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MSU Deer Lab Podcast Episode 033 with Special Guest Jeremy Flinn

Episode 033 – How Jeremy Flinn Uses Biology and Technology to Scout and Hunt

Jeremy Flinn is graduate of the MSU Deer Lab and is now the Chief Marketing Officer for Stone Road Media, a company that represents many of the well-known brands in the hunting industry. We talk about the influence “brand-name” hunters have on the education of the hunting public and how Jeremy is working to insure that accurate, biologically sound information is being distributed. We also talk about habitat management differences in the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest, and how Jeremy uses biological knowledge about buck movements, complimented with camera technology, to most effectively scout and harvest deer.  If you would like to reach out to Jeremy, you can find him at jeremy@stoneroadmedia.com.

 

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 2): Buck Movements Tied to Personality

Buck Movement Patterns Linked to Personality

By: MSU™ Deer Lab

Most serious buck hunters have taken the effort to pattern a nice buck, only to be frustrated when they never saw him again in the original area. In Part 1 of Here Today, Gone Tomorrow, we explained that many adult bucks shift their area of use during the hunting season in response to several needs related to food and reproduction.  Here we take learning to an entire new level as we describe personality differences that explain some of the most bazar behaviors you may have experienced on your hunting grounds.

The MSU Deer Lab’s ongoing movement project is generating location estimates every three hours for up to 50 adult bucks each year across a large landscape dominated by forests and agriculture.  Graduate students Ashley Jones and Colby Henderson are just getting started with their analyses, but our preliminary results prove that you should NEVER say “always” and ALWAYS say “maybe” when it comes to predicting buck behavior.  However, there appears to be two general types of adult buck personalities that we can tie to general patterns of movement. About 60% of our adult bucks live in one general area or home range, and we call these “Sedentary Bucks.”  The other 40% of our adult bucks split their time between two or more areas or home ranges, and we call these “Mobile Bucks.”

Orange 300 and Orange 92 are both 3-year old bucks that exemplify the relatively sedentary movement pattern present in 60% of our collared bucks.  They live in a single general area, although they shift their movements across their hunting season home range in response to food resources and potential breeding opportunity. They also make short excursions outside of their normal home range, likely to evaluate potential new opportunities. Don’t take the term “sedentary” to suggest that they don’t move much – looking at the scale in this figure shows that each of these bucks’ hunting season home ranges cover a range of 3-4 miles!

Orange 100 and Orange 297 are three-year-old bucks that also shifted concentration areas within their hunting season home ranges, but the extent of their shift differentiates them from the Sedentary Buck Personality.  These two examples of the Mobile Buck Personality made significant movements between two home range areas separated by up to 7 miles.  Some Mobile Personalities make a single movement between their two home ranges while others make regular visits back and forth.

These extreme shifts in home range location explain why bucks patterned on one property may end up being harvested many miles away on another property.  Stay tuned for more valuable buck behavior insights as we continue to analyze data from this monumental adult buck movement project.

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (Part 1): Shifts in Buck Home Range Areas

Adult Buck Movement Study | Shifting Buck Home Ranges

By: MSU™ Deer Lab

Most serious buck hunters have located a nice buck prior to or early in the hunting season and invested time and effort trying to bring him home.  Many of these same hunters have experienced the frustration of never seeing him again in the original area and wondered why.  Did he move because of your scouting and hunting efforts or was the shift in the buck’s home range part of normal buck behavior? Well, the MSU Deer Lab’s ongoing adult buck movement project is generating buck location estimates across a large landscape.  Graduate students Ashley Jones and Colby Henderson are just getting started with their analyses, but our preliminary results show the cause of your frustration when it comes to shifting buck home ranges.

Look at the movements of a 3-year old buck (Orange 92) during the 2017-18 hunting season and you’ll notice a distinct shift in areas of concentrated activity across the hunting season.  Each dot is a location estimate sampled at three-hour intervals and color-coded by month to illustrate changes in home range use across the hunting season.

Orange 92’s October locations (red dots) have nothing in common with his January locations (blue dots).  Examining the November (orange dots) and December (green dots) locations shows that his home range shift was a graduate transition that took place over two months. This pattern is present in many of our collared adult bucks.  A closer look also shows two important and common movement behaviors associated with the rut, which peaks during late December and early January on this study area. First, are the excursions or short-term movements outside of his normal home range during November, as he likely seeks out an opportunity to breed an estrus doe.  Second, note the greatly expanded movements during December and January as he moves more widely and regularly in search of does in estrus and expands his home range to double that of pre-rut.  He evens takes a short return trip down into the lower portion that he used extensively during October.

