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What information do you share at Deer Co-op meetings?

Question
First, I really enjoy your show and the information you share. Keep it up, along with the message of finding time to get alone with the Creator. That is key in my opinion and I need to do more of it.

I’ve been a follower for around a year now and have heard you mention deer cooperatives a couple of times. I’m thinking about starting a cooperative in my neck of the woods. I’ve seen people in my area change their way of thinking of “if it is brown it’s down” to “you won’t get bigger bucks if you shoot little bucks.” It is good to see the change in some, but I know there is so much more we can do. I also believe I have an attentive audience or at least interest in my area.

My main question, what information are you sharing at these meetings? Do you have an outline or powerpoint you could share to give me a general idea of what is conveyed to everyone or could you point me to some more information?

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your time.

Drew Ramage
Paducah, Kentucky

 

Drew,

I believe neighborhood deer coops are a great tool!  The QDMA has much information about deer coops.  We formed ours with very simple guides.  There are no membership fees and no mandatory harvest rules to follow.  We started by sharing the basics of deer biology and management.  We have had tours of coop members’ farms so we could discuss food plot and native habitat management techniques, etc.  We try to focus on subjects of interest to our members.

We share news and events that we believe our members will find interesting via email, etc.

I welcome you to join one of our meetings if you are interested.

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 23, 2016

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How do you grow big bucks?

Question
how do you grow bucks so big?

Will,

The primary determinant of antler size is a buck’s age.  We allow bucks to mature before harvesting them!  That’s the easiest way to produce large antlered bucks.  Providing good quality habitat is also very important!

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 23, 2016

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Do you consider hunting behind a high fence fair chase?

Question
A lot of people say that high fence hunting is not fair game for the animals. So I wanted your take on high fence hunting.

Derek,

“High fence” is a very generic term.  I’ve seen very small high fences where deer didn’t have much escape or native cover. I don’t consider hunting in such an enclosure fair chase.  I’ve also seen high fences that surrounded several thousand acres.  There’s often plenty of natural escape cover in these fences.  I don’t have a problem with folks that hunt in these.  

“High fence” is a tool like a gun. It can be used for good or bad and depends on the mission of the person using the tool.

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 21, 2016

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What’s the best way to determine if there are too many does on a property?

Question
Dr. Grant, what is the best way to conduct a census on a property and determine how many does should be shot if any? We have about 650 acres in southern Mississippi with plenty of deer. I am trying to convince my uncle who hasn’t been letting us harvest does, and we have to many in my opinion now because that is all you see and the quality of good bucks we are seeing has gone down over the last few years.

Frank,

The best way to determine if there are so many does that the herd’s health is reduced is to determine if there is plenty of quality forage year round.  I especially like to consider the amount of quality forage available during the late summer and late winter or the two most common stress periods.   

Whole body weights are another excellent indicator of overall herd and habitat health.  If the average body weight of two year old and older does is below normal for that area you know there are more deer than quality habitat on the farm.

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 15, 2016

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Does the GrowingDeer Team help landowners create deer hunting and management plans?

Question
Dr.Grant, on one episode of growing deer tv you went to a guys house and told him how to get better bucks. And I was wondering if you do that often or at all. If so how much do people usually pay you for the info.

Derek,

We do help fellow hunters create habitat and hunting plans.  We’ve been incorporated and doing this since 1990!  Our fee depends on the number of acres, location (how far we have to travel), etc.

It also depends on if we are asked to create detailed written plans or our host simply takes notes while we are touring the property.

For more information write me at info@GrowingDeer.tv.

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 15, 2016

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How would you provide supplemental feed if there’s lots of predators on the property?

Question
I am a young hunter from MA and I just got my FID and hunting license. I have received permission to hunt a 10 acre lot with a brook and lots of great cover. My aunt owns the surrounding property but I can’t hunt that. I can however plant food plots and manage deer there. We have an extreme amount of predators and I was curious how you would suggest feeding deer though the winter. I have seen 3 bucks on the property and would really like your input on increasing the population. It is next to hundreds of acres of reservoir property that I know produce good deer.
Thank you,
Matt

Matt,

It sounds like you have a good place to hunt!  Supplemental feed stations can make it much easier for predators to pattern deer.  If the deer are healthy I suggest you don’t use supplemental feed. If you need to feed, then consider spreading it along interior roads, etc., to simulate deer foraging on acorns, etc.  This will make it much more difficult for predators to pattern deer.

Enjoy creation,

grant

February 11, 2016

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What should I feed to provide deer better nutrition during the winter?

Question
Hi Grant I had a real quick question. Where my deer camp is there are no agricultural fields near by. I was wondering if there was anything I could feed deer during the winter to help them stay healthy? I was throwing corn out there for them but then read it was harmful for them if they are not use to it during the winter. Is this true? I plan on creating food plots this spring for them. I was just wondering if there was anything I could do in the mean time.

Thank you for your time.

Kenneth Wilson

Kenneth,

It is true that deer that haven’t had access to corn can be harmed by if it’s added to their diet when they are already stressed (during late winter).  Deer do much better on a balance ratio such a provided by a high quality blended feed. I use Antler Xtreme (www.AntlerXtreme.com).

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 25, 2016

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When should I put Trophy Rock out?

Question
When should i put out my Trophy Rocks?
Thanks and God bless!

 

Alec,

Deer require trace minerals year round.  This is why I keep Trophy Rock (www.TrophyRock.com) out year round!  Deer tend to use it more during the late winter and spring/summer.

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 25, 2016

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Will fawns survive if the doe is harvested?

Question
Dr Woods,
I understand doe harvest is generally an essential part of responsible herd management. I’ve always wondered if killing does with fawns reduces that fawns chance of survival through winter. Should I try to only harvest does without fawns, or is this something I shouldn’t worry about? The last thing I want to do is kill a doe which could eventually lead to the death of two buck fawns. Thank you for the resource you provide to all of us hunters, and the Christian example you set in the hunting industry.
Thanks
Jared

Jared,

Each state sets their antlerless season so that the vast majority of fawns are able to survive independently.  There always the odd late born fawn, but those should be the rare exception.  If does are to be harvested, I tag the doe that presents a good opportunity unless I see a very immature fawn (spotted) with the doe.

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 25, 2016

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Why did bucks in Wisconsin shed early during the 2015-16 season?

Question
I watch your show religiously ever week and have learned a plethora of management ideas from you. God bless you for sharing your wealth or knowledge wildlife to everyone.

I live, manage, and hunt in West Central Wisconsin. We are mixed ag land with hardwoods. Our deer seemingly had a very easy fall and early winter with very little snow cover and warm temperatures and plenty of waste grain available.

Despite this ease I am amazed to see all of our bucks have shed their antlers already. Most before the 1st of January and only a few 1.5 year olds holding and several with only one side.

I wanted your opinion on this if you would weigh in. My thoughts are the warm rut was hard on the Bucks and that stress caused the premature drop. Or we have too many does (which we know already) and that amount of breeding caused too much stress.

Any insight would be welcomed Grant.

Jeremy,

Conditions out of normal such as too warm or too cold can cause deer stress.  Deer don’t have sweat glands and often pant to cause evaporation/lose body heat.

In addition parasite loads often increase during abnormal conditions.  

Out of balance adult sex ratios that favor does can also cause bucks significant stress.  Bucks in one acre or less pens at research facilities with all the high quality food they can eat, no predators, etc., will lose 25%+ of their body weight during the rut.  Imagine the cost of participating in the rut for wild, free-ranging bucks when the adult sex ratio is out of balance in favor of does.

Deer herds are healthiest when the adult sex ratio is one to one or one buck to two does.

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 22, 2016

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What’s the best way to improve the deer herd quality on public land in New England?

Question
What are the best tactics to improve the deer herd on New England public land? Very few people hunt it and I would like to be able to see more bucks express their full potential.

Darrin,

Age or maturity is the biggest factor in bucks expressing their full potential. Habitat quality is the next most important factor. In most states hunters aren’t allowed to modify the habitat on public land. They can pass immature bucks and allow them to mature!

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 21, 2016

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How do I get more and bigger deer on my 200 acres in southern Indiana?

Question
I Deer hunt on 200 acres in Southern Indiana and four years ago there were lots of big buck and doe and now their are very few deer and most of them are small. How do I get more and bigger deer on my property?

Ethan,

Age or maturity is the largest factor in determining antler size.  The best way to have more large-antlered bucks is to not harvest young bucks.  Deer rarely travel outside their home range.  Bucks whose home range currently overlap the property where you hunt can be encouraged to spend a higher percentage of time there by improving the habitat.  

Deer need food, cover, and water daily.  They will use the best of these resources daily that they don’t associate with danger.  

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 21, 2016

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Should I tag does after November 30th?

Question
To shoot or not to shoot? That is my question. Scenariov After November 30, shoot a doe or not? My thinking, 90% of does have been bread by then. They might be carring the next world rwcord buck. Also I hve seen does with 2 fawns. I think spring 2015. Is it smart to let her walk for the future of the fawns or will they be able to fend for them selves by then? Trying to think of the animal, not just myself. Plus, I rather enjoyed wathing the deer.

Michael,

With wild critters we manage populations not individual animals.  The decision to harvest does should be the balance between the herd’s health and the habitat quality.  If there is more quality forage during the late summer and late winter (the two common stress periods) then there’s less need to harvest a lot of does. If there’s more deer than quality forage (not just food but quality forage) than good managers will harvest does so the remainder of the herd has access to plenty of groceries.  In herds with plenty of quality forage year round does will typically carry twins. Survival of the twins depends on habitat quality, the number of predators, etc.  

I recommend you consider the herd and habitat quality and make your decision based on what’s best for the herd.

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 10, 2016

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How can I get my neighbors to share my deer management objectives?

Question
Dr. Woods,

Any advice on what to do when neighbors don’t do any herd management and shoot what seems to be everything?

We have a liberal season bag limit and a long gun season in Ms. I only have 100 acres and except for south of me,which is modestly hunted, the rest is heavily hunted.

I know 100 acres is very small but I have tried to make a deer habitat heaven out of it. Plots in summer and winter planting. Young pine bedding cover, a large pond in the middle of the property, thinned pine for native growth, supplemental feeders, some hardwood, and mineral licks.

I had 21 identifiable bucks before the season. 8 were shooters for this area.

I go opening day and don’t see even a doe while it sounds like a dove hunt going on around me. I have yet to see a single deer on 5 or 6 hunts there.

Now I’m only seeing 2 nocturnal “Cowhorn” spikes and some does now on camera.

To say I’m discouraged, after all the time and money put into my place, is a tremendous understatement. This was my 1st season owning the property.

Should I just give up on it?

Jason,

It can be frustrating to invest in a property and find out the neighbors don’t share the same deer management objectives.  I helped start a local neighborhood deer cooperative for that same reason.  Ours is a 100% voluntary, no fee membership.  We simply share information. We don’t force anyone to follow any deer management rules. I’ve learned it’s much better  to educate than legislate.  There are many deer management cooperatives throughout the whitetail’s range.  

Don’t expect results in one season. It takes time for folks to change their minds and/or habitats.  We’ll having our next meeting February 11th at the local Bass Pro store (more folks will show up for a meeting there!).  I’ll try to share portions of that meeting on http://www.GrowingDeer.com. Maybe you can start a coop with your neighbors!

In the meantime don’t give up!  Enjoy the process of improving the habitat. 

Finally – if your neighbors are baiting during season, you may need to feed in the middle of your property. I suggest not hunting over or near the bait as that often results in deer only using the area after dark.

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 8, 2016

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What can I do to encourage deer to spend more time on the 80 acres where I hunt in Arkansas?

Question
Hello Dr. Grant,
I have 80 acres of land in Prairie Grove Ar, Its about half timber and half open fields with a large pond, a creek that feeds the pond and a spring that feeds the creek. There is a property that is not hunted that is about 100 acres of timber with no open fields that is connected to my property, and another farm to the north that is 20 acres of fields for sheep and other live stock. We have hunted our land for the past 15 years and have had lots if success with many does and several bucks taken. This year however I have hunted more and seen less deer than in years past, come to find out the neighbors with the farm are allowing some people to hunt their property, they seem to be shooting everything brown that walks by with little regard for game laws and ethics. What would be your advice to make my property more attractive to the deer hiding out in the unhunted timber and the deer that are heavily pressured on the farm? I am planning on doing some off season work and bringing back some food plots we have had in the past as well as making a new one in an opening in the timber on my property, im also introducing trophy rock to the property. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work.

Drew,

It sounds like you have a very nice property! 

Deer seek quality food, cover, and water daily. Water is rarely a limiting factor in Arkansas.  Quality food that deer don’t associate with danger can be a very strong attractant for deer!  I suggest you develop some quality food plots and have one that you don’t or rarely hunt.  This plot should be strategically placed so to encourage deer to spend the maximum amount of time on your property.  

Cover – where deer are almost never alarmed – is often a limited resource.  I recommend you designate a portion of your property as a sanctuary.  Sanctuaries are fabulous tools for properties the size of yours!  They encourage deer to spend a large portion of the daylight hours on your property versus the neighbors!  

I a huge fan of sanctuaries!

Enjoy creation,

grant

January 5, 2016 

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Should I harvest a doe from my 100 acres in Wisconsin?

Question
Struggling with harvesting does.

While preseason showed lots of doe/fawns (15+) and bucks (8+ total, 3 shooters and 5 smaller) traveling through my 100+ acre Wisconsin property, as archery season rolled around, and then worse yet during our gun season, everything just disappeared. Neighbors complaining about the same thing. Looking to add some (any) meat to the freezer, I considered taking any doe that would come by, but now my concern is taking a doe after rut.

If I don’t have enough does or should I say deer period (since I saw limited amounts of deer during actual season), how can I take a doe when she may be caring a fawn or two?….. I’m really old school at 54 and remembering my dad saying shooting a doe is like shooting 3 deer, but I do understand the new trend of carrying capacity.

Any advise you can shed on the subject would maybe help set me straight.

Thanks for your time and a great website and show.

Gene,

I’m 54 also!  I had the same conversations about tagging does with my father.  

We’ve learned a lot about managing deer since those conversations.  Whether to harvest does should be based on two factors. These include:

1. the current balance between the number of deer and the amount of quality food

2. the adult sex ratio

The first factor is most important.  If there’s ample quality forage available during the late summer and late winter (common stress periods for deer) then it’s not necessary to harvest does.  Taking a few does for meat won’t hurt the herd but an aggressive doe harvest isn’t necessary.  If there’s more deer than quality food during the two stress periods than an purposeful doe harvest will benefit the herd and habitat.

Deer herd’s can function with an adult sex ratio skewed toward females.  However, the research is clear that herds with a balanced adult sex ratio and older age bucks is healthier. 

So – evaluate the number of deer compared to the quantity of quality food in your area.  If there’s plenty of quality browse and you want to see more deer, then I recommend going light on the doe harvest.  If deer in your area are making a living on twigs and tree leaves, it might be wise to take a doe and work on improving the habitat qualitiy.

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 30, 2015

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How many acres is needed to produce decent (110″) bucks and allow three guys to hunt without alarming deer?

Question
On a rough estimate how many acres would be needed to have 3 hunters hunting often without pressuring the deer heavily? Also what acreage would be needed to manage it properly for decent bucks and does, in other words to just improve the hunting to the point where the opportunity will present itself at a decent buck year after year (by decent i mean any buck over 110 inches)
Thank you for your time

Bob,

Whew – there’s too many variables for me to give you an accurate answer!

Yearling bucks in areas with great food (areas that grow a lot of soybeans and corn) and produce antlers that score 110″.  For comparison bucks may have to be three or four years old to produce antlers that score 110″ in areas with poor/sandy soil and covered primarily with mature trees.

The amount of hunting pressure on neighboring properties is also a very large factor.  I’ve known 100 acre tracts that were bordered by parks, no hunting areas, etc., where hunters tagged 20 or more deer annually.  They created great food sources and hunted smart and deer from surrounding properties continued to frequent the relatively small tract.

I suggest you strongly consider the quality of habitat and hunting pressure and habitat quality on neighboring properties before you lease or purchase any land for hunting.

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 21, 2015

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Would you harvest a mature doe this time of year in south Mississippi?

Question
Dr. Grant,

Thank you for all you cover in your videos and writings.

I have a small wooded piece of land outside the city limits in south Mississippi that a family of deer tends to frequent. What’s your opinion on trying to take the doe and leaving the two yearlings to fend for themselves? Or should I wait it out another year to see if they attract some possible bucks or have babies of their own? This is the second year they have been actively there and I plan on improving that area in the future. I also will be hunting with a bow.

Thank you,

Chris B.

Joey,

Thank you for sharing the encouraging words!

I suspect there are more deer in the area with a home range that overlaps the property you hunt.  I also expect these deer will spend more time on the property as you improve the habitat quality.  Therefore I’d have no problem tagging a mature doe (or buck if you see one!).  

I wish you success!

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 21, 2015

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How do you feel about the recent changes to the deer hunting regulations in Missouri?

Question
Dr. Woods,

How do you feel about the recent regulation changes in Missouri to take effect in the 2016-2017 season? Is there anything that you aren’t particularly fond of or disagree with? It seems like there’s a lot of contention, as is the case with any change to the wildlife code. So I’m curious what your stance is.

Thanks in advance.

-Phil

Phil,

I’m OK with the changes. There are many states that have legalized crossbows during the past decade and the data is clear that the deer harvest totals didn’t significantly increase. I’m Ok with reducing the buck harvest from a total of three (two archery one firearm) to two (max of one with firearm or two with a bow).  Only 500+ hunters took three bucks legally last year so that change isn’t significant except maybe encouraging some hunters to hold a tag for a larger buck.

I suspect more youth will hunt after Thanksgiving than after Christmas so I glad they moved the second portion of the youth season.

Overall I think the Missouri Department of Conservation does a good job. It’s very tough to please everyone. I hope folks review the data and not judge based on the rumor mill.

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 16, 2015

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What’s the minimum acreage that can be managed successfully for deer?

Question
what is the minimum acreage that can be managed, we have 267 of planted pines ( 150 ) and hardwoods. the farmers , growing cotton and peanuts , surround us hunt Very hard off of 2 large food plots bordering our property. (we think the mex help are feeding the locals ) they also hunt with dogs in the area. we find that few deer of any type show during the daylight. we run 3 feeders year round. we are just starting some small food plots. I am planning a burn the hardwoods this winter. .

Tony,

The minimum acreage that can be successfully managed for deer depends on your goals and the actions of neighbors.  

The better the quality habitat the smaller deer home ranges tend to be.  However, its rare for deer to have a home range size less than a half mile. It’s also rare for deer’s home range to be centered in a property. Deer frequently have ranges that overlap on neighboring properties.  The best case scenario is when neighbors have similar deer management goals. 

That doesn’t sound like the case where you hunt. I’d consider altering your goals to fit the neighborhood or trading properties for one with neighbors that share your deer management goals.

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 10, 2015

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How much land is necessary to manage deer for older age class bucks?

Question
To be honest, I would be somewhat disappointed if I invested time and money in producing mature bucks to see/hear it was harvested on another property.

So, although there is no hard or fast rule here, how much land ownership is ideal to keep deer localized if managed correctly and it contained food year round, a water source and bedding areas?

Also, if one can’t afford, let’s assume your answer is very large track, this size of a property what main habitat (food, water or bedding) should be #1 on a buyers mind when searching a smaller track of land?

Herb,

The home range size of deer varies significantly based on the quality of habitat.  The better the quality of habitat the smaller deer home range sizes tend to be.  

Unless the property is several thousand acres most of the deer will have home ranges that overlap on neighboring properties.  

Deer spend most of their time during daylight hours in cover. So cover or the ability to create quality cover is a priority.  An even larger priority is studying the neighborhood.  I like to consider the sources of quality food, cover, and water throughout the neighborhood.  

It’s also important to visit with neighbors and discuss their deer management goals.  I suggest asking if they have or have an in interest in forming a deer management cooperative!  Good deer management cooperatives make small properties much easier to manage for mature bucks.

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 10, 2015 

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Will a spike always be a spike or small antlered buck?

Question
I am a new viewer to your website videos, so if you already answered these questions please forgive me.
Where we hunt there is an old farm field that is overgrown with Goldenrod, so much that the Goldenrod stands at near 6 feet tall until enough snow falls to knock it over. I would like to change it to a food plot but don’t know what the best way to remove the Goldenrod from the field so I can start getting some clover growing in early spring. I don’t feel comfortable enough to burn it.
My second question is a deer growth question. I am hearing a lot of talk that a spike will never grow to be bigger than a basket six, or something similar, and should be shot on site. Is there any truth to that statement?

