Mundane hunting camp rituals could become a lot easier if a new iPhone app from Mississippi State University’s Deer Lab delivers what its designers hope it can.

Such things as racing to the lodge to check-in for a stand, recording daily deer sightings and registering stats from hills could be done over cyberspace through the free program.

That’s the plan, said one of the Deer Hunt App’s designers.

“For instance, say you are planning to hunt a stand to which the best entrance is from the far side of the property,” said Steve Demarais, professor of wildlife ecology and management at MSU. “Once your club and all its members are using the App, you could sign-in to a stand without having to drive all the way around to the lodge. You can tell if the stand has been already selected by another member and, if not, let’s the other members know you are planning to hunt there.”

That’s just one aspect of the Deer Hunt App, and not the one that seems to most excite a biologist like Demarais, and co-designer and fellow professor Bronson Strickland. Those guys like data, raw data; the kind they can instantly access instead of waiting until after the season.

“Once you are in your selected stand, you can open the App, and hit the ‘start the hunt now’ key,” Demarais said. “Once it opens, you can start putting in the information, such as stand site or name, the date and time. Then as the hunt progresses, each time you see a deer, you can enter each sighting. If a doe and a yearling comes out, you can hit that button. If a young buck comes out, you can hit that.

“That’s the information that is invaluable for deer management, and it is instantly available. In the past, it’s always been the hunter writing down what he sees, and sometimes they wait and do it from memory and you know that we always remember the things that stand out, and not everything. You are recording the data in real time, every day.”

Demarais has already seen the benefits in the first year, and gave as an example a hunting club in Central Mississippi that he manages.

“It’s a typical club with typical members; it has some members who feel the club is killing too many does and other members who think they aren’t killing enough,” he said. “One guy called me worried about killing too many does and said he wasn’t seeing many deer. 

“I was able to retrieve the data that the members had entered and use real-time data to refute or agree with his argument. That’s a big advantage that a biologist or the club’s management guy can use.”

Where it gets real interesting is when a user kills a deer.

“Then there’s several options available,” Demarais said. “You can enter all the information that is usually included on a D-MAP (the state wildlife agency’s Deer Management Assistance Program), like weight, lactation if it’s a doe and antler measurements if it’s a buck.”

Then the Deer Hunt App gets fun.

“It can estimate live weight from dressed weight, and it can even estimate how many pounds of venison you can expect to get from the deer. On a buck, it can even give you an estimated Boone & Crockett measurement,” Demarais said.

“It’s like any other App that is new, we have had a few bugs in it and we’re working on it. Right now, it is only available for iPhones and it is only available through the iTunes store on your iPhone. You can give it a try and if you find any problems with it, any issues or bugs, please let us know.”

 Deer Hunt is the third smart phone app designed by experts with the MSU Deer Lab, a collaborative effort of the MSU Extension Service and MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center. 

“We tried to address a variety of deer-related issues that challenge hunters and folks who manage land for deer hunting,” said Strickland, who serves as an MSU Extension wildlife biologist. “We offer a variety of workshops, but with the apps, our research-based information is available whenever anyone needs it, wherever they are — even on the deer stand.”

Strickland said the first MSU Deer Lab app has been updated to reflect the latest information on food plots. Users can measure the area of a food plot and then select forages to plant. The app will calculate the appropriate seeding rate based on the size of the plot. 

Many hunters are now interested in managing the herd for production of older bucks. A critical step in this process is developing the skill to age deer “on the hoof.” Therefore, the Deer Lab developed an app that helps hunters train themselves to identify characteristics that will improve their ability to age live deer.

Additionally, the app guides hunters through the process of aging a harvested deer by analyzing the jawbone.

All three of the MSU Deer Lab smart phone apps are free and available from iTunes.