Today, pointing to the successful harvest increases in areas where these theories have been applied, Lauckhart is more than ever convinced of their urgency and importance.
"We are still wasting far more game than hunters are killing each year," he insists. "Game management must apply the same principles as developed for raising livestock and other domestic animals. We should attempt to maintain a minimum healthy herd and harvest all of the annual increase. The game herds must be kept erupting at all times and the increase must be removed so that this eruption can continue."
In most of the western states where these theories have been put to the test, the deer take has been doubled in the past 10 years. Colorado was first to go on a full unit-management basis and Utah, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Oregon (on elk only) have adopted various forms of the system. Wisconsin took the open-season idea a little too literally, and without unit regulation or restriction on the kill soon found the herds depleted in some areas.
California has lagged behind other western states in following the Washington pattern but opposition, says Lauckhart, has been chiefly from the legislature, not the game men.
RESORT OWNERS RESIST
In the East, resort owners have been the most united and vocal opposition group to modern deer—harvest concepts. They want tame deer—fawns and does—hanging around the camps as drawing cards.
Another big factor in the resistance to good deer or game management is the average hunter's deep inborn inclination to be offended by any hint of man-made organization of something as naturally primitive as a wild animal in its native habitat. Hunting to such a man is a return to the primeval forest to re-enact a ritual performed by his father and his father's forefathers. Hard as it is, he wants to enjoy it for what he thinks it should be and does not want to be told that the trees about him are the way they are because they were forested that way, that the pheasant flushed from underfoot was brought here from China by an ambassador and that the deer he is seeking was put there by man, and especially by a college-bred biologist. To harbor such thoughts is to ruin half the pleasure of hunting. So, most hunters would prefer not to think about scientific game management with its crop-harvest terminology or concern themselves with its problems and their part in it.
As Tom McAllister, former member of the Oregon Game Commission and one of that state's leading outdoor editors, puts it, the conflict comes to this: "Lauckhart's theories make good sense, but still an individual makes of his hunt what he wants to. There is a higher call in hunting. Maybe the average man hunts deer mainly to get out and away, or for meat, or just because everyone else is out. The best idea is to get him his deer as quickly as possible, whether it's doe, fawn or buck, and get him back in safe hands. But there still is room for the trophy hunter—and there are a lot of them—the expert hunter who won't shoot anything but a trophy buck. But, whatever the motivation, a deer is a beautiful creature and seems to inspire more emotion in the average person than any other animal.
"This management idea is a brutally practical thing—a logical choice between whether man should kill a beautiful animal for food and sport, or whether that animal should die, instead, of starvation."
A MID-NOVEMBER SURVEY: LARGER HERDS, RECORD KILLS FOR THREE MOST HUNTED DEER