I have tried with facts and figures, with myth and melodrama, with hyperbole and histrionics, to show that the deer population is out of control in many places and that this is harmful to the environment. Nothing works. Nice people think it is bad to kill deer and that’s the end of it. Sorry, James Fennimore Cooper, your Deerslayer is no longer an heroic icon of American culture.
I sit here thinking these thoughts while I watch out the window at a herd of deer strolling through our grove of trees. It is a December weekend at the peak of hunting season here. There should be the crash of gunfire in the air, orange vested hunters peeking from the puckerbrush everywhere, pickups roaring up and down the country roads, moving squadrons of hunters around as in the days of yore. But the only sound is the soft brush of deer hooves in the fallen leaves. If you have the ears of a true environmentalist you can also hear, in your mind’s ear, the sound of antlers shredding tree saplings and the sound of deer teeth crunching more saplings and munching the acorns that would make more saplings, effectively killing off what would be the next generation of forest when deer populations are too high.
Where are the hunters? I have told all the ones I know that they are welcome to hunt over our land. They could get a shot at more deer from my barn loft than they would likely see on the Alaskan tundra. But they don’t come. I’m not sure why but I think it is because there is so much red tape and rules now involved with deer hunting, that being able to hunt on my few acres just isn’t worth the effort. On the very few days when they are allowed, they go where there are more acres to hunt over. And underlying all that, the truth is that there are fewer people who know how to hunt effectively or who can shoot straight enough to hit the side of a barn door.
Why don’t I hunt? I don’t like to kill deer either. Furthermore, I am allowed only one or two deer a season and that’s not enough to solve the problem at present. Nor, in the one or two weekends allowed, could I have time to harvest, butcher and distribute the meat from the dozen or so deer I need to kill every year to get the deer population down to healthy levels. Getting permission for a professional hunter to come in is a good idea if I can prove the deer are reducing my business income. I just don’t have time for the trouble, red tape, and money involved. We need year-round hunting for awhile.
It may surprise you to learn that it is not blue-eyed yuppies and liberal- commie environ-metal heads (as a neighbor puts it) who are the most influential group in the protection of the Dreadnought Deer of Destruction. The real power is the hunting fraternity itself. Hunters want lots of deer around so that on the very few days when they are allowed to hunt, they can get their deer quickly and get back where it’s warm in time for the football games. Secondly, many landowners still won’t allow hunting on their property so hunters want big deer herds spilling out onto land where then can hunt. Believe it or not, deer are quite intelligent enough to hide out on land they know is not frequented by hunters as soon as they hear gunshots.
Deer/car accidents are on the rise. So we have a choice. We can either kill more deer by hunting or by hitting them with automobiles. If those were cows running all over creation, we would decide to trim their population in short order.
Speaking of cows, here’s the irony. Our commercial beef cow numbers are down to the lowest level since 1962. I can guarantee you that if beef gets scarce, so will deer.