Monthly Archives: November 2011

‘The Shed Buck’

'The Shed Buck' & His Sheds.

by AHT Contributor Greg Johnston

It’ll go down as one of the more memorable hunts in my hunting career, and certainly one of my most coveted accomplishments. ‘The Shed Buck,’ roams no more. He now rests in peace on my wall!

This, like many other hunting stories, started with a single trail camera photo. At the end of the 2010 hunting season, I placed my cameras back out into the field to take inventory of what deer had survived the New York hunting season(s). I was pleasantly surprised when a 2.5-year-old 9-pointer made a cameo in front of my Moultrie.

I knew who this deer was and, in fact, had watched him all through the summer months in a bachelor group with several other bucks. The odd part was that I’d never encountered him through the entire 2010 season and, to be honest, had forgotten about him by season’s end. Never the less, he was alive and that was a good thing.

'The Shed Buck' appears.

I closely monitored the one camera the buck seemed to frequent most. The plan was to try and capture as many photos of the deer as possible [I captured dozens] and, if at all possible, recover both of his sheds. It worked perfectly as on Feb. 6th the deer arrived sporting only the left side of his rack. That meant the right side wouldn’t be far from the camera location. Even better, I captured another photo shortly after which showed the buck had dropped his left side, too. I was very confident I would recover both of his sheds and begin building a history with this deer.

The buck appears with his left antler only.

I made several attempts at recovering the antlers, but the deep snow made it a difficult task – especially with my then 3-year-old son firmly placed on my shoulders. My luck changed as the snow began to melt in late March. I was able to recover both sheds approximately 20-yards apart. I was thrilled.

Fast forward to the summer of 2011 as I glassed my normal honey holes in search of this one specific deer I’d dubbed, ‘The Shed Buck.’ Try as I did, though, I never located the deer through the entire summer. I began to wonder if the deer had been hit by a car or if he had just moved out of the area as many younger bucks do. On Oct. 23rd I was given a glimmer of hope when I grunted in a handsome 8-pointer to within 30 yards. The deer locked up and presented me with a bad shot angle. I elected not to take the shot, but I began to wonder if I had just laid eyes on ‘The Shed Buck?’

I had a similar experience with the deer in early November as he chased a doe in from behind me but, as I reached for my bow, he caught movement and walked off in the opposite direction. I was sick. I noticed that night, though, that the buck had a fairly significant injury to his right leg. He walked – or hobbled – very slowly.

I hung several new stands in the following days hoping to get a crack at this big 8-pointer with archery tackle. Things changed on Nov. 18th when I harvested another one of my Hit List deer. This meant I’d have to wait until shotgun season to try and kill the big 8. In New York, hunters are allotted one antlered deer for archery season and then another antlered deer for the firearms season.

The first opportunity I had to hunt the area was on the afternoon of Nov. 23rd. It was unseasonably warm and a touch windy, but I headed out to one of the new stand locations I had recently hung. I climbed the stand only to discover I had forgotten my safety strap in a tree from the previous days hunt. I made the decision to climb down and hunt from the ground. I quickly formulated a ‘Plan B’ and began to maneuver myself about 100 yards to the south where I would have a good view of a natural travel corridor. It was the best I could do, given the circumstances.

As I walked down a mowed path on my way to the travel corridor, I glanced to my right and saw my number one Hit List buck appear out of nowhere. There he stood at 100 yards looking at me through the thick goldenrod. I raised my Remington 1100 .20 ga., centered the cross hairs and let a Winchester fly. The deer whirled at the sound of the shot and began to move in a northerly direction.

I took off running hoping to get a glimpse and another shot off at the buck, but when I got to where he should have been, I couldn’t find him. I figured one of two things had happened – either I killed him and he was lying dead, or he never exited the goldenrod field because of that bum leg. I slowly climbed onto a nearby dirt mound to get a better view where I saw the buck standing a mere 20 yards from me. Another shot from the 1100 anchored the buck for good. As it turned out, I never hit the deer on the first shot. His injured leg just prevented him from running too far.

A perfect match.

Only one question remained unanswered now and that was, was this indeed ‘The Shed Buck?’ I went back home to retrieve my 4-year-old hunting buddy, the sheds and the tractor. A quick comparison of the sheds to the deer left no doubt, that I had indeed, just killed ‘The Shed Buck.’ I couldn’t believe it came together the way it did.

Looking back, I think this was just one of those hunts that was meant to be. Earlier in the day I had contemplated hunting another property, but decided against it. You take that, coupled with the fact that I forgot my safety belt, and the deer’s injured leg slowed him down enough, which allowed me to get a second shot off.

