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Real Work Lies Ahead for Wisconsin Deer Hunting Makeover

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:42
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunters who chronically crab about the Department of Natural Resources were cheering and toasting Dr. James Kroll – the “deer czar” – in early April for his harsh preliminary report on the DNR’s deer-management program.

Meanwhile, the agency’s defenders glared. They attacked the report and Kroll personally. They said this proves he just wants the $150,000 fee, and that he repeated every bad thing Gov. Scott Walker and his toadies dictated about the DNR’s deer program. Not only that, but Kroll’s an egotistical second-guesser who wants to build 8-foot fences around every 5-, 40- and 160-acre hunting property in Wisconsin.

Sigh. Welcome to Year 75 (or thereabouts) of Wisconsin’s mind-numbing deer scrum.

Much work remains before the three-man review team releases its recommendations for revamping Wisconsin's deer program in late June.

Seriously, folks: Stop strutting and pouting. In three months, no one will remember this report. By then we’ll have the final report to cheer or condemn. The sides could switch roles if June’s report turns all those grins and frowns upside down.

Or maybe DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp will email outraged press releases to support her wildlife staff, and condemn the Ph.D.s – Kroll and teammates Gary Alt and Dave Guynn – for being rude. After all, she ripped Democrats and Sen. Dale Schultz in March for allegedly disrespecting the DNR while dooming the proposed Gogebic taconite mine near Mellen.

Of course, few realized Stepp was merely defending her environmental-regs staff against doubts they could protect natural resources near the mine. She said so in a statement to skeptical DNR staff hours later.

In fact, to show Kroll’s team she has her biologists’ backs, Stepp could reuse part of her mining statement, and replace “Democrat state senators” with the trio’s names. Try this: “In the end, don't we trust regulating agencies to do their job? On my travels throughout the state, I have found that most … citizens … trust the DNR to do its job. Why don't Kroll, Alt and Guynn?”

Many Wisconsin hunters have long distrusted the Department of Natural Resources' deer-herd estimates.

OK. Never mind.

Trouble is, many hunters have never trusted state biologists to manage deer, and Stepp won’t challenge those doing so now. She even sat silently as the Legislature stripped the DNR of its most powerful deer-management tools this past year.

But maybe Stepp senses futility in fighting. After all, our hunting forefathers of the 1930s and ’40s even scorned Aldo Leopold, the University of Wisconsin’s first professor of wildlife management. A hunters’ rights newspaper, “Save Wisconsin Deer,” slammed the iconic professor for backing “the infamous and bloody 1943 deer slaughter.” The paper also claimed Leopold admitted his deer estimates “were PURE GUESSWORK.”

Imagine: Poor Aldo was ruining “our deer” before biologists even invented the DNR’s demonized Sex-Age-Kill formula for estimating herd sizes.

Hunters will be called on to help with more boots-on-the-ground research.

But make no mistake: Kroll’s team is correct in saying this entire issue centers on endless arguing over numerical goals and estimates impossible to explain to laymen. If hunters don’t see deer, they blame predators and deer estimates. And before wolves returned the past 15 years, some blamed the Chippewa.

That doesn’t mean the SAK is useless. It just means DNR biologists should leave SAK estimates atop their desks for historical, professional reference. Arguing its art, data and formulas outside the office is a fool’s errand. And yet they’d persist if given the chance.

Kroll’s team correctly emphasizes these needs: more in-depth habitat analysis, better forest management for deer, and hunter-researchers to document browse damage and other deer-related field work.

Dr. James C. Kroll, Stephen F. Austin University

In launching those efforts, perhaps we could intelligently express deer-management goals with criteria such as harvest levels, success rates, deer condition, crop-damage claims, deer-vehicle collisions, and forest health and diversity. People can see, touch and understand such things.

What Kroll’s team can’t ignore, however, is deer baiting. Their report lists the top 15 concerns hunters posted on Kroll’s Web site. Three (20 percent) involve baiting. Of the top five concerns, “Come to a decision on baiting” was No. 4. Yet the report ignores baiting while addressing the other top concerns: “too many predators,” “DNR doesn’t listen,” “inaccurate population estimates” and “eliminate earn-a-buck.”

Was this preliminary report unfair to the DNR? Maybe, but by bluntly listing the problems, Kroll has been able to hold his town meetings (April 16-21) and focus on solutions, not endless grievances.

Those meetings and the recommendations that follow will truly determine if Kroll’s team earns the money Wisconsin’s hunters are paying them.





Wisconsin Right to Add Wolf Hunting Season

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:21
Patrick Durkin

Wisconsin lawmakers did the right thing in March by adding the gray wolf to Wisconsin’s list of wildlife that can be hunted and trapped.

With wolf numbers beyond 800 and still climbing – and with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ proven record of scientifically regulating furbearer seasons for foxes, coyotes and bobcats – it’s sensible and consistent to allow wolf hunting and trapping.

The new law also lets the DNR’s bureau of endangered resources off the financial hook when wolves kill pets, cattle, calves, horses, hunting dogs, domestic deer and other livestock. Future wolf-depredation payments will come solely from fees paid by hunters and trappers wishing to hunt wolves.

Predator hunting tends to require serious specialists. Generalists tend to quit when a hunt proves difficult.

Those fees will consist of $10 applications to enter drawings for wolf permits, and $50 (residents) and $250 (nonresidents) licenses for those drawing permits. Those fees will fund depredation payments as long as gray wolves stay off state and federal endangered species lists.

In other words, wolves remain with deer, bears, wild turkeys and Canada geese as Wisconsin’s only animals inspiring government-run entitlement programs. What if a raccoon drowns your Dalmatian or a coyote kills your cat? Sorry. Not the state’s problems.

For more than 20 years, farmers losing crops to browsing deer have been eligible for depredation payments bankrolled by hunting-license fees. Likewise, since 1985, farmers and other folks could receive state-paid death benefits when wolves ate their pet, livestock or other “property.”

License fees paid by hunters will be used to compensate people who lose pets to wolves.

Houndsmen can still seek compensation if wolves kill their dogs while they hunt bears, bobcats or raccoons. But if they’re hunting wolves with hounds when their dog dies in action, the state won’t compensate.

Most noteworthy is that the DNR’s endangered-resources program will no longer pay for misbehaving wolves. That’s also consistent and sensible. The bureau has never had much money, and yet it kept making wolf-depredation payments even after Wisconsin delisted wolves in 2004 and the feds first delisted them in 2007.

Why did the endangered-resources bureau pay nearly $887,500 for wolf-killed pets and livestock the past seven years when wolves were no longer endangered or threatened? Because state law required it.

You might recall that former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski, D-Stevens Point, is a bear-hunting houndsman. Shibilski – there’s no “I” in team but there’s three in Shibilski – wrote the provision that states: “For the purpose of payment of damage claims, the gray wolf shall be considered an endangered or threatened species regardless of whether the wolf is listed as such.”

Wolf licenses will cost $50 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The new law repeals that sneaky raid of the endangered-resources program, which has compensated increasingly more wolf damage recently. Although annual payouts averaged $127,000 the past seven years, they nearly tripled from $106,000 in 2009 to $300,000 in 2011, and are expected to hit $320,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the endangered-resources program suffered steady declines the past decade in its two primary funding sources: tax check-offs and specialty license plates. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but taxpayers now have nine additional check-off options for charitable donations, and motorists now have nearly 30 novelty license-plate options.

Going forward, lawmakers are gambling there will be enough interest in wolf hunting and trapping to fund and reduce depredation costs. Who knows how many Wisconsin hunters will want wolf permits? Trapping and predator hunting tend to attract serious specialists. Even if initial interest in wolves is high, dabblers and generalists will likely fade away when permit allocations are minuscule and wolf hunting proves difficult.

Still, here’s one estimate: A DNR study of the wolf bill’s fiscal impacts notes that Idaho issued 26,428 licenses for its first wolf hunt in 2009. Idaho closed the season when reaching its quota. But if interest in wolves parallels bears among Wisconsin hunters, about 100,000 might apply for a permit.

With scenarios ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 applicants, wolf hunting would generate $250,000 to $1 million in application fees. But if the DNR is conservative and issues, say 200 licenses, that’s only $10,000 more.

