March 29, 2015

Yearling Buck Kills Alter State’s Deer Herd

“By shooting so many juvenile bucks, Wisconsin hunters prevent deer herds from producing well-balanced age structures and buck-to-doe ratios. Wisconsin’s 2013 buck kill was comprised of 61 percent 1.5-year-olds, 24 percent 2.5-year-olds, and 15 percent 3.5-year-olds and older. Maine was the only other state with an equally low percentage of older bucks. Yearlings made up 53 percent of its buck harvest.

The 2013 national average for the yearling buck percentage was 36 percent, with Arkansas leading the country at 8 percent. Other states with few yearlings in the statewide buck kill were Louisiana, 15 percent; Oklahoma, 20 percent; and Kansas, 21 percent.”<<<Read More>>>

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Pennsylvania Deer Harvest Information

“The Pennsylvania Game Commission today reported that, in the state’s 2014-15 seasons, hunters harvested an estimated 303,973 deer – a decrease of about 14 percent compared to the 2013-14 harvest of 352,920.

Hunters took 119,260 antlered deer in the 2014-15 seasons – a decrease of about 11 percent compared to the previous license year, when an estimated 134,280 bucks were taken. Also, hunters harvested an estimated 184,713 antlerless deer in 2014-15, which represents an about 16 percent decrease compared to the 218,640 antlerless deer taken in 2013-14.”<<<Read More>>>

Are Deer Truisms Really True?

Survey asks hunters how weather and moonlight impact deer movements; research to test beliefs.

The moon is nearly full, will deer be moving only at night?

Is the cold front that’s coming through the reason deer are out feeding?

In answering questions like these, deer hunters often rely on common wisdom. But are such truisms really true?<<<Read More>>>

It’s Not a Hunt. It’s a “Deer Removal Program”

I’m glad we have the terminology down pat. Hunting evidently is bad. Systematic slaughtering of deer, while luring them to bait, is good, providing the corporate-fascist government runs the “program” and the socialist-communist society approve. I think it was bad to hunt and kill deer until “the habitat destroyed”, “unhealthy”, “not enough food”, “particularly stressed”, “deep snow”, “more frequently seen”, “both alive and dead”, “18,000 deer-vehicle accidents”, “deer-vehicle accidents”.

Hunting bad! Deer Removal Program good! The only thing good about it is the food isn’t being wasted; or at least that is what is being told to us.

BluffPointCt

Are We Losing the Desire for Quality Whitetail Deer in Maine?

dennisThe other day George Smith wrote in his column in the Bangor Daily News:

The differences between deer and moose management are fascinating. In areas of the state with few deer, we still allow unlimited harvests of bucks. But Lee [Kantar, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife head moose biologist and former head deer biologist] says any increase in the harvest of bull moose will negatively impact the quality of those bulls. Do we not care about the quality of our bucks?

This prompted me to start asking around from those that would know about this sort of thing and where I might actually get an answer. It is a complex issue where one element does not necessarily control the “quality” of bucks or bull moose. The first hurdle would be to determine what is meant by “quality”.

One might gather from this short statement, a claim made by Smith, that there appears to be a concern for preserving and/or protecting the quality of bull moose. Fine. Does there exist the same feeling toward protecting the quality of Maine’s whitetail deer buck population? I certainly can’t answer that question, only to resort to the plan that the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) devises every 15 years and the most recent amendment to that plan in the Maine’s Game Plan for Deer. I will say that, while certain aspects of the plans are followed, too much of it seems to be treated as suggestions rather that actual management goals that are worked at to achieve.

In my mind there is a difference between a “quality” deer herd or even a quality buck population and “trophy” deer. Those would need to be defined. Yet, in my mind a quality deer herd would contain a desired population percentage of trophy animals.

Troubling in the statement made above is that it leaves readers second guessing what the MDIFW is thinking about growing quality bucks and/or trophy bucks. If, as Smith points out, there is unlimited take on antlered deer, even in Wildlife Management Areas where overall deer populations are low, is this a sign that there is little concern about a “quality” deer population, or a “quality” buck population, or a “trophy” deer population?

