Deer Range and Size and Health


September 5, 2008, 12:47 PM
Am posting this solely to generate discussion of the stated topics. Anyone who cannot read without getting their regional ego offended please stop here.

Here in Ohio the deer in much of the state live in what is essentially a year-round smorgasboard.

Though we sometimes have spells of really nasty winter weather - our winters often see few days, if any, with temps below 5 degrees or so.

The terrain is a mix of expansive grain and hay croplands and lots of mast-bearing trees (primarily Oaks and Beech). What this amounts to is that -even in the lean times of winter - the bucks and pregnant does have winter crops and mast readily available in substantial quantity and not very much inclement weather to put up with.

Spring - in varying degrees of "Springiness" gets under way in March and the does go into the fawning season well-fed with early beans and hay and eagerly meeting the tender emerging warm-season crops and vegetation.

By the time the fawns are big enough to start weaning, the soy bean plants have their succulant tops right at about "fawn height" and that will last until Aug/Sept. - just in time for the trees to start carpeting the place with protein and fat-rich nuts. That diet continues until Oct/Nov. when the beans have dried enough that the pods are simply deer-treats-on-a-stick and the corn has been taken off leaving a lot of "waste" in the fields.

The remnant corn, beans, and nuts carries them into the winter wheat and oats entree of Jan/Feb which will hold them very well until the whole buffet starts all over again in March/April.

In other Midwestern states - eg. Indiana and Illinois - the crop farming is much more "road-to-road" over much of the state and thus the mast element of the food cycle is lessened in many places there. But the deer also have somewhat easier access to the nutritious diets provided by the good farmers of those states.

This type of range contrasts with other ranges in the obvious way of what plants/crops are available - but the most important contrast is the timing here that allows the deer a plentiful and highly nutritious diet all year round.
And that is one of the very biggest factors in the exceptional size and health of our deer, including the commonplace birth and survival of triplet fawns.

With all that "Buckeye info" on the board - I now invite anyone to respond with similar info about their favorite deer hunting area. Not in competition - but because it seems to me that many deer hunters would enjoy and maybe benefit from hearing such info about different parts of the country.

Have at it, Lads !


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September 5, 2008, 02:28 PM
Just to add to the Ohio deer habitat: water is abundant, cover is plentiful, and the deer have no natural predators (other than the occasional coyote)except for man and automobiles.

September 5, 2008, 03:31 PM
In AZ the deer have a much more harscrabble existance. As a consequence they are much more sparsely populated. A monster mule deer in Southern AZ is 250# on the hoof. Most whitetails are hard pressed to get over 125#. It's rare for a doe to get to triple digits. Mostly they have sage brush, juniper and scrub oak for browsing.

Very challenging to hunt though.

I'll be interested to see how things go with deer and elk hunting here in WA.

September 5, 2008, 03:36 PM in WI - from largely farmland, to smaller farms with more extensive woodlots offering the mast and agricultural crops mentioned, to the true , virtually uninterrupted forestland of some northern parts of the state. Although bodies and racks grow big thruout, it is interesting that perhaps some of the largest trophies come from the deep woods. Much less hunting pressure due to less accessibility of the area is key, but those deer that can survive -40 F temps and deep snow, without the help of agricultural crops, can grow big, indeed - perhaps the same phenomena that produces some of those gigantic Canadian deer. Hunting these monsters of the deep woods requires honing those skills that have so commonly been lost these days (deep woods scouting,tracking, stalking,etc), not to mention being able to drag that 300 pounder out of the wilderness thru 2' of snow.... long live deer hunting! Also - huge tracts of that land are open to public hunting, but as is the case in so many areas, if you care to get more than a 1/4mile off the beaten track, you'll be virtually on your own.

September 5, 2008, 10:44 PM
Hey there;
I'm in SW lower Mich. The deer here have it pretty good. Even with the deep snow that we get along theis area they seem to do very well.
I'm in farm ground. The deer do well here . Not very far to my west there is much less farm ground and it shows. The deer are fewer and farther apart.

In the past we have hunted the western UP. That used to be a good trophy area. Well. A few years of 300" plus of snow and the harshness of teh growing Wolf population and those trophys are very few and very far apart.
So much so that many hunting camps are now gone. The cabins that were for rent are gone. Some towns have dwindled to very small bergs.

