7–9 More Years of Excessive Wolves Expected in Western Great Lakes States

 It will take 2–4 years of new studies by the USFWS before our newly designated Western Great Lakes Gray Wolves of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan can finally be qualified to be delisted as a threatened or endangered species. Thereafter, a bill for delisting must make its rocky way through Congress. Then after being officially delisted, nothing can be done by state wildlife managers to alter gray wolf numbers for five years. This means current problems caused by over-abundant of gray wolves in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region and in Wisconsin and Upper Michigan will likely remain unchanged for a minimum of 7–9 more years.

The reason it has thus far taken so long to delist long overabundant wolves in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Upper Michigan is, Americans opposing their delisting won a case in court stipulating until wolf numbers have been restored everywhere in the U.S., all wolves in the U.S. should be protected by the Endangered Species Act. When more sensible minds finally recognized the futility of this, much of original wolf habitat having been permanently superseded by cities, suburbs, farms, ranches, industry and such, it was finally sensibly decided long overabundant wolves in the western Great Lakes Region should be recognized as a separate sub-species that has long been overdue for delisting – making it necessary to begin anew the prescribed process leading to delisting.

The history of gray wolves in my far north Minnesota study area since 1990 reflects the extent to which politicians, judges, anti-hunting groups and just about any other well-intentioned persons who want to save wolves can so adversely affect the lives of wild animals they know little or nothing about. These same persons become outraged upon discovering horses, cattle, dogs or cats that have been forced to suffer starvation because of a lack of food, even plead daily on TV for money to save these unfortunate animals, but they overlook the fact that allowing predators such wolves to become abundant enough to overwhelm their prey species (mainly deer and moose) forces wolves to suffer starvation as well. It is happening today.

The question now is, “Can anything be done to keep whitetails and moose from becoming further reduced in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region during the next 7–9 years and at the same time keep an excessive number of western great lakes gray wolves from suffering starvation until a favorable predator/prey ratio can be restored?” ­

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What a surprise: Jack O’Connor on Twitter

When I was a teenager, I couldn’t wait to find my next Sports Afield Magazine in our mailbox. The magazine’s famed gun editor, Jack O’Connor, who often wrote stirring tales about his hunts, was one of my two favorite outdoor writers. He had most to do with my growing determination to become an outdoor writer some day as well and maybe even follow in his footsteps in mountains inhabited by Dall sheep. I finally did both, Dall sheep hunting twice. Remarkably, my guide during a three-week hunt in the Selwyn Mountains in the Yukon Territory, a Klinkit from Ross River named Paul Fox, had wrangled horses on Jack O’Connor sheep hunts run by Field Johnson, Jack’s favorite sheep guide who was later killed by a grizzly bear. That adventurous hunt, using a bolt action rifle chambered for .270 like Jack, of course, made it obvious to me why Jack so enjoyed sheep hunting.

Beginning in the early 2000s, my wife Jene and I often visited the Sonora Desert in Arizona where we had opportunities to observe and photograph the deer Jack first hunted in his youth – the elusive Coues (pronounced “cows’) sub-species of whitetails. Seeing them up close where Jack had seen them was a thrill to me as well.

Ushering in a New Age of Fair-Chase, Mature-Buck-Effective Whitetail Hunting

My scientific studies of hunting-related habits, behavior and range utilization of wild whitetails began in the late 1960s and early 1970s in an effort to improve the hunting success of my first four children during their first “antlered bucks only” hunting seasons. What I learned worked so well that old-timers in the area were soon asking, “How come we can’t get buck’s like those taken by your kids?” Meanwhile, the new and unusual discoveries I had been making about the rut were so fascinating that I was soon hooked on hunting-related whitetail research.

Right from the outset, I considered it my duty to share what I was learning with whitetail hunters everywhere. Since then, I’ve written more than 800 articles about what I had learned about whitetails and whitetail hunting for a number of outdoor magazines, Midwest Outdoors throughout the past three decades. Beginning in 1988, I published a bestselling 9-book series entitled, Whitetail Hunters Almanac, each covering different subjects, created a number of DVDs including a 12-hour series entitled “Whitetail Hunters World,” presented countless hunting seminars nationwide and for 25 years personally taught hunters from all over America at my Buck & Bear hunting schools in the wilds of northern Minnesota. More recently, I began providing hunting instructions on my website, blogs, YouTube and Twitter.

