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Food Plot Stand Location Tips

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

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

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

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

Retreat to the Timber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hunting OVER a Food Plot

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

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

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

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

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

Find an Exit

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

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

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

 

Not as Easy as it Sounds

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

Conclusion

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

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.

Turkey Hunting Basics: “A Beginners Guide to Chasing Long-Beards”

by Dustin DeCroo 11. April 2012 08:25
Dustin DeCroo

Your bow in hand and arrow nocked, the horizon in the Eastern sky begins turning pink and orange, the gobbles in the trees above tell you the game is about to begin. Are you ready? In this “Beginner’s Guide to Chasing Long-Beards,” you’ll learn six simple tips guaranteed to help your turkey bowhunting career more successful.

Turkey Tip No. 1: Do your scouting homework.
The single most important part of being a successful turkey hunter is having an idea where your birds are and what they’re doing. There is simply no substitute for quality scouting if you want to be a successful turkey hunter, but what is “quality scouting?”
Quality scouting is having a pretty decent idea as to what your birds are doing throughout the day, not just where they roost or where they feed. If you know where they want to be, you can be waiting at that spot before they get there and that alone will put the odds in your favor.
Finding a roost is the easiest part of scouting, you simply follow your ears to where the birds are before sunrise or after sunset. Turkeys love to roost near water, whether it is a creek, stream, river or pond. Turkeys also prefer to roost in Cottonwoods, large Oaks or other mature trees. Hunting the roost can be incredible, but often times the action is early and short lived as the birds move out. Turkeys typically fly down out of the roost 15-20 minutes prior to sunrise, sometimes earlier or later, but 15-20 minutes is fairly standard. Wind, rain and cloud cover are all factors that will affect how early or late the birds will come down out of the roost. There aren’t many things in the outdoors that are more exciting than sitting within 50 yards of a roost tree full of gobbling birds when it is turkey season. When the birds come down out of the tree, they’ll peck around for a few minutes waking up and then begin to strut for the ladies. The hens will promptly begin leading the toms (strutting all the way of course) to the feeding area where they’ll show up an hour or two after daybreak. Depending on the weather conditions, the birds may stay in the field for the duration of the day, but most likely they’ll take a little break to hang out in a shady location before heading back to the field (or other food source) in the afternoon. From the feeding area, they’ll begin to work their way back to the roost to spend the night. Turkeys will generally have several “roosting” trees in a given location; this area will almost always be used unless the birds are continually pushed off the roost or spooked out of the area before dark.

 
Using your Stealth Cam trail camera is a great way to scout for turkeys while you're at work or school.

Turkey Tip No. 2: Don’t give up in the middle of the day.
The majority of bowhunters are deer hunters, and as deer hunters we’ve been trained that daylight and dusk are our best opportunities to harvest animals, and while this may be true with crepuscular animals such as deer, it doesn’t hold as true with turkeys. Mid-day and early afternoon often provide better opportunities at calling in a Tom. Sometime in the mid to late morning the hens and toms will separate, either because the hens are going to nest, or because the toms are giving up on the hens that are unwilling to breed. As the season progresses on, typically, the birds will spend less time together in the mornings and evenings because the hens that have been bred leave to sit on their nest. This is the best opportunity to call in a long-beard, this is the time during the day that you will have the least competition with live hens… and that is a good thing.

During these warmer, slower hours of mid-day, you can increase your chances significantly if you have an idea where the birds tend to “loaf.” “Loafing” is often times a shady area on the edge of a field where the birds hang out and pass the time. If you can place yourself where the turkeys naturally want to be at any given time during the day, you will give yourself many more opportunities as success, guaranteed. Calling a tom to a location that he already wants to be, without the distraction of live hens is the perfect scenario for a turkey hunter. Remember, your goal for scouting prior to the hunt was to know where the birds want to be throughout the day, so that you can beat them to that location.


During the middle of the day turkeys like to "loaf" in shaded areas, if you know where these areas are, success is just around the corner.

Turkey Tip No. 3: Don’t be afraid to use a push-button turkey call.
Turkey calling can be as exciting as it gets when it’s good and it can also make you want to pull your hair out when it’s tough. Fortunately for turkey hunters, we don’t have to be world champion turkey callers to get the job done. There are four main types of calls that turkey hunters have access to: diaphragm calls, box calls, friction (slate) calls and a push-button call. All of these calls have advantages and disadvantages over the others, but as turkey bowhunters, let us discuss the two best calls for bowhunting turkeys.

The diaphragm call (or mouth call) is the favorite of many experienced turkey callers because it gives you a great deal of tone versatility and it can be 100% hands free. When you need to make a cluck and you’re at full draw, the diaphragm call is the only call that can make that happen. You can switch out diaphragm calls for different wind conditions or just different sounds altogether. The down side of the diaphragm turkey call is that it takes, by far, the most time to become proficient. For beginning hunters, it is a great idea to practice the diaphragm from the beginning (while practicing the easier calls), but don’t feel like you have to take it to the field until you’re ready. Keep in mind, turkeys all sound different, similar to a human voice or the bugle of a bull elk, so you don’t have to sound “perfect.”
Perhaps the best option for beginning turkey bowhunters is the push-button call. This call gets overlooked by lots of people because they see the push-button turkey call as a “child’s” call. The push-button call takes only one hand to operate and has an almost fail-proof design. Simply push the button to make the cluck, yelp, purr, putt or whichever call you like. This call is by far the easiest to learn and sounds great as well. With a few minutes practice you will have all the skills you need to call in and kill a gobbler with your bow.

Turkey Tip No. 4: Patience equals success.
The number one mistake that turkey hunters make is being impatient. When birds are gobbling and moving all around, it’s easy to get caught up in the action and get in a hurry. The best example of this is when you’re calling to a tom that you know is close. You call, he gobbles, you call, he gobbles, you call, and he goes quiet. We all want to hear that tom gobble every time we call; it reassures us that he hasn’t vacated the area. Lots of turkey hunters give up when a bird goes quiet, big mistake. More often than not, the bird is expecting you (the hen) to come looking for him, and most likely, he didn’t leave. Be ready, sit tight and he’ll either come in silently or when he gets tired of looking for you, he will gobble. Don’t be afraid to give him 20 minutes (or more) of silence before making a move. Practice patience and you will bag more turkeys, period.


Bowhunting.com Staff member Dan Schafer excercised patience to wait for these birds to get into range.

Turkey Tip No. 5: Don’t overcall.
Turkey calling is fun, but keeping your calling to a minimum is best, try not to call more than every 10-15 minutes. Learn to putt, purr, yelp and cackle and use them in that order. The majority of the sounds turkeys make are putts (not warning putts) and purrs, then the yelp and occasionally the cackle. If putts and purrs aren’t working, then mix in yelps with your putts and purrs. Saving the excited cackle for a tough bird is a great strategy, don’t pull out the “trick play” until you’re in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. When you do get the attention of a bird and you can see him coming, quit calling. He knows you’re there and is obviously interested, if he stops give some putts and purrs to keep his attention. If you continue calling, you risk him holding up to wait for the hen (you) because you’re too vocal. The tom will be in range shortly, don’t push him.


When a bird is coming in on a string, it's time to be quiet and pick up your bow.


Turkey Tip No. 6: Lower your draw weight.
Bowhunters often get caught up in the speed and momentum or KE that their bow setup produces. Obviously, turkeys are smaller animals than the big game animals that most bowhunters chase, and the need for speed and hard hitting arrows is little to none. Far more important is being able to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time, especially if you’re not in a ground blind. You may have one opportunity to draw and then have to wait for the bird to enter your shooting lane, not being over bowed will allow you the holding time to make the shot count.


Lowering your draw weight will allow you to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time.

Bowhunting Products for Turkey Hunters
Every magazine you pick up or turkey hunting website you visit has hundreds of products that you could spend your money on. Here are a few of the products that could be considered “must-have” products for the turkey bowhunter.


New Archery Products – Spitfire Gobbler Getter Broadhead

 Avian X Turkey Decoys by Zink Calls

 


 A-Way Turkey Trooper 2000 Deluxe Turkey Call

Ameristep Lost Camo Blind


CamoFX Lost Camo face paint


ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

 


Sawyer Permethrin clothing spray mosquito protection

For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

by Patrick Durkin 15. March 2012 00:48
Patrick Durkin

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

Late Winter Is The Best Time To Scout Your Deer Woods

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Five Steps To Early Season Big Buck Success

by Scott Abbott 18. January 2012 12:31
Scott Abbott

The title of this blog, "Five steps to early season big buck success" may at first sound like something that I should have waited to post until Summer... But the fact is, the track to early season big buck success starts... Now! Hunting seasons for the most part are over, there is no time better than now to get into the timber and learn how the deer are using the properties you hunt. I am a firm believer of no in-season scouting on foot because I want to leave as little disturbance on the lands I hunt as possible. With that said, 90% of my boot leather scouting is done between the months of January and April.

1. Lace up your boots, put on your brush pants and cover the deer bedding areas from all directions. Locate the buck beds within these areas. Clues to tip you off that it is a buck bed: Single beds are usually buck beds, does and fawns tend to bed in groups. Beds that are surrounded by rubs and or scrapes generally are buck beds. Some people may have a hard time believing this one, however beds that offer a great vantage point are big buck bed hot-spots. While their nose is their number one defense, they use their eyes and ears just as much to detect and avoid danger.

Bedding and security cover areas rarely offers trees suitable for a climber.

2. Learn your lands and understand their strengths and weaknesses and how your properties relate to surrounding tracts. This is very important, some properties may be bursting at the seams during certain periods of the year and nearly devoid of deer at others. Find the features of your properties that are favorable to whitetail and understand what time of the year the deer with be using the favorable traits.

3. Locate target animals by utilizing trail cameras and by glassing fields in the evenings from late spring until your season opens. I set my Stealth cameras up in low impact areas such as field edges. I do not care that I am mostly getting night time photos as I am by no means attempting to "pattern" the bucks, I am only using the Stealth cam to confirm if there are bucks I am interested in hunting on that tract of land. Sometimes a buck you have been watching for a while disappears or a new stud seems to just appear one day, this is because as Summer starts the transition to Autumn some bucks leave the areas they spent their summer on to return to their fall home range. This isn't as common with older bucks as it is with younger bucks but it does take place.

