This week on the How to Hunt Deer Podcast, Josh talks with the National Deer Association's Chief Conservation Officer, Kip Adams, about trends reported in the 2023 Deer Report. Each year, the National Deer Association produces the Deer Report, covering the latest in deer harvest reports, management trends, and challenges face by deer and deer managers. The guys discuss some of the surprising trends from the report, some challenges facing whitetails, and how we can all become better deer managers and hunters.
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[00:00:00] Welcome to the How to Hunt Deer podcast, which is brought to you by Tactic Camp. This podcast aim to educate those who are interested in becoming deer hunters, brushing up on essential skills, or maybe just adding a few new tactics to the toolkit. Here we cover a variety of topics that are gonna help you be more confident and successful in the field while you're hunting deer.
Thank you so much for tuning in with us this week. Man, what a tremendous honor to have Mr. Kipp Adams from the National Deer Association on the show today. He is NDAs Chief Conservation Officer. KIPP is an absolute wealth of knowledge Every year the N D A puts out their deer report, right? So usually it's, January of the year as we head into season.
I wanted to talk with Kip about the 2023 Deer Report, even though it's, nine months old at this point. I did want to have him on and discuss a couple of the big takeaways from the Deer report because I think that [00:01:00] informs not only how we hunt, it informs the harvest decisions that we make. And this is that time of year when we are all geared up, fired up.
Looking forward to deer season. Kip and I cover things like harvest trends. We cover the big topic of C W D. We cover the topic of hogs and what do you what to do if you have feral hogs on your property. And then we just talk deer management and deer hunting in general. It's a great episode, but before we jump in, here's a quick word from our sponsors.
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Now let's get into this week's show. Alright. It is an honor today to have the Chief Conservation Officer from the National Deer Association, Mr. KIPP Adams on the line with me. Kipp, welcome to the show. Hey, thanks Josh. I'm glad to be here. Absolutely. I heading into this deer season, I really wanted to get you on and have a conversation about the 2023 Deer Report.
Now this report came back in, came out in January so it's been out for a little while. People have had time to review it and look it over. But here heading into the season, [00:04:00] I think there are a lot of really important reminders that can maybe help us make more informed harvest decisions can maybe help us when it comes to understanding some decisions that we can make to support our local deer herds better.
And then there are some things that just when it comes down to the practical nuts and bolts of hunting, we can talk about hunter access and that sort of thing. How does that conversation sound to you? I think that sounds perfect. And I wish I was in one of those states that archery season was here in Pennsylvania.
We gotta wait a couple more weeks but I have lots of friends across the country hunting and shooting deer already, so I'm a little bit jealous. I feel a little bit behind. Yeah. I was gonna ask how you've I've been sitting here watching folks in North Dakota. Just having a ball over the last couple of days.
Watched folks a couple weeks ago and with the Tennessee velvet hunt, just man they're having a blast. And here I am just waiting for September 9th although September 9th, it's gonna be 90 degrees here is the forecast, I don't know, man. How do you feel about hunting hot weather?
You guys probably don't do that a whole lot. We don't [00:05:00] start till late September or early October. However, I have a good friend in Maryland, they always start the Friday after Labor Day. Oh. So for the past three years, he has invited my young son down to, to bow hunt their opening day. And so I get to go sit with him and so I get my fix for starting early.
It's always hot, but the way I look at it is you know what? It's opening day. It's early in the year. So if season is open, even if I'm sweating in a blinder on a stand, I am glad to go. Absolutely. At least knock the rust off. Because there are those things that you're gonna forget, or you're gonna realize you didn't replace this or that, or you're gonna, work the kinks out a little bit, maybe exactly.
There's always things in your pack that you forget. You think you have it, and you. You're, you're sitting there and be like, oh, it either I don't have it, so I gotta get it. Or you just have to remember where everything is, in all the different pockets so that you can grab something as quickly as you need it.
So anyway, it's a, you should practice that I guess before you go, but early season's a great time just to get everything set [00:06:00] right? Absolutely. Kip, I thought we would kick things off here talking about the 2023 Deer Report and just ask with this question, I wanna start on a positive note.
What are some of the promising trends that you saw as that data came in and you guys compiled it and put it in the report for us? I think one is that hunters are more knowledgeable about deer than ever before, and how to be good stewards of our natural resources. So that parlays into, we have the healthiest age structure we've had in at least the last 150 years from a deer population.
Wow. We have very balanced age structures for both bucks and those, and that's a direct result of, what we choose to shoot or pass during the season. We have from an age structure in arguably the best we've had, certainly in any of our lifetimes. And that's pretty cool. Yeah, absolutely.
And I, I think that piece of hunters being more knowledgeable than ever before one is critically important, right? It's helping us make better choices when we're out in the field. [00:07:00] But at the same time I think it's in large part due to the work that you guys, have done and the things that you've been producing over the last several years, it seems like the content just keeps getting better and better.
And I recently completed the Dear Steward one course. And if folks have not done that course, you need to go do it. I've been podcasting about Whitetails for a couple years. I've been hunting whitetails my whole life. I thought I knew a lot about Whitetails and then I took the course. I'm like, oh, all right.
There's a lot to learn. And I was gonna go to Deer Steward two. It just didn't work out with our calendar and kids' birthdays and all that kind of thing. But already looking forward to when I get to do Dear Steward two. 'cause it is such a great investment of your time to take that dear Steward one, one class.
