Category Archives: 2011

AHT 8 Questions: Bill Winke

Bill Winke is among a large contingent of deer authorities who appear on TV talking about deer. But the founder of Midwest Whitetail is among my favorites for a number of reasons. He’s a family-first, God-fearing hunter, who is always a writer and photographer first, before he is a celebrity hunter.

Winke with "G5" - an amazing buck on his 2011 hit list

Since the day AHT Contributor Greg Johnston showed me Winke’s semi-live hunting show, I’ve been hooked. I expected I would after reading Winke’s writing for a number of years. Like his writing, his weekly shows are informative, entertaining and very well produced. Simply put, it represents the digital future of outdoors entertainment.

Winke gives AHT readers an inside look at where his passion for hunting came from and tells us where the 2011 season ranks within his top whitetail seasons of all time.

1) You’ve been writing about whitetails for a long time. Where did your interest in hunting come about? And even more specifically, how about the interest in writing about them?
My actual interest in hunting came from my dad. I remember the moment to this day. I was riding with him on the Farmall C heading out to get the cows to milk when I asked him what was his favorite thing to do outdoors. I thought that would give us an excuse to talk about fishing, which I loved. He said “hunting”.

I was probably 8 or 9 at the time and I had never known my dad to go hunting. He had given it up when he started raising us kids. I figured if it was better than fishing it must be a pretty awesome thing! So I asked my dad if he would take me hunting sometime. He took me squirrel hunting and I remember him shooting two or three with his .410 that day and I was hooked from then on.

My passion for writing started from my passion for reading. I used to read hunting magazines every evening for at least an hour before going to bed. In our house, the heat ducts didn’t reach my room so I set up a system for turning my light off at the end of my reading time without having to get out of the bed. (That was long before the clapper). We didn’t really have much money to spare so it never occurred to me to ask for a reading light. When I finished reading, I pulled on the fishing line that ran under a book and then was taped to the light switch. That way I could turn it off without getting out of the warm bed.

Winke with "Daggers" - the first of two bucks he killed this year - a season he calls his best ever

I always loved writing and took many writing courses in high school and college (I always wrote about hunting). I actually went to college for engineering but after four years in that field I wanted to see what was out there in the big world. My wife and I quit our jobs, traveled for several months all over western North America, living on $300 per week! It is amazing what you can do with nothing if you are creative. Along the way I met some people that led to part time jobs (always focused on hunting) and those jobs led to relationships and eventually God opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones and I ended up writing for a living. Believe me, it was not easy at all getting started, but I am sure glad I stuck with it now.

2) How did the idea for a semi-live, online hunting show come about?
I could see everything going to web and I felt that I needed to do something there. I had a video camera for a project I had been working on so I just thought “What would I like to watch if someone would just create it for me?” This is what I came up with. The path from idea to success was also twisted and never easy, but that will have to be a story for another day. Just bear in mind that giving birth to anything is never easy.

3) Producing a show in such a quick turnaround seems challenging – what kind of work goes into bringing a full segment to your viewers each week?
Obviously, we have to get the footage in, whether we shoot it or someone on the pro staff shoots it. Then we have to capture it to the computer, file it and watch it all to see where the best story or best lesson lies. Then you have to start the video editor and beginning laying it out. Once the footage is in the office, it takes about two days to turn that into a finished show. There are usually interviews needed so that also has to be figured in. I edited many of the first shows, but now I have employees that do all that. We have done it for so long now (four years) that it is just instinct. We don’t even think about it any more. It is just part of our lives.

4) Ok, outside of a weapon, what are the items you take to the treestand that you simply cannot live without?
I don’t carry much. I am a minimalist. I carry a knife, grunt call, facemask, tags, small penlight, tree harness and that is about it. I carry it all in my pockets! Camera and associated gear, of course, but that is not something that most people need. If I am putting up a stand, I carry a small fanny pack with a pull up rope, folding saw, tree steps. That is pretty much it. I use the harness with a rope as my climbing harness and would never leave the ground without it now.

5) You do several appearances and speaking engagements. What is the most-asked question you field, and what is your common answer?
I actually don’t do a lot of speaking. I like staying home with the family. When the kids are grown and on their own, I will likely travel more again. However, I do get a zillion questions on the website. Most often asked: “How can I get into this business?” Second most asked: “Which tree should I hunt from?” The answers obviously would take way too long to dive into here. They are varied. I generally just refer people to a blog I wrote on the website back in 2009, I think, about how to get into the industry so I don’t have to go through it each time. The opportunities are still there for people with skills and a work ethic.

6) Your 2011 season has shaped up to be quite remarkable – two amazing bucks that you have a history with. Is this among one of your most memorable seasons?
For sure, it is my best whitetail season ever. People have no idea how much luck goes into something like that, and how special it really is. You have to make a few good decisions, put in the time, but the rest is luck. You have to really take the time to enjoy the blessing when it finally all comes together.

7) What does a typical off season entail for you?
I do a lot of writing and photography, managing Midwest Whitetail (getting organized for any opportunities I see coming) and we spend time working on the TV shows now. I don’t do as much with the TV shows other than guidance and interviews. They guys are good enough now to handle it without much input from me. I spend a lot of time playing sports with our kids. I grew up playing sports. People probably don’t know it, because I don’t talk about it, but I really, really loved sports as a boy. I loved hunting more, but only slightly more. I had some scholarship offers to play college football but I didn’t want to give up my duck season for four years so I turned them down! I still never regret that decision. I loved (and still do) hunting.

8) Ok, long-time watchers need to know … when are you going to get that crack fixed on your windshield?
Maybe what I will do is take up a collection from the viewers to get it fixed. Actually, it still seems to be hanging in there and not spreading too much, so I just never think about it anymore. If it starts spreading again, I’ll have to fix it! Can’t have the wind blowing in the front windshield.

Cat Tales: If you have time, you should go vote for Midwest Whitetail as a write-in for Best Hunt Show on Sportsman Channel. Again, you need to fill in the Write in section as editors didn’t consider it (ridiculously) among the finalists. Here’s hoping hunters can make that adjustment!

AHT Adds New Member to Pro Staff

Reid has more hair than his dad.

A Hunters Tales is pleased to announce it has signed Reid Michael Culbert, age 1 day, to a long-term agreement to join the AHT pro staff the first day he legally can hunt!

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. Any further questions should be directed to big sister Sara.

‘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.