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HOW MANY POINTS!?

by Steve Flores 5. May 2012 07:25
Steve Flores

These photos were recently sent to us from a gentleman in Colorado Springs. Apparently, this big guy (on the left) has been seen walking the streets on a regular basis. WOW!!! 

Deer seem to do funny things when they are in velvet; displaying behavior not often seen while in “hard-horn”. This is a perfect example.

Three questions come to mind when I look at this photo.
1. How many points is this buck actually carrying?
2. Would the folks of Colorado Springs frown on someone (me) for hunting within city limits?
3. Could a Lone Wolf Assassin fit in one of those trees?
I guess I will never know the answer to those questions. But, I have a feeling someone has already laid out a strategy to put this buck within bow range come fall. Bowhunting.com will keep you posted on any developing details regarding this buck. 

What do you think? Sound off in the Forum Section and share your thoughts on this mega-buck.

Categories: Blog | Current News | Pro Staff

Food Plot 101

by Jordan Howell 23. April 2012 10:52
Jordan Howell

One of the hottest topics in the hunting industry today is Food Plots.  Some hunters will argue that they are absolutely necessary to kill big bucks; others will say you don't need them.  Despite the fact that there is no magical big buck potion, food plots definitely have their place in deer management and can drastically increase a hunter's success….IF they are done right.  For a bowhunter who may be a novice when it comes to food plots, trying to figure out everything on your own can be a nightmare.  For example, what to plant, where to plant, and the never ending when, how, and why’s associated with growing food plots can drive a person crazy. Quite often, these are questions many landowners and managers don't have answers to. As a result, many guess or take the advice of friends.  This trial and error method produces mixed results because not everything works in every situation. Hunters also have many misconceptions about food plots; such as you must have access to large equipment to be successful. This isn't true in most cases.  The only thing a hunter really needs is a determined attitude and the patience to do things right. So, if you happen to be one of the many bowhunters who have wanted to start your very own food plot, but didn’t because you thought you couldn’t do it for one reason or another----then this article is for you. Let’s begin with the basics....the EXTREME basics.

Establishing an intimate knowledge of your hunting area will go a long way toward reaching your management goals

It has been said that you must have long term goals to prevent frustration with short term failures. This is definitely true when it comes to habitat management.  Planning and forethought on the part of the hunter will have an immeasurable effect on the success of his/her food plots.  Because every piece of property is different, there is no food plot strategy that works for everyone. In order to be successful, one must carefully examine the needs and capabilities of his/her particular property before starting. The first question a hunter must ask himself is WHY do you want a food plot?  Is it to attract more deer to your property, or perhaps grow bigger bucks? Maybe it is to hold deer on your property by providing them with added nutrition. Before you plant the first seed, take a minute and write down what your short term and long term goals for the property are. This will help determine the starting point for your management plan because not all hunters want the same things, or can realistically achieve the same goals. For example, in the Southeastern part of the country, growing a “Booner  Buck” is not exactly an attainable goal. Many hunters in that region would be happy to simply see more deer while they are hunting. When it comes to your own wants and needs, think about what it is you ultimately wish to accomplish on your property.  Then, evaluate what your property's current short term and long term potential is; writing down its strengths and weaknesses. This will help you come up with a list of goals for the management of the property. 

 

Mineral Sites are an excellent means for not only attracting deer, but also helping bucks maximize their antler potential.

Once you have determined your goals, you can begin formulating a plan to carry them out.  The first thing that I like to do on a property is find out what kind of deer herd I am dealing with.  Although walking the property will give me clues about terrain, available forage, cover etc, there is no way I can accurately inventory the deer herd on a farm without added help.  One of the best tools for helping you do this is a good trail camera.  It will serve as your eyes in the woods….24 hours a day. When selecting a site to place a camera, I always pick an area where I can monitor and check it with minimal pressure to the local deer. This means placing my camera on the fringes of the property; places I can easily drive to or get very close to with my truck, thus minimizing the amount of human scent I leave in the area. This is a key step because the less intrusion I make, the more apt the deer will be to use the area. If placing minerals or attractants is not legal in your state, then pick a location that gets a lot of natural traffic, such as water holes, openings in fences, or where fence-rows meet the woods.  If putting out attractants is legal in your area, then by all means do so. This will increase the number of deer images you capture on your camera. Putting out minerals is also the easiest and cheapest way to establish deer numbers and develop a management plan on your property.  After that, the only decision you will have to make is do you want to simply attract more deer to your property or are you interested in growing bigger and healthier deer?  I know that is a simple question, but remember, we're taking baby steps here. If pure attraction is what you want out of your property, then a product such as Monster Raxx's Whitetail Magnet will work great.  It is a highly concentrated oil based attractant and deer find the sweet smell irresistible. On the other hand, if you want to attract deer, while at the same time, benefit them nutritionally, a product such as Monster Raxx's Trophy Minerals would be a suitable choice. This particular product still has some salt to attract deer, but has many different macro and trace minerals that will help with antler production and doe lactation which will lead to healthier fawns.  Mineral sites serve several roles to a hunter/ land manager. In addition to immediately attracting deer to your area and providing them with a nutritional boost, they help you inventory and keep track of your deer herd by documenting each visitor to the site. Plus they require very little effort on the hunter's part. I can't think of a product that gives a hunter more bang for his buck! 