I just, I learned so much and I'm I'm gonna be a better hunter this year, I think, because of it. All so we've heard the positive. Maybe give me a trend or two that is a little bit troubling for you when you sit back and think about the future of whitetails and deer hunting in the us.
One of the things that, that we have seen slipping the last [00:08:00] few years, that hunters are really slowing down on the number of ISTs deer they're shooting. If you look nationally, only about 40% of the hunters that go a field this year are gonna shoot a deer. And that's not adult. That's, that's a deer.
So the perception is, man, in many states have multiple buck bag limit. We can shoot all these antlerless deer, but the reality is less than half of the hunters that go out are gonna shoot a single deer this year. Wow. And only about 18% of the hunters are gonna shoot more than one. So what that means is if hunters only gonna shoot one, He or she's far more likely to shoot a buck than a dough.
And given that hunter numbers are declining we need hunters to shoot more an analyst deer now than in the past. Deer herds are very high and in many places above what the habitats can adequately support. That's one trend that's a little concerning as hunters over the last decade have really backed off the number of analysts here they're shooting.
And we're starting [00:09:00] to see some of the negative implications from that now. So we certainly encourage hunters to take at least as many those as bucks this year. For most of the US there are some isolated places where, you know, those populations just can't handle that harvest, but the vast majority of white tail range.
To keep healthy deer herds, we need hunters to shoot at least as many do as they do bucks. I wonder why would, why do you think that trend has gone that direction? I grew up so I was born in 86, right? So I saw. A lot of the, when I, when I first started hunting, we had relatives who wouldn't shoot doughs or, heard of people who didn't like to shoot doughs because dough bring the bucks.
And then I saw this, emphasis, especially in a club that I was in and on this lease that we had where guys were very serious about harvesting dough and making sure they killed as many dose as they did bucks. And so I saw that increase but now what you're saying, there's this decrease.
Why do you think that is? About a decade ago, We were harvesting a lot of analyst deer, hunters were doing a great job. [00:10:00] Then at about the time that we started to balance deer herds with what the habitat could support, we had a couple double whammies on the deer herd. We had two of the worst hemorrhagic disease years in our history.
Within a five year period across a lot of the southeast, we had increasing coyote populations. So fa recruitment rates dropped right at the same time that we had a lot of land coming out of our federal wildlife habitat programs. C r p, we lost millions and millions of acres. So those three things all at the same time were approximate, at the same time, hurt the deer herd.
So you had hunters that were now shooting more deer all of a sudden. We couldn't sustain the same level of vose harvest. She had hunters get nervous and back way off. So five to 10 years later, those things from a disease standpoint or from a hemorrhagic disease standpoint, from a fawn recoupment rate standpoint has improved.
And now we've stabilized, what's going on habitat wise. So deer herds are doing [00:11:00] really well and growing again. So as hunters, we follow that curve. We need to now follow suit and start shooting more antlerless deer again. More similarly to what we were shooting a decade ago.
Need to get back on the trigger. And there's always that bias, it seems that boy, we sure are seeing fewer deer than we did last year. Boy, we sure are seeing fewer deer than we did five years ago. That always seems to be there. But I do remember. A time hunting in Alabama, all of a sudden it was like we, we really maybe weren't seeing as many deer on our trail cameras or that kind of thing.
But now we are, we're back to the point where you know, on, on let's say three acres of food plots in one evening we'll have pictures of 30, 40 deer. And it's yeah, we need to start, we need to start thin some of these things out, or we're not gonna be able to su to sustain this.
One of the stats that caught my attention as I was reading through this report was the the harvest by age breakdown and how that was looking. A couple of things really stood out to me. One, across the [00:12:00] southeast, it seems our yearling buck harvest is fairly low. And, right where I would like to see it.
It could keep coming down and I'd be okay with that. I was also surprised to see that at many places in the Midwest, it's actually pretty high compared to the southeast. Then I saw the three and a half year old buck harvest in the Southeast man. Things are going gangbusters in Louisiana in Mississippi.
Even my home state of Alabama was doing pretty well in that regard. But then other states, like in the Midwest, you see them lagging behind pretty significantly states in the southeast. I'm curious what your thoughts are on that, what that long-term trend has looked like, and maybe why you think it's getting to the way that it is.
Yeah, I think long term we're in a really good spot, better than we have ever been before so that's pretty encouraging. And that's due in large part, to hunter's knowledge and organizations like ours and others that are teaching hunters the benefit of, passing younger deer. I think where we are today, where we see basically the southeast [00:13:00] year in and year out, the southeast as a region harvests the lowest percentage of yearling bucks as anybody in the country.
And what I mean by that is take all the antler bucks they shoot, what percentage of 'em are only one and a half years old versus what percentage are two and a half versus what percentage are three and a half and older? The Southeast always shoots the lowest percentage of one and a half year olds.
And the highest percentage of three and a half and older bucks, and a couple things that go into that. One, you had the first antler restrictions in the southeast, so you just have been practicing that longer. It's to the point now that you have a couple generations of hunters that have hunted under that.
So it's just a cultural norm now. They're just not pass, they're not shooting, those small yearling bucks anymore. They're just, Hey, we know how much better it can be if we pass 'em. So they do that. You also have in many parts of the Midwest deer get much larger antler at younger age classes than you do at some places in the Southeast.
Not to [00:14:00] say that you don't have kill huge deer in the southeast. You can kill a huge deer in any state in the country today, which is really cool. But, the average two or three year old deer in say, Wisconsin, or Minnesota antler wise, tends to be quite a bit bigger than the average in even Texas or, or Georgia or Mississippi.
