Memorial Day 2018: Thank You Troops

va zane me flag 2011Received this note from a loyal blog reader. I could not have said it better myself, and I reprint in honor of all those who serve and 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 firearms and hunting if not for the men and women that we honor this weekend. Raise a drink during a celebration this weekend and remember our TRUE AMERICAN HEROES.

Amen, God bless our military.

In the photo: On a deer hunt in Virginia, Zane Keen (left), a critical care nurse in the U.S. Army, presented me this combat flag certificate for the work we do to support our troops and veterans through BIG DEER TV and the Veteran’s Outdoor Fund. Zane had flown that flag for me over the field hospital where he worked in Iraq during the height of that conflict. For me, it was the ultimate honor, and remains so to this day.

New Jersey: Police Officer Performs C-Section On Doe, Saves Fawn

nj cop c sectionFrom CBS New York: “A resourceful police officer is being credited with saving the life of baby deer after its mother had been hit and killed in Warren County.”

Noticing movement inside the doe, Officer Jim Vernon sprung into action and performed a roadside C-section on the doe, saving the life of one of two fawns that the unfortunate doe carried.

Animal Control Officer Robert Lagonera then arrived on the scene, took the fawn home, warmed it up, and rubbed its chest to help get the little deer’s underdeveloped lungs working. The fawn is apparently doing well and awaiting its new home.

To these officers and to all their brothers and sisters in blue across the country, thank you for all you do every day!

Photo: Washington Township, Warren County police

Future Of Deer Hunting: USDA TO Revise Standards for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)

cwd map

As I’ve said on the Blog and on BIG DEER TV, CWD is the biggest issue and threat that we’ve faced in the last 50 years, and maybe ever. We need to stay on top of this and learn all we can about this disease.

The Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership (TRCP) reports that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is currently revising their standards for CWD, and they need to hear from deer hunters from across the country. To that end, TRCP put out this message which I wholeheartedly agree with and support:

Deer hunting is the single most popular form of hunting in the United States, with 9.2 million Americans participating each year, contributing more than $20 billion in economic activity, state and local taxes, and wildlife restoration trust fund excise taxes. Deer hunters play an essential role in the “user pays, public benefits” framework of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. Reductions in deer hunting and the number of deer hunters have reverberating impacts that extend far beyond deer and deer hunting directly, including state fish and wildlife agency budgets and their broader fish and wildlife management work, and rural economic health.

Deer populations represent one of the great success stories of American wildlife conservation, and deer hunters have led the way; but the continued spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) across the country represents a stark threat to the future of deer populations, deer hunting, and more broadly, the public’s wildlife resources. Once again, hunters stand ready to take the steps necessary to address this worrisome issue, but we cannot do it alone. Significant progress must also be made by the deer farming industry.

As the lead federal agency tasked with slowing and ultimately ending the further spread of CWD, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) must take proactive and meaningful steps, including:

1. Reducing the spread of CWD to levels low enough that new cases are extremely rare.
2. Including all effective disease control options, to include improved fencing for deer farms and stronger requirements for disease monitoring, surveillance, and decontamination.
3. Covering all native and farmed deer species in North America.
4. Requiring mandatory testing of all dead animals from captive herds.
5. Eliminating the movement of CWD-infected deer from all sources.
6. Recommending a third-party review of the APHIS Herd Certification and Interstate Movement program and Program Standards due to continued detection of CWD in herds monitored beyond five years, largely due to flaws with the program.

TRCP encourages all of us to take action and weigh in on the CWD threat. Fill out the form found here to send a letter to decision makers at the USDA APHIS.

Mills Buck 172 6/8: Virginia’s No. 4 Archery Non-Typical

wayne mills giant buck 2016Yesterday I took this picture of Wayne Mills and the incredible buck he shot in Rappahannock County, Virginia, in October 2016.

I had seen pictures of this deer, but to see it in person was amazing. Main-frame 12-point with split brow tines…21 score-able points and stickers for character. Net 172 6/8 non-typical. Number 4 all-time in Virginia according to the latest Pope and Young book.

We spend a good 2 hours filming a video segment with Wayne and this giant, and you’ll see and hear the story on a new episode of BIG DEER TV this fall. Here’s the written version in Wayne’s words, which first appeared on the blog in November 2016:

I was given permission on a new place and began scouting it in early October.

