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Bird Hunting

  • June 25, 2008

    BuckTracker: All Velvet, All the Time


    By Scott Bestul

    My friend Kent Halstead is a whitetail nut of the highest order. In addition to being a highly skilled hunter, he’s a student of deer who spends a lot of time observing and learning. As partial evidence, I offer the following series of trail-camera pics that Kent sent me this week. They offer a multi-year glimpse into the life of one special deer. I’ll let him tell the story of this whitetail, then ask for your comments: What’s going on with a deer that grows a freaky rack that never loses its velvet?

    "For several years, I had been getting some strange pictures of a deer that looked like it had big balls of velvet on its head.

    Then on September 16, 2005 I got a strange picture of a freaky velvet antlered deer. What I found really odd was that all the other bucks at this time of year had shed their velvet. The other thing I found strange was this deer was always with doe groups and not part of a bachelor group of bucks typical for this time of year."


    "The following fall my trail cams produced this photo..."


    "Each Winter while doing camera surveys the deer would show up with big balls of velvet still on its head after all the other bucks had shed. In some cases, I could see that the extreme cold was frost cracking the living tissue."



    "In August of 2007 I found this picture on my camera and I really started getting interested in learning more about what was going on with this deer. I spent days researching all the information I could find about abnormal antler growth."


    "I still have never laid eyes on this deer and I put my fair share of time in the bow stand each fall. Each year I would come up with a new series of pictures of this deer, which would send me back in time going through tens of thousands of pictures trying to piece the puzzle together.

    The last picture was taken this summer on 6-24-2008. And so the story continues..." - Kent Halstead [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 24, 2008

    A Polarizing Issue


    By Kim Hiss

         Aside from seeing a full-body polar bear mount at a New York shooting club (it needed dusting, unfortunately), it's never occurred to me to think about what a polar bear hunt was like. But officials from northern Canada hope the Endangered Species Act won't keep U.S. hunters from seeking out the experience.
         On June 23, politicians from the Northwest Territory were in Washington D.C. to ask Interior Department officials to allow U.S. sportsmen to continue hunting polar bears in Canada, regardless of the animals' protected status under the ESA. According to this Seattle Post-Intelligencer story, the Northwest Territory's minister for energy, industry and tourism said that preventing hunters from pursuing polar bears and transporting hides back to the U.S. would "wipe out" most of the sporting industry income for villagers along the Arctic coast. About 86 guides and other workers earn their income through the hunting industry, which the minister said affects 3,500 residents. He added that hunters, mostly from the U.S., spend approximately $1.6 million each year on polar bear hunts.
         So, the polar bears are protected by the Endangered Species Act, but the villagers' livelihoods are protected by the polar bear hunts. The situation could hardly get dicier -- until you add in minor details like global warming and Arctic drilling. I don't mind saying that the minister of energy, industry and tourism's job is yet another one I wouldn't want to have. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 20, 2008

    Class Dismissed


    By Kim Hiss

         So what do you make of this incident in Vermont, where a grade school student was silenced by his teacher for talking about hunting in class? According to this Rutland Herald story the student, Jared Harrington, was discussing turkey hunting with a classmate during a free snack time, when his teacher reportedly covered her ears to block out the conversation, then told Harrington there was to be no talk of "killing" in her room.
         Harrington's father said that when he later confronted the teacher about the incident, the conversation ended with her asking him to leave the classroom (the paper noted there was some "screeching" involved in her request).
        According to Harrington's parents, the teacher then seemed to single out their son with unfair treatment such as assigning excessive homework. Citing freedom of speech issues, the parents took the incident up with the school board and ultimately decided to home school their son for the remainder of the year.
         Even if you're willing to give the teacher the benefit of the doubt, it's hard to come up with much to say in her defense. I'm not sure what I would have done as a parent in response to such a situation, but I will say I don't envy that school board's prickly job of finding a solution for it. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 19, 2008

    BuckTracker: The Case of the Lonely Doe


    By Scott Bestul

    We don’t get a lot of reader mail here at Buck Tracker, but this note came in this week from a gentleman in Pennsylvania. He writes:

    Me and my neighbors are puzzled by a female deer who is always alone she is not afraid if one gets near her to throw some bread, apples ect.  But she is always alone no deer friends, family, just always alone.  We think she was kicked out of a tribe or maybe has a disease all though she looks perfectly healthy.  Thank you for your time me and nieghbors would greatly appreciate any info you may have.

    Without more information I am kind of reading between the lines, but I’ll take a guess that the doe in question is getting her share of handouts in the form of  “bread, apples, and ect” (whatever ect is..perhaps a new energy drink?).

