Al Smith - Deer: An amazing animal that co-exists with humans


No wonder deer have become such an adaptable animal that seems to love the suburbs and certain city areas as much as the woods, water and farm fields they normally roam.

Deer have been around for 20 million years. They are an amazing animal that co-exists well with humans -- so much so that they become a hazard around roadways and will munch on flowers, shrubs and trees in the burbs. They also provide one of the best-tasting game meats there is.

They can perform some amazing feats, too.

Most people do not know deer have existed for 20 million years. They have changed form over the years and have existed in the same basic one for the past million years.

Those of us who hunt know from experience that deer can leap over fences that are eight feet tall and cover 30 feet in a horizontal leap. They are swift at short distance and can run in excess of 35 miles per hour. They have extraordinary senses -- especially sight, hearing and smell.

Deer are amazingly strong swimmers (I've seen them swim across the Auglaize and Maumee rivers.) Their hair is hollow, thus providing buoyancy in water. It also provides insulation during winter. Fly-fishermen use deer hair in numerous fly patterns, especially hair bugs.

In the wild, they can live to 11 years. They are prolific breeders even though does normally only have one fawn during the first year they breed. After that first year, they normally have twins although triplets are not uncommon and quadruplets are possible.

They have some unusual characteristics including the common white tail flashing and spots on fawns. When they clip their tail up, it reveals their white underside (hence the whitetail deer). This alerts other deer to danger. The dots or spots on fawns are a form of camouflage.

A misnomer related to deer is that age signifies the size of a rack. Age has nothing to do with it. A number of factors are related to a buck's rack. Among them are age, nutrition and genetics. Bucks normally have their largest racks during middle age (4-6 years). They actually have smaller racks as they age.

One of the most amazing statistics concerning whitetail deer is the fact that there were only an estimated 500,000 of the animals in 1900. Once regulated and well-managed deer hunting went into effect, deer herds grew tremendously. Even with liberal limits today, the estimated whitetail population in this country is between 20-30 million.

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Jeremy Hamilton will be the guest speaker and will be talking about warm water fly fishing and flies that can be used at the October meeting of the Defiance County Fish and Game Club on Oct. 13. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at the club, which is located northwest of Defiance, off Ohio 15. Hamilton runs Auglaize Fly Shop, fishes the local rivers and ponds catching a variety of species using his fly rods.

Shotgun shooting will be held before the meeting and begins at 5:45 p.m. The only fee will be the cost of the clay birds shot ($3 for 25 birds). This will not be any type of match, just a fun time to sharpen up your skills or if you have never shot clay birds before you can give it a try. Shooting will continue until about 10 minutes before the club meeting and resume after the meeting concludes.

The fish and game meetings are open to visitors.

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With the exception of ice fishing, I rarely fish with live bait. Consequently, I get a big kick out of people who only think you can catch crappies with "minners." Artificial lures (especially soft plastics) work well on this tasty panfish. And you fish them weedless in a brush pile. How many times have you watched Bill Dance (almost as famous for catching crappies as he is for bass) fish with minnows on his outdoor show?

Speaking of brush piles, good luck trying to find many in area rivers.

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Anyone who travels to Lake Erie in the Port Clinton area has likely seen Wylie the Walleye, a 171⁄2 foot creation of taxidermist Jim Wendt and Kevin Pietras. Wylie has been around for 15 years and is famous for his drop on New Year's Eve. He is popular with tourists, who like to have their picture taken with him. He travels around Port Clinton and makes appearances at regional events.

The big fish is undergoing "reconstructive surgery," Don Clemons, chairman of the Walleye Madness at Midnight Committee, recently told the Port Clinton News-Herald. "In walleye years, he's 110 years old," Clemons said.

Wylie is built of marine plywood, furring strips and fiberglass. He sits in a cradle on a trailer.

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People are reminded that the road access beyond the Sportsmen's Migratory Bird Center located at the Magee Marsh Wildlife Area will be closed during the waterfowl season. This is the area along the wildlife area road leading to the beach area including the boardwalk and beach trails.

The closure is in effect beginning at sunset Oct. 10 through noon on Oct. 29 and from sunset Nov.11 through noon Dec. 3. The road and beach area will be closed during the controlled youth deer hunts scheduled for Nov. 19 & 20. The remaining Saturdays and Sundays during this time period hunters, anglers and wildlife viewers will be permitted access to the beach area and wildlife trails starting Saturdays from noon until sunset and sunrise to sunset on Sunday.

(Al Smith is outdoor editor of The Crescent-News. Contact him at

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