September 23, 2023

Get Down Out Of Your Treestand And Try Something New

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I am reminded of an old story that dates to many years ago. It goes something like this: Two men who lived on opposite sides of town, used to walk to work everyday passing each other somewhere along the way. Neither ever spoke to one another until one day Mr. Jones says to Mr. Smith, “Say Smith! My horse is sick.”

Mr. Smith replied, “Feed him some turpentine. That’s what I did.”

Several days passed until Mr. Jones says to Mr. Smith, “Say, Smith! My horse died.”

To which Smith answers, “Yep! So’d mine.”

Aside from the obvious lack of communication between the two men, a not-so-obvious problem that exists here as it does everywhere we go and that’s that everyone has a solution to any problem going, right or wrong. What often goes hand in hand with too many bad solutions is the mentality of someone that they are not receptive to any changes even when the current state of affairs seems dismal at best.

Another example of such mindset: I was asked by someone who had been in the hospitality business for many, many years what I supposed the problem was that their business had dropped off drastically in the last couple of years. Trying as hard as I could to dance around the issue by asking more questions than giving solutions, I asked things like, “What has changed in the last two years that wasn’t there before?” or “Is your business the only one locally that is suffering?”, etc., etc.

I finally was asked directly by the person what it was that I thought they were doing wrong. When I began making suggestions of things they might attempt to help rectify the situation, I was astounded by the reply I got. “We’ve never done anything like that before. I don’t know why I should have to now!”

When you combine these items you have a certain recipe for failure – poor communication, advice from the uninformed and an uncooperative attitude by the one person who needs help the most.

Times they are a changing. Most will admit that when it comes to deer hunting in America. Many aspects of the hunt are changing from the equipment we use, to the support or lack thereof that exists from family, friends and community. The scientists who are commissioned to manage our wildlife are better educated and more easily frustrated by the politics that come with their jobs. There is also money and power behind anti-hunting and animal rights groups bent on stopping our sport.

With all of this influence, things change. What we used to do several years ago, may not apply anymore. I used to go hunting all season long, where I grew up in rural Maine, and never see another hunter. There were times when I would pass up a lot of deer waiting for a chance at a bigger one. Not anymore.

Science says that for deer to be healthy they need good habitat and within that habitat, only a certain pre-determined number of deer per square mile. In theory, according to some wildlife biologists, if we stopped hunting and let deer self-manage, they would eventually reach a certain saturation point and basically stay somewhere around that level of population – in theory. One of the biggest problems with that approach is there are not enough constants anymore to be able to do that. In other words, the available habitat for deer is constantly changing either by logging operations, disease, encroachment by man, etc. This is why hunting has become such a necessary part of maintaining a healthy number of deer. With the right programs in place, fish and game experts can make yearly changes to the hunt in order to regulate populations and do it in more specific areas called wildlife management districts.

Needless to say, what I might think is an allowable number of deer per square mile and what some scientist might think, can be worlds apart. When the majority of scientists agree on certain aspects of deer management, I in my lacking of knowledge may have to concede to them and let them do what they believe to be the best. This can set off a fine display of anger and attitude from many around the country.

Every state is different because not any two states have identical human population densities, deer densities or sustainable habitat. Wildlife officials in all states determine through science what would be a target number of deer per square mile, keeping in mind that those numbers will change within wildlife management districts within the state itself. Once they have made that determination, a management plan is drawn up to achieve the goals.

Methods used by fish and game to achieve those goals vary but essentially the most common one is the use of issuing permits. Depending on whether the state is looking to increase or decrease population densities, will depend on how many and of what type of permit to issue. Basically speaking, a state trying to bolster the deer population, will restrict the number of female deer killed during a season. Conversely, a state trying to reduce the population will issue more permits specifically for does. In some instances, states require a hunter to tag a doe before they can take a buck.

The controversy doesn’t seem to come from hunters who argue about the methods used by wildlife biologists in controlling populations. The real argument comes from how many deer is enough deer.

I am not about to suggest that I have the answer to that question. What I am suggesting is that we as hunters need to consider whether or not we are properly adapting to the changes being presented us by circumstances mostly beyond our control. We can’t directly control human growth and real estate development. We can’t control directly when and how a lumbering company will harvest their wood. We can’t control what a farmer plants for crops and we certainly can’t control the weather.

