Time To Reboot Your Tick Prevention

lyme disease 1Today’s guest blog is from one of our regulars, Danny Myers of Maryland, and it’s a must read:   

I’ve always been relatively healthy.  I would get a couple sinus infections every year, but other than that I almost never got sick.

This past March while at one of my daughter’s volleyball tournaments I got a dizzy spell out of nowhere.  I thought it came from not eating breakfast so I grabbed one of her sports drinks with a snack and didn’t think too much of it.

I got a bad headache afterwards and asked my wife to drive me home. The headache continued for about 2 weeks and was similar to a sinus infection, so I went to an Urgent Care, got an antibiotic and thought I would get better.

About a month later I ended up back at Urgent Care, and then my wife encouraged me to go to my regular doctor. They did some blood tests and everything came back normal. (Including the third Lyme test I’d had since March). The doctor wrote it off as allergies and told me to add another allergy medication.

Another month and by this time I could barely climb out of bed.  I was extremely dizzy, had horrible headaches, zero energy, every joint hurt in my body and I couldn’t sleep at night. Not to mention that I was stress eating along with no exercise and gained about 30 pounds.

My sister recommended a specialist in Lancaster, Pa.  and thank God she did.  After 4 months of pure hell I finally have some answers. She diagnosed me with Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

In the last 4 months these diseases have caused my Thyroid to almost stop working, my eyesight has diminished to the point I now need reading glasses and I have 5 or 6 other viruses/infections throughout my body. Even with all of this the specialist said I should consider myself lucky. I am now taking 20 pills per day to try and rid my body of all that is going on.

The thing is, I never found a tick on me. I never saw the bulls-eye rash you hear about. I never thought this type of thing would happen to me. I got complacent and stopped checking for ticks.

So to all my fellow hunters out there…. NEVER stop checking for ticks! If you find a tick stuck on you, go get the antibiotics ASAP.  You don’t want the symptoms that occur if it goes untreated. And, if you do develop symptoms make sure you find a tick-borne specialist in your area. Family doctors aren’t knowledgeable on how to treat this disease. They are only trained to treat the symptoms not the disease itself.

I still have a long road ahead of me. But hopefully by September I’ll be able to take Lexi out for bow season to try and knock down another big buck.—Danny

If this doesn’t jolt you into rebooting your tick precaution routine, I don’t know what will. I’m been complacent about it this summer, but more.

 Thanks, Danny, for the important message. Here’s to a speedy and full recovery.

Deer Antlers August: How Much More Will They Grow?

2018 blanytyre dropIn early August velvet antlers begin to morph from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter,” Missouri biologist Grant Woods told me. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 15 bucks will shed velvet. The cue for antler hardening and velvet shedding is the change in photo-period caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

Velvet shedding typically takes only a couple of hours, though it is not uncommon to see a deer walking around for day or two with bloody velvet tatters. One last thing you might not know: Bucks have been known to turn their heads and peel or even eat dry velvet that dangles off their new racks.

Soon after shedding, the tree rubbing and antler-polishing begin. With their new crowns gleaming, mature bucks are ready and willing to breed the does for the next 3-4 months, until their testosterone begins to fade and the fascinating antler cycle begins all over again.

5 Facts About Bachelor Groups Of Bucks

MD bachelor bucks 2017 1If you’re out scouting and looking for deer in fields right now, you’re likely to spot at least one bachelor group of bucks. A gang of 2 to 3 to 8 bucks hanging out together in mid-summer is the norm, but I have seen as many as 12 boys in a group. Blog readers have emailed me over the years with reports of 15 to 19 bucks feeding and posturing together in a bean field in August! I suspect those mega-groups are actually 2 or 3 different bachelor groups that happened to come together.

Bachelor groups are interesting. Some of the best information I have read on the topic comes from an article posted on the QDMA website by Matt Ross. Here are 5 highlights from that post:

Bachelor groups may contain bucks of many different ages, including yearlings. Bucks in an individual bachelor group are usually not related to each other

Forming groups may aid in predator avoidance at a time when bucks are relatively defenseless…when antlers are growing and vulnerable to damage. Also, bachelor groups may allow local bucks to establish a basic dominance hierarchy through mild forms of aggression, which may reduce the amount of serious fighting necessary later 

Bucks in bachelor groups get along well and even groom each other, but they still establish a basic “pecking order” within the group using aggressive physical displays, vocalizations, or sometimes hoof-flailing.

