Category Archives: Guest Contributors

Shed Hunt Nets Bone, Memories

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Writer

I started the spring shed-hunting season hoping to find one set of sheds in particular – and no they weren’t from a 165” giant we’d been passing all year hoping he’d crack the Boone and Crocket barrier next season. This aint Iowa, and my name isn’t Lakosky.

The deer whose antlers I coveted was a 2.5-year old 9-pointer, who frequented my Moultrie all winter long.

The 9-point buck Johnston awaited to drop sheds.

I religiously checked my camera waiting for this particular buck to show up missing antlers. In early February I got the photo I’d been waiting for. The buck I’d dubbed ‘Survivor’ showed up with his right side missing and a few hours later returned with no antlers at all.

In late February I set out hoping to stumble upon these two antlers.

It didn’t happen.

I made three different trips to the woods in February, but had no luck locating Survivor’s sheds in the thick white snow. My luck changed in March, though, when the snow pack melted and I was able to locate both sides of Survivor. The antlers lay approximately 25-feet apart in a travel corridor.

The author with his 3-year old son, Blake

This was a major accomplishment for me as this was the first match set of antlers I’d ever been able to recover.

Feeling more confident in my shed hunting ability, I took my 3-year old son a few weeks later to another family property. With Blake in the backpack, and my wife and daughter at the mall, we set off in hunt of more bone. For anyone with young children, this is a great way to get them involved in the great outdoors – and another opportunity to get you to the woods.

Sheds on the ground!


Blake seemed to really enjoy the day and even claimed he saw a zebra at one point. Not sure on that one.

We were about a half an hour into our quest when I spotted antlers through the woods. I pointed them out to Blake who replied, “They’re from a white buck Dad.” He could obviously see the white of the antlers through the trees. As it turned out there were two antlers and they too were a match set of sheds.

Blake looking tired after a day in the woods!


With two antlers in hand, Blake and I continued our walk where we found four more antlers. Nothing huge, but still satisfying – especially sharing it with my little guy who with any luck will roam those woods for years to come.

The walk back to the truck nearly broke my back, as the 35-pound kiddo was getting heavy after our long journey. He posed for some pictures, but fatigue had apparently caught up him too!

The shed season turned out to be an entire success. I substantially added to my shed collection and, more importantly, made some quality memories with my favorite little guy – memories that even a 165” deer can’t compare to.

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The Ultimate Hunt

By Kenny Roberts
Guest Contributor

Have you ever considered what your ultimate hunt would be? I think each of us who are true hunters has spent many hours daydreaming about such a hunt, whatever it might be. Would your ultimate hunt be a whitetail hunt in Saskatchewan waiting for one of those Canadian bruiser bucks to appear? Or would it be in Iowa, Illinois or Kansas?

Pop's Model 94 Winchester, purchased in 1950, and the hat he was wearing when he passed away 10 years ago.

How about a flooded timber hunt around Stuttgart, Arkansas, for Mallards and other species of ducks? Maybe you have dreamed of hunting elk in New Mexico, big horn sheep in Montana, or possibly a grizzly bear hunt in Alaska?

It took me nearly 40 years to figure out what my ultimate hunt would be, and the surprising revelation is that I have already been on that hunt! Although I still dream of the chance to go on new and exciting hunts for a variety of animal species and waterfowl, none of these hunts will compare to my ultimate hunt.

My ultimate hunt started about 4 a.m. in the fall of 1971 when my dad (we called him Pop) said, “Get up boy, it’s time to go” as he shook me awake. Since I was the runt of his three “boys” I am certain that he started with me and worked his way up by age to my oldest brother. I slowly arose from my warm bed and began putting on every stitch of clothing I could find, including several layers of athletic socks and the same brogan-style shoes that I wore to school everyday.

Pop's 1970-71 Hunting and Big Game Licenses

I didn’t own any camouflage clothing or hunting boots, so it was whatever was available (and hopefully warm) that could be worn in layers. My two brothers and I piled into Pop’s 1966 Chevy Impala and we headed east towards Uwharrie National Forest. Somewhere between Charlotte and Albemarle, Pop found an AM radio station that was playing a Jerry Clower comedy skit. For those of you not familiar with, or have never heard of Yazoo City, Miss.’s, most famous resident; you’ve missed out on some good ole’ southern culture. After a few Jerry Clower stories about one of the Ledbetter brothers and somewhere between Albemarle and Troy, NC, we stop at a restaurant for breakfast. No socialite would be caught near this choke-and-puke establishment, but it’s the perfect place to fill your belly before a day in the woods. Everyone excluding the waitress, the cook and of course me; are wearing camouflage and the place was packed with other hunters. Years later I thought about this scene, and I could only imagine how proud Pop must have been to walk into this restaurant with his three boys trailing behind him.

