Editor’s Note: Mossy Oak Pro Steve Noble lives in Deckerville, Michigan, an hour east of Saginaw. He’s been hunting whitetails for 26 years and been a member of the Mossy Oak Pro Staff for 4 years. He’s also one of the hosts of “Maximum Outdoor TV” on the Sportsman’s Channel and the Pursuit Channel. The show is primarily about hunting whitetails, but also includes mule deer, moose, elk, antelope and bears and turkeys in the spring, as well as some back-country fly-fishing trips. Both Steve and his co-host Chris Garza have hunted in Illinois the last 10 years. Their Michigan hunts are primarily family hunts for Noble’s children, 12-year old Caleb and 10-year old Bella, and Garza’s children, his daughters 10-year old Madison and 6-year old Mya and son 8-year old Hunter.
When my brother-in-law Chris Garza and I first started hunting in Illinois, we met a gentleman by the name of Donald Scheckler who said he had some property to sell. After buying some land from him, we got to know Mr. Scheckler and became friends with him. Whenever we went to Illinois to hunt, we visited with Mr. Scheckler and his wife, Barb. He kept telling us that he had two pieces of land he wanted us to have, but we weren’t in a position financially to buy those. When we were financially able to buy the property, Mr. Scheckler had passed away, but we met with his wife, Barb, who told us she knew her husband wanted us to have these two little pieces of property. But then she passed away. About a year later, someone in the family contacted us and said they had found some paperwork indicating that Mr. Scheckler wanted us to have these two little pieces of property. So, they gave us the opportunity to buy the two small properties. Chris was in a position to buy them. So, we got the two small tracts - one on the Spoon River and the other right across the road from our main farm and adjacent to Jim Thome’s land. We knew that Jim was on the same type of deer-management program we were and let his young bucks walk too. Then all three of us would be able to take older-age-class bucks.
Chris and I planted food plots to hunt in the late season on the 40 acres across the road from the bigger farm. In 2015, we've already seen a big buck on the 40 acres that will score between 170 and 180 on Boone and Crockett. We didn’t buy those two properties until late in 2014. After getting trail camera pictures of the big buck once or twice, he vanished. We named him The Ghost. To hold The Ghost on our 40 acres, we knew we had to provide food plots, especially late-season food plots. Now in November, 2015, there’s some standing food on the property and a green field that’s planted in the back of a 3-acre corn field. I’ve mowed about 3/4-acre of corn and have a shooting lane coming by my blind, that’s hidden in the corn on its corner with the green field. A portion of the cornfield that I’ve mowed is right next to the ravine where I think The Ghost travels. However, I won’t hunt him until the wind and the weather conditions are perfect.
To make the green field in the back of these 40 acres more suited for late-season hunting, I’ve planted a mixture of Mossy Oak BioLogic Brassica, Winter Bulbs and Sugar Beets and DEER-RADISH. We’re making the ravine a sanctuary and are letting it grow up and become as thick and nasty as possible. Then older-age-class bucks will feel comfortable bedding there and move through that ravine. I won’t take any bucks unless they come out of the ravine into the green field or the standing corn. This way, the ravine is still a sanctuary, but we can harvest bucks that come out of the sanctuary.
Any time we have land we’re planning to hunt, first, we survey the property and determine which portion of the property should be a sanctuary. After we have our sanctuary set-up, we plant green fields and/or crop fields where we can take bucks going into or out of the sanctuary. Sanctuary is the most-important factor in holding older-age-class deer. Available food will pull deer out of the sanctuary. We use our Covert trail cameras to see what age-class bucks are using that food source, when they're coming in and out of the green fields, which direction they're coming from and going to the green field, and which direction they’re using to return to the sanctuary.
Although we’re primarily bowhunters, we don’t hesitate to take a deer during the Illinois gun season. So far, I haven’t learned whether The Ghost is living on this property or just passing through our land. We won’t have enough trail-camera pictures until the summer of 2016 to know that.
To learn more about deer hunting, check out John E. Phillips’ new eBook and print book, “Bowhunting Deer: Mossy Oak Pros Know Bucks and Bows.” You also can download a free Kindle app that enables you to read the book on your iPad, computer or Smartphone.
For information on making jerky from your deer to provide a protein-rich snack, you can download a free book from http://johninthewild.com/free-books.