DSS: 3 Year Quest for a Pennsylvania Giant

Show Notes

On this week's Deer Season Special bonus episode of the Pennsylvania Woodsman, Mitch is joined by long time friend Travis Bailey.  Mitch and Travis grew up hunting deer and small game together.  We take a trip down memory lane and revisit the story of a buck Travis harvested in 2013 after following along for 3 seasons.  Travis shares that the first two years of trail camera inventory felt like he was hunting a ghost.  He had one late season encounter with the buck in year 1, but chose to pass as the deer had shed one of his antlers.

The story ramps up when in year 3 the camera inventory drastically picks up, as the amount of daylight images increased providing hope.  After harvesting the buck, Mitch and Travis discuss what it was like for each of them to achieve a high level hunting goal of killing a big mature buck of this caliber.  While another deer this size may happen again in the future, the areas we hunt in Pennsylvania don't have this class animal behind every tree each season.  The guys discuss recalibrating their hunting goals and expectations.  This includes a change in hunting scenery, as Travis shares a new passion of hunting bucks on the public land mountains near his home.  This story is one for the record books, enjoy! 

Check out the Sportsmen's Empire Podcast Network for more relevant outdoor content!

Show Transcript

[00:00:00] You're listening to the Pennsylvania Woodsman Podcast Deer Season Special. These bonus episodes revolve around deer hunting stories and experiences from a host of deer hunters. These whitetail hunting BS sessions will be launched every week during the 2023 hunting season, adding fuel to your fire in the deer woods.

Be entertained and hopefully learn something along the way. The title sponsor of the Deer Season Special Series is Vantage Point Archery, home to the toughest machined one piece broadheads made in the USA. VPA products are built to last, which is why they have a lifetime warranty, and if you're not completely satisfied, you can send it back, which I highly doubt will occur.

New to the lineup this year is VP's Omega Broadhead. It combines the features of a single bevel with strength of a devil bevel. This broadhead also comes with lay flat sharpening technology. You heard right, a single bevel broadhead. You can lay flat and sharpen without a jig. You could find the omega and all the other broadheads@vparchery.com.

The Pennsylvania Woodsman [00:01:00] is also brought to you by Radix Hunting, home of the Amcor cell camera, stick and pick camera accessories, and much more. Also brought to you by Vitalize Seed, a one two planning system designed with diversity and biology in mind, making it the best food plot available. And lastly, by Huntworth Gear, quality hunting clothing at an affordable cost.

Makers of heat boost technology. This week's guest is my good friend, Travis Bailey. I've known Travis since I'm a little kid, we've hunted together. We've talked about deer hunting from school all through our adulthood life. And we're going to revisit the story of the biggest buck to date that he has killed a true five and a half plus year old monster Pennsylvania whitetail.

It was a three year quest for this deer. And what started out as Mission Impossible turned into reality the third year when he was able to connect on this deer. A beautiful 10 pointer that was a dream come true. We're going to talk about his hunting experiences [00:02:00] leading up to getting that picture. The habitat types that he's hunted and how his hunting strategy over the years and his goals have changed leading to that deer and then afterwards.

The aftermath of killing a deer of that caliber has been a reality check for many people because deer of that caliber aren't around every tree in every corner every single year. So the challenge in and of itself may not be The size of the animal, but the pursuit of the place that you hunt. And we're going to talk about that all in this episode.

This is a dynamite episode. We're going to talk about this story all the way through to the big woods hunting that we're doing this fall and rifle season. So I hope you enjoy this episode.

It's like when you were in the, did you take notice like in the cut? What were the oaks that were standing in the cut? Were they dropping acorns too? Because it was funny because we were just [00:03:00] up at at camp scouting in September. And they weren't dropping real hard, but in the cut, it didn't seem like the oak trees had as many acorns in the cut where they had full canopy, but you got out of the cut in the hardwoods and most of the red oaks had a lot on them.

Yeah. And I was wondering did that have any influence with that late frost? Did some get hit harder than others? Yeah. No, it's loaded with acorns inside there because the last time I checked my camera before the season, I, Was running short on time. I thought I'm gonna take a shortcut to my camera instead of coming in on the bottom side I'm gonna cut right through it and As of now you can still walk through it.

There's not a lot of growth yet but I walked through it and that was that was sometime mid September late September Maybe and there was a lot of acorns on the ground then. So this is not really relating to where you shot your buck last year? It's not very [00:04:00] far. It's the way the crow flies probably only a little over a quarter mile maybe, but I never I shouldn't say I never, I Last year in the season, I did hunt over there two times, but that was before it was cut.

I just randomly went in there two mornings in a row, I think, and I saw a deer the first morning. Several deer, actually, so I went back the second morning, didn't see a thing the second morning. I don't remember why I even went over there. I think it's because when I was going into my other spot in the morning, I was seeing a lot of deer right in that area.

I thought, I'm gonna give it a try over here. Like I said, never hunted there before. But no, it's not terribly far from where I normally hunt. There is, the way the public land lays there, there is actually private ground between there and where I normally hunt. But yeah, this is the first year I really.

I'm honing in on that area, and it, from what I'm finding it's a challenge to hunt over there because of the cut, it, those deer are in there for a [00:05:00] reason. It's not easy to get in there and hunt them. And I think that's why, that's one reason, that among the fact that there's topography in the mountain, that it just holds deer and lets them evade people to get to the next age class.

Cause let's face it, anytime, I swear, any of the mountain ranges you go anywhere, it just holds. Deer of an age class and good year, but it's a little different than the hunting you used to do. And we'll get rolling here. Cause I I wanted to tell a story. I'm sitting here with my real good buddy, Travis Bailey, and we're we're reflecting over the season so far and stuff that we were talking about, but we I wanted to.

Kind of take a trip down memory lane for this episode and stuff, but we'll get to that. But you were you were doing doing a bunch of honey, just whack the dough the other night. So that's probably gets the itch off. Yeah, I I was anxious and I, that was actually on some private ground we got permission to, and they they've been having.

