<![CDATA[All Things Whitetail - ATW Blog]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 16:26:17 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Cool Hand Luke]]>Sun, 10 Dec 2017 01:34:17 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/cool-hand-lukeThe best part of owning the property has been showing my kids how to deer hunt.  Luke turned twelve in August and has begun to really understand the process.  This fall once the Indiana gun season started, I shifted my efforts from hunting for the Wilson buck to getting Luke his third deer in four years.  He and I would not be disappointed.

We hunted the first weekend even in bad weather and logged some serious hours without seeing anything older than a 1.5 year old.  Our agreement was simple, he had to target a deer 2.5 years or older.
After a day in the box blind, I decided that we had to hunt from a double set of lock on stands, to provide more opportunities.  This created an entire new dynamic and mobilization process I had to adjust to quickly.  Carrying two stands, ensuring fall protection setups for both of us, and most importantly....enabling Luke to shoot his 44 mag from the Lone Wolf Alpha using a shooting stick.

The first couple of hunts resulted in no shooters and Luke longing for an opportunity.  When you are twelve, it is hard to remain patient for hours in the stand.  Kids think everything is served up on a remote control.  Hunting just isn't that way, which is why it is such a valuable life lesson.

The Thanksgiving Day weekend we hunted hard, starting Friday evening.  Nothing showed so we hit it again on Saturday night.  From the East Plot, we were on stand early.  Luke pointed out quickly that the shooting lanes were not the best for him, and I quickly realized my mistake.  Setting up my lanes for standing bow shots would not work since he isn't yet full grown and would be sitting.  As a result, we spent an hour after dark clearing lanes with the 20' pole saw.  This proved to be a huge step towards his success.

The following afternoon on Sunday, November 26th we got back into the stand early.  I kept telling him all day, this would be his day.  He said I was jinxing him and to stop saying it.  Deer started to enter the field early, which kept us occupied.  We had fawns and does all around us.  I was certain he would get us busted moving around on stand, but he did a great job moving slowly when necessary.  Then we saw a nice 2.5 year old that had lots of mass.  Unfortunately, that particular buck didn't enter the field or present a shot.  I used a doe bleat call and immediately heard a buck grunt.

I thought Luke was going to jump out of the stand and run towards the deer as it entered into view.  I quickly recognized the 2.5 year old and had to calm Luke down as he started to say......oh, oh, oh, oh.  If you watch the video, you can see the buck enter the plot and come straight towards us.  He was quartering towards us, so I had to make him wait.  Then the buck made us wait what seemed like five minutes as it took a drink from a small mud puddle created by the tractor.

At this point you can see the branch I attempted to clear, but not good enough.  It should have been cut a couple of inches shorter as it was directly at the end of the muzzle.  Fortunately, Luke was patient and couldn't get a shot anyway since there was a tree in the way while he was drinking.  Finally the buck decided to walk south and Luke started to track him.  I had loudly bleat to get him to stop before walking out of the shooting lane.  Luke then took the shot, hitting him perfectly in the lungs.

The buck ran south into the other section of the East Plot and made a wide circle back north before cartwheeling on the edge of the field.  No tracking job was needed.  You could hear Luke breathing heavily and I was shaking worse than anytime I had shot a buck in the past.  There is something about witnessing your kid in that moment that causes a huge adrenaline rush.  The video captures how nervous we were, but all things considered, I felt look was calm, cool, and collected.
​Clearly Luke is hooked on hunting and he was much cooler throughout the process than I was when I shot my first deer.  The video shows he practices safe shooting by not putting his finger on the trigger until right before time to shoot.  That is something we have talked about at length.  Fall protection and gun safety were top priorities over a successful hunt.

After getting out of the stand, you can see the second video of the recovery process.  The deer had most definitely expired, but I wanted him to understand how to safely approach the deer from behind to verify.  The family came out to celebrate his success, with my dad bringing over his new tractor with front end loader to make the field dressing a piece of cake.

The 2.5 year old weighed 155 lbs. live weight and scored 102".  A perfect age appropriate deer for a twelve year old.  There are several photos below, including the deer prior to harvest and also of Luke learning how to take measurements to score the antlers.  The more he learns, the more he will stay interested in this sport.

My season isn't over yet, as I am still hoping to see the Wilson buck from the stand.  Regardless of the outcome, my season is complete given Luke was successful and did everything correctly.  We took the cape to a taxidermist, with the shoulder mount expected in 4-5 months.  I'm not sure Luke can wait that long.

<![CDATA[Does Dominating The Property...or not?]]>Tue, 08 Aug 2017 01:34:32 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/does-dominating-the-propertyor-notIt is August again and the season is fast approaching.  Soybeans are not as green and lush as they were in mid June, evident by the silver color the leaves present as the wind gently blows across open fields.  You can visibly see the natural forages are beginning to be less optimal as they were in the spring.  The deer start to sense fall is coming and they want to pack on the pounds in a nervous feeding frenzy.

Along with this time of year comes a level of frustration for me personally.  For the past several years, I've struggled to make sense of the summer months on our property and the lack of buck photos.  What are we doing wrong that keeps me from capturing photos of bucks in velvet?  I personally feel I've been cheated seeing bucks in velvet during the summer months.  What is always interesting is how they suddenly appear after the velvet falls off, normally right at the beginning of October.  That has always been the saving grace for me.  They do show up, but I don't get much time to study racks and other features before the start of the season.  So let's dig into my theories of what has caused this unusually phenomenon, or at least what is unusually to me as a single property owner.  And I will reveal if this cycle has repeated once again this year.
Summer vacation has always been my main rationale for why bucks are not present.  I've always felt like they prefer other properties with large ag fields immediately available for foraging.  Not a good rationale, but one I've grown in my mind over the years to explain.  The buck I shot in '14 helped solidify this theory, as he showed up October 1st two years in a row and was summering a couple of miles away in open woods next to a big soybean field.   Bucks must like a different summer home with greener pastures, or in most cases, lush green soybeans.

