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!

I wrote the following from the stand on Nov. 11th.  The pinnacle of the season happened in the immediate days following, but I wanted to present in chronological order.  There will be two other posts following this that details our successful hunting season.  Thanks for following......Andy

This is officially the midpoint of my annual time off to hunt.  It seems that each year while spending hours in the woods there are moments where I begin to question why?  Why get up at 4 am?  Why suffer when it is cold, rainy, or windy?  A Twitter message summed it up best.....spending days on a 27" platform in a tree is a different kind of crazy.  So I thought I would take a moment to reiterate why the deer hunting quest.

Life is full of firsts.  Deer hunting is no different, which is why we all remember our first deer (#FirstDeer).  The importance of this cannot be overlooked or minimized.  I can tell you exactly where I was and every other detail about the hunt even 27 years after the event.  I can even tell you that I was shooting a Browning X-Cellerator Plus bow with laminated wood and that my arrows were fluted aluminum to maximize flight.  For those of you too young to know the old compounds, I can clearly tell you that 50% let off sucked.

We talk a lot on here about hunting safety.  That is primarily because of my profession as a Environmental Health & Safety Manager.  I think hunting related incidents are extremely tragic and all can be prevented.  In fact, a man from my county was found a couple of weeks ago in the woods 24 hours after falling from a tree stand he was checking.  He suffered a broken back and it is uncertain if he will ever walk again.  No one knew how to find him once it was determined he was missing.