Archive for the ‘Wildlife Habitat’ Category

Whitetail Deer Hunting – Team OO Member Adam Wells Practices Herd Management

Saturday, February 12th, 2011

2011 continues to be a great year for me. After my Mountain Lion hunt in western Colorado, I headed out to Swanson Lake Ranch in southwest Nebraska with my good friend and camera man for Outback Outdoors Kyle Sanderson to hunt the late white-tail doe season.  Kyle had only a couple days that he could get away from work so I did my best to put Kyle in the best stands.

The first day I managed to harvest a nice fat white tail doe and was hoping that Kyle would have similar luck. As it turned out, Kyle was close to getting one that evening but everyone knows how hunting goes, sometimes it just doesn’t quite work out.

The next afternoon, would be Kyle’s evening to harvest.  This was Kyle’s first bow kill, I can’t tell you how happy and excited I was for Kyle’s success.  This is what is truly special about what I am able to do in my job as a guide and outfitter and through Outback Outdoors is to give people a positive introduction to the outdoors and  pass on the years of knowledge to those newer to the sport than myself.

Congrats Kyle.


Elk and Deer Body Condition on the Winter Range

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

Late season cow harvests are a good way to monitor body condtions going into the winter

Another factor in Wildlife Habitat to take into account when looking at the winter range quality is just how well are the elk and deer fairing.  How well the elk and deer are wintering, has a direct correlation to the quality of antler growth for the next growing season and the health and survivability of the fawns/calves for the upcoming spring. (more on why fawn/calf recruitment is key when looking at where to plan your future hunts)  Several of the factors that I look at when determining the condition of wintering elk and deer are: Body Fat measurements from Late Season cow harvests; Feild Judging body condition; and the how the animals behave.

I like to use my late season cow hunts mainly to control the population of elk here at the ranch. But I have also started to take notes on the body fat that the harvested cows are carrying.  I measure the amount of fat on the back and rump as well as the amount of fat on or around the kidneys. It is good to see from year to year how the amount of fat on the elk varies.  Even though the fat is a result of the summer/fall range conditions, it gives me a very good idea on how well the local population should winter.  If you have the chance to hunt a late season cow in your hunting area take notes from year to year on the amount of body fat on the elk as they head into winter and see how this correlates to the quality of antler development for the following fall.

I realize that not all of us can look at 20 to 30 harvested cow elk a year and take notes on the body condition as I do, but we can all take a weekend to go on the winter range in our favorite hunting areas and field judge body condition.  When trying to determine the body condition on the winter range it is often easy to spot the animals that are not going to survive, once the ribs are clearly showing these animals will most likely not survive.  Even in mild winters there are always going to be a few individuals that are going to look to be in bad shape, don’t focus too much on the few individual animals that are going to die.  What I like to do is look at the population as a whole.  Look for the angle of the rump.  If the majority of the animals you see still have a good round shape, the population as a whole should be good. But, if the rumps have a distinctive angle, or sloping look, the herd is suffering.  Also, look at the coat conditions of the herd.  When the animals start to stress, the coats loose the oils that keep it shinny and healthy.  If the coats look “bleached out” or rough, this is a sign that the animals are losing their energy reserves and if they survive the winter, they will have a longer recovery in the spring before they can put energy into antler production and will most likely have lower birth rates/lower survivability rates on the fawn/calf crop.

One other area that I view is just how the animals behavior is affected by the stress winter brings. The basic things I look for are:  How alert are they or do they seem sluggish?  How are the animals interacting with one another? How well do they travel? How is the head and ears held?  If the animals on your winter range are alert, you see them chasing each other or having small fights, they are traveling to and from feeding/bedding areas, and when moving heads are high and ears forward and moving. These are all signs that the herd is healthy and doing well.  If the animals seem sluggish, are feeding and bedding in the same spot, are allowing people to get close, heads down and droopy ears, these are signs that the herd is starting to stress from the winter conditions, and are trying to save as much energy as possible.

