After a lifetime of fishing around the world, authoring articles and books, leading seminars at Outdoor Shows, and a career in education, Montana Grant often is asked repeating questions. Here are a few.

How did you get started in writing about the Outdoors?

               Lefty Kreh was my mentor. He is the Father of Modern Fly Fishing. His manner, sense of humor, and knowledge about the outdoors were amazing. When I asked him how to get into writing, he said three things.

1.) Get published as often as you can in a variety of venues. Network.

2.) Always write from your experiences and give honest feedback. It may not be what everyone wants to hear, but it will be the truth. Write simply, so others understand.

3.) Never take yourself too seriously. Always ask questions and learn from others.

Using Lefty’s advice, I began writing for local fishing and hunting clubs, and publications. Most of the time, there was no fee. On occasion, I would make a few bucks that went into buying more hunting and fishing gear.

What type of fishing do you most prefer?

               Whatever I am doing at the time. Fly or spin or a cane pole. Its all fun and has its own challenges. My favorite fishing Is when I am teaching others how to enjoy the sport. Anyone can figure out how to catch a fish but not everyone can teach others.

Who do you enjoy teaching the most?

               Kids, women, and beginners are my favorite outdoor students. Everything is new, they are enthusiastic, and the first catch is so much fun. “Sports clients” that already know everything are no fun to be around. Guiding these clients made for long, long days. You usually knew 15 minutes into the trip that they were already experts and just wanted me to row the boat or carry their gun. Rarely did they ever get to the point where they might ask a question.

Is Fishing as great today as it once was?

               Fishing has evolved and expanded. There are more fishermen today than I can remember I over 65 years. We learned how to fish on our own as kids. If you had a great Mentor that helped. We had no YouTube, Google, Videos, or apps to help us learn. There were some good books but when it came to tying flies, books were tough to follow.  Gear is so much better today. Quality lines, leaders, hooks, boots, vests, …everything makes fishing easier. When the movie a River Runs Through It came out, fly fishing exploded. It continues to expand as the new cool thing to do. Women have also crossed barriers and have entered the outdoor world in force. The fishing is still great, but the catching has declined.

What is the future for fishing?

               As the sportsmen and human populations grow, fishing will decline. Access is a huge problem. Everyone wants their own piece of heaven and then to restrict access when they get it. This forces everyone onto already crowded waters. Fish can only withstand so much pressure. Poor Catch and Release, full kept limits, and abuse to the fish and their environment will cause more deterioration. Many anglers venture to Montana hoping for pristine waters. We used to catch 40 or more fish a day. Now its more like 5-15, if you are lucky. Sure, you may have some better days, but the average, size, numbers, and consistency have declined. Crowded waters also tarnish the quality experience we once enjoyed.

“The most important things that we learn, are the things you learn after you already know everything!”

Montana Grant

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

This article was recently published in www.dannerholzwhitetails.com

Doe, or Antlerless hunts are becoming a common occurrence. There are several reasons for the need to increase local deer populations.

Car Strikes mean that folks can get hurt and insurance policies go up. Lobbies for Insurance Companies promote massive deer harvests. Usually, these happen in Antlerless season.

Farmers and agriculture areas need fewer deer to browse and eat their crops. They often get awarded dozens of Crop Depredation tags to reduce the threat.

Landowners often block off and restrict hunting on private land. Deer will concentrate and over browse these sanctuaries even faster. Within a relatively few seasons, the deer population will crash.

CWD, and other diseases spread quickly when too many deer are nose to nose. Once the deer are infected, dangerous die offs can occur.

The healthy size of a deer herd changes due to habitat, climate, predators, and genetics. Different areas can support more or less deer. Ecology says that if deer populations are left unchecked, Nature will find a way. Deer will eventually eat themselves out of house and home. Over crowding also means more deer-to-deer contact. As they touch noses and group up, disease can take over. With depleted food and health, deer populations can quickly crash.

In Montana, deer can get Blue Tongue! This hemorrhagic disease is spread by gnats and flies that bite the deer, in the Summer. Slowly the deer lose strength and begin to bleed internally. They search for water and almost always die. They die by the hundreds, in the same overpopulated area. I encountered this once when Pheasant hunting along the Musselshell River in central Montana. This area had a dense population of deer and the neighboring landowners refused hunting access. Little to no deer harvests took place for a decade.

Dead deer were everywhere. Many were summer bucks, still in velvet. I easily counted several hundred corpses, blue tongues hanging out of their mouths. Hunters that often went near to this area saw few deer after the die off, for several years. Gradually other deer moved into this area devoid of deer. Nature finds a way.

Harvesting late season antlerless deer is important. Proper and controlled population management is a helpful management tool. The problem is that antlerless does not mean just does. Many of these deer can be big bucks that have shed their antlers. Less cover, snow, and cold cause the deer to group up and become more vulnerable.

