[Comments in brackets are by Jeannine and Duane]
From the Northern Crew:
The big news this week is that we took (and passed!) the snowmobile certification class which allows us to use snowmobiles for trapping work. We’ve been using snowmobiles all day, every day this week to check traps, bait sites, and move traps around, thanks to our handy snowmobile trailer. It’s certainly less comfortable than working out of trucks, but we’ve been able to access trails we weren’t able to get to for weeks, and we can work on the weekends without being concerned about our trucks competing for space on the trails with recreators. We have noticed high snowmobile traffic this weekend, as it might the last good weekend on the trails before the weather warms up. We’ll use the snowmobiles as long as we can, but with temps hitting the mid-50s for several days in a row next week, we probably won’t be able to use them long.
We’ve opened up traps on two new trap lines. We are working on targeting some new areas where the deer have been hanging out lately as potential new trap sites too. Many of our previous trap sites “dried up” as deer are moving onto south-facing slopes and into low, wet areas as the snow there starts to soften. The good news for us is that as snow depth decreases our ability to rocket net increases, and we put out a couple new cameras on promising sites this week.
So far we’re catching 50% recaptures in our new traps – all deer tagged in previous years. One deer, in particular, has a long history with the project. He was first captured in 2017 (and multiple times since) meaning he is at least 5 and a half. He was given a collar back then, but it was blown off. [More on this deer later!] I wonder how often we’ll see him this year! Every past capture data sheet marks him as “difficult to restrain”, and we found that to be true! He is probably the largest buck we’ve caught yet. We gave him his second GPS collar, so he’ll continue to provide data for the project.
Northern Field Crew Leader
Game Commission Deer and Elk Section
From the Southern Crew:
Last week the crew and I were finally able to get back into the Bald Eagle State Forest side of our study area and begin trapping deer! With the snowmobiles all fueled up and all of the equipment we could possibly need, we rode out to check our 17 traps that we haven’t laid eyes on since the big snow dump at the beginning of February. Those first few days were a little miserable because it rained all day, and as you can imagine, working off a snowmobile in full rain gear isn’t the most enjoyable experience. However, due to the weather being so rainy there was nobody else out in the forest. No road sharing! It was perfect for everyone to get more familiar with operating the equipment.
A few of our traps still had some remnant deer sign around them but many of the deer quit coming since we hadn’t baited in so long. But with bait back in the traps, we were able to pull a handful of deer into our Clover traps and into our lives again.
For some reason we’ve been fighting a lot of false trips this trapping round so we have been finding some new ways to keep our traps from going off so easily but also not miss a deer. As of right now, many of our traps are rigged with sticks and string, and maybe even some extra pieces of wire. They might look ugly, but they should work!
Hopefully this warm weather doesn’t slow down the deer captures that much this upcoming week but the more the state forest roads melt, the easier it is for us to get around and the more traps we can set. We were finally able to get up into some of the larger log landings to scout and bait some prospective rocket net sites. I know my crew is pretty eager to get in some rocket net time and I’m hoping we can have one set up by the end of this week!
Southern Field Crew Leader
Game Commission Deer and Elk Section