Deer numbers unbelievable only a few years ago
Deer, nearly non-existent in this area as recently as half a century ago, have grown profusely in numbers in recent years. But, despite their abundance, the deer have been difficult to find during the 2003 firearm hunting season in Southwest Nebraska.
"Numbers in Frontier and Furnas counties are down from 15 to 20 percent," said George Sund, the conservation officer for Furnas and parts of Red Willow and Gosper counties.
In great measure, Sund said the reduction in the number of deer taken by hunters is the result of the warm weather. "It's like I tell the hunters who comment on the lack of deer movement," Sund says. "What would you do if the weather was warm and you had long underwear and a coat on? You wouldn't be out walking around. You'd be laying around like the deer are."
Because of the restricted deer movement, numbers are also down in counties to the west, with check stations in Red Willow, Hitchcock, Hayes and Chase counties saying deer numbers are either down or holding steady.
All together, through Thursday, the check stations in McCook, Trenton, Curtis, Benkelman, Enders, Hayes County and Medicine Creek Lodge reported more than 1,700 deer harvested by hunters during the 2003 archery and firearm seasons.
With a turn in the weather on the way, it's possible that the total deer taken could rise sharply on the final weekend of the firearm season.
"They're saying there's a 40 percent chance of snow or rain," said Laker's in Enders, the deer check station for Chase County. "But, as we've learned in this area, that means there's a 60 percent chance there will be no moisture."
In addition to Laker's in Enders, other area deer check stations are located at Medicine Creek Lodge in southern Frontier County, Brad and Sherri Wiese's home in Benkelman, the Hitchcock County Sheriff's Office in Trenton, the Red Willow County Sheriff's Office in McCook, Tom and Tammy Dow's home in Hayes County and the Frontier County Sheriff's Office in Curtis.
Even though the deer season closes Sunday afternoon, the deer check stations will continue to receive deer through noon Monday.
And, no matter how the weather turns out, the check stations are expecting an active final weekend for deer season. Time is in short supply, as hunters have only today, Saturday and Sunday before the season comes to a close for another year.
Even so, if activity reaches expected levels for the finishing weekend, the total number of deer taken in Southwest Nebraska this year will exceed 2,000 ... a total which was unimaginable in the middle of the 1900s.