What we can control is how we hunt. Instead of doing the same thing we have done for the past umteen years as passed down by our fathers and their fathers, maybe it’s time for a change. Perhaps those uncontrolled circumstances has driven us to a point where change is needed. The choice is yours. You can seek bad advice (drinking turpentine), listen to everyone else’s solution, resist the change completely or do something different.

In Pennsylvania, some hunters are upset with fish and game saying there are not enough deer anymore. Fish and game counters that finally they have reduced deer densities down to levels they can manage. Who’s right?

I made a post back in the end of September about how it appeared that the sale of hunting licenses was falling short of what officials had hoped for. Hunters disgruntled with the deer management program there vowed that if the fish and game insisted on continuing their program of reducing the size of the state’s deer herd, hunters would lose interest and give up their sport. Pennsylvania annually sells around 1 million hunting licenses. This translates into big revenue needed for a burgeoning budget.

There is a festering in the relationship between hunters and wildlife officials in how deer are being managed there. Many hunters think the Game Commission’s methods are reducing the deer numbers to a level that makes hunting not enjoyble. These same groups have said that if the state continues on this path, hunters will stop buying licenses.

Pennsylvania officials claimed that in the short run there may be a drop in the number of hunters who buy a license, but in the long term, hunters will be more satisfied with the deer numbers and the quality of game they are hunting. Officials stressed that hunters may need to adjust their hunting techniques in order to improve their success rates. This is nothing new. These hunting techniques and strategies have been going on in some states since the beginning of time. The number of deer per square mile has little to do with the perceived quality and enjoyment of the hunt.

Hunters are coming down out of their treestands and finding a whole different world of deer hunting. Learning new techniques and the requirement of better hunting skills actually increases interest among hunters. With the increased challenge of still-hunting and/or stocking, comes a better appreciation of the sport. Anyone can sit in a blind or a stand and watch deer mill about hoping that per chance a big enough buck shows up. A differently skilled hunter can find immense satifaction in going and finding his prey.

I received a comment from a reader regarding the shortage of hunting licenses being sold in Pennsylvania. I am in no way ridiculing the person who left the comment, only to show readers what a Pennsylvania hunter perceives because of past history. I can certainly understand their frustration.

Sales of hunting permits are down because more and more young people are not hunting, my youngest son does not want to hunt because he said he see’s no deer with this new deer management program. We very rarely see deer on my property any more because all the does are being taken with so many doe permits. I used to see over 50 deer by noon time 10 years abo, now I’m lucky to see 1 or 2 does, and bucks 1 or 2 a year. This is in Luzerne county and I know lots of people in other counties and they say the same thing.Cut back on the doe permits.

I would have to say that it would be a safe bet to assume that if this hunter was seeing over 50 deer by noontime, there were far too many deer in the woods. I have no way of knowing what tactics this hunter uses but maybe it’s time for a change. Hunters from many states wouldn’t sympathize much with this hunter as they are more accustomed to the 1 or 2 does and 1 or 2 bucks in a season.

There are other issues that we as hunters have created that is forcing the hand of fish and game. More hunters are getting away from meat hunting putting their focus on trophy hunting. This leaves too many does and small deer that are eager to reproduce. In many states, the number of hunters isn’t decreasing or increasing. What is changing is the method by which they choose to hunt. Archery and crossbows are becoming very big weapons of choice across America. The biggest reason is adding to the challenge of the hunter. A higher level of skill is required to take big game with a bow and arrow. With the increased requirements, the success rate drops but the satisfaction rises. It’s not the number of deer dummy (not directed at anyone). It’s the thrill of the hunt.

All of these changes are constantly forcing fish and game to stay on top of things in their management plans. We may not agree with their management goals and as I have pointed out there are many things you and I have no control over. The one thing we can control is how we hunt.

Look things over in your favorite hunting areas and begin to learn what you can do to change your technique and above all, boost the interest level in deer hunting for yourself. Change comes hard, but if we give it a chance often times these changes will add something new to the sport and your love of deer hunting may see a rebirth. Give it a try.

Tom Remington