Vineyard deer season held few surprises
The 2006 Vineyard deer-hunting season that ended on Dec. 30 was notable for unseasonably warm weather and the addition of one additional week of shotgun hunting. Although an exact count will not be available for a few months, unofficially, hunters took 543 deer, slightly fewer than the number of deer shot last year based on local check station counts.
I can also report that no Vineyard hunter ran over and ate a seven-legged transgendered deer. Our Island may not be as "special" as some people and editorialists think it is.
I know that some people eat seven-legged deer because I came across the following wire service headline on the Fox News website: "Wisconsin Man Runs Over, Eats Seven-Legged Transgendered Deer."
The Wisconsin deer hunter in question had obviously made an Associated Press reporter's day. The story published on Thursday, Dec. 14, from Fond Du Lac, Wisc., began, "Rick Lisko hunts deer with a bow, but got his most unusual one driving his truck down his mile-long driveway."
According to the story, the young buck had nub antlers, seven legs and both male and female reproductive organs. Mr. Lisko, showing a knack for understatement, told the reporter, "It was definitely a freak of nature. I guess it's a real rarity."
The story reported that Warden Doug Bilgo of the state Department of Natural Resources went to Lisko's property near Mud Lake in the town of Osceola to tag the deer. He was also quoted.
"I have never seen anything like that in all the years that I've been working as a game warden and being a hunter myself," Bilgo said. "It wasn't anything grotesque or ugly or anything. It was just unusual that it would have those little appendages growing out like that."
To Mr. Lisko's credit he did not appear on Dr. Phil or any of the morning news shows or place the animal on Ebay. Not one to waste a deer, the practical Mr. Lisko ate it and declared it "tasty."
The Vineyard deer hunting season ended in rain and a volley of shots as hunters discharged their black powder weapons one half hour after an unseen sunset on the last Saturday of 2006.
The 2006 primitive weapon season accounted for fewer deer than in 2005. Walter Ashley, who checks in deer at his repair shop, C&W Power Equipment off Barnes Road, said that the overall number for all check stations including the Wampanoag Tribe was 62 compared with 86 in 2005.
I think there were probably several factors behind the drop. The addition of an extra week of shotgun season may have affected the motivation and available free time of some hunters to go hunting.
I know of several good hunters who did not have productive seasons. My friend Cooper Gilkes, an experienced hunter, thinks there are fewer deer on the Island than the state and some people think and in the future it will be tougher to find deer. Only time will tell if he is right.
Hunters, like fishermen, can provide many theories for a lack of individual success. This year as in years past some hunters did well and others did not. Weather, game movement, food supplies, non-hunting activity and good old-fashioned luck all played a role.
I place little stock in the notion that the second week of shotgun hunting was detrimental to primitive weapons hunting because the deer did not have a chance to settle down. Any hunter with access to private property was free to pass on the second week so the deer could settle down, but I suspect those who had the opportunity to go hunting took it.
In fact, the unseasonably warm temperatures we experienced the first week of shotgun season made for poor hunting because the deer stayed put. Having a second week provided additional hunting opportunities under better weather conditions.
It is worth pointing out that the official deer numbers are probably not an accurate reflection of the actual number of deer shot. There are hunters who shoot a deer and do not bring the animal to a check station.
It can be time-consuming and problematic to check a deer when a hunter has to hang a deer at night and then take the time in the morning to reload the deer into a vehicle and go to a check station. Warm weather and the chance the meat will spoil is another factor. I think the state would get a more accurate count if it adopted a call-in system.
Last week, I spoke with Environmental Police Sgt. Pat Grady. He told me that, aside from the hunter who was hit by buckshot in the state forest by a still unknown shooter, it was a fairly uneventful deer hunting season. He said there appeared to be fewer complaints.
A hunting-related arrest occurred in mid-December in Chilmark, Sgt. Grady said. Chilmark police arrested Stephen J. Carlson on a variety of charges. Police discovered Mr. Carlson on Land Bank property off North Road carrying a loaded and primed black powder rifle at approximately 7 pm, well after the end of legal shooting time.
If Sergeant Grady came across any multi-legged deer of questionable sex, he kept that news to himself.