Introduction / The Group:
March 8th finally arrived, and with it a group of deer crazed, habitat manipulating individuals descended upon the property. The group consisted of quite a cross section. This included, but was not limited to, a doctor, insurance salesman, electrician, state election official, HR manager, software entrepreneur, safety manager, realtor, saw mill owner, and a few high school kids. I didn't take an actual count today and my check in process wasn't at all solid. However based on the photos taken, I'm estimating 25 individuals made it out today for the ATW Property Walk and Field Day. See slide show at the bottom and the attach hand out provided during the day.
We had a group of guys from the Green Bay area make the trip, which was the furthest distance traveled. In addition, one attendee drove up from Tennessee in the middle of the night and slept in his vehicle at our gate entrance. Others made the trip from Michigan, Illinois and all over Indiana. We have always felt what we have been doing the last few years was special, but I never thought others would drive those distances just to walk our 63 acres. I am still amazed at that fact.
Morning Walk / North Side:
After the introductions, we got down to business starting shortly after 9:10 am. We visited the East Plots and discussed the importance of screening cover to obscure vision from the doe beds just to the NW of the plot. The walk then proceeded past the watering hole and then onto the Center Rub. Jim discussed the rub in detail explaining how this tree was hit by two different dominant bucks as evident by the way the tree was rubbed.
The Center Staging area was visited and we discussed the importance of getting sunlight to these types of areas and planting Chickory to draw the bucks to the plot. Visible markers were highlighted with emphasis on man-made licking branches, scrapes, and rubs. Jim elaborated on how bucks have to have licking branches at shoulder level and the fact that once introduced and maintained, they will develop the habit of hitting these annually.
The group navigated up and down hills, over small streams, and through thick cover as we illustrated what natural buck beds look like and how to enhance these to ensure continued use. Bucks love to bed facing out over a topographical point on the military crest. Jim explained how bucks prefer two escape routes from a bed and that these routes are usually at the same level of the bed. The importance of Japanese Honeysuckle, although invasive, is a preferred forage and shelter for deer. Jim discussed how to prune the honeysuckle and hinge cut trees containing honeysuckle to build the canopy that bucks desire.
From this point in the walk, we visited the North Trap created from '11. Stand location, hunter access trails, and stimulating the natural forage to attract deer was highlighted. After this, the group got to see the first man made buck beds during the walk. Jim expressed how to set up the beds, using a log for the bucks to lay against. He reinforced having two escape routes and how bed maintenance is critical. Using a larger tree vs. saplings or smaller trees keeps beds in place longer and reduces the amount of maintenance required. He also discussed that any sticks or debris must be cleaned from the beds.
Next we visited the mother of all rubs on our property. The cedar tree rub. This rub clearly got the attention of the group and highlighted that we were attracting mature bucks (included in the photos below). I explained how this rub was discovered shortly after buying the property, then went dormant. The '13 season the rub was freshened up, and most likely by multiple bucks. This tree is awesome in that it can be shared by many bucks and doesn't show sign of going away or dying soon.
The north rub line was walked back towards the Main Plot. Jim discussed the differences in rub height and how that is a buck signature. I also highlighted how Basswood trees are a local favorite on my property. This is primarily due to the softness of the wood and aromatics when rubbed. We have many clusters of Basswood trees and I've decided to cut some out to enable bucks easier access and hopefully stimulate use and more defined rub lines.
Upon entering the Main Plot, the group was able to see the work completed to cut some of the edge brush and briars down to ground level. The growth had reached a point making it difficult for deer to reach. Cutting this down will provide much forage needed in early Spring to recover from the harsh winter. The group then broke for a quick lunch and demonstration by my Dad flying the DJI drone, as previously highlighted on the blog.
Afternoon Walk / South Side:
As we began the afternoon portion of the walk, Jim noted fresh deer tracks through the ruts in the mud created by the vehicles coming in. At some point, the deer had circled around us and ran right past the tent, camp fire, and apparently my father taking a nap. Literally within 15 yards of the fire. As we headed west along the south edge of the property, we saw the group of deer running north back onto the property. Some would say we are pressuring the deer to the point they might permanently leave the property. We believe the cover we have provided is what keeps the deer here. They were simply circling us throughout the day as evident by the tracks and the only sighting of the day, which is what we wanted. It is never positive to get too close to deer and jump them.
The group got to see the latest work on a new staging area in the SW corner of the property. This by far the hardest area cut since we began working with Jim in '11. The hinge cutting work cut off at least three heavily traveled deer trails and focused deer travel through the staging area. Questions were fielded and Jim explained how the area could very well be the hottest hunting spot on the property. Jim showed how the connecting trail from the beds led to the staging area. This area provides several man-made licking branches and will be planted in Chickory after fertilizer and lime applications. This area is already being visited, with visible tracks in the mud. The leaves were also blown off of the ground to facilitate better seed to soil contact when planted.
