The End of a Great Story for A Hit List Buck

By GrowingDeer,

big white-tailed buck Moose standing in Eagle Seed beans in summer

Last summer (August 26th), Clay filmed this buck named “Moose” at the Crabapple food plot of Eagle Seed Forage Soybeans. This was the last encounter we had of Moose during the summer. Moose then went MIA (Missing In Action).

Then recently while working a prescribed fire the crew found the remains of this big buck. It’s normal for our team to find deer that died over the winter when we’re in the woods post-season shed hunting, scouting for turkeys, doing prescribed fire and that kind of thing. Moose is one of several bucks we have found this year.  I don’t know if more bucks died than normal or we simply found more than normal. Fortunately we have excellent numbers of older age class bucks!

In this video from the field, Daniel shares more thoughts on finding this buck.


A Plan for Improving the Hunting on 50 Acres of Hardwood Timber

By GrowingDeer,

Recently Daniel traveled 2 hours northeast of The Proving Grounds to assist a landowner with his habitat and hunting improvement plan. This 50 acre property was primarily a hardwood timber which made it difficult to pattern and hunt deer, especially during years with high acorn production.

This 50 acre parcel is all hardwoods

Daniel designed several food plots that would create multiple pinch points and hunting locations. This plan allows hunters to be able to hunt the food plots when deer are seeking forage there.

When deer are seeking acorns or moving through the property to reach a different destination, hunters can effectively hunt the pinch points around the edges of the plots.

OnX map with future food plots marked out


Daniel also laid out several walking paths, so the landowner can effectively enter, hunt and exit a hunting location without alerting deer.

Having multiple pinch points and access trails gives this landowner hunting locations for any wind direction.

OnX map marked with food plots and trails for access


We look forward to hearing about the progress of this project and suspect this landowner and his family will enjoy many successful hunts!

Managing Timber Harvest With Future Deer Hunts in Mind

By GrowingDeer,

We recently worked on a property in Northern Missouri. The landowner had portions of the property logged a few years ago. Critters are spending lots of time in those areas, but there are several things we needed to change. We made several changes to the current management system, and will change the way timber is harvested from this property in the future! You can view this entire management plan on a future episode of GrowingDeer!

Keeping Tabs On Toms: Trail Cameras

By GrowingDeer,

It may seem early, but we’re already keeping tabs on these toms! This interior road is often walked by toms during the spring, as they move up and down the ridge. This string of longbeards is keeping to the pattern of years past. Trail cameras are great tools for learning turkey movements (scouting) during the spring then hunting these patterns once the season opens!


The Best Places to Hunt for Shed Antlers

By GrowingDeer,

It’s that time of the year! Antlers are hitting the ground but where should you start looking?

A great place to start searching is near food and cover.

Here at The Proving Grounds, the Fall Buffalo Blend is providing great late season forage for deer and we have found several sheds in food plots. Intern Nigel Waring recently found this nice shed in a plot while working in the field.

shed antler found in a food plot

Clay recently found a shed in northwest Kansas while touring a property. There was no quality food for deer on this property. Clay found this shed near cover. Deer on this property were spending more time in cover and surviving on native forage.

Antler found near cover in Kansas by Clay O'dell

Tracy frequently has success hunting along known travel corridors and deer trails – especially when the trail is marked by a rub line! The antler below was found in just this scenario.

Antler found on a trail with marked rubs


Deer trails marked with rubs leading to or in bedding areas are an especially good spot to slow down to search for antlers. The same trail where the above antler was found leads to a power line right-of-way.  There were deer beds throughout that area in the native grass. The antler below was found along a trail cutting through that area.

An antler found on a trail near sunset


When in the searching in the timber for antlers, Tracy gives special attention when she finds an area where the deer have been bedding.  The below video shares one of the first finds for the 2020 shed hunting season that was near where deer had been bedding in the timber.


No matter where you shed hunt, identify the best resource in the area this time of the year and start hunting there. It maybe food, cover or both. These are the first places to start and can yield “easy” finds. The next place to look would be travel corridors between food and cover.

