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Opening Weekend Success IL Doe Down

by John Mueller 5. October 2011 10:15
John Mueller

Opening weekend in Illinois can be considered a huge success; I saw deer on every sit and harvested a nice doe on the last sit of the weekend. The weather was perfect for hunting and I found out the bucks are hitting my Tink’s Mock Scrape already.

I arrived at my property in Jersey County, IL a little after dark. On the way to my trailer I stopped and pulled a card from my trail camera on one of my water holes. When I downloaded the pictures I was happy to see lots of daylight activity at the water hole. It’s one of the few water sources in the area right now. It has been a very dry summer and the creek has no water at all in it.

After a night without much sleep my alarm went off at 4:45 AM. I quickly put on my Lost Camo by Scentblocker and grabbed an apple and granola bar for breakfast and headed out for the first hunt of the year in IL. I elected to hunt the first morning in a creek bottom where there are some white oaks loaded with acorns and a corn field on the ridge above them. The deer like to come from the corn field and head into the hollows behind me to bed for the day. I only saw one small buck cruise through the bottom on opening morning.

For my first afternoon hunt I chose to sit by a water hole I dug a couple years ago in the middle of my 5 acre food plot. The trail camera I have hung there showed good daylight movement both morning and evening. Plus as a bonus it had a picture of my #1 target buck this year “Bakers Dozen” visiting it. But his visit was in the middle of the night. At least I know he is still in the neighborhood.

My #1 target buck "Bakers Dozen" is still in the neighborhood.

At about 6:00 I heard deer hooves pounding the hard packed ground. I turned to see 2 fawns followed by a huge doe headed to the water hole. I grabbed my Mathews ez7 and got the video camera turned on. I found the big doe in the viewfinder and followed her to the waters edge. Even though I had a clear broadside shot of under 20 yards I couldn’t shoot because the camera was at waist level and blocked by the top of a small tree. I elected to wait and hope she would move and offer a shot when the camera could capture it. It never happened and she left the water hole untouched headed for the newly sprouted wheat in my food plot. This is the first, but surely not the last time videoing my hunts cost me a shot at a deer.

Sunday morning found me in a tree above a mock scrape I made with Tink’s Power Scrape two weeks prior to opening day. When I checked my trail camera monitoring the scrape it had 2 nice bucks sparring in front of the scrape during daylight. I didn’t see any deer while sitting in the stand until 10:30. But as I was climbing down 2 does took off from the hillside about 50 yards behind me. I don’t know if they snuck in and were bedded there or they were just cruising through that late.

Two bucks sparring in front of my mock scrape.

This brings us to the last hunt of opening weekend. With the abundance of acorns in the woods this year, I headed to a ridge in the middle of my woods loaded with White Oaks.

Acrons are everywhere this year.

The hollow on the opposite side of the ridge in also a favored bedding area. I was busy strapping my camera arm to the tree when I heard the sound every hunter hates to hear in the woods. A doe started to blow at me. She let out a few snorts and then I saw her high tail it out of there. I finished setting up my camera and got my bow all ready for action. I was just getting ready to do my pre-hunt interview when I noticed movement behind the camera. It was another doe headed my direction. She slowly fed my way and stopped about 50 yards away. I thought she was never going to take another step all night. She stood there surveying the area forever chewing her cud every once in a while. Then she sort of circled away from me, but ended up coming back and stopped 18 yards out in front of me but facing me offering no shot. She stood there for another 2 hours, so it seemed. Actually it was more like 10 minutes before turning and giving me a slight quartering away shot. I put my pin high on her side toward the back of her ribs to allow for the downward angle of the shot and touched off the shot. I watched as my arrow buried right where I had been aiming. She took off in a mad dash down the ridge, actually toward my trailer, and then I heard her crash a short distance away. So while waiting a few minutes to climb down I finally did my interview after the fact. I climbed down and made my way to the arrow sticking in the ground where she was standing. It was covered in blood with no sign of a gut shot. I followed the blood trail and the farther I went the more blood there was. The NAP Spitfire had done its job well slicing through both lungs. I found her piled up in a tangle of vines and small trees. The best part of where she crashed was the whole drag was downhill to the field by my trailer. After a little more video and some still pictures I loaded her in the back of my brand new red Ford Pick Up Truck and headed home to get her in a cooler.

