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.

Posts about Birding

January Deer Management

Posted by: T.R. Michels 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). 

Returning Birds???

Posted by: T.R. Michels 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, 


Animal Home Ranges and Territories

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: May 18, 2012 - 10:53 PM

Before I forget, I need to add some bird sightings to my "Backyard Bird Sightings" list. Today I saw my first hen Wood Duck on one of the ponds, and I heard House Wren, Gray Catbird and saw a gull, probably Ring-billed Gull.

And last month, my wife Diane saw a group of jake (one-year-old) turkeys, evident by their shorter outer tail feathers and a beard that sticks almost straight out from their chest. So add five birds to my last count.


Animal Home Ranges: An explanation of what they are and what to expect to find in them.  

After studying game animal home ranges since 1989 and songbird territories for the last few years. I've realized that most predatory and prey species, be they terrestrial or aquatic, have what scientists refer to as "home ranges".

We may call them Lifetime Home Range, Annual Home Range or Seasonal Home Range, but the fact is that many animals, (especially those we hunt and many birds) have home ranges, where they spend the majority of their time during their life, and during particular seasons of the year (those seasons being winter, spring, summer, fall). What determines if and when they use different seasonal home ranges is appropriate thermal cover and escape cover for the temperatures/windchills and predatory pressure of each season, available forage sources during those seasons and available water sources.

During cold winter months, the windchill factor makes animals seek cover that will give them protection form rain, wind and low windchill factors, usually wooded areas of large enough a. to reduce the windchill (or areas within timber on the downwind side of hill, where the animals can get out of the wind) b. to provide security cover for the animals, (which usually means ground cover dense enough that the animals cannot see into the open areas around the wooded areas), Obviously the thermal and security needs of larger animals means they utilize larger areas of woods or cover than smaller animals.

During warmer summer months, the animals may prefer more open areas, where they can get out of the heat using the shade of wooded areas (but without a lot of ground cover, thereby allowing the wind to create a lower Heat Index through its cooling effect), or areas open to the wind (so they can take advantage of its cooling effect), or damp/ wet areas, where they can take advantage o f the cooling properties of water. If animals use one areas during warm spells, they often prefer large one area, where they can see, hear or smell possible danger before it gets too close to them.

No matter what time of year it is, most terrestrial animals have to have access to water and forage.

Once the animals have found areas suitable to use for each season, they prefer to stay within boundaries of that area - meaning they sty within the area hat they are unfamiliar. If an animal leaves its known range for that time of the year, it may be entering areas where it does not know where the trails, thermal and escape cover, forge and water sources are - which leaves it vulnerable to predation.

What this boils down to is the by the time an animal is about 1 year old, due to its being shown around by its mother, and being curios enough to check unknown things out, most animals are intimately familiar with their home range, to the point that they may notice when even a small sapling or a few branches have been cut off of a larger tree. To give you an example: While I was hunting a property in Eagen a few years ago, a group of runners inadvertently ran down the lightly used nighttime trail that ran across a hayfield (grass) and right underneath my stand. After the deer smelled and saw this change, it took them 7 days to begin using that trail again.

So, when we alter the habitat for our purposes (such as the hunting season, or even ease of access) it may take the animals a few days to become accustomed to these changes. If you brush out shooting lanes, or put up a stand or a blind – let it sit several days before using it. Generally speaking, the animals will spook the first time they see or smell it. They may, turn around and go back the way they cam, or they may give it a wide birth. Or they may use that area earlier or later than normal, in an effort to avoid it. But, they probably won’t act normal for a few days. As I said, in order to be intimately familiar with their habitat, security measures demand that they get curious, and sooner or later check out this new thing in their area, or any vegetation that has been altered. And – if it offers no threat, they will begin using that area again.

One other thing we can expect to find in home ranges are preferred trails or travel routes to and from their bedding/rest areas to their forging area, and possibly other trails from the forage areas back to the bedding / rest areas.

If you are hunting one of these animals, two of the best things you can do are to 1. learn during what meteorological conditions the animals will move, and at what hours, and 2. Learn where the trails and travel routes are. Once you have done this you will be better prepared to setup in an area where you are likely to see it on a semi-regular basis, to simply observe, photograph or hunt the animals.

If you do not know the meteorological conditions when waterfowl, turkeys, white-tailed deer and elk will be active, you can p0urchse a copy of one of my books, or "Game Animal Activity Indexes", from the Trinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog on our website at

www.TRMichels. If you have questions feel free to logon to the T.R.’ Tips Outdoor and Hunting Talk Forum, where I try to answer every question post there personally. And where you can get ideas and advice from the other people too. We have a great group of men women and youngsters on our Talk Forum.

Note: My wife always asks me to carry the milk, because she says it is too heavy for her, I think it is j ust because she can't hold on to it. I mean - have you ever tried to carry milk - it slips right throughg your fingers!!!

