The Successful DIY Mentality

The Successful DIY Mentality

You’re not hunting at home: The Four Parts of a Successful DIY Mentality

By Bernie Barringer

Hunting away from home presents some unique challenges. When you are hunting in your home area, you have an entire season to bag your buck and fill out your deer tags. But on a DIY road trip, you are hunting under a deadline; you have a limited amount of time to get the job done. The situation calls for an entirely different set of strategies and actions. We can break the hunt down into four separate factors that can significantly improve your chances of success.

Scout Thoroughly

Back home, you have a pretty good feel for the deer movement patterns. You know where they tend to bed and where they tend to feed and at least a general idea of how the move between the two. When you arrive at a new hunting area on a DIY hunt, you must learn as much as you can in a short period of time. The greatest mistake most hunters make is to climb into a stand too early. You may find an area that’s all torn up with rubs and scrapes or a beaten down deer trail and you can’t wait to get a treestand set up and start hunting. That can be a big mistake, because you may lack confidence in your spot. It’s a lot easier to sit all day when you have confidence in your spot, and that confidence comes only from thorough scouting.

Hunt Aggressively

Hand in hand with an exhaustive scouting is the desire to make important decisions on the fly and be very aggressive in your hunting. Back home, you would never walk right through a bedding area, but on a road trip you might need to know where the deer are bedding and what is available to you. Spray down the lower half of your body with Scent Killer to minimize your ground scent then go right in there to look it over.

Get some game cameras out and check them often so you have a good feel for the area’s potential. It’s hard to beat a game camera on a primary scrape with some fresh urine or an estrus lure. You must take calculated risks and force the issue. If you wait for the information to come to you, you may run out of time, you must go get it.

Hunt in Any Conditions

Rain or shine, you must be out there to make it happen. I have done more than 20 DIY road trip hunts in several states and it seems like it usually comes down to one or two stands where I feel like I am going to be successful if I just put in my time. Take the appropriate clothing for any conditions and gut out the tough times. Each time you hunt, you have a chance. If you are sitting in a motel waiting for the snow to stop or the wind to change, you are more than likely going to go home with an unfilled tag.

Be Mobile

Right along with hunting aggressively and hunting hard is the willingness to move quickly and adapt to changing conditions. On one hunt in Iowa, I felt like I was about 60 yards off target, so I climbed down and moved my entire set up the hill. I killed a mature buck the next morning from that tree and I would have helplessly watched him walk by if I had not moved. If you sense that you need to make a move, or feel that a wind switch may betray you, don’t wait, make your move NOW. Using equipment that is light and easy to put up and down is a real key to being mobile.

Keep these four factors in mind on your next DIY hunt and you will increase your odds of coming home with a buck in the back of the truck instead of a tag in your back pocket. For more info on DIY public land hunting, get a copy of the book The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter.

10 Things you didn’t know about mosquitoes

10 Things you didn’t know about mosquitoes

Did you know that mosquitoes like beer drinkers and have a favorite color? Here are ten things I’ll bet you didn’t know.

By Bernie Barringer

Mosquitoes are some of the most annoying creatures on Earth. There are billions of them and they turn up where you least like them, which is pretty much everywhere they are found. Campers, fishermen and hunters spurn them as pests, but in some cases they can be much more than that by carrying deadly viruses. Next time you are sitting around the campfire, you can turn these pesky vermin into an interesting conversation by reciting these little-known facts about what many people jokingly refer to as their state bird.

Most mosquitoes are vegetarians. Some varieties never bite mammals at all; they prefer sugars found in plants. Of those subspecies that do bite, only the females suck your blood. They need the proteins found in blood to nurture their eggs to maturity. So only a relatively small proportion of the overall population are blood suckers. But it’s enough.

There are 3,500 varieties of mosquitoes worldwide. More than 150 have been identified in the United States. About 650 varieties have been found in Brazil. A relatively small number of these species are blood suckers.

Mosquitoes like beer drinkers. Human skin and breath emit hundreds of chemical compounds and many of them attract mosquitoes. But there’s one that has been shown to attract the pests more than any other. A study done in Africa on malaria-carrying mosquitoes found that they landed on people who drank beer far more often than on those who did not. Maybe it’s something in the blood.

They also like pregnant women. Pregnant women produce more carbon dioxide which attracts mosquitoes, plus the body temperature of pregnant women is slightly higher. This extra warmth has been shown to be an attractor.

They transmit at least five different diseases. Malaria is the most well known of mosquito-borne diseases, but cases of West Nile Virus are growing and may be the most dangerous in North America. The Zika virus is a growing threat that may overtake Malaria as the mosquitoes’ most threatening danger. Dengue fever is another disease transmitted by mosquitoes, as are yellow fever and encephalitis.

Mosquitoes hibernate. Most of the mosquitoes that survive the winter did so as eggs in the muddy bottom of some pond, but adult mosquitoes also can survive the winter if they can find a place to keep from freezing. Some caves, even in Minnesota, harbor millions of hibernating mosquitoes.

They have a favorite color. Well sort of. Studies have shown that some colors of clothing, especially black, red and dark blue, attracted more mosquitoes. Because they home in on heat, some of the colors may be attractive because they are darker and collect more heat than light colored clothing. Mosquitoes are also attracted to movement. The researchers also theorized that the mosquitoes could better sense the movement of darker colors.

They have a set of pumps in their head. The little blood suckers do their dirty deed by inserting a bundle of microneedles (the entire bundle is about the width of a human hair) into the skin. They use two tiny pumps inside their head to extract the blood through those needles.

They do not explode, sorry. Contrary to popular myth, you can’t make a mosquito explode by trapping its needle in your body. You’ve probably heard that by flexing your muscle you can keep them from pulling out and the blood just fills them up until they pop.

Nope. They have a nerve in their abdomen that triggers the pumps in their head to stop filling once their abdomen becomes engorged. Researchers were able to sever this tiny nerve in some individuals and those little suckers did overfill and explode. No doubt a satisfying moment.

You are allergic to their saliva. When they first insert their proboscis into your skin, they spit into you. Their saliva has an anticoagulant that keeps the blood from clotting while they suck it up. Compounds in this saliva trigger a release of histamine, which is part of your body’s defense system against allergies. This is what causes the swelling and itching.

The two most effective substances that repel mosquitoes are N,N-Diethyl-Meta-Toluamide, AKA DEET, and Permethrin. DEET is found in most mosquito repellent sprays, and Permethrin has been found to repel mosquitoes from clothes, tents and other fabrics even after going through the washing machine. Permethrin is also the active ingredient in the pads on a ThermaCELL, one of the most effective mosquito repellant devices available.

Now that you have a PhD in bloodsucking insect science, it may disappoint you to know there is still not much you can do about the pesky micro-critters. But at least you know more about mosquitoes than everyone else around the campfire.

Equipment for the Mobile Hunter

Equipment for the Mobile Hunter

Taking a bowhunting road trip can be intimidating. What should I take and what should I leave home? Here’s a crash course in making sure you have the right stuff and how to avoid loading the truck with things you won’t need.

By Bernie Barringer

On my first hunt to North Dakota I thought I had things pretty well dialed in before I left home. I had spent some time looking at several areas on Google Earth. I’d spoken with the biologist for one piece of state land and he confirmed that a cornfield planted in the food plot had a good number of deer using it. They intended to leave the corn in the field until spring. The area looked terrific with lots of trees and potential bedding areas near the food plot.

I was so confident when I arrived that I carried a treestand and sticks out to the food plot when I went out to scout it. There was find plenty of deer sign around the food plot, but there wasn’t a tree in sight that I could hang my stand in. There were small trees, crooked trees, tall skinny trees and cottonwoods too big to get my stick’s straps around. I had to carry all that stuff the ¾-mile back to the truck and start over.

I’ve seen similar situations in the western whitetail states too. The equipment that works perfectly in the hardwood forests I had hunted previously was mostly useless in that habitat.

Stands, Sticks, Ladders, Terrain and Trees

Hunting the way I do, long walks with quite a bit of equipment are the norm. There are places where a climbing stand is the perfect tool for the job to move in on a deer and get up quickly. But if you take a climbing stand on a hunt to North Dakota, Montana or Nebraska, you’ll most likely never take it out of the truck. You will need a ground blind and some ladder stands. I have learned that the equipment I take needs to match the hunting style and the terrain.

Throughout most of the hunting situations you’ll face, a climbing stand will have some use but I primarily use a hang-on stand and portable climbing sticks. I prefer the stackable sticks like the Hawk Helium models because they are stackable, lighter and much easier to carry through the woods.

There are trade-offs between comfort and weight. I tend to spend long hours in stands and I lean towards comfort over weight. It takes maybe an hour to walk the stand in to the site, in which I am working harder with a heavier stand, but I may sit in that stand 20-30 hours or more over the course of the hunt. I’ll opt for the hours of comfort every time. A comfortable stand helps me stay silent, motionless and focused.

Ground Blinds

I can’t remember the last time I went on a hunt without a ground blind in the truck and I use it quite a bit. Ground blinds do present some issues that must be overcome. Whitetails are notoriously fidgety around anything that just shows up in their living room. I try hard to hide the blind in some sort of cover, or even place it beside some piece of farm machinery or bush, or maybe tuck it between a couple cedars. Then brush it in well with natural vegetation to blend it in.

There are times and places where a blind is the only option you have. Once you put it out, leave it out. The more times the deer see it the sooner they will start to ignore it.

Inside my ground blind I have three important things that make a difference for me. The first is something to hold my bow in position so I can grab it quickly.

The second is a comfortable chair. Give me a good chair in which I can sit up high and straight. Stay away from those short, triangular torture chairs. I have a chair with a little table which folds out of the side of it, which leads me to the third important thing.

You need a place with

Ameristep Supernatural blind

in reach to put some important tools and gadgets. During the day I am using my phone, a rangefinder, a book, etc. In each case, you need a place within reach where you can quietly and quickly lay these things down to get ready for a shot. That little table attached to the side of my chair works perfectly for this.

How Many Stands Do You Need?

During a week-long hunt I will have an average of three stands in the woods at any given time. I’ve had as many as five but that’s rare and in fact, I usually only take 4-5 stands with me. The type of stands I have in the truck depend on the terrain and trees as I mentioned earlier. Heading to North Dakota or Montana, I’ll probably have two ladders, a hang-on and two ground blinds. Where hardwoods dominate the habitat, such as Iowa, Kansas, Ohio or Missouri, I will usually have four hang-ons, a climber and a ground blind.

Once you put your tag on that deer, you now have to gather up all your gear. It’s a good idea to keep that thought in mind as you spread your gear across the landscape. When I get my buck I am usually in a hurry to leave. It might be because I am more than ready to get home to my family, or it might be that I really want to get to the next state because the rut is in full swing. Either way, while I am putting gear in the woods, the thought of how fast I can get it out is on my mind.


I used to take both a doe decoy and a buck decoy along but now I save space and I mostly only use the buck. I have not had many positive experiences using a doe decoy alone, in fact I have probably had more negative reactions to the doe decoy than positive. However, I use a buck decoy quite a bit and I’m learning more and more all the time how to use it properly. I’ve carried that thing back into some pretty inaccessible spots and I will continue to do so.

You’ll need to have some method of getting the deer out. In the back of my truck I usually have a 2-wheeled deer cart and a plastic sled. Lately I have fallen in love with the Crawler deer cart and I use it more and more.

Storing and Accessing Your Equipment

Sometimes when I get home from a hunting trip, it looks like someone swallowed the hunting department at a Cabela’s and puked it up in the back of my truck. It never starts out that way, but it seems to end up that way.

Since I carry a lot of gear, I like to load it into totes based on how it will be used. Treestand stuff goes in one tote; that includes things like hooks, bow hangers, camera arms, extra straps, etc. I label the tote “STANDS.”  Things like scents and lures, Scent Killer spray, scrape drippers and the like go into another tote labeled “SCENTS.” Another is labeled “TRAIL CAMERAS.” It includes cameras, extra batteries, security boxes, padlocks and the like.

Meat processing equipment goes in yet another labeled tote. This includes knives, wrapping paper, tape, extra gutting gloves, bone saw, a cutting board, markers, etc. This usually goes into the front of the truck bed with the coolers because I won’t need it every day.

Another tote includes cold weather gear such as extra gloves and hats, full face mask, balaclava, etc. I may or may not use the contents of that tote depending on the weather but I like to have it along in case the weather takes a turn for the worse.


Today’s weather forecasts are much more accurate than ever before, but the forecasters can still get it wrong. I tend to over-pack clothing and usually that’s a good thing. During a couple weeks time in 2-3 states, you might be sitting in a treestand in temperatures from 20-70 degrees. That takes a wide variety of clothing. I tend to take things I can layer, which helps. I also try to wear different clothing for scouting and checking trail cameras whenever practical because I can work up a sweat while hustling around doing these walks.

It’s hard to overstate the value of a good set of quality rain gear. I have yet to find a set of rain gear that will keep me dry all day during a steady rain, but some of the better ones come close. I have two sets of merino wool base layers.

On long trips, doing laundry might be necessary. I carry some Scent Killer laundry detergent with me and use it to wash clothes in a Laundromat if needed. I hate going to town to do laundry when I could be doing other, seemingly more productive hunting-related tasks, but keeping clean and keeping my scent and body odor to a minimum is important to me so I tend to wash clothes more than some people might.

I carry three pairs of boots. Two are rubber boots, one without insulation and one with 1200 grams of Thinsulate for cold weather. I also use a pair of good leather hiking boots which I wear to and from the hunts and also at times when I have long walks that won’t involve any water crossing.

This article is condensed from one chapter in Bernie Barringer’s revealing book The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the traveling whitetail hunter. The book can be purchased for $19.99 plus $3.99 S&H at or by sending a check to Bernie Barringer Outdoors, 9969 50th Ave, Brainerd, MN 56401.


What’s in Your Backpack?

There are a few things that I would never want to do without on a trip. One of them is a backpack with a few necessary items. Some of these I use every day and some of them are there for emergencies. The things I use most every day are deer call, rattling antlers, wind puffer bottle, gloves, warm hat, flashlight, headlight, binoculars and rangefinder. Other things that may come in handy also have a place in my pack such as toilet paper and wet wipes, a lighter or fire starter, deer scents, flagging tape, GPS, hand-warmers, gutting gloves, field dressing knife and extra SD cards for trail cameras. I tuck a plastic garbage bag into the corner of the pack somewhere so I can pull it out and use it to cover the pack if it starts to rain.

I never leave the truck without a camera. I take a lot of photos and I video my hunts whenever it is practical to do so. I’m sure you can see that my backpack is pretty full most of the time. I also like a backpack with straps on the back so I can attach a coat or a set of bib overalls to put on once I get to the stand.


Bowfishing Basics: Spring and Summer Fun

Bowfishing Basics: Spring and Summer Fun

By Bernie Barringer

Bowfishing equipment has evolved a lot since I started trying it out 40 years ago. There is some high-tec stuff out there, believe me. My favorite bowfishing set-up features a Ben Pearson recurve that I got out of the “Free” box at a garage sale. No kidding.

That’s one of the things that makes bowfishing so great: you can make it as simple or as complicated as you want, and anyone can easily get started in bowfishing. The shots are close; rarely over 25 feet, and a bow of just about any draw length or poundage will do.

You need to be stealthy, to choose locations carefully, and you need to be a good shot. And being a good shot is not as easy as it sounds. It takes beginning bowfishers a while to get used to the fact that you have to “shoot where they ain’t.” Because of the refraction as the light enters the water, fish appear to be a lot nearer the surface than they actually are. So when you see a carp cruising the shallows, you must aim well below it, if your arrow is to hit its mark.

Getting Started

My 45-pound recurve has been the perfect bow for me. Compound bows work too, but because of the let-off, they have to be drawn all the way back to shoot. This is a disadvantage because shots are often quick and with little warning. The advantage of a recurve, or one of the wheel-bows made for bowfishing without a let-off, is that you can draw and shoot much more quickly.

Arrows should be solid fiberglass, which gives them the sturdiness they need to take a pounding (they hit bottom a lot) and the extra weight gives them the kinetic energy they need to penetrate the water and then the fish. There are several different bowfishing tip designs, but they all have one primary feature: some sort of prongs to keep them from pulling back out of the fish; prongs which can be reversed so you can remove the fish from the arrow once you get it reeled in.

Reels are equally diverse. I started with a simple spool on which I hand-wound the line, and now I have a reel with a small crank that pulls all the line into a plastic jar. This set-up really works slick. My son Dawson uses a modified fishing reel that attaches to a mount on his bow. The simple spool reels are around $20 and the one I use is over $100, and there are good options at price points in between. All work, it just depends on how much you are willing to spend for convenience.

Where to find the fish

Many species of fish are legal to shoot with a bow. Carp, bowfin (also called dogfish), gar, buffalo and drum are among the most common. My experience is primarily with the common carp, since they are most abundant in Iowa and Minnesota where I have done most of my bowfishing. Plus, it is some of the best fish I have found to attract mink and raccoon to trap sets. You can have some success all year long, if you find yourself in the right place and the right time. But if you want consistent action, it takes place in the spring and early summer.

When the water warms up in late spring, carp move shallow to spawn. In most areas, this takes place when the water gets close to 70 degrees. In the upper Midwest, that’s usually late April to May.  Here in northern Minnesota, it may be later, and we had some fantastic carp shooting at Lake Manitoba in Canada during the first week of June while on a spring bear hunt. These carp may remain shallow where they are vulnerable to bowfishing for almost a month, but the best action will be in a window of opportunity of two weeks or less. When you hit it right, the action can be furious. The best spots are where you find the warmest water.

During summer, carp are again found in shallow, warm water where they slurp plants off the surface and cruise around looking for insects and dead baitfish to eat. Thus, you have a second window of opportunity. You are often shooting at their heads, which might be the only thing visible above muddy water. I also have seen pods of carp cruising the shallow bays of clear-water lakes during mid-summer, and have enjoyed good shooting under those conditions.

