmer would flatten his tires if he parked on the road side.

My guess, is the wardens in South CT go out of their way to try and help the urban hunters get the job done, as they know they have a problem. Having someone that can back you up to the locals is really important.

I've never had any interaction with MA wardens, but the ones that showed up to teach a few classes I was in with my son and daughter didn't exactly win me over with a feeling they would do anything but write me up for some obsure BS law that they threw out there.

Like..oh..by the way MA has a night rifle ban. If your driving around anywhere with a rifle bigger than .22 in your truck or car at night. Even if its cased and unloaded, it gives us PC, and we can write you up for "night hunting" and search. Yeah....awesome.
 
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OP here: Well for MASS it sounds like "Still Hunting" is a yes, I just need to do some research and practice meditation haha.

Thanks everyone for your help and responses, also cool to learn about my brothers and sisters down in the CT!
 

rocket500

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My squad likes to hunt on the ground we will do pushes to get the deer moving and see/tag lots. Obviously not how you do it solo.
 
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