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  • September 25, 2008

    BuckTracker: Long Time Coming

    By Scott Bestul

    My dad shot his first archery buck yesterday. He is 78 years old.  Dad started bowhunting back in the 1940’s, not long after the Badger State hosted the nation’s first whitetail bowhunting season of the modern era. I have the bow he used on those hunts—a wooden “self” bow with a leather grip—hanging in my office.

    It would be tempting to think that a guy who takes over five decades to kill a buck is a poor hunter. That assumption would be wrong. Dad grew up in the Great Depression, a time when hunting was divided, simply, into one of two categories; a means of gathering meat, or a luxury you indulged. Pops fell into the latter camp. He loved deer hunting, but it was an activity that took backseat to the priorities of working, worshipping, caring for family, fixing things that were broken, and helping other people.


    Categories Three and Five are where I came in. Dad introduced me to the outdoors hoping I’d love it as much as he did. My mother blames him for infecting me with the Camo-Flannel Virus. Dad gun hunted deer (successfully, I should add) every year with me, but the bowhunting bug I found on my own. When dad retired several years back, I willfully passed my dementia back to him. Ever since, he has had a simple, enviable goal; to kill a buck—any buck—with his bow.

    I’m one of those men who long ago realized he can do almost nothing to return the many favors done for him by his father. He is simply a better man than I am in every respect that counts. But I can hang a decent tree stand, and on Tuesday afternoon, September 23, 2008, I put dad in the right one. We trailed, found, celebrated, dragged and butchered this buck together. I’m hoping we’ll repeat the performance for many seasons to come.

  • September 25, 2008

    New Deer Research: A Camo Revolution?

    By Scott Bestul

    From The New York Times:

    [T]hanks to decades of research into ungulate vision combined with the latest in military concealment technology, hunters can don a computer-generated camouflage with fractal designs that look nothing like a shrub or a tree, at least not to the human eye. Named Optifade, it’s being introduced this fall by W.L. Gore (the makers of the breathable Gore-Tex rain gear) and promoted as the first camouflage scientifically designed to make hunters invisible to deer. . . .

    “A camouflage that makes a person look like a tree can work if you’re in a place where other trees look like that,” Dr. [Jay] Neitz says. “But what if you’re somewhere else, or if the deer sees you move? This new camouflage is a totally different approach. It fools the deer’s vision system at its roots, so that it doesn’t recognize the person as anything.”

  • September 25, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Pet Deer “Snowball” Is Center Of Custody Battle

    Update: Michigan Bait Ban Faces Court Challenge

    Idaho Deer Poacher Loses Hunting Privileges For Life

  • September 22, 2008

    BuckTracker: Picture Perfect

    By Scott Bestul

    You don’t have to be a professional photographer to shoot a great harvest picture. Heck, you don’t even need a great big deer to make a picture pop. All you need is a nice setting (not your garage or the back of a bloody pickup), a willing shutterbug, and a little extra time. The effort is worth it. Taking a nice field photo can honor the deer better than taxidermy, and it makes for memories you can’t re-create.


    Here are a few hints. Wear your hunting clothes. Find a spot that reflects the area you killed the deer. Clean the animal up if it’s bloody (a towel soaked in water does the trick) and, if possible, drag it to a small hump or ridge so the photographer can get slightly lower than the hunter and the deer. Shoot the rack from several angles to capture the buck’s best side. Smile if you can (or at least don’t scowl like a macho man acting like he does this every day and needs to get back to kickin’ butt and takin’ names).


    The photos featured in this post are from my friend Ross Greden, who is a hard-working dairy farmer and family man that squeezes in bowhunting into the little time he has. Last week he shot his biggest buck to date, and made the effort to shoot some great field photos. These are great examples of what I'm talking about. Enjoy!

    Oh, and please send us yours when you take ‘em!

  • September 18, 2008

    Update: Legislators Look To Lift Michigan Bait Ban; State Holds It’s Ground

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    A trio of state lawmakers called on DNR Director Rebecca Humphries to rescind a ban on deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula that was enacted in response to an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease on a game farm in Kent County.

