PAT NEAL: Most wonderful time of the year

OPENING DAY OF deer season must be my favorite day of the year.

When — if only for a brief moment — there is hope that this opening day will not be the same failure that it was last year.

I was sitting on a stump in the pre-dawn gloom minding my own business, watching the fall leaves turn to a riot of color as fingers of sunlight crept across the mountains.

At some point the birds awakened.

I don’t like birds much. They’re messy and make a lot of noise. I heard a whooshing sound.

A massive flock of pine siskins streaked across the sky and landed in the cedar tree I was sitting under. There must have been at least a hundred of them.

Siskins are relatives of our state bird, the goldfinch. They live on the seeds of alder and cedar, twittering about in great flocks that flow through the air like feathered amoebas.

A pair of sparrow hawks dove through the flock.

Sitting beneath a frightened flock of siskins is a disgusting nature experience.

They tend to evacuate on take-off. It was like being showered by a blizzard of bird droppings.

Just lucky I wasn’t eating my lunch.

After the manure spray, I gave up hunting on opening day.

With the hot, dry weather we’ve been having, if you don’t get a deer in the first hour of daylight, you probably aren’t going to get one.

Which leaves the rest of opening day for wishing you were somewhere else.

This would be my best tip for deer hunting on the Olympic Peninsula: Don’t.

Here in Washington, we try to manage our fish and wildlife in a manner that doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

So, we protect the bears and cougars, sell as many hunting licenses as we possibly can and hire biologists to study the reasons why our deer harvest has taken a nosedive.

There could be many reasons for this.

Throughout the years, deer have evolved into sensitive, highly intelligent animals that don’t want to get shot, so they move to town to get away from the overpopulation of predators and hunters.

Even the deer out in the woods seem to be smarter.

It’s almost like the deer learned to read the hunting regulations, but that’s impossible.

Even the vast majority of humans have trouble understanding the hunting laws.

There could be many reasons for this.

Ironically, as deer everywhere seem to be evolving into more intelligent creatures, a recent CNN news story revealed that human IQ scores have been steadily falling for the past few decades.

An analysis of some 730,000 IQ test results from the Ragnar Frisch Centre for Economic Research in Norway indicates human IQ hit its peak in the mid-1970s and has been dropping an average of 7 IQ points in each generation ever since.

Which would explain a whole lot of issues in the modern world today.

The broader implications of this landmark study are disturbing.

As the humans get steadily more stupid, the deer have gotten just too darned intelligent for people to hunt.

Even without reading the hunting regulations the deer know when hunting season is about to start just by monitoring traffic patterns.

Suddenly there is an influx of four-wheel-drive vehicles speeding down our roads and slamming on their brakes where you least expect it.

Then there is the odd practice of going out in the woods where the deer live to shoot guns for target practice.

This gives the deer plenty of warning to skedaddle before the lead starts flying on opening day.

Oh well, maybe next year.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via patneal