Deer Hunting Strategies | How Thermals Change The Way We Hunt | Trapping Nest Predators (Episode 472 Transcript)
This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: Last week, I shared that during Missouri’s firearms season, Tyler tagged a doe and had a great encounter with a buck we call “Slingshot.”
GRANT: While reviewing the footage, we noticed something with the Slingshot encounter I wanted to share.
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GRANT: When Slingshot walked into the Fall Buffalo Blend that afternoon, his antlers appeared clean.
GRANT: Then Tyler shot a doe and Slingshot left the plot.
GRANT: Not long after, Slingshot returned to feed in the plot, but something appeared different about his antlers.
GRANT: Do you see it?
GRANT: We didn’t notice it until we slowed the footage down to study Slingshot’s antlers. And when we did, it appeared there was blood on one side.
GRANT: Although, we’ll never know for sure, I suspect Slingshot had an encounter with another deer after he left the plot. Probably, he smelled the doe Tyler had shot, went and nudged her and got blood on his antlers. When the doe didn’t respond, Slingshot returned to the plot.
GRANT: This is another great example that tagging a doe early during the hunt won’t spook all the bucks away. In fact, a downed doe is likely a great attraction for bucks.
GRANT: Deer sightings have been limited during the past couple of weeks here at The Proving Grounds. And I believe that’s due to a very large acorn crop.
GRANT: We recently had some strong windstorms here at The Proving Grounds and throughout most of the Midwest. And I believe that knocked most of the remaining acorns to the ground.
GRANT: When deer are feeding primarily on acorns, especially in larger blocks of timber, they can be very tough to pattern.
GRANT: One of the reasons they can be tough to pattern is deer often don’t have to move far between food and cover when they’re feeding on acorns.
GRANT: Another challenge when deer are feeding on acorns, especially in mountain habitat, is that hunting conditions can be very tough where the acorns are present.
GRANT: I had a great opportunity to illustrate this recently when I took a time lapse video of fog moving in and out of the valley behind my house.
GRANT: The video is a great illustration of how it can be very difficult to get close to a deer or set up for a deer to get close to you.
GRANT: I want to take a moment and explain thermals in more detail than we have in the past.
GRANT: Cold air sinks and hot air rises. Think of a hot air balloon. When they want to get higher, they’re turning the heat to it. When they want to come back down, they turn the heat off; the air cools and the balloon sinks back to the earth.
GRANT: Air masses – even those not contained in the hot air balloon – do the same. When the sun rises in the morning, it starts heating up the land and the air; the air rises up the slopes. And when it cools during the late afternoon, it sinks back down just like water running downhill.
GRANT: Many research projects have shown that deer move primarily at dawn and dusk.
GRANT: I believe deer have adapted to moving during those time periods because that’s when the thermals are most likely to be swirling.
GRANT: In mountain terrain, air temperatures or thermals can be more unstable than on flat land.
GRANT: When the sun comes over a mountain or a hill, it’s gonna warm up a south facing slope or a ridgetop much faster than a north facing slope or a valley.
GRANT: In mixed topography, air is almost like it’s in a blender. It’s getting warmer here, and still cool here, and it’s shifting around, and it can’t decide whether to go up or downhill and, in some places, it just circles.
GRANT: These constantly changing directions of air flow means deer are able to detect predators by scent for many directions.
GRANT: Strong and constant winds can certainly override thermals. And here at The Proving Grounds, we hunt the main valley when there’s a strong north wind because cool air and a north wind almost always mean the scent is going down the valley.
GRANT: I’ve used this knowledge many times in the past to tag good bucks that are in areas that normally I couldn’t even hunt because of swirling winds.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Got him. You got him. You got him. He’s going down right here.
GRANT: One of my favorite hunts that I used that technique was when I tagged a buck we called “The Trashman.” The Trashman was hanging around a food plot in the valley we call Clay Hill.
GRANT: Clay Hill is at the bottom of a steep slope that has a bedding area on the slope and a creek in the very bottom.
GRANT: A few years ago, during a very cold morning, I slid into a ladder stand overlooking that plot, knowing that the cold air would continue going south several hours into the morning.
GRANT: After a few deer entered the plot, we spotted a large buck coming down along a travel corridor.
GRANT: (Whispering) As soon as he comes out in the open, you tell me you’ve got him.
GRANT: It was the perfect technique to tag The Trashman.
GRANT: (Whispering) Stop, buddy, stop.
GRANT: (Quietly) He’s hit good; he’s hit good. He’s going down. Trashman is ours.
GRANT: Even in areas with minimal elevation change, thermals are still a factor. Cold air is like water and it’s going to go down to the lowest spot through the path of least resistance.
GRANT: Warm air is the same. It’s going to seek the path of least resistance to rise.
GRANT: In flatter areas, even though there doesn’t seem much difference, you need to use caution in picking the exact placement of your stand or blind to make sure the thermals are not carrying your scent to where you expect to see deer.
GRANT: When the wind is calm and the humidity is high, humidity carries scent really well. It’s probably better to scout and not be in your best hunting locations.
GRANT: It’s not alerting deer once and coming home without filling a tag that’s the problem. I do that all the time.
GRANT: The problem is that deer have memory, at least until they’ve become senile.
