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Woodland Trails: Fresh snow changes the world

The world has changed. It's because of the snow. Hidden are all the scars of the land and the messes that didn't get cleaned up before the snow came. The landscape and everything living in the woods are now visible.

Deer hunters look at snow with smiles on their faces because it gives them the advantage of improved vision. The woods without snow makes deer invisible but when snow falls, it's like the deer are wearing the blaze orange.

That was my hope when I looked out the window the day following the snowstorm. Getting dressed in blaze orange with muzzleloader by the door as the sky turned red, I was drawn to the window. Looking out, I saw a buck standing in a food plot 120 yards from the house. My first thought was to grab my gun but then I remembered. It was a buck and I was living in an earn-a-buck unit. I hadn't taken a doe so that buck was off limits to me.

I'm not a big supporter of the EAB program this year. The reason is that it's not a fair system. I moved last year and the new home I live in is obviously in an EAB unit. But it was after the deer season last year so I never really hunted this zone and no chance to EAB. I was unable to get out and hunt with my bow to take a doe this fall enough so I lost another chance to EAB. And what do I see for deer this year during the times I spent out in the woods this fall during the regular gun season? You guessed it, bucks!

The same scenario carried over to the muzzleloader season. No doe, more bucks, no shots taken! We thought we had the deer patterned. My son, Josh, had taken his EAB antlerless deer. He could shoot anything after that. But he had nothing to shoot at. The deer had changed their pattern and left after the farmer had harvested all of the corn and soybeans. Without a food supply the deer had moved on.

In years past, I have always taken doe as part of the hunt. We passed on the smaller bucks on the land we used to hunt and took many a doe to get the freezer filled. But this year the program was simply unfair. I took one in the chin and I'm not happy about it. If I didn't have to work I could have spent more time in the woods, but this year allowed me little time to hunt.

The problem stems from many reasons. One is there are still too many hunters out there who will not shoot doe, no matter what. That hurts the deer herd and guys like me and others who get stuck in my position in an EAB zone. Another problem is locked-up land. Leased and heavily posted land where hunting is not allowed has given the deer sanctuaries where their population has exploded. Where that happens, deer-car accidents abound and populations explode, causing farmers to lose crops and hunters to lose opportunities. The DNR is forced to create EAB zones.

The worst problem is that not all land in the EAB zone is created equal. There are some areas in these EAB zones where there are too many deer and some areas where only a few live. The DNR has to lump all of these properties together, and in this case some people lose hunting opportunities.

But the worst of all is that it's causing some hunters to give up hunting. I was talking to one guy who is fed up with the EAB program and all the other restraints he feels that the DNR is putting on hunters. He longed for the day when you had the choice of taking the deer you wanted and hunters were able to control the land they hunted. Now they are tied into all of the rules that have caused him and other hunters to give up hunting.

As a supporter of the DNR, I am seldom badmouthing DNR policy, but this year is different. The rules have taken away my choice and something from my hunt. Certainly it's not all about taking deer but it is nice to have some meat in the freezer. In this case there has to be a better way. Maybe a grace period of a year to allow a person to take a doe rather than take his choice of harvesting an animal away before he has a fair chance to earn a buck. That would be more fair for everyone involved.