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Author Topic: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases  (Read 1669 times)

Online elkboy

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A few rambling thoughts on our whitetailed deer situation this year… 

I think the fact that a lot of people held off on whitetail hunting this year in affected GMUs in Washington is a feedback mechanism that does help the deer.  Yes, hunters being active conservationists by recognizing challenges to the herd on their own!  I am encouraged by what I've seen in that regard, especially people voluntarily holding off on doe harvest, the critical issue as far as future deer numbers.
As for the bluetongue and EHD issues long-term, I have a few thoughts-

*  The whitetails will develop resistance over time.  How long?  Hard to say.  But it has occurred in southern subspecies of whitetailed deer in the USA.  If current trends continue for decades, then it will likely occur here.  But that won’t help us right now.

*  Why do our streams in parts of Eastern Washington go dry in the summer, thus causing the virus-carrying Culicoides gnats to explode in number?   
  -long-term soil loss from erosion results in quicker runoff during the spring- and eastern WA has one of the highest soil loss rates in the world. 
  -use of drain tile in agricultural fields accelerates runoff in early season (and increases evapotranspiration from crops in drained areas- good for farmers, not good for hydrology)
  -loss of shading elements (trees, tall shrubs) increasing heat load on open channels, increasing evaporation loss from the active channel.  A lot of minor streams have zero shrub, tree, or grass buffers in my region of the Palouse, for example.  That has to increase runoff in the spring and decrease shading/cooling in the summer.
  -denser forest in remaining forest patches decreases water available for runoff during summer season (argument for thinning and use of prescribed fire to open up those forest patches- this is my passion).  I imagine this is especially true for whitetail range in the northeastern corner of Washington, where a lot of the uplands are dominated by dry forest types (ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, grand fir) that have become overly dense in the period of fire suppression/exclusion, early 1900’s to today.
  -elimination of beavers and their ponds, which act to slowly release cool water and reconnect the channel with the floodplain, increasing water storage in valley bottom soils.  This moisture is then released more slowly to surface waters through the year.   
-impermeable surface development (roads, roofs, etc.) probably contributes to some degree. 
-the climate is getting warmer, with drier summers.  Without getting into the contentious issue of what's causing that, this fact is not helping late summer streamflow. 
* Side point:  the flip side of the coin is that we have/had so many whitetails precisely due to farming (winter wheat sprouts, garbanzo beans, lentils, and pasture grasses produce a LOT of deer when the bluetongue isn't killing them!).  Just want to be balanced about the thinking regarding agriculture. 

I think what we've done to the landscape, in sum, has created a situation where summer low flows or even switching to sub-surface flow are ever more common (cue the bluetongue).  If it becomes an annual event, we might see whitetails get very scarce for a very long time. 

I guess I'm writing all this to point out that hunting harvest-related issues are not the central issue.  Under normal circumstances, these herds can sustain pretty strong harvest.  But can hunters get involved in landscape management issues to the benefit of deer?  I am hoping that the answer is yes. 

Any thoughts? 

Offline salt n sage90

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2021, 02:00:29 PM »
I agree with basically everything you have said though I am not an expert on WT populations nor EHD/Bluetongue.

At this point it will take large private land owners (farmers) for change to be possible in my opinion, likely with incentives.
-buffers along ditches and waterways to decrease erosions and sediment loss, as well as increased shade over water.
-Leave eyebrows along north sloping hills to spread out cover for deer and bedding areas.
-Perhaps implement watering tanks for wildlife at spring locations.

Im not saying any of this is farmers fault, they had to adapt to stay in the black. That meant new technology that could work on steeper ground, and plow everything possible for every bushel.
The CRP idea is great, but it doesn't really stick around long enough to be used fully. I think an strategy needs to be taken to some of these large land owners and say "here's the problem, here's what we think it will take, are you onboard or what will it take for you to be?"
That or stricter environmental regulations being implemented around wetlands and streams...not ideal

When I drive around the Palouse I see less and less ground that looks like it would hold pheasants, we all know the "whats good for the bird is good for the herd" adage, but I think it holds true and with the look of the palouse these days its no wonder the deer are as tightly packed as they are and get hit so hard with disease.

Basically I'm repeating what ellkboy said, I dont live over there but would love to be Phez hunting public ground 10 years from now in the Palouse.
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Offline Rutnbuxnbulls

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #2 on: November 29, 2021, 04:04:11 AM »
The historical Palouse looked quite different than it does today. A simple buffer zone at the draws and drain lines would increase habitat in year one. Federal incentives would likely have to motivate this type of trend. This last summer I saw many large water tanks I presume to keep fires at bay along the highway? Wonder if we could get some let out for the ungulates in dry times. The main issue I see with getting things moving in the right direction for deer and birds is money. If the farmer gets the same amount of money by leaving some land fallow as he does farming it, it might work. I hunted some of the breaks country during this season and that habitat is awesome. It would be nice to see some of that cover dotted around the landscape.

