Below is a video of two young bucks going it at. I put this watering hole in earlier this year with the hopes that bucks would come take a drink. I had no idea I'd get video of them sparring. I thought it was interesting to see the mud on the tines. This is a different kind of mud wrestling as it begins to heat up in Indiana. Turn up the sound and enjoy!
Last weekend I hunted for the first time this season and it involved a new stand. Earlier this year, Jim Ward and I identified a new stand placement that would afford me morning hunts with minimal impact to the bedding areas. The stand is on the NE corner of the property and involves a short trail to the bottom of the tree. It sits along a major trail where deer transition from the neighboring property onto mine.
There were multiple purposes to the hunt last weekend. First, I needed to get my hunting fix. It was a cool October morning and a great time to be on stand. I observed several deer that morning, including a couple of bucks. I didn't get great looks at either buck, but one might have been a main frame eight pointer.
What was interesting about that particular buck was the time and direction he was traveling. We always try to figure out what deer are doing. This buck has me baffled. I spotted him north of my stand with the wind at 7 mph from the SSW. He walked across my entry path and showed no sign of picking up my scent. He was traveling from the west to the east. What makes that fact interesting is that he was up and moving at 8:38 am and heading away from the typical bedding area. Does he have a bed to my east on the neighbor's property? Was he heading to the unpicked bean field on the east edge of the woods to feed? Was he going to hit an oak dropping acorns? Was he just cruising? I don't have answers to any of these questions, but it was definitely out of the ordinary.
The other significant purpose of this hunt was to work out the kinks in my overall hunting process. Preparing my equipment needed to happen. My back pack was out of sorts from the youth hunt. Even in doing this, I still forgot my grunt call. Once I saw the buck, I reached for the call and realized I had left it in my RubberMaid tote. Glad it wasn't a huge shooter.
I woke up later than I should, which put pressure on me to get loaded, cleaned up, and out of the door. Scent control process is something I have to actually do each year to improve and solidify. That was a success with a few adjustments noted as I drove to the property. Next was the dressing and gearing up process at the truck tailgate. Putting on the full body harness needs to be quick and organized. This didn't happen smoothly the other morning.
All of the above meant getting to the stand later than I had wanted. I came home that evening and printed out the sunrise / sunset calendar for October and November. I can now mark down the go / no-go times for leaving the house to get to the stand on time.
Fortunately I was not busted by any deer that morning. That could have happened 1. ) Walking in (good trail and stand placement); 2.) From the buck that was upwind (good scent control techniques), or 3.) From the mix of a dozen does and fawns that filed by within 15 yards on the trail that runs towards the NW. I was able to practice standing still in the ready position to shoot the does. I was able to practice attaching to my fall protection and hanging my lock on stand without making any noise (e.g., metal to metal).
I'm taking off several days in November. The above gives me confidence and makes me feel prepared for entering the woods. I've learned the past couple of years each time I walk into the woods must trigger a switch in my mind. This WILL BE the hunt where I shoot the buck of a lifetime.
I always find this time of the hunting season the point at which the most patience must be applied. The temperature is falling, the leaves are turning, crops are coming out, deer are in the fields, but yet it doesn't seem quite right to dive in.
Camera cards are clearly indicating that the bucks are not yet out of the corn.
Each year a switch is activated and bucks pile into my property at a certain point when crops come out. This year the switch has yet to be flipped. Thus the big question to be answered. When do you dive into the property and hunt your best stands?
I have three stands on the edges of the property that allow hunting without much disturbance. These should enable me to expend some of the pent up desire to sit on stand and observe deer. Up to this point, there don't seem to be many local bucks being taken. In fact, I have only two entries to the ATW Big Buck Contest. One was taken during a youth hunt and the other on the first day of Indiana Bow Season (Oct. 1st).
I also have this sense that I'm not entirely ready for hunting. I've washed clothes, have totes ready, stands are set, and bow is shooting perfect. However, I feel like there must be something I am forgetting to get ready. I'm definitely tied up with work and kid activities each evening. Therefore, I haven't had much time to really sit down and think about each step to take for a hunt. Maybe the best step to take is just go hunt this weekend and see what happens. That will enable me to work out all of the bugs. Who knows, a big one might step out.
It is the quintessential challenge to hunt and harvest a whitetail by fooling his nose. With this comes the constant debate on how to do so. Hunt the wind only? Use scent control products? Use cover scents? Or, use a combination of the three?
