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  • December 31, 2007

    Bill Heavey: Why I Don't Use Trail Cameras

    By Bill Heavey

    I have never owned nor operated a trail camera. Three reasons: One is philosophic: The use of digital technology has always seemed antithetical to the deeper pleasures of hunting – to the act of immersing yourself in the landscape to the point that, in writer Barry Lopez’s wonderful description, you “have the land around you like clothing.” One is practical: I hunt almost exclusively in places where a trail camera would likely be stolen within hours of being placed. One is technical: I have a greater chance of being named president-for-life of Uzbekistan than I do in figuring out the damn things. Anything involving the words “download” or “user-friendly computer interface,” I have decided, is code for “everybody can do it but you.”

    What I do have is a rake, or sometimes the edge of my shoe. Any time I’m particularly interested in the deer traffic on a given trail, I simply rake or scrape away the leaves down to the dirt along a short section. When I next return, I’ll inspect that section for prints. No batteries, and both the rake and the human foot are widely available.

    Okay, this is where it gets complicated. Small prints, I have reason to believe, indicate small deer. Larger prints, by the same token (see previous sentence) indicate larger deer, which may or may not include bucks. Really big prints mean what passed was almost certainly a buck. I know this is going out on a limb, especially since I have no digital images to document my theory. But I shall hold to it until proven wrong.

    If you have trail cam images of large bucks attempting to pass their prints off as tiny ones by wearing special footgear, please post them here.

  • December 27, 2007

    Whitetail News: Teenage Girl Wins Ohio Youth Big-Buck Contest

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Mansfield News Journal:


    Elizabeth Fried is a sharpshooter on the basketball court. The Willard freshman is also a dead-eye in the woods. . . .

    It was a 21-point night, the 11 she scored against Ashland and the 10 points of her deer's antlers. The buck green scored a 158 3/8 from Buckeye Big Buck Club judges to easily win the $600 gift certificate from the News Journal and Sportsman's Den.

    On Bovine Tuberculosis and Deer
    Michigan Newspaper Demands Action on TB
    Minnesota Landowners Want Special TB Hunt Halted

    Other News:
    New Book On Wisconsin’s White Whitetails

  • December 27, 2007

    BuckTracker: Muzzleloader Luck

    By Scott Bestul

    BT readers: As you know, I enjoy sending along photos and stories of people who've taken great bucks this season. Occasionally, I get a hunting story from a reader that I barely need to touch. Case in point? Darin Fager, who shot a monster non-typical somewhere in Missouri last month. His story follows after the jump.


  • December 24, 2007

    Bill Heavey: Blowin' in the Wind

    By Bill Heavey

    I check the weather on the Web about eight times a day, usually, sometimes, although it has a more cluttered layout. I do this whether I’m able to hunt that day or not. I like to know what I’m missing. First I check wind direction, then speed. I can hunt almost any wind (if you detect the defensive smugness of a guy who owns no hunting land but compensates by rubbing his extreme mobility in your face, you’re reading me perfectly). Like most of us, I like some wind - say, 2-6 m.p.h. - better than none to keep scent from “pooling.” And I know the local deer don’t move much when it blows more than 10 m.p.h.

    But the winds are so screwy where I hunt that I wonder why I check the forecast at all. My grounds are incised by steep ravines between narrow ridges, and I often set up in a saddle downwind of a crossing trail. (Incidentally, from the tracks I’ve seen in snow and wet leaves, the “expert” advice about deer being just like us and preferring the easiest route between points is just plain wrong. I see lots of evidence of deer taking the steepest route from one ridge to another. Maybe they read the magazines, too.)

    Yesterday morning I set up 30 yards from a house. Although the forecast was for northwest wind, the air wafting steadily by my stand was from the southeast. Then, about 8 a.m., white smoke from a just-lit fire in the house’s woodstove began sluggishly puffing from the chimney. Obedient to the contrary rules of the universe, it came straight at me, swept along by the called-for northwest wind. There I sat, at nearly the same elevation at the chimney and just 90 feet away, watching my Wind Checker powder drifting in one direction and smoke going in the other.

    I sat there until I realized the smoke was making me sick and then climbed down. I know that the forces at play in the atmosphere of this planet are unconcerned with indidivual humans, neither rewarding nor punishing us. But for just a second there, I wondered if I’d done something that really ticked them off.

    If you know something I don't, please tell me.

  • December 20, 2007

    Give Them Heavey for Christmas

    By Bill Heavey

    Are you still short a couple of Christmas presents but afraid that if you go back to the mall you’ll lose it, put your head through a plate glass window, and start singing “Grandpa Got Run Over By A Reindeer” until the cops come? Relax, we’ve got you covered.

    Bill Heavey’s “If You Didn’t Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat?” a selection of his less-offensive writing for Field & Stream, is proving so successful that some book stores are now ordering two copies at a time!  Thing is, they still might be sold out. Even Amazon’s running behind.

    Not to worry! You can give the book without having the book. Just order it from your favorite book store or online seller, and present the person with the printable certificate below. And let the cops arrest somebody else for a change.


  • December 20, 2007

    Whitetail News: Maryland Man “Belly-Slams” Intruding Doe

    By Scott Bestul

    When a mature whitetail doe crashed into Martin “Pete” Castle’s home, he took matters into his own hands, literally. From the Frederick News-Post:

    68980"I jumped on this deer."

    As a former dairyman, Castle knew she would use her hooves to hurt him. He belly-slammed her, then locked her head with his forearm. . . .