On a farm in Dorchester County, Maryland, I went on a late season Crop Depredation hunt. My brother and I had 32 tags to fill. The landowner wanted does removed. We set up, and the large herds of deer wandered into the field, just before dark. Some deer had antlers, but most were without. The landowner fed the deer and only trophies were harvested.

It was not uncommon to see dead mutated deer, deer covered in lymphoma growths, winter kill deer, or stunted deer, on this property. The forest edges were pruned neatly by browsing deer. If not for the corn, wheat, and soybean crops, the deer would starve. The huge area was surrounded by swamps, so the dense deer population was somewhat confined and isolated.

As the deer filed out, we began shooting. One shot per deer, out to 350 yards or so. All were antlerless and most dropped in their tracks. We hunted from modern elevated and weatherproof box blinds. My coat was off, the house was heated, Modern windows opened and closed, sandbags were on the ledge, and I sat in an office chair, and went to work. Our stands were at opposite corners, so the deer were flanked. Needless to say, many crop tags were filled in one evening. About half were not does. Some of the deer were BIG bodied shed bucks. Probably not the deer that the landowner wanted removed. Everything was legal and ethical, we followed instructions, and the population of deer was reduced.

 No deer went unused. All were butchered and given to needy folks, friends, and the landowner. We certainly enjoyed full freezers. No Wanton Waste occurred. It took several trips on a Gator to transport the filled tags to the barn.

The next year of hunting saw fewer bucks. There were still plenty of does since most female deer had twins. Some small spikes and forks were seen. There were no trophy bucks to be found. The next year the landowner shut down all hunting and the population began to increase dramatically.

Deer management is not just a Fall or Winter project. Management occurs year around and hunters are the best tool for the job. Proper habitat and Fall harvests can do the job. In the Fall, bucks can easily be identified. Most good hunters can do this at short ranges, but it is hard to identify antlerless bucks, at long ranges, even with good optics. Selective and smart harvests can manage a healthy and buck abundant population for a lifetime.

Once the landowner can estimate a deer population in their area, a trained Biologist can make suggestions and recommendations. Most State wildlife agencies will offer their services for free. Having hunters help with the harvest is also essential. Place specific and safe stand sites for them to use. This will put them where you want them and ensure safety. Mentored Youth hunts ae a perfect way to train inexperience hunters for the future.

Deer populations recover quickly. Yearling does tend to have single fawns and older does tend to have twins. OLD does are often sterile. Great bucks take 2-3 years to grow a respectable rack. After 7 years, most bucks wear down their teeth and begin to degrade. Old deer do teach young deer how to survive but at some point, selective harvest is a good idea.

Many Biologists suggest that a healthy deer herd needs one buck to mate with 20-25 does. Ironically, they say the same ratio for pheasants. The truth is that there is no one best recommendation. Habitats are different. Some can maintain healthy herds of more or less deer.

Maryland’s deer population nearly went extinct. In the mid 1900’s the only deer found in Maryland were in small areas of Garrett County. Aberdeen Proving grounds, and other military bases, began stocking several sub species of deer along with some private landowners on the Eastern Shore. Habitat destruction, deforestation, and over harvests were to blame. Some of these deer came from Northern states and Canada. Sika deer came from Japan, and Fallow Deer came form Europe. Soon deer began to make a recovery and in the late 1900’s deer seemed to be abundant throughout the state. The first legal, licensed deer season in Maryland saw fewer than 100 deer checked in! Today the harvest numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

Habitat can also recover quickly. With smart and planned field and forest management, a deer utopia is only a few seasons away. Without quality management, habitat can become a deer wasteland for decades. Deer are perhaps the most researched critter in North America. If you need answers, a quick Google search will supply them. There is also a book called “White-tailed Deer” authored by the Wildlife Management Institute. This text offers more answers than you can think up questions for.

Deer Management can ensure healthy herds of deer. Without hunting and continual smart management, deer herds will fluctuate wildly. In many cases the deer herd will grow faster than the habitat can recover, and the downward cycle will continue.

Hunt harder and Smarter!

Montana Grant

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

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

Big, Old, Smart, and Massive Bucks do not get that way by being stupid! These Trophy Bucks have a knack for avoiding hunters, traffic, and death. Because of this, they survive to become every hunter’s dream bucks.

Famous Old Bucks often earn names like Old Mossy horns, or the Swamp King. Maybe they are named for a specific area, stream, or feature where they live. A Big Bucks habits may earn him the name as The Ghost, or … We have all hunted these Famous Beasts.

When I scouted my hunting haunts early in the season, I often encountered heavy, massive sign. HUGE rubs, scrapes, scat, and tracks. On occasion, I saw these massive, old bucks. It was common to see them feeding in open fields. I would also find HUGE sheds that were evidence of Big Bucks in the area.

Once the season would begin, my expectations of this specific buck were high. Many smaller bucks would get a free pass as I keep my sights on the Big Beast of the forest.

