Texas Boy Shoots First Buck

TX wesley sToday’s guest post from my friend Eddie Stevenson, a charter member of the BIG DEER Hunt Team…and a proud papa:

My 6-year-old son Wesley told me back in early summer that he was ready to hunt. He’s still too small for anything with much recoil, so I decided to let him start practicing with the crossbow.

He’s a natural shooter and quickly began hitting the bull-seye with nearly every shot out to 30 yards.

We’ve been watching deer on trail cameras since June, and he’s become familiar with all the different deer on the property. On Friday afternoon, he told me that he was ready to hunt and really wanted to shoot a deer. With multiple bucks coming by our ground blind near Uvalde, Texas, I know it wouldn’t be too much of a wait.

After only 30 minutes in the blind, this 10-point came out and began feeding just 20 yards from the blind and directly in front of us. I whispered to Wesley about how important it was to wait for the perfect broadside shot and exactly where he should aim.

After about 10 minutes without a shot opportunity, Wesley asked me to please quit shaking because I was going to make him nervous!

Eventually the buck turned perfectly broadside and Wesley squeezed the trigger like a seasoned pro. The double lunged buck only ran about 60 yards and was down for good. Wesley helped track all the way and was absolutely ecstatic!

I’ve hunted for 40 years now, and all over the world, but I can honestly say this was the most satisfying hunt of all.—Thanks, Eddie

Great job Wes and Eddie, proud of ya’ll!

How Many Deer Breed in October?

MN oct rut

Some whitetail does come into estrus in October, as evidenced by the first bump in the chart above from the Minnesota DNR.

But October breeding is spotty and hit-and-miss. If you’re lucky and in the right spot when a doe comes into early estrus, you are apt to see her come past your stand with one or two tongue-lolling bucks on her tail…or 5 or 6 or even more. But it rarely works out that way.

A study in Michigan points out the norm: 80-90% of does are bred in November, with only about 5% bred in the October mini-rut.

But as soon as a buck sheds his velvet in September he’s ready, willing and able to hump a hot doe, no matter the date, be it October 15 or December 8 (also evident in the chart is more late breeding than most hunters imagine).

Our friend Dr. Grant Woods adds a clarification to a common misconception: “It’s important for hunters to consider that the increased rut behavior of bucks right now in October and the peak of doe conception are not simultaneous.”

The bucks you see prowling, scraping and even sniffing at does right now are exhibiting normal pre-rut activity, whether there’s a hot early doe in the area or not.

Regardless of how few does are actually ready to breed now in October, the bucks are starting to move, and it’s only going to get better!

Texas Buck: Rare Third Antler Back Of Skull!

tx unicornHi Mike: I just shot a nice 8-point buck on our property in Montague, Texas. I didn’t even notice until we got him back to the camp that he had a small additional antler! Never hearing of this before, I rushed to research. So far, what I’ve gathered is that the frontal skull lobe is capable of growing additional beams or tines if a buck is injured. But my buck’s additional antler is actually behind the main antlers, not on the frontal lobe. Have you heard of any other places on the skull for these “unis” to grow other than the frontal lobe or facial area? I’m not finding very much in general about this, your blogs on unicorns have been the most helpful.

BTW, I took the buck to a taxidermist, who said he has been mounting deer for over 40 years and has only come across 2 “uni antlers,” one of which extended from above the eye and the other in the middle of the frontal lobe.–Tammy D.

While I have research and posted on multiple unicorn bucks, I had never heard of a third antler growing out the back of the skull, so I ran it by scientist Grant Woods who said:

Mike: I’ve seen a few images similar to the one you shared. Sometimes bucks have an accident which results in an injury and the pedicle and the antler grows in an odd shape or angle there. It’s also my understanding that pedicle cells can grow almost anywhere (on the skull).  A very small percentage of bucks are born with some pedicle cells in abnormal places and grow small antlers there. I suspect that’s the explanation for why this buck has a third antler. This is certainly a unique trophy!–Grant


Skin A Deer With An Air Compressor

air comThis infographic from Quincy Compressor got my attention, what do you think?

