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Grant's Blog

Thoughts from the field

Identifying A Late Season Problem

A tree stand with a great backdrop

This tree stand has a great backdrop. Notice how little sunlight is directly behind the stand.

It is crunch time at The Proving Grounds. Missouri’s 10 day alternative methods season begins this weekend and there is less than a month left of archery season. Are you feeling the pressure to fill your remaining tags? This time of the year can be an exciting time to hunt but can also be a dangerous time to assume that the stands you hunted earlier in the season are still their best.

A couple of days ago, Adam and I hung two new Muddy stands. At both locations the same question came up, “What will our backdrop look like in this tree?” Because most of the leaves have fallen, it was very difficult to find a tree that we felt had enough cover to conceal us where we would not be skylined by deer.

Are you hunting a stand that you have hunted all season? Now that the leaves have fallen, you could be exposed and easy for a deer to spot. This can be devastating to a hunt. If there is nothing behind you, between you and the sky, it can be very easy for deer to pick up on your shape or the slightest movement.

Take the time to reevaluate your stands. You may need to attach branches behind your stand to help break up your figure or even move the stand. The little details can be the determining factor when you try to fill those remaining tags this season.

Managing whitetails with you,

Daniel Mallette

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The Dwindling Of Two Face

Every whitetail hunter has experienced being unsuccessful and spent the off season wishing he could have changed his tactics and been more successful. However there is a silver lining, if the buck isn’t killed by natural causes or by a neighboring hunter, you will be able to watch his growth change from year to year.

During the 2010 season there was a buck at The Proving Grounds, “Last Lick Big 10.” He was a giant buck for this part of the world. He showed all the signs of being mature, but he lived on a part of the farm where cameras had just started being used so his exact age was unknown. In 2011 “Last Lick Big 10” was back, but slightly smaller than he was the year before.

A nine or ten year old buck, Two Face.

Over the last five years Two Face has lost several inches in antler but gained lots of character!

In 2012 “Last Lick Big 10” disappeared. During the middle of November we had a new buck show up that had a strange looking set of antlers. One side had five points with tines no longer than seven inches, while the other side had four points with tines nearly ten inches long. We joked that if you found his sheds you would believe it to be from different bucks, so we named him “Two Face.”

During the following year of 2013, Two Face showed up on camera as a massive ten point with kickers at the bases of both antlers. He was a cool looking buck, but what made him show more character was his light colored face. His forehead was almost white and his back had scars all over it, most likely from fighting.

During the off season this year I was looking through Reconyx cards and watched Two Face visit a Trophy Rock. He didn’t have antlers but our history is so strong I recognized him even without antlers. After years of running these hills and surviving predators and hunters, Two Face looks as old as the trees we hunt him out of. It was during this time I realized who he was. Two Face had decreased so much in antler size that at first I didn’t realize he is most likely “Last Lick Big 10.” They live in the same area; both have an ear notch in their left ear; and both have very similar antler dimensions. After studying all the photos we’re very confident they’re the same buck. That would make Two Face nine or ten years old!

Watching Two Face over the years has been bittersweet. We’ve lost many battles with him in the game of hunting, but we’ve won by getting to watch such a magnificent buck live his life at The Proving Grounds. Two Face has been a great reminder to me that it’s not always about harvesting a deer but also the pursuit and the memories made along the way. Daydreaming of Whitetails, Adam

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Creating A Great Late Season Deer Hunt

It’s that time of the year again. The peak of the rut has passed in most parts of the country and as winter knocks at our door, the acorns have been picked through making the deer work harder searching for food. This is when winter food sources become hunting hot spots. Last week Adam shared that our hunting tactic for tagging a hit list buck is to pattern doe fawns, especially those feeding in food plots. Knowing this pattern would occur, we began making a plan this summer for late season hunting.

A small plot of standing soybeans opened for hungry deer.

A small plot of standing soybeans opened for hungry deer.

Soon after planting, the GrowingDeer Team placed Hot Zone electric fences around several different portions of soybean plots at The Proving Grounds. The unfenced areas have experienced heavy browse, but the beans inside the fence have remained relatively untouched. This has saved a high quality food source to help the local herd through the winter months. In doing this, we have also created a great late season hunting setup.

We have recently opened small portions of the fencing at these plots, creating funnels. Like most animals deer tend to take the path of least resistance, especially when it comes to getting to the dinner table (this probably applies to us humans as well!). It won’t be long before deer figure out the subtle change and begin to pour into the standing beans. This is exciting for us because these larger fields, that were hard to hunt earlier in the year, now have smaller area for feeding which brings deer within range of our stands.

As we continue to use our Reconyx cameras, we will be watching for patterns of doe fawns that are taking advantage of the now easily accessible food, with the expectations that a mature buck could be right behind her. We look forward to the next few weeks. I hope you find the chance to get into the woods this time of the year and experience a great late season hunt.

Managing whitetails with you,

Daniel Mallette

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The Second Rut: Strategies To Be Successful

Late November and early December can be a difficult time for deer hunters, but understanding deer biology can help you tag a late season buck!

Grant tagged the buck, the Trashman, during a late December hunt

Grant poses with “The Trashman,” a mature buck that was harvested when he was following a receptive doe fawn.

Trying to pattern deer, especially mature bucks during late November and early January is tough. By this time of year the deer have usually felt a high amount of hunting pressure. We know what pressured deer do don’t we? They become nocturnal. Nocturnal deer are very hard to hunt, but lucky for us nocturnal deer will still chase receptive does, even during daylight!

Over the next couple of weeks, doe fawns will be reaching the body weights of approximately 70 pounds. When they reach this weight they will begin puberty and become receptive. Unlike a mature doe who seeks shelter upon becoming receptive, doe fawns go about their normal routine. That routine may consist of bedding in a clear cut during the day or going to a food plot an hour before dark every afternoon. If this is the case, there is a good chance a buck will make an appearance at that food plot during daylight hours.

Game Plan: With our Reconyx cameras placed over most of our food plots on time lapse mode, we will monitor the fields for daylight activity. Next, we’ll search for patterns of doe fawns frequenting the plots. Once we find the fawns, we’ll move in and hope for a mature buck to make his appearance. Grant and I had a great hunt using this same strategy a couple years back as he tagged a nice buck we called “The Trashman.”

Finding the preferred food source during the late season is one thing. Finding the preferred food source with a receptive doe fawn will most likely lead to a very exciting night in the stand. Be sure that you’re not overlooking the doe fawns in your area; they may be the lure that helps you harvest your number one hit list buck.

Daydreaming of Whitetails,

Adam

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