Bucks Up

yardbuck-1

Now that the freezer is full of moose, there’s little to no pressure on me to harvest a deer. So I haven’t, and likely won’t. But I enjoy the hunt, so have been out quite a bit.

I haven’t been seeing a lot. The last few years have been hard on the regional deer population; hard winters, lots of wolves and lots of hunting pressure. Plus there’s little logging going on anymore, so the quality and quantity of deer habitat is rapidly declining. When all those factors are combined, I would estimate they’ve resulted in ‘our’ deer herd being reduced at least 80% from what it was 7-8 years ago. That’s a big reduction.

And it shows in terms of what I’ve been seeing. Back in the glory years, I’d see on average 5-10 deer every day I spent in the field. This year, most days I haven’t seen any deer at all. I have seen some, but only one buck, the one in the photo. A nice buck for sure, but certainly not a monster. I suspect it’s a 3 1/2 year old. I let him walk, as I have with the does and fawns I’ve seen.

It’s been a strange rut, based on my personal observations as well as what my hunting friends and acquaintances are telling me. Except in the city, where deer are still relatively numerous, there’s little sign of bucks chasing does. Maybe it has something to do with the weather, as it’s been unusually mild. Years ago, most of the ponds and smaller lakes were frozen by the middle of November, and there was almost always at least a few inches of snow on the ground.  Nothing is frozen as yet, and it’s raining today – although snow is predicted later this week.

My friend Deryk thinks deer numbers are just so low that the usual frenzy of the deer rut just isn’t apparent. There are deer rubs and scrapes, but in many areas nothing that would get a big buck hunter too excited.

Then there are the wolves. I had cut the antlers off the moose head, leaving the head in the driveway to be hauled away later. Well, that night, when Lil let the dogs out, all hell broke loose. Dory started going apoplectic and ran down the hill barking her head off (Neva was also barking her face off, but she was tied up. Dory is crippled, and seldom strays more than a few meters from the deck, so usually she doesn’t get tied up). Lil managed to catch up to Dory, grabbing her by the tail before she disappeared into the darkness down the road.

The next day, it was apparent it was wolves that caused the dogs to go off. There was the moose head, dragged down the driveway, but abandoned no more than 8 meters from the basement door, which is where they must have been when Lil opened the main door on the back deck to let the dogs out.

Later that night the wolves were back, howling away around our house, with one of them no more than a couple of hundred meters distant. They howled off and on for hours, still at it by noon the following day.

I wonder if the white wolf we saw earlier was one of the howlers and part of the pack that tried to run off with the moose head. Probably.

Needless to say, the deer made themselves scarce, and vanished from our property to parts unknown. They have yet to return.

At the end of the day, I think the rut has yet to get into full swing. The next full moon is near the end of the month, and coupled with cooler weather, will, I think, change deer behaviour and trigger the rutting frenzy usually associated with our local white-tails.

I guess we’ll see.

BTW, I took this photo when it was almost dark, shooting with the ISO cranked up to 16,000! In RAW format and a Bit depth of 14. Modern photography equipment is awesome.

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16 comments
  1. LArry Skinkle said:

    very similar observations here Bruce. Rut and signs of rut are minimal , bucks are showing up now but have been very shy around cameras and bait as well. Deer numbers are down as well but better than last year. Larry Skinkle

  2. Thanks, Larry, for sharing your observations. I think deer numbers here are down from last year. A holdover of the terrible 2013-14 winter, as well as the other factors I mentioned. If wolf numbers drop off this winter, deer numbers in some areas (like where I live!!) will rebound, but overall, I think they’ll continue to decline because of the lack of logging.

  3. WLDK said:

    Why is the city pemitting killing deer in city limits when historically it was never like that If deer herds have dropped by 80 per cent,?

    • The deer herd right in the heart of the city is still high, although they aren’t as numerous even there as before. It’s out in the country where the numbers are really suppressed. In the city, people seem to love the deer, or hate them (you can’t have a garden unless it’s fenced off, or you grow specific plants the deer won’t eat).

  4. WLDK said:

    Bowhunting nuisance deer in residential areas poses no threat to the public? Do other cities do this too?

