Memorial Day 2017: Thank You Veterans and Heroes

vet honor w zaneGot this from a loyal blog reader this time last year. I could not have said any better myself. I reprint in honor of all those who have served and especially to those who gave all:

Mike: A nice blog for the weekend would be a dedication to the REAL HEROES of our country. The men and women that serve and have served in our Armed Forces are owed well-deserved respect and gratitude from us.

“To those who have fallen, you will never be forgotten.”

We WOULD NOT be able to pursue our dreams of freedom and hunting if not for the men and women that we honor this weekend. At a minimum, raise a drink during a celebration this weekend and remember our TRUE AMERICAN HEROES.

Maybe you could link some veteran’s organizations that could use some help from us, your faithful bloggers: 

Well said. One group I work with—I just joined its Board of Directors and am honored to do so—is the Virginia-based Veteran’s Outdoor Fund. Our sole mission is to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for America’s veterans and heroes. We take 300-400 troops on hunting and fishing trips each year, to get them outside and help them heal. You would not believe what good therapy a few days in the woods or on the water is for these young men and women. Any help you can give our group is much appreciated.

Again, thanks to all who have served and to those who currently serve. And to my son, Em, who is training and serving right now with the US Army at Fort Bragg, love you man and so proud.

Weird Whitetail: Deer with White Eyes

canadian white eye deer

A few years ago a Canadian hunter sent me this…

Mike: I thought this would be right up your alley since you like cool and unusual deer stuff. That is what makes your web page so great.

I harvested this buck outside of Dryden, Ontario. He had white eyes! His eyes where not fogged over with cataracts or anything, and I can assure you he was not blind. They were just white, devoid of color. His hide was not piebald, although it was a little lighter than some. But except for the eyes, the deer was normal looking and acted normal.

Have you or any of the blog readers ever seen this type of eye coloring on a deer? Thanks, Bryan

I’ve never seen a deer with white eyes, but I did a little research and here’s what I found out.

white eyed deer

The white-eyed deer was most likely suffering from what is known as “ocular albinism,” a melanin-related deficiency that affects some humans and animals. Melanin in the eyes is the agent that is responsible for most human and animal eyes being brown. A lack of melanin in the eyes, which this buck likely had, results in ocular albinism and the white eyes.

white eye deer mount use

Hunting Skill: How to Skin a Bear

skin bear footBlack Bear week on BIG DEER wraps up…

Most of the hunters I hang out with are good at peeling the hide off a deer, but put a furry 300-pound bear down on the ground in front of them and they’ll step back, scratch their heads and ask, “Uh, now what?” But skinning out your rug is not hard. With our quick and easy 3-step plan you’ll have your hide ready for the taxidermist in less than an hour.

The Main Incision

Roll the bear onto its back and lay it spread-eagle. A buddy or two holding and stretching the legs are a big help, or you might tie a couple of outstretched paws to trees. Just get the animal flat and wide.

With a sharp knife, make an incision in the hide near the short tail. Insert your blade and cut all way up and over the belly to the bottom of the bear’s head and jaws. TIP: Stick your forefinger and middle fingers into the incision and just under the hide, and use them to guide your knife as you work toward the head. This greatly helps to make the 60- to 70-inch-long incision straight and clean.

Now at the underside of the front legs, cut straight out two feet or so from the body incision and stop at the knees. At the hind legs, start at the bottom of the main cut inches from the anus and slit straight out to the knees.

The Leg Cuts

Saskatchewan bear outfitter Grant Kuypers taught me this trick. At the point where your leg cuts end, cut and work through all four knee joints with your knife (or a small saw) and leave the lower leg bones in the hide with the feet, paws and claws. “A lot of taxidermists like that because it gives them something to hold onto as they skin out the lower legs to the claws,” says Kuypers.

We tried it and like it because it gives you four good hand-holds as you roll, lift and turn the bear for a full-body skinning job, which is what you do at this point. Simply pull the hide, skin with your knife, tug and skin some more until you peel the entire hide free from the body and legs. Skin and pull the hide up and tight as you can to the back of the bear’s head.

The Head Skinning

Skinning a bear’s head is just like caping a deer, so go for it. “Except that it’s easier because you don’t have to work around antlers with a knife or screwdriver,” adds Kuypers. Remember one rule and you’ll do fine: Go slowly and methodically and cut as closely to the skull as you can. Run your blade under the hide and right along bone and you can’t go wrong.

Skin up and over the back of the big, wide noggin until you come to the ears. Simply lop the ears off whole tight to the skull. Continue working down to the eyes. TIP: Insert a finger into the sockets from the fur side to get a good feel for where you’re cutting. Carefully cut under each eye socket; be careful to leave the entire membranes ringing the sockets on the face hide.

