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  • October 31, 2007

    BuckTracker: The New P&Y Record?

    By Scott Bestul

    Well, BuckTracker friends, I'm just back from an Illinois bowhunt, where I was re-taught that you can hunt some of the best whitetail ground in the country and still have your tail handed to you. I did see one “shooter” buck (a 3-year old 8-point) in five days of hunting—certainly nothing to cry about—but when I saw the sheds our host had in the lodge, I knew the farms we hunted weren’t showing us their best deer. Still, I had a wonderful time with a great camp full of friends and whitetail nuts. It sure beat working!

    Though things weren’t happening in west-central Illinois, the southern tip of the state was extremely kind to at least one hunter. Check out this incredible typical buck below, taken near the town of Pinckneyville. No word on the hunter’s identity as yet, but the buzz on this deer is extremely hot. Apparently, the green typical score is 198”, but the early gossip hinted that the deer might eclipse Mel Johnson’s P&Y world record of 204-4/8”. That buck, a goliath 13-point, was also an Illinois deer (Peoria Co.) and was shot in 1965. You’ll note that the hunter (or a friend) had the sheds from this year’s kill. Fantastic deer!



  • October 29, 2007

    Bill Heavey's Deer Diary: Excitable Boy

    By Bill Heavey

    I went hunting in Kansas a few weeks ago and whiffed. On a big one. I was 17 feet up a ladder stand attached to a flimsy tree in 25 mile-an-hour wind, when the buck appeared 33 yards away in a nearby hedgerow, the one place no shooting lanes had been cleared. Between the obstructions, the swaying stand, and my swaying legs, I couldn’t keep it together. I thought I had a tiny window, but I really don’t know if my arrow deflected or just missed without any external help.

    UnruhHere’s the weird thing. Missing didn’t hurt as bad as I thought it would. Sure, it hurt. Sure, I was bummed. But it was mostly because I knew the guys back at the magazine would be giggling and high-fiving one another at the news of yet another botched encounter by yours truly.

    In the place it really matters, there was no sense of failure. It was almost the opposite. I’d felt the rush of being inside a big buck’s bubble of awareness undetected, that indescribable explosion of adrenaline and heart rate and the presence of something almost like fear. I called Jack Unruh, the guy who draws me with a big red nose in the magazine every month. “So you missed,” he said. “But it was because you got so excited, right? And that’s what it’s all about. The day you see a buck like that and don’t get excited, that’s the day you ought to start worrying.”

    He’d nailed it. I’d missed. But if there was any doubt about the power of hunting, my wobbly knees had pretty much settled the question. Here’s the one secret you won’t find on any Mega Monster Madness video: the most important trophies don’t go on the wall; they go inside the heart. 

  • October 26, 2007

    BuckTracker: Trampoline Racks

    By Scott Bestul

    If you ever need proof that whitetails adapt to people, check out the photo below. No word yet on where this trampoline is located, but I hope the landowners remove it before the firearms season…bucks have enough hiding places as it is!



  • October 25, 2007

    Dave Hurteau's Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Wisconsin Hunters Use Road Kill to Earn a Buck
    The idea is to shoot a doe in order to earn a chance to kill a buck in some counties. It's meant to trim the overpopulation of deer.

    But, the DNR says some hunters are taking the easy way out and using road kill to register to shoot a buck.

    Other News:
    Ohio Deer Hunters: Shoot Some Pigs Please

    Runaway Deer:
    Buck Crashes News Room
    Buck Crashes Police Department
    Deer Crashes Medical Lab

  • October 25, 2007

    BuckTracker: A 212 B&C Iowa Monster

    By Scott Bestul

    Of50294442_2Another great deer story came to me from Iowa the other day. Steve Hanson, a friend, guide, and whitetail fanatic from Monroe County, actually knew the buck pictured here quite well. “We had seen him several times in velvet and had lots of trail camera photos of him,” Steve says. “We knew he was a monster and I had a client coming in for the archery opener. I hoped he’d have a chance at the buck.”

    The client did indeed get a crack at the buck. Unfortunately, after a thorough blood trailing job, they were unable to find the deer.

    Steve is so busy guiding hunters he rarely has time to hunt himself. But when he had a free afternoon during the resident muzzleloader season, he decided to visit the same area. “I didn’t really have this buck on my radar,” Steve says. “But there were others nearby worth looking for.” Despite some lousy weather (rain, wind, and occasional thunder) Steve crawled up in a tree stand. “The rain just kept getting worse, but deer were feeding heavily. Suddenly a big buck came into the field. I had to watch him for a long time before I knew the deer I was looking at, it was raining so hard.”


    Steve made a 120 yard shot, and found the buck soon after. Interestingly, Steve shot the buck only 200 yards from where his client had wounded it only weeks before. “It was really interesting,” he says. “When you add up all the sightings and pictures, this buck was a real homebody. He had a very small core area.”


    Congrats on a world-class whitetail, Steve!