Those numbers suggest we’ll see tremendous shortfalls in wolf-depredation payments. If so, the new law makes no provision for the unfunded balance. Compensation payments will be made on a prorated, i.e., discounted, basis.

While this new law might prove good for wolves and Wisconsin, don’t expect widespread joy and satisfaction from those losing pets and livestock to wolves..




Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:03
Patrick Durkin

You might assume the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association slept better in March after the Legislature adjourned without loosening crossbow restrictions for the state’s four-month archery deer season.

Pfft! Not a chance. Just as Ahab hunted his white whale till death, so must WBH chieftains stalk the crossbow to their graves. You’ll never persuade them it’s a divisive waste of time, effort and talent.

What’s more troubling is the Department of Natural Resources dodging efforts to expand crossbow use. DNR spokesmen typically say crossbows are a “social” question hunters must decide themselves, even as the agency struggles to control deer across much of Wisconsin’s southern two-thirds.

Lowering the crossbow age limit to 55 from 65 in Wisconsin would increase participation and stabilize license-buying declines.

If that’s not enough contradiction, many legislators and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp claim they’re forever exploring ways to recruit and retain hunters, and expand hunting opportunities. That’s great, but most agency-directed efforts require patient, perennial educational programs designed to get youngsters off their PlayStations and into the woods.

As much as we need steady, far-sighted programs, we also need simple regulation changes to create opportunities for current or lapsed hunters. That’s why it’s frustrating to see the DNR and lawmakers forgo proposals to lower the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season. Crossbows are only legal during archery season for bowhunters 65 and older, or those with doctor-certified handicaps.

Late archery seasons are a great time to go crossbow hunting.

Talk about missing a chance to please rank-and-file hunter-voters. As Rob Bohmann, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told lawmakers in February, they’d hit a home run by lowering the crossbow age to 55.

After all, when the Congress floated the idea as an advisory question in April 2010, voters passed it statewide, 2,014 to 1,767, a 53-47 margin. It also passed in county voting, 42-25 (a 63-37 margin), with five counties tied.

When the DNR took that vote and made it a formal proposal at the April 2011 hearings, the WBH rallied its members, hoping to squash it. Instead, the question passed by a wider margin statewide than in 2010, 2,806-2,198, a 56-44 margin. It also passed by a larger margin in county voting, 55-16 (77-23), with one tie.

Even so, the proposal was MIA in autumn 2011 as the Legislature passed other DNR-backed hunting proposals OK’d at April’s hearings.

The Wisconsin Bowhunters Association spent about $8,000 on lobbyists in 2011, with about half of it fighting against crossbows.

What about the age-55 crossbow plan? Well, the most effective lobbying and deal-making might be the kind that prevents legislation from getting drafted. Maybe we should respect the WBH and its lobbyist, Ronald Kuehn of DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, for persuading lawmakers to ignore the public’s crossbow wishes.

In 2011, the WBH paid nearly $8,000 for 40 hours of lobbying. Government Accountability Board records show about half that effort targeted crossbows and crossbow-related issues. Again, that’s the WBH’s prerogative and destiny. It’s incapable of any other action, given its petrified attitude toward crossbows.

But if the DNR is serious about boosting hunter numbers and license revenues, it should have opposed the WBH and worked with lawmakers to lower the crossbow age to 55 or 50. Granted, no one knows how much that would boost bowhunting participation, but license sales to bowhunters 65 and older rose steadily once Wisconsin first allowed crossbows in 2003.

The Wisconsin DNR and lawmakers ignored public sentiments that favored lowering the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season.

Based on that trend, a DNR analysis projected annual archery-license sales would increase by about 1,700 annually if the age were lowered to 55. That’s no sea change, but it would maintain bowhunter numbers, and give more people access to our longest, most opportunity-rich deer season.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill in March that merely allows crossbows during gun seasons for deer, bear, elk, turkeys and small game. Earlier, on a 60-35 party-line vote, Assembly Republicans rejected anamendment by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to lower the crossbow age to 55 for archery deer season.

Milroy said in an interview March 13 that he hopes to work with the WBH and Conservation Congress next year on a compromise, such as a crossbow-specific season requiring a separate license.

Unfortunately, there’s even less chance of the WBH compromising on crossbows than there is of generating new revenues and hunting opportunities from the gun-season bill awaiting Gov. Walker’s signature., 





Politics of Bowhunting, Deer Hunting Easy Compared to Crane Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 03:34
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunting sparks some of the ugliest political fights you’ll ever see, whether it concerns antlerless hunts, deer baiting or opening our archery season to crossbows.

But to see true culture clashes, nothing compares to efforts to open hunting seasons on mourning doves or sandhill cranes. OK, wolves too. But that’s another blog.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese feed in a central Wisconsin field.

There’s no reasoning with many folks from the birding community when you calmly note their opposition lacks logic. Take Wisconsin, for example. You’d expect that with nine humdrum mourning dove seasons behind us that Wisconsinites could politely discuss a hunt for sandhill cranes.

But no. Mention a sandhill hunt, and folks still cock their fists and get sideways, even though no one’s life crumbled from dove hunting. No one seems to remember that spite vanished like spiced dove breasts on hor devours trays after dove season opened in 2003.

Likewise, if we established a sandhill crane season tomorrow, we’d be yawning by Labor Day. But in proposing a crane hunt this past winter, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, did Wisconsin hunters no favors by citing crop damage as a hunting justification.

If foraging cranes trouble Kleefisch and his fellow legislators, why did they abolish earn-a-buck rules for deer hunting? No critter rivals deer for damaging crops and plants, and no program whacked whitetails like earn-a-buck.

Sandhill cranes are distinguished by their red-capped head.

In killing EAB, lawmakers parroted my fellow hunters who claimed there aren’t enough deer, and that hunters aren’t pest-control officers. But when the Associated Press asked Marshfield’s Marlin Laidlaw, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress’s agricultural damage committee, about Kleefisch’s proposal, Laidlaw said sandhill cranes are out of control:

“The problem with the people who don’t understand wildlife and wildlife management, they join an organization and fall in love with a particular species. As far as they’re concerned, you can’t have too many. They just don’t get it. You’ve got to control populations.”

Hmm. Was Laidlaw talking about sandhill cranes or white-tailed deer? For years he loudly opposed EAB and the Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to reduce deer numbers.

We can agree, however, that most people don’t hunt to provide the public free pest-control services. We hunt because it’s exciting and challenging, and provides lean free-range meat no store can match. Granted, when the DNR regulates hunting to prevent critters from becoming a danger or nuisance, that’s a bonus; even a necessity. But it doesn’t motivate most hunters.

 Sandhill cranes can be viewed as both a majestic bird and great table fare.

Meanwhile, protectionists neither help cranes nor their cause by blindly opposing a hunt. Karen Etter Hale, a vice president of Wisconsin’s Audubon Council, told the AP: “If hunters want to further damage their reputation by pushing for yet another species to hunt, then that’s what they should do.”

Yep, that’s right. Stay on your side of the tracks, people. Folks like Etter Hale said the same thing about dove hunting in Wisconsin a decade ago. But a hunting season for a plentiful, large-bodied, good-eating bird isn’t about reputations. It’s about reminding our timid DNR of its historical mission to promote public hunting and fishing when self-sustaining species can provide meat, fur and recreation.

Meanwhile, Madison’s Audubon Society posted a “Sandhill Crane Hunt Alert” on its Web site, encouraging members to contact legislators.

Sigh. Why do people with similar goals hate working together? Hunters and bird-huggers both donate to habitat-conservation causes. Both smile and perk their ears at goose music and crane bugles. And both quote Aldo Leopold more than the Bible.

Well, here’s a Leopold quote bird-folks ignore: “Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.”

That’s the opening sentence of Leopold’s seminal book “Game Management,” which guided North America’s efforts to replenish the birds and mammals we nearly wiped out 100 years ago through unregulated development, market hunting and subsistence hunting.

In Leopold’s spirit, Etter Hale, Laidlaw and other conservation leaders should seize crane hunting as a chance to work together. First, they should join forces to establish the season, and require hunt applicants to pay $15 and those receiving a permit to pay $25 more. If opponents don’t like hunting, they can apply for permits and burn what they receive.

Next, the state could earmark fees for the International Crane Foundation, and equal amounts for the DNR’s endangered resources bureau, which needs help. Its 2011 budget was $5.9 million, most of it from donations.

