This is the video transcript. To watch the video for this episode click here.
GRANT: Last week we shared that Pro Staffer Jeff Therrell tagged a great buck he called Wrecking Ball.
GRANT: This was a great story because Jeff had history with this buck; had a previous encounter with a shot that wasn’t fatal; stuck it out and did not get discouraged; and then tagged Wrecking Ball.
GRANT: Jeff’s story was a great testimony to sticking it out. But what I didn’t share is all the work Jeff did on the food plots, patterning and tagging Wrecking Ball was on a nine-acre property. Jeff’s worked hard to manage this property and not disturb it too much so deer consider it a safe zone.
JEFF: I couldn’t be happier right now.
GRANT: Congratulations, Jeff, on a plan well implemented.
GRANT: (Quietly) Okay. If he turns around, we’re gonna take him. Be ready. Here we go. (Inaudible)
GRANT: Missouri’s firearms season happens right during the middle of the rut. During the rut, I change my hunting strategies because bucks are no longer on a food/cover, food/cover pattern. That’s a change because during the early season, food is key to patterning bucks.
GRANT: Only a few days after the archery opener, I had my first encounter with a good buck. But, I estimated his age to be three years old. And I have a lot of joy in patterning and harvesting four-year-old or older bucks. So, I gave him a pass. But it was a great sign that bucks were using food plots as a source of food during the early season.
GRANT: As the acorns begin to fall and deer got in the pre-rut, we changed our hunting strategies. The shift in strategies included getting off the edge of food plots and hunting travel corridors in acorn areas or between bedding areas and known acorn producing stands of oaks.
GRANT: Our strategy worked as once again, we had a really cool encounter with a buck we estimated to be three years old. We called him High Riser.
UNKNOWN: (Whispering) There’s a nice shot if you want him.
GRANT: (Whispering) I think he’s three.
GRANT: There were acorns in the area but High Riser was cruising through. He clearly had something else on his mind.
GRANT: (Whispering) Be ready. Be ready.
GRANT: When the rut hits, my strategy changes once again.
GRANT: (Whispering) Man, he’s a master (Inaudible).
GRANT: During the rut, a larger percentage of does are receptive and bucks are either seeking a receptive doe or paired up with a receptive doe in what we call the lock down phase.
GRANT: (Whispering) There she is.
GRANT: Receptive does will often seek thick cover to avoid pesky bucks and bucks will cruise through thick cover looking for receptive does. I have found that hunting areas you can see into – thick cover – is a great strategy during the rut.
GRANT: Because deer are not on a regular pattern, another key to the strategy of hunting during the rut is cover as much territory as you can.
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GRANT: One of my favorite locations to hunt during the rut here at The Proving Grounds is a Redneck Blind in the middle of a large bedding area. I can see down that mountain almost 300 yards and the face of the opposing mountain.
GRANT: This is the same Redneck that during opening day last year at Missouri’s rifle season, I tagged our number one buck, Handy.
GRANT: Handy was doing exactly what I’d expect in a mature buck to be doing during that time of year. He was nudging a doe through the native grass.
GRANT: We call this bedding area Boom Glade and it’s so effective because we’ve spent years improving the habitat.
GRANT: When Tracy and I purchased The Proving Grounds 15 years ago, all the area you’re seeing was covered with thick, red cedar trees.
GRANT: The area is too steep and rocky to use tracked or wheeled vehicles, so we cut those cedars by hand, let ‘em lay for a year or two ‘til they got good and dry, and then used prescribed fire to reduce the amount of cedar and encourage the growth of native grasses and forbs.
GRANT: We’ve been on a cycle of prescribed fire every couple of years since that time. But even with intense fire, it wasn’t enough to keep the hardwood saplings from encroaching and overtaking the area.
UNKNOWN: (Inaudible) ..eight branches more than I have by now.
GRANT: After years of trying to control the saplings and failing, we called in our friends at Flatwood Natives and had them use a selective herbicide that controlled the saplings but promoted the growth of native grasses and forbs.
GRANT: After the Flatwood crew did their treatment, we used prescribed fire and the next spring, the area was beautiful with wild flowers and young native grass colonizing the area.
GRANT: The native vegetation was diverse providing ample native forage and great quality cover.
GRANT: Okay. Everybody ready? Here we go.
MALE: Yeah. We’re good.
GRANT: Having a blind in the middle of this treated area provided me a great vantage point covering a lot of acres and just a fun place to sit and watch deer activity.
