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.

CWD Changing The Way We Process And Eat Venison

Starting out the new year with this guest blog from our friend Luke Strommen, who lives and hunts with his wife, Tara, and daughters out on the Milk River in northeastern Montana. Luke is one of the most ethical and responsible deer hunters I know:  

It was a tough year to get out and hunt with our girls because they were so busy with school stuff and extracurricular activities, etc. I’m sure you parents can relate.

MT summer strommen 1

My oldest daughter, Summer, got to go the second to last day of the 2018 season. We hit the rattling sheds and made a ruckus with some leaves and low branches. After two close encounters on rack bucks, when an ethical shot wouldn’t present, I talked Summer into taking hike to warm up before letting her call it quits.

It doesn’t look cold in these photos, but high humidity and low temps got Summer’s fingers and toes pretty cold when we were sitting on the ground in the tall grass.  Summer’s tough, though, and loves to hunt, so we hiked a few hundred yards downriver.

We came up off the riverbank and saw this buck was coming straight at us from 50 yards, with no idea we were there! We quickly belly crawled to a small ash tree that Summer tried to use to steady her .308, but the buck was on a mission and not wasting any time. When she got the rifle up he was at 30 yards!  He saw us and stepped sideways for a quick moment, but continued on his way while giving us a sideways glance. He didn’t care about us…he was seeking and seeking hard as the final phase of the rut was on.

Summer was ready when I was able to get the buck to stop and look at us…at 23 steps!  She raised her .308 and made a great off-hand shot (I use a 2.5-10X scope on that rifle, and it was set at 2.5X). The buck staggered 30 yards before he fell over and she got to see it go down. It was really exciting, because she thought she had missed him!

MT summer 2

After recovering the buck, I started a small fire to warm us up. That wasn’t a small task because with the melting snow, the past days of sleet, and the foggy morning, everything was wet.  Summer knew we always kept a fire kit with us in our survival pack. We whittled some dead limbs to the drier core, built a tepee of them and the trimmings, tucked some of our dryer lint up inside the tepee and lit it with a waterproof match. A little pampering and feeding and Summer had the fire going well. She pulled off her socks, and I gave her a new pair from our pack (100% wool, old surplus army issue) to put on her damp, cold feet, and she was warm again by the time we cleaned her buck. (BTW, we have built fires before while out hiking and shed hunting, and I think it’s a great skill for all kids to learn…a necessity in my book, really.)

It was the best buck we had seen all year, and it just happened to be drawn by in Summer’s rabbit foot. This was the first year that she could choose whether or not to shoot or pass on a buck. I let my girls be picky only after their first two bucks; for the first two bucks they shoot, I make them take the first buck that gives them an ethical shot opportunity.

We took Summer’s buck to a CWD check station, where the fellas there removed glands from the throat, a piece of tissue, and a tooth from her buck. They gave us a card with a number and told us to check back in 2 to 3 weeks for the results, as they were sending the samples to Colorado State University for testing.  Authorities had found 2 mule deer in Valley County with Chronic Wasting Disease, so I was concerned.  The counties on both sides of us were positive for CWD deer also. I want to teach my girls the “new” way to take care of your harvest and how to be safe cleaning and processing it.

MT summer 3

After checking the results online, Summer’s buck was good to go on our plates. This was one of the rare years where we didn’t BBQ up a back strap or loin the same day we killed the deer. Since I intend to have every deer we shoot tested for CWD before we eat it, that is now a thing of the past for us…sadly enough. CWD has me concerned about consuming our game meat, and I am not taking any chances with my girls,  at least until science shows us there is positively no threat that CWD infected deer can pass the disease or any illness on to humans that consume it.  

As for now, we are thawing out some back strap from Summer’s deer for dinner.

Here’s a helpful link about CWD and the precautions you can take.—Thanks, your friend Luke.

 

October Velvet Mystery Bucks

tx travis velvet buck

Got this from Travis:

Hi Mike: Thought you might be able to shed some light on this. We took this deer October 19 on the Texas/Oklahoma border north of Dallas. As you can see it’s still in velvet!  That’s not normal for around here. Any insight on this, and does this change how we plan for the rut?

I emailed back: Did his nut sack look normal or small? If a buck injures his testicles (or if they didn’t drop as he grew) it affects his hormones and a buck might not shed the velvet. Let me know.

From Travis: I finally heard back from my buddy. You called it. The testicles were small and not near what you’d expect. And in a strange coincidence another friend shot this Colorado mule deer buck (below) last week and it was in velvet too! Wouldn’t you know it, his nuts were smaller than grapes and it had nipples. This is a weird world.

CO travis velvet buck

Weird yes, and here’s the explanation.

Commonly called a “stag,” the oddball buck retains the velvet on his antlers due to low testosterone levels. Scientists refer to this condition as cryptorchidism and it’s rare. It can result from a birth defect or disease that causes a buck’s testicles (one or both) not to drop normally. Or, a buck may injure his nuts, say on a wire fence (ouch). Cryptorchidism can occur in whitetails or mule deer.

A stag buck is different, and he doesn’t engage in the seasonal rituals of normal bucks. Cryptorchids don’t rub or scrape in the the rut. They lack the chemical stimulation to express dominance or individualism. Their necks don’t swell. A stag doesn’t shed his antlers; they remain in velvet year-round

A cryptorchid buck is rare, and if you shoot one I’d mount it and have a taxidermist preserve the velvet antlers.

No, a stag buck in velvet in October or November is an anomaly and his presence has no effect on the normal rut.

What Causes A Leg To Grow Out A Deer’s Body?

3 leg deer

Okay, something freaky for Halloween.

Saw on Twitter where somebody shot this deer the other day and said, “This is a first for me, an extra leg growing out his neck!”

Scientists say the extra leg is likely that of a twin that didn’t form all the way.

According to QDMA this is most likely a case of a “parasitic twin.” Twin fawns probably began to develop inside a doe, but the twin embryos did not completely separate and one of them stopped developing normally. The leg on this buck’s back neck may actually be a non-functioning remnant of the twin that failed to develop fully, but that remained attached to the healthy embryo.

Parasitic twins are rare but have been documented in many animal species and even in humans.

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.