New book: “A monumental leap into a new era of whitetail knowledge.”

Newark NY July 24, 2013 Neil and Craig Dougherty’s new book promises to revolutionize deer hunting. Brian Murphy, one of the leading whitetail authorities in the nation and CEO of QDMA, is calling this book “a monumental leap into a new era of whitetail knowledge. He referred to the book as “the next frontier in the QDM movement.

Whitetails: From Ground to Gun picks up where the Dougherty’s first book, Grow ‘Em Right, left off. It’s one thing to create a great property with big bucks (Grow “EM Right); it is still another to be able to hunt and kill them. Ground to Gun shows how. According to Murphy (Ground to Gun) “provides detailed insight into what makes a great hunting property and how to consistently harvest mature bucks (it)…..is a clear roadmap for QDM success”.

The book is organized into two parts: Part I “The Land Connection” focuses on the relationship between land and white-tailed deer. It examines how deer use land and how to create outstanding whitetail properties. Part II “Mature Deer and How to Hunt Them”, provides unique insights into mature buck behavior and hunting them. The books12 chapters (272 pages) are packed with information on how to consistently grow, hunt, and take mature bucks in heavily hunted areas. New, breakthrough information on the whitetail rut is a highlight of the book, as well as hundreds of proven tips, tactics, and illuminating photos.  Paperback price $22.50

Neil Dougherty is a professional wildlife manager who has created hundreds of world class whitetail hunting properties. He specialized in small property management and currently has over 300,000 acres under his watchful eye. He and his father Craig write for numerous publications and websites, publish books and DVD’s, appear on TV, and regularly present seminars and give talks. They are both active in QDMA and are well know for their insight into white-tailed deer and their ability to turn ho-hum properties into whitetail bonanzas. Their personal hunting property (Kindred Spirits) in western NY has been visited by thousands with an interest in learning how to create great whitetail hunting.

Craig has been a keen observer of the whitetail hunting industry for almost 40 years. He has seen hunting trends come and go and is convinced we are on the cusp of a new era of whitetail hunting, “We deal with thousands of landowner/hunters each year. The questions have changed from “how do I build a great deer hunting property”  to “now that I have big bucks to hunt, how the heck do I kill them?” That’s what this book is all about, connecting the dots between the land, the deer, and the hunter. This is where deer hunting is headed.”

The authors sum it up this way, “You can’t separate the deer from the land, if you don’t understand land, you can’t understand deer and if you don’t understand deer, you can’t successfully hunt them.  A mature buck is a different breed of cat. You just can’t go out and hunt them; you have to learn them. We wrote this book to connect the dots. We’ve taught thousands of landowners how to hunt mature bucks and have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t”.

The Dougherty’s books and DVDs can be purchased at www.northcountrywhitetails.com.

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“Whitetails: From Ground to Gun” Book Review

Think Like a Deer

Neil and Craig Dougherty have written a new book and if it doesn’t make you a better deer hunter nothing will. The key to big buck hunting is learning to think like a deer, and Whitetails: From Ground to Gun, will get you there in short order! Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA, considers this book to be “a monumental leap into a new area of whitetail knowledge” … “the “next frontier” in QDM management.”

From Ground to Gun answers the question “Now that you have mature bucks to hunt, how do you kill them”? It’s about land and the deer that inhabit it. And, it’s It explains in great detail how whitetails use the land they inhabit and the importance of good whitetail habitat to good whitetail hunting. It also teaches you how to create great whitetail property. But it doesn’t stop there. It goes on to cover the instructs in how to create a high quality whitetail property.  habitat to good deer hunting. how land will affects whitetail hunting. Brian Murphy, CEO of QDMA states in his foreword, this book is a monumental leap into a new area of whitetail knowledge—how to think like a deer not a deer hunter…this book represents the “next frontier” in QDM management”.

The Doughertys answer this question and a hundred more like it in 272 clearly written pages (over 200 photos). They speak from experience having been in the deer property management game for over 20 years with over 300,000 acres under their watchful eye. Neil has personally helped his clients take hundreds of mature bucks on properties he has worked with. Their first book, Grow ‘Em Right, was an industry best seller that started thousands on the path of creating world class hunting on small to average sized properties. This book picks up where the last one left off.

The basic premise of the book is syllogistic in nature — you can’t understand deer without understanding the land — and unless you understand deer—-you will never be successful hunting mature bucks. Said another way— you can’t kill big bucks unless you know how they interact with the land they live on. Thus Whitetails: From Ground to Gun.

The authors call on their vast experience to illustrate everything they assert with real life experiences in the woods. They live among whitetails 24-7 -365 and it shows. The book is peppered with examples from the real world and the world of the thousands of hunters they have worked with over the years. Their credibility and experience with deer, deer property, and deer hunters surfaces on every page of this book.

Part I of the book deals with the land side of the equation. In the first 6 chapters the authors present a comprehensive picture of what whitetails need and how they interact with land to meet these needs. It also includes chapters on evaluating property, purchasing property and how to build a world class whitetail property.

Part II is all about hunting mature whitetails. Central to the Dougherty’s thinking on taking mature buck hunting is the notion of “low-impact hunting”. In fact, it’s the thread that binds the entire book together. That, and how to think like a deer. Hunters will find the 6 chapters of this section highly informative and full of valuable tips and tactics. They will particularly interested in fresh new rut findings which have yet to appear in print (outside of a special rut feature in Outdoor Life magazine.

