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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Co Existing

MISSISSIPPI HAS BEEN blessed and cursed with a whitetail deer population. There are many of us who enjoy hunting and spending an equal amount of time and money and energy keeping deer out of or yards and gardens. When we are hunting for deer we will go to great lengths just for the chance at getting one clear and precise shot off in order to get the bragging rights to a trophy buck or, at least, to harvest some nature provided meat for the freezer. We spend a lot of time in the woods getting food plots ready for the season.

Usually that means some tractor work with discs, clearing away brush for clear views with chainsaws, planting seeds of plants that are nutritious to wildlife or to entice them into view from the stands or blinds that we spend untold hours waiting for the right one. Those work days are important to get everything as right as we can because after the season opens since we can’t be banging around in the hunting areas if we hope to see the big one. For me those work weekends are a great time to hang with our sons and daughters, fellow hunters and it’s a great time to get on the ground around the stands to get the lay of the land so you’ll get a feel for the flow of the deer movement. Again I say work weekends at deer hunting areas are all about the comradery. We talk about our home life, our future plans, how we think the hunting will be this year and maybe do some lying about that one that got away last year. We usually have any of our kids with us who are interested in hunting and conservation with us so they will get a better understanding of land management and we get a lot of really good free labor out of the deal. Nothing like some high school or college age kids in the woods with machetes and chainsaws to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. It’s so much fun watching them grow up spending time in the woods. Kids turn into different animals when they get around camping and spending hours of quietly listening and watching for whatever it is they are hunting for in the deep woods.

Most of our stands don’t offer very good wi-if so there is a chance that you will not pick up and look at your phone for five or six hours except to check the time. That’s one of my favorite parts of spending time out there silently, barely moving, just looking around for any movement or listening for anything that might be sneaking around. In the process a hunter gets a very up close look at wildlife acting naturally because they don’t know you are there. We get to our stands way before the sun comes up, walking through the woods in total darkness trying to not make a sound, not even stepping on a stick and causing an alert to any deer or tattletale squirrels warning the woods that something is awry. I love to successfully get into the stand without having alerted the woods that you are there. When I get into the stand in total darkness I usually sit quietly for a while, catching my breath, cooling down and waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I love this time of day. At first I am surrounded by total silence then as dawn approaches the first brave bird makes the first “peep” of the day, from that point on until dusk there is non stop chatter that you really don’t hear or notice unless you are sitting quietly and still. From my view in the stand I see all kinds of birds as close as a foot or two away, chipmunks skittering around in the decomposing logs and soil, squirrels, armadillos, hawks, crows, turkey and occasionally some deer. When the deer come out of the woods where they are so hard to see my heart gets a good workout. I love to get my binoculars up so I can watch the grazing. I can learn a lot about there movement patterns and the way they flow through that area. I really just love to watch them sometimes solo, sometimes in large groups, sometimes calmly feeding, sometimes hightailing it through my view because they are being chased by a rambunctious buck. I always have a good camera with me since I never know what I might see. I’ve seen bucks sparring, deer swimming across lakes, deer bedding down to rest not knowing they are being watched, and scenes like the one in the Rudolph movie where the deer are playing and frolicking and trying to learn to fly so they will ultimately get the girl, makes the world go round!

I have seen Bobcats, Coyote, wild dogs which will totally disrupt a hunt but I stick around to see just how much they really clear a field out. After a short amount of time the deer will cautiously move back into the area and the rest of the wild circus resumes its shenanigans. I have also learned over time that there always seems to be a bigger buck somewhere around that first buck that shows up. I have learned to keep one eye on the buck that I can see and one eye out for the bigger, smarter one following it. The older ones are pretty smart, they allow the younger, dumber or uneducated ones to step out and test the water for any predators or hunters. Sometimes the big ones show themselves, sometimes they they sense that something is not right and I will never see them. It could be that they picked up a scent that is man made or movement or any little thing that tells them to keep moving. It probably seems ridiculously easy to harvest a deer from their native habitat since we see so many every day at homes. It’s really not that easy to be in the right place at the right time, get your rifle or camera up, make the shot, sometimes from 200 or 300 yards away, you have to be very practiced to successfully get that shot to get it to go exactly where you want it to go.

