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Friday, January 27, 2012

Deer Tracks

Tracks are the most overlooked of all deer sign. But, they carry lots of valuable information. For example, they tell us which way the deer was walking, approximately the time of the day it passed (tracks pointed toward bedding areas were likely made in the morning, tracks pointing toward feeding areas were likely made in the afternoon) and something about the deer's size. Tracks can teach us many things about the deer we are hunting. They tell us the direction it was walking, approximately what time it passed and something about the size of the deer that made them.

Doe tracks follow an easily recognized pattern. Typically, the rear track will contact the ground slightly outside the front track. The track shown in this photo was probably made by a doe. TRACK SIZE VS. BUCK SIZE Fresh tracks can help us to determine which portion of our hunting area offers the best chances for producing a successful day of still-hunting.

Tracks are the very best indicator you have of a buck's body size. In most cases, big tracks mean a mature buck and a mature buck usually has a good rack - at least compared to others in the area. Even if a big buck doesn't rub big trees, he can't completely hide his tracks. Just make sure you are looking at a walking track and not a running track. All running tracks appear much larger than walking tracks and distort the size of the deer that made them. Tracks will also tell you the direction of travel, and with a little detective work, the approximate time of travel. Tracks that point away from a known bedding area were probably made in the afternoon or evening and vice versa.

This chart offers a size comparison for the front hoof of deer of both sexes and different ages. The most reliable indicator of sex and age is the measurement from hoof tip to the dew claw (overall length). Anything 5 1/2 inches, or larger, should be considered a mature buck.


Large bucks make large tracks. This track was definitely made by a mature buck. When walking on even ground a doe's back hooves will tend to fall right on top of her front hooves or slightly outside of them due to the fact that her chest is narrower than her hindquarters. However, since a mature buck tends to have a wider chest than hindquarters, his rear tracks will usually fall to the inside of his front tracks. They will often fall well short of his front tracks and be toed out slightly, as well. 

by: Hunting Net

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Canines for tines, hunting dogs that retrieve shed antlers

Mossy knew the quarry would remain motionless, so with nose to the ground the Labrador retriever crisscrossed among shrubs and trees in typical hunting dog style.

Suddenly the pup paused as his nose picked up a whiff of what he was searching for. But unlike many hunting situations, there was no downed duck to pick up or whir of wings as a pheasant flushed. Instead, Mossy picked up a single white-tail deer antler with his mouth and began a gleeful dash back toward trainer Carla Long. The five-month-old dog is well on the way to being a successful hunting companion for those who enjoy finding shed antlers.

“It’s really no different than training a bird dog,” said Long, who lives with husband Larry and family in the rural Siloam Springs area north of Albany in Gentry County. “I’m just instructing them to find the scent of deer antlers, and I do it when they’re at an early age.”

Male deer and elk shed their antlers in late winter and early spring and then start growing new ones. But for a few months after the antlers fall off they lay on the ground, until mice and rabbits seeking minerals chew them up.

Many people enjoy hunting for shed antlers in the woods and fields when the weather is cool and the landscape is open. Some hope to find trophy-sized antlers. Others use them for crafts such as knife handles or sculptures. Many shed antler hunters just enjoy the different shapes and sizes of their finds as natural art.

Antlers can be difficult to find though because they drop in brushy and grassy places. Deer will commonly lose one antler at a time. Seeing a brownish or whitish antler on the ground can be difficult and finding a matched pair even harder.

Dogs though, can smell antlers just like they can smell a quail or pheasant. A hard, bone-like antler may have almost no smell to a human. But a dog’s sense of smell is far keener.
Long trains Labrador pups to hone in on antler scent with their nose and then find and retrieve what once was atop a buck deer’s head.

“It’s what the dogs enjoy doing,” she said. “If they’re having fun doing it, that’s the thing.”

Long charges $4,000 for a Labrador she has trained to find shed antlers. She starts with registered pups from proven lineage with no health issues and gives them basic obedience skills so they also make good family pets. Owners take possession when the dog is six to seven months old and they continue the shed antler training that she started.

“The first year is a learning experience for the owner and the dog,” Long said.

