Deer season.  It covers that gamut of emotions – anticipation, excitement, dread, misery.  Here in Pennsylvania another deer season has come to a close and I can’t say I’m sorry.  It is no secret that I dislike deer season and I’m a deer biologist!  

The hate and loathing I experience this time of year however has nothing to do with hunting.  I recently shared a photo of a happy pile of deer heads on our Twitter feed (@WTDresearch).  Someone commented that it was “NOT a good picture for non-hunters!” Another responded “Killing them IS protecting them…(Still could do without the picture).”  

Something about these comments just bugged me.  What’s so bad about seeing a pile of deer heads?  Is it really offensive to non-hunters?  

There is nothing bad about a pile of deer heads.  Why?  That pile represents a successful day afield; memories being made; meat in someone’s freezer; and one less deer on the landscape.  All of those are good things.  Deer are one of the few species that can alter the very habitat they live in just by eating.   If there are more deer than the landscape can support, bad things happen for all critters including deer.  Hunting deer is an act of conservation.  Forests (including those species that live there) and motorist are happy to see that pile.  

That pile of deer heads also represents valuable data.  Data needed to properly manage an important public resource.  Estimating the deer harvest is a key piece of the management puzzle.

And what of non-hunters?  Sorry, but a photograph of a pile of deer heads is not offensive to this group.   How can I make such a bold statement?  I am a non-hunter!  I have been slinging deer heads for over a decade.  Thousands of them!  Blood, brains, nasal bots, protruding eyeballs (now those are offensive!) – And that’s just the visual.  I cannot describe the unique and pungent odor that emanates from the bottom of a barrel full of deer heads.  Other than the smell and the occasional bulging eyeball, I have never been offended by a deer head.  

There is nothing glamorous about biology.  And while cuddling a fawn or wrestling a buck makes for better TV, the stress associated with live animal capture makes that pile of deer heads look pretty good.  And it is reality.  That burger on your plate didn’t just materialize in the grocery.  It came from a living breathing being.  If you like trees and flowers and birds, then be thankful for that pile of deer heads.

So while a pile of deer heads is not offensive, reaching the last head in the bottom of a 55-gal drum that’s 33.5 inches high when you are only 62 inches tall is. 

-Jeannine Fleegle
Wildlife Biologist
PGC Deer and Elk Section

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