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It's all about being aware

Last weekend, Big Oaks welcomed hunters for the primitive hunt weekend. Hunters were allowed to use compound bows, crossbows, or muzzleloaders with open ignition to harvest deer. Open ignition means that the ignition point where the black powder is located is exposed to the elements at all times. Improper care and heavy moisture exposure will prevent the black powder from igniting; you will not be able to fire. Sixteen deer were harvested; two were 9 pointers. Warmer temperatures like last weekend can decrease hunting success. Cold fronts help deer progress into their rut (mating season). Hunting success rises once the cold front passes, therefore we expect higher success rates during the month of November. Gun season also has a higher success rate than archery or primitive season therefore more deer are expected to be harvested these next hunting weekends.

The youth hunt (children/teenagers under the age of 18 accompanied by at least a parent) started off with a workshop on Friday 28th. Everyone was welcome to eat some hot dogs, chips, sugar cookies and other treats. A safety officer spoke to the families about the importance of gun safety. BOCS would like to thank that officer for coming out and educating the next generation. As always, to gain access to the refuge, all visitors and hunters must watch the safety briefing video and fill out the necessary forms. After the video, the children/teenagers were called in a numerical order to pick out one of the prizes from the many prizes generously donated by Bass Pro Shop. The last step included choosing hunting units and buying hunting passes Sixty-one youth checked in. The youth hunt took place yesterday. A total of 20 deer were harvested; 12 were bucks (largests were two 8 pointers), 3 were button bucks and 5 were deer.

The crowd during the youth hunt workshop

Tuesday was my (Audrey's) favorite day of the week! On Tuesday, Ethan and I got ATV/UTV certified! After a short lecture about ORUV (Off Road Utility Vehicle) regulations, we headed up to the fire station on property for the hands-on part of the course. The first thing to do when operating an ATV/UTV is to do a vehicle check. And yes, there is an acronym to remember what you have to check: T-CLOC. T=tires, C=controls and cables, L=lights and electricals, O=oils and fuels, and C=chassis. Vehicle inspections are important to reduce the risk of accidents/problems during use. ATV's and UTV's are used to patrol the perimeter of prescribed burns and a dysfunctional one would be a hindrance to the fire crew. The most enjoyable part of the training was when we actually got to drive the ORUVs. We had to perform a series of exercises that included reverse parking, tight turns around cones, figure eights around cones, zigzagging between cones and simply driving around a larger perimeter. There were two other people taking the course with us, so we had to be mindful of everyone because all four students were driving at the same time. We had to perform all exercises in both a UTV and an ATV. Personally, I (Audrey) prefer driving an ATV. I had a lot of fun! I was of course careful. I (Audrey) had previous experience with ATVs and it was really nice to get back on one! We finished the day with two last exercises: loading the ORUV's onto a trailer and going up and down a hill in both. Thank you to the instructure!

Honda ATV

The orange cones course!

Thursday was also a lot of fun! The researcher from the Wildlife Ecology Institute came back to Big Oaks to check on his materials for the gray fox study and had a little surprise for us interns! Is anyone familiar with telemetry? Telemetry is used in wildlife conservation as a tool to locate animals or to monitor animal movement through the use of a collar, radio and small antennas. Researchers put collars on animals by first trapping them and anesthetizing them once they get onsite. Traps are designed to be humane and if a trap is set out it must be checked daily, sometimes twice. Collars are then placed around the animal's neck and the animal is released unharmed. No research suggests that collars negatively affect animals in their daily lives. I (Ethan) had a little experience with telemetry before and I (Audrey) had none. The research made us go on a treasure hunt! Well, a collar hunt. He had placed two collars in two different parts of the refuge which we had to find using telemetry. The radio and the collar communicate distance through a series of beeps (detection is about to half a mile for the one we had). The radio was set to a frequency that was associated with one of the collars. We drove on the roads at first waiting to hear a beep. How loud the beep is is going to indicate how close you are to the collar. The louder the beep, the closer you are. So even if we started hearing a beep in the car, that did not mean that we immediately jumped out. We waited a little to see when the volume of the beep increased. Once we identified the loudest beep location, we jumped out of the car and used a small antenna connected to a radio and started our trek into the woods. Similar to the road, we were looking for the loudest beep as we spun around in holding the antenna. Now, communication between the collar and the radio can be interfered by landscape or powerlines. On the road, there was a lot of interface from the power lines. In the woods, there was interference from the hills, the rocks and creeks. The researcher suggested that it is better to get to higher grounds to avoid interference. Both collars were found. It was very interesting to learn about and quite comical to do. We were basically swinging an antenna over our heads while listening to a radio in our hands. Although he didn't say anything, I'm sure the researcher was having a lot of fun watching us interns figure telemetry out! Hopefully, we get to do another collar hunt and see how much we progress as time goes on.

Question for you guys to consider: How does the gain affect the beep volume? Read in on next weeks blog to find out!

Telemetry equipment: antenna and radio

Reminder! The Big Oaks Conservation Society wants to hear about your experience at Big Oaks! If you would like to share your pictures of the refuge with us, please send us a message through BOCS Facebook Messenger stating your interest. Please fill out the release form titled "Agreement for Use of Likeness in Audio/Visual Products" found on this link: and send it to us by Facebook Messenger or send it to us by Fax: 812 - 273 - 0786. Once you have agreed to the terms and conditions, we will post your picture (credit will be given to the photographer unless they want to stay anonymous) on the BOCS Facebook page. Please include a small narrative and the year the picture was taken in.

We appreciate your participation and look forward to reading your stories!


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