Shed Hunting w/Dogs: Know Your State Rules

shed dog labFrom Dan C. via Facebook:

Just a heads up to my antler dog friends. Check your state’s regulations about running unleashed dogs on public lands during certain times of the year. In Minnesota (for example) it’s illegal to have a dog off leash while on public land, as well as some state forest land, from January through April. This is a protection for winter-stressed deer. Just a heads up, hate to see anyone get in trouble doing something they enjoy.

Good advice, thanks Dan.

Hunter Shoots Coyote That Attacked Doe!

NE adam coyoteThis from our friend Adam in Nebraska:

Today, I was reminded why I hunt predators.

As soon as my buddy Justin hit the caller, a doe whipped her head up from her bed 50 yards in front of me on the other side of the river. Thirty seconds in, as she’s analyzing the sound, she turns to look behind her.

Out of nowhere, a coyote leaps into the air and pounces on top of her. It latched onto the back of her neck and she stood and started to buck and kick. The coyote lost its hold and the doe ran into the middle of the river. The coyote chased her and stood on the bank yipping at her, where he got a 50-grain surprise from me.

Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen while hunting. Only wish I could’ve caught it on video, as it was so surreal to see, and doubt I’ll ever see anything like it again.

We didn’t get any bobcats won again. But we didn’t get skunked, and we saved a few deer and calves in the process.–Adam

Southeast Deer Study Group 2015

SEDSG 2015This respected group holds an annual conference at which deer biologists and researchers present their recent findings on whitetail biology and management. The 2015 meetings just wrapped in Arkansas. I followed QDMA Tweets from the conference #SEDSG. Here, some of the most interesting new science (followed by my thoughts):

–Plants in poor soils contain all the nutrients deer need, just low in quantity, which you can fix. @UTKnoxville’s Craig Harper. (Any dirt can grow big deer; that is where lime and fertilizer come in.)

–Bucks of all ages/sizes successfully breed, one reason hunters can’t change genetics with trigger decisions. Chad Newbolt @AuburnU (Never was a fan of culling bucks anyhow.)

Study of buck breeding success at @AuburnU found 13 of 27 sets of twins and 1 of 2 triplet sets involved multiple fawn daddies. (More fascinating new science shows that nearly 50% of fawns have two or more buck fathers, so factor that into genetics.)

Kip Adams of QDMA: One reason for Midwest buck harvest declines: Loss of habitat. 5 million acres in Midwest taken out of #CRP from 2007 to 2014. (Other reasons include tough, long winters in upper Midwest, coyote predation and EHD outbreaks in some areas.)

3 does in @UGAWarnell study of deer/car collisions actually used interstate right-of-way for fawning, presumably to avoid predators. (Yet another example of how adaptable whitetails are. But I fear what happened to those little deer as they tried to leave their birth area. I was a driving on busy 4-lane in VA two springs ago and saw a tiny fawn that had just been hit by a car. One of most heartbreaking things I’ve ever seen.)

Moderate soybean browsing by deer may actually increase bean yield by spurring stem growth: @MSUDeerLab (So unless deer are smashing and destroying a farmer’s field, no need for depredation permits.)

Don’t waste time/money fertilizing white oaks, but timber thinning around good acorn producers works. Jordan Nanney @UTKnoxville (Tree fertilizers don’t sweeten the acorns to deer, as once believed.)

14 GPS-collared adult bucks in LA had widely variable home ranges. 245 to 2,852 acres in fall! No real “average” buck (range). @UGAWarnell (What I’ve been finding in my field research—most mature bucks have relatively small home ranges/core areas, but some live and travel in large areas, you just never know.)

Doe health affects (the) fawn for life. Full effect of nutritional improvement on deer size takes 2 generations. Eric Michel @MSUDeerLab (Interesting that deer science/physiology has come this far and is so in depth!)

If coyotes hitting fawns hard (in you area) you may have to back off doe kill AND trap in spring to prevent (deer) population decline. Colter Chitwood @NCState (Most average hunters cannot or will not trap, but we should all shoot some coyotes and show restraint on our doe kill.)


Petition: Should Michigan Become A One-Buck State?

sarah mcandrews bow buckI just saw this new online petition that will be delivered to the Michigan DNR and it got me to thinking:

Limit buck kill to one per year, end all special seasons…begin hunting with Archery October 1st…change Gun Season to 3 day hunt starting on first Friday in December annually…

To put an end, once and for all, to the gross mismanagement of the deer herd in the name of revenues. Too many immature bucks and too many does are harvested annually because of overzealous resource commissioners making laws with revenues in the forefront, manipulation of herd numbers to reach financial goals, and to pander to the insurance lobby. The creation of youth seasons, no age-limit hunting, liberal crossbow rules and endless doe tags are the catalysts to the issue.

