This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: Missouri’s firearms season started November 10th and I was extra excited because my daughter, Raleigh, was coming home from college to hunt.
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GRANT: Opening morning, Raleigh and Daniel decided to go to a plot we call Tombstone. We established Tombstone a couple of years ago to add more quality forage to that portion of The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: This spring we planted Eagle Seeds Forage Soybeans in Tombstone and then drilled over them this fall with Eagle’s Fall Buffalo Blend. We also added a Redneck Blind on the western side of Tombstone.
GRANT: We chose this location because we could approach, hunt and exit without alerting most deer and it was a perfect location for either a north, east or south wind.
GRANT: The amount of browse pressure at Tombstone, as well as most of the plots at The Proving Ground, indicated there were too many deer. So, we set a harvest goal to take three does per 100 acres in an effort to reduce the amount of deer and increase the amount of quality forage.
GRANT: Raleigh really enjoys hunting but had limited opportunities due to her college schedule. So, I wanted to put her in a target rich environment which meant Tombstone.
RALEIGH: (Quietly) It’s opening weekend of gun season here in Missouri. It’s a little chilly outside, 18 degrees. So, the coldest it’s been so far which is really good for us because that means the deer will probably be moving a little more. But, I’ve got multiple layers of clothes on and HotHands definitely turned on.
RALEIGH: (Quietly) But, we’re out here this morning trying to see if some bucks or does will walk by. We really don’t care. This year we’re really trying to take out a lot of does because our deer population is really high for the amount of food that we have.
RALEIGH: (Quietly) So, we’ve loaded up with ammo. Between Daniel and I, we can do some damage.
GRANT: It was a cold morning and the windows of the Redneck Blind were covered with frost.
GRANT: As the sun came up, Raleigh and Daniel started seeing deer.
GRANT: Not long into the hunt, a big doe started feeding in the plot.
RALEIGH: (Whispering) Do you want me to move around here?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: It was necessary for Raleigh and Daniel to change positions, so she’d be lined up for a shot.
GRANT: The doe turned and started heading out of the plot, so Raleigh got the Winchester ready.
DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible) You on it? Nice.
RALEIGH: (Whispering) There’s been three, like, really small bucks and then the third doe came in this morning. And obviously, the bucks aren’t big enough and the doe just moved out of the field too fast. And then we looked over and this other doe walked in, kind of stood here. We got rearranged. She turned back like she was going into the woods. (Inaudible) shot. But, I think I got her.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. (Inaudible) I don’t think she went far.
GRANT: Raleigh and Daniel remained in the blind, but, unfortunately, a hit list buck did not show.
GRANT: After the hunt, Raleigh was excited to climb down and take up the trail.
RALEIGH: So, we got down from the stand and started following the blood trail. It was pretty thick blood the full way. We got here and it turns out the shot was a little forward, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem because we found her about 50 yards from where the trail started.
RALEIGH: She’s a pretty big doe. It’s really cold, so she’s already pretty stiff. And her belly is, like, one of the widest I’ve ever seen. So, I thought that was kind of interesting as well. So, it looks like it’s been a good morning for the opening gun season here in Missouri. Always good to get started off with something on the ground.
DANIEL: Want to go warm up?
RALEIGH: Yeah. Definitely.
DANIEL: Get some food?
RALEIGH: Feel my feet again.
GRANT: Once again for our family, the combination of a Winchester rifle and Deer Season XP ammo resulted in a short trail.
GRANT: Great job, Raleigh. I’m always proud of you and your hunting skills are a bonus.
GRANT: After tagging a doe, Raleigh was hoping for a buck. So, the next morning, her and Tyler went to a Redneck Blind at a location we call BPP.
GRANT: Our strategy for the location of this blind is not only hunting the food plot, but, just as importantly, the view down the right-of-way. It’s solid timber on both sides and bucks are likely to be cruising in an area we can’t hunt very effectively and give us a view once they cross the easement.
GRANT: In addition, there’s bedding areas on both sides of the right-of-way in a timber and bucks are likely to cruise on a downwind side, scent checking for does.
GRANT: A few years ago, before we moved a Redneck Blind to this location, we had a ladder stand on the edge. It was okay for hunting the right-of-way, but you couldn’t really see the food plot.
GRANT: While hunting in that ladder stand one afternoon, I tagged a great hit list buck we called “Butterbean.”
GRANT: There we go right there. Bingo! Super buck!
