January 22, 2020

Do You Vary Your Hunting Techniques?

Pursuing deer is by far the most popular form of hunting among hunters in America. This is probably true for several reasons – challenging, rewarding, relaxing, abundant deer populations, etc. Depending on where you live and hunt, you might be scratching your head a little about the “abundant deer populations” listed in one of the reasons you and I chase deer.

If you’re like me, hunting in other parts of this country comes from reading stories and listening to those who have been there and done that. We all know that being able to visit other states to participate in their hunting requires quite a bit of money. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t much to learn and share with others.

Reading I do a lot of and many years ago I learned that there are a lot of differences in hunting from state to state. Deer populations vary considerably, even within one state, as well has terrain, habitat and size of deer.

If we discuss the whitetail deer, there are some things that are pretty consistent about it no matter where you go hunting. Similar things would include its wariness of man, elusive skills, food and the rut to name a few. Two more consistent things we can add to that list are deer eat and they need a place to hide out.

Hunters will sit around the kitchen table, a campfire, over coffee or most anywhere during hunting season and talk deer hunting. When they do, someone is going to make the statement that deer are a creature of habit. This is true to some extent but I will argue that man is a bigger creature of habit, perhaps to a fault.

We are all guilty of doing the same things the way we have always done them whether that action was productive or not. How many times have you gone to the same “favorite hunting spot” only to find nothing is there? Under the right circumstances we can find deer in the same spots year in and year out but what’s going on when there are no deer there?

Simply stated the deer were either driven out by some source, wolves or coyotes, hunters, or maybe they ate themselves out of house and home. If an area becomes over populated with deer, they will destroy the habitat that provides them food and cover. When that happens they move on and you’re left in your treestand reading a book and watching the squirrels.

Obviously it is time for you to make a change. Time to move someplace where the deer are. We are such creatures of habit that we refuse often forcing the blame for no deer onto our wildlife biologists and anyone else who would become a likely target of our anger and frustration.

How you hunt may need to be re-evaluated as well. Treestand hunting is very popular in many parts of the country and has proven a successful way to take a deer. Growing up and learning to hunt in Maine is some different than other parts of the country. I almost never sat in a treestand for various reasons. The major ones being lack of deer and cold weather. It is no secret that in the northern two-thirds of the state, deer are not real plentiful. Sitting in a treestand, unless you have spent countless hours scouting for a sweet location, isn’t a real productive way to hunt.

One also has to take into consideration the amount of woods in relation to how many hunters. In some states, they deliberately shorten the deer hunting season in order to make sure there are many hunters in the woods. This congestion of hunters forces the deer to move improving the chances of hunters seeing deer.

If there are ample deer and ample hunters then a treestand or ground blind might be the best way to go. What if you are hunting in an area where there are not ample deer or hunters? What then? Or what if the area you hunt in has suddenly changed and there just aren’t the same amount of deer at your disposal? You have to change your tactics or go home.

For a hunter to be successful, they have to know how to adapt their hunting techniques to what is presented them the day of their hunt. When deer aren’t plentiful and they’re not moving by where you are, you need to go find them. You need to know how to stalk and still hunt. You need to learn what the deer’s habits are when pushed by other hunters. You need to learn where the feeding areas are in relation to the bedding down areas. For those who mostly know just treestand hunting, stalking and still-hunting is extremely rewarding not to mention challenging.

Anyone can sit in a treestand and have good success when you can pick and choose which deer to shoot. When you don’t have that luxury, your knowledge will set you apart from the others.

Think about it for a minute. We all know someone that always shoots big bucks. It would be shocking if they didn’t. There is a reason that they do. If you’re not seeing deer and shooting the deer you want, maybe it’s time to change your tactics.

Tom Remington


Forget Everything You Know About Tracking

This was to be the title of J.R. Absher, The News Hound’s, article at his blog at ESPN Outdoors. He opted out of the story but sent his information over to me to see if I would be interested in picking up on the story. Thank you J.R. and by the way readers, if you haven’t been over to read the News Hound, I highly recommend it.

After I got the info I thought to myself, “Oh, cool! This is interesting.” And then I remembered getting a photo back last year, 2005, during the Maine moose hunt that will be directly related to this story. With the blessings of J.R., here’s what he had written.

Forget everything you know about deer tracks!

In one of those “you’ve got to see it to believe it” stories, alert ESPNOutdoors.com News Hound blog reader Bruce Norton of Rushford, Minn. scanned and e-mailed this clipping from Sunday’s Winona (Minn.) Daily News showing a whitetail deer with the most bizarre footwear we’ve ever seen.

