Traplines on Cypress Creek examines the rising costs associated with hunting and its relation to the struggling economy.

    With hunting season just over a month away, I’m sure many of you are perusing the outdoor supply catalogs and if you aren’t making orders, you’re at least making wish lists. I’m not sure some of you know that a few of the local stores (those within driving distance at least) offer discounts with various credentials.

    Gander Mountain in Salisbury, Md., will offer discounts to all hunter education instructors who present their cards. Bass Pro Shops in Arundel, Md., will offer 10% discounts to any active duty, retired, reserve or National Guard member or their dependents who identify themselves and present a valid military ID card. With the ever-present changing economy, these perks may seem small to some, but they seem pretty enticing to me.

    That economy is already driving the prices of all outdoor gear beyond what many expect. If you were looking for bargains last year, you really need to think about stockpiling this year. 

    The price of ammunition has gone up exponentially. The “cheap” dove shells we bought for $3 a box are likely to be $6 or $7 this year. Lead prices are at an all time high and it’s no longer a possibility but a probability for the high brass loads favored by duck and goose hunters to go up to $2 or $3 for a single shell. Pistol and rifle shooters already have seen this happening to them and though some of the brunt may be absorbed by reloading ammunition, the raw materials are still going to be more expensive. Just the cost of primers has tripled in the last year alone.

    Thanks to ethanol, the price of corn has more than doubled in the last year. Don’t think that money is going to the farmers either. It’s that despicable “middle man” who’s rolling in the green (I’m sure he justifies it by rightfully relating that his prices also have increased.)

    One thing you need to watch out for is the packaging on these things. 

    Many people walk into a discount store and see a “box” of shotgun shells is $1 to $2 cheaper than you saw them in another store. Beware. Oftentimes manufacturers produce “advertising boxes.” What happens is you look at the box and fail to realize that the cheaper box contains only 20 shells where the traditional boxes contained 25. The same goes for corn. Yesterday I saw “deer corn” printed on a bag. The price listed at $8.99. Farther back in the store was regular feed corn with a price of $10.26. 

    Math wasn’t my strong suit obviously and I picked up three bags of deer corn. Continuing my shopping, I noticed the deer corn had 40 pounds of seed as compared to the 50 pounds in the feed corn. Even with my slow ciphering I figured that the deer corn was costing me 23 cents a pound while the seed corn was costing 21 cents a pound. That means that by buying the feed corn, I was actually saving $1.24 per bag. I took out the three bags of deer corn and picked up two bags of feed corn. Caveat emptor.

    I’m routinely getting calls about “monster deer” being sighted. I’m delighted to see perhaps we’ve turned the corner on quality deer management here and folks are letting the young ones walk. Still, I always take such sightings with a grain of salt this time of year.

    Bucks’ antlers are nearing the end of the velvet cycle. As such, the mass tends to look almost twice the size the “hard horn” antlers actually will be. It’s easy to spot good bucks at 400 yards now, but there are a variety of reasons for that. Bucks are still running in bachelor groups, feeding patterns now include young soybeans just popping out of the ground and the antlers appear larger than they actually are. Still, it’s nice to get the old thumper pumping over the possibilities just over 30 days away.

    Speaking of deer management, the Delaware Chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association just received word it leads the nation in a very special category. Of all the states having and managing whitetail populations, Delaware has achieved the highest score nationwide of does to buck ratio being taken. Our Small Wonder takes more does, percentage wise, than bucks. That in itself proves that the education of farmers and hunters has reached a critical stage where we’re realizing that living with whitetail can, in fact, be managed and that smart management produces results both farmers and hunters can enjoy.

    So, as the deer hunting year approaches, I want you to think about the old adage but with a bit of extra. “Let him go, let him grow. If you want venison, take a doe.” It helps everyone.