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Food Plot Stand Location Tips

by Cody Altizer 16. May 2012 04:32
Cody Altizer

The art of taking a whitetail with archery tackle is a continually evolving sport.  As bowhunters, we are constantly on the lookout for strategies, gear and information that can tip the odds of arrowing a mature buck in our favor.  It’s hard to believe, in fact, that hunting from treestands was once thought of as unethical because it would make harvesting whitetails too easy.  We’ve come along away since then; however, many hunters still struggle to get within bow range of a mature whitetail buck during daytime hours.  In recent years hunting over, around and near food plots has become an increasingly popular hunting strategy.  If you’re looking for a new avenue in which to increase your chances of putting down a big bruiser buck this fall, read on for food plot hunting strategies and information!

It’s a common misconception that hunting over food plots is easy.  Some hunters have a very twisted idea that hunting over, or around food plots is no different than hunting over bait.  While that may be a great topic for a later article, I’ll preface this article by stating that hunting over food plots is not easy.  Food plots offer a variety of different hunting opportunities, so I’ll do my best to cover each option.

Food plot hunting is a great way to practice Quality Deer Management because you usually have ample opportunites to harvest adult does.

Retreat to the Timber

If you’ve incorporated food plots into your hunting strategy in the past, you probably quickly learned that the further away you get from the food plot, the better your chances of success can be.  This is true for both morning and afternoon hunts.  Setting up shop right on top of a food plot can be a great way to kill a deer, and it’s a topic I’ll touch on later in this article, but hunting back in the timber off the food plot keeps your very flexible as a bowhunter.  I’ll use my property as an example.

On my 260 acre hunting property in the mountains of Virginia, I have two destination food plots planted.  Each food plot is a little over an acre in size with one being planted in clover, and the other in alfalfa.  Both of these food plots are located in the center of my property strategically placed in areas that require deer to move past my stand sites when going to and from their bedding area.

By hunting off of these food plots, back in the timber, I am giving myself a better chance at seeing a mature buck during the daylight hours than if I were simply sitting right on the plot. Don’t let television shows and magazine articles fool you.  Mature bucks know what it takes to see another sun rise, and feeding in food plots during the day light is a sure fire way to ensure that doesn’t happen. As a result, mature bucks aren’t likely to visit food plots during the daytime.

For afternoon hunts during the early season, I like hanging my Lone Wolf stands about 50 yards or so back in the timber in order to catch bucks, or at least a mature doe, taking thier time getting to the food plot.   Temperatures in Virginia can vary greatly during early October, and if the mercury rises above 80 degrees, the deer aren’t likely to get to the food plot until after dusk.  I don’t want to get too close to the bedding area for an afternoon hunt, however, because I risk the chance of bumping a buck that may have gotten out of his bed earlier than normal.

I harvested this beautiful 127" 3 year old buck in late November, 2011.  I intercepted him on his way back to his bedding area after feeding in one of my clover food plots the night prior.

Many hunters don’t associate morning hunts with food plots.  While I certainly don’t advise sitting over a food plot during the morning (unless trail camera photos give you reason to), catching deer coming off the destination plots on their way back to bed can be a great big buck strategy.  In fact, my brother and I both used this method to shot our biggest bucks during the 2011 season.  

It’s been my experience that bucks will often times use the same trails when returning to their bed in the morning that they used to access the food plot the night prior.  This knowledge gave my brother and I the confidence to hang our stands on these trails and harvest both a 148” and 127” buck.  After field dressing the bucks we found each of their stomachs to be full of clover.  

My brother shot this 148", 15 point bruiser in early November.  He was set up on a trail that this buck used often to access our clover plot from his bedding area.

For morning hunts off of food plots, I like to be closer to bedding areas than if I was hunting the same food plot in the afternoon.  If you hunt to close to the food plot in the morning you run the risk of educating deer to your presence before the hunt even begins.  Also, you could climb your tree and get ready for the hunt well after the deer have exited the food plot and walked past your stand site.  Hunting close to bedding areas in the morning, with respect to food plots, eliminates both of those problems. 

Hunting OVER a Food Plot

As mentioned before, hunting directly over food plots can also prove to be a very successful option.  However, sitting directly over a food plot, or any food source for that matter, opens the door to several possible problems.  For one, I’ve always preferred bowhunting whitetails in transition areas; that is, in areas where they are moving, and less likely to look up and spot me in a tree.  When hunting over a food plot there are usually several eyes, ears and noses on the lookout for danger.  Also, when deer feed in a food plot, they usually feed well into the night; making getting down from stand undetected a very real concern.  

All that being said, sitting on a food plot for an afternoon deer hunt can be an effective strategy, and it’s one I utilize often.  There are two important factors to keep in mind, though, to ensure your hunt is as efficient as possible.  For starters, as is the case with all things deer hunting, pay special attention to the wind direction, and if your hunting in hilly country, the thermals as well.  There are few things as painful as sitting in a treestand looking over an empty food plot because the deer winded you.  

Obviously, you don’t want to hunt with a wind that blows your scent back into the timber in the direction in which your deer are traveling.  However, a wind that blows your scent directly out in the food plot isn’t ideal either.  If the deer that feed in your food plot are anything like mine, they prefer a certain area of the plot.  This is usually an inside corner.  A strategically placed Stealth Cam can reveal which inside corner your deer prefer, and you can hang your stands according.  Hunting inside corners is also beneficial because you can hunt cross winds that will keep you from being smelled by the deer.  

Be sure to pay attention to wind direction when hunting around food plots.  Deer are usually on high alert just prior to entering a food plot, so keep this in mind when hanging stands.

If possible, layout your food plot locations with wind direction in mind, and if possible, construct multiple food plots to accommodate different wind directions.  On my property, my two primary hunting plots are laid out to accommodate an east wind, and a west wind for afternoon hunts.  During the deer season, it’s very rare for my property to receive a due north or south wind, so if the forecast is calling for a west wind, I have a stand hung on a clover food plot specifically for that wind.  However, if a tricky east wind blows in, I have a Lone Wolf sitting over an alfalfa field.  

Find an Exit

The single most important factor that can make or break your hunt when sitting over a food plot is your entry and exit route.  Obviously, you don’t want to bump the deer on your way to the stand, but an effective exit strategy takes top priority.  If you don’t harvest a deer during an afternoon sit, chances are there will still be deer feeding in the field when it’s time to get down.

There are a few simple solutions to this problem.  If you’re hunting with a partner, you could have he or she pick you up with their ATV or truck.  Deer are usually very tolerable of a motorized vehicle, and being pushed out of a food plot by one isn’t a big deal.  I’ve also had a lot of success with “blowing” at a deer.  That is, mimicking the alarming sound a deer makes when it senses danger.  I usually do this after dark when it would be harder for a deer to pinpoint my location.  I can remember specific instances when I have blow a family group of does out of a food plot, only to have them return the next afternoon relaxed, calm and unaware of my presence.   I have also heard of hunters mimicking a coyote yelp or scream.  I’ve never done this and don’t question its effectiveness, convincing the deer that a coyote was on a field edge watching them is not a situation I’d like to mirror. 

Food plot hunting isn't as easy as it sounds, but if you follow the tips and information provided in this article then you could very well walk up to your biggest buck ever this fall when hunting food plots!

 

Not as Easy as it Sounds

Hunting over food plots sounds like an easy hunt, right?  The deer walk aimlessly out in a lush clover field, and you casually draw your bow back and send a Carbon Express right through the lungs.  Heck, if you’re lucky, another deer might make the same mistake.  While that may be true for the fortunate hunters who get to relive their hunts on national television, that isn’t the case for the most.  In fact, I sat overlooking a food plot roughly 10 hunts this past year and I only drew back once.  I couldn’t catch a break, nor could I figure out why, but I think it has something to do with me being a bad bowhunter.  

Conclusion

Food plot hunting is one of my favorite hunting strategies.  I usually see a lot of deer, and watching them interact with one another in a food source I created is a very rewarding feeling.  However, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t expect to shoot a deer each time I hunted over or around a food plot.  Their ability to concentrate deer to a certain area makes for awesome bowhunting opportunities.  If you’ve struggled to find success hunting around food plots in the past, then hopefully the above article provided you with some insight that can help you put down a food plot buck this fall!

Late Winter Is The Best Time To Scout Your Deer Woods

by John Mueller 22. February 2012 11:49
John Mueller

Just as the title says, “Late Winter Is The Best Time to Scout Your Woods”. There are many advantages to scouting this time of year. From sign being more visible to not spooking the deer you are hunting to just getting out and curing a bout of cabin fever, get out and scout.

Scouting this time of year is low impact on my hunting grounds. I’m not hunting them any more so I don’t mind if I spook a few deer.  They will be long over the intrusion by the time hunting season rolls around this fall. Plus it gets me out of the house and into the woods again. I just need to be in the woods every now and again.

My main reason for wanting to hit the woods scouting in late winter is the sign is very easy to spot this time of year. The leaves are all gone and the woods are wide open, enabling me to see a long ways through the woods. If there is no snow on the ground as is the case this year on my farm the well used deer paths look more like cattle trails full of hoof prints. The deer tend to have just a couple main food sources left and they hit those more regularly now and use the same paths traveling back and forth from food to bed. Make note of these trails for future late season ambush points if the food sources are the same as this year. These trails can also lead you to preferred late season bedding areas. While these may not be the same bedding areas the deer will use during early season, keep them in mind if you still have an unfilled tag as next season is winding down. Deer will return to favored bedding areas, it’s where the feel safe.

 

This is the type of trail to set a stand up on for a late season hunt.

Buck sign also sticks out like a sore thumb this time of year. Well used scrapes will be the only places where leaves and other debris doesn't cover the forest floor. Especially look on old logging roads or field edges where branvhes hang out into the field. These would be great places to start a mock scrape next fall and set up a trail camera to take inventory of the bucks in your neighborhood. The shredded trunks of rubbed trees are easily spotted without all of the underbrush hiding them in late winter too. Rub lines can be detected by standing next to one rub and looking ahead for the next one and so on. This can be good place to hang a stand next fall too. The buck is showing you a travel route he likes to use when traveling across your land.

Many times bucks will use the same location for scrapes year after year.

If you use exclusion cages in your food plots you can tell which crops the deer favor the most on your land. This will allow you to design your food plots to have the deer end up in front of your stand. By planting their most favored food near the funnels and pinch points where your stands are hung, you can coax them into bow range without them even feeling the pressure of the forced movement.

I think they really, really liked the winter wheat. I'll be planting more of it this fall.

The one thing I don't like finding on my late season scouting trips are the remains of deer. This can mean my predator population is too high or the deer are stressed because of the cold weather. Or it could have been a wounded animal that finally succumed to his injuries. I'm especially not wanting to find the remains of any of the bucks I was chasing last year or the ones I passed up hoping he would be a bruiser this fall.

Definately a scene I don't want to find on my property.


But this on the other hand, is what we all want to find while scouting for next season.

Persistence Pays - Big Buck Down in Virginia

by Cody Altizer 5. December 2011 17:24
Cody Altizer

Disclaimer: Okay, let me preface this blog by stating that, like my previous blog, this blog is dedicated to another gun kill.  Yes, obviously this is a bowhunting website, but I (and many of our other staff members as well) equally enjoy taking to the woods every fall with rifle and/or muzzleloader.  After all, we are all hunters and we must support one another, regardless of choice of weapon.  Disclaimer over, read on for the actual blog!

Quite frankly, this has been one of the slowest, most frustrating hunting seasons I have ever been a part of.  I went into this season more prepared and more excited than I had ever gone into a previous season.  Food plots were prepped and planted in the spring and maintained throughout the summer.  Stands were hung during the dog days of summer, and my Mathews was shooting darts.  I was ready to rock n’ roll! 

Here is one of literally hundreds of photos I got of High n' Tight after the season last year.  He certainly wasn't shy as a 2 year old, but it's funny how a whitetail wises up between their second and third birthday.  During the spring, summer and fall, he became a ghost.

I had trail camera photos of two different bucks I was going to be on the lookout for.  The first was a 4 year old buck we had decided to call Clyde.  He was a mainframe 10, and the best we could tell from trail camera photos he would score close to 150 inches.  The second buck, and quite honestly, the buck I thought I would have the best chance at shooting, was a buck nicknamed High n’ Tight.  High n’ Tight was a frequent visitor to our food plots last winter as a 2 year old, and I was excited about hunting him this season as a 3 year old.  His brow tines were high and tight (hence the nickname) and we had over 100 photos of him feeding in our food plots.  He was so visible in our food plots and on trails to and from bedding areas, that I was sure I would get a crack at him early this season.

High n' Tight on his way back to bed in early February.  I searched for hours on end for his sheds, but to no avail.

Unfortunately, as you may have read here, my season got off to a rocky start immediately.  I regrouped after my opening day misfortune, and hunted relatively hard the entire month of October.  As you may have read in my previous blog, I hunted mostly afternoons near food sources as to not pressure a certain buck I had my eyes on.  As the month of October neared its end and November quickly approaching, I was excited about the thought of hunting rutting whitetails.   I had plenty of food available on the property; the deer I would be hunting hadn’t been pressured, and rubs and scrapes and were popping up over night on trails leading to and from bedding areas.  My goal this season was to hunt exclusively with my bow.  I knew it would be tempting to swap the bow for my muzzleloader or rifle once their respective seasons came in, but I wanted, no, needed, to harvest a buck with my this year.  It would be fantastic to harvest a 3 year old buck with my bow in the mountains I hunt, and I was going to be relentless in my pursuit of that goal.

By the time November rolled around, I was a lot like the bucks that were maxed out on testosterone at the same time, it was go time!  Clyde had been captured several times on trail camera, but High n’ Tight was nowhere to be found.  He was so visible during the winter, I simply couldn’t believe he just up and vanished.  Was he poached during the summer?  Did he establish a new home range?  Had Clyde scared him completely out of the state of Virginia?  I was pretty disappointed that the buck I thought I had the best chance of shooting had completely disappeared.

High n' Tight with his older brother, Clyde in January of this year.  I actually didn't know it was Clyde until my brother shot him in early November.  A small cut in his left ear let me know that it was in fact him in this photo.

Nevertheless, on November 1st I checked my Stealth Cam that was overlooking one of my mock scrapes on a field edge, and it revealed Clyde had visited just two days prior.  The next day I took down my Lone Wolf Assault and sticks, packed it on my back and moved it a half mile east to the location of the mock scrape.  The next morning I was 15 yards from that mock scrape and ready to arrow Clyde at 15 yards.  That morning was an exciting morning to be on stand to say the least.  I didn’t see Clyde, but I did see a handful of does and had a close encounter with another one of my target bucks, a tall racked 8 pointer I call Mr. Two Bits.  I have quite a bit of history with Mr. Two Bits, including still photos and video footage of him in velvet in July, and a handful of trail camera photos of him throughout September and October.  He walked out past me at 60 yards, but he busted me as I was trying to get my camera situated and get some footage of him.  So close!  I got down that morning optimistic about what the rest of the month would hold, but I was oblivious to the tough hunting I was about to endure.

In the following weeks I got served a huge dose of bowhunting reality.  The weather for bowhunting the rut was simply terrible.  The following weather pattern repeated itself for almost the entire month: three days of rain, a day of high winds, and then warming temperatures until the next storm system blew in bringing more rain.  It was incredibly frustrating, but I kept hunting hard.  In fact, I was hunting harder than ever.  My Lone Wolf Sit and Climb and I got to be exceptionally close, and I took down and moved my Lone Wolf Assault at least 6 times during a span of 10 days when I thought the bucks would be rutting the hardest.  My efforts were futile.  The terrible weather partnered with a full moon in mid-November and forced me to go deer less on more hunts that I would care to admit.  My brother shot Clyde on November the 12th with his muzzleloader, but that was the only buck activity we experienced the first couple weeks of November.  Exhausted, I took a handful of days off from hunting to get a change of scenery, recharge my batteries and get re-focused for the second half of the month.

My Mathews Z7 Xtreme and Lone Wolf Assault and Sticks at the ready.  I logged a lot of stand time with this combo during October and November.

My first hunt after my vacation from hunting was a lot like the first two weeks of November.  Dumping rains kept me in bed the morning of November 17th, and I elected to get in my stand around noon to see if I could catch any bucks up on their feet before the high winds moved.  At 12:45 I heard a deer running behind me to the east and quickly threw up my Leupold Acadia’s to see what causing the commotion.  Shooter buck!  I counted 10 points, good tine length and estimated the buck to score around 130 inches.  Unfortunately, he was downwind of me and a little jittery with the blustery winds.  I wanted so badly to throw him a couple of contact grunts to gauge his interest and aggressiveness, but thought better of it.  Being downwind, he would pick me off in a heartbeat.  Helpless, I spent the better part of 5 minutes glassing him out through my binoculars.  I saw a good right main beam, and 4 tall tines shooting into the air.  He was a great buck, but I had to watch him turn around and trot off in the direction from which he came.  I’m not sure if he winded me, or was more interested in some does.  Nevertheless, I settled back in and enjoyed another deerless afternoon. 

