This article was recently published at www.Dannerholz Whitetails.com.

A healthy deer could thrive on just 3 acres. If there is water, cover, food, and privacy, deer would be incredibly happy In your back yards. Most mammals are lazy until they do not need to be. For a tree stand hunter, this could mean a long day afield with a big buck 50 yards away and never seen.

Deer, especially bucks, move when they must or are motivated. Years ago, I was sitting in a tree stand in Northern Baltimore County. I was overlooking a corn field and hedgerow, where there was a history of deer movement. Around 5 o’clock, a nice buck snuck under my stand travelling downwind and from a direction that I had never seen a deer travel in a decade. As the 4×4 passed below, I made a quick bow shot and was on the meat. As I climbed out of the stand, I noticed a lady in a long raincoat walking her dogs. Earlier, I had heard some barking. They had pushed the buck from his bed, and he was getting out of Dodge. The only problem was that the trail to Dodge went under my tree.

Predators, people, pets, kids, and farm animals have become motivators to make deer move. As properties get more developed, the suburbs are becoming more crowded. Most landowners will allow hunting when respectfully asked. Like it or not, these factors can and will impact your hunts. On another hunt, a Big Buck that I was targeting was finally making an appearance. To get to me, he needed to cross a large creek. He was marching across the 50-yard creek when a raft loaded with drunken swimmers came around the bend. I never saw that buck again.

Traditionally, there are 3-4 factors that cause deer to move. Wind, temperature, Weather, and the rut. Some could argue that wind, temperature, and precipitation are all related to Weather.

The RUT    Mating is a strong desire that all mammals have. Deer become obsessed with reproduction around the same time each year. Lunar phases, daylight length, hormones, and biology start the ball rolling. For several weeks, deer are on the move to address reproduction. Much of this movement is nocturnal but there is usually a week or so when Big Smart Bucks become sex stupid. This is when the chase does.

WEATHER    The weather makes it necessary for deer to move. Cold or warmer temps make deer move to higher, lower, warmer, or colder locations. Some of this relates to air currents. In the morning, as temps warm up, air currents tend to move uphill. The opposite is true in the evening. Scent is perhaps the deer’s most important defense. They relocate to where they can smell the most. Bedding areas will reflect this pattern. Good scouting can help the hunter stay in the game.

When it is warm or suddenly turns warm, deer activity gets shut down. Air temperature is a major impact on daylight deer movement. Temps over 55. degrees in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, slow deer movement. When temperatures rise above the normal temp for the season, deer activity decreases.

Wind can also be a slow down for deer activity. Swirling or high winds will confuse the deer’s nose. Movement of branches, leaves, and grasses also confuses the deer’s vision. This is when deer hunker down. If the wind is light and consistent, deer will begin moving into the wind toward low light.

Rain and Snow cover the food areas and change the dynamics of the habitat. The Barometric pressure that changes before and after the precipitation also alert the deer to find bedding and cover. When the Barometer is changing, going up or down, the deer will be on the move. In some cases, deer feast just before the storm, then head to bedding. Deer move the most when the Barometric drop is sudden. Once the weather settles in, deer will not move. As the storm ends, the deer will immediately increase activity. Studies show that deer activity and feeding tend to be highest when the Barometric Pressure is between 29-31 inches. This is the time to be on the hunt.

HUNTING PRESSURE is also a concern for deer movement. When deer feel the pressure, they tend to stay put and move only a little after dark. I have seen deer completely covered in snow and nearly invisible as I walked within feet of them. On one deer drive, we pushed through a thick clump of Mountain Laurel. As I stumbled over the branches, I thought I smelled a deer. When I stopped, the buck was staring at me from under a bough of laurel, just 5 feet away. Another driver had also passed within yards of this hidden deer. At first, I thought he was dead or wounded. Once I touched him with a stick, he was up and headed in the opposite direction.

The First Rule of Deer Hunting is to find the Deer. The Second Rule is to shoot the deer. The Third Rule is to go back to Rule Number 1!

Hunt Hard, Hunt Harder!

Montana Grant

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

This article was recently published at WWW.Dannerholz whitetails.com.

Is Bigger better? Does size matter? How big is big enough? These questions haunt many deer hunters. Of course, we are talking about Big Racks, Headgear, Horns, Hammers, or antlers! What did you think I was talking about? Anyway…

For many hunters, mating does, and deer lovers, Big Antlers are not that important. Veteran hunters needed to deer hunt for more than antlers. Filled tags meant filled bellies. After WW2 hunters were subsistence hunters. The sport was there but so was the need to eat. I remember my Grandpa saying, “You can’t eat antlers!” Piles of great racks were just tossed into the yard or trash. The real trophy was the meat!

