Athens Georgia: Hotbed Of Deer Information and Research

qdma shed tree

You might know that Athens is a vibrant college town, home to the SEC Bulldogs. Did you also know it’s the epicenter of whitetail research and deer-hunting information in America? Last week the BIG DEER TV crew took a road trip to check it out.

First stop, headquarters of the Quality Deer Management Association. I stepped in the front door and naturally checked out the shed tree in the corner. It’s built with an antler from every state and province where whitetail deer are found. Impressive, and they tell me it weighs more than a ton.

qdma brian

I sat down for a lengthy talk with Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA and one of the top deer biologists in the country. This man knows the state of the whitetail across North America in 2018.

Brian explained that after several tough years, notably 2011-2014 when winters were harsh in some regions and big outbreaks of Hemorrhagic Disease killed numbers of deer in other areas, things are looking up. Deer herds are generally doing well, and prospects for the 2018 season are good.

But all is not rosy. Brian pointed to some major issues issues on the horizon.

First, and the elephant in the room, is Chronic Wasting Disease.

cwd map 24 states

CWD, first documented in deer in Colorado in 1967, has now been confirmed in 24 states, 3 Canadian provinces and 2 foreign countries. CWD is found only in hoofed animals such as deer, elk, and moose. The disease affects an animal’s nervous system. Infected deer lose weight, wander aimlessly, salivate and eventually die. It is always fatal.

CWD is affecting the core of why we hunt—to bring home the venison. While no cases of CWD in humans have been confirmed, there is fear that could change. In a Canadian study three of five primates contracted the disease after eating meat from CWD-infected animals.

Brian’s advice: If you shoot a deer in a known CWD area, DO NOT eat the meat until you have it tested and confirmed CWD-free.

Second big issue: Decline of hunters across North America.

Recent surveys reveal that only 5% of Americans age 16 and up hunt today. That’s half of what it was 50 years ago. The number of licensed hunters, by far most of them deer hunters, dropped from 14.2 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016. Most disturbing, the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decades.

Fewer hunters buying licenses and guns and ammunition equals less dollars for state wildlife conservation departments. If we do not stop this negative trend, the consequences will be severe. There are already reports that dollars for CWD research are drying up, and that’s the last thing we need.

Brian Murphy said QDMA is making a big push to continue youth hunter recruitment, and also to bring in more adults, 20-, 30- and 40-something men and women who might well want to to hunt deer, but who were never exposed to hunting as kids.

dr miller deer lab

Next, I drove across town to check out the Deer Lab at the University of Georgia. This is one cool place. Under the tutelage of Dr. Karl Miller for the past 30 years, the Deer Lab has grown from one small pen to an impressive collection of buildings and enclosures where landmark whitetail research is ongoing.

Dr. Miller gave us the tour, where we observed and filmed collared does and fawns and  bucks in velvet. We checked out rooms where deer are exposed to lights and monitors to check their vision. Dr. Gino D’Angelo explained studies he has conducted on how deer hear, and GPS-collar projects that track deer movements.

To a whitetail junkie like you and me, all kids of fascinating stuff.

Set your DVR and watch this episode of BIG DEER TV Wednesday, August 29 at 7:30 PM on Sportsman Channel.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Top Summer Spots For Trail Cameras

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I’ve had several Spartan cameras out for a while, but now in July is when I start my recon in earnest. Velvet antlers are up and growing full bore; when you get an image of a buck with potential, you’ll know it and can start tracking and patterning his movements.

One: Last week we set 2 cameras on 2 one-acre clover plots hidden back in the woods. We set 3 more cams near larger food plots, but not aiming out into the fields. Rather, we pointed these cams 20 to 30 yards back in the thickets that rim the edges, on well-used deer trails. Secluded, thick pockets and bottlenecks like this are where you’re apt of get close images of a big velvet buck working the area.

Two: We put a camera on a muddy creek crossing a quarter-mile from a clover plot, and another on the edge of a beaver pond where we’ve photographed good bucks before. As summer deepens, bucks spend time hanging out in low-lying areas near water where it’s cool and shady.

Three: On one Virginia farm we hunt, there are 2 cornfields with a 40-yard-wide row of trees splitting and separating the fields. Within that row of trees is a flat, grassy gap where the farmer drives his tractor between the fields. On an old gate post in the gap is our top spot to set a camera now, while the corn is still tall and uncut.

Over the years, a camera on the gate post has been the most productive for catching bucks on natural summer movement (photo below). If you have a similar gap like this where you hunt, go set a camera there now before the crops are cut and the deer movement patterns change.

Va  9 point at round tower gap

Some People Are Mosquito Magnets, Are You?

mosquitoSome people are more attractive to mosquitoes than others, says a Baylor mosquito expert.

Jason Pitts, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in Baylor University’s College of Arts and Sciences, studies “host seeking”—how mosquitoes find their next blood meal. He said odor is a major factor why mosquitoes bite some people more often.

Female mosquitoes, which bite because they need blood for reproduction, have the ability to smell odor over long distances.

“Females are able to track upwind.” Once they get that stream of odor, they fly in and out of the stream of odor to orient themselves to try get to the host.”

It is not just odor. Heat—at very close range—also is very attractive for female mosquitoes.

“Mosquitoes are exquisitely sensitive to differences in temperature on surfaces. When it comes to heat or carbon dioxide, both can be beacons for mosquitoes as well,” Pitts said.

Lastly, researchers have found that in addition to odor and heat, mosquitoes can use the sense of taste to decide whether to feed.

