On today's episode of the DIY Sportsman podcast, Garrett sits down with Mike Funderburk out of South Carolina to talk about the Hunt Better platform. This new content platform puts a focus on teaching and preserving woodsmanship skills through livestreams, detailed video hunt breakdowns, and long format video conversations. Mike explains what initiated the idea, what people can expect, and where things are headed. In addition to talking about the Hunt Better platform, Garrett and Mike talk about hunting in the South and how it differs from the Midwest, what types of deer habitat features that seem to be common across the country, technology, challenge hunts, and how experience can often be one of the best guides for learning skills first hand.
[00:00:00] All right, on the podcast today, I have Mike Funder Burke, and I really wanted to get Mike on the podcast today. In fact, I mentioned it briefly and one of my prior episodes. There's a new content platform out there specifically for hunting, more focused on the Woodsmanship side of things called Hut Better.
And this is largely Mike's brainchild and he. A couple of guys that were like-minded in pretty early. And ultimately I think what this is growing into is pretty cool. It's subscription service. I'll let Mike get in more of the details, but a lot of really interesting detail that you don't necessarily get just from maybe listening to podcasts or just watching YouTube or, a lot of these other places that we get some of our content.
Mike, thanks for jumping. Why don't you go ahead and give the listeners a brief background. Yeah, Garrett, thanks for having me, man. This is exciting. I think what Hunt [00:01:00] better is what it is now and our plans for the future is really exciting as well. A little bit of background just for me, man.
I, I've always had this itch for learning. I've always been into it. I've always wanted to know as much as I can about whatever I'm into, whatever hobby that is. I just wanted to learn. I. Buying like skateboarding trick tips videos when I was younger, just to watch the process of learning something.
And when you talk about hunt better, it's hard to learn that because that's just an extension of who I am. And when you talk about the team that we're building it's an extension of those guys too. You included Andy May. Jared Schaffer, all the other guys that are helping out.
We're all just learners. , we love to learn and we learn. We love to get better. I don't think any of us like to be stagnant. Andy May's a great example is he's killing some of the biggest bucks in the country and he'll be the first to tell you that he is still got s stuff to work on and to learn.
And but I remember I, I grew up hunting publicly with my dad. Cuz that was the only option. , we, we didn't have a, we didn't have a ton of money to. , in clubs growing up [00:02:00] and spending money on a lot of technology. And technology wasn't, hadn't come a long way at that point.
But I just remember him always saying, if you take every product away, we didn't have, we didn't have many products. It was just us and our weapons and our, how far our legs would take us. But he would always say, and this has always stuck with me all through my life he would say, if you took everything away, I wanted to know that I could get it.
Basically with, without any fancy tools or anything. And I just always remembered that, and so I'm thankful for that background, kinda that foundation of woodsmanship. I think I took my first break on trail cameras like five years ago and I've used them since then, but I just don't rely on them as much as any anymore.
And when I got to that season of life and like in my hunting career where I wanted to start killing beer bucks, I wanted to. Tagging out more during Turkey season. I quickly realized when I started reaching out to these people and saying, Hey, could you help me? Could be a mentor?
Could you gimme some advice? It just all naturally came back to this foundation of woodsmanship and keeping that [00:03:00] at the center of everything. And that's when my success just took off, man. But before that, it plummeted . And when I decided to start doing that is when a lot of things changed.
all that said pro, this was probably, this was 2020 no, actually this was 2021. I had this idea and it just struck me outta nowhere. I love things like masterclass, things like there was something in the music industry called Mix with the Masters or anything like that with the, within the hunting community.
And they're really, there's really not not to the level that I was seeing in my mind and. So I started reaching out to some guys that really are mentors to me. And you included man, and you guys told me I wasn't crazy . And then we just started trying to build this thing. That's the, kinda the short story and the short background behind it.
But yeah, our goal with Hunt better is to, it's several things, is we want to, as hunters, it's our responsibility. We feel that responsibility to give back to conservation, to these organizations [00:04:00] who are. doing great work. And from the get-go, we said, Hey, some of our profits are gonna go straight to those organizations.
We're gonna be that on-ramp for people to, to give back and to get involved. So it's cool bec because anybody that subscribes to hunt better is joining the fight because we're putting your money to work. So that's really cool. That's a standard thing, standard operating procedure.
The other part is we wanted to close that gap of being able to, just like how I grew by reaching out to people, we wanna close that gap for the majority of the hunting community. Hey, here's a chance to interact with John Eberhardt. Here's, all these guys that, that, that may be involved down the road too.
Yeah, that's where it's at. That's a short breakdown. I guess maybe it was. No, that's good. And that's something I've noticed as well is that you have, when you talk to guys who consistently get it done, and maybe they've been getting it done for a long time, very consistent year after year, they might use tools and equipment and everything else, but it's an [00:05:00] enhancement of their baseline skillset on their foundation.
And if you took that stuff away, they would still have success maybe. As efficient of success, but they would still know what they're doing. And I do definitely feel like a lot of times with the access to information and technology that we have right now, sometimes there is a little bit of that ability for people to go out and maybe have quick success, but then again, you take that away and it just doesn't mesh, quite the same.
So we've talked about this before, having that firsthand experience. The Woodsmanship side of things, it's sometimes hard to translate into words. It's sometimes hard to teach somebody unless you're either number one, learning it yourself by experience or kind of being right there with somebody and getting that information firsthand from them.
Seeing what they look at, seeing what they. Pay attention to what they don't pay attention to. Picking up on some of those little things, some of those details that can make a really big difference. And [00:06:00] that's, ultimately what we're trying to get across with the different hunt breakdowns and conversations and everything else that we have going on with the platform.