GRANT: I hunted out of this blind during the opening day this year of Missouri’s firearms season; saw a lot of deer and tagged two does.
GRANT: Tyler and I saw a nice three-year-old and some other bucks in the distance, but were not able to fill my buck tag.
GRANT: (Whispering) I don’t think it’s four.
GRANT: I wasn’t discouraged because I knew there were several mature bucks in the area. Our Reconyx cameras had picked up a buck we call Swoops to both the west and east of this bedding area. So, there was a great chance he’d cruise through.
GRANT: Another mature buck that we had pictures of in the area, we named Herman. Our cameras had captured Herman traveling the ridge to the west so it was really easy for Herman to cruise through this area either looking for a receptive doe or trailing a doe.
GRANT: A third mature buck that was in the area, we called Head Turner. During 2016, Head Turner was a four-year-old that remained fairly close to this bedding area during the early season but disappeared – at least to our cameras – during the mid and late season.
GRANT: During mid-January – with only a couple days left in season – I found one of Head Turner’s sheds in a food plot just north of this bedding area. A few weeks later during a prescribed fire, Daniel found the other shed east of the bedding area.
GRANT: During the summer of 2017, Head Turner seemed to follow the same pattern as he had the previous year. During the mid-season, we got a Reconyx picture of Head Turner a mile south of where he’d been during the summer.
GRANT: A big change is that Head Turner was now traveling fairly frequently during the daylight. And we’ve talked about before – as bucks get more mature, they often start traveling a little bit more during daylight hours.
GRANT: With at least three mature bucks in the area, Daniel and I had no problem returning to the blind in the middle of the bedding area a few days later.
GRANT: (Whispering) It’s the morning of November 16th. We’re at The Proving Grounds and we’re in the middle of Missouri’s firearms season. This time of year, it’s typically lock down phase here. Bucks are with receptive does because we’re about to peak at when most does are receptive. And a chance of seeing a mature buck is when he leaves one doe and goes to seek another one or is pushing another doe.
GRANT: (Whispering) So, knowing that’s the stage of the rut, we’re overlooking a large bedding area. We can see a lot of territory. That’s really our best odds for connecting with a mature buck.
GRANT: Suddenly, I looked out the window to my left and saw a doe that had approached behind us. She was in bow range, so we couldn’t move the camera or do much. But as she drifted out in front of us, Daniel got her in frame and I handed Daniel the Winchester.
GRANT: Poor Daniel had to work the camera and the Winchester, try to find a spot with a clean shot.
GRANT: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: When deer are using native grass, they’re very comfortable and tend to move very slow unless being chased and you gotta wait for a opening to get a bullet through the grass through the vitals. Even a single piece of grass can deflect a bullet and cause a miss or a wound.
GRANT: Nice shooting, Daniel.
GRANT: I was excited for Daniel but more excited for me. Daniel had already tagged a buck and I knew that a shot doe in front of us was a great attraction for bucks cruising the area.
GRANT: (Quietly) You’re the type of partner I like. Now you’re tagged out so I know I get to make a shot.
GRANT: I was as giddy as a young kid at Christmas because having Daniel’s doe in front of us gave me a lot of confidence we’d have a shot at a mature buck.
GRANT: Looked over and there she was. I figured you’d work it out down through there somewhere.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. That worked out great. We got a doe right there. Fawn will probably circle around a little bit as a decoy.
GRANT: It wasn’t long until we spotted a doe and a buck 400 plus yards away across the valley in a food plot we call Clay Hill.
GRANT: Big ole body on that thing. Can you tell which one it is? He’s getting ready to cross the ditch right now from the clover to the – big ole chest on that thing. Look at that chest. He’s liable to chase her over here.
GRANT: This buck was hanging very close to the doe, so Daniel and I were both confident they’d cross the creek and come into the bedding area that we were watching.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. It’s him. Straight down the hill.
GRANT: Sure enough, they showed up on the mountain we were watching.
GRANT: (Whispering) I don’t know. Is that deer three? I can kill him right there, but…
DANIEL: (Whispering) You, you’ve got a better – he’s probably gonna come and look at (Inaudible). That’s a good one.
GRANT: He don’t have much mass. The shoulders look awful good.
DANIEL: (Quietly) (Inaudible) Do they, one kind of crook, crooked? Leaning together?
GRANT: Yeah. The right one crooks in just a little bit.
DANIEL: (Quietly) I think that’s that buck you saw the other day. Good. Yeah.
