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Deer Hunting Myth: The Lie of the Nocturnal Buck

This deer hunting myth. You hear it every season.

“Yeah, I’ve got a ton of pictures of him but they’re all at night. He’s nocturnal. Won’t be killing that big guy.”

Insert sigh here.

Every deer is killable. You just have to know the when, where, why and how. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

I might catch a little flack for saying this — but there’s no such thing as a nocturnal buck. That’s a deer hunting myth. Sure, all deer are different, and each buck has its own personality. That’s true. Each individual buck you encounter is inclined to move more or less during daylight. Also true. But one thing remains — all bucks move at least a little during daylight hours. You just have to know when and where they do so to capitalize on it.

It’s also important to remember that deer movement is relative and is greatly influenced by habitat, pressure, food sources and other factors. For the most part, I consider the whole “nocturnal” deal to be oversold. But there’s a twist. There are some days that mature bucks won’t move far from their bedding area during daylight. I do believe that. But I think the vast majority of bucks move in daylight (outside of the rut) when conditions are right, especially when the wind is in their favor.  And I also believe virtually all bucks move at least short distances from their beds during daylight, even on the worst days. Research suggests it, too.

In most cases, a buck only seems nocturnal and hard to hunt because of three reasons.

The first — you aren’t close enough to the buck’s core area. If you’re sitting 500 or 600 yards from the buck’s bed, chances are you won’t see the deer. You have to be closer to a given buck’s bedding area to have a shot at seeing it in daylight.

The second possibility is that you aren’t on a preferred travel route. You might be really close to the deer’s bed, but if you aren’t on its preferred trail(s), you aren’t seeing that deer in daylight very often. And while you aren’t seeing that deer in daylight, it likely is moving in daylight somewhere else nearby. It’s that simple. Knowing where the deer is bedding is part of the battle. Homing in on the travel routes it uses is the next phase.

The third possibility is the closest a buck gets to being a nocturnal buck (as people often describe them). It’s a buck that moves very little distance from its bed of an afternoon. To kill this deer, you have to get within 100 yards or so of its actual bed (not just the bedding area). Or, you have to hope it moves a little further in daylight during a cold front, weather event or the rut.

Don’t fall for the nocturnal buck deer hunting myth. Use Hunterra maps to scout, pin-point and create game plans for specific bucks. (Hunterra photo)

Regardless of which of these scenarios you find yourself in, the best way to increase your odds of killing a particular deer is to determine where its primary bed is located. You have to know where they spend daylight hours to see them during daylight hours. Sure, you might get lucky and catch one out in the open. But that rarely happens. And the deer hunters who kill mature bucks on a consistent basis are getting back in the thick stuff with the deer more times than not.

Interestingly enough, studies show that most bucks will get up and feed twice during the day. That said, said feeding activity typically occurs within 80 to 100 yards of where that deer lays down — especially if mast-bearing trees are nearby. If you know where that is, and you’re able to close the distance without being detected, you have a chance at killing even the most reclusive buck in the woods. If the deer doesn’t see, hear or smell you as you ease into position, and the buck thinks the conditions are right for it to move your way in daylight, odds increase greatly.

All bucks are killable. And few (if any) are truly nocturnal in the traditional sense we hunters often throw around.

Some just take a little more effort than others to get that tag on them.

The post Deer Hunting Myth: The Lie of the Nocturnal Buck appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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Midwest Whitetail is now part of a new family of videos that will all play on Realtree’s new app/channel. It is called Realtree 365You can follow this link to the web version or you can easily search for it on any device using your device’s app play store.

In addition, Realtree 365 is on streaming TV on the following platforms: Roku, Amazon FireTV and AppleTV.

You can watch the latest release of Monster Bucks XVII for free on Realtree’s new video channel/app called Realtree 365.

To kick off this new channel you can watch all of the latest hunts from the 2019 Monster Bucks XXVII for free right now on the app.  You have register to watch Monster Bucks but you can watch any other series without registering.

You will find Midwest Whitetail Weekly, Midwest Whitetail Daily and Chasing November on this channel/app also.  I hope you enjoy this new video platform.  We will be adding new original shows regularly.

