Picking up from the first part of the conversation with Todd Pringnitz of White Knuckle Productions, we continue to lay down and share some deer hunting secrets. He talks about finding your voice in the woods through sounds – from rattling to thrashing. Going after big bucks, Todd talks about hunting matured deer as he shares the three hunts he did and finding your strategy. He then segued to White Knuckle Productions, giving us a view on what they have been doing and how they are helping hunters succeed in their hunting.
Listen to the podcast here:
Deer Hunting Secrets White Knuckle Productions – Todd Pringnitz P2
I’m heading out to Iowa with Todd Pringnitz. Todd is the CEO of White Knuckle Productions. Welcome back to the show. We’ve been talking quite a bit about rattling noises and luring in big deer. I’m excited to have you on the show.
Thank you, very much. There’s nothing I enjoy talking about more than hunting big whitetails.
Todd was talking about sounds and hunting matured deer. What happened last season? Share your success with my audience.
I had a banner year that any hunter could have ever imagined. I was fortunate to kill three different seven-year-old whitetails including about a 160 class eight-pointer, about a 190 class, a big typical ten frame with a kicker but the biggest, free-range typical animal I’ve ever seen. It’s an absolute monster. I ended up killing a big six point. He’s been a managed buck on my farm but the trickiest animal I’ve ever hunted. My goal is to always kill the deer that nobody else can kill around me. I probably got twenty bow hunters within a mile of my place here. These big deer when they get five, six, seven years old that’s when I want to hunt them. I’ve been very successful in the last few years, I’ve killed nine animals that average seven years of age. I’m doing this in the neighborhood that guys would kill these deer at three, four years old if they had an opportunity.
I find dead ones every year that get wounded from different neighbors and different hunters in the neighborhood. In order for these animals to reach that age, they become and they are different deer. If you expect to use the standard tactics that you haven’t necessarily worked on these big mature deer or the way you call and you expect something magically change and you’re going to get lucky, you’re not going to be consistent with that luck. You might get lucky once in a while but to consistently kill these big bucks, you have to hunt them differently. You have to think about them in a whole different light than you do normal animals.
Let’s breakdown the tree hunts and let’s share with the audience your techniques and how you close the deal.
I always focus on two different things. One, the buck bedding areas where my bucks are going to be. Usually during the rut that revolves around where the does are. I use a variety of different food plots and there have been so many different podcasts about food plots, I’m not going to get into it. There’re many different opinions in this. What I found is I like to have grains, some corn and some standing beans in all my different areas. I like to focus the deer on one particular kill plot and focus the does primarily, honestly because that’s where the bucks are going to be or that’s what the bucks are hunting so to speak. On average I probably have one kill plot per maybe 20, 30 acres and I focus all of my hunting around that one single kill plot. It can be anywhere between a third and eight, a third of an acre up to an acre.
I came to the conclusion many years ago here on my farm, if the deer have too many options, it becomes very difficult to pin them down. Instead of having four or five kill plots that a buck could potentially show up on, I want to focus on one and I’ll be very patient, wait until the time is right until late October going into November before I even start hunting those. That’s where most guys screw up is they hunt too much too early before these big ones are on their feet. By the time things get good, the bucks already have their number and they’re going to avoid those areas based on the ground scent they’d been smelling, the different calling they’ve been hearing. My first kill of the year was a big buck, I call it Donnie Brasco. It was a giant eight-pointer and I was actually set up in a kill plot adjacent, right to a doe hunting area. Where bucks generally fed and I’d killed one two or three years ago out of the same bedding on the opposite side, coming out in the evening. This was in a morning hunt. He was swinging back through or I believe so.
I was sitting in my blind, I had called several times seeing some different bucks throughout the morning and I was about ready to leave. I have the Tree Thrasher call that I invented. I decided before I get out of here, I want to make sure there’s not something standing or bedded close by that I don’t see before I leave. I gave one last thrashing session, making some noise and some ruckus and then I’d let one grunt out and got bored, waited five minutes, maybe ten minutes and all of a sudden here he is. My calling techniques revolve around teasing animals and aggravating them so that they come in a period of time, they don’t come bombarding in right at the time you call. In the past, anybody who has rattled enough does, you rattle then a whitetail comes in and they are usually coming in and either downwind or they’ll come in and hold up at 80 to 100 yards, 50 to 80 yards.
With bowhunting, you’ve got to get them close. I don’t want an animal to come rushing in, stop and look and say, “Where was that animal? Where is that fight?” That doesn’t work. They usually know something’s not right and they’re not going to close that distance. I want to tease them and get them in several minutes after I’ve actually called because they don’t k exactly where you are. They’re disoriented and that makes them vulnerable. It’s that simple. I ended up coming right in. I shot him at 30 yards and he was a Buick. After that, it took a lot of pressure off. I was able to focus on two different bucks. One was called DL, which was a non-typical giant and then another big 190 class typical that was called Walter Payton. I hunted them throughout the year, play cat and mouse and on November 15th, which is my favorite day of hunting, I snuck into a doe bedding area.
I was only eight feet off the ground and I killed him at about ten yards. All self-filming in the middle of the day, 1:00 in the afternoon and it’s exactly where I would have expected to kill one of my shooters. No human being has ever tried hunting there because it’s so thick. It’s super thick cedars. I can only get eight feet off the ground because the trees are not that big and it’s so thick, the higher you get, the more trimming you got. I had a couple of small holes but they are vulnerable in those spots. They don’t expect any pressure or any human pressure.
Those are the spots you can catch them but of course, right in the middle of the day, that’s when you have these big bucks. They know when guys are out in the woods, they’d been listening to you all these years. They’ve been watching you come and go and you always leave it last late and in the mid-morning. You would shoot back in your stand a couple of hours before dark. They figured out when to move around comfortably and safely. You’ve got to change your system to match the bucks not based on what you want to do or what you think you should do.
How many acres are you hunting them?
