After the Fall – Saying Goodbye

Remember to "Hook-Up"

The morning sunrise during a hunt is something special. Every time.

By Larry Whiteley

It sure is getting foggy. I’m not sure I could even see a deer sneaking through the woods in this stuff. Oh well, I just love being out here sitting in my stand, even if I don’t see a deer. It’s a great time to be alone with God and thank Him for the opportunity to be out here in His great outdoors.

I wonder how many sunrises I have seen coming through the trees while sitting in a tree stand? After over 50 years of deer hunting, it has to be a lot. I have watched a lot of sunsets too, while up in a tree, but sunrises are my favorite. There’s just something special about being in the dark watching the sun gradually bring light to the forest.

Hearing the first bird songs of the day is music to my ears. I even love the smell of decaying leaves on the forest floor. The first movement I see is usually a squirrel gathering nuts for the long winter ahead. It’s amazing how much a squirrel sounds like a deer walking through the woods. Then there were the times I have watched a fox, a bobcat or some other animal traveling through and they had no idea I was even there. There was also the time an owl thought the fur trapper’s hat I was wearing on a cold winter day was breakfast and, with claws raised, dived right at my head.
It’s funny how we deer hunters tend to name our tree stands too. Over the years I have sat in stands with names like Northwood’s, Papaw Bear, Dad and Me, 23, Pond, Kelly, Red Neck and even one called No Name. Just thinking of the names brings back a lot of memories.

Most of my years sitting in those tree stands have been by myself, but the absolute best times were the years I shared them with my grandson, Hunter, while my son hunted with my granddaughter Anna. Hunter got old enough to hunt in his own tree stand and I am now once again sitting alone in the deer woods. It won’t be too many more years and he will be hunting with his son or daughter and continuing to pass on the tradition. Just thinking about the good times when it was just him and me brings tears to my eyes.

When you sit there waiting for a deer to come by your secret hiding place thinking of all these things, you see them in your mind. Speaking of tears, as I sit here this day, for some strange reason I am seeing my wife crying. The fog is lifting enough that I can now also see my sons, daughters-in-law, and grandkids crying. What’s going on?

Honey, I love you. Why are you crying, I say to my wife? Can’t you hear me? Hunter, I know you have always had a tender heart, but what’s the matter Bub? Don’t cry Sis, your Papaw’s here. Ty, Sam…come here and give your Papaw our secret hand -squeeze and let me wipe away the tears. Kids, I am right over here!

I love my kids, grandkids, my family. All their smiling faces.

Hey, I also see some of my cousins and friends from church. There’s Pastor Scotty too! What are they all doing here? I try talking to them and they act like they can’t hear me or see me. Why is this room filled with all these flowers and pictures of me with my wife, kids and grandkids plus pictures of me with fish and deer?

I hear someone ask my son how it happened. How what happened? My son Kelly chokes back a tear as my son Daron puts his arm around him to comfort him and he says, “Dad was always telling us to wear our harness and attach our lifeline when we got into a tree stand. He was hunting out of a ladder stand and for some reason, I guess he thought he didn’t need to do what he always told us to do. He even wrote articles and did radio shows telling other people how important it was to do it, but that day he didn’t. A ratchet strap broke; the stand slipped and he fell out.”

Was I dreaming during in a nasty storm?

Did I fall out of my tree stand? I’m dead?! You’ve got to be kidding! I have hunted that stand for years. My harness and lifeline were in my truck. I guess like most hunters, I thought this could never happen to me. I made a bad decision.
I say I am sorry to my wife for the times I have hurt her, tell her I love her one more time and that the boys will watch over her, but she doesn’t hear me. I want to hug and kiss her but I can’t.

I stand right in front of my sons and tell them how proud I am of them for being the good husbands and fathers they are, but they don’t see or hear me. I reach out to touch each of my grandkids, tell them I love them and I am sorry I won’t be there to watch them grow up and have families of their own, but they don’t hear or see me either. I pray they won’t forget their Papaw. I hope they tell their kids about the memories we made together.

I feel a hand gently on my shoulder and a voice says, “I know this is hard Larry, but they will be alright. God will watch over all of them for you. It’s time to go to a better place. There are other people waiting for you when we get there and I bet you have a bunch of fishing, hunting, kids and grandkids stories to tell them.”

We turn to go, but I look back over my shoulder at my friends and family one last time and say goodbye.

Friends, especially while using a ladder stand, don’t forget to hook up. Get a very inexpensive Hunter Safety System (HSS) Lifeline. About $30. Don’t wait, do it today, see your loved ones again.

5 Deer Annual Bag Limit for Florida…New Rules for 2019-2020

  • New deer hunting rules for Florida 2019-20 season 

By Tony Young

Beautiful Florida bucks are surprisingly numerous in parts of the state. Florida Fish and WiIdlife Commission Photo

At their February meeting, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Commissioners passed new deer hunting rules that take effect starting with the opening of archery and crossbow seasons in Zone A on Aug. 3, 2019.

FWC deer management program coordinator, Cory Morea, taking his youngest son, Braxton, on a hunting excursion. Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission Photo

Annual statewide bag limit – five deer, of which only two may be antlerless

One of the rules establishes a new annual statewide bag limit of five deer per hunter, of which no more than two may be antlerless (any deer, except a spotted fawn, without antlers or whose antlers are less than 5 inches in length). However, antlerless deer may still only be harvested during seasons when they are legal to take, such as during archery season and on antlerless deer days.

“The annual statewide bag limit was developed through extensive collaboration with FWC staff and stakeholders, and aligns with the goals and objectives outlined in the Commission-approved strategic plan for deer management,” said Cory Morea, deer management program coordinator.