Paul,

If you have training or can get help (many state agencies offer assistance with prescribed fire) prescribed fire is a great tool to remove weeds and duff. 

The weeds can be mowed and when new growth occurs be treated with a herbicide.  A seedbed can be prepared or a no-till drill used to plant. Before planting, make sure to have the soil tested and add the appropriate amount of lime and fertilizer to insure the crop has property nutrients.  

Malnourished plants don’t produce as much forage or taste as well as healthy plants. Don’t skip the soil testing and adding nutrients phase.

It’s a horrible, old wive’s tale that spikes will always produce small antlers.  Many wild, free-ranging spikes have been captured and fitted with a radio/GPS collar and followed throughout their lives.  Many of these bucks produced great antlers, including record book bucks!  

Most spikes are yearling bucks that were born later than normal or had poor nutrition.  Once they mature and/or have access to better nutrition they produce great antlers!

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 10, 2015

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Is hunting pressure causing deer to be nocturnal?

Question
Mr Woods, I could sit for hours and talk to you about deer hunting, land magement and, most importantly, God, but I’ll limit myself to one question. I’m in Tennessee and, in my simpleton opinion, our states game management seems out of touch with what seems logical to me.

The state recently dropped our annual buck harvest from 3-2. I was hoping for it to be dropped to one. For does, I can shoot 3 per day for our entire hunting season. Our season runs from the Sat before thanksgiving to the end of the year, and that’s just our gun season.

Before the season, I was getting many pictures of mature does and bucks. I’ve hunted hard and, I believe smart. Of 7 hunts, I got a brief climpse of a small 8 point, a spike and 5 does. Opening morning, I could have been Iraq and not heard as much shooting. It seems to me that our deer heards are so heavily pressured that they have become nocturnal.

Who’s right? Many of my friends have had similar experiences as I. I still go to watch the sun rise, to hear turkeys coming off their roost but I’m frustrated at the lack of deer movement during the day.

Jon,

It may surprise you that most states report hunters harvest an average of 1.1 deer per year.  This is fairly consistent even in states like Georgia where hunters are allowed two bucks and ten does!  

I doubt Tennessee hunters are much different from the national trends.  In my home state of Missouri hunters are allowed two bucks with a bow and one with a gun. Last year only 527 hunters tagged three bucks statewide. That’s a drop in the bucket compared to how many deer are killed by cars each year in Missouri.

Kentucky may be an exception as they allow hunters one buck a year. Many bucks do survive to maturity in Kentucky!   

Deer will adapt to avoid danger and certainly will switch to being active primarily during the night to avoid hunters.  This is most obvious in state parks or areas where hunting is prohibited.  Deer in these areas are often very active during daylight hours!

It’s tough for state agencies to satisfy the masses.  The best approach is educating hunters so they will make good choices in the field!

Enjoy creation,

grant

December 10th, 2015

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How many bucks can be harvested from 100 acres?

Question
We have 4 hunters on my 100 acre lot and each one of us harvested a buck it was 1 6 pt and 2 smaller 8s and an 8 with a 20″ spread what am I looking at in the next season just all smaller bucks or none at all

Caleb,

Sounds like you and your guests had a fun hunt!  

Very rarely do deer have a range of 100 acres or less.  The home ranges of these bucks most likely included portions of neighboring properties.  The impact the of buck harvest would have to be considered on a larger scale.  You should inquire about how many bucks where harvested on neighboring properties.  If there weren’t many bucks harvested in the area then the herd is probably in good shape.  If your neighbors had a similar harvest (buck per 25 acres) then I doubt many bucks will survive to maturity in the area.  

if no does were harvested in the area there should be a supply of yearling bucks annually. This is how deer herds were commonly managed in many areas decades ago.  The harvest indicates your goals are for quantity, not quality

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 27, 2015 

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Can a two year old buck that didn’t produce brow tines produce a better set of antlers as he matures?

Question
Hi Grant. Could you help settle a debate between my father and I?

Is it possible for a 2-year-old buck that has never grown brow-tines to develop them at a more mature age?

We have a buck on our property this year that has 6-points, but no brow-tines.

Is there potential that these will ever develop?

Thanks and keep up the good work. Enjoyed watching the hunt with you and your Dad.

Greg Johnston
Livonia NY

Greg,

There are many examples of wild free-ranging immature bucks which were fitted with GPS collars that had less than desirable antlers.  In most cases the bucks developed nice to great antlers once they matured!  

It’s important to note that there’s been much research on “culling” white-tailed bucks with the goal of improving the herd’s genetics.  The results clearly show this doesn’t work!  Antler traits are primarily passed by does.  Without a pedigree (knowing who bred who for generations) there’s no way to know which does or bucks are producing offspring with the most antler growth potential.  Culling bucks only results in fewer bucks that reach maturity and makes it tougher to balance the herd’s adult sex ratio.

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 25, 2015

 

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Will this injured buck recover?

Question
Dr. Woods, Below is a link to a video I have published on Youtube. This was from a hunt in western Kentucky, December 2010. I was the cameraman and my good friend was the shooter. This was a paid hunt with trophy minimums. This injured deer came out tending the doe. His leg was so severely injured he couldn’t stand for long periods of time. He was laying down watching the doe. We were in contact with the outfitter, who left it up to us. We were scared to shoot because of the financial penalty. Back at camp we showed him the footage and he said he’d like to let the deer go to see what he could become. My question since then has been if there was ever a chance for this deer to become “normal” again? While he didn’t appear malnourished, the leg injury and opposite antler nub, along with the malformed “good” antler gave me doubts. I’m not asking to second guess the outfitter, my question applies to my own lease. If I find a buck in a similar state, is the best course to cull the deer or let him go?

Any information you can provide would be greatly appreciated!
Sincerely,
Patrick Elia

Patrick,

There’s no way to determine if the buck will recover from the video.  I doubt he’ll produce “normal” or typical antlers. However, he may produce great non-typical antlers!  

Given that the buck may survive, I agree that it was the landowner’s choice. When I encounter such bucks I typically give them a pass unless they are mature enough to meet the landowner’s deer management goals or it’s obvious the injury is life threatening.  I don’t wish for critters to have prolonged suffering with no chance of recovery.

It’s important to remember that wild deer are managed on a population level – not based on individual deer.  Removing or passing this buck will have little impact on the whole population.  It’s the sum of all the pass or shoot decisions that determine the health of the herd.

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 13, 2015 

 

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Do you like the earn a buck program?

Question
We hunt about 2 hours from your farm, basically due east, near West Plains, Mo. We follow the guidelines of earning a buck tag, in other words, you have to harvest a doe before you get to shoot a buck. Is this a realistic practice that would help get the doe to buck ratio back to around 1:2 or 1:1.5? I know it has worked on our farm for the last 6 years. It has also made the other guys better hunters. When we run our population census on 500 acres, our numbers come back around 1:1.3. Calling with grunts and rattling has improved greatly, and our mature buck sightings/harvests have gone up. Is this something you practice on your farm, and do you think MDC would even consider this?

Thanks for your time.

Tom,

Sounds like you have a great deer management program!  States like Wisconsin and New Jersey had/has an earn a buck program. Hunters generally hate this program so I doubt it will ever be considered by MDC.  

I simply shoot almost every doe I legally can on my farm and asked my guests to do the same.  As you know, were basically limited to harvesting does with a bow in southern Missouri so it’s tough to over harvest does in areas with good quality habitat and where the predator populations have been balanced with prey species.  Currently the deer herd’s adult sex ratio at my place near Branson is almost balanced – almost 1:1.  

I had a research project in South Carolina for 11 years.  In that area there was no bag limit on bucks from August 15th through January 1st – with rifles and using corn and dogs! The local deer herds had very unbalanced adult sex ratios. I required all the hunters to tag five doe before harvesting a buck.  After 11 years the observed adult sex ratio was 3.1 bucks per doe!!!  It was amazing how well rattling, grunt calls, scrape hunting, etc., worked!!  

Keep leading by example!  It’s always better to educate than legislate!  

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 11, 2015

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How many does should I harvest in a 150 acre property?

Question
How many doe should I harvest on a 150 acre property

Ethan,

The number of does that should be harvested from any property depend on the landowner’s deer management goals and the amount of quality forage available during the two normal stress periods (late summer and late winter).  If there’s more quality food than the local deer herd can consume then there’s not a huge need to harvest several does. If the best sources of planted or naturally occurring food is low during the late summer or late winter, than the herd will benefit from reducing the number of does.  

Keep in mind food sources on adjoining properties also!  You may be taking about 150 acres of timber while there’s large ag fields joining the property.

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 11, 2015

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Should I harvest does with small fawns?

Question
Hey grant,
I have a few does I have been eyeballing behind my place and most have fawns with them. Should I pay attention to which ones have little ones or will the dawns be able to fend for themselves without mama?

Aaron,

Most states don’t open the antlerless season until the majority of fawns can fend for themselves.  There are always a few late born fawns that are immature the early stages of deer season.  If the fawns have lost their spots and have grown a winter coat (longer gray hair) they should be fine!

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 11, 2015

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Should I harvest does on 400 acres in Louisiana?

Question
Hey grant I’m a big fan of your YouTube channel and thought you might be able to help me with something. We have recently leased a new 400 acre tract in nw Louisiana. We see at least 6 doe every time I hunt and very rarely see bucks. When I do get pictures or see of bucks they are 1.5 old bucks. We were told that a group of guys used to run dogs and would kill 25 to 50 deer a year off of this place illegally. I’m thinking that we may have to many does on the property and was thinking about thining them out or should I let them keep repopulating the area because they do get breed every year due to all the new fawns. This is our second year on the property. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks and keep up the great work!! Jeremy from Shreveport, la

Jeremy,

Congratulations on having the lease!  

Wow – I can’t imagine anyone (legal or otherwise) taking 50 deer from 400 acres. 

If there is more quality food than deer (prefered forage isn’t browsed) then there’s no need to harvest does. If the body weights of deer harvested are above average there’s no need to harvest does.  

If prefered plants show a lot of browse and the average body weights are low I recommend you harvest enough does to balance the number of deer with the habitat’s potential to provide quality forage.  The quality of the habitat will tell you much about the local deer population.

The only way to improve the average age structure of bucks is to pass up younger bucks!  

You might watch our show on this website as there’s more information here than we can share on YouTube.

Enjoy creation,

grant

November 3, 2015

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Are bucks with spike antlers 8″ long or longer genetically inferior?

Question
Let’s talk spikes. I have heard it said in the past that if a deer has spikes 8 to 10 inches long they are a mature deer and need to be removed from the herd because of their bad genetics and that they would kill other bucks while fighting. Is there any truth to this and how do you suggest managing inferior genetics if you’ve already tagged out and other hunters on the property lack the experience hunting to make that decision?

Brian,

There is no research that shows spikes are genetically inferior deer.  Such tales are started by folks desire to kill a buck and have no understanding of genetics.  

There have been many, many spikes in research pens, wild and marked with GPS collars, etc., that have produced great antlers once they matured!  I never prescribe removing spikes.  There’s always a chance an individual deer will produce spikes as an older deer. I’ve seen one in my career.  Such bucks usually have very large antler bases as antler bases almost always increase with age.  

Remember that does contribute at least half of all antler traits!  There’s no way to “cull” does based on antler production without a long-term pedigree (record of who bred who for years).  

Bottom line – removing spikes simply means there will be fewer bucks to reach maturity where you hunt!  Age is the biggest factor in antler size!

Enjoy creation,

grant

October 24, 2015

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Should we harvest more does from our 750 acres in southeast Iowa?

Question
Grant,
We have a situation that we would like to have your advice on.
We manage 750 acres is southeast Iowa. Every year we have some controversy over how many does that we need to harvest.

Our property has 40 acres of grain and 30 acres of alfalfa that we rent to a local farmer and we plant 30 acres of food plots, and we have 78 acres of switchgrass and 270 acres of CRP, the rest of the property is timbered with oak and hickory trees.

The dilemma that we have is during the spring, summer, and fall months we have no problem sustaining the local deer herd, but during the winter our 25 acres of beans and 6 acres of wheat and brassicas get completely wiped out.
In 2012 we harvested 47 does trying to fix this problem and we still did not have any food left in the spring so in 2013 we tried harvesting about the same amount and only managed to harvest 19 does. Then in 2014 we did not do a doe hunt because of various reasons, but we did harvest 5 does during the archery season. All this did not make a difference in the amount of food left in the spring. (We have not have had any food left in any spring) I have attached the harvest data that we collected from the deer that we harvest during this time period.

We have been doing trail camera surveys every year. I have attached the survey results.

The question is, is it worth our time to travel to Iowa every year to harvest 15 does, are we gaining anything at all?

The only time that the DNR allows non-resident hunter to harvest does is in the December shotgun season. Will a doe hunt during this time help at all in making our food last thru the winter? Given the situation how many does would you try to harvest? We want to give our bucks every chance to express their genetic potential.

Winston,

I’m very impressed with the data collection and analyses!!  

If the surveys were performed correctly and approximately during the same time each year I’m most concerned with the decreased fawn recruitment.  Traditional camera surveys during August will underestimate fawn recruitment. However, it should be an index and representative each year.  The data indicates more does and a substantially lower fawn recruitment rate.  

Bucks have the best opportunity to express their antler growth potential if they have quality forage year round.  Based on your description I doubt you’ll remove enough does to allow 31 acres of plots to provide enough food.  This is compounded by the fact that your property is in an area where there’s not much native vegetation and agricultural crops are the primary food source year round.  Deer in such areas tend to have very large home ranges and will travel to quality food sources after production crops are harvested.  I suspect some of the deer on your property during the winter are on different properties during the remainder of the year. This is great for shed hunting, but reduces the amount of forage available for resident deer during a critical time of year.

There’s obviously more deer than food at your farm during the late winter.  Harvesting does is a good plan. However, it may not have the impact it would have in areas where deer tend to have smaller home range sizes.  

I strongly encourage you to have more quality forage available during the late winter if the goal is to maximize buck’s antler growth potential.  Often the least expensive method to accomplish this in areas with commercial soybeans and corn is to pay the farmer to leave a few acres unharvested.  Farmers often purchased seed, fuel, etc., in such large quantities that they can produce food for less than food plot farmers.

Enjoy creation,

grant

October 16, 2015 

 

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When is it OK to harvest does?

Question
Hello Grant,

I am a senior in college in central Iowa. I began bow hunting a few years ago and have a question about doe management. I have this doe on camera who is with two fawns. My question is whether or not these two fawns are old enough to survive without their mother if a shot opportunity presented itself.

Thanks in advance for your answer!

Tyler,

All states set the antlerless harvest seasons to occur when most fawns can survive on there own. There’s always a chance of late born fawns.  Such fawns would likely still have spots, etc.  The fawns in your picture appear healthy and well developed!

Enjoy creation,

grant

October 9, 2015 

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Why am I seeing more fawns this year?

Question
Hi Grant, I just had a few questions and wanted to see if they are coincidental or not. It seems as if the deer are not so much interested in the acorns at this point in time. Is it because corn and beans are still readily available in the ag fields? Or are they just attracted to the food plot I have? The plot is comprised of beans, radishes, turnips, beets, clover and brassicas. One other thing I have noticed is that some bucks have been seen on camera with does. It also seems that this year has had a boom in the fawn population. We are located in south central Illinois.

Dan,

Your observation is odd?  Deer rarely continue eating forage when acorns are available!  That’s great for you as deer are usually much  easier to pattern when they are feeding in plots/fields than chasing acorns.

Most state agencies in the midwest are reporting a substantial decrease in the number of deer. I’m thrilled you are seeing more fawns!  Consider that a blessing!

Enjoy creation,

grant

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How can my family attract deer to our 60 acres in southeast Missouri?

Question
Hello Dr. Woods, my family owns 60 acres that borders Mingo Wildlife Refuge in Southeast Missouri, we have been hunting the property for years now and the hunting has always been very poor, there are times that we go season to season without seeing a single deer, no rubs, scrapes, ect… Many have told us that this is due to the safety factor of the deer and that they just stay on the refuge because they know it is safe. We are wondering if attempting to provide cover would be an effective tool to try to being the deer over the refuge border. Additionally, the property is only a few hours from the proving grounds, and was wondering if it would be cost effective to have your team come and evaluate or property to see what our best options and strategies would be. Also, if we tried food plots, I would love to try the Eagle seed forage blend soybean, however, we do not own a no till drill, is there another method that would be effective in planting it. Pleas help, we have a new generation in our family that we are going to take hunting with us and the way it is now for our family, with no deer around, more then likely, this family tradition of ours will be lost. P.S. love the videos! Keep em’ coming! Thank you and God Bless.

Troy,

Thank you for the kind words and for watching GrowingDeer! I have several clients in southeast Missouri and a college I attended (Missouri State) took many field trips to Mingo Refuge.

I agree 100% with your assessment that new hunters need to see deer sign and deer to remain excited about hunting. I’m thrilled you are concerned about your family continuing the hunting tradition!

I always begin new projects by evaluating the food, cover, and water resources on the property that I’m trying to improve and on the neighboring properties.

Unless you border a unique part of the Mingo refuse, there’s probably plenty of water and cover on the refuge. Certainly deer on the refuge won’t be disturbed frequently when on the refuge. Unless there’s better quality food on your property compared to the refuge, there’s not much reason deer would leave the security of the refuge to spend time on your property. It’s likely that the development of quality food resources in areas where your family can approach, hunt, and leave without alerting deer would significantly increase the amount of time deer spend on your property and the quality of the hunts for you and your family. To create this huntable habitat requires some evaluation and planning.

Many folks establish and maintain soybean plots without the aid of a no-till drill. The appropriate steps are to do a soil test and add the appropriate amount of lime and fertilizer. Malnourished plants won’t be healthy and unhealthy plants don’t taste as well (attract deer and other critters) as well as healthy plants. In addition a good seedbed is prepared and the seed is broadcast just before or during a rain. The rain helps cover the seed and ensure there’s adequate soil moisture for rapid germination. Some folks use a drag of some typ  (a section of chain link fence, etc.) with hopes of covering the seed.

Cover the seed is important for two reasons. First, it significantly reduces the amount of seed that will be removed by birds and rodents. Most folks are amazed at how many seeds birds and rodents will remove within a few days. Second, soybeans have a much higher germination rate when covered with a 1/2″ or so of soil.

Many counties rent no-till drills (through a NRCS office) for extremely reasonable rates). Another neat option is that Paul Hollis (south of St. Louis) has crews and lots of equipment and contracts establishing and maintaining food plots for landowners and government agencies. You may reach Paul at 636 326 1009.

Adam, Daniel, Matt or I would be happy to assist you in developing a habitat management and hunting strategy plan. Send me a note if you wish for us to quote you a price for this project.

Enjoy creation,

Grant

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How long does it take for a deer population to recover from an H.D. outbreak?

Question
How has the deer herd recovered from your more recent EHD outbreak? The reason I ask is that here in Virginia 2014 was the worst outbreak in recorded history and I wondered what to expect?

Mark,

A severe outbreak of Hemorrhagic disease (H.D.) occurred at The Proving Grounds during 2012.  It was so severe that I got tired of my wife (she really enjoys shed hunting) bringing in skulls versus sheds.  Finding a mature buck was like finding a needle in a haystack during the fall of 2012 and 2013.  There were a few more mature bucks during the 2014 season.  This year there are more mature bucks on the property than any time during my Tracy’s and my ownership of this property (13 years).  

Based on other experiences as a hunter and biologist it seems to take about three years for herds to fully recover from and H.D. outbreak.  The recover rate will be impacted by the amount of hunter harvest after the die-off, predation rates, etc.  

I backed off the doe harvest after the H.D. outbreak and have been aggressively removing predators for years.  This allowed the local deer population to recover rapidly.

Enjoy creation,

grant

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What can I do to keep deer using my property year round?

Question
Hi Grant,

I enjoy watching all of your videos and have learned a lot. Behind my house, I have a bedding area, a watering source, and about 2 weeks before season a start putting whole shelled corn out and usually quit at the end of the season. During season they always have a food source (corn) and still travel to other neighbors properties to feed. i was thinking about ways to keep deer coming to me more. The ways I came up with are planting using a bow a season to keep from spooking deer, and planting a year round food source such as clovers. My question to you is what can I do to improve my property and keep deer coming back to me. Also I am wondering what steps I need to take to plant clovers.

