The Wasatch Behind: Oh, deer
"How did you do on the opener of the big Utah deer hunt? I asked Uncle Spud.
"Real Good," he said. "After hunting all day, I finally saw a doe and a two-point across the canyon."
"Did you get him?"
"No, he was half a mile away and running like crazy. Two other guys were shooting at him, and they were three quarters of a mile away. They must have been shooting cannons to reach that far."
"Did they get him?" I asked.
"No, that baby buck got away. Isn't it exciting to know there's still one out there somewhere?"
"Is that all you saw? I asked.
"No," he said. "I saw coyote and bear tracks everywhere."
"Bear tracks and scat," he offered.
"Bear poop," he growled. "When you find stuff that looks like chocolate chip cookie dough, but with lots of seeds and nut shells in it. It's bear poop."
"Were you afraid?"
"Not while packin' my old ought-six."
"Bears are protected, you know."
"So am I when I'm packin' a gun," he smiled.
"Did you see any other deer on your big deer hunt?" I insisted.
"Yes, I saw two of them dead along the highway, and another one under a street light in town, just after dark."
"What was a deer doing in town?" I asked.
"Probably trying to get away from all of those bears, cougars, and coyotes," he answered.
"Do you really think it's that bad?"
"Do daddy pigs bring home the bacon?" he snorted. "Sure it's that bad. What do you think bears, cougars, and coyotes live on?"
"Bears eat nuts and berries," I reminded him.
"They also eat meat when they can catch it," he said.
"Coyotes live on rabbits, mice, and ground squirrels," I alleged. "I saw it on TV, so it must be true."
"I didn't see any rabbits, mice, or ground squirrels while hunting deer," Spud maintained. "Just lots and lots of coyote tracks. We heard them howling, too."
"There must have been a lot of rabbits and squirrels there," I insisted. "What else could all of those coyotes eat?"
"I don't know about coyotes, but cougars specialize in deer hunting," Spud said. "A lion will eat a deer a week."
"Cougars are protected, too," I informed him. "And there sure is getting to be a lot of them. We cut fresh cougar tracks while hunting elk over near Fish Lake last week. It creeped me out seein' those big lion tracks in the thick brush like that. I know a guy who got jumped by a lion a couple of years ago."
"Did you see any deer down by Fish Lake?" Spud asked.
"We were there for three days and we saw one skinny little spike buck and five or six does," I said.
"Was it good deer country," he asked.
"Perfect deer country," I said. "Lots of oak bushes, buck brush, quaking aspen and sage."
"And big lion tracks?"
"Yep, and big lion tracks."
"Isn't it funny," I mused. "Back when there were lots of deer, we never used to see any lion, bear, and coyote tracks on the mountain. In fact, it was the late 1980s before I ever saw a bear or a cougar in the wild. Now I see them with some regularity.
"So, what has happened to Utah's deer herds?" I asked. "We used to have thriving deer herds everywhere and some of the best deer hunting in the world. Has the habitat changed? Was it disease, bad weather, over-hunting, or what?"
"The habitat is still there," he insisted. "And Utah only issues about one-third of the deer permits they used to, so I don't think over-hunting is a problem. Disease didn't do it, and the fish and game people and the state legislature insist that predators aren't a problem. If they were, they'd surely issue more lion and bear permits and help with controlling coyotes. So, that leaves only the weather."
"My gosh, it must be global warming," Spud said with a flash of inspiration. "Whodathunk?"