Small Property Water Holes
By Michael Malloy
If any one of these three is missing, the deer will likely leave your area. Whether you have 10 acres or hundreds, recent droughts have taught us a lot about what deer do when water is lacking. They move until they find it.
Even in non-drought conditions, many small properties are devoid of a water source, as was my case. To keep whitetails around, I had to figure out something.
About 12 years ago, I bought two kid-size plastic swimming pools and placed them on my property in strategic places.
They filled up naturally when it rained. These two man-made waterholes hold enough water to help sustain this missing element, as well as lure and keep deer in my hunting area.
Small Property Water HolesWith the nearest water source two miles away, the small pools have helped allow deer to take up residence on my property.
It did take some time for the deer to find it and get accustomed to it, but there is no doubt the numbers in my herd have grown because the property no longer lacked one of the three vital elements. There are five distinct groups of deer that visit my waterholes now, all drawn from different directions.
If you only have a small tract like me, I have other suggestions for hunting your waterholes.
Obviously, I could take more deer but I only harvest one special whitetail a year — something I want to mount.
I leave the does for hunters on surrounding property, and I focus patiently on allowing one of the old-timers to step out. After I tag a big buck, my focus shifts to taking care of the herd until the next season.
Staying out of the bedding areas is important when hunting my small tract. The waterholes have helped my property become a sanctuary, and an island in the middle of heavily-hunted areas.
As an added benefit to your herd, you can put horse vitamins in the pool to help keep your whitetails healthy. Other animals, including birds and non-game species, will also benefit from your water source.
You don’t have to have a lot of land to harvest nice deer, just the three main elements. I hope my tip allows small-tract hunters to bring water into the equation if they are lacking a water source.
Long Time Coming
By Mike Handley
Nineteen-year-old Luke Lohan might be flying blind when he climbs his next treestand.
The kid from St. Clairsville hunted the same Ohio buck for three seasons before removing it from his most-wanted list in 2017. So unless his trail cameras yield some new incentive this summer, he’ll head afield with only fingers crossed.
Luke is a heavy equipment operator in the oil and gas fields of eastern Ohio. He hunts his family’s 46 acres in Belmont County.
The 24-pointer was nocturnal and mostly camera-shy in 2015 and 2016, but things changed this past season.
“Something happened in 2017 I cannot explain,” Luke told Ed Waite, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine. “The buck decided our property was the place to be. I was getting several good, up-close pictures in every 24-hour cycle.
“Sometimes, I was getting 20 or more pictures at my feeder,” he added. “I was also getting pictures of the deer moving between its bedding area and the food plot.”
The photos abruptly stopped on Sept. 19.
“I was devastated; didn’t know what to do,” Luke said. “I even went so far as to hire a young high school friend to walk the surrounding areas, looking to see if he could find a carcass near a watering place.”
The giant whitetail had not succumbed to EHD, however. It came home the first week of October.
It rained Monday morning, Oct. 9, which cut short Luke’s work day. Soon, he was 35 feet up a tree. After breaking for an hour-long, mid-afternoon lunch, he returned.
“Just after 6:00, I tried some light rattling and added a soft grunt or two,” he said. “At 6:35, this buck came slipping in from downwind. It was on a mission to see who or what was in its woods”
The shot was 24 yards.
“You have no idea what an incredible high you get from walking up on downed 200-plus-inch buck and wrapping your hands around those antlers,” Luke told Ed.
Scent-soaked Sock Secret
By Armand Tetreault
Armand Tetreault wasn’t afraid to try an unusual tactic. In only four years, it has helped him put 13 deer in the freezer, including this Rhode Island buck.
I am 54 years old and fairly new to the sport of whitetail hunting.
Since my hunting career hasn’t been all that long, many hunters might assume I wouldn’t have much to offer in the way of hunting knowledge.
But due to the great success I have had with one particular tip, I feel compelled to share it with my friends and Buckmasters fans.
In only four short seasons, I have taken 13 deer in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, including several nice bucks. Here’s the kicker: They were all taken ON PUBLIC LAND.
Every hunter knows deer have fantastic senses of hearing, sight and smell, so I came up with a trick that has proven to defeat all three.
