Here are some curious facts. One: more white-tailed deer live in the United States today than at any other time in history. Two: fewer hunters are going after them than did even 20 years ago. And yet, three: deer hunting now rivals military combat in its technological sophistication. Outfitters’ shelves are crammed with advanced electronics, weaponry, chemicals, and camouflage, all designed to eliminate every last shred of chance from the pursuit. The average American hunter now spends nearly $2,500 a year on the sport, despite the fact that finding a deer to kill has literally never been easier.
Killing a deer 100 years ago would have been quite difficult. Across much of the whitetail’s natural range—more or less everything east of the Rockies—intensive small-scale farming had eliminated huge swaths of habitat. Deer were so scarce that some communities imported them to keep hunting a viable pursuit. But as America industrialized, millions of farms disappeared and were replaced by a patchwork of leafy suburbs and secondary-growth forests.
It continues. Yes, there's great joy and expense entailed in the annual deer woods migration. But fewer engage in it, even if they're spending more. For one thing, access to hunting grounds is growing more difficult and expensive, along with cultural changes in leisure pursuits.
But the mega-sporting goods stores proliferate with a wonderland of stuff to go after deer.
The chemical-weapons aisle alone boasts such products as Dead Down Wind ScentPrevent e3 Field Spray (“Prevents human odors from forming”), Team Fitzgerald Deer Dander Attractant (“Makes you smell like the deer you pursue”), and Wildlife Research Center Special Golden Estrus—that’s bottled urine, “taken right from does brought into heat early through the use of hormones and lighting conditions.”
Fire away. But if you bring me any venison sausage, be sure to add a lot of pork fat and red pepper.
And, this request. Surely there's one Arkansas Blog reader in the deer woods with a cell phone this morning who can send me a representative photo. I think the first photo I took as a paid newspaper person might have been a dead animal splayed on the back of a pickup that was driven up to the office of the Buena Vista (Va.) News where I was employed for $1.30 an hour as sports editor. Time for me to bring that professional bread-and-butter journalism into the digital age before it's too late.
UPDATE: Corey Williams comes through with a photo that he labels "the true meaning of deer hunting."
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