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!

 

Iowa: Husband/Wife Team’s 2-Year Quest For A Big Buck

Iowa makayla 2016Today’s great guest post from longtime BIG DEER supporter Nate Grossman. Thanks Nate!

Hi Mike: I wanted to write you about my beautiful wife, Makayla, the mother of my gorgeous baby girl. I’m definitely proud of her, and I definitely consider this bragging!

October 2015 was her first experience deer hunting. She knows how passionate I am about it, and we got her an early muzzleloader tag so we could share some time in the woods together.

Our hunting plans happily took a back seat after we found out we would soon become parents, but we still managed to get out a few times in ‘15. Makayla’s first season ended with a thrilling but unsuccessful last day/last light stalk on a big 9-point. We got busted by a doe group when we were still 150 yards out, and the effects of adrenaline and exertion combined to result in a clean miss when she took her last-chance shot.

Fast forward to Saturday evening of Iowa’s 2016 shotgun opener. Makayla was planning on being picky about what she put her tag on. We snuck into an elevated blind on a cut corn field and got settled in by 2:30. At 4:00 she spotted the first does in the woods. I glassed them, and as I turned to whisper something to Makayla, I glanced over her shoulder to see a big buck jump the fence into the field!

She got turned and settled in. I asked her if that was the one she wanted. She said, “Yes!” I whispered a few words of encouragement. She took up the slack in the trigger… I whispered, “WAIT, WAIT, WAIT! There’s a bigger deer in the woods.”

It was the buck she had missed the season before! He jumped into the field and sauntered in to 25 yards. She smoked him with a quartering-to shot and he tipped over 30 yards later.

I don’t think the excitement has lessened for either of us in the week since the hunt. Knowing Makayla busts her back caring for our baby girl and working nights to help make ends meet, and then getting to see her perseverance rewarded with a little redemption on a great 5½-year-old buck… You could say I’m one proud man!—Nate

Stories like this—real, genuine and heartfelt from hard-working, hard-hunting people–epitomize what BIG DEER is all about. Great job Makayla…and what a perfect shot!

South Dakota West River Buck

SD kelly 1Today’s blog from Kelly “Sheddhunter” Kirsch, who has posted many great antler-hunting stories and tips on BIG DEER. Look forward to more of Kelly’s reports  as shed season heats up next spring:

Mike: Here’s a of picture of the deer I shot, West River South Dakota. It was a very tough year, with an EHD outbreak again in central SD…not good.

Hunted a total of 7 hard days and this is the best deer I spotted during legal shooting hours. Did a half-mile crawl to get a 55-yard shot.–Sheddhunter

 

 

Idaho: Big Country, Big Whitetail Bucks

idaho buck 2016 vinnieGuest blog from our longtime friend Vinnie C. from Florida, who has blogged with me from day 1 since I launched Big Deer 8 years ago. Thanks for your support and this great hunting post man:

Left Florida with 95-degree weather and traveled to NW Idaho where temps were in the 20s and 30s. Time to hunt giant whitetails!

I was hunting with very good friends: Lou, who owns the property I’ve hunted for at least 5 years now; Vince, who invited me along years ago; and DJ, the newest member of the group.

Opening day, October 10, was cold and rainy early, about 38 degrees. At sunup I sneaked down a hillside to my favorite rock, a vantage I have been hunting for years. It cleared at first light, and as I glassed the surrounding area a few deer materialized from nowhere. Saw some young bucks and a couple does with yearlings. Herd looked to be in fantastic shape and the animals didn’t seem to be under any pressure whatsoever.

About 8:00 I noticed movement on the plateau below me at about 600 yards. When I put the glasses on the buck I could see pretty good head gear even at that range. I was trying to get into position for a possible shot when he decided to head down the face of the plateau into a fairly deep ravine. I thought about making a play on him but decided to sit tight, being as it was only the first day of a seven day hunt.

About 20 minutes later I heard a shot from Vince, who by the way is also the one who turned me on to longer range shooting. He was hunting way off to my left, and whacked a beautiful 10 point at almost 400 yards. I waited a little at my spot, then went to help my friend drag his deer down the mountain.

The next day was a bit colder, and I got to the rock early. It was a morning you can only dream of, with spectacular mountains in the background and a river running through the breathtaking hillsides. With the country crisp and alive, deer started moving early, looking for a nice place to lie up on the sunny sides of the hills.

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Around 8:30 I saw a shape appear on the plateau. Put the glasses on him and knew right away he was a shooter. The buck was about 525 yards down the mountainside. I nestled my Browning A-bolt in 300 Win. Mag. firmly in the crease of my backpack and coat, and ranged and dialed him at 500 yards. I had a solid rest and was ready to send a 180-grain Nosler down the hill. I exhaled and squeezed off the shot.

The deer never flinched! He just moved along his route, across to my right. I was shaking a bit now and chambered another round. I ranged him again and he was 445. I figured I had shot over him, so I adjusted the distance, squeezed off another shot and hit him hard behind the shoulder. He reared up his hind legs and I knew I had smoked him good.

I got a rush and goose bumps. There is no feeling more exciting than knowing you just shot a nice buck! He was biggest bodied deer I have ever killed. Incredible hunt and incredible buck, and a day I will never forget.

On the third day, it was 28 degrees, and deer were on the move, butting heads and thrashing the bushes. I saw a couple more shooters that morning, and then I heard a shot  the distance. DJ had shot a nice 10-pointer and the hunt was complete. I spent time with some of the finest people on the planet in one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Cannot wait for next year!—Vinnie C. from Florida