Some owners use her shed antler dogs for double duty, such as for retrieving downed birds while waterfowl hunting. But she only provides the shed antler hunting training. For many of her customers, Long said, finding antlers is their main outdoor hobby.

“The dogs give them a better chance of finding and recovering antlers,” she said.

Long in past years trained dogs for game hunting. Then she noticed a few trainers around the nation offered dogs for sale that specialize in hunting shed antlers. So three years ago she began antler training with pups.

On her front porch is a pile of antlers found in past hunts that she uses for training. She leaves them out in the open air so they can become free of any human or dog scent. Long wears scent-blocking gloves when she’s handling antlers used for training. Once a dog has retrieved an antler a few times, it’s retired for a few weeks. She wants the dog to only hone in on antler scent.

When puppies arrive at her house, one of the first things they find is a pile of antlers in the yard. Puppies are allowed to play with antlers for a few hours after training sessions. Long does some toss and retrieve play with them, but she’s careful about not doing too much.

“Antlers don’t fly,” she said. “I want them to be looking for a motionless object and not looking for flight.”

Long has developed some techniques for conditioning pups to antler scent that she does not reveal. But the basics are tapping a dog’s instincts to hunt, to react to scent and to please the dog’s best friend _ the owner.

It’s probably possible that dogs could be trained to find morel mushrooms with the same technique, Long said, though she hasn’t tried that. Keeping a fragile morel fresh for training would be far harder than storing hard and dense antlers.

For now, Long and her pups are happy seeking antlers. Mossy takes such pride in finding an antler that his first impulse is to run back to the kennel and show off his finds for the other pups in training.

“Mossy is in heaven when he’s got an antler,” Long said. “He’s obsessed with the antler.”

Monday, January 23, 2012

Best Friends Share Glory of Freakish Nebraska Nontypical Whitetail Trophy

“One Man Shoots Two Deer” is a headline that seems to pop up every year during the rut, as hunters encounter locked bucks and elect to harvest both animals. Far more rare is the twofer experienced by Kellen Meyer and Jordan Owens.

The pair was hunting on Owens’ farm during the Nebraska firearms season when this 20-point Cornhusker giant topped a hill 250 yards from where the two men were hunkered down at opposite ends of a U-shaped draw. Learn how these lifelong friends handled what may be the most unusual success story of the season.
Meyer and Owens grew up together in Seward County; they’ve known each other since grade school and their parents were friends before that. They hunt together often, and on the morning of Nov. 17 both had finished sits in separate locations before meeting at 10 a.m. to stalk the county’s abundant ag fields together in search of roaming bucks.
After stopping for lunch, they decided to upend their usual routine of a long midday break and return to the field as soon as possible.

Both of us have seen a lot of big deer moving over the lunch hour, and a lot of people don’t hunt then,” says Meyer, district sales manager for a seed company. “I had taken the whole day off and Jordan was caught up on his farm work, so we decided to just give it a shot. We didn’t have anything else to do.”
Around 1:30 p.m. they settled into a wooded 15-acre horseshoe draw in the middle of a 200-acre cornfield. Meyer set up at one tip of the U with his 30.06, and Owens readied his .270 about 300 yards away at the other tip of the U. They could see each other across open field.

A half hour later, two does popped over a hill north of them, with a big buck in hot pursuit.
“It’s usually a pretty good spot a few days into the gun season, because people push the deer out of the river bottom a mile away and they run up there and hide,” Owens says. “During the harvest I saw a nice 5-by-5 there from the combine, and I thought it was him when he topped the hill.”
Each man fired at the buck from 250 yards. Both missed. “We both get buck fever pretty bad,” Meyer says. “I don’t know how many deer I’ve missed on the first shot.”

“We would have probably been even more nervous if we’d known how big he really was,” Owens adds.
The buck ran north and east, giving both hunters a broadside look at his flank. “I took a little more time to line it up right on the second shot,” Owens says, “and led him just a hair.”
“I knew I had only a little window of time to get him,” Meyer recalls, “and I relaxed and made sure I could see him good in the scope.”
Both men shot “almost simultaneously” and the deer fell. The two met in the field and walked toward the buck together.