I checked a trail camera on the way out that afternoon and was excited to find a lot of good deer, including a couple shooters moving through the area.  I keep a running file of all the bucks I have gotten on trail camera over the years, and as I copied the new entries into the “Bucks” file, I couldn’t help but notice High n’ Tight.  I had honestly forgotten about him because Clyde and Mr. Two Bits had stolen my attention the majority of the season.  As I sifted through the 50 photos that I kept of him, I couldn’t help but smile.  He was quite the clueless little two year old, who seemed to enjoy having his picture taken.  He was never far from the camera and offered several good looks of his rack, almost as if to say, “Look at me, Cody!  Just think of how big I will be next year!”  I laughed to myself and shut off the computer.

This photo was snapped after I hung my Lone Wolf in some of the nastiest cover on our property.  Warm temperatures and a full moon forced me to get right in the deer's bedroom.

My luck over the next week never improved.  One hunt, I forgot my binoculars.  The next, my safety harness.  Yes, my safety harness.  Don’t worry, I dropped my gear and made the long walk back to camp and put it on before returning to my stand.  I simply couldn’t catch a break.  The bad weather ensued, but I kept pushing on.  I continued to move my stands trying to get closer to the bucks I was chasing.  That plan, like my others, failed me.  There were many instances where I would move my stand from location “a’ to location “b” only to have deer walking right by the tree where my stand was hung at location “a.”  It got quite comical at times, but I couldn’t convince myself that I wasn’t going to catch a break sooner or later.  Fortunately, it proved to be sooner.

The morning of November 26th found me perched in one of my favorite stands.  In fact, it was in this stand that I shot my first deer ever when I was 6 years old.  It was creatively called, “Cody’s Stand” and is a great stand to not only see deer from, but watch the woods wake up as the sun rises.  About 8:00 the sun is high enough in the sky to just barely peak over the mountain to the South of me, and you can literally watch the sun rays shoot through the tall pines in front of the stand.  The frost dances in the forest openings, and I have never seen a deer look so pretty in the sun when they cross a trail 60 yards in front of my stand.  It's poetic.

Like always, I was in my stand over an hour before first light.  With plenty of time to spare, I tightened up my safety harness (I remembered it this time) and took a nice nap.  Getting up at 4:15 in the morning got harder and harder to do with each passing day during November, and these naps weren’t uncommon.  I have an incredible internal clock, and wanted to sleep not a minute past 6:30.  Sure enough, I woke up, checked my watch and it read 6:28.  I was alive, refreshed and ready to hunt!

Sweet November had finally arrived!  Unfortunately, the bucks didn't get the memo until later in the month.

It was a beautiful morning.  It was cold, calm and clear.  The sun had yet to rise, but there was enough light to make out my surroundings.  I was situated halfway between 1 acre of clover, 1 acre of turnips and a known buck bedding area.  The wind was out of the South.  I was expecting to see deer working their way in front of me walking East to West (left to right) back to bed after feeding in the food plots the previous night.  Right at 7:00 am I saw a flicker of movement about 100 yards to my south east.  There is a painfully annoying autumn olive bush at that exact location that always looks like a deer moving with the breeze blows, so I assumed that was what caused my heart to skip a beat.  Wait a minute, why is that autumn olive bush walking?  Bam, it’s a deer.  Up go my Leupold’s and I see a good buck coming my way.  He stops and I have just a couple seconds to determine he has a great rack but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  Just like that, he had disappeared into the timber and I lost him.  He was coming from my turnip food plot, and I was confident he would walk the trail 60 yards right in front of my stand, but I had a decision to make.  Is he a shooter?  He had a beautiful set of antlers, but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  I had to make up my mind.  I decided, “If he takes this trail right in front of my stand, I am taking this deer!”

There was only one problem; I still couldn’t find him in the thick timber!  I was looking frantically with my binoculars, but just couldn’t find him.  Finally, I wised up and let my ears find him for me.  I heard consistent footsteps and my eyes trusted my ears and I spotted him walking on the trail that would take him right in front of my stand.  He was in a hurry to get back to his bed, so I quickly grabbed my rifle, waited for him to walk into my shooting lane and stopped him with a soft grunt.  He threw his head up in my direction, and I settled the crosshairs right behind his shoulder.  My rifle rang out, and I saw him buckle up hard before racing straight down below my stand.  I knew he was hit, and hit hard, so I obviously started talking to myself, “That buck is hit hard, that buck is hit hard!”  I had just lost sight of him when I thought I had heard and saw him fall, but I just couldn’t tell.  I welcomed the shakes and adrenaline rush, removed my lucky orange beanie, stuffed it in my pocket, and took a deep breath.  

I texted my brother and dad saying, “Just took a shot on a good buck.  Think I made a good hit, didn’t see him go down.”  My brother responded, “Can I come up?!”  I replied, “Yes, but take your time.  I held right on the heart and he buckled up pretty good, just didn’t see him go down.”  I sent that text at 7:21, no more than 20 minutes later my brother was underneath my stand.  He was just as excited as I was.   

Persistence pays! I was finally able to catch up with High n' Tight the morning of November 25th.

I knew exactly where he was standing, so my brother and I went to recover my blood.  There was blood all over the place at the point of impact.  I’m surprised I didn’t break my brother’s hand when I gave him a fist pound and blurted, “That’s what I am talking about!”  He now calls me Stan Potts, go figure. 

I saw High n' Tight's right main beam a little over a week prior to me taking him.  Having history with a buck you eventually end up harvesting is a sweet feeling!

We took our time following the trail, and as I peaked up over the small hill where I last saw him, there he lay.  I saw a gorgeous right main beam with 4 tall tines, the same buck that slipped past me just a week before!  I walked up to him, lifted his head, looked him over in admiration and was surprised yet again, it was High n’ Tight!  The tall, sharp brow tines gave him away.  I immediately looked up at my brother, who was filming the recovery, and just stared at him blankly.  The buck that I thought I had the best chance at shooting this year, had evaded all 6 of my trail cameras, managed to hide from me all season despite my best efforts and nearly snuck by me again.  

Meet High n' Tight, my biggest buck to date, and the deer I am most proud of!

My dad got down out of his stand early, met my brother and in the frosty timber where High n’ Tight fell, and we celebrated like only a father/son hunting team can.  My brother graciously took a couple hundred photos of me and High n’ Tight, and we taped him out at 126 7/8”, my biggest buck to date, and quite frankly the buck I am most proud of.  I hunt harder than the majority of the guys I know.  The amount of time and effort I spend in preparation, hanging stands, trimming lanes, moving stands, mock scraping, food plotting, etc. is mind boggling, and it would have been easy for me to give in after the rough start to the season I endured and chalk it up to bad luck, but I stayed persistent, kept my nose to the grind stone just waiting for something good to happen, and it did.  I’m still amazed at the irony with High n’ Tight.  I had ran 6 trail cameras all summer and fall, hunted countless stands, moved those stands and moved them again trying to find this guy.  All the while, he was feeding in the same food plot the night before I shot him that he was so visible in from January to March.  

After countless hours of preparation, scouting and time in the stand, giving Thanks is the most appropriate way to honor and give respect to the animal.

This buck, and this hunting season really, also means a lot to me on an emotion level.  My brother, and hunting partner, Damin, will be getting married next spring, and while we’ll still get hunt with each other, our brotherly relationship will take a back seat to him starting a family, as it should.  My brother was right alongside me the majority of this hunting season, which to us began back in January, the day the 2010 season went out.  We shed hunted together, planted the food plots together, hung and moved stands together and, like the previous 20 years of our lives, we were inseparable.  It made for a special season that we each got to be in the woods when the other shot the biggest buck of his life.  To add to the irony, High n’ Tight and Clyde actually grouped up and ran together after the 2010 season.  Where there was one, there was the other.  In the food plots, traveling on trails, they trusted each other. They were, ironically, inseparable.  Just like my brother and I.  Who would have thought that two lucky brothers would be so fortunate to harvest such awesome whitetails that were, in a very real sense, brothers as well?

A Buck Named Clyde: A Testament to Food Plots, QDM and Mock Scrapes

by Cody Altizer 3. December 2011 09:39
Cody Altizer

There are a bevy of emotions we as hunters are fortunate to experience throughout the course of a deer season.  There is the rush of seeing your arrow bury itself behind your prey’s shoulder.  Then there are the uncontrollable shakes that violently rock your body before, during and after the shot at that big buck.  And don’t forget, the most humbling of all, the feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness experienced when you kneel over your trophy, be it a buck or doe, be it big or small.  Finally, there is the camaraderie experienced between you and your hunting buddies.  A couple weeks ago, I got to share an extremely memorable time in the woods with my brother, Damin, as he shot a true giant Virginia whitetail, a buck named Clyde.  

One of the first pictures we got of Clyde.  This image was taken in early January in our clover food plot.

The story for this buck actually begins in 2007, ironically, the birth year of Clyde.  It was that year that my brother, my dad and I really decided to commit to Quality Deer Management (QDM) and try to improve the health of our deer herd and our property’s habitat.  We began planting food plots, established mineral stations and decided to take at least 5 does off our 260 acre property every year.  The mineral stations attracted deer to our property during the summer, and shooting does increased rut activity immediately.  However, I was still unhappy with the amount of food we had on our property during the hunting season.  I simply wasn’t content with the small, secluded food plots we had planted in the past.  Every year, I urged my dad to consider planting two one acre fields in clover.  I was convinced that having a consistent, centralized food source would make a world of difference in holding deer on our property during the hunting season.  During the rut, I was exicted about the amount of rubs and scrapes that would appear in the runways and funnels leading from the fields to bedding areas.

 

Clyde all but disappeared during the spring and summer, except for visiting one of my mineral stations in mid-June, when this photo was taken.

Fast forward to February, 2010, we had finally gained the resources to plant the two large fields, and I can still remember cruising along in my neighbor’s borrowed 40 horsepower tractor and plowing up the field.  By the time I had finished, it was well after dark and the headlights of the tractor were synonymous with a bright future on our hunting property, a future I was extremely excited about.  

This trail camera photo was captured on a frosty night in late September.  The long sweeping right main beam told me who this buck was.  It was this photo that earned him the nickname "Clyde."

That spring and summer I sprayed and tilled, sprayed and tilled, to keep the weeds and have a clean seed bed for the 2010 hunting season.  In August I planted some Imperial Whitetail Clover and oats into the food plots.  We have found that planting clover in the fall and allowing it establish a strong root system in the winter will allow it to explode the following spring.  Obviously, both forages would be attractive to the deer during the season, but the oats were more of a cover crop to keep the deer from overbrowsing the clover.  

Fast forward to this past January, I was in Huntley, IL preparing for the 2011 ATA Show at the Bowhunting.com office and my brother sent me a couple of trail camera images of a buck feeding in our food plot the night after the season went out.  The buck was a 3 year old, had several busted tines, but was clearly a shooter and had the potential to balloon into a true giant the following season.  Our winters in Western Virginia don’t pose serious threats to a whitetail’s life, even worn down bucks, so my primary concern keeping him on our property that following year.  With two acres of lush clover just waiting to explode with a little sunlight and warm weather, I was confident we would regularly catch him on camera feeding in our food plots during the summer.

By mid-October Clyde was convinced their was an intruder buck in his territory thanks to my mock scrapes.

As is often the case with deer hunting and habitat management, things don’t go as expected.  The food plots exploded all right, providing a nutritious, tasty food source to our local whitetails all spring and summer.  Unfortunately, however, we only captured the buck on camera just once during the entire summer, and it wasn’t even in our food plots.  On June 19th he made a brief stop at one of my Monster Raxx mineral stations.  I knew it was the buck from the previous winter, by a cluster of abnormal points on his right main beam.  While he didn’t spend as much time in our food plots, I wasn’t overly concerned.  I knew where he was bedding and knew that having several does feeding in our food plots during the actual hunting season would greatly benefit us.  

As hunting season quickly approached and the temperatures began dropping quickly, I was anxious to see if the buck had began visiting our food plots.  The two clover food plots were planted right in the center of our property, so to visit them, either to feed or check for does, he would have to walk right by several of my stand sites.  Nevertheless, when I checked my cameras on October 1st I was thrilled to find the buck feeding in our food plot just two nights before.  I sent a picture to my brother via cell phone with the text reading, “huge buck in upper field, 140+."  A long sweeping right main beam and the abnormal points on the same side made Clyde an easy choice for a nickname (See Clint Eastwood’s famous flick, “Every Which Way but Loose”).    Let the chess match begin.

This trail camera photo revealed to us Clyde's bedding area.  This photo was taken two nights before Halloween about 30 minutes before sunrise.  

I knew it would be unwise to dive right in after this buck after a handful of nighttime trail camera photos.  I knew where he was bedding, I knew how he accessing our food plots, I just had to be patient and not over hunt him.  I immediately made a series of mock scrapes along his access trails to and from the food plot using Tink’s Power Scrape.  The idea was to paint a picture of another big, old buck  moving into his territory.  He didn’t like the thought of that.  He began working over those scrapes within days, and the giant rubs and scrapes that dotted the edge of the food plots could only have been made by him.  This was his food plot, the clover belonged to him, the does belonged to him; no other bucks were welcome.

After seeing the massive rubs and watching the scrapes being freshened up nightly, I took extreme measures as to not pressure the buck.  The only problem with the location of our two food plots is location.  Yes, they were centrally located, but they were also right beside our hunting camp, which sees a lot of human activity.  During October, I likely only hunted 3 mornings so I didn’t push him off the food plot on my way to the stand.  My dad and brother would have liked to kill me because I was constantly reminding them to be quiet around the camp and to walk on the far side of the camp to hide our existence from deer feeding in the food plot. I probably took it too far in some cases, but there was a giant buck living very close by, and I was determined that one of use was going to kill him.

Throughout October we captured Clyde on trail camera in the food plot, at mock scrapes, and on trails heading back to his bed in the late morning.  My brother had two weeks of vacation planned for early November and we were going to exhaust every opportunity we had to close the deal on the giant.  Unfortunately we got slammed by two weeks of bad weather.  Dumping rains, high winds and warm temperatures made hunting very difficult.  At the end of every unsuccessful day of hunting my brother would ask me, “Where in the world Clyde?”  My response was always the same, “Not far.”

Multiple rubs of this size began popping up in trails and runways from the food plot to bedding areas.  Clyde was becoming more and more vulnerable with each passing day.  We were onto him, we just had to play it smart.

Friday November 11th was again a terribly slow day of hunting.  A full moon and high winds and warm temperatures had shut down all deer movement, but there was hope in sight.  The first clear, cold night in several weeks was forecasted that night.  That night I remember my brother asking me yet again, “Where is Clyde?”  But this time I responded, “Not far.  He’s got to be covering some ground at night, if we can get a good, hard frost tonight, that should keep him on his feet longer into the morning on his way back to bed for the day.”  It wasn’t much to go on, but was it was a hopeful thought, and that was all we needed.

I had been bowhunting like a madman the first two weeks of November, so I elected to take my muzzleloader that morning for a change of pace.  We had got the hard frost we were hoping for and we had got into our stands over an hour before first light.  I had seen a couple does filtering back to bed right at first light, and was hopeful a buck would soon follow suit, but I never got the chance to find out.  At 7:14 I heard my brother’s muzzleloader ring out.  Since it was my brother’s last day of vacation, we both decided to try and shoot a couple does if the opportunity presented itself, so I just assumed he had shot a doe.  However, his “13 pointer down!!!!!” text eliminated that theory.  My mind began racing, “Did he really shoot a 13 pointer?  Maybe he did shoot a doe and is just joking around.  A 13 pointer?  Clyde was only a 10 in the trail camera photos.”   Anxious to see what he had shot I responded, “Can I come up?”  His response, “Clyde!!!!”  I gathered my gear, got down out of my stand and all but ran through the woods to see the fallen giant.

My brother and hunting partner, Damin, admiring the legendary buck known as Clyde.  Mission complete!

When I finally met up with my brother, he had his coat draped over Clyde’s rack.  As he unveiled him, I simply couldn’t believe the massive antlers coming off this buck’s head; a true giant.  I must have hugged and high fived Damin a good 20 times in a span of 5 minutes.  Damin relived the hunt for me, and I was happy as could be for him.  It turns out that cold, hard frost kept Clyde on his feet just long enough this morning, because my brother shot him working one of the mock scrape lines I had built back in early October.  My brother stopped him at 50 yards broadside, and made a perfect shot, and Clyde died within sight.  

