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Thread: The War Is About To Begin

  1. #1

    The War Is About To Begin

    Well folks, my deer hunting in MN is over for the year. Today was the final day of the muzzleloader season and it passed without a single buck being seen older than a 1 1/2. That's not just me. That's also my dad and two neighbors. All told, that's about 10 square miles without a single mature buck being seen in just about a month. Our local deer numbers have CRASHED. HARD. I knew it was bad, but I didn't fully understand how bad until this fall. 5 years ago, I was overwintering about 130 deer. 4 years ago it was down to about 80. 3 years ago it was at 36. 2 years ago it 27. Last year it was 13. I was holding out that maybe I was missing a group, or that maybe a few deer would find their way into the area during the rut. But that was not the case. As it stands right now, 5 of those 13 deer were killed during the season. And the bad news keeps on coming. There are only 4 fawns starting off going into this winter.

    In all honesty, I barely hunted this year. How could I?! I only knew of one 3 year old buck, 2 - 2 year old bucks and 3 yearling bucks. There wasn't anything mature here. And with the population being as bad as it is, there is no way I could shoot a doe. We need them BADLY going forward.

    So, what's the reason for the crash? Hunters are playing a part in it. Of that, there is no doubt. There is very little conservation being done around here and it shows. All I can do is keep telling people the plight we are facing, but it is up to them and their actions going forward. But there is something that I can do and it will start in earnest tomorrow. The war on coyotes is about to begin.

    I've already waged a few battles with them this fall. But I've stayed out of our deer hunting area, because my dad wouldn't give up hope that something mature would show up. I started setting traps as soon as the season opened and have already reduced the local population by 4. Two pups, one adult female and one BIG adult male that tipped the scale at just under 40 pounds. I've taken those 4, in less than one mile of nearly open agricultural land. Surprise, surprise. Two more sets of tracks in the same area again today.

    As a deer guy, my focus has always been on providing the best habitat and food I can for the local herd. But honestly, I didn't take the predator control thing to heart. I would get a coyote or two every year from the area, but I didn't pursue them aggressively. Now, I'm paying the price in extremely low fawn recruitment numbers. Plus, you know that the coyotes will probably take down at least a couple of the adult deer that remain or that at least a couple will die overwinter. Next year looks extremely bleak already, so I'm going to do what I can to save what is left.

    The tactics - Up until just yesterday, we didn't have any snow. Up until a week ago, we didn't even have frozen ground. So, foothold traps had been the go to method of choice. I was using a couple different traps. Duke 1.75's, MB 450's and MB 550's. I had also set a couple of snares out. More or less just to learn and practice setting. I was making two different types of sets. Dirt hole sets and flat sets. Dirt hole sets are just that. You set a trap in front of a hole that is either baited, lured or both. A flat set is a placed trap without the dirt hole, using lure or urine. I was just using green clumps of grass that stood out in the dead grass. The snares were placed in and over old wheel tracks through the tall grass. A place that coyotes may choose to run through on their normal travels. There is no scent or lure used with snares. It's more or less a numbers game and waiting game.

    The first of the two pups fell to a flat set using fox urine a grass clump. Of course when they are caught, they kind of tear up the area. So I made a small grass mound out of the mess, reset the trap. Didn't add any other scent to it and the next morning produced another pup in the same trap. Got the dumb ones out of the way quickly.

    The big male came next. He was also taken in a flat set of the same making. Fox urine on a green clump of taller grass.

    The adult female was my first snared K9 ever. Felt good knowing I was setting and camouflaging the snares in correctly. This method will be the go to method for the next few months, as deep snow and frozen ground make setting foot hold traps fairly difficult. I may set a few footholds in areas that stay cleared of deep snow, but they are time consuming and are difficult to keep operational in freezing weather.

    This is getting fairly long already, so I'll end this update here with a few pictures and add to it as I go. Here are the coyotes so far this year.

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  2. #2
    Chapter 2 - The Story of Jack

    As a farmer, it's my duty to look after the land, to care for the land and protect the land. It's what keeps my families bellies full and the lights turned on around here. So when I see damage being done to it, action needs to be taken. Because I had limited my acres accessible to trapping coyotes early, it freed me up to take on a few of these other issues, as I maintained my limited coyote sets.

