BIG DEER TV Tonight: “Blood Moon Rising”

oregon desert campAll-new episode tonight on Sportsman Channel 10 ET/9C. Here are some clips from the script you’ll see and hear:

“I’m on a high desert adventure in the Oregon Outback with Big Deer producer Justin and his buddy Nick. 

“At first glance the high desert appears to be a harsh moonscape. But upon further inspection, you see pockets of water and prime habitat that support the numerous wildlife adapted to thrive here…

“Oregon’s high desert is a landscape born of fire. Beginning some 3 million years ago, a string of young volcanoes in eastern Oregon began erupting and covering large terrains with lava flows of basalt. This igneous rock…formed from the rapid cooling of lava exposed at or near the surface…rises into immense columns where muley bucks seek shade on the northern exposures.

The last day of our hunt in Oregon coincides with a unique astronomical event…a total lunar eclipse known as a “Blood Moon.” As the Earth eclipses a full moon, the direct sunlight is blocked, but the sun’s rays still light up the moon and give it a crimson glow. Justin hopes this is a cosmic portent of good fortune as he makes his last-ditch effort…

As you will see in this show, the size of the adventure matters much more to us than the size of the buck.

Tune in or set your DVR, and as always thanks for your support.



New Season BIG DEER TV Premieres Tonight on Sportsman Channel!

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All-new episodes of my TV show start airing tonight, Wednesday July 1, at 10 PM/9C on Sportsman Channel.

Over the next 6 months watch as we travel to some amazing destinations to hunt some amazing deer: the high desert of Oregon…snow-laced Sheridan, Wyoming…a wheat farm in the shadows of towering Mount Hood and Mount St. Helens…the plains of western Kansas…the deep bush of Saskatchewan of course…and more.

cali wine country

First stop tonight, the beautiful wine country of California’s Central Coast. A lot of people don’t realize that there is still much beautiful and remote country left to hunt in Cali, but you have to find the right place and go with the right people. I sure did. Doug Roth, one of the best hunters in the state, and I hunted a 22,000-acre private ranch, and during my visit in September, we were the only ones on it. Zero pressure, and that’s how you kill big deer of any species.

Watch and/or set your DVR for tonight 10 PM Eastern on Sportsman. Thanks as always for your support!


Iowa Big Bucks Featured on BIG DEER TV

Last weekend I had the pleasure of traveling across eastern Iowa with our TV crew, and meeting and filming local 3 hunters who shot giant bucks that, combined, have more than 725 inches of non-typical antler.

iowa hein 2011 1

First stop Muscatine County, where Paul Hein has taught welding at the high school for 34 years. Paul, who loves his job and the kids, also loves to bowhunt in the afternoons when school lets out. One November day in 2011, he hurried to his tree stand and shot a freakish buck with double main beams that scored 219 (above).

Iowa simmons buck

Next it was on to Jackson County, where we met the Simmons boys. In this job I enjoy nothing more than to meet families with strong bonds and who hunt together. Todd (far right) has archery hunted the same farm for more than 30 years, and he got his sons, Lance and Kyle, into it. One March day in 2009, Lance found those sheds he is holding…one afternoon 7 months later brother Kyle shot the monster, which grossed 275 and netted 264 6/8. Kyle’s buck is the #1 archery NT in the Iowa Trophy Records, and one of the Top 5 Pope & Young bucks shot anywhere in America.

iowa kylly doyl and me

Finally, we rolled down to Walker, Iowa, and I got an up-close look at the stunning 244 6/8-inch giant that Kelly Doyl shot during the resident early muzzleloader season in 2010.

As I listened to the hunters tell their stories, the similarities of how the bucks lived and how the hunts went down are of great interest.

Seems every giant you see killed these days, the hunter had some history with it, and a few to a bunch of trail-camera pictures of it. Not these. While there were rumors of somebody having an image of both of the Simmons buck and the Doyl buck, no documented cam photos have ever turned up, which means there are none. They would have hit the Interweb long ago.

None of the hunters had ever seen the buck before the day he killed it! The farmer on the land Paul hunted had seen a big-bodied deer that “looks like he has two racks on his head” so Heiner had that bit of intel to go on, but that’s it.

All 3 hunters had rattled just before the bucks showed up. Paul’s hunt was during prime rattling time in mid-November, but both Kelly and Kyle rattled their bucks in mid-October, which to my mind has always been a little early for the best horn-cracking. I might change my mind now! Actually, there is science to support rattling in big bucks in the pre-rut. According to noted Iowa deer scientist Mickey Hellickson, you’re apt to rattle in the most bucks in the November rut, but your chances of bringing in a really big deer might be a better in the October pre-rut, just like Kyle and Kelly did.

