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We all love to hunt deer, and we all think it doesn't get any better than our home turf. But, really, who is No. 1 when it comes to deer and deer hunting?
Well, as they say, when Texans does something, they do it big.
We've just finished compiling our annual state-by-state statistics for the Deer Hunters Almanac, and we've learned that Texas ranks No.1 in the number of deer hunters, gun-hunters and annual whitetail harvest in the United States.
We've been compiling these stats since 1991, and the top spot for all of those categories has changed slightly over the years. For a time, Michigan led the nation in total hunters and bowhunters, and Wisconsin once led the nation in annual deer harvest. Declines in both hunter numbers and deer harvests, however, have shifted the rankings southward.
In 2010, Texas sold 1,245,532 deer hunting licenses. Those hunters took 576,209 whitetails. Of those hunters, nearly 1.1 million are gun-hunters.
Ohio, thanks in large part to the fact that crossbow hunters are included in the archery season, has the most bow-hunters in the nation with 317,400.
Here's a look at the Top 3 for each category:
Total deer hunters:
Joe Evridge, who operates the Heart of Texas Trophy Whitetail deer ranch with his brother Grant near Brady, says the consecutive days of 100-plus temperatures in June have caused about a 25 percent loss of this year's fawn crop.
He said that the heat is hard on the does and that they can't carry the fawns to full term, or else the newborn fawns can't cope with the hot sun.
"We have more than 350 deer, which we feed in 22 pens equipped with plenty of water and shade, and that helps protect them from so much of the heat and predators," Evridge told me.
On my visit to the ranch, a 2-year-old trophy buck walked right up to us and licked our hands. Used for breeding, the friendly buck is carrying a large rack encased in velvet. Last year, the buck grew antlers 38 inches wide with 66 points, Evridge said.
Evridge has spent more than 20 years as a wildlife consultant and decided seven years ago to set up his own deer breeding program.
"I have always liked the whitetail deer. They are such beautiful and majestic animals," he said.
Recent scattered thundershowers failed to leave much rain across McCulloch County. Clay Jones, a banker and rancher, said 0.30 inches of rain fell on the Jones ranch north of Brady. "But three miles away, from 2.5 to 3 inches fell," he said.
"Most of the stock water tanks have either dropped to very low levels or gone completely dry because of the drought," Clay Jones said.
That's the situation in every direction I've driven in the past several weeks.
Deer have the ability to reproduce and expand their numbers at an almost exponential rate. A classic example of deer herd growth potential is documented at the George Reserve in southern Michigan.This area is a 1,200-acre tract enclosed by an eleven-foot deer-proof fence. In 1928, six deer (2 bucks and 4 does) were released inside the area. Six years later, a drive count yielded a minimum population of 160 deer (Hickie 1937). The growth of the George Reserve herd reflects a mathematical model known as the logistical equation (Caughley 1977).
This model is characterized by an S-shaped curve reflecting how factors such as reproductive success and mortality affect a population. During the early stages of population growth, deer numbers are low and quality forage is abundant. Consequently, mortality is low and reproductive output is high. As the population increases, so does competition for quality forage and other habitat components. This increased competition leads to lower reproductive output and fawn survival. The fawn recruitment rate eventually reaches a point where it equals the mortality rate and the population stops growing. Physical condition of the herd is usually poor and disease problems may be chronic. A deer herd at this point has reached absolute carrying capacity or CC K.
The population level at absolute or CC K consists of the maximum number of animals the habitat can support. At any level above CC K, plants in the habitat are utilized at a rate greater than they can sustain. In terms of deer management, the term reasonable carrying capacity (RCC) may more accurately describe the maximum number of animals acceptable relative to herd quality, habitat integrity, and other social constraints. RCC is reached at a population level that is lower than CC K. At RCC, the population level is at the upper limits of the habitat’s capacity to sustain the population in good condition throughout the year. RCC takes into consideration seasonal fluctuations in habitat quality, impacts to other wildlife species, and human considerations.
THE NECESSITY OF HERD MANAGEMENT
The example of the George Reserve relays the importance of controlling deer population levels. Deer managers should be cautioned that maintaining a deer population at carrying capacity is a risky and often costly proposition. The levels at which deer populations should be maintained depend on land use objectives, human dimensions, and overall herd management objectives. It may be desirable to keep deer numbers low in order to reduce problems associated with crop damage, disease, and accidents. Independent of these considerations, deer populations should always be managed to meet some goal relative to management objectives, herd health, and the protection of habitats and ecological integrity.
