How Will “Bomb Cyclone” and Snowmelt Flooding Affect Deer?

floods deerThe recent bomb cyclone combined with spring snowmelt has swelled some Midwest rivers to record levels and forced the evacuation of hundreds of homes. The governors of Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin have declared emergencies. Some of the water-logged areas are bracing for more rain this week.


How will all this flooding affect whitetail deer in the region?

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 weeks. But the deer will eventually filter back into their habitats once the waters recede.

Good news is that 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 is later on in May and 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 relatively narrow window of time. Rivers rarely rise that quickly, and does are excellent mothers.”

One concern, though, is how the current Midwestern flooding might wash away and/or flatten preferred fawning cover for later on this spring. “If does are forced to fawn in fields or woods where there isn’t as much cover as usual, coyote predation on the fawns can increase,” says Grant.

The cumulative effects of the bomb cyclone, snowmelt and flooding later on this spring could impact fawning cover in some areas, but that remains to be seen.

Dick’s Sporting Goods To Remove Firearms And Hunting Gear From 125 Stores

dicksDick’s Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS) has announced it will remove firearms and other hunting gear from about 125 stores. The change, expected to begin August 1, will affect about 17 percent of the company’s stores.

The announcement, coupled with continuing declines in sales since 2017 (adjusted same-store sales were down 3.1% last year) lead to a 11 percent decline in stock price yesterday. Dick’s closed at $34.45 on the NYSE, down $4.28/share.

Dick’s CEO and major shareholder Ed Stack told the media that if the 125-store move “goes well” the company may remove hunting gear from more stores next year.

According to the Outdoor Wire, Stack was one of four CEOs to sign a letter supporting a gun control bill recently passed in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has also joined the business council of Everytown, the nonprofit organization founded by Michael Bloomberg that advocates for gun control.

It’s more obvious than ever that if you are a law-abiding gun owner and hunter, Dick’s does not want your business. I for one have vowed to never step foot or spend another penny in a Dick’s store again.


2018 Virginia Deer Harvest

Va ethan drop club 6

In my home state of Virginia last season, hunters harvested 190,636 deer, including 96,239 antlered bucks, 12,342 button bucks, and 82,055 does.

Bowhunters killed 26,676 of those deer. For the first time since crossbows became legal for all archery hunters in fall 2005, the number of whitetails taken with crossbows exceeded the number taken with vertical bows.

Blackpowder hunters shot 43,749 deer during the popular November muzzleloader season. Firearms hunters (rifles and shotguns) killed 120,074 deer, or 63% of the total.

Approximately 161,800 deer (85%) were checked using the Department’s electronic telephone and Go Outdoors Virginia online checking portal.

Virginia Deer Project Coordinator Matt Knox expected the fall 2018 harvest total to be down for 2 reasons. First, much of the Commonwealth experienced heavy rain and/or high winds on several of the big deer hunting weekends.

Second, the continued steady decline in the number of licensed deer hunters in Virginia inevitably results in fewer animals being harvested. In a worrisome trend, Virginia has lost one-third of its deer hunters (300,000 down to 200,000) in the last 25 years.

As is the case in all states, a portion of this decline can be related to the “baby boomers” get older and retiring from hunting.

An Open Letter To America’s Deer Hunters

To: All Deer Hunters, Please Read

Only 5% of Americans age 16 and older hunt. That is half of what it was 50 years ago.

More recently, the number of licensed hunters, mostly deer hunters, dropped from 14.2 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016. The decline is expected to continue as baby-boomers, the largest and most passionate generation of hunters, age and leave our ranks.

It’s a disturbing but very real trend. Many good people and organizations are working hard and spending money on ways to recruit new hunters. We obviously need that and I applaud it, but with all the technology and distractions of the world today and into the future, recruiting people, especially young people, to hunting in numbers that matter is and will be tough and tricky.

