T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

New Writing Assignments

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 29, 2013 - 6:58 PM

I noticed the other day that somone is asking $140 for my Whitetail Addict's Manual on E Bay, this for a book that retailed for $24.95. That is just plain crazy. I wish I had several copies left to sell. You can get an e-mail copy of the latest edition from me - for $20. 

After five years of writing, I am both the white-tailed deer and North American elk columnist for the Australian & International Trophy Hunter magazine, and a contributing writer to Bowhunting Adventures and the Sixth Day Sportsman. I am also a columnist for the Christian Outdoorsman e-magazine, and a contributing writer for Bowhunting.Net, HuntingNet.com and about 25 other e-magazines, including my own Trinity Mountain Outdoor News at www.TRMichels.com. You can locate many of my articles by Googling my name. Meanwhile, keep enjoying God's Great Outdoors.

With the advent of spring we look forward to the return of many species of waterfowl including both trumpeter and tundra swans here in MInnesota, and both sandhill and whoopng cranes in Wisconsin, at Crex Meadows and Necedah National Wildlife Refuge respectivley. And then there is the always looked for arrival of the migration of sprng warblers in May and a flush of wildflower growth for those of you who like to go out and experience nature.

If you are looking for a wildlife trip or photography tour, feel free to e-mail me or give me a call at TRMichels@yahoo.com or 651-450- 0234.

We will be headed to the Black Hills and Custer State Park in late August, for the Bison rut and Elk Buglng seasons. Overnight stay in cabins can be had for as low as $60 per person. We will begin trips to Crex Meadows and other wildlife locations next weekend, looking for swans, cranes, eagles and migrating song birds just about every weekend through mid- April.  Feel free to join us on us on one of our trips. 

God bless,


January Deer Management

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Recreation, Birding, Fishing Updated: January 7, 2013 - 9:04 PM

January Deer Management
By T.R. Michels, Trinity Mountain Outdoors

During January whitetail deer may begin to move to their winter ranges, especially in the northern states, where the weather gets cold, the snow gets deep, the crops have been picked and the rut should be almost over. Some does, and in the north, doe fawns, may still be bred at this time. The bucks may continue to rub and scrape sporadically, especially in mid and southern states. 

Home Range
     Before we can discuss feeding programs it's necessary to understand how deer use the habitat and how their use of the habitat changes throughout the year. There has been a lot written and said about whitetail home ranges; most of it based on the knowledge of deer in particular areas, or in particular types of habitat. However, whitetails inhabit many different types of habitats: dense hardwood forests, mixed woodland and agricultural, prairie, southern swamp, northern tamarack bogs, open or dense coniferous forests, open agricultural, semi-open river bottoms, and various mountain types. Because of this wide range of habitats the daily habits of whitetails, their home ranges, core areas, and the use of bedding sites varies.
     The deer herds in each area are usually made up of a doe and her female offspring, and their female offspring, etc. As long as there is available habitat, and there is not a lot of competition for home ranges, the young females usually remain in the area where they were born. With death from natural causes and hunting there are often available home ranges for the young deer to occupy. Both bucks and does may make excursions outside their home ranges, but they usually do so only to find a new home range, or during the rut. Young bucks are generally driven off the home range by their mothers when they are a year and a half old, usually before the rut. However, some young bucks may stay on their mothers home range until their second year, when they leave to find their own home range. These one and a half and two and a half year old bucks often end up on home ranges in less preferred habitat.
    The geography of the area and the type of habitat often restrict the size of the home range; mountains, ridges, bluffs, rivers, ravines, wooded areas and open areas limit deer movement. The lack of cover in open prairies or agricultural areas restricts deer movement, particularly during the day. Because of this, deer home ranges are often confined to preferred habitat in valleys or river drainage's and the surrounding hills and woods. Because of the limited size of the habitat, the home ranges of several deer often overlap.
     The type and amount of food and cover determine how many deer the habitat can hold; and the number of deer in the habitat affects the size of the home range of the deer. Deer in prime mixed habitats, with abundant food sources, generally have smaller home ranges (from 60-1000+ acres) than deer in open coniferous forests, where food sources are low and widely scattered (up to 20+ square miles).
     Climate directly affects the time of year, the length of the home range, and the use of the home range by the deer. In mild mid-west or southern climates whitetails may have home ranges no longer than two miles, and they often have traditional core areas. Deer in colder northern open prairie or foothill habitat may have larger home ranges (up to 120+ miles in South Dakota), and are less likely to have traditional core areas.
     The climate and the number of bucks and does in the area affect the size of the home ranges of the buck, especially during the rut. Buck home ranges are generally larger than doe home ranges; often two or more times the size of local doe ranges; and the bucks use of their home ranges varies by the season. Bucks in mixed woodland/agricultural habitat in the mid-west may have home ranges of less than a thousand acres, to five or more square miles in size. During the summer adult bucks may use only a small portion of their home range. But, during the rut, adult buck home ranges often expand to include portions of several nearby doe and other buck home ranges.