Adult bucks are creatures of habit but thank goodness for our sport, predicting their locations with accuracy is difficult. Future updates will expand on our new knowledge of how buck movements can actually be classified into personality traits!

 

 

Hinge Cutting for Deer | Supplying Winter Food and Cover

Why and How to Hinge Cut for Deer

February and March are the hardest times of year for whitetails. They are near the end of their fat reserves, AG field residue is wiped out, and woody browse is limited and often over pressured. What is your solution for feeding deer in the winter if your property is not up to par? The solution is sitting in your garage, your chainsaw

February and March will bring new challenges to our properties, are roles as deer managers, and to the deer themselves. March is hardest time of year for whitetails. They are near the end of their fat reserves, AG field residue is all dried up, and woody browse is limited and often over pressured. Spring green up is right around the corner but deer still have a month or two of hardships ahead. It’s important that we understand what a whitetail desires this time of year and exactly what type of food they need in the winter.

A whitetail is adapted to survive the winter, they reduce movement, reduce intake and survive off of their fat reserves from fall. Currently a deer’s diet in winter will consist roughly 40% fat reserves, crop residues, and left over hard mass, but 60% will be woody browse. The main question you need to ask yourself this time of year is “do you have enough food and Quality cover on your property to carry your deer herd through the winter?”

We can correct this by putting out the right feed for deer in the winter with the chainsaw. By hinge cutting tree species such as hackberry poplar, and maples, non-mass bearing trees (do not cut oaks and hickories) we can put food at a deer’s level and also create bedding areas with certain cuts. The tops of the trees offer a lot of food in the form of newly grown buds and branches.

Cutting this way also serves the purpose of creating side cover, multiple hinge cuts can offer a lot of food and cover where it was once open. You are dropping a lot of shade closer to the ground, at the deer’s level( up to 6ft) and they will eat on the buds and branches, bed next to or under the hinge, and the top of the tree serves as protection for young samplings, ,especially important for oak regeneration. 

The Alternatives

Hinge cutting solves our problems for cover and deer food during the winter, it is a better long term solution for problems of March, and it is an alternative for the negatives associated supplemental feeding and/or feeding deer large quantities of corn. If you don’t have the habitat that can support hinge cutting as the form of emergency food you might have to rely on a stronger food plot program or supplemental feeding. Supplemental feeding is not recommended or illegal in some states, but where legal and in the right areas, you can do it right!

Deer Food and Deer Feeding in Winter

Deer Food | Feeding Deer in the Winter

By: Weston Schrank, BuckScore Specialist and Biologist

As deer hunters and land managers, we worry about our deer herds in the winter. With freezing cold temperatures, snow, ice storms, and a sun that doesn’t often show itself, it’s a miracle deer can make it through such conditions. While deer are built to handle these tough situations, it’s our job to ensure the habitat and herd are in a healthy state for any type of weather. One question that often comes up during this time of year is “should I be feeding my deer?” In most circumstances the answer is no. However, the answer depends upon the situation as both the terms “deer food” and “feeding deer” can have different meanings. Understanding the right and wrong way to feed deer this winter is your job as a deer hunter and more importantly as a deer steward.

There are three sections below, carefully read and watch the videos in this blog to get a full understanding of the right and wrong way to feed deer. There is a wrong way to feed deer, a better way to feed deer, and “the best way” to feed deer during the winter months.

Feeding Deer in the Traditional Sense

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “feeding deer”? I bet that 90% of hunters think of deer corn. Corn or deer feed pellets are the most common foods that hunters refer to when they talk about feeding deer. So what is the problem with this? Feeding deer large amounts of corn in the winter in an area where they don’t normally get it can be a disaster. The video below explains why this can be a problem.

Feeding Deer with a Better Understanding

As the video above explains, this does not necessarily mean that all feeding is bad. There is a way that you can start feeding deer on a supplemental feeding program during the winter. The secret is feeding in the right amount and at the right times. The video below covers how to properly provide supplemental feeding.

The Best Way to Feed Deer

While many deer hunters and land managers might successfully incorporate a supplemental feeding program on their property, there is a better option. Through habitat management, food plots, and timber management plenty of deer food and nutrition will be available to the deer herd. Food in the form of food plots, early successional growth, woody browse, and downed trees should always be a higher priority for a deer manager than a feeding program. Unfortunately, there may not be enough natural food or habitat to sustain a herd throughout the winter. If this is the case, it might be time to create some emergency deer food and cover through hinge cutting. The video below covers hinge cutting and how it creates food and cover for deer.