BIG BUCKS need to be at least 4.5 years old. A buck in captivity can live nearly 20 years. In the wild, even a smart old buck may only be able to survive 7-10 years in perfect conditions. After about 7 years, wild bucks begin to have smaller and thinner antlers. Their bodies may still be large, but antlers seem to be at their peak between 4-7 years of age. One of the main reasons for this decline is that the deer’s teeth begin to wear out. Once they can not consume, chew, and grind enough plants to survive, they decline.

Less than 5% of most Buck populations include a Big, Old, Smart, Massive Buck. Once most bucks grow branched antlers, they end up on the meat pole. Back in the day, any buck with spikes over 3 inches was a legal target. Without a scope, hunters rarely tagged out. It was thought that these smaller spikes were genetically inferior and needed to be removed from the herd. In fact, many of these Spikes could grow massive racks over time.

Once States began to manage for larger bucks, these Spikes became protected. Antler requirements of 3 points to a side, or other standards, became law. Within a few years, more branched and bigger bucks began to show up.

To grow a massive rack, bucks need great genetics, healthy and abundant food, proper minerals, age, and plenty of places to hide. In more developed areas, with roads, and interstates, Big Bucks are less common. It is just a matter of time before a sanctuary is discovered, the buck tries to cross a road, or … More remote and rural areas tend to be better options for enormously Big Bucks.

When hunting a Big Buck, you usually get one chance. A buddy and I once leased a woodland island on the eastern shore of Maryland. The area had a history of massive bucks. During an early bow hunt, my friend Larry was still hunting an edge of the island. We were surrounded by corn and soybean fields. Suddenly 3 of the biggest bucks Larry had ever saw were standing just inside the woods.

He raised his bow and tried to get a shot, at less than 20 yards. Each buck was a s big as the next and were all together and unaware that Larry was at full draw. He was going to shoot whichever buck gave him an ethical chance. None did. Larry could no longer hold back the bow and had to relax the pull. All three bucks saw the movement and … We never saw those bucks again.

Big Bucks have escape routes, cover, and experience on their side. They are not smart but wise. After a scary encounter, they adjust and adapt. It is hard to not remember a close call, predator threat, or simply a comfortable environment. Experiences are the best teachers.

Old Bucks learn fast and quickly become Man Cautious. Routine human activity does not seem to scare them. Farmers, school buses, and random interruptions become a part of their living rooms. Many bucks become nocturnal. Thanks to their great night vision and other senses, they can own the darkness.

Many Big Bucks are “Lucked”. Just like Larry’s accidental encounter, the Buck may get caught with their antlers down. Sadly, many great deer end up as Roadkill. In remote areas like Montana, as Big Bucks age, they get slower and fall to wolves or other predators. Some hunters end up on excellent properties that serve as sanctuaries and provide many years of awesome opportunity. Once the hunter learns all the Hidey Holes, nooks, and crannies, they can begin to target the Biggest bucks.

Recent radio tracking and studies offer a lot of great information for hunters. Big Bucks tend to have Core Areas. Even in broken country, a Big Buck may range over several miles during the Rut but spend most of their time in a relatively small spot. These spots tend to offer specific needs. First, they are High Security spots. This means that here is little human traffic. Often this area is in a swamp, island, or rough area. These oval shaped areas offer the bedding at one end and the feeding at the other. Water is also nearby. Seasonal mast trees or other foods are also nearby. Natural salt lick sites are also common.

Trail Cameras often film these Big Bucks, that are never seen during the day. Nocturnal movement is their way of life until the Rut. Most of these trophy deer are lured into the light and out of their secret places to chase a hot doe. Typical!

Experienced hunters avoid these Big Buck areas until the Rut. Big Bucks avoid pronounced trails used by other deer. Even when chasing a doe along these well used paths, the Big Bucks hang off to the downwind side. They are cautious but for about one week, they have just one thing on their mind. This is when many great Bucks falter and end up on the walls of hunters.

Big Bucks are an ultimate hunting challenge. If you wait for that one special Big Buck, your freezer will rarely be full. Take the first honest and legal buck that God sends down your path. It takes every trick, tip, and skill that a hunter can use to have success. Over the course of a lifetime, you will tag some great wall hangers.

Every legal, honest, and ethically harvested Buck is a trophy!

Montana Grant

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

This article was just posted in www.dannerholzwhitetails.com.

Deer Hunters, that fill their tags routinely, understand Good Scents. Commercial grade scents are expensive. A shot glass full of Code Blue or Tink’s 69 can cost $20. Using scents is important to attract deer, attract Bucks, cover human scent, or de-scent gear and clothes.

Back in the Day, hunters used what they had to deal with scent. A cover scent may have been to tred into several cow patties on the way to the stand. An attractant scent meant stomping onto apples as you trekked into the woods. Storing your gear and clothes in a large sack stuffed with fresh leaves, or acorns, would cover your scents.

Today we have clothes threaded with silver to illuminate scent. HECS clothing masks your electromagnetic fields, thanks to thin wires woven into the fabric.