The post Introducing Realtree 365 Channel appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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Whitetail Body Language: 5 Tail-Tell Signs to Know

Bloodshot eyes roll back in their sockets. Chipped hooves kick dust into the air. Coarse hairs stand on end as a parched tongue licks quivering nostrils. Tails thrash back and forth. It’s all about the non-verbals when reading whitetails and their behavior. Deer aren’t as vocal as turkeys or elk. (But they are more vocal than many hunters think.) That said, you must rely on non-vocal communications to see and understand what deer are feeling and thinking.

Understand whitetail body language and become a more rounded deer hunter. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

The Tail Flick

Deer get their name from their behind, more specifically, the large white patch on the underside of the tail. It sends all sorts of messages to other deer. These are signals hunters can pick up on, too, so long as they know what to look for.

Real Life Example: I’d already filled my 2012 Kentucky buck tag. A friend of mine needed a place to hunt, so I offered to take him. We sat in the stand nine mornings in a row before work. On the ninth, a 4-year-old 10-point I had history with came busting through cover. I grunted and rattled to him. He stopped, flicked his tail and kept trucking on down the ridge.

I knew we had him. Three flicks of the tail gave him away. This is a sign of acknowledgment between deer. I knew he heard me even though he never looked our way. It was only a matter of time before he swung back through to confront the challenger. About 45 minutes later, the bruiser came running back to us, stopped broadside at 10 yards, and took a broadhead to the rib cage courtesy of my good buddy.

The Takeaway: Don’t give up after calling to a seemingly unresponsive deer. Watch their tail along with the rest of their body to see the big picture.

The Tail Tuck

Up next is the tail tuck. This signals a deer is reluctant, subordinate, fearful or injured. These bucks are oftentimes loners and anti-social. Anytime I see a deer tuck its tail, or receive a trail camera photo of this action, I immediately mark that deer as a timid (or injured) one.

Real Life Example: Having this intel completely changed my approach to hunting one specific deer — my deer from 2009. He ran in an area inhabited by two bucks that were bigger-bodied than he. His actions reflected this. I knew I couldn’t get aggressive with him. So, I set up shop near a preferred bedding area and refused the urge to call and rattle. I shot him as he made his way to a nearby pond. Because I observed him act timid once, I completely changed the game plan to fit his personality.

The Takeaway:  Knowing different possible meanings behind tucked tails provides clues as to what deer might be thinking. Before the shot, a tucked tail means a timid or shy deer. After the shot, it means you likely hit the mark. A wounded deer generally tucks its tail between its legs. If you miss, the tail usually stays raised after the shot.

Understanding how a deer uses its tail to communicate will oftentimes help you to understand what it’s thinking. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

The Rigid Tail

A straight, flat tail is a sign love is in the air. This is a common occurrence among does during the rut. It can mean a doe is in estrous, or nearing estrous, and is ready to breed. Most times when you see this, the doe is accompanied by a buck (or bucks).

Real Life Example: Several years ago, I was set up on the edge of a thicket. A doe ran through out about an hour into the hunt. Does usually have their tails raised when running. This doe didn’t. Hers was stretched out parallel to the ground (and mouth wide open and panting). I knew she was in estrous and that a buck couldn’t be far behind her. Ten seconds later, a solid 130-inch 10-point came trotting out. I stopped him before taking the shot.

The Takeaway: Knowing she was in estrous gave me an advantage. I was already prepared and waiting to take the shot when the buck entered the open. If I hadn’t known, I may not have gotten the shot off in time.

The White Flag

The raised tail is without a doubt the most infamous, yet hated, tail talk of all. It’s generally the last thing you see as that giant buck bounds over the hill and out of your life.

Real Life Example: I have too many stories about spooked deer to share them all here. I’ll pick the most heartbreaking of them all. It was fall of 2013, sometime around late September. I’d chased this deer for three years and it was on that day he stepped out two full hours before dark. He walked straight toward me and stopped at 30 yards. Then, a woman and her kids walked down the hill to the creek. The buck raised its tail and dashed from the field along with every other deer.

The Takeaway: There isn’t much you can do when that happens. You’re at the mercy of your environment, including trespassers. The best thing to do, even when you mess up and spook deer, is learn from the experience and keep hunting. Set a conscious goal to never see the white flag and you’ll spook less deer.

Become fluent in tail talk and fill more deer tags. (Realtree photo)

The All-Clear Swish

A deer that wags its tail once from side to side is saying all is well. It feels there is no eminent danger. If a deer initially spooks, but then signals all-clear swish, you can relax again and continue the hunt.