For me I hunt the wind and work my hardest to control my scent. I haven't had much luck with cover scents. But in all fairness to these products, I was not good at scent control and hunting the wind when I did use these products. That is what is prompting this blog entry. Can I integrate these into my existing process?
To start off, I thought I would list my current process below:
1. Wash clothes in machine with scent free soap.
2. Dry with scent free dryer sheet.
3. Place in Rubbermaid tote and use Log6 Ozone Machine for the clothes, boots, and as much gear as possible.
4. Rubbermaid tote previously washed with scent free soap.
5. Shower with scent free soap and shampoo / use scent free deodorant.
6. Use a set of towels to wash and dry off that are washed in scent free detergent only and stored in a separate scent free bag.
7. Stripe down to underwear at the truck and change into clothes from totes.
8. Store back pack and rubber boots in Rubbermaid totes.
9. Stand on a plastic car floor mat when changing (stored in tote).
10. Use military chemical suite as a layer given the higher percentage of activated carbon.
11. Spray down with scent free sprays when dressed.
12. Spray down all gear each time entering the field.
13. Hunt the wind the best I can (big emphasis)
14. Reverse the process (minus the spraying) when returning to the truck.
15. I never run the truck when outside to prevent the exhaust from contaminating me and the clothing.
Some products I am interested in using to help cover / control scent in the field are Evercalm and the Ozonics machine. I like the concept of both, but have my reservations. As with all products to control / cover scent, how do you prove there effectiveness? I believe in activated carbon as I am very familiar with how it absorbs volatile organic compounds (VOCs) found in products such as acetone and gasoline. This is used in air purifying respirators to protect employees. I believe in scent control sprays due to the in field evidence I have witnessed.
My concern with Evercalm is how do we know it actually calms deer and makes them feel secure when you are immediately in the area and ready to kill? I guess I simply need to try it. I've thought about using it on a small tree when hunting the SE corner of my property. This area is low impact to the bedding areas, but still has deer moving through to travel from bedding areas to feed in the adjacent corn field. Maybe I can witness body language of an alpha doe that appears calm and relaxed. Or I could try it when the wind isn't right. I just saw a commercial this morning featuring Adam Hays pushing the Evercalm product. Doing some research, I found the article below detailing why he uses this product.
Adam visits the Lonesome Elk Archery Shop north of Terre Haute, IN that I also frequent. Although I've never run into him there, I always get a text or call that I just missed him. I have a great respect for Adam, but frankly I'm not enamored with movie stars as they are simply people (no offense to Adam). What I would like to talk with Adam about is simply hunting. He has the same passion as I and he is obviously more successful than I am. I'd like to ask Adam more questions about this product and his experiences. I'd like to ask him other questions about how he finds and gets close to 200" bucks. The only suggestion I would have for Adam is to add an "e" to his last name (that is supposed to be a joke).
Ozonics is another interesting product. I use the Log6 ozone machine to help kill and control scent on my gear and clothes. I'm considering using this also on my truck cab regularly. Therefore, I believe in the effects of ozone. Where I become skeptical is the concept of actually generating Ozone in the woods. I question how quickly the Ozone would degenerate to simple Oxygen molecules. Ozone is found in normal atmosphere, but at very, very low levels. Since I can smell the Ozone from my Log6 machine, I find it hard to believe the deer would not smell it from the Ozonics machine. Maybe they do smell it and just consider it a part of nature?
Refer to this link to read more about Ozone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone. I also want to stress that Ozone is recognized as a respiratory irritant. Hanging a machine directly over my head in the stand doesn't really sound like a good thing to me. I realize the levels are low and will disperse quickly, but I'd rather not breath any of this into my lungs and have it irritate my eyes. Please comment to this blog if you use this product and are not having any irritation when used in the woods.
At the end of the day, each of us has to use our own system. The key is having confidence when in the woods. My system gives me confidence and I will continue to modify this process and introduce other steps (e.g., Jim Ward's Extreme Scent Control Process....scroll down the page to see the video). Good luck and keep sending in your entries to the ATW Big Buck Contest.
I'd like to announce the introduction of the All Things Whitetail Big Buck Contest for the 2013 Hunting Season. I realize this should have been announced prior to the start of the season, but I just thought about it this morning getting ready for work. If you have already harvested a deer this season, please enter anyway. Anyone can enter and I'll explain the contest rules and details below.