That’s only 12 percent of the Wisconsin DNR’s combined budgets for its fisheries bureau, $26.5 million; and wildlife bureau, $21 million. Most of those budgets are funded by anglers, trappers and hunters.

Birders should be emulating that generosity rather than demanding government impose their values on everyone. Besides, as Leopold proved, people can be both hunters and bird-lovers. They can see sandhill cranes both as majestic birds and flying rib-eyes. They acknowledge -- and embrace – life’s apparent contradictions.

The great ones, like Leopold, make it look easy.


Whitetail Deer Herd Health And Using the Winter Severity Index

by Neal McCullough 29. February 2012 02:42
Neal McCullough

Winter can be hard on wildlife—deer especially. During the winter months, wildlife agencies and departments in many states monitor the health of their respective deer herds using a system called the Winter-Severity Index (WSI).   This index is a simple calculation based on two key components of winter survival for whitetail deer: temperature and snow depth.  The index is a cumulative sum of the number of days with 18” of snow + numbers of days with temperatures below zero.  These scores are added together between December 1 and April 30.  Any total of 100+ is considered very severe, 81 – 100 is severe, 51 – 80 is moderate and anything lower than 50 is considered mild.  In Wisconsin, for example, the long term average for this index is 55.

The above chart shows this history of the Wisconsin WSI (1960 - 2010)

I spoke with Michael Zeckmeister of the Wisconsin DNR last week and at this point in the year, nearly all stations are in the single digits or teens; meaning this is shaping up to what could be a very mild winter.  This same time last year could have “gone either way” according to Zeckmesiter, with 60% of the stations reporting 16” of snow or more.   But last winter ended up staying around moderate for most stations (Wisconsin State Average = 47 for 2010/2011).  And this year we will probably end up mild or close to moderate unless, of course, we see some drastic changes in the weather.  Typically, the “tipping point” for winter is the 3rd week of February and as of today – we are starting March in a good place.

The above map shows WSI recording stations in Northern Wisconsin.

The above maps shows WSI recording stations in Northern Minnesota with measurements for 2011

Like any index, the WSI is not a perfect indicator of health of the herd; other factors do come into play.  These are a few additional factors that many wildlife managers consider:
•    Annual Summer Rainfall – Good rainfall in the summer and into the fall provides growth of summer vegetation that can help deer build fat reserves for the winter.
•    Arrival of Winter – The earlier arrival of winter (snow and cold in November or earlier) can have a significant cumulative effect on whitetail deer.  The longer winter waits to arrive, the better.
•    Type of Snow – Some snow storms may produce 10” – 15” of very light fluffy snow, through which it is generally easier for deer to travel.  Heavy dense snow or crusted layers of snow can make it difficult for whitetail deer to access food as well as escape predators.
•    Timing Spring Green-Up – This factor is probably as important as any; the sooner spring green-up arrives, the better the chances for herds to rebound after a long winter. 

The WSI is a great tool for wildlife managers to measure the current and/or future health of the whitetail deer herd.  However, it isn’t 100% accurate and they will make adjustments and use their discretion when determining how the deer herd is faring overall.  I always keep an eye out for these full reports in my home states of Minnesota and Wisconsin (typically they are ready at the end of April);  some DNR websites even offer current views of the Index as the winter progresses.

Current WSI (February 22, 2012) for Minnesota

Lets hope this mild season continues for not only whitetail deer but also for turkeys, pheasants, grouse, and all wildlife... Oh and this mild WSI Index also means that I don't have to shovel my driveway as much, which is an added bonus.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Wisconsin Buck Leaps to Death from Highway Overpass

by Patrick Durkin 30. December 2011 04:41
Patrick Durkin


When Al Rinka and his highway construction coworkers spotted a huge white-tailed buck crossing a field south of Marshfield, Wis., during their lunch break Dec. 8, they didn’t realize they were watching a dead buck walking.

Lane Wetterau of Stevens Point, Wis.; Aaron Seit, Wisconsin Rapids; Al Rinka, Osseo; and Dave Katzner, Arpin; pose with a giant white-tailed buck that leaped to its death from a bridge over an unopened section of U.S. Highway 10 south of Marshfield.

About an hour later, the buck walked up the embankment to the Washington Avenue bridge 1.5 miles away, leaped off and died on a concrete slab 34 feet below. The buck apparently panicked as a car approached, and jumped over the bridge’s parapet without realizing its height from the ground. The momentum from its leap carried the buck about 30 feet from the bridge’s base, where it landed head first.

The concrete below had been poured recently as part of the U.S. Highway 10 reconstruction, and isn’t yet open to traffic. A foreman for the road-grading crew called Rinka to tell him and his coworkers about the freak accident. When they heard the location, the men realized they had built that section of highway, and still referred to it as “our slab.”

This trophy buck leaped off the highway overpass in the background. The bridge's height is 34 feet.

When Rinka and his friends -- Lane Wetterau, Stevens Point; Aaron Seit, Wisconsin Rapids; and Dave Katzner, Arpin -- arrived to see the dead buck, they instantly recognized it as the one they had seen during lunch.

“We’re big hunters, and we all hunt anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour from there, but we saw nothing like that buck during gun season,” said Rinka, a civil engineer from Osseo. “We were amazed to see it crossing a field in broad daylight. It was opening day of the (four-day) antlerless hunt, so maybe some hunters pushed it out. We watched about 10 minutes before we lost sight of him. It’s a huge field.”

Rinka said he and his coworkers noticed the buck had a slight limp. They thought maybe a front leg was injured, but found no wounds or breaks when examining it later. The buck apparently landed on its nose, because nothing else on its body appeared broken, and its antlers weren’t damaged.

Rinka said an elderly woman who lives near the bridge was driving the car that spooked the buck. She told them the buck was standing in the middle of the road as she approached. It could have run down the road to get off the bridge, but jumped over the side instead.

Al Rinka of Osseo, Wis., displays the impressive buck that survived Wisconsin's nine-day firearms season in November, only to die 10 days later in a freak accident.

The woman stopped and looked over the bridge, and saw the buck writhing on the pavement in its death throes. She drove home and told her neighbor, who is a hunter. He notified authorities and received a tag so he could claim the buck.

Rinka and his friends marveled at the buck’s antlers. “As much as all of us hunt, and after all the time we’ve spent in the woods, here we were staring at probably one of the biggest bucks we’ll ever see, and it jumped off a bridge,” he said.

The buck had a 12-point rack with wide beams and thick tines. Rinka said the tallest tines were about 9 inches long, and the spread between the main beams spanned 18 inches. They guessed it would score 150 to 170 inches on the Boone and Crockett Club’s measuring system.

The buck's flying leap carried it about 10 yards from the base of the bridge.

He said the buck had a smaller body than what they expected. Then again, it’s not unusual for a buck’s body to look small, even emaciated, in the weeks following “the rut,” the whitetail’s mating season. Rutting bucks can lose about 25 percent of their body weight while seeking and chasing does. This buck weighed 180 pounds when it died, so it might have weighed around 240 pounds when alive.

In the days that followed, some people jokingly referred to the deer as “The Suicide Buck,” but Rinka said no one there truly believed the buck intended to kill itself.

“What it was doing on that bridge, who knows?” he said. “There’s much easier ways to cross that area than by walking up an overpass. It’s a confined area, and deer seldom walk on bridges anyway. It was out of its element, and probably just panicked when the car approached.”

Although Rinka doesn’t buy the suicide theory, humans have long debated the possibility of animal suicide. About two years ago, for example, “Time” magazine reminded readers that Aristotle (384-322 BC) told of a stallion that leaped into an abyss after realizing it was duped into mating with its mother.

In more recent times, the Overtoun bridge in Milton, Scotland, has gained notoriety as the “Dog Suicide Bridge” because dogs have jumped from it about once a month since the 1960s, causing about 600 to die. Some dogs have even survived, only to run back up and jump again. No one knows what’s causing them to leap.

Rinka is content to consider the buck’s leap a fluke of nature.

“We were dumbfounded when we realized it was the same buck we had seen during lunch,” he said. “When it walked out of sight, we thought we’d never see it again. It was unreal.”



