Category Archives: General Tales

‘The Show’ Stopper

The Show Hero Pic

Shooting mature deer in New York State isn’t the easiest task to accomplish. Heck, let’s face it – shooting mature deer in Iowa or Illinois isn’t easy either, but you get my drift.

That’s why I take great pride in saying that between my Dad and me, we’ve killed at least one mature buck the past five seasons.

Putting on a show.

Putting on a show.

Heading into this archery season, Dad and I had a handful of target deer, but there was one buck in particular we were hoping to get a crack at. I had nicknamed the deer ‘The Show’ after a particular series of trailcam photos captured him standing on his hind legs while working a licking branch.

Fast forward to September of this year when I pulled one of my cards only to find this same buck make reappearance. I was ecstatic.

Sept. 15, 2013

Sept. 15, 2013

He was now mature and sported a handsome Pope and Young 8-point rack. I relied heavily on my trailcams throughout October, monitoring the buck’s daylight activity.

On October 22 I got my first daylight pic of him. It was time to move in. Dad and I hunted this deer’s core area hard for the next week or so, without any success.

On the afternoon of October 30, Dad texted me around 3 p.m. to say he hadn’t seen a single deer all afternoon. Things soon changed. About a half-hour later I got a call from him saying that he’d just shot ‘The Show.’ We were pumped. Dad marked the blood and returned home where he waited for me to return from work.

'The Show' bedded with a hot doe less than 24 hrs. before Dad's encounter with him.

‘The Show’ bedded with a hot doe less than 24 hrs. before Dad’s encounter with him.

We gave the deer roughly three hours as Dad was concerned the shot may have been a touch back. When we initially took up the trail, I was astonished at the amount of blood. It was as if someone had walked through the woods dumping red Kool-Aid from a gallon jug. But just as the trail began, it ended.

The blood trail.

The blood trail.

I was confident the deer was liver hit and in fear of us bumping him, we backed out. I had to work the next morning and get my kids to school, so Dad took up the search by himself. It wasn’t long before my phone vibrated. It was Dad. He had located the buck, but the deer wasn’t yet expired.

Dad knocked an arrow and moved in for a final shot. We had done it – Dad had done it. Our number one hit list buck was down. I wanted to jump through my skin with excitement.

A mature NYS buck.

A mature NYS buck.

I returned home that night just in time to snap a few nice photos of Dad and his trophy.

My Dad is 66-years-old and has overcome more than most. He suffered a severe back injury in 1995 and has fought through numerous other ailments including broken bones and most recently a detached retina in his right eye.

To say that I’m proud of him would be an understatement. Having him shoot our number one hit list buck gives me more pleasure than I ever would have if I had tagged the buck myself.

Next week on AHT read how my slow season picked up in a matter of 16 hours.

Legacies Left: Sage (2003-2013)

She filled the role of dog very well. Forever labeled “man’s best friend,” she was absolutely that.

When reflecting on the legacy of my faithful yellow lab though, it’s the “friends of this man” that her paw print has left that showcases the remarkable life of this dog.

KJCs Sage Brooke Athena (2003-2013) "Sage"

KJCs Sage Brooke Athena (2003-2013)

Sage left us yesterday, November 23, 2013, after a short battle with what our vet believes to have been a brain tumor.

If friendships were to be plotted like a family tree, there are so many branches in my life that would connect to a trunk like that of a century-old oak tree.

And that trunk, with its roots, would be Sage.

And to think that she was able to do that in 10 short years.

Ric Aikman, Richard Faulkner, Tony Hawkins, Brad Taylor, John Comey, Chris Tester, Jason Watkins, Keith Trexler, Cam Watson, Mike Parker, Steve Ledford, Tara McCreedy, Jim Swart, Robbie Julian and on and on and on.

Some of those folks are some of my dearest friends. Without Sage, I’d know zero of them. Not one.

The affect she made on friends I already knew, or would find without her help, is remarkably deep too.

We didn’t have a hunting show and quit running hunt tests before Sage was 3-years old, but her impact was far reaching. The short notes and texts that came to my phone yesterday, many toting “Remember When” stories, helped ease a lot of pain losing a dog can create.