Today’s hunters seek out the large antlers for bragging rights. The meat is often donated to soup kitchens and food banks. My how times have changed. Modern deer hunters are also enjoying some of the highest deer populations ever. There are more deer to grow more antlers. Many states have laws protecting bucks so they can come of age and grow huge racks. Weapons also give hunters more options, seasons, and opportunity.

Veteran hunters have antlers and heads mounted on the walls. For us older sportsmen, these represent memorials rather than bragging rights. After a lifetime of filled tags, Antlers remind us that the best parts are the friends, memories, and heritage. Harvesting a smaller buck or doe is simply fine. Every legally harvested buck or doe is a trophy.

Huge Rack hunters don’t begin at that stage. Hunters evolve as they gain experience and age. We all start wanting to harvest a deer, any legal deer. Once that step is mastered, we want to harvest a lot of deer. Next comes a Big Buck. At this point our confidence and skills have grown to where we want to harvest a Specific deer. At this point, we have our wall hangers, bragging rights, and full freezers. Now the hunt is about teaching others how to hunt.

The other question is do “Does” prefer bucks with big racks? We have all been taught that antlers are for competing with other bucks for the right to mate with does. Does were supposed to prefer bucks with big racks as symbols of healthy virility.

A recent Mississippi State deer management study looked at this question. Do does prefer big antlered bucks? The research team sawed off big antlers and replaced them with smaller racks. Since antlers are bone, there are no nerves, so the bucks felt pressure but no pain. Now a mature, healthy, buck with small antlers was returned to the herd. 25 estrous does were then placed into a fenced area. Mature bucks with small antlers, young bucks with big antlers, and other variations were tried. Each test lasted 36 hours.

The results showed that does bedded near big antlered bucks 79% of the time. Family connections have no impact. Bucks and does mate with any bucks and does. Other studies also show that hermaphrodite bucks or does tend to not mate at all.

Now this data is limited and is not entirely accurate. There are also many other factors that can lead to mating outcomes. During the Rut, does will mate with multiple bucks. Even spikes end up in the gene pool. When big bucks fight younger bucks and chase does through the forests and fields, they get worn out. Their sperm count drops and so does their energy. After a big battle or chase, the big, tired buck, may just be too tired to mate. Other bucks take advantage of this resting window. There is no guarantee that the big buck DNA will impregnate the doe.

Science also suggests that Does mate with whatever buck is available at the time they are in estrous. Opportunity is overcome by choice. The doe becomes pregnant when the estrus cycle is exactly right. If the doe mated with 10 bucks, only one will impregnate her with only his DNA. There is no guarantee which Bucks DNA will be in the offspring.

In controlled or fenced situations, does can be artificially impregnated with whatever genetics are desired. Certain characteristics can be maintained, added, or removed from the deer herd. The same is true when breeding cattle, horses, and livestock.

Ultimately, big antlers are a result of good genetics, health, age, and nutrition. If a spike buck has good genetics, the offspring can grow big antlers. Spikes and small rack bucks can get huge after 3-6 years. This is when they become true trophies.

Ironically, we are still intrigued that a doe, if given a choice, prefers a big antlered mate. Even though the mature, experienced, and healthy antler reduced mate is feet away, she will choose the young, inexperienced, and smaller mate since it has bigger antlers. Large antlers do not correspond to the size of any other mating parts. They do show age, fighting strength, and health. The doe must be assuming that big antlers mean better survival and future reproduction.

Perhaps we are reading too much into this. Nature knows best! Does breed when the time is right. Whenever, whoever, whatever, when the timing is right, conception happens.

During an evening bow hunt, several seasons ago, I watched an estrus doe cruise under my tree stand. Behind her was a 3-legged buck. His nice rack was a matched, average 4×4. The butt on this buck was huge. He must have lost his leg in an accident or… The other leg built up strength to compensate for the loss of his other leg below the knee. The handicapped buck showed no signs of being handicapped.

I had an easy Bow shot at this pretty nice deer. To some, this 3-legged buck was a perfect deer to cull from the herd. Instead, I let the buck pass. If this deer was able to survive the loss of a leg and overcome this handicap, it must have some great genetics and desire that need to stay in the herd.

The Scientific study concluded that antlers stimulate reproduction. Size, age, and experience do not. The body weight, and size, of deer can dramatically change annually due to weather, drought, or other hardships. Antler size can stay relatively the same.

Big Antlered Bucks are preferred! Generally, an estrus doe or a hunter will pull the trigger on a bigger rack over a smaller when, if the choice arises. What is most interesting is how Nature finds a way. The Science and cycles of nature are simply amazing.

Big Racks Rule!

Montana Grant

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

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.