Here it is, the middle of the 2015 deer hunting season I've dubbed "The Drive For Five".  Simply put, I'm striving to harvest my fifth shooter buck in five seasons.  When I say shooter buck, I'm referring to 150" or bigger at this point in my hunting journey.  To say the least, the season to date has been difficult.  I thought I would take a moment and outline some of the obstacles and what I have learned the past several days.

It has taken me a couple of weeks, but I am happy to report the 2015 Season has started out with a bang.  Luke spent the week before the Indiana Youth Season practicing and sighting in his .44 mag youth rifle, as illustrated in this photo.  We worked hard on making sure he was squeezing the trigger and his group was solid at 75 yards.  I wanted to make sure he could hit that distance given that would most likely be the longest shot he would possibly take.

On Saturday, August 22nd, a new chapter in my life as a deer manager started.  A chapter that I was excited about, but also presented a level of anxiety based on the potential for success or complete failure.  The outcome of this chapter will not be known for some time and isn't based solely on me, which could be causing the anxiety.  The outcome lies squarely on the group of hunters who gathered to talk about forming a QDM Co-op in West Central Indiana.

Prior to the '13 hunting season, we walked the property and identified what we felt would be a good stand location in the NE corner of the property.  There is a topo feature that looked to be a natural travel corridor given the visible trails.  A stand was placed and I cleared shooting lanes.  This proved to be a great idea and I shot my '13 buck out of this stand.  Even with that success, I started to pick-up a pattern of deer travel that spilled over into '14.  This pattern presented a huge obstacle that required I do something and make a change.

Time is sure flying by with the year already half over and we are less than 90 days until the start of the Indiana Deer Season (refer below to the countdown clock in the footer of each page).  Hunting season will be here soon and the pressure begins to mount for completing all of the pre-season tasks.  I thought I would take a moment and outline what has been accomplished and what I have remaining before the leaves turn and the temperature drops.

In most circumstances, five is a better number than four.  You need five basketball players on the court.  Five fingers and toes are better than four.  And five points on each side of a buck's antlers is always better than four.

Now what about the age of buck?  Is it better to shoot a 5.5 year old buck or a 4.5 year old?  Conventional wisdom is that you always want to shoot the older buck.  I'm going to make the argument that shooting a 4.5 year old was better this past season for me and even more of a learning experience.  At least it was when you compare the 4.5 year old harvested in '14 to the 5.5 year old harvested in '13.

I've named bucks in the past, but I've decided that I need to step it up a little to have some fun.  Many hunters list names to describe a buck based on his antler characteristics or some other unique identifier.  I've done it, but haven't really put much effort into the process.  I've decided to start a list of names to choose from for future bucks.  Yes, this is silly and some will say this needs to be unscripted or unplanned.  But I always seem to struggle to find a good name when first discovering a buck.  Most of my names are meant to be funny and not specific to a characteristic.

Listed below are my names: past, current, and future.  I'm including descriptions as to what triggered a particular name:

I'm in one of those rare moods as I write this tonight.  One where everything I see and hear jumps out at me.  One in which the special aspects of everyday life and the people in my life, especially my family, are so vivid that you want the moment to stop and never change.  One in which self realization is at an all time high.  This sounds corny, but reflecting back on Saturday, March 14th helps me understand how special the day turned out to be.  Every time I write this blog, I appreciate different aspects of the deer hunting hobby.  This issue of the ATW Blog embodies that gratefulness.

My appreciation grew last Saturday as only this hobby could bring together 56 crazed whitetail habitat fanatics from all over the Midwest, including:  Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa.  We officially held our second ATW Property Walk and Field Day in West Central Indiana.  Below is the group photo taken at the end of the 6 hour journey through the property. 
(To Read More, click on the link below this photo.)

Preparations for the Property Walk & Field Day on March 14th have us doing a lot of habitat work.  This year, more than most, I am excited to hit the woods and make these improvements.  This is because of the unknown buck beyond my 63 acre property line that could pass through and just might like what we are doing.

With the harvest of the Iron Buck, I learned something that I had always read about, but never truly realized.  Big mature bucks have a decent range or home radius.  I've always worked on improvements in hopes of getting a mature buck to use my property as his core area.  Give him food, water, shelter, low hunting pressure, and the opposite sex and he has no reason to stray beyond my property boundaries.  That is a great concept and a good practice, but is this a reality?  After chasing the Iron Buck approximately three miles as a result of a poor shot, I now realize that the impacts of habitat improvements reach out much further than my slice of heaven.  That is becoming my focus instead of trying to simply hold bucks on a small property.  If I can attract bucks from afar, then holding them is less of a focus.  Would it be logical that if I can attract bucks, then most likely I am holding them anyway?

The holidays are over and now deer season has ended.  If you are serious about land and habitat management then cabin fever is a term you are unfamiliar.  Now is the time to hit the woods to make the improvements that will pay off next October.  Now is the time to venture into those areas you dare not venture during the season for fear of pushing that target buck off of your property.

Each January we walk the property to check on buck beds, identify new rubs, old rubs, and evaluate trail usage to determine if previous habitat adjustments worked as planned.  This year has yielded some great findings and generated exciting plans for habitat improvement.