Another reason I've concocted was the amount of thick cover on our property compared to surrounding properties.  This theory evolved around the scientific fact that deer antlers are full of nerves and blood vessels.  Since these are sensitive during velvet, I've rationalized that they may not like bumping them into all of the cover we have just simply moving around to feed in the summer.  Thus, they would find more open timber that may be cooler with the taller canopy.  Again....weak, but something I wanted to believe, as it does make sense.  I can think of a sensitive area of my body I'd prefer not to bump into regularly, so I avoid situations that present an increased risk of doing so.  Maybe this should be a scientific study topic for UGA or MSU (the deer...not me)?

Next, I've often wondered if my summer habitat activities pushed the bucks out.  This one holds even less water as I probably spend more time on the property in the winter and early spring and have buck photos through those seasons.  Ok...that is three strikes, so what could it be?

Well, this summer the light bulb went off when I pulled up the photo above with the five fawns.  Our habitat improvements have included providing solid cover around the perimeter of the food plots, which is ideal for doe bedding.  It has to be the does raising their fawns that is pushing bucks out of our 63 acres.  That makes perfect sense.  Mamma does want to protect their young and have no tolerance for bucks messing around and drawing attention to an area with natural predators.  We have all seen a doe run off a young buck from the hunting stand.  I'm sure they are even more aggressive when the fawns are small and covered with spots.  With at least five fawns on the property this year, recruitment is at an all time high for our 63 acres.  At least it is at this point since recruitment isn't considered recruitment until the hunting season begins.  But we are off to a fantastic start.  Having five fawns in early August is awesome!

Then I pulled camera cards the first weekend in August.  My latest theory was shot all to hell in an instant and I wasn't at all disappointed about it.  As you can see in the series of photos below, a good bachelor group of bucks paid a visit.  Now, I've got seven cameras covering our property, such as on food plots, wooded trails, staging areas, etc.  As a result, I'm confident in stating if they were on the property at all, odds are they would have crossed in front of the camera.  So where have they been for most of the summer?  And why are they showing up early this year and not on or after October 1st?  

Maybe it is the unseasonably cool weather for August that brought them around early.  Maybe it is the Whitetail Institute Kraze Deer Mineral I put out at the watering hole in the photo.  Maybe it is the lush clover and chickory the plots are producing this year.  Maybe it is the additional hinge cutting and the new buck living room built.  In the end, I guess I really don't care.  I'm just glad they are here and saw the welcome mat at the front door.  Hopefully we can become better acquainted and shake hands in a few weeks.
<![CDATA[What's Next?]]>Wed, 14 Jun 2017 00:24:15 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/whats-nextTime continues to fly by and here it is June once again, well over six months since I last sat down and blogged.   A lot has changed over that time period, but I now sit and ponder what is next?  What will be my approach going into the 2017 hunting season?  How much preparation will I need to get the next mature deer in front of me?  What is the next level for Luke as he enters this fall at age 12?  How do I carve out the time needed to work at the property, while keeping some life balance with the family?
It seems as time passes, that last question is one of the toughest.  Getting weekends at the property have been difficult over the past several months.  However, we did spend a good day this past weekend out planning on stand placement for this next fall.  We also pulled camera cards and walked trails to inventory bedding area status and note the natural forages the herd has been utilizing.  The plots planted last fall have done extremely well.  The Crimson Clover, White Clover, Winter Wheat, and Rye have produced a high level of tonnage and the cameras prove they love it.  However, we could use a good solid rainfall to help maintain high levels through the heat of the summer months.  The last couple of weeks have been dry and now the watering hole is bare.

One of the most interesting social media feeds as of late has been out of the MSU Deer Lab via Facebook.  I've included this link that shows a short video of something called "Mineral Stumping".  Simply put, this is a stump cut that generates new sprouts full of lush green nutrition.  Not a new concept and we have several of these across the 63 acres.  What the study highlights and scientifically proves is that these stump sprouts concentrate a high level of phosphorus that the deer need and love.  Makes sense when you stop and think about it.  A large root mass below ground that was developed over years to feed a larger trunk and leaf mass above ground, also referred to as biomass.  You cut the tree and the same root mass now pulls everything and concentrates those nutrients into stump sprouts.  Below is a photo of one created just this past February when a new trail was cut down to the SW Staging Area.  It was a small Sassafras tree about 4"-6" in diameter.  The sprouts are getting hit regularly by foraging deer as evident by the chewed stems.  This is an excellent video for deer habitat managers, so break out your chainsaws!
The rest of the day was spent working on a new stand location.  After last season, I continue to kick myself for not putting a stand up just SE of the East Food Plots.  There is a natural scrape and licking branch that produced a ton of visits by every buck on the property.  Since it is on the edge of the food plot, every deer visiting hit it regularly during early season and especially right before the rut.  I should have placed a stand there last year, but now have a good one in place with great shooting lanes.  Luke was a huge help in putting it in. serving as my ground crew as I worked my way up the tree setting up each section of the climbing sticks.  

July looks like a solid month for getting work done regularly on weekends.  I hope your summer habitat improvement plans are going well.  Thanks for following the website!
<![CDATA[It Was Bound To Happen....]]>Wed, 14 Dec 2016 00:28:10 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/it-was-bound-to-happenAs hunters, we hear all of the time about a hit list buck being shot by someone else or a neighbor.  For the past several years, this was a fear of mine.  I've had targeted bucks simply disappear and always wondered what happened or if they would mysteriously show up a year or two later.  Odds have always been that someone did harvest the buck I was after, but never learned about it.  November 17th that all changed for me and I joined the ranks of many reading this blog.  I received a text that included a photo of the buck I was after and finally felt that sinking feeling illustrated in so many social media memes.
The '16 season pretty much started as past seasons.  My target buck showed up in late October out of nowhere.  The buck quickly became known as the Split G2 Buck, which is a simple but obvious name.  This mature buck was hard to pattern, primarily only showing up on trail camera during night hours.  I did get a couple of daylight photos, but there wasn't much of a pattern.  I was only getting photos on the south and east sides of the property, which consisted of three out of seven camera locations on the 63 acres.  One thing was certain, he loved to hit scrapes and licking branches.  What I couldn't understand is why he wasn't visiting the north side of the property.  He never hit the licking branch station on the north side, which was visited routinely by every other buck on the property.
I hunted a few days in early October, but as evident in the camera photos, didn't see anything mature.  I started my ten days of straight hunting on November 5th through November 14th.  I never saw this buck once from the stand.  The rut was called by many a "trickle rut", and I agree.  I saw chasing, but nothing extremely hard or any fighting to speak of.  I observed numerous deer each sit, averaging around a dozen different deer.  Some days included as many as six different bucks.