Besides sporting respectable headgear, this buck that recently fell victim to a vehicle near Alma, Wisc. has hooves that appear to be at least five to ten times the average size.

Not only would one expect that these malformed toes led to this nice buck’s demise on the roadway, it’s hard to even fathom what kind of track it left in soft soil when it walked.
The photo’s caption indicates that Jarrad Fluekiger at The Main Channel Fishing Shop in Alma intends to have a full mount made of the unique animal.

The caption also notes that biologists believe that a diet high in specific minerals or proteins may have led to the oversized hooves.

Unfortunately, the Winona paper has not posted the photograph on its Web site.

So once again, we turn to our astute blog readership. Have you heard or read anything about this specific deer—or are you aware of this anomaly occurring in other ungulates?

Let us know!

Included in the story was a copy of a photo. I cleaned it up as best I could. Below the picture, I will include the caption that came with it.
Elf Deer killed by automobile in Alma, Wisconsin
This deer killed by an automobile recently in Alma, Wis., has overgrown hooves and biologists believe it is likely the result of eating something high in minerals and protein, said Jarrad Fluekiger of Alma. Fluekiger said the deer was recovered and placed in a cooler at the Main Channel fishing tackle shop in Alma. Doreen Burt at the shop said the owner, Lee Fluekiger, plans to have the whole deer mounted.

Not to be outdone by those in Wisconsin, Maine has a similar story but on a grander scale – of course you don’t really think the first story has a chance do you?

Last season during Maine’s annual moose hunt, the below cow moose, affectionately nicknamed the Elf Moose, was bagged by a hunter in northern Maine. Here’s the short story that accompanied the moose followed by the picture.

An interesting cow, referred to as the “Elf Moose” which has been observed around the Beaver Brook Road (T14R5) for the last two years was harvested this past week by Traci Bushey, the Ashland IFW Headquarters Warden Service Radio Operator. A real oddity as observed in the attached picture is the excessive growth of the hooves.
This cow had rear hooves over 15 inches long that curled upward. The animal did seem a bit skinny, perhaps due to reduced mobility from the hooves, but there was no problem with the meat.

Elf Moose killed during 2005 Maine moose hunt.

Tom Remington


Discovering Those Unusual And Unexplained Things In The Woods

God only knows how many miles I have walked in the woods in my lifetime or how many acres I’ve covered from state to state. During those times I have always found things that amazed me. It could be something as simple as watching a squirrel get a drink of water from a fast moving stream to sitting for several minutes observing a mother deer teaching her young about survival techniques. But sometimes I find something that sends me exiting the woods scratching my head.

It was perhaps as long as twenty-some years ago now, I was hunting in an area where I was familiar with the overall layout of the land but not very familiar with the specifics. In other words, I hadn’t hunted in these particular woods before.

I tell you. The reason I went there to hunt was threefold. One, I always saw deer crossing the road and entering into these woods. Two, I had come to the conclusion that not very many, if any at all, hunters worked these woods and three, I was working not too far from here so I could go there early in the mornings and maybe even get a short hunt in just before dark.

I woke one Saturday morning to a surprising 4-inch snowfall. I bailed out of bed, geared up and headed out to this area for the first time.

I quietly poked around getting a sense of terrain, growth and I also was looking for game trails, scrapes and pawings.

The snow made it quiet that’s for sure but the higher in the sky the sun moved, the warmer it became. The snow was softening and getting sticky, making a crunchy sound under foot.

As I traversed from one area to another, often crossing my own footsteps, I noticed two things. The snow had now become very wet as it melted and the area was completely trampled with deer tracks.

I was in an area that had a mixture of young softwood trees, mostly pine and fir, and white birch. I have found these areas many times in the woods and for me they have always been fruitful.

The area I was in with this kind of growth and cover, was perhaps only one to two acres in size and right smack dab in the middle of this was a large knoll that rose up maybe 10 feet above the surrounding terrain. Again, I repeat. The ground was trampled with almost no area free of deer tracks.

When I spotted the knoll, I moved stealthfully toward it – one painstaking step at a time. What surprised me first was when I reached the top. It was wide open covering an area of about 50 feet by 50 feet.

But what shocked me was what I saw in this opening. I’ll the best I can to describe what I saw. Around the perimeter of this opening where somewhere in the vicinity of 20 deer beds. Their imprints showed clearly in the compressed snow.