In the absence of sufficient predator populations, the work of maintaining deer populations at appropriate levels has shifted to the modern hunter. The most effective way to regulate deer populations is through hunting. Failure to control deer numbers always results in overpopulation and habitat degradation that affects not only deer, but also many other animals. For example, many species of neotropical migrant birds are impacted by excessive deer herd densities and the resulting overbrowsing of important food and nesting flora. Proper regulation of deer populations ensures critical habitat components are protected for numerous wildlife species. Hunting should be appreciated for the cultural and societal benefits it provides, as well as the effective management tool it has become.
As with any tool, hunting can be applied improperly or inefficiently. It is the job of state wildlife agencies and biologists to provide the regulatory framework and, along with research universities, the management information that ensures the most efficient application of hunting as a management tool. In the years since subsistence hunting largely disappeared, there have been numerous advances in the field of scientific wildlife management. There also are numerous approaches to the management of deer through legal hunting. Some of these approaches have served the public and the deer herd very well, while other methods have resulted in poorly managed and unnatural deer herds. Today the principles of proper deer management are well defined and effective. Implementing these management techniques often entails overcoming the obstacles of popular deer lore, people’s resistance to change, and user groups with conflicting objectives.
THE BASICS OF HERD MANAGEMENT
The primary objective of deer managers should be to maintain a deer population within the bounds of the reasonable carrying capacity. Beyond this, management objectives may include the production of mature bucks, balancing adult sex ratios, or maintaining a maximum deer harvest. Deer harvest data is most effective in determining whether a population is within the reasonable carrying capacity. If harvest data indicates too many deer for a unit of habitat, an aggressive harvest of deer—especially does—should be implemented to reduce the population to a more compatible level. Continued monitoring of harvest data will assist in determining when the population has been reduced to the appropriate level.
Often, an aggressive doe harvest is the fastest and most efficient method to reduce overall herd densities. In addition to simply removing excess deer numbers, harvest of female deer limits reproductive output and works to balance adult sex ratios. In cases of gross overpopulation, greater numbers of deer should be removed regardless of sex. Once a population has been reduced to a level within reasonable carrying capacity (RCC), approximately one-third of the herd must be harvested each fall to maintain this population level. Within the annual one-third harvest, at least half of the deer taken should be females. Any significant departure from this basic harvest regime will result in population growth and herd densities that exceed RCC.
Deer populations respond to varying mortality rates by decreasing, increasing, or remaining stable. A deer herd will continue to grow with annual mortality rates of less than 35 percent. The rate of growth will depend on how far below 35 percent the annual mortality rate actually is. For example, an annual mortality rate of 20 percent allows for rapid population growth while at 30 percent, population growth may be more gradual. With pproximately 35 percent annual mortality, a population will generally remain stable. With a 40 percent annual mortality rate, the total population will decline; at rates greater than 40 percent this decline becomes more pronounced. The effect annual mortality has on a population also depends on how the population is structured with respect to adult sex ratio and on how the annual mortality is distributed between both sexes. Reproductive output and recruitment also influences the net effect of annual mortality rates.
Population models have shown deer herds produce the greatest sustained yields when maintained at approximately 40 to 80 percent of the estimated carrying capacity (Downing and Guynn 1985). At these herd densities, the highest harvest rates may be achieved without compromising habitat integrity. Reproduction and recruitment will exceed natural mortality significantly at these levels, thereby providing the optimum range for a sustained annual harvest of deer. Studies have shown peak harvest rates are achieved at deer densities of 50 to 60 percent of carrying capacity (Downing and Guynn 1985). At this level, allocation of resources in habitat and fawn production/recruitment is maximized. All deer in the herd will develop to the potential of the habitat’s nutritional ceiling. In areas of suboptimal habitats with inherently lower carrying capacities, this level may be too low to provide acceptable hunting satisfaction because deer sign and sightings may be reduced. -By Chris Cook and Bill Gray, Wildlife Biologists
Two of the most influential forces in conservative lobbying are poised to go head to head this fall over an issue some Republican lawmakers dread might be one of the most difficult of the session.
Many sportsmen hope Pennsylvania will allow more hunting on Sundays. It’s the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau vs. the National Rifle Association in a title bout over the legalization of hunting on Sunday.
The Farm Bureau is the defending champion of one of the last remaining blue laws that forbids hunting of most game species on the Lord’s designated day of rest.
Apart from the religious justification for the ban, Farm Bureau members also claim they want one day free of hunters traipsing across their property.
Hikers and bird-watchers join the farmers, saying they want one day a week of bullet-free passage through Penn’s Woods. And some sportsmen also support the ban, saying the wild critters they stalk need a day of rest as well.
Challenging that position is the Sunday Hunting Coalition, led by the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation with help from a diverse collection of national outdoor interests.
