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    A Story of Success

    A Story of Success

    So there I was. Sitting 15' up in a tall old oak tree. The sound of sleet pelting off of the leaves around me like rain off of a rooftop. It was a cool brisk November morning as the sun began to rise and little did I know this morning would become one that I'd never forget. 

    The story truly starts with my life in the outdoors. From a young age I have been obsessed with the rush of hunting the elusive whitetail deer. Many years of careful management and countless hours of scouting have led me to endless success from year to year. This is one of those stories of success. With the many bucks that were on my property in 2011, there was a handfull of mature deer in the area as well as young bucks that showed promise. Any hunter would be excited to see the progress that those deer would go through in the next year or two to come. One of my target bucks for the next year was a buck I nicknamed "Splits". A few encounters with this buck at 2 1/2 years old showed me that he could grow to be something special. As the season came to a close I already couldn't wait until spring when I could put in the hours to find his sheds. That spring I did just that. Reassured that he made it through winter I was excited for the growth he was about to put on.

    Needless to say, in 2012 all hunters took a blow to their whitetail heard. EHD had taken over the Midwest. Hunters had to go through the pain of finding deer after deer who had fallen victim to EHD. This is no different. Early August I decided to put my cameras out in hopes to get Splits and many other corebucks on camera. As the month came and passed only a few had shown their faces. He was not in those few. September slowly passed and as it came to an end I began to worry. After the news of EHD quickly spread, I feared the worst. I walked my property with a sinking stomach after finding five mature hit list bucks who had perished to the disease. I figured that the buck I had been hoping to see soon was one of the bucks who had experienced death in this year. As I worried, October finally brought hope. 

    It was the first week of October when I finally got Splits on camera. Although he finally showed up, what I saw was not promising. He looked very malnourished and unhealthy. I figured it would only be a matter of time and he as well would expire.  To my surprise he began to add weight and I saw him off and on that year. The next year would pass and he began to show that he was going to become what I call now my success story. Trail camera pictures and encounters with this buck were just amazing. He continued to grow as I couldn't wait until he was a hit list buck. In 2014 he was at the age of 5 1/2 years old and I knew this was my year to make this buck my obsession. 

    That summer he blew up even more than what I was expecting. I was guessing this buck to score at least 170". I was running trail cameras all over the property to get as much information about his movement and feeding habits as I possibly could. Come September, I sat every day that I could. Every sit I felt was going to be my day., yet every time I seemed to be one step behind. After countless hours and days, I didn't give up and I wasn't about to. October came and went and along with the rut, this deer seemed to elude every move I made. For years I tracked this buck's movements. From bedding areas, rub lines, scrape lines, and everywhere he frequented I hunted hoping to get my one shot. My goal however was to take this trophy with my bow before neighbors had a chance to cut me short come rifle season. It seemed I never could succeed day after day, until the last day before gunshots would ring out throughout the county. On the last day I saw this buck for the first time of the year as the sun set over the corn field and broam grass slowly disappearing through the trees. With it I watch him slowly fade over the hill on the tail of a hit doe. My stomach sank and all I could do was hope that come opening morning he didn't become victim to the neighbor hunting right where he was headed. Come opening morning as I sat with all eyes open, the sun began rising with birds chirping and steam rising from the night's frost. Within the peaceful morning the calm was ended. Multiple shots rang out in the last direction I wanted to hear. A few minutes passed. I called my neighbor and all he could get out was that he missed a monster of a buck and he didn't think he hit him. With the thought in my head that with three or more shots he didn't hit this buck, I decided to walk the creek bed in hopes that I either did or didn't find blood or him. I found nothing. Days went by and the deer that I had every morning on select cameras transformed into a ghost.

