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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Warm Weather Frustrates Deer Hunters

Local butchers that process deer are seeing far more carcasses than usual brought in while still warm. In addition to absence of tracking snow, the deer hunt this year is the warmest on record, making for hurried attempts to keep meat from spoiling. The fact that Thanksgiving weekend is the earliest possible date, and the deer hunt is based around people having off work, the climate change that we are seeing is trending to be warmer as well.

Here in Wisconsin, we have a long history of deer camps, hunting culture and a deep and abiding relationship with the deer. More and more sources for seed, intended for food plots for deer are popping up each year, as are advertizing for bait and sweet treats for your quarry, even though in many areas feeding of deer has been either discouraged or outright banned. Herd managers are finding that through increased association and contact, as often happens at feeding stations, diseases are passed from one to another. Funny, we have known this about the human population for years. The problem with much of the diseases that are now part of the deer's environment include prion diseases (relatives to mad cow disease), things that will not render the meat obviously bad to consume. However, in the scenario I will now describe, that could play out in my use methodology, while brain tanning the hide of a deer that I might "consume", part of that process includes scraping the hide and rubbing the brain into the skin to produce leather. for those of us who work with our hands, cuts and scrapes, scratches and punctures are inevitable. During this culturally necessary sacred rite, that I perform, I could potentially contact both brain matter and in a relatively intimate manner, unmediated by cooking or digestive acids and enzymes. The warmer than usual winters that we have been experiencing, combined with near total absence of snow has allowed the deer herd to blossom while simultaneously, many of the hunters themselves have been saying that there are less deer in the woods. My belief is that the desire to kill a buck is so great that many would rather lie about deer availability (based on arbitrary factors like roadkill) than actually hunt. The fact that car-deer collisions are at their lowest number since 1981 reflects our reduced driving trends more than the availability of deer for hitting. The deer population is actually climbing but as gasoline prices have more than doubled, we are curtailing non-essential trips.

As long as we have milder winters, less snow and fewer hunters willing to kill does, we will continue to create larger and larger herds of deer and their ability to get away from one another will continue to be reduced. If we do have a return to "normal" weather and a difficult winter, many deer will starve. Those watching the weather closely will say that it is unlikely, I would go further and say highly unlikely. The one thing that we must concede is that more deer closer together has spelled a burgeoning disease problem and that those are unlikely to stop, no matter how many individuals we remove from the population. In fact, the lowest deer population that we have recorded in the state of Wisconsin was 1972, before the rampant sub-urbanization of the landscape. We bring tender shrubs, flowers and bulbs that augment the paltry fare of a mature forest, open the canopy and let the sunshine in. Wildlife experts for generations have been enamored with edge as habitat that holds much greater biodiversity than monoculture. Around each tiny sub-division is an edge between what was there before and what is there now.  For those of you who hunt, I hope you are allowed as many doe permits as you want and I hope that many animals lay themselves in your hands. For those of you who feed the deer, please stop. For those of us who brain tan animals, we need to be wary of any animal that presents itself to us. Know the local deer as be4st you can and if they seem to be affected with any disease, perhaps salt the hide away until a more suitable brain can be found. For those of you who think "Global Warming" is a good thing, try to understand that this level of climate change may not have happened in fifteen or twenty thousand years, then ask yourself, "What organisms will have a chance at adapting to unprecedented changes the best?", then ask if we should keep rolling the dice, or walk away from the table with what we have left?

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