The SW buck beds were visited and Jim showed the group the large Hickory tree dropped in the summer of '13 and numerous beds created. Deer manure was everywhere in this area and evidence of foraging was present. Jim discussed the method of tucking saplings to create canopy and provide forage at appropriate elevations. He also showed a natural buck sneak trail just about 15 yards off of the small 1/4 acre field. These trails are only a couple of feet wide and provide bucks a means of checking the fields without venturing out into the open.
We finished the walk on schedule just before 2:00 pm, looking at two more serious rubs along the most pronounced rub line on the property. Then we answered several questions from the group and discussed some of our future plans to continue improvements.
Thanks To Everyone:
I want to thank everyone who helped put on this soiree and those making the trip to attend. My wife and kids were a huge help and as always, I heard no complaints. My dad provided the gas grill, tent, tables, and chairs for this event. He even sacrificed a few chairs that fell off of the trailer during transport. As Grandpa used to say...."helter skelter"! Dad also flew the DJI drone during lunch to entertain the group. I think he had more fun than I did.
Thanks to Jim Ward and his sister Jane who helped set up yesterday. Jane works harder than most men in the woods. In addition, Jim showcased his knowledge of Whitetails for the group and made others understand why I began using his services back in '11. Cindy Rothrock also brought some free give away items for the attendees. She and Tom are always supportive of any activities we have, whether it is this type of event, 4-H, or my company sponsored bow shoot.
The weather was a non factor today. Feedback from everyone was positive. In addition, I believe all had a good time and new friendships were definitely made. Several requested that we hold this again next year so they could see the physical changes in the habitat. If we did, I would hold it about the same time of year before the spring green up. I believe this allowed the group to see more of the visible deer sign. About next year.....we will see.....no promises.
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It's been a while since I've posted a blog. Since February 9th to be exact. I've been tied up with some personal things that have kept me busy and just haven't had time to focus on writing. Nothing tragic has resulted. My kids and wife are healthy, which is the most important. Just life has been happening, and sometimes life can be distracting from the routines we have established. I'll work to get back in the groove. Given the lag, this one is pretty long so I appreciate your patience.
It's been a while since I thanked all of you who take the time and follow this blog and the web site. When I started doing this, it was to learn how to develop and manage a web site. I had no idea it would evolve into a means of me documenting the property improvements and the constant quest to harvest mature whitetails. Through the last couple of weeks I have learned this site has developed a following. The reality is the following is small, but nonetheless a following.
A fifteen year old boy has made it clear to my oldest daughter and wife that my delay in writing a blog is not acceptable. One of the local boys has been asking why I haven't written and when am I going to get back to work? I guess I'm surprised that a teenage boy in this day and age of electronics and all activities kids perform would take the time to read what I have to say. I know this kid well and he is very active in school and sports, running cross country and track with my daughter, and playing J.V. basketball. This also points to the fact that deer hunting and the passion many of us have for it may have a future long term, especially if a 15 year old boy is trying to learn as much as possible to be a successful hunter by reading my site. So thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Thanks C.B. and GO ROX!
It's been a while since I talked about the field day scheduled for March 8th. Plans are coming together and we have just over 30 people registered and planning on attending. When I posted the initial invitation on the QDMA Forum, I had no idea we would have people wanting to travel long distances just to walk the property. We have individuals signed up from Wisconsin, Illinois, Tennessee, and all over Indiana. It should be a good time. The weather doesn't look bad at this point, but that will depend on how much snow we get this weekend and Monday. Hopefully no snow shoes are required.
It's been a while since I found a decent shed on the property. In fact, the largest shed we have ever found was off a 2.5 year old. Our bucks hold onto sheds very late each year. I always hear this is a good sign of a healthy herd with adequate forage. I'll take that, but as of Feb. 23rd the camera photos only had two 1.5 year old bucks with just one side missing. As a result, the hunting we did last Sunday produced nothing. Hopefully we find some this weekend, if indeed the bucks did drop a few.
It's been a while since the kids and I have spent a solid day at the property. Last weekend, we spent 8 hours working and playing out there. When you have kids ages 8 - 16 sometimes it is tough to keep them occupied and not fighting as siblings often do. This past weekend was awesome. The kids had fun, we cleaned up things in preparation for the property walk, and I was thrilled to simply enjoy spending time with them. A couple of my girls also learned an important skill....how to pee in the woods. See the photo below of the kids at the new staging area.