So you have folks that are happy, with those deer, so they might shoot 'em a little younger. And also, and this is a big one. You have dramatically longer deer seasons in the southeast. The firearm seasons in the Midwest average, and I won't remember this exactly now, but it's something like 15 days.
That's it. So they're very short, compact seasons in the southeast. Your firearm season averages, it's 80 days. So you have much more time to be choosy, to wait for a larger deer. The seasons that you guys have worked very well for you. The seasons they have in the Midwest worked very well for them.
So it's one of the things that's neat about deer management is that it's not a [00:15:00] one size fits all recipe, but the way you have yours laid out, that just really gives you a great opportunity to to shoot a much larger percentage of older bucks. I've often wondered, I hunt in Wisconsin, I also hunt in Alabama and Georgia.
I've often wondered what it would be like for Alabama, let's say, where I grew up hunting. To have a nine day deer season like Wisconsin has, I think we would be very disappointed and we would not be able to keep up with, with the population growth in Wisconsin, however, success rates are much, much higher.
I think it's due to terrain and, just the way things break down with smaller woodlots, lots of farms, that kind of thing. Up there a longer season, you just couldn't sustain it. There wouldn't be any deer left, it would just be a, a slaughter and you're right, you can be a lot pickier when, boy, my season came in November and I get to hunt right on into February with a rifle.
With a long range rifle, like we're gonna have lots and lots of opportunities. Yeah, and [00:16:00] that really goes to just hunter behavior as well. Like I know lots of diehard deer hunters in the Southeast that that may not even go out opening day. It's just way too hot. The wind is not right.
Hey, we have 79 other days, I don't know anybody that's not going out opening day in Pennsylvania or Wisconsin. You are gonna be there. It's bigger than Christmas, right? Hunter, hunter behavior plays a lot into that as well. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. There's a quote in in the Deer report that's blocked out from the rest and it's something that I learned quite a bit about in the deer steward one course.
And that is aging deer. And so the quote says, age structured data is the backbone of deer management programs. I'm curious for the average everyday guy that says, you know what? I wanna start taking this a little bit more seriously. I want something better than. A rough guesstimate of the age of this buck.
I really want to put some work in and find out how old are the deer that we're harvesting? How old are the antler deer? [00:17:00] How old are the antlerless deer? Where should they start? What would you recommend? I. We have information on our website articles, videos on our YouTube channel mat or charts, that teach them exactly how to do that.
So basically they could go there, watch our YouTube video and then, do that for free. If they wanted a little better instruction, they can take the jaw Jawbone aging class that you know, that we have as part of our deer steward stuff, where we literally show them how to pull the jawbone from a deer that's been harvested and then.
Step by step, here's how you actually age it. Yeah, the Dear Steward class is a great opportunity for more hands-on stuff. But we first want people to understand the importance of aging. Those, and then more and more people wanna be able to do it themselves. And you know what, Josh, we can teach anybody to do it in a very short period of time.
It's not a hard thing at all. You just need a little bit of instruction, a little bit of guidance, so folks can immediately go watch our YouTube video for free, or they can come to a dear steward class and hang out with us and [00:18:00] have some fun. And we'll teach 'em to do it in person. Absolutely, man.
Let, so let's go into that just a little bit. You said that you guys spend some time trying to educate folks why this is important. For people who maybe have been listening to our conversation about the age of deer or whatever, and they're like, you know what I'm not concerned about all that. I don't care.
Why should we be concerned with the age structure? Now, let me give a little bit of context here. There is a lot to today especially in hunting media. Saying things like my tag my hunt, don't buck shame me. I get all of that. I really do. We should, when we harvest a deer, we should be proud of that animal no matter what, because we decided to pull the trigger.
When a buddy of ours harvest a deer, we should be happy for them. We should be supportive. I understand that your tag is yours and you get to decide how to use it. I also understand that not every buck in the herd performs the same kind of actions and duties as a four and a half year old deer. Would I also understand that a herd that's age [00:19:00] structure is more diverse is a healthier herd.
Right? Why is it important to manage our age structure? We, Deere evolved under a very balanced age structure. They're very social animals and there's a lot of things that go on in a deer herd that just work way better if they have that full compliment of ages. So as managers, given that's how deer evolved, that's how their social order works best.
That's what we should try to replicate through our hunting programs. 30 years ago when Q D M A started, which now is the National Deer Association There was not good age structure at all. It was very skewed to younger bucks. Hence, that's where the whole impetus of the organization came from.
Fast forward to today, we have very good age structure, so yes, there is no reason for any buck shaming or folks to, feel bad about what they shoot. And I tell people this all the time. I'll have somebody show me a picture of the shot and be like I didn't have much time to hunt, or, I thought it was bigger.
And I say, you know [00:20:00] what? Do not apologize. Don't ever apologize for do your shot. Be happy for that. Take that home. Celebrate with your friends and family and eat it. Don't apologize. I don't want to hear it. I don't care if you shot a small buck. I don't care what you shot. I will be the first to congratulate you until you apologize for it.
And then I will shame you for apologizing. Be happy. But we want to know the age structure because we can determine a lot about the health of that dear herd by knowing that. So for example, if. All the bucks that were killed say none of them were more than two and a half years old. That shows a problem.
