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Wisconsin DNR: No Doe Tags For 13 Counties

big doe compressed

With whitetail herds struggling or holding their own in some areas of the Upper Midwest, one of the questions being raised: Have hunters been shooting too many does? I suspect we have been killing too many in places, as I talked about in this post last year:

For the last 20 years, state game agencies encouraged us to shoot more and more deer, and especially does. Hunters obliged; some guys killed 5, 10 or more. Personally I have never understood why a person would want or need to shoot more than 5 deer in a season; surely that is enough to fill your blood lust and your freezer, and donate a couple of animals to the food bank. But the agencies had designed those seasons and limits to reduce the herds…

Now the tide is turning.

Michigan had considered closing the deer season this fall in the U.P. due to a plummeting herd, but word is that the season is on for now. In Wisconsin, the DNR will recommend no antlerless hunting in 2015 in Douglas, Bayfield, Sawyer, Ashland, Iron, Vilas, Price, Oneida, Langlade, Forest, Florence and Racine counties, and a portion of Jackson County “in an effort to regrow the herd.”

What to make of this? For all these years, many DNRs have told us to whack and stack does in an effort to manage and reduce the herds, but now they want to stop or limit doe hunting cold turkey to build the herds back up? Is this type of yo-yo deer management best, or do we need a more moderate and measured approach to bag limits and season lengths?

The latter makes sense to me, what about where you hunt?

Montana: Saga of the Mutt Buck

MuttBuck-BitterSweet(1)

I used to hunt out on the Milk River every fall with my buddy Luke Strommen, before the epic EHD outbreak of 2011 wiped out the whitetail herd, which is still struggling to recover. For several years in the early 2000s, as soon as I rolled into camp, Luke would start chattering about this one special buck that roamed the river around Vandalia. “Saw the Mutt Buck the other day…guy missed the Mutt Buck two days ago…the Mutt Buck is cool…maybe you’ll get a shot at the Mutt Buck…” Well, I never saw the Mutt Buck (and curiously I never knew how he got his name) and had forgotten all about him, until I ran across this story that Luke sent me some years ago, entitled “Saga of the Mutt Buck.”—M.H.    

Sometimes putting your hands on a whitetail buck that you have been watching and thinking about for years can be bittersweet.

It was the 11th of December 2005 when my Uncle Roy found the Mutt Buck’s sheds while pheasant hunting. I was ranching and guiding bowhunters back then, and I had observed this buck from his late-summer velvet days all the way through horn-shedding time that year.

Two of my clients actually had a chance at the Mutt Buck that season, but failed to capitalize. One guy got busted drawing when the buck was broadside at 20 yards. The other fella saw him at 13 yards, got rattled and drew his bow back so fast that he lifted the arrow off the rest—the Mutt Buck only gave him a brief instant of such foolishness and bounded off.

One November day I watched Mutt breed a doe 30 yards in front of me, a bit too far for my recurve. My wife, Tara, had drawn her bow on the buck one afternoon during the last week of the season, but he never got closer than 50 yards before he ran off with a doe in heat.

It was good in some ways that none of us killed the Mutt Buck that year. We believed him to be 3½ years old, and some who had seen him argued that he only looked to be 2½. We figured the Mutt Buck needed 2 to 3 years to grow before he reached his true potential. Although he was particularly narrow-racked, we guessed him to score in the mid-150s. Those sheds that my uncle found proved we were very close in our field-scoring. I couldn’t wait to see him next year.

Interestingly, the Mutt Buck was a passive and awkward buck. All fall during the 2005 season, I watched him shy away from other bucks that were 20 to 30 inches smaller of rack than him. He had his own personality.

The hunting season of 2006 once again brought some memorable encounters between the Mutt Buck and my bowhunting clients. One guy missed him at 30 yards. Several evenings the buck passed by my hunters’ stands just after shooting light.

Once again, I was able to watch him from velvet to the end of the season, and now he had become more aggressive, more of a dominant buck. He seemed to have 9 lives and I was glad. I couldn’t wait to see what this buck would grow into in another year or two.

But Mother Nature had a different plan, I guess. My brother Jake was fishing for catfish the next spring when he stumbled upon a carcass with a large rack attached to it. He gave me a call and within minutes, based on his description, I knew he had found the Mutt Buck. Every spring we find winter-killed bucks out here on the Milk River. But this one hurt.

He hadn’t grown much from the last year. His rack was right at 160 inches on the skull, which is big anywhere and huge out here on the Milk. It was only 13½ inches wide, and he had sprouted a 3-inch sticker point on his right G-2.

I can only wonder how the Mutt Buck would have turned out had he lived another year or two. I still think about him from time to time. We’ve watched and hunted a lot of great bucks out here on the river over the years, but the Mutt Buck was special.—Luke

(In the picture: Jake Strommen (l.) with the Mutt Buck’s rack, and Luke with the sheds.)

Deer Science: How Does Have Fawns

fawn

According to a fascinating and ongoing whitetail project conducted by researchers at Penn State, discretion and secrecy are top priorities to a doe about to give birth in May or June. Does split up and avoid contact with other does of their social group.

A young doe that will give birth for the first time will seek out a secluded fawning site outside of her core area. An older doe will usually return to the same fawning spot each year to give birth. Most yearling does generally give birth to a single fawn. Twins are common among adult does.

fawns 1

The researchers point out that in Pennsylvania where this project is happening, 80% of pregnant yearling does have single fawns; 74% of does 3 years old or older produce twins; and only 3% of adult does have triplets.

Labor lasts 12 or more hours. If disturbed by man or a predator, a doe is known to be able to stop the labor process.

At birth, a doe licks the fawn(s) dry and establishes a bond that will let her distinguish her fawns from all the other fawns in a group. Establishing this bond takes few hours and is critical. Without it, a doe may abandon her fawn(s).

A doe nurses her newborn(s) shortly after birth and remains with or close by for the first 24 hours.

Research has shown that fawns of experienced does (4 years old or older) have lower mortality rates than those of younger does. Older does are more dominant and can stake out better areas for fawn rearing.

Here are some more fawn facts.

I am fascinated with the entire deer rut and breeding process, all way to the birth of fawns in spring. There is no more beautiful creature on God’s Earth than a whitetail fawn, just look at the pictures.

 

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