Memorial Day 2017: Thank You Veterans and Heroes

vet honor w zaneGot this from a loyal blog reader this time last year. I could not have said any better myself. I reprint in honor of all those who have served and especially to those who gave all:

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.”

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.

Maybe you could link some veteran’s organizations that could use some help from us, your faithful bloggers: 

Well said. One group I work with—I just joined its Board of Directors and am honored to do so—is the Virginia-based Veteran’s Outdoor Fund. Our sole mission is to provide hunting and fishing opportunities for America’s veterans and heroes. We take 300-400 troops on hunting and fishing trips each year, to get them outside and help them heal. You would not believe what good therapy a few days in the woods or on the water is for these young men and women. Any help you can give our group is much appreciated.

Again, thanks to all who have served and to those who currently serve. And to my son, Em, who is training and serving right now with the US Army at Fort Bragg, love you man and so proud.

Tough Buck: Arrow Is Splint for Deer’s Ribcage

arrow in deer ribI saw this unique trophy on the Drury Outdoors Instagram, here’s the gist of it:

The section of ribs shown belonged to a buck that was shot with a bow by Jackie Stegall in North Carolina 30 years ago.  Jackie had no idea what he would find when the skinned the 4-pointer, which looked healthy and acted normally. But sometime at the mid-point of skinning, Jackie saw that he was not the first archer to shoot the buck! Notice how the ribs had healed and grown around the arrow shaft, which had in effect become a splint for the broken ribs. Jackie recently gifted this amazing trophy to his son, Robert, for his 30th birthday.

Amazing. The broadhead looks like the Bear Razorhead I used to sharpen and shoot way back when (fyi, I didn’t use the bleeder inserts).

Weird Whitetail: Deer with White Eyes

canadian white eye deer

A few years ago a Canadian hunter sent me this…

Mike: I thought this would be right up your alley since you like cool and unusual deer stuff. That is what makes your web page so great.

I harvested this buck outside of Dryden, Ontario. He had white eyes! His eyes where not fogged over with cataracts or anything, and I can assure you he was not blind. They were just white, devoid of color. His hide was not piebald, although it was a little lighter than some. But except for the eyes, the deer was normal looking and acted normal.

Have you or any of the blog readers ever seen this type of eye coloring on a deer? Thanks, Bryan

I’ve never seen a deer with white eyes, but I did a little research and here’s what I found out.

white eyed deer

The white-eyed deer was most likely suffering from what is known as “ocular albinism,” a melanin-related deficiency that affects some humans and animals. Melanin in the eyes is the agent that is responsible for most human and animal eyes being brown. A lack of melanin in the eyes, which this buck likely had, results in ocular albinism and the white eyes.

white eye deer mount use

Hunting Skill: How to Skin a Bear

skin bear footBlack Bear week on BIG DEER wraps up…

Most of the hunters I hang out with are good at peeling the hide off a deer, but put a furry 300-pound bear down on the ground in front of them and they’ll step back, scratch their heads and ask, “Uh, now what?” But skinning out your rug is not hard. With our quick and easy 3-step plan you’ll have your hide ready for the taxidermist in less than an hour.

The Main Incision

Roll the bear onto its back and lay it spread-eagle. A buddy or two holding and stretching the legs are a big help, or you might tie a couple of outstretched paws to trees. Just get the animal flat and wide.

With a sharp knife, make an incision in the hide near the short tail. Insert your blade and cut all way up and over the belly to the bottom of the bear’s head and jaws. TIP: Stick your forefinger and middle fingers into the incision and just under the hide, and use them to guide your knife as you work toward the head. This greatly helps to make the 60- to 70-inch-long incision straight and clean.

Now at the underside of the front legs, cut straight out two feet or so from the body incision and stop at the knees. At the hind legs, start at the bottom of the main cut inches from the anus and slit straight out to the knees.

The Leg Cuts

Saskatchewan bear outfitter Grant Kuypers taught me this trick. At the point where your leg cuts end, cut and work through all four knee joints with your knife (or a small saw) and leave the lower leg bones in the hide with the feet, paws and claws. “A lot of taxidermists like that because it gives them something to hold onto as they skin out the lower legs to the claws,” says Kuypers.

We tried it and like it because it gives you four good hand-holds as you roll, lift and turn the bear for a full-body skinning job, which is what you do at this point. Simply pull the hide, skin with your knife, tug and skin some more until you peel the entire hide free from the body and legs. Skin and pull the hide up and tight as you can to the back of the bear’s head.

The Head Skinning

Skinning a bear’s head is just like caping a deer, so go for it. “Except that it’s easier because you don’t have to work around antlers with a knife or screwdriver,” adds Kuypers. Remember one rule and you’ll do fine: Go slowly and methodically and cut as closely to the skull as you can. Run your blade under the hide and right along bone and you can’t go wrong.

Skin up and over the back of the big, wide noggin until you come to the ears. Simply lop the ears off whole tight to the skull. Continue working down to the eyes. TIP: Insert a finger into the sockets from the fur side to get a good feel for where you’re cutting. Carefully cut under each eye socket; be careful to leave the entire membranes ringing the sockets on the face hide.

Keep skinning down the cheeks and through the tissue to expose those big, sharp teeth. Cut and skin as close as you can to the jaws. Leave lots of lip tissue inside on the hide. Once you separate the skin from the gums, skin down the snout, cut straight down through the nose cartilage and separate the whole hide from the skull. You’re done.

Never stick your hide in a plastic sack, but rather carry it in a breathable game bag. Get the hide to a taxidermist or freeze it asap. “Definitely the same day when it’s warm in May or June,” notes Kuypers. “The rug you get back in several months will look just awesome.”

How to Shoot a Black Bear

judge bearBlack Bear Week on Big Deer continues…

If you’re sitting 40 to 60 yards away from a bait pile, range with a rifle is no issue. But if you’re spotting and stalking, play the wind and sneak within 200 yards of a bear feeding in a snow slide or burn…150 yards is better and 100 is best and generally achievable, since a myopic bear can’t see you. The closer the shot, the better your odds of placing that first bullet perfect.

Where to hit them: A bear feeding his face is not in a hurry to go somewhere. Chill, stay patient and he will turn broadside or quarter-slightly away.

Now one good option is to place your scope’s crosshair for a high shoulder shot. A bear so hit and shocked will drop like a rock. If your bullet breaks both shoulders, he is not going anywhere.

Western bear guide Scott Denny ( is okay with the shoulder shot, but for first-time bear hunters he recommends the good old lung shot, especially when a critter is quartering away.

“Most people are used to aiming behind a deer’s leg and at its lungs, so they’re comfortable aiming there on a bear, rather than trying to take out the shoulders,” he says. Tuck the crosshair behind the top of the shoulder and halfway up the animal’s side. Don’t aim low for a heart shot! A big bear has long hair that sweeps the ground, so it’s easy to shoot too low if you’re not careful,” notes Denny.

Follow-up: I read somewhere that American hunters love to kick back and admire their first shot. That is an excellent observation. We stalk pretty well, aim well, press the trigger, drop our eye out of the riflescope, watch the critter go down and start smiling ear to ear.

Generally that works out, but it is a bad habit you need to break, especially when shooting a bear. After you hit him hard, bolt another cartridge and lock your scope on him. If the critter tries to scramble away or so much as quivers, hit him again with another bullet…and again to stop him for good. Now you can relax and go check the hide, no tracking required.