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  • June 30, 2008

    BuckTracker: No Foolin’!

    By Scott Bestul

    Well, we received only four replies to my request for an explanation of what was happening with Testosterone Tilly (my nickname for Kent Halstead’s cam-tracker deer). Most agreed that this is an antlered doe, and from what we can tell, that assumption is probably correct. Kent himself has researched this topic thoroughly, and the consensus among most biologists is that on rare occasions a doe will produce enough testosterone to grow a set of antlers...but not enough to complete the velvet-shedding, antler-hardening, horn-dropping cycle of an actual buck.

    I do find it fascinating that this deer has rarely been seen by Kent, a devout hunter who spends many, many hours in a treestand each fall. This in addition to massive campaigns devoted to shed hunting, scouting, food plotting and running a trail camera circuit. Since this deer is highly recognizable and would not be missed by Halstead, her wraith-like disposition begs the question: Do older does become as nocturnal and secretive as bucks, or is Tilly’s disappearing act just a function of her personality?

    If nothing else, Tilly is an example of the endless fascination a “common” game animal like the whitetail can generate. She also serves as a poster girl for the appeal of scouting cameras; when they’re out there, it’s amazing what you can learn about your deer herd! With that in mind, I encourage any of you with interesting and/or exciting trail cam pics to send them in. They don’t have to feature antlered does for us to post them!

  • June 26, 2008

    Salmon Anglers Reel In Whitetail Buck

    By Scott Bestul

    From The Toronto Star:

    The salmon were biting yesterday morning when Port Credit[, Ontario] resident John Ozolins and a buddy went out onto Lake Ontario for some early morning fishing. But when the two came back to shore, they had caught more than fish.

    They also hauled in a young male deer, who had been stranded four kilometres out in the lake, swimming south toward the United States.

  • June 26, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Video Report: Another Deer Water Rescue, In California

    Convicted Murderer Challenges Deer DNA Evidence

    Louisiana Changes Deer Hunting Regs

    HSUS Offers $2,500 Reward In Mule Deer Poaching Case

  • June 25, 2008

    BuckTracker: All Velvet, All the Time

    By Scott Bestul

    My friend Kent Halstead is a whitetail nut of the highest order. In addition to being a highly skilled hunter, he’s a student of deer who spends a lot of time observing and learning. As partial evidence, I offer the following series of trail-camera pics that Kent sent me this week. They offer a multi-year glimpse into the life of one special deer. I’ll let him tell the story of this whitetail, then ask for your comments: What’s going on with a deer that grows a freaky rack that never loses its velvet?

    "For several years, I had been getting some strange pictures of a deer that looked like it had big balls of velvet on its head.

    Then on September 16, 2005 I got a strange picture of a freaky velvet antlered deer. What I found really odd was that all the other bucks at this time of year had shed their velvet. The other thing I found strange was this deer was always with doe groups and not part of a bachelor group of bucks typical for this time of year."


    "The following fall my trail cams produced this photo..."


    "Each Winter while doing camera surveys the deer would show up with big balls of velvet still on its head after all the other bucks had shed. In some cases, I could see that the extreme cold was frost cracking the living tissue."



    "In August of 2007 I found this picture on my camera and I really started getting interested in learning more about what was going on with this deer. I spent days researching all the information I could find about abnormal antler growth."


    "I still have never laid eyes on this deer and I put my fair share of time in the bow stand each fall. Each year I would come up with a new series of pictures of this deer, which would send me back in time going through tens of thousands of pictures trying to piece the puzzle together.

    The last picture was taken this summer on 6-24-2008. And so the story continues..." - Kent Halstead

  • June 19, 2008

    BuckTracker: The Case of the Lonely Doe

    By Scott Bestul

    We don’t get a lot of reader mail here at Buck Tracker, but this note came in this week from a gentleman in Pennsylvania. He writes:

    Me and my neighbors are puzzled by a female deer who is always alone she is not afraid if one gets near her to throw some bread, apples ect.  But she is always alone no deer friends, family, just always alone.  We think she was kicked out of a tribe or maybe has a disease all though she looks perfectly healthy.  Thank you for your time me and nieghbors would greatly appreciate any info you may have.

    Without more information I am kind of reading between the lines, but I’ll take a guess that the doe in question is getting her share of handouts in the form of  “bread, apples, and ect” (whatever ect is..perhaps a new energy drink?).