God Bless,
Colby

Colby,

I always start by evaluating the best sources of food, cover, and water year round on the property I have permission to hunt and on the surrounding properties.  Remember that what’s a preferred food source during December likely won’t be a good food source during July. 

By identifying what’s the least available or lowest quality resource (food, cover, or water) I can then work to add or improve that resource where I have permission to hunt.  Most folks overlook cover. However, cover is where deer, especially mature deer, spend most daylight hours.  

I suspect you’ll be able to quickly determine what you need to do to attract deer year round if you consider which resources are the most limited where you hunt.

Enjoy creation,

grant

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What deer food should I use?

Question
Hey there Grant, I have been watching alot of your videos on youtube. It’s really awesome you know so much and have so many degrees. Where I hunt is some nice size deer. Nothing like Midwest size or anything, but pretty good size for Georgia. I was wondering as far as just buying some feed and pouring it out, what would you prefer to be some of the best feed for the deer I hunt? I’m sure planting food plots would be the best resource, but I was just looking more along the lines of just giving them some of the best feed possible to help them grow antlers bigger and be healthier. Thank you.

Chase,

There are many good deer food products.  Some have better marketing than others, but most have enough protein and energy to help deer.  In most areas, energy is a bigger concern that protein.  Deer in the Midwest grow large due to the readily available supply of energy from grain crops.  

It requires an intensive feeding program to improve a deer herd’s quality. This will require feeding year round – not just during the hunting season.  A good feeding program is a big commitment!  You should also know that feed placed on the ground is usually primarily consumed by raccoons, rodents, and birds. Literally more than half the feed your purchase may be consumed by raccoons.  

It’s often less work to grow food plots than to maintain a quality, year round feeding program.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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Which grunt call do you use?

Question
Hello Grant,

Over the years, I have seen you and the Growing Deer staff conduct testing on grunt calls. Would it be possible to get your results?

QDMA of Maine attempted to implement a increase in minimum antler required for a legal harvest. This would allow Spike horn bucks a “Free Pass” and make the min a 3 pointer with three inches of length. They were met with staunch objections from fellow hunting groups and local sportsman media, sighting the failure of the same antler size requirement in Conn. Everything I learned in college 30 yrs ago co-insides with your management plan and the QDMA, Any suggestions on how to change the mindset?

Thank you for showing trapping, prescribe burning, TSI and the host of other segments that are a part of the “Big Picture” and not just another kill shot of a buck that most of us rarely see.

Thank You for your time

Christopher Shedyak

Christopher,

Thank you for being part of the GrowingDeer Team!  

We are still testing different grunt calls.  I haven’t found one that has the correct tone and rhythm yet.  

I’ve found that deer management changes are the easiest to make and most readily accepted when they are proposed through education rather than legislation.  Most humans don’t like change- they certainly don’t want to be forced to change.  Therefore showing folks better systems by example seems to be more effective than trying to force change through legislation.  For example, Tracy and I have owned The Proving Grounds 13 years.  None of our neighbors would even listen to our form of deer and habitat management.  I didn’t attempt to force my ways.  I simply continued doing what was right, knowing many great young bucks would be tagged on neighboring lands.  

Through time and example many of the neighbors have started using the deer management guidelines I follow.  We’ve now started a neighborhood Deer Management Coop. This would have been impossible if I hadn’t continued doing what I thought was correct and gently sharing information.

I encourage you to gently share good information and work for a positive change by setting the example.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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Is there a rule of thumb for what percentage of a property should be planted in soybeans to supply ample quality forage to a deer herd?

Question
Enjoy your videos very much!

As you know I’ve been planting eagle seed soybeans for some time at my place in Alabama. I only plant a couple of fields totaling about 5 acres. Either you plant a lot more acreage than I do since your episode videos that show your fields that are not be eaten up like mine.

Attached is a couple pictures of my grown soybeans this year. I have to protect them with the electric fence for about 3 months to grow maximum forage, then I take it down so they can eat them and it only takes them about 2 months for the deer to consume just about every leaf. That’s my goal, to feed them the forage as a supplement mid summer to early fall when they’re growing for hopefully more added nutrition.

What would you recommend if anything to improve for the next step? Is there a rule of thumb for acres of soybeans planted as a percent of the total property?
I could plant more fields, but current only have 2 electric fence sets. Maybe if I plant more scattered fields they all won’t all be eaten up before they can mature…
Should I try to Whitetail Thicket variety you mention on some of your recent episodes?
Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Keith Swilley

Keith,

It appears your plots did very well!  

There are many variables that determine what percentage of a property should be established in food plots to provide ample quality forage for the local deer population.  Some of these variables include growing conditions (there’s often a huge difference in the tonnage produced during a year with ample rain compared to a drought), the number of deer (the number of deer per square mile can vary drastically from location to location), and the availability of alternate food sources (location being all timber compared to commercial soybean farms, etc.).

The best rule of thumb is to continue establishing quality food sources until there’s plenty of food available during the late summer and late winter (the two traditional stress periods for deer).   

There are about 60 acres of food plots out of 2,000 acres of land at The Proving Grounds.  During years with good growing conditions, there is ample quality forage during both traditional stress periods. However, there’s not near enough quality forage during drought conditions.  This year I will try to remove two does per 100 acres to reduce the number of deer and establish some additional food plots.  Due to all the variables, finding a balance between the amount of quality forage and number of deer is a constant balancing act.

Enjoy creation,

grant

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Are our camera surveys accurate?

Question
Hi Grant,
I have a few questions on how you use your trail camera surveys to make management decisions.
I have attached a file of our surveys that we did on our 220 acre lease in south central PA. On this sheet are the numbers for 2012 and 2013 where we did the traditional survey with corn bait and 2014 and 2015 where we did the survey using cameras set on food plots and trails, because our lease is in the CWD management zone so we cannot use bait to do our survey. In 2014 we had 5 cameras and ran the survey for 3 weeks and in 2015 we had 10 cameras and ran the survey for 2 weeks. The cameras are set to a 1 second delay.

As you can see on the 2015 survey we had 31 unique buck on camera in a two week period in the last part of August! This would put our deer per sq. mile at 400, almost double what our survey showed in 2014! These numbers are without adding the 10% that QDMA recommends.

How are these numbers useful to us in managing our property?

Are these number even accurate enough to be useful?

Has anyone done research on doing a survey without bait? Are does going to be photographed more then bucks?

Some additional info about the property is: We have harvested as many does as possible in the past 3 years (about 8 to 10 does and 1 to 2 buck per year) and the numbers just keep climbing. The habitat is not in good condition, it is over grown with bush honeysuckle and autumn olive. But our lease does not allow us to do any timer cuts or invasive species control. The only thing that we can do is plant food plots and we plant about 6 acres of those in a mix of clover, soybeans (soybeans cannot be grown without a fence) and Broadside.

Thank you for any info you can give and God bless.

Winston,

I’m thrilled you are doing camera surveys and tracking data year to year. Year to year comparisons (or trends) are often very useful!

Do you see more deer and/or more deer sign on the lease compared to during 2012?

There are several factors that could explain the trend of an increasing population.

1.  I noticed the fawn recruitment rate increased significantly even during 2012 and 2013 (both years when corn was used as an attractant).  Increasing fawn recruitment rates will allow for deer populations to increase rapidly!

2.  If the neighbors fed and stopped feeding (due to new regulations) deer may be much more attracted to your food plots, at least during certain times of the  year. This could easily explain the increase in number of deer.

3.  I never use a deer population correction factor .  The correction factor won’t solve error. It will simply be same amount of error from year to year.  If the survey yields erroneous data, the data will simply have a 10% larger error if the correction factor is used.  Remember – it’s the trend that’s important – not the actual number of deer. 

4.  If you know you have more deer than quality forage produced on the lease it will be necessary to harvest more does compared to past years.

5.  Have you initiated a predator control program?  My biggest question based on your data is why the fawn recruitment rate has increased so significantly.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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How many deer are at The Proving Grounds?

Question
I am really enjoying your channel! I like the way that you hunt and care for deer and not just go out for a slaughter. I was wondering, how large to you think your deer herd is? How many deer do you harvest from your proving grounds? Keep it up and I look forward to seeing some great action this coming season!

Matt,

We’ve worked for 13 years to improve the habitat and balance the predator/prey relationship.  This has resulted a great deer herd with about 100 deer per square mile.  We will attempt to reduce the number of deer by harvesting two does per 100 acres this fall. We love venison so this is good news!

Enjoy creation!

grant

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How should I set my buck harvest criteria?

Question
If an area has high hunting pressure and other other hunting are going by the “if it’s brown it’s down” philosophy, would it be best to shoot an immature buck?(2 1/2 years) I feel like if I don’t someone else will. I would like to let them get to a mature age but again other hunters are shooting anything with antlers.

Matt,

I believe hunting should be fun!  It’s not much fun to hunt for something that’s not present.  I tend to set my buck harvest criteria based on the top 25% of bucks (by age class) for that area.  For example, if 25% or so of the most mature bucks harvested in an area are three years old then I hold out for a three year old or older buck.  

I also realize that I need to set the example in the local area.  So I don’t say one thing and practice another. If I encourage hunters to hold out for three year old bucks, I don’t harvest bucks less than three years old.

This example almost always results in other hunters following my lead and results in improved deer herd quality in the neighborhood.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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What can I do to improve the 243 acres where I hunt?

Question
This picture that I have attached is a picture of my farm. Well it isn’t my farm it is my grandpa’s farm. The red outline is the boundary of the property. The circles are the food plots but the big fields are ag fields. We have 243 acres. A long time ago my neighbors released a bunch of eastern wild turkeys because we did not have and turkeys. Now the turkeys are finally showing up. I have 14 different toms on trail cams. We used to have really big bucks. My dad has kill 2 15 pointers and we had this buck planned out. He was a 13 or 14 pointer with a huge kicker. We had the stand ready and everything. We were going to use that stand as a evening stand. We sat below the hill in a ground blind. He ran by chasing a doe. Then he stopped and starred at us. He then blew and took off. We haven’t seen him for 4 years. Now we have a bunch of little bucks running around because we have a bunch of uneducated people who trespass on us and shoot little bucks. Also we don’t shoot doe because we think that the bucks won’t leave the property because they have doe here. Another reason is that we have this one doe that produces twin bucks every year and those bucks have been growing huge. I am 14 and I have almost watched all of your videos. I am going to be a wildlife biologist and become like you (Grant). I was wondering if you could suggest thing that i could do to improve the deer and turkey health and property. Thanks

Briley,

It looks like your grandpa’s farm is laid out nicely for hunting!  The blend of ag and narrow strips of timber should make finding deer travel patterns relatively easy.  

I like that there are food plots in addition to the row crops.  The row crops will provide an excellent source of forage throughout the summer.  Once those crops are harvested deer should be attracted to the food plots.  

You may wish to focus on scouting and learning ways to hunt the farm without alerting the deer!

I encourage you to seek God’s will for your life.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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What can I do on 15 acres to help the local deer herd?

Question
I hunt 15 acres with very little hunting pressure around it. Its all Woods and thickets with a field on the neighboring property. Was wondering what I could do to help manage the land little better to help grow a healthier deer heard

Dale,

I always start by evaluating the local sources of food, cover, and water.  I try to identify which one (quality food, cover, or water) is the most limiting to the local deer herd.  This may vary during different times of the year.  For example, if there’s an ag field next door, there may be plenty of food until the crops are harvested.  However, that same field may be plowed ground (a desert for wildlife) during the winter.  

Once I identify the most limiting resource I see if it’s within my budget to add that resource.  Trace minerals are an easy thing to add.  They are often overlooked.  

Enjoy creation,

grant

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Can I keep deer on the 80 acres I hunt in Alabama?

Question
Hey Grant, I have recently started watching your videos on youtube and have found them very helpful with deer management. I thought I would ask you for your thoughts on how I could better manage deer on my property. I hunt on a very small piece of land in central east Alabama, just shy of 100 acres, and do to intense hunting pressure from the neighbors the deer population is very week. The property has two agricultural fields one small 5 acre field that is surrounded by hardwoods and another larger one (about 10 acres) that has hardwoods on one side and connects to a neighboring field on the other. Between the fields is a large bottom area covered in hardwoods and a creek that runs through it. The history of this property is not that great with only a couple nice 8 pointers that have been harvested in over a decade. The main reason I think there is such a lack of deer in this area is because the neighboring property owners hunt with dogs relentlessly while I enjoy stand hunting. In fact the majority of the times I have seen deer here is when a dog has run them by my stand. I was wondering if you had any advice on how to keep deer on my property. I get good pictures of nice bucks during the summer but they disappear when the season starts up. I do my best to keep food plots in the fields but we lease them out to local farmers so I usually can\’t get plots planted until early fall. Lucky for me he decided to plant peanuts this year. But is there anything you would suggest that I do to keep deer on my property and away from the neighbors dogs? Thanks for any advice you can give.

Cade,

I always consider where the best food, cover, and water are on the property where I hunt and on neighboring properties.  

The ag fields, especially when they are planted in soybeans or peanuts should attract deer. This is especially true if there aren’t ag fields with these crops on neighboring properties.

Unfortunately most deer have a home range larger than 80 acres.  No matter what you do I suspect most of the deer will have a range that includes at least a portion of a neighboring property and may be using some of the food, cover, and water resources there.  It will be difficult to keep hunting dogs from crossing the property border and dogs can certainly cause deer to alter their normal patterns/behaviors.  If you attract deer the dogs will certain smell the deer and venture onto the property where you hunt.

Sorry – but I don’t have a good answer for you!  You may have to find another place to hunt if the situation isn’t tolerable.  

grant

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How do I determine how many does to harvest?

Question
Grant, Hello I have asked questions before and i love watching your show and your love for the creator such is mine also, it is because of you that i have decided to become i wildlife biologist from Virginia Tech!!! I love do trail cam observation each year with my grandfather it is a great joy to spend time with him in the fall!! My question is how do I know how many doe’s to harvest weighing out my population?? Thanks, Jordan

Jordan,

Thanks for the note!  You’ve probably already spent time intentionally seeking God’s will for your life/career. If you haven’t that’s the most important step in choosing a career!

The number of does to be harvested should be determined by the amount of quality forage available. If there’s more quality forage than deer than it’s not necessary to harvest does unless the deer herd is causing damage to society, such as crop damage, excessive car/deer accidents, etc.  

If there’s limited quality forage, especially during the normal stress periods of late summer and late winter then it will be best for the local deer population to reduce the number of does, increase the quantity of quality forage, or do both at the same time.  

The quantity of quality forage can be monitored by visual inspection and by comparing average body weights year to year. If the trend is that the average body weight is decreasing then it’s likely there are too many deer for the amount of forage. If body weights are increasing, there’s probably no need to harvest does.  

Each year will be different due to growing conditions, etc.  For example, it’s been a great growing season at The Proving Grounds. However, based on the past trend of body weights and observations of forage last year I know there are more deer than the local habitat can support during normal growing conditions. My goal is to harvest two does per 100 acres this year.

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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Should I try to grow mature deer on my 70 acres in Upstate South Carolina?

Question

Dear Growing Deer Staff

I live in Upstate South Carolina and I am blessed that my family has 70 acres and I have question for you guys. Should I try to grow and manage mature dear being my property is between houses and a major highway, I am the only person who hunts my property and I do not think they are any trespassers. I have food sources and I have great natural habitat I think, I also have a swap with the river on my property. I just don’t want to waste my time and money.

Thank for you time
Ryan King

Ryan,

Tracy and I used to live near Abbeville, South Carolina!  

I know several folks that do a great managing deer on similar sized properties!  Much of their (and your) success is influenced by what happens on the neighboring properties.  If the neighbors tag every yearling buck they can you may be facing an uphill battle to produce mature bucks.  If there’s light hunting pressure in the neighborhood then I suspect you can make great progress!

Based on your picture it seems some bucks are surviving to maturity!  That’s a great sign you program can be successful!  

If you enjoy the process of managing deer and habitat there’s nothing to lose.  The rewards of watching the process will justify the cost.  Tagging a mature buck will be a bonus!

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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Should this buck be harvested due to his leg injury?

Question
Dr. Woods we have a buck that has a leg injury that looks pretty bad. All we have is still Picts but when I go Labor Day I hope to sit out and see him and take some video. How do you decide if a deer should be moved to the top of the hit list because of an injury or if he’ll be ok? Right now he looks like his body condition is good but we’ve had a better weather year after several years of drought and we’ve had protein out. I’m wondering what winter and the rut might do to him. In the Texas county I hunt in I’m only allowed on buck with a 13 in. inside spread and a second with unbrancehed antler so I have to choose wisely.

Thanks!
Marcey

Ps as a 35 year old daddy’s girl who still loves to hunt with her dad I love the videos of you hunting with your dad and girls. Nothing better than a good Christian man to go hunting with!

Marcey,

Thank you for the kind words!  

The buck appears healthy.  I didn’t notice any sign of infection, etc.  If he’s putting weight on the leg I suspect the break/wound has healed and he will survive.  If he doesn’t meet the harvest criteria and there’s no sign of infection I’d give him a pass.  If you notice that he’s not putting weight on that leg and/or you notice signs of infection than I would consider tagging him.

May you be blessed with an enjoyable fall!

grant

   

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How can we educate ourselves on how to accurately estimate the age of bucks on the hoof?

Question
My friends and I have 1,000 acres in the delta region of Mississippi that we have long term leases on. We are constantly looking for advice to get our bucks bigger and bigger. We know that allowing a buck to reach maturity is the key to maximizing his size. Our problem lies with not being able to correctly age bucks in the wild good enough to implement this as a club rule. Is there any advice you could give us to learn to pass those 3.5 year old bucks and is there any club rules we could do antler size wise that would protect the majority of the 3.5 year olds while allowing us to still have success? Also we were looking into supplemental feeding so any advice on that would be appreciated too.


Thank you,
Travis “Dustin” Matthews

Dustin,

I’m not aware of any shortcuts to learning how to accurately estimate the age of bucks on the hoof.  It can be difficult especially in a moment of excitement!  I strongly prefer my clients do a camera survey and use those pictures to identify and learn which bucks they wish to tag and more importantly which bucks they wish to pass!  We often make booklets so clients can study which bucks to pass.  This system has worked very well for me and my clients!

There’s no doubt that a well ran supplemental feeding program can help. Most folks focus on protein.  However, usually quality sources of energy are in much shorter supply than protein.  Good feeding programs require substantial resources (dollars and labor).  Feeders need to be moved and cleaned frequently.  Non target critters such as squirrels, raccoons, bears, etc., can literally remove 50% or more of the feed.

However, if implemented correctly a feeding program can increase the health of a deer herd!

Enjoy creation,

grant

 

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What trail camera settings should I use when doing a camera survey?

Question
If I am conducting a trail cam survey for 14 days and there is 1 camera per 50 acres what would my correction factor be?

Is 1cam/50acres to much?

Also what settings do you have on the camera? Delay interval? Number of pictures/trigger?

Thanks,
Phil Scott

Phil,

The accuracy of a trail camera survey can potentially be increased by increasing the number of cameras and the number of pictures each camera takes per deer visit.  

More pictures should allow for better identification of individual bucks. More camera stations should pick up a few more deer as some deer won’t use stations where other, more dominant deer frequent.  

The trade-off is steps that accumulate more pictures will add more time to analysis process.  

The number of acres per camera is influenced by the habitat.  If the survey is conducted in an area with lots of pasture and/or ag fields then deer will be bottle-necked into smaller areas and fewer cameras will be needed. If the area is primarily cover than more cameras will be required to conduct an effective survey.

Deer tend to hang around bait a long time.  There’s no problem taking more pictures but I usually set my Reconyx cameras to take two pictures with a 10 second interval between pictures.  I use a five minute delay to keep from getting bunches of pictures of the same deer.  

I never use a correction factor.  Correction factors are best guesses.  I use the actual numbers and compare them year to year.  The trend of the deer herd’s demographics is more valuable and probably more accurate than the estimates!  

There are detailed instructions of how I conduct a trail camera survey at:  https://www.growingdeer.tv/view/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Conducting-a-Herd-Survey.pdf

Enjoy creation,

grant

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How do I conduct a trail camera survey?

