Hunters Helping the Hungry program kicks off this season

SANTA FE – Hunters can donate deer and elk meat this year to help feed the hungry under a new program run by Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico.

Hunters can drop off fresh, clean, properly stored elk or deer meat at any of 11 approved meat processors statewide. The program pays processing costs and distributes the ground meat to l soup kitchens and others for use in prepared meals.

“This is a great way for hunters to share their bounty with those in need,” said Bob Osborn, assistant chief of private land programs for the department. “We hope hunters will support this program by giving generously.”

The Department of Game and Fish provided seed money and organizational assistance to help the program get started. Roadrunner Foodbank will manage the program, conduct fundraising and distribute meat donations.

Those who donate cash or meat to the program can receive a receipt for charitable deduction purposes.

A list of approved game processors where hunters can donate meat can be found on the food bank’s website, www.rrfb.org/hunters. Financial donations to fund the program also can be made through the website.

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September is quota hunt application month in Kentucky

FRANKFORT, Ky. – As the carefree days of summer give way to the first days of September, it’s finally starting to feel like fall in Kentucky.

A cold front promised to break the stranglehold of heat and humidity just as wingshooters returned to dove fields for the traditional Sept. 1 season opener.

The quota hunt application period in Kentucky also coincides with September’s arrival. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources administers quota hunts across the state for deer, pheasant, quail, upland birds and waterfowl. Throughout September, hunters can apply for these opportunities online at fw.ky.gov or by calling 1-877-598-2401. The minimum charge to apply is $3.

“People should consider applying to be able to hunt new areas that they’ve never hunted before,” said Chris Garland, assistant wildlife division director with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “They’re also great for people who don’t have access to private lands to hunt.

“Every year you’ll see pictures of some pretty nice deer taken during quota hunts. They’re not behind every tree by any means but there are some very good deer on public lands.”

There are 30 quota deer hunts scheduled and each has a set number of available slots. A handful of hunts are set aside for mobility-impaired hunters. Others are limited to antlerless deer or bucks with a 15-inch minimum outside antler spread.

For the first time, drawn hunters will be allowed to bring one non-hunting person along on their quota deer hunt. That person must check in and check out with the drawn hunter and abide by hunter orange requirements.

There is a new opportunity this year with an archery and crossbow-only quota hunt on Big Rivers Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and State Forest in Crittenden and Union counties. The hunt is capped at 130 hunters. It starts the Monday following the October youth-only firearms season, closes for the two-day firearms quota hunt that starts the first Saturday in November, then reopens and continues through November 30. The archery and crossbow seasons will be open under statewide regulations before and after the quota hunt period.

Department staff recommended this new kind of quota hunt as a way to rein in harvest on an area that has become a popular destination for hunters.

“The numbers were telling us there was starting to be a negative impact on the herd,” Garland said. “This is our effort to maintain the quality of the herd while still allowing as much access as we can. It’s a new approach and we’re hopeful it will be successful.”

Waterfowl quota hunts are on Ballard WMA and Sloughs WMA roughly from around Thanksgiving into January. This year, the application process will include a new choice that mirrors the “no hunt” option afforded deer hunters. It works this way: if a waterfowl hunter cannot hunt this season, they can still put in for a quota hunt and maintain their preference points without the chance of being drawn. The $3 application fee still applies. Hunters forfeit any accumulated preference points if they do not apply or are ineligible to apply for a quota hunt or the “no hunt” option.

“There are some years where maybe you have a new baby coming or maybe you have a big vacation planned, and it’s bad to lose your preference points because of that big life event,” said John Brunjes, migratory bird coordinator for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “This way, you get a chance to keep them and go hunting the following year.”

Starting this year, the Crenshaw and Duncan tracts on the Sauerheber Unit of Sloughs WMA will be closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays to improve the quality of quota waterfowl hunts.

“It could be the best place in the world, but when you have that kind of pressure the ducks never have a chance to sit in there and rest and relax or learn that there are good resources in there. That pressure keeps them out,” Brunjes said. “So we went before the Kentucky Fish and Wildlife Commission and asked if we could close it two days a week like we do at Ballard to allow birds to come in there and rest, discover there are food sources and hopefully provide an increased quality of hunt. We’ve reduced opportunity but hopefully we’ve increased quality.”

Hunters applying for a quota waterfowl hunt at Sloughs WMA also will be asked if they are open to accepting a blind that requires boat access. One new blind on the area will be accessible only by boat.

