Requiem for a Lost Deer Season

January 2023

I hunt deer. Make that I love hunting deer. Since 1971, venison is the only red meat I eat.  I have not eaten or bought (except on one occasion) red meat. The one time was five years ago when I had a terrible season, killing only one deer. Since I feed my dogs a mixture of venison and kibble, I ran out of venison with three months left until the season began. I bought some high quality chuck for the dogs. They wouldn’t eat it. I gave 20 pounds to a neighbor for her food bank. This year would have been a repeat had I not started making an annual deer hunting trip to Eagle Pass, TX where I killed two deer. This season in Georgia yielded only one nice doe. I probably passed on 40+ deer. I do not shoot does with fawns or bucks under 6 points. The only good buck was an 8 pointer that was following a doe during bow season 65 yards away. The rest of the time, only spikes and 4 pointers abound. The adult does chase away the fawns during the rut. Yet all the does I saw were small except for the one I took late in gun season. I just can’t bring myself to shoot immature deer. Maybe its because of my aversion to veal.

I couldn’t be more disappointed in this year’s hunting. I was excited. The 60 acres that were timbered because of pine beetles were growing back in new pines, thick with perfect places to provide security for deer. My cousin who lives nearby had seen mature does and one of the biggest bucks ever. But I saw nothing but small deer. However, I saw more turkeys than before and am looking forward to turkey season. One of the confusing things is that on one ridgeline are hardwoods. Before, the deer would feed on the acorns and hickory nuts until they were gone. This year there are no deer on the ridgeline but plenty of squirrels. There is still tons of food but no deer. It’s a puzzle that I cannot solve. Meanwhile, my taxidermist is having the best year of his career. He has never seen so many big deer which means that Diana, the Goddess of the Hunt, is messing with me. I accept my fate. I have hunted hard and smart. I have hunted every sector of my 126 acres except for two. I did not hunt the hang on stand that collapsed on me 6 years ago causing me to fall 20 feet. Luckily I was just badly bruised. I have since replaced all my hang on stands with ladder stand except for that one. I will do that this off-season. The second area is a 20 acre section where I know there are plenty of deer including big ones. I leave that as a sanctuary and hunt trails going into and out of the area. It was there where I killed the big doe.

I might have had a clue that this would be a different season when my food plots failed. The weather was weird with cold snaps, withering heat and drenching rains. Since baiting is now legal, I resorted to using corn. My trail cameras showed that the deer appeared right after sunset and disappeared the hour before sunrise.

So this has been the worst year in the 50 years I’ve hunted deer. Again I could have killed plenty of deer but I would have to modify my standards. I am not comfortable doing so which means I will be on reduced rations until next season.

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