Handling Whitetails – Part 3 of 4

You’re probably wondering how much longer the deer that we rounded up in the Part II article will have to remain in the gathering pen before they can go back to pasture!!! Actually 3 hours or 40 days is no big deal, as long as your animals are fed, and comfortable. You’ll find they adapt very quickly to solid fence holding pens.

In the case of these articles, it happens to be 3 hours before we handle the first deer and 5 hours by the time we handle the last one. The group that we had gathered from pen 5 in Article II consisted of 20 does and 30 fawns.

Before any handling of animals begins, I would like to share the checklist of items most often required and things to do that we use at Delclayna:

  1. Collect all paperwork and appoint someone to look after this task.
  2. Figure out which pen different groups or individual animals will end up after handling and post list by junction box.
  3. Have tags ready and sorted.
  4. Tagging pliers (2 preferably).
  5. Medicine chest filled with emergency products and spare needles.
  6. Pail of warm soapy water to wash tags.
  7. Is the Ivomec bottle & gun hanging on the squeeze with adequate amount of product and how about other medicines?
  8. Is the tool kit with a handsaw, hammer, screwdrivers, wire, nails, screws and duct tape etc. at the handling facilities? You never know when you will have to do minor repairs in a hurry.
  9. Are the “dogs” in good shape and are they at the facilities? A piece of wood dowelling with a piece of crispy plastic attached to the end that we shake behind the deer to make them move is what we call “dogs”.
  10. Hoof and antler cutters.
  11. Eye covers – Something out of fabric or cloth to blindfold the deer if they’re going to be in the squeeze for a while, e.g., a neck warmer works well.
  12. Make sure all gates operate smoothly.
  13. Check your deer squeeze or cradle to make sure all is functioning, as it should.
  14. 14. Are all the holding pens that you will be using ready to accept deer?
    • Example: Gates are open or closed as required fresh water (this is important as deer dehydrate rather quickly under stress) feed (only if the deer will be held for more than 6 hours).
  15. Hang your sign, “Handling Deer in Progress” with instructions to visitors where people dropping by will easily see it.
  16. Delegate specific jobs to each person that will be helping.

Every little thing that you can do to help reduce the stress on your deer when being handled is very important. One example of that is to make sure that the guillotine gates between the gathering pen, the crowding alley, and the crowding pen are opened prior to rounding up the deer in the gathering pen. This allows the deer time to familiarize themselves with all the pens and to go through the different openings at their leisure.

Another important factor to keep in mind is that stress on deer increases when they get separated from their group. For that reason we like to keep all the deer of one group together as long as possible. We never do any sorting prior to handling. All of our sorting of animals happens at the junction box after they have gone through the deer handler. We have found that a junction box is a very important asset in a deer handling system.

Things happen fairly quickly when handling whitetails and sometimes you need to be able to make decisions just as fast. A good junction box with five or six different options to let animals out will give you the flexibility you need. Not only that it makes sorting easy it also gives you and your customers a chance to inspect an individual animal before making the final decision of where to send it.

Physically going in amongst the deer to handle them also adds to their stress. That is why we prefer systems that allow you to handle your animals from outside the pens and away from the gate that your deer have to go through. Deer have a very keen smell and when they can smell someone by the gate that they’re supposed to go through, it just makes it another way to add stress. Guillotine gates that are operated from outside the pens and from behind the animals are a good efficient way to solve this problem.

Our GG46 (46″ wide and 46″ high) guillotine gate is what we recommend for locations where groups will be moving through. Example: between the gathering pen, the crowding alley and all crowding pens. The GG30 (30″ wide by 46″ high) guillotine gate would be used where single animals would mostly be passing through. Example: The junction box would have a series of GG30. All guillotine gates are preferably operated from behind the animals by means of a cable and pulley system. Confirming that everything is functioning properly, and that our people are ready I would say it’s time to handle deer.

Flushing the deer into the crowding alley is done from outside the pen. With two or three sliding viewing panels on the 40′ fence wall opposite the guillotine gate to the crowding alley you have a few workers looking at the deer. Beside one of these viewing panels would be the pull handle to drop the guillotine gate. By now all the deer should be in the crowding alley and if not, just shake a dog and in no time they will move in and you can drop the gate. With all the deer now in the crowding alley, you repeat the same procedure to flush them into the outside crowding pen.

Now would be the time to put feed and water in your gathering pen and crowding alley if you are planning to keep animals in them for a while. One of the features of this design is when you need to hold animals in the gathering pen for a long period of time, they can go and hide in the crowding alley while you put out feed for them.

Moving the deer to the inside crowding pen would be done the same way as before except we will slowly drop the guillotine gate so as to divide our group into two or three. Holding the guillotine gates and the one sliding gate open in our tunnel system, we push deer in using our push wall. Our push wall is also equipped with viewing ports to help with stocking our tunnels with five or six deer. Again, this is achieved by slowly dropping the guillotine gate to cut out the desired number of animals. Once the tunnels are stocked up, take time to roll the rolling wall back to give your deer more room.

Lights installed in your tunnel system will help for moving animals and reading tags. Using the guillotine and sliding gates in the tunnel system, you separate your deer so as to end up with only one in the scale tunnel before your squeeze.

At Delclayna we prefer having the scale before the squeeze. There are three reasons for this. First, it allows us to adjust the width setting on the deer handler according to the weight of the animal. Second it gives us the information we need to calculate the proper dosage for the medicine we’re giving that particular deer and thirdly it gives us more time to fill out records and decide which pen this deer will be sent to.

Continue handling your animals one by one and as efficiently as possible. Process all the deer in the tunnels and then take time to restock them with a new group. Repeat this process and you will find that with the right equipment and a well designed handling system sorting, treating and tagging of this particular group of deer can easily be achieved in less than two hours.

For the purpose of this article, the does are sent back to the gathering pen, the buck fawns to the crowding alley and the female fawns to two different 8′ by 12′ holding pens as they are sold to two different customers. If at all possible after handling, we like to hold our deer in a pen at the facilities and release them in groups to their designated pastures. We find this to be safer for the deer and it gives us one last chance to inspect a group of animals before releasing them. Once inspected, we open the appropriate gates and let them find their way out to their pastures.

In this case, our customers are not able to pick up their female fawns for a week so we release one group in the crowding alley and crowding pen and the other group into the gathering pen. With the job done, we go in for a wholesome venison stew and retire for the evening counting our buck$.

P.S. I would like to mention an important point missed in part II. When it comes time to flush your deer out of their pastures, remember to try and get them all down the alley on the first try. You will come to learn that each pasture is different and will require its own unique way of entering it with the right moves and noise level to be successful the first time. It’s so much easier if it can all happen in one group and on the first try.

By Len Jubinville