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WOODS: You’re probably wondering what I’m doing shooting one foot away from the target. It’s a great form of practice. This is called blind bale shooting. Blind bale because my eyes are shut. I’m concentrating 100% on how I grip my bow, my release, back tension. All the stuff you know to do, but it’s hard to concentrate on that when you’re aiming also. That’s exactly why our law enforcement officers and our military do so much repetition. They want to get it down, build muscle memory, so when the moment of truth comes, they’re not thinking, “Boy, where’s my holster? What’s going on?” It’s just second nature. And when that big buck steps out, it’s the same thing. You don’t want to be thinking, “Boy, I want to pull the trigger with the middle part of my finger, so it’s not so sensitive. I want to release my shoulders.” You just want to aim because you’ve already got muscle memory from blind bale shooting and all that’s second nature. All you’re doing is putting the pin on the spot and gripping and grinning. Blind bale archery is a great technique and something you can do almost anywhere.
WOODS: Hey, today’s one day we’re going to work inside. And I’m not much of an inside guy, but Brad has finished the 2010 survey. I’ve been over the shoulder looking, “ooing and ahhing” at the bucks, but we really put our Hit List together. Who would we think is four and half years old or older; kind of our standard here at The Proving Grounds. Who do we want to try to harvest? Where are they going? Join us as we go through and develop our 2010 Hit List for The Proving Grounds.
BRAD: …and also the antler size.
WOODS: You know, one of the most enjoyable times of a deer manager all year long is developing the Hit List. You know, August/September. We’ve done a camera survey and we can sort out which bucks we think meet the harvest criteria for that property and we know what we’re going to get to chase that year.
BRAD: Yeah, it’s a neat way just to see what’s out there.
WOODS: Yeah. So, let’s start off the day. We’ve got Eight Large Left or Large Left Eight, as we like to say. Boy, great deer.
BRAD: Great deer. And last year, you know, he was a seven point. But, he’s getting a little older in age. He’s starting to put out some more tines.
WOODS: You know, and just some things we’ll be looking for as we go through here. Where does his neck meet the chest, belly, back line? All the stuff you use for aging later on. But it’s a little trickier when they’re in the velvet, because they’re not filled out. They don’t have that traditional rut look that most hunters are looking for.
BRAD: Here, we’re looking at Ten Split G2’s and just from the name, it’s pretty easy to figure out these G2’s are split on both sides.
WOODS: Both sides. So, we get this view here and you can clearly see that on the right side and this view shows us both sides. Again, just a huge advantage of getting multiple angles of the same buck. Big shoulders; great looking deer. He’s definitely on our Hit List this year. Four and a half years old or older.
BRAD: Here’s an interesting buck. Barely Ten. We’ve had him for several years and he’s busy on the property.
WOODS: He moves around, which should make him a little bit more harvestable. Remember, all deer are unique individuals. Some deer don’t move much. Some deer just have a little bit larger home range. The ones with larger home ranges are typically a little bit easier to harvest.
Big Inward Brow Ten. Obviously named that way. Seen in a different picture here because this brow time just flopping over. Big ten pointer.
BRAD: This buck’s pretty neat because he comes back to the exact same spot this time of year. So, it’s easy to get those pictures of him and start to learn where he’s moving.
WOODS: And you would think he’d be easy to harvest, but he doesn’t stay in this spot once the velvet comes off. That’s true for most deer. But, larger home ranges mean they’re moving more if they’re on their feet more; better chance for you to get a stand where they’re moving. You know, if a deer lives and dies in 200 yards, knows every air thermal, every current, tough to get in there and penetrate that home range. Classic deer. Got that classic ten point look. Good frame.
BRAD: All right. Big Symmetrical Ten. Pretty obvious to see why we called him that.
WOODS: You know, just a good looking deer. Maybe three years old again. Uh, we will wait on some of these deer until we get some hard antler images before we make the final decision to put him at that four and a half year old age class or not.
BRAD: Well, it seems to be a little bit easier to age when we’ve got their neck puffed up; their front shoulders are nice and big to really see, you know, what we want to age them at that point.
