Archive for the ‘Whitetail Deer’ Tag

CWD AND ME   3 comments

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Like most people who hunt deer species in North America, I have a minimal knowledge of the disease known as CWD. Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal (to deer species) neurological disease.  A misfolded protein called a prion causes the disease.

It passes from one deer to another through animal to animal contact. The shedding of prions through bodily fluids and/or the decay of infected animals creates a contaminated environment which allows the spread of the disease.

The disease does not pass along to humans or domestic livestock. But it can have a devastating effect on deer herds, especially if they are concentrated in a location such as those yarding up in winter and those in a breeding facility.

Biologists have tried numerous programs to limit the spread of the disease but as yet there is no known cure.

Most programs involve isolating infected areas and the sampling of brain tissue to find infected animals.

Last fall produced the harvest of the best deer of a 60-year hunting career. When told testing for CWD is required, anxiety set in.  Visions of some college kid working for the game officials butchering the cape to get at the brain tissue came to the fold.  Such was not the case.

Squaw Mountain Ranch where the deer was taken is also a deer breeding facility for sale of deer to ranches across Texas. In order to protect their property and herd, the ranch participates in a number of studies with the wildlife officials of the state.  It is no near any of the areas where CWD has been found in the state and the hope to keep it that way.

Any deer that dies on this ranch is checked.

Concerns about damage to the cape are unwarranted. Watching the process turned out to be a good learning experience.  Dusty, a guide on the ranch follows normal capeing procedures.  However as the cape is rolled toward the head, an incision is made at the joining of the spinal column to the base of the brain.

With some specialized tools he is able to remove a two inch section of the spinal column. He places the sample in a container and sent out for testing.  At the lab they section the sample and examine it under a microscope for any folded prions.

After two years of sampling every deer, this ranch has not found a single infected animal.

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MAXIMIZE YOUR OUTDOOR SHOW DOLLARS   Leave a comment

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Going to the outdoor show is always a hoot.  It is a chance to see what anglers from all over are buying.  It brings up visions of upcoming trip opportunities and it is a learning experience.

The key to maximizing knowledge from a boat show is advance preparation.  A game plan will allow you to learn with a minimum of exhaustion.  Begin on the Internet.  Most all of the exhibitors web pages.  So too do the sponsors of the show itself.

Most shows are composed of thousands of square feet of products, places to go, and other bits of knowledge.  Covering the entire show and still being able to focus on your favorite aspect of outdoor recreation takes effort.  Some shows are so large that one feels the need of a GPS just to get around.

Once you select the show, check the ads that appear in newspapers, magazines, on radio and television for specific information as to when the show coming to town.  Look for the products and seminars that interest you.  If planning to make purchases, make a list of the items you are seeking.

Make two lists, one that you have to buy and the second of things you would like to examine.  Perhaps you will buy something from the second list and maybe you just want to see it.

Week day traffic is lightest and exhibitors can spend more time with you.  Arrive early to allow maximum time to spend getting the information you seek.

If you are with a group make arrangements to meet at a specific location and time.  You may want to see different things.  Kids do not want to spend the same amount of time at a booth as an adult.  Wives want to see different things than do husbands.

Once at the show, take time to look over the program you usually receive as you enter.  It often has a floor plan and list of the exhibitors.  Use a pen or highlighter marking pen to mark the exhibits and seminars of major interest to you.  Make check marks beside the names of exhibitors who might stock the things you want to purchase.

Make note of the time and location of seminars you want to attend.  Some shows announce the seminars as they are taking place while some do not.  Be sure you have a watch so that you do not miss your favorite speaker.  Make note on the program of any last minute substitute seminar speakers or exhibits.  Look for such changes the entrance to the show or at the seminar area.

Take a cassette tape recorder to the seminar.  Most speakers have no problem with your taping their speech, but it is important to ask permission first.  Take notes in a spiral notebook.  You might even have some questions that you hope the speaker will answer, prepared in advance.  That way if he does not cover the subject, you can ask during the Q & A that usually is part of any seminar.

Pay attention and avoid side conversations with your companions.  If the subject is one in which you are intensely interested, sit near the front so that you can concentrate.  If you are only passively interested, sit in the back or on an aisle.  That way if you decide to leave during the presentation, you will disturb only a minimum number of other people.

Wear comfortable shoes.  You will spend most of your time walking on concrete.  Hiking boots or a new pair of athletic shoes is a good idea as they provide support and cushioning for the feet.  Older athletic shoes are not a good idea as they lack the support necessary to cushion your feet.  They are like walking barefoot and can lead to foot problems as well as fatigue.

If the outside weather is cold, then you need to do something with your coat.  Carrying it is a nuisance.  If the show provides a coat checking service, it is worth the cost.  If not, perhaps you might want to leave it in the vehicle.  A third alternative is to put it in a backpack.

