Reality Check—“Publishing images of outlandish high-fence bucks detracts from our real purpose, which is supporting and celebrating the fair-chase hunting of wild deer. So in this issue, we’ve taken extra effort to publish photos of free-range whitetails that everyday hunters could realistically hope to see from their treestands this fall…. Because there is, after all, a good reason why the rack from a hard-hunted wild buck—whether it’s a Kansas giant or a Catskill 6-pointer—gets hung on the wall, not tossed in a pile outside.” —Alex Robinson, Editor-in-Chief

CULTURE SHOCK 

If you listen to the real experts and leaders in the whitetail world, they’re talking not just about how to kill a Booner in a plot of brassicas, they’re talking about having more fun during deer season, the importance of getting new folks into hunting, and promoting wild, free-range whitetail deer as a public resource. Deer hunting in America is awesome. Outdoor Life examines some of the harsh lessons we need to talk about if we’re going to keep it that way.

SCALING BACK

Minimalism is a devilishly simple concept of redefining what you need versus what you want. For minimalist deer hunters, the result is a tight collection of specialized gear that weighs less and is simpler. Often it fosters a hunting style that’s more mobile and nimble, and in many cases, more effective and enjoyable. From a slimmed-down day hunt with a tree saddle to truck camping for a week, the minimalist approach is winning the hearts of hardcore deer hunters across America.

RITUALS

The best wild-game meal isn’t really a meal at all. It’s a custom you follow not because it tastes good (even though it does), but because it jolts you right back to the day in the field—and all the days that came before. From a Cajun tradition to a deer-camp delicacy that might make you think twice, plus homegrown meals of the third backstrap and walleye fillets seasoned strictly with grit, hear about the traditions that are worth chewing on.

ROAD WARRIORS 

Day job be damned—fall is meant to be spent on the road filling your limits. David Kuritzky, Foster Olson, and Rick Laksonen spend between 60 days and five months on the road chasing ruffed grouse, quail, and pheasants. Outdoor Life caught up with these three die-hard bird hunters to get some of their tips for finding birds, tricking out your truck, finding a country vet (before you need one), eating on the road, and more.

PLUS Locate Big Western Whitetails; 2019 Optics Test; Cult Classics; Creatures of the Night; Weatherby’s Revolution; Six Boots for Hardcore Mountain Hunts; and more.