If we don't have three year olds and four year olds and five-year-olds. Same thing on the dough side. If none of the dough are older, that lets us know, ooh, something is going on. Like they should be deering all these different age classes. So by monitoring that, we can monitor health of the deer population.
We also can monitor how hard we are hitting that deer herd. So for example, by monitoring age structure, [00:21:00] we can see are we applying too much harvest pressure or too little harvest pressure. So there's a lot of information that we can gain to make good management decisions if we know the age structure of the deer that are harvested.
So that's why managers want to know that, and that's why more hunters than ever before today pull those jawbones and then have that data. So in addition to that, it's a lot of fun. Think about it. Say it doesn't matter if it's a buck or a dough. If you pull that jawbone and find out, man, that deer is five years old, or seven years old, or 10 years old, like, how cool is that, that you have killed a fully mature deer, and just think of all the hunters that it is, Eva. So anyway, there's a lot more fun that can be added to the experience if you know how old that deer is. We pull the jaws from every single deer shot on our farm. And I have shot doughs that are in their teens as well as both of my kids.
Wow. And more than once they shot a dough, we will celebrate. This is great. Pull [00:22:00] the John, be like, oh my gosh. The deer turned out to be more than 10 years old. Wow. That just adds a whole nother level of trophy status to the dough it's a lot of fun. That's really good.
One of the things that the Dear Steward course emphasized several different times was, putting things in place that let us know whether or not our management practices are working. And if you're not getting this kind of data, this is another example. We won't know if the things that we're doing are working.
If we can't say, three and a half year old bucks on our property typically weigh around this. How do we really know if we have enough food? How do we really know if the habitat improvements we're doing are working? How do we really know if, they're having access to adequate resources on our ground?
Let's jump into the breakdown between public and private land. It, I was surprised, honestly to see, some states coming in, 95 plus percent of deer harvested are harvested on private land. [00:23:00] There's a lot that gets said about our local DNRs and how they're managing the deer herd.
In reality, though landscape size management, Happens on 40 acre lots all across the country. And it is a communal effort because deer aren't gonna live on just that 40 acres alone. So let's talk a little bit about, this breakdown between public and private land and maybe how that should inform what we do when it comes to what we decide to shoot, how we interact with our neighbors and maybe even when it comes to our interactions and understanding of the way our local d n r works.
Yeah, I, the, that was a big question relative to, where are these deer harvest, where's the majority coming from? I certainly felt that the majority were coming from private land. I was even surprised to see it was that high. Basically nine outta 10 bucks killed across, or I'm sorry, nine outta 10 deer killed across the US come from private land.
So it doesn't [00:24:00] mean the public land's not important. Public land's incredibly important, right? But that just shows that from a deer management standpoint, we have to understand, yes, most of these will come from private land that needs to be taken into account with our hunting seasons, bag limits et cetera, which also are other programs that work on private lands like deer management assistant programs.
And fortunately, an increasing number of states now have these DM a programs, that allow more site specific deer management, which are great. Those are great for landowners, they're great for hunters, and they're great for the deer resource. As much as anything, Josh, we wanted that chapter to, to highlight.
Where these deer r being taken, just so that we can develop new tools and even enhance the tools we have to continue to do a really good job. And I had some people contact me about, Hey, don't be shamed in public land. I said, this is not about that at all. We need more public land. And which is one of the reasons that at N D A, we have this big public land initiative where, we're gonna enhance a [00:25:00] million acres of public land, by 2026 to have better deer hunting. I get it. This was not about that at all, but this was just about recognizing where most deer are taken to make sure we're doing the best job we can to provide programs to manage 'em adequately.
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Share your hunt with tac cam. So let's jump into that piece a little bit. This segues right into hunter access and we knew that was a topic that we wanted to get to. I wanted, I want you to break down that, that. Program that you just, or that initiative that you just threw out there, you guys want to enhance 1 million acres of public land by 2026.
Tell me a little bit about what that means and what that looks like. It's a five year program, so 2026 will be the fifth year of it. So we're a couple of years into it now. There are some organizations that can buy land. And then provide access to it for hunters the N D A, we've said, you know what, we're not gonna take that tact because there's a lot of public land right now that just isn't very good habitat and it just isn't very good hunting or doesn't have [00:27:00] access.
This is not a knock on those managers at all. It's just they haven't had the opportunity to enhance habitat or their hands are tied, by environmentalist groups and others when they're trying to do that. So we work with the US Forest Service on national forests, and this initiative is to improve access habitat and hunt deer hunting on a million acres.
Matt Ross, who's our director of conservation, he spearheads this program for us. He works with forests, national forests in numerous different states and all regions around the country. So he's all over the place. And essentially because we're a 5 0 1 C three organization, we have the ability to go in and actually cut trees on many of these national forests and do other habitat work.
So we work closely with the forest service, with their biologist and their foresters to identify. Areas that need to have habitat enhanced. And then we help facilitate that. If it's timber sails, we facilitate the timber sail and then the [00:28:00] money from that sale goes right back into that forest to improve habitat that's there, might be streamside stuff, it might be some access, into these areas.
It's other wildlife work. This is all for wildlife and it's because of our national profit status that we can make it happen. And of course, from our dear knowledge, that that helps us work with those forests to the, to make this the best for deer we can. Our biggest public land initiative, we're very excited about it.
And it's a big deal. A million acres is a lot of land to improve for wildlife. That is a lot of land. Absolutely. It sparked a question in my mind though, as you were talking about it there. I'm on a lease here in, in Georgia, and as you likely know, many of our leases down here are pine plantation, right?
