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fm1798

“Mount your own antlers!”

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How to Make a European-Style Antler Skull Mount The stars aligned this fall! We put our trial cameras out around June 1st. We left them for two months before checking. We went out earlier in the day and switched-out the USB cards. We returned to the cabin with all eyes glued to the television, as if it where Superbowl Sunday! The sound of holing and hooting soon echoed from our screened-in excitement, as the pictures begin to show what was leaving tracks in our woods! A nice 8-pointer! Not necessarily big enough to head and shoulder mount, but a nice antler mount.

From that day forward, we worked our food plots and spread DEER CAIN, hoping that this dandy-of-a buck wood stick around for fall hunting season.

Sure enough! A half-hour after sunrise this same buck walks within 30 feet of my stand. All are hard work paid off! The hunt doesn’t start on opening day. It starts many months before you hear that first shot!

I called around to see how much it would cost to mount the skull and antlers. Many taxidermist charge around $125 to $150. After researching the web and watching several YouTube videos, I felt comfortable I could tackle this myself.

fm1799Below are my instructions to easily mount the deer head and celebrate the fall harvest with an European-Style Antlers with Skull Mount:

What you will need:

  • Large Pot
  • Powdered Borax
  • Dawn Liquid Dish Washing Soap
  • High-Pressure Washer (Borrow one if you have too!)
  • Board to mount skull (I bought mine from McKenzie Taxidermy Supply)
  • Drywall Anchor to hold the skull to the mounting plate

Instructions:

  1. Remove hide, eyes, nose from skull
  2. Fill and heat a large pot of water (This is very stinky and I recommend doing the cooking outside)
  3. Add a small amount of dish washing detergent and 1-cup of Borax
  4. Bring the water to a very slow rolling boil (Important, otherwise you may lose bone and cartilage)
  5. Do NOT let the antlers rest below the water line. They will become white like the skull if you do! The base of my antlers got a little white, which may happen to you. I used brown shoe polish to hide the discoloration
  6. Slow-boil for 1-hour and dump the water. This first batch of water will be greasy from the meat and brain cooking off the bone
  7. See what you can pull off
  8. Continue to fill the pot and bring to slow boil (adding 1-cup borax and a small amount of liquid detergent)
  9. Soon, the meat will begin to fall of the bone. Use a knife to cut and remove as much as you can
  10. I went through the ear canal with a piece of electrical wire to help breakup the brain
  11. Now comes the fun part! Use a high-pressure washer to remove most of the brain matter and meat tissue. Try not to spray in one spot or to close because nose and teeth bone are delicate
  12. Continue to spray with the pressure washer and/or cook until all meat is removed

fml800It took me a total of 4-hours to complete. You may lose part of the nose cavity. The bones of the nose are very delicate. Simply, glue them on once everything dries.

The next day, I wrapped the antlers with blue painters tape and sprayed the skull with Matte Acrylic Clear Spray to preserve and protect.

I drilled a hole underneath the skull and recessed the head of a Drywall Anchor Bolt through the back of a Walnut Mounting Board. The skull provides easy access where the spine meets the head. Use a Drywall Anchor that expands and tighten against the mounting board.

That’s it!

Fat Man’s Landing, MN

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“Ten-Point Buck Antler Shed.”

While searching for Morel mushrooms, I found this antler shed from a ten-point buck. I don’t know who was more surprised, while walking only a few more steps, I could see a large deer running with a doe. Could this be the buck that lost this antler? As I continued my search for Morels, I spotted turkeys, coyotes, owls and Wood Ducks.

Fat Man’s Landing, MN

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Finding Deer Antlers in Minnesota Woods

Some call it luck…I call Fate. This fall, my buddy Brian and I walked the trails hunting for grouse only to find this ivory memento of a large eight-point buck.

Congratulations! What A great find!

Fat Man’s Landing, MN

 

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A Star-of-a-buck in Starbuck, Minnesota.

Whether it’s “First blood gets the deer” or “The person who makes the killing shot?” In either case, it’s not an easy answer.

My friend hunts private property near Starbuck, MN. He usually hunts a fence line dividing two fields. On this day, the neighbors were hunting close by, so he decided to hunt the adjacent woods. From his stand he heard a shot and watched as the neighbors drag a doe to their vehicle. While watching the hunters, a massive buck moving slowly, through tall switchgrass, caught his eye! The deer was between my friend and the other hunters. As the deer moved passed the other hunters, a safe shot presented itself. He took the shot and the deer dropped! You can imagine how excited he was! He yelled from his stand, “I have a big buck down!” The other hunters walk in his direction as my friend climbed down from his stand. The hunters and my friend walked towards the deer from opposite sides — at 30-yards the deer gets up and starts to run. A hunter from the other party shoots and hits the spine — killing the deer.

The Loaded Question?
Later inspection, my friend had hit the deer in the hind quarter. It was a deer of a lifetime! A huge 11-point buck worthy of a wall mount!

