Category: Hunting Videos
Jim’s 2012 Hunting Log

Jim’s 2012 hunting log

Well it has been a busy season for me.  As the season progresses, and we have some rainy days during our late muzzleloader season, I am going to begin to provide our members with my daily log of hunting activities.

 

In my view, updating my log book is one of the most important activities I do.  I try to get in as many details as possible about weather and wind, but most importantly, what activity did I see?  How many does, bucks and fawns did I see?  How were they moving?  What were they doing?

 

I will use this information to compile data, such as what are the doe to buck ratios?  How many does per hour and bucks per hour am I seeing?  What is the pattern of use of the different areas of the property?

 

Doe to buck ratios are terribly important. In my opinion, doe to buck ratios and bucks per hour are the 2 most important pieces of information I collect.  Now I am going to say something very important, so I am going to say it really loud.  DOE TO BUCK RATIOS DO NOT GIVE ME MUCH INFORMATION ABOUT THE STRUCTURE OF THE HERD IN MY AREA.

 

What?  How can that be?  The reason I say that is because the main influence of doe to buck ratios, as observed by a hunter, is not how many does and bucks are in the area, but is rather an indication of whether the hunter is sitting in the right spots, and how good his hunting techniques are.  If you are hunting in an area that has, let’s say, 2 does per buck in reality, it is easy to set up conditions such that you see 20 does per buck while hunting.  Here is my prescription for doing that.  Do not use good scent control, and set up mainly at the edges of large food sources like bean fields and hay fields.

 

What will happen is that you will quickly train the deer about your location. They will steer clear of you but you will still see doe families coming out into the field right near dusk and dawn.  But you won’t see many bucks because they are going to lurk in heavy cover.

 

Now, let’s suppose that in the same area, with the 2 to one doe to buck ratio, you hunt in an area of heavy cover with high amounts of browse in a funnel between bedding and large food sources.  Now you might see one doe per buck.  In reality there are two, but you have chosen to set up in a spot where bucks check out the doe families as they move to and from food.   Each doe family may take a different route to the food, but the bucks are cruising and hitting the spots where each doe group travels, so you tend to see more bucks than you would by the large food source.

 

Now how do you go about counting deer?  First, it is important to understand that when biologists talk about doe to buck ratios, they are talking about deer that are at least 1.5 years old.  So fawns have to be separated out of the equation.  I create 4 categories of deer.  Bucks, does, fawns, and unknowns.  Unknowns are deer that I saw briefly or at such a distance that I could not tell what they were.  Doe to buck ratios mean only the number of adult does to the number of bucks.

 

Another important criterion is to distinguish unique sightings from continuous sightings.  For example, if I see a doe and fawn enter a thicket and then a short time later emerge, that is a single sighting of a doe and fawn.  I have to use reason and logic to estimate.  Now, suppose I see a buck pass by me headed west in the morning at 8 a.m.  Later, I see the same buck, at 10:00 a.m., moving back through the same area.  Is that one sighting or is it two?  It is counted as two buck sightings.  This is an essential ingredient if your goal is to get a ratio of doe to buck sightings.  The reason is that you cannot usually uniquely identify does the way you can bucks.  So if a doe moved through at 8 a.m. and you saw another doe at 10 a.m., you would have to count it as two sightings because you don’t know if it was the same doe or not.  In order to account for repeated doe sightings, it is essential to count the buck sightings in the same way you would doe sightings.  Otherwise you will repeat counting does but not bucks.

 

This makes more sense if you think about it from one day to the next instead of a couple of hours apart.  If I see a doe move across a food plot on Monday, I count that as a doe sighting.  If I see a doe take the same path on a Tuesday, I count that as another doe sighting.  I don’t know whether it was the same doe or not, but even if it was, it is counted as a new sighting.  Similarly, if I see a buck crossing the food plot each of those days, I count it as two buck sightings, even if I know it was the same buck.  In this manner, you get a correct estimate of the number of does per buck you are seeing because the repeats balance out.

 

Biologists, when doing trail camera surveys, have the luxury of identifying each buck from the photograph and correcting the doe sample proportionally.  We don’t have that luxury because we often get just brief glimpses of bucks and do not always know if we have seen them before.

