Folks are funny, in many ways. We are a generation that is focused on conservation ethics, yet do some things that are very contradictory to that goal – or at least seem so to me. When I was more active in the fishing world, it bothered me that tournaments not only allowed fish heavy with eggs or actual young fish in species that reproduce by live birth, but actually encouraged this practice by the specific timing of their events. Shark tournaments would see winning fish with hundreds of nearly full term infant sharks inside, adding greatly to the weight. Often the shark was “tied shut” so keep these extra pounds from “slipping away”. Sportsmen’s groups think it terrible to sell a speckled trout commercially, but seem to have no problem with having tournaments that are planned to take place just before spawning season,again so those big “sow” trout will be chock full of eggs, to get their weight up.No one seems concerned that these activities greatly reduce the number of sharks or trout that will be produced for future seasons.
This perverse line of reasoning also extends to hunting. The best example is with deer season. In Texas and many other states, deer season is planned for the peak of breeding season, when bucks are so focused on reproduction that they are much easier for hunters to see and shoot. While this definitely is a good thing for the hunter, is it good for the deer? Often I read laments that breeding activity seems to be taking place mostly at night, but this is merely a natural defense of the animal. Without a successful breeding season, there will be fewer deer for those who like to play nature’s helper to “manage”, and a buck during the rut, when the season is open, has a big target over his vital areas at all times.
At the same time, our wildlife managers seem to have decided our state should be aimed – pardon the pun – at trying to produce “trophy” deer. Hunters are encouraged to shoot only “mature” animals, and attempt to learn to “age” their targets before deciding to shoot. Even the 13″ antler restrictions in most counties now seem strange to me. No deer in the wild will be so docile as to stand and let someone measure his antlers, much less examine his teeth. While there are more obvious indicators of extreme age – or lack of it – many hunters have trouble even determining the sex of the deer when on the run or in heavy cover.
Managing deer, to me, assumes a superiority over nature. Most deer areas will produce the best quality deer the range is capable of if some protection of the herd is provided. Attempting to increase antler size by “culling” selected deer, offering supplemental food sources, and even introducing genetics from other areas turns wild deer into livestock, and does not appeal to me. In my humble opinion, if a hunter wants to see bigger antlers, then that person should move to a different hunting area – or become a “better” hunter.
Most of my deer hunting is on my own small property in Brazoria County. This is not normally considered trophy deer country, but there are some decent bucks roaming our woods – even some that are much more than decent. Management techniques do not work well on small properties, where a deer might partake of my protein supplement i the morning, and be shot by a neighbor later that day. I have killed some decent bucks I was very proud of, and had friends tell me I should have “given it another few years” to grow to it’s full potential. Well, even if I thought I could shoot a certain buck at any time I wanted to – which would not be hunting for sport, in my opinion, I know for a fact that a lot of folks near me practice the “if it’s brown, it’s down” method of deer conservation, so if I get a chance at a decent buck, I usually take it.
I know, I’m a greedy so-and-so.
We won’t talk about taking does to “improve” the herd here, because of space restrictions, but this is something I’m also not sure I agree with entirely.
At any rate, the regulations are what they are, and if I want to deer hunt, I have to do it in the season set aside for it in my area. Again, because I have the disadvantage of hunting a small property, I don’t get to look over a large number of bucks, and while I hate to shoot a doe because I consider them the single best buck attractors available, again, I just don’t have a large number of does to work with, either. Luckily, I can buy a doe-in-a-bottle at the local Academy store, or even on-line from Amazon. I know that these attractant scents work, and this was reinforced to me when I pulled my game camera cards yesterday (12/5/2013). I have two spots on my property, one in the back, one closer to the front, where I have set up “mock scrapes”, using a scent formulated to lead a buck to believe another buck made the spot to mark “his” territory. I have tried this in the past with less than outstanding results, but learned from reading one of John Wooters’ deer hunting books that a key element of a “real” scrape is that not only should the ground be pawed up, nearby small trees or bushes antler-thrashed, and deer urine present, but a buck normally will break an overhanging tree branch with his antlers and sort of nuzzle it, leaving scent from glands on that end of the deer as well. My first scrape had been urinated on the second or third day I checked it, although I have no way of knowing for sure if it was a buck or doe (I also drip some doe urine from the bottle on th site, to make it at least seem a doe is interested). My other spot was picked because I had pictures of two bucks there just before deer season began, and the only reason for them to have been in that spot was a form of scent I had applied there.
What I saw when I checked the SD card from the camera watching the second scrape, was several pictures of a nice 8 point buck, and one of a smaller deer that was probably a lesser buck I had “seen” earlier. The larger buck is probably not an old timer, because he seemed in very good shape, healthy and fat. Since I deer hunt as much for the meat as for a “trophy”, a deer that will eat well is a high priority. There is no doubt in my mind the buck as there because of the scents I provided, and while there is no way of knowing in advance if he will return, just having the pictures of him gave a boost to what has been a very slow deer season on my place.
Also, since he appears “legal” as well as I can determine, if I get a shot at him, I will be inviting him home for dinner(s?.