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BUCK FEVER – Reporters Take an In-Depth Look at Whitetail Deer Breeding and Hunting Industry

X-Factor: Are Mega-Bucks Good for Deer Hunting?

Without a doubt, white-tailed deer hunting in the US has changed dramatically over the past few decades. That initial interest in deer management spurred both hunters and property owners to get involved doing things to help whitetail, which over time lead to the development of better habitat, monitoring of deer populations on private lands, harvest management and ultimately better, bigger deer. The benefits of whitetail management are numerous, but the one take-home-point on top of everyone’s head is that bucks on managed properties grow larger antlers.

Ask any deer biologist and they will tell you that there are a multitude of factors involved when it comes to managing a deer herd for trophy bucks. And that’s the truth, if someone is managing a deer herd. But what if that someone is just managing individual deer? Well, that simplifies things. Or does it? The topic of commercial deer breeding is a hotly debated topic within the deer hunting community, around campfires, on internet hunting forums and at family reunions. The non-hunting community, which vastly outnumbers hunters, also has its eyes on those involved in deer breeding and hunting.

The following article, based on a self-proclaimed 18-month in-depth investigation, states that the commercial deer breeding industry is entirely responsible for the spread of deer diseases and is costing tax payers, both those that hunt as well as those that don’t, millions of dollars each year. It’s definitely interesting reading material. Read the rest

Increase Antler Growth in Bucks

White-tailed Deer Management: Increase Antler Growth

Most hunters and property owners involved in deer management are interested in healthy herds and increased antler growth and size in bucks. There are numerous other positives that result from managed whitetail populations, the most important of which are healthier, more diverse plant communities for all wildlife species. Good habitat equates to better bucks, but sometimes additional inputs are needed to harness all of the antler-growing potential within bucks found on the property. It’s often during the deer hunting season that hunters take inventory of the bucks roaming their land, but the time to take action for next year is right now.

Question from Mike P.: “I am involved in a small self-management plan on a 90 acre farm in Pennsylvania. Our deer are free ranging and are very low pressured. We do a buffet of food plots, about 7 acres of turnips, radishes, oats and clovers. We are also involved in the creeps program. We have established a great heard and do not harvest bucks until they have reached 130 class. What we seem to be lacking is antler mass.

We have been told by local deer farmers to add protein to their diet. We were thinking of mixing roasted soybeans with corn for our winter feeders. We have also been told to be very careful on the ratio of the mix and could make the deer “sick.” My question is, what is true and what is false, what’s right and what’s wrong? Is there something else we can do to add antler mass?”

Read the rest

Bullwinkle Disease in Whitetail Deer

Bullwinkle Disease in White-tailed Deer

The term “bullwinkle disease” sounds more like a joke about someone than an actual ailment, but it’s a true-to-life disease that can impact deer. Although quite rare, it seems white-tailed deer can get an infection that causes their muzzle to swell, making their face look more like the cartoon moose Bullwinkle than that of a normal, healthy whitetail. Wildlife vets know that the head swelling is caused by a long-term bacterial infection in soft tissues of the afflicted deer’s face, but the most fascinating part of bullwinkle disease is that no one knows exactly why or even where the bacteria comes from.

Source: “The Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study (SCWDS) has been studying the parasites and diseases of white-tailed deer for more than 56 years. With so much time and effort invested in this area, one would think that few surprises would be left, but that doesn’t ever seem to be the case. Since 2005, we have received samples from ten deer with oddly deformed muzzles, as well as reports of several other affected deer. The swollen muzzles give them a strange appearance and prompted someone to call them “Bullwinkle deer,” based on their resemblance to the 1960’s cartoon character.

Although the cases reported to us are uncommon, they occur over a wide geographic area. Affected white-tailed deer have been submitted to SCWDS from as far north as Michigan and as far south as Alabama. The condition also has been confirmed in a mule deer buck in Idaho. Read the rest

The Key to Late Season Hunting Success

Deer Hunting in the Late Season

If you’ve noticed the deer hunting season is nearly over and there are license tags left in your pocket, don’t panic just yet. There is still time to fill those tags, as well as the freezer. Many hunters find themselves behind the proverbial eight ball as the season winds down each year. Whether it’s because we’ve run short on hunting time because of other commitments, spent too much time waiting on that big buck that seemed to show up on game camera from time to time but never while we were actually on stand, or if it’s just because we’ve suffered from plain ole procrastination. It happens. The pressure may be on, but the late season is one of the very best times to put deer on the ground.

