USDA Program To Control Wild Hogs

ga hogDo you live, hunt deer and maybe farm in the Deep South, on ground where hogs are out of control? Then you’ll be interested in this:

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)announced today it is offering $75 million in funding for the eradication and control of feral swine through the Feral Swine Eradication and Control Pilot Program (FSCP) in a joint effort between USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The 2018 Farm Bill included this new pilot program to help address the threat that feral swine pose to agriculture, ecosystems and human and animal health.

NRCS will direct up to $33.75 million of the allocated FSCP funds toward partnership efforts to work with landowners in identified pilot projects in targeted areas. Applications are being accepted through Aug. 19, 2019, for partners to carry out activities as part of these pilot projects in select areas of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas. APHIS has determined that these states have among the highest feral swine population densities and associated damages in the country.

“NRCS state conservationists and APHIS state directors, in coordination with state technical committees, have identified pilot projects that can be carried out within these target states,” NRCS Chief Matthew Lohr said. “Our agencies stand ready to work with partners at the state and local level to respond to the threat of feral swine.”

Pilot projects will consist broadly of three coordinated components: 1) feral swine removal by APHIS; 2) restoration efforts supported by NRCS; and 3) assistance to producers for feral swine control provided through partnership agreements with non-federal partners. Projects can be one to three years in duration.

“The projects selected for funding will allow APHIS and NRCS to collectively reduce the damage and disease caused by one of the most destructive and formidable invasive species in the United States,” said APHIS Administrator Kevin Shea. “Overall, this pilot program builds upon and expands work already underway by APHIS’ National Feral Swine Damage Management Program to both manage feral swine and eliminate populations in partnership with local government, the private sector, industry and academia.”

NRCS is now accepting proposals from non-federal partners to provide landowner assistance for on-farm trapping and related services as part of the pilot projects described above. NRCS will provide funding for these services through partnership agreements. The funding limit for a single award is $1.5 million. Awardees will be required to provide at least 25 percent of the partnership agreement budget as a match to NRCS funding.

Additional information on the complete funding announcement and about specific pilot projects, including target areas and the roles for which partner assistance is being requested, can be found on the FSCP webpage.

Applications must be submitted through grants.gov by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Aug. 19, 2019.

 

Tennessee To Hold CWD Workshops For Hunters, All States Should

tn cwdI have researched, written, blogged about and produced TV shows concerning Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), the biggest potential thread to deer herds and deer hunting to come down the pike in the last 50 years, maybe ever.

I still find myself confused and scratching my head as CWD is documented in new areas, and as wildlife agencies come out with new info and regulations for dealing with the disease in the short and long term.

I can only imagine how confused you, the average hunter who works hard and raises a family and doesn’t have time to research stuff like this, might be.

That’s why I was so glad to see a tweet from the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) saying they will host 6 CWD workshops this summer in West Tennessee counties where the disease has been documented.

The first workshop will be in McNairy County July 7. Five more will be held in various locations through late August.

Experts from the TWRA and University of Tennessee will be on hand to answer all your questions, such as:

What exactly is CWD?

How can it impact my hunting?

I hunt the next county over from where CWD has been found, should I be worried?

Can I carry a buck home I shot in another county, or another state?

Can I eat the meat from a buck I shot in a CWD area?

Is deer meat possibly contaminated—can it hurt my family?

Should I have my deer tested for CWD? How and where do I do that?

 

You can read all you want about CWD (you should) and its potential risks and impacts, but there’s nothing like getting answers first-hand from experts and biologists on the ground like you’ll be able to do at these workshops.

I applaud Tennessee deer managers for having the vision and spending the money to do this, and I ask all state wildlife agencies to do the same in regions where CWD has been found.

Hunters and wildlife agencies working together is the best way to combat CWD!

 

Big Game Q&A: 19 Tips To Help You Hunt Better

tree stand hunterI’ll be bowhunting big bucks in the South in December? Weather-wise, which days should be best?

Try to plan your hunts around cool, clear days with a north wind. “Down here, big bucks move the best on cool, bluebird days,” says Jimmy Riley, manager of Giles Island Plantation near Natchez, Mississippi. “We have lots of days when it’s warm and the wind blows out of the south. Deer don’t move as well then. But if you can catch a couple of crisp, clear days, you should spot some awesome buck movement.”

What are pheromones?

Pheromones are chemical substances in the urine and glandular secretions of deer. They serve as stimuli to other deer for behavioral responses. Many biologists believe that pheromones emitted by does trigger the peak of the rut and throw bucks into major breeding mode.

