Welcome to another episode of Whitetail Rendezvous. This is your host, Bruce Hutcheon, and I’m with Kip Adams. Kip is the Director of Conservation at QDMA, Quality Deer Management. Kip, welcome to the show.
Hey, Bruce, good to see you. Thanks for having me on.
it’s been a while since you have been a guest, but I wanted to talk about the rut today. And we’re going to get this, you know, edited and out right away because, you know, somebody said the other day, “Hey, the full moon was October 24th, the rut started,” and I go, “Well, maybe that’s not quite so true.” And as we just talked about in the warm-up, you know, to me the rut starts basically when the bucks’ horns harden. They break up from the bachelor groups in August and all of a sudden, you know, they’re adults now and they know something is changing in their body, testosterone is running through their body and things have changed. So let’s start right there, what’s happening to the bucks in September and what’s it all leading up to?
Explore Phases of the Rut – QDMA – Kip Adams
The big change is we’re getting lower amounts of daylight each day, so that photo period is changing as we start to get to the end of summer and into fall. And then deer detect that. And what that change in photo period means is that you get a hormone change in your body. Basically you get a big spike in testosterone. So that’s what’s required for bucks to harden their antlers, and then shed that velvet off. And so those buddies, you know, they’ve been together oftentimes since, well, the winter [Inaudible 00:01:35] December…I’m sorry, January. They spend all winter and spring and summer together because testosterone levels are really low. All of a sudden now they’re not low anymore and these bucks don’t like each other. So the antlers harden, velvet sheds off, [Inaudible 00:01:49] start to increase.
And you’re right, that really is the kickoff to all that fun stuff that we watch during the fall. So those bucks start to break up a little bit, then they start sparring. That’s really developing a pecking order. Just like dogs, chickens, and everything else, they have a very well-defined packing order so that when they actually get into the full-blown rut, you know, they can hurt themselves fighting, they could die fighting. So if they don’t have to do that, they won’t. So they spend a lot of time developing that pecking order prior to the rut to help eliminate some of those fights once things really get fast and furious.
Bruce: Yeah, one thing I’ve heard and seen myself is that all of a sudden you’ll start seeing some rubs, some rub lines, and then some football-sized, if you will, scrapes. And, you know, why does that happen in September?
Deer are very social animals, a lot more social than many people realize.
Deer are very social animals, a lot more social than many people realize. And the best two ways for them to communicate are through rubs and scrapes. And we’ll start with rubs. And, you know, folks used to think that, “Eh, it’s just a way for deer to get that velvet off their antlers,” but actually it’s a lot more than that. Bucks have seven glands on their body. The most important being their tarsal gland, you know, between their hind legs, but their second most important is their forehead gland. And researchers from the University of Georgia have identified nearly 50 different pieces of information that bucks can convey about themselves through that forehead gland.
So a lot of that rubbing that we see, sure, they use that some to get that velvet off. But when a buck is rubbing, what are they doing? They rub their antlers, but they also rub their forehead on that rub. Often they break the cambium layer of the tree, you know, get the bark off it, and then rub their forehead on it. They basically are leaving their calling card there. So other deer can then come in and receive information about that buck, oftentimes their age, their nutritional status, their dominance status, how long ago they were in the area. So rubs are a great way for bucks and does to communicate with others in an area. So, which is pretty cool in that it’s their version, I guess, of their cell phone. So that is one way they communicate.
Yeah. Now is that called the orbital gland, the preorbital gland?
The preorbital gland is right here in the corner of their eye.
The forehead gland is literally right on their forehead. And if you look at older bucks during the rut, that forehead gland often changes color. It’s because of all of the increased glandular activity. So it often will change color. Sometimes it will get wavy. So if you look at particularly older bucks, often it gets a little redder in there or a little darker. And actually albino deer are a great example. Albino, all white, they will turn brown two places during the rut, their tarsal glands and their forehead glands. So, and then after the rut that forehead gland will go back to being white once all that increased activity stops.
Yeah, so the forehead gland is a really cool thing that not a lot of hunters know about.
So they’re leaving the scent, they’re marking their territory, if you will, not unlike a cat or a dog, you know, going around marking their territory and leaving, you know, information about themselves for everybody else to check them out. So when they open up these small scrapes, what’s that doing?