There is interesting shed info with the Simmons and Doyl bucks. One day in March Lance Simmons found both antlers dropped close together in the timber on the farm, and 7 months later, Kyle arrowed the giant from a stand only 400 yards away! After word got out that Kelly had killed his monster, a man came forward and gave Kelly the sheds that he had found 5 miles away! One buck was a homeboy, the other a traveler, presumably between summer/fall and winter core areas.

And notably, all these mega-buck kills happened fast. Watch the show and you’ll hear all 3 hunters say something like, “I heard something and looked up and there he was!” That was a good thing. None of the men had time to get nervous; they just reacted and killed their dream bucks in a split-second.

Paul, Kelly and Kyle are what BIG DEER is all about. Nice, humble, salt-of the-earth guys who work hard and hunt hard, just like you do. I’ll let you know when this new episode of BIG DEER TV will appear later this fall on Sportsman Channel.

Mule Deer: Populations Up Big In Eastern Montana

YetiPack.jpg compMule deer populations in Eastern Montana are showing signs of a strong recovery based on post-hunting season surveys this winter.

This is great news, since most of what you read and hear is how muley numbers are down and falling across much of the West.

From 2010 to 2012, a string of cold, snowy, brutal winters that lingered into spring cut mule deer numbers by as much as 55 percent in the region. But after surveys this winter, biologists estimate a near-record number of 91 fawns per 100 does in many areas.

Bucks are also doing well, with an average of 37 bucks per 100 does compared to a long-term average of 32 per 100 in Eastern Montana. Biologists note that observations from hunter check stations last fall showed that many young bucks had great antler growth, a sign that the habitat are forage are in good shape, and that deer are finding plenty to eat.

This is especially welcome news for me since Northeastern Montana, up around Glasgow, is one of my favorite places to hunt. I hunted this wild, raw country with my friend Kelly of Burke Ranch Outfitters last November, and saw a noticeable increase in the number of deer, confirming anecdotally that the muleys have made a big comeback. Kelly also has fantastic hunting for big elk in the Breaks.

I shot a great old buck in a remote canyon at dark one night, and boned the meat and packed him out the next morning. It was one of my favorite hunts from last fall, invigorating spot-and-stalk, and you’ll see it on a new episode of BIG DEER TV this fall.

Hunting TV: Why I Air No-Kill Episodes

tx sunsetIn the last couple of seasons of BIG DEER TV, we have aired episodes from Wisconsin, New York, Montana and other places where we hunted hard, had fun and did not shoot a buck. Those “no kill” shows were some of our most popular and highly rated episodes.

One good trend in hunting TV is that more and more viewers want to see and hear the real story, whether it ends with a buck or not, and more and more producers and network executives are getting that, albeit slowly.

Every time somebody questions me on whether we ought to air a no-kill episode or not, I point them to this letter I got one time from a viewer:

Mike: I want to tell you that I appreciated and enjoyed your recent show at Mouse River, ND. I enjoyed it for reasons you, and your producers likely did not–you didn’t get a deer. I appreciate you showing the truth and reality that the vast majority of us experience. Most of us hunt for days and weeks, and sometimes we come home with nothing but knowledge, experience and memories…also known as the important stuff.

I’m sitting in a cheap motel room in St. Ignace, MI. I’m here for 2 days to scout and set up some natural ground blinds on State Land for the upcoming bow and gun season. Two days in the heat, bugs, poison ivy and spiders just to increase our group’s chances of harvesting a deer this year. The State Land we hunt on doesn’t hold a lot of deer, but we’ve taken 3 mature bucks in the 4 past years. That equates to each dedicated hunter with a 1 in 4 odds of taking a mature buck in a given year. Last year I left empty-handed, but full-hearted. I spent over 120 hours hunting w/bow, rifle and muzzleloader. I passed on some spikes, couldn’t shoot the does, and never had a shot at the big boys.

We have access to properties in southern Michigan and have better luck putting venison in the freezer. But just shooting a deer isn’t what we’re after. We love the challenge of hunting the big northern woods. We accept the fact that our chance for the traditional definition of “success” is limited, but the experience is worth that sacrifice.

Your shows support that ideal; that “success” is no substitute for a challenge accepted.

For your producers and sponsors who wonder if my opinion is worth a damn in their financial models: I’m a 33 year old white male with an MBA from a Big Ten school working in the finance department for a major US corporation in metro-Detroit. I spend $1,000 a year in hunting equipment and fees. I spend roughly 25 days afield hunting whitetails. I watch the hunting channels religiously. I’m tired of seeing people shoot huge bucks in private, high-dollar, sometimes high-fenced places. I cannot relate to that experience. But I can relate to a hard hunt that doesn’t come to fruition. Thanks again for showing it once in a while. Kind Regards, —Paul from MI.