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DANIEL: (Whispering) Oh, that’s nice. See that wide frame.
DANIEL: (Whispering) That’s a good dear, Rae.
RAE: (Whispering) Okay.
GRANT: Knowing where the best food resources are and how deer are likely to respond to changes in weather, are important parts of making a successful strategy to tag a big buck during the late season.
GRANT: My daughter Rae’s recent hunt is a great illustration of how to incorporate those resources and deer behavior into a successful strategy.
GRANT: Rae really enjoys hunting and has tagged several good bucks throughout the years.
GRANT: During the late season of 2016, many of the smaller plots had been heavily browsed. But there was still high-quality forage in the food plot we call Crabapple. It’s one of the larger plots here at the Proving Grounds and we’d been seeing bucks using that forage during the afternoon.
GRANT: During Missouri’s alternative method season, or what most of us call muzzleloader season, which is usually between Christmas and New Year’s, Rae, Daniel and I were hunting out of a Redneck blind at Crabapple when we saw a bonus buck step out. Or a buck we didn’t have any history with.
GRANT: The buck calmed down and was feeding and Rae made a great shot and we watched that buck pile up at the edge of the plot.
GRANT: We were celebrating and happy, but there was a surprise when we walked up to that buck. It was late season, of course, and that buck had shed when he fell.
GRANT: A couple of years later, Rae tagged another good buck during that late muzzleloader season. During a wicked, cold afternoon, Rae watched several bucks enter a plot and start feeding.
GRANT: That winter it had been very cold for several days in a row and deer were feeding during daylight hours, probably in an effort to stay warm.
GRANT: If you think about it, when the sun is out, at least there’s radiant heat warming up the critters and us. But at nighttime, especially on a clear night, that heat is leaving and going up in the atmosphere. It’s really cold at night. You know how the temperatures drop on a cold, clear night. So, the deer are going to be active during the day, when it’s warmer and they’re not expending as many calories to go feed.
GRANT: I’ve experienced this from north to south and all different types of habitat. But it’s extremely obvious in production ag areas. All those crops have been harvested and there’s limited food. And when deer find a food source, they are going to be huddled up there during daylight hours feeding.
GRANT: Usually the longer the temperatures remain below normal, the more common it is to see deer feeding during daylight hours.
GRANT: Even more predictable than deer feeding during daylight hours, is when it’s been colder than normal. That first day when the temperatures warm up, it seems like they pile out of the woodworks and feed during the daytime.
GRANT: Here at the Proving Grounds and throughout much of the Midwest, during New Year’s weekend a strong cold front pass. Temperatures drop well below normal. In fact, here at the Proving Grounds, the daytime temperatures were in the 20’s and in the night, they were down in the low teens. Our normal temperature for that time of year is in the 30’s. So, it was wicked cold for critters living outside.
GRANT: During the first few days of those colder than normal temperatures, our Reconyx cameras weren’t showing much deer activity. And the few deer they took pictures of were right on the edge of food plots and it seemed they were feeding close to quality cover.
GRANT: Those of you that have watched GrowingDeer throughout the years, know that Rae is not a fair-weather hunter. In fact, I’ve seen Rae come home from high school, take shower, go out hunting, her hair would still be a little wet, and it would freeze and break or some of it would freeze and break before she got back into the house.
GRANT: Rae knows how to hunt. And even though it was cold, her and Daniel decided to go out hunting, hoping they’d catch a buck on the feet.
GRANT: Rae had had success at Crabapple during the late season. So, she decided to hunt that plot and try to catch a buck stepping out for a few bites.
GRANT: It was still early when Rae and Daniel spotted some movement on the edge of the plot.
GRANT: The does and fawns did just what our Reconyx cameras had been telling us. They stepped out, took a few bites of the milo grain, which was still standing from the Summer Release blend, didn’t stay around long and then went back into the timber, probably to cover.
ANNOUNCER: GrowingDeer is brought to you by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Also, by Reconyx, Green Cover Food Plots, Winchester, Lacrosse Footwear, Thlete Outdoor Apparel, Morrel Targets, RTP Outdoors, Fourth Arrow, HuntStand, Scorpion Venom Archery, Case IH Tractors, Burris Optics, G5 Broadheads, Prime Bows, and Redneck Hunting Blinds.
