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Who gets to define ‘quality’ deer?
Nov 14, 2012 12:00 am
More and more deer hunters nowadays are antler-obsessed.
Back in August the national Quality Deer Management Association held its 12th annual convention at Opryland and even though I didn’t attend I understand it drew a big turnout.
A list of attractions at a regional outdoors show included a Big Buck Contest.
There are chemicals on the market that are guaranteed to “enhance antler growth” when used on food plots.
And on the Catoosa Management Area, the TWRA’s “quality deer” management program remains in effect this season, requiring a buck to have a minimum of four points on at least one antler or a 15-inch antler spread to be legal.
I don’t much care for the trend.
Understand, I don’t mind if a hunter wants to take only a “trophy” buck – whatever that is. That’s entirely up to him. I have several hunting buddies who pass up small bucks to wait for a big-antlered one, and I fully support their right to choose.
But I draw the line when the TWRA chooses for me. It shouldn’t dictate what size deer I can take.
I don’t like the idea of defining a particular deer as a “quality” animal. To me every deer is a quality deer. I don’t need a big set of antlers to define quality.
I suspect much of the obsession about big bucks comes from those ridiculous TV hunting shows. A TV hunter downs a deer and as soon as he gets to it he speculates about what its antlers will “score.”
Maybe trophy hunting is reflective of today’s society. Everybody has to have the biggest everything: the biggest house, the biggest car, the biggest deer.
But to me deer hunting is not a competition. I’ve never scored an antler, never entered a Big Buck Contest, and never will.
If I feel a competitive urge to keep score, I’ll go bowling, not kill an animal.
I suppose my mindset is generational. Back when I started deer hunting, just seeing a deer was a big deal. Actually bagging one – of any size – would get your picture in the paper.
I killed my first deer as a teenager 1963. It was a sleek little forkhorn and the hunt was the most exciting thing imaginable. Even today I can recall every detail of that frosty morning – the sights and sounds and smells.
That little buck remains my most treasured trophy. Yet today it wouldn’t be legal on Catoosa.
Back then only bucks were legal, and only one per season. Does were protected. I agreed with that policy because the scarcity of deer necessitated a limit on bucks and protection of breeding does.
Those policies were founded on sound deer management. But today the deer population is robust. The “quality deer” program is based on nothing more than promoting trophy hunting.
On private land the owner can dictate what size deer can be taken. If he wants smaller bucks to be left alone that’s his prerogative and as a guest I always abide by the rule. But I prefer to hunt where I get to make the choice. That’s why I don’t hunt on Catoosa.
The quality of a hunt shouldn’t be measured by the so-called quality of a deer’s antlers.