I own 63 acres and then I lease a couple of additional farms but all total about 400 acres when I hunt. I’m usually focused in on a 50 or 60-acre section based on what buck I’m hunting. I’ll be very patient on when I go in and hunt those animals. Once I know where an animal is at and a buck that I’m after, I’d rather be aggressive and go into those sensitive areas and do some running on hunting if I don’t have stands in there and be on the move trying to close the distance, get it close as close as I can to where they’re bedding. I’d rather take the chance of blowing them out and spooking them than not going in after them because if he’s made it to that age, he’s not going to come out in the open. He would have already died so to speak.
You have to start doing things that you’ve never done before in order to kill these bucks. I have to do that year-after-year and get very creative in my process of doing it. I’ll say this much, I don’t think I’ve ever killed a buck more than one buck out of the same setup. I know a lot of guys have stands. They’ve been hunting year after year, killing big buck after big buck and that’s fine. If you’re not killing those ghost bucks that you might only get on nighttime still camera pictures, the ones that you never seem to see. Usually, if you’re getting pictures of them, they’re there. They’re just not moving around in the areas you’re hunting during daylight. If you’re calling and they’re not coming in your calling, you then you need to reevaluate the way you’re calling.If the deer have too many options, it becomes very difficult to pin them down. Click To Tweet
It’s a natural evolution. Everything you do in the field, they will inherit and they will absorb. Sometimes that’s good and sometimes that’s bad. The hard part with calling is we’re all hunting in areas where we’ve got a lot of hunting pressure, most of us. I don’t know with other guys who were hunting around. You’re not just dealing with what you’ve been doing in the woods or your negative impact calling. You’re dealing with what everybody else is doing. That’s what I’ve come to the conclusion, less experienced hunters generally call more because they think that’s why the successful guys are killing the deer. They must be calling them as they do on TV. That’s not the case. You have to step over the line and say, “I’m willing to try something new.” That’s usually when something happens.
You killed three bucks. I’m assuming one with your bow, one with muzzleloader or shotgun. How does that work?
I get three bow tags in Iowa and I’m only a bowhunter generally. My late muzzleloader season kill was with a gun. It was the first buck I ever killed with a gun out of dozens. It was a buck that I wanted to get rid off on my farm. I was willing to do whatever it took. I finally got a crack at him but my first two were with the bow and the last one was a muzzle. I self-film all my hunts. All of these will be featured on our White Knuckle Productions web show. In fact, we launched the Walter Payton episode and it’s blown up. Tens of thousands of views and people dig it. It’s the craziest reaction you will ever see from a hunter in the field. That’s probably one of the best whitetail stories ever told.
How do they find that?
You can go to our White Knuckle Productions Facebook page, which is probably the easiest or we have a YouTube channel as well. We’re on YouTube, Carbon TV, our own Facebook pages. We also host them on our website as well. We have some of the best whitetail stories around. I have a history with these deer. That was a buck I’ve known for five years and passed them as a three-year-old on video. Several years later I found one of his sheds, when he was a Boon and Crockett caliber, 175-plus-inch ten-pointer and then this year about 190 class he showed up. The whole storyline tells you the exact story of how it happened, all the pictures I got and what I did in order to get him. It’s a miracle and he is absolutely monstrous.
That’s a great segue to White Knuckle Productions. Todd’s been in various businesses involved in the outdoors. Several years ago, he started White Knuckle Productions on a DVD. He and some friends filmed their hunts and put it up there like a lot of people. White Knuckle Productions is a little bit different. Todd, let’s jump into White Knuckle Productions.
I honestly started the company because I couldn’t relate to any of the outdoor television that I was watching. It just wasn’t me. I couldn’t relate to it and none of my friends could. We were all super serious whitetail hunters like crazy. It felt way too much of it as everybody’s trying to sell something and it’s very infomercial-like and a lot of outfitted hunts and that wasn’t us. I wanted to do something more relatable and tell our story in a realistic way. Share both the positive and the negative because at the time basically DVDs were judged by how many kills were on there. There was a 30-second intro, the buck comes out, the guy shoots it, goes to recovery, do their outfit or plug and onto the next story.
There was no background and how they actually got that hunt done. We started showing everything from shed hunting to summer scouting, tree stand trimming, why we’re hunting, where we’re hunting. We were one of the first company that showed a buck getting wounded and not recovered, which was the buck I killed or shot in Illinois. We do a realistic approach and we don’t reshoot anything. Everything is 100% as it happens. We’ve never reshot a single segment for anything we’ve ever done. It’s different. We tell the stories of some serious whitetail hunters but it’s also excellent footage. Excellent editing, the production quality’s fantastic. It’s not your mom and pop show. It looked very professional and we’re crazy about it.
We started a podcast as well. As you know podcasts have become incredibly popular. I like it because it gives you an opportunity to dive in deeper into some of the tactics and strategies. That’s my passion is hunting and killing big whitetails and helping other guys do the same thing. There’s not a better feeling in the world than having somebody tell you that, “You helped me kill this buck because I followed your instructions or your crazy tactics and it worked.” That’s my new company, Tree Thrasher. That’s where that came from was basically my own necessity. I felt a need and needed a new different type of call to fit into my calling strategies and systems for these big old deer. I started the Three Thrasher company, we’re selling them on TreeThrasher.com and it’s different. I’m not going to go into a big sales plug but if you watch our videos, you’ll see where we’re coming from.
Let’s talk about that, let’s share about finding your voice in the woods, that’s how I call it. Sometimes, unfortunately hunters don’t sound like deer.
That’s the biggest thing. The realism with grunt calls, rattling antlers and hand calls and all the other different products out there, it doesn’t sound realistic without the other noises that are associated with a real live animal. If you’re hunting in the areas that have zero hunting pressure and they don’t know, they haven’t been called at by other hunters, a variety of calls, including rattling works well. I’ve rattled in big mature bucks and called them in a variety of ways. Where I’m hunting, I would guess most of the audience and most everybody, you deal with that hunters. You deal with the mistakes they make in the woods and the calling mistakes they make, most people overcall.
