My 2017 MI buck


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I was fortunate enough to harvest this guy on our opening day of the shotgun season.

We have 100's of pictures of him, and believe we have pics of him last year in the same 20 acre woodlot. Really neat bases like nothing I have ever seen before. Like his antlers melted down his head into his pedicles. A pop can is 8.25" circumference and his pedicle circumstances were over 9.5"(not bases)

Most of the year he hung out with another 4.5 yr old with an inside beam (mainframe 8 I posted on the trail cam section) how those 2 tolerated each other for 2 yrs in that small woodlot is amazing to me. They both have and held tight with 100's of pics of both each year.

Like the usual. We chased this buck all year with a bow never having an encounter, then I killed him 5 minutes into the gun season within bow range. Cheaper win, but I'll take it.

He is 4.5 yrs old, and scored 139 5/8"

Thanks for viewing :)

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Congratulations BigEight in getting the deer you were after. It is a real beauty. Your summer picture shows good browse growth in the understory of the twenty acres. Is it all like that? Is there anything else about this twenty acres that would make a deer want to hang tight to it. It looks like a hickory tree in the background, if so do the deer there eat the hickory nuts as they do here? Also what is the land like that surrounds the twenty acres? Does the twenty acres house doe in it as well or just the bucks? We all can learn a lot from your little treasure there.
Appreciate it :)

The understory is a ridiculous jungle, mostly briars, stump sprouted soft maples/elm/dead ash, as well as sugar maples on the north 5 acres. There is a pile of Paw Paw growing naturally as well that have now started to produce fruit after logging efforts. Not that those attract deer because the coons get the fruit as soon as they ripen, but a nice byproduct to see as the trees have been there forever, but never produced because of lack of sunlight.

We made a perimeter trail (30" wide) through this understory to make an easy path for bucks to cruise downwind of the middle bedding lazily and efficiently allowing us to hunt the very edges and keep the bucks upwind of us, and allow them to stay in cover and scent check for does that are bedded in the middle of the woods. This trail is about 20 yards inside the woods around the whole thing. We have the edge feathered (LC style) for our access screens and gaps coming off those perimeter trails going out to the farm fields that surround the woods. We don't do any more trails than that going to through the main bedding. Hate to give the coyotes an easy track to wander through those bedding areas.

The woods is an island surrounded by row crops on all sides, and have recently lost all the tree lines that use to go in/out of it the last 5 yrs, that connected it to neighboring woodlots. We never go any further than about 5-10 yards off the very edge leaving most of it as a sanctuary, and allowing us access on all sides that we only hunt with the wind blowing out of the woods.

Big thing I think we have done on all of our small woods is get them logged....HARD. When the logger gives us our bid that we accept, we have him take another size lower after that. Anything he can make a buck off of. If we left any trees of size in the middle the crowns would grow together and would have to eliminate later, might as well have the logger do the work and get it done in one season. Never ending work/pressure that we went down in the past not getting it cut hard enough when we had the chance. Small woodlots you better get it done the first time. Hard to get a logger back in less than 20 yrs later to get what he left behind, just not much left to make it worth their while. We don't have any hinge cuts in there, just really high stem count/brows below 4'.

The neighboring woodlots have high pressure, little brows, little cover, etc. pretty good situation if you have a 20 and the neighbor has a 300 acres. We just seem to get the oldest deer in the neighborhood to call our place home "most" of the time. They obviously wander in and out at night, some days gone, but a majority of the days during the season we have a mature buck bedding in there. If he moves or not, that's a different story. Being SO close to their food/does, etc. I think they actually move a lot less during daylight than they would in a bigger woodlot. Good thing is that when they do move, no matter where you are, you usually < 150 yards away no matter which stand you are in :)

The thing we do kind of struggle with it that we do always have the wind "perfect" for US, which 9/10 times if the buck isn't cruising for does and going to food, the buck puts the wind in his face and goes to the food source. Row crops surrounding the woodlot 360 degrees, they can do that every day, leaving us Holding them most of the year, but not killing them as easily as we could with food on one, or half the sides. I'd rather have it like that though, it allows us to hold mature bucks because they feel secure and have everything perfect for them, but can be frustrating knowing you have a couple mature bucks in a small woodlot, but just cant kill the SOB ! Those perimeter trail during the rut pay off big time when they finally start scent checking.

We have a lot of Hickories mixed in there, as well as it being a dominant species in a different 20 that we hunt. The other 20 that is dominated by Hickories use to have the forest floor covered in nuts in the fall. I have never seen a deer eat one. There is a mix of shagbark, pignut, and bitternut (I believe) and haven't seen any of them even get sniffed.

The woodlot houses a lot of does at times. It fluctuates with population daily when the crops come down. With it neighboring bigger woodlots with high pressure, and crops coming down continuously in the fall it is a different woodlot/population every time we hunt it. Most hunts I see about a dozen deer, but the late doe season that takes place the last 10 days of December, I have seen 40+ deer come out of there MANY, many times.

We hunt 2 other 20 acre woodlots and an 11, that all are se up like this. They all seem to function about the same. Also allowing us to spread the pressure out a lot. Which is huge for us.