 This plot was selected to be a "kill plot" inorder to intercept cruising bucks during the rut.

Once you have completed your mineral site setup, you can then begin to evaluate your property's food plot potential. The most important thing to remember is that without a clear picture of what your farm needs or what the conditions are, no one can offer a “catch-all” solution that will work.  The number one reason for food plot failure is improper site and/or forage selection. I cringe when I hear a plethora of different answers to questions regarding “what to plant” or “what to do” to improve a particular plot. While suggestions such as plant clover, plant beans, or add lime CAN be good, first and foremost, site selection and “plot purpose” must be taken into consideration. 
For example, currently I am working on a new plot on a piece of property that presents some unique challenges. I have hunted this particular farm for seven seasons. The entire southwestern corner of the property is roughly made up of 20 acre’s of impenetrable thicket; so thick that I can’t walk through it, much less hunt it.  The northeast section of this farm contains a swamp and holds a lot of deer.  The deer feed to the south in large agricultural fields. The swamp is the sanctuary on the property, so I don't hunt there. The center of the farm has little timber and is difficult to hunt.  I have put in a couple of plots in the center to provide late season forage for the deer.  This year I have decided to utilize the thicket that I haven’t been able to do anything with. 

 Treestand view from the "kill plot".

I have basically cleared out a section of the thicket where several trails crisscross and planted about a 1/3 acre “kill plot” in this section. I plan to utilize this particular area during the rut when I hope to capitalize on bucks cruising from North to South in search of does.  The addition of a plot surrounded by security cover will give wary bucks a spot to stop briefly and scent check for a receptive mate. Also, access to this location is perfect. With a North or Northeast wind I will be able to walk up the tree-line to the west and climb into the stand without alerting any deer to my presence. I cannot stress enough the importance of a covert access when hunting a food plot, or anywhere for that matter.  A good spot with perfect access is better than a great spot with bad access. If the deer know you are hunting them the greenest plot in the world won't do you any good. Once you have selected a location, you must decide on what type of forage to plant. Before doing this please remember to do one thing……A SOIL TEST!  This information will prove to be invaluable.  Not only will it provide you with soil PH, it will tell you soil type and nutrient levels as well. This will help you determine what kind of plot will grow the best on your land. 

After a site has been selected for your new food plot, it is vital to conduct a soil sample test.

In the case of the new plot on my farm, the soil test indicated my PH was low, and the soil was sandy, but organic matter was high. This is fairly typical of plots in the woods that have never been cultivated.  I wanted a clover plot, but typically clovers do better in heavier soils because they need a good amount of moisture. Based on the information in my soil test, I decided on a blend of annual clovers and brassicas, as well as alfalfa and chicory. I want a plot that will have peak attractiveness during the rut; when I plan to hunt it. The clovers and brassicas will provide that attractiveness, while the alfalfa's large roots will help hold moisture that the soil won’t; which allows the clover to attach to and utilize the water in its root system.
There are forages that would be easier to establish, but again I want peak attraction to be late October through November. The annual clovers will provide a quick green-up and will give the plot attractiveness while the lime builds up in the soil to raise the PH. Once the PH reaches 6.5, hopefully by next year, then I will plant a perennial. 

Success is failure turned inside out.  No matter what your goals are for a property, careful planning will make all the difference in the success of your food plots.  It isn't rocket science by any means, and anyone who wants to do it can.  All it takes is effort, determination, and creativity.  Just remember that to reach a destination, you must first know where you are going.  Make a list of management goals for your property, stick to them, and don't cut any corners achieving them.  If done correctly, food plots will be another deadly weapon in your arsenal of tactics. In my next article we will discuss soil testing a little more in-depth and move forward with the over-all food plot construction.

