Team Realtree Great American Hunting Tour 2003-2004
By David Blanton With Nino Bosaz
It’s hard to believe that we’re almost into the opening week of archery season. In just six short weeks, we’ll be in Wyoming for that state’s bow opener!
One of the biggest challenges we experience while setting up the Team Realtree hunts is coming up with new and exciting places to hunt. We strive to come up with new hunting places that people want us to go to and places we’ve never been before. We want to keep things fresh, while at the same time, we don’t want to cut out completely some of our “old reliable’ places like the Milk River in Montana, Wyoming and Canada.
Michael, Bill and David are ready to roll! photo by team realtree
This year at Team Realtree we have an added challenge. We have booked an entirely different hunting schedule with the new Realtree Road Trips crew. The Road Trips show, as you may know is now airing on The Outdoor Channel and is fast becoming a huge success!
Here’s what we’ve got scheduled so far for the Team Realtree crew, plus a few interesting side notes to the upcoming hunts!
Kickin’ Things Off First of all, Bill hit the jackpot with US Outfitters and finally drew a Wyoming Big-Horn Sheep tag. He can’t believe his luck! The rest of us have been kidding with him and telling him that he’d better get himself into shape in a hurry. He needs to get those “old’ knees ready for the mountains. Bill will be hunting with Ron Dube in unit 3 just outside of Cody, Wyoming. He has elected to hunt with a rifle on this trip. The opener is September 1st and Ron Dube really wants Bill to be there for the first few days of the season. Dube is quite sure that he’ll have a few big rams patterned by that time.
Bill really is excited about this opportunity. He knows it’s one of those “once-in-a-lifetime’ deals, but there is an ounce or two of hesitation in his heart too. See, he knows that Waddell and I will be hunting in the northeast corner of Wyoming in the Black Hills at the same time he’ll be ram hunting. We will be hunting, trying to fill our whitetail tags with Seven J Outfitters. This will be the first time that Bill won’t be there with us. So we’re thinking that Bill’s a little bit nervous. Wouldn’t it be something if Michael got a crack at Bill’s old nemesis buck “Stickers’?
Waddell's early season bow kill hunting the Milk River. photo by team realtree
Joining Michael and I on this hunt in the Black Hills will be pro-staffer Lee Lakosky and his soon-to-be-wife Tiffany. They are getting married near the end of August. They will go on a short honeymoon, then head west. This will be their very first hunt as husband and wife! They are planning on taking turns running camera. They are both superb cameramen and Tiffany is as good if not better than most guys behind the lens. Our whole crew is looking forward to having the accomplished hunting newlyweds at camp.
September Rolls On Another exciting trip in September is happening for Michael and Steve Finch for the Team Realtree Road Trips show. They will be heading to Quebec for a caribou hunt. Believe it or not, this is a “first’ for Team Realtree! We’ve all been talking about doing a caribou hunt for several years, but it just never happened! On this trek to the north, Ralph Cianciarulo and his wife Vicki have graciously invited our team on an all-out caribou hunt to an amazing destination. They will be the guests of Bullseye Outfitters while hunting with Nunuami Outfitters in the northern part of Quebec. The trip is planned for the middle of the month and our Road Warriors should be gone from the office for eight to 10 days. Steve Finch, the Technical Director at Realtree truly deserves a lot of credit for the quality of our programming. Guess what? Finch is finally going to get a chance at arrowing one of those monster caribou! We’re all pulling for him.
Last season at Seven J. photo by team realtree
Got Milk? Next, the Realtree cameras head to the Milk River for the first of several trips planned out there for this season of shows and videos. That place is just so awesome. Fact is, you can never ever get tired of seeing big, riverbottom whitetails coming into those huge alfalfa fields. It’s a treat for sure—not only for the hunter, but for the cameraman, too! This season especially, we’re expecting excellent hunting conditions. Last season, the area was in a drought situation, which definitely hindered antler growth. But this year in Montana, Wyoming and Nebraska it looks like they got good moisture at the right times. The forecast looks awesome for antler growth and production! This should be an “up’ year on the Milk River for certain.