    Well, funny things happen when people feed deer. Some whitetails will take a tidbit and remain nervous about it for life. Unfortunately others quickly get used to the program and start pondering such deep thoughts as “why eat tree buds?”  Or “welfare is so much nicer than foraging!” And—in the case of this creature, I’m guessing—inanities like “am I truly a deer? Or perhaps something cooler…a Holstein cow? A golden retriever?”

    Don’t get me wrong; I have fed deer in the winter and enjoyed watching their antics. It also gave me a warm, happy feeling inside. But I have the advantage of hosting a hard-hunted (and therefore highly nervous) herd of about 10 whitetails that—no matter how good the eats—are still scared to death of me. Plus, once the snow leaves, I derail the gravy train and let my friends fend for themselves. I suggest you do the same. In my opinion, your doe has not been ousted by her “tribe” and if she is vertical and taking nourishment she is probably not diseased. Of course, I’m wide open to further diagnosis from my Buck Tracker tribe…

    Your thoughts? [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 19, 2008

    Three Decades of Whitetail365


    By Scott Bestul

    From the Kansas City Star:

    The Stevensons' home was amid an enclosed deer farm just outside of Bayfield. Esther sometimes complained about all the whitetail nose smudges on her patio doors. Stan even had one buck that joined him on runs through the property on numerous occasions.

    Stan Stevenson, 75, has gathered all of those memories - and 162 color photos - in a book titled, "Living With Deer."…

    The Stevensons had names for many of the bucks - Rambo, Butch, Wren, Pat, Rudy, Tripod (missing part of a leg), Gabriel and the remarkable Dasher with his 35-point nontypical rack. Many of the book's photos are snapshots of family members feeding deer, lying down with deer or petting deer. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 19, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup


    By Scott Bestul

    Minnesota Simplifies Licensing For Deer Hunters

    Kansas Deer Wrecks 14-Passenger RV

    Sundays Now Open To Alberta Deer Hunters

    Corned-Venison Hash, Anyone? [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 17, 2008

    Whitetail Hunting…It’s a Gas


    By Scott Bestul

    It is months away from deer season, and already I’m seeing more bucks—indeed, more deer overall—than I have in the last several years. This is surprising to me, considering the winter we endured in the upper Midwest, one of the toughest in recent memory. So it is a good thing to be seeing deer, and remembering their amazing capacity to tough out snow and cold and wind for months on end...and then start pumping out fawns and growing antlers and doing all the things they do so effortlessly each year.

    Still, even with all this good news, it is still too early to make any legitimate prediction about how hunters will fare in the upcoming season. Except, that is, for this: It is going to cost us a heckuva lot more money to chase deer around than it ever has. Here in Minnesota, gas prices are dancing around $4 per gallon, and though I used to ignore doom-n-gloom predictions about rising petrol costs, I’d have to be an idiot to do so now.

    So I’m looking into my crystal ball (which has a reflective prism into my bank account) and wondering what to cut for the fall ahead. How much will I save if I don’t run a scouting camera trail this year? Should I reduce the number of evenings I drive to my hunting spots and glass for bachelor groups? And though I’m lucky enough that, in a typical year, I get to deer hunt in two or three states, maybe this fall would be a good one to stick close to home. So what about you? Are fuel costs going to affect your planting and/or maintenance of food plots? Scouting trips? Actual deer hunts? Or will you bite the bullet and just accept high gas prices as necessary pain for being a deer hunter? Tell me your thoughts, and share the price of a gallon of unleaded (or diesel) in your area…. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 15, 2008

    Q&A with Haley Dunn, Skeet Champion


    By Kim Hiss

         Skeet shooting champion Haley Dunn is a 23-year-old living in north Texas, whose competition career is going strong. She just returned home from the most recent world cup in Kerrville, Texas, where she won the gold. A few weeks earlier she'd earned the bronze at a world cup in Beijing, China.
         In addition to her competition and training schedule, Dunn hunts for Bass Pro Shops' Next Generation Team TV show, and helps to guide for pheasant, quail, and chukar with her family's business in Eddyville, Iowa. During a brief break in the action, she took some time to answer questions for our women hunters blog.

    FSHuntress: When your training schedule is at its busiest, how many hours do
    you spend shooting in a week, and how many rounds do you go through?
    Haley Dunn: An average week of hard training consists of 20 to 25  hours at the
    range shooting and going through 1,000 to 1,500 rounds. This
    doesn't include extra mental training time or physical training.

    FS: What's your competition gun?
    HD: It's a Beretta DT10 12 gauge over/under.

    FS: Considering your training schedule, were you able to fit in any hunting last season?
    HD: I did get to do quite a bit of hunting, but definitely not as much as I wanted. Not only was I finishing my last year of college at the University of Missouri - Columbia, but I was also training really hard to make the Olympic team. Needlesss to say, planning extra hunting trips wasn't my highest priority.

