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Falling Leaves, Conservation Thoughts

November 7th, 2008

Windy and cold!  The weather has turned, and it’s surely November.  The leaves are blowing off the trees and changing the previously green landscape to brown everywhere.  A literal carpet of leaves.  Soon it will be time to rake and mulch, and the leaves will disappear.  But first there’s a really big pile of leaves to be made out there waiting for people to jump into it!

Carpet of leaves in November

And the leaves are blowing into the water too… I am always amazed how many leaves accumulate in the pond.  How long do they take to decompose?  Do they pile up on the bottom year after year?  Who knows… but they seem to disappear in a matter of weeks.

Leaves in the pond

But weeks is all we have to really work on outside projects before the winter cold sets in.  Not that I don’t work outside in winter, but it’s a little harder to work with metal, tools and other such things in 20 degree temperatures.  I’ll admit it, I think it’s just more fun (and comfortable) to work on things when the weather’s nice.  I think the real issue is that I love being outside.  So when it’s really cold, I don’t get out as much.   Which is a bit of a contradiction, because I just love the snow.  Or maybe I love looking at the snow.  Well the boy won’t let me off the hook so easily this year, and I’m sure I’ll be out tromping around with him soon!

Deer and duck season have arrived in Missouri, and it’s time to think about putting some meat in the freezer.  I only went out a couple times last year and the freezer stayed empty, at least of wild game.  Contrary to popular belief, hunting wild deer is not easy for most people, especially if you don’t have private land to hunt on.  Most of us hunt public lands, along with a lot of other folks of course.   Also it’s not really a shooting gallery out there, again contrary to that portrayed in the media.  I’ve only seen one or two other hunters when I hike back on public lands, and most of the time you only catch a glimpse of a deer or deer sign such as tracks, etc.  I’ve taken one deer in three years; poor hunting by some standards perhaps. 

Those hunting on private lands usually have more success simply due to less competition. It helps to scout early and by placing deer stands or blinds in strategic locations.   In most states there are strict regulations for what sex of deer may be taken, usually by county, and other strict regulations for the type of hunting method used such as archery, blackpowder or modern rifle.  Bow hunting season is the longest, and it’s the most challenging method of hunting because your effective range is limited to about 30 yards.  It’s very difficult to stay quiet enough, still enough, and not “smelly” so that a deer comes within 30 yards! 

Blackpowder or muzzleloader hunting is also a little longer of a season since you manually load your powder and shot, and have just one chance to shoot accurately.  It’s like musket hunting in the era of Daniel Boone.   Rifle season offers perhaps the best chance to take a deer at farther ranges of course, but the season itself is only 10 days long each year.  Most hunters try their luck during that 10 day period, and that is also when the most deer are taken each year.

Do I hunt here at Fox Haven?  I would, but we only have a few acres of “huntable” land really.   Deer transit our properly usually at night when you’re not allowed to hunt (hunting after dark or with lights is called “poaching”!).  I do have my eyes open for a transient deer that loves to rub his antlers on my trees.  One of our last remaining maple trees- planted two years ago with the young boy, was stripped of it’s bark last week.  I should have covered or protected it earlier- as I’m trying to do with the apple trees.  But I put up a little wire around it for now, and we’ll see if it can still grow with half it’s bark missing.  I’d like to find that deer though…

Maple tree bark stripped by deer antlers

I’m a little more determined this year, and maybe I’ll be more successful on the public lands I hunt.  If I do well I know a couple of families that really could use the food.   We have a wonderful “Share the Harvest” program in Missouri where deer meat (venison) is donated to many charitable organizations that need the food.  In 2007 over 5,500 hunters donated more than 260,000 pounds of venison!  This is not only helpful for the charities that receive the food, but it’s also a vital management tool:

“The Share the Harvest Program is extremely useful in the Conservation Department™s management of Missouri™s deer population.  The Department works with the Conservation Federation to target areas with high deer numbers by increasing local processing-cost incentives and Share the Harvest promotional campaigns. This results in an increased harvest in areas where deer populations are high.”

So why manage deer populations?  Primarily for health and safety- both of the deer and especially for people!   In the late 1990’s statistics showed more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in more than 29,000 injuries and over $1 billion dollars of insurance claims.  I’m sure it’s higher today.   And where there are deer, there are deer ticks which may carry Lyme (or other) disease, a rapidly growing and debilitating disease in the nation.  The damage to agriculture from deer is also in the billions of dollars, and many urban communities are struggling to balance public appreciation for deer as wildlife with the damage and risk that is also present to the community.  

On balance, hunting is one of the best methods for controlling deer populations, and offers benefits in many different ways.  Harvesting deer not only provides food for many purposes, but the money from licensing and training requirements benefits many different conservation and natural resource programs.  In the duck hunting arena, the nation has benefitted immensely from wild land preservation and conservation initiatives to help waterfowl populations.  Too successful in some areas as we’ve seen with Canada and other geese populations.  But as the interface between human populations and wildlife grows closer through the years, we’ll need to ensure sound conservation practices are in place to manage the inevitable conflicting resource needs.

5 Responses to “Falling Leaves, Conservation Thoughts”

  1. Ed Abbeyon 07 Nov 2008 at 4:29 pm

    Happy Hunting!

    I haven’t been hunting since I got married but one day perhaps after my girl has grown up, I would like to take it up again. Until then, I just live off the gifts of meat given to my parents by hunters who hunt on their land. Unfortunately, the biggest giver committed suicide earlier this year so my supply will be a lot less.

  2. Pabloon 07 Nov 2008 at 8:51 pm

    I’m going to set up my two game cameras at Roundrock on Friday, not to get pix of the deer but to see who is hunting on my land when I’m not there. I’m not opposed to hunting, and if someone asked, I’d certainly welcome them to hunt there, but it bugs me when they just presume that they can do it without a thought.

  3. Beauon 07 Nov 2008 at 10:00 pm

    Ed- That’s wonderful that you can share the bounty of your family’s land; I’m sorry to hear about the other hunter. I didn’t hunt much over the past 20+ years, but have enjoyed spending time in the outdoors.

    Pablo- That’s a great idea to set up your cameras. It would bother me to no end if somone hunted on my land without permission. On many private lands people use purple paint to denote private or protected property- is that practiced near Roundrock? I believe it even carries legal weight- but most hunters I’ve ever known were respectful and always asked landowners before venturing on their property. I’ll be interested to see what you find out!

  4. R. Shermanon 08 Nov 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Firearm deer season is the only time of year, I refuse to go onto public land, simply because I worry about the nature of the hunters. The bad/careless ones may be few, but it only takes one to ruin your day. I don’t worry about the bow and muzzle loaders. They seem to have a lot more on the ball.

    As for the purple paint, I think a lot of people assume (wrongfully) that the absence of paint implies permission to hunt. Of course that’s not the law but it appears as though the burden has shifted to the landowners to affirmatively take steps to prevent trespass. I wish the DOC would do a campaign every Fall against hunting on private land without specific permission.

    Cheers.

  5. Beauon 08 Nov 2008 at 2:25 pm

    Hi R.- It’s understandable, and there are careless folks out there just like the roads perhaps. Interesting about the burden of responsibility comment- and that’s a great idea about reminders during hunting season. I know they include it in the hunter education classes and such, but too many folks forget it seems.

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