Florida was the only state in the Southeast without a specified annual bag limit for deer.

“This adaptive approach to deer management is intended to improve hunting opportunities by encouraging harvest among more hunters as well as greater selectivity, while helping maintain a healthy and reasonably balanced deer herd,” Morea said.

Deer harvested under permits issued to landowners of the following programs are excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits – antlerless deer permit program, deer depredation program and private lands deer management program. Deer harvested on licensed game farms and licensed hunting preserves are also excluded from annual statewide bag, daily bag and possession limits.

Harvest reporting system

New rules require all hunters – including youth under 16 years of age, resident hunters 65 years and older, those with a disability license, military personnel, and those hunting on their homestead in their county of residence – to report deer they harvest. However, deer taken with a deer depredation permit or from a game farm or licensed hunting preserve do not have to be logged and reported through the harvest report system.

“Before moving a deer from the point of harvest, hunters who harvest deer are required to record in their harvest log information such as their name, date of harvest, sex of the deer, and county or wildlife management area where harvested,” Morea said.

Before the start of the deer season, hunters can access harvest logs online at Hunters should keep their harvest log nearby when hunting deer. 

Furthermore, this and possibly some additional information must be reported to the FWC’s harvest reporting system within 24 hours of harvest and prior to final processing of the deer, any parts of the deer being transferred to any meat processor or taxidermist, and the deer leaving the state.

“A harvest reporting system will foster bag limit compliance and give the FWC another source of deer harvest data,” Morea said.   

 Changes to private lands antlerless deer permit program

All antlerless deer taken on lands enrolled in the antlerless deer permit program must be tagged with an issued antlerless deer tag, even if they are harvested on a day when the take of antlerless deer is otherwise allowed (such as archery season) within the zone in which the enrolled lands are located. In addition, the deer must be recorded on the harvest log of and reported to the FWC’s harvest reporting system by the hunter who harvested the deer.

After the season ends, permittees must report the total number of antlerless deer taken on his or her enrolled properties by April 1.

“The antlerless deer permit program is intended to provide flexibility in managing deer populations. Tag issuance rates will be set by deer management unit and are designed to allow sustainable harvests while minimizing overharvest of antlerless deer, particularly females, on permitted lands,” Morea said. “Additionally, harvest information provided by antlerless deer permittees will help improve the FWC’s science-based deer management decisions.”

Because of this new tagging requirement for properties enrolled in the antlerless deer permit program, the application period for these permits and associated tags is earlier. May 15 is the earliest you may apply for all hunting zones, but deadlines vary by zone – July 14 for Zone A, Aug. 11 for Zone C and Sept. 29 for zones B and D.

Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, youth 15 years old and younger who are supervised by an adult (18 years or older) may participate in a new youth deer hunt weekend. Don’t forget the full body harness! Florida Fish and Wildlife Life Commission Photo

Youth deer hunt weekend

Beginning with the 2019-2020 hunting season, youth 15 years old and younger who are supervised by an adult (18 years or older) may participate in a new youth deer hunt weekend. This new Saturday-Sunday youth deer hunt coincides with the muzzleloading gun season in all four hunting zones and is not available on wildlife management areas.

Youth may harvest one antlered or antlerless deer (except spotted fawn) and the deer counts toward their annual bag limit. Youth are allowed to use any method of take legal for deer and may even use dogs to pursue deer on deer-dog registered properties.

“Wildlife management areas have had youth and family deer hunts for years, so this newly established season is a way to encourage youth deer hunting on other lands,” Morea said. “This new opportunity supports the FWC’s commitment to igniting interest in hunting and creating the next generation of conservation stewards.”

The dates for next season’s youth deer hunt weekend are Sept. 14-15 in Zone A, Oct. 26-27 in Zone C, Nov. 30 – Dec. 1 in Zone B, and Dec. 7-8 in Zone D. 

“Having this opportunity early in the season is expected to provide youth a better hunting experience when more deer are available and hunting pressure is relatively low,” Morea said.

No license or permit is required of youth hunters (15 years old and younger) or accompanying adults (18 years or older) who only supervise. Since the youth hunt coincides with muzzleloading gun seasons, supervising adults and other non-youth also may hunt but must use either a muzzleloader, bow or crossbow, and possess a hunting license, deer permit and muzzleloading gun permit, unless exempt.

If youth use dogs to pursue deer (only allowed on deer-dog registered properties), any person (16 years of age or older) participating in the hunt may not shoot or shoot at deer.

Change to youth antler point exemption

Youth 15 years old and younger may harvest only one antlered deer (any deer having one or more antlers at least 5 inches in length) annually that does not meet antler point regulations for the DMU being hunted, and it counts toward the youth’s annual bag limit.

“Deer hunting stakeholders believe limiting youth to one antlered deer annually that doesn’t meet DMU antler point regulations will allow more youth to see and harvest antlered deer, while developing a better understanding of DMU antler regulations,” Morea said.

More information

A comprehensive listing of frequently asked questions on these new deer rules and other statewide hunting rule changes can be found at

A Hunter’s Role in New York State Wildlife Management

Cory Dente of Delmar NY with a 10 point buck he harvested in the 2018 early bowhunting season. Cory reported his harvest through the HuntFishNY mobile app.

Did you know that only about 50 percent of hunters report their deer, bear and turkey harvests each year, even though it’s required by law?

Did you know that a hunter can be fined up to $250 for failing to report?

Reporting a harvest within seven days of take is not only your legal obligation, it’s also essential to proper wildlife management.

When hunters report their harvest, they are playing a crucial role in the management process, providing important biological data which is used to help estimate the number of deer, bear and turkey in each area of New York State and set management objectives.

