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GRANT: Scouting for velvet antlers is one of our favorite summer activities. And this week Adam and Matt head out to see if they can find some hit list bucks.
GRANT: Our nation will celebrate Independence Day soon and I hope you take time, given the current political climate, to realize that our founding fathers did an outstanding job of crafting a nation that allows us to be safe and successful. Those original documents they wrote, including the Constitution, is still the foundation for our safety and success. This week I hope you’ll join the Woods family and thank God for the privilege of living in the USA.
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GRANT: Even though the temperatures have been above normal, it’s likely deer are gonna feed during the daylight hours, given the long day length. In fact, June 20th was the longest day of the year. We had over 14 hours of sunshine here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: That day Adam and Matt went out knowing there’s a good chance of seeing deer moving before dark.
GRANT: Adam opted to go to a plot we call Tracy’s Field where my youngest daughter, Rae, has tagged several bucks during the past years. There’s a Redneck blind in the south end of Tracy’s Field and it’s positioned so we can see Tracy’s Field and another food plot across the creek we call Blue Hole. Both of these plots are planted in Eagle Seed forage soybeans and Adam was confident he’d have some action.
GRANT: Matt headed to a plot we call Raleigh’s Field. It’s one of our favorite plots to scout for bucks during the summer. In fact, a couple of summers ago, Adam first identified a buck we named July while summer scouting in that plot. And later on, he tagged that buck two ridges to the south.
GRANT: With all of the history we have at Raleigh’s Field, it was no problem encouraging Matt to sweat it out in the sun and the heat – watching for bucks just before dark.
GRANT: It didn’t take long for Adam to see some deer to the south of him in the Blue Hole food plot.
GRANT: It seems – especially during the summer – it’s usually young bucks that enter the plot first.
GRANT: It’s encouraging to see this two year old buck and even some longbeards that survived the spring.
GRANT: A while later, another young buck entered Tracy’s Field.
GRANT: As the action was slowing down for Adam, it was just enough for Matt.
GRANT: Matt was enjoying watching a doe feed on the soybeans when he spotted a young buck entering the field.
GRANT: Finally – one of the bucks Matt’s been waiting for.
GRANT: This guy has several characteristics of a mature buck. His chest is deep enough that his legs appear short. His neck merges with his brisket and his body is significantly larger than the younger buck that was in the field.
GRANT: These deer are really working over the Eagle Seed forage soybeans. These bucks fed for quite some time as Matt enjoyed the show.
GRANT: Just before dark, a fawn entered the field. Fawns are just as important as mature bucks because they're the hope for future hunts.
GRANT: Velvet antlers, fawns and growing soybeans are all sights we really enjoy during the summer months.
GRANT: The higher than normal temperatures so far this growing season and the lack of rain has made growing conditions very difficult for critters.
GRANT: Unfortunately, this is a familiar sight. You may recall that in 2011 and 2012 this pond went dry and we experienced a wicked drought here at The Proving Grounds. In fact, 2012 there was a big outbreak of EHD, Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease, throughout the Midwest – which is drought cycle related.
GRANT: Here we are in late June and we’re experiencing a similar drought already. It’s early morning and there’s a little dew out. But if I reach a few feet away from this pond basin and grab some clover, it’s all stemmy and the leaves are very leathery. There’s simply no moisture for this plant to take up.
GRANT: Here in the pond basin, these soils have obviously held a little bit more moisture and this aquatic vegetation is heavily browsed. In fact, I believe every stem in here is browsed. It’s more palatable than the dry clover a couple of feet away.
GRANT: During these conditions, we often find the best vegetation and the most deer activity in shady areas where the forage has not evaporated as much moisture as it does in direct sunshine.
GRANT: That also goes to a bigger landscape – like on the north side of slopes where there’s not direct sunshine – and that vegetation holds more moisture compared to flat areas or especially south and west facing slopes.
GRANT: Most food plots are in flat areas for the safety of the equipment operators. And in those areas, it’s getting direct sunshine and a lot of moisture is being lost through evaporation.
GRANT: But in our native vegetation areas on the north slopes, they still look fairly green and lush because they're holding more moisture and we’ve noticed a lot of deer browsing in those areas. Native vegetation tends to be extremely drought resistant and can carry a deer herd during these tough times.
GRANT: The drought throughout the Midwest scares me – not only for growing conditions, but also the likelihood of another outbreak of EHD.
GRANT: EHD or Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease is commonly known as Blue Tongue or HD or lots of names throughout the whitetails’ range. And it’s a bad disease that’s spread deer to deer by biting flies.
GRANT: These biting flies are not large like deer flies or house flies we swat. These are very small – almost microscopic flies.
GRANT: The widespread drought during 2012 not only had deer spending a lot of time during daylight scavenging for the remaining food, but also resulted in a lot of deer dying throughout much of the whitetails’ range.
GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds, we estimate about a third of our population died because of EHD.
GRANT: The reason EHD is so bad during droughts is because the breeding habitat for these flies is mud or exposed bank where water has recently receded. So during the drought, there’s more breeding habitat and therefore, more flies.