Backpacks are also a good place for brochures that you pick up at the show.  You can acquire a considerable number of them in the course of visiting all the booths.  Although the weight of a brochure is not much, the weight of many brochures is a lot.  If you do not remember to bring your backpack, then look for a booth that is passing out plastic “shopping bags”.  Look around at the other people carrying bags and check for reinforced handles.  They are the ones you want.

Another help is to take frequent breaks and examine what you accumulate.  Sometimes it is stuff that you do not really want.  You can stop for a soft drink and a hot dog while culling your materials.  If after reading the brochure you still have some questions, go back to the booth and get answers.  It is easier than calling or writing from home later.

Finally, check your notes.  Did you miss anything that you had intended to see?

Attendance at sports shows is a great opportunity to gain a maximum benefit from your money.

 

ILLINOIS PUBLIC LAND WHITETAIL HUNTING   Leave a comment

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Many deer hunters see deer hunting as going to the same area each year and sitting in a tree. They hope for a deer to walk past and that they shoot straight.  Successful deer hunting requires study of the quarry, its biology, and the effect that man has had on both.

White-tailed deer disappeared from Illinois around the turn of the last century. Reintroduced to Southern Illinois in the early 1930’s, reintroduction came in three phases:

The first deer came to southern Illinois and allowed to reproduce. The idea was to get sufficient numbers to allow the program to move to step II.

Step II involved the trapping and translocation of deer to a suitable habitat in other parts of the state. This was so successful that by 1957 some 33 counties opened to deer hunting.  By 1975, some 98 counties had deer seasons.

Step III became the over population that has caused depredation of crops and homeowner landscaping. It also involves an increase in auto-deer accidents on area highways.  By the 1980’s over population of deer in many areas of the state was becoming a significant problem.

In the 1990’s wildlife officials decided to stress maintenance of deer density that would be capable of sustaining deer hunting. It had to take into account the carrying capacity of the land.

Today there is emphasis in some areas to maintain trophy quality in the deer herd. But, deer hunting is more than just shooting a big deer.  Deer hunters seek size and symmetry.

First is the preparation and anticipation of a hunt. Some say it is the most fun part of a deer hunt. Then there is the isolation of sitting in a cold treestand waiting for a deer to come past.  Finally, there sometimes is the disappointment of being unsuccessful in getting a deer.  To the deer hunter these are all part of the game.

Deer hunting is about leveraging experience and knowledge. All knowledge is cumulative.  The more one hunts, the better hunter he becomes.  The more he reads about hunting, he becomes a more informed hunter.  The more videos about hunting he views, the more discriminating he is in selecting his quarry.

As knowledge accumulates, one sorts out valid theories to test in a specific type of habitat. One tests theories in the field.  Then the hunter begins to develop his own theories and test them.  That is how one becomes a better hunter.  One can always learn if he just keeps an open mind.

This year, study your deer hunting area. Does it present the habitat that will attract and keep deer?  If deer are present, why are they there and where do they regularly travel.  By knowing why deer do what they do, one improves his chances of being able to be in position for that all important shot.

The huge expanses of public and private land available in southern Illinois attract hunters. The lack of overcrowding makes the area an excellent place to hunt.  The Illinois Digest of Hunting and Trapping Regulations contains lists of all the public land hunting areas.  It is available free from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources offices though out the state.  It is also available anywhere place selling hunting and fishing licenses.

 

 

 

DEER HUNTERS ASK YOURSELF THESE QUETIONS   Leave a comment

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When evaluating land for deer hunting, here are some questions you might ask yourself.

Does it present habitat that attracts and holds deer? Are there ample food, shelter and water sources present?

If deer are present, where do they travel and why? In the morning deer travel toward bedding areas and toward feeding areas in the evening.

If water is present close to the bedding areas they will not move from them during the day. If not they will get up occasionally and move to creeks, puddles, ponds and rivers for a drink.  Learn what they are doing.

Regardless of the time of day, deer leave well-worn trails in the areas they frequent. Study those tracks and learn their patterns of behavior.

If you know why deer do what they do, it improves chances of being able to be in a position for that important shot opportunity.

 

SCOUT DEER ALL YEAR AROUND   1 comment

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Looking at Charlie’s cellphone one cannot help but realize how technology and good old fashioned ground pounding can aid in taking that deer next season. Deer hunting in the 21st century has come a long way.

Hunting season is upon us. Modern technology allows hunters to observe their quarry all year with the use of trail cameras.  Some can even connect to cellphones and computers so the hunter can monitor the activity on a specified piece of land.

The hunter who consistently takes big bucks year after year spends hours in the field, reads all he can find about the animals and makes effective use of trail cameras to pattern their activity. He does not overlook any opportunity to learn.