They have some grapes there. They've been having a lot of deer damage over the past couple of years. Nobody's really been hunting [00:06:00] it for two years or so, and they were after me to shoot some deer there. So I decided to burn my doe tag there and felt pretty good. I bought a inline muzzleloader, I think, three years ago now from one of our buddies, and I think I've had it out of the house twice maybe.

Wait, I know. I took it last year to Jersey. Yep. I think maybe I had it out hunting twice, so this year I said I'm going to shoot a deer with that gun this year. I still have not shot anything with my inline. I took it out like twice in my life. I took it out last year and then I had this thing, and I still do I guess, but I've had this thing where I never wanted to miss the first day of gun season.

Like I've kept it that I've hunted even if it's just like the evening or something like I've always gone the first day and when I was hunting down that when I was working down at Hopewell, there was a section of property that was closed to center fire rifles and I figured well, maybe That's a good place to go try.

I'll take my inline down there and I just like right after work [00:07:00] for an hour and a half I took it just to say I went the first day but that's like the only time I ever took my inline and I still would like to shoot something with it. Maybe at some point I will but yeah you it was funny because You earlier in the week you were sending me pictures of bear.

Yep. And the when you text me that you were out with the inline, I said, oh, are you looking for Yogi? And I don't even remember what you said, but like the next picture you sent me you're like, that didn't take long. I'm like, did you just shoot a bear ? No. I did go there because I was getting bare pictures.

But once I was in the stand, I was only in the stand about 20 minutes when some. Doe came out and I just couldn't resist I thought I told myself I was going to shoot a deer with this gun this year and I don't know how many more times I was going to get out this week. So I decided to pull the trigger and it was a weeknight.

So shooting one at 4 55 was really tempting because I had time to. Deal with it get it out of there I had it to the truck in 45 minutes and I was home before dark So yeah, that's usually the best [00:08:00] way to do it when you're trying to talk about after work, dude Usually it doesn't end that easy. I know when we were when we were down in jersey I think I laid in bed at 11 o'clock at night that night just because it took so long to get everything else Out.

Yeah, I think I I had her skinned and in the cooler and I was sitting on the couch by 830, I think. So that was pretty good. That's not too bad. What are you looking forward to? Cause you've shifted gears over the years cause you've hunted all sorts of different properties over the years from, stuff close to home, growing up to, farm pieces here and you've shifted gears and you've gravitated towards hunting some more public and mountain stuff.

So I'm curious, what are you looking forward to? This archery season the most whether it's property or more or less time frame to focus on some of these places we were talking about earlier. What I found for my season last year, the time frame i'm really looking to Hunt the Mountain is starting right now October 19th, 20th.

Yeah, today's the 19th as we're recording this. Last [00:09:00] year, I did some scouting on a Sunday, and that was probably, oh, that could have been maybe the 15th of October, and the scrapes just blew up right around the 15th. I think there was a cold front that came through, and I went in one Sunday, did some walking, found a bunch of fresh scrapes, and...

I hunted there the first chance I had, which was that Thursday I had taken off work. And that would be, it would have been like the 23rd, I believe, of October. And, sure enough, that was my, actually my first time out orchery hunting last year. And I sat for about an hour and had a buck come by. I had, I think it was...

Eight o'clock or yeah, I remember it was early. It was like you text me you were in the tree and then it was 20 minutes later and you just sent me a video like that didn't take long. You're all jacked up so as far as hunting big mountain ground like that, I think What i'm gonna do again this year is try and focus on scrapes.

[00:10:00] The last few years what I found is when you get into the stretch there where there are doe coming into heat. It seems like it almost gets a little tougher on the mountain that the deer are spread out a little more. I don't know what the word is for it, but when they're, the week or two weeks prior to that it almost seems like these buck are really moving, covering a lot of ground.

Looking for that first doe and then when you hit a stretch there where you have multiple doe coming into heat in an area, it seems like it I don't know what the word is. It almost waters down the deer activity a little bit for one area. The mountains vast area you can only cover.

much of it at one time. So yeah this week here, I have some vacation days next week planned. I may change that up a little bit just based on the weather next week. I'm going to watch it and hopefully there's at least a little bit of a cold front and I'm going to try and focus on that.

And then it did see last year, it [00:11:00] did seem the last week of our archery season, it got Heated up again with buck activity on my camera. So I'm gonna focus. I was never growing up I always had really good luck the end of the first week in November the 7th 8th I shot a bunch of buck. 7th and 8th It was always the time you and I were shooting deer at that time when we were growing up and I never really focused later Than that.

I don't know if it was for that reason or not, but I want to try and Focus 12th, 13th, somewhere in that stretch too, if the weather's right. Like I said, I'm going to watch the weather, but... I hunted this evening. Like I said, today's the 19th. I hunted this evening, and the reason I went in today... was A, I had the wind B, I started getting some pictures of shooters one for sure I would shoot, and the other one that wasn't quite a shooter, but I started getting pictures of Buck moving through, now most of them were just before daybreak, but this time frame, this is the window that I was talking about [00:12:00] earlier, this is the window that I've noticed at this property I'm hunting, that I always start to get buck cruising through in daylight.

And it was always where I'd get pictures and then I'd hunt them and I was a day late and a dollar short. So I had it in my mind this year that when it got to that last 10 days of October, any time that the wind was right, I wanted to hunt there and hopefully be ahead of the bell curve and see something come through.

And it was interesting tonight because I only saw three deer. But the three deer I saw, they were all fawns. At first I thought it was a doe and two fawns. They came running out of the thick stuff. And I'm looking, oh, there's the big doe. Cause it was, had its head up and it was, wind, the wind was swirling a little bit.

And it kept just picking its head up. I thought that must be the doe. She must be getting a whiff of me every now and then. So I looked in her binoculars. I'm like. No, that's a button buck. And I thought, okay, I went behind it. That's definitely a doe fawn. Then I went behind that. That's another button buck.

So it was three fawns. So that, that made me think later than I thought, [00:13:00] where's mom? I thought is it, are we here? Did she separate and is it starting at one starting to come in? So I'm anxious to see what happens in the next 10 days. But getting getting back to the story at hand I wanted to talk and bring up the story, I think you had a three year quest.

