The story of Christmas Tree

I have been a pretty blessed deer hunter. I live in an area of Ohio with great genetics and quality deer. So if you hunt smart and spend enough time in the treestand you can usually harvest a great buck. With that said, the 2014-2015 deer season has not been what a typical deer season is for me.  Usually I spend nearly every single day off work in October and November hunting and scouting.  Being I’m a 24 on/48off shift firefighter and typically take vacation from Halloween to mid-November… that’s a lot of hunt time. But with the birth of my wife and I’s first child, Cooper, my time in the tree stand was severely decreased this season. Please don’t take that statement for anything it’s not…. I love him more than I ever though possible but having children changes things….as many can attest!

My beautiful family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Even so, I found a fair amount of time to scout, hunt and run my Guide Service this season. I attribute this to a very understanding wife that knows my deep passion for hunting big mature whitetails. I had several quality sits, passed few pope and young bucks and even passed a shot at one of my target bucks because of fading light on Nov. 5th.  Soon after that hunt my clients left camp and I was free to hunt any deer I captured on trail camera in 2014. Before I go any farther I need to explain a little something about how I hunt and run my Booner’s Acres Guide Service. I have several great farms but only a few that clients can hunt. The farms I run clients on are OFF LIMITS to me every year until I have ran all my clients. My last client left camp Nov. 11th, So after that my list of “hit list” bucks and priorities changed….Christmas Tree was now my #1 target.

Christmas Tree in October with an extra drop tine dagger point

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hunted Christmas Tree all late November, shotgun season and a little during muzzleloader with no luck. With time running out and only a few weeks left to get the job done I switched to “the dark side” of Ohio’s deer hunting tactics and started running a corn pile at my farm. It didn’t take long for Christmas Tree to start using the pile with consistency and in daylight hours. I hunted him three times with good winds and he never showed. He then disappeared for a few days and I thought maybe I educated him.

The day before I harvested Christmas Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

But then…two nights ago he showed back up and hit the pile well before dark. I figured he would do it again the very next evening and I moved in for the kill. By 5:40 last night I had 14 does and a half shed 6 point in front of me. Soon after Christmas Tree circled the pile, drank from a watering hole at 25 yards and lip curled his last doe. Rage 2 blade ate him up and he only went 30 yards. First buck I’ve shot off my farm since buying it in 2011. After a long but eventful season, it feels great to be done.

Thanks Mike Tipple for the great pic!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Tree was my favorite buck I had on trail camera this year. It’s a bittersweet harvest because I love managing a growing big deer. I passed this buck last year when I believe he was 3 1/2 years old.

Christmas Tree in 2013 as a 3 1/2 year old

That makes him 4 1/2 this year and the management side of me wonders how big he MIGHT/COULD have been. But I can’t pass a deer like this. He has great mass and character. Not much for spread and thus I don’t think he will score all that high…but nonetheless he is one hell of a buck. I have not had time to tape him out yet but will soon. Thanks for reading and good luck to all the Ohio hunters with a tag left to fill.

 

Corey Snoke

 

Ghost Hunting

I imagine the problem I’m having is a dilemma many hunters across the Midwest have had, or are currently also having! I’m hunting a deer that I have NOT located or even seen this year! I’m sure he is around; he just hasn’t showed his face. Long time followers of Trophy Pursuit probably are aware I’m talking about The Short Tined Ten. A buck I spent the entire 2013-2014 Ohio late season hunting and the buck I picked up matching sheds to in the spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having the history with STT and his shear size (last year) automatically moved him to my number #1 hitlist spot for 2014. So, even though I have several other great bucks on camera, I just can’t help but hold out for STT! To some, this scenario may sound crazy…like an obsession! But years ago (when hunting a buck I called Droppy) I learned this is what you must do if you want to harvest a particular buck. I wrote about this lesson ,in one of my personal favorite blog series, starting with D.B.T. The Heart Break Starter and later in a blog called Lessons of Droppy. A excerpt from the later and the lesson I learned:

Hunt where a big buck has been seen or where you think he wants to be. If you do this, you’re never wasting a sit. It doesn’t matter if the area seems unlikely for a buck to walk. It doesn’t matter if you can watch the area like a hawk and don’t see the buck for months.  That’s what big mature bucks do; they hide! They are hardly ever seen and have uncanny, ghost like tendencies.  Its does not matter if you’re not getting him on trail camera, he is there or will be soon. Hunt him and don’t let your mind play games on you!

