WINTER MONTHS and now closed whitetail seasons for several months across our Great State of Texas, is certainly reason for singing the blues, big time! But… soon bucks will be casting their existing antlers and essentially within hours start developing their 2020 racks.
In some areas of our expansive State they may have already cast their antlers in other areas they will do so shortly.
In the next few days I will be spending whatever time I can looking for sheds on the properties I hunt. Finding sheds is often a key to the undoing of mature bucks.
Over the years I have often taken older bucks, the following hunting season, within one hundred yards or less of where I found their sheds. Too, I simply like hunting for them, rather a bit like an adult Easter egg hunt.
I have often laughed at myself when hunting shed antlers. Spotting a shed several yards away, I have often run to where it lays, like I was having to compete with someone to get to it first, when there was no one else around!
Late winter/early spring is an excellent time to evaluate your past hunting season regarding your successes and failures, as well as your current and future personal deer management goals.
Winter and early spring gives me time to take a look at age, weight and antler development data taken from harvested deer during the past hunting season. I compare antler and weight measurements of various age classes, comparing the immediate past hunting season’s harvest data to that of past hunting seasons. Are weights increasing within respective cohorts (same ages)?
What about beam lengths, spreads and gross B&C scores? How do 3-year olds (or whatever age) from the past season compare to those same age bucks taken in the past. If there are increases or possibly the same as last year, depending upon rainfall, then the management program is headed in the right directions.
If weights and antlers are down in respective cohorts from previous years, maybe it is time to consider taking more total deer and especially does during the 2021 hunting season.
Decreases in weights and antlers in respective cohorts should tell you there is insufficient food on a daily basis. The way to correct this is increase forage availability or decreasing the overall number of deer in the area, or a combination of the two.
Throughout the hunting season on places I regularly hunt, I maintain a daily log of the number of deer I see each hunt, as well as sex, fawns, and approximate age and antler size of bucks seen while hunting.
When winter months arrive I take this data (even if I have seen the same deer day after day) tally the total number of observed does, bucks and fawns. I then use this data to come up with our local buck to doe ratio (total bucks observed divided into the total number of does observed).
To determine fawn survival rate, I divide the total does into total fawns seen. This data maintained throughout the hunting season will give you a really good idea of the buck to doe ratio and fawn survival rate. I also take these incidental observations a couple of steps farther in that I categorize bucks according to young, medium age and mature along with notes on antler development. Regarding fawns, I try to determine the number of buck fawn as opposed to the doe fawns.
All good information as you head into the hunting season coming later this fall!
Email Larry Weishuhn at [email protected]