That’s another way to communicate. And rather than using their forehead gland, they’re actually using their tarsal gland for this one. So they’ll go to these scrapes. You know, often if it is an existing scrape, they often still will paw on the dirt a little bit. And that, as much as anything, attracts deer. You can go to an area that’s all…that’s in the woods covered with leaves or an area in a yard that’s covered in grass. If you just make a big open spot of dirt, do nothing else, that will attract deer. Deer that open spot of dirt and they almost can’t go to it, they have to go and check it out because they know that’s how they communicate.
So in a scrape you have that open spot of dirt. And then the most important part of the scrape often is the licking branch, which is just above the scrape that they will… And if you watch, deer will grab that, they will mouth it, they’ll smell it, they will rub their preorbital gland often on that licking branch, sometimes they will rub their forehead gland on it. So it’s not just an indiscriminate mark, it’s a very purposeful mark. If you watch one work it, they’ll smell it, they’ll work it, they’ll smell it. They work it until they get just the right scent on that, so they’ll leave the scent of the branch above the scrape.
And actually if you have a really hot scrape and you remove that licking branch, you’ll stop activity [Inaudible 00:06:26]. The licking branch is that important, bucks have to have that licking branch to go through the whole ritual with a scrape. So fortunately if your buddy is being mean and he knocks that branch down, you can take a branch there and just hang it back, either pick one in the ground that goes over it or hang it from a tree. Bucks don’t care how it is, they just need something there to be able to work.
So they work that licking branch, and then in the scrape they smell who has been there through the urine. You know, that’s how deer can tell each other, as well. But then they can…oftentimes they will rub urinate, which is they will urinate into the scrape to leave their own scent. Or rub urinate means they rub their hind legs together so they’re urinating over those tarsal glands. Tarsal glands are the most important gland on a deer’s body. And unlike the forehead gland, there’s not actually glandular activity inside the body. Those tarsal glands are just specialized hairs that capture the urine and hold some of the particles of that, some of the fat-soluble particles in that. That’s what gives you that musky smell, their unique smell during the rut. And also then that’s their kind of calling card, again, where other deer know who they are and they can communicate things about themselves, just like in a rub, just in a different way.
And we know that bucks do this year-round. It’s not just during the rut, bucks will literally scrape 12 months of the year. But they tend to do it a lot more during the breeding season. And actually does will scrape all year long, and even fawns will scrape. You know, fawns will rub urinate to put their scent on themselves. So all that happens throughout the year, which is one of the ways that deer are being so social in communicating with others. But it all ramps up during the rut and that’s when it really comes to a peak, when we can put a camera on those scrapes and get pictures of all kinds of different deer and you can really monitor what’s going on in the deer herd.
So let’s just talk about this time phrase of the breeding season. So scrapes are opening up, licking branches are…they’re utilizing them, rubs are opening up. Now how do I hunt that, what’s the best setup? Do I just set up on a scrape or, you know, on food sources? You know, where do I need to be?
You know, there’s a lot of hunters that have spent a lot of time sitting over a scrape and not seen anything. And that’s because research shows about 84% of all scrape use occurs at night. And so the vast majority of times that bucks and does are checking those scrapes is during dark when we can’t hunt, obviously. Now it doesn’t mean that you can’t kill a deer there, because obviously then, you know, somewhere around 16% of those visits are during the day, so there’s a lot of hunters that have sat over a scrape and killed deer. What I think is more effective though, Bruce, is to understand that they hit them most, you know, just before daylight in the morning and oftentimes just after dark.
So if you know where a deer is bedding during the day or where it wants to go feed and you know it’s going to be hitting these scrapes right at dark, or dawn or dusk, then you can still use that information to position yourself. Maybe you know a buck wants to go to a certain scrape, he’s going to arrive there just after dark. Well, if you know where he’s bedding during the day, you can position yourself between that bedding area and the scrape to intercept him during shooting hours. So even though they’re not the most productive places to actually sit over, you still can use their locations to your knowledge to still help you kill a deer that wants to get to that scrape tomorrow.
