Maine Deer Hunt: Teamwork for a Great 8-Pointer

I have hunted the great state of Maine exactly once. We covered hundreds of miles and explored the magical big woods for a week and saw two moose but not a single deer, not even a doe. We traveled around and filmed everything we saw and everybody we met, and put together a TV show. It was a hit, and the episode remains one of the most popular we have ever produced for Big Deer TV.

Today’s guest blog is from Kevin McKenna, who hunts in Maine every year. Although Maine is one of the toughest places in America to kill a deer, especially a good buck, Kevin’s post has me longing to go back again, maybe next year.

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(Dan, blue shirt on right, and Dave; Kevin snapped the picture)

Hi Mike: This is a little back story of me and my friends Dan and Dave. We all met at MT Chase Lodge in Shin Pond, Maine. The three of us have hunted here between 18-28 years: Dan with his dad, who can no longer hunt as the years have crept up on him, and Dave, whose hunting partner Charlie passed away awhile back. I hunted here with my dad, Larry, who passed away in 2009. Basically we came together as the leftovers, and promised each other we would come back the third week of November every year. Dan is from Mass, Dave is from Maryland and I’m from Conn. We’ve been coming back and hunting together for years now.

Now to last year’s hunt.

With highs in the 40s and lows in the 30s, the weather was not ideal for Maine hunting. We hunt two areas that are 10-20 miles away from the lodge. We bounced back and forth during the week, and found some good buck sign in each place, but had little daytime deer movement.

We found the most promising sign on Thursday evening so we were all in the last two days. Friday morning came and each of us headed to our spots about ¼-mile from each other; we were all on stand by 7 a.m.

Right off the bat Dan had a buck grunting on a little ridge 60 yards away, but he never showed himself. I had a buck freshen up his rub and scrape but just couldn’t see him. Dave was in an area with a really big buck making tracks, but no sighting of him.

Saturday was upon us, the week having flown by, and we had one last day to make it happen. We awoke to the coldest temps yet, 29, and a pretty good fog. On our 20-mile drive we talked things over and agreed that the fog might work our advantage…maybe the bucks would be on the move a little longer in the morning.

Each of us hunted the same spots as the day before. I got my stand at 6:50 a.m. and at 7 a deer started blowing at me, having caught my wind. “What a way to end the trip,” I thought. At 7:15 the sound we all love to hear—BANG! A couple of minutes later Dan was on the radio, “He’s down!” I started doing a little jig on stand and so did Dave.

We knew the work was about to start, so we made our way to Dan. Dave and I found our friend and congratulated him on an awesome buck. The buck had come off the same ridge where Dan heard the grunt the day before and proceeded to hit his scrape, paw the ground and nose the licking branch. Dan had a show for 3-4 minutes before he figured he’d better shoot.

After pictures, the time was at hand for the inevitable drag–1/4 mile as the crow flies but more like 1/2 mile and all up hill. Well, 2 1/2 hours later we arrived at the truck, and headed off to the check station and then back to the lodge to show off Dan’s trophy. The buck was 8 points and dressed 185 pounds, Dan’s best Maine buck to date.

Love the show Mike.—Best, Kevin

As I mentioned, Maine is a tough place to kill a deer. Any buck is a good one, and an 8-pointer pushing the 200-pound mark dressed is a trophy. Not only the shooter but also his buddies revel in the hunt and the experience, and that is the way it ought to be. Congrats Dan, Kevin and Dave. I admire your commitment to keep going back and hunting together all those years in one of the most magical deer woods on earth. Maybe I’ll see you up there next year.–MH

BIG DEER TV: Fall 2016 Hunting & Filming Recap

As 2016 draws to a close, it’s a perfect time to recap my fall hunts that will begin airing in July 2017 during season 6 of BIG DEER TV. Thanks to Remington Arms, Trijicon, Wildlife Research Center and Sportsman Channel for their amazing support. And a special and heartfelt thanks to all of you who watch our show and read this blog. I hope you have a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.–MH

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In September I traveled to South Carolina and hunted with Will (left) and Ethan for a few days. These kids are bravely battling cancer every day and I hope and pray for them. One evening Ethan shot this buck, and we all gathered round the skinning shed. Lots of laughs and tears that night.