    State Reps. Jeff Mayes, D-Bay City, and Joel Sheltrown, D-West Branch, along with state Sen. James Barcia, D-Bay City, said the economic impact on the growers of bait crops could be devastating, and that reductions in the deer harvest by hunters who stay home rather than go into the field without bait could actually contribute to the spread of the disease (as larger herds congregate).

    And from an AP story on

    Michigan wildlife officials Wednesday stood behind their decision to ban deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula despite pressure from a few lawmakers. . . .

    The DNR said in a statement the ban will help preserve a healthy deer herd. Disease can be spread through deer saliva and other secretions. The DNR said congregating deer at bait sites increases the chances of spreading disease.

  • September 18, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Trophy Stud Buck’s Head Stolen

    Vermont Plans Free Deer Hunting Seminar

    West Virginia Woman Allegedly Assaults Mother and Steals Her Deer Mounts

    Michigan Calls For Food Pantry Venison

  • September 18, 2008

    BuckTracker: Easily Rattled

    By Scott Bestul

    Too many hunters feel the only time to rattle in a whitetail is during the rut. I think they’re all wet. On a lovely early-October evening last fall—three weeks prior to our rut—I rattled in a four-buck bachelor group. This quartet included a buck I’d have gladly shot in most seasons. But having just tagged a great Missouri buck the week before, I was feeling lordly and benevolent and gave him a pass. Besides, the buck had everything it takes to blow up into a stud. I’m hoping I see him this fall.

    So I tickled the horns together for a few minutes last evening. Then I gave a few soft grunts. Within minutes I had two bucks within easy bow range. Each deer looked for the fight or, rather, the sparring match. When they didn’t see it, they faced each other. These bucks were an entire age-class apart, yet they spent five full minutes clacking horns. Then, they munched on an acorn or two and, like best buddies, headed to some nearby clover to chow down.

    So what do you think? Are any of you using rattling antlers early in the season and, if so, what are your results?

  • September 16, 2008

    BuckTracker: Opener Eve

    By Scott Bestul

    Tomorrow is the Minnesota archery deer season opener. Naturally, I’m excited….but not for the reasons you might suspect. Sure I want to get a deer, and I hope I do. But I have 100 days to pull that off, so I’m in no hurry. I also realized long ago that tagging a buck is only a tiny part of why I adore bowhunting.

    Mostly, I love the process and the pursuit. Reading deer sign and hanging stands. Interpreting dozens of little clues that lead—I hope—to the perfect spot to ambush a buck. I used to do a lot of trapping, and I’ve come to realize that there’s little difference between a great stand site and a perfect trap setup. Trappers have to know their animals well enough to guess where a fox (or coon, or mink, or..) will place his foot in order to be successful. Bowhunters need similar precision, given the larger range of their quarry. If a buck’s home range is a square mile, which 25-yard circle do you choose to wait for him? It’s a chess match that can take 100 days to win…or not.

    The other thing I love is the phone call. I’ll start getting it now. From a friend who’s had an awesome hunt and wants to share with me. He might need help tracking or dragging. May simply want to share a tale of a buck sighting, or that he saw a coyote, or watched a hawk strafe a flock of turkeys. I don’t care when these calls come, or how long it takes to hear them out. I’ve got enthusiasm to last 100 days…and it all starts tomorrow! 

  • September 12, 2008

    Hunters and Farmers Open Fire On Michigan Bait Ban

    By Scott Bestul

    From The News Observer:

    Thousands of hunters and owners of small businesses are in turmoil over a Lower Peninsula-wide ban on baiting and feeding of deer that state officials have imposed because of Michigan's first chronic wasting disease case.

    State officials want to protect the state's hunter-based marketplace, but critics say the ban threatens autumn's $500 million hunter-based economy.

    Deer feed suppliers, hunters and owners of commercial deer facilities packed a state House hearing on Tuesday. More are expected at a meeting today of the State Natural Resources Commission, which is considering an extension of the six-month ban .

    "If this ban is not lifted, it puts me in bankruptcy," Saginaw grower-wholesaler Tony Benkert told the committee.

    Check out the full story.

  • September 12, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Ohio Deer Trashes Home, Drops Dead

    Maine’s Deer Harvest Could Drop By 5,000

    Ohio Hunters To Check Deer By Phone Or Online By 2010

    Two White Deer Protected From New Jersey Bow Hunters

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