Once again it is the beginning of hunting season in my locale.
I am not morally opposed to hunting. After all, my grandfather, father, and brothers all hunted. My husband was rated an expert in the Marine Corps, and I'm not afraid of guns. If the hunters actually eat what they have hunted, I don't really have a problem with the whole hunting thing.
But every year at this time of year, and then again in the springtime for spring turkey season, we deal with trespassers, poachers, and hunters that feel entitled to stomp around my farm. Since we have crops that the deer believe are part of an exotic salad bar installed just for their dining pleasure, I was not opposed to having help keeping those cute long-legged rats out of our crops. They can and did practically wipe out the 800 young strawberries we planted. I think they especially loved the olive grove for the European flavors it introduced them to. And they decimated our young vineyard in no time flat! You could practically see their high-brow attitudes as they sauntered away from the upscale grazing those French wine grapes gave them. I could almost feel them raising their noses and sniffing at me, as if to say, "We LOVE these grapes, but next time, please put more of the syrrahs in, as they are especially nice!" I was incensed! I started keeping my shotgun by the door in order to grab it and shoot toward them in my vineyard. I was not aiming at the deer, but just in the general direction to scare them out of the vineyard. Very quickly, though, they became immune to the noise I was making. So I started aiming. Not at them, but VERY close to them. Close enough that dirt would spray up at them from the shots hitting the ground close in front of them. That seemed to work for a while. And then one day my husband watched me grab my shotgun and shoot pretty dang close to a deer, saw it jump and run. He asked what I was going to do when I hit one of the deer one day.
Now you must realize that our county allows a three doe-a-day bag limit in deer season, so you can imagine how many deer we have out here. Also, they allow farmers with crops to shoot deer that are ruining their crops.
Knowing these things, I said that if I accidentally shot one that I guess he would go and get it and we'd have it butchered. "Not so fast," he said. "Whoever shoots the deer has to clean the deer, that's the rule." I have only seen pictures or read instructions on cleaning game in the field. I have never felt the need to hunt and so was relieved that I would never have to field-dress game. But this presented a dilemma: what if I was either an incredibly good shot and got one or an incredibly bad shot and accidentally got one? I would have to do that gross field dressing. My solution was to let the dog out to chase the deer out of the field.
In years past we had allowed people to hunt on our farm for deer and turkey. It invariably turned out badly, because they would stretch that permission for THEM to hunt as permission to bring half of their fraternity/corporation/subdivision with them, and then we would have a lot of strangers out there stomping around with guns. We have had strangers pull up the driveway and ask if they can hunt, and when we answer no, they demand to know what WE are doing with all of this land!
I have had men pull into the driveway and ask to talk to the owner about hunting, and when I reply that he WAS talking to the owner, actually say to me "I want the man owner." I was floored, and explained that too bad, he was stuck talking to me!
I have had people tell me, once they asked and I declined permission, that I couldn't tell them what to do and they could just shoot deer from the road! I agreed that I guessed they could, but since it was against the law, the game warden wouldn't like it too much.
The game warden, the sheriff and I have had many conversations over the years. Penalties for trespassing and poaching are stiff, so I don't see why people don't stay where they have permission.
We have had a few reasonable hunters over the years, though. They police their brass, they don't bring every friend they ever knew since kindergarten, they make sure we know where they are going to be, and they follow safe hunting rules. They even engaged in conversation with us, which was a far cry from some of the ones we've had out here, who were surly or even ignored us! And the reasonable ones always gave us a piece of the venison they bagged on our farm.
The only one who hunts on our land now is a retired game warden who has my permission to ticket anyone else he comes across out in our woods. And I can now relate to Ben Cartwright on Bonanza telling Little Jo and Hoss to "check that fence on the back forty!" for holes where poachers could get in.
With tomorrow being opening day of deer season, we'll see how many times we'll have to say "NO" over the next seven weeks and how many times I will have to call the game warden.
But all my grousing about trespassers and poachers doesn't take care of this problem with the deer eating everything we plant. We have put in electric fences and watched them soar gracefully over it. We have added blobs of peanut butter to the electric fence to attract and then zap them (they don't care about the zapping, and they still got that peanut butter. I was hoping some of them would be allergic to the peanuts and their heads would swell up). One old timer said deer hate human hair and he used hair around his garden, so I went to many hair salons in town asking for all their cut hair and surrounded the whole field: it didn't work. A hunter suggested buying some wild animal urine from a hunter supply outfit, like mountain lion or bear urine, but I couldn't bring myself to actually get mail-order urine. We have put wind chimes in the fields to scare them to no avail. Scarecrows do nothing. Little mirrors reflecting the sunlight do less than nothing except make my dogs bark like mad because they think someone is up in the field. I have planted marigolds that old timers swear keeps them out: our deer just step right over them and walk on.
I am beginning to think that the only sure way to keep them out is a 10-foot tall fence with concertina wire on the top! I have a feeling that it might keep out the trespassers on two legs, but those four-legged ones with a cousin named Bambi will just continue to sneer as they eat the special salad bars that they think we have installed just for them, and request a better selection for next year.