For a giant that you shot and I want to say tell me if my memory serves me right was this 2013 yep 2013 you shot that and it was it three years that you had yeah, that was the third year I had pictures of him so leading up to that time You'd like I said you hunted a couple different properties, but this place that you ended up killing this deer that was close to home Did you hunt there much leading up until you got the pictures of that deer?

I had shot one other buck there. Shot a couple doe there. But it was always my place [00:14:00] to go real quick if I didn't have much time, being as it was so close to the house. But no, once... Once that once I got eyes on that bigger buck, I started to spend some more time there. For good reason.

Yeah, for three years, actually. And he, I'll be honest, the first two years, it seemed pointless to me. He seemed like the rut would come along, even before the rut, October would come along. I always had pictures of him in September. I was going to say, do you remember the first picture you got of him?

Yes so the first picture of him actually wasn't on that property. It was actually in, you could say my grandparents at the time lived in this house. It was actually in the backyard of that house. There's a narrow strip of woods that goes through and I just hung a camera in there. It's a really good funnel actually headed to another property.

And Never hunted there. It's not really big enough to hunt, but I like to keep a camera there just to monitor. And that picture was, I believe, in the beginning of October and he would have [00:15:00] been what I would assume was a three and a half year old buck then. Okay. Nice ten pointer. But yeah, the first picture I got of him, I checked the camera one day and he came through sometime that week at 1030 in the morning.

Snuck through that strip there, you know headed down to a bigger property and that was the first time I ever knew he existed and then I think I may have had one or two more Pictures of him probably same week or so and just like that just before the season Yeah, I it could have been the first week of the season.

It was either very end of September or First week of October when he disappeared, but yeah, he eluded me then. I had several cameras out in the area and just disappeared for the rest of archery season and rifle season. So you didn't actually see another picture of him or see him on the hoof the rest of that fall?

No I think I did s I'd got some [00:16:00] pictures of him after rifle season right around it's probably just before Christmas, I would say, and I knew he was back in the area then. So I thought I'm not much of a late season archery hunter, but I thought I'm going to go after him. If you hadn't filled the buck tag that you know so I hunted him several mornings in that area that I was getting pictures of him and sure enough, I saw him.

One morning, at a distance, and he had already shed one side. And then... A few days later on the camera, he had shed his other side too. That would have been like early January? Yeah, it was, I want to say it was probably first, second week of January. It wasn't very far into the flintlock season. And I came to later find out, I don't think I had known it that year, but after I had killed him.

He had a, [00:17:00] what I would assume was a broken leg at the very bottom, just above what you would call its ankle, and if you look back at those pictures I was getting that winter, you can see he always had that leg up in pictures, and he shed the opposite side antler. Then that's why he shed his antlers so early, so he had some sort of injury.

I don't know if it, maybe took a bullet in rifle season or just messed up his leg somehow, but so yeah, then the following, I don't think I had any cameras out then the following year till August, September, sure enough, got pictures of him again, and he didn't grow much. His Yeah, correct me if I'm wrong, wasn't the rack at three and a half years old almost bigger than it was the next year?

Yeah, I would say, very similar. If not, he was bigger at three and a half than four and a half. Whatever was wrong with his leg definitely affected his antler growth. So when you got pictures of him the next year as a four year old, did [00:18:00] you were you already it had to add fuel to the fire because this is two years in a row of pictures and you had an idea of what he did before.

So like at that point in time, were you starting to think you wanted to hunt this deer more or what was going through your mind at that point? Yeah, that being as he was around a second year, I really put some effort into it then that I wouldn't, try and figure out figure him out a little better and a buck like that I mean he was a great buck to begin with but when you have a little bit of history like that It just fuels the fire But then the same thing ended up happening in that year.

He I Don't think I had any pictures of him in October. He disappeared. I think I may have seen him one night around It was right around Halloween when I was walking out. I actually had seen him A buck in a field fairly close to me in the dark, and I'm almost positive it was him, but he never really showed up on any of my cameras.

There was another really big buck in that area that year, so I don't know if maybe [00:19:00] that had something to do with it. Him, I was getting pretty consistent pictures of, and if he would have gave me the opportunity, I would have shot him. He was a great buck, too, but he almost seemed like he could have been a little bit of an older buck, and...

Maybe that was his range for the rut, but same thing happened that year, after rifle season, he showed back up again and. I had quite a few pictures of him through February, probably, with Antlers, and... Now, in all that time frame, it's you had two years of him doing very similar things.

Did you learn anything in the meantime or formulate any thoughts of, like, where he was when you weren't getting him? Was that information that never came across to you there in those two years? I had... I had an inkling that he was hanging out on a really big property that has pretty low hunting pressure, but I can never prove that.

One thing I did come to find out after I shot him was, I don't know if I had said this or not, but I, the [00:20:00] years that I did have I always had some cameras out in the summer, never got pictures of him in the summer until. September was about the earliest I ever got pictures of him. I did come to find out where he was spending his summers, and it was a pretty good distance away.

It was probably, oh, three quarters of a mile or so by the crow flies away from the area that I was at. And apparently he was pretty consistent there. Other people were seeing him. They knew about him. It's funny when you kill a buck and some pictures get out there how, whether it's all true or not, but people say, Oh, I saw that deer here.

I saw that deer there, but the same thing happened to me when I shot mine. And the neighbor found out I saw him like two years later and he goes I had pictures of that deer when he was a two Year old I said really and he I thought he was kidding and they weren't trail camera pictures He literally had pictures of the deer he took with his phone.

They were in out of season In January, February[00:21:00] walking past his house, I'm like, that is without a doubt the deer I shot. It's amazing how that happened. I even had heard some rumors, and like I say, this is a rumor to me because I didn't actually talk to these people. I don't know how they could prove it.

Some other serious hunters in the area. Somebody had told me that they actually had pictures of this buck as a year and a half old buck, a four pointer. Now how they can prove that, I don't know, but like I said they're pretty good hunters. So there is some credibility there probably. But yeah, I, like I said, after the fact I had found out where he was spending his summers.