“Once a mosquito lands on (your) skin, they taste the skin to decide whether this is a good host or not,” Pitts said. “They can actually taste DEET, which is long-range repellent. They can smell it and avoid it. When they taste it, they will also fly away. Therefore, we know that taste is also important in some ways. Taste is the final choice before blood feeding.”

Whether you are a favorite food among mosquitoes or not, Pitts recommends these three tips for minimizing your chances of being bitten.

1. Reduce mosquito breeding grounds.

The most important thing that anyone can do is to reduce breeding sources for mosquitoes by eliminating stagnant water near your home and from your yard.

2. Stick with DEET

Bracelets, bands and other wearable devices that emit repellent compounds, such as citronella, lemongrass oil or eucalyptus, probably do reduce some mosquito bites. However, Pitts said these devices don’t provide absolute protection against bites. Topical repellents, he said, are still the best. They cover your skin and will not only have a volatile repellent effect, but if a mosquito lands on a person’s skin, it will not bite.

3. Avoid peak biting times.

Typically, mosquitoes bite at dusk and at dawn. Mosquitoes are most active when the sun is rising or setting. If you like to take a morning run or walk at dusk, you should apply DEET repellant to avoid being bitten.

Source: The Outdoor Wire

Why Do Deer Jump The Bow String?

early season bowhunting

Hey Mike: Wondering if you could settle a friendly argument. A buddy and I were discussing deer jumping the string. I say it is all noise related and they instinctively react; he says it could also be visual—they see the arrow coming. Wondering your thoughts? Also, do you ever see a bow being fast enough that you don’t have to worry about them jumping the string or is that impossible? Thanks–Jake in WI

Jake, you win, it’s an instinctive reaction. I heard a guy say one time, “It’s like when somebody blows a horn or sets off a firecracker close, you jump.” When a deer hears your bow go off in his natural environment, same thing.

I’ve heard people say a deer might see the arrow and react…I guess it’s possible a doe or buck might glimpse the blur of an arrow out the corner of their eye, but I doubt it happens often.

Actually, “jumping the string” is a misnomer, it should be called “ducking and rolling.” Doe or buck hears your bow go off, drops its chest down toward the ground and whirls to run in one motion. Can’t see it with the eye, but watch a slow-motion video of it, and it’s amazing.

Some deer drop at the bow sound, others don’t. Unpredictability has to do with distance to deer, quietness of bow, foliage that does/does not muffle sound, etc. You never know, so hold the correct sight pin on bottom third of the vitals. Deer drops, you pierce mid to high lungs; deer does not drop, you sear heart/low lungs. Either way, you kill deer.

I suck at physics, but I understand the speed of sound is around 1,126 fps while the fastest compound bow shoots an arrow at 360 fps or so. So no, I am reasonably sure there will never be a bow that propels an arrow that deer cannot jump (or rather duck).

Whitetail Management: A Little Land Work Leads To A Monster Buck

Now is the time to put in food plots, work the timber, create mineral sites, and otherwise improve the private property you’ll hunt on this fall. You don’t have to go hog wild and spend thousands of dollars doing it, especially if you live in the right big-buck zip code. Here’s proof that some sweat equity mixed with smart scouting can pay off big.

A few years ago Mike from Iowa obtained a small chunk of ground with a cabin on it. He scouted and hunted a couple of seasons, but didn’t see many bucks bucks, either on camera or from a tree stand. “My confidence in the farm was low, but after doing some timber-stand improvement and putting in food plots one off season, I had hopes that things would change for the better.”

iowa bow giant 2013

Then on November 2 that year Mike recalls…

I was still trying to work things out on the property, and I bumped several deer on the way in to my stand that afternoon. Before the evening was over I had passed on a very nice buck–and I was second guessing myself. I decided to leave everything in the stand so I could just slip in quietly the next morning.

The wind was right and it worked like a charm. I was settled in the stand plenty early, and I had some serious quiet time with God. I enjoy that peaceful time before sunrise. Just after legal shooting light I heard crunching behind me, straight downwind. I turned to look and immediately grabbed my bow and hooked up my release.

The buck was already at 30 yards and in the open, but a couple of large limbs from the tree I was in blocked the shot. My first thought was to wait for him to move from behind the limbs; then it crossed my mind that anything could happen and I needed to get my shot off before he got awaay. I leaned way back and tried to clear a large limb, but couldn’t. I squatted, leaned way out, settled my pin and let her fly.

I was shooting for 30, but the deer was actually at 25. He may have jumped the string as well…either way, my shot was high. As he bolted, the arrow appeared to fall out with poor penetration. I immediately nocked another arrow and was ready for a follow-up shot if he stopped. When his tail started to cork screw I thought “dead deer,” but mind you I had seen the arrow fall away. I started looking for room to squeeze another one. The buck moved slightly and gave me a tiny opening. Before I knew it, the second arrow was away, a clean pass thru this time.

As the deer hustled off I saw what looked like two mortal wounds. I thought I heard a crash, and I started sending text messages. After a few minutes I located horns with my binos and the emotions swept over me. I knew he would be my best deer to date, and as soon as I walked up on him I knew he was a net Boone and Crockett buck.

On my way back to the cabin to get help, I walked up on 3 good bucks in another food plot. I have changed my mind about this property being a low percentage spot! A little timber improvement and quality plotting turned this place around in a hurry, and I see many years of pleasure ahead for our clan here at our cabin farm.

On yeah, the buck scored 183 2/8″ gross, and 178 6/8″ net.—Mike from Iowa