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From there we traveled to Taos, New Mexico. It had been a few years since I had hunted elk, and I was raring to go…until I hunted a couple of dry days and figured out that no elk had yet made their way down from the high country to the lower elevations where we hunted. We gave it our best shot, hiking hard for 10-12 miles every day, to no avail. I don’t know how much if any of the footage we shot will air on TV…a shame, because the Rio Grande Gorge country is magnificent.

In late October I trekked out to the Milk River in northeast Montana. It was my first trip back to my old familiar hunting grounds since 2010, when a combination of EHD and flooding devastated the local whitetail herds, killing more than 90 percent of the deer.

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For 6 years I kept in close contact with my dear friend Luke Strommen, until we finally decided to try another TV hunt. Luke shot a doe (above) and then a buck later in the season, though not on camera.

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After hunting 3 days, I knew that while the herds had come back well on this section of the Milk, it would still take years before it gets as good as it was from 2006-2010, when Luke and I killed a bunch of good bucks with our bows. But I did find this amazing deer trail, and that evening hunted off the ground at the far end of it. I was lucky to shoot this 4X4 with my Remington muzzleloader. I figure it will take 2-3 more years for the age structure of the bucks to be as it should be, and I have fingers crossed that the Milk River will be spared EHD for years to come.

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I can’t imagine what early November would be like unless I was shivering in a ground blind for 10 hours a day somewhere in the remote bush of north-central Saskatchewan. Except last month when I hunted there, the temperature soared into the unheard of mid-50s! (I have hunted this country when it’s been 70 degrees colder.) This time I hunted out of a rustic camp with my old friend Trevor, with whom I had hunted elk 30 years prior in B.C. Turned out to be a fantastic reunion, as I got my Saskatchewan mojo back and shot a beautiful mid-150s buck. There is a twist to the story, but you’ll have to wait till next summer to watch.

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I hurried back home to hunt the second week of the Virginia blackpowder season, which is typically peak rut. My friends Jack and Cecil and I had gotten pictures of good bucks all summer long, and as the rut approached we found some big rubs, including the largest cedar I have ever seen thrashed in VA. We hunted a week hard, and never saw a shooter…we had hit the dreaded “lockdown” phase dead on. BTW, there are recent stories floating around that lockdown–when bucks hole up with does and don’t move–might be a myth. Don’t buy it! Unfortunately it’s real, and the buck hunting is downright difficult if not impossible.

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But there was a highlight from Virginia. One of our friends, Alex, who hunts Jack’s farm had a big bear amble beneath his tree stand, and he drilled it with his bow (unfortunately not on camera). Our black bear population is exploding.

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The day after Thanksgiving I hopped a plane to Oklahoma to hunt with my good friends Scott and Joni at Croton Creek Ranch. We had 4 guests in camp, and the hunt was epic. Although it was late November, we hit the rut just right. I stalked and shot an old 8-point we named “crabclaw” as he tended a doe and ran off young bucks.

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The next 3 days, everybody in camp tagged out. The highlight was Chuck Wahr’s beautiful 150-class 9-point. I had hunted that deer 2 days and had seen him twice before I tagged out. Chuck picked it up from there and shot what Scott figures was the biggest buck on the ranch last fall.

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I pulled a rifle tag for southeastern Kansas, and headed out there on a semi-guided but mostly DIY hunt, a fine way to do it. It was warm for 3 days and we didn’t see much. One afternoon I decided to bag the tree stand and brushed in a blind in a cedar-thick staging area near a bean field. I stepped back, examined the blind and thought it looked like a great spot. Three hours later I shot a cool buck with 6 points on one side.

Looking back, the fall of 2016 was a fun and successful year, and it’s not over yet. Well, 2016 is, but in January 2017 I’ll be heading down to south Alabama for one last hunt, hoping to hit the rut right again, hoping for one last buck and another new and interesting episode for BIG DEER TV.

Thanks for watching, and again Happy New Year!

 

Ohio: Giant Bow Buck, 186 6/8!

ohio paul mac 1Today’s guest blog from Paul McGregor, who is from Ohio and lives in Georgia now:

Mike: I still have family in Ohio and have hunted there my whole life. About 5 years ago my buddy and I really started managing the Ohio farm we hunt. It didn’t take long for results to start showing.

I run some 9 cameras on 500 acres. One October, we got pictures of a true giant. I hunted him hard all year as the wind would allow to no avail. I think the deer actually had me patterned, ha! Two times I got pictures of him at my stand 15-20 minutes after I had left the stand.

