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>>DANIEL: [Whispering] You ready?

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Yeah.

>>GRANT: During the fall of 2018, we had our first encounter with a buck we named Potential. We estimated that Potential was three years old and showed a lot of potential, so we opted to give him a pass.

>>GRANT: That year there were several Reconyx images of Potential around a food plot we call Pops. And he was often in a bachelor group with a couple of bucks we called Swoops and Slingshot.

>>GRANT: During the fall of 2018, Potential was pretty active from a ridge here in The Proving Grounds we called Boom all the way to the southern end of the property. And that’s based on our trail cameras. His range may have extended even more.

>>GRANT: It was tempting for myself and other hunters to tag Potential because he often moved during daylight.

>>GRANT: This is fairly common with yearlings, two and three-year-old bucks. They often use a big portion of their home range and are frequently active during daylight.

>>GRANT: Conversely, it appears most mature bucks have a relatively small core area. They don’t use much of their home range and they’re primarily active during the night. And this is likely because of they’ve learned hunting pressure, where the coyote dens are or whatever, and they’re in survival mode.

>>GRANT: Now, these observations probably don’t apply to those big, old bucks you see in urban areas moving during the daylight or in the areas in parks or whatever where there’s not a lot of hunting pressure.

>>GRANT: During 2019, unfortunately, we had no images of Potential. And we assumed he’d probably been harvested on an adjoining property.

>>GRANT: Given that we didn’t know if Potential was alive or dead for a year, we were really excited when he showed up on one of our Reconyx back at the Pops food plot during 2020.

>>GRANT: During 2020 we, once again, had a lot of images of Potential. But based on our trail cameras, he was moving primarily at night and using a much smaller portion of his home range.

>>GRANT: Even though we tried, we never had an encounter with Potential during 2020.

>>GRANT: This summer Potential, as a six-year-old, looked really good. Once again, he was active at the southern portion of The Proving Grounds and often, at least during the summer, was in images with a buck we call Swoops.

>>GRANT: And we noticed during the early fall, based on our trail cameras again, that Potential was more active during daylight. In fact, I had a great encounter with Potential, a bit out of my bow range, in a small hidey hole food plot we call HighTop.

>>GRANT: All around HighTop and even south next to a big food plot we call Tombstone, we had felled large patches of eastern red cedar. And those dead cedars laying there made tremendous cover.

>>GRANT: Great cover next to quality food sources, well, that’s kind of the definition of high-quality wildlife habitat.

>>GRANT: During the past few weeks, our trail cameras had taken several pictures of Potential around the Tombstone food plot.

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>>GRANT: Knowing there was high-quality forage and thick cover all around, ample places for does to avoid those pesky bucks, was all the reason Raleigh needed for her and Daniel to go to the Redneck blind at the edge of Tombstone for her hunt.

>>GRANT: Tombstone is the largest food plot here at The Proving Grounds and Raleigh could cover a lot of area with her Winchester.

>>RALEIGH: [Quietly] It’s the second day of gun season here in Missouri and we’re back at it again. Daniel and I have come back out and we’re out in Tombstone which gives us a pretty 180 view of where deer could come out. So, they could be coming out from any sides. We’re going to be vigilant in watching. We’re just excited to see what comes out this afternoon.

>>GRANT: Raleigh and Daniel got settled in the blind and it wasn’t long until they spotted the first deer.

>>GRANT: It was a single fawn and a fawn without a doe around on November 14th is a great indicator that that doe is receptive, kind of pushed her fawn away, and that all means there’s probably a buck working the area.

>>GRANT: A bit later, a large group of does and fawns entered the food plot from the south and started feeding on that Green Cover Fall Release.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] See how they keep looking back?

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Yeah.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] There’s gotta be something back there.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] This right corner.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Yeah.

>>GRANT: As they were watching this group of does and fawns, another doe came running out of the timber to the south. Potential was behind her.

>>GRANT: They had to scurry around a little bit to get focused in that direction.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Oh, that’s Potential. I’d like for him to turn before I open up the glass.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Yeah.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Because that wind’s gonna blow.

>>GRANT: Potential was focused on the doe. His mind was elsewhere. But I was a bit surprised the doe didn’t pick up Raleigh and Daniel’s scent.

