Hunters: Beware Illegal Pot on Public Land

pot

As deer seasons open across the country, if you hunt public land, you need to be on the lookout for pot gardens, which authorities refer to as “illegal cartel marijuana grows.”

California has the most of these illicit operations. In an ominous announcement, DEA Agents and California Game Wardens say a cartel “owns” every national forest, national park, state park and wildlife refuge in the state.

Marijuana grows have been found in 23 states and on 72 national forests. Other states with significant cartel gardens on national forests, parks and BLM lands include Colorado, Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin. Farther east and south, the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky is known to have lots of illicit pot growing.

As authorities point out, this is big business. Larger pot grows are in excess of 1,000 plants per site, and some can go up to 200,000 plants. Each plant has a street value of over a million dollars. Illicit growers protect their crops. And early fall, before temperatures drop to freezing, is prime harvest time.

You need to be on your toes and aware of your surroundings as you scout and hunt for deer on public land. Most of the growers are heavily armed and trails leading to grows are frequently booby trapped with trip wires and punji pits. Also, growers are now using deadly illegal chemicals to grow their pot, and these pose a serious threat to an innocent hunter who stumbles across them.

What do you look for? How do you avoid a potentially dangerous encounter?

pot pipes

Authorities point out that most pot gardens are irrigated by black plastic irrigation pipes that carry water from up to a half mile away. You might spot a man-made pool or a small dam on a stream where chemicals are added. These criminals are trashy. If you spot lots of junk, propane tanks, old tarps, etc. in an area, be on red alert.

You can also detect marijuana plants by their odor, which can have a skunky smell.

You may overhear voices, typically speaking Spanish. Law enforcement notes that some 85% of all growers they catch are illegals.

In all these cases, quietly retreat and retrace your trail back to your vehicle. Don’t linger at the site, or touch anything that looks out of the ordinary. When you are safely out of the woods, call 911 with the location of the illegal grow.

Be careful out there and good luck.

Source: The Outdoor Wire

Hunting Canada? CWD Transport Laws For Getting A Buck Into the U.S.

cwd map 24 states

Over the next 4 months, thousands of hunters will travel north to Alberta and Saskatchewan in search of big mule deer and whitetails. If your passport and paperwork are in order, getting into Canada with your bow or firearm is usually not much of a hassle.

But nowadays, if you’re successful, getting your buck back into the U.S. can be a major hassle unless you know and follow the ever-changing rules for transporting deer parts.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has been confirmed in wild deer in both Alberta and Saskatchewan, therefore CWD transport rules are in effect for bringing antlers, hides and meat back into every state in U.S. The rules:

–The Big One: Before leaving camp and crossing the border you must remove all brain and/or spinal tissue from the skull plate with antlers attached, as well as the raw cape. Thoroughly scraping all traces of brain and tissue from a skull plate should suffice, but it depends on the wildlife officer that checks you at the border. I recommend you boil the skull plate in water to remove all trace tissue. Flesh out the cape thoroughly, until it is entirely white.

boil skull

–Crossing the border with a full skull and antlers (for a European mount) is tricky. All flesh and soft tissue on and inside the skull, including brain matter, must be removed. Also root structures and other soft tissue should be removed from all teeth. The CWD Alliance recommends cleaning a skull by soaking it in a 50/50 solution of chlorine bleach and water.

–Bowhunters heading to Alberta or Saskatchewan in September take note: Velvet-covered antlers are included in prohibited parts that you can transport.

deer meat

—If you want to bring home some venison, you must completely de-bone the meat.

–Finished taxidermy products are not affected by the CWD ban. To forego the CWD and travel hassles, some hunters, including me, leave their bucks with Canadian outfitters. The outfitters take the deer to a local taxidermist for a shoulder or European mount. Eight months or so later, the taxidermist ships your buck back to you in the U.S. When all is said and done, this will cost you a couple thousand dollars (less for a European). But it’s the easiest way to get your buck home, no doubt. If you go this route, make sure your outfitter has a reputable taxidermist lined up!

CWD regulations are continually evolving. Before heading to Canada, or anywhere out of state to hunt, check the CWD regulations in your home state and any state you will travel through with deer parts on the way home.

Mule Deer: Why Antler-Point Restrictions Don’t Work

mule deer 2 ptMost western states and provinces have, over the years, implemented some type of antler-point restrictions during mule deer hunting seasons. On the surface, antler restrictions make sense: If by law hunters cannot shoot young fork-horns and other immature bucks, those deer will grow older and bigger next year and the next. More mature bucks is good for the health of any herd, right? And most hunters want to shoot a deer with big antlers, right?

Not necessarily, say experts with the Mule Deer Working Group (MDWG). These researchers and biologists report that antler-point restrictions have proved to have limited potential to produce more trophy bucks, and they result in a myriad of challenges and problems. For example:

– Available data and experience from across the West suggest that antler restrictions result in no long-term increase in either the proportion or number of mature bucks in a herd, or the total deer population. Antler-point restrictions have been shown to actually reduce the number of trophy bucks in a herd over time by protecting only smaller-antlered young bucks.

–Antler-point restrictions do not increase fawn production or herd population size.

–Antler restrictions dramatically reduce hunter participation, success and total harvest. They can cheapen the value of young bucks by changing the threshold for success from “any buck” is good to a quest where “only a big buck will do.” Antler point restrictions may discourage hunters (especially beginning and young hunters) because it can be difficult to locate and identify legal deer.

WORST UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCE: Antler-point restrictions increase the number of deer shot and illegally left in the field; this can be significant and has been documented in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Oregon, Nevada, and Montana.

The MDWG says that after decades of disappointing results, most western states and provinces have discontinued statewide antler-point restrictions (although some local jurisdictions still have them in limited areas). The two main reasons for abandoning them are: (1) unacceptable accidental-illegal kill, and (2) increased harvest mortality focused on the very age class of buck of it was intended to promote.

Today, according to the MDWG, most states and provinces have concluded that rather than antler-point restrictions, the best way to improve mule deer numbers (including number of mature bucks) and buck:doe ratios is to reduce the annual harvest through 1) a limited-quota licensing system that decreases overall total buck harvest while allowing for some level of doe harvest; or 2) setting a very short hunting season in early fall (before rut) when mature bucks are less vulnerable.

Bottomline for those of you planning a mule deer hunt anywhere out West: Anticipate more draw/quota hunts, and perhaps more and shorter seasons in early to mid-October.

Photo above: The problem with antler-point restrictions. While this 2-point buck is fully mature and should be fair game for any hunter, he would off-limits in an area where “one antler must have 3 points.” Also, while an antler-point restriction rule would unnecessarily protect this older buck, all he’ll ever be antler-wise is a 2-point… most hunters are looking for at least a mature 3-point and more typically a big 4.

Potential State Record Mule Deer Sheds!

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My friend Ricardo, a New Mexico hunting outfitter who specializes in limited-entry archery hunts for giant mule deer, found this antler on public land. Look at the size and deepness of the front and back forks–that is what you look for on a trophy mule buck.

The shed taped out a tad over 96 inches. “If you double the antler score for the other side and give him a 30-inch spread the buck would score 223 4/8, potential state record! I’ll keep looking for the other side.”

Picture below is last year’s shed off the same buck. “He put on a lot (tine length and mass) this year, but lost the extra point,” Ricardo says.

Deadline to apply for the New Mexico mule deer and elk draw is March 21.

IMG_3061[1]

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.