MATT: Nice shooting.
GRANT: Based on that experience and knowing I needed to be up the hill a few more yards and able to effectively hunt the food plot, it was a perfect reason to put up a Redneck Blind.
GRANT: Early during the hunt, Raleigh and Tyler saw a young buck across the right-of-way and they felt the plan was spot-on.
GRANT: Finally, a doe stepped out and, after just a little bit, Swoops followed.
GRANT: Typically, we find “Swoops” during the early season on the south end of The Proving Grounds. And just before the rut, he moves a bit north to an area we call “Boomerang Ridge.”
GRANT: Tyler ranged Swoops and he was about 400 yards away.
TYLER: (Quietly) Can you shoot him there? There’s some weeds in the way.
RALEIGH: (Quietly) There is weeds.
GRANT: Raleigh and Tyler hoped that the doe would lead Swoops uphill and present a closer shot.
GRANT: Unfortunately, Swoops never showed again during that hunt.
GRANT: Knowing Swoops was in the area and following the same pattern he had for years, several mornings later, I returned to that same Redneck Blind.
GRANT: It was a beautiful, clear, cold morning and I believed deer would be moving.
GRANT: (Whispering) I want to tell you about this strategy. The temperature has been 20 to 30 degrees colder than normal for about a week. So, we’re looking out of a south facing slope where it’s warmer.
GRANT: (Whispering) Deer are heavily on acorns. They’re seeking energy and there’s a big acorn crop. So, we’re surrounded by timber on both sides for a long ways of food and warmth.
GRANT: (Whispering) We’re looking down this powerline right-of-way. We rarely go down it, so it’s almost like a sanctuary. They cross easily.
GRANT: (Whispering) This gives us a window. It’s like looking in a sanctuary. The wind was west, so we’re hunting a crosswind which is good. Great strategy.
GRANT: Not long into the hunt, Tyler spotted a doe and a small buck coming through the timber.
GRANT: Around 8:30, a good buck stepped out to the edge of the powerline.
TYLER: (Whispering) Yeah. (Inaudible) Easy. You see him?
GRANT: It was Swoops.
GRANT: (Whispering) Just be careful. He’s gonna stop and be easy.
GRANT: This time, he was only 200 yards away.
TYLER: (Whispering) Can you kill him?
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. You ready? I’m gonna wait. There’s just a little bit of grass. I don’t want to deflect.
GRANT: Swoops eased out into the powerline a little bit and I was so excited, I was probably bouncing.
GRANT: (Whispering) You just stay on him.
TYLER: (Whispering) I’m on him.
GRANT: Tyler assured me he was focused and ready. And I was searching for a window of the vitals through the grass.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s an easy shot, but there’s just enough grass I don’t want to risk a deflection.
TYLER: (Whispering) Tell me, tell me before you shoot.
GRANT: (Whispering) I will.
GRANT: I had been practicing a lot this year preparing for deer season and I know my Winchester is perfectly dialed in.
GRANT: (Whispering) If he’d go one more big step, it would be awesome. There’s a bunch of little, fine grass right there and I can’t tell if it’s…
TYLER: (Whispering) There you go.
GRANT: (Whispering) …four feet in front of it or not. No. His vitals are all covered. I need an open; I need him like a foot and half…front. Getting close. Don’t keep looking back.
GRANT: I was just looking for about a 2” hole with no obstructions between me and the vitals. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one.
GRANT: (Whispering) Real close. Real close.
GRANT: Almost unbelievably, I had to let Swoops walk. I never had a shot I was comfortable with and I know that even a single blade of grass can cause a bullet to deflect.
GRANT: (Whispering) No. No, no, no, no, no. Easy. Grunt.
GRANT: As Swoops turned and headed back toward the timber, there was a lot of tension in the blind. I knew it was now or, likely, never. I was staying on the deer looking for a view.
GRANT: (Whispering) Just be ready. If you can get the camera over here, I can kill him. (Inaudible)
GRANT: I asked Tyler to pick up the camera and move it over because I knew he needed a better view.
GRANT: But in the end, when we finally got a clear shot, all we could see was the back portion of Swoops.
GRANT: (Whispering) No. Don’t walk out of my life. Do not walk out of my life. Really tough to pass that shot. Swoops is an old buck.
GRANT: (Whispering) So, it’s 8:30 in the morning. We think he’ll probably cross again. Don’t know if he’ll be within range. We’ve seen several deer down about 450 yards and that’s too far a shot for me.
