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WOODS: Well, I want to introduce you to my rifle season hunt for the year 2009 at the Proving Grounds.
The Proving Grounds, of course, is where I live, next to Branson, Missouri. We call it The Proving Grounds because it’s so rough and rocky and hilly, elevation changes 400 feet seven times. We can’t disk anything. It’s really too rocky. Basically, if any management technique will work here, it would probably work anywhere.
For my rifle season hunt in 2009, my objective was a mature buck, four and a half years old or older. Antler size is irrelevant. If you’ve got 34 neighbors like I do here at The Proving Grounds and all the things going against you, getting a deer four and a half years old and older is a huge success story, irregardless of Boone and Crockett score.
WOODS: Brad and I had selected a stand for this day that’s facing southeast. A front had just passed and we had a southeast wind coming in and hitting us right on the nose. We’re overlooking the food plot where there were previously beans and we mowed some of them down. You’ll see some beans in the background. Now we’ve got our wheat, clover, brassica blend in front of us. But more importantly, it’s a travel corridor. We’re just off the side of what we call an elevator ridge. Elevator ridge simply goes from a low land to a higher area. It’s an easy, or path of least resistance, for a deer to travel. So we’re placed on the northwest side of an elevator ridge with a southeast wind, sun coming up.
WOODS: (Whispering) Sun rise at November 19th. Beautiful day. A front has passed during the night. We’ve got the wind in our face and we expect a deer to be coming from this way. There’s some big feeding fields in the bottom. And they're coming up here to bed. There’s some bedding areas prepared behind us. So, we’ve got the wind in our face and the deer moving to us, we think, so it should be a great morning.
WOODS: And not too long after we heard some deer grunting and walking way behind the stand in the woods. We were watching this food plot and a bedding area right behind us and the deer apparently were in the bedding area and somebody chased them out, but we had two button bucks. Two six-month old males and a six-month old female and a yearling buck; a six pointer come up and mill around for a long time. The yearling six-point buck, he’s chasing this young female fawn around that apparently was receptive.
WOODS: I’m watching, watching and finally, about 50 yards away, I saw some more movement and caught an antler glint in the trees (music).
WOODS: Man, what a morning we had. It was just awesome. Beautiful sunrise, fog off in the valley, over the creek. We, you know, had deer in front of us, couldn’t move much. And I told the cameraman, Brad, I said, “Brad, just stay on the deer here,” because they were scraping and using the mineral lick and walking in front of our Reconyx camera and not spooking at all. I mean, just all kinds of great information going on in front of us. Stayed on him and we’re watching, watching. And finally, this guy appeared. What I’m guessing on a field age, three and a half year-old buck. I, I’ve looked at his body and, or course, ran my finger on his teeth and looked in there the best you can without cutting it. This three and a half year-old seven pointer came out that had a busted up back leg. A deer with a busted up back leg, seven point three year-old, that’s a mature animal, and a deer I’d rather harvest and let that yearling six pointer eat more and grow. He’s off to a great start in life. And let this boy here, go in our freezer and stop consuming groceries out here where deer with a little bit more potential eat. That’s not saying culling. Culling is something totally different. This was an individual selection. I made a choice of letting that great yearling grow and express his potential and remove this deer from the herd for my family’s freezer and the enjoyment of the hunt.
Just a tremendous morning. So, we’re guessing he’s three and a half. We’ll know pretty soon. Basal circumference is a good indicator of age and if it’s bigger than the eyes, you can see it is. It’s usually three and a half. It’s got a little bit of a buffalo shape going on and that busted up leg sealed the deal.
WOODS: So, at the end of the hunt, we’ve got a great three and a half year-old buck, not our target four year-old, but a three and a half-year old that clearly had a broken leg at some point in the past, had a current infection and at three and a half-years old, he’s only displaying seven points. Now we know that antler shape and size can change with age, but by three and a half, they're usually a representation of what they’ve got going for the future. And I made the choice to take the mouth out that was not showing as much potential and leave the other mouth out there, consuming forage and passing on his genetics that’s showing huge potential. Remember, one deer does not change the genetics of any deer herd. But when a hunter is faced with a choice, just put the odds in your favor. It was a great hunt; great meat for the freezer; great memories.
WOODS: Thanks for joining us on GrowingDeer.tv.