Scent wafers can mimic dirt, apples, pine, or just smell like deer. Other critter scents are used for attraction or masking. Sprays, mists, washes, detergents, and treats. Scents add stink to cover stink!

Deer are masters at using their noses to sniff out danger. If you are upwind of a deer, your odor will always give you away. The only time when scent helps the hunter is when the Rut is going on. Bucks, or Bulls, focus on mating, and fail to smell out hunters or other dangers. When they are distracted by a more powerful scent, they neglect to smell danger.

In Montana, elk always win when scent is an issue. You could take a shower in non-scent and use every other scent cover, and still get busted. After just a few minutes marching afield, and human sweat takes over. The only real solution is to always hunt into the wind. This works great until the wind swirls.

We used to make our own Western Maryland scents. If someone tagged a deer, they would share the “Stinkers”. Tarsal glands found on the inside back knees were full of scent. We carefully sliced them off and pinned them to our pantlegs. Hooves could also be cut off and placed into a mesh sack, that was dragged behind the hunter. Placing the Tarsals where you wanted the deer to stand was also important. Freezing them allowed them to be reused and re-scented. Use latex gloves when handling these powerful scent glands.

Buck urine was used to enrage other bucks. Doe urine was used as an attractant. Labeling the containers helped. Different scents mean different strategies. To remove fresh urine, we used a large syringe. I used the same syringe that I inflated Bass fishing rubber worms with. Do this before you dress the downed critter. Trim away just enough hide, in the pelvic area, to expose the bladder. Now use the needle of a syringe, like a Turkey Injector style syringe, to draw out the urine. Inject it into a glass container, and label/date.

Latex gloves are always a good idea when handling scents. You never want a human scent to contaminate the wild stink. You also keep your skin from stinking for days.

To use the urine scent, we placed cotton balls into a 35mm film canister. This is when film was still used in a camera. A string between the lid and cannister allowed us to hang the Scent Bomb in a small branch. Reflective tape wrapped around the cannister helped us find them after dark. Each time afield, we freshened our cotton with fresh urine. You can do the same with commercial liquid scents. All scents are best kept refrigerated. You can also freeze unused scent for the next season. Spoiled urine has a rank and different aroma.

Deer Tails make for great attractants. I have carried tails and used them to attract deer. When a deer thinks they have seen or smelled you, shake the white side of the tail at the deer. The natural movement will relax a deer. Now they will move and perhaps give you a shot. The deer tail also has scent. Some hunters hang real scented tails on their decoys, or in the spot they want a deer to approach. It is the tied to a string so they can manually wag the tail.

Gel scents also work well. They can be smeared on branches, trails, or debris. Never put deer scent on your person. Place scents away from where you are located. You want deer to smell the attractants and not you. I have seen bucks follow my scent trails days after they were placed and removed.

Deer hooves have scent glands between the toes. Different deer can identify one another by each deer’s natural odor. Dragging them behind you as you walk makes a path for other deer to follow. Hang the hooves where you want a shot. Deer are gregarious animals and find comfort in companionship.

Masking scents need to be made from what is in the area that you hunt. If you hunt near orchards, then apples or fruit need to be mimicked. Throw some into a tub with your gear so that you smell like the area. Acorns, leaves, soil, manure, etc. You need to have an odor profile that allows your human stink to be camouflaged by the natural aromas.

Scents that will ruin your day are smoke from cigarettes, cigars, woodstoves, or fire. Fuels like gasoline, propane, or kerosene will also give your location a way. A down wind deer can smell you from as far as a mile under the right conditions. Food odors also can be an issue. Your spicy sandwich, steaming coffee or tea, soup or… You know what I mean.

Scents like these can be used to redirect deer. Placing these scents in areas where you want deer to avoid can be a good strategy. Maybe there is a fence crossing where your potential buck always seems to escape. Place human scents there to funnel him toward you, based upon wind direction. Fresh human urine will also work. Store some in a jar and deposit it where you want deer to avoid. Bags of human hair, hanging in a bush, will do the same.

I once had a buck hang up. He smelled my mock scrape, scented the hooves and tarsals, and had not smelled me. He stood still for 20 minutes. At that point I had to try something new. I then grunted on my grunt call and poured some water, from a water bottle, onto the leaves below. The buck lifted his head and walked straight in. I drilled him at 12 yards. Remember that deer have more than the sense of smell!

Scents do not always work, but they are always important. When conditions are right so are the scents. Understanding how, when, and where to use them will increase the odds of you beating a deer’s nose.

The Nose Knows!

Montana Grant

Being outdoors never gets Old!  Waking up early and heading afield is special. Watching a lifetime of sunrises and sunsets is also wonderful. As we age, each hunting season becomes one less. Familiar forests, marshes, fields, and prairies are comforting.

Hunters understand their senses. We feel, see, hear, smell, and are most comfortable outdoors. As we age, we slow down and lose some skills. Dragging a big buck, loading a boat onto the trailer, rowing a drift boat, or disrupting a daily routine becomes harder. Fortunately, technology and new gear and garments helps. A 4-wheeler, Gore Tex, compression underwear, liner socks, and modern accessories are just a few.