There were her first retrieves and the retrieves she made of “first ducks” for no fewer than three youth hunters. Trips to the coast where she refused to let cold January weather stop her from her favorite hobby. The retrieving demonstrations for bystanders awed by a working dog, and even a few months of joining Burgin Hardin and me in a downtown Charlotte office. Neighbors and friends considered her part of their lives.

She was amazingly versatile.

The texts and e-mails that came in didn’t have line of sight to some of my favorite memories of Sage. You see, for as much as she was a great hunting companion – one that was limited only by the flaws of her trainer – her best role was that of our family dog.

My wife and I were damn near newlyweds when Sage became our biggest responsibility. For five years as our “only child,” she was a great test for us becoming parents. We’ll never forget those annual Christmas card photo shoots and those funny birthday hat pictures each time Sage celebrated another year.

For some reason, she loved the feel of a curtain on her back. We called her “Sister Sage” when she sat in those window curtains as they resembled a nun’s veil flowing over her head.

Never forgotten will be those on-the-road phone calls from my wife imploring me to command Sage to “drop” over the speaker phone in order to end a game of chase with a sock, a toy or whatever Sage had decided to run around with that day!

Countless “Marley and Me” instances evolved into her serving the role of protector, for my wife while I was traveling and for my kids as they entered our world. I’ve heard of other dogs acting like she did, but it was incredible to see Sage lay in front of the nursery door for both of our children as infants. Their cries were met by her pacing near my wife and me, all the while making sure we knew our attention was requested.

Enough cannot be said about having your best friend meeting you at the door after work, unable to care less about how your day was and hoping only that she could find a way to serve you. The wagging tail said everything you needed to hear.

Today I spent some time packing up a number of her things. It’s not as though I’m trying to remove her completely from our lives. There are too many great memories to make that remotely possible.

However, each time I walked by a dog dish or saw a retrieving bumper in the garage, it led to a great deal of sadness. Few were more sorrowful and long than the 21-step walk I made this morning to retrieve my paper. That’s a job Sage relished for the better part of the last 300 or so Sundays.

I’ve been asked several times if we are ready to get another dog. We’re not yet. We definitely will be at some point, but our lives have become a bit hectic as our young children become more active. For now, we will chip away at the sadness knowing full well the memories will turn at some point from tears to smiles.

Thank you, Sage, for being my best friend. Thank you for leaving an indelible mark on our family. Thank you for making so many lives, so much better.

Never How You Want to Find Them

As I found him.

Where I found him

My fears had come true. It was May 11, 2013 and I was out chasing spring gobblers in Upstate New York when I stumbled upon him. It was the end of the mystery – I now knew what had happened to this buck 8 months prior.

It’s something we as hunters never want discover, but unfortunately we do from time to time. Finding a dead rotten buck is never a pleasant sight, especially when it’s a deer you recognize. It’s a theme that many deer hunters experience, we focus in on a particular buck only to have the animal disappear for one reason or another. Such was the case here.

I had captured several trailcamera photos of this buck back in mid-September. They weren’t the best quality images, but I saw enough of the deer’s antlers to interest me. I knew the buck was a definite up-and-comer and I looked forward to monitoring his progress and finding him back the following season.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

Trailcam image from Sept. 2012.

The 2012 hunting season came and ended without a single sighting of this buck.

The next time I would lay yes on him would be that warm May morning. The buck lay dead nearly a mile from where my Bushnell Trophy Cam had captured those images of him back in September.

It’s always a bitter-sweet moment when you discover an animal like this. On one hand you’re relieved that you know what happened to him and on the other; you’re disappointed and saddened that he’s gone and won’t be around for the upcoming season. And then there’s always the question of how the animal died.

G5 T3 - Illegal in NYS.

G5 T3 – Pokes out from bone.

I began inspecting the 8-pointer for clues as to what may have lead to his death, and there in pain sight was the answer. A G5 T3 Broadhead was wedged in to the buck’s right shoulder blade. The finding left little doubt that the deer had been shot by a fellow archer and never recovered – most likely because the arrow never penetrated the deer’s vitals.

This story would end here if I lived in Texas or Illinois, but I don’t. I reside and hunt in New York State. I tell you that to tell you this: G5’s T3 Broadheads are illegal for hunting purposes in NYS.

A quick check of the NYS Department of Conservation’s website will tell you that ANY barbed broadhead is illegal. Period.

Image if T3 - illegal in NYS.

Image of G5 T3 – illegal in NYS.