In the case of white-tailed deer, big bucks have different feeding patterns and travel different trails in summer and early fall than later in the year. In response to hunting pressure deer change their travel patterns at the opening of deer season.

Tracks lead to either feeding or bedding areas. Deer will move toward bedding areas in the morning and toward feeding areas in the evening.  This tells you where to focus your hunting during those periods of the day.

Bucks make rubs along the trail on the side of the tree he is facing. This is another clue to which direction he is moving on a trail.  Seldom does he use the same trail both coming and going to the feeding/bedding areas.

Later the rut activity makes for more changes as they drive off rival bucks and seek out the does still in estrus.

Bucks maintain these habits until late winter when feeding habits force them to change in concert with the change of diet from brose to grasses.

Sign found by the scouting hunter in spring is sign of most importance to the hunter in pursuit of a dominant buck. Post season hunters can get a clear picture of where he will be in the fall by scouting a deer’s home area.

By making field notes one can map the planned hunting area. Expertise in map making is not a requirement. You just have to be able to find the same terrain in the fall.  Mark wooded areas, swamps, sloughs, ridges, scrapes, rubs, bedding areas, feeding areas, water, doe trails, buck trails and where you sight game.  The use of a GPS unit helps by using way points in the same manner.

For those wanting a more accurate map, local governmental agencies often have maps for sale at a nominal price. They portray roads in the area.  Add some of the things mentioned earlier and some additional items might include changes in terrain such as small valleys with bluffs on each side that funnel deer activity.  Creek crossings often are full of sign as animals depend on the water sources.  Small ponds, stock tanks, and creeks become regular watering holes for all wildlife.

A benefit of post season scouting is that signs found are from animals that have made it through the season and the winter. They should be still around the next fall.

Due to the lack of vegetation late in the season the amount of sign is not as clear as is the case in late summer.  Rubs are a bit hard to find, as they are aged and difficult to distinguish from ones of previous years.  Scrapes are easy to spot.  Mark them for future reference to see if they are refreshed.

Fresh rubs in an area with older ones leave the impression that the deer making them has been around for a while. Deer return to old scrapes from one year to another.  Once they begin to use them they will return to refresh them every 12 to 48 hours.

Scrapes usually are located along field edges where there is a change from one type of vegetation to another. They are almost always beneath an overhanging branch that is about 4 to 5 feet off the ground.  In making the scrape the buck leaves his scent on the tree by depositing his saliva as he licks or chews the branch.

If no suitable tree is available deer make scrapes next to saplings and leave a rub on the tree itself.

Rubs serve two purposes. They aid in getting the velvet off of antlers during the early season.  Later they mark the buck’s territory.  The territory is the buck’s breeding ground.  The best prospect is an area with both old and new scrapes and rubs in large numbers.  The chance of a big deer being there is good.

Deer tracks tell one of the presence of game. A single track of an animal wandering aimlessly through the woods is not one that needs recording.  It is the track of a feeding animal and one probably not likely to use the trail again.  Tracks of lots of deer indicate a major trail going to or from feeding and bedding areas.  Such trails should be recorded and check frequently for activity.  Check the tracks for size.

If tracks are large mixed with small ones then you are looking at a trail used by does and fawns. Check the area to the side of such trails for large tracks running in the same direction but not on the trail.  Bucks usually leave these tracks.  Bucks like to stay near the does but seek heavier cover.

By setting up stands to use the appropriate trails at the time of day indicated by the sign, a hunter increases his chances.

BOWHUNTING LATE SEASON WHITETAILS   Leave a comment

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A biting wind tears at the face like sandpaper.  Cold chills your body to the core.  Late season bowhunting is not for those less than fully committed.  Weather and a reduced deer herd make for hard work. Often the hunt is in cold and snow. To the hunter willing to forgo comfort, this time can provide an opportunity to find a big buck.

Hunting pressure from other humans is less due to most hunters having already done their thing and gone home weeks ago.  Less dedicated hunters have given up and gone home in frustration over the fact that it is difficult to hunt deer.

The experience of being in the woods during snow fall provides a chance to see Mother Nature at her harshest and yet most beautiful.  The snowscape of winter can be a joy to behold.  Fresh fallen snow muffles the sounds of the outdoors and also provides an easier chance to follow the tracks of the critters in the woods.

Skilled hunters can tell much from tracks.  They can find dominant bucks that are often wall hangers.  Late season is the trophy hunter’s chance to shine.

Old herd bucks have tracks that show up vividly in snow.  The old guy will walk with their front hooves angled 30 percent from center on the hind feet.  In addition, he does not place his hind feet in the track of his front ones.