I ended my weekend by taking a nice doe on the last evening hunt.

It’s always nice to start the season off harvesting an animal. It’s what we dream about and plan for all summer. It also gives me a big dose of confidence, knowing I’m setting up in the right spots and seeing deer every time I head afield.  And they just plain taste good on the grill, my freezer had been empty for a while. You can catch this hunt as well as other great hunts on Bowhunt or Die, our weekly hunting video series. HERE

Bowhunting Success Requires Adaptability

by Cody Altizer 27. September 2010 10:24
Cody Altizer

   For the second straight weekend, Todd Graf and I headed north to Wisconsin in hopes of connecting on an early season whitetail on film.  For the second straight weekend, we worked our tails off to tip the odds in our favor of doing so.  Unlike last weekend, however, we came back to Illinois with a mature doe to our credit.  The harvest of Todd’s early season doe is a testament to two things: less than ideal hunting conditions, but more importantly, our ability to adapt.
    Success in hunting, like success in life in general, is directly correlated between one’s ability to adapt to adverse conditions.  Before the season begins, we as bowhunters have grand plans of tagging an unsuspecting buck that we feel we have patterned all summer.  As opening day approaches, we think to ourselves, “I just need that typical early season wind, a cool afternoon, and that buck is mine!”  While this may be this case for some hunters across the land, this does not describe me and Todd’s first two weekends of the season.  We were faced with problematic Northeast winds and a true ignorance to the deer’s early season patterns.  Nevertheless, we adjusted to the circumstances by being mobile and willing to put in a little extra time and effort.  Here is a quick rundown of techniques that helped put Todd and I on some early season deer.

Click here to see the footage of Todd's Wisconsin Doe Harvest

Trail Cameras

By now most hunters know trail cameras can be an important scouting tool when used correctly.  They key word is, correctly.  By quickly accessing and monitoring trail cameras you can gain a better understanding of the deer movement. Todd and I relied on his Reconyx, Bushnell and Cam Trakker trail cameras to better determine which areas were void of deer, and which were worthy of a hunt.  When deploying or checking trail cameras, it is critical to be as scent free as possible and leave the area completely unmolested as possible.  This means wearing rubber boots and/or rubber gloves and avoid touching any trees or lower level vegetation.  The slightest foreign odor in a deer’s home range can tip them off to your presence thus drastically decreasing your chances.   Keep unfamiliar noise to a minimum as well.  Treat trail camera trips just as you would an actual hunting trip.  Whisper if you are hunting with a partner, walk on matted leaves or grass if possible and don’t make any unnecessary noise.  Be as quiet as possible.  Conversely, when Todd and I checked our trail cameras we left the pickup truck running because the areas we were hunting were close to major roadways.  The deer in these areas are accustomed to traffic noise and paid little attention to a running automobile.  Remember, it is important to recognize your hunting scenarios and adapt accordingly.

Monitoring trail cameras revealed to Todd which areas we should focus our efforts on.  Trail cameras are a great scouting tool when used correctly.


    Being flexible when it comes to our hunting spots played a key role in Todd harvesting his doe.  During our 4 combined days in Wisconsin we hung multiple stand locations for various winds giving ourselves the most options possible depending on several hunting related factors including weather, food availability (both agricultural natural crops), wind direction and trail camera intel.  We cashed in on food availability by finding a nice pinch point loaded with acorns.   Being a mobile hunter is not a style that is appealing or suitable for everyone.  It requires a lot of extra time and energy taking down and hanging new sets.  Portable, lightweight tree stands, like those from Lone Wolf, Muddy Outdoors or Gorilla are ideal as are the sticks provided by those manufacturers.  These stands are extremely light weight, portable and easy to carry in and out of the woods.  Being mobile also requires the use of a good pruning saw, like the Hooyman, to quickly trim shooting lanes and clean out the trees you want to hunt.  Again, being a mobile hunter requires extra effort; this may mean getting up an hour earlier in the morning to hang a stand in the dark or hanging a set at lunch and hunting that area the rest of the afternoon.  It can be tiring, but it can definitely be worth it.

