The elusive whitetail deer is one of the most hunted game animals in North America. At one time or another during the 1900’s the Whitetail Deer came close to being extinct in a lot of states. This was caused by over market hunting, farmers taking over more land to expand farms, and poor hunting rules. For example, someone once told me that in Illinois during the early 1900’s that due to market hunting and large amounts of farm expansion that no deer were left. It took bringing deer back into the state for several years before populations started to re-grow, but even with these efforts it took till the mid 1970’s for the population to come back.
Nowadays deer are plentiful in most locations and over populated in some areas. Again, this is due to human intervention rather than the deer’s fault. Strict hunting rules, coupled with mass amounts of land being developed, and the fact that unless you own hunting land your probably not going to get permission to hunt anywhere, has allowed the deer population to explode where they can survive.
The whitetail buck is still in most sportsmen’s dreams… to take a trophy white
tail deer. Many hunters get that opportunity over a lifetime. Some even make hunting those elusive monster whitetail bucks a living (wouldn’t we all like that job?). Many of us have a different idea of what makes up a trophy. I have met people who think any deer is a trophy, big, small, doe, or buck. These people are 100% right, any deer taken in a fair chase situation is a trophy and that every animal deserves its credit. I have met others that believe that unless you take a 150 inch whitetail buck or bigger, that you have not taken a trophy. Well, like many things in life, I think that a trophy is all in the eyes of the beholder. Take me for example, I have hunted the same private land for 15 years, and in the last 3 years started hunting the Loch Raven Water Shed. Over the 15 years that I have been hunting, I have seen some big deer that might fit into some people’s idea of a monster. However, the only deer that I have gotten clean shot at that even comes close was my 100 inch trophy (see my post about it in hunting stories). This deer is my all time trophy and I could not be more proud of the deer. I believe each deer that I take is trophy no matter what the size or sex.
In Maryland, there are so many different types of places to hunt and each hunter has a different opportunity based on the type of land in which they hunt. For example, if you are hunting in far western Maryland, you will find mountain deer with lots of room the roam. Bucks in western Maryland tend to be smaller due to their food sources and amount of traveling that the deer undertake. Then you come east, from the base of the mountains, say Fredrick County Maryland east to the counties along the Chesapeake Bay and you find a very different type of deer. Many of the counties in central Maryland are over run with deer due to the development of the forest and farm land. These facts mixed with poor management of the deer heard in previous years. Now, we have so many deer that in some counties you can kill as many does as you want/can in a hunting season with a bow and arrow. While I was working as a bow tech, I met a gentleman that used a feeder in his yard, he only owned a half acre but it backed to woods. This gentleman showed me pictures; he shot 13 doe’s one snowy evening in mid January. This seemed crazy to me, but here in central Maryland it is nothing to see 20+ deer while on your hunting trip. Now, that is not a regular thing, but it just depends on where you are hunting. Depending on where in central Maryland that you are hunting, you can encounter large numbers of monster bucks (all those lucky guys that hunt private land). If you’re a public land hunter, you may only see one or two good size bucks per year. Every hunter that enters the woods knows the odds of seeing deer are fantastic, and the odds of getting a shot at a deer are pretty good. Not all those shots will be at a buck, and if it is at a buck, it will probably be on the smaller side. Then there is the eastern shore of Maryland that is loaded with swamps and farms. The deer are more spread out, but the quality of deer is much better. The pure size of the deer on the eastern shore is impressive compared to those deer in central or western Maryland. This relates to bucks and doe’s, but if you are after a true trophy buck in Maryland, odds are this is where you are headed. With many opportunities between some public land, leases, and guided hunts on many of the farms, Maryland’s eastern shore has a lot to offer the deer hunter.
Many states face similar problems, the areas close to big cities have become over run with deer because of the lack of places to hunt and the mass amounts of development. Places that remain a good mix of farm, woods, and developed land have an average deer herd with healthy deer within the herd.
My question is…are all the states that are faced with over population doing the right thing by increasing the number of deer that can be harvested by hunters? Or…are we headed for more problems due to over hunting and diseases caused by inbreeding?
What do you think? Is your state taking the right course of action to improve the deer herd and decrease the over population, or are they just trying to reduce the number with no concern about the end results?