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Micro Manager: How to Make a Utilization Cage

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A couple of readers commenting on my entry about my DIY dual-perimeter fence asked that I install a utilization cage to monitor both the effectiveness of the fence and the overall use of the soybeans by the local deer herd.

Being the ever-accommodating writer that I am, I offer up this video. If you’ve never installed a utilization cage in your food plots, you should seriously consider doing so.

There are a couple of benefits to the cage and those benefits are closely related, the most obvious being that you’ll be able to determine, at a glance, whether deer are grazing on your crop.

But that’s not the only benefit: You can also determine whether the crop is truly being grazed or if it’s simply not growing. I’ll explain.

A couple of seasons ago, I put in a small plot of oats. I’d read a lot of good things about them and if half of what I’d read was true, I figured I’d be standing over the carcass of a very large buck by sundown on the opening day of Michigan’s bow season. The drawing power, according to the “Doctor” who was touting the brand, was that severe.

Well opening day came and went. And there was no trophy laid to rest. But the oats were barely tall enough to cover the tops of my shoes and I knew it was because the deer were browsing them heavily. The fact that I hadn’t actually seen a deer take so much as a bite out of the plot didn’t matter.

The following season, I was a bit behind schedule and didn’t have the time to make a special trip to one of the larger hunting gear outlets. Thus I was unable to buy that special brand of oats. So I stopped by the local grain elevator on my way home from work and picked up a sack of generic northern-variety oats. I sowed the plot that same weekend. And this time I installed a utilization cage.

Turns out the deer weren’t chowing down the plot. I knew this because the oats on the outside of the cage were exactly the same height as those on the inside. Which taught me a pretty valuable lesson: If the dirt isn’t right, the crop won’t be either.

Last fall, I again planted oats. But this time I applied fertilizer. And the results were what I was hoping for three years prior. The oats on the inside of the cage were knee-high before heavy frost took them down. Those on the outside wouldn’t cover my shoes. And it was because the deer were keeping them closely cropped to the ground.  And, yes, I planted the cheap oats from the local elevator. So maybe there’s a lesson there, too.

Watch the video and you’ll see just how easy it is to build a utilization cage. You can use just about anything you want so long as it keeps the deer out and allows the sunlight in. I’m using three PVC stakes and some plastic mesh leftover from lining the perimeter or our garden. Wooden stakes, fence posts, chicken wire, snow fence—all will work. The total process should take you about 10 minutes. 

The Tab

The goal of The Micro Manager is to see if we really can turn 17 acres of ho-hum ground into great deer hunting land. But we’re also going to try and show that such things can be done on a tight budget. I’ve set a limit of $1,500 for this year’s habitat work expenditures. Each week, we’ll keep a running tally at the end of each entry. Here’s the current tab thus far:

Chainsaw gas and oil: $21

ATV fuel: $12

Trees/shrubs: $312.50

Drain spade: $16

Screening Cover Seed: $110

Tree shelter materials: 120

Tractor gas: $35

Ag-type soybeans: $52.50

Tiller rental: $9o

Posts for fence: $44

Flagging tape for fence: $16

Utilization cage materials: $5

TOTAL: $836

BUDGET REMAINING: $664

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Study: One Sit in the Deer Woods Equals Three Days of Pressure for Mature Bucks

Photo by David Restivo, NPS via Flickr
Hunters know that putting too much pressure on whitetails can alter deer activity. We often hear that putting too much pressure on a mature buck makes it go nocturnal for the rest of the hunting season. But how mu…

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Video: New Study Sheds Light on What Deer See


Photo by Justin Leonard via Flickr

If you’re a deer hunter who likes to wear blue jeans to your stand, you might as well hang a cowbell around your neck to let whitetails know you’re in the woods. And if you wear camouflage with many subtle colors, it may be doing you more harm than good. 

At the recent QDMA conference, researchers from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources presented findings from a new study on whitetail vision. 

Before getting into that work, to understand what deer see and how their vision is different from ours, it’s important to revisit what we learned about vision in high school science class.

Eyes contain specialized nerves called rods and cones. Different photopigments (or photoreceptors) in cones give animals and humans color vision. Rods contain only one type of light-sensitive pigment and allow us to see in low light, such as at dawn and dusk.

Anatomical studies of deer eyes have found that deer have far more rods in their eyes than humans do. Deer also have a reflective layer called the tapetum lucidum that gives deer the “eye shine” you see in nighttime photos. It also reflects light back over the rods and cones again, giving deer the ability to see far better in low light than we can. 

Humans have tri-chromatic color vision, meaning our eyes contain three types of photopigments. The photopigments enable us to see short, moderate and long wavelengths of light, corresponding to blue, green and red colors. 

