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Discover Idaho Monster Whitetails with Tom Schneider
We’re heading out to Northern Idaho and we’re going to meet up with Tom Schneider. Tom knows something about wolves and big buck. Tom, welcome to the show.
Let’s start right off with a massive and heavy whitetail in Northern Idaho.
I love hunting whitetails but in this certain moment, it was more of an accident than anything because I was actually hunting mule deer. I was up in the high elevation hunting for muleys. The one thing that I’ve always learned is always to don’t forget to glass. I always have my pair of binoculars on me all the time. One of the things that I like to do, especially hunting in thick timber country is when you’re hiking in the woods to always stop and glass. There could be something looking at you. Toward the very last week of the season when the rut was slowing down for mule deer and whitetails, I was glassing and I spotted that nice big whitetail bedded down. You would’ve thought you could see it with your eyes but you couldn’t. He blended into the background but it was nice to scan and I spotted him. I was able to have enough time to get a rest and make a good shot. When I walked up to him, I was tickled to death to see a buck of that size. Here you can use a deer tag on a mule deer or a whitetail. Normally, I like to rattle for whitetails. It’s effective up here but at that time, it was more of an accident but I put in the time. I spent every day up in the mountains. The time was what helped me harvest that buck.
How far away was he?
He was 250 yards.Patience is my success secret. Click To Tweet
You are relatively close to him and he has eyes on you. He saw you before you saw him.
I saw him before he saw me, which is nice. I had time but I was still panicking because I saw his rack size. I didn’t have a good rest because the brush was chest high and I wanted to rest on the ground. I didn’t have a tree next to me to rest on. I was scrambling around and I tried to set my pack up. I couldn’t get a rest there but I knew the wind was blowing right down at him. I was like, “I have to make something happen or else he’s going to bolt.” He’s not going to last long with the wind blowing right at him. I finally set it upright and I had to find a little opening between the brush and shot.
Was he sleeping and looking away? Tell me about his setup.
He looks like he was exhausted. When I looked through the scope, he was laying down, his head was up but he was breathing hard. After I shot and I was able to analyze what he was doing, you could see he was zigzagging and it was a grown-up clear-cut. He had no fat on him and he looked like he had a rough rut trying to find does. In these areas with wolves, we get nice good quality bucks but they’re so few and far between. These bucks have to travel long ways to find does.
The people that haven’t seen bucks with the nose to the ground and zigzagging, in the mid-west where I hunt, I saw it. I was coming off my treestand. It was past shooting lights so I couldn’t shoot. All of a sudden, I looked down about a quarter-mile away and I see this dog zigzagging through the field. I go, “That’s not a dog. That’s a buck looking for a doe.” He was like a lab or any type of bird dog. He was looking for scent. That’s all he was looking for. He was going back and forth trying to pick up that scent. Was there snow on the ground where you were?
I had a great snow background. That was very helpful too in finding him but still, he blended right into the trees. If you were to look at it with a naked eye, you would have walked right past it. You wouldn’t even have thought to even try scanning with the binoculars but I’ve always done that. I can’t tell you how many times that’s helped me. When you’re in a good area with a lot of activity, don’t walk too fast. If you’re jumping animals, you’re walking too fast. We both know that whitetails are one of the most skittish animals in North America. They run right when they spot you. You’ve got to keep your eye out and you could see his tracks. You can see where he was zigzagging and looking for does. It was definitely slowing down. It was right after Thanksgiving. I know in different areas in North America buck’s rut a little different and certain times of the year. Ours start hitting rutting pretty hard on November 10th. It starts to slow down right after Thanksgiving and you’ll start seeing less and less rut and activity.
It’s all predicated when the does come into estrus because fortunately for a deer herd, they all don’t come to estrus the same day or they wouldn’t get bred. Especially if you don’t have a balanced herd and don’t have the right numbers of bucks because they’ll lockdown for 24 hours or even 48. They’ll know that the does come into estrus and they’ll lock her down and stay with it. They will not leave and guys that have taken that have been successful hunters. I didn’t share at the beginning that you’re in the woods quite a bit. You’re a logger and a homebuilder up there in Idaho. Is that part of your secret of success? I’ve seen a shot of your trophy rooms. Your family’s been very successful hunters. Let’s get into you being in the woods and what you learned about the deer in the area through your logging activities.
That’s a lot of learning new areas especially with my dad. He’s logged the most of where I live and I live close to the Montana border. We also hunt Montana as well. I can see Montana from my house and he’s logged several drainages over the years. Having that knowledge, he was able to bring that down to me. He knows where the watering holes are and the wallows for deer and elk. Knowing that and knowing how the terrain lays and how animals react when the snowstorm hits or rainstorm hits, that’s all been helpful plus the deer love fresh logging cut too.
What’s the delicious food on the ground?