    • There is always some risk, and mistakes can happen (e.g., a poor shot and off runs a wounded deer to who knows where). There are some restrictions, including minimum property size where hunting can occur (5 ac, I think), hunters need permission from landowners and some public lands are not open for hunting purposes (the city provides a map of public lands within its borders showing where hunting can and can’t occur). Thunder Bay has a similar hunt.
      In the USA, hunting in residential areas of cities is relatively common. Some cities (Minneapolis, I believe) also allow gun hunts. In Soo Michigan, there is a weekend in September when goose hunting (with shotguns) is allowed within the city where there are large expanses of lawn, like school yards.

  5. WLDK said:

    Wouldn’t the shape of the property make a big difference as it relates to people? An arrow goes pretty far as you know.

    Interesting stuff. Are you saying only two cities in Canada do this? What was the model for this? How long do they allow the harvest of nuisance deer in the city?

    • I only know of Kenora and Thunder Bay (there may be others), but just to be clear, it is the provinces and territories that set out seasons and limits for big game. Municipalities can only enact bylaws that prohibit discharge of firearms – so if there isn’t a bylaw prohibiting use of firearms, one can hunt in the municipality, given all other laws that might apply (e.g., safety laws of various sorts). So I am 100% sure there are many cities in Canada where there is hunting within the city limits. Timmins comes to mind.
      In Kenora, I think the season where one can hunt (only with a bow, again it’s a bylaw) is the same as the WMU the City is in (7B), or slightly less. And by the way, I actually live within the city limits, but there are no bylaws in this part of the city restricting discharge of firearms, so it’s hunting – rifles, shotguns, bows and muzzleloaders – as in the rest of the WMU (except a bylaw that does apply is that I can’t feed or bait animals, bird feeders excluded, as long as they meet certain requirements).

  6. WLDK said:

    You may have missed my query – wouldn’t the shape of the property be relevant? If a piece of property is a mile long and 40 feet wide even though that equals 5 acres, a bow could easily leave the boundary (as well as the deer).Since hunters must wear orange to protect themselves from each other in rural areas and there isn’t anything to protect people who aren’t hunting from hunters particularly if they are hunting in residential areas, doesn’t this put people at risk?

    Since harvesting nuisance deer is barred I guess I’m having trouble understanding how a two day goose hunt compares. Thanks for your help.

  7. You have a point, but I didn’t design the bylaw and I don’t think it’s my job to defend what the city has done. When I was with MNR, I had some input into their decisions (the town, working on its deer hunting bylaw), but not a lot. And as I said earlier, there is always risk in whatever is being done or proposed. The hunt in the city is in it’s 4th year, I believe, and to date there has been no serious issues. Most residents are OK with the limited hunt, as deer (mostly does with fawns) have attacked dogs being taken on walks. I’m not aware of all the details, but suffice to say a lot of people in the city would prefer to see fewer deer there.
    I only brought up the goose hunt to show that there is a wide range of tolerance insofar as urban hunting is concerned.

  8. WLDK said:

    There’s a deer hunting bylaw? A municipality can enact hunting laws?

  9. WLDK said:

    OK, I was confused. First I thought you meant they can only enact laws prohibiting firearms but then you said deer hunting bylaw and, I thought hunting laws were the province’s powers only. I guess you mean a firearm bylaw?

  10. Sam Menard said:

    Hi Bruce, i was hunting the Rainy River area a few weeks back. Deer numbers around closer to the border were about the same as last year. In the forest,, in/around unit 7B, it was a different story – not many. I was surprised to see that some big bucks were shot this fall, so that goes to show, after the severe winters that we’ve had, how tenacious these animals can be.I shot a heavy racked 10 pointer, but there wasn’t much to the body as it dressed out at 175 pounds. Although I didn’t check the teeth, I suspect it was past prime.

    There are still quite a few wolves around, and until they run out of food, I suspect a slow recovery in the deer herd.

    Sam

  11. Lots of wolves. They are howling around my house many days during the daytime. Saw two while walking the dog the other day. I agree, deer herd recovery will be slow. Wolves will clean out many pockets of deer this winter, but will likely still starve in big numbers.

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