Tennessee To Hold CWD Workshops For Hunters, All States Should

tn cwdI have researched, written, blogged about and produced TV shows concerning Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the biggest potential thread to deer herds and deer hunting to come down the pike in the last 50 years, maybe ever.

I still find myself confused and scratching my head as CWD is documented in new areas, and as wildlife agencies come out with new info and regulations for dealing with the disease in the short and long term.

I can only imagine how confused you, the average hunter who works hard and raises a family and doesn’t have time to research stuff like this, might be.

That’s why I was so glad to see a tweet from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) saying they will host 6 CWD workshops this summer in West Tennessee counties where the disease has been documented.

The first workshop will be in McNairy County July 7. Five more will be held in various locations through late August.

Experts from the TWRA and University of Tennessee will be on hand to answer all your questions, such as:

What exactly is CWD?

How can it impact my hunting?

I hunt the next county over from where CWD has been found, should I be worried?

Can I carry a buck home I shot in another county, or another state?

Can I eat the meat from a buck I shot in a CWD area?

Is deer meat possibly contaminated—can it hurt my family?

Should I have my deer tested for CWD? How and where do I do that?


You can read all you want about CWD (you should) and its potential risks and impacts, but there’s nothing like getting answers first-hand from experts and biologists on the ground like you’ll be able to do at these workshops.

I applaud Tennessee deer managers for having the vision and spending the money to do this, and I ask all state wildlife agencies to do the same in regions where CWD has been found.

Hunters and wildlife agencies working together is the best way to combat CWD!


Summer Land Management: 3 Tips For Better Deer Hunting

food plots for deer 045While you’re out working your land with a tractor this summer, try this. Bush-hog a strip of grass or mow a lane through a thicket right up to one or two of your favorite tree stand locations. Keep those lanes trimmed one more time this summer. Deer will find them and use them. One day later this fall, an 8-pointer might walk smack down the strip to your bow stand. The trimmed lanes are also great places to plant mini-plots of clover.

Scour an old grown-up farm field for hidden fruit trees, like apple or persimmon. Open up the trees by clearing away brush; prune a few limbs and pour some fertilizer over the roots. A tree should make some soft mast just in time for bow season, and you’ll have yet another honey-hole for a bow stand.  

One of the best land improvements doesn’t take a drop of sweat. Pinpoint some of the thickest, roughest cover and terrain on your land, and designate it a deer sanctuary for this fall. No walking, scouting or hunting in there! A good sanctuary is so thick that a buck feels safe and hidden if you walk or drive an ATV by at 50 yards. Best case, 20 to 30 percent of your land is in sanctuary; the closer to the center of the property it is the better. Deer and especially mature bucks will find this no-pressure zone and use it regularly.


Will The 2019 Storms And Record Flooding Kill Whitetail Fawns?

deer floodsWill the storms and subsequent record flooding in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi and other central and south-central states kill fawns that are dropping right now and into June?

Biologists note that pregnant does are good mothers, and they sense when to move out of a flood zone. The primary concern for deer populations is for stressed does that are dropping or dropped fawns in areas of rising water levels, and the fawns were too young to move to higher ground.

This is surely the case in some flood-ravaged areas.

“We know it’s going to have a negative impact,” said William McKinley, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Deer Program coordinator. “Let’s just say that up front.”

But fawn survival in flood plains is typically high, even during flood years.

“A reduced fawn crop (in the Mississippi Delta) is what I expect to see,” said McKinley. How much? We have to wait and see.”


How To Cut Mineral Stumps For Deer

msu stump 2

Ever noticed how whitetail deer love to browse the sprouts from recently cut tree stumps? 

Marcus Lashley, assistant professor at Mississippi State’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, has figured out why—and developed a simple, cost-effective way to create more good feed for the deer on your land.

Marcus had long noticed that even when forbs and other foods were in abundance, deer still preferred to browse the sprouts from cut hardwoods when available.

“As a kid sitting on a tree stand, I noticed that deer were eating from the stump of a hardwood I’d cut down. I was curious about why, because hardwood trees are nutritionally poor for deer,” he said.

With research funding through MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, Marcus and grad student Don Chance cut a range of red maples (a species known for being nutritionally poor), and measured the nutrient quality of the leaves. They also monitored the stumps’ attractiveness to deer with game cameras.

They found that the sprout growth from cut stumps had much higher nutrient levels and was highly attractive to deer.

“Trees maintain an even distribution of nutrients throughout the roots and above ground foliage,” Chance said. “When the tree gets cut, the nutrients get redistributed, and the tree up-regulates the nutrients in its roots into the sprouts on the stump, which leads to nutritious forage for (deer).”

They found that tree cutting is especially beneficial during the summer, when plants begin to dry and lose their nutrients.

Cutting stumps during the summer months stimulates new growth that is 2 times higher in protein and 3 times higher in most minerals than before being cut. This makes the woody regrowth as nutritious as most food plots.

Marcus and colleagues plan to expand their research by select cutting other species of hardwood trees that produce no mast and have little food value for deer, and examining the nutrient loads of the sprouts that might benefit deer.

This new understanding of what they call “mineral stumps” will enable hunters and land managers to create more food for deer, especially during times of lean forage in the woods.

“All it takes is a chainsaw,” Marcus said.

By cutting/clearing some maples and other tree species that have no value to deer, you’ll not only create mineral stumps where animals will browse, but you’ll also open up the forest canopy to let in sunlight, which will generate more weeds and forbs on the ground.

