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grant deer drop jump stringMy friend Dr. Grant Woods, one of the top whitetail scientists in the world, recently produced a with some new observations about deer jumping the bow string.

Grant worked with an engineer and avid bowhunter who devised a computerized device to record the sound of a bow going off, test the speed of gravity, etc.  Sounds complex, but when you watch and listen to the video it’s much clearer.

They set up a range…took shots at 20, 30 and 40 yards with bows that shot between 258 and 315 fps… and recorded the data. Then they watched many video clips of actual hunts, with deer ducking and twirling as they heard the sound of bow shots. Grant and team put it all together and came up with a few observations:

When a bow goes off and a deer hears it, many of them instinctively drop toward the ground, but some do not. Some old advice is still good advice—. Deer drops, you get middle or high lungs. Deer does not drop, your arrow pierces lower lungs and heart.

With their shot tests in this study driving home the point how much a deer might drop—maybe 6 inches to more than 10 inches at 40 yards—Grant and colleagues studied the demeanor and position of deer that ducked the string on the hunting videos. They noticed that alert deer (pressured, sense something is not right, etc.) are much more likely to drop at the bow shot than a calm deer. It’s always best to shoot at a deer that appears calm and unaware of your presence.

This is new and major: Grant noticed that a deer with its head down tends to drop more and faster than a deer with its head up. The theory is that with its head down, a deer can easily drop its front end, then throw his head up in a flash as it wheels and bolts away.  This happens so often that Grant will now try to avoid shots at deer with their head down.

With the data and observation driving home how much a deer might drop, Grant says he will now be re-evaluating his shots at whitetails. He goes so far as to say he hopes to keep most shots 20 yards and under, and will carefully evaluate 30-yard shots. He says a hunter has to be extremely careful about taking a 40-yard shot, and now he’ll likely pass at that distance.

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ne 2018 giantAndy Morgan, co-host of on Outdoor Channel, shot one of the largest whitetails ever on film with bow and arrow last week in central Nebraska. The giant green-scores 196 5/8, and is believed to be at least 7 years old.

Morgan, from Dayton, Tennessee, has been hunting Nebraska for 15 years. He encountered this buck as a 3-year-old, but passed on him. Andy didn’t see the deer for the next 3 years, and thought he was gone. But the giant popped up on a trail cam earlier this year, and he knew immediately this would be his target buck for the 2018 archery season.

Andy got his opportunity a few days ago and capitalized. He shot the buck at 46 yards from a tree stand he had hung just a couple of hours earlier. It was a perfect double-lung, and the deer ran 200 yards before dropping.

Takeaway: The best way to kill a big deer sometimes is to go on sneak attack for a quick-strike ambush. If you have evidence a buck is walking in daylight, don’t be afraid to go in, hang a stand, and hunt right then and there, like Andy did for this giant.

Way to go man, great job and awesome buck.

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I saw  by Oak Duke, a writer and hunter from New York, and I think he might be onto something. Oak wrote:

The 2018 whitetail rut should unfold as a mirror image of the 1999 and 2010 events, very early for bow hunters, and then great for those of us who carry a gun into the deer woods in New York and Pennsylvania.

2018 will feature a bifurcated rut … two-pronged.

Oak’s theory revolves around full moons. In September, the moon was full just two days away from the Autumnal Equinox. He says that when this celestial conjunction occurs (the moon and the equinox at the same time) we witness early rutting activity:

Deer hunters best be prepared for what is going to occur, a very early and abbreviated main spike in rut activity prior and through Halloween this upcoming season. A second major peak will reach its crescendo around Thanksgiving, a traditional late rut in the wheelhouse of the gun season.

va buck check early scrape 2018

I see signs that this is indeed occurring, and I have images from here in Virginia to back it up. In the image above, a buck checks one of 10 very early scrapes we found along the edge of a power line. In the image below, two bucks square off in a sparring match near the scrapes (note body of buck on the left, mature).

va bucks 2018 early sparring

Check the date and moon on both photos—September 22, the date of the Autumnal Equinox, and the moon is nearly full!

So yes, there is evidence that an early mini-rut occurred in mid- to late September. While Oak Duke believes this will continue into Halloween, I’m not so sure about that. Starting around October 1, from wireless cameras I have set out in several states, I have noticed a discernible decline in buck sightings and rut behavior.

But I agree big mule deer buck photos wholeheartedly with Duke that a second major peak (the primary rut) will occur around Thanksgiving, when, not coincidentally, the moon will again wax full on November 23. I blogged about this in my if you missed it.

Bottom line, while the first rut of 2018 is long gone, the second and better one is still 6 weeks away. Good luck!

