Georgia: 2 Big-Nose Bullwinkle Bucks

Here at Big Deer Blog we’ve become fascinated by whitetails with unusually big noses, and we’ve committed to building the biggest database of these unusual deer that have been shot across North America.

“Bullwinkle” syndrome was first discovered around 2005.  The few scientists who have examined deer with swollen snouts say the condition results from chronic inflammation of tissue in the nose, mouth and upper lip. All the cases studied by researchers have shown similar colonies of bacteria in the inflamed tissues.

How deer acquire Bullwinkle syndrome is unknown. The affliction doesn’t appear to be fatal to the deer, but there are many unknowns.

Bullwinkle syndrome is very rare.

We’ve documented big-nose bucks from Michigan to Minnesota to Alabama and other states. These are the first ones we’ve reported on from Georgia.

georgia big nose ty 2015

Via Twitter Ty Dickey sent me the info on this Bullwinkle he shot in Washington County, Georgia during the 2015 season:

We had pictures of him from ’13 and ’14. Bullwinkle’s snout was very pronounced originally, but once he got healthier (we started an intensive management program on the land) it wasn’t as noticeable. I started updating Lindsay Thomas at QDMA and Charlie Killmaster at Georgia DNR, and they asked if we’d allow the DNR to have the deer if harvested. We did so and it’s my understanding they determined there were no health issues with the deer except the snout.

Bullwinkle weighed 240 lbs. when harvested, and that was way down from pre-rut pics that year. He was aged at 5.5. He was the dominant buck on the property and visited every feeder regularly. We’ve seen no other issues with any other deer and the herd is extremely healthy.

Health-wise this is typical with the other big-nose deer we’ve reported on. Still, while the deer may act and look fine, except for the engorged snout, you should not eat the meat until more is known about this syndrome.

Come to find out, Ty’s buck was the second-known Bullwinkle ever shot in Georgia.  Luther Covington killed the third-known one in Irwin County, also in 2015.

georgia big nose luther

DNR biologist Charlie Killmaster saw this buck too and said, “This is a very classic case of the Bullwinkle disease. It’s exceedingly rare.”

A necropsy was performed on Luther’s deer, and it was diagnosed with the Bullwinkle disease caused by a bacterial infection around the muzzle that leads to the swollen appearance. The actual bacterium that causes this condition is extremely difficult to identify and therefore still has not been detected.

Like Ty’s deer, Luther’s buck was big-bodied and weighed more than 200 pounds.

Biologists know that Ty’s and Luther’s Bullwinkles were bucks, but it’s unclear what the sex of Georgia’s first big-nose deer was. Thus, it’s unclear if the disease will affect does as it does bucks.

The fact that scientists were able to examine both these big-nose Georgia bucks is excellent! On the off-chance you shoot one a doe or buck with a swollen snout, contact your state DNR immediately. Save the head for a biologist to examine so we can learn more about these rare and interesting deer.

If you or any one you know has shot a big-nose deer, or maybe has a trail-cam picture of one, let me know so I can add it to the database.

Southeast Deer Study Group 2017

Southeast-Deer-Study-Group-450x337The Southeast Deer Study Group meets annually for researchers and managers to share the latest information on whitetail deer. The 2017 study just concluded last week in St. Louis, and here are a few of their findings:

As always there was interesting new info on the whitetail rut. Researchers from Mississippi State’s Forest Resources revealed a study that shows when bucks of similar age and body weight are present and available, does in estrus prefer to breed with the buck with the largest antlers.

Another finding confirms why during peak rut you need to keep as many trail cameras rolling across your land as possible: Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia noted that you’ll get the most cam photos of mature bucks during peak breeding days.

There was new info on Southern whitetail herds, many of which were established from northern deer that were trucked in and stocked in parts of Dixie many years ago. This caught my interest, as I recently hunted the rut in late January in south Alabama.

Researchers from Miss. State studied dozens of herds in Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana, and found that only 1 deer (from Alabama) showed a genetic link to its northern source (Michigan). While Southern deer have all Southern blood nowadays,  they still rut more than 2 months later than northern deer in some parts of the South.

Researchers at the Univ. of Georgia have been studying whitetail vision for a couple of decades. Their latest finding: A deer’s eyes and vision are acutely adapted to detect movement at dawn and dusk, which makes perfect sense since those are the times when does and bucks are on their feet and moving the most.


Lastly, my favorite new finding that in no way will improve your hunting, but which is another of nature’s fascinating trivia: A wildlife student from Georgia was able to identify 28 unique fawns out of 1,454 trail camera images by their unique spot patterns on their little hides!

Amazing Wild Turkey Trail-Camera: Kansas Birds Gone Wild!


kansas 83 turkeys and countingMy friend Brian Helman, who lives in southeastern Kansas and works for 180 Outdoors, sent me this image the other day with the message: If you get a chance come on out this spring, these turkeys are waiting on you…  

The more I study the image the more amazed I am. I can definitively identify at least 18 longbeards, and surely there are many more, though some of the black blogs must be hens. Moreover, looking back to the far wood line, I count at least 83 birds marching out into the field, and who knows how many more are still back in the woods?

How many turkeys do you count? Isn’t this the most interesting turkey image you’ve ever seen?

BTW, I hunted deer with Brian last December and had a great hunt, which you’ll see on BIG DEER TV later this year. In fact I hunted a ladder stand in that same field where these turkeys are one evening and saw and filmed a lot of the same birds, though not as many. I definitely plan to return to hunt deer with Brian next fall, but for now I’m thinking I might take him up on it and go back for a few days in April—can you imagine how much gobbling you could hear in those surrounding woods at daybreak?

Note: To enlarge the photo above and get the full effect of it, just click on it.