    "I put my right knee on her rib cage so she wouldn't thrash, and at the same time used my arm to hold her head. . . .

    "I then tied the front feet to the back feet so she couldn't kick."

    Another Intruding Doe:
    Woman Finds Deer In Basement

    Other News:
    More West Virginia Deer Test Positive for CWD
    Whales May Be Related to “Long-Tailed Deer”
    Four Texas Students Accused Of Beating Two Deer To Death

  • December 19, 2007

    BuckTracker: Is Shooting a Locked Buck Ethical?

    By Scott Bestul

    Last week we ran a slide show depicting one couple’s efforts to free a whitetail buck that had become "locked up" with an opponent. These photos struck a chord with people, many of whom applauded Terry and Sherri Bolding for sawing off the dead buck’s antlers and giving the surviving buck another shot at life.

    Cheer all you want, but there are some hunters who have no qualms about shooting a buck that’s hopelessly entangled with a rival. As Exhibit A, check out the video clip linked here (which contains content graphic enough that we didn’t want to post it on this page). Filmed in Wisconsin this fall, the encounter shows a pair of bucks locked up in a streambed. They were found by a pair of bowhunters (one obviously armed with a video camera) who decided to shoot one of the fighters and tag him. The other buck was eventually killed and tagged by another bowhunter.

  • December 18, 2007

    BuckTracker: Why Waiting Works

    By Scott Bestul

    Despite what we see on TV and video, not all arrows loosed at deer pass through both lungs, and not every gunshot results in a buck dropping in its tracks. Hunt long enough, and you WILL make a marginal hit on a deer. So how do you handle the situation when you know your shot wasn't immediately fatal?

    My friend Dan Schmidt -- a veteran whitetail hunter with many deer to his credit -- faced just such a situation while hunting during Wisconsin’s firearms season last month. Dan spotted a great buck following a doe through the woods, and used calling to lure the pair within shooting range. When the buck stopped just over 40 yards away, Dan aimed his bolt-action shotgun (central Wisconsin is shotgun-only) and fired. Both deer ran off, and though Dan was sure he’d hit the buck, he didn’t feel confident in his shot placement. He inspected the area where the buck was standing and had his suspicions confirmed; a few spotty patches of dark-red blood, some white hair, and not much else.

    So it was dilemma time. Taking up the track was tempting; hunting pressure is intense in this area, and someone else could stumble upon Dan’s buck and finish the job. Also, the tract he hunts is small; just over 40 acres, surrounded by private land that is also hunted. If the buck laid down shortly after disappearing, going in to finish it off would spare him having to ask the neighbor’s for permission to track the buck. And, finally, the universal motivation we all experience; shoot a deer, and the natural inclination is to rush in and claim your prize.

    Fortunately, Dan ignored all that. “I felt the most likely scenario was that I’d somehow gut-shot the deer,” Dan says. “And experience has taught me to wait a minimum of 10 hours before tracking in that situation. It was difficult, but I decided to wait. It helped me that it seemed the buck had run toward a 3-acre mini-sanctuary we’d established on the property. I felt if he got there, he might lie down and die.” So Dan left the woods, came back the following morning, and found the dead buck after tracking it to the sanctuary. And guess what? The carcass was still warm, indicating the animal had died only hours before. Had Dan pushed the issue, this is one trophy that might have eluded him ... but died eventually.


    Perhaps Buck Tracker readers have similar tales to tell. How do you handle wounded deer? Do you trail alone or with companions? Any tips you can offer that will help readers as they blood trail deer? Write ‘em in our comments section.

    Buck Stats
    Date: November 17, 2007
    Location: Waupaca County, Wisconsin
    Weight: 200 lbs, field dressed
    Points: 13
    Green Score: 161”
    Firearm: Marlin Model 512, bolt action shotgun
    Shot distance: 42 yards.
    Method: Tree stand

  • December 17, 2007

    Bill Heavey: A Sticky Question

    By Bill Heavey

    Unless you own your hunting grounds, you are probably using a portable stand, either a climber or a hang-on. I’m a climber guy. While I certainly haven’t tried them all, I have tried a bunch. Mine’s a Lone Wolf hand climber. (My intent here, incidentally, is not to start a whose-treestand-is-the-best debate. We  bowhunters seem particularly prone to silly equipment arguments. How else to explain that in virtually every archery chat room the majority of posters deem it necessary to list the make and model of their bows, arrows, and broadheads? If your identity as a hunter depends on whose name is on your stuff, you’ve got problems hunting can’t fix.)

    I like a climber because you can go as high as you want (or as high as the tree will let you), and it’s a fairly simple arrangement. I confess, however, that even after years of using one, it usually takes me a fair amount of time to get both parts on and adjusted to the taper of the tree, to get my harness attached, and to inch-worm my way up to hunting height. Is there a better way?

  • December 14, 2007

    Video: Buck in a Swingset

    By Scott Bestul

    You all saw the fascinating slideshow of pictures from Terry and Sherry Bolding, the couple who sent us photos of themselves freeing a buck locked by the antlers to its dead sparring partner. The video that below shows a different kind of entanglement. Apparently a whitetail buck wandering through someone's backyard  got its antlers wrapped up in a child's swingset.

    I sure hope the person who filmed the situation was as kind to this buck as the Boldings were to the one they encountered. Not sure I'd have waited to get it on camera before figuring out a way to help the animal. Since this is all the footage we could find, at this point we don't know how this ended. If anyone has more info, post it below.


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