Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deer Season in East Texas - Hunting is Much Changed from its Origins - and Check out our East Texas BobCats

It's offcially hunting season in Texas, and the modern day deer hunters are stalking their seasonal prey. Hunting these days bears little reflection to the hunting methods of old.  The photos in this blog were taken by a motion activated camera set deep in the woods.  Either corn or a mineral lick were the attraction for the deer and they cooperated quite well, with numerous shots of them moving through the area.  Also of interest were the large numbers of coyote, and three different bobcats (see a Bobcat photo below).  While the intent of the camera is to determine when the deer can be found at a particular time of day and place for convenient shooting, the photos for the naturalist type are of great interest.  Seeing the East Texas woods alive with its native animals is well worth the effort, and one of the better benefits of modern hunting methods. 

The following excerpt makes reference to the style of the hunt for deer and other wildlife in medieval times when the success of the hunt was paramount to survival.  While today's hunters largely hunt for sport, there are definitely many hunters in East Texas who still hunt to fill their freezers with much needed meat for their families through the coming year.  It is those hunters who need it most for food that largely have the least opportunity to hunt.  In that respect today's costly deer leases serve to provide meat and sport to those who least need the meat.

Excerpts from Harting, "British Aninmals Extinct Within Historic Times...", c. 1880 :

". . .will here be content with quoting the following remarks of Mr. Earle in his edition of the Saxon Chronicle. " Now-a-days," he says, "men hunt for exercise and sport, but then they hunted for food, or for the luxury of fresh meat. Now the flight of the beast is the condition of a good hunt, but in those days it entailed disappointment. They had neither the means of giving chase or of killing them at a distance, so they used stratagem to bring the game within the reach of their missiles."

"A labyrinth of alleys was penned out at a convenient part of the wood, and here the archers lay under covert. The hunt began by sending men round to break and beat the wood, and drive the game with dogs and horns into the ambuscade. The pen is the haia (1) so frequently occurring amongst the silvae (2) of Domesday."

"Horns were used, not, as with us, to call the dogs, or, as in France, to signal the stray sportsman; but to scare the game. In fact it was the battue (3) which is now, under altered circumstances, discountenanced by the authorities of the chase, but which, in early times, was the only way for man to cope with the beasts of the field.""

These days the East Texas woods have entirely too many 'beasts' of the coyote type.  They are quite bold, and most old-timers will tell you they are much bigger in stature now and bolder than in their earlier memories. 

In England it was the wolf that was a threat to other wildlife.  "In the Forest Laws of Canute promulgated in 1016 the Wolf is thus expressly mentioned:  As for foxes and wolves they are neither reckoned as beasts of the forest or of venery and therefore whoever kills any of them is out of all danger of forfeiture or making any recompense or amends for the same. Nevertheless, the killing of them within the limits of the forest is a breach of the royal chase and therefore the offender shall yield a recompense for the same, though it be but easy and gentle." Harting, 1880.

The wolf was hunted to extinction in England by the time of Henry VII, sometime between 1485 - 1509.  "The old books on hunting state that the season for hunting the Wolf was between the 25th of December and the 25th of March.  This of course was only so long as Wolf hunting was an amusement and a royal sport.  As soon as it became a necessity and a price was set on the animal's head, it was killed whenever and wherever it could be found.  ". . .during the reign of Henry VII it is probable that the Wolf became finally extirpated in England.  Although for nearly two centuries later . . . it continued to hold out against its persecutors in Scotland and Ireland."  Harting, 1880.

(1) Hay Latin, haia. Haia, sometimes rendered as hay, is translated as both 'enclosure' and 'hedged enclosure' in the Phillimore edition. The term is first recorded in Domesday Book. The haia was an enclosure formed by a hedge of trees, designed to trap or corral wild animals, usually deer, during the hunt. A number of Domesday entries refer to the enclosures 'where wild animals were caught' (eg, WOR 18,4), others to enclosures where the animals were kept (HEF29,11).
(2) Silvae, the word means woods or thicket, and implies unpruned luxuriance of growth.
(3) Battue, an old term referring to using people or dogs to drive animals from the woods.