Recently someone asked me about the hazards or benefit of trying to supplement whitetail food sources in winter, such as rolled out round bails of grass hay or such. Winter can bring on some tough conditions for whitetails. It’s important to be cautious about altering a deer’s diet – especially overnight.
There are billions of microbes (bacteria) in a deer’s rumen (four chambered stomach) including thousands of species. Each species serves a role. Populations of these microbes increase and decrease as the deer’s diet changes.
This is perfect for wild deer as food sources almost always become available at a trickle and then ramp up. For example, consider a few acorns falling during the early fall, or a bit of clover or native vegetation greening up before most does.
This trickle-passed change allows microbe populations to increase or decrease based on the food to be digested.
There are documented cases where deer have been hungry for days or weeks, then fed hay (deer don’t eat grass, but will eat alfalfa, etc.). The deer consume the new food source – often eating 2-5% of their body weight, then return to cover and die with a full belly. They couldn’t digest the new food source as the needed microbe populations had decreased.
When possible, it’s always best to start any feeding program slowly. I wouldn’t start feeding now, unless it was certain the deer were going to starve to death. Then you save the ones that survive the massive diet change.
We were recently asked to age this buck when a viewer sent a picture. This buck appears to be a three year old deer.
The premolars (first three teeth) indicate the deer was 2 or older and the first molar (4th tooth) shows more dentine compared to enamel which indicates the buck is three years old. However, the second molar shows more enamel than dentine which indicates the deer isn’t yet 4. Based on the tooth wear and replacement technique, we estimate this deer was three years old.
If you are looking to age a deer by the jawbone, seek out a good biologist close to you that can provide an accurate estimate. Plus, there are gads of good illustrations and descriptions about how to age deer using their lower jaw online. One such source is the University of Missouri Extension.
If you’ve ever seen a deer with partially white hooves you’ve probably wondered what caused this.
Photo: Prostaffer Cody Kraut
White hooves can be caused by a past injury (but that’s usually limited to one foot) or being piebald. However, this deer showed no other piebald characteristics. Therefore, this could have been caused by a healing from EHD or foundering.
When we posted this example of a deer with white hooves on FaceBook many of our followers shared their own images of deer with abnormal hooves or dew claws. See those photos at this LINK.
Recently we saw a great example of the difficulty of hunting where there are strong thermals. There are several great thermal lessons in this 1 minute video (this video has been sped up x5) along with a still image below showing the fog floating.
1. Cool air is heavier than warm air and sinks to the lowest point. The creek shown here is the lowest point. That morning, cool air was falling down the mountain and sucked downstream -north to south (left to right). The wind that morning was almost nonexistent but forecasted from the south. Because the wind was low, thermals were able to dominate the direction of air movement. In this case, air was moving opposite the forecasted wind direction.
2. Air was pulled down the creek because it was cool. However, something else happened. The sun began warming air, making it lighter. As the air was pulled downstream it also began to rise.
3. As the sun continued to warm the air, the air shifted and was pulled upstream several times. This is a great example of what happens when cool and warm air mix. The air churns and its path is not predicable- moving up and down, back and forth.
Hunters can apply these observations and lessons when hunting. Understanding how cool air sinks, warm air rises, and how thermals churn/mix when both cool and warm air collide can help hunters better understand where and how scent is carried.
The GrowingDeer.tv team
We recently set several Duke cage traps! When selecting trap locations, we consider how we can use thermals to attract more critters to our trap.
Critters often travel along interior roads, making interior road systems great places for traps. Check out the OnX map to see how we use thermals and interior road systems to make the trap line more successful and easier to run!
ProStaffer Philip Brown has been hunting at his farm in Arkansas. One of his strategies has been overlooking a utility easement running through the hardwood timber. He’s also planted a food plot in the easement to help slow deer down as they cross (grabbing a bite to eat on their way).
