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Modern Day Buckskinner: Some Ruminations of Days Gone By

 

I’ve always believed that I am a man who was born in the wrong  era. I would have preferred to have been born in the 1870’s. Notice that I didn’t say the 1810’s, and there is a reason for that, actually there are two.

The first is the fact that the percussion cap was invented in 1807 by Scottish clergyman, Rev. Forsyth, who came to the conclusion that it was too hard to prepare for an emergency when one had to jack around with sharpened rocks and two different kinds of powder in order to get a gun to fire. I’m not by any means dependent on modern technology for survival; however, I do appreciate it very much. And the percussion cap was definitely a step up in the utilization of the firearm for advancement to the best of defensive weapons.

The second  reason I wouldn’t have wanted to been born prior to 1870 is that I would not have wanted to have gone through any part of the American Civil War, not even the reformation period immediately afterwards. The reason for this I think is obvious; it was a bloody and brutal time and it would have been hard to have lived in this era without having a heart full of hate because of all the meanness that was prevalent.

If you’re like me then you are likely a big fan of the 1972 film “Jeremiah Johnson”. This is a story of a mountain man named John Johnson who lived between 1824 – 1900. He was nicknamed “Liver Eating Johnson” because he was at war with the Crow Nation and whenever he killed a Crow Warrior, he would cut the man’s liver out and eat it. He used a pair of Hawken Rifles and a brace of pistols that shot black powder and used percussion caps. He also used tomahawk and bowie. This movie was a deciding factor in my boyhood when I decided I wanted to be a mountain man. I still hunt deer and other large game with a muzzleloading rifle; however, now I do it while wearing a blaze orange jacket pursuant to state law, and carrying a camouflage possibles bag.

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Cold Snap! Another Strategy for Late Season White-tail Deer

It was still dark when my son and I sat shivering at dawn, in a rickety old deer stand, in the freezing cold of a frosty January morning. It was our fifteenth day hunting deer in a stand of hardwoods that had thus far revealed nothing other than several pesky squirrels; one screaming, (snitching), squawking, Bluejay; and a gaggle of turkeys that meandered about like a group of church women looking for a sinner to save.

There was plenty of sign! As a matter of fact, the only reason I had picked this exact spot for my young son’s first deer hunt was because, if you judged by the sign, it was a veritable metropolis of deer activity.

However, we had gone over two weeks with nothing other than sign to substantiate our hopes and dreams of deer loin and a full winter freezer.

The weather that deer season in Ohio had been very mild. Archery season had opened in Mid-September while it was still quite hot and I am not the guy who believes in harvesting deer while there are still ticks on them.

The weather had stayed mild throughout the season even into Mid-December when the state gun season had started. Me and the boy had gone out faithfully everyday even though we averaged a temperature of about 50 degrees or so. And, we hadn’t even so much as gotten a single shot. We had not even seen a single deer, let alone any married ones. We did see plenty of sign though which was evidence to me that they had gone completely nocturnal for some reason.

Our state, Ohio, had a late season gun hunting session which took place in early January and which only lasted 2 days. By early January it had gotten cold.

It was on this day that we found ourselves shivering in this treestand fully expecting to have more of the same bad luck that we had received all season long. I was contemplating crawling down out of the tree and going home, as the first light of dawn illuminated the forest, and just as I was about to recommend to the boy that we run into town and see what Loretta had on the breakfast menu at the local diner; I heard something crunch.

Looking down I saw a young meaty doe drift quietly beneath our stand and glide through the meadow we were overlooking. Simultaneously, there were suddenly several does walking amongst us, moving hurriedly as if there were some urgent business to attend to. The boy shot a very fat meat doe clean and quickly. His first deer!

This taught me a valuable lesson in the habits of deer and the effect of the weather on their habits. Deer, just like people, are subject to the influences of the environment on their well being. The cold makes them move to keep warm. I have used this strategy ever since that day, and have had a successful hunt each and every  time I wait for a cold snap to sit a deer stand. It also seems to me that the snowier it is , the better.

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Carnivorous Deer? What you need to know

Recent articles in several different magazines have shown a disturbing trend in the deer population. That is the act of some deer trying to eat meat. Before we go any further, let me assure you that this is no attempt at science fiction, and the articles I’m referencing are from legit publications, not from some serial thriller rag like “Bloody Detective” or anything like that.

This article, for instance, recently published in Outdoor Life™ Magazine, follows a formidable researcher who documents several instances of deer evolving from herbivores to carnivores, a behavior that has never been documented before. That’s not saying that this behavior has not been replicated before; on the contrary, it could very well be a common practice among the deer population to consume proteins in whatever forms they can find them if driven by sheer hunger. However, consider then the fact that some deer have been documented consuming humans in the wild.  Recently, National Geographic published a story revealing that trail cam footage of a human cadaver placed in the wilds for experimental purposes was actually partially consumed by a young deer during a time when heavy foliage wasn’t covered by a plethora of snow.

As alarming as this might seem at first glance, one thing to note is the fact that in the Natgeo article, the deer is only noted as actually consuming a rib from the human body. One of the reasons for this, obviously, is because of the high calcium content coupled with the fact that rib bones are fairly soft and pliable, especially on the ends.

In any event, I don’t think we are yet to the place where it is necessary to carry “deer spray” while out hunting like it is in some areas to carry bear spray.  However, those days might not be far off.

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Deer Camp 2019: Be on the Watch for Poisonous Deer

Though they have not yet evolved in carnivorous or venomous creatures, that doesn’t mean that the whitetail deer population isn’t dangerous. No, they have not yet grown opposable thumbs, giving them the ability to shoot back, but they have developed a deadly disease known as EHD.

