Michigan Deer Hunting Forecast for 2014
October 01, 2014
Two of the largest bucks bagged in the state last fall qualify for that distinction in the two most important categories — antler size and weight. Adam Stretch from Dundee collected a whitetail in Monroe County during gun season that had the highest scoring typical rack known taken in the state last fall and it had the heaviest weight reported, even though that weight was estimated. The antlers from Adam's 12-pointer, taken with a shotgun on opening morning of gun season, had a gross score of 181 3/8 and netted 176 1/8. The buck had an estimated dressed weight of 300 pounds.
Scott Vogt from Spring Arbor scored on a 14-pointer with bow and arrow in Jackson County that had the second highest scoring set of typical antlers known taken in the state last fall and it had an actual dressed weight of 252 pounds. So Vogt's buck would have had a live weight around 300 pounds. That whitetail's antlers grossed 185 7/8 and netted 175 2/8.
Jackson County has a track record of being on the top of the list of big-buck producers in our state, both in terms of quantity and quality, and Vogt's success reinforces that. There's sure to be other whoppers taken there this fall, too. You can count on it, and the same is true for Monroe County, where Adam got his buck. Monroe has produced other top-end bucks in the past, but that county seems to be cranking them out more consistently in recent years.
Something else that's noteworthy about Stretch's buck is that it was 8 or 9 years old. Who says mandatory antler point restrictions are necessary to produce older age bucks? Adam's deer and many others taken across the state every year prove otherwise. And another point of interest about the Stretch Buck is that it was the first deer he has ever taken in Michigan during more than 20 years of hunting.
Four or five years earlier, Adam almost got the same buck with bow and arrow. He got a bow shot at the buck during the evening of Nov. 14 as it was following a doe, but his arrow hit the whitetail's right shoulder blade, causing a nonfatal wound. Adam said he thought the buck had an 8-point rack when he got that bow shot at it.
He knew the buck was still around after failing to get it with bow and arrow. That's because there were always a couple of 6- to 8-inch trees in the area rubbed by a deer with a big rack. And while cutting firewood in the vicinity last summer, he frequently saw the whitetail's "ginormous" tracks. The tracks were so big that one of Adam's friends thought they were made by a cow!
A last minute-change in deciding where to post on opening day of gun season may have played a major role in Stretch's success on the Boone and Crockett buck.
"I had a ground blind and two tree stands set up on the property I hunted," Adam said, "but on opening morning I decided to sit in a different spot. I brought a folding lawn chair with me and sat in a thick patch of weeds where I could watch the edge of the woods. My father (David) went to the ground blind.
"We got there a half hour before daylight to get set up. After things quieted down, I started playing with a grunt call to see if that would bring a buck in and I kept blowing it. I had been using the call about an hour when I decided to look over my right shoulder and the buck was only 10 yards away looking at me. He must have come from somewhere behind me.
"My gun was lying across my lap, pointing in the opposite direction from where the deer was. The buck started moving away as I just kept blowing in the grunt call. When the buck was 50 to 60 yards away, he started walking across the field and that's when I was able to get a shot at him."
Adam was hunting with a scoped Mossberg 12-gauge pump shotgun with a rifled barrel. The Bushnell variable scope was set on 1X or 2X at the time. The gun was loaded with Hornady SST Slugs.
Stretch was confident of scoring a hit on the buck, but a thorough search with his father's help failed to turn up any blood or hair, so he assumed he had missed. That all changed the following morning when he got a phone call from his girlfriend's aunt, who lives on the property next to the parcel where he had been hunting. She spotted the buck's antlers sticking out of creek in a ditch that was 16 feet deep.
Even with help, it took Adam three hours to wrestle the big deer out of the deep ditch it died in. The creek water kept the carcass cold, so the meat was still good. Adam said the buck traveled about 200 yards from where he shot it. The wound from his slug had been plugged with fat and that's why he and his father couldn't find any blood.
The butcher who processed the big buck told Adam there was scar tissue on its right shoulder from the broadhead he had hit it with years earlier.
"I spent a lot of time deer hunting with my grandfather when I was a kid," Stretch said, "and he was always waiting for the big one. I've kind of adopted the same philosophy. Now I've got the big one."
Scott Vogt's teenage daughter almost claimed the Jackson County Booner he got last fall a year earlier on opening day of gun season. Scott was sitting with his daughter in a ground blind on the morning of Nov. 15, 2012 when the trophy buck appeared at 9 a.m. at a distance of 85 yards. The teenager was understandably excited and rushed the shot, missing the deer.