I plan to do a little late-season squirrel hunting this winter. Which days should be best?

Squirrels tend to move best on cool, clear mornings. But if it’s bitter cold, they’ll stay in their dens or nests an hour or so after sunrise, waiting for the woods to warm up a little bit before moving. Grays don’t move very well on rainy or misty mornings either.

What is “gap shooting”?

Some traditional archers use the gap-shooting method. Here’s how it works. You draw an arrow (with fingers), focus on the target and then peek at the point the broadhead. Then you aim and judge range according to the gap between the broadhead and the target. This type of shooting obviously requires a lot of practice to perfect.

I’d like to buy a new shotgun for my 10-year-old son. Any suggestions? 

You can’t go wrong with the 20-gauge Remington 870 Express Youth Model. Its short stock and length of pull fit most kids well. The pump action is safe when you load one shell at a time. Start your kid with a manual shell shucker; if he wants to, he can move up to an autoloader when he gets older. The Remington youth gun comes with a 21” barrel and a good, all-around modified choke tube for shooting 7/8-ounce loads at clay birds, doves, squirrels and rabbits.

I’ve got one buck tag and 2 days left to hunt. What is my best tactic?

First, find what deer are eating right now. A patch of standing corn or a pocket of late-falling acorns is nirvana. And re-check a harvested grain field or food plot where you hunted back in October. Even though a field receives moderate to heavy pressure throughout the season, a big buck will still hit it when food is scarce in winter.

I’m tired of sitting in a tree stand and not seeing many deer. How can I make something happen?

Try a little still-hunting? Pick a rainy day when the woods are quiet. The morning after a light snow is best. You can pad along like a ghost and maybe cut a smoking track. An old, gray buck up ahead will pop out like a neon sign against the white backdrop.  Stay high on a ridge or hillside, creep slowly and pause every few steps behind trees. Glass down into draws and bottoms. Only the hardiest brush and vegetation is still standing. Dissect every inch of it with your binocular. Look for a piece of a feeding or bedded deer—a twitching tail, a flickering ear or, best of all, a glinting tine.

rifle shoot

Should I sight-in my rifle with 3- or 5-shot groups?

I recommend 3-shot groups when sighting-in a hunting rifle. If you shoot five-shot groups the barrel heats up too much and the bullets’ point of impact (POI) keeps changing. Whether you’re using a .270 or a .338 sight-in 2 to 2 ½ inches high at 100 yards, which puts you dead-on or thereabouts at 200 to 220 yards.

How often should I clean my .270?

Clean a rifle after shooting 10-20 rounds. Some guns hold POI with a clean barrel, but many require a “fouling” shot, which blows out any cleaning residue and makes shots 2 and 3 accurate. Find that out at the range with each new rifle you purchase.

When hunting out West, I have trouble spotting elk or mule deer. Got any glassing tips that will help me out?

Break big country into quadrants. Glass one section slowly and methodically, and move to the next section and the next… Then go back and glass each quadrant again. A buck or bull might step over a ridge or out of a draw and into view at any time. Glass for a flickering ear or tail, the glint of an antler, a flat, furry backbone in vertical timber… Find a piece and a whole animal will suddenly materialize in your optic.

Is old ammunition safe to shoot and hunt with?

If ammunition is not exposed to excessive heat or moisture, and if it is stored properly in a dry place, it has a very long shelf life—10 years, 20 or maybe even longer. But if you see rusted or corroded cases and or/bullets, don’t shoot it.

Which rifle calibers do you recommend for elk?

Three calibers top my list: .30-06, 7mm Mag., and 7mm Rem. Mag. Shoot a minimum 150-grain bullet.

I’ll be bowhunting moose in grizzly country this fall. Got any tips for avoiding a bear encounter?

Your chances of encountering a grizzly are slim, but still you’re smart to plan ahead for the unknown. Carry a can of bear spray and keep it handy as you hunt and in your tent at night. In camp, store food and trash well away from your sleeping area; it’s best to hang the stuff high in trees. If you spot a bear at a distance, glass it and enjoy the experience, but don’t stalk too close. If you bump into a bear on a game trail, freeze and get out your spray. Back slowly out of the area. Remember, a grizzly wants to avoid a close encounter with you, too.

I just scouted a new piece of deer ground that has 3 major creek drainages running through it. Which of those creeks should I hunt?

