Beau 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!
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.
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…
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.