 

If possible, it is a good idea to count unique buck sightings as well, because this will give you an estimate of how many unique bucks you have.

 

Now a word about the usefulness of my data for you as a hunter. Each of us has to decide what kind of hunter we are.  I classify myself as an opportunistic hunter.  I want to maximize my enjoyment in the woods.  If I were a trophy hunter, I would hunt much differently than I do.  But my main goal is to capitalize on seeing and observing the behavior of as many deer as I can, and hopefully harvesting at least one buck in the top 10% for my area each year.  Now, I am not saying here that I do not want to kill a trophy buck, don’t all of us?  But that is not a single-minded goal or I would hunt much differently than I do.

 

I would spend more time scouting, whether it be a stand situated where I can see a lot of the property, roadside access using binoculars and spotting scopes, and shining fields at night when it is legal (up to December 15th).

 

I would hunt a lot less often.  In fact, I put 10-30 sits per month in from October to November.  That is way too many sits for the 195 acres of property I hunt.

 

I would often be hunting areas where I might go a long stretch without seeing a deer, because I would be moving in on the haunts of the giant bucks in thick sanctuaries. I don’t do that because I like lots of activity and am easily bored.

 

In short, if you are mainly a trophy hunter, do not copy my hunting routines.  Many of the methods I use may be useful to you, but probably not my routines of frequent 2-3 hour sits, very few all day sits, entering and leaving the property mornings and evenings, having my camera in hand rather than my weapon, taking risks moving around to video or photograph all of the deer activity I see rather than sitting still and waiting for Mr. Big, and most importantly shooting a nice buck  instead of always waiting for Mr. Big.  There are countless books and articles about how to hunt for trophy deer. What I am practicing is what I call QDH, or Quality Deer Hunting.  I am going to see lots of deer, lots of bucks, lots of rubbing and scraping, lots of sparring and posturing, enjoy constant amusement and a learning experience, kill several deer every year, providing my family and friends with lots of venison, and have a much better than average chance of bagging a big buck.  But much of what I do lessens my chances of doing so, and I know it.

 

I talk about 4 properties I hunt. Behind the house is my 13 acre home property. Beecher (or Gardner) road is my 130 acre Hillsdale county farm.  The Gravel Pit is the 47 acre property near my home and adjacent to my mother in law’s property, and the Held property belongs to Emma Held, my mother in law, and is 60 acres right across the road from my home.

 

October 1st  Opening day SKUNK.

Well, I started off the season with what I hope will be one of my few skunks of the season.    My October 1st morning hunt really started the night before with all the activity I watched from my barn window.  Even though it was a full moon there was lots of activity behind the house in the evening.  Several bucks and does were seen moving from food plot to food plot.  Some even came up into the yard.  I made a video of all that activity and it is available here.

 

 

So I decided to get up and at it at 5 a.m.  As usual on the first day of the season I took longer for everything getting prepared.  Went to the barn, took my shower, got my gear together, carried my crossbow and boot bin out to the back of the yard, but forgot something and had to go back.  By the time I got back and into the stand,  which is located deep into the SE end of the property, it was already getting light in advance of the 7:45 a.m. sunrise.

 

But with a moon minor (moon set) in the morning, and nice cool temperatures around 40 degrees, and all the activity I had seen the previous night, I went for it.  But I made one major mistake.   As I was walking back, I wondered why the weeds were so high—then it hit me—I was taking the wrong path back.  I had planned on skirting the east edge of my property so that deer could not see me from my neighbor’s open hay field as I walked across the yard from the barn.  I had taken a path I had not mowed, and so was likely leaving scent as my pants brushed against the weeds, and worse yet, any deer back in that field would likely have seen me as I left the barn.  Long story short, I made a rookie mistake and got skunked.

 

All I saw to shoot was a lousy ground hog.  I thought about the probably $15 price tag of the shot, and passed.  I only have a 3 arrow capacity for my quiver, so unlike Jake, I do not carry an extra arrow for such opportunities.

3 hours, 0 deer.

