Deer Hunting | Head Hunters TV

Deer Hunting | What Makes a Head Worth Hunting?

The Important Factors Behind Big Bucks and Antlers

As deer hunting season and harvests crank up across the country, so does the discussion and more likely controversy over what makes big bucks. This is head hunting by definition, seeking a buck big enough and with enough inches to wrap a tag around. So what is responsible for giving a buck a head worth hunting? The answer isn’t simple. We have to focus in on every factor that contribute to a whitetails life, not just what affects his antlers.

Genetics

Antler potential including shape, traits, and overall size are determined by its individual DNA, made up of its parent’s genetic makeup. The first main takeaway when discussing genetics is that you cannot control genetic characteristics of a free-ranging herd. The second is that the genetic potential can only be reached at optimum nutrition levels and at a certain age. Instead of worrying about genetics, deer hunters and managers need to focus on the other two most important factors that determine bucks potential.

Nutrition

Just as lactating does need optimum forage growth and protein during spring fawning, bucks require a lot of energy to grow a set of antlers. Protein in particular is extremely important during summer months while velvet is growing. This information often leads many to supply summer forage and nutrition, often in the form of soybeans…only to forget about nutrition for the rest of the year. Quality habitat including natural forage, browse, and thermal cover in the winter months is equally if not more important to a bucks development and potential.

Age

A buck’s antler size experiences the biggest jumps in size from year to year. From the first year in age, up to 6 years old, a buck’s antlers will continually grow larger, heavier, and get closer to reaching full potential. If optimum nutrition is supplied a bucks potential is maximized at 6 years in age. Letting a deer reach maturity at 4 years old will get you very close to reaching its full potential. In this case your trigger finger is the most important management tool you can control to allow bucks to reach their full potential.

Head Hunters TV

As deer hunting continues this season, the discussion and concern will only grow. If you’re worried about getting deer to their full potential take another look at your habitat management and herd management plans and goals. Maximizing available nutrition through the habitat and altering age distribution and structure of your herd into older age classes will create some racks on heads worth hunting for!

Bedding Area Strategies | Head Hunters TV

Deer Hunting | Bedding Area Strategies

When Should You Risk Hunting Bedding Areas?

Do you hunt deer bedding areas or not? It’s one of those topics that tends to send people grumbling, quickly turns conversations sour, and can neatly organize hunters into two different camps. There are plenty of well-accomplished hunting experts claiming the merits of both approaches. But which one is correct? Is there even a correct choice? Let’s look at both sides of the issue to see when hunting these secret gems is appropriate and when doing so may ruin your chances at harvesting a nice animal.

Avoidance is Best

Many hunters steer clear of bedding areas because there is a notion that wandering into one will spook animals, particularly mature bucks, off of your land, onto the neighbor’s property, or into the next county. And in many cases, this is true. If a wise, old whitetail buck doesn’t feel safe in his bedroom, why would he stick around particularly as the season continues? Besides that, deer hunting bedding areas is downright difficult. It would be tough to hunt a bedding area more than a couple times before you inevitably let the deer in on your plans. Surprise is your only real option.

Avoidance is Best | Head Hunters TV

The experts from this group claim that instead of pursuing bucks into their core bedding areas and sanctuaries, you should set your stand up along travel corridors between these areas and food or water, where you can ambush them without the fear of pushing them away. Typically, you should be able to more easily sneak into and out of these corridors than going into an actual bedding or feeding area. This deer hunting approach works well for those hunting on private land, as they have the option to leave sanctuaries alone and the incentive to hold as many deer on their property as possible.

Get In There

Other deer hunters prefer to jump right in or close to bedding areas, sneaking into them in the very early morning hours before deer have returned from feeding areas. That way, they’ll be waiting in ambush for unsuspecting animals to come back. Several experts hold out for the perfect weather conditions during the rut, and then sneak into doe bedding areas to hunt them. During the rut, bucks will be throwing caution to the wind and inspecting all areas where does congregate. By taking this approach, hunters are limiting their intrusion to the best potential hunting opportunities of the season, which outweighs the risk of bumping deer. Basically, they try to stack the deck as much in their favor as possible.

Get In There | Head Hunters TV

The key behind deer hunting these areas is truly being there from well before light to well after dark, so you don’t educate deer to your activity. If you find a good doe bedding area (e.g., lots of beds all in close proximity), try setting up on the downwind side of it. During the rut, bucks will often circle these areas downwind to scent-check for estrous females, putting you right in his direct path. This deer hunting method is probably best used on heavily pressured public land, where you often need to be aggressive to find mature bucks.