As everyone stood around the deer, the question came up, “So who’s deer is it anyways?” The hunter who shot the second time felt it was his deer. My friend feels that if he had not called the others over — that he would have had a second shot.  In the end, my friend decided it wasn’t worth arguing over and walked away the better man.

So what do you think? Please share your thoughts.

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Each year, the summer heat lifts and the first fall breeze fills my head with excitement. This is a time for hunters, near and far, to dial in their groups, rig decoys, ready their best four-legged friend and put the finishing touches on the gear. Yes! This is a magical time — when we reflect on seasons past and prepare with anticipation for this years harvest.

With the 2011 hunting season upon us, there’s no better time then RIGHT NOW to start setting goals.

Having yearly goals is a great way to achieve success.

The same principles translate to everyday life. When we focus on something important — something we really want to achieve and work hard towards, we truly maximize our potential. From a hunting standpoint, you’ll soon realize that by doing this, you gain much more from the experiencee of planning. Before you know it — your skills, knowledge and overall enjoyment of the outdoors has also increased!

The goals you set — whether it’s herd management, shot proficiency, gaining greater knowledge or simply forming a better attitude; the fact is…it makes you a better hunter! The next step is to recognize what’s realistic (especially with the amount of time you have to invest with each goal).

For as long as I can remember, I’ve set goals for each season. Because I have new goals, I’ve matured as a hunter and a man. I remember some of my earliest goals: “Shoot my first grouse” or “hear a buck grunt.” Even as a bright-eyed youngster, I became less concerned with killing the buck I saw chasing a doe, but rather —  THRILLED with seeing the whole experience! I realized that it isn’t so much about the destination, as it is the journey getting there.

There are many ways to measure success. If you fall short of reaching your goal — what matters most is the experience you gain and lessons learned in the process. It will certainly give you a sense of accomplishment and a better outlook on what it means to “pursue game.”

Whether you enjoy chasing fur, fins or feathers — start setting seasonal goals and before-long, you’ll start to experience what I like to call, “Increased Hunting Success!”

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“The Gods Must Be Hungry!”

A special occasion centered around the enjoyment of the outdoors and to celebrate the fall harvest with friends; once again we gather to tantalize our taste buds with unique dishes — all cooked with wild game. Starting with a variety of appetizers, such as Pickled Dried Venison with Home-made Wine Cheese and Pickled Northern Pike served with Pineapple Infused Vodka. Leaving our guests guessing, we sampled (for some, their first time) Dove Pate and Pheasant White Chili. The main course was Bacon-Wrapped Venison Tenderloin served over Garlic Mash Potatoes and my own steak sauce, made from reduced stock and carmelized onions.

It only goes to show that….the Gods must have been hungry when they create wild game, because it sure is good!

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To me, the history of the Juicy Lucy hamburger comes from the “Grill” and coffee shop in New Brighton, MN, which has been closed now for well over 35 years! Many local folks passing through town, especially the locals who hung out there for most of their lives, remember the Famous Grill and the most wonderful woman Marge who was famous for her mouth-watering burgers. She was a treasure and permanent fixture in that town. Sadly she’s been gone a long time. I had the pleasure of working with her in the 70’s. Marge kept me on my toes at the New Brighton Municipal! Many try to copy her burger — few succeed! If my memory hasn’t failed me…here is how her recipe goes:

Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of extra lean burger
  • American cheese
  • Swiss cheese
  • finely chopped onion
  • salt/pepper to taste

Make a normal sized hamburger patty and place 2 slices of  fresh American cheese and 1 slice of Swiss cheese and as much chopped onion as possible on top, then add another hamburger patty and carefully seal the cheeses/onion inside. In a large heavy skillet place each burger and cook. After turning once, poke burger with a toothpick to let out steam, taking care NOT to lose any cheese (this is the tricky part). Cooking a 1/3 pound burger without letting the juice, cheese and onions run out takes talent! Serve on a buttered bun with all the condiments! For me, that is a true Juicy Lucy!

A writer for Matt’s Bar has this on his blog: A recipe from John T. Edge’s book Hamburger & Fries. (The Juicy Loosey)

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Cheese
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 4 buns
  • Finally, add your favorite condiments and toppings

Procedure

  1. Place beef, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and pepper in a bowl; mix well. Portion into eight even balls of meat. Shape each portion into a thin round patty that’s slightly larger than the cheese slice.
  2. Fold cheese slices in half twice, so you have a little stack of quartered cheese slices. Place a folded cheese stack on four individual patties, covering cheese with remaining four patties.
  3. Tightly crimp the edges of the patties together to form a tight seal.
  4. Did you make a tight seal? I hope so, because it needs to be TIGHT to avoid a blowout as the cheese melts and creates steam. The cheese will try to find its way out of its meaty prison!
  5. Preheat a cast-iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pan to medium heat (or fire up a medium-hot bed of coals on your backyard grill) and cook burgers over heat 3 to 4 minutes on first side. Burger may puff up due to steam from melting cheese. This is normal. Do not be alarmed.
  6. Flip, and using toothpick, prick top of burger to allow steam to escape. Allow burger to cook 3 to 4 minutes on this side.
  7. Remove patties from pan or grill. Bun those suckers, slap some condiments on, and dig in.

