Saturday, December 6, 2008

Thanksgiving Week Wrap up

Welcome back everyone; we hope you've had a safe & successful Thanksgiving Week both in the deer woods and with family. Damin and I surely had a busy week followed by an even busier week at school so accept our apology for our lack of posting!

I thought I’d take this little time to share how our hunting went over the Thanksgiving break. It started off with a bang for me on Friday afternoon as I was hunting a particular buck that we had caught on the trail camera just days before. This buck, nicknamed Hulk (pictured), sports a massive, powerful body that I believe weighs over 200lbs. on the hoof! He is a mainframe 8 the best I can tell and I would guess him to gross in the low 130s. However, what attracted me to the Hulk was his enormous frame! This buck is without a doubt a 4.5 year old deer, making him a real challenge to hunt. In fact, I was talking with Damin on the phone just that day telling him of my plans to TRY to pass on Lefty or the Dark Knight so I could increase my chances and time afield for Hulk.

Anyway, I was perched up high in a Gorilla Hang On stand overlooking a network of doe trails that ironically, was just 60 yards from where Hulk was caught on film. It was a cold, blustery afternoon with the temperature in the high teens and the wind chill around zero. And, I’m not going to lie, for the first time in my hunting career I actually got cold! I was clearly under-dressed and it affected me mentally and physically on stand. I went through almost an entire bag of shelled walnuts to keep my metabolism high and give my body some energy to create warmth. Still, I kept telling myself, “Cody, this is primetime, we have a giant working this area, tough it out!” So I continued to fight the cold and after seeing a couple does browsing two does came bursting out of an oak flat and I was sure Hulk was to follow.

I immediately grabbed by Traditions Pursuit II ready for the shot, however, no buck followed. I was sure there was buck in the oaks simply because nothing else would cause the two previous does to act the way they did. Almost two hours had passed without a deer and I was about ready to get down and surrender to the cold when a doe and a massive buck came out of the same oak flat. I glassed him out and, while trying to honor my promise to Damin, wanted to make sure it was Hulk, and it was! Unfortunately, as is often the case during the chase phase, he did not present a shot. He was too busy dogging the doe back and forth and would not allow me to get a shot off. Oh well, he did not get that big and old by being dumb.

In hindsight, I wish I would have handled the differently in two aspects. For one I would have dressed warmer, obviously. And for two, when the first two does were chased out of the oaks, I wished I would have become pro active and did some serious grunting and rattling. I KNEW there was a buck out there, but I chose to be patient and wait for him to come to me. Had I been able to call him in he may have presented a makeable shot as he would have likely actually stayed still! Regardless, it was an extremely exciting hunt simply because we caught him on camera had the stand hung specifically for a buck of his caliber, it just didn’t come together but hey that is hunting!

The remainder of the week was pretty uneventful for me personally. Damin, however, did have a quick encounter with what we believe was the Hulk as well. He was still at it chasing a doe and was in and out before Damin could even shoulder his rifle. Damin also saw several good looking 1.5 year old bucks that we are hoping will survive to mature into shooters in the next 2-3 years. To the best of our knowledge though, we do know Hulk is still out there and actually as I finish this post, I am going to go do a little scouting to better our chances to tagging this bad boy during the late season.

Another hunter was fortunate enough to take a buck off the property over the break. While we did not get to actually see the deer in person it looked eerily similar to a 3 year old 8 point I had passed on the week before at 55 yards because I felt he needed another year. He had a suitable rack, the hunter guessed him to score 110”, but I felt his body size put him behind most 3 year olds and that another year would catapult him into shooter status. Oh well, that is just simply the way it goes sometimes!

While Damin and I had a roller coaster time in stand over the break we enjoyed some fine eating, time with family and a little catching up. So I would have to give our week an A+, because remember, very rarely is hunting about the actual taking of a deer. We hope you guys are having a successful season out there and are settling down in time for the holidays. God Bless and Happy Hunting.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Camo Review: Just Check Out The Picture!

A lot is made these days of different camouflage patterns and their effectiveness in the deer woods. And, while it is important to remember one's background, silhouette and other environmental factors, camouflage with respects to hunting hardwood treestands has been taken to a new level with Mossy Oak's Treedstand camo pattern.

Originally introduced 20 years ago, Mossy Oak has reintroduced this wonderful pattern that "utilizes digital technology to exactly reproduce the details and subtleties of actual tree limbs laid over the neutral tones most commonly seen when looking up through bare trees." I've got to admit, both Cody and I were a bit skeptical as to just how effective the pattern would be. However, after spending some time in the woods with a camera, we've found just how great this pattern is!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

For All the "High Tech Rednecks" Out There

As some of you may know, when not in the classroom this fall I've spent a lot of my time working at a local archery shop called "High Tech Outdoors and Archery." And, as an official Bowtech Dealer, owner Brecht Sprouse couldn't have come up with a better shop name.

Archery is a mathematical sport. There is intense geometry, mind boggling physics and statistics come as part of an average day on the job. Mr. Sprouse said he fell in love with all of this at a very young age and often baffled his friends with his ability to talk science, archery and hunting all within the same sentence. He said that his friends began calling him a "High Tech Redneck" due to his knowledge and the name has hung with him ever since.

All that being said, there has been word in the archery world that a particular company is about to release a bow that shoots 360 fps. A speed that was once thought achievable only by crossbows, this bow would be an incredible break through in speed for the bow industry. But that got me thinking, why not 380 or 400fps? What is the limit? Well friends, take a look at this website here and check out just what math does go into the creation of a bow. As I was, I'm sure you'll be amazed.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Congratulations Are in Order

Well, it always gets the heart pumping when you see a nice buck that has been taken. Of course, if its a good friend that takes the buck the excitement is even that much greater. We just wanted to take a second to extend our congratulations to Mike Kern for taking the spectacular buck pictured here. He took this buck in Bedford County as it was chasing a hot doe during the middle of the day. The split main beam is antler character that few people in life are lucky enough to see. Congratulations to him for a great buck! Looks like he shoots the muzzleloader a little better than he shoots a basketball! (Just Kidding Mike)

Heading closer to home, Cody and I are still having a tad bit of a slow year in the deer woods. We've been seeing fewer deer than we have in past years and have seen very little movement during the day light hours. We know the deer are there, we just have to be both patient and persistent during this sometimes grueling waiting process. If Jim Shockey can hunt in Alberta dawn to dusk for 21 straight days at negative temperatures waiting on the right buck and Lee Lakosky can bow hunt 51 straight days in Iowa without even drawing his bow, I think we can be patient as well!

With hunting season in full swing we wish you the best of luck and hope that your seasons have been a success thus far. Don't forget, the rutting moon is this Thursday night and the effects of photoperiodism should be in full effect beginning this weekend. The rut will soon be on! Good luck everyone and remember to hunt hard and smart and always remember, its much more than a pursuit when you're in the deer woods this time of year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

The rut! Man, I bet I just gave your stomach butterflies with those two words. The rut is without a doubt, the most exciting time of the year for a seasoned deer hunter. The thought of two 140 inch titans fighting over an estrous doe, monster bucks roaming the woods unaware of your presence and the cool crisp autumn air is what I live for! With the rutting activity a little over a week away, I thought I would share some insight on how Damin and I hunt the magical rut.

Any whitetail hunter worth his salt knows that the rut just doesn’t mysteriously occur for two weeks during the general firearms season. Also contrary to popular belief the rut is easily compared to a marathon and rather than a short sprint. Realizing this will allow you to hunt the rut smarter thus increasing your chances of taking a buck of a life time.