Typically, I shoot from the front of a boat with an electric trolling motor quietly pulling me through the shallows. However, I also have had a ball shooting while slowly walking the back bays where the water is warm. The carp are often lying just below the surface, sunning themselves, but they are extremely spooky, and you have to use a stealthy approach. Shots will generally be short. A 10-yard shot is a very long shot in bowfishing; the majority will be more like 15 feet. It takes some time to get good at hitting a target that close. Most bowhunters do not practice 10-foot shots, but it is a good idea to do so before you go after carp.

I cannot stress too much that the refraction of the light on the water makes the target look closer to the surface than it actually is, so you have to shoot below them to hit them. This is one thing that has to become second nature, and you will miss a few fish until you get on to it. My son Dawson missed his first nine shots one day before getting it dialed in. Then he figured it out and hit his next five in a row!

Carp shooting is so much fun that it has become a sport in itself for our family, and the fact that we are out getting trapping bait is a nice bonus. For us, the sport has two objectives: fun and fur. Give it a try, and see if you don’t get hooked like we did!

Win The Hunt Of A Lifetime in the Pope And Young Club

Win The Hunt Of A Lifetime in the Pope And Young Club

2017 Conservation Hunt-Drawing

Chatfield, MN – The Pope and Young Club is offering two exciting hunting adventures as part of the 2017 Pope and Young Club Conservation Hunt-Drawing. 100% of the funds raised through donations for hunt-draw tickets, will go directly to Pope and Young Club Conservation, Education and Outreach Programs. You could win the hunt of a lifetime while supporting the sport of bowhunting and our wonderful wildlife resources.

First Prize – 10-Day Trophy Yukon Moose Hunt with World-Renowned MacMillan River Adventures (Valued at $19,000!). Hunt 2.5 million acres of incredible wilderness country with one of North America’s most premier moose outfitters. Experience the hunt of a lifetime in a region with the highest density of Alaska-Yukon moose. This outfitter uses more than 20 established horse and boat camps in order to maintain versatility and peak hunting success.

Learn more at

Second Prize – 6-Day Trophy Archery Elk Hunt on Jack Creek Preserve (Valued at $6,000).

Experience some of the finest elk hunting this continent has to offer. Bordering the massive, remote 249,000-acre Lee Metcalf Wilderness Area, the Jack Creek Preserve ensures quality, unpressured hunting action. Best yet, this hunt is a do-it-yourself bowhunter’s dream that includes cabin facilities for comfortable, easy access to prime hunting areas. Transportation, food and license are the hunter’s responsibility. You must draw a permit to hunt this area, but the drawing success is usually 100-percent. Learn more at

Tickets: $20 donation each or book of 6 for $100 donation.

To order, send check or money order to:             Pope and Young Club, 8742 County Rd. 414, Hannibal, MO 63401

Deadline to mail in ticket stub(s) is June 30, 2017. Drawing held July 15th, 2017. Void where prohibited by law. Need not be present to win. U.S. or Canadian funds accepted. Must be 18 years of age or older to purchase. Winners responsible for any applicable fees or taxes.

All proceeds used to support wildlife conservation, education and pro-bowhunting projects through the Conservation, Education, and Outreach Programs of the Pope and Young Club.

The Pope and Young Club is a non-profit North American conservation and bowhunting organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of bowhunting by striving to increase awareness and appreciation of bowhunting foundations, principles and values. The Pope and Young Club is focused on Fair Chase hunting ethics that support the ethical pursuit of free ranging, wild game animals without unfair advantage while promoting the conservation of both habitat and wildlife. The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository of records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow.

Contact the Pope & Young Club office at: or P.O. Box 548, Chatfield, MN 55923, Ph: 507.867.4144

Dealing with Food Plot Pests

Dealing with Food Plot Pests

Rodents and other small mammals may be doing more damage to your food plots than you realize. Here’s how to alleviate the problems.

By Bernie Barringer

When most of us think about the reasons our food plots fail or thrive, we usually point to things like fertilizer, weather, soil types and timing of plantings. But there are factors working behind the scenes that can cause damage to your food plots. Critters large and small use these plots and some of them can cause significant reductions in the productivity of your efforts.

From insects to birds, food plots can be damaged from the moment the seed hits the ground until the usefulness of the forage is complete, but in many cases, small mammals are doing the most damage, and much of it is hard to see from the surface. Let’s take a look at a few of the primary culprits, examine the extent of the damage they do, and explain some actions that can be taken against them.

Pocket Gophers

Damage: Pocket gophers are abundant across much of the whitetail’s range and the mounds they make are a common sight. These mounds cover up small plants which will cause the plants to die. Pocket gophers feed on bulbs, roots and tubers and often consume brassicas from below, without much evidence from above, other than leaves turning brown from lack of moisture. Their tunnels channel needed rain water away from the surface to deep areas where it can’t do the plants much good.

Control: The best way to eliminate pocket gophers is to trap them. Several clutch-style traps have been developed specifically for catching gophers and are available at most any hardware stores or farm stores. I have caught them with several brands and styles of traps, but over time I have switched almost entirely to the EZ Set model. With these traps I have limited misses and most gophers die quickly and humanely in them.

Catching Pocket Gophers is quite easy once you learn where to set the traps. Here in Minnesota, they go to work as soon as the frost goes out of the ground in the spring, and that’s a great time to trap them. I plant brassicas around the first of August and as soon as the plants begin to show up, the pocket gophers arrive and I will once again remove problem individuals.

If you look closely at the gopher mounds, you will see that they form a line of sorts. The gophers pile dirt on the top of the ground as they clear out their tunnels and the mounds form a linear pattern.  It stands to reason that the mounds on the end of the line are the most active. If you set a trap at the right mound, you will normally catch the gopher within 24 hours. If you have trouble determining which mounds are the most recent, just put a footprint on each mound and come back the next day. There will be at least one new mound to trap.

The hole below the mound can be hard to find, but with experience, you can look at the shape of the mound and stick a probe right into the hole. Otherwise, just dig around until you find a soft spot and you will quickly find the associated tunnel. Clear out the tunnel with a small shovel or your hand. Set a trap and slide it inside the entrance to the tunnel. Within a foot of the surface, all tunnels will have a fork in them. Do not push your trap too far into the hole or it may be at the fork which will offer the gophers a chance to crawl right over it.

I stake down my traps not because I think the gopher may get away with my trap, but because a coyote or fox may find it and run off with the gopher and the trap. I like to cover the hole with a board so the tunnel is dark. This keeps predators out and offers the gopher a sense of security so he goes about his business without suspecting a trap.

Gophers are most active at night so check the traps early in the morning so you can dispatch any of the critters that did not quickly die in the traps. You will find that most strings of mounds are the domain of just one gopher, but occasionally you may catch two and even three from the same system of tunnels.

Ground Squirrels

Damage: One of the most common small mammals in the Midwest is the 13-lined ground squirrel. They seem to be everywhere; you’ll see them along roads and in any pasture. They are commonly called stripers or striped gophers, although they are not a member of the gopher family. They dig small holes which lead to underground tunnels where they sleep and store food. These holes are part of the problem they cause. The tunnels drop straight down before turning to the side, and a deer’s lower leg fits right in the tunnel. Deer can sustain serious leg injuries from stepping in one of these holes.

Additionally, the damage these critters cause to food plots comes in the fact that they love the small shoots of plants as they emerge, and these little vermin can kill hundreds of plants a day by nipping them off as soon as they come up. You may ask how much these 1/4-pound buggers can actually eat. The problem is found in the way they fill their overstuffed cheeks with succulent nodules and haul load after load of them back underground to their storage chambers. The damage can be extensive in some areas.

Control: Because these ground squirrels are active during the day, the best way to rid your food plot of them is to shoot them. My sons have enjoyed lying at the edge of the food plot with a scoped .22; the target practice on these little varmints is good preparation for hunting. They have excellent eyesight and will dive underground at the slightest movement. If you want to take a more utilitarian approach, a 12-guage loaded with birdshot will take them out from up to about 50 yards. When hit with a .22 anywhere but in the head, they normally dive in a hole and you don’t know for sure if you have killed them, but when hit with birdshot they are usually lying in a heap right there.

I have to admit I enjoy the challenge of hunting these pests, which adds to the pleasure of knowing I am doing something good for my food plot and my deer herd. This year I invested in a scoped .17 caliber rifle with a bipod and now I spend some warm spring afternoons sprawled out on the grass near my food plots, doing my part to rid the property of these pesky critters. The usual M.O. is to walk out to a food plot and observe where the ground squirrels dive underground when they see me coming. I set up with my crosshairs on the hole and wait patiently. Rarely do I have to wait more than 15 minutes before a little head pops up and mischievously looks around. Bang.

Raccoons, skunks and groundhogs

Damage: The only real food-plot crime committed by groundhogs, often called woodchucks, is they compete with the deer animals for the plants in the food plot. Skunks mess up food plots by digging for grubs and uprooting plants. Raccoons are also guilty of this and they can do some real damage to corn crops. While the amount of damage a family of raccoons may do to a large commercial corn farming operation may be negligible, once they get into the corn in a food plot, their nocturnal raids can cause significant damage.

Raccoons will pull down entire corn stalks and take one or two bites out of the ear of corn to gauge the stage of maturity. They love to eat the corn when it’s in the milk stage and there’s a short window where the bandits do the most damage. But their bites on each ear invite insects that can ruin the entire ear of corn. Plus the fact that the stalk is often broken off when pulled down means it will quickly die before the corn itself is mature.

Additionally, anyone who provides supplemental feed for deer or places piles of grain in front of scouting cameras to take inventory of the deer on their property knows how much raccoons can add to the costs of doing so. Raccoons are prolific and are common carriers of distemper and rabies so keeping their population at a manageable level is always a good idea.

Control: I don’t get too excited about removing groundhogs from my food plots because their damage is not significant unless the population gets out of hand. Still when opportunities arise to reduce their population, I do so just as I do the ground squirrels, by shooting them.

I primarily control raccoons during the fall trapping season when their pelts have some value. I hit my property pretty heavy with traps and snares for a couple weeks each fall to reduce their numbers. Outside of the trapping season, when I find that a skunk or raccoon is tearing up my food plot, I simply put out a box trap with something really good smelling in the back corner of it. This may surprise you, but a coon is a real sucker for a half-slice of bacon. Put the bacon in the back of the trap in a position where they can’t reach it with their dexterous front feet to pull it through the wire. Make them walk into the trap to get to the bait and they will oblige.

What to do with the problem animal once you have trapped it can be a dilemma. Many states prohibit the killing of raccoons and skunks outside of the trapping season. Some states offer permits for doing so but some require you to relocate the critter—give your problem to someone else—so make sure you check your state and local game laws so you don’t get yourself in trouble with the law.

If it’s legal to dispatch the problem animal, a shot to the noggin with a .22 takes care of it quickly and humanely. A syringe filled with poison mounted to the end of a broomstick then jabbed into their chest will put them down quickly as well, and is the only way I have found to consistently kill a skunk without it spraying.

While our food plots are intended to benefit deer, other critters benefit as well. Wholesale killing of all other animals using the plot is not the objective, but some diligence in reducing the population of food plot pests is an honorable goal. These simple tips should help you do so, with the added benefit of getting you out to enjoy the property during all times of the year.

The Problem with Poison

It might seem that putting out some poison might be the best way to deal with problem critters. Just place it and forget it; no more intrusion, no dealing with a carcass and a lot less effort. The danger in this approach comes with the fact that poison is indiscriminate. While it may kill a gopher or ground squirrel, it will also kill any other mammal that eats it, and many birds are susceptible to dying from poisons. Some kinds of poisons can be cumulative in the systems of animals. While a fox or bobcat may eat a mouse that dies from poisoning with little adverse affect, if the predator eats several poisoned mice over time, the poison may build up in its system and kill it.

Some states have strict regulations regarding the use of poisons for mammals. While there may be limited applications for poisons in removing problem animals, most of the time it is safer—and more likely to be legal—to shoot and trap the problem individuals. It makes sense to remove the specific problem critter rather than endanger others, some of which may be beneficial.

Seven Critical Tips for DIY Public Land Hunting

Seven Critical Tips for DIY Public Land Hunting

By Bernie Barringer

My first bowhunting road trip was a complete bust. In my defense, it took place more than 20 years ago, so I didn’t have the advantage of Google Earth, a scouting camera or looking at the weather on my smartphone. I basically went in blind, and my results showed it. I did see some does and small bucks, and I hunted hard and used some off-beat tactics. While I don’t remember much about that first out of state hunt in the early 1990’s, I do remember that I had no idea what I was doing compared to the strategic planning and hunting methods I use today.

In fact, one of my few memories from that first trip was lying on the berm of a ditch, my bow in the grass beside me, looking at deer filtering into a green hayfield 30 yards away. I remember wondering how I could possibly get to my knees and get my bow drawn on a buck without clearing the whole field. Poor planning on my part. They say lessons learned the hard way are lessons learned well. I have learned a lot, mostly by making mistakes.

I’ve come up with seven rules—things to do and not to do—that will help any DIY hunter be more successful. Adhering to these “do’s and don’ts” have helped significantly increase my success ratio. Two decades later, I am still making mistakes and still learning, but I’m coming home with a buck in the truck often enough to feel like I have some advice to pass along. I hope these seven tips help you connect on a DIY public land buck this year.

Do your homework

Before you ever pull out of the driveway, you should have a list of likely hunting spots. Online aerial photos help immensely when it comes to choosing hunting sites. Before I set off to a new area, I usually have a pretty good idea where I am going to spend much of my time. Things that look good on Google Earth are not always what they seem, but with some experience learning how deer use cover and terrain, anyone can shorten the scouting time by picking out likely looking spots from home.

I also call local biologists, game wardens and other parties to gather as much info as I can about the area. Biologists know if food plots have been planted on the public areas and they can offer information about deer populations, age structure, etc. A game warden can offer insight into the amount of hunting pressure an area gets. I have learned to ask not only about deer hunting pressure, but also about upland bird hunters, duck hunters, small game hunters and even if the coon hunters are running their dogs through the property at night.

Do your Scouting Diligence

Once you arrive, it can be tempting to hang a stand and start hunting as soon as you find a great looking spot. But you will be much better off to spend a day learning the property before actually hunting. Spend an evening with binoculars overlooking a feeding area, walk through the area trying to determine feeding and bedding patterns. Make note of great spots with sign or with the right terrain, depending on the time of the year and stage of the rut. I cannot overstate the value of knowing the property and how deer use it well.

Use your Scouting Cameras

Scouting Cameras are one of the most important components to my scouting and learning a property. I rely on them for two main purposes. The most obvious is learning how deer are using the property. A camera will tell you which direction deer are travelling at what time. It will show you where they are feeding and bedding. You can learn about the stage of the rut by observing the behavior of the bucks.

The second and just as important knowledge I get from cameras is an evaluation of what is on the property with regards to bucks and age structure. I have been known to pass up a 125-class buck on the first day of the hunt, then realize that it was the biggest deer I saw on camera or in person during eight days of hunting there. The decision of whether or not to shoot a deer that comes within range can be made a lot easier when you know what the potential will be. No sense holding out for a 140 if there aren’t any. Cameras placed on primary scrapes will inventory most every buck in the area within three days.

Hunt Only When it’s Time

There’s nothing worse than sitting in a stand wondering if you are in the right place or not. Should you be on the other side of that ridge? Closer to the feeding or bedding area? On a different trail? Sitting over an area that’s all tore up with rubs and scrapes?

Remember what I said about putting up a stand and getting in it too soon. Having confidence in your spot makes it a lot easier to stick it out for long periods, and confidence in your spot comes from thorough scouting. I can’t overstress the importance of not settling in for a long sit until you have done the scouting and learned as much as you can from cameras.

The urge to get in a tree and get to hunting can be very strong when you arrive at a new property, but don’t do it until it’s time. Once you have a thorough knowledge of the property, you can settle into a place where you will have the optimism needed to grind it out for long hours.

Stay Mobile and Flexible

The other side of that coin is the fact that things change and you must change with them. You cannot wait for the hunt to come to you, you have to stay aggressive. You have a very short time to make things happen, so you can’t overstay a spot when you have lost the confidence in it. Food sources can change overnight with harvesting of crops. Hunting pressure can move deer around and alter patterns. A cold front with its accompanying northwest wind can make any given stand unhuntable for 2-3 days.

You have to be very aware of what’s going on around you and react quickly to changing conditions. You need to have a backup plan for a major weather change. Stay attuned to the upcoming weather, and plan accordingly. I hate the sinking feeling of sitting in a stand one evening, looking at the weather and realizing I have no place to hunt in the morning due to changing conditions. Plan at least three sits ahead, and be ready to move a set on a moment’s notice.

Work Hard and Smart

Most people aren’t used to hunting hard for 7-10 days, which is the average amount of time I will spend on a DIY road trip. Most people hunt the weekends at home or maybe a couple evenings after work. Hunting from daylight to dark, moving stands, checking cameras, constantly analyzing conditions and deer behavior is foreign to the guy who just hunts a property from home and hunts when he feels like it. About halfway through the hunt, the temptation to hit the snooze button when the alarm goes off at 5:00 a.m. can be overwhelming. That’s especially true when you start to lose confidence in your efforts.

Chances are you laid out a pile of cash for a nonresident tag and you may only get one of these trips a year. You are going to regret it for months if you don’t give it your all. Work hard all day every day. Do the things necessary to keep your confidence up and your drive at a high level. Keep thinking ahead a day or two; try not to get into the habit of reacting to the changing conditions, but learn to get ahead of them and be ready. Today’s technology in the palm of our hands can be a huge help to us, but we have to use it.