Annual Home Range
     The annual home range of each deer consists of the area used by the individual throughout the year. Non-migratory deer may spend both the summer and winter on the same home range. However, migratory deer in the northern states or mountainous regions may have two or more widely separated home ranges used during different times of the year. Dr.'s Larry Marchinton, Karl Miller and other researchers have found that the home ranges of whitetails are generally elongated, from two to four times longer than they are wide. However, deer in open coniferous or agricultural habitat may have irregular or circular home ranges.

Seasonal Home Ranges
     In most areas even non-migratory whitetails use four different home ranges; one each for winter, spring, summer and fall. In general, one end of the seasonal home range consists of the "core area" and daytime bedding sites, often in a wooded area, where the deer spend most of the day. Again, in general, the other end of the seasonal home range consists of an open feeding area, where the deer spend most of the night, and where they have night bedding sites. Buck home ranges may be from two to five times the size of doe ranges during the rut, but they often restrict their movements to a small core area during the winter, spring and summer. 
     These seasonal home ranges may be several miles apart, or they may overlap each other. In some cases the core area of the individual deer may be the same, but the area and size of the habitat may vary. The deer may use the northern area of its habitat in the summer and the southern area in the winter. It may use wooded areas in the winter to stay warm and open areas in the summer to stay cool.
     In some areas whitetails may move several miles in the spring and fall as a result of snow depths, flooding or lack of food. The availability of food and the type of cover needed by the deer during each season determine which part of the annual home range the deer will use. Deer using a soybean field in August may move several miles away during the rut or the hunting season. What this means is that the deer you see and hunt in the fall may not be there for you to feed in the winter, they may be miles away. If they aren't, and there are no other deer in the area, there is no reason to feed in that area. Before you begin a feeding program, determine how many deer there are in the area; and when and where the deer use the area during the year.  

This article is adapted from T.R. Michels' Deer Managers Manual ($9.95), and from the Deer Addict's Manual, Volume 1 ($9.95). 

Post Season Deer Scouting

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Recreation Updated: January 7, 2013 - 8:09 PM

Once the deer is in the freezer and the hunting equipment is put away many deer hunters lose interest in going to the woods. But, for the dedicated deer hunter, the next hunting season is just beginning. By now the weather has turned cold, the winds are blowing strong and the snow is deep in some areas. Walking through deer habitat at this time of the year is no longer and adventure, it's more of a chore. For adventurous deer addicts, who want to learn more about deer and deer habits, snow covered ground is like reading an open book.

Deer tracks are easily seen in the snow, and trails that were obscure are now very evident. What looked like matted down grass in the fall now proves to be a buck route, the drag marks of the buck's front hooves showing clearly. Following trails in the snow can eventually lead you to bedding areas, showing you where the big buck you couldn't find hid out during the hunting season. When you don't see him again next year you'll have a good idea where to find him. Trails can show you food sources the deer used during those inclement days when you sat on your stand without seeing anything. They can also show you escape routes you didn't know where there.