And that’s one thing about knowing your terrain and pinch points and funnels
And that’s one thing about knowing your terrain and pinch points and funnels. And I can think of one of my favorite places to sit in Buffalo County, and it’s a funnel, it’s a river bottom, it’s got everything that a guy could want. And the way we’d set up is exactly that, it’s between the bedding area and the feeding area, and we know they’re going to hit that scrape before they go to feed.
We just know they are. And the food is, you know, a ways from there. So they’re going to hit that, you know, maybe 20 minutes of light left. Well, you don’t need…you only need seconds, you know, for him to come in and do his thing and you’re sitting there at legal light and, you know, the deal is over. And, you know, so you have to know your ground and you have to know everything about that deer.
And that’s what I think why whitetail hunting is so amazing, because every year you learn something new. And you and I have been at it a long time and every year we get schooled, every year we learn something new and another piece of information. And then, of course, QDMA, you know, is probably the best repository of pure whitetail research in the country. How does somebody get a hold of QDMA if they want to, you know, follow up with Kip Adams or read some of the fantastic information you do have?
Well, we have a great website, which is qdma.com. And the purpose of that is to provide a tremendous amount of information, you know, for hunters, to teach them more about how deer move, how deer see, how they hear, feeding patterns, how to enhance habitat. You know, our job is, and we look at it as, hey, QDMA is where deer hunters belong because we have this information to help them, help them have better hunting experiences and all that. So if folks want to come and grab some of that information from our website, you know, articles, videos, etc., man, that’s great because we want to share that information. You know, if they want to become a member and help support the leading deer organization that’s fighting for deer hunters’ rights, man, that’s even better and we welcome that as well.
And, folks, I mentioned on Facebook Live if you become a member of QDMA in the next month, send me your membership number to email@example.com and at the end of the month I will be drawing, a few people will get some Buck Wild Coffee as our way of supporting QDMA.
So, Kip, okay, so things are just starting to wind up.
So, Kip, okay, so things are just starting to wind up. The boys, you know, the youngsters, are acting up and sparring and doing some things. And if you spend any time at all in the woods or monitoring your trail cameras, you’re starting to see a little bit of daytime activity. But we’re still…you know, we’re still away from the…you know, the prime breeding season. So what do you call the next phase, you know, of the rut?
Well, we know that throughout much of the United States the main part of the rut, or at least when deer are being bred, often occurs, you know, in that mid to early November time frame. But leading up to that we get to see all kinds of breeding behaviors in the woods. Number one being scrape activity is increasing, you’re seeing more and more scrapes. Which is a lot of fun, you know, just to watch and monitor and put a camera on. You’re seeing a lot of young bucks on their feet chasing. For the first time, you know, you’ll see them harassing does.
And we’ve really been seeing that here in Northern Pennsylvania for the last week to week and a half, a lot of harassing by those young bucks. You know, the breeding isn’t…the majority of breeding hasn’t started yet. I’m sure some does have been bred though, because some just tend to come in earlier. But the first thing you see is an increased scrape use, then you start seeing a lot more yearling bucks chasing some does, then you start seeing, you know, more does just kind of trying to get rid of those bucks, they’re being harassed. And once you start seeing that a little bit, then you know the peak breeding is getting close. And then you’ll start seeing some of those older bucks spending more time checking those does and checking food sources where those does are.
So at least in Northern Pennsylvania right now lots and lots of young buck activity and starting to push does a little bit. So, you know, you can call it what you want, the chase phase or the seeking phase or whatever it is. It’s more accurate to say, man, we’re seeing young bucks on their feet, and we know then that will blend into older bucks on their feet more, and then right into the majority of does actually breeding.
So what hunting techniques or strategies should I be employing right now?
If you’re looking for…certainly if you’re looking to shoot a doe, they’re all over food sources. Because they know that it’s going to be hard to feed deer over the next couple weeks because they’re just being chased so much. The food sources are a tremendous place right now to be able to watch does, and then a lot of young bucks. Those older bucks, they’re still hanging back, so they’re still in a lot of cover.
