Sitting Still

For about an hour and a half late yesterday afternoon, I sat quietly outside in the cold.  I plan to do that nearly every day for the next month.

Being quiet isn’t a problem for me, but it’s hard for me to sit still that long. And I don’t like being cold.

So why do I do it?

It’s deer season.

I know that some people object to deer hunting, and for those who are vegetarians I understand and appreciate their beliefs.  But even though I don’t eat much meat, I’m not a vegetarian.  Being a farmitarian, I do eat meat as long as it came from this farm.

So every year I take a few of the many deer that live on this farm, and they are an important part of our practice of sustainable homesteading.  Venison is the only red meat I’ve eaten for many years.

We do our best to raise our livestock animals naturally and humanely.  But deer live more naturally and “free range” than any domesticated animal, no matter how well cared for.

Keeping the deer population in check is a human responsibility to nature, in my opinion.  In part because so few of us do that any more, we have a very serious deer overpopulation issue here.

Whether I will do my part to fill our freezer this year remains to be seen. By now the deer are wise to what’s going on and while only a few months ago there seemed to be herds of them roaming around here, they’re pretty hard to spot these days.

Last night I came home empty-handed.  I’ll try again tonight.

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34 comments on “Sitting Still

  1. Eumaeus says:

    Good luck, Bill. I’ll be out there too. Sitting still, hunting doe.

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  2. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, I never been a hunter. When I sit still that long, my mind begins to wander and I lose focus on the task at hand. A deer could walk right past me and I wouldn’t even know it. I once talked with a avid hunter who explained to me that shooting an animal is just part of the hunting experience. To him it was about immursing himself in nature. By sitting still the forest came alive with the natural life of the woods. Squirrels scurried about; rabbits nibbled on foliage; and birds flew from tree to tree. To him the experience of sitting inside the natural forest habitat was just as much of an experience as the bringing home a deer. As this person explained the sounds, smells, and sights of the terrain around him, I could see the adrenalin level start to rise right while we talked. His contention was that for a true hunter, it wasn’t just about the killing.

    Have a great filling the venison freezer day.

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    • Bill says:

      I hate the killing part, but the reality is that’s the only reason I hunt. I’ve heard people say they like to hunt so they can be out in nature, but I can do that any time. But it is nice to sit quietly outside for a while and enjoy it. One of the many things I dislike about the hunting from the road that is so prevalent here is that those guys aren’t even experiencing nature. For them it’s just about the shooting.

      It was different when I was a kid. Then I’d go squirrel hunting nearly every day, but I rarely fired the gun. There wasn’t much else to do and it was an excuse to spend time in the woods.

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  3. May your aim be true. I missed our season with all the rush here. It’s been 30 years since I hunted deer but the devastation to our fruit trees reminded me that we share this place with many hungry mouths. I will join you next year in spirit and a and share your sense of duty. I take no pleasure in the killing but I do in the eating and in doing it right and respectfully.

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    • Bill says:

      We ended up having to go pick up feed this evening so I didn’t get to go. Will resume tomorrow.

      I hate the killing part, but the reality is that if we eat meat, then animals are being killed to feed us. I prefer not to delegate that job. Taking responsibility for it keeps it real and makes it impossible to ignore the true cost of the meat on our plates.

      Deer are by far the number one impediment to farming here. I kept our young fruit trees in wire cages for about 10 years. I didn’t remove the cages until last year, once the trees were large enough that I didn’t think the deer could kill them. But a buck rubbed all the bark off one and killed it already this fall. And they’re even worse on our gardens.

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  4. bobraxton says:

    population in check is a human responsibility – not just deer (population) – Population is out of control worldwide. Seven billion today. Ten billion by 2050, in one generation. Too many babies. Too many old folks. ( I am far from the “babies” end of the continuum. ) I started first grade in 1950 and the world population was three – billion.

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    • Bill says:

      The surging human population definitely creates issues and is unsustainable if it doesn’t end. The population growth is primarily in the global South. U.S. population is steady and Europe and Japan have negative population growth. Empowerment of women makes a lot of difference. As that happens in the developing world it should lead to a decrease in the rate of population growth. Let’s hope so.

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  5. shoreacres says:

    I’ve got a friend who took her first deer with a bow this year. I remember the days when she couldn’t even draw her bow. She’s rightly proud of herself, and has a full freezer to show for it.

