Summer Checklist | Are You Ready For Deer Season?

Summer Deer Hunting Checklist

If you live and breathe the pursuit of hunting whitetails the summer is obviously not a time to relax! For those of us ate up enough with hunting, the understanding is that deer season is a 365 day a year event. Sure our fortunes as deer hunters are made mostly during November, but we spend the other days, weeks, and months daydreaming about and preparing for deer season. In fact so much thought and prepping is put into deer season that it would be astonishing to see the thoughts and the to-do list drawn out on paper. The thoughts, ideas, chores, and what-ifs in your head should now be organized and prioritized into a deer hunting checklist!

Take notes and check off these to-do’s as you complete them. Whether you are just a couple months from deer season or just week if not days away from it, now is the time to ensure you are ready! Some may be a higher priority than others for you depending on your situation and property, but overall this summer deer hunting checklist should help organize what you need to be done!

After looking through the checklist keep reading for more detailed explanations of why these items made the list!

Offseason Deer Hunting Checklist

  • Plant/Manage Food Plots
  • Buy License/Read regulations
  • Utilize Minerals, Supplements, and Bait (or remove bait before season)
  • Check and Run Trail Cameras (full batteries, empty formatted SD cards)
  • Gather an Inventory (trail camera survey)
  • Scout for the Early Season
  • Tree Stand, Tripod Stand, and Box Blind Safety Check
  • Safety Harness and Safe-Line check
  • Sight in/Practice Bow and Firearm
  • Create Detailed and Organized Maps
  • Think Through Your Hunting Pack

Food Plots

Summer is food plot season.  Planting food for your deer not only provides extra protein for growth but forage to sustain your herd in the cold weather of the late fall and winter.  Planting food plots takes several easy steps although it can be time-consuming.

First, test the soil to find the pH or acidity level of the ground you wish to cultivate for your food plot.  Finding the acidity will help you decide the next steps such as liming and seed choice.  Lime is a base which helps bring balance to unbalanced soils.  If your chosen area has had the nutrients washed away on a steep grade or is higher in elevation, then you will want to find the right amount of lime per acre needed to balance the pH to help optimize seed growth. Second, choosing the right seed for the pH is critical.  Typically seed manufacturers will have the information on each seed and what pH the plant will grow in best. Taking into consideration what your goals are for a given location you will want to plant accordingly.  Having a mix of high protein plants with high carbs and sugar –rich plants can help you create a year-round optimized buffet for your whitetails.

In some cases, access to farm equipment is not possible.  Through the power of science, seed manufacturers have been able to develop seed blends perfect for simply throwing on the untilled surface of the earth.  Typically, these are perfect for food plots in the woods where small clearings make for perfect ambush locations.  To create a food plot in the woods it is important to spray the weeds and rake away any debris like leaves, rocks, and sticks. Seeds must hit the open dirt.  Carry a sturdy metal garden rake and have durable work gloves to protect from blisters.  Cut the canopy of the trees back as much as possible to maximize sunlight.  Lack of sunlight is what kills most food plot efforts.

Create/Organize Your Maps

As we review the surroundings it is a bet practice to review first from the sky. Whether you use Google earth or a physical topographical map it is important to mark on map points of interest to scout.  The aerial review provides a fresh perspective and can open new opportunities for stand locations.  By paying close attention to the contours of the land you can find hidden travel corridors which guide deer travel such as saddles and benches, hidden field corners and bottlenecks.  Marking on map points of interest to scout helps organize your efforts and make the best use of your time.  Physical maps like those made from HunTerra Maps are a handy tool to be able to have at home or in the truck

Plan What to Do with Your Trail Cameras

In the interest of time management, it is important to make trail cameras a part of your summer scouting checklist. Ensure each camera is in peak functioning form by checking each before hanging.  Check the connections at the batteries for corrosion.  Moisture can corrode metal coils and render a camera useless. The last thing you want is to set a camera up in a prime location and not capture any photos due to faulty or damaged wires.  Always buy fresh batteries and use cleared and formatted SD cards to optimize performance when scouting for deer in the summer.  Double check the straps on used to hold your camera to a tree are not dry rotted and risk dropping your expensive camera.  When setting up a camera make sure it is facing North to ensure pictures will not be ruined by glare.  Sun glare ruins photos at peak deer activity in the early mornings.  Check to make sure all branches are out of the way of the camera that could trigger the motion sensor as a false alarm! Summer is a critical time for inventory, so make sure you are utilizing them as best as possible. Proven summer strategies for trail cameras include mineral sites, trail camera surveys, time-lapse over food sources, and transition areas between bedding areas and food.

Mineral, Supplements, and Bait

Protein and mineral supplements are a storied part of any spring and summer scouting season.  In the heat of the summer, it is the best way to capture the photos to take inventory of the deer you really want to chase.  Especially in areas where the soil is lacking nutrients, supplemental feeding and mineral sites in states where it is legal may be your best option to help push the growth of your herd during the growing months.  Protein supplements are valuable and research tells us that finding a mix with 16-18% protein is optimal.  Minerals are also important for bucks and does.  During gestation and lactation does have high requirements for calcium and magnesium to supplement their growing fawns. A buck will utilize calcium and phosphorus by storing it in his body to use throughout antler growth.  Growing bucks require tremendous amounts of minerals as they are growing their bodies and their headgear! Be sure to take out these bait sites well before deer season if required by law!

Build Cover

As important as food is to the whitetail so too is cover.  Mature whitetails, both bucks and does, require safety.  Remember, deer are food and they know it all too well. Creating a safe place near food is a recipe for success. The best way to create your own safe place for deer is through the use of a chainsaw and hinge cutting trees. While cutting mature hardwoods is best under the eye of a trained forestry professional, there is plenty one can accomplish with a chainsaw properly cutting small to medium sized trees and scrub brush of little timber value to create a thick jungle of safety for deer. Cut properly, hinge cut trees will still produce browse for deer further increasing the value for deer. When cutting trees and brush it is important to use the following accessories.  First, always wear eye protection.  Wood chips and dirt flying everywhere from being cut can pose a serious threat to your eyes and face. A full face guard is advised. Second, always have a tool kit with the right equipment to deal with chains that may jump the track. A spare sharpened chain is a valuable asset as well.

Stands

Getting your stands ready for the fall is a ritual of the season.  Checking stands for safety is of utmost importance.  Straps in particular that have exposed to weather for any amount of time in the fall and winter ought to be checked for weakness.  A dry rotted strap can easily break putting you into a rather dangerous situation.  Inspect the cables on all stands to look for any weaknesses and check the bolts for rust which can ultimately deteriorate the safety of a tree stand.

Glass

Resist the urge to sit in your stand to scout during the summer.  There is no sense if muddying up your area when you can scout fields from afar.  A lot of hunters have lost the art of simply glassing for bachelor groups. The reliance on trail cameras for the majority of their scouting has left this tactic underappreciated. Glassing summer food sources and travel routes from several hundred yards away can be critical when developing an early season hunting strategy. While basic 10×42 binoculars are plenty efficient, having a spotting scope with real magnification power like 20-60x60mm puts you far enough away from the summer action to not risk spooking deer.

REMEMBER: As always in the hot summer months and even towards the beginning of deer season it is important to always check for ticks!  Illnesses from ticks are an epidemic and hunters are perhaps at the most risk.  Always remember to spray down with deet or pre-wash your clothing in permethrin.  Keep all clothing sealed off to prevent ticks from crawling onto you.  A full body check after you exit the field is necessary and make sure to hang your clothes out after a hunt to let all the ticks crawl off.

The dog days of summer are no time to relax for the committed deer hunter. This is when the homework happens to create success in the fall.  While it is easy to become overwhelmed with all the work that needs to be done, setting a summer deer hunting checklist can help you organize your time efficiently and leave nothing to chance when the weather turns cold!

Best Trail Camera Strategies for Your Summer

Trail Camera Strategies to Start This Summer

If you’re anything like us, you eat, sleep, and dream about deer hunting throughout the year. If there is a winter storm coming through, we’re thinking about the rut. If we’re sweating through a summer heat wave, we’re thinking about how to get ready for opening day. If that describes your lifestyle too, you probably also enjoy watching deer throughout the year by using trail cams. There’s just something special about trail cameras and how you can stealthily keep track of the deer herd on your property without them having a clue. Sure, you could start glassing fields or summer food plots in the evenings, but that takes more time than most of us actually have. Plus, you might not have any fields near you; maybe you hunt deer in a big woods setting where you can’t easily watch wildlife. These are the situations where having a few hunting cameras hung in key spots on your property can make a big difference to your hunting strategies next fall. Here are a few trail camera strategies to get you started this summer.

Top Trail Camera Strategies for This Summer

It’s not quite as simple as just throwing out a few trail cams in the woods and seeing what walks by. Sure, you could try that approach and you might get to see some wildlife eventually. But to get the most pictures, to get high-quality pictures, and to get information that will actually help you next fall, you need to focus on putting your trail camera in a spot that focuses deer traffic. Here are the best trail camera strategies for the summer.