A change to note for Ballard: it will be closed to hunting Christmas Eve to allow WMA staff the opportunity to travel out of town to family holiday events. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are paid holidays for state employees.

“We thought it was important for them to have that extra time with their families,” Brunjes said.

Pheasant quota hunts are scheduled Nov. 18, 19 and 20 on Green River Lake WMA, Dec. 2, 3 and 4 on Clay WMA and Dec. 9, 10 and 11, 2016 on Yellowbank WMA. Quail quota hunts on Peabody WMA are scheduled Nov. 29, and Dec. 20, 2016 and Jan. 7, Jan. 14 and Jan. 24, 2017. Clay WMA will host upland bird quota hunts on Nov. 9, Nov. 20, Dec. 17 and Dec. 27, 2016. Hunters may take bobwhite quail, ruffed grouse and woodcock during upland bird quota hunts when the seasons for all three species are open. Woodcock season closes Dec. 7.

Complete dates for all quota hunts appear on the online application and through the “Quota Hunts” page on the department’s website. When the drawing is completed, results will be posted on the department’s website, typically in early October. Those without internet access may also call 1-800-858-1549 weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Eastern time) and provide their confirmation number, order number or Social Security number to find out if they were drawn.

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Four Simple Ways to Get Bucks Within Bow Range

Sometimes the gap between seeing a buck and actually getting a shot with a bow can seem like the distance between opposing sides of the moon. Whitetails have an uncanny knack of picking a travel route that carries them just close enough to elevate our heart rate, yet just far enough away that we never draw the bow. 

Bucks skirt our setups for one of two main reasons: Either they have too many options (leaving it up to the element of chance whether they walk in bow range), or we’re forced to place a stand in a spot that may be advantageous for us (due to wind direction or cover) but may not necessarily be the best place for a deer. But it’s usually possible to make a buck close the distance and walk within bow range. Here are four ways to make that happen.

1.  Make a Trail Block 

The best stand sites are the ones near the most trails. But multiple paths create a new problem: It’s rarely possible to place a stand within bow range of them all. The solution is to hang in a spot where you can shoot most of the trails, and then block the rest, forcing deer to travel in range. The quickest way to shut down a trail is to fell a tree across it. Make sure the trunk sits about 3 feet off the ground (so deer don’t simply step or jump over it). When this isn’t possible, drag a blowdown or clumps of brush onto the trail(s) you want to block.

2. Drop a Wire 

Whitetails usually have multiple entry points into ag fields, and their entries usually require jumping a barbwire fence. Since whitetails are inherently lazy critters, you can encourage them to jump the wire right where you have a stand. Use a length of rope or wire to tie down the top strand of the barbwire to the next strand (if it’s not your property, get landowner permission to do this first, because the fence is there for a reason). Deer will quickly adopt the slightly lower spot in the fence as their favorite entry into the field.

3. Eliminate the Licks 

Licking branches are often located on the edge of a field or food plot, making a nearby stand a killer spot. Trouble is, bucks usually have multiple licking branches on any given field, and when your target buck shows up at dusk, he can dillydally over one so long that he’ll never reach your setup before dark. Eliminate the competition by cutting off every potential licking branch (those hanging on the field edge 5 to 8 feet high) except one. With only a single show in town, bucks can enter the field from any point but will usually beeline it to your branch.

4.  Plant a Fake Tree 

Sometimes the vegetation (or lack of it) surrounding a field or food plot makes it unsuitable for licking branches and scrapes. This is the perfect opportunity to create a licking branch and mock scrape site located near your stand. Cut a sapling or large limb from the surrounding timber and use a posthole digger to dig a hole 2 to 3 feet deep in the food plot, 15 yards from your stand. Drop the stump of the tree in the hole, then backfill with dirt. Bucks will soon favor the tree you “planted” as a scraping and licking spot.  

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How To Set Up a Bowfishing Bow

While some guys are trading in bowfishing bows for their deer hunting setup, others are holding on to the fact that some of the best bowfishing days are still ahead. That’s right! September and October can be some of the best months of the year for shooting some really big fish. So keep your bow handy and ready for the action. And if you’re new to the sport, and you’ve been dabbling with the idea of giving bowfishing a try, now is the time! BHOD pro-staffer, Dan Richardson, will walk you through how to set up a bowfishing bow in the quick and simple video below.

BHOD pro-staffer, Dan Richardson, shares the basics of how to set up a bowfishing bow.

The video includes basic setup, as well as the tools to bring you success on your next bowfishing trip.

