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  • February 29, 2008

    BuckTracker: Concrete Kills

    By Scott Bestul

    It is the last day of February in a long, hard winter here in the Midwest. Spring is supposedly coming soon. Still, the need for entertaining story-telling is critical for us light-deprived northern folk. So what better a tale to brighten the day than this one, which involves a kid, a giant buck, and a concrete statue.

    Deer1 According to legend, the kid is returning from a morning bowhunt on his grandfather's farm. He spots a monster buck, sparring with a deer statue in the yard. He shoots at the preoccupied buck, hitting it in the leg. The buck runs off, stops, and reconsiders his pain. Perhaps the statue got him, and not something else? The buck lowers his head, makes a full run at his rock-hard rival, and slams into it. The buck is cold-cocked by the statue, which falls over on him. Boy reloads bow and finishes off buck...which has a gross antler score over 200 inches.

    If you want to spoil my day, please respond and tell me the verifiable origins of these photos. If all you have is hearsay or cheap criticism, keep a lid on it. This is a hunting tale as good as it a winter as long as they come!

  • February 28, 2008

    Winter Weather Taking Toll on Whitetail Deer

    By Scott Bestul

    Deep snow and ice are causing serious problems for deer in a number of northern states, where some whitetails are facing their toughest winter in many years. As herds descend on remaining ag crops and fruit trees, landowners are looking for help from state agencies. Meanwhile, state agencies are asking pet owner to prevent dogs from running already run-down deer. Here’s the latest in:
    Minnesota and Wisconsin

    Wisconsin Pulls Back In War On CWD
    Minnesota To Revamp Deer Regs

  • February 26, 2008

    BuckTracker: Shed Poaching?

    By Scott Bestul

    My friend Bill Heavey mentioned in his latest blog that a “no hunting” sign would not deter a shed hunter. And, since such a hunter was toting no weapon he could “pretty much go anywhere.” While I’m confident Bill was giving the whole thing the wink-and-nod for comic effect, I am deferring my planned post to deliver the following Public Service Announcement:

    Make sure you know -- and obey -- your state’s trespass laws as you search for antlers. Mr. Heavey lives in Virginia where, I’m guessing, a “no hunting” sign restricts human access only if you’re carrying a bow or a firearm. Across virtually all of the Midwest, however, trespass laws apply to every activity. For example, here in  Minnesota a landowner in an agricultural area doesn’t even have to post signage to convict a trespasser. It is up to you to know private property boundaries and to seek permission before entering. And if you think a landowner will cut you slack just because we’re on the backside of November, guess again.

    And getting caught is getting easier. In a bad winter (like this one) most everyone knows where deer are hanging out, so they’re not hunting a buck’s sheds so much as waiting for them to drop. Try slipping in for early dessert and you are likely to meet a very upset deed holder…or at least a competitor who does have permission. I know at least two landowners who put out trail cams specifically to catch shed poachers, and another who updates his border signage after deer season, just to remind shed-freaks and turkey hunters to stay honest.

    We live in an era of antler mania, so these days people know what you are up to; it is too early for mushrooming, maple sugaring, and even turkey scouting. You can walk your dog on the road, and it doesn’t matter all you’re toting is a multitool. You’re shagging horns, and if you're in a state where the law says you need the landowner’s blessing, shame on you.

  • February 25, 2008

    The First Rule of Shed Club ...

    By Bill Heavey

    To paraphrase from the movie “Fight Club,” the first rule of Shed Club is – you do not talk about Shed Club.

    Shed hunters are even more secretive about their haunts than deer hunters. (Incidentally, I think we need to coin a noun by which shed hunters describe those who pursue the whole animal. Neither “live deer hunters," "whole deer hunters," or "regular hunters" quite cuts it. Let the competition begin. First prize, to be judged by an independent panel of me, wins a Gerber Freeman Folder knife in nearly new condition, my sole freebie from the recent SHOT Show.)

    My shed hunting pal, Paula, has to be prodded to divulge even the name of the state where she has found her latest. The reason, of course, is that there is no upside to revealing your honey hole. In fact, it’s even less advantageous with sheds than “regular” hunting (see what I mean about the need for a better word?) because access is so much easier. A “No Hunting” sign will keep most deer hunters out. It will not deter a shed man, who, after all, is not hunting in the traditional sense. Since shed hunters usually carry no weapon more significant than a knife and/or a pruning shears, they can go pretty much anywhere. (Small pruning shears, incidentally, are much more effective for getting through briers than a machete). 

    I’ve found a grand total of zip antlers in the past week. I take some comfort in the fact that bucks still wearing their antlers have been seen within the past few days. Meanwhile, Paula has found several singles and two sets in the same time. “Good ones but not trophies. Jeez, I’m startin’ to feel sorry for you,” she said. I asked where she’d found hers.  She erupted into her smoker’s hacking laugh, finally managing to croak, “Not that sorry, honey,” and hung up on me.

