Lessons From A Dead Buck (Episode 67 Transcript)

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GRANT: It’s Wednesday, February 23rd, and Brad found another buck that’s, that’s dead. We don’t know the cause of death, here at The Proving Grounds, and we found a yearling, a two year old, a three year old, and a four year old, so far this year, and we will find more. We had about 90 plus bucks identified through the Reconyx cameras, here at The Proving Grounds. That’s, you know, from young to old, and you need to expect the minimum of about 10 percent natural mortality. I mean that’s wounds, and disease, and road kill, everything except hunter mortality.

GRANT: Now, we had several trail camera images of this buck earlier in the year and he looked healthy and happy. We’re right on a trail where it crosses the creek behind me. And I don’t know if this deer got ambushed by coyotes, or was killed up there and ran down here. We can tell the carcass has been drug around here in a big circle by the hair, so, but that’s coyotes and vultures scavenging. We just don’t know the cause of death. We do know it’s one less buck that’s gonna reach maturity here at The Proving Grounds, and you got to think about the total investment. There’s really three years in this buck. It was a fawn. Then, it was a yearling. And now, it’s a two year old. We had three years into this, so if you’re gonna loose a buck, with your goal to get ‘em at least four years old, like we have here at The Proving Grounds, you’d much rather use – loose a fawn. You’ve got six months invested, and you can replace it in six months. It’s gonna take us three years to replace this deer. Let’s see what else we can learn about this deer.

GRANT: I’ve removed the lower mandible, or the lower jawbone, out of this deer, and it’s an obvious two and a half year old. Of course, deer have six teeth. They’ve got a lot of cusp, but six teeth on the lower jaw, not counting the incisors up front. There’s one, two, three, four, five, six. One thing that tells me this is a, a, a young deer is you notice more staining on these three molars and less staining, less darkness, on these three premolars. And that’s because at about 18 months of age, all three of these teeth are shed – 18 to 20 months of age – they actually get pushed out. And these teeth we see, now came, erupted up out of the jaw and replaced them, so they’ve actually been in the deer’s mouth a shorter period of time. So that’s why it’s more stained. It’s actually been exposed to more saliva, and food, and acid, causing a little bit more erosion, more staining on the tooth. And another reason we know this is a two and a half year old – of course there’s nowhere – you see how sharp these cusps are, these points are – just nowhere at all. But a little trick I learned in graduate school is the very last cusp – the last portion of the last tooth – you can take a straw, or a pen, and stick down in, and it will hold it. It’s not worn at all.

GRANT: And because these cusps are so tall, they keep the back part of this tooth from being – either hitting the top tooth, or being chewed on much. When there’s no wear and tear, very sharp, clearly a two and a half year old buck.

GRANT: Oftentimes, you may just find a backbone. The head maybe drug off, or you won’t find it when you’re out shed hunting, or, or working, like Brad was. But you can still tell a lot, just from this portion of the deer. Let’s say this portion is gone, and all you have is the pelvic girdle and the backbone. But on the pelvic girdle – two things – right here – this is upside down. In other words, this would be the deer’s belly going this way. This will be a pretty sharp V. The coyotes have chewed this off (inaudible). A sharp V here, but will be more U shaped in a female or a doe, so the birth canal, so a fawn can slide through there.

GRANT: If you find a pelvic girdle in the woods – you don’t find the head – and you want to identify it, you’re trying to reconstruct your herd or figure out how many bucks or does you lost over the winter, that’s one good indicator. But flip it over, and now, this would be the bottom – the belly up here. On the bridge of the pelvic girdle, you see these two large bumps; one there and one there. They’re called tuberosities. Don’t get lost in the terminology. And very tough cords are tied in there, and that’s what holds the testicles up. They attach right here, so obviously, not present on a female pelvic girdle at all; very present on a buck. They tend to get more pronounced, as a buck ages, so the tuberosities can give you 100% accuracy whether you found a pelvic girdle of a male or female, when you’re out in the woods this spring turkey hunting.

GRANT: Along with some valleys in life, always comes some mountaintops. And Brad came in at lunch and had found this shed and this shed while out working trail cameras this morning. Now, he said he only did about one camera in five hours. So I’m not sure if he was working trail cameras or looking for sheds. No, I’m just teasing. Brad’s great, but while he was going camera to camera, out of the pickup window, literally, saw this sticking up in one of our wheat fields.

GRANT: Wonderful. Interesting thing. Biologists, myself included, talk about both antlers coming off at once, because the testosterone level gets low enough, below a threshold, and they just cast their antlers. But we have pictures of more than a week of this deer with one antler, and then, it shed the second antler. So that’s not always true. Same with this deer. As matter of fact, last week, Brad did some patterning – talked about patterning deer – and used this deer as an example, and low and behold, today, he found the shed of 11 Point Righty. So, man, just a lot of great stuff going on at The Proving Grounds. When you get to learning individual deer, following them, patterning ‘em, tracking their movements, it’s thrilling. And love for you all to come join us on our shed hunt. We got about a – 180, 190 of these on the ground, out here somewhere. You know, we’re gonna find five or ten, before the shed hunt. But March 18th, we’re gonna talk about how we produce deer like this in really poor habitat, how you can do it too, and how we pattern these deer, how we put our stands up. ‘Cause you can bet your bottom, we’ll be chasing 11 Righty, or maybe, 12 Righty, next year.

GRANT: And you guys had just found these, right?

TRACY: That’s right.

GRANT: So, you just been hopping up food plot to food plot – kind of taking easy stuff, making me look bad. This is all fun. We like this, but March 18th – we have a 18th, 19th – we have a big shed hunt. We invite 100 people. Limit to 100. You’re welcome to come – if you’re one of the first 100 registered – and really, we go up to the hills and hollers, don’t we?

TRACY: That’s right. That’s where the real adventure is.

GRANT: Yeah. Tend to find some more mature buck antlers in those bedding areas. We violate our sanctuaries one time a year. Real important thing – if you’re a shed hunter – you need to get to those food plots every afternoon or before work, if you can, because sheds are out here, are very visible, and obviously, the scent blows real easy. Coyotes like to grab these, take ‘em off – or dogs, chew on ‘em for the calcium. These are super calcium rich. When they’re laying in a big cluster of native grass, or blow down, of course, that scent’s not blowing over as easy. They can stay there a little longer, or when coyotes find them here and drag them up into the hills.

GRANT: Only way you can really learn is get out and interact with Creation. Spend some time walking. Take your kids out. You can bet, my kids and I will be shed hunting soon. And we’re looking forward to those events. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer. I hope you find the shed of your dreams, on your next outing.