Trapping At The Proving Grounds

By GrowingDeer,

When I was a young boy in the 1970s raccoon hides sold for $40+ in my neighborhood and gas was $0.70 per gallon. Now raccoons bring less than $10 in the same area and gas is over $2.00 per gallon. We all know the price of fuel, steel, etc., has increased dramatically. There is very little incentive for trappers, except for the love of the work, to remove predators. Predator species have few predators in most areas.

Trapping with a Duke cage trap

The benefits of trapping include removing predators and learning a lot about all critters.  If you can get good enough to make a predator stick its hand in a little two inch circle, you can figure out how to pattern deer.  So, trapping makes for a better deer hunter.  In addition, it makes hunting better by allowing more prey species to flourish.  It’s just a great all around scenario.

“Balance” is a tough objective to achieve in most aspects of wildlife management. This is because the habitat and populations are always changing. It is a fantasy that wildlife populations or habitat will remain balanced without man’s intervention. Allowing either predator or prey species to build up too high always results in bad results. This has been documented time and time again in species like deer, rabbits, wolves, etc.

However, given that the habitat resources are becoming more and more limited, big swings in population levels don’t recover as easily. I don’t wish for predators – bobcats, opossums, fox, raccoons and coyotes – to remove most of the prey species – turkey poults and whitetail fawns – at my farm. I want there to be enough turkey and deer for me and the predators. There aren’t many predators of bobcats and coyotes where I live. There certainly aren’t many trappers in my neighborhood. My efforts to trap some predators will certainly not hurt the coyote or bobcat population in the county.

On this property, we work to maintain a reasonable balance between predators and prey. The balance means there are plenty of prey (turkey and venison) for us and the predators to eat. Having just enough prey for only the predators to eat and me shifting to playing ping pong is not an option. I’m going to work to provide good quality habitat which benefits both the predators and prey species, and trap and call to make sure the predators have a predator. Are you managing all the species on your property, or just the prey?

We’ve removed a lot of predators but more move in.  If you create a void, remove a bunch of predators, don’t think that you can stop and not trap the next year.  I’ve been removing about 50 predators every year: bobcats, coyotes, coons, opossums, skunks and foxes.  Our turkey population has absolutely exploded and we’re seeing some quail now.  We’ve seen a big response in our game.

Trappers are not motivated to trap for money because they’re only getting one to two dollars per coyote.  If you're really trying to increase the number of deer or turkey on your land, hire a trapper or do what I do and learn how to trap yourself. I’ve hired professional trappers but also supplement by using box traps and the Duke dog-proof traps. Currently our intern, Tyler, is effectively removing predators. Coons and opossums are easy while coyotes and bobcats are a little tougher.  We’ll keep you updated on our progress over the coming months.

Enjoy Creation,


Why White-tailed Bucks Shed Their Antlers

By GrowingDeer,

five shed antlers from young bucks

Do the bucks in your area have still have their antlers? We’ve got a few bucks that have already started shedding their antlers here at The Proving Grounds!

Antlers are shed as a response to chemical changes within a buck's body. These changes are generally stimulated by changes in the amount of time the sun shines daily.

However, within this window, several factors such as available nutrition, general health, and dominance ranking can determine when an individual buck sheds his antlers. For example, deer researchers often mention observing two dominate bucks in captivity fighting during this time of year. The loser will shed his antlers soon (sometimes the next day). It seems hard to imagine that antlers will simply fall off one day due to a change in dominance status (along with hormone levels) but these examples seem to indicate that’s the case. Never underestimate the effects of hormones on all critters!

Antlers for most bucks tend to be shed during the late winter months. However, some bucks will shed earlier due to other factors.

Those “other factors” explain my expectation for bucks to shed earlier than normal this year. Why? Because bucks will shed early when they are stressed. We’ve had ongoing drought conditions so our food plots and the native deer browse have suffered.

To a deer manager, forage plants are simply nutrient transfer agents. They simply transfer nutrients from the soil and air to the consumer (deer). No matter how many nutrients are available, plants can’t transfer nutrients without water. Soil moisture was so limited this year that the plants simply couldn’t transfer many nutrients. The drought directly and indirectly caused a huge amount of stress to bucks in my area this year.

