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Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
I would call that a successful turnaround. I know I've read studies that show it's darn impossible to really manipulate the genetics on a free-range herd so you have to be happy with what you have even if they will only get so big after 3.5. I think having a quality hunt on improved ground should override the desire for more antler inches anyways and I would say they should have that now. I'm sure something can be tried to add more bone to these guys but at some point you hit the law of diminishing returns.

Thanks, Shawn. In my experience, we have more control over genetics in wild deer than the studies indicate, but I generally agree that it is pretty limited. You can only influence 1/2 the equation in wild deer, as you don't have the control to monitor whether the doe is passing on great-horrible antler genetics. When you put an arrow in a doe, you may well have just killed the golden cow of antler genetics.

That said, I have no doubt in my mind that we have way more control over the quality of bucks that live on our lands than we are lead to believe. Shoot that 3.5 year old, 100" 8 point bully and that 2.5 year old 100" 10 is more likely to stay on your ground and be there to hunt next year, when he's 130".

You can only work with what you and he area has to offer, though. On the one hand, I'm thrilled that I have 3 3.5+ bucks to hunt on the one property that began this specific discussion. On the other, I wouldn't expect a great jump from any one of those 3 bucks. Two of them are already 4.5 years old (they were both 2.5s when I began). Now, between the property layout, surrounding pressure and client's goals, no way any one of those 3 are getting a free pass. That said, if either of them sneak through, I'd bet neither has more than 20" left to add, which would leave them well short of gross Boone. I admittedly could and have been wrong on this at times, but one can get to the point where they're right considerably more often than wrong.
 

shawnv

5 year old buck +
I killed a turkey on that farm years ago and to be able to deer hunt that would have been something. One thing I noticed what the amount of mass those deer carried compared to other areas, even for Iowa.

I think part of the problem is the average guy has no clue what they should have as a realistic goal because so few make it to be 3.5 and I think you get a good grasp at their potential then. They watch TV and set that as their goal. There are not enough land managers like yourself that keep it real for them. If you could take the pressure away I know some lesser known areas would be growing the largest racks at a pretty good clip. With that said I firmly believe I live in one of those areas so we'll see what the 15 or so landowners by me who just formed a management group can do within a few years.
 

shawnv

5 year old buck +
P.S. Dipper...I'm proud you are still able to display the crew logo despite their free fall (sad face).
 

phil@thesidehill

5 year old buck +
I really like this "expectation" conversation. it is a conversation i have had with quite a few people I know that seem to crave the L&T sized bone on their properties. I know that i would be more than thrilled to have those 4 bucks on my 80-120 acres! For me once i realized my expectations I set my goals according. Having a small parcel, in an area with intense hunting pressure and high buck harvest....i knew that holding out for 4.5, 5.5, or older was a recipe for frustration. I keep my goal set at 3.5 and older. Some years i have 95-110" 3 yr olds around....and some years i have 120"+ around. This year I know of a 6.5 yr old deer that was alive and walking around in early June, I haven't seen him since...but that has been his pattern for the last 3 yrs. Just knowing that there is a chance he could show up to check the does on my property is great....but I will not be holding out for him. As a 4 yr old he was a mid 140's 10, and then last year as 5 yr old he turned into a 15 pt 130" freak show due to injury. I'm holding his sheds in the avatar in my signature. he is the only buck that I have ever had history with that i thought he might make a good jump somewhere from 4 to 6 if he lived that long....but that injury kind of through a kink in that.
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
Shawn, I think you pretty much nailed it.

Phil, glad you like this. Assuming that buck is still around (and you finding his sheds is a good indication that he is), don't be surprised if he makes a surprisingly good jump this year. Injuries often (not always, as it depends on the type and how bad it impacts him long term) cause a 1 year plateau or drop, only to rebound well the year after. Why not do us a favor and clear up any confusion on which the case is with him. Kill him and post a pic of what he did this year :D
 
D

dipper

Guest
P.S. Dipper...I'm proud you are still able to display the crew logo despite their free fall (sad face).
In all honesty I haven't seen a game since mid august. Just haven't had the time, and there is better things to do come fall.
I'm a bigger badger football fan, it's just still to painful right now to think about it.
 

phil@thesidehill

5 year old buck +
Shawn, I think you pretty much nailed it.

