Summer Whitetail Fun: 10,000 Trail-Cam Pictures, 30 Bucks!

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I have been swapping emails with one of our bloggers who has a very unique situation going on with his local whitetail herd. So unusual that even super deer biologist Grant Woods is impressed.

From our hunter, who has 2 cameras out:

I got more than 5,000 pictures in the month of June alone and most of them were bucks. This leads me to believe that our property is the summer home for the majority of the bucks in the area.

There are easily over 30 different bucks that I am getting pictures of every day. I only have 2 cameras up, and they are only 250 yards apart. I checked them again recently, and one camera had another 1,066 pictures and the other camera had 3,227 pictures since July 1. 

I clarify that all of the bucks aren’t in one big group. They are typically in groups of 3-6 bucks. But there are just so many small bachelor groups.

I know it’s normal for bucks to form bachelor groups in the summer, but is it normal for this many bucks to stick together in a 30-acre spot?  The property is larger, but they stay in this 30-acre area all summer, every summer.

Thirty bucks in 30 acres is unusual, so I ran it by Grant Woods to see if he’d heard of a similar situation:

This all sounds normal, except for the number of bucks.  Is there a habitat feature in or near the 30 acres that’s unique for the area?  Maybe a water source, reason bugs aren’t as bad in this area, less disturbance from two or four-legged predators compared to other areas?

There’s some reason the bucks are spending a lot of time in this area.  Bucks almost always disperse about the time they shed velvet. During past years have you noticed most of these bucks using a different portion of their range?  Do the dominant bucks continue using this area?  If so, that’s a great sign that there’s a limited resource there that bucks need year round like a natural mineral lick, etc.

If only bucks would act like that during hunting season!—Grant

Grant’s observations spurred thought in our blogger/hunter, who emailed me back:

It just dawned on me a possible reason for so many more bucks this year. It might not be that much of a phenomena and more that they were pushed to find a new home.  

There is a place about 1 mile away from our property where they recently bulldozed all of the woods, put up a tall fence and have been blasting away on the construction site.  I bet that is what has pushed more deer onto our land this summer.  They lost their bedding area.

By the way, I think the number one reason that bucks congregate here in the 30 acres every summer is that they are protected.  It is basically a sanctuary.  They have thick cover, plenty of food and there is a stream.  Our property butts against a place that doesn’t allow hunting or trespassing.  And that property butts against the interstate so there is no access at all from that side. 

If you were to look at a topo map you would see several hundred acres of farm fields and then a 30-40 acre patch of thick woods that butts up to the interstate.  This is their summer sanctuary.  The only humans they might see the entire summer are either the farmers or me checking my cameras. That would be the only thing about our property that is different from the surrounding area. The bucks  are undisturbed.

And, yes, Mr. Woods is correct.  Every year around mid-September, once the velvet comes off, the bucks disperse. And, no, the dominant bucks never stick around.  We are generally always left with a handful of smaller bucks. But maybe with the change in habitat, one the bigger bucks will stay on our land this fall, I hope so.

Fascinating story. And I’ve written and blogged many times over the years that what goes on lands surrounding where you hunt is just as important as what is happening on your land. I wrote this in an Outdoor Life article on summer scouting one time:

It’s easy to get so wrapped up in scouting your land that you neglect the adjacent properties. That’s a mistake because what happens across the fences dictates 50 percent or more of the deer movements in your area. Maybe a new crop of soybeans was planted a mile away, or new construction has leveled a big chunk of woods. Many things on adjacent lands can change the deer patterns from year to year, and you need to know that…

MD dan

Finally, our blogger asks: This is one of the bigger bucks I have on camera. Do you think those brows are going to split?  I hope so.

Yes, I see a big split brow (both sides!), hope he hangs around your spot in September bow season. Good luck.

Alabama Man Kills 820-Pound Wild Hog

al hogAL.com/outdoors reports that Wade Seago knew something was up outside his rural Alabama home when the family’s pet schnauzer, Cruiser, started barking constantly.

His daughter began screaming. “I jumped up to see what was going on,” Wade explained. The dog had a huge hog bayed in his front yard, about 5 yards off of the front porch.

Wade is a hunter, but instead of grabbing a rifle, he went for his home-protection .38 revolver.

“By the time I got in a position to shoot, the hog was about 12 yards away,” he said. “Cruiser was out of my line to the hog so I fired.”

It took three shots to kill the giant, which died near the carport. The next day Wade took the beast and weighed it on drive-thru scales—820 pounds with 6-inch tusks!

I got to thinking that this beast might be the heaviest wild hog ever, so I did a little research. No. As best I can tell, the meatiest porker on record weighed a whopping 1,050 pounds. It was also shot in Alabama, in 2007 by an 11-year-old boy with a pistol.

Are Women Better Hunters Than Men?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne day I sat on a ridge in Wyoming with an old guy named Bill and watched through binoculars as a 30-year-old lady stalked a mule deer a mile away. She and her husband had booked a hunt in the same camp where I was staying.