Question
Grant-

My question may have been addressed in your book, but I see the book is no longer available.

Question: We have what looks to be an odd mix of antler count on our property. Where can I get instructions on conducting AND ANALYZING a survey for buck / doe ratio, buck management, etc.?

Cliff,

Trail camera surveys are great tools!  There’s complete instructions on how to conduct a trail camera survey at:

https://www.growingdeer.tv/view/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Conducting-a-Herd-Survey.pdf

Enjoy creation,

grant

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Would you share in an GrowingDeer episode the quality of deer when you purchased the Proving Grounds compared to now?

Question
As a point of interest would you consider airing a comparison of Deer you have photographer at the start of your work on the Proving Ground and now.

Steve Bory
Hopkinton New York

Steve,

Thank you for the suggestion!  Briefly, the first year after Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds I saw one deer.  Now there are lots  of deer and the average body weights and antler sizes have increased significantly.  Deer readily respond to better habitat.

We’ll try to find time to do a review someday.

Enjoy creation and good deer management works anywhere!

grant 

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What’s the biggest factor that determines antler size?

Question
Dear Dr. Woods,
The deer in the area around property we have range from all sizes but it seems most of the deer are small, we have had corn planted in our field and this year we have soy beans but we don’t really know how we can boost the antler growth of the deer and how we can get more deer on our property in general.

God Bless You And Your Crew Grant! 🙂

Sam,

The biggest factor that determines antler size is a buck’s age.  For example, two year old bucks rarely produce more than 60% of their antler growth potential and three year old bucks rarely produce more than 80%.  Even four year old bucks rarely grow their largest set of antlers.  In most areas the number one source of buck mortality is being harvested by hunters. So, the old saying “let them go so they will grow” is true!  

The second factor is the quality of a buck’s diet.  Plants are only nutrient transfer agents.  That means that if most of the nutrients are in the ground the plants can’t transfer them to deer.  This is is so important to do a soil test and lime and fertilizer as recommended by the soil test!!  Healthier plants will produce healthier deer and make them easier to hunt as healthier plants taste better/attract deer better!

There is no magic solution to producing bucks with large antlers. Simply allow the bucks to mature and make sure they have plenty of quality groceries!

Enjoy creation,

grant 

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Will fawns survive if the doe is harvested?

Question
Mr. Grant,
I see does and fawns all the time while hunting, but it always seems the mature does have fawns. And I always end up talking myself out of shooting a doe with fawns. Will the fawns be able to survive without a mother? Any other tips on managing the deer herd would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your time.

Wheeler Brewster

Wheeler,

Most state agencies don’t allow doe harvest until most fawns are old enough to survive should the doe be removed.  It’s often necessary to remove does to balance the number of deer with the habitat’s potential to produce quality forage in many areas.  This has been a standard practice for decades in most states and the deer herds have thrived!  

If there are more deer than the habitat where you hunt can produce quality forage or if the adult buck:doe ratio is out of balance in favor of does I suggest you tag some does and allow you and your family to enjoy fresh venison while helping the deer herd!

Enjoy creation,

Grant

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At what age should I “cull” bucks?

Question
Dear Dr. Woods,

Me and some friends were discussing genetics or the lack there of. The questions is at what age do you harvest a genetically inferior buck or a buck that has some sort of antler “problem”? I noticed in one of your episodes that you passed on a buck with an odd rack that looked to be 3 y/o. Do you stick to your guns of only harvesting a 4 y/o and give the inferior gene another year to replicate? or do you harvest the deer at a younger age 2-3 y/o to get him out of the gene pool? Thank you for your time.

Ben

Ben,

Recently we’ve shared footage of a buck we call Chainsaw!  He has very large antlers several kickers.  I confident almost every deer hunter would gladly tag Chainsaw.  I estimate this buck to be 4 years old. We don’t recognize Chainsaw as any of the bucks from our farm last year.  Chainsaw’s range also includes a member of our local deer coop and that landowner doesn’t recognize him either.  I suspect Chainsaw’s antlers are much larger this year than during any previous year.  Had we (or our neighbor) been tagging 3 year old or younger deer Chainsaw may not have survived to express his genetic potential.

I’ve seen this same pattern many times!  Bucks often don’t show their genetic potential until they reach 4 years old or older.  Several spikes that have been tagged or fitted with a radio collar have produced Boone and Crockett level antlers when they matured to 4 years old or older.  

Based on this and several research projects I do recommend passing bucks until the age criteria used where you hunt. It’s almost impossible to determine a buck’s antler production potential at younger ages.  

Remember that does make a huge contribution to antler shape.  The bottom line is that culling bucks without a known pedigree for several generations on both the doe and buck side is useless.  

Enjoy creation,

grant

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Do some areas have better genetics for producing larger antlers than other areas?

Question
Dr Woods,

Are certain areas in the MidWest more genetically gifted for growing larger racked whitetails? I know you like to discuss whitetail habitat because it can be manipulated to improve antler growth. Genetics not so much in a wild herd. But, won’t you agree that the true rate limiting step to growing MONSTER 200″+ whitetails are the genetics specific to that animal(s). Do these 200″ genetics occur at random throughout the range of the different whitetail sub-species. Or, are there areas such as Western WI, South Central Iowa, NE Missouri, etc etc that have higher genetic potential to grow 200″ whitetails.

I know after watching/managing a herd for over a decade in WI (1000+ acres on multiple properties) that certain antler characteristics are specific for certain “micro” habitats. Suggesting, genetics of the local herd of animals may be at play with ample food available and minimal stress on these larger properties. I would love to hear your thoughts…. seeing as the last growing deer tv episode focused on Mississippi study showing that the genetic potential existed, but was essentially masked by inadequate nutrition.

Joshua,

I’m not aware of any research that shows some areas have better genetics than others for producing large antlered bucks.  

You mentioned northern Missouri.  That’s a great example!  There wasn’t a deer season in any northern Missouri counties when I was a child.  Missouri has great stocking records and many of the deer used to stock the northern Missouri counties were from Taney County – where I live!  So – same genetics in northern Missouri where many BC bucks are tagged and Taney County where a BC buck has never been recorded.  

Clearly the difference in soil quality and forage (soybeans versus timber) accounts for the differences.  Within any location there will be huge genetic diversity among deer.  I don’t believe the BC distribution map reflects differences in regional genetic diversity. Rather if reflects differences in habitat quality and management (age structure due to state regulations, etc.).

Enjoy creation!

grant

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What was your college major?

Question
Dear Grant,

After watching a lot of your videos over the last couple of years I have taken a huge interest in the biology of whitetail deer and turkeys. I’ve noticed at the beginning of the episodes it shows that your job is a wildlife biologist. I have also seen on other YouTube videos people being named a whitetail biologist. I was wondering what did you major in, and what kind of classes did you take? And after school what type of job opportunities were you looking at or could have possibly had with your degree? I would really enjoy having a job that I was very passionate about and would love going to every day.

Thanks, Blake

Since first grade I’ve been fascinated with deer. I found a poached fawn at the farm where I lived.  Literally ever since that day I wanted to work with deer.

My undergraduate and master’s degrees were in zoology with an emphasis in wildlife. My Ph.D. was in forest and wildlife resources.

I started consulting with landowners and companies to help them with deer and habitat management while I was in grad school.  After graduating I continued that same work. My firm, Woods and Associates, Inc. has been incorporated 25+ years.

I believe God literally designed me to be a deer biologist and I’ve never strayed far from that path.  I strongly encourage you to seek God’s will in your life and follow that path.

Grant

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Is the Mississippi State research that tested whether antler size is limited by genetics or environment factors available in a written publication?

Question
Any chance we can get a hard copy or emailed pdf of the MSU study?

Thanks,

Marc

The results of the recent research by scientists at Mississippi State University that we shared (https://www.growingdeer.tv/#/whitetail-antlers-and-genetics-fact-or-fiction) hasn’t been published yet.  It is to be published soon and we’ll share a link to that publication when it’s available.

Enjoy creation!

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Can bears displace deer from an area?

Question
Hello Dr. Grant, Adam, Family, and Interns,
I live in the mountains of Western NC. I have seen (on trail camera pictures) this year and last, an increase in the number of bears and a decrease in the number of deer on one of the properties my family and I hunt. Are the deer avoiding the area because of the bears?

Background Information:
2 years ago we had pictures of approximately 8-12 different deer and maybe 1 or 2 pictures of bears all season( i think of the same bear). Last year throughout the hunting season we had regular pictures of 2 boar bears, a female with 2 cubs, and 1 adolescent bear. Last year also showed a slight decrease in the frequency of deer pictures and I don’t have an accurate count on how many different deer we had pictures of but I can estimate it to be about 8-10. This year (I know it is early but I have only seen pictures of 2 does (each with 1 fawn) and 2 bucks for a total of 6 deer. Bear numbers are exploding. Daily pictures of bears include: 1 big boar, 2 females, one with 2 cubs and one with 4 cubs, and 1 adolescent. This is a minimum of 10 bears total, maybe more.

Thanks in advance for any help or information you can give. My family and I love your videos for both their educational and entertainment value and we love that you share the Gospel through you work.

Your Fellow Hunter and Brother In Christ,
Brent in Western NC

Brent,

Thank you for watching GrowingDeer and for sharing the encouraging words!  

I believe the primary determinant of deer activity is survival.  Deer certainly co-exist with bears in many areas.  However, deer often change habits/patterns when a new or increase of predators occurs.  Given the substantial increase the number of bears where you hunt it’s certainly possible that deer in the area have switched to using a different portion of their home range.  

I suggest you don’t use any supplemental feed as bears are very attracted to easy groceries.  If you aren’t feeding then there’s probably not much you can do to discourage the bears from spending so much time where you hunt.  Hopefully some of the bears will move on soon!

Enjoy creation! 

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What percentage of land should be in food plots?

Question
How many acers do you own? And how many food plots should you have on your land per acer? Also, how many food plots should you have per however many groups of deer?

There are many variables that determine how many acres of food plot there should be on any property.  If the hunting property is an area where corn and soybean crops are commonly grown then food plots, especially during the summer, are rarely necessary.  In these areas food plots during the hunting season can be useful to attract deer after the production crops have been harvested.  

In areas where timber or pasture are the primary land uses then more acres of food plots will be necessary to provide enough quality forage for all deer to express their full genetic potential. Ideally there will be enough acres of food plots that each deer has all the quality forage they wish to consume. 

An easy and accurate indicator that can be used to evaluate the quantity of food to the number of deer in an area is to notice if quality forage such as soybeans is being over-browsed.   If it is then either more acres of food plots should be established or the deer population should be reduced – or both actions at the same time.  

Enjoy creation! 

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How to attract older bucks?

Question
I belong to a hunt club that has 500 acres but my family and I are the only serious hunters. There has never been a 4 year old or older buck seen on the property. The oldest we have seen is a couple of 3 year olds. How do we attract and keep the older bucks?

Based on lots of data from GPS collars placed on mature bucks researchers have learned that they are unique individuals and have different habitats and home range sizes just like humans.  These data also show that the home range size of most mature bucks decreases as they mature.  

Based on these findings it is unlikely to “attract” mature bucks outside their home range. So the secrete to seeing more mature bucks on a given property is to reduce the harvest of immature bucks on the same property.  As long as the bucks are dying in a portion of their range that’s outside the property where you hunt, it only requires passing immature bucks to produce mature bucks.  

Hopefully you are part of or can form a neighborhood deer management coop and adjoining landowners will follow the same buck harvest guidelines!  This is a great way to increase the age structure of a local deer herd!

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What herbicide is best for food plots with multiple forage species?

Question
Mr woods thank you for your dedication to deer hunting and conservation in general also sending out great messages for all viewers about time spent in the outdoors and creation. My 5 year old daughter loves to set down and watch your videos with me its also something I don’t have to worry about her watching and for that I thank you!

My management question is what can I use to spray on food plots with multiple species of forage such as one plot having chicory, clover and alfalfa in an existing plot that will not kill my plantings. I use glyphosate to kill new areas to be planted but I want something to treat my plots with in early-late spring before weeds mature and take over. I have about 100 acres of my personal land to tend to but also I tend my hunting club that’s about 4800 acres of free range land in the tip northeast corner of Alabama. I know some company’s sell small bottles of select herbicide but I need something a lot more cost effective. I already mow the plots soon as possible in spring but sometimes that doesn’t work out.
thank you Matt

Matt,

Thank you for for sharing the encouraging words and leading by example!  Your daughter is blessed to have a Dad that loves her enough to constantly protect her and spend time with her!

I’m not aware of a herbicide that’s safe to use over legumes (clover and alfalfa) and chicory.  Weed control in plots with multiple species is difficult.  You can use most of the grass- specific herbicides over legumes and broadleaf (chicory) with damaging the forage crops.  There are several grass-specific herbicides and all have advantages and disadvantages.  

Mowing rarely controls weeds (grasses or broad-leafed weeds).  This is one reason I tend to plant warm season plots with a single species like forage soybeans and use blends during the cool season.  Weeds are rarely a problem in cool season plots – especially if there has been a warm season forage crop and good weed control during the summer.

Depending on the size of the plots and the number of deer in the area the best rotation I’ve found for attracting and feeding deer is Eagle Seed forage soybeans during the summer followed by overseeding the beans with the Broadside blend about 60 days before the first expected frost of the fall.

The Roundup ready beans make it easy to keep the plot weed-free during the summer and the Broadside is a great soil builder and deer attractant!

Enjoy creation,

Grant 

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Does work on a property disturb deer?

Question

Grant,

As a weekly watcher of your series, I can’t help but notice on your shows you and your team are always out on your property. It seems like you are consistently working, hunting or taping for the show. This is where my questions lies, how are you always doing something on your property and not pushing the deer to become nocturnal or just leave the property all together?

One of the biggest issues around my WI property is pressure in the terms of people, machinery, etc. always pushing deer out of our area. I have 160 acres which isn’t chump change in our parts, but it seems like by the end of summer they have had enough of people and vacate the area.

Do you ever worry about being in the field too much? Are there areas you never go in? Are there times of the year you back off working in the field? Need some help from the Dr. Thanks,

-Jason H.

Jason,

We are constantly working or hunting on our place.  To offset this level of disturbance we have sanctuaries or places that we never go in except to retrieve a harvested deer, look for sheds, or limited management activities such as prescribed fire.

Sanctuaries are a critical part of our habitat!  We design/designate sanctuaries on all of our clients’ properties. Is their 20+ acres on your farm that serves as a sanctuary?

Thanks for watching GrowingDeer!

Grant

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How can I increase the population of deer on the property and get them to come out in daylight hours?

Question
Hi, my name is Tanner and I am 13 years old. I hunt on a 26 acre property in New Jersey and we have a big problem. We have been trying to get a deer for two years now. We go hunting every weekend ever since we started two years ago. But we see nothing weekend after weekend — no deer. We know they are on the property because trail cameras pick up to 36 deer in one night and some decent bucks too, like 10 and 12 pointers. But they never ever come out in daylight hours. How can I increase the population of deer on the property and get them to come out in daylight hours? It is so bad that I can have over 300 pictures and not one of them are in daylight hours. I love hunting but it is starting to get old going out and sitting through freezing temperatures and seeing nothing day after day. Thank you!

Tanner, it can get tough when hunting a lot and not seeing deer! When I help folks improve hunting on properties that are similar in size to the one you hunt I always try to determine where the best food, cover, and water sources are in the neighborhood. Deer will certainly use neighboring properties so understanding where they are using food, cover, and water during different times of year and weather conditions is very important. Once I get a better handle on where deer are using food, cover, and water I see if I can create the preferred location for one of those resources on the property where my clients hunt. Second – I always have at least 4 stand/blind sites – one for a north, south, west, and east wind. Just as importantly I plan an entrance and exit route for each of those wind directions. It’s easy to alert every deer on 26 acres by simply walking to the stand with the wind at my back and letting every deer know to avoid the area while I’m there. Sometimes this means walking around the outside edge of the property or entering from the opposite side to ensure I don’t alert deer to my presence. By determining where deer are using food, cover, and water, and approaching, hunting and exiting stands/blinds without alerting deer should allow hunters to punch their tag no matter where they hunt! Finally – I often share with folks to not do the same thing and expect different results. Too often deer pattern hunters more than hunters pattern deer. Remember there are several factors that may impact deer besides the hunter – such as coyotes, bears, or hunters on neighboring properties that alert deer. I look forward to hearing about your results after you try some new strategies!

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How much protein does a deer need and use?

Question

I have a question that I need your advice concerning maximum protein utilization requirements for whitetails. Does a deer have a % limit that can be metabolized and any amount over that provides no benefit? In other words if a deer has access to nutrients of 30 % + protein can it all be beneficial/utilized for physical development regardless of sex or age? Please share your thoughts with me on this topic if my question makes sense. Where do you get these answers to learn more about this topic? I sure enjoy your info on GrowingDeer.tv!!

Harrison

Harrison,

To my knowledge, Cargill (huge feed company that researches and sells to the whitetail market under the brand Sportsmen Choice) has the largest whitetail nutrition research program. There is lots of good information on their website.

Grant

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Do you have a month to month list of things I can do to help the wildlife?

Question

I have 40 acres in Rosebud, MO where nothing has been touched. It has just all grown up right now. Is there anything I can do in January and February to help the wildlife? Do you have a month to month list of things I can do to help the wildlife? I am wanting to start doing some food plots and some timber management in 2013 and any help would be deeply appreciated; this is my first time.

Thanks,

Ed

Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! I would make sure I have plenty of Trophy Rock (60+ trace minerals) out during January. I want it out year round. I tend to create new hidey hole food plots and stand sites at this time also. There are no ticks and the woods are open so visibility is better! We produce a new show each week and all the past shows (160+) are available online. So can easily see what we are doing each week. Thanks again and best of luck with your habitat work!

Grant

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What data should be collected while deer hunting?

Question
I just purchased your book, “Deer Management 101: Manage Your Way to Better Hunting”, and I’m reading it at this time.  You mention keeping a log or journal.  I have been keeping a hunting/work journal for years.  I never seem to have all the information I need on my journal pages.  When you are gathering information on your property what are the main things you record?  Thanks for all the great information you provide.

Ron

Ron,

I record the date, start and stop time of each hunt (morning and afternoon).  I record the time in military style so morning and afternoon are never confused.  I also record where I hunt based on a grid system, I don’t use stand names as stand names change from time to time.  I also record the number of bucks, does, fawns, and unidentified deer observed.  I differentiate between antlered bucks and male fawns.  I also am very careful to never assume!  If I can’t positively identify the deer, I list it as an unidentified.  Typically about 30% of the deer I observe are listed as unidentified.

I don’t record moon phase, temperature, etc,. as all of those data are available from the Nation Weather Service.  I find the basic information, such as I described above, is more useful than detailed information that doesn’t allow me to see the big picture.  On some of my research projects where I’m attempting to address specific questions, my staff and I collect additional data.

In addition to observation data, I collect harvest data (age, body weights, etc.).  I’m a huge fan of using trail camera surveys to monitor a herd’s population demographics.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Where to Find Sheds

Question
Hey Grant,

In March there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground where I live.  I’ve looked for sheds my whole life but I have never found one.  Do the mice eat them as they fall or am I not looking in the right areas?  We have 250 acres and I look by our creek, under pines, up on ridges, near fence crossings, corn fields, even by rubs.  Do you have any tips to find a big shed?

Joe (Wisconsin)

Joe,

My wife, daughters, and I really enjoy shed hunting!  Through the years, we’ve learned to spend most of our time looking in areas where deer feed and bed during January through March.  We also search the travel zones between the feeding and bedding areas.  Rodents (squirrels and mice), coyotes and other critters will consume sheds.  However, they usually don’t consume the entire shed, especially the larger ones.  These critters tend to chew on the points and less on the main beams.  The biggest factor to finding sheds is the number of sheds in the area.  Therefore, in areas where a higher percentage of bucks from the herd are harvested each year, there will obviously be fewer sheds to find.  If you and your family are actively passing bucks on your land to allow them to mature, you should have a good opportunity to find some sheds!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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The deer are destroying my landscape. What should I do?

Question
My neighborhood is overpopulated with deer.  We live in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.  On some afternoons there are 25 deer in my front yard.  Are there any special interest groups that might come and capture the deer to relocate them?  They can be very destructive.  They eat all our plants and flowers, tear up the yard while jumping around and have worn trails in our yard.  Shooting the deer is not well received in our community.  What would you advise?