Deer eyes only have two photopigment types, giving them dichromatic color vision. Scientists believe that deer can primarily see short-wavelength blue light, and moderate-wavelength light that they probably perceive as something between red and green.  

Unlike in humans, the cones in a deer’s eye are distributed across the back of the eye on a horizontal plane. The lens in a deer’s eye also can’t adjust to objects at varying distances. These factors give deer less visual clarity than humans have. An object a deer is looking at straight on is equally in focus as something out to the side. So don’t assume that because a deer isn’t looking at you that it can’t see you.

“More than anything else, a deer’s eyes are designed to detect movement,” said the University of Georgia’s Dr. Karl Miller, whose students conducted the study.

But it’s one thing to dissect a deer’s eye and make inferences from what you find; it’s something entirely different to have deer tell us what they see.

If this sounds like science fiction, then read on. Biologist Dr. Bradley Cohen trained does to associate light wavelengths with a food reward to test how well deer can see. Deer were given a choice of two empty food troughs, but would only receive a food reward when they chose to eat from the trough where an LED light stimulus was illuminated. After being trained, deer were tested on six different light wavelengths at various intensities to determine what colors of light they can see.

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Cohen found that deer see blue colors best and red colors the worst. Deer can also see greens, yellows and UV light, but they can’t differentiate color shades to that extent that humans can. 

What this means to a hunter is that you should avoid wearing anything blue. You should also avoid wearing camouflage with a lot of white, because white reflects all colors, including blue. And because deer can’t perceive color shades very well, a hunter wearing camouflage containing many subtle shades of green and/or brown looks just like one big blob to deer. Instead, wear camouflage that breaks up your outline and move as little as possible to avoid being busted.

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DC’s reaction to Palmer

Alan Gura’s blog post links to a pdf of a DC Police memo giving its reaction. Essentially: 1. DC residents who carry an unregistered gun can be charged with failure to register it, but not for carrying it. (By implication,…

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California Men Arrested for Diverting Salmon Stream to Grow Marijuana

Two unidentified men were arrested last week for rerouting water from the lowermost salmon stream in Santa Cruz, Calif. to irrigate 180 marijuana plants.

DFW assistant chief Brian Naslund explained just how harmful such operations can prove to wildli…

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Sydney Angler Lands Monster Southern Bluefin Tuna

Got a hankering for 20,000 sushi rolls? Karen Wright has you covered.
Wright, an angler from Sydney, Australia, caught a southern bluefin tuna Wednesday that weighed more than 316 pounds.

When she set out aboard, Wright that she had a fairly good ide…

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Bowhunting: Prime-Time Pre-Rut Strategies

Photo by Donald M. Jones
Without question, most diehard deer hunters get fired up for the much-anticipated rut. But this brief period can be chaotic, somewhat unpredictable, and often difficult to hunt due to intense outside hunting pressure and other …

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Deer of the Year: The Pumpkin Buck

Editor’s Note: We’re highlighting all of the bucks that ran in August’s Deer of the Year feature. Each week we’ll post the full story and extra photos right here on the BBZ blog.
A new hunter might sit in the stand for weeks or months before even comi…

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Minnesota to Set Most Conservative Deer Season in Two Decades

Minnesota hunters may not be surprised to hear that the 2014 season will be the state’s most conservative in the last 20 years. On Wednesday, Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced that chances to hunt anterless deer will be restr…

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Palmer v. DC: a win!

Blog post and link to opinion here. District Court of DC rules that DC’s requirement for a permit to carry, combined with its refusal to issue such permits, is unconstitutional, and (2) so is its ban on issuing permits to…

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More on the PA hospital shooting

Story here It now appears that: 1) the murderer had a pocketful of ammunition, suggesting that, but for the psychiatrist shooting him and other staff jumping him, he would have gone on a killing spree. "We believe that Mr. Plotts,…

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Deer of the Year: Two Bucks for the Brothers

JON DAHLSTROM, idaho

”My brother, Jeremy, and I were finally fortunate enough to draw tags close to our hometown of Pocatello. We passed up several bucks before locating a nice 4×4. I won a quick game of rock-paper-scissors and took the buck. D…

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Deer of the Year: Third Shot’s a Charm

MATT SERWA, WIsconsin
”Suddenly, this giant buck was standing just 20 yards from my stand. I never heard him approach. I drew back, but my peep was twisted. I did my best to peer around the peep, but I shot over his back. I missed a second shot,…

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Deer of the Year: Third Shot’s a Charm

MATT SERWA, WIsconsin
”Suddenly, this giant buck was standing just 20 yards from my stand. I never heard him approach. I drew back, but my peep was twisted. I did my best to peer around the peep, but I shot over his back. I missed a second shot,…