Wisconsin Bowhunter Completes 4-year Quest for Drop-Tine Buck

by Patrick Durkin 20. December 2011 13:27
Patrick Durkin

Paul Conley had every right to give himself high-fives and back slaps in early December after arrowing the trophy buck he hunted four years in Wisconsin's Chequamegon National Forest.

Instead, the 23-year-old Mellen, Wisconsin, bowhunter credited his girlfriend, Casey; children, Trinity and Xander; parents, Al and Theresa; as well as grandparents, siblings, buddies and his late friend, Tom Bruckner, for their help in his success Dec. 4.

Paul Conley, 23, shows the big drop-tine buck he shot Dec. 4 in the Chequamegon National Forest near his home in Mellen, Wisconsin.

It was Casey who chased him out the door for late-season hunts when he was burning out, Trinity who asked to see pictures of “Drop Time” when he returned, his grandparents who bought him his first compound bow, and Bruckner who assured him he’d eventually get the buck.

Yep, as Conley recited names, influences and vital roles, you’d have thought he was accepting an Academy Award or the Super Bowl trophy.

Then again, if you ask deer hunters, most would take Conley’s buck over an Oscar or a Lombardi. Why? Beneath the left antler beam on this monstrous 8-point buck hangs a rare 10.5-inch drop tine, which measures 6.5 inches around its end. Further, both main beams measure 21-1/8 inches in length and 7.5 inches around their bases. The tallest tines stand nearly 12 inches above the beams.

Brandon, Paul, Al and Theresa Conley pose with Paul’s monster buck at their home near Cayuga, Wisconsin.

Conley passed up shots at six different bucks the past four years after spotting this buck in his trail-camera photos in 2008. Since then, his cameras recorded the drop-tine buck in hundreds of photos and videos, documenting its growth, antler changes, and daily and seasonal travels.

For instance, the buck’s body appeared largest in 2008, and its antlers reached their peak growth in 2010. The buck’s distinctive drop tine appeared as an antler blemish in 2008 before sprouting into a long tine in 2009. It grew longer and more vertically in 2010, and blossomed into a replica of an old-time police Paddy-whacker this year.

Based on photos and the fact the buck wore its front bottom teeth to the gum, Conley estimates it was 8.5 years old. The buck never appeared at Conley’s bait sites until Halloween each fall, and then visited frequently until late January, when it migrated to winter deeryards farther south. The buck’s feeding visits, however, seldom occurred in daylight.

When Conley reviewed his trail-cam photos from Wisconsin’s nine-day firearms seasons from 2008-2011, none showed the buck during daylight. Until this month, its daylight visits occurred only during the rut from late October through mid-November.

When Conley shot the buck at 7:10 a.m. on Dec. 4, it marked only the second time the buck appeared in daylight after a gun season. The first time was the day before, according to his trail cameras.

Based on trail-cam photos the past four years, and the fact the buck had worn its front bottom teeth down to the gum, Conley estimates the buck was 8.5 years old.

The buck wasn’t eating bait, however, when Conley shot. It was about 300 yards away, returning to its bedding area.

“I had just moved my tree stand to that spot 15 hours before,” Conley said. “I thought I’d try cutting him off between his bed and the bait. I thought he might be going from his bedding area to the bait at dawn. I was expecting him from the west, but he came from the east. It looks like he ran all night and hit the bait before bedding down for the day.”

Conley said his long hunt and analysis of trail-cam photos also revealed interesting details about the buck’s rut-season movements. “Two days after the full moon (in late October to early November), he was out cruising during daylight all four years,” Conley said. “That’s when bucks really started chasing does.”

Conley couldn’t estimate how many hours he spent on stand since 2008, but he was there every day – usually dawn to dusk – starting in late October and running through gun season. He saw the buck six times while hunting; once in 2008, never in 2009, twice in 2010 and three times this year.

He missed killing the buck in 2010 when his arrow cut off a branch between him and the buck. That happened the Saturday before gun season, and it was the first deer he saw during a weeklong vigil.

This year he saw the buck the Monday and Tuesday before gun season, but it wasn’t close enough to shoot. His trail-cam photos also documented three other daytime visits in November while Conley was working.

The buck's drop tine reached 10.5 inches this year, its largest size since first growing in 2009.

The day he arrowed the buck, he chose his bow instead of a muzzleloader. “I really wanted to get him with a bow,” he said. “That was one of my main goals from the start.”

Soon after he made the 15-yard shot and watched the buck fall five yards away, he called two friends with his news. The word spread so fast his cell phone buzzed the rest of the day.

“Everyone in town knew I was hunting a big drop-tine buck,” Conley said. “I kept it hush-hush the first two years, but I couldn’t keep it in after that. I had friends from here to Green Bay calling to see if I had gotten him.”

What will he do for an encore? Although the Cayuga area holds some of Wisconsin’s lowest deer populations, and most hunters go days, weeks or years without seeing a whitetail, Conley thinks big bucks are worth the wait.

“It wasn’t easy, but shooting this one fulfilled a dream,” he said. “There’s other big bucks out there, and some of them have his antler traits.”




Sometimes You Have to Hunt in the Rain

by Neal McCullough 29. September 2011 14:20
Neal McCullough

I am one of those bowhunters who doesn’t get hundreds of days in the field every year; I don’t spend weeks in Kansas, Iowa, and Canada from September to December (although sometimes I wish I could). That said, I have learned over the years that you have to make your hunts count. I believe in the old adage “you can’t get one if you aren’t out there” but, more specifically, out there at the right time. This past Tuesday evening was one of those “right times”.

Grant Jacobs and I always try to do an early season bowhunt in our properties in Pepin County. It’s a little bit of a drive (About 1 ½ hours) so we do our best to coordinate our varied work schedules and the ever-unpredictable fall weather to select the best day to hunt. Tuesday, flexibility at work magically coincided with some other key factors to make for a perfect evening hunt. Following are a couple of things that made this week’s hunt work:

1. Moontimes– The moon’s affect on whitetails was a subject of a recent blog of mine and the timing of this hunt was set up to be one of the best days in September according to the solar calendar. The moon was setting at 6:30PM (sunset was at 7:00PM) and the “best time” to hunt was 5:30PM – 7:26PM

The solar lunar calendar can be an effective tool during early season.

2. Wind – The particular location of the stand we were hunting in we call the “Elevator Ridge” and any wind out of the N/NW gives us the best chance to get a deer.

A Wind Checker and can help keep track of shifting winds/thermals to know where deer can bust you in the stand.

3. Beans – Although beans have browned in nearly all areas where we hunt, we knew that some of the green was still on the stem and pod. This, along with falling acorns, made for an ideal spot.

This button buck showed on Tuesday evening feeding in the beans, any remaining green soybean fields should be hunted now.

4. Rain – The toughest part of the day was the massive low pressure system that decided to park itself right over Chicago for what seemed like days and days. The weatherman called for continued rain at our stand that day, nonetheless we decided to go for it.

This stubborn low pressure system took days to move out of the midwest.

5. Scent Control – The wind and rain combined created a perfect scent killing solution for us; our scent was pushed away from the deer and much of that scent was knocked down by the rain.

We always wear Scent Blocker gear while hunting, there is no substitute for quality scent blocking clothing. Notice parts of the soybean field in the background are still green.

In the end, the hunt was one of the best early season hunts we have had in a while. Right on schedule, three mature does and a buck fawn all worked their way to within 25 yards and if it weren’t for tree limbs and low camera light, we would have had a shot. Last year we spent hours and hours hunting bad winds, bad moontimes, and frankly, bad stand sites. This year we got in the right place at the right time and got the season off to a great start. Good luck with your hunting seasons and remember; sometimes you have to hunt in the rain.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

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 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!

Operation Full Draw

by Marshall Kaiser 23. May 2011 08:25
Marshall Kaiser

Just recently Brian Taggart and his wife Mary of Whitewater, WI, put together some donations to be sent to the troops of the 40th Battalion from Ft. Leavenworth, KY.   Their mission was to restock a traditional archery range, from scratch, at Camp Cropper, Iraq.  They called upon members and Bowyers of the WTA (Wisconsin Traditional Archery) to help gather supplies. At one time there was an archery range at the camp, but it has been long gone.  They feel the equipment will be a big morale boost after a long days’ work.


