BIG DEER TV 2016 Episode 1: Kodiak Alaska

ak hanback stalk

It’s premiere week on Sportsman Channel, and new episodes of BIG DEER TV begin airing this Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. ET. Set your DVR!

In episode 1 this week, show producer Justin, cameramen Bill and Christian, and I set forth on the biggest and boldest BIG DEER adventure yet, a do-it-yourself hunt for blacktail deer on Kodiak Island, Alaska.

ak fly in

Last October we flew into the town of Kodiak and from there took a bush plane to Larsen Bay, where we met up with Mike Flores, our captain and transporter. We boarded the 47-foot Arctic Endeavor, our home for the week, and motored out into Larsen Bay and the amazing waters beyond.

ak boat hunt

I had hunted in Alaska 5 times, but not for many years and never for Stika blacktail. This was my first to the Kodiak region. As we motored out, the sky was clear and spectacular and vast, the seas calm. Whales danced and dove alongside the boat. We spotted a few deer, and then the ultimate symbol of Kodiak, a 1,000-pound brown bear.

Ak feeling small

As you’ll see when the hunting begins, it’s not easy. Kodiak is big and rough and thick and wild and raw–the way hunting country ought to be. You sink in bogs, bust brush, climb hills and mountains that never end. You slip and fall and sweat and bleed and cuss, and you love and savor every minute of it.

Set your DVR right now to record every episode of BIG DEER every Wednesday at 7:00 pm ET, beginning June 29. Thanks for watching, I truly appreciate your incredible support.

Deer Habitat: Best Food and Cover

December06bucksandsheds0102(Small)My favorite science blog, Deer Forest Study, posted on the ideal habitat for whitetails, and from that post here are important things you need to know about deer food and cover.

BEST DEER FOOD: Early successional forest (regenerating stands of woods less than 6-8 years old) provides 1,000-2,000 pounds per acre of woody browse, forbs and soft mast.  This type woods habitat can support about 60 deer/square mile during the winter, far surpassing other forest age classes.

Do you hunt a woods like that? Is that where you find deer feeding?

Biologist Jeannine Fleegle points out that the list of food for deer is long and varied and includes browse, forbs, grasses, mast, fungi, algae and even mosses. It is no secret that acorns are a favorite on the list.  If they are available, (acorns) dominate their diet in fall and winter. Deer ate about 1.5 pounds of acorns daily per hundred pounds of body weight in a feeding experiment.  Deer can sustain a maximum of 30% weight loss during winter.  More than that and they die of malnutrition…. It’s easy to see why (acorns) are so important.

BEST DEER COVER: Jeannine says, “Everybody needs a safe, comfortable place to sleep, even deer!” Deer use cover for protection from predators and temperature.  Security cover is vegetation thick enough to hide 90% of a deer from observation at a distance of 200 feet or less. That’s pretty thick.  Saplings and shrubs can do the job very well. 

Remember that. Is that thicket 66 yards up ahead dense enough to hide 90% of a bedded or standing buck? Think like that when you sneaking toward a stand, or still-hunting.

BIG TAKEAWAY: The biologist notes the importance of how the food and cover are distributed in your hunting area. Deer, generally speaking, won’t use forage areas more than 600 feet (200 yards) from security cover.

I’ve been writing that and saying it on TV for years: The closer your stands on the downwind side of thick cover the better, BUT you have to be able to enter and leave those stands without busting and spooking deer. You CANNOT walk through or too close to thick cover when coming or going, ALWAYS skirt well away from it on the downwind side.

Virginia: Monster Buck (201 7/8”) to Appear on BIG DEER TV

va jimmy compress

The new season of Big Deer TV premieres in July on Sportsman Channel and airs through the end of the year. More later on days and air times.

One of the episodes we’re working on right now is a compilation of conversations and interviews I’ve had with regular hunters across the nation who have shot monster whitetails. I love to hear these guys tell their stories of the 180- to 200-inch dream bucks they shot, and I think you will too.

One of those stories comes from Virginia and really hits home. The giant was shot less than 30 miles from my house by a great old country boy, Jimmy Taylor. Actually Jimmy and his buck appeared briefly on my show 4 years ago, but in the new episode we expand the story, which goes like this:

On November 17, 2007, Jimmy, who works at the farmer’s coop and takes his vacation every year during the first week of the VA rifle season, climbed into his ladder stand about 4 PM. His brother had killed a good buck that morning, and he was riding Jimmy pretty hard about it, bragging and getting away with it as only a brother can.

Jimmy heard crunching in the leaves and saw a doe. “She was really small,” he remembers. He heard more hoofs—a huge deer was behind her, “just meandering slowly, taking his time,” Jimmy said. With more than 40 years of deer hunting under his belt, Jimmy knew the buck was big, so he raised his .270 and fired.

It was a 90-yard shot, and the 150-grain Core-Lokt dropped the buck on the spot. Jimmy walked over to it about fell over! “I knew he was big when I saw him, but man I didn’t know he was that big!”

Jimmy had never seen the monster before, nor had anybody else. That is takeaway #1 from this story. Isn’t it fascinating how a world-class deer can come out of the woodwork, never having been seen before, dragged out into the open one November day by a sweet-smelling doe?

