Virginia 2017 Archery: Drop-Tine Dream Buck

Today’s awesome guest post from our friend and fellow Virginia hunter Tyler Knecht:

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Mike: I got this buck on my trail camera once before the season and thought he would be a cool buck to shoot, but I never saw him again.

One day in early November I decided to take my girlfriend, Jamie, bow hunting with me in a buddy stand I had set up on the property where I had the camera. She enjoys sitting with me during rifle season, but has never experienced a bow hunt before. Well, I made sure everything was in order for the hunt: warm clothes for her, gear, safety harness, etc. Except when I set my alarm I forgot to take account for the fall time change.

We woke up to a 6:00 a.m. alarm about 10 minutes before shooting light! I was so disappointed. I thought the hunt was ruined, but we rushed out the door and to my hunting spot.

We were walking down the trail very quietly on the wet leaves when I looked up and saw a buck walking across the trail. He had no idea we were there, so we crouched, waited till he passed and continued on to the stand.

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After Jamie and I were harnessed into the stand I started screwing in my bow arm. I wasn’t even finished when I looked up and the buck was 20 yards away. He stopped behind a big oak tree and started making a rub. My heart was beating so fast, I screwed my bow holder in the rest of the way, pulled my bow up, nocked an arrow and put on my release–and then he started walking again.

I wasn’t sure how big he was or that he even had a drop tine, but I was so excited for Jamie to experience this, so I asked her if I should shoot it. She said, “Heck yeah!” So I drew back, stopped him and let an arrow fly. He ran about 65 yards and dropped by the creek. Jamie must be part blood hound because she tracked that buck from the first drop of blood to the last. I spotted the downed buck and just about screamed when I saw the drop tine!

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I was so happy and so proud to harvest that deer, but I’m even more happy and proud to share the experience and memories with someone I love. I believe that’s what it’s all about. I hope you enjoyed this story! I love watching your show and proving that Virginia is home to some BIG DEER. Sincerely, Tanner Knecht

Way to go Tanner, proud of ya man…and nice shot!


How to Grunt Call Deer

Grunt PhotoOne afternoon in Iowa Pat Strawser sat in his stand and watched does and small bucks enter a picked cornfield. A heavy 7-pointer popped into view, followed by more does.

“I was trying to keep track of all the deer when a huge buck strode into the field,” said Pat. “He pinned his ears back and marched toward the Big 7.”

The hunter grabbed his grunt call and went to work. He called several times–nothing. Gradually he increased the volume and intensity of his calls until both the mature bucks picked up their heads and looked his way. “They were about 125 yards out,” says Pat. “Once I had their attention, I gave even louder grunts and then a snort-wheeze. Finally the biggest buck turned and started marching toward me!”

The giant came to within 40 yards, stopped and worked a scrape. Then he grunted, blew a snort-wheeze and walked closer. Pat drilled the hoss, which weighed 285 pounds and had a 151-inch rack.

Pat’s hunt sums up grunting pretty well. Your first calls might fall on deaf ears. But keep grunting…mix up your calls…crank it up… Sooner or later you’ll strike the right chord, and a buck will march into bow range. To make it happen, try our grunting plan.

Make Contact

Say you’re sitting a stand, watching a hardwood ridge or creek bottom. It’s serene and beautiful, but no deer are moving. Well, shake things up. Pick up your grunter and blow four or five “contact grunts” every 20 or 30 minutes. Dr. Karl Miller and others at the University of Georgia did a whitetail vocalization study, and found that does utter this common call when they become separated from one another. Their studies show that these short, single grunts are fairly loud (deer grunt loudly enough so that other animals 50 to 100 yards away can hear them) and of moderate intensity and high pitch.

The “low grunt” is similar to the contact grunt, but more guttural. Scientists say both does and bucks use these single, low-pitched grunts to show aggression toward other deer. In other words, if a buck happens upon another animal and doesn’t like its looks or smell, it might posture and grunt low at it.

Blow some of these antagonistic grunts and you might prod a buck to come check you out, especially later in October and into the rut. To make the low call, cup your hands around the end of the tube and grunt air up from your chest.

While the science behind contact and low grunts is interesting, you needn’t try to mimic each particular one. A buck is just as apt to come to one grunt as the other, so the best strategy is to mix it up. One day as you hunt, blow a series of five or six short, snappy contact grunts. Twenty minutes to an hour later try four to six low grunts with a more guttural tone. No matter which brand of grunt tube you use, it is easy to vary your calls from sharp to guttural with just a bit of practice with your air flow.

Money Call: Tending Grunts

My favorite call, and the one that dupes the most big bucks across America each November, is the “tending grunt.” Biologist Mickey Hellickson says, “These low, guttural grunts are most commonly made when a buck is tending a doe in heat, but bucks will also make this call while traveling alone in search of does.” He says that tending grunts are most often made by dominant bucks and less often by younger bucks.”

Start using tending grunts around Halloween, and keep them up for the next two or three weeks of peak rut. Blow loud, strung-out grunts that sound like urrppp, urrppp, urrppp every 30 minutes or so while on stand. To me, five- to 10-second sequences of tending grunts seem most realistic, but there is no rhyme or reason to it. A buck looking to fight or steal a rival’s hot doe is apt to roll in.