Offline PA BEN

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #3 on: November 29, 2021, 05:59:27 AM »
The Colville River is not a dyed-up stream, it has had water flowing all year. I have found several dead blue Tongue deer along and in the river itself. All it takes is low water flow that exposes mud that the nates grow in. You can talk all you want about flowing water but that alone will not stop it or slow it down. We have a small stream that is flowing and we found several dead deer alongside it.     

Offline nwwanderer

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #4 on: November 29, 2021, 06:59:22 AM »
The PNW is very different than the Southeast.  Midges are a constant challenge thus resistance.  Not so here, a time or two in a decade.  The challenge is far more than seasonal disease.  The whitetail fawn crop in my area has been very small for years. In peak times the average was near two per doe late in the summer.  Recent years it has been about one fawn per three does at the same time of year.  A combination of many things I am sure.  Habitat degradation from agriculture is a fraction today of what it was at peak WT numbers.  Direct seeding, conservation tillage, CRP and more perennial crops have reduced erosion a bunch.  It is quite a puzzle that your license dollar has not touched.  The biggest piece today is predators but what is the rest of the story?

Offline bearpaw

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #5 on: November 29, 2021, 07:44:51 AM »
No doubt that hard winters or disease outbreaks cause the numbers to drop more than any other factor, but I think the predator footprint in the northeast is what keeps them from rebounding as well between those population corrections.

When I was on the whitetail working group a few years ago one of the key issues brought up by WDFW was the fact that there isn't as much farming in northeast WA as a few decades ago and that was a reason that the whitetail population wasn't rebounding to previously higher levels. Essentially there aren't as many alfalfa fields as there used to be.
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Online hunter399

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #6 on: November 29, 2021, 08:37:10 AM »
I'm just gonna throw  this out there ,like a chunk of meat in a tiger cage.
The choose which species WT/muley/BT type regulation would work wonders for rebounding deer population statewide. At the end of the day a lot less crowded,quality hunt. Instead of the current pumpkin patch of hunters we have now. I've been considering archery next year,but still on the fence. Reduction in multiseason deer tags may help also.

Bluetongue I've found some areas not effected to and other areas just wiped out. Some areas are gonna rebound a lot quicker then others.
Two birds in the Bush is always better than one in the hand-that way you can always go to the Bush and hunt another day .conservation=Better hunting.
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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #7 on: November 29, 2021, 09:05:23 AM »
No doubt that hard winters or disease outbreaks cause the numbers to drop more than any other factor, but I think the predator footprint in the northeast is what keeps them from rebounding as well between those population corrections.

When I was on the whitetail working group a few years ago one of the key issues brought up by WDFW was the fact that there isn't as much farming in northeast WA as a few decades ago and that was a reason that the whitetail population wasn't rebounding to previously higher levels. Essentially there aren't as many alfalfa fields as there used to be.

I think you are spot on!

Offline Rutnbuxnbulls

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #8 on: November 29, 2021, 11:38:42 AM »
A few rambling thoughts on our whitetailed deer situation this year… 

I think the fact that a lot of people held off on whitetail hunting this year in affected GMUs in Washington is a feedback mechanism that does help the deer.  Yes, hunters being active conservationists by recognizing challenges to the herd on their own!  I am encouraged by what I've seen in that regard, especially people voluntarily holding off on doe harvest, the critical issue as far as future deer numbers.
As for the bluetongue and EHD issues long-term, I have a few thoughts-

*  The whitetails will develop resistance over time.  How long?  Hard to say.  But it has occurred in southern subspecies of whitetailed deer in the USA.  If current trends continue for decades, then it will likely occur here.  But that won’t help us right now.

*  Why do our streams in parts of Eastern Washington go dry in the summer, thus causing the virus-carrying Culicoides gnats to explode in number?   
  -long-term soil loss from erosion results in quicker runoff during the spring- and eastern WA has one of the highest soil loss rates in the world. 
  -use of drain tile in agricultural fields accelerates runoff in early season (and increases evapotranspiration from crops in drained areas- good for farmers, not good for hydrology)
  -loss of shading elements (trees, tall shrubs) increasing heat load on open channels, increasing evaporation loss from the active channel.  A lot of minor streams have zero shrub, tree, or grass buffers in my region of the Palouse, for example.  That has to increase runoff in the spring and decrease shading/cooling in the summer.
  -denser forest in remaining forest patches decreases water available for runoff during summer season (argument for thinning and use of prescribed fire to open up those forest patches- this is my passion).  I imagine this is especially true for whitetail range in the northeastern corner of Washington, where a lot of the uplands are dominated by dry forest types (ponderosa pine, Douglas-fir, grand fir) that have become overly dense in the period of fire suppression/exclusion, early 1900’s to today.
  -elimination of beavers and their ponds, which act to slowly release cool water and reconnect the channel with the floodplain, increasing water storage in valley bottom soils.  This moisture is then released more slowly to surface waters through the year.   
-impermeable surface development (roads, roofs, etc.) probably contributes to some degree. 
-the climate is getting warmer, with drier summers.  Without getting into the contentious issue of what's causing that, this fact is not helping late summer streamflow. 
* Side point:  the flip side of the coin is that we have/had so many whitetails precisely due to farming (winter wheat sprouts, garbanzo beans, lentils, and pasture grasses produce a LOT of deer when the bluetongue isn't killing them!).  Just want to be balanced about the thinking regarding agriculture. 