Since whitetails do not have the thinking and reasoning capacity of us humans, obviously, they need Mother Nature to tell them when it is time to breed. This is where the moon comes into play. Every year, generally around the last week of October and first week of November the first full moon after the Fall Equinox occurs, to deer hunters this is often referred to as the "rutting moon." The rutting moon and decreasing amount of light taken in through the deer’s eye triggers a sensory receptor in the brain, kind of like their aphrodisiac. As stated before this usually occurs in late October and early November, however this year the rutting moon is late and will fall on the night of November 13th. This will result in a more compact, frenzied rut.

We are also going to assume that fellow hunters know the rut can be generalized into three different phases: the seek phase, the chase and the breeding phase. Read on to see what skills and tactics we apply to hunting each phase and how we approach the big boys during this time.

Seek Phase: The seek phase is the first of the aforementioned three phases. Bucks testosterone levels are close to peaking or have peaked already. However, at this point of the game they are able to contain their sexual drive and the majority remains cool and collected. Bucks are now cruising and scanning the outskirts of doe travel routes, bedding and feeding areas checking each doe’s estrous level. A buck’s sense of smell is so well defined that he can actually pinpoint individual does and knows their age, social status and estrous status! Damin and I actually hunt this stage very patiently and cautiously. Remember, bucks are all still reserved animals at this point and, even though their daytime activity will increase, they will do the majority of their cruising during the fringe of dawn and dusk. I do very little to draw attention to myself during this phase. My calling will consist of several soft contact grunts right at sunrise and sundown. However, I will rattle during this time of year. I’m trying to simulate an intense fight between two bucks that have found an early estrous doe, attempting to tempt a mature buck in closer range. Hunting scrapes lines, albeit mock (we’ll explain mock scrapes in a later post) or natural will also increase your chances of harvesting a bruiser this time of year. Most ‘hot lines’ will stay hot for nearly two weeks if conditions are steady and little human pressure is applied. To summarize the seek phase Damin and I hunt very smart during this time. Bucks are becoming more susceptible to calling, scents and decoys yet are skittish and wary enough to pinpoint a fake deer or unnatural sound. Be patient though, primetime is just a week away!

Chase Phase: To quote Dickie V, “It’s primetime with a capital A!” Boy is it ever; the chase phase is by far my favorite time not only to hunt. Bucks are all jacked up on testosterone and are bouncing from doe group to group looking for an estrous doe. This is your best chance to tag a mature buck. This is your best chance to dupe Mr. Big as he has one thing and one thing only on his mind, estrous does. So, what are the best call, decoy and scent for hunting the chase phase? None of the above, that’s right, hunts the does. Big bucks are hunting does this time of year and, while it’s a simple concept, Damin and I are too. I have always said that the best lure for a mature buck is a mature doe. Damin and I hunt primary food sources this time of year as this is where we will have the best chance of seeing does. In fact, many times we hunt certain doe groups or families, as we know their tendencies and habits and know that eventually they will tempt in a big buck. Still, mature deer didn’t get old and big by being dumb. While it may seem that bucks are running around with no care in the world, this is actually not the case. Mature bucks use the knowledge they learned of their doe groups during the seek phase and apply this to their ‘hunting’, for does. Damin and I study, apply and utilize the topographical features of our property during this time. The scouting that took place during the shedding season allows us to hang stands in transition zones and funnels, hoping to catch a buck travel from doe bedding area to doe feeding area or vice versa. It is also during this time when we hunt the most aggressive. Hunting over buck decoys, mixed with aggressive rattling and calling work best during the chase phase. Combining estrous doe bleats with tending grunts works especially well now, as it simulates a buck tending a hot doe and this catching the attention of every buck in the vicinity. Quick summary: This is when deer hunting is at its best. We hunt hard, but smart at the same time. We are hunting doe concentrated areas, utilizing topographic features and become very aggressive with our calling because it is prime time baby!

Breeding phase: Sadly, the intensity of the chase phase is followed by a ‘dead zone’ known as the breeding phase. It is during this time that bucks are holed up with their does and the woods will be so quite and calm you’ll wonder if your deer herd has moved to the next zip code. The moon is almost full again, extreme hunter pressure has the deer as skittish as ever and exhausted bucks make this a slow time for deer hunting. It is actually during this time where Damin and I get a little R&R as well. Let me explain. As stated before the moon will almost be full again thus resulting in midday activity. It is wise and comforting to catch up on some sleep and hunt less during this time. Often we will hunt during the middle of the day. In fact, last year we had an encounter with The Dark Knight during a midday hunt, unfortunately no ethical shot presented itself. Again, rattling will work well as mature bucks will be the only deer to respond to the horns because they are the only bucks that have enough energy left to do so. Still hunting and stalking can be very productive if done correctly. It was actually during a still hunt when Damin and snuck up on the Dark Knight. Still, we play close attention to the wind, move only wind a strong wind blows and use the topographical features again to our advantage. Another tactic we use during this phase is capitalizing off other hunters. The breeding phase often coincides with the general firearms season and the Orange Army (the hills become covered with fur and fire hunters). Damin and I will often plan our hunts on the mistakes of other hunters by positioning ourselves on escape routes that we know the deer will use when bumped from another property. Quick summary: This can be a miserable time to hunt, however, through effective scouting Damin and I are familiar enough with our property and deer herd to get a bead on the pressure wary bucks.

Wow, what a marathon read! Just like this post, the rut is drawn out and full of detail. Through hard work and patience, Damin and I feel as if we have enough knowledge of the bucks on our property and their tendencies to feel confident in seeing mature deer every time out. Remember, all three phases overlap one another and no two bucks are the same. I hope everyone took something from this post as the rut is literally just over a week away! Damin and I honestly cannot wait and are about as jacked up as these bucks (if not more)! We’d love to hear everyone’s hunting experiences during the rut, so if you read the blog, post a comment!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Weekend Wrap Up

Welcome back everyone. Damin, Dad and I had a successful time in the woods this past weekend.]The weather was warm and balmy, and kept most of the big bucks holed up during the day, but the heat didn’t keep the does from feeding heavily on the sweet nuts!

Unfortunately Damin didn’t get to harvest an animal while he was in, but he elected to pass on a 3.5 year old doe we nicknamed ‘Momma.’ Momma is an excellent doe to keep on the property because her diet literally consists of food plots, protein pellets and mineral supplement during the summer when she rears her fawns. She is also easy to distinguish from the other does as she has a white steak down her snout. Still, Damin saw a lot of good deer on his hunts. In fact, Saturday afternoon we saw an impressive buck from stand while I ‘attempted’ to video his hunt.We didn’t get a very good luck at this bad boy, but it’s safe to say he was at least a mainframe 8 and definite shooter with the bow and possibly the gun too. Sadly though, no ethical shot presented itself and again we lost to the ways of the whitetail.

Luckily, I was able to take a young doe on Saturday morning.I was hunting an acorn flat that we had seen tremendous sign in and I was sure I would have some luck there. Well, at about 9:15 a 1.5 year old doe wandered by and I made a pass-through double lung shot on her. The G5 Striker did its job as it made an impressive entrance and exit hole and the young doe expired within 10 seconds.\I’ve been diagnosed with buck fever before, but I honestly believe I caught a strong case of doe fever Saturday morning as well.After I made the shot I began shaking uncontrollably and couldn’t even talk myself through the follow up interview on the video camera.Needless to say, I was pumped!

I am eternally thankful for the awesome opportunity God provided me with on Saturday morning, He provided me with an adrenaline rush both natural and pure, a quick thankful harvest and some fine eating.I am blessed!