Real Life Example: This happened right before I tagged a nice South Dakota buck in 2016 (pictured above). Something spooked it. After his investigation, he used this body language to signal the all-clear.

The Takeaway: Don’t take a low-odds, bad shot opportunity when deer spook. Wait for them to calm back down (if possible). If you see this signal, they’re generally relaxed again.

Reading a deer’s body language will help you know when to take the shot. (Midwest Whitetail photo)

It takes an extensive understanding of whitetail behavior to consistently knock them down. Strive to be fluent in whitetail body language. The more you know how they communicate, the more apt you are to understand them. And the more you understand them, the more likely you’ll be to fill that deer tag.

The post Whitetail Body Language: 5 Tail-Tell Signs to Know appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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Learn a Buck’s Core Area with Trail Cameras

Killing big bucks is tough to do. And to kill them consistently each season is dang near impossible if you don’t really study them and work hard at it. It takes dedication. And Cuddeback cameras can help.

It’s summertime right now. But soon, as fall nears, bucks will be moving more freely across the landscape. Odds of killing a specific buck (in a specific place you’ve been monitoring it) goes down during the peak rut. You’re better off to killing that deer before the peak of the rut occurs. Sure, the rut can help you, but patterns become less consistent. And this tactic is all about patterns.

When is the best time to use this tactic? I’ve had the best luck during the early season, pre-rut and late season, respectively. It can work during the rut but hasn’t proved quite as effective. With that, you can use this tactic virtually anywhere. I hail from Kentucky and it works great for patterning velvet bucks. But it also works in states where opening day falls in late September or early October. The constant needed for this tactic to work: a pattern.

But how do you accomplish this? What’s the best way to learn a buck’s preferred bedding areas, food sources, watering locations and travel routes? How do you decipher personality traits and habits?

Enter the blitz.

Use trail cameras efficiently, yet responsibly, to pattern deer. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

I use a tactic that I call “blitzing a buck.” I use it when I know a buck is in the area, but I’m not certain on how or where to kill it. This method generally answers that question for me.

The good news — you can be as aggressive or passive with this tactic as you like. If you begin now, you have time to be very relaxed and patient. Put it off until a week before you plan to hunt, and more aggression is needed to get it done.

Here are seven steps to get the job done.

Step 1: Scout from Afar

If you already know of a buck in the area you want to target, skip this step. But if you don’t, the first step is to find a deer. Whether that’s while you’re in the stand hunting, hunting from an observation stand, or simply scouting from afar, you need to lay eyes on him.

Step 2: Listen to Your Gut

Now that you’ve seen the deer you’re after, connect the dots. Make an educated guess as to where this buck is bedding, feeding and going to water. Write all of it down on a Hunterra aerial map. This is an important step. It’ll help you decide where to hang your cameras.

Use Hunterra printed maps to better understand a property and how deer use it. (Hunterra photo)

Step 3: The Broad-Brush Approach

Now that you know of a buck in the area, and you’ve made an educated guess on where it’s living, gather as many cameras as you can muster (four to five is optimal). Look at the aerial map that you’ve marked up and determine where you should hang your cameras. Don’t get too close to where the deer is bedding. This is/can be an aggressive tactic, but you shouldn’t take it as far as to spook the deer you’re hunting.

A buck’s home range is approximately 600 to 700 acres, but its core area will generally only be 30 to 60 acres. I start out by making an educated guess as to where the buck’s core area is and surround it with cameras. Leave the cameras untouched for three to four days (aggressive) or longer (passive).

Step 4: Setting the Trap

The goal by surrounding the deer’s core area is to try to determine which end it’s spending the most time on. After the time is up, check the cameras. Leave any cameras that captured the deer. Pull cameras that didn’t produce and move them to a new spot closer to the camera(s) that had photos of your target buck(s). Give it two to three more days (aggressive) or longer (passive).

Step 5: Tighten the Noose

Check cameras again. You’re hoping to get the deer on most of the cameras by now. Repeat step No. 4 and move any cameras that didn’t produce closer to those that did. Leave in place the cameras that did produce photos during steps No. 3 and/or 4. Leave the cameras alone for one to two days (aggressive) or longer (passive).

Step 6: Dial It In         

This is (hopefully) the last camera check before moving in to hunt. By now, you want to be seeing your target buck(s) each day on at least ¾ of the cameras you have out. Don’t worry if they’re not daylight photos as long as the buck is hitting them close to daylight hours within the core area.