Clyde is by far the biggest buck ever taken off our property.  The hard work we all put in over the past 4 years finally paid off with a dandy buck.

I offered to drag Clyde out of the woods for Damin, we met up with my dad and mom at camp and thus began the day of celebration.  We took well over 100 photos, put a tape to him, weighed him, caped him out and readied him for the taxidermist.  Clyde ended up scoring 148 6/8” as a mainframe 10 with 5 kickers.  He had three abnormal points sprouting at the base of his right G3 and had an inch and a half kicker at the base of each antler.  He was 220 pounds live weight and dressed 185, which makes for a giant bodied whitetail in Western Virginia.

The fallen giant and the lucky hunter who harvested him overlooking the mountains and food plot the massive buck once called home.

While Clyde scored well, and was the size of a small cow, his statistics do very little for this buck's legacy.  When I think of Clyde I will think of the countless hours spent running trail cameras, planting food plots, freshening mineral stations, and scouting since 2007, the year he was born and the year we started QDM.  I will think of the discussions I had with my dad and brother about when, and how we should go about trying to harvest this deer.  But ultimately, I will remember walking up to the fallen buck with my brother standing over him with a contagious smile and the brotherly emotions we shared in the woods November 12th.  That, I think, is what Clyde most represents and what an animal of his caliber should be remembered for.

Hunting Food Plots: Experiences and Lessons Learned

by Cody Altizer 15. October 2011 11:38
Cody Altizer

If you have followed my blog with any regularity over the last several months, you are surely aware of the time, effort and enthusiasm I have poured into my food plots preparing them for the upcoming deer season.  I have planted food plots regularly since 2007 and achieved good results, but this hunting season was going to be the first season I would spend considerable time actually hunting the plots.  Whether it is hunting directly over the plot, hunting a man made funnel designed to push the deer past my stand on their way to feed for the afternoon, or hunting trails and runways hundreds of yards off the food plots trying to intercept the deer returning to their beds in the morning, I was excited.  Well, after three hunts hunting the situations above, I am here to share my experiences and the lessons learned from each hunt.   

Preparing a food plot for hunting purposes is a process that began way back in February when my brother, dad and I made a man made funnel to push the deer by my stand on their way to the food plot.  The following month I frost seeded my clover food plots to give it a head start when spring’s warmth would kickoff the growing the season.  It continued into the summer months with regular mowing to keep the weeds controlled and to ensure that the plot stays healthy and attractive to deer.  Finally, as summer burned away into fall, I plated an additional strip of turnips and oats along the timber line of my food plots to provide some variety and increase shot opportunities should I decide to hunt directly over the plot.  The day prior to opening day two weeks ago, I sat in my hunting camp a couple hundred yards off my favorite plot and observed for two hours over 20 deer feed feverishly on the green clover.  I was excited and ready to hunt!  

By hunting smart and analyzing the situation from a distance, I was better able to determine when was the best time to sneak in for the kill.  Now, if I could only figure out the "kill" part...

Opening morning I elected to go to one of my better stands located some 300 yards east of my clover and turnip food plots.  With a West-Northwest wind, I would be downwind of the food plots and would hopefully catch the deer returning to their bed after feeding in the food plots during the night.  My planned worked to perfection, as I had a perfect shot opportunity on a doe at 15 yards, but I made a poor shot on her and never recovered her.  Despite my poor shooting, I believe that shot opportunity is a direct result of the food plots.  Having a food source, in this case located in the center of my property, is extremely advantageous because it increases traffic of both bucks and does on my entire property.  Equally important in this case is how my property is structured regarding the planting locations of the two food plots.   There are known bedding areas around the food plots and there is great edge cover surrounding the food plots allowing the deer to quickly find refuge should danger approach.  I’m also able to enter and exit my stands downwind without being detected.  Being centrally located pulls deer off neighboring properties and keeps them on my property longer.  However, if there weren’t adequate cover around the food plot or bedding areas nearby, the deer wouldn’t feel as secure using my food plots. When planting food plots for hunting purposes, consider your property layout and how the surrounding terrain and prevailing wind direction can impact your hunts.

I spent the entire afternoon on opening day looking for the doe I shot that morning, so I wasn’t able to hunt that afternoon.  The following Monday, however, I climbed into my Lone Wolf stand with a good feeling about the afternoon hunt.  Temperatures were in the low 50s with a stiff breeze out of the West, perfect for this particular location.  I was tucked back in the timber off my clover plot 40 yards sitting right at the pinch I had worked so hard on during the winter.  I snuck into my stand around 2:30 knowing the deer would be moving earlier in the day with the cold front blowing through.  Every 10 minutes or so I would check the wind direction to make sure it stayed true out of the West.  It was beautifully constant.  A little after 5 o’clock I went ahead and stood up to prepare myself for primetime movement and ready myself for a shot.  The deer I was hunting hadn’t been pressured and had been using the trail I was set up over every afternoon routinely. 

Just like any hunting situation, playing close attention to the wind is critically important.  When hunting food plots, this is no different.

 Just as I had stood up I felt a cooling sensation on my face, the same cooling sensation that relaxes and eases the stress of all hunters while on stand; a nice cool breeze.  There was only one problem, that breeze was out of the East, my stomach sank.  Almost immediately I heard deer blowing in all directions west of my location.  I was busted.  The winds shifted and my hunt was ruined.  I heard deer stomping and blowing like crazy no more than 60 yards from my stand.  After I knew they were gone for good, I immediately got down out of the stand with an hour and half of daylight left.  There was no sense is stinking up the spot.  I exited the area and headed back to camp frustrated.  Another seemingly “perfect” opportunity missed.  

The lesson learned here is simple; food plot hunting isn’t immune to swirling winds.  It’s misconceived that when you hunt food plots, the deer aimlessly walk out into your food plot and you shoot them.  Sometimes if you are lucky, you might shoot two.  That’s how it goes on the television shows after all, right?  I needed a West wind to hunt that pinch and I got it.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes of swirling winds blew that hunt for me.  Fortunately, my confidence was restored as I watched from afar 6 does and a handful of yearling bucks feed in that food plot during the last hour of daylight.  Getting down before I did any further damage proved to be the right move.  

The day after my wind swirling fiasco, I took down my Lone Wolf and tucked it into a red maple on an inside corner right on the edge of the clover where deer enter and exit the field.  I wasn’t completely confident with the cover I had back in the timber, and since the deer had busted me, I wanted to keep them guessing.  I had initially considered hanging the stand in the maple during the summer, but decided to go deeper in the timber next to my funnel.  Having a “back-up” tree picked out before the season starts can prove to be a wise decision if you get busted from your first stand choice.  I had taken down, moved my stand 100 yards east and had it hung all in less than 30 minutes.  That simply would not have been possible without my Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks, and it allowed me plenty of time to cool off before the afternoon sit.  I was happy with my new stand choice as it provided me with ample cover and two shooting lanes at 15 yards.  It would be impossible for the deer to see me until it’s too late, or at least that’s the plan.

The temperatures had warmed to the mid 70s by this point but I was confident I would see deer activity before dark.  In fact, I watched with frustration and a feeling of “can’t I catch a break?” as deer fed on my turnips to the south of me out of range. They weren’t supposed to touch those until the first frost!  Ah, the joys of high deer densities, I guess. Nevertheless, I knew deer would feed in the clover before too long.  At 6:00, just like clockwork, 7 does came running out of the timber to feed on the clover.  Literally, they were running.  I think they were actually more invested in an afternoon of tag and chase than they were feeding because for 10 minutes they chased each other back and forth in the clover.  It was fun to watch, and reassuring because these were likely the same deer that had busted me just days prior.  They still felt completely safe feeding during the daytime, which made me feel good.  

My Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks allow me to stay mobile, keep the deer guessing and keep my best areas fresh.

At one point one of the larger does got irritated and came within 20 yards of my stand, but a branch prevented a shot.  The younger does kept chasing each other back and forth, in and out of the timber, back into the plot and back out again for another 10 minutes or so until a yearling buck decided that the game his sisters was playing looked like fun.  There must have been a “no boys allowed” clause in the rule, because the does quickly became agitated with the young buck and fled the food plot entirely.  I got down with about 10 minutes of light left when there were no longer any deer in the field and snuck back to camp.  I came close again, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer and it was an enjoyable hunt nonetheless.  

That hunt reinforced a strategy that I don’t think enough hunters employ, being mobile.  Just days before that hunt nearly every deer in the area knew they were being hunted due to the swirling winds.  However, by staying flexible, and having a back up tree in mind, I was able to buy myself another hunt on that plot within just a couple of days by keeping the deer guessing.  Deer are very instinctive animals, but I am convinced they aren’t good problem solvers.  If you get lazy and educate the deer to your location, you’re opportunities will be limited.  However if you can keep them guessing by staying mobile, keeping areas fresh and hunting the wind correctly, the deer will continue to feel comfortable feeding in your food plot during daytime hours.

I had three hunts game planned around my food plots during the first week of the season, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer.  I haven’t hunted since last Thursday and likely won’t hunt again until next Wednesday, so I am anxious to get back in stand with the cooler temperature and better moon phases.  I wish I could have called this blog: “How To:  Successful Food Plot Hunting Strategies” but that simply wouldn’t be the case, because I haven’t been successful yet.  The season is still young, and the cooler temperatures will hopefully drive the deer to the carbohydrate rich food plots.  Stay tuned to my blog throughout the season to see if my food plots will pay dividends as the season progresses!

 

Bowhunting Your Food Sources at the Right Time

by John Mueller 12. October 2011 11:45
John Mueller

Bowhunting over a food source for Whitetail Deer sounds like the easiest way to kill one there is, after all they have to eat. Well, I’m here to tell you it can work, but it’s not always that easy. You can have the best looking food plots in the county and it doesn’t guarantee you will kill deer there. There is a lot that goes into picking the right food source to hunt over. The time of year, the availability of food on the neighbors, the maturity of your crops, the weather, how long the food source has been there, and I believe the deer’s mood also plays a role in what they eat.

I typically plant 5 acres of food plots on my property in IL. During the bow season I usually have a variety of crops growing to attract the deer to my property. I feel it is necessary to have this variety because no one food source will attract the deer throughout the entire bow season as it runs from Oct. 1 through Jan. 15 in IL. I try to have some clover growing all year, weather permitting. Deer love the tender shoots of fresh clover as long as it stays green. But clover will go dormant in the heat of the summer and the cold of winter.

Hunt the clover when it's green and growing.

For early bow season it’s hard to beat green soy beans. I plant some of them later to ensure some are still green and growing for the first few weeks of the season. The soy beans leaves are a really hot draw for the deer during the summer months and early fall before the corn ripens and the acorns start to fall. But once they start to turn yellow the deer all but abandon them for a while. However they will return to the beans in the late season once the weather turns nasty. Especially if there is snow on the ground and they can get to the beans in those pods without having to dig through the snow. A standing bean field is hard to beat on those last few sits of the year when there is a blanket of snow covering the ground.

Soy Beans are best early and late season.

Corn is another great choice to sit over. The deer will eat the corn from the time it sprouts until all of the kernels are gone. If the deer leave any for the season I like to hunt around it any time it has ripened. The deer seem to like corn all season partly because it also offers them a good deal of cover as they feed. If you’re lucky enough to be hunting the day the corn is harvested head for your stand in the corner of the field. I have seen more deer in a newly picked corn field than in almost anyplace else on one farm I hunt.

Corn is great all season while wheat shines early. Notice how much taller the wheat inside the cage is from browsing outside the cage.

Winter Wheat is one of my favorite early bow season hot spots. I try to plant it about a month before the season opens so it has a chance to put some growth on before the season begins. The deer love the tender new green shoots of the wheat at this time of the year as most plants are dying or turning brown about now. I have seen deer walk right by corn and acorns to get to the end of the field my wheat is growing in.

Turnips are another crop planted in the late summer which matures during the colder months. Deer usually don’t prefer turnips until after they have been hit by a few frosts. But I have seen them nibble on them any time they are growing. The best time to hunt over turnips however is during cold weather when there isn’t a lot of snow on the ground. The deer eat both the leaves and the bulbs of the turnips, favoring the leaves early and the bulbs when the weather turns really cold and nasty.

Turnips are favored after a few hard frosts.

So far I’ve covered planted crops, now I’ll dig into the natural deer food growing in our woods. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen deer walk right through my food plots to eat “weeds” growing alongside the manicured food plots. Deer require a certain percentage of natural browse in order to keep their stomachs working properly. After all deer were around and surviving just fine before we started planting food plots for them.

What I consider to be the deer’s most preferred food when they are available is the almighty acorn. When the acorns start dropping the deer will abandon other food sources to feast on the new morsels falling from the trees. That is why we see the deer in the fields during the weeks leading up to bow season and then once the season opens the deer aren’t visiting the crop fields any longer. The added bonus to this is the acorns are one of the best foods for the whitetails. Very high in protein and fat which they will need to survive the rut and the brutally cold winter ahead. If you can locate the first few trees to drop their prized nuts, you have a honey hole until the other tree start to drop their fruits.

Locate that first tree to drop acorns and watch the deer pile in.

I’m lucky enough to have a persimmon grove on my property. These sweet morsels are favored by almost every animal in the woods. They don’t last long after they hit the ground. Keep a close eye on your persimmon trees; they don’t all drop at the same times. Mine typically drop around the end of October, but I have seen others hang on well into November. For a few short weeks you will find me sitting near my persimmon trees. The deer will head there first to see how many the squirrels and raccoons have knocked to the ground. By the way, if you decide to try a persimmon to see how they taste, make sure it is soft and mushy. The hard ones will leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Persimmons are a Hot but short lived food source.

Apple trees, whether wild or planted definitely deserve a few sits during the season also. Like many other food sources, the best time to hunt over them is when the first ones start to drop. The new food source seems to draw the deer in to check it out. Apple trees vary greatly when they drop their fruits. Some will be completely gone by the start of bow season while other trees hang on to theirs until they freeze and fall off. So know the trees you hunt and plan your sits accordingly.

Know when your apple trees drop and plan accordingly.

You might be hearing a common theme here. It’s best to hunt many of the food sources when they are new and just start producing or dropping their fruits. Another rule I like to follow for hunting crop fields is, hunt the green foods early and during milder weather and the grains late and during really nasty cold weather. I hope I cleared up a few things about hunting over food sources, either man made or natural. Good hunting everyone.

Bowhunting Wisconsin Whitetails and Wyoming Elk

by Todd Graf 14. September 2011 14:32
Todd Graf

‘Tis the season, folks!  As I write this blog, I am washing my clothes, fine tuning my Mathews Monster, cleaning out my truck and doing anything bowhunting related to pass the time before the Wisconsin archery opener this Saturday!  Ah, bow season is finally here!  After a terribly long offseason, I can’t wait to get up a tree Saturday morning and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Central Wisconsin has to offer.

After a slow start to the offseason with my Camtrakkers, I was finally able to get some Wisconsin shooter bucks showing up on my cameras, just in time for the season!   Honestly, while getting pictures of big bucks on trail camera during the summer is fun, it does little to help me kill them come fall, because I know their patterns will change drastically.  However, knowing where mature bucks are spending their time on my property during late August and early September can really help me get a bead on those bucks heading into the hunting season.  

I am hoping that any of these nice Wisconsin whitetails will make the mistake of walking under my stand this fall!

With the bucks seemingly coming out of the wood works in the last couple weeks, I have decided to try and implement a new strategy this fall to better my chances of harvesting a mature buck: hunting out of a ground blind.  I recently set out a hay bale blind that will enable me to hunt (successfully, hopefully) off the ground this fall.  This is a new tactic for me and one I am excited about trying.  Normally, my hunting strategy consists of me hunting out of a Lone Wolf Hang-On and set of sticks and staying mobile to keep the deer from patterning me.  In fact, my 2010 Illinois buck was a result of moving my set to get closer to the action.  However, sometimes there simply isn’t a tree suitable for a treestand of any sort where the deer are congregating, and hunting out of a ground blind is the next best option.  One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get up close and personal with the deer this fall!

Hopefully this hay bale blind will allow me to get up closer and personal with some monster bucks this season.  

It’s hard to believe, but in just a couple of days, I will be up a tree hunting whitetails.  Even harder to believe is that following my first couple hunts in Wisconsin, I will be making a trip out to Table Mountain Outfitters in Wyoming to hunt with longtime friends Scott and Angie Denny.  I am particularly excited for this trip, and am hoping to duplicate the success I had last year antelope hunting.  If you remember, Justin Zarr and I both shot good antelope bucks hunting with Scott and Angie.  I am hoping that Table Mountain Outfitters can turn into my little Western honey hole!  

My little man, Craig, standing next to some native grasses.  If I were a deer, I would definitely want to hide in there, then come out for an afternoon snack on some clover, wouldn't you?