The soldiers have been assigned to detention duties for a prison containing some of the top “bad guys”.  Their current responsibility is to keep an eye on 200 detainees.  They work 12 hour shifts 6 days a week.  The current schedule is to turn full responsibility over to the Iraqi forces in Feb 2012. The plan is that the 40th may be the last to serve in official detention responsibilities.

Over 15 bows, 140 arrows, targets, gloves, tabs, DVD’s, magazines and stringers have been sent.  Kevin and Sue Termaat of RER bows donated 5 new custom bows as well as several other WTA members have donated to the cause.  The materials were received on May 10, 2011.  Operation Full Draw was a huge success.  Many soldiers have never held a traditional bow yet alone shot one.  Working long hours being able to “unplug” and enjoy the traditional equipment will be a great way to pass the time.  Some of the soldiers use compounds but are very excited about getting back to their roots with the challenge of traditional archery.  Thanks to all who have served, are still serving and the loved ones left at home. Without their ultimate sacrifice we would not be able to enjoy this great sport of archery.





Preseason Scouting an Elevator Ridge

by Neal McCullough 29. April 2011 01:00
Neal McCullough

Nothing is worse than spring for a big time addicted whitetail hunter like me.  We spend all winter anxious to get out and see the woods, search for sheds, move stands, and try to find the new “perfect” spot.  Then, as soon as the snow melts the whitetail woods suddenly looks just as it did last November and you realize that it is 5 more months of waiting.  All that aside it really is a great time of year to see the woods as it would look before everything greens up.   We are in the second year of hunting this 80 acre parcel (actually our first spring) and have learned a ton.  One of the highest concentrations of deer occurred in one small area of the property; we watched countless deer go in and out of this particular area and this spring we investigated why.  It turned out to be a potential hotspot and a perfect example of an “Elevator Ridge” for next season.   The concept of an elevator as it relates to deer hunting is actually pretty simple.  Humans use elevators because we are lazy and would rather not scale 3 flights of stairs to get lunch every day.  This concept can be applied to deer as well; they prefer and usually take a path of least resistance (as long as it’s safe).  This newly found scenario brings bedding (creek bottom) to food (corn/beans) in the simple, fast and efficient method just like an elevator brings me to 4th floor every day. The blue lines in the photo below show the boundaries of the Elevator Ridge, the black lines are known deer trails and the red dot is the location of our new stand site.

Aerial View of the 2011 Elevator Ridge

Below are a few key characteristics that make this Elevator Ridge work well.

  • Bedding – Perfect bedding area to allow deer to feel safe and within ½ mile of a major food source can make for a great combination.

Creeks that flow year-round offer water/cover for bedding

  • Steep Ravines – The steep hillsides along creek effectively push deer directly up the “Elevator Ridge”

Sheer walls 40 feet high on either side push deer into the middle of ridge

  • Rubs – Fresh Rubs from previous season show areas bucks frequented in during the pre-rut.

Fresh Rubs in the middle of ridge indicate directional travel

  • Trails – Find a heavy doe trail worn to dirt and bucks will follow 

This trail follows the creek up to our “Elevator Ridge”

  • Stand Placement – Place your stand on the downwind side of as many major trails as possible.

Stand on the peak of the Elevator Ridge

In the end, this time of year can be hard because we can’t test our theories, but this new spot has all the makings of a fantastic stand for 2011.  During the Season 2 of Bowhunt or Die I can promise you will see us perched on top of an Elevator Ridge waiting for a chance at a monster buck! Do you agree with this setup?  Do you have an Elevator Ridge on your property to take advantage of next season?

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Bowhunting Internship Is Over- Until Next Time Illinois!

by Cody Altizer 28. January 2011 10:41
Cody Altizer

The afternoon of September 17, 2010 found me sitting in a treestand in Northern Illinois, dripping with sweat from the late summer heat and fighting off nasty mosquitoes left and right.  I had just finished hanging a second treestand on a piece of property Todd Graf allowed to hunt, and remember watching an endless Midwestern sunset thinking to myself, “I am 800 miles from home, sitting in a treestand with no clue what the next 5 months have in store for me.  What have I gotten myself in to?”  Well, this past weekend, January 22nd, I took that same treestand down in over 6 inches of snow and a wind chill of 5 degrees.  As I took down that same stand and watched the same sun slip beneath the horizon, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past 5 months.

When Todd Graf offered me an internship at the office last June, I accepted the position almost immediately and was anxious to make the move from Virginia to Illinois.  The opportunity to live in Illinois for an entire hunting season seemed too good to be true, but it was very real and I promised myself to make the most of it.

My first weekend on the job consisted of me filming Todd on his property in Wisconsin for the archery opener.

Todd and I wasted little time getting to know each other as we climbed in the tree for the first time together my first weekend on the job for the opening weekend of the Wisconsin archery season.  That first weekend was a nightmare.  Todd and I were clumsy with all of our hunting and camera gear, got busted several times on stand by wary whitetails and our communication in the stand was atrocious.  My first weekend on the job, and I was already questioning whether or not I worthy of the position.  Fortunately, with little time to sulk, Todd and I headed back to Wisconsin the following weekend and I was able to film him harvesting a big, mature doe.  The ice had been broken and I was ready to climb in the tree myself!

I was able to film Todd harvesting this doe on a late September bow hunt in Wisconsin.

The following weekend marked the beginning of a new chapter in my bowhunting career.  October 1st meant the first day of the Illinois bow season and I couldn’t wait to get settled in the stand and hunt those famed Illinois whitetails.  My first two hunts as an Illinois bowhunter yielded frustrating results; I didn’t see a single deer!  On Sunday afternoon October 3rd, I went to my best stand on one of the properties Todd granted me permission to hunt, and was optimistic about my chances.  About an hour before sunset, a mature doe snuck up on me, but I was able to harvest my first Illinois whitetail on film.  I was pumped!  Follow this link to view the footage of my first Illinios whitetail!

After a slow first couple of days in Illinois, I was able to film myself harvesting mature doe on October 3rd.

The weeks that followed were a little bit of a rollercoaster ride.  My site broke while in the stand on a morning hunt in Central Illinois on Justin Zarr’s lease, however, that same weekend I was able to film Justin’s friend Jeremy Enders harvest his first deer which was a cool experience.  I remember Jeremy shaking like a leaf when that doe walked in at less than 10 yards, but Jeremy made a perfect shot on her and I was able to capture it all on film.    My luck then turned sour again, as I was in a minor car accident the following weekend that forced me to take precious time out of the stand to get the car repaired.  I was thankful to not have been injured, but I wanted to be in the woods!

My view from behind the camera just seconds before Jeremy shot his first deer.

While I was thrilled with the harvest of my first Illinois whitetail, I was still driven to get my first Illinois buck as well.  It was Halloween weekend and Justin and I were headed down to his lease in Central Illinois in Pike County for a three day hunting adventure.  He and I struck up a deal. I was to film him for three hunts and then I had three hunts to get it done myself.  After seeing some awesome buck activity filming Justin three times, I couldn’t wait to try my luck on a Pike County buck.  I didn’t have to wait long, because on my first hunt, again about an hour before sunset, a shooter buck stopped perfectly broadside in my shooting lane and I put an arrow right through his heart.  On the afternoon of October 30th, you would have been hard pressed to find happier bowhunter.  It was literally a dream come true, harvesting a good buck in Pike County, Illinois, and I couldn’t have been more thankful.  Click here to view the footage of my buck harvest as seen in Bowhunt or Die.

My Halloween Weekend buck that I was fortunate to harvest on Justin's lease in Pike County, Illinois.  This is not only my first Illinois buck, but my biggest buck to date.  I am super proud of this buck!

Harvesting that buck was a bittersweet moment, because it meant I was tagged out in Illinois.  As a non-resident I was only issued one buck tag and one doe tag.  But given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I was able to hunt back home in Virginia for a week over the Thanksgiving holiday, but just couldn’t seal the deal on a Virginia whitetail.  I was bound and determined to shoot an Illinois buck and a Virginia buck in the same season, but I just couldn’t pull it off.

I went home for the Thanksgiving holiday and was thankful to do a little hunting with my brother, who doubled as a camera man.

