Whitetail vs Mule Deer

Whitetail Deer:

bowdeer2009

Location of whitetail deer (source):

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Where the biggest bucks have been shot (in the lower 48):

whitetailmaps

Mule Deer (source for this pic plus following maps):

220px-2012-mule-deer-male

Location of Mule Deer varieties:

220px-Odocoileus_hemionus_map.svg

Differences to note:

  • Central/ Eastern N. America for whitetails
  • Western N. America for mule deer
  • Mule deer are more grey
  • Whitetails are more brown
  • Mule deer have bigger ears
  • Mule deer have greyish/ black foreheads
  • Whitetails have brown foreheads
  • [Typical] whitetails have straight G-2s
  • Mule deer have bifurcated G-2s
  • Mule deer grow no or small brow tines (between the ears)
  • Whitetails grow long, or relatively long, browtines

Whitetail:

biggestbuckVII

Mule (Source):odochemi

 

Shooting Does

I know a fair few successful deer hunters, and I’ve noticed a common trend among them: they [we] don’t shoot any does.

If you haven’t yet shot a deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you see.

If you want to hunt just for the meat, then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

If you enjoy hunting and are happy with shooting any deer, then you should shoot the first deer that you can.

If you have only very few days in the woods each year, then you should shoot does.

If you are required by law to shoot a doe before you can shoot a buck, then you should shoot the first doe that you can.

If you hunt where there are very, very few deer (and maybe lots of wolves, coyotes, and bears, like in Northern WI), then you may as well shoot the first deer that you see.

But if your goal is to shoot as many bucks as possible, or to shoot the biggest bucks possible, then every doe that you shoot will make it harder to shoot bucks.

If the does in your area are not comfortable where you hunt, then they will move elsewhere and take the bucks with them.  The does will be where the best food, water, and cover that they can find is.  When you shoot any deer you will, almost invariably, do more wandering around in the woods and make more noise exactly where you do not want to do any of that.

Many guys like to shoot the first doe they can and then hunt for bucks.  This can be a huge problem becasue when you cause all the ruckus in an area the deer may want to avoid it, and if there were several deer in a group when you shot one, then the others may well stay away from that area forever after.  And if those other group members avoid the area, then the bucks that will be after them during the rut won’t be around either.

If you need to shoot a doe, and still want to hunt bucks, then I would suggest shooting your doe at some public land that you do not normally hunt.

And the worst problem with shooting does is that bucks almost never lead does.  You may well shoot a doe that had a buck behind it that you did not see.

Absolutely nothing good (for your buck hunting) can come from shooting does.

A Resumption of Posting

I haven’t posted here in a while. I was hunting deer. How would I get good at it if I spend all my time writing about it rather than doing it?

I plan on resuming my posting here (now that most people have stopped being interested in the subject until next year).

I did acquire some digital versions of some of the deer that I have shot in the past.

New interesting posts beginning tomorrow.

2nd Buck

2nd Buck

First Buck with a Bow

First Buck with a Bow

Deer Tim Gun 2007 a

Deer Tim Gun 2011

Chapter 17: Hunting Methods

Now that you’ve found your deer hunting property, perhaps improved it, and maybe identified a particular buck, then it is time to plan your actual hunt.

There are a few methods used to hunt deer.

Hunting deer with dogs was not uncommon at one time. These days it is often illegal to hunt deer with the aid of dogs. I have not hunted deer with dogs, and don’t know how it is done. My understanding is that it is not much practiced these days.

If you want your dog to be involved in your deer hunting, then training him to collect shed antlers is a fine way to do so. Search the internet for dog trainers to help you with that. Or visit a hunting exposition. There will likely be dog trainers exhibiting there, and they should be able to help you out. But keep in mind that a dog chasing deer is a fine way to drive deer away from your property.

One of the reasons that hunting with dogs is not common is the same reason tracking deer is uncommon in much of the country. The owner of many hundreds, or thousands, of acres may have enough land to track deer, but the average hunter will not have the amount of land necessary to do so. There is not much point in tracking deer across your 40 acres if you can only do so for a few hundred yards before the deer moves onto your neighbor’s property.
It is my understanding that the deer hunters in Northern New England are the hunters who hunt by tracking. There is lots of public hunting land in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. The public hunting in those states is large enough for you to follow a deer’s tracks for miles without trespassing.