Deer are naturally camouflaged very well, and other animals have a hard time seeing them, including other deer. They use their tails to communicate with each other.
A swish and a flick means the coast is clear, so it’s okay to proceed. Here is how I use this to my advantage.
First, I take a small, white sock and spray it well with doe urine. In the rut and pre-rut, I use an estrus doe scent. During archery season, I use a plain doe urine scent.
Then, I take a light fishing line and lower the sock down from my stand to approximately 24 inches above the ground.
From time to time, I twitch the sock slightly. This gets the attention of nearby deer, as well as any buck that might be approaching.
The flicking of white is often enough to convince the old boys that it is safe to proceed my way.
In addition to the visual effect, I like that the doe-scented sock is elevated and any breeze can distribute the odors better than if scent had been poured onto the ground.
If the wind picks up and the sock sways unnaturally, simply lower the sock to the ground and think of it as a scent rag.
I hope this small tip helps my fellow hunters. In only a few short years, it has certainly put a lot of venison in my freezer!
By Wesley J. Cagle
One of my personal favorite tips is something I’ve done for a long time, and it really works for tricking a deer’s nose.
I’m almost never winded, and have had countless deer walk within feet of me. It’s become a routine now.
All I do is take fresh pine needles — preferably from a young tree — and break them every few inches, then rub the clumps on the tops of my hands, refreshing continually during my hunt.
I take all the other necessary precautions by showering with scent-free soap and wearing scent-elimination clothing, as well as using unscented deodorant and washing my clothes in scent-killer detergent.
But if you’ll keep a small cluster of pine leaves handy and rub them on your hands from time to time, it will help mask orders that build throughout the hunt from perspiration. You’ll blend into the surroundings more, and the deer will have a much harder time smelling you.
De-stinkify Your Hands
By Tim H. Martin
When I think back to the time I shot and field dressed my first buck, I can still remember the frustrations of trying to get the stink off my hands. That was nearly 40 years ago.
Mind you, these were extra funky rutty hands, because I’d somehow managed to grab the buck’s hock glands while dragging it out of the woods — the classic rookie mistake.
So, even before diving into the whole gutting routine, my hands were off to a bad start.
My mistakes only got worse. I popped the pee sack, perforated the buck’s paunch, and forget to use rubber gloves, among other first-timer errors.
Even two nights later, the funk would wake me up from a deep sleep whenever my hands got too close to my nose. The musky smell made it hard for me to eat, too.
No matter how many times I washed my hands with soap or dishwashing detergent, I couldn’t completely get rid of my hock gland hands.
Three days later, a friend dropped by with a big mess of north Alabama crappie that needed filleting. I helped him clean them and told him I didn’t mind stinking up my hands with fish if it would override the deer gut smells.
He asked me if I’d ever tried shaving cream to remove deer funk. I told him I hadn’t, so after finishing up with the fish, he took a can of Colgate shaving cream and squirted a generous portion on my hands and wrists. I let it soak in for a minute, then rinsed them clean.
Much to my surprise, not only was the crappie smell gone, but the medley of deer funks on my hands were gone as well!
My buddy explained how the shaving cream’s alcohol content, chemicals and fragrances break down bacterial odors quickly, while masking smells at the same time.
This shaving cream tip has been a part of my game cleaning routine ever since, and I’ve found it also works well for de-stinking hands reeking of elk, dove, rabbit, pheasant, wild hogs, duck, squirrel, and even red onions.
Big Dank Down
By Mike Handley
Tim Starkey’s friends can breathe a sigh of relief.
The 25-year-old oil field worker has buck meat, which means the jerky is about to flow. He’ll continue to give it away, but this batch will cost him a lot more than he normally spends for spices. His taxidermist can vouch for that.
Tim’s was one of the first Oklahoma bucks liked and shared across Facebook this fall because he shot it on Day No. 1 of bow season. He was hunting a friend’s 60 acres for the second year in a row.
“I was getting so many trail cam pictures of him, I should’ve called him Movie Star instead of Dank,” he laughed.
