Last week, as I pulled up to a stoplight, I noticed a truck in the adjoining lane. I was envious. The driver had obviously seen success earlier that morning as a deer laid in the bed. He intentionally left the tailgate down for others to see. Behind him were two women in a sedan intently staring at the lifeless animal. Although I could not hear what they were saying, I could tell by their actions they were not overly impressed by the public display.
Most hunters appreciate the luck of other hunters. All you have to do is go by any check-in station and you’re sure to see people gathered around, telling stories of their hunt while they stand proudly with their harvest, while others listen.
Without a doubt, one of the best parts of consumptive hunting is bringing your game home, either for the dinner table, as a new mount for the living room wall or both. But the journey from the woodlot to the wall can be long and hard and there are some unwritten rules to consider before you begin.
It wasn’t that long ago a buck strapped to a car top was a source of pride. But those days have faded. Nonhunters, though they may understand the importance of hunting, might not want to see vehicles parading through town with dead animals in the back. Several states used to have laws requiring hunters to transport deer in open view but they are quickly dropping these decades old rules, preferring instead to have hunters keep their game under wraps.
And for the most part, that suits responsible sportsmen just fine, especially as more hunting takes place in urban areas. We have all heard stories of people driving with deer in an open bed of a pick-up truck or on one of the open-air cargo carriers only to have someone pull up behind them and either start cursing or shaking their head in disgust. We don’t need that kind of publicity. We want to minimize exposure to those who may not necessarily oppose hunting, but who dislike the sight of a bloody deer laying in full public view.
In Colorado, their Division of Wildlife instructs hunters to transport deer out of sight if possible. The Pennsylvania Game Commission states: “Please do not display deer on open racks or in truck beds with tailgates down.” They believe hunters need to be more aware of their image and the effect it can have on the non hunting public.
The problem does not necessarily lie with the tradition of hunting. It has more to do with a society that is becoming increasingly disconnected from our wildlife resources and what it takes to adequately sustain it. The same people who may be bothered by a deer carcass don’t comprehend the hamburger they ate the night before was once in the same situation.
But perception is reality and hunters need to be cognizant of how we transport our game. In fact, not unduly displaying dead, big-game animals is becoming widely accepted as part of ethical hunting. One of the easiest ways to respectfully transport game is to simply cover it with a tarp. Not only does this keep the animal hidden from sensitive eyes, it also protects the game from dirt, grime and the elements outside.
It was just a few weeks back my friend Mark Pyne collected a beautiful 10-point buck while hunting the urban zone in Marion County. The Indianapolis skyline could be seen in the distance and houses bordered two sides of the woodlot he hunted. Instead of dragging his buck straight to the truck, a distance of only a hundred yards, Pyne painstakingly hauled it nearly a half mile. He then walked all the way back to his vehicle before driving to the area where he left his buck.
Why did he do this?
“I didn’t want to upset anyone by seeing me drag a dead deer next to their backyards,” he explained. “Why cause any problems if you don’t have to?”
However, the idea that bagged game should be transported covertly does not sit well with everyone. Some worry about the message it sends.
“I am proud of my hunting heritage and I am not going to hide it,” says Bob Likens, who has hunted deer for nearly 50 years. “I have taught all of my children and grandchildren to be responsible hunters and to be proud of it.”
For me personally, I think the whole matter of transporting wild game boils down to a matter of respect. We, as hunters should be respectful of those who may not hunt just as they should respect those of us who do. And as Pyne said, “Why cause any problems when you don’t have to?”
DEER HUNTING RESULTS
The temperatures are getting cooler and crops are coming out. The numbers of those collecting deer have been increasing with each passing week. Taking an Indiana whitetailed deer is a notable outdoor accomplishment, one worthy of recognition. If you have encountered success, but checked in your animal electronically or in another location, please feel free to contact me for inclusion in this column.
Here are the names of area sportsmen and women who have taken deer during the first portion of our early archery deer hunting season. This information, which includes field-dressed weights, was provided by Bryant’s Outdoor Store, Simpson’s Deer Processing and U.S 31 Bait and Tackle.
Jeff Mulkey — 105-pound doe; Rondal Sizemore — 115-pound doe; Jonathon Fording — 60-pound button buck; Ryan Roark — 60-pound button buck; Steve Carroll — 100-pound doe; Jamie Miller — 90-pound doe; Adam Fouch — 100-pound doe; Don Hochstedler — 150-pound, eight-point buck; Robert Justice — 120-pound doe; Raymond Miller — 160-pound, 10-point buck; Ed Heaton — 125-pound doe; Dan Harvey — 115-pound doe; Josh Fording — 110-pound doe.
John Martino is the Tribune’s outdoors columnist. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.