Rut: Snort-Wheeze

During intense encounters in the rut, bucks sometimes “grunt-snort,” which consists of the low grunt we talked about earlier, followed by one to four short, rapid snorts. Further, rival bucks sometimes add a third element, an expulsion of air through their nostrils, thus the “grunt-snort-wheeze.”

“The grunt-snort-wheeze is the most aggressive of all the deer calls, often made by bucks just before a fight,” says Karl Miller. “Hunters can use it to bring in a dominant deer, but it can also scare off some bucks.”

While there is no doubt the snort-wheeze can produce dramatic results and bring in a big buck in the rut—it was part of Pat Strawser’s routine in the hunt story that opened this column—I don’t use it very often. I much prefer to blow tending grunts, which to me are more consistently effective and not nearly as threatening to all age classes of bucks that roam in my hunt area.

You can buy a specialty snort-wheeze call, or simply wheeze by mouth, which to me is more fun. Cup your hands around your mouth and bring air up from your chest to sound like pfft, pfft, pfftttttttteeeeeem.

Work a Buck

Thus far we’ve alluded mostly to “blind calling”: sitting in a stand with no deer in sight, and grunting every 30 minutes or so in hopes of making something happen. This is your basic strategy for most days, and if you keep trying it you will call in some deer. But that said, grunting is most effective when you spot a buck first and then go to work.

Grunt at every buck, both shooters and small 4- or 6-points, that you see slipping down a ridge or ducking into cover up to 125 yards away. In my field-testing, a deer can hear your calls that far if the wind and terrain are right. The more bucks you see and call to, the more you learn from their reactions.

When a buck hears your grunts, 7 times out of 10 he will stop and look your way. Sometimes he might stand there and stare, but more likely he’ll drop his head and continue on his merry way.

Okay, now grunt at him again, louder. Vary your calls from sharp contact grunts to guttural low grunts. If the rut’s on, cut loose a stream of your best tending grunts. Your third or fourth set of grunts might strike a chord and stop the buck. As a last resort, I might snort-wheeeze at him.

More times than not, a buck will move on, but that is okay. You’ve called to him and watched his reactions, and that is great experience. But on a few lucky hunts, a buck will eventually get curious and turn your way. Or, maybe you were blind calling and all of a sudden a buck pops out of a thicket 100 yards out. Now it’s on, and the fun really begins.

Don’t grunt much once you have a buck’s attention, and especially if he is looking your way. He might see you move your hands or bow…or he won’t see another deer over there, causing him to hang up or back off into the brush. Instead, when he cuts his eyes away, grunt a few times and just loudly enough to stay in contact with the deer and pique his curiosity even more.

Watch a buck, and if he breaks your way, do not call again. Let him walk, get your bow ready to draw and look for clear shooting lanes. Grunt again only if he loses interest and veers off course.

Minnesota Bowhunter Kills 320-Pound Buck!

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Hi Mike: This deer might not have a monster rack but I thought you would appreciate the sheer size of it! I arrowed this 10-point buck on public land in Minnesota in October. The brute field-dressed at 260 lbs. Then I weighed the guts too, and added that in for a total of 320 pounds! You can read the full story here. Thanks, Leif

Wow, that’s a pig! On public land impressive, way to go man!

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2017 Wisconsin Rut Report


Field report from our friend Kim R.:

Hi Mike: This year the deer numbers are back up close to where they should be in northwest Wisconsin. This is the best year I’ve seen in a decade for this area near Siren WI. I hope you made plans to hunt up here this year. There are some great bucks out there, a year not to be missed in my opinion.

With the rut heating up 2 of my big guys are back. A farmer a mile and half away planted soybeans so the deer were there. The good population of does remained on my place, eating the clover and oats I have planted in my food plots.

I was hoping the 6-year-old buck I call “JR” would make it back this year. He got hit by a car earlier in life and his left shoulder and knee are all arthritic. I haven’t seen him since July 2nd; he had a great start on a nice set of antlers then.

The “Boss” (photo above), 8 years old, has showed up again. His antlers are diminished due to age, but are still very impressive.

“Splitz” (the 5-year-old I sent you a photo of in July) has also come back, looking very good. (photo below).


Hope you are having a great hunting year, looking forward to the new TV episodes.—Kim

Thanks Kim! Looks like the deer are back and the bucks are big in Wisconsin, as they are across the nation this year.2017 will go down as a banner whitetail year!

November Rut-Hunting Plan

sioux falls south dakota buckThe main thing to remember for the next two weeks is that many if not most bucks will cover two or three times the terrain they traveled back in September and early October, circling and contacting as many doe units as they can, hoping to get lucky with as many does as they can. As the bucks come and go, they might not stay on your hunting property every day, but they’ll drift through from time to time, though you cannot predict when.

Right now, as bucks begin to lengthen their daily movements and roam more in daylight hours, expand your hunt area, too, if you can. Spread out, scout and hang some more tree stands in likely ambush spots with fresh sign back in the woods, on ridges and in creek bottoms. Then sit in those stands every day that you can through the middle of November. You’ll see deer on the move, including quite possibly some bucks you’ve never seen before or taken pictures of.

Hunt as many hours as you can hack it in a tree stand on each sit. You never know what time of day a shooter will show. It couldn’t hurt to lay a doe scent trail into your post each morning or afternoon; a buck moving on a long, linear travel pattern might cut it and come to investigate.

Grunt and/or rattle periodically in hopes of contacting one of those vagabond bucks and reeling him your way. Good luck and send me pictures.