Once November 14th ended, I felt hopeful that the Split G2 Buck would make it since the first weekend of the Indiana gun season was the 12th and 13th.  Much to my surprise there were not many shots either of those days around my property.  In fact, I felt like this was the lightest season on memory and comments from others in the co-op confirmed what I had believed.

On November 17th, my family and I drove up that evening to spend with my oldest daughter, Bailey.  This is her freshman year at Purdue and the 17th was her 19th birthday.  Of course during the dinner is when the text messages started rolling in.  The first photo of the successful hunter was a straight on photo and I couldn't make out the split G2s.  Plus the right brow tine was broken off.  The buck was big with some mass and I was curious why I had not seen this buck?  It must have been a transient buck from miles away.  Either way, I sent a congratulations text to the neighbor as this was truly a nice buck, possibly the biggest for him.  As I looked at his photo, I noticed there looked like a kicker on the G2.  Then the sinking feeling hit me....this might be the Split G2 Buck.  A quick message and then the photo at the top confirmed my fears.  It was and he had broken off the brow tine between my last photo on Nov. 13th and four days later.

It took me a few minutes to gather myself as this had never happened to me.  My wife and kids joked asking if I was going to actually cry?  I said of course not, but in reality I wanted to scream.  The buck had apparently chased a hot doe off of my property right past the waiting neighbor.  

It was bound to happen.  No matter how much habitat work a man completes on a piece of property, there isn't anything to stop a ruttin' buck from chasing a hot doe.  So now what?  What are my next steps for this season and what could I have done differently?

First of all, I had 10 straight days of hunting.  Part of me believes if I couldn't get it done in 10 days, then it wasn't meant to be.  The other half of me thinks I should have done more to be aggressive.  First, I should have put up a stand next to the East Plot about 30 yards from the scrape.  Instead I put a premium on time in the stand once Nov. 5th arrived.  Why not?  I was seeing a dozen different deer each day and many bucks.  It was only a matter of time before this buck would walk by and I'd get a shot.  Besides, I only had a couple of photos of him at that particular time so I was hopeful.

Second, I should have hunted the south side more.  I didn't hunt much at all on the south side, only three out of the 10 days.  November 6th was the missed opportunity.  At 1:15 pm he visited the SW Staging Area.  This would have been a 20-25 yard shot.  Given what I was seeing on the trail camera, I should have paid better attention to this pattern, even though the number of photos at that point was minimal.

So, here it is.  Only a couple of weeks left in the '16 season.  I hope to get out a few times and hunt the food sources.  My fall plot planting went extremely well and the deer have hit it hard.  Hopefully there will be some forage left into January and February.  My hopes are that another mature buck will show up with the plots being a primary green source of food in the area.  The winter wheat, brassicas, and clovers should do the trick.

It's been two seasons now since I harvested a mature buck.  The '15 season didn't yield any mature bucks on camera.  This year the Split G2 Buck was the target.  Next year should be better.  I've seen at least four different 3.5 year olds.  Next year could be block buster when it comes to mature deer.  We just have to stay the course and continue to provide the habitat and do the work proven to yield results.  

Having a neighbor shoot my target buck was bound to happen.  Now I know how others feel.  It will be my turn again soon enough.  Good luck, hunt safe, and Happy Holidays!  
<![CDATA[Fall Protection Rant....]]>Sun, 16 Oct 2016 15:13:13 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/fall-protection-rantWhile camping with my son and his friends I wrote this rant on Facebook and wanted to capture it for the blog.  You can find other postings I've had in the past by selecting the "Fall Protection" category on the right side of the blog page.  Spread the word....

Another deer season is here and with it comes the unnecessary injuries to hunters falling from tree stands. We are already seeing postings on social media with guys in hospital beds in critical condition and it is only Oct. 2nd. It will not be long until I read about a senseless fatality.
Using fall protection from the ground up isn't difficult.  It isn't a new concept.  It doesn't take long to set up a lifeline. It can be done safely with using a lineman's belt.

I think it is simply laziness, the belief of timeless invincibility, and a complete lack of respect for your family and friends.  It is time to stop making excuses, get your thumb out of your ass and protect yourself!

That's right.....I'm calling you out.  You are sitting in the stand right now shaking your head saying it won't happen to me.  Ask the guys on the postings you are seeing what they think.  Ask them how that broken leg feels or how it feels to feel nothing because of a broken spine.  Ask them how it feels to look at loved ones who are crying because of your stubborn ass.  Ask a widow of a man who died and look in her kids eyes and say you are not protecting yourself.  Ask the taxpayer who pays for the emergency services to come take you out on a stretcher.  Ask the emergency responder who goes to bed trying to get images out of their minds of the person they carried out.

You are the first one to bitch about paying unnecessary or high taxes but the rest of us have to cover the cost because you will not spend $50 and use it.  If you are grown up enough to climb into that tree, you should be man enough to put on the harness and attach it to the lifeline before your feet leave the ground.

If you know someone who doesn't practice 100% fall protection please pick on them relentlessly until they start doing so.  Peer pressure to save someone's life is a good thing.

Share this post.  Let's get others pissed off as much as they are about not standing for the national anthem.  I believe the only time an athlete should take a knee is when another player is injured.  But we sit by and read post after post when our fellow hunters fall from a tree stand. Does that make sense to you?