Step 1: Hang Your Deer

You start out the same way you would normally skin a deer. There are different thoughts about if it’s better to hang the deer head up or head down, but we’ve found that when you’re using an air compressor it doesn’t make a difference. Pick whichever way you’d like or are used to and hang the deer at a level where you can easily reach the whole thing.


Step 2: Cut A Hole

Once your deer is hanging securely, it’s time to make the first cut. Use a knife to cut a small hole in the skin that covers the deer’s thigh. This hole should be just big enough to fit the nozzle of the air compressor. Ideally you want to make it so that no air can get out once you have the nozzle in. If you find that you’ve made the hole too big you can put a piece of cloth or tape around the nozzle so it fits.

Step 3: Insert Nozzle

Next, simply insert the nozzle from the air compressor into the hole you made in the deer’s thigh. If it doesn’t fit, either make the hole larger or use tape or cloth around the nozzle to make it air tight.

Step 4: Turn On The Air

Now it’s time for the fun part. Turn on the air compressor and watch as the deer starts to puff up light a balloon! What happens is that the force of the air pushes under the skin and causes it to push itself off of the meat. The air separates the skin cleanly and neatly without causing any meat to go to waste.

Step 5: Repeat As Needed

Usually this works very well, but every once in a while there will there be parts that are still stuck. If that happens, simply cut another hole near that spot and repeat the previous steps. After doing this a couple times you’ll have the skin completely separated from the rest of the deer.

Step 6: Skin The Deer

Last, all you have to do is cut the skin along the deer’s back legs and then start to peel. The skin should be very loose from the air. Start at the top and peel the skin downward. Use a knife to cut through any spots that still might be stuck.

Then just like that, you’re done! You’ll have a perfectly skinned dear without any wasted meat.

I am looking for a few volunteers who own compressors to try it this season. Then write me a review and email, with pictures. I’ll send you a BIG DEER cap and some other cool swag.

4 Deer Calling/Rattling Tips

bowhunter rattling calling deer

One October morning in South Dakota, I saw a 150-class buck duck into a ditch with a doe. I clicked my rattling horns four times. The big boy charged 10 yards out of the cover, stamped his foot and looked for the interlopers before he ducked back into the cover with his girl. I clicked them again, harder and louder. He bolted out and ran 40 yards closer, but he was still 50 yards out of bow range. While I didn’t get him, at least I had a chance and a fun close encounter. The point: You have nothing to lose by calling to any rutting buck you see; sometimes a few horn clacks or grunts are all it takes.


If you were a horny buck which sound would you run to? The clatter of antlers, a deep-throated buck grunt or the meeaaa, meeaaa of a hot doe. You won’t hear the estrus bleat very often if ever in the woods (I’ve heard it only a few times in all my years of hunting) but it’s worth a shot in the rut. The bleat is easiest to make on a can call; just turn it up and back down to fill the woods with sexy bleats that might bring a 10-pointer running. Stranger things have happened.

Let’s say one morning soon you hear loud, deep-pitched grunts resonating from a thicket or draw. Get ready! Chances are a buck has cornered a doe and he’s courting her with “gargling grunts” (biologists call them tending grunts). If the gal is not ready to stand and breed, she’ll bust out of there with the crazed boy hot on her heels. They might come past you if you’re lucky, or circle back into bow range. Stop the buck with a grunt—draw before you call—and shoot if you can.

Whether rattling or “blind grunting” (no buck in sight), set up against thick cover and with the sun at your back. You’ll be hidden in the shadows, and if a buck responds it will be easy to see when sunlight glints off his antlers or hide. Better yet, you’ll trick a buck into thinking deer are fighting, tending or breeding does in brush 50 to 100 yards behind you. That forces him to keep looking, listening and, most importantly, moving your way and into bow range.