The books table of contents reads like a compendium of what you need to know to kill big deer. This book is all of that and a captivating read to boot. The Dougherty’s are well known for their advanced thinking and ability to communicate it in terms and prose that entertains and enlightens at the same time.

Brian Murphy summed it all up pretty well stating, “Wildlife management is as much art as it is science. Craig and Neil Dougherty blend both beautifully …and provide a clear roadmap for QDM success”.

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NCW Deer Report #12 12-17-12

NCW Deer Report  #12    12-17-12

With the “biological rut” all but wrapped up our buck sightings on “Kindred Spirits” have dwindled dramatically. No, they aren’t all dead but they have all found safe hiding and with the up-tick in hunting pressure caused by the muzzle loader opening, they are even tougher to find. They are laying up during the day and have no reason to move very far. Natural vegetation food sources are everywhere and while not the best groceries in the neighborhood they beat getting shot at.

Sound familiar, it should, because we wrote the same thing last week. The only difference this week from last is they are a bit more on edge because the muzzleloader season has brought out a new influx of hunters. Sorry folks we are in a holding pattern here and until the weather shifts from mild to nasty nothing much is going to happen here on our Kindred Spirits as far as big bucks go. And guess what, the season ends tomorrow. Oh well, they will all be bigger next year.

Our doe/fawn sightings are down slightly on evening green plots but these deer are bedding within 100 yards of the plots and moving very little from food to bed. The bucks are hanging back altogether in areas where they have been pressured.

Neil, on the other hand, is watching 6 and 7 at a time as they have regrouped into their “buddy bunches”. Neil’s farm has seen very little pressure and he is seeing plenty of bucks which are reconstituting their bachelor groups and hitting his most secure food sources. He watches them and doe groups most days from his office window and it’s as if they know they are in a safety zone a few hundred yards from his backyard. He has the best food and cover in the neighborhood and with very little hunting pressure, is seeing plenty of action (through his office window). Were he to go out back and shoot a few it would all change overnight.

Neil’s farm deer are preferring his nice green clover fields to standing corn. Normally deer will eat frozen greens but given a late season choice between frozen greens and corn, corn will win hands down. But this year is not normal and as long as it stays mild and the greens stay soft and tasty they will stay on it. Throw the weather switch for a week and they will be all over the high carb corn and bean pods.

Our cameras are down to record low photos. Where we would once have hundreds if not thousands pics each week from each of a dozen cameras we now down to a few dozen. Where we would once sit in a late season shooting house and watch dozens of deer stream into a field we are now seeing ten or twelve.

With just a few days left in the NY season and no severe weather in the forecast we are now resigned to finishing out our doe harvest. We lack a few and hope to hit our goal by season’s end. Looking back the rut was spectacular but late season hunt has been a “mild weather bust”.

The “Taliban” was in Neil’s neighborhood over the weekend. Pickups full (front and back) of deer drivers headed from one woodlot to the next. If any deer in the neighborhood were not on Neil’s farm before the weekend they are now. Deer drives are an effective way to kill deer, trouble is, you can’t be all that sure of what you are killing.

If you have a property with secure boundaries and plenty of food and cover, and have kept the pressure off you should have plenty of deer about now. Still hunting is a pretty good tactic if you know how to pull off without running them off your land.

Wet leaves are a must and windy stormy days are generally the best days to sneak a deer. Bottom line, real tough to sneak a mature buck that has been hunted 4 or 5 seasons unless you know where he beds.

Two man pushes can get deer on their feet and put some targets in front of you but they too come with the risk of pushing deer all over the neighborhood.

You guys out there in the Midwest who are getting “snowed on and blowed on” need to take advantage of the foul weather and a deer’s need to feed and stake out your food sources. If it’s high carb stuff like corn or beans you are in business. If you have only green plots they will dig down to about 6-8 inches but more than that and they tend to work standing native vegetation. Good hunting ahead if you are still open.

We’ll be sticking to watching food sources, passing up button bucks and young antlered bucks in favor of keeping our numbers in check and filling our freezers with tasty doe venison. This is the time of year when a well managed property is worth its weight in gold.

One more thing, we have seen our first buck with “cast” antlers and are beginning to receive similar reports from the field. Casting is perfectly normal this time of year and will continue until late winter. A decline in testosterone causes specialized cells called osteoclasts to activate and weaken the bond between antlers and the skull.

Injured or highly stressed bucks are often the first to shed as injuries often result in declines in testosterone levels. Early shedders can get injured fighting, clipped with a car or even wounded by a hunter.

If you are actively harvesting does as we are this time of year, be sure to get a look at her head before shooting. If you see two red spots or scabs you are looking at a buck which, while legal (antlerless) you really don’t want to shoot for a doe.

If you see any casting over the next few weeks, let us know. We are interested in nailing down the dates this year. Also be sure to keep your cameras out for a few weeks after your season ends. Taking a post season inventory will help you make better harvest decisions next year.

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NCW Deer Report #11 12-11-12

NCW Deer Report    #11    12-11-12

We have always maintained that the end of the season and its accompanying cold and foul weather offers some of the best mature buck hunting of the season. Many of our best bucks have been taken under winter conditions. Trouble is, somebody canceled winter conditions. For the last two weeks it has been almost summer here in the Northeast.

