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?

Why Is The Alabama Deer Rut So Late?

Map - Average Conception Dates 1995-2015 11-9-15In the middle of the 20th century, Alabama embarked on an extensive restocking program, bringing in whitetail deer from as far away as Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin to rebuild the herds. Also, deer from southwest Alabama were captured in relocated to other parts of the state.

Due in part to all these different genetics, the rut for Alabama’s deer is literally all over the map.

“You can look at the distribution map of where deer were stocked in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and you can see the different genetics of those deer that came from the different parts of the country and even different parts of the state,” says Chuck Sykes, Alabama Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Director. “You can see the differences in the rut.”

Sykes says that depending on which region of the state you’re hunting, deer might rut the first week of November, or in December or through January and into February.

Sykes does says that rutting activity for most of the state is based on the genetics from the deer captured in southwest Alabama and relocated to other parts of the state.

“The predominant rut is from the last two weeks of January through the first two weeks of February,” he said.

Good. As you read this, I’m in Union Springs, Alabama, hunting for a few days. It is the first time I’ve ever hunted whitetails in February. The last few times I’ve hunted Alabama it’s been mid-January. On those occasions I thought I was a week or more early, so I decided to give February a try. On the map, the peak conception date (when does are bred) is anywhere from late January to February 16!

Another thing on the Alabama rut. While states farther north and especially in the Midwest typically have a defined, distinctive rutting period of 10 days or so, it’s a “trickle rut” in Alabama, with spotty periods of rutting and chasing lasting four to six weeks or more.

“That can (be due to) the age structure of your deer herd, or an unbalanced buck-to-doe ratio or hunting pressure (depending on region),” says Sykes. “Those deer are going to rut, but if you’re pressuring them hard, you’re not going to see them. They’re going to do it at night.

“Also our weather is so crazy, it may be 85 degrees in January and those bucks aren’t comfortable chasing hard in the middle of the day. They’re going to do it at night.

“As far as having a strong, condensed rut, like you see in other places, you’re not going to see it (in Alabama).”

Rut tactics-wise, Sykes says: “When it comes January (into February), I’m going where the does are. I’m probably going to be close to a bedding area just in case those bucks don’t want to get up a lot during daylight hours. If I’m close to that area where the does are and where they’re bedding, the better chance I’ve got of seeing him in daylight.”

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.

Saskatchewan Bowhunter Kills World-Record Mule Deer

SK 2018 record muleyOn October 1, 2018, Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation member Dennis Bennett arrowed the deer of a lifetime in the Arm River area of Saskatchewan.

This non-typical mule deer was panel measured by official Henry Kelsey measurers and scored 293 6/8.  It has been declared a Henry Kelsey provincial record, meeting the minimum score of 200, surpassing the previous provincial HK record of 290 taken back in the 1920s. .

Henry Kelsey and Pope & Young both use the Boone & Crockett scoring technique, with the difference being that Henry Kelsey uses the green score, whereas P&Y and B&C require a 60-day drying period.

Pope & Young, which records animals taken by archery only, has declared Bennett’s deer a P&Y world record with a final score of 291 1/8.

Bennett’s non-typical mule deer now joins Milo Hanson’s typical whitetail as another recognized world record from Saskatchewan!

Source: Saskatchewan Wildlife Federation

This Is How Deer Survive Winter Weather

deer in snowA polar vortex is gripping the northern half of the U.S., creating brutal conditions. It’s minus 10 this morning in Paradise Hill, Saskatchewan where I hunt a lot, and around zero and dropping in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

How do northern whitetails survive this intense cold and snow?

Chris Whittier, a researcher and professor at Tufts University, explains it well in this article:

…deer physically prepare for the winter by better insulating their bodies. In the fall, deer gradually trade their summer hair coat for a winter one, which consists of thicker, longer, and darker hairs called guard hairs, while also growing in a much thicker undercoat.

This winter coat absorbs more sunlight and traps more body heat than the summer coat, and provides an extraordinary amount of protection from the cold. Deer also have oil-producing glands in their skin that help make their hair water repellent, which is especially valuable in the snow. For further insulation, their bodies also begin to retain more fat in layers during the fall.

Chris points out that beginning in January, deer change their behavior:

They are generally less active, sometimes dropping their metabolism by half, which allows them to save energy and eat less. Deer may physically hunker down during particularly harsh weather—not moving for days, even to eat— which is made possible by relying on their fat stores.

Finally, in brutal conditions, deer gravitate to stands of thick spruce, pine and other conifer trees, which provide thermal cover from wind and snow. They may hunker down in there for days, rising only to nibble twigs, stems, grasses, and other plants that might be available.

That deer can survive the brutal winter of a place like Saskatchewan, and grow huge racks the following summer, amazes me.