There also were several areas where the snow was turned up almost as if someone had gone in there with a rototiller. To help clarify, I have seen many, many times where deer will paw in the snow and turn over the leaves etc., in search of food. This was not that. I have also seen areas where two bucks have squared off sparring in the snow. Again, this wasn’t the same. My only conclusion at the time was I had happened onto a seen where an orgy had taken place.

But the oddest of all things that I had never seen before and haven’t again was the discolorations in the snow. The entire open area was nearly covered with snow that was colored anywhere from bright red, to pinkish, to greenish shades, brown and yellow.

I realized right away that whatever had been dropped into the snow being as saturated as the snow was at that time, would diffuse and enlarge the area that I was seeing. What I didn’t know is what had made what I was seeing.

My only conclusions were that one or more bucks had happened onto a scene where several does had been bedded and were now up and about. In areas where it was plain to see where a deer had urinated in the snow, the snow was discolored sometimes very red, brownish red and it looked mucousy, if that is a word.

Is this part of a normal discharge made by a doe in estrous? Did this occur before or after the mating? How many does did that buck have?

My conclusions may be all wrong. I really don’t know and I am left with more unanswered questions that answered. This all may be normal behaviour and it just so happened on the kind of snow that not only made it visible to me for the first time but also amplified what was happening.

I sure wish I had had my little digital camera at that time that I carry now. My question to my readers is this. Have any of you seen anything like this? If so would you be willing to share it with us? Does anyone have another explanation?

This to me is one of those unusual and/or unexplained things I find in the woods that fascinates me and draws me back in search for more.

Tom Remington


How Important Is The Rut To Deer Hunters?

That may be best answered on an individual hunter basis. For some, they pay little attention to the rut while others won’t make a move without first knowing at what stage of the rut they think the buck is in.

The stories abound when it comes to the rut. For those who may not know, the rut is a cyclical time during the fall of the year when a buck deer goes looking for doe deer to mate with.

For as many stories as there are, there are just about as many theories used to support them. Many swear that the rut is brought on by cold weather. Others think it doesn’t occur until the doe comes into estrous causing the male deer to do strange things. Is it the current phase of the moon? Does it happen just before, during or after a full moon in November? Is it set off when the deer begin eating certain foods?

According to Matt Knox, a deer biologist with the Department of Game and Fish in Virginia, the rut happens just about the same time every year. It varies but ever so slightly and contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t last very long either.

Knox says that the rut is triggered by the change of light in the fall of the year. This change lets the buck deer’s pituitary glands know something is up. At this time the pituitary stimulates the release of testosterone, a male sex hormone produced in the testes.

But I know you want to say that back in 1948 I remember the rut happened……or in 2002 it came real late and it was a warm fall. Can this be true? Perhaps….er, uh, maybe somewhat.

There are some things that can influence the start time but these influences generally are local to a specific area. What can have an influence is the health of the bucks in a given area or the overall age. A group of good healthy bucks will be ready to go immediately. A mature healthy buck can begin a bit earlier and experience an intense rut.

In reality, based on scientific studies, the rut will happen in your area just about the same time every year. Of course differences in the light change within time zones I would assume reflects a slightly different onset of the rut.

Matt Knox says in Virginia it is at its peak about mid-November. He claims that if you study the results of when big bucks are shot, it will reveal that year after year, it happens at the same time – at the peak of the rut.

When is the rut where you live and do you pay close or little attention to it?

Tom Remington


Heart Pounding Experience

In some states deer hunting season has started already, for some it begins in October, and others in November. It is time to start thinking about our youth and getting them involved. It is important that the tradition of hunting remain engrained in us all and the only way we can keep it alive is to take our children hunting.

So, as we head off into the wilderness this Fall, keep in mind our children. Grab them and bring them hunting with you. I remember as a child hunting was more than just shooting a deer. It was about spending time with my father, or learning the Maine woods where I was brought up. When you bring a child, don’t think of shooting that deer as necessarily the only form of success. There are other things you need to teach our children. There is patience, dedication, learning to respect the woods and their surroundings, listening, looking, developing good habits, and understanding their own abilities.

Growing up I remember certain people who could turn a simpe walk in the wilderness into a heart pounding experience. They would turn to me, kneel down, and explain things. They would use hand motions to demonstrate what we were about to do. These are the things we need to teach our children.

