You don’t venture into our neck of the woods without an orange vest at this time of year. The regular deer hunting season is wrapping up but muzzle-loader week is about to start.
We aren’t exactly hunter’s paradise like the Muskoka region, for example. But we do have our fair share of hereditary hunters. They’ve grown up with it as part of their lifestyle and culture.
As we’re located just an hour south of Ottawa, we have a fair amount of residents who are neither familiar nor comfortable with the sport of hunting. Those who hunt are, for the most part, respectful of those who don’t wish to see hunting happening in their neighbourhood. They might hear it but they shouldn’t see it.
I find after the first few days of the hunt, if a party isn’t successful, they may become careless. I was taking a walk one morning a few Novembers past and I saw a man in orange backing up toward the road. He stood in the ditch and held his gun up to aim back into the field he had just left. I stopped just a few feet behind him.
“Do me a favour,” I asked, “and don’t shoot until I’m around the corner!”
You aren’t supposed to hunt anywhere near a roadway but this group probably had a dog chasing the deer out of the bush and they didn’t want the animal to make it to the road. I heard the gunshot just as I rounded the corner.
Most motorists would agree they would prefer not to see a deer near the road either. That’s one of the positive effects of hunting in our region: it limits the number of animals that end up in front of a moving vehicle, risking the lives of the driver and passengers, as well as the deer.
Hunting is a great way to ‘naturally’ control the deer population. The rules are there for a reason, however. It’s not cool to bait deer with corn or sweetfeed. You can feed them to help them last through the long, cold winter but you should not be luring them out into the open just so you can shoot them. A true hunter gives the animal a fighting chance. It’s as though the universe has to offer the animal up to the hunter or it just isn’t fair.
We have 200 acres of mixed forest, pasture and crops. In my 10 years here, I’ve only seen deer a few times. We’ve seen sign of them, when they leave their antler scratches on the trees or paw the soft earth on the tractor lane. But you really have to know what you’re looking for. I never would have found those marks on my own. These elusive animals are so good at hiding, it really is a miracle when one appears close enough to the hunter in his deer stand to actually be shot.
Venison is a nice, lean meat so it’s a very healthy menu choice. Our hunter/chef prepares his venison like a roast and we often serve it with red pepper jelly or mushroom gravy. He only shoots the animal that he thinks will make a good meal. If he shoots it, we eat it. There’s no trophy hunting here. The King of the Forest in his 10-point glory is safe from the Hunter and his gun.
Fergus and I are looking forward to the end of hunting season for a number of reasons. The Farmer has cut a trail through the woods for us, so we’re anxious to check it out on our daily walks. It isn’t safe to go out there at the moment, however, because we have hunters on all our neighbouring properties and our doe-coloured dog tends to spring and bound like a deer.
Fergus also finds the sound of gunshots a bit startling. He barks and demands to go outside, where he stands and stares in the direction of the shots, growling and harrumphing to himself. In deer season, it’s usually only one shot, however. That’s all you get so you had better know what you’re shooting at.
There is one thing Fergus loves about deer hunting season. When we’re finished our meal of venison, it doesn’t make a great leftover. The meat becomes a bit dry and tough.
If you wash off all the gravy and spices, however, and chop it into little pieces, it makes an excellent treat for a young golden retriever.
Troy Media columnist Diana Fisher is a freelance writer living on a 200-acre farm along the Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills, Ont.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of our publication.