It was time to pick up a new harness for this hunting season. I purchased on clearance shortly after last season a Gorilla Harness. It was a great price and I thought it would be my new favorite. Upon unpackaging the harness, I quickly realized how much I didn't like it. That particular harness didn't have a waist belt, which made me feel like I would fall out of it. For some reason I like the feeling of an actual belt running across my waist. It just feels more secure to me.
As a 20 year safety professional, I know a little bit about full body harnesses and fall protection. I don't know much about the industry that manufacturers harnesses and if there is a link between the safety industry and the hunting industry. But what I do know is that it has taken years for many of the improvements in harnesses to transition from the safety industry over to the hunting industry.
For example.....the quick connect leg buckles on the Tree Spider harness I originally saw on the DBI Exofit Harness several years ago. I once attended a professional safety conference 10 years ago and talked to some of the manufacturers. I asked why they did not make any of their harnesses in camo colors. Everyone said there wasn't a strong market for it. Do you believe that! Well, I was buying and fitting employees in DBI harnesses for years. The guys love the quick ease of putting on the harness, which means I love them. Many people like the Tree Spider simply because of the quick connect, which is a benefit when you are running late to the stand.
Well maybe I should get to why I am writing this particular blog. I bought a Muddy Outdoors Harness a couple of years ago, or at least it feels like a couple of seasons ago. I loved the fact this harness was very lightweight. That is critical to me, especially during the early season when it is warm. I needed to buy a replacement because of the parachute buckle that makes me feel so secure across the waist.
That brings me to one aspect of the Muddy Harness that I do not like. The rubber coating on the parachute buckle is cheap. After only a season or two, the rubber has separated exposing the metal. The whole reason for this coating is silence while wearing. That makes my harness useless after Oct. 1st. What it does do for me is have a harness for when setting up stands, as the rest of the harness is in good shape. And I use a harness every time I set up a stand.
I also hate the carabiner that is provided. As a manufacturer, why go through all of the trouble to design a good harness only to outfit it with a crappy carabiner? It is heavy, noisy, and not user friendly. Most companies do this and it makes no sense. I replace all of my packaged carabiners with good light weight climbing carabiners. They don't cost much and are worth it when in the field.
The features I love of the Muddy Outdoor Harness is a list longer than the dislikes. As a result, I purchased another one today. I love the binocular straps as this means one less set of straps around my neck. I also love the light weight feature to enable me to carry other gear into the woods without much stress. I don't want to sweat when wearing the harness. I also like the fact a linesman rope comes standard with it. The harness has belt loops along the waist to secure the carabiners that make attaching the linesman belt quick and easy. This is a critical feature when it is dark and you are making every effort to be quiet.
Check out my web page line below for various types of hunting harness on the market. As always, I'm not sponsored by anyone. I just wanted to share some of my experiences and what features I like with harnesses. I love this equipment as a safety professional and I love it for the fact it makes me feel safe when I'm 20' plus above the forest floor. I don't care what harness you wear. I only hope you wear a harness.....period! Good luck this fall.
Today I finished placing the last stand before the season in the SE corner of the property. As a part of the visit, I pulled camera cards. One observation made during that process was that the Clover and Alfalfa plots are under extreme browsing pressure. This was also confirmed in the increased number of pictures and video on the camera, approximately 20%.
I completed the final mowing of the plots the week before Labor Day with the hopes that additional growth would carry the deer through the winter. Obviously the deer have other plans. It is that time where crops are turning just before harvest and the deer find other green food sources. I should have placed some utilization cages out in the plot as I had no idea the amount of browsing these fields would get this early in the season.
The video below illustrates the pressure the plots are getting daily from the deer herd. All we need now is for the big bucks to show up as the ag field harvest begins. Currently in West Central Indiana, I would guess harvest is at 5%. Hopefully the farmers can knock out the other fields within the next 3 weeks to force the bucks into the woods. See also the photo from the trail camera that shows the high number of deer using the plot daily.
I received a comment on one of the forums today regarding hunting the fringes and only going in on a zero wind day if you have a silent path. That single comment reminded me of another hunting strategy I forgot to include......
11. Mulch and rake leaves going to each of my stands. This may sound crazy, but I like to ensure a clear dirt or grass path to each of my stands. When it is a cold and zero wind day, sound travels through the woods extremely well. Stepping on a stick or deep crunchy leaves will signal to every deer in the county that you are on you way to the stand. Plus I believe the removal of these items reduces the amount of materials to leave scent upon. I want to touch nothing on my way in....no weeds, limbs, leaves, etc. Only touch dirt and short cut grass.