According to Michael Gordon of the Mossyoak.com website,  signs of infection are highly variable and many infected deer appear normal or show only mild signs of illness. When illness occurs, signs and lesions change as the disease progresses.

The animals are affected by the onset of a feverish and depressed state, swollen head, neck, tongue or eyelids and difficulty breathing. Deer usually die in one to three days from a severe infection. Some survive longer, becoming lame and lose their appetite while others may become disabled for weeks or months by lameness and emaciation.

The development of different lesions as progression occurs has led to the categorization of 3 forms of hemorrhagic disease: Peracute, Acute, Chronic.

PERACUTE

A very rapid form shows only severe fluid swelling (edema) of the head, neck, tongue, eyelids and lungs in animals living somewhat longer.

ACUTE

A “classic hemorrhagic” form occurs. These animals may have edema in the same locations as Peracute but also have hemorrhages or congestion in the heart, pulmonary artery and oral mucosa, with some having erosions or ulcerations on the dental pad, tongue, palate and rumen.

CHRONIC

The chronic form is signified by growth interruptions of the hooves and possible sloughing of the roof walls. Other chronic lesions include: oral ulcerations, Papillae loss and scarring of rumen mucosa.

But also note not all of the above lesions will be found in an individual deer. Other diseases also produce similar hemorrhagic and ulcerative lesions. Dead whitetail are often found in or near water. The high fever and edema causes an unusual thirst and deer seek water and often die there.

WHEN DOES IT OCCUR?

EHD occurs when there seems to be an abundance of the culicoides insect. These tiny biting flies are the culprit for spreading the disease. The males and females both survive by eating nectar from flowers but only the female needs to eat blood for the maturation of fertilized eggs. Females typically deed at dusk or dawn often in large swarms in the vicinity of water, marshes or rotting vegetation. The females then proceed to lay their eggs en masse in habitat ranging from water vegetation, slow running streams, damp soil and manure heaps.

Nature seems to provide the conditions for the outbreaks of biting flies. Man has tried to control them but has failed. Nature provides a kill switch that occurs after the first frost. All the biting flies die off and so do the EHD outbreaks within a few weeks.

IMPACT ON DEER POPULATION

The severity and distribution of hemorrhagic diseases are highly variable. Past occurrences have ranged from a few scattered mild cases to dramatic outbreaks.

Death losses during outbreaks usually are well below 25 percent, but in a few instances have been 50 percent or more. To date, repeated outbreaks have not represented a limiting factor to deer population and growth. There is little evidence to suggest that outbreak severity is related to population density.

HD is the most important viral disease of whitetail deer in the U.S. and occurs over a large part of the country. Although the frequency and severity of outbreaks vary regionally.

The disease is caused by related orbiviruses in the epizootic hemorrhagic disease  (EHD) and blue tongue (BT) virus serogroups. Because clinical disease produced by EHD and BT viruses is indistinguishable, the general term “HD” (hemorrhagic disease) often is used when the specific virus is unknown. The EHD and BT viruses are transmitted by biting flies and HD occurs seasonally in late summer and early fall and then quickly ends after a killing frost.

DIAGNOSIS

So what I’ve gathered here is that the virus is spread by a biting midge that breeds in stagnant and warm waters after a drought or prolonged warm spell. The insects emerge and bite the whitetail and the virus is spread by a female midge biting a whitetail that has been infected and so passes it on to the new host.

The virus is not always fatal but has a very high mortality rate. Some animals eventually build up a resistance and some do not. The EHD is not transferable to humans and the meat is safe to eat. Livestock can also be infected and the disease may be spread from flies that were incubated in manure piles and cattle watering holes.

Although it seems that Ohio’s deer herd could be doomed, EHD has been here before and always dies out in the winter.

At present, there are no wildlife management tools or strategies available to prevent or control HD. Although die-offs of whitetail often cause alarm, past experience has shown mortality will not decimate local deer populations and that the outbreak will be controlled by the onset of cold weather. (1)

There’s even a video out there of a deer suffering from this disease that drowns itself in chest deep water, not even bothering to swim or turn and exit the stream it had wandered into. If you see deer acting strangely this season, put them down and leave them. It’s better not to risk eating a diseased deer. It’s not like the herd is sparse. Make sure you adhere to local and federal law when hunting and let a DNR specialist know if you have any concerns.

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Deer Camp 101: Several Misconceptions about Whitetail Deer

 

I simply can’t believe that it is again September and yet another deer season is upon us. It really seems like just a week or so ago that I hung my bow and cleaned my .54 cal. Hawken for the season and settled down to enjoy the Spring. It wasn’t much of a Spring, at least not in Ohio, and it seemed like April lasted nearly four months. Primarily because it rained hard here from May until August. It’s still raining.

The good news is that it is now going to start to get cold and all of this precipitation, if it persists, will have a chance to turn into beautiful white snow… I love deer hunting in the snow.

So, as you get ready to seek your deer for the season, here are some current studies that I have read about that can affect your hunt this year; studies from the Penn  State University wildlife program that actually dis-spell many of the myths that most of us have believed about deer hunting but which have now been disproved.

  1. Deer move less when it’s windy. This one was a surprise to me, but it seems that deer move the same wether it’s windy or not. I know that it seems that they don’t but perhaps another study would show that hunters just get especially miserable when it’s windy and it just seems as if nothing is moving to us.
  2. Deer are affected by the moon. I guess that we want to believe that deer are moved like we are moved, and undoubtedly the moon moves me; (usually out of my easy chair and onto the deck). But the studies have shown that deer aren’t seemingly inclined to change their habits regardless of moon phases.
  3. Whitetail bucks move far and wide in search of hot does during the rut. No, apparently they maintain, for the most part, their 20 mile radius territory; however, it is unclear how far the does travel when they are hot, looking for a ready buck…????
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