I changed my strategy to first not sound like a hunter and the second sound more as realistic as I could. I didn’t have a tool that allowed me to make the sound bucks make when they’re trying to send a signal to other animals in the area that they’re there and they’re rowdy. It came from I was hunting two different big bucks over the years, a couple of different big bucks and I was hunting outside their bedding areas and literally heard them before I saw them in several different hunts. I could hear an animal and they’re making an absolute ruckus. An intentional thrashing trees, breaking branches, trying to be as loud as they could. Over the years put two and two together, that’s a form of communication they’re sending out to all the deer in the area to let them know that they’re there.
That’s their territory. If any other buck is there, they better watch out. The crazy thing when I found out by observing these bucks making these noise that attracted all deer, attracted does, fawns, little bucks, big buck and whatever. When the animal hears that audible, that loud ruckus, it’s an intentional noise they’re putting out there, which lets all the other animals know, “It’s safe over here.” The deer is not going to make an intentional noise if it’s not feeling 100% safe. It creates a security blanket. It turns into a magnet and you want to be around that. I try to figure out how could I duplicate that in my own calling methods. I used to pull tree branches up in the tree and break branches while I was calling but I stopped rattling. I only used one grunt every 20 to 30 minutes and found that less is more when it comes to calling these big bucks. You can’t call like other hunters. That eliminates 90% probably of your calling technique.
With a grunt call, you’re pretty restricted, especially if you’re in the timber and it’s quiet. There’s absolutely no noise in the timber and you can hear a mouse walk across the leaves. If you’re up there grunting and rattling and there are no other noises, any animal that’s within hearing distance knows you’re a hunter, you told them where you’re at. You might as well bring a megaphone up and yell at the top of your lungs or sing the national anthem or something. That’s basically how you’re communicating with these animals. I started calling uniquely and along with my grunt noise, I use my Tree Thrasher and I can make the simple sound of an animal walking but a couple of branch breaks. It makes branch break noises, leaf noises and you can mix it up and rub the tool itself on the tree to create the sound of rubbing and do all those sounds together.
I like to do little sessions, 20 to 30-second sessions imitating a buck, making a scrape or crash into a tree. I’ll either leave that thrashing session with a single grunt or a follow up with a single grunt, approximately 30 seconds to a minute after my thrashing sessions or before. I don’t want to do too much in a short period of time because that’s unnatural. If you imagine or look at the way bucks make scrapes, rub trees or thrash trees, they usually don’t feel comfortable making a loud noise for more than about ten to fifteen seconds. Then they take a pause, they stop, rotate their ears, they listen for other animals, they look with their eyes. Then they feel comfortable, everything’s safe. I haven’t been snuck up on. Then they’ll go back to make a noise. In your own calling methods, you have to duplicate that, try to mimic the reality.You have to start doing things that you've never done before in order to kill these bucks. Click To Tweet
That’s what I do in all my calling with my thrashing sessions. I’ll make the rubbing sound for five to ten seconds then stop, pause, wait. I’ll make some leaf noise and maybe a branch break and stop, wait. That is realistic. If you go bananas and use the thing for two straight minutes it’s not realistic. That’s not what you do. Stop imitating the hunters you’ve been watching on television and start imitating the real animals. It might not be as fancy and you might not get to do it as often. I like to kill big bucks and I like to see big bucks. I’m going to do everything I can to create a situation that I can kill one of those big deer. I’m not going out there to call, I’m going out there to kill.
We talked about finding your own voice hunting Colorado, those what they hear on DVDs or TV. We educated the elk in our bases because you only can hunt so much territory. I don’t care if you hike ten miles a day for five days, it’s 50 miles. You only can hit so many bases in the elk you work or in those spaces. It comes to me that I locate a buck only 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning and all the rest is ewes and estrus calls and stuff like that. You have spent so much time in the woods and this is what shocked me. You’ve already heard one big buck fight, one dominant buck fight. Tell me about that.
It was a couple of years ago. My cameraman and I were hunting in a spot I call the sanctuary. It’s twenty acres of absolute whitetail glory. It is awesome. At the time I didn’t know how to hunt. I was going right in the middle of this thing and spooked a lot of animals. We were sitting in the middle of the sanctuary and we watched a beautiful three-year-old coming in bed by us about 60 yards or something, a three or four-year-old buck. I called it the Tuna Fish buck. We were having a beautiful morning and all of a sudden a ruckus broke out adjacent to us in the thick timber. I couldn’t see it but I honestly thought my neighbor was driving an ATV or a truck through the woods because all I heard was thrashing, slamming trees. The sounds of hooves pounding on the earth and breaking branches. Occasionally you could hear a click of antlers. I looked at my cameraman, “Those are two bucks fighting.”
At the same time, I figured out what was going on. The Tuna Fish buck jumps up out of his bed. He goes running in that direction. We got all that on video. It’s beautiful and the deer came literally running from all directions. I’d never seen anything like it. The little bucks, does, fawns from all directions, they were heading towards that fight. If you could create that sound up in a tree, you could call in some mega bucks. I know guys, they team up and have one guy in the ground with rattling antlers, smashing the ground and rattling in the other hunters above them in a tree. Those are things we’ve all been doing as hunters trying to duplicate those sounds until the Tree Thrasher came out, there’s not a way to duplicate a lot of that noise. That’s where with rattling, it’s very rare to hear those fights.
As soon as you rattle up in a tree stand or out of a ground blind, every animal within hearing distance immediately throws up a red flag. “Unless I hear the other sounds, there is no way that’s a real fight,” that’s basically instinctually embedded in their brains. If most whitetail hunters would leave their antlers at home, they probably see a lot more deer. The one thing I want to mention and this is not a dig on the hunting industry or anybody who hunts in the hunting industry, do your own thing, whatever. A lot of the hunts we watch on television are outfitter hunts so these guys are going into a place, somebody else’s property and they have five days. On those five days, they’re going to be as aggressive as they want and I guess they can. They’re doing a lot of calling because they’re trying to produce a television show.
