Mr. Whitetail, Where Are You?

Before you call a missing critters hotline, Mark Kayser offers a few suggestions toward the whereabouts of a wandered-off whitetail.

Trail cameras are great, aren’t they? You can spy on the whitetails on your hunting property without hours of eye time and tanks of expensive fuel. But what if a buck you caught on film last year, this past winter or even early this summer, suddenly pulls a Jimmy Hoffa on you? Do you post their picture on a milk carton? Do you scratch them off the hit list?

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If your anxiety levels have you on the verge of seeking medical attention, consider these possibilities and then decide if you need to admit yourself for professional help.

First, take a good look around. As summer progresses, crops begin to mature and your buck might have suddenly discovered that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Buck’s rarely abandon a core area, especially mature animals, but they might change their travel pattern due to a new food source such as soybeans, a recently mowed alfalfa field or even a neighbor’s food plot. Put trail cameras on trails leading to different food and refuge areas, and you might suddenly find your missing whitetail.

Review what’s happening in and around your deer woods. Has your farmer decided to clear more timber for additional farming? Is a local utility company putting in a new power line right through deer bedding cover? Has a new, rural housing development sprung up next door? If there is a sudden and disruptive bustle of activity in close proximity to your hunting area, it could have caused a buck to find new bedding grounds. Again, the buck likely didn’t move far, but just far enough to evade your cameras.

Now, consider the worst. Face it. One of a whitetails’ worst enemies rolls along on four wheels sits right in your driveway. Auto collisions with deer tallied 1.2 million in 2013. So with an estimated whitetail population of 30 million deer, you do the math. According to insurance data, the top five states for deer collisions include Iowa, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and West Virginia. If you are missing a buck in one of these states, you might want to check the ditch.

Lastly, with all the water sitting around in most regions of whitetail country, there could be another explosion of epizootic hemorrhagic disease. The EHD season kicks off in the summer. It’s spread by a tiny, two-winged midge and kills within days of infection, yet has no cure. It affects the entire country except for extreme regions in the northeast and northwest corners of the whitetail range. According to the University of Georgia and the University of California, mortality estimates of 90 percent are possible in localized areas. If you want to confirm EHD deaths, check around water sources. Fever and internal hemorrhaging drive deer to water.

So there you have it. Keep checking your trail cameras to monitor your big buck, but if Mr. Whitetail suddenly comes up missing, you now have some ideas about what happened. You’ll also have to make a decision on whether or not you need to check in for anxiety attention, or if a call to the FBI is warranted.

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