Post Season Training: Next Season Starts Now

by Steve Flores 25. January 2012 13:01
Steve Flores

Now that most hunting seasons have closed, it is important to discuss a common “post-season” trap. And, while it may seem innocent in nature, make no mistake it is one that prevents a lot of bowhunters from reaching their maximum potential; with regard to bow shooting skills, number of tags filled and even overall physical fitness. I understand that after many long months chasing your favorite game animal the urge to “take it easy” for a while can be overwhelming. However, if you want next season to be better than last season, now is the absolute best time to work toward that goal. Later, in subsequent blogs, we will discuss Hunting Prowess (tags filled), and Physical Fitness in more detail. But for now, let’s take a closer look at the first of these three areas: Shooting Skill. 

Your favorite treestand may be sitting dormant, but that doesn't mean that the time for perparation is over. 

Shooting Skills
You don’t have to be a competitive shooter to be a successful bowhunter. In reality, perhaps the most deciding factor in closing the deal on your next bowhunting opportunity comes down to 2 things: muscle memory and your ability to handle pressure. Thankfully, if you put enough time into actually shooting your bow, muscle memory will take care of itself. This is important because you might believe that you can talk yourself through such details as picking a spot, bending at the waste, relaxing your shooting hand or squeezing the release trigger----all in the heat of the moment! But, the truth is, you will most likely forget, simply because your heart will be in your throat. I know because I have tried. It should come as no surprise that my odds of success were very low during those seasons when I tried to will my way through tough shooting situations. 

The off-season is a great time to introduce advanced shooting techniques such as "Blind-Bale Shooting" into your practice regimen.

During those seasons when I failed to pick up my bow until late summer, I was essentially “relearning” all of the skills I had worked so hard on during the previous year. As a result, even though I was practicing, I wasn’t really making any strides in my ability to shoot well. Thankfully, I wasn’t loosing much either. But honestly, I definitely wasn’t getting any better. I quickly learned that maintaining some form of consistency during the off-season was the only way to really improve my proficiency to hit what I was aiming at in actual hunting situations. Some of this included just slinging arrows in the back yard. A good deal of it however, entailed actually shooting from a treestand, long-range shooting, and even up close, blank-bale shooting. 

Shooting from the ground, in a kneeling position, while wearing a face-mask, can affect your odds of filling a tag; especially if you wait until the moment of truth to find out if doing so alters such things as anchor point and arrow flight.

I should also mention how important it is to make a good deal of your practice time “situational”. For example, if you primarily hunt above “terra-firma”, then you should conduct the majority of your practice sessions from a treestand. This will only add “realism” to the situation and better prepare you for the real thing; and, what better time to do this than during the boring winter months. In addition, shooting outside when it is cold allows you to evaluate your cold-weather gear for any potential interference problems with the bowstring. This can be hard to do in the heat of summer or just before opening day when temps are still high. 

 

While everyone else is spending time doing something non-archery related, why not try out a new grip or arrow and broadhead combination. The new Mathews Focus grip is great for reducing hand-torque and the new NAP Big Nasty broadhead, along with the new Easton INJEXION arrows should prove to be leathal. It's never too late to start dialing things in and testing new gear.

Pressure
Your ability to handle a pressure situation in the treestand can be increased by spending time behind the bowstring. There is no question that when your shooting skills improve----your confidence goes up. When your confidence goes up, so does your ability to manage pressure; simply because you expect to perform well. The old cliché that archery is 90% mental carries a lot of merit. Even if you only shoot a few arrows a week, that is better than laying the bow down for the entire off-season (until just a few weeks before opening day).

 

When the moment I have worked so hard for finally arrives......I want nothing more than to deliver. For me, this starts in the off-season.

I like to think that my bow is an extension of my arm. I maintain that feeling by making sure I don’t let too much time go by without launching some arrows downrange. When faced with an actual shot on a living, breathing animal, I want my mind and body to go into sort of an “auto-pilot” mode. That way, all I have to do is find the single hair I want to split….nothing more. Of course, I am only human and completely capable of screwing things up. However, I can decrease the chances of that happening by constantly sharpening my shooting skills----year round. 

Next time we will discuss ways to improve our ability to fill tags. Again, post season is the optimum time-frame to accomplish this. However, there is more to it than aimlessly stumbling through the woods. You need to have a plan.

Buckscore REVIEW - Scoring your Trophy Buck from Home

by Josh Fletcher 20. July 2011 16:30
Josh Fletcher


After reading on Bowhunting.com about a new program available on the market for both deer hunters and wildlife managers, that could score a buck just from a picture, I just had to take a closer look.  The program is called Buckscore.