    Anyone here ever hit a badger hole with a combine before? For those who haven't, let me sum it up as best I can. You'll need a visit to the chiropractor to readjust your spine, a visit to the dentist to reset your teeth and possibly a visit to the local implement store to buy a new axle for your equipment. In short, it sucks! You don't see them coming, you can't react in time even if you do see them and when you slam into their mountain of dirt and then fall down into their moon crater, with a machine that costs more than most houses, you develop a very strong dislike for them....Very quickly. Thankfully, we don't have many of them around here. At least that's the notion I had. I've only ever seen two in my life and one of those was on a trail camera picture. Thing is, they stay underground most of the time. And most of their digging is an assumed coyote mess. I'm finding out this year, there are more around than I thought. Not a lot in comparison to some places out west, but substantially more than I knew about.

    A fox den had sprung up overnight, along one of my drainage ditches. So I hung two snares to guard that area. Imagine my surprise the next afternoon when I pulled up to the location to see something that looked like a bomb went off in the fox den. I couldn't see my snare, my snare support or my extension cable. It was just tore up ground, several inches deep, in a ten-twelve foot circle. A hole that started off 6 inches across, was now well over a foot across. A mound of dirt 4 foot wide and a foot tall was at the back of the hole and no animal in site. I kind of figured whatever got into the snare had somehow broken the cable or extension and took off. I looked down the hole, but didn't see anything but dirt. I walked around trying to make sense of what I was seeing. But all I could see was fresh dirt and claw marks. I kind of guessed where my extension cable should be and started digging and feeling by hand for some sign of it. It took me about 5 minutes to locate the extension cable. I slid my hand up the cable and came to the swivel and the start of the snare. I pulled on it, figuring it would just pop up showing the broken snare. But the snare pulled back. I go back to the hole and look down it. But all I see is dirt again. I didn't have a big shovel with me, so back home I went to get what I thought I needed. I pull back up to the location, just before sunset and decide I should look down the hole one more time. With the sun in my eyes, I couldn't really see down the hole. So I set the gun down and got down on my hands and knees, to get a better look. And there I was.... Face to face with the badger at about 2 feet. Well within the snares reach. He came flying out of that hole, hissing and showing nothing but teeth. I did some weird ninja back flip/crappie flop maneuver, probably making some sort of strange audible noise that would require me to turn in my man card, if it was caught on video. Thankfully, it was not I gave myself a minute (or 5) to get my heart back in my chest and re-center my focus back onto the task at hand. The badger had gone right back down the hole after his initial charge. He was a reset, ticked off, "Jack" in the box. He would do a short charges and then reset down the hole, for the next stupid thing I'd try. Problem was, my gun was just outside his hole and every time I'd try to get close, out he'd come all Freddy Krueger like and cut me off. He finally got sick of this act and decided he would try to out dig me down and burry himself in the hole. (They do that frequently) So my job became, remove the lose dirt he was kicking up into the hole and try to grab a bit more at the same time. Let's just say, these things can dig! All I could see was back fur sliding left and right across the bottom of the hole. I couldn't figure out which end was the front or rear end. He was getting deeper and I was losing daylight. So I came up with my next brilliant idea. "I should poke the badger with the shovel. Maybe he'll let me see his head." After about the third poke, he somehow got flipped around in that hole and came shooting up right behind the shovel. Nearly catching me flat footed again. I did my best high step and said a couple more words I'm not printing here. But this time, he reset in his Jack in the box position and I had my gun in hand. Shot fired and a catch pole was put around his neck. No way I was putting my hand down that hole. No way, no how!

    I let my rookie colors fly high and bright that afternoon. But my field has been saved (for now) and it was an experience I won't soon forget. The badger will not be leaving the farm. In fact, he'll be getting a new home, right here in the Penalty Box (my office) within the next year. I'm having a life sized mount of him done by the same guy who did the albino mount for me. I think it would be fun to have him mounted on a remote controlled car or truck, so I can have him chase after some unsuspecting guests at times. Just so they know what it felt like, before I tell them the story of Jack

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  3. #3
    WTW Staff Megabucks's Avatar
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    Keep up the good work! Saw the pics on Facebook, but really enjoyed the story of "Jack".
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