Tracy took Crystal, our Labrador shed hunting dog, to one of our larger food plots this week to see if they could find any of those early sheds. In less than 2 hours they found four fresh shed antlers from some of our younger bucks.  In addition, we’ve seen at least two mature bucks that have already lost their antlers. It seems my buck hunting may be over soon even though the legal season where I live extends to January 15th.

As you’re finding shed antlers this year, please share them with us on our Facebook page!

Enjoy Creation,


Venison and Wild Game Recipes For the Family: Cooking Ground Venison for an Easy Taco Supper

By GrowingDeer,

At GrowingDeer we enjoy hunting. We also enjoy eating fresh venison! Over the years, we’ve shared many of our recipes. In order to make finding these recipes easier for visitors to the GrowingDeer website, we now have them assembled in one “spot”. In the main menu at the top of the website, you will see the recipes tab.

The next time you are looking for an idea for venison, wild turkey, or wild pig – look through the recipes on that page! We have a search feature on our website if you are looking for something specific. Also, Google does a great job showing search results for our website. For instance, a google search for the terms “ recipes venison” yields these results.

Today we have a new venison recipe to share. Last night, I made tacos for the family using ground venison. Here’s how to make the venison for taco meat:

Ground venison tacos


1 tablespoon oil (Crisco, vegetable oil, canola or olive oil)
2 lbs. ground venison
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 package taco seasoning or make your own
Juice of one lemon (approx. 3 – 4 tablespoons)
12 taco shells or corn tortillas


Shredded cheddar cheese
Shredded lettuce
1 – 2 tomatoes, chopped
Chopped onion
Chopped black olives
Sour cream

Optional: Spice it up by adding 1 to 2 tablespoons chipotles in adobo OR (not both!) a jalapeño pepper (seeds and membrane removed then finely chopped) when the venison is browning.

Note: I often add up to ¼ cup of salsa to the venison while the meat is browning. This gives it a little extra texture and a little extra flavor.


If using hard taco shells, heat oven to temperature as directed on package for taco shells.
In medium skillet, add oil and brown ground venison and onion over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until venison is thoroughly cooked, stirring frequently.
Stir in tomato sauce, taco seasoning and lemon juice. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 10 minutes.
Prepare taco shells as instructed on package.
Assemble tacos by layering venison mixture, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes in each taco shell. Serve with salsa; top with onions, olives and sour cream.

Suggestions for side dishes: Salad, refried beans or Mexican rice.

Taco meat can be used for traditional tacos, as a burrito filling, or a salad topper.

For another interesting variation on traditional burritos using venison, see this recipe for Italian-style venison burritos.



Deer Hunting During Arctic Blasts

By GrowingDeer,

Arctic blasts are a great time to hunt!

Burrr!!! There’s an arctic blast impacting much of the whitetail’s range. Colder temperatures mean deer need more calories to stay warm. These conditions often result in some great hunting opportunities!

This seems to be especially true when the nighttime temperatures are much colder than during the day. Deer easily sense the energy savings of being active and feeding during the warmer daytime temperatures.

In addition, deer strongly prefer to bed on south facing slopes during such conditions so they can benefit from the sun’s radiant energy.

Knowing where deer prefer to bed and eat and when they will be feeding is a huge advantage!


The arctic blast is forecast to impact much of North American for several more days. Layer up and go fill some tags! That’s what I’ll be doing!

Enjoy creation,


December: Get the Most out of Deer Hunting

By GrowingDeer,

December is a very special time of year for deer hunters. We’ve changed our tactics from the rut phase to get bucks into range. Deer are really hitting food sources right now. For that reason, we’ve opened the gate where the Hot Zone fence is protecting standing beans. These were strategically placed so that with the gate open, deer would be in range of our stands. Standing beans are one of the best attractants for the late season.

But more importantly, I want to invite you all to join the Woods family in truly celebrating Christmas this year. Not the gift giving and all the ceremonies we have, but the reason Christmas was first started; the reason we do it is to remember the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Without that tremendous gift from God, we’d have no chance of knowing eternity, of knowing salvation or even enjoying Creation that we all enjoy today.

Enjoy Creation,


Taking Pops Hunting!

By GrowingDeer,

Normally I pass along hunting and habitat management tips, but in this blog I wish to share some tips for an even more important topic — I want to talk about taking my dad hunting.

 Pops tagged a doe and the buck Early Bird

Pops, as I affectionately call him, is my 87-year-old father. He’s the guy that taught me how to hunt, and took me hunting when he could have been hunting with his buddies.

