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YOUTH WHITETAIL HUNT: The Journey Begins For a Bully Buck

Yesterday morning, I decided on a whim to change my Spartan GoCam VZW cameras to video mode to try and start seeing movement patterns to the camera locations, of which are all brassica food plots. Pictures usually do a pretty good job of this, but video is the optimal reconnaissance tool. Food plot traffic will continue to increase over the next month as the corn and soybeans start to dry out and turn brown. Deer are usually thinking with their stomachs, and palatability is key... the greens! The timing of this is unique to my first hunter of the year, my soon to be 8-year-old, Brantley, is going to go on his first deer hunt on Saturday evening. This is something that I have always wanted to experience as a father, and since the start of MDL, I have always wanted to see if I could get a "bully" buck killed prior to mid-October. My son will have his first hunt with me after a buck I named, "Boss."

Most of my hunters are unable and/or unwilling to come in so early without seriously concrete intel about a shooter buck on their farm. Most shooters turn nocturnal between Sep. 1st and Oct. 15th leading up to the start of the pre-rut. On major influence on that are bully bucks patrolling farms, covering more miles than most mature bucks, that keep the true shooters at bay between 1/4-mile and 1-mile away. Every year we lose good shooters to bully bucks. The perfect solution to that is to have a youth come in and harvest a bully, usually because the bully bucks are usually not trophy-quality with antler size/score. I don't trust many people, even friends, to hunt on my farms, so even taking my own son out is a little risqué for me. Yet, I know that if I stay between the white lines, and don't push it, we can do this as non-invasively as possible. Kill the bully buck, get in and out, and wait for the big bucks to gradually return between now and mid-October as the scrapes start firing.

Below is a cool velvet cropped pic of "Boss" from the Spartan GoCam. He's a walking tank.

And some non-cropped pics....

And a video from last night....

It seems that the more often I see him, the less I see of our other shooters, which has got to stop as soon as possible. As mentioned above, I have never had anyone hunting on our farms this early, so it is an honor to have my own boy go out to try and help this farm be more productive in the rut. In years past, we would just ride the wave gambling that he would eventually run off to a new farm and the door would be cracked open for the others to return. Getting him off of here will be a huge plus for my bow hunter coming in November.

This is related, but bare with me for a second. Bill Winke and Midwest Whitetail published this week's episode called "I sold my farm"... which is Bill explaining why and how he sold his farm but also how he managed it. One thing he said was that his "buck-to-doe ratio on this farm was 3:1"... Yes, three bucks to one doe. As much of a positive this is to a farm, it is also a negative as he would go on to explain, but that 3:1 ratio is very similar to this particular farm with "Boss" above. It's a smaller farm with an even smaller hunt able acreage. It's the right piece surrounded by a lot of overlooked quality farms. So, with the buck-to-doe ratio as high as it is on this farm, taking out the bully is that much more important.

If a farm has a lesser buck-to-doe ratio, the bully buck might not have as severe of an influence. A bully buck will always try to do what he does best, run other bucks off while being territorial in food plots and the best staging and bedding areas, but when there are much more does to go around, other bucks eventually get in, which may not be until November 10th-24th, but it will happen. I'd much rather try and speed that process up by taking the bully out.

As for my boy, Brantley, who is seven & turning 8 in early October, he is as excited as he could be. He doesn't comprehend all of this thought process on why this farm, this buck, etc. He just knows that he gets to finally go out deer hunting with his dad instead of staying home with his mom and sister. He's practiced shooting his deer gun, a Ruger AR556 in 350 Legend with a Vortex scope. What a great round for the kids! In Iowa, prior to the legalization of straight-walled rifle cartridges and a few other rounds such as the 350 legend, the kiddos can use such instead of the thumping 20-gauge shotgun slugs, which are a bit heavy in the recoil department compared to our AR.

I have to admit, I am super proud of him for how careful and aware he has been while we've been shooting. I am a former service member, and I had previously received the highest marksmanship label that the USN awards it's sailors for shooting their service weapons, the M9, the M16A3 or the M4, and the M500. I qualified at 'Expert' on the M9 and M16 the last I tried, and I have always been a very good "shot." I expected my boy to be close to as good as me, but with a lack of experience, I didn't know how much tuning would be needed prior to going out hunting. The other day, I told him, "you have one shot and need to make it count." He drills it. We go look at the target and then walked back for another crack. His next shot hit the same hole at 50 yards. I shot two rounds and had about 1/4" in between mine. My kid outshot me... and I am completely okay with it. He's ready to go for the opener this weekend in southern Iowa. Wish us luck!

P.S. - I will be posting little updates from the field on our Instagram account (@MDLOutfitters) in the stories section which you can see by clicking on our profile picture from our profile. Please forgive me if I post "heavy" as I am living out a father's dream taking my only son out for his first deer hunt. I am truly a blessed man.

Thanks for reading, everyone!


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