They also don’t have to deal with the repercussions of their calling and their education on that property most likely ever again. They’re there for five days once they leave, they don’t care. I’m hunting the same property year after year. I don’t want to educate the deer this year that’s going to hurt me next year. Probably most guys are in the same boat that I am. They’re hunting the same farms or whatever. You have to be extra careful not to educate those animals. You’ve got your rattling antlers, you’re at the end of a morning set and it’s beautiful November, there’s got to be a buck around here and it’s something instinctual. I think it’s in guys specifically. There is nothing banging handlers together. It’s fun. It’s a good time. It feels right. There’s nothing when you’re bored cold out of your mind and you want to make things happen.
You start banging antlers together and you don’t call those old mature bucks in. You’ve got to look at it from the standpoint as, it’s not that you don’t have anything to lose, you’re going to educate the deer for next year, especially if you’re going to be hunting the same area in the same stands. Those deer hear that repeated over and over again, year-after-year and slowly but surely, they will literally change their patterns around your spots. I’ll tell most guys, if they would quit rattling, quit bringing their antlers in the tree, they’d probably start seeing some of those big mature deer that they might only get nighttime pictures of. That’s the same case on my farm that 190 I killed. He died, I had him for three years and I never got a single daylight picture during hunting season ever in three years.
I have twenty cameras on him. I knew exactly where he lived, he lived and survive there for a reason. You got to consider what it takes for the ghost buck in your area and the bucks that nobody seems to be able to kill. Consider how many times they’ve heard you call, your neighbors call. How many times they’ve been called at and been able to pop a guy up on a tree or be able to visually see a guy in the tree and associate that noise to a hunter. It’s been ingrained in them. They made it to that ripe age of five years, six years old and depending on your area, that might be a three-year-old, it might be a three-year-old or two-year-old buck. It doesn’t matter but they are educated, they know what’s going on. You’ve got to start looking at your calling from a different perspective.
How many times do you set a set?
It depends, the first time it’s deadly. I agree with that 100%. I’ve tried to create a situation where I’m here on my farm I have about 30 hang on set before the season and probably about six to eight ground blinds. I like to bounce around where I can recreate that first-time experience every single hunt. I do hunt stands more than once. A lot of times I’ll go into my evening sets, I’ll get everything set up on that evening, afternoon or whatever and leave everything in the tree including my bow unless it’s going to rain or unless it’s super freezing cold where it freezes. I’ll leave everything in the tree that doesn’t smell. Come out of the tree in the morning when I go up, I can sneak into that set and get first light crack without making a lot of noise without setting it up.
I bring two Ozonics, a camera arm, a secondary camera, my bow. By the time it’s all set and done I looked like I’m going into an arts and crafts festival. I got crap up in the tree hanging from everything you can imagine. Once I’m set up in that spot, I want to be able to sneak in the next morning at the hunt. Most of the time I’ll plan two hunts. If you have a good food plot set or a good bedding area set, I’ll plan on getting two good hunts out of each set per year, one usually in late October, early November and then one mid-November. I like to hunt them about a week or two apart. Honestly, I’m hunting individual animals. If I’m after one buck, that dictates where I hunt. Most of the time I’m usually hunting secondary properties so I don’t put too much pressure on. I’m hunting spots that are to be out there, see what footage we can get.
When I’m hunting one individual here, everything goes out the window based on what I’m seeing for intel. I have all these stand sets, guys think I’m freaking nuts. Sometimes I do as well when I have to trim them all. I’ll be out running, gunning and hanging in stands every single hunt until I am on that deer kill him or blow him out of the area. Usually, I’ll either kill him but I get very aggressive when I need to be. Otherwise, I’m very conservative and always try to let them come to me. If that doesn’t work, then you have to go to them.
How many bucks do you have that you’re targeting? We’re way past your Hunting 101. We passed our Master’s Degree. Once zero on one buck and make that your buck, he knows you’re there. Two, he knows who you are. Three, he knows where you’re setting up, everything’s in his favor. How do you beat that?
A lot of it is access that word’s thrown around a lot. I’ll tell you what I’ve learned, where I’ve become much more I would never say an expert because the deer are the experts. They school me every year. Some of them do, no matter what but I’ve become more perceptive to how I’ve been coming and going out of my spots, figuring out where big bucks bed, why they bed there. Here’s what I’ve learned specifically the last few years hunting these big individual bucks. Usually, the big dominant bucks are going to be living among the highest concentration of does in a doe bedding area where most of the does are at. They have more deer to breed with traveling the least amount basically.
The big dominant bucks I’m hunting, they rule the roost. They’re big 300 pounders, big racks on their hats. When they’re in an area, they’ll kick the crap out of anything in there. Those bucks move into a territory they almost set up shop. If you can imagine, it’s like a guy going to his favorite bar and if all of a sudden another guy shows up and starts talking to his girlfriend, a ruckus ensues. It’s the same thing, these bucks, this is their home. This is where they’re going to breed. They only have one time of year to breed these does. Like us, we only have one time a year to kill them. They’ve got a period of time and they have to make it work. When they move into those core areas, it takes quite a bit to drive them completely out.Everything you do in the field, the bucks will inherit and they will absorb. Click To Tweet
I’ve been in the bedding areas at the base of my tree and that buck bust me just about when I was to climb up and when they snort, I can almost tell the difference. The frustration in their snort, you can hear it because they’re like, “Get out of here. This is my spot. You’re ruining the mojo I got going in here.” You’re ruining their game plan, which is to breed the does. You blew them all out once, he’s going to be right back in there because he’s there to breed the does. He’ll set up differently and he’ll probably be set up looking in the direction that he busted you the first time. What I’ve noticed, where these bucks are bedded during the rut is usually in an elevated position adjacent to thick cover but they’re actually bedded in relatively open areas.
They want to be able to see not only the humans, the predators coming and going but they also want to be able to see the does coming and going. Get up out of their bed, be able to go set and check a doe and go lay right back down all in the security of their bedding area. It’s usually a little bit more open than you would expect as far as timber-wise and you can see a distance. What I’ve come to the realization is, around by me there’re a lot of farm roads, access roads to get into these farms because with this farm country, when the crops are standing and anywhere else, you’ve got logging roads, you got your access trails, the spots where most humans use it turns out a lot of deer use them too.