While taking this photo I am standing between a bedding area and a food source.

4. Understand what the deer are feeding on on the properties you hunt or the adjacent properties throughout the fall. Their preferred food sources change often, from soy beans to acorns to corn etc. Learn what they are eating and when they are doing so. 

5. The final step is where all of your work comes together and produces results. Here you take the things you know or learned: buck beds, the strengths of your properties, food sources and any other things you learned along the way and create your game plans. Each day and hunt is unique based on the days weather conditions, preferred food sources and time of year. Now that you know you are on a property holding a buck you are interested in, know where he beds, understand the strengths of your property and what he is feeding on you can formulate solid plans for each hunt.

In my experiences the best tactic to use is to get between his bed and his preferred food source, setting up as close as possible to his bed. The further you are setup away from his bedding site the greater your odds decrease of seeing him during daylight hours. To get onto big early season bucks during daylight hours you have to be setup in an area that he is comfortable using during the day time. Heavy ground cover (I call it security cover) are areas that the bucks will leave their beds for and feel secure to use to browse, socialize with other deer and make rubs and scrapes while waiting until dark to make his way to the open agriculture fields. This "security cover" is generally the outer laying areas of his primary bedding area. Stationary setups are not favorable to this style of hunting. You need to be able to move and hunt different areas and properties each and every hunt. Hunting these bedding areas generally puts you in spindly or cluster style trees. A lock on and sticks such as my go to setup, the Lone Wolf assault and sticks are a must.

This photo shows security cover with white oak trees present, a perfect ambush point for big early season bucks!

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Stealth Cam Archer's Choice Edition Game Camera Review

by Josh Fletcher 27. December 2011 11:34
Josh Fletcher

This fall we had the opportunity to run the new Archers Choice TV Signature Edition game camera by Stealth Cam through an in-depth series of tests.  We didn’t just want to do a quick review on game cameras, we wanted to give you, the readers the best understanding and quality review, so that you can make your own decision on what game camera is right for you, and be confident in that decision.
 
In this review we break the camera down, from the size of the camera, factory specs on the camera, to the warranty and operators manual. We will also look at the cameras mounting system, ease of use, trigger speed, sensor distance, sensor width, IR (infrared) distance test, battery life and many more series of other tests and features of the camera.

The author using the compact Archer's Choice edition game camera by Stealth Cam

Under each category I list a score. The score is based on a system of 1 through 10. The score of 1 being the worst, and the score of 10 being the best. To understand the means of scoring we were very strict about how good a 10 really is, basically a 10 means it is perfect with no room for improvement.  We also used feet as well as yards to measure distance. The reason for this is most people have a hard time picturing how far 24 feet is but all bow hunters can picture how far 8 yards is.

At the end of the review we will give you an easy to view break down of the good vs. the bad of the game camera reviewed, along with our overall impression of the game camera. So let’s literally break the new Archers Choice TV signature edition game camera by Stealth Cam down to the nuts and bolts.

Test Conditions:

Controlled testing was done on September 20th 2011 in the evening hours with temperatures that averaged around 70 degrees.
Battery life test was conducted in a range of temperature from 70 degrees down to 10 degrees, along with rain and snow.

Make and Model of Game Camera:
 
Stealth Cam Archers Choice TV Signature Edition Game Camera. Model #: STC-AC540IR

Game Camera Size:

This camera has dimensions of 6 inches tall, 4 inches wide, by 2 inches deep. It is very small, compact and light weight.

Factory Specs features of the Game Camera:

Stealth Cam was really thinking when they designed this camera; it shows by the locations of the LCD screens, along with ease of use. Stealth Cam equipped the Archers Choice edition with the option of selecting 3, 5, or 8 megapixels. It also can capture video along with audio at 640x480 resolutions.  The photos are all stamped with date, time, moon phase, and temperature.  All of this data can be stored on a SD card with up to 16 GB of memory. With the camera set to take 5 megapixel pictures, you can store 5440 black and white photos, or 3264 color photos. With the camera set to take 30 second videos, you can store 544 black and white (night time) videos on a 16 GB SD card or 224 color videos. (Note that these are approximate number of images)

The Archers Choice edition is equipped with a generous 1.85” black and white LCD Display. This display is located inside the camera and shows you your different settings and menu. There is also a LCD display on the outside face of the game camera that shows the number of pictures taken. This is a great feature so you do not have to open up the camera to view how many pictures have been taken.

Stealth Cam designed the Archer's Choice edition to be easy to use and user friendly

This camera also has the capture options of 1-9 image burst mode. The burst mode takes the selected number of photos in a row. This feature is designed to capture several different angles of your buck’s antlers to provide a better judgment of the animal.  The pictures are saved to the SD card in a standard JPEG format. The time that each trigger is taken by the camera or also known as the time out feature can be set from 0 seconds to 59 minutes.  This is the time in between each event before the camera takes another picture(s).

This camera is also equipped with a time lapse mode. This feature is designed to provide a constant monitor of an area; the camera will bypass the passive infrared sensor (PIR) and take photos (not video) during the programed time frame.  For example , it will snap a photo every 10 seconds from 8am to 8pm. Then the entire days’ worth of data can be viewed in a short period of time. This feature is handy for monitoring food plots or field where the deer may be out to far to trigger the PIR but can still be captured in the picture.
 
On the front of the camera it had a red LED low battery light that indicates that the batteries need to be changed without having to open the camera to check the battery status. There is also a green test LED light on the front of the camera to test the range and angle of the camera.

Next, the camera has five buttons under the inside LCD display, these buttons are-the test, confirm, menu, and the up and down buttons for setting up the camera’s modes. On each side of those buttons there are two switches, the power on/off and the Posse Mode/ custom switch.

This camera is has a 1.85" B&W LCD display

The posse mode is a pre-set mode for the camera’s ease of use. If you’re not a very technologically advanced individual, all that you have to do is flip the switch to on, then flip the other switch to posse mode and walk away. In the posse mode the camera will automatically take 5 megapixel photos, with a two picture burst and a one minute delay until the next event.  Or you can flip the switch to custom and program the camera to take video, time laps, or photos.
 
Both the photos and videos are illuminated by infrared LED’s giving it a 50 foot or approximately 16.6 yard range.

Ok, now that we have a good back ground on the specs and features of the new Archers Choice edition game camera by Stealth Cam let’s start breaking it down and seeing how it scores.

Initial Impressions of the Camera:

Upon receiving the game camera we noticed that the camera had a very durable housing.  The camera is sealed tightly by two heavy duty plastic latches with metal C-bar.  Compared to other game cameras that we have used the Archers Choice edition game camera was more durable that most others on the market, and is able to with stand the abuse that the average hunter will put it through. This camera is a camera that can take a licking and keep on clicking.
Initial Impressions of the Camera score: 8.5

Operators Manual and Lay Out, Tech Support, and Warranty:

Stealth Cam’s game cameras come with an in depth operators manual.  If you lose your manual to your Stealth Cam you can go to Stealth Cam’s web site at www.stealthcam.com and print off the manual to your model of Stealth Cam.

On the first page of the Archers Choice edition game camera is all the customer support information for the Stealth Cam Company. Not only does it provide the web address for the website, but also the companies mailing address, customer service number along with the email address to technical support.

The Stealth Cam Company has a one year limited warranty on parts and labor. The warranty covers defects in workmanship and materials.
Operators Manual, Tech Support, and Warranty score: 9

Camera’s Mounting System:

The Stealth Cam comes with a nylon web strap. On the back of the camera there are two molded slots for the web strap to slide through to secure the camera to the strap. These molded slots can also be used for other ways of securing the camera to a tree or fence post.  An example of this would be if you wanted to secure the camera using bungi straps instead of the supplied nylon strap.

The Archers Choice edition also has a tree screw mounting option on the bottom of the camera. This is designed for use with a tri pod to place the camera on if no tree is available or if you wanted to use a tree screw to mount the camera to a tree and not the strap.
Camera’s Mounting System Score: 9.5

Trigger Speed:

Independent test have been conducted on the Stealth Cam Hunters Choice model and has shown to have a trigger speed of approximately 1.5 seconds.

With a 1.5 second trigger speed Stealth Cam is not the fastest camera on the market. This is one area that I would like to see Stealth Cam improve on. On field tests this slower trigger speed didn’t affect the number of deer that we were able to capture on the field test as much as I had expected.  If a deer was feeding his way or even walking past, the camera does a good job at capturing the deer. If the deer was trotting through or on a run, the 1.5 second trigger speed may have a hard time capturing that image.
Trigger Speed Score: 6.5

Camera Ease of Use:

When the Archers Choice camera was designed you can definitely tell that ease of use was priority number one.  All it takes to get this camera going is a flip of two switches.  If you’re not person who likes to read owner manuals, just flip the power on and flip the second switch to the posse mode.  The camera preprogramed to take 5 megapixel photos with two picture bursts and a one minute time out. That’s it, just set it and forget it. It’s that simple.
 
If you wish to set the camera to your own custom settings, just preset the different features in the menu mode prior to heading out to the woods. Once in the woods just flip the power switch to on and walk away. Unlike some cameras on the market, you don’t have to go into the settings and manually arm the camera; with just a flip of the switch you’re ready to start taking photos.
Camera Ease of Use Score: 10

Camera Noise:

We wanted to add this topic into the review because we have tested several cameras that make a “clicking” noise while it is taking the photo.  This can be a major problem because it will tip of a mature buck of the cameras presence.  Once that buck is spooked and realizes his home has been invaded chances are he will shy from the area of the camera.

No camera noise is improtant so an animal close to the camera does not hear when the picture is taken

While testing the Stealth Cam and taking hundreds of pictures with it, not once did we notice any noise from the camera, so much so the only way we knew the camera took a photo was by picture counter on the front of the camera, or under low light the LEDs lighting up.
Camera Noise Score: 10

PIR (Passive Infrared) Sensor Distance Test:

Under a low light condition we set the camera up and began to walk towards the camera, once the LEDs light up we would measure the distance to the camera.  We conducted this test numerous time to be sure we got the most accurate results.