It's been a while since we made some major changes to the property. Jim Ward spent February 18th at the property focusing on making a new staging area on the SW Corner of the property. See the slide show below that shows how this came together. I am thrilled with the results and believe deer will be using this next fall to socialize and possibly give me a shot at a booner. The stumps you see are primarily because of the heavy snow on the ground prior to the melt, making it difficult to cut flush to the ground. I took the series of photos standing in the middle of the staging area. You can see that Jim made brush piles to help funnel the deer as necessary toward our bedding areas on top of the ridge illustrated in the 1st through 3rd photos. The screen along the west side in the first photo will help make the deer feel secure in this area given there is an open field along the west edge of the property. The idea behind this staging area is to have an "on and off ramp" for deer traveling through the long valley that runs south to north along the west side of our property. We want to draw deer into this area.
In addition, Jim worked on the north side of the property enhancing some natural beds at some of the points and also creating some good screening cover. The cover should improve the use of the connecting trails between the north staging area and the bedding. I'm kicking myself now for not taking pictures as one of the beds is on a point and turned out fantastic. He cut the trees making it secluded for the buck, but still providing enough vision for the buck to see down into the valley in front of the bed. I believe this bed will produce well given the location, terrain features, and the amount of doe travel on the adjacent connecting trail. We will be highlighting these areas during the property walk March 8th.
It's been a while since I've been to a deer expo. Last weekend Luke and I went to the Indiana Deer & Turkey Expo in Indianapolis. You can see in the photo below Luke standing next to the full mount of a large buck Jim Ward has taken. We ran into several people we knew and had a chance to see Jim speak on "Setting The Trap For Mature Whitetails". I always enjoy listening to Jim speak and learned a few things he had been keeping a secret from me. Jim has developed a schedule over the next few months to working in various states. If you are interested in scheduling consults or property work with Jim, click on the following link to see when he will be working in your state. http://www.jimwardwhitetailacademy.com/jims-schedule.html
It's been a while since I have seen a 300" deer. At the expo last weekend, the "Beck Buck" was proudly displayed on the Hoosier Hall of Fame. As you can see in the picture below, this was a monster. He scored 305 7/8 and is now the new shotgun world record, according to the posting. I'm guessing there will be a run on hunting property in Huntington County, IN. It's probably been a while since that has happened.
Most of us are probably sick of the snow right now, as this has been a winter to remember. I'm sick of shoveling snow, plowing snow, spreading salt on sidewalks at work, kicking snow off of my boots, cleaning up snow tracked in, and the list goes on. With that being said, I have used the snow to my advantage more so than ever this year at the property.
During our property walk a couple of weeks ago, it became extremely apparent how much the snow provided pieces of the puzzle on my deer herd. I'm betting some of you are reading this and starting to think....."No kidding. I knew that. Tell me something I don't know." Well, I learned a ton in that few hours we spent walking the property.
The snow showed where the deer were bedding, traveling, feeding, getting water, etc. It was the first time I had really walked the property that much after a significant snow fall and could see such fresh sign. My take, as outlined in a past blog, was that the deer were not using the food plots and may have possible left the property. I couldn't have been more wrong. What I learned is that the woody browse created from hinge cutting was the preferred choice for the herd versus digging through inches of snow to get a nibble of green clover underneath. Take note....reduced use of plots doesn't necessarily equate to deer leaving the property.
This solidified my understanding of what Jim Ward talks to me constantly about....creating better habitat equals better and more diverse natural food sources. This is true throughout the year, but is probably more important during a hard winter. I was amazed at how much the deer were sticking to the woods to feed. I was also pleasantly surprised at the number of tracks. I still feel the deer herd numbers are down. This just made me feel a little better about those numbers on my property.
What was also more evident, was the fresh beds in the snow. You could see exactly how each deer was laying in the bed, what direction they were facing, and how they were feeding immediately in that area. This simply reinforced for me that deer love to bed on natural points or what Jim calls the "Military Crest of a Hill". As you can see in the photos below, these deer were bedded on a small point that enabled them to use the predominant wind to their advantage, be able to see down into the valley to spot incoming predators, and have multiple escape routes when needed. We believe we actually pushed these deer off of the beds as we were making a lot of noise and talking loudly during the walk. Some will say this pressure is too negative. I get that any pressure at all is considered negative at some level. I think sneaking up onto a deer and jumping them is far more negative than announcing your presence and enabling the deer to slip safely away. Plus, I strong believe this makes them accustomed to my use of the land which is critical to maintain and improve the habitat for them.
So instead of thinking about cabin fever and how much snow we have had this winter, I'd suggest getting out there now on you property. I'm sure walking through 12" or more makes it a little more difficult and less palatable, but I would do everything possible to see the tracks in the snow as they tell the story better than any time of year. I continue to learn from the property and go into "sanctuaries". I've come to believe that the only way to continue down this path is to actually walk down the paths.
