Mid-Summer Scouting

Every now and then, I get the notion to head north to my deer hunting/study area in mid-summer, mostly to see what I can learn about our deer and their current state of affairs with gray wolves. Scouting is never easy in mid-summer and I don’t ordinarily recommend it to deer hunters.  Aside from the usual array of blood-crazed insects and ticks to deal with, grasses and foliage of shrubs and trees are then at their peak of making it difficult to discern deer signs. In mid-summer I must depend wholly on seemingly sparse deer tracks and droppings to provide answers to any questions I have. Though tracks of wolves are rarely seen, their droppings (scats) are common in clear spots on logging and forestry trails where foliage does not interfere with squatting to empty their bowels (a requirement shared by my dog). Though at this time of the year tracks and droppings made by mature does accompanied by their fawns of the previous year (yearlings) and their newborns are not uncommon, tracks and droppings made by mature bucks are. This is because wolf country forest bucks with growing antlers covered with fragile and sensitive velvet (from May until about September 1st) are apparently reluctant to travel far (or fast) from their secluded summer hideaways except to drink water (usually located within 100 yards). Yet, long knowing where I’m almost certain to find their tracks and droppings—in or near previously known buck bedding areas, favorite graze areas, watering sites and damp soils of nearby trails—by the time my wire-haired pointer, Harvey, and I can no longer stand mosquitoes, deer flies, black flies, gnats and ticks, I’ve usually learned what I had hoped to learn in a large portion of my study area (it takes several trips to assess the entire area). Because my deer hunting partners and I hunt mature bucks only where wolves subsist on venison year around, determining where these bucks (age classes revealed by lengths of their tracks and droppings) are currently alive and active is always a top priority.

Keeping track of locations of mature does and their young is also important for a couple of reasons. First, while the first of the three two-week periods of breeding during the whitetail rut is in progress in November, the period during which we hunt deer, trophy-class bucks of each square mile will be spending almost all of their time in doe feeding and bedding areas in home ranges of adult does and their accompanying yearling does when in heat—each in heat only 24–26 hours snd generally on different days.

Second, as summer progresses, numbers of fawns normally drop off in my study area—revealed by waning numbers of identifying fawn-sized tracks and droppings accompanying identifying tracks and droppings of mature does. The pair of wolves that have denned in my study area for many years (packs don’t form until early November) have killed three or more of four of our fawns by November first every year since 1990. All summer long, their droppings contain much deer hair, fawn teeth (unworn and unstained) and fawn-sized dewclaws and hooves—a logical consequence of chronically low deer numbers wrought by long overabundant wolves in Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region. In the early 1960s there were 22 deer per square mile in my study area. Losses atributable severe winters, wolf depredations of fawns in summer and mature whitetails in winter reduced the overall deer population to 11 per square-mile by 1990, the year I bagan hunting and studying whitetails there. Since then, we have taken fewer than one deer per two square miles annually—all bucks, about 75% of which were mature, non-breeding bucks. Only about one deer was taken by hunters per ten square miles in the surrounding region for several years, In 2017, there were only 5 deer per squre mile in our hunting area, about a third of it barren of deer. Thus, as you might imagime, I am ever anxious to finally discover an improvement in deer numbers, which is unlikely to happen as long as our long overabundant wolves remain over-protected.

Actually, thanks to Deet and a headnet for me and tick and insect potions for my dog, mid-summer scouting is often a pleasant outing. While Harvey is busy sniffing a myriad of interesting scents, often indulging in marking tree trunks with scents of his own and sometimes locking up on a point upon sighting a ruffed grouse, I revel at the occasional sight of deer in red summer coats, a blackish fisher bounding across the trail ahead and the excited croaking between pairs of ravens ponderously winging overhead—the sight of me likely reminding them the important season of increased opportunities to devour fatty deer entrails is drawing near. Fat is needed by ravens (and other birds) to survive Minnesota winters and they are quick to find it when available, likely keying on gunshots and human voices during hunting seasons and on our barking and howling wolfpack when excitedly pursuing a deer or moose. Meanwhile, I keep an eye peeled for potential mature-buck-effective stand sites that may be useful wherever I find fresh tracks and droppings made by mature unalarmed bucks during the coming hunting season, adding enormously to the value of my long trip north.

Do-It-Yourself Black Bear Baiting and Hunting, 4th Edition

I am pleased to announce I have finished updating my father’s latest bear book.

