Trapping Tips & Techniques

By GrowingDeer,

Last year’s hides are back from the tannery! Every year we get to reap the fruits of our labor on the trap line with furs that we use as gifts or make into garments. Last year Mrs. Tracy had a beautiful blanket made from raccoon and coyote fur.

Checking the trap line.

Duke Cage traps are easy to set and use.

Over the past few years fur prices have plummeted. Because of rock bottom fur prices, many trappers have decided that trapping is not worth their time and money spent. This has led to increased predator populations. It is now up to land managers to step up and help balance predator numbers.

If you are trapping to help balance predator numbers listen up! Over the years we have found several tricks that can help you become more efficient with your time.

First, we like to set our traps along the interior roads of our property. We don’t spend time diving deep into the woods to find a game trail or den tree. Many times predators will use the existing road system for their means of travel. The likelihood of predators cruising by looking for a meal is increased if traps are set at intersections of roads or creek crossings. Having traps in these locations makes it very easy to check traps while simply driving through the property and limits disturbance.

We use Duke Cage traps because they are very easy to open and close. We recently had a nasty cold spell. Often, critters will den up during extremely cold nights and then come out during the first warm night. With Duke Cage traps, we can quickly close all our traps when it’s forecasted to be extremely cold or if rain is headed our way. When it’s dry and warm we can reopen the traps quickly and easily.

Placing the bait in a tin can helps protect the bait from the weather. This saves time rebaiting when we do close and reopen traps. Often times we use cheap cat food as the main portion of our bait. Cat food smells meaty and appeals to hungry predators but absorbs moisture. By placing our bait (cat food) in the tin can, we are able to close traps for a few days then reopen, and often do not need to rebait.

Even though fur prices are low, there are ways to save money on the trap line so it is more affordable and you can reap the benefits. You may not get rich this year by selling hides but trapping will provide furs to enjoy, increase fawns and turkey poults, and allow you to spend time in creation.

Enjoying Creation,


Why Bucks Shed Their Antlers

By GrowingDeer,

If you are planning to spend the next few weeks in a stand trying to fill your remaining tags, listen up. We’ve already received several reports of shed bucks across the whitetails’ range. At The Proving Grounds, our Reconyx cameras recently captured a young buck that had already shed one of his antlers. The time stamp read December 11th!

What causes bucks to shed? The answer has much to do with decreasing testosterone levels.

Early shed buck

It may seem early, but there are many factors influencing when antlers will fall.

The photoperiod, or the hours of sunlight in a day, greatly influences testosterone levels. As the daylight hours begin to increase during the winter months, a buck’s testosterone level begins to decrease. The opposite occurs in the summer. As daylight hours grow shorter in late summer, testosterone levels increase and prompt velvet bucks’ antlers to harden then shed.

Testosterone levels are also influenced by stress. Stress can come in many forms. Deer can become stressed if they’re pressured by predators such as coyotes or hunters. Stress can also come hand in hand with an injury. If injured, a buck may experience extreme physical stress as the body begins focusing on healing and survival. Nutrition, especially during cold winter days, can also play a huge role in whether a buck becomes overly stressed. Many times healthier bucks retain higher testosterone levels and will hold their antlers longer.

It may sound “early” to hear that bucks are already shedding. However, daylight hours have just begun to increase again. Across much of the whitetails’ range the rut is over. Bucks have recently fought and traveled many miles, increasing the likelihood of being injured. Colder temperatures have swept across most of the United States and quality food sources may be hard to find. Testosterone levels will continue to fall and so will the antlers.

If you are headed to the woods during the next few weeks, remember that some bucks in your area may have already shed their antlers. It can be frustrating if you are trying to fill the freezer and mistake a shed buck for a doe. As you look through your trail cameras pictures be looking for shed bucks on your property. Knowing if bucks have begun shedding in your area can help.

I hope everyone has a blessed Christmas and a great late season hunt!

Enjoying Creation,


Deer Hunting: Your Best Management Tool

By GrowingDeer,

Mid December can be a rough stretch for many hunters. Throughout much of the whitetails’ range the peak of rut has ended and things seem slow in the woods. This can be a frustrating time for those who haven’t tagged a buck. During this time of the year I often think about the saying “don’t pass a buck on the first day that you’d shoot the last day”.

Recently, I went through our Reconyx images and realized that we have a greater number of three year old bucks than mature bucks. With Missouri’s upcoming muzzleloader season and several weeks remaining in archery season, it is very likely that we will have multiple encounters with three year old bucks.  As season draws to an end with an unfilled buck tag left, letting these great looking deer walk can be hard.

Passing this deer at three years old allowed him to express more potential.

Passing this deer at three years old allowed him to express more potential.

At The Proving Grounds, part of our management objective is to harvest bucks four years of age or older. At the beginning of each season we develop a “hit list” of all the four year or older bucks captured on trail cameras. The list of mature bucks will be the only bucks we will harvest if given the opportunity. However, it never fails, throughout the season a three year old buck will walk by. This can be very tempting, especially toward the end of season, but we keep our finger off the trigger. We hold out to the very end, even if it means we are left with an unfilled tag.

