How many points on that buck?
Posted by ampontan on Friday, October 31, 2008
HERE’S SOME NEWS that Japanese sportsmen will cheer: The regional newspaper Agara reports that deer season in Wakayama will start on Saturday, two weeks earlier than usual. It will also be extended for an extra month to end on 15 March. The season has been lengthened specifically to control the deer population, because the animals are causing serious problems for local farmers. As a result, the season will be concurrent with that for wild boar, another animal responsible for significant crop damage.
The financial loss to agriculture caused by deer in Wakayama alone has more than doubled from 16.9 million yen in 1998 to over 36 million yen ($US 366,630) every year since 2003. The volume of crops lost has also skyrocketed. Deer in the prefecture spoiled a total of 24 tons ten years ago, but that had soared to 3,337 tons by last year.
Another aspect of the new policy will be an emphasis on hunting females. In the past, the limit had been one deer per hunter per day, but this has been increased to two—only one of which can be a male.
The prefecture’s office for the protection of the agricultural environment said:
“The damage to agriculture caused by wild animals in 2007 totaled roughly 300 million yen, and deer accounted for a large part of that. The new policy focuses on the hunting of females, and we hope there will be a decline in their numbers.”
The only deer that inhabits Japan is the Sika deer, which is common throughout East Asia. Deer hunting was prohibited in the 1950s because the animal was close to extinction, but the ban was lifted in the 1980s when the population was quickly restored. (Wolves are extinct in Japan and the deer has no other natural enemies.)
The Sika deer is said to be harder to kill with a rifle shot than the variety in North America. The breed is also causing problems elsewhere; year-round culling is encouraged in Great Britain because of the danger they present to forests, but this has yet to solve the problem.
If the deer stalkers in Japan needed any more encouragement, here’s another factor: Sika venison is said to be delicious. I can’t vouch for that, unfortunately, because I’ve never been to a restaurant with deer on the menu and never eaten any served at a private home.
Foreigners who live in the big city might be surprised to know there is a long tradition of deer hunting here. This is a description written in English of deer hunting in Japan in the 1890s. The article says the hinds were the primary targets of hunters because the unborn fawns were considered a delicacy.
That makes me wonder: Was the meat eaten raw as sashimi?