This article was recently published in WWW.Dannerholz Whitetails.com.

Antlers are bone! They are not horn, which is a modified hair cell. Since antlers are shed annually, they need to regrow each season. Now is when that antler growth is crucial.

Bones on deer heads begin at the Pedicle! This bump is found on the buck’s foreheads. Antlers grow up from the Pedicle and detach at the same point. Proper pedicle development will determine quality antlers. Pedicles develop after birth and take about 4-5 months to show up. Once the young buck begins to produce testosterone, and gain appropriate weight, the bony protrusions, antlers, will begin to grow.

Young bucks can determine the health of a deer population. Body growth supports the growth of the pedicle, and later the antlers.

Mature bucks drop, or shed, their antlers at the end of winter. New antlers immediately begin to form. It was once thought that the bucks shed antlers because they became too heavy and broke off. In fact, the blood flow ceased, and the antler bases eventually pull free. A tinge of blood is common on the pedicle and antler bases.

DNA is a big part of bucks with big antlers. The racks grow in mass and size until about 6-7 years of age. Then the antlers begin to grow smaller. If proper food and health are consistent, the Buck will add tines and thickness to what becomes a great rack.

Bucks with young, small antlers, or spikes, were once thought to be inferior. These bucks were targeted as cull deer. It turns out that a buck with spikes inn their first season can become great branched bucks as they mature. Button bucks are often late born fawns. Bucks that are healthy will produce their first polished antler by 6-7 months of age. One reason for this is the immature pedicle. As the pedicle increases in size, so will the antlers. It is not uncommon for spikes to mature late in December and be shed in February.

When the blood flow stops nourishing the velvet and antler, the velvet will fall off. This is when the buck polishes their antlers. There is no itching or pain since bone, antler, have no nerves in it. When bucks rub on trees, they are shining up their headgear to attract does. The velvet is often eaten by the young deer or other deer in the herd. Does also eat the afterbirth. These are the only times when deer may be considered an omnivore.

Spike antlers that are smooth and consistent in size and shape are a trait of healthy bucks. If a bur, uneven length, or other irregularity shows up, it shows the buck has undergone trauma or is unhealthy. Spikes less than 3 inches long are a sign of less maturity and a later drop fawn. Late season velvet covered bucks are in this category. Since most fawns are born in late April and May, they are often enjoying a food filled Spring. This begins the healthy nutrition for these future bucks.

Yearling bucks can have branched antlers. Forks, 3×3, or even small 4×4 racks can occur when weather, genetics, nutrition, and quality of life all fall into place. Bucks living around ideal food crops, agriculture, or food plots can fall into this category. True trophy racks happen for just a few seasons.

When fawns are born really late, they may show no noticeable antlers. These button bucks are often harvested during antlerless deer seasons. Bucks can be born in August and September if a late previous Rut occurred. These deer will also have a harder time surviving the Winter. Nutrition decreases as the Fall becomes Winter. If these bucks do survive, the next season can get back on track for more normal antler growth.

The photoperiod determines when bucks shed, Rut, and go into reproduction mode. Day length is critical as the clock to determine healthy cycles. The longer the days, the more plants can grow. The more plants, the more available food and cover.

Stress is also a determining factor for antler growth. Areas with more predators means that the deer are chased, or under constant stress. Suburban areas or places near railroads or traffic means more car strikes and mortality. Social stress also is at issue. When bucks compete for which Does, that they want to mate with, injury, broken antlers, and stress are a problem. In extreme battles, antlers may lock up or end in death. Young spike bucks are willing but bigger bucks will often horn in on the action. The goal is for Does to mate with the strongest and the fittest. It is not uncommon for does to mate with several bucks. Spike bucks can fall into this group even if their DNA does not add to the gene pool. At least they learn what to do. The DNA from a healthy spike buck could be of high quality to produce future trophy bucks.

Mature Does ultimately produce each year’s best quality bucks. Since they are dominant and familiar with the habitat, they know where the best food, cover, and survival areas are. They also tend to breed with only the better and bigger bucks.

The overall population of an area also will impact antler growth. More deer means more competition for food, bedding, reproduction, and quality living space. Fortunately, these areas also are the homes of predators like coyotes, wolves, lions, and regional predators. Disease also shows up in areas with bigger, more crowded populations. Thinning the herd assures survival of the stronger and healthier critters. As the deer herd changes in population size, so will the predator base.

Like most things in life, “The One Thing” is that there is “Never just One Thing!”. Annual buck antler size is a symptom of a healthy or stressed deer herd. Even in a trophy deer management area, harvests of big antlers changes with the weather and other conditions. Therefore, when a hunter harvests a really great buck, it may be their buck of a lifetime.

Enjoy the Big Boned Bucks when you can!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him loving deer at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

This article was recently posted in the Maryland Fishing and Hunting Journal.

Shills, Palominos, Bananas, or Rainbow Albinos are all the same. These names refer to the Golden Trout. You can catch these hatchery reared hybrid trout in Maryland, Pennsylvania, other states, and in their home state of West Virginia. True wild Golden Trout exist in western lakes and originated in California.

Golden trout are not natural or a native species, they are hybrids. Many trout purists’ frown upon these colorful and strong fighters. Remember the saying that, “you can’t catch a fish that you can see,” holds true with the golden trout. They stand out like sore thumbs in the river, but rarely give your bait or lure a look. Anglers will sit on these Golden Beauties all day without netting one.

