Getting venison is No. 1 reason deer hunters go hunting in poll
There are still some of us dinosaurs who have to think before we refer to Monday's opening day of Pennsylvania's two-week firearms deer season as the opening day of "buck" season.
For those of us who cut our deer-hunting teeth during the days when the two-week antlered season was followed by a three-day antlerless season, often the choice was filling your buck tag on an immature spike buck opening morning and discarding your doe tag or passing on the young buck and gamble on taking a mature, freezer-filling doe during the three-day antlerless season.
In hindsight, other than a half-rack buck with a 4-point antler that I took on the opening Monday of the 1976 buck season, too often I made the wrong choice and have several "trophy" racks that are stored in cigar boxes.
Most of those bucks, however, were taken with either antique rifles or with flintlock muzzleloaders, so there are neither any regrets nor apologies for taking those deer.
One of these years, before the eyes, legs and back completely betray me, I would enjoy taking an 8- or 10-point buck to put on the wall. Still, when I climb into my treestand tomorrow morning, my thoughts will be on backstraps more than head mounts.
Well, according to a survey done this year by Responsive Management, an internationally recognized public opinion and attitude survey research firm specializing in natural resources and outdoors recreation issues, my main reason for hunting deer places me in the majority of deer hunters.
Responsive Management posed five questions to deer hunters age 18 and older to rank the reasons why they hunt, and the No. 1 response from the 97 percent that returned the survey was they do so for venison.
Of those polled, 35 percent selected "for the meat" as the most important reason for them hunting deer. This is a 13-percent increase from a similar survey conducted in 2006 when just 22 percent of hunters listed it as their biggest reason for deer hunting, ranking it No. 3 in that survey.
Some speculate the reason for the increase is aligned with the ongoing economic hardships so many are facing. For those who already own firearms, hunting apparel and the other gear associated with hunting, downing a mature whitetail is an inexpensive way to obtain meat.
Then again, many eat game meat for health reasons rather than the steroid-enhanced meat that is sold at some chain grocery stores across the nation. There is also a trend in healthy eating that goes beyond the "organic" set, and clearly the best choices when it comes to meat is wild game or that from local butcher shops.
Listed as the No. 2 reason in the survey for deer hunting with 31 percent was sport and recreation. This was just slightly less than the 33 percent who made it the No. 1 reason in the '06 survey.
Ranking No. 3 in the survey as the reason for deer hunting with 21 percent was being with family and friends. In '06, it ranked No. 2 with 27 percent of the hunters listing this as their main reason.
Ranking No. 4 in the survey as the main reason for deer hunting with 9 percent was being close to nature. In the '06 survey, 16 percent listed this as their main reason for deer hunting.
For all of the outdoors television programs that are shown and all the newspaper and magazine feature articles that are devoted to taking a "trophy" buck, those responding to this year's survey and the 2006 survey rank it No. 5. This year, just 1 percent of those responding listed taking a trophy as their No. 1 reason for deer hunting, and in the '06 survey so few listed it that there were too few to calculate.
While this and all surveys that are conducted on the subject of deer hunting makes for some lively debate, there is no argument that opening day remains one of those special occasions for deer hunters.
It was that way on the opening day of buck season, and it remains unchanged for the opening day of the firearms deer season.
(Dietz is outdoors editor)