Shed Hunting: Where To Find Them

By Nathan Unger

It’s that time of the year again when bucks begin to drop there antlers and hunting season kicks back in! Not with a bow or a rifle but with your eyes, friends and maybe even a dog! Yes, it’s shed hunting season and not the kind that houses your lawn mower in the backyard. The kind where you cover miles of ground maybe just to find one or two pieces of bone. The reality is you can increase the possibility of finding more sheds in a smaller amount of time if you focus on these high percentage areas instead of aimlessly wondering through the woods. Here are a few to get you started!

1.) Bedding Areas

This is probably the location that even the amateur shed hunter is familiar with because you want to, with any location, find where bucks are spending most of their time. Bucks are traveling the minimum they have to in order to survive the harsh conditions of winter. Many times they’re going straight from their bed room to a food source. This is why if you can find the bedding area then there is a pretty good chance you will find antlers if they have already dropped. This leads me to our next location.

2.) Food Sources

This is arguably the second best place to search when looking for sheds because this is where bucks are going to frequent. Why? Because a buck has to eat to survive. Often times you will be able to see white bone sticking up among the food unless of course it has snowed you’ll probably have to walk the food plot. This is when training your dog comes in handy. Between the two of you (and a dog’s nose probably counts as two) you will be able to cover a lot more ground in a shorter time span.

Shed

3.) Deer Highways

This is quintessential just as much as the other two because how do bucks get between a bedding area and food source? Via the highways they travel. This is a great place to look because bucks will rub against trees or shrubs while they are traveling which can jar the antlers loose, or even when they duck below limbs it might be ample movement to lose the left or right side. You should especially be on the look out for rough terrain such as a gully, ravine or stream crossing. Anything that might force the deer to add extra movement could be just enough for that bone to come loose!

4.) Fence Crossings

Last but certainly not least are fence crossings. Anytime a deer attempts to jump over a fence or duck below a fence is perfect for finding sheds. The jump can jar sheds lose as well as barbed wire that catches the antlers when a deer tries to go underneath. If the deer have lost their antlers towards the end of winter, and you know where a fence is, there’s a high percentage chance you will find some bone. As long as the squirrels or neighbors haven’t beaten you to it!

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A Few Ways To Prepare For The Off Season

By Nathan Unger

As deer season comes to an end it’s easy to sit back turn the television on and watch a show by the crackling fire, kind of like I am right now. However, there are still tasks to be finished and things you can start to prepare for next season!

1.) Collect Your Deer Stands

It’s very easy to call it quits and leave your deer stands out until next season. I encourage you not to for several reasons! First, you want your stands to remain as safe as possible for next year, and rain, snow, wind and heat will destroy your straps quickly if they are not stored properly in the off season. Secondly, you do not want to have to go purchase another seat cushion for your stands next year after squirrels and other rodents destroy them. Additionally, you may find that deer are moving or taking a different route when hunting season arrives, and by taking your deer stand down you are one step away from placing that stand in a successful spot!

2.) Manage Your Trail Cameras

Another simple but effective item to focus on is managing your trail cameras. This will help you find where the deer are moving in the late season and where they might be bedding down which will help you get the shot you need next season when that mature buck is being elusive. For those of you that turkey hunt, trail cameras can still be effective. Turkeys are such smart birds that you’ll need every advantage possible to locate them on those days when they’re not gobbling. Last, but not least, you want to make sure you have fresh batteries so that you don’t miss anything while your camera is out in the woods.

3.) Begin Looking At Food Plot Mix

As winter will eventually turn to spring you want to have the perfect food plot mix for your location. It’s never too early to start looking! Plus, turkey season is around the corner and early spring food plots will be perfect to shoot a big gobbler. A combination of clovers is what I love to use for spring turkeys! You can also be looking at what you might plant next fall or winter for deer season as well whether its rye, brassica, oats, corn or whatever your food plot mix of choice is!