Biologically, Golden trout will not reproduce naturally with other species. Since the fish do not need to reproduce, food and energy goes into their muscle and size. They grow fast, fight hard, and offer variety to stocked fisheries.

We all enjoy catching fish but catching unique fish adds to the fun. Catching a golden fish is even cooler. Maryland stocks these hybrids in the waters where Put and Take fishing is allowed.

Golden Trout originated in West Virginia. The Petersburg Hatchery worked for years to isolate the golden gene that led to this unique, mutated, rainbow trout subspecies. It took West Virginia several years to develop this strain. In 1949, West Virginia received 10,000 rainbow trout fry from a California strain of rainbow trout. All but 300 died. These fish were bred over the years to create a brood stock that went on to produce a single embryo that started the Golden strain.

In 1955 the Petersburg Hatchery noticed a yellow-mottled fingerling swimming with the rest of the trout. This fish was named “Little Camouflage” and moved it to a separate protected pond. In 1956, Little Camouflage had grown to 14 inches and the spotted colors had turned into a wide band of golden scales. It turned out that this unique fish was a female.

In 1956, 900 eggs from Little Camouflage were fertilized with milt from a regular male rainbow trout. The resulting fry showed none of the mother’s color characteristics. That winter, these fingerlings were sent to rearing ponds with 500.000 other trout. By February, hatchery staff noticed that 300 became golden in color.

As the fish aged, they entered their “Golden Years”. The staff repeated the experiment with the 300 survivors and 90% of the offspring showed Golden Colors. Through selective breeding, the hatchery was able to produce a consistent Golden trout. West Virginias Bicentennial was in 1963 so the Golden Trout was stocked across the state. One Golden was stocked for every 10 Rainbows.

My first experience with BIG GOLDENS was along the Schaffer’s Fork, in West Va. The Catch and Release area were stocked along with tons of BIG trout, including Goldens. On that trip I netted a 25 ½ inch beauty. When you walked down the railroad track access, you could see these Giant Golden Pigs in every pool. My memories are still vivid because of these beautiful, huge, strong fish. My fishing buddy was a Maryland Cold Water Fisheries Biologist. He was also impressed.

It took Maryland a while to get on board with the golden trout in their stocking program. Previous hatchery managers, and administrators, felt these hybrids were a joke. Despite requests from anglers, Golden’s were in the dead zone. Times have since changed and Maryland has developed their own Golden trout program. Every load of stocked rainbow trout will have Goldens in the school.

Now these gold nuggets are stocked from 10-25 inches. Fishermen that catch them brag about their colorful and fun experience. Anglers disagree on their catchability. Because they are so brightly colored, they seem to seek shade and heavy cover. They seem to be reluctant to bite until you are not paying attention. Once you hook into a monster Golden Trout, you too will become a Golden Trout Fanatic.

Pennsylvania stocked Golden Trout before Maryland. My first golden catch was a 14-inch beauty caught in Deer Creek, in 1966. The trout must have swum downstream from the Keystone State, and ended up along Telegraph Road, under an old wooden bridge. I tried to catch that fish for hours. I had it hooked several times but got so excited that I would lose him. Finally, with help from my Dad, the Golden Beauty was in the net. That was the only trout in my creel that day. This was probably the first documented Golden Trout harvest recorded in Maryland. The Baltimore Sun papers sportswriter, Bill Burton, took my picture and published the story.

Finding Golden Trout in a stocked stream, is not hard. They stand out like a neon light. If you are wearing polaroid glasses, you will see them. Where the Goldens are, so are other trout. Some fishermen call them “Judas Trout” because of this. They give away the position of their more camouflaged rainbow trout brethren.

Golden trout fight hard! Inch for inch, these trout fight their butts off. If your line or reel has any flaws, they will be exposed by a hard fighting Golden. Thin line is needed to regularly fool these reluctant biters. The strong battle will result in a break off if your drag is not set properly.

Maryland and Pennsylvania anglers have the potential to catch a Grand Slam. This means that in one day, you can catch every species of trout available. Brook, Rainbow, Brown, Golden, and Cutthroat.  Many of the hatchery eggs come from Federal hatcheries such as the one in Ennis Montana. Your Fishing License fees and trout stamp pay for the stocked and wild trout programs.

Go for the GOLD!!!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, catch him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

The Corona Virus is doing its worst. So, what could be good about this international pandemic?

In Montana, we are always looking for the upside. How could this virus make hunting and fishing better? Here are some thoughts about the future positive outcomes.

               Salmon fly Hatch    When was the last time you fished this hatch without a crowd of Non-Residents horning in on you? Well, this year should be great! With limited travel, quarantines, Airport challenges, and more important challenges, non-residents will be staying home.

               Spring Turkey Hunt    Fewer hunters makes for better hunting. That will be the case for Montana Spring Turkey season. Competition will be lighter since many out of state hunters will be staying home.

               Mother’s Day Hatch     The May Caddis hatch will be reserved for locals this season. This consistent hatch was always a great local afternoon hatch until it wasn’t. Promotions of this hatch have invited tons of Out of Stators to visit town when the bite is on.

               Spring Walleyes      The May and June walleye fishery has seen increased crowds over the past few years. This year it will be local luck only. Rip some lips.