So year two, you getting pictures of him. Were you, did you still feel like you were hunting a ghost at that point? Did you shift gears at any point to another deer? You were back and forth. I remember talking with you. Cause you're like, I want to hunt this deer, but I just, I also want to shoot something.

Like I said, there was another really good buck in that area. So I wasn't just hunting this 10 pointer. There was a. That was a really big eight pointer. And there, that area always holds [00:22:00] big buck. There's a lot of big buck there. Anything can happen when you're in a stand in that area. So I definitely didn't solely have my heart set on him.

But it was always there in the back of my mind that one day he was gonna show up. And it didn't happen that year, like I said, he came back after Christmas sometime. And I, once again, I hunted a little bit in the Flintlock season with my bow and never laid eyes on him. But then the following summer, like I said it was probably August, September, I started running cameras down there and there he was.

And this year he blew up. He overcame what was wrong with his leg. This year he put some inches on. Yeah, he put some serious tying length on. Yeah. I'm looking at him now and he's one impressive deer. Yeah, I think I think that one brow tying is like nine inches and he just really blew up and big body on him.

You could tell there was just something different about him this year. And I thought almost wrote it off. I'm like, that is an [00:23:00] impressive buck, but I don't want to get my hopes up because he's done the same thing in the last two years. And I don't know where he's going, but he's not here.

Yeah. Keep in mind too, where you're hunting, you don't have a big chunk that you can hunt. You're adjacent to some large tracts of land, but the piece you had to hunt was fairly small. One stand you're not gonna the wind has to be right to hunt there. You don't have options. You don't have wind options But yeah, there's definitely some luck involved when you're hunting a property like that's surrounded by really big parcels So you started getting pictures of him then the year you killed him and what changed in?

image Intel Because if I remember correctly you, it, it was a lot more I remember texting back and forth and you talking about it and it was definitely a different vibe that year. Yeah. All of a sudden that year, something changed with him. He didn't leave and he. He [00:24:00] was consistent on a camera, his, I don't know I would guess him to be five and a half years old that year.

And it was like his home range shrunk, to basically nothing. You could tell he was always close. I don't know if he was the biggest, baddest buck in the area then. And he just, the doe numbers are very high in this area. So a big dominant buck, he doesn't have to go far to find doe there. If he's keeping.

If he's keeping the other buck away, there's plenty of dough there for him. I don't know if that was it or if, as they get older, they get a little smarter and shrink their home range a little bit for that reason that they don't they know where they're safe on, a bigger property with less hunting pressure that they don't venture off because of that reason.

Or like I said, maybe it's because. He had everything he needed right there. There's a lot of factors that make you wonder that. I've seen that with certain deer. I've already seen, too, where you kill a [00:25:00] deer. That does a certain pattern, and then the next year you see another one follow suit and do something similar.

And it's amazing and I've heard some very experienced whitetail hunters Bill Winky was the one that I used to watch all the time when I used to watch Midwest whitetail. And he would talk about how he'd watch deer and it seemed like their home range during daylight hours would shrink the older they got.

I, I actually have seen that one other time with a deer on the mountain that, now I only... Had two years of history with him but yeah, the, I would say he was either a three or four year old the first year and four or five the next year but the second year, he definitely, I had a lot more pictures of him.

He was a lot more consistent than he was the first year. That, that's definitely one other time that I've seen that. I think that there is definitely some credibility to that, that their home range, home ranges shrink a little bit. So did you start hunting that deer from the get go from the season opener that year?

Yeah. So I was [00:26:00] pretty much, like I said, in September, a bulk of my pictures were in September. He was very consistent daylight pictures in September. I thought I need to get on him, right off the bat and never laid eyes on him. All through October was getting, I was starting to get more pictures of him again then, and Towards Halloween.

Now, were you running cell cameras at the time, or was it all strictly SD cards? I believe I may have had one cell camera. I think I may have had one cell camera. That was the very first cell camera I had. But, I don't know if I was using it there or not. I can't say for sure. I may have been. As far as pulling cards, right around Halloween he was starting to get more consistent.

But, still... Not a lot of daylight activity out of him, and then I believe it was, I believe it was November 7th, and I climbed into the stand that day, fairly early, it was probably 1 o'clock or so, and I thought a very windy day, probably the windiest day of the season, [00:27:00] and I thought, I'm gonna get out there early, and we'll see what Like I said, I had shot one other buck there, and that one was on a very windy day too.

I always like hunting that spot on a windy day. I don't know what it is, but the deer seem to filter through there on a windy day. And I think I was in the stand for about an hour and a half. I saw a smaller buck, and I think I saw a doe or two. And then it died off till about 4. 30, and all of a sudden I happened to look up, and here he is standing in front of me like 10 yards, never heard him come in, that's how windy it was.

This is the worst when it's so quiet and it's just boom they appear. I'm sitting down and he's staring at me, in the tree stand, and I thought, oh no, I just blew my chances. And... Just like that, he puts his head down and keeps walking towards me, and I kinda grabbed my bow off the hanger and stood up in one motion, and by that point, he was to my left side, less than ten yards [00:28:00] away, and drew back and stopped him, and he looked right up at me, and that's one thing you'll never forget when you have a Buck that big stare at you in the tree stand.

Oh my gosh. Yeah, let an arrow fly and Luckily it hit its mark and saw him fall over. So so do you remember what it was like when you? Settled the pin on him and the only reason I asked that question is I mean I've been fortunate to shoot a lot of deer with my bow But the big one I killed the other year That was a different experience than anything I'd ever had before because like I, I, did, did the process the way I normally do.

And I was pretty shook up because I knew I was hunting him. I knew he was in the area. I saw, I watched him come in. He comes down. He's, he starts to turn broadside. I draw back. And for a big deer, I've At first felt pretty, pretty calm, but the minute my pin [00:29:00] hit his chest and I started to go through my shot sequence, it was like, there was so many voices in my head, like screaming just shoot.