I often read and have heard land owners should establish "as many acres for a sanctuary as possible and to stay out". The concept sounds logical. Stay out of a section of your property and mature bucks will take up residence due to the reduced pressure. Then only go into this sanctuary to retrieve a deer and at night. After my property walk yesterday with Jim Ward, I'd argue the complete opposite. Go in and see what habitat improvements are needed and look for winter deer signs like rubs and beds. In fact, Jim has argued this for several years. I believed he was right, but the evidence I found yesterday made me a true believer.
We began the day walking along the connecting trail, through the staging area created this past summer, and then onto the north section of buck beds. Along the way we found fresh beds in the snow at small points along the south edge of a large running ridge. We looked at each other and both realized this area needed some enhancements with hinge cutting and additional screening cover. But that wasn't the true evidence.
As we walked past the buck beds, we were on our way to the northwest corner of the property. This section has the most pronounced topographical feature on the 63 acres. Jim has always said that this point would be where the five and a half or six and a half year old would take up residence. Exit routes are everywhere and there is no way of sneaking up on a buck bedded down on the point. Before we even got to that ridge I remembered a large cedar tree along the way that had been used by large bucks as a rub. However, the past 3-4 years no bucks had hit this tree so I had not thought much about it and never mentioned this tree to Jim.
To my surprise, this tree had been hit again. And it was clear that this buck was not tiny. Jim immediately asked why I had not mentioned this tree in the past? He jokingly said I was withholding information from him and began to give me a hard time about it. He also immediately explained that I had a mature buck on the property that I was not getting pictures of on the trail cameras. Our excitement sky rocketed as it became clear that all of our hard work to improve the habitat to grow and hold mature bucks was definitely paying off. Now we need pictures and physical sightings to support the evidence of the rubs. We have set up three different camera surveys with corn piles in an effort to capture the photos. Hopefully this happens before the bucks shed their antlers.
As we continued to walk the property, we found three more significant buck rubs. These were not just three and a half year olds making these rubs. The diameter of the trees was the evidence supporting that fact. These were not your typical rubbed trees. I've posted the pictures above and below of three larger diameter trees and a smaller typical rub. The rub pictured at the top is the tallest significant rub I had ever seen. Jim is standing next to it to give perspective.
Jim believes there are at least two mature bucks based on the way the various trees were rubbed. Some of the trees were rubbed towards the bottom of the trunk, while others were much higher. Jim strongly stated to me that this is a sign of a mature large bodied buck. One of the trees was clearly a community rub as the tree had been hit in past seasons and multiple times this year. What he explained to me was this particular tree was marked by different bucks. There was a main section of the tree that was hit lower and made up the largest portion of the rub, then the section at the top indicating a taller buck.
Why had I not known about these rubs? Why had these bucks not walked past any of my cameras? We talked about this throughout the walk yesterday. Could it be transient bucks hitting the trees? Jim believes these are bucks I have raised from fawns that are using the property as a core area. These bucks know my every move, know the cameras and are now avoiding them. This is difficult for me to comprehend as I do what I can to minimize my pressure on the property, including staying out of these areas after killing my buck on Nov. 12th. What is interesting is that during tracking my buck, I walked within yards of the cedar tree.
But maybe that is the problem. These bucks know where my stands are. These bucks know where the cameras are. These bucks know where the does bed and can find them easily. These bucks get enough food and forage with the natural forages we have created and the ag fields available to the immediate west side of their bedding areas. They have access to water sources with the ponds and streams meandering through the property. They know my in and out trails. All of this could explain zero pictures or sightings.
Maybe this explains why the buck I harvested this year was never identified until the rut kicked into full gear? I did get this buck on trail camera, but not until Nov. 6th. This quickly made me believe that the buck was a transient buck. Based on what I witnessed yesterday, I'm beginning to rethink that stance. What is ironic is that Jim suggested that the buck I shot was a resident buck back in November. He hinted that maybe I was educating my bucks more than I realized. Maybe he is absolutely right.
Everyone always claims mature bucks of 5 and 6 years old are a completely different animal. I'm beginning to think I have educated these bucks to the point that I have to change my hunting strategy. We talked about where to place stands for next season along the west side of the property in the woods and how to establish in and out trails. We also discussed and actually began cutting more trees yesterday to help assist in holding these bucks. I have stated in the past that I need to work harder at hunting between the beds and food plots, eliminating all stands along field edges. This tells me I have to accomplish this or I will never harvest a buck bigger than 150". So, let the games begin!
What all of this evidence (huge rubs, numerous beds in the snow, tracks everywhere) tells me is that our habitat work over the past three years is paying huge dividends. We are holding deer and providing forage even in extreme cold and higher snow levels than normal. It also tells me we need to press on with our plans, and that I need to be more strategic with camera and stand locations.