GRANT: During the drought, the problem is compounded. Obviously, there is fewer water sources during the drought and more flies. The deer are attracted to the fewer water sources. Typically, there will be more deer at a water source because these sources are so limited. And it’s easy for a fly that seeks a blood meal – that’s how they feed, getting a blood meal – to go to a deer that’s sick, bite it – actually get some blood on their teeth. If you look under a microscope, their teeth are like big ole daggers. Then go to another deer. So, it’s transmitting the disease deer to deer by these flies seeking a blood meal.
GRANT: EHD has been studied for over five decades. And we know a lot about it. As more and more people know about it, they want to find ways to combat it and offset it. There’s all kinds of advertisements and stuff saying, “Use this product and we’ll limit EHD.” To my knowledge, nothing’s worked to date. I sure hope something comes out.
GRANT: People have even tried spraying around ponds with fly insecticides and other things. Those are usually harsh chemicals. And again, I’ve never heard of a success story by using those chemicals. So, don’t pollute the water with those chemicals and let nature run its course.
GRANT: EHD has been studied for over five decades and the great thing about it is we have a perfect history of deer herds always rebounding after EHD.
GRANT: I have not heard of any EHD outbreaks so far during 2016. But if it doesn’t rain soon, these drought conditions expand throughout the Midwest – it’s likely to be another year where we lose some deer to EHD.
GRANT: As bad as EHD sounds, there’s some good news. It’s been studied for more than five decades. And there’s never been an outbreak of EHD that wiped out a local deer population. It can certainly knock ‘em down. But leave ‘em alone for a couple of hunting seasons, reduce the harvest and they repopulate the area rapidly. The same as what happened here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: There has been a lot of news about CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease, during 2016. And the two diseases – EHD and Chronic Wasting Disease – are totally different.
GRANT: CWD, Chronic Wasting Disease, is 100% fatal. There’s never been a deer known to have CWD and survive. Big difference. If a disease is 100% fatal, there’s nothing left to rebuild the herd.
GRANT: Deer don’t die rapidly from CWD. In fact, a lot of ‘em survive a year or more and it gives ‘em time to reproduce – both bucks and does.
GRANT: However, the age structure in CWD herds is certainly going to decline with time. Especially as more and more deer are infected. So, EHD – yes – can be big outbreaks, but a lot of deer survive and repopulate fairly quickly. CWD very slow. Starts slow – one percent of the herd, two percent of the herd, but tends to keep building. Imagine if 20 or 30% of the herd had CWD and it’s 100% fatal. Where are deer going to come from to repopulate that population as it builds up to 40, 50 or 60% positive with CWD?
GRANT: CWD is caused by a bent protein, in simple terms, or something scientists call a prion. And those things are so dog gone tough. They’ve tried burning ‘em, using Clorox, all kinds of things.
GRANT: But once that prion is in the soil, they really haven’t found a way to remove it.
GRANT: Again, once infected, that deer is going to die. So, a huge difference between EHD – goes in cycles, we know a lot about it – and CWD which seems to be spreading in distribution. And where it is, increasing in prevalence with time.
GRANT: These prions or causative agents are shed from the deer through saliva, feces, urine and other bodily fluids. And the bad news is – once they're in the ground, they don’t seem to dissipate or break down. As a matter of fact, they stay viable for years to come.
GRANT: Even if the area is burned under intense heat, treated with chlorine or other caustic chemicals. That’s horrible news for deer and deer hunters.
GRANT: Deer shed the causative agent – or the prion – through their saliva, feces, urine and other bodily fluids. So, if a deer happens to have CWD and you move it to another area, there’s a likelihood or a chance it could spread that causative agent in a new area. And again, once it’s in the soil, we don't know of any practical way to remove it from that site. I would hate it if someone brought deer here to The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: There’s a lot that’s not known about CWD, but there’s two ways all of us that love the resource can prevent further spread of CWD.
GRANT: The first method is to stop transporting live deer or elk. There’s currently no practical method to test live deer and see if they have CWD.
GRANT: Therefore, there’s no such thing as transferring CWD-free deer. They may or may not have CWD. So, transferring deer from one area to another is an easy way to spread this horrible disease.
GRANT: …by the edge of the femur. Freeing it right here. So, I’ll be able to peel it off.
GRANT: The second method impacts a lot of hunters. When we harvest a deer or an elk, especially in an area where CWD is known to occur, we need to de-bone the animal right on site. Save the meat; save the pelt; save the antlers if it’s a male. But leave everything associated with the nervous system, the spinal cord, the brain, the bones right there on site. That way, we greatly limit the opportunity or chance of spreading CWD to another area.
GRANT: All the way to the neck.
GRANT: If you're not familiar with an easy method to de-bone a deer and elk, check out GrowingDeer episode 248 and I’ll share with you an extremely simple method to save the meat off any critter.
GRANT: As researchers learn more about CWD, I’ll certainly share it so we can all work together and protect the national treasure of deer and elk.
GRANT: Whether you’re scouting for velvet bucks or just taking a walk outside, I hope you take time each week to enjoy Creation. But most importantly, I hope you take time every day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.