Days 11 & 12: Wildlife Management Field Course – Pymatuning Ecology Lab
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Week 3 started off with a multi-site field tour with the local agricultural extension agents. 2 nice ladies from the Crawford County office walked us through how dairy and beef operations curtail their waste management systems to avoid water quality and wetlands degradation, spoke out soil friendly farming implements such as the no-till planters, and described how short-rotation grazing management can be used to manage for native warm season grass communities. The last aspect was probably my favorite though we learned a lot at each stop.

The main message was how to get agricultural producers to still care about wildlife and wildlife habitat. Federal subsidies through programs like the Farm Bill and the Conservation Reserve Program got their roots through concerns over soil erosion and water quality, but have blossomed into full spectrum conservation programs ranging from field borders for bobwhite quail to wildflowers for pollinator habitat.

Later on that Monday, we were able to conduct some wildlife necropsies back at the field station. I had the local game warden on alert for a fresh road-kill and he came through in flying colors. A student salvaged a Canada goose from the roadside as well. It was amazing to see how the different students interacted with the experience – some keeping their distance, others getting right in there…literally.

There is lots to talk about while taking apart a deer or a goose…diseases and how to test for them, how to estimate condition and health from a variety of diagnostic indexes ranging from kidney fat to breastbone protrusion, how to age the deer, how to sex the goose, differences in avian versus ruminant digestive processes, and a host of other interesting things.

With Monday pretty well gone, we made plans to complete data collection for our various research projects and spend the rest of the day in the computer lab entering data and using GIS to extract some more landscape/habitat variables to conduct our analyses. This was great experience for the students and several really took to the GIS software while others got excited about statistics…yes, they got excited about statistics.

This continued on into and consuming all of Tuesday as well. By that evening, every group had gotten mostly through their data analysis and went on about the business of interpreting their results and beginning to write term papers/develop project presentations which were both due on Friday.

Day 10: Wildlife Management Field Course – Pymatuning Ecology Lab
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Friday of the second week was another data collection blitz. Every group had more than a full day’s worth of work waiting for them, and each made a great push for the week’s end.

Point counts, tree measurements, revisiting scent stations to look for tracks, sweeping old field habitats, and scouring underbrush for signs of deer browsing.

Preseason Scouting, Part 2 – Ohio Deer Season 2015
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It was funny to me how my number #1 objective for scouting this summer was to find quality hard mast sources to focus my hunting during the month of October. Funny only because there are none. Slight exaggeration, because I did find a precious few red oaks and pin oaks with acorns, but not a single white oak in central Ohio to be found. I’ve got the benefit of being able to look at the mast surveys conducted by the state’s DNR, and their counts mirrored mine…mostly zeroes.

Course I do have a huge oak raining mast in my backyard. Make good targets when smashed into the foam of my BLOB target.

Other than the soft mast I can find, my early season food focus will probably be rather plain and simple. Get between good bedding areas and corn fields – cut or otherwise. This field should be quality as it is a full 1.2 miles from the nearest public access. Never hunted this one before, so it’s on the agenda for the first NE or E wind we get.

Another couple stands I hung for when things break loose in November.

I had the best scouting partner this summer. Raelyn was eager to head to the woods most Saturday mornings during the past 2 months, and we would hike into 1 or 2 areas before it got too hot. A gas station ice cream cone out of the freezer became a bit of a ritual, and before the summer wrapped up – she was pointing out deer trails, old rubs, and trees where “you can bow a big one there, dad”.

That wraps up my scouting posts, and I’ll soon start recounting my season sit-by-sit, encounter-by-encounter. My favorite time of the year has arrived! Best of luck to everyone this fall, and be safe!

Preseason Scouting, Part 1 – Ohio Deer Season 2015
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I’m typing this blog post on the 25th of September, but I know full well that opening weekend for Ohio’s archery season (starts tomorrow) is once again not an option for me. I am headed up to Lake Erie to take my Wildlife Ecology Methods class on a weekend-long field trip. That’s alright though because the 10-day forecast is looking good midways into next week.