Yeah, and I think you would agree I completely agree with all that. And I bet you would agree too that, We're in this stage of hunting where it's probably the coolest stage to be in cuz of all the great things that are coming out. But it's so important and I feel like it needs to be talked about more, is that tools are tools and tools can become crutches when we forget that.
I, I, when I, the more I talk about it and think about it, I get, there's this passion and desire and lots of other guys I've talked to that have been in the game for a while. That man, if we don't, if we don't start talking about these things, we're gonna lose 'em. And we're gonna lose this idea of, this ability to use a compass in the woods.
We're gonna lose this idea of being able to navigate the terrain based on the edges. How to read sign, how to read tracks because we might get too reliant on these things that are tools that are supposed to, I like what you said, just supposed to enhance things and yeah, and that's, you know what a lot of [00:07:00] people are asking us.
You know how where we stand on that stuff, we're like, man we are, we're probably the most supportive of those things of technology, of gear. We love gear. I know you and me especially we just love talking. We can talk about gear for hours. But I think we all agree too that we can't allow that to replace woodsmanship.
We can't allow that to replace experience and, miles on the boots. So yeah, I completely agree with that. Yeah, definitely. . We launched Hunt Better back in February, so it's been active for a little bit over a month. And I guess for a lot of people who might be listing and don't know, I guess what's on there, right?
We talked a little bit about Woodsmanship, what actually is Hunt better? What can they learn from Hunt better? How does that, do they log in? What do they have available to them? What kind of learning opportunities do they have? What's the experience that they're gonna be looking.
Yeah, so if you go to hunt butter dot[00:08:00] you'll see everything that we offer currently. We are always working on new stuff and we got some new stuff in the hopper that we can't talk too much about, but I'm super excited about it. It's gonna add a ton of value, it's gonna help a lot of guys. We just got some final touches to add.
We're getting some really cool people involved. And that's probably a good place to start. The guys that are involved with. I feel completely out of my league because I am but the guys involved you included Andy Jared, John Eberhart on there. We got Rendell Eric coming up. We got Aaron Warbritton coming up, Jared Scheffler Steve Shirk, Shane Simpson was on this past week.
And basically we have some original series. We have some interactive live streams. So the original. A second, we have something called Breaking Down the Hunt. And that is basically, so there was this idea was born out of out of this right here. And I don't even know if he knows this, but Andy may started a thread way back in the hunting beast days I don't know, maybe [00:09:00] like 2014 or something.
And he started this thread. I can't remember what it's. . But it was basically guys getting on there just explaining their hunt like they're breaking down their hunt. And I think out of every thread on the hunting beast, that was the most impactful for me. Like I said earlier I love learning.
I love all of those details and looking for the little nuances, and I'm sure that was in my mind, like probably subconsciously as I was dreaming up, breaking down. And I shared it with you guys and you've done an incredible job of breaking down the hunt and basically it just, The story, the background the maps and all that stuff that the access, the exit routes, all of this stuff.
It breaks it down into detail and so people can learn. People can see, hey, they did this, the, because the deer did this, or the turkeys did this, or whatever. And it just help gives people a visual. I'm a very real person, so things like that really help rather than just watching it unfold on tv. It's more of the legacy, we have one with Andy May and John Eberhart, [00:10:00] two of the greatest hunters to ever live, honestly.
And they're sitting down and they're just talking to each other. It's not it's really not like any other video you've seen because. They're, they're not trying to impress each other. They're not trying to show off anything. They're just two people that are passionate about hunting and they're conversing.
And, our plans our friend Jared was out there filming it and the plan was for it to go like an hour and a half. And I think it ended up going three hours. , like we, they even ran out of light. But Jared was like, I couldn't stop cuz it was just, it was an amazing moment in hunting. So pretty cool stuff.
We're working on something. Called field guide. I can't say too much about it, but it's basically gonna be like a mentor in your pocket. . Maybe that's how we market it, Garrett. I don't know. It's just a totally different depth of education. It's something that you're like, man, I never would've got this if I wasn't able to connect with this person this way.
So it's, it, like we said earlier, it's just closing that gap between the experts and the guys who are really hungry to. . [00:11:00] Yeah. And that doesn't even include the live interactive webinars that you briefly touched on a little bit before, but that's another thing that we've already kicked off and we've had three, three guests on so far.
Three so far. That's right. And mixture of Turkey hunting content and deer hunting content. Obviously right now is, with March, it's one of the biggest Deer Scout. Months, I feel like depending on where you're at in the country, for me, between March and April is about that time for people further south.
Maybe it's, February to March timeframe. But definitely a lot of great guys on there, like you mentioned earlier. And that's just the ability to be able to log on and ask these guys questions and have them answer real time. And depending on, how many questions there might be, maybe you can get two questions in there.
That's right. And man, it's so exciting to think you could log on and talk to Fred. Like we're not gonna be able to offer that specifically , but to be able to log on and ask. Last week was Shane Simpson. We got Steve Sherk [00:12:00] coming up next week. We have Rendell Eric coming up. We have Aaron Warbritton coming up.
We have Jared Scheffler coming up, and all these guys are totally on board with helping us out with growing this thing and getting our name out there. And really what we stand for is preserving that culture of hunting and they've been so awesome to help us out in these early days.
And it's so cool for me to sit back and watch these guys who are hungry to grow. Reach out and ask some of these guys that they look up to ask them questions and get a response, in real time. That is I think probably one of my favorite things with Hunt better is just closing that gap and given, your everyday outdoorsmen a chance to interact with somebody.
They really look up to. That's just we've gotta keep that going. It's, a little bit more low key, more focused, and some of those questions will beat off of one. And it really is that, that live experience. Yeah. And we're able to focus our conversation too, the conversational topic.
We're able to dive a little bit [00:13:00] deeper and like what you said, you can ask a follow up question. We're still growing, so now's probably the best time to jump on a live stream cuz you can really get some questions in. And we answer as many questions as we can. We don't, we usually, they probably go about an hour and 15 hour 20.
