Call it whatever you like. Climate change. Global warming. The impending doom and apocalypse. You’re free to hang your own label on historical weather patterns that are becoming the norm. And you’re also free to dismiss it all as you please. I have heard from regions where hunters and residents alike say they have never witnessed any significant weather changes. I wish I could say the same. But even in this area of mildy tempered weather the changes are visibly abundant and have diminished the landscape which in turn has changed our deer hunting techniques.
A deer doesn’t simply grow from a fawn being booted from every square mile of habitated forest until it finds a place that’s less hostile and more welcoming. Deer require sustainable elements like food, water, cover, and, at some point, they develop the natural instinct to mate. In the world of a deer all of this often takes place in a square mile. A single square mile. So the choice of habitat is far from being a random conveniece brought forward by growth and age of the animal. Carefully chosen, the deer claims this mile as home. Along with many of the securities that we expect in our own home lives for basic survival.
But what happens when that square mile of lush forest begins to change? And what happens to the deer and your hunting when that mile turns into 20 miles of change?
I don’t have a term for it myself but I can say without a doubt the landscape here has changed fairly dramatically in the past 10 years and so has the deer hunting. My one acre pond was always brimming to the top and even rolling small ripples across it’s surface for the first 5 years. Ducks, geese, and just about any native critter to the U.P. of Michigan has been documented at that pond. In the last decade it has slowly warmed in this region drying much of the once swampy landscape. We notice new growth of weeds and shrubs, slower tree growth, and a major decrease in water levels. Most notably in the pond. Which for the past 5 years is expected to all but dry up by the end of August. While you can note tracks of many kinds in the soft mud of the pond you no longer find the deeply-rooted active deer trails leading to and from the water source.
While it’s normal for a forest to cycle through stages of growth and re-growth, regardless of the cause, it’s obvious when something goes awry on the landscape. Especially when it happens to be your deer hunting landscape. Obviously as hunters we adapt and move, again much like the deer, seeking out greener fields. But are the green fields of nature slowly dwindling in your favorite deer hunting spot?