This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: I got brush in the way.
GRANT: I’m about to take the shot.
ADAM: Okay. (Inaudible)
GRANT: Oh, I’m on him. Are you on it?
GRANT: We often talk about the rewards of passing bucks and allowing them to mature – expressing more of their body growth and antler potential. This week the number one hit list buck here at The Proving Grounds, Handy, gives us an excellent lesson in the rewards of allowing bucks to mature.
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GRANT: First let’s backtrack to the summer of 2014, when we first picked up a good looking eight pointer on our Reconyx cameras. It was a standard eight-pointer with a few nubs coming off a couple of tines who showed a little potential.
GRANT: Once Handy’s shed his velvet, the next images we got were quite a ways south in a food plot we call Crab Apple.
GRANT: The next images of Handy were on a scrape the deer opened every year on Cave Ridge Powerline.
GRANT: As commonly occurs in large tracts of timber and areas where you can't use bait as an attractant, we didn’t see or get any more pictures of Handy until the last day of Missouri’s rifle season. And that day, Adam saw Handy crossing a powerline, but opted to give him a pass.
GRANT: Handy was a good looking buck – especially for a timber country habitat – and even better in person. Adam was truly excited when he returned after that hunt.
ADAM: (Whispering) Man! That was a good looking buck. He’s three, though. We call him Handy.
GRANT: The last images of Handy that antler growth season was at a mock scrape in a food plot we call Clay Hill. Remember that because it’s pretty important. Handy held his antlers fairly late in the growing season and was wearing out that mock scrape.
GRANT: When antlers were developing during the summer of 2015, of course, we were interested in what happened to Handy and it didn’t take long for us to pick him up on some Reconyx cameras. And it was very impressive to see that Handy went from a standard eight with a couple of little nubs as a three-year-old to an impressive deer with stickers and kickers everywhere as a four-year-old. No doubt, we’d made the right decision by giving Handy a pass.
GRANT: Handy’s antlers as a four-year-old was a great example of what can happen to bucks if you allow them to mature. This is especially important considering Handy was making a living on the poor soils here in the Ozark Mountains.
GRANT: We purposely positioned Reconyx cameras to keep track of Handy and once again – after he shed his velvet – he shifted to the southern part of his range.
GRANT: We’ll never know for certain why Handy opted to summer at the northern portion of The Proving Grounds but spend the hunting season in the central portion of The Proving Grounds. We often hear stories from hunters who talk about having a great buck on their trail cameras all summer and then, only to have it disappear during hunting season or tagged on a neighboring property. In this case, the quality of food plots are pretty much the same throughout The Proving Grounds. And I don't know of any reason a buck would make that shift that’s related to habitat quality.
GRANT: But during that fall, even though we tried and tried, we never got Handy within range.
GRANT: Going into our third summer of tracking Handy, once again, we got pictures of him at House Field food plot.
GRANT: Handy had a large increase in antler size between his three-year-old and four-year-old year. But between his four-year-old and five-year-old year, well, it seems like each sticker got longer and his mass really blew up. Handy was now truly a very impressive buck.
GRANT: Based on our history with Handy, we believed that once he shed velvet, he would shift to the southern portion of his home range. That’s exactly what happened. After Handy shed his velvet, we started getting pictures of him at Boom Back, the southern end of his home range.
GRANT: Trying to attract a five-and-a-half-year-old buck in front of a trail camera in timber country can be difficult. So, we developed a mock scrape and freshened up some traditional scrapes using Tink’s Scrape Starter. We had big hopes of catching video of Handy during the early part of season.
GRANT: Our plan worked perfectly. But so far, our only observations of Handy this year is through trail cameras.
ADAM: Look at that. I’ll get my light out of this.
MATT: How many times have we looked and looked and looked for Handy’s sheds?
GRANT: While recovering a doe he shot, Adam found one of Handy’s sheds. It was right where we thought he spent the late winter. But we were sure hoping we wouldn’t have to wait that long to lay hands on Handy.