Here’s how the DEC defines a barbed broadhead: “A barbed Broadhead is one in which the angle formed between the trailing or rear edge of any blade and the shaft is less than 90 degrees.”

Clearly the T3 fits this description.

I’m unsure of who shot the buck – and to be honest, I don’t really care, but may I suggest that he or she pay a visit to prior to heading out to the local pro shop to stock up on next season’s broadheads.

As for the buck, I salvaged his head and plan to do a european mount on him.

It’s a shame really, but at least I now have answers to my questions.

Mystery solved.

A Day in the Life … of a College Hunter

By Jake Ray
Contributing Writer

I traded my Nike frees for camo boots.

Jake Ray in his normal college attire

Jake Ray in his normal college attire

I traded my flat-billed Cleveland Indians ball cap for a fitted camo Team Realtree hat.

I traded my backpack and books for a backpack chair and a turkey decoy.

I traded my Under Armour hoodie and Nike shorts for a camouflage coat and pants.

I traded my pencil and pen for a slate and box call.

I traded in my beats by Dre headphones for my shotgun.

And I traded going to work and class to go hunting.

Jake Ray transformed into hunter!

Jake Ray transformed into hunter!

Going to school in Ashland, Ohio, the home of Ashland University (an Amish community), I am not far from fields, woods and animals.

Hunting is a part of people’s lives here. On campus, it is not unusual to see a camo hat, camo backpack, or even a horse and buggy riding up Claremont. Ashland is also home to Fin, Feather, and Fur Outfitters. This is great for me because it’s a place where I can go and get away from everything – be in an atmosphere that I am comfortable in.

Being here makes me feel at home. Hunting and being in the outdoors has been a part of my family for a long time. This made coming to college easier. Sharing hunting stories, getting permission to hunt on friends’ land, all of this made the transition easier.

The view from the field

The view from the field

Being in school from August to May, I am in Ashland for both major hunting seasons. Even though I go home on the weekends to hunt with family, I have been hunting in Ashland a couple of times. In Ashland, I do not hunt on a lot of land, only six acres, but it’s hunting. Any land is better than none and hunting is, well … hunting!

Hunting has been a way for me to release stress and just get away from the hustle and bustle of the college atmosphere.

I am not a typical college student. I don’t party. I don’t drink. I am in bed before midnight almost every night. I get my work done on time, I study, and I don’t procrastinate.

A lot of other students would dread getting up before the sun rises to go sit in the woods and be quiet for 3 or 4 hours. No Instagram. No Facebook. No Twitter. I don’t care about any of that. I love it.

Ready for business.

Ready for business.

Hearing the woods wake up and seeing what our wonderful God has created is one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Because of circumstances, I was not able to hunt in Ashland the opening week of Ohio turkey season. But I did go back home and hunt on land I am very familiar with.

My dad and I had built a turkey blind the week before, using the knowledge of what the turkeys did last year. This is the spot I sat – my hunch was right. It wasn’t the big double bearded Tom I was looking for, but seeing turkeys made the day worth it. The first one I saw was a hen that I called back and forth in. It came and went with no problem.

About an hour and a half later, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. It was a Jake with a hen behind it. They came up the same way the first hen did. I called to them, hoping to lure the Jake to my decoy. It didn’t work, but it did pull the second Jake that I did not seen right to my decoy.

My heart was racing.

Yes, it was only a Jake, but this happens to me every time I get a chance to bag an animal. The Jake was 15 yards in front of me. My safety was off . . . but I went home empty handed. Right after I decided to take this turkey, there was a hen about 30 yards past the gobbler in front of me that made three short “clucks.”

I froze.

I let the Jake walk away hoping for this hen to bring a Tom into shooting range. She didn’t. I didn’t see a turkey the rest of the morning. I had the opportunity to take a bird, but I passed – the wrong decision. It is okay. That’s why it is called “hunting” and not “killing.”

No turkey or a tagged bird in the truck, but it was a day I got to spend in one of my favorite places – the woods. A day in the woods is never a day wasted.

Yes, I could have slept in. Yes, I could have eaten a good breakfast and worked on homework. Yes, I could have gone to class.

But I didn’t. I went hunting.


