Deer Hunting with a Purpose
By Glen Wunderlich
Never have I hunted an opening day of firearms deer season without the desire to tag a buck or even an antlerless deer for that matter. However, there I was sitting in the dark in observation mode with my new Ruger American deer rifle in Zone III-compliant .450 Bushmaster caliber only watching for coyotes. Having put a hefty buck in the freezer during archery deer season has meant that I cannot legally take another buck, because I purposely did not purchase a combination license.
The strategy was by design. As a proponent of limiting hunters to one buck per hunter per season, it would be hypocritical for me to do otherwise. Even though the law would have allowed me to take two bucks this season with proper licensing, a doe will do; antler soup is not all it’s cracked up to be.
Since I’ve gladly given the job of processing to professionals, I also know how hectic it can get right after opening day in the butcher’s domain and simply did not want to add to the mix. Faith has a lot to do with holding off, as well, insofar as we Michigan deer hunters have until January to fill tags throughout the various seasons.
Taking a doe or two will have the benefit of reducing the total number of deer, which remains above carrying capacity in segments of the southern Zone III. The effect will have been to minimize human/deer conflicts and vehicle collisions. Yes, we are still paying the price for previous deer management strategies that focused on sheer numbers.
Healthy herd management also dictates that we attempt to balance the buck-to-doe ratio to more natural conditions – and, based on personal observation, we still have a lot to do.
And, then there is the issue of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) for which the only known measure of control is to reduce over-populated deer densities. With this in mind, the DNR has reduced the cost of antlerless tags to $12 in the CWD management zones.
Another concern is that young people are hunting in fewer numbers, and consequently, new hunters are not replacing the senior hunters as they age. As a Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) enthusiast and member, I’ll be one of some 40,000+ members to share my hunting experiences this season as a mentor for youngsters in an effort to promote our hunting heritage and tradition. In fact, QDMA’s new five-year goals place intensified effort into programs that fall into this effort, including hunting access, hunter recruitment, venison donation, and hunter education.
The future of hunting is in the balance of sportsmen and women who understand the value of connectivity to nature and the importance of sustainability for generations to come.