Viney

Viney,

Unfortunately there are gads of neighborhoods throughout the whitetails’ range that are overpopulated.  Residents go from liking to see an occasional deer to some of the residents hating deer.  It is sad when deer are left unmanaged and then become hated.  They are beautiful creatures and deserve respect and to be appropriately managed.  I’m not aware of any group that will move deer.  Deer are owned by the state (unless part of a captive herd) and can only be moved, harvested, etc., by special permit issued by the governing state agency.  Problems similar to yours have been faced for years and the only solution to date is to harvest the excess deer.  There are several major metropolitan areas that accomplish this by hosting archery only hunts.  These hunts are strongly regulated, and often the hunters must qualify by taking a safety and proficiency test.  If you and your neighbors wish to address the problem I’m very confident this is the only route.  You may wish to contact the regional Missouri Department of Conservation office and seek addition counsel since this would be a state/local jurisdiction sanctioned event.

Whatever you do, don’t allow the neighborhood to lose respect for a beautiful part of God’s creation.  The deer are not at fault.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How do I manage my small property for the best deer hunting?

Question
Hi Dr. Grant,

If you have really small tracts of land, 80 acres to 1 acre, how would you go about managing it?

Shane (central Minnesota)

Shane,

I usually start by identifying if food, water, or cover is the most limiting factor in the neighborhood.  I do this by combining information gathered from using Google Earth and driving around the neighborhood.  If one of these critical habitat elements is limited in availability, I begin by establishing that resource on the property I’m managing.  I also attempt to determine the amount of hunting pressure locally, and how that might impact deer activity in the neighborhood.  I also insure when I hunt the property, my approach to the stand doesn’t alert deer to my presence.  That often means approaching using a non-direct route such as walking the border 1/2 way around the property so I can approach with the wind in my face.  Don’t forget that the smaller the property, the more critical sanctuaries may be.  Deer need an area where they always feel secure.  By providing this on your land, deer are more likely to spend the days on your property.  Having deer present on your property during daylight hours is a huge advantage!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Establishing Chicory

 

Question
Dear Grant,

I planted a one acre food plot with BioLogic Maximum last August.  It was the best food plot I have ever planted as far as growing a full lush field that really attracted deer.  My 15 year old son and I both killed very nice 2 1/2 year old bucks off this field with compound bows, one 9 pt. 176 lb. and one 8 pt. 165 lb. buck.  A friend also scored on a 2 1/2 year old 8 pt. in archery season, as well as two relatives killing nice 2 1/2 year old 8 pt. bucks in rifle season.  All of these on just 80 acres in southeast Pennsylvania, 3 of them off this food plot.

It worked so well I was tempted to replant the field again this fall, but decided instead to take advantage of the present conditions of the ground to do a frost seeding, saving time and money on tilling.  I will plow and plant my other food plot with BioLogic Maximum this fall.  I am planning to frost seed a mix of white ladino clover and red clover, a mix that has worked for me in the past.  However, I would love to also establish chicory or alfalfa in addition to the clover mix.  In the past, I had once tried frost seeding both chicory and alfalfa with poor results.  Is it worth trying again, or is there something else you recommend frost seeding?  Based on my results with conventional planting, I would like to establish chicory in with the clovers.  I do not have a no-till planter and must till before spring or fall plantings, which is a lot of work.

I appreciate any advice or recommendations you can give.

Thanks,

Dan

Dan,

Wow – sounds like some great hunting on your farm last season!!  Congratulations!

Clover is easily established using the frost seeding method (GDTV 68).  However, alfalfa rarely can be established as well using that technique.  Alfalfa germinates best when there is a firm seedbed and very good seed to soil contact.  This is rarely the case when frost seeding.

Chicory is a softer seed and often will crack or rot before germinating when planted when frosts are still occurring.  To establish a good stand of either alfalfa or chicory, you will need to either till or use a no-till drill once the soil temperatures warm up a bit.  Many counties rent no-till drills so be sure and check with the local county extension or NRCS office.

As I write this, there is snow covering portions of Pennsylvania.  I’ve established great stands of clover by spreading it directly into late season snows and letting the seed be placed by the melting snow.

Growing Deer (and crops) together,

Grant

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Eagle Seed Soybeans in Virginia

Question
I want to plant some Eagle Seed Roundup Ready soybeans.  I live in central Virginia.  I understand that Eagle Seed has a number of Roundup Ready varieties including Habitat Haven, Big Fellow, Wildlife Managers Mix, and others.  Which would you recommend for my location?  Do all the mixes have blends for different growing regions (i.e. South, Midwest, etc.)?

Tom

Tom,

I’ve planted all of those varieties of Eagle Seed forage soybeans at that latitude with great success!!  There is a great description of each variety/blend on their website.  I think you will be amazed at the production of Eagle Seed’s forage soybeans.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How should we manage our hunt club food plots in an area that is heavy timber?

Question
Grant,

I’m a member of a hunting club that owns 700 acres of strictly timber ground in northern Pennsylvania.  We have the necessary sanctuaries and we are adding 12 acres of food plots in the center of the property.  What is the most profitable food that will hold deer and increase harvest opportunities?

Also, have you ever tried to no till brassicas in late summer into clover plots?

Keep up the great work!!

John

John,

The 12 acres is only 1.7% of the property in food plots.  If the remainder of the property is closed canopy forest, then clover might be the best option.  Do the existing plots receive a lot of browse pressure?  If so, more palatable crops such as forage soybeans would most likely be over browsed unless they were protected by a food plot fence.

I have used a no-till drill to seed brassicas into an existing clover stand.  This technique works well if the clover is dormant from drought conditions.  The brassicas will struggle if the clover is lush and blocking the sun from reaching the soil.

No matter what you plant, it’s critical the crops are as productive as possible given the food plot to timber ratio.  I recommend you do a soil test annually and request the lab base their recommendations on a maximum yield.

Finally, I also recommend using a utilization cage in each plot so production versus utilization can be compared.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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What advice do you have for students considering a career as a Wildlife Biologist?

Question
I have grown up reading articles of yours in magazines.  I am now a sophomore in college and I want to be a wildlife biologist that focuses on deer management.  You’re an expert in this field so I was wondering if you could give me some advice on pursuing this career.

Colin

Colin,

Thank you for the kind words!  I think the key to being successful in any field is to have a passion for the line of work and seek the best information and training to prepare.  To be a wildlife biologist that focuses on deer management, I strongly suggest you find ways through internships, volunteering, etc., to gain experience and make relationships with practicing deer managers.  I consider gaining experience just as important as the coursework associated with obtaining a degree.  One without the other will leave some gaps in your preparation.  I’ve addressed different aspects of this before and those comments can be found by searching the Ask Grant and blog entries on this site.

I look forward to working with you someday soon!

Grant

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Designing an Experiment

Question
I’m going to college to become a wildlife biologist, do you have any advice? I am also going to run a study on how barometric pressure affects deer, any thoughts?

Neil

Neil,

I’ve addressed several questions about becoming a wildlife biologist.  You might check out my answer to Getting Involved and use the search feature to find more answers.  I strongly believe that most folks can be successful at any occupation that they are passionate about.  That doesn’t mean entering or advancing in that occupation will be easy or profitable.  You should know that passion about hunting is not the same as passion about being a wildlife biologist.  The two certainly complement each other.  However, many wildlife biologists (including myself) spend more time helping other hunters and landowners than we do hunting.  My strongest suggestion for you would be to spend a summer as an intern with a wildlife biologist that works in a specific area of your choosing.  Spending a summer, even on a volunteer basis, is much less expensive in terms of dollars and time, then finding out that being a wildlife biologist was a bad choice.  I believe that internships or similar programs are extremely beneficial to folks deciding which career path to take.  I volunteered a summer through the Student Conservation Organization when I was a junior in college.  I worked for the Bureau of Land Management at the Elko, Nevada District.  I was only paid $25 per week and provided a small trailer for living quarters.  It was a fabulous experience.  My best counsel for you is to do an internship and see what being a wildlife biologist is really like before making a decision for your degree program.

Designing studies that provide meaningful results takes a bit of time.  Please take time to consider the question (hypothesis) you wish to address and be honest about all the variables that may impact the results.  Probably the biggest flaw in most studies is not accounting for all the sources of variability.  Results without understanding the variables often lead to erroneous conclusions.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

 

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Events at The Proving Grounds

Question

Grant,

My name is Jacob and I am turning 17 this February.  I think I’ve seen every one of your videos, I love what you do!  When is your next Shed Hunt or Field Day and is it open to the public for people like me?  I know from the videos you charge a small fee.  I would love to be a part of an event at The Proving Grounds.

Jake (New York)

Jake,

Thank you for watching GrowingDeer.tv!  Our 2nd Annual Shed Hunt is scheduled for March 18th-20th.  You are correct in that we charge just enough to cover expenses (hotel room, meals, hat, great prizes, etc.).  I really enjoy sharing what we’ve learned at The Proving Grounds (and other places we work) with fellow hunters and deer managers and learning from them during these events.  There will be several guests from the hunting industry attending also and they love to talk deer with our guests.

I hope to meet you during March!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Supplying Nutritional Needs

Question

Grant,

I hunt a small 50 acre woods containing hardwoods and thick cover.  I hunted last year for the first time.  Although I do not own the land I am the only one who hunts it.  I have permission from the owner to do what I need as long as it doesn’t pertain to the fields.  It has a lot of acorns and this year it had corn on three sides (the front side is a county road).  I saw several large rubs and a few decent sized scrapes.  I harvested a few does but was unable to harvest a mature buck.  What can I do to help buck growth?  Mineral licks?  What are your suggestions for my little piece of heaven?

Thank you for your time,

David

David,

Sounds as if you have a nice place to hunt!  Having commercial agriculture on three sides should supply most of a deer’s nutritional needs.  This is especially true if there is both corn and soybeans available within the deer’s range.  Corn is very high in energy, but not protein.  This is why deer having access to both corn and soybeans provides a much better diet.  The toughest part of hunting 50 acres is making sure you don’t repeatedly spook deer from the area.  I strongly suggest you always approach the area with the wind in your favor and avoid over hunting the area.

Trophy Rock provides 60+ trace minerals.  Deer need a very small quantity of each of the minerals to express their full potential.  By placing a couple of Trophy Rocks in the area you hunt would insure that each of these trace minerals are available to the deer that use that area!  Take care of the landowner as it sounds as if you have permission to hunt a great location!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Mineral Rocks

Question

What is a mineral rock?

Ken

Ken,

A “mineral rock,” at least as I use the term, is a Trophy Rock.  Trophy Rock is simply a “rock” mined from a deposit of sea minerals in Utah.  There are only three such veins of salt sea minerals known in the world.  In other salt deposits, the minerals settled out and left just salt.  Each of the known salt sea mineral deposits have a slightly different composition.  I like the mineral composition in the vein that Trophy Rock mines in Utah.  It is 100% natural and a great blend of 60+ minerals that benefits deer.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Will ATV’s Scare Deer Away?

Question

Next year when I go deer hunting, if I ride an ATV slowly will it scare the deer away?

Jon

Jon,

Deer are very alert to smells and noises they associate with danger.  If they associate the noise of an ATV with danger, they will certainly avoid the area or at least be alerted by the presence of an ATV.  On the other hand, they may simply ignore the ATV if they don’t associate it with danger.  For example, deer at most golf courses don’t associate golf carts with danger.  They see them every day and are not harmed or threatened by them.  However, a pickup driving down a golf trail would probably cause the local deer herd to be on alert and limit their movement until they sensed the threat passed.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Field Days

Question

Grant,

I stumbled onto your website through Facebook.  I’m a youth pastor in Salina, Kansas.  I watched the video that you did before Christmas and really appreciated your testimony at the beginning. I love to hunt as do several guys in our church.  I wish I could spend as much time as you do in the field.  God’s creation is so awesome.  I have six teen boys in my youth ministry that love to hunt. Do you ever do anything with young guys?  If we could connect it would be a great experience for them.  I don’t mean to hunt, just spend a couple of hours with you showing the guys what you do and why you do it.  We are affiliated with Baptist Bible College in Springfield (don’t hold that against us) so making a trip to Springfield isn’t that unusual.  Pray about it and let me know.

God Bless,

Matt

Matt,

Thanks for the kind words!  I host several annual events (field days, shed hunts, etc.) your group would enjoy!!  You are welcome to join us.  There is a fee for events that covers hotel room nights, meals, etc.  It is not a fee based on me making a profit.  I simply don’t wish to lose money on such events.  The registration information will be posted on GrowingDeer.tv.

I always invite all attendees to join me at First Baptist Church Branson for Bible Study and Worship.

Thanks again and may God bless your ministry!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Supplemental Feed for Deer

Question

Thanks for answering my last question!!  Here’s another one:  our club leases 7,000+/- acres of topographically similar, but managed pine timberlands (85%+ pinelands).  This past year hardwoods have been in demand and the harvest of those premium hardwood bottoms has been intense with re-plantings by the landowners only in pine.  Although the natural shrub browse is good throughout the lease most of the year (middle Alabama), our club has established a supplemental feeder program with grain (corn) feeders throughout the post-hunting spring and summer season based on a belief that there is not enough good natural food in these timberlands.  We also plant winter food plots with a multi-seed mix.  What’s your opinion on establishing spring/summer food plots versus grain feeders?  Would that provide for an overall better long-term herd food program?  (i.e. if we feed cattle from the corn hopper, why not deer?)

Thanks!!

Dan

Dan,

There are some clubs that have a great supplemental feeding program.  However it’s a lot of work to do correctly.  Feeders should be cleaned frequently (every week), moved every other week (so deer aren’t picking up the spilled grain from areas covered with feces, urine, etc.) and enough feeders should be maintained so that deer are not constantly fighting (being stressed) at feeders.  In addition, predators learn to key in on deer at feeders rapidly.  This plus the huge monetary cost of buying feed, feeders, and maintaining the feeders makes a good supplemental feeding program prohibitive for most folks.

It’s almost always much less expensive to grow high quality feed on site compared to someone else growing, harvesting, packaging, shipping, going through brokers, retailers, etc.

Cattle are vaccinated so they are not as likely to get sick when using feeders that are not cleaned.  In addition, predators don’t pattern cattle as readily as they do deer using a feeder.  Finally, cattle rarely fight as much as deer at feeders.  Cattle are herd animals by nature; white-tailed deer are not comfortable in large herds of non-family members.

A final consideration is that it is common for birds, squirrels, raccoons, etc., to consume a significant portion of the supplemental feed.  You can literally have squirrels and raccoons consume thousands of dollars of feed.  Unless it’s prohibited by your lease agreement, I suggest you strongly consider growing the food on site.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Attracting Deer to a Small Property

Question

My father and I hunt west of Lufkin, Texas on a 277 acre lease.  Although it’s not a big property we still manage it as much as we can by passing young bucks and harvesting does.  We have killed 7 bucks in 6 years.  Three of which are in the high 140’s, so I know the potential of the area.  I just got permission to hunt a small 17 acre piece of property a few miles away.  The good thing is that it’s surrounded on three sides by a 2000 acre property with mostly pine trees. The 17 acre property is mostly mature oak trees.  What can I do to improve this place?  Should I plant a food plot in the center of it and hunt the perimeter?  Or wait until the acorns start to drop before hunting it?  What would you do?

Andrew

Andrew,

It sounds as if you and your father are doing a great job managing the deer on your lease!  You may have another great opportunity on the 17 acre tract!  If you have access to hunt the only stand of oaks around, then when they produce it should be a hot spot!  Remember that deer want to survive even more than they like acorns.  So, be cautious when approaching the area.  Try not to alert deer to your presence.  I suggest you have stands hung for multiple wind directions well before season begins.  I would also develop a food plot in an area where you can access it or a travel corridor to the plot without alarming deer.  There will be some years when acorn production is minimal, so having a good source of food will pay huge dividends during those years.  If the conditions aren’t in your favor, I suggest not hunting the 17 acre tract.  If you alert deer to your presence there many times, mature deer will likely only visit that area after dark.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Does Corn Help Grow Antlers?

Question

During a show you mentioned that corn does not facilitate growth of large antlers in states like Iowa.  Rather, the other plants that those rich soils produce aid in that growth.  To what other plants were you referring?

Dennis

Dennis,

I think we miscommunicated.  Food high in protein like soybeans is critical for antler growth.  However, so is food that is high in energy.  Corn is a great source of energy for deer!!  The combination of corn and soybeans grown in the same area creates a much better diet than simply a diet of only corn or only soybeans.  Deer will consume primarily the soybean foliage during the growing season, and then consume the carbohydrate rich corn grain during the winter.  These carbohydrates help deer maintain body heat, weight, etc, through the winter stress period!  In fact, most of the record book bucks come from agricultural areas that produce both corn and soybeans annually.  I commonly prescribe corn and forage soybeans for food plots even in non-agricultural areas.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Recommended Literature

Question

Hi,

My name is Seth and I am the private lands conservationist technician for Fremont and Mills counties in Iowa.  What information or literature would you recommend to look at from a management standpoint regarding white-tailed deer?  I wish to educate myself so I can help landowners with questions they have regarding this matter.  I would really appreciate it.

 

Seth

Seth,

There are many sources of information that may be of value.  Some of the sources may not be directly related to white-tailed deer.  For example, there are several sources of information about prescribed fire, soil fertility, etc., that are not considered specific to deer management.  The Quality Deer Management Association produces a great magazine titled Quality Whitetails that includes lots of deer and habitat information.  You might check out my book, “Deer Management 101,” as a source of deer population management information.  We also host multiple field days annually at The Proving Grounds for hands on deer and habitat information.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Latest Strategies

Question

Dear Grant,

I really enjoy your show and appreciate what you do for all of us greenhorns. What do you think of all the individuals out there who are claiming that they have the latest secret or strategy (for a consultation fee) that can manipulate your habitat or teach you how to hold deer (beds etc.) and cause them to predictably funnel past your stand for an easy kill?  I am not trying to get you to talk negatively about anyone.  I just want to know if it is truly possible to do what they are claiming or if I would be better off spending my money elsewhere?  Thank you and may the good Lord bless you and your family this Christmas.

Jim

Jim,

Thanks for the kind words!  Certainly habitat can usually be improved and even designed to improve a hunter’s chances of seeing a mature buck.  However, it’s still up to the hunter to approach the stand stealthily, only hunt when the wind is favorable for that location, etc.

The old adage “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is” seems to be very accurate.  I would suggest researching any product or consultant that claims to consistently produce “easy kills” of mature bucks before purchasing or hiring.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Cows, Deer & Electric Fences

Question

We lease some Midwest farms to hunt and there are cows in some areas for part of the warm months.  One owner fears us having multi-row electric fences because he thinks some of the cows might get caught between the wires and have problems getting out.  Do you have any experience with this type of situation?

Cows are gone by hunting season and we can open the electric fences.  After letting deer in for a few weeks to graze forage bean green leaves, can we close them out again until late season when we want them to enjoy the bean pods or will habit lead them to force their way back into the groceries?

Are you seeing or hearing reports of fewer deer in your parts of the Midwest?  In our areas of southeast Nebraska and northern Kansas we have experienced a drastic decline in deer numbers in the past 2 years.  We see fewer deer and we see the same deer multiple days so there seems to be fewer total deer.  More tags are being issued.  Late antlerless seasons are allowed after bucks have shed antlers.  There is a new 10-day Nebraska antlerless gun season that was added in the midst of bow season.  We have not seen evidence of big EHD problems.  Lots of hunters are practicing QDM in our areas so why the big drop in buck numbers?  Fewer does produce fewer buck fawns but why does it seem like such a sudden event?  We have gotten similar reports from several counties in southern Iowa and west central Illinois this year.  Do you think it is the result of official actions, over-harvests, weather cycles, voodoo, or just a really unlucky season?  Surely, it is not a matter of ALL of the bucks being in lockdown arrangements for the whole season, right?

Thanks, again, you are a GREAT resource and we appreciate your guidance.

Lennie

Lennie,

Great to hear from you!  I hope we get to visit again this February at the Deer Study Group.

I would have no fear of cows or calves becoming entangled and/or hurt in the 2-tier Gallagher electric fence I use to protect food plot crops.  I’ve grabbed the fence (on purpose and by accident) and besides wishing I hadn’t, I was not injured.  I think the fear of a cow or calf being injured is totally unwarranted.  I think there is a much greater chance of a cow being injured by being chased into a barbed wire fence by dogs, coyotes, etc.

