WILTZ: Why do we hunt deer?
Back in the Aug. 3 column, I reported that I had failed to draw a West River Deer tag for the first time in 46 years. I'll be out there on the Nov. 12 opener with Mike, my faithful West River Deer partner, but I'll be toting either my shotgun or ...
Back in the Aug. 3 column, I reported that I had failed to draw a West River Deer tag for the first time in 46 years. I'll be out there on the Nov. 12 opener with Mike, my faithful West River Deer partner, but I'll be toting either my shotgun or a varmint rifle and predator call. I might even carry a camera and get my buck on film.
When I learned of my bad luck, I went to the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks website to check on left over West River tags. I figured my chances were slim as certain criteria would have to be met. I'd have to get permission to hunt in a new unit, preferably close to home, and it could not conflict with the dates I would hunt with Mike.
Unit 30A-19, which includes Gregory County, looked good. It was close to home, and it opened on Nov. 5, giving me time to hunt before joining Mike for a trip to Corson County. I applied, and I was lucky enough to draw on this second go-round. If there is a problem, it would be the "antlerless" tag status. I would be doe hunting. This doesn't bother me. It will be easier to get permission to doe hunt, and I need another set of antlers like I need 10 more pounds hanging over my belt. That said, let's talk about this "doe" thing.
I know hunters who brag, "I'll never kill a doe!" They act like it's an insult to their manliness. I'll admit that I more or less felt this way 40 years ago, but it's no longer the case. It isn't "old age" thinking. I'll call it wisdom. Think about the reasons we hunt deer.
• We enjoy the social aspect of deer hunting with our friends. Perhaps we even have a deer camp.
• A deer hunt presents a challenge. We enjoy the pursuit, the testing of our skills.
• We want the meat! Perhaps it's a source of the jerky, salami and sticks we'll munch on all year.
• We satisfy a mysterious primal calling to climb hills, ford streams, endure the elements, field dress and hang our game from the meat pole-something like the History Channel's "Mountain Men."
• We want antlers on the wall, bragging rights and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from nailing a real bruiser.
• Our South Dakota deer herd must be managed. The GF&P needs revenue to do their job, and I personally like being a contributing part of the big picture.
• I own some classic 20th Century rifles. They don't have scopes, and I don't use them when I have a coveted "any deer" tag in my pocket. I will use one of them when I can get close to a doe with open sights. My old rifles? A Model 94 Winchester, a Model 99 Savage and a Model 14 Remington.
If my reasons are anywhere near logical, six of the seven reasons are addressed by a doe tag. For most of the 46 years I mentioned above, I've been a part of a deer camp. Much of the time we had six or seven hunters including my dad and brother, and we stayed in the bunk house and broke bread with our rancher hosts. About 20 years ago, for fear of not drawing a license and missing out on all the camaraderie, I asked the GF&P to add an "antlerless" unit to Corson County. I don't know that GF&P added the requested unit because I asked, but they did add it for many years.
Earlier this summer, for fear of either Mike or me not having a tag, I made the same request. My request was not acknowledged, and the request was denied. I have presumed that it was denied because GF&P felt the area has not completely recovered from 2012's EHD epidemic that took so many whitetails. There's another factor. The Standing Rock Sioux also sell a good number of tags. I know that Mike and I could apply together and draw or fail together, but we've been spoiled by our success over the years.
I don't know whether or not I successfully drew an East River or Muzzleloader deer tag yet as the computer is probably drawing the winners right now, but I do know that I'll be deer hunting this coming fall. Now I need to get out and knock on some Gregory County doors-arguably the best deer hunting in the nation. There is a potential "fly in the ointment." EHD (Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease) has once again reared its ugly head. Some nice bucks have been found dead in my home area. Let's hope it isn't another 2011.
Getting back to Gregory County, during the late afternoon, while I'm sitting out there in some draw, my stomach will begin to talk to me. When it gets too dark to shoot, I'll head to Fairfax where young Luke Koenig runs a steakhouse and lounge called "The Constitution." It opens at 5 p.m., and they're open every day except Tuesday. As always, I have no "deal" with Luke. It's just plain good eatin'-something I'm rather fond of.
See you next week.