The End of September After Bill finishes his sheep/ram hunt, he’ll head to Seven J Outfitters and then head to the Milk River to try his hand at bucks that outsmarted us. I’ll be headed back to Alberta to join Ron Nemetchek of North River Outfitting on an early season bowhunt. This year, my sights are set really high on a big whitetail or even a moose! Ron has moose in the area and has been talking about calling one into range. The time should be right! The pre-rut bulls might just grant us an opportunity to score if they come into calls. Last year, Waddell hunted with North River and I unfortunately missed out on the deal. The area is a big-game hunter’s dream because there are so many different animals and tags one could potentially fill. Mule deer, whitetail, moose—it’s just a wonderful time to be in that province. We’ve seen some big whitetails up in those parts, but bowhunting for them is a great challenge. The big bucks love to play cat-and-mouse with us. We are all very excited to say the least about this excursion.
The Canadian buck David waited many, many hours for last year. photo by team realtree
Opening Week In Saskatchewan We have a really exciting hunt during the opening week of the blackpowder season in Saskatchewan this year. Our time in the woods will take place during the first week in October. John Tate will be running camera for Tecomate’s David Morris. This is a unique early season deal with Blaine Burley of the Plotmaster company. Blaine found a place up there a few years ago hunting with an outfitter while scouting out places to book hunts for his booking service Woods N’ Water Inc. What’s so special about this time of year is that these huge Canadian giants are still in bachelor groups. Seeing them parade through grain fields is just awesome! Last year Blaine shot a 170-inch giant on the fourth day of his hunt. He passed on that same deer on his first day of the hunt. Can you believe it? They really do have some big deer up in that part of the province. Tate is really looking forward to taking on those deer with Thompson Center Encore blackpowder rifles! The weather should cooperate, too. In the morning hours they will be looking at temps in the 40s. During the day it will likely get into the 50s, possible 60s. Great hunting conditions for that time of the year.
Bill got Whitey! photo by team realtree
A Shift in Strategy As October rolls on our hunting strategies start to shift. Obviously the early season feeding patterns change to pre-rut. At the beginning of the month, Bill will be hunting Illinois for the first time in a long time. He’ll be hunting with outfitter Rick Tuten of Antler Creek Guide Service in Calhoun County, which is part of the Golden Triangle where so many awesome bucks are taken each year. Tuten is an old friend of Bill’s who is a former NFL punter. Bill will be bowhunting deer that Tuten say will be “very patternable’ at that time of the season. They have a lot of good food planted, had a good spring rainy season. The prospects look good for sure!
As October continues to unfold, I will be heading to North Dakota for the first time on a bowhunt at a brand new place. Gerry Brooks is the outfitter. This again is an entirely new place for our cameras. It certainly has great potential. We’ll be hunting river-bottom whitetails. Of course, what I really like about this area is that we’ll be hunting unpressured bucks. There’s just something about hunting a fresh area that has seen little-to-no hunting pressure. Lord knows I can use an uneducated buck anytime. There is also mule deer in those parts so we may have an opportunity at one of those fork-horned giants.
Last year Thompson Center's Gregg Ritz scored big time in front of the Realtree cameras. photo by team realtree
In the meantime, we’ll all be back-and-forth to the Milk River. We have some really good groups of hunters making the trip this year. Hunters Specialties’ Eddie Salter will be there. A couple of years ago he shot an excellent deer on the Milk River. He’ll look to top that one for sure. Outdoor writer Mark Kayser will be there as a guest of Realtree. Kayser will be filming a TV show for North American Hunting Club. We’ll also have Will Woller from Summit Treestands back at camp. You might remember that Will fell on some hard luck last year. He missed a great buck a couple of times and we sure gave him some grief about that. He’ll be looking to redeem himself this year.