4.) Check Your Hunting Gear

One thing that never seems to fail is when I begin the next hunting season there is always something that’s messed up, ripped or broken and I find myself last minute scrambling to find what I need at a local hunting store. This will save a lot of headache come hunting season if you take care of it in the off season. Likewise, you can clean your guns, restock ammo, sight in your gun, purchase new arrows, broadheads, and fletchings. The list goes on and on of what you can do to prepare yourself for whichever season is right around the corner for you!

 

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Big Bucks: A Logical Approach

By Caleb Unger:

If you are a deer hunter like me (if you are reading this article, there’s a good chance that you are), the ultimate goal is to bag the “biggon” or take down “big brown,” otherwise known as shooting the giant bruiser buck that is on the property you are hunting. To accomplish such a gratifying endeavor, it is quite logical in the way we hunters must prepare for and pursue these beasts that can so easily evade the carefree attitudes that many hunters possess. Notice I said logical, not easy. As with the majority of impressive and satisfying accomplishments in this short journey of life,  perseverance and patience pay off in the pursuit of trophy deer. By keeping a level head throughout the process of this daunting adventure, it becomes a reality to bag and appreciate the giant trophies that lurk and thrive in their natural habitat.

Pre-Game Preparation

Championship fourth quarter and you are down by twenty making no progress. The Coach says, “keep the same players in and run the same play we have been running with the same defense that hasn’t been working all night. After all it’s the only thing we know how to do because that’s all we have ever done.” That’s clearly poor preparation for the big task at hand. Though deer hunting is definitely not the same as shooting a basketball or catching a football, they do all require sound preparation to accomplish the most prestigious goals.  And I’m not just talking about sighting in your gun/bow and practicing in every situation you can think of to prepare for that shot (which is extremely necessary and practically impossible as well because it never fails that an animal gets you in an awkward position that you weren’t expecting). I’m talking about putting yourself in a situation/environment in which you can win, in which you can kill that trophy.

Food

Now ponder this thought. What does it take to grow big and strong? A healthy diet, requiring available nutrition and plenty of water. Duh, it’s elementary. Therefore, make sure you are providing such an atmosphere on your property for the deer that inhabit it. That’s really all I have to say about that.

Caleb's Wide-guy
Caleb Unger with his 4 1/2 year old he encountered on one of the few cold days this past 2015 season.

Wait! I promise it’s worth it.

You want a big buck huh? Stop shooting little guys with baskets on their heads that make the occasional deer observer say, “oh good for him; he probably just started deer hunting this year.” That’s cute; it really is. But really?? Stop complaining that you can’t kill a big buck when you’re not even patient enough to pass up the occasional 100 inch eight point that walks in front of you. You’re better than that. It’s logical, and you know it. Deer cannot grow to gigantic standards when they are being taken out within their first years of living on this earth. Let him grow and age so as the years go on and you see him on the camera or in the woods, you appreciate him more and more for what he is, enjoying your hunt even more than before. Then, when you shoot a big buck (which there will be more of them), that same deer hunting enthusiast will say, “wow, he must be a skilled hunter. Look at that rack!”

Don’t wait on all of them.

This lesson I had to learn myself over my high school years when I wasn’t thinking nearly as logically as I do now when it comes to deer hunting. Bucks like does, just like men like women. And like men, big bucks love to pursue their women. However, if there are does everywhere and so numerous, then that big buck does not have to risk much or travel far or in the open to go find a doe, especially if he is the dominant guy in the area. Therefore, what is the logical answer to this? Shoot does. I’m not saying go on a rampage and shoot every doe you see. If you hunt enough and use a trail cam, you have a decent idea of the population of deer you are hunting, so don’t be afraid to take a couple nice-sized does to feed your family or hungry people other than yourself. This also helps prevent overpopulation and malnutrition, as it keeps the deer population just right so that everybody has enough to eat on your property. Just don’t shoot a doe that will leave a small Bambi who is right next to her helpless, not knowing how to survive. You have a brain; make the right judgement call. However, like I said before, don’t sway to the other extreme and kill every doe you see because there also needs to be a future population of deer, and she is in charge of giving birth to it.

Where do you hunt?