And I just kept like squeeze, pull, and then it goes off. But it was like, I started shaking so. And I had to like, try to overcome that in my mind. And I was wondering like the biggest deer you ever drew back on. Did you have anything similar? Yeah, it's definitely a completely different experience.

Like you said, you can shoot a bunch of other deer and it doesn't compare to that when you have a deer of that size and a deer that you were chasing that hard in front of you. And like I said, when I had to stop him and. Like I said he was looking at me when I first saw him, so as soon as I made a noise to stop him, of course, he looks right back at me in the tree saying he knew where it came from, and I tell you what, there isn't a feeling like that when he's standing there staring you in the eyes and you're drawn back on him, but yeah it's hard to keep it together.

Where did you where did your mind [00:30:00] go after the arrow let loose? I thought it was unreal. Like it, it didn't feel real. This deer that, I've been chasing for three years. I think I only laid eyes on him in person one other time. That was when he had one antler. And there he was laying dead within sight.

It was like, this didn't just happen. But yeah, it's a feeling like no other. Yeah, when you walk up to them, too, and you they, it gets bigger, and it gets bigger, and there's a moment. Where you almost don't even want to pick him up. Like you just look at him and what did I just do?

What just happened? The thing that really hit me is after it was all said and done, even I would go as far as say after that season, it almost feels like you don't know what to do. What are you going to do the next season now that you don't have that deer to chase? That's exactly why I wanted to talk about this because I think that segues into the next thing because the buck that I killed in 2020[00:31:00] I shot him, two years of pictures of him, shot him, the next season felt like no other season before.

It was like a, almost like a slight emptiness, and I was still riding the high of shooting a deer like that. That, I don't want to say I wasn't excited to hunt the next year, but it was different, it was like less. Yeah, it, I think he. Have to just come to terms that, you always dream of shooting a really big buck and, always topping your last buck, maybe, or something like that, and then you're hit with, you got a really nice buck.

It's how am I going to top that now? I think you just have to come to terms with, you may not. I easily could this one. If you're talking inches, I think he's 143, and some change, you could very easily top that around here. Your buck may be a lot harder to top. [00:32:00] I think your buck was 170 some inches.

It was 170, but the one thing that's been so interesting too is it's the whole inches game. To me, it's just a number because when you compare. Like we did that one time we put the rack of mine next to your mount. And when you look at them, they look identical frame wise. The difference was like, I think the one G2 on yours was pretty weak.

And I think my beams were a little bit longer and I might've had a few more inches in mass. But when you look at the frame of the deer, they're the exact same caliber deer. So whether it's 140 inch deer, whether it's 170 inch deer to me, Those are the same deer because of the same age class. It was just the one just expressed a little bit more to me.

There's no difference. You know what I mean? Yeah, absolutely. I, after that, I switched gears that, I'd be happy to harvest, a three and a half year old deer every year doesn't matter what's on its head, just an older class of deer. If I could do that every year, I'd be happy.

And [00:33:00] then, from there, I like you had said, I switched where I hunt the mountain a lot now. Now I'd be happy to kill, a nice buck on the mountain every year and more more so find a buck and figure him out rather than focus on antlers. Did you struggle with that mind shift after that the next few years?

Was that tough for you to Adjust your goals or your priorities then? Yeah, definitely. Yeah. I don't know. It is hard to go out then and shoot a buck smaller than, and younger than what you shot. But like I said, after a year or two, I got my goals straightened out and I know what I'm happy with now.

I know what I want to work towards now. And the last few years here, it's been hunting on the mountain and finding a good buck on the mountain. Now, I've chased some nice ones on the mountain. Oh, absolutely. But it doesn't have to be that every year. The thing... In today's world, there's so many [00:34:00] people that, it's either, big, mature, five year old, blah, blah, blah, or bust.

And then there's a lot of people that, there's almost like this separation amongst hunters where, the other half is, if it's legal and it makes you happy, just shoot it. And that's almost the opposite end where... The mindset, it's dumb to, to pursue a mature buck and I've said this a million times, like it's all a matter of what you want to do and what you want to experience, but the one thing I will say is if you get into.

Like chasing bigger deer and then you experience what it's like to connect on one or pursue one It's not the same when you go and take a step backwards Yeah, it's not like I don't care what anybody says and I don't mean this to degrade any other animal I ever pursue but the feeling of Pursuit and the feeling of what comes in it's just it's I guess it's part of maturing as a hunter in a [00:35:00] sense but The way I think about it is, growing up, I remember seeing two year olds and three year olds.

And I would say, Oh my gosh, I saw a giant. I saw a giant. And in all reality, in some people's eyes, they might be, but in my eyes now they're nice deer. They're really good deer. So now, if I see a two or three year old, I passed the buck up the other year that I believe was a three year old.

And if I had to put it an inch's guess, he was, he probably went Pope and Young and he was probably bigger than that and he stepped out and I looked at him and I got me excited, but it just was like, nah he's a nice deer, but that's just, I don't want to end my season this quick. And it just, it wasn't the same feeling.

So again, I don't think it matters what anybody chases. I don't care what anybody shoots, do what makes you happy. But for me personally. It's a different feeling when you experience that, and I don't know how else to convey it other than that, it's just different. Yeah, no, I completely agree with you.

But what you were talking about with [00:36:00] hunting the mountain, and it's a new challenge, it's a new pursuit. It's almost a sense of the deer, or the inches side, or the, how do I convey this? The biggest deer of your dreams is not the challenge. The challenge is figuring out a tough place to hunt.

With what is available in that area. Yeah, absolutely. That's what really draws me to it. I mean I got I don't know how many years I've been hunting the mountain now The reason I really got into it is my wife's grandparents had owned some property on the mountain Unfortunately has since been sold now, but I started hunting there and then after that got sold I'm like I'm really enjoying this even though that was on private land now I did venture on to the public to I mean it But it up against public land, but that opened your eyes up to what was there.

