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Whitetail Deer Herd Health And Using the Winter Severity Index

by Neal McCullough 29. February 2012 02:42
Neal McCullough

Winter can be hard on wildlife—deer especially. During the winter months, wildlife agencies and departments in many states monitor the health of their respective deer herds using a system called the Winter-Severity Index (WSI).   This index is a simple calculation based on two key components of winter survival for whitetail deer: temperature and snow depth.  The index is a cumulative sum of the number of days with 18” of snow + numbers of days with temperatures below zero.  These scores are added together between December 1 and April 30.  Any total of 100+ is considered very severe, 81 – 100 is severe, 51 – 80 is moderate and anything lower than 50 is considered mild.  In Wisconsin, for example, the long term average for this index is 55.


The above chart shows this history of the Wisconsin WSI (1960 - 2010)

I spoke with Michael Zeckmeister of the Wisconsin DNR last week and at this point in the year, nearly all stations are in the single digits or teens; meaning this is shaping up to what could be a very mild winter.  This same time last year could have “gone either way” according to Zeckmesiter, with 60% of the stations reporting 16” of snow or more.   But last winter ended up staying around moderate for most stations (Wisconsin State Average = 47 for 2010/2011).  And this year we will probably end up mild or close to moderate unless, of course, we see some drastic changes in the weather.  Typically, the “tipping point” for winter is the 3rd week of February and as of today – we are starting March in a good place.


The above map shows WSI recording stations in Northern Wisconsin.


The above maps shows WSI recording stations in Northern Minnesota with measurements for 2011

Like any index, the WSI is not a perfect indicator of health of the herd; other factors do come into play.  These are a few additional factors that many wildlife managers consider:
•    Annual Summer Rainfall – Good rainfall in the summer and into the fall provides growth of summer vegetation that can help deer build fat reserves for the winter.
•    Arrival of Winter – The earlier arrival of winter (snow and cold in November or earlier) can have a significant cumulative effect on whitetail deer.  The longer winter waits to arrive, the better.
•    Type of Snow – Some snow storms may produce 10” – 15” of very light fluffy snow, through which it is generally easier for deer to travel.  Heavy dense snow or crusted layers of snow can make it difficult for whitetail deer to access food as well as escape predators.
•    Timing Spring Green-Up – This factor is probably as important as any; the sooner spring green-up arrives, the better the chances for herds to rebound after a long winter. 

The WSI is a great tool for wildlife managers to measure the current and/or future health of the whitetail deer herd.  However, it isn’t 100% accurate and they will make adjustments and use their discretion when determining how the deer herd is faring overall.  I always keep an eye out for these full reports in my home states of Minnesota and Wisconsin (typically they are ready at the end of April);  some DNR websites even offer current views of the Index as the winter progresses.


Current WSI (February 22, 2012) for Minnesota

Lets hope this mild season continues for not only whitetail deer but also for turkeys, pheasants, grouse, and all wildlife... Oh and this mild WSI Index also means that I don't have to shovel my driveway as much, which is an added bonus.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

It Just Keeps Getting Better

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. January 2012 04:41
Daniel James Hendricks

It has become an United Foundation For Disabled Archers (UFFDA) tradition for the participants of each hunt to walk around at the end of the year’s event scratching their heads mumbling to themselves about how they didn’t think it could get any better than this year. But sure enough, the next year comes and that hunt miraculously turns out to be by far the best one yet! Well rest assured that after reading and hearing reports from the 2011 Camp Wilderness and Camp Tesomas events that fine tradition has once again been carried on. This year’s events were the best ever for both the Minnesota and Wisconsin crews. And to both  teams I tip my hat and offer a hearty congratulations for all of the hard work, excellent spirit and stellar results.

The Camp Wilderness hunt celebrated its 17th consecutive year by hosting 32 hunters over a beautiful weekend that culminated Saturday with the biggest and most successful banquet we have ever had. The facility was packed to the seams with hunters, UFFDA staff, landowners, kids and a lot of folks that just came to camp for the evening to see what all of the excitement was about. By night’s end, the great food, hearty laughter, the emotional highs and excellent deals garnered on the auctions brought the 2011 hunt to a jubilant close. The next morning as the tired, but very content UFFDA campers headed home, each bore a peaceful and satisfied smile upon their face. This hunt had definitely been the best yet!