Obviously, you cannot kill a big deer without hunting where the big deer is. So find out where he is traveling, when he is traveling, and who he is hanging out with.

Put these logical tactics into place, and you will find yourself with a great recipe for successfully hunting a mature whitetail!

Good luck and keep hunting!

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Hunting: It’s About The Experience

By Nathan Unger

As I’m writing this I’m driving to my home state of Virginia for one last shot at a mature buck that has filled my dreams since January. The season is almost over and I’m not sure where it even went! So in an event to reflect on this past season, instead of giving out some pointers, I wanted to reminisce on what this year has meant to me and talk about some of the tokens I’ve gleaned from the experiences.

This has been one of those years where the experience has had to be more important than the kill. This is mainly because, thus far, I’ve struck out on a mature buck.   I’ve been in the woods 25-30 times this season which is pretty good considering I work a full time job. However, with limited time and fluctuating temperatures, I’ve had one heck of a time trying to match up the perfect conditions, and the few times I did, I still didn’t have any luck at a mature buck.

However, looking back on the season, I have constantly asked myself one question.

“Did I do everything possible to put myself in a position to succeed?”

My answer to that question, quite simply, would be, “No.”

Due to unusually warm southern temperatures the deer have been suppressed to nocturnal movement much of the season.  The two opportunities I had were difficult and required extreme patience which is my first token I took from this season.

1.) You can never have too much patience while hunting

I was hunting the weekend before Thanksgiving in northern North Carolina which during that time of year, during the rut, I typically see several deer. This specific day I hadn’t seen any. My first mistake was assuming that I wouldn’t see anything just because I hadn’t seen anything the first two hours in the stand.

I knew better than this.

At 9:30 a.m. after three hours in the stand I decided to adjust my swivel seat in our box blind. Low and behold I didn’t get a chance to spray some WD40 on it and it squeaked as I rotated. Next thing I know something behind me less than five yards away jumped up out of the thicket and pranced off. As I turned around trying to get a peek at what it was I caught a glimpse of white bone bouncing through the pine trees which leads to my second token I took from this season.

2.) Preparation leads to success

Had I either not moved or properly fixed my seat beforehand I would have had a nice mature 10 pointer at less than five yards. As I sat there mentally beating myself up for squabbling the opportunity, within minutes I heard more movement. After seconds of looking to see what the noise was, there was another mature buck trotting in the thicket behind me having no idea I was even there. My Horton crossbow was still sitting next to me because I never would have thought a second mature buck would have followed the first one I spooked. Clearly I was wrong!

3.) You HAVE to maintain mental toughness

Deer hunting, especially archery hunting, can be one of the most mentally taxing endeavors a hunter can experience while he or she is in the field. As I continue to gain experience bow hunting I never stop learning this. As many of you know, and many of you will learn, you will hunt often times without shooting anything, and sometimes you may not even see anything. This has discouraged me all season, but until you can learn these valuable lessons you can never truly enjoy the experience of being outdoors. As I’m writing this a young spike buck walked 30 yards from me and, for me, just seeing that young deer makes my hunt worth every hour even if I don’t shoot anything.

All this to say, don’t give up, don’t be discouraged, enjoy the experience and keep hunting!

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Hunting Bad Weather Conditions: Is It Worth The Trouble?

By Nathan Unger:

First of all I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas! I hope that you have had valuable family time as well as some rest and relaxation.

Any opportunity you get to hunt a torrential downpour or a blizzard you should. I’m not advocating hunting in a tornado or lighting storm, but just enough nasty weather to use it to your advantage. Here’s why.

  • Rain eliminates scent

Anytime it’s raining you probably have a distinct advantage against a deer’s nose. The rain seems to wash away any scent you may leave behind, and personally, I have seen a lot of deer movement during the rain both in mild and cold conditions. The only time I have not seen much movement is during warm, rainy days, however that can be said for most warm days. In addition, I believe immediately after it rains is a prime time because deer will be eager to eat the moist vegetation.

  • Snow is great!