Craig and his friend, Sammy, are looking forward to hunting together out of this comfortable condo.  In fact, when those brutally cold Midwest temperatures arrive late season, I may even sneak up there for a hunt or two.  

I genuinely wish each and every one of you the best of luck this fall, but more importantly, wish you safe travels and time afield.  I’ll be spending a lot of time in the woods between Illinois and Wisconsin, so if you see me out there keeping the roads hot, stop by and say hello!  I always have a little free time to talk hunting!  If you guys are hunting out of a tree, please be sure to wear your safety harness, and remember you have a family waiting for you at home.   No buck, regardless how big, is worth risking your life over!  Also, if you are fortunate enough to enjoy some success, we here at bowhunting.com want to share in your success!  Please send us your trophy photos to this link here!  Good luck this fall everyone, stay safe and happy hunting!

Final Food Plot Preparations and Whitetail Photography

by Cody Altizer 25. August 2011 11:06
Cody Altizer

I hate this time of year.  Late August and early September to me is like Christmas Eve to a 5 year old youngster ready to jump on mom and dad’s bed the minute they wake up on Christmas morning.  So close, yet so far away.  What I enjoy most in my simplistically complex world is about to begin so, so soon: college football, the fall season, but more importantly the start of another bowhunting season.  This last stretch is brutal, because I can see myself sitting in an opening day stand, but it’s all a little blurry still.  However, the days are getting shorter, the nights are getting cooler and I’ve just spent the final month prepping my final food plots and getting a gauge on the caliber of deer in my area.  It won’t be long folks, it won’t be long…

I am counting on these oats to provide a consistent and reliable food source this fall.

My food plot season has been very erratic this year so far.  If you are a follower of my blogs, you read back in May how exceptionally well my clover was doing.  With spring rains and warm nights, it had grown to lush 17 inches in height and the deer couldn’t eat it down if they tried.  Fast forward to mid-August, and my clover was on the brink of exhaustion.  As deer farmers across the country are well aware, this summer has been brutally hot and dry, and West Central Virginia was no exception.  From July 4th to August 15th, we went without a drop of rain.  And when I say not a drop of rain, I don’t mean a trace here or there, I mean zero drops of water touched my food plots.  Still, there was a respectable amount of Imperial Clover in the plot, but it was hurting badly.

Quality fertilizer will give your food plots an added boost!

I still had to get my fall food plots planted, though.  So, with on August 14th my dad and I got the tractor, seeder and spreader ready to plant our fall plots.  There was rain in the forecast so we going to take advantage of a sunny Sunday and trust the weatherman.  We had a lot of success last year broadcasting oats, turnips and rape so I stuck with that combination again this year.  I manned the hand seeder and dad hopped on the ATV with the spreader and we got our seeds in the ground in no time, although we were both a bit dusty.  The next step was to throw down some fertilizer to give the crops a boost once they germinated and hopefully taste a little bit sweeter to the deer this fall.  The final step, a step that is critical for all food plotters and one I feel they often neglect, pray for rain.   And rain it did!  That night and into the morning we got a slow steady soaking rain, the perfect rain to get those seeds germinated and growing in no time!  The following afternoon we received another good soaking and I, along with the wildlife in West Central Virginia all took a deep breath and gave Thanks.

What's bare earth now will hopefully be loaded with turnips, rape and oats here soon!

The moisture we received from those rains should be enough to shock my clover plots back to life, and get my fall plots off and running.  Provided we get average rainfall (and I type this with my fingers cross, pretty talented, eh?) my plots should be alive and well come October 1st.  I have never had a consistent, reliable food source on my property during the hunting season, but I am confident I will this season.  Despite the harsh weather this summer, I stand by my prediction that I will shoot a whitetail opening day.  While a specific stand hasn’t been decided on (why can’t the wind blow from the North West all the time?) I will either shoot a buck or doe going back to bed after a nightly feeding in my food plots during a morning hunt, or arrow one on their way to snack during the afternoon.  It will happen.

I was also able to get out and snap some photos on the deer on my property as well.  I’ve had my worst summer ever running trail cameras, but I had a little bit more luck with my Canon 7D.  I was able to get some decent photos of a couple does and a young 8 pointer making his way to feed in a hay field one afternoon.  If outdoor photography is something that interests you, let me recommend Cambell Cameras to you.  They have everything the aspiring outdoor photographer and videographer could want or need.  Enjoy the photos!

This doe already has it figured out and the season is still over a month away!

I intercepted this buck on his way to a freshly cut hay field for an afternoon snack.  I still haven't made up my mind if I would shoot this buck or not?

Over the years my family and I have done a good job of keeping doe numbers in check, but each year brings new opportunities to harvest does.  Hopefully, I'll get an opportunity at one opening day!

As close as I am to sitting in a tree stand, I still have over a month to wait.  That’s a harsh reality that I, and many of you out there, must accept.  True, it will be here be we know it, but that doesn’t make that time go by any quicker.  Think of it this way, after reading this blog, you are that much closer to your opening day.  

Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall- Part 2

by Josh Fletcher 28. July 2011 13:35
Josh Fletcher

It’s the end of July and the dog days of summer are upon us.  Temperatures are in the 90’s with a heat index of 100 degrees, there is no better time to get ready for this upcoming deer season than now. With warm temperatures and heavy rains recently, our food plots placed growing in to full gear. These warm temperatures with good soil moisture has also sprouted the weed growth, and like most of you that planted your food plots this spring I’m sure that your also seeing a surge in weed growth in your plots also. The last couple of days I have been out to our property and checking on the food plots for any maintenance that may be needed. Below is what we found and what we did to improve the status of our plots so if you see similar problems, you can try it on your property.

The first plot that I checked on was our clover and alfalfa plot. This is a food plot the stretches along an old two track road. The clover is showing great growth and the alfalfa is not far behind. We do have some grass in spots where the clover is thin and the grass is beginning to take over. With clover plots you will want to keep the weeds at bay, because when a strong surge of weeds begin to take over it may choke out your clover.  At this stage we have two options to establish a good clover and alfalfa plot. The first option is by mowing. You can mow the plot allowing the clover and alfalfa to regrow and get a jump on the weeds. The second option is to spray the weeds with a select herbicide. Do to the fact that our clover plot is still young yet and in its first year of growth we decided to spray with a select herbicide to control the grasses.

To control weeds on the clover plot we used "Poast Plus" select herbicide

The select herbicide that we used is called Poast Plus. This herbicide is safe to use on clover and alfalfa. It attacks the grasses without damaging the clover and alfalfa. Using a sprayer attached to my ATV with a seven foot boom, I mixed up 15 gallons of Poast Plus herbicide. With just a flip of a switch I was easily weeding our clover plot.

The sprayer that we are using is a Fimco 20 gallon tank with a seven foot spray coverage

The next plot I checked was our oat and pea plot. The oats are coming up nicely, however there was not a single pea plant to be found. The deer have already grazed all the peas out of the plot. Looking for another filler to replace the peas without tilling up the already established oats, we broadcasted a seeding of annual rye. The plan is to have the rye cover any bare spots in the plot to provide additional forage this fall. Like the oats, deer love to forage on the rye as it is still young and tender.

 

The oat plot was over seeded with annual rye and sprayed with 2,4-D herbicide

While seeding the annual rye in the oat plot I noticed a fair amount of broadleaf weeds growing in the plot. Just like the clover plot, we needed to control the weed growth to prevent our plots from being choked out. Also like the clover plot we opted to use a select herbicide. However unlike the clover plot you need to use herbicide that attacks broad leaf weeds and not grass. The herbicide of choice is 2,4-D. This herbicide is safe to use on crops such as oats, rye, wheat, corn, and sorghum. After waiting for the rye to begin its growth stage, we applied the 2,4-D to the oat plot.

The last food plot on our property was the upland plot. This plot consists of sorghum, sunflower, millet, and soybean. One problem that we ran into at the time of planting was that the sand hill cranes kept coming into the plots and digging up our seed. We did disk in the seed to make it harder for birds to pick the seed from the plots, however the seed of choice by the sand hill cranes were our sunflowers. We do have a fair amount of sunflowers that made it past germination; however they are all along the tall marsh grass at the east edge of the plot. The cranes seemed to only feed on the seed in the more open sections of the upland plot. After speaking with several farmers in the area about this problem I was informed about a product that the farmers call “crane be gone” it is a powder that is sprinkled and mixed into the seed prior to planting. They state that this powder makes the seed taste bad to the cranes to prevent them from eating all the seed. This is definitely a product that I will be looking into for next year’s planting. Despite problems with the cranes our millet and sorghum are doing great. We planted dwarf sorghum and the deer really love it this time of year. The sorghum has not yet begun to tassel and the deer are feeding on the sorghum leaves. There have been several new deer highways that our leading to the upland plot because of the dwarf sorghum.

We could not use a select herbicide on the upland plot due to both grass and broadleaf crops

We do have some weed growth in the upland plot, however since it is a mixed plot containing sorghum and sunflower, we are unable to apply a select herbicide to the plot. If you did you would have to choose which plant species you would want to keep. The reason is that if you went with a 2,4-D, your sorghum and millet would be safe from the spray, however it would kill off your sunflowers. Keep this in mind if you are going to be planting a mixed plot. If you know that you may have a problem with weeds, especially in a spring planting which is more susceptible to weeds than a fall planting.

Since we have been on the topic of weeds, we must also keep in mind that not all weeds are bad. Weeds can create an additional food source and provide a good habitat also in your food plots. An example of this is the common milk weed. This is a weed that we intentionally left in our plots.

Milkweed attracts pollinating insects to your property

The milk weed flowers at the top of its stem attracting butterflies and bees. With the recent hype about food plots some people plant food plots just for attracting deer. One must keep in mind that food plots are to improve habitat and food sources for all wildlife. So if you’re wondering how butterflies and bees play a role in wildlife management and habitat, these insects are your pollinators. Without them plants and fruits can’t cross pollinate to produce fruits or food for other wildlife, such as deer and turkeys. If you have apple trees on your property and have been noticing a smaller and smaller crop of apples, the lack of pollinators on your property may be the cause.

Everything in nature has a cause and effect. Mother Nature is a chain and if you cut at one link, it can and will affect the strength for the rest of the chain. We are all conservationists, we are also the protectors of nature, and by practicing responsible conservation on our own property we can all be the first step to a more balanced and healthy environment benefiting all wildlife, the deer as much as the bees.

By being a good conservationist we plant food plots to benefit all types of wildlife. To do this you need to look at what is being planted around you and how much acreage you are able to plant on your property. For example if your property is surrounded by corn fields, it really doesn’t benefit wildlife on your property to plant a half acre of corn. You will want to provide food sources that will attract wildlife to your property and will benefit wildlife throughout most of the year. The best way to describe this is what I call the buffet planting. On our property we are only able to plant two and a half acres of food plots. If I planted it all in corn, by mid fall majority of the corn would have been consumed by numerous animals and birds, leaving almost ten months of the year without a food source. On our two and a half acres we planted sorghum, millet, soybeans, sunflowers, annual rye, oats, clover, and alfalfa. By planting such a mixed bag of plants, wildlife will have numerous food sources throughout the year.

By using a select herbicide on half of our food plot acreage and leaving the other half of our plots to take its course with the weeds, we are able to provide a more diverse habitat for all wildlife on our property. We also learned that cranes are beautiful to watch but not beautiful to watch eating your seed that you just planted. We will definitely be trying a crane repellent on our seeds next year. Hopefully by sharing our stories we are able to provide you with ideas for your property.

Hanging Deer Stands and Glassing for Velvet Bucks

by Cody Altizer 23. July 2011 15:24
Cody Altizer

This coming fall will be my seventh season bowhunting for whitetails, and I have learned quite a bit about the sport during that time, and still have a lot to learn.  One thing I have learned is that there are no certainties in the whitetail woods.  That being said, however, I have come to expect a peak in anticipation for the upcoming season during mid to late July, and this year is no different.  While the recent country wide heat wave will do it’s best to prove otherwise, I feel the onset of autumn more and more with each passing day.  Fortunately, I was able to spend a couple days on my property in Virginia last week prepping for the quickly approaching season.


I was excited about the possibility of pegging a potential shooter this fall while glassing a couple weeks.  Unfortunately, all I saw was does.  Maybe next time!

 My trip home was short lived, so I had to make the very most of time in the woods.  I arrived in Virginia during the middle of the afternoon on Wednesday the 13th, and immediately went glassing for bucks.  I have permission to glass and shoot photos on a neighboring property, so I made the quick drive down the road and set prepared to enjoy a hot summer afternoon.  The evening came and went with no bucks spotted.  I did, however, see 10-15 does feeding the hayfields I was glassing, but they were a good 300 yards away and I wasn’t able to snap any photos or record any video.  Alas, such is life!


I was able to snap a photo of this doe as she effortlessly jogged through the tall grass.  I was particularly offended by her taunting me by sticking her tongue out at me as she ran to safety.  Hopefully, this won't be a recurring theme this fall!

The next day, also my last day home, would be spent hanging stands.  I had 5 Lone Wolf stands I wanted to get hung, and was able to get all 5 of them hung in a day’s time.  I was pretty proud of myself, but I have been hunting this piece of property for what will be my 16th season, so I know my away around the woods pretty well.  Now, if I could just figure out how to kill these mountain bucks; but, I digress.  After I hung my stands and got my shooting lanes trimmed out, I wanted to check on my food plots.  If you have followed my blog and Bowhunt or Die episodes throughout the offseason, you know how excited I have been about a particular clover food plot and its impact on my hunting this coming fall.  Well, I must admit that the key to my success was taking a hit as of a week ago, and is likely in even worse shape as we speak.  July has been an abnormally hot and dry month in Virginia, and what was once a thick, green jungle of clover is quickly getting eaten to the ground by the deer and burnt up by the heat.  There is still a good bit of clover, and given the conditions it has provided a nutritious and consistent food source all summer, but it sure could use a drink of water!  You hear that Rain gods?  I am talking to you!


My Lone Wolf stand sitting in a tree between a bedding area and a clover food plot; how many more days until opening day?!

After an exhausting day hanging stands and looking over my food plots, I was anxious to get home and check the trail cameras I had placed over my Monster Raxx minerals.  To my disappointment, I only had shooter buck visit the minerals, but it looks as if he will be quite a dandy.  The photo was snapped in mid-June and he was already a main frame 10 with some junk around his bases and something funky growing on his right main beam.  I am hoping to get another picture of this buck and hopefully have the chance to put my tag on him this fall!

My clover went from this...

... to this, all in a matter of two months!  It really is amazing what a lack of rain can do to your food plots!

Unfortunately, my trip home was short lived.  I really had only one goal while I was home, and that was to get my stands hung without disturbing the deer too much; a goal I feel I accomplished.  I will be returning to Virginia in a few short weeks so I can begin work on my fall food plots.  Then after that, all that is left to do is continue shooting my Mathews and count down the days until the season starts.  I am sure I say this every year, but I have literally never been more excited about a hunting season than I am this one.  I can’t wait to document my entire season on video and through photography, so be sure to follow my blogs throughout the season.  God Bless and happy hunting everyone!


With a little over two months remaining until the opening day of Virginia's archery season, all I have left to do is a little food plotting, and a lot of dreaming, particularly of this big boy!  October 1st, October 1st...

My Summer Food Plots are Making Progress

by John Mueller 30. June 2011 13:36
John Mueller

Six weeks after putting seeds in the ground, my food plots are doing very well. I'm very pleased with the progress and the growth the plants have put on so far. The weather has been a little crazy for growing good food plots this year. We have had more than enough rain, cold weather, and extremely hot weather for this early in the season. I was actually lucky to get them in when I did. I know a few guys that are still hoping to get something planted because of the weather and time constraints.

My corn is looking really strong this summer. I planted it a little thinner this year because last year it was too thick and a lot of stalks didn't produce ears. The corn is well past knee high before the end of June. This should give it plenty of time to make ears before the bow season starts. That is if I can get the deer to stop nipping the tops off the corn stalks. The hot weather in the next few weeks should really help the corn put on a growth spurt. Once it's a little taller, the corn will be a source of food as well as good cover for the deer to bed in.


Here is a small part of the 2+ acres of corn I have planted.

I believe my soybeans are a little behind right now. We got a very heavy downpour right after I planted them which made them work extra hard to poke through the crusted over soil. Now that they have exposed themselves the plants have really taken off. We've had good moisture the last couple of weeks and the soybeans have been putting on plenty of new leaves. Hopefully there will be lots of beans left in the pods for the late bow season. Last year my standing beans were the food of choice after the snow blanketed the ground.


After a slow start my soy beans are adding new growth.