When it comes to the terms “deer food”, “deer feed”, and “feeding deer,” it’s important to understand what each means to your management plan. There is a right way and a wrong way to provide food for your deer herd. Which will you choose and more importantly how will your choice affect the future of your herd?

Looking to read more deer hunting and deer manager related articles? Check out the link below!

Trail Camera Survey | Take Inventory of Your Deer Herd This Winter

How to Run a Trail Camera Survey

By: Weston Schrank, BuckScore® Specialist and Biologist

The first of a long list of responsibilities for a deer and land manager is to find out what is going on the property. It’s been a long hunting season… some deer have been killed by hunters, others killed by predators. The cornerstone of your new property management plan, and next year’s harvest plan, is taking a census of which deer and how many there are on the property. The best way to do this is by running a post season trail camera survey.

Post Season Trail Camera Survey

Most surveys are preseason surveys in summer, to determine which bucks are on the hit list… but a post season survey can be far more important to a deer manager. Population number, health assessments, post season age structure, and post season sex ratio are all very important to take note of after deer season.

Winter, specifically late February and March, is the hardest time for deer. A trail camera survey allows you to see the status, size, and overall health of the deer herd before this stressful time. Deer population numbers can fluctuate in terms of how many deer you actually see on the property. Your property may get an influx of deer stacking into your bedding areas, south slopes, and disturbed woodlots if you have a decent amount of cover and ideal habitat. This can cause a lot more stress to the property than what your management plan and property is set up for. Trail camera survey results combined with post season scouting can reveal management projects that might be needed before late February and March. This information also allows you to make smarter decisions on doe harvest, food plots, and even predator management!

What You’ll Need

  • 300 – 500 lbs. of corn or more per 100 acres of property (depending on deer densities)
  • One trail camera per 100 acres of property
  • New batteries for your trail camera
  • 8 GB or larger SD card (check compatibility with camera)
  • Time, enough time to refill trail camera stations every 2-4 days (depending on deer densities)

Trail Camera Survey Instructions

When setting up a survey you need to stick to the correct format that was conducted in the original research in order to get accurate results. The correct setup calls for a trail camera for every 100 acres. However, each property calls for different numbers depending on how it hunts, topography, and its habitat diversity. For example, while one camera may seem to cover an entire 70-acre property, you can learn from observations that each side of the property is used by different deer, and more importantly bucks, the number a survey uses as an index to estimate doe numbers. Setting up a trail camera on each side of this 70-acre property will give the ability to observe and identify each individual deer using the property. As another example, a 150-acre property in will have the same number of cameras. The habitat on this farm isn’t as diverse, meaning the deer move more freely from one camera location to the other.

After deciding how many cameras you need, the location of the trail cameras is your next decision. Your ideal trail camera location would be an area that you can maximize deer encounters with. You will want an area that is relatively clean of brush, saplings, and tall grass, essentially anything that can set off the camera besides a deer. Set up the trail camera about chest high and facing north or south to keep the morning or afternoon sun from blinding your image. Place 50-100 lbs. of corn out about 10 yards from the camera.

After the area is cleaned up and corn is down, turn your attention to the proper trail camera settings. The most important aspect that is often messed up by hunters and landowners is the setting and duration of the survey. The correct settings are 1 photo burst with a 5-minute delay. Make sure you have fresh batteries and an empty formatted memory card and run the survey for 3 weeks or 21- 24 days. During this time, keep coming back to ensure there is always corn on the site.

Trail Camera Survey Results

Once the 3 weeks are up you will pull the cameras. By this time you might have already been finding sheds, or deer will be casting their antlers within a few short weeks. There is no reason to keep the corn and trail cameras running this late into the season.

You are now ready to start the most important part of the survey, calculating the deer population and making decisions based on the survey. While the calculations are relatively simple, making decisions based on the data can be a little more confusing.

Look out for another video coming out in the upcoming weeks on how to start calculating these trail camera survey results. We will walk you through how to identify bucks, estimate does and fawn numbers, score bucks on the hoof, and what results management decisions can be derived from. I will also be pairing these videos with off-season responsibilities and activities you can be doing now that can increase deer movement across your property for next year’s hunting season.

In the meantime, here are several blogs that you can check out to increase your knowledge of deer, deer management, and deer hunting!

Want to score bucks from trail camera photos? The BuckScore® program allows you to score a photo of a deer on your desktop or mobile in just minutes!