The does are using those main trails, walking up and down the roads, two tracks, your cleared paths, your farm roads, whatever. It turns out bucks are bedded a lot above a lot of those, even if there’s a lot of human activity because they can monitor the hunters and the deer in one spot. If they can see you coming, that’s half the battle. You’ve got to start thinking about it like you are a sniper and you are there trying to kill the enemy and if you make a mistake, you die. The spots that you would position yourself in to hunt humans are very similar to whitetails.
I saw a visual picture of the farm I hunt. How I get in, how I get out to one stand and then he’s sitting above me. The big buck, the one that I’m hunting he knows exactly when I go on my stand. There’s no question about it because he’s above me. As a sniper, where do I want to be? I want to be above him.
They’ve got you patterned essentially. Maybe it’s not even just you, it’s your neighbors and all the other deer. Those have been using maybe that little farm road or whatever forever. You can use that against them because you know this is what I’ve been doing. I’ve been trying to think, “How do I get in the back door so to speak?” A lot of my best stands have actually two or three different access points, where I can come in from a variety of different directions based on whether it’s an evening hunt or a morning hunt but then also to be able to adapt throughout the seasons. I’m going to give you one example of this Katie’s buck is a big seven-year-old that we’ve been trying to kill since he was three. He was only a six-pointer.
We were trying to get him off the farm so he wasn’t breeding and reproducing and we tried to kill that sucker and I could never figure him out. Every single time I get pictures of him during the daylight in a spot. I go, “This is the night we’re going to go and kill him.” I’d go and hunt on that food plot and he wouldn’t show. Over the years, it came to a conclusion that joker is bedded right behind my neighbor’s house within a hundred yards and he’s watching us come and go across the dike. This was a farm road that we walk up to get to one of our fields and there’s a dam there adjacent to a pond. It’s only an easy spot to access. I’m at my backyard hunting these plots, I got beautiful trails.
I will literally go into the stand in a different way and try to eliminate his possibility of visually being able to see me coming into that stand. If you’re hunting an individual deer sometimes that means you’re literally going to have to blow deer out of certain areas to get into that spot from the back door. My goal is to kill that one buck, I don’t care about any other animal. I only care about that one buck and not blowing him out. Access is absolutely critical. What I found is change the way you go into your stance each and every time if you can even a little bit. That’s what bucks do. Big mature bucks don’t take the same trail every time. If they come out and do a field, they take a different path every night.
They are always doing something a little bit different and that’s how they’ve survived. If they did the same thing over and over again, they would have died as a three-year-old or a four-year-old. To make it to five or six, they’re already that weird animal. A lot of the times they’re random. You have to duplicate that same randomness in your own hunting especially if you’re hunting the same farm over and over again. Trust me, I live on my farm, I’m out there almost every day doing something for several years. If I can find a different way of approaching and doing things, so can you, you’ve got to be creative.
I’m playing the video of the different farm roads, we got it timbered and we get a lot of access points. I’m thinking, “To get to the same stick, I know where he is. I know where he was bedding but I have to come down from above him because he’s watching me come into that stand every single time that I hunt. “
I also have some good friends who hunt around here in who are as nutty. We always compare and I’m always willing to learn. I’ve always been a sponge with everything I do. Knowledge is power and the hard part for most way to hunters is where you believe these big, mature bucks must be living is in the deepest spots to get to the toughest spots, to get you the thickest territory, programmed into us. To kill that big buck, I’m going to have to walk twice as far and work twice as hard. If that’s where you’ve been hunting and that’s where everybody else is hunting that buck’s not going to be there.
He’s going to be in the spot he’s never been hunted. Years ago when I started coming to these realizations, if my season by about November 8th to the 10th if I wasn’t seeing the bucks I was after, I would literally step back and say, “Where have I not hunted yet this year, where I’ve seen the most does? That’s the next place I want to be.” That’s when I start hunting does because that’s where the bucks are going to be. You got to find those strange pockets of areas where they’ve not been hunted. I’ll tell you that’s when it’s tough because most of the time there’s not good trees there.
Most of the time you can’t get into those spots because of access. Most of the time it’s impossible. That’s where I’m very aggressive where I’ll hunt six feet off the ground, eight feet off the ground, that’s what it takes. I’ll do whatever it takes to be in those spots and there’s no such thing as too crazy. I’ll tell you the craziest spot I ever hunted. The spots where you look around, I got to be freaking nuts to be setting up here. That’s where you’re going to kill them.
Anecdotally on that on Eddie’s Farm, I’ve been hunting that since 1966. We’ve taken two Booners off, one Eddie took off out of his junkyard, basically, a ravine where he threw things, dishwashers, washers, dryers, parts and old equipment. At the head of that, he’s in his tractor going to go spread some manure. He looks down and sees some tines. He eases off the clutch and goes around the corner. He was rifle hunting so gets out of this tractor, comes back behind the manure to stand up, looks up and yells, “Buck.” Threw his head up and he shot him. This is the place he goes by ten times a day.
That’s where I’ve started to focus on.
It’s that ravine that they filled in over the years to keep it from washing away and the buck was in the junkyard.The deer is not going to make an intentional noise if it's not feeling 100% safe. Click To Tweet
Here’s another great tip and it’s something that goes against what maybe you would imagine. A lot of times we focused signs, big buck rubs, scrapes and all that stuff. If granted, when you get in your stand and there are 500 shredded trees around it, obviously you’re in the right spot. That’s a killer spot. Sometimes that’s not always the case. Sometimes where I’ve killed the big ones, there hadn’t been very many deer at all. Some bucks I believe as they get older, especially think about an old lab, old dog or your grandpa, they don’t want to be around a bunch of young kids yelling, screaming and making noise. It scares them, keeps them alert and they want seclusion. They’re more of a secluded type of animal or they live a life of seclusion the whole year, except for usually during the rut, they’ll move into different areas.