Matt Klein with dad, Mark & local guide, Blake Johnson

The deer harvest was pretty much normal, but then again, the whitetail body count has never been what our annual conclave is about. On Thursday, the first night of the hunt, Matt Klein scored a double by taking two does. Terry Schwartz nailed a four point buck to put him out in front for the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award and our veteran beautiful Lady Huntress, Terrie Schrank took nice doe. Friday’s hunt produced three more does. Stan (The Killer) Koich took one, Board Member, Tim Sartwell took another and the third was taken by Karl Anderson. 

On Saturday, Leon Holmin shot a spike buck and our newest and rookie beautiful Lady Huntress, Dawn Peterson took a fine doe. Another first year hunter, Tom Voight took a seven point buck, which handily won him the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award. Besides the beautiful hunting knife donated by Delaney’s, Tom’s big buck won the number one slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness hunt so we will be seeing more of him for sure. Tom’s buck brought our total reported harvest to ten for this year’s event.  A warm congratulation goes out to all of the UFFDA hunters and their guides for a job well done, whether you took a deer or not.

Terry Schwartz and local guide, George Darchuk

For the duration of the hunt, the weather was beautiful, there was only one minor injury (a finger smashed in a kitchen) and seemingly everyone had a wonderful time. The food this year, as with every year, was plentiful, delicious and nourishing. Were it not for the talented and dedicated kitchen staff, the hungry participants of the hunt would not be nearly as happy as they always are. Over the delightful UFFDA cuisine, companionship is always heightened to its apex making the hours spent in the homey Camp Wilderness mess hall a very special place where some of the fondest UFFDA memories are created. We sincerely thank all of the food preparers and handlers for their smiling faces and the hearty results of their labors that are seemingly designed to keep the entire crew fat and sassy. 

Tim Sartwell with local guide, Rick Knobloch

To everyone who was at this year’s hunt, it was also a very special occasion in that it allowed us all to share in Greg Waite’s last UFFDA hunt. It was obvious that Greg knew that his time with us all was near it end. He dove into the activity and lapped up every second of the action driving himself to complete exhaustion each day. We will all remember Greg’s presence there and will cherish the last time that he shared himself with his UFFDA Family. Two other long-time UFFDA members who are doing their best to fend off the viciousness and cruelty of cancer were also in attendance. Delmer Bentz and Karl Denly both showed up in spite of failing health and much pain to deal with. Having these three very special men at Camp Wilderness was both inspiring and at the same time, very sad. We all hate to see loved ones suffer so much, but how deeply we are moved by their courage and their overwhelming need to be with the people that they have grown to love as they shared a common joy of doing for others. Bless them all!

The “One-Shot” target shoot for all qualified UFFDA hunters was held again this year as the contestants vied for the Kalk Traveling Trophy. In 2010 possession of the prestigious award was won by Mike Schurch who was a first time attendee at this annual UFFDA gathering. Well guess what? This year the Kalk trophy was won by Ben Rouw of Becker, MN who was also a first time hunt attendee. Go figure! Congratulations, Ben and welcome to the family. Ben also won the number two slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness Hunt so we will be seeing him again next year.

Tom Voight with local guides, Mike Hinton & Rick Knobloch

The participation in the Camp Wilderness Hunt by the local citizens continues to grow with new faces, new properties and new volunteers showing up at camp each year. We are so grateful for that hometown participation from the folks around the Park Rapids area as it enriches the event tremendously. We at UFFDA know that volunteerism is not at the top of everyone’s priority list of things to do, but when these special volunteers step forward from the surrounding community, you know that you are definitely partaking of the cream. The fine folks that have joined our mission from the Park Rapids area drive home that point with tremendous force every year. Thank you, one and all for blessing our efforts with your presence, sharing your land and just plain rolling up your sleeves and helping us make it all happen.

And to the benevolent donors both large and small that fund our undertaking, thank you for your continued support of the UFFDA Mission. Through your generosity, you give life to one of the most selfless efforts by a group of bowhunters who wish only to share the joys of hunting by recruiting and hosting bowhunting events for physically challenged people. Every year we accommodate new disabled members that enter the woods as bowhunters for the first time, learning the joys of pursuing wild things in a proud tradition that since the dawn of time has given the hunter his purpose. 

