How time flies! It’s the year 2001 and my New Year’s resolution is to help deer farmers to not be so dependent on drugs. Handling deer can sometimes be a little intimidating but should never be so difficult that a person resorts to using drugs to get the job done. Oh, by the way, I’m talking about drugs you inject in the animals not drug drugs, you know what I mean.
Like I mentioned in my first article, this one will reveal what I consider is the first thing you will require to handle deer. When I first started, I was under the impression that a good cradle or squeeze would top the list. I’ve since discovered that it’s very close to one of the last things you will require. You may source out the best cradle, but if you can’t get your animals to it efficiently and with very little stress, what good will it do? Number one is a well-planned farm layout custom designed for your specific needs.One to suit your land and your methods of farming.
Beginning with studying an aerial photo or assessing the topography of your land will help in providing you with valuable knowledge. Your plan should include all of the land that you are proposing to use for deer farming now and in the future and then identify which phases you want to start with.
The following are important points to consider:
1. Pick your preferred location to build your handling facility and consider basing your decision on:
a. its proximity to the farm yard;
b. if it can be easily serviced with water, power, and gas if desired;
c. high ground that drains and dries quickly; and
d. the accessibility for a truck and trailer when shipping and receiving animals.
Remember, all the deer have to do is eat, sleep and walk so build your handling facilities where it best suits you.
1. Starting at the facilities, and staying on high ground as much as possible, draw a line, which will represent the centre of your alleyway. Make your alleys between 25 and 60 feet wide. Try to keep them as short as possible, for these alleys will become, on a per acre basis, the most expensive portion of your total fencing project. This design features up to 19 different pastures with a “T” shape alley system.
2. Perpendicular to your alley, draw if possible, rectangular shaped parcels the size you need for your pastures, e.g., 3 – 20 acre parcels are nice sizes. Keep in mind the size of equipment you plan on using around your farm when it comes time to work up your pastures, cutting grass, or just doing chores. For some, snow has to be considered, as this can be a problem if your alleys are too narrow.
3. Draw your outside perimeter fencing a minimum of 8′ inside your property line. This will give you room to install predator fencing and patrol the outside.
4. Draw all your gate locations keeping the following recommendations in mind:
a. There should be a gate in all cross fences where they meet the exterior perimeter fence. These will come in handy when moving animals and when patrolling from the inside.
b. Every pasture that’s adjacent to the alleyway should have 3 gates (2 small ones and one big one) opening to the alley. For location see drawing.
c. Pastures at the end of an alley only require one huge gate (12′ to 20′). The main reasons for a good farm layout is to be efficient in moving your deer from pasture to pasture or from pasture to the handling area with the least amount of stress on you and your deer.
Delclayna’s Dream Deer Farm
Featuring up to 19 different pastures
Pastures 1 to 7 are approximately 5 acres each: pastures 8 to 13 are about 20 acres each with pastures 12 and 13 showing future options for subdividing into smaller pastures.
O.K. Let’s handle deer. It’s a calm, cool day in October, and the kids are due back from school in three hours. Mom and Dad decide to round up the deer from pasture number #5 and have them in the holding pen at the handling facilities before the children are back from school at which time they plan to handle them. Their decision was based on the following criteria:
1. Never handle deer on a windy day.
2. Never handle deer when it’s really hot outside, wait until it cools off or handle early in the morning when it’s usually cooler.
3. Never handle deer if there are bucks with hard antler in the group.
4. If possible do not handle deer if the does are past the 5th month of their pregnancy.
5. When flushing deer out of a pasture learn to do it alone or with one other person only. Alone with a dog on a long leash works well.
6. If possible have gates open to the alleyway and holding pen 2 days before, as this will allow some deer to get familiarized with their new surroundings.
7. Make sure that what the deer can see the first day they’re introduced to the alley and what they’re going to get used to, is exactly what you want it to be the day you will push them to the holding pen. They have a remarkable memory and they will notice anything strange and most often react adversely.
8. Whether you’re on foot, quad or horseback you promise to never run or move fast.
9. You will maintain a level of noise so the deer will always know where you are at all times, e.g., some talking or hitting 2 sticks together is very effective.
10. Always remember to bring as much patience with you as you possibly can.
Now that we know our 10 commandments I would say we’re ready to take the following steps to move our deer into the holding pen.
1. Place your deer handling sign in the driveway at the road. This sign should say something like this: Deer Round Up In Progress – Please Come Back Later, or call us on our cell, or wait for us in the house please. The last thing you want is someone driving up or walking up to the facilities just at the same time you and your deer are approaching the holding pen.
2. Check your gate at the holding pen to confirm it’s still working properly. If it’s a swinging gate make sure that a gust of wind cannot close it and if it’s a guillotine gate make sure it’s operating freely up and down.
3. Something we like to recommend is using what we call a push screen to move your animals down the alley. This screen should have been at the far north end of the alley prior to opening the pasture gates 2 days ago and it would be wise to go and check it now. Note: A push screen is a solid fence on wheels that can be pushed with a quad, tractor, or truck. Constructed using a metal frame with game fencing and covered with a solid fabric that deer can’t see through. This screen should be 8′ high by the width of your alley.
Wild animals really respect something solid, so the same effect can be achieved by walking down the alley with a stretched piece of solid fabric. I find the latter tough to do especially if the deer are hesitant in entering the holding pen and if it becomes a little breezy.
4. I should mention that the main alley has solid fabric attached to the wire on both sides for 500′ starting at the facilities. The two gates where the alleys meet are also solid with the east one closed and the west one open. You are now ready to enter pasture #5 to start flushing your deer out.
5. Entering pasture #5 via the main alley through the north end of the pastures 6 & 7, you come in behind your animals. By this time, most of the deer in pastures 5, 6 and 7 are at the south fence by the west alley.
6. Moving slowly south, zigzagging around and making some noise you flush out your deer through the 3 open gates at the south end of your pasture. If for any reason a few come running back in, which is most unlikely, you just squat down and remain calm for a while. This is where it’s nice to be alone or if there are two of you, you remain close together. If deer have more than one predator at a time to concentrate on, that’s where they really panic and you could have the chance to witness what we call the “boomerang effect” in action.
7. By now all the deer that were in pasture #5 should be in the main alley and mostly huddled together against your push screen at the far north end.
8. Make another pass in your pasture to confirm that no deer are hiding any place. Being reassured that no deer remain in pasture #5, you proceed down the west alley and close the west gate at the alley junction.
9. Now you’re ready to go back down the west alley, up through pasture #5, across the back of pasture #4 and #8 and into pasture #9. From there continue east along the south fence of #9 and come in behind your push screen.
10. You are now home free. By now your deer are at the south end of your alley or well on their way. Moving your push screen ahead to where you reach the point where there’s fabric on the fence, you pause for a while. Observe your animals from behind your screen and slowly start pressuring them to enter the holding pen.
11. Take time to study and learn all the signals that the deer like to give you before they do something. It’s like they want to communicate with you and themselves. Example: A little shake of the tail when it’s down means everything is O.K. and I’m planning to move ahead soon.
12. Still moving ahead slowly, let the deer go in and out of the holding pen. Eventually they will feel more comfortable inside the holding pen and at that time when they’re all in and stay in, you close the gate by pulling on your handy cable installed along the alley.
With all your deer safe in the holding pen you leave them alone for awhile or in this case, till the children come home from school.
Moving deer from the pastures to the handling facilities is the task that most people find more difficult to do. By applying the same concept that we’ve just described to most pastures, you will find your job will be much easier.
In the next article we will handle the deer.
Till next time, I say goodbye and may you handle your buck$ with care.