The maximum range we were able to get the PIR to take a picture was 14 yards or 42 feet


The camera would trigger at a distance of forty two feet or fourteen yards.  The most effective range for best results is thirty feet or ten yards.
PIR Sensor Distance Test Score: 8

PIR Sensor Width Test:

Again under low light condition we used the distance of 24 feet or 8 yards from the camera.  I then walked across the plane of the camera marking the location that the PIR sensor first picked up my motion.  We copied this from the other side of the camera.

The PIR sensor width at 8 yards is 5 yards or 15 feet wide

At 24 feet or 8 yards from the camera, we had a PIR sensor width of 24 feet or 8 yards wide. 
PIR Sensor Width Test Score: 8

Infrared Distance Test:

We used a 3-D target to represent our deer at the given distance to judge the picture quality and the effective distance of the Infrared flash.

The above picture shows the IR capabilities at 30 feet or 10 yards to the deer target

The above picture shows the IR capabilities with the deer target being 50 feet or 16.6 yards

After testing the infrared at the distances of 30 feet and the recommended maximum range of 50 feet we reviewed the photos.  This test showed that we could still identify antler characteristics all the way out to the 50 foot maximum range with good quality.
Infrared Distance Test Score: 9

Picture Quality:

To decide the score for the picture quality we reviewed photos that were taken under both the black and white infrared night pictures and color day photos. We also compared and reviewed both photos taken during the tests and in the field photos.

Stealth Cam takes great night time photos and has an excellent IR range

Some of the color pictures taken in the morning have a blur to them

The Stealth Cam took great quality night time photos, both in the field and under testing conditions. The day time photos taken under the testing were of good quality, however some of the day time photos in the field had a haze to them. 
Picture Quality Score:  (9 for infrared) (7 for day time)

Special Feature Test:

In the PIR mode the Stealth Cam has different zoom levels to achieve a close up picture at a further distance.

 

The above picture showing the quality picture set at the two power zoom

 

 

The above picture shows the picture quality of the camera set at the four power zoom


During the testing the zoom modes is a great feature, especially when using the camera for home security. The zoom at 4x (the maximum) showed a little bit of blur.
Special Feature Test Score: 8.5

Battery Life Test:

This camera runs off of 8 AA batteries and has the optional connection for an external 12 volt battery pack. Using the AA batteries we had the camera in place set on the PIR photo mode taking 8 megapixel photos. The camera battery life was monitored from the last week of October to the last week of December.

We wanted to test the battery life through this time frame since this is the time when most hunters have their cameras in the woods. Also this time frame gives us a wide range of temperatures. During this test we had temperatures ranging from 70 degrees down to 10 degrees, we also had sunshine along with snow.


We started with full battery power at the end of October, the last week of December we were down to ¼ battery power.  Given the weather conditions which this camera was tested in, we were very impressed with the battery life using the AA batteries.
Battery Test Score: 8.5

Final Impressions of Camera:

After running this camera through a strict series of tests, we are very impressed with the Stealth Cam’s Archers Choice Signature Series game camera.
This camera is small and compact in size, light and easy to transport. It has many great features that are useful for many different applications. It also has a good battery life, which has shown to be reliable under a variety of weather conditions.

The trigger speed is slower than we would like, however it is not the slowest on the market nor is it so slow that you’re going to miss animals walking through.

The picture quality and IR range at night is excellent, we were very impressed with the IR range. The day light photos were good quality with some of the early morning pictures having a slight blur to them.

We were also impressed with the durability of this camera. Stealth Cam did not make a cheap quality camera here; this camera can take a licking and keep on clicking with the quality and durability of the camera body.
 
Also this camera is very reasonably priced.  You can buy several of these cameras for the price of a different company’s camera.

If you are looking for an easy to use camera that does not require reading the owner’s manual from cover to cover and days to learn, this is the camera for you. You will spend less time reading and learning the camera and more time having the camera in the woods scouting for you. Stealth Cam designed this camera to be a no brainer and is super easy to use.

Over All Score: 8.5

Hopefully this review will help you with deciding which camera is right for you this year. All cameras have their strong points along with their weak points. There is no perfect camera on the market, and we hope that this review helps to assist you in picking out your next camera to get you on the biggest buck of your life.

 

Conducting Your Own Trail Camera Survey

by Josh Fletcher 12. September 2011 12:59
Josh Fletcher

Conducting surveys and censuses on deer populations have been around for years. There are formulas such as the SAK formula, aerial surveys, track counts, spotlight surveys, and just recently with the popularity of game cameras, trail camera surveys to estimate a deer population for a given location.

Formulas such as the SAK formula or aerial surveys are often used by large ranches or state game agencies. Surveys such as track counts or spotlights surveys need open terrain and large tracks of property to be conducted on. However, with the development of the trail camera survey now you to conduct an estimate of deer population on your own property. Whether you own fifty acres or a thousand acres, you can utilize your trail camera data to give you a better idea of the deer population on your own property and providing better and more accurate information for managing your hunting area.

I first want to say that with all surveys they are an estimate, and there is no way to be 100% accurate, however they are accurate enough to provide a good data base for whitetail management. By using your trail cameras, not only can you identify possible trophy class bucks and travel routes, you can also estimate the buck age ratio, number of bucks, number of does, buck to doe ratio, fawns per doe ratio, and acres per deer. So stop deleting those pictures of small bucks, does, fawns and start estimating and tracking deer populations in your hunting area.

To begin the survey you will need a minimum of one game camera per 100 acres, however if you have more cameras for a smaller piece of property the more accurate your survey will be. For example, if you have 85 acres and four game cameras, you will have a better chance of a more accurate survey versus one camera for 100 acres. It doesn’t matter if you only own 20 acres; you too can run a very accurate deer population estimate on your property. The goal is to try and capture a photo of every deer that is on your property.

 The CamTracker MK-10 is an excellent trail camera with it's fast trigger speed to conduct a trail camera survey

 Experts recommend that you run your cameras for 14 days; however you can run your cameras longer to ensure a better chance of photographing the majority of deer in your hunting area. Next researchers recommend placing your cameras over bait or mineral sites to ensure photos of deer on the property. Keep in mind that results can very during certain times of the year. An example of this is a large acorn crop; most deer won’t abandon the acorns for corn.

If baiting or mineral sites are illegal in your area, you can utilize natural food sources such as food plots or fruit trees such as apple trees to capture photos of as many deer as you can on your property. 

Apple trees are excellent for conducting trail camera surveys if baiting is illegal in your area

Once your survey is over, begin by compiling all your photos. If you cannot positively identify a deer as a buck, doe or fawn, do not count it in the survey.
Count all the pictures that you have of bucks. It doesn’t matter if you are counting the same buck several times as this will be factored into the formula for gaining a doe count. Once you counted all the buck photos write that number down.

Next, out of your buck pictures count the number of individual bucks or unique bucks and write that number down. For example on my hunting property I had 19 pictures of bucks, out of these 19 pictures I have identified 9 different bucks.
 
Now you want to figure out the variable of “repeat offenders” or pictures of the same bucks. The reason you want to know this is to average the same idea for does. Since does are often harder to identify as being the same deer photographed, you want to figure out an idea of how many repeat bucks you have and to apply the same concept to does for a more accurate survey. This may seem confusing however is very simple. Just divide the total number of bucks by the number of unique bucks (individual bucks). An example is that I have 19 buck pictures divide that by the 9 unique bucks = 0.47 (pop. Facture) write that number down.
 
Now total up all the number of does you have pictures of. You will then divide your doe count by the pop. Facture. (The results of the buck division you just did earlier.)  An example is I had 24 does divided by 0.47 = 11.28 does.  I now know I have 9 bucks and 11.28 does utilizing my property during the given time frame I conducted the trail camera survey.
 
Now you want to figure out your fawn population. To do this count the numbers of fawns you have pictures of and divide that by your Pop. Facture just like you did with the does. For example, I had 18 pictures divided by my Pop. Facture of 0.47= 8.46 fawns on the property.

A healthy deer herd consists of a balanced buck to doe ratio

Now with the numbers complete, I now know I have an estimate of 9 bucks, 11 does and 8 fawns for my 85 acres.To figure out your buck to doe ratio for the property, divide the number of does by the number of bucks. I had 11.28 does divided by 9 bucks, gives me a ratio of 1.25 does per buck. Experts recommend a ratio close to 1:1.

To figure out your fawn to doe ratio simply divide your number of fawns by the number of does. I had 8.46 fawns divided by 11.28 does which gives me a ratio of 0.75 fawns per doe.

To figure out your acres per deer simply divide the amount of acres you have surveyed by your total population of deer. My hunting property is 85 acres divided by a total population of 28.74 which gives me 2.9 acres per deer for the property I hunt on.

My data for the trail camera survey looks like this:
9 individual bucks/ 19 total bucks = 0.47 (pop. Facture)
24 does/ 0.47 (pop. Facture) = 11.28 does
18 fawns/ 0.47 (pop. Facture) = 8.46 fawns
11.28 does / 9 bucks= 1.25 does per buck
8.46 fawns/ 11.28 does= 0.75 fawns per doe
85 acres/ 28.74 (total deer population) = 2.9 acres per deer
9 Bucks, 11 Does, 8 Fawns.
 
I know all these numbers are over whelming and seem complicated; however once you put your pen to paper you will see just how easy it is to conduct a trail camera survey on your property. Don’t just stop there. By doing trail camera surveys every month, you can track and watch as the deer population in your hunting area fluctuates throughout the year. By tracking this data allows you as a manager to analyze the reasons for the fluctuation for that given time of the year. It may be that the reason your deer population drops during the summer is because of the lack of warm season food source. If you notice this on your property, you might want to begin planting a warm season food source to hold deer on your property during the summer and early fall months. Doing these trail camera surveys gives you one more tool to better track and manage your hunting area.

