August 24, 2019

QDMA Whitetail Deer Report for 2016

Below is the link to the 2016 Quality Deer Management Association Report on whitetail deer. Bear in mind a couple of things. One, I am not a very big fan of QDMA for various reasons. One reason is because I believe they put too much focus on “trophy” hunting and manipulating the resource towards that end. Another issue to consider, should you choose to review this report, is that it is a great example of the saying, “Statistic prove that statistics can prove anything.” While QDMA is presenting information about declines and increases in yearling buck harvest and/or buck harvest in general, as well as antlerless deer, it offers no explanations of why. It’s one thing to report declines or increases in yearling buck harvest, for example, even to go to the point of suggesting trends, but to make specific claims requires much greater knowledge and information about all aspects that effect deer management and hunting harvests.

One might suspect that with QDMA’s insistent pushing for antler point restrictions (for trophy hunting purposes), it would seem logical that the buck harvest might decrease when such restrictions are put in place. The same kind of unknown comparison can be applied to reports in changes of antlerless deer. In states, like Maine, that use “Any-Deer Permits” to regulate the populations of deer, significant changes in the allotment of such permits, as has been the case in recent years, obviously affects the harvest data.

That isn’t to say the report is worthless. It contains interesting data and if taken in its context and applied subjectively and honestly, within the smallest denominator of available data in each state, one might find some interesting comparatives, assuming most things remain consistent…and they don’t.

QDMA’s Whitetail Report 2016

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Whitetail Deer: Able to Leap Tall Houses in a Single Bound

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The Comeback: 20 Memories of the Return of the Whitetail Deer

*Editor’s Comment* – If you can tolerate the pop-up ads, some that make you wait and watch, you might find these stories interesting.

Lost in this season’s noise of rut tactics, essential hunting gear, and antler scoring is the reality that, to generations of outdoorsmen across America, deer were once more fiction than fact. For many of these hunters, their first encounter with a whitetail changed their lives. Here are their stories.

Source: The Comeback: 20 Memories of the Return of the Whitetail Deer | Outdoor Life

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Low Deer Numbers, But Plenty of Food in Northeast

*Editor’s Note* – The description given to what is being called a bobcat kill of a deer, is very similar to that of a mountain lion – just saying. There are certainly more bobcats in New England than mountain lions, however, so long as predators like bears and bobcats are allowed to proliferate – bears mostly due to limits on hunting and trapping seasons and bobcats due to limits on trapping – don’t expect to see any great increases in the number of deer in these areas along with further reductions in hunting opportunities. (I might also add here that Maine is overrun with Canada lynx, another predator of the whitetail deer. So long as protections continue on the lynx, we can rightly expect further destruction of the deer herd.)

And on another note, it will be interesting to see what happens this year when it comes to winter ticks and moose. The so-called authorities have blamed climate change on the growth of winter ticks calling for a colder, longer, snowier winter believing this will kill off the ticks.

According to the same so-called authorities, they got their snowy, cold and prolonged winter last year and they are using that as the excuse of why deer populations remain low.

Will the ticks return full force or be significantly reduced? Whatever the case, there will be an excuse. I might predict that if a lessening of winter ticks isn’t revealed this winter, it soon will be as moose numbers continue to plummet caused by the abundant tick. As was said to me one day, moose managers don’t know what they are doing, refusing to keep moose numbers at healthy sustainable numbers and so “mother nature” had to do the job.

The hard winter in the northeast, and the heavy snow conditions well into spring, are the main causes of low numbers regionally. Does under stress produce lighter fawns, and weaker fawns are a boon to predators.

Connecticut is something of a field lab for predation studies. Just 15 years ago there were very few predators outside of deer hunters, now the state is crawling with record numbers of coyotes, black bears and bobcats. More than 80 fawns have been collared in the northwest Connecticut study, which let biologist determine the cause of morality.

“Everyone wants to point at coyotes, because they make such a ruckus, but in reality it’s the quiet killers, bears and bobcats. Especially bobcats,” LaBonte said. In January, state officials checked the spot where a GPS collar stopped moving and found a 70-pound fawn buried under snow and leaves. The cause of death? Telltale signs of a bobcat kill: slash and bite marks around the head and neck. “We uncovered the fawn and took pictures, then went back the next day and the cat had returned that night and re-covered the deer,” LaBonte said. “They’re amazing animals.”

Source: Low Deer Numbers, But Plenty of Food in Northeast | Field & Stream

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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.

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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!”

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The Fuss Over Maine’s “Endangered” Lynx: What About the Whitetail Deer?

While agenda-driven environmentalists, who couldn’t recognize an honest scientific process if it lifted it’s leg and peed on their shoes, fret and stew over the Canada lynx in northern regions of Maine, the whitetail deer is moving toward extirpation. For those who pay attention at all to history, the Canada lynx was called the “deer wolf.” Note: Post normal science and history would tell us that, like the fairy tale of Little Red Riding Hood, early settlers calling the Canada lynx the deer wolf was probably also a myth to scare children through abuse. Anything to protect a predator at the cost of the destruction of other species.

There’s not much sense in trying to sugar coat the fact that in northern Maine, the whitetail deer is struggling to persist. Excuses are abundant: severe winters, deer are at their northern range (although further north in portions of Canada there’s not necessarily the same struggle), loss of habitat, the pope is Catholic, etc.

