The numbers prove it. Realtree fans north, south, east and west live and breathe deer hunting. These guys do, too. Hansen’s from Michigan, Brantley’s from Kentucky, and chances are their version of hunting whitetails is a lot like yours.
October 15, 2013 | By Will Brantley
Brad Shelton spends much of his hunting season sitting with his two boys, Tyler, 13, and Clay, 11. All three of these guys are whitetail-obsessed, to say the least. Brad runs trail cameras year-around on the farm he hunts in north-central Kentucky, and about a year ago to the date, he began getting pictures of an unusual-looking buck.
“He showed up right before the youth season last year, and the boys started calling him ‘Wapiti’ because his antlers sort of looked like a little elk’s antlers,” Brad says. “We never saw him during the youth season last year, but I saw him several times during rifle season, and he walked right underneath my stand on the last day of bow season. That area is heavily hunted, and I had my doubts about him making it through the season. But he did. I got pictures of him throughout the winter, and he shed his antlers the second week of January.”
The buck began making regular appearances again in June. And it was obvious those funky antlers were growing. “I’ve got a mineral lick next to a clover plot, and he started showing up on camera there every single day. I’ve never seen a deer more predictable than him. I saw him the night before bow season (Sept. 7), and on opening afternoon. He stepped out about 80 yards away. After that, I didn’t hunt him again until the first afternoon of the youth season.”
Brad, Tyler and Clay slipped into a ground blind early on Saturday afternoon. Tyler was up to shoot, and the Sheltons soon had does and button bucks in front them. “We had deer in front of us for three hours,” Brad says. “And then, like clockwork, Wapiti stepped out just as the sun set. The grass was tall, and he put his head down to feed. Tyler shot, and the deer mule-kicked and disappeared over a high spot in the field. I was afraid he had gut-shot him, so we backed out to eat supper and watch the first half of the UK football game. About 8:30 I went out and looked for blood where he shot. It was bright red and easy to follow. I tracked him right to that rise in the field. He was right there probably 75 yards from the shot. I went back to the house and got the boys and the tractor, and the celebrating began. It was a great experience to share that with my two sons."
The buck, as you can see in the photo, has one unusual antler collection atop his head. “I think if the right side matched the left side, he’d be a 150-class deer. But as it is, I’m not sure how to go about scoring him,” Brad says.
How would you score that right side? Are those drop-tines, or part of the main beam? Perhaps we can get an official scorer to weigh in. In the meantime, Tyler Shelton has reason to be proud of one unique trophy buck, regardless of what it scores or how. Congrats to him from the Realtree Staff.
If you have a big-buck story to share, e-mail it us at rackreport [at] realtree [dot] com.
October 9, 2013 | By Tony Hansen
Meet Realtree marketing guru Dodwell Clifton.
Most folks call him "Dodd." Brantley and I call him "boss."
Dodd is one of the more unique characters you'll likely ever meet. He's a key member of the Realtree marketing team and does a whole lot of the behind-the-scenes work that's seldom truly noticed but makes all the difference in the world.
Dodd is one of those guys who offers up a surprise at just about every turn, such as his ability to ride a unicycle. And shoot a recurve. At the same time.
Check out the video that he posted recently to his Facebook page. The clip is the result of a challenge from outdoor writer Bob Humphrey.
"I hadn't ridden a unicycle in 35 years. I saw one of those big, 29-inch wheelers recently and got a hankering and figured it would be a good way to exercise the 50-year-old midsection and walk the energetic one-year-old dog," Dodd said. "So I ordered it and I was like a kid at Christmas. I had to post a picture on Facebook when it arrived. I was then immediately called out by Humphrey who said I should be shooting my bow instead of messing around with a 'silly unicycle.'"
And in classic Dodwell fashion, he figured "Why not both at the same time?"
The end result? A one-take video in which Dodd not only glides smoothly past the camera, but also cleanly sticks the target with an arrow from his recurve. All while giving Humphrey the classic "this is for you" line before firing his shot, following up with a suave, yet slightly testosterone-tinged, "show him the bullseye" while rolling as gently as a single 29-inch wheel can roll off screen.
Ladies and gentlemen: Mr. Dodwell Clifton.
October 4, 2013 | By Tony Hansen
There are plenty of perils facing deer hunting today from disease to habitat degradation to the anti-hunting freaks. But there are a faction of hunters who think they have singled out the most evil and damaging issue facing whitetails : Youth hunters.
I'm serious. There are an alarming number of folks who firmly believe that deer populations, our hunting heritage and the balance of world order are in grave danger because of youth hunting seasons.