I am also trying an experiment this year. I planted a mix of corn and soy beans in part of the field. This will give the deer a little bit of both in the same location instead of having to travel all over the food plot for corn and beans. You never know which one they might be in the mood for when picking a stand to sit that evening. This way I have both bases covered.


My experiment. A mix of corn and soy beans with the milo and millet in the background.

The milo is probably showing the most growth right now. It is putting on the leaves in preparation for producing seed heads. The millet is already producing seed heads. One nice thing about these two crops is the deer only eat the seeds and not the foliage. This allows the plants to mature undamaged unlike the corn and soybeans, which the deer eat as soon as they emerge. My quail and turkeys will surely appreciate these tiny seeds too.


Mix of milo and millet.


The millet is already heading out.

Even if my food plots don't produce a ton of food this year, my deer will have plenty to eat. If the White Oak Trees inside the woods are anything like the ones along the edge of my food plot, there is a bumper crop of acorns this year. Just check out this cluster of baby acorns. And the whole tree is like this. That means the deer will be spending a lot of time in the woods this season. I think I'll be hanging a few stands near the White Oaks this summer.

 
Looks like there is no shortage of White Oak Acorns this year.

Now if I can just keep the hail storms away from my food plots I think I will have a good draw to keep the deer on my property this season. A neighbor just down the road had to start over after hail destroyed his food plots after 4 weeks of growth.

Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall

by Josh Fletcher 29. June 2011 12:54
Josh Fletcher

My 2011 season actually began in the fall of 2010. As the beginning of the 2010 season was coming near I didn’t have a place to hunt, so I was left scrambling for a piece of property. I searched the plot book in my county and made a shot in the dark phone call to a land owner who owns eighty five acres. I made contact with John the property owner and told him who I was and informed him I would be willing to possibly lease his property for hunting. John met me several hours later. He informed me that when he purchased the property several years prior he enrolled the property into the WRP (Wetland Reserve Program).  John had a vision for his property, to provide a quality habitat for wildlife and to turn what was once ditch drained farm land into prime wildlife habitat. He had heard about the food plot craze and began asking me questions about them.  John and I envisioned the same goals for his property, to provide the best quality habitat for all wildlife, everything from ducks, pheasants, deer, to song birds.
 
An agreement was made to assist John in wildlife management and habitat improvement; in return he would allow me hunting access to his property. After talking to John I had to pinch myself to see if I was dreaming. I met a land owner who enjoys wildlife and understands the importance of habitat as much as I do.  He asked when I planned on planting the food plots and start on the management of his property. I planned on waiting until the following spring. The reason I wait is so I am able to assess the property and learn what the wildlife is doing throughout the year and not just during hunting season. I also assess if the property possesses the main requirements needed for wildlife to utilize the surrounding habitat.  Once an assessment is done then it is time to start establishing realistic goals and plans for your property.

We are all the first step to wildlife management

 After hunting John’s property last fall we made plans based on wildlife’s needs for habitat improvement. (For ideas on how we assessed the property and designed these plans please read the blog Mapping Your Way to Success) John had previously built twelve ponds and provided each pond with nesting boxes and habitat for waterfowl and wetland wildlife. The remainder of the property consists of mostly marsh grass with small spots of higher ground and a five acres pine plantation. With the use of game cameras and wildlife observation made while hunting the property, it showed that majority of the deer and other animals would leave John’s property during the winter months for the lack of food. This winter I composed a property portfolio with this springs plans for property management. We looked at possible planting locations of our plots. This spring I then did a soil sample of each of these locations and also researched the soil type to match it with what plants would grow best for the given plot locations.   After gaining a conditional use permit from the USDA for planting on WRP enrolled property, we were ready to start improving habitat this spring.

We decided to dedicate one and a half acres to an upland food plot, primarily for birds however it will also be utilized by deer and other wildlife. Our upland plot would consist of sunflowers, dwarf sorghum, millet, and soybeans. The sunflowers, millet and sorghum will provide birds with plenty of seeds to feed on this fall,  and the soybean will provide forage for deer late summer and early fall, and the sorghum provides a good food source late fall and early winter for deer.

The upland food plot designed to attract birds along with other wildlife

The next food plot would be a half acre along a two track access trail along the pine plantation. This plot would consist of clover and alfalfa. We wanted a crop that could handle mild foot and vehicle traffic since it was the location of a two track access road, we also wanted to provide a high quality forage during the spring and summer months.

The two track road that will be planted with clover

 The last plot was going to be a half acre planted to the north west of the pine plantation. This plot is going to consist of winter peas and oats. We wanted to provide wildlife a good summer food source that would also provide quality forage into the fall. By planning ahead we devised a plan to provide the inhabitants on John’s property a supplemental food source almost year round.

The pea and oat plot; the trees are left in the plot to provide additional cover

With summer quickly knocking on our door we needed to get going on establish our plots. However this year we were constantly battling a very wet spring. A good guide to know when to plant is to watch your local farmers. Farmers are professionals and they not only feed their family but America on the crops they grow. When I see farmers beginning to spray or plant I know I need to be doing the same.

The author preparing the seed bed of his food plot for planting

 We applied two applications of spray to kill off and to assist in weed control on our plots. After spraying and waiting at least two weeks for the spray to take effect we began to break soil. Utilizing a friend’s tractor with a rear tine tiller we prepped our seed bed. Once we had a good seed bed all prepped on the three plots and a soil sample of each plot done, I was joined by my brother Clint and good friend Bryce Kish. With our ATV’s, spreaders, rollers and seed we began planting. After spreading all the seed for the given plots we followed up by dragging the seed to establish a good seed to soil contact using an old horse drawn spring harrow being pulled behind an ATV. 

Bryce and Josh loading the drop seed spreader with the upland plot seed

Food plots can be as cheap or as expensive as you want, based upon what your plot size, goals, and equipment needed. You can also drop a lot of money in fertilizer and lime. The key is to establish realistic goals based on what you can afford and what equipment you have available. Also make sure that you plant the proper crops to your soil type. You will also want to think outside the box when planning your habitat improvement on your property, don’t just think about planting food plots. You can also benefit wildlife by logging, thinning out around and fertilizing mast producing trees such as oaks and apple trees. Not only on this property did we plant food plots but we also trimmed around the oak trees that were already on the property to provide more sunlight to the trees and provide better growth.

Food plots can be planted with a limited amount of equipment

It is already the end of June and summer is here, the food plots are beginning to grow and we have already observed a higher amount of deer tracks and turkey sign utilizing the management that we have done this spring, the exciting part is that the plots are already seeing an increased amount of activity and they haven’t reached their full potential yet. With game cameras on each of the food plots, a mineral site, and several mock scrapes, we will be able to monitor the wildlife activity and be able to monitor the change and the improvements of wildlife habitat throughout this summer and fall. Each month I will be posting updates of the plots so you too can watch our successes as much as our failures this year. We will also be able to show you any problems with weed control and solutions that we use to help with this common problem.

Even with smaller blocks of property you can improve the quality of wildlife

The goals of these blogs are to be able to show you that we don’t own an elite thousand acres of prime hunting ground. Our properties are just like yours; gained through hard work and positive land owner interaction. We also want to show you what we are doing now for hunting this fall, and to provide you with ideas that you may be able to utilize on your own piece of hunting heaven.

 

 

Summer Bowhunting Preparations and Activities

by Todd Graf 2. June 2011 05:50
Todd Graf

As the month of May slowly burns away into June, I can’t help but think that the hunting season begins in just three and a half months.  Before I know it, I will be sitting in a tree in my swamp property of Wisconsin waiting for a mature buck to make the fatal mistake of wandering by my position.  That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done before I can convince myself I am ready for another season, and I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful summer. 

The cool, rainy weather we have had here in the Midwest has been great for my clover and chicory plots!

One of my favorite offseason activities is prepping food plots and other habitat management projects for the upcoming season.  My ultimate goal is to provide the whitetails that visit my property with enough food sources that they don’t need to leave my property.  It may sound like a losing battle, but I welcome the challenge!

These apple trees are only in their second year of growth, however, they are growing beautifully.  Once they begin to produce fruit they will provide another food source for the deer on my property.

The cool rainy weather has been perfect for my clover and chicory plots so far this spring; a few spots measured over 20 inches of growth!  I hate to have to mow it this week, with it looking so beautiful, but it is the best option for weed control.  This time of year also means corn planting time in the Midwest.  When it comes to late season food plot attraction, it’s tough to beat corn.  My corn plots got absolutely hammered last winter during the late season.  The deer are worn down for the rut and crave the carbohydrate rich kernels of corn that keep their bodies warm during the winter cold!  I have also been very pleased with the apple trees I had planted.  They are now in their second year of growth and have almost doubled their size.  

Here I am getting ready to plant my corn.  I can't wait for the late season when the deer will really hit my corn plots hard!

Despite the fact that I killed this field with Round Up and most of the grass was dead, the ground was still pretty hard and the corn was not getting into the ground.  I made a few adjustments and was back in business!  Persistence pays!

This time of year is also my favorite time to get out in the backyard and fling some arrows.  Just recently, I have taken the time to get my little man, Craig, involved in the sport of archery.  If you have little ones that are interested in bowhunting or archery, I strongly recommend you look into the Mathews line of kids bows.  From Mathews to Mission Archery to the Genesis line of bows, they have the flexibility and specifications to get your kids started bowhunting.  With the number of kids hunting decreasing every year, it is important that we get our youth involved in the sport we love so much so that one day they may experience the rush and thrill of deer hunting!

Here's my little man, Craig, getting set up with his new Mathews Craze!

Craig was having a little trouble pulling back the Craze, so I ordered the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, but the specs on the Menace fit Craig better physically.  At this point, it is all about keeping Craig interested and having fun!

I first set up Craig with the Mathews Craze, but the draw length was about two inches too long and Craig was having to lean back to hold up the weight, so I decided to go ahead and order the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, however, with adjustable draw lengths anywhere from 15-70 pounds and 80% let-off; it can be enjoyed by beginner archers or all skills and age levels.  The Menace weighs about .6 pounds lighter than the Craze and the draw length is two inches shorter than the Craze, so it fits Craig much better physically which will allow for a better overall experience.  But above all else, the goal is to make sure that he is having fun!

Bowhunting.com Staff members Richie Music and Tom Alford also came over for a friendly bow shooting competition.  We enjoyed a day of dialing in our Mathews and preparing for the upcoming Bowhunting.com Get Together and Bow Shoot at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, Illinois.  This is going to be our biggest and best shoot yet, and I encourage everyone who is able to make it to come out and enjoy a fun day of shooting, prizes, food and beverages.  If you are looking for more information, visit this link which will direct you to our forum where you will find all the information you need.  Every one is welcome hope to see every one of you there!

A shot of my backyard practice range.  

Here I am prepping for the 3rd Annual Bowhunting.com Get Together and Bow Shoot.  I think that would kill a turkey, don't you?

Richie's last shot before he lost the competition to Tom and I.  Now he owes us a pizza!

Richie just couldn't pull it off after 4 shots.  Oh well, stick to hunting those giant sub-urban whitetails, Richie!

To makes things interesting we spiced up our shooting with a little competition, and my buddy Richie Music came out on the losing end.  He may be an expert when it comes to shooting giant bucks from the same tree stand, but he was no match for me and Tom!  He was unable to shoot the Rinehart target in the head above the red line at 30 yards, so he has to buy both Tom and I a pizza!  Better luck next time, Richie!  

Before we all know it we’ll bow hunting our favorite spots in the bitter cold of sweet November.  It’s an exciting thought, but be sure you enjoy yourself this summer.  Get a kid involved in archery or have your buddies over to the house for a night of shooting and friendly competition; it’s equally as rewarding as harvesting that mature buck you’ve been patterning!  Okay, maybe not, but it does make the summer go by more quickly! 

Food Plot Strategies and Food Plot Maintenance

by Cody Altizer 29. May 2011 10:31
Cody Altizer

In Episode 4 of Bowhunt or Die last fall, Justin Zarr made a bold prediction concerning the success of the remainder of his hunting season.  He said, with confidence and certainty, that he was going to kill a mature buck off his hunting property in Lake County, Illinois.  His trust in his skills and strategy was admirable and I immediately knew that he was going to put his tag on a mature buck.

With summer just weeks away, and my mind slowly, but comfortingly, thinking of cool fall days spent in the tree stand, I am going to make a fearless forecast myself.  I WILL shoot a mature whitetail on October 1st, the opening day of the Virginia archery season.  I haven’t felt this confident in an opening day set up ever, and I am sure I can put the pieces together this offseason to accomplish my goal.  Here’s how.

My Imperial Whitetail Clover food plot measure 17 inches before I cut it with the bush hog.  It was a beautiful sight and I felt good knowing that I had supplied a constant, nutritious food source for the deer. 

This quest for an opening day whitetail actually began last August, when I planted a clover and oat food plot.  The oats were planted for fall attraction, and they performed extremely well last hunting season.  However, I was more excited about how the clover would take off this spring and it did not disappoint.  A little spot seeding in late March proved to be beneficial because by mid-May, my food plot had turned into a lush green carpet of delicious, nutritious deer food.  Couple that with the steady rainfall we have been receiving in Virginia and the clover had grown to be 17 inches tall!  This was turning out to be the most successful food plot I had ever planted.

It was bittersweet mowing my clover food plot, but it had to be done.  This simple step will ensure the health and attractiveness of this food plot throughout the summer and into fall.

In order to ensure that deer continue feeding in my food plot throughout the summer months and into the hunting season, an important task must be completed regularly, mowing.  Mowing a food plot is a step that can drastically increase the overall health of the food plot while making it more attractive to deer at the same time.  As a food plot matures and continues to grow, it will actually lose its nutritional value and attractiveness when it gets to a certain age, or more appropriately, length.  I must admit, it was a bittersweet experience mowing my food plot.  The white blooms were so prevalent that it looked as if a mid-May snowfall had blanketed the food plot and walking in clover 17 inches tall made me feel like I was doing something right.   Nevertheless, the mowing had to be done.  

This shot illustrates just how well the clover was doing.  I used the lens hood off my 24-105mm Wide Angle lens for a size reference.  

This cutting will likely be the first of 4-5 cuttings I will make this summer, depending on rainfall.  Mowing the clover will help make sure the protein level remains, not peaks, at 20-25% throughout the summer, which is needed for the antler growing bucks, lactating does and young fawns on my property.  Keeping the clover young and tender not only keeps it at its most nutritional and digestible state, but also helps with weed control as well.  Cutting back the weeds will allow the quickly regenerating clover to choke out the weeds and unwanted grasses that do their best to take over my food plot.  I do not substitute mowing for regular spraying, however.  

After I finished mowing the clover, I took a quick minute to hang my CamTrakker so I could monitor what deer are utilizing my food plot right now.  I honestly do not expect a whole of activity right away.  Spring green up is in full swing in Virginia so there is plenty of tender, nutritious natural browse available for the deer in the woods.  In fact, I will actually be thrilled if the deer aren’t feeding heavily on the clover right now, because that tells me that I’ve done a good job in recent years controlling the doe population and supplementing natural browse.   

A strategically placed CamTrakker will let me know what caliber deer are feeding in my food plot and when.  

So there you have it, a hunting prediction made in late May.  You’re probably thinking, “He must be crazy, he can’t honestly believe he can make a guarantee that leaves so much to chance like hunting does!”  Well you’re right; I am crazy, but also confident.   If the conditions are right in Virginia on October 1st, then I should harvest a whitetail in the morning on its way to bed after feeding in the clover, or on its way for dinner in the afternoon.  A crazy prediction it is, but I bet you’ll be checking back in October to see if I was right.  

Planting Food Plots - What Works for Me

by John Mueller 26. May 2011 13:50
John Mueller

I’ve been planting about 5 acres of food plots for a few years now and I have found a few things that work for me. I have some equipment, but not everything I would like to have to get the job done. There certainly are other ways of planting you food plots, I’ll share what works for me.

I’m lucky to have a 30 HP Kubota tractor and a Honda 400 Rancher four wheeler. Without some kind of tractor or 4 wheeler, planting this much acreage wouldn’t be possible and the tractor makes it a whole lot faster than doing it all with the 4 wheeler. The 4 wheeler just doesn’t have enough power to pull the heavier equipment to rip up the soil like the tractor can.

My 30 HP Kubota Tractor. I also use it dig water holes in strategic spots.

For breaking the soil I use a 6 foot disc behind my tractor. This works great for getting fertilizer worked into the soil and making a nice seedbed for the seeds I plan on sowing. First I spread my fertilizer and then I disc it in with a pass or sometimes two. This way I don’t have to rely on Mother Nature to melt the fertilizer in with a rain shower.

The disc made a nice smooth seedbed.