I asked Dr. Charles Kay, Wildlife Ecology, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University, about this issue. He sent me a copy of an article he wrote and was published in the November/December issue of MuleyCrazy Magazine – 2008. The article deals mostly with what is required to grow trophy mule deer, i.e. “large antlered” mule deer and Kay well points out that mule deer do not achieve maximum antler growth until 6-8 years of age.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that in Maine are we discussing “quality” deer/bucks (ideal deer populations) and/or “trophy” bucks? In addition to trophy mule deer, Kay gives us a lesson as well in how to grow and maintain quality deer populations that just might solve the concern over trophy deer. He writes:

“Based on studies of other cervids, three factors are key to growing large-antlered mule deer – genetics, nutrition and age. First and foremost is age. The deer simply must live long enough to reach their full biological potential. Bull elk, for instance, do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 7 to 10 years old. Mule deer bucks too do not achieve maximum antler growth until they are 6 to 8 years. To have mule deer of that age, you need 60 to 80 bucks per 100 does post hunt – a figure most sportsmen can only wish they had. If your post-hunt sex ratios are in the range of 10 to 15 bucks per 100 does or less, as is the case in many mule deer herds, the chances of a deer living long enough to produce maximum antler development is between zero and non-existent.

The only way to achieve the necessary post-hunt sex ratios and age structure is to curtail the buck harvest. [emphasis added] Point restrictions will not work: a fact that has been proven time and again. A four-point minimum antler size might appeal to hunters, but it will do absolutely nothing to produce trophy mule deer, because hunters simply shoot the first small four-point they see and few deer live long enough to reach maximum antler growth. So while point restrictions will increase the average age of the bucks harvested by a year or so, point restrictions, in and of themselves, will do nothing to produce trophy mule deer. Instead only limited-entry seasons have the potential to produce quality mule deer and then only if state game departments do not oversell the number of permits. This is usually not a problem with whitetails since virtually all the land in the Midwest, Texas and back East is privately owned. If the landowner or leasee wants to grow trophy whitetails, it is a relatively simple matter to restrict the harvest. [emphasis added] In fact, according to Dr. James Kroll, who has spent most of his career studying whitetails and who has written a 590-page book on A Practical Guide to Producing and Harvesting White-tailed Deer, it is much easier to raise a trophy whitetail than it is to kill that deer!…

“Under quality management, it is possible to produce a Boone and Crockett whitetail in as little as 3 or 4 years!…

“To produce trophy deer, the animals simply must have a year-long diet of high quality foods. Which brings us to the number one problem in rearing trophy whitetails – too many deer. If the deer population is not kept at one half, or less, of the land’s carrying capacity, the deer will simply not grow big enough to develop large antlers. That is to say, antler quality is density dependent.”

We come back to the question of why, in Maine, does it appear that an unrestricted bull moose hunt would have a negative effect on the herd and an unrestricted buck deer hunt does not?

Certainly much of Maine doesn’t fall into the category Kay wrote about that the problem with growing trophy bucks is too many deer. In many Wildlife Management Areas, overall deer populations are, not only half or less of the carrying capacity, they are near unsustainable levels. What is the buck to doe ratios, post hunt, in these areas? We dunno. It’s like pulling teeth to get the data. I’ve asked before about getting the data and….I gave up.

I would wager that if Mr. Kantar is not willing to offer suggestions to the Joint Standing Committee on what to do about winter ticks on moose, because he doesn’t have enough data, why then should we think there is enough data to know all the conditions pertaining to the moose herd that a determination can be made that killing more bull moose would have a negative effect on the herd?

And has whitetail deer hunting in Maine just become a cash cow? The process has always been that if Maine wanted to grow the population of deer in an area, just limit the number of “Any-Deer” permits. Is that still working? Does it still work in areas with very small deer numbers? If it is working, why aren’t we seeing more deer in those areas where there’s no deer and permits have been reduced? Or have they? Ah, it’s not that simple is it.

If, as Dr. Kay says, in an area where you really want to grow trophy deer, “restrict the harvest”, that certainly has been accomplished because there are so few deer to harvest. Should we then just close the deer hunting season in those areas? Or is this contrary to growing quality deer?

The carrying capacity is far below 50% in many places and the harvest is limited only through the issuance of “Any-Deer” permits because there just aren’t any deer. So then there must be other problems. Yes, there are but I don’t think it’s responsible to just keep blaming it on habitat and climate. I might buy into the habitat argument if I didn’t enter the forest where thousands of acres of prime deer habitat lay vacant. And if a warming climate was a problem, then Maine would be starting to grow too many deer and less moose and Canada lynx.

Maybe there are other problems!

It seems to me, and I might assume here that Dr. Kay would agree with me, this discussion about growing quality and/or trophy deer is dependent upon certain elements of the deer growing and maintainance equation exist in order to accomplish the tasks Kay points out. He says genetics, nutrition and age are necessary to grow quality deer. It seems Maine’s problem isn’t growing quality deer, it’s growing deer.

Maybe an examination of the Maine Antler, Skull and Trophy Club data on “quality” deer harvest in Maine over the past several years will give a better indication about growing quality and trophy deer.

