Monday, November 21, 2011

Deer Check Station 2011- WARNING: BLOOD

Today I was able to participate in one of the cooler experiences yet during my time at FLCC. I am currently enrolled in a Wildlife Management course, and our professor is always telling us of cool stuff to do in the field. Another awesome experience I've had was duck banding at Montezuma Wildlife Refuge, but that's a whole OTHER story.

*NOTE: All animals seen in this blog are dead, and were hunted legally, IN SEASON in Upstate, NY. Opening weekend of 'regular' season, Region 8.

So today's trip was to a deer check-in station at the DEC Region 8 HQ. This trip was not mandatory, and not very many people were able to participate due to few spots open. I jumped on it right away, and played hooky from work, because THIS is cool stuff.

So I went to the deer check station which is in Avon, NY with classmate of mine, Sara. We got there around 12:30, and there wasn't much hope of having many deer come through the line, since today is day #3 of the regular gun season, and this is not mandatory for hunters to do. The DEC's goals are to obtain biological information like: age, sex, age (determined by quality/quantity of teeth), where it was taken, and how it was taken. All of this information is used for future determination of management strategies in the region and across NYS.

Luckily, even though as predicted by the DEC biologists to be slow, several hunters pulled up with their deer.

Sara and Ron aging a deer.

When an animal dies, rigor mortis sets in, and it makes the animal
very stiff. To get the jaw open to check the teeth, different
tools are used to prop the mouth open.

Close up of aging the teeth.

Several more people pulled up with deer, and the next guy in line got out of his truck, and walked up to watch us work the deer over. Jokingly, I said to him "I hope you have a big buck or a bear in your pickup!" You know, because they are more interesting to look at than a little doe. And he laughed and said "Actually, I have both.." My dropped jaw, and he was like, "Go take a look."

Well, the buck wasn't MUCH to look at, I'd say "medium" sized, but the bear...OH the bear! As anyone who knows me can imagine, I was ECSTATIC. I love bears. Alot. So to see any: alive, dead, running away, up a treat.

APPROXIMATE 350lb boar, ~5+ years
Taken in Allegany County, NY

Ron pulling a tooth from the bear, so it can be accurately aged.

"My, what large teeth you have!"

Ron and I checkin the bear over.

The DEC guys attempted to weigh the bear, but once they got the bear rigged up, the winch was pulled right off the post. Big bear! They typically don't weigh any of the animals that come in, unless the hunter asks. We were all curious in this case!

After the excitement of the bear, the Region 8 Wildlife Manager, Mike Wasilco, asked me if I wanted to accompany him to a deer processing location just a mile down the road. This is where most hunters bring their kills after the check station to get butchered into steaks, sausage, etc.

Stacks of deer at the processing location.

Throughout the afternoon, over ~4 hours of work, we checked probably 70+ deer. It was gruesome work, even though all I did was fill out the paper work. As you can see, the deer are tightly packed, so Mike had to crawl over and through the deer to get to each animals head. He had to read the tags to me to get location information and tag #, then he had to pull open each deer's mouth to check the teeth. Bloody, back break work. I did not envy him. Still, it was a very interesting experience. As I said earlier, I have had no first hand experience with hunting, so I was fascinated to speak with the hunters, and to see the deer up close. Even though the white-tail is very common in NY, it's neat to see one up close.

Overall, today was a great afternoon. Makes me want to pursue this field even more. The hands-on stuff is the best part, I think.

For more pictures from today's events: click here!

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