After I have my seedbed nice and smooth and the clumps broken up I broadcast my seeds with a spreader, either a hand held for very small seeds like clover and turnips or with my pull behind spreader for corn and beans. It would be nice to have a drill or corn planter to get the seeds to a more uniform depth, but that’s one piece of equipment that is still on my wish list. Depending what I am planting, I’ll either lightly disc in the seeds if it’s corn or soybeans. They need to be under the soil and inch or 2. Or I just roll the soil with my cultipacker. This pushes the seeds into the top layer of the soil while compacting the soil so it doesn’t dry out as fast. This method works well for very small seeds, which if buried too deep would never see the light of day.

 

My spreader hooked up to the Honda 4 wheeler.

Round Up Ready Corn ready to be broadcast.

A variety of small seeds waiting to be planted with my hand held spreader.

The cultipacker used to pack the soil for moisture retension.

I like to use Round Up Ready crops so I can control the weeds after I have planted my plots. Round Up Ready crops allow you to spray right over the top of them after they have grown a few inches tall. This will kill the weeds and allow the crop to grow and shade out anything that might want to grow later. I borrow my dads sprayer to do this. He has a 25 gallon tank that I mount on the back of my 4 wheeler with a boom that covers about a 12 foot path when fully extended. I have it calculated out pretty good that one tank will spray one acre if I keep my speed at the correct level. It’s important to get the correct amount of chemicals on the weeds to do the job.

When growing clover for a food plot you need to mow it several times a year. This helps to keep weeds under control by mowing off the seed heads. Mowing also gets rid of the tough woody stems of the mature growth and promotes tender new growth, which the deer very much prefer. I have a brush hog mower for my tractor to keep my clover plots lush and weed free.

Like I said this surely isn’t the only method that will produce a good food plot. It’s just what works for me with the equipment I have at this time. You can do it with less equipment and you can do it a whole lot faster with more and bigger equipment. Whatever you have enjoy playing in the dirt. Then once the season starts you'll have yourself a great hunting spot. Sit back and enjoy.

The final result. Now just sit back and wait for the deer to appear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Spring Bowhunting Preparations

by Todd Graf 29. April 2011 08:55
Todd Graf

Springtime is upon us, fellow bowhunters!  With the snow and cold days behind us (I hope) here in Northern Illinois, it is time to really focus on preparing for the 2011 deer season, which will be here before you know it!  April was an especially very busy month for me (then again, what month isn’t) between trade shows, habitat management projects on my properties and a little turkey hunting adventure with my little man, Craig.

As many of your probably know, Bowhunting.com was well represented at the Illinois and Wisconsin Deer Classics over the past month.  I always enjoy those shows and it is a real blast to get out there and meet the genuine, down to earth bowhunters who love and enjoy the sport just as much as I do!  We had a great showing at both of these expos and I met a lot of great new people and saw some magnificent deer as well.

By far my favorite mount at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Expo was this 197" monster harvested by Mason Paul.  I love how the mount sits on top of the collection of antlers!

I also enjoyed meeting some of our loyal Facebook friends at the show as well.  If you haven't done so, check out Bowhunting.com on Facebook here!

I was excited to get my 2010 buck from officially being scored by the Pope and Young Club.  This monster Illinois whitetail buck officially netted 140 3/8”!  This was my third straight season of harvest a buck over 140 inches with my bow.  I understand that hunting mature, trophy bucks isn’t for everyone, but man, I can’t get enough of it!

From the field...

... to the record book!

Despite the dreary weather we have been experiencing in the Upper Midwest, I have been able to get out on my hunting property and begin work on some of my offseason habitat improvement projects.  Don’t let the cold and wet conditions keep you from bettering your hunting property, now is the perfect time!  I was fortunate enough to get a lot of work done recently.  On one of my 60 acre farms I just finished a TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) project on 10 acres that will increase the health and longevity of the forested area on this farm.  I know a lot of talk these days are about food plots being the secret to killing big deer, and they certainly help, TSI is also a great way to improve the overall habitat on your property as well.  I also mowed down the standing corn stalks from last year, fertilized several food plots and performed some controlled burns to get the soil ready for food plot and native grass plantings.

Conrolled burns will greatly improve the soil for my summer food plot and native grass plantings.  

Finding sheds is always exciting!  This one looks like it may be a couple years old.

I was also able to plant some hardwood and softwood trees, as well as some soft mast bearing trees as well to create added diversity for the deer that visit my farm,  All in all, I planted and caged (have to keep the deer away from them for now!) 50 oaks, 6 pears, 30 pines and 30 more apple trees.  The oaks and apple trees won’t bear fruit for several years down the road, but it will be an enjoyable experience watching them grow and mature through the years.  However, what I take pride in is the thought that my little man Craig will have the opportunity to hunt from those same trees in the future!  A big part of Quality Deer Management is protecting this sport we enjoy so much, and ensuring that younger generations can enjoy it just the same as we did!     

These trees may be small now, but one day my son, Craig, will hopefully be hanging a tree stand from them!

Speaking of Craig, he and I were able to get out together to do a little turkey hunting a couple weeks ago.  We didn’t see any, but their thunderous gobbles rang throughout the woods and got Craig and I both pretty excited!  

Our turkey hunting set-up; Craig and didn't see any but we sure heard them gobbling!

Unfortunately, the onset of Spring also means it is tick season, and man, do I hate these things!   These pesky pests used to find their way on me every time I went outside this time of year.  However, this year I have been wearing Elimitck Clothing from Gamehide Gear and haven’t found a single tick on me.  Elimitick Clothing is my clothing of choice this time of year that is for sure!

ElimiTick Clothing from Gamehide Gear is my clothing of choice this time of year. 

I’d like to close out this blog by show an example of just how random my life can be.  My wife talked me into buying a goat!  My wife loves all animals and, even though I enjoy nothing more than harvesting mature animals during the fall, I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals as well. Maybe, buying this goat will earn me some brownie points this fall and a little extra time in the treestand? We’ll see! 

Yes, somehow I got talked into buying a goat!

A Bowhunting Offseason Begins- Food Plots and Shed Hunting!

by Todd Graf 22. February 2011 04:43
Todd Graf

  The offseason has officially begun for this Illinois bowhunter, but that doesn’t mean that I am kicking back and taking it easy.  In fact, I am as busy now as I am during the fall chasing mature bucks!  But honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  A lot of exciting times are ahead for bowhunting.com and our entire Hunting Network, and I can wait to see how 2011 unfolds!

My little man, Craig, and our dog, Drake doing a little February shed hunting.  They each found sheds and I wasn't able to find a single one!  Hopefully my luck will change sooner rather than later.

In the midst of preparing for the Illinois and Wisconsin Deer Classics, I am particularly anxious waiting for the arrival of my new Mathews bow.  I am counting down the days until my Mathews Monster shows up at the bowhunting.com office, and I can’t wait to get it setup and start shooting.  I haven’t gotten a new bow for several years, so I am like a little kid on Christmas Eve waiting for my new Monster.  The Monster is one of Mathew’s fastest bows, and if you are a speed guy like I am, I encourage you to look up the Monster on Mathew’s website.  While you are at it, be sure to look at their new Z Series family of bows as well!

Not a single kernel of corn left!

Now is the perfect time to start planning for your 2011 hunting season, and I am in the process of looking for new acreage to hunt.  I am a firm believer in having multiple properties to hunt throughout the course of the season.  This allows you to keep your properties fresh for an entire season and prevents you from educating the deer too badly thus making the deer “easier” to hunt.  My search for new land is in its infant stages and there are several resources available to the hunter who is willing to dig deep enough for the right information, however, I have had TREMENDOUS success already with nationalhuntingleases.com.  If you are looking for new hunting ground for the 2011 hunting season, check them out on their website!

A shot of one my turnip plots that backs right up against one of my corn plots.  The deer are really hitting these plots hard!

Despite the craziness of trying to find a new hunting lease, patiently (or more like Impatiently) waiting for my new bow, and preparing for the upcoming Illinois and Wisconsin Deer Classics, I managed to sneak out to my property with my son, Craig, to do a little scouting and shed hunting.  The hard work I put in during the late summer on my turnip plots is definitely paying off because the deer are really hitting these particular plots hard!  Spring is just around the corner, and now is the perfect time to start planning for this year’s food plots and giving your deer some added nutrition!  I also learned something about food plots; you can’t plant too much corn!  I made an assertive effort to establish and maintain quality corn plots to give the deer a food source rich in carbohydrates for the rough Northern Illinois winters, but I couldn’t find a single kernel left.  They really cleaned up my corn this year!

The deer are pawing through the snow to get to my turnip plots.  It feels good to know that I have a sustainable food source on my property this late in the winter.

I was, however, pleased with how well my native grasses were doing even after heavy snowfall and bitter cold temperatures.  Even in late February they are still providing excellent cover, and I even found several beds on the South facing slopes just like I thought I would!  It feels good when all the hard work and planning in land management comes together and it feels even better when you can see the deer are benefitting from your work.

My Native Grasses are doing especially well despite the heavy snow fall.  In this particular stand, I found several fresh beds that tell me the deer are still bedding in the grasses, which is a great sign.  I can't wait to see how these grasses take off this Spring and Summer!

After investigating my food plots and admiring the work of my Native Grasses, my little man Craig and I tried our luck at a little shed hunting.  When it was all said and done Craig had found two sheds, my dog Drake had found one, and yours truly had found zero.  That’s right; this dedicated bowhunter got skunked by a dog and a first grader when looking for antlers.  Hopefully, I’ll have a little better luck at finding antlers this fall than I’ve had this winter!  Nevertheless, it was fun to get and enjoy the outdoors with my son and no matter how busy I am, I will always make time for that.

I hope you guys are as excited about this year as I am, I can hardly sit still I am so anxious about the opportunities and changes that are going to be happening in the coming months!  With the snow melting, it’s time to continue looking for sheds and start thinking food plots.  Turkey hunters, it is almost time for you to get out there and starting chasing those Toms!  Bring on the warmer weather!

 

BB2 Deer Supplement Now Available in Smaller Bag!

by Bow Staff 9. February 2011 08:24
Bow Staff

BIG RESULTS NOW OFFERED IN SMALLER PACKAGE!
Popular Nutritional supplement now available in convenient 6 lb bag

Grand Island, NE – Big and J Industries LLC, the leading manufacturer of superior protein based nutritional supplements introduces its popular BB2 supplement and attractant in a convenient 6 lb bag.  The smaller package is ideal for creating an irresistible hot spot for whitetails and for bringing into the field with you (check local game regulations before using).  Make no mistakes; this powerful attractant has been used by industry leading professionals for years with amazing results, now it’s available to you in an easy to use 6lb bag.

BB2 is a revolutionary nutritional deer supplement and powerful attractant that performs well year round.  The protein based nutritional supplement has been painstakingly formulated to provide optimum growth, strength and health characteristics for the entire whitetail herd.  The unique formulation produces an intense, natural occurring aroma that wild animals find irresistible.  No artificial attractants or flavors are added or needed.  In addition, BB2 incorporates several vital minerals scientifically proven to stimulate antler production, as well as additional nutrients that assist the doe population during lactation.  The versatile product can be used in feeders or direct ground applications, and comes in 40 lb bags, 20 lb bags, and the new 6 lb bag.  Once you discover the power of the brown bag, your deer season will never be the same!

MSRP:  BB2 40 lb bag $29.99, BB2 20 lb bag $16.99, BB2 6lb bag  $10.99

ABOUT BIG & J INDUSTRIES

Big and J Industries is the premier supplier of superior nutritional deer supplements and powerful attractants.  Founded by two avid hunters, Big and J produces specially formulated deer supplements and attractants designed to meet the highest quality standards and produce the largest, healthiest bucks and whitetail deer herds.  True stewards of the land, Big and J believes that a healthy clean environment produces stronger more vigorous game.  Product is purposely packaged in biodegradable paper bags, and use only recycled paper stock, not to mention the made/grown in the USA seal of approval. 

Categories: Current News

Prepare Now To Kill Your Whitetail Buck Next Fall

by John Mueller 7. February 2011 15:05
John Mueller

There are many things you can do this time of year to increase your odds of killing a buck this fall. This is the time of year you can unravel buck movement, create bedding areas and hone your shooting skills.

Scouting


The woods can reveal many secrets this time of year. The leaves have all disappeared from the trees opening up the forest and allowing us to see rubs, trails and in some cases scrapes much easier than earlier in the season. If some of your bucks did make it through the season and return to your woods this fall, they just might show up at some of the places they called home last fall. You can find their hangouts by locating clusters of rubs or scrapes. And if snow is on the ground it makes it easier to spot their favorite bedding areas. Trails show up well in the snow and could lead to discovering a new pinch point. Trail intersections are always good places to hang a stand.

Shed hunting can help by telling you which bucks made it through the season and will be even bigger next fall. It may even let you know about bucks you never knew existed in your woods.

So put on your cold weather gear and go for a hike in the deer woods. Now would be a good time to check out those bedding areas too. If you bump a buck now it more than likely won't cost you a chance at killing him next fall. And seeing exactly where he likes to hang out in certain wind conditions could lead to his demise.


Land Maintenance

Winter is a great time to do a little maintenance on your hunting grounds.

Take to the woods with your chain saw and create some bedding cover. By hinge cutting trees you can create a tangle of fallen tree tops bucks love to bed in. The thicker the better. This also creates instant browse from the buds and tender twigs on the fallen branches. Then when spring comes the added light reaching the forest floor will produce tremendous new growth from seed lying dormant under the leaves.

 

 

Spreading lime or fertilizer on food plots now will ensure the nutrients are taken down into the soil with the spring thawing and rains.

Over seeding your clover plots in late winter will fill in bare or thinning spots as well start new plants when the weather finally does break.


Sharpen Your Skills

Winter is a great time to join indoor leagues at your local Archery Pro Shop. Many of the better shops now have indoor 3D shoots, 3D pop up or video archery leagues. By keeping your hunting skills sharp throughout the year, you'll be ready when fall comes and that shot at your buck presents itself.

 

 

 

What are you doing this winter to increase your odds of tagging that wall hanger?

 

 

 

 

 

The Curse Continues

by John Mueller 3. January 2011 14:50
John Mueller

This has been one of the worst seasons for bowhunting luck I can remember. It started off by me having a doe jump the string on opening day and I hit her high in the shoulder neck area. I did not recover that deer, but believe my hit was not lethal. Then it seems every buck that came in range was smaller than what I wanted to take off of my property. Most were 1-1/2 years old with a few up and coming 2-1/2 year olds thrown in. The big guys were there, I just could not get them to show up at a stand while I was in it. Got plenty of trail cam pics of them although mostly at night. I did see a few in daylight but never in range.

Fast forward to my Christmas weekend hunt. I arrived on Sunday afternoon and hunted a creek crossing that leads to my neighbors soy bean field. About a half hour before dark I see some deer in the bean field. Checking them out with my binoculars I could see there were 3 small bucks feasting on the beans. They slowly made their way in my direction. They were headed for the little creek crossing. When the first one was at 20 yards I shifted the camera arm to adjust the angle and he spotted my movement. All I saw after that was tails. I wasn't planning on shooting one of them anyway but it would have made nice video.

After hunting Monday morning in the middle of a group of beds in the snow and not seeing a deer, I went to check my trail cameras. I was happy to find a group of bucks in my soy bean plot just 3 days earlier during daylight. It just so happens one of them was this guy.

 

A nice tall 8 pointer who used to have really tall brow tines. He has broken one of them in the last month. He is still a shooter. I have my Ameristep Intimadator ground blind brushed in about 6 yards behind the trail camera.

I will be there in the evening with hopes the group of bucks shows up in daylight again. This time of year the deer don't stray too far from a food source. They have to eat to maintain their bodies in the cold weather.

I'm tucked in my Ameristep Intimadator Blind a little before 2:00, figuring they won't show up much before dark. I like hunting out of ground blinds in the late season for a variety of reasons.

1. The trees are all bare and you are extremely exposed hunting from treestands.

2. I can get out of the weather hunting in the ground blind. Especially the wind, which makes some hunts almost unbearable.

3. I can get close to where I think the deer will be. There doesn't have to be a perfect tree for a stand. Plus close shots are easier with all of the extra clothes on.

4. I am completely hidden in the blacked out blind as long as I wear black clothing. You can get away with a lot of movement in a ground blind.