I hope some of these basics on winter range will help you when planning your hunt next fall. Please remember that even in a mild winter the elk and deer are slowly starving to death until the spring green up. Do not try to approach wintering animals, leave the shed hunting until the spring green up has begun and turn in any poaching.  The winter and winter range is the main limiting factor to our elk and deer populations, so please do not add to their stress levels.

Winter Range Quaility

Thursday, January 21st, 2010

Wildlife Habitat can be looked at for the quality of the forage available.  In the winter time, accessibility of forage is often what most us look at when thinking about elk and mule deer winter survival.  I feel it is also important to look at the quality of the forage available. First, I look at what plants are seeing the majority of the browsing. Second, I look to see how much browsing pressure the winter range is receiving.

When looking at the plants that are being browsed on (I could write volumes on this) I look to see what the elk and deer are browsing on: exposed grasses and forbes; or are they focusing more deciduous woody shrubs (sage brush, bitter-brush, service berry, etc); or if they are eating coniferous trees (juniper, fir, etc).  It has been my basic observation that when there is a good amount of grasses and forbes exposed or enough snow is melting to expose the ground, the elk and deer are getting through the winter in good shape, but if the winter range has been experiencing periods of drought and the exposed ground is bare, then I like to see what woody shrubs are being utilized.  What I hope to find is browsing pressure on the the more deciduous plants and I look to see if just the new growth and buds are browsed or if the elk and deer are starting to get into the stemy portions of the plant.  If the browsing pressure is getting into the old stemy growth, there could be major problems developing, not just for the current winter but for long term damage to the quality of the winter range.  If you are seeing the browsing pressure on the coniferous tress such as juniper, this is typically an indicator of a very sever winter and a good chance of high winter mortality in these areas.

It is good to run out to your hunting area if you can and check on the quality of the winter range and help plan your hunt for next fall. Also remember to use good judgment when in close proximity to wintering animals and be careful not to put any stress on the game with your presence as the winter can be hard enough on our next years bucks and bulls.

Winter Range Conditions

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

All Wildlife Habitat will have a limiting factor to a populations survival.  For much of the Rocky Mountain West that limiting factor is the winter range.  Since returning from the Archery Trade Show, I have been looking at the winter range conditions here at the ranch and getting reports on how the elk and deer are fairing in some of my other favorite hunting areas.  Please note, if you are planning on checking out the winter range conditions in your area, give the wildlife enough space that they don’t feel pressured.  The elk and deer are basically slowing starving in the winter and any unneeded energy expenditure can drastically decrease their chance for survival.

As I am getting ready to apply for limited draw licenses in many of the western states and planning my hunting calendar for the 2010 season, I like to have an idea of what the quality of the areas I am planning on hunting will most likely be.  As I am building preference points up in several states I don’t want to use them up if the area I am slating to hunt has suffered a high winter mortality.  In addition to seeing and hearing what the snow and cold are doing to the game, I like to go one step further and see what the forage base is like and what the general body condition of the elk and deer are while wintering.

For now the 2009 – 2010 winter has been very mild for the areas I am planning to hunt in this fall, conditions can change but now is the time to get the calendar set.  Please look for posts on winter range and how this can help your scouting for the up coming season.

Wildlife is what I do!

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

Wildlife is my life. I have been fortunate to have always live my life in an area that is surrounded with wildlife and wild game.  As a child my family had a small vacation rental business in the heart of the Colorado Rockies, right at the gate way to Rocky Mountain National Park.  From early childhood experiences hunting and fishing within walking distance of our home, I found my passion for life: wildlife, hunting and fly fishing.

Since developing my passion for wildlife I have been exceptionally lucky in the adventures, the experiences and a career in the outdoors. Currently I am logging in more than 200 days a year hunting, fishing or guiding. In the days I am not doing this I am working on various wildlife management projects on properties I work for, own or consult for.

I am excited to share my hunting experiences and what I have and will learn from different wildlife encounters and the wildlife habitat and property management and what can be learned from my life’s experiences, I hope you will follow me here.