I clearly remember the first time Pops took me deer hunting. I was 6 years old and in first grade. We went on a primitive weapons (muzzleloader) deer hunt on public land near Caney Mountain in southern Missouri. It was during October and I got to skip school! Many of Pops’ buddies went and I was the only child in our camp.

While Pops’ friends walked deep into the woods to hunt, he couldn’t go far from the road with me tagging along. When we’d sit behind a log or against a tree, I’d pretend that his muzzleloader’s ramrod was a gun and “shoot” at every squirrel and bird in sight. I constantly waved the ramrod like a flag!

Of course, we didn’t see a deer. I was fidgeting, “shooting” squirrels and asking about lunch. A few of Pops’ buddies tagged deer, which was a huge accomplishment during those days. Pop must have not been mad because he kept taking me hunting. Click here to read more.

How to Hunt Whitetails during the Post Rut

By GrowingDeer,

If you were unable to fill a tag by the end of the rut, it can be easy to get discouraged. Don’t give up! Post rut hunting can be very productive. Similar to the pre rut, it comes down to predicting when the deer are going to move and being in your stand when they do.

We are currently in one of the first real cold fronts of the season here at The Proving Grounds. This seasonal, colder weather will impact deer movements after several weeks of warmer than average temperatures. It’s also “post rut” so our hunting strategies have changed. We’re hoping to close the gap on a hit list buck. Cactus Jack and Swoops seem to be on a regular pattern. We’ll be hunting stands in their home range given the right wind direction. In the meantime, the does and fawns will be going to the plots to feed along with bucks that are trying to replenish calories lost during the rut. Chances are most of the does will already be bred but there is one variable that’s still in play: the “fawn rut.” This is the time frame when doe fawns have reached approximately 70 pounds and enter puberty making them receptive for breeding.

When this occurs depends heavily on the food sources available. A doe fawn that lives in ag country where there are plenty of crops to eat will come into estrus sooner than a doe fawn living in heavily forested areas. In our area, typically the “fawn rut” will occur during late December to early January. However, due to the wicked drought in our area body weights are down and fawns may reach puberty later than average this year.

In years past we’ve used this strategy successfully: find food plots frequently being used by does and fawns, then hunt those plots where a hit list buck might follow in one of those receptive fawns. This is exactly what I did during December 2013 when “The Trashman” went down (watch episode 163 here).

Whether you’ve already filled a tag or not, don’t let the post rut blues take you out of the hunt!

Enjoy Creation,



Easy Venison Recipe: Bayou Venison Jambalaya

By GrowingDeer,

Wanting to spice up your meals and try something different? I recently made this for the family. I took a standard recipe for jambalaya and made a few modifications to make it work for venison. I knew it was a winner when the one family member that is known for being “picky” went back for seconds. It was super easy and very tasty! Enjoy!

Bayou Venison Jambalaya


  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 green bell peppers, diced (or 1 large pepper)
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • Approx. 1 lb. venison roast
  • 13 oz. sliced smoked sausage (Hillshire Farm)*
  • 8 oz. can tomato sauce
  • 14 ½ oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons Creole Seasoning (store bought or make your own with the recipe below)
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 4 cups cooked rice


  • Cut the venison roast into strips and then cube into bite size pieces (approx. 1 inch or less in size).
  • Heat oil in a large skillet.
  • Add onion, celery, bell pepper and sauté for three minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the venison on top of the vegetables (do not stir) then cover for three minutes. This will allow the indirect heat and steam to start the process of cooking the venison. Cooking the venison too fast over direct heat will cause it to become tough.
  • Uncover, add the sliced smoked sausage and stir to sauté for an additional three minutes.
  • Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, Creole seasoning, and Worcestershire sauce. Heat thoroughly then serve immediately or remove from heat and cover until ready to eat. Over-cooking will cause the venison to become tough.
  • Serve over cooked rice or add the cooked rice directly to the skillet for easier serving.

*I did not have any smoked sausage when I made this recipe. It was delicious even without it. If you’re looking for a quick meal and this is the only ingredient you don’t have go ahead and make it. This venison dish is good with the smoked sausage and without!

Creole Seasoning Recipe


  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 5 tablespoons paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt


  • Mix ingredients together and store in a small airtight container. Use in recipes calling for Creole seasoning.

Cooking venison for the family,