After reading the complaints, dissatisfactions, excuses, blame hurling and whining from those who purchase Minnesota deer licenses I’m compelled to share thoughts on the topic. As a life-long outdoor enthusiast simply the thought of what I am about to write is at the very least disconcerting. If you could look back on the last several issues of Outdoor News reading the opinions of readers it’s become a common thread for many. Here’s the question and begin answering it for yourself – Have we actually lost or forgotten the meaning of the combination of the letters H - U - N - T? Having suspicions I went to Webster. The word “hunt” is defined as to search diligently after; to seek; to pursue; to follow. Society has certainly changed since I was introduced to the sport. There exists now a certain air of entitlement in whatever we do. If time, dollars and a license are invested we expect and in some cases now demand to be rewarded with whatever it is we seek. Now if said objective isn’t met the prevailing attitude seems to be that “it must be the fault of someone else, like the DNR because it certainly isn’t mine. After all I did buy a license!”
For a lot of years I hunted deer in a party of 7 guys made up of my brothers-in-law, friends and relation. We took a converted school bus type of camper deep into a state forest and spent 7 to 9 days in pursuit of deer. They were incredibly fun times and some that I’ll never forget! Up long before breakfast with Vernie cooking eggs ‘n bacon, morning coffee along with conversations about who would be going where. Each stand had a name too. There was the plantation, the hotel, caboose, the birch tree, Boot Lake and a couple with names I dare not share. Then each morning, in pre-dawn pitch darkness we’d head out in various directions. I vividly remember walking under towering pines sometimes in a gentle snow feeling very small but reassured with the 30-06 slung over my shoulder. I recall for a 3 year stretch the only thing I saw belonging to a whitetail was tracks and often in my own boot tracks from the walk out earlier. Other years deer were like Christmas presents and I could pick and choose. But the excitement and adrenalin rush is and hopefully always will and always be the same! The thing is though each year we went to the same place. It’s been a long time since I’ve hunted with the remaining members of the group, 3 are gone but those still there hunt exactly the same spot.
But today in general it would seem attitudes are much different. Perhaps the change began when hunters were encouraged to shoot more than one. Terms like managed and intensive harvest became common among those clad in orange. Hunters were asked to function in such a way as to help manage through the hunt a too abundant deer population. A population that was actually eating themselves out of food taking anything that could be reached or munched on. A population that was eating acres of farm crops, shrubbery, gardens and ornamental crops. A population whose numbers showed up in insurance claims and human injuries like the young man lying in a coma in a Duluth hospital after a deer came through a car windshield. Very seldom these things are mentioned in complaints. The common thread seems to be “I hunted for 4 days and didn’t see a deer or I hunted the season ‘n nothing!” Not long ago in a Minnesota publication I read that a population goal for Whitetails should be that every hunter be able to get a deer and actually a second if they choose! That has to be one of the stupidest comments to even be uttered over beers much less put in print. I fear the role of the hunter as a conservationist is in danger of being lost replaced with the attitude of “if I don’t kill one I’m gonna take my ball and go home and I’m not comin’ back! It’s not my fault it’s the DNR!”
I’m sure somewhere there’s research to support the premise that most deer hunters go to the same spot every year after year after year. It might be to deer camp, private property, public lands or lands of friends and family. Of course over time there’s a history attached to the hunt and that’s important and part of what it should be. I was and to a certain extent still am exactly that way or probably should say was when my boys were young. If that’s true my question would be how much do you really know about the animal prior to the opener? Have you spent days studying or scouting? Have you adapted to what the animal must do to survive because they spend 24-7-365 doing exactly that. Or do you wait for the opener in November, hang orange clothes out to air, case the rifle that’s been stored from the season before, go to the same stand as the year before and wait? The DNR’s Lou Cornicelli, then the Big Game Supervisor has told me on Fan Outdoors a number of times that the deer population is not regulated by how many an area can support but by the number of animals a human population will tolerate! FLASH to some - hey not everyone is a deer hunter! There are people who garden, farm for a living, raise vegetables, plant trees, drive for work and pleasure, ride motorcycles and heaven forbid if a disease would infect the herd. Then what?
It also seems popular to blame DNR. But the reality in my view starts with a look in the mirror. How hard do you really work at the sport, how much do you scout and plan, do you get yourself in the best physical and shooting shape as possible? Might it be that the deer have adapted too? Their will to survive is strong and believe me they can feel the pressures of an army of orange!
Perhaps deer can be managed for more on the landscape but I’ll bet that if your tag was filled last season you’ve a different opinion. Before playing the poor me blame game consider too the meaning of the word “HUNT” and please don’t lose it because if that should happen then, well I guess I’m done! I certainly hope you can still find satisfaction in the hunt and perhaps not pull the trigger! If you wonder next time out simply open your eyes wide and turn 360 degrees. What do you see? The outdoor world is still a really cool place and you’re in it!!!!!!!
At least that’s my take!