As day length begins to shorten (mid-August and September) testosterone levels (in the bucks) begin to rise, triggering the hardening of antlers and shedding of velvet. At this point, aggression within the group rises, and bucks begin to spar using their new antlers. Sparring is usually not serious and often involves bucks of widely differing age.

As the rut approaches and testosterone continues to rise, bucks gradually become less tolerant of each other, and the bachelor groups break apart…. movement patterns and locations of each buck in a bachelor group may change radically after the group disbands.

So, those ganged-up bucks you see in fields over the next weeks may or may stay on your land come hunting season, but for now they sure are fun to watch.


Pre-Season Whitetail: How To Scout and Find Bucks

glassing for buck spot scopeYears ago, an Ohio bowhunter by the name of Chad Moore wrote and told me about the dream buck he had just shot. The tale of the tape was impressive: the 6½-year-old 9-pointer with the drop tine and beams like Red Bull cans at the bases scored 186 non-typical. The story of his hunt was pretty simple and straightforward.

Chad didn’t use a big or flashy technique to kill the giant. He just did a lot of good things right: the scouting, the trail-cams, the tree-stand placement, the scent control… He kept at it day after day, until the monster popped up in his bow sight one afternoon. Then, heart thumping and knees shaking, he held it together and made the shot.

That is usually how it works. Most of the time, substance over style is how you get the brutes. So fit together these tips and tactics into one solid game plan tweaked to your land. Then, hunt hard and smart day after day. When you get your shot, be cool under pressure. The 2019 season, which is just around the corner, might be the season of your life.

Phase 1: Seeing is Believing

Forget the rut for now and focus on the early season, the second best time to shoot a whopper. Bucks have two weaknesses now. Singles, doubles and bachelor’s groups (generally a couple of small guys hanging out with a shooter or two) are still visible in open areas, and they are still locked into tight summer bed-to-feed patterns. Step one, find them; step two, pin down their travels so you can capitalize on those weaknesses.

trail camera bach group dean

It begins with having the right tools. If I had to choose between buying a new bow, gun or binoculars, I’d want them all, but I’d go with the glass. You need a full-size 10×42. Also, you can’t really count tines or gauge beam mass without a spotting scope on a tripod. A 20×50 or 20×60 model is the way to go.

On these sultry late summer evenings, drive out to your land an hour before dusk and glass  a field of alfalfa, clover, wheat or cut corn from a good distance away. No crops on your land? No worries. On one of my Virginia places I glass a lot of does and bucks in fields that haven’t been planted for years. After those fields are hayed for the last time in late summer, deer hit them hard to feed on the new, green forbs that pop up, especially if we get some rain. You might also find your buck mingling in a clear-cut, or in a wide log road, in a power line right-of-way…you get the picture. Spend as many evenings on the job as you can. The more times you spot the same buck(s), the better.

Have you been committing the biggest scouting sin—not glassing in the mornings too?If so, grab a cup of Joe and get out there at sunrise this weekend. Watch deer walking edges and tree lines, cutting across swamps, slinking in ditches and the like as they make for their bedding areas back in the woods. This reveals another link in their routine.

Once you’ve glassed a stout 8- or 10-point a few times, look for the corner, ditch or chute in the tree line where he most often pops out into the feed or leaves it at sunrise. Mark these entry and exit points on an aerial photograph. You’re off to a great start.

Phase 2: Trail-Cam Tactics

One summer Iowa bowhunter Jay Gregory glassed a stud in the soybeans on several evenings. The buck was coming out of deep cover in a river bottom. Gregory sneaked in there and set a few cameras on the best trails he could find. Throughout September he got some awesome pictures. My Lord, that giant will score close to 200, he thought. One October day he got the shot he really wanted. The buck crossed the river near his bedding area in broad daylight at 8:00 am. Gregory moved in with a tree stand and killed him a short time later. He scored 198.

There are three morals to this story:

1)      Late-summer visuals coupled with trail-camera photos take your scouting to the next level, and double your chances of patterning and shooting a monster.

2)      “Once you spot an old buck in a field, sneak in and set cameras on trails in a nearby riverbed or creek bottom,” says Gregory. “As summer deepens, mature bucks spend a lot of time hanging out near water in low areas. If you get lucky and set your cams in the right spot, you can find out exactly where he’s bedding.”