I’ve been very pleased with the results of the Gallagher fences at mine and several clients’ properties from New York to Alabama.  However, I haven’t tried opening the gates, then closing them again.  I believe this will work as long as the remainder of the fence is maintained with a charge.  If you give this a try, please keep me posted about the results!

I’ve heard a mix of reports from friends having their worst to best hunting season in the Midwest.  I do feel strongly that as more bucks are allowed to mature, the herd’s behaviors change.  I think herds with several bucks 4+ years old show much more of a lockdown style rut than herds with the biggest majority of bucks being 3 years old.  Three year old bucks tend to be more active and aggressive.  Once a herd has several big, mature bucks, the younger deer don’t tend to be as rowdy.  That’s not to say that hunting 4 year old bucks is boring, but that it requires a different strategy to be successful on a sustained basis.

I suspect the post rut hunts may be some of the best hunting during the 2010-11 season.  Let’s visit during February and see if this prediction is accurate.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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2011 Field Day Dates

Question

In your answer to a previous question you stated there will be two field days in 2011.  When will those dates and associated costs be available?

Andrew

Andrew,

I haven’t set dates for the shed hunt or field days yet.  The date for our 2011 Shed Hunt will be posted on our web site during early January.  The hunt will most likely be during late March – just before spring green up in the Ozarks and youth turkey season!

I hope you will join us!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Shoot or Don’t Shoot Spikes

Question

Years ago, a biologist in Texas wrote a book, “The King Of Deer”, and in it he wrote that his studies show that spikes are simply yearlings that did not get the right diet.  Now a number of Texas authorities say that is bunk and they tell everyone to shoot them.  I imagine that some of the spikes will never develop to be a 20″ 10 point, but they may grow to be good legal bucks. Have you done any studies on this?  Where does your research take place?

Chick

Chick,

Several researchers including Drs. Harry Jacobson, Mickey Hellickson, myself, etc., have researched both captive and free-ranging yearly bucks and without question spike bucks can and most often do produce average or better antlers as they mature!  In fact, some of Dr. Hellickson’s research in Texas shows that the difference in antler size, once allowed to mature, between bucks whose first set of antlers were spikes and those with 10 points is not substantially different when they are 4.5 years old.  The conclusion to his research was that shooting spikes only resulted in fewer bucks for hunters to harvest three years later.  Based on that and several other research projects I never recommend hunters harvest yearling bucks with spike antlers as a means to improve the herd’s average antler size.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Mature bucks on 131 acres

Question

I just recently checked out your website and was impressed.  I live in Florida but I own 131 acres in the Ozarks (Douglas County) for 3 years now.  I put a lot of hard work on my land and see no improvement (lime, fertilize, mow, disk and plant all types of seed).  I get lots of pictures of young bucks and does but no big bucks.  I have 3 ponds, mature pines, and hardwoods with good bedding.  I think the neighbors shoot anything brown.  What am I doing wrong?

Tim

Tim,

Sounds like you have created good habitat.  Mature bucks will typically use the best habitat within their range disproportionately more than areas with lower quality food, cover, and water.  You may have the best habitat in the neighborhood, but the mature bucks are still probably spending some time on the neighboring properties.  If that’s the case and your neighbors aren’t of the mindset to pass immature bucks, then few bucks are probably reaching maturity at your farm.

You didn’t mention the creation of sanctuaries on your property.  Sanctuaries are critical for producing mature bucks on relatively small acreages.  I’d also visit with the neighbors about the benefits of allowing bucks to mature.  They may or may not be receptive at first.  However, it’s certainly worth a shot and I’d continue with the educational efforts.  Each buck that is passed will make the hunting in the neighborhood that much better!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Continue GrowingDeer.tv

Question

Just wanted to drop you a short note to say that I thoroughly enjoy your weekly videos.  I own a farm in northern Missouri, so big bucks are common in that part of the state.  I’m very impressed with the quality of the bucks that you have on your property, in one of the toughest parts of the state to grow big deer.  I hope you continue your videos into next year.  Keep up the good work and thanks for the helpful information.

Keith

Keith,

Thank you for the kind words!!  I enjoy sharing information with deer hunters and managers and GrowingDeer.tv is a great tool to share timely information!  Lord willing, I plan to continue with the show, our annual shed hunt, and food plot and habitat field trips.

Thanks for watching and please join us for a field trip!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Creating Bedding Areas

Question

I am having a lot of the old pine trees cut off my property and plan on putting a larger food plot in the center of the property.  How do I build bedding areas with hinge cutting (height and direction of cut)?  Is there a difference between buck and doe bedding areas?  Thanks, I’m looking forward to your answer.

Craig

Craig,

Deer like to bed and/or rest in areas where the cover at 0-3’ above ground level is very thick.  Anything above 3’ only serves to provide shade when it’s hot.  Such cover can be created by hinge cutting.  However, trees, even when they are hinged-cut, grow up rapidly.  Without additional cuts every few years, the cover will rapidly grow taller and shade out the critical 0-3’ zone that’s important to deer.  That’s why deer prefer to bed in thick grasses or other types of cover that doesn’t grow up as fast as trees.

With that said, deer will readily use the best cover within their range.  If the area where you planned the hinge cutting is primarily forest or open pasture land, then deer will most likely use any cover created!  Deer tend to select the best food and cover in their range.  By creating the best food and cover available in the neighborhood on your property, deer will use it disproportionately more than the surrounding areas.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Internship at The Proving Grounds

Question

Hello,

I am a student at the University of Michigan with a strong passion for habitat management and preserving hunting traditions.  As a sophomore, I am currently in the process of choosing a career path and I am looking for opportunities to observe professionals in their respective careers.  I stumbled upon your website today.  After watching all of your videos and reading about The Proving Grounds, I am confident that an opportunity to observe and learn from you would be beneficial to my future.  I understand that you are very busy.  Any help and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,

Hunter

Hunter,

You are on the right track!  I took a volunteer position with the Bureau of Land Management while in undergrad school and it was a great step in my career path!!  I have several habitat improvement projects planned for this summer.  However, I don’t have any funds designated to pay an intern to assist with this work.  If there are intern or project scholarships available at your school, I’ll be happy to review the program.  I can promise you that you would gain a huge amount of experience in wildlife and habitat management working with my team.  I enjoy working with graduate students and interns.  I’m very thankful for the opportunity my first volunteer position provided.  It was through the Student Conservation Association which is still a good organization.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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What’s in the book “Deer Management 101”?

Question

Could you please describe what type of information is covered in your book, Deer Management 101: Manage Your Way to Better Hunting?

Thank you,

Craig

Craig,

The subject of Deer Management 101 is about the principles of deer herd management.  I explain in simple terms the advantages and disadvantages of managing for different adult sex ratios, age structures, differing numbers of deer per the amount of food available, etc.  It has gads of pictures, graphs and tables that are easy to understand and the information is easy to apply to specific hunting properties.  It’s about deer management and the implications of differing quality habitats, but does not address specific habitat management techniques such as food plots, prescribed fire, etc.

I hope you enjoy and benefit from Deer Management 101!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Minimum Size of Cover Areas

Question

Grant,

Is there a minimum acreage that’s necessary for switchgrass or other NWSGs to be effective as bedding?  I read where you recommend as big of blocks of cover as possible, such as 10 acres.  I have some areas that are only 2 to 5 acres and am wondering if it’s worth planting switchgrass for cover?  If there’s no use should I plant food plots there instead (although I don’t really need more food)?

Thanks,

Garry

Garry,

Native warm season grasses and other types of cover in any size acreages will be used by deer and other game species.  However, the smaller the area of cover the easier it is for predators to detect the game within the cover.  In addition, deer are not herd animals like elk.  They, especially mature bucks, like their space.

So, if your property has a limited supply of cover, I’d convert the larger plots into cover if you have more than enough quality forage available during both the late summer and late winter stress periods.  I wouldn’t convert food plot acreage to cover if there is not enough food during those stress periods as you would simply be spending resources to solve one problem and create another.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Holding Bucks on a Property During the Summer

Question

Mr. Woods,

I have 145 acres that I have managed for 10 years.  I have a 1/4 acre turnip, wheat, clover field, and ½ acre clover field, and the Fisher River runs through the property.  The timber was cut 15 years ago and is still fairly dense.  The bucks don’t stay on my property in the summer.  I’ve got Trophy Rocks and two feeders out.  There are two doe groups that call my place home.  How can I get the bucks to call my place home all year?

Brandon (North Carolina)

Brandon,

In order to hold bucks throughout the year a property must contain good quality food, cover, and water.  It appears that your property has plenty of water.  Next, let’s consider food.  Turnips, wheat, and clover are good food sources during certain times of the year.  Deer readily consume turnips and wheat during the fall and early spring but once they “bolt,” or make a stem during the spring, their attractiveness and forage value quickly drops.  Clover is a great protein source during cool, moist seasons but tends to not provide much forage during the dry portions of summer and during the late winter.  I would try to increase my summer food sources by increasing acreage and planting Eagle Seed forage soybeans or even chicory depending on the plot size and number of deer.  The quality and quantity of crops produced are dependent on the soil’s fertility so it is critical to do an annual soil test and lime and fertilize as needed.

I also suggest you view the cover from a deer’s point of view.  Is there a significant amount of sunlight reaching the forest floor?  Is it difficult to see more than a few feet?  Sunlight means there should be ample growth that can provide both food and cover.  If the forest’s canopy has closed and limited sunlight is reaching the soil, it may be time to consider thinning a portion of the timber.

I’m glad to hear you are using Trophy Rocks.  I get gads of buck pictures throughout the summer at my mineral stations.  Remember, if you provide quality food, cover, and water throughout the year, it is likely bucks will remain on your property!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Managing 4,000 Acres

Question

Dear Grant,

Our hunting club has been following a management program for many years.  On a 4,000 acre farm we plant around 80 acres in a mixture of clover, Eagle Seed forage soybeans and a wheat/oat combination in the fall.  We maintain about 40 mineral licks on this property and we feel we are at a point where we may have reached our potential.  We only harvest about 8 to 12 mature 4 year old bucks a year.  We feel that on some parts of the property we can carry more deer while others parts may need additional harvest of does.  Our pre-season camera survey shows our fawn recruitment may be low as we have also seen a significant increase in predators on the farm.  Should we hammer the predators, slack off on the doe harvest and continue to provide quality year round forage?  If we can’t grow deer over 140” can we can grow more of them?  Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks,

Lance (northwest Alabama)

Lance,

It sounds like you have a good deer management program.  I’m glad to hear that you are collecting data before making management decisions.  Camera surveys are a great method of learning deer herd dynamics, however caution must be given to actual fawn recruitment totals from a pre-season survey.  During this time of year some fawns are not old enough to be at the doe’s side.  It is best to look at these numbers as trends from year-to-year.  Collecting hunter observation data is another way of collecting fawn recruitment data and if implemented correctly can provide more accurate results.

Determining how many does to harvest should be based on both a camera survey and the foraging pressure on food resources, with more emphasis on the available food during the two stress periods – late summer and late winter.  To easily and accurately monitor this I place at least one utilization cage (4X10 ft piece of woven wire with the ends tied together) in each food plot to see how much deer are eating compared to growth inside the cage.  If the forage in food plots in some areas of the property is heavily eaten it may be time to harvest more does or increase food plot acreage in that area.

In either case I highly recommend implementing a sustained predator control program.  Coyotes, in particular, can cause a huge amount of stress on adult deer and mortality on fawns.  A recent study in Alabama suggested that fawn recruitment rose 150+% after a heavy predator reduction program.  There is no doubt that coyotes can have a huge impact on deer population quality and quantity!

By maintaining ample high quality food on a year round basis, practicing quality deer management, and reducing predators, the herd’s health will most like improve substantially.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Identifying Habitat Needs in the Mountains

Question

Dr. Woods,

Great website!  I appreciate your dedication to this great sport.

I have 1,500 mountainous acres that have been stripped for mining and logged.  The strip pits have been planted in food plots and adequately support our deer herd.  The loggers left several logging roads cutting around these mountains that have since become overgrown.  With the steep terrain, the deer use these logging roads as much as possible.  My question involves how to manipulate this terrain to allow a more huntable setup while providing natural food and cover.  I am fortunate to have a very skilled dozer operator to help with this.  Should I “touch up” these logging roads and create bottlenecks with the dozer?  Should I clear off ridge tops and wide benches and allow undergrowth to grow back?  I’m looking to manipulate these hard-to-hunt areas with a dozer and a chainsaw.  Any suggestions?

Mark

Mark,

As you have noticed deer readily adapt to man-made roads, especially after they grow up providing concealment for both bedding and movements.  This short, brushy habit is very important for cover but can quickly grow too tall to continue providing cover and is also very difficult to hunt.  If the brush on the roadways is wrist thick or smaller in diameter at the base, a prescribed fire may help to set it back.

You mentioned you have plenty of food plots.  Does this mean there is ample quality forage left over during the two stress periods of late summer and late winter?  If so, you have the ability to produce bucks that are expressing their full antler growth and body weight potential!  Also, if food is over abundant, then creating large clearcuts on ridge tops may be a good plan.  I like food on the ridge tops as the wind is usually more predictable on the ridge tops and therefore easier to hunt.  Deer will bed anywhere there is cover, so you can create bedding areas on the side slopes, etc., and leave the prime hunting areas for food.

With that said, gads of deer are harvested from clearcuts every year if a few suitable trees are left along the edges for stand placement.  Large cover areas can be great all day hunting locations.  Just remember to approach such areas from downwind to minimize disturbance during entry.  Here again, prescribed fire and herbicide application of unwanted cut stumps will keep the cut in an early successional stage.

The problem with using hardwood regeneration for cover (or food) is that they rapidly mature past the cover stage into a closed canopy that goes from quality cover to a desert for whitetails.  To maintain hardwoods as a source of cover, be prepared to do frequent thinning or aggressive prescribed fire to continue reducing the growth to a non-closed canopy stand.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Holding Mature Bucks on Small Properties

Question

Grant,

I own 30 acres and I’m wanting to know the best way to try and pull deer off surrounding land.  I put in about 2 acres of corn and beans while trying to let the back 5 acres grow up.  As expected, I just get bucks on my land during the rut.  How do I keep the bucks around?

Thanks,

Dane

Dane,

I think you are already on the right track.  Two things I would focus on are maximizing the productivity of the food plots to make sure you have enough food to last through the hunting season and minimizing disturbance.  I am a big fan of Roundup Ready crops because I have the ability to nearly eliminate weed competition both before planting and well after the crop has come up.  This helps to ensure that my lime/fertilizer is being utilized by the crops, eaten by deer, and transferred to the bodies and antlers of my deer herd.  Healthy plants are also more palatable to deer and thus hold their attention better.

Disturbance can be difficult to manage on small properties because they are often multiuse areas.  To maximize deer use I always try to limit my presence as much as possible.  Obviously planting/spraying, etc. is required but other than that I try to stay out of the areas designated as cover or sanctuaries.

Remember that deer require food, cover, and water daily.  If you have the best sources of food, cover, and water in your neighborhood and deer don’t associate these resources with danger, mature bucks will spend a majority of their time on your property versus the neighbors.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How do you decide how many white-tailed does to harvest off a hunting property?

Question

Hello Grant,

What do you think about shooting does?  And when ?

One of my leases is about 205 acres in Chappells, South Carolina.  I have had this lease for 2 years and have just renewed for two more.  We have only killed 3 bucks on this land, all 15” to 18.5” and 155 – 185 lbs.  I try not to over hunt this lease and have talked to other hunters to see if they would let small basket rack deer go.  Some will and some won’t.  I think they shoot a fair amount of does, so my thinking was if I am seeing a good number of does then the bucks will show up soon.  Also Josh is my wife’s cousin!!  God bless you and thank you for helping me understand deer and making the outdoors better than we found it!!  Lots of luck hunting!!

Jeff

Jeff,

I still have some friends that hunt in that area of South Carolina!  I used to live in Abbeville.  I use doe harvest to accomplish two deer management objectives.  These are to balance the adult sex ratio and to ensure each deer has ample quality forage to meet my deer management objectives.

Observation data and/or a camera survey can be used to accurately estimate the adult sex ratio.  I like an adult sex ratio of 1:1 for my management objectives.  I also like deer to express their full potential of producing antlers and fawns for each age class.  Therefore, I want more quality forage than then herd will consume.  This means quality forage left during the two typical stress periods of late summer and late winter.

If deer are consuming all of the quality forage, then a doe harvest is in order.  Once that is determined, I harvest enough does to either balance the adult sex ratio and/or allow enough food to be available to ensure each deer has all they wish to consume during the stress periods.  To meet that goal, I start harvesting does when the season opens.  I harvest the first doe that presents a safe shot.  I don’t select young or mature does for harvest because both have advantages to the herd.  Hence a harvest of what’s available will usually result in a mix of all age classes.

I hope this information helps and that you enjoy a safe and enjoyable deer management program!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Harvest Goals of Neighbors

Question

Grant,

How many acres is The Proving Grounds?

I lease 1,000 acres.  We try to manage our deer by selecting which deer we harvest.  We only shoot 8 points or better.   We have tried food plots but we never have a lot of success.  We kill one or two good bucks each year (125” to 140”).  I’m just not sure what our surrounding clubs are doing.  Do you have surrounding properties that also shoot only mature deer?

Jared

Jared,

The Proving Grounds is roughly 1,500 acres.  I am surrounded by many, many (34 to be exact) small properties, nearly all of which do not follow our management principles.  This can make it very difficult to grow mature deer.  However, I’m able to produce mature deer every year by striving to provide everything a mature buck requires throughout the year – ample food, cover, and water.  This, in addition to large sanctuaries and limited disturbance allows bucks to spend most of their time on The Proving Grounds and less time on neighboring land.  One way to monitor the success of this strategy is that I’ve identified 20 bucks to put on our hit list this year!  Providing ample quality food, cover, and water can make a huge difference in the size of a mature buck’s home range.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Mature Buck Sightings

Question

Hi Grant,

First of all I’d like to say thanks because I’ve learned a lot from you and you have made me a much better outdoorsman!  I’ve been fortunate enough to harvest some pretty impressive whitetails over the years.  I’ve been bowhunting for about 12 years now and I’m obsessed with the sport.  I love watching and studying their behaviors and quirks!  I recently got permission to hunt some land that hasn’t been hunted in about 5 years.  I’ve seen plenty of deer (early October thru the present) but no shooter bucks yet….  I’m looking for 150+ mature bucks.  I’m huge in scent elimination and never wear my hunting clothes in vehicles or anywhere but the woods!  I always play the wind and will get down if the wind changes for the bad.  There is plenty of water and food for them, the rut is starting to heat up, and all I’m seeing are little bucks chasing and cruising for does.  Should I scratch this spot for the rest of this season?

Thanks,

Jeremy

Jeremy,

It sounds like you use great hunting techniques and have a good hunting location!  Many folks are discussing the lack of mature bucks observed cruising this year.  I wouldn’t give up on your spot!!  If there’s good habitat, limited hunting pressure, and an area large enough for mature bucks to survive neighbors that might not practice passing yearling bucks, there will be mature bucks.  Consider using some Reconyx trail cameras to capture images of mature bucks without spooking them.  Then you will have the confidence to hunt the area and know which areas the bucks are using.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Harvest Goals for a New Hunter

Question

Dr. Grant,

I’ve been hunting for a couple of years now and I’ve shot two deer including a button and an 8 pointer.  I want to know if I should kill more does or bucks?

Thomas

Thomas,

What you harvest depends on your personal goals as a hunter and the deer management goals of the property where you hunt.  With that said, make sure your goals are realistic.  For example don’t hold out for buck that scores 150” if very few bucks with antlers that large have ever been harvested on the property you’re hunting.  Having realistic objectives will allow for more satisfaction from your hunting efforts.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Using Corn as Cover

Question

Dr. Woods,

Thanks for all the help this year, my property is improving because of it!  I planted 20 acres of corn on my 100 acre parcel with 5 acres of green fields, mostly surrounded by cover.  Corn has been a huge attractant, with 30 deer per site, but that number is tapering off.  95% of the deer are does, but I did have a shot at a mature, 3.5 year old deer last week which made me excited (I missed).  Tonight I saw 8 does and my dad saw 2.  We are not seeing a lot of bucks which could be due to lack of cover.  We had a lot of bucks in the summer, but they’re not showing up on trail cameras now.