               Yellowstone Park    The Park will be less crowded as the Corona Virus sidelines manty tourists. Just traveling through the park will be better since fewer tourists will be around. You will not need to see herds of Japanese tourists waving their selfie sticks and flags. Enjoy the park like it used to be.

Canceled trips    Since folks need to work more, after being quarantined, vacation plans will change and be canceled. This means less hoards of fishermen, hunters, and tourists to Big Sky Country. Now for some, they will be saddened from reduced sales but… that means more fish, critters, and crowds for the locals.

Use it or lose it! If we don’t take advantage of this opportunity, you will not reap the rewards. A less crowded river, forest, or park translates into a more quality experience. Now I know that some folks Silver Lining can be another’s Black Hole but…

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him healthy and happy at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Trout fishermen are going Mad over the Madison River. The only thing groups can agree on is that no one wants to be told what to do. The guides and outfitters want to make money, the shuttle drivers want to make money, Ennis businesses and trout shops want to make money, and fly fishermen from around the world want to spend money. “Money” is also a common connection.

Public fisheries are paid for by the public. The fish are public property, and the resource is managed based upon public input and agencies paid with public funding. It does not seem fair when private entities get to make money off what is a valuable resource for all of us.

The groups that pay for the resource’s management, regulation, and protections should have the voice. Fishing licenses, management stamps, fees, and contributions pay the bills that build the fishing accesses. Recreational tubers, floaters, and users that pay nothing, crowd, trash, vandalize, impact and abuse our “public” places but contribute no money to support them. What a sweet deal. Just look at the Lower Madison River during the summer.

What makes us the “Maddest” is that what is truly at risk is the fishery itself. Too much pressure ensures that the resource will be lost. How much fishing pressure is too much? Do we have to wait until the bottom falls out before we act? Trout Unlimited says to follow the Science. They will not take a side until the data is all in. Maybe they need to be renamed “Trout Limited”. In the meantime, fishermen are getting madder.

A recent yearlong FWP survey has surfaced.

               70% of interviewed Madison River anglers are non-residents

               Only 18% of anglers were from Gallatin County, MT.

               Most non-resident and non-commercial use are between Hebgen Lake and Lyons Bridge

               50% of Madison Commercial floating is between Lyons Bridge and Ennis.

               21% of non-resident Madison anglers are from California, Utah, and Colorado

               25% of interviewed anglers were first time visitors to the Madison River

               70% of interviewed anglers felt the fishing was “acceptable”.

               55% of interviewed anglers said that the number of floaters, between Lyons and Ennis is unacceptable.

               70% of interviewed anglers felt the number of fishermen on the river is unacceptable.

Did anyone ask about the fish? How many guided trips come from out of state? Do fishermen understand proper Catch and Release techniques? Could Guides become better stewards of the resource through education and training? Should experienced guides have input into how fishing is better protected? Should some stretches be managed as Guided trips only?  Is it time to exclude spin fishing from the fishery? Have cell phones, photography, and action cams become a liability to fish survival? Should a Fish Safety/ Resource Training Course be required before fishermen are allowed to fish?

Madison River veterans have historically seen the fishery change. Like it or not, the trout numbers are down. Catch and Release mortality is up. During an evening Caddis hatch, back in the 80’s and early 90’s, 30 trout heads would be rising behind every rock in the river. Today, you may see 6. Big trout are fewer, and trout without hook scars are rare. Numbers are down from 30 years ago but up from 1995.

In 1995, Whirling’s Disease was introduced into the river through illegal stocking, dirty boats and boots, and lack of attention. 90% of adult Rainbow trout disappeared. Brown trout, which are also non-native are immune to the disease and survived. What were thousands of trout per mile declined to hundreds. It takes 3-4 years to grow a 14-15-inch trout. Recovery takes time.

Fly fishing quality or “acceptable fishing” are based on what you are used to. Nonresident fishermen generally come from areas where only stocked, seasonal fish are the choice. Their local fisheries are already stressed, crowded, and overfished. Montana at its worst is more “Acceptable” to this audience.

Without a quality population of fish, the fishery will become a boat ride, floating, and fishing, but rarely catching. For many, drifting down the Madison is a glorious celebration of nature. The wildlife, vistas, water, and experience are exceptional. Many guests will be satisfied. For fly fishermen, the lack of fish will not make this fishery “inviting”. Just look at the once awesome Bighorn River. This fishery has also traveled the same path. Overfishing, inconsistent water flows, poor reproduction, disease, and mishandling of fish has made this once famous fishery far less.

The FWP has a big and important job to do. New legislation is on the way. Crowds are not just Commercial. It seems that local examples, and history, are not enough evidence. Dollars dictate decisions. Trout Unlimited is still waiting for data.

Even if they do it right, someone will still be Mad!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him supporting fisheries at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Taking risks and trying new things are how we learn. We will never get our limit of knowledge in our lifetime. The best lessons are learned through trial and error. Big mistakes mean big opportunities to grow. To become a successful outdoorsman, we need to embrace the adventure, failure, and challenges.

Here are 10 things well learned learned that will help you become a better outdoorsman and person:

#1. Attitude is important!