Anticipate what’s coming and be ready for it. When that alarm rings, the feeling that you will be heading out to a spot that has a legitimate chance to produce a great buck is a feeling that will get you stepping into your hunting boots in the morning with excitement for what the day might bring.

Don’t Allow your Expectations to Get to High

One of the biggest mistakes made by travelling hunters these days is having unrealistic expectations. Outdoor TV has contributed to this, I believe. You watch two nice bucks get shot during a 30-minute show. If you don’t think about the background work that went into that short segment, you can get the wrong idea. The background work most likely was put in by an outfitter who knows the deer on his property well.

The first time I go to a new property to hunt, I like to think of it as a learning experience. If I shoot a buck, great, but if not, I don’t have grandiose dreams about driving home with a 150 in the back of the truck. That dream may become a reality someday, but it will likely be after you have hunted the property a few times, you really know it well, and you have past experiences to add to the well of knowledge you draw from when making your everyday decisions.

There’s no doubt in my mind that hunting the same property many times offers a significant advantage to the hunter. But there is something to be said for the adventure of trying new areas and hunting new properties. My hunting includes a mix. I love the excitement that comes with seeing what’s over the next hill, but that’s tempered with the fact that I like to shoot a buck once in a while too, and I know my odds are better when I am hunting familiar ground.

So my advice is to take what the hunt gives you. Don’t make the mistake of letting the expectations of others dictate what you shoot or do not shoot. This is your hunt. If you are happy shooting a 120-inch 3-year-old on the eighth day, then do it. If you would rather let that deer walk and eat tag sandwich, that’s your call. The key is to go into the hunt with realistic expectations. Even the best properties do not produce a mature buck for even the best DIY hunters every year.

Bears at the rubbing tree

Bears at the rubbing tree

by Bernie Barringer

I live in an area with lots and lots of bears. on the corner of my food plot is a scent marking tree (rubbing tree) that the bears have been using for the past couple years. I put a Covert Scouting Camera on it to shoot some photos and video of bears at this tree and I have thousands of videos. I put this short youtube selection together so you can get a feel for the amount of bears and activity that is found at this area.


5 Steps to a Successful DIY bowhunt

5 Steps to a Successful DIY bowhunt

Five Steps to Making Your Dream Bowhunt a Reality. You’ve always wanted to hunt deer in one of the destination states. You watch on TV each week as big bucks are shot but you really don’t have hunting like that where you live. Here’s a short course in how to get started on your dream bowhunt out of state.

By Bernie Barringer

Years ago, I was like you. I knew there was a lot of great bowhunting but it wasn’t where I lived. I had a gnawing desire to shoot a really nice buck, but I knew I was going to have to travel to do it. I didn’t,–really couldn’t–spend $4,000 on a guided hunt, so a DIY hunt it would have to be. I took the plunge and I have never regretted it. I have now done more than 20 bowhunting road trips for whitetails, some with great success and some were, shall we say, learning experiences. Allow me to give you a few nuggets of advice to put you on your way to a successful DIY out-of-state deer hunt.

Choose a State

The most logical place to start is to think wide and narrow down your search. First of all you need to decide where you want to go. That means you need to first pick a state and begin the process of getting a deer tag in that state. Some states sell nonresident deer tags over the counter, some require you to apply and may take a couple years to draw, so you better start now.

In my recent book The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter, I give details on 16 of the top whitetail destination states. If you are starting out, this book is the best $20 you can invest in your success. In addition to getting a tag, other factors that will influence you decision on where to go will be if you know someone in the state that might allow you to stay there, distance you are willing to travel, and the amount of public land available to hunt.

Choose Some Properties

Once you have decided which state you are going to chase a big buck in, you need to spend some time looking over the options of specific properties where you can hunt. This could be state and county public land, Walk-In-Hunting land, even federal lands open to hunting. Each state has details on its website, and most include maps and even interactive aerial property photos. Powderhook [] is also great resource for this. Spend some time with Google Earth and really look over a few properties until you find some that look appealing.

Make some calls

The next step in your research is to talk to some people with their boots on the ground. Start calling biologists for the area, game wardens, and any wildlife personnel that might have knowledge of the properties. Ask them specifics about the amount of hunting pressure, the deer population, the potential for shooting a mature buck and where the bedding and feeding areas are found. If there are food plots planted on the land, ask them what has been planted and if it will be harvested at some point or still be there when you arrive. This can make a big difference in finding the deer’s food source.

Work Hard

Once you arrive, you need to really scout the area out. That means a lot of walking and studying sign. It also means getting some trail cameras out and checking them regularly to find out what the deer are doing, where they are moving and what the potential is for a big buck.

When you are hunting at home, there are places where you wouldn’t just walk through, and you would try to avoid intruding on bedding areas and specific travel lanes. You do not have that option when you are on a road trip. Get out there and learn as much as you can, then put up some stands only when you feel like you have a handle on the patterns and potential of the area.

When I am on a DIY trip, I am not on vacation. I work really hard from sun to sun and that has proven successful for me.

Have Realistic Expectations

You are not going to shoot a buck like you see on TV every time you go on a hunt. Outdoor TV, with its back-to-back big buck episodes can give you the wrong impression about your chances. The more you do it the better you will become at it. And the more you keep going back to the same places over and over, the better your familiarity with the area becomes and your odds of being successful increase.

I hope you enjoy the satisfaction of bagging a buck on your dream hunt. I’ve done a lot of the research for you in my book The Freelance Bowhunter: Strategies for the Traveling Whitetail Hunter.

Five Great Road-Trips for a Velvet Whitetail

Five Great Road-Trips for a Velvet Whitetail

By Bernie Barringer

In the lives and “careers” of most deer hunters, a process takes place over time as the desires of a hunter mature. At first, just shooting a deer, any deer is satisfying. Then shooting a number of deer becomes a priority and the third stage of the process takes place when the hunter desires to bag a unique specimen of the species. That might mean holding out for a true giant, or it might mean travelling in order to have a chance at bagging a subspecies. Or it might mean the desire to collect a whitetail buck while it’s in velvet stage.

Whitetails across North America tend to shed their velvet during the first week in September. Sometimes the fuzz can come off during the last week of August, but the majority will become hard-antlered between September 1st and 7th. There are a handful of locations across North America where you can legally have a great chance of shooting a velvet buck at this time. These opportunities offer several positive aspects to the hunts. Not only does the season open early when the majority of the bucks have not yet shed their soft antler covering, but these bucks are in some of their most consistent and predictable patterns of the year. They are quite visible at this time of the year, plus they are focused on bedding and feeding every day. These bucks follow a daily routine that makes them very patternable.  Shooting one is about as close to a slam dunk as you can get in whitetail hunting. Here are my top five picks for getting a velvet buck for your trophy collection.

photo by Timothy Nebel

Public Land in North Dakota

North Dakota is a gold mine for the Do-it-Yourself bowhunter. Public land is abundant and there are still places where hunting permission will be granted on a handshake. Tens of thousands of acres of US Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) land surrounds the Missouri River and its reservoirs, and all of them are open to public hunting. Much of it is grassland, but food plots, shelterbelts and oak groves left over from century-old farmsteads attract whitetails.

Lake Sakakawea is a huge reservoir 125 miles long and almost the entire shoreline is ACOE land. You could spend a lifetime poking around looking for whitetails. Much of the area has a very low human population and little hunting pressure during archery season.

North Dakota also offers a program known as PLOTS: Private Land Open to Sportsmen. Landowners allow public access to their land through this program. The good news about PLOTS land is that no access by any type of vehicle is allowed. It’s walking only. The vast majority of this land is prairie that attracts bird hunters, but the hunter who does his homework can find small pockets of great whitetail habitat that rarely get hunted. Because it is walking access only, anything that is a mile or so from the nearest road may never see a deer hunter. Most locals have a place to hunt where they don’t have to hoof it so far. Surprisingly, few nonresident hunters take advantage of North Dakota’s whitetail opportunities. You will have to do your homework and be willing to work hard to bag a buck in North Dakota, but if you like the challenge of a DIY Road-trip, this could be the hunt for you.

A nonresident deer license is only $215. The archery season opens the Friday closest to September 1st each year.

Southeastern Montana

While the Northeastern part of Montana gets a lot of publicity for whitetail hunting, the Southeastern corner of the state has quietly been producing some really nice bucks. Because the season opens September 1st, there is a short window of opportunity to bag a velvet buck. This area has escaped the plague of Blue Tongue disease and winterkill that has caused a crash of the deer population in Northeastern Montana.

Look to the lowlands along the Powder River and Tongue River watersheds for numbers of whitetails and a quality of deer that will surprise even the seasoned bowhunting road-tripper.  This is arid country with river bottoms surrounded by sagebrush-covered hills. The deer bed in the cottonwood groves during the day and move out into the irrigated alfalfa fields to feed. Their patterns are very consistent and the sheer numbers of deer are striking. It is not unusual to see 50-plus deer per sitting. The first week in September last year I saw nine Pope & Young bucks in velvet during a four-hour evening sit in 90-degree heat.

The majority of the properties with good deer populations are leased by outfitters. Most outfitters offer hunts for whitetails and mule deer, plus antelope if you want to combine the two into one hunt. This is one of those hunts that every serious bowhunter should put on their “Must Do” list. It’s that good. I bagged a great 10-pointer in 2012 with Blue Rock Outfitters and I can’t wait to get back there.

Montana is proud of its nonresident hunting tags. The tags and licenses will set you back $552 for the any-deer tag. This allows you to shoot a whitetail or a mule deer. You must apply by March 15, but for this area you will draw every other year and sometimes in consecutive years. You can spring for the more expensive Elk/Deer combo license which guarantees you a deer tag; then if you do not hunt elk you can apply for a refund of the elk portion of the tag.

Forest Fringe Area of Alberta

Alberta has long been known to produce trophy whitetails due to its low hunting pressure the cold northern climate that dissuades all but the hardiest hunters during the frigid rifle season. But for bowhunters, Alberta is not at the top of their destination list. It should be on your list because of the opportunity to take a whopper in velvet during the first week of September. In fact, there some large areas designated primitive weapons only.

The licenses and fees are very reasonable at $196.57, but the catch is that nonresident hunters must be “hosted” by an Alberta resident. Unless you have a friend or family member in Alberta that has access to good hunting land, you must go with an outfitter. One other option is to trade a trip. You might find an Alberta resident that would be willing to host you in exchange for a hunt in your home area.

Southern Alberta is prairie land, the North is boreal forest, and the western part of the state is mountainous. Nestled between those areas is the “Forest Fringe”, commonly called the “Parkland” by Alberta residents. This combination of farms, open prairie and patches of “bush” is where you will find the best early season hunting. The deer tend to bed in the heavy cover of the timber blocks and feed in the open fields. They are quite visible and patternable in this flat country. Whitetail numbers are not high here but the quality makes up for the lack of quantity.

Occasionally, bucks will bed for the day in open fields and can be taken by spotting them in the morning, watching them bed, then putting the sneak on them when they have settled in. This is not a high percentage tactic but it is exhilarating and it sure beats sitting around camp all day. Bagging a mature whitetail this way is one of the most rewarding feelings in deer hunting.

Northeastern Wyoming

Much like southeastern Montana, this area in no way resembles typical whitetail country to the Midwestern or Eastern hunter. But the water and fertility of the land associated with the riparian areas produces whitetails in significant numbers, and the scarcity of local whitetail hunters allows them to get mature. This part of the west is not much of a secret any longer so outfitters have grabbed up the majority of the best ground. There are a few places where you can get permission to hunt but most of the landowners have figured out that people will pay to hunt the whitetails that they consider vermin. If you are willing to put in the time and knock on a lot of doors, you can find a place to hunt on your own.

Cottonwoods and alfalfa are the two main keys to whitetail location in the early season, although the bedding areas may be in a pine grove a mile or more from the feeding areas. It is common for whitetails to cross large areas while they make their way to the fields to feed in the afternoon. They commonly walk even two miles or more. This makes them very visible. A spotting scope is an essential tool for locating them. But once they are found, it’s a simple matter to get in position for their morning or evening trek that mostly takes place during the first two hours and the last two hours of daylight.

Wyoming’s archery deer season opens the first of September but you must apply for your tag each year before March 15. Drawing odds are very good and you will find a deer tag in your mailbox most years.

Western Kentucky

The western half of the state of Kentucky has earned a well-deserved reputation for being a quality whitetail destination. In the last two decades, the numbers of mature deer being shot by residents and nonresidents has been steadily rising. Offering an archery season opener that falls on the first Saturday in September, this Midwestern gem offers yet another opportunity to bag a great velvet buck and it’s a bargain at $190 for over-the-counter tags and licenses.

Adam Jablonski of Linesville, Pennsylvania travelled to central North Dakota and put an arrow through this great velvet 10-pointer on September 5, 2012. If you want to put your tag on a velvet-clad antler, North Dakota is one of the top five places to do it. Photo by Timothy Nebel

For hunters without the budget to spend on a fully outfitted hunt, this area offers an abundance of public land open to hunting. Western Kentucky features two expansive public areas in the 100,000-acre Land Between the Lakes Wildlife Management Area, and the 65,000-acre Peabody Wildlife Management Area. In addition to that, there are several smaller WMAs ranging in size from less than 1,000 acres to more than 8,000 acres. The area is well populated and you will not be alone on this public hunting ground, but if you are willing to do your legwork–get a mile or more off the road–you will find minimal hunting pressure.

Landowners are generally somewhat open to allowing bowhunters access to their property. Not so much for rifle hunters. While there are a handful of outfitters operating across the western part of the state, there is no shortage of private land that is not bound up by hunting leases.

Patterning these big woods bucks in September is not nearly as easy compared to what you’ll find out west.  Much of the acorn crop is on the ground and natural foods are abundant and spread out across the landscape. This is often thick and steep country so you will need to work hard to get your buck, but if you have a good plan and execute it well with hard work and determination, you will see some great deer.

The unique trophy of a velvet-antlered whitetail is one that can be found in only a handful of places. If you start your planning now you have a chance to get yours.



Season opener: First Saturday in September

Licenses and tags: OTC – $190



North Dakota:

Season opener: Noon on the Friday nearest September 1.

Licenses and tags: OTC – $215




Season opener: September 1

Licenses and tags: Hosted – $196.57




Season Opener: September 1

Licenses and tags: Apply between January 1and March 15 – $338.50




Season Opener: September 1

Licenses and Tags: Apply between January 1and March 15 – $552


South Dakota Bowhunters Seek to Limit Nonresident Hunters

South Dakota Bowhunters Seek to Limit Nonresident Hunters

In what can be characterized as an attack on nonresident deer hunters, the organization South Dakota Bowhunters, Inc. (SDBI) has petitioned the South Dakota Dept of Game, Fish and Parks to limit the number of nonresidents and increase tag fees to discourage nonresident hunters. The specific proposals are as follows:

1. “Eliminate Non-Resident (NR) Unlimited Archery permits.  Cap the NR archery permits at 8% of the resident archers.  In 2015 23,507 archery tags were sold to residents, 3,180 sold to non residents. By limiting to 8% it would drop the tags to 1,880 tags for nonresidents.  Also, implement a point system with a nominal point fee.  Other states charge $30-$50 for a deer point.  This is primarily geared to assist resident bowhunters who are often outnumbered on our public lands during archery seasons.  We continue to get reports from areas in eastern SD, along the Missouri River corridor and on public lands like the Custer National Forest about non-resident bowhunting pressure and it’s significance to the quality of experience resident bowhunters reap.  With growing media attention from outdoor media and television featuring SD and a burgeoning ‘outfitting’ industry our great state is seeing a significant increase in NR bowhunting pressure.  It’s widely known by traveling NR’s that if they don’t draw in another western state that they can simply drive to SD and pick up a deer or even antelope combination hunt on short notice.  This has a significant negative impact on SD Bowhunters in many areas of our state.”

I will address each of these issues separately. First of all, they are correct in assuming that the number of nonresident hunters is growing anywhere good whitetail deer hunting is found. Bowhunters, especially, are mobile and many have the money and the time to travel and hunt new areas. The rise in outdoor TV over the past 20 years has shown many hunters in states with poor quality deer hunting that there are greener pastures. South Dakota has been mostly insulated from this, as states like Iowa, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri get a lot more air time. Most states have welcomed the nonresident hunters because of the significant tourism dollars they bring to the states. Some even actively promote these nonresident hunting opportunities because of the influx of money brought into the states. The small increase in nonresident hunters in South Dakota is a fraction of what is seen in many other states that are known as “destination” states for deer hunters. What South Dakota hunters see as high pressure is nothing compared to what hunters see on public lands in Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. If you want to see hunting pressure, visit the public lands in those states during the first three weeks of November. It will make South Dakota look deserted by comparison. Adding a drawing and a point system might actually increase pressure in the more desirable areas. The statement that the pressure is great along the Missouri river corridor is true because that’s some of the highest population areas and where most resident hunters also hunt. The average direct economic impact of a nonresident hunter is about $1,500, plus there is an indirect impact through jobs. With 3,180 nonresident deer hunters, that’s a direct economic impact of $4.77 million per year.