The economic benefit of extending hunting to Sunday would be significant, they say.
In an age when most hunters are limited to the weekend to pursue their sport, the change would effectively double the value — not the price — of their license.
Advocates say the change might also prompt hunters who have quit for lack of time to return to the sport, it might draw more hunters from outside the state, and it might spur interest in hunting among young people.
The corresponding increase in hunting activity, they say, would have direct and indirect economic impacts totaling more than 8,000 jobs and $764 million in Pennsylvania.
They also say the underpinnings of the blue law are wormy with age and irrelevance — one of the last relicts of colonial nanny-state dogma.
Almost every other blue law has fallen. Pennsylvanians can shop on Sunday. You can drink on Sunday. You can gamble on Sunday. You can now buy a motorcycle on Sunday. But you can’t hunt (or buy a vehicle).
The challenge is not new, but it has new-found traction this year.
The Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmens Clubs has come out in support of dropping the ban on Sunday hunting.
And there’s a bipartisan push from the leaders of the House Game & Fisheries Committee, with majority chair Rep. John Evans, R-Erie, and minority chair Rep. Edward Staback, D-Lackawanna County, solidly behind the change.
Evans — long opposed to the idea — changed his mind.
“I was presented with the facts,” Evans said. “From an economic standpoint, it’s a real shot in the arm for the Pennsylvania economy, and when we’re coming out of a recession, these types of opportunities need to be seized.”
“Folks who argue against it generally are believers in the blue laws established years ago” said Evans, “but — you know — we have changed as a society.”
“If you don’t want Sunday hunting on your land,” he said, “all you have to do is post your land ‘No Sunday Hunting.’ It’s that simple. They really want to put their wishes out there for everybody to abide by.”
Evans said he believes the proposal has a better chance than in past years.
“It can become an emotional issue, and no one wants to upset constituent groups, especially the Farm Bureau, but the NRA, I think, is pretty important for many members, too,” he said.
And there’s the crux.
Until now, the Farm Bureau has made sure any Sunday hunting proposal was basically dead on arrival.
It has more than 53,000 members across the state and is a voice that must be minded by rural legislators.
The Sunday hunting issue is “near and dear to the hearts of our farmers, who overwhelmingly oppose it,” said Mark O’Neill, media relations director for the Farm Bureau.
It’s “one of top issues the Farm Bureau will be dealing with this year,” he said.
That’s because it’s also the top issue of the Sunday Hunting Coalition.
“There are interests outside Pennsylvania with money coming in and pushing this,” O’Neill said. “They are targeting Pennsylvania.”
That’s only partially true, said Jake McGuigan, director of state affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the NRA’s partner in the Sunday Hunting Coalition.
“Pennsylvania is a major priority for us this year,” he acknowledged, but the group hardly represents “outside interests.”
Every member of the Sunday Hunting Coalition has significant membership inside Pennsylvania.
The NRA alone has some 400,000 Pennsylvanians on its rolls.
The NSSF has more than 500 Pennsylvania businesses on its rolls.
Add the membership and customer base of others in the coalition — Cabela’s, Bass Pro, Dick’s, Quality Deer Management — and “what we’re bringing is a united front,” said O’Neill.
That’s new, and that has the Farm Bureau on the ropes.
“When you have a lot of money and power behind you ... they may have more in
fluence than in the past,” said O’Neill.
The Farm Bureau has solid membership and clout, he said, “But I don’t know we have the money to stand up to the NRA.”
They might not have to.
Evans’ vice chair, Rep. Todd Rock, R-Waynesboro, isn’t on board with the proposal nor are other Republicans on the committee.
“I had six local farmers come into my office together,” said Rock, “and they said they would post their land” if the measure passed. “They opposed it for religious reasons and others.”
Rock said a majority of his constituents are opposed — probably 70 percent.
He’s adopting a “wait-and-see” stance.
He doesn’t know what the bill is ultimately going to look like, and there are still two more big public
hearings on the matter scheduled for September and October.
Between now and then, expect the NRA and its partners to throw its “grassroots” machinery into gear.
“That would be the key,” Staback said. “The sporting community needs to understand they need to get involved. If they don’t do that, if they simply sit back and expect it to happen on its own, it won’t.”
But that will also put many conservative legislators on the rack — pulled between two bedrock constituencies: farmers and sportsmen.
“For some members, it could be the toughest vote they have to make,” Rock said. “This is a big deal, and I don’t know where it’s going to end up. ... This is not an easy one.”
I hunt out of blinds a few times each year and they can be very effective, but the deer figure them out quickly. Here are a few tips for bowhunting from a ground blind that I’ve learned.