At a time when hunter numbers are declining, it’s more important than ever for hunters to take seriously their role in wildlife management, to be good role models and mentors for younger generations, and to do their part to preserve their hunting traditions.

Reporting your harvest is easier than ever, so this fall please remember to Take It, Tag It, Report It!

Visit our website for details on Game Harvest Reporting.


Deer Hunter’s…5 BIGGEST MISTAKES, May Still be Time to Fix Your 2017 Hunt – Part 1 of 2

  • Know the Deer You Hunt
  • Scouting, Being Detected
  • Gear & Gadgets, Over-Dependence
  • Patterning our Hunting Pattern
  • Where, When and How

By John Sloan

Deer cross obstacles such as roads and fences in the same place, most of the time. Learn to recognize these crossings.

Each year deer hunters, all of us, make mistakes. Sometimes they are minor mistakes, sometimes major. Not always do even the major mistakes turn out badly in terms of killing a deer or getting a shot. But sometimes they do. Over the 60 years I have hunted whitetail deer, I have determined what I feel to be the five biggest mistakes a hunter makes. Here they are in the order I rank them.

Keep these items in mind for hunting now, for scouting after this season, and for scouting next summer and fall for next year’s season.

Mistake #1: Failure to understand the animal you are hunting.

I have been a student of whitetail deer for more than six decades. I am still learning. I am still constantly reminded of how little I know. I have always wondered how a hunter can expect regular success on bucks over age 3-1/2 if they don’t work to learn all they can, and then test what they have learned.

Persimmon is a preferred food source when dropping. Did you know there are two types of persimmons, early and late, and deer don’t always eat them?  

Just reading and asking questions are not enough. You must get out in the woods and read sign, see what the deer has done. Then ask yourself why. Why did that deer do that? What caused that reaction? Will it happen every time?

If you ask any deer hunter what the deer’s preferred food source is right now, and they don’t know, they have not learned enough about the animal they hunt. Does the hunter know what will be the next preferred food source? Does he or she know why the deer are crossing a road in a particular place?

The questions and the answers are endless. It takes much more than just spending time in a stand. The more you ask and the more you learn, the better prepared hunter you will be, and it is a serious mistake not to be prepared.

A successful deer hunter will always have more questions than he or she has answers.

Mistake #2: Improper Scouting

Nothing prepares you for success more than proper scouting. Nothing costs you more than improper scouting.

Far too many hunters wait until the week or maybe the month before the season to begin scouting. However, proper scouting never stops. By far the most informative scouting is done in the weeks just after the season closes. That sets the stage for the rest of the scouting. It is then you learn what the bucks were doing when you were hunting them. It is then you find their hiding spots and secure travel trails. It is then you formulate your game plan for the next season.

Summer means long distance, non-invasive scouting with good optics. It is a prime way to spot where a buck enters and leaves a field without spooking him and may be a clue to finding autumn food sources.

In the summer, your scouting is non-invasive. You glass open fields just at sundown. There is little to be learned other than there are some deer here. That’s all you need to know at that point. There is little reason to be in the woods. That starts when the mast begins to form on trees. You are now looking for food sources. You couldn’t care less if you see deer. In fact, you hope you don’t. You are looking for where the deer are going to be, not where they are.

Hang a stand in the right place and stay away until you plan to kill him.

In early fall, you combine your hunting with your scouting, you are looking for new rubs, early scrapes, previously unknown creek or road crossings. You adjust as the deer do, as new travel patterns emerge.

In late season, you adjust again. The stand that was so hot in November may be useless now. Look for the trails in deep cover and secure food sources. Look for the trails that lead to agricultural crops and, in doing so, pass through the really thick stuff.

To scout for only a day or so in September or October is a serious mistake. It will cost you deer.

Do plenty of post-season scouting and make notes. This often can be the key to next year’s success.

Mistake #3: Over-Dependence on Equipment and Gadgets

As technology developed new and improved products, deer hunters got lazy. Magic potions in bottles or in spray cans replaced knowledge and work and study. We began to depend on our equipment to compensate for inaccurate shooting, good yardage judging, clean clothes and proper stand placement. We began to believe the advertisements and all the new theories. The latest call couldn’t fail. The hottest new camo couldn’t fail. The most popular new scent couldn’t fail. The new scent eliminators couldn’t fail. But they did… and do.

Don’t be afraid to hunt from the ground. With the right setup in the right place, it can be productive. Doesn’t always need to be a ground blind.

There are no magic potions or gimmicks. They are all aids and, yes, they are an aid. Properly used, under the right conditions they do work sometimes. None of them work all the time and some of them are counterproductive. Unless you understand what the product is; know how it works; know how to use it properly and understand the limitations of the product, you are making a mistake. If you depend on a spray or clothing to prevent deer from smelling you and do not take advantage of the wind, you are making a mistake.

These products and others can be invaluable for the unforeseen vagaries of hunting. But to depend on them alone is a mistake and it will cost you.

Consistently successful callers (deer, elk, turkey, etc.) always anticipate success and prepare for a response.  This anticipation is what I call the confidence factor, and it usually comes from experience and a working knowledge of the language of the game you’re hunting.  You don’t have to learn the hard way.  Learn the language, and when you make a deer call expect a deer to show up.


Youth Ready for Big Game Hunt in New York

– 3-Day Columbus Weekend Special Firearm Season (Oct. 8-10, 2016)
– For Properly Licensed Youth – 14 and 15 years Old

Anticipation and excitement are among reasons why NYS holds a special, early youth firearms season. NOTE: Since this hunt occurs during the second full week of the 6-week regular archery season in NYS, all hunters are encouraged to wear some form of orange for safety/visibility while accessing the woods. Forrest Fisher Photo

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation reminds us that this weekend brings a new opportunity for junior hunters, as New York’s annual Youth Big Game Hunt on Columbus Day weekend has expanded to include Black Bear as well as Whitetail Deer.

