Grant's Blog

Thoughts from the field

Hunting Free Ranging Whitetails: Sharing Isn’t Always Easy

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,


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Shifting Deer Hunting Strategies With The Rut

Over the past few weeks scrapes have played an important role in the Team‘s hunting arsenal. In a recent episode, GDTV #257, we discussed what scrapes are and how to use them for hunting the pre-rut. Even though bucks will continue to use scrapes throughout the season it will be less frequent and with no distinguishable pattern. As the first does enter estrus, bucks begin to focus on does. Scrapes are no longer the primary focus of our hunting.

A mature buck checks out a mock scrape.

This mock scrape is at the end of a travel corridor. Bucks still check it out but it’s not as active as it was before a high percentage of the mature does in the area became receptive.

Maybe you have already observed does being chased by several small bucks followed by a larger buck. When this occurs, does get tired of constantly being pushed around and will seek out shelter. Time to shift focus and hunt stands that are near or overlooking areas of dense cover, like a thicket or a clear cut overgrown with saplings. The goal is to catch a buck searching for a doe that has or will take refuge in the cover. You can see how Grant put this strategy to use in episode #157.

In addition to hunting cover, our other preference this time of the year is travel corridors. Travel corridors are areas that deer prefer to use as they travel to their destination. These corridors tend to be paths of least resistance for deer and usually allow deer to move in relation to the wind. We know that does will be using these areas and that bucks will follow.

We also know that now is the prime time. As every day passes more does will become receptive. This means bucks will not have to look as hard for a date, and buck movement will decrease. When that happens, it will be time to shift hunting strategies once again!

I hope you get the opportunity to experience this exciting time of the season.

Managing whitetails with you,

Daniel Mallette

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Easy Crock-Pot Venison BBQ: 4 Ingredients

Crock-Pot BBQ made with venison ball roast.

This is a Woods family favorite: 4 ingredient BBQ venison.

Are you a fan of BBQ? If you are, you might be like us and when we go to a new city or region of the country we stop in and check out how they cook their BBQ. Memphis and Kansas City are famous for their BBQ! It’s good stuff – but not as good as the BBQ from my home state of North Carolina – specifically chopped pork BBQ from the annual BBQ fundraiser in Unionville, NC . If you are in the area this Friday, November 7th, you should get over there and get some. Make sure you try their Brunswick Stew. It’s the best anywhere!

When you have a freezer full of venison but want the taste of BBQ, what do you do? You cook venison BBQ of course! Many folks are great at smoking venison and making a tasty meal. I’ve never developed the skill or patience in that area. As a busy working mom, I’ve had to look for a short-cut. I’ve found that in my trusty Crock-Pot!
For years I felt that the ball roast (also called sirloin tip roast, round roast, or ball tip roast) was one of the least desirable cuts to cook. It is ribboned with connective tissue that makes it a little tough and chewy. Using the Crock-Pot slow cooker method and then chopping the meat up eliminates the negatives of this cut.
Here is a simple, easy, and quick recipe for making venison BBQ that is a staple around the Woods home throughout the year. It freezes well so don’t be afraid to make a bunch!

Do you have a different way to make venison BBQ? If so, please share it on our facebook page! Enjoy!


Crock-Pot Venison BBQ


  • 2 venison ball roasts (remove white/silver connective tissue that surrounds the “ball”)
  • 1 large bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce
  • 32 oz. carton beef broth
  • 12 oz. dark cola


Put all ingredients into the Crock-Pot and cook on low for 10 – 12 hours. (This recipe is so forgiving that longer cooking will only add more tenderness.) Remove the meat to a cutting board and coarsely chop. If you like “wet” BBQ slowly add and stir the cooking liquid into the chopped meat suitable to your preference. If you like a stronger BBQ flavor, add bottled BBQ sauce to the chopped meat.

Easy bonus meal: Make a BBQ soup from the remaining “broth” in the Crock-Pot. Add whatever veggies you want to the base to make your own tasty soup!  I usually add a bag of frozen mixed vegetables, 1/2 cup frozen diced onion, 2-3 14.5 oz. can broth, 2-3 can diced tomatoes, a 1/2 tsp of garlic powder  and 1 cup chopped venison. Cook until the vegetables are tender.

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When Acorns Have Gone Bad

White-tailed deer have been eating acorns since both deer and acorns existed. Acorns are a huge amount of a deer’s diet, but there are different variables that can help you determine what type of acorn is the preferred food source. Knowing the time of year, previous rainfall, and daily temperatures can all play into making you a successful hunter this fall.

Sprouting acorns

Deer usually do not consume sprouting acorns.

Hunting acorns is a huge part of our hunting strategy here at The Proving Grounds. Grant and I spend a lot of time talking about acorns, scouting for them, observing feeding habits of other animals, and trying to understand the acorn status for our current hunting situation. Late this summer we realized that most of our oak trees had a high amount of acorns. This included both red oaks and white oaks. You can hear Grant discuss the difference in episode #139, Antlers at Dusk. In summary of that episode, we generally hunt white oaks during the early to mid season and focus more on red oaks during the late season. White oak acorns aren’t as “hardy” as red oak acorns, so during years with lots of rain and warmer temperatures acorns that have already fallen tend to start sprouting or spoil. This “spoiling” will cause the deer to stop feeding on them as heavily and the deer will transition to another food source.

What is that other food source? That could be a green food plot, soybeans, a corn field, or another area of acorns. This past week I started noticing a transition of squirrels feeding on typical White Oak acorns to post oak acorns, which are also in the white oak family, but from a different variety of tree. Post oak acorns are generally smaller and harder than a typical White Oak acorn, but the deer still love them. In southern Missouri the post oak acorns tend to fall slightly later than the typical White Oak acorns so we’ll be keeping a close eye on the post oak trees. If post oak acorns become the main food source, it will not only shift our hunting strategy, but also change which areas we hunt the most.

Knowing the preferred food source is critical to hunting success. By finding the main food source, especially this time of year, we find the does, which also means finding those rut-crazed bucks!

Get out this week and enjoy this beautiful time of year!

Daydreaming of Whitetails,


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