First, if you want to hunt a blind within two weeks of putting it up, you must brush it in very well. Even if you are just placing it out in an open field, you need to add brush to break up the outline. My friends and I have set blinds and brushed them in and had deer around them the same evening. Without the brush, the deer hang back and sometimes even snort from the shadows without entering the field.
Once the deer get used to the blind in the field, you can move it around and they won’t pay much attention to it. That is a big advantage to getting the blind placed early and giving the deer plenty of time to get used to it. Again, as I said, giving them at least two weeks is ideal.
Now here comes the main point: you can’t let the deer ever know you are in there — period. They are already a bit suspicious of the thing. If they figure out that you are sometimes in there, they will avoid the blind.
People tend to get sloppy once they get in the blind, sometimes making too much noise of moving in front of the windows to look at the deer. Again, it doesn’t take much before they get blind-shy. Also, when it is time to leave, always have a diversion — someone who can drive into the field and run the deer off before you climb out.
Use scent control and hunt very carefully and you can make a blind work well, but if you get the least bit sloppy the deer will pick up on your strategy very fast and then you are sunk.
It’s rare enough for a buck to reach true physical maturity, but for a buck to reach maturity and carry the genetics to grow abnormally large antlers is extraordinary.
When a buck of this caliber meets a bowhunter in a fair chase setting and the bowhunter brings home the bone, well, this could be described as “the perfect storm.” Simply put, it hardly ever happens.
Scott Odenbrett of Barry County, Missouri, found himself in just such a storm in the fall of 2010, in the hill country of southwest Missouri.
The story is epic in many ways. First, Scott has a very interesting history with the giant deer in question. This was not the first year Odenbrett’s weapon had connected with the buck.
Second, the buck has a world-class rack. The net Pope and Young score of the buck will likely place him in the top 16 bucks ever taken with a stick and string.
Third, Scott wasn’t hunting for this particular deer; he was simply out to shoot a doe! This story exemplifies the aspect of whitetail hunting that keeps us all coming back — a big buck could be living right under your nose and appear on any hunt! You never know what your hunting ground can produce!
During Missouri’s 2009 muzzleloader season, Odenbrett had intended to hunt in Barry County, his home county in Missouri. The muzzleloader season in Barry County falls in mid-December, and after a long season without a good buck, Odenbrett headed to the woods with his smoke-pole in hand. After sitting for some time, he decided to do some rattling. Much to his surprise, his calling sequence got the attention of more than one buck. Over the course of a few minutes, it drew in six!
One of the bucks was top-end for southern Missouri, pushing 150-160 inches based on Odenbrett’s estimate. As the hunter drew a bead on the buck and shot, the muzzleloader’s sabot flew off course. The moving buck, however, did catch the awry bullet — right in the antler! After the smoke cleared, the buck was unscathed, but Odenbrett had managed to shoot the right main beam of the buck, breaking it off at the base! He was confident that he would never see the broken-beam buck again.
Mass is an undeniable attribute of the Odenbrett buck’s rack, with circumference measurements tacking more than 55 inches onto the buck’s total gross score.
Having hunted this region for years, Odenbrett knew that the big hardwoods of southern Missouri have a way of causing big bucks to disappear. Be it a liberal rifle season or simply the heavily forested and rough topography of the Ozark Mountains, a hunter rarely receives a second chance. He didn’t suspect anything different from this buck. However, what he couldn’t anticipate or predict, would be the perfect storm of events that would take place the next year.
THE PERFECT STORM
The perfect storm began brewing in the spring of 2010 when southern Missouri received a plush amount of rainfall throughout the antler-growing season. Odenbrett recalls the cattle pastures near his hunting area were lush with clover — it was everywhere. In the last 15 years, he says that much of the traditional fescue pasture land in his region has been replaced by forage that is more beneficial to cattle — consequently, benefiting wildlife as well.
“Some farmers have planted alfalfa, white clover and orchard grass in their fields,” Odenbrett said, noting that in the last 15 years some commercial agriculture has popped up in the region, primarily soybeans and corn. Don’t confuse southern Missouri with the northern half of the state, which isn’t much different than Iowa or Kansas. This buck came from “Acorn Country”, which is what makes him so unique.
That being said, in 2010, the nutrition factor of the perfect storm was significant. Bucks in the region had access to the nutrition needed to grow big antlers, and the Odenbrett buck capitalized on it. Based upon the hunter’s 150- to 160-inch estimate in 2009, the buck grew approximately 100 additional inches of antler between 2009 and 2010! The final gross score of the buck was 252 6/8 inches!