 

Terrie Schrank with local guide, Perry Melbo

Through your support, disabled hunters are provided with a cost-free outing that is as good as it gets. They are fed, tutored and catered to by dedicated volunteers who give up much of their personal time and resources, just for the radiance that can only be captured by unselfishly serving others. More specifically in the case of UFFDA, our entire family is so privileged to be able to watch new hunters experience for the very first time the thrill of taking a big game animal with a string and a stick; and then listening as the successful hunter shares the unforgettable excitement of an experience that is so unique that it can never be equaled again.

And that, dear friends, is the bottom line of what we do and why we do it. Once you have seen a hunter proudly roll into the Camp’s mess hall in a wheelchair prepared to share his or her tale of triumph about taking their first deer with a bow, you just know that this is the very heart of UFFDA, the organ that gives it its life. So to every supporter of the passion, whether you are on the front lines guiding the hunters, feeding them, providing the land for them to hunt, supporting the banquets or just donating from afar, you are an intricate part of a very noble endeavor to serve the disabled hunter, while nurturing our hunting heritage and the overall image of the modern hunter. Thank you for doing your part and doing it so well.

 

Stan (The Killer) Koich

As the United Foundation For Disabled Archers begins to prepare of its 18th season of service, we hope that you will continue to man your stations and also continue to support our worthy mission. Whatever your role, you are very important to the completion of the UFFDA Mission and its continued success. Thank you for the past year and now onward to the creation of new adventures that are destined to make us all winners for the right reasons.

Karl Anderson and local guide Tim Williams

 

What The Heck Is Going On?

by Daniel James Hendricks 5. January 2012 12:06
Daniel James Hendricks

It has become an UFFDA tradition for the participants of each hunt to walk around at the end of the year’s event scratching their heads mumbling to themselves about how they didn’t think it could get any better than this year. But sure enough, the next year comes and that hunt miraculously turns out to be by far the best one yet! Well rest assured that after reading and hearing reports from the 2011 Camp Wilderness and Camp Tesomas events that fine tradition has once again been carried on. This year’s events were the best ever for both the Minnesota and Wisconsin crews. And to both  teams I tip my hat and offer a hearty congratulations for all of the hard work, excellent spirit and stellar results.

The Camp Wilderness hunt celebrated its 17th consecutive year by hosting 32 hunters over a beautiful weekend that culminated Saturday with the biggest and most successful banquet we have ever had. The facility was packed to the seams with hunters, UFFDA staff, landowners, kids and a lot of folks that just came to camp for the evening to see what all of the excitement was about. By night’s end, the great food, hearty laughter, the emotional highs and excellent deals garnered on the auctions brought the 2011 hunt to a jubilant close. The next morning as the tired, but very content UFFDA campers headed home, each bore a peaceful and satisfied smile upon their face. This hunt had definitely been the best yet!

 Karl Anderson and local guide Tim Williams

The deer harvest was pretty much normal, but then again, the whitetail body count has never been what our annual conclave is about. On Thursday, the first night of the hunt, Matt Klein scored a double by taking two does. Terry Schwartz nailed a four point buck to put him out in front for the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award and our veteran beautiful Lady Huntress, Terrie Schrank took nice doe. Friday’s hunt produced three more does. Stan (The Killer) Koich took one, Board Member, Tim Sartwell took another and the third was taken by Karl Anderson. 

On Saturday, Leon Holmin shot a spike buck and our newest and rookie beautiful Lady Huntress, Dawn Peterson took a fine doe. Another first year hunter, Tom Voight took a seven point buck, which handily won him the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award. Besides the beautiful hunting knife donated by Delaney’s, Tom’s big buck won the number one slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness hunt so we will be seeing more of him for sure. Tom’s buck brought our total reported harvest to ten for this year’s event.  A warm congratulation goes out to all of the UFFDA hunters and their guides for a job well done, whether you took a deer or not.

