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Confessions of a Lazy Hunter Part 1; Post-Season Scouting

by Justin Zarr 9. March 2011 15:40
Justin Zarr

Developing a particular set of skills to your highest ability is no easy task.  Whether it's shooting a bow, hunting for deer, swinging a baseball bat or any other skill that is learned over time it often requires a deep knowledge and fundamental understanding of both the basics as well as advanced techniques.  For those of us who spend much of our time pursuing whitetail deer it has been engrained in our brains that post-season scouting is possibly the best way to gain a better understanding of our quarry.  In light of this we spend countless hours walking countless miles around our hunting grounds each winter and spring, hoping to unlock the mysteries of killing trophy whitetails.

As a young whitetail hunter I bought into pretty much every piece of information I read in a magazine or book, or saw on TV or in a video - including the post-season scouting craze.  I figured that unless I got out in the woods and walked until I had blisters on my feet, cataloging every piece of deer sign I could find I wasn't a "serious" hunter.  Surely THIS would start me on the path to success!  Despite my best efforts, and after several seasons of unfilled tags, I began taking a closer look into my techniques which started with post-season scouting.  I was putting in the time, so why wasn't I seeing the rewards? 


I've spent many hours walking up and down hills, across creeks and ravines, through snow, mud and water - and for what?  It suppose it was good excercise anyways...

The answer to this, my bowhunting friends, is that I wasn't really learning anything that was helping me become a better bowhunter!  I was simply doing as I was told, but never fully understanding why or how it was going to benefit me.  Heck, part of it was probably just to tell my buddies that I spent 4 hours walking in the woods today just to prove how "serious" I really was!  Allow me to explain futher...

For most deer hunters our post-season scouting is done during late winter and early spring.  The trouble with this is that much of of the sign we're seeing now was made after the season ended and the local whitetails have drastically altered virtually every aspect of their lives.  After the rut winds down and cold weather moves in it's not uncommon for deer to move several miles to find a good food source.  During much of December and all through January and February it's entirely possible that the deer you were hunting last fall, and will be hunting again next fall, are not using your hunting property at all!  So you put the miles on your boots but can't seem to figure out where all the deer went.  In some cases we may even write off particular areas due to lack of deer sign.

Conversely, you may have one of the better food sources in the area and thus have an overwhelming amount of deer sign.  I know many hunters who have been fooled into thinking that the concentration of sign automatically means this is spot they should be hunting.  So they come back during the summer and hang their treestands, but are sadly disappointed come fall when the spot fails to produce the action they were hoping for.  Typically this is because all of these deer who were so heavily concentrated during the winter months have dispersed and could very well be miles away once again.  Sadly, hunting where the deer were 8 months ago really doesn't do us a whole lot of good.


Heavily packed trails and fence crossings like this are quite often located next to primary winter food sources.  Despite their appearance these areas of concentrated late-season sign aren't always the best spots to hunt come next fall.

Another often misleading piece of sign are shed antlers.  Although they are certainly enjoyable to find, in many cases they don't tell us any helpful information about how to kill that particular animal.  Most often I've found that shed antlers only tell us that animal happened to be in that spot at that particular time, and nothing more.  Why is this?  Once again we go back to winter food sources.  Bucks will travel great distance to find enough food to get them through winter, during which time they will frequently bed close to this food source.  Consider the fact that most antlers are found in or directly adjecent to winter food and bedding sources this does little to tell us where that whitetail may be come October.

This about this - how many shed antlers have you found off bucks that you've never seen or have no trail camera photos of?  Additionally, how many bucks do you see countless times throughout the hunting season and get tons of trail camera pictures of, yet can never find their sheds? 

Now not all post-season scouting can be quite so misleading.  The prime example of this is buck rubs - and more specifically BIG buck rubs.  A big buck rub is generally one of our first indications that there's a trophy quality whitetail in our hunting area.  Although a big rub doesn't necessarily mean it was made by a big buck, the chances are pretty good that it was.  Finding a large rub, and more importantly a bunch of large rubs, is a pretty good indicator that you're onto a potential hot spot for next fall. 

The trick here is to determine what type of area these rubs are being made in.  Is this a thick area that a buck may be using to bed in?  Or is it on the edge of a field where a buck is staging before dark?  Or maybe the rubs are located along some type of travel corridor in between doe bedding areas?  It is important to try and figure out why these rubs were being made here in order to figure out the most effecctive way to hunt that spot in the future.  Of course this assuming you can prove that a big buck is still using this area.  But that's another topic for another Blog.


