Time is sure flying by with the year already half over and we are less than 90 days until the start of the Indiana Deer Season (refer below to the countdown clock in the footer of each page).  Hunting season will be here soon and the pressure begins to mount for completing all of the pre-season tasks.  I thought I would take a moment and outline what has been accomplished and what I have remaining before the leaves turn and the temperature drops.

 
 
In most circumstances, five is a better number than four.  You need five basketball players on the court.  Five fingers and toes are better than four.  And five points on each side of a buck's antlers is always better than four.

Now what about the age of buck?  Is it better to shoot a 5.5 year old buck or a 4.5 year old?  Conventional wisdom is that you always want to shoot the older buck.  I'm going to make the argument that shooting a 4.5 year old was better this past season for me and even more of a learning experience.  At least it was when you compare the 4.5 year old harvested in '14 to the 5.5 year old harvested in '13.

 
 
I've named bucks in the past, but I've decided that I need to step it up a little to have some fun.  Many hunters list names to describe a buck based on his antler characteristics or some other unique identifier.  I've done it, but haven't really put much effort into the process.  I've decided to start a list of names to choose from for future bucks.  Yes, this is silly and some will say this needs to be unscripted or unplanned.  But I always seem to struggle to find a good name when first discovering a buck.  Most of my names are meant to be funny and not specific to a characteristic.

Listed below are my names: past, current, and future.  I'm including descriptions as to what triggered a particular name:


 
 
I'm in one of those rare moods as I write this tonight.  One where everything I see and hear jumps out at me.  One in which the special aspects of everyday life and the people in my life, especially my family, are so vivid that you want the moment to stop and never change.  One in which self realization is at an all time high.  This sounds corny, but reflecting back on Saturday, March 14th helps me understand how special the day turned out to be.  Every time I write this blog, I appreciate different aspects of the deer hunting hobby.  This issue of the ATW Blog embodies that gratefulness.

My appreciation grew last Saturday as only this hobby could bring together 56 crazed whitetail habitat fanatics from all over the Midwest, including:  Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.  We officially held our second ATW Property Walk and Field Day in West Central Indiana.  Below is the group photo taken at the end of the 6 hour journey through the property. 
(To Read More, click on the link below this photo.)

 
 
Preparations for the Property Walk & Field Day on March 14th have us doing a lot of habitat work.  This year, more than most, I am excited to hit the woods and make these improvements.  This is because of the unknown buck beyond my 63 acre property line that could pass through and just might like what we are doing.

With the harvest of the Iron Buck, I learned something that I had always read about, but never truly realized.  Big mature bucks have a decent range or home radius.  I've always worked on improvements in hopes of getting a mature buck to use my property as his core area.  Give him food, water, shelter, low hunting pressure, and the opposite sex and he has no reason to stray beyond my property boundaries.  That is a great concept and a good practice, but is this a reality?  After chasing the Iron Buck approximately three miles as a result of a poor shot, I now realize that the impacts of habitat improvements reach out much further than my slice of heaven.  That is becoming my focus instead of trying to simply hold bucks on a small property.  If I can attract bucks from afar, then holding them is less of a focus.  Would it be logical that if I can attract bucks, then most likely I am holding them anyway?


 
 
The holidays are over and now deer season has ended.  If you are serious about land and habitat management then cabin fever is a term you are unfamiliar.  Now is the time to hit the woods to make the improvements that will pay off next October.  Now is the time to venture into those areas you dare not venture during the season for fear of pushing that target buck off of your property.

Each January we walk the property to check on buck beds, identify new rubs, old rubs, and evaluate trail usage to determine if previous habitat adjustments worked as planned.  This year has yielded some great findings and generated exciting plans for habitat improvement.  


 
 
I saw a post on Archery Talk where the question was asked....."How do you hoist bow / gear into the tree?"  I realized by reading the post that sharing my process might be beneficial to some.  As a result, I have outlined my process that I feel is very efficient, quiet, and easy to implement.

1.  Backpack attached to bottom of climbing rope with carabiner.
2.  Retractable hunting hoist attached to backpack.
3.  Bow attached to end of hunting hoist.
4.  Climb up to stand with lifeline attached to prusik knot (Slide up knot as you ascend).
5.  Pull up backpack attached to the lifeline and hang on limb (retractable hunting hoist lets out line as you pull up backpack).
6.  Pull up bow attached to hunting hoist.

This system eliminates pulling up a ton of weight all at once and makes handling the gear easier vs. trying to unpack a bow that is attached to a backpack.  In addition, the backpack serves as a weight to hold the line tight as you slide up the prusik knot.  Always remember to keep your anchor point or the prusik knot above you to limit the drop distance if you slip and fall.  See the video below illustrating I can go from the ground and have equipment in the stand in just over a couple of minutes. 


 
 
I recall at the end of the '13 season stepping back and reflecting on the season and what went right and what could have been improved.  I thought I should do the same this year.  In doing so, I looked back to those past blogs to see exactly what had been posted.  To my surprise, I had forgotten that I posted a blog dated 12/30/13 titled Top Draft Pick.  This buck became The Iron Buck.  The buck I harvested this year was a special deer, so much so that there was something that stood out the previous year enough to cause me to write the blog.  So I thought I would look forward into '15, but also reflect on '14 quickly to ensure learnings are captured.

 
 
For those following the blog, you may recall my Oct. 5th entry on "The Importance of Your #FirstDeer".  Well, I'm proud to say that Luke did it!  He got his #FirstDeer on Nov. 16th shortly after 10:00 am.  See the photos below.

Hunting with a 9 year old can be difficult.  It isn't as easy when it comes to scent control and getting to a morning hunt on the edge of a food plot without bumping every deer in the county.  As a result, I took a new tactic.  Luke definitely wanted a morning hunt, so I had to get creative on how to get him to the stand.  I decided to drive him in on my John Deere Tractor.  That's right....we drove to the stand using the tractor right at shooting light.


 
 
My annual hunting vacation started Nov. 6th.  I had scheduled time off through the 16th, giving me 11 full days to try to get the job done.  As with past years, it took a few days to put the pieces of the puzzle together.  By Nov. 10th, I had most of the information needed setting the stage for a fantastic hunt the morning of Nov. 13th.  

The buck I was after was initially named The Trident Buck.  This was because his left G2 had awesome mass and was in the shape of a spear.  This buck showed up on trail camera Oct. 19th.  I had never seen this buck before, but as in past years, this was about the time for new bucks to take up residence.  He definitely became a regular with seven different visits documented on all four property trail cameras (see photos and video below).  These visits helped me pattern the buck and develop the strategy needed to get the opportunity.  That opportunity came on Nov. 13th and he proved his name needed to be changed.  Meet the Iron Buck!