Episode # 257 Dr. Ken Nordberg hunts Railroads Tracks

Dr. Ken Nordberg hunts Railroad Tracks

Dr. Ken Nordberg is a full-time whitetail naturalist

Dr. Ken Nordberg is a full-time whitetail naturalist

Dave Deer Camp

Dave Deer Camp

Hunts Railroad Tracks. Well, I appreciate that. Let’s start the show right up and oh folks, by the way, this is gonna be a two-part show, the first part we’re gonna talk about whitetail tracks, and begin talking about blinds for whitetails. And then we’re gonna end Part 2 we’re gonna have finishing up on blinds for whitetail and then hunting mature whitetails. So that’s what you’re in store for, for the next couple of episodes.

So Dr. Ken let’s jump right into why you wrote Whitetail Tracks and if somebody reads it, how it’s gonna help ’em?

hunts Railroad Tracks

Dr. Nordberg: Okay, well I’ve been at this for 40 some years, 45 years, almost 46 years, when I first started introducing the idea that you can identify various classes of whitetails by the lengths of their tracks, and the longer I do it, the more I realize that this is probably the only thing in whitetail hunting that can actually make hunting easy. Think of all the things we do, all the preparation we go, all the things we buy, to try to improve our luck. hunts Railroad Tracks

But nothing can do it better than whitetail deer signs, especially tracks. And for one simple reason. Let’s say you and I are walking in the woods right now and we’ve come to this deer trail, here’s a deer trail, and we look at it and holy cow, there’s a lot of really fresh tracks here. They’re sharply defined, just nice clean fresh tracks in the trail. Well, what does that tell you? This is a trail whitetails are using right now, they’ve used it today, probably this morning, maybe just a few hours ago. hunts Railroad Tracks

And chances are as long as they don’t become alarmed by a hunter or something else in the meanwhile, they’re gonna use it again this evening, later today. And tomorrow morning probably, until they suddenly realize that hey, there’s a hunter hanging around here. But if you hunt anywhere else, you’re using luck. And luck is poor, it doesn’t add much success as a whitetail hunter. When you get one you say you’re lucky but how often does that happen for the average hunter to take a really nice buck, one for the wall? It takes about 30 years or more before you get one or even two.  hunts Railroad Tracks

By using fresh tracks you can get that down to one every year or maybe two years

By using fresh tracks you can get that down to one every year or maybe two years, maybe 8 out of 10 years something like that which is pretty fantastic buck hunting. And tracking can do it.  hunts Railroad Tracks

Bruce: Okay, okay, hold on, hold on. Now how do I know we’re on a deer trail? We see a track but talk to me specifically about the large buck, the mature buck, the buck we’re all looking for over four and a half years old. Differentiate that from the does and the fawns and the yearling bucks and the smaller guys. How do we do that?

Dr. Nordberg: Well, first of all, I wanna mention that the farther north you go, in the United States, continental United States, the bigger the deer are. That’s where I hunt, up close to the Canadian border. Our average dominant breeding buck will weigh about 305 pounds and down in Texas I’ve spent 18 years hunting whitetails down in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona, down there a big buck is maybe 125 pounds and a deer that size is not gonna have as large a track as one in northern Minnesota.  hunts Railroad Tracks

But I tell ya, the way I’ve done a lot of research with that too, I have some simple formulas that I use that I’ve put in my book, that tells you how to figure out what the sizes of tracks should be where you hunt. Now like Texas bucks those thick ones may only weigh 125 pounds but a lot of the Texas bucks grow antlers that’ll rival the largest found anywhere in the United States. But anyway, track size, here in Minnesota, just for an example. hunts Railroad Tracks

Our adult does, does that are anywhere from 2 to 14 years of age, will have tracks no larger than three and an eighth inch in length. That’s just the track, that doesn’t include the dew claw impressions you see in soft dirt and snow. But anyway, three and an eighth is about as long as they can be. Now yearling bucks will have the same size. They are about the same weight, our yearling does will go 140, 150 pounds, and so will our yearling bucks.

Now anything smaller than that is a yearling doe or a fawn.

Now anything smaller than that is a yearling doe or a fawn. Now anytime you find tracks that are larger, say three and a half inches to four, that’s the big buck in our country, you’re looking at the tracks of a big buck. And so when we found those fresh tracks there and we put a ruler down there and measure it, holy cow this thing is four inches or three and seven-eighths something like that, that’s a big guy. If you get that one, you’re probably gonna put him on the wall, you’re gonna be pretty proud of him even if he doesn’t make the record books. But that’s gonna be a pretty…

hunts Railroad Tracks

Bruce: Now how do I measure that?