GRANT: I think we’re gonna get a closer look at him.
DANIEL: (Quietly) He’s…
GRANT: I think we’re gonna get a closer look at him.
GRANT: Daniel and I were trying to identify this buck or at least estimate his age when all of a sudden, Daniel spotted another buck.
DANIEL: (Quietly) Oh, there’s another one out behind, Grant. There’s two.
GRANT: Who is that buck behind him? That buck’s got a lot more mass.
GRANT: This buck clearly had big shoulders and dwarfed the other buck. He got all of our attention.
GRANT: That buck behind him is better.
DANIEL: (Quietly) Yeah, he dwarfs that, he dwarfs that other buck.
GRANT: I’m gonna take that deer.
DANIEL: (Quietly) Yeah, he’s mature. He’s got a good chest on him.
GRANT: You on him?
DANIEL: (Quietly) Okay. Give me a second.
DANIEL: (Quietly) Give me a second. Yeah, I’m on it.
GRANT: We didn’t know if it was a buck we had pictures of or not but he was clearly mature and I was preparing to take the shot.
GRANT: I’m waiting for him to stop. I almost squeezed him when he started walking right there.
DANIEL: (Quietly) Okay. You’re gonna have to hold on because he’s coming in. He’s gonna cross us.
GRANT: Get on him again because I’m gonna take him when he’s…
GRANT: About the time I got comfortable taking the shot – it’s a long poke over there – Daniel called me off because the buck had moved out of frame of the camera.
GRANT: (Quietly) He’s behind the trees. I can’t see him. I don’t know if he’s gonna come over the creek or what, but, a lot of times they go up the (Inaudible) and we don’t see ‘em anymore.
GRANT: Daniel quickly readjusted the camera, but by then the buck got down in a wooded draw and disappeared.
GRANT: (Whispering) He may pop out here. We gotta be ready.
GRANT: My heart sank but we were confident we’d see this buck again.
GRANT: The buck, apparently, traveled down through the timber corridor and popped out in front of us.
GRANT: (Whispering) Push that bag outta the way; push the bag outta the way.
GRANT: Daniel and I hurried to readjust and get on him but he was traveling away from us in chest tall native grass.
GRANT: (Whispering) That is a good deer.
GRANT: Hit the Messenger, Daniel.
DANIEL: (Whispering) I got it; I got it.
GRANT: Quickly, Daniel grabbed the Messenger and grunted on it. The buck stopped…
GRANT: …270 yards away.
GRANT: (Quietly) Oh, I got a little grass. Now, now. Turn him now.
GRANT: Daniel grunted again. Now, Daniel had headphones on, thinking I was gonna shoot, so he says he has no idea what the grunt sounded like. But it doesn’t matter cuz it got the buck’s attention and sure enough, he turned around and started heading our way.
GRANT: (Quietly) He’s coming; he’s coming. Come on, baby. He’s coming. Saved by the Messenger. Hit it again; hit it again.
GRANT: (Whispering) Oh, that’s a good deer.
GRANT: (Whispering) Easy. 230. I lost him.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He’s…
GRANT: (Whispering) There he is. I got him.
DANIEL: (Whispering) …to the right.
GRANT: (Whispering) He’s still coming; he’s behind that dead stick. You see him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Hmm. Umm-hmm. I’m on him.
GRANT: (Quietly) Just let him come.
GRANT: The buck was definitely a shooter to me – something I’d be very proud of. But Daniel and I were still trying to figure out if we knew this deer.
GRANT: (Quietly) That’s a good deer.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Does he have big? (Inaudible) A big eight?
GRANT: I think he’s got a split brow on the left.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Then it’s Head Turner.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Then it’s Head Turner.
GRANT: I noticed, looking through my Nikon, that the buck had a split brow. And as soon as I said that, Daniel said, “Head Turner.”
GRANT: He sees your doe. About 10 more yards, he’s gonna be out of the grass for me.
DANIEL: (Quietly) If he, if he’s got a split brow, that’s Head Turner – hit lister.
GRANT: (Quietly) I got a little bit of grass. Other than that, it’s a perfect shot right there. Grunt again, please.
GRANT: (Quietly) There you go; there you go.
GRANT: (Quietly) Grunt.
GRANT: (Quietly) I need his mind off that doe.
GRANT: The buck was circling and kind of staying there, so after awhile – nervous it might drift the other way, that seemed to be where he was headed – Daniel hit the Messenger once again.