I usually complete this during the last week of October and try to only do this in the middle of the day. Completing late in October typically ensures most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. Since this is prior to the rut, deer should not be traveling as much during the middle of the day. In addition, I use a zero turning radius mower, which doesn't seem to bother the deer herd much since they are familiar with outdoor equipment. I drop the deck as low as possible and mulch the leaves. Once I reach a point the mower cannot access, I simply use a rake and clear all sticks and leaves to the base of the tree. This allows extremely stealthy entrance to the stand.
Some have said that deer will use these paths to travel for the same reason I do.....zero sound. I believe the trade off is more in my favor. I must be able to get in quietly. If deer walk in on me quietly, I don't really care. And I don't really care if they walk to the base of my tree since I'm using extreme scent control. I've had great results doing this and strongly believe this lowers the pressure as I go to and from the stand.
As I review several forums, there are a high number of hunting strategies being discussed. Ultimately, each hunter must decide how to hunt and do so in a manner that provides confidence that they can be successful. Over the years, I have tried several strategies given my lack of harvesting a mature buck. With the last two years of success, I seem to have found some strategies that work for me. These are listed below:
1. Hunt the fringes of the property in the month of October. There is a caveat to this....see further down. Typically, I avoid diving deep into my property to allow the bucks to settle in after the majority of the ag crops have been harvested. Every year, I have a number of bucks that appear from nowhere during October and take up residence.
2. Hunt only in the evenings until Nov. I've had very little success seeing deer in the mornings and don't like to risk bumping deer going in when they are traveling under darkness. A new strategy that contradicts this is listed further below....I'll explain.
3. Use extreme scent control methods.
4. Regardless of #3, I try to hunt the wind if at all possible. During the rut a lot of that goes out of the window, but I try to still key on wind direction based on doe bed locations.
5. Associated with #4, hunt where the does are during rut. Enough said...
6. Doe harvesting depends on the situation. If I'm hunting the fringe during the early season, I may take a doe. I also don't like to take does when it is 80 degrees. Fighting the flies is not fun. Normally I focus on taking does during the late season.
7. Youth hunt weekend....do whatever is necessary to get my kid a shot and she gets to shoot whatever she wants. Bailey has been trying to take her first deer with a bow. Much of the time that is from the box blind on the main plot. The room allows me to work directly with her and help spot and ensure she is ready when the shot is presented.
8. All day hunts during the rut. Although this is physically and mentally draining, I hunt early November all day long from the stand to get opportunities during the middle of the day. During doe hunting last year on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, I saw the Big 8 Point walk right by my stand and out into the plot with his head down the entire way. This was after 11:00 am. If I had left the tree earlier that morning, I never would have seen this and further understood his daily circular pattern around my property. Hopefully he returns again this year.
9. Caveat to #1......react to what the trail cameras tell you. Last year I waited until Oct. 21st to pull camera cards. I had three weeks of pictures. When I did pull the cards, it was clear I had new bucks coming to the plots regularly and the patterns had been set. It was critical to get out there as quickly as possible before the pre-rut and rut changed the feeding patterns. Oct. 22nd I hunted the east plot stand with a wind out of the south. Based on my pictures, I needed a north wind.....no bucks that evening. The following Saturday, Oct. 27th, I had a north wind, which is when I arrowed the buck you see above. See the photos below from the trail camera that captures just before I shot and two pictures immediately after.
10. Contradictory to #2, I have a new strategy for morning hunts. Jim and I found a heavily traveled trail on the north side of the property. It is along the east edge with a tree 15 yards from the trail. I can access the property from the north gate and we have cut a new patch with skid steer to the stand. This path runs right against the property line so I can safely get into the stand without bumping any deer during the morning hours. Deer funnel from the agricultural fields on the adjacent property onto mine during these morning hours. Wind is predominantly from the south and southwest, which is perfect for this stand. Hopefully a shooter comes by during the early part of October.
The count down clock below currently shows 15 days until October 1st. Good luck and feel free to let me know some of your strategies. I'd love to add more to the above and share with others.