With the “biological rut” all but wrapped up our buck sightings on “Kindred Spirits” have dwindled dramatically. No, they aren’t all dead but they have all found safe hiding and even with declining hunting pressure are still very much on the defense. They are lying up during the day and have no reason to move very far. Natural vegetation food sources are everywhere and while not the best groceries in the neighborhood they beat getting shot at.

Our doe/fawn sightings are holding up well on evening green plots but these deer are bedding within 100 yards of the plots and moving very little from food to bed. The bucks are hanging back altogether in areas where they have been pressured.

Neil’s farm has seen very little pressure and he is seeing plenty of bucks which are reconstituting their bachelor bands and hitting his most secure food sources. He watches them and doe groups most days from his office window and it’s as if they know they are in a safety zone a few hundred yards from his backyard. He has the best food and cover in the neighborhood and with very little hunting pressure, is seeing plenty of action (through his office window). Were he to go out back and shoot a few it would all change overnight.

With the near summer weather, Neil’s farm deer are preferring his nice green clover fields to standing corn. Normally deer will eat frozen greens but given a late season choice between frozen greens and corn, corn will win hands down. But this year is not normal and as long as it stays mild and the greens stay soft and tasty they will stay on it. Throw the weather switch for a week and they will be all over the high carb corn and bean pods.

Our cameras are down to record low photos. Where we would once have hundreds if not thousands of pics each week from each of a dozen cameras we are now down to a few dozen. Where we would once sit in a late season shooting house and watch dozens of deer stream into a field we are now seeing ten or twelve.

With a week left in the NY season and no severe weather in the forecast we are now resigned to finishing out our doe harvest. We lack a few and hope to hit our goal by season’s end. Looking back the rut was spectacular but late season hunt has been a “mild weather bust”. We’ll hunt green plots the last hr. of the evening and try to “drop em” where they stand.

Lots of drive hunting going on all last week. Always a late season favorite, it really takes its toll on the deer. Being serious deer managers we hate it as it tends to make target ID questionable. Lots of button bucks wind up dying and those racks always shrink once they contact the ground. Lots of guys like to drive hunt as it is as much playing army and a social tradition but not for the serious deer manager.

Still hunting is a pretty good tactic if you know how to pull off a still hunt without running deer off your property. Wet leaves are a must and windy stormy days are generally the best days to sneak a deer. Bottom line, real tough to sneak a mature buck that has been hunted 4 or 5 seasons unless you know where he beds.

Two man pushes can get deer on their feet and put some targets in front of you but they too come with the risk of pushing deer all over the neighborhood.

You guys out there in the Midwest who are getting “snowed on and blowed on” need to take advantage of the foul weather and a deer’s need to feed and stake out your food sources. If it’s high carb stuff like corn or beans you are in business. If you have only green plots they will dig down to about 6-8 inches but more than that and they tend to work standing native vegetation. Good hunting ahead if you are still open.

We’ll be sticking to watching food sources. Passing up button bucks and young antlered bucks in favor of keeping our numbers in check and filling our freezers with tasty doe venison. This is the time of year when a well managed property is worth its weight in gold.

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NCW Deer Report #10 12-3-12

NCW Deer Report  #10       12-3-12

For starters we would like to thank you all for your kind remarks about our Deer Reports. It seems like just yesterday we started sharing our observations with you and here we are at rut’s end. If our reports were “on the money” as many of you remarked, it was in no small part because of the hundreds of updates we received from all of you in the field. Thanks to you all for sticking with it.

Speaking of sticking with it, the rut may be winding down but there is some great hunting ahead if you are lucky enough to live in a state with seasons extending well into December. This is one of our favorite times to hunt as mature bucks gradually shift from “the need to breed” to the “need to feed”. And, that’s just about where we are now.

The “biological rut” is just about, if not totally, over. There will definitely be some “second time around” mature doe breeding and first time fawn breeding this month but it will be sporadic in nature and will not dominate overall herd behavior. A doe in heat will draw a crowd and result in a “buck outbreak” but it is a blip on the radar not a pattern. We don’t subscribe to the “second rut” theory.

This week’s sits were very productive from a “head count” perspective. We are back hunting green plots and each sit resulted in at least a dozen sightings. Trouble is, almost all of the sightings were of doe and fawn groups. Our buck sightings were few and far between. Most of our sits were evening sits and most of the deer came to the plots within the last hour to half hour of shooting light. They poured into the plots anticipating the safety of the cover of darkness. We did some mid-day sitting and saw some decent activity from 10-2 but the bulk of the activity was just before dark. We are averaging somewhere around 6-8 deer observed per hour.

Our camera activity was way off this past week. Not much moving around except for coming to food sources in the evening. This is undoubtedly due to the “biological rut” winding up and the effects of over two months of hunting pressure. Most of our bucks are back to nocturnal behavior and will not start moving during daylight until hunting pressure slacks off or harsh and cold weather drives them to move during the warmth of daylight hours. Bucks rebuilding their bodies aren’t big on burning life saving calories by moving about during the cold of night.

Neil watched a nice 3 year old buck last week from a box blind in a large CPR and food plot complex. The buck bedded near him and stayed put most of the day. Neil spotted him at dawn and was able to track him all day. He got up at 9:00 a.m. and fed in the goldenrod field for 45 minutes. He covered all of 40 or 50 yards and returned to his bed. He was up again at noon and fed again for 30 minutes. He bedded 30 yards from where he started feeding. Multiple doe groups were quietly moving about in the weeds within a hundred yards of him and he showed no interest at all. As darkness began to gather he walked about a hundred yards to a food plot and fed along the edge for 15 minutes before lying down again. His rear end never left the edge cover of the plot, he wasn’t about to expose himself by trotting out in the plot; all this caution on a 1,000 acre hunting property with very little pressure. Anyone wonder what all the older age bucks are doing?

