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.

Will Summer Whitetail Bucks Stay On Your Property This Fall?

spartan buck scrapeYou set cameras and scout and look all of August, and locate a big 10-pointer and a couple of great 8s, any of which you’d love to tag this season. Will the bucks stay on the property and in the same general area come late September and October? Or will they go AWOL, never to be seen again this season?

Tennessee researcher Bryan Kinkel has conducted extensive preseason censuses of the whitetails that live on his clients’ hunting lands across the Southeast. His observation data and trail-camera photos show that 50 percent of the older bucks may spend the spring/summer months at one end of their home range, but then shift to another core area for fall and winter. These seasonal ranges may have little or no overlap. His data shows these shifts most often occur around the time bucks shed their velvet–roughly September 5-20. So that furry-racked monster you spot in a bean field this weekend might be long gone when bow season opens.

How far might he go? Missouri biologist Grant Woods says it could be a few hundred yards or several miles or anywhere in between. If you hunt 1,000 acres or more, it’s no big deal. Most of the bucks that shift will still live in your zone, you just need to scout more after September 20 to pin them down.

The problem is when you hunt 50 to 300 acres, like most of us do. “On a 300-acre property, a buck that shifts only 500 yards or so could move right off your property and onto a spot where other people are hunting,” Woods says.

The good news: While half the mature bucks might leave your land in mid-September that many more that summered elsewhere are apt to move in and stay on your property this fall and winter. Generally a property sees a zero net loss of total bucks from summer to fall and winter, but the identity of those bucks can change dramatically.

So when you see a new a big buck pop up for the first time on one of your cameras in October or November, that explains it!

One more thing about buck movements, which could be good or bad news for you. “Our telemetry studies show that bucks range less as they get older and older, and their summer and fall/winter core areas overlap more,” says whitetail biologist Mickey Hellickson. So a buck that comes and goes off your land when he’s 3 ½ and 4½ might stop moving around so much if he lives to the ripe old age of 6, which is very rare for a wild buck. A really old buck might summer and winter in 100 acres on the property you hunt (good) or he might move off your land one August and never come back (bad).

8 Scientific Facts About Whitetail Deer

big rub

The Right Rubs: In the book Whitetail Country Michigan biologist John Ozoga points out that the first good-sized rubs–on trees 2 to 4 inches in diameter–that you find in late September were made by bucks 3½ years and older to mark their home ranges and “to proclaim their control over a given area.” Other bucks and does will see the fresh blazes, and they might come over and lick or rub their heads on them. But those deer will get a whiff of the rub maker’s fore-head and salivary scent, and they’ll know who’s living there large and in charge.

Finding clusters of big rubs is a key strategy for your entire season. From late September through December, most of the bucks that blazed those rubs will spend 90 percent of their time on the same ridges and in the same bottoms where you find the sign. So find the early rubs; scout out from them a couple hundred yards for the best food sources, trails, funnels and bedding thickets; and hang some tree stands at strategic points. Hunt those stands all season, and you’ll see some shooter bucks.

Scrapes: Back Off! QDMA biologist Kip Adams points to a comprehensive University of Georgia study of free-ranging deer that live on a 3,400-acre property that is hunted each fall. I put the most stock in studies that deal wild, hunted deer, not pen whitetails.

Most all deer research over the years has found that bucks check scrapes mostly at night, and the Georgia study, the largest of its kind, confirms it. The researchers tallied thousands of trail camera images and found that mature bucks check scrapes mostly between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.

Why waste more hunting time sitting and watching scrapes where a good buck isn’t likely to show up until the wee hours of dark? “You’re much better off setting up and watching a heavy trail or edge of thick cover several hundred yards off the freshest scrapes you can find,” says Adams. “That’s where you might catch a buck moving to and from the scrapes in first or last light.”

Back Off Scrapes Altogether: By mid-November in most areas, it’s time to back off scrapes altogether. Karen Alexy, lead researcher on that Georgia project, says that bucks most often make and hit scrapes two to three weeks prior to the rut. “After the peak, we found that bucks almost completely stop visiting scrapes,” she says, “so you might be better off hunting bedding sites, travel corridors, or feeding areas.”

Low-Pressure Stands: In a South Carolina study, researchers analyzed hundreds of interactions between hunters and deer, and found that mature bucks traveled 55 yards on average farther away from hunting stands at the end of the season versus the beginning of the season.

This confirms something I have been writing about and saying on my TV shows for years: Mature bucks can learn your habits and pattern you. As the season progresses they see, smell and hear where hunters walk into the woods, climb trees, walk out at midmorning or after dark… You get the picture. The bucks then start to skirt those stand locations and access points to avoid you.

This fall, change it up. Say you’ve been bowhunting a big 10-pointer for a few weeks from the same 2 stands in a 200-acre block of woods. You saw the deer a couple of times early in the season, but it’s been awhile since you’ve seen him now.

Check the lay of the land on maps or Google Earth. Then at midday, slip into those woods and set a couple of new stands along trails, in draws, at creek crossings, etc. You don’t always have to move far; you might set some of those new stands on good cover edges or funnels only 40 to 70 yards from your original stands. Play the wind and be as quiet as you can as you set the new stands.

When you sneak back in and hunt those fresh stands, you have a good shot at surprising that buck in a spot where he doesn’t expect you. As he moves on a pattern to avoid your first stands, he might walk 10-20 yards below one of your new stands. Take him!

High or Low? Missouri biologist Grant Woods put GPS collars on deer and found that old bucks generally bed just over the top of a ridge, usually on the east side. “That’s probably because most of the time wind currents come from the west,” he says. “When a west wind goes up and over the top of a hill and swirls, it creates an air cone that picks up and carries scent from all directions.”

Woods, a hard-core bowhunter, notes that he rarely hunts on tops of a hill because of the eddy-like, unpredictable air currents up there. “You’re a lot better off hanging a stand lower on the side of a ridge or mountain, or on a flat where you can catch a buck sneaking up to his bed or coming back down from it.”

Think Green (Part 1): Biologists in Michigan, Minnesota and other northern states have found that 5- to 40-acre conifer swamps, with trees 10 to 25 feet tall and canopies 50 to 70 percent closed, provide the best thermal cover for deer. If you bowhunt the late season up North, look for green covers of that size, and hang a stand on a nearby trail.

Think Green (Part 2): After killing a deer late in the season, Pennsylvania ruminant nutrition specialist Phil Anderson pokes through the paunch to see what the critter had been eating.

“Ever killed a doe or buck in December when the woods are brown, but the rumen contents (of a deer’s stomach) are bright green?” he asks. He points out that deer love tender, green shoots year-round and particularly in the winter. The animals sniff and dig around the woods and find them under rotting leaves.

Next December and January, be on the lookout for spots where deer have dug and pawed the leaves (deer sign is narrower and more linear than wild turkey scratching). Get down on hands and knees and investigate. If you find little green shoots popping up, set up there and fill your last doe or buck tag.

Beat the Head Bob: In a study funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation in hopes of reducing deer-car crashes, Dr. Karl Miller and others focused on the whitetail’s vision. They confirmed that to get a good 3-D look at a strange object, a deer has to shift its head and stare at it from several different angles. You’ve seen that before—a deer sees you and starts head-bobbing as it tries to figure out what the heck it is looking at.

The next time a doe or buck looks up into your tree stand and starts head-bobbing, freeze. When the animal dips its head and appears to look away, stay frozen. Only when the head-bobbing stops for good and the deer relaxes and seems satisfied that you are not dangerous should you shift in your stand and draw your bow. A deer’s eyes are well adapted to detect movement.