Last year I got pics of a cool non-typical so I set out after him. On October 2 at 10:45 am, after 5 days of hunting the deer, I began thinking about and dreading the 7-hour drive home. As I stood up in my stand, I turned and saw a huge-framed deer making his way down the ridge. At 31 yards he put the brakes on, and I was able to get a shot.

I didn’t realize how big he really was until the recovery. The buck is a 9-point that grossed 169 1/8.” That deer got me fired up even more about managing for mature bucks. This year I stepped up the supplemental feeding and trail cameras. My goodness I started drawing in even more deer!

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In October we started getting pictures of some mature bucks, and on October 24th I started getting pictures of the one that I would hunt. Of 10 cameras scattered around the farm, I was getting pictures of him on only 3; they were all at night and they were around the SW corner of the farm. That helped me narrow down his bedding area but made hunting him difficult. The closest I could get to him was in a thick, nasty creek bottom that would leave me limited on shots. The best I could do would be to hunt on a W wind, and that was pushing it.

Feeling the only time I could get a good chance at the buck was if and when he got on a hot doe, I waited and watched the weather. With a late 2nd full moon this year I was unsure… I had my doubts, but on November 5th the weather forecast looked good with W winds, so I packed up and headed north.

I snuck in the creek bottom and set up a Millennium lock-on. On Monday the 7th, I saw 11 different bucks cruising that bottom, and I had a feeling my timing was good. Tuesday I hunted daylight to dark and only saw 5 deer total; my mind started wandering…second guessing myself. But I decided as long as the wind was good I would stick it out.

Wednesday I snuck back into the stand. The morning was slow. By 10:45 a.m. I hadn’t seen a single deer. I started texting a friend who was hunting in Illinois to see if it was slow there too… It was, he texted back, ha ha.

I love hunting the rut, seeing bucks cruise and chase does, fight and carry on, but I had never seen this. At 11:15 am the woods exploded with noise. The big buck was chasing a doe across the near ridge; they were both running as hard as they could through the thick woods. The doe made a hard cut right and the buck plowed into her! They both lost their feet and slid on their sides. They regained their footing, the doe jumped the creek and turned to face the buck as he made the rest of the way down the ridge. At this point the doe was about 25 yards from me, quartering away, and he was 32 yards, quartering to.

My sight was set on 30 yards. I came to full draw and put the pin just in front of his right shoulder. My mind was clear and I started squeezing the shot. The arrow left the bow about the same time the buck decided to take off and resume his harassment of the doe. I heard the arrow smack and I was sick. The buck wheeled around with about 20″ of arrow sticking out of his face!

I immediately started cussing myself. The first thing I thought was that I would check all my cameras for the next few days to see if I could get pictures of the buck to assure he was still alive. I watched him run about 30 yards and he stopped. I could see that the arrow had entered his mouth and cut the jugular vein. He made it another 20 to 30 yards and fell dead.

Emotions ran wild. I called my wife, and she started crying, and heck I think I was crying.

I had the deer green scored by an official—186 6/8 inches. After the 60-day drying period, if the measurements hold, he will be the new Jackson County typical record. But no matter how that plays out, I couldn’t be more proud and humbled. What an amazing deer.

Mike, my wife and I love your show and what you stand for. If you’ve ever got an Ohio tag burning a hole in your pocket give me a shout. Thanks again, Paul M.

Congrats Paul, great buck!

Hanback note: Before anybody comes on here and starts criticizing Paul and the shot, let me say that after more than 30 years of bowhunting whitetails, I have seen and experienced some bizarre and hard-to-explain things.

The reaction time of a big buck, milliseconds, is truly astounding, whether he turns to run, takes off after a doe, ducks the string…whatever. I have watched in shock, awe and horror as bucks ducked, jumped and twirled, with my arrows sailing over or under them, and on occasion hitting nowhere near where I aimed. If you have bowhunted much and shot at many whitetails, you know what I’m talking about.

One time, I will never forget it, I shot at the left shoulder of a fine 11-point buck. The arrow hit with a twack, and the deer ran, spraying blood. I was feeling good and proud as I walked up to the buck. Upon examination, I saw that the arrow had entered the right side of his neck and passed through. Astonished and perplexed, I had the cameraman review and slo-mo the tape.