Buckscore was developed by the Mississippi State University’s Deer Ecology and Management Laboratory. The program has a data base of known measurements from deer around the country, such as ear width and eyeball diameter. From those base measurements, Buckscore can be used to measure the total amount of antler from a picture. The program states that it is most accurate on deer antler positions from three angles. The picture can be analyzed from a buck that is 0 degrees, 45 degrees, and 90 degrees.
 
To use the Buckscore program you download the picture of the buck you want to score. From there select what state the picture of the buck was taken from and approximate age if known. Then select the known measurement that you want to use that all measurements are compared from. An example is the width of the buck’s ear. By selecting Wisconsin as the state the program uses known deer ear width from the area of Wisconsin. Once the known measurement is taken you are now ready to begin scoring your buck. The tutorial on the side of the program walks you through the locations on the buck’s antlers to click your mouse to retrieve measurements for scoring your buck. If you cannot see a particular tine or cannot tell from the photo where a tine begins or ends, you have the option of clicking the mirror tab that uses the same measurement from the other side of the buck’s antlers. An example is that you can see the buck’s right side G3 but not the left, by clicking this tab it will take the right G3 and use that measurement for the left G3. After measuring all the given locations the program then asks if the deer you just scored is in velvet or not. Select your answer and soon the total score of your buck if given in a form showing B&C or P&Y, it also shows the net score along with the gross score of your buck.

This is a good quality photo for an accurate score from the Buckscore

(This Buckscore.com program scored this buck at 152.06" Typical Gross Score)

After researching this program from the Buckscore web site I decided to download the program and give it a try. By clicking on the website button to buy the program it charged me just under $20.00 for the down load. I then followed the tutorial to begin downloading the program straight from their web site. On my laptop I am running the Windows7 software and had no troubles down loading the program. Buckscore.com is also able to be downloaded by other types of software.  The whole process from start to finish took me around fifteen minutes. To explain how easy this was I must first tell you my computer knowledge is near zero and computer back ground is at a big zero, so as the saying goes, if I can do it so can you.

My first test of this program was to see just how accurate it really is at scoring bucks. Now, I first want to tell you that the Buckscore.com program only works for whitetail bucks. I loaded a picture of a buck that I already knew the score of and that was the buck I shot last fall. I used a picture that was taken of me holding the buck and it was not from a game camera. The reason for this was to provide the best quality picture to test on the scoring. After several minutes of taking measurements, I was given the final score. Buckscore.com was off by less than two inches from what I received from the tape measure. I then scored a buck that my friend had shot last year; this buck was off by just over three inches from what the actual tape measurement was. I’m not sure how particular you are, but for me this type of accuracy is very impressive just from a picture.

Here is an example of a poor quality photo that is hard to score

After using this program for some time now and scoring numerous bucks I have noticed that I am learning better judgment on where to begin measuring from the picture to achieve more accurate results. I will say that a greater error will happen if the picture that you are scoring is of poor quality and if you cannot see all of the tines. A poor quality photo may also make it more difficult to be able to tell where one point begins and ends, making it difficult to measure. You can score bucks that are not at the three previous mentioned angles however your score may slightly be off of what the buck actually scores. To get the most accurate score I would recommend scoring several different photos of the same buck and comparing the differences if at all possible. I also want to note that when I am talking about your score being off, I am talking about only several inches. Basically you may have a photo of a buck that’s real score is 167” but the Buckscore.com program states it is 165”. In my eyes this is very accurate from just a picture. The other neat part about this program is that I have my friends email me pictures of bucks that they want scored by Buckscore.com and I can score it for them with in several minutes.
 
This program will not kill you bigger bucks, however, has many benefits. First is that it helps with the famous ground shrinkage. We have all experienced it, the buck appears bigger right before you take the shot however when you walk up on your prize he just isn’t as big as you thought. The other part is that pictures can be deceiving. We have all seen it or have been a part of the famous trophy fish photo, where you hold the fish closer to the camera to get it away from the fisherman’s body to make the fish look bigger. Trail cam photos can do the same thing with bucks; the buck can look much bigger on the trail cam photo than he really is. My brother Clint and I were victims of this last fall. I had several pictures of a buck that we know as the kicker buck. By looking at the trail cam pictures we estimated him to be in the 130” range. During the rut Clint was able to harvest this buck and when we walked up on him we realized he was much smaller than the picture made him look. Now don’t get me wrong, he was a good buck and Clint was very proud to have taken him, however if we would have had this program last year we would have known before the shot opportunity that he was smaller than what we judged him by the picture.
 
