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?
We started with a wet spring but since July its been pretty dry. I as well have had a hard time getting any nice bucks on camera this summer.That could be due to the surrounding crop fields and how they are planted this year. We are surrounded by potatoes this er year and about a half mile to mile away there is lots of corn & alfalfa in the ground so I think that may have some to do with it. Even driving around and scouting we haven’t seen that many nice bucks but we’ll see. Either way I’ll still be out in the woods hunting hard and having fun! I do have one nice 10pt that moved into our area the last couple weeks. Have pictures of him a night time and in day light on two cameras, also with his velvet off so I think he may stick around. Its getting close!
That is another great point Greg. We have fruit trees that are losing live limbs due to heavy fruit crops. I have seen many apple trees that have snapped limbs, etc. I have also noticed loads of hickory nuts. While our deer don’t use them as much as acorns it still could have an affect on their patterns this fall. The acorn crop is good, but not quite as good as I thought it might be. With that said I have only checked one of my early season hotspots.
Back to the super abundance of fruit this year. I believe that those areas that do have fruit trees that this could really produce some great results IF you’re in the right area. If you’re in an area that has loads of apple trees, this could make it tougher. IF you’re in those areas you may consider finding fruit closer to bedding/staging areas for the best results.
I believe that when it’s hot and dry the deer congregate more around the water and food sources, so they are more predictable and easier to pattern. When there is an abundance of food and water they tend to scatter more making them harder to pattern and hunt.
It’s funny you say those things about anomalies, Mike. As wonderful and wet as it was this spring through July here, the antlers seemed to be “behind schedule” on growth early on. I honestly think that the winter weather (the previous year) has as much to do with that. Cold, severe weather, as we all know can put plenty of stress on bucks. When this follows severe drought like it did last summer it can compound things even further. Another stressor is predator/prey co-habitation. I’ve noticed that the deer here are becoming more skittish and nocturnal, and I really believe that as the coyote numbers here increase, so does stress. I have had a real hard time getting “my” bucks on camera this summer. And, for the first time ever I’m getting multiple images of coyotes in those same areas. They obviously prey on fawns the most, but what damage do they cause all of the deer by harassing/chasing them all-year-long?? My brother gave me a new .270 as a wedding gift and I’m going to be using that dude to kill some “dogs” this fall/winter. Great blog posting today Hanback.
great post Dean, I will keep my eye on that winter-stress factor you mention, esp, as I hunt in Canada and WI this fall. Alos the predator thing bears watching; in fact we shot a whole TV episode on coyote/deer predation to air later this fall…