    Hunt Stats
    Date: October 15, 2007
    Location: Monroe County, Iowa
    Weight: unknown
    Points: 17
    Green Score: 212 B&C (gross non-typical)
    Weapon: Savage muzzleloader
    Method: Tree stand

  • October 24, 2007

    The 100 Best Public Lands for Deer

    By Scott Bestul

    Field & Stream reporter Steven Hill spent two months interviewing state game agency officials, deer biologists, and whitetail experts to identify the absolute best public whitetail hunting grounds in the nation. No membership fees, no meetings, no permission, no special rules -- just deer, and plenty of them.

    Choose a state from the pull-down menu at right or just scroll down through this page to find Hill's recommendations for an area near you.

  • October 24, 2007

    100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Wisconsin

    By Scott Bestul

    Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest
    : north Wisconsin
    Size: 1.5 million acres
    ZIP: 54552

    More than half the land in Wisconsin’s northern quarter is publicly owned, and much of it is prime trophy buck country, says big-game biologist Keith Warnke of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Great swathes of national forest, like the Chequamegon-Nicolet, which sprawls across 11 counties, present vast areas with only limited access. “When you get away from roads and people, those bucks can get very large, and they’re all on public land,” Warnke says. A recent string of mild winters that boosted nutrition and lowered stress means conditions are ripe for a banner crop of mature bucks, but there are no shortcuts for finding them. “For big bucks on public land, I first recommend scout, scout, scout—people have to know where those deer are moving,” Warnke says. Second, contact the U.S. Forest Service in Park Falls, Wis., for a list of road closings that limit access, and pore over maps to identify some of Chequamegon-Nicolet’s many swamps, wetlands and roadless areas that might discourage less determined hunters.

  • October 24, 2007

    100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Virginia

    By Scott Bestul

    Fairystone Farms Wildlife Management Area
    : southwest Virginia
    Size: 5,321 acres
    ZIP: 24055

    Virginia has ample public land: The National Forest Service alone holds 1.7 million acres, several military bases grant hunting access, and a number of Fish & Wildlife Service areas support good whitetail populations. But for big bucks, options are far fewer. Fairystone is one of only two wildlife areas in the state that use antler restrictions to boost the number of older bucks. Four antler points an inch or longer on one side make a buck legal at this Virginia Department of Game an Inland Fisheries-managed area, which is on the border of Patrick and Henry counties (both among the top 10 counties in the state for Boone and Crockett and Pope and Young bucks). This is the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains; oak, hickory and pine forests cover steep slopes broken by small patches of bottomland. The adjacent Philpott Reservoir and Fairy Stone State Park add another 9,000 acres of deer range open to public hunting.

    Featherfin Wildlife Management Area
    : central Virginia
    Size: 2,800 acres
    ZIP: 23901

    Even before the state bought Featherfin from private landowners in 2005 and created Virginia’s second quality deer area, this wooded tract in rolling Piedmont country was managed for trophy bucks. “A private club that hunted the property used antler point restrictions,” says Nelson Lafon, deer project coordinator with Game and Inland Fisheries. “So even though it’s a new acquisition, there should be some carryover in the quality of deer from that site.” Featherfin is now under the same antler restrictions as Fairystone, and it features ridges forested in hardwoods and loblolly pines, 300 acres of open fields, and marshy lowlands bordering more than 10 miles of Appamatox River access.

  • October 24, 2007

    100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Texas

    By Scott Bestul

    Chaparral Wildlife Management Area
    : south Texas
    Size: 15,202 acres
    ZIP: 78001

    The vast majority of Texas public land deer hunting is controlled by lottery draws, and the Chaparral is the Lone Star State’s hottest ticket. Every year some 2,500 hunters apply for 60 $125 permits, but those who get drawn get the bargain—and just maybe the buck—of a lifetime. Fertile red-sand soil and a diversity of native high-protein Texas brush country plants like gran jeno, mesquite, guajillo and guayacan allow deer to reach their full potential, says David Synatzske of Texas Parks and Wildlife, who has managed Chaparral for 24 years. “We see a lot of 150- and 160-class deer,” he says, “but a good 140-class is representative of our mature deer.” Hunters can take two bucks on their five-day hunt, and one must have an inside spread of ear-width or better, a harvest restriction that protects 85 percent of 2 ½-year-olds and 60 percent of 3 ½-year-olds. The result is buck-doe ratio in the range of 1 to 1.5 and a mature age structure: 50 percent of bucks harvested each year at Chaparral are 4 1/2 years or older.

  • October 24, 2007

    100 Best Public-Land Hunts: Massachusetts

    By Scott Bestul

    Phillipston Wildlife Management Area
    : central Massachusetts
    Size: 3,383 acres
    ZIP: 01005

    Worcester County has produced more Boone & Crockett bucks than any county in Massachusetts: its most recent trophy, a 172 1/8 typical shot with a recurve bow last October, is the new Massachusetts archery record. Phillipston, in north-central Worcester, ranks among the county’s best public lands because its lowland bogs and upland hardwood forests interspersed with apple trees get relatively light hunting pressure due to minimal road access. Michael Morelly, a wildlife technician for the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game who’s spent three years at Phillipston, says most hunters mount small drives to flush deer out of the area’s thick cover. “But if you do your homework and spend a few weekends patterning deer,” Morelly says, ”stand hunting is your best bet.”