There are numerous farms and ranches looking to achieve deer management objectives, namely keeping the whitetail population within the carrying capacity of the available habitat. Other hunters are just looking to put something next to the potatoes. No matter which camp applies to you, hunting the late season all comes down to a single four letter word, food. The breeding season takes an awful lot out of deer, especially bucks since they burn a lot of calories fighting one another, searching for and pursuing does, so they are always looking to strap on the post-rut feed bag. Combine that with the fact that the fall and winter (to date) has been colder than normal and deer are forced to forage. Read the rest

Deer Management & Hunting: Big Buck Down in Bowie County

Whitetail Deer Hunting: Big Buck Shot in Bowie County, Texas

There are many aspects to white-tailed deer hunting and management. The most exciting part is, of course, the hunting season itself. Every hunter dreams of a big whitetail buck stepping out in front of them, emerging from the wood line from seemingly out of thin air. It can happen to any hunter at any time, but to significantly up the odds of your dreams coming true you’ve got to do the work, put in the time and answer the bell when deer season rolls around. This is when having a combination of strong will, patience and the ability to age deer on the hoof becomes a very real part of harvest management.

One Northeast Texas hunter had all of these characteristics in spades — and that allowed him to place his tag on a big Bowie County buck. Over the past weekend, Texas hunter Ricky Hunt bagged a whitetail buck that instantly became his personal best. Despite deploying a number of game cameras before and during the hunting season, Ricky had only managed to capture a single photo of the remarkable buck. That one photo proved to be motivation enough to keep Ricky in the woods. Ricky knew this buck was out there, somewhere. Read the rest

Cold Weather Means Deer are Moving!

Deer Hunting and Management - Best Deer Movement Times for Hunting

The life of a white-tailed deer is highly impacted by the weather. Hunters know that high rainfall years are better than dry ones when it comes to antler growth and the number of fawns produced. Mild weather during the spring and fall  is also conducive for plant growth, which in turn is good for deer growth. Everything struggles when it gets really hot or really cold. However, if you’re looking to harvest a deer this season then colder temperatures are exactly what you need. And that’s because whitetail deer move around a heck of a lot more when temperatures drop.

I know what you’re thinking. The rut, right? Cooler temperatures must mean that bucks will be chasing does with reckless abandon. Well, that could be one exciting scenario, but I’m targeting the fact that when the temperatures outside get really, really cold, deer get extremely hungry. This means that they have got to eat something, and soon. It takes a lot of energy to maintain a 104 degree (F) internal body temperature when the mercury starts to plummet. Deer will be looking for fuel, but will you be there? Read the rest

Deer Hunting: Big Nontypical Buck, State Record Tagged in Madison County

Big Nontypical Buck Swmming the Trinity River in Madison County, Texas

Not many hunters are fortunate enough to get a photo of a big, free-ranging white-tailed buck taken in close proximity to their deer lease just days before the hunting season. But if you were that fortunate, can you imagine the excitement leading up to opening day? Now, imagine if that big buck photo was published in the local paper. Buzzkill. That would ensure that LOTS of hunters would be taking to the field for a once-in-a-lifetime kind of buck. That kind of competition did not deter 15-year old deer hunter Makayla Hay.

She had her eye on the deer leading up to the gun season, like every other deer hunter in Madison County, Texas. In October, a photo in the local newspaper (above) featured the nontypical buck swimming across the Trinity River. Makayla and her father, Jim, knew the photograph was taken near their 1,600 acre deer lease, and they joked about the possibility of seeing the buck. Little did they know that opening day of the 2013 gun season would be one for the books, literally! Read the rest

Deer Management: Spike on One Side, Now What?

Whitetail Deer Hunting and Management - Spike on One Side

There are many factors to consider when it comes to management of white-tailed bucks during the deer hunting season. Some of the more popular campfire discussions usually involve talking about antlers, which bucks to shoot or not shoot, and whether or not odd antler configurations on specific deer were caused by poor genetics or by an injury during antler development. Whether you are actively managing the white-tailed deer living on your own property or considering culling some select deer off your hunting lease, it pays to know a little bit about deer antlers and their growth before you pull the trigger.

For whatever reason, this year I have seen more bucks with asymmetrical antlers than ever before. Most of these deer have been bucks with a normal antler on one side and then an unbranched antler (spike) on the other. And I’m not just talking about 1 1/2 year old (yearling) bucks. Of course, some yearling bucks will have unbranched antlers (one side or both), but only very rarely do spike bucks actually remain spikes after their first set of antlers. The bucks I’m talking about are middle-aged deer; 3 and 4 year old bucks with lots of promise on one side and nothing but disappointment on the other. Read the rest