Oregon: Coastal Blacktail Longbow Buck

Guest blog from my young friend and adventurer Austin Manelick. A “ghost of the coast” with a longbow and cedar shaft is a great accomplishment: 

or austin 1There’s something special about the Oregon blacktail deer, one of Fred Bear’s favorite species to hunt. Roaming the coastal forests of the Cascades with stick and string chasing the ghost of the coast is a soul-cleansing experience.

I found this buck while running through the woods back to my vehicle.  I was in a hurry to get back to my car and had let my guard down completely. The chunk of national forest I was hunting paralleled a busy back road adjacent to the Pacific Ocean.  Out of nowhere a buck sprung from his bed and paused at 20 yards.

Another buck stood up, looking curiously in the direction of the commotion about 15 yards away. The second buck looked odd; his antler appeared to have grown directly down the side of his face, or maybe he was about to lose his antler.  Either way both of these bucks were in my shooting range and just needed to present their vitals.

They positioned themselves quartering to me and were surrounded by a maze of downed Douglas firs.  After a few minutes the bucks turned and started to walk off when I grabbed my buck call and softly grunted once.  The bucks paused, and another stand-off ensued, all of our eyes dead locked on each other.

The deer began to lose curiosity and started to walk off. As I leaned forward and rolled my shoulders, my rattling antlers swung from my neck and clashed into each other.  The droopy antlered buck could not believe his ears and walked to 8 yards in search of this mystery buck!

I came to full draw as the animal turned broadside, and the cedar shaft did the rest of the work.  Heading to the location of arrow impact, I found the buck and then his oddly drooped antler on the forest floor, and immediately started to come up with theories (3) on how this buck’s beam had become deformed:

  1. The buck was not shedding his antler…the antler’s pedicle had been crushed against his skull plate. I found that the pedicle and crushed skull plate had healed themselves prior to the growing of his antler.
  2. His deformed antler had abscessed and was connected to the pedicle by a small chunk of bone.
  3. As he took off from the arrow’s impact, he bumped his antler on a tree and it simply popped right off his head.

Theory Conclusion: He was hit by a car on the busy road last winter and had some time to heal his broken skull plate and pedicle. He then grew his funky drop antler during the summer.

This hunt occurred in the Suislaw National Forest.

60lb@28 take-down longbow and Port Orford cedar shafts by Rose City Archery, “Retro Bear Arrows.”

Thanks Mike!—Austin

or austin 2

Alberta: New World Record Bighorn Sheep

alberta sheepA bighorn sheep killed in a highway collision in Alberta has the largest horns ever recorded for the species. Boone and Crockett Club measurers recently certified it as the new world record.

The horns’ final score of 209 4/8 B&C edged out the previous record, another ram from Alberta that scored 208 3/8. That animal was shot by hunter Guinn Crousen in 2000.

The new #1 ram was hit by a vehicle on a highway west of Longview, Alberta. A local rancher who knew of the ram and found the animal on his property obtained a possession permit from Alberta Fish & Wildlife.

He said, “This ram and a younger ram had lived on the ranch where I worked since 2009. The older ram would go down to the highway a couple times a month, but the younger ram would rarely follow. We always wondered if one of these trips to the highway would be his last.”

Bighorns are unquestionably one of the most magnificent animals on Earth. We encountered and filmed two nice rams on a mule deer hunt in Oregon last fall. It’s cool and unique footage for a new episode of #bigdeertv to air later this year.



Hunting TV: Why I Air No-Kill Episodes

tx sunsetIn the last couple of seasons of BIG DEER TV, we have aired episodes from Wisconsin, New York, Montana and other places where we hunted hard, had fun and did not shoot a buck. Those “no kill” shows were some of our most popular and highly rated episodes.

One good trend in hunting TV is that more and more viewers want to see and hear the real story, whether it ends with a buck or not, and more and more producers and network executives are getting that, albeit slowly.