2. “Significantly increase non-resident Big Game permit fees.  Our NR big game permits are currently $286.  MT is $602, NE $600, IA $551, KS $442.50, CO $389, WY $312 and ND $277.  Plus you have to take into account Preference Point fees in many of those states and that runs it even higher in cost.  A significant increase in NR deer permit fees would generate revenue to off-set the loss of license fees cutting those tags would cause.  Again, the thinking is to reduce NR pressure significantly that puts undue pressure on public areas and cause direct competition with our resident deer hunters (particularly bowhunters).”
This is where the SDBI really loses their way. For starters they misrepresent the cost of a hunt in Nebraska at $600. Nonresidents can buy an over-the-counter (OTC) either sex tag in Nebraska for $242 and if you shoot a deer you can go buy a second one for the same price. Interestingly they leave off the bordering state of Minnesota, which offers nonresident tags for $165. Destination states Missouri and Wisconsin offer OTC tags costing much lower than South Dakota. All in all, South Dakota’s cost is about average for nonresident deer tags; and if you look at the comparative desire among hunters to travel there, it would be considered high for the quality of experience. Comparing it to Iowa, where about 20,000 nonresidents apply for the 6,000 nonresident tags each year, is not comparing apples to apples. Same with Kansas. The notion that an increased fee would offset the millions in economic impact brought in by nonresident hunters just doesn’t add up.
I fully understand the growth in nonresident hunting over the past 20 years. My book The Freelance Bowhunter addresses this issue and offers a guide to 16 of the most desired states and strategies for DIY hunters on a bowhunting road trip. My magazine and online columns on the subject have millions of readers. I can sympathize with the SDBI because I have experienced it first hand. But I don’t think limiting nonresident hunters and adding a drawing is the answer. The answer that both residents and nonresidents can live with is the addition of hunting opportunities. Work had to increase programs which offer deer hunting to the public on private land. At this point most of these programs are geared towards upland bird hunters. Some of them also feature good deer habitat. An increase in public land which offers quality deer hunting would be a big help in spreading out the hunting pressure. Abundant Army Corps land offers good deer hunting and some cooperation with the ACOE to increase the quality of deer habitat would also be a big help. Offer incentives for landowners to gift and bequeath land for public hunting. These are long-term solutions.
An attempt to simply reduce the number of nonresident hunters is harmful to the economy, to G&F funds and to relations with other states and their hunters. And it’s a short term solution that will have no real impact as more resident hunters migrate towards the areas where nonresidents would hunt, filling in the gaps. The best places to hunt will have the most hunters and if you remove some of the nonresidents, then resident hunters will move right in.
Pope & Young Certifies Four New World’s Records

Pope & Young Certifies Four New World’s Records

New World Record Animals And Historic Moments Highlighted The Pope And Young Club 30th Biennial Convention

The Pope & Young Club held its 30th biennial convention in St. Louis, Missouri, April 5-8, 2017 at the Union Station hotel. A stunning location, informative seminars, breath-taking mounts, new World Records and historic moments were the hallmarks for this P&Y gathering. The convention is always a great time to reunite with old friends, make new ones and celebrate of our shared love of bowhunting. The three-day celebration, held every two years, is where the Club honors the top big-game animals taken in North America over the past two-years and recognizes new bowhunting World Record animals.

The high point of the conventions Awards Banquet was the recognition of four new P&Y World Records;

Typical Coues deer, taken by Terry Edwards of San Carlos Arizona

Desert bighorn, taken by Tony Loop of Appling, Georgia

Shiras moose, taken by Bobby Hebert of Golden, Colorado

Typical American elk, taken Steve by Felix of Seeley Lake, Montana

The Recognition Banquet included a highlight of historic proportions with the induction of Kathleen Gardner and Anna Vorisek into the Club’s Fred Bear Society. Kathleen and Anna are the first female bowhunters ever inducted into this prestigious group. The Fred Bear Society was established in 2012 to recognize people who have made sizeable donations to the Pope and Young Club’s Trust Fund. Fred Bear established this fund in 1985 when he made the first contribution to begin the process that would ensure a long-lasting future for the Club from one generation to the next.

The large midway included many vendors of archery equipment and hunting outfitters offering attendees a chance to see the latest developments in gear and possibly book a hunt. Archery gear manufacturers in attendance included a few of the industry’s big names like Sitka, FeraDyne, Kuiu, Bear Archery and Lumenok, just to name a few.

Proceeds raised during the Convention through ticket sales, the Silent Auction and Live Auction benefit the Club’s Conservation, Education and Outreach fund. At the end of the final evening, the Pope & Young Club announced the next convention would be held in Omaha, Nebraska in 2019.

The Pope and Young Club is a non-profit North American conservation and bowhunting organization dedicated to the promotion and protect
ion of our bowhunting heritage, hunting ethics and wildlife conservation.  The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository for the records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow.

Contact the Pope & Young Club office at: or P.O. Box 548, Chatfield, MN 55923, Ph: 507.867.4144

Media contact Rick Mowery at:, Ph: 989.884.3800

Six Enduring Myths about Whitetail Hunting

Six Enduring Myths about Whitetail Hunting

Chances are you have been a believer in at least one of these myths. Here is some scientific evidence and common sense to debunk them. 

By Bernie Barringer

Some information has been passed down through the generations at hunting camps and in the pages of magazines. Today’s internet forums cause misinformation to be available to anyone at any time and sometimes it has the ring of truth. Here are six commonly-held beliefs that can be dismantled by using a little common sense and in some cases, new scientific findings.

Bucks only travel into the wind

You’ve probably heard variations on this one. Obviously, bucks cannot only travel into the wind otherwise they would be unable to go to food, water and secure cover when the wind is wrong. In some cases I have heard that bucks will put their nose into the wind when fleeing danger. In my experience, bucks are more likely to put distance between themselves and danger no matter what the wind direction. Once they feel the danger is past, they may head for secure cover.

Bucks will often travel with a tailwind. I have seen this behavior when they are moving out into an open field to feed. In several cases, a bachelor group of bucks I watched could be seen entering an alfalfa field in early fall each evening, and most times, they approached the field where they could see what was in front of them and smell what was behind them.

I have also see, and have scouting camera photos of bucks who prefer to approach their bedding area with a wind at their back. Bucks are individuals and will do what they have learned makes them feel safe. In many cases, that’s quartering into the wind, having the air currents hitting the side of their nose. Many bucks prefer this, but it’s not possible all that often, so they will do what they need to do to feel secure in their movements, using the wind direction in whatever way they can.

Big-racked bucks father big-racked bucks

A giant buck can be produced by the mating of a big buck and a doe with big antler genes. The doe has more to do with producing a giant than the buck’s father.

Clearly, this is partially true, but having the genes for big antlers in the father is only a small part of the equation. Bucks pass antler genes onto their doe fawns, which then pass them on to their male offspring. So a big buck is more likely to come from a doe that was descended from a big buck.

I have a friend who raises deer and I have learned a lot about antler genetics from him. He tells me that he can predict when a buck will blow up into a giant based on the genetics of the buck fawn’s mother. When he breeds a doe with big antler genes to a buck carrying big antler genes, that’s when the buck fawn is likely to become a giant because he has the genetics to do so from both sides.

Also keep in mind that big antlers are the result of age and nutrition. The buck’s mother is responsible for keeping the fawn fed and teaching it to search out quality food and minerals. She is also responsible to teach that buck fawn the survival strategies that will allow him to reach 5-6 years old when his rack can fully develop. So both in the genetics and in the behavior that creates a big antlered buck, a doe has much more responsibility than just the genetics of the  buck’s father.

White-tailed Deer do not see colors

This is a long held myth that seems to have trouble dying. I suppose it has so much traction because deer do not respond to hunter orange the way we expect them too. While florescent orange virtually glows to humans, deer seem to have hard time picking it out. This has led many hunters to believe that deer just see black, white and shades of gray.

Research began in the 1980’s that seemed to indicate that deer do see some colors. More recent research by the University of Washington and the University of Georgia began to reveal some very specific facts about what deer see. By dissecting a whitetails eyeball and putting it under a high-powered microscope, scientists were able to analyze the color vision in whitetails by looking at the rods and cones on the retina.

Rods collect light and cones interpret colors. By analyzing the specific kinds of cones in the deer’s eye, scientists discovered that deer do not see the red end of the spectrum visible to humans, but they see the blue end significantly better than we do. Colors like orange and red are subdued, but greens and blues are very visible to deer.

Humans have a UV filter on our eyes, which blocks out much of the blue light that can harm our eyesight over a lifetime. Because deer live much shorter lives, they do not need this filter. Between the lack of a UV filter and the number of cones that interpret blue light, a whitetail deer can see blue about 20 times better than humans can. If you are in a deer’s view wearing an orange vest and blue jeans, the orange would be a subdued color but the blue jeans would be extremely visible.

This buck spent most of its time miles away, but each October, it would show up on Rod Owen’s Missouri farm. He shot the buck when it arrived in 2015.

Mature bucks are homebodies

There’s been plenty of research using telemetry and more recently GPS tracking that seems to indicate that bucks stay in an area they know well, sometimes called a “home range” and many bucks have a very small “core area” where they spend the vast majority of their time. Some studies have shown that some bucks, as they age, tend to decrease their movements and their core area becomes smaller.

This sounds logical on the surface, and to the degree that the studies were carried out, it’s hard to argue with good scientific evidence. However, there are some significant problems with these generalizations. While a buck in ideal habitat may have everything he needs close by—secure cover, food and water—not every deer lives in such a utopia. Coyotes and wolves may run deer long distances. Hunting pressure may become so intense that a buck must move. Some bucks seem to have a wanderlust while others have a tendency to hunker down under pressure.

It’s easy to over generalize and forget that bucks, like humans are individuals, with individual “personalities.” We would like things to be simple so we could hunt them as if they are all the same, but that’s rarely how things are in the real world.

For many years I have done dozens of articles for national magazines on big bucks that have been shot. There are some surprises that come from all that data. Before the advent of scouting cameras, it was rare for a hunter to shoot a big buck of which he had prior knowledge. Most of the time, it was the first time he laid eyes on the giant. Upon interviewing these hunters who shot outsized trophy bucks after the woods became filled with scouting cameras, some things began to take place that changed my opinion.

I was surprised how many times I was hit with statements similar to this one, “I would never get a photo of that buck until the first of October then he would just show up on my property.”  Or this one, “After I shot the buck, a guy sent me a bunch of photos of the deer that were taken five [or six or seven] miles from where I shot it. He had been hunting it hard on his property.

I have become convinced that bucks like to settle into an area where they feel secure but as conditions change—be it food sources, predators, hunting pressure, etc.—they simply pick up and move out. Do they have a secondary home range? It would seem to be so. Could that secondary home range be the natal area where they grew up? Stands to reason that it might be since they spent the first year of their life learning it and all the security it offered. The more we know about home ranges the more we have to learn.

Get into your treestand well before daylight

Is it better to approach your stand in the dark of the morning or wait until it’s light enough to see? The author believes the latter is better.

My bowhunting mentor in the 1970s while I was in high school would always take me to my treestand two hours before daylight in the morning. It would give my scent time to dissipate was his reasoning. I followed this advice for many years.

But I started to become concerned that I was filling the area with scent for two hours rather than allowing it to dissipate. Plus, I was spooking a lot of deer on my way to the stand in the darkness. When travelling to and from my stand in the daylight it was much easier to use available cover to avoid being seen. Could it be old Jim was wrong about this?

I have started entering my stand site at first light, when I can see to make a quieter approach without artificial lighting. I can avoid stepping on noisy ground cover, and if I see a deer on the way in, I can stop and avoid spooking it. I often move to within 75 yards or so of my stand site in the dark, then wait until I have just enough light to close the final distance with much more stealth.

Bucks only visit scrapes at night

Here’s another one where science tells a small part of the story and has misled many hunters. There have been several studies done by placing scouting cameras at scrapes and analyzing the data on the times the scrapes were visited by bucks and does. Each of these studies showed that the photos of deer taken at scrapes were primarily at night, in fact, in most studies, 80 percent of the photos were taken under the cover of darkness.

Bucks will avoid exposing themselves to approach a scrape during the daylight unless they smell something that causes them to hook around and come right to it.

These studies miss one important component to the way bucks visit scrapes. During darkness, bucks feel comfortable strolling about checking scrapes as they go. They walk up to a scrape, take a sniff while getting their photo taken and then move on.

Not so during the daylight. Many primary scrapes—the ones that are likely to get checked several times by multiple bucks—are on the edge of fields adjacent to an open area such as a crop field or clearing. These primary scrapes will have an overhanging branch and be the center of attention until the chasing and breeding begins in earnest.

Bucks do not like to expose themselves to those open areas during the daylight, but during the last week in October and the first few days in November, when the scrapes are being checked, and the bucks are on their feet at any hour of the day, will they just abandon those scrapes until night time? I don’t think so. Whenever possible they will stay 20-40 yards back in the cover and scent-check the scrape from downwind. They will only hook around and approach the scrape if something compelling hits their nose. Only then do they get their photo taken. I have seen this behavior in person often enough to believe it is common.

So there are my opinions on why these six beliefs are myths. You are free to disagree. Comment below if you have something to add.

Your Best Bets for Truly Big Bears

Your Best Bets for Truly Big Bears

By Bernie Barringer

A look through the Boone & Crockett Record books reveals some interesting patterns about your chances of shooting a true giant black bear.

Outdoorsmen go through a progression of sorts during their lifetime. Most beginning fishermen, for example, are happy to catch a few fish and enjoy the excitement that comes with it. But as time goes on, they are not satisfied with a few bluegills, they want to catch a lot of fish. Then the progression goes to catching large fish of a particular species or trying more difficult methods of catching fish such as fly fishing.

Hunting is the same way. A deer hunter is thrilled to shoot his first deer, but sooner or later he finds that he has a fascination with shooting a mature buck, or with trying to shoot a deer with a bow rather than a rifle.

It stands to reason that bear hunters would go through the same progression. Many experienced bear hunters are either in search of color phase bears or a monster specimen. This article is for those of you who have a hankering to shoot a real whopper.

I have been fascinated by black bears all my life and I have been pursing them with a passion for more than a dozen years. I have put together a list of the top 10 places to shoot a really big black bear. I realize that some of you reading this will disagree with me, and have a place that you think should be included. I’ll certainly allow that you may disagree, but my list is backed up by the Boone & Crockett Club (B&C) records, so I at least have that going for me. Keep in mind that the total number of B&C bears produced in an area is not necessarily a good indicator of trophy potential. The percentage of B&C bears in the overall harvest is a better indicator of the area’s potential to produce a monster.

The B&C minimum score for a black bear is 21 inches. Of course it goes without saying that when booking an outfitter in one of these locations, you want to pick one that has a history of producing truly big bears. And you have to be willing to pass up a few big bears to have a chance at a true Boone & Crockett black bear. That’s not something everyone can do, but if your goal is a B&C black bear you have to be able to let the 20-inchers walk!

So here’s my list, and a little background on each location.

Top 10 Best Bets for Big Bears 

1) Prince of Wales Island and Kuiu Island, AK

These two islands produce whopper bears every year. They are remote and only a handful of outfitters take bears off these islands each year. Hunters here can afford to be selective. There is not a B&C bear around every corner, but you can expect to have a reasonable chance to sight one on your trip if you go there. These bears get big because of low hunting pressure, good genetics, a long feeding season and abundant food. If you want a chance to kill a B&C bear, it’s hard to beat these two islands off the coast of southeastern Alaska. The hunting here is primarily spot and stalk hunting on the beaches, although some bears are taken over bait.

2) Vancouver Island, Graham Island and Queen Charlotte Islands, BC

Our number two location has all the qualities of number one except that it gets a little more hunting pressure. Vancouver island in particular produces a lot of monster bears each year, and is more easily within reach of civilization, so access is a little better than number one. There are big bears on these islands and there are several outfitters who know how to put you on them. This is primarily spot and stalk hunting in logging cuts, and to a lesser degree on the beaches.

3) Northern Wisconsin

The sheer numbers of bears found in Northern Wisconsin are responsible for making this number 3. While the numbers are high, the actual harvest numbers are low due to a very limited number of bear permits each year, which means there is a good ratio of mature bears in the population. Prepare for a long wait if you want to hunt here: it normally takes 8-10 years of applying to draw a tag in the best zones. Most big bears are killed over bait, although a few are tracked down with hounds. Some of the best counties are Bayfield, Price, Sawyer, Marinette, Barron, Oconto, Rusk, and Langlade.

4) North Central Pennsylvania

This will come as a surprise to many people who do not consider Pennsylvania a bear hunting destination. But there are really big bears in this state. Baiting and hounds are not legal, which makes it very difficult to harvest a bear. Success rates are very low: the percentages some years can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Most bears are either shot incidentally by deer hunters or on large group drives. If you look at the list of the top end bears entered in the B&C record book, the letters PA come up a lot; more than most people would ever dream. Five of the top 10 and nine of the top 20 all-time record bears came from the Keystone state. The counties in the North Central part of the state are the best bets, with Lycoming having produced the most.

5) Riding and Duck Mountains, West Central Manitoba

The Western Part of Manitoba has a couple ranges of mountains that produce a large number of bears including some real monsters. Now these mountains are not what people from Colorado or Montana think of as mountains, but in a part of Canada that is mostly flat as a pancake, these are mountains. In addition to the large bears, they produce good numbers of color phase bears. This area offers great habitat for bears and it produces a lot of big bears because of the sheer overall numbers of bears taken. Outfitters here have huge exclusive territories and if they manage them well, their clients will bag a couple B&C melon-heads each and every year. When sitting over a bait in this part of Manitoba, you never know when a B&C bear is going to walk in. It can happen at any moment.

6) East Central Saskatchewan

The mountains in West Central Manitoba also reach over into Saskatchewan. So the same situation found in Manitoba is found in Saskatchewan. Lots of bears, and big bears too. There just isn’t quite as much of this near-perfect habitat on the west side of the shared border so Saskatchewan ranks slightly behind Manitoba in this area. Both of these provinces offer spring bear hunts which occur during the bear’s breeding season. Mature male bears will visit baits in the spring more readily when searching for females.

7) Peace River area of Alberta

This area is remote and very difficult to access. A small number of outfitters guide clients to bears here each year and the chances of laying eyes on a B&C bear are pretty good if you go to the time and expense it takes to put yourself in this area. Harvest is low not because the numbers of bears–the population is actually quite high and many areas offer a two-bear limit–but because the number of hunters is low. Mature bears are the norm not the exception. Most people come to this area with several tags in their pockets, since moose and elk are also popular targets. Hunters going to the area targeting these antlered species are well-advised to carry a bear tag because a really big one is liable to show itself at any moment.

