Earth Day 2019: Let’s Celebrate America’s Hunters

earth day

On this Earth Day, I refer you to a passage written by two of America’s top deer biologists, Drs. Larry Marchinton and Karl Miller:

In the United States roughly 3 million white-tailed deer are harvested each year… This translates to about 150 million pounds of meat. Add to this the amount of elk, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and other game as well as wild fruits, nuts, and vegetables that is consumed. To produce this amount of beef, chicken, or vegetable crops in addition to that which is already produced would be ecologically devastating. Acres and acres of wild places would have to be destroyed to accommodate this increased agricultural production. More wildlife habitat would have to be plowed under. More pesticides would be applied. More soil erosion would occur. More waterways would become lifeless drainage ditches. Isn’t it better that some of us reap a sustained harvest from natural systems, rather than destroy these systems?

Today we celebrate that we hunters and fishers are America’s #1 conservationists and environmentalists.


Alabama: Would You Pay To Bait Deer?

deer-baitingAlabama has a penchant for strange and confusing game laws, like the current deer-baiting regulation, which allows you to use bait as long as the feed is placed at least 100 yards away from your stand and not in your direct line of sight.

Who knows exactly what that means? How could a game warden enforce it?

Well, that law might change, possibly to be replaced by another unusual statute.

The Alabama Times Daily reports that the state’s House of Representatives has voted to allow people to flat-out use bait—for a fee!

House Bill 197 allows for baiting of deer and feral pigs on private and leased lands for a $14 annual “bait privilege license fee” and a $1 issuance fee. Out-of-state hunters would pay $50.

“We have concerns about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and we also have concerns about the current (baiting) law and there is an opportunity with this bill to be used as a tool for (the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources),” bill sponsor Rep. Danny Crawford, R-Athens, said.

But wait… I thought one of the biggest potential problems with baiting, according to some scientists and wildlife organizations like the Alabama Wildlife Federation, is that corn or other feed unnaturally congregates deer in a relatively small area, thus possibly increasing the threat and spread of CWD and other disease?

Hey, it’s Alabama!

Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, who abstained from the vote, said: “I voted that way because I was confused, because when they approached us about the bill, their main thing was about the disease part, the (CWD).But what confused me was that they said that if you do the feeding, that could control the disease from spreading…

“I don’t see any control of the disease in this bill, there has got to be something more for how they will treat the disease in my opinion.”

Hey, it’s Alabama!

Included in the bill is this provision: The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources has the power to end baiting in case diseases are found in the state’s deer population. The bill says the state conservation commissioner may, without refund, suspend the use of a baiting privilege license on a county, regional, or statewide basis to prevent the spread of diseases.

So you might pay your baiting fee, start out the new season hunting over bait, then one day be forced to stop using bait without getting your money back…

Hey. it’s Alabama!

House Bill 197 was approved 85-10 and now goes to the Senate, where a similar version of the bill passed last week. The two chambers could form a conference committee to work out differences between the two versions before sending it to the governor’s desk possibly in time for the 2019-20 deer season.

Deer Tip: How To Read A Buck’s Body Language

read buck ks gregOne November morning in Kansas, the rut was rocking when Greg Brownlee saw a doe walk out of a tree line and proceed to cross a CRP field.

She stopped and looked back. “Oh boy, this is it,” he thought.

Greg’s heart dropped as he glassed a young buck with one antler come out the trees toward the doe. Then he caught more movement—an enormous rack overtook the little buck and made for the doe!

The hunter started to get excited, but quickly took 5 deep breaths to calm down. “If I think about it too much, I could screw this thing up,” he thought.

The giant started toward the doe, but when he got about 150 yards out from Greg’s stand, he stopped and looked around slowly, like he knew something wasn’t right. He never looked Greg’s way and he didn’t spook, but turned slowly back toward the trees and Greg knew it was now or never.

He had practiced out to 200 yards with his muzzleloader, so he was confident at 150. At the shot the buck tiptoed into the trees. Greg knew the deer hit, but didn’t see him fall.

He walked over to the shot site, but found no blood. He looked around some more and started to get worried. He looked up and saw the monster lying dead in the trees 50 yards away! The 22-pointer gross-scored 218.

3 keys to the hunt:

Greg did a super job reading the buck’s body language and demeanor—and then confidently taking the shot him before the buck got away. That is a critical but often misunderstood and overlooked key to killing a big deer.

Greg took deep breaths and calmed his nerves. I don’t care how long you’ve been hunting and how many bucks you’ve shot, the exhilaration and nerves are still there…do what you can to settle down.

If you’re a blackpowder hunter, listen up: MANY times there is not a speck of blood at the shot site, especially at ranges beyond 100 yards.

The velocity of a muzzleloading bullet (even the best new ones) is relatively low, and many times you get no pass through on a buck. The bullet stays inside the deer, and with no exit hole there is little if any blood. You owe it to the deer to look and look, and grid search, and look some more. I can’t tell you how many muzzleloader bucks I’ve shot and found dead within 120 yards, with not little or no blood to go on.

Alberta 2018: Young Lady Shoots 238 2/8” Giant Buck!

alb mystery 1This is the first picture I saw months ago of a mystery buck/rack that was supposedly shot last November by a female hunter in the Peace River area of Alberta.

You know how enthralled and obsessed I am by dark, thick Canadian racks, especially one that I know will go 200-plus, so I investigated.

It took some digging but I finally caught up with @tiffcheryl on Instagram. “That’s my buck in case you’re wondering!” she posted me back.

