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  • April 30, 2008

    BuckTracker: QDM Close to Home

    By Scott Bestul

    I received my first diploma in a long, long time the other day. This past weekend I attended a “Deer Steward Level One” course offered by the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA). The 2-1/2-day course—taught by noted deer researchers and habitat specialists—covered everything from basic deer biology and management to habitat and food plot work. I’ve been a whitetail geek for more years than I’d like to admit, and I learned an awful lot in a long weekend. QDMA offers a Level II course that teaches deer nuts even more info, and I intend to take the course when I can.

    QDMA is a conservation organization that’s on a roll in recent years. Founded by Joe Hamilton over two decades ago, the group built membership slowly at first, with strongest interest in the southeast and Texas. Then, in 1997, Brian Murphy—a PhD whitetail biologist and protégé of Hamilton—took over the reins. Murphy studied  successful conservation groups like the NWTF and RMEF and applied that model to the QDMA. Under his tenure, membership and visibility has skyrocketed. QDMA now boasts 50,000-plus members, as well as branches (chapters) across the U.S. and even into Canada.

    I’m curious about the presence and/or success of QDMA in your hunting area(s). If the responses to my last post are a true indication, most of you hunt within your state’s boundaries and often close to home. Do you apply QDMA principles (adequate harvest of antlerless deer, allowing young bucks to walk, habitat/food plot development) to the land you hunt? Do you belong to a local chapter? What are the management practices in your neighborhood and how do they affect how you hunt and harvest deer?

  • April 25, 2008

    BuckTracker: The Well-Traveled Hunter?

    By Scott Bestul

    Well, the Norwegian Mafia has left the building, meaning the 5-day
    season allotted to them by the Minnesota DNR to kill a gobbler is now
    over. I did not manage to put a male turkey within range of my father’s
    870, but we had a wonderful hunt together (ignoring the rainy/windy
    portion that marked the final two days). Below you will find a photo of
    my Uncle Al and his bird, a fine 24-pound slob that played the game
    nicely. As I focused the camera I asked Al to smile, to which he
    replied “I am smiling.” I have learned better than to press Norwegian
    hit men to manufacture emotion. He is Al Bestul, not Pacino, and I
    couldn’t love him any more if he could produce a 200-watt grin on


    Anyway, off of turkeys and back to deer. I appreciated all the comments
    sent in from the “I want to be a producer” post -- especially those of
    you new to hunting that expressed a desire to learn fundamental
    knowledge. I would love to address some of these issues, and I plan to
    talk to our web-gurus about producing some sort of survey of your
    hunting experience and what areas you would like to learn about. In the
    meantime, please keep in mind that Field & Stream magazine does publish quite a bit
    of fundamental deer info, especially in a special section marked
    “Whitetail Handbook.” Handbooks are found in the back 2/3 of the
    magazine and contain a lot of short, focused instructional stories that
    can benefit deer hunters of all skill levels. Please check out these
    articles, which will begin appearing in the August issue.

    In the meantime, I’d like you to answer a question that was brought to
    my attention by a friend in the outdoor industry. He owns a company
    that produces a deer hunting product and my buddy noted in a recent
    conversation that “85 % of our customers say that they never leave
    their home state to deer hunt.” The comment struck me immediately and,
    of course, made me think of BuckTracker readers. Do you fit the market
    profile of the stay-at-home deer hunter? Or do you travel across state
    lines? If so, how often? I’d love to catch a snapshot of our audience
    here…and I won’t even ask you to smile!

  • April 25, 2008

    Virginia County Bans Rifles For Deer Hunting

    By Scott Bestul

    From the Times-Dispatch:

    The [Charles City County] Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 last night to prohibit deer hunting with high-powered rifles, drawing anger and raised voices from some in the audience. . . .

    Vince Brackett said hunting with rifles is a tradition and it claims far fewer lives than boating in Virginia...

    Elbert Parker held a piece of inch-thick wood above his head to demonstrate the ease with which a bullet could go through someone's wall.

    "Your children can be shot dead looking at TV in your house," he said, prompting an argument among him and members of the crowd until board chairman Gilbert A. Smith tapped on a table to quiet them.

  • April 25, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Wisconsin Approves 35 Earn-A-Buck Zones for 2008

    South Carolina Bill Would Toughen Rules On Deer Contraception

    Accused “Serial” Deer Poacher Is A Vegetarian

    Minnesota Deer Crashes The Chapel

  • April 24, 2008

    Father's Day Photo Contest

    By Bill Heavey

    If you’d like an autographed copy of Bill Heavey’s book If You Didn't Bring Jerky, What Did I Just Eat? to give your dad on Father’s Day, use the form below to send us a photo of him--or the two of you together--hunting, fishing, or just enjoying the outdoors. We’ll pick our five favorites and send one signed book to each of the winners.
    When you fill out the form, please include your name, email address, and a short description of what's taking place in the photo. And note this deadline: we're only accepting entries until May 30th, to make sure you receive your copy by June 15th.
    Thanks for participating, and good luck!
    --The Editors


    Email Address:

    Home Town:

    Choose your photo:

    Tell us the story behind this photo:

  • April 23, 2008

    BuckTracker: Of Goofy Bucks & Bleary Eyes

    By Scott Bestul

    Well, I missed my normal Tuesday morning blog post because I’ve been kidnapped by the mafia. As in the Norwegian mafia. This is the nickname I’ve bestowed on my father and uncle, both kind and gentle souls for much of the year, but certified hit men for about two weeks of the spring turkey season. The three of us have a simple agreement: I get them on good turkey ground and yelp at resident gobblers; they kill any bearded infidels that appear. They’re much more effective at their jobs than I am at mine, but I am family so they give me a pass.

