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>> GRANT: Both of my daughters, Raleigh and Rae, returned home from college to hunt during Missouri’s opening weekend of firearms season.

>> GRANT: Good shooting.

>> GRANT: I never forced my daughters to hunt at a young age. We’d go just as much as they want and come home when they were cold, tired or bored. And I believe that strategy resulted in them really enjoying the outdoors and hunting. Hunting is one of their favorite ways to get outside and enjoy Creation.

>> GRANT: Of course, I was excited to see my daughters when they returned from college and they were excited to get outside, jump in a blind and start hunting.

>> GRANT: Opening day of firearms season here in the Ozark Mountains was cloudy and rainy.

>> GRANT: Raleigh hoped to catch a buck moving during the light showers or in between the heavier showers.

>> GRANT: Raleigh and Daniel were hunting in a Redneck blind at the north end of a food plot we call Crabapple.

>> GRANT: Long term GrowingDeer viewers know that Raleigh has had a lot of success hunting the Crabapple food plot.

>> GRANT: A few years ago, Raleigh tagged a five-year-old buck we called Gumby from that plot during opening day.

>> GRANT: Awesome.

>> GRANT: The following season, Raleigh used her Winchester again to tag a nice, wide eight-pointer.

>> GRANT: This year the hunting conditions weren’t quite as favorable as we received three-quarters of an inch of rain opening day.

>> GRANT: They saw several deer between the rain showers, but Raleigh was holding out for a mature buck.

>> GRANT: Several other areas throughout Missouri also received a lot of rain during opening day. In fact, the Missouri Department of Conservation put out a press release saying that the deer harvest during the opening weekend was down significantly compared to the previous year.

>> GRANT: I believe that the rain during opening day, combined with a large acorn crop resulted in the declined harvest throughout the state.

>> GRANT: Raleigh still had a tag in her pocket after opening day and we knew, based on trail cameras, there were several good bucks using the area around Crabapple.

>> GRANT: During November 2017, an unknown buck, or a bonus buck, showed up on our Reconyx cameras. This buck seemed to be active at the northern end of our property, showing up on several cameras in that area.

>> GRANT: When we started getting pictures of that buck again in 2018, he was in a bachelor group with a buck we called Louie. Louie was an impressive buck, and it seemed this buck was always in Louie’s shadow. And that’s why we called this buck Shadow.

>> GRANT: During the fall, once this buck broke off the bachelor group, he started hitting several of our Code Blue scrapes.

>> GRANT: One of the scrapes that Shadow frequented is on the Cave Ridge powerline.

>> GRANT: Like the year before, Shadow seemed to be most active at the northern end of The Proving Grounds.

>> GRANT: During 2019, we had a lot of photos of Shadow using the same area he had used during the previous two years.

>> GRANT: On October 21st, he worked a scrape in the Rifle Range food plot and then on November 14th, he worked a Code Blue scrape right above it on the Cave Ridge powerline.

>> GRANT: When Shadow showed up this past summer, he was an impressive looking buck and he had added several kicker points.

>> GRANT: Deer antlers are like human skin. Boy, when they’re young, they’re almost always perfect – both antlers and skin. But as they mature, there’s more deformities. And in deer antlers this shows up as non-typical points.

>> GRANT: Shadow was very active around the Crabapple food plot which is just east of the Rifle Range food plot and just below the Cave Ridge powerline – all areas he’s been active in years past.

>> GRANT: When you consider the Reconyx locations where Shadow has been active the past three years, it points out that this is the core area of his home range during the fall.

>> GRANT: Deer tend to have core areas within their home range. And these core areas can shift throughout the year based on the resources they are seeking. But they tend to use the same core areas at the same time each year.

>> GRANT: It’s important to remember that the primary motivation for a deer above all else is survival. And that means they learn where the best sources of food, water and security cover are within their range.

>> GRANT: As they mature, deer likely master how the thermals work in their area; where the coyotes like to hunt. And research clearly shows they can learn where hunters frequent. And this determines how deer move through their home area.

>> GRANT: Typically, a buck’s core area size decreases as they mature. And that’s likely because they master how to move effectively throughout their core area and get the resources they need while avoiding predators, both two-legged and four-legged.

>> GRANT: Knowing that Shadow was active in the same core area during the fall that he had been during the past couple of years, we had to wonder if we could put together a strategy that would allow someone on the GrowingDeer Team to tag this great buck.

>> ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also by Reconyx, Eagle Seed, Winchester, Avian-X Decoys, LaCrosse Footwear, Thlete Outdoor Apparel, Morrell Targets, Bog, Hook’s Custom Calls, Summit Treestands, RTP Outdoors, Yamaha, Fourth Arrow, onX Hunt, Scorpion Venom Archery, Case IH Tractors, Burris Optics, Bloodsport Arrows, Code Blue, D/Code, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.

>> GRANT: During the second afternoon of Missouri’s firearm deer season, Raleigh and Daniel decided to hunt the Rifle Range food plot which is just west of the Crabapple plot.

>> GRANT: There was a west wind that afternoon and a Redneck blind on the east end of the Rifle Range plot. So Raleigh and Daniel could approach the blind and hunt without likely alerting deer in that area.

>> GRANT: In addition to all these factors, Raleigh and Daniel were likely in the center of Shadow’s core area.

>> GRANT: The Rifle Range food plot is in a long, narrow valley between two hardwood ridges. This is an excellent location, especially during the rut when there are acorns, as deer tend to cross from one ridge to the other.

>> GRANT: When hunting a location like this during the rut, I’m not as focused on the food plot or the food source as I am being in a travel corridor and being able to see a long distance. Bucks are going to be traveling. They may not necessarily be on an exact trail and being able to see a long distance allows me a much better opportunity to connect with a buck.