She moved slowly, cautiously and I wondered if she’d ever get into rifle range. I snickered and thought, “Might have to go over there and show the girl how it’s done.”

“She’s doing perfect,” Bill said from behind his binoculars as she eased up her rifle. We heard the thump, saw the buck buckle and then heard the rifle crack.

“Mostly it just takes ‘em one shot,” said the wrinkled cowboy who had guided hundreds of men and maybe 20 women in his day. “A lot of ladies who are really into it are better hunters than men.”

I blew out my chest and said, “I don’t know about that now….”

“Just what I mean,” Bill cut me off. “You guys beat your chest, get all macho and think you know everything about deer, guns, ballistics, shooting… The more you talk about how much you think you know, the more likely you’ll screw up on a big buck.”

Bill went on to say that in his experience, 3 things make women better hunters: 1) they’re patient; 2) they’re good listeners; and 3) they do what they’re told.

“If I tell a guy to go sit by that tree for 3 hours he’ll sit maybe an hour before he gets up and starts walking around and messing up the spot,” Bill said.

“If I tell a lady to sit there for 3 hours she’ll sit there still and ready the whole time…and a lot of times she’ll kill a big animal.”

Bill also said that women tend to be calmer than men, many of whom get excited and come unglued and miss deer.

And women generally shoot smaller caliber rifles, like .243 or 7mm-08. They can shoot and hit better than some guy who goes out West with a cannon magnum that thumps his shoulder and makes him flinch.

While I have not hunted with a lot of women, I’ve guided a few young ladies over the years. Thinking back on those hunts, yes, they listen. Yes, they tend to stay amazingly calm when a buck shows up. They all shot a low-recoil rifle, and shot it well. Yes, I believe old Bill was right about this in a lot of ways.

I ask: If you hunt with your wife or girlfriend, is she better than you?

First Trail-Camera Pictures of 2017!

The pictures are starting to roll in. Take a look and get fired up for the 2017 deer season, which will be here before you know it. Please send me your camera photos to share; I’ll never reveal the location of where your big buck is—we just want to see him and enjoy him, and dream. Plus, if we post your cam picture on the blog, we’ll send you a BIG DEER hat.

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Our friend Kim sent the pictures above. Of the 5-year-old “Splitz” (image 2) Kim reports: “last year is the first year his right antler split.”

Actually, that is pretty common. Biologists say that most whitetail bucks have non-typical genes in their blood, but splits, stickers, etc. don’t start to show until a buck matures to 4 or 5 years old.

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This VA buck from my friend’s farm seems to say, “Hey man, time to refresh the minerals!

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Jack named this 8-point buck Clubby.

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Surprise! This young bear walked past the same camera as Clubby an hour later.

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This is one of the best of 30 bucks that our friend Danny has captured on camera this summer. “I got 5,000 pictures in June alone, most of them bucks,” Danny said. Read more on this 30-buck phenomenon in a later post, once I research it a bit more.

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My buddy Tanner set his camera near his tree stand, and almost immediately a bachelor group showed up beneath it, including the big-bodied drop-tine. I hope he sticks around and Tanner gets him!

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Finally, our TV producer Justin stepped out his front door and snapped a pic of this WILD buck feeding on his Asiatic day lilies. Can you say brow tines! Come to find out, it is not uncommon for bucks to come down out of the hills and summer in the town limits.

It’s Official: Bass Pro Shops Buys Cabela’s

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Fox business reports that the merger of Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s (CAB) has received the go-ahead from antitrust regulators. In a filing with the SEC, Cabela’s said Wednesday the Federal Trade Commission informed the company earlier this week that it concluded its investigation of Bass Pro’s $4.2 billion buyout. Cabela’s shareholders will vote on the deal July 11. The transaction is expected to close later this summer.

We all knew this was coming… So now, what does it mean for your favorite outdoor company and store, which for readers of BIG DEER is definitely Cabela’s?

There will be changes, anytime a sale goes through that happens. But I believe Bass Pro’s Johnny Morris, who said last year, ““We look forward to continuing to celebrate and grow the Cabela’s brand alongside Bass Pro Shops…as one unified outdoor family.

“I have enormous admiration for Cabela’s and the remarkable brand and business they have built. Cabela’s is a great American success story.”

As of now, the plan is to keep the Cabela’s headquarters in Sidney, Nebraska, and it is business as usual for all Bass Pro and Cabela’s stores. Bass Pro Shops has some 99 stores and employs about 20,000 people. Cabela’s has 19,000 employees and 85 stores in the U.S. and Canada.

A little bird in the industry told me that the new strategic plan is to build upon the incredibly strong hunting brand and market that Cabela’s has built, while their fishing and boat presence will be contracted. Bass Pro Shops will still have a hunting presence, but will carry on and continue to grow with its massive fishing and boating business.

We will have to wait and see, but that makes perfect sense to me.