From October 8 through October 10, properly licensed 14- and 15-year-old youth may use a firearm to hunt big game while accompanied by an experienced, NYS licensed adult hunter.

Each eligible junior hunter is allowed to take one deer (either sex) and one bear. During the youth hunt, antlerless deer taken with a firearm may be tagged with a regular season tag, Deer Management Permit, or Deer Management Assistance Program tags; antlered deer may only be tagged with the regular season tag.

Though junior hunters may have multiple deer tags, they may only take 1 deer with a firearm during the Youth Big Game Hunt.

This special hunting opportunity takes place throughout New York State, except in Suffolk County and specially designated bowhunting-only areas.

Additional rules that apply to junior hunters and their adult mentors can be found in the NYS Hunting & Trapping Guide (pages 36-37) or on the DEC website.

The Youth Big Game Hunt is a great way for experienced, adult hunters to help the young people in their life have an enjoyable and successful hunt. Get out and enjoy the nice weather and beautiful foliage this weekend while you teach young family members and friends the fine points of big game hunting.

Create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Big Buck Stories Start with the Moon

Big bucks begin the ritual of searching for hot does in their mating cycle ahead of when the female deer are ready. According to predictions, the 2016 rut will be late this year, after November 14th. Joe Forma Picture

Ever since I was a little kid, watching the sky for the moon, the stars, and now satellites and the space station, has always been an exciting encounter. Getting older, when it seems I need fewer haircuts, has allowed me to connect that deer and the moon are synchronized through a master system that some experts say they understand. According to experts that follow the moon, the rut for 2016 will be a late event, set to occur about one week after November 14th, the date for the traditional rutting moon.

Yet, regardless of the 2016 moon cycle right now, whitetail deer seasons across the country are either open or are set open very soon based on calendar dates. The reality of big game archery hunters afield will be noted by vehicles parked along traditional hunting areas wherever they exist.

Deer will usually not be “fast on the move” this early ahead of the main rut, but no matter, it is always great to be in the deer woods. The fresh air, the silence, the time away from modern life, allows hunter folks to hear crispy, outdoorsy, none-essential sounds that are hard to describe any other way, and they are somehow appealing.

Crunchy autumn leaves as they gently break off from tree limbs make a distinct departure sound and again a distinct landing sound, as they meet the earthen floor. With a gentle wind and enough leaves are falling, a hunter can be moved to think there is something walking in the woods. Something like a deer. So it’s a special and uniquely exciting experience as we begin to hunt this fall.

Summer to autumn is a time of year that marks a normal change for all of us. Starting with the shortened hours of daylight, the first week in October is when the hours of daylight actually become less than the hours of nighttime. Hence, while most of us think of this phenomenon as simply – “winter is around the corner”, the tilting axis of our Earth in this annual position of orbit around the sun comes into reality in this manner. Without additional explanation, the change in daylight hours is real and that causes deer (and other critters too) to begin their hormonal trigger to transition toward their mating mood.

Traditionally, the first full moon after the autumn equinox (September 21) is called the farmers “Harvest Moon”, it will occur on October 16. It’s late this year, most farmers will already have made their harvest. With the increasing hours of more darkness than daylight, nocturnally-minded deer become instinctive to mate. The problem is, a majority of the doe’s (female deer) are usually not ready until at least another month passes.

Between the Harvest Moon and the next full moon that occurs on November 14, said to be known to the Indians as the “Hunters Moon” (for good reason), hunters will find areas in the woods where hot bucks mark the domain of their territory. Scrapes on the ground below favored licking branches, with accompanying antler rubs on nearby trees. The cycle of bucks and doe’s is fun to watch from a tree stand.

Studies show that really big dominant bucks can roam a rather large area of five or six miles and call it “their territory.” Smaller bucks always bow to the giants, so being on stand to even see a giant buck is really a simple matter of timing and luck.

To properly attach a Hunter Safety Systems full body harness and restraint to the tree, it’s got to be high to perform properly. Photo courtesy of Hunter Outdoor Communications LLC

Look for larger scrapes and rubs on giant trees to put yourself in an area of larger deer, then use your portable climbing tree stand to elevate to a vertical position where you can situate yourself downwind from the scrapes and rubs and be in a favorable position to make the perfect arrow placement.

Use of a trail camera will confirm the size of the bucks and does that visit the scrape you are monitoring. Since many deer are more active after dark, the new ultraviolet sensing cameras work to record all the deer activity without being detected by the deer. Many hunters use a Stic-N-Pic mechanical camera stand to hold the camera at an exact position or angle (see, I have one of these and they work very well.

While trail-cam technology can offer some advantage, just hunting the scrape is sufficient to provide you with a hunter awareness advantage. The problem with a trail cam is that hunters want to check them regularly “to see” what has come through. Doing that will leave hunter human scent in the stand area and work against the hunter, so smart hunters with trail cam’s get the memory chips and switch in new chips to review when it’s raining.

For tree stand hunters, portable or fixed, please be sure to use a full body harness that is designed to assure your safety. Don’t go vertical without a proven full body harness (visit

Large bucks or small, hunters with arrows still have to calm their nerves and make the perfect shot to succeed. One thing most successful hunters share is that they have learned never to look at the horns. Experienced hunters say that you really need to train yourself into that mental mode and it is hard to do.

After first noting that the deer you have spotted is a buck you would like to harvest, look only at the perfect target spot. From then on – in your mind, many make believe they are target shooting. Your nerves will be more in control, so say experts. My heart starts pounding a bit with any deer I see during bow season, but after hunting with arrows these last 50 years or so, the tremble and shake is better, but not gone. It’s still exciting!