We also had some good action on the trail cameras this past weekend too.Often you hear the saying ‘the bucks just aren’t moving during daylight hours.’ Well we had a different problem, a lot of the bucks we caught on camera were during the middle of the day! Some very nice bucks showed up on the cameras.We had photos of a nice 2 ½ year old 7 pointer, an impressive 8 pointer that we are unsure of his age but are likely going to give him another year. We also captured an image of a very, very nice looking yearling buck. At jut a year and a half he has already surpassed the size of a 2 ½ year old 8 we had last year. We are definitely going to keep tabs on him!It’s awfully exciting to see the effects of QDM unfold before your eyes. We know of at least 4 different impressive 2 ½ year olds, and this was only in a small acorn flatGood things are yet to come!

We are hoping to create a photo album on the blog containing our trail camera pictures so you guys will actually get to look at the deer we are hunting, the ones we want to let walk and so on and so forth. Again, we are extremely grateful for a fun weekend of family, good food (thanks to mom) and some fine hunting!Stay tuned within the next couple days as I’m preparing a post on the different stages of the rut and how we hunt them.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Good Bye City I'm Country Bound!

After 2 months of Charlottesville and school life, I finally get to go home this weekend! It'll be the first time I get into the woods this season and, more importantly, the first time I get to see my family since August. Cody and I haven't really talked too much about our hunting strategies for the weekend, but we're both hoping to have a successful weekend. I actually have two days off for fall break next Monday and Tuesday so I'll be able to hunt for 3 days over this long weekend! Anyways, I can hardly wait until tomorrow when I can head home, hopefully Cody and I will both have some success stories for you next week sometime. Good luck to all of those heading into the woods this weekend!

Monday, October 6, 2008

What Constitutes a Mature Buck?

As you've seen, we talk a lot about taking mature bucks and letting small bucks go to produce more mature bucks. But, what exactly is a mature whitetail buck? Well, in our opinion, it is more of a question of the deer's age rather than the antler or body size. Simply, a 2.5 year old 10 pointer is, in our opinion, much less mature and "appealing" than a 4.5 year old 10 point. The difficulty comes in making these decisions in the woods when there may be only a few seconds to decide whether a buck is mature and harvestable or still a "young buck."

A lot of people put stock into the number of antlers or the size of the antlers when dealing with deer maturity. This can create a huge problem for QDMers and others trying to produce mature bucks. A nice 2.5 year old eight point (say a score of around 110), while perhaps looking like a mature deer, is in fact the last deer we would want to take as it is genetics such as these which leads to P&Y and B&C bucks when they reach maturity at the age of 3.5 years old or older. F
or both Cody and I, seeing a deer that is over the age of 3.5 years has been, in the past, very unlikely. However, given our management practices, the chances of seeing a mature deer as such is going up every year.

Hunting pressure, herd balance and herd genetics all play a part in the maturity one can expect when dealing with bucks. With less pressure and a better herd balance, the 2.5 year old deer will start producing larger racks and more massive bodies, thus, by the time they reach 3.5 and older they will be not only mature, but monster bucks that can get even the seasoned hunter shaking in the treestand.

At this point, Cody and I both consider 3.5 year old bucks a mature and takable deer. Combining the fact that bucks under this age harbor so much potential with the added challenge of seeing and taking older deer, we both have no problem passing on younger bucks even if they are a nice racked 2.5 year old eight pointer. When seeing deer of this age and magnitude, it show us that our hard work, patience and perseverance is really paying off. And, let me tell you, it is and has been definitely worth the wait!

We have a couple of websites that really go hand in hand with what we consider mature bucks. The first gives a description as well as a drawing of bucks in different age groups.
The second was pointed out to us in one of our comments by a fellow hunter who took a monster buck last year that scored over 164! (Check out his comments below in the "What Constitutes a Mature Buck: Coming Soon") We encourage you to check out both websites, they are both entertaining and very informative:

Finally, check out the picture with this post. This is a very nice 2.5 year old buck that we passed on several times last year. Note the small body size, straight back and lack of a big chest. Then imagine how nice he'll be this coming year with a year of maturity!! Well, we're getting a little long winded here! Cody will probably be getting back on here in a day or two with another hunting report. Until then, God Bless and Happy Hunting!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Day 1: A Great Success in the Deer Woods

The 2008-2009 hunting season is officially under way. It is honestly hard to believe that it is already here, but hey, I’m not complaining! With the most wonderful time of year upon us, I’d like to tell you how opening day went. Unfortunately neither Dad nor Damin could accompany me today as Dad had to work and Damin was stuck at school. However, I would have to say that I had pretty successful opening day.

For my morning hunt I was perched up high in a Gorilla Ladder Stand (Mossy Oak Break Up) overlooking a transition area loaded with White Oaks that was surrounded by prime time bedding cover, it is this location that I will spend the majority of my time when hunting Lefty. Sadly though, Lefty left us hanging this morning as we had no sighting of him. We did however see 5 does, a button buck that fed right under (and I mean RIGHT under) the stand and a decent looking 1.5 year old buck. I couldn’t get a good luck at the 1.5, but he seemed to be well on his way to becoming a shooter. We also had 2 jakes and an old tom wonder by the stand too. I had a little fun with them emitting some self-voiced turkey clucks and it seemed to garner their attention and curiosity for a bit, until they finally waddled on out of sight. I also was able to call in a young doe as well. Her fawn, the aforementioned button buck was running around all over the place, buckin' and kickin' and havin' a good ole time. Mom, on the other hand didn't think it was quite as funny as she began bleating over and over again trying to locate her little man. Seeing this as an opportunity to practice I whipped out my grunt call and emulated a couple fawn bleats. Next thing I know I have momma doe 25 yards from my stand! What a rush in its own right! Despite the lack of movement I was blessed with an absolutely gorgeous morning. The temperature was a cool 45 when I left the camp at 5:45 and it remained cool the majority of the morning. I’m also grateful for star-gazing I was fortunate enough to do. I got in my stand and settled down at 6 sharp leaving me 45 minutes to stare and wonder how beautifully the Lord can remind of us His presence, awesome!

After a mom-made-sandwich, a nap, a little college football and a scent free shower I headed back in the bush! I was again hunting a transition zone between bedding areas and was expecting quite a bit of doe movement and I wasn’t disappointed. In fact on my way back to camp there were already 4-5 does in the area I was hunting! This forced me take an alternate route (a LONG and hot alternate route) that would lead me into my ground blind through the back door so to speak. Fortunately I made it in undetected. Still the temperature had warmed up to the lower 70s and it made for quite a warm walk, needless to say my Scent-Lok Base Slayers were put the to the test. And boy did they pass along with my other religious scent control methods. In fact all but two of the 11 deer I saw came from down wind of me and not a one got a whiff that I know of. From around 4 to 6 I had 10 does and a very impressive 2.5 year old six point feeding heavily on the sweet nuts (acorns). Then around 6 or so, this family of whitetails decided it was time to pack up camp and leave as they headed to the south side of the property to bed down. Needless to say, I’ll be hunting this location soon! Now, do not let the number of points on this young buck fool you, this is guy is a handsome buck. We got trail cam photos, video footage and several encounters of him last year as a 1.5 and we knew he had great potential and he didn’t disappoint. He is tall with sharp, crab claw forks and decent mass for a 2.5, worthy of a nickname. Still as impressive as he is, he’s going to be an absolute mack-daddy next year. Let him go so he can grow!

While I didn’t harvest a deer today, I would have to say it was a very successful day. We learned a lot about the deer’s patterns and tendencies, especially in the afternoon, and we were blessed with a beautiful morning as well. We’ve got a long season ahead so stick with us for stories, photos and hopefully some uploaded video footage. God bless and happy huntin’ everybody.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Another QDM Segment: Why Do You Hunt?

