What Constitutes A “Shootable” Deer And Who Should Determine It?

Before I get deep into the crux of today’s blog post, take a look at these three videos taken about 5 1/2 weeks ago on my farm using the new Cuddeback Attack trail cameras.   Each video lasts about 30 seconds and in general shows a small buck browsing on some field corn.

At this stage during the crop growing year it appears the deer is consuming the secondary, more immature ears of corn that commonly grows on the corn stalks.   Thus, this deer AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR does not appear to be doing any particular damage to the standing corn or its eventual crop yield.

That being said, earlier in the summer when all of the corn ears are immature and this deer goes browsing throughout the field…significant damage can then occur when deer choose to dine as you have witnessed.

Shifting gears just a bit…I did something fun with these videos.   I showed them to the neighbor who rents my farm and grows these crops.   This particular farmer also happens to be one of my hunting buddies each fall.   I told him, “look at that deer.   It just stands there defiantly taunting you to come get him if you don’t like what he’s doing.”

My buddy agreed, this fall that particular deer is what he is targeting as the deer of his choice during the firearms season.

Now, keep in mind this vendetta brewing between the farmer and the buck deer is all in good fun.   After all, isn’t that what the hunting experience should be all about anyway?   Everyone heads out into the woods for very personal reasons…and it’s quite fair to say not every hunter is motivated by the same set of factors.

Yet, oddly enough…if this deer traveled just 7 miles to the northeast of my farm’s location…it would then exist in a Minnesota deer zone protecting bucks like this one.   In fact, here in Minnesota we have a three year experimental project underway that protects bucks that don’t sport at least 4–points on one antler.   This buck clearly does not.

Yes, the antler-obsessed hunters here in Minnesota have long pushed for legislation to manage the hunting experience the way they believe it should be conducted.   Apparently it’s not good enough to use self-control whereby selectively harvesting a mature deer that fits the criteria of a specific hunting party.   Nope, this group of folks want to see Antler Point Restriction (APR) rules spread across the land like a wildfire on the windy prairie.

Okay, I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of APR in this blog posting.   Instead, what I am going to underscore is the misguided notion among some that all of us hunt for the same reasons.   In fact, I will even go so far as to say pushing for the establishment of certain minimum restrictions on the size a buck deer before it can be legally harvested is downright selfish on the part of the hunters requesting such a prohibition.

This farm where I now hunt and live was first settled by my family back in 1856–-two years before Minnesota even gained statehood.   My ancestors traded provisions for venison with a friendly tribe of Chippewa Indians during those first years so I have a long-standing familial connection with deer hunting taking place on my property.   Indeed, I take personal exception with anyone pushing for game management actions only to better satiate their obsession for shooting a big deer.

Don’t get me wrong…I like big deer, too.   Over the years this farm has been home to some big deer as shown here and here, for example.   Yet, I am fervently opposed to the DNR telling me I am restricted from shooting certain deer because their management objectives are geared solely to satisfy the whims of a certain class of hunters.   When you manage for some hunters and not for all…it fuels a certain elitism that simply has no place in hunting, at least not in my honest opinion.

Yes, thank goodness I still live in a MN deer hunting zone that is not yet affected by rules governing the size of the buck I can harvest in my woods.   Just like the farmer who plans to hunt the particular deer shown in the videos this November, our reasons for hunting are often quite varied and not always fueled by the same passion for large racks.

I think it’s high time both hunters and DNR game managers alike begin to recognize there are differences in what drives each of us to pursue this wonderful sport called deer hunting.   To think we all go hunting for deer sporting massive racks is, well…rather naive at best.   If game management doesn’t involve the physical health of the deer herd, then it ought to be up to the individual hunter—and only that hunter—to choose what constitutes a “shootable” deer.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.