I have two Wildgame Innovations Cameras on the perimeter of where I’ve seen STT bed and I am hoping the next card pull confrims his presence. In the meantime I’ll be putting the finishing touches on a few stands for the first Booner’s Acres guest that arrive Oct. 28th and keep monitoring the bucks I will be putting those clients on. Sweet November is just around the corner!

 

It’s about to bust loose,

Corey Snoke

 

Redemption #2 Big 8

What a crazy week! Every year during shed season I find myself asking the man upstairs for “just one big set”. It’s what I hope for every shed season! One good set to add to my bone pile and give me a legit target buck for the following season. One I have built an in-depth relationship with. I got my one good set last week when I unexpectedly picked up the Short Tined Ten. That was good! I was happy!

 

Then last night I went for a quick 4-wheeler ride. It honestly started with just wanting to get my dog, Booner, some exercise. The quad ride led to a little arrowhead hunting then before heading home a quick shed hunt. I thought I should ride the corn stubble field off real fast (in a grid style) and just make sure The Big Eights antlers weren’t just lying out in the open. I knew if they were; they would be sun bleached and should stick out like a swore thumb. The cornfield is about 60 acres and by making a pass every 40 yards (running perpendicular or looking down the corn rows) I was ¾ of the way done after only 10 minutes when BAMMM!

 

I jumped off the 4-wheeler in excitement, as I knew I had just found the shed to a buck I was targeting the final weeks of the Ohio late season named simply: The Big Eight. I snapped a couple pictures and snagged the above video. Antler #2 wasn’t any where in sight but I hoped I could locate it. From my experience, mature bucks typically drop both antler close together. I personally believe it is because mature bucks know the sheding process (and it bothers them being off balance) and they purposely knock the second antler off. At any rate, I have had great success matching up larger antlers.

I jumped back on the 4-wheeler, marked the location where antler #1 was found, and continued my grid. 50-70 yards towards the closet field edge, I rode up on antler #2 the match! I again excitedly jumped off the quad, snagged a couple pictures and captured another video!

I just can’t believe it! A month ago I was dejected! I called it quits and said my shed season was over. I then proceeded to stumble onto two great sets and end the shed season with hands down my best shed season EVER!

Looking back it’s amazing because I walked several miles this year looking for these sheds! I knew they were there but just couldn’t come up with them.  And in both cases (SST and The Big Eight), I walked with-in 10-20 yards of where I ended up finding both sheds. I don’t know if in either case the antlers were there (on those respective days) but I was there, and seemingly just missed the sheds. It just goes to show how close you can be but not get lucky. In this case though, lightening strikes twice and I’m so thankful!

 

-Corey Snoke

 

Redemption

After all the hours in a tree stand, running trail cameras and shed hunting with out feeling the mass of a single target buck in the 20013-2014 season, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed. I wish it wasn’t that way but I couldn’t help it! The feeling led me to write a blog called Sobering Reality in February. Fast forward to today!!!!!

Short Tined Ten

I went for a quick turkey hunt (run and gun style) with just the bare essentials…gun, call, fan on a stick decoy and light layer of camo. I was moving fast through the timber, looking for a hot bird but not having any luck. My planed and intentional route was to stay on the ridgelines and throw occasional yelps and cuts into the hollows and see what happened.  As I ran out of ridge, I dropped off the top and headed down a north-facing slope in very open, mature timber. Then BAMM! A big, bleached antler caught my eye. It was tines down with a heavy beam. This antler was big!!!! Instantly thought it was the Short Tined Ten! I threw down my call and decoy and started first pumping and getting really excited!