This buck would have snapped into action like a frog on a June bug if he even got a whiff of estrus doe but no whiff was to be had that day in the weeds. He had no desire to walk or trot or cover ground in any manner looking for does as he had been doing a month earlier. For him it was time to rest, repair, and recover. Deer experts often refer to this time period in the rut cycle as the “recovery stage”.

On the good news side a very nice shooter showed up last week for a photo op. We hadn’t seen him since last year when we photographed him repeatedly; he wasn’t sporting much in the antler department last year so we gave him a pass. This year we hadn’t seen him all season and wrote him off as “gone”. He swung through last week (after dark) to check out his old stomping grounds. Last year’s winter had treated him well and this year he is a first class shooter. He worked the area where Neil killed that large dominant buck earlier this season. After seeing the pic, we set up on the area once or twice but for now he is a one pass wonder. Our working theory is that he moved out of last year’s territory to make room for the buck Neil killed. It is a doe rich area and we keep it quiet so with the void created by Neil’s success he came back to his old stomping grounds to hang with the does, eat at our table and avoid all the neighborhood hunting pressure. Severe weather will be our ally but with none in the forecast we can only back off, and give him some room to set up shop in his old territory. We’ll keep you posted we believe he is 7 or 8 years old.

We are actively filling freezers as we write this. The mild weather makes for comfortable sits and the does are back on the feed. The only trick here is trying to take them away from the core areas which are home to our shooter bucks. One shot kills and low impact recoveries are the name of the game in the doe harvest business. The last thing you need is a 1,000 yard blood trail!

This time of year it is always a trade off between taking does and waiting out the old fellows.

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NorthCountry Whitetails Rut Report #9 11-27-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Rut Report #9     11-27-12

The biological rut is winding down in most places and over in some. By now, roughly 90-95 % of the adult does in whitetail country have been bred and things are getting back to “normal”. There will be another breeding activity “blip” in about a week as some does recycle through estrus. And some continued breeding into January as some doe fawns physically mature to the point where they come into estrus.

We are seeing most of our doe/fawn groups reunited, are not seeing “lost’ fawns (unless momma has been harvested) wandering about like a lost child at the fair and young bucks are still acting stupid, pushing and shoving, nose to the ground following does, and acting like young bucks in love. Older aged bucks have become a bit scarce as gun hunting is open in most parts of whitetail country and that kind of pressure combined with fewer does in heat has made them more cautious. Make no mistake, they are still looking for receptive does but they are more cautious and less driven by testosterone buildup.

This is often a very quiet period in the hunting cycle especially in high pressure hunting areas. As behavior patterns return to normal, deer are able to once again concentrate on “staying alive”. As hunting season is well upon us, they are extremely cautious and reluctant to visit areas that have been hunted with any degree of frequency. High pressure areas are devoid of deer and they are doing what they can to avoid humans. Their tolerance for humans has decreased and they are now spooking at the hint of a human where two months ago they wanted to see you, hear you and smell you before bolting into cover.

We have kept many of our hunting areas “low impact’ all season and they are highly productive now. These areas are holding deer from all over the surrounding areas and have plenty of standing corn and soybeans. Neil’s wife Marie seems to be the designated shooter this year and is doing more than her part to fill the freezer and has for the second year in a row (since starting to hunt) has taken a buck worthy of the cabin wall. Craig is turning into one heck of a babysitter so Neil and Marie can hunt together. Craig and Neil are hunting does on fringe areas so as to keep the pressure off the deer using our core areas.

For those of you managing herd dynamics, this is a good time to finish taking does out of the herd. By now you should have set your harvest goals and bad weather at season’s end can turn your attention back to mature bucks or keep you out of the woods and prevent you from hitting your doe harvest goal this year.

In low pressure areas deer are returning to “food driven” behavior patterns. Does and fawns are feeding heavily and with regularity while bucks are catching a few bites here and a few there. Our camera numbers on feeding areas are steadily climbing and we are recording more mid-day photos than earlier in the season.

Nasty weather will bring them out to feed and colder than normal temperatures will result in increased movement until it gets so cold as they don’t move at all. Before long extremely cold temperatures will make mid-day feeding attractive to deer in low pressure areas as they take advantage of moving during the warmest part of the day.

This is the time of the cycle that clearly separates the serious mature deer hunters from the wanna-bees. Sits can still be great as mature bucks are still very much in breeding mode and are moving about looking for does. Most however are well aware that they are being hunted and well aware that this is not a good time to be out and about.

Hunting strategies for late season bucks pay huge dividends here. This is a good time to hunt areas that have not been hunted all season. These “pollution free areas” are well known to mature bucks by now and you can often catch them hanging out in there areas.

If you have sanctuaries on your property and have left them alone they are more than likely holding deer this time of year. Hunt the edges and keep hunting fresh areas.

Go easy on the calling and rattling if your bucks have been heavily hunted. They probably have heard plenty of grunt calls by now and like a call shy mallard, head the other way when they hear the call.