               Hunt, fish, and live your life with a positive attitude. Every cast is an opportunity for a bite, every hunt could lead to a big buck, and life is supposed to fun. I expect a bite on every cast. If you don’t, what’s the point? If you think the fish won’t bite or the deer won’t move, and that life is miserable, you will always be right and unhappy. Lighten up and enjoy what life throws at you.

#2. Be a Student of the Sport!

               Old dogs can always learn new tricks. If someone else is catching more fish than you, introduce yourself and ask some questions. Make new friends and take every opportunity to learn. Today’s shows, seminars, readings, and clubs are great ways to network and keep up with the best new tips and gear. “The most important things that we learn in life are the things we learn after we already know everything!”

#3. Be Comfortable!

               If you only trek outdoors on the “nice days”, you will miss out on most of the best hunting and fishing. Today’s quality fabrics and clothing offer incredible comfort and function. You don’t have to wear the same boots from 30 years ago. Treat yourself to some new gear! If you are cold, hungry, hot, or just uncomfortable, you will not be attentive to your trek, hunt or cast. Hand and toe warmers are a godsend. Under Armor-type constrictive garments wick away moisture, support your joints, and improve circulation. Lightweight tree stands have swivel seats and shooting rails! New boats are equipped with all sorts of comfort features that are worth the investment. If you are not comfortable, you will not be motivated.

#4. Move more and Eat less!

               Staying in shape becomes tougher with age. It is easy to find excuses to stay home. All of us fight the battle of weight and staying in shape. Fitness memberships help but hunting and fishing can be a workout too.  It is important to move and exercise when hunting and fishing to promote flexibility and muscle strength. A trout stream or mountain ridge is a lot more exciting and beautiful than a gym. Attack your sport within your limits and enjoy. You also have the chance to bring home a meal and a story or two. Lazy Boy chairs are for lazy boys and not sportsmen!

#5. Stay True to the Limits and Rules!

               Anyone can be a cheater, poacher, or thief. They are lazy, greedy, and brainless. Sportsmen follow the rules and take pride in what they accomplish. Telling truthful stories about great hunting and fishing trips are part of the celebration. It is always easier to remember the truth. These exciting and honest moments change a person in so many ways. Kids who get into trouble need to learn how to hunt and fish. The rules, limits, guidelines, and laws define right and wrong. Out of control kids don’t know what limits and rules are. Sports are a great way to teach them. Poachers know the rules but choose to ignore them.

#6. Safety First!

               Always anticipate what may go wrong. Be prepared for the worst case scenarios and you will stay safer. Outdoor sports happen in dangerous environs. Storms, bears, snakes, bees, insects, cuts, bruises, and accidents can happen in a second. We don’t need to fear them, we just need to be aware and prepared for them. An updated and modern first aid kit is a must. Life vests, modern gear, and newer weapons offer better safety features. CPR and First Aid classes are important.

#7. Teach Others the Sport!

               The greatest outdoorsmen show others the way. Being a Pathfinder is more important than ever. Men are an important part of our children’s lives. Many single-parent “Soccer Moms” were never taught the hunting and fishing heritage. They want their kids to be active and involve them in what they know. Teaching others how to enjoy the outdoors is the best assessment of the kind of sportsman you are. Nature, fishing rods, and hunting are great daycare alternatives. They teach patience, respect, and are great fun.

#8. Change it up!

               Do the opposite of what is expected, to reap huge results. Use a big fly during a midge hatch, fish downstream instead of up, try a new spot, be creative and unique! I once used a HUGE Joe’s Hopper to fly fish the Henry’s Fork. This technical river required skill, fine tippets, and perfect presentation. Everyone was fishing with tiny dry flies so I went BIG! I was catching so many huge trout that a fisherman called the game warden on me! They thought the “kid” was using bait. If you do what everyone else is doing, you can expect the same results.

#9. Fish and hunt for fun!

               Don’t measure the success of the trip on the filled limits or tags. The true bounty is with the adventure, memories, and experiences. Plan to have a great day no matter what happens. You will discover that you are more anxious and excited about every aspect of the day. The rest will take care of itself. Most of us will never catch enough fish or critters. We will never adventure outdoors enough.

I once called in 5 bugling bull elk for a client in a single morning. Every bull was huge and offered a bow shot within 20 yards. He missed every shot because he was so excited. This experienced worldwide unfilled tag hunter had the best hunt of his life and his tip proved it.

#10. Celebrate the Sport!

               Every year we get one less hunting and fishing opening day. We never thought about that when we are younger but….embrace every opportunity and friend as you share the outdoors. Great hunting and fishing buddies are harder to find than a good wife, husband, or partner. Enjoying nature is better with a buddy. It is also safer. As our population grows, more impact will continue on our natural resources. The more folks that celebrate and, love nature, will help to protect and conserve it. Celebrate, share, and teach others to appreciate and enjoy our outdoor legacy.

The best outdoorsmen are the ones that can excite and teach others how to be their best. That is what the Outdoor legacy and heritage is really about!

Hunt and fish with pride!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

This article was recently published in www.dannerholzwhitetails.com.

Its time to begin again! Every year there is an ending point and a point to start anew. Hunters call it “New Deer Year”!

Oh no what can a Deer Hunter do? Except for some late season doe hunts, private hunts, or maybe a crop depredation hunt, Deer Season has ended. The next time we get to hunt is maybe for Sheds, or Spring Turkey, but that’s months away.

