After a string of dry to drought years, we’ve had good rain and cool temperatures this spring/summer in many regions. Here in VA and down through the Carolinas, I cannot remember a cooler, wetter summer. Take a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor.
With the exception of western Kansas and a few spots in Nebraska, the majority of whitetail range is looking pretty good. There are spots of dry ground, but overall the conditions are much improved over the last few years.
In many areas, the corn is tall and the two most prominent and protein-rich legumes for deer, soybeans and clover, are lush and thick. That’s great, but the rebirth of the natural vegetation across the nation, which not only makes up the bulk of the whitetail’s diet but also provides critical fawn-rearing cover and hiding spots for all deer, is most important. We put too much emphasis on crops and food plots, and not enough on the state of the natural forage that deer survive on.
This trail cam picture from a ranch we hunt in Oklahoma is a good example. When we last shot a TV show there two years ago, the ground was dry and cracked, and the grass and ground cover were sparse and brown. The body weights and racks of the bucks were down. Look at that habitat now. The bucks are looking fine, and we are going back there to hunt in October.
Another positive: Reports of the terrible disease EHD, which killed a lot of bucks in many areas the last few years, have been almost non-existent this summer.
It should be a good to excellent “rack year” in most regions. One problem area could be the far north, from northwest Wisconsin up into Saskatchewan. Lots of snow up there last winter, and it lingered into May in areas. Surely there was some degree of winterkill, but then again, I have seen some decent cam pictures from the region.
Funny thing about “rack years.” You just never know. I have seen great conditions like this before, and the number of big deer that hit the ground was disappointing. Conversely, in hot, dry years, hunters sometimes kill a staggering number of giants (2012 was one of the best years for big deer that I can remember).
All signs point to a banner season, and I am looking forward to it. This just might be my year of the Drop Tine buck! But then I say that every year.
What about where you live and hunt? How much rain did you get this year…how is the habitat looking…are you spotting any good bucks…what do you predict the hunting to be?