But that's specifically what they're there for. And I just know five years ago I would've jumped all over this. And so I'm just glad we have something like that, on the scene now. And we wanna get better. We want it to go beyond whitetails. We want it to go beyond turkeys. We wanna, in the future, have stuff for mule deer hunting out west hunting, elk hunting, bear hunting, all that stuff duck hunting.
And so we are our vision is big for this thing. But we're just trying to grow it, one brick at. . Yeah. And a question that I had gotten from somebody was, if they are not available for the livestream, can they still watch? And the answer is yes. Like they're all posted after the fact.
And then I think even for some of these live streams that we have upcoming, we've better to work through logistics. But if people have questions, they know they're not gonna be able to make it. They can message one of us those questions, we'll make sure that [00:14:00] it gets on the Gets on the actual live stream.
Yeah. That is something we're working on. So we're trying to take feedback as we get it. We're getting a lot of really good feedback like that, and so we want to be able to logistically work that out to be able to ask questions if somebody's not gonna be able to be there. And yes, all of our live streams are recorded and so you can go back.
We, every week we are growing our catalog at least with an hour's worth or more of content with. These really experienced, successful hunters and man, what a catalog this will be when deer season rolls around, yeah, that's exactly it. We started this thing in early, early part of the year knowing that by the time the vast majority of people are gonna be, getting back into gear for deer season, we will have built up a pretty large library there of not only the live streams where people can just, browse and listen to them at their own.
Or the conversations or the hunt breakdowns and the hunt breakdowns. If people have watched my YouTube videos and we'll see like a hunt and I'll show, videos of the maps and show little [00:15:00] icons moving. It's similar in a way, but it's more detailed. I would say that there's a lot more that goes into discussing the habitat and the terrain and some of the historical information on a lot of these hunts.
Whoever's doing the hunt breakdown might have three years of history. Particular deer. And so we work on basically getting in that history, how it correlates with the landscape and the habitat. Anything that was really specific detail wise that maybe would've, could make or break the particular scenario.
And trying to make it so that it's less so about just like watching a kill on video and more so about okay, how could I maybe replicate that or find a similar situation in the terrain that I'm. Yeah the breaking down the hunts are incredible. And, for me, I, like I said, I'm a visual person and so finding those common threads visually, that's what really helps me.
And watching the breaking down the hunts we have now, you'll notice like access is always really important. R really important. And for me, I've learned that over the last several [00:16:00] years of people, mentoring me, pouring into me, like access. And so that's something.
You're not really going to get if you're just watching for entertaining reasons. And that's to answer a lot of questions out there. That's what sets Hunt better apart, is that again, we're trying to close that gap from entertainment. Like we want it to be entertaining, but we really wanna dive deep on the educational side.
And so everything we do runs through that filter of, Hey, is this gonna be high value? Is this gonna educate more hunters towards woodsmanship? Is it gonna help. Use their tools more as tools to keep that foundation solid. Yeah, man, just lots of exciting stuff. I wish we could talk more about what we got coming, but Yeah.
Soon. Soon. Yeah. Absolutely. That kind of reminded me of, one of the questions we got on recent live stream was, regarding a particular area of the country and public land and how you couldn't use trail cameras there and how one might go. getting it done in that type of a circumstance.
And that led into a bunch of good conversation. So [00:17:00] that's just another good example there. In some of the places around my home, I'll give myself a challenge hunt, so to speak, where I might say, Hey, this year, this tag maybe it's an area that doesn't allow trail cameras. Usually if they're allowed, I tend to use 'em a little bit.
But just in terms of the actual. Strategy. There's a big marsh by me. I, this particular place, I can't use trail cameras. And I chose to just say I don't have any high expectations in this area. I can't really get inventory. There's not really good areas to glass. It's very dense cover. The only time you can really see a deer if it's is, if it's basically in bow range.
You might be able to find sheds and do a lot of post-season scouting, but then, once the season comes around, you're basically boots on the ground looking for hot sign, looking for food sources, acorns that are dropping. And that was the hunt that I decided to hunt my traditional gear too.
And I felt like in that scenario, maybe I wasn't as likely to shoot a big buck. I'm on some of my other tags in some of the other states that. I felt like I [00:18:00] was learning a lot and I was re honing and sharpening the skillset that ultimately is gonna provide a baseline for me to be better overall.
Yeah, and that's the thing. When you get excited about the struggle, when you get excited about the friction it takes to sharpen that edge, that's when you start growing as a hunter and you start becoming more and more successful. Not that being a successful. Killing big bucks. I think that's another soap box I can get on, but being successful in the sense of what makes you happy while you're out there, and for a lot of the hunting community it's chasing after those bigger animals, more mature animals, because it's a challenge, exactly to the same point. Andy's really funny because all these big bucks that he's killed, he still want, his big thing is he wants to be dangerous in any situ. . And exactly to your point, if you go to a place where, hey, you can't use trail cameras you better have a backup plan.
And that backup plan better have some experience behind it or you're really gonna struggle. And so just being well-rounded and [00:19:00] finding the I like that idea of what did you call it? A challenge hunt. That's really cool. Like several years ago, I think I said it earlier, maybe five years ago, I started realizing, man, these trail cameras are.
I think I heard Dan Nalt say do you wanna, you want a picture of him or do you wanna hang him on your wall? And I was like, oh, that, that's me, guilty. And so that year I challenged myself like, you're not gonna, I sold all my trail, every one of them. And I didn't use 'em. And I was like, I'm at least gonna take one season off.
And I took a season off and then I think it ended up I just got trail cameras. Last year, last season, or no, maybe two seasons ago. So I ended up taking three years off from cell cameras and it, I really didn't even miss 'em because I fell in love with this whole idea of, okay, if I didn't have that, what would I do?