Phil, glad you like this. Assuming that buck is still around (and you finding his sheds is a good indication that he is), don't be surprised if he makes a surprisingly good jump this year. Injuries often (not always, as it depends on the type and how bad it impacts him long term) cause a 1 year plateau or drop, only to rebound well the year after. Why not do us a favor and clear up any confusion on which the case is with him. Kill him and post a pic of what he did this year :D

Steve....I'd be lying if i told you i didn't think that there was at least a slight chance of me getting a crack at him this year.....that being said I'm not holding out for him either.

When he was a 3.5 yr old 125" main frame 9 point with a scorable kicker....i would have gotten a shot at him if he would have taken at least 3 more steps....it was November 7th, 2011...and he had separated a doe from the group while chasing off two young bucks....one heckuva a show to watch. He did it all, grunting, snort wheezing, bristling, ears laid back, fleheming. That January (2012) i found the shed with the sticker about 150 yds from where that show went down. I then used to that shed to propose to my wife a few days later. I never had any trail cam pics of him that year, never saw him again, but found his shed very close by. I was never able to match it up though.

The summer of 2012 he showed up in late June for a couple of pics. then he showed up again in late July, and the again in late August....then he disappeared until the morning of November 2nd 2012 while i was in the same stand that I nearly shot him from the previous year. He stayed about 100-120 yds out as he cruised for does....he disappeared again until November 27th (the second day of our rifle season). he continued to make appearances during gun season...I only bowhunt my property given it is about 10 acres and is just outside of town. I assume the surrounding hunting pressure may have temporarily relocated him to my side of the hill. I got my hopes up that he would be around for December 26th when our late archery season opened. He then showed up on December 16th (gun season had ended) and he had already shed his right side....so that put the kabosh to those aspirations.

I continued to get fairly regular pics of him into January sometime between January 21st and 26th he dropped his left antler...by this time all hunting seasons had ended. I never got anymore pics of him after that. I felt good knowing that he had made it through the guantlet and he had dropped both of this sheds out there somewhere. I did some low pressure shed hunting once the hunting seasons had ended, but I didnt push the issue as there were other bucks in the area that i wanted sheds from. I didnt really start looking until the end of February like i do in most years. It wasnt until the March 31st that i found his left side on the neighboring farm about 800 yds from where my property is....I also found out that morning that my wife was pregnant with our son! So now...two sheds from this deer hold very special meaning to me.

Spring/Summer of 2013...no pics...no sightings. this didn't really concern me to much...since all in all he was not a frequently visible deer out side of the rut. late summer and into early fall...still no sightings or pics of him. I had a few 3.5 yr olds around that were definite shooters for me. i ended up killing a really nice 3.5 yr old, if he hadn't broken a G2 he would have scored in the low to mid 120's....my best buck to date. So all in all in 2013 i had really kind of written him off as having been dead.

On april 1st of 2014 I decided to use my lunch break to take a quick stroll on the neighbor's. there were about 8-10 acres of standing corn in the field at the top of the hill. I walked to the one corner of the field that has a little knoll coming out of the woods that is overgrown with brush, but seems to be a great staging area. I always expect to find sheds in this spot...but never have...until this day. I spotted what looked like a wierd stick with a fork in it. as i walked a little closer I saw the tell tale veination of main beam! a few more steps and i noticed another shed just a few steps beyond...a matched set...a very freaky matched set! A few weeks early i had walked past these guys...but they were covered in snow back then! I snapped some pics them scooped them up! at first i couldn't believe that there was a total freak show like this that i had never seen before...especially so close to my property...about 300 yds. As i was walking out and checking these antlers out...there was something very familiar about them...then it hit me! it was him! the bases and the stickers and knobs around them looked identical to this deer's previous sheds that i had found. I stopped at my house on the way back to the office and picked up the other two sheds for comparison. I would say that I am about 99% sure it is the same deer.

Then in late may i got a few pics of deer that had a serious injury to his front right leg. What little antler growth that had started at this point had some serious junk on and large bases. the deer doesn't look all that old...but then again he looked to be in pretty rough shape. he looked very emaciated...i would assume that injury made it very difficult to get around during the course of a year...and the winter was brutally cold and very snowy. You can see that the hoof is very long from him not walking on that leg and wearing it down.