By utilizing the Buckscore program you can “pre classify” the bucks on your property prior to actually laying eyes on them with great accuracy. Also by being able to score bucks right from your computer you are better able to learn what a true 130” buck looks like and so forth allowing you to improve your skills at scoring bucks on the hoof.

The Buckscore program is also great for analyzing the quality of bucks that are utilizing your property. The program allows you to track the bucks that you score for an analysis of bucks on your property. By this I mean that if you score thirty different bucks, the program lists the score class of the bucks so you can see the percentage of a particular class of bucks on your property. With proper management and habitat improvement your goal may be to see an increase in 120” class bucks one year and then an increase of 130” class the next. This program allows you to track this information about your property.

This buck is not at the three angles recommended by the program, causing the results to vary

(This buck scored 149.46" Typical Gross Score by the Buckscore program)

The last reason I would encourage the use of the Buckscore program is that it is just plain old fun to use. It’s exciting to get out into the woods and check your trail cam for big buck pictures, now you can take that picture home and put a score to that buck of a life time. This program doesn’t need a picture taken from just a trail camera, you can use pictures that you personally have taken or even use a freeze framed clip from your own video, save it as a picture and then basically score the buck from a video. Now if that big boy walks just outside of your bow range you can still video him and then score him without ever firing a shot. This can be good or bad because it may make that missed opportunity hurt just that much more.

Listed below are the pros and cons to the Buckscore program;

Pros
• Easy to down load from the Buckscore.com website using Windows7
• Able to be downloaded using other types of software
• Allows for great practice on field judging bucks on the hoof (no more guessing)
• Program is set up to be able to analyze the class of bucks on your property
• Helps to minimize ground shrinkage
• Accurately score bucks to be placed in a “harvest class”
• Plain old fun to score bucks that you have captured on your trail camera
• It is very accurate at scoring whitetail bucks, with in just several inches
• Bucks can be scored in velvet and the program accounts for the velvet.
• Keeps your hunting buddies much more honest when they email you a photo

Cons
• Poor photos can cause a greater error with accuracy
• The most accurate measurements are taken from three angles: 0, 45, and 90 degrees
• It can cause missing the buck of a life time hurt that much more knowing what he really scores
• If you’re the exaggerating hunting buddy emailing the photo

After utilizing the Buckscore program I must say I am very pleased with it. Yes it is not 100% accurate, but nothing will ever be unless you actually put your hands on his antlers. For just taking measurement from a photo I am more than pleased with being off by only several inches and believe that this program given a good quality picture is very accurate. For less than $20.00 this product is definitely worth a try.

Big Iowa Bucks and Interesting Antler Facts

by Mark Kenyon 30. June 2011 15:56
Mark Kenyon

It's a great time of year for antler freaks like you and me! Headgear is getting noticeable and heavy racked bucks are finally appearing in fields and on trailcam. My buddy Pete Lynch recently shared with me some great pics from his Iowa properties that made me equally pumped up for hunting and jealous that he's already seeing mature bucks with such good growth. That being said, I had to share them with you guys! But while you're scoping out these future Iowa Giants below, I thought I'd also toss out a few interesting facts I've come across over the years about antlers and how they grow.

- Did you know that antlers are fastest growing tissue known to man?! Even faster growing than cancer cells.

- Antler growth, velvet shedding and eventual casting of antlers is all due to increases and eventual decreases in testosterone. These changes in testosterone are triggered by the lengthening and shortening of the daylight hours, also called the "photoperiod".

- An injury to a deers back legs often will be reflected in the opposite side antler. For example, if a buck severely mangles his left leg during the antler growth cycle, you could expect to see a pretty non-typical right antler.

- Antlers can grow in some cases an average of 1 inch a day!

- There is no truth to the old belief that a yearling spike buck has poor genetics and that it should be culled from the herd. Countless studies have been done in recent years that show that many spike bucks turn in to just as large of racked bucks as a branched antler yearling if given a few years. 

- Eight point racks are the most common in whitetails.

- By the age of 3 1/2 years old, some studies show that a buck has only achieved around 50-60% of it's potential antler growth!

- Antlers grow from the tips out.

So now that your thoroughly excited by the buck porn pictures above and the incredible nature of antlers themselves, make sure you get out your trailcams now if you haven't already and start scouring those bean and alfalfa fields with your binocs for quickly growing bucks! Only 84 days til my first day of bow season and I can't wait!

Categories: Pro Staff



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