Like they, they are row crop pine trees, essentially. It's takes 'em a little longer to harvest than a a patch of corn or something like that. But it is essentially treated like ag land. What we have though on a lot of these places are stands [00:29:00] that are managed solely with timber in mind.
Stands will go their entire lifespan without ever being burned. They'll go way longer than you might think without being thinned. Is there anything that you're seeing people do to be creative, to, improve these areas that, the local timber company and their foresters, they're not going to put wildlife first because they're there for a profit.
They're there to make money. Not faulting them, but just to say, is there anything we can do to deal with the hand that we're dealt? I was at a show recently called Borama down in Perry, Georgia, and we had lots of people coming through to stop by our booth and talk to us. And a common thing that I heard was, I'm on Timberland, there's nothing I can do.
My hands are tied. All I can do is dump a bag of corn and hope the deer come through there. Because I can't touch a tree, I can't touch the ground, I can't do anything. Are you seeing people get creative and find solutions for that? [00:30:00] Yeah. And I'm gonna answer this two sides. One is I. Yeah, there, there are pine plantations throughout the southeast.
In general, higher quality land. They grow crops on like corn, soybeans, alfalfa, lower quality land. They grow crops like trees. Trees don't feed deer or near as, as much as more of our agricultural crops. However, that doesn't mean that we still can't have very productive areas. There. More private landowners today who are in pine production using pine plantations, can treat the understory of those and make it very high quality for deer.
There are a lot of broadleaf plants or Forbes that can be in those understory. So when it's time to thin those pines, more sunlight to the ground, we can remove that, those pine needles with prescribed fire and grow lots of high quality food underneath the pine trees. So there's a lot of private landowners providing a tremendous amount of food and cover for deer.
Underneath the pine stand, you know that they're going to be or that they're [00:31:00] growing for revenue, right? So we absolutely know how to make that work, the second part of that is, okay, what if that pine plantation is on for, or timber company land or land, that I'm leasing and I can't do any of the thinning with those.
And I have worked with a lot of leases all over the country on this. You are definitely at a disadvantage because you can't cut trees. Oftentimes those timber companies still allow folks to plant openings like log landings for some food plots. But they also have an opportunity that many miss along the woods roads.
You typically will have grasses and they're often perennial cool season grasses growing along those roads. Those are great opportunities to. Replace those grasses with broadleaf plants. So you're not, you don't have to buy seed and plant those as food plots, but by killing the perennial grasses, many of those are replaced with broadleaf plants, which are preferred by deer.
And since you have those [00:32:00] roads, they tend to wind through the property. They may not be all that wide, and that's why people often overlook 'em. But woods roads are a great opportunity on many leased lands like that. The the owners will still often will let you kill those grasses. You're not killing trees, you're spraying herbicide.
Kill those grasses. Let what the so seed that's in the seed bank germinate. So you don't even have to buy seed. If you wanna buy seed planter, you can, but in many cases you don't have to. That is a great way. To provide high quality forage for deer. I do that on my own property along wood roads as well.
And I have, I also, work in old fields and plant food plots and that. But if I didn't have an opportunity to do those and one of the only things I could do was along those wood roads, I would absolutely take advantage of every foot of road I could to do that. Because that at least is a way to be able to get something going.
Yeah, absolutely. That's a really good point. I'm thinking about a lot of the roads on my lease right now where they do get wider and there is [00:33:00] a little bit of sunlight. It's primarily Broomed blue stem that, that's all you got down both sides and just a little bit of disturbance or getting rid of some of that could, like you're saying, increase the amount of forage on the property very quickly.
Yeah, you can spray that and walk away and some of it will come back in grasses, but a lot of it'll come back in broad leaves. So every one of those broad leaves is gonna be more valuable than that Broomed was. And we're not, not necessarily trying to eliminate all the grasses. We would love to see it pop up really nice and diverse and have a good mix there.
So let's talk then a little bit more about the hunter access piece. It's becoming more important, I think now, even though hunter numbers are dwindling or are decreasing. The popularity of hunting public land has gotten pretty big out there. There's a little thing called YouTube, I don't know if you've ever seen it.
There's a lot of guys on there hunting public land. Private land is becoming more and more expensive. Leased land is becoming more and more expensive in many places. So hunter access is a [00:34:00] really big deal. What are some of the things that, NDAs focusing on to increase hunter access?
What are some of the creative ways that you're seeing states begin to solve this problem? And maybe where would you like to see folks go over the next couple of years when it comes to increasing the amount of property that we have open to us? I think this is, this has been identified access as a big impediment for a long time now, and it's only getting worse, right?
So fortunately there are some federal monies available to state wildlife agencies to increase their public access programs. We have been a big proponent of those, and from an advocacy standpoint, have fought hard to help states get that money because we recognize the need for these. Now I'm in Pennsylvania, a state that has a lot of public land.
We have four and a half million acres of public land. We are very lucky, but I'm the first to realize that there's other places like Texas that have 1% public land, right? So it's. I think there's twofold here. One is continuing to help [00:35:00] states get money to improve. You're either purchase more land or enhance access on the lands that they have, or improve the habitat on those lands that they have, which is good because it doesn't do us any good to have access if the habitat sucks and there's nothing there.
So access, yes, let's work on that and let's enhance the habitat that's there. However the chapter that's in our report this year that we talked about also is do you have these, private land access programs where there's many states that will pay private landowners, to allow the public to access those lands for hunting.
