The Real Key To Success
After almost six years of silence in the Outdoor writing arena, the decision to pick up the “Pen” again, as it were, is a quest for self fulfillment and a desire to direct the knowledge of half of a lifetime of work and study back at the resource consumer. When I put down the pen, after 65 articles on Outdoor related topics I felt I wanted to refresh and refocus on Wildlife Research and complete some degree work. Having met my goals, I approached Water and Woods Editor James L. Bruner, with an offer to be a regular contributor to the online forum. My goal in the articles I supply will have a definite focus on Habitat, Wildlife Feeding and Nutrition, with other topics of interest as deemed necessary.
I am an Independent Wildlife Researcher with a definite focus on North American Big Game Mammals and an interest in furthering those species and the privilege to pursue them as a consumer (That’s you). I would like to thank Water and Woods for the opportunity to bring you thought and theory that will make you a better Big Game hunter and a much more aware Wildlife Management tool, and I welcome your Questions.
Wildlife Food And Nutrition – The Real Key To Success
Behind every harvested Big Game animal story, is a story of survival and endurance. Day in and day out this creature sought the basics of life and became habituated to the available surroundings and encroachments that were its “Habitat”.
Within that “Habitat”, a pattern of complacent behavior emerged, some innate and some taught. Demise was not factored in to the plan of living, and the abrupt end completed a cycle that has been around since man had his first taste of wild flesh.
Since that time, hunters have calculated and studied the day-to-day habits and habitat usage of mammals with an ultimate intent, Harvest.
If I were to attempt to give the single most valuable piece of advice or “Key to success”, in harvesting a Big Game animal, it would certainly be an education in Wildlife Feeding and Nutrition patterns.
I would struggle to edge out “Cover Requirements”, but would ultimately do so, as cover is of little value if feeding and nutrition requirements become deplete.
As a Wildlife Researcher, I have to be able to locate animals or the habitat they occupy with 100% accuracy and consistency. Time and study have taught me that understanding basic needs and patterning use will always lead me to the animals I pursue. This very same theory applies to hunting animals for harvest. The ever anticipated “however” here is simply that learning and educating oneself takes time and research. This is a simple process and can easily be done with a carefully mapped plan of action and I assure you, your success potential will be impacted three fold. Here is a simple plan that I have personally used time and again over the years as I sought an education on a specific animal.
A simple plan:
Step one was to identify the animal I wished to study (and believe me, study I did). Once this very simple and obvious question was answered, I refrained from the usual sources of study effort, which usually included Hunting Magazines and Hunting Videos. I took a new approach by learning some Biology of the animal in question.
When I say Biology, I am not referring to very high tech scientific publications that require a PhD to understand. I am referring to very specific Publications or Internet Postings related to the day-to-day Nutrition, Water and Cover Requirements of the animal.
As Hunters, you will largely pursue animals that bare Antlers or Horns. These pieces of headgear require very specific Nutrients and Minerals during key times of development. Identifying those units of need will be instrumental in not only locating prime habitat but in promoting or enhancing it for better than average Harvest and Trophy quality results.
The second step I employ is to contact a local Wildlife Manager (please pick your timing appropriately) and ask for a few minutes of his or her time to discuss “XXXX animals” nutritional requirements.
You may find that you have floored the Biologist, as this is not the “typical” call they may get. Better yet, would be, if there were a time that a personal meeting could be arranged. Offer to meet them at their office at their convenience. Take notes and ask for any available material or resources. I have yet to leave a meeting like this without a minimum of a fist full of photocopied material that they pulled from research notes.
From that moment on I began to develop a definite advantage over my contemporary counterparts in the effort to locate a specific animal. Nothing is more consistent day in and day out than the need for Nutrition.
Once understood and identified your ability to locate the animal will become 60% more consistent.
Many publications on Wildlife Nutrition and Feeding will offer the names of essential Plants and Minerals in Scientific format. This format can be confusing, and at this point an investment in books that help identify plants and minerals by scientific name, with Photo’s and by very specific descriptions and growth cycle patterns will help immensely. With the aid of these books you will be better suited to interpret and identify the maturity of the available habitat of which you use at the currant time. (Not to mention successfully estimate future habitat maturity and potential carrying capacities with accuracy)
The National Audubon Society does a fabulous series of Publication on a variety of these subjects. Their Publication on North American Mammals alone will give huge amounts of insight to many areas of opportunity to educate yourself about Range, Habitat Requirements, Breeding and Rearing Cycles. This is key information in the total package of Research.
With knowledge of Food and Nutrition requirements, I noticed a much clearer picture beginning to develop while analyzing some of my area’s of focus and expended effort’s to date. After careful consideration and review the thought occurred that brand new areas might be in order. This may not always be practical when referring to a hunting area, but for Research purposes it usually is.
Perhaps, in your situation a new area is not feasible but Habitat Improvements plans are an option. Habitat use in the past may need re-evaluation for its role in depleting wildlife resources (i.e. Over hunting, or the taking of key breeding animals). No matter what the reality brings, you will have improved your chances at success rapidly through analysis and education.
You will then need to take to the field and penetrate the area’s that hold the food sources you are seeking. Be prepared to spend a great deal of time searching, and perhaps collecting items for further identification. Study terrain and weather patterns. How does weather impact the area? What is the seasonality of the zone? Are the animals contained “resident” animals or migratory? This is called a Habitat Profile.
Scat can indicate feeding patterns and proximity to the essential food sources you seek. Don’t be afraid to analyze these gifts (come on folks, I need to find a way to justify it as pleasant). Advanced research can yield digestion problems and vitamin deficiencies that can be corrected with food plots, but baby steps for now.
As you develop as an educated Outdoors person, every aspect will begin to fall into place as you scout or hunt an area. Once you become proficient at being able to identified and develop a habitat profile, you will find the knowledge will lend itself to identifying obvious locations to position oneself for harvest success.
This Food and Nutrition requirement understanding is obviously a beginning part of complete success on a consistent basis. How this information becomes coupled with Cover and Range use (habitat and Home range) will be the next step to identify.
Future articles will address more in depth Feeding, Nutrition and Habitat requirement study, as well as Habitat Identification and Development suggestions.
My own successes at locating animals for study are tribute to this approach. Understand that endeavoring to becoming the best of the best takes time. When finding yourself in conversations at sports shows, or what have you, in a serious conversation with those you may admire as successful, “Professional Big Game hunters”, I assure you that you will start to see not only a Big Game Hunter, but a Wildlife and Wild Habitat Manager manifest in the conversation. Following this lead will help put you in the class reserved for the In-The-Know.
Enjoy your resources.