Shed Hunting: Why Some Bucks Drop Antlers in December or Early January

first shed 2017

Kelly aka “Shedhunter” from South Dakota sent this picture of a fresh shed he found the other day, and it got me to wondering:

What causes bucks in some areas to shed their antlers early in late December or early January?

QDMA biologist Kip Adams points to a couple of things. “Nutrition is important, as bucks in good physical condition generally retain their antlers longer than those who are nutritionally stressed,” he says. “Widespread early antler casting (in your area) may signify a nutritionally stressed herd resulting from too many deer for what the habitat can support.”

Also, Kip says that in northern states mature bucks typically shed antlers earlier than younger, smaller deer. “(Older) bucks skip many meals during the breeding season, and those that rut hard may be in poor post-rut condition… even when abundant (food) is available. These bucks are choice candidates for early antler casting.”


Indiana Bow: Bleat Calling Bucks in the Rut

I got this email from Kenny from back in 2014:

South in kenny 1

Mike: I watch your TV show all the time and want to thank you for the great information on deer hunting. I watched the recent episode “10 things to know about the whitetail rut” and took your advice. I hunted every day from November 8th to the 11th (Veterans Day); you said in the show that these were the best days of the season.

I grunted, rattled and used a bleat can, as you suggested in the show. I called in and shot the biggest deer of my life! Shot him from a ground blind at 28 yards with my Hoyt Faktor. –Thanks again, Kenny Kyte from southern Indiana

P.S., I’ve already scheduled my vacation for November 8-11 for next deer season

I got this email from Kenny last month: 

south in kenny 2

Mike: I was unsuccessful in 2015. But on Veteran’s Day 2016 I was able to use your rut tactics once again to be successful in the deer woods. I was able to call in this buck not once, but twice. I had been in the stand for about 35 minutes and hit the bleat call. He came right in, but I didn’t have a good shot, so I let him walk. I waited about 30 minutes and hit the bleat can again. The buck came running to me! I didn’t let him get away for the 2nd time.

Needless to say, I’ve had my best days in the woods November 8 to 11…2 bucks in 3 years on Veteran’s Day. Thanks again for the advice.–Kenny


Photos: 3 Big Bucks from 2016

Three gentlemen sent me photos of bucks from the 2016 season:

3 big bucks 2016

Mike, I’m 39 years old and have been hunting for as long as I can remember. I’ve always managed to fill the freezer with meat but never was able to get my “trophy buck.” That all changed for me this year–15 point, double drop tine. Woohoo!–Mark

3 big bucks 2016 2

Hi Mike. My father bowhunted this deer in November on our farm in Kansas. He took a shot at it and skimmed his belly. Dad was devastated, but kept his head held high for his return trip in December. He went back a couple weeks later and the buck reappeared! Dad was fortunate to kill him with the muzzleloader at 30 yards, he was thrilled!—Luke Vojtko

3 big bucks 2016 3

Hello Mike: I realized the other day that we are neighbors when I saw you walking your dog down the road. I’d like to share a local Virginia deer. I’m a member of a hunt club, and we try our best not to judge a buck by the size of the rack, but by its age. Not that we don’t like a big rack! I took this buck in late November with a rifle. The taxidermist guessed him to be 6.5 but we will know for sure in the spring, as we are involved in the DMAP program and send in the jawbones to the DGIF.—Thanks for your time and safe hunting, Kevin Brower

Fantastic bucks, congrats men! Trying to get further info from Mark on the first monster, you know how I love drop tines!

New Mexico: Hunting Guide, Client Wounded in Alleged Kidnapping on Border

nm guide woundedOne of my favorite places to hunt used to be down in the extreme southwest near the border of Mexico, or inside northern Mexico for that matter. It is intriguing desert country that teems with deer and other game, and the weather is fantastic this time of year.

Notice I say “used to be.”

With the crime along the border—drugs, kidnappings, beheadings– no deer or sheep is worth the risk to me. The border country from South Texas and to the west is vast, remote, uninhabited and wild; if you even consider booking a hunt down there, plan carefully, do your homework and be damn careful.

If this reported shootout is accurate, it’s just another justification to build the wall, and build it fast.

5 Tips for Hunting Late-Season Bucks

snow hanback compressWe have 2 more days to hunt here in Virginia, and my friends Jack and Cecil are hunting hard, with our eyes on two bucks that have eluded us all season. If you’re still hunting into January too, try these 5 tips.

Get the wind perfect: Back in October and especially during the November rut you predicted but never really knew from which direction a buck would come. So sometimes you cheated and hunted a stand on a couple different winds, and that worked out okay. But now there is only one good wind and little margin for error.

In the evenings, deer move straight from their beds to a harvested cornfield or soybean field–anywhere they can find last scraps of food. When you hunt there, the wind can’t blow back toward a bedding cover, and it can’t swirl out into a field where the does will pop out first. Set up downwind of a trail or funnel where your scent will blow back into a dead zone in the timber where no deer will hopefully come out. If just one doe winds you and starts blowing, you won’t see a buck that night.

Go for perfect access: With deer stressed and wired in winter, access to your stand is critical. Try to slip into and out of a spot without a single deer seeing you. If you can’t use something like a ditch or creek bank to cover your moves, don’t risk it. If you bump one doe you’ll spook a bunch of deer. They’ll blow out of the area and they’ll probably change their pattern. Sneak to your stand early in the afternoon—at least 3 hours before dark—so no deer will spot you.

Track a buck: Late in the morning, if you cut a big, fresh track in snow, follow it awhile. If you see by the buck’s stride that he is slowing down, stop, wait and glass hard. Check as far as you can out front, and 100 yards off to each side of the trail, since the buck might have fish-hooked. Snow on the ground helps you spot deer.

Watch fringes: Watch the fringes of pine, cedar or honeysuckle thickets. Bucks love to run those green edges between bedding and feeding areas, moving along the strips where they feel some security.

Play off the pressure: The last couple days of the season, you might hear people making a last-ditch drive on an adjacent farm or woods. If so, hike up a ridge or hill and watch thickets on your side of the fence (stay well inside your property and be extra careful where you aim and shoot). There is good chance some does and maybe a buck spooked by those hunters might jump the fence and come flagging your way. Imagine the look on those guys’ faces when your gun cracks and you score at the buzzer!