Keep in mind, during that one week period after the Hunters Moon, bucks will run across roads and only care to chase the scent of a doe in heat, forgetting about their scrapes and rubs, and anything else including the scent of a hunter. It’s a good time to be hunting. The bucks simply chase the does that are ready to breed and stay with them until they succeed. When the does are ready and not one minute sooner, that is usually the week that many big bucks are taken.

The bucks are only looking for doe’s in heat, hence, they ignore just about everything else. So to become part of that chemical scent message telegram in the woods, that is the time for hunters to use “doe-in-heat” scent with a dragging line to their stand, put up a few odor canisters (check your state laws), and try to mimic the smell of a female deer that is trying to find a buck.

Stay calm, shoot straight, enjoy the harvest.

New York State Whitetail Deer News

Abundant deer populations are present in New York State near metropolitan areas and near farm areas too. Identifying the process to provide public highway safety, successful farming and hunter achievement opportunities is a complex process. Joe Forma Photo
  • Pilot Project Concludes on Public Input for Deer Populations
  • Evaluation and Assessment Continues

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has a pilot effort in progress to improve collection of public input about deer impacts and desired deer population levels ( This is a collaborative venture with Cornell University and county-level Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) offices that has concluded and is now being evaluated. The effort was intended to revise and modify the former Citizen Task Force process to improve methods for public input on desirable changes in local deer abundance, consistent with DEC’s Deer Management Plan.

The pilot, which took place in a 1,325-square-mile area of central New York (Wildlife Management Units 7H, 8J and 8S), began with a 2015 survey of residents to gather information on the values they attribute to deer and their experiences with and concerns about deer impacts. Out of the 3,000 surveys that were mailed, 1,456 were completed and returned. Following considerable public outreach to advertise the program, two webinars were held in January 2016 to provide information to residents on DEC’s deer management program, the results of the public survey, deer biology, deer impacts on people and the environment, and deer management issues and challenges. Webinar participants were then asked if they would like to volunteer to be part of an input group, and 12 of the 24 volunteers were selected.

A team of NYSDEC Wildlife Biologists conduct deer assessment checks to provide feedback on age, health and density of the NYS Deer Population during each big game firearms season. Forrest Fisher Photo

This group held two meetings in March 2016 to discuss local deer-related impacts and prioritize issues that they felt DEC should address. These meetings were facilitated by Oneida County officials and two DEC wildlife biologists attended to answer questions and offer advice. Although the group members had been selected to maximize the diversity of deer-related interests and perspectives as much as possible given the low number of volunteers, the prioritization of impacts identified by group participants differed markedly from that indicated by the survey of residents. The number one priority for the input group, deer hunting opportunities, was viewed as least important by the surveyed residents; Lyme disease was identified as the number one management priority by the surveyed residents, but was identified by the input group as least important for DEC to address, along with deer-vehicle collisions.

As group participants observed, making decisions about deer and deer management is a complex task involving diverse stakeholder interests and values, which may be conflicting. Designing a process that can address this complexity satisfactorily is difficult. The pilot process is currently being evaluated by DEC and our Cornell research partners, and we expect to generate recommendations for refinement later in 2016. If, after refinement, the new process proves workable and valuable, DEC intends to implement it on a routine cycle in each aggregate of Wildlife Management Units across the state to respond to changing conditions and attitudes about deer impacts over time. DEC deer managers will consider the public’s prioritization of deer impacts and desires for deer population change, in conjunction with data on the ecological impacts of deer, as they make decisions about changes to deer abundance in each area.

Additional details on the pilot effort and its outcomes are available in the progress report, and DEC will provide more information about future developments as the project continues.

Hunter Preparations – Mixed Bag


-Doves, Ducks and Deer are sure to be on hunters’ minds this week
-Missouri Hunters Smile and Say, “Whata’ We Hunting Today?”

We made it! The long dry spell for hunting is nearly over, and Show-Me State hunters once again will be savoring the piquant smell of burned gunpowder and the twang of bowstrings.  Some of you will have taken the hunting monkey off your back by pursuing squirrels or woodchucks for the past three months, but that’s cold comfort for those whose favorite pastimes involve winged game or deer.

Dove, snipe and rail seasons lead the way, opening September 1.  Waterfowl are next, with this year’s early teal season opening September 10.  Archery deer and turkey season launches Sept.  15, followed by rabbits, firearms turkey hunting and the early Canada goose season October 1.  One of my favorites, woodcock season, opens October 15 and duck season gets under way in the North Zone October 29.  Quail and pheasant seasons open November 1, and firearms deer season isn’t far behind.
Here are some random thoughts about this panoply of autumn excitement.


I previously covered safety considerations and the abundance of hunting opportunities in hunting areas managed specifically for doves and dove hunters by the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC).  So here’s a tip to killing more doves: Go snake-eyed.  Nothing makes hitting a dove harder than not spotting the bird until it’s on top of you.  Because they can come from any compass point or elevation, our hunter natural tendency is to constantly swivel our head in all directions.  Don’t do it.  Motion registers in our brains when the image of an object moves across our retinas.  Putting your retina itself in motion by turning your head or cutting your eyes left, right, up and down only makes it harder to see the tiny motion of an approaching dove 200 yards out.

Instead, when waiting for a shot, pick a spot near the center of the horizon where doves are most likely to appear and settle your gaze there, as if you were a snake waiting to ambush its prey.  Don’t maintain focus on a particular spot.  Let your eyes drift apart, go a little walleyed.  Sitting with head and eyes still, you will be amazed at how easily you notice the movement of an incoming bird.  You won’t be able to see birds that are out of your peripheral vision, but that would be equally true if you were rubber-necking.



