White Oak Mountain Ranger: Management Tactics May Have To Change

Monday, June 27, 2022

“Excessive population growth may reduce output per worker, repress levels of living for the masses and engender strife.” Confucius (552-479)


“The hungry world cannot be fed until and unless the growth of its resources and the growth of its population come into balance. Each man and woman and each nation must make decisions of conscience and policy in the face of this great problem.”  Lyndon B.

Johnson (1908-1973)


The other day, when the summer heat, even in the shade of the big oak, was too oppressive for dogs and humans; I ran up on an article in the legacy outdoor press about deer hunter numbers being in a state of long decline. The ‘get-you-to-read-on’ line continued with; “Pair that with the lack of natural predators and you get whitetail population booms, leading to the need for new tactics to manage deer populations”.


I was instantly hooked and confused. So, I blindly blundered on reading in air conditioned boredom. Thank goodness you don’t have to pay to read goofy stuff like this.


It was obvious that the author knew very little, to absolutely nothing, about our local plethora of natural predators that manage to maintain our Tennessee deer herds in some kind of symbiotic balance.


Why we’ve got black bears scratching women and children out of tents in the Smokey Mountains, bears dragging 90 year old East Tennessee moms and grandma’s off of cool evening porches. Every deer hunter in this state knows all too well that we’ve got bears marauding and decimating our corn feeders and slaughtering fawns by the untold hundreds. 


And, there’s most certainly no one, no not one, paid wildlife manager brave enough to tally how many deer are ruthlessly murdered by mountain lions around here. Especially, after years of denial from TWRA officials that our apex deer predators, the cougar, can’t or won’t, swim the Mississippi River.


That reminds me of the “old Roy Blount” line when he asked the good old boy;  “Do you believe there are panthers in Tennessee? Believe it? @#$%, I’ve seen the pictures!”


By far, our most efficient local natural deer predator is probably another little unpublished but astonishing phenomenon.  Around these parts, just exactly how many Ford F 150s on our roads eat, or get severely injured by deer?


So discounting the authors’ obvious failure to research our local predator management strategy for controlling our deer herd, I soldiered on reading to find that he was actually talking about some problem with booming deer populations in the Northeast. Specifically; the great state of New Jersey.


Why was I surprised? Who would have thought that state has problems?


Apparently the state of New Jersey has an estimated deer density that ranges from 60 to 239 deer per square mile, according to the New Jersey Farm Bureau.


I tried to imagine a New Jersey Farm Bureau Agent actually trying to count 239 deer contained in a square mile. I couldn’t do it! So I read on as I chuckled. The Farm Bureau recommended an optimal deer density that should be in the range of 10 to 15 deer per square mile.


It’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that most folks in New Jersey just can’t afford a good used Ford F 150. It’s equally as easy to assume that our local mountain lions and bears are more than content and well fed enough to stick around here and help with our local deer density nightmare. Why would any self respecting panther from East Tennessee want to walk all the way to New Jersey?


The author went on to explain that less than one percent of New Jerseys’ population holds a hunting license. Who would have guessed?


That’s likely because they don’t know how to own or drive trucks, or some other strange Northeastern sort of problem. Like, no self respecting New Jersey Uber driver will strap your dead deer on the hood of his Uber and carry you and your trophy into town to the nearest checking station.


So the genius Jersey wildlife officials are looking at non-lethal options like fencing and sterilization instead of issuing everybody a used pickup truck when they purchase a deer tag.


I wasn’t really asked, but if I was to be asked; I think I could actually help those confused New Jersey wildlife officials with their booming deer dilemma.


Why not just sell a ‘deer-only’ hunting license and have Wildlife Managers pay each successful Jersey deer hunter, who harvests an overabundant deer, somewhere between 50 to 75 cents a pound for the meat? Wildlife Officials could process the animals and send the deer meat to the folks that never get the opportunity to eat deer meat. Officials could then charge beef starved consumers half the price of what they would pay for beef steaks in the grocery store?


I’m sure the beef growers association of Brazil and Mexico would howl for a while at this new deer over population management strategy, but who cares? Have you priced a pound of hamburger in Jersey lately?


I’ll bet you even money, that better than half of the gang bangers in Jersey would suddenly, overnight, become law abiding market hunters. They might even invest in a good used F 150. Pure profit is the key word here. Everybody gets fat on this deal, especially where there’s a potential of 239 deer per square mile.


Like I said, if I was asked, this is what seems to me to be a pretty sound business model. Especially, if you look at the cost of sterilization of 239 deer per square mile, or the cost of buying a fleet of F150s.


Inflation, Inflation, Inflation.