Hopefully it was a great shot and it’s all over but the celebration, that’s not the norm. In most cases the deer will run just from pure adrenaline, an adrenaline rush can send an animal far and deep into some unsavory territory where it’s nearly impossible to ever see them again. It’s a real bummer when that happens, all that work and time goes down the drain and losing a deer can haunt a hunter for months, years as the deer grows bigger and bigger in the hunters memory. Then the mind drags the hunter through the valley of woulda coulda shoulda. It’s fun to get back to camp and hear about everyone’s hunt and of course to start feasting on snacks and food that we would never eat at home, something about waking up early and doing something out of the ordinary in the woods makes a person ravenously hungry in my case for a Little Debi peanut butter chocolate wafer or chips. I’ll make some coffee and get some camper stuff done, discuss that nights meal prep, getting the fire pit area ready and discuss who is going where for the afternoon hunt. I’ll have or pack a lunch then head back out for some more time in the woods this time to watch the opposite happen, this time I will witness the closing of a day. As darkness approaches animals get more active as they prepare for darkness and late night frolic.

After a weekend of that I come home after dark and show any great pictures to Mimi and tell her about what I saw and did. She smiles and pokes me by pointing at the herd of deer in our front yard, she says “it really can’t be that hard”, I get it and she knows the real reason I’m out there is to spend time with my son and our buddies that we’ve grown up with in the woods for over twenty years, it’s a special relationship and I always feel revived and removed from the “real world” and I love to listen to the younger folks to see if I’m at all even mildly keeping up with new world, I’m always relieved to know that I am not remotely “with it”, I try to keep it that way, they can have it.

Business wise we do everything we can to repel deer from our hard worked gardens and yards. We use Liquid Fence, a product that is formulated from rotten eggs and garlic. There is a liquid version that works great and has to be applied after rains. The granular version os the one we like to use it seems to have more staying power. None of the repellents are a one and done answer, they all have to be re applied every ten days or so. They work great if used correctly and will allow you to plant winter annuals in places we might have thrown in the towel for. We grow our bedding plants in our greenhouses on the back forty at Garden Works. We’ve been growing our plants for the last 25 years and have watched the numbers of pansies that we grow get cut drastically over time due to deer making it really hard and expensive on our customers. There’s not a much worse feeling than waking up the morning after spending big money on soil and pansies and working so hard to get them planted and tended to just to see every one of the plants eaten and totally gone, it’s enough to make you want to become a deer hunter! So maddening that many people vow not to do that again, thus the lower numbers that we grow. We grow custom orders for some of the big landscapers in town who dress up the front entrances to our communities and apartment complexes, we’ve watched those numbers decline in a big way over the years as the deer population has exponentially climbed to overpopulation. There are some winter annuals that deer don’t munch on that will give you plenty color to get you through till springtime when we can offer lots of good deer proof options and the deer have something to eat in what’s left of their native habitat so they are grazing less in our yards and more in the woods.

Don’t get too discouraged, where there is a will there’s always a way. I have planted pansies right in the middle of deer country as an experiment and used Liquid Fence and other remedies that I found on the Google machine. I applied whichever remedy every 10 days and had no problems, it’s really not that hard , you just have to be religious about it. I know, it’s a push me -pull you situation when at home we try to get the deer away from us then head out the woods to see if you can lure one towards you. Maybe we should plant pansies that didn’t sell because of deer in our food plots, it would certainly look great! I wish max had pursued his idea about developing a systemic deer replant. Sprinkle around the plant, water it in, plant takes it up causing some undesirable taste or odor to the deer making them head over to your neighbors yard for breakfast! Our deer population isn’t going down so we are going to have to learn to co exist as the bumper sticker says. I’m hoping you can find a balance with living with deer and gardening, it’s another major consideration now as to plant choices and placement. The plant developers are always working on it since it a nationwide problem, as we all know nature always wins in these battles so we will have to find our comfortable spot when it comes to getting along with Mother Nature.

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