Set your stands set where two or more ridges petered out into a wending creek bottom. Ridge bases and creeks (or rivers, sloughs, oxbow lakes and the like) are typically rimmed with cover and pocked with deer tracks, rubs and scrapes. They form 3- or 4-sided funnels that squeeze whitetails within bow or gun range.

Should I hunt whitetails on the edge of a big pine thicket, or hike back into the cover and hang my stand?

Bucks are notorious for traveling edges, where they love to rub and scrape along the way. When bowhunting, hang a stand in the dark, dense edge of pines, cedars, etc. That’s where big deer like to walk, and you’ll be well hidden in there. When hunting with a scoped rifle, slug gun or muzzleloader, set up 50 to 100 yards away and watch for a buck running a sign-blazed edge. Of course if you don’t see any deer or if pressure heats up in the area, you might have to hunt deeper in the thick stuff. But try the edge first.

I read the other day about an “off side” tree stand setup. What is that?

If you shoot right-handed, pick a tree to the right side of a well-used trail (you southpaws choose a tree to the left of a game run). Then strap a stand to the tree opposite of where you expect a buck or bull to come. When you hear an animal approaching from behind, sit tight. If a good buck or bull walks by and quarters away on your shooting side, kill him with little chance of getting busted.

I’ll be bowhunting a tract of big woods this September, where should I set up?

Zero in on white and red oak acorns, but don’t overlook isolated pockets of persimmons, crabapples, wild grapes, honey locust, pokeberries and the like. Deer love to fatten up on soft mast when they can in September. Coming to “hot” trees from all directions, does and fawns leave secondary trails that resemble spokes on a bicycle wheel. In mid-September and early October, bucks hang out near mast ridges, flats and bottoms. As they gobble acorns and soft fruits and make early contact with does, bucks blaze signpost rubs and rub-mark travel corridors between bedding and feeding areas. Evaluate the terrain, foliage and prevailing breeze. Then hang a tree stand in one of two places: downwind of a “wheel spoke” doe trail near heavy mast, or along a shiny rub line in the vicinity of signpost rubs. You ought to see a good buck one afternoon.

I’ll be hunting pronghorns in Wyoming later this year. How about some tips on rifles, loads and shooting at goats?

A good antelope rifle shoots a 100- to 150-grain bullet fast and flat. The .243, .25-06 and .270 are good choices; the .30-06 is the upper end. Top your gun with a quality, variable scope (3X-9X or even 4X-14X is the ticket). Sight-in 1 ½ to 2 inches high at 100 yards, and know what a bullet is doing out at 300 and even 400 yards. The first shot at a standing antelope is important. Take your time and make it count. A bipod on your rifle helps. If you miss with the first shot you’re apt to get running shots after that, and things really get interesting.

After climbing into a tree stand, what is the first thing I should do?

First thing when you climb into a bow stand, secure your harness and make sure you feel safe and comfortable. Then nock an arrow and swing your bow around to troubleshoot potential shooting snags before a buck strolls into view. Make sure you can turn and shoot easily left, right and out front; if a limb snags your bow, clip it.

Give me a few tips on clipping bow-shooting lanes.

Trim at least 4 lanes so you can shoot at a buck that approaches from any direction. Reach above your head and saw limbs; the fresh cuts will be above a buck’s sight plane. Saw saplings at ground zero, and cover the white cuts with leaves and dirt. Drag trims downwind of your stand and stick them in the ground where incoming deer cannot see them or smell your lingering scent on them. When hunting public land, check regulations to make sure trimming trees is legal.

Should I unload my muzzleloader after every hunt, or is it okay just to remove a cap and leave the gun stoked with powder and a sabot?

With today’s quality rifles, people get lulled into thinking they can load a gun and hunt with it for days or even a week, simply uncapping the rifle each night for safety. Sometimes I’ll go 2 days, but rarely more than that. You really ought to empty a gun after every hunt, and ram a fresh load down the bore the next day. Technology aside, a muzzleloader is a muzzleloader—finicky. Swabbing a rifle’s bore and reloading each day is a bit of a hassle. But it’ll make your gun go boom! when it finally comes time to shoot at a buck or bull.

5 Tips For Summer Camping

tent camp

The 4th of July is right around the corner, and many families will head to the woods. Some things to keep in mind:

Get the Kids Involved

Keep your kids busy and off their phones and gaming devices. Start out with a little required work—setting up the tent, collecting firewood, etc. Then move on to a whole lot of fun. Go hiking with your son or daughter, show him or her deer tracks, fish for trout or bream, etc. If you’re in a safe, remote area, show him or her how to plink with a pellet gun or 22 (make sure shooting is legal if you’re on public ground). The more active your kids are the more fun they’ll have, and they more they’ll enjoy the outdoors and camping and want to go with you again. 

