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Recent entries


Non-Typical Hunter

Recap: Taking care of your venison

Wed, October 30, 2013

Preparing for your hunt this year may require you to spend some cash preparing your food plots or purchasing new equipment for the upcoming season’s hunt. It’s not hard to spend a few thousand dollars on plant seeds, new bows, fresh arrows, broadheads, clothing, etc. Unfortunately, many hunters forget what’ s needed AFTER the hunt!

Harvesting fresh venison is a treat no one can appreciate unless you happen to be the person making the kill. Let’s face it; there’s a lot of work and money that goes into making these hunts come together! If you add all of the time and family sacrifices along the way, a fresh slab of deer is really a blessing. All to often the preparation leading up to the hunt is executed with passion but the aftermath, which happens to be the deer itself, is treated like nothing more than, well, a dead animal. With that line of thinking, the quality of your deer will resemble just that. What most people don’t understand is the fact that the hunt isn’t over until the game has been properly prepared.

Preparing venison well enough for your palate to be impressed requires good field techniques in addition to great cooking skills. Too many hunters leave the dead animal to lie while they continue to hunt thus causing bacteria and gas to build up into the carcass. That gas pushes through the capillaries ultimately tainting the taste value of the meat. That bacteria is also the number one enemy of the deer’s hide! Anyone looking for a quality whitetail mount must understand that the condition of that hide is paramount to a long lasting mount.

I’ve heard many people complain that venison is too gamy for them to consume but the fact remains; venison isn’t gamy here in the Midwest. That “gamy” taste is a result of improper field preparation. Look at it this way: How many butchers, who handle beef, leave the animal to sit for several hours before they begin the gutting process? The answer is: None! There isn’t one professional butcher around that will kill cattle without immediately gutting it. If you were to kill a cow and leave it lie there for a few hours before gutting it, you’ll also have “gamy” tasting meat. Get the point.

When bringing your freshly killed deer home, some people like to age the deer a few days before they decide to cut it up. Aging, like they do with beef, is a natural process that tenderizes the meat. Aged venison is an absolute treat to eat! When letting your deer hang, or age, make sure the temperatures are cool enough to prevent spoiling though. Usually in the fall, your chances are pretty good it won’t, unless you have an early season bow kill. Once your deer is aged, cut as much fat off as possible. Venison fat isn’t tasty like beef fat! In fact, it’s not desirable at all. By removing the fat, you can assure your meat will taste a whole lot better. If you are grinding your own burger, or even if you have your butcher do it, adding about 10% beef or pork fat to your grind will add flavor and keep your naturally lean venison from falling apart when forming and cooking burgers on the grill.

If you are fortunate enough to kill a buck worth mounting, it’s best to remember to cool that cape down as soon as possible, not to drag the buck anywhere the hide will be showing on the mount and not cut too far up the brisket when field dressing it! Cooling down the cape will stop the bacteria from growing. Bacteria not only cause meat to spoil but cause the hair follicles to detach from the hide itself. This process is called “slipping”. Most of the time slipping won’t be detected until after the tanning has been done to the cape. At that point, you’re already money and time consumed. Finding another cape will be costly! Under all of the excitement of killing a trophy, many hunters forget and drag the deer out by the hind legs. Under these circumstances, the weight of the deer is condensed to the front of the deer and creates an undue load on the hair. This load will wear the hair off and form bald spots. Bald spots are not an easy fix, if they can be fixed at all. Finally, when field dressing the deer, there’s no need to cut the hide all of the way up the middle and through the chest. You need to stop the incision right below the breastplate. You can still easily get to the organs for removal. If you do decide to cut through the chest area, your taxidermist may charge you more to sew it up. Sewing is something you try to avoid if at all possible when putting together a quality mount.

Just by following a few simple steps can make the difference between great tasting meat and horrible tasting meat, a quality mount or a costly mount and lastly, will insure a properly executed hunt from start to finish. They say you can pay once for an education or pay the rest of your life for the lack of one. Why pay at all when you can do these simple things for free?


Drought = small racks?

Tue, October 22, 2013

I’ve been tracking a few monsters in the last couple of years, some of which are fairly young and have many years ahead of them before going down hill. After reviewing my latest trail camera pictures, I’ve noticed several of them have not grown at all this year. Much to my surprise, I’ve also spoken with several individuals across the state who are getting the same results on their cameras too!