Back in the day, I carried a pair of foil wrapped baked potatoes to keep my hands warm. These spud warmers later became lunch. Next came liquid fuel hand warmers that leaked and stank of lighter fluid. Solid fuel sticks were next. Today we use a shake and bake style disposable warmer.

Punkin Balls might have hit a pie plate at 50 yards in the early years. Now a proper sabot shotgun slug is accurate to 300 yards and more. Recurve bows could shoot an arrow at less than 200 fps. Now compound bows can hit a target further and faster. Times have changed. It is easier and more comfortable to hunt today than ever before, even as we age.

Walking in an Oak Woods feels like home to me. As an Appalachian born boy, acorns and nuts forests were always special. Turkeys, deer, trout, squirrels, and grouse never had a chance. The forest was comfortable, peaceful, and relaxing. It is where I went when life got tough or sad. In Montana, I only smell pine and sage, no acorns. Still a fairly good smell, but not home. The outdoors makes us stronger and happier.

Hunters evolve as they age. At first, we are driven to harvest a critter. Without a filled tag we feel unfulfilled. No meat meant a wasted trip. As we age that changes. Just the opportunity to hunt becomes more important. Any filled tags are just a bonus.

The greatest trophies from hunting are not the antlers and feathers on the wall. These are certainly special but are more like memorials and memories. The greatest trophies are the friends and companions that we shared them with. That is our legacy.

We all began our hunting careers thanks to a Mentor. They may have been a man, woman, family member, or just a friend. Someone took you out and showed you how. Hunting is not a do it yourself sport. If you do hunt alone, then you, like a lone wolf, are lonely and alone.

I have an old Winchester 30/30 lever action rifle. It is topped off with a side mount 4 power Bushnell scope. Not expensive or fancy. This was the rifle that I used to harvest my first buck. Since then, 17 other newbie hunters tagged their first deer with this same rifle. Now that is Mentoring. Sadly, no one has needed this lucky rifle, or me, in a while. Maybe my Grandson will become a hunter.

When my son Kyle nailed his first buck he screamed, “that is the most exciting thing I have ever done!” The 6-point whitetail was chasing does on an island in the Madison River. We had practiced with a Daisy 30/30 look alike BB gun, just as I had. Watching him tag his first buck was better than so many of my harvests. We used the old standard round point ammo. Today the Lever Evolution rubber tipped bullets drastically improve accuracy and range. The next new hunter will have a new advantage with my old rifle. Hunting with my son was awesome but now he works all the time.

My Dad never took me deer hunting. He had hunted deer as a young man but… Instead, I found other Mentors. One of my first Mentors was Doug. He had an arsenal of guns and even more stories. We hunted and fished together. He was aging and had time to teach a young buck some lessons. I learned to still hunt with him in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Once I learned how to deer hunt, I took my Dad.

We have also had shallow friends just because they were after our hunting spots. Their camo was good, the friendships were one sided and we seldom got an exchange of the gifts. After the lease or permission dried up so did the friendships.

An old Korean War Vet named Gino taught me how to shoot. My single shot Ruger became a special and accurate weapon after his instruction. My friend Keith taught me how to really shoot, hunt, and cook. We spent hours on his range, and kitchen, in Garrett County, MD., honing our skills. I have had many friends that shared and showed me the right path. I remember them all. Sadly, most of them are at the end of their trail or gone. Their wonderful legacy lives on!

Times have changed. Our world is smaller. More development, more outfitters, and private land closures, more non hunters. Sadly, the end of hunting sooner than later. If meat is not in a foam tray covered in plastic, from the store, it is not meat. Most folks that eat meat today are so removed from what they eat that they simply have no clue where it comes from. It comes from the store.

What saddens me the most, is how so many of the hunters and fishermen that I mentored have forgotten me. They are busy, focused, and have their own families now. Time is limited and they only can afford so many friends. They remember and appreciate their mentors but assume that these sportsmen have more buddies than they need.

The truth is quite different. The Older Mentors had plenty of friends. Now they are old, sick, dead, crippled, or simply exhausted. After age 60, many hunters are on a wing and a prayer. The phone rarely rings. Many older buddies would if they could but…

I do not understand or accept it. It would seem that the gifts of enjoying the outdoors would be so important that the students would want to reach out. Most do not. I wish it were different. Hunting as an older man or women is harder. One fall, or accident could mean the worst. So how do you haul that big critter, hunt the dark forest, or venture back into the wilderness.? As young men or women, we never looked back. Nothing was too hard. The gifts that we gave simply do not get returned.

Old Hunters also regret hunting with great friends. Our students live far away or have families. My friend Pete is a wonderful companion and I hope we hunt together again soon, before I get too old. I know that he would if he could. His father Don always has a special place in my heart.

