Monday, October 5, 2009

Vanishing Bucks-Natural Dispersal Or Criminal Act?

As the pre-rut kicks in whitetail deer movement patterns change dramatically. Many if not most bucks will disperse or leave their home range during their first autumn as a rack buck. If not they usually disperse the following spring. This is a built in mechanism to prevent inbreeding. If they do not leave willingly, the does will harass them violently to encourage dispersal. This is the first year that I have seen two year old rack bucks remain in their home range until September. In both cases their mothers were lost to either game law violations or in season harvest on a neighboring property and so were not there to drive them away.

It is difficult if not impossible to tell in most cases what actually happens to the animal. Do they actually disperse or are they taken in game law violations, or legitimate archery hunting on nearby property. In many cases during the past, the bucks have not been legal game for adult hunters. In many of the cases I have seen, it boils down to three options: dispersal, game law violations, or there are a lot of extremely proficient junior bow hunters out there.

Buck On Right: The First To Vanish

The first to vanish this year was the eight-point with a broken tine that was featured in many of the summer's photographs. I photographed him for the last time on the morning of September 16th, and saw him for the last time on the morning of September 18th. He was showing very little interest in rutting activity at that time, but it is possible that he dispersed. After the events of this morning, I am not inclined to believe that he left voluntarily.

Largest Buck On A Foggy Morning

The largest buck, which has also been shown in many posts was definitely alive and well on Wednesday of last week (Coy of Country Captures saw him), but I had not seen him since I returned from photographing the elk rut until this morning.

I was pleasantly surprised to see him walk into the meadow, but then I noticed a long, deep, angry looking gash along the backbone on his left side.


Archery season did open on Saturday, but this looks more like a rifle bullet wound to me. It would also be more likely for an archer to be in a tree stand shooting down at the animal and this is a grazing wound that is angled in such a way that it appears to have been inflicted from ground level.

Licking The Wounded Area

Wound From Front To Back

The local Pennsylvania Game Commission officers have recently arrested several people for shooting deer at night by use of artificial light. For those of you who do not know about this activity, the criminals drive about the backcountry shining a spotlight until they locate deer and then attempt to kill one or more of the animals. The weapon of choice is a rifle, most often a .22 magnum, although the heavy calibers are also used quite frequently. It seems most likely that this animal was the victim of another such attempt.

Fortunately the bullet did not go true and the animal survived, but a close look at his eyes through the 500mmF4 reveals a slightly glazed look, which indicates the animal is in a great deal of pain.

The animal should recover from this wound in time if given the chance, but is most likely that the first buck will never return. I would almost bet the farm that the criminals will return to make another attempt on the life of the injured buck.

I realize that most will find the wound photos very disturbing, but I feel compelled to show them as it demonstrates only too well the consequences of this type of behavior. Unfortunately in too many cases the perpetrators would feel no remorse upon seeing the photographs, but would shrug and say something like, "well at least we didn't miss him completely".


sweet bay said...

Fortunately the hunters around here actually follow the law and don't use lights, but they do use baiting stations. Not very sporting but if the hunters have a good chance of getting a clean shot, it's better than injury and a slow death. That wound looks very ugly. Can he actually recover from such a wound?

Willard said...

I have seen them recover from equally ugly wounds. I imagine the critical factor will be whether it becomes infected or not.

Quilt Works said...

Amazing photos. Very sad. But amazing photos.

Tom said...

Excellent post Willard.. I expect poaching most go on all around there, and this is as you say most likely the result of this. I hope it clears up and dose not become infected.... is there anything in place for such animals to be darted and treated? or dose nature have to take its course.

Anonymous said...

I would have the same question as in the post above. It would be nice if he could be darted and treated. I can hardly stand to think of this poor helpless creature being in such pain. I can't see how anyone can bring themselves to shoot any living creature. It is not a sport, it is injuring or killing another animal's child, mother or father. I hope your post will end up in the right hands, so that this awful practice can be stopped.
I'm sorry this has happened to an animal that you follow and think a lot of. I really hope that he will be OK and, most importantly, not be in pain. Please keep us posted.

Brad Myers said...

Willard thanks again for another wildlife lesson, I learn something many times I read your site.

I also want to thank you for your knowledge and company last week. I really had a great time, you Buckwheat and Steve are all nice people I am just sad it had to end.

You may not believe this but I did get to see a fight Saturday morning. It happened in the woods off to the left of the steam shovel we shot at Wednesday morning. I was concentrating on shooting video and not stills. I got a great 2 minute video and numerous short ones for the web that were not as good. I know we joked about it but I really did get it and I can't wait to share it.

Thanks again for a super time and I can't wait to do it again.

Take care, Brad

Anonymous said...

I am always amazed by the photos in your posts. And that is on top of the fact that your posts are always so informative. Keep up the good work.

Willard said...

In my experience it seems the policy in a case like this is to let nature run its' course with the exception that if the animal has little to no chance of recovery it may be "put down". In most cases an injured whitetail deer that has a good chance of recovery is too wary to approach to effective dart gun range, which may explain this policy.

HANNIBAL said...

Heartbreaking to say the least...

I wish the poachers would get a taste of their own medicine and had to walk around with a graze like that!

Ranger said...

I just hope someday we can find who did this and take care of BUSINESS

This Is My Blog - fishing guy said...

Willard: What a sad story of the life of the wild animals. If they are taken leagally it is okay but I will never hunt again with a gun or bow.

Misty Dawn said...

I am not against hunting when the laws are followed. But THIS breaks my heart!