The hunters are com­ing — and they brought money

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - Bob Bey­fuss Gar­den Tips Bob Bey­fuss lives and gar­dens in Schoharie County. Send him an e-mail to rlb14@cor­nell. edu.

This year, more than 500,000 New York res­i­dents will pur­chase deer­hunt­ing li­censes with the hope of har­vest­ing a white tail deer. While this num­ber seems im­pres­sive, it is sig­nif­i­cantly less than years past, when more than 700,000 li­censes were sold an­nu­ally.

Although ru­ral res­i­dents pur­chase the ma­jor­ity of li­censes, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber are bought in the NY City/Long Is­land Metro area. Many of th­ese peo­ple are whom I re­fer to as “week­end war­riors.” Th­ese are peo­ple who own a va­ca­tion home here and en­joy spend­ing time in our beau­ti­ful re­gion, gar­den­ing in the sum­mer and deer hunt­ing in the fall. Lo­cals some­times re­fer to them as the “in­vad­ing pump­kins” since their bright orange (blaze)-col­ored out­fits with lots of lay­ers of warm cloth­ing un­der­neath do con­vey an im­age of pretty round­shaped hu­mans. They are an ag­ing group of mostly white men, since the

av­er­age age of a li­censed hunter is now well over 45 and may even be over 50 years old. Like farmers, they are be­come fewer and older ev­ery year. They will spend a good amount of money lo­cally in stores, restau­rants and the few bars that re­main open.

While al­co­hol and guns are cer­tainly not a healthy com­bi­na­tion in gen­eral, it is re­mark­able just how safe hunt­ing is th­ese days. De­spite all th­ese heav­ily armed civil­ians traips­ing through the woods for sev­eral weeks each fall, only a to­tal of 23 hunt­ing “in­ci­dents” were re­ported in 2015 statewide, with no fa­tal­i­ties. On av­er­age, three or four peo­ple get killed in deer/car col­li­sions each year in New York. If is safer to hunt deer than to drive in ar­eas they fre­quent.

As I men­tioned last week, most car/deer col­li­sions oc­cur in Novem­ber, so please be ex­tra cau­tious this month. There are many peo­ple who op­pose hunt­ing for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, but the rea­son that it is dan­ger­ous in­vites the re­ply “com­pared to what?” The mere pres­ence of a firearm is enough to scare many peo­ple, but, sta­tis­ti­cally, most high school sports are far more likely to cause in­jury than shoot­ing sports, es­pe­cially foot­ball, gym­nas­tics and soc­cer. Even cheer­lead­ing is ac­tu­ally far more dan­ger­ous than hunt­ing.

Some would ar­gue that there is no “need” to hunt, be­cause food is read­ily avail­able in stores and costs far less than the to­tal cost of a hunt­ing ex­cur­sion. That is true, but peo­ple do lots of things they do not nec­es­sar­ily need to do, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons. No one “needs” to drive an $80,000 sports car, that will go 150 mph, but I re­spect their right to do so. I would hope that non-hunters re­spect the rights of those who choose to hunt as well.

Hunt­ing is re­ally the only re­al­is­tic way to man­age deer pop­u­la­tions, be­cause we have elim­i­nated all of the deer’s preda­tors, ex­cept the au­to­mo­bile. Deer left on their own will soon dev­as­tate their liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment as well as wreak­ing havoc on the land­scapes of those who share the same en­vi­ron­ment. Over­crowded deer herds de­velop dis­eases such as chronic wast­ing dis­ease, which causes a slow and

pro­longed death and may pos­si­bly be trans­mit­ted to hu­mans in a re­lated dis­ease. Forests may fail to re­gen­er­ate new forests, due to deer browse and im­por­tant plants, such as gin­seng, may be driven to ex­tir­pa­tion and even ex­tinc­tion in some lo­ca­tions.

Most gar­den­ers in our re­gion have ex­pe­ri­enced just how much dam­age deer can do. I have heard of hor­ror sto­ries where deer have gob­bled up more than $1,000 worth of spring flow­er­ing bulbs in a week or so. The an­nual land­scape dam­age to trees and shrubs runs into many mil­lions of dol­lars each year, and the 40,000 re­ported car/deer col­li­sions in New York cost many mil­lions more, as well as in­jur­ing hun­dreds of peo­ple.

So when you see the smil­ing “pump­kins” at your lo­cal din­ner, smile back at them. They are not do­ing you any harm and may be do­ing you and your gar­den a big fa­vor!

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