Monday, December 15, 2008

Choosing When & When Not To Deer Hunt


Mind you, I’m not a wuss when it comes to deer hunting. I can, for the most part, hold my own with most people in most types of weather conditions.

However, yesterday’s southerly breezes brought in rain on top of 90 inches of snow. Melting snow, when combined with a steel roof, is a bad combination.

The major avalanches from roof to deck began about 2 p.m., and it continued until dark. The forecast was for a cold snap to follow, and years of living in this house and climate has taught me a few things.

Leave the snow on the deck for more than a day, and only spring weather will cause it to go away. So yesterday was spent shoveling the deck, and listening for that faint hiss that precedes the next downfall of heavy snow.

I shoveled so much yesterday that I decided to put off my planned late afternoon hunt. The spot I had in mind was perfect for a south wind but I knew slogging through the deep snow would be tough.

Hunt or shovel? That was the question, and common sense ruled the day. I stayed home and shoveled. I’d get the front and back decks clean, and then the next load would come shooshing off the roof with a thump that would shake the house.

That was yesterday, and a cold snap was predicted. It was 37 degrees when the lights went out and I went to sleep, nursing a sore back.

Sometime during the night the temperature took a nose dive, dropping from 37 degrees to 7 degrees this morning. The temperature has been slowly falling all day, and is currently pegged at 5 degrees with a stiff and brutal west wind.

The back still aches, and the super cold wind is still blowing hard as this is written, and being a wizened but somewhat wiser man, the idea of crawling up into my ladder stand with a wind chill factor of 10 below zero or colder didn’t seem to make good sense.

One good thing about yesterday’s meltdown is that the snow level dropped about as fast as the Dow in the early stages of that economic meltdown, and perhaps the cold and no snow will help make some safe ice for holiday anglers.

So, sitting in a nice warm office seemed the wisest choice for today. Why risk frostbite or worse on a nasty day like this.

There are still 17 days of deer hunting left, and this cold won’t last forever, and my hotspot should be good later in the month. I plan to hunt as often as the nasty weather permits, and if it results in a decent buck, that’s the way the season will end.

I know one thing: Over more than five decades of deer hunting in this and many other states, I’ve managed to shoot a bunch of bucks. Some really nice ones and some little basket-rack bucks. What time has taught me is that only age makes small bucks with small antlers into big bucks with large antlers.

I’m strongly in favor of a three-point per side regulation for our Grand Traverse County deer herd. I’ve seen photos of Leelanau County bucks taken this year after several years of a mandatory regulation requiring at least three points per side. Normal four and five-pointers were not legal.

This Quality Deer Management ruling would allow smaller bucks to grow. A number of things combine to grow large antlers, and the most important of all is time. A buck must live to three or four years of age before big racks start becoming a reality rather than a hunter’s pipe dream.

So, that’s why I pass up small bucks. However, having Quality Deer Management means antler restrictions for three to five years and it means taking some additional antlerless deer.

Frankly, I’d rather shoot a nice yearling doe than one more basket-rack 6-point. The big bucks of Leelanau County could become a reality in Grand Traverse County if hunters and other landowners could learn to settle for some common-sense rules for a few years.

Spare the small bucks for at least three years, and shoot antlerless deer instead, and in four to five years hunters would be wondering where all of the big bucks suddenly came from. The folks in Leelanau County know the answer to that question.

The small bucks finally had time to live long enough and grow bigger, and then all of a sudden, there they were. Those bucks had always been there but hunters never gave them enough time to reach their full potential. Quality Deer Management can make those big bucks a virtual reality.

Posted by Dave Richey on 12/15 at 05:36 PM
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