I have but one simple question: What is it about deer hunting that makes some people so selfish?
Look, I’m as antler-obsessed as anyone. I have a real addiction to deer hunting and, while I love to fill doe tags, it’s antlers that drive me. I have had many conversations with others about the negatives that come from so much attention on antler size and score. I understand the problem. I suppose in some ways, I’m part of that problem.
But I know when to draw the line. And that line is drawn right here: Kids.
A couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a guy here in Michigan that went something like this:
“Good luck this weekend during the velvet season. Hope you, I mean, your son has fun killing a big buck before the real hunters have a chance. Maybe someday you’ll support a season for those of us who actually know how to hunt.”
The state’s youth hunt was coming up and this e-mailer clearly didn’t think that kids deserved a hunt of their own. It was his view that youth hunters would be killing “all” the bucks while they were in velvet (despite the fact that the vast majority of bucks had shed weeks ago) and that the only reason I would take my son out hunting was so that I could shoot a buck and use his tag on it.
Yesterday I read a survey about “deer management” in Michigan in which a number of respondents claimed it was the youth hunt that was to blame for much of Michigan’s whitetail woes.
And then there is the Facebook post on Realtree’s page in which someone belittles a young hunter who had just taken his first buck.
The comments claimed the kid was too young to hunt, that he was incapable of understanding what hunting was about.
To all of which I say: Shut up.
I’ve heard from plenty of folks who oppose special youth-only seasons. And every one of them has the same underlying goal: They don’t want kids shooting “their” bucks. And each of them veils their true selfish intent with the same tired, ridiculous excuses.
They claim that youth hunters take too many bucks before they have a chance to breed. Really? The vast majority of archery seasons occur prior to the rut and a whole lot more bucks are killed by adult bowhunters than youth hunters. Perhaps we should close all archery seasons? Kansas -- one of this nation's most revered big buck factories -- has a muzzleloader season in September. For adults. Perhaps that needs to end as well?
The kid-haters claim that it’s not really the youth hunters who are killing those early-season bucks – it’s those poaching dads. Again, that’s a crock. Study the data. Contact your local wildlife law enforcement officer and ask them their opinion on that theory. Repeating the same ridiculous myth over and over doth not make it true.
Others say there is “no challenge” in early-season youth hunts. Really? I’ve taken my son out for Michigan’s youth hunt every year for the past three years. And he’s yet to kill a deer.
Perhaps it’s because I’m a crappy hunter and I can’t put my son on deer. Or perhaps it’s because killing a deer isn’t easy for any hunter of any age with any weapon. Unless you’ve spent time in the woods with a youth hunter, you really can’t even begin to comprehend just how many things have to go right for the hunt to end with a filled tag.
There are plenty of things to complain about.
We can complain about the useless politicians and their endless bickering.
We can complain about gas prices and the racket that is oil pricing.
We can complain about interest rates and traffic and the weather.
But to complain about a special season that puts kids front and center for a couple of days?
There is but one word for that: Pathetic.
September 30, 2013 | By Will Brantley
I shot the buck while hunting in Colorado, thanks to the direction of Miles Fedinec, my close buddy and owner of FMF Outdoors. As you can see in the photo, the buck was a pretty one – a tall 4x4 with a mule deer buck’s signature white face, jet-black brisket and muscled frame.
It was early in the hunt, and my tag was filled. What a delightful dilemma. With a week of cool weather to spend in camp, I focused on the venison. After aging the deer for two days, I skinned him and deboned the quarters. The next step was carefully slicing, trimming and packaging the meat. Thin backstrap for the skillet. Thick steaks for the grill. Shoulder roasts and neck trimmings for slow-cooked sandwiches and grinding. If you’ve read many of my past posts, you know I’m a stickler for venison care and preparation. It’s a tedious but essential part of the experience to me.
This was a buck that had spent a summer eating in an irrigated alfalfa field. With the rut still more than a month away, he was fat. We sampled him by way of batter-dipped and fried backstrap slices in camp one night. I had that feeling of “we cooked too much,” after shutting off the stove burner, but Miles, his better half, Loy, and I sat there with beers and Sangria and salad and ate the whole dang pile.
I froze the rest of the meat for the trip home. When the time came, I left some packages of meat behind for Miles and Loy and put the rest, along with the buck’s cape, in a cooler.
At the airport, I expected to pay extra money for the extra checked bag. No problem. It was still far cheaper than paying a processor to take care of the deer and ship it home. I weighed the cooler at check-in, and it snuck under the overweight limit by a half-pound. The lady at the United Airlines desk marveled at my precision on guessing the weight (pure luck) and congratulated me on the deer. Then she helped me tape the cooler shut. I watched it roll down the conveyor belt and into the TSA’s hands.