Food Plots/Agricultural Fields

Food plots are great spots for getting pictures of deer for a few reasons. One, does and bucks alike need lots of calories in the spring to bounce back from the stress of winter. Throughout the summer, they need the food tonnage to build up their body weight and grow antlers to prepare for fall. This means high quality, protein rich forage! If you live in a forested area with very little agricultural food available, a single food plot is even more attractive to deer and your results will be better. Since it’s so critical for their survival, it’s probably the best place to hang trail cams on these locations.

For larger agricultural fields (e.g., corn, soybeans, alfalfa, etc.), the best location for game cameras might seem like the middle of the field where you can see the most deer. But since deer are creatures of the edge and will usually have set travel patterns throughout the summer, the best spot is generally along the field edge near a dominant trail. For smaller food plots (e.g., clover, cereal grains, brassicas, etc.), you can place a trail cam on a post in the middle of the plot without any issues. But really it comes down to just finding a spot that concentrates the activity and facing the game camera in the right direction. One thing to keep in mind is that facing cameras any direction but north will inevitably produce some glare in pictures at some time of the day.

Bedding Areas

Another reliable spot to capture deer pictures on your trail cams this summer is around their bedding area. After feeding throughout the night in destination fields or browsing in cutover areas, deer will shift to daytime bedding areas to chew their cud and rest. Often does and fawns will rest near or even within feeding areas, while bachelor groups of bucks will bed further away. Taking a quick scouting stroll from feeding areas and along main trails can lead you to bedding areas. They’re often easy to spot because of the oval depressions in the grass or weeds. If you’ve ever tackled a few habitat projects on your property, hinge cuts are great bedding areas to check out.

If you’ve designated some bedding areas as deer sanctuaries that are strictly off-limits throughout the year, try installing trail cams along trails on the fringe of the sanctuary instead. Be cautious about checking them too much towards the end of the summer when you want to really hold deer in-place. The bugs will likely be bad enough to convince you to only go once or twice the whole summer anyway. More than likely, you’ll find some small bedding areas outside of these sanctuaries too that you can set and forget until the end of the summer.

Travel Corridors

Of course, any main trails and travel corridors between the two areas above are also great spots to intercept deer movement. With a little desktop scouting, you can easily map these areas and find good potential corridors, but you likely have a few tree stands already hung in these areas anyway. Clear out the herbaceous vegetation in a spot along one of these trails so that you can get a clear trail camera picture. These small openings can also make deer pause long enough for a good picture.

When it comes to positioning your trail cams along trails, the common instinct is to place them so that the camera is off to the side facing perpendicular to the trail. Unfortunately, unless deer are really slow-moving, your camera will likely trigger too late and you’ll only get pictures of their rear end – hardly useful from a hunting perspective. Instead, try positioning your camera facing up or down along the direction of deer travel. Granted, you’ll still get pictures of deer moving away from you half the time, but you’ll get pictures of deer facing the camera the other half of the time.

Mineral Sites/Mineral Stations

Throughout the spring and summer, whitetails love to get an extra dose of minerals from the soil and plants around mineral stations. Lactating does need extra minerals to support their fawns, while Bucks need minerals to build their bony antlers. If you keep the station going for a couple years, you can easily train deer to keep coming back to it as a seasonal mineral source since fawns will be raised to use it. Eventually, the stations often become huge craters where deer have eaten the soil away. Luckily, you can easily set up a mineral site by scraping the debris away and exposing the soil in a given spot. Then you can incorporate some crushed mineral into the top inch of soil or simply place a block or rock on top of it. You can even place it on a semi-rotting stump, which will slowly absorb the minerals as well. But that’s about all it takes to set a station up.

If you’re installing one of these sites expressly for pictures, it’s best to locate it in a shaded understory area. Pictures from trail cams along fields and exposed sites often suffer from lots of glare, which greatly reduces the quality of the photos. But pictures within shaded areas can turn out crisp and clear any time of the day since light doesn’t interfere.

Water Sources

The final place that works great for trail cams are water sources, especially when paired with mineral sites. After eating something salty, we all crave a drink of water – deer are no different. Deer crave sodium due to the high amount of water they get in their metabolism during spring and summer. However, as the summer progresses and other waterholes or creeks go dry, a small water hole next to a mineral site will pull deer in. If you have natural wetlands, ponds, or streams on your property, you can easily locate mineral sites near them for the easiest solution. If you don’t have any water sources, you can easily sink a bucket, small rubber tank, or kid’s pool into the dirt to let it fill with rainwater. You can keep it cleaner by simply refilling it once you check cams. During hot summers or in southern, more arid areas, water sources can be the absolute best place for a trail camera setup, since it is such a draw for them.

How to Hang Trail Cameras and When to Check Them

 Once you’ve identified the spots and trail camera strategies you want to install this summer, it’s time to actually get them out. As already mentioned, pay attention to the direction you face your cameras, as south facing cameras will get lots of unusable pictures with a heavy glare. The one time you can get away with south facing trail cams is if you are in a forested or heavily shaded area. One of the best trail camera tips you’ll hear is to check the batteries and then recheck them to make sure they are fresh. You should also generally clear out some of the tall weeds, grasses, and even some brush in the area so you can avoid lots of false triggers. It’s a really deflating experience when you check your camera to find 1,000 pictures and 900 of them are of swaying grass. You can change the sensitivity level on many cameras to reduce this problem, but it still doesn’t hurt to make a small opening in front of the lens. Bring a simple folding saw with you when you enter the woods so you can easily cut any obstacles down.

Depending on where you’re hanging trail cameras, you may want to leave a trail to get back to them. For new deer bedding areas in big woods spots, for example, consider putting out some trail markers or trail marking tacks to help you find them again. This isn’t a good idea on public land, obviously, as would-be thieves could follow your tacks/markers right to the camera. But it’s a nice option for private land.

As far as when or how often to check your trail cams, it’s a tough call. The less you check them, the less invasive it is and more discrete your spying will be. After all, if you set it and forget about it for a few months, you can basically guarantee that you won’t interfere with the natural deer movement on your property. On the other hand, if your camera malfunctions after only a week of being outdoors, you could miss out on an entire summer’s worth of intelligence, which is just a terrible feeling (we’ve probably all had it happen at some point). Besides, we all feel the temptation to check them weekly. It’s kind of like Christmas morning when you get your chip and start to glance through them on the computer. If you have fresh batteries and haven’t had any issues with your camera before, let it sit in the woods for a month or two at a time, if you can bear it. If you’re not sure about your gear or if the opportunity is too great, then you’ve got two options. You can either charge right in making lots of noise (e.g., starting a chainsaw once in a while, driving an ATV, etc.), which will push deer away well before you spook them at close range. Or you can stealthily sneak in with scent-eliminating clothing and rubber boots to be incognito. It’s up to you and how your property is managed.

Good luck with your cameras this summer. With any luck, you’ll get some great pictures of deer to help guide your bow hunting on opening day this fall!

Shed Hunting | The Pros and Cons of Finding “Dead Heads”

What You Should Do When You Find “Dead Heads” | Shed Hunting C.S.I.

 

Shed hunting provides you with an amazing opportunity to spend some time outdoors during the late winter months and really begin to take inventory of your deer herd.  Shed antlers can tell a story about the dynamics of the deer herd on the properties you hunt, and if you are willing to put in the time and put on the miles, there is a high probability that the time you spend shed hunting will often open your eyes to the “big picture” in terms of how and when white-tailed deer utilize different areas of the properties you hunt. Each year it seems every shed hunter comes across the unfortunate find of a dead deer while shed hunting. This encounter can go south in a hurry upon finding a “dead head”, the term used to describe a dead buck body. While this is a negative…there are some positive takeaways you should be aware of.

White Gold | Finding Dead Deer While Shed Hunting “Ep.2” 

Shed Hunting 101

Shed hunting can be compared to an Easter egg hunt for deer hunters.  We put out best foot forward and hit the woods in search of hidden treasures.  We don’t know what or even if we will find anything at all, but we lace up our boots and take to the woods with high hopes. If you love to hunt white-tailed deer, then there is clearly a level of enjoyment had when you put your hands on a shed antler.  No matter if it’s big or small, there is really something special about making a game plan and using the best information available to try and a locate a literal needle in a haystack.  However, aside from the enjoyment of adding to your antler collection, shed hunting can provide you with a wealth of information that can really help you be more successful in not only hunting white-tailed deer on your properties but managing for those deer as well.

  • Age and Survival

Probably the most obvious piece of information that you can learn from shed hunting is the age and survival of various bucks on your farm.  With the advent of trail cameras, deer hunters can keep a watchful eye on the deer on their farms.  This has enabled deer hunters to develop and almost personal connection with the deer on their farms, which allows them to quickly identify the antlers of most of the deer they have on camera.