GRANT: I’m not a very emotional guy. But I gotta tell you, I was very emotional at that point. It seemed like he was in my hands. It was so clear except for some grass.
GRANT: That’s okay. I’ve settled down and I’m already formulating a plan to go after Swoops during Missouri’s late archery season.
GRANT: Tyler and I hunted every morning and afternoon during Missouri’s rifle season, except one morning where I had some other responsibilities.
GRANT: The lack of buck movement myself and many throughout Missouri were observing is probably due that this year’s firearms season in Missouri opened earlier than it has in several previous years.
GRANT: This year, the firearms season opened November 10th, which is just about in the peak of breeding in this portion of the whitetails’ range.
GRANT: When the biggest percentage of does are receptive, bucks tend to find a receptive doe and stay with her for 24 to 36 hours and not covering a big distance during that time.
GRANT: If you happen to be where a buck is chasing a doe or there is receptive doe circling the area, you think, “This is the best rut we’ve seen in years.” But if you’re not watching that relatively small area, you’re thinking, “Gosh, there’s not much rut activity this year.”
GRANT: Mature bucks are likely most active or covering the most distance during the day just before and just after the peak of breeding. That’s why I prefer hunting the pre-rut or right after the rut more than during the rut or the lockdown phase.
GRANT: I selected a Redneck Blind in the middle of a large area where we’ve cut all the cedars. We call it Boom Glade.
GRANT: From this blind, I can see several acres of native grass and forbs. Ideal habitat for during the rut.
GRANT: Through the years, I’ve hunted this blind with the strategy of covering a lot of acres of bedding area to harvest several good bucks.
ADAM: No, he’s going down.
GRANT: Is he down?
ADAM: He’s down.
GRANT: He’s down.
DANIEL: He’s down; He’s down.
GRANT: He’s down; he’s down.
GRANT: The 8th morning of Missouri’s firearms season started off extremely foggy. I suspected buck movement was still limited, but given the very high, humid conditions, I thought a buck might be cruising downwind of the bedding area checking for does.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s the morning of November 18th and it’s a very gray morning. The forecast calls for rain moving in about 11:00 a.m. and mist before then. There’s kind of a little bit of a wind but just a suppressed day. So, I want to be in an area where we can cover a lot of ground; try to catch a deer moving.
GRANT: (Whispering) So, we’re at a large bedding area. We can cover several acres; hopefully find a deer on their feet.
GRANT: Tyler and I had not seen a single deer all morning until about 8:00 a.m. when I spotted a large body about 270 yards away in the tall grass.
TYLER: (Whispering) All right. If you can kill him, I’m on him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Just stay on him; just stay on him.
GRANT: As the deer moved, I spotted antlers and a long tine and threw out some grunt calls with hopes of turning him uphill.
GRANT: (Whispering) Tell me if he reacts.
TYLER: (Whispering) No.
GRANT: The buck was walking at a steady pace through the tall grass and once again, I had no opportunity for a clean shot.
GRANT: (Whispering) Did he ever react?
TYLER: (Whispering) No.
GRANT: There’s a thicket of trees about 150 yards in front of the blind and through the years, I’ve noticed a lot of deer cut through that thicket.
GRANT: I was hoping that when we lost sight of the buck, he was coming through the thicket versus going across the bottom of the bedding area.
GRANT: Tyler wisely focused the camera on the uphill portion of the thicket knowing if we saw the buck again, that’s likely where he’d appear.
GRANT: Suddenly, the buck stepped out. And he was still moving. So once again, I had to make some decisions in a hurry.
GRANT: I settled my crosshairs; did a little yell to stop the buck and took the shot.
TYLER: (Whispering) Kill him.
GRANT: It’s a thrilling moment for a hunter when things happen as planned but happen really quickly.
GRANT: I’ll tell you right now, folks. That’s a good deer. But, I’m more emotional right now than I probably have been with any deer I’ve taken out of this blind, including “Handy” which was the record for The Proving Grounds. Because deer season started a week ago Saturday. So, it’s Sunday. We’re on the 8th day and we’ve hunted every day – morning and afternoon – except one morning we took off.
GRANT: We thought we’d kill 20 or 30 does during gun season. I had a bunch of guests coming in and that hasn’t happened. Deer movement has been tough.
