Disposing of deer remains: It’s the right thing to do

October 8, 2013 

It’s a shame that each year the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is forced to issue a reminder that all hunters need to be mindful of good hunting ethics.

How hunters discard a harvested deer is a big topic. DNR often fields calls from folks who find gut piles and carcasses either on their property or in a roadside ditch and, as expected, the caller is always quite disgusted.

“Hunters should realize that improperly disposing of deer remains presents a negative public image,” said Charles Ruth, DNR’s Deer/Turkey Project supervisor. “It also provides a legitimate point of criticism that can be used by people who oppose hunting.”

He added: “Proper preparation of harvested deer from the forest to the table is an important part of hunting. Heads, hides and entrails should be buried at least 2 to 3 feet deep so dogs or other animals won’t dig up the remains and drag them around. Alternatively, hunters can take the remains to their local landfill provided the landfill accepts animal carcasses.”

Although few hunters take the time to “field dress” deer anymore, those who do also need to remember that the point of kill is not the place to leave the mess. This is especially true if you’ve been fortunate enough to receive permission from the landowner to hunt his or her land.

According to Ruth, this type of behavior promotes the type of negative image often used by anti-hunters in their attempts to ban hunting — not to mention that the landowners that find such a mess on their property will have second thoughts before allowing hunters to have access to their land again.

“Properly disposed deer remains will soon be taken care of by decomposition and insects,” Ruth said, “because nature wastes no nutrients. It’s part of nature’s recycling program.”

I know that we’re all inherently lazy to some degree.

The part I don’t understand is how someone can be willing to put forth the time and effort to go hunting but be too lazy to take those last couple of steps to finish the job — and especially when they’ve been fortunate enough to find success.

The smartest way to get rid of the waste is by composting.

Done properly, these remains will be mostly gone in three to four months and completely gone at around the six-month mark. It’s also much easier than digging a 3-foot hole every time you’ve found a bit of luck on a hunt.

Start by digging out a fairly large and deep spot that’s somewhere out of the way on your property or hunt club.

If the idea of digging it out with a shovel is more than you’re willing to take on, equipment can be rented that will make the job fast and easy. This doesn’t have to be a big hole in the ground. A large depression will work just fine.

After creating the spot, define the area with flagging tied to the trees around it or stake it off so that it’s easy to spot. I’m pretty sure that nobody would be too happy about taking a tumble into that mess.

When it’s time to put it to use, you’ll be ready with the perfect place for getting rid of the remains.

As with anything, there’s a right way and a wrong way to compost deer remains. It isn’t just a matter of tossing the carcasses in so that they are out of sight and out of mind.

The whole point is to make them disappear completely, as efficiently as possible. With each trip to your compost spot, toss in a layer of carbon material over the remains.

This can be several inches worth of sawdust, wood chips or leaves.

The best ratio to use is about three times as much of this “brown material” as deer remains. This will allow the discarded organic material to break down at a faster rate while keeping the chemical balance of your compost mix at a level that won’t stink up the area.

Last, let me say that it’s up to all of us who hunt to police ourselves.

If you see another hunter improperly discarding deer remains, you need to tell them that you not only see what he’s doing, you’re getting his tag number and will be calling it in to Operation Game Thief (1-800-922-5431) if he doesn’t take it with him and get rid of it the right way.

Offenders should be aware that failing to do so will result in the them being ticketed for littering which, in this situation, carries a fine of up to $500, mandatory community service and a possible prison sentence of up to 90 days.

For those who aren’t comfortable confronting someone in this manner, go ahead and report them. You will not be required to identify yourself and rewards are offered for the information that leads to arrests.

Ultimately, we all just need to remember to do the right thing.

Brad Harvey is a freelance writer in Clover. Visit his website at www.bradharveyoutdoors.com or follow on Twitter @BHarveyOutdoors

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