To Retrieve a Big Deer This Year, Travel Smartly Through Whitetail Country
September 04, 2018
For smart year-round travel in the Big Deer woods -- from springtime's offseason scouting to summertime's food plots and equipment setup to fall's loading up a big rut-crazed buck -- there are few better tools for a hunter to have handy than a Mahindra Retriever UTV
Mahindra Retriever UTV (Outdoor Sportsman Group photo)
As summer winds down and fall begins, the start of whitetail seasons are only days and weeks away.
Across the country, for nearly every hunter who will climb into a stand of some sort this year, that means that plenty of last minute work remains to be done as the clock ticks on and autumn's annual big buck showtime nears.
For some, that means game camera surveys to see which bucks will be on the hunting hit list this year. For others, it's time for work on food plots designed to lure a big whitetail buck into range. And for nearly everyone who wanders into the woods, it's a time to hang new treestands, set up a ground blind ambush spot, or fine tune an existing stand location for that magical moment when the buck of our dreams steps into a shooting lane only yards away.
Mike Hanback, the well-known Big Deer blog writer and host of the popular Sportsman Channel television show Big Deer TV, is no stranger to any of the above, chores that make up today's 12-month long pursuit of whitetails carrying large sets of antlered headgear.
From the warm days of bowhunting's early archery season in late September and October to the colorful November rifle and shotgun seasons during the rut to the late December and early January muzzleloader hunts over a snow covered beanfield in frigid temperatures, Hanback knows deer hunting (and big deer) as well as anyone does in North America.
You know, the kind of big deer that can make a hunter famous on social media, not to mention landing them a spot in the hallowed record books of the Boone and Crockett Club and the Pope and Young Club.
"Whitetail hunting is pretty much a year-round game now," notes Hanback, one of deer hunting's bona fide experts. "There's scouting chores to be done, there's the work of preparing for the new season, and then there's actually getting through the deer hunting season itself."
In the years that Hanback has pursued the whitetail around North America, a number of tools have become integral to that chase. From better rifles and bullets to lightweight treestands and ground blinds to game cameras and food plot seed to top-shelf optics and rangefinders, there are many pieces of vital gear that now go into Hanback's pursuit of big deer.
One of those tools that Hanback finds virtually indispensable these days is his utility vehicle (UTV), in this case, a Mahindra Retriever UTV, an all-terrain vehicle that excels in chasing whitetails from swampy low country in the South to prickly pear cactus filled senderos deep in the heart of Texas to the rugged river bottoms of the Great Plains to the rolling farmland of the American Midwest to the dense Eastern forests near his Virginia home.
For that matter, the Retriever UTVs can even pull double-duty in the river bottoms and foothills of the Rocky Mountain West where whitetails can intermingle with elk, mule deer, and pronghorn antelope -- if you're lucky enough to draw the tag!
"I've used most of the other machines out there, but the Mahindra proved itself in two days of testing in the deer woods," said Hanback of his experience with the brand. "The standard Retriever 750 is my favorite model because it can get into tight places where I want to hang a stand, it can back up quickly, and it can maneuver around stuff pretty easily. Plus, it's got plenty of pep for going up mountains and it's got an electric dump bed that's pretty good too, especially for loading and unloading a big buck, something that I definitely hope to do a few times this fall."
For Hanback, Mahindra's Retriever UTV series is the perfect choice, thanks to the attention-to-detail roots that began more than 75 years ago with the production of the iconic U.S. military vehicle, the Willys Jeep. Continuing on today with the production of Mahindra's line of agricultural workhorse tractors, and it makes perfect sense that the company would produce a U.S. made UTV that is as tough as nails, built from the ground up for the toughest demands that the whitetail woods can dish out.
Including the hunting of big deer, no matter the terrain to be navigated or the task to be completed. Even if that's carrying around a cameraman and all of the necessary hunting and filming gear required to produce a 22-minute edited TV show.
"From managing your farm to spraying food plots to carrying in heavy blocks for mineral sites to hanging stands all summer to setting out cameras for early fall deer inventories and movement patterns, these machines are very versatile and all-purpose," said Hanback.
That's particularly true when hunting season actually arrives on the calendar.
"When you're using a UTV during the season itself, you've got to be smart with it," said Hanback. "If you hunt in woods around barns and corrals in farming country, then the deer are pretty used to hearing motors and the noise of machinery. But once fall rolls around, it's amazing how deer know that the hunting season is starting up."
For Hanback, that means that more careful use of a UTV is demanded when the leaves are falling from the trees and big bucks are cruising the countryside looking for a winsome doe.
"I think that one of the mistakes that hunters make with their machines is driving too close to a stand location," he said. "In the fall -- and even in the summer if killing a big deer is the goal -- you want to drive it in on the downwind side and leave it on the downwind side at least a couple of hundred yards away."
Another mistake that Hanback sees hunters make with a UTV is driving through some of the most sensitive ground that can be found anywhere the whitetail roams.
"Never drive it through a whitetail bedding area, that's a mistake," said Hanback. "If I can, I'll drive even a mile or two or three around a bedding area."
The same idea holds true when approaching a feeding area â€“ use the wind to your advantage, not the deer's and don't get too close to where bucks and does are congregating for some planted or natural groceries.
"Whitetails are so adaptable and yes, they live around towns, around people, and around noise," said Hanback. "I don't think for a second that UTVs are a detriment to successful deer hunting, as long as you use them smartly."
What's one of the few times that Hanback will make an exception to the above, driving right into the heart of his deer hunting ground?
At the end of the season or after a successful hunt.
"Big bucks live where they live for a reason," said Hanback. "So, it always pays -- in the offseason, during the summer, and even after you shoot a big buck in the fall or wintertime -- to use fire lanes and the edges of your property as much as you can when you're accessing your hunting ground.
"The more you can stay out of the heart of a deer's core area, the better off you are going to be," he added.
Think that all of this might be a little overkill, that you can turn the key and rev up the engine of your UTV and charge right into your favorite deer hunting country?
Perhaps, but probably not. Especially when you hear such advice from one of the nation's foremost deer hunting authorities, a man who blogs and films a big deer hunting TV show for a living.
Because when you hear sage deer hunting advice from someone who has as big an annual taxidermy bill as Mike Hanback does, then it pays to carefully listen.
Especially if you want to retrieve your own set of big deer antlers from the taxidermy shop a few months down the road.