Don’t let some of the best months for bowfishing pass you by. Get that bow set up and hit the water for big fish and even bigger fun.

We want to hear from you. Be sure to comment below and let us know what equipment you use and recommend for bowfishing.

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Moose Utilities Division Sprayer Review

For me, hunting is a whole lot more than just what happens during the last three pages on my calendar. As a matter of fact, the hunting preparation during those first nine month on the calendar, can have the biggest impact, not only on my season, but also my deer herd in general. I understand that it takes quality land to produce quality deer. Good habitat and good nutrition make for good hunting. That’s why food plots are an excellent way for me to invest in the off season. This year, in preparation for fall plots, I had the opportunity to try out the Moose Utility Division 25 gallon ATV sprayer. Here’s a closer look at the product and my personal experience with the Moose Utility Division sprayer.

First Impressions

I was quite impressed in how this piece of equipment turned out to be a real time saver. Timing is the name of the game when it comes to food plot prep. Particularly when these projects are limited to weekend or after hours projects. You are either trying to beat the rain or trying to make it in by dinner, your kid’s ballgames, or just beat darkness. The simplicity and convenience of the Moose Utility sprayer having everything there and ready to use was priceless.

My good buddy, Brad, as well as my daughter, Casie, met up with me on a recent Saturday morning as we put this sprayer through its paces. We had the opportunity to try it out on the back rack of a Honda ATV as well as in the bed of a Polaris Ranger.

Moose sprayer

The 25-gallon sprayer from Moose Utilities Division, loaded and ready to roll.

The Boom

The sprayer was equipped with the quick detach 140” folding boom. I am a big fan of the 7-nozzle 110 degree overlapping pattern that this sprays. It ensures the best possible coverage from your ATV.

The boom folds in on each side for transport, leaving it the same width as your ATV/UTV. These folding arms are spring loaded but can be pinned ridged. I personally found the spring loaded feature an excellent design, particularly when I got too close to some brush and folded it in as opposed to tearing it off. You simply, hop out, fold it back out, and take off again. The 140” 7-nozzle folding boom features a quick disconnect system that is very handy. The whole boom slides in or out of the bottom of the tank support with cam-lock levers to hold it where you want it. You can also easily adjust the boom height to meet whatever needs you have in weed control.

sprayer nozzle

The boom on the Moose sprayer allows for complete coverage, quick and easy.

Easy Adjustments and Versatility

This sprayer features a 3-way selector valve that keeps things flowing quick and smooth without the hassle of swapping out hoses and fittings to change from boom to wand. Having the wand with its 15’ hose there and ready to use at any time is a big plus on food plots. This saves precious time by not having to hook anything up. With a simple twist, the brass nozzle on the wand is adjustable from a long range stream to a fine mist.

moose sprayer valve

Versatility comes from the sprayer’s 3-way valve system.

With the 25 gallon polyethylene tank, a 3.8 GPM 12 volt pump, and the automatic pressure switch, this is by no means a wimpy sprayer. This robust workhorse is made to get the job done quick and easy. The sprayer is right at home on the back of an ATV or in the bed of a UTV, but I wouldn’t hesitate to run any of its functions from the bed of my pickup truck if I needed to. The easy-connect 12 volt wire seems to be long enough to make it very versatile for any type vehicle mounting.

The sprayer is anchored with a couple small ratchet straps. There is no tipping, slipping, or sliding once strapped down. And when the work is done, the side positioning of the drain plug makes emptying the leftovers into a container very easy. The unit cleans up quick and easy…another great feature of any sprayer.

Conclusion

This is a great product that has truly been a game changer for me when it comes to spraying plots. The time it saved and the simplicity of use made our weed control efforts a cinch. I now consider this sprayer to be standard equipment for anyone working with foodplots on the land they hunt.

Moose Utilities sprayers come in 10, 15, and 25 gallon sizes. See the complete line of sprayers and other implements from Moose at www.mooseutilities.com.

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Georgia Archery Deer Season Begins September 10

SOCIAL CIRCLE, Ga. – Archers will get the first opportunity at bringing home a deer beginning Saturday, Sept. 10, according to the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ Wildlife Resources Division.

Last year, 132,641 archery hunters harvested more than 66,039 deer. Statewide, hunters can use archery equipment throughout the entire 2016-2017 deer season (ending Jan. 8, 2017).

“The early part of archery season occurs before mature bucks shift into their fall movement patterns,” said state deer program coordinator Charlie Killmaster. “With their home range near its smallest at this time of year, hunters should concentrate on food sources closest to thick cover for the best chance at an early-season buck.”

