Just what is the value of a whitetailed deer?

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Ever wonder what a deer is worth? You see them standing by the road sides, on suburban lawns and on farm fields across the U.S. and I can understand why most of the states that have to deal with alarmingly increasing numbers of deer-meets-car accidents would just as soon not see any deer at all. Never mind what auto insurance companies think. They hate the split-hooved ruminants.

One of the worst states as far as deer/auto collisions are concerned is Pennsylvania. The Keystone State has more whitetailed deer killed on its highways than the licensed hunters in some other states can shoot with their guns. The number stands somewhere around 50,000 annually.

Despite all that, one Pennsylvania court places a monetary value on deer that are killed. We’re talking about deer that are shot illegally by poachers.

A 2-year investigation by a diligent Pennsylvania Game Commission officer finally came to a close weeks ago when three New Hampshire residents were found guilty of unlawfully killing deer. The three were assessed nearly $5,000 in fines and related costs by District Judge Jonathan Wilcox in the town of Troy, in Bradford County.

For the unlawful taking and possession of wildlife they were each fined $825, which I believe is a low sum when you consider that poachers ought to be slam-dunked by the courts. Legal hunters must never tolerate those who think they’re above the law.

What caught my eye, however, was that each of the culprits was also fined a $500 deer restitution fee, plus $217 that each had to pay for DNA laboratory test fees.

There you have it. Pennsylvania says a deer is worth $500.

Take that, you thugs!

But being a hunter, what is the value of a deer to me?

Let’s see. Just being in the woods on a cold, clear winter morning, enjoying the sights and sounds of the forest, the squirrels scampering about, songbirds busily scouring for food, watching the occasional bald eagle soaring above, and me feeling as if I’m a thousand miles away from civilization — even when I’m not — is priceless.

When a deer shows up somewhere out of shooting range, I’m delighted just to watch it from my vantage point, high up on a tree stand. But when one of the whitetails comes close enough and I’m sure that I can turn it into venison, I am doubly grateful. Here’s why:

I believe I’m accurate in my assessment that a recent buck deer I shot weighed around 165 pounds. Minus the intestines, hide, lower legs and head it probably resulted in at least 70 pounds of edible venison. Now multiply 70 by the grocery store’s price for a pound of simple beef stew cubes or hamburger meat at $3 per pound. I now have $210 worth of clean, nourishing red meat that is low on cholesterol and fat. Compare that to store-bought beef that shows traces of steroids, chemicals and feed supplements that are of seriously questionable origin.

If you put a value on the better cuts of venison, the top loin (known as the back straps); the two pieces of tenderloin inside the body cavity; the tender cuts of bottom round from the hind-quarters, you might as well add another $100 to the original $210. The figure is low because when compared to the cost of beef cuts, such as New York strip steaks, T-bones and sirloin, the venison is a bargain at my figuring.

To the $310 meat value I now must add at least another $190 per deer just for the privilege of being a member of the brotherhood of hunters that deeply appreciates the fact that we live in a country where we can hunt freely.

Pennsylvania has it right. $500 per deer is a fair price.

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