Odenbrett missed an opportunity at the same buck the previous season, accidentally shooting the base of the buck’s right antler (lt.). Little did he know the phenomenal deer would grow an additional 100 inches of antler and present him another shot in 2010.
Age also played into the storm. Odenbrett is confident that the buck was 4 1/2 years old when he was taken. A deer of this age has the potential to do anything, especially when good nutrition and strong genetics mix in. Still, most hunters would expect a buck of this caliber to be older.
The third factor that played into the storm was genetics. “Our deer have very good genetics,” Odenbrett said. “It may have surprised some people that this deer came from this region, but to those of us who hunt here, we weren’t that surprised.” Ten years ago, a neighbor harvested a massive buck that grossed in the 190’s not far from where Odenbrett’s buck came from.
Odenbrett’s buck has a very unique frame, especially for a top 20 Pope and Young non-typical. The buck has an inside spread of only 15 5/8 inches. However, the 28 scoreable points and three mass circumferences over 8 inches dominant the gross score. Also, the long tines are stacked onto the beams like cordwood. The buck carried a 7×6 mainframe! The unique webbing and sheer number of non-typical inches are what make this buck truly a world-class bowkill.
The fourth element of the perfect storm, is the human element. A world-class buck that is never seen or harvested by a hunter has little influence on the hunting community. The hunter is the final ingredient of the perfect whitetail storm. Someone has to close the deal!
After the 2009 muzzleloader episode with the buck, Odenbrett had no hope that he would get a second chance. Surprisingly, the deer wasn’t even on his mind coming into the 2010 season. Odenbrett doesn’t consider himself a trophy hunter, and typically he hunts for meat. That being said, he is always on the lookout for a good buck, and he has capitalized on such animals in seasons past. He is a taxidermist by trade, so he doesn’t get to rifle hunt very much at all. Clients begin bringing in bucks on opening day and continue until season’s end. His hunting schedule, over the years, has evolved around his work schedule.
Odenbrett typically reserves the latter half of October and the first week of November for his serious bowhunting, and 2010 was no different. “It was a Monday and my son, Ryan, had come in from college to hunt with me,” Odenbrett said, “but I got busy in the shop and wasn’t able to go with him.”
On Tuesday morning, Ryan unexpectedly had to leave and head back to school. Unfortunately, Tuesday was the only evening that Odenbrett would be able to hunt. Even without his son, Odenbrett decided to try to make the evening sit.
“It wasn’t until after 3:30 p.m. on October 19 that a client of mine left the shop,” he recalled. “I rushed home, showered and got into my Scent-Lok suit.”
Don’t let the term “meat-hunter” fool you. Odenbrett is a seasoned hunter and knows what it takes to get deer into bow range. He takes scent control very seriously. Shortly after 4 p.m., he was pulling up to the property that he planned to hunt. The property was only 40 acres, but it was connected to more than 2,500 acres of private land. Much of the property is heavily forested, with deep hollows and ravines, and it’s interspersed cattle pastures.
Odenbrett hurriedly made his way to one of his favorite stands on the property. “This stand is one of our best for seeing deer,” he said. His lock-on is perched near the rim of a steep ravine in a flat of woods. The flat is located between the ravine and an old field that hasn’t been bush-hogged in several years. The area is a perfect funnel for deer. The timber had been selectively clear-cut some years ago, making it rather thick, but just the type of area that would make a big buck comfortable. The longest shot from Odenbrett’s stand was 20 yards. Over the years, he had pin-pointed the deer in this travel area.
“I wasn’t hunting for a big buck that afternoon,” Odenbrett said. “It was October 19, and I was simply looking for a doe or yearling to put some meat on the table.” Take note that it was on another property approximately three quarters of a mile away that Odenbrett had broke the beam off the buck the year before. The last thing he expected to see was that buck again, especially with 100 additional inches of antler!
It was approaching 4:45 p.m. by the time Odenbrett was settled in his tree stand. Just like many of us would do, he began checking his equipment. He picked up his grunt tube and blew on it to see how it sounded. Much to his surprise, it didn’t work! Something had made the reed malfunction and it wouldn’t make a sound. It had been a while since he had checked his calls, so he decided to pull out his Primos can call to check it as well. As he turned the can over, like clock-work, the plunger moved and it made the soft bellow of an estrous doe. Odenbrett then proceeded to turn the call over several times, just to see how it sounded.
After he put the call up, he immediately heard a terrible ruckus in the ravine below him. It sounded like a sapling tree being thrashed. Not convinced it was a buck, he thought it might be one of the horses that were on the property. He knew it would be unlikely that they would be in the thick ravine, but he could not make sense of the sound. The thrashing turned into heavy steps and headed straight towards the stand!