I have not gotten any pics of this guy since May. I'm not 100% sure its the same deer....but it sure seems like it could be. I just have a hard time making the deer in the pics out to be 6 yrs old....but like i said thats a tough injury to have on top of a brutal winter.
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
If you look exclusively at that deer's body, from the shoulders back, he will fool you. Looking at that portion, he looks very young, but how his neck meets his chest (can see clearly in the last pic) shows he's not a young deer. I don't pretend to be able to look at a pic and say a deer is 7.5 yrs old. Not to sound like a jerk, but I'd consider myself good on 1.5s, 2.5s and 3.5s. I mean, I look at somewhere north of a 500,000 pics every year, having multi year histories with many of the bucks I get on cam. You do that for 25+ years (only been over 1/2 mil for about the last 10 years, but still a lot of pics each year for the 15 before that) and even a slow minded sloth like myself better accidentally learn something about aging bucks. I'd even go so far as to say I'm good at saying whether a buck is 4.5 or older, but is the buck in that pic 4.5. 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5? I can't/won't pretend to be able to do that. I think it's a very safe bet that buck is 4.5 or older, though.
 

shawnv

5 year old buck +
It's amazing how the late winter months will transform a well built deer into something like this.
 

phil@thesidehill

5 year old buck +
If you look exclusively at that deer's body, from the shoulders back, he will fool you. Looking at that portion, he looks very young, but how his neck meets his chest (can see clearly in the last pic) shows he's not a young deer. I don't pretend to be able to look at a pic and say a deer is 7.5 yrs old. Not to sound like a jerk, but I'd consider myself good on 1.5s, 2.5s and 3.5s. I mean, I look at somewhere north of a 500,000 pics every year, having multi year histories with many of the bucks I get on cam. You do that for 25+ years (only been over 1/2 mil for about the last 10 years, but still a lot of pics each year for the 15 before that) and even a slow minded sloth like myself better accidentally learn something about aging bucks. I'd even go so far as to say I'm good at saying whether a buck is 4.5 or older, but is the buck in that pic 4.5. 5.5, 6.5, 7.5, 8.5? I can't/won't pretend to be able to do that. I think it's a very safe bet that buck is 4.5 or older, though.

Thanks Steve! I was definitely thinking the front half had signs of something 4 and older....his head has that blocky look too, very squared and not "doe like". I would consider myself to be adequately proficient at 1, 2, and 3 yr old ID....anything older and I definitely need history to help me feel confident.....in this part of the world anything older than 3 is hard to come by, so I really don't have the experience that comes with the repitition.

From what i can tell my property and "my" side of the hill in general are on the periphery of his home range. My side of the hill seems to be dominated by doe groups....therefore he seems to make a swing threw chasing/checking for does...and occasional wanderings outside of the rut. it also seems that he will relocate to my side of the hill when hunting pressure increases in his neck of the woods. In 2013 he would have been severely limited in his ability to range too far from home base given he only has 3 usuable legs..which could have accounted for the lack of sightings/pics all year. Even though i found his sheds close by, on top of the hill, i feel he was only coming up to the standing corn in that field because it was the best available food source. I found a line of rubs down the other side of the hill from my property, that i believe he made. based on how that right antler would have rode on his head, and the way his tines are positioned i think he would have been gouging and rubbing the back side of the tree. This series of rubs had gouging on the opposite side of the trees. he also had some very gnarly beading on his brows and small unscorable stickers on the bases that would have caused some gouging and shredding on the front side of the trees as well. the problem is that at the bottom of the hill is a busy state route and a creek to cross....and is property that i have no access to.

I really hope like h3ll that he has adapted to the 3 legged locomotion enough that the urge to breed will bring him up and over the hill looking for the ladies i have been keeping fat, happy and unpressured....and before...God willing...another buck gives me an opportunity....PA is a one buck state. so as i said before, I'm not holding out for him...its all about managing expectations! And to tell you the truth....I'm not really looking forward to a shed season with out the possibility of finding more from him! As much as i am a die-hard hunter....i love to shed hunt too!
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
I know this is a bit of an odd thought, but I'd be very interested in watching that buck work a scrape. He obviously still does, as his tarsals are still stained from doing so. So, does he just work the lick branch and urinate on it? Does he do some odd form of a paw-hop maneuver? does he use his back legs? I know, weird that I'm even considering it, but, for as odds as it may be, I'd be really interested in watching that. So much so that if he was approaching a scrape, I'd probably pass a golden shot opportunity just to watch what he does and hope I'd still get a crack at him after.

