How much is one deer worth? I asked myself that question when I saw one of the latest press releases from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
There was a time when one buckskin was worth about one dollar, hence the term ‘buck’. Try paying for anything with a pile of buckskins these days!
Economists and insurance actuaries, it turns out, put the value of one deer at approximately $1,250. That, after calculating insurance losses in car/deer altercations.
Last year, I bought a hunting license and deer tag and spent about $100 on fuel and tagged a buck, which yielded about 50 pounds of meat back from the butcher. That is about $6.00 per pound by my calculation. Ask a non-hunting spouse what the true cost of a deer is and the number is likely to go higher.
What about all those bucks ODFW collected for special deer, elk, pronghorn, sheep and goat tags?
The 2012 ODFW auction and raffles for big game grossed $523,202, of which $308,566 will go to the Access and Habitat Program and $179,937 will fund big game research and management.
Eleven special big game auction tags grossed $347,000, including $110,000 for a bighorn sheep tag. The sportsman and conservation groups that sponsored the auction will keep 10 percent of the auction proceeds. Those groups include chapters of the Mule Deer Foundation, Safari Club International, Oregon Bow Hunters, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Oregon Hunters Association.
It turns out that more than one hunter believed that a mule deer tag that allows him or her to pursue deer anywhere in the state was worth upwards of $20,000 at auction. In the raffle, ticket sales for various statewide and regional deer hunts totaled $34,896.
That means a few affluent hunters and a few lucky raffle winners get to pursue a dream hunt for a trophy buck or bull or ram.
What that should mean to you is that there are more places to hunt, thanks to the work of and the generosity of sportsmen and conservation groups.
For those of us that can’t afford to buy a hunt at auction and aren’t lucky enough to draw a raffle tag, this has been a week for wailing and gnashing of teeth or celebration as we check our mailboxes for hunting tag results. Perhaps you didn’t draw the tags you hoped for this year. There are options.
A rifle hunter who didn’t draw a big game tag may still hunt for blacktail deer or Roosevelt elk in the Cascades and west to the coast. A bow hunter may hunt deer or elk in most of the state, just by buying the proper tag before the season starts. If it is a question of finding a new place to hunt, check out the Access and Habitat program.
For a quick look at distribution of properties involved in the A&H program, click on www.oregonhuntingmap.com. To narrow down the search to a specific hunting unit, click on Wildlife Management Units.
There are millions of acres enrolled in the program with the bulk of the opportunity in western Oregon and in the northeast corner of the state.
A&H program coordinator, Matthew Keenan, seeks to build partnerships with law enforcement, landowners and hunters. Two of the best examples are the North Coast Travel Management Area and Willamette Private lands law enforcement projects that take in properties in the Saddle Mountain, Scappoose, Wilson, Trask, Santiam, Alsea, Stott Mountain, McKenzie, Siuslaw and Indigo units.
“By providing funds for 11 state troopers and two sheriff’s deputies to patrol the land, the Access and Habitat Program has kept four million acres open for hunting for blacktail deer and Roosevelt elk,” Keenan said.
According to Keenan, there are also limited entry opportunities statewide that do not show on the map. Check out the ODFW Access and Habitat program on the web at www.dfw.state.or.us. For information about hunt areas, contact the ODFW offices at the phone numbers listed with each property.
In the end, the price of a deer is a moot point. The value of these deer and elk we hunt can never be measured in dollars and cents. And the memories we make with friends and family out in the mountains and the desert are priceless.