Thursday, April 09, 2015

Making A Mineral Lick For Deer

© By Othmar Vohringer

The best time to establish a mineral lick for deer is from late winter, after the bucks dropped their antlers, to early spring.
While deer only need small amounts of minerals for full antler development having no minerals, or not enough, will result in in less antler growth than what genetically might be possible. Minerals are not just important for antler growth but also for the overall health and development of deer, lactating does and growing fawns in particular.

How to establish a deer mineral lick?

Practically you can put minerals anywhere and deer will eventually find it. However, to maximise the benefits for you and the deer it is best to place minerals where deer frequent. Look for topographical structures such as deer crossings, field and woodland corners, creek bottoms, ridges and saddles that are away from view of people or vehicle traffic. Find the secluded places that provide deer with a measure of security.

Although it is legal here in British Columbia to bait deer I do not use mineral licks for baiting deer. Just as I never place a stand directly over a food source or food plot.

Why not?

Because I want deer to feel safe on the lick or food source and keep returning to it regularly. Putting up a stand direct at the lick or food source will eventually make deer suspicious, resulting in deer abandoning it altogether. Also, it can be quite difficult to kill a deer at the lick or food source, especially for bowhunters, as deer constantly move around. I hunt the traveling deer. With that said, I place licks in such a way that it funnels the traveling deer past my stand location.

A lick can also be used to redirect deer traffic. Let me explain what I mean with a situation I faced last year. I hunted an area consisting of a large wide open field bordered on one side by thick brush and the road on the other side. Several trails went from the field into the brush but there was no predicting what particular trail the deer would use at any given time. Set up over one trail and deer move one of the other trails. Change stand locations to the trail the deer used and they would use the trail you sat over the day before. The brush is so thick you can’t see more than a few feet inside it. My solution to the problem? Redirect deer traffic by making a deer lick. I placed two mineral salt blocks inside the woodland on the thicket edge where the brush thins out. Checking the mineral lick in late winter I noticed that the deer established a large well used trail leading from the thicket to the mineral lick.

I recharged the lick with new mineral salt blocks early this year and the deer still hitting it strong. Come summer, around July, I will hang a stand on the new trail between the thicket and the mineral lick, refresh the lick again and leave the area alone until September, the beginning of the fall archery season.

Preparing a deer lick station.

When you found a good spot to establish a deer mineral lick don’t just dump the minerals in a pile on the ground. If there’s a rotten tree stump on the spot hollow it out and then pour mineral granulates into it. If there’s no tree stump clear a spot of about 5 to 8 feet in diameter down to bare soil. Spread lightly and evenly with mineral granulates. Check back in intervals of about one month and replenish minerals as needed.

If you use mineral blocks, as I do, clear a spot down to the soil and place the mineral block in the middle of it. To give the lick a quick start, or as an additional attractant, you can spread a few handful of grain or chopped apples around the mineral block. Unlike mineral granulates there’s no need to check mineral blocks frequently. The mineral blocks I put out in late winter last year still were in good shape this spring, unlike the mineral granulates I used for another lick station that were completely gone. Refreshing mineral licks for several seasons will saturate the soil to the point where deer will begin to eat the soil too, making it a traditional lick that deer and other wildlife will return to every day for many years. Hanging a trail camera near the mineral lick will have the benefit that you can check what deer and other wildlife visit and on what time of day. Cameras also let you keep taps on the antler growth of the bucks.

Give mineral licks a try this season, it’s an affordable way to help the deer getting important minerals and if placed correctly can improve your hunting success rate too.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

What Are Your Deer Hunting Goals This Year?

© By Othmar Vohringer

Set a goal for this hunting season and then work toward it.
I asked a hunting buddy of mine that question and he replied with; “Jeez, buddy turkey hunting season just started and you already think about deer hunting.”

Well, besides being guilty of having constantly whitetail deer on my mind, even during turkey hunting season, I also happen to think that it is important to have goals in life and in hunting.

Just like having a goal in life provides you with a working guideline so does having a seasonal goal for hunting. Without a goal you won’t know what to do or how to get there. It’s a bit like driving a car without knowing where you want to go or how to get there, you end up driving in circles.

This might be okay for the hunter who’s just looking to get away from the daily grind for a bit, enjoying the great outdoors. Killing a deer is a priority but rather an added bonus. However, my guess is, since you’re reading here, you’re the type of hunter that has a passion for hunting and whitetail deer. You're  the type of hunter looking to maximize the rate of success in the deer woods. To achieve that increased success rate you have to have a goal in mind and then work toward achieving that goal.