Okay, maybe not for you, but there is nothing some hand warmers and several layers of clothes can’t fix. The cold temperatures that come with snow are ideal because deer have to keep and maintain body warmth during these harsh temperatures which inevitably leads them to search for food. These cold temperatures also produce day time movement because the deer have to be on their feet so often in order to survive which plays right into the hands of hunters. During these cold temps be sure to hunt around high calories food sources such as corn that deer prefer in the dead of winter.

  • Wind

It’s exactly that – wind. It can be advantageous or it can really kill a hunt. I’m not really talking about seven to ten mile an hour winds. I’m more so talking about in the 20-30 range. Strong winds can dampen noise, and if you use the wind correctly deer will have to get down wind of you to smell you which hopefully will offer you a shot which is why it is important to have a stand placement downwind of the deer. However, we’ve all been busted by a deer’s nose before, so I don’t really need to explain what happens if a deer catches your wind, but in short you might as well find a new location to hunt. This is really up to you to decide whether you like hunting strong winds. I’ve heard experts say that they love hunting strong wind conditions, but I’ve also known deer to bed down and wait the strong winds out. I’m still personally trying to learn more about this myself.

IMG_5041
Nathan Unger’s doe he took during a hard rain in 2014
IMG_5047
Caleb Unger’s 4 1/2 year old he shot in rain storm in 2014
So comment below, and I would like to get your thoughts on these and which you like to hunt and the ones you don’t! Good luck and keep hunting!

Keep scouting and good hunting!

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Three Things To Prepare For Next Deer Season

By Nathan Unger

If you have already discounted the remainder of your hunting season, or if you are part of the group that was fortunate enough to tag out then you can begin to implement these practical tactics. This will help make you even more prepared and successful next season.

As hunters, a lot of times after we meet our personal quota of deer for the year and put meat in the freezer we tend to call it quits for the most part and enjoy the remainder of the winter season. My encouragement to you -keep hunting!

One of the most valuable things you can do for the next season is scout how the deer are behaving now in order to be one step ahead of them next year. Hear are a few things you can begin to focus on:

1.) Find the bedding areas

This will help tremendously for stand placements in the fall when you are trying to key in on that big buck. Likewise, if you find where does are bedding this will be where you need to set up during the rut to find those bucks that are cruising through looking for the hot does. If you find these beds you will also be able to find these bucks in the late season when they become a lot less active and merely move to eat and then head back to bed. This is pertinent because after the rut a lot of big bucks become invisible and revert to being nocturnal.

2.) Find the relevant food sources

If you are scouting right now for where deer are cruising to eat, this may not be as helpful in the fall months next year. During the winter months deer are eating higher calorie foods such as corn in order to stay warm whereas in the falls months they might be targeting clover fields and such. If you can pick out these foods specific to your hunting property and specific to the weather you will increase your chances of targeting that big buck you have been after.

3.) Find the travel routes

This point does not need to be overlooked. If weather doesn’t go your way and deer aren’t showing up where they typically do these routes will, however, give you an idea of where they are traveling. Instead of setting up on a field or food plot you may have to set up back in the woods at a pinch point or saddle where these deer are traveling to the fields and plots. Sometimes if these deer have been over educated during the season they will wait in almost a holding pattern until cover of darkness. If you can locate these spots it will not only help you in the late season, but it will also give you a one-up for next season on those early season bucks.

Keep scouting and good hunting!

 

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Deer Management And Why I Do It

By Nathan Unger

One thing I believe all or most hunters can agree with is that the deer population has to be managed in some way in order for our sport and livelihood to survive through the next century. However, not everybody practices management in the same fashion. So what I want to do in this article is provide some ideas of what has worked for me the last several years at the property I hunt now and provide some tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Growing up, shooting a buck was my only goal. It didn’t matter how big, how many points or how old it was I just wanted my first buck. At the time, two of my brothers were collectively aiming for the same goal. So what happened? All three of us shot our first buck the next two seasons. Two seven pointers and a spike buck.

