Thoughts From The Field

Blog posts by the team

Stressed Out!

Without a shadow of a doubt, the rut is an extremely stressful period for white tail deer, especially bucks. Bucks are on their feet traveling miles each day in search of receptive does. In addition to this, bucks commonly fight during this time of year. A large amount of energy is used during events like this. These types of activities begin to wear down the physical characteristics of bucks specifically. We commonly see from hunting observations and Reconyx trail camera photos drastic weight loss, leg injuries, blindness, and scars across their bodies.

As land managers we can be proactive and provide quality forage that will help bucks recover weight losses that occur during the rut. As soon as the post-rut ends there is a large push for a protein and carbohydrate rich diet to regain weight and energy that will help get them through the winter months. We plant Eagle Seeds Broadside in our plots to provide the quality forage during the fall and winter. In addition, these plots make great hunting locations!

Growing Deer together,


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Transitioning Deer Behavior Means Changing Tactics

Across most of the whitetails range firearms seasons have begun. Here in Missouri we are right in the middle of gun season. We have been hunting hard and pulling cameras cards but have not seen a lot of chasing activity. With these observations from the Summit Stands and Reconyx cameras we tend to classify this time of the rut as the lockdown phase. This simply means buck movement has slowed down as they are tending does until they are bred. Does are receptive for a 24 – 48 hour period. Any given buck may be locked down for that amount of time before he goes in search of another doe. With most does being receptive it may not take long to find the next doe that may lock a buck down for another extended period of time.

This may seem as a dim outlook for hunters who are afield this week. However, this doesn’t last long. As we enter into the later part of November bucks tend to get back on their feet, moving heavily in search of the remaining receptive does. Sometimes this post-rut activity can be very intense as bucks are desperate to find does. As the rut progresses there are less and less receptive does, making it potentially difficult to find them. To help the search for receptive does, scraping activity increases drastically during this period!

To take advantage of this shift in behavior, we will soon be focusing our efforts on hunting scrapes and travel corridors again, a similar strategy to our pre-rut tactics. The deer behavior and movement is similar, so we will hunt similarly. Our Reconyx cameras are still on scrapes, so as soon as they begin to light up we will be close by! In addition to hunting these scrapes we will be keeping an eye on our Eagle Seed Broadside plots. Temperatures are forecasted to drop so does will be in search of quality food increasing the chances of drawing a mature buck into the plots!

Chasing whitetails together,


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Hunting The Rut: The Lockdown Phase

Buck cruising through Kansas during the lockdown rut phase

While hunting in Kansas was saw the nice looking buck.

Adam and I are rolling back to The Proving Grounds from our trip to Kansas. We hunted hard for six days with lots of deer activity seen throughout the week. If you have been out in the woods, you may be experiencing much of the same. Unfortunately, we are returning without a mature buck in the truck despite hunting on some great ground in early to mid-November.

Most of the deer activity we saw was does slipping through the timber in an attempt to hide from pesky bucks or young bucks cruising with their noses on the ground. This action was quite intense and kept us on our toes. However, this action was also draining! At this time of the year bucks are starting to become locked down with does. Does are receptive for a 24 to 48 hour period. During this time bucks will stay close to the receptive doe and not leave her until she is bred, making this a potentially tough time to hunt since bucks aren’t up and moving as much as the chase phase.

In an instant, the mature buck can bred his doe that has kept him locked down and move on in search of another. When this occurs it can make putting in lots of time in a Summit Stand pay off in a big way. However, when the weather is unseasonably warm like this past week in Kansas and bucks are locked down with does, the hunting suddenly becomes much tougher. Does do not move as much because of the weather and the mature buck movement will decrease as well.

Despite the lockdown phase of the rut and warmer temperatures, the morning and late afternoon action, when temperatures were the lowest, kept us entertained. If you are finding yourself putting in lots of time in the stand recently, hang in there! Action from a hit list buck can come your way in an instant. Remember that does are seeking refuge from bucks, so key in to the areas with thick cover. Does will be bedding in the escape cover and in a matter of time, so will the bucks!

Chasing whitetails together,


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After The Shot: Venison

At this time of year we frequently are asked questions related to how to handle a deer after harvest. Answering these questions can cause a bit of controversy because the way we process our deer after harvest is different from the way many hunters have traditionally been taught. Each region of the country has different methods on how they age and store their venison. What we do works for us, is simple, inexpensive, and provides good quality meat.

The basic answer to the “how long” and at “what temperature” questions is to remind hunters to use common sense. If you’re hunting in the southern portion of the United States on a warm day (70 degrees or higher) you don’t want to leave the deer in the heat and sunlight for very long. Hunters harvesting deer in colder climates will have a longer window before having to worry about getting the deer field dressed and in the cooler. In colder regions hunters have to worry that their deer might freeze in the field, which means the meat will not spoil but freezing may toughen it up.

We don’t field dress our deer. There are three reasons for this: we are close to our “skinning shed” so there is minimal time added for transport after harvest; cleanliness – this eliminates any concerns over the exposed meat getting dirt or debris on it in the field; and the need to collect “data” on the deer. After retrieving the deer we bring it back to the shop for weighing. We have a wench that pulls the deer up on a hanging scale. The weight of the deer is part of the data collection that is used to analyze the health of our local deer herd. (After all, Dr. Woods is a wildlife biologist. Gathering data is as critical to him as actually harvesting the deer!) To learn more about the data that Dr. Woods likes to have collected, click HERE.

After weighing the deer it is eviscerated using the technique shown in this video. There is a plastic tub (gut bucket) placed below the deer so that the innards can be cutaway and dropped cleanly into the tub. During this process it is important to pay attention to sanitation – keep your knife clean, try not to bust the rumen or intestines, etc.The next step is to skin the deer to get to the meat. Here’s a video where you can see the guys in the process of skinning one out.

If you’ve harvested a trophy buck and want to cape it out we have a good instructional segment that begins at the five minute mark in this video.

Removing the meat is the next step. We cut out each individual muscle which is very easy and makes for better tasting meat. Watch this video to see the step by step process.

After removal, we store the meat on ice in clean coolers for up to four days. The length of time to keep it on ice is arbitrary. We do not attempt to age the deer meat. It’s just not practical given that we do not have a walk-in cooler or second refrigerator. Nor do we think the meat is improved by aging. The Clemson University Extension explains it well: “Do not age any game carcass if it was shot during warm weather and not chilled rapidly, if the animal was severely stressed prior to the kill, if gunshot areas are extensive, or if the animal was under 1 year of age. Aging is not recommended for carcasses with little or no fat covering because they may dry out during aging, and are more susceptible to deterioration through microbial growth. If the meat will be ground into sausage, aging is unnecessary.”

Next, we bring the meat into the kitchen for further processing: removing the fat and connective tissue (the long streaks of white/silvery tissue running in and around the various muscle meat groups). The connective tissue is one of the primary culprits that make wild game tough or have an unpleasant “gamey” taste.

Once the connective tissue is removed, it’s easy to further process the meat into steaks or put it into the grinder. The final step is vacuum packaging the venison. Many years ago we wrapped the venison in butcher/freezer paper but found that it would often get freezer burn after 8 months. With vacuum packaging we rarely have any issues with freezer burn.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension has produced a well thought out guide for hunters at this link. It is one of the best we’ve seen on the subject. I strongly encourage you to click through, read, and print it out for future reference.

No matter where you are or how you choose to process your deer meat, please make sure to follow basic sanitation and food safety practices. Remember, after the shot – it becomes meat for the table!

Growing (and eating) Deer,

Tracy Woods

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