8) North Western California

Once again low hunting pressure puts a spot on the map for big bruins. A long growing season helps too. There is a small pocket in the northwestern part of the state that produces a good number of big-headed bears, specifically Humboldt, Trinity and Mendocino Counties. It is an overlooked area for huge gorilla bears. Lots of color phase bears too; cinnamons, chocolates and blondes are common.

9) East Central Arizona

Some really big bears have come from the mountains of Central to East Central Arizona. Gila County produces quite a few of them and in fact ranks second all time in the number of B&C bears entered into the record books (46). That will surprise a lot of people but not those who live and hunt in that area. Nearly a year-round feeding season and lots of food is responsible for the exceptional growth, plus a low harvest.

10) Remote Northern Saskatchewan and Manitoba

The remote areas of these Central Canadian provinces produce some big bears. Much of this part of Canada is not accessible by road, so there is little hunting pressure. The bears get big because they have a chance to get old. You will most likely have to fly into a camp to encounter one of these bears, but you are also most likely to be the first human being they have ever seen. Many outfitters only kill one bear per bait each year in these remote areas, and they continue to produce monster bears year after year.

“Data for this article was compiled with assistance from Boone and Crockett Club’s on-line trophy database.  For information about this very valuable information service and other Boone and Crockett Club activities, please visit their web site at or call 406/542-1888.”

B&C bears by state/province rank – Top 20 States/Provinces

1. Wisconsin black bear 427
2. Pennsylvania black bear 241      
3. Alaska black bear 209      
4. Saskatchewan black bear 192      
5. Manitoba black bear 135      
6. Minnesota black bear 135      
7. California black bear 131      
8. Arizona black bear 118      
9. Alberta black bear 107      
10. Colorado black bear 101      
11. North Carolina Black bear 95
12. British Columbia black bear 94      
13. Michigan black bear 89      
14. Ontario black bear 68      
15. Washington black bear 56      
16. Oregon black bear 50      
17. New York black bear 43      
18. New Mexico black bear 42      
19. Idaho black bear 40      
20. Wyoming black bear 40      


Top 20 B&C bears of all time


1. 23 10/16 Sanpete Co., UT Picked Up Cabela’s, Inc. 1975 1  
2. 23 7/16 Lycoming Co., PA Picked Up PA Game Comm. 1987 2                                
3. 23 5/16 Monroe Co., WI Picked Up Wade W. Brockman 2010 3                                
4. 23 3/16 Mendocino Co., CA Robert J. Shuttleworth, Jr. Robert J. Shuttleworth, Jr. 1993 4                                
5. 23 3/16 Fayette Co., PA Andrew Seman, Jr. Andrew Seman, Jr. 2005 4                              
6. 22 15/16 Monroe Co., PA Jeremy Kresge Jeremy Kresge 2004 6                                
7. 22 15/16 Bedford Co., PA Jesse L. Ritchey Jesse L. Ritchey 2006 6                                
8. 22 15/16 Kuiu Island, AK Craig D. Martin Craig D. Martin 1996 6                              
9. 22 14/16 McCreary, MB John J. Bathke John J. Bathke 1998 9                                
10. 22 14/16 Carbon Co., PA Brian J. Coxe Brian J. Coxe 2003 9                                
11. 22 13/16 Riding Mt., MB Robert J. Evans Robert J. Evans 2008 11                              
12. 22 13/16 Luzerne Co., PA Joseph E. Mindick Joseph E. Mindick 1998 11                                
13. 22 13/16 Ventura Co., CA Loren C. Nodolf Loren C. Nodolf 1990 11                              
14. 22 12/16 Pike Co., PA Douglas Kristiansen Douglas Kristiansen 2003 14                                
15. 22 11/16 Price Co., WI Joseph T. Brandl Joseph T. Brandl 2006 15                              
16. 22 11/16 Lehigh Co., PA Joseph W. Paulo Joseph W. Paulo 1997 15                                
17. 22 11/16 Newaygo Co., MI Donald R. Corrigan Donald R. Corrigan 2009 15                                
18. 22 11/16 Chippewa Co., WI Duane Helland Duane Helland 2003 15                                
19. 22 11/16 Bronson Lake, SK Stanley Benson Stanley Benson 1997 15                              
20. 22 11/16 Bradford Co., PA Chad M. Reed Chad M. Reed 1991 15                                


Counties producing the most B&C bears – top 20


1. Alaska Prince of Wales Island, AK black bear 116
2. Arizona Gila County, AZ black bear 46        
3. Wisconsin Bayfield County, WI black bear 33        
4. Wisconsin Price County, WI black bear 31        
5. North Carolina Hyde County, NC black bear 30        
6. Wisconsin Sawyer County, WI black bear 30        
7. Wisconsin Marinette County, WI black bear 27        
8. California Mendocino County, CA black bear 27        
9. Alaska Kuiu Island, AK black bear 25        
10. Wisconsin Barron County, WI black bear 24        
11. Wisconsin Oconto County, WI black bear 24        
12. Wisconsin Rusk County, WI black bear 24        
13. Pennsylvania Lycoming County, PA black bear 21        
14. Pennsylvania Bradford County, PA black bear 19        
15. Minnesota Cass County, MN black bear 19        
16. Wisconsin Langlade County, WI black bear 19        
17. Alberta Peace River, AB black bear 19        
18. Maine Aroostook County, ME black bear 18        
19. Wisconsin Burnett County, WI black bear 18        
20. Wisconsin Chippewa County, WI black bear 18      
New World Record Mule Deer is Official

New World Record Mule Deer is Official

Pope And Young Club Names New World Record Typical Mule Deer

On the 13th of August, 2016 under clear blue skies amidst the sagebrush of southeastern Nevada, Frank Cheeney, accompanied by his son Aaron, arrowed the largest typical mule deer ever taken with a bow.

“My son Aaron and I headed out a bit late that morning, and we began glassing the area as soon as we arrived,” said Frank Cheeney. “We spotted a bunch of bucks bedded down in a sagebrush flat and after some discussion (I use the word “discussion” lightly), Aaron decided that I needed to try to put a stalk on the bedded bucks in the hopes of getting a shot.  As we watched them, we noted that they were calm and looking in the opposite direction. Putting a stalk on a group of bucks with sagebrush as your only cover usually does not end well for the hunter, but Aaron felt strongly that I could put the sneak on them and end up with a good shot. I reluctantly kicked off my shoes and crouched down behind the taller brush and began my approach. As luck would have it, the breeze was blowing straight in my face as I headed towards the bucks. They seemed oblivious to my presence. As fate would have it, the biggest buck stood up from his bed. I drew my bow and with the deer in my sights I let the arrow fly.”

Frank went on to add, “I grew up in the outdoors hunting and trapping with my dad. He passed on his knowledge and love of hunting to me, and it has always been important to me to continue that tradition. In my family hunting has never been about killing a high-scoring trophy. We have always looked for nice bucks, but score has really never meant that much to us. It’s always been about the time spent together with friends and family preparing for and carrying out hunting activities. It’s about passing on skills and traditions that are a part of our heritage and way of life. It’s about sharing a campfire, good food and, even better, stories with family and neighbors. It’s about teaching my three kids to be ethical hunters and conservationist so that they can pass these same traditions on to their children.”

The first-ever Pope And Young Club Special Panel was convened during the Club’s 30th Biennial Convention in St. Louis, Missouri on Saturday, April 8th. Pope and Young Club Records Chairman, Ed Fanchin, called for the Special Panel to measure a potential World Record typical mule deer taken by Frank Cheeney of Pioche, Nevada in August of 2016.

“This was the first time the Pope and Young Club has used a Special Panel for verification of a potential World Record trophy,” said Ed Fanchin, Records Chairman for the Pope and Young Club. “The score was authenticated and this tremendous mule deer was declared the new Pope and Young Club World Record typical mule deer. Congratulations to Frank Cheeney and to the Nevada Department of Wildlife for using successful wildlife management practices. It’s great to know that deer of this caliber are still roaming the wilds of North America.”

Cheeney’s typical mule deer was measured by two separate panels, each having three highly experienced measurers and a Boone & Crockett representative. The resulting score of 205 6/8 tops the previous typical mule deer World Record scoring 205 0/8, making it the new Pope and Young Club World Record. The Special Panel event was filmed and posted on the Club’s Facebook page during the 30th Biennial Convention.

This incredible animal has been entered into the 31st Recording Period–the biennium representing entries accepted into the P&Y Records Program from January 1, 2017 to December 31, 2019. This is the first new and official Pope and Young Club World Record of the 31st Recording Period and the first-ever using the new procedure of calling for a Special Panel on potential World Records.

At the close of every biennial recording period, numerical awards and honorable mentions are awarded to the most outstanding bow-harvested animals in each species category that have been entered during this two-year recording period. New world’s records are verified and proclaimed, and awards are presented to these outstanding animals during the Pope and Young Club’s biennial convention and awards banquet.

The Pope and Young Club is a non-profit North American bowhunting and wildlife conservation organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of our bowhunting heritage and values, and to the welfare of wildlife and habitat. The Club also maintains the universally recognized repository for the records and statistics on North American big game animals harvested with a bow and arrow.

Three Camera Locations for Summer Deer Inventory

Three Camera Locations for Summer Deer Inventory

You want to know what deer you have using your property well before the hunting season begins in the fall. Placing cameras at these three locations will assure you get photos of the deer using the properties you hunt.

By Bernie Barringer

The deer season opens and you pick a stand in a great location for your opening day hunt. You have confidence in this spot so you climb in with optimism that you are going to see a buck. And you do. A buck approaches, but is it the buck you want to shoot? How does it compare to the other bucks on the property? If you are going to make a decision on what’s a shooter and what’s not a shooter, you need to have an inventory of all bucks likely to present you with an opportunity during the season, or you are just hunting blind.

Game cameras have changed the way we scout for deer. They not only reveal patterns of movement and habits, but they offer us an insight into the potential of any property to produce the buck on which we would be thrilled to pull the trigger. You can learn a whole lot about virtually every buck that is using a piece of property by the placement and monitoring of just three locations.

The Bedding Areas

While whitetail bedding can seem random at times, they do have certain bedding areas they prefer for the various weather variables. For example, in hot weather, they tend to seek out low, thick cover near water. At times, bucks like to be in the thick stuff and at others, especially when it is windy for example, they like to bed just below the crest of a hill so they can use their nose to protect them from behind and their eyes to see what’s in front of them. Learn the preferred bedding areas and get a camera or two on the trails that lead to these areas.

Avoid checking these cameras too often. I suggest once a month, because your ground scent and the possibility of spooking the deer out of the bedding area has the potential to undo what you are trying to learn in the first place. Check cameras right before a rain whenever possible.

Feeding Areas

Deer will feed in predictable locations in the summer. They love lush soybeans and will feed on them daily until the stems get large and woody, and then they will still feed some on the leaves but become less consistent. They relish green alfalfa and many other legumes and brassicas. They eat corn early when it just starts to come up, and then feed heavily on corn again when the ears are growing. A camera on an isolated fruit tree growing in an abandoned farm yard can produce some spectacular photos of late-summer bucks. Find the feed and you will find the deer.

Consider putting a camera with a plotwatcher feature on the edge of a field so you can monitor the entire field, not just the area right in front of the camera. Once again, do not check these cameras too often, but often enough to keep tabs on the deer’s feeding patterns. This camera location will give you a lot of clues about where to hunt during the early bow season.

Mineral Sites

I have saved the best for last; this one benefits your knowledge and the overall health of your deer. Start the mineral sites as soon as the antlers start to grow in the spring. Quality minerals will be sought out by both bucks and does. Good mineral has ingredients that benefit lactating does and antler growth, so all the deer benefit from it. A camera placed on a site with good mineral supplements will take a picture of every buck using the property at some point during the summer.

Replenish your minerals often to keep them coming back and change out the cards in your cameras each time you do. I guarantee you’ll feel like the season can’t come soon enough once you start seeing pictures of the bucks using the minerals.

The Four Parts of a Successful DIY Mentality

The Four Parts of a Successful DIY Mentality

By Bernie Barringer

Hunting away from home presents some unique challenges. When you are hunting in your home area, you have an entire season to bag your buck and fill out your deer tags. But on a DIY road trip, you are hunting under a deadline; you have a limited amount of time to get the job done. The situation calls for an entirely different set of strategies and actions. We can break the hunt down into four separate factors that can significantly improve your chances of success.

Scout Thoroughly

Back home, you have a pretty good feel for the deer movement patterns. You know where they tend to bed and where they tend to feed and at least a general idea of how the move between the two. When you arrive at a new hunting area on a DIY hunt, you must learn as much as you can in a short period of time. The greatest mistake most hunters make is to climb into a stand too early. You may find an area that’s all torn up with rubs and scrapes or a beaten down deer trail and you can’t wait to get a treestand set up and start hunting. That can be a big mistake, because you may lack confidence in your spot. It’s a lot easier to sit all day when you have confidence in your spot, and that confidence comes only from thorough scouting.

Hunt Aggressively

Hand in hand with an exhaustive scouting is the desire to make important decisions on the fly and be very aggressive in your hunting. Back home, you would never walk right through a bedding area, but on a road trip you might need to know where the deer are bedding and what is available to you. Spray down the lower half of your body with Scent Killer to minimize your ground scent then go right in there to look it over.

Get some game cameras out and check them often so you have a good feel for the area’s potential. It’s hard to beat a game camera on a primary scrape with some fresh urine or an estrus lure. You must take calculated risks and force the issue. If you wait for the information to come to you, you may run out of time, you must go get it.

Hunt in Any Conditions

Rain or shine, you must be out there to make it happen. I have done more than 20 DIY road trip hunts in several states and it seems like it usually comes down to one or two stands where I feel like I am going to be successful if I just put in my time. Take the appropriate clothing for any conditions and gut out the tough times. Each time you hunt, you have a chance. If you are sitting in a motel waiting for the snow to stop or the wind to change, you are more than likely going to go home with an unfilled tag.

Be Mobile

Right along with hunting aggressively and hunting hard is the willingness to move quickly and adapt to changing conditions. On one hunt in Iowa, I felt like I was about 60 yards off target, so I climbed down and moved my entire set up the hill. I killed a mature buck the next morning from that tree and I would have helplessly watched him walk by if I had not moved. If you sense that you need to make a move, or feel that a wind switch may betray you, don’t wait, make your move NOW. Using equipment that is light and easy to put up and down is a real key to being mobile.

Keep these four factors in mind on your next DIY hunt and you will increase your odds of coming home with a buck in the back of the truck instead of a tag in your back pocket.


Top Five DIY Bowhunting States

Top Five DIY Bowhunting States

By Bernie Barringer

My first bowhunting road trip was in 1993. I was living in Iowa and I travelled to northern Minnesota to bowhunt. Figure that one out. Iowa didn’t even have a nonresident deer season at that time. Today, about 20,000 applicants vie for the 6,000 nonresident Iowa buck tags each year. Being in the fishing business, I moved from Iowa to northern Minnesota in 2001, which set in motion a passion for travelling to bowhunt in other states.

I have since bowhunted whitetails in nearly a dozen states, some multiple times, and I have some favorites. I’ve had some great successes and some crushing failures, but along the way I have learned a lot and my passion for seeing what’s over the next hill burns as strong as ever. These days, I hunt from one to three other states every year. It’s hard to pick a short list of places I love hunting, but I would like to share with you my top five, and I will put them in no particular order, because your mileage may vary—the things that make one trip exciting for me may not mean as much to you.

Kentucky – Early Season

The archery season in Kentucky opens the first weekend in September. This offers a bowhunter the chance to get the jump on the seasons of most other states. The weather can be hot, but the deer are accustomed to it. They are typically in their late summer feeding patterns, often in loose bachelor groups and can be quite visible. These factors add up to some fantastic hunting opportunities. Tags are available over the counter.

Public land can be found in Kentucky, in fact there are some very large blocks of public land in the western third of the state, all of which offer good deer hunting. But some of the best hunting during early September will be found on private farms where the bucks are entering the soybeans and alfalfa fields in the evenings. Finding those bucks, then knocking on a few doors may get you permission to bowhunt a great place.

If you go, research the public land first so you have a backup in the event that you can’t find much private land to hunt. It’s not a bad idea to arrive a day or two before the season and spend evenings and mornings glassing. Hit the ground running, get some scouting cameras out, then get to hunting when you are ready.


No list of top bowhunting states would be complete without Kansas. The state produces great bucks every year and has enough public hunting land to spread out the hunting pressure. Kansas recently reduced the number of nonresident tags, so you may not draw every year, but when you do have a tag in hand, there are plenty of places to hunt.

Kansas offers a Walk in Hunting Access (WIHA) program that adds lots of private land to the hunting opportunities. This land is primarily open which appeals to upland bird hunters, but there are some fantastic deer hunting spots if you take the time to do the research.

The majority of the whitetails are found in the eastern half of the state, which features the more traditional farmland habitat. But don’t overlook the prairies of western Kansas, some really big bucks live in out-of-the-way places.

Apply for Kansas tags in the spring. Most zones offer about a 75% chance of drawing. The best time to go is during the rut, but late season hunts offer excellent action as well.


You will find another early season opportunity in Nebraska, in 2015, the state moved its archery opening day to September 1, which offers a chance for bowhunters to take a buck in velvet. The state has been coming on with regard to the quality of the bucks found there, and it has escaped the worst of the disease outbreaks that have plagued other Midwestern states. Numbers are good and size is good as well.

Like Kansas, the eastern half of the state is mostly farmland, while the western half is open prairie, mixed with center pivot irrigation fields. Whitetails are found throughout the state, but numbers are highest in the east and along major rivers. Mule deer mix with whitetails in western Nebraska wherever habitats overlap. And here’s some great news. Your deer tag allows you to shoot either species.