As Old Hunters, we do our best. Many of our aged brethren know of what I am saying.  We may be a bit slower and not as graceful, but our experience and knowledge make up for our declining health and energy. At some point, maybe we just need to fish.

Hunt hard, hunt harder!

Montana Grant

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

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

The buck was coming directly in front of my hunter. I had him shoot and test his weapon. We talked about how and when to pull the trigger. Excitement was peaking as the great buck came into range. “Get Ready, safety off, shoot when the buck steps away from the tree. I will grunt to stop him, then pull the trigger.”

All went as planned until the moment of truth. The buck stopped broadside at 50 yards and looked at me. “Shoot!” Nothing happened. The buck walked off and an opportunity was lost. My hunter was so excited, he forgot to take off the safety.

Last week I helped a friend tag his bull moose here in Montana. We hunted near Cooke City in an area where Ernest Hemingway hunted. After locating a HUGE bull moose, my friend Kirk was ready to fill his tag. When we first saw the bull, he was at 1000 yards and closing. After repositioning a few times, we got the angle and range right. The bull would pass in front of us under 200 yards.

Kirk was locked and loaded. For an experienced hunter, he was as excited as if it was his first kill. The bull had seen us and was plowing through the willow thick marsh like it was an open lawn. I set up Kirk’s tripod and he was set. “Get ready to shoot. Safety off. You have an opening coming up. Almost there. SHOOT!”

The rifle went off as I watched the hair fly off the Bull’s shoulder. “Hit!” He shot a second time but missed. “He’s done and going down!’ Kirk shot a third time to make sure. The great Bull was done! I have been through this situation many times. Sometimes it ends well and other times it does not.

Even the best marksmen have trouble when over excited. They spend money, time, and energy for that one special moment and then… Not all hunters are “gamers”. Kirk’s first shot was perfect. The round went through the top of the shoulders and lung area. The last shot, was not needed, broke the spine. We found that round when we were quartering the huge moose.

We have all shot or hunted with “Great Shots”. When I hear that, my hair goes up. Shooting at a range is way different than afield. One awesome trap shooter was anxious to hunt pheasants with me. My German Shorthaired Pointer, Krieg, was the best. We hunted wild birds along a corn field in Maryland. Krieg cracked on point. Get ready and let us walk in together. This AA shooter had busted thousands of clay targets in his lifetime. 

A huge cockbird took off just feet away. The cackling bird lifted off feet in front of this great shot. 3 shots later we watched that untouched rooster sail into the next county. This happened several times that day and he never hit a bird.

Excitement in the moment has saved more big Bucks than anything else. I tell my hunters to become the “Terminator”. Focus on the shot. Put everything else out of your mind. Sure, it is exciting, but focus on pulling the trigger. Once the critter is down, you can get excited and do a little dance.

Deer hunting is especially relevant in this conversation. Lots of bucks have bee saved by over excited and inexperienced hunters. Being a great shot is one thing but being a great shot when it counts is another story. Sadly, many great deer have been lost to lousy shots.

So, when do you shoot? I believe that every shooter must make that personal decision on their own. First, trust in your ability. Know your limitations. If you are comfortable at shooting 300 yards, then know your limits. Make the range measurements and stalk into your comfortable range. Different weapons also have limitations. Understand and know what a realistic and ethical shot is.

Today’s archers can hit a target out to over 125 yards. In Montana, many bowhunters crave a tag to hunt elk along the Missouri Breaks. This vast, open area is loaded with wildlife. Most of the bulls will not answer or come to the call. Instead of trying to stalk into a reasonable distance, they shoot from too far. Because of this, the archers set up along the coulees and wait for herds to pass on their way to and from the river.

They launch their arrows at that excessive range and hit the bull’s, but the arrows lack the power to penetrate and pass through. Many of the harvested elk have several arrow wounds due to shooting too far. One friend that tagged a huge 7×7 bull found 7 other arrows in the carcass. Most of the meat was festered and unhealthy to eat. Just because you can hit a target at great range does not mean that you should.

Accuracy comes from muscle memory. The more trigger time the better. You will not have time to think about the safety, trigger, pull, breathing, rest, and calm. You need to instinctively just do it! That one perfect shot is the result of thousands of practice shots. If you do not practice, you have already missed.

Take the first best shot that you are comfortable with. If you wait for something better, good luck. Too many hunters wait for the “Perfect Shot”. The perfect shot is the shot that you can comfortably make when the moment arises. Not every shooter understands this. If you have a guide mentoring you, listen, and pay attention.

Do not hunt if you are not committed to pulling the trigger. The finale of a successful hunt is a filled tag and meat in the freezer. If you are not comfortable with this, bring a camera, not a rifle, bow, or gun. Let your guide or mentor know your intentions and limitations.

I believe that you should take the first legal and honest critter that God sends your way. Over the course of a lifetime, you will tag plenty of trophies. It is important to also know how to shoot and kill the critter. Sadly, the only way to learn this is to do it!

