Second Four-Year-Old Buck In Two Years…

For the second year in a row, Joe Tone from Marcellus bagged a 4 1/2-year-old whitetail buck on Cass County property he and his brothers manage for deer. The antlers on his most recent trophy were as impressive as those grown by the big buck he took in 2006, but the rack was a typical instead of a nontypical and he made his most recent kill with a muzzleloader during December instead of a bow in October. Tone’s experience shows the value of being a multi-season, multi-weapon hunter.

“I saw a lot of nice bucks this year when hunting with the bow,” Joe said, “but it just didn’t work out to get a shot at a big one with an arrow. Most of them were too far away or didn’t give me a bow shot.”

The book buck he arrowed on October 29, 2006 had a 15-point nontypical rack that grossed 175 4/8 and netted 167 4/8. The monster he dropped with a muzzleloader on December 8, 2007 had an 11-point rack that grossed 163. Both mature bucks had dressed weights of 225 pounds.

The muzzleloader that Joe shot the 11-pointer with played an important role in his success during 2007, but he also credits a new type of food plot for helping him get the whopper. The Tone brothers have been planting various types of food plots on their property for five years. For the first time during 2007, Joe planted a plot consisting of forage turnip. A friend of his had suggested that type of planting as terrific for late season hunting because the tops stay green in cold weather, even when they are covered with snow.

Joe said he planted a strip of forage turnips 15 feet wide between a cornfield and the woods. The strip of forage is long and totals 1.5 to 2 acres in size. Due to the fact the turnips were supposed to be good during December, Joe decided to hunt from a blind overlooking them on the 8th. He got the buck before he even got to the blind.

There was snow on the ground, so Joe was wearing snow camo to try to blend in as much as possible. He was carrying his new .50 caliber Thompson/Center Triumph muzzleloader with him that day. The rifle was mounted with a Nikon Omega Scope and it had been sighted in for 200 yards with 100 grains of Triple 7 powder and a 150 grain Shock Wave bullet. The nice thing about the scope Tone was using, is it’s calibrated for various yardages with the load he had in the rifle.

Since there was a possibility of a long shot from the blind Joe would be hunting that day, he also had a range finder with him. He was carrying it around his neck. If he saw a buck he wanted to shoot, he was going to make sure he knew exactly how far away it was, so he could use the scope properly.

As Joe was walking across a cut cornfield toward his chosen blind, he spotted some does that were already feeding in the open, so he knelt down to try to avoid being seen. After the hunter crouched, he saw the big buck get up from behind some fallen treetops 50 yards from the late season food plot where it had been bedded. He put his range finder on the buck and it told him the deer was 237 yards away.

The buck was angling away from Joe. Tone shifted to a sitting position to rest the rifle on his knee and then lined up the scope. Joe said he used the scope’s 250-yard ring to aim for a point behind the buck’s ribs at a point where he knew the bullet would angle forward into the chest cavity. With the scope’s 250-yard ring on target, he said the 200-yard ring was on the top of the buck’s back. Confident of his aim, he squeezed the trigger and the buck humped up, signaling a hit.

The buck was dead at the end of a good blood trail even though the bullet didn’t exit. Joe said the buck’s belly was full of forage turnips, so there’s no doubt in his mind why the buck was there. If Joe hadn’t been lucky enough to get the buck as it got up from its bed or it had bedded elsewhere, it most certainly would have been back to the food plot.

Besides long tines, the buck’s antlers have a lot of mass. He said the beams are as much as 8 inches around in the center.

It should come as no surprise that Joe plans on planting four or five food plots of forage turnips next year. He said the plants don’t grow much of a turnip, but have green leaves like lettuce and that’s what the deer like. Joe planted his forage turnip plot for 2007 in July and had does feeding there during October, but the bucks weren’t attracted to it until December.

The 11-pointer that Joe shot in 2007 and the 15-pointer he got the year before are only part of the story about how successful the Tone Brothers’ 5-year management plan has been on their property. Joe also shot an 8-pointer that grossed 142 during the 2007 gun season. Joe’s younger brother, Jeff, got a 150-class 12-pointer during bow season and a 140 class 10-point in firearms season. And Jon shot a 140-class 9-point during gun season, too.

The other four bucks were all 3 1/2 years old. The brothers don’t just pass up young bucks, they pass up all bucks except those that they think will score at least 140. They also shoot lots of does.

“The bucks we got during 2007 are a testament to food plots and hard work,” Joe said. They are also the product of limiting buck harvest, taking plenty of does and being three-season hunters! Few Michigan hunters consistently take 3 1/2 and 4 1/2-year-old bucks.

The brothers are now looking forward to bagging a 5 1/2 or 6 1/2-year-old buck in the future. They can’t wait to see what kind of rack bucks of those ages will have. They are confident bucks of that age are now living on their property, but they know they won’t be easy to get. Photos of some of them have been captured at night on their trail cameras, but they haven’t yet been lucky enough to get a shot at one of them while hunting.