With all surveys, the trail camera method is not 100 percent accurate; however is a very reliable source for information on your property. Also, all of the information that you are already gathering from your trail cameras can be utilized to conduct a trail camera survey. Have fun with it and utilize your trail cameras this year to better manage deer on your hunting property.

Adapting to changes will determine whitetail success

by Scott Abbott 31. August 2011 14:11
Scott Abbott

Situations that are out of our control can come along and impact our season at any time. How we adapt to these changes will dictate our level of success in the woods. Staying positive and developing a new plan of attack is key.

The winter before last I was blindsided with the sight of Amish logging my favorite piece of land. This spring after one and a half years they finally finished their work and pulled out of the area.  What was once a beautiful stand of timber chock full of white oak trees is now a huge tangle of tree tops and weeds.  There is a positive to be found here though, I am sure the deer will move more on this land during daylight hours now because of the vast amount of security cover. However, I now lack all of my ambush points from yesteryear and must change my mindset and tactics to be successful on this property.

Stepping back for a moment and digesting all of the changes, it lead my mind to a new setup. One I am very confident in.  I am not one to hunt near field edges but this one is different, hear me out....  The clear cut is located to the North of this stand site and reaches all the way to the fields edge, that is planted in corn. This is a huge benefit because as I already mentioned, that clear cut offers daylight security cover for the deer to transition from it to the food source. This stand site is also located on a breakline of a 100 yard wide strip of timber that meets the clear cut and an inside field corner. Say what? That is a lot to envision. Allow my photos to help clear this up.

This is a view from my approximate stand location looking North into the clear cut.  The corn field is located 20 yards to my East and 100 yards to my South. The bucks love traveling along the transition of one type of cover and another. The following picture shows exactly that with a well used trail leading to the corn field along this transition line. 

This trail is located about ten yards into the timber off of the transition with the clear cut, it takes the deer right to the inside corner of the corn field. I expect most of my encounters to be from the deer traveling this line as well as coming from the clear cut to the inside corner.

 

This view to the East shows the corn field, the fields inside corner and the transition of the field and the clear cut.

The will be my view to the West where I expect to see the deer traveling to and from when utilizing the corn field. Traveling West takes the deer to an old swamp bed that was drained a few years ago. It has served as bedding since it was drained.

The corn kernels are already hard and the deer and other wildlife are hitting it heavily.

In my opinion with out a doubt the best type of cover to hunt is security cover. No matter what your archery season pressure is, if you are hunting a stand location with cover that gives whitetail the security to move during the day, the number of deer you will see will skyrocket.

There really is a lot going on at this stand location, it is not that often that you locate a place that offers so many desirable features in one spot. I expect the stand location to be a hub of whitetail activity. There is one thing this spot is lacking to this point though, a legitimate shooter buck.  I have had two cameras on this property since the middle of June and have yet to capture a photo of a buck I want to chase.  This is not necessarily bad news though, as late summer always has a shuffling of many bucks leaving their summer areas to relocate to their fall haunts. Keep that bit of info fresh on your mind and keep an eye out for new bucks on your properties in the coming weeks.

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Edge Your Way in to a Trophy Buck

by Josh Fletcher 24. August 2011 11:15
Josh Fletcher


With archery season quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about stand placement.  Hunting is an odds game, you have to be in a high percentage location for the most success.  Those locations are often funnels such as bottle necks and travel routes such as edges. Deer along with many other animals, including humans are creatures that love to travel along edges.

Hard Edges

There are two types of edges. The first are hard edges, they are a major break from one terrain to another. An example of a hard edge is a field meeting woods, the location of two terrains meeting together. Deer love to travel these edges; however most bucks love to travel the hard edge from inside the woods.

This map shows the line of a hard edge. Expect a mature buck to travel inside the cover of the woods and not in the open field.

A classic example of how deer travel hard edges was a hunt in Bayfield County during the pre-rut when I was scouting the edge of a large clear cut. I noticed several scrapes out on the clear cut’s open edge, however inside the woods approximately seventy five yards along the south east corner of the clear cut there were numerous large rubs. The rub line paralleled the clear cut’s edge. The dilemma I had was deciding if I was going to place my stand on the open edge overlooking the clear cut that had scrapes along it, or inside the woods overlooking the rub line. Knowing that most trophy class public land bucks won’t feel comfortable exposing themselves out in the open of the clear cut, I opted to hunt the trail that followed along the rubs that parallel the open edge.

As the sun began to rise that cold November morning it wasn’t long when I heard a snap from a broken twig and the swishing of leaves from shuffling feet. A big north woods eight point was walking along the trail of rubs inside the wood line. I quickly came to full draw, made a grunt with my voice to stop him, and made a perfect shot on a stump just over his back, never to see that big brute ever again. Yes, buck fever got the best of me. As I sat there in my stand I began to analyze what made that set up a productive one, minus the poor shot.

For starters there where several trails that ran straight from the woods to the clear cut, there were about a half dozen of these north and south trails (from woods to clear cut.) Then inside the woods on the south and east side of the clear cut approximately seventy five yards in the woods was a trail that traveled parallel to the clear cut that was littered with rubs.

The above map shows how deer use hard edges. Hunt the cross trail to intercept a buck this fall.

What this big brute was doing is waiting till mid-morning, to let any possible does that were feeding out in the clear cut time to travel the north and south trails directly back to bed for the morning. By traveling on the east and west trail, he was able to cross trail or check each north and south trail as he crosses them to scent check for a hot doe. After checking one trail, he continued east until he came to the next trail and checked that one. He continued to do this until I decided to send a warning shot in his direction.
 
Big bucks are opportunistic and during the rut they are working at peak efficiency trying to scent check and cover as much ground using as little energy as possible. This buck was not only scent checking trails but he was traveling in the south east corner of the cut over. By doing this he was also able to use the wind to his advantage. With a North West wind, any scent of a hot doe would be blowing to the south east right into the nose of this old north woods buck. Also the rubs I found where made either by him or other bucks taking out their aggression and leaving scent markers of their travel route which was on the cross trail.  Even though I was not able to seal the deal on this buck, it is a classic example of how deer use hard edges.

The author's brother, Clint Fletcher harvested this buck while hunting a hard edge consisting of a pine plantation meeting open marsh grass.


 
Recap About Hard Edges

•You will find majority of scrapes along the open side of a hard edge.
•Look inside the woods of a hard edge for a cross trail that parallels the field.
•Hunt the cross trail on the downwind side of a field especially during the pre-rut and seeking phase.
•Focus your efforts just off of the field edge into the woods. Unless during the rut, most trophy class bucks will not expose themselves to the openness of the field.   They will always maintain a position of cover.
•Hard edges are most productive during the pre- rut.

Soft Edges

The second type of edge is called soft edges. These are two terrains that are semi different meeting in a same location. An example of a soft edge is an oak hard woods meeting a cedar swamp. Soft edges can also be a location in the woods of the same tree species but different arrangement, basically where a thick stand of pines meeting a more open stand of pines. The soft edges are my favorite edges to hunt, however you must be observant to spot these edges, as I have often found that the most productive soft edges can be hard to spot.

The above picture shows thick short pines meeting tall open pines, creating a soft edge.

An example of a soft edge is an area on a piece of property I used to hunt. It was an oak hardwoods draw that was approximately two hundred yards wide. I set up my stand more in the center of the draw hoping to catch a buck traveling in the draw feeding on acorns. On every occasion I saw deer traveling approximately eighty yards to the south of me. Enough was enough and I knew I needed to move. As I walked over to where I was seeing the deer traveling, I noticed right away why all the deer where traveling to the south of me. Most of the draw was open oaks, however south of my original stand location was a thick line of blackberry brush and the deer where walking along the edge of the brush. With most of the draw being wide open, the deer felt more comfortable traveling along the thick black berry brush, using it as a point of reference for them to travel though the draw.
 
Another example of a soft edge was the buck I shot last fall. I was hunting a soft edge consisting of jack pines meeting poplar trees along a drainage ditch. There was a trail that funneled down through the jack pine point, leading to the drainage ditch, the trail then crossed and followed the drainage ditch to thick red willows. It was the end of October and a doe being chased by two bucks, the second was the one I shot. The doe used this soft edge to elude the two boys that were chasing her.  Whether it is early season or late fall, deer travel soft edges to get from one location to the other.

The author harvested this buck last fall as he chased a doe along a soft edge.

Recap about soft edges

•Soft edges are subtle and often over looked.
•They can be productive at all times of the season.
•Soft edges make great travel corridors during the rut.
•Deer often travel along soft edges because they use them as a point of reference when traveling. Much in the same way we travel on a particular road to work every  day.
•Unlike hard edges, set up on the more open side of the edge, and make sure you are with in shooting distance of the soft edge.

In conclusion, animals are creatures of habit and edges. The next time you take a walk in the woods, pay attention to the terrain that you walk though. When you stop and think about it, you also travel edges just like deer. The key is to take a step back and study how you would travel through the woods because often deer travel the exact same way, and that travel is along some form of edges whether it be a soft edge or a hard edge. Pay attention to this and key in on edges this year to edge your way in to a trophy buck this year.

Gamehide Elimi Tick Clothing Review

by Cody Altizer 22. August 2011 05:10
Cody Altizer

As many serious bowhunters know, bowhunting for whitetails isn’t a sport that one can be consistently successful at by simply walking into the woods each fall and hoping for the best.  It takes a lot of time, effort and hard work.  This means spending time year round in the woods shed hunting, scouting, monitoring trail cameras, planting food plots and doing anything possible to gain an edge on a mature whitetail.  To do that, you need gear designed for the hunter who spends their entire year- in all weather conditions- in the field.  Enter the Elimi Tick Series of clothing by Gamehide Gear.

Hanging trail cameras along over grown field edges is a great place to intercept a traveling buck, but also pick up nasty ticks!  Fortunately, I didn't pick up and ticks, but did I catch any bucks on trail camera?  Only time will tell.