NEW: Either Sex Day Map: A new interactive map has been created for Georgia hunters allowing hunters to see the opportunities available for the counties they hunt. More info at www.georgiawildlife.com/hunting/deer-opportunities.

NEW: Georgia Game Check: While deer hunters have utilized a deer harvest record in the past (to record the date and county of kill), beginning this deer season, all hunters on both public and private lands must record their deer on the harvest record AND report their harvest using Georgia Game Check. More info at www.georgiawildlife.com/HarvestRecordGeorgiaGameCheck.

State-managed public hunting lands are funded through a combination of state license fees and matching federal funds from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s Wildlife Restoration Program. Hunters account for $977 million in retail sales in Georgia each year with a $1.6 billion ripple effect and almost 24,000 jobs.

Many public lands offer specialty hunts, including primitive weapons hunts, adult/child hunts and ladies-only hunts. Dates and locations for these hunts are listed in the 2016-2017 Georgia Hunting Seasons and Regulations guide. Georgia offers more than 100 state-operated wildlife management areas (WMAs) for the public’s use.

Hunters are allowed a season bag limit of 10 antlerless deer and two antlered deer (one of the two antlered deer must have a minimum of four points, one inch or longer, on one side of the antlers). Special regulations apply to archery-only counties and extended archery season areas. Counties in the Metro Atlanta area (Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, and Rockdale counties) offer either-sex archery deer hunting through Jan. 31. Additionally, deer of either sex may be taken with archery equipment at any time during the deer season on private land.

To pursue deer in Georgia, hunters must have a valid hunting license and a big game license. If hunting on a WMA, a WMA license is required. Licenses can be purchased online at www.gohuntgeorgia.com/licenses-permits-passes, by phone at 1-800-366-2661 or at a license agent (list of agents available online).

For more information on deer hunting seasons, regulations, licenses and WMA maps, visit www.gohuntgeorgia.com/hunting.

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2015 New Hampshire Wildlife Harvest Summary Available

CONCORD, N.H. — As hunters gear up for the fall season in New Hampshire, a rich source of information available to them is the 2015 New Hampshire Wildlife Harvest Summary, which presents final data summarized by wildlife biologists from the 2015 New Hampshire hunting seasons. This annual publication provides a complete breakdown of hunting season statistics, including some information by town and Wildlife Management Unit (WMU).

The 2015 N.H. Wildlife Harvest Summary is available online at www.wildnh.com/hunting/harvest-summary.html (select “2015”). A limited number of print copies are available at the NH Fish and Game Department in Concord and regional offices in Durham, New Hampton, Lancaster and Keene.

The report confirms that New Hampshire’s 2015 deer season resulted in a total harvest of 10,895 deer, a decrease of 4% from 2014. According to the report, “Biological information was again collected during 2015 at select deer registration stations in order to monitor the physical condition of New Hampshire’s deer and assess harvest age structure. In 2015, a total of 812 deer were checked (517 males, 295 females). Average yearling (age 1.5) antler beam diameter was 18.3 millimeters and yearling male field-dressed weight averaged 118.7 pounds. Average yearling antler beam diameter and weight were both above the recent 5-year average of 17.8 millimeters and 115 pounds respectively. Both suggest a deer population in good physical condition and below the biological carrying capacity of our deer habitat.”

The Harvest Summary includes data from the N.H. Trophy Deer Program, run by the N.H. Antler and Skull Trophy Club, which annually recognizes hunters who take deer with a weight of 200 pounds or more by each of three hunting methods (archery, muzzleloader and regular firearms). For 2015, the heaviest deer (249.1 pounds) was taken by Charles Foote of Glencliff, NH, using a regular firearm.

The report also provides statistics for moose, bear, turkey and furbearers.

Wildlife research and management activities in New Hampshire, including production of the annual NH Wildlife Harvest Summary, are funded through Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration, a user-pay, user-benefit program supported by the purchase of firearms, ammunition and archery equipment.

Learn more about hunting in New Hampshire at www.huntnh.com/hunting.

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Four Affordable, Lightweight ARs Ranked and Reviewed

 

One of the major trends in AR-15s over the past year or so is that the rifles keep getting lighter and handier, which is great news if you want to hunt with one. We know that with today’s bullets, the .223 Remington has enough punch to take down deer, and it may be the best varmint-and-predator cartridge of all. (There’s a misconception that the .223 is not legal for deer hunting in most states, but it’s actually allowed in 35 of 50.) But for many would-be buyers, one key question remains: Can you get a handy, reliable new AR without spending a small fortune? To find out, I put a total of 1,000 rounds through four rifles, all of which weigh in at less than 7 pounds and cost under $1K. Here’s how they did.