Although the years to come would prove more stressful for him and our mother, one thing is for sure: At least they knew where their boys would be every Saturday during the fall!

After a quick breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage and toast, we are back in the Impala for the final leg of the trip. We finally arrive at our hunting destination and immediately begin preparing for the hunt. Pop leads us into the woods a couple hundred yards or so and instructs me and my brother Ronny (two years my senior) to sit at the base of a tree till he and our brother Wendell (four years older than me) return. Ronny and I will hold down the centerline of this deer assault, while Pop and Wendell take the left and right flanks.

Pop in the United States Marine Corp Reserves (circa 1953/1954)


Of course Ronny and my chance at successfully harvesting a buck are greatly reduced due to the fact that we do not have a gun! It is a minor detail – at least we are hunting.

We were left in charge of the most important element of the hunt: The survival food, which consisted of candy bars, crackers and apples. Unfortunately for the other members of our hunting party, we completely decimated every morsel by 10 a.m.

Ronny and I sat at the base of this tree in the dark for several hours; actually it is probably only 10-15 minutes, but it felt like an eternity. We are a little scared and a lot cold! About mid-morning Pop and Wendell return with no buck to show for their efforts. Is it any wonder with Ronny and I ripping open candy bar wrappers; crunching on crackers and all the other noise we surely created? At that age I had only assumed that they must have walked 5 or 6 miles away, but I know now that Pop was certainly in eyesight of us. If you think our chance at success was greatly reduced by not having a gun, what about his? An 8 and 10-year old sitting in the woods with a gunny sack full of goodies.

In those days there were not nearly as many deer as there are today in the Piedmont of NC and those that might have been in our vicinity that morning were now three counties away.

Pop had always been an avid deer hunter and he continued hunting till his death in November of 2000. One thing for sure about Pop, when he hunted, he liked to walk around and explore the woods. The mid-morning till noon hunt consisted of walking over each hill or mountain we encountered to “see what was on the other side.” This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the ultimate hunt; we got to stretch our legs and the walking warmed our chilled bones. More importantly to an 8-year-old; I was walking in a wilderness and over each hill I expected to see a Grizzly bear, a mountain lion or just maybe, a whitetail deer! I can still vividly smell the damp fall leaves lying on the ground, feel the warmth of the sun as it peeked over the mountain to our east and see the beautiful trees and rock outcroppings that we passed. It was an amazing place for an 8-year-old to spend a Saturday during the fall of 1971.

After a couple of hours of wandering around and examining every holler and hill, we made our way back to the car. Since all of the food was gone, we would find our way to a little general store and resupply the gunny sack.

The early afternoon was spent lounging around in the warm sun, drinking a Pepsi Cola and eating a moon-pie and dreaming about the buck that we would see later that afternoon. The afternoon hunt was so much more comfortable; it was warmer and us unarmed hunters could see everything around us, which allowed for more concentration on spotting a deer as opposed to worrying about who or what was going to come out from the shadows to get us. As the afternoon light faded behind the mountains, Pop and Wendell returned to the base camp and reported no sightings of deer in the area. Oh well, we’ll get one next time!

Our hunting machine (the Impala) is brought to life and it is time for the journey home. After waking up at 4 a.m. and an all-day hunt and walk in the woods, coupled with the heat that finally filters into the back seat of the car where I sit; I quickly fall asleep and begin dreaming about the next hunt. In today’s society they recommend that if you take a child hunting or fishing, you need to keep it exciting and hopefully successful, so that the child does not become bored or discouraged. We continued to take these hunting trips in the years to come and rarely if ever did we see a deer, much less harvest one. It was several years later when my oldest brother harvested his first deer and 10 years later before Ronny took his first. Once again, being the runt of the boys, it was only fitting that I was the last to take a deer – a mere 18 years later in 1989.

