Virginia: Monster Buck (201 7/8”) to Appear on BIG DEER TV

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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.

Why Is Donald Trump on BIG DEER?


As Donald Trump is fixing to win big in more voting tomorrow en route to amassing 1,237 delegates and capturing the GOP nomination, I take you back to a post I wrote in 2011, in which The Donald was saying the same things: China is ripping us off… Make America great again…

Actually that post 5 years ago was more about Donald Trump Jr., who is one of us and enjoys hunting.

More to the point now, since Trump Sr. is on the verge of the Republican nomination, are his views foremost on guns and gun ownership, and to a lesser degree on public lands and hunting. While the latter two are obviously important issues for us, this will be the most important election ever regarding the Second Amendment; hard to believe, but Hillary is farther left than Obama on our right to own and carry firearms.

So what are Donald Trump’s views on guns? According to a recent interview in Petersen’s Hunting magazine:

On Second Amendment issues he was spot on… Gun-free zones create easy targets for criminals. If citizens were armed, there would be fewer casualties in mass shootings, and under his watch there would be no new federal gun laws.

As for protecting federal lands for hunting and fishing, a huge issue with sportsman especially in the West:

Donald Trump didn’t waffle, stating that a USFWS Director appointed by him would “ideally be a hunter” and under his watch there would be no sale of public Western lands.

So what do you think of Mr. Trump? Will you vote for him over Hillary?

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.


Field Report: Calling Illinois Coyotes

IL coyote 1Longtime Big Deer blogger Scott from MI went on his annual coyote hunt down in Illinois and filed this report, which includes great info on calling coyotes and coyote guns and loads:

Hi Mike: We had a great coyote hunt the other weekend in Illinois. We hunt along the Mississippi River in the northwest corner of the state.

Weather was great, low in the teens and highs in the upper 20s and 30s. Most of the snow was melted with some hard icy spots left, so it made it a little difficult to sneak around and into our setups. Still, it was much better than previous years when we have had 12 to 24 inches of snow to deal with!

All of our normal group made it, my buddies John, Jason, Ryan and Mike, and Dad and me. Dad mentioned this may be his last year going with us, so I was hoping we could put a big coyote in his lap and make it a successful hunt for him.

We hunted in two groups of three the whole time, which seems to work pretty well. The caller and one or two guys covering downwind and watching the back door.

On the second call of the morning I set my FoxPro on top of a steep ridge and called down into some bottoms, with Dad and Mike sitting downwind of me. I started with some bird distress calls for a few minutes, then after a slight pause I added some raccoon fight sounds.

About eight minutes into the call I saw a coyote pop up from the bottom about 80 yards from me. He was limping in slowly on a hurt front leg. He got to about 60 yards and stood still for a moment, but right behind a large branch. I started lip-squeaking at him, and as he cleared the branch I put him down with my T/C Venture .243 using a Barnes Vortx 80-grain tipped triple shock. Nice male coyote that weighed around 30 pounds.

About an hour or so later my buddy John also scored on a nice coyote. John, Jason and Ryan had set up in one of our best spots overlooking a large ravine where we have killed a coyote almost every year.

John called with his FoxPro as well, using distressed rabbit sounds and switching between DSG & TT Frenzy. About 14 minutes, the critter came trotting along the bottom of the ravine. John put it down at about 80 yards with his Tikka .223 using 55-grain Hornady Vmax ammo.

Good start to the day!

Later that evening, an hour or so before dark, we set up on another large ravine that has produced in the past. Mike was calling with his FoxPro and hit a coyote howl–a pack of them lit up in the bottom a few hundred yards away! He continued to call for 15 minutes but couldn’t get them in. We decided to sneak up closer to where we had heard them and see if we could coax one in.

We stayed up a little higher on the ridge. I took center and Dad and Mike watched two fingers on each side of me in case one of the coyotes tried to back door us. I started doing some wounded coyote sounds with my mouth call; it’s actually the squealing hen turkey call, but it works well to mimic a wounded coyote as well.

After about eight minutes of blowing on the call, I heard something hit the barbwire fence to my right. Then about 10 seconds later I saw three coyote heads pop up from the bottom about 35 yards away! I stayed motionless, not making a noise, as I was positioned away from them and they were making their way up the hill towards Dad.

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They finally crested the hill enough for Dad to see one and he put the hammer down. After the shot the other two took off running, and Dad and I squeezed off a couple more shots, but a running coyote at 30 yards with a scoped rifle isn’t an easy target!

We got up and walked over the ravine and Dad’s coyote was lying right there. Heck yeah! we both yelled. It was a big male close to 40 pounds with a beautiful fur coat. Dad shot him with his Howa .223 using 55-grain Remington Premier Accutip varmint ammo.

That was #3 for the day! We celebrated with a couple cold beers later that night at the lodge.