The deer has a 19" spread with 8" G2's.

There is no more gratifying feeling for a whitetail hunter than to establish a history with a particular buck and then successfully kill him. It was one heck of a week in the deer woods for me, killing two of my Hit List bucks in six days – one with a bow and one with a gun.

AHT Thanksgiving Leftover Turkey Chowder

Chasing pheasants was almost considered the means to an end. For at the end of a long day of hunting, many years ago, was bowl after bowl of Stout’s Pheasant Chowder. A well-known dish in the parts where I grew, it was one of my favorites.

A bowl of warm, flavorful chowder

And it served as inspiration in my quest to build a chowder of my own. After many years of trial and error, I’m happy to report I finally got a recipe that I love. It officially was established in 2009 and for the last three years has been something my family looks forward to in the days following Thanksgiving. When the turkey sandwhiches have run their course, remaining leftover turkey is made into the chowder.

Now, I’m happy to share it with you. It’s simple. Turkey can be replaced with pheasant, chicken, clams or any other protein of your choice. The turkey, though, is my favorite.

AHT Turkey Chowder
Ingredients (all are approximations as I do not measure when I cook!)

1 box chicken stock
2 cups water
4 T. butter
1/2 yellow onion
1 stalk of celery
4-5 medium potatoes
2 cups of chopped turkey
1 can of kernel corn
4 T. flour
3 cups of half and half

Bring chicken stock, butter and water to boil. Add chopped onion. Simmer on medium-low for 10 minutes. Add celery and potatoes. Continue simmering. In 7-8 minutes, add turkey and corn. Also add flour (mix it with a little water to ease its transition into the hot mixture).

I prefer a healthy amount of pepper in my chowder

If you don’t think it smells tasty at this point, you should probably quit and admit you’re not good at identifying great food. If it does smell good, continue. Simmer 8-10 more minutes until potatoes are tender. Add half and half (best to warm it just a bit in the microwave to help again with the transition). Stir constantly over medium heat for another 5-6 minutes. Salt and Pepper to taste.

Enjoy! Serves 6.

Roots of Hunting Passion Linked to Turkey Day

My brothers and I were among the less fortunate youth who grew up in New York State waiting until we were 16-years old to legally chase whitetails with a gun. Most states are far more accommodating to introduce youth to hunting deer at an earlier age – and I applaud New York for finally starting a youth mentoring program that gets kids hunting earlier.

Many years after those initial hunts with my dad (far right), my family still hits the field. This picture, from 2008, is only missing my oldest brother, Bud, from our core group.

In hindsight, that long wait years ago helped introduce me to archery and bowhunting as it afforded me the chance to get into the woods earlier. For that I am thankful.

But one of the things I’m most thankful for during this time of year, is that my dad let me accompany him on a special Thanksgiving Day hunt when I was just a little tyke.

Each year, dad would keep me held in suspense until after the tryptophan had nestled itself deep into our bellies before he’d invite me to join him, my two older brothers and my uncles for an afternoon hunt on Thanksgiving Day. I’m sure there was a bit of constant nagging by me leading into those moments, but being able to join made me look forward to that day more than most others during a calendar year. During those years, the season opened on Monday and the it was only four-days old each time we went afield.

It mattered none that I walked and sat next to my dad unarmed. To me, I was hunting. And you needed to look no further than the solid blaze orange hunting suit I wore to know I dressed the part!

I think I was a solid good-luck charm too. Very few trips to the woods ended with someone not finding luck on those hunts.

Something about those Thanksgiving hunts planted something in me that no amount of drugs can tame. Perhaps it was the anticipation of the hunt alongside my family. It very well could have been the opportunity to share something with my dad. Maybe it was a reclamation of my hunter roots. It might have had something to do with my birthday always falling somewhere near that day. More than likely, though, it was a combination of all of those things.

Regardless, the passion for chasing whitetails that those early hunts instilled in me runs deeper than the roots of a century-old oak. For that, to me, is something to be thankful for.

Cat Tales: With a little boy expected to join the world any day now, this marks one of only a handful of years that I’m unable to hunt with my family on our farm in NY during the opening days of gun season in New York. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to take when the reason includes such an awesome blessing as having a child enter our family. There will be many more “openers” in the future – and I look forward to sharing them with my kids. For starters, though, I can’t wait to take them on Thanksgiving! In fact, I’m likely going to take my little girl “hunting” (which will consist of a short walk in the woods) later this week here in NC. She has been asking to go all season!

Eleventh Hour Hunt Ends Quest for ‘The Ghost Buck’

by AHT Contributor Greg Johnston

One happy hunter.

