“Where’s all of the deer?” That’s all I hear these days. It’s starting to sound like a broken record.
I’m not sure how to answer that question. Of course, we all know the whitetail population is way done from several years ago, but how much? I’m not sure we’ll ever have that answer. One thing I know for sure; Illinois isn’t the same whitetail “Mega” state it used to be. You can argue this, or argue that, but at the end of the day you know something has to be done.
I’ve spoken with several taxidermist lately and they’re all saying the same thing: “little action”. In all fairness, I can remember a few years like the current year where all of the heads came in at once and the numbers added up. What bothers me personally is the fact that October was especially slow for many. I’ve hunted nearly every day in October and only came across 2 bucks worth shooting. Are we imagining things here or does this state need fixing?
My purpose of this post isn’t to start a fiasco or to point blame because I’ve learned from the past, it doesn’t get us anywhere. My point is to gather information from individuals from different parts of the state to compare notes. I know some parts of the state are doing well and others just flat out stink. So let’s take a survey!
Post below about the quality of your hunting area and type next to it “Stinks” or “Good”. I don’t want to know your county! Keep that to yourself!
Regarding EHD, yep, it’s everywhere I hunted this year. 2 years back-to-back surely didn’t help. I think it’s time for some adjustments, what do you think?
Preparing for your hunt this year may require you to spend some cash preparing your food plots or purchasing new equipment for the upcoming season’s hunt. It’s not hard to spend a few thousand dollars on plant seeds, new bows, fresh arrows, broadheads, clothing, etc. Unfortunately, many hunters forget what’ s needed AFTER the hunt!
Harvesting fresh venison is a treat no one can appreciate unless you happen to be the person making the kill. Let’s face it; there’s a lot of work and money that goes into making these hunts come together! If you add all of the time and family sacrifices along the way, a fresh slab of deer is really a blessing. All to often the preparation leading up to the hunt is executed with passion but the aftermath, which happens to be the deer itself, is treated like nothing more than, well, a dead animal. With that line of thinking, the quality of your deer will resemble just that. What most people don’t understand is the fact that the hunt isn’t over until the game has been properly prepared.
Preparing venison well enough for your palate to be impressed requires good field techniques in addition to great cooking skills. Too many hunters leave the dead animal to lie while they continue to hunt thus causing bacteria and gas to build up into the carcass. That gas pushes through the capillaries ultimately tainting the taste value of the meat. That bacteria is also the number one enemy of the deer’s hide! Anyone looking for a quality whitetail mount must understand that the condition of that hide is paramount to a long lasting mount.
I’ve heard many people complain that venison is too gamy for them to consume but the fact remains; venison isn’t gamy here in the Midwest. That “gamy” taste is a result of improper field preparation. Look at it this way: How many butchers, who handle beef, leave the animal to sit for several hours before they begin the gutting process? The answer is: None! There isn’t one professional butcher around that will kill cattle without immediately gutting it. If you were to kill a cow and leave it lie there for a few hours before gutting it, you’ll also have “gamy” tasting meat. Get the point.
When bringing your freshly killed deer home, some people like to age the deer a few days before they decide to cut it up. Aging, like they do with beef, is a natural process that tenderizes the meat. Aged venison is an absolute treat to eat! When letting your deer hang, or age, make sure the temperatures are cool enough to prevent spoiling though. Usually in the fall, your chances are pretty good it won’t, unless you have an early season bow kill. Once your deer is aged, cut as much fat off as possible. Venison fat isn’t tasty like beef fat! In fact, it’s not desirable at all. By removing the fat, you can assure your meat will taste a whole lot better. If you are grinding your own burger, or even if you have your butcher do it, adding about 10% beef or pork fat to your grind will add flavor and keep your naturally lean venison from falling apart when forming and cooking burgers on the grill.
If you are fortunate enough to kill a buck worth mounting, it’s best to remember to cool that cape down as soon as possible, not to drag the buck anywhere the hide will be showing on the mount and not cut too far up the brisket when field dressing it! Cooling down the cape will stop the bacteria from growing. Bacteria not only cause meat to spoil but cause the hair follicles to detach from the hide itself. This process is called “slipping”. Most of the time slipping won’t be detected until after the tanning has been done to the cape. At that point, you’re already money and time consumed. Finding another cape will be costly! Under all of the excitement of killing a trophy, many hunters forget and drag the deer out by the hind legs. Under these circumstances, the weight of the deer is condensed to the front of the deer and creates an undue load on the hair. This load will wear the hair off and form bald spots. Bald spots are not an easy fix, if they can be fixed at all. Finally, when field dressing the deer, there’s no need to cut the hide all of the way up the middle and through the chest. You need to stop the incision right below the breastplate. You can still easily get to the organs for removal. If you do decide to cut through the chest area, your taxidermist may charge you more to sew it up. Sewing is something you try to avoid if at all possible when putting together a quality mount.
Just by following a few simple steps can make the difference between great tasting meat and horrible tasting meat, a quality mount or a costly mount and lastly, will insure a properly executed hunt from start to finish. They say you can pay once for an education or pay the rest of your life for the lack of one. Why pay at all when you can do these simple things for free?
I’ve been tracking a few monsters in the last couple of years, some of which are fairly young and have many years ahead of them before going down hill. After reviewing my latest trail camera pictures, I’ve noticed several of them have not grown at all this year. Much to my surprise, I’ve also spoken with several individuals across the state who are getting the same results on their cameras too!
After speaking with several other people regarding this phenomenon, someone suggested that this year’s drought may have something to do with it. Looking back, last year we also experienced a drought but I din’t notice any shrinkage at all. Could 2 years of drought have an effect on them?
In my research, it’s been about a draw. Some believe a dry year can affect antler growth an an equal amount say; not so. So I researched a little deeper and basically, they’re both correct! That answer pretty much takes us back to the starting point.
It appears, stress and nutrition are leading causes of growth control for whitetail antlers, in addition to body weight and their general health. Animals that have endured months of stressful living, have grown smaller body weights and antlers too! Add the lack of water to the equation, and you’ll have a stressful situation in most cases. I must point out that many animals have adjusted to drought-like conditions and have learned to live and manage stressful situations without too much damage to their body. So I would assume, it depends on the animal itself!
Anyone else seeing smaller than expected antler growth in your areas? I would love to know!
Off the subject, I’ve been reviewing more and more products recently and have even added outdoor services to my reviews. Most are good and a few are, well, less than good. I even reviewed an outfitter this month and was pleasantly surprised. This is something I have never done before. I even stuck a doe on video from the ground while I was there. I never expected to happen like it did because I was just setting up and didn’t even have a chance to get my face mask on before 2 does spotted me while I was getting situated. I didn’t have a chance to turn the camera into her, but I stuck her anyway and the camera caught her running with my arrow in her brisket. Nothing like a head-on shot while she was trying to figure out what I was! If you listen very carefully in the first 10 seconds of the video, you can hear her blow at me! Here’s the video: Doe from ground.
I know the season is in full swing but it’s always nice knowing there’s more products out there than are worth using and some that aren’t! If you’re interested in one of the few outfitters I would ever recommend here in Illinois, here’s a link to that: Outfitter.
I’ve got some big heads in my studio coming in already, so the action is getting started! Good luck out there and hunt hard!!!