Matt Klein with dad, Mark & local guide, Blake Johnson

For the duration of the hunt, the weather was beautiful, there was only one minor injury (a finger smashed in a kitchen) and seemingly everyone had a wonderful time. The food this year, as with every year, was plentiful, delicious and nourishing. Were it not for the talented and dedicated kitchen staff, the hungry participants of the hunt would not be nearly as happy as they always are. Over the delightful UFFDA cuisine, companionship is always heightened to its apex making the hours spent in the homey Camp Wilderness mess hall a very special place where some of the fondest UFFDA memories are created. We sincerely thank all of the food preparers and handlers for their smiling faces and the hearty results of their labors that are seemingly designed to keep the entire crew fat and sassy. 

 

Stan (The Killer) Koich

To everyone who was at this year’s hunt, it was also a very special occasion in that it allowed us all to share in Greg Waite’s last UFFDA hunt. It was obvious that Greg knew that his time with us all was near it end. He dove into the activity and lapped up every second of the action driving himself to complete exhaustion each day. We will all remember Greg’s presence there and will cherish the last time that he shared himself with his UFFDA Family. Two other long-time UFFDA members who are doing their best to fend off the viciousness and cruelty of cancer were also in attendance. Delmer Bentz and Karl Denly both showed up in spite of failing health and much pain to deal with. Having these three very special men at Camp Wilderness was both inspiring and at the same time, very sad. We all hate to see loved ones suffer so much, but how deeply we are moved by their courage and their overwhelming need to be with the people that they have grown to love as they shared a common joy of doing for others. Bless them all!

Terry Schwartz and local guide, George Darchuk

The “One-Shot” target shoot for all qualified UFFDA hunters was held again this year as the contestants vied for the Kalk Traveling Trophy. In 2010 possession of the prestigious award was won by Mike Schurch who was a first time attendee at this annual UFFDA gathering. Well guess what? This year the Kalk trophy was won by Ben Rouw of Becker, MN who was also a first time hunt attendee. Go figure! Congratulations, Ben and welcome to the family. Ben also won the number two slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness Hunt so we will be seeing him again next year. The participation in the Camp Wilderness Hunt by the local citizens continues to grow with new faces, new properties and new volunteers showing up at camp each year. We are so grateful for that hometown participation from the folks around the Park Rapids area as it enriches the event tremendously. We at UFFDA know that volunteerism is not at the top of everyone’s priority list of things to do, but when these special volunteers step forward from the surrounding community, you know that you are definitely partaking of the cream. The fine folks that have joined our mission from the Park Rapids area drive home that point with tremendous force every year. Thank you, one and all for blessing our efforts with your presence, sharing your land and just plain rolling up your sleeves and helping us make it all happen.

 

And to the benevolent donors both large and small that fund our undertaking, thank you for your continued support of the UFFDA Mission. Through your generosity, you give life to one of the most selfless efforts by a group of bowhunters who wish only to share the joys of hunting by recruiting and hosting bowhunting events for physically challenged people. Every year we accommodate new disabled members that enter the woods as bowhunters for the first time, learning the joys of pursuing wild things in a proud tradition that since the dawn of time has given the hunter his purpose.   

Tim Sartwell with local guide, Rick Knobloch


Through your support, disabled hunters are provided with a cost-free outing that is as good as it gets. They are fed, tutored and catered to by dedicated volunteers who give up much of their personal time and resources, just for the radiance that can only be captured by unselfishly serving others. More specifically in the case of UFFDA, our entire family is so privileged to be able to watch new hunters experience for the very first time the thrill of taking a big game animal with a string and a stick; and then listening as the successful hunter shares the unforgettable excitement of an experience that is so unique that it can never be equaled again.

 

Terrie Schrank with local guide, Perry Melbo

 

And that, dear friends, is the bottom line of what we do and why we do it. Once you have seen a hunter proudly roll into the Camp’s mess hall in a wheelchair prepared to share his or her tale of triumph about taking their first deer with a bow, you just know that this is the very heart of UFFDA, the organ that gives it its life. So to every supporter of the passion, whether you are on the front lines guiding the hunters, feeding them, providing the land for them to hunt, supporting the banquets or just donating from afar, you are an intricate part of a very noble endeavor to serve the disabled hunter, while nurturing our hunting heritage and the overall image of the modern hunter. Thank you for doing your part and doing it so well. 

 

As the United Foundation For Disabled Archers begins to prepare of its 18th season of service, we hope that you will continue to man your stations and also continue to support our worthy mission. Whatever your role, you are very important to the completion of the UFFDA Mission and its continued success. Thank you for the past year and now onward to the creation of new adventures that are destined to make us all winners for the right reasons.

