Every year in the middle of winter, it seems there are blossoming flowers or bushes here on Lightnin’ Ridge and that is happening again. It is so warm that everything seems confused. But do birds get confused, too? Sitting on my porch the other day when it was near seventy degrees, I watched several bluebirds fluttering around a bluebird house where they nested last spring. They would go inside and come back out as if they were about to nest again. This has happened a couple of times since. I yelled at them, reminding them it was December, but they paid little attention.
Maybe some reader can tell me what they were doing. My only conclusion is that they are the young bluebirds hatched there and came back on a nostalgic visit. I could almost hear one of them saying to another, “Remember how daddy use to bring us bugs and worms when we were little… boy I wish I could find bugs and worms as good as those were when we were youngsters growing up inside here.” Well, if you have a better idea, let me know.
The mild weather is playing heck with the migration of wild ducks. I like it like this, because the fishing is still good, but sometime this winter I want to hunt ducks, and it has to be cold to bring most of them down here.
The muzzleloader hunter portion of the deer season in nearly upon us, and I don’t mind a little tracking snow for that time when a few of us grizzled old veterans go out with our primitive weapons to hunt deer in a natural uncrowded situation where we can wear our coonskin caps, and stuff the blaze orange vest we are required to wear in a hollow stump.
The blaze orange requirement is wise when you have thousands of hunters in the woods during the high-powered long-range rifle season, but it is silly to ask muzzleloader hunters to wear blaze orange. Bowhunters are not required to wear the orange garb while hunting during that period. They don’t even have to wear orange during the nine-day doe season for rifle hunters. Why is that? If there was ever a time a bowhunter needed to be seen clearly it is when large numbers of rifle hunters, who can kill at 2 or 3 hundred yards, are in the woods.
The regulations during that time are laughable. This state has some of the dumbest hunting and fishing regulations there are anywhere. If you are hunting during the doe season, and see a really good buck you want, you can shoot it and then call it in on your archery tag. I saw that happen a couple of years ago on public land on Truman Lake. The hunter killed a buck and doe together, checked the doe on his rifle tag in the morning, and then called in the buck on his archery tag. When he brought the buck out, the entire rib cage had been removed, so no one could say for sure how it had been killed.
One of my friends who hunts with a muzzleloader told me years ago that he and most of his hunting buddies remove the blaze orange when they get into the woods, then put it back on when they come out, because, as he put it… “You never see agents back in the deep woods. They will be waiting at your vehicle or coming to your house trying to inspect the meat in your freezer to see if there is a technicality they can get you on.”
Muzzleloader hunters who use the old time firearms are usually experienced hunters and I don’t worry about being in the woods with one of them. But those who are just out to kill something are enthusiastic about these new “in-line” muzzleloaders which are nothing like the old firearms. You can get away from that type of hunter if you walk back into an area where they won’t go. I never see another hunter when I hunt with a muzzleloader during a weekday. The colder it gets, the aloner I am. Aloner is a word used by old time grizzled outdoorsmen of another age who seek solitude and peace as much as they seek a deer.
The coming of “mad-deer disease”, also called “chronic wasting” sure throws the trophy-hunting crowd at the Missouri Department of Conservation into a quandary. They are talking about containment, but they know they aren’t going to contain this, there are hundreds of those deer pen operations in the state, and certainly there are diseased deer in more of them.
They knew a long time back that the pen-raised deer industry, (and it really has become a get-rich-quick industry) would spread the disease into the wild deer. Pen-raised deer are given a manufactured food that has meat by-products in it, which will make antlers grow larger so the deer farms can sell the tame deer for more money. And there isn’t a doubt in the world that mad-cow disease and mad-deer disease developed from that practice of feeding meat to herbivores.
When Colorado began to see that happen in their state, they closed down all the elk- and deer-raising farms in the state, and in doing so, apparently stopped the disease from entering wild herds.
In Wisconsin a decade ago, a deer farm trying to raise huge bucks with giant antlers saw the disease occur in pen-raised deer and the owner just took down the fences and let them all go, into the wild. Wisconsin conducted a years-long program that involved the killing and testing of two hundred thousand deer. They found the disease to be very prevalent, though often dormant.
I talked to a Wisconsin hunter this year who told me, “It seems to be widespread now. I think we have just learned to live with it. We have a ton of deer, but they allowed hunting from October through March, and without much restriction. For a while you could kill all the deer you wanted as long as you bought the tags. It didn’t hurt the deer population a bit, but they became so nocturnal you never saw them during the day. Trophy hunters looking for big antlers weren’t affected; they just took the cape and antlers and left the rest of the deer for the coyotes and eagles. But if you were someone who wanted a deer to eat, you would think twice about killing one, not knowing if you were feeding your family an animal with some hidden disease.”
Who knows what is ahead in Missouri? The MDC’s agenda which brought on the ridiculous four-point antler rule in two-thirds of the state, was to get to a point where trophy racks would attract the elite trophy-hunting non-residents who might pay three hundred to four hundred dollars for a non-resident deer tag. That should still work, as trophy hunters only want the deer head and antlers for the wall and record books, and don’t really care if they can eat any of it.
In next week’s column, I will discuss this a little more, and tell readers why it might be wise to not eat deer meat that comes through the “share your harvest” program. It isn’t just disease you have to worry about now, but very dangerous chemicals.
I’ll discuss the mad-deer disease in detail during my Sunday morning radio program this week, on 560 AM, KWTO radio, from 8 to 9 a.m. You can call in and give your opinions and comments on something that has Missouri hunters very worried.
My address is Box 22, Bolivar, Mo. 65613 and the e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. My website is www.larrydablemontoutdoors.blogspot.com.