Although these early hunting trips did not result in any deer being harvested, they were the most exciting and enjoyable times in my youth. Successful? Oh yeah, they were successful in only the ways a true hunter can understand. They taught us patience, perseverance, how to enjoy the simple things such as a sunrise, the view from a mountain top and the pure enjoyment of an outdoor lifestyle. We were not discouraged or disappointed that we did not harvest a deer. It simply fueled our passion for hunting that much stronger. We learned to appreciate and enjoy the sport of hunting, before we learned how to hunt and before we started harvesting any deer.

Although I have never hunted in any exotic locations or in any of the “prime” locations for any species, I have harvested numerous deer, including several with my trusty PSE bow. I’ve killed my share of squirrels, quail, doves, ducks and several wild hogs. And so many of those trips have resulted in lifelong memories and friendships. However, if the stars were aligned just perfectly and God would grant me the ultimate hunt tomorrow, I know exactly where I would go and who I would go with. The hunt would start with, “Get up boy, it’s time to go.”

*****************

Ted S. “Pop” Roberts passed away 10 years ago today, Nov. 28, 2000. I would like to dedicate my simple words of reflection to his memory and to all the fathers, mothers, uncles and family friends who dedicate the time and effort to take their children or other children hunting or fishing.

Thanks Pop! I hope you and Fred Bear are enjoying the “big hunt.”


Johnston’s Take: Unethical to Farm Raise Whitetails

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a tree hugger. I burn wood, eat meat and enjoy killing God’s great animals for sport.

However, a recent trip to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (NYDEC) left me asking this question: Is it ethical to raise, breed and grow whitetail deer for human benefit?

Photo of 170-class whitetail that spurred author's opinion of pen-raised whitetails


I say no.

Hunting ethics and sportsmanship are the core roots of our sport and without them where would we be? I don’t want to imagine.

To me, raising a wild animal for personal benefit crosses this line. Free roaming whitetails continue to be the No. 1 hunted big game animal in North America and this should give whitetails a free pass from captivity.

Let’s take the buck pictured in this post.

This was one of two trophy animals on display at the NYDEC event I attended. Although impressive to look at, I couldn’t help but wonder if the deer was enjoying the event as much as the dozens of gawkers who were looking at him.

For those of you unfamiliar with whitetail farming and its benefits, whitetails are grown and raised for one reason – money. Farmers either sell the animal for breeding stock [at a high-fenced facility] or collect their urine for scent sales. Either way, I’m opposed to it.

This hits at the heart of my argument. We’re not dealing with an Angus or an Appaloosa, here. The whitetail continues to roam free in all but five U.S. states – Nevada, Utah, California, Hawaii and Alaska currently have no published whitetail herds.

I’d like to see it kept this way.

I believe our Creator put the whitetail deer on earth for reasons unknown, but I’m pretty sure putting him in a pen wasn’t one of them.

Where do you stand?


Spot and Stalk Turkey Hunt Nets Bird, Memory

By Greg Johnston
AHT Guest Contributor

It wasn’t a promising start.

May 1, 2010 had come and gone without a single gobble on our 140 acres in Upstate New York.

Heading into the spring turkey season, my hopes were extremely high. I had seen multiple birds on a nightly basis during the fall archery season, and was even fortunate enough to harvest my first turkey with an arrow on our Livingston County property.

I didn’t have a good feeling about my dismal opening day, but if there was one encouraging fact, it was that I had only heard one shotgun blast echo down the valley during that calm Saturday morning.

Convinced that other hunters had experienced similar fates, I shrugged it off and headed home thinking that most toms had already found dancing partners for the spring prom.

When Sunday morning rolled around, I didn’t. I spent the morning with my wife and two young children, who I miss on most Sundays because of work obligations.

Monday brought a new week and new hope for me, but because of daddy duties, I wasn’t in the woods that morning either.

Nine o’clock came and that meant time to get my 5-year old off to school. We were two miles from the house and I happened to glance over, and there in a green field, was a strutting tom and at least one hen. I really didn’t think much about it, as my 2-year old was in the back seat and intent on spending the day with daddy.

That all changed though when I drove back by and saw Mr. Handsome still struttin’ his stuff. I couldn’t stand it anymore – I felt like a pot of cold water on a hot stove and I knew a pursuit would ensue.