And then I get excited about, oh, okay, I guess I need to go do that. I better learn how to do that better. And a lot of that stuff is just boots on the ground and reacting to hot sign as I came across it. So Mia, that the friction that causes an edge is really it. It's almost addicting. [00:20:00] Yeah.
Yeah. When you pull off a hunt like that where you feel like you scouted your way in, you found the hot sign, you did a decision making process, picked the right tree, and then it all came together and you were able to fill a tag that way. It's it's pretty remarkable when it all, comes together and it's a really good feeling.
Yeah. Even if it happens one time, a. The knowledge you gained, the the skills that you develop through that, grinding it out, and then capitalizing it really, even if you don't capitalize how you've developed yourself that's what makes you more dangerous in the woods. And that is what starts setting you apart from people who aren't getting it done consistently.
So yeah, I completely agree. Yeah, and I feel like the people I learned the most from. The ones that most, I would say mostly embody that same mentality. They get excited about the same type of stuff that I get excited about. They're out there scouting all the time in the off season. [00:21:00] They I feel like I can bounce ideas off of them at any point in time and get a good response.
Maybe something that is thinking about a particular scenario in a little bit different light than I would've thought about it just because they have a different, hunting life experience and. That's the core mentality of a lot of the guys that we're getting on the platform. Yeah.
And that common thread I talked about earlier common thread among guys who are consistently successful, one of those common threads is that they enjoy scouting just as much, and the kill is almost just, man that just ends the cycle and then it starts. It doesn't all revolve around the kill.
A lot of it, the majority of it, I would say, revolves around scouting and it's in the word hunting them down and that's where you learn, that's where you grow by going out there and grinding it out and failing. Some of my most memorable hunts are when I didn't drag anything out of the woods.
I [00:22:00] just learned, I had one of those I had a tough season this past season, but it was one of the most exciting experiences I've ever had in hunting. And I learned a whole lot. Again, Dan Alt said a lot of this. He said a lot of these things very similar to this, but one thing he said was when you can walk away each season, whether it's your stand making noise or maybe your saddle setup is not what you want, if you can walk away going, okay, this is what I'm gonna fix and this is how I'm gonna be better when I go back out there, next time I'm gonna be a 1% deadlier.
Next time I go out, that's when you start notice. , by the end of the season, man, I might even capitalize on a buck or maybe I might tag out on these turkeys because I've put in the work I've worked to get 1% better in the off season. For us there is no off season. Now it's March here in South Carolina, so I think it was like 82 degrees today as I was laughing about what you said earlier about, still scouting season, like it's becoming like brutal here now , but yeah, just putting in. To get better. And not being so focused on the kill, but being focused on the process.[00:23:00] It's about the chase, it's about the pursuit. And it sounds cliche, but for me, as I've started getting older and you look back, you're like, man, that really is what it is, and back to what my dad said, if he took everything away, could I still get it done? And when I say that to myself now, it's a challenge. Yeah, could I get it done? And that's what drives. And in South Carolina where you live, my only memories from being in that area of the country are hunting around the Fort Stewart area that we've gone to for some of the Santa Palooza events.
And it just seems like that area, and I'm just generalizing the whole, that whole region of the country, but it seems like it'd be very hard to consistently be able to have success in that type of an environment. And I'm wondering like where you're at in South Carolina, is it just that really big, thick timber maybe lower deer density, lots of hogs. And you really gotta put in a lot of boot miles and you can't necessarily, glass and not a whole lot of agriculture around us. It that type of an environment. Yeah. You [00:24:00] described it pretty well. Many a days I've been fooled by a, an old hog track in the mud.
It's kinda like an old southern hunting joke is don't be fooled by the hog tracks. But you be, you could be chasing the wrong animal for a long time. So learn your hog tracks, learn your deer tracks if you're in the south. Lots of hogs, lots of lots of thick man. There's bedding everywhere and that's what makes it difficult.
I think about a buck I killed two seasons. And I got a picture of him. This is actually the first year I started using trail cameras again. And I got a picture of him, I think in August, July or August, and I killed him on October 30th. But that was when I got a picture of him.
He was at a primary scrape area in the middle of a, I think it was 553 acres of thick. . And so when I got a picture of him, I remember talking to my buddy Justin Wright and saying like, how in the world am I supposed to hunt this thing down? I'm like, it's 553 acres. What have I got myself into?
But he was big enough to run after and I talked through it with several of my buddies and ended up on the third hunt, I [00:25:00] killed him. And around here, I think, I mean it is in a sense Big woods. Greg Miller in one of his books says for definition's sake let's consider 350 acres of monotonous timber as big woods.
And that's really what it is around here. You'll have, a few thousand acre tracks. You'd ha you'll have a few hundred acre tracks, you'll have some 40 and 50 and 60 acre tracks. But for the most part, it's just big monotonous bedding everywhere. Timber, and it makes it really difficult. And you do have these low density numbers.
They're. I shouldn't say always, but they are most often very pocketed. And so it takes a ton of boot leather to cover that ground, to not be scared of being aggressive and not be scared of bumping deer, but you have to find them or you're gonna spend all season hunting where they're not. And late season gets really difficult.
I was talking to our wildlife biologist several years ago and he was, we were talking about rut stuff and he was sending data to.[00:26:00] I doubt there's a lot of people reaching out saying, Hey, could you send me some data on Whitetails ? And so he probably like really excited him. But he sent it, he sent me some stuff and we went back and forth for a while.
But he was saying, man, December, cuz I asked him about late season deer hunting. I was like, any tips on, December-ish hunting in South Carolina? Cuz I really struggle. I struggle late season. And our white tail biologist man said he basically considers deer season. On Nov December 1st, and we're, we go for another month.