GRANT: And if you alert deer from the stand, it’s likely they will avoid it for some time.
GRANT: After rifle season ended, we put out several Duke cage traps in our continuing effort to balance the predator and prey populations.
GRANT: Missouri’s trapping season runs from November 15th, which is right during the firearms season, to January 31st. That’s a relatively short window to do a lot of good wildlife management work.
GRANT: Several research projects have shown the best window of time to remove predators is right during fawning and nesting season, if your goal is to expand prey populations.
GRANT: Unfortunately, Missouri’s trapping season doesn’t fit that timeframe.
GRANT: Due to this limitation, we trap intensively during season.
GRANT: In addition, we keep detailed notes on each predator we catch. We record the weight, sex and location where they were caught.
GRANT: Through the years, we’ve noticed a decrease in the average weight of predators we catch. I believe this change in body weights is due to the fact that most of my neighbors don’t trap.
GRANT: And when I trap intensively, I reduce the residual population here at The Proving Grounds and, the following year, yearling males disperse into my property.
GRANT: Years ago when I first started trapping at The Proving Grounds, the average weight of each species was much higher compared to today.
GRANT: I’m confident the reduction in body weights of each species and predator we’re seeing is because we’re reducing the mature animals here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: Hopefully, that reduction in predator population gets us through the primary nesting and fawning season.
GRANT: Trapping season again at The Proving Grounds. It actually opened November 15th in Missouri. That’s right in the middle of firearms deer season and we were a bit busy to be running a trap line.
GRANT: I enjoy trapping season every year. I enjoy the woodsmanship and skills necessary to catch a predator. In addition to improving my woodsmanship skills, there’s another reason I trap.
GRANT: Because of fragmentation of the habitat and the number of people and a lot of different factors, it actually favors predators instead of prey species in many areas.
GRANT: Given these changes our society has done to the environment, it’s necessary for sportsmen to help balance the amount of predators and the amount of prey.
GRANT: Trapping is the most efficient way to balance the predator populations.
GRANT: Raccoons that kind of look cute, but they’re vicious predators. In fact, they’re tremendous nest predators. Not only for turkeys and quail, but non-game species also.
GRANT: There’s 20+ species of songbirds that nest from zero to four feet off the ground in this part of Missouri. The eggs or the hatched chicks are very susceptible to mortality from raccoons.
GRANT: I like hearing turkeys; I like hearing quail and I really like hearing those species of songbirds, so I want to do my part in balancing the predator and prey populations.
GRANT: Through the years, I’ve had the opportunity to teach several people how to trap.
GRANT: There’s much more to trapping than simply putting a trap by a road and driving on.
GRANT: When trapping – almost like hunting – location is everything.
GRANT: At this location, I have a dry creek right down here and a road that’s kind of going uphill this way. So, I put the trap here, so thermals are gonna be coming down at night when predators are most active and going to the creek.
GRANT: Even if the predator doesn’t sense the trap or the bait coming this way, to hit that creek, the thermals are going right there; they’re gonna smell the bait and come check out the trap.
GRANT: There are many more techniques I’ll share throughout the trapping season.
GRANT: Last year, I introduced Tyler as an intern to trapping. Now, he’s an employee and he’s passing along those skills to Owen, our current intern.
GRANT: Apprentice or mentoring programs such as this are critical to pass on these skills to new generations. It’s more than passing on skills. When you’ve got a group of folks together, we can learn from each other and sometimes the new guys teach the “old dog” a new trick.
GRANT: I’m going to let Tyler and Owen take care of this raccoon; reset the trap; and we’re going down the line.
GRANT: Not only is trapping a great wildlife management tool, it’s a fun way to pass on true woodsmanship skills to the next generation.
GRANT: Last year, Daniel taught Tyler how to set traps while he was an intern.
DANIEL: We really want to set these and get these stable for raccoons because if it’s got any wobble to it, they’ll back out and leave the trap unsprung. So, it’s really key that we get this trap level and stable. And occasionally, if you can find a rock in this place, you can stick a little rock under there to take that wobble out.
GRANT: Tyler had a great first season. He’s a quick study and he caught over 40 predators.
GRANT: One way for Tyler to refine his skills is to become the teacher. Because we know that teaching requires more knowledge than just learning a new subject.
GRANT: So, this year, I’ve assigned Tyler to teach Owen, our new intern, how to trap.
GRANT: It turns out Owen is also a good student as he’s already caught more than a dozen predators.
GRANT: I look forward to sharing more advanced trapping techniques with Owen and you very soon.
GRANT: Even though we cannot trap during fawning and nesting seasons, we can reduce the predator population; hopefully, keep it down until those fawns and poults are big enough to survive and avoid most predator attacks until a later date when the predators are dispersing.
GRANT: Our yearly trapping efforts, along with improving the habitat, have resulted in significantly increased turkey populations since I purchased The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: We will continue hunting and trapping until both seasons close.
GRANT: If you’d like to stay current on the techniques we’re using, given the conditions that week, check out our social media.
GRANT: The late season can be an especially productive time to chase deer. If you’d like to see the techniques we’re using based on the current conditions, please subscribe to the GrowingDeer newsletter.
GRANT: I really enjoy spending time trying to understand Creation better. But, even more important, I need to spend time every day being quiet and listening to what the Creator is saying to me.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.