GRANT: And I spotted a big body by itself, 270 yards down in the tall grass. And I thought it was probably a buck, just the way it was moving. I got my scope on it and knew it was; I could see the mass. Knew it was a shooter. Don’t know which deer; just deer hunting.
GRANT: Knew it was a good deer. Deer I’d be happy – very proud to take.
GRANT: He come up about 60 yards or more through the tall grass, no opening. And to tell you how frustrating it is, I had Swoops – had a real easy shot. But his vitals were covered with grass and I passed. And I didn’t sleep. I was doubting myself. “Should I have taken that shot; should I have not?”
GRANT: And this buck got behind a brush pile down here – a little quarter acre of brush and we couldn’t see him; couldn’t see him. And I know a lot of deer go in there.
GRANT: So, I was hoping he would come through this little pond down here during the rut. Bucks like to drink ‘cause they’re running and respirating and getting rid of a lot of water.
GRANT: And Tyler spotted him come out the other side. There’s grass down there and I normally shoot the shoulder. But I fudged back to the crease, to a lung/heart shot – a vital shot. Took the shot and his reaction happened so quick, I couldn’t tell.
GRANT: But we re-watched on video and it looks like I smoked him right in the boiler room, so I’m gonna say he went 70 yards, 100 yards. So, we’re gonna get down and go look for blood. And…
GRANT: I don’t celebrate a lot after shooting deer. I just, uh, you know, my personality. But, I’m gonna tell you, if we put our hands on this one, I’ll probably celebrate on this one, folks. ‘Cause it was a very emotional season, but an enjoyable one. Because of a lot of lessons learned and that, to me, is hunting.
GRANT: It’s not just killing. We love the venison, but hunting to me is learning more about the process, and Creation, and being able to make a shot, and when to take a shot. And how to prepare the deer. And how to cook the deer.
GRANT: Learning is what I love about this process we call hunting. Learning lessons of life, about me, and patience, and attitude, and how I treat others when I’m stressed out.
GRANT: This has been very long for me, but I wanted to share my heart this morning.
GRANT: After celebrating and sharing my thanks, I couldn’t wait to climb out of the Redneck and take up the trail.
GRANT: Once again, for the GrowingDeer Team, the Deer Season XP ammo worked perfectly and the trail was only about 60 yards long.
GRANT: Ho! Hey! I see white! I see some white.
GRANT: I see antlers. White and antlers is a good thing!
GRANT: Oh yeah! Woo hoo! Look at the size of that body. Holy mackerel! Yes, sir!
GRANT: Just a touch high on the entry. But we’re like 70 yards and my Missouri rifle season tag is filled. It’s time to appreciate this old boy. Holy mackerel!
GRANT: Tyler and I had an extremely exciting hunt this morning. Gosh, almighty. It worked out great. Got a buck we know as “Tot.” He ran about 70 yards.
GRANT: He didn’t give me a lot of blood, but I was moving fast because you can tell how gray it is. There’s rain on the radar not far away. And what’s even more special, it’s the 8th day of Missouri’s firearms season out of an 11-day season. Kind of like we’re in the eighth inning and we ended up with a great buck.
GRANT: I am thrilled. I can’t believe it worked out this cool.
GRANT: Once we got hands on the deer, we recognized him as a buck we called Tot for teeter totter. During the summer, we got several Reconyx videos and pictures of him and noticed his left side was much bigger than his right side. Lop-sided like a teeter totter.
GRANT: Most of our pictures of Tot was about one ridge over and in a valley we call Hidden Valley and Rifle Range.
GRANT: Tot was very active during the pre-rut hitting several of our Code Blue scrapes.
GRANT: In addition to all the excitement and thrill I experienced from that hunt, I’d also like to share a great lesson.
GRANT: During the lockdown phase of the rut, bucks may not be covering a lot of territory. So, the best hunting location is often areas where bucks are gonna be seeking does when they are up and moving around.
GRANT: That usually means bedding areas. Effectively hunting these areas often means a stand or a blind that offers a view into the cover, not just over the top of it.
GRANT: Firearms season and the peak of the rut is almost over here at The Proving Grounds which means I’m super excited to start using some post-rut hunting strategies during the late bow season.
GRANT: As the season progresses, our strategies will change weekly. Sign up to the GrowingDeer newsletter and share the link with a friend if you’d like to see the strategies we’re using to chase mature bucks.
GRANT: No matter the stage of the rut where you hunt, I hope you go outside and enjoy Creation. But, most importantly, find a quiet place, slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you every day.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.