Close this search box.

Plan Your Fall Whitetail Hunt Now

If you are going to take a hunting road trip for whitetails this fall, you need to start your planning now. Here’s how to get started on the road to success. By Bernie Barringer The longest journey begins with a single step. If you are planning to travel to hunt whitetails this year, you need to take that first step right now. Tag application time is in the late winter through spring, and it’s also time to start doing your homework to increase your odds of coming home with a buck this year. The first thing that needs to be done is to make sure you can secure a deer tag for your destination state. Many states offer whitetail tags over the counter (OTC) but in many more, you must apply to receive one. Several states have drawings that award tags based on the number applicants and preference points. Each time you are unsuccessful in the drawing, you are awarded a preference point. For example, if you want to bowhunt in any of the good zones in Iowa, you will need at least two preference points. If you apply for three years, you will most likely draw the tag the third year. Most states offer the option of buying the point separately so you do not have to send in the entire tag fee when there is no chance of drawing a tag. If you want to hunt a state with a drawing in the future you should start right now buying a preference point each year. You can hunt states with OTC tags until you get drawn. Once you have decided which state you plan to hunt this year, you will need to start looking at your hunting location options. Most do-it-yourselfers hunt on public land, and most whitetail states have plenty of it. These include state hunting lands, county areas, Army Corps of Engineers lands and state forests. Many states offer a Walk-in program of some sort where landowners allow the public to access their land to hunt. Most of these areas are geared at upland bird hunters but I have found some real gems of deer hunting on these properties in both North Dakota and Kansas. Spend some time on the state Wildlife Commission or DNR website to find these areas. Most state websites have maps of public areas. Start by analyzing these public lands on Google Earth to determine which ones look like they have good deer habitat. Check for areas that look like good bedding spots and funnels that will concentrate deer movement patterns. Make sure you try to determine where the food and water is found. Crop fields butting up against the public forested land can offer some great possibilities. On many public lands, you will need to get off the road a ways because most people don’t hunt more than a half mile from their truck. I also spend some time on hunting forums searching for information on the particular area. Often just asking a question on a deer hunting message board will turn up some great nuggets of information. In one case I had a hunter from a state far away offer to drive me around and show me some areas. You can bet I took him up on the offer. The next thing that needs to be done is get some first-hand information. Call up wildlife biologists, game wardens and county conservation boards. Ask them specific questions about the property. You want to know how much hunting pressure it gets and what’s available for the hunter. Are their wildlife food plots planted? If so, what’s planted in them? Ask about the deer population and if there have been issues such as EHD that could adversely affect the deer. Once you get good at analyzing the terrain on these aerial photos, you can start to pick out potential treestand sites. Also look for good access points where you can get to and from the treestand with a minimum of impact on the deers’ senses. I try to call back about a week before I leave and ask them some of the questions again. Have the crops been harvested? Where have you been seeing deer lately? Are the bucks chasing the does or hitting the scrapes? Answering these questions are part of a public employee’s job so don’t be shy. Any time I can, I will get some trail cameras out to assess the deer population and check for trophy potential. A scouting trip in the spring or summer will help you learn the area and you can leave the trail cameras out for a month or more gathering information. In some of the states I hunt regularly, I have a buddy or two that will put trail cameras out for me a month or so before I arrive. I mail them the cameras then when I get there to hunt I have a lot of great information to go on. My book for “road trip” hunters entitled “the Freelance Bowhunter” goes into a great deal of detail on this subject. Your success during a fall whitetail hunting road trip hunt begins in the spring. Start right now and in the fall you will be rewarded for it.