ADAM: Just a beast of an animal. My gosh, that is why we get up in the morning right there.
GRANT: (Whispering) Hey, that’s Handy. That’s Handy.
GRANT: The following week, I finally saw Handy in person. He was feeding about 150 yards away from where Matt and I were in a Redneck Blind. He was right at the edge of Crab Apple food plot.
GRANT: Even though Handy never closed the distance, I was super excited to finally see Handy in person.
GRANT: It was now early November and Handy was missing in action. We hadn’t had a single trail camera picture of him in a couple weeks. Daniel and I were hunting a small hidey hole food plot at the southern end of The Proving Grounds when a hit list buck we call Tall Eight stepped out.
GRANT: Tall Eight presented a shot and I took it. Oddly enough, within moments after I was celebrating Tall Eight, my phone started buzzing and our Reconyx camera that sends pictures had just taken a picture of Handy in daylight ten yards from one of our Summit Stands.
GRANT: At the same moment we’re here, Handy is ten yards from some Summits. I’m coming on, buddy. Just know it.
GRANT: The week before Missouri’s gun season, one of our Reconyx cameras took several pictures of Handy in a food plot we call Clay Hill. It’s the same plot where I tagged The Trashman a couple years ago. This plot is a great area for bucks because it’s right between two bedding areas. It’s an easy stop for bucks to check does as they're cruising from one bedding area to another. Knowing Handy was frequenting the Clay Hill food plot, we decided to take advantage of some work we’d done years ago.
GRANT: During 2011, we placed a Redneck Blind in the center of Boom Glade bedding area. It’s just west of the Clay Hill food plot. And from that vantage point, we can see Clay Hill – although it’s 400 plus yards away – and several acres of the bedding area. A perfect place to cut off a buck trailing does.
GRANT: During the first morning of Missouri’s rifle season, Adam and I headed to the Boom Glade Redneck with the sole mission of tagging Handy.
GRANT: As the sunrise started to light up the Ozark Mountains, we saw deer moving in the Clay Hill food plot.
GRANT: (Whispering) Opening morning of firearm season in Missouri. Just like a little kid, I could barely sleep last night. I was making sure I had all the tags laid out and everything packed. Matt and Raleigh are down in the bottom hunting. Adam and I are overlooking a bedding area. Should be an awesome day.
GRANT: Throughout the morning, we watched several deer filter in and around the Clay Hill food plot. Even a couple of nice bucks.
GRANT: (Whispering) That one hit. I heard that one hit.
MATT: (Whispering) There’s a good one right there if you want that. Just under (Inaudible) of the shoulder.
RALEIGH: (Whispering) Okay. Game on.
MATT: (Whispering) I’m on him. (Inaudible) You got him.
MATT: (Whispering) Oh. Way to go, girl.
GRANT: Gumby down in the field.
GRANT: I was eager to join Raleigh and Matt and help them tell the story, but I realize Raleigh’s 18 and can tell her own story. So, Adam patiently kept me in the blind and encouraged me to keep searching for Handy.
RALEIGH: Has a really unique set of antlers with this drop tine back here.
GRANT: Not long after we received that text from Raleigh and Matt, we noticed a couple does to the far north in the adjoining bedding area.
GRANT: I thought I saw a buck in the brush behind the does and Adam zoomed in with the video camera and I still remember the words he said. “That’s our guy.”
ADAM: (Whispering) That might be your guy. That’s our guy; that’s our guy. That’s Handy.
GRANT: (Whispering) I can take him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Help me find it.
ADAM: (Whispering) Right here.
GRANT: We now had Handy in range and it was time for me to get situated and focus on making the shot.
GRANT: (Whispering) I’m on him.
ADAM: GoPros are rolling. I’m still on him.
GRANT: I need clear of some brush.
ADAM: Umm-hmm. He just – he’s (Inaudible). We’ll probably get him up top. Oh. He’s nudging that doe.
GRANT: I’ve lost him.
ADAM: He’s still there. See him?
GRANT: Doe’s still – oh, I see him. I see him. I got brush in the way.