This is just a slightly educated guess, based on history with other deer missing the use of a front leg, but I suspect the injury doesn't slow him down anywhere near as much as most would think. Frankly, I shouldn't say this, but I respect deer more than I do most people. Wild animals don't sit in a corner and whimper about their lot in life, no matter how bad it may be. They face the reality of the situation and, far more often than not, conquer it. No, they don't think it through like that, but you can see such a profound and distinct difference between wild and domesticated animals (and most people) that it is obvious in the face of adversity. Back in my long line trapping days, I caught a lot of cats in fox sets. Within seconds, one could tell whether the cat in a set was feral or domestic. The feral cat was focused only on getting away, where as the barn cats would be coward in a ball. Despite hating cats, I'd let them out, pet the somewhat domesticated cats until they purred and watch them scamper away, no worse for the experience.

That's an overly long way of saying we and the animals we domesticate are wimps. Wild animals suck it up and deal, rarely even being slowed down by whatever is thrown at them. He's obviously still working scraps. I'd bet he is still chasing does, as well.
 

phil@thesidehill

5 year old buck +
thanks steve....i completely agree on the ruggedness of the wild whitetail and other critters.

Hopefully i can get some scrape footage of him this year! I know we was a prolific rubber in years past. when i found the first shed from him when he was a 3 yr old, it had fresh bark shavings in the beading of the base and the brow in January. the reason I found the shed was because i saw a fresh rub line and followed it. Also the rubs i found this year while shed hunting that I believe came from him....even being injured i would say that rubs were aggressive and were on trees the size of my thighs. Surprisingly....of all the fall/winter pics that i had of him in 2012 i never had any of him working my mock scrapes....even though the camera was essential set up to cover the scrapes.
 

phil@thesidehill

5 year old buck +
Steve....just and update on the buck above.

I almost got you some scrape footage....at least i believe this buck to be him. Unfortunately i didn't have this cam set up about 20 yds ahead of where it is on a mock scrape that I started a few weeks ago....as luck would have it that scrape got tore up the same night this buck walked through! I need some better pics....of the right side especially. Looking for that cluster of points around the base and the ripped ear....as well as the injured front right leg. All that aside there are enough similarities to this rack and the previous years' sheds and pics of him that I feel pretty confident its him.

 

scoot52

5 year old buck +
Steve, your plan looks great, I have a quick question for you. I see where you put your red dot stand locations between your sidewalks and the foodplot so you said kill two birds with one stone. Is that so you can shoot to your sidewalk and to edge of food plot? All my stands are off that main plot and I have pics of bucks in shooting light coming from my west end sanctuaries and entering my main plot. I can access east side of plot and have a sidewalk or corridor on that side. Problem is my stand is on backside of sidewalk so I can shoot there but not to the food plot, I can see plot well and have bucks come into it. Do you think it would be a good idea to put a stand between sidewalk and the plot. It would be a 15 yard shot to sidewalk and about 15 to edge of plot. Thanks Scott
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
Sorry this response is so delayed, scoot.

Yes, I position things so I can cover as much as possible. If you should do the same depends on your topography. When food is up on the high ground and the sidewalk is down a slope, you can play a little game I often do and setup between them, fairly close to the sidewalk. You put the stand an honest 20-25' off the ground. Because of the slope, you are another couple feet higher than the sidewalk. If the stand is under 20 yards to the sidewalk, you can have a wind blowing right over the sidewalk....and over the deer's nose. On flat ground, you have to cheat the stand closer to the sidewalk or go higher still to be safe.
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
I know you guys already know most of the story behind the buck I killed a week ago, but think this may be helpful. So, I'm copy/pasting it here.

So far, this thread has been mostly about improving habitat, trying to grow deer and manufacturing good, low impact stand sites. Well, how you hunt a property is every bit as important.
Each buck and situation is different. PLEASE, keep that in mind when reading the rest of this post. For example, when I get a couple pics of a new buck I want to kill during the rut or am hunting a buck on a property that is a transition zone, I hunt completely differently than when hunting a buck that has grown up on the property. On those others, I'm very aggressive, as I believe I have a narrow window of opportunity and playing it "safe" only lessens my odds of killing him. Now, in a nutshell, on public or any other heavily pressured grounds, I balance aggression with timing. I don't nip at the edges of his core area, as I'm about to explain. Instead, I go right into the heart of it, but I try to time it perfectly, both being right before the breeding phase, most often paired with a cold front. I get in well before first light and sit until I kill or the day is done.

