Earth Day 2017: Hunters America’s #1 Conservationists

earth day 2017On Earth Day tomorrow, I refer you to an enlightening passage written some years ago by two of America’s top deer biologists, Drs. Larry Marchinton and Karl Miller:

In the United States roughly 3 million white-tailed deer are harvested each year… This translates to about 150 million pounds of meat. Add to this the amount of elk, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and other game as well as wild fruits, nuts, and vegetables that is consumed. To produce this amount of beef, chicken, or vegetable crops in addition to that which is already produced would be ecologically devastating. Acres and acres of wild places would have to be destroyed to accommodate this increased agricultural production. More wildlife habitat would have to be plowed under. More pesticides would be applied. More soil erosion would occur. More waterways would become lifeless drainage ditches. Isn’t it better that some of us reap a sustained harvest from natural systems, rather than destroy these systems?

On April 22 and beyond, you and I celebrate the fact that we hunters and fishers are America’s #1 conservationists and environmentalists.

Tennessee: Tucker Buck #1 Non-Typical Whitetail Ever!

tn tucker buck

The Boone and Crockett Club recently confirmed that a buck shot in Tennessee in 2016 is the highest-scoring non-typical whitetail ever shot by a person.

Hunting with a muzzleloader on November 7, 2016, farmer Stephen Tucker shot the massive deer in Sumner County (full story click here). Its official entry score into the Boone and Crockett records is an astounding 312 0/8.

Justin Spring of Boone and Crockett said, “What makes this particular deer special is an entry score of 312 0/8 on only a 149 1/8-inch typical frame, which includes a modest inside spread of 14 1/8 inches. That’s 162 7/8 inches of abnormal points.”

The Tucker Buck had 22 scorable points on the left side and 25 on the right. Only three other entries ever in the B&C record book have had more than 47 scorable points.

Who would have thought that the biggest buck ever shot by a hunter would come from Tennessee, which has a total of 27 non-typicals in the record book (as compared to almost 600 in Illinois)? It goes to show what I have been blogging for years: You never know when and where a giant will pop up. The area where Tucker shot his buck is one of the top spots in the state, with prime habitat, soils and genetics. Sumner County also produced the previous Tennessee record non-typical, a deer scoring 244 3/8 taken in 2000.

While the Tucker Buck is the #1 non-typical whitetail ever shot by a hunter, it sits at #3 all-time. The World Record and #2 in the non-typical category were both “picked up” (or found dead) and score 333 7/8 and 328 2/8 respectively.

TN tucker scorecard

Do Deer Migrate? How Far?

wy mule deer migrationNo, in Midwestern, Southern and Eastern states, the whitetail deer that most of us hunt do not migrate. In fact they are homebodies, typically living their entire lives in a home range of a mile or so, with buck core areas smaller than that.

But yes, in Western states some herds of both whitetails and mule do deer migrate.

Based on 40 years of radio-tracking data, Montana biologists have documented that whitetails in the western mountains migrate to dense forests during the winter months. Herds move an average of 8 to 15 miles, going down in elevation as far as needed in search of conifer needles to eat, overhead tree canopy to block the snow and thermal protection created by Douglas fir and other evergreens.

As for mule deer, they are the big walkers. For example, in northeast Montana where I hunt most every year, biologists from Fish, Wildlife & Parks have tracked mule deer moving an average of 64 miles from winter range west of Glasgow, Montana to summer fawning areas up in Saskatchewan.

A few years ago, the longest mule deer migration ever recorded was in Wyoming. Thousands of deer migrate 150 miles from winter range in Wyoming’s Red Desert to summer range in the mountains. This 300-mile round-trip journey is the greatest large mammal migration in the continuous United States.

The entire migration was documented, and needs to be seen to be believed.

Western deer pass migration routes down from generation to generation. It’s possible that if a route becomes blocked the deer will lose it forever and the herds will suffer. As the human population in the West continues to grow, developmental threats to these critical travel corridors, especially for mule deer, are a constant concern. Through land acquisitions and easements, the Mule Deer Foundation and other conservation groups work tirelessly to ensure that the age-old paths between summer and winter range remain intact.

 (Photo by Joe Riis)

Ticks and Snakes: When to Stop Shed Hunting

SD kelly final 2017Shed-Hunting fanatic Kelly from South Dakota filed his last field report of the spring:

Mike: Time to stop shed hunting, ticks are terrible and I saw a “rattler” last weekend. That is all it takes for me to quit the shed hunting and go Walleye wader fishing.

Ended the season with 102 antlers, and I know I will find a few more as I wader fish. I fish some areas where I hunt, so I know the land area very well.

Pictured is #101 in count and the biggest of the year, 82”. I searched 4 hours for other half with no luck.—Kelly

Enjoyed your reports, Kelly, 100 for the year is awesome man. I’m with ya on the ticks and especially the snakes.

Cryptorchidism in Deer: “Stag Buck”

doug stag buck

Have you ever seen a buck in velvet well past September, maybe into November or December, or even with velvet antlers still intact in spring or summer?

Commonly called a “stag,” the oddball buck exhibits unusual antler growth and retains velvet on the antlers due to low testosterone levels.

Scientists refer to this condition as cryptoridism, and it’s rare. It can result from a birth defect or disease that causes a buck’s testicles (one or both) not to drop normally. Or, a buck may injure his privates, say on a wire fence (ouch). Cryptorchidism can occur in whitetails, blacktails (picture above) or mule deer (below).

A stag buck is different, and he doesn’t engage in the seasonal rituals of normal bucks. Cryptorchids don’t rub or scrape as the rut approaches. They lack the chemical stimulation to express dominance or individualism. Their necks don’t swell and they don’t breed. Reproductively, they are stuck in neutral.

A stag doesn’t shed his antlers; they remain in velvet year-round. The fuzzy antlers can continue to grow as the animal matures. Older-age-class cryptorchids can grow to become true freaks, known as “cactus bucks.”

If you see a stag in the woods, take him, you’ll have a rare and interesting trophy. Big Deer TV producer Justin Karnopp did just that one day last fall, and you’ll see the hunt on a new episode of my show later this summer on Sportsman Channel.

oregon stag