Deer tags are available over the counter, and in addition to being good for either mule deer or whitetails, you can purchase two buck tags in most zones. Talk about options; there is a lot of opportunity. Public land is abundant enough to keep you busy, but getting permission to hunt private land is easier than you might think.


Everyone has Iowa on their list of places they want to bowhunt, and for good reason. Iowa offers so much opportunity for excellent deer hunting and there is quite a bit of public land. Because the state only allows 6,000 nonresident tags, and the majority of those go to hunters who hunt with an outfitter, the hunting pressure on public land is well spread out. The state keeps cranking out big bucks year after year. While most of the world class B&C deer that come out of the state each year are shot off private land, the chance to shoot a 150 on public land is a real possibility for the hunter who works hard.

The best areas of the state for big deer are the southern third of the state, basically everything south of I-80 and then northwesten corner of the state. The Mississippi River corridor, along with the major tributaries, produce some giants each year too.

Here’s the real drawback for hunting Iowa, the cost and the wait. It will take 3-4 years of applying for a tag in the more desirable zones before you will be selected. Then the tag is going to set you back more than $550. The state would like you to send that money up front, but don’t take the bait. For at least the first two years, just pay the $50 for a preference point, then only send the entire amount when you have a realistic chance of drawing the tag. With licenses, fees and preference points, you are likely to have about $700 in tags lining your pockets when you finally hit the woods.

But it’s worth it. The first two weeks of November in Iowa is a magical time and place. At any moment, the deer of a lifetime may stroll within bow range.


Missouri is a bargain for nonresident deer hunters. For about $250 you buy a deer tag over the counter that entitles you to two deer and two turkeys. Public land is abundant and well managed. Large blocks of public hunting land offer excellent hunting opportunities. The Department of Conservation plants food plots and makes habitat improvements. Most of these areas are large enough to offer seclusion for hunting pressure by getting a mile or more away from the roads. Several public hunting areas are managed as bowhunting only.

The one drawback about all this good news: It’s no secret. The state gets a lot of pressure from nonresident hunters, especially in the counties right along the Iowa border. The public hunting lands in the northern tier of counties see a lot of bowhunters hauling stands into the woods each year.

The northern half of the state produces the best hunting for mature bucks, but it has been hit by disease the past few years. It’s in the recovery process now, and hopefully will get better.

Those are my top five picks, all of which I have hunted extensively and I plan to go back again and again. Maybe I’ll bump into you out there. For more detailed information on DIY bowhunting road trips, check out my book The Freelance Bowhunter.

A Trailer for DIY Hunting

A Trailer for DIY Hunting

I have long thought it would be nice to have all my DIY hunting gear in one place—a trailer that would allow me to both store and haul gear. Here’s how I made one. 

By Bernie Barringer

Returning from a DIY hunting adventure in some state far away often found me with a big mess in the back of my truck. When I left home, everything was organized, but halfway through the trip it turned into a jumble. Loading and unloading a pickup for hunting trips seemed like a never-ending string of unnecessary work. Wouldn’t it be nice to have everything organized in a trailer, then just back up to it, hook up and go?

Over time I developed a plan in my mind, thinking about what I would like to have that would make my life easier when on a hunting trip. That plan came to fruition last fall when I bought a trailer, and during this winter when it became my project to convert it into a functioning hunting trailer to haul my gear and it has some additional features.

First I knew I wanted to be able to butcher a deer and keep the meat in good shape for the trip home, or the trip to my next hunting destination. One of the biggest issues I have run into on past hunts was shooting a deer on the first stop of a two- or three-state hunting trip. What to do with the head, hide and meat can be a real problem. I added a small chest freezer to the trailer. Once everything is frozen, even when the freezer is unplugged it will stay frozen for about two to three days depending on the outside temperature. If you open it, cut that time by about three hours each time you open it.

At other times, I found myself hunting far from a place to sleep. In western Nebraska, I came out of the woods at dark and my motel was more than an hour away. I needed to be back there well before daylight in the morning. I considered sleeping in my truck; but, at that point, the idea of having a bunk to crash in sounded much better than driving nearly three hours of the next eight.

These factors weighed into my choice to build a trailer just the way I wanted it. When looking for a trailer, I knew I wanted one with a ramp door in the back rather than the swinging barn doors. I don’t take an ATV on DIY hunts often, but when I do, I wanted to be able to put it in the trailer. Plus the ramp door just makes it easier to move stuff in and out of the trailer.

I finally settled on a 6-foot wide by 12-foot long trailer and bought it for $1500, about half the cost of a new one. The previous owner of the trailer used it to race go-carts. I first tore the old grubby shelving out and painted the interior an off-white color.

At Menards, I bought two kitchen cabinets, one is an overhead, the other a corner cabinet. These did not have any latches on the doors or drawer, so I bought latches and installed them so they would not come open on the roadway, allowing their contents to fall out onto the floor.

Each of the cabinets was installed in such a way that they were screwed to the vertical steel ribs of the trailer’s sidewall. The paneling is not strong enough to hold them. They nicely hold the accessories that I need on DIY hunts, it’s much easier than digging through totes.

Next, I installed the chest freezer in the front of the trailer, using a ratchet strap to keep it in place. The trailer had lighting but it was poor, so I went to an RV dealer and picked up some new LED overhead lights. I installed one in the middle of the roof and one over the top of the freezer so it’s easy to see the contents.

I installed a 12-volt Deep Cycle battery for DC power, and ran the lights to it. The lights and battery are connected to the truck’s battery when the truck is plugged into it, which keeps the deep cycle battery charged. I also installed an outlet strip which can be plugged into 110V AC power when I am parked where electricity is available. This also allows me to use a generator. I will probably install an onboard boat battery charger that will top off the battery each time it’s plugged into AC power.

On the driver’s side of the trailer wall, I installed some hooks for hanging clothing, an extension cord, etc. On the other side, I installed hooks into the angle iron that runs along the top of the wall. On these I hung three treestands and fastened them with bungee cords so they do not flop around during travel. I used a square carpet remnant—usually available at no cost or low cost at any carpet store—to protect each stand and the wall from vibration.

This trailer can be set up several ways. I tossed a large rug on the floor and put a cot along one wall. With a self-inflating pad and sleeping bag, this makes for a comfortable camp. I can use a small electric heater when the trailer is plugged in. If I find that I want to use propane heat in the future, I will need to add a vent of some sort, maybe a small window that I can open a little to get air circulation.

The other way the trailer can be set up involves a folding table with PVC pipes to make it taller. Having it at belly-button height makes it a lot easier to work on things. This table fastens to the wall and is perfect for cutting up and wrapping a deer.

Either the sleeping area or the butchering are can be folded out of the way to allow room for an ATV or a lot more gear. Right now it has plenty of room for my hunts, but I occasionally hunt with a buddy or two. In that case more room for gear would be needed.

So far I love the way I have this trailer set up, but I’m betting as I use it, I will find ways I want to tweak it. I regret that I didn’t paint the floor, but I can do that later. I have floodlights on the back that light up the area behind the trailer and ramp. I can see adding a winch to pull an elk into the trailer at some point. You never know where this will lead.


Bear Hunting and Bowfishing: The perfect combo hunt!

Bear Hunting and Bowfishing: The perfect combo hunt!

Many people like to take in some fishing on a Canadian bear hunt, but did you realize there are places you can go that offer fantastic bowfishing opportunities on a bear hunt?

By Bernie Barringer

Ask any bear hunting outfitter across central Canada about the most asked questions they get from prospective clients, and they will tell you that near the top of the list is the query about what to do during the day while waiting for the evening hunt. Most hunters like to fish, so that’s the number one option offered by outfitters. But there is another option available in central Manitoba. Several outfitters have been offering bowfishing combos with bear hunts as the interest in bowfishing is growing across North America.

To set this up, you must first understand the terrain of Central Manitoba. It’s so flat, the saying goes that if you can’t see over something, it must be manmade. Millions of square miles of shallow lakes, swamps and lowland forest characterize this region. Lake Manitoba, for example, is 130 miles long, 30 miles wide at its widest point, and is almost entirely less than eight feet deep. It’s well known as perfect black bear habitat and dozens of outfitters fill their camps with eager bear hunters each year.

But it’s also home to carp. The common carp is an invasive species imported from Europe in the early 1900s. The bottomfeeders colonized most of Manitoba’s shallow lakes and have thrived in this environment. At one time, a booming commercial fishing business centered around these carp, millions of pounds were harvested every year. But the markets for carp have waned and populations are very high.

Carp are one of the most sought-after rough fish targeted by bowfishermen throughout North America. They move shallow in the spring and are vulnerable to bowfishing enthusiasts who enjoy the challenge of seeing the carp in the shallows, then sneaking within bow range either on foot or in a boat. This shallow movement just happens to coincide with the spring bear hunting season in Manitoba.

I have enjoyed the amazing combination of bear hunting and carp shooting at two Manitoba outfitters and I would like to share what I have learned. The first was at Narrows Outfitters on the shores of Lake Manitoba, the second was at Bear Track Outfitters which operates out of a camp on Lake St. Martin.

Narrows Outfitters takes the name from the location, the only narrow spot on 130-mile long Lake Manitoba. A bridge spans the lake at this point, and outfitter Blair Olafson’s hunting concession allows him to have bait sites on both sides of the lake. The eastern side of the lake has a large population of black bears, many of which feature the white chest blaze. The west side of the lake produces a good number of bears in colors other than black. It’s a great situation for an outfitter to be in, and of course his hunters can choose which option they prefer.

Narrows Outfitters is right on the water, so my son Dawson and I took my Ranger boat along on this hunt. I had some great walleye fishing within sight of the resort, but the carp shooting was what we both remember the most fondly. We would use the boat to work our way into shallow bays and then observe carp that were working along the shoreline bulrushes and cattails. With the electric motor, we would sneak over and shoot the carp. Soon, we figured the areas where the carp were most likely to surface and just waited them out.

We didn’t have to wait long, and we shot so many carp we really didn’t know what to do with them all. We put some on the bear baits and just returned some to the environment for the turtles and other organisms to feed on. We did shoot some carp from shore as well, but this hunt was best accomplished with a boat. The bear hunting package includes the use of a boat, but I would suggest bringing along an electric motor for stealth.

On the hunt to Bear Track Outfitters, I had my son Sterling along. Lake St. Martin is very shallow and loaded with weeds and huge carp. But in this case, we didn’t have to go find the carp, the carp came to us. It had been a rainy spring and the lake came up a few inches, flooding roads, fields, woods, even part of the camp. (Remember how flat this land is?)

We shot carp from the edges of the road, we waded fields and even shot carp that were skittering across the lawn at the resort. A boat wasn’t needed, the carp were everywhere, all we had to do was sneak around the shallows of the lake and shoot fish until our arrow tips were all destroyed.

The Interlake region of Manitoba has long been home to fantastic bear hunting—we were successful in shooting a bear on both of these trips–but the carp shooting is just catching on. As bowhunting continues to grow, I suspect more outfitters who have carp shooting available to them will begin to offer these packages. In the meantime, if you like bowfishing, or would just like to try something different, combine a bear hunt with carp shooting for some of the most fun imaginable. And you will be doing a service to the area by removing some of these troublesome invasive fish.

Here is a video of some of the Lake Manitoba carp shooting:

GPS Tracking Provides New Insights into Rut Movement

GPS Tracking Provides New Insights into Rut Movement

GPS tracking collars on 102 bucks show some interesting trends in how bucks tend to move during the breeding season.

By Bernie Barringer

If you are doing your homework, you are using scouting cameras and long range surveillance with binoculars to keep track of the bucks that live on the land where you hunt. You have a pretty good feel for the bucks that use the area. Then the rut comes along, the first three weeks in November, and suddenly, a buck appears on camera that you have never seen before. And just as odd, a couple of your bucks just seem to disappear. We’ve all wondered about this phenomenon, but now we have better insight than ever before.
A paper recently published in a scientific journal entitled “Purposeful Wanderings: Mate Search Strategies of Male Whitetail Deer” details the findings from a five-year study of 102 bucks with GPS tracking collars. The position of the buck is recorded every hour, and the insights are quite revealing. Here are some of the findings.
Some Bucks Travel Widely
Deer are individuals and have individual traits or “personalities.” Some bucks are more homebodies and some travel over long distances. Interestingly, while all bucks participate in the search for does, the study found some bucks focused their efforts in specific areas, while others travelled more randomly. Younger bucks tended to travel more at random, covering a lot of ground with little pattern to their movements.
Older bucks which have lived through three or more breeding seasons seemed to focus their efforts on specific areas. The scientists called these “focal areas.” It seems that bucks would direct much of their time at 3-4 four of these focal areas, and travel routinely between them. In many cases, they would visit these areas once a day.
The more mature bucks tended to use their energy more efficiently in their search efforts than the younger bucks. This leads us to another conclusion we can draw from the study; bucks that are effective breeders have learned where the does spend their time.
Bucks Know Where the Does Live
Because no does where collared, there is no data to show that bucks and does where in the same place at the same time. However, it can be inferred from the data on the bucks’ movements, that these focal areas were areas that the does were bedding and feeding.
Does tend to be in groups of half a dozen to a dozen, and they tend to feed and bed in fairly predictable places based on environmental conditions. For example, if the weather is nasty, windy and cold, the does tend to bed in lowland with thick cover. If the weather is nicer, the does tend to bed in more open areas, such as the leeward side of a ridge where they can see in front of them and smell any danger that might approach from the rear.
Bucks seemed to know where the does tended to spend the majority of their time, and that’s where they focused their search efforts. The data proved that when the does were ready to breed, the bucks settled in.
The Lockdown Phase
At the peak of the rut, hunters have long noted that there seems to be a time when rutting activity seems to come to a screeching halt. Hunters have termed this the “lockdown phase” of the rut because of the belief that bucks and does are holed up together in breeding. The data of this study seems to validate this belief.
Collared bucks that were constantly on the move suddenly stopped for 20-28 hours and remained in a small area. This corresponds with the amount of time that a doe is in peak estrus and is ready to breed. A buck that has ceased his travels for a day or so is probably in the company of the doe and breeding several times over a 25-30 hour period. Then he is on the move again.
Some bucks tended to focus on one focal area. Rather than checking multiple doe areas, these bucks seemed to have found one where the does were living and just stayed there waiting for the does to come into heat, rather than running between the focal areas.
Bucks Learn What Works
Because more mature bucks tended to spend the majority of their time in the focal areas and the travel corridors between focal areas, it can be inferred that they have learned the behavior that makes them effective breeders. Rather than running helter-skelter, chasing every doe, and following every track that smells good, these mature bucks stick with their plan: Keep checking where the does live until they find one that’s ready to breed.
Scrapes and rubs tend to show up in these breeding areas and on the travel corridors between them. Multiple mature bucks tended to use the same focal areas and travelled the terrain features between these areas.
The data showed that 65 percent of the bucks visited the focal areas at least once per day. The data also suggests that bucks which learn effective breeding strategies pass on more genes, and increase their competitiveness during the breeding season. Could the specific strategies that work best in certain terrains and habitats become more prevalent over time? Of course that cannot be determined in a five-year study.
How Can this Data Help the Hunter?
If you are sitting in an area during the rut and you are not seeing any deer, you may want to move. There may be a lot of rutting activity going on a short distance away, but if you are not in one of the focal areas, you are missing out. Use scouting cameras and burn the boot leather to find where the does like to bed and keep that in mind when you are hunting during the rut.
Be mobile. The action can be furious just over the next ridge, so use equipment that allows you to move your stand quickly and quietly when you see signs of rutting activity. Also, look for the terrain features, trails and sign such as fresh buck tracks and scrapes that indicate where the bucks are likely to be travelling between the focal areas. A mature buck could show up at any time on one of these trails.

Right Place Right Time: Annual Scouting Camera Timeline

Right Place Right Time: Annual Scouting Camera Timeline

Don’t put your trail cameras away after the season! Here’s a calendar showing where your cameras should be placed throughout the year to help you learn more about the deer and increase your odds of bagging a big one next season.

