Conversation With Taxidermist Paul Potter

Paul Potter has been a taxidermist for 9 years and has a connection with many local hunters and biologists. Paul Potter talks about the deer population, deworming your herd this summer, and more.



Interviewer: How long have you been doing taxidermy? 

Paul Potter: For about nine years now.

Interviewer: So, how do you compare this season to previous seasons for the number of deer you are seeing? 

Paul Potter: As far as the number of deer, it’s running about average, maybe a little more. Last season was up a little bit because everybody was out of work, but compared to this season, it’s probably a little up a bit. 

Interviewer: Are you seeing deer from the same area as you always have? Any difference?

Paul Potter:  The quality of deer is actually a little bit better these days. I don’t know  100% what to contribute it to. I’ve been talking to a biologist about that. The corn is playing a small factor in the sense that people are getting to take a little more time in choosing what year they’re going to harvest and what deer they’re not going to harvest. 

Interviewer: Can you explain that a little? 

Paul Potter: Sure. The corn is playing a difference in the sense that it’s not the nutrition. It’s that instead of running through and people just shooting them to see how big it is when they go look at it, the corn is slowing the deer down where they’re actually getting a better look at it before they shoot it. 

Interviewer: That makes sense. So, the change in the deer feeding in Alabama, which is the second or third year that’s been done. 

Paul Potter: It’s the third year. 

Interviewer: So, that’s causing people to get a better look at the deer before they shoot. 

Paul Potter: Yep, they’re being a little bit more picky and they’re harvesting a little bit older deer instead of some of the younger ones that would have gotten shot just because they see horns. So, the quality of deer coming in are a little bit better this year.

Interviewer: Ok, good. That’s good info. 

Interviewer: So, we had a really warm December, and then it turned really cold. Does that play much of an effect on the deer you’re seeing come through? 

Paul Potter: It plays a big role in it, depending on what time of the year. Right now, the rut is on, and if we wouldn’t be having this cold snap, the rut wouldn’t be on yet. The cold weather drives the deer into breeding season, and so we need the cold. Back in December, the deer were supposed to be rutting in Georgia. I get a bunch out of Georgia, but they weren’t rutting at the right time because it was so hot. They weren’t hardly moving around. The hunters are still out there, but the deer aren’t as inclined to move around when it’s hot as when it’s cold. 

Interviewer: So, does that delay the rut? 

Paul Potter: It’ll delay it a little bit. This cold snap we had last weekend, the deer have been pouring in because they are going into rut and they’re up and running. 

Interviewer: So, I know ruts are a little bit different in different areas. Is the rut going on now? 

Paul Potter: Dale County, Geneva County, Houston County, and Pike County, their rut is starting now. Now Henry County they’re rutting a little bit earlier. Their rut is over with. It was like the first part of January. Georgia rut is in December, and I actually just spoke with a biologist yesterday about that. What’s happening is some of the deer are drifting over here from Georgia and that’s what’s changed our rut over there on the river a little bit, but the rut right here where I’m located is generally about the middle to the end of January to the first part of February. 

Interviewer: Where I hunt up in Northern Henry County, we are just now starting to see signs of rut, maybe in the last 45 days. So, we haven’t quite gotten there. We’ve got one buck that everybody wants to shoot. He’s a 10-point, probably weighs 190 lbs. He’s a big deer. We’ve had him on camera for two straight years. The last two days, he’s been on four different cameras around our 120 Acres. Before that, once a week you would see him somewhere. But in the span of about 36 hours, he’s been on about four different cameras and each time he’s walking through. So, that kind of makes me think he’s looking for love. 

Paul Potter: It probably is. Now, a lot of your younger bucks that don’t really have much common sense, they’ll start to run off a little bit earlier than the big bucks will, and they’ll be chasing the little does around. I mean they’re young they really don’t have a clue what’s going on in this world. When you start seeing older bucks moving, then ruts here.

Interviewer: I think this guy is at least 3.5 years old and he may be 4.5 because like I said, we had him for two years, and last year he was an eight-point. So, I think he’s been around. I think he was at least two last year, maybe three. 

Interviewer: So, when people bring you deer to mount, if you look at what was killed in a green field versus what was killed in the woods, is there a kind of a ratio you see? 

Paul Potter: Are you talking about the buck to doe ratio? 

Interviewer: No, I mean the number that are killed on the green field versus the number in the woods. 

Paul Potter: That depends a lot on whether they’re in rut or pre-rut. If the rut is over they don’t care, they’re starving, so they’re going to be in a green field. Right now, I’m not hearing a lot of what people are saying. Earlier, when it’s hot, they’re going to be down in the swamps out of the sun, but right now, there’s not a whole lot of information. 

Interviewer: I guess after the rut, because they’re so run down, they’re just trying to binge feast. 

Paul Potter: Right. They’re trying to get their fat back on, because they have run all their meat and fat off. When the rut is on, they won’t eat at all. They’re just running. 

Interviewer: Right. Anything else that you hear that would be interesting for a hunter? 

Paul Potter: There is an interesting conversation between me and Adam Prichard, a local biologist, and that is talking about spring and early summer prep. People that own their own property or have leases should be aware of deworming. It’s not like you deworm each deer. You just put feed out that has dewormer in it to help with the horn growth. If the deer are healthier because they aren’t full of worms, then the horns grow better. The protein and calcium they need for good horn growth is gained through deworming. 

That’s an interesting conversation that we talked about last night, and he is going to get back with me, and maybe we can get in another broadcast like this and have a little more information about that, but I’ve been telling people for a while to start deworming in that manner. People who have been doing it for 3 or 4 years are bringing me pictures and they can’t believe their deer. So, I’m trying to go another step further and learn from a biologist in that he can do some research and get back with me, but if people during their offseason would still manage their heard in the sense that they’re taking care of them – they’re not in a pin, but putting stuff out there for them to keep them healthier, you’re going to have a better heard population. 

Interviewer: So, people just need to add dewormer to their feed? 

Paul Potter: Whatever manner they’re doing it during the off season. A lot of people, a couple times a month will go put feed out whether it’s in a trough or just being slung out.  If the first time they go for the month, they’ll put cattle feed that has dewormer in it and sling that out there and then the next month, get hog feed that has dewormer it’s different wormer, so the worms won’t get adapted to and continue to grow. 

That was one of the questions I had for him last night. That’s something he researches for me, rotating the different wormer. Deer get very little bits of calcium and protein in eating acorns and grass. So, when you think about that, when they do get some, they need that in their body for good horn growth. When they lose their horns in the spring and they’re starting to grow back, if they’re eaten up with worms, that’s cutting down on the nutrients in their bodies. 

Interviewer: Anything else you can think of that would be newsworthy? 

Paul Potter: The only other thing I can speak on is really that everybody needs to try and help out a little bit in the sense that we collect samples for the biologists to check for this. If we know there’s a case in the area, it helps to better control that case if we know it’s there. If not, then it will spread and spread. We try to help them out; I know I do and a few other taxidermists do by collecting samples for them to test to make sure we don’t have a case down here. That’s how that one case was found. So many people were scared of this disease. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s not the greatest thing in the world either. Colorado had this occur with their mule deer in the late 60s, and they still have a great population of mule deer. So, it’s how they’ve managed it since. So, people need to be better educated in that.