If you are able to immediately identify the shed antlers as belonging to a buck you have pictures of, you automatically know that the buck in question made it through the deer season.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that the deer will make it through the winter (harsh winters can kill) but it will at least give you piece of mind that the buck is still roaming the countryside and not at the taxidermy shop.

Though it is not suggested that you determine the age of a buck just based upon their shed antlers, you can closely estimate the age of the buck with multiple years of sheds supplemented with trail camera photos. This same history with multiple bucks provides you with information that will allow you to help determine the age structure of the bucks on your properties and can help you to compile your hit-list for next year.  Occasionally, you can even come across a new buck that has moved in from another area and decided to set up shop on your property.  Finding a shed antler that you do not recognize is often very exciting and can suggest immediate intel for next year’s hunting.

  • Areas of Use and Timing

Aside from some basic information related to age and survival, shed hunting can help to give you a better understand of your property and how deer and other wildlife utilize your farm.  Shed hunting can be a great time to evaluate everything from your entrance and exit strategy to the placement of your tree stands.

Shed hunting often requires that you hone in on very specific areas of your property, such as bedding areas, areas of dense cover, sunny south slopes, food sources, and transition areas.  Cover for deer can include areas that have had timber stand improvement conducted on them and are providing thermal cover and late winter browse and southwest facing slopes and hillsides. Food sources are always a go to for shed hunters. Food plots, crop field edges, or major trail ways to and from are not only likely places bucks drop their payload but are easy to check.  Spending some time out shed hunting in these areas can often give you some insight as to when and how white-tailed deer utilize these areas.  This can be especially true if there is a fresh blanket of snow on the ground or if you find yourself shed hunting in wet, muddy conditions.  In these conditions, tracks and areas of high deer use are very evident and can often lead you to reconsider your overall hunting strategy and provide you with additional information to help you to be more effective when hunting deer in the fall.

Finding Dead Deer and “Dead Heads”

Finding dead deer, especially a buck, is something none of us ever want to have happen.  However, the unfortunate reality is that if you spend enough time out in the field shed hunting, finding dead deer is almost unavoidable.  Finding dead deer on your property, especially if it is a hit list buck can really put a knot in your stomach.  We would all much rather see those antlers in the back of the truck, than on the ground in a heap of bones and hair.  All that being said, if and when you do find yourself in this situation, it often provides a great opportunity to flip the switch from deer hunter to deer biologist!

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Whitetail C.S.I.

When it comes to finding dead deer, the first step in “closing the case” is to do your best to determine the cause of death.  This is especially true if this happens to be a deer that you have a history with, as most of us start to build a certain relationship with these animals and for our own piece of mind need to know who or what dealt them their final blow.

The first step is to always know or check your state’s regulations regarding dead deer and dead heads. Contact your local conservation officer to determine the next steps. This is in order to help determine the cause of death concerning problems often encountered in these scenarios. The state’s concerns mainly relate to poaching and diseases. They will also often either let you take home the head or give you a permit to do so after coming out to the location.

After this determine if you, in fact, know that animal and begin to nail down the time of death.  Now, this may seem a little complicated but in reality, it isn’t.  You just need to ask yourself a few questions, such as “when was the last time you saw the animal or had trail camera pictures of the animal on the hoof?”  “Have you seen the animal during the hunting season?”  These are all great questions to start with to begin to determine the time death.  It is important to try to pinpoint whether the animal died as a result of bullet or broadhead or if they died by some other means such as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) or perhaps a collision with an automobile.

Pay close attention to the location where you find the animal.  If you find the dead deer near or directly adjacent to a water source, and if the antlers still seem to show signs of velvet or “sharp antlers” then there is a high probability that the deer may have expired from one of several deer diseases such as  EHD.  If the antlers show no signs of velvet and the animal is found in very thick cover, then it is likely that they sustained an injury of some kind from a human (hunting/vehicle) or predator and were seeking an area of seclusion to rest. Having closure is important and doing your best to determine the cause of death can really help to bring the case to a close and ensure you are not experiencing a bigger problem on the property!

 

The Positives of Finding Dead Deer

As deer hunters, we have to be willing to look at the bright side when things don’t go our way, and this certainly holds true when it comes to finding dead deer.  Believe it or not, there are several positive takeaways that can come from finding dead deer when shed hunting.

  • Closure

It has already been mentioned that closure is important for us deer hunters.  This is especially true when it comes to finding dead deer, especially if it is a situation where you have had an encounter with the animal while hunting.  No matter how hard we try, if you hunt white-tailed deer long enough you will have a wounding loss.  No matter how steady of a rest you have, and no matter how close of a shot, at some point, something will happen and we will make a poor shot on an animal.  It is just a fact of life.  So, finding a dead deer, especially if it is a deer that you perhaps thought you missed or shot and couldn’t recover can often bring a sense of relief and closure to the situation.  Although it may not have turned out exactly how you wanted it to, at the end of the day you can put a bow on the story of that deer and have an interesting story to tell the next time you show off the rack.

  • Age Information

It has already been mentioned that finding shed antlers can help paint a clearer picture as to the age structure of the bucks on your properties, however, there is only so much that you can learn from an antler.  In the world of aging white-tailed deer, the teeth reign supreme.  Though finding dead deer when shed hunting is an unfortunate situation, you have to be willing to take advantage of the circumstances and use the opportunity to collect vital age information.  In addition to collecting and scoring the antlers, be sure to collect the jaw bones as well.  There is no better way to age a white-tailed deer than by examining their teeth, and by aging the animal you can not only determine if your “on the hoof” estimate was close, but you can also pair this information up with your remaining hit list bucks and determine if they are likely older or younger than you previously thought.  This information can help you further refine your hit list for next year.

  • Preferred Cover

Shed hunting often requires that we venture into areas that we would otherwise leave unpressured.  Many deer hunters will identify these sanctuary areas that provide excellent cover for deer on the properties that they hunt and leave them be until shed hunting season rolls around.  An injured white-tailed deer will typically venture into an area of thick cover where they feel safe and secure.  If you are shed hunting these areas and happen to stumble upon a dead head, then you can feel confident to know that the area is, in fact, a critical area of cover for the deer on your property, and you can use this information to further refine your property management and hunting strategies in the future.

  • Score

Often, especially during the summer bachelor group period, you can have pictures of bucks standing side by side where you can directly compare their size. Any guesses you had on rack size and score from trail camera intel and observation periods can now be evaluated. This is a huge piece of information, especially when compared with age from the jawbone.

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Conclusion

Finding dead deer is going to happen, but if you are willing to look at the bright side, and spend a little time investigating the circumstances and collecting some basic information, you can really turn a lemon into lemonade.  Good luck this shed season, and we hope you find your fair share of white gold this spring!

Quick Note: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease?

Understanding the deer herd dynamics on your farm is critical for developing your hit list each and every year.  Unfortunately, deer diseases can sometimes play a role in determining how your hit list will shake out from year to year.  EHD is a disease that originates from insects that live in exposed mud flats along ponds, lakes, streams and rivers.  During extensively dry periods, EHD outbreaks can occur and can sometimes greatly reduce the deer population in a localized area.

Though most dead deer are found during the hunting season or while shed hunting, during an outbreak of EHD dead deer is often found throughout the summer months as well.  If you live in an area that has experienced weather conditions that would be conducive for an EHD outbreak, it would be beneficial for you to spend some time monitoring the water sources on your properties during and just after summer.  If you begin to find dead deer, especially bucks you may need to spend extra time monitoring trail cameras and determining what your hit list for the year may look like.  An outbreak of EHD can sometimes take years to recover from, and can certainly change your harvest strategy for the upcoming deer season.

Deer Feeders

Deer Feeders 101 | Deer Feeding Tips, Concerns, and Strategies

Tips, Concerns, Results, and Strategies Deer Feeders 101

Deer feeders create an interest for deer hunters, wildlife enthusiasts, and animal lovers alike. Whether it’s simply a wildlife feeder in the back yard, in the wood lot next door, or a vital piece of your deer management plan, chances are you will encounter the want/need to own a deer feeder at some point or another. Surprisingly, deer feeders come in a variety of sizes, designs, and uses. From the general wildlife feeder to a critical supplemental feeding program, deer feeders can certainly pull their weight no matter the use. Given such use, it’s respectable to put together a string of helpful information, tips, strategies, and uses. Welcome to deer feeders 101.

Deer Feeder: A tool used to supply feed, usually in the form of grain (corn) or a specially blended deer/wildlife feed for nutrition, to deer or wildlife in supplemental feed programs.

Why Feed Deer?

More often than not a deer feeder’s use occurs on the most basic level you can imagine. Simple and consistent corn feeding throughout the winter months appears to “help” deer and other wildlife through cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. In fact, feeding deer in the winter is a big concern for deer, deer managers, and many states. This is why it is included front and center in this article.