 

October 2nd:  Killed a doe

Wind was from the west and pretty brisk 6-14 mph, about 60 degrees. I had shots at 3 does.  One was at 35 yards, too risky for the crossbow.  One was moving towards a sensitive sanctuary area, only 10 yards from the stand but too much risk that I would screw up the buck hunting going forward.  The third was perfect. About 17 yards away, and I felt her escape route would not take her into a sensitive sanctuary.  I was right (this time).  The first doe was spotted right near the Held fence line back in the brush.  She was there for about 45 minutes from 5:00-5:45.  Now and then I could see a fawn with her.  They were straight down wind of me the whole time.  At around 6 I heard noise to my left and saw a doe and two fawns move through on the channel bottom. They went up into the lane and into the food plot S of the cabin.

They were there for at least ½ hour.  A group of turkeys came through while they were there.  Finally, the deer trickled away down the lane.  Then the dark brown doe that had been east of me came by with two fawns.  She headed for the cornfield.  I had a 35 yard shot but chose not to take it.  A 35 yard shot with a crossbow is very risky.  And I did not want to take a chance of an off shot resulting in me contaminating the property with a long tracking job.  Soon after, a light colored doe and two fawns came along her same route but turned into my food plot.  I waited until she was broadside and shot her.

 

I had to slowly raise my crossbow while she was behind an oak limb.  She was moving somewhat towards me and quartered to. Finally she turned broadside and I shot. I thought that she was at 20 yards but it was probably closer to 15.  I aimed between recticle 1 and 2, which was a mistake.  My shot was high plus I pulled it.  She double kicked and ran ahead a few yards while her fawns ran towards the cornfield.  I watched her for several seconds; finally she did a death run back down the path she came from.  I had another 1.5 hours plus until dark so kept hunting.  Saw nothing else.  I could see a little blood on her trail out of the plot but for the life of me could not see the blinking lighted nock.  It was there and blinking but I did not see it until I got out of the tree.  It began to rain lightly.  I followed her track almost to the other side of the point of woods, when I got turned around and headed back towards the stand.  I was meticulously tracking and did not realize I was on the same track going in the wrong direction.  Finally I figured it out and decided to go get toilet paper, dry clothes, and better lights.  I got back on her track around 9 p.m., and leaving a piece of toilet paper on the blood sign along the way, was able to stay on her path, and followed it straight through as noted in red on the map.  She died in the food plot as a result of a lung-liver shot.   Brought old blue back and pulled her out by the trailer hitch.

Going to get the truck after finding her:

Dragging her out:

 

Photo for Michigan Sportsman’s Forum contest:

Live weight was 145 lbs. Dressed weight was 105.  Age was 2.5.

3 hours, 3 does, 6 fawns.

 

October 6th.  Went back to the ‘Small Oak Stand” (1st stand on the map below) behind the cabin in the Gravel Pit.  Low 60s.  Wind was supposed to be from the NW and was when I went to the barn but by the time I was dressed and walking along the edge of the cornfield it was blowing straight from the east.  When I got to the tree there I turned and started walking towards the ladder when a deer came running towards me.  It was a doe fawn.  Mom was back behind her looking back at me.  I stood there for about 30 seconds.  I began swaying back and forth and they just watched.  Finally the fawn ran away and the doe turned broadside.  I raised my crossbow up just to see if I could have shot her and I could have.  They finally ran off blowing. So I decided not to sit there but instead walked off to the Giant Oak (2nd stand on the map) by the creek thinking she may have spooked any bucks that were bedding to the west.  Around 5:15 I was settled in the stand when I saw deer feeding in the creek food plot.  It was a doe and two fawns.  They took about 20 minutes making their way to the grass field.   The doe became very alert and spooky.  I thought she had picked up odor from my tracks but was not sure.  She went out into the field and then back to the plot and then out to the field.  Over the next half hour she worked her way to the very oak tree I originally intended to sit in.  After a while a buck came out by Erick’s property line (west property line) about half way between the creek and lane.  He too worked his way over to the oak trees with the acorns.