My first buck (December 2012)
My first buck
(December 2012)

Season three (at this specific property) roles around in 2012 after we shot these bucks, and we wanted what any hunter wanted. To shoot a bigger buck. The problem was we didn’t see any, but little did we know the impact of shooting three  1 1/2- 2 1/2 year-old bucks the preceding two seasons was going to have on the age of the males in our herd. The next two years we made a pact (my dad, brothers and I) that we wouldn’t shoot any bucks that we didn’t want to mount. That way the consequence of our shots would affect our bank accounts, so we wanted to make those mounts count, and we decided if we wanted meat for the freezer we would manage the does in our herd.

That’s exactly what we did!

The following season we began seeing some results of our management. I was hunting towards the end of November in 2013 and was able to take a good 3 1/2 year old buck (picture is on the “Trophy” page).  The next year my brother was able to record his biggest buck to date – a nice 4 1/2 year old in late December. We really started seeing the fruits of our management at the end of the season in 2014  when we captured two 4 1/2 years old bucks on camera. This 2015 season, there are at least three 130″-140″ class deer with the potential to grow even bigger.

I write all this to say that when we started we didn’t look much beyond the current hunting season, and we believed that somehow big bucks would just magically appear out of thin air. After studying big bucks and educating ourselves on deer management we discovered that in order for them to grow you might just have to pass on them when they’re young.

As far as does our concerned, the age-old question posed is – “is it better to shoot older does or younger does?” What I’ve deduced the past several years from articles and other knowledgeable experts is if you want to grow your deer herd shoot younger does, and if you want to thin out your herd shoot older does. This is because older does our able to foster their young during the winter better finding cover and food sources more effectively, and they are able to protect their fawns from predators better than yearling does can.

Now, I understand that not everyone has the ability to hunt multiple times a year or has private property that they can manage overtime, so I get that. I really do. I know some hunters hunt public land that is pressured by other hunters so any deer is a good deer. I’ve been in similar situations before and understand not everyone hunts for trophies, and providing for you and your family is a  higher priority. So don’t think I’m trying to impress this belief that you should only shoot 4 and 5 year old deer.

However, I do think we need to be cognizant of the overall deer herd. We need to educate ourselves and others about this precious resource – about the negative effects of not practicing management, but moreover, educating others on the overwhelming positive effects of quality deer management.

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What to Do When Your Deer Disappear

Have you ever been so excited and overly prepared for opening day of deer season only to be disappointed later by the lack of deer you see in a sit?

photo (10)
Nathan Unger with his 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 year old seven point in 2013 over a food plot in the late season

I know I have – so the question then becomes where did they all go? What happened to all the bucks I had on trail cameras before the season? Or what happened to the quantity of deer that I scouted?

There are several possible reasons for these disappearances  and it would take a while to list them all here, however I want to highlight some of the main reasons for deer disappearing from your stand location.

1.) With Season Change Comes Change in Patterns

If you think about it, this idea makes perfect sense. As leaves begin to fall and vegetation begins to die off in the winter months, deer seek out the best cover possible which, unfortunately, means that the buck you’ve been watching is no longer showing up on your trail cam.

This type of cover can vary from swamp habitat to young pines 5-6 feet tall to tall grass to dips in a hillside. Finding these environments where deer like to bed and setting up within range, yet not bumping them with your scent is sure to increase your chance of killing that big buck.

2.) Pressure

This is tough because not always are you the one supplying the pressure. It could come from other hunters, farmers, gun clubs (I know this from experience), weather conditions or other predators.

While you may not be able to control some of these, you want to control yours variables as much as possible.

a.) Eliminating your scent as best you can, and trying to stay upwind of bedding areas will be a huge step in decreasing hunting pressure. I can’t tell you how many times I took the easier route to my stand because of lack of time or just plain laziness and ended up bumping deer – and not just any deer- big bucks!

b.) Getting in your stand early enough and staying long enough. One of the last things you want to do is try to get 5 or ten extra minutes of sleep which may be all it takes for you to bump a deer while you’re walking to your stand. Then, especially in the late season, you might as well hunt a different location. The same is true for when you get out. If deer are around you after shooting light – wait them out. It’s better that you not bump them and ruin your next hunt in that location. Because it will educate those deer and they will associate that pressure with your stand or that area.

