This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: This week we celebrate Veterans Day. There's probably no other group of Americans that are more deserving of celebration and no other group that's more often overlooked. This week I encourage you to join the GrowingDeer Team and celebrate Veterans Day and personally thank a veteran for their service to our nation.
GRANT: During November we also celebrate the 8th anniversary of GrowingDeer; producing a new episode every week year-around. And we're so thankful you allow us to come to your house and share deer hunting and management information. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
GRANT: (Quietly) The deer is coming right to you Rae.
GRANT: Here at The Proving Grounds and throughout most of the whitetails’ range, the pre-rut is in full swing.
GRANT: As the pre-rut builds, the bucks tend to be on their feet more hours of the day – cruising more – trying to find those first receptive does. Scrape activity will peak and then shut off as more and more does become receptive. Bucks are very responsive to grunt calls during this exciting time.
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GRANT: A few days ago, we had really strong winds here at The Proving Grounds associated with a strong cold front – a drop in temperatures. We knew that would be a good time to be hunting.
GRANT: With the strong winds, we were able to hunt some stands we normally can't hunt because the thermals override normal wind speeds. One of these locations is called Tracy's Bowl. It's at the bottom of a mountain in a bowl-shaped area, and typically with normal or low wind speeds, the wind tends to swirl in that area, and we simply can't get away without alerting some deer, but with a strong west or north wind, we can approach, hunt, and exit without alerting any deer.
GRANT: This stand is between a couple of bedding areas to the north and south and food plots to the east and west. It's a hub of activity. So, when we can hunt that area, we usually have some good observations.
GRANT: Daniel and Wes took advantage of these conditions and slipped into that stand before daylight. Just as the sun was rising, they saw the first deer of that hunt.
GRANT: Soon, two deer were working down the mountain towards a large white oak in front of Daniel's stand.
GRANT: The doe milled around eating acorns and finally moved down the mountain within shot range.
GRANT: She only ran a few yards and went down.
GRANT: Watching Daniel's shot in real time, it looks like he was high and to the right, but when we slow it down, put a mark on the kill zone, we see Daniel's spot was dead on, and the doe simply had a huge reaction to the shot. This doe has significant movement between when Daniel released the arrow and it reached her, but the Deadmeat still did its job, and the doe died within sight.
GRANT: Tyler and I were hunting just a few ridges south of where Daniel and Wes were. Like Daniel, I was hunting a set that was in a big patch of timber but had some food plots and bedding areas around the edges.
GRANT: (Whispering) We saw a buck cruising this morning – early light, not even sure Tyler got any footage of it, and there's a great north wind coming this way. So, cold air is sinking down ravine. I'm good for some does. I've got some doe tags in my pocket or a hit list buck – super excited about this hunt.
GRANT: Mid-morning, I caught movement up the mountain. It was a coyote.
GRANT: (Whispering) Stay on him. Get your GoPros going too.
GRANT: (Quietly) You think that's 40?
GRANT: (Quietly) Ooh. That was a good shot.
GRANT: The coyote ran off but I was confident the Deadmeat had done its job.
GRANT: (Whispering) Well, we had some deer that were potentially feeding our way – a couple does – but a coyote come in about 40 yards, and I'm gonna take the coyote every time.
GRANT: That thing had a thick pelt on it. Pretty good looking blood on the fletching, and on the Blood Ring here may be liver. (Inaudible) It's been drying for quite a while now but coated with blood. See if we can take up the trail. Coyotes are tough.
GRANT: Coyotes are tough, a lot of blood all the way stem to stern. Take up the trail, see what we can find.
GRANT: Alright. Here he is.
GRANT: Whew. Thick pelt already. Well, the coyote made it about 70 yards or so downhill. My shot was a tad far back, and I didn't have time to get the rangefinder up. I had ranged some trees but I'm a tad bit high, but one less fawn nabber here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: It was a great morning at The Proving Grounds – another doe closer to our management goal of 40 and another step towards balancing the predator and prey population.
GRANT: Tyler and I just leaving our morning hunt, and right off the edge of a small food plot, we saw a bunch of vultures taking off.
GRANT: Today, I didn't like what I found ‘cause we come upon a two-year-old buck.
