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6 Whitetail Hunting "Fast Facts"

I Shot a Whopper!

So, you finally shot Big Tobey and want to enter him into an official record book. How do you do it?

There are three major hunting organizations with their own “official” record books in North America. Each has a similar scoring system, though one – Safari Club International – does not have any deductions in its system for abnormal points and whatnot. These organizations are the Pope & Young Club, which is for bow-killed animals only; Boone & Crockett Club; and Safari Club International. The latter two accept both bow and firearms-killed trophies. Your first step is to visit each website, through which you can find an official measurer in your area that has been trained and certified by their respective organizations to properly measure and score your buck. If it qualifies, they can walk you through the process of officially having it entered. Good luck!

“G” Whiz

Traveling around hunting camps I find that many folks wonder what I am talking about when I refer to the “G” on a whitetail rack. Whattheheck is that G-2 or G-4 anyway?

Simply stated, the various aspects of a set of antlers have been given alphabetical designations by the Boone & Crockett Club (later adopted by other scoring systems, including the Pope & Young Club and Safari Club International) to make scoring them easier. On an official score sheet, A is the number of points on each antler; B the tip-to-tip spread; C the greatest spread; and D the inside spread of the main beams. E is the total of all lengths of abnormal (non-typical) points, if any are present, while F is the length of the main beam. The G-1 is the first point, or eye guard. G-2 is the length of the second point, G-3 the length of the third point, G-4 the length of the fourth point, and so on until you run out of points. There are also four circumference measurements taken, designated H-1, H-2, H-3, and H-4. As an aside, to be considered a scorable point, the point must be at least one-inch long and the length must exceed the width of the base. Also, while beam tips are counted as a point, they are not measured nor included in any score. You can download score sheets with diagrams showing how to score all North American big game animals from Boone & Crockett Club

Aw, Nuts!

Any whitetail hunter worth his salt knows that acorns are a key food source throughout much of the deer’s range. However, not all oak trees and acorns are the same, and the key to using them to your advantage is to understand the differences. Let’s begin with the trees themselves.

Oaks are divided into two basic categories – the red and black oak group, and the white oak group. You can tell them apart by looking at the outside of the leaves. Red/black oaks have sharply-pointed points on the leaves, while white oaks have rounded points on the leaves. Perhaps the biggest difference between the two families is that the red/black oaks only produce acorns every two years, while white oaks bear fruit every year. Within these cycles there will, of course, be boom and bust years. But generally speaking, in years when there are few red oak acorns, white oaks will get hammered by deer (and squirrels, too!) You’ll find that often, in areas where there are both lots of oaks and agricultural fields and/or food plots, deer that are hammering the crops will suddenly vanish for a while. This disappearance can often be directly tied to the time that the acorn crop begins falling heavily and the deer have moved into the woods to gobble them up. Also, research has shown that for some reason deer prefer the fruit of the white oak over the fruit of the red oak. So, when doing your scouting, if you can find a nice cluster of healthy white oaks situated in an area where you can set a stand with little fear of being busted, be sure to mark it on your maps. Sooner or later it will produce some venison for you!

Moon River

Does the full moon matter affect deer movement?

During the 2014 deer season the moon will be full October 8, November 6 and December 6, with the New Moon (the dark of the moon) October 23, November 22, and December 21. That means the days with the least amount of moonlight will occur October 19-25, November 18-24, and December 17-24. In contrast, the brightest nights with the most moonlight will occur October 4-12, November 2-10, and December 17-25.

My own experiences with the moon phase thing have left me something of a disbeliever that brightest moonlit nights adversely affect my hunting. I have had some of my best luck on days when the moon was quite bright. Conversely, I have had some crummy days on the dark of the moon.

Because of my job (yes, traveling to deer hunt is a tough gig but somebody has to do it!) I cannot always pick and choose my hunting dates according to the moon phase. This fall I’ll be hunting a from north to south during periods when the moon is both bright and dark. I can assure you I would not be spending the bulk of the 2014 season hunting when the moon is bright if I thought it would crush my chances.

What do you think? Do you have any hard data to back up your feelings on whether or not the bright moon wrecks, or helps, your hunting? Drop us a note here so we can share your experiences with others.

Reflections

When a deer gets in the headlights its eyes shine brightly. Why is that?

Most animals that are most active after dark have eyes that reflect bright light shined directly at them. This is caused by the tapetum lucidum (“bright tapestry” in Latin), a reflective layer of cells at the rear of the eyes. In effect, the tapetum acts as a mirror that sends incoming light back through the retina to the photoreceptors, which nearly double the amount of light received by the optic nerve. This is a big reason why deer can see so much better than we can in extremely low light, since human eyes have no tapetum lucidum.

Hoofing It

A deer’s hooves are basically modified fingernails. Deer feet actually extend from the joint associated with the tarsal gland to the tips of the hooves. The outer surface of a hoof is made of a highly keratinized material and is quite hard. In contrast, the sole has a softer, spongy surface that provides good ground contact. The two parts, or toes, of a deer’s foot correspond structurally to our middle and ring fingers, while the dewclaws behind the hooves correspond to our index finger and pinky.

There are also some important differences between the hooves on the front legs and those on the rear. Because they bear more weight and take more impact when running, the front hooves tend to be slightly larger than the rear, especially in bucks. Front hooves of an average adult buck will be about 3-inches long and 1½- to 2-inches wide. In addition, the dew claws on the front legs are much closer to the hooves than those on the rear, which makes it quite easy to tell a rear foot from a front foot.

Did you know that a yearling whitetail’s hooves grow at a rate of about 2.5 inches/year, then slow down to a rate of about 2 inches per year as the deer gets older? Studies conducted by well-known deer researchers Karl Miller and Larry Marchington also showed that hoof growth is greatest from about February-May, then slows down over the course of the summer and winter. A deer keeps slowly wearing its hooves off through walking at a rate that pretty much matches how fast they grow.

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