An Open Letter To America’s Deer Hunters

To: All Deer Hunters, Please Read

Only 5% of Americans age 16 and older hunt. That is half of what it was 50 years ago.

More recently, the number of licensed hunters, mostly deer hunters, dropped from 14.2 million in 1991 to 11.5 million in 2016. The decline is expected to continue as baby-boomers, the largest and most passionate generation of hunters, age and leave our ranks.

It’s a disturbing but very real trend. Many good people and organizations are working hard and spending money on ways to recruit new hunters. We obviously need that and I applaud it, but with all the technology and distractions of the world today and into the future, recruiting people, especially young people, to hunting in numbers that matter is and will be tough and tricky.

To me, the key, our only hope to reversing the trend, is to retain who we have, you and me, who love to hunt and who buy licenses and gear that support wildlife conservation. We cannot do anything about an aging population, but we must do everything we can to keep the viable hunters we have for 1 more year, 3 years, 10 years… Stop the decline now. Use our base of 11 million strong as the foundation to build upon as we steadily bring new people into our ranks.

To do that, every one of us needs to do a gut check and get our priorities straight.

I think back to a time not long ago when a nice and excited fellow sent me a trail-cam photo of a 200-class typical giant that roamed his farm in the Midwest. He was proud of the buck, proud that his land could produce such an impressive animal.

I posted the image on my blog as I normally do, leaving out names and specific locations. This was a tremendous wild animal, and I knew hunters across the land would enjoy seeing it.

Knowing the dark side of the Net and especially social media, I also worried.

Well, most hunters did appreciate seeing the massive whitetail, and most people wished him and his buddies good luck.

Most people…

A couple days after posting the photo, the nice man sent a frantic email asking me to pull the picture off the blog immediately. I did. Seems it was causing tension and trouble in the community. Some people who knew of the deer were mad as hell to see it on the blog and shared all over social platforms, even though I had posted very generically, “Giant lives somewhere in the Midwest.”

Why do big whitetail bucks bring out the worst in some people? I thought the “he needs one more year” trophy hunting mentality of the 1990s and early 2000s had receded. Largely it has, as more and more people appreciate the meat-gathering and the overall experience of a deer hunt rather than just hunting for antlers.

But with the explosion of social media and the ignorant trolls that go with that, “horn porn” will never completely go away.

A big deer with a big rack is a thing of beauty and awe, to be celebrated, to be talked about and shared, to be dreamed about. Will I ever kill such a beast? Will you?

A big buck is not something that should cause envy and greed, divide hunters and landowners, and even cause people to threaten their neighbors, mostly in nasty posts online.

Having worked professionally in the hunting industry and outdoor media for 30 years, I have long witnessed and dealt with this kind small and misguided thinking. I still cannot understand it.

What I do know is that greed, envy and hate diminish our brand as hunters, as they do all things in life. It will tear us apart if we do not stop it. It will further erode our shrinking base and inhibit already difficult efforts to recruit new hunters.

Just when I needed some good news and hope, I saw this on the National Deer Alliance’s website the other day. A hunter from Pennsylvania posted:

priorities

“For the first time in 15 years, all three generations of our hunting camp took deer on the same day during Pennsylvania’s rifle season. On December 1st, the first Saturday of our concurrent season, we all shot our doe within 30 minutes of each other. Only an hour after these does were taken, my 83 year old grandfather was able to shoot his first buck in 5 years! It’s the memories and meals that matter the most!” - Jason Crighton

That is what deer hunting and the future of it is all about…or should be.

Grow Better Food Plots: Whitetail Institute Soil-Test Kit

WINA_Soil_Test_KIt_Front__16956.1370791652.1280.1280Whether you are a novice or expert at food plots for deer, whether you plan to plant 2 plots or 10 on your land this year, the first and most critical step to success is to do a soil test and determine the pH of the dirt you’ll be working.

Some soils are heavier than others…other dirt is lighter. Some soils hold moisture longer…some dirt dries fast… You get the idea–not all dirt is created equal. By testing the soil where you’ll be planting to determine its exact pH, you’ll know how much lime and/or fertilizer you’ll need for the planting process and optimal forage growth.

This test kit from Whitetail Institute gives you everything you need and makes it a breeze. Dig a dirt sample, put in a Ziplock and mail in to their lab. Easy-to-read results are emailed to you within the week, and often in a day or two. Best part: professional consultation from the pros at the Institute is included, and you can follow up with a call to their 800 number for further recommendations and to answer specific questions.

If you want to grow better food plots, this will be the best $15 you ever spent on Amazon Prime.

Good luck and have fun playing in the dirt!

 

Ohio Bowhunter Builds Incredible Fighting Buck Mount!