GRANT: From what I can tell, his shoulders looked fully developed. He wasn't gaunt or underweight, so I suspect it was an injury. Maybe a distant roadkill ‘cause we're quite a ways from a road here. Our neighbor shot him and he ran downhill and died on our place. We'll never know.
GRANT: Deer management always boils down to making sure there's adequate quality forage for the amount of deer in the area and keeping the predator and prey species in balance.
GRANT: I wish this buck, that looks like it had a lot of potential, hadn't met an early demise. But in the scope of the whole deer herd, it's probably not significant.
GRANT: Two mornings later, a north wind was again forecast, and Daniel and I headed back to Tracy's Bowl.
GRANT: Not long after sunrise, I spotted movement about 70 yards through the timber.
GRANT: The deer was just far enough through the trees that Daniel and I struggled to keep her in view.
GRANT: As we were trying to spot that deer, I spotted antlers coming our way.
GRANT: This buck was cruising toward our stands.
GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) There's my shot if you want him.
GRANT: From the head-on view, his antlers looked good. But Daniel and I were having trouble seeing his shoulders or general body shape and we harvest bucks based on age here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: The buck cruised by our stand at less than 20 yards and finally gave us a better view.
GRANT: Daniel whispered, “It's a buck named High Riser”, and we had estimated – based on Reconyx pictures earlier in the season – that he was three years old.
GRANT: (Whispering) That was super exciting. I saw a deer just barely through the trees about 7,500 yards. Finally saw an antler; then saw good antlers. And I was thinking about shooting him but it was one of our really good three year-olds that we call High Riser. Daniel didn't confirm that ‘til here. And he had good shoulders – if you noticed, the neck come pretty close to the brisket – but just didn’t have that fully mature look. Twenty yards right here it was a chip shot, but I'm glad I passed 'cause I still got a tag in my pocket. I'm not willing to give up one of my buck tags just yet unless it's one of our sure enough good bucks.
GRANT: That's not to say that my dad or my daughters might not see this deer later this season and put a tag on him. And I'll be thrilled. Heck, a neighbor may call me up and I'll celebrate with him. But as for me and my goal and my employee's goals, we want to allow deer to mature and express most of their potential.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. I see 'em. (Inaudible) pushing 'em. I saw (Inaudible), but I couldn’t tell who it was.
GRANT: Not long after High Riser cruised by us, we saw more deer coming down the mountain.
GRANT: (Whispering) There's a deer right here. See these two right here?
DANIEL: (Inaudible) I’m on them.
GRANT: (Whispering) There's two more deer over here – right here on the other side of the (Inaudible)…
GRANT: These deer milled around and crunched on acorns for quite some time.
GRANT: Finally, one of the mature does broke away from the group and started heading our way.
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh dang it.
GRANT: As to be expected, right when I drew, she stopped right behind a tree.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, this is not fun.
GRANT: It felt like minutes before she finally moved from behind the tree and gave me a shot.
GRANT: (Whispering) You ready?
GRANT: (Quietly) That hole looks good. The does – I have to go back and watch the footage – but I'll bet – how long you think I held back for there?
DANIEL: (Whispering) It's more than 45 seconds it seems or a minute.
GRANT: (Quietly) Daniel says a minute. I think it was about three hours. I'm not sure.
GRANT: (Quietly) Okay, is that 13, 14?
DANIEL: (Whispering) 14.
GRANT: 14 on the way to 40; 14 on the way to 40.
GRANT: Some folks have emailed and asked, “Why are you trying to kill 40 does?” But, we're simply trying to balance the amount of deer to the amount of quality food here at The Proving Grounds. We've had a severe drought and we've allowed our deer numbers to build up over time. That combination means we've got to reduce the deer herd, and the way to do that is remove does.
GRANT: Looks like pretty good light blood the whole way. Blood Ring is covered and it should be a pretty easy job. And the big thing is she ran toward the truck, which is critical here in the Ozark Mountains.
GRANT: Lots of blood here. There she is right there. Big ole hole in her.
GRANT: Miss Tracy has already texted me. She'd like some sausage, but we'll probably just skin this out and chill the meat in the frigerator overnight, 'cause tomorrow is youth season and Miss Rae may add to the amount of venison we process come Monday.