The family that is always mentioned as the best deer hunters is the Benoits. There are several books written to describe how they hunt deer by tracking them and that is where you’ll want to turn your attention if tracking deer is what you want to do.

I wouldn’t recommend tracking deer in the large uninhabited lands if you are not at least very familiar with the area in particular. By wandering for miles, you’ll need to keep a close eye on where you are, and pay attention to the weather. Deer season runs through the fall and winter. Your survival skills will need to be good if order for you to track deer safely.

Many parts of the country still hunt deer by doing deer drives. Deer drives require lots of hunters, and lots of land to do well. With our culture of not being as friendly with our neighbors as we once were, and the preference to own our own land and not lets friends walk all over it, many places have seen a large decline in the number of deer drives.

The way a deer drive works is a few hunters stand in a line at a designated place, these hunters are on post. Then another line of hunters, walking spitting distance apart will walk, as a line, towards the hunters on post. All might carry guns, but those doing the walking will rarely see the deer that they are flushing out in front of them, and it will be the hunters on post that do most of the shooting. Much care must be taken to not shoot other hunters because many of them are out and it is difficult to tell where everyone is at any given time.

When deer are driven from their hiding places their path will often be a large arc. They seem to want to prefer to return to where they were, and to see whatever it is that drove them out.

Running shots at deer will be expected and hitting a fast moving target is always more difficult than hitting a stationary target.

One more thing to note about driving deer is that does will often make lots of noise when they are spooked. They will snort, and not make any effort to run away quietly. Does usually want to let all nearby deer know that there is danger around. Bucks are more likely to just try and disappear. Does will sometimes just try and disappear too, but if a deer is moving quietly it is most likely a buck.

Another deer hunting method is to walk around in the woods very slowly and quietly hoping to see a deer. I have tried this but have found it to be extremely ineffective and difficult. You are much better off stand hunting. When attempting this method you do not want to walk faster than around one step every ten minutes, or so I’m told. I’m no where near patient enough for that, and that would explain my poor results while attempting it (one miss with a muzzleloader).

All of the above mentioned deer hunting methods are of most use while hunting with a gun. It is incredibly difficult to get into archery range while hunting any of those ways. Hitting a running deer, during a deer drive, with an arrow would be a near impossible feat; almost no one would even try it.

The method of hunting deer most used today, and nearly exclusively by me, is stand hunting. The plan with stand hunting is to pick a good spot and then wait for the deer to arrive. The spot might be improved with bait, water, or food plots, but that is not always necessary.

Much like the tracker, a stand hunter needs to know the land. Deer need food, water, and cover. A stand hunter needs to know where all of those things are. Deer will spend their days in the cover and move to where there is food at dawn and dusk.

Ideally a stand hunter will have his stand located between the cover, parts of which are a deer’s bedding area, and the food, and/or water. Putting your stand in the cover will drive the deer away from that cover and looking for cover somewhere else. Putting your stand directly over the food, or water, means that there will be times when there are so many deer around that you won’t be able to move to shoot a deer. Deer are always looking out for danger and when you’re over food, they may be lots of deer, and lots of deer noses, eyes, and ears looking out for trouble.

Stand hunting deer has lots of advantages. Hunting from a stand means that you’ll rarely get lost, you get to hunt your own property, even if it is small, and you get to create and improve your own habitat. Its really the only way to hunt with a bow as well. (Unless your hunting skill vastly exceeds the author’s, and if so, you’d not need to read a book like this.)

Butchering Deer

I’m writing the chapter for my book on butchering deer. Because I’m not as familiar with butchering as I might be, I’m doing some research into the subject. (I usually pay to have my deer processed.)

Here are some webpages that I’ve found interesting, or helpful on the subject.

Venison cuts and cooking methods
(Picture as a PDF, from Penn State)

Mississippi DC butchering instructions

Broken Arrow Ranch: how to cook venison

Ask the Meatman:


Ask the Meatman

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Ask the meatman wholesale meat names

venisoncuttingchartopti36kb

Chapter 9: Improving Your Hunting Property

Another chapter from my forthcoming book. Any suggestions or criticisms would be appreciated.

foodplot9.jpg

Deer need three things: food, water, and cover. To have the best deer property possible you need to maximize the quality and quantity of all three.