“He kept getting bigger and bigger the closer we got,” Owens says. “We were just so happy to see him lying on the ground that we didn’t really know who shot him.”
“When we saw how big he was we probably spent 10 minutes just drooling,” Meyer says. “We kind of looked at each other and it took both of us a while to see who was going to claim him. Then we looked a little closer and saw two bullet holes.”
About six inches apart on the buck’s right side were two entry wounds from two different caliber weapons.

“We both decided lets just call him ‘ours.’ He’s got two holes in him,” Meyer says. “There’s no sense ruining a friendship or giving one guy credit over another just for a deer. We figured it would be nice to both claim him.”
An official Boone & Crockett measurer tallied a green score of 228 nontypical, likely good enough (if the score holds up after the drying period) to make the buck a top 10 Nebraska nontypical. A check with the club’s record keepers confirms that there is a precedent for two hunters sharing a trophy listing, as more than one record in the Boone & Crockett database lists multiple hunters.
The rack features main beam lengths of 26 and 28 inches and foot-long G-2s. But what really stands out is the buck’s mass.

“It’s just amazing how wide he is out to the end,” says Owen. “Usually the bases are your widest point, but this one starts wide at the base and gets wider out to the end. All the way out you can’t even put your hand around it.”
“To me it’s amazing how much mass he has in the middle of the rack, around the G-3s and G-4s,” Meyer notes. “He looks like he was on steroids. There’s so many little points at the bases that come out here and there. The scorer called him a 10 x 10, but he could be more.”
The two men joke about a number of schemes for sharing the rack.

“We talked about splitting him down the middle and each doing a full-body mount to put on the wall,” Meyer laughs, “or Jordan said I could have the back and he gets the front.”

But they’re pretty serious about not letting their shared achievement ruin a lifetime of friendship. “We decided that day when we were driving home after the hunt,” says Owens. “That’s the way we’re gonna do it and we’re not going to get into it over a deer. I don’t think we’ve had one argument since we shot it.”
The plan now is to sell the original rack and have two replicas made. “We are just so thrilled because he’s going on both of our walls,” says Owens. “We’re each getting a replica. That’s enough happiness for both of us.”

By: Steven Hill

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Arrows in Oklahoma By: Michael Lee

