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GRANT: Friday, January 27th and I think we solved the mystery of what killed that gray fox last week. We just about finished trapping season with a few additional catches and some great Reconyx images rolling in from our post-camera survey.
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GRANT: It’s been chewed on by coyotes for sure.
GRANT: Last week while Adam and I were going to check out the skeleton of a buck my wife, Tracy, found while shed hunting, we came across what appeared to be a very fresh-killed gray fox. It was a real mystery because it looked perfect laying right in the middle of the field. As I inspected that gray fox, I looked it over thoroughly, brushing the fur back and checking it out. I noticed it had fur in its teeth. It looked like rabbit fur from the under belly, very white, and I found one puncture wound in its rear hip and a little small spot of blood. But nothing else and no real sign of a fight or struggle. I knew there was more to the story.
GRANT: I asked my taxidermist, Pete, if he would help me ‘cause he skins out animals much better than I do, to remove that pelt very carefully and allow us to look for internal injuries.
PETE: We’ve got, we’ve got puncture marks all over, you know.
GRANT: A lot of ‘em – I – this is a classic right here and this may have happened later, but this is a puncture all the way through, but then you see the-the opposite canine bruise about here.
GRANT: About an inch and a half a part.
PETE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
GRANT: But then, we’ve got several where both puncture wounds, you know, to match up.
PETE: Yeah. Hmm. Hmm. And, and, a lot of, you know, a lot of bruising in here on this, on the hindquarters.
GRANT: And in this case, because if you remember, there was some white fur, looked like bunny fur, in the fox’s mouth. And they may have saw that fox or smelled the fox with a fresh rabbit kill…
PETE: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: …took that rabbit and left the fox. And if the fox would have dropped the rabbit or done something, he might have survived.
GRANT: But no chance here. I mean, there, there’s bruising over the whole hide.
GRANT: This thing really just got mauled.
PETE: (Inaudible) there.
GRANT: Looks like he got shot with number fours all over.
PETE: Yeah. All over.
GRANT: We found – this is a coon we trapped – a raccoon. Look how there’s no bruising here. Pete has fleshed this – took the meat off – fleshed this hide – just like he’d done on the fox.
GRANT: Look at the tremendous bruising resulting from the battle; where this coon was in a trap – no wounds at all. Shoot it in the head and it’s done. So, this thing was literally mauled. It wasn’t just a quick kill. It was mauled.
GRANT: So, look – it could have been a big dog or a pack of, of, of, uh, feral dogs, but it looks like the work of coyotes.
GRANT: It’s gonna always be theory on my part, but really, when we examined all the canine puncture wounds and the intense bruising on the fox’s body, it appears that a gray fox had caught a meal, was going across an open area when he got attacked by a pack of coyotes. If that’s the case, the fox never had a prayer.
GRANT: So far this year, we’ve trapped 35 raccoons alone off our property. That’s a lot of predators. Just 35 raccoons, 26 males, 9 females. And I think I understand why that sex ratio is so skewed in favor of males.
GRANT: What I’m trying to do is remove enough raccoons to get it back in balance so my turkeys have a better chance of successfully bringing off poults. But as I remove that coon population, more adult males are moving around. Right now is the breeding season for raccoons and they behave almost like whitetail bucks. They may take a little sojourn, or a little trip, during the rut out of their normal home range. They come in here, we’ve got great habitat, a lot of food. The food plots going on. They may want to take up residence. My mission is to trap enough raccoons that live on my property and even my neighbor’s property to suppress that population during the spring season, so turkey poults and quail, chicks, and whitetail fawns have a better chance of surviving.
ADAM: 15 pound male.
GRANT: Adam and I were messing around after lunch and given that we’ve caught 35 raccoons so far and another week of season to go, and if each raccoon only covers five acres, which is way too small because that raccoon is smelling a huge area, but let’s just say five acres. Then those 35 coons are effectively covering 175 acres. But what if it’s 50 acres? If each raccoon, through its travels and its nose, covers 50 acres during the turkey poult season, how many acres would that be? Well, if they were evenly distributed, which I’m sure they're not, that would be 1,750 acres. That’s a huge amount. That’s more land than I own. That’s a huge amount of land. What if they covered a hundred acres each? Then that’s 3,500 acres. Now, obviously, that’s not correct. I know their, their ranges overlap and some may cover more, some may cover less but I don't think there is many square acres on this property that a raccoon is not at least covering through its nose or visually covering as it works as a predator during the spring right during turkey nesting season. The turkey population is not as high as I think it should be given the huge amount of habitat work we’ve done for eight years. I want to concentrate on habitat work first, food second and predator removal third. That’s my list of priorities.
