When it comes to tracking and managing the deer on your property, these are some deer management tools that can help ensure your getting the right information.
Much like in the medical field, to monitor if someone's conditions are improving or declining, you must first gather a set of baseline vitals. It's crucial that the doctor, nurse or EMT not just gather that set of baseline vitals, but that they're collected correctly. If the process in which they are gathered changes, or is done in a different manner, the information may or may not be consistent. You may wonder where I'm going with this but let's tie this all into managing your whitetail property.
As a property manager of over 2,700 acres in the state of Maryland, I use these tools every year. I currently operate as a project manager of the Patriot Natural Resources and am the coordinator of Patriot Pursuits and the Whitetail Removal Team. This job entails property and herd analysis, herd and wildlife management and overall boots on the ground, working with communities and land owners to provide and achieve specific goals pertaining to environmental and habitat services.
Some goals may be to reduce the overall deer population, some may be to increase the number of mature bucks on a property. Overall, whatever the desired goal of the land owner, we cannot make progress without understanding where we currently stand and setting a goal of where we want to go. To gather this information below are the tools I use to collect the data.
1. Hunterra Property Map
Knowing your property is of the utmost importance to success. A high-quality map can aide in learning and understanding your property. I've found no other maps to offer the same quality as those from Hunterra Maps. Hunterra offers a great amount detail from contour lines to high-resolution topographic imagery you won't get from most other brands. Make clear specific hunting areas, food plots and potential other land use in great detail. The Hunterra map is a great wildlife management tool for all management plans.
2. Data Collection Forms
As a property manager, if you don't record it, it never happened. Luckily for Patriot Pursuits and Top Pin Outdoors, the deer hunters on our properties are very good at recording their information during the hunting season. Some of the tools we use are deer harvest records, personal observation logs, check-in and check-out logs, trail camera analysis forms and property observation logs. Each form has its own purpose and place in the management plan.
We're able to check on deer population, target a carrying capacity for our private land owners and let the deer hunters work toward that goal. Ensuring your members fill out the forms accordingly is of the utmost importance to habitat improvement. We share our numbers with many wildlife agencies and often work directly with wildlife biologists. When it comes to wildlife managers, it's important to record as much data and information as you possibly can.
3. Trail Camera
To collect information on your deer when you're not around, trail cameras can be a huge help. In the past, we used to base the majority of our data off field observations. Both field and nighttime scouting under a spotlight would help us gather a great deal of information on our deer herd. Trail cameras, however, provide a tremendous amount of information as they get up close and personal and are constantly active.
Trail cameras all have pros and cons. For the purpose of analyzing deer herds, I like a high-quality camera that's effective during the day and at night. Often, if you're running your trail camera over a bait pile, even some of your lower-end cameras can work as trigger speed of a walking by deer isn't what you are trying to capture. Nonetheless, the better the images, the more information you can gather from them.
I've had the best luck with my Moultrie s50-i and my Browning Spec Ops Advantage and Recon Force Advantage. I've found these cameras take great-quality day shots and crisp, nighttime images. If you're on a tighter budget and looking for a lower-quality camera, you may want to consider getting the Red Glow IR trail cameras. Although not invisible like the Black Flash cameras, often times it provides a brighter light at night. This brighter light can aid your lower-quality cameras with higher-quality nighttime images. To see how to properly perform a trail camera analysis, be sure to check out the QDMA website.
4. Jawbone Extractor With Sheers
When it comes to collecting data, we'll often want to collect as much information as possible. This information can help us get a grasp on our deer herd and note if there are any changes through the years. For me, it's also fun to guess the age or weight and then compare at the end of the year just how close I was.
The best way to gather the age of the deer is by their teeth. Without sending it in to be examined, you can do your best to compare and contrast each jawbone to the jawbones of the specific-aged buck. A great tool to gather the jawbone is Jawbone Extractor from the QDMA store. Using a pair of sheers, the jawbone extractor and a little practice, you can quickly remove a deer's jawbone.
This method won't affect a deer you want to later mount at the taxidermist, so it's safe for every deer harvested on your property. The QDMA offers charts to compare the jawbones, too. There are also aging tools from companies like Hot Shot Manufacturing that can really help age your deer.