As the arrow cut 20 yards through the air, the buck ducked, whirled and did a complete 180 flip! The arrow hit the opposite side of the deer that I had aimed at, sliced through the right side of his neck and exited left. He ran about 50 yards and died quickly, as Paul’s buck did, and I was humbled and extremely grateful.

Strange things happen in the deer woods, especially when you’re archery hunting. Nothing surprises me anymore, but when things work out well in the end, it’s all good.

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Nebraska: 4-Year Quest for a Giant Public-Land Buck

I have been on the road for weeks hunting and filming for the new 2017 season of BIG DEER TV. While I was out, I have received many great hunting stories and pictures from hunters across the country, and I will be posting every one over the next weeks. Send me your buck story and pictures and I’ll add it to the lineup.

First up, a well-written story from Nicholas that pretty much epitomizes all that is good and real in deer hunting:

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Mike: My journey for a Nebraska public-land buck started back in 2012 when I was notified I was getting stationed at Offutt Air Force Base, which is located about 15 miles south of Omaha. I am a 15-year active duty Air Force Security Forces (military police) member.

I arrived to Offutt in the beginning of July. Right away I began to research the local public hunting spots. I stumbled on an archery/muzzleloader only location. It was relatively close to the base, which made things easy for me since my wife was 3 months pregnant at the time with our daughter.

I didn’t realize it at the time but this hunting spot was a draw-only area. I had three days to submit my name in hopes of being picked. About three weeks later I received a congratulations welcome package! I was super excited and couldn’t wait to start scouting.

This is when the work began. Opening day wasn’t till September 1, and they didn’t allow access to the hunting area till August 15. When the 15th came I was in the woods hanging trail cameras and stands. There is one main road into the area and you have to park in the designated areas. This creates a great opportunity to walk and get off the beaten trail.

I started hunting roughly 200-300 yards away from the parking spot. My walk in was easy but I noticed multiple treestands close by to the area I was hunting. There were countless times that season when other hunters that showed up late would come walking by only to sit 50 yards or so from me. I know this is a part of public land hunting, but I prefer to sit where I can’t see anyone. Well, that first season came and went with only a single doe being harvested.

The next few years were very similar to the first. I was getting a few small bucks on camera but couldn’t seem to connect with any mature bucks. In 2015 I wasn’t able to hunt because I was deployed to Afghanistan from October 2015 to May 2016. That year was very special for me. When I left for Afghanistan my wife was 8 months pregnant with my son, Chase. He was born about 3 weeks after I left. Luckily for me the war zone now has wi-fi, haha. I was able to virtually be in the delivery room with my wife when my son was born. I was overcome with emotion and super excited to have a son born during the rut (November 10)!

While deployed I decided to take advantage of the tax free money I was making. I ordered my brand new Hoyt Carbon Spyder ZT. Each day before going on missions I would stare at the photo of my bow and my newborn son Chase. If my wife asked, I would always look at my son first then my new bow!

After returning home from my deployment and meeting my son for the first time it was time to get back after it. I began shooting my new bow every day. I couldn’t wait for archery season and I was counting down the days. July came around and once again I put in for the lottery hunting area. To my amazement I was selected again.

When August 15 came I was ready to implement my new hunting strategy for this area. This year I was going to get off the beaten path; I decided to go as far back on the roughly 1800 acres as I could. This new walk took me 1 hour and 25 minutes to get to my new honey hole. The Missouri River flood in 2011 caused this area to become extremely overgrown. As I began to walk this path everyday hanging trail cameras and treestands I had a feeling this would be my year.

October 30th is when I first captured a big buck on camera around 2:35 in the morning. My heartbeat began skipping beats the moment I laid eyes on him! I was overcome with obsession to go after this monster buck. I waited until I had a perfect southeast wind before going after him. I knew I couldn’t control other people from hunting this spot, but I hoped the long walk would keep people away.

Finally the perfect wind came on November 13. The night before my hunt my wife told me, “Babe you have to get this buck!” There was nothing I wanted more than to connect with this deer.

That morning was a brisk 31 degrees with slight SSE wind. As I began my walk to the area I stared at the image of that buck over and over on my phone. I just wanted an opportunity at seeing such a mature buck in the wild. Having been stationed in the southern part of the United States most of my 15 years I hadn’t harvested a buck over 100″. This was definitely not due to a lack of hunting. For 12 years I was stationed on the gulf coast of Mississippi and Florida. Whitetail deer there just don’t have the environment to grow really big like they do in Nebraska.