It was a direct flight to Nashville, and all my bags – duffle, bow case and cooler – came through on time. It wasn’t until I actually got home and wheeled the cooler into the garage that I noticed it had been tampered with. The tape we’d added at the check-in desk had been cut and replaced. “OK, so they opened and inspected it,” I thought.
But then I opened it. Eight packages of meat remained. There had been around 25. Interestingly enough, all but one of the packages labeled “backstrap” was gone. My cape was still there. The antlers are insured and being shipped. But that meat had vanished.
I scoured the web the next day, and the TSA does have a claim form online for theft. It’s a hulking document full of vague government-speak. It advises me to put a dollar amount on my lost item for processing the claim. But you can’t buy mule deer at the store. And funny, I have a hard time entrusting my claim to the very people that I believe took my deer. Reading through various online stories, it seems plenty of claims of TSA theft go ignored.
It’s a helpless feeling. It’s true that it may not have been a TSA agent at all, but a baggage handler or some other airline employee who took my venison. But the TSA was next in line to get my cooler, and they had the authority to open and inspect it. Unless I learn otherwise, they get the blame from me. Plenty of game meat goes through DEN security in a year’s time. Maybe TSA agents there have learned to identify packages labeled “backstrap.” Or maybe they gathered that meat and arbitrarily threw it away for some asinine security reason that no sense to anyone but them.
Point is, I’ll never know what happened to my venison because it completely left my control. But I don’t intend to keep quiet about it. Have you ever had something stolen from your luggage by the TSA? What did you do about it?
September 23, 2013 | By Will Brantley
In my experience, which involves about 100 killed and self-processed deer in a lifetime, this is what to look for when shopping for venison on the hoof. And we’re talking steaks here. Unless the meat is tainted or spoiled, it all makes good hamburger or jerky.
- Beware of Old Does. I’ve heard some hunters claim that “does taste better than bucks.” That’s not inherently true. A mature doe that’s spent a summer nursing fawns is about the toughest, stringiest deer in the woods. The nutrients she consumes are going to the betterment of her fawn’s health, rather than her own. Nothing wrong with shooting her – again, think jerky and burgers – but don’t trim her up into steaks because you will be disappointed.
- Shoot a Fawn. Fawns are cute, cuddly and cloaked in tasty, tender venison. I’ve killed a bunch of them and will do it again, given the chance. Yes, some people will ridicule you for shooting them. My advice for that is to offer them a fried fawn cutlet. They'll hush. Such young deer are always a safe bet for good eating. By mid-October, an average fawn will field-dress 50 to 60 pounds, and yield around 20 pounds of trimmed steaks. Buttons on young bucks are easy to spot with binoculars by then, too. I usually give the little fellows a pass. But not always.
- Hunt Crops. A deer fattened on corn and soybeans will taste better than a big timber deer scraping by on twigs and browse. That’s just a fact of life.
- Hold out for a Year-and-a-Half-Old Doe. If you have the time to hunt and wait, this deer is the cream of the crop. Does of this age are large enough to yield plenty of meat and since they aren't typically nursing fawns, everything they consume prior to the rut goes to fat reserves. Shooting them has the management benefits of shooting any other doe. This is a deer to kill in the early season if you can. Come late October, bucks will be chasing this plump young thing across the countryside with all manner of filthy thoughts in minds, and those fat reserves will be depleted.
- Shoot a Year-and-a-Half-Old Buck. I’m not a forkhorn killer myself. At least not in a while. In that vein, I suppose I’m a trophy hunter with loose standards. But all the things that make year-and-a-half-old does tasty are equally true for young bucks. Except the young bucks are bigger and easier to come by, which is a handy thing if you only have a weekend or two of hunting at your disposal. Yes, some will give you the stink eye for hoisting a 6-pointer up on the gambrel. But hey, is it your fault God made that deer delicious? I think not. And you might remind anyone who objects that you bought your license, same as them.
- » Coming Soon: Last Chance Bucks
- » Lighted Nocks: Lessons Learned From a Bad Shot
- » Is The Rut Really Ready To Rock?
- » How to Kill a Good Buck on a Small Farm
- » In The Thick Of Things
- » 'Tis the Season for Sexy Witches, First Dates and Doe-in-Heat Pee
- » Want To Improve Your Hunting Land? Ask This Guy.
- » Yep. I Shot My Wife's Buck.
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