Hanging new stands requires diligence and extra effort, but it can also be a deadly tactic when bowhunting whitetails.


    Last and certainly not least, Todd and I relied on our intuition in harvesting a mature doe on film.  Preparing for our fifth hunt together, we were really unsure which stand we were going to hunt.  We settled down, looked at the wind, discussed food sources and quickly decided that acorns were our best bet for an afternoon hunt.  By developing a sound game plan based on our hunting intuition we felt confident and hopeful heading to the stand Sunday afternoon.  Trust your instincts, like Todd and I did, develop a sound game plan and you will find yourself feeling more confident in your hunting spots.


    Sure, Todd didn’t harvest a “Booner” this past weekend in Wisconsin, but we did come back with some cool footage and meat in the freezer.  We were faced with a little early season struggle but we adapted and succeeded.  Hopefully, our success this past weekend provided you with a blueprint of how to adapt and make the most of your given hunting scenario.  With October right around the corner, we are all sure to be experiencing some great hunting soon!

Todd and I with his 2010 early season Wisconsin doe.

The Hard Work is Starting to Pay Off

by John Mueller 18. November 2008 13:26
John Mueller

Owning your own land can be a lot of hard work, specially the first few years, getting everything in shape like you want it. I have had my own property for almost a year now and I am starting to reap some of the rewards for my sweat and labor.


I am still working on the Grand Plan for my property, but I do have a pretty good idea of where I want things to end up. So far I have plowed up an overgrown hay/weed field and planted a few food plots that the deer love. It has really been neat seeing them go from bare dirt to flourishing food plots in a matter weeks.



Starting out with bare dirt.

After a few days the plants start to show themselves.

Food plots looking pretty good.

The food plots are already paying big dividends. I see deer in them almost every time I hunt near them.



The deer really like what I have planted for them.


I know the deer are getting good nutrition from them and it will help the health of my herd. Plus it keeps the deer on my land so the neighbors won’t have an opportunity to kill them. And I have the benefit of being able to watch them and learn which ones I want to target during my hunts.


 I am in the process of turning my CRP field, which is mostly Fescue right now, into a Native Warm Season Grass Prairie. This should be well established by next fall.


My rewards have come in the way of 4 deer harvested, I have taken a doe and a buck so far off of my new ground.



The first deer taken on my new farm.





My first buck buck harvest there.

 And a friend has taken 2 does. I plan on taking a few more does given the opportunity and will save my last buck tag for a special buck if he presents me with a shot.

This is who I am saving my last buck tag for.

Quality Deer Management - Three Does Down!

by John Mueller 12. November 2008 13:20
John Mueller

I invited a couple friends from the site to hunt with me last weekend. Matt/PA usually comes out this way and hunts some public ground in IL with Greg/MO. So I asked them if they would like to come hunt my property for a few days. They jumped at the chance to hunt some IL private ground. With bucks like this running around who could blame them.

My best buck on camera so far.

After two and a half days of hunting hard for mature bucks, we had 1 good buck sighting and many sightings of "Half Rack".


Half Rack, I don't think he ever grew the other side.

You can't tell too much form the pic, but he has a really good one sided rack. If he had the other side to match, he would be at the Taxidermists right now. We had also seen many small bucks and a ton of does by themselves. Before going out for the last evening hunt we decided if a nice doe walked by without a buck chasing her, she was going in the freezer. Well we ended up with plenty of meat for the freezer. I sent a Rage thru one and Greg put 2 does down compliments of Rage. And one of Greg's does was the biggest I have ever seen. She looked like a horse laying there.

The freezer is now full.

Since I usually hunt by myself, it was neat to have a couple of friends hunting with me and texting back and forth while on stand. It was neat to know what the other guy was seeing from his stand and sometimes the same deer would come by my stand later. Oh and Matt just loved checking trail cameras every day.

Matt always kept us entertained.

And this story would not be complete without a picture of Greg's Jeep loaded down with the three does. I think my side still hurts from laughing at the sight of those three deer on the roof and blood running down the side of the Jeep. He said they did get a few funny looks driving home that night.