Post rut bad weather and food sources are a great formula for taking a nice buck this time of year. Bad weather drives them to food as does recover from the rut. Standing corn or soybeans in the snow is a wonderful formula for success. Especially when temps are in the teens and 20 degrees warmer at noon.

Most of all, you need to still be putting in your time. Good bucks are still out and about doing their thing. The need to breed never really leaves them and there are still some second cycle estrus does and first time fawns out there to keep them active.

There is still some very good mature buck hunting ahead as the need to feed becomes overwhelming but right now we are busy filling the freezer with the management does we need to take from our property here in NY.

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NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #8 11-19-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #8     11-19-12

The biological rut has been with us for a couple of weeks now and things are playing out according to plan. The weather has been good across most of whitetail country and our e-mail is loaded with NCW friends and family success stories. Congrats to all and thanks for sharing. One thing for sure —good property, and good property management leads to great hunting.

This past week and weekend we witnessed dozens of “biological rut” related behaviors including all of the following: a marked decrease in mature does visiting food plots, numerous fawns hanging out together or alone, young bucks working food plots hard and alternating their behavior from feeding to “chasing” (testosterone driven). Older aged bucks showing up occasionally on social gathering areas intent on finding receptive does, a number of serious “estrus driven” chases, and are serious indeed.

Cameras are showing a good deal of “tending” behavior by older aged bucks. They are also showing plenty of open mouthed and blurred film chases. Unquestionably there is plenty of breeding going on as you read this. There is also plenty of hunting going on which is important to note.

Most states either have opened gun season or are very close to doing so. This will increase pressure on the deer in your area tremendously and result in some pretty unproductive sits. Here in NY gun season opened last weekend and predictably, there were plenty of shots heard the morning of the opener. By mid-day all was quiet and short of a few evening shots, things quieted down relatively quickly. Day two of the weekend opener was much much quieter.

We observed plenty of young and middle aged bucks on food sources with fawns and does but the old boys had gotten scarce. We also observed what appeared to be the re-assembly of doe fawn family groups. We killed a few does for freezer fare and to give Radar some work but we are already going back to stealth mode to bring back to life a few of the areas on our property which have already “shut down” due to excessive human pressure and to “unlock” those older aged bucks who have been driven “underground” by the intense activity in our area all weekend.

By the end of this week, roughly 80% of mature does in the areas we monitor will be bred. Plenty of breeding will be occurring over the next few days including thanksgiving weekend. It’s time to be out there putting in your time!

As mentioned last week, these are the worst of times and these are the best of times. If you are in an area where hunting pressure is peaking (or has peaked) you may experience some pretty quiet sits. On the other hand this is a great time to be out there as the best bucks in the area are busy breeding does and are out and about. Hunt hard and hunt long and the less impact you make on your property the better.

Now that our opener is over, we will be resting our property and letting it fill up with the deer of the neighborhood. The camps surrounding us are still active and we hear ATVs every morning and evening. Soon (if not already) the deer using their woods will relocate in parts unknown and if we hunt smart and low impact we will have more deer on us than we had all year. Yes, we will hunt, yes we will kill some more deer but we will pick our spots carefully and always with an eye toward low impact hunting. We advise the same.

Don’t be afraid to sit all day. Hunt anywhere you are likely to find does. Don’t be afraid to relocate a few times each day to find a hot spot holding a “hot” doe who will be drawing a crowd. Grunts and rattling can be effective with love crazed bucks so you might give it a try.

One more thing—this is the time of year when all your property work clearly pays off. We can’t tell you how much joy we get out of your success. We had a cabin full of friends Saturday night laughing as Neil received text after text from happy property owner customers and friends. This stuff really does work and we love making it happened for you and yours. If any of your friends want to join the world of great deer hunting we’re here to help with turn-key properties for sale and/or consulting services.

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NCW Deer Report #7 11-12-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #7     11-12-12

A few weeks ago we predicted 10 days of great hunting as the “hunter’s rut” was beginning to kick in. The action really picked up after the east coast hurricane subsided and the cold weather settled in. We predicted some of the best hunting of the season and looking at the kill reports we have been receiving we were right “on the money”.

The “hunter’s rut” is that brief period (few days) of time just before the “biological rut” kicks in and the deer settle down for a few weeks of breeding. The hunter’s rut typically varies property to property depending upon a doe or two approaching estrus, but basically it is characterized by the appearance of older aged bucks during daylight hours, bucks marching about looking for does, new bucks showing up on camera and a change in buck to doe ratios in favor of bucks.

This week we have transitioned into the “biological rut”. Doe breeding is occurring as you read this report and will continue for the next few weeks. Evidence of the biological rut is a marked decrease in food plot use, fewer sightings of mature bucks, fawns grouped up in strange places with no mama present, does very much on edge and bucks and does “paired up” or multiple bucks hanging around a specific doe that is obviously in or approaching estrus.

Buck Mounting Doe buck 2 buck3 buck4 buck5 buck 7

7 Second Sequence of Breeding Doe (See Below)

  The most obvious indicator of “biological rut in progress” is observing breeding (or close to breeding) behavior. Last week’s report noted that we actually caught a breeding event on camera and we have included it here as proof positive of the event.

While it is not our practice to talk much about kills, we are also including a second photo as proof positive that the hunting and management strategies we have been sharing with you for the past 10 years actually work. After tracking this buck all season and leaving him alone for 40 days, Neil finally made his move. He killed him on his second hunt.