When you step foot into the woods in order to pursure the majestic whitetail what is your reasoning for doing so? Are you a trophy hunter? A proponent of game management? Trying to put meat on the table for your family? Do you enjoy the thrill of taking an animal? Or do you just enjoy time in the woods? Simply, just ask yourself, why do you hunt?

For me personally, there are a combination of things that make deer hunting my passion. However, in recently talking with my Dad about Quality Deer Management we came to the realization that all hunters should think about. Participating in QDM allows hunters to answer each and every possible question as to why ethical hunters may set foot into the woods each year.

First and foremost for those who are advocates of game management, QDM is the perfect choice as it instills understanding deer behavioral characteristics as well as implementing a well organized plan as to how to manage and balance a particular deer herd. Of course, along these lines, one of the indirect advantages of QDM is that there are more mature bucks which satisfies another possibility as to why one may hunt: trophy hunting.

Next, what about those who hunt to put food on the table? With QDM advocating an adequate harvest of does, this type of hunter can also be satisfied as well as taking a larger number of does is encouraged. The doe harvest advocation also satisfies those who hunt merely because they like the act of taking an animal. As a wise author once said, "Any hunter worth his salt knows its harder to harvest a mature doe than it is a young ignorant buck." That being said, hunters who are not interested in trophy hunting or putting meat on the table can still take part and be a strong agent in QDM by harvesting does.

We all hunt for our own reasons. Cody, Dad and I all pride ourselves on being ethical hunters striving for a balanced deer herd, putting meat on the table and taking mature bucks. Of course, not all hunters strive for these same goals. However, regardless of how or why you hunt, I think you'll find that if you ask yourself, "Why do I hunt?" you'll also find that Quality Deer Management can be a part of each and every possible answer.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Beat the Stink

Welcome fellow hunters! Once again we have to apologize for our lack of posting. It’s been a BUSY September, that’s for sure. In fact this past weekend I was at the 69th Annual Big Game Trophy Show at the Rockingham Fair Grounds in Harrisonburg on behalf of Mossy Oak and ShowMeYourBuck and it was a lot of fun. I couldn’t believe how many 200 inch monsters roam the Old Dominion- its something to look forward to! Also- I became good friends with Rob Holes, sales consultant and Pro Staff member of Shenandoah Outdoors TV, a hunting show aired in Harrisonburg, Staunton, Waynesboro, Woodstock, Luray, Front Royal and Winchester and he offered to come down and film one or two of my hunts and put them on the show- I couldn’t believe it! Talk about a dream come true, I really hope things fall into place!

Enough of the rambling, Damin and I wanted to talk to you guys about scent-control a bit. We are both HUGE advocates in scent-elimination. While it is impossible to eliminate all human scent, we believe that we take the necessary steps to fool the best nose in the woods- that of the whitetail.
It’s been debated that a deer’s sense of smell is 100 to 1000 to 10000 times better than a human’s, regardless of the number, these guys can pin point human odor in a heartbeat and ruin not only your hunt, but those around you. However, several precautionary steps can be taken to reduce the possibility of this happening.

First of all, we wash our clothes with scent eliminating laundry detergent, hang them out on the line to dry with natural air, then place them in the dryer with earth scent dryer sheets. Then they go in to a Scent-Lok bag or tote for scent-free storage until use. We usually repeat this process several times during the season.

Next comes the preparation of the hunt. After we get out of bed (we wash our sheets with scent eliminator too!), starting this year we will wipe ourselves down with scent-eliminating field wipes. Then we’ll spray our hands with Hunter’s Specialties eliminator/ earth scent before we get dressed. Next comes the carbon-activated Scent-Lok BaseSlayers, which is our first and best line of defense. Then, as we begin to layer up we spray more earth scent on after each layer is applied. This ensures that each garment is scent free.

Once we are fully dressed, we liberally spray more HS eliminator/earth scent to cover up kill any remaining odors. We do this to our packs, hats and camera bags as well. We then spray down our boots, top and bottom so we don’t leave a stinky trail to stand. Finally, we attach a HS scent-wick (earth of acorn, depending on our setup) to the top of our hat to top off our scent-eliminating process (pun intended).

As you can see a lot of work goes into beating Mr. Big’s sniffer, but it only makes it more rewarding when you do! Of course, as stated before it is impossible to eliminate all human scent as bacteria on your skin is constantly feeding on dead skin cell, thus resulting in human odor. But if done right, and hunting the wind correctly, you can greatly increase your chances of taking that big buck!

Stay tuned as the season opens up October 4th, less than a week away! Damin and I are super pumped and the blog is sure to be hopping with stories, photos and hope some successful tales! Stick with us!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ethical Hunting: Be Able to Say No!

Each and every day we are faced with decision making opportunities where we must decide whether we will do the right thing. Of course, many of the decision opportunities are rather subjective when it comes to what exactly is right and wrong. When it comes to hunting, however, there should be no question.

Growing up, with respects to hunting, I have always been taught that if there is any question at all about the lethality of a shot or shot placement, the shot should never be taken. Dad has instilled these values into both Cody and I so that if there is ever any question at all about a shot, we don't even think about taking it. Of course, this does not mean we wait for a 100% broadside shot, it means we persistently practice to ensure that we are confident in making either a heart shot or lung shot every time we pull the trigger or release. Of course, this also includes taking and making good shots when they present themselves. We all know how severely immoral and unpractical it can be to shoot a deer facing towards or aw
ay from you! To get to this point of confidence it not only involves target practice, it also involves constant refreshers of deer anatomy to ensure we know the exact location of the heart and lungs. Remember, 2 inches can be the difference between an instant passing and 2 hours of suffering.

Some may think that this post isn't directly related to hunting, however, in the opinions of Cody and I it is. We both are bigger proponents of ethical hunting than we are of QDM, Mossy Oak or anything else in the hunting world today.

When watching hunting shows, it may seem ridiculous that after every time these guys have their guns or bows in a car, plane or bus for a trip of more than a couple hours they re-site it in. However, all it takes is one pot hole or one minute of turbulence and a sight can be thrown of my several inches. Now, an inch can be the difference between excitement and dismay, just imagine what several inches can do!

With only several weeks until hunting we both felt we should take an oppurtunity to remind everyone about the ethical side of hunting. God has graced us with the oppurtunity to be able to pursue and harvest his majestic whitetail. We both feel it is of the essence that we show our utmost gratitude for this blessing through ethical hunting; simply, show the deer the same respect it shows us. So, sight in your guns, check your scopes and always remember, if there is any doubt in your mind about shot ethicality, the answer is always NO!

The Dark Knight

Like Cody said with his last post, usually every year hunters meet up with a buck that they can't get out of their mind. With Cody, this year that be Lefty as he has already told you he'll be doing everything he can to create a setup to take that marvelous buck. On the other hand, sometimes hunters meet a once in a lifetime buck that keeps their interest not only for one season but year round! Well, like Margaret's famous Socrates from the "Tree-Lounge" video, Cody, Dad and I have found that buck.

Last year Cody and I each had an "opportunity" to take this 3.5 year old 130 class buck, however, neither of us were presented with the perfect shot. We're both firm believers in taking a shot that we know we'll be immediately lethal and neither of was granted this shot. Cody's opportunity came one morning during early muzzle loading, the problem was that the buck was in thick cover and would never come into range. My opportunity came during rifle, and with Cody videoing, the buck
was too interested in chasing does that he never slowed down long enough to present an ethical shot. In both instances we threw everything we had at him. From grunts to bleats to rattling, nothing worked on this smart ol' guy. Then we made our mistake.