First, unpack and reorganize. Wash your bloody, dirty, scent covered clothes in a non-scent detergent. Dry them using a scent free Foil Ball instead of a dryer sheet. Examine them for any tears, broken zippers, popped buttons, or damage. Make all the repairs and fold them. Place the clothes in a sealable, scent free storage tub and label.

As you are going through your equipment and gear, make a list of any needs. Maybe you lost a glove or hat. The boots have a few too many miles on them. Your arrows have all been used too many times and need new fletching, or a new set. The rifle scope needs an upgrade, or lenses cleaned. Perhaps the sling swivels need to be replaced. Keep a clip board handy to make your possible list. The goal is to be ready, organized, and well equipped for the new deer season.

 Hunting Buddies are a special gift. Start looking for some New Deer Hunt Buddies, if needed. Reinforce your bonds with your current friends.As we travel through a lifetime of hunting seasons, great Buddies will come and go. You need to maintain and support these precious relationships, or you will be hunting alone. To have a friend, you need t be a friend.

Clean you rifles and guns. An annual inspection and overhaul are always a great idea. Use the good bore cleaner, and the new cleaning brush, that was in your Christmas stocking, now check out every screw, and fitting. Use dummy ammo to recycle through the action. Treat the leather slings with some conditioner, then store them properly back into your gun safe or cases.

Send out the “Thank You “cards to the landowners that allowed access to their property. A simple card will help keep the gate open for next season. Sending a fruit basket or maybe a stick of Deer Bologna are thoughtful. I usually make a gift that the landowner will display every day of the year. Take a silhouette goose decoy and paint the landowners name on it. Place it at the end of their driveway with a note on the back from you. When it gets old and faded, make a new one. I have also made a timber deer from logs. Place it in their garden but their front door. Hang a note around its neck saying thank you. It is the thought that counts.

Plan a Party! Get your hunting Buddies together in the next few months for an annual hunting gathering. Take all the cell phone pictures and videos and organize a slide show. Add some Power Point effects and present last years greatest hunting highlights! Have everyone bring their favorite deer recipe for the buffet. Think about giving some fun awards to each buddy. The more the merrier. Biggest Buck, Smallest Buck, Best Story, Worst Excuse, etc. Maybe have some grab bag gifts. We al have gear we never use, old NRA membership gifts, or unused gift cards. Silly gifts are fun too.

Respect your past trophies! Get the step ladder out and recondition your past trophy mounts. They get dusty on the wall. Brush the cobwebs off the hair, clean the antlers, and perform any maintenance. Build a frame around the mounts, if they do not have a display board on them. This simple look trims the mount nicely. Trophy mounts are not about bragging, they are about memories and memorials. It is how we show respect, and never forget the gifts and adventure of the hunt.

Start dreaming and planning for the New Deer Season. Where will you hunt? How will you change your plan or strategy? When will you start scouting? Is there any maintenance or repairs needed for a hunting stand or blind? Does the landowner need any help repairing fencing or planting trees or…?

We only have so many hunting seasons in our lives. New hunters are immortal, and rarely think about this. As we age, the joints and muscles get stiffer, our bodies slow down, and fellow hunters fall by the trailside. Getting up before daylight is tougher, more coffee is required, our pants get smaller, and, well you know the rest.

Keep your body healthy and in shape. This can’t be done with a pill or overnight. An exercise routine that is properly implemented over months is required. Consider your diet, and other habits that may impact your future hunting performance.

Deer Season never really ends. It just morphs into new and exciting ways to enjoy it. Use your new optics to monitor the deer herds. Take some video or pictures with that new cell phone. Start breaking in that new pair of hunting boots. Hunt for sheds along the edges of your deer areas.

Deer hunters never count sheep at night. We count bucks jumping over a fence or log. The sight of antlers moving across a field, or through the forest never fail to excite us.

Hunt harder, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, hunt him up at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Recently published on www.dannerholzwhitetails.com.

Hunting has a heritage of sharing the bounty of nature. Preparing meals from the harvest is always a great way to show love for family and friends. Anyone can cook a ham, turkey, roast or food from the grocery store. Preparing food that you gathered from hunting is a more special gift.

Hunting means time, patience, expense, skill, persistence, and dedication. After the arrow leaves the bow or the trigger is pulled, the real work begins. Butchering, packaging, storing, and preparing the meat is even more intimate and personal. Cooking a holiday meal that includes your deer is priceless and is a true gift from a hunter’s heart.

Here are a few dinner ideas for you to enjoy this holiday.

               DEER CHESAPEAKE

This recipe celebrated the annual deer camp for my deer hunting Brothers in Western Maryland. We served last years deer meat to nourish our bodies for the new season. The corn bread was always a nice addition. Rarely were there any leftovers.

Brown the following in a large iron kettle;

               2 lbs. of cubed meat, ¾ lb. of diced onion, ¼ clove of garlic, 5 tbsp. of olive oil. For a camp or big group, grow the ingredients accordingly.

When the browning is complete, add the following;

               ½ tbsp. of dry mustard, 2 tbsp. of paprika, dash of red pepper, ¼ cup of brown sugar, ½ cup of Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar, 1 cup of ketchup and 3 cups of water.

