posted by Jim on Jan 27
It has been a while since I sat down at the computer to write. I love to write about hunting and the outdoors, as much as, I love being out there in the elements. The fall of 2009 was fairly uneventful since I last wrote about my Colorado elk hunt. Unfortunately, I did not hunt much this year because we purchased Buck Fever Synthetics, a synthetic deer scent company. Obviously, if you have to run a company in its products peak demand, there is little time left for anything else, including hunting. What I learned due to my absence in the field was worth a lifetime of hunting. I finally learned the meaning of why I hunt and I realized the denial I felt as a diehard deer hunter. I was attacked by the dreaded Antleritis disease, but something magical happened that changed me forever.
What is antleritis? It can be defined in many ways and I am sure all of you have a story which verifies its existence even though it does not show up in any dictionary, psychological hypothesis or field documentation. I will try to attempt to make my own definition of the word which was introduced to me by my good friend Jed Speiser.
Antleritis is a disease which affects many individuals who pursue an antlered animal for the sole purpose of its trophy value and the residual praise and attention it may bring to this individual. It is known to cause loss of lifelong friendships, dismantle family relationships, and will lead to dishonest psychotic behaviors. It is the leading cause of trespassing and poaching in North America!
Now that you know the definition of Antleritis, can you relate to a story or two which affected your life? The more I think about this, the more I can attest and verify that this is a disease of pandemic proportions. I have been affected by it in more than one way. I have been both a victim of its fury and I almost fell into its trap this past fall. I will speak to you with utmost honesty and relate a few stories which will remain a part of me for the rest of my life.
I would like to start out as the victim. The first time I was affected by Antleritis I was hurt, betrayed and angry. I may have over reacted but I was young in my hunting career and I wanted a buck I could be proud to hang on my wall. As a matter of fact, I wanted it more than the kid on “Christmas Story” wanted the Red Ryder BB Gun with the Compass in the Stock! I was hunting with a friend on a piece of property that was fairly open and not known for racked bucks. I could see my friend in his stand and he could see me clearly at the 300 yard distance between us. I had harvested a doe early in the afternoon with my bow and because I could see her taking a dirt nap, less than 40 yards away, I decided to sit it out. It was late October, so I knew there may be a miracle buck lurking about. I was right. I looked in the direction of the trail that the doe had taken out of the dense cedar swamp and there he stood. He was a magnificent 9 point trophy for this property or any property. I was so intently paying attention to his every move, as he steadily approached me that I was completely unaware of what was about to unfold. The buck was coming down the same trail, nose to the ground on his way to my arrow, which was sticking in the ground a mere 15 yards away. I came to full draw as he was about to clear some red pines. And then, I heard the most sickening sound I had ever heard. “JIM! JIM!” My “friend” yelling my name as he ran towards me and the buck and my dreams were gone. I had the same face as the kid on “Christmas Story” when they told him “You’ll shoot your eye out”! Needless to say, my bow was at full draw and I had to force myself to let it down as I stared my “friend” down. He saw the buck coming to me and made sure I was not going to kill “his” buck. ANT LER I TIS!!!!!!!!!!!Get it!
The next story relates to me as the victim or depending on how you look at it, I may have had a touch of Antleritis myself. I had been hunting this farm with a good friend. I had started using Buck Fever Synthetics about 12 years ago and I was getting incredible results on my scrapes. I headed to the farm about 2:30 in the afternoon and as I started to get ready, I was greeted with a torrential downpour of rain. I got back in my truck and waited it out. The rain stopped and it was an immediate transition from darkness to bright sunshine. A rainbow immerged and was directed right to my “pot of gold” stand site. I was excited to freshen up my scrapes and start hunting. On my way to my stand I entered the edge of the field only to see a nice 140” 10 point in my mock scrape. I waited it out and headed to my stand once he made his way over the edge of the field and out of site. I was wearing a pager because my wife was 8 months pregnant and I was 1 hour from home. Primetime was slowly approaching, as the sun started to retreat behind the oak edge on the west side of the field. Buzzzzz. Buzzzzz. Buzzzzz. The beeper went off with the home phone number going across the screen. Oh no! I got down and headed to the truck with bow in hand thinking I was going to miss the birth of my child. It was false labor but I was home and I could not go back. I let my friend in on the buck sighting and the time he was in the scrape and told him I was excited to return, but I could not make it until I was sure the baby wasn’t coming. The next day my “friend” got in my stand at 1:00 and waited out the buck. Like clockwork, he appeared and every time I see it on his wall I get Antleritis! Did he have Antleritis or did he take advantage of the information and capitalize on my misfortune. As you can see, this one can go either way!
Last story, I promise. But, this one hit me hard and to this day it pisses me off to no end. A few years back I was invited to help scout a piece of property in Illinois with a friend. I was only there because he needed someone to drive with him. While spending some time with the landowner and my friend, I was asked if I would like to hunt the upcoming season as well. I did not ask, nor did I give any impression that I wanted to hunt there. I actually said, “I have another place to hunt this year in Illinois but I appreciate the offer.” I was asked again and told it would be a great time so I hunted with my friend, his wife and the guy who invited them in the first place, who I had never met! Long story short, I offered to pay for my hunt which I was denied. So, I paid for all of the food and drink as a gesture of my appreciation. I filmed my friend most of the time. I was on stand two times and I harvested a decent 130 class 8 Point. I thought I was truly a friend with the property owner when he hugged me and said call me and we will shoot some geese together in the late season. I felt secure that I made a friend for life!
