Crash and Return

I’ve been rattling whitetail deer for over 30 years. In fact, my biggest buck to date was killed responding to the horns.

Horn rattling back in the 1960′s was pretty much limited to the Texas brush country. In the 1970s hunters began to experiment with horn rattling throughout much of North America. Some had good luck, most did not.

Horn rattling is most effective immediately prior to and immediately after the prime rutting period. Even though I’ve rattled and several whoppers, it’s not my favorite method of calling. Horn rattling can be a little too aggressive for the more timid big buck.

Big bucks are increasingly wary in areas where a lot of hunters are pounding antlers together. However, in areas with little hunting pressure it is still one of the most effective ways to harvest a big buck. Just remember the buck always approaches from downwind in hopes of catching the scent of the bucks he believes are fighting. It’s important to have a good shooting lane downwind from your rattling position.

I begin by crashing the antlers together. Then I twist and work the antlers together in an effort to imitate the sounds of two bucks sparring. My entire rattling sequence only lasts about 15 seconds. I try not to rattle more than once every 10 to 15 minutes because the last thing I want is a buck to catch me rattling. It’s happened more than once and every time the results have been less than desirable.

Today, I rely more on bleat calls and grunt calls. I still carry rattling horns with me, but use them more as a last ditch effort.

Many times I’ll have a big buck approaching my stand and for no good reason at the last minute he’ll turn and walk out of range. As soon as he is out of sight, I’ll crash the antlers together for a few seconds. Often, if the buck is not on a hot doe’s trail, he’ll immediately return to investigate and I’ll be waiting.

This is a tactic I called “Crash and Return”.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

Sneak Preview

Several weeks ago I told you I would have an announcement concerning my new book, Buck Naked: The Straight Dope on Trophy Whitetails.

Here it is!

Within the next two weeks Buck Naked will come out with a second edition. We’re giving the book a complete new look. A new and exciting cover as well as new interior images.

The new cover and exterior images were provided courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails. The good folks at Apple Creek live and breathe whitetail deer. Currently they are running one of the most prestigious and successful deer hunting ranches in Wisconsin. My deep gratitude goes to everyone at Apple Creek Whitetails for their help in making my book even better.

For the very best in Wisconsin trophy hunting contact:

Apple Creek Whitetails Ranch
Hunting Operations Manager
Attention: Chad DeBauch
14109 County Road VV
Gillett, WI 54124
Toll Free: 877-431-HUNT

If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of the first edition, hang on to it. History has shown us first edition hunting books dramatically increase in value in just a few short years. The idea to come up with an improved cover and interior was suggested by several members of the publishing community and, of course, the hunting box stores.
Be sure to check your e-mails over the next couple of weeks as we will be announcing a launch day for the new book, Buck Naked.

There are still a few copies of the original book available through Amazon, but when they’re gone, they’re gone. If you want an first edition, you better order today.

Get a Copy Today (See Banner on left side of page to order)
Until then,

Rub Lines

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Ranch

Personally, I prefer hunting over rub lines as opposed to scrape lines. First off, bucks make rubs, does don’t. Secondly, bucks rub trees for three months each fall, while ground scrapes are limited to a few of weeks during the rut. Thirdly, scrape lines almost always follow rub lines. You can take it to the bank. Most important, it is far easier to tell the potential size of a buck from a rub than from a scrape.

Hunting rubs is more effective earlier in the fall before the urgency of the rut sets in.

Rubs come in four varieties:
Rub Lines
Cluster Rubs
Sign Post Rubs

Random rubs are just that, random. At best they tell us that a buck was here and we need to search harder for more meaningful signs as to where he was headed.

Rub lines are commonly found between feeding and bedding areas. I consider it a rub line when there at least a half a dozen rubs over fifty yards of trail. This tells me the buck is regularly using this trail. Pay particular attention to which side of the tree the rub is on. This will tell you what direction the buck is traveling. Is he using the trail in the morning to return to his bedding area or is he using the trail in the evening to go to feed? These are the little things that tell you which side of the trail to put the stand on and how best to approach the stand to avoid detection.

Cluster rubs are my favorite to hunt. They are multiple rubs close together, often in the same cluster of brush or saplings. A buck will often make a flurry of rubs when he first gets out of his bed and is headed to the feeding area. It will be obvious that the buck is using this area a lot. However, you need to be extra careful because you are already too close to his main bedding area. You might want to come back late in the evening, when he is already out feeding to place your stand. Regardless of whether you hunt rub lines or cluster rubs, it is important to place your stand as close as possible to—but never within—the bedding area.

Sign post rubs really get your attention and make your heart skip a beat or two. They are huge and high. The tree will be between three and six inches in diameter. Not only will there be shredded bark on the forest floor, but slivers of wood as well. These rubs tell other bucks just who the boss is in these here parts, and they are often used year after year. The biggest problem in hunting signpost rubs is that the buck will usually visit the rub after dark. The biggest bucks are usually the most strongly nocturnal. For that reason it is always best to hunt signpost rubs before the velvet comes off.

