Looking Back At Monster Bucks
I'll never forget meeting Bill Jordan for the first time. It was August of 1989 when a mutual friend of ours, Wendell Hadden, whom Bill hunted with at the time, introduced us one balmy, late summer afternoon. Appropriately enough, we were gathered on a hardwood knoll overlooking a big kudzu field as the hazy sun began making its descent into the treetops. We were there in hopes of spotting a big buck or two as they made their way into the leafy vine plants across the way from our vantage point.
At the time, I was the co-owner of a local sporting goods store that sold Realtree camouflage, so I was a little familiar with Bill and his young business aspirations concerning his new addition to the camo market, but what I wasn't aware of that evening as we anxiously awaited any buck activity was Bill's vision to enter into the hunting video market at a very affordable price. Unbeknown to me was the fact that Bill's business plan would be a life-changing decision for me and my family and would be the start of something huge.
So in 1991, after producing Realtree's first deer hunting video, Whitetails In The Wild, the year before as a freelance producer, I went to work for Realtree full time in hopes of starting and maintaining a video production department and hopefully begin selling deer hunting videos in a big way. The rest is history. The following year we began gathering footage for our first Monster Bucks of North America video.
Having never hunted outside the Southeast U.S. before my employment with Realtree, I was about to undergo a crash course on learning deer and deer hunting techniques from all across North America. And in those early years, Bill and I taught some outfitters things about hunting that they are still using today.
I'll never forget the very first time Mac Burns and his family invited us down to hunt the Encinitos Ranch in South Texas. The year was 1991and no one outside of the family and close friends of the Burns' had been allowed to hunt the ranch. The family had interest in beginning an outfitting service on the ranch and they invited Realtree to hunt the property in hopes of promoting the hunting opportunities.
The first morning Bill and I left camp with Mac's son Stephen in a perfectly good Blazer that had the top cut off with a platform mounted up high. I had no idea this was a normal way to hunt the brush country. Anyway, we began riding slowly through the ranch and as daylight appeared, I casually asked Stephen when we would start hunting. He replied that we were in fact hunting! I looked at Bill and shook my head as if to say, This ain't gonna work! It wasn't long before Bill and I were headed to town to buy some tripod stands which we set out and began hunting in a way that was suitable for videoing.
This was just one of many instances where we had to adapt to or change existing hunting styles to make videoing a priority. The first time we hunted with Northway Outfitters in Saskatchewan in 1991 on the Mesquito Indian Reserve, we were the first non-residents to ever hunt the southern part of the province much less the first crew to attempt capturing a hunt up there on video. Needless to say, it took a few days to adjust to effectively running cameras in the 20 degrees below zero weather while all the hunts were exclusively by means of drives where the guides would push the bush for a select number of standers. It was very exciting to say the least! But we've come a long way to where we are today where now we can sit out all day in ground blinds in strategic places.
If someone had told me 11 years ago that I would be expected to sit out on the stand from before daylight until dark on certain hunts, I would have told them okay but it sure would be a waste of time! And how wrong I would have been! Probably the most important thing I've learned in 10 years of producing Monster Bucks is just how much mature bucks move outside of the traditional early and late windows, especially around the pre-rut and rut phases. As a matter of fact, nowadays when I go to Canada, I don't get real focused until the late morning because it is now a fact that we see more big bucks between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. than any other time of day.
I have also come to appreciate the outfitters that don't necessarily try to overload you with huge bucks stories in an attempt to lure the Realtree team to their part of the world to capture a hunt on video for the Monster Bucks series. In the early days, word quickly spread among outfitters and guide services that having one of their hunts make the final cut and show up on Monster Bucks could easily book up their services for a couple of years. Yes, we've fallen victim to the outfitters (fortunately, very few) who absolutely could not back up their claims when it came to expecting a quality hunt. They simply did not have the abundance of game that they boasted of prior to our arrival.
On the other hand, I've experienced outfitters that truly had exceptional areas to hunt with a lot of game but, after having hunts show up on Monster Bucks for a couple of years, they became greedy, overbooked and subsequently overhunted and overharvested their limited resource of game and the quality of their operation took a nosedive.
Many of people have asked over the years, What is the biggest obstacle to overcome when trying video successful hunts?", and I would have to say, hands down, it would be warmer than normal temperatures. I am now a big fan of The Weather Channel and if I see, for example, that Kansas is going to be unseasonably hot during an upcoming trip, we will, if possible, reschedule until better weather conditions. Nothing will shut down the movement of a mature whitetail buck during the pre-rut or rut like hot weather. Oh yeah they're still going to rut, but you can believe it will be mostly at night under the cover, and coolness, of darkness. Sure there are exceptions to the rule but when you're videoing, you need all the help you can get on your side.
Finally, this retrospective would be lacking if I didn't touch base on the defining moments of Monster Bucks X. Definitely, one of the most talked about features of the latest videos is the revisiting or reliving the highlights, and of course, the lowlights over the past ten years!
There have been more than enough during the past decade but here goes for my top five:(You'll have to watch the videos to find out the rest.)
1) Stickers — should I have to say more? Michael and I honestly felt sick when we saw the footage for the first time on the motel TV in Wyoming just a couple of hours after Bill's infamous miss of this truly world-class buck! UGH!
2) The Barbwire Buck — I have to say, Bill does it right! He's had two unbelievable bucks get away. The sheds off this buck scored over 200 B&C ! And in the same years as Stickers.
3) First time hunters — No question, going back and reliving the first bucks for my sons Harman and Alex and Bill's son, Tyler. What a thrill!
4) Michael's 90-plus yard shot during the first Annual Archery 3D Tourney between Bill, Michael and me. What a shot! And there were no practice shots allowed!
5) The Blue Jean Buck - For me personally, this is a miracle from heaven! The Saskatchewan brute that appeared right before my eyes trailing a doe even before the drive started during the middle of the day! An unbelievable hunt! It is always better to be lucky than good.