Hard work and timely execution helped the author bag this Eastern turkey

Thinking quickly, I called our daycare provider to see if she could look after my little guy for a few hours.

By the time I dropped him off, I had roughly two hours of shooting time left, as high noon marks the end of shooting hours for turkey hunting in New York. Knowing the farmer whose field the bird was in, I stopped at the house to ask permission. He obliged and I was on my way.

My plan at this point was to get close enough to the bird and try to draw him away from his hen(s) by placing my decoy in a neighboring cut cornfield.

With a hedgerow separating me from him, I walked as far as I dared and set up on the edge of a woodlot. With my hen decoy bobbing in the west wind, I took a deep breath and then let out a yelp from my Primos diaphragm call. I waited, thinking the hot bird would for sure see the decoy and come in. But, that was far from what happened.

Thinking that the strong winds may be preventing the long beard from hearing me, I took out my slate call and gave a few strikes on it. Still nothing.

With time not on my side, I made a hasty decision to try and make something happen. Knowing that this would be my make-or-break move, I abandoned my decoy and slowly dropped back into the woods.

My hope was that I would somehow be able to gain ground on the bird while using the trees as cover.

As I crept towards the green field, the anticipation grew as I knew I was virtually on top of the bird. The question at this point though, was, “Where was he?”

I forced myself to move slowly as I feared a snapping twig would alert the bird and it would be game over.

When I reached the green field, I was astonished to see no turkeys. I thought,“You’ve got to be kidding me, right?”

I thought it was over, for sure. My thinking was that the birds had moved south prior to my arrival, however a glance through my Bushnell 10X42 binoculars proved my theory wrong.

There in the green field about 80 yards east of the hedgerow was a red head. I couldn’t believe it, not only had the bird not detected me, but he was still there.

Time to regroup.

With very little separating me from him, I needed to get behind a tree or something to ensure my presence wasn’t detected. I dropped to my knees and began to crawl down the west side of the hedgerow – using it as a buffer. I had a tree in mind that I hoped to make it to. From there I would set up and call – and for sure the bird would be able to hear me.

I made it. Tucking myself behind the mature walnut, I slowly reached for my favorite slate call. Little did I know, it had fallen during my approach.

I was forced to try and catch my breath for a minute and again using my mouth call, I let out a series of yelps, except this time I was watching his reaction through my Binos.

I couldn’t believe it; he turned his head and just sat there looking around. I let out another more aggressive call. Nothing. He wouldn’t budge. I knew he could hear me, because every time I called, he looked my direction. No gobble, no strut, no nothing.

With my bag of tricks empty and my decoy left behind, I questioned my next move. He’s about 60 yards from me at this point.

I gave a few more calls, to no avail. With my watch now reading 11:15 a.m., I had few options but to force the issue.

Slowly rolling onto my side I began to belly crawl towards the green field and the bird. I had pulled this trick off before some 15 years ago, but that time on a wounded whitetail. This time, I was dealing with an animal whose main defense was his eyes, and here I was out in the middle of a wide open field. For sure he would see me. But I had little options.

By the time I reached the green field, my arms began to burn, but my confidence grew.

As I entered a little swale in the field, I picked out a yellow weed in the clover, knowing that if I could make it to that point, my Harrington and Richardson single shot could do the rest.

The author displays the fruits of his labor. The bird weighed 21 lbs and sports a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs

I had reached the yellow weed without being detected, and in one smooth motion, I cocked the hammer on the 3-inch mag, came to rest on my knees and steadied my truglo sight on the red head. A swift squeeze of the trigger and the bird went down flopping. I ran up on him not believing I had pulled off the best spot-and-stalk of my life.

The bird weighed 21 lbs. with a 9-inch beard and 1-inch spurs. Not my biggest bird to date, but quite possibly my best trophy – or at least the most memorable one.

I hoisted the long beard over my back and headed home. It was about that time that I realized I had had crawled through a large patch of poison ivy along the way!


20 Years Is Too Long to Wait!

By Bob Chavez
AHT Guest Contributor

I never had anything against hunters or hunting, I just didn’t grow up in the environment, although living in Western New York since the age of 11 certainly presented plenty of opportunity. I remember well how empty my high school was on opening days of deer season in the fall and secretly wishing I could be part of that. It’s taken me 20 years since that day, but I proudly say I am now part of the hunting community.