The entire Elimi Tick line of clothing is insect and tick repellent, making it a useful piece of gear during the late spring all the way into fall, or whenever ticks or other troublesome insects are a problem in your part of the country.  This comfortable and durable line of clothing is great for any project or adventure you may have planned in the woods that may lead you to cross paths with pesky insects.  Personally, I am a huge fan of the Five Pocket Pants.  I had an opportunity to put them to the test this past week while doing some last minute projects on my property prepping for the upcoming bow season.  I spent two straight days hanging treestands and cutting shooting lanes along overgrown field edges and checking trail cameras in super thick bedding areas and at the end of the weekend, not a tick one found its way onto my body.   Needless to say, I was pleased.  Not a deer hunter?  This line of clothing is perfect for any naturalist, hiker, turkey hunter, or anyone who simply enjoys spending time outdoors.  It’s a versatile piece of clothing.

After hours of trimming shooting lanes, I still could not find a tick one on my body.  Pretty impressive!

Similar to scent control clothing, one could easily refute the effectiveness of insect and tick repelling clothing.  Maybe there were just no ticks in the areas I was working this past weekend?  It was awfully hot and dry; not your ideal tick weather.  Maybe it’s just a coincidence that I made it through hours of work and came away tick-less.  Fortunately, there is some science backing these quality made products.  All Elimi Tick clothing utilizes Insect Shield Repellent Technology that bonds a man made version of tick repellent (naturally found in chrysanthemum flowers) so tightly to the fabrics inner most fibers, that it’s nearly impossible for a tick to latch on to your clothing.  Couple that with the fact that the repellent in Elimi Tick clothing is odorless and invisible and it makes you wonder why you wouldn’t be wearing Elimi Tick garments when scouting or working on land projects.

The Elimi Tick line of clothing is perfect for deer hunters, yes, but also for anyone who likes to get out and casually enjoy the great outdoors.

With the prevalence of Lyme disease growing rapidly, it would be foolish to not at least give Elimi Tick a try.  If you are interested in learning more about Elimi Tick clothing and the many quality products for sale by Gamehide gear, check out their website.  I do, however, insist you give Elimi Tick clothing a try, you will not be disappointed. 

 

Camtrakker Photos Of A Giant Nine Point Velvet Buck

by Scott Abbott 7. August 2011 13:55
Scott Abbott

A couple weeks ago I was able to locate a monster whitetail while glassing some fields in my hunting area. Even glassing through my 10X binoculars he was just to far away to see any details other than... Large! I had to get a trail camera out at my first opportunity. I got the trail camera setup last Saturday afternoon.  I just couldn't wait any longer so I had to go pull the memory card after just a week on Saturday morning.

There is some good news and bad news pertaining to finding this monster whitetail.  Yes, these photos were taken on property I have access to. That's the good news. Now onto the bad news, I do not have access to any timber that borders this field. The neighboring landowner does not grant hunting permission either as they are hunters as well. So, that is strike one and two right there.

A view where you can really see how wide this POG* is!

 With only two strikes that still leaves me a slight chance with this whitetail. Eyeing my final strike I plan to keep on this buck throughout the summer and hope he is still using this bean field once our bow season opens September 24th.  If he is still using this field I have a ground setup I could use where a cattail slough juts into the field from the timber he beds in.  I see him often feeding on the beans along the sloughs edge. It is a long shot he will still be in these beans then as they will be browning and the corn in the area will most likely be the destination food source of choice.

Long main beams, towering tines and wide. This buck has it all.

This is by far the largest nine point buck I have ever laid eyes on. So, I now ask for your input...  What do you think this giant framed whitetail gross scores? Let's hear what you got on this big guy.

A great view of the long main beams and big time inside spread.

* The term POG was coined by Dave Bols as a slang term for a Slammer buck.

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Preseason Bowhunting Preparations

by Neal McCullough 31. July 2011 15:07
Neal McCullough

Tomorrow is August 1st and as the summer finally winds down this month, I’ll be ramping up my preparations for the impending hunting season.  If you’re a hunter like me, the anticipation—and the accompanying scheduling, strategizing and planning—is almost as exciting as the season itself. 

Of course, preparation for the upcoming season starts way before August.  I spent some time this June and July creating Monster Raxx mineral sites—in my hunting spots in Minnesota and Wisconsin—and strategically placing trail cameras around these sites.  Recently, I’ve had time to check my various trail camera locations and have been pleased to see that some of the bucks I was chasing last year, along with some new ones, that are showing up on my cameras. 

 
This "High-Brow" buck showed up on my CamTrakker on July 17, 2011

These next few weeks leading up to opening day will definitely give me an idea of what big deer I’ll have a chance at this season as I continue to check my trail cameras in different locations.


Monster Raxx mineral sites have been extremely effective for me this year.

Apart from all the time I spent collecting vital information on the deer in my properties, I’ve also spent time working on fine-tuning my new Matthews Z7 Extreme to tightening my shot groups at 20, 30, 40 and even 50 yards.  I have always liked the advice to "practice at 50 yards so 25 yards feels like a chip shot" when getting my bow ready for the season. I have spent a few afternoons doing this very thing at a local target range near my house. With my sight pins adjusted and I am very close to being “dialed-in” for the 2011 season (most years my goal is to be ready August 1 - this year is no exception). 

 


Real Avid's "Toolio" makes bow tuning fast and easy; here I am adjusting my site pins while target shooting. 

As if the anticipation of whitetail opener wasn’t enough to fill up my August, on the 15th of this month, we’ll be heading to Wyoming to hunt Pronghorn Antelope.  This will definitely be a new experience for me; I’m excited for the new challenges that this hunt will bring—from the open terrain to hunting a new quarry—it should be a great adventure.  We’ll be capturing the hunt on film, so for those of you who follow the Bowhunt or Die webisodes, check back at the end of August to see how our inaugural antelope hunt turned out.  


I may not have any trail cameras on Wyoming Antelope; but this southeastern MN buck has my attention.

Good luck with your preseason scouting and hopefully your seasons are successful.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Trail Camera Photos Of Velvet Bucks with Monster Raxx Minerals

by Scott Abbott 31. July 2011 14:11
Scott Abbott

The anticipation built as the weeks went by. I was just waiting for the moment that I could scroll through the photos of this property for the first time this year. The uncertainty of the unknown makes trail cameras so addicting. You just never know what will walk in front of your camera. My Monster Raxx Mineral lick has paid dividends over the past six weeks with numerous trail camera photos of the boys of summer.

My trail camera captured numerous velvet bucks ranging from a one antlered fork "horn" up to a very nice looking seven point buck. There were quite a few other bucks that fall between them as well. Below I chronologize the events my trail camera captured for me.

07/18/2011

07/20/2011

These two photos pictured above are the youngsters of the group, a one antlered fork and a four point. Depending on how well they dodge hunters and predators, one day they could be the big dog on the block. Both of these bucks spent a lot of time on the minerals. The buck in the second photo liked the mineral site so much he chose to bed down beside it for close to an hour one day.  The following photo shows him stretching out next to the minerals.

07/24/2011

To follow is two photos of what appears to be a two year old six point.  You can see how much even younger bucks can grow over a four week time frame. He looks like he could be a pretty nice buck next year. He looks pretty wide for his age, he could have the frame to put on a lot of inches as he gets some age on him.

06/26/2011 

07/25/2011

Any one who knows me, knows that I find a lot of odd racked bucks...  This year is no different, this guy just showed up a few days ago. He only passed by the mineral site and camera, he did not stop. I only had three photos of him all in sequence, the other two photos were blurry from him entering and exiting the camera frame.

07/26/2011

Finally the highlight of this property, a nice seven point.  From the early photos, I didn't think he would get very big this year... As I browsed through the weeks on the SD card he just kept on getting bigger and bigger.  He is by no means a monster buck, but I really like this guy.  He is officially on the hit list.  It isn't that often you see a big mature seven pointer. I would be happy to place my Ohio buck tag on this guy! You can see he put on a lot of inches in just a month. He looks to have a good bit of growing to do yet as well.  Really looking forward to seeing him in hard, polished antler.

06/26/2011

 07/05/2011

07/11/2011

07/25/2011

I consider my first experience with Monster Raxx Minerals a success. It attracted multiple bucks of various ages and kept them coming back over and over. I cannot attest to how much the minerals may have aided these bucks in antler and body growth, but I can say the minerals did exactly what I hoped they would...  Bring bucks in and keep them coming back to my trail camera time and time again.

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Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall- Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milkweed attracts pollinating insects to your property

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

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

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

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

Monster Raxx Minerals and Trail Cameras

by Scott Abbott 21. July 2011 14:53
Scott Abbott

The afternoon of June 13th I was able to breakaway from the family for a little while...  What's a guy to do with a few spare hours, a couple bags of Monster Raxx Minerals and some idle trail cameras to do? I can tell you mowing the yard didn't cross my mind but starting my preparations for this autumns whitetail pursuits certainly did!

 

This is my first experience using Monster Raxx Minerals, I am looking forward to the trail camera results.

After mulling over my options, I knew roughly where I wanted to start. I arrived at my destination, parked the truck and grabbed my things. While walking the field edge I look down and what do I see? A busted off spike antler resting at my feet.

This little guy eluded me during shed season.

As I mentioned above, I knew roughly where I wanted to start from where I have glassed bucks during past summers but did not have an exact location picked out. I could see a decent amount of hoof tracks ahead of me in a shaded, muddy section of the field. As I approached the tracks I could see that they were nice sized and decided to put the minerals just inside the timber on this deer trail. 

These tracks made my decision easy where to place my Monste Raxx Minerals.

I will be checking the trail camera soon and am hoping for the best. It's not easy leaving a trail camera out there for 5+ weeks with out checking it. But, I am adamant in disturbing the whitetail I hunt as little as possible so leaving the camera alone is a necessity. I hope to have an update very soon with some good velvet bucks, so stay tuned for the Monster Raxx trail camera update!

 

 

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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.

Bowhunters - Watch for Marijuana When Scouting Public Lands

by Patrick Durkin 8. July 2011 09:06
Patrick Durkin

 

If you’re scouting or exploring public lands for the upcoming archery season, keep your eyes open for unusual diggings, tree cuttings or ramshackle huts. You might just stumble onto an illegal marijuana farm.