GRANT: It was another great pre-rut hunt. Bucks were cruising but not many does are receptive yet.
GRANT: So, this doe has got some fat on her – I’ll get up here a little closer. And our deer – our first deer we killed weren't too fat. This one's got just a little bit coming on, but they're eating acorns. And acorns are very high in carbohydrates; low in protein. So, acorns aren't growing the antlers or helping fawns who are developing over the winter. But they certainly put on a lot of fat – like the Creator knew they would need to get through the winter and take these cold temperatures.
GRANT: Yoo! We just saw – I just saw something about G5. Now, this is the exit hole, guys. That's the exit hole at 30 yards. That's the G5 Deadmeat that brought some meat home today.
GRANT: When you're seeing a lot of bucks, seeing scrapes, folks, not a lot of does are receptive yet. When does are real receptive, bucks are not gonna mess around with scrapes. They're going right for the doe.
GRANT: This past weekend was youth season in Missouri. I was really excited because of the weather and a little sad because this is the last year one of my daughters is young enough to be in youth season. Rae is 15 and won't qualify as a youth hunter next year.
GRANT: (Whispering) In along the rock bluff about 150 yards that side.
RAE: (Whispering) It is the 29th of October and the second day of youth season. We're out here a little bit later today because yesterday we saw the deer later on, and we figured why not sleep in today. So, we slept in, came out later. We've already seen about eight deer so far. So, that's a great start, and hopefully we'll see even more.
GRANT: It was cold Saturday morning and we saw tons of deer.
GRANT: We even saw several nice three-year-old bucks either cruising or chasing does.
RAE: (Whispering) Oh, there's a doe right there. He's chasing.
GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
RAE: (Whispering) Here (Inaudible)…
GRANT: Rae had opportunities but she gave these three-year-olds a pass as she wants to hold out and tag a buck larger than she's tagged during past years.
GRANT: This goal is self-imposed by Rae but I'm okay with it because it gives me more hours to share hunting time with her.
GRANT: That afternoon I needed to assist my parents a little bit, so Rae and Daniel headed to one of our larger food plots. We call it Crab Apple.
RAE: It's October 28th. I'm in the first day of youth season. I went out this morning, and we saw 25 deer and a couple of good bucks but none that I was really feeling. So, we're coming out tonight. And hopefully we'll see one of the hit list ones and I'll be able to make a good shot.
RAE: It's been pretty cool today and we suspect that deer will be feeding tonight. Hopefully, one of the bigger ones will be feeding as well.
RAE: You said Trip was in this area?
DANIEL: (Quietly) Trip is in this area, Southpaw…
DANIEL: (Quietly) Huck; uh, Louie could show up; a deer we call Prince. There's, there’s a lot of good bucks in the area.
RAE: (Quietly) Solid. I'm good for any of them.
GRANT: Rae and Daniel got settled in and waited to see what would show.
GRANT: As the sun set behind the mountain, several does and fawns entered the plot.
DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
RAE: (Whispering) Earlier this morning.
GRANT: As they watched these deer feed, Daniel peeked out the back window and saw a buck behind the blind.
GRANT: He walked all the way across the field and entered the timber. And a little later, Daniel saw a tree shaking on the edge of the plot.
DANIEL: (Inaudible) Ready? (Inaudible)
RAE: (Whispering) Yes.
GRANT: The large eight-point they had just seen had come through the timber to the edge of the plot and was working a rub.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He's bigger than last year's for sure.
RAE: (Whispering) Oh yeah. A lot of deer are bigger than last year's. But it was a good deer. And I do have a shot with the bow (Inaudible).
RAE: (Whispering) What do you think the probability of me seeing one bigger than him this season is?
GRANT: He left the rub and went to a scrape and went through the full scrape sequence. Rae and Daniel got to see the whole show.
GRANT: This was another three-year-old buck and Rae decided to give him a pass. That day Rae saw two different bucks work two different scrapes. The pre-rut’s a time when bucks are working scrapes the most they will throughout the year. But once more does are receptive, bucks will pretty much ignore scrapes and seek receptive does.
STEFANOFF: Oh, he's heavy.