It all started with a mid-June trail camera picture of two deer. Both of the bucks were big, both deer had nine score-able points and both deer would be killed in the 2011 NYS archery season. One however would fall on the final day of archery season as I’d punch my archery tag for the first time since 2007. It was an incredible day and one that marked the end of the line for ‘The Ghost Buck.’

The deer earned his name from that June picture. At first glance, I thought the photo only captured the image of one buck – and a good one at that. But as Kurt and I manipulated the image and over exposed the photo, a second brute appeared. He would adopt the name ‘The Ghost Buck’ from that point on.

The only image of 'The Ghost Buck' I ever captured.

Ironically, the name seemed to fit the deer as he vanished from the trail cameras. I never captured another image of the deer and we had no sightings of him throughout the entire archery season, until the morning of November 18, 2011.

The morning was cold and chilly, and with a fresh blanket of 3 to 4 inches of snow on the ground, I had high hopes of seeing movement. I reached my stand around 6:00 a.m. and didn’t see a deer until around 7:45 when a small buck appeared off to my southwest. As I watched the buck move through the woods, I turned my head to see something I’d waited all season for – one of my Hit List deer on the move during daylight hours.

A photo I took of the conditions moments before the encounter with 'The Ghost Buck.'

The first thing I noticed was how he walked with a considerable limp. I was unsure as to what deer this was, but I knew he was a shooter and on the final day of the season, that’s all I needed to know. The details would get worked out later.

The buck was traveling in a northerly direction moving from my right to left directly behind the stand. To complicate things some, the overnight snow was weighing down the hemlock limbs in the area – much like heavy Christmas ornaments hang from the family tree. I struggled to see the buck as he continued his hobbled walk.

I hoped he would turn and head my way, but it became very clear that wasn’t going to happen – at least without some prodding. It was at this point I decided to grunt at him. I gave him a few tending grunts and that was all it took. He stopped, flicked his tail and made a 90 degree turn towards my stand. I whirled around, grabbed my bow and attached my release. As I saw the buck moving through the trees I came to a full draw. He paused for a moment and then walked broadside at 25 yards. I blatted at him, but as he stopped he angled towards me. I had one shot and that was to try and squeeze a G5 Montec into the left side of his chest. I steadied my HHS single pin sight and sent a Beman flying.

I immediately knew I hit the buck – archers know the distinct sound a penetrating arrow makes. I made a few phone calls and assessed the situation. Upon climbing down from my stand I found good blood. I was encouraged. I gave the deer 45 minutes and began to slowly track him through the snow. I went about 60 yards and looked up. To my amazement the deer laid 15 yards in front of me. He had his head up, but his breathing was obviously labored. I knocked another arrow and came to full draw. I let a second arrow fly – this one catching the front part of his lungs. The buck jumped up and ran up a small nearby hill. I called my Dad and told him I was not sure we’d recover the deer. I walked out and met my Dad where we gave the deer another 30 minutes to expire.

We followed the blood trail another 60 yards where the buck laid dead in a ditch. To say I was juiced is an understatement. I had sealed the deal on the final day of the regular archery season. I couldn’t believe it.

The buck has an impressive 22 and 1/4" outside spread.

The 5 X 4 has a 22 and ¼ outside spread. I don’t know what he scores, nor do I really care. It’s been a long journey through these past three seasons. I’ve had some great encounters with some great deer, but for one reason or another I wasn’t able to close the deal.

I feel vindicated and relieved.

I’d like to just give a quick shout out to my wife who deals with my annual absence every fall. Hunting is a time consuming game and she picks up my slack when I’m in the woods and out of the house. I appreciate her understanding of my addiction to whitetail deer.

Until next time, safe hunting.

Greg Johnston is a contributor to AHT. He is most notably known here for his weekly report on rut activity. The WNY native balances time between the woods and home where he and his wife are busy raising their two young children.

Note to Self: Next Time Remember the Arrows

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

It wasn’t one of my finer hunting moments. My father and I had made our half-hour morning commute to our hunting property in Livingston County, NY. All was well and good as I prepared myself for the morning hunt. Dad stopped the truck as the plan was for him to drop me off near my stand location – I would walk from there. I reached into the back of the truck for my hunting paraphernalia. Safety vest check, H.S. earth scent spray check, Bowtech check, Catquiver…Ah…

My Catquiver.

Yup, that’s right I had left my Catquiver at home. Without it I was dead in the water. I’d be like Dale Earnhardt Jr. showing up to the race track without a Sharpie in hand.