By Bernie Barringer

Once thought of as a way monitor deer movements, thus the name “trail camera,” the use of game cameras has become a sport in and of itself. Camera users have come up with all kinds of creative ways to use the cameras to monitor wildlife activity and learn more about all kinds of animals. Yet most deer hunters still bring the cameras out before the season and store them away after the hunt is over. That can be a mistake, because the more you learn about deer year-around, the better your chances of shooting one come fall. Let’s take a look at a ways to strategically place the cameras through the year.
Once the hunting season is over, I move my cameras to feeding sites. The winter weather concentrates the deer in areas where there is food available. I usually have a couple sites I put out feed which allows me to get photos of the area’s deer. Otherwise, cameras can be placed on food plots and bedding areas. Trails in the snow become obvious and are easier to monitor with the cameras.
Here’s another bonus to having your cameras in the woods this time of the year: You can monitor the shedding of antlers. Knowing when the bone hits the ground allows you to get out there and pick up the sheds before others get to them. I start seeing bucks without antler in numbers by the end of January, and the majority of the antlers are on the ground by the first or second week in March.
This is the time of the year to put your cameras on mineral sites. Most all of the deer in the area will visit sites laced with a good mineral attractant. Some will show up regularly, some only a couple times a month, but if your cameras aren’t out there you won’t get a look at the deer. I use about five pounds of mineral per application and keep it replenished each time I check the cameras, usually about twice a month. It has worked very good for me and it really helps me inventory all the bucks in my area.
By the end of August, hunting season is getting close, and I start to transition some of the cameras to trails around their feeding sites. I learn which fields they are feeding in, and placing cameras on the trails will help me patter where they are moving and what times they are coming through. This information can be invaluable when hunting season opens in a few weeks.
By the first of September I have all my Covert cameras on trails related to the food sources. The bucks are in their bachelor groups and it’s a fun time to get lots of photos of them as their antlers become fully mature and shed their velvet the first week of September. Keep in mind that the food sources may not be the most obvious ones. The deer feeding in alfalfa and soybeans are the most visible, but there may be a lot of deer also feeding on freshly fallen acorns, hazelnuts and other mast crops. Archery season here in Minnesota opens the middle of September, and it’s hard to overstate the value of the placement of the cameras during the first half of the month.
Through the second half of September and into the first half of October, the bachelor groups are breaking up and the cameras help you keep track of where the bucks are going. Trails associated with feeding patters seem to offer the best sites at this time, but by the second half of October, things will radically change.
By the middle of October, scrapes and rubs are showing up throughout my hunting areas and I am moving cameras as I see the transition being made from food-focused movements to breeding focused movements. By the end of October, most all my cameras are on scrapes. I use scrape drippers to monitor the deer visits and inventory the bucks. There is no better way to get a picture of all the bucks in the area than by having a camera on a primary scrape the end of October.
By the first week in November, I put my cameras on the does. To find the bucks you must find the does, you need to know where they are bedding, where they are feeding and how they are travelling between the two areas. I have my cameras in doe bedding areas and on trails between doe bedding areas and trails leading to food sources.
The first three weeks of November is peak breeding time across most of the whitetail’s range in North America. The movements of bucks will seem totally random, and in a sense, they are, but they will be looking for does.
One mistake many people make during this time of the year is checking the cameras too often. You’re seeing nice bucks every time to pull the SD cards and you really want to get back in there and look at it again. However, for best results, you want to minimize intrusion into these areas so you do not change the does’ patterns and lose the information you have gained. Resist the temptation to check the cameras until you really need the info to make an informed decision on where to hunt.
By the last ten days of November, the rut is winding down. At this time you should have your cameras on pinch point and travel corridors where the bucks will be moving through, looking for the last remaining does that have not been bred. Pick places that up your odds of catching one of these bucks on their feet. The scrapes that have been ignored for the past two weeks get some more attention too.
The rut is over and the focus is back on the food. Deer are looking for high-carbohydrate foods to replenish fat reserves lost during the rut. They need to combat the cold and their bodies are craving the carbs found in corn and whatever acorns may be left. Cut corn fields and standing crops are the best places to find the deer, both bucks and does. They are once again grouped up and deer of all ages and stature will be found together around the best food sources.
At this time the deer will also bed in predictable places. On sunny days, they tend to choose south slopes of hills near food sources where they can soak up the solar energy. On nasty, cold or cloudy days they tend to head for the thickest cover around. Either way, they need to feed every day and the trails leading to the food sources are where you cameras should be located. This will help you learn which deer made it through the season and which did not. It will also help you fill that last minute bow tag if you are still carrying one in your pocket.

So if you have put your cameras away for the year, dig them back out and get them out in the right locations. It’s great fun, great exercise and you’ll be amazed at the great information you will gather.

Do these 6 things now to help you shoot a buck in the fall

Do these 6 things now to help you shoot a buck in the fall

The time to prepare your hunting property for next season’s success is in the late winter. Here are six simple land improvements steps that will increase your odds of success in the seasons to come

By Bernie Barringer

If you are sitting on the couch in front of a football game instead of spending a few hours improving your hunting property, you chances of success during the upcoming hunting season are not going to be as good as they could be. Winter is seen as down time for most hunters, but there are a few simple improvements you can make to your hunting property during the cold months that will pay dividends.

Logging and Hinge Cutting

One of the best ways to hold deer on your property is to improve the food and bedding cover areas. One of the best ways to improve both is to remove undesirable trees in order to let more sunlight to the forest floor and increase edible plants. Taking a few trees out can really help make the area more attractive to deer.

Hinge cutting is done by cutting a tree at an angle about shoulder height, about ¾ of the way through. Just cut until the tree starts to fall and let it fall. The fallen tree will provide cover and browse for the deer during the winter. It also provides thermal cover, security cover for bedding, and allows more sunlight to the forest floor. Hinge cutting done right will allow the tree to continue to grow new leaves each year for at least a couple years.

Improving Deer Beds

One of the best ways to keep the neighbors from shooting the bucks you have been letting grow is to provide attractive bedding cover and improve actual bedding sites. A lot has been written about improving bedding cover, but not so much is known about actually creating specific deer beds.

Bucks like to lie with their back against some sort of structure, just like a big old bass likes a brushpile to hide out in, deer like to get up against something that helps them feel secure. They do not like to lie down on rough ground such as rocks or sticks. You can encourage deer to lie in the beds you make by creating the perfect deer beds. Clean the sticks and rough objects out and make small “C” shaped piles of limbs, and you will be amazed at how fast the deer will begin using them.

Cutting and Maintaining Trails

Winter is a good time to clean up the trails you use to approach your stands and food plots. clear logs and debris from the trails and mow them if snow conditions permit. Sneaking to your stand sites can be made much easier by having a smooth clean place to walk without making too much noise or movements.

If you do not have good entry trails to your stands along food plots, make them in the winter. Make them with a curve right before the plot so you can approach the field in secret. If you make a trail that goes straight to the plot and there are deer already in the plot when you approach or leave, they can see you coming. Put a bend in the trail to avoid that.

Food Plot Fertlizer

Winter is the time to put lime and some other fertilizers on your food plots. Have your soil sampled so you know what fertilizer you need. Have the PH checked also so you know if you are too acidic or alkali. Do the ones that can be applied in the winter which will save time in the spring and summer. Lime can be applied right on top of the snow.

In the late winter right before the snow goes off you can apply clover seed. Clover seed is very small and will germinate well when spring rains and snowmelt come. This is called frost seeding and it allows the seeds to hit the ground and be ready once the temperatures are warm enough for germination.

Trim Shooting Lanes

The intrusion and human scent caused by trimming branches and saplings to create shooting lanes around your stands can really put deer on edge when done too close to the season or during the season. Doing it in the winter allows you to trim these out without affecting the deer movement during the hunting season.

Take a pole saw and brush nippers and go to work. Don’t overtrim of course, just make sure you have a clear shot in any direction you anticipate needing one. This can be accomplished by working in pairs of course, especially if your stands are in the trees. Have one person get up in the stand and point out the limbs that need trimming.

Predator Control

Scientific studies have consistently shown that the more coyotes you have on your property, the lower the fawn recruitment is going to be. If you are seeing coyotes on your game cameras, or if you are seeing a significant number of mature does with only one fawn or no fawn, you probably have a predation problem. Time to take action.

Coyote calling is fun and effective. It’s a great way to thin out the population and get some exercise and fresh air during the winter. Trapping and snaring coyotes is the most effective way to curb the numbers. If you don’t have the interest in catching them yourself, find a local trapper you can trust and give him a key to the gate. Most trappers will control coyotes if you also allow them to take other species such as raccoon and fox. It’s well worth the trouble to maintain a good relationship with a trapper.

Get off the couch and spend some time on your hunting property this winter. You will definitely see the difference come next hunting season.

Here’s a great video explaining how to do hinge cutting.


Is a Spring Bear Hunt for You?

Is a Spring Bear Hunt for You?

Spring or fall, bear hunting has it all, but the opportunities presented by a spring bear hunt can be amazing, with sightings of dozens of bears per week a common occurrence. Here are three great options for bear hunting this spring.

By Bernie Barringer

Until I got into bear hunting, I always thought spring was for fishing. Not anymore. I am totally in love with spring bear hunting and I can’t imagine a year without it. My first spring bear hunt was a bait hunt in Manitoba, and from there I have done several more bait hunts, plus a spot & stalk hunt in British Columbia and hound hunt in Idaho. You could say I am hooked on spring bear hunting.

When speaking of spring bear hunting, the number one thing that comes up seems to be the number of bears seen. While a fall baited bear hunt in Canada may produce sightings of bear every day, spring hunts seems to produce multiple sightings and much more interactions at the bait. That British Columbia hunt I mentioned earlier? I shot the 42nd bear I saw on the six-day hunt. In addition to the sheer number of active bears in the spring, the hunts usually feature pleasant weather and some combination of fishing along with the hunting. Let’s have a brief look at the three options.

Spot & Stalk

Most spot & stalk hunts take place in the western US and Canada. The open country is conducive to spotting bears from a distance and then putting the sneak on them. I am exclusively a bowhunter, which presents a significant challenge in comparison to a rifle hunter, but that’s a challenge I will gladly accept.

Your days will be spent driving and walking logging roads, glassing logging cut blocks and clearings. My BC hunt with Eureka Peak Outfitters was characterized by equal amounts of driving through stunning beautiful mountain country and hiking deactivated logging roads. It was a nice mix and very productive. When we needed a short break from glassing, my guide stopped off at a mountain stream or beaver pond where we caught rainbow trout on literally every single cast. I loved this hunt and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

These spring hunts are available in Alberta, BC and Yukon, and in the states: Idaho, Arizona, Montana, Washington, Oregon, New Mexico and Wyoming.

Hound Hunting

If you love dogs and are up to an athletic hunt packed with adrenaline and close encounters with bears, this hunt is one you definitely need to put on your life list. Nearly 20 US states offer hound hunting, but, with the exception of Maine, the majority of the spring hound hunts are found in the Western mountain states.

My spring hound hunt was with Reggear Outfitting in Idaho and I shot a nice bear in the first hour of the hunt. I could have passed that bear but it was just too perfect. Travis Reggear, like most reputable hound outfitters, runs nearly 100% success rate. This type of hunt is not for the sedentary because it often involves climbing steep hills, riding ATVs over rough terrain and crashing through brush to get to treed dogs before the bear decides to bail out of the tree. And that’s all before you shoot the bear. Once the bear hits the ground, you have to get it out, which can be just as tough or tougher depending on where the bear trees. This adrenaline-packed style of hunting is addictive so be forewarned about that! Watch this video to get a feel for what Idaho hound hunting is like when everything goes right!

Bear Baiting

Hunting Bears over bait is often frowned upon by those who have no experience with it. Put out a pile of donuts and get ready to shoot a bear, right? Nothing could be farther from the truth. Hunting bears over bait is a challenge. Getting a mature bear to come into a bait site when a hunter is present can be difficult and having that bear approach during daylight is often a difficult challenge. But if you choose and outfitter with bait sites in remote wilderness areas where the bears have little to no experience with humans, the challenge is not insurmountable.

Across Canada, Outfitters put out baits before the bears come out of hibernation, so when the bears are ready to eat, the food is ready for them. These bait sites often become hubs of activity for bears in the area. There is a lot of interaction which increases the chances of bears coming in during daylight. Couple that with the fact that it is daylight until 10:30 at night during the spring, and you have a recipe for seeing a lot of bears. In many cases, you will have a choice of which one you want to take.

I have hunted spring bears with several outfitters in Manitoba and Saskatchewan and am always amazed at the number of bears I see. The opportunity to witness interactions between bears and their behaviors is not only educational but exhilarating. I enjoy fall bear hunting too, but in the spring, the bait sites aren’t competing with the abundance of natural foods and I regularly see 2-3 times as many bears on a spring hunt as I do on a fall hunt.

Put a spring bear hunt on your list, but be aware that spring bear hunting is addictive. The adrenaline value is high and it will keep you coming back over and over.

Amazing venison roasts and a bonus burger recipe

Amazing venison roasts and a bonus burger recipe

Delicious Venison Recipes Part 2 Here are two recipes–one for burger and one for roasts–that will have your mouth watering for more, and help you clear out the freezer for the next round of fine eating.

By Bernie Barringer

Many people have venison in their freezers for long periods of time because they really do not know how to fix it properly. That doesn’t happen at our house because the venison goes fast. I have a handful of recipes that I use a lot. My family, and occasionally my friends rave over the venison.

So if last year’s deer is languishing in your freezer, or your family isn’t that fond of venison, I would like to offer a couple more ways to fix it that will change the way you view venison.

Last week we talked about great venison loin recipes. This week I would like to offer you my favorite way of fixing the rump roasts and burger.

Roast in the slow cooker

Because venison is so lean, it is very difficult to cook roasts without having it dry out. The best way that I have found to cook roasts is to cook it slowly in a crock pot with plenty of water. Cooking it in water assures that it doesn’t dry out too bad. Plus the juices make terrific gravy to pour over the roast and some mashed potatoes for a traditional hearty meal.

Start by placing the roast in the slow cooker and covering it at least ¾ of the way with water. The roast will cook down and settle as it cooks so the water will cover the entire roast. You will need to experiment with the brand and style of slow cooker you use. I have found that the taller crock pots work better for smaller roasts and the wider style work best for large roasts. I normally use a large roast for family meals, plus I love leftover cold venison roast sandwiches.

I use bouillon to flavor the water which also flavors the roast while it simmers in the water. Use a beef bouillon cube for each cup and a half of water. Three cubes for 4-5 cups of water is what I normally use. Just drop them in alongside the roast. Dice up some garlic and onion and add to the mix, then cover the top of the roast with any other seasonings you may like. I have found that a generous sprinkling of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt creates a nice flavor. Experiment with other seasonings to suit your own personal taste.

Cook the roast on low for about 6-8 hours. When it’s done it will fall apart when you remove it from the cooker. We often have this roast for Sunday dinner and I sometimes drop a frozen roast in the slow cooker the night before and put it on low. When I get up in the morning I switch it to the “warm” setting and it’s perfectly done when we get home from church.

After removing the roast, use the juices left in the slow cooker to make gravy. Thicken with flour or corn starch for some of the most amazing gravy you have ever tasted. I can almost taste the roast and mashed potatoes slathered with venison gravy right now. Since venison is low in fat, the gravy is much better for you but it still tastes terrific.

Cowboy stew

I was introduced to cowboy stew by a friend who I camped with a lot in high school. Martin Vaage was probably only 13 at the time when he showed up with all the ingredients at our campsite and we cooked cowboy stew over the campfire. It has become a favorite meal for many years. I use it a lot when camping and we eat it at home all the time. It’s remarkably simple and a perfect quick meal.

Start by browning a pound of venison burger. A little salt water in the pan helps it brown without burning. The water will boil away. Drain if needed. To the burger add one 15-ounce can of pork and beans, ¼ cup of ketchup and two tablespoons of Heinz 57 Steak Sauce. I like to add some onion to it also; usually a half a small onion diced. You can either sauté the onions in butter until they are limp in a separate pan, then add them to the stew, or just add some dried onion flakes (which is a lot easier if you make this dish while camping).

Put the heat on low and simmer the whole mixture together for five minutes or so, stirring often. If you are making this dish on a campfire which I often do, move the pan off to the edge of the fire and keep stirring so it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Once the flavors are all blended together, spoon onto a plate or bowl and dig in. Everyone loves this dish and a couple pieces of toast to eat with it, especially campfire toast, complete a hearty meal that everyone will rave about!

So go to your freezer and dig out that venison. With these ideas, you will enjoy some fine eating and your venison will not stay hidden in the corner of the freezer for months any more.

Perfect, Succulent Venison Loin

Perfect, Succulent Venison Loin

We are months away from the fall hunting season and you still have some venison in the freezer. Here are two recipes for venison loin that will have your mouth watering for more, and help you clear out the freezer for the next round of fine eating.

By Bernie Barringer

One of the best things about hunting is, of course, all the great meat free from preservatives and any other chemicals that might be found in store-bought meat. Wild game meat is organic, it’s “green” and it’s really good! I put three deer in the freezer last fall, and I am lamenting the fact that it’s almost gone. I make a lot of roasts in the slow cooker and a lot of the venison was made into breakfast sausage and burger. I also make a lot of sausage out of bear meat. But one of the best delicacies of all is the loins of the deer. Some people call them backstraps, but whatever you want to call them, they are tender and juicy and delicious. If you fix them properly.
I primarily use the loins in two ways and I thought I would share with you how I do it and maybe it will help you enjoy your venison more by taking my advice. Add your comments to this post about how you like to fix your loins, I would love to hear them, I am always experimenting!
The first thing I do is pat the loins down with a good venison rub. I often use High Mountain Seasonings Western Venison Rub. It turned out great, although it might have a touch too much black pepper for some people. I like to let the loins set at room temperature for 10 minutes or so while the rub soaks in before putting them on the grill. Don’t be afraid to use the rub liberally. Make sure the loins are fully thawed before cooking or they may not come out even.
Once on the grill, I cook them slowly at about 300 degrees for around 20-25 minutes. I try to only turn them over once, and then back, but sometimes they need to be turned twice to get an even cooking. I use a meat thermometer to check the interior temperature. I rely more on the interior temperature than on the time on the grill. You do not want to overcook them, this is important. Venison has very little fat content and should not be overcooked. If you like it pretty rare to medium rare, you will want the interior temperature at 135-145 degrees.
Well done is 160 degrees, but even if you like most meat well done, you may want to go with a little pink in the middle with venison. It is very lean and if you get it to well done it can be dry. If you let the interior get temperature over 160 degrees, you run the risk of it losing that tenderness that makes it so great.
Slice the loins into one-inch thick steaks. The loins turn out juicy and soooo tender they practically melt in your mouth. This is some high living folks. Delicious and so good for you.
The other way I love to make the loins is frying them in breading. Some people call it “chicken fried steak.” You will call it “delicious!”
I make the breading by combing one cup each of flour, cornmeal and grated parmesan cheese. To that I add about two tablespoons of Lawry’s seasoned salt. Mix it up good and spread it out on a plate or large bowl. Then beat one egg into a half cup of milk and put into a bowl.
The loins fry best if you flatten them with a meat hammer or at least slice them fairly thin and tenderize them. This allows them to cook all the way through before the breading burns.
In a frying pan, preheat oil an inch deep to 375 degrees. Dredge the meat through the milk and egg mixture and let it drip mostly off. Then drop it flat on each side into the breading, pressing down to make sure you get a good coating. Slide the steaks into the oil and fry about three minutes on each side or until each side is golden brown. Be careful with the temperature of your oil. If it gets much over 400 degrees it will start to smoke and burn the breading. If it drops below 325 it will soak into the breading and add greasiness rather than turning it golden brown.
These two recipes are guaranteed to be added to your favorites list. It’s hard to beat good venison loin for a meal that pleases everyone in the house. If you use these suggestions, chances are you won’t have any venison in the freezer at this time next year!
Next week, I’ll give you two terrific recipes for venison roasts and burger.

