Midwest deer management challenges no longer looming… they're here
If you follow the current buzz surrounding deer hunting, especially in many of the Midwestern states, then you know the outlook is dismal. Deer numbers are down across the board in most places, and that has discontented hunters in a way we haven’t seen for a long time. The finger pointing has started, and the armchair biologists are out in full force.
What we know is that far too many antlerless tags coupled with the now antiquated view that to achieve a healthy deer herd we must kill as many does as possible, has knocked down the numbers. Combine that with burgeoning and even peaking predator populations ranging from coyotes, to bobcats, bears and wolves and you’ve got trouble. Furthering the spiral is Mother Nature with her late springs and early, tough winters. It doesn’t seem as if the deer have a chance.
To be honest, without policy change, the deer don’t have a chance. At least not at returning to population levels from even a few years ago. The good news is that state game agencies are hearing from hunters now in unprecedented numbers, and if they choose to ignore the growing, collective voices, they may find themselves jobless.
Also fortunate, is the whitetail itself, which is a natural survival machine. Few animals have adapted as well to living around humans, and few animals are as tough, at least in North America. Add to that their ability to reproduce and the reality is that the situation isn’t hopeless. It isn’t great, don’t get me wrong, but whitetails are much better at bouncing back than many of the western critters upon which we spend hard-earned license dollars.
I’m hopeful that we are witnessing a time period in the management of whitetails where we will learn from our mistakes. No hunter wants to hit this low point again, and I truly hope this will represent the rare piece of history not destined for repetition. Suffice it to say, changes in deer management are looming on the horizon that will eventually ensure that the hunter willing to put in the time and the work will be rewarded with more than empty woods and unfilled tags.