15 December 2023

Oh Deer!

Written by: Madeleine de Dios

Every year, tucked in the corner of the Potomac River, Elizabeth Hartwell Mason Neck NWR (National Wildlife Refuge) hosts a deer hunt used to manage the local deer population. This year, myself and my two coworkers were invited to help the rangers and interns with the deer check.

Deer checking is a process run by the rangers where they are able to discern the age, weight, and gender of the deer in order to charge the hunter the proper amount once leaving the NWR. After the hunt, the deer are brought to the check located in the back of the refuge. Once brought to the rangers, the deer is weighed via hanging scale. Next, the rangers and biologists open the jaw of the deer and examine its jawbone and teeth in order to find a rough estimate of its age. Watching the biologist so easily glance at the teeth and know the age was impressive. Once the age range is found, if the deer was a doe the rangers would write the receipt and send the hunter on their way. If the deer were a buck, the rangers would then proceed to measure the length of the antlers, as the hunter would have to pay more for catching a buck than a doe.

Getting the chance to be on the ground and watch what these refuges provide to the local community was great. As someone who grew up in the local area, I had always visited Mason Neck NWR to go on hikes and relax, but knowing that there is more offered, something for everyone, really made me realize there is so much more I need to discover in my local community. Though I don’t think I have the stomach for hunting, watching the process was super interesting and informative. I know what I’ll be volunteering for again next November.

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