Intervention in the form of a couple hundred pounds of “deer corn” can spell disaster for deer.  This is why states all across the northern stretches of the country restrict or outlaw the use of bait and feeding of deer. Some of this concern undoubtedly stems from the possible negative outcomes of gathering large numbers of deer in one place…diseases being the concern. Have you heard of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)? That’s one of the big ones! However, another more likely concern that often goes unknown to the person supplying the feed is called acidosis. Acidosis occurs when ruminants (deer) consume large quantities of carbohydrates that are low in fiber, also known as corn toxicity. A deer’s diet during the winter consists of high fiber woody browse, not low fiber carbohydrates. With a sudden intake of grain, an increase and change in the microbial population in the rumen causes a fatal increase of lactic acid. Dehydration as a result of the buildup of lactic acid can be fatal in 24-72 hours.

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Photo: New Hampshire Fish and Game. Five of the twelve deer found dead due to winter feeding in N.H.

However, concern over acidosis is waved throughout the Midwest and in areas where deer are already consuming corn. The corn maze of states in the Midwest such as Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa have so much corn readily available (either standing or left behind from the combine) during the winter months that the deer’s rumen and microbial population is adjusted for feeding. This also is true for properties and programs where supplemental feed is already taking place.

The well-being of the wildlife and deer should always be taken into consideration first before your wants and needs of either supplementing nutrition or for simply observational purposes.

The Results of Supplemental Feeding

For the more advanced deer managers and deer hunters, supplemental feeding always looms in the back of the mind. The number one reason for interest in supplemental feeding is always centered around the obsession of antlers…at least for the most part. It is widely known now that age, nutrition, and genetics (in that order) are the important factors that determine antlers and a buck’s score. Age and nutrition in particular are what we as deer managers can actively manage. Age is simply managing your trigger finger and the ability to age deer on the hoof accurately, leaving nutrition as a 365 day a year obsession.

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Habitat, food plots, and supplemental feeding are all management efforts we as deer managers can continually improve it seems. For the point of this article we will focus on supplemental feeding.

The big question is “can a supplemental feeding program increase the size and score of the bucks on my property?”. The answer is yes it can. If you ask the question you can be sure a deer biologist or two have as well, and they have found the answers through research.

“A study in Texas found that bucks fed a 16% crude protein diet grew antlers that scored 20 inches higher Boone and Crockett, than did bucks fed 8% crude protein (Hamel et al. 1989)” – MSU Deer Lab.

Deer Feed Requirements

16% crude protein is the agreed upon percentage of protein intake that maximizes antler growth, however, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Often time feed containing 18-20% protein can help balance protein intake that is significantly lower in the other portions of the deer’s diet, when natural browse and protein levels of food plots/crops might dip below 16%. It also important to note that the protein requirements of deer depend on age. Mature adults do not need the higher protein requirements that fawns or young bucks need when developing. MSU Deer Lab.

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Other than protein, minerals are also a thought pertaining to deer feed. In general, macro-minerals and micro-minerals are fulfilled by vegetation or eating the soil in natural licks. However, when it comes to deer management, it is always best to be safe. Identifying limiting factors of a property such as cover, water, or food is easy. When it comes to minerals a generally safe approach is ensuring the deer feed of choice contains the basics. These are mainly calcium and phosphorous.

Deer Feeder Advantages and Design

Knowing that a supplemental feeding program supplies benefits to the herd, and knowing what deer feed should consist of, the focus can now be turned to the feeder itself. A deer feeder offers several advantages over simply placing feed on the ground. Why? By knowing what goes into deer feeder designs, you discover their advantages. Access to feed and protection of feed are the most obvious advantages. The original thought towards a feeding program is usually brought on by a hard winter, or by the need to create an attraction for your trail camera/hunting site. The next thought is in the process you are currently in…research! You are trying to find out exactly what deer feed to use, if supplemental feeding programs work, or you are looking for deer feeder designs. That last one…deer feeder designs is because you are thinking of building your own. Why not, right? Seeing as how this is deer feeders 101, we have arrived at the same conclusion…sure, why not? Here is what makes a great deer feeder design…or a checklist if you will, to what a feeder needs in order to be successful.

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  • Waterproof – Nothing is worse than soggy, spoiled, and molded feed.
  • Locking Lid – A locking lid gives you the satisfaction that the feed is not only waterproof but its safe from nuaisance animals.
  • Durable – it has to survive rough weather and some of the biggest raccoons that appear more bear-like than a raccoon.
  • Dispenser – A deer feeder needs a dispenser of some sort. This comes in the form of a port, a broadcaster (spinner), or a port/agitator.
  • Large Quantities – Feeders with large quantities equate to less time filling. This is less time on your part but also less pressure associated with the feeder.

Sure you can build one or go ahead and come the conclusion that buying a sturdy feeder will last longer and will inevitably be more successful. We offer a 200lb Gravity Feeder, and by design, it features everything it needs…simplified to be a very successful deer feeder.


Muddy 200 LB. Gravity Feeder | Muddy Outdoors Product

(Video) MGF200 Gravity Feeder is unlike any gravity deer feeder on the market. It features an adjustable spring-loaded dispenser and agitator. This feature keeps the feed broke up and dispensing while animals feed. The feed is lockable, and the lid is user friendly but cannot slide off like other feeders. If you are looking for a new gravity deer feeder, check out Muddy Outdoors.

Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting Accessories

PRODUCT FEATURES

  • Waterproof
  • Locking Lid
  • Spring-Loaded Dispenser and Agitator
  • Dispenser Easily Adjusts

PRODUCT SPECS

  • CONSTRUCTION: Steel
  • HEIGHT: 61” Fill Height, 42” Feed Height
  • CAPACITY: 200 Lbs./ 33 Gallons;
  • WEIGHT: 44 Lbs

Deer Feeder Strategies and Tips

If applicable, and if legal, these tips can be taken into consideration to either spike the efficiency of the feeder or the scenario of hunting over the feeder. Either way, these feeding tips excel the situation beyond a feeder sitting in a field! The diagram below helps paint the scene for your imagination.

 Deer Feeder Placement

Obviously, if you are in the research phase of either building or buying a deer feeder chances are you have a spot already picked out on your hunting property. What makes a “good spot” for a feeder? To start, high traffic areas are a must. However, you also have to factor in accessibility of a truck, ATV, or side-by-side that can reach the feeder. It is also important to think about what else should be paired with a feeder such as water, other food sources, security, proximity to bedding, and in states where it’s legal, your stand or blind. Another critical thought should be thrown in concerning human pressure. If the feeder is out in the open such as a large crop field or can be seen by someone driving on a road the anxiety of deer at the feeder will be high (not to mention potential poaching or theft problems). Keeping the feeder back in secluded, low anxiety areas can increase feeding and feeder success. Considering these factors can get a bit overwhelming so here is a list in order of how you should think about deer feeder placement.

  1. High traffic area
  2. Accessible via truck/ATV
  3. Human pressure/seclusion
  4. Ask yourself the question: “Does it work with my hunting strategy?”
  5. Proximity to other food sources
  6. Proximity to water
  7. Proximity to bedding

 

 

The diagram above is a common, or a slightly above average Midwest hunting property (the terrain and amount of timber is a blessing). As you can see, feeder site #1 utilizes all of the checklists and even goes above and beyond by integrating a bit of hunting strategy. Water, food sources, a plot screen, bedding areas, and access are all present allowing the site to be optimized for deer usage and traffic. You will also notice another feeder site…this is where hunting strategy really takes off.

Deer Feeders and Hunting Strategies

Even if your state does not allow hunting over bait you can still create the attraction and central hubs for deer socialization. These usually take the form of food plots and crop fields, but by adding other factors like water, feeders, scrapes, and minerals you can create an even more popular destination that imprints in the mind of the deer herd. This impression stays with a deer even well after the bait is removed. Hunting strategy in relation to deer feeders should focus on this aspect, again regardless of whether or not bait is legal to hunt over or not.

From the diagram, you can see two feeder/bait sites. By creating two “social hotspots” pivoting on food sources you can create hunting opportunities for two scenarios. The wind dictates hunting…period. Bow hunters live and die by this simple observation and strategy. By installing and running two feeder sites, one for north winds and one for south winds, you create hunting opportunities regardless of the prevailing wind. This reiterates the fact that there is much to think about before a deer feeder is placed and filled!

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Deer Feeder Site Necessities

What is the ideal set up for a feeder site? Think about the obvious needs. With deer coming in continuously the feeder makes the ideal site for trail cameras. Beyond cameras, it also is an ideal site to create the idea of “social hotspots”. Mineral blocks and scrapes are also items that can add to the attraction and usage of the feeder sites. When it comes to trail camera usage check out the blog below on Trail Camera Tips. It gives insight into the setup, settings, and tips for each scenario such as a camera over feed.