When I got back to Illinois after a blessed week at home for Thanksgiving, Mother Nature smacked me in the face with some brutally cold weather.  But cold weather means usually means good hunting and Todd and I hit his property hard several times hoping a giant buck would visit one of Todd’s food plots.  We saw several does during those hunts, a couple younger bucks and one nice buck that was a borderline shooter, but Todd elected to pass.  I was, however, able to film Todd’s good friend Dr. Ali Shaibani harvesting his deer.  Ali was the second hunter I was fortunate enough to film harvesting their first deer in 2010, which was pretty special!

As December faded into January, my primary focus wasn’t on bowhunting anymore, but on the annual ATA Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I had heard several bowhunters talk about the ATA Show and how cool it was to hang out with all the pros and see all the new gear, but I never thought that I would actually be able to attend.   Just like the majority of my experiences in Illinois, the 2011 ATA was another first for me.  I couldn’t believe how big the show was!  Every time I turned around I saw one of the pro hunters I grew up watching on TV just carrying on a casual conversation with a dealer.  It was a bowhunter’s paradise!  However, like my Halloween Weekend buck harvest, the ATA Show was a bittersweet experience because after the show, I had just a couple weeks before my internship was over.  Just like that, 5 months had flown by and it was time for me to go home.

Here I am posing with Jim Shockey at the 2011 ATA Show.  Jim was a cool guy to hang out with and meeting him was one of the many highlights of my first ATA Show experience.

Todd asked me just the other day what my favorite part of the internship and living in Illinois was.  It was a cliché question, but it completely caught me off guard because I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  It would have been easy to say the ATA Show, or harvesting two Illinois whitetails on film, or even being with Jeremy and Ali when they shot their first deer, but those thoughts never entered my mind.  I simply answered, “The relationships.”  In the future when I look back at my time as an intern at, I’ll think of the great friendships I had made, particularly those with Todd and Justin.  I can’t thank them enough for all that they did for me over the last 5 months and all they taught me.  Not to mention everything I learned from them by just hanging around them in the woods and in the office.  I’ll never forget the famous motivational speeches Todd gave me when he sensed I was lagging behind or getting discouraged, and the laughs I shared with Justin when hunting with him on his lease are irreplaceable. 

To Todd and Justin, I can only hope that one day I will be able to return the favor, and I look forward to the adventures we are sure to share in the future; thank you!


NEW Wisconsin Bowhunting Record Whitetail Buck! It's Official!

by Bow Staff 28. January 2011 06:04
Bow Staff

Taking the largest typical whitetail buck with a bow is often referred to as the ‘holy grail’ of hunting throughout the state of Wisconsin. A mere four years ago it would fall to a Dunn county bowhunter by the name of Barry Rose. That incredible buck would net 187 2/8 total inches!

Move over Mister Rose!

Taken on November 2nd, 2010 the new top buck has officially netted 187 5/8 total inches - just 3/8 an inch bigger than Barry Rose’s 2006 giant! This buck was taken by bowhunter Brian Inda of Wautoma while bowhunting his new lease near Wild Rose, Wisconsin.

Brian’s brother, Chris Inda, actually picked up the shed antlers from this buck in the spring of 2009. Those sheds ended up scoring 192 inches! It was this pick-up by Chris that would ultimately sway the two brothers along with a friend to seek a lease agreement with someone nearby. An old Christmas tree farm would eventually do the trick!

Brian’s buck has 12 scorable points, with 5 on the right side and 7 on the left. The buck also maintains an inside spread of 22 inches! And the longest tine length was the left side G2 which taped out at 14 7/8! The buck was estimated to be 7 ½ years old.

The staff of Bowhunting.Com would like to extend great big congratulations to Brian (and his friends) on this once in a lifetime whitetail trophy.  We hope you’ll have many more bucks to stand over Brian. Congrats again!

Categories: Blog | Bowhunting Blogs

Bowhunting Tradition: The Little Brown Cabin

by Josh Fletcher 21. January 2011 03:08
Josh Fletcher

If you travel to the far northern reaches of Wisconsin, less than a mile from the Michigan border, you will find a Little Brown Cabin nestled into the heart of the Nicolet National Forest.  At first glance there is nothing special about this leaning cabin.  In fact, most people would not even give this little dilapidated shack a second look.  But if walls could talk, this Little Brown Cabin could tell one heck of a story. It would entertain you and teach you about history, share stories and memories that have been made with the help from this cabin.  Yes, the tough northern Wisconsin winters have taken its toll on the body of this shack; it is weak and frail, uncertain of how many more years it may have left. But like an old man that has weathered through the test of time, it may be weak, but has much to say.

The Little Brown Cabin.

 First to understand the stories from this cabin, you must understand the cabin first.  The Little Brown Cabin was purchased by my grandfather in the late 1970’s for $3,500. What was a lot of money back then wouldn’t even get you an acre of land today.  This little cabin sits on three acres of land surrounded by National Forest.  With just three rooms, two full size beds and a bunk bed, there’s not much room to stretch your feet.  It has no running water, no phone, no TV and is heated by an old oil stove. With no running water you can guess what the plumbing is.  Gravity! Yes, it’s a comfortable “one-holer”, sure to have old faded hunting magazines to read while you wait.  Behind the cabin is the famous Wisconsin deer camp meat pole. Oh yes, the meat pole, designed to hang your deer, to keep it off the ground and keep the critters off your prize meat and allow your deer to age prior to being processed.   
 Sure, she is not much to look at, heck it’s even been said that you will not find a flat spot, level board, or a square corner throughout the whole place.  Mouse poison and mouse droppings are both a common sight on your visit to the Little Brown Cabin.  The droppings make me question the effectiveness of the poison, but the poison states that it is known to cause cancer in the state of California!  I guess the box didn’t state how long it takes to kill mice.

The Little Brown Cabin yearly group photo.

  In the state of Wisconsin, tailgating on the frozen tundra at Lambeau Field during the fall is a sacred tradition, one that is only trumped by one thing: deer hunting.  For nine days out of the year hunters flock to their deer camp like geese flying south for the winter.  Hunters of all shapes and forms, young and old all head to deer camp. The camp at the Little Brown Cabin is no exception.  For over thirty years a select group of hunters have been traveling each year to engage in the state’s favorite past time. 
 It all started with my grandfather, my dad, two close family friends Keith and Jerald, and several other friends of my dad.  It was organized like a small military unit.  The main officer that ran the camp was my grandfather.  He was given the honorable title of “Head Buck”.  He was the oldest, wisest, and had the most experience.  Younger hunters looked up to his leadership and advice.  Second in command was my father, followed up by friends Keith and Jerald. At this camp the only thing seniority played a part in was hunting advice and storytelling.   All members of the Little Brown Cabin camp pitched in with the camp chores. The best cooks in camp took care of the meals, and the cleanest members did the dishes and kept the camp tidy.  Everyone had a place in this camp.  As years went by, my two brothers became old enough to hunt and began a new age in deer camp.  It wasn’t long and I became a part in the Little Brown Cabin camp as well.

My dad, "Head Buck", filling out the camp log.

 Tradition was the heart and soul of northern Wisconsin deer camp.  Every Friday before opening day my father made our traditional meal of venison.  For thirty years my father found thirty different ways to make venison.  Like kings we all had our spot around the kitchen table.  After supper we would turn on the old radio that was sitting on top of the refrigerator and listen to the “Deer Hunter’s Round- Up,” a local radio station that would broadcast statistics and stories of successful hunters from both Upper Michigan and Wisconsin.  While listing to the radio we would look over old worn and torn topography maps and aerial photos of our stands for the next morning’s hunt.  After getting our hunting gear all set for the next morning we would sit around the “Head Buck” and listen to his stories of past hunts. Grandpa’s storytelling methods were unlike any other as he always had everyone’s attention.  To this day, I can picture the stories as they played out in my head as he was telling them.  Soon after dark we would all head to bed because morning would come early in deer camp.

Jerry making breakfast for the camp.

Camp enjoying breakfast before the hunt.

