Memorial Day 2016: Thank You U.S. Veterans

DSCN0814[1]Got this from a loyal blog reader, I could not have said it better myself:

Mike: A nice blog for the weekend would be a dedication to the REAL HEROES of our country. The men and women that serve and have served in our Armed Forces are owed well-deserved respect and gratitude from us.

“To those who have fallen, you will never be forgotten,” including those who perished in The Towers on 9/11.

We WOULD NOT be able to pursue our dreams of freedom and hunting if not for the men and women that we honor this weekend. At a minimum, raise a drink during a celebration this weekend and remember our TRUE AMERICAN HEROES.

Also, maybe you could link some legit organizations that could use some help from us (your faithful bloggers) with heroes and hunting.

Well said.

One organization I work with—in fact I just joined its Board of Directors and am honored to do so—is the Virginia-based Veteran’s Outdoor Fund (formerly Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund). Our sole mission is to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for our veterans and heroes. Any help you can give our group is much appreciated.

Here’s the type of man we take hunting. Letter from a Deer Hunter in Iraq first appeared on the blog in 2011, and we turned the hunt that transpired into one of the most popular episodes ever of BIG DEER TV.

I got a letter from an American hero who at the time was deployed as a critical care nurse in Iraq. In part it read:

“Mike, I would like to share a hunting experience with you. I don’t care where, I really don’t care what we hunt (I have only hunted whitetail and have kind of made a rule, you eat what you kill)… I have seen your show, have heard you speak, and it just seems like you would understand if I told you some of the things I have experienced over here… I would like to present this flag to you when I get home, if we ever get a chance to meet.”

I wrote Zane Keen back and told him I would make it happen, and last week it did. Zane drove up to VA from Fort Bragg in NC, and we hunted for a week at my friend Jack Hazel’s farm in Fauquier County, where I was born and grew up hunting.

Va zane and crew

We saw 20 deer last Monday (no shot) and then got rained on (hard) for 2 days. On Thursday the front cleared, cool high-pressure moved in and Zane shot this 12-pointer. Cool buck, typical 5 on one side and non-typical on the right. Zane and cameraman John made a great move on the ground and got him. You will enjoy the TV show of that hunt.

Three other young heroes and Purple Heart recipients—Shaun, David and Josh—hunted with us for a couple of days, and they all shot deer. It was a grand time and good therapy for all us. All made possible by the (Veteran’s Outdoor Fund) and the incredible generosity of Jack and the others who volunteered their time and money to make it happen.

The best part about this hunt was that Zane, 23 years and counting in the United States Army (Special Forces, combat medic, critical care nurse) turned out to be the man I thought he was the minute I read his letter, and more. Genuine, compassionate, tough, great American, true patriot and now lifelong friend. Good deer hunter, too.

vet honor w zane

In that letter Zane wrote me he had said: I would like to present this flag to you when I get home, if we ever get a chance to meet. He flew that flag for me over the hospital he worked at in Iraq, and where he and the docs lost a few of our young heroes on the table.

I said at the time that receiving that flag would be the ultimate career honor for me. It was, and still is.

To all our veterans past and present, thank you and God bless you.

British Columbia: Harold Smith Buck Mystery

bc smith buck

Say “Canadian whitetails” and we immediately think of Saskatchewan or Alberta, but southeastern British Columbia has a good population too, and some good bucks. BC is on my bucket list of places to hunt whitetails, and maybe combo for a mule deer, and our TV producers are researching potential opportunities.

During our research I ran across an interesting old story about this BC buck. Is the gigantic non-typical shot more than 60 years ago a whitetail or a muley?  Or maybe a hybrid?

According to research and a blog by Dan Cole: “The Harold Smith buck from British Columbia has a long history of controversy….  Many antler experts and collectors…have long believed it to be a mule deer. For many years the Boone & Crockett club…would not allow the buck to be entered in either…(category because) there was no proof of the deer being of either species.

The buck was harvested in 1951 near Invermere, BC. Whether it was a whitetail or a mule deer, if it had been entered into the record books, it would have taken the top spot for either species for a non-typical in British Columbia. The giant has 32 measurable points with 71 3/8 inches of abnormal points, and it also carries a tremendous outside spread of a 33 1/8 inches! Those are world class numbers whether for mule deer or whitetail. Latest word is the deer will be declared a whitetail by B&C and accepted with an entry score of 279 3/8 inches.”

Just looking at the picture, the buck’s face and profile say, with little doubt, whitetail to me, and probably you too. But Cole says that is misleading because the rack is mounted on a whitetail cape. The antlers also look whitetail to me.

It’s interesting that no people were ever found that may have seen the buck on the ground after the kill, and no apparently no hero photos of the buck and hunter have ever been discovered. Says Cole, “Both could have been deciding factors in what has become one of the whitetail world’s greatest debates.”

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.

WI-hupf-and-gerrits-bucks

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.

VIDEO: How to Clean a Hunting Rifle

video clean deer rifleJim emailed me about the video we produced on cleaning a rifle. He said he watched it, followed our steps to a tee, let the rifle sit awhile and then went to the range to sight-in again.

“I have killed a lot of deer with this rifle over the years, but it never really shot all that great,” he said. “Two and a half inches is about the best group I could ever get. But after cleaning the barrel like John advised in the video, the rifle now shoots just over an inch MOA.”

A thorough cleaning can do that, especially if you have neglected your rifle’s barrel lately.

Our video, featuring the expertise of Remington’s John Fink, runs about 9 minutes. Watch and clean your rifle accordingly when you get a chance, and you’ll shoot better.