A Formula for Success: The Wildlife Research Center Story

From one deer lure formulated in the garage to a major player in the business of deer hunting, this company encapsulates the American Dream.   By Bernie Barringer John and Brian Burgeson grew up on the outskirts of the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Their dad would pay them 10 cents apiece for the mice they could trap. Dissatisfied with the low number of mice in the house, they began trying to trap mice outside when seeing the tracks in the snow. John worked with peanut butter and formulated a scent that attracted mice very well. He had no idea that interest in formulating scents and luring animals would change his life and put him on a journey that would lead to a powerhouse company in the hunting industry. John and Brian began trying formulations for deer scents and giving them to their father to try out on his deer hunts. Soon John and Brian were hunting too, and the scent experimentation was going full bore. They tried about 100 different ingredients, from oils to deer urine and once they found ones that seemed to attract deer, they began experimenting with formulations. Eventually they came up with an outstanding buck attractor. They named it “Trail’s End” and came up with the number 307 as an estimate, even though they had long ago lost track of how many ingredients and formulations they had tried. Feeling confident it would sell to deer hunters, they chose the name Wildlife Research Center and started running a simple ad in a few magazines. The brothers owned a tree service which paid the bills, so they were able to put all proceeds back into their small company. Still, it took five years to turn a profit and they didn’t draw any money out until the 9th year. Eventually, they shut down the tree service and ran WRC full time. At first, the ads didn’t pay off well, but the publicity helped. They sold more by appearing at sports shows and selling the lure in person. John went into small sporting goods stores and tried to sell his products to the owners, but had little success. So he started putting it on the shelves on consignment and sales began to grow. Their first big break came when they met a fellow at a sports show who worked for Sportsman’s Guide Catalog. The catalog wouldn’t agree to carry the lure, but one of the staff members took it on a hunt with him and was impressed by what he saw. A buck trailing a doe turned and, leaving the doe, came right to the lure. He shot the buck and suddenly The Sportsman’s Guide became WRC’s biggest customer and a catalyst for future growth. A second big break came when Bruce Hudalla began to rep for them and really helped them get some traction. John lived in a farmhouse which had a barn behind it. At first, they ran the company out of the garage, but as it grew and employees were added, it took over the barn. They ran the company out of that barn for 13 years before moving to a new building in an industrial park in Ramsey, Minnesota. While Trail’s End #307 was paying the bills, John and Brian were working on new ideas and products. The second big product was a scent dripper that had a curled tube on it. As the days warm, the pressure inside the container would increase, causing it to drip. Then at night, pressure would decrease, pulling bubbles back into the canister so it would reset and be ready to drip once it warmed up the next day. The ability to apply scent to a scrape during the day and conserve the scent is a big selling point and this scrape dripper is a cornerstone of the business today. Special Golden Estrus was the first estrus lure introduced and it has been extremely successful. WRC got into the business of human odor control on the ground floor with Scent Killer and it is a big part of the company. Scent Killer Gold is considered an industry standard and offers the benefit of continuing to kill human odor for days after drying and it has no scent of its own. Overall, the company has a list of more than 100 products they are developing and refining. It’s a slow process and nothing is introduced before its time. New ideas are added to the list all the time. While John and Brian are still at the helm of the company, John’s son Sam has taken over much of the responsibilities as Vice President. Sam studied chemical engineering at the University of Minnesota and joined the company full time in 2006. The company employs about 20 full time people, plus outside salespersons. Looking back at the 30-year success of the company from its humble roots, the Burgesons can credit their longevity to a few things. Number one would be their willingness to stand behind the products. They believed in them enough to offer a money-back guarantee with no conditions. Secondly would be the exhaustive research and development that goes into every product. And thirdly, exceptional customer service at every step of the way. These things are the formula for success which have brought the Burgesons along for a ride on the American Dream, and great hunting products into the hands of hunters across North America.