One of the best ways to locate the bucks you couldn't find during the hunting season is to glass feeding areas and scout for field sign after the rut or the hunting season is over. If you have rain or snow in your area, get out the door when the rain or snow lets up, and back-track the buck trails until you find their core areas and bedding sites. Then you'll know whereto find them next year.

Following buck trails along rub routes helps you pattern the buck well before the season. While the buck may not use the exact same trails in late winter as it does during the rubbing and scraping period, it will probably use the same gullies, roads and bottlenecks that offered it protection all year long. Once you know the buck's general route it is much easier to locate, pattern and hunt next year. If there are a number of does in the area some of the bucks may begin scraping again 20-30 days after the primary breeding period as the younger does come into estrous for the first time and older does that were not bred the first time experience a second estrous. In areas with low buck numbers (where a lot of does don't get bred) there may be a still another breeding period with more rubbing and scraping. While scrapes are difficult to detect under the snow, the bareness of the rubs are still evident on the trees. Following a buck trail from rub to rub is quite easy in the snow, and you may find some scrapes.

If you are really a whitetail addict you can watch the deer to learn their travel routes, and the times they use them. I like to choose a stand that overlooks a food source, open area or bottleneck. I pick one or two sites where I can see as much habitat as possible. A treestand overlooking a food source is an excellent spot. Any location that lets me see a long way, like a hill that overlooks bedding areas and travel lanes, is good. I do this a lot during the pre-rut to pattern the bucks. I also do it in the winter, because it cuts down on the amount of time I have to scout and observe in the fall, before the hunt. It doesn't take me long to figure out where to set up after I see a buck two or three times when I am scouting.

The more time and effort you spend scouting, observing and patterning deer after the hunting season, the less time you have to spend doing it before the next season. For those of you who look for shed antlers, winter scouting to locate rub routes and buck bedding areas is an excellent way to stumble across a shed.

This article is an excerpt from the Complete Whitetail Addict's Manual; Part 1 ($49.95 + $5.00 S&H), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog.


Predicting Peak Rut Activity & Days to Hunt Deer

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Recreation Updated: October 14, 2012 - 6:36 PM

Sorry I have not been around, my daughter and I have both had fairly severe medical problems we have had to deal with. We are better, but we are not out of the woods yet, so prayers are appreciated.

God bless,


Predicting the Rut & Best Hunting Days

Whitetail hunters often want to know when the "peak of the rut” occurs. Unfortunately the term "peak of the rut" appears to mean different things to different people. To a deer biologist it means the one week of the breeding season when more breeding occurs than during any other week. Note, I said "more breeding". I did not say "peak stupid buck activity", "peak buck sightings" or "peak sightings of bucks trailing, chasing, or breeding does", or "peak sparring or fighting"; all of which some hunters mean when they say or think "peak rut".
     PEAK RUT means the ONE WEEK of the year when more breeding occurs than in any other week. 
     Since all of the other activities hunters may refer to when they think or speak about "peak rut" are affected by the number of deer in each area, the buck to doe makeup of the herd, the age structure of the herd, the health of the deer, the weather, possibly the moon, and certainly the amount and whereabouts of food in the area, it is extremely difficult to state when those activities will occur. However, it is possible to predict when "peak breeding" should occur, because the biologists in many states have done studies to determine when peak breeding occurs.
     In 1985 Dr. Larry Marchinton conducted a study to determine how many estrus cycles unbred whitetail does in Georgia would experience. Of the eight does in the study one 2.5 year old came into estrus October 17, one 2.5 year old on October 24, three 1.5 year olds on November 11, one 2.5 year old on November 19, one 1.5 year old on November 22, and one 5.5 year old on December 1. Recurrent estrus ranged from 2 to 7 times. This shows that some does may come into estrus in October, most in November, and some in December. In northern areas 1.5 year old does usually come into their first estrus in December.
     During another study Marchinton noted a total breeding period of 96 days in Georgia, which presumably lasted into December. Because of this extended breeding period I use the term "breeding period" when referring to the total time frame when breeding occurs. I use the term "primary breeding phase" in reference to the week when most breeding occurs, because it more clearly states the time frame hunters are interested in when they refer to "peak of the rut." In Canada and most Northern states this primary breeding phase occurs in November, shortly after peak scraping.
     Marchinton's research in Georgia, my own studies here studies here, and the observations of others, show that does have been bred as early as September 24 near the Canadian border in Minnesota, October 15 in southern Minnesota, October 17 in Georgia and October 24 in central Wisconsin. In much of North America breeding may occur as early as mid-October, with the “primary breeding phase” from early to late November, and a late breeding phase in December.
     During his Georgia research Marchinton found that the estrus cycles of whitetail are quite variable. Instead of occurring every 28 days as previously thought, the estrus cycles of the does in the study ranged from 21 to 30 days. This makes it difficult to pinpoint the timing of the late breeding phase, especially when coupled with the knowledge that the first estrus of a doe may occur from mid-October to the first part of December. Marchinton also noted that the does were in estrus from 24 to over 48 hours, not the 24 hours previously thought.
     My studies in Minnesota show that roughly 10-20 percent of the does come into estrus during the early breeding phase (approximately October 15 - September 7 in the upper Midwest), 50-60 percent during the primary breeding phase (approximately September 8 - 28 in the upper Midwest), and 20-30 percent during the late breeding phase (approximately December 1-21 in the upper Midwest).
     It made no difference if I considered the estrus dates of the does from October through December, or only the estrus dates in November, the peak of the rut occurred within seven days of November 10. The primary breeding phase usually lasted three weeks, from approximately November 1 to 21.

