Today we’ve got a reader success story from Lance Murray, a follower of Wired To Hunt who was able to implement tactics learned from our past podcast episodes to improve his West Virginia hunting property and harvest a great buck. Please join me in giving Lance a big congrats! – MK

By Lance Murray

Four years ago I was able to fulfill my lifelong dream of buying a 165 acre farm in my home state of West Virginia. As has been mentioned in many Wired To Hunt podcasts and articles in the past, we are lumped in with many of the states like Michigan, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia etc – featuring very high hunting pressure and reduced age classes of bucks. The year before I bought my farm I started a journey to learn as much as I could about land and whitetail management. Fortunately I was able to lean on a long time friend that is a wildlife biologist and couple that with all the information and links on Wired To Hunt which directed me to amazing sites like QDMA, Whitetail Habitat Solutions, Growing Deer TV and North Country Whitetails. This inspired me to prove all the people wrong that said I couldn’t manage for 3.5 year old deer on only 165 acres in West Virginia. A wildlife biologist friend of mine had proven that it could be done on his 92 acre WV farm and showed me the results from his early years and contrasted that against where his farm was 5 years later.

Getting Started

So, I started by running a preliminary trail camera survey the first fall I owned my farm under my friend’s guidance which revealed a skewed buck to doe ratio of about 4:1 and also revealed the 6 bucks I had pictures of were all yearlings. I put an immediate moratorium on buck harvest for two years and focused on reducing doe numbers and habitat improvement. Fortunately I was able to ease the pain of not hunting bucks on my farm by being fortunate enough to hunt public land in Ohio and making two trips out to Colorado to hunt mule deer, elk and antelope successfully.

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The first year I hinge cut 2 – 5 acre areas, planted 6 acres of food plots, created a tree plot featuring 25 fruit and 25 mast producing trees, established mineral and supplemental feed stations and noted deer movement from treestand and camera observations. The second year included stand relocation, expansion of food plots and additional tree plantings. This second year I noticed a nice young 6 point buck that began showing up on my trail cameras and he was traveling with a nice 2.5 year old 8pt. The first year I watched them from the stand on multiple occasions and noted their bedding and travel areas. The second year I watched these two deer Tall Tines had turned into a great 2.5 year old 8pt with, of course, what I consider in WV to have tall tines. He was passed two times that year from the stand and unfortunately his counterpart that had turned into a beautiful 3.5 year old 9 point was killed by a neighbor in early season.

Analyzing Tall Tines in 2015

This year around February I started to dedicate a lot of time confirming the bedding area and travel routes of Tall Tines who was going to be on the top of my hit list this year. I looked long and hard for his sheds but came up empty. This is where all of the Wired To Hunt podcasts and expert guests really came into play along with my use of Huntsoft. I listened to guests like Dan Infalt talk about locating bedding areas, Don Higgins talk about travel routes and wind direction and stand placement, Terry Drury talk about pressure, temperature and moon position along with countless other guests’ valuable insights. I’m a project manager for the gas and oil industry by trade so I’m very familiar with looking at trends and statistics to try and determine future predictions so these were all ideas I could easily comprehend. After listening to Terry Drury’s and Don Higgins podcast episodes I started to go back and look at the three years of trail camera pictures and stand sightings then comparing them to the wind direction, pressure, temperature, moon phase and position trying to find a pattern that I could capitalize on.

I noticed I had a higher statistical chance for him to show up at a mock scrape I’ve been running for three years near a stand site between bedding and the food plot/feeder station he liked to frequent when the following things took place;

1) Northerly wind – this would cause him to bed on the leeward side of the ridge closer to the mock scrape and my stand which put him where I needed during daylight.

2) Weather Change – He would typically get up about 30 minutes early if the daytime high temperature would drop more than 5% or before and after a cold front.

3) Moon position – if the moon was either rising, setting, overhead or underfoot within the first or last hour of daylight I would have consistent daylight pictures in the corresponding morning or evening times.

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On October 1st, even though due to work I couldn’t hunt, I sent a text to a friend and told him that if my predictions hold true I should get a picture of Tall Tines at the mock scrape during daylight with the north wind and moon being underfoot at 4:33pm. Sure enough I got the attached picture at 4:54pm and you can see my empty stand in the background!

The Final Hunt

The next time I noticed things would be right again was on October 10th when we had a north wind, cold front and the moon was setting at 5:43 pm. With anticipation through the roof and never feeling more confident about getting to see him during daylight I got to my stand early and was set up by noon. For the next few hours I couldn’t help but reflect on the countless hours of of work I had put in, the many books I had read, the hours of listening to podcasts, researching, studying, practicing with my bow, $1,000’s of dollars of lime, fertilizer, seed, gear, trail cameras, stands and everything else I had dedicated to these magnificent and worthy animals.

It was a beautiful afternoon and I was able to watch a couple does and 3 gobblers feed on acorns about 40 yards away for a couple hours. At 5:45 I heard some leaves crunching behind me about 50 yards from where I suspected Tall Tines to be bedding with the north wind and 50 yards from my stand. I was already standing and ready facing in his direction and as he stopped on the crest of the ridge in the middle of an old logging trail. He looked as amazing as I had imagined with the fall colors in the background contrasted against his white tines. As he eased down the trail cautiously as all mature bucks do, I came to full draw and touched off a shot as he stuck his nose in the air to work the scrape at 6:00pm. I watched the arrow disappear in the crease behind his shoulder and watched him run over the hill.

After the shot I was overcome with emotion from all the history with this deer, my new farm, the gratitude for my wife allowing me to do this and the feeling of harvesting the first buck after setting out 5 years earlier to provide this type of opportunity.  Once I gathered myself for 20 minutes and calling my wife who has let me live this crazy whitetail lifestyle while caring for our 2 year old son, I climbed down and inspected the arrow. Knowing that I had placed a good shot and hearing him crash, I eased over the ridge so I could get a better look and Tall Tines was lying in the middle of the logging trail 50 yards away.

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It was an amazing feeling laying hands on him for the first time. Through my journey over the last 5 years I switched my mindset from trying to prove people wrong to trying to share the knowledge that has been freely given to me and the results I’m experiencing. I definitely don’t have this hunting for mature bucks thing figured out but I plan to continue to learn and try methods that have made others successful.

– Lance Murray