After speaking with several other people regarding this phenomenon, someone suggested that this year’s drought may have something to do with it. Looking back, last year we also experienced a drought but I din’t notice any shrinkage at all. Could 2 years of drought have an effect on them?

In my research, it’s been about a draw. Some believe a dry year can affect antler growth an an equal amount say; not so. So I researched a little deeper and basically, they’re both correct! That answer pretty much takes us back to the starting point.

It appears, stress and nutrition are leading causes of growth control for whitetail antlers, in addition to body weight and their general health. Animals that have endured months of stressful living, have grown smaller body weights and antlers too! Add the lack of water to the equation, and you’ll have a stressful situation in most cases. I must point out that many animals have adjusted to drought-like conditions and have learned to live and manage stressful situations without too much damage to their body. So I would assume, it depends on the animal itself!

Anyone else seeing smaller than expected antler growth in your areas? I would love to know!

Off the subject, I’ve been reviewing more and more products recently and have even added outdoor services to my reviews. Most are good and a few are, well, less than good. I even reviewed an outfitter this month and was pleasantly surprised. This is something I have never done before. I even stuck a doe on video from the ground while I was there. I never expected to happen like it did because I was just setting up and didn’t even have a chance to get my face mask on before 2 does spotted me while I was getting situated. I didn’t have a chance to turn the camera into her, but I stuck her anyway and the camera caught her running with my arrow in her brisket. Nothing like a head-on shot while she was trying to figure out what I was! If you listen very carefully in the first 10 seconds of the video, you can hear her blow at me! Here’s the video: Doe from ground.

I know the season is in full swing but it’s always nice knowing there’s more products out there than are worth using and some that aren’t! If you’re interested in one of the few outfitters I would ever recommend here in Illinois, here’s a link to that: Outfitter.

I’ve got some big heads in my studio coming in already, so the action is getting started! Good luck out there and hunt hard!!!


The October Lull

Mon, October 14, 2013

Back in the deer saddle again. It’s October, the season’s in and the leaves are turning colors. Yep, it’s my time of year!

One of the most puzzling times of the season is the so-called “October Lull”. This is the period where deer seem to disappear around the second to third week of October here in Illinois. There have been many theories and an equal amount opinions, so I’ll add one more to the pot.

I’ve noticed over the last 4 decades of hunting here in Illinois, this pattern of disappearing deer seem to happen the same time as a few other significant changes take place. One of them is when does overtake buck’s bedding areas and push the bigger bucks out, causing a major relocation of bucks and does. (Oh boy, this is going to create some controversy LOL). Second, it happens when nearly all of the crops are harvested and deer seem to go back hitting the acorn mast. Both conditions seem to drive bucks, and deer in general, deeper into the timber. The third condition (I know I said 2) is really part of the first theory where the hormonal changes cause does to relocate thus pushing bucks out of their areas. Bucks, at this time, aren’t ready for a relationship and want nothing to do with their girl counterparts. The does, on the other hand, are positioning for areas that are easy access for food and water with short travel distances, the very places bigger bucks like to frequent. 

In the last decade or so, I have tested this theory with great results. “Great” results doesn’t mean I scored on a buck each time but rather saw the activity I was hoping for in these new places. With maybe only a 20 percent kill rate while hunting the October Lull, I’m very pleased with the effort. Last year was no exception when I purposely hit the timber at 10:00 am only to stick a beast at 11:10 am. The midday activity within deeper timber and in route to water and bedding seemed to do the trick.

I have also found by mixing up the times entering and exiting the timber will put a damper on smarter deer trying to pattern you! If at all possible try to hunt all day once making the effort, to insure the best possible ambush! You would be surprised how much activity you’ll see, anytime of the year, when hunting midday.

So there you have it, the October Lull theory! Give the techniques a try if you seem to be caught in this mystical time of the month and see what shows up in front of your bow.

On another note, here’s some finished heads from last year! I’ve just cleared out my shop and ready for the new heads to come in! Good luck this year and shoot fast and straight.

Here’s the October Lull buck from last October.

Some other heads too!

FYI, I changed my taxidermy number to 309-938-4953. I have a ton of product reviews on my website at too!


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