    Until this year, I’d only had venison sausage and roast, but I managed to get myself invited to share some backstrap, and it was better than any beef I’ve ever had. Quite apart from that, you’re exactly right about the need to help cull the herd from time to time. Watching Bambi starve isn’t fun.

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    • Bill says:

      I love venison. In addition to the backstrap/tenderloin I put up some ground, in stew meat and in cube steaks, as well as summer sausage. I don’t expect to ever eat beef again, and I don’t miss it.

      A lot of people bow-hunt around here. I’ve never had any interest in hunting with a bow or a muzzleloader. The best reason to do that here is because the season starts earlier and you don’t have to share the woods with the knuckleheads who come out for rifle season. But aside from being an old dog who doesn’t like learning new tricks, I worry about wounding a deer and having it run off into the woods and suffer. For a skilled archer that isn’t a great risk, but I don’t have that much confidence in my ability to do it. Never say never I suppose, but for now I’m just going to stick to hunting with firearms.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Interesting, Bill. Do you need a permit? Can you shoot more than one? We have strict rules out here, even on our own property. –Curt

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  7. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Are you out there all alone, or do you share the burden with others? The bunch that Dad hunted with would take turns sitting and “dogging” but it was mostly the youngsters that did the running and the more experienced who sat and waited.
    Good luck with sitting still and staying warm out there. May Mother Nature be generous and your aim be true; ).

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    • Bill says:

      Thanks. I only do what we call “still hunting.” I’m not a fan of running deer with dogs.

      So far I haven’t taken any, but that’s typical for me. I like to wait until it’s legal to take either sex, as I have no interest in trophies and it’s the does who are most in need of culling. There are so many deer here that I shouldn’t have any trouble getting what we need by the time the season ends on Jan. 3.

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      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        Actually “dogging” is what they called driving the deer in towards those sitting on watch, but they never actually used dogs (just the younger generation, the kids; )

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  8. EllaDee says:

    Makes far more sense to me to kill for food that’s already there than to build another feedlot and line Corporate pockets.

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  9. beeholdn says:

    An interesting turn of phrase, that the does are in need of culling / being culled; as though the deer must recognize this fact on some level as well. Nature takes care of overpopulation, and we are a part of nature. I imagine it’s only humans that are granted the schism within them, between the brain’s acceptance of and the heart’s revulsion against these facts of life. I appreciate your care, Bill, in doing the killing efficiently, and, may I say, without enjoyment of the act. You’re making good progress in integrating the competing elements within. Kudos for that. Thanks for this conversation. It’s a tough one for me; reminds me how schizoid I am.

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    • Bill says:

      The killing that comes with this life is something I take very seriously. I never joke about it or make light of it and it bothers me when I see people do that.

      I’ve blogged several times about how I came to the ethical conclusions I’ve reached. It’s been a journey. One thing I try to emphasize is that we ought not turn away and refuse to look at the killing that must occur in order for us to eat meat.

      Liked by 1 person

      • beeholdn says:

        Absolutely true, it’s so easy turn away; but at what cost inside our deepest psyches, that can only be imagined (if one is so inclined). Not to mention the cost to the animals. I remember reading something by Roger Scruton, the philosopher, about this, well, about raising animals for food, and / or hunting. Probably it was similar to your perspective on the issue. I appreciate your openness about it.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Joanna says:

    I did some research on wild boar hunting a couple of years back and one of the findings from that is shooting mothers actually exacerbated the problem, because the young then dispersed and bred earlier. Stable family dynamics kept reproduction rates down, as youngsters would breed later. A similar situation occurs with wolf packs too. I wonder if the same thing applies to deer herds? The recommendation for wild boar was to shoot the piglets and then the mothers would move the rest of the herd away for safety.

    One of the people I interviewed made what I felt was a sound comment and that was. light hunting kept the animals away from human habitation and therefore kept the human-wildlife conflict potential down too

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    • Bill says:

      Very interesting. I’ve never hear that before (that it’s best to cull the young). It wouldn’t be practical here for deer, and it’s illegal to hunt deer when the fawns are nursing in any event. The idea that culling the mothers causes the young to breed sooner is interesting. I seem to recall reading that goat kids sexual maturity is delayed if they aren’t separated from their mothers, so it’s probably true.

