Chuck Sykes – The Management Advantage Consulting

Casey and I experienced a tough fall through our Midwest deer hunting tour. The tough times really put a damper on the remainder of my deer season. When I returned to Alabama in December, I had lost all the desire to deer hunt. Thankfully, I had a job to do that made me get back to woods, back to my roots here in Alabama.

One of the services our consulting company performs for our clients is antlerless deer removal.  We have quite a few clients that depend on us to assist them in removing does from their properties each season.  As most of you know, antlerless removal is a portion of the overall management plan that is not very glamorous and more times than not, it turns into a job.  We perform a much needed service for our clients.  They can count on us to not make mistakes.

We take pride in harvesting the correct deer every time.  Since we know each property extremely well and more importantly, we know the local deer herd, we can make the proper harvest decisions when it comes to which does to remove.  We also know how to eliminate the chance of harvesting a button buck and in rare circumstances, which mature buck to remove.   Yes, we do have the option to remove a buck if it falls within the parameters of the management plan.

The second week of December came and I was forced to get out of my deer hunting depression and head to the woods.  However, this time would be much different because there was no pressure to harvest a mature buck.  I would be going back to my roots, shooting does in Alabama.  My rehabilitation started by taking my child, BES, a six year old miniature Australian Sheppard, to a property we manage in  south Alabama.  We needed to layout a couple of food plots ahead of a timber harvesting crew we had thinning a pine plantation and try to harvest a doe or two before dark.

The Hunting Gets Better

My first day back in the woods was extremely therapeutic!  I got a great deal accomplished.  We designed two food plots, made sure the timber harvesters were thinning properly, and BES and I harvested two does before dark.  Whether it’s riding a tractor, checking traps, or just conducting a property survey, BES absolutely loves to be in the woods.  But, nothing makes her happier than deer hunting with me.  She started going with me when she was just a pup.  After five years of hunting with me, she has turned not only into my favorite hunting partner, but also an extremely valuable asset.  She has evolved into an incredibly talented blood trail expert.

She provided the only highlights for me during our Midwest trip.  She found several deer for hunters while we were there.  Although she had fun looking for wounded deer and hanging around the lodges, she did not get to actually hunt but once or twice during our trip.  In her younger days, this would have been fine. However, now she really loves the actual process of the hunt.   Sitting on the ground or in a shooting box, she loves to be there.  Carrying her hunting really helped me break the Midwest depression.

I had already resigned to the fact that we were not going to have decent buck harvested on camera for our upcoming season.  So, Casey and I were planning quite a few shows around our antlerless management programs in both Illinois and Alabama.  When the 16th of January rolled around, Casey and I went to a property we had been managing for the past five years to harvest a couple of does.  BES and I went to one plot and sat on the ground and Casey and his girlfriend, Jesse, went and sat on the only field with a shooting box and the proper wind.  It is amazing how much Devine intervention plays a role in our business.

Around 3:30, I got a text from Casey.  Apparently, he had a large buck chasing a doe just outside the plot and was wondering should he shoot.  The landowner was ok with us shooting a buck that fit into the management plan.  I told him that if the footage was good and the buck was at least four years old, let the hammer fall.  An hour and a half later, I heard the shot.  BES and I packed our equipment and headed to see what Casey shot.  When I got to the box stand and opened the door, the look on his face said it all.  He had shot a giant.

After a short tracking job by BES, we were standing over a truly exceptional Alabama buck.  The five year old 9pt. grossed 153 inches and weighed 220 pounds, the largest buck ever to be taken from the property and for Casey, his second largest buck of all time.  That is saying a lot considering he grew up hunting in IL.  (The footage, which by the way was shot by Jesse on her first attempt to operate our video camera, was excellent. The whole story of this buck and the management plan for the property will be featured during the 11th season of The Management Advantage which begins March 28th on Outdoor Channel.)

BES and I ended up the season by hosting the 2nd annual TMA management hunt in west Alabama.  We had 10 of our closest friends from IL, TX, and AL meet us for a three day doe and hog hunt.  We were able to harvest 15 does, three hogs, and I harvested one cull buck on my family farm.  We all carried cameras and recorded tons of great footage to be used for our upcoming season.  What a great way to end the deer season, food, fun, foolishness, and proper management took place over the four day hunt.

BES and I ended up harvesting approximately a dozen does for clients during December and January.  In addition, I harvested a mature buck from my family farm.  I fine tuned my rifle skills and she honed her sniffing skills. What started out as the worst hunting season turned into one of the greatest!    My grandmother used to always say, “What starts out negative, will end up positive.”  The deer season of 2010-2011 was no exception.