ADAM: We’ve got two Duke dog proof traps set up on this little frozen pond here. They're about 10 yards apart and this coon – he’s got a paw in each trap. It’s the fourth coon this week. We’re hoping we catch a few more; remove a few more predators before trapping season ends and help out those turkey poults this spring.
GRANT: January 21st and Rae and I out checking our trap line. We got another coon, didn’t we, Rae?
RAE: Hmm. Hmm.
GRANT: This week, I had a great opportunity to take Rae along with me on the trap line. Umm-hmm.
GRANT: It’s really an introduction to all of Creation that you just don’t have a chance to do when you're sitting still and trying to be quiet in a deer blind.
GRANT: When it gets cold in the late trapping season, sometimes you might get rejection when a raccoon reaches in and feels that cold, metal trigger right in the middle of the bait. But we’ve got a solution: chocolate marshmallows. Good to eat when you're working your trap line, but really good to stick right on the trigger. Kind of insulates that trigger. So, it’s two purposes. The raccoon does not feel the trigger and to get the marshmallow off, it has to set the trap.
GRANT: I’ve talked about it before, but I love these Winchester subsonics for dispatching animals in my trap line. They're quiet; don’t disturb the area very much and they're hollow point so they go in and expand, almost never leaving an exit hole. One tiny hole in the pelt. You almost never even see it when you're finished preparing and tanning your hide. So, perfect bullet for the trap line, these little subsonics.
GRANT: Just down the trap line a little bit here at The Proving Grounds and a big surprise. What is it Rae?
RAE: A gray fox.
GRANT: Yeah, we like gray foxes, don’t we? Beautiful pelt. Now, not many gray fox in the area cause so many coyotes. But gray fox are better then-at avoiding coyotes than red fox, because gray fox can climb trees. Not a lot of people know that. Uh, very agile, voracious predators, beautiful pelts, wasn’t expecting – we had this set with dog food and a little bit of mackerel, that fish smell. And when it’s cold, it really carries. It’s a meat. This time of year predators want meat, so just an easy catch, beautiful pelt and a great day enjoying the outdoors and Creation with Rae.
GRANT: That’s a beautiful fur, isn't it, Rae? Soft, got these long hairs called guard hairs.
GRANT: Rae is fascinated with the animals we catch. She loves the fur, she likes to look at their teeth. Right now, she thinks she wants to be a vet someday. Whatever it is, these lessons she’s learning now will help her through all of her life.
GRANT: See how they have longer claws than most? Now you press right here –see how those claws will stick out? That’s how they climb up trees – especially sloping trees. See how sharp those claws are?
GRANT: Just down the trap line a little bit more, right by a creek crossing here and another turkey nest predator in the Duke. I love these Duke traps. Easy to set, fun to use and clearly hold really well.
GRANT: Last week we started our annual post-season trail camera survey. As Adam and I were reviewing the images from the first week of our camera survey, it was exciting to see several great three year old bucks that we had decided to give a-a pass to, to not harvest if we had an opportunity. But I’m not sure all my neighbors would have given ‘em a pass had they had an opportunity.
GRANT: We’re also getting several images that are clearly shed bucks. Bucks are shedding earlier this year than normal at my property and throughout the whitetails’ range. Many people have commented on my Facebook page about finding sheds already or getting trail camera images of bucks without any antlers. There was a lot of stress during 2011, due to flooding, drought, all kind of stress going on, and that’s certainly taken a toll. It’s really important that you’ve got good late season food plots right now. Really great early season food plots this coming year. Get those beans in as quick as you can – let those deer build back up and express most of their antler growth potential here in 2012.
GRANT: Our hunting season is not over cause Adam and I like to hunt year around. So between now and turkey season, we’ll be predator hunting and hog hunting. A friend of mine, about an hour and a half away, reported several hogs moved into his property and were doing a lot of damage to his food plots. That’s all I needed to hear. Adam went over last week and created some bait sites so we could start hunting soon.
GRANT: It’s legal to bait hogs in Missouri, especially after the deer season. So, we’re gonna go over there. We’ve got some images that the hogs are starting to use the bait and I can't wait to check out Winchester’s new Razorback ammunition, which is designed to get a lot better penetration. If you’ve ever hunted hogs – of course you can use your deer rifle or whatever – but a big adult hog has a big cartilaginous shield right over the shoulders. The new ammunition is designed to stay intact a lot longer, a little slower expansion, to give us that blood trail. I hope I get to test it this week.
GRANT: I hope you have a chance to get out and enjoy Creation this week. Maybe do some shed hunting, trapping, predator calling, or maybe get to go hog hunting. Come back next week and I’ll tell you how we did. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.