And if you talk to deer hunters, what's one of the best regions of the country to go shoot deer? Or if you could only go to one region, or where do you kill the biggest deer? Many people immediately think of the Midwest, right? We wanna go to Kansas and Wisconsin and to Kentucky and all this.
And if you look at that chapter, the Midwest has some of the most private land access programs of any region in the country, right? So a [00:36:00] lot of that are because of pheasants and upland birds, but those are still, folks are having access there. They're deer hunting, et cetera. So I think that's a good opportunity for people to realize, hey, if they can do that in the Midwest, they can do that anywhere.
We can make that happen. It's about, the right programs to work with landowners to do that. They certainly can make that happen on, timber company lands et cetera. So anyway, I think that there's a blueprint for that. We certainly recognize the need for that. And in many cases it's just about people getting involved, to help make those happen.
And then certainly to be responsible while they're, hunting and or going to field under those programs, to make landowners want to continue in 'em, things like not littering, not tearing stuff up, be being a good guest. Yeah. Being, just being a good person.
Just being a decent person when you're out there, I think goes a really long way. I'm glad you mentioned though when it comes to, helping states not just purchase but also manage and improve[00:37:00] these properties. I've got a place that I'm thinking of right now that is public ground that is extremely heavily pressured.
I was actually talking to another guy. On the podcast not long ago who, who hunts the same area. And this place is very heavily pressured, but the hunting is very high quality. It's been high quality hunting for a long time, and it's been heavily pressured for a long time. It's not far outside of a large metro area.
But because of the quality of habitat, you may run into a few more hunters than you would like, but your hunts are almost always good. It is a very good place to hunt, but it can handle that because of the way it's being managed, because of the population of animals that live there.
It is a target rich environment even though there's people on it all the time. So that goes a really long way of, we can actually stack hunters in a little more tightly on a property that's managed really well and all have a quality hunt, even if it's on, pressured public ground, so to speak.
I agree. Yeah. So let's jump into now maybe a couple of.[00:38:00] Maybe not the greatest topics to talk about out there but challenges that we're facing as deer hunters and deer managers and people who care about the resource. Two big challenges that jump out. Number one, I think is, I don't wanna say less threatening.
It was surprising to me that I found it in the report though, and that is the issue of wild hogs. And what surprised me with wild hogs was just how far they've spread. I had no idea we had feral hogs in Michigan. I thought that's way too far north. I have viewed this as primarily a southern problem. I knew there were hogs in Oklahoma.
I didn't think that this was getting to be, a broadly Midwestern or even Northeastern kind of concern. But then the stat in there, $2 billion of damage yearly. Is estimated that, that are caused by feral hogs. So let's talk a little bit about their negative impact on [00:39:00] deer hunting and deer management.
Yeah. They, you say you thought it was a southeast problem at one point. It was. It was just a southeast problem. That's not the case anymore. They have, they are very prolific, breeders they're great survivalists and they have spread like crazy. We can talk about the, the amount of damage they do to an agricultural standpoint.
It makes a lot of money and that's certainly reason enough to want to limit their spread. But just limiting our talk, even to just negative impacts to deer that's an easy conversation to have because the list is long. They directly compete with them for food and there's been lots of research now that, that highlights this.
They're eating a lot of the same things that deer do. They love acorns and other hard masks. They love apples and other soft masks. They like agricultural crops. So they will directly compete with deer for some of the things that deer like the most. They also are competing with deer for space. The most part, deer don't like to be around [00:40:00] them, so when they come into an area, say deer are feeding on an oak flat Hogs come in, the deer are not gonna sit there and just share acorns with 'em.
In many cases, the deer leave that area. So there's studies that show from a space use standpoint, hogs are excluding deer from some areas. So there's nothing good for a deer herd when there's hogs there. Everything that happens about it, whether it's the, the diseases that hogs bring in the fact that they compete directly for space and for food.
So yeah, if you're interested in deer and hey, I get it. I know people like to hunt hogs, I've hunted hogs. It's a ton of fun. But you, if you, even if you feel that way, you need to recognize every one of 'em that's there is negatively impacteding the deer on that property. I have personally witnessed as a kid, we had a food, po food plot.
We not so creatively called number eight. And in this particular food plot, there were some hogs that were using it really regularly. This was down near Thomasville, Alabama, and. Deer would come into that field and the hogs would chase them out. Or if deer were [00:41:00] in the food plot already, the hogs would come in and the deer would either leave or the hogs would directly chase 'em and kind of mess with 'em until they left.
And, firsthand they're competing with, for the food, they're competing for the space and all of a sudden that wasn't a great spot to hunt anymore. There're a real challenge though, when it comes to trying to, limit their number on your property because they can get out of hand really quickly.
I don't know how many litters they have in a year, but I think I remember somewhere seeing that it's like 2, 3, 4, something like that, litters per year and it can really get out of control really fast. What are some of the effective methods that you have seen or know about that, help people control these?
Yeah, you're right. They are very prolific breeders and in most of what we'll have two litters a year people say, yeah, they're having three or four in general. They just simply don't have enough time, right? Like I said, if they had a litter, lost every one of them and it came back into heat as quickly as possible, and did that three times, yeah, maybe they could have three litters, [00:42:00] but okay.
In reality, they're not having more than two litters a year. But having said that's a lot of shs or piglets, right? So that's a lot of animals on the landscape. So they, and they can breed, throughout the year. So it's not limited, it's not just one time period in the fall, like most deer herds are.