This was not a random kill. As regular readers of this report well know the10 point first appeared on camera the end of September. Like most of our mature bucks, he first showed under the cover (and safety) of darkness. We didn’t have to look too hard to know he belonged on the “shooter list”; in fact, he belonged at the top of the list. Bucks like this one are hard to come by in this part of the world (western NY).

The strategy was simple-a single sighting or trail camera photo means little. More information was needed to better understand how and where he was spending his time. Once that was ascertained, we could fashion a plan.

For the next 40 days we used scouting cameras to keep track of his whereabouts. A series of 6 cameras showed him working a 100 acre area of our property. The area included two main destination plots, a good deal of cover and some hardwood woods. Unfortunately, he showed only every so often and that was always in the middle of the night. A neighbor picked him up once or twice on camera a mile or so away. This guy was a “traveler” so our hopes of his staying alive until we could hunt him were not too high. We needed him to be using our property with more consistency in order to hunt him.

We have always viewed hunting neighbors as a double edged sword. Yes they hunt and occasionally take a buck we wished they had passed, but they also pressure deer and mature deer don’t like pressure. The more hunting pressure builds the more a buck like this will seek out quiet places where he can find food, security and friendly females. Our job was to put out the “welcome mat”. We are surrounded by thousands of acres of big mountain country and he had plenty of places to “hole up” for the season so we had quite a challenge. Fortunately, 25 years of habitat work had created everything he needed.

The first thing we did was put “his 100 acre area” off limits to hunting and anything else other than checking cameras. In particular we isolated a 30 acre area which featured a sizeable destination plot (we had photographed him a number of times on it) designed to concentrate does and intercept rutting bucks. Unlike most of our destination plots, this one was set up for bowhunting as well. A west wind stand was in place and everything was set, all we needed was a good buck to hunt. We identified this “safe zone” as the most likely place to take him.

All we needed was for him to stay alive, come home, and stay home long enough for us to get a chance to hunt him. And boy did he ever come home. These amazing “homecoming” photos were taken within the 100 acre “safe zone”.He had plenty of food and does to choose from and we wound up photographing him on 4 consecutive days in the 100 acre area after the “homecoming” photo was taken; best of all a few of the pics were during daylight hours. He was “home”, in love, and no longer nocturnal. It was “time to drink the wine” so to speak.

Buck Mounting Doe

On the 36th day of bow season Neil made his move. His first sit resulted in plenty of does, plenty of fawns and plenty of young bucks but not Mr. Big. Now that he was “rutting” the trick was to sit patient and wait for him to show up and work the plot and oak flat. Sooner or later he would have to check the 30 acre area looking for a hot doe. Every day he didn’t show the percentages became more favorable that he would show the next sit. Hunting the “hunter’s rut” is totally different than hunting deer on a feeding pattern. Feeding pattern deer need to be killed within the first two sits or the game is up. “Rutters” are less careful, less predictable, and you can generally get away with more intrusion. Neil planned on staying with the stand until Mr. Big showed and he either jigged him up or got the shot. Liking his chances, Neil played the same card night two.

This time Mr. Big worked up through the oak flat trailing a group of does but zigged when he should have zagged. A half hour later showed on the plot working does in Neil’s direction. He paused at 31 yards and the rest is history. At 5.5 years of age he is one of the older bucks taken at Kindred Spirits. He scored 151″ and weighed in at 215 so he was a trophy by any measure.

Neil's Hero Shot

Best of all, he was proof positive that good bucks can be raised and taken on small to medium sized properties in heavily hunted areas. He’s the second best buck ever taken at Kindred Spirits. They don’t come easy but when they do, they are special indeed especially when they are the result of a good plan coming together.

This report has often advised, take your time and tread gently. It also advises when the time is right make your move. You now know why.

But we digress, where are we now? Based on reports from the field and our own observations we are in the throngs of the “biological rut”. They are breeding and having a grand old time of it. And, while there is plenty of activity associated with the breeding there is not always a whole lot of movement.

We watched a beautiful dominant buck tending a doe on Neil’s farm last Saturday. She stayed on the plot quietly feeding for well over an hour under his watchful eye. He fed with her, shredded some brush, chased off a few rival bucks and kept all the deer in the area (including her fawn) away from her. He even went down for a 15 minute rest. He grunted but never crowded her knowing full well that within 24 hours she would stand for him and he would have fulfilled his biological destiny.

This is what mature bucks generally do during the “biological rut”. But what they don’t do is the important part— he didn’t change his location. Didn’t move more than 60 yards and didn’t pass by any hunter’s stands for the entire evening. As a matter of fact Neil has four cameras located within 200 yards of where the scene played out but not one of the cameras picked up movements of the buck and doe.A week earlier he would have been all over the property looking for breedable does in the same time period.

During the next 2 weeks 95% of the biologically mature does will have been bred. During that time the older bucks will take control of the breeding and the only time they will be wandering around is between the 3-4 does they will wind up breeding. Hot does attract bucks, a doe in heat typically attracts not only dominant bucks, but lesser bucks as well.

Another sure sign of does being bred is “orphaned” fawns with no mama in sight. For most of the past weekend Craig watched 2 fawns hanging out in his cabin dooryard. These fawns were “stashed” there as babies last spring and now have returned to this safe place to wait out mom’s “fling” with that nasty old buck.