Don’t necessarily hunt only based on the rubs and scrapes and stuff you’re finding. A lot of times I will follow my gut on, “This is a spot I think no one has hunted before.” Especially if you’re mid-season or you’ve been hunting on a farm throughout the season a little bit, you’ve got to maybe break away from that sign. Obviously, if you’ve hunted more than once and you didn’t see him there, he probably has your number as ground scented. He smelled your ground scent as you’ve come and gone. Sometimes you’ve got to hunt the spots even if the sign isn’t there, even if there are not a lot of deer there, those are spots I’ll kill big bucks as well. Big mature ones, they’re usually not taking the trails that everything else takes. They’re taking weird paths through different areas, the same areas but they’re always doing something different.
A lot of times you’re forced to get off from the main trails, the main areas where most of the deer are because that’s not where those big ones are going to walk through. Most likely it’s downwind of it if they can be or elevated above it where they can watch below them. We put a lot of emphasis on their nose and their scent but their vision is a huge factor in their ability to survive as well. You’ve got to consider it from their standpoint. When you’re laying in bed at night, we all have covers on and even if it’s warm, there’s something about the comfort of even having a sheet over your body when you’re asleep. I don’t know what it is. It’s human nature. Here are the same way, if you live down in that woods every day of your life and you were laying down there, you’re going to pick the spots where you can relax, where you can take a nap, where you can get a little bit of sleep.
It’s all about stress. They don’t want to be around that stress that they’re going to be better than the spots where they feel comfortable, where they feel relaxed, where they can take a nap. You’ve got to consider all the factors and they got to have the scent in their favor. They’ve got to have a visual advantage. Usually, it’s in the height elevation advantage where they can see a distance and if it’s not that situation, other deer like to be in a thick cover where they can hear something coming from a mile away. There are a bunch of different varieties, certain bucks, certain other areas. That’s the way you got to look at it. Imagine, if you haven’t killed the buck you’re after that you know is around on your farmland, then stop doing what you’re doing and start changing it up. That will put the odds in your favor.
It’s amazing when you talk to people that get their PhD, getting busted and getting beat by Todd. Todd shared that he doesn’t win all the time. He’s hunted one dear, Walter Payton. How many years did you hunt him?
Five years. Here’s a great story about Walter Payton between trail cameras. Trail cameras are another huge source of information but not just for getting pictures. You learn a lot about an animal through the travel patterns, which direction they’re coming from, what direction they’re going to, what time of day it is. I was hunting, Walter Peyton on the 31st of October, Halloween night. He came out on a field about a hundred yards away. I put my binoculars on him and I looked at him and I instantly thought, “We have a goofy three-year-old running around our property that has third main beam.”
I looked and he was standing against, dry brown corns. I couldn’t see his rack. He’s 190 as typical, you’d think you’d see it. I looked and I said, “That’s a three-year-old.” I threw one grunt at him. I should have let them go, if I would have known it was him, I would’ve let him make his first move. I threw a grunt at him. He turned, he came right to the bottom of this ravine but it was so thick I still couldn’t see him. He came that ravine, he stopped, he looked and he listened. He couldn’t hear and couldn’t see that buck up there. He knew something doesn’t seem right.
He turned to start moving away and as soon as I saw him, “It’s Walter Payton.” A monster, I got some footage of them. It’s all in our video. That night I have pictures of him after that hunt, I never saw him. He bogeyed out there and you knew something wasn’t right. That night on my trail camera, I have a trail camera on an adjacent scrape where I always got pictures of him. It’s a big community scrape. It’s the spot. I have pictures of him coming up to that scrape, looking at my trail camera in the tree, freaking out a little bit, coming back looking at it, walking out into the kill plot, catching my ground sent. I have pictures of him following my ground scent into the tree right to my tree. After that night he disappeared for thirteen days and never came back.
You killed him.
He had my number in that spot and the way I hunted him, I hunted out of him in that spot so that I would drive him out to a different area and I ended up killing him in a different area. With Walter, I had to use a technique I’ve never used before, which is being extremely creative. I knew where that deer was living in and calling home and it was on an adjacent piece of property that I could not have access to. I’m friends with a farmer, he’s a farmer. He has other guys who hunt. I knew where that buck was and I had gotten to the point where I knew I had to do something, otherwise, I wasn’t going to kill him. I called up the landowner and said, “I was wondering if there’s any way you might let me go in and hunt this buck. I’m hunting a giant, the biggest buck I’ve ever seen. I know where he’s living right on your farm. I want to hunt one small area. There’re some other guys who hunt right in that same area but I know how they have to come and to access the farm.”
He said, “Not right now.” As soon as I realized I’m not going to be able to hunt there, I knew I needed to let somebody else do the work for me and drive that deer out of that spot. I told him, “He’s living right next to right out of the creek.” I described exactly where it is. It’s very easy to describe to him. I knew where there was a couple of ladder stands that these guys who hunt him, is a farmhand that hunts and a couple of friends but they’re the traditional hunters.
They hunt out of a ladder stand, the same ladder stands year-after-year and had a couple of good ones in the right area but they couldn’t access it except from one direction, from the top of this guy’s farm. In order to get to those stands, they’re going to blow everything out. I knew most generally those guys were probably going to be in there calling and making a ruckus. I told that guy exactly where that big buck was and I told him it was the biggest buck I’d seen in years. Three days later, I killed that buck in an adjacent bedding area and I’m willing to bet he went and told his guys that we were hunting there. That’s why I plan on him doing. They went in there and they blew that deer out of there and I was able to kill him 500 yards away.
You’re not just hunting, you’re thinking, “What’s my strategy? What are all the connecting points and all the things that enter into it?” I’ve got a friend, Jeff Hemmers. He has 40 acres outside of Lacrosse, Wisconsin on the Mississippi River. He and his daughter hunt three days a year and kill a mature deer in those few days. They figured it out and they’re surrounded by people that know there are big bucks there. One, they can’t hunt them and he lets them push everything off their land and his becomes a sanctuary because he’s in and out. He’s a ghost himself, I believe.
When I’m doing a seminar or anything like that, when I’m talking about what these goals are, “Is your goal to kill one of these big bucks or is your goal to spend two straight weeks out hunting?” If you’re hunting a small piece of property, those two things don’t coincide for you to be able to kill that buck.
