How to Field Judge a Black Bear

judge bearIt’s Black Bear Week on Big Deer! Out West and up into Canada, hunters are watching baits, floating rivers or spot-and-stalking for bruins. The hunting will continue into June in some areas; here are some tips if you go.

Is that fur ball in your binoculars big enough to take a shot at? For deer hunters, a black bear can be tough to size up.

If you only have a few seconds to make your decision remember 2 things:

A mature shooter bear has big, thick shoulders and a roly-poly belly that sags low to the ground; the belly drags, or appears to. If you can see a lot of clean air between the bottom of the belly and the ground, he’s likely a young animal.

–Look at the head. Big, wide, thick noggin with small ears indicates shooter!

If you have more time—say a bear is gorging on pastries or beaver meat in front of you, or feeding easily on a greening snow-slide 150 yards away, look and study closer and use these tips from the Boone and Crockett Club.

Body Shape: Bigger bears are older bears…they tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. They monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

Head Shape: A big boar will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female bear. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well-developed “bulging like Arnold” biting muscles on the top of his head.

Legs: A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

Attitude: Big bears are the toughest, meanest sons-of-a-guns in the valley and they act it. Watch a bully walk down the street–he walks with a swagger and an attitude. A big bear walks the same way. He doesn’t fit and start at every sound like a small bear will. A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Use attitude to sex a bear too. A big, old sow will have almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty-looking face, the potbelly and the sway back. But the one thing she won’t have, except in exceptional cases, is the “I’m the biggest and baddest son of a gun in the valley.” In other words, a thick, mean-looking and acting bear is almost always a boar.

How Spring Floods Affect Deer

floods deerThis week a low-pressure system has brought steady rain and localized flooding to the Carolinas, and today it’s moving up the East Coast. Late April and especially May is also when floods are common along the Mississippi and other rivers and streams in the Midwest.

How does all this spring rain and flooding affect the whitetail deer?

The good news, biologists say that rising floodwaters of river and creeks won’t kill many if any adult deer, though it will displace the animals for days and perhaps weeks. But the deer will filter back into their habitats and core areas once the waters recede.

While pregnant does will move out of rising water now and for the next few weeks, the primary concern for deer herds in and around flood zones occurs later on in May and in early June, when the does start dropping fawns.

“But fawn survival in flood plains is typically very high, even during flood years,” says noted whitetail scientist Grant Woods.

“To cause any significant problems in a herd, the water levels would have to rise very rapidly and be timed when the peak of fawn births occur, and before the fawns are mobile. This is a narrow window of time. Rivers rarely rise that quickly on that timing, and does are excellent mothers!”

Another and perhaps more serious concern is where floodwaters might affect preferred fawning cover. “When does are forced to fawn in adjoining croplands or woods where there isn’t as much cover predation on the fawns can increase. But overall, I’m not worried about the fawns and the deer herds in a normal flood zone.”

Remove Rust from a Gun

rust gunStore all your firearms in a cool, dry place, with a dehumidifier running nearby for good measure if there is any hint of moisture (as in a basement). But if you pull out one of your guns and see a few blotches of rust on barrel or receiver, here’s an interesting way to remove it.

From Range 365: The trick…is finding a penny minted before 1982, which were 95 percent copper and 5 percent zinc.

To start you need some light oil (good old 3-in-1 will do just fine), a medium brass-bristle cleaning brush, some paper towels, and your pre-1982 penny.

Pick a spot to start, put some oil on the metal, rub the penny over the area, and wipe clean with a paper towel. Repeat until the rust is gone. Use the brush to scour the rust out of areas with small crevices, like a shotgun rib.

The copper in the penny is softer than the steel, so light pressure will wear away the rust without scouring the steel or the remaining bluing.

Earth Day 2017: Hunters America’s #1 Conservationists

earth day 2017On Earth Day tomorrow, I refer you to an enlightening passage written some years ago by two of America’s top deer biologists, Drs. Larry Marchinton and Karl Miller:

In the United States roughly 3 million white-tailed deer are harvested each year… This translates to about 150 million pounds of meat. Add to this the amount of elk, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and other game as well as wild fruits, nuts, and vegetables that is consumed. To produce this amount of beef, chicken, or vegetable crops in addition to that which is already produced would be ecologically devastating. Acres and acres of wild places would have to be destroyed to accommodate this increased agricultural production. More wildlife habitat would have to be plowed under. More pesticides would be applied. More soil erosion would occur. More waterways would become lifeless drainage ditches. Isn’t it better that some of us reap a sustained harvest from natural systems, rather than destroy these systems?

On April 22 and beyond, you and I celebrate the fact that we hunters and fishers are America’s #1 conservationists and environmentalists.

Cryptorchidism in Deer: “Stag Buck”

doug stag buck

Have you ever seen a buck in velvet well past September, maybe into November or December, or even with velvet antlers still intact in spring or summer?

Commonly called a “stag,” the oddball buck exhibits unusual antler growth and retains velvet on the antlers due to low testosterone levels.

Scientists refer to this condition as cryptoridism, and it’s rare. It can result from a birth defect or disease that causes a buck’s testicles (one or both) not to drop normally. Or, a buck may injure his privates, say on a wire fence (ouch). Cryptorchidism can occur in whitetails, blacktails (picture above) or mule deer (below).

A stag buck is different, and he doesn’t engage in the seasonal rituals of normal bucks. Cryptorchids don’t rub or scrape as the rut approaches. They lack the chemical stimulation to express dominance or individualism. Their necks don’t swell and they don’t breed. Reproductively, they are stuck in neutral.

A stag doesn’t shed his antlers; they remain in velvet year-round. The fuzzy antlers can continue to grow as the animal matures. Older-age-class cryptorchids can grow to become true freaks, known as “cactus bucks.”

If you see a stag in the woods, take him, you’ll have a rare and interesting trophy. Big Deer TV producer Justin Karnopp did just that one day last fall, and you’ll see the hunt on a new episode of my show later this summer on Sportsman Channel.

oregon stag