Doc’s 3rd Edition came out September 10th, 2014. It has a cover that looks like this:


The 3rd & 4th Editions have the same text, the same great information. The 3rd Edition ($19.99) has color photos and HD video clips built in. It is sold through Apple here:


The 4th Edition ($9.99) is smaller in file size and designed to be viewed on greyscale Kindle devices. It has small greyscale photos — no color photos, no video clips — they are not compatible with the Kindle devices. It is sold through Amazon here:

To make up for the lack of color photos and HD video clips, I have made a separate DVD.

  • So, if you purchase the 3rd Edition, everything is in one ebook.  (Because it contains large color photos & HD video this iBook/ebook is large.)
  • If you purchase the 4th Edition, you will also need to (should) purchase the separate DVD. (Because the Kindle ebook 4 inch black and white photos and graphics this ebook is small.)
  • If you own one of Doc’s first two bear books — the 1st or 2nd edition — then you might wish to purchase this new DVD. If you already own Doc’s 3rd Edition, you do NOT need to get this new DVD.

The 4th Edition DVD can be purchased here

Bear eBook DVD

If you know anybody that will be bear hunting this year, be sure you mention this to them. Thank you, John Nordberg

The Bear That Changed Whitetail Hunting Forever

My son Dave’s routine upon arriving at 1 PM at his black bear stand/bait site 40-some years ago was fairly standard for us Nordbergs. Though his bait crib had been torn apart by a bear during the previous 24 hours, it still contained plenty of bait so Dave went straight to the base of the tree trunk at the edge of his 7-yard-diameter bait site opening opposite his stand tree and poured half of the honey from a jar into an empty bowl-like watermelon rind (previously cleaned out by a bear) and placed it on the ground between the tree trunk and the brush stacked behind it where one-half of the bowl would be visible from his portable tree stand. Then, using a short stick, he removed six limp-fried slices of bacon from a plastic bag and hung them on limbs in the brush pile. His “positioning baits” were then ready to ensure a bear would be standing quartering away when he released an arrow at it from his stand nine feet above the ground — setting up a deadly heart/lung shot with an easy to trail exit wound. Minutes later, Dave was seated in his stand, face covered with a camo headnet, arrow nocked and resting across his bow, his half full jar of honey stored out of the way on his stand platform beneath his seat.

About four hours later, his stand tree began to tremble. Turning his head a bit, he discovered a bear weighing about 250 pounds (not the 350+ pounder he was expecting) was climbing his tree. Figuring it would flee the moment it realized a human was perched above it, Dave froze. This realization didn’t occur until the beat was reaching for the jar of honey. After bear and hunter stared at one another a few long seconds, the bear backed down, sans honey, and quickly departed.

What that bear had just proven, black bears readily smell food and therefore humans as well in trees nine or more feet above the ground. That bear did not react to Dave’s odors accompanying the sweet odor of honey because it had become accustomed to smelling them during the two weeks before the opener when Dave had been regularly hauling (on a plastic toboggan) more bait to the site midday.

Having often watched mature whitetails halt upon discovering human trail scents and then stare in the direction taken by the humans, it is certain whitetails have a greater sense of smell than black bears, meaning, whitetails can also readily smell humans using elevated stands (contrary to popular belief decades ago). Since the 1970s, via magazine articles (nearly 800 of them), books (15), videos, and hundreds of nationwide seminars, I’ve been regularly warning hunters about this. Considering the great number products now available that claim to eliminate scents of deer hunters, most hunters now realize this is true.

The trouble is, most odor eliminating products have distinctive odors of their own, their effectiveness (those I’ve tested) is short-lived and some odors common to deer hunters such human breath and rubber boot soles cannot be eliminated. The only sure way to be completely certain you cannot be smelled by intended quarries is 1) approach them from downwind or crosswind (with the crosswind angling toward your right or left cheek) and then 2) stand hunt downwind or crosswind of where you expect to see a deer.

Keep in mind, while hunting, many deer will pass downwind of you and responses of downwind whitetails to your airborne human odors will be far less ruinous to hunting when not strong, meaning, while hunting whitetails, it is still a good idea to be as odor-free as possible.

Do-It-Yourself Black Bear Baiting and Hunting, Third Edition

Dr. Ken Nordberg has published the third edition of his famous bear book in ebook format. This great book has been the bible for black bear hunters for over 20 years. This completely revised edition includes quite a bit of new information. Using HD video, Doc demonstrates how to set up a tree stand for black bear hunting, how correctly make a bait crib, and how to set up positioning bait.

Here is a link to Dr. Ken Nordberg’s latest bear book.

This ebook can be purchased using Apple’s iTunes and read using Apple’s iBooks software.