WHITETAIL DEER – Odocoileus virginianus
Deer are a big part of our lives. There’s rarely a day goes by that we don’t see several of them while looking out the window or coming up the driveway. They can be very annoying by eating some of my favorite evergreens and my hosta plants, but there’s nothing to be done about that and we just have to accept it. Everyone in the family is a deer hunter. Venison replaces beef in our house. It’s probably been 30 years or more since I’ve bought beef in the store.
The video below is of a couple of deer eating on the hillside right behind the house. Another “patio door” capture.
In Wisconsin, any kid that wants to go hunting must take Hunter Safety. They usually take it when they are ten or eleven. Then they can hunt with a licensed adult at their sides, within arm’s reach. From ages 12 through 13 they can hunt with a licensed adult who is within sight and voice contact with them. At age 14 they may hunt without being accompanied by an adult. In 2014, her first deer hunt at age 11, our granddaughter Braiden shot a doe. In 2015, at age 12, she shot her first buck, and it was bigger than any other buck anyone in the family shot that season!
Bucks shed their antlers every year, usually starting in January and most of them will have lost their antlers by the end of March, depending on age and climate. Once they are shed, new antlers start growing. They emerging antlers are covered in a membrane called “velvet.” This membrane provides amino acids, proteins, and other substances which promote growth. During the summer, higher levels of the male hormone testosterone cause a slow down in the antler growth, and the veins and arteries around the velvet begin to shrink and cut off the blood and nutrient supply to the antlers. The velvet then dries out and begins to fall off. The buck helps remove the velvet by rubbing his antlers on tree trunks.
My grandson got off the four wheeler and started walking towards the deer. It happened to be one of those rare years when we had a terrible mosquito problem. My grandson was so excited about the deer but had to keep whacking the mosquitoes away. I didn’t want him to get any closer to them, because I was a bit worried the doe might attack him because she had two fawns with her.
When the snow gets really deep it’s tough on the deer. Times like these, they are left with nothing to eat but pine needles.
Unfortunately, a lot of deer don’t make it and die of starvation, as this little doe we found about 300′ from the house. Every time I look at this picture I wonder how difficult it was to just give up. She obviously balled up, trying to keep warm, but death over-took her.
DEER FACTS: Wisconsin leads the nation in the number of “trophy” deer harvested. These are deer whose antlers (only the males have them), reach a certain spread and number of tines. Wisconsin is the all-time leader in Boone and Crocket (a deer scoring system) record entries for the last ten years.
Wisconsin boasts the nation’s largest single season deer harvest ever recorded: 615,293 in the year 2000.
In the last decade, more than 600,000 deer hunters have participated in deer hunting annually and harvested an average of 482,645 deer. In 2015 there were over 800,000 deer hunters out there.
Wisconsin has the largest corps of volunteer hunter education instructors in North America – 5,630 active instructors provide 12,000 courses annually to more than 30,000 students.
Wisconsin ranks seventh among states in the likelihood of deer-vehicle collisions. The odds of hitting a deer on a Wisconsin road are 1 in 77. Over 18,000 deer/auto collisions happend every year here. And yes, we have hit deer. Three times!
TURKEY – Meleagris gallopavo
Turkeys are native to Mexico and North America. They are not imported species! It is not true that Benjamin Franklin lobbied for the turkey, instead of the eagle, to be our National symbol. Jefferson, Franklin, and John Adams were to select a design for the National Seal, but couldn’t agree on anything. It was turned over to William Barton, an artist, and he designed the seal with a golden eagle. Since that bird was also in Great Britain, and the war was still waging, they changed it to a bald eagle, a bird present only in North America, and Congress approved the design on June 20, 1782. It was not till a year after the Revolutionary War was over that Franklin lamented that he wished they’d chosen a turkey, as he said they were brave birds that “would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.” However, the eagle stayed.
We have quite a few turkeys around here. Not like it was 15 or 20 years ago, when flocks of 50 could be spotted on the hillsides. These days it’s nice to see a flock of 6 or 7. As they are ground nesters, the coyotes have taken a terrible toll on them.
