All right, I know we are just going into mid-August, but hunting season is upon us, boys and girls. Don't think so?
In some parts of South Carolina, deer season opens Aug. 15 (that's right, this Sunday), dove season usually opens in most states on Sept. 1 (check your local regulations), and in many states the archery season for deer also opens next month. Some squirrel seasons open this month, and most will begin in September.
It's almost here, my friends, and if you have any getting ready to do, you better get with it.
Thinking about hunting season (which I do a lot), it occurs to me how much our hunting and how we think about it may have changed. I started to make this column the latest entry in my "Whatever happened to deer hunting?" series, but I decided to broaden the scope a little.
My dad had a saying he would use often in his later years of hunting, which I have adopted. When asked if he wanted to go to the woods on a certain day or go to a particular place, he would sometimes decline and say "I'm really not that mad at them today," them being the game to be pursued. We always had a laugh about it; that was his way of saying he really didn't care if he pulled the trigger on anything that day.
Do you ever find yourself doing the same thing?
I doubt if the hunter education manual I taught out of in the West Virginia DNR has changed much. Instructors and students will recall there is a section on the stages a person may go through as a hunter. Early stages of the hunter's development included the shooting stage and the limiting out stage.
Basically, what the book is explaining is this: When most hunters are new to the sport, often youngsters, they usually want to get a lot of shooting done and are keen on getting the limit of game every time they go afield. As hunters age and get many years of experience, it is common for them to seemingly lose interest in taking home the limit of deer, turkeys, pheasants or whatever game they are pursuing.
On the deer side of things, we are seeing a phenomenon of many hunters not taking younger bucks, also known as "letting them walk." Many states have regulations on the size and number of points on a buck's antlers in some areas. I believe how you hunt and what size deer you take should be your own business (as long as it is legal), and as we have discussed here before, shaming a person for taking a deer you think was too small should never happen. If the deer is legal, leave the other guy alone.
How we actually hunt has changed a lot, of course, and I don't see it going back to the "good ol' days" (whatever that means). Hunting from a tree stand with a corn feeder has become standard practice in many areas. Remember, please, I am not advocating this method of hunting or degrading it. Again, if it is legal for your area, more power to you. The choice is yours whether to hunt over bait or not.
My point is this method of hunting has changed the landscape of deer hunting in much of the country, probably forever. I often think many deer hunters now believe they must hunt this way to see a sufficient number of deer. We must introduce new hunters, youngsters and adults, to our culture so that it may survive. Parents and other adults who are bringing new hunters into the fold may think they must use a corn feeder so the new hunter will see enough deer to remain interested.
Deer hunting will continue to evolve in this country, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. Hopefully the deer population will remain high enough to keep hunter interest up and bring people to the woods. Let's think about not sweating the little things; if the guy next door hunts legally, remember that we hunters need to stick together. Don't worry about crossbows during archery season, what calibers the other guys use or if your DNR raises or lowers the doe limit.
Are you as mad at them as you used to be?
"The Trail Less Traveled" is written by Larry Case, who lives in Fayette County, W.Va. You can write to him at email@example.com.