Score: 87.8$910, mossberg.com

TRIGGER 7.3 lb., with .85-lb. varianceAVERAGE GROUPS Varmint load: .71″ • Big-game load: 1.62″ • Plinking load: 1.04″ • Overall: 1.12″THE LOWDOWN A comfortable and accessory-ready hand guard and quick-detachable front and rear backup sights set this rifle apart. It was also the most accurate, producing an overall average group size of 1.12 inches. With the Black Hills varmint load alone, it averaged .71 inch. The MMR lost points for being the second heaviest of the group and for its weighty and creepy trigger. None of this was enough to overshadow the fact that it was the most ergonomic, adaptable, and accurate rifle of the bunch.

Score: 84.6$769, bushmaster.com 

TRIGGER 6.45 lb., with 1.3-lb. varianceAVERAGE GROUPS Varmint load: 1.65″ • Big-game load: 1.58″ • Plinking load: 1.16″ • Overall: 1.46″THE LOWDOWN At less than 6 pounds, the QRC was the lightest rifle tested, but it also had the most inconsistent and all-around bad trigger. Although it has no provision for open sights, the Bushmaster is the only gun here that includes an optical sight—a compact red-dot. It did not distinguish itself on the bench, taking last in accuracy. Still, the overall average group size of 1.46 inches is respectable and fine for many hunting applications. Given its minimal heft, price, and included red-dot, the QRC is the best bargain.

Score: 83.8$739, smith-wesson.com

TRIGGER 5.43 lb., with .75-pound varianceAVERAGE GROUPS Varmint load: .56″ • Big-game load: 1.66″ • Plinking load: 1.23″ • Overall: 1.15″THE LOWDOWN The M&P Sport II was the second-lightest rifle here at just over 6 pounds. It nearly tied for most accurate, and it had the best trigger by far. It lost points for an archaic military grip and a hand guard that does not accept accessories. But the biggest problem—at least for a hunting AR—is its A2 post front sight, which interferes with the sight picture through riflescopes of less than 6X magnification. Removing the sight housing is possible, but difficult. So as is, I had to dock points.

Score: 75.4 $799, ruger.com

TRIGGER 7.63 lb., with .75-lb. varianceAVERAGE GROUPS Varmint loads: 1.23″ • Big-game loads: 1.45″ • Plinking loads: 1.29″ • Overall: 1.32″THE LOWDOWN Ruger’s newest AR-556 is a compliant version, configured for jurisdictions limiting certain features. As a result, it lacks an adjustable buttstock and an accessory-compatible handguard, which cost it points. (A 2015 noncompliant version is still offered at the same price.) As with the S&W, the biggest problem is the fixed front sight. The trigger was the heaviest tested but was reasonably crisp. Overall this is a well-made, good-shooting rifle that may be just what you need where you live. 

The Test

Using a Sig Sauer Whiskey5 2–10x42mm riflescope, I fired 250 rounds through each rifle and scored them in the following five 20-point categories: 

1. Accuracy→ I shot and averaged groups from the bench at 100 yards using Black Hills’ 50-grain V-Max varmint loads, Barnes’s 62-grain Triple-Shock big-game loads, and Hornady’s 55-grain American Gunner plinking loads.2. Size and weight→ The lighter and more compact, the higher the score. Because catalog specifications can be optimistic, I weighed and measured all the guns myself. 3. Ergonomics→ I evaluated each rifle for fit and handling while shooting from field positions. I also considered extra features here. 4. Trigger→ I tested each for weight, quality, and consistency.5. Reliability→ I docked points for jams, misfires, and any other hiccups.   

 

Upgrades

1. Triggers→ Timney (timneytriggers.com) offers AR triggers you can install in 15 minutes. At $229, they aren’t cheap, which is why you don’t find them in affordable ARs. 

2. Hand Guards → If yours won’t accept accessories, you can replace it with a Magpul MOE (magpul.com) that does for just $30. 

3. Stocks→ For anywhere from $30 to $100, you can swap a minimalistic mil-spec buttstock with an adjustable and more comfortable version from Magpul or Fab Defense (fab-defense.com). 