Simmer for 2 hours. Longer is fine. Leftovers, if there are any, are always a treat. I prefer the meal thicker. You can add flour to make it so. You want the recipe to be more like a sauce than a soup.

Serve over egg noodles and enjoy together with this “Southern Corn Bread” recipe:

Southern Corn Bread

Mix the following;

               1 cup white flour, 1 cup yellow ground cornmeal, ½ cup of sugar, ½ stick of melted butter, 1 tbsp. of baking powder, 2 eggs and 1 cup of milk. Bake in a 9-inch baking dish at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Before serving, use a fork to make holes in the top then pour honey over the cooked cornbread.

It just doesn’t get any better.

VENISON BUTTERFLY CHOPS

Butterfly chops are made from the deer loin. Cut a thick, 2-inch filet mignon, then cut it almost in half. Fold the steak open to make it like a butterfly. Now marinade the steak in equal parts olive oil, cheapo red wine and some Montreal Steak seasoning. Allow it to marinate for a few hours or overnight. This basic marinade is perfect for all wild big game. Place the steaks on a hot grill for a few minutes, then flip. Don’t overcook. These cuts are best when warmed up and rare. Serve immediately or eat off the grill. You will not need a sauce or any other spice.

PERFECT ROASTED ROUND STEAK

2-3 pounds of deer steaks, about an inch thick. ½ cup of flour, 2 tsp. salt, ¼ tsp. pepper, 1-2 tbsp. butter, 2-3 tbsp. olive oil, 3 tbsp. chopped onion, brown sugar, ketchup, basil, ¼ cup beef stock or broth.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the steaks into serving sized pieces and tenderize with a mallet. Dip the steaks into the mixture of flour, salt and pepper. Brown the steaks in the olive oil. Arrange the browned steaks in a baking dish. Top each steak with a bit of butter, ketchup, and brown sugar. Add stock to the drippings in the fry pan and add to the baking dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil, add a bit more water or stock., if meat seems too dry. Bake another 15 minutes. You can bake your potatoes at the same time.

DEER FONDUE FUN

Cut prime steaks into 1-2-inch sized cubes. Trim any fat or silver skin. Marinate the cubes ahead of time using the same marinade described in the Venison Chops recipe. Heat the fondue pot with olive oil. Serve this dish with some side bowls of your favorite steak sauces. When ready to cook, remove the raw meat cubes from the marinate. Use a fondue fork to stab a chunk of deer meat and add to the hot oil. It will cook quickly, so remove when it is right for you. Dip into a sauce and enjoy! Quick, simple, interactive, and a delicacy. You can use this with any wild big game.

Cooking is way to show family and friends respect, and love. These deer recipes are different and have been shared in our family for years. I hope that they bring your family and friends closer together as they have done for mine.

Hunt hard, hunt harder, and share the bounty!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, find him cooking at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

This article is currently featured at www.Dannerholzwhitetails.com.

After hours and days trying to fill your tag, the moment of truth finally arrives. You see the target, raise your weapon and BANG, you missed! What the heck?

First, you are not the first! Many hunters have had their “Missed Moments”! What is important, is to accept ownership and make this a learning moment. Hunters are human, and we must learn from our mistakes. Wasting this learning moment is a wasted opportunity to improve.

I have known some hunters that still have the original box of shells that they bought with their rifle. A few rounds went down range for a quick site in, and the rest were reserved for the hunt. Who knows if their rifle was dropped, kicked, or just out of adjustment?

Other marksmen spend hours on the bench. They try special loads, bullets, techniques, and fine tune their bench shooting skills. This proves that their rifles and guns are capable of great accuracy. Bench shooting and hunter shooting are two different beasts.

My friend Keith is the best shot I know. He is fine off the bench but better off hand! One morning a buck and a herd of does came across a powerline. Keith was in a chair, with a bench rail to shoot off. Instead of using a support, he stands up and places 2 rounds, from a semiauto 280 caliber, an inch apart, at a moving buck, at almost 300 yards! I helped drag that great buck.

Shooting is fun! Practice, with your hunting weapon year around. If you brag about the long-range shots that you have made, prove it. Shoot your rifle at 300-600 yards and see what your skills are. If you miss, practice.

Most misses come from negligence. You did not maintain the gun, or rifles accuracy. Flinching, bad position, improper trigger pull, hurrying the shot, or flicking the trigger are often the other reasons. Don’t blame everything else. Figure it out and learn a lesson.

               FLINCHING    Most hunters know they missed before they pulled the trigger. The same is true with an arrow. It just doesn’t feel right. Calm down and focus! A smooth trigger release is essential. The weapon should surprise you when it goes off. Flinches are usually a quick trigger jerk or squeeze. Lifting your head off the stock doesn’t help. Anticipating a recoil will also cause you to tighten up and flinch. To fix this, try dry firing. Use a spent cartridge in the chamber to support the firing pin. They make dummy rounds that you can use. Pull the trigger so much that it becomes natural and develops muscle memory. Keep both eyes open and relax.

               When firing live ammunition, have a friend watch you shoot. Film the shots of you shooting, with your cellphone. Once you see it, you will believe it.

