There has been much written about using maps to locate stand locations. I use topo maps, aerial images, etc., to learn the lay of the land, especially when hunting a new area. However, I study the NOAA Drought Indicator maps to plan which state or region to go hunting and to assist me with planning food plot strategies for both fall and spring.
NOAA’s drought indicator maps are available online and for free. They are maps that predict the amount of precipitation or lack thereof for the lower 48 states. It’s obvious why predictions of precipitation amounts are important for planting crops. It may not be obvious why I use them to plan where to hunt.
I’m not using them to plan where to hunt based on the chance of getting rained out! Those predictions are rarely accurate. Meteorologists rarely can predict precipitation three days out let alone three months out with accuracy. However, they are much better at studying ocean temperatures, currents, etc., and predicting general amounts of precipitation a region will receive. Precipitation is a key determinant of antler production.
You may recall that I frequently state in blogs and in episodes that plants are simply nutrient transfer agents. They can’t transfer nutrients to deer if the nutrients aren’t in the soil. If not enough precipitation occurs, the plants can’t use the available nutrients. Most folks associate drought conditions with poor forage quality. In fact, in south Texas there is great research that shows a very strong correlation between rain during the early spring and the average size of antlers per age class that year.
What hunters may not consider is that too much rain can be just as detrimental to antler growth as drought conditions. This is because too much rain can leach the nutrients in the soil deeper than the forage roots’ reach. When too much rain occurs in production ag fields, the farmers usually have to reapply fertilizer to make a productive crop. Still, the crop usually isn’t as productive (bushels per acre) or nutritious as the plants were not adequately fed during the period of above normal precipitation.
This year there are several areas that have received substantially more or less precipitation than normal. In both cases, there’s a good chance the native and cultivated forage there won’t be as nutritious as normal and as a result antler development will likely be less than average.
On the NOAA Drought prediction maps, I like to hunt areas that are white or light green (slightly above average precipitation) during the early spring through summer so antler production will likely be normal or above average for the area. The Proving Grounds has received a bit much rain so far this year, and that trend will likely continue based on NOAA’s predictions. Antler development may be hindered if predictions are accurate and especially if conditions are worse than predicted.
Based on this, how’s antler development looking for your area?
Growing Deer together,