I think what we've done to the landscape, in sum, has created a situation where summer low flows or even switching to sub-surface flow are ever more common (cue the bluetongue).  If it becomes an annual event, we might see whitetails get very scarce for a very long time. 

I guess I'm writing all this to point out that hunting harvest-related issues are not the central issue.  Under normal circumstances, these herds can sustain pretty strong harvest.  But can hunters get involved in landscape management issues to the benefit of deer?  I am hoping that the answer is yes. 

Any thoughts?

Hunters can and do get involved in landscape management and habitat restoration.  RMEF, Pheasants Forever, DU, TU.  In WA state though, it seems the emphasis on big game has never really focused on WT because they were probably just historically plentiful and resilient.  Maybe we can get a chapter of Whitetails Unlimited or some organization that helps this species to help out here. 

The problem, like most with our game animals, is a multi pronged issue.  Predators, climate, habitat, disease, automobile, harvest rates.  We can improve on several of these prongs as individuals and as a unified organization.  I will make a pledge to you guys to join a group that helps support out wildlife.  That is one small way I can get started and make a difference.

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #9 on: November 29, 2021, 12:11:02 PM »
No doubt that hard winters or disease outbreaks cause the numbers to drop more than any other factor, but I think the predator footprint in the northeast is what keeps them from rebounding as well between those population corrections.

When I was on the whitetail working group a few years ago one of the key issues brought up by WDFW was the fact that there isn't as much farming in northeast WA as a few decades ago and that was a reason that the whitetail population wasn't rebounding to previously higher levels. Essentially there aren't as many alfalfa fields as there used to be.
you've certainly had more experience watching the whitetails in the NE corner than most anyone else on here, so curious some of the steps you would recommend to help them rebound. Unfortunately, I think we have to rule out more predator control as we sportsman don't seem to be able to make much headway with that (perhaps in the future, but also perhaps too late). Any other recommendations you might make?

Offline bustedoldman

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2021, 12:49:28 PM »
No doubt that hard winters or disease outbreaks cause the numbers to drop more than any other factor, but I think the predator footprint in the northeast is what keeps them from rebounding as well between those population corrections.

When I was on the whitetail working group a few years ago one of the key issues brought up by WDFW was the fact that there isn't as much farming in northeast WA as a few decades ago and that was a reason that the whitetail population wasn't rebounding to previously higher levels. Essentially there aren't as many alfalfa fields as there used to be.

There was a big drop in the area I hunt when the few farmers there switched to timothy from alfalfa, we're talking 20-30 WT's with a few mule deer to 4-5 WT's in the fields........I've offered to buy the alfalfa (or a WT mix) seed and fuel needed to plant the edges/draws of their fields to no avail. I've often wondered why there isn't as much food plotting in the PNW/West as the Midwest and North East, East areas of the country?

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2021, 02:28:28 PM »
The traditions are very different and public land is rare outside of the west.  Try to get permission to do plots on public land.  Small acreage owned by many non hunters also is a big negative. 

Offline buckfvr

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #12 on: November 29, 2021, 04:29:33 PM »
The new west is nothing like the west of 20 years ago let alone 50 years ago.  The west is no longer "hunter friendly" in the manner it was years ago, and likely never will be again.  Too many people, plain and simple.  The resource can only be spread so thin before extreme measures to reduce mans (not just hunters) impact will be the only alternative.  Nothing can/will turn the time back to the old west. Its all slowly going away as we clutch at the memories of how it was, and how we would like it to be moving forward.

Offline Maverick

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Re: a few thoughts on our whitetails and the bluetongue-related diseases
« Reply #13 on: November 30, 2021, 05:43:20 PM »
I've found deer dead from bluetongue (EHD) since the 2003. I dont see the herd building any resistance to it after almost 20 years. I found way too many dead from it this year. If someone could design a mineral Block that built up a deers immune system to fight against bluetongue  I'd spend a fortune. If it actually worked that is
 

 


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