  • February 22, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

  • February 19, 2008

    Bad Juju Among the Shed Heads

    By Bill Heavey


    If you look closely at the expression of my child, you may find yourself asking the same question I did, namely: Does she look crazy all by herself or because her Daddy is making her that way with his deer and shed obsessions ?

    I knew I was in trouble this year when I got lucky shed hunting in the first two hours of my first day.  I was walking an old fence line – dating from the days that cows grazed inside the Beltway -  in a steep area of a public park along the river. I looked down and there it was: just a three-pointer, but heavy (18 ounces on my office postal scale) and palmated. It was right where it was supposed to be, at a place where jumping the fence had dislodged it. A feeling of elation swept over me, quickly followed by an intuition of bad juju to come. I’ve never felt comfortable when I got lucky right off the bat, whether it was in hunting, fishing, athletics, or with women of the opposite sex. In my experience, easy initial  success is an indicator that disaster is in the immediate area and will descend just as soon as it finds a place to park.

    And so it has been. I have been out at least part of each of the last six days, from two to four hours a day. I’ve walked public land and private, seen deer that would bolt at the first shuffle of my feet in the leaves and others that approached so boldly it was clear that somebody has been hand feeding them. I have seen sticks on the ground that initially stopped my heart, Pope & Young-caliber sticks. Sticks that looked so much like antlers I nearly kept them with the intention of posting photos of them here and starting a contest devoted entirely to antler-like sticks. That’s when I decided my preoccupation was getting a little out of hand.

    My plan is to stay out of the woods today. It’s now 9:11 a.m. So far, so good.

  • February 19, 2008

    BuckTracker: Mississippi Freak

    By Scott Bestul


    This photo sailed into my inbox a few weeks back and I've been unable to trace its origin. According to the message, the monster whitetail was shot in Mississippi, and it is a buck to behold. Check out the third beam on the left side of the rack, and all those abnormal points...enough to keep a scorer on his toes!

    Also, if the dates on the trail cam and harvest pics are legit, the hunter snapped this buck's photo about a week before putting his tag on him in mid-December. This is a feat I have yet to pull off...but I admire the heck out of anyone who has.


    If anyone out there knows a more complete story about this deer, please write in and let us know. Its a wonderful whitetail and I'd love to hear more about it!

  • February 15, 2008

    Deer at a Squirrel Feeder

    By Scott Bestul

    While the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the good citizens of that state do their best to thwart a massive winter die-off of deer and elk, the whitetails of the Midwest continue to stave off visiting backyard bird and squirrel feeders.

    This video clip was sent in by a friend who fastens an ear of corn to a bungee cord, then suspends the bungee from a tree limb or wire. The device is meant to do double-duty; feeding the area squirrels AND amusing my friend, who laughs at their antics as they jump up, grab the ear corn, and get a free ride as they feed.

    Of course, squirrels aren't the only visitors to the bungee feeder, as the clip shows. Need proof that whitetails will abandon caution if they're hungry enough? Click the "play" arrow and enjoy!

  • February 15, 2008

    News: Poacher Gets Management Contract

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Globe and Mail:
    Quebec Natural Resources Minister Claude BÈchard said his hands were tied when it came to awarding more than $320,000 in contracts to count moose and deer to a company run by a convicted poacher.
    Government policy requires that contracts be awarded to the lowest bidder, Mr. BÈchard explained yesterday. He said that is why Panorama Helicopter won the contract even though its owner, AndrÈ Martel, was found guilty last Dec. 17 of using one of his helicopters to poach moose.

    More Whitetail Headlines
    Montana Columnist Urges Urban Bow Hunt
    West Virginia Bill Would Make Deer Collisions Cheaper
    Ohio Deer Herd Remains CWD-Free

  • February 13, 2008

    BuckTracker: To Feed or Not to Feed

    By Scott Bestul

    It's been some remarkable winter across much of the nation's snowbelt. In fact, things are so rough in Colorado that the state is now in the midst of a major feeding program for deer and elk impacted by record snows and cold.

    George Ruther, a diehard hunter from Vail (he was featured in a fall installment of Buck Tracker with a big mulie he shot), sent me this link to the CO Division of Wildlife website, where citizens can donate to alleviate costs of this feeding program.

    More than one person has pointed out the irony of this program to me. Here in Minnesota--no stranger to snow and cold--we frequently war over the practice of feeding. While feeding deer is immensely popular among citizens and some sportsman's groups in a severe winter, DNR officials typically discourage the practice, saying the massive expense and labor outlay actually saves very few critters.

    Taking things a step further, broad feeding bans and restrictions have been applied across the Midwest, as wildlife managers tell us the practice can spread diseases like CWD and bovine tuberculosis.

    So, what to do for those mountain mulies and elk? Send Colorado some money to help the critters through? Or recognize that sometimes Nature has ways of cleaning house that are difficult to accept ... but have been going on for longer than we've been around.

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