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Talking It Over -- Changes in deer season

Thirty years ago, my husband and I were in the locker plant business. For 10 years we operated one of several in the area. At the time that we purchased it, the deer season was one of the busiest and productive, but when we sold it that was no longer the case.

In 1976, when we took over operations, the previous owner was taking in up to 500 deer during the November-December season. The majority of these deer were from the two-day November season in this area. It was a good portion of the locker plant business.

Shortly thereafter, changes started to take place. The two-day hunt was now two weekends, with hunters having to make a choice as to which they wanted to hunt. Doe permits were also introduced, making it a requirement to have a doe permit in order to shoot a doe. The state regulated how many of these permits were released and in what areas. This left it an open season on bucks in all areas.

This year, even more changes were made. The two weekend hunt was changed to a nine-day hunt running from one weekend through the next. In some areas, the number of doe permits was drastically low and in others insanely high.

I bring up all these changes because I feel that they have had a dramatic effect on deer hunts in this area. As I hunted with my party last week, I commented quite often on the lack of hunters and especially on the lack of hunting parties who used to walk the corn fields, groves and sloughs. Because of this, in many cases, the deer numbers bagged were down a great deal. We often heard from fellow hunters that their party had only one or two or even no deer for the week.

I am not sure what is prompting the Department of Natural Resources to make so many changes that are, in reality, reducing the number of hunters and number of deer taken out of the herds and off of the roads. I assume that they know what they are doing, but as a hunter I have some concerns about the future of the sport.

In the last few years, the number of deer taken in at our area locker plants has dropped, I would estimate, by more than half. I am sure that the number of registered deer is also down from 30 years ago. I also would guess, by observing the number of hunters around, that the number of deer licenses issued is dropping each year.

While I am not recommending a return to the two-day, anything goes type of hunt, I feel it should be simplified somewhat and made more user friendly. Today's hunts almost require an endless amount of research and study in order to keep abreast of all the new laws and regulations added each year. You have to constantly be aware of imaginary lines drawn through the state, be able to recognize the sex of a deer at a full run and after you shoot your deer, be prepared to remain with it almost until the meat is put in your freezer.

Now that I am done ranting about the deer season changes, I will add that I did have an enjoyable hunt. As I said last week, had an opportunity to even shoot a few times. Our party didn't do as well as in past years, mainly because we were not granted very many doe permits, but we will still have a small taste of venison. We can now sit back and relax as we wait for the new changes in hunting laws that are sure to affect next year's hunt.