As most people in the valley know, it is currently deer and elk hunting season. This time of year has traditionally brought excitement and revenue to the valley. Due to mass development of winter range, and thus a severe winter kill in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the deer numbers around Eagle county are anemic. By their own admission, the Division of Parks and Wildlife noted that deer numbers in Big Game Unit 44 are only at roughly 50 percent of the desired numbers.
There are a lot of consequences of such a decline in the deer herd — one being it is increasingly harder to actually get a license to hunt deer around here due to a decrease in license numbers. It now takes roughly 10 years to draw a buck license in Unit 44 for the third rifle season. The 10-year wait only applies to people that aren’t rich enough to simply buy a landowner tag and hunt 44 every year regardless. After the common man waits 10 years to draw a license, it can tend to make him very short sighted. The desire to kill takes precedence over actually enjoying the hunt and being outdoors.
I believe this is the reason people have been preying on the town deer. All summer there was a small herd of bucks hanging out by the ice rink near Eagle city limits. These deer were heavily photographed and enjoyed by the community. Sure enough, as soon as hunting season came, “hunters” were lined up trying to figure out a way to shoot them.
The same thing is happening on the local golf courses. It is bad enough developers had to come in and plow under winter range to put in McMansions and a golf course; it is just as bad to be shooting the remaining deer off the fairways under the guise of “hunting.”
A really disheartening act occurred just this week. A large buck that has been the neighborhood pet and mascot of the Kaibab subdivision was shot and killed. This buck has been heavily photographed and enjoyed by the community for the last six years or so. This deer was very tame by most standards and wouldn’t even run when approached by the camera. Why was he killed? I am a hunter and cannot even wrap my mind around shooting such an animal. Unless the hunter was actually going hungry, it just doesn’t make sense.
Unit 44 is a large unit. There are literally thousands of acres of BLM and National Forest to hunt. There really is no excuse for “hunters” to be preying on the town deer. It is a different time now, with increased gun control, and a shift from hunting and agriculture to mountain biking and pot shops. The last thing the real hunters need is a few ruining the last bit of hunting opportunities for the rest of us. Legal or not, let’s demonstrate better ethics.