 

 

 Tom Voight with local guides, Mike Hinton & Rick Knobloch

 

Preseason Scouting an Elevator Ridge

by Neal McCullough 29. April 2011 01:00
Neal McCullough

Nothing is worse than spring for a big time addicted whitetail hunter like me.  We spend all winter anxious to get out and see the woods, search for sheds, move stands, and try to find the new “perfect” spot.  Then, as soon as the snow melts the whitetail woods suddenly looks just as it did last November and you realize that it is 5 more months of waiting.  All that aside it really is a great time of year to see the woods as it would look before everything greens up.   We are in the second year of hunting this 80 acre parcel (actually our first spring) and have learned a ton.  One of the highest concentrations of deer occurred in one small area of the property; we watched countless deer go in and out of this particular area and this spring we investigated why.  It turned out to be a potential hotspot and a perfect example of an “Elevator Ridge” for next season.   The concept of an elevator as it relates to deer hunting is actually pretty simple.  Humans use elevators because we are lazy and would rather not scale 3 flights of stairs to get lunch every day.  This concept can be applied to deer as well; they prefer and usually take a path of least resistance (as long as it’s safe).  This newly found scenario brings bedding (creek bottom) to food (corn/beans) in the simple, fast and efficient method just like an elevator brings me to 4th floor every day. The blue lines in the photo below show the boundaries of the Elevator Ridge, the black lines are known deer trails and the red dot is the location of our new stand site.


Aerial View of the 2011 Elevator Ridge

Below are a few key characteristics that make this Elevator Ridge work well.

  • Bedding – Perfect bedding area to allow deer to feel safe and within ½ mile of a major food source can make for a great combination.


Creeks that flow year-round offer water/cover for bedding

  • Steep Ravines – The steep hillsides along creek effectively push deer directly up the “Elevator Ridge”


Sheer walls 40 feet high on either side push deer into the middle of ridge

  • Rubs – Fresh Rubs from previous season show areas bucks frequented in during the pre-rut.


Fresh Rubs in the middle of ridge indicate directional travel

  • Trails – Find a heavy doe trail worn to dirt and bucks will follow 


This trail follows the creek up to our “Elevator Ridge”

  • Stand Placement – Place your stand on the downwind side of as many major trails as possible.


Stand on the peak of the Elevator Ridge

In the end, this time of year can be hard because we can’t test our theories, but this new spot has all the makings of a fantastic stand for 2011.  During the Season 2 of Bowhunt or Die I can promise you will see us perched on top of an Elevator Ridge waiting for a chance at a monster buck! Do you agree with this setup?  Do you have an Elevator Ridge on your property to take advantage of next season?

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

CWD Confirmed in Minnesota Whitetail.

by Mike Willand 1. February 2011 13:07
Mike Willand

The first confirmed case of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has just been confirmed in Minnesota by the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. The deer was taken by a hunter in November of 2010 near Pine Island, located in the southeastern part of the state.

State of Minnesota Wildlife Officials are taking the disease as a serious concern to the overall health of the state’s whitetail deer herd. Since 2002, the DNR has tested more than 32,000 whitetail, 60 elk, and 90 moose all in attempts for the earliest possible detection in order to combat the disease.

Acting quickly in response to this confirmed case, Minnesota Board of Animal Health has established a CWD-endemic area which includes the area where the deer was taken and any land within a 10-mile radius of there.

Over the next several weeks the DNR will be taking information as well as investigating the entire Pine Island area. Minnesota hunters, landowners, and residents can expect a public meeting to be held sometime in February following these findings.

First found in Wisconsin’s wild deer herd dating back to 2002, CWD can now be found in 15 different states and provinces. Although considered not fatal to humans, CWD is fatal to deer, elk, and moose.

Bowhunting.Com would like to hear your opinion on controlling CWD in your own or any state. Do you believe Minnesota DNR is already over-reacting to just a single positively tested CWD deer? If your state already has CWD, do you believe your state has properly controlled the disease? How? Or, are you one of those conspiracy theorists who believe CWD to be made up by the major insurance companies? We want to hear from you no matter what you believe. Please leave comments below. Thank you!

 

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