To me, the key, our only hope to reversing the trend, is to retain who we have, you and me, who love to hunt and who buy licenses and gear that support wildlife conservation. We cannot do anything about an aging population, but we must do everything we can to keep the viable hunters we have for 1 more year, 3 years, 10 years… Stop the decline now. Use our base of 11 million strong as the foundation to build upon as we steadily bring new people into our ranks.

To do that, every one of us needs to do a gut check and get our priorities straight.

I think back to a time not long ago when a nice and excited fellow sent me a trail-cam photo of a 200-class typical giant that roamed his farm in the Midwest. He was proud of the buck, proud that his land could produce such an impressive animal.

I posted the image on my blog as I normally do, leaving out names and specific locations. This was a tremendous wild animal, and I knew hunters across the land would enjoy seeing it.

Knowing the dark side of the Net and especially social media, I also worried.

Well, most hunters did appreciate seeing the massive whitetail, and most people wished him and his buddies good luck.

Most people…

A couple days after posting the photo, the nice man sent a frantic email asking me to pull the picture off the blog immediately. I did. Seems it was causing tension and trouble in the community. Some people who knew of the deer were mad as hell to see it on the blog and shared all over social platforms, even though I had posted very generically, “Giant lives somewhere in the Midwest.”

Why do big whitetail bucks bring out the worst in some people? I thought the “he needs one more year” trophy hunting mentality of the 1990s and early 2000s had receded. Largely it has, as more and more people appreciate the meat-gathering and the overall experience of a deer hunt rather than just hunting for antlers.

But with the explosion of social media and the ignorant trolls that go with that, “horn porn” will never completely go away.

A big deer with a big rack is a thing of beauty and awe, to be celebrated, to be talked about and shared, to be dreamed about. Will I ever kill such a beast? Will you?

A big buck is not something that should cause envy and greed, divide hunters and landowners, and even cause people to threaten their neighbors, mostly in nasty posts online.

Having worked professionally in the hunting industry and outdoor media for 30 years, I have long witnessed and dealt with this kind small and misguided thinking. I still cannot understand it.

What I do know is that greed, envy and hate diminish our brand as hunters, as they do all things in life. It will tear us apart if we do not stop it. It will further erode our shrinking base and inhibit already difficult efforts to recruit new hunters.

Just when I needed some good news and hope, I saw this on the National Deer Alliance’s website the other day. A hunter from Pennsylvania posted:


“For the first time in 15 years, all three generations of our hunting camp took deer on the same day during Pennsylvania’s rifle season. On December 1st, the first Saturday of our concurrent season, we all shot our doe within 30 minutes of each other. Only an hour after these does were taken, my 83 year old grandfather was able to shoot his first buck in 5 years! It’s the memories and meals that matter the most!” - Jason Crighton

That is what deer hunting and the future of it is all about…or should be.

Grow Better Food Plots: Whitetail Institute Soil-Test Kit

WINA_Soil_Test_KIt_Front__16956.1370791652.1280.1280Whether you are a novice or expert at food plots for deer, whether you plan to plant 2 plots or 10 on your land this year, the first and most critical step to success is to do a soil test and determine the pH of the dirt you’ll be working.

Some soils are heavier than others…other dirt is lighter. Some soils hold moisture longer…some dirt dries fast… You get the idea–not all dirt is created equal. By testing the soil where you’ll be planting to determine its exact pH, you’ll know how much lime and/or fertilizer you’ll need for the planting process and optimal forage growth.

This test kit from Whitetail Institute gives you everything you need and makes it a breeze. Dig a dirt sample, put in a Ziplock and mail in to their lab. Easy-to-read results are emailed to you within the week, and often in a day or two. Best part: professional consultation from the pros at the Institute is included, and you can follow up with a call to their 800 number for further recommendations and to answer specific questions.

If you want to grow better food plots, this will be the best $15 you ever spent on Amazon Prime.

Good luck and have fun playing in the dirt!