<![CDATA[WILDFound - Adventure]]>Fri, 22 Jan 2016 18:21:24 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[The Future of Ohio's Trophy Whitetail]]>Thu, 05 Mar 2015 03:38:30 GMThttp://wildfound.weebly.com/adventure/the-future-of-ohios-trophy-whitetailIs Ohio's Big Buck Potential Decreasing?Picture
The number of record bucks per harvest is decreasing. I regularly follow the state's announcements and studies that are released as they monitor and make changes to hunting or fishing and this one stood out. I was surprised to see that the deer management strategies were focused around economic and social roots rather than biological ones. Here's the quote:

 ...social tolerances for deer, rather than biological considerations have largely driven individual county deer population goals. However, our deer program goal was written when Ohio’s deer herd was small and high quality habitat was everywhere. 
As a biology educator I'm going to break down their findings and try to present them, heres the link if you want to skip to the actual study. Quality Vs. Quantity: A Closer Look at Deer Herd conditions in Ohio.
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A Healthy Herd

The study analyzed several bits of data, one of interest to me was the population fitness. In biology a population's fitness level is how capable the females (does) are at reproducing. The state established the data above by counting roadkill does and tallying pregnant does as well as examining the reproductive health of pregnant and non-pregnant samples. The correlation found is that as far as pregnancy rates go the northwest portion of the state (lowest population, highest amount of farmland) exceeded by nearly double the amount of those found in the hills of the southern portion of the state. This is probably based on easy to find forage (farming fields) and better, less crowded habitat, the reproductive advantage goes to the northwest portion of Ohio. 

The healthy herd includes a wide range of genetic diversity and high biomass. Full coats and advanced body growth only happen when resources are met, getting high nutrition plentiful food is the best way to keep the herd local and body size growing. 

Looking at the extended data below, you can still see these changes but note the timelines of sampling. The impact was much more subtle which is why it's commonly overlooked. 
I'm not one to say that our white tail population is anywhere near low, we're over populated and it's population ecology 101. 

The immense population is strained due to a lack of resources. The lack of forage and good habitat causes the population to make changes as the carrying capacity is reached. The double edged sword for the whitetail is also one of it's best attributes. They've adapted well to urbanization. Instead of lacking resources and simply not surviving like a cold water trout colony the whitetail population bends and adapts to the resources at hand which includes smaller biomass, browsing the suburban backyards, and existing in urban settings. The whitetail deer is a resilient bunch...

What it Means for Trophy Hunters

In the body, any nutrients consumed first go to the most important bodily functions; antler growth isn't one of the top functions. For deer to reach their potential they need to forage on high nutritional resources. Keep in mind the northwest portion of the state is sparsely populated and contains much of the state's agricultural fields. Since 1973 yearling antler growth has only slightly declined in Ohio northwest areas whereas other quadrants of Ohio have seen a larger decline. This is in part to growing cities and urbanization as well as a growing deer population. 
One last bit of data and to me probably speaks volumes over the topic is the frequency of record bucks taken here in Ohio; as you can probably guess those numbers have vastly diminished partly due to over population as well as hunter bias. In the early 70's and through the 90's trophy hunting was popular and since the resources and habitat were abundant we couldn't take mounters fast enough, but I believe we may have passed that point. Take a look below. 

Hunter Bias

This chart should alarm you somewhat. It basically reads that though population has doubled the frequency of record book bucks have declined by nearly half. It's somewhat misleading because we still produce the same amount and average size records but on a much lower frequency. As written above a large portion of that is due to over-population on limited and shrinking resources, but the other half is hunter bias. As we deliberately pass on smaller bucks and harvest larger ones we are narrowing the gene pool, but in the wrong direction. Hunting smaller bucks and "managing" herds have become popular but the rate of population growth and habitat decline is accelerating much faster than making management harvests. A lot of guys like me have to hunt the public lands so it's an "every man for himself" philosophy, if you get a chance at a mounter most take it. 

Everyone wants to harvest the big buck. I can't say I'm any different. But maybe it's time to stop ignoring biological data and make room for long term improvement. I know I'll never forget the morning the tall 10 point bucked walked out, and our grandchildren need to experience that as well. Everyone needs at least one mounter but maybe we should congratulate the larger doe's a bit more and graciously pass the torch to a younger generation.