This was an incredible deer from a region known for some good bucks, but rarely if ever a 200-incher. So remember, you might kill your dream buck anywhere, anytime. Don’t get discouraged if you’ve haven’t seen or shot a good buck in a while, maybe this will be your year.

Jimmy’s brother heard the shot and came running. He kept up his ribbing, “I hope you didn’t let the big one get away!” until he saw the rack, and then he and Jimmy went crazy.

Jimmy carried the head to a prominent VA taxidermist who has mounted some deer for my dad and me over the years. “Jimmy, that’s the biggest buck anybody has bought in here in 50 years!” he said.

Tale of the tape: total points 20…spread 22 4/8…main beams 27 7/8 (R) and 27 1/8 (L)…total mass measurements 44 5/8…final score 201 7/8.

No surprise Jimmy’s monster was first in the VA big-buck contest that year. It is currently the 23rd largest NT ever shot in VA.

Postscript: Several months after shooting his dream buck, Jimmy heard that a kid riding a 4-wheeler had found an enormous shed antler in the area. He tracked the kid down and after some wrangling, acquired the huge chunk of bone that had fallen off the buck’s head some 9 months before Jimmy shot him. You’ll see and hear all about that on the TV show.

Takeaway #2: The kid found the shed 500 yards from where Jimmy killed the buck. Proves once again that many old whitetails are homebodies, and the older they get the smaller their core areas get. Find a huge shed now and there’s a chance the huge buck will be living right there this fall.

Wisconsin: 3 Record Typical Bow Bucks in 4 Years!

Back in 2012 I posted this blog on the 14-point monster shot by Dusty Gerrits in Fond du Lac Country on November 6 that year. It net-scored 189 3/8 inches, and was the new state archery record for typical whitetail. I was so impressed with Dusty’s buck that the next summer I went up and filmed a popular BIG DEER TV segment with Dusty at his hunting cabin.

Some 11 months later, on October 11, 2013, bowhunter Adam Hupf shot a 13-pointer in Dodge County that edged out the Gerrits Buck to become the new Wisconsin archery record typical. After the mandatory 60-day drying period, the rack was panel-scored in Green Bay and measured an official 191 6/8 inches.


Dusty and Adam don’t live that far apart, so they got together for a few beers, shared stories and sent me this picture (that’s Adam and his record buck on the left, and Dusty and his #2 giant on right).

Well, at least Adam’s buck lasted as the state record for a more than a year (23 months to be exact).

From Wisconsin Buck and Bear: At approximately 2:55 pm on Thursday November 5, 2015 a huge buck was cruising a steep hillside…in west-central Wisconsin. Seventy-five yards away archer John Kassera…sat patiently waiting on this warm breezy afternoon. The La Crosse County 5×5…was arrowed at 20 yards….

Wi kassera buck

Earlier this year in January, the Kassera Buck was panel measured and officially netted 193 4/8”—the 3rd state record typical arrowed in the last 4 seasons!

Three STATE RECORD TYPICAL BOW BUCKS in 4 years seems unbelievable, and it is really. But then consider that Wisconsin ranks #1 in the nation for Boone and Crockett typical whitetails, with 1,131 bucks in the record book, 382 more than 2nd place Illinois.

It would not surprise me if another new record is shot this fall in Wisconsin; until the typical net approaches 200 inches in the state, it’s feasible that the record will continue to be broken in 1- or 2-inch increments.

And there’s a very good chance that if a hunter breaks Milo Hanson’s world-record typical of 213, he or she will shoot it in Wisconsin. In fact, this might be that buck.

BIG DEER TV Wins 3 Telly Awards

telly award big deer tv 2015The Oscars are Sunday night.

“Who cares?” you ask, and I agree.

I only bring it up because we were honored recently with 3 Tellys, cable television’s version of the prestigious film awards.

In the TV Programs category at the 36th Annual Telly Awards, BIG DEER TV won a much- coveted Silver for Entertainment for “A Dream Buck For Krista.” In this episode, cancer-survivor Krista Dick, a wonderful and inspiring young lady, and I persisted over 2 years and 4 hunts in South Carolina and finally got her buck, an old 5 1/2-year-old warrior. It was one of the most emotional and uplifting episodes I have ever produced, one of my all-time favorites. I gained a friend and hunting buddy for life.

telly krista

Big Deer also won a bronze Telly for Editing for our work on “Acts of Valor,” during which we shared the woods and told the stories of two Iraq veterans and American heroes. We took home another bronze in the Videography subcategory for “The Shed Hunting Obsession.”

In a press release announcing these awards, Mitch Petrie, VP of programming for Sportsman Channel, said, “It is a tremendous honor to receive these awards for our television series. Mike Hanback…along with the entire Outdoor Sportsman Group staff take great pride and careful planning to create such (a) unique series. We work with a superb internal production and editing staff – so hat’s off to everyone for their winning efforts.”

I have the fun and easy part: traveling around and hunting and talking about it. Behind the scenes, we have a very talented group of producers, writers, videographers and editors, and these awards are testament to their hard work and commitment to make Big Deer TV a top-level hunting show.

The new television season kicks off this July on Sportsman Channel. It’s fitting that this season, our 5th year anniversary of doing BIG DEER TV, the adventures and episodes you’ll see are bigger and better than ever.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and setting your DVR and watching, I appreciate your support.