Some large antlered mammal made these rubs. We could be completely wrong about these being resident bucks that are ghosts on the property. Time will tell, but we would not have found these serious rubs if we had stayed out treating these areas as a strict sanctuary. Stay out of sanctuaries and fail to continue habitat improvements that hold large bucks that generate these huge rubs? I think not!
I've heard that when you stop learning it is time to change hobbies. Well, I definitely have not stopped learning as last weekend I found a cluster of trees full of small fruits. Upon investigating a little further, these appeared to be persimmons. Since I had no clue that these trees would hold fruit into January, I had my initial doubts. I then proceeded to send a picture and confirmed with Jim Ward that indeed these are persimmons.
Today I visited the property to check cameras and drop off some limbs that came down in my back yard from the large snow storm. Upon driving onto the property, I saw a doe run up from a small depression to look at my truck. I didn't think about it until a few minutes later that this was next to the cluster of persimmon trees. I drove over to the trees after making the rounds with the cameras. When I stepped out of the truck I was amazed at how tore up the snow was all around the base of these trees. The doe must have been bedded only a few yards away from the persimmons.
I've owned this property since November 2006. I had always wanted to plant persimmon trees. Until this past summer, I had no idea that we even had some on our property. Was this because the trees finally reached a level of maturity to produce fruits? I'm pretty confident this is the case as I can't believe I would have walked by both clusters of persimmon trees year after year and never notice fruit production. Then I began to wonder if I had ever cut any down while hinge cutting an area due to my ignorance and inability to identify this species.
What amazes me more than anything is how late into the winter the trees I visited today still have fruit. I'm not talk a few persimmons, but a ton of fruit. If you review the pictures below, you will see what I am talking about. What is odd is that the other clusters of persimmons originally found in August had dropped every single fruit by the start of October. What is the difference? Is there a different type of persimmon tree? Clearly I've got some research to do in order to understand more about persimmons.
What is certain is that deer love persimmons. Given the harsh West Central Indiana winter to date, this is proving to be a valuable source of food for my deer herd. As I checked cameras today on the plots, I had fewer tracks in the snow compared to the stampede of deer that had visited the persimmons. As I write this, I am kicking myself for not moving one of the cameras to catch this activity on camera. There are still plenty of fruits for the deer to feed on over the next several days.
This also emphasizes the importance of having different types of forage for a deer herd. Maybe this is more common than I realize. But, who would have ever thought you could provide fruit to deer in the middle of January and it be home grown?
A few weeks ago, 60 minutes featured a piece on Amazon. A segment of that story was about the future of delivery using a drone to drop off packages less than 5 pounds. That story got me thinking about how I could use something like this to scout or see my property at a virtual bird's eye view.
I started doing research online immediately and found a ton of videos. I shared this new infatuation with my father, who immediately caught the bug. A couple of weeks ago, he purchased a small drone already outfitted with a camera. He bought the DJI Phantom Vision, which we flew yesterday and took some video over the 63 acres. Anyone, I mean anyone, can fly this thing. I was amazed at how easy it was to fly. In 5 minutes I was buzzing this thing all over the sky. Quite fun......See the video link below of the test.
We finished the flight and took the micro SD card out and put it into my laptop. After looking at the video, I felt it was a success. Given there was snow on the ground, I felt like this provided good contrast between the trees, brush, and the ground. I loved how I could see clearly the habitat work that had been completed. Specific aspects visible were buck beds, the new watering hole, food plots, screening cover, streams, and trails in the snow. I was amazed at the visible points where the deer had cleared snow on the food plots. The Main Plot Clover, north section had some decent tracks and areas cleared, while the brassicas on the south side did not (first section of the field we flew over). I think this helps get an understanding of the topography of a property. If I was considering buying a new piece of property, I would definitely use this as a tool in addition to simply walking the land.
The video does have a "fish eye" effect. I understand there is software out there that will take this effect away. I'll have to work on that aspect of video editing, as I am clearly a novice.
Another aspect that I was disappointed was that it was difficult to pick out deer at 140'. Maybe they were there and we just couldn't see them. Maybe the height we flew the unit was part of the problem, but I though we would see deer moving or at least reacting to the sound of the unit. I didn't really think it was that loud, especially at 140'. To me, it sounded like a bunch of bees buzzing around a hive. I'm sure the deer picked this out as an out of place sound, especially at this time of year. However, I don't believe once it was in the air the deer ran completely off of the property. My kids were with us and we didn't try to be quiet, but that usually doesn't push deer that far off of the property. Again, I believe we could have flown it a little lower and may have been able to pick out more details.
In summary, I think we need to make some more flights. I'd like to try it at different elevations and map out the property better. We also have to rotate the unit slower in areas we are hovering. The next time, we will start the flight at the edge of the property and quietly walk in. Maybe we can see the deer better and pick them out. We had a blast doing this yesterday and I believe I learned a lot. If you have the means to try this, I would suggest looking at your property through this lens.
