In 1985, when my 13-year-old brother and I told our parents we wanted bows for Christmas so we could hunt deer, it didn’t come as a surprise to them, even though no one in our family had ever hunted. It was no surprise because we had been raised in a “fishing family”, literally since we were old enough to hold a cane pole. Our annual trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula was my motivation for snow shoveling and lawn mowing jobs just to buy a few more lures to chuck at bass or pike during our week of August vacation. That week always seemed to go by way too fast! I was getting subscriptions of hunting and fishing magazines for birthday presents before I was 10 years old and at the same time both my mom and grandma learned to be quite good at cooking squirrels shot from our pump BB gun. We learned to lay quietly in the woods at a pretty young age, patiently trying to spy the twitch of an ear, tail, or body of a fox squirrel, sometimes fifty feet above in the branches of mature oaks. During that first year I was able to stumble into a deer while we were hunting, and while I followed the “10 Easy Steps to Field Dress a Deer” from a folded up page of a magazine, my brother dry-heaved off to the side.
From those early years we were on our own in the woods, I quickly developed a passion for gathering as much information as possible to help us be successful. That passion was so great that when I had the opportunity to shoot my first buck with a bow at the age of 17, I passed on him because I didn’t want to end my season. I wanted to wait for one of the older bucks I had watched all summer feeding in the adjoining fields. My preferred 3-month season results would have been to shoot a few does here and there, while finally connecting on a nice buck the last day of the season. I wanted to hunt until the very last day!
When I was 25, I purchased my first piece of property, a 37-acre parcel on part of MI’s “thumb” area that had about five acres of actual cover, 9,000 hand-planted trees, and two rototiller-created plots. Later I was able to pass on eight different bucks in eight mornings until blowing it on a 150″ buck I had been watching all summer. In those early years, I began to recognize the patterns of deer movement within small patches of cover, how to preserve those patterns throughout the hunting season, and how quickly hunter impact could destroy those patterns. I found that the patterns which applied to the public lands I hunted in my late teens in both lower and upper MI applied to the several small parcels I hunted in southern MI. I also found they later applied to anywhere else I hunted, whether it was on public or private lands.
In the late 90s, I moved to the “wilderness” area of northern MI, hunting both public and private lands. I also still enjoyed my passion for ag land by hunting in KY, WI, and MN. The passion of having to seek information on my own in those early years influenced how I hunt; I have never used a guide service, instead prefer to figure things out on my own. To date I have harvested roughly 25 bucks between the ages of three and at least five years of age on both public and private lands, collectively from the states of MI, PA, and WI.
Because of my passion for developing hunting land and hunting stand set-ups, I began to write about it in 2003. Afterward, I received the National 2004 Al Brothers Deer Manager of the Year award from the QDMA. I have been a lifetime member of the QDMA since the late 90s, and when Brian Murphy, the Executive Director, called to inform me of the award I was deeply honored. I know there were many other landowners across the country that deserved the award as much or more than I, but at the very least it was a reflection of the passion, hard work, and love of everything deer and deer hunting that I had started to develop as a teenager.
Due to the award, as well as readers following my hunting forum and additional published articles, I began to receive calls from across the country from guys simply wanting to get some advice for their own lands they hunted. In 2003, I began speaking about my passion all across Michigan from QDMA branch meetings, hunt clubs, public informational meetings, antler roundups, habitat days, and for various hunting or deer management themed banquets now extending into WI, OH, and IL. In 2005, I began a new career with a business I started called “Whitetail Habitat Solutions.” It eventually turned into a full time profession in 2010 with dozens of clients a year across 11 states and counting.
I found what I have experienced or learned for the most part could not have been taught in a typical classroom, but instead had to be accumulated by spending literally thousands of hours doing everything related to deer hunting in many states and many different types of property…over and over again. Talking about it, writing about, discussing it and experiencing it on my own has been my best form of education. The woods, swamps and fields have been my classroom whether it has been for my own pursuits or for my clients. Twenty-seven years ago, if someone would have told me I could make a career of this, I wouldn’t have thought it would work out. Why? Because I developed a passion for what I do, for a love of deer and deer hunting, not for money.
Now in 2012 what I do is to take those 27 years of pursuing my passion, and then I professionally transfer those pursuits into the enhancement of your hunting and habitat experiences. In total, I have enjoyed over 60 combined deer seasons in seven states, including over 100 “out of state” do-it-yourself hunts on private and public lands. I have been blessed to own and improve habitat in a southern Michigan region, as well as in a parcel in the Upper Peninsula. At one time I enjoyed the challenge of planting 18 acres of no-till food plots on my own, or leasing parcels for my personal hunting grounds in the states of MN, MI, and WI. I have maintained over 50 stand locations in three states at one time. I pride myself in hunting healthy herds by taking does when necessary to maintain a balance with the habitat, as well as by taking on the challenge of hunting the oldest bucks in the neighborhood.
I feel extremely fortunate to be able to continually hone the skills of my passion during every month of the year on both the lands I hunt, and on the lands of my clients. I love writing and speaking about what I do, as well as offering workshops and site visits to assist others in doing the same. What began as a passion of hunting squirrels in the treetops of southern MI has grown into a passion to assist others in taking from my experiences, both my successes and my failures, while saving hunters thousands of hours of learning, and thousands of dollars in perfecting your passion. If you follow my articles or blogs, you will also see that I have a passion for sharing and defining all that I know. After seven years of “doing business” this way, I have found it to be extremely rewarding. I believe there is a huge amount of value in hiring me to personally arrange the pieces of the hunting and habitat puzzle together specifically for the lands that you hunt, but if you don’t feel the same way or you don’t have the funds for me to help, by all means enjoy reading the info I share for free!