All that sounds great, so maybe I shouldn’t change much but since deer sightings (especially bucks) are dropping I’m thinking it is best.  Most of my hunting has to be over the corn/food plots because of limited cover (I have a centralized 20 acre bedding area, but hunting it would ruin my “sanctuary”).  I’ve basically been gun hunting the edges of the food source outside of the bedding area.

I want to add more cover for next year, as I believe I actually have too much food.  If I plant new cover with SG will corn make all that much difference in what I see next year?  That is, if I had all the food a deer could eat in the form of clover (which stays green here throughout hunting season) would it act as good of an attractant as corn, or can corn REALLY attract deer?

As you know, corn is a land consuming crop and I was hoping it would act as good bedding cover, but it really hasn’t.  It is good for cover as a transitional area, but I don’t find deer bedding in it, they prefer the thicker forests next door or in my central sanctuary.

If I turned the rest of my property that’s not part of a sanctuary now (40 acres) to SG and put in several small clover attraction plots, would it give me a better chance of seeing the same number of deer throughout the season while providing more cover?

I also know that hunting does usually leads to bucks.  I’m just not seeing them.  Any thoughts?  Should I plant more cover or not try to fix it if it isn’t broken?

Eric

Eric,

I’m a big fan of the “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” strategy.  With that said, I’ve experienced deer adapting to the use of standing corn as cover in areas where corn is not traditionally planted many times.  I think corn can be a great source of cover eight or more months out of the year.  Any cover or food source can be easily over hunted to the point that mature bucks will only use that area at night or will stop using that area totally.

I’m curious, did acorns become available about the same time deer reduced the usage of the corn plot (even acorns not on your property)?

Corn needs to be rotated with another crop.  So preparing enough food plot area to allow corn and soybeans to be planted in rotation is a great technique.  In addition, it’s always a good plan to have smaller hunting plots scattered throughout the property so they can be approached and hunted in any wind direction.  In addition, these plots will reduce the hunting pressure on the feeding plots (corn and soybeans).

By providing multiple food plots, feeding plots in a sanctuary, and ample cover, you should have some great opportunities to hunt throughout the season while producing quality bucks.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Getting Involved

Question

Hello Grant,

I am an avid hunter.  I live in West Virginia.  There are not too many places here that try to grow big bucks.  I hunt almost every day on a small piece of land.   How would I go about getting involved with GrowingDeer.tv (or a similar group) as a guide?

Eli

Eli,

Wow, I wish I could hunt almost every day!  I think I want your job!!  My first job as a wildlife biologist was as a volunteer.  I applied through the Student Conservation Association and received a volunteer position with the Bureau of Land Management in Elko, Nevada as a wildlife technician.  I spent my summer identifying plants in areas where mule deer wintered and fighting fire.  It was a fabulous start to my career (30 years ago).

The same is true today.  For example I met Brad Mormann, one of my employees for the past five years, while giving a guest lecture at a local college.  I offered the students in that mammalogy class the opportunity to help in a prescribed fire the following Saturday.  Three students out of 30 showed up to volunteer.  Two worked very hard and both of them are gainfully employed in the wildlife field today (Brad currently works for me and Josh is employed by Bass Pro Shops).

There are usually opportunities to get where you want to go, but the route may not be direct.  Brad volunteered simply to gain some experience.  He’s now a published deer biologist that works on projects in several states assisting land owners and hunters with their deer and habitat management programs.  Find an opportunity to start in the wildlife field, even if it’s a volunteer position, and work hard.  I’m always amazed at what can be accomplished with hard work and determination!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Where Did the Big Bucks Go?

Question

Hi Dr. Grant,

Where did the big bucks go?  On our farm, we’re seeing plenty of does and bucks that are 1.5 to 2.5, but the 3 older bucks that we’ve been watching have fallen into a hole.  No pictures or actual sightings the very time I think we should be seeing them.  I know they are alive, but where in the world are they?  I can’t even get a picture of them at night.

Thanks,

Kevin

Kevin,

That’s a great question!  We have bucks that do that also.  One buck in particular at The Proving Grounds hits the road just after velvet shedding each fall.  Again this fall, for the 3rd year in a row, one of our oldest bucks disappeared after feeding on my soybeans all summer long.  As in past years, he will probably become a resident again in the spring and summer.  This can be a challenging situation.

GPS collared bucks tell us that bucks often have a slight shift or even an entire shift between their summer and winter ranges.  We’re not sure why it happens but every buck has its own personality and movement patterns.

Another thing to consider is that this time of year bucks can get tied up with estrus does for a day or two cutting down on their movements.  This is especially true when a deer herd is largely skewed toward does.  With few bucks and many does to breed, a buck doesn’t have to move far to find another hot doe.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Should I Establish Food or Cover?

Question

Grant,

I have a 120 acre property with a bedding area in the middle and food sources on the southern end of the bedding area.  I have a 15 acre ag field that is located on the NW end of my land that I’m trying to figure out what to do with.  It is currently open land and abuts my neighbor’s property.  He is a hunter and his property has mature oaks.  I can’t decide if I should plant a small perimeter of screen like pines on the boundary and then plant the rest in corn, hunting the interior corner of my property with mowed strips, or if I should convert the entire part into bedding with a small clover or wheat plot on the interior corner?  The interior corners would allow me access without spooking any deer.

I feel like if I make it bedding then the deer will go to the neighbors property, especially during good acorn years.  If I plant corn will deer transition through his woods giving him first crack before they enter the corn?

Will the deer bed in the corn if I leave the outside 10 acres of it standing and then mow the interior 5 acres to hunt (or even plant a couple small 1 acre green plots within the corn)?

I’m treading cautiously since ag land is hard to remake (clear) and I don’t want to convert it to timber until I know for sure what I should do.

Most of the properties around me are all cover with not many crops being planted.

Thanks for your time,

Garry

Garry,

It sounds like you have been working hard to develop a solid plan.  As you’ve said it’s far easier to make the correct management decisions the first time than to have to redo them.

From what I know, I recommend planting the outer seven or eight acres in a mix of tall warm season grasses like switchgrass and big bluestem.  This will provide deer cover plus allow them to bed near the edge of the property and come toward its interior to forage.  The interior acreage can then be planted in corn/soybean rotation.  Again, leave the forage standing if possible.  I frequently create habitat plans for clients that include establishing cover near their property boundaries and food on the interior.  When quality food, cover, and water are close in proximity deer tend to remain in the area.

When creating these habitat features, remember to design stand locations and an approach or two for each stand that allows the hunter to enter the stand without being detected by deer.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Developing Mineral Stations

Question

Grant,

I’m interested in starting a “mineral station.”  How, when, where, and with what do you recommend going about this?

Thank you,

Kasey

Kasey,

Providing mineral is a great way of ensuring the deer herd is acquiring all of the trace minerals required in body growth and antler development.  Mineral stations are also good for attracting deer.  Whenever possible I try to place them near another attraction such as a pond, food plot, etc.  This way I can maximize the number of deer utilizing them and capture some great images of each deer on my trail cameras.  Just remember that if you are placing them by a pond to place them below the pond so the high salt content doesn’t pollute the water.

Create the mineral stations as soon as possible so that deer can begin utilizing them.  Although they use them most during high moisture times of the year like spring, our trail camera images indicate deer are physically licking mineral throughout the year, even in the snow.

The mineral I use is Trophy Rock.  Trophy Rock is different from the average trace mineral block because it is a true rock mined from the earth out west.  With over 60 minerals present in each rock I am providing many of the minerals required in the herd’s daily growth.  I like to have at least one Trophy Rock per 160 acres.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Are Spikes a Good Thing?

Question

Grant,

I thoroughly enjoy your website.  The information that you provide has been very useful for our property.

I was bowhunting with my son (11) and daughter (17) in a ground blind overlooking a 40 acre food plot.  While we were hunting we had 15 young spikes come out on the food plot and feed close by us.  Is this a good thing?  I kept telling my son that in 3-4 years that we would have a lot of shooter bucks and that we need to be patient and enjoy watching the deer.

Thanks for all of your help.

Lawrence

Lawrence,

Thanks for the kind words!  You are correct!  Young bucks, if allowed to mature, turn into big bucks!  The old adage “once a spike, always a spike” is absolutely not true.  If those yearling bucks are allowed to mature and have access to good quality forage, they will produce much larger antlers as they mature.  Some of them will have larger antlers than others, just like some humans are taller than others.  All critters have slightly different genetic potential.  However, environmental factors impact how much of that potential can be expressed.  If a buck is harvested as a yearling, it certainly will not express much of its antler growth potential.

Growing (and passing) Deer together,

Grant

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How big is a buck’s home range?

Question

Dr. Woods,

Recently I saw your interview with Midwest Whitetail about a buck’s home range.  You commented that deer are just like people and have different personalities and some will move farther than others.  I’m curious about the studies that back this up, did they take place on locations where food plots, feeders and manmade water sources were present?  Were any of these studies done on areas such as Mark Twain National Forest or were they on private land without land assistance?

I hunt on 340 acres in the southern portion of Christian County, Missouri on land that is 80% timber.  The other 20% of the land is used for cattle and horses so food plots are not an option at this time.  The neighbors do not have food plots either.  We do have several White Oaks, Red Oaks, Black Oaks and other acorn producing trees that typically yield a good crop (however, the White Oaks did not produce a crop this year).  Our water sources are good as well, even in the driest times some sort of water supply is available (ponds and small creeks).

How do you think this situation affects a buck’s home range?

I really do enjoy your personality and realism.  I enjoy the information you share in your web tv shows, podcasts, interviews in Wild Idea Archery, and seminars.  I wish I knew 1% of what you know about whitetails, predators and deer management.  I think The Proving Grounds is an absolute dream.  Is that really obtainable for the average Joe like myself?  There is no way I could ever replicate what you have been able to accomplish.  There is a heavy need out there to have a show that represents the majority of hunters and the situations they face.  So many of us get a few weekends off a year and hunt non-managed private land or heavily timbered public land.  Yet the only shows out there show well managed properties with $15k Bad Boy Buggies, multiple treestands to choose from and big buck after big buck.

Dr. Woods, I appreciate your time and any advice you can give.

Chris

Chris,

Thanks for the kind words!

Studies I quote are from many, many locations.  Predation and behavior studies will apply to a much broader portion of the whitetail’s range.  Even in Christian County, the habitat changes from typical Ozark forest to areas with some ag or lush landscape plants (urban areas).  However, deer tend to behave the same throughout the county.  Average antler size, body weight, or fawn production for each age class can vary significantly by habitat type.

I grew up hunting Mark Twain National Forest in Barry and Taney County, Missouri (we may have hunted some of the same areas).  Studies throughout the whitetails’ range consistently show that the closer quality food, cover, and shelter are located, the smaller the average size of a deer’s home range will be.  So, even if there’s plenty of water, if quality food and/or cover are limited the average home range size of deer in that area will be larger compared to areas where these necessary habitat components are plentiful in close proximity.  Remember that the average deer range may not apply to any individual deer, just like the average height of a human may not apply to many actual humans.

Deer herds that live in areas where acorns are the primary food source during the winter often present tough hunting challenges.  When there are lots of acorns, deer don’t need to move far so it’s tough for hunters to approach the feeding/bedding area without alerting deer.  When the acorns are scarce, it’s tough to pattern deer as they cover large areas searching for food.

Hunters that harvest mature bucks consistently from acorn driven herds are some of the best hunters I know.  They absolutely shine when they hunt in areas with fragmented habitat and easily identifiable feeding and bedding areas.

One last thought…  It’s relatively easy to use a fence to exclude livestock but allow deer to forage.  This is a great tool for establishing food plots in areas where livestock are grazing.  If there is limited quality food in an area, it’s very easy to pattern deer unless they are alerted to the presence of hunters.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Aging on the Hoof

Question

Grant,

Congrats on your Kansas buck!  What did you age him at by tooth wear?

The last 5 bucks I have harvested in eastern Kansas looked by typical body aging characteristics that I see in QDMA manuals to be 3.5 to 4.5 years old.  The cementum annuli analysis that I had done has come back as 5.5 and 6.5.  Is this something that is normal to my particular area?  These bucks were shot from late September to early December and weighed between 150 and 180 lbs. dressed out.

Thanks and keep up the good work.

Nick

Nick,

Thanks for the positive comments.  I really had a great time on the Kansas hunt (GDTV 48).  I estimated the age of the buck that I harvested to be 4.5 years old.  I didn’t have a cementum annuli analysis performed.

Aging on the hoof is a tremendous management tool for selecting bucks for harvest.  Body characteristics can fluctuate based on location and the time of the year a buck is being aged.  The rut can take a heavy toll on a buck’s mass and overall physical appearance with some bucks losing over 20% of their pre-rut body mass.  Aging can also be slightly different when looking at a buck from the ground or from a treestand.  Depending on how steep the angle is from a treestand it is often times hard to see how long a buck’s legs are compared to the rest of his body, if the neck is fully developed, and if there is any loose skin under the jaw, etc.

One of the best methods to hone your skills is to continually take notes on a harvested buck’s physical characteristics on the hoof and compare them to that of cementum annuli age results.  From this information you can learn your site-specific buck age characteristics.  With that said, it is usually always more rewarding to low ball a buck’s age than to over age it.  Like a harvested buck’s antlers that grow as you approach them, finding out later that you harvested an older buck just adds icing to the cake.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Lactation Data

Question

Grant,

Earlier you answered my question on collecting harvest data for our co-op, thank you.  I find it interesting that the professional biologist that we work with pushes quite heavily for a sample of fetuses for data.  You only require your hunters to give a yes or no on whether or not the doe is lactating until mid December.  Could lactation data be used as a substitute for collecting fetuses? The main reason we are collecting fetuses is to determine when the doe was bred.  Am I missing something on what can be learned by recording the lactating data?

Curt

Curt,

The biologist you work with may need conception date data based on fetuses for a specific reason.  I certainly believe that the more data collected the better!  However, I’ve found that many clubs don’t do a stellar job of collecting harvest data.  Not measuring a fetus correctly may cause a significant difference in estimating the conception date.  Such errors are common when multiple club members collect data.  If your club is collecting the data, it would be appropriate to ask the biologist how the data is being used.

Lactation data is not a substitute for fetal data.  Lactation data simply indicates that a doe has at least one nursing fawn.  It doesn’t give any indication how many fawns were nursing.  It doesn’t indicate if the fawn (or fawns) is still alive.  The percentage of yearling does that are lactating during the appropriate time of year is a good measure of the herd’s health.  If a significant number of yearling does produced fawns, the herd is not experiencing nutritional stress.  I’ve worked with herds in northern New York that were very unhealthy.  They still produced gads of twin fetuses, but usually produced less than 25 fawns per 100 adult does.  Fetal data from that herd would have been very misleading.  Lactation data and observation data matched closely and indicated that the does simply were under too much nutritional stress to carry fawns to full term or keep them alive until fall.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Home Range Size

Question

Hey Dr. Woods,

I have read that a buck’s home range is about 1 mile and a doe’s is about a quarter mile.  I have also read that bucks will travel up to 5 miles in search of hot does during the rut.  How much of this is true?  Do bucks travel that far out of their known area?

Thanks again!

Brent

Brent,

Like humans, deer exhibit much individuality, especially in their home range size.  In general the home range size of both bucks and does are smaller in areas of better habitat.  Good quality habitat is composed of quality food, cover, and water in close proximity.  The closer the proximity of these three habitat components, the less deer are required to move to meet their daily requirements.

Some, but not all bucks and does take sojourns from their home range, especially  during the rut.  Researchers can track the movements of individual deer using GPS collars.  However, we usually don’t have all the deer in the herd collared, so we don’t know if the buck or doe is traveling with another deer during these sojourns.

There are lots of “average home range sizes” published for deer.  However, that’s like saying the average adult male is 5’8” tall.  That’s the average but the vast majority of adult males are either taller or shorter than 5’8”.  The same is true for the average deer home range size.  The “average” is a nice number, but probably is applicable to only a small percentage of deer.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Shoot or Don’t Shoot

Question

Hi Dr. Grant,

First off, I hope you are doing well and having a good hunting season.

My question is relevant to most hunting places.  I have about 3 bucks on my 250 acre farm that are 3.5 to 4.5 years old.  All of these deer would be shot on neighboring properties without the hunter blinking an eye. Should I let them go or shoot them if I get the chance?  I’ve passed up a couple of bucks that were actually bigger than anything I’ve ever killed, so it wouldn’t be the first time. What would you do?  Where is the point between when you let him go no matter what and when you’re going to let him have it?  I’ve tried the 4.5 year old point the last couple of years, but this is the first year they are really starting to grow.  I hate to shoot them, because you know he could be something really special over the next couple years.  I’m in between a rock and a hard spot.

Thanks always and God bless,

Kevin

Kevin,

I don’t believe there is a definitive or singular answer to your question.  It really depends on your deer management and harvest goals and your patience level.  The better the habitat on your property compared to the neighboring properties, the more time the deer in your neighborhood will spend on your property.  It’s critical that you have better quality cover than what’s available on the neighboring properties.  Deer will spend most of the daylight hours, when they are the most vulnerable to being harvested by hunters, in cover.  It would be best to make this source of cover a sanctuary so mature bucks are very conditioned to using that area as their bedding/escape area.  Hunting the edges of the sanctuary is okay as long as the sanctuary is large enough that your scent doesn’t alarm deer throughout the sanctuary.  Remember that your scent is probably almost as disturbing as your physical presence to deer.

It would also be best if you had as good (and hopefully better) quality food for deer during the hunting season on your property than the neighboring properties.  I’m always amazed at how small the range of mature bucks can be in areas with high quality habitat.

It never hurts to work with your neighbors.  Take time to learn their deer harvest objectives.  If they are drastically different than yours, gently work to educate them by sharing sources of good information.  They may or may not change, but there is a good chance you will develop a better relationship that over time will benefit both parties.

Finally, my first rule of deer management is that dead deer don’t grow.  There’s always a chance (sometimes it’s slim) that bucks you pass will survive and grow a year older.  If your deer harvest objective is to harvest bucks at least 4 years old or older, then be prepared to pass lots of three year olds.  I’m okay with hunters harvesting any age class of bucks.  However, if hunters want to harvest mature bucks, they must pass younger bucks.  I think it helps if those of us that wish to harvest mature bucks encourage each other.  I hope you’ll take my advice and be patient.  Harvesting a mature buck is a great accomplishment that’s worth the effort!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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When to Harvest Does

Question

I just watched your video (GDTV 45) and it caused me to think about the advantages and disadvantages of early-season doe harvest.

In spite of a greater doe than buck harvest on my property for the last 4 years, I still have too many does.  I haven’t done a formal survey, but I think I should take out 8-10 does on my 910 acres.  I’m split over harvesting the does right now or waiting until after the rut.  I’m sure I can find help harvesting does near the end of the season.

I would think thinning out some does now would result in stronger rutting activity which might increase my odds of harvesting a mature buck, but I’m worried about the pressure it puts on the area.  The peak rutting activity is probably only weeks away.  What do you think?

Last year we harvested three 3.5 year old or better bucks, 8 does and 1 button buck (that hunter is not invited back this year).

Congrats on your successful website and video series.  I watch it every week!

Jim

Jim,

It’s better for the herd to remove the does early.  This strategy leaves more food for the remainder of the herd to consume during the winter months.  If the does are removed before the rut, the bucks won’t expend resources chasing and breeding does that will be removed from the herd.  However, it may cause some disturbance to harvest does before the rut.

The biggest problem with waiting late in the season to harvest does is that managers that use this strategy often don’t meet their harvest objective.  If you use the “after the rut” strategy for doe management, make sure you reach your doe harvest objective.  I prefer to begin harvesting does as soon as legal and continue until the objective is met.  Harvested does are usually a great attractant to bucks.  I’ve harvested many mature bucks that were sniffing a doe I’d shot previously from that stand during the same hunt.  I consider having a doe laying in front of me a good attraction for mature bucks.  I certainly don’t attempt to move the doe until that hunt is over.  By moving the doe it causes much more disturbance than simply allowing the doe to lay there.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Deer Harvest Data Collection

Question

Grant,

I help run a QDM co-op in east central Ohio which consists of 3000 acres in a checkerboard fashion over 16 square miles.  Some of the properties not in the co-op also practice QDM at some level.  When collecting jawbones and fetuses for harvest data, what percentage of each of these should be collected in order to get a good overall picture of our harvest data?  The obvious answer is all of them, but in a voluntary community co-op it’s impossible to expect to get all of them collected.  The QDMA forums sent me to you to ask this question.