               SHOOTING TOO FAST    Once the crosshairs settle on the target, many shooters slap the trigger. You should take a full breath, release half, settle in and find the spot between your heartbeats. Now squeeze the trigger smoothly. Many shooters are so afraid of not getting the shot, they forget to breath. This is where muscle memory comes in. Its ok to be excited but focus on the moment and control the shot. If the shot does not feel right, don’t shoot! Dry firing makes this happen. A thousand trigger pulls are not too many. Precision shooting is a perishable skill, so practicing keeps you tuned in.

               POOR POSITION    Field shooting means that your entire body must be in position. There is no chair or bench. You need to embrace what you have. A proper stance allows for a balanced shot. Being steady must happen before you can shoot. Shooting freehand means using a nearby tree or a hasty sling support. If you are not comfortable, you will miss. Practice shooting afield in the off season. Use a BB, pellet gun, or a 22 rifle. The One best shot is a result of hundreds of practice shots. Shooting is shooting. It doesn’t matter what the weapon is. Practice makes perfect. Choose safe, backstopped targets and shoot standing, sitting, or… Situation awareness comes from practice and repetition. Plan your shots before you pull the trigger.

               NOSE PICKING    This means that you slapped the trigger. Once the shot went off, you moved your trigger finger forward. This will move the rifle before the round exits the barrel. Maintain your trigger squeeze well after the shot. Dry firing is the secret to breaking this bad habit. Focus on the bullet or arrow traveling to the target. Look for the outcome of the impact.

               POOR TRIGGER CONTACT    Use the center of your pad on your finger to address the trigger. Adding a trigger shoe will make this more comfortable and wider. My accuracy improved when I added a larger surface for my fat fingers to touch. Center finger pad pulled straight back. Simple, sweet, and perfect! Oh, and don’t forget to breath. Find that space between your breaths and heartbeats. The greater the range, the more important this is.

“One shot, one kill” means experience from many practice shots. I shoot a Ruger single shot 30-06 single shot rifle. I brag about how I only take 3 rounds afield, when I hunt. One for the critter, two if I must put them down, and a third for me if I miss the first two. Honestly, this does not count the hours of annual bench time. If you don’t take ownership of your misses, you will miss again.

Respect our wildlife with an accurate, quick, sporting harvest!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, aim for him at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

This article is posted on www.DannerholzWhitetails .com

Once the critter is down, now what? Trophy critters require assistance when getting them from the field to your rig. Back in the pioneer days, a horse, wagon, or mule may have been handy. Today, we need to consider other options.

We have all heard the stories about the guy that shoots the big buck that runs back toward his truck and falls into the bed. Anything even close to this has never happened to me.

Years ago, I traveled to the top of Martin’s Mountain, Pennsylvania, early one morning. Opening day meant big crowds and moving deer. I picked a spot well above the hunters and waited for the morning drive. Sure enough, dozens of deer were pushed uphill, right into my lap. One well placed shot and my tag was in place. Now it was time to drag my big whitetail back to the truck, 4 miles away.

The path was rugged and covered with blowdowns and rockpiles. I used an old looped safety strap around the buck’s neck, and over my shoulder. The dressed buck weighed 142 lbs. It gained weight with every step. By the time it was back to camp, there was no hair left on its sides. It looked like a hairless cat. Even though the hair was gone, the hide protected the meat. Surely there had to be a better way.

Over the years, we tried roll out plastic sleds, poles, quartering, two-man carts, travois, and anything we could think of to get the critters out. Today, we are blessed with a menu of special rigs, carts, sleds, and gear to make this task easier. If you hunt on private land, a wheeler, truck, or farm equipment will do the trick. Public land discourages vehicle use.

On another Evitts Mountain adventure hunt, in Maryland, I nailed my morning buck and tried to haul it out in a more traditional way. Hopefully, no hair would be dragged off, this time. We have all seen the pictures of hunters returning to camp with a critter tied to a pole. They hauled it over their shoulders and shared the load. No one ever mentions how the critters sway as you walk. Up and down hills transfer the weight. This is an idea that looks better than it works. We busted our butts carrying this swinging buck several miles to the car.

Farmers, ranchers, and private landowners seem to always have a tractor, dozer, super wheeler, or some rig to haul the critters. On one Montana elk hunt, the landowner had several family members lined up across a ridgetop, on opening day. I went along as a helper. Over 100 elk came down the coulee at first light. Everyone opened up and 12 bulls were down. The landowner’s son, Jon, ran back to the barn and drove back in a front-end loader. They hooked up 4 bulls at a time to the front and hauled them back to the barn. I am not sure how sporting this hunt was but the haul out was sure easier. What I do remember is that the matriarch of the family, Leonard, waited for everyone else to shoot. After they were done, Leonard used shooting stix, and a 300 WinMag, to drill his bull at 1000 yards!

Most hunters do not have the advantage of horses, tractors, or front-end loaders. We must rely on muscle and ingenuity. Wheelers help, if allowed. Wheeled carts are handy. Wheelbarrows work, and maybe a winch. On one haul out adventure, a buddy nailed a huge 5×5 buck at the bottom of a valley. Instead of attempting a carry or drag, we attached a rope to the winch on my wheeler and ran 4 lengths of climbing rope to the deer. The deer’s front legs were folded over the antlers to streamline the drag. My buddy was with the deer, and a radio. When I got the word to winch, I flipped the switch. Before you knew it, the buck and Buddy were on their way up the steep hill. At a few points during the drag, Darryl had lost his footing and just held on. Both hands were needed to hold on so he couldn’t use the radio. I stopped as the winch wheel filled and re-tied the rope. It took some time but neither of us broke a sweat.