GRANT: Pro-staffer Daniel Stefanoff from Oklahoma also experienced a great hunt this weekend, but Daniel's hunt actually started months ago when he created a small hidey hole food plot.
GRANT: The project started by clearing brush.
GRANT: After the brush was cleared, Daniel came in and terminated the weeds.
GRANT: The final step was Daniel using a Genesis drill, put in Eagle Seeds Buffalo Blend.
GRANT: As part of his hunting strategy, he cleared a trail from the north to the north end of the plot, so on a south or west wind, he could approach, hunt, and exit without alerting deer.
GRANT: With the odd combination of a strong south wind and a cold front, Daniel knew it was the ideal time to hunt this set up.
GRANT: Daniel's filming partner couldn't join him that day, so he did the hard work of lugging in all the camera gear and his hunting gear and got all set up.
STEFANOFF: (Whispering) It's the afternoon of October 29th. Brandon had to go home, so I'm self-filming tonight. As I was getting set up, I already had a doe and a fawn come in. They left. Maybe they'll come back through. Winds shifted back around out of the south. I walked in a, uh, path that we had cleared from the north; wind in my face. And I'm on the north side of the plot, so. Wind’s steady, blowing right at me, so. Brandon checked cameras down here the other day and we've got a 10-pointer that is just a monster. Hopefully, we're gonna get some deer in this food plot, and (Inaudible) Bloodsport fly tonight on one of these mature bucks. But – I haven't killed anything yet this year. I'm gonna take a doe at my first opportunity.
GRANT: Early during the afternoon, a young buck come to the plot.
GRANT: Eventually, this buck left the plot, and as light was fading, Daniel saw antlers in the timber.
GRANT: It was a buck that had just showed up on his trail cameras a few days earlier.
GRANT: After seeing the trail camera pictures, Daniel knew this buck met his personal management objectives, and he was on the hit list.
GRANT: The buck fed through the plot but never offered Daniel a shot.
GRANT: The buck turned and headed out of the plot.
GRANT: Daniel wisely grabbed his Messenger grunt call and grunted at the buck.
GRANT: The buck immediately stopped – apparently looking for the grunt of a buck tending a doe.
GRANT: Daniel grunted again; the buck turned and came to the sound.
GRANT: As the buck worked his way back into the plot, he stopped and worked a scrape. Daniel was getting the full show of pre-rut behavior.
GRANT: During the excitement of seeing a shooter buck in front of him, the buck walked out of frame of the camera.
GRANT: After his shot, Daniel quickly got the camera back on the buck, but there was no need to hurry because the buck never made it out of the plot.
STEFANOFF: (Whispering) Oh yes. Oh yeah, good.
STEFANOFF: I'm, uh, super excited. This is my first archery buck.
GRANT: Daniel called his brother-in-law, Brandon Pittman, to come help take pictures and load the buck.
STEFANOFF: Unfortunately, I didn't get the, uh, didn’t get the shot on film – just having to self-film – had a whole lot going on. Uh, he was walking off. I ranged him and had to range him again, so. Uh. But, what a cool hunt. I'm so excited about it.
STEFANOFF: I mean he was leaving the plot, and I grunted at him with the Messenger, and he came back, and got to watch him work a scrape. And, and, uh, it was just fantastic. I mean, for your first archery, archery buck, I just cannot imagine it being any sweeter.
STEFANOFF: You can see where I hit him forward. He was walking when I shot. I hit him forward, but when the Deadmeat blew through that shoulder – and we’re gonna have to watch it when we cape him out, ‘cause it's just trying to come out the other shoulder. That thing is devastating. Look at that wound.
GRANT: After the celebration, they loaded it into the Yamaha, took it back to the shed.
GRANT: I'm extremely excited for Daniel. Daniel is a personal friend of mine and only started hunting about four years ago. He's obviously a quick learner and has really dove in – not only to study hunting strategies but habitat management. And, Daniel, your work has certainly paid off. Congratulations on a great hunt.
GRANT: Daniel put more time into scouting the location, developing a strategy, and establishing the plot and the entry path, than he’s going to hunt but that's often what it takes to be successful.
GRANT: Most of us will be spending time hunting this month but let's not get too busy to slow down and enjoy Creation. And most importantly, take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to us. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.