It seems to me that the size of the trophy deer is diminishing slightly, but I still contend that Maine’s bigger problem is growing deer. So long as the mantra persists that it’s the climate change and the loss of habitat, Rome will keep burning.

Quality Deer Management Association Ranks Pennsylvania Deer Harvest High

In the meantime, the Quality Deer Management Association recently released its 2015 Whitetail Report, which is based on 2013-14 season numbers.

There are 37 states that provide data to QDMA for its annual report.

Basically, it’s every state but those in the West.

For Pennsylvania, the non-profit organization uses data submitted by the PA Game Commission.<<<Read More>>>

Field & Stream Wants to Know How Much a Poached Buck is Worth

You can take the poll.

Here’s a copy of the latest results as of this posting.

F&SPoll2

Minnesota Deer Hunters Say DNR Has Wrong Information About Deer Populations

This sounds like the same broken record all over the country. If it ain’t happening where you are, just hang on. It will be soon enough.

“A group of Minnesota hunters say the deer population is in worse shape than the state is letting on.
Minnesota Bowhunters president Brooks Johnson talked about the changing landscape of the deer population as he walked through the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge in Big Lake.
“We’re not asking for a deer behind every tree,” Johnson said.
But Johnson says changes need to happen at the state level in order to restore the deer population in certain areas of the state back to goal levels.”<<<Read More>>>

Maine Deer Management: Excuse Du Jour?

I was reading George Smith’s blog this morning about all the deer plans Maine has come up with over the years all aimed at rebuilding a deer herd. Smith points out, and I believe he is factual, that the number one excuse found in the myriad of deer plans as to why deer numbers don’t grow is because of diminishing habitat for the animal. Really?

I won’t deny that losing habitat isn’t a factor – and it might even be a significant factor – to maintaining and growing a deer herd. But I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I am really quite sick and tired of listening to that crap sandwich.

It’s a crap sandwich because of all the things that could be done to increase the deer herd, it’s the least likely something anybody can do about it. It’s not too far from thinking we can control the weather.

First of all, the avoidance continues, with never an answer, as to why if wintering deer habitat is so lacking why are there empty deer yards across the state? But let’s forget that for now – seeing that nobody wants to talk about it.

So Maine has all of these deer plans proposed and proposed and proposed and then along comes another to suggest another working group to come up with a plan, a plan, a plan and guess what? Nothing changes…well, at least nothing any of these people want to talk about.

Let me ask one question. What are Maine deer managers doing to build the deer herd back up? Simple question. Let’s form a list:

1. Form a working group
2. Devise a plan
3. Cry because it’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat, habitat, habitat…excuse me, I just vomited on my computer screen.
4. Ignore the plan
5. Talk about wasting money to collar 40 deer to study whether or not coyotes are killing deer.
6. Form a working group
7. Devise a plan
8. Self committal to an insane asylum.

INSANITY!

Here’s something to think about. The excuse du jour – no habitat – claims that deer can’t be grown because there just isn’t enough habitat so deer can survive the winters. So, Maine has done nothing about that and that’s not surprising. So, they wash their hands of any responsibility and decide to go study moose. Oh, but let’s not forget that token deer collaring program that might happen. That will surely put meat in my freezer.

So, if habitat is the big deal here, then there must be enough wintering habitat to allow for the increase in deer densities following 2 or 3 relatively mild winters. That did happen. I know it did. That’s encouraging so, hold that thought for a minute.

If Maine could maintain the current level of deer wintering areas and build deer up to carrying capacity, would not hunters and others be happy? Or at least happier than they are now? So, let’s work at trying to keep the habitat that exists, without becoming statist, totalitarians, and actually do those things within our easy power to cause deer numbers to go up.

1. Control coyotes/wolves (Sorry that means killing them and it has to be a program, ongoing and forget all the lame excuses as to why it doesn’t work. It does and there’s proof. We don’t need a study group to find out.)
2. Reduce black bear populations. When discussions surround coyote killing to mitigate depredation, we hear how bears kill more deer than coyotes. Fine, go kill some bears. How about a spring season? Oh, wait. Because we live in fear for our lives over fascist animal rights groups we dare not stir the pot and have a spring bear hunt. IT MIGHT OFFEND SOMEBODY. It might offend the farmer losing his livestock too but that doesn’t count? It offends me that I don’t see deer at all while hunting deer in the woods in the Fall. And while we bury our heads in the sand, the deer population works toward extirpation in Maine, while deer to the north of the state, in Canada, are doing okay.
3. Better control and monitor where bobcats and all other predators are having an effect. We don’t have to kill all the bobcat, just reduce numbers in areas where deer need help.
4. Here’s another suggestion. Instead of caving in to the political power brokers to allow them to build trails through the middle of deer wintering yards, maybe that would help save habitat. Oh, what’s that you say? That doesn’t count? That doesn’t matter? That’s too small an amount to have any impact? Okay. I get it. It’s about power and control.