Odenbrett was still not convinced that it was a deer. He didn’t even bother getting his bow off the hook. However, the sound materialized into a flash of antler as the creature passed through a small opening and then burst into bow range 20 yards away! Odenbrett was completely caught off guard! To add insult to injury, the instant the buck came into view, it immediately looked directly at the hunter in the tree!
After what seemed like an eternity, the stare-down ended, when the buck heard a noise on the other side of the ravine. When the deer turned his head, Odenbrett slowly got his bow and readied himself for the shot. The buck turned and headed straight for the stand! With no shot at the front-facing buck, the only thing he could do was wait for the buck to pass directly underneath him and shoot straight down. Odenbrett was leery of the shot, but knew it was going to be his only chance. When the buck was almost directly underneath him, he released an arrow mounted with a three-blade Rage broadhead. The arrow smacked the buck slightly further back than he anticipated but still in the boiler room! The arrow passed completely through the buck. Scott had only been in the stand for 15 minutes!
After analyzing the shot and asking advice of his friends, Odenbrett decided to wait until the next morning to retrieve the deer. After a long, sleepless night, Odenbrett and two friends recovered the buck within 150 yards of the stand early the next morning. Needless to say, the three were amazed at the buck. Odenbrett anticipated the buck was a 150-inch deer. The narrow spread fooled him severely.
Odenbrett’s ability to close the deal on the buck was the last ingredient for Missouri’s perfect storm of 2010. The buck was officially scored by Pope and Young after the 60-day drying period and gross scored 255 6/8 inches and netted 247 1/8 non-typical inches. Though the score was pending review by a Pope & Young panel at press time, if the number holds, Odenbrett’s buck will rank 16th on the P&Y list of the biggest non-typicals ever killed. It was also the biggest non-typical bowkill in Missouri in 2010.
-by Clay Newcomb
Reasons of establish food plots usually involve supplementation of white-tailed deer during times when forage quantity and/or nutritive value is low. Cost-efficient and biologically effective supplementation can only be accomplished by understanding the seasonal nutritive requirements of white-tailed deer. A wildlife food plot could also be used as an attractant to enhance opportunities for survey, harvest, photography, or simple observation.
Forage Adaptation — By considering the following five topics, one can determine if certain forages are adapted to the area of interest and are able to produce enough actual food to be considered economically feasible. This important initial determination will save you time, money, and frustration.
1. Soil Type — Site selection is critical to successful food plot establishment and production. Determine beforehand if there is an acceptable food plot site capable of supporting good plant growth. Consider carefully the soil type at the site and whether or not the site is subject to drought, flood, or erosion. In addition, make sure to obtain a soil test. 2. Moisture Availability — There is a distinct moisture gradient that transects from the east coast to the west coast. Check long-term precipitation records and periods of drought to increase the success of potential food plot establishment. The importance of timely planting and good seedbed preparation are the best insurance against “crop” failure due to lack of moisture.
3. Temperature Extremes — Many forage plants are sensitive to cold weather. Plants that persist for years at southern climates may not survive the first freeze event in northern areas. On the other hand, some plants are intolerant of the extreme heat that can be experienced in the south. Ensure that forage plants chosen will persist in the region of interest.
4. Forage Palatability — It won’t really matter if you plant a well-adapted forage that produces great quantities of food if deer will not consume it. White-tailed deer are very selective with regards to what they eat. Make sure that the forage is preferred, rather than tolerated or ignored, by deer in your area.
5. Forage Availability — White-tailed deer generally need supplemental nutrition during the late summer and late winter when native forages may be lacking in both quantity or nutritive value. Consider the growth cycle of forage plants chosen for your food plot carefully. Spring-planted, warm season forages generally provide the best supplemental nutrition from June through September. Fall-planted, cool season forage usually provide much-needed food resources from November through April. If the food plot does not offer nutrition when it is needed, during stress periods for wildlife, there really is no point to establishment and maintenance of those species.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission voted early last month to lift the current deer baiting and feeding ban in the state's Lower Peninsula. The ban had been in effect since 2008, when Chronic Wasting Disease was found in a deer in a private facility.
The ban has certainly required adjustments on behalf of some hunters but for others caused little to change. Deer baiting in Michigan has always been a controversial issue. There were people happy to see baiting banned, and there will no doubt be people glad to see the ban lifted.
Personally, I don't have a problem with baiting. While it does have a way of taking some of the sport out of a hunt, it also usually provides hunters with opportunities to make a closer, more humane kill.