That’s because Mexican-based drug cartels have been using our national forests and wildlife-management areas for large-scale marijuana gardens in recent years. These “grows” have been found from California to Ontario, Canada, and some of them are within half-miles of well-traveled roads.

These trees were cut down with handsaws to expose marijuana plants to sunlight. The small orange markers in the foreground are remnants of marijuana plants.

For example, law-enforcement agencies busted up an 8,000-plant “grow” in northeastern Wisconsin’s Navarino State Wildlife Area in 2009, and a 9,000-plant grow in 2008 farther north in the Nicolet National Forest.

In other cases, they choose remote areas accessible only by boat. In 2009, law-enforcement officers dismantled a 2,000-plant operation deep inside the swamps of Wisconsin’s fabled Buffalo County, in the Tiffany State Wildlife Area along the Mississippi River.

Officials estimate each marijuana plant, which can grow taller than 6 feet, is worth $1,000 or more on the street. If so, the combined Navarino, Nicolet and Tiffany seizures were worth $19 million.

When illegal workers are discovered at marijuana-growing sites, they usually drop what they’re doing and disappear into the woods without their belongings.

Randy Stark, chief warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said these marijuana operations are a national problem, with the growers using the Internet to find county, state and national public lands for their operations. To deter those responsible, agencies are working with other states and federal law-enforcement organizations, as well as the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.

A recent BLM report said Mexican drug traffickers have expanded marijuana cultivation in the United States since 2004. As the U.S. government increased its efforts to stop smuggling and illegal immigration along the U.S./Mexico border, cartels found it easier to grow marijuana on our public lands than to smuggle large quantities across the border.

Between 2004 and 2008, the BLM alone seized 1.79 million marijuana plants on lands it administers, with seizures more than doubling from 220,000 plants in 2004 to 473,771 in 2008.

A Wisconsin DNR staffer involved in the Navarino cleanup and investigation said cartels plant marijuana strains designed for the North’s short growing season. In fact, Canadian officials have found marijuana operations in public forests of northwestern Ontario.

These logs were used to build a tarp-covered shelter at the main camp of a marijuana operation in Wisconsin’s Navarino Wildlife Area.

The staffer, who couldn’t reveal his identity for security reasons, said the cartels look for low-lying public lands far from homes and buildings, with good water sources for irrigating the plants. He said the groups are sophisticated, and probably study satellite images to find ideal growing sites. They usually key on stands of young aspen (poplar), which is also ideal habitat for deer, woodcock and ruffed grouse.

He said the workers are usually illegal immigrants who are coerced to help. Typically, the operations begin in late May with work crews dropped off late at night with a camp boss, food, equipment and thousands of young marijuana plants growing inside small cups, like those used to start tomato plants.

From there, they haul their gear at least a half-mile into thick cover and set up a campsite beneath the woods’ canopy, taking care to avoid service roads, dikes and trails. Officials estimate the Navarino operation required 20 to 30 illegal workers, who lived in shelters built with plastic tarps stretched across log frameworks.

To make freshly cut trees difficult to spot from airplanes, marijuana growers rub mud on the stumps.

The crews live in such sites for four months, and can’t leave until the crop is harvested in fall. They’re resupplied periodically at night along drop-sites on isolated roads.

The workers use handsaws to quietly clear each growing site, cutting trees waist-high and then smearing stumps with mud to make them less visible from the air. They haul the felled trees to the clearings’ edge and stack them side by side like a palisades. They also dig deep holes for refrigerating perishables, as well as small canals and “silencer pits” to muffle the sounds of gasoline-powered generators and irrigation pumps.

The marijuana gardens aren’t far from the central camp, which sits like a hub between them. The hub is about the only area where workers leave trails. When approaching roads and other areas where anglers, hikers and picnickers might wander, the workers seldom follow the same path twice.

Why do they use public lands? Few people visit the interiors of large public lands during summer because they’re usually swarming with ticks, black flies, deer flies and mosquitoes. Therefore, it’s rare for visitors to spot such setups.

The Wisconsin DNR staffer said abandoned camps are littered with empty cans, jugs and bottles that once held beer, water, bug spray, hand-wash and deer repellant for the marijuana plants. (Whitetails heavily browse the leaves of untreated “pot” plants.) When cleaning the Navarino camp, workers also found bones from poached deer.

Workers dug this irrigation trench with hand tools to water their marijuana plants.

When hunters, hikers or other recreationists stumble onto such sites, the workers usually just drift into the woods, never to return. They’re long gone when authorities arrive.

Warden Stark warns hikers, hunters, campers, anglers and berry pickers to stay alert if spotting unusual activity on public lands this summer and fall. “Walk out the same way you walked in,” Stark said. “If possible, get the GPS coordinates, and contact someone in law-enforcement as soon as possible.”

Stark said workers at these sites usually avoid confrontations, but some carry weapons. In addition, marijuana operations are sometimes booby-trapped.

“We don’t want to scare people and make them think our public lands are unsafe, but we want everyone to be aware and stay alert,” Stark said. “We need their help to shut down these operations. The people doing this need to realize these are public lands and they’re not welcome here.”


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Preparing Now For Trophy Whitetails This Fall

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

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

We are all the first step to wildlife management

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

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

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

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

The two track road that will be planted with clover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Food plots can be planted with a limited amount of equipment

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

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

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

 

 

Food Plot Strategies and Food Plot Maintenance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's Life - A Hunter takes a Vacation

by Daniel James Hendricks 6. May 2011 02:43
Daniel James Hendricks

 

A bachelor group of Sika bucks looks on as we park our vehicle.  Only one antler of the orginal ten remains, but it is a beauty.

Someone once wrote, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”  If we carefully analyze our lives, we will quickly see that no truer words were ever written.

Last week, Karen and I escaped the ho-hum routine of everyday life by checking into Palmquist’s The Farm for three days of relaxation, great food and even greater company.  I have been visiting The Farm for ten years now hunting their awesome deer herd with a crossbow and a camera.  Karen had heard countless stories and seen thousands of photos of all of the beautiful qualities that this unique get-away has to offer, but had never been there.  My deepening love for the place and the people necessitated bringing my wife there so she could experience firsthand what I have had to deal with over the last decade. 

The power of Mother Nature to reclaim what was once hers is fascinating.  Trees growing in an ancient trailer...amazing.

The Farm not only offers hunting for trophy whitetail bucks, but it is also a bed and breakfast, offering cross-country skiing, hay rides, bird hunting as well as hosting weddings and family reunions with the capability to house the whole gang in a rural setting that is right out of the Good Old Days.   It offers a glimpse of what life was in days gone by with down to earth hosts and a continuous flow of local residents that tell and retell tales of colorful characters that have passed through their lives over the four generations that The Farm has existed.

One of the activities I had planned was to get out into the woods to look for sheds and share some quality woods time with my Doxie, Moses Joseph or Mojo as I lovingly call him.  We headed out on Friday morning after having coffee with the local boys, anxious to hit the woods with daydreams of deep piles of sheds in the back of the vehicle on the return trip.  Mojo seemed to know that Daddy and he were off on an adventure as he lay on my lap shaking with excitement as I drove to our destination. 

This is my best friend and buddy, Moses Joseph Hendricks or Mojo as we are fond of calling him.  Mojo is a minature, piebald Dachshund.

When we reached the first gate, I slipped out of the vehicle and opened it up.  When I returned to the Jeep and lifted the handle, I was greeted to a locked door! Mojo’s excitement had him bouncing on my arm rest and in the process he had all doors to my running vehicle locked tight.  The motor was running with my cell phone in plain sight on the center console.  How lovely can it get!

Sensing that something was terribly wrong, Mojo came to the driver’s side window and frantically began clawing at the glass in an effort to create a way in for me.  I am constantly touched by the emotional ties that I have with this little creature and the fact that he realized we were seriously screwed here was just one more of those special moments. 

Rounding a corner, we caught a couple of whitetail bucks, sans their antlers, standing under one of my favorite photo blinds.

I considered my options and then began looking for the right sized rock which I quickly located.  There was a tall narrow safety glass window right behind the regular window on the rear doors…that became my target.  It was sturdy glass and the process of trying to smash it took multiple attempts, which only upset Mojo even further.  When at last it exploded into a million shards, I reached inside and opened the door.  When I climbed into the front of the vehicle, Mojo jumped into my lap covering my face with exuberant kisses, relieved to be safely back in Daddy’s arms, once again.

We headed through the gates and spent the rest of the morning tromping through the very wet and beautiful Northern Wisconsin woods collecting a total of three pieces of whitetail ivory before heading back to The Farm tired, wet and happy in spite of the window.  One of our local friends had invited Karen and me over for a lunch of fried pan fish and an opportunity to meet his wife. Before we pulled out of his yard we had the hole patched with pink Styrofoam and Duck tape and the broken glass pretty much removed via his shop vac.  The patch job didn’t look like much, but it was solidly done and withstood the five-hour trip home without so much as a single leak.  Thank you, Brother Hank. 

After the window incident, we were rewarded to an absolutely beautiful morning in the woods.  Wispy fog hung over the crystal clear pools of ice water, created by freshly melted snow.

The original plan was to take my best friend, Mojo out for a scenic walk in the woods and to maybe find some sheds.  I did not plan on getting locked out of the Jeep or having to smash a window out, but that’s life and life is what happens while you are making other plans. 

Mojo and I even found a few antlers to make the day even better than it already was.

The beauty that is found in the forest constantly amazes me.  Everywhere I look there are sights that give me reason to pause and admire.

These stones have not been rolling for they have gathered moss!

A minor set back, a beautiful forest, wild creatures, the devotion of a wonderful little dog and the Spring song of a Robin...That's Life!

