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Nashua;50.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/nskc.png;2014-10-26 05:29:25
Sunday, August 3, 2014

NH hunters are needed now more than ever

Last week as I was traveling south on Interstate 93 during the middle of the afternoon, I was surprised by the number of deer I saw contentedly munching a late lunch in fields right beside the highway.

They’re great to look at as scenery unless they decide the grass is greener on the other side and cross a high-speed interstate. ...

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Last week as I was traveling south on Interstate 93 during the middle of the afternoon, I was surprised by the number of deer I saw contentedly munching a late lunch in fields right beside the highway.

They’re great to look at as scenery unless they decide the grass is greener on the other side and cross a high-speed interstate.

In spite of my status as an outdoor writer, I live in a small residential neighborhood, not in some out-of-the-way woodland area with sparse population.

Despite the closeness of neighbors and the ever-present bird dog that lives under my roof, we have two mature buck deer with full antlers (still in velvet) living in the back of our lot and sharing in the premature bounty of my apple trees.

Most afternoons, they are joined by a small flock of wild turkeys that scratch and grovel beside the flower bed for the bounty of insects and seeds to be found there.

My English setter is less understanding of big-game birds using the yard for a dining room while he looks the other way at the apple thievery of the deer.

There was a time, in the not too distant past, when the sight of a turkey in New Hampshire was out of the question, as they were nonexistent in this part of northern New England. The efforts of the folks at the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department changed all that with the introduction of wild turkeys in the early 1970s, taking re-establishment of this species to the point of plenty that we observe today.

I doubt there are many spots left in this state where you won’t find a wild turkey if you take a little time and look around for them.

Fish and Game estimates the state’s turkey population at 40,000.

From primeval forests to town squares, there are turkeys out there strutting their stuff for all to enjoy.

Whitetail deer are another matter entirely. They have, for the most part, enjoyed a pretty healthy population in the state.

The deer herd throughout the state has had its ups and downs, but was viable and withstood a good deal of pressure every fall from hunters pursuing them.

Odds were fairly stacked in favor of the deer as the survivors of this annual invasion into their corner of nature’s woodlot.

There were many times I spent freezing my buns off on a deer stand, only to come home afterward and, by sheer necessity, swing by the local supermarket for some meat for dinner.

Over the last quarter-century, we have been witness to change in the societal attitudes of the populace in general and in particular, the economic situation most people find themselves in today.

Filling the freezer for winter sustenance is no longer the vital link between good eating and an empty belly.

People have been Bambi-ized into seeing wildlife not as food for consumption, but as extended characters that socially interact with each other and other forest dwellers.

Hunting in general has diminished in overall importance as a factor in controlling wildlife numbers, and the results are seen along I-93 and in my backyard.

Deer today have not only thrived in their habitat, but have also expanded their territory to include areas that hadn’t seen a deer print for countless ages.

This is good to see until they become hood ornaments or careless pedestrians causing accidents, injury or even death to themselves or humans.

Turkeys are not exempt from this roadside hazard. I have seen turkeys launch themselves into cars, trucks and semis on the highways in our state.

An accident – any accident – is not a pretty thing to see, and the result can be pretty gruesome and tragic.

Hunters and hunting, despite the Bambi naivete of those misinformed people who don’t understand where the steak or chicken on their plate came from, is a vital tool to help keep the system of checks and balances between man and wildlife on a healthy level at all times.

Next month will see the beginning of the annual hunting season, and from all indications, this will be another banner year much like 2013 for hunters throughout the state. Archery hunting for turkey and deer will begin Sept. 15 and end for both species on Dec. 15.

Bow hunters get the edge early and late, but if you can kill a deer or turkey cleanly with an arrow, you get a tip of my camo cap for the skillful ability to handle one of these primitive weapons successfully.

Firearms season for turkey goes for five days, Oct. 13-17, in all of southern New Hampshire up to the Lakes Region.

Observance of state regulations on distances from housing, livestock, etc., need to be followed, and these rules can be found on the state website at www.wildlife.state.nh.us.

Deer seasons other than bow hunting are:

Muzzle loader for deer is open statewide from Nov. 1-11.

Firearms opens Nov. 12 and runs to Dec. 7, with the exception of wildlife management unit A, which closes for the season on Nov. 30.

Again, as with any hunting or fishing commentary, it is imperative that you check out all information regarding hunting or fishing do’s and don’ts, when and where, on the state’s website, which is complete and up to date.

As always, safe hunting is no accident – be careful and be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Gordon Lewis can be reached at moonglowfarm@gmail.com.