Well, this year’s big game season is over in my area. I did two four day trips, and several day trips during that time, with no luck. In this post I just wanted to touch on a few things that crossed my mind while sitting and waiting, and perhaps a few things that have come to mind for you while reading my posts.
You probably noticed that a good portion of my hunting trips involves backpacking into the woods until I reach my desired destination. On the last two trips I shared with you, out of each four days I was out on each trip, two were spent getting into and out of the woods. Unquestionably, by doing so, I have decreased my chances of a successful kill by 50%. I have effectively cut in half the time I have to hunt on each trip. So, why bother? Why not just hunt closer to the edge of the woods?
The reason is hunting pressure, which became crystallized for me on one of my day trips (which I didn’t share with you). On that trip, I took the day off from work. It was a Monday, a little over a week after opening day of rifle season. I drove to a forest that I had scouted previously. There was a spot about half an hour walk into the woods, where I had seen clear signs of a buck. There was a ridge overlooking the area, which would make a great place to set up. So, I got to the forest half hour before sunrise, and walked in, heading towards the ridge. As I was nearing the location, I spotted another hunter heading up the ridge, about 100 yards ahead of me. We waived at each other, and I moved on. I figured I would go to the other end of the ridge and try my luck there. When I reached the area, I spotted another hunter on top of that end of the ridge as well. I decided to go to a different location all together. As I walked along the bottom of the ridge, I counted four hunters, positioned on the ridge, close enough so that they would be able to maintain a conversation without shouting. They didn’t seem to know each other.
I moved on, aiming for another high point overlooking a nearby valley. When I got there, there were already two hunters occupying the area, sweeping different directions. Eventually I settled for a lower position wear the valley, where I spent the day waiting and glassing. Not a single shot was taken the whole day. You can see the distribution of hunters (the ones I ran into) in the map below:
In an area of under a square mile, there were seven hunters. The blue cross marks my location, the red crosses mark the locations of other hunters. This was on a Monday (not a holiday) at sunrise, eight days into the hunting season. I can not even imagine how many hunters shared the area on opening weekend. There must have been more firepower there than on the beach at Normandy.
Unfortunately, there are certain realities which limit what I can do, and intimately determine the way I hunt. The above example is very typical of the hunting pressure experienced on easily accessible public lands. If you do not manage to fill your tag with one of the first shots on opening day of the season, your chances of success plummet. The hunting pressure on the area is so high, that all of the game is either taken quickly, or more realistically, it migrates to areas where there is less hunting, either due to the inaccessibility of the terrain, or hunting regulations.
There are two ways to get around this problem. The first is to hunt private land. If you own enough land, you can hunt it freely, without high hunting pressure created by multiple hunters. That significantly increases your success rate. Similarly, if your private land blocks out a piece of public land, making it hard for other hunters to reach it, you can hunt it with equal success. For those of us who are not large land owners, the only other way in to go deep into the woods, where other hunters are not willing to travel.
Since I am not a land owner, my only solution is to travel deep into the woods. I find that about ten miles in, and you are usually the only one hunting the area. Of course, that requires highly portable gear, not just so you can get into the forest, but so that you can carry out an additional 100 lb of deboned deer in the event of success.
This lead me to think about hunting in a SHTF survival situation. A while back I did a post about hunting and gathering enough resources to live long term in a survival situation. Many of the responses were by people who felt the need to assure themselves that they could do it, complete with examples of how much game they can kill or trap. I didn’t address those concerns there as the post was not in any way related to the effectiveness of hunting or gathering, but the above situation got me thinking. How much success would a person have hunting if their favorite hunting area looked like the above map? Remember, that was a very regular Monday. What if large numbers of people were hunting the forest in an attempt to feed their families. Unless you own a lot of land, and have come up with a way to protect all of it. the likelihood would be that the high hunting pressure would either drive all of the game out, or that it will be hunted to extinction within weeks of this hypothetical SHTF event.
Anyway, these are just some of the things that crossed my mind this season.