Step 7: Repeat If Necessary

Continue with this process until you’ve cinched down on the deer’s bedding area. But be careful. Don’t overdo it. Again, this tactic can be as aggressive, or as passive, as you make it. Use it responsibly.

Step 8: Move in for the Kill

Now you have the intel needed to hunt. You have a good idea of where the deer is bedded during daylight hours and where it’s going to feed. All that’s left is to hunt the deer. It’s best to wait for ideal conditions such as a cold front, dropping temperatures, rain events, good lunar positions, etc. But if those aren’t on the horizon (within the next day or two), go ahead and hunt. Deer move most at dawn and dusk anyway, regardless of other, less-important factors.

The author tagged this 2018 Kentucky velvet buck in part due to his trail camera strategy. (Marty Honeycutt photo)

Real Life Example

I’ve used this tactic for a long time. It’s lead to a lot of dead bucks. Last fall, it helped me kill my biggest. But it isn’t full-proof. And you shouldn’t rely solely on cameras. Instead, use it in conjunction with other scouting tools to confirm what your gut and instinct already knows.

Here’s one of my real-life example story for this tactic. It was a DIY hunt (like all of my outings) on the 50-acre family farm I grew up hunting on. That was what was most special about the 163 6/8-inch buck I came to know as “Big 8.”

I followed the deer for two seasons. I learned a lot about him. And he taught me a lot about deer and deer hunting. I ran trail cameras from the summer of 2017 until spring of 2018. I learned a lot about Big 8 during that time. I made note of every daylight appearance he made on trail cameras and recorded the date, time, temperature, weather, direction of travel, etc. These things taught me a lot about how he used the property and where I should make my stand and when to do so. When I started re-learning and scouting in the summer of 2018, it gave me a great starting point that I wouldn’t have had if I didn’t scout year-round.

I knew there were a few things lacking. Not that I couldn’t tag the buck without having added them. I probably could have. But I thought they would help. So, I put in a micro kill plot and a watering hole (in strategic locations) early in summer — and then stayed out until the season arrived. Trail cameras proved these things definitely helped increase my odds for success. I also glassed from afar — but not like I should have. But more on that momentarily.

This was the first time the author laid eyes on the brute in person. It was the first day he hunted the deer, which was the fourth day of the season. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

I wouldn’t have known a fraction of what I knew about this buck had I not used trail cameras. That’s a scary thought. In fact, I only laid eyes on the buck twice — the day before and the day I killed it. Trail cameras taught me 95 percent of what I knew about the buck. But they also deceived me, albeit briefly.

How did they deceive me? My daylight sightings (on trail camera) of the big hoss went cold. Right before the opener, he was only hitting my cameras at night. I opted not to hunt the deer the first three days of the season because of this. I moved some cameras around and luckily gained a little more intel on the deer. Not like I wanted, though. I finally decided to hunt on the fourth day of the season even though I didn’t have a great pattern on the buck. I lucked out and saw the buck coming out, but it was skirting my camera by about 60 feet — just out of its range. I almost shot the deer that day (from my observation stand), but he skirted just out of range. But that sit revealed that the deer’s pattern hadn’t really changed.

The moment of truth. This was seconds before the author arrowed the deer. (Josh Honeycutt photo)

The next day, I did a hang-and-hunt in a spot I thought would give me a decent shot at killing the deer in its core area. I lucked out. And I got the shot of my lifetime.  I owe this buck to hard work, off-season planning and visually sightings. But most importantly, I owe it to trail cameras around the buck’s core area.

You can watch the entire hunt here.

The post Learn a Buck’s Core Area with Trail Cameras appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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SCRAPE HUNTING STRATEGIES

The following article is by Owen Reigler

THE EARLY YEARS

My stance on scrape hunting has definitely evolved over the years. To fully understand where we are today, let’s first take a look at where we started in terms of our knowledge regarding scrapes.

Back in the mid 80’s when I first started bowhunting, the general consensus surrounding scrapes was that a buck would make a scrape with the intent that an estrous doe would stop by at some point and urinate in the scrape (letting the buck know she’s in estrous) and the doe would wait nearby for the lucky buck to check the scrape and then proceed to track down his date for the night.

There’s more details and some other ideas out there that we could go into but more or less that was what we thought we knew or at least what was written about at the time.

CURRENT KNOWLEDGE/SPECULATION

We have learned a lot about scrapes and how deer use them since the first years when outdoor writers reported on hunting over them.