Instead of giving this guy time and avoiding the areas in which we had seen him, we ventured into his domain hoping to catch him by sup rise. Big mistake! He quickly turned nocturnal (hence the name!) and we never saw him again except on trail camera pictures at night. This negative for last year quickly turned into a plus for the upcoming season. By him turning nocturnal, plus the general intelligence of this deer we feel strongly that he is still running around on the property. Now, take a 130 class 3.5 year old and give him a year, what do you have? A buck of a lifetime that may score close to 150!

With such an old, smart buck we have to be very smart in attempting to harvest this guy. Quite the opposite of Lefty, with The Dark Knight we will do everything we can to AVOID his areas. Instead we're going to try and let him make the mistake by hunting his possible travel corridors and other areas where 9 out of 10 times we won't see him in hopes of seeing him that one crucial time. With a buck of this magnitude running around, we'd easily sit "unsuccesfully" for weeks in hopes of even catching a glimpse of him, much less getting a shot oppurtunity!

Well, as you can tell Cody and I are both biting at the bit for hunting season to arrive. Once again its times for all of hard work in the woods to hopefully pay off. But hey, shot or no shot, deer or no deer, hunting to us is much more than the shot, its a passion for God, wildlife and the outdoors! We'd like to thank all of you for reading the blog, it'll really get busy here in the coming weeks with all of the hunting stories! Don't forget to post your comments, see Cody's post on how to post these if ya have trouble figuring it out!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

And So It Begins

Most hunters, regardless of what age or skill level, usually take quite a fancy to a particular buck from the moment they lay lies on it. I am no exception. This past summer we received a trail camera picture a nice bachelor group (consisting of 4 bucks) visiting one of our mineral stations. There was a yearling spike, a decent 2.5 year old buck, a nice three year old that may grow into a potential shooter and a massive 4.5+ year old that really caught my eye. The picture was taken in early July and he was already a main frame 9 with a split left G2. This split G2 earned him the nickname “Lefty.”Given a 14-16” inside spread, I would estimate Lefty to score in the mid 120s. I immediately became drawn to this buck and devoted a good bit of my time thinking of how I could score on him.

I realized that my best chance to score on Lefty was during the bow season because once the rut began my chances would diminish quickly. The next step was to get a general idea of his home range and then connect the dots to where he would be come October. During one of my shed hunting excursions this past winter, I discovered an acorn lot that had not received much attention during hunting season and was virtually untouched during bow season.
After looking at the trail cam. photo again I determined that Lefty came from the direction that the acorn lot was located. However, the acorn lot was useless to Lefty during the summer, but the surrounding habitat was not. The particular lot which I feel Lefty will vist regularly come fall is surrounded by big buck habitat. The prime feeding area is surrounded by two pine thickets and an over grown clear cut that gives Lefty supreme cover and security. Feeling sure this was part of Lefty’s core area, I decided to do a little scouting.

A few weeks back I entered Lefty’s Domain to gain an idea for stand placement and discovered an important clue. As I was scanning the pine thicket I found an enormous bed which had large buck droppings in it. I just KNEW it was Lefty’s bed. I immediately became overwhelmed with excitement and felt my chances skyrocket.

By the end of my scouting trip I had found Lefty’s bed and a nice white oak to hang my stand, I was pumped. I feel I have a great chance of catching Lefty leaving his prime bedding area (the pine thicket) in a transition zone between his bedding area and prime feeding area (the acorn lot), or vise versa. Unfortunately, I may only get hunt this stand a limited number of times if the wind does not cooperate. I have to wait for a southerly wind before I can even think of entering this setup. I don’t want to ruin my hunt before it evens begins!

Lefty is a one of a kind buck that I just hope I get a chance to see from the tree stand, much less attempt to harvest. However, I feel through hard work and careful attention to detail I feel I have put myself in the best location possible. I may not even get a crack at ole Lefty, but I can tell you one thing, it’s going to be a blast chasing after him this fall!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Virginia Outdoor Sportsmans Classic

Hey everyone! I know it's kind of late notice but I just wanted to remind everyone of the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman's Classic coming up this weekend at the Salem Civic Center. The event actually started this morning and is slated to run through the rest of the weekend. It's really fixin' up to be a great show with several exhibits, vendors and seminars being conducted all weekend.

I'm personally going to be at the "Bucks That Rock" exhibit tomorrow so stop on by and say hello! Unfortunately Damin couldn't attend this event because he just left for UVa just an hour and a half ago. Not to worry, we'll be working more events together in the future.

With that being said I look forward to seeing everyone tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Mossy Oak Event

Hello everyone. Damin and I have some very exciting news to share with you guys. This past weekend, August 8-10, Damin and I attended the Bass Pro Shops Fall Hunting Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina. This was our first show as Mossy Oak Pro Staffers and it was a blast!! The Fall Hunting Classic is a nationwide, three week hunting show getting all the hunters ready for another season.

We spent all day on Saturday and half the day on Sunday representing Mossy Oak, interacting with the customers and just talkin' huntin'!
It was both humbling and overwhelming to have other folks look up to Damin and I for both our knowledge in the deer woods and for advice on product and camo selection, product use and product success. Of course we said Mossy Oak! Our regional manager, Bucky Hauser, said that sales in Mossy Oak licensed products increased throughout the weekend due in large part to the efforts of us and our fellow pro staffers.

Damin and I also got to meet several of our fellow team members this past weekend as well which was also very exciting. In fact I got to spend the majority of my day Saturday with Tommy Nunley from Wytheville. Tommy is a super guy and just from hearing him talk this past weekend, he knows how to get some big bucks on the ground. Fortunately, Tommy and I will be working the Virginia Outdoor Sportsman's Classic together, August 22-24 at the Salem Civic Center. Stop by and see us!

I also had the privelage of meeting Kevin Renwick, Director of Marketing for Traditions Firearms. Kevin, like Tommy, is a great guy and knowledgeable hunter. Tommy and I spent a good bit of time helping Kevin out in the firearms section on Saturday and of course, talking hunting. In fact, I have been in contact with Kevin via e-mail the past couple days about placing an order for a new Traditions Pursuit II XLT. If you haven't seen or heard of this muzzleloader, you need to check it out. It is going make big news come this fall.

Needless to say, we entered our prostaff careers with a bang working an event as as large as the Bass Pro Fall Classic. We're blessed to have been given such an oppurtunity by Mossy Oak and, hopefully, it will be the first big event of many.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Just A Reminder!

Hello everyone, with summer officially in full swing we've been pretty busy and slacking a bit when it comes to publishing posts. Please accept our sincerest apology!

With that being said, during this time we would love to here what YOU, the reader, has to say. Damin and I would really appreciate any and all comments you guys give. Don't worry about being nice to us; we're self-assured, confident folks and are open to a little constructive criticism. Thus meaning if you read something you don't believe to be true or may disagree with, tell us! It will help better our writings and will make this blog better for everyone. Unfortunately, we've had some questions and concerns as to how to post a comment from our friends in the HNI community. It's really simple, actually.

Simply go to the bottom of a published post, there you will see the date, time of publication, and a link that may read "0 comments," "1 comment," etc. All you have to do is click on that link and it will take you to a page with a text box in the upper right hand corner which is where you can type your comment. Not a member of Google blogger? Not a problem, simply click on the "Name" option in the bottom right hand corner, or the "Anonymous" if that’s your preference and click "Post Comment," and you're done! That's all there is to it.

Again, we would love any feedback you guys can give us and look forward to hearing from every reader who visits our blog.

God Bless and Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

QDM: Not Trophy Management?

As most of you who've read the blog know, Cody and I are both avid proponents of Quality Deer Management. And, for a dominant portion of the hunting community today, deer management is a common practice and the traditional attitude of "it's brown, it's down" is viewed as rather archaic. QDM, however, takes things a bit further than just traditional deer management. Often misconstrued as "trophy" management, people sometimes label QDMers as merely trophy hunters (goals of taking big bucks with little regard for anything else). To understand the true goal of QDM, we'll have to take a brief jaunt back in history.