My backpack carries my arrows, grunt call, bleat can, gloves, knit hat and more. There was one solution to this problem and that was to drive back home and retrieve my catquiver, which I did. To complicate the problem, I arrived back home where I received a call from my Dad who said he forgot his release in the truck after I dropped him off. I eventually returned back to the woods, handed Dad his release and climbed the tree. All by 7:30 a.m.

It’s fair to say the morning didn’t go as planned, but with all of the garb we archery hunters carry now a days, I’m actually surprised it hasn’t happened before [but hopefully won’t again].

Rut Action

As I forecasted last week, rut action has really picked up. A quick search of the internet will show that hunters from the Midwest to the Northeast have been knocking down some bruisers. Unfortunately I haven’t been one of those lucky hunters. I’ve seen plenty of chasing and have passed up on plenty of smaller bucks, but I have yet to get a good look at a big boy. I aint giving up though.

Tomorrow, 11/18 marks the end of the early archery season here in N.Y. The orange pumpkins invade the woods on Saturday the 19th. I’m going to mark the end of the archery season by sitting in a tree with my bow in hand. I’m down to my final hours, but I’m going to finish strong.

Shooting a mature buck in the Northeast has proven to be a challenge. Not impossible, but a challenge. I know that. Hey, I’ve eaten my archery tag the past three years in this quest. At this point in my hunting career I’ve made the conscious decision though to shoot big deer or no deer – or at least just does.

Orange Pumpkins

As I said, Saturday marks the beginning of shotgun/rifle season here in WNY. I will reluctantly join the orange pumpkins. I enjoy gun hunting I just don’t enjoy listening to all of the weekend warriors whack every deer that runs out of the woods on the first deer drive of the season.

Opening day 2010 buck.

That’s not to say that opening day isn’t one of the best days to be in a stand though. I got lucky last year when ‘The Great Eight’ came strolling in in search of a hot doe. He seemed to have no idea it was firearm season, but then again we only allow stand hunting on all of our properties.

I hope to have some luck this week. I’ve put in my time, I just hope it pays off.

Here’s to a safe and enjoyable hunt, Greg Johnston

Rut Action to Peak This Week

AHT Contributor, Greg Johnston Reports From the Stand:

The calendar reads Nov. 8th, but it feels more like Oct. 8th here in Upstate NY. The mercury is forecasted to climb to near 70 degrees today and we all know that doesn’t make for great deer hunting weather.

I’m not hunting today, but I’ll be in a tree the rest of the week and the upcoming weekend. With cooler temperatures expected, activity should peak.

A group of does work past my stand on Saturday morning.

I expect rut activity to climax Nov. 10 through the 15th as bucks will be on their feet in search of that first estrus doe. In my opinion, that’ll be our best shot at getting a crack at a good buck with archery tackle in hand.

To recap my week, the closest encounter I had with a mature deer came last evening as I had a big buck run a doe to within 40 years of my stand. I’m a little fuzzy as to who this deer is, but never the less, he’s a big bodied buck and sports a good rack.

The deer had a considerable limp and appeared to be ailing from a pre-rut scuffle with another deer.
I blew my opportunity though when I hit him with a few tending grunts. I decided to grunt in an effort to bring him around a clump of brush. I needed him to clear the brush in order to get a clear shot. The wounded warrior obviously didn’t like the challenge as he turned and walked away. Lesson learned – I won’t try that again.

I have to admit that my archery tag is itching a hole right through my back pocket, but I’m doing my best to try and remain patient, but confident. It’s hard though man.

Let us know what you’re seeing by leaving a comment below.

Cat Tales:
I received some disappointing news this week when I learned that one of my Hit List bucks had been killed by a neighboring hunter. The 9-pointer had visited my trail camera last on October 24th, just a few days prior to him being harvested.

The final picture I captured of the Big 9. At just 3.5 years-old the deer was one of the better bucks I captured on camera.

That was a bummer, but I’ve still got some great deer to hunt and feel fortunate and blessed to have the opportunity to do something I love so much!

AHT 8 Questions: Matt Arey

Matt Arey has been flipping and pitching lures on the waters of North Carolina for over two decades. He started doing it professionally around the country nine years ago.

Arey at an FLW Major Tour weigh-in

Arey, 30, is a professional on the FLW Majors Tour where he’s averaged nearly $35,000 in sanctioned earnings each year since 2006. AHuntersTales connected with the Shelby, N.C., native recently to chat about the outdoors as part of an AHT 8. For him, that’s more than just fishing. Like a lot of professional anglers we talk with, hunting is as much of a passion for Arey as fishing. When he’s not fishing, he co-owns a guide service called Rack and Reel Outfitters.