Planning ahead of time, for a haul out, is a good idea. If you have a waterway, road, trail, or downhill topography in your area, know where to go with the flow. After one successful morning, I hauled my buck to the shore of a lake. It was in the opposite direction of the camp. My buddy was already at camp with his buck. Our canoe was at our camp, across the lake. Before you knew it, he was paddling over to me, and my buck. The deer was loaded and floated home.

 Railroad Hollow, in Green Ridge State Forest, Maryland has a 10-mile blocked road. Perfect for a bicycle access. I rode my fat tired, camo painted, 1930’s bike mid-way and hid it under a hemlock tree. After filling my buck tag. I loaded the deer onto my bike. The rear body cavity perched on the seat. The head and antlers piled into the front bike basket. This bike had no gears. I was able to role the deer for 5 miles with minimal effort. When there was a downhill slope, I was able to stand on the pedal and glide with my buck.

You can’t beat a sled in the snow. Sturdy plastic tuff sleds come in all sizes and can later double up as ice fishing sleds. On one cow elk haul out, we manhandled a huge elk to a fire road. Once there, this guy pulls out a little, pink, plastic kiddie sled. We loaded the whole critter onto the sled. Most was hanging off. I was able to tow the whole 500 pound plus cow elk with one hand. The problem came when going downhill. The critter wanted to toboggan to the bottom.

Wheeled carts come in all kinds of configurations. Some have hand brakes. The wider the wheelbase, the better. Narrow rigs tend to dump over. Lower center of gravity carts works best. Fold up carts allow easier mobility. On several opening day antelope hunts, we hauled out up to 4 lopes at a time on a wheeled cart. We would haul the folded cart into the field before light. It would hang on a fence until needed. Once we haul pulled our triggers, the lopes were shuttled to a loading spot. We all took turns hauling the loaded sled back to the truck.

Having some gloves, and extra cord to secure the meat, are also handy. The best thing to have are some strong hunting partners. The more muscle, the easier the haul. Share the meat with whoever helps.

If you are young and strong enough, throw the critter over your shoulders and begin the long walk. If the critter is too big, quarter it and bag it. Carry it out 100 pounds at a time. Use an old pack frame or shoulder rig. The meat you must work hard for always tastes better.

Hunt hard, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, haul him in at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Before I say one more thing, let me congratulate these rookie Youth Hunters for their successful and safe hunts. Their Mentors really set these kids up for a lifetime of wonderful memories. The pictures display wonderful smiles, satisfaction, and demonstrate proper safety. These visuals are important when sharing pictures about hunting on Facebook and other sites. These pictures are magazine quality except…

Why the Bloody Tongues? When the average person looks at the pictures, they are drawn to the tongue hanging lifelessly out of the deer’s mouth. The Youth Hunters, and the deer, look amazing except for the tongues!

Now don’t get me wrong, I have the same kinds of pictures from years ago. They are not hanging on the wall because the tongue image is so distasteful. It only takes a moment to shove the tongue inside the deer’s mouths. A cloth, grass, or sanitary wipe can remove any blood from the nose. Now the picture will highlight the hunter, and the trophy.

Like it or not, most folks do not hunt. Others find hunting an awful “Blood Sport”. Driving around with dead carcasses on our hoods, heads, legs, and horns sticking out of the truck beds, and pictures of bloody hearts and bullet holes do not send the best message for our sport. Times have changed. A quick cell phone picture can send the wrong message in a hurry. The spin can destroy positive attitudes and impressions about hunters and hunting.

 It is up to the mentors to model appropriate behaviors. We teach safety, marksmanship, tracking, survival, and hunter skills. These important lessons will be practiced over their lives. Molding Youth Hunters into Ethical Hunters is critical. Hunting is no longer about subsistence. Hunting today is a choice to harvest organic, free range, healthy meat. It is cheaper to buy meat from the store than to hunt.

Usually, the photographers are as excited as the lucky hunter. They simply forget to take more time to take a great picture. Ironically, we spend so much time building up to this moment, why would you rush through the final reward? The picture confirms the harvest and creates a moment in time that will last forever.

Now some our hunting brother and sisterhood will react to this article, and others negative opinions, with a single fingered salute. “If they don’t like it don’t look!” or “Mind your own business!” The truth is that all hunters are measured as one group. Impressions we make reflect upon all of us.

We can certainly post these pictures to our groups or use them in our sporting circles of friends. Pictures remind us about special moments in our lives. As parents, we hang them in our children’s rooms, so they are reminded about good choices and positive moments. Their trophies, pictures, antlers, and other rewards remind them that their cup is always half full.

Years ago, hunters would cut the tongue out of the deer’s mouth to confirm ownership. This common practice allowed for a positive identity, if the deer was stolen. You also placed the tongue in a bag to eat. Many hunters found the tongue, heart, and liver, delicacies.

You must admit that the pictures of a great hunt would look better without the tongue hanging out. Ethical hunters show respect for their harvests by taking a moment to stage the picture. The weapon or garment cover the bloody wound, the tongue is placed into the mouth, lighting and backdrop are positioned, and several pictures produce a perfect memory.

Tuck the Tongue!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, see his tongue at www.montanagrantfishing.com.