All that said, a lot of you are growing the deer you are trying to kill. Here's how I handle it most often.

I got Tweenie's pics often as a 3.5 & 4.5 yr old buck. In fact, I passed him many times those years, while hunting other bucks.
IMG_0198.JPG

At 5.5, I did something I've never done before. I knew that my hunting time would be very limited this season, between a whole bunch of work projects, In fact, I've never hunted less than I have this past year...ever, and it's been like torture.

So, knowing this would be the case, I decided it was Tweenie or bust. I'm almost always heading to stands with the idea of killing this or that buck, but never before have I told myself I'm killing this one or nothing at all. Instead, I'm typically an opportunities. Sure, I'm "after" "this" buck, but I'll take any that trips my trigger than happens by. Not this year. It was Tweenie or bust.

Of course, as so often happens, hitting 5.5, he stopped running around as much during daylight. In fact, after season started, I only got 3 sets of daylight pics of him. Two were captured in the heart of his core area (having a cam there is a high risk move, but I only checked it on days with high winds that were blowing away from where I believed he bedded, when inside that
core area...every sign pointed to that approach working, while providing me invaluable intel).
IMG_1893.JPG IMG_1289.JPG

The other daylight pic was him working a scrape on a hidden food plot that packed the does in like crazy (on other laptop).

The mock scrape in the heart of his core area has always been a real hot spot. so, I already had a stand right in the thick of it. I also had several other stands around the grassy, overgrown area he spent most of his daylight hours. About 150 yds out is a larger holding plot of clover and alfalfa, with corn used as a screen and food source to completely shield the 4 acre holding plot from view, with several stands already in place on that, as well.

The stands in his core area and on the nearby holding plot are almost never hunted. they are there only for when I can't get it done further away and there's a buck there that I or the owners really want to kill.

So, I nipped at the edges. I've only bowhunted 9 times so far. The first 5 were all just outside of his core area, at various low impact stands I'd gotten dark pics of him. He was living on the ground I manage, but neighbors were getting occasional night pics of him as well. I didn't believe they would kill him, unless an evil temptress doe lead him astray or my hunting pushed him to them.

With that in mind, I didn't even start hunting the holding plot until they were chasing. At that point, there is enough chaos going on that the bucks are generally clearing the food sources by chasing does off, allowing me to slip out undetected. As a side note, because I couldn't predict where Tweenie would be after dark, I didn't morning hunt him once. With the way the area he was bedding laid, I just didn't feel safe slipping in to cut him off. So, for as hard as it was, I didn't risk boggering the deal by going after him in the AMs. It was a pure PM approach.
As the chase and breeding phase ramped up, I first moved into the holding plot. Not seeing him there after 3 sits, I did my next sit right in the heart of his core area.

The temps and wind were right for his moving and me minimizing the risk of bumping him. Well, they were too good. I was up in stand by 1 PM. At 1:01, I was ranging markers and heard a twig snap. I'd been up in stand for less than 90 seconds, and there he is watching me bouncing around as I range markers...Lessons learned. even when just climbing into stand, slow, minimized movements (I mean, I was in stand less than 90 seconds!)

Now firearms starts, and I haven't killed him. Sure, I want to kill him, but firearms is the greatest risk of deer getting killed by neighbors. So, I'm NOT going into his core area. In fact, I gave him a couple days b4 firearms to calm down, by staying away from that area.

Again, I nipped at the edges. The 2nd afternoon, I nearly soiled myself when he stepped out at 100 yard on a partially picked cornfield. I'll be honest. he turned me to jello. In fact, I pulled so hard on my first attempt that if the safe hadn't been on I'd have certainly missed. Luckily, by the time I got the safe off, he was facing head on and I knew I couldn't make that shot in my current state of jello. That gave me tme to zoom in on him with the vid cam and calm myself down enough to get off a better shot, about 90 seconds later, when he turned and gave me a larger kill zone, quartering too, instead of straight on. I'll be honest. I still got lucky on the shot. I really was tore up, but he dropped on the spot. I did a very conservative tape job on him. he came in at 173 6/8th.
IMG_7107.jpg

IF I hadn't had him show up on the edges during firearms, I'd have went in after him again as soon a the season closed...the risk of neighbors killing him would have been minimized.
Hopefully, that gives some insight into how I try to kill bucks living on managed ground. It's a balancing act between trying to protect them from others and killing them myself. It doesn't always work and one should remain flexible. Still, that general approach works best for me, when dealing with bucks living on managed ground.
 
