I pulled a non-cell camera card yesterday that we setup two months ago. It had some solid deer activity and two new faces. Those new bucks are below. They are mature and ready for a whacking! Buck #2 definitely scores better, but they're both mature shooters on the basis of their age alone. Check them out!
Buck #1 - The Crab Claw 12pt
Buck #2 - The Split G2 11pt
We get new faces from time to time. Most consistently, we get new faces during the summer months when our mineral sites and/or food plots are thriving. We also can get some new faces in early September when bucks start to shed their velvet while going through a hormonal shift. Some bucks stay, some go nuts and wander. The next time we are used to seeing new bucks is in late October before the rut starts. Bucks start wandering a bit because they've opened their summer ranges. So, having these deer in September and October is likely due to the velvet hormonal shift. This particular farm is in a great neighborhood with a lot of history producing big whitetails. These are in the "middle" of the range, actually, despite 2021 not having much on the farm. We will see what continues to show over the course of the next few days.
I was just talking to one of our past hunters who is coming back in 2024 about this topic. Three of the last six years have produced more unknown bucks than known bucks. We've had years where we killed more unknown bucks. We've had years where we have killed more known bucks. We've had years where it is 50/50. The vulnerability of that topic is truly relevant to the farm, the deer, and the rut intensity. Yet, I always operate under the assumption that there are more bucks that we don't know about than bucks we do know.
In a common year, we will see 2-4 shooters per farm on camera, a true range of 0 - 6 shooters on a farm per year. If we break it down to per 40-acre tract, that is anywhere from 1-3 shooters averaged. That's a pretty decent density if you ask me. If this was Missouri, I'd say 0-0.25 shooters per 40 acres, maybe even less. If this was Kansas, I'd say we have 0-1.5 shooters per 40 acres. Iowa is different, but the last few years have humbled us as in deer numbers.
I think that the orange army, the shotgun drive hunters, is responsible for killing more young deer than normal. With the straight-walled rifle cartridges being legalized 4 or 5 years ago to now talking break-action single-shot centerfire cartridges in the future, numbers could slightly decrease on the big buck list. Will that impact doe numbers? Not noticeably. What we are seeing in reduced doe numbers is likely from predation (mountain lions - few, a lot of bobcats and a lot of coyotes) and EHD. EHD leaves a lasting impression on the deer that it does not actually kill. You'll see deformed or smaller racks from such. You'll see droopy ears and split hooves. Who knows, it could even influence reproductive efforts. Yet, it is still Southern Iowa, one of the most magical places to be in the fall and winter chasing these corn-fed monsters.
As of right now, for 2022, we expect to see some new faces, but we have a really nice crop of 3-1/2 and 4-1/2 year old deer that will be pushing the envelope next year for consideration. Of course, I don't often count new faces if they're 3-1/2 or younger. We are focused on the mature bucks 4-1/2 and older, idealistically 5-1/2 and older. If we have any contenders show up on camera, we will post them here after pulling those cards.