DANIEL: (Whispering) That other buck is right below us in the, in the thick stuff, Grant.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Just a heads up.
GRANT: (Inaudible) He’s all in that doe right now.
GRANT: (Whispering) Come on. A few more steps.
GRANT: I don’t want to risk pushing a bullet through there.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) Just about two more steps.
DANIEL: (Whispering) That little buck right below us is coming right in.
GRANT: It was incredible to watch the buck respond to the grunts; turn our way; and see those big antlers coming through the grass.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. That’s Head Turner. For sure. Good deer.
GRANT: (Whispering) Yeah. It’s a real good deer.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Five-year-old.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Don’t shoot.
GRANT: (Whispering) You on him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Mmm-hmm.
GRANT: (Whispering) I see that doe coming behind him.
GRANT: (Whispering) Little buck’s in front of us right here.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: This was perfect. We got a mature buck looking at a bit younger buck where he’s heard some grunting coming from, so Head Turner’s coming to check it out.
DANIEL: (Whispering) He’s (Inaudible) from me.
GRANT: (Whispering) I got brush. But I’m on him.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
GRANT: (Whispering) Are you still on him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah, I’m on him, but he’s in the brush (Inaudible). I think he’s gonna go – he’s gonna go to the right. (Inaudible)
GRANT: (Whispering) If he gives me a clear shot, I’m taking it.
DANIEL: (Whispering) (Inaudible)
GRANT: Get ready; get ready. You ready?
DANIEL: (Quietly) Umm-hmm.
GRANT: He’s down. He’s down. He’s down.
GRANT: Head Turner’s down. Can you believe that?
DANIEL: Oh my word.
GRANT: Head Turner. What a blessing. Head Turner’s down right here. 70 yards in front of us. My goodness! I can’t believe that happened like that. Holy mackerel. Thank you, Jesus.
GRANT: I must have deflected off a little piece of grass because I had it right on the point of his shoulder, but he was down in 30 yards. I mean – right there. Your doe helped save that hunt.
DANIEL: And the Messenger.
GRANT: And the Messen-
DANIEL: Oh, my word.
GRANT: He was over – I was gonna take the shot at 260 yards and Daniel called me off. We were moving camera and gun. He got down there where we couldn’t see. Cut through our little travel corridor we left; come out at 270 yards down here in the brush. I would’ve took that shot. No problem. But the native grass is four or five feet tall. So, I said, “Daniel, get the Messenger; get the Messenger.” Hit the Messenger and you can tell when he hit it. Boom! Head come up. And I thought, “Well, at least he’ll get squared away and I’ll take the shot.” I was on at 270. I had my parallax set for 270. Come up to 230. I thought, “Well, gosh. Just gained 40 yards. That’s better.” Hit the Messenger again, ended up shooting that thing at about 70 yards. I kept changing my parallax ‘cause he kept getting closer and closer. Stood down there on Daniel’s doe for – it seemed like minutes.
GRANT: But the grass was so tall, I just couldn’t get a clean shot at the vital. You just don’t push shots. So, anyway, he comes up here; finally steps up on a little hump, man. Looked like the regal – the Hartford buck or something. Stepped on that hump; looked regal, man.
GRANT: Turned broadside and gave me that shoulder and. Whew. What a blessing! Man, tagged out in gun season. Two does first. See, folks, don’t hold up on tagging those does.
GRANT: Daniel’s doe probably helped bring that buck over here. He may have smelled that or something. That doe and that Messenger put the Head Turner on the ground and on my fireplace soon. Man!
DANIEL: He just kept getting bigger.
GRANT: I know it, man. (Laughter) I kept adjusting my scope. I was like, “Holy mackerel.” Oh, man! Whew.
GRANT: I, I’ve been calm all morning, but that hunt took so many minutes – I’m shaking like a, I just shot my first deer or something. I gotta put this safety on. My gosh almighty.
GRANT: Gosh. I love in this lock down phase and this season of the rut. I love these bedding areas ‘cause bucks are gonna be in here either pushing a doe or hunting for a doe. I love these bedding areas. Love ‘em, love ‘em, love ‘em.
GRANT: We’ve killed a pile of deer out of this Redneck right here. Last year on that ridge – of course, we took Handy – big ‘ole 17 pointer. Hit list buck, of course. And, uh, years ago, I shot other deer on that point over there.
GRANT: And we’ve killed two does out here already this year. And now, one of our main hit list bucks, Head Turner. I am so excited.