>> GRANT: Raleigh loaded her Winchester with Dear Season XP ammo and was ready to start the hunt.

>> GRANT: It was a sunny afternoon, but nice and cool in the valley.

>> RALEIGH: Well, it’s day two of opening weekend here in Missouri. We got skunked yesterday and I didn’t go out this morning because I had some class work to finish up. But this evening, Daniel and I are out here in Rifle Range. We’ve got two ridges. And with acorns on both sides, we’ve got a lot of good bucks in the areas. So, hoping something good comes through.

>> GRANT: Around 4:30 that afternoon, Raleigh and Daniel thought they heard a deer walking on the Cave Ridge.

>> GRANT: As it got closer, they got ready not knowing if it was a buck or a doe.

>> GRANT: It was Shadow.

>> RALEIGH: [Whispering] He’s bloody.

>> DANIEL: [Whispering] That’s Shadow, Raleigh. That’s Shadow.

>> DANIEL: [Whispering] Go down, baby. Go down.

>> RALEIGH: [Whispering] Oh yeah. Come on, come on.

>> DANIEL: [Whispering] Oh, he’s going down, Raleigh.

>> RALEIGH: [Whispering] Oh yeah. Whoo!

>> DANIEL: [Whispering] Yes! That’s a great buck. Old Shadow.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah. That was so fun.

>> DANIEL: I’m shaking.

>> RALEIGH: I am too. Like it didn’t hit me until after. I was like, okay. Because normally, like, normally it’s just like, oh, there’s a bunch of does. Great. And I didn’t see him. Like, I could hear it coming. But I couldn’t really put a – like a spot on, like, where on my right side it was. So, I was thinking behind the blind. And it like honed in. Just popped out. And I’m like, “Okay. Nice. Here we go.” That was so fast.

>> DANIEL: Let’s see, what time it – it’s like…

>> RALEIGH: It’s not even…

>> DANIEL: It’s four, 4:45.

>> RALEIGH: We’ve got 30 minutes of light.

>> DANIEL: Thirty minutes before light. And he did exactly what we were planning on him doing.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah.

>> DANIEL: He was just crossing from ridge to ridge.

>> RALEIGH: Perfect. I knew it was going to be a good day.

>> DANIEL: Oh, man. That’s awesome. I’m going to say we’re probably going to text your dad.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah.

>> DANIEL: And then we can probably go look at him.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah.

>> DANIEL: Because he is down.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah. I’d say that’s nice.

>> DANIEL: That is a good deer.

>> RALEIGH: He’s a hefty boy.

>> DANIEL: Yeah, he is.

>> RALEIGH: Well, looks like opening weekend went pretty well for us. This deer they have named Shadow, he’s about six years old. That’s why he’s so thick and hefty. So, I – super thrilled. You can just tell, like when we were walking up and he was laying down, he was big. And just got a really cool rack.

>> RALEIGH: I have a habit of shooting bucks with, like, broken racks. So, it’s kind of nice to see this deer with, like, a full rack all intact. You can kind of see here between his antlers where he’s been scraping. Yeah. Super thrilled with this evening’s hunt.

>> GRANT: Rae and I were also hunting that afternoon and we were excited to meet Raleigh at dark and congratulate her on tagging a great buck.

>> GRANT: Holy mackerel. I could see that antler sticking up from a way back there.

>> RALEIGH: Yep.

>> GRANT: Wow. That’s a big toad, Raleigh.

>> RALEIGH: Yeah.

>> GRANT: Congratulations. Man, look at the mass on that thing. That is a great deer.

>> RALEIGH: And this is where he fell.

>> GRANT: Yeah.

>> RALEIGH: We didn’t move him at all.

>> GRANT: Just ran right down here?

>> RALEIGH: Yep.

>> GRANT: Cool. That is really nice, Raleigh.

>> RALEIGH: Thank you.

>> GRANT: Good shooting.

>> GRANT: We headed to the house to show Tracy and Raleigh’s grandfather.

>> TRACY: Look at that. That is a nice one. Hello, Shadow. Thank you. High five.

>> RALEIGH: Yay.

>> GRANT: Raleigh’s hunt is an example of a successful rut hunting strategy.

>> GRANT: Whether you’re overlooking a bedding area or a travel corridor like Raleigh was is a great way to locate and tag bucks.

>> GRANT: Firearm hunters have a much longer effective range than bow hunters. But archers shouldn’t overlook this strategy.

>> GRANT: When I bow hunt during the rut, I like using this strategy. If I don’t tag a buck within range of my stand or blind but I see bucks at a distance, I can move to that location and have a great chance based on that MRI, or most recent information, of getting some venison.

>> GRANT: I mentioned earlier that it’s likely one of the reasons deer harvest was down in Missouri this opening weekend compared to last year, was the abundance of acorns in many areas.

>> GRANT: It’s important to note that Shadow was traveling between two hardwood ridges and did not stop to eat in the food plot.

>> GRANT: In areas where there’s a large acorn crop, even during the rut, deer sightings can be limited. Does are likely feeding in the timber where there’s a lot of acorns and not moving that far because there’s food and cover right next to each other. So bucks are going to be in the timber seeking does.

>> GRANT: If that’s the case and you can find an area with a great view right through the timber and put some time in, you’re most likely to tag a buck.

>> GRANT: Just as deer behavior is changing almost daily this time of year, so are our hunting strategies.

>> GRANT: If you’d like to stay up with the strategies we’re using almost day by day, subscribe to the GrowingDeer channel.

>> GRANT: Covid has been a great reminder of how fun it is to get outside with family and friends and enjoy Creation. I hope that you and your family have an opportunity to get outside and enjoy outings together.

>> GRANT: But more importantly, that you take time every day to be quiet and listen to what the Creator is saying to you.

>> GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.