ADAM: You can make that shot.
GRANT: I just don’t want him to start bolting out…
ADAM: I’m good.
GRANT: I’m about to take the shot.
GRANT: We could tell Handy was focused on the does and they weren’t moving quick; so I was trying to take my time and make sure everything was just right.
GRANT: Broadside but behind heavy grass. (Fades Out)
GRANT: Once Handy moved away from the vegetation, I settled in and sent a Deer Season XP down range.
GRANT: Oh, I’m on him. You on him?
ADAM: Alright. I think – yeah.
ADAM: Oh, I, I think you hit him. No – he’s going down.
GRANT: Is he down?
ADAM: He’s down!
GRANT: He’s down! Handy’s down! Oh, my goodness. Oh, my goodness. Let me get this gun on safety ‘cause – oh, my goodness, he’s down right there! On the spot! 287! Oh, my. Oh.
GRANT: That’s the biggest buck on the property that we know of and, potentially, the biggest buck in the area. That’s a huge deer for the Ozarks. Huge deer.
ADAM: You notice his antlers look really orange?
GRANT: Yeah. Oh, they were beautiful through the scope. At 16 power, he got really – of course, I don’t keep it at 16 –when I dialed it up to 16, he got really big. (Laughter) Like, “Where’s that elk?”
ADAM: You got does to kill.
GRANT: And I love that. You know I love that. But, it’s just a little different when you're not sitting on a buck tag.
GRANT: Handy had taught us several lessons about range shift and the advantages of allowing bucks to mature. The hunt for Handy was over. But the celebration was just beginning.
GRANT: Well, I’m almost up the hill. I’m out of breath. That’s a long ways over to the Redneck. I see belly. I would run, but I’m out of breath. I see antler. Oh yeah.
GRANT: Sometimes you worry about ground shrinkage. But not on this one. Blood all over. Laid perfectly. Like a picture. Oh, my goodness, gracious. 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19 points in the Ozarks. And my hands, literally, that’s all I got. We’re talking like five or six inch bases. We’ve been after him for years. Top of the hit list. Incredible. Oh, man.
GRANT: You have deer like this and if you're honest, you doubt you ever get to put your hands on ‘em, ‘cause in the Ozark Mountains, not row country, this is world class.
GRANT: I finally took a step or two – quartering to. And I was able to get really solid. I had the FieldPod – the only way I could make that shot at that distance, literally, was the FieldPod. And he went, I don't know, ten yards at the most. At the most, ten yards.
GRANT: But the years of watching this deer and working on the habitat and strategizing. Last year, we strategized. Obviously, fell short.
GRANT: Uh, this year we had a plan. We had some pictures in the food plot down here this week. And we – and the wind was right to hunt that plot, but I felt, “No, we can see further and our odds are better overlooking the bedding area because there’s more hours. He might drift to that plot, but for hours we can watch this bedding area. And he may be nudging a doe in there.”
GRANT: And, in fact, we did not see him in the plot this morning. We can see most of the plot from our vantage point, but he was certainly nudging a doe here in the bedding area.
GRANT: I don't know if he’ll gross – I don't know what he’s gonna gross. But he’s got a lot of…
ADAM: A lot of stickers…
GRANT: He’s got 20 inches of stickers at minimum.
MATT: Exactly. Yeah.
ADAM: To me, it’s like he just shed his velvet. He’s got so much, so many of…
ADAM: …these little stickers.
GRANT: Yeah. He’s really burred. He’s real burred. (Fades Out)
GRANT: Well, let’s snap a picture or two. And then figure out how we can move (Inaudible).
GRANT: Handy and Gumby were incredible bucks for timber country habitat. They both taught us great lessons, gave us many thrills and provided much needed venison for our family.
GRANT: The deer of my lifetime. Not the biggest. But the deer of my lifetime.
GRANT: The leaves are finally coming off here at The Proving Grounds and it changes the view of these Ozark Mountains. But every day is a great day to get outside and enjoy Creation. Most importantly, take time every day to slow down and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.