6 Tips for finding more shed antlers

6 Tips for finding more shed antlers

This short video describes and illustrates the importance of these six things in shed hunting

  1. The importance of high-carbohydrate foods
  2. Understanding thermal and solar bedding cover
  3. Look for obstructions and where deer jump over things
  4. Put some effort into looking for the matched sides
  5. Slow down and really analyze what’s around you
  6. Go early and often; get them before the other guy


The Saga of “Superbuck”

The Saga of “Superbuck”

Hunters are often faced with ethical dilemmas. While hunting in Texas, one hunter made a wrong turn when faced with temptation and it cost him more than he ever imagined.

South Texas is unique in deer hunting in that large ranches are managed for producing big whitetail bucks through carefully regulated harvests of mature deer, culling of deer and feeding of protein and minerals. Many ranches have their own set of laws and rules regarding deer hunting that go above and beyond the laws set by the state wildlife authorities.

Jim Stinson holds one of the 10,000-acre leases on the 130,000-acre Duval County Ranch, and he subleases it to 8-9 other dedicated big buck hunters who pay $10,000 each per year for the right to hunt on the lease. They also participate in the feeding and care of the deer, which includes predator control, culling inferior bucks and keeping the water flowing so the deer have plenty to eat and drink during the area’s notoriously hot seasons.

One of the hunters who enjoyed the fantastic hunting privileges on this lease was Jim’s friend Skip Weiner of Boise Idaho. Skip had been hunting there for nearly a decade. Bucks are allowed to reach the age of at least five or six before they are shot so they have a chance to reach their full potential. The hard work and restraint paid off well, as many dandy bucks were shot each year, and there was always the hope that one of them would blow up into a real giant.

That’s exactly what happened. A buck they knew to be only three years old had an outsized, jaw-dropping rack. In fact it was as big as anything they had ever shot on the ranch, and it had three more years to grow.

There was a lot of excitement as the buck turned four years old. This is the age when whitetail bucks normally take a big jump in antler size because their body mass has completed its growth and the deer can put its full energy into growing a rack. They were not disappointed. The buck was a true giant at four years old. The hunters spent considerable time analyzing video and photos of the buck; they determined that the deer would score over 200 inches at four, and was certainly not done growing yet. Clearly this was a deer with world class potential.

They named the buck “Superbuck” and it was on everyone’s mind all season long. The buck was quite predictable and visible, which is unusual for a giant like this, but then he was only four years old, still young and naïve. He was seen several times that fall in an area of the ranch where they had protein and corn feeders.

Normally the buck would be off limits until it was six years old, but a pact was made among the hunters that the buck would be allowed to live out its natural life and spread its genes into the gene pool for as long as it lived. This was a very difficult decision, but it was subject to change if they determined that the buck would be a world record at age six. They might decide to cash in the chips.

The ranch’s management policy requires that the trophy bucks are shot after the rut, so the hunters cannot kill the big bucks until the end of December through the end of season the middle of January. This strict policy is heavily enforced. All bucks shot must be checked in at the ranch headquarters where they are weighed, aged, scored and recorded. Taking a buck off the ranch without going through the check in is illegal.

Most of the hunting was done on the weekends. In January, most all the hunters are in camp on the lease, hunting hard to kill one trophy and one cull buck (Texas allows two buck tags per season). At the end of the weekend in question, everyone packed up to head home for a work of week with plans to come back again the next weekend.

Except Skip Weiner, who didn’t actually leave. He went hunting.

After a few weeks, it became clear that Superbuck was missing. Spring came and the bucks were growing their antlers but Superbuck was nowhere to be found. Could he have moved to another area of the ranch? Could he have been dragged down by coyotes?

Jim had his suspicions, and he shared them with wildlife authorities. Because Jim suspected that the buck was in Idaho, the Texas Parks and Wildlife was limited in what they could do. So Jim hired a private investigator.

The PI spent some time following up on leads, checking with taxidermists and observing behavior. He paid particular attention to Weiner who was at the top of the list of suspects if Superbuck had been illegally killed.

Weiner flew down to Texas, collected all his belongings from deer camp and drove them back to Boise, a move which Jim thought was odd since Skip had been such an avid hunter on the lease for so many years. He felt his suspicions were being confirmed.

Then the private investigator got a break. Skip’s house was listed for sale. Posing as a potential home buyer, the PI went to have a look around. Imagine the shocked look on his face when his gaze landed right above the fireplace, where Superbuck’s mount hung for all to see.

It was time to get the feds involved. There is a long list of violations involved above and beyond not tagging and checking in a deer, including a violation of the Lacey act which imposes strict penalties for taking an illegal game animal across state lines. Federal authorities have no sense of humor when it comes to this type of thing.

Armed with a search warrant, federal game wardens entered Skip Weiner’s house on Christmas Eve, and confiscated the buck. The mount is now back in the hands of Texas Parks and Wildlife law enforcement while the case works its way through the court system. All parties are innocent until proven guilty, of course. The mount is expected to be a part of the TP&W travelling poaching exhibit.

Holding Superbuck’s rack for the first time was bittersweet for Jim Stinson. Bitter because the life of a world class buck was cut short and he was not allowed to reach his full potential, but sweet because a wrong has been righted, in a way. Jim, like all of us, hates to see poachers get away with it. The silver lining on this cloud according to Jim, is that misdeeds have consequences, and with a sense of righteous indignation, he will do whatever he can to see that the consequences are administered.

Six Myths in Deer Hunting That Need to Die

Six Myths in Deer Hunting That Need to Die

These six long-held beliefs are based on lies or flawed science. Time to put them to rest.

By Bernie Barringer

Hunting is largely generational so many concepts get passed on down through families. Most of this is solid hunting information that helps newcomers be more successful, but there are some myths that are passed along as well.

Scientific studies can take a small sampling and extrapolate a conclusion that is only accurate in the study area, or is missing just one important part that taints the results of the entire study. Good science can also prove a myth wrong.

Not all of the six myths that follow fall into these two categories, but in most cases, the myths have a small nugget of truth that just got twisted or misinterpreted. Here are six myths that need to go away once and for all.

You must cut a deer’s throat as soon as possible after it is shot. I suppose this myth got started back in the day when blood was eliminated from the carcass of a hog or cow when it was butchered. The prevailing thought was that draining the blood would improve the quality of the meat. What naturally followed was that the best way to kill it was for it to bleed to death.

Arrow-killed deer and most bullet-killed deer die from blood loss. Any blood that isn’t lost as they die will drain when the animal is field dressed and hung. There is no need to slit the deer’s throat. It will just make your taxidermist angry.

How many times have you heard that bucks only travel into the wind? This bit of hunting lore gets repeated so often that it is taken as Gospel by many hunters. If my area of Minnesota has four straight days of northwest wind for example, all our bucks would be in North Dakota. Sounds silly of course, but think about how a buck must spend its days. He has to eat every day and his trails simply do not allow him to put his nose into the wind and go.

Kyle Robertson knew this Kentucky buck well, but it disappeared for six weeks before coming back to his property. He killed it a few days later. Mature bucks often travel long distances between areas they feel secure. Photo courtesy of Kyle Robertson

It’s true that bucks prefer to quarter into the wind when it’s convenient to do so, they feel comfortable when doing so. But I have seen bucks readily travel with a tailwind, even enter their bedding cover with the wind at their back. I believe they travel confidently when they can see what’s ahead of them and smell what’s behind them.

Rarely do spooked bucks turn and run into the wind. They usually go back the way they came from or take a direct route to security cover. Buck travel into the wind when the conditions allow, at all other times, they move with the best possible advantage that gives them confidence.

Deer are colorblind and only see in black, white and shades of gray. Most likely this prevailing myth comes from the realization that deer weren’t seeing hunters wearing blaze orange. When blaze orange laws became the norm a half-decade ago, hunters were surprised that the deer didn’t seem to pay any more attention to them than when they were wearing any other article of clothing.

Scientists have dissected the deer’s eye and analyzed the rods and cones to determine which colors deer can see. Turns out they see the blue end of the spectrum much better than humans do, but they can detect very little of the red end of the spectrum. They see blues and greens in brilliant display, in fact they can see ultraviolet colors that humans cannot see. Reds and oranges are subdued to the point that they may not be able to distinguish the colors from gray. So, if you head out into the woods in blue jeans and an orange coat, the deer will barely detect the orange, but the blue jeans will jump right out at them.

Several scientific studies have been published showing that bucks only check scrapes at night. These studies involved putting trail cameras on scrapes and recording the times the bucks visited and worked the ground at the scrape and the overhanging branch that is present at nearly all scrapes. These results of these studies recorded that 80% or more, and in some studies, more than 90% of the visits were under the cover of darkness. This has led a lot of hunters to believe that hunting over scrapes has no value.

Each of these studies have one common flaw. The cameras were only placed on the scrapes themselves. Bucks often check these scrapes in the daytime, they just do it from 20-40 yards downwind. They move downwind of the scrape and take a whiff, then only approach it if they detect something that really get’s their attention.

Most primary scrapes are made on the edge of a field or opening, under and overhanging branch. Bucks simply are not willing to expose themselves to the open area during daylight unless there is something truly compelling in that scrape. Whenever possible they will simply check them from the nearest downwind cover and then move on. Now you have some information that will help you hunt scrapes much more effectively.

My earliest bowhunting mentor was a neighbor named Jim, who took me bowhunting before I was old enough to drive. He loved to hunt mornings and he was adamant that we get in the stand at least an hour before first light, and 1 ½-2 hours was even better in his way of thinking. I remember him telling me that it gave time for our ground scent to dissipate and the activity of the other woods creatures to get back to normal.

While bucks may expose themselves to visit a scrape in an open area during the nighttime, bucks commonly scent check scrapes from downwind cover during daylight.

It made all kinds of sense to me at the time, and I figured the fact that we spooked a lot of deer on the way in was simply a necessary trade-off. In fact, I loosely followed that rule for 30 years. But a few years ago, I started really analyzing that tactic and changing my morning strategy.

The problems with going in early are several, but the two biggies are the fact that you must use light, which alerts every deer around where you are, and the issue with all the noise that you make going in before daylight. It’s simply a whole lot quieter to approach your stand when you can see without a light.

These days, I more often wait until it’s just light enough to see, then move quickly and quietly into the stand. If I see a deer, I can stop and give it the right of way, which has helped me avoid getting snorted at and flagged at more times than I can count. If I have a long walk, I will often make the walk to within 100 yards of the stand in the dark, then wait until there’s just enough light to see before making the final approach.

The issue of ground scent is mostly overcome by using care in how I choose my entry and exit routes, and the woods doesn’t take an hour or more to get back to normal. I often have squirrels and birds moving about in normal patterns within five minutes of settling quietly into my treestand. Sorry Jim.

Some GPS tracking studies have shown that some bucks are homebodies and spend most of their lives in a fairly small core area. Some bucks, they say, hardly ever leave an 80-acre “home range.” This is partly true, the science cannot be denied for the small number of deer that have been tracked, but there are three things that throw a monkey wrench into the equation.

First, bucks are individuals and have individual tendencies. Some are fighters, some shy away from a fight. Some are super cautious, some show risky behavior. Some are homebodies and some travel long distances. Similar to humans, they each have a “personality.”

Second, the studies may be true in some areas but there are such wide variances in terrain, food sources and habitat that bucks can afford to be homebodies only in the best habitat situations. If food, cover and water are nearby, a buck doesn’t have to travel a significant distance if he doesn’t feel like it. I have seen deer in Montana that come down off the hills and walk three miles to an irrigated alfalfa field to graze in the evening. In the morning, they may travel three miles in the opposite direction to bed in another area that day.

In Texas where the deer depend on corn feeders and waterers, bucks have been seen in a scouting camera photo at a feeder one day, and then at a feeder four miles away through the thick brush the following day.

Third, some bucks just leave. These movers may have 2-4 home ranges. I have interviewed dozens of hunters who have a pile of photos of a particular buck, then the buck just disappears for a month or more. In two cases, I did stories on large whitetails that were killed on a farm, only to discover that someone had photos of that buck on their farm seven miles away as the crow flies.

Myths are abundant in hunting, and some have a grain of truth but too much has been read into a small amount of information. One thing I love about whitetails is their unpredictability. Who knows which of the beliefs we hold about whitetail behavior right now might be disproven some day.

Stop Dreaming, Start Hunting! Overcoming 3 Main Excuses

Stop Dreaming, Start Hunting! Overcoming 3 Main Excuses

You’ve seen the amazing whitetail deer hunting on the outdoor TV channels. You know your chances of shooting a mature buck like the ones you see the show hosts shooting at home are not very good. Yes you can go to the destination states and shoot a nice buck. Here’s some encouragement and some solid advice.

By Bernie Barringer

The explosion in popularity of outdoor television in the past 15-20 years has causes some significant changes in the landscape for hunters. No doubt it has created a surge in popularity and outdoor TV has also launched some products that wouldn’t have seen the same quick growth if they didn’t have the mass medium of TV to get their message to the masses.
Another noticeable impact of hunting television shows has been the eye-opening revelation about what’s available when it comes to deer hunting across the whitetail’s range. Hunters from Michigan, Pennsylvania, the East Coat and the Southeastern US suddenly because aware that the bucks they were shooting were puny compared to those being shot in the Midwest where they have much better habitat and are allowed to grow to maturity.

Research on a new hunting area is easier than ever with online resources.

Take Iowa for example. Before the Outdoor Channel became a household name, Iowa’s 6,000 nonresident deer tags just filled up each year. When TV hosts began shooting big bucks in Iowa, that rapidly changed. Today, expect to wait 3-4 years while increasing your drawing odds before you will draw a nonresident archery tag. Nearly 20,000 applicants throw their name into the hat each year. Some states, Illinois and Kansas are examples, just increased the number of tags to meet the growing demand.
Still there are hundreds of thousands of whitetail deer hunters still watching the big bucks on TV while dreaming about taking a trip just once to have a crack at a the kind of mature whitetail they would never have a realistic chance to shoot at home. Some hunters feel they can’t afford the trip, others simply do not know where to go, and others still are just intimidated by the thought of setting off to lands unknown to hunt in an unknown area. Well, if you are in one of those three categories, consider this your wake up call, because I am about to crush your excuses.
Excuse #1: I Can’t Afford it
If you can afford to shell out $3,000-$4,000 for a good outfitter in the Midwest, then more power to you, but that’s more than most of us can justify. A Do-it-Yourself (DIY) hunt is the best and possibly the only option. You can do a hunt on a lot less than you think. Your primary expenses are going to be the deer license, gas, lodging, and food.
You have to eat whether you are at home or off on a hunt, so food costs are minimal. I often use a crock pot and toss a complete frozen meal into it when I leave in the morning, so I have a hot meal waiting for me when I get back from the day’s hunt. BBQ ribs, roast and potatoes, chicken breasts, you get the idea. Another option is to carry a small microwave to heat up some oatmeal for breakfast and a hot meal at the end of the day. You’ll hunt longer and harder if you are eating well.
Most of the small towns in the rural areas where you will be hunting have motels that cater to hunters and they are priced accordingly. I usually find one for less than $50 per night and I’m often able to work a better deal if I book several nights at once. Another option I have used is to pull a travel trailer. Many states allow you to camp for free in the parking areas at public hunting grounds. There are no facilities of course but if you have a self-contained camper or you are willing to rough it in a tent, your expenses are next to nothing.
That leaves your gas and your deer tag expenses. Just start saving now and be ready when the time comes; squirrel away a couple twenties a week and you will have your trip paid for in a year or less.
Excuse #2: I Have No Idea Where to Go
Here’s where I can help. I wrote a book entitled The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter. Two-thirds of the book covers how to hunt on a budget and how to figure out a new property along with strategies for taking public land bucks. The othe

r third details the hunting opportunities in the 16 states I call “destination” states for whitetail hunters. It covers the counties that produce the most Pope & Young bucks, the availability of public land, what times are the best to go, how to draw a tag, etc.
Also covered in the book are the properties that are not public but are open to public hunting. Two examples are the Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program in North Dakota, and the Walk In Hunting (WIHA) lands in Kansas. Several other states have similar programs and I have found that these lands do not get as much pressure from deer hunters as other public hunting lands. Some states have public lands that get a lot of bowhunting pressure, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, while others like the Dakota’s, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas have abundant state and federal hunting land where the pressure is likely to be much lighter than you have at home.
The internet is an amazing resource for finding a place to hunt. Check out the states’ DNR websites for lots of information. Spend some time on state hunting forums and ask questions. You might think that locals would be reluctant to help you find a good hunting area, but surprisingly I have found the ones who try to discourage you to be in the minority. Use Google Earth to analyze properties for their potential and even start to evaluate specific hunting spots with this amazing aerial photo tool.
Excuse #3: I’m Afraid to Set Out On My Own
The best way to overcome your fear of the unknown may be to connect with others who have done it before you. The online hunting forums will connect you with people who can give you advice if you feel intimidated. I know I felt very intimidated before I took my first DIY road trip for whitetails but once I got my feet wet I fell in love with the adventure and I have now taken more than 20 of them.
My website has four bloggers including myself that travel to hunt, and they are happy to help answer your questions and encourage you. The only way to learn how to ride a bike is to get on a bike. It’s like that with a DIY hunt as well. Just plan the hunt and go have fun learning how to do it. I encourage you to not have unrealistic expectations the first time, just go and enjoy the hunt while learning the most you can. Your second hunt will feel a lot easier. Many people before you have felt the same way and offered up the same excuses. Don’t be one of the hunters who uses one of these excuses to stay home and endure the status quo. Stop dreaming and start hunting!