The set up was classic. There was a good bedding area in a deep ravine, consisting of multiflora rose, honeysuckle and cedar trees with a small stream running through it.  There are pasture fields on both sides of this bedding area, which is about 100-200 yards wide and 300-400 yards long. Downhill from the bedding area there is a strip of hardwoods 60-80 yards wide, running perpendicular to the ravine with another pasture beyond.

When I scouted it, I noticed white oaks and several persimmon trees loaded with fruit.  The oaks were heavy with acorns.  I set my stand 20 yards off an outside corner of one of the pastures in an area with heavy trails crossing about 25 yards away.

The heat wave we had been having kept me out of the woods for a week after I hung the stand.   I also knew that the wind had to be from the North to hunt this setup. On Friday, October 21st we had a front moving in and forecast for winds to swing from the SW to the North after the front came through.

I got in the stand about 2:00 and waited for the shift in the wind.  By 3:30 the wind had started blowing from the North.  About 4:30 ruckus from birds alerted me to a gray fox moving along the field edge.   At 5:15 the birds alerted me again, and I looked toward the ruckus to see a deer moving through the brush about 40 yards away, coming out of the bedding area.

I saw a rack.  At first look, it looked unusual.  I saw that it had good mass and spread and attached my release to my bowstring and no longer looked at his rack.  As the deer moved down the trail it stopped and looked to its left.  I saw a doe feeding under some oaks.  My thought was “oh no, don’t go that way.”   The buck continued moving along the same trail and passed 17 paces from my stand, offering a broadside shot.

I drew when he stepped behind a tree and shot as he reappeared.  It was a steep angle, and I hit the deer high in the shoulder. He went right now, and expired right there. When I got to him I was awestruck…obviously buck of a lifetime.—Wayne Mills

Postscript: The buck weighed 195 pounds field-dressed. “I weigh 150, so getting him out of that ravine was a chore,” Wayne said. “After I wrestled him out of the ravine to a field, I got a tractor and loaded him into my truck.”

Deer Management How-To: Build A Mineral Site

30 06 minerals

Now is time to build new mineral sites (or start recharging old ones) on your hunting land.

“Licks” are easy and relatively inexpensive to build and maintain, and they serve 2 purposes: 1) provide trace minerals and vitamins for all deer, from bucks growing new antlers to does getting ready to drop fawns; and 2) they are top spots for you set trail cameras and monitor growing antlers all summer as you prepare your 2018 game plan.

Scientists note that whitetails use mineral sites most heavily from late summer until the first frost next fall. From personal experience and observation here in Virginia, bucks start hitting minerals whenever we set them out in early spring through the first 2 weeks of August, when our camera images of mature bucks at licks begin to taper off.

How many mineral sites do you need? Research shows that one site for every 50 to 100 acres of hunting land is about right. We maintain 8 to 10 licks an 800-acre Virginia farm every year.

Locate mineral sites strategically across your property. Twenty to 30 yards back in the woods from the corners and edges of crop fields and food plots are good spots. Most of our licks are located close to main deer trails, where bucks can veer over to check them with minimal effort. Two of our best sites are near creek crossings back in the woods.

To build a site, clear a spot 4 to 6 feet in diameter (or larger if you like) and rake away the leaves and grass down to bare soil. It helps to break up and loosen the dirt with a shovel.

There are dozens of minerals formulated to attract deer and to provide vitamins for better deer health. We began using Imperial Whitetail .30-06 from Whitetail Institute last year with great success, and now use them exclusively.

imperial minerals

Dump and scatter minerals into a lick. Whitetail Institute recommends you use at least 5 pounds in a new site.

We use 10 pounds to an entire 20-pound bag the first time we re-start an established mineral site in the spring, and then use half a bag in each lick after that.  We refresh our sites every 3 weeks to a month throughout the summer.

Look for a good tree for a trail camera within 10 feet or so of every mineral site you create. Start running your cameras in June and watch the bucks’ antlers grow. By August you’ll have thousands of images of deer at licks, and a good inventory of the size and age class of bucks on your land.

Side note: It’s fun to watch how the most active mineral sites grow. As deer dig for minerals in the same sites year after year, the holes get bigger and deeper. I’ve seen licks deep enough to hide half a buck!

I end with this important note. Here in Virginia, using minerals is legal during spring and summer, but not permitted from September 1 through the end of hunting season. State laws vary, so check your game regulations.