Unless you just want to be in the woods hunting, which is fine.The big dominant bucks are going to be living among the highest concentration of doughs in a dough bedding. Click To Tweet
The hard thing to come to terms with is he ran my own farm, my 63 acres. “Jeff, I only hunted maybe six to eight times the entire hunting season for three months. It’s right in my backyard. I look at it every day,” but that’s the discipline you’ve got to have. If you want to be out in the woods hunting every day, hunt more ground and find other areas where you can go put pressure on and bust your chops. Learn your process and how you’re setting your stands, running and gunning, do it in areas that aren’t critical. They’ll save your best hunts, your best kill days for those farms where you know the deer are and they haven’t been touched. That’s the other thing, in the job that I haven’t put killing all these big bucks and putting that out there all my neighbors, they catch on at some point. My philosophy is the same way. Let the guys pound the crap out of their farm too early because they’re afraid I’m going to kill those bucks and they do all the work for me. They drive those deer into those sanctuaries that I have not hunted. When the first time I go in there, they’re stacked in like cordwood.
What are your best dates coming up?
Weather is a very critical thing. To me, October 31st and November 15th are my two favorite days and I’m going to tell you why. October 31st has been consistently about the first time and not always. Sometimes it can be earlier, 28th, 29th, 30th. The 31st consistently has been a day where the big mature bucks will be on their feet for one of the first times of the year looking for hot does because right around the 31st is when the first does will come and eat. Quite honestly, these big mature bucks, they’ve been around the block long enough where they don’t waste their time chasing deer that aren’t ready. They wait until the time’s right like you have to hunt them. October 31st is a vulnerable time for a buck because they want to find that first doe in their area. That’s when they’re most killable. Walter Payton, when I saw him on the 31st, I went out on a whim without any intel, my gut told me that my best opportunity is going to be tonight.
I didn’t check trail cameras, I followed my gut and my experience. Where they’re going to want to be based on previous years. The 15th of November is my second favorite day. Probably my first of all. I would take November 15th over any other day of the year because generally speaking, most does come to eat on the first week of November through both the tenth or eleventh give or take twelve. That’s when most bucks will breed their core area does. Meaning the spots where they call home, where they hang out, all the does that are in there are going to hang out in that area for a week or so. The first week in November is the worst time to hunt. Eight big mature singles, big mature buck in my opinion. I’ve killed them on an average day of November but generally, they’re hooked up with a hot doe during that whole first week and multiple does. They’ll go from doe to doe without having to go anywhere because they’re all in that bedding area, where they’re calling home for that time period.
Around the 15th of November is when I start to see the big bucks. Start leaving those small core areas and start bouncing around and going from doe bedding area to doe bedding area and they go from point A to point B. The easiest, quickest and fastest route to get to those spots whatever they feel most confident in and a lot of times it’s midday movement. That November 15th is so special because bucks, they’ve been having sex for the last week or two. They’re horned up, they’re tired, they’re absolutely out of their minds and more vulnerable than they will be at any other point of the year. You combine that with a kill plot, a green plot, where they’re starving at this point. They’ve been doing nothing and chasing them for a week or two. You put all those things together and November 15th can be absolutely gold. You’re catching them where they’re moving more than they normally do throughout the entire year. They’re more vulnerable and they’re out of their core areas because they don’t know every specific tree, every hunting pattern in that area.
They’re going to new territories. That’s when they’re vulnerable. You got to be in those doe bedding areas around that time. That’s when I do most of my best hunts is in that time period. By then most guys are out of vacation or tagged out. Of course, one of the big ones are going to move. You’ve got to be patient with your tags. If you want to kill those big ones, you’ve got to be willing to eat those tags in order to get there. Over the years I’ve probably eaten, dozens and dozens of Iowa tags. I usually only kill one buck a year, most generally. Sometimes I’ve had luck where I kill two, I killed three, which is uncommon but my ability to kill these big bucks first starts with my ability to pass nice young deer. For me, I film it all so I actually get to kill them with my camera. To me, it makes it more fun because I don’t have to kill that deer as a three or four-year-old when I’ve got other bigger and more mature deer running around. I can film them and have that encounter with them and to me, that’s as much fun as killing them. Maybe not as much but it’s exciting and it’s so fun to be able to document.
What’s one big thing you know that you wish you knew several years ago that would have made you a better deer hunter?
In general, the number one factor is you’ve got to hunt where these big bucks live if you’re going to kill them. I hunted Michigan for sixteen years and killed the biggest buck ever was about a 130 class, 125 type four-year-old and beautiful eight point. It’s one of my most treasured trophies because it’s one of the biggest deer I’d ever seen at Michigan. To give you an example, I hunted up there for sixteen years. I only killed a couple of rack bucks and all that time but the last season I hunted in Michigan, I passed 46 bucks from October 1st and November 15th all dinks, one-year-olds, two-year-olds. That was what was around but I passed a lot of deer. My buddy invited me to Illinois in 2003 to go hunt on a farm. It was a random. He met a guy fishing on a river in Michigan and they ended up exchanging numbers and so we went down to Effingham, Illinois on a hunt and started hunting this farm.
It wasn’t that good. I had actually found a pretty decent spot within a day or two, I got every other guy that was with me, three other dudes within a hundred yards of my stand. I deal with the same stuff everybody else deals with. We were randomly on our way to the store. It rained one morning and we didn’t go out. We were on our way to the grocery store and we were driving across country in Illinois and looked down at his field and there was a big buck working a scrape a couple of hundred yards off the road.
For Michigan Boys, this was a big year. It was 130-inch typical or 130-inch, eight-pointer or something like that. We go into town and the whole time it’s eating at me. I did not drive seven, eight hours down to Illinois. I spent all this money to sit and not have an opportunity or not try to make something happen. It drove me nuts. I told my buddy, we’re going to stop and talk to whoever lives at that house in our way back. We stopped and talked to this lady and she actually was an anti-hunter. She said, “It’s not up to me. I don’t own the property. It’s this gentleman and he lives in an adjacent town.”
