In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

season of good cheer

There's a quality of good cheer about deer hunting season on the island. The "hunters" are the same people as our neighbours, only for a couple of weeks they dress differently. As far as I can tell they have customary hunting rights over the whole island, which means that whoever I see riding by on an ATV belongs with one of our neighbours. It's usually one of their fishing mates and some younger relatives who are gradually learning the ways of hunting under more experienced eyes. So, since it's pretty much the same people year after year, they take a great deal of interest in how the deer population is doing. I would say they know more about the habits of the island's deer than anyone else. They are, really, students of the deer.

I'm glad to see them every fall because it's my chance to ask questions and learn something about the mysterious ways of deer. I try not to ask too much. I don't want to seem like I'm prying. So I limit myself to a question or two per year. This year I learned that the bucks usually stay deep in the woods while the does and fawns wander about more. That's why we see does and fawns around the house and sometimes on the road, but hardly ever do we see bucks. Just because we don't see them doesn't mean they aren't there.

The bucks become less cautious, though, as rutting season strikes them. I learned from the hunters this week that it's the onset of cold weather that triggers the bucks' desire to mate and lures them out of their hiding places. Deer season began officially last Friday, but it only started to get cold a couple of days ago. They said something about the phases of the moon too, but I didn't understand that part. I'll wait until next year to find out more about that.

I like the sound of their ATVs going up and down the road, heading toward their blinds deep in the woods or to another camp, then back again. Each year in late October they clear out their old ATV paths into the interior. Their paths do us good, since we can walk along them at other times of the year and explore an otherwise impenetrable landscape of forest and bog.

For some reason I don't see hunting season as a tragedy for the deer. Most of the deer who gather around the piles of imported carrots and apples to help themselves are does and fawns and under-sized bucks who can't be shot. Maybe the carrots and apples they are eating now will add to the reserves they need to get through the winter. And if the hunters decide the herd seems too small and the bucks too few, they will just agree among themselves not to shoot any. Since they have been hunting here for years, they take the long view. Sometimes I think they are more interested in watching the deer than anything else. But they are truly happy when somebody bags one.

They enjoy being out here for a few days anyway. The young fellas are learning the ways of the woods. The old fellas are getting away from the mainland and enjoying a break between the end of fishing and the start of the lobster season in a few weeks, when they'll be hunting beneath the deep, cold North Atlantic waters.


Janet said...

Thank you Anne for your very well considered views on hunting. I've heard it said that the best conservationists are hunters and fishers, and it's also true that to preserve heritage breeds of livestock and heritage seeds and plants you must eat them, otherwise there is no demand and they will die out.
Thank you for presenting hunters as the careful and conservation minded people they for the most part are. It's the city and suburban folk who have not inherited and been taught their parents skills I worry about out in the woods because with the system of lanes and vaults we have here, it is too easy to be upon houses before you know it unless you can read the signs. I tend to turn on lots of lights in my house at dusk - just in case!

Piecefulafternoon said...

A wonderful view of deer hunting season - well put.