Category: Deer Management

Manipulating Deer Travel Patterns

By GrowingDeer,

Deer often take the path of least resistance. They may seem to meander aimlessly when they are browsing, feeding on acorns, etc. However, when they travel from feeding to bedding areas they almost always take the path of least resistance that they don’t associate with danger.

In some areas such as farm country where cover is limited it’s easy to find existing deer trails. Hunters in these areas often place stands along these trails.

Deer travel on the safest and easiest path

A before and after look at a path made next to one of the treestands.

In areas where the landscape is primarily covered by timber deer tend to walk in general areas because cover is often similar over large areas. In timber stands that are about the same age there isn’t an obvious path of least resistance.

This scenario can work in a hunter’s favor because it is easy to create a path of least resistance where it’s an advantage to hunters! By using a handsaw, weed eater, backpack blower, and/or a garden rake it’s easy to create a path of least resistance! I’m amazed at how fast deer will adapt to trails created using this simple technique.

Keep in mind deer aren’t going to travel hundreds of yards simply to use such a trail. However, if deer pass within 100 yards or so of an area (but not on a specific trail) they will often adapt and bottleneck down to using a path created as described above.

If you are frustrated because deer seem to wander in general areas rather than use a trail try creating a path of least resistance. It’s a great technique that can help add venison to your freezer!

Nicolas Halchin

Increasing Antler Size – Episode #296

By GrowingDeer,

Learn all about antler size in episode #296.

If deer tend to produce smaller antlers and body sizes where you hunt, Ph.D. student, Eric. S. Michel has some great news for you! Eric presents his research and results and I encourage you to share them with other hunters! Plus, we have some cool buck footage from one of our Reconyx UltraFire cameras!

We use a backpack blower to clear our entry paths.Tip of the Week:

Make noise now, not later! Time to make your entry points deadly silent. Use gas powered blowers or rakes to clear important paths.

Managing Bucks

By GrowingDeer,

Deer season is fast approaching and most hunters are checking cameras and making a list of mature deer to hunt this fall. However, every year I hear someone complaining that one or more bucks on their property has a funny looking set of antlers and needs to be stopped from reproducing.

1.5 year old buck, example of a deer not to cull

We passed this buck as a yearling and he developed into a nice buck as a 3 year old!

Some hunters label bucks with less than desirable antlers as culls or management deer that need to be removed from the gene pool. Many times these deer are simply young, immature, and have some unique and funky characteristics to their rack. While it may seem like killing a 1.5 year old buck with a freaky frame will result in improving the herd’s gene pool this is rarely, if ever, true. The reality is that removing such a buck from a wild, free-ranging herd is probably like dropping a pebble into an ocean and likely removing a buck that could’ve turned into a dandy.

It’s easy to forget that does make a substantial contribution to the herd’s genetic make-up. Currently, without a known pedigree there’s no way to know which doe and buck matings produced the largest bucks where you hunt. In fact, numerous studies have shown that trying to manage the genetics of a free-ranging deer population has little to no impact on antler quality.

If you wish to help the herd then simply give that “cull” buck good groceries, quality cover, and a pass until he’s mature. I’d be willing to bet that in a few years that weird looking yearling will be a desirable trophy and the memories made watching him grow will be far more rewarding than removing him this fall.

Sowing seeds for the future,

Kevin Shettle

Antler Growth And The Importance Of Minerals

By GrowingDeer,
Intern, Clay O'Dell, is placing Trophy Rock's Four65 in front of a Reconyx camera."

Intern, Clay O'Dell, is placing Trophy Rock's Four65 in front of a Reconyx camera.

It doesn’t seem possible, but spring has arrived and the yearly cycle of antler growth is continuing. Not long ago it seems like we were chasing whitetails during the winter months, and now we’re discussing velvet growing. Regardless of how quickly it got here, it’s here, and we don’t want to miss this easy opportunity to help benefit our deer herd. One of the quickest and easiest ways to help improve the health of the deer is by providing easy access to minerals.

During this time of year, bucks are preparing for new antler growth while they are still recovering from this past winter. Most of our does are pregnant and will be giving birth over the next couple of months. One important substance that both bucks and does need is mineral, and you can provide this by using Trophy Rocks or their crushed version, Four65. We generally place a Trophy Rock on every 80 to 100 acres on our property ensuring that every deer has access to a mineral supply.

One of the greatest things about using Trophy Rock or Four65 this time of year is deer will be actively using the mineral making this a great place for a trail camera! We first place our Trophy Rocks in high traffic areas where deer were already active. Once we establish the site, we won’t move the rocks, making it a great location for a trail camera year after year!

We love to check our Reconyx cameras during the spring! We’re always looking for those strutting turkeys but also checking up on our deer making sure they’re healthy and happy. If you’re looking for ways to improve the health of your deer herd don’t overlook this easy step.