Scott saw the same buck on Dec. 28 of that year as he was standing on his climbing sticks unfastening his tree stand. The deer walked by 35 yards away and he was unable to do anything about it. At the time, Scott guessed the buck's antlers would score about 130, but he found out he underestimated the rack's size after friends Wade Childs and Gary Gillett found its shed antlers on neighboring properties. The antlers actually scored about 160 and looked smaller due to the buck's big body.
On Nov. 10, 2013, Scott saw the big buck chasing a hot doe 50 to 60 yards away, but it never came close enough for a bowshot. That changed three days later when the Booner walked by Vogt's tree stand at 25 yards. After Scott scored on the deer his daughter asked, "Aren't you glad I missed that deer Dad?"
Washtenaw County is probably the second best county in the state for producing monster bucks. It borders Jackson County to the east. A pair of whopper whitetails were bagged in Washtenaw last fall that had some of the biggest antlers for the year. Mark Scarberry from Ann Arbor collected the third highest-scoring typical within its borders and Tony Losey from Bellville dropped the largest non-typical entered in state records maintained by Commemorative Bucks of Michigan for 2013.
Scarberry got a 14-pointer from a ground blind on the morning of Nov. 15 that grossed 183 5/8 and netted 174 5/8. Mark was hunting with a friend who was in another blind several hundred yards away.
"There's always big bucks in this area where I hunt," Scarberry said, "There's lots of wetlands and farmland."
Instead of leaving their blinds for breakfast, the pair remained in place on the chance other hunters who took a late morning break might move deer to them. A 2-acre cornfield was also being combined at the time and Mark thinks the buck he got might have come from that field. The buck showed up at 11:15 a.m. and Mark heard him coming before he saw him. When the buck stopped at 20 yards, he counted 4 points on one antler and figured that was big enough, and so he shot, dropping the whitetail with a Hornady SST slug out of his new Savage 220 bolt-action 20 gauge.
Mark said he didn't realize how big the buck's antlers were until he lifted its head. The deer was aged at 3 1/2 by the DNR, but could have been 4 1/2. Its dressed weight was estimated at about 225 pounds.
Tony Losey got permission to hunt deer from a property owner in exchange for some venison, if he got a deer, and the promise he would shoot every coyote he saw. The landowner told Tony where to put his blind and that he would only see deer during the morning. Losey got an 18-pointer from his blind on the morning of Nov. 22 on which the antlers grossed 204 7/8 and netted 191. All of the non-typical growth is on the buck's left side. It had a typical 5-point beam on the right side.
The base of the right antler is 11 6/8 inches in circumference, according to Losey. Bucks that only have one non-typical antler often have an injury on the opposite side of their body, but Tony said there was no visible injury on the buck's right side. Tony explained that the buck was only 3 1/2 years old, according to the DNR, and it had a dressed weight of 178 pounds.
The 18-pointer was Losey's second buck for the season. He got a 12-pointer that was also 3 1/2 years old on Nov. 15, but that whitetail's rack was much smaller.
Still one more B&C typical was collected in Cass County last fall by Jeff Toy from Decatur on the evening of Nov. 25. Although the 12-pointer had a higher gross score (193 2/8) than the other typicals already mentioned, the rack ended up with a lower net score of 172 3/8 due to deductions. The story behind this buck and the hunt on which he was taken appeared in the July/August issue of Michigan Sportsman. Cass County has produced other world-class bucks and it can be expected to generate more this fall.
The same is true for Hillsdale County where Alan Sweet scored on a trophy non-typical on opening day of the 2013 firearms season. The massive rack grossed 188 0/8 and netted 182 2/8. It was late in the day when Alan connected. His father collected a nice 8-pointer nearby during the morning.
Based on CBM entries in state records from the 2012 season that score at least 140 and the biggest bucks from 2013, the best counties in Southern Michigan or Region 3 where hunters have an excellent chance of bagging a similar buck this fall are Jackson (11), Washtenaw (8), Eaton (6), Ingham (6), Shiawassee (6), Branch (6), Allegan (5), Cass (5), Livingston (4), Kalamazoo (4), Berrien (4) and Isabella (4).
Even though fewer trophy-class bucks are routinely taken in the Northern Lower Peninsula, or Region 2, counties than from Region 3, those numbers appear to be increasing in recent years as more hunters voluntarily pass up young bucks. There's certainly more older-age bucks in Region 2 that are capable of producing big racks than most hunters realize.
Jon Moore from Elk Rapids, for instance, dropped a 9-pointer in Grand Traverse County on opening day of the 2011 gun season that proved to be 11 1/2 years old. Last fall, while hunting state-owned land in the same county, he arrowed an 11-pointer that was 6 1/2 years old on Oct. 27 after using a grunt call to lure the buck into position for a bow shot after passing up a smaller 8-point.