Finding this type of rub is enough to get any bowhunter's heart pumping, but it's important to analyze the big picture before deciding to hunt this area.  A large rub like this one, located just yards off a primary food source, is quite often made at night which doesn't always indicate a good place to hunt. 

Most of us hunt the same properties year after year which hopefully means we've learned quite a bit about the deer we're hunting.  For the most part doe bedding areas don't move around from year to year and our natural funnels and pinch points usually aren't going anywhere either.  So once you've located these areas there's usually no need to overly scout them each year.  Taking a quick walk through them to make sure nothing drastic has changed should suffice in most cases.  The rest of your time in the woods is probably best spent looking for shed antlers, because even though they might not help us a whole lot they sure are a bunch of fun to find!


The bigger of these two shed antlers is from a buck that was never seen while hunting this particular farm, nor where there any trail camera photos of him either.  Although he's a nice mature animal that we would like to harvest, there's no guarantee that he'll be anywhere near this spot come summer or fall.  Don't make the mistake of assuming just because you found a buck's shed that he's calling that area home.

The past 5 seasons I've been lucky enough to harvest 6 good whitetails with my bow, miss a 7th, and videotape my good friend Mike Willand harvest an 8th all without the aid of post-season scouting.  While I feel that these winter and spring walk-a-thons do serve a few good purposes, by and large I'm beginning to think they're rather unnecessary and overrated.  Maybe it's time we break the cycle of trying to become the most hardcore, shed-hunting, deer-scouting bowhunter on the block and start focusing on scouting smarter, not harder.

Next month I'll continue my Lazy Hunter blog with some talk about locating whitetails using trail cameras, and how that information can help lead us in the right direction.  Until then, feel free to skip your post season scouting trips and spend some much-need time with your family or working off that "honey do" list you built up last November!

Hefner and the BackYard Buck!

by Brenda Potts 19. February 2011 15:06
Brenda Potts

During the peak of the rut my field producer, Melissa Bachman, and I were after a buck we named Heffner (he seemed to always have a girlfriend nearby). Melissa was running the video camera and we were filming for SHE's Beyond the Lodge.

We were bowhunting a 100 acre lease not far from my house in central Illinois, prime big buck country. Heffner was one smart buck. The first time we spotted him he was well hidden in CRP grass and refused to take a step into the open as he surveyed the area for several minutes. Try keeping your act together with a 170 class buck less than 60 yards away from the food plot where your decoy is patiently waiting to lure a shooter into range. Heffner took a different route that did not bring him in range of my tree stand.

On my second encounter, Heffner wanted no part of the Bucky Jr. decoy and neither did his current love interest. The doe passed through one of my 40 yard shooting lanes, refusing to go toward the decoy. Heffner began to follow her. Unfortunately the doe got downwind and spooked, sending Heffner back where he came from.

In the meantime, back at my house a mystery buck decided to blast our Glen Del target to pieces, scattering parts for twenty yards. I put it back together and, yes I know, should have taken the antlers off because the second time the mystery buck attacked, he broke the front legs of our target. I sat the body back up in a hurry and left it as if shooting at a bedded buck. Mystery buck knocked it over a third time. My mind was on Heffner, but this mystery back yard buck was beginning to make me mad.

My husband, Stan came home early from a successful hunt and Melissa had to leave. So Stan said he would run the video camera for me. We decided to go after our back yard mystery buck. Our property is only 8 acres in the country but with the rut in full swing, deer were moving through our timber on a regular basis.

With the Bucky Jr. decoy set up and Stan behind the camera my hopes were high. He rattled in 3 bucks on our second morning. One of the bucks was a shooter and he started making his way through the timber right to our decoy. As he circled to get down wind of Bucky Jr. it gave me a quartering away shot. I was shooting a Mathews DXT and sent the Muzzy 3 blade right where it needed to go. My back yard buck went down less than 80 yards from my tree. I cannot say for sure he was the mystery buck, but the target hasn't been knocked over since.

Back at the lease, Heffner was still chasing does. He was spotted with a doe in the middle of a wide open field during the gun season. Would he make it through the rest of the year? Thanks to our grandson Tristin we have the answer. He found one of Heffner's sheds today. It was the first shed he ever found and he spotted it all by himself. The big antler was in the timber not far from where I had seen the buck in the fall. Now we know Heffner made it through all the late hunting seasons and the winter.  Thanks to our little shed master I have started  counting the days to next bow season!