So the fact that they have a lot of pigs, the fact that they are very good at foraging and scavenging and even just surviving, it's hard to shoot 'em all. And that's why, you know where they are. Hunters don't kill 'em out. The only effective way. To really reduce those populations, is through trapping, and they are so smart because, and that's why the traps we have now are designed to catch, the entire sounder or that whole group of hogs, because if you only get one or two, then the others, you're not gonna get them back into trap.
They learn so quickly. That's one of the things that's allowed 'em to spread, as far and wide as they have, from a hunting end, yeah, it can be a lot of fun. It's fun to chase 'em with dogs. It's fun to hunt 'em, like still [00:43:00] hunting or like you would on stand with a deer, but man, it they are a bad deal from a lot of different aspects.
Particularly if you're interested in deer or turkeys. Yeah. And so they also are nest predators essentially. Correct. So that's correct. Yeah. That certainly can be, that's a huge, that's a huge issue for, when we're seeing, Turkey numbers decline in, in the southern United States.
Think about the number of hogs I. We've got around out there who are either directly nest predators or just out there rooting around and messing everything up. That's right. Yeah. And even, in addition to the food that they compete with deer for, look how many food plots they destroy a year, because they root, anyway, I remember when I, first job I had outta graduate school was for the state of Florida, and I arrived in Central Florida and I was on the Triple N Ranch Wildlife Management area for, at that time it was called Florida Game and Fish.
Now it's called Florida Fish and Wildlife. But I had never seen a hog. I heard all the bad things. I thought, oh, I was excited to get to see him and and I will admit I was very excited to get to hunt him. And I remember my first experience with him. [00:44:00] We had planted a food plot. It was a food plot of chuah that we had planted specifically for turkeys at the time.
It was, I can't remember, four or $500 worth of seed. And then fertilizer and all, everything else. We planted it. It looked awesome. Check on it. It had just germinated, oh, this is gonna be great. The next morning come back and the whole thing was done. They had literally come in overnight and route through to get the tubers, you order to see, and they had destroyed the entire food plot.
And it looked like, we had been in there and disked the whole thing, as they were. And I realized then I get it. Like I understand what they're saying. So in that case, they were directly competing with deer and Turkey for food that was existing. But as well, they removed all of that food that, we paid for and put the time into grow that would have been there in the future.
That was there. Now, not there because of them. Lots of bad impacts. Lots of negative impacts, right? Yeah. There's, I was I was hunting a property one time that was pretty intensely managed for deer. And this was in that black belt region of Alabama.[00:45:00] Deer management's a big deal down there.
And the guy, when he dropped me off at my blind on the first afternoon he said you can shoot this size of deer and this is the width we're looking for. We're really trying to get him to this age, blah, blah, blah. And I'm, fresh outta high school, early in college, I'm like, man, this is gonna be awesome.
And right before I get outta the truck, he says, and if you see 13 hogs, I better hear you shoot 13 times. Oh man, okay. This is that kind of problem. But he'd had the kind of experience like you're talking about where, you come through one day and an entire road is just disked up or tilled up, or they had this big plantation home, where they would come through underneath the pecan trees, out behind this plantation home and just.
Till it all up underneath these pecan trees and cause damage to the trees because of, they're pretty prolific activity and they'll come through 25, 30 strong and next thing you've got a real problem on your hand. So if you like deer and you like Turkey when you see a hog, pull the trigger.
But no, you're probably not going to affect a lot of change that way. You're [00:46:00] probably gonna have to resort to doing some trapping or some other kind of method to control them. Let's talk about what I think is probably the elephant in the room when you're talking about deer management for a lot of people, and that's the topic of C w D.
I hunt Wisconsin every single year. The county where I hunt in Wisconsin. The la the latest data that they have for deer harvested in this specific county, 47% of the deer are positive for c w d. Other counties have it worse than that. Higher percentages of deer are positive for C W D.
I see people saying one, it's a terrible problem, like hunting is one day going to be forever changed by C W D. I'm reading a forum just last night, and people are saying it's not a big deal at all. People are just blowing this outta proportion. It's been around forever and it will always be here and it'll never be an issue.
What are your thoughts when it comes to C W D? How we manage around it and what are we learning right now? Are we [00:47:00] making any meaningful headway? The, we know very clearly c w D has not been here forever, right? That's not the case at all. That's just blatantly false, right? There's a lot of people who don't want to believe there is an issue.
And and I get it, everybody's entitled to their own opinion. I will say this, the vast majority of wildlife professionals see this as one of the biggest threats, if not the biggest threat, impacting or affecting the future of deer hunting and deer management. So you can go anywhere and find somebody who will argue the other side of it, but just know that about 99% of the wildlife professionals see this as a really big deal, right?
From the National Deer Association standpoint, we recognize that as it is, we're lucky to work with some of the best C W D and disease folks in the world. We try to keep up with that information and then share that with our members so that they can make informed decisions and choices as well.
So my take on it is a huge deal. Part of the reason that, that some hunters don't feel that it is or don't wanna [00:48:00] believe it, is in the length of the incubation period of the disease. For example, hemorrhagic disease is the bad disease of deer. Not all deer that get hemorrhagic disease die for those that do die.
Incubation period is about five to eight days. So if they die, they get sick very soon. They die very soon, and we find them. So people see that and be like, Ooh, this is bad. Now, c w d 100% fatal to all deer, every deer that gets, it's gonna die. But unlike hemorrhagic disease where that has a very short incubation period, it's not five to eight days.