Hopefully that babbling answered most of the questions :D
Excellent information BigEight. Thank you for sharing it with us. You have answered the questions very well. It sounds like a perfect place to grow some deer to older ages. I'm on track with some of what you have done and have seen some positive results; I'd like to see more improved results but I still have a ways to go to get it all setup.

I have followed the same route on the hard cutting; Timber stand improvement type cutting opens up the crown to let sunlight in but then as you say, it just fills right back in again. Good Stuff what you have done!
I definitely don't believe we "grow" deer to the ages we harvest, but because we are the only ones in the neighborhood that seem to be playing the habitat/hunt smart game, we usually have a couple good bucks to chase each season.

The 2 bucks I said that were 4.5 in that woodlot this year were the first 2 that I believe we had 2 consecutive years running with pictures. Not that we might not have them at 1, then have them return at 3, or 4, we just cant really track them, or haven't been able to. I think with that patchwork style landscape we have with a 20 here and a 40 there and a random couple hundred owned by a farmer that let everyone hunt, the deer move around SO much, and with really high deer densities, something good shows up and sticks around if its smart enough to know how to survive in that area.

It's a unique area that we are fortunate to have high enough densities that even with everyone killing everything they see, a few still slip though the cracks that we have a good deer or 2 very year. If we had half that density, we probably would never see a 2.5 yr old :)
As you said you can't really grow them with twenty acres as on average it takes twenty acres just to feed one deer for a year. However if a couple of bucks hole up on the twenty acres or the forty acres during their most vulnerable time of the year and it causes them to make it through hunting season and the winter and thus see another year then you are highly responsible for them surviving to grow another year. Definitely the more deer the property produces if it can feed them all, then the greater the chance of one or two, making it to the older age many of us strive for. You have a good model going on there.
It does produce for how small the properties are, and we are very fortunate. My BIL also killed a 4.5 yr old this year that we had 100's of pictures of since August on a different 20.
Only "bad" thing with the situation we have, is it can be maddening as you usually are looking for ONE buck on each property. It's usually, HIM or bust. Which can drive a person mad sometimes :)
Congratulations Mark, that thing is ridiculous.

Thanks George,
Flying to Pagosa Springs in the morning to visit family that lives there, and do a little snowboarding with the kids and wife. Second trip out there this year. Chased elk in the San Juan at the end of Aug/September to get my legs in shape for this trip. Amazing back yard you have :)
It only took one good kill to convince me to stay at least another year,

Tis or tisn't the season for snow boarding around here? Maybe Thursday.

We'll see. Called wolf creek and they claimed they had most of the runs open..checked the live feed from the mountain and looked like people were doing their thing.
We brought all our boards knowing it was a gamble. Hoping Thursday and Saturday live up to the forecast !!!

Either way it will be a great trip. Pagosa never disappoints :)
Ya I've been checking the live cam. How did your elk hunt go? We were probably up there on the hill together.

Ya I've been checking the live cam. How did your elk hunt go? We were probably up there on the hill together.


Got lucky in CO this week ! clear sailing on the roads on the way in, Sat in the hot springs while watching 8-9" of fresh snow come down on Thursday for boarding on Friday and Saturday, then smooth sailing on the way out Sunday morning. Had a few hours of delays coming back to Detroit made for a rough Christmas day running on fumes. Pulled into the garage at 6:30 Monday morning, directly into family activities. Wouldn't have it any other way !!

Elk hunting went MUCH better than last time. Didn't see an animal last time, so I was excited to do better this time!
Said I was going to try and fill a tag on the first elk I could either bull or cow no matter if it was the first 5 minutes ! .....So, I pass a huge cow at 18 yards the first 3 minutes the first morning, because she had a 5 X 5 following her. she got by me, wind swirled and watched them both run up the mountain. Was perfect. would have been less than a 1/2 mile from camp too. ugh, what an idiot !! still kicking myself for that move. Bird in the hand ...

Stalked a bull rubbing a spruce. Got to 40 yards and didn't offer a shot. Was really exciting.

Had some other cows that were in range that didn't offer a shot, and some others that were just out of range feeding.

I did miss a cow at 53 yards. I ranged a large aspen at 40 yards, that she walked RIGHT by. I tried to stop her and she walked quickly right through my shooting range. Still at full draw, I thought she walked parallel to me and finally got her to stop in the next opening so I let it fly. Shot JUST under her. She was walking slightly away and covered more ground than I thought. Was at 53, so I put a broadhead in a nice log instead :D

I did have WAY more encounters with bears than I wanted. Couldn't keep them off me. Sows with cubs at 12 yards, other bears at 10-20 yards that I had to yell at, then had a big one about crawl into the ground blind I made under a spruce tree. Yelled and yelled at him at about 8' and he didn't flinch. Finally got my bear spray out and unclipped and was bold enough to finally stand up and holler. Once I stood, he bolted. Glad I didn't have to spray him.

Really fun time in some beautiful country, and much better hunt than I had a few years ago when I went. Definitely jealous of your back yard !!
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I had nothing but a couple of glimpses this past year. I found elk much closer to my house after the season. Next year I'm thinking about first rifle instead of bow.

I have yet to encounter a bear out in the field.

That was good timing on our tiny snow storm. I have never been down to the Springs.