The next morning after a “gut busting” breakfast, we would head out to our stands like a Civil War battalion.  The most exciting part of the days hunt was not being in the tree stand waiting, but the walk back to the cabin to see if anyone had any luck for the day. As I would walk back to camp I would peek around the cabin to look at the meat pole like a child peeking out of their room on Christmas morning.  If we saw deer hanging we would hurry up to the successful hunter and congratulate them.  While admiring their deer we would all stand around and listen to the story of the hunt. You could hear the excitement in every word as the hunter would recap the hunt.  After everyone had their chance to tell their own stories of the days adventures we would head

One of many camp logs recapping the days hunt.

 into the Little Brown Cabin for supper.  After supper with the “Deer Hunter’s Round-Up” playing, my father would sit in his recliner next to the desk of memories.  As he would sit there he would interview each hunter and log their deer sightings for the day.  We called his desk “The Desk of Memories” because it contained all of the photo albums from the history of the Little Brown Cabin, and in each album was logs written down for thirty years of the hunter’s stories from the past.
This is what the tradition of deer hunting is all about, memories, friends and families.  The Little Brown Cabin is what started it all for our deer camp.  For over thirty years this little shack has heard every hunter’s story.  It has seen success, it has seen good times and great friends.  As the years have gone by we have changed. We have gotten older; my grandfather is no longer able to make the yearly journey north to the cabin, my father is now the “Head Buck,” and our camp has gotten smaller.  Just our two close family friends, Jerald and Keith, and my family make their way north each year.  Yes, things have changed. Some may blame the lack of deer numbers in the north, or the tough hunting in the big woods of the National Forest.  However, life is always changing and life is about adapting to change.  But one thing hasn’t changed; the little shack looks today exactly like it did years ago. The memories are made each year just like they were in the past.  For as long as there is a “Head buck” there will always be deer camp in the north woods. 

Dan hunting with primitive black powder in Wisconsin's north woods.

My mother has been pressuring my dad to build a new cabin, one that is up to date with running water. This all began about nine years ago.  My father never started any work on this new dream cabin. When the “Head Buck” was asked why, he always stated that he just didn’t have any time. He always said that he would start working on it when he retired.  Since then, he has retired and it has been almost ten years since the start of my mother’s dream, and if you drive by you will see the Little Brown Cabin sitting there like a wise, elderly man worn through time sitting on a park bench.  No trees have been cut, no lines surveyed.  The “Head Buck” may not want to admit it because of fear from the “Head Doe,” but he too understands that the Little Brown Cabin has seen over thirty years of great memories, and she is just as much of the Wisconsin deer hunting tradition as the deer themselves.
The next time you are driving around and see an old worn out shack, think to yourself about the stories that those walls could tell, the memories made in that little shack and what hunting life was like in the years past.  We have all seen or even been a part of our own little brown shacks, and without the traditions, friends, and family, we will lose our history and we will lose what we as hunters are all about. We don’t hunt for the kill; we hunt for the memories, friends and good times in the great outdoors. We as hunters all have a little brown shack within us, because if the walls could talk they would tell one heck of a story.

Wisconsin Late Season Bowhunting Success - The Perfect 12

by Dan Schafer 16. January 2011 18:15
Dan Schafer

Like a lot of stories in the modern age of bowhunting, this one starts with a single trail camera picture. Two days after the Wisconsin muzzleloader season ended, my brother Rick was checking cameras and got a shock when he looked at the pictures and saw a buck we had never seen before. He called me up and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I am looking at a picture of a perfect 12.” Since December 10th, this buck was simply known as “Perfect 12.”

Now, we have a dilemma. With the extremely wet late summer and heavy clay ground that our property sits on, we were unable to get our food plots in. Essentially, we have no reason for this buck to stay on our property. Since baiting is legal in WI, (two gallons per 40 acres) we decided to give it a try. We knew it would be nearly; remember I say nearly, impossible to kill a mature buck like this over bait. Our plan was simply to provide a food source we were lacking, place trail cameras there and hunt it as if it were a food plot.

Over the next couple days we placed two gallons of corn at five different spots over our 560 acres. Two of those spots were at box tower stands that my nephew, Nick Schafer, could hunt out of. With the early snowstorms we had this year, there was going to be a limited amount of areas that he could get to and hunt from his wheelchair. But, with those snowstorms and deep snow, little did we know how effective the feeding would be at these stands. With no food plots or standing crops within a few miles of us, the deer took to our new food sources very quickly.

Over the course of the next week we ended up getting a number of trail camera pictures of Perfect 12, but like we suspected, all at night and at different stands. He seemed to have no real pattern. On December 20th, to our amazement, we got several daytime pictures of him at one of the stands Nick would be able to hunt. Unfortunately, as you can see, the date and time was wrong on the camera. I had forgotten to check the batteries on the DLC Covert and in the extreme cold weather the date and time were reset. With the very busy Christmas season in the family grocery business, Nick and his dad Jeff (another of my brothers) would not be able to hunt the stand until the following week.


The day after Christmas we headed up to the cabin with high hopes that this buck would still be visiting Nick’s stand in daylight hours. Shortly after getting in the stand, does, fawns and even a couple young bucks that had shed both sides starting filtering in. It wasn’t long before it was getting dark and the hopes that Perfect 12 would show had faded. Over the course of the next couple weeks, Nick and Jeff were able to hunt a few more times, but the result was always the same, lots of does and fawns, but no Perfect 12.

On January 8th, with two days left in the WI archery season, we took Nick and Jeff out to the stand. The idea of getting a shot at Perfect 12 had disappeared and Nick was planning on shooting the first big doe that walked in. It didn’t take long and Jeff was fast asleep in his chair, sawing logs and dreaming of big bucks. A few minutes later Nick sees movement 60 yards in front of them. For a moment, he thought he was dreaming as well, as Perfect 12 seemingly materializes out of thin air. Trying to wake his dad, Nick whispers, “big buck.” He could hear Jeff stirring a little bit and simply said, “don’t move, big buck.” It didn’t take long for Jeff to see the giant walking at them, turning his head to the side to get his rack through the brush.

Let me say, at this moment, if I could pick one person who I have 100% confidence to make a shot in an extreme high-pressure situation, it would be Nick. I have never seen a person so calm and patient when it comes to shooting, as him. He rightfully earned the nickname “Deadeye” years ago.

As the buck approached the food, Nick shouldered his Ten Point crossbow and waited for the moment of truth. 30 seconds later, the buck gave him a perfect broadside shot. Like he’s done dozens of times, Nick squeezed the trigger and sent the NAP Thunderhead on its way through both lungs! Once again, Nick lived up to the nickname “Deadeye” and sent Perfect 12 to meet the Sandman and take a little dirt nap.

When I came in from hunting that night I could see the look on Nick’s face. Anyone that knows him will tell you that he has an infectious smile and when I saw it, I knew something great happened. After hearing the story of how Perfect 12 stepped out of the brush at 1:45 in the afternoon and Nick anchoring him with a perfect shot, I couldn’t wait to go help retrieve him take pictures.

Again, a huge congrats Nick, and a bigger Thank You for letting me be a part of it and being such a huge inspiration to me.

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!


Bowhunt or Die! Episode 8 Recap

by Cody Altizer 7. December 2010 03:34
Cody Altizer

 After taking a week off to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Bowhunt or Die! returned for Episode 8 of its inaugural season.  While our team spent Thanksgiving being thankful for friends, family and good food, the whitetails across the country were thankful our hunters weren’t out hunting them!  With the type of season our team has had this far who could blame them?  Still, Episode 8 chronicles 4 more exciting hunts in Illinois and Wisconsin and 2 more bucks and 2 does were harvested.  Let’s take a look at how things went down!

To watch the footage of Episode 8 of Bowhunt or Die! follow this link!

 Justin Zarr kicks Episode 8 off on his lease in West Central Illinois.  Justin spent three days on his lease in Pike and Brown Counties hunting those famed whitetails hard, but wasn’t able to get it done.  Despite his rough luck down south Justin kept at it the following Monday on his hunting property in Lake County, Illinois.  If you have followed Bowhunt or Die! this season, you know how much time and effort Justin has put into this piece of property hoping to harvest a nice whitetail.  Finally, his patience was rewarded when a buck Justin has over 50 trail camera pictures made an appearance.  It looked like this buck, better known as Little Mac, was going to cross a creek and present a 10 yard chip shot; however, when he crossed the creek Justin attempted to stop him with his mouth call.  The results were not what any hunter would expect as the buck apparently was alarmed by the call and took off in the opposite direction!  After going back across the creek he stopped and gave Justin a small window of opportunity and Justin capitalized on it big time!  He put a Nitron tipped arrow right behind Little Mac’s shoulder and the buck was dead within seconds!  Just like that Justin had accomplished his biggest goal of the 2010 season, harvesting a buck in Lake County, Illinois.  Click here to read about the sentimental value this particular buck holds to Justin by reading his own recap of this hunt.  Way to go, Justin!

