It’s That Time of Year

The fields are getting bushhogged, the beans are getting shelled and the thesis is getting written.  The CSA is winding down and the workload is slacking off.  The sun rises late and sets early.  It’s a nice, quiet, albeit cold, time of year.

But unfortunately it’s not as peaceful as it should be.  It’s also the time of the annual deer hunting madness.

I have no objection to deer hunting. It’s part of how we live sustainably and if done correctly it is safe and natural.  Plenty of folks around here hunt responsibly. But plenty don’t.

It’s the same story every year. Dozens of (expletive deleted) driving up and down the road in pickup trucks, looking for deer they can shoot at from the highway.  It’s illegal of course, but we’re the largest county in the state and there are only a few game wardens.  The chances of getting caught are pretty slim.  And these folks aren’t characterized by good judgment in any event.

A couple of years ago while I was sitting in the edge of the woods hunting (on our private property, properly marked with Posted signs, mind you), someone stopped his truck in the road, got out and fired across the field I was sitting next to.  Had the deer been between me and him, he would have shot me.  Last year a man who was walking his dog (on a public highway) was shot and killed by one of these truck “hunters” who somehow mistook him for a deer.

On opening day of rifle season my wife and I were walking with our daughter and two of her friends down one of our farm roads when someone pulled off the edge of the road, got out of his truck and fired across our pasture.  When he saw us, he jumped back in and sped away.

We live on a sparsely populated road, so we’re particularly vulnerable to this kind of trespassing and poaching.  Our house is 3/4 mile off the road and not visible from the road, and most the road frontage on our farm isn’t within sight of any house, so it’s easy to do it without being seen.  I love our seclusion, but this time of year it comes at a price.

Our part of the county is also cursed with deer hunters who hunt with dogs.  Illegal almost everywhere (including in the western half of our county), for some reason it’s legal here to use packs of half-starved beagles to chase deer.  This enables so-called hunters to sit in their trucks and wait for the dogs to chase the deer out of the woods so they can shoot at it (usually from the side of the road).  I find them parked on our farm all the time.  When I tell them they aren’t allowed to hunt here they always insist they aren’t hunting.  “I just waiting on my dogs,” is a common response.  When I say that our property is posted and that they’re trespassing, a common response is “My dogs can’t read.”

Two out of the last three years starving abandoned or lost hunting dogs have killed some of our chickens.  It’s infuriating.

Yesterday morning as we were returning from CSA deliveries I came across a truck parked on the road leading to our pond.  I pulled up and told the guy he was parked on our farm. His response was something like, “Our dogs are down in the bottom baying and won’t come out.  The other guys walked in to get them.  Is there a pond down there? The deer must be in the pond.”  My icy stare (or perhaps the smoke coming from my ears) caused him to add, “You don’t mind, do you?”

I was too annoyed to say anything sensible.  What I should have said was, “Of course not! Why would I mind?  Just because your dogs have chased a wounded deer into my pond, on my private posted property?  Just because you’ve presumed it’s OK to hunt on my farm without permission, to park here and walk down into our farm without letting me know you’re there?   Make yourself at home!  Do you want me to fix you something to eat while you’re waiting?”  Grrrr…….

As much as I like the slow time of the year to pass slowly, the end of deer season can’t come soon enough.