Photoperiod and Other Influences
The breeding phase for deer in each area is predominantly triggered by the number of hours of sunlight each day (photoperiod). Since whitetails inhabit a large portion of North and Central America, and a small portion of northern South America, the geographic location of individual deer herds determines when breeding should occur. The rut is governed by the timing of spring. In order for fawns to survive deer need: 1. weather warm enough that the fawns won't die of exposure, and 2. weather that is wet and sunny enough to produce new forage, so the does can produce milk for the fawns. Deer in the north have short breeding periods because they have a late spring and early fall, resulting in short summers. Deer in the south do not have to breed as early, and have longer breeding periods because of the long summers and late fall. Whitetails in the southern United States may have up to a five month breeding period (September-January). Deer above the 40th parallel generally breed when there are approximately 10 hours of sunlight per day, which occurs in early November.
     Robert McDowell completed an interesting study called Photoperiodism among breeding eastern white-tailed deer in 1970. This study documented the breeding dates of whitetails from the 28th parallel to the 48th parallel. The dates given covered a broad range because the study encompasses the entire eastern half of the United States, from approximately the Rocky Mountain foothills east, and from the northern range of whitetails in Canada, to the Mexican border. Obviously, the breeding dates in each area varied due to the local weather conditions, and the genetics of the herd.
     According to the results of the study - for deer below the 28th parallel, breeding may occur from the first week of August through the last week of February; with peaks in breeding activity occurring from the first week of September through the second week of October, from the third week of November through the first week of December, and from the second week of January through the first week of February.
     For deer between the 28th and 32nd parallel breeding dates were from the second week of September through the first week of February, with peak breeding from the first week of November through the first week of February.
     For deer between the 32nd and 36th parallel breeding dates were from the first week of October through the first week of January, with peak breeding from the first to the fourth weeks of November.
     For deer between the 36th and 40th parallel breeding dates were from the second week of October through the last week of January, with peak breeding from the first to the third week of November.
     For deer between the 40th and 44th parallel (includes Minnesota) breeding dates were from the first week of October through the last week of January, with peak breeding from the last week of October to the second week of November.
     For deer between the 44th and 48th parallel breeding dates were from the last week of September through the last week of November, with peak breeding from the first week of November through the first week of December.
     Several factors besides latitude and photoperiod may cause fluctuations in the rut. When local deer populations are not balanced properly (most are not), the timing of the rut may be affected. If there are not enough mature bucks to leave priming pheromones at rubs and scrapes for the does to come in contact with, some of the does will not come into estrus, or be bred, during the normal breeding period, causing them to breed later than normal. The amount of forage in the habitat (which may be affected by local weather conditions), and the health of the deer (affected by amount of forage, disease and population density), also affect the timing of the rut. Undernourished and unhealthy does may come into a first estrus a month or more after other does.
     Genetics can play a large part in when deer breed, as shown from a study in Louisiana. In 1983 researchers found that deer in the Camp Avondale Boy Scout Reservation in East Feliciana Parish bred from November 6-26, with a median date of November 12, a full month earlier than the deer for the rest of the parish. The reason for this earlier breeding is because the deer in the camp were relocated from a herd in the Red Dirt Management Game Management Unit, where breeding occurs earlier.