For C W D, it's 18 to 24 months. So they don't show any signs of the disease until the end stages, and then they waste away very quickly and die. However, the whole time they have this disease, the disease is essentially eating holes in their brains. So they can't avoid predators as easily. They can't avoid humans, they don't avoid vehicles.
So what that means is most [00:49:00] deer that have the disease are dying from something else before they waste away. And we'd recognize what it is. Some hunters will say that's fine. They die to something else. The reality of it is they die at three to four times the rate of deer that don't have it. So it doesn't matter if you're talking about squirrels, ducks, turkeys, elk, or something else.
If some part of that population is dying at three to four times the rate of healthy individuals, that's a big deal, and that's something to be concerned about. So that is one of the reasons why we are at the forefront of the fight against this to help improve testing and increase testing so state agencies know where it is and so that they can better battle it.
So yeah, Josh it's a big deal. There's you, I guess you can argue it, but if you look at the facts you, it's indisputable how that this is a really big issue impacting the future of hunting, right? Absolutely. And you can look at, let's see, what's the best way to say this? You can look at a state like Wisconsin [00:50:00] and you can look at other states that found it.
Their population's not much longer after that. And you can say, oh, here's what worked, and here's a trajectory that didn't, or maybe worked for a minute. And then we abandoned ship because of political reasons and it hasn't worked out since then. And now we sit here with 47% or higher positive rate in parts of Wisconsin, which is really sad to see when it comes to some of the things that states are trying to do.
Things like no baiting regulations. You can't bait in c w D areas. Things like sense being, actual deer urine being used is being banned. Then I see people talking about, Hey, you shouldn't be putting out water holes on your property because of c w d concerns. Hey you really shouldn't be even be using mock scrapes.
You should not put any kind of scent on a mock scrape. We don't want to do anything that is going to concentrate deer numbers. What are your thoughts on some of that? And do you think that those are effective methods of slowing the spread of C W D [00:51:00] or, do you think we should continue as normal until we figure out a path forward?
We definitely know that there are different ways that the PreOn or the contagious material are spread. So with deer, we know that they're contained in there saliva, their urine, their feces, blood. However, not all of those items transfer the disease the same rate. For example, saliva appears to be at least 10 times as infective as urine.
So what I think is where we have the disease, we should work to. Not congregate deer into an area where they're going to be swap and spit with each other, right? Places like a mineral lick or a bait site. We know very clearly that is an easy way for a deer to transfer the disease to another deer.
So Urine Deer Association does not support urine bands. The reason for that is the likelihood of transferring the disease in urine [00:52:00] is so infinites small. We don't think it's even worth messing with. But saliva, absolutely, that's a big deal. So we support baiting bands and feeding bands in those areas, or mineral licks.
Even small water holes. I've seen people put out, tiny little buckets of water, that they bury. And in with those, like deer are clearly swapping spit at those. So I. You want to do that or not, you can ignore that. That absolutely increases the risk of a C W D positive deer leaving materials there that other deer will then pick up and become positive, right?
Absolutely. And when talking with landowners or with folks that I know, we, we try to minimize what we do when it comes to baiting and that kind of thing. But it's such a hot topic. It is so highly debated. And when you start talking about baiting or when you start talking about, water holes, you hit something really deep in people.
It is, these are some of their favorite practices [00:53:00] on their farm, their favorite things to do, their favorite places to put cameras. And all of a sudden the conversation becomes less about the science behind what could be going on there. And more about an emotional attachment to a specific way.
And so those conversations can be derailed very quickly. So I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts on that. Kip let's shift the conversation in a positive direction. Real quick before I let you go, what do you have on the plans or on the books for fall of 23? Oh man, I will be spending a bunch of time hunting with my kids.
They spend all winter, spring, and summer, enhancing habitat and practicing with their bows and with their guns and getting ready. I'm very lucky that they both like to hunt with me. I spend plan on spending a bunch of time with my nephews hunting. I always make time to take new hunters.
I love to mentor new people either as part of a, of NDAs field to fork program or outside of that where I'm just taking somebody on our I plan on being in a tree stand a whole bunch this fall and hopefully. Some of it [00:54:00] will be by myself, but hopefully most of it will be with somebody else sitting there with me where I can enjoy that with them and and maybe teach 'em a thing or two.
Absolutely, man, that sounds great. I I know for me personally I still want those moments in the tree by myself. Like I still have, especially my rutt hunt, I've carved that out. That is my time. But outside of that, I have never once regretted taking my kids and having to leave early, or having to, bring a tablet along or whatever it takes to get them in the tree, or teaching a new hunter the ropes.
Like I always walk away from those hunts feeling like they were a success no matter what happens. And yeah. Mr. Adams, thank you so much for your time. Where can folks go if they want to learn more about how to get involved? Maybe find more from you or maybe even just figure out what this whole n d A thing actually is.
Yeah, the easiest way is to go to our website. So the National Deer Association's website is deer association.com, all kinds of free resources there and information, or our YouTube channel, deer Association's [00:55:00] YouTube channel. We have hundreds of videos there about all different aspects, of deer hunting and behavior and habitat enhancement, et cetera.
If folks wanna reach out to me personally, my email is kip, that's k firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm glad to answer anything or help folks out as well. Awesome, Kip. Thank you for your time today. I appreciate it. All right. Good seeing you, Josh. Good luck this season. That's all for this week's episode.
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