So what do we know today about scrapes that is any different than back in the mid 80’s? I mean after all, there is a recent test kit on the market that is made to check the presence of estrous doe urine at a scrape, right? Now I have seen many does and even whole family groups “work” or at least smell the licking branch at scrapes. That is not uncommon.

I also see bucks urinate or “rub urinate” in scrapes frequently, but to this day I can’t remember ever seeing a doe ,that I believed to be in estrous, seek out a scrape and urinate in it. I’m not going to say it has never happened but if it does happen it is at least a very low percentage thing in the places where I’ve lived.

I’ve had Cuddebacks over a lot scrapes the past 15 years or so and all the data they have collected would indicate the same thing.

What I have witnessed is the buck seeking out the doe and when the doe is harassed by the buck it is very common for the doe to squat and urinate so the buck can check her estrous status. A lot of us have probably seen this unfold in the wild with the flehman process or lip curl. So for me, I’m going to throw out the idea of the estrous doe seeking out scrapes to find her potential suitor.

It is a commonly held belief that bucks will make their rounds to “freshen” their scrapes after a rain. This belief is more myth than reality.

There’s one other commonly held belief that is worth discussing regarding scrape hunting. I’ve heard it a thousand times, “It just rained, so I have to get out there and hunt over a scrape since these bucks get on their feet to freshen scrapes after a rain”. Right? I’m not convinced that is true, I could be wrong here, and I may get some flack on this one because the belief is so common.

I believe after a rain wipes the scrape clean, we just notice the fresh workings in the scrape’s moist soil.  I believe the bucks are just doing what they do every other day and we just don’t notice these scrapes being worked like that in dry conditions because it’s just not as obvious.

So what exactly do we know about scrapes? I believe there is still plenty to be written on the subject but I think it is safe to say that scrapes are primarily a place that bucks advertise their presence. It would be the equivalent of you and I going to our local dance club every night.

You would get a feel for who hangs out there and who you don’t want to mess with at that club. So to summarize, I believe scrapes are primarily a place that bucks leave their “business card” so to speak. Again, I believe there is still plenty to learn on this subject.

HUNTING STRATEGIES

Over the years, I’ve had many people ask me if I prefer to hunt over scrapes and rubs versus other methods. Here’s my thought process (keep in mind my thinking has evolved over the years). I am always going to pick my tree stand location or Redneck Blind location based on entry/exit route, huntability based on wind direction and general deer movement, food sources, pinch points, funnels and perhaps the presence of several intersecting trails.

Owen Reigler sets out rub/scrape posts near his stands to entice the bucks to move their scrapes to his stand locations rather than moving his stand locations to their scrapes.

There will be rubs and scrapes in the area if bucks are frequenting that area with regularity but I don’t let that sway my set-up location one bit because so often the location of the scrapes is dictated by the presence of a good overhanging licking branch. Also, keep in mind that not all scrapes are created equal. You have to consider the location, if it’s in the wide open than most of that activity is taking place at night anyhow.

I also don’t believe the majority of bucks will travel far out of their way to go to these scrapes. I would venture to guess the distance an average buck will walk out of his way to go to a particular scrape is less than 60-80 yards so that’s why your setup location is ultra critical. So once I have my perfect stand location figured out, then I move the scrape to my location, never vice versa.

This is where the 8′ landscaping timbers from the local lumber store comes in. I will set up these rubbing posts within 20 yards upwind of my stand location and also fasten a licking branch to them to make it a rubbing and scraping post. Now you have the best of all worlds.

In my opinion, the biggest advantage of setting up these scrapes where you want them is taking full advantage of being able to put your Cuddebacks where they are easy to get in and check and get out of there.

In Owen’s opinion, scrapes serve their greatest value as places to set up your trail cameras to find and pattern bucks in September and October.

This is also where the Cuddelink system or cellular cams shine. I have several rubbing posts set up in areas that are specifically just to run my trail cams to keep track of these bucks. And speaking of keeping track of these bucks, from velvet shedding all the way through the end of October or perhaps that first week of November, I believe running your trail cams over scrapes is the single best way to learn the whereabouts of the bucks you’re trying to pattern.

Almost every buck I’ve killed in the past ten years was a particular buck I was hunting and the reason I was hunting that buck in that area was from the knowledge gained through my trails cams at these scrapes either that season or seasons past.