Michigan has the tools and raw materials to create a mature buck paradise while increasing hunter satisfaction without emptying hunters’ freezers. If you care about deer hunting in Michigan, you should support these changes.

When I saw the petition it was just posted and had only 233 supporters. But for years a growing number of Michigan hunters have been disenchanted with the way the DNR is managing the state’s deer herd. This has been simmering awhile; we’ll see how many signatures the petition gets, and how large the movement grows.

I neither live nor hunt in Michigan, though one day I hope to (hunt that is, not live, too cold). But I have hunted in many states with lots of varying management practices and laws, so I feel compelled and competent to toss in my two cents.

First, I can’t say whether limiting the kill to one buck per year per hunter is right for Michigan, but no doubt it has helped protect immature bucks and increase the age-structure of bucks in states like Kansas and Minnesota (many zones). No denying that.

I love gun hunting in the rut, but again there is no denying that moving the firearms season back to December and shortening it (i.e. Iowa, Kansas, Wisconsin) would save a lot of rut-wild bucks, both immature and mature, in any state. But 3 days is too short and not practical. A week in December maybe, but I can’t imagine any state with only 3 days of gun hunting to get your buck.  

Have hunters been shooting too many does in Michigan? That is something that needs to be looked at. As I have pointed out here on BIG DEER before, many states in the Midwest and elsewhere need to re-evaluate the number of does tags issued. The good old days of hunters shooting 5 or more does a season are gone, or should be, until we re-evaluate our management goals and rebuild our whitetail herds.

Now to some things I do not like in that petition. First off, it’s short-sighted and greedy to imply that Michigan (or any state) should not hold a short youth-only deer season each fall. To the contrary, special youth seasons are a must because we constantly need to recruit kids into our ranks. Moreover, if a boy or girl shoots a spike or 4-point for his or her first buck, great! We should be happy for those kids, not grumbling that they are taking a potential shooter buck out of the pool.

And the implication that allowing the crossbow in archery season is somehow impacting the deer herd is old news and a red herring. I have been following and writing about the crossbow debate for more than a decade; study after study (including this one from Michigan) shows that liberalized crossbow usage has not impacted the deer herd or harvest, but in fact has gone a long way to keeping older bowhunters in the woods and active.

In summary, this petition raises some legit points. Whether or not Michigan, or any state for that matter, should go to a one-buck rule and restrict the number of doe tags issued is a good and healthy discussion that we need to have in the whitetail world these days. But I must say to the petitioners that using terms like “overzealous commissioners” and “pandering to the insurance lobby” does your cause no good. To the contrary, the contentiousness it creates poisons the well and weakens your arguments.

What do you think, not only about in Michigan but where you hunt? To improve the age-structure of the bucks in your region and in theory increase your chances of seeing a 4-year-old with a big rack, would you support one-buck a year only (you could shoot him in either archery season or gun season, but just one total)?

Shed Antler Hunting: Check Bedding Areas

SD shed 1When you’re out in the woods on a shed hunt, pick up a deer trail and follow it for a few hundred yards to a half-mile or more, until you come to a thick and obvious deer bedding area. In late winter that might be a brushy southern exposure that gets midday sunlight, or the east side of a grassy ridge or knoll where deer hunker out of a bitter northwest wind.

Back in hunting season you would have stopped, tested the wind and worked the outer fringes of such a sanctuary so as not to spook any deer. But now, plow right in.

Montana shed-hunting fanatic Dick Idol told me one time that he finds 60 percent of his sheds in and around thick covers where giant bucks hide in late winter. So dive in, go slow and look close. While you’re at it, analyze all the rub lines and trails you’re sure to find in and around there. Try to get an idea of the easiest and best-hidden routes a mature buck would use to enter and exit the cover according to various winds. That info will help when you come back to hunt the area next fall.

Keep in mind that if you find some good-sized sheds in and around a thick cover for several years in a row you know within a few acres of where at least one good buck and probably a couple of giants bed in the winter and perhaps earlier in the rut as well. Hang a tree stand along a trail that leads out to a hot food source and you might shoot a monster right there next fall.