Why Bucks Rub Fence Posts

spring beard and buck old rub postThis cedar post was located a half-mile off the Milk River, in a huge Montana wheat field where, for decades, at night from Halloween through November, 20 or more deer came to feed, mingle and breed under cover of darkness.

I figure the post was set by some ranch hands back in the 1940s or 50s. I figure that 10 to 13 generations of Milk River bucks have rubbed it into a perfect hourglass with their antlers since then; I mean you couldn’t have carved and smoothed it any better. I surmise bucks love the rubbing post because it is tall and smooth (the fence wire rusted away long ago) and still smells wonderfully of cedar.

Tactically speaking, the post is a “signpost,” blazed by bucks in a high-traffic spot where does and other bucks can see the post from far away and veer over to touch it, lick it, smell it and rub more on pre-orbital and forehead scent on it. It is both a visual and olfactory communication post for deer in the area.

With the rancher’s blessing, I lashed a rope to the fence post and yanked it out of the ground with a pickup. I felt a little sad, but I wanted the rub for a souvenir. It probably wouldn’t have lasted another rutting season anyway; most of the nearby fence posts had been snapped in half by the rubbing of frenzied bucks over the years.

Finding a unique and alluring thing like that post is a big part of why I still love to go hunting. On any given day you never know what you’ll see or find out in the woods.

Will The 2019 Storms And Record Flooding Kill Whitetail Fawns?

deer floodsWill the storms and subsequent record flooding in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Mississippi and other central and south-central states kill fawns that are dropping right now and into June?

Biologists note that pregnant does are good mothers, and they sense when to move out of a flood zone. The primary concern for deer populations is for stressed does that are dropping or dropped fawns in areas of rising water levels, and the fawns were too young to move to higher ground.

This is surely the case in some flood-ravaged areas.

“We know it’s going to have a negative impact,” said William McKinley, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks Deer Program coordinator. “Let’s just say that up front.”

But fawn survival in flood plains is typically high, even during flood years.

“A reduced fawn crop (in the Mississippi Delta) is what I expect to see,” said McKinley. How much? We have to wait and see.”

 

2019 And Beyond: Warm, Wet Weather Means More Snakes

tx sarge snakeI hate snakes and I cannot lie.

Any snakes, from garters to rats to rattlers to moccasins.

Any kind, color or size, I am scared of them all.

My heart rate soared and my blood pressure spiked when I read this:

After a winter (2018-19) that was warmer and wetter than average across much of the U.S., the country needs to be on snake watch…

Snakes like those conditions. Increased populations are expected.

And there is more bad news.

A new study by Stanford University professor Grant Lipman and the University of Colorado’s Caleb Phillips shows that rattlesnakes and other venomous snakes may bite more people after rainy seasons.

The study, which analyzed 20 years of snakebite data, found a significant increase in snakebites the year after a rainy season.

Researchers say that during warm, wet spells, snakes breed more and have more babies. As the babies grow and slither around in their second and third years, that is when people really begin to notice the increase.

snake pile

And that is when we hikers and hunters are apt to encounter more snakes.

Yikes. It has been warm and extremely wet here in Virginia and other parts of the country for the last 2 years, going back to 2017. That’s already at least 3 prime snake breeding seasons.

If this wet and warm weather pattern continues, 2020 could be the Decade of the Snake!

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 7,000 to 8,000 people are bitten by venomous snakes in the United States each year, resulting in about 5 deaths. While your chances of a deadly bite are slim, you need to be vigilant and ready just in case.

That’s why I recently wrote “7 Ways Not To Die From A Rattlesnake Bite” for Outdoor Life. Click over and read it, it couldn’t be timelier.

 

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.