1) Ok, truth be told … do you like fishing or hunting better? Why?
My favorite would have to be hunting, hands down. First of all, fishing has been my full time job during the past five years; hunting is a way for me to relax and enjoy God’s creation, while also giving me a break from life on the road. I bow hunt almost exclusively now and enjoy seeing wildlife up close and personal in their natural state. I am amazed at the sights and sounds that a person can witness from a deer stand or duck blind. If I could figure out a way to make a living hunting, I would be happy to make that transition.

2) What gets you excited about the future of the outdoors?
Hunting and fishing conservation improvements over the last few years with extremely active groups definitely excite me. For example, groups such as Ducks Unlimited and FishAmerica Foundation are always working hard to enhance duck and fish populations while restoring habitat and improving water quality.

Arey with a Kentucky bruiser

Something else that excites me, especially on the fishing side of things, are the new tackle, electronic, and equipment innovations over the last few years. Innovative products such as the Evinrude E-TEC outboard and StructureScan have taken bass fishing to a whole new level. One of the main reasons I run the Evinrude E-TEC is because of its low emissions. I am eager I to see what other amazing products these companies have in store for consumers.

3) What’s your fishing “must have”? How about when you’re hunting?
The two things I must have when I am on the water are my Evinrude E-TEC and my Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The success of my career is largely dependent on the reliability of my equipment, and I surround myself with the best products available.

Since I love to bow hunt, the number one piece of equipment for me in the woods is my range finder.

4) What is your first memory in the outdoors?
One of my very first memories in the outdoors is going on my first deer hunting trip down in Council, N.C. with my dad at the age of 9. We were deer hunting with dogs, and there was a small doe that was chased out of the brush toward our location. I shot twice with my youth 20 gauge pump that dad had given to me right before the hunt and missed. The club we were hunting with would hold a “trial” for those hunters who were rumored to have missed a deer during the hunt that day.

If you were indeed “found guilty” of missing a deer, they would punish you by cutting off a piece of your shirttail and then hanging it on a line that was full of shirttails from over the years (as a joke of course). Well, long story short, part of my shirt became a victim and joined the rest of the bad shots that hung on the line, and as far as I know, it is still hanging there to this day.

5) You guide fishing and hunting too, right? What’s your favorite memory that includes someone else in the lead role with you guiding?
This probably involves a young boy and his father on a trip I took to Lake Wylie (near Charlotte) one day. Neither one of them had ever caught a bass over 3 lbs. The very first thing that morning they had doubles on, and both fish ended up surpassing (in weight) their personal records. I have taken quite a few trips with father-son duos and I have never seen as big a grin as the ones that came across their faces when both of those fish came into the boat that day.

6) We hear from people all the time that want to “make a living” in the outdoors. What is your advice to them?
My advice would be to take it slow and keep an open mind. If your goal is competitive fishing, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Start out fishing local events to gain experience and see how you stack up and go from there. Whether I am guiding or fishing a Tour event, there is always room to learn more. Always remember that every day in the woods or on the water is a learning experience no matter how knowledgeable you think you are.

7) Every pro angler has a morning launch story that involves getting to a spot they wanted. Tell us your favorite!
At the FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake, my wife surprised me for my 30th birthday, by flying to Arkansas and showing up to weigh-in. To top off the surprise, I was fortunate to have a good two days of fishing and make the top 20 cut. After day 3, I was sitting in third place and eager to start the final day of fishing.

I arrived to my first spot, went to get a couple of jerk bait rods out of my rod box and panic immediately set in. It was locked! I keep my truck and compartment keys on the same key ring, so normally my truck keys are always in the boat. My wife helped me launch the boat that morning and took my truck with her so she would not be without a vehicle at the tournament. She was headed to Rogers for the day and I knew I could not call her.

I debated on what to do and was hesitant to pry open the box, for fear of damaging my boat. After weighing my options and thinking about the opportunity to win $125,000, my mind was made up. Using a flat-head screwdriver and a lot of elbow grease, I was able to break the box open, while ripping through the gel coat and throwing fiberglass everywhere. It was instant relief to finally pull a rod out, but I was angry at myself for such a bone head move on such an important day.

8) Do you need an AHT deal for your boat? How about your truck?
As most pro anglers would tell you, sponsorship opportunities are few and far between, and my ears are always open. This doesn’t mean I have to put a picture of Kurt’s Tail on my truck or boat does it? … Oh wait, this is T-a-l-e-s, not Tails!

It was great to talk to you Kurt, Happy Hunting! Now it is off to Kentucky for me to chase some Christian County whitetails.

Thanks for the time, Matt. We look forward to seeing how you’re doing on the FLW Tour for many years to come. And keep us posted on your success in the woods. You’re welcome to share stories for the AHT readers anytime!