She gives me directions, “When you get to the town, look for the big corn silos and behind there are two houses. You got to go to this one.” By the time we even got to this guy’s house, I didn’t even know if I was in the right spot but my buddy who has been with me, he’s older than me and he was too chicken to go talk to the guy. Against all instincts, heart pounding and adrenaline pumping, I went and knocked on this dude’s door and the guy turned out to be the nicest guy in the world. I told him, “We’re from Michigan and we’re down here until the end of the week. I saw a nice buck on your farm over there and didn’t know if we could hunt. I’ve got a father and son that hunt there.” He said, “How long are you guys going to be in town?” I said, “Until Friday or whatever.” He said, “Don’t hunt on other stands but you can hunt there until Friday.”
We went there that night, did a quick scout on a stand. I shot 130-inch, eight-pointer that we saw working in that field. That next morning, my buddy shot its twin brother the following night about a hundred yards away. I was like, “If you want something, you have to go get it.” It’s one of the most pivotal parts in my hunting career when I realized in order to kill these bucks, you’ve got to be on the right farm. What do I have to do to get on the right farm? That’s when I totally went completely crazy in my world of whitetails and ended up moving to Iowa, several years ago for that reason, relocate where I could put myself in the bedroom of these big bucks and that’s half the battle.
It’s 80% of the battle because they’re relatively easy to hunt if you get into them right. They only live in 10% of 10,000 acres and you have to get there where they haven’t been pressured. You got all these odds stacking up. Colorado archery runs about 17% success ratio, figure it out. It’s no different than the first time I came up to Colorado and in 100 Elk. I had one shot I missed but I learned a lot about whitetail hunting by elk hunting. They’re very similar animals; bulls need cows, bucks need does. They don’t herd him up but there is vocalization. There are so many similarities and the thing is somebody like you that’s dedicated their life to being a whitetail hunter, it’s incredible. The knowledge that you have and you willing share. Tell people again how to get to White Knuckle Productions.
Everything generally is run through our Facebook page, White Knuckle Productions on Facebook. You can also go to my personal page, a professional page called Todd Pringnitz, maxed on Facebook friends for a long time. That’s where you can follow me personally. With the Tree Thrasher thing, we’ve got a Facebook page there but all three are connected. We always keep everything updated. If you want to see a great whitetail story, check out the hunt. It’s called Sweetness. I named this giant whitetail after one of my favorite football heroes growing up, Walter Payton, who was my hero when I was a kid. This buck is absolutely the most magnificent, majestic animal I’ve ever seen in the woods or all these years. When I killed him, I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. I will say this much, if you think you’ve seen somebody freak out before you’ve seen nothing until you see me recover this deer because it was absolutely a miracle that it all happened. I was so fortunate to be able to capture it on video to be able to share it.
I’ve got such a great editor, a guy named Kyle Reenders who lives in Michigan. He did the editing for our video and it’s gotten quite a bit of attention. Quite a few people are saying it’s the best whitetail story they’ve ever watched and I would have to agree. I’ve watched a bunch of them and it has everything but a lot of time and energy and a lot of sacrifices over the years. You don’t get on these big deer, kill them year after year unless you put in the offseason time. That’s where I’m fortunate to live where I hunt. I literally had to make that happen. I literally moved from Michigan, leave everything behind and go after it but I didn’t know anything else. That’s the way I’m wired and I don’t regret anything at all over the years. Got to keep moving forward, even if you’re moving the wrong direction. If you’re not moving, you’re not going to change and you’re not going to learn. Learn to adapt, never think you have the number of a big buck. I’ve been schooled so many times. That’s what keeps me coming back.Big mature bucks don't take the same trail every time if they come out and do a field; they take a different path every night. Click To Tweet
Todd Pringnitz, with White Knuckle Productions. Thank you so much for being a returning guest in Whitetail Rendezvous. I can’t wait to catch up. I’d like you to be on sometime and tell us about hunts. It’s a joy to listen to you and hopefully one of these days I can be a guest on White Knuckle’s podcast.
Getting Tree Thrasher ready has been absolutely nonstop. I’ve been overwhelmed with work for so long. I was a guest on our own podcast for the first time in probably five months. It takes a lot of effort and time to get this new product stuff out on the market. We’re working on all the videos, media and stuff. It’s a lot of fun. I’m very lucky to be able to do what I do. I’d love to share more with you, Bruce. I appreciate you letting me come on.
- White Knuckle Productions
- Tree Thrasher
- White Knuckle Productions web show
- Walter Payton – White Knuckle Productions episode
- White Knuckle Productions Facebook page
- YouTube channel – White Knuckle Productions
- Carbon TV – White Knuckle Productions
- Podcast – White Knuckle Productions
- Todd Pringnitz – Facebook
- Sweetness – White Knuckle Productions episode
About Todd Pringnitz
CEO, Todd Pringnitz has been hooked on bowhunting ever since his first morning on-stand. Nearly 18 years later, Todd’s passion for bowhunting continues to evolve and grow with every new season and new business ventures within the hunting industry. It was Todd’s goal to create a
Todd’s straight-forward attitude and outgoing personality have allowed him to define who he is both as a person and as hunter like no other professional hunter before him. Todd’s approach is direct, aggressive, and different than what has ever been shown on-film. The goal was simple; show everything behind a kill – this is the White Knuckle difference!
Kyle Reenders of Six Ten Creative brought Todd’s vision to reality. Kyle’s background in the major motion picture industry as a professional cameraman and editor has enabled White Knuckle Productions to take their hunting production in a totally new direction. Todd realized from the beginning, video quality and film-style editing were essential for the creation of his vision. “Beyond the Kill” is this vision…
Longtime Team Member Jason Syens has been with the team since 2007. In July of 2016, Jason took over as the General Manager of the business. Recently Jason was promoted to President of WKP. Jason has a passion for bowhunting that has evolved over the years. Recently Jason took on the task of giving up his private ground to join the ranks of the Public Land Hunter. Jason is the Co-Host of the Podcast, as well as the Editor and Producer of the Podcast. If you have any questions direct them Jason’s way and if he can’t answer them he will find someone that can.