If you really want the full picture check out the link to the actual article published by clicking here.
<![CDATA[How to start hunting (p.2)]]>Sat, 07 Feb 2015 13:25:29 GMThttp://wildfound.weebly.com/adventure/how-to-start-hunting-p2
By this point you should have: bought your required license and permits, took a hunter safety course, become comfortable and efficient with use of your weapon. Now it's time for your hunting adventure and renewal in the great outdoors to begin. 

Starting small

One of the best bits of advice I can give the hunters new to this way of life is to start with small game. A lot of hunters start their careers whitetail deer hunting, which is o.k. for most but remember there is a reason the whitetail buck is a trophy animal, they're tough to hunt. Many new hunters go out for several years hunting just deer and never make a harvest. Some of my best hunting memories and adventures have been hunting squirrel in the big woods, stalking moving limbs and listening for barking quarrels in the dim morning light or kicking brush piles until the frantic rabbit loses it's sanity and dashes through cover like a madman. 

The real hidden benefit of stalking small game is not only the fun had but also the lessons learned. To be successful takes work; scouting, planning, rigging stands, watching seasonal movement, etc. While I'm out on my small game hunts I'm taking in the outdoors and finding new trails and sign almost each day I'm out. Understanding your territory is key to your success and spending time in the field waiting for squirrels or searching for rabbit/pheasant/quail/grouse is a great way to learn more about your hunting grounds. Thats never a bad thing. 

Hunting for Deer

No hunter ever forgets the first time they see the whitetail deer in the stand. The first morning I ever sat in a stand my dad took a nice basket rack. I sat in an opposing stand quivering with my bb gun in hand, I'll always remember it. 
Your absolute most important task now is to select where you'll hunt. You need to pick your spot based upon cover, resources, trail use, learn all about this through my tracking series. The new hunter usually at least starts out on public land, no matter what you've heard about how bad public land is over-hunted believe me you can still be successful there, your just going to have to work harder. This means your going to have to get up earlier and walk farther than most others will be willing to do. It would also be a good idea to have 4 or 5 spots picked out for when other hunters are in the area. Lets talk about your set-up.
Buying a tree stand of some sort is going to be extremely important especially for the beginner. I tend to have much more success out of sight and out of scent higher up in a tree. You also get a better viewpoint and more shooting range being higher up than your game. This should probably be tackled in another post but I'm going to leave it to you to research how to safely climb and navigate your stand (Just be sure to buy a safety harness). You have a couple options: A climbing stand (one in which you "shimmy" up the tree, and a ladder stand. I'm going to suggest the ladder stand. It's easier and you'll feel safer and beyond that you can put the ladder stands in more trees/spots. If your on public land check the wildlife area laws to see if fixed stands can be left up, if not keep in mind you may be lugging the stand in and out of the woods each day. This is why light ladder stands are popular. 
You've got to give climbing sticks a shot. Each day I pack in and out on the public land I hunt and these things are easy as pie. You simply strap them to the tree and fold down the climbing pegs. One more trip down and your able to strap your stand to the tree for the day. It takes some getting used to but I can set up shop now in about 15 minutes. They also come with a strap that acts as a backpack for climbing sticks. I provided the links to the left to get you looking in the right direction. 

Learning to make every trip successful

You won't bring home a deer each day. Thats not failure, a day hunting is a success in itself. But your going to have to pump up your patience. There are days when I'm in a prime spot with all the right sign and never see a thing. It's just the way things work, nature isn't man-made it plays by no rules so expect to sit and wait. The key is making those trips a success each time you go out. Mentally or literally you should be charting: was it warm or cold, what lunar phase is it, what time of the year is it, pre or post rut, was there another hunter or noise, is your scent covered? (click to learn more) It's like piecing together a puzzle and the more time you stare at the pieces the closer the puzzle comes to completion. You may even have to try a new location.

And finally, once you've done all your homework in selecting your spot and noting movement through your areas you will see what your after, it will probably sneak up on you like a ghost in the night. Just another day of sitting in the cold becomes something more when you notice that buck that has just walked up, silent as a stalking cat. 
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<![CDATA[How to start hunting  (p. 1)]]>Fri, 30 Jan 2015 02:34:27 GMThttp://wildfound.weebly.com/adventure/how-to-start-hunting-p-1
Survival Deals
Congratulations, you made one of the most fulfilling and exciting decisions you'll ever make: Taking up the challenge and tradition of hunting wild game. There are so many resources available but for some it may seem like an impenetrable fortress, relax it's not so bad. Most hunters carry on the hobby as it was passed down from their father like a bloodline; they've simply grown up in the field learning the craft, and that's what it becomes. No one knows everything, nature has no set rules to ensure success or in some cases survival but thats part of the adventure your after.