With that established you need to set a clear goal of what it is you want out of the upcoming hunting season. I don’t know what your goal is. Maybe you want to kill your first big buck, or the first deer period, or maybe hunt a place that is not overcrowded with others hunters. Whatever your goal is for this season, no matter how big or small, you have to plan for it and you have to start rather sooner than later.

My goal for this season is to find an area with a good whitetail deer population. That might sound strange to you, but where I live is not known for abundant whitetail deer populations, it’s an area with a large mule deer population and also known for big mule deer bucks. Through research I found an area with a good whitetail deer population and a better than average trophy buck population. Now my next task is to find private landowners willing to let hunters on their property, which means spending a few days, maybe even weeks, knocking on doors. The chosen area also has vast amounts of public land. My goal is to find the public land areas that other hunters avoid. To achieve this goal I have to study maps to see what the access to these areas are. My task is to find areas where vehicle access is restricted. With restricted vehicle access chances of  encountering undisturbed hunting enjoyment and opportunity rise drastically. When all this is done I have to start scouting and chose possible stand locations.

Of course, I just could drive into the area when deer hunting season opens and see what transpires. But that is not me. I like to set myself goals and then work toward it. It increases my chances of success, and besides that, as a passionate whitetail deer hunter it is just another excuse - a worthwhile excuse – to occupy my time and my mind with whitetail deer.

What are your deer hunting goals for the 2015 season? Let’s discuss it!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The North American Deer Summit

© By Othmar Vohringer

Over the last decade, the ones believed to be an indestructible world of whitetail deer has taken a beating. What are the reasons for the overall decline of the deer populations? Scientist from the QDMA (Quality Deer Management Association) found out that the decline of the deer herds can be attributed to:
  • Growing predator populations, seriously impacting fawn survival rates.
  • Urban sprawl is the cause for rapid wildlife habitat loss.
  • Disease, such as the quick and devastating spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and more recently the spread of the Bluetongue Virus and “Deer Warts” (Cutaneous fibromas), has taken a huge toll on the deer herds in some areas of North America.
  • Government “Deer Management” should be renamed as “Political Management” or “Hunter Management”. It is my contention for years now that government wildlife services in the past have been more concerned with keeping hunter happy than with sound science based deer management/conservation programs. I am glad, that finally, scientists have come to that conclusion too.
Personally I also find that over the years all the hoopla about killing large numbers does has contributed to the decline of deer herds too. While killing does can be a good management tool to reduce deer herds quickly it also can quickly backfire. Especially then when predator populations are not kept in check or some deadly disease or harsh winter conditions adversely affects deer herds.

It is my opinion that if things don’t change quickly we will have some serious deer conservation problems in the next few years. It is a very likely scenario that we will see some drastic measures being taken to protect deer, and that might very well mean a total ban on deer hunting in some of the most adverse affected areas, or at the very least a very limited number of deer tags being made available.

It is for this reasons why concerned deer hunters have established the National Deer Alliance (NDA) last year. The aim of the NDA to be a unified voice for deer hunters and work toward science based solutions for the many challenges our North American whitetail deer populations face. Part of the NDA mission is the creation of the North American Deer Summit. This is the second Summit of this kind and is to be held on May 6 to 8, 2015, The Galt House in Louisville, Kentucky.

The first summit, held in 2014, had the goal of identifying the various challenges facing the deer populations. This years summit will establish a priority plan of what issues need to be addressed immediately and to begin developing a plan of action to be taken.

This is a very important event, involving all stakeholders in the deer hunting and deer conservation community. This is something you, me and all fellow deer hunters should make a priority to get involved with and actively participate. The summit is open to the public, meaning everybody can, and should, take part in it.

As passionate deer hunters is should be all our duty to make sure that future generations of deer hunters have the possibility to enjoy what we do today, and maybe for too long have also taken for granted.

For more information visit the link of the North American Deer Summit.

Visit the North American Deer Summit registration page.

Become a member and supporter (it’s free) of the National Deer Alliance.

Here are some articles on the subject that might interest you:

EHD and CWD: What’s the Difference?

Have We Killed Too Many Does?