If you don't know how to ensure you are safe from the ground up, please contact me directly.  I'd be happy to discuss it over the phone.

Stay safe and good luck this season.


#100%fallprotection #stopexcuses #yourfamilymatters
<![CDATA[Anatomy of a Buck Bed]]>Sat, 30 Jul 2016 14:46:58 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/anatomy-of-a-buck-bedPicture
Buck beds have been somewhat controversial over the last few years, with many opinions and viewpoints on effectiveness and how they should be constructed.  My personal experience since 2011 is that I wouldn't have a structured hunting program without them.  Not only do we have evidence of regular use, but this was the first place the buck I shot in '14 sought refuge.  These are the cornerstone to how we have established our property and habitat management plan.  In this blog, we break down the anatomy of a buck bed and try to simplify the process.

Below are what we consider the primary characteristics of a good buck bed:
  • Dimensions:  Beds should be constructed at least 3’ x 5’ to accommodate all sizes of bucks.  The height from the ground to the overhead canopy should be enough that a mature buck can stand and quickly bound out of the bed if pressured.  I typically target 4' at minimum with no more than 6' maximum.
  • Flat & Level:  The best beds are flat and level; however, we have a great bed that is on a slight slope.  The bed should be cleared of any bumps that could make the deer uncomfortable when bedded.  Furthermore, we don't want a depression in the soil that would collect water.  The bed should naturally drain water away to prevent a mud hole.
  • Clean & Clear:  The bed should have bare dirt without any debris.  The question is simple; do you want sticks and debris in your bed?  The bare dirt also attracts deer.  It is not uncommon to make a bed and find tracks within it the next day.  We can smell the exposed soil, so just imagine how well the deer can smell and locate the bed.
  • Means of Egress:  Just as humans want two means of egress or escape in the event of a building fire / emergency, deer prefer to bed in an area with two escape routes (in and out trail) if approached by a coyote, human, or other predator.  These need to be readily identified and clear enough to allow the deer to quickly bound in a split second.
  • Log / Back Cover:  A log is typically placed to provide additional back cover in the bed.  Sometimes two logs are placed at a wide angle to better define the bed and provide additional back cover.  These logs also provide easy identification when trying to locate and conduct annual maintenance.
  • Overhead Structure / Canopy:  If available, structure is provided over the bed by hinge cutting and tucking of saplings.  A theory is that this is an evolutionary or natural feature that makes deer feel comfortable from overhead predators.  The more accepted reason is that it provides shade during the hot summer months and even some natural forage without having to leave the safety of the bed.  In the end, we all want a roof over our heads.
  • Location:  This characteristic is region specific.  If your hunting area provides terrain variations, such as hills and hollers, the preference is to establish bedding area on the “military crest” of a natural point.  Odds are that deer already bed in these areas.  We have found this on multiple occasions on our property and simply added beds as an enhancement.  If your terrain is relatively flat, then try to establish beds at the highest point available or even a small hill.  I’ve heard stories of guys making a small dirt mound in flat lands and deer naturally attracted to it for bedding.  Deer feel comfortable when they can see from above and they use their sense of smell in conjunction.  
  • Facing Away From Others:  Although does are extremely social bedding close to and facing each other, bucks typically do not like looking at each other.  It is recommended to make multiple beds in an area if possible, orienting them in a manner facing away from each other.

Now is the time to conduct your final bed maintenance before the hunting season.  After this weekend, we will not visit the beds until after late winter.  Having multiple beds increases the odds of use, especially if one bed has an unexpected limb fall in or across it.

The above characteristics have worked well for us.  Not every bed made within an area is used by deer, but we give them multiple choices.  If I can bat .300 when it comes to buck beds and get at least a couple used in each area, that is success in my book. The goal is to make the deer feel as safe and comfortable as possible.  We hope to recruit and hold bucks on the property with these beds and the other habitat improvements immediately around them.  Everyone likes a five star hotel, even mature bucks.
Included below are a photos and series of four videos taken of the maintenance conducted on our deer beds.
<![CDATA[All The Difference In The World]]>Sat, 11 Jun 2016 22:59:48 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/all-the-difference-in-the-worldChange is constant, especially in life and the natural world we live in.  This was recently emphasized when it comes to habitat management by Dr. Craig Harper during the Wired To Hunt Podcast #103 when he said..."Habitat Management is not an event.  It is a way of life.  The vegetation is going to continue to change until Gabriel blows his horn.  And you've got to be there to manage that and get that steered in a direction that is suitable for that species."  Not only is that a funny quote, but absolutely true.  What always amazes me is how much change can occur in such a short time.  As I reflect over the last 12 months and contemplate the future, what comes to mind first is....how a year makes all the difference in the world!
As the owner of 63 acres in West Central Indiana, I'm constantly thinking about how to improve the property and deer habitat utilizing the QDM principles.  In 2015 I embarked on a new journey with the assembly of a small cooperative.  We have much work to do to grow and develop as a group, but I think the initial steps have proven to be positive.  This is especially true when it comes to communication.  Never before have I had communications with the hunters around me to the level that I knew shortly when deer were harvested and if others were passing on deer.  

Another example of significant change in a year is the buck I named the JTR Buck in '14.  This 2.5 year old buck in '14 was sighted from the stand and also captured on trail camera throughout the '15 hunting season.  I knew before this past season that we needed to find a way to get this buck through the '15 season and give him the chance to reach 4.5 years old.  Based on trail camera photos and video, this buck looks to be in the 135" - 140" range.  At this point in my hunting career, I'm looking for mature bucks of 4.5 years or older since that is the average age that bucks reach their maximum skeletal dimensions (reference this link to QDMA article....33 Fascinating Findings From Deer Research by Lindsay Thomas Jr.).  Plus, I'd like to see him express his antler potential.  So the question is, how much difference does a year make?