But like when the whitetail biologists tell you that, it's man, yeah, it's supposed to be hard. And during that late season, it's all about finding the food and they are very pocketed. And so if you're lucky to, maybe stumble on some red oaks that are, haven't been eaten up I can think of a handful of times I've done that.
You can find that feed tree late season, but that's very rare, at least for. . But early season around here is my favorite time because at least central South Carolina, we have a sli, a sliver to the [00:27:00] northwest, and then a sliver on the coast that are like I think on the coast. They rut in September actually.
And then on the northwest sliver it's more mountainous Hillary terrain. That's more of like normal rut, like no, first week in November-ish, but where I am in a large part of south. The peak of the rut is October 31st, so October 10th to maybe the 25th is really prime time. And around here you don't see a lot of daytime rut activity, even at the peak of the rut because it's too hot.
It's I remember one December it being 75 degrees, like having my ther cell in a. like late December that, that's hunting South Carolina man, and I don't think a lot of people understand it cuz you know, a lot of the commercial stuff for hunting is more that Midwest and it's cool.
But what I think myself included, southern hunters can struggle because they're trying to hunt in relation to Midwest tactics and timing [00:28:00] and you just can't do that. Around here hunting over a primary. First part of October is a dynamite strategy. And my primary scrape being that one that's near bedding that you're getting daylight pictures on if you're using trail cameras.
But one that is, when you find this scrape along thick cover that you're scared to make too much noise cause you may bump 'em out. Maybe that's the one you need to be focused on. Scrapes get a bad rap around the South man because there's so many throughout the woods. Andy and Andy May and I have talked about this, that, there's 2% of scrapes out there.
Really worth considering hunting over, but don't ignore the other ones. But rub lines around here are really key to tracking 'em down because it's so monotonous. It's so big. And I even struggle with this too, when you can have a plan all day long, Kelly. I think what Mike Tyson said, you, everybody has a plan until you get hit in the mouth.
And it's kinda like that with Big Woods, man, you can have a plan and then you step outta your truck or you walk onto the little tractor you're on and it could swallow you up [00:29:00] so fast. I'm sure the guys up north, like in Maine and stuff realize that probably on a totally different scale, but even here you have to be confident in your plan and you can't be you, I think you need to follow your gut sometimes.
And, but there's a time where you just need to stick to the. And around here, I've killed big Deer when there's no sign anywhere, but it's the, maybe I'm hunting the only funnel that connects this large parcel to that large parcel. And maybe they don't want to go through this 12 year old clear cut, but they wanna go through this little 25 yard wide sliver of timber.
But there's not a, there's not sign anywhere, but maybe there's a beat down. So you just have to adapt. It's a totally different way. If you're trying to hunt, like you would in Illinois farm country in the south it's probably not gonna go well . So you have to adapt. It's interesting.
Yeah, it is interesting. I was in Alabama back in January and one of the days I was down there, I went onto some public land and just wanted to cover some ground. [00:30:00] And did all the typical, loop style that I would do in that type of terrain. It was pretty hilly but not incredibly steep.
And I just took one of those big ridge systems and just made a loop around all of the, the military crossed area, just covering ground and saw very little sign for most of the day. And then finally got back into this one pocket where I was like, okay, now, like you got a little bit more diversity there.
There's a little bit of. A creek running through that was nearby, it was near private. That had a big clear cut that was growing up pines. And in, even in the timber, it was on a ridge where it was like, I don't know, maybe 50% denser than a lot of the surrounding woods. And so you had all that kind of going on, and even though you'd look at the map and you're like there's not much here.
Like you could look at the, the corner and the pine thick and the creek and be like there's more diversity there. And there was, but just looking around. At eye level. It wasn't obvious until you got there and then it was like, oh, now that there's sign all over the [00:31:00] place. I think I counted 17 scrapes that I marked in a circle that I drew after the fact that it ended up being like 10 acres.
And I think I found five other scrapes in the entire five, six mile loop that I made the rest of the day. It was like the sign was there, ended up seeing a deer there and it was like, just, I feel like I wouldn't have known to even get into that. Had I not hunted some of the northern Wisconsin bigger woods type of habitat, which had similarities, at least in terms of how it hunted, even though it looks quite different from one landscape to the other.
Yeah. And that's that those pocketed deer I was talking about earlier there. And once you find them, and so I think an important thing to consider, I'm not. Big buck killer, five big bucks a year. That's not me. But I have connected several times, and for me what's been important is realizing what sign to not ignore, but to not consider hunting over.
People find the, they'll find the first bit of sign [00:32:00] when they're scouting and they'll set up right there. And when you're talking about Big Woods you just can't do that. Like you, you might connect every now and. But you've got to find that sign that makes you go, oh my gosh, this is what everybody's been talking about.
This right here is it. And you'll just know, and I think maybe we talked about this on a live stream a while back, it might have been you and me. But just find, not settling for anything else and putting the miles on, not being scared to walk and cover ground. Cuz when you find that pocket of sign you're gonna find.
This rub line that turns into a rub cluster and it's just gonna be gnarly and there's gonna be shavings all over the ground. It's gonna be, the trees are gonna be bleeding a little bit and you're gonna have in incredibly fresh scrapes, and it's just gonna be a no-brainer. And once you tell yourself, like I said earlier, sticking to the plan of, I'm not, especially if it's during season, I'm not settling for anything less than that.
I think it's Warren Wilk who said there are days where he would walk for four hours. in the evening and not find anything and then just [00:33:00] head on home, but scout until dark. Cuz he doesn't wanna just sit and hope that it happens. Use that extra hour to cover more ground.
And I think when you start coming across things like that, you start getting excited to find another one like it, because that's when you know, man, this is gonna be a high odd sit. Is it gonna happen every time? You're in the game and you're learning so much, and when it comes to big woods, you can't overemphasize scouting.
