Ask The Deer Tracker

Posted on August 4, 2015


August Column


Editor’s note: Anyone wishing to send a question for future Ask The Deer Tracker posts can e-mail it to,

Q. – I am, for the first time ever planning a trip to hunt whitetails in Canada. With all of the regulations, crossing into a foreign country and such could you provide any information as to what will be required of me, cost to register firearms etc…?
T. M. – Taconic, CT


A. – Crossing into Canada to hunt is really not nearly as complicated as some might imagine. That is, as long, as you are prepared with the proper documents and do not have any items that would be illegal. The Canadian Government is quite hunter friendly and welcome any and all U.S. dollars being spent in their country for the hunting industry.

The first item you really need to have is a passport. This will really expedite the crossing both into Canada and especially your return to this country. The second document that is required is a Canadian Non-Resident Firearm Declaration form. This can be obtained from any Canadian border crossing or downloaded from the Internet. The form is self-explanatory and will ask you to list the make, model, caliber and serial number of each firearm that you are bringing into the country. The fee for this is $25.00 Canadian and is good for 60-days.

Prior to crossing into Canada it is highly recommended that you register your rifles with the United States side of the border. This will not cost you anything, but could save you a lot of aggravation proving that you did not purchase the weapon while in Canada.

The province you chose to hunt in will dictate the cost of your hunting license. Licenses are readily available at most sporting goods stores, Wal Marts, etc… Beware that some provinces such as Ontario require you to purchase an export permit to legally transport your deer out of the province. As far as bringing an intact whitetail back into the United States, for now it is permissible. However, some states have different requirements as to how a deer can be transported. I would advise checking with your state agency as to what is legal.

Q. – I’ve heard and read many contradictory opinions as to what a deer’s favorite food is. With so much food available to whitetails in the early fall, how can you decide which source is preferable to them? Do whitetails have an absolute favorite staple that they will come to with regularity?
B. L. – Allentown, PA


A. – It is true, during the autumn months whitetails have at their disposal a cornucopia of food choices. Nature has seen to it that they have an abundant amount of food during this period to ensure enough fat is added, thus enabling the animal to make it through winter when supplies run low. A whitetail has the capacity to add enough fat to its body to sufficiently take them through 90 days of winter. And trust me, whitetails will indeed take advantage of all of the choices available. But, much like humans, each deer has specific items on its menu that they prefer above others and will gravitate to those as long as it is obtainable.
Far too often we think just because a specific food item is palatable to deer that every whitetail will be drawn to it; that is not the case. For instance, although broccoli is good for me and meets many of the nutritional values that I need, I don’t eat the stuff. Why? Because I don’t like it! Would I eat it if I had no other choice? Of course, and trust me, deer are no different.

The one fall food source that has the greatest capacity to draw deer, at least here in the Northeast is acorns; specifically those coming from white oaks. Whether or not whitetails have the innate ability to recognize this nut provides the most efficient means to putting on fat or if it just tastes great is debatable, but regardless, they readily gobble them up. Apples are another specialty item that deer enjoy and will flock to get. An apple would be the equivalent of a candy bar to us except the apple is a better nutritional choice. The oddest food that I have ever seen deer eat during the fall is pumpkins. Whitetails will literally invade a pumpkin patch, smash through the outer shell and eat the entire inside including part of the inner hull.

Q. – Reading and listening to a whole host of contradictory information regarding scrapes and licking branches leaves me to wonder what is accurate regarding whitetail behavior in making scrapes, where they appear and why, and if a licking branch necessary, and if so, why?
L.V. – Lancaster, PA

A. – I would have to agree with you when it comes to the amount of print material that has been devoted to scrapes. It seems that someone has a positive experience on or near a scrape and they instantly have all of the answers to this mystery. I am a behaviorist and have devoted most of my life to studying the whitetail and short of my personal conjecture as to why scrapes are made; the why of the behavior still remains an unknown. The best I can come up with at this point is that scrapes are utilized as a form of advertisement. Each buck has his own distinct odor, and because most of a whitetails communication is executed through scent, this becomes a viable way of letting other bucks know of an individual males presence.

Scent 4
Having a licking branch above that scrape is far more important to both the deer and the fortunate hunter that locates such a spot. This is a scrape that will be routinely used by multiple bucks and even an occasional doe. I have photographed several bucks using the same licking branch on several occasions as well as a doe. More time is devoted to the branch hanging over the pawed out leave litter than the scrape itself. Each individual animal sniffs at the limb initially, as if to check on who has been by, and then gingerly begin rubbing the branches across their pre-orbital glands, forehead and mouth. The licking branch in my estimation is the key to unlocking on which scrapes to focus.


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