Daydreaming of whitetails,


Troy Landry Talks Deer – Episode #273

By GrowingDeer,

Grant tours Troy Landry’s deer hunting property in episode #273.

Troy Landry is a famous alligator hunter from the hit show Swamp People. This week Grant tours and studies Troy’s deer hunting property. Grant’s goal is to help Troy maximize his deer hunting opportunities.

Do it yourself! Coyote pelts make great decorations and gifts! Want to prepare your own coyote for the tannery? We’ll show you how with taxidermist Pete Dickenson.

Cream cheese stuffed, bacon wrapped venison backstrapTip of The Week:

Hungry? Does bacon wrapped backstrap sound good?

Enjoy your hard earned backstraps with this recipe:

Bacon Wrapped Backstrap

Hunting Free Ranging Whitetails: Sharing Isn’t Always Easy

By GrowingDeer,

Almost every hunter that steps into the woods during the fall has one buck that they dream about, lose sleep over, strategize over and fantasize over. This is the story about that buck and the day it all ended.

Royal George at a Trophy Rock

Royal George was a frequent nighttime visitor to our Trophy Rock sites.

George Alexander, also called Royal George, showed up on our Reconyx cameras last summer and immediately caught our attention. At that time he was unknown and unnamed. Hoping he would make his living on the farm, we knew he would be our prized buck. About that time the news media was obsessed with a baby in England named George Alexander. How fitting could this name be? While a majority of the world was talking about George Alexander of England, Grant and I were obsessed with George Alexander of The Proving Grounds. After looking through the Reconyx images we decided he was immature and would receive a pass for the 2013-2014 hunting season.

Fast forward to July 1st.  We laid our eyes on George for the first time in 2014. One word – WOW! Here in southern Missouri where The Proving Grounds is located, it’s tough for a buck to reach over 160 inches. It certainly happens, but when a buck reaches that size he is the talk of the neighborhood. Grant and I felt that George was 4.5 years old going into this hunting season, so he was the top buck on our hit list. Knowing how hard it is to hunt nocturnal bucks, and sensing our chance for success would be slim to none, Grant and I didn’t hunt George very much. We checked our cameras constantly throughout the fall, hoping for daylight movement of George, and it never happened. As the rut started to come into full swing we hoped a hot doe would lure him out in daylight. Through all of this, there was also concern that he might venture off the property. The fourth night of Missouri firearm season Grant received news.

Grant gave me a call and told me to check my email. I scanned through pictures sent by the neighboring landowner and all our dreams of harvesting George were erased. Our neighbor had shot Royal George late that evening right under his tree. I was immediately upset and got very little sleep that night thinking about that great buck. This is an ending that every hunter has or will experience. It’s unpleasant, but it’s part of managing free ranging whitetails. Sure, it would have been great to see George at The Proving Grounds, but we’re happy for our neighbor and what he was able to accomplish. At the end of the day we need to be thankful for what we got out of the pursuit. George wasn’t poached, or hit by a vehicle, he was harvested by a landowner who was perched in a tree enjoying the evening just like you and I.

As the book closes on this great whitetail, I’m sure another buck like George will come along soon. As deer managers, we will continue to let young deer walk and improve the habitat to grow bigger deer. Congratulations to our neighbor on harvesting such an incredible whitetail!

Daydreaming of Whitetails,


Venison On The Ground – Episode #255

By GrowingDeer,

Grant has a successful bow hunt in episode #255.

It’s almost impossible to pattern deer with acorns everywhere. When Grant discovers a pattern in a food plot, he and Adam go for it! Then Grant takes the stage at the Northwoods Church in central Illinois. It’s mature bucks, good food and the good Word. Continuing north on this 1,400 mile road trip Grant explores a central Wisconsin hunting property. Meanwhile, back in Missouri, Adam Brooke bow hunts in a stand of white oaks. It’s a self-filmed success story.

Mature bucks feeding in a food plot.Tip of the Week: World's Best Deer Food?

It’s the best quality forage they don’t associate with danger. Hunt your food plots with care. Mature deer will pattern you.



Trail Cameras Reveal Large Antlers Starting To Form!

By GrowingDeer,

It can be a depressing time of year for some people now that turkey season is wrapping up and the heat of summer is rapidly approaching! That’s not the case for the Growing Deer team as we started checking our Reconyx cameras! We are finding that bucks are already showing antler growth! Bucks have started showing up more regularly at our Reconyx stations, so tracking their growth will be exciting throughout the summer and into the fall.

Buck with new about three inches of antler growth at a Trophy Rock station.

This buck is one of many frequent visitors to this Trophy Rock station.

One of the biggest factors in being able to following their progress is the use of Trophy Rocks. Trophy Rocks are one of the most attractive things you can use to lure deer in front of your cameras allowing you to monitor herd health, fawn survival, and antler growth. We use Trophy Rocks on The Proving Grounds year round, but a lot of people overlook the importance of having Trophy Rocks out during the spring because it isn’t hunting season. As a deer manager don’t forget that having the appropriate minerals and nutrition out year round will not only increase antler size and fawn survival but ultimately result in healthier deer.