3)      Night pictures of bucks are cool, but once you snap a big boy on the prowl in early or afternoon shooting light, move in and hunt your best stand for the kill. Sometimes a titan will only move in good light for a few days each fall; a cam picture can help you be in the right spot at the right time.

Phase 3: The Ground Work

You still need to get out and do some good old ground pounding. How else can you set a stand or blind and expect that brute you’ve been glassing and photographing to walk within 25 yards of it?

scent killerScout one day around lunchtime, when deer are bedded. Spray down with Scent Killer. Walk across a field or cutover to a tree line where you’ve watched a fat 8-pointer step out. Check the wind; it should blow out of the woods. Sneak 50 to 100 yards back into the wind and timber. Don’t go much deeper than that, or else you’ll bump deer. Some does and bucks loaf super-tight to the feed this time of year.

Back in there, look for this early sign:

Rubs: Big rubs start popping up around September 1. Soon after stripping their velvet, dominant bucks post mega rubs on aromatic pines or cedars, hardwoods or even fence posts to tell does and other males, “This spot is mine!” Find a cluster of arm-size rubs on a ridge or in a river bottom near a crop field and you’ve found some segment of a big deer’s core area—hunt there into October.

Droppings: Lots of fresh pellets or clumps in a thicket or swamp tell you animals are edding there. If they’re dry and light brown, look for the nearest cornfield or oak flat where the deer are feeding and plan an ambush. If the scat is moist and greenish-black, check a nearby clover or wheat plot or maybe an apple orchard. Also look for pellets beneath mast trees where deer feed.

Tracks: Lots of so-so tracks indicate a lot of deer. A deep, splayed, three-inch print tells you a heavy buck is with them (size of his rack, nobody knows). Look for buck tracks along the edge of a field or in a muddy creek or river crossing.

Beds: I sometimes carry a tape measure to check tracks and also beds. My field research says a full-grown buck’s bed in matted grass or leaves is roughly 45 to 50 inches long, while a doe or young buck’s is 40 inches or so. You can never get too much info.

You’ve got about 6 weeks to put this 3-phase plan to work before bow season, good luck!

South Carolina 9th State to Require Synthetic Deer Lures

synthetic scentIn this day and age of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) South Carolina becomes the 9th state to prohibit the use of natural deer urine, and to require hunters to use synthetic deer lures only. The new regulation takes effect with the start of the 2019-20 whitetail season.

Earlier this summer Tennessee also issued a new regulation that requires the use of synthetic scents.  Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Vermont and my home state of Virginia are the other states that have banned natural deer and elk urine.

In a press release, the South Carolina Dept. of Natural Resources wrote: “the department is following the lead of other states in proactively prohibiting the use of (natural attractants) in order to minimize the potential for CWD introduction into South Carolina.”

In South Carolina and the aforementioned states, it is not only illegal to use natural deer urine, but also to possess it while out in the woods hunting. Remember to remove any natural deer urine/scents leftover in your day pack from last season and replace it with new bottles of synthetic scents.

If you hunt in one of these states and like to use scent products, don’t fret.

I started using man-made scents extensively several years ago, when natural deer urine was banned here in Virginia. I enjoy using synthetics and have noticed no drop off in effectiveness. A good synthetic scent smells like a deer—if a buck is rutting and primed to respond, he will come to a man-made smell just like he might natural urine.

I use the synthetic scents from Wildlife Research Center exclusively, and here’s how.

In the late October pre-rut, when bucks get aggressive and prowl but before does are ready to breed, I set wicks doused with Hot Musk to float the scent of an intruder buck in an area. If a rowdy buck working the area gets a whiff, he might come in to challenge.

Later around Halloween, when I make a lot of mock scrapes, I douse them with Hot Scrape synthetic. 

In early to mid-November I switch to Estrus Gold and Ultimate Buck Lure for my drag lines and wicks around my stand. If a buck cuts a line or smells a wick, and again if he is in love mode and primed to respond, he will come to a synthetic smell as if it were the real thing.

Keep drag lines with hot doe going into the post rut, when bucks are still ready to breed but when far fewer does are responsive. A buck might cut your scent trail yet and follow it close to your stand.