5 Things About Summer Deer Antlers

sask oneill 2017 2Velvet antlers have a complex system of blood vessels which causes them to be hot to the touch. Top whitetail scientist Dr. Grant Woods notes, “There is so much blood carrying protein and minerals to a buck’s antlers this time of year that even small antlers are easily detected by thermal imaging devices. Antler tines show up like neon signs when flying over with thermal cameras in summer.”

(Note: True and amazing how velvet antlers glow in a thermal imaging device. Last week on a nighttime hog hunt on a managed property in Georgia, I scanned the woods for hours with Trijicon’s IR Patrol thermal monocular and looked at a lot of good bucks; the hot-blooded antlers shined twice as white and bright than the deers’ bodies!)

Tiny hairs on the velvet stick out and make the antlers look thicker than they are. The hairs act as a radar system so a buck won’t bump into trees, fence posts, etc. and damage his soft antlers.

Sebum, a semi-liquid secretion, on those hairs gives the velvet a shiny look. Sebum also supposedly acts as an insect repellent to keep gnats, biting flies off a buck’s rack and face.

In early August antlers will begin to change from soft and pliable to hardened bone. “A buck’s antlers will change from looking swollen or bulbous at the tips of the tines to a more normal diameter,” notes Dr. Woods. “Once this change in appearance occurs the buck won’t add much beam or tine growth.”

By mid-August most of the antler growth for the year is done. Sometime between September 1 and 20 bucks will shed the velvet. The cue for antler hardening and the velvet shedding is the change in photoperiod caused by decreasing daylight and increasing darkness, which results in a significant increase in the bucks’ testosterone.

Whitetail Science: How Well Do Deer Hear?

MT buck flop earYears ago as a doctoral student at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab, Gino D’Angelo put whitetails in a sound-testing booth and monitored their brainwaves to see how the animals responded to different sounds and frequencies. (Dr. D’Angelo is now is an Assistant Professor of Deer Ecology and Management at UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources.)

Here are 4 things Dr. D’Angelo and his colleagues found about the whitetail’s sense of hearing:

Deer do not hear that much better than we do! The frequency of sound is measured in hertz. Studies have found that a healthy human can hear from 20 to 20,000 hertz, with our best and most sensitive range from 2,000 to 5,000 hertz. The researchers found that deer hear best at moderate frequencies of 3,000 to 8,000 hertz. To put perspective on it, both our normal speech and most deer vocalizations fall within these frequency ranges. So while deer generally vocalize at lower frequencies than we talk, they hear similarly.

Low-frequency sounds travel farther and can be heard better by deer at greater distances than high-frequency sounds. A good example is a hunter walking in the woods, crunching leaves. Deer can hear that, so go slow and carefully and step as quietly as you can. Human speech is a moderate frequency sound that is well within the peak hearing range of deer. Talk softly and whisper in the woods. As Dr. D’Angelo says, “The deer are listening.”

How deer use their ears makes us think the animals can hear a lot better than we can. Deer ears are like tiny satellite dishes that tip back and forth and roll around to pick up, sort out and lock in on various sounds in the woods. Think about this, because you’ve probably been there. A buck is within 100 yards and hears you bang your bow or gun, or scrape your boots on a metal platform; you watch him work his ears, look your way and start stamping his foot. Wow, those ears are amazing and almost supernatural, you think. But Dr. D’Angelo points out that the animal is simply reacting to a strange and potentially dangerous sound in his environment, in much the same way that we jump and look if we hear a sudden horn or a car backfire nearby.

The sounds and frequencies of grunt calls match well with the whitetail’s hearing. As an off-shoot of this study, the researchers analyzed several brands of grunt calls to see how they aligned with the hearing of deer. All the calls produced similar sounds with the strongest frequency range between 3,000 and 4,000 hertz—well in tune for a doe or buck to hear your grunts.

Dr. D’Angelo points out that while your grunt call sounds true and is well tuned to a deer’s hearing, it is not as loud as you think. So if you’re “calling blind” with no deer in sight, don’t be afraid to grunt loudly, especially during the rut. There’s a good chance that somewhere out there in the woods an old 8-pointer will roll his ears and home in on your stand. Keep grunting and with luck he’ll come.

 

Whitetail Science: Young Bucks Breed 30% Of Does

deer breeding in febFor many years biologists and hunters believed that most adult does were bred by bucks 3.5 years and older, a theory I always questioned. In many areas of the U.S., deer herds are overloaded with does, and there are relatively mature bucks 4.5 years and older.

So in peak rut, when many does come into estrus at one time, which bucks are actually doing the breeding?

According to research published in the Journal of Mammalogy, immature bucks (1.5 and 2.5 years of age) are breeding does at a much higher rate than once thought. In one study, researchers analyzed the DNA samples of more than 1,200 whitetails in 3 different populations (Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma) and found that young bucks sired 30 to 33% of the fawns.

This seems to prove my personal and totally unscientific theory, but one I think makes a lot of common sense: On public and private lands that are not managed and which do not have a large population of 3.5 to 5.5 year old bucks, the 1.5 and 2.5 year olds MUST be doing a lot of breeding. I’d bet it’s more than 33 percent in some areas.

But here’s an interesting finding. The DNA researchers found that even in a population with a good number of mature bucks, immature males still sired 30% or so of the fawns. So in layman’s terms, the old boys don’t suppress the randy youngsters with big rubs, snort-wheezing and their mere big-racked presence as much as we once thought.

Upon analyzing these studies, one whitetail biologist said, “This genetic research crushes our thinking on how whitetails do their breeding. What amazes me most is that we really believed for the longest time that there were a few dominant bucks that did most of the breeding.”

Cool stuff. I feel sort of vindicated.

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.

Minn: Rare Two-Headed Fawn

minn 2 headed fawnFrom Fox News: A mushroom hunter’s discovery of a conjoined white-tailed fawn in a Minnesota forest two years ago is being hailed by researchers as a landmark case among oddities in nature.

The fawns, which were stillborn, are believed to have been the first recorded case of a conjoined two-headed deer to have reached full term and born by their mother, according to a study recently published in the science journal American Midland Naturalist.

“It’s never been described before,” Lou Cornicelli, co-author of the study and a wildlife research manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told FOX9. “There are a few reported cases of two-headed ungulate fetuses, but nothing delivered to term. So, the uniqueness made it special.”

Laboratory tests and scans performed on the carcass, which had been preserved and frozen for study, revealed the fawns had two head-neck regions joined along the spine. The fur, heads, and legs were normal, but the animals had a shared liver, extra spleens, and gastrointestinal tracts. Scientists said that with that anatomy they could never have survived.

Another example of how amazing and awesome nature is: The mushroom hunter found the two-headed fawn just hours after it/they were stillborn. As you can clearly see in the picture, they were in a serene and natural state and groomed, indicating the mother doe had tried to care for them after delivery.