It has been a few days since I've posted anything, primarily because I spent three days in Nashville working. On the way back I needed to stop and get something to eat. The timing was perfect for a stop in Princeton, IN, which just happens to be a place I spent 5 years of my childhood (1975 - 1980). So....here is your warning. This isn't going to be totally about whitetails; however, I will point out several key things that I feel has molded me and steered me towards this all consuming hobby. Items will be highlighted and underlined pertinent to my hunting hobby. And one other thing... strap yourselves in as this will be long winded.
I stopped at the DQ to get a meal and blizzard and decided that it wouldn't hurt to drive a couple of blocks to the square downtown. It has been probably 30 years since I visited downtown Princeton and...... my have things changed. The first movie theater I ever visited was there and is now totally boarded up. What a neat place, but a sad scene today. If I ever win the lottery, I'd buy that place and completely remodel and start it back up. The courthouse looked great, but the rest of the square had closed store fronts. Most likely due to the internet, Wal-Mart, and other large stores that get most business these days. My dad had a small sewing and garden center on the east side of the square. Oddly enough, I think his location is now a bow shop. Pretty ironic, don't you think?
I proceeded to drive north from the square and out of town, hoping to drive by the elementary school I attended, which was just next to the high school. Unfortunately, I didn't recall where the schools were located and for all I know they were closed or relocated. Driving north through the country, it was clear that this area is prime whitetail habitat. Rolling hills, crop land, woods, perfect for deer.
I wished I could have driven all over town, past our old house on Lake Road past Camp Carson, and more. Either way, this short little trip back in time produced the following flood of memories:
I remember the first time dad took me squirrel hunting on Fred's land. It was't a big woods, but a small tree row where I watched him limit out as soon as the sun rose.
I remember the first pony I bought for a dollar off of Russel Davis that kicked my dad in the leg almost breaking it.
I remember my second pony Midnight and the time I rode with a friend into a lush green pasture that turned out to be a winter wheat field. The scolding from the farmer who caught us is fresh in my mind. He was furious how we tore up the field.
I remember the Persimmon tree that sat just north of the small pond we had on the five acres we lived.
I remember the hand driven corn sheller we had to use to shell ear corn for the animals. Wow...was it dangerous. Not sure how I didn't loose a finger.
I remember the dirt go-cart track dad made for us and how we used to race on the dirt or mud (yes we wore helmets).
I remember racing my Uncle Ray and touching wheels causing him to flip his cart over (no he didn't wear a helmet).
I remember my sister not being tall enough to reach the gas pedal, scooting up in the seat, hitting the gas, and sliding back....over and over.
I remember her chicken...."Sniff, Sniff".
I remember dad taking me to my first movie, which was the Superman with Christopher Reeve.
I remember learning to play the Space Invaders arcade game.
I remember learning about death at a young age when my dog Willie was hit by a car and died in my arms.
I remember the phone call in the middle of the night when my other Uncle was killed in an auto accident after drinking....specifically my Mom crying.
I remember dad butchering the chickens.
I remember the racoons and other varmints killing our chicks.
I remember entering my goose Snoopy in the pet show on the square and winning.
I remember that goose grabbing some guys wrist watch when he reached out to pet him.
I remember celebrating July 4, 1776 with a big party on the square.
I remember my dad and his employees dressing up to celebrate in costumes working in that store on the square.
I remember catching Chicken Pox and not being able to walk because they were on my feet.
I remember my brother and I getting boomerangs and learning that you must throw these further away from the back porch windows.
I remember Harold the Water Man bringing truck loads of water for our water tank since we didn't have a good well and how I used to stand under the dripping water hose to get a cold drink.
I remember the neat red barn we had with a great hay loft to play and climb up in.
I remember falling out of the big Maple tree next to the red barn when my foot became caught in the V of the tree, knocking the wind out of me (probably why I'm so adamant about fall protection).
I remember mushroom hunting with mom and dad.
I remember my Uncle Tim getting lost in the woods squirrel hunting and standing outside listening as he shot his gun and yelled for help from my dad.
I remember learning to mow grass and how much I liked it.
I remember picking bucket fulls of fresh cherries and selling them for next to nothing.
I remember the big garden on the east side of the house that mom and dad put out every year and really wanting to operate the tiller.
I remember the big tire swing in the large maple tree.
I remember how dad could pull a switch off of the smaller maple trees in the circle drive and use it.