This was the most twisted plot of insecure and menacing psychotic behavior I have experienced to this day. I don’t know how it got there and I don’t care however, I do know what I felt, what I said, and my intentions. Somehow after two years of getting the cold shoulder from my “friend”, I found out that he was furious with me because I “went behind his back” to secure a spot for myself for next year. I did not even have the property owner’s phone number, nor did I contact him at any time. Someone, and I won’t say who, didn’t like how well I got along with the property owner and twisted such a web of lies that everyone, including the property owner thought I was trying to take advantage of the situation to benefit myself in ways that I couldn’t even have thought up. I even wrote a great story about the hunt, complimenting everyone and thanking the property owner for being so genuine and big hearted to let us hunt his property. This even back fired, so there is a twist within a twist to this twisted story. Did you get that? I was told two years later that I made the property owner very mad for posting his picture on my website because he doesn’t even let his best friends hunt this property. Wow! Here is a person who I thought didn’t have the Antleritis disease because he really seemed happy for us, but obviously if your best friends cannot hunt the property, there is Antleritis somewhere in the equation. I may be at fault for being appreciative enough to mention his name in gratitude. So, here is the way I summarize this fiasco. Don’t be too nice to people who may have enough Antleritis to twist and corrupt your heart felt appreciation into a tangled mess of deceit and misrepresentation of the truth! Did you get that?
How do we help cure this disease? We need to establish an understanding between hunting partners, friends and family that sets rules when we hunt properties together. If you are invited to hunt somewhere, ask questions with everyone present. Make sure you know what you are allowed to do, including be nice to the property owner. This can really make people mad! No joke! If these parameters are discussed prior to hunting with all others involved it will save a lot of grief later, I promise.
Neighboring property owners need to know your stance on things as well. Make sure you define property lines and management philosophy and be sure to enforce trespassing. I know because I have given warnings and it does nothing but encourage people to do it again!
A lot of Antleritis can be controlled by the State Departments of Natural Resources. Yes, the DNR. Michigan, for example, is a state that has more hunters that are misinformed than any other state. We are told of obscure deer numbers and convinced of deer management methods which just do not work. In states that care about the effects of Antleritis, they make everyone appreciate Antlers as a gift from the GODS and not something that HAS to be taken. The one buck rule which Ohio and Indiana possess is a sure way for people to appreciate good deer management practices. In Michigan, most of our hunters need to get some bone on the ground and then they are ready to “trophy” hunt. This practice is the main reason why the average buck in Michigan, which is harvested is 1 and ½ years of age! If our bucks are never given a chance to mature than it creates such a psychosis amongst our hunters just to see a racked buck, that many are willing to cheat, steal, trespass and put friendships on the line, just to control their overwhelming bout with the Antleritis disease! Do your part to support the one buck rule in Michigan and we will control the pandemic. For those states that get it, make sure you compliment the state agencies for recognizing this problem.
To summarize, I would like to reflect back on my past fall. I said I was too busy to hunt. This is true, but now, as an owner of the best scent company in the business, I was doing my share to make scrapes on my properties, as well as, others I was introducing my products to, in confidence. Two things occurred that I was not prepared for mentally. Every time I created a new scrape or gave some of my product to a friend with directions on how to use it, I would get a call like this; “Jim. You know that scrape you made me on my property? Well, I just killed the biggest buck of my life. I will bring it by the shop for you to see.” This happened to me four times while I was bottling, packaging and shipping pallets of product in the prime of hunting season. The worst one was a scrape that I set up on my very own property. I had been staying out of there purposely waiting for the day when I could hunt and the wind was right. My good friend who hunts the property with me is an E.R. doctor with a very busy schedule as well. I had gone out that day and freshened up a scrape between a bedding area and a bean field. I set a Smart Scouter camera on the scrape because it was getting hammered by a big hoofed deer. By 1:00 pm I had a picture of the deer come to my cell phone. Less than two hours after I was there, he was in the scrape again. I was very tempted to go home, take a shower and get on stand. I had 12 orders to fill by the time UPS was coming for pick up and the wind wasn’t perfect so I decided to wait one more day. You know the story. I am at the shop and my “friend” Nick calls. “Jim. What are doing?” “I am working Nick. What else is new? I am bottling, and shipping. What are you doing?” “Well Jim. I just got done hunting at Al’s. I am gutting ….” (A lump came up in my throat as I cut him off mid sentence) “WHERE DID YOU HUNT?” “I hunted the swamp stand on the North West corner of the field.” “Did you kill the 10 pointer I had on camera?” He was silent. He then sarcastically said, “No. Just a little buck. How do I get to your Buck Fever shop?” I immediately knew the S.O.B. was on his way with "my" buck. I waited for him to turn the corner and yes, there it was. MY TEN POINT! MINE. MINE. MINE! I took a deep breath, hugging him and congratulating him! I was happy for him because he does work hard and he deserved this buck! I went home with that big buck on my mind! I started thinking about all the people I was helping. I started to feel sorry for myself for not being out there. I started second guessing owning a hunting related company such as this. Then it hit me! I started picturing the smiles and the appreciation these guys had for me and my products and my Antleritis was gone, just like that! I continued to help others achieve their dreams and I have to say, last deer season was the best one I have ever had. Helping others achieve their dreams in the field is the number one cure for Antleritis. Try it if you’re feeling an attack of this vicious disease. It works!
Here are some of the smiles and successes which made MY season spectacular.