Moon Phase
Several writers and biologists have suggested that peak breeding is influenced by the phase of the moon. Their theories may be based in part on the belief that a combination of shortening photoperiod (number of light hours per day) combined with melatonin production (which may be affected by moonlight) will cause does to come into estrus shortly after the full moon in November.
     Interestingly, during Marchinton's 1985 study the full moon occurred on October 28 and again on November 27, with peak estrus occurring November 9, showing no correlation with the full moon. This lack of a correlation between moon phase and peak rut was to be expected because of the lateness of the November full moon. I suspect that when the full moon occurs too early or too late - the rut will occur when it usually does, during mid-November in the many areas.
     Marchinton's research shows that not all does come into estrus during a particular moon phase, and that they may not even come into estrus during the same month; which shows that the phase of the moon does not affect when peak breeding occurs. This is supported by the findings of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and an exhaustive study by Dr. Karl Miller and others, which looked at the breeding dates of about 2500 does from 10 states, ranging from the southeast to the northeast, and from Minnesota to Texas. Their study concluded that there was no correlation between peak breeding of white-tailed deer and any moon phase. This means that the best scientific evidence available shows that the phase of the moon does not affect when deer will breed, or when peak breeding occurs.  

Moon Position, Gravity, Biomagnetics
My personal studies, research by Kent Kammermeyer, and research by Grant Woods, suggest that there is a correlation between increased daytime deer activity and the moon. These correlation's are related to the position of the moon and the earth; the distance of the moon from the earth; the position and speed of the moon in its elliptical orbit; and combinations of these factors. The position of the moon (not the amount of light) during the full moon phase) may cause increased gravitational pull, and the distance and acceleration of the moon during the perigee (when it is closest to the earth in it's elliptical orbit) may cause changes in the magnetics of the earth. The independent or combined effects of these two factors appear to increase daytime deer activity.
     Because the elliptical orbit of the moon (the time it takes the moon to revolve around the earth) has a 27 1/2 day cycle, and the light phase of the moon has a 29 1/2 day cycle, the full moon and the perigee can occur on the same day, or as much as two weeks apart. This difference in cycle lengths may be the reason why deer movement is high during the full moon in some years but not in others. I suspect that when the full moon and the perigee occur at about the same time (as in 1997) there may be increased daytime movement of deer.
     No one really knows if and how these lunar factors affect deer activity; which lunar factors influence deer activity and how much, or what happens when the perigee and the full moon occur two weeks apart. The key thing to remember is that daytime deer movement (including during the rut) appears to be highest during the week of the full moon each month.
     However, hunting pressure, the rut, food availability and the weather can completely override any affect the moon has on deer. My studies show that during November, when both the hunting season and rut are in progress, there was no noticeable peak in daytime deer activity. For more information on how the moon affects the rut refer to the Deer Addict’s Manual, Volume 4:

Lunar Factors, The Real Truth.
Because the perigee/apogee and full moon occur at different times during November this year here is my best "guestimate" as to when the moon may cause increased deer activity during November; from about October 25 to November 1 (this may be the end of peak scraping activity and the beginning of peak breeding activity in the upper Midwest) and from about November 25 (this may be about the middle to the end of peak breeding activity in the upper Midwest) to December 1.
     As a result of increased monthly gravitational pull of the moon Peak “daytime buck sightings” may occur the week before the dates given above, as the bucks look for does coming into their first estrus. Daytime buck activity should be greatest when there is a visible full moon at night (which may cause the deer to become nervous, because they may be seen by predators). You may also see bucks during the day from November 8-14 (when the moon is closest to the earth) which is when an increase in the biomagnetics between the sun and the earth may cause increases in melatonin levels of the deer, resulting in a corresponding increase in the “ mood” of bucks, and them continuing to look for unbred does. 