You can't over emphasize putting miles on your boots and putting the work in. Yeah. I've talked in a Fairmont with a guy named Brian Debrowski in Wisconsin, and I would consider him somewhat of a big Woods expert, and he'll go outta state. He'll, just like his entire hunt strategy all involves around like the week that he's there.
Like he doesn't make trips to go scout it in the off season and learn the land. He's not running trail cameras. He just gets out there and he puts on a lot of miles when he is out there. And over the years, like every time he is out there, you learn something a little bit new [00:34:00] and he's always getting fresh intel and that strategy over time.
Now he not only is able to see what's fresh and what's not fresh, but he also has a really good calibration. This is really good sign for this area and this maybe looks good compared to what I would expect to see at home, but I know that, out here it's only I gotta keep going to find something that's really good and that's a really unique way of scouting in season and hunting that I've gleaned from him and try to do on similar hunts.
Yeah. I think a really good question when you're scouting the big woods is to, when you get out of your truck, when you start walking in, I'm gonna categorize things as daytime sign and nighttime sign, whatever. Anything I find I'm not gonna allow myself to get overly excited about something, even if it's this incredibly huge rub or, this car hood scrape.
Where's it at? Where's it at? And I have to tell myself before I leave, before I mark it on my mapping. Is this daytime sign or is this nighttime? And that's [00:35:00] gonna save you so much heartache, , it's gonna save you so many pins too, probably, maybe mark those pins. But you're putting the puzzle together, I think a really good thing is, and we, you and I definitely talked about this before, is marking all these things and then going back, looking at all this thing, all these pins zooming out and then trying to write the story.
What is the story here? What are these things telling me? Like maybe 90%. Doesn't really matter. It's part of the story, but this is the fi, the five or 10% that really matters that I focus on because when it comes to the big woods, if you're not breaking that thing down because there's actually more unproductive land than there is productive land.
And you've got to go in there with that mindset. Because when you do put the miles on, when you do start going, Hey, is this daytime sign or nighttime. What you're doing is just chiseling away these things that, that aren't gonna help you get closer to killing a big buck. And so you're getting rid of that, Hey, nighttime sign, I'm gonna, I'm gonna remember it.
But I'm gonna let that help me get closer to where the [00:36:00] daytime sign is. And then when you find that pocket, again, it's gonna be this, these light bulbs are gonna go off and you're gonna be like, oh my goodness, that is what everybody's been talking about. And then you have that in your back pocket for when you go find something else.
So yeah, big Woods is all about finding that. , but you've gotta work for it. You've gotta work for it. Yeah. And even though I've started to hunt that type of habitat more and more, I still find, like I, I still feel like I learn a whole lot from guys who are able to connect on ultra small parcels. Right?
Like I just edited a hunt breakdown for Andy, where he didn't have much land to work with, and this deer was evading pressure on all sides. As heavily hunted as any deer, probably a lot more heavily hunted, I would say, on a per acreage basis than a lot of the public that I deal with. And he was able to, over a three year time span, figure out exactly the details needed to be able to put an arrow in that buck.
And man, there's a lot to learn from that story and [00:37:00] that strategy on, su such a small piece. And you can only work with what you can work. Yeah, Andy's also just a freak show . So yeah, that, that is an incredible hunt breakdown. I think about things that relate to southern hunting. There needs to be more stuff out there.
I think the Southern outdoorsmen are doing some really cool stuff. I'm really thankful for them. They're doing a good thing for the hunting community at large. But, given the. Given all of the content that's Midwest focused, like points I know, a big thing for you and guys in Wisconsin, areas like that are points going into swamps or marshes, timber points going into marshes.
And so for here we do have swamps, but they're a little bit different and they have a little, a few different critters rolling around in them, , so they're not as easy to access. It's so funny cuz you can pull up some swamps around here and marsh. In South Carolina, man, you can just see trails like crazy.
Oh my goodness, all I need to [00:38:00] do is sit right there. Like I could go in there from a cyber scout and I think I can arrow one but I'm not going to cuz I may be eaten by a gator. And so you just, things are different here. But all that said, what I love doing is going, okay, how do I take that inform.
of, if I'm in Wisconsin and there's this timber point going into a a cattail marsh, how does that relate to what I'm doing? Because, deer are probably gonna behave the same way ish, not at all the time but maybe most of the time. So around here, one thing I've The points I've connected are when you have an smz, Warren Wilks big on SM Zs, those streamside management zones.
And when I started focusing on those, you find this clear cut that, it's 500 something acres of bedding, but then you find these little streamside management zones, these SM Zs, these little creeks that run through where they're not able to cut the hardwoods from, I don't know, I don't know if there's like a set yardage amount, but it's usually.
15 or 20 yards or so on either side of the creek, man, these are travel funnels and a lot of [00:39:00] times the only oaks that are standing are on those SM Zs. And then a lot of times you'll have those SM Zs that turn into points and it just all of a sudden peter's out and it's the head of this ditch.
So now you have several things coming together that you've maybe heard about in the Midwest or up north of, tops of ditches. That creates a funnel. Then you have this. This terrain feature of a point, or I guess maybe habitat feature of a point, and you have this kind of condensed travel.
You have food that's gonna be, hey, if there's an oak tree right at the tip of that. Smz if there's a white oak producing right there bedding is right there. There's a natural terrain funnel. There's a natural habitat funnel. There's a food source right there. Maybe you got some sign late down there.
Maybe there's a rub cluster where he's staging up just inside. That's a thing for a southern hunter to focus on. It's to say, okay, I'm watching all this stuff. The majority of it's Midwest, the majority of it's northern type stuff. The timelines might be different. I think you said earlier, Alabama.