Yeah, that's what I like most about it is the unknown. Where I most of the areas I grew up hunting or wood patches Ag land if you had cameras there [00:37:00] you knew what was in the area where the mountains a little bit different there's always buck that show up that you have no idea.

We're there and There's some really good ones that do that. Absolutely. So that's what always Keeps me really at it is the unknown, push a little farther, what's over this Ridge? Is that a better area out there? Is this an area that's untouched by other people? I this past winter here in shed season Just early spring I put on to me.

It's a lot of miles to some guys It's probably not much at all but I think I put like Probably close to 70 miles on shed hunting and scouting and covered areas that I've never been before. And it was awesome. I look forward to doing it again this spring. Some of those areas were a bust to be honest.

I put cameras there, didn't amount to much. Some of them, there are some nice buck there, but I had to justify, is it worth going in that for, when I [00:38:00] have. Good deer elsewhere that are a little easier to access options are good. Yeah, but that's what I was really looking for This spring is different options and I did find some like I said that area that I've been hunting this year I really didn't have any history hunting there, but there's a couple nice buck hanging out there So that's why I'm to me the way you're explaining that in the way I'm hearing it and I thought about this here recently You're describing it in a way to me that says You're looking for something that is yours, like your own.

So like when you're hunting when you're hunting a piece of ag land permission that you're confined to a small border and you get this and that. I think it's easy to just. You're gonna plateau at some point what you can do there. Cuz there's only so many trees you can hang a stand. There's probably only so many things you can do.

And you get to a point, for me, you get to a point where this isn't my own I'm hunting here, I like hunting here, but there's gotta be something [00:39:00] more. And I say that too because it's after the fact that you accomplished a goal. You accomplished shooting a big mature deer. And it was all in that.

But after that, you're looking for the new thing. So going out and venturing out, To the mountain or a piece of public land or a new property It's the adventure of new and there's like a possession thing and the same thing happens like if you own land Yeah, if you own property and you have the ability to Manipulate it change the habitat change the structure add whatever you want to it That is something you can call your own and that's a fuel you can always keep stoked because you have the control to do what you want on that property.

Your opportunities are endless. But if you're, hunting by permission land, there's a chance that next year you don't have that. Yep. And, or maybe it's a family land where it'll always be there, but you only have so much pull in what you can do there. Or maybe, uncle Joe has a [00:40:00] stand here and.

This and that and I want to put a food plot in, but nobody wants to do that. So you get to a point where it's like I want to find something that's my own and you can do that If you put the time in and the boot leather on public land, right? We're very fortunate here in our local area to have the public land we do and all through pennsylvania.

Yeah, we got what do we have? I think I added it up. There's three or four million acres of public land throughout the state You basically have unlimited land to go out and pursue, hunt how you want think about where we hunt in rifle season at my camp. Yep. That is on two sides of the mountain.

I think if you add it up, it's around 120, 000 acres of state forest land. Yep. I don't even know if you could get through every nook and cranny of that in 30 years of deer hunting. Yeah. You could hunt a lot of it, but it's like, when you think about that. What we always, we're tired. When we're done with that hunt.

And we barely scratched the surface. We didn't touch a fraction of it. I know. And I just think there's something [00:41:00] about that. And, whatever the goal is that you have, it's like, just, what's next? What's next? And keep going. And I like that you shifted gears and talked about that because I still every now and then struggle with what do I want to do this year?

And that's why I had to I'm not saying I stepped away from deer hunting this year, because by no means did I do that, but I just flipped the switch for whatever reason that like, I don't know. I just wanted to do more bear hunting and try to do, and that really got me excited. And I was actually wondering, so I shot that bear in Jersey and I was thinking maybe if I shoot one with the bow that'll, that'll be fine.

That'll satisfy me. And I'm not going to lie since I did that. I have not thought about anything other than how can I get on a bigger one next year? What other areas can I check out? How can I learn? How they're using this swamp stuff. So that's just new fuel and it's just again it goes back to That new pursuit that new challenge.

Yeah, so I wanted to talk about [00:42:00] that because number one every time I look at that buck I think about the story of that like you like because we talked about that a lot Over that those three years and i'll never forget when you I was in college. I was I'll never forget, I was in the third floor of the library at college when you sent me the picture with him and I was like, he got it done.

I was like ready to jump and scream, in school because I was so happy for you that you finally accomplished that. Yeah, it was definitely an unreal feeling once he's laying there in front of you after three years, but. So you got some new pursuits too coming up because I know you went out west and you were hunting, you shot a pronghorn was that two years ago? Actually three years ago now. Three years ago, you shot a really nice pronghorn, and you've been putting a bunch of points in out west, and it seems like that's been like another new... Yeah, I'm fortunate my wife's family lives out west kind of gives me a little bit of a hookup out there. But yeah, I have an elk hunt coming up in 2025 in Wyoming and [00:43:00] you're buying antelope points now. I tell you what that antelope hunt I don't think that's anything I could ever get tired of doing. Really? Yeah, Just the style of hunting is a blast.

There's so many different extremes with that too. Like some people are like, oh, it's boring And the next people are like, I love it. Yeah, I tell you what, it's so different from any hunting here that I mean, it's loaded with them out there. Did you enjoy the long range shooting aspect of it? I did. I'll be honest with you, it made me nervous at first.

How around here we don't shoot those distances. That's the first time I've ever done anything like that. I killed that antelope at 352 yards. Oh. And that's long for, around here. For me, that's long. Long range people are like, that's a cheap shot. For me, that's a far shot.

Yeah. So when I was laying there on the ground ranging this thing, I'm like, man, I don't know about this. And it took a while just to settle down and settle that crosshair on it. Yeah. And sure enough, it hit its mark and then it's oh this isn't so bad after all, but the first [00:44:00] time you do it, yeah it's a different experience than, shooting that deer around here with the rifle.

What's our average shot around here with a rifle? I bet you, I have. Of all the deer I've killed, I can probably count the number of deer I've shot on one hand over 100 yards with a rifle. And, centerfire rifle, what the heck, guys are shooting over 1, 000 yards with a lot of them.

