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  • August 29, 2008

    BuckTracker: On Programmed Bucks

    By Scott Bestul

    Check out the video link below. It features a clip of a 400” captive buck that is 2-1/2 years old. And no, I did not confuse any of the above numbers. Some readers are no doubt well aware of the antler sizes that can be attained by a buck that has no worries about predation, the quality of his food and, perhaps most importantly, not having to work that hard to punch a meal ticket.

    And of course there’s another, perhaps more interesting, issue at work here; selective breeding. Animals like this are genetic freaks, but they’re still produced by pairing the semen from a mutant buck with the DNA of a super doe, and that coupling (translation: Artificial insemination” or as the farmers in my neighborhood call it “A-I”) is rarely left to chance. Breeders of champion (insert livestock of choice here) specimens have little on some of the current whitetail farmers. “Straws” (a small vial containing semen) from the top-end bucks are sold for thousands of dollars each, and of course they come with no guarantees.

    So what are your thoughts on a deer like this? Do you find antlers like these an awe-inspiring example of what a whitetail could be if all the cosmic tumblers clicked for him? Or does a behemoth buck not “count” because he’s been—for lack of a better term—“programmed” to do just what this freak has done. We have a long weekend to run this one through the grinder, so feel free to take your time and expound…..

    The buck's name is "Sudden Impact." Click Here to watch the video of the monster.

  • August 28, 2008

    Michigan’s First CWD Case Prompts Immediate Baiting Ban

    By Scott Bestul

    In case you missed this important story on our Field Notes blog, here’s the original report:

    From The Detroit News:

    State officials are prohibiting deer baiting or feeding throughout the Lower Peninsula after they discovered a white-tailed deer in a small Kent County herd has Michigan's first case of chronic wasting disease.

    The precautionary measure will change hunting practices during the upcoming firearm and archery deer seasons. Baiting and feeding have become common practice among hunters.

    Officials also quarantined all 580 of Michigan's privately owned farms, hunting ranches and hobby facilities where deer, elk and moose are raised and kept in Michigan. Neither live animals nor their carcasses can be moved off these facilities, Agriculture Director Don Koivisto said.

    And here’s the latest:

    50 Deer Killed In Kent County

    Hunters Asked to Take Baiting Ban Seriously

    Baiting Ban Will Hurt Local Businesses

    Ban Could Devastate Beet Farmers

  • August 26, 2008

    A Sobering Reminder for Tree Stand Safety

    By Scott Bestul

    One of my closest hunting buddies fell from a tree stand last week. Bob was just planning to check his stand, maybe sit ‘til dark and watch one of his favorite early-season fields. All was fine as he crawled onto the platform, and the stand held as he settled into the seat. But something felt strange—like the stand base wasn’t quite snug to the tree—so he bounced a bit on the seat.

    The next thing Bob remembers was lying on the ground. “It was like getting the wind knocked out of me, but this time, my breath wasn’t coming back,” he told me when I visited him. “And then the pain set in.” He didn’t know it, but he’d bounced off a fence post on the way down, then landed on one side. End result: 10 broken ribs, a punctured lung, a fractured skull (around his eye socket), a concussion, and too many bruises and contusions to count. 

    Like all accidents that don’t end in a fatality, Bob’s incident was a good news/bad news affair. On the plus side: He was carrying a cell phone and remained conscious so he could call his wife. He was in an area where he could pick up a cell signal. A friend knew the approximate location of his tree stand. Emergency personnel had an ATV and could reach him. They were also highly trained enough to diagnose the punctured lung and insert a half-inch tube to drain the fluid (doctors later told Bob he’d have suffocated to death had he laid there 2-3 hours without this procedure). By nightfall, my friend had been airlifted to a nearby hospital. He’s home now and expected to make a long and painful—but complete—recovery.

    Here’s what went wrong. Bob had left the stand in the tree too long, and the tree’s growth had snapped one prong off the hook that held the fastening chain. And though he’s a devout wearer of a full-body safety harness, Bob had decided that day that a simple belt would suffice. That single strap may have slowed him for a split second, but it clearly didn’t prevent the fall.

    You hear the safety messages all the time, and so do I. Wear a safety harness, no matter what. Pull your stands after season and keep them maintained. Always let someone know where you’re hunting and when you expect to be back. This stuff is in our heads, but many of us don’t obey the rules…every time…no matter what. 

    Please do.

  • August 22, 2008

    How Big is Your Tree Stand?

    By Scott Bestul

    Every type of tree stand has its place. Postage-stamp assault stands for that long hike to a remote place. Climbers for those nice, straight trees.  Heavy-duty hang-ons for a spot I know I’ll sit all day. And I’m growing increasingly fond of ladders, which surprises me. Thought they were too heavy, bulky and obtrusive for my tastes. But I started monkeying with them and there’s nothing safer—once you get them up—and the best ones don’t bother deer.