Then in an instant…. it hit me! Where is the other one? I froze (almost like going into predator mode), hunkered down and started peering through the timber around me. Then only feet away from my left foot…. number 2! This antler tines up, again with a heavy beam and noticeable short tines! I knew then in was the Short Tined Ten for sure! I jumped around for a bit, fist pumping, took a few quick pictures and captured a short video to capture the moment. In reality, it all happened too fast! I should have savored it more. Finds like this are what I dream of each shed season and finds like this don’t happen near enough. You couldn’t have wiped the grin off my face with a Mack Truck. I was so happy and I’m still on cloud nine! It feels like a victory. This is my biggest set of matched sheds ever and the biggest singles I’ve found in over a decade. It should go with out saying that I’m extremely thankful.

STT's matched set found May 8th, 2014

So tonight, I’ll try to sleep but I know it will be hard. I’m already looking forward to this fall. My trophy pursuit continues in the hunt for Short Tined Ten, I hope you follow along!

 

-Corey

 

Ohio mushrooms

It seems everyone on social media is sharing pictures of their wild morel haul, but everyone seems tight-lipped about where they found them.  So, for any novice that just wants to find a quick skillet full, I offer a few helpful tips.

My sister and I picking a few mushrooms on May 4th, 2014

In Ohio (and I’m sure for many states across the mid-west) it’s peak mushrooming season.  Most people I know (including myself) are finding giant grey and giant yellow sponge mushrooms.  These are hands down, in my opinion, the easiest of mushroom varieties to find because of their light color standing out against the forest floor.  Not to mention their size alone could be considered a tripping hazard.

Dead Elm (left) Grey (top) Yellow Sponge (bottom)

They are also very easy to find (at least in my experience) due to their proximity around one very easy to identify tree species: the American Elm.  Specifically dead elm trees that are starting to lose their bark.  Many American elms display this characteristic because they are affected by Dutch Elm Disease.

Our mushroom haul and a nice shed found by my dad yesterday

Most proficient mushroom hunters will have opinions and tactics to help locate mushrooms.  Using trees to narrow the search has always been mine.  Other great tree species to find wild yellow and grey morel mushrooms include Wild Apple and White Ash.  Right or wrong, it has lead me to more than a few sacks full.

 

Happy hunting

-Corey

 

Making a slate call

When I was seventeen I obtained a job at a local hardware store named Slater’s Hardware in Lancaster, Ohio. It was my very first job and one I was hesitant to seek. You see, I was a late bloomer so to speak. With a family farm and public fishing hole in my backyard, I had no reason to want a driver’s license or a job. I was more than content living a carefree life and spending my days roaming the countryside. It was only after my mom threatened to not allow me to buy a fishing license that I reluctantly saw the value in getting a vehicle and a job to pay for it.

If you can't find what you're looking for....go to Slater's!

I was just some dumb teenage kid that didn’t know a thing about nuts and bolts, plumbing supplies, garage doors parts or fuel oil lamps. But the owner, Jon Slater, must have had some faith in me and after a couple interviews I was asked to join the Slater’s team. Slater’s is e very unique place. Just a little mom and pop’s established joint but everyone in the area knows “When you can’t find what you’re looking for……..go to Slater’s”. I learned so much at that job, more than I could ever portray in a blog. At this point you’re probably wondering how this story is about a slate call? But I promise, we’ll get there.

Old roofing slate sparked a thought!

