The air-conditioning unit in my small apartment has been struggling to keep up, barely able to cool my bedroom. It's been tough to sleep. It's been unbearable to go running outside. My waders almost overflowed with sweat yesterday while trout fishing. I've cursed and complained about the heat because of the discomfort it has caused in my daily life.
Big deal. As the nation struggles through a horrendous drought—declared a national disaster in 1,016 counties in 26 states—the hardships I'm encountering don't even register on the "who gives a crap?" scale.
I e-mailed a friend/rancher, Tony Johnson, in northwestern Nebraska this morning, asking him simply if his family and operation are doing OK during this hellish heatwave. His response: "No. No feed in sight and the cattle are running out of pasture." Tony's in the same boat as thousands of cattlemen across the country, many of whom are being forced to sell their herds early to cut losses.
As crops and livestock suffer, food prices are likely to rise at some point, even if we don't see a significant impact until next year.
It goes like this: Farmers grows corn and other crops. Crops don't grow to maximum potential. There's a shortage of crop supply. Fuel costs go up. Livestock feed costs go up. The foods we buy from our local grocery store (especially corn- or soybean-related products, or meat) cost more to produce and bring to market. We pay more for food.
Most economists rightfully speculate that, regardless of food costs, people need to eat. This typically means less budget for "discretionary" goods or activities—such as hunting. But think twice before you ditch your deer tags this year.
As our friend, Dr. Grant Woods, points out, deer herds will also suffer from the drought, but reduced forage for whitetails could mean an excellent hunting season due to more centralized food sources, theoretically making deer easier to pattern.
With a lack of available nutrients, some bucks might not experience maximized antler development, but make no mistake—trophy bucks will still be haunting fields and forests.
If you're fortunate enough to have the resources to maintain healthy food plots, they could really pay off this fall. If you're a farmer who produces crops to feed livestock or pay bills (God bless you), odds are you're focused on basic survival this growing season. If you're just a hunter who grows food plots to attract more deer, this could be your big break. Never considered food plots? Now might be the time.
Consider shooting extra deer to fill your freezer this fall. You'll enjoy a healthy reserve of organic flesh, you won't be forced to stomach high meat costs, and you won't have to miss out on your favorite activity of the year—deer hunting.