Keep skinning down the cheeks and through the tissue to expose those big, sharp teeth. Cut and skin as close as you can to the jaws. Leave lots of lip tissue inside on the hide. Once you separate the skin from the gums, skin down the snout, cut straight down through the nose cartilage and separate the whole hide from the skull. You’re done.

Never stick your hide in a plastic sack, but rather carry it in a breathable game bag. Get the hide to a taxidermist or freeze it asap. “Definitely the same day when it’s warm in May or June,” notes Kuypers. “The rug you get back in several months will look just awesome.”

How to Field Judge a Black Bear

judge bearIt’s Black Bear Week on Big Deer! Out West and up into Canada, hunters are watching baits, floating rivers or spot-and-stalking for bruins. The hunting will continue into June in some areas; here are some tips if you go.

Is that fur ball in your binoculars big enough to take a shot at? For deer hunters, a black bear can be tough to size up.

If you only have a few seconds to make your decision remember 2 things:

A mature shooter bear has big, thick shoulders and a roly-poly belly that sags low to the ground; the belly drags, or appears to. If you can see a lot of clean air between the bottom of the belly and the ground, he’s likely a young animal.

–Look at the head. Big, wide, thick noggin with small ears indicates shooter!

If you have more time—say a bear is gorging on pastries or beaver meat in front of you, or feeding easily on a greening snow-slide 150 yards away, look and study closer and use these tips from the Boone and Crockett Club.

Body Shape: Bigger bears are older bears…they tend to look “heavy” and out of shape. They monopolize the best feed and habitat, and therefore exert less energy to live.

Head Shape: A big boar will have a deeper, wider and longer snout than a smaller bear or a female bear. His ears will appear to be wide apart and small. If he is aware of you and looking your way, his ears won’t stand up on top of his head like a dog’s ears, they’ll seem to be aimed out to the side of his head. A big bear will have well-developed “bulging like Arnold” biting muscles on the top of his head.

Legs: A big bear will have massively developed front shoulders. His shoulders will look big and burly. A sow’s wrist will pinch in directly above the foot. Not so with a boar. The lower forearm, wrist and the foot on a big boar are all the same width. A big bear often appears to have shorter legs because the body is so much thicker, but keep in mind that the best-scoring bears for the records book are often the lankier looking, longer-bodied bears.

Attitude: Big bears are the toughest, meanest sons-of-a-guns in the valley and they act it. Watch a bully walk down the street–he walks with a swagger and an attitude. A big bear walks the same way. He doesn’t fit and start at every sound like a small bear will. A big bear doesn’t have to; he believes he’s got nothing to fear. Use attitude to sex a bear too. A big, old sow will have almost all of the physical characteristics of a big, old boar. She’ll have the nasty-looking face, the potbelly and the sway back. But the one thing she won’t have, except in exceptional cases, is the “I’m the biggest and baddest son of a gun in the valley.” In other words, a thick, mean-looking and acting bear is almost always a boar.

Do Deer Feed On Dead Human Bodies?

deer eatingSuppose a hiker or a hunter gets lost in the woods, dies and is not found for months. Or some thug murders a guy and dumps the body in a remote area.

Sure, a fox, coyote, bear or vulture or other scavenger would pick the body. But would a deer eat the decaying remains too?

Sounds absurd, but…

From an Abstract published in the Journal of Forensic Science:

Herein, we report on the first known photographic evidence of deer gnawing human remains. As described in nonhuman scavenging literature, forking of the bone characterizes the taphonomic effect of deer gnawing in this case, which is distinct from the effect caused by other scavengers. This type of osteophagia during the winter season is consistent with previously documented behavior of deer gnawing on nonhuman bone, possibly to obtain minerals absent in their diet.

Popular Science reports that in July 2014 scientists placed a human body in the woods of the 26-acre Forensic Anthropology Research Facility in Texas and set up wildlife cameras near it. (One of the most intriguing things I learned from the POPSCI story is that there are facilities in the U.S. dedicated to studying the decay of donated human remains, and sometimes their work involves leaving corpses outside to rot in order to better understand what happens during and after decomposition.)

On 2 different days in January 2015 they got 2 different pictures of a young deer standing near the carcass with a rib bone “sticking out of its mouth like a cigar.” They can’t say for sure if it’s the same deer, but studying the cam images it looks like it to me.)

The images are the first documented evidence of a deer scavenging human bones, likely to get a taste of phosphorus, salt, and calcium.

The treasure trove of whitetail data that we continue to amass here on BIG DEER is amazing!

(Deer photo credit U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service)