When westward expansion really kicked off in the 1800s deer populations across the country were decimated. Deer were a main source of food, and with no regulations nor understanding of the consequences, deer numbers were reduced to nearly extinction. In the1900s it was realized that something was going to have to be done in order to restore these numbers. The problem was, as was the case in the mid 1900s, the restrictions put in place were aimed at restoring deer populations by restricting antlerless harvests. Quickly the deer numbers catapulted back towards their original numbers, but, in doing so, an unhealthly ecoystem (with regards to whitetails) was developed. With nearly limitless restrictions on bucks, the male whitetails across the country were becoming fewer and fewer. On top of that, in many places even today up to 80% of the buck harvest is of yearlings and 1.5 year old bucks. With fewer bucks around, and fewer mature bucks able to breed, there is extreme stress placed on the young bucks that are around. In some cases, the what is normally 40 day rut can be extended to up to 3 months as the bucks attempt to breed all the doe that come into estrous! This not only places a burden on the bucks, but the does that are bred late in the rut have their fawns late in the spring. This, in turn, leads to an insufficient amount of time for the fawns to develop before the following winter reducing their survival rates. On top of the increased fawn mortality, after the long rut many bucks don't even make it through the intitial winter as they are forced to death through exhaustion.
Naturally there should be a deer herd balance of one buck to one doe.
Traditional management has left some areas with poor balances such as 5 to 1 or even worse. Under the goals of QDM, adequate doe harvests are suggested in order to restore the natural balance. This balance helps restore God's natural order. And, in comparison to the past half a century, it enables the natural processes of the rut to occur as they should. Also, by restricting the harvests of young bucks, this process is enhanced even quicker as the rut is intensified to its normal strength and mature bucks are able to breed does and pass on genetics that are likely superior to the adolescent bucks. However, as has been discussed, having these older, bigger bucks is not the goal of QDM; it is merely a by-product of the hard work and determination that goes into a QDM program. (Of course, I'm not going to lie, more chances at bigger bucks is something that gets the heart going!!)
Better deer and better deer hunting, its hard for any avid sportsman to argue with these results. Be it practiced on 100 acres or 1000 acres, Quality Deer Management produces the things of which all deer hunters dream. Patience, desire, dedication and discipline are all it takes to get a QDM program off the ground, trust me, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Summer: Stand Preparation Time

It would seem as though the vast differences between the weather of the summer months and deer season would mean that the weather patterns are completely different. The summer, however, is the perfect time of year to begine understanding the weather patterns in order to begin preparation for stand palcement in the fall.

It's important to understand the direction from which the wind will blow precdeing both low/high pressure regions as well as warm and cold fronts. Even if you have permanent stands set up in an area, certain weather patterns and thus wind directions make the stand almost unhuntable. Granted, scent control/elimination can help protect one from being detected, but, remember, a big buck may only have to locate you one time and he may be gone from the area until after the season is over.

We have a bow stand at one spot on our property overlooking a spring and a draw. The stand is at the top of a ridge and between the draw and the adjacent draw there is a flat area. Weather patterns are crucial when preparing to hunt this stand. Normally, warm air convection would cause air to rise in the morning. Being at the top of the ridge, this is a postive as the air would not carry your scent down into the spring and basin. However, given the wrong direction of wind (southeast in this case), your scent can be blown directly into the basin. Then, when the warm air convection occurs the scent will merely hover in the area ruining your hunt for that day and days to come. Hunting a northwest wind at this stand is essential or you can count on these thermals blowing up your hunting for days to come! Granted, this is only one example, but its significance is no less as it exemplifies just one reason why understanding stand placement and weather are crucial.

We all know that the serious deer hunter knows to hunt the wind. And, with scent-elimination products today it is much easier to remain hidden than it once was. Still, understanding the weather patterns in your area is very important as even with scent control deer can still detect one's presence. Understand your property's makeup and how it affects the winds. Know where the thermals are most signifcant, find where air is likely to hover and become stagnant, doing each of these things will not only increase your chances and taking a trophy whitetail but give you a better understanding of the environment in which you live. Both of which, to me anyways, are very satisfying.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Dream Come True Pt. 2

Believe it or not, I am living another one of my dreams when it comes to deer hunting. I have recently been introduced as a writer for SMYB is a Virginia based deer hunting site with the focus on regular hunters showing off their trophies. We are going to launch an online magazine this calendar year and are hoping to take it to a print magazine in the future as well.

Joe Beasley, editor and creator of SMYB has graciously assigned me with my own section in which my writings will appear; Cody’s Corner. My goal is to have Cody’s Corner become a respected authority when it comes to deer and deer hunting and I hope to help fellow hunters increase their chances of taking a trophy buck through my writings. I plan on contributing how-to articles, articles on deer behavior and biology as well as product reviews for certain products. It has also been discussed that I do a video on tree stand safety that would be uploaded to the site, which is something I am particularly excited about.

I am eternally blessed to have come in contact with the good people at both Mossy Oak and SMYB. These are two amazing opportunities that I look forward to handling with professionalism and passion. I encourage everyone to visit the SMYB site,, and become a part of the ultimate community for Virginia’s deer hunters.

Monday, May 19, 2008

With spring green up nearly complete, the food plots planted and summer only weeks away it would seem as though it would be a slow time for us in the deer woods. However, now is one of the most important time periods for the serious hunter. Soon does will be giving birth to their fawns and bucks are rapidly (centimeters per day) growing their antlers, thus our supplemental feeding program is now in full swing.

The past couple of years we have relied heavily on the Whitetail Institute’s 30-06 Plus Protein mineral supplementation. This year we’ve not only added a third mineral station but have begin using Antler King. Antler King Protein pellets and mineral supplements provide variety for the deer herd while supplying the necessary minerals they need in order to nourish their fawns or develop their antlers. For does in particular, supplements create for increased lactation which leads to increased survival rates amongst fawns. Does without proper nourishment lose fetuses and fawns at a rate of anywhere from 70-90%. Combining this with the possibility of predation following birth creates a situation in which fawn survival is very difficult. Eliminating fawn death through malnutrition creates an increased number of healthy fawns who are ready to not merely struggle to survive, but thrive upon entering the world.

Like with the freshly planted apple trees, eliminating human presence in the areas of mineral supplementation is key as it allows for a calm environment where the deer do not feel pressured. We try to get in, provide the minerals and leave without making too much noise. Right now this may not seem as though it is that big of a deal, however, during hunting season it will really begin to pay off. In hunting heavily pressured areas one of the most important things is to apply as little extra pressure as possible. Being smart in the woods now only leads to an increased chance of success come hunting season.

On a side not, while our last post was centered around our recent singing with Mossy Oak, Cody and I were both honored and privileged to meet the face of Realtree himself Michael Waddell a couple of weeks ago. On the way to a wedding in Martinsville (congrats Sallie!) we stopped at the grand opening of Gander Mountain in Roanoke. We had planned on stopping and just checking the place out and while we know Mr. Waddell would be there, we figured the chance of getting to see him was slim to none. Well, we were very lucky to pull in right beside a tent where he was just finishing up a talk. We were both able to get our picture taken and talk to Mr. Waddell for a couple minutes. A hilarious and classy guy, it was definitely very exciting for both of us. And, though we’re both Mossy Oak guys now, if you’ve somehow managed to miss Realtree Roadtrips on the Outdoor Channel thus far, I highly recommend checking it out.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Dream Come True

Damin said that we had some really big news to share, and here it is. Damin and I have been signed to the Mossy Oak Pro Staff. What does a Mossy Oak Pro Staffer do, you ask? Well essentially, we have become professional deer hunters representing Mossy Oak brand camo. Mossy Oak brand camo is the top rated deer hunting camouflage according to Bowhunting World magazine. Our job as Mossy Oak Pro Staffers is to promote Mossy Oak licensed materials at hunting shows, expos, banquets, dinners and other events. Also, we may be asked to give seminars regarding the many aspects of deer hunting.

