Death of a Stud Buck

Rw873_mark_kayser_looks_at_a_whitet If you manage whitetails get ready to shed a tear one of these upcoming
seasons. Why? It's a sure bet one of the giant bucks you're grooming is
going to become a candidate for a photo on the back of a milk carton. Summer
often gives you a glimpse of a giant buck as it gorges carefree in an
alfalfa, soybean or food plot field. Even so, it's not unusual for bucks to
come up missing. Here are some culprits for you to ponder. If one of your
prize bucks comes up missing, take a look along any roads that adjoin your
property. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an
estimated 1.5 million drivers collide with deer annually. Worse yet, 150
human fatalities were recorded among those collisions.

After walking the ditch for your missing buck you should consider disease or
sickness. Deer are just like us and get sick. Chronic Wasting Disease is on
everyone's minds these days, although the infection rate is relatively
small, less than five percent in most areas. According to the Chronic
Wasting Disease Alliance, CWD is described as "a transmissible spongiform
encephalopathy (TSE) of cervids." Infectious models indicate that CWD could
spread through deer populations over the next several decades with
disastrous results. Regardless, so much is unknown about this disease that
it is tough to predict anything with accuracy.

Wb232_160inch_whitetail_buck_dead_f One disease I worry about is HD or Hemorrhagic disease. This disease attacks
with lightning speed and has no cure. Nearly every year some portion of the
whitetail range is hit hard. The only exception is the extreme northeast and
northwest corners of the whitetail range. Spread by a tiny two-winged
midge, HD can kill an infected animal within days, if not sooner. HD kicks
off in the late summer and peaks in September. A killing frost knocks back
the midge population and halts the spread, but it still leaves you
scratching your head as to where all the deer went. According to information
from the University of Georgia and the University of California, estimates
of mortality exceeding 90 percent may occur.

Finally, you need to consider predation and not just from poachers. The
leading predators to take advantage of your whitetails are coyotes. They
inhabit nearly every square mile of North America and as opportunists;
they'll tackle a rut-weakened buck or a helpless fawn with equal zeal. Like
coyotes, mountain lions have also returned to the national arena. Most
experts estimate that a lion can eat a deer a week at minimum. Finally,
wolves are back on the scene. A pack may range from 10 to 30 miles per day
in search of a diet that requires nearly five pounds of food per day, per
animal.

Finally, be prepared to be shocked since deer occasionally pull some of the
stupidest stunts. I've seen photos of several deer that strangled themselves
in the crotch of a tree and perished with yards of wire wrapped up in their
antlers. I've lost count of how many deer I've found hung up in fences.

So, when your prize buck comes up missing you might want to hike your
property to see if it's time to take his face off the milk carton and write
up an obituary. Ever 'lose' track of your stud buck? Tell us your story.—Mark Kayser