I think they rut in [00:40:00] January, which blows my man. That's even crazy for me. And so you just have to, you have to keep things in context. Wherever you are in the country, make sure that you're not following all of the advice and all the timelines from somebody that lives, 800 miles away. Talk to local guys and that's where I think you would agree with that, Garrett too, like finding these local guys.
What you said earlier is really cool because you. kinda what Hunt better is based on you start learning these little nuanced things, you're like, wow, I never would've thought of that. Like I've never looked at it that way. Especially when it comes to Southern hunting, cuz you don't see a lot of this these tips out there, right?
There's not a lot of hands-on video-based content and there's good podcasts like you mentioned. I'm more a visual guy myself. I either need to. Or I need to do it. And if I'm just listening to it, I usually gotta listen to it about three or four times before it sinks in. And I got about five follow-up questions.
Right, totally. Hey so what are some of the what are some of the let's say like universal? What are some terrain [00:41:00] features that travel, like saddles? Sure, sure. Points I'd say. Points seem to be pretty universal in, in terms of, maybe they'll get hunting pressure and that's something you're just gonna have to walk out for, watch out for.
But ridge systems where you have some kind of terrain and it doesn't have to be tall terrain. It could be 400 foot bluffs along the Mississippi. Or it could be, a hundred foot elevation gain. That's really gradual. I've seen deer relate to those points in either scenario and they could bet off of.
They could just use them for travel. Depends on, a lot of the context, but especially if you have a cluster of points in a, proximity and you have food and the cover on it is decent, like deer, from what I've seen, are gonna relate to that no matter what, like where you're at the country.
Saddles would be a steeper saddle, I would say is probably one that's universal with exception of [00:42:00] pressure. They usually be the, or like one of the first. Terrain features are too, that guys will focus on. And so that might negate some of how often they're used in daylight. But I tend to find also that, saddles, if they're not steep enough and extreme enough where deer don't feel like they have to use them, they might not use them as much.
I can think of one saddle that I remember scouting where I. Yep. This thing is getting hammered. It was really steep. Yet to go around that saddle, you would've had to cover another a hundred foot of elevation gain in a really short amount of time. And it was just pounded. It was in an area where we also had some elk, and so the elk were using that as well.
And it was one of the most heavy trails I remember seeing, but I found one of those in my life. And I've a hundred places in Missouri where you got two, 300 foot. But not ultra steep and see deer walk just right up over the very tip, top of the point and just bypass the saddle entirely. I feel like anytime you [00:43:00] get some type of water system, whether it's a creek river, like that, seems to travel pretty well and deer might use them slightly differently, but if you find that edge same thing with just vegetation edges.
I feel like that travels super no matter what state I'm hunting. If you're on the edge of a thick to thin transit, Regardless of what type of habitat that is. Is it pines, is it aspen trees? Is it a, a beach thicket? If you're walking those vegetative edges, you're gonna find deer sign if there's deer in the area.
Yeah, and I think another thing, I agree with all that. I think another thing is the vantage point when you're talking about mature box whatever it looks like in Wisconsin, whatever it looks like in. , whatever it looks like in South Carolina or Alabama or Illinois, wherever they're gonna have a vantage point, the best vantage point.
That's where they're gonna be. I'm not gonna look different in so many different scenarios. But you, I think that's where it comes back to woodsmanship of just stopping sometimes, maybe having these [00:44:00] references on your map that you want to check out for scouting, that should just expedite the scouting process rather.
Laying so much boot leather on unproductive land having these hotspots to go to, to verify before you tear the whole property apart. But the idea that this mature buck is gonna find the spot that gives him the most protection, that gives him the best alarm system. That's what I've seen.
And South Carolina can have a lot of diversity. I've hunted in Tennessee. And that is always the case. Whether it's thick cover behind them, whether it's, utilizing road systems. I've told guys before I, I've parked the truck before on off season scouting is, it's, is one of the most recent ones I can remember.
It was off season or maybe right before the season, and I'm going out and covering this new track of land and so I parked my truck right at the little. I go walking in, dude, I'm still stuffing things into my pocket. Like I'm still like, I just like my truck. I'm putting my keys in my pocket. I'm walking.
And I, as I'm putting my phone in my pocket, I [00:45:00] cut this track, walking across the dirt road and to my left was just an amazingly thick section. Just almost so thick. We were like, nothing's going through there. And I cut this track and I stopped and I backed up and I was like, man, that's a fairly big track and it's fairly fresh.
And I looked over it and I could see where it walked through the thick of the grass and then it just got in just really thick. But it was more around here. It's a lot of briars, but this was actually more of grassy type stuff. So I think that's why I was able to get through it. You just had to push through it all.
And I backed. and I took a step, I took a step or two off of the trail and a deer jumped up and took off probably 12 yards from me. And I was like, oh, scared the crap outta me. And and I walked over there and I saw it's bed perfectly matted down. I sat down in the bed and obviously have a buck bed, and I could see when I sat down in the bed, I could see the top of my.
And [00:46:00] that is when it all clicked for me. Oh my goodness, this thing is betting right here. Because nobody's even thinking about messing with him at this point in the walk. , they've just gotten outta their truck. Why would you not be here? Because everybody's walking back there.
And so that, that was a lesson for me of do not overlook those spots close to the road that offer cover, don't just hunt close to the road just because you heard somebody say it, look at it and go, Hey, is this gonna offer him a vantage? and when I sat in his bed, he could see the top of my truck.
Obviously. He could hear me and he, here's the coolest thing about that. I'm probably going down a rabbit trail here, but I'd get excited about it, is he was gonna let me walk by him. That's the craziest thing about that is he was totally fine with me being one more yard away from where I was, where I made him nervous and then when I stopped and I backed up and I took dude, maybe two.
off of where I was supposed to be. He bolted. And that right there, back to what we were saying earlier, taught me more than any [00:47:00] thread I've ever read. Like seeing it. Maybe I did read that, maybe I've heard it hundreds of times, but witnessing it that one time was I learned, oh my gosh, I cannot overlook these spots, because he was gonna sit right there and I never would've known it.