Balance

Based on the information from both parties, it seems a balance could be struck between strictly avoiding and always hunting bedding areas. It’s certainly true that deer will feel more secure on your property if they have a few sanctuary areas that you never enter. Keep these sanctuaries located toward the interior of your land, and only disturb them to retrieve an animal or do maintenance in the winter or spring. That being said, if you own more than 40 acres, it’s likely there may be other bedding areas on the periphery of this sanctuary that you could hunt. A good time to break the bedding area avoidance rule is toward the end of the season when you need a Hail Mary play. You’re not going to cause any lasting damage at this time of the year, so sneak into the thickest cover and see if you can find that elusive buck that disappeared from your food plots weeks ago. Every time you enter one of these hidden spots, make sure you’re as quiet and scent-free as possible, and utilize good entry and exit trails to avoid detection. If you do that, you just might luck out with a nice buck.

Hunting Shows | Lessons Learned for Your Next Hunt

How Hunting Shows Can Help You Next Season

Tell me if you’ve heard this from your significant other or another family member: “You’re spending too much time watching hunting shows.” Sure, you may sit and watch a couple programs each night, and maybe even fill up some of your weekend mornings with them. But unless you’re retired, it’s fairly unlikely you’re permanently parked in front of the TV. Well, now you can confidently tell them your addiction to hunting videos has legitimately paid off. It turns out there’s a lot to be learned by watching your favorite hunting programs.

At the very least, it’s better than watching any “reality show” on television these days. Who really cares about what celebrity is dating who or what drama happens among housewives. Hunting is infinitely more real than 90% of the garbage you see while channel surfing. Plus, hunting videos are more than just entertainment. To that end, let’s get started.

Ethics

It’s evident in most hunting shows that ethics are a major factor. Admittedly, some of this could be due to the public pressure and high visibility that hunting videos attract. But all sportsmen and women should learn from these practices. You don’t typically see hunting personalities taking long-distance or risky shots at animals because they know they could miss or worse, only wound the animal, in front of thousands of viewers. Wouldn’t that give you a second of pause?

However, if you’ve hunted long enough, we all know that accidents do happen. When these hunting videos show that an animal is only wounded, you also see them diligently tracking the animal until they find it or until they’ve exhausted every possible tracking option. Only at that point is the pursuit abandoned. We should have deep respect for our fellow hunters who do this, and certainly adopt this practice ourselves if we don’t do it already.

Education

Oftentimes on hunting videos, the host or hostess will take time to explain how they manage their land or lease for deer hunting. We as viewers can learn how to conduct trail camera surveys, manage our forests and fields for whitetail deer, plant and monitor food plots, and many other management activities. Hunting shows can also teach us about whitetail deer biology and habits. The more you know about your intended game animal, the more you can predict patterns and the better hunter you will become.

New Gear

Most of us probably don’t need much of an excuse to go buy some new hunting gear. However, watching your favorite hunting shows is useful in that it introduces us to new products that might give us an edge next hunting season. Anything you can do to stack the deck in your favor while in the woods is a good thing. Granted, there are many phony gimmicks out there designed to catch hunters instead of game animals. But that being said, some products truly are game-changers that allow you to stay in the field longer, help your accuracy, or help you recover your animal quicker.

Practice and Hunting Tips

Hunting shows allow us to take part in hunting situations that we might not be able to otherwise. Instead of putting in days or weeks on stand, we get to see consolidated clips summarizing thousands of hours of hunting. This is sometimes detrimental because it might give us false expectations about hunting. You’re not likely going to see a 170+ inch giant step out from behind every cedar. But it also lets us learn through repetition very quickly. We can observe and learn from the unfortunate mistakes of others or notice trends in animal behavior that we might not catch ourselves. These are things we can apply to our own situations to make us better hunters.

Practice and Hunting Tips | Head Hunters TV

Similarly, most hunting videos also illustrate good practice techniques and teach us ways to improve our shooting, tracking, or scouting skills. Pay attention the next time you watch a hunting show, and I’ll bet they teach you at least one good practice and hunting tip you can apply to improve yourself.

New Animals and Locations

Many hunting programs take us to exotic and exciting places around the world to chase even stranger game animals. Most of us won’t ever get a chance to go to a big outfitter one day halfway around the world, and so we can somewhat live vicariously through hunting videos. However, if you have the means and determination to visit a different location and pursue an animal you haven’t before, these hunting shows offer a glimpse at what you’re getting yourself into. 

It’s Not Always about the Kill

Many hunting programs of the past really focused on the end result: BBD (Big Buck Down). Recently, however, there’s been a noticeable shift in outdoor television. It’s not only about the kill anymore. It’s about camaraderie around the camp, being out in nature to unwind, and just watching one of your favorite animals. A fat doe in the freezer or a nice mature buck in the back of the truck is just the cherry on top. We should reflect this societal change in our own hunting styles. Look at hunting as more than just killing an animal, because that’s such a small part of the overall picture and appeal. You know what they say. A bad day in the woods is better than a good day at work.

It's Not Always about the Kill | Head Hunters TV

So the next time someone criticizes you for sitting and watching hours of hunting shows, tell them you’re just studying to become a better hunter. Most of us are visual learners, so what better way is there to do so short of actually hunting yourself? Over the course of a year, you can pick up many lessons that you can apply to next season. Have fun studying!