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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

It's Never Too Late to be Scouting for New Hunting Land

by Marshall Kaiser 25. April 2011 03:18
Marshall Kaiser

Spring is the time of year to get out and scout for new hot spots: look over maps, talk to farmers, landowners, DNR biologists, anyone who can give you information or access into some great hunting land.  We have all been there: driving around checking out fields, watching some nice looking deer grazing on the fresh greens, or longbeards struttin’ on the backside of an old cut cornfield.  Whose land is it?  I wonder if I could hunt it? How much land is available?  Is it public, private, Forest Crop Land (FCL- possible huntable land?) Who owns it and where are the boundaries?  How do you go about getting these questions answered?  Simple: plat books.  They have been around for years and have been getting more and more user-friendly as the time passes.  I have been using plat books for over 20 years, and they have gotten me into some very nice hunting land.  You would be surprised at how many people will allow you to hunt if you just ask. As hunters we need to represent the sport in the best ways possible, by asking permission, offering help on the property or being willing to pay a lease fee, are some great ways to keep up a positive image with landowners.  If you are denied, so be it.  Politely say thanks and move on to the next possibility.

As far as my home state of Wisconsin, our plat books are divided into the 72 counties.  Each county is then divided into separate townships.  As you can see in the picture, a township is a six mile by six mile square piece of land.  The squaring off of the land allows these imaginary lines to be our lines of longitude and latitude to help define a specific location.  Out of the 36 sections in each township, they are divided into one mile by one mile parcels which make up 640 acres in size.  The sections are then quartered into four 160 acre quadrants.  Thus the land can be broken down even further.  The confusion begins in trying to name the location of the section by using the description technique found in the front of every plat book.  I have shown a picture of how this can be done, or you can just follow the directions; starting backwards and working your way from specific description out to the section number tends to be the easiest. 

Here is a picture of how townships are divide into 36 sections each 1 mile by 1 mile.

 

The 1 mile by 1 mile section is now divided into 4 quadrants and broken down even further if needed

A real advantage of the newer plat book is the topographical map it includes as well as the ownership map on the opposite page.  This allows you to look over the land from above to find rivers, funnels, hidden fields, boundary lines etc.

This is a copy of a section that is open to public hunting in Marathon county.


Most Midwestern states have plat books for their counties.  Here is a list of just a few other states that have RMP (Rockford Map Publisher) plat books: Alabama, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and of course Wisconsin.  These little books can be a huge help in finding some great hot spots. They also make great gifts. 

Armchair Whitetail Scouting

by Steve Flores 21. March 2011 13:16
Steve Flores

Flying under the whitetail radar, while effectively locating your next trophy from the comfort of your own home, is actually easier than it sounds using these three steps.

Record Books
They may not have the glitz and glamour compared to other methods used to uncover whitetail hotspots, but don’t kid yourself regarding their value.  If properly utilized, record books are the next best thing to someone actually telling you where the whitetail hotspots are located.  You see, most individuals are reluctant to reveal their exact whereabouts when they experience any type of consistent success; especially when hunting on public land, and without a doubt if the animal is of Pope and Young caliber.  However, upon entering their trophy into the record books, they must at least divulge the general area of the harvest.  And that is where this entire process begins. 

Another good source of information is your local taxidermist. They are witness to a large variety of bucks and usually know the exact details of the kill. (i.e. harvest data: time, date, location)

Searching through the most recent edition of P&Y records will ultimately tell you (among other things), where the best bucks is being taken.  Finding a hotspot is as easy as calculating the total number of entries for any given county within the state you are researching.  Obviously, when you find a county that is consistently producing a high number of record class bucks, then that is where you will most likely want to concentrate your efforts.

Topo Maps
When using the lay of the land as a guide for stand placement, whether you’re in an entirely new spot or on very familiar hunting ground, the first thing you need to do is realize there are 2 types of terrain features….Positive and Negative.  Both will influence deer movement.  Your job is to utilize the clues found on your topo map to determine which types your area holds and how the deer are going to respond to them.  Then, act accordingly.

 

Don’t dismiss the amount of information contained in a topo map. Take your time and study one of your area before actually walking in on foot to further investigate.

When looking at your map, try to find negative terrain features that funnel deer movement into a pinch point.  For example, a small drain possessing steep side-hills that eventually turn into gradual slopes near the top is an excellent illustration of how negative terrain can funnel and influence deer movement.  Ideally, any deer moving through the area will most likely cross near the top, where the slope is not as radical.  An actual observation of the land should reveal heavy trails at the top which will coincide with the “widely spaced” contour lines from your topo map. For the most part deer are lazy and will often take the path of least resistance; as long as it provides them with the safety needed to get from point A to point B. Use this behavior to your advantage when thinking about possible stand locations.

Positive terrain features on the other hand will include, but not limit themselves to: ridge-top saddles, shallow creek crossings, overgrown logging roads, bench flats, and/or gradually sloping hollows.  In the past, I have set up in saddles discovered using only a topo map and long range observation, and struck pay-dirt my first time in the stand; mainly due to a bucks tendency to use a low lying saddle when crossing over a ridge in order to prevent sky-lining himself. 

Scouting Cameras
You should already have a good idea about where you are going to hang your camera based on the info (lay of the land) gathered from your maps.  Within that chosen area, consider setting up your camera near recently discovered “pinch points”.  Ideally, you’ll want to be set up in high traffic areas; somewhere near bedding/feeding locations or along the transition routes in between. However, if you are unfamiliar with the locale, it may take a little more investigating to discover such places.

 

Scouting cameras are your eyes when you are not there. Set them up in the right locations and they can pay off in a big way.

  Not only can game cameras reveal travel patterns of target bucks known to frequent your area, they can also provide evidence of NEW bucks that have moved in for any number of reasons. 

While conducting your search, look for heavily used trails leading to pinch points that choke deer movement into a confined area; increasing the likelihood that you will capture useful images.  Remember though, that the overall goal is to remain under the whitetails radar, so try to conduct your camera hanging/scouting before the season starts.  Also, do your best to get the camera location right the first time in order to avoid disturbing the area any more than what is absolutely necessary.  If you have thoroughly studied your maps, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Finding a good location to hang your treestand will be much easier having followed these three tips......

and the rewards will be well worth it!

Conclusion
Locating your next trophy without tipping your hand can be difficult to say the least.  However, with a little more homework, and a lot less footwork, you can accomplish far more than you thought possible.  Remember to utilize the information found in record books and harvest reports to get you headed in the right direction.  Then, obtain a topographic map of the area and study it as if your life depended on it. Lastly, go in and hang a scouting camera based on positive and negative terrain features and see if your hunch was right.  My bet is you will be going back very soon to hang a stand. Good luck and God Bless!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapping Your Way To Hunting Success

by Josh Fletcher 18. March 2011 12:23
Josh Fletcher

Through my years of hunting I was always looking for a secret to consistently harvesting a trophy every fall. I have learned through time that one tactic to consistently filling your tag every year is by scouting and wearing some rubber off of your shoes.  It’s not easy, and it takes time, but it works.

We’ve all scouted in one way or the other, and we’ve scouted both public and private property.  What I’m going to cover in this article, is how to take all the information that you gain throughout the year and how to compile it into an easy to understand portfolio, so that when you step back and look at the particular property that you are hunting, potential stand locations with a high percentage of success will literally jump out at you. The items that you use to scout your property can be as high tech or as simple as you choose. What I will explain is not the only way to scout, but hopefully gives you some new ideas that you can use where you hunt.  I will discuss the use of GPS, aerial maps, topographical maps, game cameras, and mapping software. Again this tactic can be as simple as using a pencil and note pad or as high tech as I will discuss in this article.

By using a GPS, you can organize the information gained from scouting

The important thing is that hopefully you can gain some ideas to use where you hunt. I like to intimately scout the property I’m hunting several times a year. The reason behind this is that you want to know what the deer are doing on your property not only in the fall during hunting season, but also during the winter and other times of the year. Your intimate scouting should start right after the gun season is over. The reason is that here in Wisconsin, after the gun season there is snow on the ground and snow shows deer sign much better. This is an important time for you to scout because you want to learn where the deer go and hide under heavy hunting pressure. Often this time of year you will find a mature buck’s safety zone. This is where he beds and feels comfortable, and since the hunting season is over don't be afraid to bump him out of his bed. Also be looking for escape routes or heavy trails leading to thick cover that the deer are using to head to safety. Finding these trails will help you decide potential stand locations during the heavily hunted seasons such as gun hunting.

The next time I like to scout is during late winter, when much of the snow is starting to thaw and melt. Not only am I looking for antler sheds, this time of year, but I’m also seeing if deer are utilizing my property through the winter. If deer sign is at a minimal, I would then need to plan on possible wildlife management on the property to attract and keep deer in the area year round. Spring time is also a great time of year to be out scouting your property. I like scouting in the spring because with the leaves off, it resembles what your hunting locations will look like late in the fall. This is also the time of year that you should get your stands trimmed out and ready for the upcoming fall. By getting your stands ready now, you won’t have to be in disturbing the property come fall. Majority of these stands that I get ready in the spring are what I call “funnel stands”. These funnel stands are in locations that have high potential for deer movement through the fall. These stands are often located at wood edges, saddles and funnels. The stands that I utilize when I’m targeting a particular buck or have a buck pattern will be adjusted during the fall when that information is discovered.

The last time during the year you should be scouting is during early fall and throughout the hunting season. These scouting trips are not as in-depth, and don't be intrusive into bedding areas, however you should be making notes about what you see during the season and routes that deer are traveling.

By now I’m sure that you have basically caught on to the fact that I scout almost all year round. The main point I can make is that scouting and knowing your piece of property as thorough as the deer themselves do is the key to success, however one has to be smart about scouting and when you scout. You have to be careful not push the deer off of your property by too much human traffic. This is why I do my most in-depth scouting late fall, just after hunting season closes.

During my scouting trips I carry a GPS (global positioning system) with me. I also carry topographical and aerial maps (I will cover these later).  While I’m walking my property I section it off in a grid. By breaking it down and looking at one particular area at a time so I don’t miss any important sign. I mark every bed, rub, scrape and follow every trail I can find in that given section of the grid. If you don’t own a GPS you can make notes and approximate locations on your maps. I also plot on my GPS trail camera and tree stand locations, as well as carry a note pad to make any special notes about what I may have discovered.