Imagine the deer forage you’d create if you went bigger and select cut/thinned 20 to 30 acres or more, leaving the oaks and soft mast trees. In short order, you’d have a nice mix of highly nutritious mineral stumps and ground forbs, plus high-carb mast for deer.

For more info on MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the College of Forest Resources, visit http://www.cfr.msstate.edu/wildlife/.

11 Easy and Affordable Food-Plot Tips For Deer Hunters

food plot planting datesIf you own or lease some hunting ground, it’s time to get your hands dirty. The better you plan, build and maintain food plots over the next several months, the more deer you’ll attract and hold on your land come September. Here’s a 12-pack of pointers to help you do it.

Design Before You Dig

On an aerial map, look for strips and pockets of open ground toward the interior of your property that you can turn into ½-acre plots. “Inside” planting keeps your plots—and the bucks they will attract–away from roads and the neighbors’ fence lines. Also, the closer you build a plot to thick bedding cover the better your chances that a mature 8- or 10-pointer will pop out into the plot to grab a bite one evening this fall. And think back to past hunts on the land. Whitetails are habitual animals that come and go in the same places from year to year. Where have you seen the most deer and found the found the most trails, rubs and scrapes over the years? Plant your plots in and around areas of established deer traffic.

Think Small

Rather than trying to plant and maintain 3- to 5-acre fields like deer managers did the old days, it’s better for the average hunter (you and me) to scatter 5 to 10 smaller plots across your land. Green strips and pockets of ¼- to one-acre are easier (and cheaper) to plant, maintain and hunt. Small plots are all the rage with the best deer biologists/managers these days.

GPS Your Plots

“Use a GPS receiver to measure the exact area of every food plot you build,” says Bill Gray, an Alabama wildlife biologist.  “Knowing the precise acreage of your plots will prevent over-applying seed, fertilizer, lime and herbicide. Better crops are always produced when the correct amount of seed, fertilizer and lime are applied.”

Plant North to South

“Configure plots to run more north-south than east-west,” says Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top deer biologists and land managers in the world. “Growing plants will get adequate sunlight each day, but they won’t bake in the summer.  The northeast corner of a slope generally has the moistest soil and is a particularly good spot for a plot.”

Logging Road Eats

Is your land crossed with old logging roads? If so, you’ve got a great opportunity. Clear, disc and plant 300- to 1,000-yard strips of wood roads with clover, which will provide tons of feed for the deer. Since the roads are already open, it’s an easy way to feed and attract deer.

Best Soil Sample

I can’t stress enough the importance of a soil test before you plant a single seed. Dig 5 or 6 six cups of dirt from various spots around a plot area, mix well in a bucket and come up with one representative soil sample. Have it tested at your county extension office or a seed company for recommendations on liming and fertilizing. Bonus tip: Ideally your dirt would have a pH level of 7, or neutral. But usually it’ll test 4 to 6. Keep in mind that it takes a ton of lime per acre to raise the pH one point, and it takes lime months to work most efficiently. Plan well ahead of time.

Plant Clover

For more than two decades wildlife habitat expert Neil Dougherty has experimented with food plots across the Northeast. After evaluating more than 1,000 test plots he’s found that planting a 60/40 mix of perennial clover like Imperial Whitetail Clover and chicory in late spring is best. By mid-May the clover, which has 30% to 35% protein, is producing major tonnage, and the chicory (40% to 44% protein) kicks in soon thereafter to provide a steady food source for lactating does and bucks putting on new antlers.

And More Clover…

I have lived in and hunted across the Mid-Atlantic all my life, and I have experimented with lots of seeds and blends in this region. Good old Ladino clover, which you can plant most anywhere there’s adequate soil moisture and sunlight, is still hard to beat here, and in most places. Ladino clover is a high-quality perennial (about 25% protein) that, once you plant it, will last for 5 years and can be easily over-seeded from time to time. It is low-maintenance, and that’s important because many hunters don’t have a lot of time and money to put into plots year after year.

Strip Plant

Here’s a trick I learned from fellow Virginia hunter Jim Crumley. Jim created Trebark Camouflage back in the 1980s, and now his obsession is growing and holding bucks on his farm. Jim clears, works and then plants a 10-yard-wide by 100-yard-long strip of clover…he leaves a 20-yard strip of natural vegetation like blackberry or honeysuckle beside it…then clears and plants another strip of clover…leaves another strip of native growth beside that and so on, until he has a one- or two-acre field full strip planted. “You have a smorgasbord to attract deer year-round, and the strips of native growth provide not only browse but also edge and cover for bucks,” he says.

Oats in the Mix

Here’s a killer strategy for the Midwest, say from Michigan to Ohio to Missouri. In late April or May, plant a couple of 2- to 4-acre fields with soybeans. (If you don’t have the equipment for the big job, it pays to hire a local farmer to do the work.) In August to mid-September come back and plant a 20- to 25-yard strip of Buck Forage Oats all the way around the beans. With rain, the lush, green oats will pop up and attract deer during the October bow season, and the soybeans, which contain 20% to 25% protein, are a great food source for Midwestern deer from November to January.

Kill the Weeds

All plots no matter the size should be treated with a herbicide to control unwanted grasses and weeds. Spray plots when weeds are four to 12 inches tall. Your local farm co-op can recommend a good herbicide and click here to see some great info from the QDMA.