WOODS: Sure. And if you think about that, all of us have looked at magazines and TV and everything for years and years and we see hard antlered deer. Not many of us have really studied velvet antler bucks as far as aging and confirmation.
BRAD: Here’s Clover Mountain Ten.
WOODS: Clover Mountain Ten is obviously an old deer. He’s not ten anymore, is he, Brad?
BRAD: No. Yeah, he started out ten two or three years ago and he’s actually shrinking down a little bit. You can see his legs are real short. He’s getting up there in age and his antler size just isn’t quite what it used to be.
WOODS: Yeah. You know, when those bucks get a really thick chest like older bucks do, makes those legs almost look dwarf like. They’re not any shorter, but they sure do appear shorter.
BRAD: Hmm. Hmm. And here’s one of his buddies.
WOODS: Clover Mountain Crab Claw. They’ve been running around together and beating us for a couple of years. Clover Mountain’s kind of a pinnacle mountain and they hang out; there’s food up there and they hang out up there in daylight hours, anyway, great bedding area. It’s almost an in-penetrateable fortress. It’s tough for us to get up there and not spook them off the mountain.
WOODS: Big old, old deer. Clearly on our Hit List. What a thrill it would be to see him at 20 yards.
BRAD: Oh, absolutely. He’s just a mature buck. A true trophy.
WOODS: Giant Ten works anywhere on the planet for me. Look at this deer. Boy, and you know, we’re in a tremendous drought this year. We’ve talked about that in a couple of past episodes. Well, I’ve had a really good friend of mine who’s actually a Boone and Crockett scorer. One of the top ten scorers; really work on estimating this deer. He calls him right at 170. I’m saying 165. He’s way up there somewhere. I really believe we’re down about 10% on average antler sizes here due to stress; due to tremendous drought, so we were looking at 180 inch deer on a good year. Old deer. We’re not going to wait until next year to see if he expresses 180 inches, because this deer’s old. Could be on the downhill slide.
BRAD: Hmm. Hmm. And he looks great this year, even with that stress.
WOODS: He looks great. Clearly a huge deer. Anywhere. Iowa. Anywhere, but for the Ozarks, just a phenomenal deer and that’s the result of good management; good habitat management. Taking stress out.
BRAD: Heavy Ten. This is one of the, at the Last Lick, we call it. We have 17 bucks coming to this location.
WOODS: You know, and those will spread out over the year. Right now, they’re all in bachelor groups and they’re all getting along. As soon as that velvet starts cracking and shedding off, they’re not getting along. Hormones change. No one likes each other. They’re moving out. And that doesn’t mean moving off the property, but they’re not going to be at the same place at the same time. There’s too much tension there. Heavy Ten has just a really heavy rack. Old deer. His right ear is really torn up from a lot of battles; a lot of fighting. This deer may be a great deer to target with rattling and grunt calls because he’s obviously an aggressive deer.
BRAD: Eleven Point Righty. This is actually an interesting buck, because in the past, he would show up more in the December/January time frame. This year, we’re catching him in August already. So, obviously, he’s starting to see what we’re doing around here in the food plots and the native habitat.
WOODS: And again, with the stress of the drought, he’s coming to these bait piles earlier because the quality of vegetation is not as quite as high as it had been in the past years when we had adequate rainfall. So, things change. Remember, everything in nature is constantly in a state of change. It’s not the same.
WOODS: Crooked Beam. Easy to see why, I get some views here. Again, may have had an injury; may just be the way he’s programmed. Neck comes way down, probably a four year old or older deer. Won’t score as tall or as much as some of our other bucks, but still a trophy. No doubt about it.
BRAD: Hidden Valley Eight.
WOODS: Good looking big, eight pointer. I’m not worried about him having only eight points, because he’s a great big deer. I just want to see him at 20 yards
BRAD: Oh, yeah. When you’ve got a mature buck, you know, it’s not always just what’s on the head.
WOODS: That’s right. It’s the challenge of outsmarting a deer that’s lived in a habitat, knows all the thermals, all the breeze and his loins are about 15 point in my book.
