I don’t believe in Sasquatch. I spent over 36 years dealing with wildlife and outdoor related issues on the job and many more as a hunter just tramping in the woods but I’ve never seen or heard of any evidence to make me think there is an eight feet tall hairy guy roaming around out there living on nuts and berries and beef jerky.
So no matter how many bad (and I mean bad) TV shows there are about a group of seemingly intelligent Sasquatch hunters, I’m not buying it. Bring me one dead in the back of your pickup truck and I will think about it.
I am a little different on mountain lions. Many of you reading this will swear that you saw a cougar in one of the eastern states, and I’m really sorry, but you didn’t. This is another issue that I dealt with on the job, and I hate to do this to you, but we will address this at another time.
The point I am trying to get to in all of this rambling is that in the world of wildlife populations and conditions in the natural world most of us deal with a lot of unknowns. As sportsman we carry around a lot of conjecture and ideas that have been handed down from the past, most of them invalid. How many of you were told that copperheads crossed with black snakes?
Now here is the real rub. Wildlife agencies have to deal with this issue constantly. Ready? We as hunters and fisherman devoutly think we are experts about these things because (A) this is what we like to do, and (B) we have been doing it for a long time. To quote a lady outdoor writer from years ago, just because you have been using indoor plumbing all your life doesn’t make you a plumber.
Here in West Virginia we just went through another year of a low kill in the buck season. As soon as this happens, inevitably, all the proclamations of doom and gloom are issued. So in no certain order here are the theories that you may hear at the barber shop, gun store counter and water cooler as to a low deer kill.
- The coyotes are eating all the deer.
- The DNR oversold the doe tags and decreased the deer herd too much.
- The coyotes are eating all the deer.
To say that coyotes preying on deer is a complex problem is like saying that nuclear fission can be tricky. The coyote is a very adaptive, resilient predator that I hate to tell you, is here to stay. I am not very fond of coyotes myself but I am just saying we are going to have to deal with them. Many times when there is a problem we need to find a villain to put the blame on and the coyote is perfect for this.
The coyote is a predator; he does eat deer and something else, he is relatively a new kid on the block and we don’t seem to know much about him. Several studies have been done on what coyotes eat and more are on the way. The Pennsylvania Game Commission studied the effects of fawn deer predation in 2001 and found that about one half of the fawns born in the spring make it till the following fall. Predators were found to take about 22% of the fawns that did not survive, and these predators were coyotes, bobcats and bears. Most of us don’t think about bears eating fawn deer, but they do.
West Virginia DNR studied the contents of coyote scat in 2009-2011; they found that deer flesh made up the highest percentage of what coyotes ate but only from January to April, at other times it could be berries and seeds, whoa, we never would have thought that.
I think coyotes are hard on fawn deer and you can help with this by taking out some coyotes on a local level but you are never going to kill them all. The federal government has been trying to do that since about 1917.
One the doe tag issue, folks believe me when I tell you that I have argued with wildlife biologists sometimes about certain things. At some point however, you have to trust the professionals that work in our fish and game departments. Now please take note of this one, wildlife populations go up and down, and they don’t come to a high level where you want see them and stay there, try to remember that. There is another part of this equation I must tell you about and some of you are not going to want to hear it.
I fear we live in a time when many of our hunters are spoiled. If we don’t see 20 bouncing deer tails as we walk to our stand, we are disappointed. There are less and less of us that really hunt these days. One hunter told me about a buddy who took it upon himself to go walk some thickets while everyone else was sitting in stands complaining about “no deer”. You guessed it; all the others took deer that he had routed out of that cover. I am just saying that successful hunting sometimes means getting more than 100 yards from the truck.