Rape in the Forest

Photo courtesy Apple Creek Ranch

You don’t have to have a dirty mind to be an effective trophy deer hunter during the rut, but it sure helps. I was just reading an advertisement for my favorite deer call, Primo’s “The Can.” I like this call because it is absolutely deadly on big bucks during the rut. I also like the way they sell it. Their pitches go like this:

“Estrus bleats tell bucks that a doe is ready to breed…”

“All respond quickly and dramatically to the quivering doe…”

“Reproduces the estrus bleat of mating does…”

Until I read these ads, I had no idea that does were running around willy-nilly, bleating about their desperate desire to copulate. The “quivering doe?” you ask. Seriously, I’m not making this up.

I have heard a lot of does bleat during the rut; the vast majorities were yearlings experiencing their first breeding season. The poor little darlings don’t know what to expect. All they know is that the buck keeps coming for them relentlessly. They feel the urge of blood calling to blood and they’re scared to death. The doe leads the buck into thick cover in an effort to escape him, not to find a cozy place where they can be alone.

As hunters we often try to impose noble human attributes to the animals we hunt. But there is nothing noble or gentlemanly about a whitetail buck, especially during the rut.

No one asks to be raped. Rape comes uninvited, even in the deer world. The estrus bleat is truly a rape bleat. The young doe is panicked. This sound is worth imitating because when an old buck hears this sound, he’ll know that some other buck is up to no good. He will think another buck is tending a young doe and will come in and attempt to steal the doe.

A doe’s bleat is considerably louder than the buck’s grunt and can be heard for quite a distance in the forest. However, man-made grunt calls tend to carry farther than man-made bleat calls. I like to use “The Can” in conjunction with a grunt call. A sequence of two grunts followed a few seconds later by two or three bleats seem to work best for me.

As with all calling, if the buck can’t hear you he won’t respond. I recommend the “Long Can” for its increased volume. I buy several of these each year. I only wish they’d make a can the size of a five gallon bucket.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

The best investment in your hunting future

Photo courtesy Apple Creek Whitetails

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Secrets of the Rut.
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Best regards,

Decoying: What it takes to be successful

Photo courtesy of Apple Creek Whitetails

In my opinion there are four consistencies to successful decoying of trophy bucks. They are; Location, Concealment, Decoys/Calling and Using the Wind- all equally important.

Location is key for more than one reason. First of all if there are no deer in the area that you are hunting than obviously your chances are slim to none that you will be successful. So it will be very important to do your homework and thoroughly scout your area beforehand. Ideally we are looking for a small field or clearing field deer are using consistently prior to the hunt. We want to set up in the exact spot the deer have been traveling through during daylight hours. And finally, we have to be the only hunters with permission to hunt that particular spot.

How well you are concealed while you are hunting is just as important as your location because it gets very frustrating watching a buck coming in and then flare off because he sees something or someone he doesn’t like. The technology available in this area of the hunt has expanded immensely over the last 10 years. The field ground blind has made a huge impact on the way we hunt deer today. Treestands work well, but not as well as ground blinds when it comes to decoying big deer.

Decoys and Calling:
In this section we will look at my favorite aspect of the hunt and that is Decoys and Calling! I think a lot of guys spend way to much time calling. Everybody has there own opinion on this subject but I am a firm believer calling is only to draw attention to the decoy. Once the buck has seen the decoy, shut up, you’ll be better off. Secondly, I do believe that you need some type of movement in your decoy. I use a decoy with an electronic tail wag.

Using the Wind:
Just like all decoying it is important to face your decoy into the wind. We want the buck to smell what he’s wanting. A buck likes to circle downwind and smell the object of his desire before he approaches it. If he can approach the decoy from the rear all the better. Lastly, I use an ample amount of “doe-in rut” urine, 8 to 12 ounces minimum. 

In conclusion, there are many factors that go into producing a successful hunt. It is very important to stay on the front edge of what is happening in the field these days. A little leg work in the off season can go a long way.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

A Venison Sundae?

A Venison Sundae? Meat and ice cream? Yuck!

These days most people approach hunting like a kid with a $10 bill in an ice cream shop. Hunters are scrambling around trying to buy more products – more sprinkles and cherries. The dream is simple, if they can just add enough junk the hunt will take care of itself. Instead of developing a good solid foundation of skills, they expect to be able to buy success in the field.

The hunting industry is literally flooded with new products each year.

Televised hunting shows have created a whole new marketplace for hunting products. There are more different types of camouflage, deer calls, scents, decoys, and bows than a hunter could use in a lifetime. Each item screams, “ Buy me and you’ll be guaranteed to kill the biggest buck of your life.”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. While each of these products can improve your hunting to some degree, none of them can replace the consistent success achieved through a good knowledge of woods lore and deer behavior.

Hunters don’t fail because these new products don’t work, hunters fail because these products only work when used in conjunction with good hunting skills.

Click the link on the right side of this page to buy the book now

What we have created is nothing short of a Venison Sundae. We have taken two perfectly good items (hunting skills and instant success) mix them together and have come up with something that is messy and ineffective.

