Did you ever think you would see the day when hunters and off road cyclists would get along? Well, just this past weekend I found out that it can happen! Weird, I know, but true. In this case it is bow hunters hunting for deer and off roaders like me. Let me explain.........
First of all, before I hear from any of you, "don't hurt the animals" folks, you have to consider some facts about deer population in Iowa. These critters have very, very few natural predators, and an unlimited supply of field corn every fall at their disposal. Not to mention the vast amounts of vegetation here. Ever since widespread use of DDT was banned back in the late 60's/early 70's, the deer population has steadily grown to a point now where several areas in the state have deer population counts in the range of 40-50 individuals every square mile! The DNR estimates that a maximum sustainable square mile population should be more like 25 deer. Maximum. So, these not so little critters are invading places they really shouldn't be in, and getting tagged by automobiles left and right causing all sorts of mayhem and death. Leave that all aside though and think about how deer are going to be getting sick and dying off because there are simply too many of them for the land to support. We don't have any problems raising deer here in Iowa folks, believe me.
Since I don't think an introduction of wolves and big cats is going to go over very well here, it's up to "man" to help manage this over population. So, bow hunters and shot gun wielders are licensed every year to help manage the deer population. Whatever else you think about hunting, well, that's your problem. As for me, I can totally understand why it has to be.
So, to the point of this post: Usually bow hunters and cyclists off road don't sound like a good idea together. This was the common wisdom around here up until last year when something happened that shouldn't have, but changed the thinking of some folks.
Last year in a particular wooded area around here the trails were only open a short period of time during the weekend for cyclists, the rest of the time they were closed for bow hunting. However; as I've been told, a couple of cyclist either didn't know, or poached the trails on a weekday to ride during bow hunting season. Well, the result was that some of the hunters saw that the deer were aroused by the cyclists, and moved by their stands allowing them to take some deer that day. The overseer of this area realized that if he were to allow off road cyclists out during bow hunting season that the same successes might be repeated. This year he tried it.
And guess what? First of all, I didn't even know those bow hunters were out there, quiet and hidden as they are. Secondly, three deer were taken in one day within a few hours last time I was out there because we as cyclist were basically running the deer right by these guys stands. I know it sounds crazy, but it seems to work! The overseer of the area told me he was tickled to see how it was working and that he totally trusted the bow hunters to be careful in how they took shots, so as not to endanger anyone riding out there.
Really, I know it seems strange, but I wouldn't have even known what was going on if I hadn't had run across the guy that runs the place. Well, that and the blood on the trail in one spot! Hey! It's not maybe your cup of tea, but the fact that this is happening is unique in off roading and helps cyclists, hunters, and in the end- the deer all to enjoy a better balance.
And we cyclists can certainly understand balance.