A couple more tips for feeding deer out of a feeder include two tips that can greatly help the success you achieve with a site. When filling/re-filling feeders, spread a bit of feed around the feeder…especially when you are introducing a feeder for the first time on a hunting property. Also be cautious of the scent, not for pressure but for nuisance animals. Take hand sanitizer or a field spray with you to spray your hands before going from the feeder to your trail camera. Feed scent on a trail camera could create enough interest for a raccoon to destroy the camera in search of more food!

Conclusion

Is a supplemental feed program beneficial for your deer and hunting? Yes. Can a deer feeder integrate and enhance your hunting strategy? Yes. Should you use a deer feeder on your hunting property? It depends… If you have the need or want for more attraction, can keep up with the demands of running a feeder, and have checked your state’s regulations on feeding deer then the answer is yes! Keep an eye out for more content on deer feeders and hunting strategy on the Get Muddy Blog.

Was this article on deer feeders 101 helpful? Leave a reply! Whether it’s a simple question or comment we would appreciate the feedback!

shed hunting

Increase Your Shed Hunting Success with Supplemental Feeders

How Supplemental Feeders Can Help With Shed Hunting

We’re sure you’re aware of it at this point, but shed hunting season is definitely here again. You’ve likely been getting text messages or social media updates from friends or coworkers who have found a couple shed antlers already. You’re also probably itching to get out in the woods and start looking yourself. Shed hunting can make for a really great day in the woods, but it’s always a little better when you actually find something. If you have snuck out a few times already but haven’t found anything, your luck is about to change by using these shed hunting tips. Using supplemental feeders, where legal, is a great way to provide a calorie boost for deer in your area, but it’s also a great way to concentrate your shed antler hunt. The best time for finding sheds is rapidly approaching across the country, so it’s time to consider this strategy if you’re not already.

Best Time for Shed Hunting

As we mentioned, this is just about prime time for shed hunting. People across the country have been heading afield and returning with brag-worthy deer sheds for a couple weeks now, but the action is about to really step up in most places. When to start shed hunting can be a tricky question to answer since it varies so much, but most people believe that February is the best month to find them. Technically, you could find them from December through March, but February is right in the average, sweet spot time frame for ideal shed hunting times. These trips also work well as far as post season scouting goes.

When To Shed Hunt

If you start shed hunting too aggressively and too early in the season, there is the possibility of spooking deer to other properties where they could shed their antlers instead. But if you wait too long to look, on the other hand, squirrels and mice will chew them up before you find them. If you primarily look on public land, other shed hunters could also beat you to it.  When to shed hunt is a balancing act and it always has its risks. One way to mitigate these risks is to only check out feeding areas early in the deer shed season and to be extremely stealthy while doing it. Deer will likely be bedded away from food sources, so you should be able to sneak in and check for sheds without disturbing them too much. As prime time comes, you can start pushing your search into bedding areas lightly, as most bucks should have shed their antlers at that point.

Best Places to Shed Hunt

Whitetails spend most of their time either resting in a bedding area or feeding in a feeding area. It makes sense then that you have the best chance at finding a shed antler in one of these two areas. Sometimes you can get lucky by finding one alongside a trail, but usually that only happens if a buck glances an antler off of a branch in the process.

But if you don’t have a winter food source available on your land, this can be a bit of a problem. That should be a goal to address this summer by producing some late-season food plots for the deer. But for now, there’s a way to feed and attract the deer to your property, and that’s where supplemental feeders for deer come in. Muddy Outdoors® has a 200 pound gravity deer feeder that will feed deer securely on your land. It has a waterproof lid with a locking mechanism and the spring-loaded pan system helps distribute supplemental feed only if an animal disturbs it.Feeders | Muddy Outdoors Hunting AccessoriesSupplemental feeders are attractive to deer because they offer a high-quality food source at a time when natural browse may be the only thing available to them. In addition, you get to choose what type of feed to use, whether you stick to simple cracked corn or high-protein feed specific for deer.

This concentration of deer feeding increases the chance that a buck would shed his antlers in the general vicinity. As he feeds off the pan system, he also might bump his antlers, separating them from his head in the process. While the Muddy Outdoors® feeder is not designed to be an antler trap, the support bars can act like one. In addition, you can hang a trail camera near the supplemental feeder and keep a watchful eye on the deer that come to it. When you notice the majority of bucks missing their head gear, you’ll know exactly when you should start really shed hunting hard and pushing into bedding areas.

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Caution with Supplemental Feeding

While the option above seems like a golden solution to your shed hunting woes, there are some cautions you should take before doing it. First, feeding deer may or may not be legal where you hunt. Check your state’s hunting regulations or call a game warden to see whether you can or cannot feed them. The concern that some agencies have is that it can concentrate deer activity into such a small area and increases the chances of deer making nose to nose contact. This might not sound like a big deal, but it can increase the chance of spreading transmissible diseases like Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) or others in prone areas.

Deer are curious animals in that their digestive system gets really good at digesting certain foods as the seasons change. For example, since woody browse is often the only food source in winter for many deer, their guts get really good at extracting everything it can from a mostly fibrous, low-nutrient food. When they rapidly switch over to eating mostly corn from a feeder, however, it can create confusion in the guts. The microorganisms aren’t there to really digest the corn, causing it to flow right through the system without giving any benefits. This essentially starves them. That being said, deer are adapted to different conditions across the country. Midwest whitetails near an abundance of corn fields will still probably eat enough corn that it won’t harm them to suddenly experience a feeder. But it’s a different story for big woods bucks that never see a kernel of corn. The key is to slowly introduce supplemental feeding so they don’t have the opportunity to essentially starve themselves. If you haven’t fed deer before and especially if you live in a primarily forested area, start introducing very small amounts in your feeder at first (e.g., 10 to 20 pounds) each week. If you slowly increase the amount you feed them each week, they should have time to develop their gut flora enough to digest the corn. Of course, time and cost are both considerations with supplemental feeding for deer. It takes time to fill a feeder each week, and the cost of keeping it stocked can be on the pricey side.

Is Supplemental Feeding Right for You?

This shed hunting season, consider whether supplemental feeding could be used on your property. For those it works for, it can be a really useful tool to pick up some extra deer antlers, and it can be a great way to concentrate those monster whitetail sheds you’ve been looking for.

Shed Hunting

Using Trail Cameras to Figure Out When to Start Shed Hunting

Increasing Your Odds at Shed Hunting with Trail Cameras

Deer hunting season has ended but another season is just starting. This season has tremendous interest right now, making it a sport all of its own. We are talking about shed hunting and its season is starting right now.

Whitetail deer sheds command huge paydays for those that find large and unique racks and are willing to part with them. More so, shed hunting has moved from a hobby, or an accidental encounter to the weekend hunter, to a necessity as more landowners take deer management seriously on their properties. Sheds also make for a nice trophy on the wall of that buck you have chased all season and expended time and resources for, even if you were unable to harvest him. Sheds also provide a record of what bucks have made it through and some information on what this season may potentially yield.

The Biology behind Antler Shedding

 To understand antler shedding, we have to start with some groundwork on what buck antlers are. Antlers are composed of bone-like tissue that starts developing in early spring. The growth phase of antler development, which goes from early summer until fall, is where a buck’s antlers are covered in a soft membrane referred to as velvet. This velvet is a layer of nutrient rich blood vessels that supplies the resources needed to build the antler mass. The nutrients, such as amino acids, minerals, proteins and others, are what many hunters and landowners try to supplement throughout the summer to promote this growth and thus yield bigger antlers.

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Antlers will growth rapidly for two to four months. As fall approaches, due to photoperiods, the levels of testosterone start to increase. The increase in testosterone constricts the blood vessels around the antlers and eventually causes it to die. Remaining velvet falls off or more typically is rubbed off as a buck begins to prepare for the rut. What are left are the hardened antlers we are so interested in during deer season. Antlers stay with a buck until about the middle of winter then they drop off. This antler growth process is repeated each year for the buck’s entire life.

The antler shedding (casting) part of this cycle brings us to the biology behind shedding. The process, both the growth and casting of antlers, is controlled by photoperiods and testosterone. However, there are many factors that lead to either early antler drop or late drop such as injury and social stress. Often times these factors do not hold a significant role, which is why the shedding process happens generally the same time of year each year. The main for this again is the amount of light, or photoperiod, available at a given point in the year. During antler growth, testosterone levels rise (antler growth) towards a peak (loss of velvet) and eventually decline into as winter sets in, which signals the physiological response of antler shedding. To complete the cycle, daylight starts to increase as spring and early summer arrives and bucks begin their new antler growth.

When Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Traditionally, shed hunting season starts in February and wraps up around the end of March. Certainly, sheds can be found throughout the year and usually can be picked up during spring gobbler season if the rodents have not consumed them all yet. However, the main focus of shed hunting is in these two months.

While testosterone is the main factor controlling antler drop, there are several factors that can have an impact on how these testosterone levels can change. The stress put on a buck from environmental conditions such as extreme winter weather and also contributing factors like poor nutrition or injury can all lead to lower levels of testosterone and accordingly expedite the timing of when bucks shed antlers.

