The Great West Virginia Deer Cull

buck white antler

The second Thursday in November has just passed. In most of the country, thoughts will be about the big feast that comes exactly seven days later, but not in my part of the world.

This coming week does include American Thanksgiving. Big family meals will be held that day, and swarms of people will go charging out to shopping malls on Friday.

But in West Virginia, another holiday takes precedence: “buck gun season.”  This coming Monday, the woods be filled with more loud booms than the Fourth of July.  Organic protein and “horns” will be the prize, and a few more forest destroying cervids will be removed from the population before the coming winter turns them into twig chomping fiends.

When I was a child, all sort of people came into the rural districts, often people who had grown up in the area but had gone into the industrial parts of Ohio for work. Ohio’s deer season, “shotgun only,” came later in the year, but West Virginia’s came the week of Thanksgiving. If one wanted to visit the family for the holiday, why not come a few days early and drop a buck for the freezer?

It was such a big event that the school was out all week, not just Thursday and Friday. We received a truncated Christmas vacation, but school attendance during that week would have been terrible. So the district let us all out.

And the tradition continues. I don’t know of a single school district in West Virginia that stays open the week of Thanksgiving.

In fact, virtually every college or university in West Virginia has a week-long holiday this coming week. It is that big a deal.

And it’s not like the deer are massive trophies. The state has antler restrictions in only a few public hunting lands, and in most of the state, there will be many young bucks taken. Because the “antlerless” firearms season occurs at the same time, button bucks will be taken as well. When that many younger bucks are removed from the population, the number of mature deer with nice racks becomes much lower.

But this is a state that allows the hunter to take six deer a year.  If you have a family who owns land and have two hunters who have resident rights to it, you’re talking potentially twelve deer killed a year, which could feed a family of four fairly well.

I come from a family of deer hunters, but they were not venison eaters. When I was a kid, every deer that got shot was given to a relative or someone who couldn’t hunt. My grandpa, who loved to hunt everything and would have us eat cooked squirrel brains, wouldn’t even field dress a deer. That was my dad’s job, and for whatever reason, if my dad or my grandpa even smelled venison cooking, it would make their stomachs weak.

I never had this problem, and in the last few years, I’ve learned how to cook venison properly. I much prefer the meat to beef, especially when we’re talking leaving certain steak cuts rare.  These deer have been living well on acorns, and their flesh has that oaky, rich taste, which some call gamey. I call it delicious.

I’ll be in the woods early Monday morning. I don’t know if I’ll get anything.  The odds are usually against my killing anything that first week.  I don’t have access to the best deer bedding grounds, and the hunting pressure means they won’t be moving into the area where I hunt.

My favorite time to go is Thursday evening, when more than half the local hunters are at home watching football games and digesting turkey. I would rather go through waterboarding than watch a football game, so it’s not big loss for me.

I am a naturalist hunter on the quest for meat. My ancestors in Germany, the Netherlands, and Great Britain hunted the red deer and the roe thousands of years. They got their meat from the forest.

I am doing the same.

And if you really wanted to know what I think of deer, I’d have to say that I love them. They are fascinating animals.  This particular species has been roaming North America virtually unchanged for 3 million years. This animal watched the mammoths rise and fall. It was coursed by Armbruster’s wolf and the American cheetahs.  It saw the elk come down from Beringia– and the bison too. It ran the back country with primitive horses and several species of pronghorn. It quivered and blew out at jaguars and American lions that stalked in the bush, and it dodged the Clovis points of the Siberian hunters who first colonized this land.

The white-tailed deer thrives so well, but this coming week is the beginning of the great cull. Fewer deer mean less pressure on the limited winter forage, which means healthier deer in the early spring. Better winter and spring condition means that does have had a chance to carry fawns to term, and mature does usually have twins if the conditions are good.  Healthier bucks get a better chance to grow nice antlers for the coming year.

A public resource is being managed. Organic meat raised without hormones or antibiotics is easily procured, and stories and yarns are being compiled for exposition that rivals any trophy mount on the wall.

