Blog Entries from the WeHuntSC.com blogging crew
Buck Yum Trophy Feed and Supplement Mixture
On an afternoon in late September, I pulled my truck into a nondescript warehouse in Waxhaw, NC. Waiting for me inside was my childhood friend Robert Burns, co-owner of Buck Yum. I hadn't seen Robert in at least a half-dozen years. The last time I saw him was over in our old neighborhood in Charlotte, which he was using as a base of operations for selling tree stands. Robert and I spent an hour or so catching up on the events of the past few years, telling each other about our families and reminiscing about some of the old times we had spent together hunting while we were growing up. I left his warehouse with a couple of hundred pounds of Buck Yum in the back of my truck.
The first time I used this new feed, I scattered a fifty pound bag around a small food plot on my lease, taking note of the extremely strong scent of peanuts that was present in the feed. After pouring it out, I quickly got in a box blind for the evening hunt. Before long, an extremely strong storm system passed through the area, and my food plot was soon a mass of mud and muck, and no deer appeared. The feed washed away in the rain, and I was extremely disappointed as I headed home - not in the product itself, but in the fact that I'd wasted fifty pounds of it.
The following weekend, I went back down to my club and used two more bags to fill up a pair of feeders that I had in different spots on the property. I chose to wait a week before hunting those stands. When I returned the following week, I was amazed at how different the ground around my feeder looked. Before Buck Yum, there had been some obvious signs of animals feeding, but the difference now was quite distinct. The ground around the feeder had been swept clean of pine needles, as you can see in the picture below. A week after that, there were green shoots coming up where some of the smaller elements of the feed had taken root and had sprouted, adding yet another reason for deer to come to the feeder.
My trail cameras showed a variety of deer coming to both feeders, and I knew that Buck Yum was a hit. Last week, I went to a stand that has not had a bit of Buck Yum near it all year, and I poured ten pounds out on the ground seventy yards from the feeder. Literally twenty minutes after I poured it out and got in my stand, a doe appeared and went directly to the feed. She started eating it, and within another five minutes she was dead on the ground, victim of my 7mm magnum. My experience with Buck Yum has been extremely positive, and I'll be replenishing my supply at the first opportunity. Congratulations to Robert Burns and Brad Hoover on an excellent product.
Garmin Montana 650 GPS
Over the last decade, I've owned a steady stream of Garmin GPS units. My first experience with Garmin's products was an iQueue 3600 Palm Pilot GPS unit, which did an extremely good job providing directions on the road, but it did not have any off-road maps available and was thus useless in the deer woods. I replaced it with a Garmin Colorado, which I liked quite well. The screen was extremely readable in broad daylight, and it was very accurate when it came to marking waypoints.
The unit's software was somewhat lacking, and when the Oregon product line came out, Garmin did not provide any firmware updates for the Colorado for quite some time. I liked my Colorado, but wanted some of the features of the Oregon, so I sold the Colorado on eBay and upgraded to an Oregon 400T. This was another great unit, and was well supported by the Garmin team. The main issue with it was that the screen was much harder to read in daylight.
When Garmin announced the Montana lineup, I sold my Oregon and ordered a Montana from the REI store up in Charlotte. It took a couple of months to arrive, but when it did, I had found the GPS that I was looking for. The unit has an extremely solid feel, and the large touch screen is easily visible in the daylight.
This GPS is not, however, for everybody. It's quite bulky when compared to some of the other units on the market. I like the bulkiness of it myself; it's very rugged and fits well in my hand. It's got a built-in camera, but I would only use that when I don't have my normal camera with me. The pictures that it takes are fine, but I'm more interested in the GPS itself rather than the camera. Another downside is that there have been at least six firmware updates in the last three months. That's quite a lot, and it indicates that there are several bugs in the software. However, it also shows that Garmin is serious about supporting the unit, and is actively developing fixes. Most of the issues that have been fixed involve Geocaching, which I don't do, and I personally have not experienced any problems with the unit.
Having said all of that, I'm extremely happy with this GPS, and hope to get many years of service out of it. I carry it in my backpack every time I go hunting, and have used it to mark all of my stands and all of the roads on my lease. I'm using Energizer Lithium batteries, and I am on my second set after 4 months of average usage. The unit also functions well for on-road navigation provided that you purchase the appropriate City Navigator maps. If you buy the auto-mount base, you'll also get voice directions with the unit.
When it comes to flashlights, I'm something of an enthusiast. For the last ten years, I've carried a Surefire 9P light in my Jeep, and whenever I've gone hunting I've stuck it in my backpack for easy access. A week or two ago, I went to get my oil changed. As always, I took the Surefire from the little slot that it fit perfectly in on my Jeep's shifter area and stuck it in the center console. When I went to get it out later that night, it was gone, likely stolen by an employee of the oil change place. After calling the York County sherriff's office to ask them how to proceed, they said to go back over and talk to the oil change place along with a police officer. I did this, and we failed to recover my light. Fortunately, the owner of the place was more than willing to pay me for it, so I left with a check to cover the cost of the 9P along with the LED replacement head that I had installed.
