Enquirer Herald

Brad Harvey: Hunters should finish the job

Any deer hunter will tell you that after all of the hours of scouting and the time in the stand, it’s once the shot is fired when the real work starts.

The process that begins with getting a deer from the field and ends with all of that great, lean meat in your freezer is a tedious one. And often, hunters find themselves thoroughly worn out as the work is being completed.

That doesn’t mean, however, that the task of disposing of the boned-out carcass and guts pile should be taken lightly.

Proper disposal of deer remains is all about respect, for both the animal you’ve harvested and the landowners and nonhunting public.

That said, it never takes more than a week or two into the season each year for me to cross paths with a deer carcass that someone has dumped along the roadway, proving that they don’t care about anyone but themselves.

“Hunters should realize that improperly disposing of deer remains presents a negative public image,” said Charles Ruth, the S.C. Department of Natural Resource’s Deer/Turkey Project supervisor. “It also provides a legitimate point of criticism that can be used by people who oppose hunting.”

He added: “Proper preparation of harvested deer from the forest to the table is an important part of hunting. Heads, hides and entrails should be buried at least 2 to 3 feet deep so dogs or other animals won’t dig up the remains and drag them around. Alternatively, hunters can take the remains to their local landfill, provided the landfill accepts animal carcasses.”

Although few hunters take the time to “field dress” deer anymore, those that do also need to remember that the point of kill is not the place to leave the mess.

This is especially true if you’ve been fortunate enough to receive permission from the landowner to hunt on his or her land.

“Properly disposed deer remains will soon be taken care of by decomposition and insects, because nature wastes no nutrients,” Ruth said. “It’s part of nature’s recycling program.”

We’re all inherently lazy to some degree. We simply can’t help it. The part that just doesn’t register for me is how someone can be willing to put forth the time and effort to actually go hunting but be too lazy to take those last couple of steps to finish the job.

It’s not only important to do so to maintain a good reputation for hunters, but also because it’s the right thing to do.

The smartest way to go about getting rid of the waste that comes from harvesting a deer is by composting. Done properly, these remains will be mostly gone in three to four months – and completely gone at around the six-month mark.

Composing is also much easier than digging a 3-foot hole every time you’ve found a bit of luck on a hunt.

Start by digging out a fairly large and deep spot that’s somewhere out of the way.

If the idea of digging it out with a shovel is more than you’re willing to take on, equipment can be rented to make the job fast and easy. This doesn’t have to be a big hole in the ground; a large depression will work just fine.

After creating the spot, define the area with flagging tied to the trees around it or stake it off so that it’s easy for those passing by to spot. I’m pretty sure that nobody would be too happy about taking a tumble into that mess.

When it’s time to put it to use, you’ll be ready with the perfect place for getting rid of the remains.

As with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to compost deer remains. It isn’t just a matter of tossing the carcasses in so that they are out of sight, out of mind.

The whole point is to make the remains disappear in a way that’s as efficient as possible. With each trip to your compost spot, toss in a layer of carbon material over what you’ve just dumped. This can be several inches worth of sawdust, wood chips or leaves.

The best ratio to use is about three times as much of this “brown material” as there are deer remains. This will allow the discarded organic material to break down at a faster rate while keeping the chemical balance of your compost mix at a level that won’t be stinking up the area.

Lastly, let me say that it’s up to us hunters to police ourselves. If you see another hunter improperly discarding deer remains, you need to tell them that you not only see what he’s doing, you’re getting his tag number and will be calling it in to Operation Game Thief (1-800-922-5431) if he doesn’t take it with him and get rid of it the right way.

Offenders should be aware that failure to dispose of remains properly results in a ticket for littering which, in this situation, carries a fine of up to $500, mandatory community service and a possible prison sentence of up to 90 days.

For those of you that just aren’t comfortable confronting someone, go ahead and report them.

You’ll not be required to identify yourself, and rewards are even offered for the information that leads to arrests.