Deer Hunting Can Be Too Rulified
The Real Story
Editor’s Note: Perhaps deer hunting’s becoming too rulified with so many rules making the sport less fun for all of us. I’ve deer hunted all my life, as has my family. I went to the college I picked primarily because I belonged to a deer lease less than 15 minutes from my dormitory room. As far back as we have a family history, the men in our family always have hunted deer. That’s part of the reason I’ve examined the new idea that we all have to take monster bucks. I wonder if the resulting rules have made us lose some of the joy and fun that we once have delighted in while hunting deer.
For instance, last archery season while in my tree stand, I had a nice buck that would have weighed about 165 pounds stop broadside to me at less than 30 yards. As I stood and prepared to draw, I looked at the buck’s heavy-horned rack and couldn’t tell for sure if he had 6 or 8 points. I wanted to take this buck with my bow, and my family would have enjoyed the meat. But I didn’t take the shot. I knew I’d have to pay a $500 fine since the land where I hunted had a rule that stated you only could take bucks with 8 points or better and 16 inches between their ears.
The philosophy of growing bigger bucks has its roots in Texas and other western states with their more-open terrain, lighter hunting pressure, the feeding of deer an accepted practice, hunting over feeders the number-one method of deer hunting and/or the hunting of deer in pens like cattle. But other sections of the country often can’t hunt over feeders, and unless these hunters hunt over green fields, they probably can’t see more than 50 to 100 yards.
Once while bowhunting during gun deer season, I let a buck walk and then heard my hunting buddy’s 6mm rifle crack. I knew he’d either shot a doe or mistakenly shot the buck I’d passed-up. I went to meet my buddy at his stand. The buck had 4 points on one side, but only 3 on the other.
When I told my buddy, “Nice buck,” he frowned and said, “I know this buck isn’t an 8 point, and that I’ve committed the unpardonable sin. However, he’s a nice buck and only the third one I’ve ever had the opportunity to take. I’m willing to pay the $500 fine because I never may take a buck this big again.”
I thought, “This guy’s just taken the biggest buck of his life, and now when he returns to camp, he’ll be ashamed and have to pay a fine.”
When the rules take the joy out of deer hunting and when what should have been a trophy becomes a negative for the hunter, then I think we need to re-examine the rules governing our deer hunting. If we don’t, the sport of deer hunting will lose hunters in even greater numbers. Must you harvest a big buck if a little buck will satisfy you, cause you to stay in the sport and enable you to continue to hunt? Will requiring everyone to take only big bucks cause hunters to not care about hunting deer? We may need to rethink some of our ideas about deer hunting and especially trophy-buck management.
Tomorrow: What Biologists Are Hearing from Hunters