On Friday morning, Nov. 18, I nearly choked on my breakfast cereal when I opened the Kennebec Journal and saw, spread all across the top of the op-ed page, a diatribe against deer hunters by Paula Moore of PETA, the radical national animal rights organization.
My highly anticipated deer hunt that morning was nearly spoiled as I read Moore’s opinion that “increased deer activity associated with hunting is a major factor in the rise in deer-collisions in the last three months of the year.” Her column was riddled with incorrect information, myths and lies, and three hours later, sitting in my tree stand, I was still steaming while thinking about a response. Here it is.
It must be nice to live in a pretend world where nature is at peace. In reality, it’s eat or be eaten out there. Ms. Moore, whose organization insists that coyotes eat only the weak and sick deer, should spend some time looking at the photos of huge bucks and pregnant does killed by coyotes that pop up on a regular basis in my email. And perhaps visualize a struggling deer being eaten alive by a pack of coyotes. That’s how it goes down in the real world.
Her charge that hunters cause car-deer collisions ignores all of the facts, including these. Eighty percent of the collisions occur when it is dark. We don’t hunt in the dark. More collisions occur on Sundays than Saturdays. We don’t hunt on Sundays. Many collisions occur in urban neighborhoods. We can’t hunt there.
Collisions peak in the last three months of the year because that’s the deer mating season, and because deer normally begin moving after dusk, which comes earlier in the day in the fall and winter. Those are the facts. Perhaps Moore’s most bald-faced lie –and that’s what it is because she certainly knows the truth — is that “sterilization programs may provide an effective, long-term solution to controlling deer populations.”
One of the most expensive and extensive deer sterilization programs, by the New Jersey League of Municipalities, was dropped because of failure, after they’d wasted a stunning $5 million. The contraceptive cost $1,000 per doe and did not work. Good luck, Ms. Moore, in blaming hunters for that fiasco.
She also managed to insult Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife by claiming that, “They destroy the deer’s homes by clear-cutting to increase the amount of vegetation for the deer to eat,” somehow interpreting this as another reason for increases in the population of deer. Doesn’t make any sense, at any level.
Moore did provide one nugget of great information for those who are worried about running into a deer. “Drivers should also slow down and watch the road carefully,” she wrote.
She could have done more for you by writing a column about the devastating illness called Lyme disease, caused by deer ticks and most prevalent in areas of the state where deer populations are high because of lack of hunting. Lyme disease is no myth. It’s a terrible reality for too many Mainers.
Fortunately, it didn’t take long to put Ms. Moore’s foolishness aside. Being in the woods during November’s deer season cures a lot of problems, mental and physical.
The privilege of hunting with my 88-year-old dad is reason enough to be out there. This year we figured out that we’ve been deer hunting together for 50 years. What a great heritage!
Climbing up the limbs of a huge hemlock on my woodlot, where 15 feet off the ground the limbs are configured just right for me to sit comfortably, and enjoying the 360 degree lookout over my woodlot, managed for deer and other wild critters at significant expense, hearing the ducks zooming overhead toward the nearby stream, protected by the townspeople and private landowners as critical wildlife habitat, I wonder if these PETA people spend any money actually helping wildlife.
I haven’t seen PETA’s name on any conservation donor lists in Maine. I haven’t read anything about them buying conservation easements or participating in our important Land for Maine’s Future Program. I don’t think they’ve even given any grants to Maine’s hard-working wildlife rehabilitators, as our Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund does on a regular basis.
Finally, a week after her column appeared, sitting in a nice stand of snow-covered pine that borders my bog, I finally put PETA and Ms. Moore out of my mind, satisfied in my pride as a Maine conservationist — and hunter.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.