What Constitutes A “Shootable” Deer And Who Should Determine It?

Before I get deep into the crux of today’s blog post, take a look at these three videos taken about 5 1/2 weeks ago on my farm using the new Cuddeback Attack trail cameras.   Each video lasts about 30 seconds and in general shows a small buck browsing on some field corn.

At this stage during the crop growing year it appears the deer is consuming the secondary, more immature ears of corn that commonly grows on the corn stalks.   Thus, this deer AT THIS TIME OF THE YEAR does not appear to be doing any particular damage to the standing corn or its eventual crop yield.

That being said, earlier in the summer when all of the corn ears are immature and this deer goes browsing throughout the field…significant damage can then occur when deer choose to dine as you have witnessed.

Shifting gears just a bit…I did something fun with these videos.   I showed them to the neighbor who rents my farm and grows these crops.   This particular farmer also happens to be one of my hunting buddies each fall.   I told him, “look at that deer.   It just stands there defiantly taunting you to come get him if you don’t like what he’s doing.”

My buddy agreed, this fall that particular deer is what he is targeting as the deer of his choice during the firearms season.

Now, keep in mind this vendetta brewing between the farmer and the buck deer is all in good fun.   After all, isn’t that what the hunting experience should be all about anyway?   Everyone heads out into the woods for very personal reasons…and it’s quite fair to say not every hunter is motivated by the same set of factors.

Yet, oddly enough…if this deer traveled just 7 miles to the northeast of my farm’s location…it would then exist in a Minnesota deer zone protecting bucks like this one.   In fact, here in Minnesota we have a three year experimental project underway that protects bucks that don’t sport at least 4–points on one antler.   This buck clearly does not.

Yes, the antler-obsessed hunters here in Minnesota have long pushed for legislation to manage the hunting experience the way they believe it should be conducted.   Apparently it’s not good enough to use self-control whereby selectively harvesting a mature deer that fits the criteria of a specific hunting party.   Nope, this group of folks want to see Antler Point Restriction (APR) rules spread across the land like a wildfire on the windy prairie.

Okay, I’m not going to discuss the pros and cons of APR in this blog posting.   Instead, what I am going to underscore is the misguided notion among some that all of us hunt for the same reasons.   In fact, I will even go so far as to say pushing for the establishment of certain minimum restrictions on the size a buck deer before it can be legally harvested is downright selfish on the part of the hunters requesting such a prohibition.

This farm where I now hunt and live was first settled by my family back in 1856–-two years before Minnesota even gained statehood.   My ancestors traded provisions for venison with a friendly tribe of Chippewa Indians during those first years so I have a long-standing familial connection with deer hunting taking place on my property.   Indeed, I take personal exception with anyone pushing for game management actions only to better satiate their obsession for shooting a big deer.

Don’t get me wrong…I like big deer, too.   Over the years this farm has been home to some big deer as shown here and here, for example.   Yet, I am fervently opposed to the DNR telling me I am restricted from shooting certain deer because their management objectives are geared solely to satisfy the whims of a certain class of hunters.   When you manage for some hunters and not for all…it fuels a certain elitism that simply has no place in hunting, at least not in my honest opinion.

Yes, thank goodness I still live in a MN deer hunting zone that is not yet affected by rules governing the size of the buck I can harvest in my woods.   Just like the farmer who plans to hunt the particular deer shown in the videos this November, our reasons for hunting are often quite varied and not always fueled by the same passion for large racks.

I think it’s high time both hunters and DNR game managers alike begin to recognize there are differences in what drives each of us to pursue this wonderful sport called deer hunting.   To think we all go hunting for deer sporting massive racks is, well…rather naive at best.   If game management doesn’t involve the physical health of the deer herd, then it ought to be up to the individual hunter—and only that hunter—to choose what constitutes a “shootable” deer.

©2011 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Two Faribault (MN) Men Help Establish A New Wildlife Record

If you were to perform a Google search to determine the longest recorded lifespan for a Barred Owl you’ll discover a plethora of sources all claiming 18 years, 3 months as the well established longevity record for this avian species (found in the wild).   That is until recently when two Faribault area men, acting independently, made an effort to set the new record straight.

This is a story about the beginning and the end for one of nature’s creatures.   Unfortunately, there isn’t much information about what this Barred Owl did during the course of its lifetime, but there’s plenty to prove this particular Barred Owl was no ordinary bird.

Forest-Notes

Field notes taken by Forest Strnad in 1986

It started back on May 24th, 1986, Forest Strnad and a friend visiting from England were hiking in an area now known as the River Bend Nature Center on the southeast side of Faribault, Minnesota.   As they were walking along, the two friends suddenly observed a Barred Owl quickly fly out of a tree cavity.   As a Federally Licensed Bird Bander, Strnad decided to climb up the tree where he eventually found three nestling Barred Owls.

One by one he removed the young birds and brought them to the ground where he banded and recorded his amazing discovery.   Once banded, they were carefully returned to the tree thinking it to be a long-shot they would hear about these birds ever again.

Such is the life of a bird bander.   You leave your mark on a bird with the hopes that someday an interesting story will develop.   In the case of a migratory bird perhaps it will fly thousands of miles away when it is next discovered.   In the case of a Barred Owl, movement is rather minimal over its lifetime so seeing a bird travel even 20 or 30 miles might be an extraordinary circumstance.