Not only are Trophy Rocks great for improving deer health but they also make for some great Reconyx pictures! Stay with us this summer as we share the continual growth of our buck’s antlers!

To learn more about Trophy Rocks go to

Daydreaming of whitetails,


Managing Whitetails: The Best Food Plots For A Cold Winter

By GrowingDeer,

If you look outside today in Branson, Missouri you’ll see a blanket of snow. We received 4 inches of snow Sunday and a few more inches Tuesday. This winter has certainly broken the trend set over the last few years. We have had numerous snowstorms that have left southern Missouri covered with snow. There are areas of the country  that have received much more snow than we have!

Winters like these can be very stressful on wildlife. With a good portion of an animal’s food source covered with snow they have to resort to browsing on food sources above snow level or digging through the snow for food. Recently Grant and I took a walk to try and learn more about what our food plots were providing during the snow.

Standing Eagle Seed Soy beans in a snow covered food plot

Standing soybeans can be the ultimate attraction with snow on the ground.

As we approached the food plot of standing beans you could obviously see the bean pods above the snow, with several deer tracks around. The deer had found the beans and were using them as a food source. Next, Grant and I stepped into a part of the food plot that was only wheat. The only thing you could see of the wheat was the very tip of the wheat which was covered in ice. Looking at this we also noticed there were not very many deer tracks in this section of the field. Probably because the deer would have to dig in the snow for food, while a better source of carbohydrates could be found not far away with the soybeans. Next, we moved to a section of the field that was planted in Eagle Seed Broadside blend. There were deer tracks in this part of the field but certainly not the amount of sign that was in the 100% bean field.

After all this walking around we pieced the information together to see what we could learn from these observations. First, on snow covered days the standing beans are hands down the most attractive thing we have provided. Second, a field of straight wheat isn’t going to provide much forage for deer when there are multiple inches of snow on the ground, although wheat can still be a great attractant when there isn’t snow. Finally, when considering the entire hunting season a food plot that provides both greens and standing beans can have the greatest attraction for deer. By planting Eagle Seed beans in the spring and then drilling back through them in the fall with the Eagle Seed Broadside blend we have the best combination food source that I have ever laid eyes on – a food plot that can provide year round forage and the most ideal forage during hunting season.

Daydreaming of whitetails,


How And When To Plan For Next Hunting Season: It Begins Now!

By GrowingDeer,

January 15th is a bitter sweet day for me. Why? January 15th marks the last day of archery season here in Missouri. On one hand I’m extremely upset that the season is over. We started chasing deer in the beginning of September and now, the middle of January, is when we hang up our Prime bows for a rest. That’s where the “sweet” part comes into play. After all these months it is nice to step back and take a breather and rest, charge our batteries, and clear our heads.

We start our management plans by reviewing our property map.

We start our management plans by reviewing our property map.

After we clear our heads we then start putting in thoughts and ideas for the upcoming season. Yes, you heard me correct. It’s January 17th and we’re already thinking about next deer season! Great management plans aren’t drawn up and executed in a matter of a few months – that’s why we’re starting now. Obviously we’ve been doing management projects throughout the season but we’ve postponed the projects that will add more disturbance to the property. Now with this season complete it’s time to start back up!

Like most years we start by looking at our map. Where are our stands located? Where is the food located? Where are the bedding, bottlenecks, and water sources located? Finally, how can we hunt the property more successfully? One of our biggest projects for this year is dealing with the southern part of The Proving Grounds. This part hasn’t been as highly managed and has very few food sources and stand locations. Our plan is to provide both of those and bring it all to you in coming months, stay tuned to!

Other goals we are looking forward to completing are clover maintenance and additions, invasive species control, and prescribed fire.

First we’ll talk clover. We manage about 10% of our food plots in clover. Every year we’ll watch it progress or decline and study which areas need to be replanted and which plots are being used heavily and could possibly be hunted more regularly.

Invasive species control can bore most people, including myself, but it’s part of good management. Over the last couple of years we’ve tackled a huge infestation of honey locust trees but I’m happy to say we’ve knocked about 90% of the population out and we’re now searching the hillsides for any squatters that may still be surviving. This next year we’ll be shifting our focus to multi-floral rose bushes. They’ve begun to spread into the food plot edges so it’s important for us to eliminate the problem before they start to gain ground and compete with the food sources we’ve planted.

Lastly, one of our biggest and most time consuming projects, prescribed fires. We spend a lot of time working for fire, it all starts by making the fire line to finishing it with the lighting of the fire. This is a huge project but when it’s all said and done the benefits are huge! Be sure to check out our progress throughout the off season!

But – we’re not completely locked up inside! Cabin fever is real ya know! We’re going to be doing a little predator hunting to see if we can’t have a little fun and deal with the depression of deer season closing.

Daydreaming of whitetails,