GRANT: The following day the forecast called for temperatures rising into the 40’s. Much warmer than it had been. And I believed deer would be active during daylight hours.
GRANT: Rae and Daniel decided to go to a Redneck blind that’s in the middle of a food plot we call Big Boom. A couple of years ago, Rae tagged a nice buck during September – much warmer conditions – out of that same blind, using a crossbow.
GRANT: There’s a large area just to the south and east of the Big Boom food plot that we manage for native vegetation. We’ve cut all the cedars and used prescribe fire for years, and that’s resulted in great native grasses and forbs. During cold days – of course it’s a south facing slope – deer like to bed there in those tall native grasses. They keep the wind from hitting the deer but allow the sun’s radiant energy to warm them up. And then before dark, ease on up the mountain and get some food out of the food plot.
GRANT: Last winter, under very similar conditions, Daniel and I used the same strategy and watched 19 deer come off that southern slope and feed in the plot.
GRANT: More recently, I used what we call that first warm day strategy – the first day the temperatures are normal, or even above normal, after a cold front – to tag an old buck we called Swoops.
GRANT: I tagged that buck in the same plot Rae and Daniel were hunting.
GRANT: Given the conditions and the success of using this strategy throughout the years, Rae and Daniel got settled in the Redneck early with great confidence they’d see some deer.
RAE: It is January 3rd and the second to last day of muzzleloader season. I’m hoping that something big will step out and I’ll get a shot.
GRANT: Around 4:00 P.M. they saw a couple fawns feeding just west of the blind.
GRANT: Knowing from past hunts out of this blind, that deer typically enter the field on the east end, they decided to stay set up facing the east and just glance occasionally behind them, looking for deer that entered from the west.
GRANT: About 20 minutes later, Daniel spotted antlers coming through the timber.
DANIEL: (Whispering) It’s a buck.
RAE: (Whispering) Where at?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Right here.
RAE: (Whispering) Oh, that’s nice. He’s got a wide front.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah. That’s a good deer, Rae.
RAE: (Whispering) Okay.
GRANT: We called this, wide antlered buck, Center Eight.
GRANT: Center Eight was head down feeding on the Fall Release blend. I find that during warmer days, deer tend to go to forages or greens. And during colder days, they go to grains, like milo heads, corn or acorns.
GRANT: And I believe it’s because, on those cold days they’re seeking carbohydrates, that generates more heat as there being digested. And on warmer days, they’re going for those greens.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Hold on one second. Let me look and see what deer are back in the woods here. Okay?
RAE: (Whispering) Okay.
DANIEL: (Whispering) There’s another deer. I just want to make sure it’s not Henry.
GRANT: Center Eight wasn’t the only buck they saw feeding in the plot. Several young bucks, also came up from the south, entered the plot and were feeding.
GRANT: Rae looked around to see if there was another hitlist buck in the area, and then waited for the young bucks to get away from Center Eight, so she’d have a clean shot opportunity.
GRANT: Finally, Center Eight separated from the other bucks and Ray waited for him to turn and present a good shot opportunity.
DANIEL: (Whispering) All right. There you go. Get ready.
RAE: (Whispering) Can I take him?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
RAE: (Whispering) Ready?
DANIEL: (Whispering) Yeah.
RAE: (Whispering) Okay.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Good shot.
RAE: (Whispering) Thank you.
DANIEL: (Whispering) Good shot. That’s a great buck.
RAE: Yeah! He was – he was pretty wide.
DANIEL: Oh, he’s a wide (indiscernible) [00:10:31].
RAE: Yeah. That’s good. I’m happy with it.
DANIEL: Man. What a good deer. They were just, I don’t know, you were probably just focused on that deer. But every now and then I kept looking.
DANIEL: And you could see those bucks were just piled down.
RAE: Yeah. I was like, should I wait for something else to come along? But I was like, no, I’ve waited long enough.
DANIEL: Yeah. That’s a good deer.
RAE: Thank you. Thank you.
DANIEL: Nice shooting.
RAY: Hi, dad.
GRANT: This must be good news.
RAE: This is great news. I shot a deer.
GRANT: Awesome, Rae.
RAE: Thank you. It is a buck in case you’re wondering.
GRANT: Do you know which one it is?
RAE: Daniel, do we know which one it is?