GRANT: I can’t wait to tell my dad. You know, my dad had a stroke. He’s recovering. He’s making great progress but he’s in a rehab. So, my sisters kind of with dad in the morning and I’m taking the afternoon shift. Not, not taking, like, you know. I love being with my dad, but he’s gonna – cannot wait. We’re gonna dump this on my laptop. He’s gonna see this before everyone else sees it. ‘Cause I’m taking this to dad this afternoon. He will love this. And we’re praying that dad will be out in muzzleloader season hunting right here at The Proving Grounds.
GRANT: You did it, buddy. I didn’t know if he was gonna turn around when he was way down there.
DANIEL: Oh my. And I’ll be honest. I have no idea what I sounded like. I had my earmuffs on. I was just blowing as hard as I could to get him to stop. (Laughter)
GRANT: Always fun when you get out of the blind and you know the deer from trail camera pictures but you want to go get your hands on him. So, I’m ready.
DANIEL: Oh, there he is. There he is.
GRANT: Man. I looked over and saw that beam shining and I was like, “Whoa.” Yeah, angle is just a – that’s the exit hole. Look at the size of the body on that rascal. Man, that’s a big ole body.
GRANT: That’s the exit hole, which would have been a perfect entry hole. But it’s come in the shoulder on the other side. But look at the size of the bo– you know, I got a six foot wing span. Look at the size of the body on that old, Ozark monarch. Goodness, gracious.
GRANT: I’m glad we’re not far from the road. And you talk about stinking. His tarsals are lighting me up back here. Holy mackerel. This is what we call full-rut buck. Look at that! Ozark Mountain stud right there. Whew. Man, that’s cool!
GRANT: Big ‘ole giant head on that rascal. But look at the coloration difference in his forehead versus his nose. And look at his big ‘ole huge nose. No doubt – a mature deer.
GRANT: What a gorgeous morning. What a blessing to be out here. He was 270 yards and going the other way. And we hit the Messenger and he turned and he put the head up – acknowledged. Hit it again. Started working our way and closed the distance from 270 yards to a shot distance of 70 yards. He came 200 yards up a steep mountain. Up a mountain. And presented us with a good shot. Text book rut hunt.
GRANT: Watching a big, large bedding area that we’ve burned and done a lot of prescribed fire in to create this beautiful habitat. Daniel completed filling his doe tags. I’ve already filled my doe tags out of this same setup. And then ending my firearm season here in Missouri with a hit list buck we called Head Turner.
GRANT: He fills up the buggy.
GRANT: The Head Turner hunt was not simply sitting in a blind hoping a buck walks by. It was the result of years of habitat management, passing up younger bucks while my family still enjoys hunting, and having a lot of things working together to produce that great experience.
GRANT: Daniel making a great shot of a doe and dropping her within view earlier during the hunt, and using the grunt call to bring the buck from 270 yards in for an easy shot, were all critical to the success of this hunt.
GRANT: I was thrilled and even emotional about the hunt knowing I would take care of Head Turner and leave The Proving Grounds to go see my dad in rehab and share the hunt with him.
GRANT: We’ve received literally hundreds of emails and comments asking about Pops. Pops had a stroke a couple of weeks ago. It’s eight millimeters and in the center of his brain. But my dad’s not a quitter. And after he got out of the hospital, we took him to a 24/7 rehab – he wanted to go and get professional help and professional therapy so he can recover. And I’m pleased and thrilled to announce that your prayers have been answered. My prayers have been answered. And my dad is making progress.
GRANT: It’s still day by day and it’s not an easy road. I spend about half of my day, every day with my dad, and my sisters the other half. My dad is such an encouragement to me.
GRANT: He’s fighting those workout machines. My dad’s been a construction worker – never had to work out a day in his life – never played sports. My dad’s been a worker from a child on.
GRANT: But he’s in that gym with the therapists, which are a blessing. Working out; wanting to use the walker instead of the wheelchair; training himself to eat with his right hand again and he’s an inspiration to never give up.
GRANT: While we’ve been having fun here at The Proving Grounds, the Martins have been at it again. This time, Lindsey’s behind the trigger. She was at her home farm in Arkansas.
GRANT: I really enjoy taking my father and my daughters hunting, fishing and just walking through the woods to enjoy Creation. It’s important for all of us to share. Even more important is spending quiet time every day, by ourselves, listening to what the Creator is saying to us.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.
GRANT: You need to hold it further out. How’s that? Does that look goofy?