5. A Good Game Scale and Game Hoist
A high-quality game scale, like the Moultrie 440-Pound Big Game Scale, doesn't have to break the bank. It is, however, important to get a scale that'll last you all year and provide a consistent reading. Using different scales, locations or methods throughout the season can provide you with different readings and skew your information.
Moultrie also offers a Hangin Feeder Hoist that works great in conjunction with the Big Game Scale. This isn't only great for heavy feeders, but makes weighing or hanging a deer super easy without having to build an entire setup for it. Make weighing each deer on your property a priority, record the data and keep it simple.
6. Tape Measure
When collecting data for your harvest records, you'll want to score your buck. This can provide a great deal of information for years to come. As the years go on, figuring in your weight, age and score can help you manage your deer and make better harvesting decisions.
Trophy Tape from Wildgame Innovation can offer a quick and fairly accurate gross measurement of your deer's score. If this is enough, you can just use this information. We use the trophy tape in the field and then have the same team member score every buck for the actual data entry. This provides a quick way to fill in the blanks and then you can get a more accurate score later after the season.
7. Fetus Scale
You can spend all the money you want on apps, moon guides and magazine subscriptions to try to determine the rut in your area. The very best tool is the fetus scale from QDMA.
Upon harvesting a late-season doe that's carrying a fetus, you can measure the fetus to determines its exact day of conception. That date of conception tells you when the doe bred, which ultimately tells you the peak rut in your specific area. No magazine article or hunter from the other side of the continental United States can give you that specific detail. When used in conjunction with other pregnant does, you can collect information and configure a peak breeding date in your area.
8. Spotting Scope
A good spotting scope can help you truly get a good look at your deer herd from a distance. Of course, spotting scopes work well for other areas of hunting, especially out in the Midwest where you truly need to spot with a high-quality pair of binoculars and lock in with a good spotting scope.
I'm currently using the new Maven S.1a spotting scope. I prefer Maven when it comes to spending a little more money as Maven Optics is a direct-to-consumer brand. This means they cut out the middle man so more of my money is going to a better-quality product. If you don't believe you'll get much use out of a spotting scope on your property, say you're mostly woodland, a good pair of binoculars will do.
9. Attractant or Whole Corn
For a good trail camera analysis, you'll certainly need an attractant. I found whole corn to work very well during our trail camera analysis.
Over a three-week process, I'm bound to get least one photo of 95 percent of the deer on my property. With that information, I can figure out so much about my deer herd. Once I complete my trail camera analysis, I'll move my trail cameras to a more distinct area where I'll target specific deer.
Here's when I'll add or completely switch over to an attractant, and I've tried many. I've always had the best luck with Monster Meal attractant. In the past, I've tried artificial scrapes, whole corn, drips, scents and even other attractants and minerals, and I can honestly say I've had the best luck with Monster Meal in my studies. During this time, my trail camera delay will decrease to one-minute intervals and I'll work to try to get several angles of the bucks on my property. From here, I can make better decisions when the time comes to harvest or pass on the deer.
I'd say here you need to maintain a good record of your trail camera photos, but nothing has been better at doing that than DeerLab.com. This software offers a big bang for your buck, pun intended. You simply upload your images and DeerLab will spit out a great deal of charts, graphs and data that share with you and your deer herd activity. For both deer hunting and managing property, this software can help tremendously.
Want to know what moon phase has deer the most active? Simply filter to daytime images and filter through your moon phases. In seconds, you can find more information about your deer herd than you could ever record yourself. I use DeerLab.com to store all trail cameras images. Even though I don't use it for my trail camera analysis, I still upload those images, too. Overall, it's a great tool for you to have whether you're managing a property or just keeping track of deer movement.
BONUS: QDMA Online Deer Steward I Class
Knowledge is of course the best tool you can use when it comes to managing your property. I've said it before and will say it until I die, you cannot ever learn enough when it comes to the white-tailed deer and their habitat. Just when you thought you figured them out, a study will provide you with information in the contrary. For years, we thought the moon had an effect on the rut. However, we've found that it has more of an effect on daytime movement, thus, making us believe it had to do with the rut.
Much like the moon, there are many things the QDMA and their friends have come to find out. Your membership fee and your commitment to deer and land stewardship makes the QDMA strive to be even better than before. I took the Deer Steward I online class this past year and realized I knew just the surface level of what I've been doing for 20 years.