Along The Trail 11-29-12

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Recently, as I was paroosing through my Facebook account, I came across a post from one of my friends. The post’s author was upset over the fact that a young buck she had been keeping an eye all during archery season was taken by a neighbor during gun season and now, will never get the chance to grow to his potential.

The thread quickly turned ugly as I read further and a heated debate ensued, ending with a quote something to the effect of, “A real hunter doesn’t shoot small bucks”.

I managed to not throw in my two cents worth, but the post started me thinking.

Quality deer management has long since been discussed here in Indiana. Several years ago, the state implemented the “One Buck Rule” as an extended experiment and in the last couple years, it has been made permanent. There is no question that the rule has increased the number of larger, older bucks that are harvested each year. I’m not a trophy hunter in the true sense of the term, but I am a “selective” hunter at this point in my hunting life.

Does that mean I’ll only hold out for a giant of a buck? No, not at all.

What it means is, if I am presented with an opportunity to take a deer and I “select” that deer, I’m going to take it, regardless of it size or age. Now most of the time, I’ll hold out for a mature buck when I’m hunting bucks. But there have been plenty of occasions when I’ve taken smaller bucks, not the kind that you’ll see on your favorite outdoor show or the cover of a magazine for sure – but the size of the buck didn’t minimize the size of the experience or the memory.

But you know what? That’s okay.

The type of deer each hunter harvests is up to he or she and to the deer. If a year and a half old forkhorn is something a hunter is happy with, good for him. If a dedicated trophy hunter is holding out for a “Booner”, kudos to them for being disciplined and staying their course.

I am not much of a gun hunter anymore, but I still take to the woods with my kids each November and as long as they enjoy the hunting experience, you can bet we’ll be out there and if they decide to take a deer – any deer – I’m all for it. I understand my Facebook friend’s frustration over her experience with gun season. As a diehard archery hunter, I get it, but the fact of the matter is that we, as bowhunters are a drop in the bucket when it comes to the number of deer that are harvested each year.

Like it or not, gun hunters are the ones that keep the state’s deer herd in check and to think that everyone of them are going to hold out for a trophy is unrealistic at best.

I’m sure the state’s farmers and insurance companies are glad that not everyone is a horn hunter.

Study after study by dozens of universities has shown that in order to manage a local deer herd, a hunter needs a minimum of 500 acres! Some even recommend 1,000 acres to be successful.

Let’s face it, there aren’t many properties that size in Ohio, Ripley, Switzerland and Jefferson counties and, if there are, only a handful of lucky hunters have access to those kinds of woods.

Now I’m not saying that we can’t improve our 40 acre spots, but we as hunters cannot keep “our” bucks on our smaller pieces of property. A buck’s home during the rut can range for miles as he searches for as many girlfriends as he can find.

We can plant food plots, we can provide supplemental feed during the off-season, we can selectively harvest timber and conduct controlled burns to improve the habitat for wildlife, but a couple things you can’t control is a mature buck’s overwhelming drive to pass on his genes and you cannot control the hunter just across the fence that is happy as can be to take any deer on the only weekend he/she is able to take to the woods.

My advice to my frustrated friend: just be glad you still have private property to hunt and be thankful we live in a country where hunting is available to all, from trophy hunters to the opening weekenders.