Justin's immediate reaction after the shot was priceless.  When you work as hard for a buck as Justin did for Little Mac, emotions can quickly run high after a successful shot.

Here is Justin after he recovered his buck, Little Mac.  Congrats again to Justin for working extremely hard for this buck and making it happen.

 We then head to Wisconsin with John Hermann as he attempts to harvest a couple does.  If you remember, John got his 2010 season off to an incredible start by harvesting a giant 150” 8 pointer in early October.  Unfortunately, that was the only buck John could harvest in Wisconsin (I am sure he is not complaining) and he was limited to shooting does the rest of the year.  He set out a goal to harvest two does off a certain piece of property and was able to accomplish that goal in one weekend.  John was also able to get some great footage of a mature buck over the course of the weekend as well.  While he wasn’t able to shoot that big buck, simply being able to watch him interact with the other deer was enjoyable I am sure.  Congrats on a productive weekend, John!

John Hermann had a successful weekend hunt in Northern Wisconsin as he achieved his goal of harvesting a couple does.  Nice work, John!

 While John Hermann was having excellent luck in Wisconsin, Bowhunt or Die! front man Todd Graf was not.  Todd has worked extremely hard in Wisconsin this year hoping to harvest a nice buck and was presented with a shot opportunity on a mid-November hunt, but unfortunately he missed.  The particular tree Todd was hunting out of is a perfect tree for killing big bucks, but it makes for difficult shot angles and Todd just wasn’t able to pull it off.  To make matters worse, the same buck strolled back by later that day at 39 yards, but Todd just wasn’t comfortable with the shot.  Despite his tough luck, Todd deserves a lot of credit for passing up on shot at redemption by passing on a shot he wasn’t 100% comfortable with. 

A shot of the buck Todd missed on his quest for a Wisconsin bruiser.  Don't you just hate it when they look back at you out range as if to say, "You can't shoot me now!"  Don't worry about it Todd, we all miss and I am sure you will get one during the late season!

 If you remember Episode 5, staff member Josh Fletcher harvested a giant Wisconsin buck on the first day of his planned two week vacation.  Since he quickly tagged out, he offered to run the camera for his brother Clint, hoping to film him harvesting a nice buck.  At very first light on the morning of November 13th, a nice buck came in and Clint was fortunate enough to harvest him.  I personally know how much fun it is to be able to hunt and film with your brother, so I am sure Josh and Clint had a great time in the tree together.  Good jobs guys!

Staff member Josh Fletcher took time out of his vacation to film his brother, Clint, harvesting this nice buck.  There is no time better spent than sharing a hunt with your brother and congratulations to Clint for harvesting a nice buck!

 Another exciting and successful episode has come and gone for the team.  Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already one week into December!  Time sure does fly in the deer woods.  The late season is officially upon us which means snow and super cold temperatures which can make for incredibly fun hunts.  Stay tuned to Bowhunt or Die! to see how the team performs during December.

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.


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!

Wisconsin Archery Bear Hunting Success

by Dan Schafer 8. October 2009 15:05
Dan Schafer

After 7 years of applying and gaining preference points for a WI black bear tag, good friend and filming partner John Herrmann finally got the news back in March that he would be receiving one of the coveted tags this fall.  John soon got the news that another good friend of his, Craig Frenette, had also drawn a tag for the fall season.  The two of them decided that they would make team effort of the baiting and hunt near Craig's cabin in Northern Wisconsin.  Now, all that was left to do was wait until fall.

About four weeks before season started John and Craig started to locate bait sites and begin the long and grueling process of baiting.  As a bear hunter myself, I can attest to the fact that the baiting is the most difficult work of all when it comes to the bear hunting process.  Mixing the bait and carrying heavy buckets hundreds of yards through the mosquito infested forest can really wear on a hunter.  Not to mention the 100 mile drive one way from home every other day. 

After setting the baits, they set up Moultrie I40 trail cameras to monitor the sites and to see if there were any shootable bears.  It didn't take long to prove they had picked the right spots and were onto some good bears. 


In Wisconsin a hunter has the option to either hunt with dogs or to bait.  Every year, the bait hunters and dog hunters trade off who goes the first week.  This year it was the dog hunters, starting on September 9th and the bait hunters starting on September 16th.

About four days into the season, John got a call from Craig saying a 500# plus bear had been killed less than a half mile from John's hot stand.  Needless to say, he was a little disappointed.  After a check of the camera on Tuesday September 15th, John's frown turned upside down when they captured a couple other very nice bears on the Moultrie. 

Finally, after all the prep work and many miles driving to bait, the day was here to jump in the stand and harvest the fruits of their labor.  Climbing in the stand around 2 pm John was extremely optimistic for the evening hunt, but as the hours faded off the clock, so did his outlook for the evening.  Then, about 45 minutes before shooting hours ended, he spotted what he had been waiting seven years to see.  Appearing from nowhere was a black mass of fur and muscle, dreams were becoming reality.  Very slowly the bear made its way to the bait.  Very being an understatement, as it took the big bruin 30 minutes to close the last 15 yard gap before John was offered a shot.  With the bear comfortable at the bait, John drew his Renegade Alpha 1, settled the pin behind the shoulder, squeezed the trigger and sent the NAP Thunderhead through both lungs. 

After a quick track job, John was able to put his hands on the big bruin he had been waiting seven years to come face to face with.  After a close look, they were amazed to see that they had never had a picture of this bear, which has a very distinct white "V" on its chest.  At 334# dressed and a skull that will easily surpass the Pope & Young minimum of 18", the wait was worth every second!

Be sure to check back for videos of John's and my adventures chasing whitetails through the woods of WI and IL this fall, right here on

Congrats again my friend!

Opening Day Bowhunting Whitetails, Recharging of the Batteries

by Josh Fletcher 21. September 2009 10:58
Josh Fletcher

With a slight southeast wind blowing at our face, and the gentle humming of Wisconsin’s unofficial state bird, the mosquito, in my ear and temperatures in the eighties could only mean one thing…the opening day of the Wisconsin archery season was upon us. Chad and I were set up in our stands hours before sunset. Sitting patiently, listing to the music of falling acorns and safely in our trees with the help of the Hunters Safety System, it was just a matter of waiting till closer to dark before the woods would come alive with deer.

Through extensive scouting in the off-season we knew that we were going to have a great acorn crop this year on this particular property. Acorns to deer are like Chocolate to a kid. With the right wind to hunt our “acorn” stand, I knew that it was a no questions asked sit. It was just a matter of time until the deer came out to feed.

Approximately 45 minutes before dark we had our first deer movement of the 2009 season. Two fawns came running up the trail and stopped rite under our stands. Soon the woods came alive. We could hear deer moving through the thick leafy foliage, and one by one they came filtering past our stands, making a four-hour sit feel like a half hour. Though we didn’t see any bucks the first night, it was far beyond a successful night, it was a cleansing of the mind, stress reduction, and recharging of the batteries.

The next morning didn’t disappoint us either. Sunday morning brought us cooler temperatures in the 60’s. We keyed in on deer feeding on acorns and moving back to bed down in the buckthorn thickets shortly after daylight. With a large amount of acorns falling we knew the deer would be feeding on the fresh crop well before daylight. We didn’t want to bump the deer, so we had a pre-hung set of stands knocking on the deer’s bedroom door.

Shortly I spotted a doe and two fawns crossing the logging road that we were sitting on. Less than an hour latter I heard the tell tale sound of a twig breaking (I’m still amazed to this day how one breaking of a twig can get the heart pounding). Soon several does and a small buck came into view. At fifteen yards away I opted to pass on harvesting any of the deer and just became a mere observer of nature’s story.

With the opening weekend under our belts it was definitely a successful one. You don’t have to draw your bow or see a buck for it to be a successful day in the woods, just merely sitting back and watching natures story book unfold a true story for me was more than enough for me to walk out of the woods with a grin stretching from ear to ear.

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