Not seeing is believing | | Brainerd, Minnesota

Not seeing is believing

There’s an old adage — when hitting against a flame-throwing pitcher in baseball — that goes something like “you can’t hit what you can’t see.”

The same goes for deer hunting, it seems, although the numbers this year would refute that.

In recent years, hunters have complained that they’re seeing fewer and fewer deer. As a result, there’s a lot less shooting — some say they didn’t take a shot all season. And in the end, there’s less venison in the freezer for those long, cold winters.

And that doesn’t sit well with hunters.

I haven’t hunted deer during this recent swoon, but know plenty of people who have. One, a well-known outdoors type in the Brainerd area, said the number of shots he heard in the woods this year was way down from previous years. Another hunts in far northwestern Minnesota. Not long ago, the area he hunted was categorized as intensive. Every year he had a freezer full of venison. Last year was slim pickings. This year, he didn’t take a shot.

The DNR says harvest numbers are up 10 percent statewide. And in the Brainerd lakes area, harvest is up almost 15 percent over last year, the DNR says.

But that’s not really saying a whole lot. Last year was a bad year for deer hunters — in the area, it was the lowest harvest since 1998.
When the muzzleloader season ends and all is said and done, harvest in the area could reach about 13,500, which would be the highest total since 2007 and is more in line with what the DNR is hoping for management-wise with the deer population. A good, healthy number.

But where are these successful hunters finding these deer? In recent years, I gauged — unscientifically, of course — the deer population by the number of deer I would see in my back yard. Two years ago, I would see the occasional deer. Last year, I saw the rare deer. And this year — nothing.

Even on the roads — knock on wood — I’ve seen nothing. In 2008 and 2009, while driving home after work from Brainerd to my home in Pequot Lakes, I was constantly on the alert for deer. I saw plenty on or just off Highway 371 on those nighttime trips. Almost hit one. But this year — nothing. And that’s fine with me. But at the same time, it would indicate that maybe there are fewer deer out there.

Harvest numbers say otherwise, and that’s great. But seriously, where are they finding these deer? I guess I’m just not seeing it.