Before we get too far into this, I just want to make it clear that I don't have any prizes being offered up for the contest winner. I guess I could send the winner an old trail camera that is broken. I'd be open to suggestions on what the winning prize should be that is fun and doesn't cost anything. If that offends anyone sorry....I've got four kids I'm raising from 8 to 15 years old, so let's just say I don't have disposable cash. I thought a contest would be something fun to show off everyone's harvest this year. Depending on how many entries we get, I may end up designating a single page to post pictures of the entrants and enable voting on the winner(s).
1. Entry must be done so using the honor system. We obviously cannot prove if you shot it this year or previously.
2. Anyone can enter, with entry of your kids deer encouraged.
3. At the end of the season, I will allow all visitors to vote on a winner.
4. Pending the entries, we may develop different categories not just biggest buck (e.g., kid's first deer, largest doe, etc.)
5. Entrants must submit a photo, name of successful hunter, date of harvest, and score (if available). Send email to email@example.com.
6. This is designed to be fun! Don't take this too seriously. We want to show off the success of others. No jealousy related comments on any blog will be allowed. I will screen all comments and delete those I feel are not appropriate.
7. If there are any details or rules forgotten at this point, I reserve the right to make changes in the middle of the contest as I see fit (benefit of running this web site). I will be as fair as possible.
Good luck and check back regularly for contest entries.
The pictures below are of a very special buck for me. Online I use the third photo as my avatar. Not just because it is a good picture of a nice buck, but what this buck represents. It represents the challenge associated with harvesting a mature deer. It represents speed, intelligence, dominance, and what was the beginning as a new land owner.
I saw this buck on the hoof two different times, but never within bow range. I could have shot him easily with a gun, but that would have been a personal let down. To this day, I do not know what happened to this buck. It might have been poached, hit by a vehicle, died of old age (doubtful), EHD, or may be legally on someone's wall this very moment. The latter would be the preferred.
I bought the property in November of 2006. This was the first substantial buck I ever got photos of with a trail camera on the property. And wow what a find! I was so excited the first time I pulled the camera card and saw this buck in velvet (6/28/07). This was the first time I ever understood that bucks had a core area. As you can see, I was able to get more than just one picture of him proving he was using our 63 acres regularly. Of the five pictures below, four of the photos are at different locations on our property. These pictures were also the first indication that bucks travel a circular pattern on my property.
In May 2007, we cleared the main plots. That November I sat in the middle of the horseshoe in a tulip poplar tree. It was cold, rainy, and drizzling all day long. The rut was in full swing and in the middle of the afternoon, I got my first view of Zilla as he became known by me and my kids. He didn't step out into the plot. Instead he hung back standing just behind the row of fallen trees that were pushed into place by the dozer when the plot was cleared. All I could see was his rack and a portion of his head. There was no mistaking through the binoculars that this was him. The rack was unique and this was his core area.
What transpired next was unlike anything I have ever seen. Another nice 10 pt. buck decided to challenge Zilla, which proved to be a mistake. Over the next few minutes, what seemed like hours, Zilla tore the woods apart chasing after this buck. They knocked over small saplings, snapping them in two like small kindling. The grunts and growls echoing through the woods. Finally the smaller buck decided it was over and left the scene. Zilla stood just off of the edge of the plot. I could see the cloud of breath rising up around his rack through the binoculars as he rested following the fight. He stood there in victory and owned that small area of the woods.
I grunted at him, but he just stood there staring in my direction. I didn't know about the snort-wheeze back then and hate to think this could have been the one tool needed to draw him out. I watched in agony as he eventually walked away, disappearing into the woods. I stood there wet from the rain, but in total shock at what occurred. That evening I realized how special that day would be and why this property was perfect.
A couple of days later I hunted from the same stand. This would be the last time I ever saw Zilla in person. It was almost dark before he entered the field. This time he came within 50 yards. I drew back just to see if I could even see the pins, but there wasn't enough light. He chased several does around the field grunting deeply. I could not shoot risking a non-fatal injury given the distance and lack of light. I respected him too much after the show he gave me the previous hunt, plus I hoped there would be a third opportunity. Even knowing I was not going to shoot, my knees knocked something terrible from the rush of adrenalin.
Some hunters never even see a buck this magnificent. It may not be a 200" buck, but to me this buck was the reason I worked so hard to buy the property. These two interactions with one special deer help fuel my fire when it comes to hunting. The habitat improvements worked on are for the next special buck like Zilla. I hope some day to see another Zilla. When that happens, I'll simply name him Zilla Junior.
