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Ending with a Bang

Posted: April 14, 2015

Rocket netting deer is a task that requires immense patience, not to mention layers of clothes.

While the possibility of trapping deer excites me, the freezing cold temperatures make me acutely aware of the slow passage of time while I am sitting in the blind. In addition to all of the professional experience I have gained, this job has turned me into quite a cold-hardy person. (This is not to say that I would be okay with experiencing another brutal winter like this one…)

Our crew of six has spent the winter rotating shifts of two people in a blind, while the remainder of us waits in the work trucks, hidden from view, listening intently for the sound of the rockets firing. Unfortunately, despite our many, many attempts, we have only once experienced hearing said sound.

Until last week, we were rather unsuccessful with our rocket netting attempts. At each site, we position a trail camera in view of the net and retrieve the memory card from it every few days to learn when deer arrive and leave. From the photos, we decide when to sit—it’s usually between 15:30 and 20:00—then wait it out as long as our fingers and toes can stand it. We have come close to catching deer a few times, but every time they either weren’t properly positioned in front of the net (to safely capture them) or they caught wind of us and ran off.

Last week, however, we were finally successful.

Before heading to the rocket net site, we checked the photos and learned that at least four deer (and at most seven) were visiting the net on a daily basis. What’s more, they were there nearly all day, from 6:30 to midnight or later. We headed out feeling confident in our chances—and rightfully so!

Andy and I had only been waiting in the blind for a little under an hour when Andy, who had a better view of the net than I did, tapped my arm and held up four fingers. Four deer! Specifically, two does and two fawns. My breath immediately caught and my heart began to race. I had a book, an iPod, and about three blankets in my lap, and all I could think was, How am I going to put all of this down without making any noise?! I was terrified to move for fear of the deer hearing me. All I could do was wait and watch, for the deer had finally made it into my field of view.

Within two minutes of their arrival, Andy fired the blaster.

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Suddenly, the blind was up and over my head, everything that had been in my lap was in the snow, and I was running towards the net. One of the does managed to escape, but I couldn’t tell you how it happened. In the frenzy, I completely missed it; my sole thought was to get to the deer, to get them down and blindfolded. All I could hear was their bellowing and my own breathing. I don’t remember much of the wrestling process—it all happened so fast—but within moments the rest of the crew had pulled up in the trucks and was running towards us.

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So began our usual routine: sedating the deer, tagging the deer, fitting the doe with both a radio collar and a VIT, and reversing the drugs. The only new task was to free the deer from the net, which proved less difficult than I had imagined.

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Once all of the deer had been released, we were able to celebrate our first rocket net success. Until that day, we had given up hope of ever catching deer that way. Spring green-up is happening and deer haven’t been coming to the corn as often, so we worried we had missed our chance. Of course, that wasn’t going to stop us from trying and we were wonderfully rewarded.

 

-Kelsey Wellington, Field Tech
Northern Field Crew

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