How Will the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse Affect Deer?

eclipse map

On Monday August 21 a total solar eclipse will arc across the United States for the first time in 99 years, providing a rare sight for tens of millions of people from Oregon to South Carolina.

We humans are prepared for this event and looking forward to it. But what will the deer and other animals do when the moon blocks the sun and darkness descends and the temperature drops in the middle of just another day in their lives?

Truth is, nobody, even the scientists who live for a 100-year event like this, really knows.

While there is scant scientific info from eclipses in past years and decades, there are a lot of anecdotal stories—monkeys flipping out in the sudden darkness, birds flying around wildly, snakes going berserk…. Most of this is probably hyperbole and rumor.

But I did see where some hospitals are stocking up on anti-venom for Monday’s event, so maybe there is something to the snake thing. This makes me nervous, as I plan to view the eclipse while hiking in Shenandoah National Park, which has its share of timber rattlers. In fact I damn near stepped on a yellow-phase rattler thick as your forearm the other day; I saw it and ran like hell and never looked back.

But I digress. I found some info from MNN that says crepuscular animals—creatures that typically move the most during the low-light conditions of dawn and dusk, like deer—often mistake a solar eclipse in the middle of the day for an early twilight. Crickets and frogs may jump into a dusk chorus, and mosquitoes and midges may start their evening swarms. And in the midst of a total solar eclipse, it can be dark enough not only to quiet down diurnal animals, but also to lure out the night shift. There are many reports of nocturnal animals being active during totality, including bats and owls.

While I don’t expect deer to freak out, it will be interesting to see if there is a flurry of moment as the sky goes dark at 2:00 or 3:00 PM. I expect that the animals might move at least some, and I’ll monitoring it on a phone app that is linked to 6 Spartan wireless cameras that just happen to be situated within the eclipse arc from Oregon to Kansas to Virginia. Will be fun to watch and see what happens.

This Total Eclipse tracker is very cool, click here to see what it will look like in your zip code on Monday.

Can Twin Deer Fawns Be Sired By Two Bucks?

twin fawns and doeMike: I’ve heard that twin whitetail fawns can have more than one daddy. Is that right? Dave, Alabama

Dave: Yes, and that occurs more than you might imagine!

A Texas A&M-Kingsville study found that 16 of 23 sets of twins had 2 different sires, typically one mature buck and another buck 2½ years or younger. Researchers suggest the younger bucks are opportunistic little devils, sneaking in to breed the doe just before or after the mature buck does.

And get this: Scientists at Auburn University reported 3 different buck sires for a set of triplets one time!

This is yet another reason the whitetail is such a fascinating creature…and why trying to manage a herd’s genetics is so unpredictable.

BTW, we are seeing a record number of fawns this summer here in Virginia, what about where you live and hunt?

#1 Late-Summer Spot for a Trail Camera

best cam spot

My sketch of the top spot to set your camera this weekend is very rudimentary, so let me explain.

In this case there are two cornfields (might be soybeans or alfalfa where you hunt) with a row of trees and brush about 20 yards wide, splitting and separating the fields. Within that row of trees is a flat, grassy gap where the farmer will drive his tractor between the fields in a month or so. On an old gate post in the gap is the top spot to set a camera now, while the corn is still tall and uncut.

We have 9 cameras running on the Virginia farm where this gap is located, with some cams situated on field edges, others on clover plots, others on minerals in the woods. The camera on the gate post has been the most productive by far for catching bucks on natural movement.

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First good buck showed in the gap in early July.

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Later in the month…

va split brow

Catching the big split brow rolling through the gap really got us going.

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We had a surprise traveler, going the other way from the bucks.

We’re pulling the card from the gap camera tomorrow morning, can’t wait to see who’s been by the last couple weeks.