Yeah. I just remember again, it's the different mindsets and different people. I remember talking about it with my uncle, with antelope hunting. And he did that and he used to be into long range shooting and he said to me one time He said, ah, he said if you can shoot a groundhog, you can shoot an antelope.

I said, it's not that hard But I never did it. So like i've never got into long range shooting I don't know what that's like I almost have a little bit of a bad taste in my mouth over long range hunting and it's not because I have any Problem with it, but like i've been hunting in parts of pennsylvania where long range hunting is occurring and I'm upset about I feel as though the places it's being used, it's not safe.

Yeah. An [00:45:00] example I'll give you is, we were doing a couple years ago, we were doing a bear drive. And we were doing this side hill, and we had a bear in our drive. In fact, one of the standers shot a bear. And, we were hearing other shots and I was thinking it was our guys and we're going out the side hill and we found a dead bear and we, we're trying to figure out which one of our guys shot it in here.

Nobody shot it. We're like, what happened with this? And here there was a group of guys that from the opposite hillside Shot into our drive, there was standers on the right side of them and drivers on the left side of them shot in Between us, and this is an open was this is hardwoods, you know You're shooting from a ridgetop through trees to this bear and they killed It was in no, nothing was wrong.

I think they said it was like a 700 some yard shot And again, I'm not I have no problem with that style of hunting I just felt as though we were being shot at, and that, that just left a bad taste in my mouth, so then when I think about long range hunting out west, [00:46:00] it's perfectly safe if you use your head, but it's just I don't, I just can't get that out of my head, yeah, I that wouldn't make me feel very good either especially I mean they the hunters who shot that bear They have to be knowing of what you guys are doing. I would think at that distance. I'm sure they can see what's happened They watched us and as they told us that it was another bear that they couldn't shoot because it was too close to our guys And I'm thinking yeah, the first one you shot at wasn't that far from us.

Yeah, I don't know It's just like Bolts do weird things at that distance, which is not only is it a little unsafe to me, it's a little unsportsmanlike too. I guess so, but at the same time it's public land. We've had, there's absolutely nothing wrong with you doing a drive and somebody sits in the middle of your driving and shoot something.

It might leave a bad taste in your mouth cause you guys didn't get it, but it's public land. You've got every right to be there. And I don't get upset about that. And I don't even get upset about us. chasing a bear and somebody else shoots it long range. It was just the aspect of it just didn't seem [00:47:00] safe.

But I think that's a neat pursuit that you're talking about at West. So I'm curious, you were talking about the new pursuit around home with. Pursuing the mountain, trying to shoot some good deer up there, talk about West. I'm just curious, when you look out over the next few years, what are some of the things that excite you the most, or just goals that you have for yourself?

That next thing, it lights a little bit of a fire under you for your next thing you want to check off, hunting. Like you said, getting out west more is definitely at the top of my list. I'm finally after years of buying points, I'm finally in the position that I can go on several hunts here in the next couple of years.

Also I'm going to keep pursuing the mountain here. I don't see that getting old to me anytime soon. My wife and I did just buy a property here this summer, small property, but we do have deer on it. And I'm looking forward to Doing some things here just to make it a little better mainly for her I don't know that i'll ever really hunt a whole lot on this property, but until the next good one shows.

Yeah. [00:48:00] Yeah and One of my more long term goals is to buy a little more property that I can manage a little better doesn't have to be huge but there's some property bordering our land here that Hopefully one day it comes up for sale and we're in the position that maybe we could buy it and focus a little more on managing that for deer.

Yep. And the other thing we got to get you is we got to get you a bear yet. Yeah. Yeah. I. Many encounters with bears, but I'm always the next guy in line usually. Yeah, but at the same time I gotta say this, of all the people that I've hunted with, when I, even though you haven't killed one, you were one of the daggone luckiest people for seeing bear.

Yeah. Pete, the one year... You saw, at camp, you saw a bear two days in a row, didn't get shooting. The one guy in our group got it. You saw another one the next day, didn't get shooting. And there was a couple other times that you were, you'd go out by yourself or with a buddy in bear [00:49:00] season and you were around them all the time.

I'm like, I know people who hunted 40 years and didn't see one. Yeah I'm a magnet for them. Just never quite at the right time or. Quite in the right spot. I don't know what it is, but you would think sooner or later, it's going to have to happen, but I would think if you keep spending enough time to, especially when you're hunting in a place that has them, like with the concurrent bear seasons over deer season right now and you're in a position where one could stroll over a point at any point, you never know.

The group hunt at your camp, that, that is. Probably two days of hunting season that I look forward to the most every year, even though I've never been, real big on rifle hunting. Me neither. But, I don't know, there's something about that type of hunting with a good group of guys that...

There was a time that the thought of putting the bow away and breaking the rifle out was distasteful. I used to feel when archer season closed, hunting season for me... Felt over yeah, [00:50:00] and I was I still do this sometimes but there for a while Like all I took was the bow even in rifle season.

I took the bow And when I started going back up to camp and what prompted me to go to camp was just the fact that I wanted to go back up and hunt with my dad I hadn't hunted with him for years and he always wanted to go to camp. I thought i'll go there And I, the one year I went up, didn't shoot a buck, just decided I'm going to explore, and I shot a great buck, and it was like a light switch flipped oh, this is interesting, start exploring new areas, and now the, don't ask me why we do this as deer hunters with a bow and stuff, but I put so much pressure on myself to shoot one with a bow, and it's a one man thing, one man band, when you're trying to fill your buck tag that time of year.

So just to break up the monotony for two days and hunt as a group, and it's never Travis shot a buck or Mitchell shot a buck, it's... We got a bug. Yeah, we got a bear. That's just fun. And I think we keep doing better every [00:51:00] year. We're figuring things out Everybody's learning the lay of the land up there a little better, I think, which definitely helps.

Oh, it certainly does. It puts less stress on me when I've got to explain to guys where to go. Yeah, see that's what I was going to mention is, those two days, there's always, hunting around here, hunting for, by yourself. It seems like there's always some amount of stress involved to it. Yeah.