TAKE AWAY MESSAGE

My take away message on scrape hunting is pretty simple. Keep hunting the pinch points, food sources or fringes and always pick your stand location first then move the scrape to your location. Also don’t overlook the value or running your trail cams over these scrapes.

It’s rare at certain times of the year for a buck to travel close to a scrape and not walk over to investigate, but also as I stated earlier these bucks generally don’t walk far out of their way to visit these scrapes.  So if you’re getting a buck with regularity, on a particular scrape, I’d be parked in that area when it’s time for arrows to fly.

-Owen Reigler

The post Scrape Hunting Strategies appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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The following is guest blog from Owen Reigler: DIY Food Plots

Owen shot this buck back in 2004, near his first ever food plot. It is no wonder Owen became an instant believer in the power of small food plots! Building a small plot (even if on a permission farm) is one of the most rewarding things you can do as a whitetail hunter.

It was late summer 2003, and I had just fulfilled a lifelong dream of owning my own farm. It had been a small cattle farm in years past, but I had a vision of making it into my own little deer hunting mecca. That first fall was a lot of fun, but I couldn’t wait until spring so I could get started on changing the farm into a deer hunting paradise.

I was still a young man at the time, so energy and enthusiasm were definitely on my side. I was a branch manager in the swimming pool business, so I only had partial weekends to work around the farm. It was early April when I started working on my first real food plot.

It was going to be a 3-acre clover field in the best looking bottom on that place. One little problem, thick grass, briars and small locust trees as far as the eye could see! I got a quick education on the fact that tires on farm machinery and locust thorns are arch enemies!

Using a 60 hp industrial tractor, a 6′ brush cutter and a 6′ disc – stacked with everything I could find for extra weight – I fought, clawed and scratched to prep this food plot. I spent about two months at the school of hard knocks that spring before I finally wised up and hired a local farmer with a “real” tractor and disc to make this overgrown 3 acres suitable to broadcast my clover seed.

You don’t need fancy equipment to clean up small openings and create an affordable food plot. In fact, you can get by with just hand tools in many cases.

By the way, that farmer wasn’t real pleased with me the next day when he had two flat tires on his tractor.  Hey, I didn’t know it was a bad idea to mow over small locust trees.

Well, I finally got the seed on the ground and covered just in time as the late spring and summer produced the perfect weather for newly planted clover.

Soon it was early August and I was taking the afternoon off work to go watch this newly planted clover field in hopes of catching some target bucks on their feet. I hadn’t been there long before bucks and does starting crawling out of the woodwork.

As I laid eyes on the first nice buck of the evening, I remember thinking I had died and gone to heaven. I quickly realized it is a special feeling to watch those majestic whitetails feeding in a field created with your own blood, sweat and tears.

I watched deer in this field on weekends the rest of the summer, and I became more consumed with the idea these deer were there partly because of what I had built.

That fall, I harvested by far the best buck of my life just two hundred yards from that clover field. It was an extra special feeling to have done so on my own farm – where I had worked so hard to make this dream come true.

Now, some 16 years later, I can’t imagine a year where I don’t plant all the groceries I can for these beloved whitetails as well as sit and watch velvet bucks every chance I get.

As I reflect back over the years to that first food plot, it’s as clear as those velvet covered antlers through my binoculars, that the satisfaction and reward gained from watching deer and hunting around the things I built through my own blood, sweat and tears is as good as it gets.

I hope every single one of you that has access to private hunting land (even if only on permission) gets that experience during your hunting lifetime.

Fortunately, we offer tons of information on the Midwest Whitetail website on the subject of creating small, affordable food plots.  Just do a site search under the words “Poor Man’s Plot” and you will find enough information to keep you tied to your computer or phone for days!  Good luck.

The post DIY Food Plots: “Food for Thought” appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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2019 Quetico Canoe Trip

We didn’t do a ton of fishing on this trip, but Drew caught some really nice fish from camp one day on a small remote lake.

I know that a certain percentage of our visitors are fishermen and just overall adventurous outdoorsmen.

For that reason, I enjoy posting photos and short stories of trips up north canoeing.

We just returned last weekend from the spring version of the trip – we sometimes go up twice in a summer.

Overall, it was fun – but less enjoyable than some years because of the black flies.

The black flies (generic name for what are sometimes called “Buffalo Gnats” or “Canadian Gnats”) were really bad this year and there is not much you can do about them except wear headnets and gloves.

