Over the last several months, I have had quite a few very sincere conversations with local farmers about the number of deer we have and the amount of damage they are doing to our crops.
Each conversation started out with them asking me the same exact question: “What in the hell can we do about all these deer?”
I gave each and every one of them the same response. They need to start by cussing out Charles Ruth and anyone else that works with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that pushed the narrative that our deer herd was down and the coyotes were killing all the fawns. Next you need to move over to every still hunter claiming to be a “trophy hunter” and cuss them out as well.
Here is the real truth to you readers out there: The deer herd in our area was never down, and coyotes are not killing all the fawns. Adverse weather conditions in the form of tropical storms, floods and hurricanes had deer patterns and movements all out of whack, but the deer were here.
I can say this because speaking as someone who hunts deer with dogs, we were slaying the deer when still hunters weren’t seeing deer. In short, deer may not have been coming out willingly to a corn pile in front of a still hunter, but we were seeing huge numbers of deer during our dog drives.
To my point about the trophy hunter, I don’t know any true trophy hunter in our area. They call themselves trophy hunters only because they pass up smaller bucks and supposedly harvest what they refer to as a “shooter buck.”
To be a true trophy hunter, you have to be willing to take out a certain number of does on a property. If a hunter is unwilling to manage a deer herd by killing a prescribed number of does, then he/she is not a true trophy hunter.
Unfortunately, some of these hunters don’t even apply for a single doe tag. The comical thing is, a lot of these guys have been trophy hunting and managing their property for 20-plus years, passing up dozens of bucks each season. And the bucks they actually do kill aren’t even impressive. I shot every deer I could possibly shoot before the tag system was implemented, and I killed bigger bucks than them.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of people I know with large tracts of land tied up with hunting leases who get massive numbers of doe tags and only kill two or three does annually -- and in some cases, zero does. It’s like they get a thrill out of riding around with a big yellow envelope on the dash of their truck with 75 doe tags in it just so they can brag about the number of doe tags they have.
Then when Jan. 2 comes and it’s time to turn in their doe quota report, they lie on the form and tell DNR they used all 75 tags.
If any of you have read some of my previous writings, you may have gleaned that I am a farmer, and from that standpoint, I have grown to hate a deer! I actually have no mercy on them when I have a weapon in my hands, summer or winter. Hunters not killing deer forces me and every other farmer to apply for a permit to shoot deer in the summer months.
With this permit, we have to lose sleep, riding around several times a night to defend our crops from all these freaking deer -- deer that supposedly didn’t exist if you fell for the preachings of DNR two or three years ago.
I have spent many hours and thousands of dollars putting up special fencing and spraying different products to keep deer away, none of which worked as advertised.
Here is the cycle from my life as a farmer and a hound lover: A still hunter in my area passes up a dozen does every time he sits in a deer stand. He hopes these large groups of does will hang around until October and lure in a big “Wallhanger Buck” during the rut. But he never really sees a such a buck because all the does and yearlings he has been passing on have gobbled up all the acorns and other essential nutrients that a buck needs to develop a quality rack. November rolls around and he hasn’t seen anything decent to shoot, so he hangs his rifle up for the year without even killing a single deer.
Now December is upon us, and me and three of my buddies are making some small deer drives on my property, occasionally turning out one or two dogs. This same still hunter notices us hunting and drives his truck right up on us, on my property, and asks, “What in the hell are y’all doing?”
We politely explain what we are doing and he freaks out, shouting that he has a deer stand on the next property and we are spooking HIS deer off. I firmly tell him if they are HIS deer, please keep them on HIS property when my cotton comes up during the month of May.
We now fast forward to the month of June. I have a permit in hand to legally shoot deer on my property that are wreaking havoc on my crops (does only, no bucks). I run into this same still hunter one night because he sees lights shining in my field. He finds out what I’m doing and starts calling game wardens and complaining to anyone else at DNR who is willing to listen to his complaints about how wrong these permits are.
To summarize, there are more deer in the areas I farm and hunt than ever. I get no joy out of shooting a deer out of season with a rifle, and I actually don’t even care about shooting one during the season with a rifle, but I am so glad that DNR is still allowing us the opportunity to get these permits. A lot of people complain about it, but most of the ones complaining are the ones who created the problem.
Although I do still enjoy running deer with dogs in the cooler months, when it comes to farming, deer are no more than a pest to me. They are more of a problem than any insect or pigweed could ever be. Y’all please get some doe tags this season and actually use them! If you want to kill a real trophy buck, book yourself a hunt in Kansas or Iowa. You are living in the wrong state to raise and kill a true trophy buck.