Editor's Note: We're highlighting all of the bucks that ran in August's Deer of the Year feature. Each week we'll post the full story and extra photos right here on the BBZ blog.
Like so many other legendary deer, Gregory Krapfl’s monster marsh buck fell to dumb luck and great shooting.
Krapfl spent Thanksgiving morning with his two sons hunting Wisconsin’s Horicon Marsh. The wetland is well-known in the waterfowl world—it’s one of the largest freshwater marshes in the country and is a major stop for migrating greenheads and Canadas—but this morning the Krapfls were after whitetails.
Last spring I had a chance to hunt turkeys in Nebraska with Cabela's, Camp Chef, and GoPro (this was a joint adventure with some of the Field & Streamers). I'd hunted and fished with GoPro cameras before, but this trip was the first time I receieved a tutorial on how to most effectively shoot with the little guys (we were using the Hero 3+).
But before we get into shooting tips, here's a quick video from our hunt, shot and edited in signature GoPro-style (the footage was recorded by GoPro's Damon Jones, Field & Stream's Dave Hurteau, and myself).
Neil and Craig Dougherty's Whitetails: From Ground to Gun is now available on eBook, making it more accessible than ever before.
The Doughertys power OL's Big Buck Zone blog all fall. I've had a chance to hunt with both of them on their property in western New York and can confirm that they're two of the finest whitetail experts in the field. Their book taps into the many secrets of their success.
Earlier this week, Deputy Editor Gerry Bethge wrote a post for the Strut Zone blog about an epic morning of turkey hunting that started with birds gobbling off the roost and ended with a foolish shot (taken by yours truly).
Between that first gobble and the final shotgun blast, Gerry and I endured four hours of gobbling, strutting, and drumming with two longbeards out of range. He finally coaxed them in with an aggressive series of fighting purrs while I got into position to shoot — by then I was shaking from excitement and exhaustion after sitting stone-still for so long.
The better of the two longbeards strutted his way to 30 yards, facing me straight away. I slid the safety off and the shotgun boomed, almost to my surprise. The bird rolled over and then got up and flew off to live another day.
It seems that every whitetail-focused publication runs at least one story every March or April about how early-spring is the best time to scout for deer. The general idea is that you can cruise through the spring woods and find deer sign from the previous season without having to worry about blowing bucks out of the county.
There are plenty of tactics for this (check out a post on spring scouting here), but the most fun way to do it is to just walk halfway aimlessly through the woods. You'll naturally end up taking the path of least resistance. And if you walk for long enough, that will lead you to some deer trails you haven't found before.
A few summers ago I got the chance to fish with Kevin vanDam. He ran his bass boat with efficiency usually reserved for CNC machines. The Kevin in this video seems to be on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Somehow a smallmouth pulls one of his rods from the boat. He spends the next 20 minutes trying to hook the line, which he eventually does. Finally, he's able to retrieve his lost rod and even land the fish (though at the end of the video he steps on one of his rods and almost breaks it).
From a national perspective, whitetail hunting and management seem to be at a crossroads. Not too many years ago whitetail powerhouse states like Wisconsin, Alabama, and Nebraska were seeing all-time record harvests (2000, 2005, and 2010 respectively) and the Boone and Crockett club had never received more entries. But, now a handful of indicators are suggesting that the deer hunting bubble is about to burst — or maybe that it already has. Increased predator numbers, deer diseases like epizootic hemorrhagic disease and chronic wasting disease, and years of high antlerless harvests have put many deer herds on unstable ground. Hunters from corners of classic whitetail country like Montana's Milk River and the riverbottoms of Illinois have already seen drastic declines in deer numbers over the last few years. Then, several bad EHD outbreaks peppered the nation last summer and a brutal 2013/2014 winter struck much of the Midwest and Northeast. This could spell more bad news for deer hunters this season.
Jeremy Wade stopped by the Outdoor Life office this week while making the media rounds to promote his new season of River Monsters (it premieres April 6, 9 p.m. ET on Animal Planet).
Unlike a lot of fishing shows out there, people who fish can actually watch River Monsters without too many eye-rolls (it seems most of the other fishing shows on major cable networks are made for people who've never stepped foot in a boat). Sure, the show plays up plenty of dramatic angles, but at least Wade is a real, hardcore fisherman.