He’s seen a lot of deer but not the buck he’s hunting. This type of strategy is very effective for seeing critters but can require hunters to put their time in if targeting a specific buck. We hope Philip’s hitlist buck crosses soon!
A viewer recently asked for help on figuring out the thermals and wind direction for his hunting property.
It’s difficult to forecast how the wind will react to the timber and openings on a property until you get boots on the ground.
Thermals are simply air masses moving based on land and air temp. Basically, cold air is heavy and therefore sinks. Warm air is light and therefore rises. This is easy to picture on a relatively homogeneous habitat.
Understanding and using thermals to pick stand locations gets tricky when there’s a mix of shade (cool) and open (warm if sun is shining on it) habitat. In addition, as the sun’s relationship to the earth changes, so can the direction of thermals.
I try to find stand sites where the thermals and/or wind direction will remain the same during my hunt.
The combination of wind speed and direction and thermals can be tough to figure out when paired with topography and cover. Strong (10+ MPH) winds are relatively easy as they usually override thermals. When the wind speed is slower than that thermals and topo/cover may have more of an impact on wind speed.
One of our bigger food plots, Crabapple, is in a bottom – next to a creek. Plots in bottoms can be tough to hunt during warmer weather as deer tend to bed high and move down to plots to feed. The rising thermals (hot air rises) usually alerts deer to the presence of a predator (hunter) located in a bottom. However, air rarely rises when the temps are very cold.
The thermal currents should be sinking toward the creek (cold air sinks). This is more prevalent at the Crabapple plot because it is at the base of a large hill to the west. Hence the field is shaded by the sun early in the afternoon – allowing the air to cool even quicker. This often provides us the ability to enter a stand at Crabapple with the thermals in our favor.
To dig even deeper and see all the videos and blogs where thermals are mentioned, enter the word “thermals” in the search box to the bottom right of the video player on the home page, select “other” from the drop down box, then click “go” on the far right of the search box.
The temperature was 46 degrees this morning with a 1mph south wind. We’re hunting in a pair of Summit Stands just above a creek on top of a bluff.
Out in front of us is a strip of hardwood timber with a recent cedar cut above. The bluff and the cedar cut act as a great pinch point as deer travel through the hardwoods. (The screenshot of the OnX map shows our hunting set-up best.) Even though there is a south wind, the thermals are stronger.
The cold is sinking down the mountain and being carried to the south. Because this is an west facing slope, it will not receive sunlight until later during the morning. Cool air will continue to sink until the sun rises over the mountain. This will allow us to hunt this location longer than if we were hunting under the same conditions on a south facing slope. We’re hoping bucks aren’t on their feet this morning!
We expect deer to react to the shot (we’ve seen this over and over). We practice like we hunt. When shooting at a deer or target, we aim at the lower 1/3 of the kill zone. If the deer reacts/drops, the shot is still in the kill zone. If the deer doesn’t react, it’s in the heart and/or bottom lungs.
I aim at the bottom third of the deer’s chest whether they are 20 or 40 yards away. I rarely shoot at deer past 40 yards for fear the deer will move and I rarely worry about deer dropping below the flight of the arrow if they are much closer than 20 yards. There are multiple advantages to aiming at the lower third of a deer’s chest. Wounds here usually produce better blood trails because the chest cavity doesn’t have to fill with blood before it starts exiting the wound.
I practice aiming at the bottom third so it’s a normal sight pattern when I’m hunting! See this video that shows how aiming for the lower third pays off!
We’re very excited about this new hidey hole food plot. It will be located on top of a ridge on the edge of a hardwood timber and a south facing slope/bedding area.
This is a great travel corridor. Deer already naturally travel across the saddle in the ridge and along the edge of the timber and bedding area.
Adding an attractive food source will make this an ideal hunting location! We are simply terminating the vegetation with backpack sprayers and will broadcast Eagle Seed Fall Buffalo Blend seed right before or during a rain.