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Close-up of bird band recovered by Rost.

Yet, in the case of Barred Owl carrying the band numbered 0667–95412, documented distance is not what made this bird’s discovery so unusual.   Instead, it was the Barred Owl’s age which shattered the previous longevity record by nearly six years.   In fact, a Barred Owl living for almost 24 years is unheard of even in captivity.

But this story doesn’t get written without another critical participant.   Faribault Fire Captain, Todd Rost, was working during June 2010 on a drowning recovery detail along the Cannon River when he witnessed a somewhat usual sight while kayaking.   There, floating in the water, was a tangled mess of feathers and monofilament line.

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Barred Owl as it was found on the Cannon River near Faribault.

Rost contacted me about his discovery concerned about how wildlife can suffer when humans are careless about our trash.   Subsequent to that contact, I blogged about his discovery a year ago which can be read HERE.

Honestly, we thought the story would end there figuring Rost had discovered a banded bird that succumbed to an unfortunate fate due to discarded fishing line.   Yet, the story was far from over as Rost later learned when he reported on the bird’s band information.

Initially Rost reported the bird as likely a Red-Tailed Hawk because it was badly decayed and the feathers were quite faded and water-worn.   Soon thereafter, Rost received a query from the Bird Banding Laboratory verifying information mostly because “we found that age of the bird is unusual.”

Rost followed-up by providing pictures and other documentation to confirm that the bird found was indeed the same Barred Owl that Forest Strnad had banded 24 years earlier.

Today, when you look at the longevity records for owls you will see the new Barred Owl record contains an entry that makes this Faribault area bird somewhat special, at least to folks who find interest in these sort of facts.   It also underscores the importance of bird banding efforts and their subsequent retrieval and reporting.

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Forest Strnad and Todd Rost hold the recovered band from Barred Owl numbered 0667-95412.

Indeed, it’s an unlikely set of circumstances that would bring two Faribault men together to help establish an important record for an owl that lived out its entire life in the wooded river valleys surrounding their town.   Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction for both Strnad and Rost in knowing they helped a local Barred Owl set a new lifespan record having documented 24 years of existence.

Todd's-Cert

Certificate awarded to Todd Rost on his recovery.

As incredible as that fact remains, what may be even more impressive is the knowledge that records show only two owls (of any species) that has been documented to have lived longer than the Faribault area Barred Owl known only as #0667–95412.

As Todd Rost will surely attest, finding a bird of any kind dead and entangled in fishing line is not the desired way to view these majestic creatures.   On the other hand, had this particular Barred Owl died of some other natural cause it might never have been found and reported—and that, too, would have been a great tragedy as we now understand the important facts.

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Blogger’s Note:  If you find a bird of any kind that has been banded, please follow the reporting information on the band or contact the Bird Banding Laboratory for additional information.   The information you provide can be critical to those wildlife professionals who research such details.   Even if you have bands several years old, the information is never too late to report.

Minnesota DNR Final CWD Management Briefing (4/7/11)

The Minnesota DNR held a final teleconference today on their Chronic Wasting Disease surveillance efforts new Pine Island, Minnesota—the location where a single deer tested positive for the disease late last year.

I won’t cover most of the details that can be read in the press release found HERE, but what follows are some tidbits of information gleaned from the question/answer session of the teleconference:

  • The MN DNR was very pleased with the cooperation and assistance by the public on this matter.   In particular, they were impressed how well the private landowners and several conservation organizations worked together on this important effort.
  • The fact that no additional deer tested positive is seen as great news from the DNR that this situation was caught on the front-end so early.
  • This fall hunters can expect a CWD Zone declared in the hunting regulations.   It will likely be the same area that was used in this most recent surveillance effort.
  • This means there will be continued MANDATORY testing of all deer taken within this zone.   In fact, many people in the public have been requesting this mandatory testing continue.   There will be voluntary testing in many of the deer management zones surrounding the CWD zone, once this is established.
  • It also means this zone will likely see more liberalized season and bag limits.   This is mostly due to the fact the area tends to have a high wintering deer density which can add to the CWD problem.
  • It is highly likely the fall firearms season for the CWD zone will be lengthened with fewer restrictions.
  • At this point the DNR is not sure if this will be a short or long term management concern.   It will depend on what happens in the future in regards to testing results.
  • The DNR hopes to have the fall deer hunting plans (hunting regs) finalized within the next month or so.   This will give hunters in this area ample lead time so they can plan their fall hunting activities.
  • Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator, indicated that within this recent testing area on average there are 3.5 to 4.5 deer harvested per square mile (during a normal fall hunting season).   Because this area historically has such high deer densities, that is the reason why the DNR will likely want to increase those harvest numbers.
  • In fact, the DNR figures this fall they will likely get a surveillance size quite similar in scope to what was recently just accomplished.
  • The DNR will not be doing any additional population assessments until late fall/winter.   With the summer foliage and dispersion of the herd it is just too difficult to do with any effectiveness.
  • Expect the recreational feeding ban for deer to remain in effect for some time within this CWD area of concern.

– = End of update = –

©2011 Jim Braaten.  All Rights Reserved.  No Reproduction without Prior Permission.