NCW Deer Report #12 12-17-12
With the “biological rut” all but wrapped up our buck sightings on “Kindred Spirits” have dwindled dramatically. No, they aren’t all dead but they have all found safe hiding and with the up-tick in hunting pressure caused by the muzzle loader opening, they are even tougher to find. They are laying up during the day and have no reason to move very far. Natural vegetation food sources are everywhere and while not the best groceries in the neighborhood they beat getting shot at.
Sound familiar, it should, because we wrote the same thing last week. The only difference this week from last is they are a bit more on edge because the muzzleloader season has brought out a new influx of hunters. Sorry folks we are in a holding pattern here and until the weather shifts from mild to nasty nothing much is going to happen here on our Kindred Spirits as far as big bucks go. And guess what, the season ends tomorrow. Oh well, they will all be bigger next year.
Our doe/fawn sightings are down slightly on evening green plots but these deer are bedding within 100 yards of the plots and moving very little from food to bed. The bucks are hanging back altogether in areas where they have been pressured.
Neil, on the other hand, is watching 6 and 7 at a time as they have regrouped into their “buddy bunches”. Neil’s farm has seen very little pressure and he is seeing plenty of bucks which are reconstituting their bachelor groups and hitting his most secure food sources. He watches them and doe groups most days from his office window and it’s as if they know they are in a safety zone a few hundred yards from his backyard. He has the best food and cover in the neighborhood and with very little hunting pressure, is seeing plenty of action (through his office window). Were he to go out back and shoot a few it would all change overnight.
Neil’s farm deer are preferring his nice green clover fields to standing corn. Normally deer will eat frozen greens but given a late season choice between frozen greens and corn, corn will win hands down. But this year is not normal and as long as it stays mild and the greens stay soft and tasty they will stay on it. Throw the weather switch for a week and they will be all over the high carb corn and bean pods.
Our cameras are down to record low photos. Where we would once have hundreds if not thousands pics each week from each of a dozen cameras we now down to a few dozen. Where we would once sit in a late season shooting house and watch dozens of deer stream into a field we are now seeing ten or twelve.
With just a few days left in the NY season and no severe weather in the forecast we are now resigned to finishing out our doe harvest. We lack a few and hope to hit our goal by season’s end. Looking back the rut was spectacular but late season hunt has been a “mild weather bust”.
The “Taliban” was in Neil’s neighborhood over the weekend. Pickups full (front and back) of deer drivers headed from one woodlot to the next. If any deer in the neighborhood were not on Neil’s farm before the weekend they are now. Deer drives are an effective way to kill deer, trouble is, you can’t be all that sure of what you are killing.
If you have a property with secure boundaries and plenty of food and cover, and have kept the pressure off you should have plenty of deer about now. Still hunting is a pretty good tactic if you know how to pull off without running them off your land.
Wet leaves are a must and windy stormy days are generally the best days to sneak a deer. Bottom line, real tough to sneak a mature buck that has been hunted 4 or 5 seasons unless you know where he beds.
Two man pushes can get deer on their feet and put some targets in front of you but they too come with the risk of pushing deer all over the neighborhood.
You guys out there in the Midwest who are getting “snowed on and blowed on” need to take advantage of the foul weather and a deer’s need to feed and stake out your food sources. If it’s high carb stuff like corn or beans you are in business. If you have only green plots they will dig down to about 6-8 inches but more than that and they tend to work standing native vegetation. Good hunting ahead if you are still open.
We’ll be sticking to watching food sources, passing up button bucks and young antlered bucks in favor of keeping our numbers in check and filling our freezers with tasty doe venison. This is the time of year when a well managed property is worth its weight in gold.
One more thing, we have seen our first buck with “cast” antlers and are beginning to receive similar reports from the field. Casting is perfectly normal this time of year and will continue until late winter. A decline in testosterone causes specialized cells called osteoclasts to activate and weaken the bond between antlers and the skull.
Injured or highly stressed bucks are often the first to shed as injuries often result in declines in testosterone levels. Early shedders can get injured fighting, clipped with a car or even wounded by a hunter.
If you are actively harvesting does as we are this time of year, be sure to get a look at her head before shooting. If you see two red spots or scabs you are looking at a buck which, while legal (antlerless) you really don’t want to shoot for a doe.
If you see any casting over the next few weeks, let us know. We are interested in nailing down the dates this year. Also be sure to keep your cameras out for a few weeks after your season ends. Taking a post season inventory will help you make better harvest decisions next year.