As I climbed up my tree that morning I conducted my normal routine. I reconfirmed all my shooting lanes and all the various distances to specific trees that I had picked out in my area. Due to the long walk I worked up quite a sweat. As the sun began to rise I started to get cold. I stood up to put my sweatshirt and jacket on when I heard a deer walking. I froze as I was pulling my sweatshirt over my head. A mature doe started to walk out. Soon enough three more does were following the lead doe down a trail at 23 yards. I slowly grabbed my bow, hoping a buck would be following them.

As the does walked on and nothing seemed to be coming behind them I hung my bow and sat back down. About 25 minutes later I heard a twig snap from the same direction the does came from. Instantly I stood and grabbed my bow thinking it could possibly be another deer. As I stood waiting I finally heard it. A deer was walking in the brush towards my direction. Moments later I saw deer legs. Then I saw a big body. Next a flash of antlers. Oh my gosh a buck was coming!

I began looking at the various routes this buck could possibly go. Would he take the same path as the does? Would he sneak in behind me? As I looked back towards the thicket I saw a long G3 attached to a huge set of antlers. I knew instantly it was a shooter buck. I didn’t know anything else about the deer after I made my mind up he was a shooter. I began to only focus on one small 2-inch spot of brown hair behind his right shoulder. With his nose to the ground he started to take the same trail as the does but then suddenly changed his course and took the 30 yard trail. I had one chance and one window to make it happen.

The buck started to walk behind a thick cottonwood, and I came to full draw. As he stepped out into my lane I grunted to stop him. I watched my green pin slowly make its way down his back to the 2-inch brown spot I was focusing on. Once it settled in I slowly began to squeeze the trigger. Suddenly my arrow was in flight and there was no turning back….no do over. I wasn’t going to get another chance. Seven years of bowhunting, never having a mature buck standing within range, it was my time to connect.

Thwack! My arrow found its mark, and as I watched the big whitetail lunge forward and began to run I was overcome with adrenaline. Suddenly I began to shake. Oh my gosh what did I just do? Is this for real? I looked at my watch. It was 8:01 am and I wanted to do nothing but sit and enjoy the adrenaline high!

As I waited I replayed every moment of what just happened over and over. Some 2 ½ hours later I decided it was time to go look at the impact site. I found my arrow covered in bright red blood. I found splattered blood along the trail that I last watched him run down. As I sat there looking for evidence of a good hit I began to question where I hit him. I don’t even remember seeing my arrow impact the deer. I was roughly 45 yards from where I shot him when I looked up and saw a white belly and giant horns sticking out of the ground.

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I fell to my knees overcome with emotion. All I could think of was my family. How my loving wife has supported my passion for bowhunting for years. How I missed the birth of my son while being deployed…and losing a friend to a coward suicide bomber. All I could think, Is this really happening to me?

As I approached the buck I soon knew this was the big 10-point I had on camera. When I grabbed his antlers the only thing I could do was thank the Lord for allowing me to harvest such a magnificent animal. I sat there for 20 minutes holding his antlers before I sent my hunting buddies a text that simply read, “Oh my gosh….I got him!”

Thank you for the opportunity to share this great buck’s story.–Nicholas Whitney

No, thank you Nick for allowing me to share it. Your passion for family, God, country and bowhunting are evident.

Please join me in thanking Nick for his service, and send your congrats for such a fantastic buck and story.

Saskatchewan: Whitetail/Mule Deer Monster Mass Double!

sask grant 2016 mule deerMy great friend Grant Kuypers of Buck Paradise Outfitters, who you have seen me hunt with many times on TV, had an unreal season in 2016. Grant wrote:

One morning in October: I don’t get to hunt much with the business but was lucky enough to have some time after the ag harvest and before whitetail season. What a great morning it turned out to be! Left the house to head to the farm with a mule deer tag I had drawn in my pocket. Took the long route to get there and came upon this awesome heavy old muley. Love hunting with my muzzleloader!

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One day in November: I had a few hours off and went out at 3 p.m. to my personal farm land many miles from where our hunt area is (I would obviously never hunt deer in the area where I guide hunters). I sat for an hour and a half and got plain lucky when this big whitetail buck came in. I had no idea he existed! As I said I don’t get much time to hunt; this was my 4th buck in 18 years, and it was awesome.

What a season Grant, way to go buddy! A ton of mass measurements on those old brutes!