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Bucks that shed their antlers earlier than February are typically more mature, dominant bucks. These bucks are apt to shed early because their dominance gets them more involved in the rut earlier and for a longer period of time than younger, less mature bucks. Due to this, they can be left depleted after the rut and stressed to a point where antler loss happens earlier than other bucks in a region.

Conversely, late antler drop can be influenced by several different causes. First, unbalanced deer populations can create an atmosphere where some does do not get bred during the peak of the rut. In these highly skewed deer populations, does are being bred during the second rut and beyond. Bucks hold their testosterone levels up in these areas, which leads to them delaying the shedding of their antlers until late March or April. Second, first-year fawns that reach breeding weight their first winter will come into estrous. This usually happens well after the peak rut and is the main driver of the second rut in many places. Again, situations like these will keep bucks high in testosterone longer, delaying the shedding process. Finally, high levels of competition for does can cause late antler shedding. Mature bucks that have to spare more frequently to breed does produce more testosterone, which results in a later loss of antlers.

Reasons to be Shed Hunting This Year

Besides the fact that finding sheds can be profitable if you are good at it, there are other reasons to be shed hunting this year. First, finding shed antlers can give you some information about the buck that carried them. The most obvious fact is that he is still alive. Sure, a buck that shed those antlers may still have a misfortune in the coming months but making it past hunting season is the biggest challenge. Aside from car collisions and a disease outbreak, the odds are pretty good whatever buck left those antlers will be around come next season.

In contrast, dropped antlers do not always connect to that buck living in the area. Finding a shed clearly shows that a buck has passed through here but depending on food availability, weather conditions and other factors, he may or may not be a resident buck. In areas with high-quality forage and lots of it, bucks stick around. The opposite is true when harsh winters reduce food sources and poor habitats that make bucks more transient. This is where post season scouting for deer is important. Finding a shed can help you focus post season scouting on potential hunting spots for next year.

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Second, spending time shed hunting is important for deer management on a property. Those that shed hunt religiously can start to put together the growth trajectory of individual bucks. Finding the same buck’s sheds year after year can piece together what he may look like this coming year. Growth rates will vary each year but by scoring an antler shed, even just one side, and comparing that score to last year’s shed of the same buck can give you an average growth rate. This is an advantage in compiling, albeit early, a hit list for the upcoming season.

The Big Question | When to Start Shed Hunting on Your Property?

Since we are on the precipice of shed hunting 2017, when can you be sure it is time to venture out and look for sheds on your property? The best way to decide when to go shed hunting is to use trail cameras.

Trail cameras provide a means to monitor the timing of antler drop in your area. You can use cameras to pinpoint when most of the bucks have dropped their horns. Also, trail cameras can track a specific buck to find that white gold set that eluded you during hunting season. With trail cameras, you can scout an entire property and even multiple properties quickly and determine when to go shed hunting makes sense.

Shed hunting success is all about coverage. The more miles you put on the ground the greatest chance you will stumble across shed antlers. Trail cameras, however, can save you valuable time. When to shed hunt should be based on when the majority of bucks have started dropping. Use your cameras to identify when about 50% of bucks have lost their horns. Your odds of finding sheds will be much greater when you know most bucks have lost their horns.

Post Season Trail Camera Surveys vs. Shed Hunting Scouting

Similar to why you should be shed hunting, post season trail camera surveys are a way to find out what is the overall status of the deer herd in your area. The most efficient way to accomplish this is by running a trail camera survey.

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A post season trail camera survey provides more valuable information than summer trail camera surveys. Results with surveys this time of year can be used for determining population estimates, age structure, sex ratios and herd health after the hunting season. All of which drive what management actions are needed this year.

The differences between a post season trail camera survey and using trail cameras for shed hunting are how the cameras are setup.

Post Season Trail Camera Survey Setup

  • 1 trail camera per 100 acres. Ideal but use your best judgment based on topography and how you have observed deer movements in the past.
  • 1 photo burst with a 5-minute The most important setting when conducting a trail camera survey.
  • Run the survey for approximately 3 weeks before pulling the cameras and proceeding with the analysis. 1 pre-bait week, and 2 weeks of actual data, making sure bait is present at the site during the whole 3 week period.

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 Trail Camera Setup for Shed Hunting

  • Scatter trail cameras in the best places for finding sheds like food sources and bedding areas. Often trail camera density goes over 1/100 acres. This is in order to get more encounters and pictures over the entire property
  • Use a 3-8 photo burst or video setting on your Muddy Pro-Cam 12 to narrow down which bucks are shedding and to identify bucks vs. does once shed.
  • Run survey until the last buck has shed and check trail cameras every few days to determine when to go shed hunting.

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Best Places to Hang Trail Cameras for Shed Hunting

Positioning trail cameras for shed hunting is very much related to where you would place tree stands for late season hunting. This time of year bucks have reduced their core area with a focus on three main aspects; food, cover and security. Knowing this can narrow down two main areas to concentrate your trail cameras for shed hunting.

Food sources are key areas for deer in winter and one of the best places to shed hunt. Even though bucks are moving less and relying on fat reserves, they still seek out places that have late season forage. Food sources like standing corn, beans and winter food plots will all be attracting deer. Deploy trail cameras on main deer trails coming to these spots to capture bucks as they shed their antlers. If there are no remaining agricultural food sources, do not give up. The main part of a deer’s diet in winter is woody browse. Use deer sign like tracks and scat to pick out these areas as potential spots for trail cameras and ultimately shed hunting.

The trails leading to food sources are likely coming from bedding areas. If you are trying to determine where to find sheds, start with bedding areas. Bedding areas are providing cover and security in winter. Bucks will spend most of their day in these areas. Southern slopes with thermal cover and easy access to food sources outlined above are perfect locations to place trail cameras and hunting for sheds.

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Putting It All Together

There are numerous shed hunting tips out there but it really comes down to dedicating yourself to shed hunting. It is a combination of an art and a science. The art is taking your time, covering ground and being able to pick out even the slightest protruding part of an antler on the ground. Where the science comes in is using trail cameras to time the shed hunting season and to isolate the most likely places bucks are hanging out in winter. Combining these two will put more antlers in your pack and support your management decisions this season.

When do whitetail deer shed antlers? It is happening right now! There are some people out there that are naturals at shed hunting. If you are like most, however, you need some help when it comes to shed hunting season. It is ok to hike through the woods in the hope that you will find sheds, but a better approach is to have a plan. Using trail cameras to identify when to start shed hunting and areas that bucks are frequenting will vastly improve your odds when it comes to searching for white gold.

Tips on Scouting for Deer in the Post Season

Post Season Scouting for Deer Strategies

 

How many hunters suit back up immediately after the last day of deer season to start scouting for deer? Days after the season there are probably only a handful of hunters who would. A couple weeks after the end of the season and the numbers probably start jumping up. Why? Burnt out, tired, cold, or just needing to simply get the honey do’s done, hunters often start thinking about deer again after a short break. And they should! As the offseason arrives post season deer scouting is what successful hunters know they must do. They are maximizing their time to document deer sign, find bedding areas, and survey what bucks have survived all in an effort to select the best locations for their tree stands for next year.

 

Although it takes a certain amount of will and excitement to get back into the woods right after a tough deer season, successful or not, in winter conditions, late season scouting for deer will surely improve your odds for next year. Mature bucks that have survived will have one more year of experience under their belts making them that much wiser next deer season, which means your tactics need to evolve as well!

 

Whitetail 101 Episode 19 from Muddy’s Trophy Pursuit on Vimeo.

 

 

Why Scouting for Deer in the Post Season is Worth It

Deer scouting should not only be a late summer and early fall activity. The amount of knowledge you obtain while scouting in the winter is many times more than you can gather in August or the days leading up to archery season. There are three reasons the post season is when to start scouting for deer.

 

The first is the possibility of snow on the ground. In more northern states, snow accelerates the scouting process. You can cover lots of ground and use tracks in the snow to identify deer movement. Deer trails that may be otherwise unnoticed during summer are clearly visible. Sure, main trails are obvious when scouting in summer but smaller, side trails are the ones big boys are using to get around. These offshoots, which are highly visible in winter, are places to mark for possible tree stand locations next fall. In addition, following trails may lead to undiscovered bedding areas that are ideal for stand placements for hunting late season bucks.

 

The second advantage to late season whitetail scouting is bumping deer is not a season ender. Trekking through the woods in the post season has little effect on deer. In contrast, pushing some deer days before the first day of archery can be detrimental to your season. In fact, running into deer while winter scouting can open up some areas to further explore that you may have otherwise passed by.