That takes me back home to a local squirrel management problem. There happens to be a squirrel density problem locally. No, I haven’t counted them, unless you count the ones that haven’t recently survived the 410.  But, I must admit that I’ve lost count of the ones that recently no longer savage the plums, pears and tomatoes. People we’ve got a serious problem here.


TWRA probably has some sound basis for their rules about when it’s legal and illegal to terminate a Silver Queen, corn eating squirrel. But, I don’t really care at this point. This squirrel population boom has come to the breaking point here. It’s gotten to the point between me and the squirrels that I’m willing to stand before some old crusty Judge and some wanna-be District Attorney and claim self defense.


I’ve reached that point between potentially doing hard time in the county jail and applying sound, but marginally illegal, management tactics for eliminating the locally exploding squirrel population boom.


I never once considered trying squirrel sterilization. Leave that overly weird concept to some guy named Christie and the rest of the official wildlife management geniuses in Jersey.


At times when I’m disposing of local population explosions of squirrels, I do have a tendency to slip into a state of melancholy. In retrospect, I’m concerned and somewhat saddened that I wasn’t the kind of person that kept more sophisticated and detailed records.


Sometimes when I look back to the days when I was unleashed with a 22 rifle, I think it would be more than fascinating to be able to count exactly how many squirrels I managed in the name of preventing population explosions of pear and corn eating bushy tails.


Those were the days when squirrels were the only big game available. True trophies, every last one. I had so many hides, complete with whiskers and tails, tacked to my bedroom wall, that there for a short while back in those days my mother steadfastly refused to clean my room.


She said all the dead squirrels, stuck on every square inch on the trophy room wall, gave her a massive case of the creeps.


So this ‘clean your own @#$% room phenomenon’ went on for some brief period of time. Albeit, a very short duration.


I never really understood what exactly it was that made her snap, she just simply snapped one day.


I’d seen this sort of ‘lose-your-mind-at-the-drop-of-a-hat-sort-of-thing’ happen before, but this day was a little different from any particular and previous, over the edge moment, I had endured with my mother.


Snakes in the house seemed to bring this type of over the top hysteria out of her quite often.


I peddled home one evening to find my rather prodigious pile of trophy gray and fox squirrel hides sitting on the front steps in a large A&P apple box.The destroyed stack of trophy room exhibits were attached with a malevolent note.


The rather mean spirited note read as follows;


“You cannot come into this @#$% house until you get rid of all of the @#$% rat pelts! P.S., I’m putting toothpaste in all of the holes in the sheet rock and I am painting the walls. Go somewhere else to sleep tonight. I don’t @#$%# care where!”




I called on my hunting partners from the North Chattanooga Squirrel Killing and Expeditionary Society (NCSKES) and we spent the night in our hideout smoking rabbit tobacco in corn cob pipes and tried to figure out how to steal beer from any Society member’s dad’s cold beer supply. One particular fat member in good standing bet us every pocket knife we had that he could make flatulence turn to flame. I lost my best Barlow that night.


I fashioned a rather tasteful vest out of my most prized trophy squirrel hides. I hid it in the garage just to keep my mother from slipping over the edge again. Tails for fringe really set the ensemble off to a tee. It was a veritable masterpiece of fashionable outdoor outer wear.


There were a couple of minor problems with the stylish new garment. The vest seemed to attract a considerable amount of attention from big biting dogs when you rode by these mean animals on a bicycle.


This vicious dog management problem was quickly solved by putting a door knob in a sock and applying it rather vigorously to the cranial portion of the slowest of the huge dogs that seemed to be so completely and savagely irritated by the sporty and fringed outer wear. The NCSKES members christened this new sporting challenge as ‘dog polo’. It caught on quite rapidly.


I don’t remember how the vest ended its’ days. That’s another sad regret I have with my poor habit of record keeping.


I began to slowly realize that the sporty squirrel vest also had some strange repellant factor when it came to my more than feeble attempts at impressing the young ladies in the neighborhood.


I noticed that these shy and elusive young women seemed to scream a lot and slam doors in my face when I showed up. Standing on their porch I could clearly hear them shrieking inside the house as they yelled excitedly to their mothers that I was outside on the porch all covered in rats.


They would plead with their mothers to quickly bring daddy’s shotgun and save me from this dreadful attack from a swarm of out of control, devouring vermin.


It never dawned on me that these naive and sweet smelling young girls, with pink ribbons in their hair, just didn’t understand the complexity of modern day wildlife management tactics designed to address squirrel population explosions, true trophy hunting and the call of the wild.


I just can’t remember what happened to that old vest. It was a thing of pure, sartorial beauty.




A note from the WOMR:

Growing groceries is simply just too much work to donate to a squirrel. That’s a pretty fair motto.

Send your comments to whiteoakmtnranger@gmail.com

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