This works equally well for teal, which often fly low and fast and are on your decoys before you have time to blink, let alone raise a gun.  Speaking of teal and guns, these early migrating speedsters call for slightly different hardware and ammunition than full-sized ducks.  Teal – especially green wings – tend to fly in tight little flocks.  As a result, it’s easy to knock down more than one with a single shot.  I have killed as many as three with one trigger pull.  I was elated about that.  I did it deliberately and was over the moon at the result.  However, the intervening years have landed me in a place where I like to savor a hunt for hours, rather than end it in minutes.  Also, as you approach a limit, the possibility of killing more than one teal at a shot becomes a liability rather than an asset.

That’s why I now use a tighter choke during the early teal season than I do later in the year.  I use a full choke in my autoloader and choose an ancient Merkel side-by-side choked full and extra full or an Antonio Zoli over-under, choked full and modified.  Because maintaining adequate pattern density isn’t an issue with these chokes, I now use Number 4 steel instead of Number 6, as I once did.  The combination of tight choke and large shot size translates into many fewer birds crippled or lost.  If you hit a bird with a full choke and Number 4 shot, it’s going down for the count and the tight pattern allows you to target one bird out of a compact flock.



The regular waterfowl season is what I dream about the other nine months of the year.  To maximize my chances of getting some good hunts, I never miss a chance to apply for reservations at MDC’s 15 intensively managed wetland areas.  Throughout the season, I apply twice a week for reservations at Grand Pass, Eagle Bluffs or Otter Slough conservation areas through the Quick Draw system.  The first year I drew an astonishing four reservations.  For the past two years, I’ve come up with goose eggs.  Fortunately, I have friends who also use Quick Draw and since as many as four people can hunt on one QD reservation, I have gotten to hunt these areas every year.

The other opportunity I never miss is applying for a hunt under the regular waterfowl reservation system used to allocate hunting opportunities at MDC’s other 12 managed wetland areas.  MDC accepts applications for these areas from September 1 through 18.  Successful applicants receive notification October 1.  Finally, I take my chances at the slots allocated for hunters without reservations.  This involves arriving early at my chosen area and standing in the “Poor Line” with other reservation-less hunters in hopes of pulling a low number and getting to hunt.  When I strike out, I go to Plan B, driving to an open-hunting area with wetland habitat or taking my small boat to a sandbar on the Missouri River to hunt.


As Show-Me State deer hunters know, Missouri is in the early stages of a slow-moving epidemic.  Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a brain-wasting disease of deer, elk and moose caused by malformed proteins that are too primitive to even be called organisms.  That doesn’t prevent them from killing every deer they infect.

In an effort to slow the spread of the disease, MDC has instituted several measures to track the spread of the disease and reduce risk factors for spreading it.  In the past year, the number of counties where MDC is conducting CWD surveillance has increased to the point where it is no longer logistically feasible for the agency to cull deer for testing.  In order to continue surveillance, MDC is requiring hunters to submit for tissue sampling any deer taken in the 29-county CWD Management Zone during opening weekend of the November Portion of firearms deer season – November 12 and 13.  You can bring the whole deer or the head only, as long as you leave it attached to at least 6 inches of neck.
MDC will maintain 75 sampling stations in the 29 counties of the CWD Management Zone.  They will be open from 7:30 a.m. until 8 p.m.  November 12 and 13.  Their locations, including directions, are listed in the 2016 Missouri Fall Deer and Turkey Hunting Regulations booklet, which is available wherever hunting permits are sold or online.

I have already been fiddling with decoys and have inventoried my ammunition so I can fill any gaps during fall sales.  I even put on my muddy waders and climbed into the jet tub to pinpoint the source of last year’s wet crotch (I have a very patient wife).  The weather forecast shows high 70s for the dove opener, which means that teal will be filtering down from the Dakotas by September 10.  Lord, how I love this time of year!  At this point, it’s all promise.

3 Steps to Giant Bucks!

Cater to Nutrition Needs and Bump Antler Growth, Here’s How


Few trophy bucks are harvested by accident and this time of year is the time to take specific steps to create your best deer season ever. You can still boost antler growth for this fall, as well as put the local herd on a healthier plan for the future.

Deer go where they like to go. Create an area that will attract deer day after day, an area they will want to visit often.

Boost Nutrition and Bump Antler Growth

Nutrition is critical to deer and like most adults, a whitetail deer has a normal diet that typically lacks the proper mineral content to maximize growth potential. Although some hunters often focus just on antler growth, a proper vitamin and mineral supplementation will also support lactating doe’s as well as bucks growing antlers. A healthier and stronger deer can better fight off disease, harsh weather, and predators.

“I am so passionate about whitetail deer hunting that I moved from New Jersey to Southern Iowa just so I could grow and hunt bigger deer,” says Randy Ferman, owner of Extreme Hunting Solutions, the company behind many innovative deer hunting products suited specifically for hunters and whitetail deer.

“Hunters and fishers are the two most gullible outdoor groups and I was tired of getting smoke and mirror products instead of products that do what they say they do, so I decided to do it myself,” Ferman says.

1 – Feed Mineral Supplements

giantbucks2Where allowed by state law (check your regulations), mineral supplements can really make a giant difference in deer health. Mineral supplements can be misleading and Ferman quickly points out the difference between “ingredients” and “guaranteed analysis.” Guaranteed analysis means that the percentages of nutrients stated are the minimum that are in the product, whereas with Ingredients you don’t know how much are in the product. A pinch of selenium means it’s in there, but how much?  One crushed acorn means the bag contains “acorn.” One of the most important things a hunter needs to know is a deer can only absorb 34%-40% sodium (salt), “so any more than that is used as filler which leaves less room for the important nutrients.”

