Written by Brandon Parker
If there was a magic bat that gave anyone who swung it the ability to hit a baseball over 400 feet, eventually baseball would not be worth watching…or that much fun to play. Well, that’s what is happening to hunting.
The almighty dollar and social media attention are the driving force behind this problem. That statement is not directed at those who are truly hunting to put food on the table. If wild game is relied upon to keep the family fed, then it doesn’t really matter what means a hunter uses to harvest it.
Here in Mississippi, baiting laws and options for legal hunting weapons are steadily getting more liberal. The number of children under the age of 8 killing mature bucks over a pile of feed within the first few days of archery season is staggering. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 15 years, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s no secret that deer are the easiest to pattern when they aren’t pressured. Feeding deer in the same spot all summer long, monitoring with them cellular trail cameras and taking advantage of the first opportunity the wind allows you to hunt over the bait often results in an arrow or bolt driving through the lungs of a mature buck.
When I was a child, I didn’t look at archery season as unfair to those who weren’t strong enough to shoot a bow with enough kinetic energy to efficiently kill a deer. I COULD NOT WAIT until I was strong enough to join the men who were getting to hunt 60-70 more days in a season than I could. It was a rite of passage. It literally separated the men from the boys. I’m not being discriminatory toward female hunters…they were just few and far between. It was very difficult and a heck of an accomplishment to get a deer within 40 yards, keep your nerves in check and execute the shot. It was far from the “point and shoot” easiness that a crossbow provides.
Odd as it may seem, I also knew nothing about baiting. I didn’t even know people did it. I was taught to look for the natural food sources deer were feeding on during that particular time of the year. I can identify every tree that provides food for deer on the properties I hunt and can do the same on pretty much any piece of ground in Mississippi. I know that deer love dewberry and sweet gum sprouts. I know all of this because I had the drive to want to be as good at hunting as I could possibly be. I have spent countless hours on foot in the woods as well as up a tree. Before the internet killed paper print, I had a subscription to pretty much every hunting and fishing publication available and I read them all cover to cover. I wasn’t in an overly obsessed, subgroup of hunters. It was normal to put that kind of time in if you truly loved the outdoors and chasing the creatures that it provides.
There were also no trail cameras. It’s hard to say what my opinion was on something that wasn’t invented yet. As a child, I’m sure the thought of getting pictures of the deer I’d be hunting would be enticing. And honestly, I can’t see anything wrong with a regular camera. They give hunters an idea of what they’re working with. Although it is a technological advantage, it’s not an ethical issue. That much I feel confident about. But cellular cameras…not the same situation. I’ve tried them. And I felt like I was cheating. I understand that they help limit pressure in the woods. But you can check a regular trail camera right before a rain and do very little damage as far as pressure.
Going into my 34th season to chase whitetails, I feel confident that I can be dropped off on a piece of property I’ve never laid eyes on and by the end of day one, I can have multiple spots picked out that will give me a good chance of getting a shot at a deer or where my best bet for getting on some gobbling turkeys is. My gut feeling is that some of these children who are learning to hunt with bait, cameras and weapons a 3-year-old can efficiently hunt with won’t be able to do the same when they are older…and they probably are not going to want to. This brings us back to the baseball analogy.
What drives most athletes is their competitive nature. I always wanted to be the best I could be on the ballfield. If there was someone I played with or against that I felt was better than me, I put in the work to try to get to their level. Kids these days have SO MANY more options/activities to spend their free time enjoying. If they find success in the woods with no effort put into it, then eventually it will get boring. We don’t want to find out what the hunting world will look like if there is hardly anybody doing it. Hunting will be something future generations read about in history books. Gun laws will become more stringent. But the wildlife we love to pursue will be hurt the most. Hunters are the world’s greatest conservationists. Take it away, and the millions of dollars spent annually to improve habitat for these animals will go somewhere else. I’m not trying to shame anyone by writing this. I’m simply encouraging the mentors out there to make hunting a lifelong passion, not an instant gratification hobby.
Be safe, aim straight and keep them lines tight.