The video clip below shows Free Agent, a buck owned by Battle Ridge Whitetails, a captive facility in Pennsylvania. The video claims that Free Agent is the largest whitetail buck ever, a fact that I haven’t documented. All I know is, he’s unbelievably big.
How does a buck grow antlers like this? Interesting question, and one I’ve addressed in my whitetail column in the July issue of the magazine. To research that story, I visited Wilderness Whitetails, the home of a famous buck named “Sudden Impact”, then the largest whitetail I knew about and a buck that would have eclipsed the 500” mark of antler growth. I was not hunting at Wilderness Whitetails, but quizzing owner Greg Flees about how “breeder” bucks like this reach such stupendous size, and what the possible implications of such growth are for hunters and managers of free-ranging deer.
In one of my recent posts, I discussed using a chainsaw to create deer habitat. This time our tool will be something equally effective; fire. Whitetails are, of course, primarily woodland animals, but they’ve also adapted marvelously to prairies, marshes and other treeless environments. And even where forests grow, deer will use tall grass for bedding, fawning, and escape cover.
Just as logging maintains the young-growth forests where whitetails thrive, fire is what rejuvenates prairie grass. In earlier times, prairie fires were a fairly common natural occurrence, and Native Americans also set them on purpose, realizing full well the benefits that fire held for grasslands and wildlife.
Most of the post-season deer shows in the Midwest have wrapped up by now, and from reports I’m getting, overall entries into the big buck contests were down significantly. According to a scorer friend at the Illinois Deer Classic, hunters brought in 307 bucks to the Prairie State show, a drop of 192 deer from last year. Over the last seven years, the Illinois Classic has averaged 517 entries in the big buck contests, and in two years (2005 and 2008) measurers scored over 600 bucks in each show.
Illinois isn’t alone, however. Deer shows in Ohio and Missouri also saw a drop in big buck entries this year, with the Buckeye numbers down some 30% and Show Me entries dropping some 40%.
And now, with more than 800 votes cast in the final matchup, it is all over—and it wasn’t even that close. While I admit I was rooting for the 94, my sentimental choice, I’m not surprised the 336 came out on top. I am mildly shocked, however, that it trounced the venerable 94, which got only about 40 percent of the vote.
Earlier this week we posted the F&S exclusive story of the “Highest Scoring Muley Shed of All Time,” a massive matched set recently dropped by a now-famous Colorado Springs buck dubbed “Goliath” or “Double Beam.” A glance at the North American Shed Hunters Club record-setting rack leaves you wondering, “How do you score those things?”
The answer is, watch this video. F&S had a camera rolling as NASHC certified measurer Ron Newman put a tape on these incredible antlers.
by Dave Hurteau So this is it—the final game, for all the marbles. And although I’m mildly shocked that the 7600 did not give the 336 a better run (maybe it’s a Northeastern thing), I don’t think any of us can be very surprised that it has come down to the all-time king of deer rifles vs. the people’s favorite 336.
Food plots are all the rage these days, but if you really want to make deer happy, cut some trees. Recent studies show that 41 percent of a whitetail’s diet consists of browse, which is gleaned largely from young trees that sprout up following logging operations, or natural events, like fire, windstorms, or tornados. Also, deer seek out second-growth cover for bedding and security cover.
In short, young trees equal prime whitetail habitat, and I spent the better part of my March spare time working on a small clearcut in the woods behind my house. My neighbor owns the property and lets me hunt there. We didn’t fire up chainsaws and just start randomly whacking trees. We focused our effort on a rugged ditch where a mature stand of aspen (we call them “popple” here in the Midwest) grew, along with a smattering of other species.
Well things are getting interesting now, aren’t they? Not to mention a little upsetting as one of the stars in my cabinet, the venerable 99, goes down in flames. (Oh well, I’ve got two more still in the running.) Meanwhile, who’d have guessed that a bolt—even one so popular as the Model Seven—would get this deep into the tourney? But it has, and we now have our final four matchups.
First is the aforementioned Seven vs. the most popular deer rifle ever made. I think we can at least pencil that one in. But second is a far more interesting matchup: the 336 vs. the 7600. A few years back, I traded a 760 in .35 Rem. for a 336 in .35 Rem.—and am still not sure who got the better gun in the deal. I know this: At the Adirondack camps I where I’ve hunted, there are more of the two-seed 7600 than the one-seed 336.
Well we had a record number of entries for this, the final caption contest sponsored by the folks at Cabela’s, who are in thick of 50th Anniversary revelry as we speak. There’s nothing quite like the wholly painless pleasure of giving away stuff that isn’t yours, and so we salute the Cabela’s crew for their largesse and wish them a Happy 50th.
There were, as always, some very clever captions submitted, and the elite judging team (me and Dave) argued vigorously—between snorts of laughter—about which lines were the funniest.
On the radio this morning and it’s all UConn vs. Butler. But who can be bothered with that when the all-time deer-killing king is about to go head-to-head with perhaps the best all-around whitetail rifle ever made, in the 94 vs. 99 matchup. And if it’s a shootout you’re after, we’ve got the North Woods’ ubiquitous pump vs. its autoloading brother.