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Three Ways to Tag a Buck in Dense Farm Cover

Farm-country whitetails are drawn to standing corn for the food and cover it provides. But corn poses problems for hunters, because seeing—much less actually killing—a buck when he’s living in rows planted just 30 inches apart is no small feat. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to pluck a buck from a cornfield. Here are three proven methods for pulling it off.

Ambush the Edges 

Whitetails are creatures of the edge, and that holds true for a cornfield. The vast majority of deer using a cornfield will bed and feed within the first 20 rows, wandering between the security of the corn and the adjacent cover. Even better, the hard edge formed by the cornfield is a perfect travel corridor. This makes hunting from a well-placed stand or blind near the edge a top tactic. 

For stand hunting, focus on trees in two key locations: cornfield corners that abut a woodlot, and brushy or wooded fencelines that bisect a field. Deer will have a well-defined trail at every woodlot corner; a stand placed downwind will definitely overlook action. A fenceline that separates the cornfield from another field or cover type is also a killer spot, especially during the rut. If no trees grow on the fenceline, just tuck a stool a few rows back from the edge, and clip enough leaves from stalks to create a shooting lane. You’ll have to be on your toes with this setup, as you won’t see a buck until he’s right on top of you.

Stalk the Rows 

One of the most exciting ways to hunt a cornfield is simply to stalk across the rows, searching for bedded and/or feeding deer. This tactic works best on a windy day, for two reasons. First, deer will often seek shelter from the wind by tucking themselves into the cornfield. Second, the background noise of a steady wind rustling the stalks will cover any sounds you’ll make as you slip between them.

The drill is simple but tedious. Starting on the farthest downwind end of the field, stick your noggin into the first row of corn. Scan left, then right (or vice versa), and search for a bedded or feeding whitetail. Assuming you don’t see a buck in the first row, you step into that row, then repeat the process until you emerge on the other end. Move down about 30 yards, and repeat the process, crossing the rows in the other direction. Repeat until you’ve covered the field.

Run a Stop-and-Go Drive 

Flushing deer from standing corn is never easy, but a handful of drivers can accomplish the task with a staggered drive. Four drivers can handle a small field; use more for larger ones. Drivers should line up several rows apart, with the wind blowing their scent into the corn ahead. To start the drive, the first and third drivers walk 20 to 30 steps into their respective rows, then stop. Then drivers two and four start, walking until they catch up to one and three. Repeat this staggered movement to the field edge. The stop-and-go progress, combined with human scent blowing toward deer, unnerves bucks and nudges them out. 

Poster placement is critical. Because the wind is blowing into the drive, bucks will try to run into the breeze (or at least crosswind) as they escape. They’ll want to squirt out the sides of the drive, or even double back into the drive. So place at least one poster on each side of the corn, plus another to cover the back door. Drivers should only shoot at a deer if it’s in the row they’re walking, and posters should never shoot toward the corn itself.

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A Single Lightning Bolt Kills 323 Norwegian Reindeer

Last week, a lightning strike killed 323 wild reindeer, NPR reports. The reindeer were struck on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau, in central Norway, which holds about 2,000 of the migratory deer during the year. About 70 of the reindeer were calves. Hunters discovered the remains and alerted the Norwegian Nature Inspectorate, which is now handling the bizarre case. 

“We’ve heard about animals being struck by lightning and killed,” Knut Nylend, Norwegian Nature Inspectorate spokesman, told the wire service NTB, “but I don’t remember hearing about lightning killing animals on this scale before. Reindeer are pack animals and are often close together. During a heavy thunderstorm, they may have gathered even closer together out of fear.” 

Although the reindeer most certainly died from a lightning strike, as a precaution, Norwegian wildlife officials are testing the remains for chronic wasting disease, since it claimed a reindeer in northern Norway last year.

John Jensenius, a NOAA lightning safety expert, explained to The Verge how a single lightening bolt could decimate more than 300 reindeer: Though lightning strikes typically kill only 10 to 20 animals when they hit a herd, a lightning strike on July 18, 1918, in American Fork Canyon, Utah, killed 654 sheep. Jensenius says that although animals do huddle together during storms, they don’t have to be touching to conduct a lightning bolt’s electricity. Instead, he said, ground current—the spreading of energy along the earth—is the real killer. In the case of the Hardangervidda herd, ground current—which travels up one leg then down the other of animals or persons within proximity—killed every reindeer in a 50- to 80-foot diameter. Animals are especially susceptible to ground current, Jensenius added, since their legs are farther apart than humans’, so the current travels more easily inside their bodies.

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