We can begin to answer this question a little more by looking at the photos of a couple of different bucks.  Let us look at the JTR Buck first.  This buck is quickly identified by the main beams that come around towards the front, but at different heights.  As illustrated in the two photos, he looks to be in the 110" - 120" range and the body is typical of a 2.5 year old deer.  He has the classic thin waste and shoulders.  In addition, his neck did not swell as typical with a 3.5 or 4.5 year old.
If we fast forward a year to see the difference, clearly this deer has added inches and overall mass to his antlers and body.  The travel patterns remained the same on the property and I will admit being tempted this past November when I had him at 20 yards on two separate occasions in two different stands.  I estimate his total growth reached close to 135" - 140" in 2015.  As a result, it looks like he made a 15" -  20" jump in one year.   Later in the season he busted off a brow tine as illustrated in the third photo below.  In that particular photo, you can see he has the typical 3.5 year old body.  Prime condition with athletic appearance, but still somewhat lanky and lean.  Legs appear to be the right length for the body with the chest and shoulder area looking heavier than hindquarters.  His neck was also more pronounced this year compared to last indicating he was no longer 2.5 years old.
The better question is how many inches will the JTR Buck add at 4.5 years old?  I've made the leap of faith with the cooperative members and have provided photos and video of the buck prior to and during the '15 season.  One member sent me a Facebook message with his trail camera photo and pledge to pass on him.  The Indiana deer season ended and he is still in front of my cameras.  Another year will make all the difference in the world with this deer.

Now, let's take a look at what I eventually named the Iron Buck.  I was fortunate enough to harvest this buck in '14, but not until after the harvest did I realize this buck was a regular on the property in '13 (note to self....check previous years photos more in depth when evaluating current year photos).  If you look at the two photos below from '13, you can see he is a nice deer.  At this stage he reminds me a lot of the JTR Buck, right around that 130" mark with the typical 3.5 year old body.
What a difference a year made with this deer.  The photos below in '14 show much more mass and tine length.  He is a little wider out past the ears and was no doubt a shooter as soon as I saw him from the stand.  His body was much larger, which proved to be the case when he field dressed at 220 lbs.  I'm sure it has happened, but I have personally not yet seen a 3.5 year old field dress that much.
Since I was lucky enough to harvest this deer, we know he reached 160" total.  We also know through having the teeth sent to a lab for forensic cementum annuli analysis that he was 4.5 years old.  Clearly you can see a year made a huge difference with this deer.  It looks close to another 15" - 20" added.  Now, I'm not saying that each year adds another 15" - 20" in every instance, but I do think the jump in mass and total inches associated with another year are quite evident and support the QDM concepts of growing mature deer.  Not to mention the increase in visible body size and a very high field dress weight.
So what do these photos help us with at this point?  They show that years add antler inches and body mass for deer at this age class.  This isn't a ground breaking discovery, but time and time again, hunters don't have the discipline to let bucks walk in fear of someone else shooting it.  How many times have you heard, "if I don't shoot it, someone else will"?  

For me, it wasn't discipline passing the Iron Buck in '13, but ignorance that allowed me to harvest him in '14.  I hadn't done my homework to connect the dots with photos from '13 with those in '14.  Maybe that is why I'm trying so hard with the JTR Buck to develop this discipline.  At some point, I hope to have the discipline to grow a deer to 6.5 or 7.5 years old.

Finally, the photos also definitely encourages growth and development of our fledgling QDM Cooperative.  My hope is that all cooperative members will start to see through the photographic evidence of how deer can develop from one year to the next.  If we all can get hunters to pass on younger deer consistently, the potential increase of mature bucks in respective hunting areas is really hard to image.  What I can tell you is, it sure is going to be fun finding out.  I think the common QDM phrase of "Let Them Go, So They Can Grow" resonates more than ever.  It can make all the difference in the world. 
<![CDATA[Property Walk & Field Day Grows Again]]>Sat, 02 Apr 2016 19:45:35 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/property-walk-field-day-grows-again
Winter was coming to an end in early March, which signaled time for another Property Walk & Field Day at our 63 acres.  March 12th was our third try at this event drawing a crowd of 60 whitetail habitat and hunting fanatics from eight different states.  Hard to believe it, but attendees traveled from all over Indiana and others states including: Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.  If memory serves, one group car pooled from 14 hours away!
With over 60 attendees, we had to try something new this year when it came to parking.  Fortunately, Bryan Worley allowed us to use his place to park several vehicles.  Another friend allowed us to us his 12 passenger van to serve as a shuttle, which Bryan operated making multiple trips.  The rain earlier in the week would have certainly resulted in numerous vehicles being stuck in the mud.  In fact, some of us had to help push the van at one point when the greasy mud made it tough for Bryan to turn around.

After introductions, Jim Ward broke out his myriad of hand held equipment he uses on every job.  As you can see in the photos below, there are several items a person can use to work habitat without investing thousands into tractors and other attachments.  For me, the blower with the liquid applicator was the most intriguing.  Jim explained how this device is most effective by using the air to turn the targeted plant leaf over for contact with the herbicide.  Given the top of plant leaves have a thicker wax cuticle or surface, herbicides can penetrate the thinner wax cuticle of the leave underside.  This is but another example of how Jim is constantly thinking about new ideas / concepts of habitat management that we can learn from.  His years of experience and extensive trial and error in the field is invaluable and part of the reason he is showcased in the event.
Next we hit the food plots and discussed successes and failures.  My plans for '16 include refocusing on our food plot program and increasing tonnage of forages from the plots.  Jim has some really good ideas to plant a variety of forages that will feed the deer throughout the year.  I'm hoping to plant clover, chickory, soybeans, winter wheat and rye all together in each plot.  That is a combination I have never tried in past years.  I am really excited to see how this works and more importantly how the deer will respond.  Soil samples were submitted following the property walk and I should have results any day. 