I’ll save readers the political rhetoric but the bottom line for me was this: I was growing tired and weary of people around me appearing to be so helpless. While there’s nothing wrong with relying on others for help, too many people these days don’t do things for themselves when they’re perfectly capable. So a few years back, I took up gardening to provide some of my own food. And it didn’t take long for me to want to provide my own meat.

Bob Chavez waited 20 years to try hunting, and needed an extra 17 hunts before he connected on his first deer in 2009.

Props are due at this point to my wife, Amy. When we met and were dating, I was not a hunter. But when I told her of my interest, she was fully supportive and remains so to this day. She even applied loving pressure when she’d remind me that the freezer downstairs remained empty. The freezer we bought specifically for venison!

The 2009 season was coming at me with great anticipation. Blessed with gracious friends like Curt, Andy, Pat and Bubba, they taught me so much. How to scout for sign, where to put my stand, what to do before and after the shot. Curt even sold me my first shotgun, a Remington 1100 20-gauge. Armed with arms and knowledge, I was amped!

Long story short, the bow season came and went. I had a few chances but wasn’t able to connect. My best opportunity came while hunting some land outside of the parcel I’d leased from a local farmer. As darkness drew close, Curt flushed a herd my direction and I had a doe in my bow site. 10 yards away. Perfect. Until I stood up. I brushed my bow against a branch I didn’t see and that’s all it took to send that doe running.

Gun season arrived and I was growing anxious but I consoled myself by knowing the gun season was more forgiving. It didn’t help that bow season was abnormally warm and I was able to witness plenty of other wildlife. Fox. Coyote. Turkey. Fantastic stuff, and it reminded me plenty of why I loved the outdoors so much to begin with.

By now, I’d tried everything. Morning hunts. Mid-day hunts. Evening hunts. I’d seen plenty and had been out 17 times but still was empty-handed. The rut was over, too. Then, the morning of Dec. 7 dawned. It dawned before I was ready and I overslept. Guh. Frustrated, I decided to head out anyway. I didn’t get to my stand until 8 a.m. but by 8:30, I was singing a different tune.

Barely in my stand for 15 minutes, I saw it. Forty yards to the left, sauntering through some thick cover and heading to a lane in directly in front. I froze, then waited. When I thought it disappeared for good, I grunted anyway and a few seconds later, I saw it again. Walking right toward me, up the path I’d taken to get to my stand. A large tree stood in front of me, big enough to shield me. And when the deer kept walking and went behind the tree, that’s when I clicked my safety and rested the Remington on the shooting rail.

Closer. Closer. My heart is pounding and my nose itches, but I don’t dare scratch it. Closer. Closer. I can’t miss from here. No excuse. It’s no farther than 15 yards away now! I pull the trigger, shooting nearly straight down. I didn’t have a broadside so I went for the chest. Immediately after the shot, I see the deer limping off to my left, its right front leg sticking out. Stunned, obviously. But the deer’s movement gave me a broadside and I plugged it with a perfect shot right in the vitals and I stood there in near disbelief as I watched it from my stand, pile up no more than 20 yards away.

Silence. But I wanted to scream. My first deer! I stood and stared to make sure it was all real and once I gathered my senses, the first person I called was my wife. No answer, but she got an amusing voicemail where I sounded like a child who scored his first candy bar. I called Andy, then Bubba, then Curt. Andy lived nearby and came over to help me dress what turned out to be a button buck, and it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. But I dressed it and took it to a processor.

I’ve eaten venison before, but never had I eaten meat harvested by my own hands. It’s a special feeling, looking back at all the work and preparation it took to finally live that moment. Patience and persistence paid off for me and I am absolutely loving life today, knowing that I am part of the hunting community. It took me 20 years of my adult life to join and sometimes I kick myself for waiting so long because I’ve got a lot of knowledge to catch up on. But like the 17 trips into the woods before getting my first deer, it was worth the wait and I am ready for the 2010 season to begin. I just wish it were tomorrow!

Bob Chavez, 40, is a veteran journalist living near Rochester, N.Y., who has loved the outdoors as a camper and hiker since his youth. He became a hunter, “officially,” in 2010 by harvesting his first deer, much to the delight of his wife and 9-year-old stepson. Until next season, he’s hunting for the best venison recipies available.