Calling all Indiana Whitetail Hunters! Use the link below to give the Indiana DNR feedback on changes you think are needed. Obviously you can state your opinion on any aspect, but I'd like to see feedback on ways to improve the deer herd numbers. The feedback I provided is listed below in it's entirety.
The herd numbers are dropping drastically due to EHD outbreaks the last two years, over hunting of the herd, and predation. It is time the State shift it's thinking away from the constant goal of reducing all deer numbers. It is time to conserve this resource and allow the herd to recover. ACTION IS NEEDED NOW.....NOT IN 10 YEARS! I want the State to do the following:
1. Eliminate the Special Antlerless Season
2. Reduce the length of the firearms season.
3. Reduce the number of antlerless deer limits for each county. Maybe we should return to a one buck and one doe limit for certain counties? How many hunters harvest and register 9 antlerless deer in a season anyway (1 tag plus 8 bonus tags)? This never was a realistic number to begin with, regardless of how you derive the number as stated on your web site.
4. Adopt some of the QDMA Principles and Practices. We need a balanced herd with bucks of all ages. This will improve the overall herd health and make the rut more dynamic. This will required the State to do more than just look at the numbers. For example, the State should document approximate age of deer when registered. I realize this can be very subjective, but it isn't hard to tell a 1.5 year old buck from a 4.5 year old. Other States do this, Indiana should take some steps forward.
5. Open up a year around season on coyotes. This is by far the most damaging predator to whitetail fawns and their numbers continue to rise. Even if numbers fell in conjunction with the whitetail numbers, coyotes will make it more difficult for the whitetail herd to recover. This species will never go away as the only natural predator of the coyote is us.
I understand the pressure from the Insurance Industry to completely eliminate the deer, but I'm guessing the number of auto accidents caused by deer is a small fraction compared to other causes. I'd like to see the State evaluate these numbers and not just compare against number of miles driven. Where do deer-vehicle collisions stack up against alcohol related vehicle accidents? or weather, or distracted driving?
The whitetail hunting industry brings a lot of money to this state as it does others in the Midwest. Let's not return to the low whitetail numbers of the 1970's. Your job is to regulate and manage our Indiana Deer herd. It is time to practice wildlife conservation.....we need to conserve this species. For those of you in positions to make these changes, either start doing the work to make this better or get out of the way!
Concerned Taxpayer, Land Owner, QDMA Member, and Hunter,
David Andrew Hayes
My top draft pick for the '14 season is the college senior shown below. As with most ready to make the jump to the pros, there are several questions that will require us to wait and see. I think this guy has a lot of up side, but everything must fall into place for his success to end up on my wall next season. His rookie season could even require some bench time, causing me to wait until his second year as a pro. Here is a list of things that must go right:
- The buck needs to make the 63 acres his permanent home, with a small diameter travel range.
- Make the jump from a main frame 8 pointer to a 10 pointer.
- Increase overall antler mass.
- Get through the velvet phase without damaging his growth.
- Dodge the EHD virus.
- Avoid injury jumping fences, vehicles, coyotes, drought, etc.
- Not get spooked or pressured from the 63 acres by me or other neighboring hunters.
- Not get shot by any other hunters.
- Step out in front at bow range next fall.
As mentioned on a previous blog, the number of deer has declined. This has obviously caused the number of bucks to drop drastically. I pulled the camera cards on Dec. 28, which had sat since Dec. 8th. Upon reviewing all of the pictures, this was the biggest buck captured twice four days apart. Hopefully other mature bucks will filter into the property and be added to the draft board for the '14 season.
As I reflect on the past three seasons, it is critical to evaluate common threads and distinct differences associated with the three bucks harvested. I hope through this process to better understand the property and how to improve my hunting skills to focus on more mature deer in future seasons.
To begin the process, I had to outline the three individual bucks and the details around each hunt, which has been completed with the links found along the right column of this blog page under the title "Successful Hunts". Below are the common threads and distinct differences to develop my conclusions on how to improve.Commons Threads:
- Shot on the 63 Acres: I'd love to hunt other properties, but can't justify spending so much time, effort, and money and burn the Indiana One Buck Tag on another property. I hope to gain access to land in Illinois for '14.
- Poor Shooting: All three bucks have been harvested, but not due to double lung or heart shots. I pride myself on the ability to shoot tight arrow groupings, including robin hooding 4 different times over the years. This is an area I have to improve, which will require more practice shooting from stand.
- Camera Evidence: Trail cameras served as a tool to help pattern and build my strategy to shoot each buck. I've heard of other hunters going away from cameras to reduce human pressure, but I can't think of a better tool and will continue to run these 365 days a year.