Other suggestions I may offer….If you have ground venison, go right ahead and give it a try. But, you better add ground pork, so those edges will pinch together and hold as you flip your burgers.

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Innate vs. learned

The basic relationship between predator vs. prey is well-known. There are laws of nature that we not only embrace, but take an active role in. This begs the question of some as to whether our hunting/gathering instincts and behaviors are innate or learned. I whole heartedly believe that it is innate.  Now, I won’t argue with someone who testifies that certain behaviors can be learned or introduced and then further explored and fine tuned. There’s no doubt of that, but If you look at every single living organism on the planet, everything from an ant to an elephant, the shortest blade of grass to the tallest tree, and even bacteria, in and around us, along with all microscopic living organisms, our most basic purpose is the same and that is — to survive. I don’t care what living organism we’re talking about, we all inhibit the basic will and termination to exist. (more…)

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Video of a deer wearing blaze orange.

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Chasin’ Tail team uses old car parts to hide themselves while hunting deer.

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Fawn birth (Late spring/early summer)
Most fawns are born by the last week in May — into the first week or two of June. There are always early-birds and late bloomers. The key here is the abundance of forage for does to consume and produce milk and ultimately — a healthy fawn.

Fawn nursing (Summer)
Fawns begin nursing immediately and continue to nurse throughout the warmer months. Most fawns are completely weened by September. Every now and then you may notice a fawn during the fall trying to nurse, but adult does normally aren’t very receptive and the fawns are able to digest forage by September.

Antler growth (Begins in early summer)
You can start seeing the beginnings of the racks by mid June. By the end of July it’s much easier to see what the buck will likely be (main frame 8-pointer, 10-pointer, etc.) by late August the rack is basically fully grown.

Shedding Velvet (Early fall)
Most velvet sheds in early September. In all the years I’ve hunted, photographed and filmed whitetails, it seems the antler shedding may begin as early as the last week of August, but the bulk occurs the first week of September. By mid September (normally opening day of bow season) the majority of bucks have shed their velvet. Every now and then you may see a buck with velvet but consider it fairly uncommon.

Losing spots/coat change
(Early Fall)
Most fawns shed their spots the first couple weeks into September. Adult deer are also transitioning from their orange-colored summer coats into their thicker, darker fall coats. The transition can occur anywhere from late August into early September. However by mid September most coat changes are complete.

Bachelor group dispersal
(Late summer/very early fall)
Deer begin to get more independent in August. Most buck groups disband by the last week of August to first week of September.

Deer Rubs (Fall)
Aside from velvet shedding rubs, the first rut-related rubs of the season begin to pop up around the 15th of October and increase into the end of the month. Rubs are continually made, visited and refreshed throughout November, with varying degree of activity due to rut phases and conditions.

Deer Scrapes (Fall)
Typically linked in occurrence to rubs, these markers begin to pop up the last couple weeks in October and can increase in frequency into November. In the areas that I hunt in Northern Minnesota, I almost always find the season’s first rubs before I find scrapes.

Main Deer Rut Phases (Late fall)
These can vary every year depending on different factors such as deer density, buck to doe ratio, weather, moon phase timing and hunting pressure but overall the days and occurrences are normally very close from season to season.

Seeking Phase
(Late October – early November)
Chasing Phase
(Early November – mid November)

Breeding Phase
(Mid November – late November)
can even last into December, sometimes with a large deer heard and abundance of food, a second, less aggressive rut takes place. Often young does are bred during this time.

It’s also important to note here that when an adult doe reaches estrous, it lasts for around 36 hours while the entire breeding phase of the rut can last for many days given the fact that more than one doe enters estrous.

Key back in on food sources
(Late November/into winter)
Can depend on region and weather. Normally deer focus heavily on food sources after the rut into winter and really hit the food hard after the first major drop in temperatures and/or first major snowfall. In northern Minnesota most deer begin to consistently focusing on food sources by the first two weeks of December. This behavior continues throughout winter, as food becomes the main drive. When it comes to late season hunting the way to a buck is through his stomach!

Shed antlers (January/February)
Can depend on climate and availability of food. Sometimes bucks lose their antlers as early as late December and I’ve even watched deer keep their headgear into late March. This is not common however and the majority of antlers are shed mid to late January into February.

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From Chasin’ Tail to First Blood, Jacob McIntosh gets on the trail of a wounded doe.

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“Whitetail Party On Wheels!”

Everyone should have one of these!

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A battle with frostbite and big deer leave this bow hunter numb.

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