Once I have the property thoroughly scouted and plotted, I head back to the comforts at home. Once back at home I use mapping software to organize all my data that I plotted. The particular software that I use is Topo USA by Delrome. However you can use any mapping software that you are familiar with and that you are able to transfer the data from your GPS to the actual map. (You can get these programs either at sporting goods stores or via internet.) I mark all my deer beds with one color, rubs another, and scrapes another. I also plot out all the deer trails that I followed with my GPS and transfer them to my computer. I like to keep the deer sign on one map and my hunting stand locations and game camera locations on another map. Again this is the high tech version, if you don’t have a GPS or mapping software you can mark this information down on maps that you may have, or even draw your own maps.

 Computer mapping software allows an easy to see map of your property showing high deer travel route


By compiling all this data into an easy to read map, deer travel routes, bedding areas, and feeding areas will literally stand out at you. When hunting farm country, I like to use aerial photos for my mapping back ground, because it shows willow patches, marsh grass, timber, and fields much better. When mapping large tracts of public land such as the big woods of northern Wisconsin, I like to use topographical map as my back ground because it allows me to see ridge lines, benches, saddles, and other terrain features.  If you have time on your hands you can log the data by using both aerial and topographical. Depending on your type of mapping software you can link pictures to particular waypoints that you marked by your GPS. This is particularly handy for organizing all your photos taken from different game cameras on the property and the locations that they were taken from. All these features of aerial photos, topographical maps, and compatibility with your GPS is dependent on your software, so be sure that you research a program before you buy it to make sure it will do what you need for your property.

Since we are on the topic of maps, don’t just look into your own property, study possible bedding, feeding, and watering locations on adjacent properties. Most people don’t own enough property to hold deer all year long without deer crossing the property line. So knowing what is on your neighbor’s property is just as important. (Please don’t trespass to gain this information.) By finding this information may just be the last piece of the puzzle needed to complete your property picture.

Game cameras are also very helpful tools to utilize to complete your whitetail portfolio. I don’t use game cameras as much to pattern deer, as I do to perform deer counts and what caliber of bucks that are on the property. I like to also observe what times of day are they traveling through that particular area.  I label each camera as 1, 2, 3 etc., and plot their locations on my map that contains cameras and stand locations.

I also use my mapping software to plot out future food plot and tree planting locations. By doing this, allows you to better understand and explain wildlife management plans with land owners and friends that would help you with the establishment of these plans.

Now that we have are hunting property plotted out its time to compile all this information into an easy to understand portfolio of your property. I print out all the maps that I compiled along with field notes and observations that I noted during the hunting season. I also plot out wind directions on my property. To do this, I walk around my property with wind checkers and make notes of how scent currents travel down particular draws, ridges, and bottoms for a given wind direction. For example you may have a west wind, however in a particular draw the wind may swirl causing your scent to blow to the north. (Again you can be as simple or as in-depth with your maps as you would like). Once I have all these maps printed off I compile them into a binder and label the binder for that year. This gives you a permanent record of your hunting property to look at and study through the years, and also it allows you to see the progress of your wildlife management over the years.

Easy to read colored plots showing locations for this spring food plot location based on scouting observations

By organizing all the data that you have learned from scouting trips on your hunting property allows organized and permanent records of deer habits and travel routes on your property. If you are like me I often forget what I ate for breakfast and I’m the type of person that I learn best by being able to see what is going on with the property that I am hunting. By establishing a portfolio of your property, potential stand locations will stand out like a beacon. The key to consistent success is spending your hunting season in high percentage stands. You can hunt all year in a low percentage stand and not fill your tag. After all, time is precious now days with our busy lives and by mapping out your hunting properties will allow you to narrow down stand locations, putting you in stands that yield a higher percent of success, giving you more bang for your buck.

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Bowhunt or Die: 2011 Story Lines

by Neal McCullough 19. January 2011 12:22
Neal McCullough

On Sunday January 9, I looked out my window and watched the sun set over the suburbs of Minneapolis and let out a big sigh.  The end of the archery season (in Wisconsin) is always tough, the end of any hunting season is.   As a bowhunter – I spend so much energy and time preparing, hunting, changing tactics, and dealing with the cold, rain, snow, sleet, heat, and wind that I am exhausted by the time January rolls around. This December in Minnesota and Wisconsin was particularly difficult as we received over 30” of snow making some very tough hunting… snowshoes were a necessity and deer movement was limited. My highlight was November 7 – shooting my best archery deer to date (on film) in Wisconsin.  I made a great 30+ yard shot (heart) but didn’t know until the recovery; it’s always better to wait when you are unsure.  The hunt was featured on Bowhunt or Die Episode 7 and if you haven’t already check it out here.  I also was able to harvest a doe early season (here) in one of my metro spots. 


Pepin County Buck – November 7, 2010

Overall it was a great season but with the turning of the New Year it’s time to spend a bit of time on the storylines for my 2011 season:

 “Breaking the Streak”
Grant Jacobs is my hunting partner for the Bowhunt or Die series here on bowhunting.com and he has been hunting hard since 2009 to get to deer down.  His last successful hunt was October 29, 2009 – he was able to harvest a nice 3 ½ year old buck.  Since then however he hasn’t had been able to shoot a buck or doe with his bow!  To his credit – he has had many opportunities but trying to get it on film is a unique challenge.  This year he will shoot a big buck, and I will be behind the camera to capture it.


Grant and I in the tree during the November Rut

“Big Surprise”
This is an individual goal for me – hunting the tough terrain of Houston County, MN  I only saw him during daylight hours once last year... and he will be #1 for me next year!


The latest photo of this monster – December 14, 2010 (After Shotgun Season)

“Turkey by Arrow”
This is an individual goal I had for several years now – I applied for Minnesota Turkey License and if I am drawn I would love a chance to get a turkey (on film).  For those who turkey hunt check out bowhunting.com for all the latest turkey gear at: http://www.bowhunting.com/shopping/search.aspx?keyword=turkey

“Gear, Products, Tools, and Ideas"

Finally, this year will be a year of testing new gear, new products, new tools, and new ideas.  Last year I spent lots of time trying to figure out new properties and setups; this year my goal is to focus on strategies and new gear to help make my hunts on my properties better.  This will start this spring with Turkey Hunting, Shed Hunting... then Summer Scouting with trail cameras and food plots, and finally fall bow season preparations. 

See you in the woods,

Neal McCullough

An Early Start to Shed Antler Season

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

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

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

Good luck to all this shed season!

The Perfect Trail Camera Picture?

by Dan Schafer 12. October 2010 03:39
Dan Schafer

You never think of a trail camera taking the perfect picture.  The quality is usually pretty good on the new cameras, but not magazine cover worthy. 

Every year I get easily 10,000 plus pictures and finally have one I would consider the perfect picture.  Centered nearly perfectly, this big woods Canadian buck looks as if he was posing for my DLC Covert Assassin II

 

 

Do you have what you would consider a perfect trail camera picture?  If so, we would love to see them!  Email them to dan@bowhunting.com

Keeping Tabs on the Harvest

by Neal McCullough 23. September 2010 07:39
Neal McCullough

With opening weekend behind us; we spent the weekend watching mosquitos and corn/corn and more corn!  The biggest challenge of early season bowhunting is contending with crops.  We had limited interactions with deer over the weekend and we believe that many of our hit list deer were in the corn; and we may have to wait until harvest to hit our best spots in the timber.


One of toughest things an early season bowhunter contends with is a sea of unharvested corn.

One of the best sources of information on the harvest I use during the early season is a free website through National Agricultural Statistics Service through the USDA.  This website updates weekly the current status of crops (Corn, Beans, etc.) as well as weather, fieldwork and other information.  This is a great source of information for those who can’t make it to their farms every week to find out how the harvest is going.  The website and the Minnesota report/forecast are below:

 
Check it out @:
http://www.nass.usda.gov/Publications/State_Crop_Progress_and_Condition/index.asp

Minnesota Forecast:

 “The first reports of corn and soybean harvest have arrived, though wet

conditions continue to delay fieldwork, according to the USDA, NASS,

Minnesota Field Office.  As of September 19, corn was 1 percent

harvested, compared to 0 percent last year and 2 percent for the five-

year average. Corn silage harvest advanced to 83 percent, compared to 36

percent last year and 64 percent average.  Soybeans were 3 percent

harvested, compared to 1 percent last year and 4 percent average.  Other

harvest progress included potatoes at 50 percent, sweet corn at 92

percent, dry beans at 52 percent, and sugarbeets at 13 percent harvested,

all ahead of their respective averages.  A few producers reported that

wet conditions prevented the harvest of mature crops.

Temperatures for the week were unseasonably cool.  The statewide average

temperature was 3.5 degrees below normal, with some areas reporting a low

of 30 degrees.  Precipitation remains above normal for most reporting

stations.  Thunderstorms, along with some hail, lightning, and high

winds, prevailed Thursday.  Weekly precipitation was greatest in the

Central region with 1.3 inches above normal.  Statewide topsoil moisture

supplies were rated 59 percent adequate and 40 percent surplus, the

highest surplus rating so far this year.  Statewide 3.2 days were rated

suitable for fieldwork.

Crop Progress Table – September 19, 2010     

               Stage of                This   Last   Last    5 Yr

 Crop          Development             Week   Week   Year    Avg

                                                Percent      ___

Corn           Dent                      98     94     73     92

Corn           Mature                    49     28      4     37

Corn           Harvested                  1      0      0      2

Corn Silage    Harvested                 83     64     36     64

Soybeans       Turning Yellow            95     79     82     91

Soybeans       Shedding Leaves           68     37     44     63

Soybeans       Mature                    25      6      9     25

Soybeans       Harvested                  3     NA      1      4

Potatoes       Harvested                 50     34     35     47

Sweet Corn     Harvested                 92     83     82     88

Dry Beans      Dropping Leaves           93     75     NA     NA

Dry Beans      Harvested                 52     27     23     41

Sugarbeets     Harvested                 13      9      7      7

 

Do you have your own property, and plan your own crops.  Check out the full line of seed/supplements, keep up to date on the latest tricks/tips, and find the finest bowhunting gear here at bowhunting.com.

See you in the woods,

Neal

 




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