I remember the high school kid that threw the text book breaking the school bus window and Bob the driver getting upset (he should have gotten more than a switch to his rear).
I remember riding our bicycles everywhere, even on the dirt / gravel roads with no fear of being kidnapped.
I remember Camp Carson and Summer Camp.....and Frisco Freddy the escaped convict that terrorized the camp (I'd like to know who was dressed up in that costume).
I remember playing baseball for Nu-Gas and getting hit in the eye with a ball completely knocking me out.
I remember Gatorade Gum and how sweet and sour it was (mouth is watering right now)
I remember how we had to turn in uniforms at the end of each season.
I remember my dad coaching and the night he umpired a game and pleaded with the parents since he was bad at it (after the game, they all agreed).
I remember learning to play chess with Robbie and the time we tape recorded us saying bad words...somehow we got caught later on and his parents called mine (a la..."A Christmas Story").
I remember going skating at the local skating rink (now gone).
I remember the 3D Discount Store in the strip mall (now gone).
I remember my dad's business having a radio commercial on WRAY (station is still on the air) in which I played a role. "My dad can fix anything....."
I remember Decker's U-Pick and going to school with Julie.
I remember Robbie, Scott, Brent, Jeff, Kevin, Dale, and Tim.....all who were going to be my lifelong friends.
I remember Mrs. Houston my Kindergarten teacher.
I remember Mrs. Rawlings my 4th grade teacher.
I remember playing on the "Destroyers" youth soccer team and how my foreign coach ruined it for me by only letting me play defender. Every kid wants to score a goal in youth soccer....it was not the World Cup.
I remember mom taking us to the city pool and taking swim lessons.
I remember my dad's CB radio business and all of his CB buddies.....KKY1863 (his call letters)...."talking skip", and much more.
I remember getting bottles of pop out of the vending machine in the back of his store and the distinct sound the machine made when you pulled a bottle out.
I remember the top opener on the machine and how there was a container within that caught each bottle cap.
I remember living in our first house next to the Masonic Temple...."so mode it be" (inside family joke).
I remember riding my first bike....1776 special edition Huffy...red, white, and blue.
I remember leaving it out on the side walk and it being stolen.
I remember horsing around with my mom and breaking my left wrist and going to the hospital.
I remember the smell of that hospital right now as I'm writing this.
I remember collecting football cards and how Roger Staubach was invincible.
I remember the cardboard box I used for carrying all of my cards to school each day to trade with buddies.
I remember the 8 Track Tapes....."Rubber Biscuit", Statler Brothers, Baldknobbers, Ray Stevens, and many others.
i remember Uncle Ray's music....Doobie Brothers, "Baker Street", "Kiss You All Over", Grease Sound Track, Fleetwood Mac, "Chuck Is In Love".
I remember the beat lights he had connected to his stereo.
I remember Uncle Ray eating all of the cookies, which upset my dad each time.
I remember playing basketball on a goal made out of a radio antennae tower section, with a metal backboard.
I remember the playing surface for basketball was gravel and how hard it was to dribble.
I remember much, much, more.....but feel this is enough torture for you.
In summary, I have often wondered how my kids view their childhood and if they are getting as many memories as I did as a small child. It is amazing how impressionable we are at that age and how everything is so vivid in our mind, even 30 years later. Maybe it is because we are not in a huge hurry and just enjoy life.....kind of how it should be.
Like I said....not much about whitetails this go around. I tell my parents each time I see or talk to them that I love them. What I think I have failed to tell them enough is how good my childhood was and how it shaped me to be the person I am today. So.....THANK YOU MOM AND DAD! A 10 minute drive through Princeton made me realize how great those years were. It also makes me realize how hard they worked to raise me. I only hope I am doing as much and as well with my four kids.
It is amazing how you think you know everything about your property and nature hits you up side the head. I've literally walked every inch of this property doing a timber stand improvement project with removal of grape vines. I took an aerial photo and marked grids working each grid one at a time. It took me two years to complete the work. As a result, you could imagine my surprise when learning I had a treasure tree I had not known about.
It was a little embarrassing to have someone walking with you and point out that you have a cluster of four Persimmon trees producing huge persimmons. I had walked by these trees countless times and never recognized or noticed the fruit. Maybe this was the first year the trees produced fruit? Then again, the Japanese Honeysuckle that had pretty much overtaken the trees didn't make it easy to spot either. Either way, I should have recognized them.