As October Closes Near the end of this month, we have a Deer & Deer Hunting magazine sweepstakes winner coming to hunt with the Realtree guys on Team Realtree land in our home state of Georgia. They’ve not named the winner yet, but we sure are looking forward to that hunt. We all enjoy entertaining people in our “neck-of-the-woods’. It keeps us close to home, sleeping in our own beds and also gives us the great opportunity to meet hunters from other parts of the country.
During that same week, Michael will be heading to Illinois for a bowhunt with the folks at Muzzy broadheads. Muzzy is putting on a hunt up there and has invited our Road Trips team. This hunt will be taking place with Rodhouse Rut N’ Strut Outfitters in famous Pike Co.
This season Waddell will be hunting the same land where Don Kisy arrowed this giant. photo by team realtree
All-New Nebraska! Another new place that we’re going to try is in Nebraska. We’ll be hunting with RK Outfitters in southwest Nebraska. Our outfitter and host is Rick Kreuter. We are real excited to be going there this year. Pro-staffer Jay Gregory introduced us to Kreuter on a hunt in Wyoming some years ago and he eventually began hunting with Rick in Nebraska. One thing you can take to the bank is that if Jay Gregory recommends an outfitter you can rest easy. You will be onto some big bucks for certain. Rick reports that the rainfall he has been receiving in his part of the world has been perfect and is really seeing some good bucks.
It’s Pre-Rut Time Back to the Milk River! Gregg Ritz and the guys from Thompson Center will be heading to the Milk River for the gun opener. Gregg will be taking a big crew out there and Realtree will be running cameras. Lots can be said about the Milk River. In fact, I have to say that it’s like no other place I’ve ever seen as far as number of deer, and size of deer. We’ve had some up and down years there, but this year should be just excellent. There will definitely be some big bucks running around since we know for a fact they made it through last season unscathed!
Ned Yost will be with David Blanton again this season in Alberta. He's destined to bag a bruiser! photo by team realtree
First Week Of November Like I’ve always said, November is just not long enough. Everybody wants you to come hunt “their’ place in November. There’s just never enough days! In Iowa this year, Realtree pro-staffer Bob Fromme drew a tag. He’ll be bowhunting with our cameras and possibly outdoor writer Bill Winke. Waddell drew an Iowa tag and will be bowhunting with our friends Don and Kandi Kisky. Don bowkilled a ridiculously huge whitetail there last year. There’s no telling what Michael might come home with this season. As everybody knows, the Kiskys are some really great people. On top of that, they really know how to get on some big deer. Michael is really fired up about being invited on that hunt. Michael also has a landowner-archery permit for Kansas this year. He’ll be hunting Kansas in the middle of November with the folks from The Block archery target company. They are one of the sponsors of Road Trips and have invited him to come along and try his luck.
Around this time, Bill will be traveling to western Kansas with US Outfitters near where he hunted last year. I will be heading back to Alberta with Ron Nemetchek. Old friend Ned Yost will be joining me. Ned is bound and determined to go back to Alberta to get another crack at those monster bucks. Last year he went home empty handed after hunting hard for more than a week. Ned is not one to let something get the best of him. He is real excited about this year and so are the guys at camp. They simply love to share in his positive attitude and determination. They too are bound and determined to put Ned on a big Alberta whitetail. Also joining us on that trip will be freelance Realtree cameraman Mike McKensey. He will be hunting as well.
Tim Andrus will be joining Waddell in Saskatchewan. photo by team realtree
The Week Before Thanksgiving Michael will be heading to Saskatchewan to hunt with North American Outdoor Adventures. Booking agent Glen Thompson has set up an awesome hunt for Michael. Joining Waddell is one of our top Realtree “Local Pro’ staffers Tim Andrus. We really appreciate what our local pro-staff team does and this is one way of showing it. Tim is ultra-ready and excited about the upcoming opportunity.