I can’t speak for Damin, but to me this is really a dream come true. Becoming a Pro Staff member for the best camo brand in deer hunting is something I still haven’t come to grips with yet. Ever since I was started hunting at 6 years old, I always wanted to be a professional hunter and knew that if I worked hard and put all my drive and determination into a positive energy, that I could achieve this goal. However, I could never fathom that I would be 18 when it happened.

There are several people that have been influential to me achieving this dream. First and foremost is my immediate family. Without my Dad I would not only be the hunter or sportsman, but I would not be the man that I am today. He represents all that is good in a father and man and I owe all my successes to him. Damin has also been very influential to me as well. I give Damin a hard time about being a “newbie” to the sport because he has just recently become obsessed with the sport that is deer hunting in the past couple years, but in reality Damin has been hunting just as long as I have and has taken more mature bucks. Still, the determination and drive that Damin displays in his academics and on the basketball court, I have applied to deer and deer hunting. I want to not only be a successful hunter, but a knowledgeable, methodical and tactical hunter and I owe my passion to deer hunting to him. Thirdly, I have to thank my mom for the constant support she gives me. As I’ve said before, becoming a successful deer hunter and harvesting a trophy buck is a year round sport, and she supports me every single day. It took me 12 years to harvest my first mature buck, and she supported me from day one. Her love and patience was on obvious display when she woke up with me at 5 o’clock in the morning to fix me a warm breakfast when she could have stayed in bed. I would also like to send thanks to my grandfather, Jack Schumaker. Paw-paw, as Damin and I call him, is one of the best bear hunters on the east coast and I hope to be to deer hunting what he is to bear hunting. I describe Paw-Paw as an honest, helpful, hardworking sportsman who could care less about the kill, and it just out there to enjoy the hunt. I believe that inherited his passion for the hunt, only for deer and not bear. I would also like to thank my other grandfather, Tizer, for the trips we spent a field for squirrels and deer. I was with Tizer the day I took my first racked buck, a 4 pointer on which I made a remarkable (lucky) 185 yard shot on and it was a hunt that I will never forget.

Without those who I mentioned above Damin and I would not have been granted this incredible opportunity by the wonderful people at Mossy Oak, we are truly blessed.

Damin and I are about to begin an incredible journey that will allow us to meet some great people, experience lifelong dreams, and hopefully help us take a monster buck. And we are looking forward to sharing it all with you.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Chaotic Time for Us!!

Hey everyone, This is a busy time for both Cody and I as we are engulfed in the wonders of exam week. One positive thing about exams? Summer is just around the corner meaning will have plenty of time to photograph, write and just spend time outdoors.

On a side note, check out the picture Cody took during our first Turkey hunt several weeks ago. We
didn't have any luck one could say, but it was a a beautiful morning and definitely a good experience. The toms were gobbling but our lack of experience prevented us from getting them to come ! Of course, with the camo pattern I have on there, had they gotten close I probably would've stuck out like a sore thumb. I think I'm in need of a little Mossy Oak apparel!

Well guys, sorry to cut this so short but I've got to get back to studying. Check in the next week or so as we have some REALLY big news to share with everyone.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Big Buck Rundown

I thought I would give everyone a quick run down of the best bucks harvested off of our property. Pictured with these racks is our father, Tim, and the best sportsman, outdoorsman and woodsman I know. He is by far the best hunter in our club as he consistently harvests the biggest, most mature deer every year, while hunting considerably less than Damin and I due to his shift-work schedule.

The shed he’s holding in his left hand was a dandy buck, no doubt. The left side of this buck scored 60” alone and the G2 is around 11” while the brow tine measures out at 4 inches. Unfortunately this buck gave everyone the slip the next fall and went unnoticed. Still, I would have KILLED to see what that buck matured into; I would guess that he would score 145” with super long tines.

The shed in dad’s right hand was chewed off by rodents considerably when found, but is an awesome right side of a main frame 10. Too much of the shed had been chewed off for scoring, but it was estimated to score around 55”.

The buck on the red plaque was harvested by our dad in the fall of 2003. The only thing keeping this buck from being super was a good inside spread and good brow tines. This 3.5 year old buck features lengthy main beams and tall tines and scored 97”, an amazing trophy for our property before we began practicing QDM.

The buck on the left plaque was actually harvested by our grandfather and is the biggest buck taken off our property to date. It just misses Boone and Crockett with a score of 139”. Still, this buck is a deer hunter’s dream for any locale. A main frame ten with gnarly bases, massive main beams and an inside spread that will leave you breathless, the buck named “Big Mike” by our club remains the king of our property, for now…

Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Picture is Worth 1000 Words

As easy as it is for us to become engulfed in the world of hunting and the outdoors, sometimes its important to take a moment to remember just how fortunate we are to have the freedom to do the things we do.

Monday, April 14, 2008

April: A Time of Relief

The month of April is an indication that spring green up is occurring and summer is quickly approaching. And, although we’ve had an atypically warm winter here in the southeast, spring still brings a time of relief and catch up for the deer herd. During the spring time, deer are not only trying to replenish their bodies from the winter months, they are trying to create a large deposit in their dietary food bank.

While spring would seem to create an instant liberation from dietary struggle, this is not the case as although food may be more plentiful, there has been another stress added to both the bucks and does of the herd. In late March or early April photoperiodism triggers an increase in gonadotrophic hormones through the pineal gland in bucks. Simply, antler velvet begins to grow as the antlers begin to develop. The does, on the other hand, are dealing with the stress of eating for two as they are entering into the final trimester of their pregnancy.

Social lives and feeding patterns are affected the greatest during the spring time. Bucks and doe split apart and each group establishes its own fraternal/maternal hierarchy. Bucks congregate into groups of 4 to 5 where a variety of age classes are represented due to the fact that bucks of many age classes have been harvested during hunting season. Does congregate into larger groups that usually consist of the dominant doe, her daughters, and their offspring. Why do deer congregate into these groups? Simply, protection. As the grass, clover and other vegetation begins to grow, deer are drawn into more open areas where there is less protection and cover from brush and trees. An increased number of eyes and noses creates a situation in which a predator is more likely to be spotted. Even an areas most dominant buck will shun the solitary life for the comfort and safety of the group.

In addition to their protective groups, deer are also reduce their susceptibility to predation through their ability to gather and store food very quickly due to their compartmentalized stomachs. Deer’s stomachs have four compartments, the first of which, the rumen, is used solely as a storage compartment. The compartmentalization creates for quick harvesting and storage which greatly decreases the amount of time that is spent out in the open. While not as vital in our neck of the woods, these aspects of a deer’s biology are crucial on the plains of the west and brush country in Texas.

Granted there are biological differences between the behavioral characteristics of bucks and does. However, in general, congregating into sex-specific groups and increased food availability are the two underlying themes for both bucks and does. While it may not seem too “exciting” and it may seem irrelevant to the hunting experience, it is these months that are perhaps the most critical in the production of bigger bucks and healthier deer. How you may ask? Stay tuned….