Because the big buck and another seemed inseparable, Tim and his wife, Amber, joked that the duo reminded them of Chip (Chipper Jones) and Dank (Jeff Danker) from outdoors TV shows, and the names stuck. “His deer,” was Dank, the larger of the two.
Business kept Tim out of the woods on opening morning, but he was hunting by 4:00 that afternoon. His stand is a tall, double-person model attached to a willow at the corner of a first-year soybean field.
About 6:45, Tim saw a couple of does enter the beans he was watching. Five minutes after they strolled into the wide open, a buck came out of the woods on Tim’s side of the field, about 100 yards distant.
“That was the very first time I’d seen him on the hoof,” he said.
The shot was 27 yards, and the buck hit the dirt immediately. The arrow clipped the top of both lungs, but it must have also nicked the spine.
“It took me a long time to calm down. Regaining my composure was quite a task,” Tim said. “I had to talk myself down.”
After decompressing for nearly 45 minutes, he eventually was able to descend his 21-foot ladder. Even then, Tim avoided going directly to the downed deer. Instead, he walked to the edge of the field to wait for his brother-in-law, Joe Crook.
While most hunters might set speed records in getting to their dead bucks, Tim kept his distance. He was worried that the moment he touched it, the story would end.
“I just didn’t want it to be over,” he said.
By Mike Handley The rattling bag Geoffrey Henry bought just prior to Louisiana’s Oct. 1, 2017, bow opener was worth every penny.
The security guard from Start, Louisiana, picked it up at Simmons’ Sporting Goods in Bastrop, after a couple of buddies in the store’s archery shop suggested the tactic.
Geoffrey first became aware of the deer when he retrieved a partial trail camera image of it in July. He could see only a bit of the thick, point-studded beams, but he was smitten.
“I had to get him,” he grinned.
The enormous whitetail had a smaller traveling companion, a buck that might’ve received plenty of attention any other year.
Although Geoffrey was working the graveyard shift the night before opening day, he left work at 5 a.m. and went immediately to his treestand. He couldn’t wait to try his hand at deerspeak.
“I did that opening day, and I didn’t see anything. So I didn’t do it the second day,” he said.
Geoffrey didn’t have to work on Oct. 3, so he was in his stand between 30 and 40 minutes before sunrise. He pulled the memory card from one of his cameras en route to the tree, and the card showed his dream buck had passed through there at 4 a.m.
“I figured he was bedding pretty close by,” Geoffrey said.
“Around 7:45, I blew my grunt call for a couple of minutes, real low, then I did some light rattling with my bag. I was trying to sound like two small bucks pushing and shoving.”
A few minutes later, a buck – Geoffrey was sure it was the bull of the woods’ buddy – ran to within 20 yards of his setup. He was astounded because he’d never lured bucks of that caliber.
He knew he might not get another chance to stand if he didn’t rise when the young buck looked away, so he eased upright as soon as feasible, a smart move.
“When I stood and looked down, that big buck was about 40 or 50 yards away, and he just came barreling in there, too,” he said.
The younger buck eventually turned and walked through an opening at 35 yards, and Geoffrey drew his Mathews bow in anticipation of the big one taking the same path.
It was straight-up 8:00 when he loosed his arrow.
The deer’s BTR score is 202 3/8 inches.
Three Outside-the-Box Tips
By Amy Young
Buckmasters fan Amy Young sent us three unusual tips that have helped in her hunting career. She definitely thinks outside the box!
Tip One: Local Ingredient Sponges
To make my own natural-scent sponges, I take local ingredients: dirt, leaves and materials from around my stand, then mix with water and strain.
Next, I place the water in a sealable container, along with chunks from multiple sponges.
When I dry my hunting clothes, I pop a wet sponge in the dryer and tumble them. I place the now-dried sponge in my clothes container. This trick keeps my clothes smelling as close to the natural environment around my stand as possible.
The sponges are reusable. Just stick them back in their container with the water made from local ingredients.
Tip Two: Easy Stand Disguising
Don’t throw out that old artificial Christmas tree. If you find a good spot for a treestand but it needs more cover, I’ve found that branches from the old artificial tree are perfect for the job.