At that same time I’ll be heading to the fine state of Ohio for the very first time. Joel Snow of Five Star Trophy Outfitters is the host. I’ll be bowhunting somewhere in the middle of the state. This is a brand-new area for the Realtree cameras and crew. Why we’re hunting the area is because we’ve received hundreds of email requests from viewers to go there and hunt. To say the least, we are really pumped to go and try our luck.
Then we all come home for Thanksgiving break to spend much-needed four to five quality days with our families.
Terry Rohm with his awesom buck from Diamond Springs last year. photo by team realtree
The Last Leg of the Season One hunt that we’ve committed to in Georgia is to benefit The Virginia Hunters For The Hungry program. They are raffling off a hunt for someone to come down to our place in Georgia to hunt with Team Realtree. It’s a good cause and we are all looking forward to the experience. This muzzleloader hunt will take place during the first few days of December.
Then we start setting our sights in Texas. Texas weather at this time is a welcome change to all the cold, icy, nasty stuff from the north. Needless to say, we love to go to Texas every year!
But first, it’s “Kansas On My Mind” as I’ll be once again hunting the Diamond Springs Ranch. Terry Rohm from Wellington busted a great deer there last season. I simply can’t wait to go back there this year to hunt with Bob and Audrey Boos. They’ve been such great partners with the Realtree team over the years and their home has become as comfortable as my own. We’ll be hunting right in the northeast corner of the state in Unit 10.
photo by team realtree
Bill we be venturing back to the Halff Brothers Ranch in Texas where he took that monster whitetail last year—25-inch inside spread! That buck made the cover of Monster Bucks XI! Do you think Bill’s excited about going back this year?
Texas Continued We held a board meeting here at Realtree and finally, after a lot of arguing, we all decided to invite Jeff Foxworthy back this year. Maybe he’ll get lucky at the El Cazador. Maybe not. Either way, he’ll keep us all in fine spirits I’m sure. Of course, I love to go down and hunt with David Morris at El Cazador. He’s one of my most favorite people in the world. Honestly though, there’s no way I can expect to take a deer as big as the drop-tined buck I got there last year. I don’t know if I can possibly be any more excited about this hunt than I already am.
David Morris...need we show more? photo by team realtree
Meanwhile, Waddell will be going to Kentucky several days before Christmas break to hunt with Thompson Center. They have some great land up there with Mark Doerner and Riversbend Outfitters. Bill will be going to the Tecomate. Gary Schwarz has been kind enough to invite Bill back again. We all laugh about it—we feel that Bill has fallen absolutely in love with the Tecomate and has had the rest of us kicked off of the property for life. He does love it down there and I’m sure Tyler will be joining his father at some point during the season. Tyler, as you might remember from last year’s journal story, has become an awesome shot. He’s bound to score again during the late season at Tecomate.
At Season’s End To end things up this year we have a really interesting late-season deal in Kentucky. It’s an archery hunt that Bill and I will embark upon. After that I will head to Illinois on a late-season archery hunt with Mark Doerner of Riversbend Outfitters. By the time that hunt’s over with, we all should be ready for a break.
Will Blanton and the Realtree cameras top last year's success? photo by team realtree
As you can see from this year’s lineup, we have several excellent opportunities to hunt some totally new areas as well as our old standbys. Sooner or later, somebody is going to mess around and kill a world-class, whomper-stomper on video. A 200-plus deer—It might just happen this year!
Editor’s note: With the rainfall and the expected hunting conditions, Blanton predicts an extraordinary season for the Team Realtree cameras and hunters this season. They have some really good big-buck hotspots picked out. On a scale from 1 to 10 he’s giving it a hard 9 and expecting to get 41 successful hunts in the can. His prediction for the biggest deer gross score is 182! The crew is expected to get more than 120 hours of raw footage! This year Realtree viewers can expect to see more behind-the-scenes-type footage of all of their hunts.
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