Tag Archives: survey

Tips to Aid Spotlight Surveys

For those choosing spotlight surveys this year, consider the following tips:

  • Spotlight surveys have limited application on small tracts of land or where dense vegetation greatly reduces visibility.
  • Spotlight surveys are not designed to observe a total deer population, rather to sample a representative portion of habitat and the number of deer found there.
  • Multiple counts (three is recommended) are required on the same route for reliable information.
  • Select all-weather roads that go through a variety of habitat types. Avoid roads that frequently wash out or become impassable following heavy rain.
  • Route should sample different habitat types in proportion to number of acres they         represent on the property. Avoid roads by feeders or food plots where deer may be concentrated.
  • On large tracts, more than one route may be required to adequately sample a ranch.
  • Make a map of the route for future reference.
  • Visibility readings (distance from the vehicle you could actually see a deer in a straight line perpendicular to the truck) should be taken at 1/10 mile intervals if the total length of the line is less than 12 miles. If the length is 12 miles or greater, visibility readings can be taken at 2/10 mile intervals.
  • Visibility readings are needed only on the first survey. Multiple surveys along the exact route do not require retaking visibility readings.
  • Visibility estimates may be used for several years unless significant changes in vegetation have occurred along the route.
  • Spotlight surveys should be conducted during the months of August, September, and early October.
  • Do not conduct surveys during rain, high wind or following significant disturbance along the route during the day of the count.
  • Begin all counts one hour after official sunset.
  • In thicker areas, drive 5-8 mph. In more open areas, speed may be increased to 10-15 mph. Stop only to identify deer.
  • Identify all deer encountered as bucks, does, fawns, or unidentified. Unless all deer observed in a group can be identified by sex and age-class, record ALL deer as unidentified. Recording only bucks from a group will bias data and reflect a better sex ratio than may be present.
  • A good pair of binoculars is imperative during a survey to correctly identify animals.
  • Deer observed over 250 yards from the vehicle should not be recorded or counted.
  • Pickup trucks with two spotlights and two observers standing or sitting in the bed are recommended. Passenger cars and SUVs offer limited visibility and are often too low to the ground.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather

Tips to Aid Aerial Helicopter Surveys

For those choosing the aerial helicopter survey this year, consider the following tips:

  • Begin the survey soon after daylight or in the evening for optimum visibility and animal observations. Avoid mid-day surveys unless absolutely necessary.
  • Experienced pilots know how to fly game surveys, but some less experienced may need to be reminded to fly low and slow during the entire survey.
  • Transects may be required on larger tracts, while complete coverage can be used on mid to smaller tracts.
  • Most helicopter companies require a minimum charge to cover basic costs. On small tracts, make certain you understand what the minimum costs are compared to how long the actual survey will take.
  • Helicopter costs are based on the size of the machine on a per-hour basis. The larger machines cost more than the smaller ones.
  • The larger machines can haul more passengers (more eyes in the sky) and therefore, may increase your visibility and overall numbers of animals observed.   Care must be taken to not double count animals. Communication among passengers is paramount.
  • Smaller machines are more flexible, agile, and responsive than their larger counterparts.
  • Observers should be kept constant, if possible, over time to keep the data more consistent.
  • Very few people (or video cameras) can take good video footage from a helicopter survey. Vibrations and jerky movements are very hard to overcome with a video camera.   Photographs are easier and can be taken quite successfully with a moderate zoom lens and a very fast film speed. Multiple photos need to be taken of each animal so that a select few may turn out well.
  • On large tracts, individual pastures may need to be flown individually and treated as individual management units.
  • Visibility will decrease along creeks and rivers with tall tree canopies. You may need to slow down and give the animals more time to “flush” where they can more easily be seen as they cross openings.
  • It is recommended to count only those deer that are within 100-125 yards from each side of the helicopter. Avoid counting deer as they cross the horizon or are in the far distance.
  • As an observer, watch straight out and back over your outside shoulder for deer. Avoid looking straight ahead and directly under the machine. The noise and motion will flush the animals as you pass over them.
  • A clipboard, with data sheet secured at both ends, with large and wide data entry columns allows the observer to quickly record the required data with minimal effort. You need to keep your eyes in the brush and not on the data sheet.
  • As with any survey, record everything possible—deer, turkey, coyotes, bobcats, stray cattle, feral hogs, javelina, etc. Helicopters are not cheap and the more data you can gather about a piece of property, the better your management will become.
  • Be observant to overall range condition, brush distribution, water distribution, fencing (condition of, needs of, etc. ), and terrain while in the air. It will amaze you what you can see and learn from a brief helicopter ride.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC. All rights reserved.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather

The Diverse Trail Camera

The foundation of any wildlife management program involves collecting survey data. Survey data may be collected in a variety of ways but consistency and trends are critical.

With recent advances in technology, the use of infrared-triggered cameras (trail cameras) may be used as an acceptable form of gathering such data, especially on properties that may not be conducive to spotlight or helicopter surveys. These devices have become an invaluable tool in the deer manager’s toolkit.

Trail cameras have matured over the years and they have come down in price to a point to where users can afford to own multiple units. With an adequate number of cameras, there is much more to be learned than initially meets the eye.

Obviously, users can get a good look at each year’s antler production, as well as adult sex ratio, fawn survival rates and estimate the buck population, but with multiple photographs of individual bucks, managers can formulate specific buck harvest recommendations by creating a hit list of known bucks. Specific bucks may be targeted for harvest and their general locations also known.

These devices also provide a good look at the overall herd health indices to learn how individual animals progress from year to year. Cameras can be used to gauge how successful (or not) your individual protein feeders are being utilized and if your feed pens are large enough for the deer to be comfortable in.

Trail cams can also be used to watch specific trails or corridors to understand deer travel routes for hunting purposes.  They can tell you when the velvet is first shed or when bucks appear to be rutting (swollen necks, dark tarsals) to help determine when to rattle or use certain scents. Likewise they can tell you when the first antlers are shed in late winter/early spring and perhaps where to begin looking for them.  Yet another valuable use is the ability they provide to help deter poaching.

Other uses include the ability to get a good estimate of raccoon density and perhaps feral hogs if you are not using a feeder pen.    Some folks use them to scout for turkey roosts, poult production and squirrel density estimates as well as monitoring ponds for waterfowl activity or fish predation. Grain fields may be monitored to see when the first doves arrive or if geese or feral hogs are depredating crops in your absence.

Some folks use the more progressive cameras to text photos to their computer to monitor ranch gate or headquarters activities and some folks use them in DMP pens to monitor deer activity or count fawns.  Cameras can be used to find wild or renegade cattle on the ranch, monitor water hole activities for wildlife or illegal aliens, and even monitor ranch road activities.

Needless to say, trail cameras have far exceeded their original intention. If you don’t have your own cameras out now, there is no time like the present to get them afield to gain a much deeper interpretation of your hunting area.

All photo and content herein is copyrighted property of Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC and may not be copied/reproduced or otherwise used in any way without express written permission from Spring Creek Outdoors, LLC.  All rights reserved.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinmailby feather