There is also the business side to baiting. When the bait ban went into effect late in the summer of 2008, most farmers had already planted their fields and devoted resources toward producing feed crops to be used for deer bait. When you think about the losses the farmers sustained in 2008 and combine that with the tough start to this growing season, you can't help but feel a little sense of justice that they'll once again be able to sell bait to supplement their incomes.
I also feel that the NRC needs some credit for their decision. Like I said earlier, many people would have been happy to see the bait ban made permanent. It took some fortitude to reinstate baiting in the quickest time period allowed by law. Once CWD was found in that Kent County deer, the baiting ban was mandatory for three years.
The NRC also saw fit to implement new rules on baiting to ensure we wouldn't be going back to the days when you could dump a truckload of carrots or sugar beets into a field and wait for the cavalcade of deer to show up. The new rules will allow hunters to bait in limited quantities, no more than two gallons at a time across a 10-foot by 10-foot area per hunting location, from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. -Andrew Benoit,
I recently sat down and had a long conversation with Lennie Rezmer, Carbon Express’ Vice President, that simply changed the way I look at archery and arrow selection for hunting. I asked Lennie a basic question, “How do I pick the proper arrow?” I came away with a much deeper understanding of archery performance and equipment.
Rezmer believes there are three common mistakes people make when choosing arrows.
People spend a lot of money on a high performance bow, and then they go buy cheap, low performance arrows to save money. The arrows will never allow that expensive bow to perform near its capability.
People choose their arrows without considering dynamic spine. They just go to a static spine chart and pick a shaft.
Many people choose an arrow that is simply too light because all they care about is speed. These arrows can be unforgiving, and if you don’t have absolutely perfect form, you likely won’t shoot well with them.
There’s a process involved in selecting the right arrow and it starts with understanding static spine and dynamic spine.
Static spine is how much deflection at a 28-inch span a shaft has with a weight of just over a pound hanging from the middle. In other words, how much bend?
Dynamic spine is how much that shaft bends, or reacts, at the actual thrust from the string when the arrow is released. In essence, this is how quickly the arrow recovers or how forgiving it is.
So now that we understand the two types of spines, how do we use them? Most folks just look at their arrow length and bow poundage to come up with a static spine number and use that to pick an arrow. Rezner showed me Carbon Express’ Adjustable Weight Chart. This chart takes in all the aspects of your exact setup, considers in what dynamic spine of an arrow will do specifically, and then adjusts your poundage number so you can go to an arrow selection chart and be more accurate.
The Adjustable Weight Chart starts with your bow’s poundage, then adds or subtracts pounds for specific parts of your setup and gives you a final adjusted number. For instance, you will gain eight pounds if your draw weight is 60lbs or higher and you have high-energy cams, but you will lose five pounds if your bow has 65-80 percent letoff. There are a number of features to be considered, then you do a calculation at the bottom of the chart and get your final number.
So after you have done this, there are still many different options of shafts with the various spines. I asked Lennie about this as well.
“First, I am a big proponent of Dual Weight Forward Spine. That means that the front end of the arrow flexes more for forgiveness while the back end doesn’t flex much, resulting in faster recovery time. This really helps accuracy, especially with broadheads.”
Rezmer went on to explain, “When choosing a specific shaft, you have to decide what you are doing with that arrow. Are you target shooting and only worried about the fastest and flattest arrow flight you can get? Are you hunting big game like elk and moose? Are you mainly a whitetail and turkey hunter? All these things will determine which type arrow is best for you, and of course you must consider the price.”
Lennie gave me a couple examples of different situations and arrows that fit the bill for each. First let’s look at an adult male that wants to hunt elk. He will need a lot of kinetic energy for a big animal and proper penetration. Lennie said in this situation, the shooter needs a heavy arrow of at least 9-9.5 grains per inch to perform properly. So after finding the proper spine, he can pick a shaft type that fits. In this case it might be a Maxima Hunter KV 350 at 9.8.
If this same archer were only going to shoot whitetails and turkeys, such high kinetic energy isn’t quite as necessary, so he might want to consider lighter poundage and a shaft like the Maxima Blue Streak Select 250 that weighs in at 7.4 GPI. This will still get all the penetration needed for such animals.
Rezmer recommended for youth or lady shooters that are pulling 30-50 pounds and shooting arrows under 28 inches in length, they should shoot a fairly heavy arrow. He said that since they are not shooting high poundage, weight is needed for proper penetration, but also the arrow should still be light enough to fly. He recommends a shaft in the eight GPI range for these hunters.
He ended by telling me that if you are going to error, you should likely error on the side of being a bit heavy. This is especially true of novice shooters because with lighter arrows comes more speed, and speed is definitely less forgiving as far as accuracy goes. If you have any flaw in your shooting form and you are shooting a light arrow at smoking speeds, that flaw will show in the form of poor accuracy. Speed can kill both ways.
