Change 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!
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!
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.
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.
It has taken me a couple of weeks, but I am happy to report the 2015 Season has started out with a bang. Luke spent the week before the Indiana Youth Season practicing and sighting in his .44 mag youth rifle, as illustrated in this photo. We worked hard on making sure he was squeezing the trigger and his group was solid at 75 yards. I wanted to make sure he could hit that distance given that would most likely be the longest shot he would possibly take.
On Saturday, August 22nd, a new chapter in my life as a deer manager started. A chapter that I was excited about, but also presented a level of anxiety based on the potential for success or complete failure. The outcome of this chapter will not be known for some time and isn't based solely on me, which could be causing the anxiety. The outcome lies squarely on the group of hunters who gathered to talk about forming a QDM Co-op in West Central Indiana.
Prior to the '13 hunting season, we walked the property and identified what we felt would be a good stand location in the NE corner of the property. There is a topo feature that looked to be a natural travel corridor given the visible trails. A stand was placed and I cleared shooting lanes. This proved to be a great idea and I shot my '13 buck out of this stand. Even with that success, I started to pick-up a pattern of deer travel that spilled over into '14. This pattern presented a huge obstacle that required I do something and make a change.
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:
Andy Hayes is a devoted husband and father of 4 kids living in West Central Indiana. Outside of his family, his passion is hunting whitetails. He does not claim to be a professional hunter, but simply wants to share what he learns during his quest to improve whitetail habitat and hunt mature bucks.