DANIEL: Center Eight.
RAE: Center Eight.
GRANT: Congratulations, Rae.
RAE: Thank you.
GRANT: I will grab Carter and we will come up that way.
RAE: All right. Sounds good.
GRANT: Rae and Daniel knew from the buck’s reaction that the shot placement was great and that buck probably wasn’t going far.
GRANT: They celebrated and then climbed down and headed toward where they’d last saw the buck.
RAE: Tricky. Tricky. I feel like it’s Easter.
GRANT: Center Eight had only went about 30 yards out of the plot.
DANIEL: What a great shot, Rae.
DANIEL: Man. Man. Hold that thing up. Oh, yeah. He’ hefty.
RAE: Since muzzleloader season started, Daniel and I have been hunting pretty much every day, except for the holidays. And it’s been hot. It’s been cold. Today’s been pretty nice. It’s pretty nice right now. So, it’s been good. We haven’t seen a lot up until now. So, this is super exciting, to see a deer, much less kill a deer. This has been a great season; putting in the work, you know.
RAE: Late muzzleloader season seems to always be my thing. A very cold thing but it’s – it works.
RAE: This guy stepped out first and then seeing the rest come out was exciting too, because you never know what’s going to step out. And then they made it a bit harder, zigzagging around and crossing shots and stuff. So, I had to wait. I had to hold back and wait for a clear shot. But it came.
GRANT: Congratulations! Look at the body on that thing. And it barely made it out of the field.
RAE: I know it.
GRANT: I brought all this help, thinking we’d have to drag it up the mountain. Man, that’s awesome! That is another great deer –
RAE: Thank you.
GRANT: – in the Rae history.
RAE: Thank you.
GRANT: I’m very proud of Rae. She made a great shot. But even more importantly to me, she came from college and opted to put her time in hunting, through some cold days. And then ended up with a great buck and provided more venison for the family.
GRANT: When checking some cards out of Reconyx cameras the next day, we learned something very interesting.
GRANT: During the morning of January 3rd, about 10:30 A.M., Center Eight had walked in front of a Reconyx camera at a food plot we call Back Door. Thirty minutes later he walked in front of another Reconyx on a ridge we call the 50 Acre.
GRANT: By 4:30 that afternoon, Center Eight had obviously made it to the Big Boom food plot.
GRANT: We checked it out on HuntStand and that’s about a mile, as the crow flies, from the Back Door food plot to Big Boom in a relatively short period of time – 10:30 to 4:30. No telling where that buck went in between. It’s a pretty good illustration or how far deer can travel in a short period of time.
GRANT: One of the motivating factors for Center Eight moving so much may be that here at the Proving Grounds we have high-quality habitat, and a lot of our female fawns are now receptive.
GRANT: Female fawns throughout this part of the whitetails range, once they get 65, 70 pounds, will often reach puberty. And if that happens during this time of year, they’re going to express their first estrous cycle or be receptive. It’s kind of like a second rut. And this is another advantage to managing for super high-quality habitat. There’s just more rut behavior to hunt.
GRANT: As usual, after we processed Center Eight, we opened up his rumen. That allows us to see what he’s been eating. We call this scouting from the skinning shed.
GRANT: We weren’t surprised that the majority of food items in his rumen was forage content. Very few acorns were present.
GRANT: What’s really interesting is that 12 days earlier, I had tagged Swoops out of the same food plot, the Big Boom food plot. And when we checked his rumen, it was brown. It wasn’t green at all. It was full of milo, from that Summer Release blend and acorns.
GRANT: This is a great example of how quickly the preferred food sources can change, and why it’s so important to scout from the skinning shed. And it may not be just on your property.
GRANT: Maybe your buddy harvested a deer just a couple of miles away or so and he says, “Man you can’t believe it, but this deer is full of red oak acorns.” That’s a really good indicator that you need to be hunting near some red oak acorns.
GRANT: Scouting from the skinning shed is a bit more of an advanced technique that can put you in front of deer.
GRANT: Understanding the factors that influence when deer are most likely to be active and their preferred food sources, is great information to use to create successful hunting strategies.
GRANT: Studying how wildlife use their habitat is a great way to enjoy creation. But even more importantly, is making time every day to study and seek the Creator’s will for your life.
GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.