So as you can see, there is much more to arrow selection for hunting than simply matching a couple of numbers on a simple chart. One thing is for sure, if you will take the time and effort to pick the right arrow, your shooting and harvests will definitely improve. The Carbon Express Adjustable Weight Chart makes this whole complicated process very fast and easy, and I know it has really helped me understand arrows and how to use them to my greatest advantage.
Public land hunters face different hurdles and obstacles that private land hunters don’t encounter. You share the woods with any and all manner of folks. You can forget about leaving blinds or stands out overnight. And your expertly planned strategy that’s been weeks in the making could be laid to waste your first day of hunting when you realize your top secret hunting spot, sure to produce a world-class buck, is occupied by 19 different hunters that had the same idea.
Jesse Maruschak understands public land hunting. Having grown up in the woods of Pennsylvania, he’s spent time in the deep hollows of the Keystone State chasing bucks and avoiding lead, all with the hopes of putting venison in the freezer.
Now living in Missouri, the veteran hunter was putting in the work with the hopes of dropping a public land monster. It started during bow season where he and his buddy Eric drove an hour and half each way to a public land hunting area. After their arrival, they’d walk a mile and half to a spot where they could hunt an area alone, though there were no guarantees that would even happen.
The process was taxing on the hunters and their families.
The months continued with Jesse and Eric traveling to their hunting area with no success to speak of. Firearm season was upon the pair and Jesse decided to pick up his Browning lever-action rifle (BLR) 81 and try his hand at filling the freezer with a couple of buddies, resigned to the fact that a big buck probably wasn’t in his future. He hadn’t shot the rifle in more than five years.
They headed out to their familiar spot where they bowhunted, only to discover the “orange army” had landed and the area had men set up with rifles seemingly every 40 yards.
The group packed up and struck out for another spot, hoping that it would be better than the last. As they pulled into the parking area, they were dismayed by what they saw.
“We looked for parking lots that had less than two trucks parked in them. Every parking lot had tents, RV’s, and pop-up campers. We found one place that had only a tent and a single truck parked in it. We pulled in and shoved some impromptu turkey and cheese wraps into our bellies while looking at an aerial and topo map on Google Earth to devise a hunt plan,” shared Jesse.
Their strategy was to walk along the edge of a deep hollow to try and catch deer running for thicker cover, fleeing hunting pressure. It wasn’t until 12:15 in the afternoon until they were set up, but Jesse felt like he was back in Pennsylvania.
“This was old school, just like I remember from growing up back in Pennsylvania. Deep hollows, mature hard woods, fallen trees to sit on. I sat on a root wad that gave me a shooting rest looking down a steep hollow and texted Eric that I was settled in and liked the potential of the spot. Just as I put my phone in my pocket, HERE THEY CAME!!”
Jess spotted two deer, one a nice buck, hurrying up the steep hollow. Knowing that he had to “sling lead” on public land, Jesse took a shot, but the buck didn’t drop, instead freezing and facing the hunter. Unsure if he’d hit the buck or not, Jesse found a small window and shot again.
The buck was still standing, but Jesse felt blessed by God to see the buck was now walking slowly on an angle away from him. The hunter identified an opening 110 yards away — his only option — and held steady on that spot, hoping the buck would come through. He saw horns walk into the clearing and he dropped the buck!
Having hunted public lands his entire life, Jesse knew waiting 20-30 minutes for the buck to expire was out of the question.
“Based on previous experiences etched in my Pennsylvania public hunting upbringing, I knew I couldn’t let him lay to make sure he was dead, I had to get down my side of the hollow and up his side of the hollow to put my tag on him before another hunter walked up on him,” shared Jesse.
As the hunter hurried over to his deer he was amazed at the size of the buck.
“I looked at this huge bodied deer laying there and thought that he must have tangled up in a small tree while thrashing around because a branch was tangled in his rack,” shared Jesse. “Then it hit me as I got closer. That WAS his rack! I mean….THAT WAS HIS RACK!!! I just started saying the same phrase over and over and over as I walked up to him…’Oh, Lord. Oh Lord….OH, LORD!’” He truly felt blessed.
Jesse and Eric were soon celebrating and taking many pictures with the monster buck, which green scored 191 inches non-typical. And upon further inspection, Jesse realized he had hit the buck all three times.
The work wasn’t so much about planting foodplots, checking trail cameras, or expertly placing stands months in advance on a private whitetail sanctuary…it was about just being in the woods. And sometimes, that’s the best strategy of them all. Just be there and be ready when that big boy comes strolling by.