Several seasons ago, we passed two incredible three year old bucks. It was difficult not to shoot but we stuck to our goal. This year we were blessed to harvest both previously passed bucks. Once we laid our hands on them, it was worth the wait. One of the bucks, Gumby, had developed two drop tines, one measuring eight inches! The other buck, Handy, had 19 points and grossed 173”! Even though there were two unfilled tags several years ago, it was worth it in the end.

If you’re down this season because you haven’t tagged a buck, keep whatever goals you had at the beginning of the season. If you wouldn’t have shot a deer on the first day, think twice about shooting it the last day just to fill a tag. If a young buck has made it this long through season, there is a chance he may still survive. Letting young bucks walk can lead to great future hunts.

Enjoying Creation,


Keys to Hunting Success in the Post Rut

By GrowingDeer,

For most deer hunters, the anticipation for the rut builds for many months. However, the season always seems to drift away much faster than it arrives. 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 yet! It only takes a few pieces to unlock the key to post rut success.

Deer in a food plot during the late season

Hunting food sources can help tag a late season deer.

A whitetail’s body goes through a lot of stress during the rut. It’s critical that they refuel and replenish during the next few months to survive through the stress period of late winter. As slaves to their stomachs, this can be the weak link in their travel patterns and can make them fairly easy to pattern.

Hunting areas that are near, or on food sources, can give you the advantage you need to seal the deal. Some of the most attractive food sources this time of year are grains, like soybeans and corn, or brassicas, like radishes and turnips. Deer tend to feed more during daylight hours on days when the temperature is lower than average so bundle up.

Did you take the time and effort earlier in the season to plant food plots? Have you scouted to find the best food source in the area? Then your hard work is about to pay off.

Time your hunts with cold temperatures, a solid food source, and a favorable wind. This is the absolute best ticket to filling a tag in the post rut. Whether you’ve already filled a tag or not, don’t let the post rut blues take you out of the game. With the right conditions, and maybe another layer or two, you can still experience some of the best hunting the season has to offer.

Enjoy Creation,


Trapping Now, Turkeys Later

By GrowingDeer,

Let’s talk turkey! No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving leftovers. Now is an important time of the year to begin thinking about turkeys. Even though deer season is still in full swing at The Proving Grounds, we are spending fewer mornings climbing into Summits and more time on the trap line. Why? Because we love chasing turkeys in the spring!


Another great start to future turkey hunting!

Each year the Missouri Department of Conservation takes a turkey survey. Hunters and wildlife managers record the number of turkeys and poults seen in the field. The survey helps provide an estimate of how many poults hatched the previous spring and Missouri’s turkey population. This fall, the Missouri Department of Conservation shared that poult numbers were very low across the state. However, based on our observations, The Proving Grounds has great poult numbers.

Why are there a higher number of poults at The Proving Grounds compared to most of the state? We trap predators, hard!

Each trapping season, we remove 50+ predators. That means fewer predators sniffing around looking for turkey eggs next spring. Trapping season began a few days ago and we are not wasting time. The Duke Traps are on the ground. We have already removed several raccoons and opossums – both are notorious turkey nest predators.  We will start targeting coyotes soon.

If you enjoy long beards in the spring and wish for turkey and deer numbers to increase at your Proving Grounds, consider trapping. You will enjoy the results. We have!

Stay tuned for more trapping tips and techniques throughout the winter.

From the trap line,


Prepare For A Second Surge

By GrowingDeer,

Keep those seat belts fastened! The post-rut in many portions of the whitetail’s range is just around the corner. Oftentimes this phase of the rut is just as exciting as the first. The post-rut is the period of time after the primary lock down phase where bucks are back on their feet seeking the last remaining receptive does. With fewer does receptive during this time, bucks generally travel more. The keyword here is “travel!”

A mature buck staying close to thick cover

Southpaw is in pursuit. Notice his proximity to thick cover!

Over many years here at The Proving Grounds we have documented the average conception date to be November 14th -16th. This means most of the does are bred during this period, but not all does will come into estrous at this point. Some will come into estrous after this time frame. The number of does will be far less than the peak rut, as a result, there will be increased competition for them. The smaller percentage of receptive does requires bucks to travel further and longer. Traveling this much often results in more daylight movement.

To capitalize on does still being receptive and bucks on their feet, position yourself along a travel corridor between bedding areas. After nearly a month of being pushed and pestered, does often seek thick cover for refuge. Bucks will be working edges with the wind in their favor to find them. This is when travel corridors become great places to intercept mature bucks.

Don’t give up on the rut yet! There is still great action to experience in the deer woods. Stay persistent and hunt smart!

Chasing whitetails together,

Matt Dye

How Mature Bucks Use The Wind

By GrowingDeer,

It’s November and that means the rut is right around the corner! Some hunters have already experienced great hunting during the pre-rut. If you haven’t punched your tag yet because of the heat or bucks not chasing, get ready. This time of year anything can happen.

Grant Woods with hit list buck Tall 8

Considering the wind is key to killing a mature buck.