Now that is Hunting at it's finest!!

First Deer of the Season

by Josh Fletcher 11. November 2008 15:24
Josh Fletcher

It was several weeks into the opener of the Wisconsin archery season and I haven’t seen a buck yet. I’m hunting in central Wisconsin, and I’ve seen and passed up several opportunities at good does. This year handed us a warm season with temperatures in the eighties and rain almost every day I sat in the stand. I let the does walk do to the fact that I had several photos of good bucks on my game cameras during day light hours and I wanted to key into an early season buck.  However it was now several weeks into the archery season and I haven’t seen a buck yet this year.  The temperatures dropped into the fifties and with the fall crispness in the air, I knew it was go time.  With my camera man behind me filming every move this year, it was time to do some herd management. Now first let me tell you about my camera man Chad. This is his first year behind the camera, but with training from White Knuckle Productions we have him sharp as a tack. He stands 6’ 2” and is built like a brick house. Why am I telling you this? To show my intelligence because he makes a great work mule! He can carry two tree stands,  all of his camera gear and drag a deer at the same time! With Chad behind the camera and a bow in my hand we hung a set on a T- intersection of a logging road. Just off of the logging road is a cut corn field that the deer have been feeding in. It wasn’t long when a young doe came walking down the logging road offering me a twelve yard shot. After making sure that Chad had the deer on camera, I settled my Fifteen yard pin at the shoulder crease. I squeezed the trigger and the arrow drove home.  Half of the arrow was sticking out of the doe as she bolted for the thick cover. Within several leaps and bounds she was out of our sight but her hasty flight was quite loud, with in several seconds we could hear the doe crashing around approximately eighty yards away, followed up by deafening silence.  She was down!! We just harvested a doe and helped with the herd control in Wisconsin.  After giving the doe some time, just to be safe, we took up on the track. After a short track and a good blood trail we recovered my first deer of the 2008 archery season! Not only did I take a nice doe for the freezer but I also realized that even a small doe still gets my heart pumping, and more importantly, memories and stories for around the camp fire were made.


Chad is ready for his time out! Was he ready for the task or not - only time would tell.

It did not take long to get set up and the action started. Chad looks like he was warmend up and ready for the job.

Here I am with my first harvest of the year and I have now earned an additional Earn-A-Buck Sticker!

Chad ended up doing  a great job in capturing the entire hunting on film. "Thanks Chad" Now its time to find a nice buck.

Bowhunting: Week One Update

by John Mueller 23. September 2008 15:15
John Mueller

        I started out the 08 season by not hunting opening morning. We had over 4 inches of rain from Hurricane Ike the day before. I was worried about crossing some of the small ditches and creeks in the dark. I went to work instead and saved another day of vacation for the RUT. I got home after work on the 15th and showered and got dressed. I hunted a small lot in my subdivision. My subdivision is made up of 3+ acre lots with many small creeks and a good bit of woods. I got all settled in and let the woods get back to normal. About 5:30 I think it was I heard a crash to my right where the bedding area is. I see 2 deer come sailing out of there being chased by a black lab. So much for my opening day hunt.            

Hunt #2 on the 16th.  After work I climbed into my stand overlooking the food plot in my backyard. Just before 5:00 I see 3 deer making their way up the path to my food plot. I am stood up and ready. It looks like a big doe in the lead followed by 2 fawns. As the doe ducks under a limb entering the plot I draw my bow. That’s when the doe I hadn’t seen enter the plot blows the whole setup. She takes of into the woods blowing with every bound. Needless to say, that was the last deer sightings for hunt #2.           

Hunt #3 on the 19th.  I went back in the woods about 60 yards off of my food plot, figuring they wouldn’t be entering the plot early again. I was right, no deer sightings at all that night.

Hunt #4, Success!!I went out with my ASAT ground blind to hunt the edges of a corn field a couple miles from my house. I set it up in the last few rows of corn looking out over a grassy waterway. I know the deer travel thru here from hunting this farm over the years. Here is my camo job on the blind.

Ground Blind hunting can be a blast!