When watching an old buck from a distance, it is easy to spot him by the way he walks.  He looks like he is doing the shuffle.  Does and young bucks are more graceful.  The old buck cannot carry his neck and head the way a lesser buck or doe will do.  The swelling of the adrenal glands in his neck, during and just after the rut, cause him to carry his head low like he is sneaking through brush.  Many believe that he is hiding his horns or smelling the ground in search of a doe that has recently passed the location.

It is more likely that this is more comfortable.

Old bucks are solitary after the rut and move along their own trail and not on the herd trail.  The herd trail is usually wide and well beaten down from extensive use.  The old guy’s trail will seldom be 5 inches in width and not well traveled.  He uses it one way going to the feeding area and uses a different trail in moving from the feeding to his bedding area.  A buck’s trail also doubles as an escape route.

Knowing this, the hunter can wait in ambush on each trail, depending upon the time of the day.  Deer move to feeding areas in the late afternoon and toward bedding areas in the morning.

Hunters, who work with weather fronts passing through, improve their chances.  The weather just ahead of a front in the late season usually is cloudy and often snowy.  Deer feed heavily just before a front and right after it passes.  They lay up for long periods of time, waiting for a front to pass.

On cloudy days deer feed in the open and lay up in the edges of cover.  On the days of the really bad weather they head for the heaviest cover.  Such cover is forest, swamps and slews.

Light snow or drizzle cause deer to move around a lot, feeding and bedding down frequently during the day.  This is most likely because as their fur gets wets, it loses some of its insulating capacity.  Deer move to get water off the coat and to feed so that they can take in more calories to help maintain body temperature.

Deer in areas of heavy human population take advantage of small islands of habitat often overlooked by hunters.  Late season hunters are wise to seek out small areas of brush or marsh in the middle of otherwise open country.  The area may be only big enough to hide a single buck but chances are he will be a big one.

Other spots for late season bucks are brushy tangles connecting one thick wooded area with either, another brushy area, thick slashings in a clear cut, heavy wooded areas, ponds or swamps with heavy cover on the border.

Swampy areas near public hunting areas are often overlooked by hunters who do not want to take the trouble to explore them.  One can set up on some of the open game trails and lay in wait.

The late season hunter who is imaginative and pays attention to detail will do well.  Do not overlook a single patch of habitat.  Study the habits of your quarry and learn to recognize observable habitats.

With luck and having done the homework, late season hunters probably stand a better chance of meeting up with that old dominant buck.  Whether the hunter takes him or not depends upon his ability.  But, that is the subject for another article.

EARLY SEASON TREESTAND PLACEMENT   Leave a comment

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Successful white-tailed deer bowhunting here in the Midwest is particularly dependent upon intelligent placement of tree stands.

The primary thing to remember about treestand locations is that they be flexible. That is, a stand placement in the early part of the season can be right then but totally wrong later in the season. If carefully chosen a strand can be red hot even in a heavily pressured hunting area.

A stand placed on an escape route in a heavily hunted area gives the bowhunter all kinds of action. You are allowing other hunters to drive deer toward your position.

Pre-season scouting aids in locating deer during the first part of the season. Their trail toward a feeding area can be located and a stand placed near it. At the very beginning of the hunting season, deer are not as easily spooked as later in the year. Therefore, a stand located near open areas works well. However, a few days into the hunting season and deer, particularly big bucks, change their feeding habits. They come to open feeding areas much later, usually after dark. At this point it is time to move to another stand location.

Some hunters move 20 to 30-yards back into heavy cover along the same trail to the feeding area and about 15-yards to the side and downwind. Big bucks seldom walk directly on game trails but will follow it off to the side. If the hunter is downwind from the usual prevailing wind, the chance of deer smelling him is less.

Bucks tend to hang back from does and yearlings. As the does move into the open, the bucks tend to stay in the heavy woods until darkness conceals them completely. If the hunter is there he is set to take him.

The hottest area to stake out is a crossing. This is a place where deer have to cross to get from their daytime bedding or resting area to the nighttime feeding location. Being a prey animal, a deer is nervous by nature and will stay concealed as long as possible while traveling.

Crossings are where the edges of two or more types of cover meet. As an example, a point of woods extends out into an open field that in turn touches a grain field. The deer are likely to cross along the wooded portion closest to the grain field. In this way they remain hidden for a maximum amount of time as they enter an open area.

Deer wait until the last possible moment to expose themselves in the open.

This is why they are often observed moving along drainage ditches, fence rows and fingers of woods that extend out into agricultural fields. If this situation is present, a good stand placement is on the thicker side of the heavy cover.

Crossing areas are particularly good stand locations because deer also use them as escape routes to safety when startled. If a hunter is in an area with other hunters, being in at a crossing can be quite productive.

Regardless of whether you are making your own stand or placing a commercially made one, you need to use your head to think like a deer. It is work, hard work, but pays big dividends during the early hunting season.

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