Last November bowhunter Lee Fackler shot a huge 17-point buck in Putnam County, Ohio, but in reality he scored a 27-pointer. As you can see below, Lee’s buck had a recently expired 10-point buck entangled with it. Lee tagged his buck and called in the Ohio DNR, which gave him a salvage tag for the second deer.

UPDATE: Lee recently picked up the 2 heads, which his taxidermist had mounted separately. Lee went home and built this awesome display and fitted the bucks back together in fighting form as he had encountered them that day last November.

Incredible job sir, looks amazing!

Special thanks to Nikisha Fackler for providing these pictures

ohio lee 2018 locked bucks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ohio lee mounts 2018

 

 

 

 

More CWD Confusion: Is Deer Meat Safe To Eat?

deer meatAs if we needed more confusion about Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) and its impacts on deer populations and the future of hunting, not to mention the gathering of venison to feed our families, a PhD and public-health scientist has thrown gasoline on the fire by stating, “I think the risk is very high” that CWD could be transmitted to humans that consume infected deer meat.

Mainstream media outlets, including U.S. News & World Reports, have picked up these recent statements and run with it, using terms like “death, dying and zombie  deer” that have stoked yet more confusion and fright about the disease. 

The National Deer Alliance (NDA) responds in an editorial from its president and CEO, Nick Pinizzotto:

The NDA reminds hunters…that there remains no scientific evidence that chronic wasting disease (CWD) is transmissible to humans….

“Recent statements by Dr. Michael Osterholm from the University of Minnesota regarding the likelihood that human cases of CWD are probable and possibly substantial in number are speculative and sensational, and are not supported by current scientific evidence,” said Nick Pinizzotto, president and CEO of NDA.“Mr. Osterholm’s predictions have created needless confusion in a situation that is already rife with contradictory opinions regarding CWD impacts on the conservation of wild deer and those who enjoy deer as a natural source of protein….”

…it is important that words are chosen wisely, and that the focus is on what is known about the disease, as opposed to speculating on what is not known. Actions taken in response to CWD must be based on the best available science. After more than 50 years of history with CWD, undoubtedly thousands, if not tens of thousands, of infected animals have been eaten, yet there remains no human case of the disease.

The NDA points out that The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to state there is no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD transmission in humans.

But, and this is what you as a deer hunter need to remember right now, the CDC still recommends that humans not eat deer that test positive for the disease out of an abundance of caution. If you hunt in or near an area where CDW has been detected in deer, you must have the meat tested before eating it.

The NDA agrees with the guidance from CDC but reiterates that the agency does not state transmission to humans is either likely or inevitable.

“The last thing we need to do is scare people away from consuming deer meat…,” said Pinizzotto. “Further research is needed to answer the many important questions we have about CWD and how to manage it, but until science tells us more, we have to move forward armed with the best information available, and nothing more.”

5 Massive Deadhead Bucks

Some shed hunters that roam the woods from now till early spring will find “deadheads,” or the skulls and antlers of bucks that died months earlier. A deadhead might have perished of any number of causes: hit by a car, lost by a bowhunter the previous season, winterkill, predators or natural causes.

Most deadhead finds are small to medium-size, but each year a few people stumble upon massive skulls, like these 5.

ohio deadhead 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This first picture popped up on my Twitter feed yesterday and is the first mega-deadhead of the 2019 shed season. It was found in southwest Ohio.

iowa deadhead 205

 

 

 

 

 

 

The top skull of 2018 also showed up on Twitter last winter. @Tylerknott4 posted:Never know what you will find in the woods of Iowa! Found this giant shed hunting. Gross scored 205.

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I never got many details about the 190-class double-drop skull that was found in 2016, but what a monster!

Ohio moose found dead.jpg compressed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In early 2014, a hunter named Drew sent this picture of a tremendous buck he had been hunting for 3 years. “A truly remarkable animal that we called Moose,” Drew wrote. “Unfortunately, Moose died due to another bowhunter’s mistake (not mine) and we recovered his body and antlers this spring. Drew says the rack was scored at 252 1/8″ and that “was after squirrels had chewed off 20 inches during the winter.” Scorers think it might have been the 6th overall biggest buck to be harvested by any means in Ohio.

KS 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2011 some guys were bird hunting in southeastern Kansas and came upon a mud pit, where they saw just a little piece of the left beam sticking up in the mud. After a closer look they realized it was a whole deer buried in the pit.

They dug out the skull and it was in good shape; they figured the mud had protected the rack from the weather and animals. They rough-scored it at 164 gross with only a 10” inside spread…6 points on the right beam, 9 on the left and the spike in the middle with a fork on it!

Remember if you stumble across a skull and antlers (any size) this spring and want to take it home, chances are you’ll need to get a salvage permit.

Good hunting!