The Debate Over Deer Urine

synthetic scent

Earlier this summer South Carolina became the 9th state to ban the use of urine-based scents for deer hunting. In a press release, the South Carolina DNR said in part: “the department is following the lead of other states in proactively prohibiting the use of (urine) in order to minimize the potential for CWD (Chronic Wasting Disease) introduction into South Carolina.”

In response to this and other state bans on urine-based scents, two major scent companies—Wildlife Research Center and Tink’s, have issued this response:

The argument made by rule makers to ban these products is that they unnaturally congregate deer like bait or feed, thereby increasing interaction between animals and possibly increasing the spread of disease. While a scent set-up can effectively attract the interest of deer nearby for a short period of time to the benefit of a hunter, putting a small amount of deer urine on some wicks is insignificant regarding the overall “congregation of animals” argument.  It would cause no more congregation than using a call or decoy and is a natural occurrence of deer already in the area.

A typical deer releases about 64 oz of urine per day in good weather conditions and 42 oz in bad weather conditions which calculates to approximately 150 gallons per year.  We have never verified the frequency on camera, but our assumption is that each deer urinates on average 4 to 6 times per day.  That’s over 1,800 times per year.  The point is that deer are naturally urinating exponentially more urine in the general area already versus a hunter using 1 or 2 oz of urine that lasts a few hours to attract deer closer to his hunting location.  Even with deer lure, you still have to be in a good spot where deer already exist.  It does not bring in dozens of bucks from far away for extended periods of time like bait or feed might.  The animals do not eat the scent and do not spend long periods of time there interacting with each other like they would at a bait pile. The animals that are attracted live and urinate all around that area already.

It is important to note that lead authors of the most commonly referenced studies on urine and CWD agree that “the risk of urine-based scents spreading CWD is virtually zero”.  See more about this at www.cwdfacts.org

Over the last 3 decades I have used a lot of deer urine and have hunted over a lot of corn and other feed in states where baiting is legal. As I look at this issue from this dual perspective, two valid points from the above statement jump out at me:

While a scent set-up can attract the interest of deer nearby for a short period of time…putting a small amount of deer urine on some wicks is insignificant regarding the overall “congregation of animals” argument…

(Scent) does not bring in dozens of bucks (or does) from far away for extended periods of time like bait or feed might. The animals do not eat the scent and do not spend long periods of time there interacting with each other like they would at a bait pile.

I agree, the argument that a hunter’s use of scent can “congregate deer” does not hold water. How many times have you had 3 or 4 or 6 deer run in and stand under a scent wick? Never. Occasionally a doe or a buck will get a whiff of scent and come to a hunter’s setup—that’s why you use the stuff–but I have never seen multiple deer congregate at a urine wick or even a mock scrape for any length of time. I doubt anybody who has hunted a lot has seen it either.

On the other hand, countless times I have sat and watched 3,6 as many as 8 or 10 deer or more come to a corn or oat pile (and to a food plot or other natural food source also for that matter). Feed does congregate deer.

One hunting organization at the forefront of monitoring CWD and educating hunters says that the risk of disease transmittal through hunters’ use of deer urine is small.

In a statement, the Quality Deer Management Association said: According to current research, the risk of spreading CWD to new areas through the use of natural urine is extremely low, but it’s not zero. The accumulation of infectious materials is much higher in muscle tissue and organs than urine.

In QDMA’s view, it is far more important at this time for all hunters and wildlife agencies to focus on stopping the two most risky activities: 1) Transportation of infected deer carcasses out of CWD zones and 2) All transportation of live deer and elk.

In areas where natural urine has not been banned, we encourage hunters to only buy products from companies participating in the Archery Trade Association’s Deer Protection Program or to use synthetic urine.

POSTSCRIPT: What it means for hunters this 2019-20 deer season:

In addition to South Carolina, Tennessee, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia have banned the possession and use real deer urine in the woods. Minnesota and Pennsylvania have implemented bans on urine scents in CWD management zones. A statewide ban on deer/elk urine goes into effect January 1, 2020 in Oregon.

If you plan to carry and use scents to attract bucks in any of these states you must use a manufactured scent. Wildlife Research Center makes 8 varieties of synthetic scent that I use and trust.

A last big thing to remember: In this age of CWD, the days of shooting a buck, loading the carcass in your truck and driving across a state line are virtually gone. If you plan to travel to hunt this fall, even if it’s just 10 miles across a state line, it is imperative that you read and know your state’s regulations on transporting deer and deer parts.

 

 

Alabama: Would You Pay To Bait Deer?

deer-baitingAlabama has a penchant for strange and confusing game laws, like the current deer-baiting regulation, which allows you to use bait as long as the feed is placed at least 100 yards away from your stand and not in your direct line of sight.

Who knows exactly what that means? How could a game warden enforce it?

Well, that law might change, possibly to be replaced by another unusual statute.

The Alabama Times Daily reports that the state’s House of Representatives has voted to allow people to flat-out use bait—for a fee!

House Bill 197 allows for baiting of deer and feral pigs on private and leased lands for a $14 annual “bait privilege license fee” and a $1 issuance fee. Out-of-state hunters would pay $50.

“We have concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and we also have concerns about the current (baiting) law and there is an opportunity with this bill to be used as a tool for (the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources),” bill sponsor Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, said.

But wait… I thought one of the biggest potential problems with baiting, according to some scientists and wildlife organizations like the Alabama Wildlife Federation, is that corn or other feed unnaturally congregates deer in a relatively small area, thus possibly increasing the threat and spread of CWD and other disease?

