Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Deer Prudence

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Yesterday was the opening day of Ohio's gun season for deer hunting. In a fall ritual that I've done nearly every year since 1993, I walked the perimeter of our 80 acres posting our land. It's a nice workout, walking our wooded ridges, valleys, and streams, nailing the yellow signs to the most visible trees. And our deer population is robust, making for good hunting in this area. I saw eight deer in two hours yesterday, though none was a buck.

Our wise old neighbor Karl once said "Well, door locks are to keep honest people out. If someone really wants in, that lock's not gonna stop them."

I feel the same way about our No Trespassing signs. Two years ago someone killed a medium-sized buck, sawed off the antlers, and left the carcass in our creek, just 1/8 of a mile from our front door. The person who did this walked right past at least two of the bright yellow signs that designate our property lines. Just now a hunter walked through our front yard, accessing the neighbor's acreage. I hallooed him and pointed him in the right direction. He had no idea he was trespassing, though he walked right past one of my signs.

Most hunters in our area are honest, respectful outdoorsmen and women. These folks would no more trespass on private land than slash their own tires. I put my signs up for them, and for the less-respectful handful of hunters who don't really care where they do their hunting.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not anti-hunting. We need hunting, especially since it's been about 200 years since humans removed the natural predators that kept the deer population in check. The main population check on white-tailed deer, other than hunting, is the automobile.

No, my concern about hunting on my farm is this: I just don't like the idea that there are strange people, perhaps from some distant city, rumbling around in our woods with shotguns. Do they know where our house is, or where the nearest gasline or oil well is when they prepare to shoot? Sometimes I have a hard time knowing exactly where I am on our land. A few accidental shootings happen every year in Ohio.

And then there's this: I can always tell where one or two of the hunters have been. They usually leave trash (potato chip bags, snuff cans, toilet paper, plastic bottles (sometimes full of urine!), and fired shotgun cartridges) in their wake.

We stay out of our woods during deer hunting season. We don't walk the kids out the driveway to meet the bus--we drive them. When we do go out, we wear blaze orange. Hey, that's life in the country.

I walk the woods a week or so after the season has ended and check for signs that our signs have been ignored, pick up a few handfuls of trash. I check to see which deer groups have survived. And we settle in for another 50 weeks of enjoying our woods.