Too Many Deer – Another perspective
By Larry S. Moore
Some sportsmen might consider too many deer an oxymoron, like owning too many guns. A recent article in the Columbus Dispatch by Dave Golowenski certainly presents what is becoming a common debate.
The article accurately points out the number of hunters, the adaptability of deer, the fact that humans continue to consume more habitat while planting deer attracting foods, the conflicts between farmers and deer, and the number of vehicle to deer incidents.
Compounding the problem is getting hunters into the areas where deer need to be controlled. Dennis Murphy, chief of police in Gahanna, accurately points out many of the problems despite a pro-active deer-hunting program. I applaud Chief Murphy for using hunters in the attempt to solve the problem.
A few years ago the Division of Wildlife made a change in the computer model used to calculate deer populations and density. That change caused an immediate jump in the size estimate of the Ohio deer herd. Now the Farm Bureau wants the herd drastically reduced. The Farm Bureau published an editorial to reduce the deer herd without calling on their members to make hunting available or offering other solutions.
In the Ohio Outdoor News the question was posed to some hunters regarding their plans to harvest additional deer. Most hunters indicated they had taken the number of deer their family and friends would use. That is an ethical approach to hunting to ensure wise use of the resource but hardly encouraging for increased harvest.
Are there solutions?
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Basically there are limited ways to harvest more deer. They include more aggressive bag limits, more days in the field or more hunters in the field. The Division of Wildlife has new bag limits in the deer regulations for 2007 – 2008: http://www.ohiodnr.com/news/apr07/0405huntingregs.htm.
While they can provide more generous bag limits, the Division of Wildlife can not force hunters to bag more deer. In order to encourage more harvest, there must be other approaches. Programs such as Hunters for The Hungry or Sportsmen Against Hunger currently exist. However many hunters, including this writer, do not understand how to make contact and donate their harvest. A coordinated publicity campaign is needed to raise this awareness.
More hunters need to be encouraged to spend the additional money for the new antlerless deer permit and harvest an additional doe for the food programs. More hunters need awareness of the program and how to get the deer to the proper processors. Accomplishing this will require a coordinated partnership between the Division of Wildlife, the Farm Bureau, sportsmen clubs and organizations.
If the Farm Bureau wants more deer killed, then the Farm Bureau should take the lead in this partnership. First the Farm Bureau should establish a network of farmers who want deer killed and ethical hunters from local conservation clubs. Secondly the Farm Bureau should lead the effort to establish a clearing house for hunters to know how to get their deer harvest to the processors. This will require sharing of information between the Farm Bureau, the Division of Wildlife, and the sportsmen organizations.
Corporate sponsors should get involved with the program to create an awards program for the hunters who are donating their harvest. Hunters would receive an entry for each deer donated. At the end of the deer season, random drawings should be held for all the hunters who donated deer. The prizes might include a gift card from the Division good for hunting licenses, merchandise awards from vendors such as BassPro, Cabelas, Gander Mountain and others that should be brought on as corporate partners. The Farm Bureau could certainly fund gift cards or donate fuel.
This would be unique in the hunting world. Normally there are big buck contests across Ohio. This would be a doe based system with the goal of donating the venison to a food bank to feed the hungry. No trophy for the wall but a gold star for doing something good for the deer and our fellow mankind.
Outdoor writer and hunter education instructor Larry S. Moore is a Region Leader for Buckeye Firearms Association and winner of the 2005 USSA Patriot Award.
ODNR Hunters for the Hungry