Ferman says. “We lowered our salt content to 13% which leaves more room for the important vitamins and minerals that contribute to growing larger racks and helping the total health of the deer herd. We also addressed the way a deer’s system absorbs vitamins and minerals. Human blood pressure medicines use a vasodilator to open up “enlarge” the blood vessels and arteries for better absorption of all nutrients. Our minerals use the same principle. This process increases blood flow and distributes the nutrients throughout the deer’s body faster and allows for better absorption. I have been managing my farm for the last four years with this method and we are getting bucks with bigger bases and significantly more mass.”

Mineral supplements should be fed year round, yet it’s not too late to give local antlers a boost and help lactating does boost their health. Ferman is proud of his formula and its packaging which allows hunters to make informed decisions. Big Buck Mineral Formula from Extreme Hunting Solutions lists the guaranteed analysis of 16 vitamins and minerals. Additionally these minerals include Vasodilator technology, which is worth repeating, has the effect of enlarging blood vessels and arteries which allows for maximum absorption of all ingested vitamins and minerals. The deer will hit it hard and Ferman recommends having at least two sites per 100 acres, 40 pounds per spot and refill as needed.

2 – Establish a Mineral Site

A mineral site not only boosts the health of your deer, but attracts them to specific locations where they can be imaged with trail cameras. This way you can evaluate the growth of emerging antlers, check for fawn mortality, and get an overall snapshot of deer health. By late summer, if you are seeing adult does with one or no fawns, you may have a predator problem as most mature females produce twin offspring.

Before selecting a mineral site, consider the prevailing wind direction, approach routes, and deer traffic just as you would when hanging a deer stand. Avoid field edges and wide open woodlots as these locations are most likely visited at night. A concealed, brushy area between bedding and feeding area will allow wary bucks to sneak in and access the minerals more frequently.

giantbucks3When placing your trail cameras, be sure that you have the correct angle so that you don’t get feet or antler tips. Ferman also invented The Wedge which takes the guesswork out of positioning cameras. Instead of using a twig that will roll and rot, these inexpensive wedges allow for precise camera aiming.

*It’s a good idea to protect your land, big bucks and healthy herd so intruders don’t reap the rewards of your efforts. Extreme Hunting Solutions also offer a “No Trespassing” sign with a camera clearly and boldly displayed on the sign to further deter poachers and trespassers.

3 – Choose an Appropriate Mineral Product for your Site

Depending on terrain, foliage, time of year, state regulations and so on, you’ll need to choose a product that works best for your situation.


Ferman likes to post a Big Buck Stick N Lick Deer Pop which screws into a tree or any wood surface above ground where wild turkeys won’t eat it. Their patented Weather Shield prevents water from dissolving the minerals giving you months of attraction and deer enrichment. “It takes a lot more to lick something than to eat something,” Ferman laughs. Additionally, these ultra portable mineral stations are ideal for placing nutrition in very remote locations and since they last for months you won’t have to worry about replenishing them as often.

giantbucks5If baiting is legal in your state, mix your corn or soybeans with Kandy Korn, which is like putting caramel on popcorn for children. Deer love it just as much and the aroma will draw them in from a distance. It’s also packed with protein which will keep your herd healthy.

With just minimal effort, you can have bigger bucks and a healthier herd this season and for many seasons to come. Check out Extreme Hunting Solutions here:

Good luck in the upcoming season!

Wild Boneheads of Nature

Learn About Deer Sex – Antlers, Genes, Hormones and Nutrition

A trail camera caught this buck in Vernon County, Missouri, while his 207 5/8 B&C antlers were still in velvet

I changed out the memory cards in my trail cameras yesterday.  This always feels like Christmas, not knowing what I will find “under the tree.”  This time, the biggest excitement was a close-up of a buck that stuck its head right into the corner of the frame, showing off a budding set of antlers.

Looking at pictures like this one over the years has brought home to me just how amazing deer antlers are.  Most of you probably know that calling the headgear of deer, elk and moose “horns” is technically incorrect.  Goats and antelopes have horns, which consist of the same material as your fingernails.  Antlers consist of bone.

What you might not know is that during the peak of antler growth in mid-summer, white-tailed deer antlers can grow as much as two inches…a day!

I learned this after noticing almost unbelievable branching in the antlers of a deer I had been monitoring for a few weeks.  This was back before Missouri’s first documented case of chronic wasting disease (CWD).  Back then, I put out corn to attract deer to my trail cameras.  Now doing anything to artificially concentrate deer is irresponsible, because it promotes CWD transmission.

Anyway, because I had the same deer coming to my cameras on a regular basis, it was easy to track the growth of individual bucks by their antlers.  One that I had been watching appeared to be destined to have a nice four-point rack.  Then two more points appeared.  And then two more.  I never see the eight-pointer during deer season, but the astonishing growth of his antlers sent me to reference books and deer biologists for more information.  They said that whitetail bucks with a combination of ample nutrition and the right genes could sustain antler growth of eight inches in a week.  So the guy seen in the first photo here could be a wall-hanger in just a few weeks.

In my imagination, he went on to resemble the deer in the second photo.  This also is a Missouri deer.  It was killed by an Indiana resident Owen Mason last year in Vernon County.  This image was captured with a trail camera on a neighboring farm.  Antler geeks would not forgive me if I failed to mention its official Boone and Crockett score – 207-5/8.

Rapid growth wasn’t the most interesting thing I learned in my modest research into antlers.  Later that year I got a call from a hunter who had shot an antlered doe.  I knew that does sometimes grow antlers, just as some hen turkeys grow beards, but I wasn’t prepared for what I learned.

