Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thinning the deer herd

The deer herd in Wisconsin is at an all time high, bad news for motorists, farmers, and vegetation. Last year 45,000 car/deer collisions were recorded and there are species of plants, Canadian Yew and white cedar particularly, that can't reproduce due to over browsing. There are 4 main factors that help control this huge deer herd in Wisconsin - hunting, car/deer meetings, wolves, and winter. All are in play at our camp on Reefer Creek.

Deer in northern Wisconsin are in the peak of the rut, the mating season, right now. Like most males, sex is not far from their minds at any time but for bucks this time of year it's an absolute overriding imperative. A walk in the woods will reveal evidence of this doe lust, including ground scrapes, an area that is pawed bare with a footprint 'signature' at the edge. Usually there is an overhanging branch that the bucks rub to leave scent, warning other bucks that this is my territory, stay out! Rubs are another sign that the rut is on. Bucks rub trees, proportionate to their size, with their antlers which does not do the trees any good. KingIronwood returned home after an unsuccessful hunt one weekend last season to find that the local buck had trashed his two new apple trees. In any event, its the best time to hunt since the natural wariness has been short circuited by thoughts of comely does and gathering a harem. Human and canine hunters are well aware of this phenomenon.

Last weekend Marley the grouse machine, a young American Water Spaniel, was diverted on his way into camp by something interesting just off the trail. When he came back with 'venison breath' Podman went to investigate and found a wolf kill a scant 200 yards from the camp. Wolf kills are unmistakable since there is pretty much nothing left but a skull, fur, and a spinal column. This one was still in the dining stage which meant it was relatively fresh. Score one for the wolves. Lots of hunters that spend more time in the bar than the woods bemoan the number of wolves and how the deer numbers are down. This, to put it bluntly, is complete bullshit. I could go into the reasons but that's a whole post by itself. We feel the wolves are what make the area wild and do volunteer tracking and counting for the Timberwolf Alliance in the winter. We're happy that the pack is still around and viable, and prepared to do some deer hunting of our own with the bows on the last weekend before gun season began. Shortly after 3pm on Sunday afternoon the GurneyGranny had an eight point buck wander under her stand and she promptly dispatched it with a single arrow. This was her first buck with a bow and her first buck that qualifies for the prestigious Eight or Better Lounge. Plus it will replenish the dangerously low venison stock in the freezers.

Saturday is the start of the Wisconsin gun season and its estimated that we hunters will harvest about 350,000 deer. State wildlife managers are worried that this might not be enough to get the herd through a tough winter with minimal winter kill. With a bit of luck, some skill, and perseverance, the hunters and the wolves along Reefer Creek hope to keep the herd at a healthy and sustainable level.


Silbs said...

I don't know, Dave, shooting a male during his rutting. What a buzz kill.

DaveO said...

But what a way to go! Reminds me of old Nelson Rockefeller and his 24 year old 'administrative assistant' Megan Marschack. Sure as hell would beat the nursing home.