My morning workouts typically involve runs and walks as the sun comes up, and are often in areas where I stand the chance of seeing wildlife. Over the last couple of weeks, the trails have become cluttered with the earliest of the falling leaves, and whatever mast happens to be nearby. Avoiding an ankle injury becomes a bit of a game this time of year as dodging hickory nuts, acorns, and the occasional buckeye keeps me focused on my feet a little more than I prefer. Despite the visual signs of autumn, temperatures have been in the low 90s during the day, and only cooling off to the mid-60s at night. It certainly hasn’t felt like fall, and I think the deer agree because sightings have been few and far between.
I was particularly excited for my morning hike today because a much-needed cold front made its way across the Midwest over the last 24 hours, and I knew I’d be waking up to temperatures in the low 50s for the first time in a long time. I typically do a four-mile hike on Thursday mornings at a nearby Metro Park that holds a lot of deer, so I was excited for what the colder air might bring. I was also joined by my wife and son, so I wasn’t as concerned about the pace as I typically would be, and instead could scan our surroundings in more detail. The excitement started early as two hen turkeys crossed our path, but were lazy enough to allow for a few quick cell phone photos.
Finally, almost three miles in, I looked to my left and spotted a handsome three-year-old buck standing at attention, surely hoping we would walk by without noticing. Despite being about 75 yards away, I could see the glint of the morning sun reflecting off of his wet nose and focused eyes. His rack wasn’t one that would take your breath away, but it was attention-getting. Of course, I couldn’t help by try to get closer, and by the time I closed the distance by about half, he decided he’d had enough and bounded into cover. The encounter lasted for just a few moments, but it was enough to awaken my senses and draw on the type of adrenaline that I hadn’t felt since last hunting season. We would also encounter a yearling buck toward the end of the trail, putting a cherry on top of what was already a great morning.
One of the tough things about overseeing the National Deer Alliance (NDA) is the need to be aware of and report the deer news on a regular basis, with much of it not being terribly positive when you consider the number of issues related to diseases, poaching incidents, and environmental impacts, just to name a few. This year has been particularly challenging with the continued spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) and widespread epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). It sometimes makes it easy to forget why we love deer and deer hunting so much, and why we’re fighting so hard to protect it. It’s amazing how just one deer sighting can remind us of why it is we care so deeply.
The mission of NDA is to serve as the guardian of wild deer conservation, and our hunting heritage. While it’s important to keep people informed about the bad news, I think we’re guilty of not talking enough about the good news, and our hunting heritage. Without the “why,” the rest really doesn’t matter. With that in mind, I would like to better celebrate our hunting heritage in the coming months, and I’d like your help.
Maybe you have a unique story or fond memory that you’d like to share, or a favorite hunting photo or video clip. If you do, please send them to us at [email protected] and we’ll share as many as we can through the end of the year. We’re not just looking for “grip and grin” photos either. Maybe it’s a photo of an old wooden stand that your grandfather built, the frost on the toes of your boots, or the smile of a son or daughter on their first hunt. If it’s something that makes you feel strongly about your hunting heritage and why it’s important to you, we want to see it or hear about it.
I don’t know how many thousands of deer I’ve seen over the years, but I still can’t pass by one without stopping to observe it. My wife has become an expert at spotting deer along the road when we’re traveling because she’s had enough of my looking to the left and right more than forward while driving. Eventually my son will be old enough to do the same and we’ll double our coverage area. As hunting seasons open in several more states across the country this weekend, I’m hopeful you have that type of encounter, and it helps remind you of why you care about deer, and our hunting heritage. I wish you all the best of luck for a safe and memorable hunting season, the type of season that keeps you coming back for more.