Indiana: 180-Inch Homestead Buck

IN ben andrew 2018Thanks to Ben Andrew for sharing his tremendous 2018 buck from central Indiana.

“Sentimental buck right here,” Ben said. “Shot off the homestead where I grew up, and where my dad taught me years ago with a muzzleloader. Place where I got my first buck 25 years ago.

“My father is my lifelong hunting buddy. He’s getting into his middle 70s, and still after it with me. Unfortunately the land around us is up for sale.”

How much longer Ben and his dad have to hunt the home place is unknown. Many of us face similar uncertainties these days, but we have to stay with it and hunt hard while we still can.

Tale of the tape on Ben’s massive buck: 6-inch bases, 20 inches wide, 14 points, 21 inches of mass on each side, and 11-inch brows. Green score lower 180s.

These are my favorite buck stories, bittersweet but straight from the heart. Great buck Ben, best of luck to you and your dad.

Hunt Tactics for Winter Bucks

iowa lyla 2We have 2 more days to hunt deer this season in Virginia…if you’re still hunting too, try these tips.

Afternoons are always best in late season. Deer move straight from their beds to a cornfield or beans or a thicket or a pasture with weeds–anywhere they can find last scraps of food. When you hunt  a food source, the wind can’t blow back toward a bedding cover or travel lane out, 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.

Watch hidden fringes, like the edges of pine, cedar or honeysuckle thickets. Bucks love to run those green edges between bedding and feeding areas, moving in little places where they can browse and 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 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 other hunters might jump the fence and come flagging your way.

Imagine the look on those guys’ faces when your gun cracks and you score a buck at the buzzer!

 

CWD Changing The Way We Process And Eat Venison

Starting out the new year with this guest blog from our friend Luke Strommen, who lives and hunts with his wife, Tara, and daughters out on the Milk River in northeastern Montana. Luke is one of the most ethical and responsible deer hunters I know:  

It was a tough year to get out and hunt with our girls because they were so busy with school stuff and extracurricular activities, etc. I’m sure you parents can relate.

MT summer strommen 1

My oldest daughter, Summer, got to go the second to last day of the 2018 season. We hit the rattling sheds and made a ruckus with some leaves and low branches. After two close encounters on rack bucks, when an ethical shot wouldn’t present, I talked Summer into taking hike to warm up before letting her call it quits.

It doesn’t look cold in these photos, but high humidity and low temps got Summer’s fingers and toes pretty cold when we were sitting on the ground in the tall grass.  Summer’s tough, though, and loves to hunt, so we hiked a few hundred yards downriver.

We came up off the riverbank and saw this buck was coming straight at us from 50 yards, with no idea we were there! We quickly belly crawled to a small ash tree that Summer tried to use to steady her .308, but the buck was on a mission and not wasting any time. When she got the rifle up he was at 30 yards!  He saw us and stepped sideways for a quick moment, but continued on his way while giving us a sideways glance. He didn’t care about us…he was seeking and seeking hard as the final phase of the rut was on.

Summer was ready when I was able to get the buck to stop and look at us…at 23 steps!  She raised her .308 and made a great off-hand shot (I use a 2.5-10X scope on that rifle, and it was set at 2.5X). The buck staggered 30 yards before he fell over and she got to see it go down. It was really exciting, because she thought she had missed him!

MT summer 2

After recovering the buck, I started a small fire to warm us up. That wasn’t a small task because with the melting snow, the past days of sleet, and the foggy morning, everything was wet.  Summer knew we always kept a fire kit with us in our survival pack. We whittled some dead limbs to the drier core, built a tepee of them and the trimmings, tucked some of our dryer lint up inside the tepee and lit it with a waterproof match. A little pampering and feeding and Summer had the fire going well. She pulled off her socks, and I gave her a new pair from our pack (100% wool, old surplus army issue) to put on her damp, cold feet, and she was warm again by the time we cleaned her buck. (BTW, we have built fires before while out hiking and shed hunting, and I think it’s a great skill for all kids to learn…a necessity in my book, really.)