The deers view as she approached.

About 4:45 I see a doe and a fawn coming my direction in the waterway. They are getting closer and closer, every once in a while they look at the blind but continue on browsing. The doe stops in front of the blind broadside at 12 yards. I touch the trigger on my release and watch my luminock bury behind her shoulder. She runs down the hill and starts to stagger. I see her stumble into the brushy ditch and hear her crashing for a couple of seconds. She made it 60 yards downhill. The Rage did its job again in short order. Yes I do shoot my Rage thru the mesh in my blind. I put a rubber band around the blades and they do not open going thru the mesh. I tried it out quite a few times before I hunted with it. If you want try it out, you can order your Rage Broadheads right here on in the shopping section.

Ok so here is the trophy photo, I had to take it myself, no help around.


First Harvest of '08

Wisconsin Bowhunting Deer Opener!

by Todd Graf 20. September 2008 14:35
Todd Graf

Goal #1 - Get an Earn-A-Buck Sticker! 

Man do I love this time of the year. Its the first trip up North with the bow ready and license in hand. I know I am only a day away from being back on stand. This year was going to be different as I pledged to film my Wisconsin hunting buddy Josh Fletcher first. We decided to meet the night before and go over the final filming details so we would be on cue for the opener. When I am not available Josh will be filmed by his buddy Chad. We're really hoping to get some good bowhunting video footage this fall and bring it to you as it happens here on and HuntingNet.  So make sure you keep checking out our video section as we post new bowhunting gear reviews from the field, as well as our exciting, and not-so-exciting, bowhunts this fall.

Here you can see Chad had his flash cards all prepared, so I know he wont be making any mistakes when he is behind the camera.


After a quick meal we were on the road with our binoculars looking bucks, although we did not see any we were pumped as we less than 12 hours away from being on stand.


Opening morning finally came and it was time to get out into the woods.  Here is Josh spraying down with Primos Silver XP - his favorite scent free spray. We will be adding the full line of Primos Silver XP Products to the shopping cart very shortly, so keep checking back if you're interested in trying any of them out.

I promised Josh I wouldn't be too hard on him, but who gets lost on the way to their treestand on opening day??? Well we did, in the rain no less! Here is a photo that I captured of Josh praying that his GPS is going work. It did after I loaned him batteries out of the wireless mic on our camera! Josh and I are going to have to do better next time.

Here's a photo of me trying out the new camera arm from Muddy Outdoors.  So far this arm has worked out great for me and I'm looking forward to getting some more use out of it for a full review in a few weeks. Yes, it figures it has to rain on the opener. I used an old Gore-Tex coat to keep the camera gear dry but I was soaked.  After not seeing any deer and being completed soaked from the rain we decided to get out and regroup for the afternoon hunt.

Now it was my time too get in front of the camera! Josh and I had a plan ready to go but when the wind did not cooperate we had to deviate from that plan. We found a new spot, hung our Lone Wolf stands, cleared a few lanes with my Hooyman Extendible Tree Saw and settled in for the evening hunt.  Being able to stay mobile and find a good spot to hunt based on the weather and wind is one of the most important factors in the way that we hunt.  You can never have too many stand options, and when they don't work out - improvise!

First thing that evening a nice doe came in and noticed a branch that I cut off and left on the trail. She immediately got nervous and started to sneak around our location. She eventually presented me a shot and I blew it!!!! You will have to watch the video to see the actual action. Click on the link below. Then a second doe comes in, and this time I made a great hit. Josh got everything on film and we were excited to be that lucky on the opener.

Click here to watch the video of my Opening day doe harvest in Wisconsin.

1st Blood trail of the year!

60 yards later, we found the end of the blood trail and a nice doe. Just as we found her the rain started coming down hard just like last year so we packed up our gear and got her out of the woods ASAP!

I'm looking forward to getting back out in Wisconsin in pursuit of a buck pretty soon.  Our season in Illinois doesn't open for a few weeks yet, but you can bet I'll be out for the IL opener as well!  Good luck to everyone who is out hunting now!

Now all we had to do is drag her out! I must say that Josh's hunter saftey system worked like a charm for dragging!

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