The attendees were also able to visit the small watering hole created a few years ago.  I explained how little effort this took to create simply using my small utility tractor and box blade (See link to previous blog and video titled "Transition Area Watering Hole")  This watering hole is absolutely the cornerstone for my annual buck inventory.  It is a magnet for drawing all deer on the property to one spot.  I visit this hole regularly during the hunting season and it has paid off huge with harvests in '13 and '14 based off of videos and photos at this location.  See the links to successful hunts along the right margin of this page.
We visited the first of three staging areas created.  Attendees were able to ask Jim about this concept and why deer love to hit this secure and small feeding habitat feature.  These are designed to enhance deer activity before hitting primary or destination food plots.  The staging areas also provide a good social gathering place during pre-rut and rut time periods.  Jim informed everyone that planting forages in staging areas is as simple as using a leaf blower to expose the soil and just broadcast the desired seed.  I've included a photo from last summer that shows how well this method actually works, along with photos of when it was created.
The group next visited some buck beds where we discussed the importance of topographical features and how deer use the north ridge for travel, cover, and feeding.  I elaborated on how deer use my property to travel in circular patterns.  Then Jim reviewed his most recent feature implemented on the property.  The Man-Made Licking Branch, which is basically a pair of 14 gauge wires between two trees with hardwood branches cut and wire tied sticking down at about human chest height.  This worked extremely well and is a tool I will be implementing at several locations on the property.  I've included some past photos showing how well it works and also a link to the video posted where Jim explains the process and positive aspects of it.
The group was led to one of my favorite buck bedding areas on the west side of the property.  All beds were left undisturbed prior to the event so attendees could see the leaves matted down and actual hair in the beds indicating use.  The beds are cleaned and maintained normally in late March or early April and once more in July / August.  The March / April cleaning removes the debris and sticks falling down into the bed over the winter.  The July / August cleaning ensures excessive growth is cut back, debris is removed, and access to and from the bed is maintained going into the late summer and the hunting season.  No visits to the beds are made after August through the entire hunting season.  

I discussed the easiest method for cleaning the beds of any weeds or stick debris is use of a good string trimmer.  You can quickly clear a bed without crawling down on your hands and knees.  The string will actually help level the bed if uneven and expose the dirt giving off that fresh dirt scent that will naturally attract the deer to the bed.

This bedding area visited on the west side of the property is where the Iron Buck from 2014 actually went for cover after being shot.  These beds are still very active with leaves matted down, fresh droppings and hair in the beds.  The attendees got to see how the hinge cutting has made this bedding area secure with the increased cover, but also how to ensure a good entry and exit route when danger approaches.

The final stop before break time was the Main Plot South Section where we discussed Sunn Hemp results from last year and also showed a good example of a feathered edge.  The Sunn Hemp stems were still standing illustrating the cover it provides, but also how tall the forage actually grows during the summer months.  The west end of the plot had visibly shorter stalks indicating the deer had fed on it harder.  This also helped reinforce that the deer enter and feed predominately from the west due to the bedding areas built.  The small tear drop shape at the west end also makes the herd feel more secure.  I've concluded our bedding location along with the plot design works.
After lunch the group visited more bedding areas and walked along the latest hinge cut section.  Jim and his crew completed a new connecting trail from the SW Staging Area up along the north side of the ponds.  The trail connects to a previously built trail on the next ridge to the north.  Between the two ridges is a new Man-Made Licking Branch just build in January.

The bedding areas on the north side of the pond were reviewed.  The thick cover as shown in one of the photos below illustrates how hinge cutting releases the natural seeds in the forest floor.  Jim explained how Sassafras trees have roots that colonize so when a large tree is cut, several shoots jump up all around the cut stump.  A good example of this was seen by the attendees and how the deer are foraging on this throughout the year.

A visible rub line along the pond bedding area was discussed.  Jim explained what species of trees bucks prefer with Basswood being one of the favorite targets by bucks on our property.  One of the rubs just to the north of the SW staging area was looked at and I talked about watching a 3.5 year old buck work on it for several minutes from the stand this past season.

The attendees were shown the failed attempt at planting native grasses over a two year period.  We switched tactics and decided to build the "Depth of Cover" by simply dropping trees into the field and allowing nature to takes its course.  Birds will naturally help drop seeds into the field and the growth of natural forages should be impressive over the next few years.

The final stop on the property was a visit to the Buck Living Room.  This was created in '15 and absolutely worked perfectly.  The amount of visible deer sign in this area over the last several months has been impressive.  Jim's idea around this feature is just an extension or next phase of buck beds.  Small clearing, edge, small clearing, edge to create a series of pockets divided by walls of cover.  The entire area is encircled with hinge cut trees to provide the security deer so desire.
The day was finished with questions submitted to Jim Ward during registration by attendees.  The group provided additional questions and eventually it was time for those with long trips to depart.

And so ends another ATW Property Walk and Field Day.  I can't begin to express how much fun it was to meet the attendees and put a face to the names.  It was also great to see so many of the first year Rosedale QDM Co-op Members.  That group seemed to connect and it appears will be working together more as the trust and friendships grow.  I believe co-ops are the future of deer habitat management and improved deer hunting.

I need to thank several for helping making this a success.  If I inadvertently leave someone out, I sincerely apologize.  I better start out with my wife Laura and our four kids, Bailey, Emily, Kara, and Luke.  The love and support they provide me is unmatched and unending.  Everyone pitched in and Luke really worked hard this year prior to the event.  My Mom and Dad always provide support even though they are not hunters.  Dad provided the tent and countless other items to put on the event.  

Obviously Jim Ward is a centerpiece in this event.  Most of the attendees come to hear his professional insight into the world of whitetails, not mine.  He has taught me so much over the last five years and is someone I can call anytime just to talk.  Bryan Worley was awesome with allowing attendees a nice place to park without the fear of getting stuck in the mud.  He also served as the chauffeur driving the shuttle.  For those who rode with Bryan you got to appreciate his different style of chauffeur's hat, which is more appropriate for deer hunters.  Bryan is a big part of our fledgling Rosedale QDM Co-op.