It was the best buck we had seen all year, and it just happened to be drawn by in Summer’s rabbit foot. This was the first year that she could choose whether or not to shoot or pass on a buck. I let my girls be picky only after their first two bucks; for the first two bucks they shoot, I make them take the first buck that gives them an ethical shot opportunity.

We took Summer’s buck to a CWD check station, where the fellas there removed glands from the throat, a piece of tissue, and a tooth from her buck. They gave us a card with a number and told us to check back in 2 to 3 weeks for the results, as they were sending the samples to Colorado State University for testing.  Authorities had found 2 mule deer in Valley County with Chronic Wasting Disease, so I was concerned.  The counties on both sides of us were positive for CWD deer also. I want to teach my girls the “new” way to take care of your harvest and how to be safe cleaning and processing it.

MT summer 3

After checking the results online, Summer’s buck was good to go on our plates. This was one of the rare years where we didn’t BBQ up a back strap or loin the same day we killed the deer. Since I intend to have every deer we shoot tested for CWD before we eat it, that is now a thing of the past for us…sadly enough. CWD has me concerned about consuming our game meat, and I am not taking any chances with my girls,  at least until science shows us there is positively no threat that CWD infected deer can pass the disease or any illness on to humans that consume it.  

As for now, we are thawing out some back strap from Summer’s deer for dinner.

Here’s a helpful link about CWD and the precautions you can take.—Thanks, your friend Luke.

 

Deer Tactics For Thanksgiving Weekend

gun ground blindMost of you have several days to hunt this weekend, so after stuffing your face on Thursday, get out and try these tatics:

On Friday, November 23, on the day the moon waxes full, you need to spend most of the day in a tree stand or blind. In a North Carolina State study several years ago, researchers said that a common misconception with hunters is that  during a full moon, deer can see better at night. But according to their data, bucks actually moved less on average at night during a full moon and more during the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evenings.

With the full moon so late this November, it’s tricky to predict where the best hunting will be this weekend. Iffy in the Midwest and other regions where peak rut is early to mid-November, because some big bucks will be in lockdown. But in places where the rut typically peaks November 17-23 or so—Maine, Vermont and other Northeastern states; Virginia; and Montana to name a few—I predict good midday buck movement from November 23-25.

Great stand: Look for a timbered ridge flanked by a crop field on one or two sides and interspersed with heavy cover. Old bucks will run the ridge in or near the thick stuff.

Try this: It’s easier to hack it on stand all day if you wait until 9:00 am to climb up. Remember, this day you’re most apt to see a big boy from 11:00 am until dark.

If you can hunt November 26 and 27, do it. Most people will be back to work, or hunted out for the year, so you’ll have the woods pretty much to yourself.

In late November across the country, most does have been bred, and bucks are run down. But the survivors know the chance to breed won’t come around for another year, and so they keep moving and looking for the last 5 percent of does that are still receptive.

Great stand: You’ll likely have a west or north wind, so set up somewhere on the east side of a ridge where you can watch a wide swath of woods and thickets below. Watch for a buck cutting from one thicket to the next, hoping to find a last doe or sneaking away from man pressure.

Try this: By now bucks are spooky and unpredictable. Go to a good spot, stay positive and hunt hard. Your chances of tagging out at the tail end of the 2018 rut are better than you think. Good luck.

New Jersey Bowhunter Revitalizes Farm, Shoots 6.5-Year-Old Buck

NJ jeff 2018 buck

In 2016, Jeff Herrmann, long-time friend of BIG DEER, bought a rundown farm in New Jersey and set about making it a dedicated hunting property. The land is 133 acres, 40 of those tillable.

Well into his third year of land management, Jeff has put in 10 acres of beautiful food plots. “What you see in the picture below are primarily brassicas,” he says. “Specifically, groundhog radish, purple top turnip and dwarf essex rape.

NJ jeffs farm plot

The work is paying off. In October, Jeff shot this great big-bodied 7-pointer with his bow. “I believe he was the oldest buck on the property when I bought the farm, at least 4.5 back then.”

Proof that with dedication and hard work, anybody can create and revitalize a personal hunting paradise in a relatively short time, and have the opportunity to hunt mature, heavy-bodied bucks.

Jeff is a largely one-man show who loves to do the land work himself, way to go friend!