>>GRANT: The wind was out of the north, a little bit northwest. And this is one huge advantage of hunting out of a Redneck blind. With all the windows shut, it does a great job of containing most of the hunter’s scent.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Yep.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Yep.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Here we go. One…

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Yep.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Potential!

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Yes!

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Good job!

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] Thank you. I thought that was so pretty to see him come in like that. Just like [Indiscernible].

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Whoo. I’m shaking.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] You were breathing heavier than I was.

>>DANIEL: [Whispering] Well, I know. I was like, oh, it was like downwind. We’re going to get this window open.

>>RALEIGH: [Whispering] He skirted over in the woods over here. I kind of saw him go in. But it was just – I hadn’t seen it because you said he was in the wood line, and I had only seen the doe. And I was like, “Oh. Okay.” Like there’s a bunch of brush – or not brush – but like food over there. So, it kind of looks like it could maybe be antlers. I was like, “Oh, that looks fine.” And then he like got closer and I was like, “Okay! Like, that looks nice.” And then just the way the sun was hitting him and like him chasing her, it was really pretty to watch.

>>GRANT: In the moment, it looked good. But it’s always tough to tell exactly what happened in real time. And after they celebrated and calmed down a little bit, they realized maybe something wasn’t just right.

>>GRANT: After a bit, Daniel quietly slipped down and found sign – blood – but with some grit in it and clearly the bullet had hit the digestive track.

>>GRANT: They packed up quietly, slide out of the field and we all met up and watched the shot. In fact, we watched it several times on a larger monitor.

>>GRANT: We all agreed it was better to let the buck lay the night.

>>GRANT: Many researchers, myself included, believe that when you bump a wounded deer, they get a big shot of adrenalin and that wound could clog up. And with that adrenalin, man, they can run hundreds or even a thousand yards. So, it was going to be cold, in the 30s, and we just decided to get a good night’s sleep and take up the trail first thing in the morning.

>>RALEIGH: So, last night my shot was a little more right than I would have liked. And after going and checking, we found some gut material on the ground. So, I just wanted to give the deer a little more time to expire.

>>RALEIGH: So, I went back, checked the footage, had some good chili and took a night. And now we’re back out early in the morning, right after sunrise, to see what we can find.

>>GRANT: The trail was fairly easy to follow in the morning light and I was thrilled for Raleigh when we came around a cedar and saw him laying there.

>>GRANT: You did awesome!

>>RALEIGH: Thank you.

>>GRANT: Awesome!

>>RALEIGH: Opening weekend of gun season here in Missouri turned out to be pretty successful for me. Yesterday’s hunt was just so pretty to watch him come in the field chasing a doe with the light on him.

>>RALEIGH: He kept moving closer to the blind, but there was a few other does in the field, so we were worried he was going to take off with one of those. So, the moment he stood still, and I got some shot placement and put him on there. And it was a little more in the gut than – normally, I would drop him in the shoulder – but we took the night off, came back this morning, followed the blood trails just scooting down the mountain here, and we were able to find him. But so glad I was able to harvest this guy this year and just thankful to be out here for another season.

>>GRANT: The Potential story is a great example of how a buck’s behavior often changes as they mature, and the portions of their home range may also change, often decreasing in size significantly.

>>GRANT: This hunt is also a really good example of a strategy that’s effective during the rut.

>>GRANT: The summary of Raleigh’s hunt is she was hunting near quality forage with good-quality cover close by. That’s an ideal setup for bucks, especially during the rut.

>>GRANT: Bucks burn a huge amount of calories during the rut. Often they’ll lose about 30% of their body weight during the rut. And that means that during the rut, even though they’re focused on receptive does, they’ll stop and take a bite or two.

>>GRANT: And hunting over a quality food source can be a great strategy. And that was exactly the key to Chase White’s hunt as he tagged a big, old mountain buck. And we’ll be sharing his strategy in that hunt in our next episode.

>>GRANT: Whether you’re helping a family member trail a good buck or simply taking a walk outside – maybe it’s in the snow up north or the leaves are changing down south – I hope you take time frequently to get outside and enjoy Creation.

>>GRANT: But more importantly, I hope you take time daily to be quiet and seek the Creator’s will for your life.

>>GRANT: Thanks for watching GrowingDeer.