Yeah. Experience really is the best teacher because it just, like you said, it sticks with you. You get that mental image just. Into your mind forever. Especially if it's like a, big rack bounding away or something like that. I can still remember flashbacks to even like Colorado jumping some deer that make some of the whitetails around here look pretty small, just cuz the frame size is enormous on some of those bucks.
But yeah, it's like you can read it a million times, you can listen to it, you can even watch your videos on it. But once you see it yourself, then it clicks a lot of times. That's right. Yeah. And it doesn't leave you, you start remembering that, it's not like you. a lot of things. You, at least for me, the stuff you read, the stuff you watch, and maybe this is just my mind, but I have to, almost work to remind myself of those things as I'm going in.
But when you ha when you experience something like that, or like we were talking about [00:48:00] earlier, when you experience walking up on this pocket of sign and you're like, oh my gosh, this is it. This is it right here. You don't forget it. And then it's, for me at least, my mind just goes into overdrive of, okay, like, where's this area?
Oh, it. It's at the head of this isolated point. Okay, so remember isolated points military crests are key around here. That's one thing. Going back to what we were saying earlier that travels is points whether you, even if you're enrolling hills, you may find those those isolated ridges that have a little bit steeper of a of crests and or, ridges.
And you can walk those crests and you're gonna find a. You're gonna find a lot of times that those rub lines along those things are gonna be bedding. In the south you, our deer are a lot smaller. And so you might have a hard time finding actual beds, but it's what, Dan's gonna, Dan in Vault's gonna hunt those, specific beds and you can have success here.
Doing that, I've done that. But you can also, take the John Eberhart approach and hunt the bedding area. I don't think either one is wrong. Obviously [00:49:00] they're doing fine. But yeah, I, it, in the south it comes down to, and I guess really anywhere. And Andy Mays really he says this all the time, is focus on the situation.
Everything is situational, so don't just take everything you've learned. Just run into a hunt trying to utilize all these things. That's something we can get carried away with too. It's just this information overload when it's I really liked what you said earlier, that challenge season.
What am I gonna challenge myself with? How am I gonna handicap myself? I think if Fred Bear said something like there's more fun in hunting with the handicap of a bow than there is the sureness of a gun. And I think that can relate to tech stuff these days. I think it can relate to a lot of tools and just keep that mindset.
Hey how am I gonna sharpen that edge going into this one? What am I, how am I gonna live it myself? How am I gonna, use my mind? How am I gonna, kinda what our tagline is at hunt veterans? How am I gonna hunt harder? How am I gonna hunt smarter to be more successful? Yeah, absolutely. I feel like that was a good summary of how we feel about that platform [00:50:00] overall.
I guess as we tie this thing up, any. , any additional plans that you got for this season? Are you gonna be hunting just in south Carolina, or are you gonna be going some other places as well? I may travel this year. I got two small kids and it's getting harder to do things like that.
It's getting harder to hunt just in my home state to be honest with you. And it's learning how to, I remember Joe Elinger talking about that and I'm definitely in that season now, so I. I gotta be careful with balancing all those things. But I, I hope all that said, I hope to hunt outta state this year.
We got Turkey season start. April 1st on public land and April 1st happens to be a Saturday, so that's gonna be fun. Maybe take that following Monday off to get some some space in the woods to run around, but , that'll be fun. Hoping to tag out this year. I love taking other people Turkey hunting.
So hopefully I can do that this year. And then, yeah when Turkey season's over, get a little bit of fishing. And then start getting ready for for deer season [00:51:00] that'll start, prep for that will probably start around June or something like that. But I say start that, that's, that goes every day of the year.
But I'll really start dialing things in June and, maybe get some cameras out, maybe not use cameras this year but going in and start trying to find that sign of, around here cuz rubs are gonna start being laid. Pretty early, like maybe mid-August up through maybe the first week of September, something like that.
You can get on some of them pretty early. Oh, sorry, not rubs. Scrapes gonna be laid down that kind of mid-August through September. You're gonna start seeing some rubs start coming down when the velvet starts coming off and it's gonna be that's gonna be your best chance to get on something. So I put a lot of time in the woods that first part of the season and trying to capitalize.
Yep. It's gonna be a good time. We got a lot of cool stuff coming. You. and we need your support. We can't do it without you. And our whole goal is to preserve the culture of hunting and enjoy the tech stuff, enjoy the tools. They're awesome. And there's so many great companies out there that we are great friends with [00:52:00] and we're becoming great friends with a lot more of them.
But there's also this aspect. We want to be that light that says, Hey, let's not forget about Woodsmanship. Let's keep that at the core of everything we do, man, that makes using tools, all kinds of gear more fun and easier. But then we also want to protect the future of funding. And so that comes down to e exactly what it is with preserving the culture of funding.
But we wanna protect the future by educating these younger guys that are getting into it, these younger girls that are getting into it. We wanna do that. Giving our profits away, giving your hard earned money that you're trusting us with, and putting that back into these organizations who are doing really great work, like N wtf.
What they're doing is, it's just unbelievable. They're doing such great work. Back hunters and anglers rocking Mountain Elk Foundation, just several others that we're super happy to support. And we said this on a live stream the other day. It's not us. It. And so we want to provide that on-ramp for you to get more involved and to stay up to date with all that stuff.
So preserving the culture of hunting and [00:53:00] protecting the future, that's why we exist. Mike, I really appreciate you taking the time outta your night to come on the podcast and talk. Dude, thanks for having me. This has been awesome man. If people want to check out a little bit more about Hunt Better, the website is Hunt Better US and on social media it is.
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