 

Often finding rubs during deer season is a good sign if you already have tree stands deployed, but scouting rub lines for a new spot during the season is risky. A third advantage to scouting for deer in the post season is being able to explore rub lines in more detail. The good news is the rubs have not gone anywhere since the rut, but there is a possibility that the buck has moved on or been harvested. Finding fresh tracks in the snow along with this year’s and older rub lines is a scouting technique used to pinpoint a holdover buck’s core area. Scout out the area and find some stand locations for next season.

 

Northern vs. Southern Late Season Scouting for Deer

 

Shockingly, there are differences in deer herds in more northern states versus deep southern states. In northern areas with hard winters, deer will herd up in places they may not typically go during deer season. For example, deep snow and frigid temperatures will undoubtedly send deer to dense stands of conifers where there is protection from the winter weather. Finding these spots while scouting is nice but clearly, post season scouting for deer in these areas will yield little potential for tree stands come next deer season.

 

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In more southern states with less severe winters, scouting after the season can provide a clear picture of deer patterns. Pressured bucks are now back to normal activities and finding deer sign is a good indication of where to hang a tree stand for the upcoming deer season.

 

Post Season Scouting Tips for Deer

In order to see deer tracks in the snow or examine a rub line, you have to put boots on the ground. Let’s face it, that is scouting and in the winter it can be challenging. In order to maximize the value in scouting for deer in the post season, here are five post season scouting tips to get a head start on next year’s deer season.

 

  1. Digital Scouting First

    The more time inside the less you will be cold when scouting in winter. With digital aerial images, you can quickly pick out dense cover and changing forest types that may hold deer. Using mapping software, especially for scouting on public lands, will save you time and help to narrow down areas to scout on foot.

 

  1. Start Big and End Small

    Scouting for deer in winter, as we discussed, has its advantages. With snow on the ground, you can cover large swaths of land looking for deer sign. Once you find areas that have potential like those with rubs, tracks, food and cover all adjacent, mark these areas and spend additional time scouting here. Now you have smaller areas to assess and think about for potential spots for stands.

 

  1. Always Scout the Food

    Food sources are the main areas of deer activity in winter and primary locations for tree stands during hunting season. Agricultural fields, oaks and early growth timber are places to find deer in the winter. When scouting food sources in the winter, think about annual patterns and how deer will be using those areas at different times of the season. Concentrate your post season deer scouting along the edges near what deer are eating in the late season. Identify trails coming and going from food sources as places for hanging tree stands to cut them off from bedding areas.

 

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  1. Use Buck Sign

    Buck rubs are easy to pick out while scouting in winter. Single rubs are nice but do not tell you much about patterning a buck. Usually, a single rub is done out of frustrating or because he just felt like it. More important are a series of rubs (a rub line), which are the link to closing in on a buck’s core area. Find old rubs mixed in and you know you are scouting an area with a potential mature buck.

 

  1. Scouting Truck Hotspots

    On public land, try to remember where you have seen the concentrations of trucks parked this past deer season. Hunters are there for a reason and post season deer scouting is a great time to find out why. This is a way to unlock new potential hunting areas or also determine if adjacent hunters may be affecting your tree stand locations.

 

Scouting for deer in the post season can be a game changer. Do you want to know the secret to getting on big bucks year after year? It is post season deer scouting. Patterning deer is much more productive in winter than in early fall. With these post season scouting tips, you can get a jump start on next year’s deer season.

What Do Deer Eat During the Late Season?

How to: What Do Deer Eat During the Late Season?

 

This video dives straight into finding out the answer to the question: What do deer eat during the late season? While this is a very basic question, the more advanced tactic of looking at a deer’s stomach answers the question. This process offers very valuable intel when it comes to hunting. Figuring out what a deer’s diet consists of regarding the late season food sources on your property, can help you determine where bucks might be patterned. Looking into a deer’s stomach contents can show you not only where to find deer at, but where to hunt, where to hang your trail cameras, and where to concentrate your late season efforts on.

What Do Deer Eat in the Late Season? | Trail Cameras Weekly “Week 10”

By opening up the stomach of a deer that is killed on your property, or by a neighbor nearby, you can quickly determine what late season food sources your deer are concentrating on your property. This video shows you two stomachs, one from a doe in Indiana, and another of a buck Steve Smolenski killed in Pennsylvania.  It is important to remember, the property’s habitat and available food sources greatly diversify the results from analyzing the stomach contents. Every property is different, this is why it is a very successful tactic!

A Deer’s Stomach

There is more to this than simply slicing the stomach to find the answer to, “what do deer eat”. Deer are ruminants and have a four-chambered stomach.

what-do-deer-eat-late-season_pic1The Rumen where deer store their food as they eat serves as a mechanism to allow deer to quickly eat large quantities of food without much chewing. This is a trait that helps limit the time they are exposed to predators. When they get back to a safe bedding area they proceed to re-chew this food or chew their fermented slightly digested “cud” going into the second chamber of the stomach the Reticulum, where the majority of microorganisms of a deer stomach really start to work. From there it moves to the Omasum the third chamber where water is absorbed, then proceeds to the final chamber the Abomasum where the food is further digested…Now why is this important? For the most part you will be able to easily identify what food sources they ate in the first chamber the rumen, and for the most part the second chamber. After you move on towards the final chamber it gets obviously harder.

Timeline?

By opening up stomach we can actually identify what the deer has eaten. Now you may be wondering how big of a timeline does it give us?

The answer assures us that this process is very high quality and accurate intel. From the time a deer eats to the time it passes through and comes out the other end, most of the material (about 80 %) takes only 48 hours to go through. This means during anytime regardless of harvest the gut pile and stomach contents will actually at least the last day or so of feeding. There is much to take into consideration after this as some food sources digest much faster than others.

While you can certainly see what the deer has eaten in the past 12 hours, you cannot determine when they ate food sources due to the vast range of different digestibility. AKA winter rye and species like clover digest easily compared to woody browse and mast such as white oak acorns. This is why It is important to understand what you are looking at before making any assumptions or conclusions.

So What are They Eating?

After the point when you identify the rumen and least digested contents of the stomach, you can pick apart the contents and try and apply percentages, or a conclusion to where the deer on this property are spending their time feeding.

 The Buck:

what-do-deer-eat-late-season_pic2

The buck’s stomach contents revealed most visibly corn, but you have to realize this is probably only 20-30% of the contents. It just happens to be the most visible and easily identified. 60-70% or the majority of the stomach contents were grasses and forbs, with about half being winter wheat in the surrounding cover cropped ag fields. They also witnessed a basic estimate of 10% woody browse. There were no food plot species or acorns in the stomach. This directly reflected what food sources were available and not available on the property this year as Steve’s property does not hold food plots or a vast amount of oaks.

The Doe:

what-do-deer-eat-late-season_pic3doe

Now this doe is a different story. The property has popcorn (which shatters more easily once eaten and is far less desirable than regular corn) many oaks and acorns, several areas of early successional growth ( woody browse) and of course the large winter rye cover cropped AG fields that were discussed last week on Trail Cameras Weekly. The percentages come out to be roughly 20-30% corn and acorns, 60-70% Winter rye/grasses and forbs, and an estimated 10 % of woody browse.

It is important to remember these are roughly estimated numbers but they do closely resemble what a deer’s diet and nutritional needs are this time of year. The graph below is taken from Nutritional Requirements of White-tailed Deer in Missouri produced by the Extension Department of the University of Missouri.

what-do-deer-eat-late-season_pic4

As you can see the average percentages between fall and winter roughly fall in line with the percentages the hunters witnessed in the stomach contents of the two deer killed in December.

Conclusion

Over the course of the next week or so, if the hunting is slow, take a doe for the freezer or for management purposes, or just try and examine the stomach contents of a deer killed on or near your property. Do not waste the gut pile! Often times this is a far more accurate representation of what your late season food sources are, how much time your deer are spending in the food sources, and where you might want to think about hunting as the temperature starts to fall! If you are asking “what do deer eat in the late season” take it into your own hand to find the answer!

 

late season deer hunting tips | Muddy Outdoors

Late Season Deer Hunting | Your Preparation Starts Now

Late Season Deer Hunting Preparation

The trees have shed their leaves, and now a cold, gray, and bleak look has overtaken the once beautiful, burnt orange woods. The arrival of grim, dull, and cold days may seem like an awful end to your already painful deer season, however, you shouldn’t throw the towel just yet. While the rest of the season may look pretty bleak, late season deer hunting can actually be laden with opportunities. This blog will help you prepare for the late season before it ramps up to its full potential.

What is the Late Season?

When the intense action of the rut subsides we are left with a long drawn out period of desperation. A buck’s reserves are depleted, they are slim after the energy loss of the rut giving them a strong need and urge to find a reliable resource. After November, when the cold temperatures of December and January hit this late season period begins. The number one thing on everyone’s mind (both hunters and deer) is food.

Patterning a Buck for the Late Season
On this episode, Bill Winke discusses patterning a buck for the late season. The rut is over, and once again whitetails are focusing on food!

 

Late Season Food Sources

So what are the late season food sources that you should look out for?