3.) Food Sources

Even though you may have food on your property, guess what? The hunter next door to you probably does as well. So the key here is, provide the better option for deer. I mean think about it, would you rather have a filet mignon or an overcooked sirloin? Yes, I’m being facetious, but you would obviously want the juiciest, best-tasting option out there, and it’s the same for deer. If you live in a state where baiting isn’t allowed take steps to plant food plots before the season. Foods such as sugar beets or brassica are great late season options because after the first frost these taste like candy to deer.

 

 

Spring Fishing At Smith Mountain Lake

Up until today I have never written a blog on fishing, but that is because this blog was established during the heart of hunting season last year. As spring begins to role around that only can mean one thing – the pre-spawn and spawn are right around the corner at lakes around the country and especially the southeast. As temperatures begin to rise and fish start becoming active it will only be a matter of time before they start following schools of bait fish or shack up on a log somewhere.

As a kid, fishing was one of our pastimes. It seemed like we went every weekend and some summers every day! It was great! The buzz of bees and the croaks of frogs meant you were by the lake with a fishing pole and probably in bare feet.

Nathan Unger with his 7.5 lbs. large mouth bass on Smith Mountain Lake
Nathan Unger with his 7.5 lbs. large mouth bass on Smith Mountain Lake

For nearly a decade now my family and I have traveled to the lake every summer to be with family and to fish. Yes, a typical trip to the lake includes hours upon hours of fishing where you can just let your mind wonder and not have a care in the world. A common question that several people often ask is, “what do you catch?” There are several species native to the deep, mountain lake in Virginia. Listed below are a few game species that avid anglers fish for daily:

1. Striped Bass

2. Large-mouth Bass

3. Small-mouth Bass

4. Channel Catfish

5. Crappie

Below is a video of two anglers on Smith Mountain catching Stripers on shad as bait.

These are only a few of the several species located in the lake, however these are the most sought after for fisherman. The lake holds a special place in my heart, and I hope to be able to continue the tradition for several years to come!

Thanks for reading and please subscribe to blog for more updates in the near future!

Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)

Chasing My Dream

As a boy, I always wondered what I would do as I grew into adulthood. It wasn’t because I was unsure about my career choice, but it was because I wondered how I would make it a full time career.

I grew up hunting and fishing in middle Georgia and always dreamed of owning my own hunting camp or farm one day to manage and take care of myself. However this isn’t the most popular choice because many people view the outdoors much like they view reading a book or riding a bike. Just a hobby. So over the years I’ve wondered how I can make it my career. I’ve spent a lot of time in the woods and by the lake mulling over how this dream would come true. One of my biggest role models in this particular area is my uncle who for as long as I’ve know him has made a good living and has been able to travel to various places and see some pretty incredible animals and landscapes. However, he still works a full-time job and takes these trips one or twice a year. Yes, such a career as traveling and seeing the outdoors can be expensive, but, it takes starting at the bottom and working your way up. Over my 22 years I’ve boiled it down to three points that are essential for my dream to become a reality.

1. Do not give up or give in

2. Keep chasing despite critics

3. Work hard

Now these are very simple, but maybe a more professional blogger and deer hunter can articulate it better than I.

http://wiredtohunt.com/2013/10/04/today-im-quitting-my-job-for-deer-for-you-and-for-a-dream/

This blog has inspired me to not give up my dream of the outdoors, and to pursue it relentlessly even if it means making some sacrifices. Author of the blog, Wired To Hunt says it best,

“So that I may fully pursue my dream of chasing whitetails and sharing my experiences with the world. And so that I may truly live.” – Mark Kenyon

What will I do, you might ask?

I will continue to pursue my dream relentlessly until I hit a wall and then I will find a way around or through the wall and press on until my dream is reached!

(Written by Mr. Nathan Unger. Nathan is a Senior at the University of Georgia majoring in Public Relations. Nathan is an avid hunter and a passionate outdoorsman from Southwest Virginia)