If you know of a similar gap like this where you hunt, go set a camera there before the crops are cut and the deer movement patterns change.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD): Rules for Transporting Deer Across State Lines

I recently attended the National Deer Summit and was struck by the dire reports of CWD that came from the country’s top deer scientists.

cwd map 2017

Map Source: Tennessee WRA

To a man and woman, all the experts agreed that CWD is the most serious threat to our deer herds and hunting that we’ve faced in decades, and possibly ever. To a person they said the thing we must do to stop the spread of CWD is to immediately monitor and restrict the movement of deer and deer parts across state lines.

First is to immediately stop the interstate transport of live deer to penned facilities, something that does not affect the 99.9% of us that hunt wild deer.

Second is to monitor and restrict the interstate transport of deer shot and killed by hunters, something that will directly affect millions of us who hunt deer in different states this fall.

This 2017 information on CWD Carcass Import Restrictions from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency is timely. While it pertains to Tennessee, the import restrictions are virtually the same for every state in the nation.

If you harvest a deer, elk or moose from a CWD positive area (highlighted yellow map) it must be properly processed before bringing it back into Tennessee. This rule is in effect to protect the state from the unintentional introduction of Chronic Wasting Disease.

How do you properly process a deer (or elk) that you shoot in, say, Wyoming or Saskatchewan for legal transport back to Tennessee, New York, Georgia or (insert your state here)?

Two big things to remember: You cannot throw a whole field-dressed deer into your truck and drive home across state lines like you did in the old days. Nor can you cut off a buck’s head with antlers attached and take it home.

You must:

Skin the animal and bone out the meat. Quartering a deer is not good enough. All bones should be removed. Pack the deboned meat in coolers.

As for antlers, if you saw them off an animal you plan to mount with the cape, you must thoroughly clean all meat and tissue from the skull cap.

If you want a European mount, that’s trickier. You must thoroughly clean off and clean out the entire skull so that no meat or tissues are attached to it. The Tennessee WRA also tells you to clean the teeth, something I never knew.

While state laws on this issue are similar, there are variations, so check your CWD transport regulations carefully.

What is CWD?

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a fatal neurological disease of deer and elk, including white-tailed deer, moose, mule deer, and Rocky Mountain elk. The disease causes degeneration of the brain and eventual death. In the early stages of the disease, an infected animal may not show any signs that it is sick. As the disease progresses, animals will show signs of weight loss, generally accompanied by behavioral changes. In later stages, affected animals may show emaciation, excessive drooling, increased drinking and urination, listlessness, stumbling, trembling, loss of fear of humans and nervousness. CWD is not caused by a bacteria or virus. It is classified as a prion disease. For more, read here.

2017 EHD Tracker: Deer Disease Reported in SE Kentucky

KY EHD 2017It’s that time of year again when hunters and wildlife managers nervously wait and see if Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease will hit their region, and if so how bad of a deer-killing year it will be. EHD, which is transmitted to whitetails by biting midges, typically occurs from August through October, until the first frost in an area kills the midges that carry the disease.

Let’s hope this year’s first reported case of the disease, in Kentucky in July, is random and not a harbinger of bad things to come across the U.S. later this summer. This is the first reported outbreak of EHD in the Bluegrass State since 2007.

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife officers say a dozen sick and dead deer have been reported in Floyd, Knott and other counties in the southeastern part of the state in recent days, and they are on the lookout for more. They ask the public to report any deer that looks sick or acts strangely. Call them if you find a dead deer, which if infected by EHD will often be found in or near a pond, creek or other water source.

Anywhere across the U.S., hunters should immediately report potential cases of EHD to the appropriate wildlife authorities.

Here’s some new information I learned from the Kentucky report. It’s imperative to call the state wildlife authorities ASAP if you see a sick or stumbling deer, or find one that looks as if it just recently died. Apparently a blood sample from a deer to confirm the presence of EHD is good for only one hour after the deer dies. But you should still report a deer that has obviously been dead for hours or days, because wildlife specialists can GPS where the deer was found, and cross reference that with other GPS pins to determine the size and scope of the EHD outbreak.

The Kentucky Department Fish and Wildlife has an excellent page that explains EHD and whitetails.