- Buck Beds: This may go without saying since it should apply to each buck ever harvested, but buck beds and their locations played a role in the direction from which the buck was traveling. Knowing my bed locations and where to set up in conjunction with these beds has been paramount to success.
- Tracking Too Soon: On all three bucks, I began the tracking process too soon. This led to almost loosing the '12 Buck. I've got to be more patient immediately after the shot and control the emotions.
- Extreme Scent Control: Although two of the bucks were shot in favorable wind conditions, I believe the extreme scent control techniques helped me with confidence. I will only work to make my scent control better each year.
- Circular Travel Patterns: All three bucks were traveling on my property following a circular pattern. This was determined based on both visual sightings and trail camera evidence. I believe I have more to learn on these circular patterns for this property. Over time, I hope to identify these circular patterns more closely. I believe there are multiple patterns. Identifying these and seeing where they intersect should provide a hot location for killing mature bucks.
- Plots vs. Transition Zone: The '13 Buck was shot in a transition zone between bedding and the plots. The first two bucks were shot on plots. I will continue to learn how to hunt transition zones more effectively.
- Pre-Rut Patterns: The '12 Buck was shot during pre-rut, while the other two were during the rut. Again the cameras told the story on the '12 Buck. I had to get on him before the rut kicked in and his pattern changed. Don't be afraid to act quickly on what the cameras are telling.
- Morning vs. Evening Hunts: The '13 Buck was the first buck ever shot during a morning hunt for me. I've always had better luck seeing bucks in the evenings, except during the rut. The north side of the property has historically provided better sightings during morning hunts. This year was no exception. That combined with the rut activity was a winning formula. I will continue to work to identify additional morning stands being careful not to bump deer prior to the rut.
- No Shooter List: Going into '13, I had some serious worries as there were no shooter bucks identified before the hunting season. Some of my friends think this was just me keeping a secret, but I truly had zero shooter bucks on trail camera prior to the start of the season. Furthermore, the buck that was shot wasn't even spotted on camera until Nov. 6th. The other two seasons provided more hope with bucks seen earlier and frequently. Hopefully this isn't a sign of the future given I believe the deer herd numbers are down drastically due to a number of factors (refer to previous blog Serious Doubt or Seriously Misleading).
- Mid Day Travel: The '13 Buck was the only buck shot that provided evidence of traveling in the middle of the day. The other two bucks were not seen on camera or from the stand in the middle of the day after Oct. 1st. I saw an 8 pointer, known as Coat Rack, at 11:00 am last year after I shot the '12 Buck. He was seen on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. This sighting plus the '13 Buck harvested make me a firm believer that dominant bucks do travel in the middle of the day. Putting in long days on stand will only bring future success.
- Crossing In and Out Trail: Only the '13 Buck crossed my in and out trail. He stopped on the trail and was smelling the ground when I made the shot. This may have helped in this situation, but it is difficult to tell if he was smelling my scent or the doe he was trailing. Either way, all efforts should be made to create and follow in and out trails that bucks will not cross.
In conclusion, the above clearly helps me understand what I have done well and what I need to work to improve. I hope through this process others have learned or at least will conduct a similar review on buck harvests. The additional or background information below is broken out by category with details on each buck. This information was used to help determine the above common threads and distinct differences. Date of Harvest:
Location on Property: The images below illustrate where each buck was shot on the property and includes the associated tree stand location.
- '11 Buck - November 9th (Rut)
- '12 Buck - October 27th (Pre-Rut)
- '13 Buck - November 12th (Rut)
- '11 Buck - Located in Main Food Plot
- '12 Buck - Located in East Food Plot
- '13 Buck - Located in Northeast corner of property in the woods
Travel Direction and associated Topography, Terrain, and Vegetation:
Wind Direction / Location of Buck to Stand:
- '11 Buck - Buck came from the north down into a small valley and up into the south side of the Main Plot. He had entered the north side of the plot at some point chasing a doe and followed her through the short section of woods that separates the two Main Plots. I have no idea what direction he entered the north section of the plot. My guess would be he entered from the NW corner since that is historically the point that most deer funnel into that plot. No specific connection with terrain features with the main attraction being the doe he followed and the food plot.
- '12 Buck - Buck came from the west straight east along the main trail that leads from the South Section of the Main Plot and connects to the East Plots. He simply followed the wide open trail grunting all along the way into the plot.
- '13 Buck - Followed the classic terrain feature as anticipated in the relatively thick woods. As you can see from the topo and area map, the buck was traveling from west to east following the pronounced ridge line that runs along the north end of the property.