Ok,  it's time for step one:

Step 1: Safety

This is absolutely the most crucial step in the transformation. I have seen many things that's made the hair on my neck stand up from folks who bought a gun and headed straight for public land ready to kill. 

Saw a cow mistaken for a deer, strapped to the hood of a car.

Once, talking with some new hunters on public land they had told me they didn't see any deer that day but got a couple of good "sound shots" off. (Meaning they just shot into the brush when they heard something moving)... Insane.

You must possess common sense when carrying a tool that can do serious harm to yourself or others.

I'm not going to cover the basics of how the gun works. 
--You can click
here to learn more specific details on the actual hardware

I'm going to go over the mindset of handling a firearm safely. Safety minded hunters follow some simple common-sense guidelines that ensure safety for all:

  1. Know your gun and have someone with experience show you how it works.
  2. Always assume the gun is loaded, even when you know its not.
  3. Never aim the muzzle at anything you don't intend to kill, anything.
  4. Safety mechanism stays on until your muzzle is on what you intend to kill.
  5. Always open the action/magazine and check the chamber before and after a gun is handled.
  6. Finger never touches the trigger until gun is up pointed at what you intend to kill. Just rest it on the stock or behind trigger guard while hunting.
  7. If the gun doesn't fire when you pull the trigger, keep aiming at the target and pull the trigger again, wait for a minute (literally 60 seconds) and while pointing at the target eject the shell/round from the chamber/action carefully.
  8. Store the firearm in safe locked place, unloaded.

 It's important to take a hunter's safety course before hunting. Getting into an actual classroom and taking a legal course will give you the information you need to be safe while in the field, something everyone wants.

Step 2: Practice

Just like a football team would never take the field without going through practice you should feel the same about your hunting trips. Specifically with firing a gun or shooting a bow practice is essential. Not only will you become precise and accurate with your weapon but just as important you will gain confidence and be familiar with your hardware thus being more safe. People who are scared of guns tend not to focus on what they're doing and accidents happen. Remember: A gun is just a tool. It does what you make it do and you're in control of it, don't fear it, but above all respect it. If you respect your firearm and follow the safety guidelines you learned during the hunter's safety course you will be just fine. Common sense is essential.

Step 3:Planning your first outing

You've learned your firearm, you practiced your shooting and safe gun handling skills, you probably are feeling pretty confident with your new firearm. Heres what to do next:

  • Identify what you are hunting.
Most people usually start deer hunting and go during gun season, some only hunt deer during the 4-5 day deer hunting season. But also realize that there is other game to hunt. For the absolute beginner I would recommend hunting small game (squirrel, rabbit, pheasant, dove, quail, etc.) The small game style of hunting allows for generally greater success and lots of fun. 
  • Buy the legal hunting license or permit/tags you need.
Read the law about hunting in your area. If you are hunting public land you can count on the game warden paying a visit from time to time. Respect the law and respect nature, hunt within legal season and  follow on the guidelines therein. 
  • Decide on where to hunt.
Where is the big question. You can thousands of acres to scour but you need to find a place that is indicative of the game your after, you need to look for sign, you need to blend into the environment, and you need the proper gear for where you're going. Take a look at my tracking articles to get a detailed how-to of this.

Step 4: The Big Day

So you've gathered your gear, found a spot, maybe scouted the woods to look for sign or a place to set-up. Now comes the moment of truth. It may be your first time hunting but I can assure you this, you will have great time. Your legs will be tired, your toes cold from the weather, you will be physically uncomfortable in many ways. Be prepared for this, many hunters fail because they lose focus due to the elements. Move slowly and take everything in. If small game hunting try not to constantly stare at your feet, it sounds silly but those not use to traversing the forest floors will tend to fixate on what they're stepping on. Be safe and don't trip with a loaded firearm but move slowly and look a few steps ahead to see if any obstacles are in the way. 

Be ready. Shooting a gun at a non-living target is easy. There is a reason that "buck fever" has a nickname. When or if you see your harvest you will notice a strange feeling when the muzzle lines up on the heart region of your deer. Battle through the intense feelings of butterflies/excitement you feel wallowing in your guts and either pull the trigger or lower your gun. Take the shot when your ready to take the shot. 

This was a pretty general article but summarizes the activity from start to finish for the beginner, remember it's just part 1. 

I'll go into more specifics for the complete beginner soon. Be safe and enjoy your new way of life.