Only you know when to shoot. The shot is your responsibility. You cannot blame someone or something else for what your skill level and limitations are. Like John Wayne said, “A man has to know his limitations!” Sometimes, the best shot is to know when not to shoot.

Aim small, miss small!

Montana Grant

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

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

Hot meat is rotten and spoiled meat. Unless you are cooking dinner, your wild game needs to stay cool. Once you have shot your wild game, the clock is running. Make sure that you have a plan, and time, before pulling the trigger.

Remember that the meat you just shot is expensive! Depending upon the hunter, try to put a price per pound on your “free” meat. Your time, gear, license, practice, weapons, travel, camp, and accessories add up fast. If the meat you harvest is less than $20 per pound, you are doing better than me.

Many hunters prefer to butcher their harvest. If I plan to share the meat with others, my name is on the package. No hair, cooties, or crud will be on the meat. After all, hunter harvest is not inspected by the USDA. Taking pride in your meat gifts is important.

Several times I have harvested a deer for a family. I processed and gave the entire deer to friends in need. I know that you can just donate a kill but… Giving a family food reminds me of Daniel Boone days. The entire village shared from a hunter’s harvest. It is also a good idea to include several recipes that they can enjoy.

Early antelope, elk, and deer seasons mean hot weather hunting. Temperatures over 80 degrees are common. Once the critter is down, your goal is to quickly get it to a cool walk in refrigerator or some other cooling area. Have a plan in place.

Sure, it is easy to just take your critter to a butcher and let them do the work. It also increases the price per pound by several dollars. Figure on another $250-300 to butcher the critter, depending on the jerky, sausage, and special cuts.

Start by opening the body cavity to release body heat. Large deer and elk mean skinning and quartering. Some hunters quarter with the skin on. This may be fine later in the cooler season. Hide on protects the meat from insects and dirt. It is best to use cotton meat sacks in hot seasons to do the same. Keeping insects off is also important. Cutting the hide, rather than skinning, also dulls the knife more quickly.

If the stomach was cut or damaged, take special care to minimize contamination.  E Coli is a deadly bacterium that can cause major health issues. Digestive systems are full of bacteria so take your time. If you do have contaminated areas, wash, clean, and dry them.

The smaller sized meat will cool more quickly. Large bones will hold heat so deboning may be the best choice. Spread the meat onto a tarp or the hide. Keep the meat dirt free.

Transport and get ready for the next step. COOL THE MEAT DOWN! This means a refrigerator, or a cool area. Shaded creek bottoms are great natural cool areas. If the critter is in pieces, you may have enough extra refrigeration in the garage to do the deal.

Ice chests loaded with ice is a good choice. Lay the meat on top of the ice with the drain open. You can also make a makeshift cooler using an elevated wood frame with ice in the bottom. I once built a cooler in the creek using this trick. Water temperature is usually cooler than air temps. I used rocks and wood logs to construct a dry box in the shaded creek. The tarp had no holes in it and made a dry, but cool space. I placed 4 elk legs, and a bag of trimmed meat into the creek cooler. Another tarp on top, held down with logs, made the lid. We hunted another week before heading home. A thermometer said the box was a constant 50 degrees, especially at night. The meat was still fresh and aged.

Premium ice chests can hold ice for more than a week. Freeze ice in plastic milk jugs. They will also double as shower or drinking water. Block ice lasts longer than bag ice. You can cut small frozen water bottles up for ice in your drinks as needed.

Portable meat lockers are also a way to go. I have seen disassembled wooded boxes that you could walk in. A small air conditioner was added and run using a generator. The same idea can be made using utility trailers.

If you hang a deer, consider adding an ice jug into the body cavity. You want the meat to be off the ground and in a shady cool area. In this way you can begin processing a day or two later, depending on the temperature. If it is in the mid 30’s to low 40’s. the critter is good for a week or two. This resting time also ages the meat. Aged meat is more tender.

Hanging a critter by the neck allows the fluids to drain to the rump of the deer or critter. Try hanging the deer opposite. I prefer to hang the critter by the rump. You can hang from a stick between the knees or hook the critter at the pelvis. In this way, the deer will drain to the head, which you will not eat. Muscles tend to relax, allowing for a more tender cut.

Once your meat has been processed, wrap and label it properly. This means identifying the date and cut. You can wrap the meat in plastic wrap and then freezer paper. This double wrap works well. Vacuum sealing the meat removes all the air form the package. You need the right equipment, but this is a great way to preserve the meat. Depending on the cut and size, frozen, processed meat is good for 3-6 months. After that, the meat begins to get freezer burn and lose its flavor and quality.

Native peoples would smoke, jerk, salt, or dry their meat. These old ways will also work well.

Montana Grant

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

Hopefully, Indian Corn is not a name that is offensive. If anything, Indian, or Flint Corn, has been around for centuries and has saved hungry populations around the world.