So I certainly would not hit my best places, or at least not my best places back in cover yet. So I personally am hunting, you know, kind of the fringes of some of those better areas. Those older bucks, they still got to feed. So, you know, and they’re trying to put on a lot of weight right now, as well. Because once they get into the rut, they may go a month with eating very little. So food sources are important to them, as well. They often don’t want to be associated with all that mess, that’s those does, those young bucks running around. So, you know, the big food plots often are not the place to see older bucks right now. Smaller food plots tucked in cover, you know, or where those older bucks can kind of be by themselves and get away from that melee, are often better choices right now for those older bucks.
So great time, too, to be able to take, you know, a doe or two to help get some meat in your freezer right now when you’re really not messing up any of your buck hunting. So that once those bucks, older guys, really start moving, you can concentrate strictly on older bucks knowing, hey, you’ve already got some meat in the freeze, you’ve done a good job from a deer manager, you know, taking an antlerless deer that needs to be shot, if that’s the case in your area, and then just really concentrate hard on bucks really once Halloween hits.
You know, on social media everybody likes to put their grips and grins, and it just seems that throughout the country, not just in Iowa or Kansas, but some big bucks have been taken, Western Kentucky. And you see, and everybody loves to see, big bucks and unfortunately people don’t put in the smaller buck, their first buck, that they’d taken. I see a little bit of that, but certainly not enough of that. I’ve seen a lot more doe pictures this year. But it just seems, from unscientific, you know, observation, that a lot of mature deer have already been taken in various parts of the country this year. Have you seen that trend? Or I know it’s unscientific, folks, but it’s just, you know, what’s popping up on social media.
what’s related to that is hunters better understanding annual movement patterns of deer
I think we have seen a little over the last few years. And I think, as much as anything, what’s related to that is hunters better understanding annual movement patterns of deer. So, for example, you know, people often say, “Man, the rut is the best time to kill a big buck.” And the rut is either an all or nothing thing in many cases. You can just have an outstanding day, just have deer all over you, if you have a hot doe nearby. But I’ve spent a lot of early November days sitting in a stand, you know, and seeing almost nothing because, you know, all the bucks, you know, were away a little bit, you know, with another doe. But what more people are catching onto, Bruce, is towards the end of summer when deer are really on that feed, bed, feed, bed pattern, those older bucks, they often, if they have good food and good cover close by, they don’t move very far.
So, you know, the end of September, early October, that often is the best time to really pattern an older deer. And I think we have more hunters today understanding that and taking advantage of it. Because once the rut starts, you know, it’s really difficult to pattern an individual deer because it could be anywhere. Whereas early season those deer haven’t been pressured yet, they haven’t been pushed yet, testosterone levels aren’t as high yet. So lot of cases you have a better chance to really pattern an individual deer you’ve been watching.
So I think some of the increase of big deer early that we’re seeing online over the last few years is partly just because you have more hunters understanding that and that often is a better time to tag one of those big deer.
I’ve noticed a lot of velvet bucks. “A lot” being, you know, an unscientific word. But, you know, I remember talking to Josh Honeycutt, he took a 170 eight-pointer, just a monster of an eight-pointer. And it was in velvet and it was on the feed, bed, feed, bed routine. He long-distance scouted it, saw where it came out, set up his tree stand, killed it the next night. Boom, it was over. And the deer, you know, was, you know, clueless. There was no pressure on him, no nothing. It was his first sit ever on that buck, on that place, you know, and it’s just a perfect thing.
So, folks, you know, the rut is exciting. And I love all-day sits and get me in the right place and, you know, I just love being out in the woods in the fall and it’s a great thing to do. But think about some of these people that are taking these deer, starting as soon as the season opens, all through the fall they’re taking mature whitetails. And a mature whitetail in estimation is four and a half years old. Is that basically what your age is?
Yeah. And there’s no real hard year on that. I know they often talk about young bucks as being one or two years old, you know, middle-aged is three and four, and then fully mature is five and older. But there’s no doubt that a four-year-old buck is mature. So, you know, many cases, you know, people talk about three-year-olds as being mature. There’s no real hard, fast rule for it, so it often is just what your personal goals are and kind of the crowd that you run with. But certainly there’s not people who, you know, would pass a four-year-old buck. They would look at that as a mature animal and, you know, one well worthy to have the opportunity to shoot. So nobody is going to argue with that.