Jeff Michalic took Friday off and helped me with odds and ends for the final preparation.  Jeff was recently mistaken as my brother at a high school basketball game, of course I'm much taller than Jeff (ha ha).  My daughter Emily calls him my "bromance" because we sit together at the games and cut up.  Thanks to Luke Monroe for driving in early with me to set up and tear down.  I appreciate Jim Montgomery, another co-op member, who is always supportive and helps out.  Thanks also to John Rolison for helping arrange parking so nobody got stuck in the mud.  Wendy and Phil Stoltzfus showed up early and stayed late to help tear down and pack everything up.  Rob Virostko providing the shuttle van was huge.  And thanks to Ben, Dean, and Becky Cunningham for help tear down, along with Jeremiah Lemmons.

Finally, I'd like to thank the attendees for making road trips and donating money to cover our costs.  Obviously their interest in the event is what drives it each year.  Over the last three years, 100% of the attendees have been great people and a blast to talk with.  I've stayed in touch with several who email me and send pictures of their habitat improvements and hunting success.  Please stay in touch and send photos often as it keeps me motivated.

I hope everyone enjoyed the event, learned a few things, and most importantly made new friends.  Our hunting future is often questionable in this day and age.  Anti-hunters, politics, habitat loss, predators, and disease continue to threaten what we love so much.  I can't even begin to think about a future for my kids and grandchildren without the ability or right to hunt whitetails.  When I see 60 plus individuals gather from all over the nation just to talk deer hunting and habitat improvements, it gives me hope for our hunting future.  Here is to coming together, working your butt off, and fighting for what we all love.  Have a great spring and summer!   
<![CDATA[QDMA National Convention:  What Do You Need?]]>Thu, 04 Feb 2016 02:56:46 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/qdma-national-convention-what-do-you-needPicture
The 2016 QDMA National Convention just finished last Sunday in Louisville, KY and I was fortunate enough to attend again this year.  If memory serves, this makes my sixth convention and it was great to see several acquaintances and make new ones.

As in the past, I wanted to take a moment and highlight the positives and the opportunities for improvement of the convention.  I truly believe in this organization and what it stands for.  Without the QDM principles I have learned since purchasing my property in 2006, the journey would have been more difficult along the way and definitely less satisfying.

I'd like to first start out by discussing the QDMA National Staff.  The ones I have met over the years and for the first time this year are simply outstanding people.  I spent a great deal of time over the four days talking with many staff members discussing the current state of the organization and challenges.  They were very open with me and listened to my viewpoints.  It was truly a pleasure talking with each of them and I feel like I could call them at any time to discuss any needs or concerns.  If you ever would like to contact any of them, do not hesitate.  They are there to help.  See this link to the staff listing.

One aspect of the organization that I think has been spot on are the Wildlife Mgt. Cooperative Specialists positions developed the last couple of years.  These individuals were very much involved with all aspects of the convention and were always available.  I talked with all of the specialists and they were very helpful in discussing ways I could further develop our local cooperative.  If you have any questions about forming your own cooperative, please contact Brian Towe or Alex Foster who have positions in conjunction with Missouri.  Anna Mitterling is with the Michigan United Conservation Clubs.  She is also willing to talk about improving co-ops.  I believe co-ops are the future of wildlife and habitat conservation.  Other states should get on board with Missouri and Michigan and develop these positions.  I do plan on contacting the Indiana DNR to recommend and comment how important this concept is for Indiana's future of conservation.  If you believe in co-ops, I urge you to do the same in your home state.

The association has also embarked on a new means of youth education and outreach.  Hank Forester has developed and released for purchase QDMA In The Classroom, which is a deer management curriculum.  This curriculum targets schools and other organizations, such as 4-H, with a cost of only $60.  I plan on ordering mine online very soon and hope to share it with my cooperative members and utilize as the local 4-H Archery and Outdoor Skills Club Leader.  I will also be urging the three high schools in my county to purchase this curriculum.  I have looked at all of the slides and it is put together very well and includes tests for each of the modules.  I believe this is a great means of outreach for QDMA and could be a huge conduit to further build the organization's membership.

As always, the stars of the convention were Dr. Karl Miller, Kip Adams, and Dr. Craig Harper.  Adams reviewed highlights of the QDMA 2016 Whitetail Report.  It is always interesting to see how various states rank in the different statistics reported.  Of course my home state of Indiana doesn't provide this information for some reason.  Thanks IN DNR!.

These guys are solid presenters and bring information to attendees that is worth the price of the event by itself.  It was also great to shake hands with Ed Spinazzola, who I consider the grandfather of food plots.  Buy his book now entitled "Ultimate Deer Food Plots", if you do not have it.  It is a must read before this spring.  If you haven't been to a national convention, you should do at least once to see these guys in action.
Now let's talk about the opportunities.  I'd like to begin this section by targeting once again the lack of attendance.  According to Joe Hamilton, the registrations were right around 350 people.  The organization announced that the membership has reached 60,000.  That means only 0.58% of the membership attended!  Here is where I ask the question to all of you....what do you need in a national convention to attend?  What would it take to get you there?  I think this needs to be identified by QDMA and further pursued to grow this event.  If my count is correct, there are 196 branches in North America.  You could significantly increase attendance by simply ensuring a couple from each branch attended.  The four of us that attended are not affiliated with a branch, so I'm sure many of the 350 that were there this year are also not with branches.  I see this as the biggest opportunity the organization has when it comes to this event.

The above comment on the branches begs the question....what do they need to attend?  The branch presidents are invited to a breakfast, which includes a "Branch Exchange" and "Q&A".  Maybe the branches need more than a breakfast?  Maybe they need more time and seminars on how to grow and further improve their respective branches?  Do they talk strategies?  Do they talk how to fill in the gaps geographically between various branches?This breakfast may already include answers to these questions.  I can't say for certain since I do not attend, but I hope this is being considered.

The full ticket price for 4 days was $230.  I believe that price point is right on target.  When you add lodging (I shared a room with others), travel, and meals, my total cost was right around $500 (excludes purchases at the Shed).  Maybe that amount is too much for others?  I'd like to think more than 0.58% could afford that cost, especially given the number of deer hunting crazed land owners out there.  But then again, maybe I am wrong.  The question still stands.......what do you need to attend the QDMA National Convention?