    Well, funny things happen when people feed deer. Some whitetails will take a tidbit and remain nervous about it for life. Unfortunately others quickly get used to the program and start pondering such deep thoughts as “why eat tree buds?”  Or “welfare is so much nicer than foraging!” And—in the case of this creature, I’m guessing—inanities like “am I truly a deer? Or perhaps something cooler…a Holstein cow? A golden retriever?”

    Don’t get me wrong; I have fed deer in the winter and enjoyed watching their antics. It also gave me a warm, happy feeling inside. But I have the advantage of hosting a hard-hunted (and therefore highly nervous) herd of about 10 whitetails that—no matter how good the eats—are still scared to death of me. Plus, once the snow leaves, I derail the gravy train and let my friends fend for themselves. I suggest you do the same. In my opinion, your doe has not been ousted by her “tribe” and if she is vertical and taking nourishment she is probably not diseased. Of course, I’m wide open to further diagnosis from my Buck Tracker tribe…

    Your thoughts?

  • June 19, 2008

    Three Decades of Whitetail365

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Kansas City Star:

    The Stevensons' home was amid an enclosed deer farm just outside of Bayfield. Esther sometimes complained about all the whitetail nose smudges on her patio doors. Stan even had one buck that joined him on runs through the property on numerous occasions.

    Stan Stevenson, 75, has gathered all of those memories - and 162 color photos - in a book titled, "Living With Deer."…

    The Stevensons had names for many of the bucks - Rambo, Butch, Wren, Pat, Rudy, Tripod (missing part of a leg), Gabriel and the remarkable Dasher with his 35-point nontypical rack. Many of the book's photos are snapshots of family members feeding deer, lying down with deer or petting deer.

  • June 19, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Minnesota Simplifies Licensing For Deer Hunters

    Kansas Deer Wrecks 14-Passenger RV

    Sundays Now Open To Alberta Deer Hunters

    Corned-Venison Hash, Anyone?

  • June 17, 2008

    Whitetail Hunting…It’s a Gas

    By Scott Bestul

    It is months away from deer season, and already I’m seeing more bucks—indeed, more deer overall—than I have in the last several years. This is surprising to me, considering the winter we endured in the upper Midwest, one of the toughest in recent memory. So it is a good thing to be seeing deer, and remembering their amazing capacity to tough out snow and cold and wind for months on end...and then start pumping out fawns and growing antlers and doing all the things they do so effortlessly each year.

    Still, even with all this good news, it is still too early to make any legitimate prediction about how hunters will fare in the upcoming season. Except, that is, for this: It is going to cost us a heckuva lot more money to chase deer around than it ever has. Here in Minnesota, gas prices are dancing around $4 per gallon, and though I used to ignore doom-n-gloom predictions about rising petrol costs, I’d have to be an idiot to do so now.

    So I’m looking into my crystal ball (which has a reflective prism into my bank account) and wondering what to cut for the fall ahead. How much will I save if I don’t run a scouting camera trail this year? Should I reduce the number of evenings I drive to my hunting spots and glass for bachelor groups? And though I’m lucky enough that, in a typical year, I get to deer hunt in two or three states, maybe this fall would be a good one to stick close to home. So what about you? Are fuel costs going to affect your planting and/or maintenance of food plots? Scouting trips? Actual deer hunts? Or will you bite the bullet and just accept high gas prices as necessary pain for being a deer hunter? Tell me your thoughts, and share the price of a gallon of unleaded (or diesel) in your area….

  • June 6, 2008

    Michigan May Start Targeting Albino Deer

    By Scott Bestul

    From an AP story on Fox News:

    It's been illegal to take all-white deer in Michigan since the 1980s.

    But state officials said there's no scientific reason for the ban because albinism comes from an undesirable genetic mutation.

    Also, it can be hard for hunters to distinguish between albinos and piebald deer, which are mostly white but have a few brown spots.

    A hunter from Indian River filed a defamation suit after he was accused of killing an albino in 2004. A state investigation determined the man broke no laws.

  • June 6, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Airline Bumps Antler Flying Fee To $100

    Toledo Police Perform C-Section To Save Fawn
    (They also gave the newborn “nose-to-mouth” resuscitation.)

    Cleveland Authorities Bag Three Downtown Deer

    Wisconsin Deer Hits Wine Store

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