Yeah, one of the trends I remember reading last year was age class is increasing. You know, especially, I know, in Wisconsin the age class is increasing. And that’s a good thing. Why is that a good thing, Kip?
we’re protecting more younger bucks, getting deer into those older classes.
Well, in many cases it’s nice because we have an opportunity to hunt older deer, which hunters love. And for so many years we over-harvested very young bucks and just had terrible age structures to a lot of our deer herds, you know, very unnatural age structures. Where now, through QDM and, you know, educational efforts, we have it where suddenly, you know, we’re protecting more younger bucks, getting deer into those older classes. And you know what, Bruce? It’s just being a good deer manager. Because if you look at how unhunted deer herds are, they have bucks that are one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight-year-olds. If you look in history, you know, Native American middens, their trash piles, age structures of those deer were very balanced across all age classes. Those deer managers today, it’s nice that we can have deer in all those age classes.
I tell people, you know, who are…that even if you’re not, you know, a big-buck hunter, if you’re a deer enthusiast, you should at least care that there are older bucks there because that’s how deer herds evolve. And that’s how deer herds’ social order works best, when you have those older bucks out there, you know, that can basically take care of, you know, the deer herd and ensure that it’s working the way that it’s supposed to through all those social mechanisms that we talked about. So, yeah, if you want to go shoot a yearling buck, that’s fine, please continue to hunt, but, yeah, let’s at least care that we have those, you know, three, four, five, and six-year-old bucks in the heard so that we’re being good managers and creating a very natural situation for the deer herd.
Let’s talk about techniques. And I love to rattle bucks. Grunt calling and grunt tubes not so much. I just haven’t had that much success at it. But rattling I have, I had some sessions that just completely, oh my goodness. And, you know, that was…a couple of times it was one of the few times I said, “Man, I wish I had this on video.” Because nobody would, you know, basically believe it, you just get covered up.
And so when does rattling work best, in your opinion?
Rattling often works best just as we’re getting into the actual peak of breeding.
Rattling often works best just as we’re getting into the actual peak of breeding. And that’s when…so there’s, you know, fewer does that are in heat than there are bucks in the area. So there’s a lot of competition for those bucks, you know, to be able to get that hot doe. That’s often when rattling works the best. So oftentimes anywhere from, you know, Halloween in through that first week or 10 days of November is typically the time period that that works best. Because you’re telling other bucks, “Hey, you know, there’s two bucks over here fighting,” which suggested there’s probably a doe nearby because they’re not fighting just to fight. You know, there likely is somebody there that time period that’s drawing that attention. So that often is the best time period.
As far as grunting though… And I’m a huge fan of a grunt call, I never go deer hunting without a grunt call. Just because it’s fun to communicate with deer and that can… It may not be as exciting as rattling in a deer, but you can use it effectively over a wider range of times because you can grunt to bucks, you know, just as the rut is starting all the way up through the peak of when rattling works well. So a little more versatility with it. You know, you can be a little more discreet with your location by grunting. And deer are very social, as I’ve said earlier, so they communicate a lot through grunts. So I think that that’s a little more versatile than antlers, although I will agree with you, not nearly as exciting as hitting the antlers together and actually rattling in a buck.
Do you have you grunt tube with you, is it in your office?
I don’t, it’s in my pack downstairs in my plastic tote.
Right. And I didn’t think about that. Can you voice grunt, sort of kind of, the different sounds?
Sure. Absolutely. And, you know, and some people…there are grunt tubes on the market that say, you know, you can adjust it so that it’s a very young buck, it’s an older buck, it’s a doe, based strictly on tone, and that’s absolutely not true. You know, I spent a lot of time in deer research facilities when I was in graduate school, so I got to hear a lot of bucks grunt.
And I rattled, I could immediately hear this thing grunting.
I have grunted in deer, and actually rattled in deer, in the woods that I joked about, this is year ago. Called in a really old deer that was running with a very your buck. And I rattled, I could immediately hear this thing grunting. And it was a really wimpy type grump, like an “eh, eh, eh,” almost like a fawn grunting. And so in my mind I’m thinking it’s the younger of these two bucks in this area. So I stood up in my tree stand, I grabbed my bow just in case, and lo and behold this big 140-inch four or five-year-old deer jumps out in front of me. And I joke forever about it saying he’s like the Mike Tyson of the deer world. You know, he had this little wimpy voice, you know, and he was the biggest deer in the area.