I’ll talk about the difference between home ranges and territories in Part 2 of this series

Enjoy God’s Great Outdoors, take a child, family member or friend along on an outdoor adventure, and may God bless you and your family and friends,


What 's Been Happening

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: May 14, 2012 - 4:11 PM


TRMichels@yahoo.com. .

God bless and enjoy Gods great outdoors,



Well, as Ricky said to Lucy on the old Lucy Ball show- "You’ve got some splainin’ to do Lucy."
I haven’t been around much for a number of reasons. The least of which was my wife’s diagnosis of lung cancer in July of last year. I’m happy to say that with a lot of faith in Yahweh-God, lots of prayers, and her positive bordering on ornery attitude (I am not going to die!), and great doctors, chemotherapy and radiation, followed by complete removal of her left lung, my wife is on her way to a full if slightly limited recovery. But, we almost lost her 2 time sin the4 hospital and once at home.

While my wife was in the hospital, my youngest daughter was recovering from bariatiric surgery. While she has lost over 100 pounds in a year, she has had numerous complication with her liver, a hiatal hernia, low blood sugar with her diabetes, etc. She was actually in the hospital while my wife was in the hospital.

While all that was going on I was suffering from a massive skin infection (MRSA), during which I lost enough blood that my blood count and hemoglobin count were low, and I experienced exhaustion for about three months. There were several days a week when I could not force myself to get out of bed. But, IU; on the mend. Enough to that I’ve been going some photography at the MN Zoo, and some birding.

This year in our backyard we have had only one notable newcomer, a Great-crested Flycatcher, which probably was only stopping by for a rest, because I have not heard it lately. I have not seen the American Redstart that I saw onetime near our bird feeder last year, nor have I seen the Common Yellowthroat, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker or Baltimore Oriel, but I have heard them. I have not seen or heard a Purple Finch or a European House Sparrow either, although we are within 20 yards of a residential district, where I am sure they can be found. This puzzles me for the third straight year..

We had a flock of White-throated Sparrows and a White-Crowned Sparrow along with the Dark-eyed Juncos this winter. Our normal resident birds include Red-tailed Hawk, Common Crow, American Cardinal, Blue Jay, Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, Mourning Dove, Mallard, Giant Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron. Because we are not more than a mile form the Mississippi river we often see Turkey Vulture, Double–crested Cormorants, Bald Eagles and Tundra Swans. We saw about four species of Diver ducks during spring migration last year, but none this year, and our Wood Ducks are not present either. So, we hve had 24 species this year, do wn form about 33 last year.

Last year I did not get out in time to see the Whooping Cranes, which were seen not more than 5 miles from our old house in SE MN last year- so I was determined not to miss seeing the Ibis that was seen on 180 Street, not more than 6 or 7 miles south of where we now live, just of Highway 52. So, upon seeing mention on the Birding on the Net site on the Internet, I jumped in the cat and drove out there. And sure enough I saw, not close, but close enough that I got some blurry photos for identification. And from what I saw on the computer, it appeared to be a White-faced Ibis. I alos saw a pair of Greater YellowLegs, Kildeer, two drake Northern Shovelers, a pair of Lessser Scaup (bluebills for you hunters) and a Red-tailed Hawk.

Anyhow, I hope to pot a bit more frequently as I recover from my exhaustion, and walking to build my strength back up. But, now I’ve got a case of cellulitis in my feet, with a lot of swelling, rash and pain. Add that to the neuropathy of the feet I got as a result of being on methodone for pain (which did not work) that resulted in edema/swellig of the feet, and I feel like my feet are on fire, which makes it difficult to walk. But, being in pain with sciatica since I was 19, 44 years ago, and with at least 10 pinched nerves in my neck and back and chronic atypical facial pain in my face, l just have to learn to live with it, and push on. If you are looking for a natural history tour for any of our rarer Midwest bird species, or a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer, with my good friend Dr. Mike Brooks as our resident guide, please contact me at Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures,


Flocks of Large Migrating Birds in Minnesota

Posted by: T.R. Michels Updated: March 18, 2012 - 5:17 PM

Yesterday I hear the first Song Sparow, Ring-billed Gulls, Brown Thrasher,Red-winged Blackbirds, a flock of Dark-eyed Juncos (probably from Iowa) and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeker of the spring. The Brown Thrasher and woodpeckers are normally here,through the winter, but I did not hear or see them this last winter. earlier in the week I saw about 8 pair of Mallards, only one pair of Canada Geese this year (so far) and one pair of Hooded Mergansers (dont' think they stayed around last year).  

Add that to our normal 4-6 Blue Jays, pair of Northern Cardinals, pair of Red-belliedWoodpeckers, pair of Downy Woodpecker (now Hairys) dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees,4-6 Gray squirrels, 2-4 Cotontail Rabbits, 1 Opossum, several White-tailed Deer,,family of 2-6 Coyotes (no Raccoons seen), and you have our normal year round fauna. My wife saw a pair of Bald Eagles and we saw a Red-tailed Hawk last week. So - we have a backyard bird conut of 12 so far this year.

