The Indiana County Courthouse is now filled with pink envelopes containing antlerless deer license applications of resident hunters.
The treasurer’s office will be bustling with activity for the next several weeks processing applications and mailing out the first round of licenses.
Those who have forgotten to apply should purchase their hunting license and do so this week while plenty of tags are still available. Demand for doe tags and the venison that can be gained from them is high, and in some wildlife management units, they sell out quickly.
Locally, WMU 2D offers 74,000 antlerless tags while WMU 2E offers 43,000. Such numbers highlight the health of the herd, its ability to adapt to a variety of habitats and to reproduce quickly.
Agriculture is still a large sector of our economy, and it can be difficult to be profitable with heavy deer damage and rising production costs. The checkerboard pattern of private property in Indiana County makes it difficult to eliminate or reduce numbers as deer can easily seek refuge on an adjacent property. Deer adapt quickly to hunting pressure and quite often will wait until after legal shooting hours to feed on a field where they have been hunted heavily.
By allocating a large number of antlerless licenses, the hope is that enough deer are harvested, where possible, to help put a dent in the overall population.
This management practice leaves some deer enthusiasts in despair as the herd remains thin in areas with large sections of public hunting ground.
However, during dispersal, new deer move into these habitats that have not been browsed heavily and still hold leftover mast crops from the previous year. It is unnatural for deer to live in such high densities, but when food and cover are provided with minimal hunting pressure, they are reluctant to leave. Luckily, it is their nature to give each other space, and it is common for young bucks to disperse 10 to 15 miles in search of new territory.
Harvesting antlerless deer is just as challenging as those with antlers, but society has placed such emphasis on the harvest of antlered deer that many hunters do not even hunt antlerless deer.
Managing the herd is the responsibility of the hunter, and if we are unable to do it properly, alternative methods will be used. In suburban areas, this can mean the use of sharpshooters, and in agricultural settings it can mean summertime shooting.
The use of licensed hunters often could solve the problem, but access or reluctance to harvest doe when a big buck is being hunted complicate the herd’s reduction. Hunters who purchase their doe license but do not want or need the venison can use the hunters’ feeding the hungry program while enjoying the thrill of the hunt at the same time.
With only one buck tag, those who enjoy hunting deer would be wise to obtain several antlerless licenses so that their time afield can be extended and their hunting skills further sharpened.
Although field dressing and dragging a deer is feared by some, it is part of a successful hunt. I enter the woods each time with a sharp knife and hope of a long drag.
Those who mentor youths this fall should make sure they have plenty of antlerless tags because the best way to teach a hunter is through successful hunts. I was fortunate that I was shown how to field dress my first deer and then was taught the task through hands-on experience. Practice makes perfect is a familiar saying, and in regard to deer hunting, harvesting and processing is best learned young.