    Anyway, Uncle Al wrote the first death certificate Monday morning, but I will wait to post his harvest photo until dad finishes his contract, then I will post them together. In the meantime, I am doing my best to keep up with these 70-something ridge runners in their quest to race down any gobble heard in the hill country of southeastern Minnesota. Most outdoorsmen reserve their retirement for idle pastimes like bass fishing or sitting in tower blinds. The Mafioso has devoted itself to physical conditioning of a caliber that would make Jack LaLane weep. I’d wisecrack about them making run-n-gun turkey hunting a sort of geriatric Olympic event, but I’m afraid they’d knee-cap me.


    But I digress. This is a deer hunting blog, and I need to write about deer. So here is a photo of what a scoring buddy calls a “Medusa” buck. Freaky non-typicals like these are not even taken for entry in Boone & Crockett, because they never shed their velvet and apparently keep growing antlers year-round. And, it should be noted, they are usually missing at least one testicle. Given my current state of sleep and oxygen deprivation, I’m not even going to comment on that physical affliction. There has to be a joke in there somewhere, but it’s not in me right now. I gotta get rested up for tomorrow…

  • April 18, 2008

    BuckTracker: I Want to Be a Producer…

    By Scott Bestul

    First off, thanks to all who responded to the last entry, where I wondered if TV/video personalities stood as your deer hunting heros/heroines. Judging from the small and highly unscientific Buck Tracker poll, the answer would clearly be “no.” While many of us watch hunting shows for entertainment—and they surely beat a lot of what’s offered by the mass media—most of us don’t confuse the men and women who star in them as legitimate deer hunting role models. Engaging personalities, perhaps, but not necessarily true deer experts..

    I find that interesting, mainly because I know several hunting celebs, and some of them are indeed excellent hunters. Yes, many of them do get to hunt some amazing places, but I know a few of these true-blue whitetail nuts would kill good deer no matter where you placed them. Then, as some of you have (correctly) pointed out, other video hunters are just richly blessed to chase bucks in places the average guy can only dream about…and are probably no more skilled at hunting than any reasonably-dedicated deer nut.

    All of which brings me to an interesting topic. If you’re among the folks who believe that many of the whitetail shows don’t reflect normal experience, should they be changed somehow? And if you’d like to see them change, how would you do so? Or, do you enjoy the status of outdoor TV/video and like to keep it just the way it is—as an entertainment venue—whether it reflects your hunting reality or not? I’m anxious to hear your thoughts.

  • April 17, 2008

    It’s A Deer. It’s A Kangaroo. It’s . . . a Giant Rat!

    By Scott Bestul

    From Oregon’s KATU News:


    MILWAUKIE, Ore. - A couple of Milwaukie High School students made a bizarre discovery on the way to school Tuesday morning.

    Nicco Phillips and Lexi Eads found an exotic animal hopping around their neighborhood.

    At first, they thought it was a little deer or maybe a small kangaroo but after making some calls, they found out it is actually a Patagonian Cavy, the world's fourth largest rodent.

    Check out the great photos.

  • April 17, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup

    By Scott Bestul

    Sharpshooters Take Out Minnesota Spring Deer Hunt

    Pennsylvania Plans In-Depth Audit of Deer Program

    New Hampshire Pushes For Nonresident Vermont Youth Hunt

    Deer Crash Ohio Middle School, For The Third Time

  • April 14, 2008

    BuckTracker: Idol Chatter

    By Scott Bestul

    A couple of weeks ago, I was giving seminars at the Minnesota Deer & Turkey Expo. At the close of business Sunday, another speaker there (a video celebrity who shall remain nameless), asked me for a ride to the airport. I was happy to provide this favor. On the way, we got to talking about last fall’s season and our success and/or lack thereof. Then, out of the proverbial blue, my friend asked me an odd question. “Who are the ten best deer hunters you know?” he said, leaning forward and looking at me intently.

    Well I admit the question caught me off guard, mainly since I do not normally rate the whitetailers I know. So, as I do often in such situations, I banked my answer hard off the glass and forced my friend to grab the rebound. “Good question,” I said. “I’ll need to think on that. How ‘bout you? Who’s in your top 10?”

    And then an interesting thing happened. Without hesitation, my compadre started ticking off names…and every one on the list was a video/tv celebrity like himself! I found this curious. And it became even more odd when I finally did start thinking about the really, truly great deer hunters I knew…because NONE of the folks on my list had ever been on TV! Still, I wondered if my rider’s opinion was a reflection of hunting society in general. What are your thoughts? Are the guys/gals on camera the people you turn to for whitetail wisdom? And if so, who are the ones you look up to the most?