OUTDOOR WORLD COLUMN BY DON MACLEAN
Every fall I feel the same excitement as hunting season approaches. While I enjoy hunting small game as well as waterfowl the highlight of the hunting year is the annual deer season. I think part of the appeal is the little rituals which accompany preparations for the yearly hunt. Trips to the range to sight in my rifles, purchasing a deer licence, along with trips to check on tree stands, they are all welcome breaks in a busy lifestyle.
Like many hunters I keep all the racks from deer I have been fortunate to harvest over the years. They hang proudly from the walls of my garage and, while none will ever make the record book, they certainly rank high in my personal book of hunting memories.
If everything goes according to plan this deer season will find me hot on the trail of a big buck in the woods near where I live. I won’t be alone as whitetail deer are the most popular big game species in Nova Scotia. Eastern Canada is at the northern range for whitetails and their numbers are controlled to a significant degree by both weather and the amount and quality of habitat and food.
A series of hard winters several years ago, combined with heavy snow, reduced deer numbers in the province. When numbers drop, other factors, such as predation by coyotes, black bears and domestic dogs along with illegal hunting, begin to play a major role. Big game managers responded by altering seasons and reducing the number of antlerless deer permits available to hunters. These measures, combined with mild winters the last few years, has helped rebuild herds in most areas. In 2011 biologists in Nova Scotia estimate that the herd was now up to 50,000 animals.
The harvest statistics from last season show that 9,000 deer were harvested in 2012.The breakdown by sex was 6,000 bucks and 3,000 does. Pictou County fared fairly well, reporting a harvest of 619 deer. This compares with a low of 25 deer in Victoria County to a high of 1,500 in Lunenburg.
While living at the northern edge of the range may result in year-to-year variation in population numbers one benefit is that deer size increases and large bucks are harvested every year. Big buck contests in Nova Scotia routinely weigh in deer in the 250 pound range. Nova Scotia offers access to bucks without the requirements of a draw for either resident, or non-resident hunters. Access to does is limited to resident hunters who must apply through a yearly licence lottery. Nova Scotia provides hunters with long seasons. While the firearm season for deer opened yesterday, Oct. 25, the archery season opened Sept. 9.
If you are successful this season you will come home with some great meals for your family. If you can, consider sharing it with others through the Feed Nova Scotia program where hunters donate deer or moose meat to help those less fortunate. The 2013 hunting regulations has a list of approved meat-processing facilities which will be happy to accept your donation.
I hope you have a safe and successful hunting season this fall.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.