    FS: How does competition shooting help you as a hunter?
    HD: It definitely helps with bird hunting. Being able to point a shotgun well and with confidence gives me a lot of success in the field.

    FS: You're a person who knows a lot about shooting under pressure. How do you keep nerves from harming your performance?
    HD: Well, what I've learned about performing under pressure is that you should only focus on the things you can control and stick to your routine. You should also be performance oriented rather than outcome oriented. For example, when a monster buck comes by your tree you don't think about how impressed all the guys are going to be when they see it; you are focused on the shot you have to make to bring that bad boy home.

    FS: When is your next competition?
    HD: It will be in July at Colorado Springs for the National Championships. I then return to Kerrville for the fall selection match to pick next year's world championship team. My last match of the year will be in Minsk, Belarus for world cup finals where only the top 10 people in the world are invited.

    FS: What are your hunting plans this fall?
    HD: All I plan on doing this fall is hunting! I have a trip to Minnesota for bear, Alaska fishing, and a possible elk hunt in Colorado. Not to mention hunting big whitetail in Iowa.

    FS: What are some of the experiences you've had with other women in the field?
    HD: Well, I've had the chance to volunteer at several women's hunting and shooting events and have been fortunate enough to witness several firsts for beginning hunters and shooters. Seeing women get really excited about hunting reminds me of how much I love what I do.

    To find out more about Haley Dunn, visit her website here.  [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 6, 2008

    Double Header


    By Kim Hiss


    Our own Laura Bell from Garretsville, Ohio just sent this success story from her spring turkey season. I'll just get out of the way and let her tell it -- she has a lot to say. Congratulations, Laura! -K.H.

         I was lucky enough to fill both my tags this year as well as call in a few birds for my dad. Here's the rundown:
         We did our scouting well ahead of time and had a group of birds picked out for opening day. The birds were hot the day before the opener and gobbling at any sound around. But the firLauras08turkeyst day fizzled. The birds barely answered a call and finally shut up all together.
         We tried again the second day and got a much better response. We set up right under a gobbler and had him riled with a combo of my H.S. Strut Diaphragm call and my dad scratching up some leaves. He pitched off roost and minutes later walked into an opening and I took the shot. He weighed 19 pounds, had a 9 1/4" beard, and 1" spurs.

         The next day my dad downed his first of he season. Again the mouth call from the previous day brought his Tom down.
         Then for the third day in a row we scored. We tried a new woods and before we walked too far I hit an aluminum call. Nothing. Walked a little and tried again. Still nothing. Went just a little deeper again and I got one cluck out of the call when a gobble rang out within 100 yards of us. We dropped next to a tree and got ready. I popped in my lucky mouth call and let'm have it. Within a minute they appeared, a trio of bright blood red heads. They were excited, but they wouldn't come into range. They skirted it while gobbling their heads off, then slowly filtered deep into another part of the woods. They were hot and willing so we thought a new position might help us. We moved and soon the gobbles had turned back to us and edged closer. Soon they popped over a hill on my dad's side. They didn't like something and were on their way out when I told my dad to take the shot. A 10" inch bearded bird with 1 1/4" inch spurs was the reward.
         For my last tag we played with multiple birds but they wouldn't play into our set up. Finally on the last day it came together. It was pouring rain -- not the weather you want. We thought we had the birds' roost patterned, but after we set up and it was light out, my gobbler spoke up in another woods across the field we were watching. We thought about moving but knew we'd be busted. Again I had my mouth call, and combined with a gobble call that my dad was using we made our best attempt to make the Tom jealous. We sat in silence for some time, and finally I saw his white head coming our way across the field and he had a Jake along. He seemed to listen to the calls but something was keeping him out at the 50 - 60 yard range.Lauras2nd

         Then several hens came out of the woods to join the Tom in the field and feed. They came in to about 15 yards and took notice of us. This is where the rain helped us out. It started really beating and the turkeys hunkered down into tight little balls of feathers and were still as stones, just letting the rain come. It was very neat, to say the least.
         At this point I was shaking awfully bad from the cold and wet, but also the excitement. The rain gave in just slightly and my dad told me to call, as he didn't know how much longer he could sit. I hit it and it was enough to get the hens moving, but my gobbler still stayed out of the way. The hens started to feed off to my left and the Tom and Jake acted as if they would leave.
         I knew they were far but if this was the only shot, I was going to take it. I leveled my gun on him. I gave an aggressive call and they answered so I hit them right back even harder. The Jake took the bait and started to take a step closer, then a couple more. The Tom knew what he was up to and ran and cut the Jake off. The Tom now spots the decoys and starts running in with the Jake hot on his heels -- or spurs, rather.
         They closed fast and I got my shot at the 20-yard line. The Tom dropped instantly. It was an awesome end to the season! This bird weighed 21 pounds soaking wet! He had a 10 1/2" beard and 1" spurs. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 6, 2008

    Michigan May Start Targeting Albino Deer


    By Scott Bestul

    From an AP story on Fox News:

    It's been illegal to take all-white deer in Michigan since the 1980s.