If habitat is so big that nothing else matters, as it sure seems that’s the case, then how do you explain the fact that in Eastern Maine were coyote/wolf control is ongoing, their deer numbers are rebounding nicely? Why? Coincidence? I don’t think so. They are doing something about it. I think they at least understand that while habitat isn’t fully abundant, and let’s face it, it never will be again, they can and are doing somethings that will help.

Now, I know these suggestions require work and it might not be as much fun as tracking radio collars and flying in helicopters counting animals, but one more claim that Maine can’t do anything about the deer herd because of habitat and I will have to vomit on my computer screen again.

Enough already! Rome burns while another working group and deer plan is devised.

Why Maine’s Big Bucks Are Bigger

Maybe big bucks from Maine’s “Big Woods” are bigger for some of the reasons everything is bigger in Texas…including the tall tales and damned lies. There are many reasons why whitetail deer might average bigger body mass and/or antlers in one area as opposed to other places…too numerous to cover here. What caught my attention on the broad subject was an article sent to me by a reader, that talks of better nutrients found consistently in one region might explain differences in body mass or antler growth.

“One explanation for this biogeographic size gradient is that plants mature rapidly and more or less at the same time in warm climates. This means that young vegetation, which has the highest levels of nutrients, is actually available for a shorter time in Spain than in Sweden. This may seem paradoxical at first, but the levels particularly of protein and other critical growth nutrients are highest in immature plants. Although there may be several fewer months in which green forage is available at high latitudes, if animals in those regions can find six to eight weeks worth of high-protein young plants, they can grow larger than southern counterparts who may have only three weeks of such high-nutrient foraging. Protein and other critical growth nutrients are key here – not simply caloric intake.”

The author of the linked-to article believes that the deer in northern Maine are bigger because they have to be in order to survive the harsh realities of that region; climate, etc. In a simplistic way his idea is generally true. Most of us don’t have the scientific knowledge to understand all the ins and outs of what makes for bigger deer.

Dr. Valerius Geist, a retired science professor emeritus at the University of Calgary, says that usually when we see accounts of unusually large-bodied whitetail deer it is because they might be “freaks”. Freaks in that they aren’t performing their “natural” duties, many of which cause them to be mean, trim, fighting and mating machines. While for the hunter this might be a good trophy for bragging rights, I’m not sure we need to continue this genetic heritage. It too closely resembles that of Americans. It is, however, an anomaly and not the norm.

I have a very simplistic, and probably “out-behind-the-barn”, humorous theory about why “Big Woods” Maine deer tend to be bigger than say southern Maine deer. In parts of southern Maine deer can number in excess of 20-30 deer per square mile. In the “Big Woods” population densities run a sparse 2-6 creatures per square mile.

So first of all it should be easy to see there is little competition in the “Big Woods” for food, habitat and mating rights. Therefore, unlike those over-stressed southern Maine deer, the Big Woods deer have all the food they want, nobody nagging them to slim down for Fall fun and when it comes mating time, well, what in the South turns out to be a battle for dominance just so a bigger bully can have his way with the women, relentlessly, in the North it’s quite a relaxed scene. Big bucks are getting bigger, very relaxed, munching on some browse and gathering mushrooms, sitting around a campfire and knowing full well that when the rut kicks in he may only have to service a small number of in-heat does, while facing very little opposition from big buck wannabee little bucks. Sounds like the life of Reilly to me.

FatAssDeer

And this really is not that much unlike the story of Ferdinand the Bull and Little Fernie. You see the two bulls were grazing in the high pasture. Little Fernie was getting to that age where he was beginning to pay attention to the cows down in the lower pasture…if you know what I mean (wink, wink). What? I got to spell it out for you?

One day Little Fernie’s urges were getting to him and he was beginning to drive his father, Ferdinand the Bull, crazy. One day Little Fernie says, “Hey, Dad! What do say that you and I jump this fence, run down over the hill and get us one of them cows!”

Ferdinand the Bull munched away on his grass (getting all those nutrients that made him bigger than the other bulls – get it?), seemingly undeterred from getting a good meal. Little Fernie persisted.

Ferdinand the Bull finally says to Little Fernie, “Son! Suppose you and I go over there to the gate, walk through it, take a leisurely stroll down over the hill and take on ALL them cows!”