When I went to order a new one, I found that the 9P was no longer in production. I decided to shop around. I've got a Fenix headband light which is incredibly powerful and flexible, so I decided to give them a try on their handheld lights. I ended up ordering three lights... an E-20 for my wife, an E-21 for my Jeep, and a TA-20 for my backpack.
I 've been using the lights ever since, and thought I'd share my findings. The E-21 has a max output of 150 lumens. While not as bright as my old 9P, it uses standard AA batteries and fits pretty well in the same slot that my Surefire did. It's a good enough replacement, and does the job that I need it to do. Turning the head of the light slighty will select beween the bright and dim settings. I've got a stanard set of Duracells in the light right now, but the instructions do suggest using a high quality set of rechargable batteries. I'll be giving that a try in the near future.
The TA-20 light has a really solid feel to it, and at 220 lumens is 10% brighter than my old Surefire, even when I had the high-output head attached. It's got 4 times the life at full power than the Surefire did. The light uses CR-123 batteries and has an easy-to-use selector ring to adjust the output from four lumens up to the full 220 lumen mode. The low level mode is great for use in the dark in a deer blind. It gives you just enough light to see without being bright enough to alert the deer of your presence. This light is definitely going to be a keeper.
"We're going to get one tonight" JD whispered as we settled in for the evening hunt. I was a little more skeptical because as I cut a thread on the burlap surrounding the stand with my CRKT "Brow Tine" knife a bead of sweat dripped from my forehead. It was a very warm October 15th. The double stand that we have set up faces west and with little shade the bright sun had JD and I squirming for any available shade.
The deer seemed to have similar thoughts as well. Just as the shooting lane filled with shade the deer started to ease in for an evening snack. With a little less than an hour of shooting light and deer already starting to move into the food plot I started to believe in what JD told me earlier.
The first two deer that entered the food plot were a doe and her fawn. We watched these two for a few minutes when the doe shook her head and then darted through the food plot as if to signal that something had her on edge. As the fawn followed the doe out of the food plot I whispered to JD, "There might be a buck behind them." Before I could barely finish that statement a buck entered the food plot. "There's a buck!"
JD and I had hunted several times during the week and had seen a good number of deer on those hunts. On those hunts we really put our Mckenzie Scent Fan Duffle bag and Atsko scent products to the test as a front moving in off the coast had the wind blowing at our backs. On each hunt we had deer in close and not one time did a deer wind us. On this hunt though we had the wind in our favor and with plenty of daylight left I thought to myself, "We are going to get one tonight".
For this to be true though I knew that we were going to need the buck to close the distance before I would give JD the green light. The buck entered the food plot a good two hundred yards out and would need to get within a hundred yards for a comfortable shot. The buck seemed to be torn between the doe and the oats and turnips we had planted. He would drop his head and chase the doe but soon lose focus and start to eat again. With this patterning continuing it seemed likely that he would soon be within range. As the buck made his way closer JD filled my ear with questions. "How much do you think he weighs?" "How far away is he?" "What do you think?"
As I watched the deer move down the food plot, my words to JD were, "I think he would be a great first deer." JD took a deep breath and I could tell he was starting to get really excited. The buck finally had made his way to the bottom of the hill and now he stood at one hundred yards. I whispered to JD to get ready and ease the safety off. I told him when the deer took a step forward to put the cross hairs right behind the front shoulder and squeeze the trigger. As the buck took that step forward my heart was pounding because I knew this was the moment we had been waiting for. Without hesitation JD squeezed the trigger and the buck dropped. As I watched through my camera's viewfinder I could tell that the buck was down but I quickly told JD to load another cartridge. To my surprise the buck jumped up. JD fired another shot just over the bucks back. The buck turned and sat on the right edge of the food plot. "Load another round!", I exclaimed. It was at that point I thought the first shot might have hit him high. The buck staggered up again and headed for the cutover. JD fired another shot and the buck disappeared.
Every deer hunter knows that feeling that overwhelms you after you shoot a deer. I think JD and I both were shaking like a leaf as we tried to plan our next move. I replayed the video and JD's first shot looked like it hit high and back some. We waited about thirty minutes and then walked through the food plot to mark the spot of where the deer entered the cutover. We found a little bit of blood where the buck had sat down but as we searched the edge of the cutover there were no signs of blood. If any of you have ever searched for a deer in a cutover you know how hard it is to navigate the briars and thick brush. With the darkness set in and no sign of a blood trail, I thought it would be good to go to plan B. We went back to my house and reviewed the footage over and over again. With the shot being high I thought it would be better to give the deer time instead of pushing him out and eliminating our chance of recovery. We decided to wait until daylight and get some help from my neighbor.
My neighbor had always told me that if we couldn't find a deer to call him and he would get his Labrador Retriever to help. So I called him the next day, and in a moments notice he had Haley ready to "Hunt Dead". I picked JD up and we headed over to the food plot. Haley got on the trail quick but we couldn't keep up so we decided to start over. This time my neighbor stayed right on Haley's tail and within a few minutes we recovered the deer. A sigh of relief from me and big "Woooo!" from JD echoed through the thicket.