Make sure to use the kind with wire branches. These can usually be attached or wrapped around the tree without harming it.
Zip ties are a good way to fasten the branches to stands, stand legs or blind walls.
I like to spray the branches well with scent-killer and UV blocker before the first hunt.
Tip Three: Fruit-scented Hunters
Call me crazy, but instead of using scent-free soap or spray before heading to the stand (like most hunters), I use peach- or apple-scented soaps and lotions. Believe it or not, the deer come right to me!
The first time I tried it was in the 1990s. Several does came directly beneath me, sniffing the air to see where the good smell was coming from. An hour later, a small buck came in and did the same thing. I made the shot and was so proud!
When my dad was helping me with my deer, he smelled the apple lotion and told me not to wear it anymore. For the next three hunts, I saw nothing.
But on the fourth hunt, I decided to try some peach body lotion, and I filled my doe tag after only 45 minutes in the stand. I was on to something!
I’ve had great luck with it ever since, and have since tried other lotions such as Robertson’s maple syrup, persimmon, sorghum and wild mushrooms with success.
By Any Other Name
By Mike Handley
Keegan Schmitt shot the wrong deer on Sept. 18.
The bowhunter from Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, thought he was about to shoot Sweet Sixteen, a 16-point buck over which he’d been drooling for more than a year. He wound up sticking a 17-pointer, however.
Keegan couldn’t see the 17th point in the few trail camera photographs he’d collected of the unpredictable whitetail.
He retrieved three or four pre-season trail cam images in 2016, and then the deer disappeared until midway into the rut. It was photographed twice more before vanishing for good.
Keegan was late setting out his two cameras in 2017. He was elated to find one photo of the buck the first time he checked them in August, and he continued getting pictures from both units through opening weekend of bow season.
Many of the snapshots were taken while the sun was shining.
A wedding kept Keegan out of the woods on opening day. When he checked his camera on Sunday, the buck had passed through the Dodge County property at 1:30 a.m.
Keegan’s boss, who knew he was obsessed with a big deer, allowed him to leave work early on Monday. The 21-year-old plumber drove to the mown trailhead, parked, and walked to his Big Game climber already waiting in a tree. He was 18 feet aloft by 3:30.
“At 7:04, I decided to stand up for the remainder of my hunt. Fifteen seconds later, I saw the deer emerge at 20 yards,” he said. “Two or three minutes after that, it was at 10 yards, looking left and right with every step.”
That’s when the bow hummed.
Keegan’s fourth and largest buck was green-scored at 197-plus inches. His previous best in nine seasons was a 10-pointer that might have scored in the mid-130s.
Clearing Up Gray Skies
By Mike Handley
Kraig Street of Rushville, Illinois, was in a funk on opening day of the 2016 shotgun season because his co-builder wasn’t able to join him for the christening of their homemade blind.
He and his 14-year-old son, Michael, built the shooting house on wheels and hauled it to a cut cornfield a week earlier. The blind had four thickly insulated walls and a camper shell for a roof. The outside was covered in tin, and the interior was plywood.
They painted it a mottled, camo-like brown.
“We put chairs in the blind,” Kraig told John Phillips, who’s writing the story for Rack magazine. “We wanted a warm, comfortable place to hang out and hunt. We also had a trailer hitch for pulling it with an ATV or a truck.
“Michael and I planned all year to hunt together on opening day of deer season. But through no fault of his or mine, he wasn’t permitted to go with me until 6 p.m. that day, too late for us to hunt,” he added.
Armed with his son’s lightweight shotgun, Kraig went solo that morning.
Less than an hour after crawling in the blind, Kraig saw a wide 10-pointer chase an adolescent buck onto the stubble. Twenty minutes after that, four more bucks pushed a doe into the open.
The bull of the woods stepped out next and ran off all challengers, including the buck that had just bred the doe. Kraig took the 134-yard shot when the cantankerous whitetail stood still and broadside.
He then called his 24-year-old stepson and outdoors buddy, Tyler Rensch, who was hunting nearby with some friends. When Tyler arrived, they began combing the woods for the deer.
When they finally saw it in a depression, still alive, Kraig administered a coup de grace.
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