Probably the second largest opportunity in my mind is that the seminars are missing hunter safety focus.  At the convention held in Athens, GA in 2014 there was a field seminar held on tree stand safety, which was outstanding.  This was not mentioned at all on the agenda or during any of the seminars I attended.  If the organization is concerned about membership, I think a major focus needs to be on preserving them from the #1 cause of hunting related injuries....tree stand falls.  I think we have the injuries from inadvertent gun shots under control with the accepted use of hunter orange.  Maybe it is time to focus on fall protection until we reach that point of acceptance and use?

Historically I have enjoyed the Ramblings Panels, but there were some pointed comments this year that I truly felt were unnecessary.  I love the concept of these panels, which is simply a group of 4-5 well known professionals available to answer questions in front of a large group of attendees.  In the past, these sessions were more informative.  But for some reason, I think the panel this year lacked some diversity in skills and expertise that diminished the informative content typically provided.  Maybe the audience didn't ask the questions the architects designing the panel anticipated?  Either way, I felt the panel was overwhelmed with some of the questions posed by the audience and I have not witnessed that in the past.  

The politics associated with the panels was off of the charts this year.  I'm hoping QDMA addresses some of this as we should all be working to share and gain information, not beat down questions and concepts without presenting any scientific fact, experience, or understanding.  That's all I've got to say about that.

Speaking of rambling, I've done quite a bit of that myself here.  There are some other items I could include, but I think above are the main highlights.  I plan on attending as many national conventions as possible.  I think it is value added and helps jump start me each year to do more on my property.  I've included below a quick survey asking once again....what do you need to attend next year?  I'll combine all of your comments and submit to the staff.  In advance, thank you for completing the survey and thank you for following All Things Whitetail.

    What do you need to attend the '17 QDMA National Convention?

<![CDATA[The Drive For Five]]>Tue, 24 Nov 2015 01:46:01 GMThttp://allthingswhitetail.com/atw-blog/the-drive-for-fivePicture
Here it is, the middle of the 2015 deer hunting season I've dubbed "The Drive For Five".  Simply put, I'm striving to harvest my fifth shooter buck in five seasons.  When I say shooter buck, I'm referring to 150" or bigger at this point in my hunting journey.  To say the least, the season to date has been difficult.  I thought I would take a moment and outline some of the obstacles and what I have learned the past several days.

I started the season with a couple of hunts in October. These were on the outside edges of the property to prevent pressuring the deer unnecessarily.  See the photos below with the kids.  Up to that point, I had zero shooter bucks on trail camera.  When asked by others, they always seemed to question my answer when I said no.  We truly have zero shooter bucks on trail camera to date.  That doesn't mean a shooter will not or has not passed through our property, but it definitely makes it difficult when you don't have an active target or a buck to pattern.  That simple fact has made it tough, but I am driven to find a decent buck this season and there still is time to make it happen.
My annual hunting vacation started on Nov. 5th and ran through the 15th.  Basically I spent eleven straight days hunting and didn't see a shooter.  I did see the JTR Buck twice at 20 yards, but elected to pass on him.  This buck is easily in the 130's, which I targeted in years past.  But unlike '11, '12, and '13, I'm wanting to only target 150's or better.  I've communicated photos and video of this buck to the co-op members.  To date, it appears everyone has agreed to pass on him this year.  Hopefully he makes it to 4.5 and blows up to what I think will be an outstanding deer for the '16 season.  Given the number of photos and video of this buck, I believe his core area is our 63 acres.
The 11 days straight of hunting had the following obstacles and challenges.

1.  Two hound dogs running deer Nov. 5th and 6th.  (Refer to photos below)
2.  A 1.5 year old buck found dead on Nov. 7th.  Based on trail camera photos, it appears the dogs may have been running this buck to death.  That drew every scavenger in the county to the north side of the property.
3.  Forty-eight straight hours without seeing a single deer in the middle of the week.
4.  Three days of extremely high winds for the West Central Indiana region.
5.  A day of NE winds at 3 mph that resulted in the woods being completely filled with smoke from a neighbor's wood fired boiler.
6.  Abnormally high temperatures for early Nov.  Several days were in the high 60's.
Regarding the dogs, in short I ended up calling the sheriff's department as the owner was not working with me to keep the dogs secured.  The above sounds like nothing but excuses, but it is what it is.  I'm going to have to figure out how to harvest a buck above 150", which isn't going to be easy. 

Some of the tactical changes completed or planned are as follows:

1.  Find the does.  I've concentrated on finding the does since this is where the bucks will be during the rut.  This tactic alone increased the number of bucks seen.  I've had multiple sits with 10 or more deer sighted. I will continue to move in on doe bedding areas.
2.  Try different stands.  As we often hear, don't burn out your best stands.  I've hit my best stands multiple times, but I've also sat in the other stands to ensure understanding of travel patterns.
3.  Put up new stands.  Each year I do this and this year hasn't been any different.  I put up a new stand just inside the timber SW of the East Plots.  I did so based on observations from another stand about 100 yards away.  This resulted in seeing a decent 2.5 year old 8 point and multiple does.
4.  Focus on the ever popular Thanksgiving Day Week believed to be when big bucks are vulnerable looking for the next available hot doe.
5.  Continue strict scent control efforts.  I've been able to minimize being busted by deer due to scent.  The few times it has occurred have been due to movement in the stand unaware of a deer present.
6.  Get to my morning hunts earlier.  I've made it to the stand a few times just before shooting light.  I need to be there 30 minutes earlier this weekend.
7.  Stick to my goal.  Don't give in and shoot a buck on the last day of the season I wasn't willing to shoot the first hunt.

Over the last four years, I've been tagged out by this time of the season.  This may seem like uncharted waters, but I quickly think back to all of the seasons before '11 when I had zero success.  I went a 27 year period without harvesting a mature buck.  The season is far from over, but in the end if I have to wait 24 months between filling my tag, that will be a walk in the park.