JD had just harvested his first deer. A four point, 120 pound buck! The buck had three points on his left side and a cowhorn on its right side. Definitely a great first deer! I couldn't have been happier and I think JD feels the same.
Words can't really describe the feelings of sharing this experience with my cousin JD. I think this will be something that he will always cherish and I know I will. I was really impressed with his patience during our hunts and I think he is officially a deer hunter. He has learned so much not only through the things I've tried to teach him but also from all of the others who have helped us along the way. And I can't thank everyone enough.
JD, you did a great job and I can't be more proud! I think you got a pretty cool birthday present this year buddy! Check out the video below of the hunt.
As part of the Intro to Game Management blog series we discussed how food plots are one tenant of game management. This blog entry shows us preparing the soil for our food plots by spraying weed killer.
If you were around last year then you probably joined us in the Tecomate Seed "Food Plot Journey" where we detailed food plot creation from a novice?s perspective. Part of that journey was to start getting our food plots ready to be planted. We talked in depth about soil preparation and one thing we did to get the areas ready for food plots was to spray round-up to kill the weeds. You can see the blog entry "More Food Plot Soil Samples + Spraying" for a more in depth look at where we started.
This season we're planting food plots again and are not going into as much detail about our steps I this blog series, but we are posting videos to show the progress.
The below video shows the starting point for this year?s food plots where we sprayed round-up.
In the woods behind me, I heard the unmistakable sound of a deer approaching. The leaves on the forest floor crunched with every step that he took, and I wondered how close he would get before sensing my presence. It didn't take long. The deer snorted twice and bounded away with the sound of his hooves pounding out a rhythm as he ran. I threw another log in my backyard firepit and grinned in the darkness, surprised that the deer had gotten as close to me as he had. He would have had to have smelled the smoke from my fire, and I hadn't been particularly quiet whenever I poked at the logs in the pit. I took a sip of wine and turned my attention inwards. I was in a reflective mood tonight and wanted to take the time to "recover from the past and store up for the future," as Robert Ruark's Old Man once put it.
A month and a half into deer season, and I've only gotten one doe so far. That's a little unusual, but the season has been a busy one for me and I haven't gotten in the woods as often as I normally do. My job, more than anything else, has kept me busy with more work and longer hours than I've had to do in years. I've had to do a good bit of traveling, which is fairly unusual in my computer programming job. I've also been seeing less deer than usual this year. I had some good bucks on camera back in September, but they vanished when rifle season opened on October 1. A couple of days ago I saw a two and a half year old eight pointer, but he was a good bit smaller than what we've been looking for.
I'm also trying to write two books at one time, which is probably a mistake. I had hoped to finish "Daily Bread for Deer Hunters" in time for Christmas, but it looks like I'm not going to make that self-imposed deadline. In that new devotional, I'm reading through each book of the Bible and am relating it to the outdoors. That's pretty difficult, and I've only gotten twenty-some chapters done so far. There are at least forty more to go. The second book, a novel called "The Cabin", is the more important one as it deals with spiritual warfare and will reach a wider audience than the devotional. Hunting plays a background role in "The Cabin", but is still an important part of the story.
My son Paul is approaching his first birthday, and it's a great joy to watch him grow. We bought him some camouflage clothes a few weeks ago at Bass Pro Shops and has his picture taken in them. He says three words right now... "Mama", "Dada", and "Deer". Whenever I hold him up to one of the whitetails on my wall, he says "deer!" When we take him to someone's house who is not a hunter, he'll give the walls a puzzled look and ask "deer?", wondering where the heads are at.
Although he can't say anything else at this point, if I ask him "where is the turkey?", he'll turn his head and look at the gobbler that we have mounted in one of our upstairs rooms. He also knows who "Mr. Kudu" is, but has not yet attempted to pronounce that exotic word. It's difficult to want to take him hunting so badly, and yet know that there are several more years in front of us before he'll be ready to go. I certainly don't want to rush through his babyhood, but I am really excited about his first hunt, whenever that will be.
We're in the process of moving him from his smaller bedroom to a larger one, which is also taking up a good bit of time. We'll be painting it in the next few days and having some furniture delivered. We just finished up with all of the repair work from the spring hailstorms, so at least we've got that behind us.
In our club, around a dozen deer have been killed so far. While most of these have been does, one of the guys got a nice eight-pointer this past Saturday. He said that there was a smallish ten point with the bigger buck, and that they were trailing after some does. That's exciting to hear, and I look forward to see some action in the coming weeks.
I found some big buck tracks in my side yard the other day, and I've got my backyard feeder full of corn, hoping to get a look at what comes in. We don't shoot them in the yard, but they sure are fun to watch. I'll have to stick a trail camera back there sometime this week to see how many deer are coming in each night.
There are so many things to think about during this, the best time of the year, that it's often worthwhile to walk out to the firepit in the cool of the evening after work and just take some time to relax. And look forward to the next opportunity to get into the deer woods, of course.