Since I've stayed off of the property to let the herd settle in, I thought I'd discuss what the deer season means to me as the '13 Indiana Deer Season officially began October 1st. As with most of you, each hunting season begins with the hopes of a successful hunt. That is why we hunt, but what specifically drives each of you to hunt? For me, it is all of the following and then some.
I admit I am a trophy hunter. Admitting your problem is the first step towards recovery. I want to harvest a bigger mature buck each year. At some point I realize, I might reach a ceiling, but I think it will be some time before that happens. This is especially true since I started at 122". My second buck last year scored 130.475. If I work this spread each year, my target score this year will be 138". Again...it will be a while before I hit the ceiling. However, I also realize that you need to go after the biggest buck the property you hunt offers from year-to-year. This means investing several long hours in the woods under good weather conditions and sometimes terrible weather conditions. I plan on accomplishing my goal each year.
Aside from the above, I also have a goal of getting my oldest daughter her first deer with a bow. I work hard to get her in a position to shoot a deer. Unfortunately last season, she stuck a good doe that was not recovered. Her shot was just above the lungs in the area where many deer survive. She plans on filling a tag this year.
The challenge for me is trying to figure out the mature buck and where he is going to be. Which stand should I hunt today? What are the weather and wind conditions and how do they play into the situation? How do I get within range? If he comes into range, at what point will I draw back to shoot? Should I bleat at him with my mouth to get him to stop, or shoot him while he is walking? How do I stay razor sharp and ready to shoot since the opportunity develops quickly and can be over just as quick? I also like the challenge of preparing and staying organized with my equipment and gear. I want to experience the physical challenges of sitting in the stand all day and dealing with weather extremes. Sometimes it is necessary to deal with the mental challenge of a season that doesn't present any shot opportunities. Other times, it is difficult dealing with the mental challenge after missing or screwing up the perfect opportunity. Either way, hunting with a bow for a mature buck is a challenge.
Confidence is critical to my hunting season and I look forward to building each year on my confidence. Jim Ward has told me the last few years that I have to enter the woods each time confident that I will shoot a mature buck. You have to be ready for and willing to commit premeditated murder of a mature buck. That thought process has helped me. Last year for example, I told my wife after the kids ball game that I had a north wind and I was going to go shoot the big buck I had pictures of on camera. I believe she thought it was just another typical hunt as I always say this. Fortunately, everything came together and I had the confidence to make a good shot. Prior to '11, I had not ever shot a good buck going back to the age of 13. Keeping confidence was very difficult all of those years.
Watching the wildlife is probably the most entertaining part of sitting on stand several hours. I am always amazed at how the animals go about their business and feel privileged to go undetected while getting a glimpse into their world. How do chipmunks move so lightening fast? And where do they disappear to? I enjoy watching various birds and how they move through the woods. My favorites are hawks and owls. I had an owl swoop in below my stand, turn upward, and land on the limb right above me one morning right at first light. I almost peed my pants. He sat there for several seconds, which seemed like minutes until finally diving off of the limb. Sights I love to see during the season are the first movement of a deer rack through the woods, scrapes, rubs, watching bucks spar, bucks chasing does, body language of a deer as it tries to detect me. Hopefully I'll be watching a buck run away after a pass through double lung shot.
Listening to the woods is also a great part of the hunting season. For example, the first time a squirrel is in the dry leaves, I have to calibrate my ears to that distinct sound and pattern. Otherwise, you will break your neck looking for squirrels throughout the day thinking it might be a deer sneaking up on you. I also look forward to sounds like the local farmer that has fired up his grain bin dryer fan. It amazes me how far that sound can travel on a frosty fall morning. It is also interesting how it can fill your ear when you are trying to listen for deer moving in.
Birds play a huge role in the sounds of the woods. Hawks calling out makes me look skyward in hopes of seeing them glide overhead. Crows and their social calling network are definitely interesting, but ongoing begin to annoy. The small birds are beautiful to watch and listen to as they look for food and insects. Coyotes calling out at sunset always make me try to figure out where they are located. I love when a squirrel barks signalling that deer are on the move or in their vicinity. Other sounds I look forward to are the snort-wheeze, grunt, doe bleat, sound of the arrow smacking the deer, sound of the deer crashing as it expires, sound of my heart coming out of my chest.
There is no denying all of the above is what drives me to work so hard between the seasons. Food plots, building buck beds, screening cover, making trails, timber stand improvements, and setting stands are enjoyable to me. However, these are just steps to get to this time of year. Now it is time to celebrate the hard work, face the challenges of this season, and achieve the goals.
Make sure you comment on what this season means to you.
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.