GA’s Coosawattee WMA: Another Giant Buck (178”) in 2016

GA wma buckBack in 2011 I posted:

Who knew such monster bucks were coming off WMAs in Georgia? From what I am finding out this state has some of the best public hunting in the nation, maybe the best.

The Georgia DNR is doing things right and giving all hunters, not just the lucky ones with access to private land, a fair shot at killing a giant, and for a nominal $20 permit fee.

The 5,600-acre Coosawattee WMA in the mountains of northwest Georgia is the shining star of these public lands. Leased annually and managed cooperatively with private landowners, this WMA offers better and more varied hunting than your typical state- or federally-owned lands, many of which are overcrowded, underfunded and hardly managed at all.

ga ama 2

(Eric’s buck from a Georgia DNR trail camera survey on the WMA a year ago )

Three-day quota hunts on Coosawattee keep the pressure down and a hunter’s odds up a bit. This WMA has yielded more great bucks in 2016, including this 178-inch giant shot by Eric Stone on December 18.

Hunting smart like a wily old veteran, 20-year-old Eric said, “I wanted to get far as I could from people. I went back to a spot I had scouted in the past and found a couple of nice rubs (and) hung my climber.” He shot the massive buck following some does the first morning he hunted.

Way to go Eric, buck of a lifetime!  I wish the public opportunities could be so good in all the states.







Are Trail Cameras Ruining The Hunting Experience?

trail camera setting up.jpg compressedGot this thought-provoking post from our friend Danny, read and tell me what you think:

The first time I got to go hunting was with my uncle when I was 12 years old (1990).  No one I knew had trail cameras.  In fact, I don’t remember hearing about trail cameras until I was in my 20′s.

My uncle shot a small buck that day and I was instantly hooked.  Fast forward to when I was 16 years old and shot my first deer, a one-horned spike. It was the first buck I had seen while I had a rifle in my hands.  I didn’t know what other deer might be in the area, and it didn’t matter.  I got my first buck.

I remember shaking for what seemed like an hour afterwards.  It was the best feeling in the world.  You know, the “fever” that keeps us coming back every year.  Now, fast forward 20 years to present day. 

I keep 3 trail cameras running on our property.  I collect the cards every Friday afternoon and my daughter and I look through the pictures together that evening.  We name the deer.  We keep track of what times the deer are showing up at different spots.  We can pretty much recognize every single deer on our property. 

The week leading up to opening day this year, there was a small spike still in velvet that was showing up like clockwork at the stand where my daughter, Lexi,  and I were going to be sitting on opening day.  The more and more she saw pictures of him the more “attached” she became to him.  She started to call him “Cutie.”  I didn’t think too much of it until opening day came. 

Sure enough, this little spike showed up the first evening.  I told her to get ready and tried to help her calm her breathing.  When he gave the perfect broadside shot I told her to shoot when she was ready.  I kept waiting and waiting, but no shot.  I looked over to see what she was doing and I could see tears in her eyes.  I asked what was wrong and she replied, “I can’t shoot Cutie.  I just saw 100 pictures of him and he is just too cute.”

I assured her that it was fine and I wasn’t going to force her to shoot anything.  She then replied, “But if Junior, Lollilop or The Freak (other larger bucks on the farm) shows up, I’m shooting.” 

I was glad to hear her say this, but at the same time I thought, “What the heck have I done?”  On one hand I was happy to see her pass on a young buck in hopes of a bigger one. But at the same time, when I started hunting my first several deer were spikes. I didn’t think twice about pulling the trigger.  It didn’t matter if it was only 10 minutes into the season, if it was a legal buck, I was shooting. 

Would that have been different if we had had trail cameras back then, because I’d studied pictures of the young deer and “gotten to know them?” Would I have held off on shooting those young bucks because I had a few pictures of a bigger buck in the area?  Maybe. 

Then I think of all the memories that I wouldn’t have now. I can look at every little set and big set of horns that I’ve gotten over the years and remember almost everything about those days…the weather, the smells, the hard drags out… 
Am I robbing my daughter of memories like this by showing her all the trail cam pictures of our deer?  If she hadn’t just looked at 100 pictures of that spike, would she have shot Cutie? Would that have been a memory for the rest of her life and mine?  If she didn’t know that there are bigger deer on the property would she have pulled the trigger?

Or, maybe I shouldn’t compare my 10 year old princess to that 16 year old boy I was?  Maybe she just isn’t ready to shoot a deer yet?  Maybe she just likes spending time on stand with her dad?  I guess only time will tell.—Danny from Maryland

Very well written post my friend, and good timing. Ironically, just last week I hunted on a well-managed property down in South Carolina where the hunters did not use trail cameras. Very unusual since I don’t go many places to hunt whitetails these days where they are not running dozens of cameras, and showing me hundreds of buck pictures when I get there.

“I used to run a few cameras, put I got to feeling like it was affecting the way I hunt and more importantly why I hunt,” Freddy told me. “Nowadays I don’t want to know beforehand every buck that lives on our property. I want to hunt, and see what I see. If it’s a big buck, I want to feel that excitement and surprise.”

I climbed into a stand that first evening not knowing what bucks if any were around. I’ve got to admit it felt good. I was surprised and excited when I spotted the first big 8-pointer. I did not feel the pressure to look and wait for “a big shooter on camera in the area,” like I do in all the other places I hunt.

Don’t get me wrong, I remain a big fan of cameras. No doubt in terms of hunters finding and killing big, mature bucks, they are by far the biggest innovation of the last 20 years in the hunting world.

But as Danny alludes to in his post, is that really what deer hunting is all about, especially for the kids? What you think?

EPILOGUE: Danny sent this picture and reports that Lexi passed the little spike up again the other night. Hope you get one of the bigger bucks girl!

MD lexi small buck