So there’s not a lot of credence to, you know, the tone or the sounds. It’s not like the biggest, meanest buck have the deepest grunts. But, so there’s a lot of variation. But in general, you know, something like, you know, a lot of buck grunts will sound something like “eh, eh.” So there’s not just a hard sound has to be. You know, I think kind of like with turkey calling or duck calling or waterfowl calling, a lot of times it’s the inflection or the…you know, the intention that you put into the call is more important than just the sound. Because I could sit there and go “eh, eh,” and that kind of sounds like a grunt. But if I put a little more energy into it, or excitement, it will sound like “eh, eh, eh.” Suddenly to a deer it sounds, “Ooh,” there’s a little bit of livelihood to it, rather than just, you know, like, kind of a prerecorded sound.
So I don’t get cued in or tied in too hard to, “Ooh, that’s just the right sound,” or, “it’s just the right volume.” Deer make all kinds of different sounds. So I tend to call fairly a lot while we’re hunting, you know, particularly during the rut. Because as these bucks are moving, you know, they can cover large distances. So it’s not uncommon at all for me to grunt, you know, once or twice every 10 minutes during, you know, a multi-hour sit. Because there’s going to be deer coming in and out of, you know, hearing range, you know, throughout the course of that. So, you know, as long as you’re not crazy with it, you’re not going to scare deer with it, and you’ll be amazed, you know, the attention that you might get.
So it’s a fun way to interact with deer, it’s a fun way to continue hunting. And particularly for kids or new hunters, it’s a great way for them to be excited and be involved with it. So, and I tell folks, be able to grunt call, practice with it just a little bit so you feel comfortable. And then once you’re out there, absolutely use it, have a good time with it.
Tending grunts. That’s a little bit different than just “eh, eh, eh.”
And bucks will make a lot of different grunts. So just a basic grunt just being like an “eh, eh.” They will also grunt, you know, where they will almost challenge another one, where it’s kind of a “meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh.” And where they’re almost locked onto somebody else or they know another one is there and it’s just kind of a little bit of a warning like, “Hey, you know, I’m not happy you’re here, I’m up here.”
So there’s longer grunts where you’re going to be like, “eh, eh.” Then they might throw in a call to another buck, as well, kind of like a “eh, eh, eh, eh.” And a lot of times, Bruce, what I like is at the end of a grunt, particularly if I am trying to call to another buck that I can see at the end of it, kind of get a sharp pitch at the end. So like if I told you, you know, I don’t like you, if I say, “You know what, Bruce? I don’t like you.” That’s very different than if I say, “You know what, Bruce? I don’t like you.” So kind of that “meh” at the end can often just put a little bit more emphasis on that grunt to another deer and sometimes be all it takes to have that deer that’s standing out there a little bit of ways be like, “You know what? I just absolutely don’t appreciate being talked to that way. So I’m going to go over and check that out.”
So the inflection in the calls or your attitude in the calls in many cases are more important than the actual sound that you make.
So the tending grunt, is that a series of grunts all together when he’s follow a doe, is that what it’s supposed to do?
It certainly can be, yes. And that’s a lot easier to make on a call with my voice.
But, and so it’s almost like you’re starting and stopping multiple grunts right in a row that are real short. So it’s a “meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh, meh.” So yes. And, you know, I have seen them do that numerous times when they have a doe right nearby. You know, there’s a lot of things that deer will do to communicate back and forth, either to a doe that he sees or to other bucks that are in the area, or in some cases they’re just calling even if they don’t see anything there.
So, you know, there’s not a specific tending grunt, specific challenge grunt, specific regular grunt. There’s a lot of different things that they will do. I don’t know if you’re a turkey hunter, but I see the fan behind you, so I’m guessing you are. But just like, you know, there’s a yelp, there’s a clap, there’s a kee kee, there’s a pop. But actually calling is about a lot more than just being able to do one of those four, it’s putting them together and actually talking to the animal. Same thing with deer, same thing with deer calling.
it’s a conversation. And the only way you’re going to learn the conversation is listen to the conversation.