After you’ve put up your “no trespassing” signs you should plan where you want cover and where you want to add food and water. These improvements will need to take place over a series of years because some aspects take time to grow, and you may not be able to afford all of these improvements at once. So your property improvement plan should cover the next several years. Where your access roads will be should also be part of your plan.

Where you want to improve your property will depend largely on what your individual property looks like. When you will look at your property with an eye towards creating food plots some spots will stand out. Those spots may be small meadows, old fields, or an area that has few trees and stumps to remove to clear a space.

The most efficient place to add water will be where the ground is already low. Places where puddles form in the spring are prime places to create ponds. Deepening ditches or streams (check your local laws) are also obvious places to create a year round water source.

Anyplace on your property might be changed into cover, food, or water, but some places will cost a lot less in order to transform them.

Once you’ve planned where you want things you’ll want to work first on whichever takes the longest to get into shape or work first on which ever can be done in the season that you are currently in. Tree planting is probably more difficult in the winter, etc.

Clearing an area for food plots may require removing some trees or stumps. Trees can be felled quickly, but stumps are best removed by someone with a bulldozer several years after the tree was cut. Without a lot of digging, or explosives, a fresh stump will remain firmly attached by its extensive root system. A few years after the tree has been cut the smaller roots will rot and the whole stump can be moved out of the way with a bulldozer. You could use a stump grinder to take the height of the stump down to the ground but the stump will remain a constant irritant whenever you do anything like till that ground. It is best to go around it until you can have it bulldozed. It’s a good idea to have all of your stumps removed in one bulldozing session; having the excavator come to your property multiple times will be more expensive than having him come over only once.

Growing food will not be particularly effective in your first season either. It will often take a few years to improve your soil to its peak, and it will take several years for fruit trees to begin bearing fruit. If you want fruit trees, then you had better plant them early in your property improvement.

Creating your water source(s) will not take as long. A professional pond maker can create one in a few days or weeks, so long as you can afford to pay for it.

Cover is where the deer will live. It is where they go to sleep and where they go to get away from danger. If you don’t have cover, then the deer will spend most of their time on someone else’s property. Your property may already have lots of cover and you may not need to add any. Are there large areas on your property where you have great difficulty walking through? Can you see through those places? You want a large percentage of your property to be nearly impenetrable by yourself or your eyes. If it isn’t food or water, then it might as well be cover. The thickest, most impenetrable, out of the way places would be my bet for where the biggest bucks around live.

How you create, or improve, your property’s cover will depend on what you have already, and what your property is like. A wide open space will have no cover; you’ll need to plant brushy plants and/ or trees. Here in central Wisconsin white pines grow at around one foot each year starting the year after they are planted. Several rows of coniferous trees are good cover from when they reach a few feet high until they grow too tall to have any low branches. Buy coniferous trees by the thousand and plant them around eight feet apart. It will cost a few hundred dollars for a few thousand trees. Buy trees from your local tree farm.

You might have a situation where you cover is in one place, your food is in another place and there is a large clearing in between. You might like this situation because you can cover the whole clearing with a rifle, but the deer are likely to wait until after dark to walk across the opening; deer don’t like being far from cover during the day. With this situation, a good idea would be to plant two or three rows of coniferous trees in a line from the food to the cover. The deer will prefer to walk along this thin line of cover rather than across the open space during daylight. This will work well because the deer will come out earlier, in order to hit the food just before dark, and because you’ll know that the rows of trees is where the deer will be when they travel between the food and cover.

A property that has lots of mature trees does not have any cover. It may seem wrong to cut down most of those mature trees but doing so will provide more benefits than having those trees remain standing. Mature trees may provide some food in the form of nuts, but little else. When those trees are cut new plant growth is encouraged. New plant growth provides cover in the form of brush and food in the form of browse. “Browse,” or fresh plant growth, is a large part of a deer’s diet.

When you hire loggers to cut down your trees they will pay you for the wood. The amount of money that you get will depend on the quality of your wood and how much you want to cut. You’ll probably get several thousands of dollars for your wood. If you don’t, then you either have a very small property, or you did not cut enough.

