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.