The turkey on the right in the video below is called a “jake,” which means a young tom (male). You can see the beginnings of his beard starting on his chest.
On Friday, Feb. 19 2016, we had winds that were reaching 60 MPH. Apparently, the turkey in the photos below was trying to fly somewhere, and a gust of wind caught it and slammed it into the neighbor’s house. Her house is down at the base of our hill, next to our driveway. She called us around 3:30 PM to ask if we could come remove it, and told us it hit the house at 7 AM. If she had called us when it hit, we’d have been eating turkey for supper that night! But after it laid there 8 hours, without being bled out, we didn’t want to mess with it, so it went on the “dead critter pile” to lure coyotes.
Amazing colors on the head. Not really sure if the purplish color around the eyes and beak is natural or due to death.
GAME CAMERA PICS
We keep a few game cameras out in the woods just to see what’s coming along in the night. The main reason for them, of course, is checking out the bucks and the size of their racks in the late summer and early fall. We get lots of deer on the camera, but also raccoons and coyotes. The deer pics are interesting.
The pic below is the buck in the picture above. Our son got it in 2012, the year after it appeared on the game camera.
Everyone around here hates the coyotes. When we moved here 45 years ago there weren’t any. None! Then, about 25 years ago we would hear one howling now and then. Now it’s every night. Coincidental with the increase of coyotes has been the notable decrease, and total absence in some cases, of several types of wildlife. Before the coyotes came, we’d hear the whippoorwills singing every night in the summer. We haven’t heard a single one in at least 20 years. Whippoorwills build their nests on the ground where the coyotes kill them.
Another bird that used to be so numerous that we’d hear them on a daily basis in the summer is the ruffed grouse. It has been gone for the last 20 years as well. It’s another ground-nester. Along with the whippoorwill and ruffed grouse, we have lost the bob-white quail. Formerly numerous, this ground-nesting bird is but a memory here. Turkey numbers have also been decimated. There used to be flocks of 30 to 50 or more birds out in the fields. Now we might see a group of five or six. Another ground-nester. I hate coyotes.
If we’re fortunate, one of our hunting party will come across a coyote and shoot it during deer season. My husband and I have purchased a remote-operated coyote call and will be hunting them during the nights when there’s a full moon and it’s not freezing. When we find a dead animal somewhere we place it in a spot where coyotes will feed on it and where it is clearly visible from my son’s hayloft in his barn. He’s been able to get a few by sitting up there on full-moon nights.
On Jan. 31 2010, my husband was walking in the area of our park down in our valley and found a dead, almost totally eaten, little 3 point buck. On Feb 2, 2010, two days later, we were both walking down there and found a dead little nubbin buck, which hadn’t been eaten, but killed by coyotes. At 5:15 PM on that day, my husband dragged the dead deer out into the field, not far from where we had a hunting blind set up. He went into the blind and waited to see if a coyote would come in, figuring he might be there a few hours. Only 35 minutes later, however, a coyote came up to feed on the deer, and my husband got it.
COYOTES ON THE GAME CAMERA
Most of the following pics have date and time stamps on them. Some are from our land across the road and some are on our property here by the house. The following pics were all taken at different times, and in different years.
The pic below was on a game camera that was put about 150′ behind our house. If you look at the time on the pic, 11:39 AM, it’s rather distressing to me to have a coyote so close during the day when my dog is often running into the woods if I am working in the flower garden outside.
The pic below is interesting. One morning in November my husband drove the four wheeler across the road to spread some manure he had in the cart. There had been a coyote laying down on the frost-covered grass, and he must have heard the 4 wheeler coming and left before my husband rounded the hill and saw it. It left its outline.
Every now and then a really odd animal shows up on the game camera!
Check out our next page on wildlife by clicking on the drop-down menu at the top of the page or click here: OPPOSSUMS, RACCOONS, SNAPPERS, and MORE!