Hey, it’s Alabama!

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, who abstained from the vote, said: “I voted that way because I was confused, because when they approached us about the bill, their main thing was about the disease part, the (CWD).But what confused me was that they said that if you do the feeding, that could control the disease from spreading…

“I don’t see any control of the disease in this bill, there has got to be something more for how they will treat the disease in my opinion.”

Hey, it’s Alabama!

Included in the bill is this provision: The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has the power to end baiting in case diseases are found in the state’s deer population. The bill says the state conservation commissioner may, without refund, suspend the use of a baiting privilege license on a county, regional, or statewide basis to prevent the spread of diseases.

So you might pay your baiting fee, start out the new season hunting over bait, then one day be forced to stop using bait without getting your money back…

Hey. it’s Alabama!

House Bill 197 was approved 85-10 and now goes to the Senate, where a similar version of the bill passed last week. The two chambers could form a conference committee to work out differences between the two versions before sending it to the governor’s desk possibly in time for the 2019-20 deer season.

Do You Need A Salvage Permit For Deer Skull/Antlers?

tag deerEvery winter and spring shed hunters find and pick up big “deadheads,” and many of them can’t wait to post images of their finds on Facebook or Instagram.

Let me remind you that if you find any size skull with antlers attached in the woods you might—actually you probably– need to obtain a salvage permit (or at least verbal permission) from the state to possess and transport that skull/antlers. You do not need a permit to pick up and possess shed antlers (no skull).

In most states a deadhead—the skull and rack from a buck that died of disease, was hit by a car, or was lost by a bowhunter in the fall—is treated like a roadkill buck, and subject to the same state laws, which in most cases means you need to call a conservation officer or sheriff and get a salvage tag (or official permission) before you move and take possession of the antlers.

States where I can confirm you need a salvage permit, which is usually free and available online, for a deer skull include: Kansas, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Mexico, Arkansas, Montana, Washington, Michigan, Idaho, Oregon, North Carolina, and there are certainly many more.

Check your state regulations before you go shed hunting.

Are Crossbow Hunters Killing Too Many Bucks?

crossbow for webBack in 2014, I blogged that Wisconsin was the latest major whitetail state to permit the use of the crossbow during the regular archery season. Since then, the crossbow season in the state has run concurrently with the archery season, typically mid-September through December.

One of the original complaints from traditionalists and vertical bowhunters at the time was that crossbow hunters would kill too many bucks. There is no denying that it is easier (and takes less practice) to kill a deer with a crossbow than with a compound or recurve.

Well, 5 years later, with crossbow technology having increased tenfold, turns out those fears might have been warranted.

WKOW in Madison reports that at a recent Wisconsin Natural Resources Board meeting, Director of Wildlife Management Eric Lobner reported that crossbow hunters today are killing a larger share of bucks.

The solution would be to “reduce your crossbow harvest by 5,000 to 6,000 animals.”

Lobner presented options for changing the crossbow season, such as ending the crossbow hunt earlier than bow season, to starting the crossbow season later, and even to banning the use of crossbows on weekends.

Adding another layer to the controversy, complaints are coming from gun hunters as well as vertical bowhunters. Many gun hunters think crossbow hunters are killing too many bucks during the rut and before firearms season opens, lessening their chances.

At the center of the new crossbow debate is advanced technology. The improved power, range and efficiency of the crossbow combined with the long deer season accounts for the higher buck kill in WI.

Two things complicate this discussion even more: 1) the ongoing loss of people hunting and buying licenses these days; and 2) a concern for adding more red tape and confusion to the hunting regulations.

No doubt that expanded crossbow seasons, in WI and other states, have increased hunter participation and retention. If you restrict crossbow use, you will no doubt lose a number of hunters. With hunter numbers down significantly across the U.S., the hunting and conservation world cannot afford this.

Also, WI DNR data show that complicated and confusing game regulations and red tape drive people away and may reduce the number of people buying a hunting license, saying it’s not worth it anymore.

Upcoming public comment periods and hearings on proposed crossbow season changes are sure to be raucous and controversial, with both crossbow proponents and critics pounding their opinions and positions. And you can bet other state DNRs and hunting clubs are watching what happens in Wisconsin.

The new crossbow debate is back in 2019. How do you feel about it?

New York Hunter Mistakes Woman For A Deer, Gets Prison Time

dark woodsI blog this as a reminder to look, think and analyze every situation before we pull the trigger:

From Pennlive.com:

It was a fatal mistake that left a woman walking her dogs dead and a deer hunter facing a prison stretch.

The day before thanksgiving 2017, the hunter mistook the woman for a deer and shot. The hunter heard her screams and ran over to help, but it was too late. Court authorities and investigators said the shot rang out around 5:20 p.m., after legal shooting hours.

The hunter plead guilty last October to criminally negligent homicide and was sentenced to one to three years in state prison, according to Erie News Now.

The victim’s husband said he hopes the tragedy resonates with all hunters:

“From the beginning, I wanted the defendant to take responsibility and be held accountable,” he said. “I want the next hunter who thinks about shooting after hours to think, ‘There was this guy that went to prison. I should just go home.’”

Look, think, and know your target as a deer.

Every afternoon that you hunt, check and confirm the end of legal shooting hours. If it is 30 minutes after sunset in your state, check the official sundown time on your phone. 29 minutes later, unload that rifle and go home.