Monday, November 20, 2006

'Tis the season of deer and quackers, beer and crackers

This time of year it’s sometimes tough for newspapers to find their usual sources.

There are some farmers still harvesting their crops; some ranchers are starting to move their livestock for winter pastures and feedlots. And yes, some may be travelling long distances to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends.

But there are two other factors really impacting the farm community: hunting season, and football season.

Let’s start with the latter.

These are the final days of the football season for college football teams. They are fighting for Bowl eligibility but also for bragging rights in some of the classic games between teams within states.

For example, the Apple Cup in Washington state was played last weekend; this Friday it’s the Civil War that allows Oregon’s Ducks and Beavers to clash.

For anyone who is not familiar with these teams, they are much meaner than their names might suggest. While the game is played in Corvallis, Ore., home to the Beavers, technically top billing should go the Ducks when it comes to comparing mascot anatomy. But the Beavers have shown they can really chew down on competition, winning some impressive games this season. For anyone who doesn’t give a dam about football, or I’m ruffling some feathers with bad puns, perhaps I should quit comparing the two teams.

The point is that a lot of farmers have been flocking to stadiums or huddling around television sets to catch these football games. Whether they are former graduates of the college, or their kids currently attend university at these places of higher learning, farmers enjoy the chance to watch the games.

As one farmer from eastern Oregon told me, when he suddenly was offered a couple tickets a week ago for the Civil War game he decided to drop everything later this week and head to Corvallis. He’s thrilled to just be there. Plus he hopes the Beavers stomp the Ducks.

Then there is hunting season. While a football game may keep farmers and other sources for our newspaper away for a day or two, hunting season is several weeks long. Pity the organization that even attempts to hold a conference or a meeting during this time period. Pity companies who are juggling their holiday schedules. There is a lot of pressure to let the hunters escape from fields and offices and put on camouflage and bright orange caps. Be the target birds or deer, there is a basic instinct for a lot of people to book time off and hunt.

Some states, such as Iowa, have asked hunters to donate their deer to food banks. This is an excellent suggestion. Hunters get a chance to do something they enjoy and feel good about being charitable. Food banks and those they serve are grateful for the extra food.

And hunting deer will ultimately help the deer population. For the last few years, the deer population has grown in various parts of the country, from a combination of reasons. There are less natural predators, less people hunting and some areas experienced milder winters than in the past. When there is too many deer, they compete more for food resources and sometimes face starvation or diseases spread too easily. They also wander more into populated areas and clash more with humans and cars.

One of the reasons there has been fewer hunters in some areas of the country is because of the concern regarding the introduction of avian flu to geese and the spread of chronic wasting disease in the wild deer population.

While hunters are encouraged in some areas to send the deer heads to laboratories for tests for CWD, there is an uneasiness as well as long delay before results come back. Farmers are encouraged to freeze the meet until they know if the meat is safe. In areas with confirmed cases of CWD in the past, it’s a lot tougher now to find people hunting deer to consume later.

For those of us that know the taste of deer sausage or jerky, hopefully the disease will be controlled better in the future and more people will again seek licenses to hunt.

On the first day of hunting season this year, my family was among those who did not hunt for the first time in decades because of the CWD concerns. There must have been some signal that went out among the deer population about this decision. That day alone we saw five mule deer and three white tailed deer.

As for birds, our skies and ponds have been filled with them. Our land lies just underneath one of the busiest migration paths for ducks, geese, sand cranes and even whooping cranes.

But these deer and quackers probably knew they were safe.

After all, many of the hunters were watching football and armed with the necessary supplies of beverages and snacks.

1 comment:

Gary L. West said...

Yep, it's definitely Duck hunting season here in Willamette Valley, University of Oregon Duck hunting that is.
Go Beavs!

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