    A week went by and still nothing. I felt as if the deer I had been watching grow for three years had just disappeared. The night of November 18th I decided to do a card pull before I went back off to college and I couldn't have been happier with what I saw. Splits was back, but I noticed something strange. He looked as if he wasn't putting weight on one of his front legs. I knew that this must have been a gunshot wound from days earlier. As I went to bed that night, I knew what I was going to have to do. I skipped school and put my gear on. I woke before the sun rose and made my way to the tree. It was a morning that you just have that feeling. It just felt right. As I sat in that great big oak there was little movement. It was 20 degrees with nasty sleet hitting the snow covered grounds. The sun broke the skyline and I could see a few does feeding out in front of me about 100 yards or so. The steam from their bodies rose into the air. Time went by and nothing. Nothing but cold and the still timber and me with my gun. It was peaceful for sure. I decided to pick up the antlers and my grunt call and make some noise. Without time to even put them down, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. I looked over and I knew exactly who it was. Raising my gun and looking through that scope all I could see was antlers and steam coming from his nose. It was picture perfect and so was my shot. As the smoke cleared I saw nothing. Three years and months of planning came down to seconds on November 19th, 2014. As I walked to the opening in the cedar thicket he lay not 10 yards from where he was last standing. I've shot many bucks that people consider trophies but this was my buck of a lifetime. Moral of the story is that with hunting, there are many ups and downs. Many high and lows. A trophy doesn't have to be a monster. A trophy is a trophy to you because of what that deer means to you. All the hours and strategy that you put in to play. All that you've been through. The decisions to let them pass and to let them grow. Decisions well made. Splits ended up scoring 189 6/8" net. He had made it through EHD and against all odds, he survived being shot. He was a warrior. When it comes down to that moment of truth, it's only you and your story of success. 


    - Cameron Milke
    Bucks of Nebraska Pro Staff

    My Journey Learning the Ins and Outs of Trail Cameras

    My Journey Learning the Ins and Outs of Trail Cameras

    Just over the past few years, Ive become more interested in deer hunting and all the preparations that come with it. With each season, I learn more and more about the sport and what all it takes to make my hunts successful. One of the most important things that Ive learned is getting everything prepared earlier in the year and not letting the season sneak up on you. There are many things you need to do to get started for the season, just a few things are sighting in your rifle/bow, food plots, mineral sights, and my favorite; trail cameras! Ill share with you everything Ive learned about the ins and outs of trail cameras.


    When to put them out
    If you don’t leave yours out all year, then the earlier the better. The whole purpose of having a trail camera is to learn what deer you have and their patterns and movements before season gets here. I keep some of mine out year-round just because I enjoy seeing what all goes on during the off season. It is also helpful having them out right after the season ends so you can see which bucks in your area survived the season or not (and hopefully they come back bigger and better the next year). The cameras that I dont keep out all year, I try to have back out at least 3 months before season starts back to learn as much as possible. Putting them out a few months before season gives you time to move one if you aren’t getting any action. If a whole month goes by without anything more than the occasional doe, finding a new spot might be best.


    The placement of your camera is probably one of the most important things I have learned. Youll need to put the time and effort into scouting out the best locations for your cameras in order to have success. I keep at least one on our green fields to see what kind of traffic we have coming in and out of there and at what time of day theyre usually passing through. Ive noticed we have had the most success with big buck pictures by walking deep into the woods and looking for fresh scrapes and rubs. Find a small tree nearby your scrape to see what size buck you have coming in. Heavily used trails to a water source are also ideal spots for a camera. Always be sure to keep long branches and weeds out of the view of your camera so you dont end up with thousands of pictures of nothing. There is nothing worse than waiting two weeks to check a camera and having your card filled up with hundreds of pictures of tree branches!


    In order to get the most out of your trail camera, youll need to have something that keeps them coming consistently. There seems to be an endless supply of options out there when it comes to choosing an attractant. Im always trying new things to see what works best in our area. The one Id say that Ive had the most luck out of is Deer Cane Black Magic by Evolved Habitats. The newest one Ive tried is Persimmon Crush by Wild Game Innovations, it seemed to have some success with many does and a few young bucks. If all else fails, there is always good old-fashioned corn which they are guaranteed to love.


    Leave your camera alone
    This is the always the hardest part for me! When I set a camera up on what I feel is a good location, I get excited and literally want to check it every day. As tough as it is to wait, patience is essential. Checking your camera too often will spook the deer and ruin a good spot. No matter how quiet you are every time, they know that you have been there. After setting up your camera, give it about two weeks before you check back up on it. 

    Maintaining your camera
    Keeping your camera running properly is key. Its important to keep good batteries in it at all times. Ive noticed that when I have low batteries, but not 100% dead, my camera will still miss pictures and the sensor wont work as well. Theres no point in having the camera if you dont keep well working batteries in it. Organizing your photos makes it easier to keep up with the bucks in your area and their progression over the years. I really enjoy getting to watch how the smaller bucks grow each season, and I keep my folders organized so its easy for me to go back and look.