Every time somebody questions me on whether we ought to air a no-kill episode or not, I point them to this letter I got one time from a viewer:

Mike: I want to tell you that I appreciated and enjoyed your recent show at Mouse River, ND. I enjoyed it for reasons you, and your producers likely did not–you didn’t get a deer. I appreciate you showing the truth and reality that the vast majority of us experience. Most of us hunt for days and weeks, and sometimes we come home with nothing but knowledge, experience and memories…also known as the important stuff.

I’m sitting in a cheap motel room in St. Ignace, MI. I’m here for 2 days to scout and set up some natural ground blinds on State Land for the upcoming bow and gun season. Two days in the heat, bugs, poison ivy and spiders just to increase our group’s chances of harvesting a deer this year. The State Land we hunt on doesn’t hold a lot of deer, but we’ve taken 3 mature bucks in the 4 past years. That equates to each dedicated hunter with a 1 in 4 odds of taking a mature buck in a given year. Last year I left empty-handed, but full-hearted. I spent over 120 hours hunting w/bow, rifle and muzzleloader. I passed on some spikes, couldn’t shoot the does, and never had a shot at the big boys.

We have access to properties in southern Michigan and have better luck putting venison in the freezer. But just shooting a deer isn’t what we’re after. We love the challenge of hunting the big northern woods. We accept the fact that our chance for the traditional definition of “success” is limited, but the experience is worth that sacrifice.

Your shows support that ideal; that “success” is no substitute for a challenge accepted.

For your producers and sponsors who wonder if my opinion is worth a damn in their financial models: I’m a 33 year old white male with an MBA from a Big Ten school working in the finance department for a major US corporation in metro-Detroit. I spend $1,000 a year in hunting equipment and fees. I spend roughly 25 days afield hunting whitetails. I watch the hunting channels religiously. I’m tired of seeing people shoot huge bucks in private, high-dollar, sometimes high-fenced places. I cannot relate to that experience. But I can relate to a hard hunt that doesn’t come to fruition. Thanks again for showing it once in a while. Kind Regards, —Paul from MI.

New Science: Deer Eat Eggs, Baby Birds

quail eggsFor years here in VA we have been blaming critters like raccoons, skunks and opossums for for preying on quail nests and contributing to the decline of wild birds here, but could another nest predator be to blame?

Whitetail deer!

Nola.com: Pam Pietz, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center in North Dakota, set up miniature video cameras that ran 24 hours a day to document the fate of grassland songbird nests. She was surprised to find deer raided as many nests as badgers, and more than weasels or red foxes.

I can see a deer munching songbird or quail eggs if it happens across them, but Pietz’s research found they will also eat tiny unborn birds in a nest!

Biologists say that whitetails probably don’t go looking for nests to raid, but if they stumble across a nest full of eggs or babies they consume them and move on. And It does not appear to happen enough to be a major factor in the decline of wild quail or other bird populations.

The world of the whitetail sure is fascinating.

Crossbow Debate: A Deer Scientist’s Perspective

I got this email one time from one of the top whitetail biologists in America. He said I could use his name if I wanted to post it, but I have decided to keep it mum because there is a still small but vocal minority of crossbow haters out there, and I don’t want this man to get a bunch of hate mail. (BTW, it is not Grant Woods, whom I quote often on the blog.) The scientist wrote:

Mike: I have enjoyed your articles and posts on the use of crossbows in archery seasons over the years, and feel you have been as unbiased as possible. While the crossbow debate has lost some vigor in recent years, it can still bring out the passion on both sides of the isle.

crossbow for web

People ask me what I think about the crossbow from a deer manager’s point of view. In my opinion it is a short-range weapon and therefore identical to the recurve, long bow and compound bow in this regard. I believe that hunters should be allowed to use the most accurate weapon of their choice, as long as it is a short-range weapon, during any open archery season.

I would further argue that crossbows can be used more accurately than recurves, long bows or compound bows by a wider range of hunters. Therefore, crossbow use would not only likely increase hunter participation, but also simultaneously reduce per hunter crippling losses. Our resource, the nation’s white-tailed deer and other big game herds, would be better served as a result.