    But state officials said there's no scientific reason for the ban because albinism comes from an undesirable genetic mutation.

    Also, it can be hard for hunters to distinguish between albinos and piebald deer, which are mostly white but have a few brown spots.

    A hunter from Indian River filed a defamation suit after he was accused of killing an albino in 2004. A state investigation determined the man broke no laws. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 6, 2008

    Whitetail News Roundup


    By Scott Bestul

    Airline Bumps Antler Flying Fee To $100

    Toledo Police Perform C-Section To Save Fawn
    (They also gave the newborn “nose-to-mouth” resuscitation.)

    Cleveland Authorities Bag Three Downtown Deer

    Wisconsin Deer Hits Wine Store [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 4, 2008

    BuckTracker: Shed Winner Announced


    By Scott Bestul

    In case you’d missed it, this year’s shed photo contest was captured by Jimmy Wallace of Grandview, MO. An avid shed hunter, Jimmy bagged these two monster horns from the same field…"Though I did find them in different years,” he admits. Any guesses as to the distance of the closest stand Jimmy has set near this field?


    For those of you into stats, the typical shed scores 82” B&C, and the non-typical is a whopping 104”. That pushes the Fantasy Score (a matched opposite side, inside spread of 18”) of the typical buck into the 180’s, and the non-typ well above 200”! I don’t care where you shag your sheds, those are some impressive numbers!

    Our congrats go out to Jimmy, and our thanks to all who submitted photos. It was an awesome lineup of pictures this year, and we look forward to seeing pics of your finds next year! Visit our Sheds Gallery to take a look at our overall favorites. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 2, 2008

    When in France


    By Kim Hiss

         I figured I'd do a news post today, and while I could have talked about closer-to-home issues like potential revisions to state venison donation programs, the absence of CWD in Pennsylvania deer tested after last season, or the efforts of Montana environmentalists to reinstate federal protection for wolves in the northern rockies, I got sucked in by this unlikely little item. Pittjolie

        According to this article (random source, I know) mega-stars Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie have gotten the attention of a group of French boar hunters. The celebrity couple recently moved into the 17th-century Chateau Miraval, a 35-room, 1,000-acre property near the village of Aix-en-Provence, which they will rent with their rapidly growing family for the next three years.
         The estate, however, happens to be a favorite of area deer and boar hunters. Last year, its owner, Tom Bove, reportedly hosted a party of 65 sportsmen on the property. But now, local hunters are nervous the new tenants will decide to ban hunting for the length of their stay, and have begun appealing to Bove, asking him to ensure that the grounds will not become off limits.
         Even the local Mayor of Correns has weighed in, citing concerns for the valued vineyard on the chateau property. "Hunting here is part of the local tradition," he's told the press. "Boar and deer are harmful. If you don't hunt them, you don't get grapes."
         Well, all I can say is that the next time I rent a 17th-century French chateau with a helipad, two swimming pools, and a swan-filled lake: mi hunting lands es su hunting lands. -K.H. [ Read Full Post ]

  • June 2, 2008

    BuckTracker: Baby Talk


    By Scott Bestul

    One of my favorite elements of hunting the last weeks of turkey season in the Midwest has nothing to do with turkeys. Mid- to late-May is fawning time in this region and it’s a rare spring when I don’t see at least a couple newborn whitetails during my travels. And I can recall bumping into (almost literally) at least five fawns over the years. I had a camera in my hand for one of these encounters, and I shot a roll of slide film as I knelt by the youngster…who “hid” behind a single leg that it held in front of its face!

    Just yesterday, my wife and I spotted a fawn—with mom nearby—from the road. The youngster was so small it was clearly only hours old. Though the wobbly-legged whitetail was fresh from the factory, it was not the youngest fawn Shari and I had ever discovered. One spring afternoon about a decade ago, we were on an afternoon drive when we saw a doe standing a mere foot from the road shoulder. I slowed the vehicle to a crawl, thinking the deer might be sick and ready to topple into my bumper. But as we pulled up to her, Shari spotted the source of the doe’s odd pose and refusal to budge; twin fawns curled in the ditch that had to be minutes new to the world. The doe had clearly been in the process of crossing the road (probably on the way to a prime birthing area) when Nature decided it was time. The sight of that family of three in that odd, dangerous setting was something  I’ll never forget.

    In the next installment of Buck Tracker, I’ll chat about some of the oddities of life for young whitetails. In the meantime, please share your fawn stories here…and keep your eyes peeled for little ones! [ Read Full Post ]