I spent many evenings in the hardware store helping customers, organizing shelves and stocking items but also many nights playing with tools and dabbling with the endless supply of gadgets found in every corner of the store. One evening, around turkey season, I happened across a large piece of roofing slate lying on the floor under a workbench. In an instant, I realized I was sure I could find all the necessary items needed to make a slate call. I had never attempted to make a slate call before (or any type of turkey call) but soon rounded up all the supplies I thought I would need for my evening project: The roof slate, a scrap piece of 2”x6” pine lumber, a drill, a hole saw kit, some sanding paper and epoxy.

It took some creativity to figure out how to cut the piece of slate with out the pilot bit in the hole saw but after a few attempts I had a nice, round piece of slate. I then used a slightly bigger hole saw to drill out a round chunk of pine 2”x6”. I then used a wood chisel to dig out the interior of the pine wood block and then drilled a few more holes in the bottom of the pine box to help resonate the sound I hoped my “slate call” would produce. I then placed the slate gently in the pine box and secured it in place with some fast set epoxy. Lastly, I sanded the entire slate call with fine grit sandpaper to give the call a finished, clean look. If I remember correctly, the entire project (between helping customers) took me a few work days to complete. Each day I would make small improvements to the call (like carving a name into the bottom) before I called the slate call complete and showed it to my girlfriend and hunting buddies.

The call makes very real sounding yelps, cuts and purrs but the call isn’t nearly as loud as I would like it to be. I have used the call on hunts since that day but never used it specifically to successfully harvest a turkey.  Maybe this will be the year for Turkey Special #1. I hope you enjoyed my short story. It brings back a lot of good memories sharing it and hope it inspires you to make your own custom turkey call. I also strongly suggest If you’re ever in the central Ohio area, stop and give Slater’s a visit….. tell them I sent ya’.

 

-Corey Snoke

 

Sobering Reality

When the sun set on February 2nd, 2014 and I ended deer season with my coveted Ohio buck tag…..I was pretty upset. But I knew my efforts were not a lost cause, for I had gained valuable knowledge on many mature bucks. I had several “hit listers” locked onto bait piles and was confident in their bedding areas and travel patterns. So it should go with out saying, I was very optimistic I would have the best shed season in years and pick up many of the antlers I never got to wrap my hands around. But now (some two months later) I feel the sting of a buckles season and a grip on mass I’ll never know. I don’t want anyone to think I’m ungrateful for the outings I did have or the sheds I collected. I picked up some good sheds and I had a relatively good numbers shed season but I found no sheds of considerable size and none of the sheds to bucks I targeted. It’s a sobering reality: These are all wild, free-range deer that can go anywhere and finding a single set of sheds on thousands of acres is a hard chore. I applaud and congratulate anyone that accomplished this goal in 2013-2014. But for me it’s not the case.

Yes! I know shed season it not technically over. Most antlers are simply lying out there, waiting to be picked up. Hell some antlers are still attached! But for me, each outing brings frustration and hours that could be spent doing chores that must be completed. This is the reality of life and I honestly have covered all the ground I have access to with considerable mention. It’s time now to move on and leave “deer world” for just a bit. I could possibly find an ounce of energy to give a couple last-ditch efforts but for the most part….. my shed season is over. Jigsaw, Short Tined Ten, Big 8, Acorn, White Racked 8 and Shovels………I hope to see you in a few months. You’ll haunt my dreams while the squirrels feast on your calcium but we shall meet again.

Jig saw (top) Short Tined Ten (left) White Rack 8 (right)

Shovels (left), Acorn (right) and Big 8 (bottom)

 

 

Erie Ice Walleye

This past weekend my Dad and my-self went to Lake Erie for our first ever through the ice walleye experience. We joined long time friend Bryan Kusian and his buddy John Lesniewski who run part-time ice fishing guide service near Port Clinton, Ohio. This is a trip I have been meaning to make for several years but my schedule and the ice have never worked out. This year however, with the polar vortex freezing the lake solid for weeks on end and me with a temporally open calendar….my dad and I hit the road.