When There’s Skull Attached to Shed Antlers

By GrowingDeer,

Below you will see a photo of an antler intern Nigel Waring found while creating a fire break.

two shed antlers one with a clean base other with skull attached

Unfortunately, this antler (shown right) has a large portion of the skull attached to the base. The antler was likely not “shed”, but broken off while sparring, rubbing or during another activity recently.  This was most likely caused by an infection that eroded the skull and became a brain abscess. We suspect this buck has expired from the brain abscess due to the amount of bone found on the antler.

Antlers are shed as a response to chemical changes within a buck’s body. These changes are generally stimulated by changes in the amount of time the sun shines daily. However, within this window, several factors such as available nutrition, general health, and dominance ranking can determine when an individual buck sheds his antlers. For example, deer researchers often mention observing two dominate bucks in captivity fighting during this time of year. The loser will shed his antlers soon (sometimes the next day). It seems hard to imagine that antlers will simply fall off one day due to a change in dominance status (along with hormone levels) but these examples seem to indicate that’s the case. Never underestimate the effects of hormones on all critters!

Antlers for most bucks tend to be shed during the late winter months. However, some bucks will shed earlier due to other factors. Generally speaking, the healthier the herd, the longer bucks will hold their antlers! I like seeing some bucks with antler during Missouri’s turkey season! Bucks healthy enough to hold antlers that late into the winter are an excellent indicator of a healthy deer herd. It also indicates that the habitat is likely good for turkeys also!

The antler shown on the left is one that shed clean and is rounded at the base. Based on these characteristics, this buck (left shed) was likely very healthy when he shed the antler. You can learn a lot by studying antlers/sheds!

To learn more about brain abscesses, watch the next episode coming up Monday on GrowingDeer!

Where are the Deer? Look for the Limited Resource

By GrowingDeer,

I recently received a question from a hunter that wondered why mature bucks weren’t staying on his property. He described his property as 168 acres in central Michigan. There are about 27 acres of corn each year and 6 different small ¼ to 2 acre sized plots planted in various food plot blends.

The property includes 70 acres of hardwoods, mostly maple, and not many oaks. There are lots of apple trees spread around the property. There is a sanctuary area of about 20 acres and there seems to be lots of resident does and fawns.

I shared with the him that buck home range size varies based on the quality of habitat and many other factors. Based on lots of research throughout the whitetail’s range it is common for bucks to have a home range of more than 640 acres (a square mile).

A very important consideration to determine why bucks may not be spending more time on the property is what resources are available there versus on the neighboring properties during the hunting season. This could be as simple as where standing corn is located and, just as importantly, where the hunting pressure is the lowest.  A 20-acre sanctuary equals 1/8th of the property. If deer have to run a gauntlet of hunting pressure to get to the sanctuary or human scent frequently blows through most of the sanctuary then deer will likely seek cover elsewhere.

So – if this property is in the middle of a heavily timbered area I suspect that food plots would be a major attraction – a limited resource. If the property is surrounded by similar habitat with ample quality forage readily available, then hunting pressure/security cover may be the most limiting factor and where bucks spend most of their time during daylight.

I always consider what deer need then work to ensure that the most limited resource (food, cover, water, security) is available where I can hunt.  Taking time to determine which resources are available where and which resources are missing, especially during the hunting season, is a great tool to making a great hunting property!

Enjoy Creation,


Old Buck? Not Sure? Look at the Chest

By GrowingDeer,

A friend from Michigan recently asked for help aging this buck. To accurately estimate deer age knowing the location and quality of habitat where the deer lives is helpful. It makes a big difference if the deer has been making a living eating soybeans or woody browse.

In general, this buck’s neck merges high on his chest – well above the brisket. His antler bases are relatively small and his shoulders and hams don’t appear to be fully developed. If this buck makes a living in timber habitat, I estimate he’s two. He could be a yearling if he’s been feeding on soybeans all summer.

My advice to deer hunters that wish to tag a mature buck and are faced with a quick shoot or pass decision is to focus on the buck’s chest. A mature buck’s chest will be developed and their body will have a buffalo shape. That is to say their chest will be larger than their ham. The buffalo shape is an accurate indicator that a buck is mature and is fairly easy to accurately assess in a shoot or pass hunting situation.

Enjoy Creation,