Go to Deer of the Year: Third Shot’s a Charm

Deer of the Year: Hayfield Chill

Chad McKibben

“On January 6, wind chills hovered near ₋-25. On stand, overlooking a hay field, I spotted a buck at 140 yards—one that I’d been hunting for two years. I cocked the hammer on my muzzleloader and fired—nothing. …

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Deer of the Year: Part-Time Hunting Pays Off

“I’d started a new job and didn’t have much hunting time—only a few hours one Saturday. I headed into a thicket and spotted a buck but missed clean. Out from behind a pine steps a monster. After a misfire, I chambered a fresh r…

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Deer of the Year: Part-Time Hunting Pays Off

“I’d started a new job and didn’t have much hunting time—only a few hours one Saturday. I headed into a thicket and spotted a buck but missed clean. Out from behind a pine steps a monster. After a misfire, I chambered a fresh r…

Go to Deer of the Year: Part-Time Hunting Pays Off

Alaska Man Mauled by Brown Bear, Responds with .44 Magnum

An unidentified Alaska man shot and killed a brown bear sow Thursday after the animal mauled him.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game assistant area wildlife biologist Dave Battle stated that the Eagle River man and his unleashed dogs were walking o…

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Video: Huge Mayfly Swarm Shows Up On Wisconsin Radar

Well, this gives me the heebie jeebies.
A massive swarm of mayflies erupted in Wisconsin this week in such high numbers that the cloud of bugs appeared on radar.
National Weather Service employees at the La Crosse, Wis. weather forecast station were r…

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Back-Scratching Buck

Ryan Wisenabach tracked this buck all summer and into the early fall. After trail cam pictures revealed this buck was frequently itching his back with his antlers, Wisenabach appropriately named him “Back Scratcher.” He harvested the whitetail near Wa…

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: New Year’s Buck

Jay Neumann took this College Station, Tx., buck from a ground blind right at the turn of the new year. Harvested in the late afternoon, this 119.7-score buck hopefully took care of at least part of Neumann’s New Year’s resolution list.

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Muzzleloader Buck

Gary Hochhauser saw this 18-pointer via trail cam photos more than three times over three months. When he finally saw the buck follow a spike and smaller buck down on New Year’s Day, he fired his muzzleloader from 80 yards. The buck measured 164 inches…

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Season Opening Bruiser

Yvonne Halfmann took this 13-point whitetail in late November in 2013, hunting from a tree stand near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Only 15 minutes after the deer season opened, Yvonne lined up this 180-score buck in her sights. The big-rack buck was Yvonne’s…

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Season Opening Bruiser

Yvonne Halfmann took this 13-point whitetail in late November in 2013, hunting from a tree stand near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Only 15 minutes after the deer season opened, Yvonne lined up this 180-score buck in her sights. The big-rack buck was Yvonne’s…

Go to Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Season Opening Bruiser

Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Season Opening Bruiser

Yvonne Halfmann took this 13-point whitetail in late November in 2013, hunting from a tree stand near Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Only 15 minutes after the deer season opened, Yvonne lined up this 180-score buck in her sights. The big-rack buck was Yvonne’s…

Go to Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: Season Opening Bruiser

(Video) Fox Attacks and Eats GoPro

You Tube poster TheOpenLens got some great footage of an up close and personal encounter with a fox.
The interaction was so up close and personal that the fox more or less ate the camera.
TheOpenLens explained, “I went to Round Island, Alaska, t…

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Video: Fox Steals and Chomps on GoPro Camera

You Tube user TheOpenLens captured some great footage of an up close and personal encounter with a fox. The incident was a little too interactive, however, because the fox more or less ate the camera.
TheOpenLens explained, “I went to Round Isla…

Go to Video: Fox Steals and Chomps on GoPro Camera

Bowfisherman Arrows World-Record Mako Shark

A bowfisherman landed his name in the record book this month after taking a 544-pound mako shark off the coast of Southern California.
Patrick Eger, host of Big E TV and owner of Big E Outfitters, shot the 10.5-foot predator off Catalina Island on Jun…

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Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: First Buck is a Beauty

Eight-year-old Brenlie Graden took her first buck in Dayton, IA at dusk during the 2013 youth deer season. She shot the deer with a 50-cal muzzleloader and a 300 grain Hornady Sabot Bullet from a Primos ground blind, and the it dropped just over 10 ya…

Go to Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: First Buck is a Beauty

Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: First Buck is a Beauty

Eight-year-old Brenlie Graden took her first buck in Dayton, IA at dusk during the 2013 youth deer season. She shot the deer with a 50-cal muzzleloader and a 300 grain Hornady Sabot Bullet from a Primos ground blind, and the it dropped just over 10 ya…

Go to Deer of the Year Honorable Mention: First Buck is a Beauty
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