Stop Dreaming, Start Hunting: Overcome these 3 excuses for not making a hunting trip

You’ve seen the amazing whitetail deer hunting on the outdoor TV channels. You know your chances of shooting a mature buck like the ones you see the show hosts shooting at home are not very good. Yes you can go to the destination states and shoot a nice buck. Here’s some encouragement and some solid advice. By Bernie Barringer The explosion in popularity of outdoor television in the past 15 years has causes some significant changes in the landscape for hunters. No doubt it has created a surge in popularity and outdoor TV has also launched some products that wouldn’t have seen the same quick growth if they didn’t have the mass medium of TV to get their message to the masses. Another noticeable impact of hunting television shows has been the eye-opening revelation about what’s available when it comes to deer hunting across the whitetail’s range. Hunters from Michigan, Pennsylvania, the East Coat and the Southeastern US suddenly because aware that the bucks they were shooting were puny compared to those being shot in the Midwest where they have much better habitat and are allowed to grow to maturity. Take Iowa for example. Before the Outdoor Channel became a household name, Iowa’s 6,000 nonresident deer tags just filled up each year. When TV hosts began shooting big bucks in Iowa, that rapidly changed. Today, expect to wait 3-4 years while increasing your drawing odds before you will draw a nonresident archery tag. Some states, Illinois and Kansas are examples, have increased the number of tags to meet the growing demand. Still there are hundreds of thousands of whitetail deer hunters still watching the big bucks on TV while dreaming about taking a trip just once to have a crack at a the kind of mature whitetail they would never have a realistic chance to shoot at home. Some hunters feel they can’t afford the trip, others simply do not know where to go, and others still are just intimidated by the thought of setting off to lands unknown to hunt in an unknown area. Well, if you are in one of those three categories, consider this your wake up call, because I am about to crush your excuses. Excuse #1: I Can’t Afford it If you can afford to shell out $3,000-$4,000 for a good outfitter in the Midwest, then more power to you, but that’s more than most of us can justify. A Do-it-Yourself (DIY) hunt is the best and possibly the only option. You can do a hunt on a lot less than you think. Your primary expenses are going to be the deer license, gas, lodging, and food. You have to eat whether you are at home or off on a hunt, so food costs are minimal. I often use a crock pot and toss a complete frozen meal into it when I leave in the morning, so I have a hot meal waiting for me when I get back from the day’s hunt. BBQ ribs, roast and potatoes, chicken breasts, you get the idea. Another option is to carry a small microwave to heat up some oatmeal for breakfast and a hot meal at the end of the day. You’ll hunt longer and harder if you are eating well. Most of the small towns in the rural areas where you will be hunting have motels that cater to hunters and they are priced accordingly. I usually find one for less than $50 per night and I’m often able to work a better deal if I book several nights at once. Another option I have used is to pull a travel trailer. Many states allow you to camp for free in the parking areas at public hunting grounds. There are no facilities of course but if you have a self-contained camper or you are willing to rough it in a tent, your expenses are next to nothing. That leaves your gas and your deer tag expenses. Just start saving now and be ready when the time comes; squirrel away a couple twenties a week and you will have your trip paid for in a year or less. Excuse #2: I Have No Idea Where to Go Here’s where I can help. I wrote a book entitled The Freelance Bowhunter: DIY strategies for the travelling hunter. Two-thirds of the book covers how to hunt on a budget and how to figure out a new property along with strategies for taking public land bucks. The other third details the hunting opportunities in the 16 states I call “destination” states for whitetail hunters. It covers the counties that produce the most Pope & Young bucks, the availability of public land, what times are the best to go, how to draw a tag, etc. Also covered in the book are the properties that are not public but are open to public hunting. Two examples are the Private Land Open To Sportsmen (PLOTS) program in North Dakota, and the Walk In Hunting (WIHA) lands in Kansas. Several other states have similar programs and I have found that these lands do not get as much pressure from deer hunters as other public hunting lands. Some states have public lands that get a lot of bowhunting pressure, such as Illinois and Wisconsin, while others like the Dakota’s, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas have abundant state and federal hunting land where the pressure is likely to be much lighter than you have at home. The internet is an amazing resource for finding a place to hunt. Check out the states’ DNR websites for lots of information. Spend some time on state hunting forums and ask questions. You might think that locals would be reluctant to help you find a good hunting area, but surprisingly I have found the ones who try to discourage you to be in the minority. Use Google Earth to analyze properties for their potential and even start to evaluate specific hunting spots with this amazing aerial photo tool. Excuse #3:

Understanding Tag Application and Drawing Terms

Acquiring a deer tag to hunt in a state far from home can be a confusing process, but this explanation of terms and definitions will help you navigate to the deer license you have always been wanting. By Bernie Barringer Applying for a nonresident tag in a state far from home can leave you with an overwhelming feeling. Game laws with regards to tags are complicated and at times very confusing. It seems like every state is different and even differ from one species to another within a state. With that in mind, my Glossary of Tag Terms which follows should help you navigate the clutter by understanding what the terms mean. OTC: Over the counter tags are those tags which can be bought upon arrival. You can buy these tags at any license vendor that sells fishing and hunting licenses. Limited Entry Tags: Limited entry tags are given out based on a drawing. You must apply for a license during an application period, then a drawing is held on a certain day. Limited entry tags are used when the number of applicants exceeds the number of available tags. This may take place in a state or in a unit within a state. Unlimited Draw tags: With these tags, you must apply for the tag but there is no limit to the number of tags. You are guaranteed a tag if you apply during the application period, or in some cases, in time to receive it during your hunt. Random Draw: Some states have drawings that are totally random. All names are thrown in, each with an equal chance of winning. No matter how many times you apply, even every year for many consecutive years, your chances of drawing are the same as the person who is applying their first time. Some states will offer more tags to residents than nonresidents, so you are competing against those in your category. Because random draws are not seen as a fair system by many people (including me), most states have implemented a system of bonus points or preference points. Bonus Points and Preference Points: Some states use bonus or preference points when applicants exceed the number of tags available. Some states use the terms differently, but in general, a bonus point works like this. Each time you are unsuccessful, you are give a point which increases your odds of drawing. For all practical purposes, it simply puts your name in the hat an additional time. If you have been unsuccessful ten times, your name is in the mix ten times, and if you are applying for your first tag, your name is only in one time. Your odds are ten times better than a person with only one. These are used when the drawing takes place among the names of all applicants. Some states allow you to buy more bonus points to increase your odds. You could get drawn with no bonus points, but having more bonus points increases your odds of getting drawn. This system allows all people to have a chance, but the drawbacks are that you never reach a point where you are guaranteed a tag like you would with a preference point system. Preference points are used in cases where are the names are not “thrown into the hat” together. If you are unsuccessful in the drawing, you are awarded a preference point. Drawing from the names with the most preference points takes place first, then if there are tags left, the pool of names with one fewer point takes place and so on. Iowa uses the preference point system for whitetails. For a hypothetical example, if you were applying for a whitetail tag in an Iowa zone, let’s say there are 600 tags available and 1500 applicants. Some of these applicants (100) have four or more preference points. They will draw a tag which leaves 500 more tags. There are 400 applicants with three points which are awarded a tag, which leaves 100 tags. From the pool of applicants with two points, a random drawing awards those 100 tags. All persons who did not draw a tag are given another preference point which moves them up one tier the following year. Some states allow you to purchase one preference point each year. This way you do not have to apply for a tag if you have no chance of drawing. Once again, using Iowa as an example, the best zones require at least two points to draw. If you apply for a tag, you must send in $551 and wait to hear if you drew. They draw interest on your money for a few months before sending it back, while keeping an application fee. You can avoid this process by just purchasing a $50 preference point until you have enough points that your odds of drawing are good enough to justify sending in the entire fee. Using whitetails as an example again, some states have significantly increased the number of nonresident deer tags available to the point that you can draw every year without any points. Illinois and Kansas are good examples. At the time of this writing, there are more tags available in Illinois than the number of applicants so you can draw every year. That’s also true in nearly all zones in Kansas, but it’s close there, so it could bump over the top at any time. In Kansas, you would most likely draw whenever you want to but it’s not 100% for sure. If you want to hunt in a year or two, you could buy one preference point to have so when you do apply you would be guaranteed a tag. Surplus or Leftover, and Landowner Tags: In some states there are other options to buying a tag. If all tags are not sold in a given zone, they may be put back up for sale on a certain date, and you can purchase them without going through the application process. Likewise,