All the initial info I had seen proved true. The giant was indeed shot by a lady in Alberta last November 12.

alberta mystery 3

Then I was able to study the official score sheet and see just how massive this buck is!

14 points on right antler, 10 on left

42 inches of total mass

MOST AWESOME: 27 5/8” length of right beam, 27” left beam (just 5/8” deduction)


This is one of the top bucks shot anywhere in North America in 2018, way to go @tiffcheryl!

alb mystery 2


11 Easy and Affordable Food-Plot Tips For Deer Hunters

food plot planting datesIf you own or lease some hunting ground, it’s time to get your hands dirty. The better you plan, build and maintain food plots over the next several months, the more deer you’ll attract and hold on your land come September. Here’s a 12-pack of pointers to help you do it.

Design Before You Dig

On an aerial map, look for strips and pockets of open ground toward the interior of your property that you can turn into ½-acre plots. “Inside” planting keeps your plots—and the bucks they will attract–away from roads and the neighbors’ fence lines. Also, the closer you build a plot to thick bedding cover the better your chances that a mature 8- or 10-pointer will pop out into the plot to grab a bite one evening this fall. And think back to past hunts on the land. Whitetails are habitual animals that come and go in the same places from year to year. Where have you seen the most deer and found the found the most trails, rubs and scrapes over the years? Plant your plots in and around areas of established deer traffic.

Think Small

Rather than trying to plant and maintain 3- to 5-acre fields like deer managers did the old days, it’s better for the average hunter (you and me) to scatter 5 to 10 smaller plots across your land. Green strips and pockets of ¼- to one-acre are easier (and cheaper) to plant, maintain and hunt. Small plots are all the rage with the best deer biologists/managers these days.

GPS Your Plots

“Use a GPS receiver to measure the exact area of every food plot you build,” says Bill Gray, an Alabama wildlife biologist.  “Knowing the precise acreage of your plots will prevent over-applying seed, fertilizer, lime and herbicide. Better crops are always produced when the correct amount of seed, fertilizer and lime are applied.”

Plant North to South

“Configure plots to run more north-south than east-west,” says Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top deer biologists and land managers in the world. “Growing plants will get adequate sunlight each day, but they won’t bake in the summer.  The northeast corner of a slope generally has the moistest soil and is a particularly good spot for a plot.”

Logging Road Eats

Is your land crossed with old logging roads? If so, you’ve got a great opportunity. Clear, disc and plant 300- to 1,000-yard strips of wood roads with clover, which will provide tons of feed for the deer. Since the roads are already open, it’s an easy way to feed and attract deer.

Best Soil Sample

I can’t stress enough the importance of a soil test before you plant a single seed. Dig 5 or 6 six cups of dirt from various spots around a plot area, mix well in a bucket and come up with one representative soil sample. Have it tested at your county extension office or a seed company for recommendations on liming and fertilizing. Bonus tip: Ideally your dirt would have a pH level of 7, or neutral. But usually it’ll test 4 to 6. Keep in mind that it takes a ton of lime per acre to raise the pH one point, and it takes lime months to work most efficiently. Plan well ahead of time.

Plant Clover

For more than two decades wildlife habitat expert Neil Dougherty has experimented with food plots across the Northeast. After evaluating more than 1,000 test plots he’s found that planting a 60/40 mix of perennial clover like Imperial Whitetail Clover and chicory in late spring is best. By mid-May the clover, which has 30% to 35% protein, is producing major tonnage, and the chicory (40% to 44% protein) kicks in soon thereafter to provide a steady food source for lactating does and bucks putting on new antlers.

And More Clover…

I have lived in and hunted across the Mid-Atlantic all my life, and I have experimented with lots of seeds and blends in this region. Good old Ladino clover, which you can plant most anywhere there’s adequate soil moisture and sunlight, is still hard to beat here, and in most places. Ladino clover is a high-quality perennial (about 25% protein) that, once you plant it, will last for 5 years and can be easily over-seeded from time to time. It is low-maintenance, and that’s important because many hunters don’t have a lot of time and money to put into plots year after year.

Strip Plant

Here’s a trick I learned from fellow Virginia hunter Jim Crumley. Jim created Trebark Camouflage back in the 1980s, and now his obsession is growing and holding bucks on his farm. Jim clears, works and then plants a 10-yard-wide by 100-yard-long strip of clover…he leaves a 20-yard strip of natural vegetation like blackberry or honeysuckle beside it…then clears and plants another strip of clover…leaves another strip of native growth beside that and so on, until he has a one- or two-acre field full strip planted. “You have a smorgasbord to attract deer year-round, and the strips of native growth provide not only browse but also edge and cover for bucks,” he says.

Oats in the Mix

Here’s a killer strategy for the Midwest, say from Michigan to Ohio to Missouri. In late April or May, plant a couple of 2- to 4-acre fields with soybeans. (If you don’t have the equipment for the big job, it pays to hire a local farmer to do the work.) In August to mid-September come back and plant a 20- to 25-yard strip of Buck Forage Oats all the way around the beans. With rain, the lush, green oats will pop up and attract deer during the October bow season, and the soybeans, which contain 20% to 25% protein, are a great food source for Midwestern deer from November to January.

Kill the Weeds

All plots no matter the size should be treated with a herbicide to control unwanted grasses and weeds. Spray plots when weeds are four to 12 inches tall. Your local farm co-op can recommend a good herbicide and click here to see some great info from the QDMA.