10 Reasons You Don’t Want CWD in Your Woods

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Tips For Finding Shed Antlers

© By Othmar Vohringer

Now that the weather gets warmer and the snow has melted head out in search for shed antlers. Provided you’re not a turkey hunter, shed hunting is a good way to overcome cabin fever. It’s also a good way to learn about the land you hunt, the deer that inhabit that land and enjoying the great outdoors.

However, wandering around willy-nilly hoping to stumble across a set of shed antlers will lead to noting much other than frustration.
Here are some tips on how to find shed antlers.

Scouting is to shed hunting success as important as it is to deer hunting. Study the land and the available food sources that are available to the deer in winter. Look for thick cover where bucks hide away during the harsh winter months.

In the winter and after the rut bucks form bachelor groups again, tired and nutritionally worn down form the rigors of the rut they retreat to wintering areas where they can find food and cover within close proximity. Find these hideouts and learn to identify what food sources are still available to the deer and you’re likely to find sheds from several bucks in that area.

In the winter bucks have two things on their mind. Eat and sleep. Bucks sleep, or rest, all day long to conserve energy, only getting up for short periods to feed. Bedding areas are usually found in dense cover where the bucks are somewhat sheltered from the cold winds and falling snow. During the day bucks soak up the warm rays of the winter sun on south facing hillsides and the south facing edge of forests.

While some bucks shed their antlers by trashing bush and low hanging branches, most lose their antlers through sudden movement like running and jumping, check places where deer trails cross fences, shallow creeks, ditches and other obstacles that deer have to jump over or crawl underneath.

She hunting is a slow and systematic process. Just walking around will not yield much success in finding sheds. Walk slowly and examine the ground near the features mentioned above closely, often only part of an antler will be exposed while the rest is buried under grass and forest debris.

If you want to learn more about antler shed hunting I recommend a well written book titled “A Guide To Finding White-Tailed Deer Antlers” by Joe Shead, an avid shed antler hunter for many years.

Monday, March 02, 2015

News: Vermont Considering Crossbows For Fall Archery Hunt

© By WILSON RING / Associated Press

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Board wants to expand the use of crossbows during the fall archery deer-hunting season, hoping to lure more hunters by making shooting easier and more precise.

Vermont currently allows archers to use crossbows only if they have a physical condition that prevents them from using a traditional vertical bow. Crossbows have rifle-like stocks and telescopic sights.

Officials hope the change will make an aging population of hunters stay with bow hunting or bring in others who don't feel they can master the vertical bow.

“That's a huge change,” said Rick Sanborn, the owner of R&L Archery in Barre, a store that sells archery, both traditional and crossbows, and other hunting and outdoors equipment.

About 6,000 of the 20,000 archery licenses sold each year go to crossbow users, and the number is going up, officials said.

“We have an aging population of hunters,” Sanborn said. “I'm a part of it. We're the Baby Boom Generation, and we're starting to fall apart. Every year there's more people who qualify.”

The Fish and Wildlife Board, which implements hunting and fishing regulations in the state, wants the new crossbow regulations implemented in time for this fall's archery hunt. The change must also be approved by the Legislature, said Mark Scott, the wildlife director for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The crossbow proposal and several other changes to hunting regulations were developed by the board after a deer management study and two years of public input.

The archery season would also be expanded by 10 days, starting a week earlier and lasting three days longer into October, and archery and muzzle loading season deer limits would be reduced from three deer to two.

The board must approve the proposal three times before it can take effect. The first approval was last month.

Officials are planning to hold a series of hearings across the state at the end of March. Interested people can also submit written comments to the board through the Fish and Wildlife website.

Scott said nearly two dozen other states have some form of liberalized hunting with crossbows beyond just allowing disabled hunters to use them.

“The plus with crossbows ... is that people can become more proficient using the implement with a lot less practice than with a traditional bow,” Scott said. “The reality is that's probably not a bad thing.”

It will make it easier for people who might not have the time to practice with a bow to get out and bow hunt.

But it doesn't guarantee people will be able to get a deer.

“You still have to put yourself in the woods, in a natural environment, probably within 35 yards or less, to make a good, accurate clean shot,” Scott said.

The proposal isn't universally favored.

Arick Miller, 26, of Barre Town, who bow hunts every fall until he gets a deer, was practicing with a traditional bow on R&L's indoor archery range on Tuesday. He doesn't believe the use of crossbows should be expanded.

“Why not learn the bow and do it traditionally?” Miller said. “I was brought up on this thing. I'll never pick up one of those (crossbows) unless I'm disabled.”

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