Pop-up ice shelters My dad jigging for walleyeFresh walleye on ice

Our day started with a 3 mile snowmobile ride to the temporary ice shanty town in the Western Basin of Lake Erie near the Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Plant. Set up only took a matter of minutes with each ice fishing pop up tent getting a quick snow shovel (to clear a open spot on the ice), three holes drilled with a gas motored ogger (in 17 inches of ice), a fish finder set up (depth 20 feet) and a small propane heater.

First fish of the day One of my two walleyeOur guide Johns biggest of the day

 

Shed Traps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shed antler hunting has become increasingly popular in recent years and the hobby has evolved into more than just a random walk in the woods. Many serious shed hunters use a variety of methods to help find as much bone as possible. These include trained dogs, habitat management for shed areas and even shed traps.  A few years ago, I wrote a blog on the various types of shed traps I have seen. Here are a few of those images:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now almost three shed seasons later, and after some close friends and I tried many of the prototypes shown above; I have made my own personal conclusion on the subject of shed traps….THEY WORK! Well kinda?

You see anytime you put free food on the ground (especially in the harsh winter conditions we have had this year) it will attract deer and hopefully some bucks. So, if you can keep the deer/bucks on your property and in your shed hunting areas, then you stand a better chance of finding their sheds. So the bait alone makes the shed trap work! The problem I have found with many of the elaborate shed traps, is they are very intimidating to big mature bucks. So, I stand bye my opinion that the best shed traps are very natural ones. Shed traps that emulate natural environment or elements the deer are comfortable with.

Yesterday I set up three brush pile shed traps/bait piles. I used this type of shed trap back in 2009 and collected one shed next to the brush pile and a nice set to a 160” Splitbrow buck I hunted that season on the near bye ridge.

So if you’re thinking about setting up a shed trap this year, now is the time to make it happen. Save your self some money and skip the bungees cords or construction project and make it simple.  Good luck and have fun!

As for me, I love picking up sheds and I’ll take them any way but will always enjoy a hard earned walking shed best. Get after them, they are droping!

-Corey

 

 

Corn Piles Strategies

A new buck on a dwindling bait site

Just a quick glance on any hunting forum and it’s easy to see that baiting deer is a controversial and heated topic among the deer hunting community. Whether you are for or against baiting, whether it’s legal or illegal in your state, one thing is for certain…..baiting deer with a big corn pile, in cold weather, is a deadly big buck killing tactic.

In Ohio, baiting deer on private ground is 100% legal. I have used corn piles in the past to kill a couple nice late season bucks and with 2013-2014 season winding down, it’s looking like a tactic I may be using in the near future. Before going any farther however, I would like to free myself of accusations and set the record straight. I don’t want my hard work and hunting ability clouded by a blog about baiting.

My 2010 late season Ohio buck killed on a corn pile

For me, baiting is a late season tactic only! Used when all the hopes of seeing rut action has expired and cold temperatures and limited hunting opportunities make filling a single, coveted Ohio buck tag a hopeless chore. I do not bait pre-rut or during the rut. I enjoy hunting these periods of the season and feel my properties, ability and chance of shooting a mature buck with out bait are high enough. I feel baiting would take away some of the actual hunt and the feeling of out whiting a big, smart buck. That’s right, I think baiting makes hunting easier, less achieving and that’s simply not something I’m interested durring early season. But there is an exception for every rule and as I said above, mine comes in late season!

My 2009 buzzer beater Ohio corn pile buck

I would also like to add that I don’t hold baiting against any one! To each their own. Where baiting is legal, every hunter has the right to choose if, how and when he or she wants to employ baiting. I have several friends that bait early season and have killed some true giants over a corn pile. We are all hunters and we should stand together.

Jeremy Mills opening day Ohio corn piled monster

One of the things that may add to the controversy of baiting, is many think: Once bait goes on the ground, killing a deer is a guarantee. I think many hunters who have never baited and non-hunters, have a notion that hunting bait is as simple as pouring corn onto the ground and pulling the trigger. Although it can be that simple, in my opinion, to kill a big buck on a corn pile you still have to do your home work and play your cards right. Here is the down and dirty on late season big buck corn piles the way I see it.