    I’ve had the same prejudices against the widely-popular “shooting house” for the same reasons I disliked the ladders. But of course, I have to confess my bias is rooted in ignorance. I’ve rarely hunted from one. And also (of course) several of my deer buddies have proven me dead-nuts wrong about their effectiveness. So in the spirit of experimentation I suppose I’ll have to build one some day.

    My efforts, however, will not reach the heights achieved by the men who built (erected?) the monstrosity found here. I stand in awe not only of the achievement, but of the man who even thought it up. So how ‘bout you? Ever hunted from something this unique? Have a deer stand that can rival it for sheer audacity? By all means, let me know!

  • August 21, 2008

    Michigan Hunters Get Special Early Doe Season

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Jackson Citizen Patriot:
    Small herds of deer grazing in soybean fields, year-round car-deer crashes and browse lines in suburban woodlands indicate hunters are not keeping pace with whitetails in southern Michigan.

    The newest response by game managers is a special five-day hunt for antlerless deer Sept. 18-22. More than 20,000 doe permits are available in Jackson County.

    "We have looked at this for several years because we have a tremendous deer population in southern Michigan," said Rodney Clute, Department of Natural Resources big-game specialist.

    More Whitetail News:
    Six-Legged Deer Recovering From Surgery
    Vermont Wardens Bag Six Deer Poachers
    New Turkey Season Could Ruffle California Deer Hunters

  • August 18, 2008

    Countdown to Deer Season: How Do You Kill the Time?

    By Scott Bestul

    I cursed at a trail camera
    the other day. Had it out for five days in an area where I knew a good
    buck lives and, when I plugged the memory card into my computer, 34
    of the forty images were black. I spent a day being mad at the camera.
    Checked the batteries, banged my card-reader on my desk. Even tried
    to photo-shop a couple of the black holes into visibility. Nada.

    Then I realized I hadn’t
    programmed the thing correctly. I’d accidentally programmed it out
    of flash mode, a move that naturally renders a trail cam useless when
    deer are most likely to show. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Deer
    season is a little over a month away and I’m a wreck. Doing lots of
    busy little prep-things that don’t amount to squat; counting tree
    steps, taking a stand inventory, marking arrows that need repair….Just
    lots of busy work I convince myself is important, but what amounts to
    little more than pacing the floor. And, as the camera-thing illustrates,
    probably not doing much of anything very well.

    So what about you? How do bide
    time as you count the days? Last weekend, I accepted an invite to take
    a deer drive with one of my buddies on property he manages for his employer.
    The place resembled a whitetail zoo; we glassed close to 50 bucks (including
    some real studs) in one four-mile stretch of road. I was jazzed at the
    time, but the next day my illness was worse. And then my buddy sent
    me the trail cam pics below. “These are a couple we didn’t see,”
    he joked in his email. “You should come back again and see if we can
    find the real toads.”

    Well, maybe. Until then, I’ve
    got a trail cam to set out again. This time, I’m gonna let my kids
    program the thing….



  • August 14, 2008

    American Deer Hunter Eats Burgers, Wins Gold

    By Scott Bestul

    From Reuters:

    A bad ham sandwich in Sydney eight years ago taught Walton Eller an important lesson -- stick to American hamburger and pizza.

    The deer hunter from Texas won the gold medal in the men's double trap on Tuesday, a lopsided victory that erased painful memories of food poisoning from a rotten sandwich in Australia that may have cost him an Olympic medal in 2000.

  • August 14, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Is Pennsylvania Selling Too Many Doe Permits?

    Northern Minnesotans Get Bonus Early Doe Hunt

    Alabama Starts Big-Buck Record And Recognition Program

    Trail Cams Catch More Than Deer

  • August 7, 2008

    Don’t Throw Out Last Year’s Deer License

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Jackson Citizen Patriot:

    To most hunters, the licenses needed to score a buck might seem useless once deer season is over.
    Not so for Greg Woodland. The Pleasant Lake man treasures the licenses like many hunters treasure an eight-point rack. . . .

    Woodland, 54, is president of the Michigan Hunting & Fishing License Collectors Club, a niche group with about 125 members from several Midwest states. . . .

    [T]he holy grail of hunting licenses, an 1897 Michigan deer license with all five coupons -- which allowed for five deer to be killed during a season -- still attached, would sell for about $3,000, Woodland said.

  • August 7, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Iowa State Fair Cookout Contest Features Venison

    California Hunters Face Non-Lead Ammo Shortage

    Expanded Deer Hunting Opportunities in Maryland and Delaware

    Why Bucks Make Bad Pets

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