By Clint Ferguson
For The Register-Herald
I’ve been asked, “Why do you get up at 5 something in the morning to go out and sit in a tree all day?” My answer is, the anticipation of not knowing what I’m going to see or what’s going to happen every time I walk into the woods.
That rustling noise in the leaves might be a big buck coming, a flock of turkeys scratching or maybe a red fox. But more often times than not, it’s a darn chipmunk or squirrel. Not that I don’t like them, but they can be annoying when trying to deer hunt. Especially when they bust you and bark and chirp to let everything in the woods know exactly where you are.
I have always had a fascination with wildlife, even chipmunks and squirrels. I can still remember the excitement of simply cruising around on back roads, or driving through a state park, looking for wildlife as a young pup. Hunting gives me the opportunity to observe these animals going about their daily business at sometimes a close range, especially bow hunting.
Killing is definitely not the main reason I go. I just love the woods here in West Virginia and like being outside. I go hunting more for the whole outdoor experience. The sounds, the smells, the beautiful sunrises and sunsets are a few reasons why I go every chance I get. There is no better way to start a new day than being in the woods at first light.
Sure, when I was younger the killing part was more important than it is now. I would get bored and frustrated if I didn’t see anything. I wanted to get “my buck” every time I went out. Over the years, as I’ve learned new things and patience, my attitude has changed. If I get “my buck” that year, great. If not, there’s always next year. As each year passes and I get a year older, I have more and more respect for nature and all of the living things out there.
Hunting gives me a chance to get away from it all and not worry about what time it is. Time seems to slow down and the fading light lets me know it’s time to climb down, instead of my watch. (Well, I still look at my watch to know what time it will be getting dark, but y’all know what I mean.) If it wasn’t getting dark, I would still be sitting there. It gives me plenty of time to think, especially while sitting in a tree stand all day. Boy, the things that run through my mind. I’ll leave it at that.
And just because you go hunting it doesn’t mean you have to kill something every time. When I first started deer hunting, if it had horns, I was going to shoot. Now, it doesn’t bother me one bit to let a 4-point walk on by with no intention of shooting. I know some people still like to kill whatever legal-size buck that comes by, and they have every right to as long as they obey the law. For me, I get more enjoyment thinking about how big that 4-point might be next year if he makes it.
I still harvest my share of does when the time is right. And the time is right usually when I’m out of deer meat and have time to fool with one. Doe killing in West Virginia has different views from different hunters. Some of the older generations were brought up believing that killing does would hurt the population. By killing one doe you’re killing possibly three deer, assuming she’ll have fawns, I’ve heard before. That might have been the case back then, when there weren’t that many deer to hunt.
Nowadays the deer population is thriving and in many places there are too many deer. Harvesting adequate numbers of does helps to lower the populations to normal levels, or carrying capacity of the habitat, as you’ve heard before, I’m sure. The point is, there is nothing wrong with taking a doe, and more hunters are starting to realize this. It is the DNR’s job to determine how many does should be harvested in different areas and make changes to the regulations if need be, like they’ve done over the years. Some will agree and some will disagree.
If I go out and only see one deer, it is a successful day for me. There is more to hunting than most people know who don’t choose to hunt. Hunting can not only give you memories for a lifetime, but it’s the key for wildlife management. I’m glad I live in a place where I have the freedom and opportunity to do so.
This, my friends, is why I like to go hunting.