After I published my 9th Almanac in 1997, my ever-patient wife who enjoyed accompanying me and photographing whitetails while I was doing my field research, finally put her foot down and announced, “You are now going quit writing books for awhile so we can do the traveling we always planned to do during winter months.” During the next 17 winters, we spent 3-4 months annually touring Texas, New Mexico and Arizona with our travel trailer. Not unexpectedly, we began making regular extended stops at lonely sites where we became well acquainted quite a few wild, desert southwest whitetails. In March 2013, my beautiful wife suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at one of our favorite “birding” sites in New Mexico.

Two years later with my research and hunting still ongoing, twenty years of important new findings piling up, including the best new fair chase mature-buck hunting method ever, it was time to begin writing Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition. Being 80 years of age then, I figured this might be my last deer book, so everything new of importance that I wanted to share had to be put into this one book. It became a 518-page paperback version and a 749 page Amazon Kindle ebook version with nearly 400 photographs and 14 instructive diagrams. I devoted parts to disprove the many common whitetail myths, old and new, that had been seriously misleading American deer hunters for centuries. All six of my new and updated mature-buck-effective hunting methods had to be included, of course, especially “opportunistic stand hunting,” the amazingly productive hunting method that made it possible for my three sons and me to take most of the 97 mature bucks we have tagged since 1990 on public land inhabited by grey wolves. I also included an updated chapter on where and how to hunt mature bucks throughout the four-month whitetail rut with its five distinct phases and three two-week periods of breeding (first introduced in my 180-page Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 2nd Edition in 1889).

This 10th Edition represents many thousands of hours of sitting without sound or motion in elevated tree stands from primitive self-made platforms only six feet above the ground in the 1960s to modern portables 9–16 feet above the ground during all seasons. It represents millions of attacks by hordes of blood-crazed insects and ticks, countless periods of frozen fingers, toes, cheeks and my nose, maybe 100 pounds of icicles accumulated on my mustache and shivering during hundreds of cold rains, frigid winds and sub-zero temperatures. It also represents my 74 years of whitetail hunting with gun and bow, averaging nearly one mature buck per year since 1990, many of them trophy bucks now on the wall.  It represents more than a half-century of scientifically-based research with wild deer over much of America, research that would be very difficult to honestly duplicate by anyone today due to the simple fact that today’s mature whitetails are now very adept at finding, identifying and avoiding hunters using elevated stands. It’s therefore “a once-in-a-lifetime book, written by the only person uniquely qualified to write it.”

So here it is all you beginning to advanced American whitetail hunters, as promised long ago, Whitetail Hunters Almanac, 10th Edition, tirelessly edited by my new Editor, my very able son, John. It is the culmination of my life-long passion for field research with wild deer. It is guaranteed to make you “a regularly successful whitetail hunter,” or if you prefer, “a regularly successful buck hunter.” It is the world’s only source of instructions for using six new, much proven, fair chase, mature-buck-effective hunting methods that will keep you close to mature bucks and other mature whitetails every day you hunt – my promise.

This book is now available in two forms; an Amazon Kindle ebook and a paperback book. For a taste of its extraordinary whitetail hunting value, click now on the following: Dr. Ken Nordberg’s Whitetail Hunter’s Almanac, 10th Edition, ebook   Then click on “Look inside.” To quickly and easily order the personally autographed 8″ x 10″ paperback version go to: http://www.drnordbergondeerhunting.com. 

 

How to Keep Deer in Their Home Ranges Throughout Hunting Seasons – Part II

One deer drive can fill a huge area with lasting human odors in minutes. One aimlessly wandering still-hunter hunter can fill an entire square mile or two with intense human odors in a single day. A number of independently hunting stand hunters can keep a sizable area filled with intense human odors for an entire hunting season. Where it is impossible for whitetails to find areas free of intense human odors within their home ranges, they soon depart. My hunting partners and I keep this from happening four ways.