In the past couple months, I’ve probably gotten out 6 or 7 times to trim lanes, scout new areas, get a gauge of the year’s crop rotation, and even hang a few of my wooden DIY treestands. As far as bucks go, I’m not chasing anything in particular at this point. Saw 6 or 8 bucks here and there while scouting/glassing this summer, but nothing impressive and worth focusing on. Just looking forward to getting in the woods and seeing what the fall has in store.

Lots of apples around this fall, but the only ones still hanging on are crab apples. All the normal apples hit the ground in late August that I could find. The couple “groves” of crab apples are located in some pretty thick CRP/old field areas, so hunting near that food source will definitely be one strategy for my early season. I don’t know want to be too aggressive though, as the bedding areas and feeding areas overlap in those circumstances – probably just hunt the fringes.

I spent considerable time looking in and around some wetlands for high ground. I think I found a couple good spots that should be overlooked, but should be productive areas for the rut. Flushed up quite a few woodcock and took pictures of this muddy basin with the tell-tale signs of probing for earthworms.

Flushed a red-tailed hawk off his breakfast one morning.

Got to love a tree that you can climb 20′ up without a single aid. Doesn’t hurt when this is the view from altitude either. Very much looking forward to hunting this thicket during the rut. Surrounded on all sides by wet ground.

My Deer Gear for 2015
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Seems I’ve spend considerable time recounting my various gear lists/pack ensembles assembled for several Western hunts during the last 3 years (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4, could go on but won’t), but I can’t ever remember doing a similar thing for deer hunting here on the eastern side of the country.

I won’t report itemized weights or even an overall pack weight, but suffice it to say, you can fall into the same trap hunting whitetails in the East – carrying more than you need and will ever use. I could upgrade a couple pieces of equipment to shave weight but I use every single item I’ll picture in this post during almost every single sit in the whitetail woods.

Cheapest grunt call available besides my own vocal cords. Honestly, my annual grunt call usually gets moisture in the reed and accumulates enough dust, seeds, and crud to destroy before midseason every year. Sooner or later I’ll get sick of it and switch to making grunts/bleats with my own voice. That pattern repeats itself every year but I’m stubborn enough that I start every year with another $5 call in my pocket.

Did some hacksaw modifications to my rattling antlers, but these are the same ones I’ve been carrying 4 years running.

Wind puffer (non-essential but virtually bulk- and weight-free), shortest articulating bow arm I could find, lightest headlamp on the market that I know of, and my rangefinder which doubles as my pull rope organizer. This year I’m going to carry 2 strands. One to pull up my pack and bow, and one to pull up my Muddy hang-on stand. That will save me an extra trip down the tree every time.

Lightweight pair of gloves and my beloved merino wool buff. Kill kit consists of a Ziploc bag with all the necessary tags, permits, twist-ties, and permission slips. 15 or 20 feet of flagging if I need to blaze a trail or mark something. My Havalon and 2 extra blades. 2 game bags. A 36-bulb LED flood light for blood trailing duties and extra batteries. The Clip-Shot is new this fall and is a 1 ounce solution for taking self-timer “hero” pics. I’m looking forward to trying that out this fall.

My Tree Pod camera arm is one of those items with lighter versions available, but the price tag has scared me away so far. Loves this though. Swivels at the auger and at the elbow, so you can articulate the set-up nearly 360 degrees in the tree. Very stable too and no aggravation of ratchets and straps.

My Vortex Viper HD’s are the last picture I’ll post. These are the best quality binos I’ve ever owned and see no further upgrades in my near future (life?) being necessary in this department.

By the time you don the safety harness, grab the bow, snatch up 4 climbing sticks and my Muddy lock-on stand, and throw a full pack on your pack…are we elk hunting for 7 days? In all honesty, my 1 evening whitetail kit weighs more than my 7 day elk pack. Not sure how I could possibly trim weight without a substantial change in strategies, such as switching to a tree saddle system, but I’m actually satisfied with my setup for my mobile style of hunting public land. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve this fall for getting into the stand faster too, but more on that during my upcoming scouting posts.

Infolinks 2013