Camera Evidence or Sightings to Understand Travel Patterns:
- '11 Buck - SSW Wind / Buck was straight downwind when he entered the field. Extreme scent control technique in play and apparently enabled the shot as he never reacted until snort wheeze brought him to 30 yards north of stand.
- '12 Buck - North Wind / Buck entered straight from the west walking due east right towards the stand location. He never made it to a point south of my stand where he could pick up my scent.
- '13 Buck - North Wind / Buck was walking from west to east about 20 yards north of the stand location placing him upwind of me.
Crossing of In and Out Trail:
- '11 Buck - Multiple pictures of this buck through the summer and into the fall. Saw buck from North Stand on Nov. 5th downwind of my location. Visually saw buck from stand again on Nov. 8th from the West Stand. Buck was traveling along installed buck trail moving to the east to Main Plot South Clover. Shot on Nov. 9th as he entered the Main Plot South from northern direction. Based on the evidence and sightings this buck was clearly traveling a counter clock-wise circular pattern that topped out on the north side and rotated down and into the Main Plots. Stand was moved mid day on Nov. 9th to where evidence indicated he would enter the field. Riddle solved!
- '12 Buck - Multiple trail camera still shots initiated Oct. 1st in the East Plot. Buck visited the plot regularly with entry times initially later at night. As the month of October started to progress, he entered earlier and earlier each evening on the camera. From the direction he was entering the plot (NE Corner), it was clear I needed a north wind to even stand a chance at shooting this deer. I would be completely surprised when he approached directly from the west along the main travel trail between the two plots.
- '13 Buck - First evidence this buck was on the property was Nov. 6th at 1:00 pm. This buck was visiting the newly made watering hole at 1:00 pm in the middle of the day. This was the only camera photo / video of him and he approached the water directly from the east. This indicated either a clockwise or counter clockwise direction and I felt that the NE stand would give me the best opportunity to see this buck live.
Score and Age:
- '11 Buck - Never crossed in and out trail staying to the north.
- '12 Buck - Never crossed in and out trail staying to the west of my entry to stand directly from the south.
- '13 Buck - I entered the stand from the north with the north wind. He was shot directly standing on my in and out trail at 20 yards.
- '11 Buck - 122" Total / 4.5 Years based on Jaw Bone Visual Evaluation
- '12 Buck - 135" Total / 3.5 Years based on Jaw Bone Visual Evaluation
- '13 Buck - 132" Total / TBD....front incisors sent to Wildlife Analytical labs
For some time now, I've held a long standing secret and I think it is time to share with the world. For years there has been a myth about Rudolph The Red Nosed Deer. Today I want to confirm that Rudolph exists and explain some of the background associated with this holiday story.
As a QDM Landowner, I was very surprised one day years ago when I pulled camera cards in the Spring. There he was.....a little fawn that had a red nose. I thought to myself what in the world is this? As years passed, this resident buck began to grow and mature. Each trail camera picture of him was easily recognized with that red nose. You can't miss it as illustrated in the several pictures below.
As I hunted each year, I would see this buck and realized how he was so special. What I had not planned on was his disappearance each year around this time. Then last year, he left my property and did not return. I have not seen him in over a year. Where did he go? Was the quality of my cover, food sources, etc., not good enough?
Then I met another QDM Landowner, he is listed on forums as St. Nick. He informed me that he recruits special deer from many states. Now you would think, he would target states like Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois. But, he informed me that he takes deer from all over, even West Central Indiana. When I asked if he had recruited a deer near my land, he informed me of a special deer that had a red nose. I was extremely excited to learn that this deer had not been poached, hit by a vehicle, died from EHD, etc. He is alive and well.
What is so incredible is the work this QDM practicing land owner from the far north accomplishes. I think we all could learn a lot from this guy. Funny I haven't seen him at any conferences or expos. He has a fantastic food plot and supplemental program. And the minerals he provides is a formula that companies would kill for. This learning brings into question the whitetail home range studies from the past. The fact a deer has been identified with a range from Indiana to the North Pole shatters the previous beliefs.
The training of the deer is extraordinary. He has even taught these deer to fly and pull a red sleigh full of toys. Imagine that! Imagine the strength these deer must have to fly all over the world to deliver toys and pull a sleigh while flying?
St. Nick told me he flies his deer every Christmas Eve all over the world to deliver toys. When I asked about his QDM program, he was reluctant to tell me the details. I guess I understand why to a certain extent. If we all had these secret formulas, just imaging how hard it would be to successfully hunt deer that fly? It is hard enough to get a mature buck in front of me each year. If they flew all over the place, I would probably have to give up this hobby from the constant failure.
Tonight is Christmas Eve and you can bet that Rudolph from West Central Indiana will be flying high and pulling the sled. Please make sure you let him go so he can grow. If you get a chance to talk with St. Nick, ask him what his secrets are so we can all share and further the QDM cause.