5. It's really cool being on eye level with the deer.

About 4;30 I peeked out the back of the blind and see 5 does/fawns heading my direction in the food plot. I t will be dark soon and I see no sign of the bucks. I decided to go ahead and take a doe if the shot presented itself. I get the camera and all of the mics turned on and pointed the direction they will enter from. The first one slips by without offering a shot, but the second one, a nice doe, offers a slight quartering away shot. I zoom in and come to full draw. I take carefull aim and touch off the release. I hear a good thump, but my Firenock fails to light. So I didn't see exactly where the arrow hit the deer. I waited a few minutes and gathered my things. I wanted to look at the impact sight and try to find my arrow while there was still a little daylight. I found some hair and a few drops of blood where my doe was standing. I could not find my arrow. I took up the track hoping my aim was true and i would see my prize just over the hillside laying in the snow. As I followed the trail I wasn't seeing as much bnlood as I had hoped for. And what blood there was is hard to see. It is falling through the fresh powdery snow and not showing up very well. Luckily she is staying on one of the many trails leading to and from the food plots. Within a hundred yards I see where she had bedded but she is nowhere in sight. By now its getting pretty dark. I try to find more blood after the bed but can't seem to pick the trail back up with my light. Since the temperature was going to be around 20* that night I made the decision to back out and come back the next day to look for her.

I had to be at work for a meeting in the morning so I didn't get back in the woods until almost noon. I stopped on the way and picked up my buddy Bob to help in the search. The trail was much easier to follow the next day. The blood in the snow had sort of blossomed like coloring in a snow cone. We found the bed from the night before. She had taken a different trail and headed down the hill instead of continueing across it. The blood was really starting to show itself now, making it easy to follow at a walk. We hit the bottom of the hollow and I noticed some fresh coyote tracks. Then Bob said, there's whats left of your doe. The coyotes had picked her clean. There was nothing left but the hide and most of the bones.

After examining the carcas I could see where my Rage had exited through the 3rd rib from the back. We figured I got liver and at least the back of one lung. All in all she traveled about 200 yards to where the coyotes found her. As the saying goes, when in doubt back out. Except when the woods are full of hungry coyotes. I know what I'll be doing once the deer season is over. Time to fire up the predator call.

I definately have plans to move some stands and clear out some new shooting lanes for next season. I'm going to reevaluate my approach and see what needs changing to be in the right spot at the right time to kill some of the good bucks roaming my woods. My luck has to change.

If you want to give ground blind hunting a try. Check out the Ameristep Intimidator Ground Blind and the rest of the Ameristep lineup here at Bowhunting.com.

http://www.bowhunting.com/shopping/Products/Intimidator-Blind__3304.aspx

Bowhunting Insight; What Are You Giving Back?

by Cody Altizer 30. December 2010 07:50
Cody Altizer

 With the Christmas Holiday still fresh in our minds, we certainly feel a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the time spent with family and the gifts we received.  Often times, however, we forget about what we gave and how those gifts impact other’s lives.  Unfortunately, this is often the case in the world of deer hunting as well.  We get so caught up in the “take, take, take!” aspect of bowhunting that we forget to give back.  With precious resources such as the wilderness and whitetail available to us, I feel that what we give back to Mother Nature is far more important than what we take from Her.


   I love shooting deer as much as anybody I know.  The feeling I get from having outsmarted a whitetail’s wits provides me with a high that can literally last for days.  First, the adrenaline rush immediately following the shot is unlike any other; I wouldn’t trade it for the world!  Recovering the deer is a testament to my tireless work ethic during the summer practicing with my bow to make sure I make a quick, clean kill.  Being able to hold the antlers of a bow harvested buck is indescribable, and it feels good to know that I was able to provide food for myself and family.  I earn respect of friends and fellow bowhunters every time I slay a whitetail and I share beautiful harvest pictures of my trophy on the internet to let others know of my success.  Man, it feels good to take a deer doesn’t it?!  Yes, of course it does, but in that sequence of events you didn’t once hear me mention of what I gave back to Mother Nature in return, did you?  I sound pretty selfish now, huh?  Giving back to Mother Nature, your deer herd, and the sport of bowhunting in general is far more rewarding than actually taking a deer and there are endless ways of doing so.

A scenic shot of three does feeding in a clover plot with my family's hunting camp in the background.  It's images like these that make me want to keep giving back to Mother Nature and the property I hunt every year.


   I’ve been fully engulfed in the world of Quality Deer Management (QDM) for about 4 years now.  On my home piece of property in Virginia, my family and I have invested countless hours and a lot of money (more than I care to admit!) towards bettering the habitat for not just deer, but wildlife in general.  The 7 food plots we plant yearly have had a tremendous impact on our deer herd.  Fawns are born healthier, does are heavier and the bucks sport larger racks.  Allowing power lines and fields to grow tall and thick has provided excellent fawning areas for does, increased overall bedding area and allows more deer to feel comfortable on our property. However, it has also helped the grouse population on our property rebound, which in turn provides a delicious food source for the foxes and bobcats that call our property home.  Every winter I head out with a chainsaw and cut pole size poplar trees at knee level to allow the deer to browse on the young, tender buds during winter.  The following spring, the stump will sprout several young poplar saplings which will again provide tender, nutritious browse.  Every winter my family and I will plant 5-6 fruit trees to provide a delicious food source in the coming years, and we also prune the natural fruit trees to allow for better fruit production.  The local black bear population sure appreciates this! This past spring, my brother and I transplanted close over 50 yearling autumn olive bushes to provide cover and food for deer, bears and turkeys that otherwise would have been cut and mowed over.  We also transplanted close to 20 white cedars that weren’t receiving enough sunlight.  This will provide a food source for birds, squirrels and deer, as well as providing some thermal bedding cover for the deer during the winter.  It may sound as if I am patting myself and stroking my ego, but that’s not the case.  The pride and fulfillment I derive from giving back to Mother Nature is simply a great feeling.

These two pear trees were planted in the Spring of 2008.  They likely won't produce any fruit for a couple more years, but knowing the deer will have a sustainable food source in the years to come keeps me planting fruit trees every year.


   Sure, the food plots are expensive.  By the time you buy the seed, lime, fertilizer, and diesel fuel for the tractor you have spent a lot of money.  The fruit trees aren’t cheap either, and it takes at least 5-6 years for them produce fruit and there is no guarantee they will live to reach maturity.  However, watching deer feed in the food plots before dusk and monitoring the fruit trees growth every year is worth every penny.
   Carefully planned timber harvests have also had a positive impact on our property’s habitat and can produce a good source of income as well.  Removing trees that provide little benefit to wildlife such as Virginia pine, black locust and yellow poplar among others, allow for more sunlight to reach the forest floor which results in a thick understory of lush, nutritious vegetation for all animals. 

Too many deer can create a lot problems including disease and winter starvation.  Harvesting does is a great way to ensure a healthy deer herd.


   Habitat management is just one aspect of QDM that enables you to give back to the deer herd.  Herd management is equally rewarding and has a far greater impact on the overall health of a deer herd.  Regularly harvesting does will decrease the threat of disease transmission and preserves the habitat for the rest of the deer herd and other creatures as well.  It’s hard to believe, but whitetails actually eat between 1-1 ½ tons of food per year.  Removing just two does off a hundred acre piece of property provides the deer herd with up to three tons of food the following year!  It’s truly amazing when you think about it.  Harvesting does is also a great way to put food on your table, and allows you to donate the meat to needy families who need it more than you.  Think about it, by harvesting just one doe, you aren’t just putting more food in the bellies of the wildlife on your property, but providing a family with several meals as well.  Giving back sounds pretty good right now doesn’t it?

Regularly harvesting does benefits many.  It contributes to a healthy deer herd and an overall healthier ecosystem, and puts delicious meat on the table for you or needy families.


   QDM isn’t the only way to give back.  Introducing a kid or friend to hunting protects the future of our sport and can change their life in the process.   Hunting numbers is declining with the majority of our nation’s hunters being 50 years old or older!  This is frightening news for the future of our sport.  We have got to pull kids off the computer and video game systems and introduce them to the outdoors.  It will change their lives for the better, and can change yours too if you let it.  I credit my father for getting me involved in hunting and the patience, persistence, determination and work ethic I have developed today came directly from sitting in a tree stand from October through January as a kid.  


 With the 2010-2011 deer season wrapping up in many states across the United States, now is a perfect time to sit back and reflect on the past year, but more importantly plan for the year ahead.  For the 2011 season I encourage, no, challenge you to give back to whitetail woods more than you take.  It will be your best season to date if you do so.

You Pick My Stand This Weekend

by John Mueller 15. December 2010 14:28
John Mueller

Ok, here's your chance to pick the stand I hunt from this weekend. Since I can't seem to pick the right one to be in, I'm going to let you pick the spot. I'll post some arieal pictures and a topo of my property and give you a little information on each area and then you tell me where to sit.

 The predicted winds are supposed be from the Northwest at 5-10 mph, temps in the low teens at night and 25-30 during the day. This is very hilly ground so the wind does tend to swirl and change directions quite often. Unless it's a strong steady wind it's really hard to predict where my scent will travel.

 

Yellow is my property line.

#1. A creek crossing at the end of a point. The long skinny green field is NWSG (CRP). Right across the creek is a picked bean field. No kills here yet

#2. A ridge between a very steep, deep hollow and the hillside leading down to the CRP. Killed my doe in this area earlier this season.

#3. A 30 yard wide spot in my food plot with soy beans and brassicas planted in front of it. 1 buck and 3 does have been killed here.

#4. The bottom of a small creekbed the deer like to travel through. Scrapes and rubs here earlier. This is where I killed my buck in 2008 and also a doe that year.

#5. Large creek bottom with flowing water and many ridges dropping down into it here. Many scrapes and rubs here. 2 does have been killed here.

#6. Ground blind between standing soy beans and brassicas. A doe was killed from a stand in the North end of the field here.

#7. Trail around the head of a steep ravine leading from bedding are to food plot. 2 does have been killed here.

#8. Where point starts to drop off towards neighbors picked corn field. Also a bedding area. No kills here yet.

#9. Ridge above steep ravine, huge rubs here, bedding area. My first kill on the property was a doe from a stand here.

 

3D view from the North

3D view from the West

3D view from the South

3D view from the East

Deer Beds from my first few scouting trips of the property.

The area with the highest concentration of beds is my designated sanctuary. I stay out of there unless I'm on a blood trail or shed hunting in the spring. It's a fairly brushy area with some points the deer like to bed on.

 

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 9 Recap

by Cody Altizer 13. December 2010 05:10
Cody Altizer

 As the cold, blustery days slowly inch towards the end of the calendar year, so the hunting gets tougher for whitetail enthusiasts across the country.  For the first time this season, Bowhunt or Die went live with an episode that did not feature one of our team members harvesting a deer.  Unfortunately, that is the way late season hunting goes, but our staff members were still out there hunting hard.  Let’s recap the action from Episode 9 of Bowhunt or Die!

Click here to watch the footage of Bowhunt or Die! Episode 9!


 Todd Graf kicks off December hunting his piece of property in Northwestern Illinois looking to harvest his second Illinois monster of the 2010 season.  Todd has invested a lot of time and effort into this piece of property to provide a literal buffet for whitetails in the form of food plots.  Everything from turnips, clover, sorghum, corn and soybeans has been planted to attract deer to his property and it’s beginning to pay off big time.  Todd wasn’t able to harvest a buck for this week’s episode, but he saw plenty of deer and passed on several smaller bucks.  Whitetails are a slave to their stomach this time of year and Todd has plenty of food to give himself a legitimate chance at a monster during the late season.  We will have to see how it pans out!

Pictured is one of the nice bucks Todd passed on in Episode 9 of Bowhunt or Die!  He certainly is a nice buck, but just not what Todd is looking for.  Note the food that is available to this buck.  With turnips to his left and corn to his right he'll definitely have plenty to eat on this winter!


 We then catch back up with Pro Staffer John Hermann and join his quest for an Illinois buck.  As you probably know John harvested a monster buck in Wisconsin during the early season, and if he were able to, taking down an Illinois giant would cap off an incredible season.  John had several great encounters with some smaller bucks, as well as a shooter buck he had been chasing that just didn’t want to commit to his calling.  Despite not being able to harvest a buck in Illinois, John had several cool encounters with bucks which is always exciting.  Sometimes it’s just not meant to be!

John Hermann had several nice buck encounters on his Illinois hunting trip, he just wasn't able to connect on the buck he was looking for.  John had no intentions of shooting this buck as he skirted past his stand, unaware of John's presence.


 Bowhunt or Die then heads east for the first time this season as I hunted my home piece of property in Western Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday.  My brother offered to be my cameraman for the week (which was a pleasure as I had been self-filming all year) and we were determined to harvest a deer on film.  Despite our efforts, we just weren’t able to get close enough for a shot over the Thanksgiving holiday.  We saw plenty of deer, but the 4th week of gun season in Virginia just put those deer on edge making them extremely difficult to bow hunt and forcing me to return to Illinois empty handed.  Still, it was a blessing to be able to go home and spend quality time in the woods with my family which made the trip a success.

This photo is one of our food plots my family has planted on our hunting property in Western Virginia.  It was fun to be able to hunt back home for a week, I just wish I could have connected on a deer!


 After chasing whitetails hard for 2 and a half straight months Todd and Justin Zarr took a break from the woods and attended the recent Mathews Retailer Show in Wisconsin.  This show featured the release of the new Z7 family of bows by Mathews as well as other cool products and accessories that will be released for the 2011 hunting season.  Visit our New Products video gallery for more in depth coverage and an exclusive first look at some of these exciting new products.

Here is Justin pictured with the Mathews rep at the Mathews Retailer show in Wisconsin talking about the new Z7 family of bows.


 Although our team wasn’t able to harvest any deer for the first time this season, Bowhunt or Die was still an exciting episode.  Our guys are still out there hunting hard and documenting their hunts on film to share with everyone, so be sure you continue to tune in to Bowhunt or Die the rest of the season!

 

Early Bowhunting Season Recap | Wyoming Antelope & Wisconsin Doe

by Todd Graf 29. September 2010 10:46
Todd Graf

October 1st signifies the opening day of archery season here in Illinois and although my bowhunting season has barely begun, it's already been an extremely successful one.  I'm sure many of you have already read Justin's blog about our trip to Wyoming and no doubt seen the video as well.  But for those of you who haven't, let me tell you it was a great time!

Just over a month ago Justin and I, along with our cameraman/editor Brian, flew out to Table Mountain Outfitters for an early season antelope hunt.  After a few delays at the airport we finally settled into camp around 1 am on Friday morning August 27th.

After some much needed rest, unpacking our gear and sighting in our bows we headed into town to pick up our archery tags and some supplies for the day.  Once that was done it was time to head to our blinds and see if we couldn't lay down a couple goats.


Justin reading over the regulations before heading into our blinds.


Our home for the next 9 hours while trying to kill my first antelope with a bow.

Justin had the lucky horseshoe this day as he was able to take a nice antelope just 3 hours after getting into his blind.  In the meantime Brian and I were sitting in our blind wondering if anything was ever going to show up.  After a long day of napping, playing games on our phones, reading books, and staring off into the Wyoming landscape we finally had a nice buck approach our blind.

As Brian, the rookie cameraman on his first hunt, was struggling to hold himself together I got ready for the shot.  After ranging the buck at about 35 yards I drew back and let my 2 blade Bloodrunner fly.  The shot was a bit low and forward, but the Bloodrunner sure did the trick as the buck didn't run more than 100 yards before going down. 

Following a quick celebration and interview I snuck out of the blind to make sure the goat was down for good.  You can never be too sure!  By the time I got to the buck he was already expired and I claimed my first ever archery antelope.  What a great feeling!


My first archery antelope.  What a great way to start the season!


That 2 blade Bloodrunner sure did the trick on this goat.  It flew great and left a HUGE hole!


A nice Wyoming sunset.


The full gang on the final day of our antelope hunt with Table Mountain Outfitters.  From left to right: Brian McAlister, Justin Zarr, Dustin Decroo, Angie Denny, Todd Graf, Vicki Cianciarulo

If you haven't seen the video already, click here to watch it.  There's some really great footage!

After we returned home from Wyoming I was able to head down with my dad for a quick dove hunt with my friends at Graham's Outdoor Adventures in Central Illinois.  As always we had a great time with those guys, shot a bunch of doves, and enjoyed a nice summer day.  Thanks to the Grahams for having us down, it was a blast!


My dad, me, and Derek Graham after a fun day of dove hunting.

This past Sunday up in Wisconsin I was fortunate enough to take a really nice doe on film with my new cameraman Cody Altizer behind the lens.  Cody and I spent a few days at my property the past two weekends trying to get on one of the nice bucks we've had on trail cameras this summer, but they were nowhere to be found.  So when this nice big doe presented me with a shot I took the oportunity to start filling the freezer up with some fresh meat.  Next time we just need a nice buck to come by!


Cody getting ready to head out for our evening's hunt.


Me with my first doe of the season.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF THIS EARLY SEASON DOE HUNT.

Back at home, or at least at my hunting property which seems like my 2nd home, my fall food plots are coming in GREAT!  All of my stands are hung and I am just about as ready for Opening Day as I can be.  Good luck to everyone who is going out hunting for the first time this weekend.  Stay safe and shoot straight!