First, we greatly limit the number and extent of routes we use during a hunting season. To determine where these routes should be located, we scout extensively on and off-trail 2-3 weeks before each hunting season begins, thus ensuring our trail scents will no longer be influencing whitetail travels on opening weekend.

Second, within each square mile we hunt we select a roughly-circular, wide-ranging series of connecting deer trails we refer to as a “cruise trail.” Branching off from this trail are our stand site approach trails. All our trails are existing deer trails. These are the only routes we use during a hunting season.  Portions or an entire length of a cruise trail may be used daily. Each of our stand site approach trails are only used once, sometimes twice, per hunting season. Thus we greatly limit where whitetails will discover our fresh trail scents during a hunting season. By limiting our travels on foot to these trails only, large portions of our hunting area remain untainted by human odors throughout a hunting season, enabling our deer to live normal lives everywhere except within 100 yards or more of trails and stand sites recently used and scented by hunters.

Third, though products claimed to eliminate human odors are not 100% effective and long-lasting, we use them routinely regardless because as human noses are able to discern, they do minimize human odors. Whitetails passing downwind of silent and motionless stand hunters that do not emit strong and unusual odors are very unlikely to react with enough alarm, if any, to prompt them to abandon their ranges, greatly improving the odds of seeing those deer during following days. Hunters emitting strong and unusual odors are likely to trigger immediate and lasting range abandonment by mature whitetails.

Fourth, to avoid being smelled and thus avoided by whitetails, we always approach and always stand hunt downwind or crosswind of trails or sites where we expect to see our intended quarries, made evident by very fresh tracks, droppings and/or ground scrapes made by mature bucks.

All of the above tactics have played prominent roles in helping my three sons and me to take 97 mature bucks plus a few yearling bucks on any day, even the last day, of our past 25 hunting seasons on public land inhabited by grey wolves.

 

How to keep Deer in Their Home Ranges Throughout Hunting Seasons – Part I

Not many days into a typical whitetail hunting season, most hunters begin wondering, where all the deer went. The answer depends on how you’ve been hunting. If you’ve been making drives or still-hunting (wandering aimlessly), most deer are then almost certain to be located where hunters aren’t making drives or still-hunting: in posted lands, for example, refuges or swamps and bogs, some of which may be as far away as 6–30 miles. If you’ve been stand hunting at one stand site where most hunters are stand hunting (during an archery season, for example), chances are most deer there are living quite normal lives out of sight 100 yards or more away.

Imagine hunting in an area where deer are merely living out of sight during an entire hunting season – like where my three sons, two grandsons, me and a number of weekend-only others hunt during a firearm season. We are stand hunters, of course, but not typical stand hunters. We rarely use a stand site longer than one-half to one day. The reason is, we hunt mature bucks only. Today, such deer are so skilled at finding, identifying and avoiding stand hunters in trees or on the ground that it is generally a waste of time to remain at one stand site longer than that.

Stand sites we use during the first 2–3 days of a hunting season are selected and prepared (if necessary) 2–3 weeks before the opener. During the rest of the hunting season, most are spur-of-the-moment, never-used-before selections near very fresh-deer signs. How, you might wonder, can so many hunters find and use so many stand sites, during the course of a hunting season without spooking and chasing all deer out of your hunting area?

The answer lies in another question: aside from “jumping” deer and alarming them enough to make them raise their tails and bound away, what makes whitetails abandon their ranges during a hunting season? The answer is, “overwhelming, much-feared trail and airborne scents emitted by hunters. Wherever a hunter travels on foot, a carpet of intense human odors that lasts four or more days is laid down and the hunter’s airborne odors sweep across the landscape throughout a triangular-shaped area 200 yards wide and 200 yards downwind. Airborne odors soon disappear after a hunter passes but continue unabated wherever a hunter halts to stand hunt.

Recent research by law enforcement officers in Minnesota have proven nothing a deer hunter can buy that is claimed to eliminate human odors can keep a K-9 dog from finding a human as quickly as a human not using these products. This means, of course, equally or more sensitive noses of whitetails cannot be fooled either (as I have been insisting since the 1970s). Sorry guys, this means today’s whitetail hunters must do something more than use certain soaps or soda, wear certain clothing or boots or spray themselves with certain potions to avoid being smelled and thus avoided by whitetails.