Our cameras recorded “waves” of action all last week. We caught many does running through with gaping mouthed bucks following, family groups scattering, and fawns looking for somewhere to be. The action ran hot and cold and seemed to happen just about any time of day. You certainly couldn’t set your watch by it as it was almost “random” in nature.

As we are writing this, a report from the property we refer to as the “laboratory” is informing us of 8 separate does being tended in an area comprised of a few hundred acres of CRP fields. In each instance, a dominant buck is doing all the tending, but in almost every case, 3-4 bucks were hanging tight to the action. That means roughly 20 bucks were tied up by these 8 does for hours at a time. This is typical “biological rut” behavior. During the hunters rut all 20 something bucks would still be on the prowl. Which time would you be most likely to get a shot at a buck?

Now make no mistake, the “biological rut” is a fine time to be in the woods but to paraphrase Dickens, these are the best and worst of times. If you get in the middle of a breeding party the action can be fast and furious. On the other hand if the action is occurring 200 yards away you may not see a deer all day. It can get pretty discouraging and it can be a random hunt but you need to be there.

Changing locations every few hours is a good bet during breeding as is hunting does in order to find bucks. Mature bucks stillmove from doe to doe so that argues for stand locations on travel routes and near where does are likely to be “hunkered down” hiding from bucks.

The key to hunting the rut is to put in your time and be there when he is. It is often a matter of rolling the dice and hoping they come up lucky 7. Many get discouraged after a few slow days and declare “rut over” and give up for the year. The rut ain’t over till all the does (and fawns large enough to breed) are bred and that will be sometime in December. We don’t expect you to hang tough until then but you need to keep at it at least through the peak of breeding season (next few weeks).

This can be a very frustrating time of year. It’s almost impossible to pattern a deer with any degree of accuracy or put together a well thought out plan. Hunting favorable weather conditions (cold snaps and changing weather conditions) can pay off some but basically it’s just having the staying power to stay after them and stay positive.

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NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #6 11-5-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #6     11-5-12

As predicted, last week was an excellent hunting week for hunters across our network. The pics started rolling the day after the storm slowed up and haven’t stopped yet. We predicted 10 days of action so if you are going to be out there this week, you should see some action.

We are clearly in the “hunter’s rut” as you read this. The “hunter’s” rut is characterized by a significant uptick in buck activity. The markers we look for during the “hunter’s rut” are a change in buck to doe ratios (favoring bucks) on camera and during sits, older bucks pursuing does, older aged bucks during daylight hours, deer with mouth open (heavy breathing) on camera and an increase in new bucks (uniques). These are pretty much our “money markers” and when taken collectively never lie. We did observe what may be the beginnings of does being harassed off of feeding plots by bucks. Last night Neil observed over 20 deer on one feeding field and most of them were young bucks and fawns without momma. We will be watching this closely as it signals breeding activity and low big buck sightings.

Our sits the first part of last week were highly productive from the standpoint of deer sightings. We averaged 5.6 deer per hr. sighted from stands. We worked food plots and more deer per hr. than anytime during the season. A few of these sits were weather driven which typically results in heavy plot use. We passed on many shots on does and have pretty much decided to leave the does as “bait” until sometime during the gun season until we can do an efficient harvest and not spend a lot time during “prime time” tracking and dragging and disrupting the mature bucks that are now up and about.

The second half of last week we pulled back from plot hunting and started hunting known big buck travel routes on ridges and travel corridors. As expected, it cut down the number of sightings but put us in better position to intercept a good buck. Our buck sightings last week was almost 50% of all deer sighted (not counting fawns). Prior to last week for some reason, buck sightings were around 10% of all deer sighted which had been pretty alarming. Last evening Craig almost got the chance he was looking for with a beautiful mature buck who was working a 100 yds. downwind from a food plot full of does. Our mature animals typically check plots from afar and this guy was no exception. Unfortunately dark came before the buck and Craig had a story but no shot.

Speaking of stories, we were reviewing last week’s pics yesterday when Neil let out with a hoot. There he was the nice 10 point he has been trying to corner since the season opened. The hoot came because he was breeding a doe right there in living color for all the word to see. Neil has probably looked at a half million pics over the years and this is his first actual breeding shot. He did have one of a buck dismounting a doe, a few years ago. The breeding occurred Nov. 1 at 4 in the afternoon. Six of them were taken over 8 seconds. Anyone out there have any breeding shots?

As the rut progresses more and more does will be breeding or have been bred. We are probably about at the 20% rate about now. In a week or so this number will climb rapidly and buck activity will actually slow down for a few weeks while most of the breeding occurs (“biological rut”). Tarsal staining gets darker every day. That’s why now is when you want to be out there while they are still doing more looking than breeding (“hunter’s rut”). These ruts are discussed in Craig’s “Outdoor Life” November article which is on the newsstand now and is discussed in depth in our new book Whitetails: From Ground to Gun (available soon).

Right now about 70% of our reporters are reporting high buck activity. Some properties are yet to have seen much in the way of rut activity. If you are one of them hang tight, it’s just that it hasn’t kicked in yet or you are missing it on your piece of ground. It will kink in any minute so you had best be ready.

