- Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 December 2012 12:05
- Published on Wednesday, 12 December 2012 10:43
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As our deer season progresses, more and more anecdotal evidence and hard facts are coming to the surface regarding our local deer herd. While Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has not made any statements lately or come to any additional conclusions about the localized effect that the Hemorrhagic Disease (HD) has had on our deer herd, local hunters, many of them long-time hunters with
years of observations and experience, have come to some conclusions that are not exactly comforting.
The data from years past suggests that most HD outbreaks that have occurred have resulted in less than a 25% deer kill, this particular outbreak has been very obviously worse in our immediate area. One anecdotal piece to that puzzle is the Disabled Veterans Hunt at Caledon. Last year and for many years prior, the hunt resulted in more than 15 deer harvested. Last year that figure was 22 deer taken according to Buddy Fines, who organizes the hunt. This year they had the same number of hunters and approximately the same number of drivers helping to push deer but only two deer were taken and the number of live deer observed was noticeably down. Reportedly 12 deer carcasses were observed in the woods during the drive. Before the muzzleloader hunt at Caledon earlier in November ten carcasses were found.
As stated in previous articles, many landowners have recently commented that they have found carcasses on their property. As the firearms season opened and progressed, more deer remains have been found, usually near water, as that is where the deer go with their high fever that is a symptom.
After reading through the data and thinking back to when the last “bad” outbreak was, I realized that was the same season I had trouble even seeing deer, much less harvesting any. I took one deer that year despite hunting very hard. I suspect that season’s poor hunting was not all my doing. It was also likely HD that made the conditions tough.
Some hunters have already decided to shut down hunting on their property. Bruce Lee owns a farm in Essex County, another locality hard hit by HD, and he made the decision to stop doe harvest on his place and he is only allowing selective buck harvest for the remainder of the season. Other hunters are having a tough time filling tags and it is more than just an abundance of acorns and a few deer dying from HD.
If you are determined to hunt and take a deer during the remainder of the season you will very likely find the pickings slim. Try to hunt differently. Approach your hunting areas from a different direction, go hunting at different times and don’t let the deer pattern you. In an effort to help our deer herd rebound you might consider taking only bucks. We don’t need to wait for VDGIF to tell us to let the does walk. We can do that on our own. Taking does is what reduces the deer herd the fastest. Taking a buck would be better with the HD outbreak we have suffered. There are definitely still deer in the woods but sign is sparse.
NOTE: Out of consideration for the deer herd at Caledon and the work volunteers and youth would put into the Youth Hunt in December, that hunt at the end of the December has been cancelled. It is the first time Buddy Fines has ever had to cancel a youth hunt but certainly it is the right thing to do.