There hasn’t been a hunting enhancement product invented that can replace a good foundation of woodsmanship. At least not yet!

I’m not saying don’t buy into this new technology. Heck, I own at least one of everything. What I’m saying is don’t build you hunt around a product. Instead, base your hunt upon a solid foundation of knowledge and tactics. If one of these products can enhance your hunt, great! If not, you’ll still be way ahead of the game.

Only with a good foundation of hunting skills can you align your hunting to take advantage of these new products.

The new hunting products – the whipped cream and cherries – aren’t magical. The magic occurs when we use these products to become better hunters.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

If You Want a Guarantee Buy a Toaster

If you want to guarantee by a toaster. If you want to achieve a higher rate of success in hunting trophy whitetails buy the book; Buck Naked.

Time and again I‘m asked by readers if they follow my advice are they guaranteed to kill a big buck? Sadly, the answer is no. No one can guarantee or predict success in the field. However, I can promise you that the advice in Buck Naked is sound and will put you on the road to higher levels of success.

Let’s put it this way, But Naked sells for $10.78 on both the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites. There‘s over 45 years of successful hunting advice contained within the covers of the book. That’s less than $0.25 a year.

The vast majority of my hunting has been on public land and in most cases in areas of extremely low whitetails density. Most of the areas I hunt have fewer than five deer per square mile. Now $0.25 a year to learn from someone who has been successful at hunting trophy deer on public land is a bargain. I should’ve charged twice as much for the book, but I wanted this this advice to be available and affordable by everyone.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,


Zen and Whitetails


Awareness is to experience moments of just being without our minds getting in the way. The idea is to see, hear and smell what is going on without focusing on anything. The deep woods are the whitetails home and school, where the mysteries of life are played out season after season. We are aliens in this foreign land. It is important for us not to view nature in our image, but rather to see nature as it is. Awareness is vital.


A hunter only needs look at the results from his last season to see what his intentions truly were. When intent is clear and focused, the proper tactic will always appear. He does NOT have to know what to do or the tactic. He DOES have to have a clear and intense intent. Intention always comes before the tactic and true intention and commitment will always produce the proper tactic.


A hunter with moxie can solve problems as they arise. He has the know-how and can be creative in any situation. He is at home in the forest and is a craftsman at his art.


Gumption is nothing exotic, just basic common sense. A hunter with gumption has the resourcefulness and courage to face the task. He will stick to it to the end, no matter what the cost.
All of these qualities are desirable traits in any endeavor and are essential to successful hunting. A hunter with these traits cannot be beat. He will not be denied and sooner or later the buck is going to fall.

Awareness+Intention+Moxie+Gumption = Result

Good Luck and Good Hunting,

Determining Primary Scrapes

A buck utilizing a licking branch (Photo courtesy Apple Creek Ranches)

Not all scrapes are equal. While some scrapes are nothing more than random markings, others are extremely important. These are what we call “primary” or hub scrapes and will be used by several different bucks over the course of the season. Primary scrapes will be revisited and refreshed throughout the rut and are very often reopened year after year.

Scrapes are usually found on high ground that is dry enough to hold scent. Travel corridors, feeding areas, funnels and other areas of concentrated deer activity will contain the most scrapes. Primary scrapes are usually found in funnels or where one buck’s home range overlaps another.

Primary scrapes are most often opened up by hormonally driven two and a half year-old bucks. These adolescent bucks like tearing up the woods and showing off. The real trophies in general are not so aggressive. Monster bucks tend to be more deliberate in their actions. Many times their scrapes will be nothing more than three or four pulls with the front hooves, a little deposit of tarsal scent, and rubbing his preorbital glands on a branch above the scrape to signal his intentions to other deer. The preorbital (or lacrimal) gland is located in a small pocket in front of the eye.

The percentage of scrapes that get revisited and reworked is very low. While primary scrapes can range from three to eight feet in diameter, the size of the scrape has little to do with the size of the buck that made it, or the social importance of either the buck or the scrape. To increase your odds of picking an active scrape, choose one with a licking branch above the scrape. If you watch a buck mark an overhanging branch, you’ll notice he seems to be marking it with his whole head—forehead, antlers, nose, mouth, and preorbital area. He will bite the branch and hold it in his mouth while he rubs, often breaking and splintering the branch. The more this licking branch is torn up the better.

Just remember that its location that determines a primary scrape, not the buck that made it. We are looking for a scrape that is all torn up with a licking branch above it, a scrape that appears to have been visited by several bucks. It goes without saying that this is an excellent spot for a tree stand.

If you really want to put your buck into a tizzy, just dig up the dirt from a scrape in a different location and place it in the scrape you’re hunting over. Be sure to use scent-free gear and a shovel. Dig down about six inches and transport the dirt in a clean plastic bag. Empty this dirt into your hunting scrape and your buck will perceive this as an intrusion by another buck. He’ll begin refreshing this scrape in earnest. This is more effective in the pre-rut, before the bucks are on the does.

Realizing why scrapes are made, and how deer use them to communicate with each other will help boost your hunting to a higher level.

Good Luck and Good Hunting,