It was our daughter, Jordan’s, first trip up north canoeing. This is her with her new golden retriever named Bentley.

Traditional bug repellent doesn’t work on black flies regardless of the claims! If you have a home brew that works, I am dying to know what it is.

Camping and fishing is not nearly as enjoyable when you have to wear a headnet. In fact, it is almost annoying.  So we cut the trip short by a day and headed out a bit early.

Another evening in camp with a cloud of bugs buzzing around our headnets was just not appealing.

However, despite the black flies, there were some highlights.  It was the first time that our daughter, Jordan, could make the trip.  She brought her new puppy along so that was really fun.

Jordan and the dog were both great troupers and did an excellent job on the trip.

We did catch some decent fish along the way and enjoyed tasty fillets cooked over the fire.

We had a couple of very nice days and the scenery and adventure are always top-notch in that rugged, remote country.  So, whenever the wind blew enough to keep the flies off, we really enjoyed the adventure.

Fishing was decent but again, we were limited by the bugs.  It is just not much fun to fish while wearing a headnet.

All things considered, it was a solid trip, but from now on, black fly avoidance will be the number one determining factor on trip timing.

For me, it is even more important than best fishing dates.  The fishing is almost always good.

I hope I can get Jordan up there again when the flies are gone.  It makes a huge difference.

I have been making this trip off and on since was 15 years old, that was 40 years ago!  I have learned a lot – and covered a lot of country – so if you have any questions about how, when and where, hit me up in the comments section.

Notable Gear:

We used a Helinox chair on this trip and found it to be a very durable, very comfortable alternative to sitting on the rocks in camp. Here Jordan enjoys the view from one of our best camps.

One of the best gear items we tested on this trip was the Helinox Chair Zero.

This small chair weighs just a pound and is an awesome addition to any lightweight camping kit.

They are a little pricey, but this one was actually Drew’s Christmas present.

The Purcell Trench Grill is the best I have ever found for this kind of camping – where you cook over fires but move from place to place often. It is light and packs easily.

Without a doubt, the very best lightweight grill for cooking over a fire is the Purcell Trench Grill.

I bought mine several years ago and it still looks like new.  They are super durable, super light and easy to pack.

The post 2019 Quetico Canoe Trip appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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I recieved an Ask Winke recently from a fellow named Ben Roberts from Missouri regarding the topic of Abnormal Shedding. Here is his original question:

When shed antlers have large chunks of bone attached, the resulting growth for that buck the coming year can be very different. In fact, some bucks will never grow a normal antler again.

“I recently watched the video in which Owen discussed the “Super Freak” buck and finding him. While finding sheds this year, I too, found a match set from one of my hit list bucks with a significant amount of bone attached to both of them. It has been driving me crazy not knowing whether this deer will survive or not.

The antlers were laying next to each other in a bedding area with no bones or skull around. I have searched high and low for any sign of a dead buck in the area with no luck. With that being said I would like to share some pictures to compare my sheds with Owen’s “Super Freak” buck. Maybe your crew could help me shed some light on my situation!”

OWEN’S RESPONSE

I asked Owen Riegler to weigh in this subject since Ben referenced his buck.  Here is Owen’s reply:

This is the European mount of the buck Owen calls the “Hand Buck”. You can see how the pedicle tried to mend itself after abnormal shedding, but the antler never returned to normal.

The “Hand Buck” is the European mount of the buck that shed the antlers shown in the accompanying photos.

If you look close at the pedicle of the messed up antler you can see it looks like that buck had shed exactly like we are talking about with the Super Freak buck and the others that you sent photos of.

This is the Hand Buck in 2015 before shedding with a piece of bone attached to his right burr.

This is the Hand Buck the following year, after he shed the abnormal antler and grew a new one. His right side never recovered.

Looks like he shed with part of the skull attached as a two year old, if I’m correct on my pictures.

You can see some bone growth where the pedicle tried to repair itself on the European mount, also a weird void and a crack  on the back side of the pedicle.

So my theory is still the same, I guess, but now we have pictures to show it. If the pedicle is damaged it will try to repair itself, but if permanent damage occurred, as with abnormal shedding, the buck will likely never grow a normal antler.

After looking over this skull of the “Hand Buck”, I do not believe the Super Freak buck would have grown a normal antler next year and possibly never again.

However, it’s important to point out that deformed antlers from other factors such as body injuries often grow back as normal antlers in the following years.