Due to soils that are not as fertile as those in Region 3 and tougher winters, not as many bucks in Region 2 are capable of growing 140-class antlers, but some of them obviously do, based on CBM records. Antrim and Oceana counties each had three entries. Roscommon, Manistee, Clare, Grand Traverse and Mecosta counties had two entries each. It's interesting to note that Leelanau County, where Mandatory 3-points-on-one-side antler restrictions have been in effect since 2003, only had one entry scoring more than 140 during 2012 and 2013.
Those same antler restrictions went into effect in 12 counties surrounding Leelanau last fall. If those restrictions work the way they are supposed to, hunters should see more 2 1/2-year-old bucks this year. Those counties are Emmet, Antrim, Charlevoix, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Manistee, Mason, Lake, Osceola, Missaukee and Wexford. Proposals that would have expanded mandatory APR to the rest of the Lower Peninsula this year failed to generate enough support.
The winter of 2012-2013 really took a toll on bucks in the U.P. or Region 1. Spring breakup did not occur until late April or early May of 2013 in the region's northern counties, keeping whitetails confined to deeryards at least a month longer than normal, where they were vulnerable to predators and malnutrition. Deer that received supplemental feeding fared much better than those that didn't. Even so, it appears the number of bucks were reduced by more than 50 percent.
Last winter was another tough one and more deer were lost to its icy grip, but, due to the fact deer numbers were much lower, supplemental feeding was permitted U.P.-wide and winter didn't last as long as the year before, losses were not as high as the year before. So every U.P. county should still produce trophy bucks.
Top choices for U.P. trophy bucks are Chippewa, Houghton, Iron, Gogebic, Keweenaw and Marquette counties. Many cornfields were not cut in Menominee County last fall due to wet conditions, which helped protect some adult bucks. Those bucks will be even bigger this year. As proof the big ones can still be had in the U.P., Larry Smith from Lac La Belle downed a 140-class 12-pointer that was 8 1/2 years old in Keweenaw County.
Over his years of chasing whitetails, A.J. Downs of Conroe, Texas, has taken a number of big bucks with his bow. But none of the other mounts in his trophy room can match the size, or the meaning, of the freak whitetail that fell to his arrow shortly after daylight on opening day of the 2012 archery season.
Thirty-five years of bowhunting have taught Bill Ullrich a few things about chasing whitetails.
Several seasons ago, Bill had made up his mind to take off work early to spend an afternoon in the woods, and he knew exactly which tree he was headed for that afternoon. He was almost to the tree when something told him he needed to turn around and, instead, opt for a tried and true setup he had long-ago named the 'œgood luck tree.'
One hour and ten minutes later, he realized that was the best decision he had ever made, as he watched his arrow bury to the nock in the largest whitetail buck he had ever shot at.
Bill Winke has earned himself a spot as one of the best Midwestern whitetail hunters of all time with this massive double G4 Iowa giant.
The huge Iowa non-typical Bo Russell took is testimony to the rewards of smart scouting and hard work. Not to mention being adaptable enough to overcome some outside interference — including a crew of archeologists!
Russell\'s giant had a gross score of 246 4/8 inches and a net of 231 4/8. That made him the second-largest bow kill entered from the 2012 season.
After many years of chasing the same buck and coming up empty, Brian Hollands\' luck finally turned around. On a fateful morning two seasons ago, Hollands not only found a lost little girl wandering the back roads of Missouri, he also found the buck of a lifetime.
Brian Herron fought numerous obstacles and setbacks to eventually bag this 184-inch bruiser.
The 16-point Daigle buck, scored by Boone & Crockett measurer Lonnie Desmarias, grossed a whopping 197 0/8 inches gross and netted 191 0/8 inches as a non-typical, breaking the existing Massachusetts state record by seven inches, according to the Northeast Big Buck Club records.
In 2009, Dean Partridge started having encounters and getting trail camera photos of a small 4Ã—4 whose back tines were a little bladed. There was nothing out of the ordinary at the time, so Partridge and crew carried on filming that fall and finished off the season. The next summer, he was back in the woods, checking to see which bucks had made it through the harsh winter. And much to his surprise, the buck that seemed ordinary had grown into an extraordinary buck with a large droptine that he aptly named "Droppy."
You need only skim the pages of the record books to understand why the majority of hunters pick the November rut as the prime time to hunt giant whitetails. Mature bucks are never a pushover, but they are more vulnerable when their nose is glued to the ground trailing an estrus doe. Fred Swihart proved, however, that you can have success outside the rut — sometimes it\'s just a matter of persistence.
Whitetail fate played its hand for Arkansas'™ Shane Frost in the big-timbered, fertile ground of the Black River Bottoms in Clay County. The ancient oaks and sloughs, in all their years, had likely never witnessed a more epic bowhunting scene, which ended with a 216-inch trophy on Frost\'s wall.