And yet, as the deer population there in Maine struggles, other species that compete with, threaten and prey upon the deer are overprotected – black bear, bobcat, Canada lynx and coyote/wolf hybrids. Because the whitetail deer has historically been the species of focus for most hunters, why then are we protecting everything that wants to destroy the deer? Maybe I just answered my own question, if you follow.

Now that the totalitarians have taken complete control of the Canada lynx, there’s little now that Maine’s wildlife managers can do to mitigate the loss of deer due to loup cervier, the deer wolf. The same act of wildlife management extortion, via the Endangered Species Act, has further severely restricted trapping and so what now will become of coyotes and bobcats? I suspect increased predation on whitetail deer.

For now, Maine is off the hook as far as putting an end to bear hunting but don’t take that to the bank. So long as Maine Guides control what the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife does with the implementation of bear hunts, I don’t expect any real effort to reduce bear numbers in areas where the deer are struggling. This is where, as a matter of convenience, anyone can play any one of a number of those excuse cards that explain why the deer are disappearing. I’ll bet this is a good chance to get a grant to study global warming in Maine and it’s affects on deer. Line up!

Nobody else will make notice that the deer are, more than likely, feeling the effects of hydatid cysts on lungs and other organs, that reduces their ability to evade predators.

Maine biologists reported, albeit inaccurately and incompletely, that moose examined in portions of Aroostook County had, what officials called, “lung worms.” What the moose had were hydatid cysts, the result of ingestion of Echinococcus granulosus eggs found in the scat of wild canines. Ingestion of these eggs by humans can be fatal. The more the coyote/wolf hybrid is protected the greater the chance of infecting wild ungulate populations in Maine (deer, moose) and putting humans at risk.

Because the cysts were found in moose, the likelihood of finding similar cysts in deer grows. The last thing Maine’s deer herd needs is another enemy. Wintering deer can struggle to exist under normal circumstances but if moose and deer struggle to breathe due to cysts on the lungs, liver, brain and muscle tissue, odds of surviving the onslaught of predators goes down.

Over the past several months, all focus has been on defeating an anti human, bear referendum and now it has shifted to Canada lynx. The deer still suffers while managers hope and pray for some global warming. The question I have is what will then become the excuse for disappearing deer herd when Maine’s climate becomes like Virginia’s?

NorthernMaineDeerHarvestLynx

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Because The Coyote is Coming

More and more studies are showing that the presence of large predators affects deer populations. When there are too many coyotes, for example, in an area that will not support that number, coyotes raise the dickens with deer populations.

Reading this article (linked to below) I am reminded of no fewer than two articles I have written in the past. One was in July of 2010. It was actually a republication of an article written by Dr. Charles Kay for Muley Crazy Magazine called, “Predator Mediated Competition.” If you are not familiar with that term, I suggest reading Kay’s article as it will help to better understand the issue as well as the article I have linked to. In short, predators, such as coyotes, so long as there exists more than one prey species, could drive a certain species, say the whitetail deer or mule deer, into unsustainable levels and keep them there.

The second article was in reference to Dr. Valerius Geist who attended a gathering of hunters and game managers in Virginia concerned with too large populations of whitetail deer. The article I wrote was in December of 2010 but Geist’s comment was made in 1994.

…in 1994, Dr. Valerius Geist, while attending the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting in Charlottesville, Virginia, said the following as it pertained to a perceived “problem” among wildlife managers in dealing with too large populations of whitetail deer.

“Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

It now appears that in places where once there was a problem with too many deer, the deer are disappearing leaving managers wondering what happened. Here’s just one example of that.

“On a 2,000 acre tract of land in north Alabama, biologists at the University of Georgia’s Deer Lab compiled a different study. In the area 22 coyotes and 10 bobcats were removed before fawning season. Fawn survival increased by 250 percent.”

“An Auburn University deer study showed that trapping and removing coyotes and other predators improved fawn survival in that area by about 80 percent. The University of Georgia deer researchers analyzed 353 coyote scat samples from two public hunting areas. During the fawning time, coyotes switched almost exclusively to fawns for food.”<<<Read More>>>

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Shock! Predation Number One Factor in Deer Fawn Deaths

“In a 2003 study of fawn mortality, the Pennsylvania Game Commission captured and collared 110 fawns from an agricultural area and 108 from a heavily forested region. Nine weeks after capture, 28 percent of the farmland fawns, and 43 percent of the big-woods deer, were dead. Twenty-six weeks after capture, mortality rates were 42% and 55% respectively. And those numbers closely mirror to an ongoing fawn-mortality study in Wisconsin.

In other words, there’s close to a 50% chance that the fawn I saw wobbling down my folk’s driveway is not going to be alive by the end of November. Predation is the number one factor in fawn deaths (black bears and coyotes top the list, depending on the area, with bobcats taking a few), followed by “natural causes” (usually starvation), vehicle accidents, and finally, hunting.

Research like this is important, especially as predator numbers are generally on the rise across much of the nation. Bear populations are strong in the North, and southern biologists have been dealing with a coyote boom for years. It wasn’t long ago when the general attitude of game managers was to dismiss the impact of predators on deer populations. Today’s biologists have no such luxury and must factor this in when setting quotas for hunting seasons.”<<<Read More>>>

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Take Outdoor Life’s 2014 Whitetail Survey

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