Even though it's not... Self inflicted. Yeah, it's not a bad thing, but there's always a little bit of stress to it. When I go up there... I don't have any stress. It's like I'm just going up here to have fun, but you on the other hand, I think it would be stressful for you to keep a group of 20 something guys in line.

It's less stressful now than it was when we started for two reasons. The first reason, the first two years, it was stressful because I'd never had that many people that I was leading. I think the first year we did it, we had 15. The second year, I believe it was [00:52:00] 21, and I think since then it's been over 20 every year.

That was intimidating to try to communicate. Yeah. And try to figure out how to coordinate who goes where and does what? 'cause even though I'm the one saying we're gonna do this area, I still need to have somebody that I can explain the woods where I want them to go, where I want them to set people up and how to access it.

And some of the areas like. We've all hunted it, but we all describe it a little bit differently 'cause we've never hunted it together. Like I've never walked into the woods with you, just the two of us, and said, Hey, at this spot and this is where I want you to go in at this point. There's so many different terms for different landmarks.

Exactly. So like the describing that was what was intimidating the first two years was the explanation of how I wanted to do it. And then just the overall. Like just stress of, making sure everybody's having a good time. And I don't want to let anybody down. Cause [00:53:00] I put, most of the guys in the group, they don't have that stress of, if we get something or not we're hunting together, but when you're doing it, like the first drive, I remember the first year we're doing the drive.

And I heard that first shot crack and I was like, oh, thank God I was like a weight lifted off my shoulders like, thank goodness we got something because it was just, I just put so much stress on myself at that point. But it is just a fun way of hunting and it's one of those things. It's just, it's become fun.

And so many people like talk bad about that style of hunting and that it's not hunting and they don't enjoy that and that's fine. But. I think you're missing out. Yeah, absolutely. And we aren't winning them all either. Oh my goodness, no. But what was funny too is you and a couple of our other buddies never hunted Like that and never hunted in a setting like that.

So like the first year you guys came up, first of all, I was surprised just because it was new to [00:54:00] you and I'm thinking that you guys are used to seeing a lot of deer and hunting places, down at home. So are they going to enjoy this? And this lower deer density type stuff and the.

Excitement that you guys have to go up to camp and do that like last year you and our buddy Garrett You guys had your tags filled. Yep. Like you were done. Yeah, and we had a blast going up there and walking every drive Yeah I know I did. I know Garrett will be back again. Yeah, he's just worth the price of admission because when he goes through the stickers it's usually an expletive every other word.

Yeah, no, and I think it's neat too how, most of it comes from older guys. You hear them around here, oh, going upstate is it's dead. It doesn't happen anymore and it's not dead All they have to do is take a look at that camp there and they'd realize it is still happening It's just it's just much lower concentration.

I think there's a [00:55:00] lot of reasons for that I don't think there's a lot of camps that have guys our age that want to hunt that. Yeah, absolutely It's a lot of work. I mean it is a lot of work and it's intimidating because you're, full time job, wife, you're thinking about starting a family.

I've got two little boys, my life and my mindset of what's my priorities has really shifted. So having enough time to be successful in a situation like that I always want to put time into to reap your rewards, right? And I just don't have that as much. So it's just easier that Hey, in the offseason, when I have an hour of time, I'm gonna go put a camera out here.

I'm gonna check this camera, and I'm gonna cut it, hang this stand and cut a shooting lane, and then that's gonna be my place that I spend my time. And then, just to say, if you don't have the time throughout the offseason to go scout two, three hours away at a camp, or you don't have the time to In the fall, in archery season, go up and archery hunt or fall turkey hunt or grouse hunt or something [00:56:00] like that to just say, okay, now I'm just going to shift everything off that the little bit of preparation I've done early, I'm just going to turn all that off and I'm going to go to camp where there's low deer density, I have no idea what the food shifted, like all that, that, that's, yeah.

That's intimidating, but yeah, the fact that we're doing that to some degree. I again, I just said it I'll say it again. It breaks up the stress and the monotony of how you hunt on your own all year long And it's the camp camaraderie. We have so much fun. Oh yeah, it's a blast. And the thing I love about that too is, so like I'm a novice.

I'm really learning how to hunt that way. And I've been blessed that so many people were willing to let me like take leadership of that. But what's great is there's guys in the group that have done it. Like when they were our age, they were doing that style hunt. So then every time. We have that hunt at the end of the day.

They'll give me advice. Yeah, this is what I saw happen This is how I can improve it and [00:57:00] I love that because I learned so much from that Yeah, like I was talking about that with your father in law the other day like we hit him and Rob Yeah, we were talking about how like at the end of the day last year Rob came up to me is hey You did a good job.

Here's a couple things that I noticed that Right away, it's oh, don't take offense. I'm like, no, I don't. All yours. How can I make this better? Yeah, that part is fun for me too. Cause I learned from guys that way. And like I said, I think it's improved every year so far. Just a combination of. It's a little difficult when you have a bunch of people that have never set foot on a piece of land.

You're... The guys who have, you're stretched thin with them. Yep. You can't make everything happen that you want to happen. You can't, have everybody exactly where you want, just because... The first few years, anyway, when we were doing... We knew the area, but we didn't know how we wanted to push it.

So then we do it, and we're like we did this well, but we needed to button this up a little bit better, and then we improved it. But now that you get [00:58:00] guys that are coming back every year, each year they know it a little better, and the drives are getting a little better. Perfectly honest, I would love to explore some new areas.

There's areas I've got pins on, there's areas I've hunted on my own that I would love to figure out. How can we get the guys back there? Another thing, too, is maybe we just need to make it three days. Yeah. Yeah, I took I took vacation Thursday and Friday again this year, yep, me too, and that's what I'm looking forward to, but...

Hey, let's let's wrap this up. Thanks for thanks for walking through that. I was, I, like I said, I loved the trips down memory lane because I think you learn stuff and like I said, every time I look at that deer and I think about history of deer, like it's, to me, those are always exciting.

So thanks for thanks for coming on and chatting about us. It was good luck this year. You bet you too. Thanks for having me.