As the sun set on the Western horizon, my wife Beth, cameraman Hunter, and I still had six more hours of driving to do.  Traveling through Mississippi, the miles couldn’t move fast enough to the Oklahoma line.  We were headed to hunt the Okie state for the first time and couldn’t be more excited for a late season bow hunt.
Arriving after midnight, we quickly found our beds so we could start off the first morning.  As daylight came the deer movement began.  Since hunting over feeders is legal in the state, and late season food sources are a strong necessity to get a shot, we were going to use these to our advantage.  Beth was hunting the top of a ridge and not long after being in the stand she had deer coming in.  After the first few came in to feed, a nice buck followed but never offered Beth a clear shot.
Setting up just off a food plot on a hardwood creek bottom, I saw a few deer after first light, none large enough to shoot or close enough.  Suddenly I saw a nice buck trotting across the plot.  He was heading away and I decided to blow my grunt call.  With a few short tending grunts, the buck stopped and headed straight for us!  He came in on a string to the call and stopped at 15 yards…..right behind a tree!  Standing there looking, the buck knew something wasn’t right and trotted back up the ridge and out of bow range.  Talk about a great start to the trip!
Afternoon two was slow for me, only seeing a doe with two yearlings, but Beth was wrapped up on a food plot with deer.  She saw several bucks that were nice and a couple of shooters.  None offered her a shot on the first afternoon though.
When morning two began we awoke to rain, which isn’t a good combination for video gear or bows for the most part.  We decided to tough it out in ground blinds, we normally hunt in Ghostblinds but in the rain we needed cover for the video cameras.  Sitting in the blind as daylight approached we watched the woods come alive on the top of a hardwoods ridge.  With the acorns long gone, the only food available was the feeder setup 15 yards away.  Several does and yearlings along with one small racked buck came in to feed then eased back down the ridge.  I thought to myself that the rain was setting in harder and the deer would stop their moving for the morning when I looked to our right and a buck was coming up the ridge.  Checking him out with my Hawke binoculars, he was a nice eight with a broken rack.  As I looked at him, a giant eight point walked into view.  This buck had it all, mass, tine length, width, and height. 
Quickly I told Hunter there was a shooter coming in and to get ready with the camera.  I clipped my release on my loop and readied myself for the shot.  The bigger buck came right in and began feeding.  I slowly drew by my bow and anchored for the shot.  Gently touching the trigger, my arrow released and I hear a loud thwack and watched the buck hit the ground right there!  What happened?  The chair I was sitting in was a little low in the blind so after I released the arrow, my fletchings clipped the edge of the blind window just enough to kick my arrow up.  Luckily my Muzzy plowed the deer’s spine and dropped him right there.  After a follow up shot the buck was done.  Was I lucky or the buck just unlucky, I will never know but I had my Oklahoma tag filled!
Beth was back on the same food plot she hunted the afternoon before and again had encounters with a couple nice bucks with no luck.  She was looking for her first deer with a bow and was doing all she could to contain herself.  She finally had a nice eight point in range and drew back on him only to have a doe walk in the way and she was never able to get a shot off.  Over the next three days she saw plenty of deer but no shooters to get an arrow towards.  As dark fell on the last afternoon, I asked her if she wanted to give it one more try the next morning before we had to head home.  Her answer, “I didn’t pay all this money for a tag to eat it!”  She learned from me many times that tag sandwiches don’t taste good! 
The last morning she climbed in the stand well before daylight and was ready.  The morning was fairly slow then two bucks came in to feed.  One was a real nice eight point, and on the last day she wasn’t giving any a pass!  She drew back her Elite bow, anchored and placed her pink Muzzy right behind the buck’s shoulder at 31 yards.  Beth had just filled her tag and arrowed her first ever deer with a bow!  A nice eight point on top of all that!
There is nothing like spending time in the woods with the ones you love.  Getting to share Beth’s first bow kill with her was very special and hopefully the first of many to come.  She never hunted before meeting me, I don’t know if I’ve created a monster or not but she straight loves the outdoors and filling her tags as much as I do.  I know I’m blessed for sure!
Until next time, God bless and good hunting.
Bow: Elite Pulse (Michael) Elite GT500 (Beth)
Rest: QAD Ultrarest HD (Michael and Beth)
Sight: Spot-Hogg Hogg-It (Michael and Beth)
Broadhead: Muzzy MX-3 ,100 grain (Michael), Muzzy 100 grain 3 blade Pink (Beth)
Fletchings: Bohning Blazer vanes (Michael and Beth)
Optics: Hawke Frontier ED 43mm (Michael and Beth)
Release: Scott Quick Shot (Michael), Scott Little Goose (Beth)
Treestand: Ol’Man Grand Alumalite CTS (Michael),  Ol’Man Aluminum Multivision Pro (Beth)
Scent Eliminator: Lethal Field Spray (Michael and Beth)
Attractant: Muzzy Bowhunter Setup (Michael and Beth)
Camo: Realtree APG by Gamehide (Michael and Beth)
Safety Vest: Hunter Safety System Pro Series (Michael and Beth)
Pack: Gameplan Gear Spot N Stalk (Michael and Beth)
Stablizer: X-Factor Outdoors System (Michael and Beth)
Boots: Lacrosse Alpha Burly in Realtree APG (Michael and Beth)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday Hunting: Hot Topic in Virginia

If you live in Virginia, and you want to hunt on Sundays, right now, you have to go out of state.

Hunting on sundays is a topic that's causing controversy in the Commonwealth; from rural counties, all the way to Richmond.

"It divides families, it divides communities," says Republican Delegate Ben Cline. "It's a contentious issue we're going to deal with this year."

There's been a ban on Sunday hunting in Virginia for years.

"To change that tradition simply for tourism dollars, to bring hunters in from out of state, is not enough in my mind to overturn that ban," says Cline.

Some people say put the guns away and spend Sundays with your family. Other people say hunting is one way to do that.

"Children, being able to spend time with their family in the outdoors, are restricted to Saturdays mostly now," says Chad Siever, of Broadway.

Siever says it could boost the economy; hunting license sales might go up.

Plus, he wants to pass his passion on to his daughter.

"A lot of folks, hunting is their way of life, it's a lifestyle," he says.

By: Amanda Crawford