Over the past week, I have watched two mature bucks be killed with a Prime bow. As I reflect on both hunts, I realize how different they were, even over a period of one week. One hunt was a single mature buck working through a small hidey hole food plot. The other was a buck trailing a soon to be receptive doe. The two hunts were different in many ways but there was a similar feature. Both mature bucks were moving with the wind in their favor.

During the first hunt, the mature buck was cutting across the wind. Upwind of the buck was a small thicket. (Receptive does often seek security in thick cover.) This buck was obviously using the wind to scent check the nearby thicket for a receptive doe and to warn him of danger up ahead.

The second hunt was one we all fantasize about! One doe, young bucks running all around, and the mature buck chasing them off with the occasional grunt and snort wheeze. As this all unfolded, I watched the doe and the mature buck use the wind. The mature buck and the young bucks were always downwind of the doe, waiting for the moment to move in. Even the doe cut across the wind aware of what was ahead; knowing any moment a buck was going to be chasing her forward.

These hunts are a reminder of how deer use the wind, especially mature bucks as they seek receptive does during the rut. If you want to be successful over the next few weeks, consider where the deer will be traveling and where the wind will be carrying scent.

The GrowingDeer Team hopes you have a blessed rut. Be safe and enjoy your time in the woods.

Enjoying Creation,


5 Reasons You Should Film Your Hunt

By GrowingDeer,

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, what is a video worth? For many hardcore hunters, the videos of their hunts are priceless yet many hunters still don’t film their hunts. There are a wide variety of reasons people don’t want to film their hunt. Some are afraid of the amount of work filming a hunt can be. Others don’t want to invest in the proper equipment. Some are afraid of learning how to use camera gear. If this sounds like you, now is the time to step outside your box and start filming.  I recently interviewed Dr. Grant Woods from GrowingDeer about why every deer hunter should film their hunt. Below are five reasons Dr. Woods believes all hunters should pick up a camera and start filming.


Aaron's buck harvested while self-filming

Whether you film the first buck you ever killed or film your child’s first successful hunt, there is something special about being able to watch the footage and relive the experience all over again. “We recently filmed my dad killing a buck on his 86th birthday. It was a special hunt because he turned 86 and he had just finished a long bout of chemotherapy. The first time he had hunted in a long time was his birthday and it was very special for my entire family. The fact that we will be able to go back and watch it repeatedly makes it more memorable. We were hunting in a bale blind and several turkeys showed up. Then a young buck came in and dad made a great shot on the buck with a crossbow. It was a great experience,” Woods explained. Over time, we often forget the details of special hunts like this. When you film a hunt, you can relive it repeatedly so you won’t forget any of the details.


self filming a deer hunt

When you spend a lot of time behind the camera filming deer, sooner or later you are going to see and learn things about deer that you didn’t know before. For instance, Missouri is having a horrible drought this year. Woods sometimes wonders what types of food the deer like to eat when it is hot and dry. By filming deer feeding, Woods is able to determine what the deer like best. “We recently filmed deer feeding in one of our food plots and it was a food plot with a mix in it so there were a variety of things the deer could be eating,” Woods said. “But when we zoomed in, we noticed they were really going after the radishes. In fact, they are almost all gone. Anytime you can learn something like that, it might help you choose where you are going to hunt next time you go out.”


Many hunters bring a cameraman into the woods with them when they are hunting. This can be a disadvantage because there is twice the movement and twice the human odor, but Woods believes the benefits outweigh the negatives. “When you have a friend with you filming, you can have fun chatting and discussing the hunt which helps pass the time,” Woods mentioned. “It also gives you an extra set of eyes and ears. We all use our smart phones when we are hunting which is a huge distraction. When I have a cameraman with me, we take turns watching for deer while the other person checks emails and looks at their phone.”


placement of an arrow shot while deer hunting

Probably one of the biggest benefits of filming a hunt is you can review shot placement after taking a shot. “The human eye can trick us,” Woods said. “Depending on the angle of the shot or what an arrow does in the air, the actual shot placement can differ greatly from where we think we hit a deer. Being able to go back and watch the shot after the fact allows us to determine if we want to go look for a deer right away or let it be for a little while or overnight. We have had many deer jump the string this year and being able to go back and see that our shot was made properly but the deer jumped is nice to have the ability to review so I am not so hard on myself thinking I made a huge mistake. All in all, being able to see where our shot placement was is a huge help when it is time to recover a deer.”


Woods believes another great benefit to filming a hunt is proof that one got away and that you passed on a deer. Before people started filming hunts, if they passed on a young buck, all of their friends would say, ‘Yeah right.’ Now when a hunter passes on a buck, he can show his friends and talk about it and everyone will believe him. Not long ago, the same hunter probably would have shot the buck but having proof that he passed it up is as good as shooting it. Being able to film your encounters and show friends the buck that got away and the buck they passed on is huge. It is a great benefit of filming a hunt.

If after reading this you are convinced you should be filming your hunt, head over to Fourth Arrow Camera Arms. Check out their camera arms and their blog on getting started filming your hunt without breaking the bank.

About the Author: Tracy Breen is a full time outdoor writer, marketing consultant and motivational speaker. He works with a variety of companies including Fourth Arrow Camera Arms. Learn more about him at