You may want to plan your property so that you cut different sections every ten years. The first year or two after you cut will leave you without trees or much cover. After a few years the new growth will reach a larger size and become great deer cover. But after many years the brush will become another mature forest with limited cover and limited food.

Be sure to clearly mark a few trees for the loggers. You’ll want to leave some trees for future tree stands. A tree will take 20-30 years before it is big enough for a stand, and you won’t want to wait that long.

Fruit and nut trees are a good way to add some food, but deer will get most of their food from natural browse, which you created by clear cutting. It takes several years for trees to grow big and produce their mast (fruit, nuts, etc). The longer that you wait to plant, the longer it will be before you see any results from them.

Apple, crabapple, pear, and chestnut trees will all provide food for deer. You’ll need to fence these trees in, or deer, and other animals, will eat the fresh tree growth and the tree will not get bigger. Wrapping the bottom of the trees may be necessary to prevent rabbits from chewing off all of the lower bark too. You need to plant more than one type of apple tree in order for them to pollinate. It is good to check when each species ripens. Ideally, some of your apple trees will drop apples in August, some in September, and some in October (or similar, depending on where you are). Having your trees ripen at different times of the year will mean that deer will return to that area for the ripening of each of the apples, rather than only visiting the trees for only one time period. It is also recommended to plant a variety of apple, crabapple, and pear trees in your apple orchard.

Nut trees, like chestnuts, will also need to be fenced and wrapped just like apple trees.

Growing fields of deer food is another type of food source that you can create. Fields of deer food are known as “food plots.” Food plots are just fields, or small areas, of clover, or soybeans, or turnips, or whatever. We will look at them in the next chapter.

Baiting is a third way to add food to your property. Baiting often has all sorts of laws and restrictions associated with it. Check your local laws.

Deer bait might be: corn, soybeans, sugar beets, carrots, apples, or you might go to a farm supply store and buy horse feed, or horse treats. The deer in your area may prefer one kind, or another. And some deer will take some time before learning that new, for them, things are good to eat.

There are also salt licks, mineral licks, and flavored sugar goo. There is merit to the argument that deer need minerals to grow and you should therefore add mineral licks. You may, or may not, notice a difference if you do add mineral licks. These are not used as bait, but they may be considered so legally, because they will not attract deer during the hunting season. Deer prefer these minerals during other times of the year. Minerals will have the most impact on antler size when they are eaten by the deer when the new season’s antlers are growing. Put minerals out, if you are legally able to during the spring and summer. The sugar goo, or powder, like Deer Cane or C’Mere Deer, may be useful during the hunting season, because it is food, and not minerals.

One of the most well known deer licks is Trophy Rock. It is just a rock of salt. I wonder how the deer know to lick a Trophy Rock. Do the deer just wander around licking rocks until one tastes good? But they find them and they lick them.

Feeders are often used for bait. One reason is to keep the food off of the ground. When food is spread on the ground it will eventually become mixed in with their excrement. That is unhealthy.

I have not had much experience with deer feeders, but they are big business in some parts of the country. My personal preference would be towards feeders that are gravity operated. Electronically operated feeders are more expensive and more likely to break, and require batteries.

Baiting works best when there is little other food around. A pile of corn is easier to access than food that is buried beneath snow, for example.

Baiting is frowned upon by many people. These people may not like adding artificial food sources, or they may not like the convergence of many deer to one place, which they claim results in faster spreading of diseases.

Baiting is also expensive and labor intensive. A food plot or tree will provide food without you once they are planted, but bait will need to be physically carried out each time that you want it out.

When celebrity hunters get busted for breaking a law, it is often because they were breaking baiting laws. One way that I’ve heard that the authorities find out about such things is by noticing many deer trails in the snow all leading to one place. Apparently the trails look like a wagon wheel.

Baiting has lots of downsides but many people still do it. They do it because it works.

Water is another essential for deer survival. Deer get water from all sorts of places. They get it from streams, lakes, and rivers. They also get it from puddles, leaves, and anywhere else that holds water.

If I hunted somewhere where it is hot, then water would be my first land improvement priority. All deer need water, but that is especially true where it is hot.

The thing to do to add water is to hire a local excavator to bulldoze a pond. You may need to add a pump, or you may not. Ground tarps and other things may also be necessary to keep the water in.

