The deer is a dummy, best made with a wire frame, on which soft hay is wrapped till it is of proper size and shape, then all is covered with open burlap. A few touches of white and black make it very realistic.
If time does not admit of a well-finished deer, one can be made of a sack stuffed with hay, decorated at one end with a smaller sack for head and neck, and set on four thin sticks.
The side of the deer is marked with a large oval, and over the heart is a smaller one.
Bows and arrows only are used to shoot this deer.
A pocketful of corn, peas, or other large grain is now needed for scent. The boy who is the deer for the first hunt takes the dummy under his arm and runs off, getting ten minutes' start, or until he comes back and shouts "ready!" He leaves a trail of corn, dropping two or three grains for every yard and making the trail as crooked as he likes, playing such tricks as a deer would do to baffle his pursuers. Then he hides the deer in any place he fancies, but not among rocks or on the top of a ridge, because in one case many arrows would be broken, and in the other, lost.
The hunters now hunt for this the deer. He shouts "Deer!" and scores ten for finding it. The others shout "Second" " Third" etc., in order of seeing it, but they do not score.
The finder must shoot at the deer with his bow and arrow from the very spot whence he saw it. If he misses, the second hunter may step up five paces, and have his shot. If he misses, the third one goes five, and so on till some one hits the deer, or until the ten-yard limit is reached. If the finder is within ten yards on sighting the deer, and misses deer just as for a real deer, either following the trail or watching the woods ahead; the best hunters combine the two. If at any time the trail is quite lost the one in charge shouts "Lost Trail!" After that the one who finds the trail scores two. Any one giving a false alarm by shouting "Deer" is fined five.
Thus they go till some one finds his shot, the other hunters go back to the ten-yard limit. Once the deer is hit, all the shooting must be from the exact spot whence the successful shot was fired.
A shot in the big oval is a body wound; that scores five. A shot outside that is a scratch; that scores two. A shot in the small oval or heart is a heart wound; it scores ten, and ends the hunt. Arrows which do not stick do not count, unless it can be proved that they passed right through, in which case they take the highest score that they pierced.
If all the arrows are used, and none in the heart, the deer escapes, and the boy who was deer scores twenty-five.
The one who found the dummy is deer for the next hunt. A clever deer can add greatly to the excitement of the game.
Originally we used paper for scent, but found it bad. It littered the woods, yesterday's trail was confused with that of to-day, etc. Corn proved better, because the birds and the squirrels kept it cleaned up from day to day, and thus the ground was always ready for a fresh start. But the best of all is the hoof mark for the shoe. These iron hoof marks are fast to a pair of shoes, and leave a trail much like a real deer. This has several advantages. It gives the hunter a chance to tell where the trail doubled, and which way the deer was going. It is more realistic, and a boy who can follow this skilfully can follow a living deer. In actual practice it is found well to use a little corn with this on the hard places, a plan quite consistent with realism, as every hunter will recall.
It is strictly forbidden to any hunter to stand in front of the firing line; all must be back of the line on which the shooter stands.
There is no limit to the situations and curious combinations in this hunt. The deer may be left standing or lying. There is no law why it should not be hidden behind a solid tree trunk. The game develops as one follows it. After it has been played for some time with the iron hoof mark as above, the boys grow so skilful on the trail that we can dispense with even the corn. The iron mark like a deer hoof leaves a very realistic "slot" or track, which the more skilful boys readily follow through the woods. A hunt is usually for three, five, or more deer, according to agreement, and the result is reckoned by points on the whole chase.