  1. Standing Beans and Corn – Soybean food plots, Corn plots, or corn/beans on leased cropland that have simply yet to be cut and are still standing can become a critical attraction and food sources in the late season and in winter.
  2. Brassicas- Brassicas is another name for plant species such as turnips, radishes, and rape, common late season food sources that can be major attractants if enough acreage is planted.
  3. Cereal Grains – Winter rye, wheat, and oats can be in the form of cover crops, and are common late season food plots that can offer deer a green buffet as the cold temperatures arrive.
  4. Acorns– On good mast years there can be a bounty of acorns still left in the woods come the late season.
  5. Browse- Early successional species such as blackberries, black raspberries, greenbrier, and various saplings are critical food in the winter months. Areas of disturbance or overgrown pastures offering cover and food should not be overlooked.

Once you identify and find a late season food source on your property, then it is time for the next step in preparation…setting up your trail cameras.

Trail Camera Tips For Late Season

Your biggest concern before the best days of the late season arrive should be your trail cameras. Cold temps force deer to hit food early in the afternoons, which can bring mature bucks out in daylight. This daily pattern once the cold temperatures arrive and stay can become one of the best opportunities of the year at a mature buck. But not without the help of trail cameras. This is the week to change up your trail camera strategy, setup new camera spots and adjust the settings from rut focused to late season focused. With food being the focus our trail camera tips take the form of what they were during the early season… check out the trail camera tips below to dial in on a mature buck’s pattern.

Trail Camera Tips for the Late Season

 

Time-Lapse

The first and most dependable is the time-lapse function on a trail camera. For this function you want to have a camera with great quality, the Muddy Pro Cam 12s have 12-megapixel images so they work great for the late season.

Setup: To hang the camera you simply hang the camera where it can clearly see the whole field. You want a good vantage and one very important tip is not facing the setting sun

Settings: For the settings on the camera you want to have the function set to the last 1-2 hours of daylight and a photo every 30 seconds to a minute. Make sure you have a big memory card, a 16gb will do fine.

Notes: By doing this, it allows you to survey how many, and which deer are using the food source during legal hunting times, and it also can help you pinpoint mature bucks patterns…and where to hang the second camera for late season Intel!

Late Season Funnels

By identifying the bedding area and looking at the topography, in consideration to the food source you will be able to clearly see where the most traffic is coming into and out of the field. By setting a game camera on these late season funnels, and using the same setup and settings as we did during the rut, we can more easily track a buck’s movement.

Setup: Set the trail camera up at a 45-degree angle from the run or funnel.

Settings: A long video mode, or 6-8 photo burst with a short 10-second delay

Notes: This setup gives you intel during the night, which the time-lapse function does not, potentially revealing just after dark movements telling you that you should move towards the bedding area to catch a buck during daylight.

By finding the main late season food source on your property, following these trail camera tips for the late season, and put together what you already know about a buck you can start gathering intel on a buck’s pattern before the temps get cold. Stay out of the food sources until those cold temps hit, and you have enough intel to make a move on a buck. As we progress through the late season remember these tips, and be careful not to over pressure your food source.

This is just the beginning of the late season, be sure to check back in each week for new relevant content!

hunting the rut lockdown phase | Muddy Outdoors

Hunting The Rut Lockdown Phase

Tips for Hunting the Rut Lockdown Phase

To suggest that there are phases of rut is ridiculous. The pre-rut, rut, rut lockdown, post rut, and second rut. To think you can delineate each one of the phases of the rut apart from each other into a particular set of days or weeks is hopeful at best. In theory, it is a great way for so-called experts of the industry to describe deer activity to your everyday hunter. The biggest problem in this delineation is that it does not describe deer activity 100% like it seems it should do. Rather a complex algorithm is at play, fluctuating deer activity a different way for every property. Sex ratios, weather, hunting pressure, property layout, acorn production, and crop status all have drastic effects on deer activity during all “phases” of the rut. While each phase paints a clear picture, it is never 100% accurate due to these reasons. However, If one phase above all was particularly spot on it would be during this week. This week the Midwest, in general, is experiencing peak breeding. Hunting the rut just got tough due to the rut lockdown!

November So Far…And In The Future?

Up to this point, November hunting has been what is expected during November. Chasing, seeking, cruising, and a steady stream of bucks and does coming by the stand. The onset of warm temperatures during much of the first half of November slowed things down, but just recently the floodgates opened. Cooler temps and the first frosts have hit, bucks were on their feet, the rut is in full swing.

Trophy Pursuit S5 E31, “The Chase is On” | Rut Hunting

As you can see in this week’s episode of Trophy Pursuit, the chasing, cruising, and daylight movement by mature bucks was easy to take advantage of. This opportunity was easily exploited by hunting with strategies and tactics unique to rut hunting. These rut hunting strategies and tactics were clearly outlined in our last blog Rut Hunting 101.

To summarize some of the best takeaways from the blog we have provided some of its information.

When To Hunt

The Morning:

  • Bucks will seek out does around bedding areas
  • Focus on where does will be bedding after they return from feeding
  • Pick a stand location on the downwind side of the bedding area
  • Access the stand from the opposite side of the food source

The Evening:

  • Does are still feeding in open area, for the most part, bringing the bucks with them
  • Both the morning and the evening is based on does and where they are feeding or where they go after they feed.
  • Hunt a funnel or an edge of a feeding source
  • Do not walk on, or across the main run or section deer will access the area with, keep your scent away from the trail

Trail Camera Tips for the Rut

Remember these settings and tips when you are setting up trail cameras for the rut!

  • Location: where the does will be (food sources, doe bedding areas, transition areas between food and bedding)
  • Setup: At a 45-degree angle from the run, trail, or funnel. High to avoid spooking bucks.
  • Settings: long video ( 1 minute +) or series of multiple photo bursts (6-8 ) with a short delay ( < 10 seconds)

From: Trail Camera Tips For The Rut

So why is this important? If you have ever looked at a bell curve you would understand. The action was hot during the first part of November, but as we approach the middle of November we approach the lockdown. After the lockdown phase of the rut passes, we start descending on the bell curve meaning the action heats up again. Bucks start looking for does again, start desperately seeking, and again opportunities are present for the taking.

What Is the Lockdown?

The lockdown phase of the rut occurs when the majority of does come into estrus. Why? The gestation period of a whitetail is right around 198 days, meaning timing the conception perfectly, times the fawn’s birth perfectly. This aligns fawn drop right when spring arrives where an explosion of growth means quality food, quality cover, and nutritious milk. The arrival of peak breeding is determined and brought on by photoperiod. This is why the rut, or peak breeding happens on the same dates each year regardless of weather and moon phase.

This can be a dramatic event for hunters. When the majority of does suddenly come in bucks go on lockdown! Bucks will lay up with does for usually 24-48 hours. To some, this is not enough time for a hunter to realize the buck is laid up, but then again it is. Put yourself in the scenario. It’s November 15th, high pressure, hard frost, a slight 3 mph wind….a day that should result in a lot of deer movement. Instead, the day results in a yearling and button buck…not at all what you expected. Why? So many does are available, that literally every 3.5, 4.5, and 5.5 years old + is lockdown with a doe that day and perhaps the next.

Hunting The Rut Lockdown Phase

It’s a blessing and a curse. The lockdown phase comes in dramatically but exits the same. Hunting the rut lockdown isn’t necessarily hard. You have to concentrate in the right areas for hunting and simply wait it out. On any day, and at any time during the lockdown phase, a buck can come off of a doe. Here are two videos that help supply information on hunting the rut lockdown.

Whitetail 101 S1 E13, “Hot Doe or Bust” | Rut Lockdown

The overall advice in this week’s Whitetail 101 is to stay away from the feeding areas and start working your hunts towards doe bedding areas. Does that are out feeding have most likely already been breed and are simply staying away from bedding areas as they are avoiding being pushed around by bucks. Touching on this further with the concept of the “hot doe or bust” is this week’s trail cameras weekly episode.

Hunting The Rut Lockdown | Trail Cameras “Weekly Week 7”

Again, this episode not only touches the concept that hunting the rut lockdown means that on any day and at any time a buck can come off a doe. This means all day sits could prove successful. This also means bucks will desperately seek does once they come off a doe, and after peak breeding slows. Also know that during this time a doe can pull a buck anywhere at any time, meaning your rut hunting strategies and tactics like hunting funnels and bedding areas are still creating opportunities. This episode proves the concept as Jeremy Flinn encounters a hot doe with a buck locked in.

Conclusion

Hunting the rut lockdown will only last a short period. It is important to not only keep hunting during this time, but to hunt the right areas. Hunting does, as far as funnels and doe bedding areas go is a more successful tactic for hunting bucks during any other time during the rut.

For more deer hunting videos and weekly hunting, web shows like this visit Muddy TV. Also be sure to check in every week for new hunting tips, tactics, and strategies at Muddy’s Blog.