 

Finding a Shooter

 

Forget the rules you enforce on yourself in early season, finding a big buck to kill is going to take some intrusion. Many factors dictate where you will find deer in late season. Generally speaking, if you find one deer, you will find many. Things to look for when scouting for late season deer are predominate food sources, high quality bedding with thick cover, thermal barriers, south facing slopes and sun exposer.  Finding the food and prefered bedding should get you in the right area.

Start by finding the primary food source

The first step in killing a big buck on a corn pile is finding one that will visit a corn pile. I have found some bucks that absolutely will not visit a corn pile. So start laying down some corn piles in areas that you think hold big bucks and see what shows up and when. 100 pounds should do the trick. If you find a shooter buck that is willing to eat from the pile, its time to narrow down where he is coming and how to hunt the buck by making him the most vulnerable.

 

Finding the Right Spot

 

Remember that late season can make for crunchy walking with snow/ ice and open tree canopy that can make you visible from very long distances. You must find the perfect spot! I have found that fence lines and areas with lots of topography changes make great corn pile locations. Fence lines provide a visual break to approach woodlots and topography changes break the horizon line. However, the spot must be close to the big bucks bedding and regular travel routes.

 

Laying the Pile

 

It never fails that whenever I start talking baiting with other hunters someone always says a big deer won’t come to a feeder in daylight. From my experience with feeders, most mature deer will not visit them in daylight and lot of times they wont visit them at all! But when you lay down a big pile of corn on the ground……. the game changes!

A big corn pile!

Go big or go home! Drop 300# in a pile, throw up and camera and walk away for a week. Let the deer find the pile and use it with confidence. If the target shooter buck is using the corn pile in daylight or close to daylight, it’s time to wait for cold weather and a good wind.

 

Waiting for the Right Conditions

 

I set most late season corn pile tree stands up for a North wind. In Ohio, these are the winds that typically bring cold temperatures and snow.  Simply wait for the coldest day in the near future to hunt, big cold fronts or immediately after the target buck hits the corn pile in daylight for the first time. Another great day I have found is the first warm day after a big, long cold front! If the corn pile runs out while waiting, drop another #100 but never let the corn pile run dry.

 

Getting It Done

 

A few things to remember about corn pile hunting.

 

1)   Forget hunting mornings! Deer are going to visit your corn pile at all hours of the day. So busting deer off the pile will be hard enough mid-day, let alone in the pre-dawn. Don’t ruin a day light walking mature buck by bad entries!

 

2)   Many times, deer will be at the bait site when legal shooting light ends and you will have to bust them off the pile. Always try to do this in a manner that does not pin point you in the stand. I typically have someone run the deer off with an approaching 4 wheeler or vehicle.

 

3)   When it’s really cold, it’s typically really calm. Your stand or blind should be rock steady, roomy and silent. Corn piles also mean lots of deer at close range. Always try to put an obstacle between you and the corn pile. I typically use a large brush pile to help break eye to eye contact.

Keep an object between you and the bait site

In closing I have to admit that corn piling deer in late season makes for some really exciting hunting. It’s a ton of fun to see what bucks show up that you have never seen before and it’s a great way to go into shed season. It also gives you a great outlook for the following season!

In the last couple weeks, I have ran multiple corn piles on multiple farms and have found ONE shooter buck and I feel he is very killable. Some of you may remember this buck from summer scouting. I call him Shovels, for his eye gaurds that in velvet reminded me of the shovels on a Caribou. I have hung a tree stand for the cold temp’s and North-Eastern cold front that is about to hit Ohio and will be making my move on him this week. Wish me luck!

-Corey

Shovels is back and hitting the corn pile in legal shooting light

Shovels looking very skinny with abcessX

Shovels last year and in velvet 2013