Folks, And we’re talking about deer communicating with each other and it takes a lot of time, and Kip has spent his whole lifetime around deer. But, you know, sometime just go and listen to deer and try things. And once you hear them…
Because elk are wonderful teachers, I mean they really are. Because you can hear them for miles away, literally, in the right conditions, or you can’t hear them and they’re 200 yards away. And Kip shot a wonderful DIY Colorado bull and, you know, one of his most revered trophies. All his trophies are revered, but his bull in Colorado is certainly majestic. But that’s how I learned to talk because elk talk.
And, you know, Larry D. Jones, I’m just trying to think of the guys, Wayne Carlton, you know, that kicked off elk hunting, you know, back in the late ’70s, early ’80s, with turkey…you know, turkey calls. Kee kee runs, I remember Wayne Carlton was kee kee runs and he just did a kee kee run and he busted it right into a bugle and that was the beginning of elk calling, really. And there was a couple other guys that were in the mix, but, you know, calling and vocalizing the game you’re hunting is very exciting. That’s why I think people like turkey hunting, because you’re vocalizing and you’re actually communicating with your [Inaudible 00:31:26]. And if you’ve never tried it, you know, do. You know, really, you know, learn how to do it. There’s plenty of tapes, there’s plenty of YouTube instruction materials. And I’m sure QDMA has instruction materials on, you know, the sounds of deer.
Yeah. And we used to have a great VHS tape, for all of your listeners or viewers that remember VHS, on, you know, grunt-snort-wheeze. And it was all the communication sounds that, like, the deer made and it had grunts and snorts. So it was great, you know, it was really good. A lot of it was from the University of Georgia and work that Dr. Karl Miller had done. So in addition to being helpful, I mean, it can absolutely make you a better hunter and it’s just a ton of fun just to understand, you know, what’s going on. And to the casual hunter they would have no idea that deer make all these sounds or that they communicate anywhere near the way that they do. So, yeah, it’s a ton of fun, for sure, to understand all the different sounds that they make and the reasons for them.
I’ve heard that way too many times. And snort-wheezing, they’re just…you know, they’re not happy. You know?
For sure. The very first time I heard it I was in graduate school at the University of New Hampshire. I was a supervisor of the Brentwood Wildlife Research Facility. And the oldest buck we had at the time was a three-and-a-half-year-old. He was a giant deer, he was about 300 pounds. And we would cut their antlers off as soon as they shed out every fall to protect, you know, the people working there.
And our vet used to always tell me, “You should never go in these pastures alone.” And, you know, I knew all the deer and I was in control of the place, I’m like, “Yeah, yeah.” I remember it was a Friday night, he stopped out at the facility, “Everything good?” “Yeah.” “All the deer okay? All right, I’m going home for the weekend.” And I was the only graduate student there at the time, the other ones were at school or working. And I went out into the pasture, three-acre pasture, to take a couple pictures. And I saw this buck, this three-year-old buck we called Chestnut, walking toward me. And I said, you know, “Hey, Chestnut, how we doing?,” I took a picture of him and he’s still walking. And I remember this was back when you had, you know, an actual camera that you put film in, and I picked it up to take it again. And during…or looking through the finder I saw him charge. And it hit me like, “Ooh, this is not good.”
And long story short I was close enough to a tree that I was able to get up into a tree. He kept me up this tree. Luckily there was a branch that I could jump and grab, and then stand on. He kept me up there for over an hour. And he would circle the tree. And what it was, he had a doe that was in heat, I’m sure, he would snort-wheeze, and then charge the tree and just hit it, boom. And he tore all the bark off the tree by charging it, you know, keeping me up there. And he snort-wheezed, I don’t know, 50 times. I had never heard that in my life. And partly because I grew up in Pennsylvania, you know, we didn’t get older bucks, they didn’t do that.
So I remember when he finally left and I got down, running through the pen, you know, the gate to get out. And called my advisor to let him know what had just happened. And, anyway, during the course of that conversation I was telling him about these crazy grunts he was making. And I remember him saying, “Yeah, I think that’s like that snort-wheeze that some people on Texas talk about.” And, you know, years later I started to learn about this and started seeing some older deer and realized, “Yeah, that was a grunt-snort-wheeze,” but the first time I ever heard it. So this would have been like in…oh, in maybe 1994.