I know my father used to be able to make a hunt very exciting for me even if he knew deer weren’t around for miles. He would stop and take time with me and tell me what to look for; an ear flicker, a tail, a neck, legs moving, etc. Sometimes when we would be walking up to the top of a knoll or cresting an old logging road he would stop, kneel down, and look me in the eye. Then he would whisper this to me using hand motions whenever possible:

“Ok, we are going to work our way quietly and slowly up to the top of this knoll. Now move slowly and keep your eyes and ears open because there may very well be a deer standing on the other side.”

Then he would ask me if I was ready. It was just those simple words that would make my heart beat a little harder, and cause the hair on the back of my neck to stand on end. This is what brought me back out the following day, and the day after, and the day after that.

So bring a child with you and pass on those traditions and teach the youth the things you were taught. Don’t just let them follow you through the woods. Get them involved, ask them questions, and make them look for signs. This is how we can all keep the tradition of hunting alive in this country for generations to come.

Denny Vasquez, one of our contributing writers wrote a nice story for us a while ago called Why Do We Teach Our Kids to Hunt? I think you may enjoy it. Go read it…

Steven Remington


How Much Is A Hunter Worth? A Closer Look At Sunday Hunting

When I set out to do this report I had every intention of putting all my facts and figures together and posting my story right here at the Black Bear Blog. After I began, it became crystal clear that it would be too long and detailed to use here, so I posted it at Maine Hunting Today as a feature story.

I began this debate the other day with a post about how Sunday hunting may affect the length of the season. I gave you a copy of an email I received from Lee Kantar, wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. You can read that post here.

There is at least one other issue that has bothered me for some time and so I tackled it to see if I could come up with some answers. Consequently I think I arrived at a place where I have more questions now than answers but I learned a lot and am going to share with you about it.

The issue in question has to do with a statement I have heard from various sources over the years. The statement goes something like this, “Any state that doesn’t offer Sunday hunting is losing millions of dollars in revenue from hunters and in particular non-resident hunters”. In my attempt to find someone who could support that statement with some facts, I always seem to come away empty handed. So I rolled up my sleeves and went digging.

The article I have done looks at a lot of data that I was able to collect. Being a bit of a numbers freak, I began to see some interesting indications coming from this research. Interesting doesn’t always mean conclusive evidence.

What I wanted to find out was if Sunday hunting really had that big of an affect on the economies of states that have it versus those that don’t. I will tell you that I can’t say I proved one way or the other but I did learn exactly how much you mean to your state’s economy every year you buy a hunting license and head into the woods.

I hope that you will take the time to read the article. It is one of those things that you can read several times and study often and each time I guarantee you’ll find things that will make you think.

Within the article I left a link to one report where I got a lot of my information. Go there and take at look at numbers for yourself and draw your own conclusions. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Tom Remington


Big Buck Tracking School With the Benoits

Most of you probably know this past spring I traveled to Allagash, Maine for a weekend of fun and adventure with the Benoit brothers of Vermont. I’m sure most of you at least have heard of the Benoits, if not, you can visit their website and find out for yourselves.

I am working on a story about the school and hope this will be ready soon. Good things take time right? In explanation, Lanny Benoit asked that I submit a draft of what I would right to make sure it was accurate. This of course takes time.

There were many things that went on over the weekend from learning about the operation of GPS, to target shooting, learning about the actions and reactions of deer and hunters, eating good food and sharing a lot of tales – all of which I’m sure are the truth.

One afternoon we all piled into vehicles and headed for the top of a nearby mountain. Our search was to find a big buck’s track. Tracks were far and few between but not for the reasons you might think. The ground had dried hard and in most places is was almost like concrete.

What I did discover right from the onset is the boys like to talk about deer hunting. I’ve provided a video I put together while we were on top of the mountain. I got a small clip of Lanny and Lane talking about their hunting experiences. I have other videos I will share later as well. (If you would like to download a better quality video, click here and view it with you own media player.)

Tom Remington


Dream Bucks

Field and Stream magazine has photos and short captions of 20 dream bucks for 2005. Check it out!

Tom Remington


WHA Names First of Eight Hunters To Compete

The newly formed World Hunting Association has announced the first of eight hunters who will be involved in the controversial professional hunting tour that will begin first in Michigan on a 1,000-acre high-fence preserve.

You can read about the World Hunting Association here.

Jim Shepherd, outdoor writer for the Chattanoogan has an inteview with the first named participant, Hack Albertson of Scottsboro, Indiana.

Tom Remington


How Much Doe Does a Deer Have? Six Bucks???

Rod Davis emailed the below photo with me that said that if he told me where this picture was taken, I would have to be killed. I think it was taken at someone’s game farm where Rod has been known to lasso his deer.

Six Bucks

Tom Remington