BRAD: You’re coming into his world out there.
WOODS: That’s right. Left Brow Taller is an odd name, because why, Brad?
BRAD: Well, this year, as you can see from the pictures, he actually had a right brow taller. Last year, as you can see from these antlers we found, his sheds, he had a left brow taller, so he’s kinda switching it up a little bit this year. But you can see, pretty identifiable as far as that G4. You know, pretty similar to last year, but he’s definitely putting on a few more inches this year.
WOODS: A few more inches. Great deer on our Hit List. This is the advantage of letting deer pass. We enjoy shed hunting. We have a shed hunt every year. My whole family enjoys shed hunting. We’ve got some history with this deer. Brings the whole family into our deer management program.
You can clearly see that right brow taller and that’s just a classic aging pose right there.
BRAD: Hmm. Hmm. He’s got thick bases there, too.
WOODS: You know, we call this one Lower Eight because he’s in one of our lower food plots commonly this time of year, big old deer. We cull at four and a half years old. So, basically any four and a half year old buck is eligible for harvest.
BRAD: This is a great deer. Big Wide Ten.
WOODS: That just says it all right there, doesn’t it?
BRAD: It does.
WOODS: Big Wide Ten.
BRAD: And the neat thing about him, is we had him three years ago and we got three pictures of him. We happened to have the camera on three-shot mode; three pictures; never saw him again. Last year, got a few more pictures. This year, he’s just standing in front of the camera. He’s gotten used to what we’re giving him and he’s out there in full force.
WOODS: Yeah. No doubt about it. That’s a deer we’re looking forward to having a run into.
Just real quick point here. When you see the, the end of the, of the, the end of the main beam is about the same distance to the nose, you know, that’s 20 inches of main beam or more. Super deer.
WOODS: Crab Claw Ten. He’s got a kind of a funky rack. I’d love to see that up close and personal.
BRAD: He’s a busy body. He’s on a lot of our camera sites.
WOODS: You know, and that’s odd this time of year. Deer don’t move that much. They’re very sedentary. They start moving more when the hormones change. This one moves a lot. Should be a little bit more susceptible to harvest.
BRAD: Wide Tall Eight. He’s just one of those big old typical eights.
WOODS: Nothing wrong with that at all. Just a great deer. Boy, I hope my family members or I have a chance to have an encounter with this deer this year. Beautiful big deer.
BRAD: Hidden Ten. He’s got a, a little unique history that just started. Actually, when I was looking back through the pictures, I found that I’d put him in with another buck. His antlers were fairly similar to another buck we had and I pulled him out and saw, “Yeah, he is a little different.” So, that’s kind of a little Christmas present. We thought we had one great buck. Well, now we actually have two.
WOODS: Another great deer for a stress year. Boy that thing really put some inches on this year.
WOODS: Pitch Fork is the last buck on our Hit List this year. And Pitch Fork’s a special deer. We’ve got a long history with Pitch Fork. He had an injury years ago, that we could overtly see. His racks’ been kind of messed up or non-typical ever since. We actually share Pitch Fork with one of our neighbors that’s also a cooperator; passes up younger bucks, so it’ll be interesting if one of us gets a crack at him this year.
Show ‘em what you got there.
BRAD: This is his right side from last year, actually. I was walking out in one of our wheat fields, about a three inch tall wheat field and it wasn’t too hard to find this one laying out there.
WOODS: Easily identifiable. Pitch Fork’s probably on the way downhill, so he’s way up on our hit list.
You know, it’s tough to share all the details we know about these deer because we have a lot of history with them in the short time frame we usually use on GrowingDeer. But as this year progresses, we’re going to be showing you more trail camera photos, where we’re finding them, what’s going on, what hunting techniques we’re using to reap the benefits of our management plan.
BRAD: I’m excited to get out in the tree stand, that’s for sure.
WOODS: I really hope you have a great Hit List on your property, a safe year and follow along with these bucks as we try to reap the rewards of our management plans at GrowingDeer.tv.