The view from one of the stands I just hung last week.  I can't wait to get in there and do some hunting!

 


My native grasses are doing much better than I expected, which is going to provide some much needed security cover for not just deer but all sorts of wildlife.


Turnips are looking good!

Hunting Mature Bucks While Playing the Wind

by John Mueller 1. September 2010 13:07
John Mueller

It sounds easy doesn't it, set up downwind of where the big boy will show up and let the air out of him. But more times than not it doesn't end up being that easy. You may have to let a small buck pass before the big guy comes into range or those does may feed past your stand first. There are a lot things to consider when setting up to "Hunt The Wind" for a mature whitetail buck.

Hunting trails.
Hunting trails sounds like it would be a no brainer, set up on the downwind side of the trail. The problem is many times mature bucks will not use the same trails does and young bucks use. They will be on skinny, almost unseen trails running parallel to the main trails. So if you set up close to a main trail, you might end up upwind of the buck you are after and get busted. I try to find those little used trails with big hoof prints in them and set up close to where they go through heavy cover. That is where a big buck will feel most secure. Another good trail to hunt is one that cuts through a pinch point or goes around an obstacle like a steep ditch or pond. This will tend to push all the deer traffic past your stand. Plus it allows you to set up with the obstacle behind you, blocking any deer from getting downwind.

Hunting Food Plots
Just set up right where you have seen the big guy enter the field with the wind blowing across the field and he's as good as yours right? Not necessarily! What if a group of does or his 75" bachelor buddy get to the field before your buck? They will start blowing and stomping and you'll never see the one your after.
I like to set my stand away from the area the deer enter the food plot with the wind blowing into the woods behind me and wait for them to feed in my direction. You can sort of guide them by what you plant in the plot. Plant their favorite food in front of your stand, not where they enter the plot. This also increases the odds of shooting at relaxed deer. When deer enter a food plot they are usually very nervous, but after they have been there for a while and no danger has been spotted, they tend to relax. Shooting at a relaxed buck increases your odds of him not jumping the string and your arrow striking where it was aimed.
It also helps if you can have a big ditch or nasty thicket behind you so no deer slip downwind making their way to the plot.

Hunting Bedding Areas
Again, usually not as easy as it sounds. If your waiting in the morning for the buck upwind of his bedding area, you'll probably never see him. You can bet he's gonna scent check his intended bed from downwind before he enters his bed. What you can try is setting up just to the side of the downwind direction, hoping the wind doesn't shift slightly and give you away. But you also have to keep in mind as the ground warms, the thermals are going to start rising. So you need to take that into consideration before you set up in the dark with a good wind. If the thermals take your scent the wrong direction, the hunt is over. Setting up on the uphill side of his bed and the trail leading to it can help beat the morning thermals.
If you're going to try and catch that bruiser coming out of his bed in the afternoon you have the exact opposite thing happening with the cooling thermals. As the air cools it will decend and pool up in low areas. So you need to stay below the bedding area and any trails the buck might travel on in the evening.

So if it sounds like playing the wind while trying to connect on a Big Whitetail Buck sounds almost impossible, your right. By the time they reach trophy size, they know how to detect danger and how to use the rest of the deer herd to detect it for them. You not only have to fool the buck your after, but all of the rest of the deer your not interested in shooting also. Plus in my hunting experiances, deer rarely play by the rules. They are constantly showing up where you least expect them and that is usually downwind of my stand. That is precisely why I take every precaution with my scent that I can. I wash all my clothes in scent eliminating detergent, store them in scent free containers, spray down before every hunt and try not to touch any foilage on the way in to my stand. You can never be totally scent free, but you can do a lot to reduce your human odor in the woods.

You can check out all of the scent eliminating products available here on bowhinting.com by clicking on the link below.

http://www.bowhunting.com/shopping/Departments/Scent-Eliminators.aspx#cs

Early Season Whitetails and Food Plots

by Cody Altizer 31. August 2010 08:49
Cody Altizer

As the Dog Days of summer begin to dwindle down to the early stages of fall, so my excitement and enthusiasm for the opening day of bow season rises.  As if it could rise any higher!  Opening day for some is just weeks away, but for most of us we still have to wait until October to ascend into our favorite early season tree.  Regardless, we will all be bowhunting for whitetails before we know it.
    The early season is one of my favorite times to bowhunt.  The anticipation and uncertainty of a new season, coupled with the beautiful transition into fall, make any trip to the woods in October a successful one.  In fact, chances are that in the first two weeks, often the first couple days of a new season, we are presented with the best opportunity of harvesting a mature buck.  This year is no different with my fall food plots planted and thriving.  Also, 2010 has proven to be a banner year for many of the hard and soft mast producing species on my property.  The white oaks have produced an excellent crop of acorns which is important to my hunting success, as 90% of the 260 acres I hunt is mature timber.  Soft mast species such as apple trees and autumn olive groves have also produced a bountiful yield which can be early season hot spots as well.

Success during the early season often boils down to finding a favored food source.  Be on the look out for soft mast species, such as autumn olives, as they can be little honey holes.

      This fall I have 7 different food plots planted and all are in excellent condition heading into the hunting season.  I have two small hunting plots planted in Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover.  These plots have been established for three years now.  Since their first planting in the spring of 2007, they’ve attracted and held many whitetails on my hunting property without having to be reseeded.  I do, however, frost seed them every late winter/early spring to increase the tonnage.  I also have an additional food plot, about one acre in size, planted in Whitetail Institute’s Extreme.  The soil in this particular plot is marginal at best, mostly composed of sand and clay, making it extremely difficult to grow my seed of choice, Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail CloverWhitetail Institute’s Extreme, however, has performed beautifully this spring and summer.  This chicory, clover, alfa-alfa, burnet blend established quickly in the spring and has grown tall, thick and lush all summer long, despite the poor soil conditions and record heat in Western Virginia.

Imperial Whitetail Clover has been my seed of choice when it comes to food plot planting since I began using it in 2007.  It's simply the best!

    Temperatures this summer in Virginia’s Mountain Valleys were scorching.  Daytime highs averaged over 90 degrees since late May, during which the mercury rose above 100 degrees 5 times, including three days consecutively!  This type of weather is abnormal for Western Virginia.  Still, my Whitetail Institute food plots not only survived but continued to grow and are strong and healthy heading into the hunting season.

Apples are another early season food source enjoyed by deer.  If you have apple trees, or any other fruit trees for that matter, they certainly warrant a hunt during the early season.

    My fall food plot planting is what has me the most excited.  In two separate locations, totaling almost to two acres, I sowed in some winter oats as part of a “dual plot.”  Fortunately, just days after I sowed the oats, we received steady rainfall and the oats germinated and took off quickly!  I then immediately sowed more Whitetail Institute’s Imperial Whitetail Clover to grow alongside the oats.  This all took place over a week and half in mid August and both plants are growing quickly.  I cannot be thankful enough for the ample, steady rainfall we have received.  Ideally, the oats will serve as a hardy, nutritious, attractive food source throughout the hunting season.  When next spring rolls around, the clover will have an established root system and flourish.  The final two food plots, totaling about 1 ½ acres, are made of turnips and rape.  Both plants, like the oats, germinate quickly and are easy to establish.  Fortunately, these plots are coming along great as well!

A close up shot of the young oats.  This food plot, which is also seeded with clover, will provide a reliable food source for the deer all season long.

    The past two seasons have made for difficult hunting for me primarily because of a lack of food reliable, consistent food source.  This fall is shaping up to be much, much different.  While the principal purpose of the food plots is to attract and hold deer while providing first-rate nutrition, they have the potential to make for exciting hunting opportunities this fall.  The topographical layout of 5 of the 7 food plots allow me to hunt downwind of the food plots with undetectable entry and exit routes.  The early season relationship between whitetails and acorns is undeniable as well.

When it comes to early season whitetails, it's hard to beat white oak acorns.  This particular tree is loaded with them!

    Bow season begins for the majority of us in just over a month and I’m eager to get in a tree with a bow.  However, I am equally excited about my new job opportunity.  From mid September through mid January I’ll be helping Todd and Justin out at the bowhunting.com office!  I’m excited about making the move to Northern Illinois.  Hopefully, I’ll make some new friends, enjoy a different culture, and help bring home some awesome footage of Todd and Justin throughout the season.  It’s going to be an exciting fall!

 

 

 

Velvet Whitetails & Native Grasses - Late Summer Bowhunting Update

by Todd Graf 24. August 2010 10:52
Todd Graf

With September looming just around the corner my mind is really starting to wonder off to thoughts of treestands, falling leaves, and hard antlered whitetails!  The bowhunting season can't come quick enough for this deer hunter, that's for sure!

As part of the habitat management program on my Illinois hunting land I've been planting a lot of trees and other native plants.  The 3 acre native grass field I planted this spring is really starting to look great!  Despite the fact that its only the first year for this planting the  warm temperatures and consistant rain has given it a huge kick start. I've had to mow the field  twice to help control unwanted species and I also sprayed it once with a product called Banvel to control unwanted broadleaf plants. I can only imagine how this is going to increase the security cover on the property when it reaches maturity at 5 feet tall. I will most likely be complaining then I am not seeing any deer because they are all hiding in it!


Jim Carlson, thanks again for helping me out and doing such a great job planting!

I have attached some close-up photos for those of you who are interested in seeing the various types of grasses that I've planted and how they are coming along.


The head of some Indian Grass.


Sideoats Grama


Indian Grass stems


Little Blue Stem

It seems the area that I am hunting in Wisconsin does not have Earn-a-Buck regulations this year, which must mean that the DNR is happy with the overall population. I hope that some of the management practices that we have been doing such as letting the smaller bucks walk, taking does for meat & not shooting button bucks will hopefully make a difference in the long haul.  So far it seems to be showing some positive results.


Good looking buck from Wisconsin, I just might have to release an arrow on if he gets too close!


.
Non-typical Buck – wow will this buck look cool if he makes it a few more years.

Back home in Illinois I haven't had a sighting of Flyer the buck that I am after.  Hopefully he shows up once the velvet starts peeling off and the bucks begin roamin a little more.  In the meantime, I have a few other nice bucks that have showed up my trail cameras.

I want to give a bit congrats to Justin Hillman who looked like he has a great time in Africa. From the looks of these photos he had one heck of a bowhunting adventure.

Two more days until Justin and I are off to Wyoming for an Antelope hunt with our friends at Table Mountain Outfitters.  Wish us luck, we're pretty excited!

Building a Bedding Area

by John Mueller 18. July 2010 06:52
John Mueller

One thing I knew my property needed was more bedding areas. I basically had two options, create thicker areas in my woods or replant my 5 acre CRP field in Native Warm Season Grasses. I have done some work to my woods to thicken a few areas, but my main goal was to kill off the fescue in my crp field and replant it with Native Warm Season Grasses, which can reach a height of 6 ft or more. The fescue just didn't grow tall enough to make it attractive to the deer to use.

In the early fall of 2008, when the fescue was actively growing, I hired a sprayer to come in and spray the whole 5 acres with round up. Within a couple of weeks the whole field was dead. Then I did the same thing again in the spring when the field started to green up. It usually takes a couple of sprays to kill out fescue. I received my seed fron the IDNR through their Acres for Wildlife Program. It included Big Bluestem, Sideoats Gramma, Blackeyed Susan, Purple Cone Flower, Purple Prairie Clover, Partridge Pea, Timothy Grass, Korean Lespodesa, Red Top and a few others I forgot.

In late May the conditions were right for planting. First I lightly disced up the field, not going too deep, I just wanted to have some loose soil on top. I then went over it with a cultipacker and drag to even out the soil and pack in slightly. Next I spread the seed mixture. Planting a mix of cool season grasses around the outside for a fire break. They will be green in the spring later when I need to burn off the NWSG. In the middle by my trailer I planted a patch of clover. I didn't want the NWSG in that area because you need to burn it off every few years. The rest of the field got the mix of forbs, wild flowers and NWSG. After seeding I again went over the field with my cultipacker to push the tiny seed into the ground to make contact with the soil.

The forbs and wildflowers took off right away and I had a beautiful blooming field the first year. The NWSG takes a bit longer to establish. The first 2 years it mostly estabilishes it's root system, but there were signs of life that first season. Now in the second year I can see more and more of it showing up in the field. Even without a whole lot of NWSG there I have a 4-5 foot tall stand of flowers and forbs where I have chased a few deer out of just driving to and from my trailer. They are definately using it as bedding cover. The NWSG is in a small sheltered creek bottom. So they should use it in the winter also to get out of the howling winds and soak up the sunshine as it warms the field. Next spring I plan on doing a burn to cut down on the amount of weeds in the field and this should really allow the NWSG to take off during it's third season.

Driving in to my trailer

You can get an idea of the height in this picture.

 

Clover planted where I don't want to burn.

 

Ideally this is what the field should look like after I burn it next spring. Mostly NWSG with less weeds.

Mostly weed and forbs, but still great bedding cover.

Another view.

Here you can see the green cool season fire boarder.

The hunting strategy for this fall is to setup inbetween my new bedding area and my established food plots on top of the hill and intercept the deer traveling between the two. Or catch a buck checking the field for hot doe bedded there. At least that is how it is supposed to work. Hopefully by creating the new bedding areas I can keep more deer on my property and by letting the little bucks walk, they won't walk in front of a neighbors bow or gun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mid-Summer Deer Hunting Preparation

by Todd Graf 14. July 2010 16:07
Todd Graf

The heat of July is on, food plots are putting on some serious growth and for those who took the time to do soil tests and fertilize the tonnage will being coming soon.  This is only my 2nd year of really putting a lot of effort into my food plots and it's amazing how much I've learned.  A little bit of hard work really does go a long way and I've really noticed the increased amount of deer on my property. 


Sending soil samples out for pH testing is critical in order to know the proper type and amount of fertilizer to use for optimal growth.

The photo belows shows how quickly your plots will blow up when they are fertilized and PH levels are in check.  With a little help from mother nature food plots can really grow at an unbelievable pace.  Only 15 days and look at the difference in this plot!

Now that July is here and the bucks have started to pack on the inches, it's time to get your trail cameras out.  I prefer to start them on the edge of soybean fields, or on mineral stations where  legal.  Personally, I like to stay out of the woods now and not put any pressure on resident bucks. If I do enter I try to make plenty of noise to give the deer a change to get out, this way I don’t sneak up on them and bust them out of their beds.  Below are some of the nicer bucks my trail cameras have captured so far this summer.


Summer is a great time to get photos of more than just velvet whitetails.  These two does look like they're really going at it!

While I was up in Wisconsin putting out some trail cameras and getting my stands ready for September, my nephew Anthony came with to help out.  He's really showing some interest in hunting which is great to see.  Anytime you can get a kid interested in the outdoors and take him with you, do it!  It's a lot of fun for both of you.


Here's a shot of my pops trying to keep the horse flies away.  If it wasn't for him taking me out in the woods when I was a kid who knows what I'd be doing now!

If you have apple trees in your hunting areas I like to spread 13-13-13 fertilizer under the edge of the outter branches to help the production of apples.  I did this earlier in the spring and wow did it make a huge difference.  My apple trees are FULL of apples this year, which should make for some great hunting come October.  The deer cant resist them.

Now is the time to start getting those plots ready for this fall.  August is prime time for planting turnips, wheat, buck forage oats, winter rye and brassicas.  All of these make great attractants for fall hunting and are relatively easy to plant.


Killing off the current vegetation is the first step in prepping for fall food plots.

Justin and I are headed to Wyoming next month to chase antelope, which means it's about time to start shooting broadheads already.  The deer hunting season will be here before you know it!

#1 On My Bowhunting Hit List

by John Mueller 9. July 2010 12:42
John Mueller

I've gotten a few pictures of this buck on my Moultrie i45 trail camera so far this summer, and he looks like a really good buck.  The photos were taken 3 different times as he was headed down a trail leading to my food plot.  And all 3 of those times were in daylight. So far he is #1 on my deer hunting hit list for this fall, but his buddy in the one picture isn't too bad either. If he shows up alone, he may just get an arrow sent his way as well.

This is the 3rd summer I have owned my property and this is the most summer buck activity I have ever seen. This year I have corn and soybeans along with milo and wheat in my food plots. I think that is what is keeping the bucks around. Plus the fact that I created a 5 acre bedding area in my CRP ground. I replanted it to Native Warm Season Grasses last year, which are really starting to grow and reach a good height for the deer to bed in now. I hope this guy sticks around for the opener, because if he keeps using this path, I know where I will have a stand hanging.

If it weren't for using trail cameras I would have no idea this buck was in the area. I have never laid eyes on him before these pictures were taken.

The Moultrie I45 takes Infrared Pictures in lowlight situations and color pictures in daylight. You can get yours right here at Bowhunting.com by clicking this link. 




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