This may sound hard to beleive for some but is a real fact. Those that live there are sure of what happened. Wolves have been a big topic for some time now. They have taken their fair share and ar enot done yet. Now the Moose are in trouble.
The DNR and many others will not admit what is really going on. Even many hunters either don't know or turn their heads to it.
Food gets very hard to find up there when the snow gets that deep. The deer yards will make any good deer hunter flat out want to cry. Huge Bucks dieing and no will to try. They usually go first. They have little energy left after the rut and when harsh weather sets in it can finish them off rather fast. Some make it and some do not. To see that sight is not a good thing.

But every year those deer all return to the same place. Down here it is totally the opposite. The deer do well even with the heavy snow. No wolves.
The road is the deers biggest killer. The road takes more deer then hunters do.

September 5, 2008, 11:00 PM
Hi Wildfire...

Aren't some of the areas in Michigan starting to have problems with that Chronic Wasting Disease too ? :confused:


September 6, 2008, 12:33 AM
Yes, In fact a deer farm in Kent county has now had a case. Fenced in but still there.
We have one law on the books that allows for the shooting of any none native breed out side of their fence. Any time of year as best I know.
I think there are some rules , like over 24 hours missing . Then they are fair game.
Bears have now come south too. We also in the last few years or so gain a fair amout of Coyotees also.

September 6, 2008, 06:37 AM
Shawnee, I grew up in Ohio and I do miss hunting there. The deer in the Midwest are abundant and healthy to say the least.

I also lived in SW Michigan for 7 years while attending WMU in Kalamazoo. Huge deer there as well that eat non-stop 24/7.

I now live in Maine.:scrutiny:

The winters are harsh. Snow gets measured by the foot consistently each winter. When January gets here, sometimes we go on a 30+ day jag of below Zero weather.

Coyotes kill deer and moose a lot, especially when the snow is deep.

On the flip side, the deer that survive do get really big. Field dressed bucks that weigh in at 200+ are not typical, but they are hardly uncommon.

Summer growing season is short out here. Very little corn, no soybeans. Mostly the deer forage for acorns and beechnuts. That being said, mostly the woods out here are softwoods, not much oak.

We don't have many deer. I think more die on Michigans highways annually than we have as an estimated statewide population.

On average, only about 10% of our hunters annually fill their tags.

I do a lot more duck hunting and less deer hunting nowadays.

September 6, 2008, 06:40 AM


September 6, 2008, 06:45 AM
The average deer here is about 130 lbs. dressed out and I live in an area that's better suited for them (a few hundred acres of corn nearby).

Up in the hills...away from the crops...there are a few nice ones scattered around, but most are a bit smaller with smaller thinner antlers.

Part of the problem is there are too damn many deer and not enough year round food sources...Tennessee needs to have a couple of years of shooting does only.

September 6, 2008, 07:30 AM
Here in southern Indiana, the terrain is hilly and wooded. In my county (Brown), the land mass is nearly 40% state, federal, or non profit owned which affords us a plethora of public hunting opportunities. We have harvested one buck field dressed @ 223lbs and another @ 235lbs. Both wore heavy racks of 10 & 12 points that score 145 and 156 respectively. I attribute their size to easy access to corn, beans, acorns, ample water,and fairly temperate winters. It has been difficult the past two years to harvest any crops from my garden or orchard due to the population density of deer, squirrel, coon, and possum. Last year I even spotted a fisher for the first time. Post season "yarding" will see groups of 15-20 deer in a group on my place. Average meat doe size is around 125 lbs dressed. Southern Indiana isn't heaven but it's getting close. Good hunting gentlemen!

September 6, 2008, 07:55 AM
Hi Ridgerunner....