 

 

 

 

An Early Start to Shed Antler Season

by Scott Abbott 12. January 2011 11:20
Scott Abbott

I was finally able to put some time aside on Monday to get outside and put a couple miles on my boots for an early look for some sheds.  I am not currently running any cameras but have some buddies that are.  For the most part their cameras are telling us that the vast majority of bucks are still carrying their antlers.  But, since I filled my buck tag on October 30th, I have only been in the woods a couple times to help track deer for others.  I just wanted to get out for a walk. 

My few hours did not yield any shed antlers or very much for tracks in the snow but I did find a small buck skull.  Thinking back over the years, I can only think of one year where I found a shed antler before finding one or more buck skulls.  I find a disproportionate number of dead bucks to sheds in my area.  I am hoping for a solid shed season this winter, I just need to give them more time to drop their racks. 

Good luck to all this shed season!

Some Bucks Shedding Antlers Already

by Dan Schafer 14. December 2010 09:50
Dan Schafer

While a lot of bucks can hold their antlers well into February and March, every year we hear of bucks shedding early.It’s been a few years since I have gotten trail cam pictures of a shed buck this early, but I was lucky enough to get pictures of one when I checked my Reconyx HC600 this past weekend here in Wisconsin. 

From the looks of this buck, he appears to be a 1.5 or 2.5 year old and doesn’t seem to have any visible injuries.

Bowhunting.com customer Steve Renner one-upped me and actually found a shed on December 9th of this year.  Congrats Steve on a neat find and it looks like this buck has a lot of potential!

Warm Temperatures in the Midwest; Great News For Hunting Food Plots!

by Todd Graf 20. April 2010 15:02
Todd Graf

These recent warm temperatures and relatively dry weather has been great for those of us who want to get any early start on our food plots.  Unlike last year I am already ahead of schedule by two weeks which is always a good thing!

My fertilzer tests were done early, the results are back already and fertilzer has been spread.  Additionally the majority of my fields have been burned off or mowed off, my clover has been planted and I just had a large group of seedling trees planted as well. I have to admit I am feeling ahead of the game.  I decided not to chase any turkeys this spring, but instead to focus on making adjustments so I can hopefully put myself in a position to havest a nice buck this fall.  So far things have been going very well and I'm really pleased with the progress I've made.


This spring I am going to test forage beans and a sorghum plot to see what kind of wildlife I can attract, and how well those plots hold up.

As you may have seen in some of my earlier Blogs and video posts, shed antler hunting was a sucess this year as I did find a few more then usual.  Myself and a couple good friends of mine picked up quite a few antlers in and around my winter food plots, including the matched set to a buck I call "Flyer".  He is #1 on my hit list for this fall.

With the bowhunting season less than 5 months away now (in Wisconsin anyways) I'm starting to think about some new gear and getting everything tuned up this summer.  After my trips to the ATA Show and both the Iowa and Wisconsin Deer & Turkey Expos I've put together a short list of some new products that you should be keeping an eye on for this fall.  If you're in the market for some new gear you may want to check these out.

Mathews Z7 compound bow - I shot this bow at the Wisconsin show and man is it smooth and fast.  Mathews has always been regarded as one of, if not the best, bow manufacturer out there and it's not hard to see why with bows like the Z7. Also, if you haven't read the full blown compound bow report that we put together on of all the new bows for this year, check it out

Camtrakker MK10 Scouting Camera - everyone knows I'm a trail camera junkie and having tested the new MK10 recently I think there may be a few more of these in my scouting arsenal come summertime.  This new camera takes 5 MP photos both by day and night, and has the option of either a standard strobe flash or infrared flash, which is a very unique and awesome feature.  You can purchase the MK10 right here on Bowhunting.com by clicking this link.

New Archery Products 2 Blade BloodRunner - I shot the 3 blade version of this broadhead last year and was super impressed with it's performance.  Now that the 2 blade version is out with it's enormous 2 1/16" cutting diameter I'm looking forward to heading into the field with these on the end of my arrow this fall. 

Reconyx new Hyperfire Series Trail Camera - although I haven't had a chance to use one in the field yet, if these new cameras perform anythng like my RC55's and RC60's do I think they will be a super hot ticket for bowhunters this fall. 

