Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Corn Coons and Critters Caught on Camera

                  This week I will get all my deer feeders emptied.  They have served their purpose.  Putting out corn for deer goes hand in hand with the craze in game cameras, the automatic cameras you strap to a tree which photograph any thing that moves in front of it.

They fascinate me because they show you how many raccoons we have nowadays and on rare occasions show a roaming mountain lion or black bear. But mostly they show roaming gangs of masked bandits… corn stealers!

         When I was a boy, raccoons weren’t very plentiful.  Trapping and coon hunting was responsible for that but only because the pelts were worth good money back when money wasn’t so easy to come by.  Today, there isn’t much interest in coon pelts, fewer trappers than there has ever been, and coonhounds hard to find.  And those who think the raccoon is better off than ever because he is no longer subject to a trap or the sound of baying hounds across the hills on a chilly Ozark night… well those folks know little about distemper, and how it affects these little masked rascals who are so typical of timbered country where small streams meander.  Too many ‘coons brings on disease, distemper foremost amongst them.  Lots of raccoons are killed on the highway, but many more die of distemper and it takes a couple of days for them to die.



       I suspect that corn eaten by raccoons from my feeders will outweigh what deer and turkey put away in the fall.  But I tolerate it because there on my camera is an occasional buck deer with nice antlers, and a couple with antlers not so impressive.  If the biologists and rule makers just followed those cameras, and could see how often a small antlered deer stays a small-antlered deer, I think they might understand what foolishness their four-point regulation is for the northern two thirds of the state.   I think it is perhaps a short-lived regulation, as it doesn’t seem to promise the great increase in non-resident deer tag revenue they
once hoped for.  If you want to hunt places where the four-point rule isn’t in effect, just go hunt those six counties where they have found ‘mad deer’ disease right in the middle of north Missouri’s trophy country.

         In those counties they have eliminated that ‘trophy hunter’s rule”!  In a few years they will have to add many more counties as proof of the spread of the disease is gained.  In most Ozark counties, there is no such four-point rule, you can shoot any buck.  For hunters as old school as I am, trophies aren’t really a part of deer hunting.  The only buck I have ever hung on my wall is one with an average rack with one antler so mal-formed and crooked it fascinates me. I have antlers in the shed much bigger.  In fact, I see a couple of deer on my tree-hanging camera with bigger set of antlers.   

         One of the fattest and sleekest bucks has an eight-inch spike on one side and a forked antler on the other.  I think he is what I am after because he looks so healthy.  

             Here’s a photo of a nine pointer that was absolutely covered with ticks.

      With those game cameras, the trophy hunters have a big advantage now.   They can determine what an area’s bucks look like, and the times they pass through.  That’s not always regular, but often it is.  One of those bucks on my camera eats corn in the middle of the night and again at midday.  He will travel that same route; following does and tending his scrapes, for some time after the corn is gone.

         The idea of baiting should be legalized because it is done so often and today’s enforcement people only find it if someone tells them where to go.  And what the heck, it allows the taking of deer, of which they say we have too many, and the selling of more deer tags, of which they say they don’t have enough.  Most people who bait though, are hunting on landowner tags which don’t produce money for them.  I hunt legally, always, and so I won’t hunt over bait.  But it was there for quite awhile and the game camera tells me my stand is in a good place.  If I were indeed a trophy hunter and an illegal hunter, I could kill several bucks each fall and winter.  Problem is, I would rather hunt game birds and waterfowl, and fish during that deer-hunting period.  It just kills me when I am setting in a deer stand and a big flock of mallards come winging over at tree-top level heading for the creek, or when I hear wild geese high in the clouds.  Sometime the fall color reminds me of the days we spent in the sand hills of South Dakota hunting grouse and ducks.

         Truthfully, those pictures on the game camera are interesting enough for me, even if I wasn’t going to hunt.  I will hunt and kill two deer this year, for one reason… the venison it puts in the freezer!  There is nothing about a set of antlers that equals the rewards of a hundred pounds of venison in the freezer.  But if you are someone who would like to make some money, don’t hunt in Missouri.  Go hunt deer in Iowa or southern Canada where average-sized deer antlers make most of our ‘trophies’ look small.  Bring the antlers back, have a taxidermist who has a good cape in the freezer mount a head for you with those big, big antlers, and then tell everyone you killed the buck just south of Mt. Grove or west of Marshfield, or north of Eminence and some idiot will pay you enough money for it that you can finance another trip north next year.

         If you have never seen the bucks from the farm country of Manitoba, you need to take your game camera up there and get some photos.  If you are unscrupulous, you can show those photos around and tell them it from your Ozark farm and sell deer leases to those Kansas City and St.Louis hunters who will never know the difference.  But the easiest money is probably found in growing deer in a pen.  Little fawns born last spring, hand fed and raised half tame, can be sold in three years for tens of thousands to those folks who want a deer head over the fire place they killed in your back yard.  They will claim it was the result of a two-week trek into the wilderness.  Those kinds of people are the reasons I love hunting grouse and ducks.  The men who hunt them are a different breed of cat, and couldn’t care less about trophies.  On my wall there are pictures of great bird dogs I owned, on a point or Labradors retrieving a duck.  Now those photos are real trophies!


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