Curt

Curt,

Harvest data is like providing symptoms to a medical doctor.  The more ACCURATE data available to interpret, the more accurate the treatment that can be prescribed.  This is certainly true with deer harvest data.  If no data from the mature bucks are collected, or fetal data is not collected throughout the entire harvest season, it’s easy to develop an inaccurate image of the deer herd and make erroneous management prescriptions.

I realize the more data that is required to be collected, the less compliance will occur.  Therefore, I’ve changed over the years to requesting only the most basic information from each deer including, gender, lower jaw, whole or gutted body weight (either will work, but it needs to be consistent), lactation (yes or no until mid December), and BC gross score.

Data from fetuses are very interesting, but not necessary for managing a herd.  These data may well be necessary for addressing specific research questions.

Other data that is easy to collect is just as important.  For example, the ratio of food availability to the number of deer is easily monitored using utilization cages.  Deer herd demographics can be monitored by a trail camera survey and this only requires access and a few workers rather than every member contributing effort.

Data is critical to a good deer management program, but there is a fine line between requesting too much data and encouraging complete cooperation.  Each deer manager/co-op must decide how much data (how precise the management prescription) they feel is necessary to meet their objectives.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Are food plots better for whitetails than supplemental feed?

Question

Dear Doc,

I hunt 550 acres under high fence near Selma, Alabama.  We have approximately 50 acres of fields and a good mixture of CRP, select cut, clear cut, and creek bottoms.  This year we planted 20 acres of Eagle Beans and corn and have had great success.  We still have tons and tons of forage, corn, and pods.  We also supplemental feed in feeders and troughs in the off-season (Feb – Sept).  My concern is whether or not I am wasting my time and money putting out protein.  The deer do eat it but not nearly as much now with the beans/corn.  We are planting 10 acres in chicory/clover, 18 acres in triticale, oats, radishes, and leaving two big fields (10 acres each) in standing corn and beans (fields are well-spaced throughout the property).  The deer have not even come close to eating all of the corn/beans and I expect lots of food all the way through January.  Is the protein beneficial or a waste of time?

Next spring, we will be adding two additional Eagle Bean fields (one 5 acres and one 3 acres).  The main reason for doing this is to have them strategically located so the deer don’t have to travel too far in the summer heat to access the big fields.  The buck:doe ratio is about 2.5:1 and we are not close to the carrying capacity of the property.  Thanks for the help and I look forward to your response.

Chris

Chris,

It sounds as if you have a very intensive deer management program!  Most supplemental feeds are based on corn and soybeans with some molasses, etc., added to attract deer.  It’s usually much less expensive to grow corn and soybeans compared to paying for someone else to grow, harvest, process, bag, ship, and retail the grains.  In addition, it’s healthier for the deer to feed throughout a field versus several deer feeding out of the same feeder.  Encouraging deer to feed in close proximity day after day results in social stress among the herd in addition to increasing the odds of one sick deer passing an illness to other deer.

Supplemental feeding can be performed with minimal risk to a deer herd.  However, it requires the feeders being moved frequently and disinfected.  I’d much rather grow the feed on site and allow the deer to consume it in the field than pour it out of a bag.

Another consideration is that non-target critters like raccoons can consume huge amounts of supplemental feed.  This is an added expense in multiple ways.  Not only does this increase the amount of feed that is purchased it also allows predators to easily pattern both deer and turkey.

I don’t supplemental feed at The Proving Grounds for the above reasons and am well satisfied with the results.  I’d much rather create a few more acres of feeding plots than pay for a supplemental feeding program.  A final consideration is that most folks would rather observe deer in a feeding plot than at a feeder.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How Many Deer?

Question

Dr. Woods,

What is the most accurate way to figure the deer population on my property?  I have about 145 acres and I plant part of it in food plots and I supplemental feed.  It seems the more food plots I put out the more it gets eaten down by the deer.  I know that I also need to figure out my buck to doe ratio to help me manage the land.  I would appreciate your help.

Thanks,

Chris

Chris,

I believe the most accurate and practical method to accurately estimate how many deer are using a property, the herd’s adult sex ratio, age structure of bucks, buck:doe ratio, etc. is by performing a camera survey.  In fact, I’m currently in the middle of a camera survey at The Proving Grounds.  I perform a camera survey every year at my place.  It is a fabulous tool for deer and habitat managers.  I’ve written a detailed list of instructions on how to perform a camera survey.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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When and how long do you run your trail cameras for a deer survey?

Question
Grant,

When do you run your trail camera surveys at The Proving Grounds? How long do you run them? And how many acres per camera? I’ve read to wait until late August (after velvet shedding), but I’m not sure why as long as the bucks are far enough into the growing season that they are identifiable and the fawns are traveling with their mothers.

Any other tips for running a successful camera survey?

Bret

Bret,

I’m glad to hear you are considering a camera survey.  Camera surveys provide much information on learning, watching, and managing your deer herd.  I usually start pre-baiting for a camera survey in late July and plan to start the actual survey in early August.  Typically, it takes 7-10 days of pre-baiting with one camera per 100 acres to get at least 90% of the herd to visit the camera sites.  The survey itself requires about 14 days.  During this time I get enough buck pictures to uniquely identify each individual.

August is one of the best times to conduct a survey because food resources are in limited supply, many fawns are at heal, and bucks are still in their summer movements between food and cover.  Waiting until after the bucks have lost their velvet can negatively affect the survey.  Velvet shedding is a sign that the hormones in a buck are changing rapidly.  This causes them to start behaving more aggressively toward other bucks, especially at a bait site, and alter from their summer movements.  Every year I have bucks that bed and forage on my property all spring and summer and disappear shortly after losing their velvet.  This can be troublesome when looking at inaccurate population data to develop a doe harvest or warm-season food plot strategy.

It is true that fawn counts can be a bit low in August because not all of the fawns are old enough to continuously follow their mothers around.  However, some of the most important information gathered from a survey lies in the trends over time.  Create and add these data to a simple graph year after year to see how the number of bucks, does, and/or fawns changes.  These data contain the answers to proper herd management.  To learn more about how I implement a camera survey, check out my camera survey techniques guide.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How Important are Deer Sanctuaries?

Question
Dr. Woods,

We have been managing our property of 200 acres for 11 years now.  We purchased an old farm and turned it into a little white-tailed deer paradise.  We also built our dream home on the land. We practice antler restrictions, food plots, timber stand/habitat improvement and an aggressive doe harvest program.  We have an ideal layout on our land.  We created a 50 acre sanctuary in the middle of the property which is surrounded by several food plots, hardwoods and thickets.  We stand hunt only, and never hunt in the sanctuary.  We like to put little hunting pressure on our deer.  After reading through my deer logs, it seems now that 80% of deer movement revolves around this sanctuary.  I was wondering if you have a sanctuary set up on your land, and if you do, what are some of the benefits you have seen?

I am a HUGE fan of your show Dr. Grant!!

Thank You,

Brian

Brian,

Sounds like you have a very successful deer and habitat management program!  Like you, I’ve created sanctuaries at The Proving Grounds and commonly design them on land we manage for clients.  Deer readily adapt to using these areas, especially if there aren’t other sanctuaries within their home range.  Sometimes it’s tough to convince hunters not to disturb a portion of their hunting turf.  However, as you have experienced, not disturbing a portion of the land you have to hunt makes patterning deer on the remaining portion of the property much easier!  Thanks for sharing your observations!!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How to Deal with Buckthorn

Question
Have you ever dealt with Buckthorn? Our property in Minnesota has a growing Buckthorn problem and we are looking for solutions to help eliminate it. Thank you for your time and advice.

Jonathan

Jonathan,

Unfortunately, there are gads of plants that share the common name of Buckthorn. I think I know what you are talking about, but never wish to prescribe a control program without knowing for sure.

Check out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website and determine if we are talking about the same species. If so, there is a thorough explanation of control techniques on that site. If we are describing the same species, early control is much easier and less expensive than waiting until it spreads.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Cover for Whitetails on Small Acreage

Question

Do you have any videos on building and enhancing a sanctuary on small acres? I just found your site and like what I see.

Thank you,

Lyle


Lyle,

Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv! I explained the qualities of various types of cover (hardwood samplings, mature cedars, native grass, etc.) in the March 8th episode (GDTV 15). These descriptions included information on how these cover types were established and what I do to maintain them. The April 12th episode is about using fire to maintain cover by controlling the stage of succession (GDTV 20). In addition, cover has been discussed briefly in other episodes. I hope you find this information useful.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Is my goal of growing and hunting a 200″ buck realistic for my property?

Question
I have a 1000 acre piece here in southwest Wisconsin. I have been improving the property since I bought it 5 years ago. I plant 40 acres of crops yearly for wildlife, including beans and corn as well as winter wheat and alfalfa. Twenty-five to fifty does are shot yearly and that still isn’t enough. I see (and shoot) 1-2 bucks per year in the 160-165 range, obviously older deer. My goal is to see/grow a buck in the 190-200 inch range, but I’m becoming skeptical that it can happen. These deer seem to top out in the 150-165 range at 4-6 years. Am I being naive about what this area can produce? There have been several deer over 200 inches shot in the surrounding 25 mile radius over the last several years. My neighbor killed a 186 typical 10 with 4 inches or better broken off a tine 2 years ago. What is realistic?

Gary

Gary,

It sounds as if you have a great management program to meet your mission of producing mature bucks. To estimate the potential maximum BC score that can be expected from a property, I frequently attempt to find the score of the top ten bucks harvested in the neighborhood or similar habitat. I then consider the management potential of the property in question (amount of quality food, cover, and water), and the current practices on the neighboring properties. I also consider the size of the properties where the largest bucks in the neighborhood were harvested (why did those bucks survive to maturity?). It sounds as if you’ve completed a similar analysis.

Based on the information you have provided me, it seems realistic for a 200” class buck to be produced and harvested on/near your property. With that said, remember that producing and harvesting a free-ranging 200” class buck is a VERY rare event. If that is truly your goal, it is critical to make sure each deer has all the quality food, cover, and water they want. A good indicator that these conditions exist is if there is plenty of quality forage available during late summer and late winter. In addition, it’s best to pass all bucks until they are four years old or older so their antler growth potential can be estimated. Then, the best four year olds should be passed a few more years as many bucks don’t express their full antler growth potential until they are six years old or older. Yes, passing a 170” class buck is tough, but often necessary to produce 200” class bucks. Attempting to produce a 200” deer requires intense management and discipline. Each person must evaluate the costs and benefits, like we should in all activities in life.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Topo Maps

Question

Grant,

Just one question: Where can I get a detailed, colored, topo map like you have for my property?

Thanks,

Robert


Robert,

My firm used to offer services to create such maps. Now, much of the same can be created by using Google Earth or other free/relatively inexpensive services. I really enjoyed being involved in custom mapping, but the cost was prohibitive once the on-line services became readily available and much improved. It’s true that one of the only constants is change.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Coyote Predation Study

Dr. Woods,

I wanted to let you know that I have just received a copy of your book Deer Management 101 (actually, already autographed), and I really enjoyed reading it. I just watched your video where you mention a study done by a grad student Cory Van Gilder. I have tried to locate it, but haven’t had any luck. I recently returned to college (after 12 yrs.) and I am finally a senior at OSU, studying under Stan Gehrt. We have a lot of deer/coyote conversations (in and out of class), and I would like some more information about the research mentioned earlier.

As a side note, please check out http://www.americasfreedomlodge.org to see how we enjoy spending time with our veterans. We love to get them in the woods! We have approximately 490 acres we manage under QDMA guidelines. However, we don’t place any restrictions on the veterans. Last year I was able to guide a disabled father(Vietnam)/son(Iraq) team for their first ever deer hunts. Both took deer with crossbows that day. Words can’t describe how all parties involved felt. Anyway, if you are ever up this way (central Ohio) PLEASE let us know…we would love to have you visit the lodge.

Thanks,

Shane

Shane,

Thanks for honoring our Vets!! That’s a great mission!

A summary of Cory’s work was published in the Quality Deer Management Association’s Quality Whitetails magazine in the 3rd issue, June 2009 (pages 20-24). It will also soon be published in a technical journal.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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When is Doe Harvesting Too Much?

When is doe harvesting too much? We have harvested 1005 deer in the last 5 years. Of which, 123 are mature bucks (3.5+) and 70 are button bucks. It is now hard to see does and many, many times we see nothing but bucks on our cameras and hunting outings. We try not to shoot immature bucks by having antler restrictions, etc. The properties range from 180 acres to small 10 acre plots all in the same township, about 3000 acres of total huntable property and most of the plots are under 80 acres.

Cliff

Cliff,

Doe harvest should be conducted for two reasons. This includes reducing the herd’s density to match the habitat’s capacity to produce quality forage (fewer mouths competing for the available forage). The second primary reason is to balance the adult sex ratio. There are other reasons such as crop damage, etc., to reduce a herd’s density. Those are political reasons — I’m only addressing biological reasons.

Since I have no idea of how many deer are in your area, I can only recommend you set your doe harvest goals based on the quality of the habitat you desire to maintain. If you desire the local herd to express its full potential, then the herd density must be low enough to allow the habitat to produce enough quality browse so that each deer has all the nutritious forage they wish to consume.

Bottom line, I establish doe harvest objectives by the goals of the landowner, and the habitat quality/herd density relationship. This relationship is way more important than simply considering the number of deer per square mile (or any other density measure that is not based on available forage).

Does become conditioned to being hunted, and can become extremely wary and nocturnal. Deer observations are an important part of hunter satisfaction, and should be considered when designing any deer harvest quota. However, deer observations by themselves are rarely a good indicator of herd or habitat health. The health of the habitat is the true indicator of a herd’s potential.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Differences between Managing in Missouri and Vermont for Winter Cover

Question

Grant,

Thanks so much for the videos! Each week I wait impatiently for them. The video on winter cover was very informative. However, it didn’t seem to be geared for northern managers. Our deer herd here in Vermont and other northern states head to conifer forests to “yard up” during periods of deep snow depths and severe low temps to conserve energy. Could you elaborate on the differences between a state like Missouri and Vermont regarding how they should be managed for winter cover?

Thank you,

George (Florence, Vermont)

George,

You’re correct! Where the snow depths commonly get 2 feet or more deep, deer prefer dense stands of mature conifers. “Yarding” occurs in these areas where deep snows make foraging very difficult and deer find it more energy efficient to simply migrate to stands of dense conifers and survive off stored fat. This type of habitat prevents some of the snow from reaching the ground. Obviously, if the timber stand is dense enough to prevent snow from reaching the ground, very limited forage can grow under the canopy, so yarding areas provide almost no forage unless the conifers are white cedar (mature white cedar swamps are almost a thing of the past). Unfortunately, many of the traditional yarding areas have been converted to some other type of habitat in the northeast. For wind protection and allowing solar radiant heat during the day, native grass stands are better. For providing relief from deep snows, mature conifers are the preferred habitat type in the northeast and lake states.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How Many Acres do I Need to Have a Deer Management Program?

Question

Dr. Woods,

I definitely enjoy GrowingDeer.tv and have learned some interesting things from it. My question is pretty basic.

If a person is interested in acquiring land to develop a private managed area approximately how many acres should be looked for to make it worthwhile and to have a positive influence on the local herd?

Keep up the great work as many benefit from your efforts.

Cordially,

Dennis

Dennis,

I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer to your question. I know of several examples where small tracts of land provide fabulous hunting/management opportunities because they adjoin properties with great characteristics. An example includes a buddy of mine that owns 140 acres in the middle of a 4,000 acre state park that doesn’t allow any buck hunting, conducts a highly controlled hunt to remove does, and there is production ag (soybeans and corn) in the neighborhood. So, his “neighbor” harvests a bunch of does, protects bucks, and the area is constantly patrolled by law enforcement officers — all for the price of only 140 acres. That 140 has produced multiple 180+ bucks. It is an extremely rare 140 acres. Before you ask, the last time I checked it wasn’t for sale…

The size of deer home ranges vary greatly based on the quality of habitat. Generally, deer living in good quality habitat have a smaller home range size than deer living in poor habitat. So, 1,000 acres in great habitat may allow a significant portion of bucks to reach maturity without being harvested by neighbors that don’t have the same deer management objectives. On the other hand, a tract of the same size in low quality habitat probably won’t yield the same return from your management efforts. When buying land, consider the neighborhood as carefully as the tract for sale.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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How do I See More Mature Bucks?

Question

I have got to say your book, “Deer Management 101″, is the best book about deer management I have read so far. My father and I have 70 acres in Arkansas. In your book (page 70 & 71) you talk about letting deer mature. On our land we have trail pictures of mature bucks, but we mainly see immature bucks. We hunt hard from day break till the sun is down and pass on the immature bucks. We feed the deer on our land but we just can’t seem to take the mature bucks. Do you know any ways of getting the population up and helping us see more mature bucks? Thanks and thank you for signing the book that John Luther got me. If he sent you the picture, that is him and me holding the book in the Catfish Hole.

Wesley

Wesley,

Thanks for the kind comments about Deer Management 101: Manage Your Way to Better Hunting! Sounds like your land is producing some great bucks! It’s often easier to produce mature bucks than it is to harvest them. By the time a buck reaches 4+ years of age, he’s obviously gained much skill at avoiding predators (2 and 4 legged). On the other end of the spectrum, yearling bucks seem to look for trouble. They move frequently in open areas and during daylight hours. This is why I often don’t select stand sites where I’ll see the most deer. If the bulk of the herd is traveling there, mature bucks are probably traveling at a different place or time. This fall, you might try selecting different stand sites doing your best to minimize disturbance. Consider placing more emphasis on figuring out when and where mature bucks are moving, and less time hunting. Trail cameras can be a great tool for patterning mature bucks with minimal disturbance. By changing your tactics, you may not see as many deer, but you’ll probably have a better chance of seeing a mature buck.

Keep me posted as you develop a different hunting strategy. It sounds like it’s time you apply Woods rule #2 about deer hunting and management — don’t do the same thing and expect different results!

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Creating Specific Bedding Areas for Whitetails

Is it possible to control and manipulate your bucks and does by making specific beds for each as some would have us to believe? if so what are your recommendations? We own 294 acres in West Virginia that we are trying to manage. Thank you, and may the Good Lord continue to Bless you and your family and endeavors.

Jim

Jim,

Thank you for your kind thoughts and prayers.

I once heard a gentleman talk about creating precisely located bedding sites a few years ago. I admit I’ve never tried to establish such sites. I don’t have, and I don’t think any of my fellow researchers have, any data from placing GPS and radio telemetry collars on deer that indicate deer prefer to bed in the exact same place for several days in a row. That’s not to say it’s impossible, but based on my observations this would be most unlikely.

One problem with deer bedding in the same specific location would be the high level of vulnerability to predation. Any prey critter would experience this by bedding in the exact same place frequently. Smaller critters do use the same specific location, but they use some type of protection such as a den. Turkeys nest in the same place for 26-28 days but experience 60-80% predation as reported by multiple studies. Turkey populations can remain stable at that level of predation because individual hens can recruit many poults (one surviving nest compensates for several nests that predators destroy). However, deer average a much lower recruitment rate. 60-80% predation on deer would rapidly reduce the herd’s density. I always try to create bedding areas that are several acres in size. I’d rather put the odds in my favor, not a four-legged predator’s favor.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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Doe Harvest Criteria

Question

Grant,

Are you selective on your doe harvest? An accomplished hunter was preaching to take out the alpha and beta does from a group because they are typically the most seasoned and will pick off hunters more readily. A show I recently watched encouraged the taking of yearling does and leaving the mature, experienced does that were proven producers and more likely to have twins. What’s your opinion?

Jim (Oklahoma)


Jim,

I agree that older does typically are more likely to detect the presence of a predator (two or four legged). This is one reason mature does usually have a higher success rate at raising fawns compared to younger does. However, my primary objective for harvesting does is to balance the herd’s density with the habitat’s capacity to produce quality forage throughout the year. Hence, my doe harvest criteria is based on meeting a quota to improve or maintain the local herd and habitat’s quality. This is much more important to the herd’s overall health than attempting to select a specific age class of does to harvest and not reaching the harvest quota.

Growing Deer together,

Grant

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