Corn, as we know it, is not a wild, native plant. It is a hybrid made from Teosinte, a form of wild Mexican grass. Corn is an American original. This grass was domesticated over 10,000 years ago. Originally, it was planted with other grasses to be used as forage crop for animals. When the plant hybridized with other grasses, small cobs began to show up. These cobs were only several kernels in size, but with more time and support, larger cobs were produced.

Columbus is given credit for bringing corn back to Europe. He found it on several offshore islands, in the late 1400’s. Columbus never set foot in America. Sugar cane is also a crop that Columbus took back to Europe. It is said that no Cancer existed in Europe until sugar and corn were introduced into the diet of Europeans. This may be true, but Cancer was also an unknown. Their primitive medical knowledge may have also overlooked cancer for generations.

Jamestown and the John Smith story most likely brought Corn back to Europe. He also took tobacco and several other native crops back with him. This was common for explorers. Today, Corn is found in China, India, and most cultures.

Indian corn was not grown for decorations. It was made to eat. Also known as Flint Corn, Maize was a hearty and tough crop. It was hard like the stone known as Flint. The kernels could be kept for several months. Todays, Dent Corn tends to rot quickly. You notice a dent in the kernel as it begins to decay in just a week or so after harvest.

Corn is relatively easy to grow. Since it is a grass, water was critical for a good yield. One cob can produce many seeds for next season’s crop. The cobs and silage can be fed to livestock. Cobs were also used for sanitary, toilet needs, and insulation.

Today’s common corn is also known as Sweet Corn or Field Corn. Dent, or Field Corn is grown for livestock feed or other products. Ground Corn is used a sanding abrasive for air blasting and sanding. A healthy stalk of corn can produce several large cobs. Farmers plant corn in rows for easy harvesting but this was not done until machines were used to cut the crops. Originally, corn was simply scattered into a plowed field. Pumpkins and squash were also planted in the corn fields to support the stalks and consolidate the fall harvests.

Corn needs large amounts of nutrients to grow, just like grass. Early people often dumped fish, manure, and other detritus into their fields to promote growth. Other crops like clovers and alfalfa would restore nutrients to the soil when the fields were rotated. Incan and Mayan cultures would add animal and human blood to each plant as a ritual to add nutrient to the plants. Corn had become a major component of their diets.

Maize could be ground into meal, flour, or used as popcorn. Since it came in many colors, corn could be called Blue Corn or Strawberry Corn. Entire cobs were carried with migrating tribes and used when needed. Native peoples would Par Boil corn in water for 12 hours. Once it was boiled and dried, it could be pounded into a usable meal or flour. Powder became flour, small bits became meal, and larger bits were ground again. Hominy and Polenta are also made from corn. The diversity of uses is what has made corn so important.

Today, 75% of our grocery staples has corn in them. Cereal, Ethanol, pharmaceuticals, fabrics, makeup, explosives, paper goods, and paint are all made using corn. Indian bread, porridge, and Jonny Cakes were common ways to prepare the corn. Pemmican was made by adding dried meat and berries to the corn and cooked into a cookie or cake. These cakes could last for months. Baskets of any corn surplus would be cached in caves for the next year.

Today we use Maize as a symbol of Harvest Season. Cobs are much larger than ever before. The colored kernels provide decoration for homes. You could use these kernels as popcorn or grind them up but make sure that the stores have not sprayed a clear lacquer on them to make them shiny.

Ironically, Indian Corn comes in 3 primary colors, Red White, and Blue. There is no information that I found to confirm that nations used these colors in their national flags, but Corn certainly helped to build nations. Many South and North American flags highlight these colors. The same can be said about European, African, and Asian flags.

Voting was another use for Maize. Voting barrels in 1623 were set up to decide upon political offices. Elections, and agendas. Corn kernels were added to the ‘YES” barrel and dried Beans were added to the “No” barrel. Cobs went to the outhouse, pig pen, or animal food. After the election was decided, the beans and corn became Succotash! All voters would enjoy the meal and discuss the future together. Nothing went to waste.

Corn in North America comes from the grass known as Zea Mays. When corn was originally grown, eating it was seen as demeaning and undignified. Only poor folks were including it into their diets. Wealthy people though corn was for the poor people and animals. Ironically, other delicacies like lobsters, crabs, and pork were also seen as poor people food or food for slaves. The French and Spaniards were offended by eating corn products.

Today cereal is an abundant use for corn. It is hard to find something in our stores that does not have some form of corn in them. Corn Starch, corn meal, oil, flour, and many other products use corn to prepare them.

Indian Corn, Maize, and Flint Corn are sold at most stores and Fall harvest events. Even Pop Corn can be purchased on the cob. I once hunted Geese and Ducks in a harvested Maize or popcorn field. When I was retrieving our downed geese, I noticed small cobs that were missed by the combine. The multicolored cobs were only 5-7 inches long. I picked a bushel of these cobs and hung them in my garage all winter. Popcorn was a fun snack!

Enjoy the great decorations of colorful Indian Corn this season.

Montana Grant

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

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.