Adding a pond can improve your hunting a lot but it will cost several thousand dollars. Hire your excavator and then do what he says. He’s the expert and he knows more than you or me.

Having a long term property plan is good. It is also good to think about where you want your ponds and food plots when you can afford to pay for them.

After clear cutting, and planting more trees, you should think about where your property, and the surrounding area, is weakest in terms of food, water, and cover. Improve whichever is weakest, and then move to the next.

My Book: Chapter 3: Antlers Not Horns

(Much editing will occur before being finished. Questions, suggestions, and criticisms appreciated.)

A deer’s antlers are an object of admiration and desire for many.

One common misconception among non-hunters is that a deer will grow one point for each year that it is alive. This is not true. As I described in the previous chapter, a bucks antlers will generally be of an approximate size, and point number, which will be about the same as other bucks of the same age and of the same general location.

The way hunters describe a deer’s antlers is either as the deer’s age group, 1 ½, 2 ½…, as the antler’s width, as its point total, or as its “score.”

You can generally tell the age of a buck by the size of its horns, but this is not always accurate. A 1 ½ will have two points to eight points. No matter the number of points a 1 ½ will have antlers that go straight up from the head and not spread away from each other for more than a few inches.

It was once often thought that the 1 ½ bucks with only two points (spikes) had inferior genetics to the others. And many hunters shot those small bucks so that they wouldn’t breed. I don’t believe this to be true. A buck’s first set of antlers is usually small and they will be bigger next year no matter how big they were the first year.

I read a magazine article written by the owner of a deer farm who described a buck of his. That buck had two points at 1 ½ and, with better food and less stress than it would have in the wild, it eventually grew antlers bigger than the world record. Deer grown on farms can get to be amazingly big, but they do not meet the requirements in order to become world records.

If you are going to say that spikes have inferior genetics, then say it because you want an excuse to shoot a buck and not because you believe it to be true.

If you want to describe a buck’s antlers by its actual dimensions, then the standard way to do so is by its width and number of points. I may say, “I shot a 14 inch eight.” And all hunters will know that the buck I shot has its beams 14” apart and has eight points. The first day I ever went deer hunting my dad shot an 18” ten. Once you see, and measure, enough bucks, then you will know exactly what that means.

The most accurate way to describe a buck’s antlers is by its score. In a later chapter I will describe how to score a whitetail buck yourself.

A game animal’s score will be its Boone & Crockett score. Boone & Crockett (or B&C, www.boone-crockett.org) is an organization that, among other things, keeps the world record book for North American big game animals. B&C has scored North American big game animals for more than 60 years, doing it the same way. They keep records for bears, elk, moose, bison, walrus, etc.

For better or worse, right or wrong, a game animal’s score is its B&C score. There are other scoring systems, such as the Buckmasters scoring system. But unless you read the Buckmasters magazine or watch their TV show you will never hear of their scoring system. One other antler scoring system is the one from the Safari Club International (SCI). While doing research for this book I rediscovered the SCI scoring system, but I am unable to learn about it without paying to join SCI. (Note to SCI: if you want your scoring system to become more widely used, then make the system more freely available.)

If you shoot a buck with a gun or bow, hit it with your car (not recommended), or find it dead, then it may potentially become a B&C world record. There are some requirements including: shooting your animal in “fair chase” and the official scoring must be done after a 60 day drying period.

Pope & Young (P&Y) is another game animal record keeping organization, which favors hunting with a bow. There are many other requirements, but P&Y will accept the scores only of game animals shot with a bow. P&Y uses the same scoring system as was invented by B&C.

The B&C scoring system favors symetricalness. A deer’s antlers are usually symmetrical, but B&C is very picky about both antlers being the exact same size.

We will look at scoring in a later chapter, but a few more points before moving to the next subject.
The B&C and P&Y world record books are the records of game animals that reach a certain size.

A deer’s antlers may be typical, or non-typical. A typical set of antlers, roughly, is a set of antlers with the same number of points on each size, and for whitetails all points stick up from one of the two main beams. Non-typical antlers may have drop tines, stickers, bifurcated tines, etc.

In order to be entered into the World Record book a typical whitetail must net score at least 170. And a non-typical whitetail must score at least 195.