Jake Ray is a rising junior at Ashland University in Ohio

Outdoor Dream Foundation Gives Utah Youngster Memorable Florida Hunt

By Billy “Catfish” Parker
AHT Contributor

I wanted to share a hunt I took last month with an awesome, 13-year-old young man named Wyatt Enman from Utah. Below are some pictures from our Outdoor Dream Foundation hunt that took place March of 2013 in Florida.

Wyatt with his gator!

Wyatt with his gator!

We went alligator hunting in Avon Park Air Force Range. It’s a 106,000-acre military training facility located in Polk and Highlands counties in south central Florida. The facility provides hunting and fishing opportunities to the public and military personnel.

Kurt Olsen, supervisor of forest management and outdoor recreation for Avon Park, managed the hunt. Doc Crews and his family offered up their services for a turkey and hog hunt, a place to stay and so much more. We had an awesome time!

Wyatt has a disease called Neurofibromatosis usually referred to as NF1. He suffers from tumors on his spine, tailbone and brain and the likeliness of him getting better is not so. This is a terminal disease.

The author (second from L) is joined by Wyatt and others who helped make his hunt memorable.

The author (second from L) is joined by Wyatt and others who helped make his hunt memorable.

Wyatt had a lot of fun on our Florida hunt. We hunted turkeys and hogs along with the alligator he harvested. He has a great attitude. We joked around and played pranks with everybody in camp. He never complained or played with his phone. He was ready to go hunting every morning at 5:30 a.m. with a smile on his face and all of his gear in tact!

He likes to cage fight with his big brother and his new passion is hunting. He loves dogs of all kinds and he spends a lot of time with his nephew Gauge. Wyatt is a great kid with an unfortunate disease. I say a prayer for him daily to experience life to its fullest. It was a real honor to hunt with Wyatt.

I’ll never forget that look on his face when he heard his first turkey gobble and especially the look he had on his face when that alligator exploded out of the water and headed right at us.

The author and Wyatt checking out his gator!

The author and Wyatt checking out his gator!

A special thanks to everyone who helped with the hunt. Brandon who ran the camera, Henry Barnett, South Carolina game officer and just a great guy who volunteered his time and efforts for the trip, Doc Crews and the entire Crews family for the great hospitality, everyone at Avon Park Air Force Range, Outdoor Dream Foundation and “Hank Parker 3D” sponsors. You all are awesome and we cannot do what we do without your help.

Look for this hunt to air during our 2013 TV season on Hank Parker 3D.

Life is short. Enough said.

Catfish Parker makes up 1/3 of “Hank Parker 3D,” a popular outdoor television show that airs on NBC Sports, Pursuit Channel and Wild TV. Catfish is joined on the program by his father Hank Parker, and brother Hank Jr. Learn more at

Jazzed For the Turkey Chase

There may have been similar posts on here in recent years, but I just don’t recall a spring that I have been more excited to hit the woods chasing turkeys.

The reasons why seem logical:


– Deer season ended too long ago – and the 2012 season saw me hit the woods fewer days than any other season over the last 20 years.

– I’ve had a chance to see more turkeys already this spring than I recall over recent years – especially in my home state of NC.

– My hunting buddies keep posting pictures online of the turkeys they’re already killing in states that have already kicked off turkey season.

– I’ve not had a chance to kill a turkey since 2011.

– My local hunting buddies’ interest in turkey hunting is rising at the same rate as the NC population of thunder chickens.

– My preseason scouting trip reminded me of my love for opening a morning to the sounds of a gobble.

One other reason is worth mentioning. If you read this blog, you know I’m a big fan of Midwest Whitetail productions. And the same group of producers for that semi-live online hunting show have created a similarly themed turkey show, Cabela’s Spring Thunder.

Host Aaron Warbritton does a great job in the role and it’s easy to see that he and his turkey hunting cohorts know what they’re doing when it comes to chasing turkeys.

Here’s hoping we’re connecting on a few chases here over the next month. We’ll certainly keep you posted on when that happens!

Don’t forget to “Like” our page on Facebook. Just click here. And keep us all posted on how your turkey season is going!

Riverview Outfitters’ Elusive Bastard

By Nick Pinizzotto
AHT Contributor

“Elusive bastard!”

That short phrase summed up Tyler Sellens’ thoughts about a monster buck roaming one of the many great properties he manages with friend and partner Josh Turner at Riverview Outfitters in western Illinois. The outburst also provided a fitting name for the giant deer that represents all that we love about the challenge a mature whitetail buck can pose to even the most seasoned hunters.

