Monday, August 20th, and we’re well on our
way to completing our 2012 survey with results in the 2012 Hit List. The big bucks are showing
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Antler Dirt. One of the huge advantages of a trail camera survey is
really seeing what mature bucks are on the property you get to hunt and their behavior;
which ones tend to move more in daylight; which ones are totally locked down to be a
nighttime critters. When I look at the bucks that are four years
old or older here at The Proving Grounds, that’s great. But I also narrow that down
to bucks that tend to move more during daylight hours or show more signs of being aggressive
at the camera survey sites. A couple two-year-olds. Oh, got another one
coming in. Look who’s showing up. There’s Pitchfork. And you can tell he’s not very
aggressive. These two-year-olds stay longer. If you’re identifying bucks that only move
at night or they’re always the last buck in or only come to the survey site when no other
deer are around, you can bet that’s going to be a really tough buck to kill. You might
see him a day or two of the rut when he’s chasing a doe, but most of the time, he’s
gonna move during nighttime hours and not respond to grunts or rattling. He’d be really
tough to tag. Last year, a buck we called Clean 12 gave
us great signs early on of moving some during daylight and being aggressive.
Sure enough, we were able to tag him at three yards.
As we share with you our Hit List bucks this year — the bucks we consider four years old
or older — we’ll also talk about the individual characteristics and which ones we want to
spend our time on attempting to pattern and hunt.
He looks really good from the side. Yeah, he’s a neat deer.
Yeah. I’d like to start introducing you to the 2012
Hit List bucks from The Proving Grounds with Pitchfork. Pitchfork is probably familiar
to a lot of our viewers. We found his shed during past shed hunts; we’ve got trail camera
pictures. We’ve talked about him spending a lot of his summer months on a neighboring
property. He tends to come back here during hunting season. That all sounds great except
when you get to Pitchfork’s characteristics. Over the years we’ve had hundreds of pictures
of Pitchfork, but only a small handful during daylight hours. Pitchfork doesn’t show an
aggressive attitude or behavior. You rarely see him chasing a buck out of a food plot
or showing signs of aggression at our camera survey stations.
Pitchfork’s old and has a large, unique set of antlers, but I gotta tell you — he’s not
my primary Hit List buck because I’m not sure he’s killable.
Sometimes when bucks get older or my friend Bill Winkey says, senile, they shift and start
moving much more during daylight hours. So you can bet we’ll be watching the trail cameras
for Pitchfork in this core area to see if he shifts and starts showing up at food plots
or feeding areas more during the daylight. And if he does, he’ll move up to the number
one position of our Hit List bucks. Good girl. Good girl (inaudible).
Split Brow is another buck we have a lot of history with.
Beautiful. Is that him? That’s definitely him. He’s got that (inaudible).
Split Brow is at least five years old; maybe older. Late last year he showed up on a trail
camera with a busted G2 and blind in one eye. His rack is pretty normal this year. I thought
it might be non-typical this year. But that blind in one eye certainly makes it easy for
us to identify him and may shift the odds a little bit in our advantage. Split Brow
basically runs two ridges from Hidey Hole 3 all the way over to Big Cave. But it’s really
steep and tough in those areas and so far, we haven’t been able to get a travel pattern
on Split Brow. During past years we rarely got a daylight image of Split Brow even during
the rut. But this year, we’ve got a couple of daylight images already. Just like a lot
of humans, as they get older, they’re a little bit easier to get a pattern on; maybe shrink
down that home range and we’re thinking this might be the year Split Brow gives up his
guard just a little bit and he might move to the top of our Hit List.
A running buddy of Split Brow’s is Giant Eight. Giant Eight’s another buck that’s at least
four and a half, probably five or six years old, but we haven’t been able to get a very
good daylight pattern on him during previous years. I clearly remember coming home from
an out of state trip last year during late December and Adam and I were gonna hunt Giant
Eight the next day when I got a cell phone call from Adam saying he had good news and
bad news. I’m a fan of good news, so I asked Adam, “Give me the good news first.” He said,
“Giant Eight’s still alive.” I thought, Great. He got a daytime picture or something. Then
he told me the bad news. He said, “I’m standing in Little Cave, holding Giant Eight’s antler.”
He had shed early. Giant Eight seems to have somehow survived
the drought and produced about the same size rack he did last year. He’s certainly close
to the top of our Hit List and if he were to just slide about 15 minutes earlier in
the daylight period, he’d probably jump to number one because we know his pattern pretty
well and we think Giant Eight’s a buck we can tag this year.
You may recall this summer we created two new food plots. Both of them on a ridge that
didn’t have any food plots in the past because there was no access. We love ridge top food
plots because the wind direction is much more constant than lower down or in the valley.
Those are all fine characteristics but the real magic is: we’ve had pictures of both
Giant Eight and Split Brow on the north and south side of that ridge. They’re clearly
traveling through there, but it was all constant hardwoods. We’ve now created a couple of attraction
points, hopefully, it will help us figure out their travel pattern better.
It’s only 25 days ’til deer season starts in Missouri. I expect my food plots will be
up and growing by then. But there’s other attractions out there — other food sources
that may be just, if not more important to patterning a mature buck.
Crabapples, plums, pears, are all great attractants to deer, especially mature bucks who can find
a good food source in the cover of a wooded area. The first fruits are starting to fall
off this grove of fruit trees, but there’s still plenty on the trees. As you can see,
that one just fell when I touched it. So it will be interesting to see if this is still
holding fruit come deer season, September 15th.
There’s probably not a more famous fruit for deer hunters than persimmons. Since I was
a young boy, I remember hearing men in a barbershop and other hunters talk about finding that
secret persimmon grove to hunt deer. As many of y’all know, persimmons are extremely
sour and tart until they’re ripe — usually after the first frost. And then the sugars
change and they become a magical attractant for deer.
Persimmon Trees growing in the open like this one, tend to have more fruit than those growing
back in the woods. But I like to find them just like this one — very close to the edge
of the timber so deer are comfortable coming out here and feeding during daylight hours
and I can be in position in a treestand to make the shot.
Persimmon Trees are easy to identify by the bark — real gnarly — kind of chunky bark.
But that’s not all you have to do is identify the tree as a Persimmon Tree. Persimmon Trees
are a little different in that there are male and female trees. And you, obviously, want
to find a female tree to make sure it’s bearing fruit.
Finishing your camera survey and getting out with your family and scouting for those fruit
trees to see which ones produce this year is a great way to enjoy Creation. Thanks for