And so look how far we’ve come today. Many hunters today have experienced it in the woods because we have better age structures of deer. And, you know, I’ve watched deer do that, have used that to call deer in. So, yeah, it’s a great sound. If you’re in the woods, man, you know, you’re in a good spot if you hear that. The first time I ever heard it I was not in a good spot, but I sure enjoy hearing it now when I’m in the woods.
That’s a great story. And it just, you know, this whole show is about hunting whitetails, but we’re sharing learning about the whitetail and everything about them, their mannerisms. They’re highly social and they also talk, and it’s up to us to learn what all that means. And the better you do that, and the people that are figuring it out, just become better hunters. And is there an experience any better than sitting on a stump and waiting for a deer to come by? Probably not, because that’s your hunt, and that’s the nice thing. But you can move forward and all of a sudden you realize, “Wow.” You know, when a buck bristles up and gets all angry, and, you know, it’s neat to see. I mean it’s just…it’s neat to be there. And it’s part of…
And they all have their own personalities.
Yeah, they all have their own personalities. Some, you know, older bucks are very shy, some are aggressive, some younger bucks are little bit more aggressive. So, you know, each has his own personality. And same with the does, we can just tell the bucks apart better obviously with the antlers. But, yeah, so even, you know, older deer, you can hunt them differently, whether they tend to be, you know, movers and shakers or real shy and secretive. So, you know, scouting certainly helps, game cameras certainly help, all of that can help you put the pieces together to help you get within bow range of one of those deer in the fall.
So let’s wrap up the show with this question. What do you know today that you wish you knew 10 years ago when it comes to hunting deer?
pay attention to which way the wind was blowing before or after or even during the hunt,
Oh man, we know so much more today about how deer move and how they react to pressure. Man, back in the day I would go hunting every single chance I had, never, ever pay attention to which way the wind was blowing before or after or even during the hunt, and, you know, just go out. And I’m sure, Bruce, that I scared so many deer before I ever saw them. And then certainly that impacted, negatively impacted, future hunts.
So I think if I knew one thing today, or I could go back, you know, and give a new hunter this, because, you know, if nothing else, you know, pay attention to the wind when you go so that you’re not scaring all these deer that you never get an opportunity to see. You know, and at its simplest form, you know, some people get really heavy into all the scent control stuff. Wherever you are on that gradient, whether you pay attention a little bit to, you know, being ultra conservative about your scent control, at the very least pay attention to the wind, try to keep the wind blowing in your face for where you think deer are going to come from, you know, upwind from you, and you will be so much more successful. I can’t even imagine how many deer that I spooked in the past, you know, just because I didn’t pay any attention at all to that.
So, you know, that’s easy to do, it doesn’t cost you any money, and just by being a little bit smarter you can be way more effective, you know, seeing deer and shooting deer. So that’s my tip. I would have seen a lot more deer in my career if I would have known that, you know, 15 or 20 years ago.
Kip Adams, one more time, how will somebody become a member of QDMA?
They can go right to our website, which is qdma.com, and join. Or they can call our national office at 800-209-DEER. You know, QDMA is where deer hunters belong and, man, we fight for deer herds and deer hunters so that we have a long opportunity to hunt deer in the future. So if you’re a deer hunter, man, you belong with us. So at the very least you can come check out all the education resources that we have on our website, you know, to help make you a better deer hunter and increase your chances for crossing paths with that deer of your dreams this fall. So, yeah, good luck, certainly be safe in the woods, and good luck to all your listeners this fall. Man, I’ve been a wildlife biologist for 20-some years, but I am first and foremost a deer hunter. So I’m in it as thick as you are, Bruce, and it’s certainly a great time of year.
Kip Adams, once again, thank you so much for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous. Look forward to seeing you at ATA in a few months and just thank you for everything that QDMA does, because they are, you know, the leader in whitetail science, whitetail research, whitetail…communicating about whitetails. And what you do throughout the country is very admirable, so thank you for being a guest, sir.
All right. Absolutely, Bruce, any time. And good luck to you in the woods.