Garry Greenwalt teamed up with North American Whitetail\'s Gordon Whittington to kill this amazing Washington buck, known to Greenwalt as "The Ghost." Greenwalt spent a good deal of time tracking down the amazing 172-inch Washington giant, but it was all worth it.
It was mid-afternoon on Nov. 13, 2009, and Gary Morris of Winslow, Ark., was heading south out of Iowa. Driven by a haze of internal frustration, he was headed back to Arkansas six days early. The last three years of planning, anticipation and excitement for his Midwestern hunt had been stolen by an encounter with a 170-inch behemoth buck and a blown 12-yard 'œchip-shot.' After his miss, Morris thought about giving up bowhunting altogether. But it\'s a good thing he didn\'t.
With the help of her husband, Kevin, Ohio resident Lindsay Groom scouted this buck for two weeks before coming across its path again. Lindsay shot the buck with her crossbow at about 10 yards, but was unable to locate the buck.
After watching the kill shot again on film, the couple decided to track it the next morning, finding the deer just 30 yards away from where they stopped looking the night before.
Jeff Iverson hunted this particular buck for three seasons. In 2010, when the buck was a six-by-six typical, he missed a shot at it with his bow but Iverson\'s persistence eventually paid off.
On Nov. 14, 2012, the wind was right for hunting, and Jason decided to sit all day. At about 7:30 a.m., he heard chasing over the steep hill in front of him. Then a doe came running up the hill and went past him. Jason could hear grunting from the cedars below. It was the buck he had named "Cyclops."
With the buck at only 70 yards, Jason cranked up his scope and looked at the buck closely. Immediately he saw the glassy eye, and he knew Cyclops was his. It was a chip shot for his accurate .270 Win. After the shot, the huge buck only went about 75 yards before he crashed.
After years of hunting other people'™s property, Schmeidler finally got his own in 2010, when he purchased a 750-acre property consisting of river bottom cover and cropland. He immediately planted multiple food plots, his favorite being milo, and two seasons later, nine straight days of hard, smart hunting gave Schmeidler his trophy.
Despite one of the worst droughts in history, in July 2012 Jim Cogar'™s expectations for deer season in central Ohio were as high as ever. Trail cameras were set, mineral sites were established, and other attractants were strategically placed throughout the farm.
After discovering a giant on his trail camera, that he aptly dubbed Conan, Cogar set out on a mission to bag Conan before the end of the season.
It was Super Bowl Sunday before the opportunity presented itself to Cogar. As Conan led two young bucks down a hill, a distraction opened the door for Cogar to bag his buck of a lifetime.
Joshua Earp\'s Georgia giant scored 187 inches green, weighing in at 235 pounds, and was a great October surprise.
'œI'™ve hunted 25 years for this," Earp said. "I give all thanks to God and my father for teaching me and introducing me to this sport I'™m addicted to.'
Lucas Cochren killed an amazing 238-inch Kansas trophy, but it all started with a blood trail gone cold. Fortunately, Cochren stuck to it and bagged the trophy of his lifetime.
Mike Moran\'s Saskatchewan buck was a dream come true for the hunter who\'d spent 27 years looking for a deer of that quality. He finally got his wish one Thanksgiving day, an experience he won\'t forget.
Payton Mireles, age 10, of Indiana, with her first buck: a 154-inch bruiser.
Having two years of history with this particular buck, Rhett Butler was able to track where he had taken pictures of "Hercules." The deer seemed to be ranging over 1-1.5 square miles revolving around a 100-acre alfalfa field.
When the buck stepped out, Rhett put the crosshairs onto the buck'™s left shoulder and squeezed the trigger of his Winchester .270 bolt action. At the crack of the rifle the buck dropped in his tracks and never even kicked. The hunt for Hercules was over.
Killing the buck that had come to be known to the Taylors as 'œBig Daddy' was Robert'™s primary focus in the fall of 2012. He arranged his work schedule so he could be in a deer blind most mornings and afternoons during the waning weeks of the season.
After a sleepless night and an unsuccessful afternoon tracking a blood trail, Ryan Dietsch was sure he\'d squandered the opportunity of a lifetime. He and friends went back to track the deer he thought he\'d hit, but couldn\'t find so much as a drop of blood. His luck all changed, however, and the rest — along with his 219-inch trophy — is history.
Stanley Suda with his Southern Ohio buck, estimated between 235 and 240 inches.
"The shot was perfect," he said. "I watched my dream buck run across the field and pile-up about 20 yards inside the wood line. This was definitely my finest moment in the treestand.'