Fire Up

For starters make sure open-air fires are legal and safe in your camping area. Depending on weather conditions, there could be seasonal restrictions, so check.

To build a rip-roaring fire put your lighter or matches to good tinder, like cedar shavings or handfuls of dry, brown grass. Better yet, here’s a modern-day trick: Shave off slivers of one of those “fast start” sticks you use to light big logs in your fireplace and pack them in a plastic sandwich Baggie. Pop your super-hot flame on that fake tinder and your fire will blow up fast. Top with handfuls of small, dry, dead twigs and then move up to mid-size sticks and logs.

Be Bear Aware

In black bear country follow these 9 commandments of from the Missouri Department of Conservation: 

Keep a clean camp. Food and all items that come in contact with food carry odors that bears find attractive.

Thoroughly clean all utensils immediately after use. Never deposit food residues such as cooking grease in campfires.

Place garbage where bears cannot smell or gain access to it, either in bear-proof containers or dumpsters. DON’T burn or bury garbage. Bears will dig it up.

Do not eat or cook in your tent. Avoid storing food or attractants in tents, sleeping bags or backpacks. Suspend such items from trees when backpacking.

Treat nonfood items such as gum, soap, toothpaste or deodorant as food. They are attractive to a bear’s acute sense of smell.

Immediately store food articles (including pet food, livestock feed and garbage) in airtight containers after every use. Coolers are not airtight, and bears often associate them with food. Secure coolers in a locked trunk or truck cab concealed from view.

Plan your meals. Generate as little food garbage as possible.

Never attempt to feed a bear or any other wild animal.

Keep your dog on a leash and clean up leftover food and scraps after your dog has finished eating.

Tent Know-How

Kampgrounds of America offers these tips for tent campers.

New tent? Practice setting it up in the backyard before going on a trip.

Invest in good sleeping equipment. Choose air mattresses, cots, or sleeping bags that will give you adequate rest so you can get the most out of your daytime activities.

To stay dry, use a ground cloth under your tent as protection from rips and moisture…use the rain fly, even if the sky looks clear…to prevent rain from leaking into your tent, apply a seam sealant to the inside and outside of all exposed tent seams.

Keep your tent clean; use a whisk broom to sweep out dirt and leaves…place an indoor/outdoor rug in front of your tent entrance for dirty shoes.

Bring duct tape for quick repairs of small tears, splintered tent poles and the like.

Bugs Off!

To ward off ticks, mosquitoes and other pests, wear light-colored clothing and avoid thick woods and brush as much as possible…. cover as much skin as possible…wear calf-high boots and tuck your pants inside. “High tops” keep ticks, fire ants, spiders and the other creatures from crawling up into tender places, and you’ll appreciate their basic snake protection…before you hit the woods shower with an unscented hunter’s soap–the less you smell, the less bugs you’ll attract…never use scented soap, shampoo, shaving cream or cologne; that sweet stuff will draw mosquitoes, flies and bees to your body and into camp. Use a good bug repellent.

 

Summer Land Management: 3 Tips For Better Deer Hunting

food plots for deer 045While you’re out working your land with a tractor this summer, try this. Bush-hog a strip of grass or mow a lane through a thicket right up to one or two of your favorite tree stand locations. Keep those lanes trimmed one more time this summer. Deer will find them and use them. One day later this fall, an 8-pointer might walk smack down the strip to your bow stand. The trimmed lanes are also great places to plant mini-plots of clover.

Scour an old grown-up farm field for hidden fruit trees, like apple or persimmon. Open up the trees by clearing away brush; prune a few limbs and pour some fertilizer over the roots. A tree should make some soft mast just in time for bow season, and you’ll have yet another honey-hole for a bow stand.  

One of the best land improvements doesn’t take a drop of sweat. Pinpoint some of the thickest, roughest cover and terrain on your land, and designate it a deer sanctuary for this fall. No walking, scouting or hunting in there! A good sanctuary is so thick that a buck feels safe and hidden if you walk or drive an ATV by at 50 yards. Best case, 20 to 30 percent of your land is in sanctuary; the closer to the center of the property it is the better. Deer and especially mature bucks will find this no-pressure zone and use it regularly.