Thoughts From The Field

Blog posts by the team

Managing Feral Hog Populations

This week Adam and I are in Western Oklahoma. We have a client whose property has recently experienced a lot of hog damage. Feral hogs are not native to this continent. They arrived years ago as early explorers discovered the Americas. These non-native invasive species are tough to manage as they repopulate quickly. This is because feral hog sows can produce 2 to 3 litters each year! Each litter size can range from 10 to 15 piglets. This means one sow can rear 30 to 45 piglets in a given year.

Large Western Oklahoma sow

Adam recently tagged this large sow during a hunt in Western Oklahoma.

How do you manage such an active population? Trapping feral hogs has proven to be the most effective way to manage these populations. Trapping allows a landowner to potentially remove a large amount of hogs at one time. Entire sounders have been trapped and removed with trapping efforts. If trapping is not an option, intense hunting pressure is the next most effective way to keep hogs from doing damage to a property. Feral hogs react to intense hunting pressure. They will often leave an area that they feel is unsafe.

Baiting an area, where legal, will condition hogs to this specific location. When hogs become use to the bait site and start using it during daylight hours, then it is time to hunt! Put in time and hunt these areas. Not only will you be harvesting and removing feral hogs, but sending a message to them as well. The message is that this area is now unsafe! Hopefully this will result in hogs moving off your property.

Growing Deer together,


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Understanding Brain Abscesses

A recent harvest of a buck we call Gappy yielded some interesting post harvest findings. Gappy was seen on our Reconyx cameras early during November with a blind eye and wounds to his head. It appeared he had been in a recent tussle. Over a month later, on December 18, I was fortunate enough to harvest him. During the recovery process we inspected the blind eye but also noticed infection around the base of his left antler. We were interested to see what the skull looked like once we got the European mount back.

Deer skull with a brain abscess

Gappy’s skull post harvest. This hole was caused by a brain abscess; note the pitting around the hole.

At first glance we noticed a large hole in the skull and a hairline fracture around the left pedicle. The hole is deep enough to see a small amount of light coming into the brain cavity. These signs pointed to a severe condition known as a brain abscess. If I had not been fortunate enough to have harvested Gappy, the road did not look promising for him. Discovering his condition encouraged me to further research brain abscesses.

Most abscesses start out as a cranial abscess or simply an infection of the head. A specific bacteria (Trueperella pyogenes) forms in these injuries. Once present the bacteria begin to erode the skull. In the case of Gappy, the eroding away of the skull caused a large hole to form (see photo). The bacteria had progressed enough to reach the brain cavity. Once this occurs this condition is known as a brain abscess. This condition is usually fatal once the bacteria reaches the brain cavity. In some cases a deer can fight the infection off and survive a cranial abscess. If so, there are usually signs of pitting where the bacteria began to erode the skull plates.

Cranial abscesses have the ability to cause serious injury and even lead to death. As you hit the woods in search of shed antlers this winter be sure to look for any signs of a brain abscess. A buck with a brain abscess can shed portions of their skull when antlers are cast. If you don’t shed hunt, but have European mounts from past harvests, examine those for potential cranial or brain abscesses. There is always much to learn even after the harvest is over!

GrowingDeer together,


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End Of Season Inventory

Bow season has now been closed here in Missouri for a week. Adam was able to harvest a doe on the last evening, ending the season on a high note. Although it’s only been one week without deer season the preparations for next year have already begun.

Our Reconyx cameras stay out all year long. We are now in the process of taking an inventory of what bucks survived the hunting season and in what condition they are entering winter stress period. This information is valuable for multiple reasons. First and foremost we want to be able to monitor their movements and identify their core areas. This is especially true for the 3.5 year old bucks who will make the hit list for the upcoming season. We didn’t spend our time this fall trying to understand those deer and their patterns of movement. However, now as we prepare for next season we will we use this information to go back and look at trends in movement from those individual bucks that were recorded this past fall. This prepares us for the following seasons as deer are creatures of habit. A buck may move under similar conditions within the same areas from year after year. If we have this information already recorded and analyzed then we can confidently go into our Summit stands the following season.

In addition to keeping our cameras running all year long, we also keep our Trophy Rock Four65 locations supplied throughout the year. Deer need a supply of mineral year round especially during the winter stress period. Setting our Reconyx cameras on these locations allows us to gather the information we are looking for at this time of the year.

We are watching and learning this buck's movements.

We are watching and learning this buck’s movements.

Although we cannot chase whitetails during the next few months we are going to actively prepare ourselves for the next opportunity. Make sure you keep your cameras running through the winter. The information gathered from the pictures will allow you to learn more about each individual deer. That information serves a greater purpose in the coming months!

Growing Deer together,

Matt Dye

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Trapping Success

Over the past weeks we have set many Duke cage and dog proof traps at The Proving Grounds. Even though fur prices are the lowest they’ve been in decades, we are trying to do our part to manage the local predator population. We have already removed 28 nest predators and there are still two weeks left in trapping season!

Even though the season is not yet over, it is obvious that our trapping efforts have been successful. How do we measure that success?

Raccoon in a trap

A dog proof trap catches another nest predator, helping the local turkey population.

Every predator trapped is weighed and sexed. Over multiple seasons the information we’ve recorded reveals several things. First, the average weight of predators has decreased. Second, a majority of the predators we trap are males.

As managers we consider this success. By trapping each year we have removed many of the resident predators. We are now catching young males that are moving onto the property to fill these voids. This is why we continue to trap each year. If we stopped trapping it wouldn’t take long before predator numbers spiked.

While trapping at The Proving Grounds, we have watched the predator and prey populations change. Last year we removed over 50 nest predators. That is 50 hungry mouths that did not find turkey eggs. This year the turkey population is the best it has ever been and we helped through trapping!

Whether you measure your trapping success through your records or an increase in deer and turkey numbers, keep doing your part to balance predator/prey relations.

Enjoying The Trap Line,


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