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GRANT: Lot's of deer movement this week, as the pre rut heats up. Unfortunately, death struck here at The Proving Grounds while we were in another state.
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GRANT: We're getting reports from our pro staff and hunters all across the whitetails’ range about seeing a lot of daytime deer activity. Certainly it's time for the pre-rut stage of rutting behavior to kick in throughout most of the whitetails’ range.
GRANT: That's exactly what Kable McAlpine saw as he was hunting last week in his home state of Indiana.
KABLE: (Whispering) Well folks, we had a nice uh, two and a half year old buck come in, spend about 30 minutes with us. He fed out in the clover for awhile and he actually bedded down in the clover for about 10 minutes. Came through and ate some corn.
GRANT: Couple of days later, Kable's son Alec was up to bat.
GRANT: Right at last light, Alec gets an opportunity.
ALEC: (Whispering) Yes. Yes. Got her.
GRANT: Congratulations, Alec, on a great doe harvest.
GRANT: A few years ago, Tracy and I purchased an additional farm that joined The Proving Grounds to the south. Since we haven't owned it as long as we have The Proving Grounds, we haven't had the opportunity to do as many improvements as we have here on the original property.
GRANT: There's still some great hunting on that farm and Adam and I checked it out last week.
GRANT: We had selected a stand site on a shelf, just below the crest of the ridge, that had some mature white oaks dropping acorns. About mid-morning, we heard that tell tale sign of some deer coming.
GRANT: A group of doe's and fawns stayed all in one huddle and passed just below our stands.
GRANT: The way they were all huddled up and seemed to move as one group and acted a little nervous, told Adam and I that something else might be coming.
GRANT: Several yards out, we couldn't tell how big it was, but the antlers certainly looked promising and I was starting to get in position to make a shot.
GRANT: Typical for mature bucks, this buck was traveling about 20 yards on the downwind side of the main trail.
GRANT: He was in thicker cover and cautiously picking his way through, but he didn't know we were anywhere in the world.
GRANT: He gave me ample time to estimate his age at three and a half years old, and I stood there enjoying the moment as he passed by, hoping he makes it another year.
GRANT: (Whispering) Great looking three year old. You can tell we're almost to the pre-rut. The neck's starting to swell a little bit and shoulders look good, but clearly a three year old. It’s interesting that he was about 20 yards downwind where the does just came through and that's often what you find on bucks, not on the main trail, sliding through where they think doe's are traveling.
GRANT: I’ve passed a few three year old bucks this year and I get a few emails questioning that, but remember, three year olds are expressing about 75% of their antler growth potential, on average, while four year olds usually express about 90+%. That's a huge difference and the joy I get from watching bucks and their normal behavior through the woods is well worth the chance that I'll see that buck again.
GRANT: The forecast was for the weather to warm up the next few days in Missouri, but a cooling trend in Kentucky, so we loaded our truck and rolled east.
GRANT: The weatherman was correct and we'd experienced cooler temperatures in Kentucky along with several periods of heavy rain.
GRANT: As soon as the rain would break, we'd hustle out to a stand and see if we couldn't capture some of that pre-rut activity.
GRANT: (Whispering) October 16th, it's been raining all night till about two o'clock. It's about three o'clock now. We're in a strip of hardwoods – a hardwood runner between 220+ acre agricultural field, so it's a great travel corridor, and the pre-rut should be starting.
GRANT: We hadn't been in the stand all that long, when I noticed some does about 100 yards or so away out in the field.
GRANT: (Whispering) I can’t tell where they're going to run and be careful, they're gonna run right through here.
GRANT: Does slowly worked their way and I assumed they'd end up coming through the gap, which is a natural road crossing, right through the hardwood runner where our stand was.
GRANT: I was so happy that I'd made a good shot at the first of this hunt. I was standing around visiting with Adam and kind of reliving it when he gave me the notice that the second doe was approaching our stand.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah, that one was great, but it's just a hair high. I called her 30, she probably wasn't quite 30.
GRANT: Each doe was between 26 and 30 yards, so I simply settled the pin on the shoulder, knowing at that speed of the walk, it would fall right in the kill zone.
TERRY: That's good.
GRANT: That's a little high, but it, I don’t think she ran what, 60 yards or so? You did pretty good on that first one, but I think I did more, so you might need a little more training. You might have to just drag this one by yourself as a, are you pulling? (Laughter)
GRANT: Don’t be cheating on me now and kind of backing off a little bit. Don't put no slack in your arm.
GRANT: A cold front was forecast to come here in Missouri, so we loaded up our truck and rolled back to Missouri because the pre-rut seems to be a little bit more advanced at my property than it was in Kentucky.
GRANT: As we were driving back from Kentucky, I had a disturbing phone call from my wife, Tracy. As Tracy was rolling down the bottom, she noticed a bunch of vultures circling awfully low over one of our food plots.
GRANT: After living with a wildlife biologist for almost two decades, she knew to get out and search around, and she sent me some pictures from her cell phone that was quite disturbing for the last couple hours of our ride home.
GRANT: Tracy had found a large buck, we call Big Funk, dead in one of our food plots.
GRANT: I'm gonna get some gloves on, we'll do an external examination, and then we'll go inside if we don’t find something obvious on the outside.
GRANT: I first just laid back the skin, and that will tell me if there was bruising, or maybe tine marks where the buck got in a fight, or a blunt trauma. If I go right inside and look, I may miss something very important, so it's just like any detective case, you want to peel it back, layer by layer.
GRANT: We do a camera survey every year and leave our Reconyx cameras out year round, so we've got tremendous photographic database of the bucks on our property, and a pattern they use, and we'd never known Big Funk to use that part of our farm.
GRANT: And as I was skinning out the neck on Big Funk, I found a very small hole, like a .22 caliber hole, right in the left side of the neck.
GRANT: I've just found a very small hole. You can tell it's covered by hair. Only way I can find it is hold my finger on it, flip it over, and you can see my white glove shining through from the inside. But with the hair laying over, you never see it.
GRANT: But on the inside, it was almost perfectly round and almost the exact size of a small caliber rifle.
GRANT: The hole penetrated several layers of muscle in the neck. I could not find the bullet, so I can't claim that this deer was poached. It's not gun season in Missouri, and it's illegal to shoot deer with a .22 caliber rifle.
GRANT: When I just gently open this up, the lungs and the heart are the exact color I'd expect them to be for an animal being dead this long. I don’t see any trauma in that region from this first look.
GRANT: I discussed this with one of the game wardens in my county, and he assures me that he's found deer before, killed by .22 caliber rifles, and he's stunned at how much shock and bruising a .22 caliber causes.
GRANT: So at this point, I can't conclude whether Big Funk died of natural causes or was poached here at The Proving Grounds. In either case, all my local game wardens have been advised, and all my employees are on the lookout, to see if we can hear or find any evidence of a poacher at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: While I was reviewing the cards, we had a picture one day before Miss Tracy found Big Funk, about a half mile away. He was working a Trophy Rock and we had numerous pictures, so we could really see his body well, in daylight and he looked perfectly healthy.
GRANT: I'll share with you in future episodes, if we discover the cause of death for Big Funk.
GRANT: I hope the conditions are favorable wherever you hunt, and you have a chance to get out and enjoy creation and most importantly, take a few moments and be quiet, and listen to what the Creator is saying to you. Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.tv.
GRANT: Thank you, Lord Jesus.