Brownsburg's Dynamic Deer Hunting Duo

Brownsburg's Dynamic Deer Hunting Duo

The father-son team of James and Brian White bag their share of fine-looking bucks on their property on the outskirts of Indianapolis.

By Bill Scifres

For Jim White and son, Brian, knocking over a wall-hanger buck, in the parlance of baseball players, is "a can of corn." To Jim and Brian, it would be a field of corn - standing, if you don't mind - with some clover for dessert.

It also is using the elements and manmade contraptions such as big jet planes flying low to cope with terrible weather. That incident, alone, is a great, though unusual, deer-hunting story. We will get to it a little later.

On the last day of the Indiana muzzleloading rifle deer season in 2001, Jim White bagged a buck with muzzleloader that racked up (if you will pardon the levity) a non-typical score of 174 3/8. His 14-pointer has, of course, been enrolled in Boone and Crockett (B&C) and the Hoosier Record Buck Program (HRBP).

As a typical rack, White's prize scored at 165 0/8, a pretty nice buck, all the more so when you consider that he took it on home turf, which is a 50-acre plot in Brownsburg. This is only a stone's throw from downtown Indianapolis . . . if you have a good arm.

Jim White received confirmation of his rack from B&C as a non-typical. He says it also has been submitted to the HRBP and expects it to be enrolled in that program when the Indiana Deer Hunters' Association publishes its next edition of the book of records. At this point, it is not clear when the next edition of the HRBP record book will be published.

Jim White's 2001 buck may be his chief claim to deer-hunting fame, but he has taken a few other deer that probably would have made the HRBP book, including his first buck with a bow.

Food and water, plus proper cover, are part of the Whites' philosophy on attracting and keeping deer on your property. Photo by John R. Ford

Also, on opening day of the 2001 firearms season, his son, Brian, bagged a typical 9-pointer that scored 122 0/8, his best rack. Brian White started hunting deer at about 16 years old. Brian's deer may have been a little bit of a mistake. He knew there was a deer in the area he was hunting that carried a fine 10-point rack. He thought he was shooting that particular deer.

But what the heck, when you have a number of deer with big racks running around your home turf, it is easy to make a mistake. And it wasn't a bad mistake at all.

Jim White's muzzleloading trophy buck sported a 24 7/8 outside spread, and is the biggest deer he has ever seen. But while he often sees bucks on his property that would pale many of the trophies shown on TV, these bucks are simply not present all of the time. Oddly enough, White's big deer had part of one tine missing.

"There were 6 or 7 inches missing on that one tine," White says. "If that tine had been there, he would have been scored much better. Most of the time we just have does," Jim says, "but during the rut the big bucks come to visit our does and that's what we want."

Jim is quick to point out that his 50 acres on the southwest edge of Brownsburg is managed specifically as a good place for does to live.

"If we have the does, and we have a lot of them all year, the bucks will come during the rut," Jim says.

Of the 50 acres he controls, Jim says roughly 30 acres is tillable. At least 10 acres of his cropland is planted to field corn with no intention of harvesting it.

"We give the does good habitat and plenty of food . . . they don't have any reason to leave," he says. "The standing corn offers both food and cover throughout the winter."

He also plants some hays and grasses, and he firmly believes the combination of clover and corn, a variety of good food, is what holds the deer.

"I won't take a deer unless it is a trophy," Jim White says, "I probably hadn't killed a deer for three years when I took this one (his trophy) on the last day of the muzzleloader season."

White prefers to hunt with a bow, but he has a shotgun with deer slug barrel, and a handgun in addition to his muzzleloading rifle. He also bought a handgun, but hunted with it only once because of the recoil.

"Several years ago, when handguns first became legal, I went out and bought a .44-caliber Magnum. I thought it would be easier to carry. I took one deer, one buck with that gun, and I put it up. I've never hunted with it again. Shoot it once and you are shaking so bad you couldn't hit anything if you had to make a second shot," he says.

The only other rack that he has had mounted is an 8-pointer taken with a bow, his first bow kill.

"It's a nice rack," White says, "but it looks like a baby compared to the big one."

White does not shoot does on his property because there are enough people shooting them that they keep the herd thinned out. He explains that the rationale for taking does revolves around the fact that if you have too many does, there may not be enough food to hold them. If there's not enough food, the deer will go somewhere else, he says, and that is why he supplements the food source with corn and clover.

"I don't have to worry about the deer leaving," he says. "There is plenty of food here."

However, he points out that he will take a deer that appears to be abnormal to remove it from the gene pool. Such deer are taken legally during hunting seasons.

The Whites maintain roughly 15 permanent stands on the property, and hunt more on whim than on practices that are universally accepted by deer hunters.

"They say you should use wind direction and other factors in deer hunting, but there are so many deer out here that it doesn't make much difference. There's not a bad spot here no matter where you sit," White says.

The day White bagged his trophy buck was about as mean and ornery as Hoosier weather can get in December. He remembers a cutting, frigid wind that carried half rain, half sleet into the foggy day.

White was watching several deer grazing in a field adjacent to his stand, which was on the edge of a wooded area.

