What a hunt! Opening day of the 2008 Muzzleloader season, Ted and I were hunting a ridgeline that had several active scrapes in the middle of a group of white oaks that were still dropping nuts. Here is a picture of one of the scrapes:
When I scouted the area the day before, I couldn't find a dominant tree, but I could tell from the walk sign (and the scrapes, of course) that deer were in the area. I have to admit that without a dominant tree, I was less than optimistic about our chances (I gave it a three on a scale of one to ten), but it was the best looking spot I could find in a couple hours of quick scouting.
I've got to give credit where credit is due and Ted's got a big ol' IOU from me. He suggested that we try rattling. I've never had ANY luck rattling, and had pretty much written off the idea, but he convinced me to try again. Boy am I glad we did.
According to Ted, the secret is to start with a 140-class set of rattling horns - just kidding, but they're impressive aren't they. The rattling sequence in the video is the real deal. It wasn't re-created after the shot. I used a doe can call a couple times during short breaks in Ted's rattling. According to Ted, the real secret is in grinding the antlers together gently to simulate sparring, not crashing them together violently like some kind of prize fight. As you can see from the video, it worked like a charm.
The deer ended up being just two and a half years old and weighing 125 pounds field dressed. I haven't measured him yet, but will update the post when I do. (Update - he grossed 128 and netted 122 5/8) He has the most antler mass of any two and a half year old deer that I've seen. He certainly caused a stir at the checking station where my buddy Doug Markham with the TWRA was on hand to check him in and take the photo above. For the record, I'm not a fan of "buck in the truck" photos, but there was this good lookin' fella hanging around who offered to pose with the deer, so I'm making an exception. Actually, Doug said he'd write me a ticket for some unspecified violation if I didn't use his photo.
Speaking of Doug, Ted and I will be on his radio show on Saturday the 15th of November to talk about deer hunting, dominant trees, and probably ex-mothers in law too. Tune in to 99.7 WTN in Nashville from 5:00 a.m. to 7 a.m. to listen in.