I know that many hunters around the world have a passion for hunting. Others do it solely as a source of food, and some hunt solely for sport. We all share the same goals, but having a passion for hunting means you live and breathe hunting. Normally when hunting season ends on January 31, I cannot wait until September 15 to come around again. Sure there is all the stuff to do in the off season, but it’s nothing like a crisp fall day in a tree waiting for whatever might come through your neck of the woods.
This brings me to the original idea of this story, the deer and having a passion for hunting and the animal you pursue. Hunting is about the animal which you pursue, without them you would just be sitting in a tree bored and most likely getting cold. So the real passion for the hunt is to protect what we hunt in order to maintain the hunting we know and love for the next generations.
In my younger days, I spent a lot of time in the woods, most of which was in central Maryland, hunting on private property near Loch Raven. In those days, the quality and quantity of deer was much higher than what see just 4 seasons after they opened Loch Raven to public hunting. I now hunt both the private land, as well as many locations throughout the watershed and the deer I see get fewer and smaller each time I go hunting. Now do not get me wrong, the fewer part is far from a bad thing, the amount of deer that are in the watershed is crazy. Before public hunting was opened in Loch Raven, I went to a field along side of the watershed one evening in August and counted 183 deer in one place. So fewer deer is great, because the number of deer was even starting to hurt the deer themselves let alone what they were doing to vegetation and injuries due to vehicle crashes. We have now made it so that we can hunt in Loch Raven and before it opened to hunting I know there were a lot of monster deer traveling where you can now hunt. The first season or two, I saw pictures and heard stories and even saw a few from my own tree. Sadly, by year 3 the bucks were fewer and fewer due to hunting pressure making them nocturnal and just the amount of mature bucks that were taken so quickly. Now, we are left with smaller bucks, and last season that is all I saw taken out of the woods by other people were small bucks, 6pts or less. I also read the comment section when they were talking about opening the rest of Loch Raven two seasons ago, and I know a lot of people left comments that felt the same way. I think you will find a large amount of hunters that hunt the watershed feel that there should be rules put into place to allow small bucks to get larger and to focus the hunting on taking more doe’s and less bucks. Many other states use similar rules and have been successful in reducing the deer herd to a healthy level. Most any biologist will tell you, if you have 100 does it does not matter if you have one mature buck or fifty bucks, those 100 does will most likely still end up giving birth the following spring. It just means the gene pool will be worse and that you start to risk the health of the deer due to inbreeding and other known diseases linked to inbreeding.
I believe the real passion of the hunt is the animal that we hunt and protect. It would be comforting to know that in 10 years, when I sit in my tree, I will have the same chances as someone did 20 years ago. I think the vital part of this is managing the herd of deer properly and looking past just getting the numbers down quickly and look to the future. Management goes past just shoot deer so there are less, because that will make things better for all the animals. In the end, this could be a straight shot for where the deer herd landed in the early 1900’s when they almost went extinct thanks to over hunting and poor management. So is it more important to just get the herd numbers down, or to reduce the herd numbers while managing the buck to doe ratio allowing for a healthier herd?
What do you think, what is your opinion of the passion of the hunt?