 

Later I saw two and then three bucks sparring there, including the first one.  He was what I call a super-spike with very long main beams but no points.  All three of these young bucks sparred for about ½ hour.  I could see that there were at least two does and two fawns over there as well.  Finally a big buck came by and broke everything up.  The younger bucks stopped fighting.  After a minute I saw brown bodies hurtling towards the west into the woods.

 

Two bucks fighting third is working licking branch.  They took turns doing this.

3 hours 3 does 4 bucks, 2 fawns.

 

October 7th.  Went straight for the spot where all the action was last night.  Got rained on going in.  I had checked the Doppler and it looked clear but I still got pretty wet by the time I got out there.  Wind was blowing straight to the east.  Temperature was about 50 degrees.   As I was screwing in my bow holder, I looked over my left shoulder and saw a young buck standing about 30 yards away staring at me.  He was west of me near the woods edge.   He slowly walked away to the south and I settled in.  Soon there were brown bodies coming down my lane from the creek food plot.  They made their way into the area in front of me.  One walked to the oak tree off to the right.  The other came in a bit closer.  There were two fawns with them.  Both does went on alert.  They smelled something.  Jake told me he had the same thing happen and abandoned his hunt. Apparently the air was right for the formation of a poison mushroom as Bill Vale calls it.  My scent was dropping to the ground and alerting deer.  They all ran off to the east.  In spite of my extreme scent control the atmospheric conditions, the heavy wet air, caused my scent to drop right to the ground and linger.

3 hours, 1 buck, 2 does, 2 fawns.

 

October 16th.  Held east food plot.  Got back there around 4;30.  Sat in the stand to the east.  At about 5 a doe came behind me headed N to S to the CRP field with a fawn in tow.  Soon a buck walked out and worked a licking branch on the small cedar tree, then drank some water, then began to feed in the food plot to the north of the tree.  He had noticed a doe and two fawns off to my left.  The fawns were running around like crazy.  The buck fawn ran around the snow fence in circles 4 times.   The main wind in the field was from the ESE but the wind where I was sitting came right from the south and that doe stood in my wind for several minutes.

 

I shot the doe and the buck ran off.  I could not find the doe that night.   Found her in the morning but it was too late.  She had been hit by coyotes and buzzards and I lost the hind quarters and only got front quarters and loins.

She ran about 60 yards before showing blood. I searched for hours and added about 50 yards to the trail.  Then lost it.  In the morning there were buzzards in the field by the rock islands.

 

I did a short grid search of the field before dark and saw two bucks, one a possible shooter (3&4 on the map) in the field. I tried to sneak towards them but it got to be too close to dark to be realistic.  If I had gone about 75 yards further I might have found the doe that evening.

Upon reviewing the video the next day I discovered that there was another buck in the food plot, much bigger than the 1st fork, that ran out of the plot ahead of the smaller one.  IN the picture, the smaller rack is the first buck and the larger rack is the bigger one that I never saw until reviewing the video.

3 hours, 2 does, 3 fawns, 3 bucks (I did not count buck number 2 because I never saw him even though he was right there to see.

 

October 21.  Sunday evening.  Sat in the oak tree right behind the cabin in the Gravel Pit.     Temps in low 60s.  Wind mainly from south.  Got in and settled by 4:30.  Saw a doe go E-W out of the creek food plot.  Then, a buck with very wide antlers working a licking branch just north of the creek (1-3.5 in yellow).  I estimated him at 3.5.  He headed into Erick’s property.  Later, another deer (unknown) moving North by the big oak in the center of the field.  About 6, a doe came running out of the woods to my right (doe 3).  She was followed by a basket rack 1.5 yo.  To my left was a fork with tiny antlers, then another 1.5 came from the woods NE of me, engaged with the first buck.  Then a 2.5 yo perfect 8 came out to my right and started thrashing the oak limb 30 yards to my right.  He stood on his hind legs and worked it, then kicked dirt like a bull in a ring.  Soon a 3.5 year old 8 point and then a 4.5+ 10 point came out.  He did a head feint and cause everybody else to scatter.   I did not have a shot at Mr. Big because he was behind the tree in front of me, straight north.  He worked his way to the NW but was always in those branches. I tried to rattle him back to no avail.  All this time, I was adjusting video camera to get shots of all the different bucks (6 in total all within 35 yards of me at once), only to discover when I got home that I had not pressed the record button hard enough.  One of the most exciting hunts of the last few years and I did not get it on video.