I know deer stories, including ones about the people I barely knew and are no longer with us.

For example:

My Grandpa Westfall once went on a deer drive for my great grandpa, who was getting older.  He valued his clean shot placement, as many of those old time hunters did, and he would not shoot a deer on the run.

But as he grew older, deer hunting became harder for him, so my grandpa decided to jump one out to him.

My grandpa went rustling through the brush to drive one into my great grandpa’s ran, and he happened to bump a nice little buck and a few does that went running in his direction.

Expecting to hear rifle shots, my grandpa was a bit surprised to hear nothing. So when he approached the deer stand, he saw my great grandpa sitting there.

“Did you see those deer?”

“What deer?”

“I ran three out to you. A buck and two does. Why didn’t you shoot?”

“I didn’t see or hear any deer.”

“Well, you should have at least heard them.”

“Well, if there were that many deer coming my way, they must’ve had their sneakers on.”

He didn’t want to tell my grandpa that he appreciated the effort, but that deer drives were against his ethics. He shot deer cleanly, or he didn’t shoot them at all.

These old men will be with me when I’m out on Monday.  I go in their memory, participating in the Great West Virginia Deer Cull.

 

 

 

 


Natural History

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Moving Inspiration: Closing Day!

1. Oracle Fox  |  2. Found on Pinterest |  3. Found on Pinterest  |  4. Then Let It Be  |  5. Apartment Therapy   |  6. Urban Outfitters  |  7. Found on Pinterest  |   8. The Bungalow  |  9. Room Decorating Ideas   

Holy crap, I thought this day would never come.

Remember when I started the Moving Inspiration series, when we were officially starting our house hunting journey, TWO YEARS AGO? Those of you who are regular readers know that every time we seriously began looking, road blocks in our personal lives (heavy stuff like pregnancies, births, illnesses, and sadly, deaths) created pauses. We also admittedly had a very difficult time finding something in the area where we’ve been living (and love) that was in our budget and didn’t need excessive amounts of work we realistically couldn’t commit to doing. Finally, back in October, we put an offer in on short sale home that we loved. And then, a couple of weeks later, the sellers backed out. We were so disappointed. It ended up being a major blessing in disguise though, because at the end of the November, the cutest little house (in our neighborhood!) popped up, and in two days, we were under contract. There were other offers too (it was on the market for less than 48 hours), so we are very, very grateful.

And today, we close on this house. I could cry typing this out. I can’t wait to share the space and our projects with you. It’s a much different style in terms of decor than our style, and we don’t have much of a budget to redo it, but I know that over time, it’s going to be so great.

Most of this series has consisted of posts where I focus on one room at a time (living room, dining room, bedroom, etc.). In the last few posts, I’ve been less specific and just shared general interior images that I love. I’m doing that again today too, in celebration of closing on our new home. Right now everything is about paperwork and packing and giving away money, so it helps to look at these and remember the fun parts of home buying. I can’t wait to share our new space with you all.

I also wanted to let you all know that while the blog will remain active, it will be little quieter than normal over the next week while we get everything moved and attempt to get semi-settled before Robbie takes back off on tour for the band’s busiest period of the year in a few days. I’m sure I’ll be oversharing the process in my Instagram Stories, so come hang out with me over there on days the blog is quiet. By mid month everything will be back to normal. I have so much great content I can’t wait to share with you all. Once again, happy new year!

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Domestication goes on

In my lifetime, I’ve seen African pygmy hedgehogs for sale as exotic pets.

I now see them bred in fancy color varieties.

We’ve bred so many interesting and often strange forms of domestic animals, but now we’re breeding hedgehogs like we do rats or sheep.

As a North American, hedgehogs are as exotic to me as kangaroos.

But people keep them as pets.

I don’t mind it at all.

Domestication goes on.  Maybe we’ll have new varieties of fennec foxes.

Or kinkajous.

Our fascination with nature pushes us into these directions. Our love for novelty and oddity takes us down many rabbit holes.

But domestication requires refining the oddity, distilling it into a strain.

And that’s where this all ends up.

 

 


Natural History

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