Pine Ridge Archery Ground Blind Camera Mount - last year I purchased a new ground blind to hunt from with my son, and we had a blast together.  The trouble was, with two of us in the blind it got really cramped with my big video tripod.  This new camera mount from the guys at Pine Ridge Archery takes up barely any room and it works for both filming your own hunts as well as filming with another person.  Great tool!

Havalon Piranta Knives - in case you missed our video review of this product earlier this year, you have to check these things out.  They feature a replaceable razor blade which means you get the sharpest blade possible every time.  No more messing with sharpeners or trying to use a dull knife when field dressing or caping out your next trophy.

Knight & Hale Ultimate Fighting Purr Call - even though I may not be chasing turkeys this spring, I know a lot of you are!  This new call from Knight & Hale is an entire fighting purr system in one compact unit that can be used with just one hand.  Click here to purchase in the Bowhunting.com store. 

Knight & Hale Pack Rack - Another great compact calling option from Knight & Hale is the Pack Rack and new Pack Rack Magnum.  This compact call simulates the sound of two bucks fighting and is contained in one compact package that provides ease of mobility and use.  Great for bowhunters who want to pack light and not lug around a full set of rattling antlers.  Click here to purchase.

Summit Treestands Switchblade - Summit has long been known for the comfort of their treestands and the Switchblade is no exception.  The Switchblade is basically the same as the popular Viper in a new collapsible version for easier transport in and out of your hunting area. Look for these in the Bowhunting.com shopping cart later this year.

Code Blue Grave Digger lures - available in Whitetail Doe Estrous and Whitetail Buck Urine, these lures stay strong regardless of weather conditions.  This means you won't have to refresh your mock scrapes and scent stations as frequently even after it rains.  Be on the lookout for these products in the Bowhunting.com cart later this summer when they become available.

Another thing I want to mention are a few of the new websites that have recently been designed and built by us here at the Rhino Group.  For those of you that don't know, we develop custom websites for many businesses in the hunting industry.  Below are a few of the more recent websites we built that you may want to check out.

thelegendsofthefall.com - The Legends of the Fall is a brand new TV show airing this summer on the Outdoor Channel featuring a few notable faces that you may have seen over the years on Drury Outdoors videos and TV shows.  Mike & Bonnie McFerrin, Eric Hale, Chris Ward, Mark Luster, and Dave Bogart have teamed up to create this new show that is packed full of both monster bucks and good laughs. 

 

 

 

robinsonoutdoors.com - This new website for Robinson Outdoor Products (Scent Blocker & Scent Shield) features a complete upgrade of their existing shopping cart along with a ton of great interactive features like a trophy gallery, video clips from popular TV shows like Michael Waddell's Bone Collector, Tech Tips, and much more. 

 

 

 

 

legacyquestoutdoors.com - also known as the Mossy Oak Rustiks brand, Legacy Quest Outdoors offers a variety of products made from rustick and antique woods that have been collected from a variety of sources including old barns, railroads, bridge trussels, and other unique places.  If you're looking for a great way to bring the rustic feeling of the outdoors into your home or cabin you won't want to miss this!  A full online catalog and shopping cart lets you browse their selection of products from the comfort of your own home and order most of them online.

 

If you have a business in need of website development, whether you are in the hunting industry or not, give us a call at 847-515-8000 and find out what the Rhino Group can do for you.  Or check out our online portfolio at www.rhinogroup.com

All in all I am looking forward to a great year and I want to take a few moments to mention a new friend of mine and more importantly the doctor that has saved my son's life. My son Craig, age 5 at the time, was diagnosed with an extremely rare health issue - increased intracranial venous pressure over a year ago.  This high pressure in his brain caused him to lose vision in his left eye and also caused a subdural hematoma (blood inside his head). Dr. Ali Shaibani was able to figure out Craig’s problems had recognized that Craig was missing his left sigmoid transverse sinus and had a large occlusion in right one. This was causing backpressure in Craig’s head and if untreated would have lead our little man to even worse places. Dr. Shaibani was able to successfully place a stent in Craig’s brain to decrease the pressure. This is a very rare case and Craig is on the recovery track. The cool part is I have been able to get to know Dr. Shaibani more closely and wouldn't you know it - he wants to start bowhunting! I am very glad that I've been able to kick start his hunting opportunities and I look forward to helping him harvest his first deer this fall.

 
Dr. Shaibani with his new Diamand Stud bow setup, purchased right here at Bowhunting.com.  Thanks for being so good at what you do!


My little man starting his way to a healthy recovery.

Todd Graf - Strength & Honor!




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