Early afternoon on the second day Jason and Ryan set up on the same ridge top where I had shot a coyote on day one. Jason was doing some hybrid calling with the FoxPro and mouth calls combined. He mimicked some female whimper/mating mouth calls, and followed up with some challenge howls from the FoxPro.

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About 12 minutes in, he saw one trotting in along the bottom a good 200 yards away. He was waiting for Ryan to shoot because it was more in his direction, but Ryan could not see the critter from his position. Figuring this, Jason decided it was now or never before it got away. Jason took the shot at about 200 yards with his .22 Hornet and dropped the coyote in his tracks. It was a great shot through a small opening in the brush.

Jason went down to the bottom and recovered his yote, another beautiful and good-sized male around 40 lbs. The 35-grain Hornady Varmint Express has been a great load with that rifle; this was the third coyote in two years that he has dropped with it.

The next morning we headed back home with four nice yotes. It was as much fun as I can remember having on our trip and I look forward to seeing what next year brings. Maybe I can talk Dad into one more year. If not it’s good to know we went out with a bang!—Scott from Michigan

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Best Rifles and Calibers For Deer Hunting

rem 783Caliber:  I’ve shot whitetails, mule deer and a few blacktails with a dozen different cartridges over the years, and from those experiences I’ve drawn the following simple yet practical conclusion:

Choose a rifle caliber that shoots a 130- to 165-grain bullet accurately out to 300 yards and you’ll be in great shape for deer anywhere in North America.

Five time-tested standbys–.270, .308, .30-06, 7mm-08 and 7mm Rem. Mag.–fit that criteria and, all things considered, are my top choices for straight up mule deer hunting and whitetail hunting.

Quick note about the .270: I have shot a bunch of bucks with this cartridge, and I prefer the added weight and anchoring power of the 150-grain bullet over the 130-grainer.

Quick note about the 7mm-08: This is the most overlooked cartridge on my list, but it’s top-notch for whitetails in Texas and elsewhere where bucks tip the scales around 150 pounds. Love the 140-grain bullet. I grew up hunting with the .243, but experience has taught me that the 7mm-08, with its light pushing recoil, is a better choice for young hunters, and it’s about perfect for today’s growing number of lady deer hunters.

Quick note if you hunt out West: For those of you that hunt elk and muleys, the .270 with the 150-bullet will do the job, though it is minimum. I suggest you power up to the 7mm Rem. Mag. or the .30-06, both of which typically shoot 150- to 180-grain bullets accurately.

Quick note about the rifle you’ve seen me use to drop a bunch of deer on TV: I’ve shot as many big whitetails with a Remington Model 700 chambered for 7mm Rem. Ultra Mag. (RUM) as anybody, with both 140- and 150-grain loads. This overlooked cartridge is fast and powerful, and delivers devastating performance on deer and elk.

Action: I prefer a bolt-action rifle plain and simple. I am a Remington man, but any modern bolt gun will prove rugged and dependable and probably last you a lifetime. While some individual rifles will shoot a little better than others out of the box, all bolts, save for the odd lemon, will give you all the hunting accuracy you need, provided you test several brands/weights of ammunition and then sight-in with the load and bullet weight the rifle likes best.  

Using most any new factory bolt-action with a factory 130- to 165-grain load, you will be able to fire 3-shot groups at 3 inches all day long at 100 yards. That won’t win you any bench-rest shooting matches, but it will enable you to kill a lot of deer. With a bit of load tweaking and more shooting time at the range, you can cut those groups to 2 inches and under. That’s plenty of deer-hunting accuracy.

Stock: A synthetic stock is lighter than wood, and it comes in a gray, black, green or camouflage finish. Synthetic is impervious to rain and snow, and for that reason alone many of my stocks are composite.

But there is no denying the romance of wood. Every once in while I pull out my old .30-06 or 7 RUM and run my hands over the walnut stock’s dents, gouges, scrapes, and scars. Twenty-five years of memories come flooding back—the stunning vistas of Alaska, the exciting stalks in rough terrain, the big racks coming through the woods, the spot-on shots, the misses… You don’t get that with a composite stock.

Synthetic or wood?  Both are good, the choice is up to you.

Trigger:  Hunting rifles generally come from the factory with trigger pulls of five or six pounds. Over the years I have taught myself to shoot heavy triggers pretty well, both through shooting a lot and dry-firing more. But you’ll shoot better with a crisp-breaking four-pound trigger, which I have found to be about ideal for a hunting rifle.

Soon as you purchase a rifle, test the trigger with a pull scale (guy at the gun shop can do this) and lighten the load to 4 pounds or so if needed. These days many modern rifles come from the factory with triggers you can adjust yourself, but I recommend you have a gunsmith you trust do the job.  

What rifle, caliber and bullet do you use for deer?