      Until recently it was only legal to take does a few days each year. I never understood that, since it only takes one buck to breed a lot of does. It always seemed to me that the regulations should encourage taking does, not bucks. With the population explosion we’ve had the number of “doe days” has greatly increased and now it’s legal to take them the entire last month of the season. But with fewer people hunting and with those who do mainly seeking trophy bucks, the population continues to rise.

      Your comment reminds me of something a trapper friend told me about coyotes. He said that if there are coyotes on your farm but they’re not bothering the livestock then you shouldn’t try to get rid of them. They’re territorial and if you get rid of the alphas (he said), then another alpha will move into the territory to replace it, and it could be a coyote (or coyotes) that kill livestock. I thought that was an interesting observation.

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      • Joanna says:

        That sounds like the argument for keeping “clean” badgers on farms in the UK. Culling badgers that can pass on bovineTB may result in infected animals moving in. Shows how it pays to study animal behaviour to see what works best, rather than going for what might appear the most obvious choice at first glance. An interesting subject for sure

        Liked by 2 people

      • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

        A wise collection of advice indeed! I’ve heard the same works for leaving a human babe with its mother to discourage pregnancy. There was a piece on CBC Radio’s Quirks & Quarks about the trend for male (Caribou?) to grow smaller racks… No big surprise really, with hunters continually taking those Bulls with a “Trophy” set.
        We (the modern/civilised human) need to stop assuming that we know what’s best and learn to leave things well enough alone – the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” – version of breeding for desirable characteristics: )

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    • Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

      Gee Joanna, too bad all of this (incredibly logical) information couldn’t be impressed upon those who I actually have a say in hunting /wildlife population controls. Sadly, I doubt the influence of all of these populations are considered in the context of biosphere and the complex interactions of life within it…
      Here in Ontario, Turkey flocks and deer can be seen here and there, most of the year… (But come opening day, they magically vanish into thin air; )
      Man is the predator at the top of the food chain and, I was taught, it is our responsibility to eat what Nature provides and help maintain balance. Hunting is not easy (animals are not stupid!) and it requires great patience and skill. The taking of a life should never be done lightly and Walt Disney did no one any favours by making an entire generation – no, generations – view wild animals like helpless victims.
      I learned much about the workings of Nature from the stories told by my Father and his hunting buddies… Wanting a healthy population to hunt, they are Biologists by experience and their knowledge was gleaned from their Fathers’ generation and then passed on to the next.

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      • Joanna says:

        I was not exactly anti-hunting per se at the beginning of my research on the conflict over wild boar (hog) management where I live, but I wasn’t enthralled by hunters exactly. My previous experience had been the rather elitist fox hunting brigade in the UK, who seemed to have scant regard for us lesser mortals at time. After my research I gained a lot of respect for hunters who in turn respected the wildlife and farmers and it was a privilege to interview them and gain a lot of knowledge from them. That’s not to say that all were mindful of the effects of their actions on the farmers who they were meant to be helping. It is a long and complicated story here in Latvia

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  11. avwalters says:

    I live in a state where the deer population wildly exceeds what is was when the area was settled. I have no qualms about hunting, though I haven’t yet decided whether I will. These days I’m just trying not to hunt them on the roads. Twice in the past week I’ve had close calls. When Rick and I walk the property, the snow is criss-crossed with deer trails. If we decide to do it, I don’t think we’ll be empty-handed.

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    • Bill says:

      Our gardens look like deer held a square dance on them.

      They are very dangerous on the roads. They cause more deaths than all other wildlife combined, if I recall correctly. We’ve had some tragic cases here. You probably know this but be very careful if a deer crosses the road ahead of you. If there are others they sometimes panic when the vehicle comes between them and can leap into the side of your car.

      Liked by 2 people

      • avwalters says:

        Yes, I know this, all too well. (The hard way.) In Michigan they average 60,000 deer/car collisions a year. Last year’s hard winter seems to have thinned the herds, but this is the most dangerous time of the year for collisions.

        Sorry to hear about your gardens–it’s why I’m looking for extra long cedar poles for fence posts.

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      • bobraxton says:

        Happened to friends in Clifton (Virginia) – deer 1, Prius 0.

        Like

  12. Deb Weyrich-Cody says:

    Sorry Bill et al, I seem to be uncontrollably running off at the lip here; but this is a subject very near and dear to my heart…

    Liked by 1 person

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