I have been doing a lot of scouting for deer lately. The scouting has been pretty successful so far. The biggest trick is the second part of the scouting expeditions.
Social media has been abuzz on the timelines with pics of deer in people’s gardens, hanging out in homeowners’ back yards, and standing in the middle of the street. My issue has been trying to find out when the homeowners wouldn’t be home so I could find a way to sneak on half-acre yard and set up a tree stand.
Of course, I am joking. Mostly.
Recently a friend of mine who opposes hunting made a comment that I refrained from reacting to, though. And it had to do with deer in urban environments. His statement was largely misrepresented due to selective reports that he had seen in the media and by various groups.
Roughly, he stated that the reason deer are in neighborhoods is due to loss of habitat. At first glance, it is easy for anyone to agree to that statement without having to do any research, as it is easily visible in human population growth and sprawl.
Yet, as for the deer population and encroachment, it is far from the truth.
Deer tend to populate quickly. They have short lifespans in the wild for the most part, where a four-year-old is considered a very mature specimen. In North Carolina, it was estimated there were fewer than 10,000 deer in the early 1900s. Currently, we have one of the most liberal deer seasons in the United States, with the allowance of up to four antlered deer for the taking (depending on the part of the state where the antlered deer was harvested) and unlimited antlerless deer with the acquisition of extra report cards.
We do not have that liberal deer season because the population is still at 10,000. We have it because it is estimated that over 1 million now reside in the Old North State. In one hundred years, we have gone from 10,000 to 1 million.
To put that in perspective, that is an average of increasing the population by 10,000 each year over that same time period. While that is just a number to reflect upon, the population actually increases on — get ready for some old math and calculus speech — a bell curve. Rather than a steady incline, the numbers increase more and more each year.
Our seasons since the late 1990s have done a good job of keeping the population at a steady population combined with the natural death causes as well as vehicular deaths and disease outbreaks.
With the increase of deer population combined with urban development, we begin to see the troubles with deer. While they seem to be cute timid creatures that touch one’s heartstrings even more when seen closeup as a non-hunter realizes they are not much bigger than a large breed of dog, they are anything but.
Yes, their behavior is not threatening. However, their collateral damage is very threatening. They are a primary reason a native quail population has all but disappeared from the state as they graze on the cover plants that quail use for their coveys and protection from predators. They are responsible for the spread of ticks from wooded lots and fields to open areas in which even fenced pets can acquire the parasitic insects.
Many forestry surveys have proven that the greatest threat to proper forest maintenance is the deer population. They only browse on select plants and are a detriment to the undergrowth necessary for a healthy woodland and prevent new saplings from growing to a mature stage.
While cute and cuddly and great as a main character in a cartoon, deer population control is a necessary evil, or activity for a better term.
Unfortunately, many never do the research to realize this.
Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.