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Endless Possibilities

Hello everyone. In my last post I discussed QDM and its significance to our deer herd, and this past weekend we added another dimension. After a trip to Lowe’s, a full bed in the Nissan Titan, and a Sunday afternoon of hard work, we successfully planted three apple trees and two pear trees. I know you’re thinking, “Big deal? They’re just fruit trees.” Well, these fruit trees have the potential to dramatically improve both our deer herd and our deer hunting experiences. Let me explain.

We strategically planted these five trees in two locations. The apple trees were planted in a field adjacent to the ridge that borders our hunting property. Since our hunting property is on the South facing slope of Chestnut Ridge, it heats up rather quickly during the summer months because it receives the first sunlight and stays hotter longer. The cool shade along with the ample water supply provided by the creek that spits the two ridges makes this area a primetime daylight bedroom for a mature buck. Since bucks are inherently lazy and only travel back and forth between the ridges at night to visit the food plots, we had to do something to get these bucks on our property and keep them there.

Every summer, around mid-July to early August, mature bucks will gradually move out of their summer range and into their fall range. This is a slow and delicate process, and if at any minute the old buck feels threatened or hunted, he will resort back to safety (making eliminating human presence on your hunting property a top priority). This is where the fruit trees become vital. The fruit trees generally begin dropping their fruit in mid-August to early September. However, the deer will frequent each individual tree daily well before these times to see if any of the sweet fruit has fallen. The comfort of the refreshing creek branch combined with the tasty nutritious apple trees will attract mature bucks to our property sooner and hold them their longer.

The pear trees offer the same solution. These two trees were planted at another field edge, about 320 yards North-North West of the apples. With the same process, just a different set-up, these pear trees will offer unique opportunities. A pond sits North-West of these pear trees about a half mile, as the crow flies. It is important to remember how vital water is to a deer and its travel patterns. Deer go to water 2-3 times daily taking roughly 3-4 quarts per day. However, the majority of their water intake is provided by lush vegetation they consume during the spring and summer months and the dew in which that vegetation holds. As was true with the apple trees, the allure of the pear trees combined with the cool pond will again, attract and hold deer on our property. The unique twist about this setup is how it will play right into another one of our favorite hunting strategies. The two pear trees are located 150 yards below one our property’s best producing acorn lots which the deer really hammer from September to mid-November. Pears will fall later than the apples, usually after the first frost, which is generally when the deer begin their acorn feast. Let's just say that section of our property will deemed a 'honey-hole' during early season. Thinking about these possibilities sure gets me fired up!

The potential of these fruit trees is endless and their maturation process will be fun to watch. Unfortunately, it will take 5-6 years before these trees will bear fruit. Tremendous upkeep is required and monitoring their growth is essential, but the possibilities these young trees hold makes them well worth the wait.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

20 Feet Closer To God

Have you ever been driving along the interstate and become completely engulfed in the scenery of the rugged mountains, the rolling hills or the endless plains? I absolutely love my drive home from Charlottesville as the distant mountains come closer with each passing minute. And, in my child hood and teenage years, I left it at that. I found a great deal of pleasure in simply viewing these mountains and accepting them only for their aesthetic value. You know what, though? I was missing it all.

I’ve deer hunted since I was 9 years old. Just like any hunter, I’ve had my successes and I’ve had my failures. When I was younger I enjoyed the hunt, but I also enjoyed when it was over. I liked being in the woods, but if the woods were quiet and the deer weren’t moving, I became apathetic and more interested getting to get back to the camp where a warm fire and family awaited. Again, I was missing it all.

In the past couple of years I’ve learned more about myself and nature than ever before. Why should I relish in the mountain’s distant beauty when I can be a part of the mountains themselves? And leaving the stand early? Well let’s just say every time I spent those hours in the camp I missed the greatest show on earth.

As “small” as Chestnut Ridge may be, I love running its ridges, hollows, banks and creeks. And while 3 years ago I may have been content viewing them from a distant, I know take every chance I get to be a part of the mountains and experience God’s wonderful creation first hand. And while a distant viewer may have no idea that I’m there, that’s the only way I’ll have it. God’s mountains engulf me just as his love engulfs us all.

As far as leaving the stand early, one thing I’ve grown to understand is that the woods are never quiet. Be it an ant crawling up the oak to which my stand is attached, or the slow movement of the shadows as the distant sun travels its daily course, there is always the opportunity to see something that has never been seen before. Each morning that I climb into my stand and watch the sun come up over the adjacent ridge I am seeing God in work from an angle that no one else will ever have a chance to see. This past hunting season some of my most successful mornings were deerless and “quiet.” And while the opportunity at a Booner may take my heart rate from 0-60 in a second, I know that no matter how many deer I see or don’t see, I’m eternally blessed to be able to experience God in such a genuine way each time I step foot into the deer woods.

I’ll leave you with a thought from the original deer hunter himself:

"When a hunter is in a tree stand with high moral values and with proper hunting ethics and richer for the experience, that hunter is 20 feet closer to God" -Fred Bear

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

QDM: A Year-Round Passion

Damin and I are true “Whitetail Freaks.” Every morning we wake up and think of ways to increase our chances of harvesting a mature, trophy whitetail. This is a daunting task to even the most seasoned hunters, but through the practice of Quality Deer Management we feel we have a chance to harvest a Pope and Young whitetail every hunt.

QDM is a simple, yet complex practice focused on better deer and better deer hunting. We try to harvest a healthy amount of does to better increase the sex ratio in our deer herd. The ideal buck to doe ratio is 1:1, at this stage we are currently at 4:1. We have planted 4 Imperial Whitetail clover food plots to increase body size and antler mass, while providing the necessary protein the does need while lactating to support strong, healthy fawns. Those steps along with the passing of younger bucks all intertwine together to provide us with the best hunting scenario possible.

While that all sounds simple, and it really is on paper, it all takes a lot of time, work, and patience. For example, this past year we harvested 3 does off the property, one of each age class. Damin harvested a 1.5 year old doe with his Thompson Center Triumph (Muzzleloader) and 4.5 year old matriarch with his BowTech TomKat (Compound Bow). I also harvested a 2.5 year old doe with my Horton Explorer (Crossbow). Removing does from those specific age classes strengthen the social order of the herd. Determining the number of female deer on our property through offseason scouting and the aid of two trail cameras help us better decide on how many does to take the following fall.

Detailed records of our buck harvests also help tell us the genetic potential of our deer herd. For example, there were at least three 3.5 year old bucks on the property this year. One was guessed scored around 90”, another 115”, and the third, a Pope and Young 135”. What does this mean? Well the buck that scored 90” field dressed 140 pounds, an above average number for this area. However, the 115” class buck only field dressed 125 lbs, below average. Unfortunately, none of us connected with the mack-daddy of the bunch, but he was guessed to have weighed 160 pounds on the hoof (and is still alive). The demographics from those three deer tell us that our bucks have the genetic potential to reach 160” by 4.5 years of age; however, the sex ratio, habitat, and gene pool are currently a shade inferior preventing them from reaching that potential. Which is why we practice QDM.

As you can see QDM requires a lot of time and effort, but the results are very rewarding. We are still early in our management practices, but we can already see a difference in the size and overall health of our deer herd. The pursuit of a trophy whitetail is a year round quest, and QDM is a perfect example.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Welcome All

Welcome to our blog. We hope to bring to you the excitement, disappointment, highs and lows that go into producing, chasing and harvesting trophy whitetails. A year round job for a true "Whitetail Freak" , we spend more time in the field in a year than most hunters do in a lifetime. Like the Mossy Oak motto says, "It's more than a passion, its an obsession." From scouting to shed hunting to planting food plots, we hope to keep you up to date on what we do while hopefully supplying you with a little helpful information as well. Again, welcome to our blog, hopefully it will give us a chance to share our obsession with you.