Blaze-Orange and Other Visual Handicaps

Blaze-orange hunting clothing is very easy for hunters to spot over great distances, providing well-proven safety for deer hunters while hunting within shooting range of other hunters. The trouble is, blaze-orange is also very easy for whitetails to spot. What they spot is different, however. Because whitetails lack receptors for colors in the red spectrum in their eyes, whitetails see reds in shades from black to white. Hunter red clothing of bygone hunting seasons appeared black to them (see photo on left above). Today’s blaze-orange clothing appears glowing white, most vivid when bathed in sunlight and moving (see center photo above). That’s not all. Regardless of what a tree stand hunter is wearing, natural camo when bowhunting or blaze-orange while firearm hunting, when seen against a bright sky in early morning or late evening when shadows are long or while shadowed beneath a mature tree at any time of the day, a hunter’s entire body will appear black against the sky or a snowy background, also especially visible while moving (see photo on right above). Today’s deer hunters therefore have three terrible visual handicaps to deal with: one caused by glowing blaze-orange, a second caused by eye-catching movements and a third caused by sky-lighting or snow-lighting. All three routinely ruin chances to take deer, most often without hunters realizing it.

There are effective ways to overcome these handicaps. One is, “mask or hide your body and movements while hunting.” This should be relatively easy for stand hunters, sitting or standing in one place amid natural cover for hours at a time as they do. Unfortunately, most are unaware of how easy they are for mature whitetails to discover and avoid and therefore find little reason to remain motionless long enough. When moving, few stand hunters move slowly enough to avoid being noticed by any of the 15–30 deer that live in the square-mile surrounding their stands. Few realize they should not move at all while one or both eyes of a nearby whitetail’s eyes are visible. Few select stand sites that provide adequate silhouette and motion hiding cover.

Today, ground level stand hunters generally use blinds to keep themselves and their movements hidden – blinds composed of natural, unaltered cover, blinds made from natural materials found lying on the ground and blinds made from man-made materials such as camo fabric with metal frameworks. I prefer using a fallen tree as a blind or natural unaltered cover deep and dense enough to mask or hide my entire body up to my neck while seated on my backpacked stool. I hide the light skin of my face and my head by wearing a camo headnet topped with my camo cap. I often add a fleecy evergreen bough to the top of my blind to further hide my head and head movements. I’ve taken several trophy bucks while seated behind a young evergreen with a horizontal space between boughs at eye level (quietly created with a knife when necessary) through which I could take aim without being noticed by those bucks.

My favorite tree to sit in while tree stand hunting is a mature red oak (which retains rust-colored leaves throughout winter) or a mature, well-branched evergreen closely surrounded by other mature trees that act as secondary blinds at stand level. Because height alone no longer hides hunters from mature whitetails, 9–10 feet above the ground is high enough for me. I make it a rule to a avoid altering surrounding cover as much as possible, using natural shooting windows through which to fire at deer rather than stand-to-ground shooting lanes which are instantly recognized as dangerous by today’s mature bucks. Admittedly, extra surrounding cover sometimes spoils opportunities to fire at nearby deer, but I’ve long been convinced such cover provides me with more opportunities to fire at mature bucks within easy shooting range.

Whether at ground level or in a tree, surrounding natural cover should be at least two-thirds effective at hiding your body and movements, if you are capable of remaining motionless for long periods and then when necessary, move very slowly. If you know you are going to move a lot, 80–100 percent hidden is recommended. It’s that important. The first time you begin easing up a rifle or bow up to fire at a big buck standing 10–50 yards away, you are going to wish your blind was 100% effective.

Here’s another bit of important advice, probably new to you: learn to fire your gun or bow while seated when stand hunting – you will be less noticeable and thus minimize noticeable movements at critical moments. Once learned, you will not only be more accurate when the chips are down, but your quarry will likely remain unaware you are near, therefore standing still or moving slowly when you take aim (an easy target).