Although we are right across from Inver Hills College, about 1/4 mile behind Inver Grove Library and 1/2 mile from Simley HIgh School, I have heard but not seen any House Finches, and have not seen a single European House Sparrow, which I consider very strange. I have not heard our Great-horned Owls this year either. But, we have heard coyote pups trying out their hight pitched howls behnd the house.  I'm hoping to see our Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebees, Wood Ducks, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret and Green Heron again this year, plus the pair of Common Yellowthroats that were here last year too.  .     

Migrating Birds

I’ve had a lot of questions about those large flocks of large birds many birders and nature lover are seeing, Here are some notes form my book Duck and Goose Addict’s Manual that may prove to be interesting.

People all over the state have been seeing flocks of unexpected geese this spring,probably due to the fact that it has been so dry, that there is very little water on the ground or in lakes rivers and ponds out west, that many waterfowl species that normally migrate through the Dakotas, have had to move east, therefore migrarting through our great state with its over 10,000 lakes, and many more ponds and marshes - or sloughs as waterfowlers are apt to call them.

The Canads Goose (Branta canadensis) subspecies we see all year long is the of the Giant Canada Goose (B. c. maxima) which is the resident goose of Minnesota. Basically speaking, if it was hatched in Minnesota, it is probably a Giant Canada. The Giant Canada subspecies was deemed extinct until 1947, when Harold C. Hanson, a biologist of the Illinois Natural History Survey, re-discovered them on Silver Lake n downtown Rochester, MN. They breed from central Manitoba to the western edge of the Central Plains, south to Kansas, they often winter in the same areas, some migrating up to 600 miles south in one day, but still wintering within the normal subspecies range. The parvipes (Lesser) subspecies may also be seen in Minnesota, It breeds in the Canadian forest from central Alaska to the northwestern edge of Hudson Bay, and winters in Washington and Oregon. The interior subspecies may be seen in Minnesota on migration. It breeds from Ungava Bay to Hudson Bay to northern Manitoba to southern Baffin Island and southwestern Greenland, wintering in the Eastern United States

The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) subspecies we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota, is the Richardsons’ Goose (B.C. hutchinsii) subspecies, which breeds from the Mckenzie Delta, NWT, east to western Baffin Island, south to Southhampon Island and the McConnell River, Hudson Bay and winters from New Mexico and Texas into the northern highlands of Mexico and coastal Texas to Louisiana south to Northern Vera Cruz, Mexico.

The subspecies of the Snow Goose (Chen caerulescens) we are most likely to see on migration here in Minnesota is the Lesser Snow goose (Chen Caerulescens cerulescens ).

The White-fronted Goose (Anwer albifrons) (known as speckle bellies to hunters) we are most likely to see here in Minnesota on migration, is the large, pale, gambelli, which breeds from northern Alaska and northwestern Canada, and winters in Mexico and Texas.

We also see two species of san, our resident Trumpeter Swans, which bred in the Midwest and central Canada, and many f which winter on the Mississippi river in Monticello, Minnesota. Trumkpeters Swans were basically exterminated from Minnesota until the U of M and other organizations began to re-introduce them through transplants and the hatching of eggs form the Yellowstone ecosystem and Alaska. Tundra Swans migrate through the state in the spring and fall, with many as 20,000 stopping off on migration in the fall, before continuing on east to the wintering ground on the central east Atlantic coast. Many of them breeding Alaska and north central Canada And southwestern Hudson’s Bay. One way to distinguish them n flight is if there are more than ten birds in a flock, they are probably Tundra Swans, because Trumpeter swans often fly in pair and family relate flocks, not in huge migratory flocks of several dozen to hundreds of birds.

In addition we may see families and flocks of Sandhill Cranes. The subspecies we are most likely to see are the resident Greater Sandhill Crane (Grus canadensis tabida) of which there may be 65,000 – 75,000 and the Canadian Sandhill Crane (G.c.rowani), with an estimated populatin of 450,000. We may also see the extremely rare white Whooping Crane (Grus americana) , which is now being transplanted and also recently naturally breeding in central Wisconsin. Last year two young Whooping Cranes were seen nar Dennison, Minnesota few miles east of Highway 52 south of the Twin Cities.

We may also see white American Pelicans (Pelicanus erythrorhynos), and their relative the Double-Crested Cormorant (Phalocrocorqx auritus).Cormorants nest all over the state, and often nest in old dead, large trees over water. Large populations of Pelicans may be seen on northwestern Minnesota in the summer. But, they often breed on western and Canadian waters.

You can get copies od all of my books by logging on to the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com and clicking on theTrinity Mountain Outdoor Products catalog link - under the Hunting Websites section of the Web Site Directory.

II dont; expect the waterfowl migration to last much longer, so get out there and enjoy it while you can..

God bless, and please stop smoking, if not for you - for your loved ones.  


Oh- I'm 63 on the 19th. Getting old - er, or is that err!


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