3 hours, 4 does, 7 bucks, 1 unknown.

 

October 22.  Went out to the same tree in the morning.  Temp in the 50s.  At 7:50 a.m. I saw a buck moving S to N in the woods to my right east of me).   He looked to be a possible 3.5 year old with a gnarly left antler.  He was walking like he was tired and I didn’t get a great look.  A young buck behind him caught me moving and stared for a while but then moved on without concern.  At 8:25 I was cleaning the lenses on my binoculars when I heard a deer blow.  She was just behind the trunk of the oak 30 yards to my right (slightly NE).  She had caught me moving and took off.  There were two other does and 4 fawns with them.  Later 1 doe moved S to N towards the west end of the creek.

4 hours, 4 does, 2 bucks, 4 fawns.

 

October 26th.   Went to the Big Oak (red star) by the creek food plot in the Gravel Pit.  Wind was from NNW.  A deer ran off in the thicket to my right about half way from the big maple to the big oak on my walk in.  Not a good sign.  This winter I need to go in there and wreck any good spots for bedding.   Got out there about 4 p.m.  Saw two does and two fawns over in the grass (white line).  I made a noise raising my binoculars and alerted one of the does when she got into the food plot.  After a few minutes they turned, went across to the N woods, and were there for the next hour or so.  At some point she saw me move and locked on to me from all the way across the field.  She blew for quite a while.  Then settled down.  After a few minutes she led the group back into the field and went west.  Soon they were followed by two basket racks and a fork (yellow).  One of the basket racks followed the line up to where the doe family had been, the other two followed the eventual track of the doe family.  All disappeared to the west and I saw nothing until dark.  I need to make some changes to this location.  It is a great spot to catch deer close to bedding, but it seems I am too visible from there to deer to my

 

3 hours, 2 does, 3 bucks, two fawns.

October 27th.   Wind from North.  High 30s.  Sat in the west hang-on by the big oak near Erick’s property line.  Saw a doe over in Erick’s green area move from N to S (1).  I heard lots of blowing over in the heavy cover there.   Soon a doe came out and she locked on to my trail in and was following it towards me (2), when she was accosted by a buck that chased her back to Erick’s (3).  I think the doe was just following ground disturbance as she did not seem on alert at all.  He was an 8-point wannabe 10 point.  He harassed her for a while and then disappeared into the N woods on Erick’s place.

 

About 9:10 a young buck walked through just N of my stand (4).  I thought he was a fork on the left and spike on the right but it turns out on close inspection of the video he was a 7 point!

At 8:45 there was a basket rack (5 point?) in the green area NE of the stand (5).  A few minutes later a couple of does and 3 fawns quickly passed along the creek and over to the area of my giant oak (6).  Later I saw at least 1 doe and fawn running across the NE grass area, and they were pursued by the young buck that was up there (7). I heard blowing towards the north for about a 15 minute period. I could see a small fawn up there by the fence line staring back in the direction of the blowing.   At 10:18 a doe and fawn came in and bedded down near the big oak on Erick’s line for about 6 hours.   At 10:21 a small buck came in following them, circled and left to the N.   I did not want to disturb the doe and fawn.  I could see them laying there for the next several hours.  Had planned on leaving at midday but they changed my plans and I stayed for the whole day.

 

At mid-day about 25 turkeys came by my stand checking for acorns under the big oak.  They were followed by several more.

 

At 2:30 a doe came from the direction of the big oak stand and passed through my shooting trail to the N, then worked her way north (9).  A small buck came through W to E at 5:30 on the same track (10).  At 5:48 a doe came E to W (11).  At 6:45 a small buck went right under my stand to the E (12) and out into the grass area S of me.  He met up with a herd of turkeys and had to wait his turn to go into Erick’s woods.

11 hours, 6 does, 6 bucks 5 fawns.