Bastard Buck 2Only three photos of this deer exist, and the first time he triggered a camera was on September 29 at 4:46 a.m. Although the date on the above photo says 2011, it was most certainly this fall. Almost immediately after pulling the photos the guys posted it on their Facebook page with the comment, “Look who came strolling along.”

Those of us who know Tyler and Josh well realize that they must have been excited because they uploaded the picture so quickly. It’s not uncommon for a few of us to give them a hard time about being slow to post photos, but that wasn’t a concern in this case.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

Exactly one week later, the massive monarch strolled past the same camera.

When the buck triggered the same camera one week later, it seemed like this would be the first of many photos of the old bruiser. That’s where the story takes an all too familiar twist. Like the biggest and most experienced bucks have a knack for doing, he simply disappeared. Despite several cameras being out, there were no more new photos.

Despite several different clients hunting the property and using a number of scattered stand locations, the buck was never seen. When I returned to hunt in early December I thought I was the first person to lay eyes on him across a long field, but after reviewing my mental images and comparing them to the photos, I’m almost certain it wasn’t him. I saw some good bucks that evening, but I have to believe if this guy stepped out it would have made a special impression on me. He simply vanished.

When the season ended with no new photos or a single sighting, we assumed the buck was either shot on a different property or that the deer simply spent a week in the area and just happened to pass by one of the cameras. I guess none of us was willing to believe that The Bastard Buck eluded us.

Although you hear stories all of the time about great bucks that made an appearance and then disappeared for months or even entire seasons only to turn up again, we just couldn’t let ourselves believe that it could happen to us. Just a few weeks ago, Tyler sent me a message that brought a smile to my face while also providing a harsh reality check. “You’re not going to believe this, but we got another picture of that buck.”

Although he is a little thinner after the rut, the Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Despite being a bit thinner after the rut, The Bastard Buck was alive and well just before Christmas.

Two days before Christmas, The Bastard Buck sent a loud and clear signal that he was alive and well, and still haunting the Riverview Outfitters property. At 7:23 a.m. on December 23, the magnificent stag made a daylight appearance on the opposite side of the property from where the earlier photos were snapped. Just like that, he was back into our lives and imaginations providing fuel for the fire as we look forward to next season.

Already a great buck, the fact that he has been a bit of a mystery only adds to his trophy status. How many times did hunters walk right by him on their way to a stand? Did he ever get to his feet during daylight hours while hunting season was in? How could he avoid all of those hunters and cameras for several weeks, especially during the rut when he would have been most vulnerable? Did he simply leave the area for a few months and eventually meet up with some girls from across the tracks during the rut? All we can do is guess.

bastard (adjective):  of abnormal shape or unusual size,
of unknown origin.

It appears that the buck has at least 13 scoreable points and he has good mass and long main beams. I’m not going to estimate a score as it would be a disservice to this great deer, but I know it is way up there. Although I would love to see what this buck looked like in mid-November in his peak, I feel pretty confident saying that the deer is likely 4 1/2 and possibly 5 1/2 years-0ld.

I’m going to lean toward 4 1/2 because he still has some room on his frame for growth and his neck is still fairly well defined. Regardless, the buck will very likely add inches to his rack this year and there’s no telling what he’ll look like. With any luck, Tyler and Josh will locate his sheds in the next few weeks and we’ll have a better understanding of how big The Bastard Buck really is.

As Tyler pointed out the other day, “If he just walked out on the first day and you didn’t have to hunt him, what fun would that be? That’s what drives a whitetail freak.” I couldn’t agree more. We’ll be thinking about this buck all summer long. He’ll be in our minds when we’re at the range, and increasingly in our dreams as the season approaches.

What makes a great buck legendary is the story behind him. It’s the pursuit you remember. Just knowing he’s out there somewhere and hearing a twig snap will be enough to send our hearts racing. We have no way of knowing how the story of The Bastard Buck will end, but with any luck he’ll make a dream come true for one of the Riverview Outfitters clients. In case you’re wondering, there are still a few spots left for next fall.

Nick Pinizzotto blogs at He is the Chief Operating Officer of Delta Waterfowl. The Western Pennsylvania native currently resides in North Dakota, where his passion for the outdoors is put to good use on a daily basis.