Indiana, PA - Indiana County

ZEKE WILSON: Activity in woods decreasing

by on December 17, 2013 10:40 AM

With the rifle season for deer now over, activity in the outdoors decreases dramatically.

On Monday, I passed a group of small game hunters while driving, yet with the upcoming wind and continuous snow, most woodlots will remain quiet. The presence of snow allows for a quick assessment as to if game is in the area.

Unfortunately, movement of small game in such weather is often limited to the point that when tracks are discovered a shot can quickly follow.

During the two weeks of deer season, I saw strong evidence that both squirrel and rabbit are still available in numbers. On one drive I had the pleasure of catching movement of a grouse on the ground at only 10 yards that stuck to thick cover rather than flushing.

Perhaps only another 200 yards further out the ridge, a red fox was awakened from its slumber and crossed a logging road within 30 yards of my position. Had small game been on the agenda for this walk, I am sure the situation would have gone differently.

• While many find motivation in filling their tags, the bulk of the hunts for the rest of the year will revolve around the experience rather than the trophy.

Although many still possess tags which they hope to fill in the primitive weapons late deer season, most will be happy to just hunt without the crowds. A number of outdoorsman that I know chose to save a tag for the late season so they may enjoy the solitude and challenge.

Despite reduced numbers and the herd receiving pressure for much of the fall, hunting deer during the late season still offers a good chance at venison. With the ease of taking deer to a commercial processor, the bulk of hunters choose to outsource their butchering. The cost is minimal and the convenience of dropping off a deer on the way home from the hunt is a huge factor in the decision.

Unfortunately, the removal of the butchering experience takes away a significant part of the hunt. A large portion of successful deer hunters would not even know where to begin in transforming a deer into the box of vacuum packed portions they pick up each year.

While the consumption is still the same regardless of who cuts and packs the venison, putting meat on the table is quickly becoming redefined. This same inability of processing game is undoubtedly attributing to the decline of small game hunters.

No commercial outlet is available for the processing of lesser game, and consequently many have never pursued the smaller species. With the amount of information available on preparing game for the table there is little excuse for ignorance.

However many young hunters’ first success is on a deer that is then dropped off at a processor. With the amount of time and effort required to butcher a deer, many never look back once they learn to outsource the tail end of the harvest experience.

Zeke Wilson is an outdoors writer for The Indiana Gazette. His columns appear Tuesday on the Outdoors page and in the Indiana County Area Sports section on The Indiana Gazette Online.
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