    Its been a fun learning experience for me learning how to use my trail cameras and figuring out what I need to do to have success with it. I love seeing the wildlife that lives in my area, whether it’s a bobcat, a coyote, does, or the big buck Ive been hoping for. Seeing a big buck on my camera keeps it exciting for me, and keeps me coming back day after day during the season. After seeing a buck on my camera last season and knowing he was out there, it gave me the drive to hunt every day for nearly three weeks until I saw him. Using trail cameras has been not only a fun, but a rewarding experience as well!

    Until next time,

    Haley Milberger
    Bucks of Alabama Pro Staff

    The Great Penn State

    The Great Penn State

    Penn State is an amazing football school in Pennsylvania. Penn State has a huge following of fans that converge on Happy Valley, when the Nittany Lions plays at home. In 1887 the program started. PSU has a tradition of putting out great Linebackers who have gone on to play in the NFL.

    Coach Joe Patterno was the coach who really put PSU on the map. Penn State has had to rebuild its reputation due to some problems from one of the assistant coaches. Over the past few years the faithful PSU fans have seen a new program take place and become nationally ranked again.

    PSU has won two NCAA National Championships. They won in 1982 and 1986 and have been in 46 bowl games. Many youth players in Pennsylvania dream of one day playing for the Blue and White.

    Brian R. Kightlinger
    Bucks of Pennsylvania - Head of State

    Life of a Woman Huntress

    Life of a Woman Huntress

    Being a woman huntress may not be the way of life for some but for me I wouldn't have it any other way. I am a 38 year old wife and mother of four. Hunting is my getaway from reality. Like I said I am a mother of four, and well... now a stay-at-home mother of two, the other two have since graduated and moved on in their own lives.

    When I first started hunting it was a challenge tying to be a mom and learning how to hunt at the same time. I hunt deer, turkey and squirrel as of now but would love to experience hunting other wild game one day. Hunting to me is relaxing and a great stress reliever I'm sure I'm not the only woman that feels this way. I just truly love and enjoy being outdoors it is my favorite hobby by far. All it takes is that first time experiencing the thrill of taking a deer, turkey or whatever to gets you hooked.

    I got my youngest daughter into hunting at the age 7 and when I took her deer hunting for the first time she got a three point buck with a 243 youth model rifle. I don't know who was more excited, me or her... but I do know that experiencing that with a child was the one of the best moments in my life.

    So to sum it all up being a woman who hunts is the best hobby I ever started.


    Melody Hollon
    Bucks of Kentucky, Pro Staff

    How Coyote Hunting Helps with Predator Control

    How Coyote Hunting Helps with Predator Control

    Coyotes aren’t the safest animals to be around. They are quite unpredictable and have been known to attack children on and off. In the past two decades, there has been a rise in the population of coyotes. You can easily note that with more and more sightings of coyotes in states in the Atlantic Coast such as North Carolina. They are even spotted in areas where you would never expect to see them.

    Coyotes moved from the West to the South and eventually around the US. The rise in population of coyotes had an impact and led to a decline in the population of deers in the region. Studies conducted in South Carolina concluded that anywhere from 40 to 80% of the drop in population of whitetail fawn was due to coyotes. In Alabama the percentage of the whitetail fawn mortality to coyotes is at about 67%. So the coyotes have become a predator in the area and have started to affect the ecosystem.


    Defend the ecosystem

    It’s not just whitetail fawn that have taken a dip in population. Other smaller animals like rabbits and smaller deers have also become a target of coyotes. Due to the high mortality rate of animals because of the coyote being a predator, you can find many groups that promote the hunting of coyote. This is a major reason why it has become a sport especially during the winter time. It helps control the population of coyotes which is currently on the rise.


    Currently, most coyote hunting takes place in the winter. If we were to really aim to improve the population of deers and other animals that are targeted by coyotes then the hunting would need to be expanded into spring time also. The current tactic of hunting in the winter only has an impact but only to an extent. The coyote population is quite large at the moment and therefore hunting would need to be done in more than one season to really control it. The spring is a good time because that is when coyotes target a lot of the deer population.


    Hunting coyotes 

    Most hunters trap coyotes first and then shoot them. It isn’t easy to trap coyotes as they are quite clever. It is much tougher for beginners because setting trap and getting yourself ready for the hunt is not an easy task. So you should do your research, get the best possible trap before you set yourself out for the hunt. Otherwise, there is a good chance you will end up catching nothing at all.

    Coyote hunting is still picking up steam. It isn’t as popular as other hunting sports like deer hunting. With time and as the coyote population rises, more and more people will turn to the sport. The fact that it isn’t easy and requires proper planning and skills will make it quite popular amongst those that like a challenge. Only then will it lead to predator control.