Passing on the tradition
Jan. 4, 2002
Vicious attacks on our country by terrorists has set us to thinking more about family and nurturing personal relationships. The Christmas season and arrival of the new year brought opportunities to strengthen ties to loved ones and friends. Traditions were kept with renewed sensibilities.
Last Saturday, a grand hunting tradition was experienced in a special way by members and friends of the Whynot-Bighorn Hunting Club that hunts a tract of private and timber company land in Lauderdale County. A traditional dog hunt for deer resulted in three youngsters bagging three bucks on a single deer drive. Appropriately symbolizing the hunting heritage, each boy's grandfather was a participant on the hunt.
Trey Coker shot a 4-point buck, and trailed it to where it fell. He had been placed on a stand by his grandfather, Rex Coker, who had found the crossing that gave the youngster his best chance to score.
Bryce Branning took a 5-pointer with grandfather Jerry Taylor by his side. The pair are in the deer woods together at every opportunity, and Bryce is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, whose love for the hunting tradition and woodcraft skills are exceptional.
Teen-ager Philip Butler stunned the club members by bringing in the biggest buck anyone could remember having seen at the club. His grandfather, Jack Coker, shared the pride. The buck had 14 long points, 18 counting the stickers, and weighed 225 pounds. Its antler bases measured over 8 inches around.
Among the many traditions that grace the outdoor scene, hunting the wonderful whitetail deer with hounds is noteworthy. Deer are plentiful; so numerous here that they can be hunted by careful stalking or by sitting still and watching for them in the woods and fields they inhabit.
And they can be hunted by casting scent-trailing dogs into their bedding areas and running the deer to hunters stationed at likely crossings. Few hunting traditions are older than dog hunting wild game. It is a natural and revered sport with roots throughout the entire world, and reaching back to the earliest times when man domesticated wolves.
Modern day use of trailing dogs for hunting deer is not without controversy, however. There are those who feel running deer with dogs gives unfair advantage to the hunter. They are wrong, as those who hunt and those who look seriously at dog hunting know. Some modern Americans have a disturbing habit of passing judgment on many issues with which they are unfamiliar.
Many more deer can be taken from a given property hereabouts if no dogs were in the picture at all. Still hunting (stalking) and stand hunting require far fewer man/woman hours to bag the same number of deer as dog hunting would harvest. I have measured the difference for years.
This past week my hunting club made many drives with dogs, 2 to 4 drives each day, most with no deer taken at all. These hunts may have 10 to 30 hunters participating. That many hunters sitting quietly on deer stands would harvest a lot of deer by hunting just the last 2 hours of evening daylight.
Another argument against dog hunting deer holds that trailing dogs follow deer onto adjacent properties where dogs are not welcome. This is true, and is particularly troublesome on hunting lands that are small – just a few thousand acres. It is a problem that will likely seal the fate of dog hunting deer. When the size of appropriate dog hunting lands shrinks far enough, due to human population growth, lawmakers will be inclined to legislate the sport out of existence.
But traditions are important, though their values are easily lost in today's frenzied living. And the good ones die hard. Look at how hunters cling to the bow and arrow, primitive hunting tools that have been around for more than 8,000 years.
Strong dog hunting tradition from elite hunters in England and other countries moved to America with its first settlers. Deer hunters are carrying it on in one of its purist forms in several southern states. The lessons of the tradition are important.
Moreover, dog hunting deer during relatively short seasons, combined with the "survival of the fittest" (and smartest) phenomenon, does not harm our deer population. Rather it is a management practice that contributes to herd welfare.
We may soon see the end of dog hunting deer. But it will live on in the hearts of those who cherish the chase, nourished by memories of singing hounds and the graceful strides of a bounding buck.