So it’s important to give these bucks at least two years to grow out of such antler deformities before deciding to cull them from the herd.

CONCLUSION

That’s my assessment; some of it is speculation on how the pedicle reacts to injury, but I think we’ve seen enough proof over the years to be reasonably sure that when a buck sheds with a lot of skull bone attached to the antler burr, it never grows a normal antler again.

The post Abnormal Shedding and Deformed Antlers appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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This is the buck I found dead this past week. The photo I used for the link image on the home page for this blog is the buck I found dead last spring. Both are genetically superior young bucks. It is a shame to see them go this way.

Dead Head Bucks

I do like finding sheds; I just don’t have the patience to walk for hours and not find anything.  As a result, I generally just hunt the easy spots and then focus on scouting or planning my food plots.

I have had a great run of antler hunting so far this year!

As much fun as it is to find shed antlers, I really hate it when I find a good buck dead.  It happens just about every winter.  This year, I found what appears to be a really nice 3 year old dead.  Last year, I found what I know was a really nice three year old dead.

It is so rare to get a buck with really good genetics regardless of the area, and then to have that deer die of natural causes is a real bummer.  I believe they kill each other more often than we think.  Over the years, I have seen enough bucks with really nasty infections limping around after the season to realize it happens more often than we think.

This is the buck I found dead last spring. Actually, Jared found him while he was turkey hunting on my farm. This was a 3 year I am sure. I had been watching him and was looking forward to when he would be old enough to hunt.

They are amazingly tough, and many of them pull through their injuries, but a certain percentage die every year.  Bucks are also more vulnerable to cars in the fall than does, because the bucks are covering so much ground during the rut. 

There is no real point to this; I just wanted to remind you to pay due respect to any buck that makes it to old age, and especially one with great genetics.  That buck absolutely beat the odds even in areas with limited hunting pressure.

The post Finding Dead Head Bucks appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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Ohio Season Recap: The Forkhorn Tour

2018 was a tough year of hunting for the Justus family on my farm in Ohio We came into the season with high hopes after watching Dad kill Quattro last year and making many off season improvements to the farm. Unfortunately it all fell flat. I logged around twenty-five sits in the tree and only saw one mature buck.

Jake Justus took this great bull hunting in Montana this past season. While whitetail hunting is his number one passion, that elk hunt is a very fond memory.

For the most part, it was the never ending forkhorn tour. Even those of us who film hunts and own private land have tough years. On the up side, my nephew, Westin, managed to kill several does and a young buck in PA that were great hunts, and I managed to kill my first elk back in September with Cody Carr’s Hunting Adventures in Montana. These are the memories I will choose to focus on for 2018.

But, when I think of the of all the timbers stand improvements, food plots and overall habitat improvements made this past year it is frustrating to be missing the tangible impact – to see the results! It could be my TSI has not had enough time to thicken up and in the short term actually did more harm than good.  Much of my timber is broken up by fields so cutting an area really opens things up and could have pushed some mature bucks off.

The heavy rain also delayed my dozer operator last summer, causing the excavation work to complete in August, much later than planned and closer to the hunting season. I had hoped things would calm down by November but the mature bucks never showed up despite great trail cam pics all summer.

After his week long rut hunt, Jake learned that two of his best bucks had already been killed by neighbors.

After our week long rut hunt, I discovered two of my top bucks were previously killed by neighbors. So to some extent, we were hunting deer that did not exist. But there were other mature bucks in the area we should have seen.

Another factor may have been coyotes. I am getting several pictures of multiples together and when they herd up like this, the stress on deer goes way up.

All that being said, Bill Winke had a tough year too and he’s hunting every day on 1,000 acres in Iowa! So despite our different circumstances, we all struggle at this sooner or later.

2019

This off season will give us a chance to regroup and figure things out. I’m looking forward to shed hunting and wrapping up some dozer work this winter. I have new trails to cut in and a small food plot to create back in the timber. I also purchased some switchgrass seed to encourage bedding and daylight movement on the property.

Year to year, my farm has ups and downs when it comes to producing mature buck sightings. This year was definitely down. Hopefully, as I start to finish up the major muscle movements of habitat improvement, things will settle down and the young bucks will grow up within the new structure. As an eternal optimist, I am not letting a slow year weigh me down.

1 Peter 2:9
-Jake Justus

The post Ohio Season Recap: The Forkhorn Tour appeared first on Midwest Whitetail.

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