This week’s hunting strategy will be to get out there and hunt. Hunting the “hunter’s rut” has a certain randomness to it. A chase can break out any time or any place. Try to set up in known doe areas and put in some serious time. Evenings are still good but mornings as bucks are headed back to bedding areas after being on the prowl now become very good as well. Mid-day is also excellent as well. If your deer respond to rattling, now is the time to give it a try and grunting is highly productive as well. Hunting all day is a good play now and changing locations 2 or 3 times per day can yield good results as some buck doe chases go on for hours without ever leaving a 5 acre area. We favor ridges and funnels where bucks are likely to travel from one place to another. In a week or so scrapes will go “cold” for the rest of the rut so we wouldn’t spend much time hunting them unless they are in a high traffic buck travel areas.

Bottom line, call in sick, take vacation, cut class and skip school. This week should be good. The only thing that can slow things down are temps 15 degrees warmer than normal. That will force action into the cooler evenings.

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NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report #5 10-29-12

NorthCountry Whitetails Deer Report  #5    10-29-12

The next 10 days will likely be some of your best hunting of the year. Last week we saw a marked change in buck behavior (on and off camera) and what we saw we liked. We are looking for some pretty good action after this storm passes provided all our deer are not blown into Ohio.

Our sit sightings are actually down a bit from last week but our buck count is up for sits and on camera. We also saw the beginning of the “big buck show” this week. We noted a good deal more movement as well. Many of the deer photographed were “on the move” which means they were either “getting out of the way” in the case of does or “getting in the way” in the case of a number of young bucks intent on being everywhere the girls were.

A few of the bucks we photographed were exhibiting testosterone driven behavior. Like so many teenagers in gym class they were strutting their stuff, bowing their backs, and raising their hackles, in an attempt to be the biggest baddest boy in class. The older aged bucks were glaring at the lesser bucks but mostly keeping track of the does. The intensity level of the bucks was definitely up this week. But most of our observations were still of feeding doe groups as were those received from the field. Scrapes activity is definitely up as is rub urinating and stained tarsal glands.

Our prize “shooter 10″ returned and gave us a nice look on camera. He was showing plenty of interest in does but he is still a night owl at least on our place. He’s been a tough one to pattern since we started seeing him in September. Unfortunately we found out why last week. Last week we photographed him all over our 500 acres; unfortunately so have the neighbors. Seems he’s a “ranger” and likes to travel. He’s been going for “walkabouts” (which explains his periodic disappearances from our cameras) and ranging out a couple of miles at a time. “Rangers” don’t last long in our neck of the woods and unless he changes his ways (which he probably won’t) and falls in love with our girls and the habitat they hang out in, he will probably be dead in a few weeks (and not by us). We just might intercept him on a ridge or catch him working some of our resident does. Neil won’t be spending all that much time on him; he’s “predator drone” kinda hunter who doesn’t like “carpet bombing” all that much.

We’ve received numerous reports of hunters getting shots and many more “almost” getting shots. Numerous “chases” have been reported but they still sound like testosterone driven chases of short duration and no actual breeding. Perhaps one “estrus chase” was reported but we expect that because according to most breeding models, somewhere around 10-12% of the does will be in estrus this week or next. If one or more does on your property comes in it will be “Katie bar the door” for a day or two. If not, it will still be business as usual.

Our “money markers” on Kindred Spirits is a marked uptick in older aged bucks showing up on film, a reversal in buck doe ratios (favoring bucks) and mature bucks out and about during shooting hours. That has yet to occur. While buck intensity is up, and behavior is getting more and more “rutty” “prime time” for us is still out there a bit. We like most of you in the NE are looking for something to really happen after this big storm passes and things settle down.

We went out on a tracking call with Radar on a nice buck arrowed by a friend. Everything added up to a shoulder wound and after 500 yards and the blood finally petered out and we called it out. Our friend had productive sits all week but most of the observations were of feeding deer. Craig passed on a few “chip shots” out of his ground blinds this week not wanting to deal with deer processing during the warm weather and wanting a full evening’s sit to scope things out. Neil was also not around to do the “heavy lifting”

So where are we, we are close enough to “prime time” to make it worth your while to be in the woods as much as possible. Unless you are certain your target bucks are out and about, you should still stay out of core areas and give the more mature deer some breathing room. The leaf raking can wait (or should have been done when we told you to), but we wouldn’t start calling in sick and taking our last 3 days of vacation for a week or so.

Guys are getting some good results with grunt call, but we haven’t heard too much about rattling. If you are “stormed in” spend your time tuning up the grunt call and going over your bow gear. A shot should be in your not too distant future.

Food is still a good bet as the does are still on plots and they are beginning to get some attention. Eventually they will be run off the plots but that is out there as well.

Not to rain on the parade but by now you should have determined your fawn recruitment index and know how many does you are going to take this season. The trick now is to get it done without screwing up that big buck that is following her. Ever have a doe come without a big buck behind her (somewhere at least)? Bottom line, sit down with your gang and decide how you will harvest your does and don’t leave it to the end of gun season.

Thanks for sending in all the reports. Some of you are reporting every sit (sometimes during the sit) which is like having a whole bunch of hunting buddies out there with us. Those smart phones sure come in handy. As things ramp up trying to differentiate between an “estrus driven” chase and “testosterone driven chase”; the “estrus” chase is generally much more intense, and has breeding written all over it. We’ve developed these ideas in our new book and would like you to try ‘em out. We also talk about “predator drone” and “carpet bombing” hunting strategies as well. Sharon is taking orders now.

Sharon@NorthCountryWhitetails.com
315-331-6959

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