After an hour of mowing and clearing the brush from around and in the trees, the photos below show what we have. I always hoped to some day have trees like this on the property, but thought I would have to do like many others do. Work with seeds, graft, baby along, transplant, protect from rubbing bucks, etc. I consider myself extremely lucky to have these here and look forward to the amount of fruit they will drop for the deer herd.
Now we enter into September. Time to leave alone the property and let the bucks settle in prior to the early bow season. Wow I am tempted to walk the property to see if I have any others that have gone unnoticed. The lesson learned last week was simple. We all get used to our surrounds and often don't see the forest for the trees.....or the cluster of four Persimmon trees on the edge of a small logging road.
Working on Labor Day isn't supposed to happen. Well, we had the opportunity to have Todd Crane of Crane Excavating bring out his Kubota Skid Steer with Brush Cutter attachment, so we took it. The goal today was to accomplish the following with this awesome piece of heavy equipment:
1. Cut two trails to get straight to the north stands and minimize impact to deer bedding or passing through.
2. Cut back the brush along a main logging trail just to the east of our new staging area. Over the past 5 years, the walls had started closing in on the clover planted in this area. Although this holds moisture better during drought conditions, we were lacking a lot of sunlight.
3. Clear the tall brush along the east side of the East Food Plot. This area was not providing the browse at the potential we needed. The brush was thick, but well above shoulder height meaning the deer couldn't touch most of it. In addition, no bedding was occurring in this area due to the tall ridge formed by the old mining spoil pile. Therefore, it made since to clear out this stripe and create the forage the deer need.
4. Expand the small logging road between the Main Plots and East Plots. We cleared a small area just to the NE of the new water hole. This new clearing will help funnel deer movement to the water hole and past one of the stands we put in earlier this summer.
5. Create a buck sneak trail along the west side of the East Plot. This particular trail doesn't impact the doe bedding area directly to the north, but should help bucks better locate the does if they indeed take this trail. The sneak trail is approx. 10 yards off of the food plot and is obscured by brush. This makes the bucks feel secure and allow easy travel just out of sight.
As you can see by the video, Todd made quick work of the above list. He completed everything at 5 hours within the air conditioned cab. There is some follow-up work to complete. I may plant some cool season forages while time still allows, but will not turn the ground since that is going to be tough given the stumps and roots within. Forages being considered are winter wheat, radishes, and turnips.
We had fun today doing this work and look forward to the results. I'm confident these improvements will make the hunting better and improve deer forage opportunities. If you have the means of accessing one of these machines I highly recommend it. They are so....choice!
The work completed on the property the past few days has started to tie together all of the components envisioned. A huge piece of the puzzle on Friday was the development of the Staging Area. Jim Ward visited and worked his butt off to create a 25 yard circle cut out in the woods. The purpose of this was to enhance a natural staging area that was beginning to be overgrown.
As you can see in the picture below, it is almost a clear cut with just a few trees left in the area. Some of the trees Jim left standing were good trees for a future timber harvest. This work in essence released these trees for growth by eliminating competition. Each tree's canopy will become more full, allowing the quicker growth.
Small saplings no more than 1" - 2" in diameter were also left in strategic locations (see photo). These were used to tie down as licking branches. This was something I had never done before and Jim showed me how easy these are to complete in a matter of minutes. His emphasis was on quantity for the area, but he discussed features that must be established for the bucks to use (e.g., hanging branch should be at your shoulder height). Rub trees were also left in this area. The idea is that while deer travel north and south on the property, this area will be a hub for deer communication with rubs, scrapes, and licking branches.
The Staging Area is a place for deer to socialize, as deer are very social animals. This particular locations is on the property where no pressure will be exerted during hunting season, as my entrances to stands will be to the north and south of this area. The area is open, has licking branches for scent communication, and was also planted in forage oats and radishes. These will help bust up the soil, but also provide a quick forage option for them and hopefully help attract them to this area for brief periods.
Trails were another component added on Friday to tie together the north buck bedding area, new staging area, watering hole, and food plot area. The idea is to maximize deer travel within the property boundaries, given my property is longer from north to south as it is wide from east to west. We walked the entire area making sure we evaluated the natural trails and evaluated where a new trail would best serve given the topography.
This is just another piece of the puzzle to hold bucks on a small property by creating the habitat deer seek out. Click on the link below to see Jim's video describing the entire process.
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.