The dates given are when it may be most likely to see increased rutting activity during “daylight” hours. Since 30-50+ percent of the does may be bred during the early November dates, 1-21, which means the bucks may be looking for does unbred does throughout the day. This is especially likely if there is cloud cover during the day, the temperatures are below 40 degrees, the wind speed is below 10-15 miles per hour, and there is little to no precipitation. If those conditions occur where you hunt, you can hunt from dawn to dusk, because you may see bucks at all hours of the day.
     In fact, no matter what is going on – if those conditions exist – get out and hunt, because those are optimal conditions for daytime deer (including trophy buck) movement.  For archery hunters, hunt the days 30 days prior to the dates given for the gun season.

To find out when the rut generally starts and ends and when "peak breeding" occurs in your state log on to www.TRMichels.com, then click on Peak Whitetail Rut Dates Chart.

If you are interested in more whitetail deer hunting tips, or more whitetail biology and behavior, click on Trinity Mountain Outdoors Magazine and T.R.'s Hunting Tips at www.TRMichels.com. If you have questions about hunting log on to the T.R.'s Hunting Tips message board. 

This article is an excerpt from the Complete Whitetail Addict's Manual ($40 + $5.00 S&H for soft cover book; $20 for e-mail copies), by T.R. Michels, available in the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog at www.TRMichels.com.  

Returning Birds???

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Birding Updated: June 15, 2012 - 9:39 AM

After researching ducks and geese for several years, and learning that goose pairs will return to the same are to nest every year - and noticing that we had a rare Yellow-breasted Chat sighting at the Fens Unit of the MN Valley Wildlife Refuge, just of of Hwy 13 and I-35W in Burnsviile -  and that I had a Common Yellowthroat singing in our backyard three years in a row - I began to wonder if passerines (song birds) renested in the same area in consecutive years. 

As I searched the internet for information on the subject, I didn't find much, But, what I did find supported the hypothesis that some songbirds can and do return to the same area to nest in years following a successful nesting the year before. The key words there seemed to be "successful nesting". If a male songbird setup a breeding territory, and a female happened to appear in his territory, and they nested successfuly, it would provide the impetus for both the male and female to return to that area and nest again the next year. But, there are a lot of 'if's" in there. 

Since I did not find strong evidence that songbirds mate for life, the whole process depended first on at least one of the nesting pair being alive the following year, and that bird returning to the same site the next year (there is strong evidence that migrating birds have the ability to navigate not only by sight, but also by the elecromagnetic impulses of the earth - which is far more reliable than sighting the sun or moon), and a male bird setting up a breeding territory in approximately the same area as a pair used the previous year, and one or  the other choosng a nesting site near the previous year nesting site, based on the habitat remaining roughly the same (no housing or other development), and that temperatures are appropriate (most birders are familiar with blue birds dying of hypothernmia or starvation if spring arrives late) and forage sources are available at the time the birds first arrive (so they recuperate from their long migration) and forage sources available to feed nestlings in the summer (affected by heat, cold and moisture), and no raptors of predators, or humans injuring or killing the birds or wrecking their nests. 

Once you have digested all of that - think about bird the size of a hummingbird - migrating thousands of miles from South to North America, through wind or sleet, rain or snow, across mountains, deserts and oceans, (No offense to our Postal Delivery men). It is no less than a miraculous feat. And I for one - have to think that at some point in the evolution of the species - that God had a hand in designing them and giving them the ability to navigate and survive.   

Nature is a lot more complicated and fantastic than some of us realize. 

Enjoy God's Great Outdoors, 



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