You could very well be absolutely right about the need to cull does. In areas where deer depend largely upon "natural" sources of food (as opposed to crops) - the survival of the bucks is very important because the more bucks there are the less chance there is that the "inferior" bucks (spikes and small-racked) will do much of the breeding.
What many people don't realize is that a spike buck is usually a spike due to genetics, not because it's just young. If that buck gets to breed - it's offspring will also be a spike buck OR, and this is important, it will be a doe that will always throw spikes when she reaches breeding age. That fact comes from the studies that resulted in the book "Producing Quality Whitetails" which has been the deer manager's bible all over the managed deer ranches of the Southwest. I shot a Texas buck during a special hunt on Aransas WMA with spikes 13" and 9" long and was aged by the P&W people at 5.5 years old, and saw spikes there that had even longer spike antlers. The buck I shot field-dressed at about 75lbs. tops.
I shot another spike on timber company land near Lufkin (East Texas) that had spikes at least 8" long and was so small I could hold it by the hocks and lift it clear of the ground.:rolleyes: That buck was old enough its' face was almost totally grayed out.

So ensuring the survival of enough bucks to keep the "lesser" bucks from breeding is a major component of maintaining a healthy herd and a buck population with good antler growth. Ohio's deer cropping with Agricultural Damage permits is restricted to does only and in 2006 there were 8700+ does killed on the crop damage permits. No doubt that helped the herd quite a bit.

To give some perspective (and make everyone's mouth water), I was hunting Wednesday evening and saw nine bucks enter a beanfield and at one time they were all feeding in an area not much larger than a standard two-car garage - about 70yds. from me. There were two nice 6-pointers and five good 8-pointers, and then two monsters - one a 9-point and the other I think was an 11-point. I watched them for 25 minutes and my Ruger SBH was salivating in its' holster but there wasn't a thing I could do. The only does I saw came out about 160yds. away and I don't attempt that range with the .44.

P.O.I. - both the 6-pointers had most of the velvet off their antlers and a couple of the others were starting to lose velvet.

Good luck in Tennessee ! Are you anywhere near Sweetwater or Winchester? I love that country. :)


September 6, 2008, 08:02 AM
Hi "Kolob..."

You aren't too far from me. I'm about 50 miles east of Cincy and about 30 miles above the Ohio river. A fellow from our area brought back a monster 10-point from Southern Indiana three years ago but I don't remember the weight or the exact area he got it. I think he got it with a bow, too.

Good hunting !


Art Eatman
September 6, 2008, 10:03 AM
Note that the spikes that Shawnee is talking about are mature animals, not the yearlings.

Whitetail deer in Texas vary greatly. Much of it has to do with the mix of relatively low-level natural habitat, coupled with not enough hunting. This has resulted in a reduction in average body size.

Central Texas in the Hill Country west and northwest of Austin is a problem area. Ranches got broken up as the old folks died off, and the expansion of exurban development occurred. Many of the new people wanted to watch deer, not hunt them. In the 1960s, it was common to kill bucks where the average field-dressed weight was around 110 to 120 pounds. Some to 140. By the late 1970s this had dropped to around 90 pounds, and the next decade saw a further reduction. There is the occasional mature buck with a pretty--albeit rather small--rack which will dress out around 60 to 70 pounds.

Then you get into south Texas, and there are non-commercial ranches with bucks dressing above 150 pounds. The improved habitat on commercial ranches produces bucks dressing out close to 200 pounds.

West Texas mule deer seem to vary a good bit. I killed two bucks up in the Davis Mountains which dressed out at 125 and 150. I know of few above 200, insofar as newspaper accounts or other publicity. Down here in the true desert, most of the really good deer that are killed seem to be in the 150 to 175 range, although there is the occasional 200-pound Biggie. A few years back I did see one monster buck, before the season opened, which I seriously believe would have gone 250. He was pot-bellied and swaybacked, an older buck. His horns spread a good six inches either side of his ears, and mule deer ears are about 20" across.

On average, I think mule deer up in the Panhandle are bigger than what we have here down south.

I don't know much about the deer east of I-45...

September 6, 2008, 10:14 AM
I'm pretty much halfway between Bristol and Knoxville....way out in the boondocks and 10 miles from everywhere civilized.

September 6, 2008, 10:26 AM
Here in my part of missouri I don't see many great Bucks but we are blessed with huge numbers. Any little piece of land and you can be succesful. I think these are the good ol days for numbers & meat.

September 7, 2008, 03:16 AM
Hey There again:
Here in Mich. SW Mi. This year we will have an eary does season, Regular deer season and then a late doe season. Killing does won't set well with some.
But we have found that after taking X amount of doe's we end up with more deer not less. Last year I called the "year of the bucks" that is all I saw. Other then the one doe that I shot.

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