"He (the big deer) was standing out in a field with several other deer. I don't know how many. There were several bucks, but I don't know how many does. I stalked him on the ground," White said. "I got out of a tree to stalk him. When I shot him, I had gotten within 10 feet of him. I got too close."

White explains that he realized when he got on the ground that it would be a very slow and tough stalk, even under the wet and windy conditions.

"As wet as it was, I knew twigs still would snap and if I snapped one twig my chances for a shot would be gone."

But about that time White realized that the prevailing weather and wind direction was bringing huge jetliners headed for Indianapolis International Airport (some 10 miles to the southeast) directly over his home turf.

"They were so low they shook the ground when they went over," White says, explaining that he would move a few feet when a big plane was directly overhead. "It must have taken me an hour to get close enough for a shot . . . I only moved about 100 yards, and when I got there I realized I was too close.

"A plane would come by and I would move 10 or 15 steps," White says. "The plane would leave and I would stop and wait five or 10 minutes until another plane would come and I would take another 12 or 15 steps . . . it probably took me an hour to stalk that deer. When I finally got up to him, to the edge of the field where he was, he had two options. If he went one way, I would miss him. When I got to where I thought he was, I squatted down. I could see other deer out in the field, but I couldn't see him. I didn't know where he had gone.

"About that time, I caught movement right in front of me; it looked like a whole bush moved. It turned out to be the buck's head was in a bush and when his head moved, it moved the weeds and brush . . . and that was that . . . I was 10 feet from him . . . I was too close! When I realized I was that close, I shot immediately."

The deer dropped in his tracks, White says. Later, his trophy buck was checked in at M&R Sports in Crawfordsville. Bob Mercer of Lifelike Taxidermy in Brazil, Indiana, completed the taxidermy work on White's fine buck.

Just before he shot, some of the bucks and does farther out in the field spooked and ran. He thinks they may have seen him or winded him. But whatever spooked the deer, White believes their movement caused his big buck to move his head, and that was his undoing.

So how and why did White formulate his land-management plan to create this little deer-hunting utopia?

"I've always been interested in wild birds and animals. I'm an animal lover," White says. "About five years ago I realized that the best way to help wildlife . . . not just deer . . . was to give them what they needed: food, water and cover. I just love animals," White says. "I love to take their pictures. I take my camcorder (video camera) every time I go out there. I always take a bow or my muzzleloader (depending on the season), but most of the time I just take pictures of them. I let a lot of big deer with big racks walk by."

White has no idea how many hours of film he has shot, but he says he plays the films back often, enjoying watching the deer and noticing their physical makeup and their movements. "Much of this activity involves does and their young. Two years ago his property hosted four sets of twin fawns that he knew of. "We watched them grow up," he says.

So he started planting 10 acres or so to corn and leaving it standing throughout the winter. He supplemented this with smaller plantings of various clovers, including some that are highly touted as food for deer. And while the corn is a strong draw for deer as food, other plants are important, too.

"The corn is not just food," White says, pointing out that field corn is a prime food of deer during the winter months, and that it is credited for producing beautiful Hoosier deer. "But corn is also very good cover, including escape cover. A field of standing corn is a pretty good place for deer to live throughout the year."

White says he didn't notice an overnight change in the number of year-round whitetail residents after implementing his plantings of corn and clovers (also a favored food of deer).

"It took a couple of years, but the wait was worth it," he says, adding that the deer took on a healthier look after two or three years.

"We didn't notice big changes immediately," White said, "but after a couple of years, we started seeing more does . . . throughout the year . . . we don't see many bucks through the summer, but when the rut starts they come.

"I'm a firm believer in having food, cover, and water for deer - if you have these things, you will have deer."

White emphasizes that bagging a buck - even a buck with a wall-hanger rack - is secondary to his picture taking and observing the deer year 'round.

He doesn't feel that watching the deer and photographing them is a great aid to hunting.

"It's more just reminiscing and watching the various deer as they develop physically throughout the year," he says.

Although the Whites have an eye peeled for big racks during the hunting season, they also maintain an awareness for deer that are not top drawer physically.

If they see a deer that appears to be a weak link in the gene pool, they take it during legal hunting seasons if they get the chance.

"If we have an old, scraggly buck, I'll take him out. I don't want him messing up the gene pool by mating with the does. Other than that, we just watch them walk by and wait on a big one," White says.

With all of those deer, more specifically bucks, running around the place, it would seem that keeping other hunters out of the deer patch could be a little difficult.

White says the property is posted and that only one other hunter is allowed to hunt there. Last year that other hunter took a nice 8-pointer, White says, adding that it was a bit of a mistake. The hunter also thought he was shooting a 10-pointer.

"We don't have a big problem with hunters trying to slip in to hunt," White says. "Everybody knows I am out there most of the time."

When White bags a deer, he turns most of the meat into jerky and burgers, saving only a few steaks and roasts.

"The best steaks come from the hips," White says, "and that is where the best jerky comes from. You've got to decide whether you want steaks or jerky. I always go for the jerky, but we save a few steaks and roasts."

The rest of his venison is turned into burger, which is used primarily for chili. White field dresses his deer, but he takes it to a professional meat shop for but

chering.

How was his big deer on the dinner table? "It was tough, but it made good jerky and burger," he said.



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