Dr. Nordberg: Well, a ruler.

Bruce: I don’t have a ruler, I don’t carry a ruler in my day pack. I’ve got a bullet, I’m shooting a 30 ought six.

Dr. Nordberg: Well, if you want do to that, I don’t know what the length of that bullet is, but it’s easy to carry a little ruler or a small steel tape a 10 footer, a little steel tape, that’s standard hunting equipment in my deer camp and we always have one in our pocket if we need it. Although my boys and I have been doing this so many years that we’re pretty darn accurate just looking at it. We recognize, “Oh man, that’s a big buck for sure.” We don’t put a ruler on there very often anymore which is kind of important in this new hunting method that’ll be introduced in my tenth edition of my Whitetail Hunters Almanac. Hunts Railroad Tracks

Bruce: Okay, let’s take a little break here. Now it seems, I never carried a ruler in my pack. I use a bullet, a 30 ought 06 or a .280.

Dr. Nordberg: Well, get yourself a little steel tape and just that’s…

Bruce: But why do I need to do that? Help me out here. We’re gonna transfer some knowledge.

Dr. Nordberg: Well look at it now. Let’s say there’s a track there in that trail, on that track, that’s three and eighths inch long, well, if it’s three and five-eighths, that a two and a half-year-old buck here in Minnesota. That’s not much of a difference. And for a guy that hasn’t got a lot of experience recognizing lengths of deer tracks, just that little bit of difference between tracks like a quarter inch can make a difference between whether you’re hunting a mature doe or a two and a half-year-old buck. So these track sizes, they might differ by only a quarter inch or more but if you don’t know for sure, the only way to be sure is to have a ruler handy.

the only way to be sure is to have a ruler handy.

Bruce: Now you just said that a half an inch difference could be between a doe and a two and a half-year-old buck?

Dr. Nordberg: No, a quarter inch.

Bruce: Quarter inch. Now that’s pretty finite. Now…

Dr. Nordberg: That’s why you need the ruler.

Bruce: Now what about dew claws and what about how they drag, I’ve seen drags.

Dr. Nordberg: When I first started doing this, I started measuring tracks back in 1970. And I kinda liked the idea here in Minnesota we got a lot of snow during the deer season and dew claws are almost always visible and I always thought a longer track measurement would be more accurate. And so for years I was teaching hunters to use a tip through dew claw measurement but I’ve been getting letters over the years and people are saying we don’t see dew claws very often in the tracks.

To make that easier nowadays I just go with the hoof only and that’s plenty accurate

And I’ve done some work down in Georgia and South Carolina I did and Virginia and other southern states like in Texas, where you don’t see the dew claws so I said, “Well, that’s kind of a disadvantage.” If somebody has to figure out that on the average dew claw, the tip measurement is a third longer than just the track measurement but that’s more figuring to do. To make that easier nowadays I just go with the hoof only and that’s plenty accurate. You’ll rarely go wrong when you use that measurement.

Bruce: Now what about that drag mark that bucks make? And does don’t make. What about that?

Dr. Nordberg: I’ve got several photos of that, and of bucks doing the dragging, in my new little book. It’s a 95-page book on Amazon and it’s only $4.99 but boy is that a valuable book. But you’re gonna see all kinds of drag marks in the snow and a buck that does that is smelling the pheromone being released by a doe in heat. Either from her tracks or airborne, he’s smelling that and that creates an automatic response in antlered bucks.

When he smells that his mouth will be open

They start walking stiff-legged and this stiff-legged walk creates these track to track drag marks in snow. And so that’s what that’s about. Usually, if the doe is in sight or is close to it or he’s accompanying the doe his head will be down. When he smells that his mouth will be open. When that odor gets into his mouth there’s a little orifice in the roof of his mouth behind his upper, well, I shouldn’t say teeth, they don’t have upper front teeth but it’s just behind that ridge where the teeth would be. And that somehow stimulates an area in the brain and they just can’t help it and then they start acting sometimes like they’re swallowing air and to get more of that odor.

And then they respond by, well their head usually goes down low and they move their tail with the top of their body and their mouth is doing this silly swallowing and they’re walking stiff-legged and they’re almost like they’re almost like they’re a zombie they’re so affected by that. That’s what they’ll be doing when they smell a doe. So we have taken lots of bucks over the years when we’ve found some tracks. My boys when they were young they learned to call those railroad tracks.

Bruce: Railroad tracks?

hunts Railroad Tracks

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