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ohio 2018 giantSaw this giant on my Twitter feed this morning, it will go down as one of the top bucks of 2018, and possibly the buck of the year. Early indications, it scores around 220. No further details, but you will see a lot more about this buck soon I am sure.

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full moon buckFrom Missouri to Virginia to Canada, 90 percent of whitetail does will come into estrous and be bred from November 5-20, regardless of moon phase or weather. It’s been that way for decades in the Northern two-thirds of America, and will continue to be that way forever. Take off anytime from Halloween though Thanksgiving, and you’ll hunt some phase of the rut. Anytime you hunt rutting deer you are going to have a good time, with the potential to shoot a big buck.

While many hunters and scientists don’t put much stock in the moon’s effects on deer movement, I do. I base this on two things. One, 30-plus years of hunting and observing whitetails as they seek, chase and breed each November. And two, my keen interest in all things lunar, and how the 4 phases might affect deer movement. I read all the moon research I can get my hands, pro and con, and then compare that data to my field notes.

The most recent study on the moon and its effects on whitetail movement was conducted several years ago by researchers at North Carolina State University. Researchers tracked GPS-collared deer throughout the lunar phases, and analyzed text messages sent from those collars to determine when the does and bucks moved the most–and the least. I cross-referenced the study’s findings with my field notes and beliefs, and found some similarities and common ground.

I’ll use that to make predictions on how and when the deer will move and rut in November 2018.

November 7, 2018: New Moon

The NC State study confirmed one fact we already know: Whitetails are crepuscular, which means they are most active at dawn and dusk, regardless of moon phase. “That fact did not change,” says researcher Marcus Lashley, who headed the study. “But the intensity of movement in each period when the deer decided to move did change.”

In some moon phases, deer were noticeably more active at dawn than they were at dusk, and the n is an example of that. “We saw a large peak of movement at daylight during this (new) phase, and below average movement the rest of the day and night,” Lashley notes.

In any given year the first week of November is one of the best times to hunt for a big deer; hundreds of giants are shot this week across North America. If you take off early in November up through the 12th, hunt as long as you can every day, because you never know when you’ll get an opportunity. But remember, with the moon new and dark and waxing crescent, bucks should be most active at daylight. Get on stand extra early and hunt the mornings extra hard.

November 15, 2018: First-Quarter Moon

The NC State study found that during the first-quarter moon, deer move less on average throughout the day than in all the other phases. Researcher Lashley goes so far as to say, “That would be a good seven days to work.”

This is where I disagree. Looking back to my notes, it is no secret that This is always a good week to take off work.

On and around November 10 every season, especially in the Midwest, the “lockdown” begins in many areas as mature bucks hole up in covers and tend and breed does. Couple that with the data that say the overall deer activity will diminish during the first-quarter moon this November and things could be tough in some areas. But again, it’s the rut, and a big buck is apt to make a mistake anytime, any day. If this is the week you can get off work, go for it.

November 23, 2018: Full Moon

For several years I’ve been developing a new moon theory—mature bucks move great during the day in and around a full moon in November. Of course this flies in the face of what most of you have read and been told for years and probably believe–that deer are most active at night during a big moon, and therefore the full moon is bad for hunting.

But I believe I’m on to something, because the more I hunt during the “rutting moon” across the U.S. and Canada, the more bucks I see wandering around the woods, or chasing does.

The NC study backs me up, at least somewhat. “A common misconception is that deer can see better at night (and hence move all over the place) because it’s brighter when the moon is full. But according to our data they actually move less on average at night during a full moon and more during the middle of the day, and also earlier in the evenings,” Lashley says.

I see things setting up to be pretty good during the moon that waxes full on November 23, especially in states like Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, Montana and others where peak rut typically occurs later on in November, from the 17th or so and throughout Thanksgiving week and even into early December. And in Midwest states where old bucks will be coming out of lockdown, some of them will prowl long and hard from around 11:00 a.m. until dark each day as they search for more does. Plan to get on stand by 9:00 a.m. and hunt till dark.

November 29, 2018: Last-Quarter Moon

Later on in November is tough and unpredictable any season. Breeding is winding down, and bucks have been pressured by hunters for two months. Simple math says there are fewer bucks in the woods because some were harvested earlier in the season.

But there is hope. According to the NC State researchers, from a moon perspective, the deer movement should be best from November 29 and into the first week of December. “If you are going to hunt the last hour of the day anytime of season, you should do it on the last quarter because that was the most extreme deer movement we saw during the whole study.”

Try this. Set an afternoon stand near a secluded, thick-cover funnel that leads out to a crop field where you know does are feeding. A skittish, weary buck is still ready and willing to breed any last doe that will give him a chance. You might shoot one yet as he sneaks out to check the girls in the last wisps of light.

Good luck and let me know how you do moon-wise.

 

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