First, antlered does aren’t as rare as I expected.  Depending on which source you consult, as many as one in 65, or as few as one in 4,437 whitetail does, grow antlers.  It’s all a question of hormones.  Like humans and other mammals, both male and female deer produce testosterone.  Most does have too little to grow antlers, but if plotted on a graph, individual testosterone levels would be a continuum, with most does falling at the low end and a few producing enough of the male hormone to grow pretty respectable antlers.

The most recent download from one of my trail cameras caught this promising little whitetail buck, setting my mind spinning down the antler rabbit hole. Jim Low Photo

The average antlered doe – if that’s not a contradiction in terms – has very poorly developed antlers.  Often they retain some velvet late into the fall and are not thoroughly hardened.  That was definitely not the case with two deer harvested in Missouri in 2011.  One was a nice 9-pointer taken in Platte County.  The other was a 10-pointer that fell to a hunter in Wright County.  Both racks were typical in form and fully hardened.

Because Missouri’s hunting regulations distinguish between antlered and antlerless deer, rather than bucks and does, the hunters had to burn their buck tags, even though their deer were females.   And when I say they were females, I mean that in every sense except antlers.  Biologist tell me that most antlered does are fully functioning females, capable of reproducing.  You can draw your own conclusion about how mating with a 10-point doe might affect the gender identity of a buck.

Diving deeper into deer hormones and gender, it turns out that white-tailed deer can possess characteristics of both sexes.  A fully functional female can have a penis, and an otherwise virile buck can have internal or external female organs.  In most cases, the misplaced genitalia are underdeveloped.  In many cases, they might go unnoticed, but on the other hand, they can leave a hunter scratching his head as he tries to figure out which tag to put on the deer he just shot.

If the ratios mentioned earlier hold true for Missouri, our annual harvest of 280,000 deer could include anywhere from 70 to 8,000 sexually ambiguous deer.  So before you field dress your buck or doe, examine it closely.  Your buddies might think it’s a bit odd when you stroll back into camp humming The Kinks’ gender-bending anthem, Lola.

Why Hunt Canadian Whitetails?

One GOOD Answer: Far More GIANT Deer, Far fewer Hunters!

Whitetail deer are the most populous big game animal in the USA, so why should a hunter travel to Canada to hunt them?
North Dakota residents Lionie and brother Dusty Fladelande smile behind their huge Alberta whitetails that grossed 188 and 174-inches, respectively.


“Most state-side hunters have never hunted deer where there are caribou, elk, mule deer, grizzly bear, black bear and wolves, lots of wolves.  Feel free to take a couple of those home with you,” Nemechek added with a laugh.  “I hunt North Central Alberta and the chance to hunt in snow and really cold weather may be very different than conditions back home, especially if clients live in a southern climate of the USA.”

The rifle season in Alberta covers the month of November which allows US sportsmen to plan around their back home seasons in the quest for a giant buck.  “The season opens November 1,” says Nemechek, “when the bucks are feeling the urge, but the does are disinterested.  Inevitably, between November 8th-10th, the rut kicks in and the chase is on.”

The photo above helps make the case for hunting deer in Canada, yet veteran North River Outfitter, Ron Nemechek, taps his 37 years as a whitetail operator to tout the advantages of a Canadian whitetail safari.

Central Alberta hunts can be much like the Midwest with enormous grain and alfalfa fields, though the bulk of Nemecheck’s hunting occurs in the boreal forest farther north.  In this situation, deer are larger in body size than those in more agricultural regions and posses one other important characteristic.  “If you see and pass on a buck in the bush, you may never see it again,” Nemechek says.

This Minnesota client has hunted with Sask Can 15 times and taken 7 bucks 170 or better, the reason he keeps coming back.

“These deer often reach old age due to very limited hunting pressure, but their territories are large and secluded.  Ten to 20 percent of our clients bag a buck of 170 or more and about that many again see or miss one that big,” says Nemechek.  “But you have to be ready,” he adds.  “The buck you see in the first five minutes of a weeklong booking may be just as big or bigger than one you’ll see until the hunt ends.  I tell hunters to look for a number of long tall points and heavy mass.  A buck with those characteristics will score well.  Visit this website to see more about that at


Alberta’s neighbor to the east is Canada’s other big buck powerhouse as represented by Vern Hyllestad of Sask-Can Outfitters, who was quick to tout the advantages of a Canadian whitetail hunt (  “The amount of hunters out in the woods with us and how many big deer they actually shoot says it all,” he says.  “In all of Saskatchewan there may be 2,500 US hunters while back in the states, how many hunters will be out there after the same big deer?  That’s why your chances are way greater for shooting a big deer up here.”

Hyllestad believes the amount of big deer keeps his clients coming back.  “We had a high count of 15 rack bucks one day and we have gotten as high as 25 in one day in good years.  It’s phenomenal and keeps clients on the edge of their seat.  You would almost think that it’s penned hunting, but its wild hunting and it blows a guys mind at how much depth there is.  Our stands are three miles apart, not 300 yards apart.  We have so much wild ground that a big buck may only show up once.  Some of our hunts are on the border of national parks and a buck may leave that sanctuary to check a doe quickly and return.


Like in Alberta, deer hunters in Saskatchewan may see other game, but Sask-Can concentrates on whitetail deer.  “We try to do good job at one thing, rather than a poor job at a bunch of things.  You will see wolves, lynx, and wild things like that,” Hyllestad says.

Season flexibility is another plus for Saskatchewan.  “If the only time you can come is the 15th of October, I can run you archery, muzzleloader, or rifle due to the flexibility of our zones and the regulations we have.  Feel free to check out the website for up there, (