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Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
about time for the next "tool."

One of the problems many habitat managers have is overly mature woods. This is a big issue in both browse/carry capacity and buck's ability to see longer distances. Most everyone grasps why they may want to increase woody browse and understand that deer tend to feel more secure when in a woodlot with more ground cover (to a certain point, at least) than in a woods they can see 200+ yards in any direction.

What is often not covered is that, even when deer feel secure in a woodlot, being able to see longer distances still offers a major downfall. When bucks are searching for does, seeing distance matters. A general rule of thumb is that the farther the bucks can see, the quicker they can check for does on your ground and the faster they can make it to the neighbors to do the same. Instead, if they can only see 20-50 yards or so, they have to waste a heck of a lot more time looking for does than hen they can see 200+ yards.
With all that in mind, a year or two back, I took an idea Chainsaw mentioned to me in a PM discussion and ran with it. There are all sorts of situations where one would like to improve cover, yet not do so to the point where the deer want to bed there.

That's where I've been using selective thickening. In most situations I want thicken things up and increase browse levels, without encouraging deer bedding, I'll hinge most every tree, other than the mast producers, that range in diameter between a silver dollar and around the size on one's bicep, around chest height. Because we're dealing with smaller, safer tree, one only has to cut 40-60% through and then just pull them over, leaving around half the tree diameter in tact, offering fantastic survival rates.

Obviously, one must adjust the diameter range, based on the availability of trees. Remember, you're trying to hit the sweet spot of offer more cover and browse, reducing the visibility factor, but not o much that you inspire bedding in areas they've previously shied away from. Getting them to bed in specific locations is what hinge cut bedding is for, when one typically hinges larger diameter trees, as well (and still needs to locate those hinge cuts in areas deer are willing to bed.

See photos for examples
IMG_7310.JPG
Selective Thickening 2.JPG
Selective Thickening.JPG
 

sandbur

5 year old buck +
Thanks for posting, Steve.

Whenever I look at mature hardwoods, I can not believe how open they are compared to the habitat I see in my area.
 
M

MoLandOwner

Guest
That's where I've been using selective thickening

I like that choice of words. I am going to steal that!
 

Steve Bartylla

5 year old buck +
Thanks for posting, Steve.

Whenever I look at mature hardwoods, I can not believe how open they are compared to the habitat I see in my area.
I know. To this day, I'm amazed at how stupid high deer numbers survive winter in the farm land areas dominated by open timber like that, particularly when there is often so much fall plowing of fields in some of those areas. In those situations, there are literally 50-150 dpsm surviving winter on the woody browse, left over acorns(when available) and dead grasses and weeds (when not covered in snow). Even most of our "mature" northern timber offers soooooooooooooo much more for food and cover.

I talked to Keith McCaffrey about that a couple years back, trying to pick his brain on how such high deer numbers can survive in a vastly healthier state than one would believe when they so often face winters where they have almost nothing to eat for 4 months (the poor acorn years with significant snow depths). He assured me that the obvious was correct. In the farmland settings (where you have the stupid high deer numbers in these woods virtually void of quality browse), they are gorging themselves so on crops and crop waste up until the fall plowing that their fat levels are obscene (you should see the internal fat on does in those areas shot in Dec...even the bucks have way more internal fat than our northern correct deer at that point, but it's ridiculous with the does) that they are merely running on fat and whatever they can scrounge on through until spring. Luckily, you tend to need to go south to hit these settings, as even the "mature hardwoods" in the Buffalo Counties up here have a heck of a lot more under story than those found in IL, MO, IA and so on, and you don't get nearly the fall plowing, which offers crop wastes to dig for. So, most of the worst browse producing woods that also have stupid high deer numbers are in areas with lesser snow depths and shorter winters, giving them more dead weeds and grasses to feed on. The dead grasses and weeds are negative energy balance foods, but they help slow the fat deletion a little, at least.

Still, it amazes me deer can do so well in those settings.
 
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