It’s that moss. They love that black moss that’s hanging in the trees and they can’t reach that high. They get the best they can but there’s not a lot of food down lower. You get that old-growth timber, the brush won’t grow. If you get it logged and you’re doing it at the right time of the year, like in December when there’s that archery hunt, it’s like candy to them. They’ll choose it over any crop you can think of. They’ll go right to that and then they’ll follow you too. I’ll fall a tree and the deer will rush right to the tree and eat on it. Some of my favorite times to hunt have been where we get a big snowstorm, a lot of bucks move in the lower elevations and my dad will fall a few trees and leave. I’ll set a treestand up and I’ve had it where over a dozen bucks started under my treestand all around me and you’ve got that snow background. They’re easy to see and it gets out of control. It’s like a bunch of mice everywhere.
What’s the nutrition benefit of that moss?
That’s something that I need to do more research on is what’s in that moss that the deer like so much.A buck blends right into the trees. If you were to look at it with a naked eye, you would walk right past it. Click To Tweet
I like to find out about it because I don’t know. I’ve seen mule deer eat quakies when the timber guys go through or a windstorm goes through or something happens. My buddy that mentored me in hunting mule deer out west, he said like a vacuum cleaner. They’ll come in and those green leaves, they’ll suck it right off the tree.
Our muleys are similar. We don’t have the aspen. We have some but it’s not enough. The muleys are also highly dependent on that moss and that higher elevation, any blow down after snow or after a windstorm, the muleys will suck to that moss. What brought their population’s high was in the 1990s where we logged a lot and it brings a lot lower vegetation growing like a brush. Areas with more clear logging cuts, bring more wildlife. What they said is the 1990s when we logged the most, that’s when we had the highest number of deer, elk and moose because there are more brows. When you let the timber grow, it cuts a lot of their food source out.
You didn’t have the wolf problem.
That’s what hurt us the most was the wolves when they first re-introduced.
When did that start happening? I’m sure there have always been wolves in the area because they come across the border from Canada.
There’s this conflict between if it’s the right species or not. We’ve had some but they were not in the numbers like we’ve had. There was only one area where we had it growing up or I’d find moose antlers in the spring and there’d be one or two but they’re small. They were like a big coyote. You want to see them do a whole lot and they weren’t in big packs. There’s one, it is known as the gray wolf and they’re saying, “That’s the species we used to,” but a lot of locals and a lot of old photos are showing that we have the old timber wolf, which is a very small species of wolf.
It got out of control where it started with the Montana border. They released them on the other side of Montana. It spread like a disease and there were drainages that would completely get wiped out and all the watering holes would stop getting used. All the trail systems would start growing up with green grass and it would become a dead zone. It was unfortunate because there were some good areas. That’s by the Montana border where I grew up. A lot of that area and terrain over there, I felt like I knew it very well and I’ve abandoned that area and that drainage for several years. I haven’t gotten back.
It’s a shame for us and if you’re anti-conservationists and anti-steward of the land, you don’t understand how hunters relate to the whole thing. You had drainage that had all such critters and the wolves go someplace else because there’s no food. I like wolves. I’ve hunted and I’ve killed wolves. I’ve set up in ridges and listened to their howls. It’s a great sound but I also know that I played a role in the management because I’ve hunted in Alaska that they quit giving out caribou tags. There weren’t any. The wolves decimated them. When did you hear the first pack howl? How many years ago was that?
It was 2006 when it was bad enough to where you’re hearing them almost frequently. I saw my first wolf in about 2003 or 2004 in a mule deer drainage where we used to find some big mule deer bucks and it was empty. There were some nice whitetails in there too. There was this big drainage where you can sit and glass and you’d always see does or bucks, but one day, it was dead. We waited and this big black one started running down the mountain and we didn’t even know what to think of, “What is that thing?” I didn’t realize how big wolves were until I saw that and I grew up my whole life never seeing one. The weight doesn’t do it justice because wolves don’t weigh that much because they’re so lean but if you could imagine, when you see their tracks, it’s the size of a black bear. They’re big animals, big dogs and they can take down a moose by themselves. A pack helps but they have some power to them. One alone can do a lot of damage. When you start getting more into 2008 to 2010, it got increasingly worse.
2011 is when they officially opened the first wolf season. It was every day you walked out in the woods to go deer and elk hunting and the wolves would be howling. At first, I was a little more selfish. I was like, “I want to hunt deer and elk. I don’t care.” I walked past a wolf howling but then later on, I started to realize, “If I want deer and elk left, I’m going to have to start managing these things.” That winter of 2011 is where I shot my first wolf. I had my sister film it and I didn’t realize how much backlash I would get from that wolf. I posted it on YouTube and I got several death threats by people that don’t understand predator management.
They’re completely clueless. If you hate me, my email is WhitetailRendezvous@Gmail.com. I’d love to talk to you. It takes the emotion out of it and like anything we do, you have to manage it correctly. In Yellowstone Park or in Colorado, they’re talking about Rocky Mountain National Park, there are wolves there already but they want more. People are pushing to have wolves introduced and when unmanaged, there’s anarchy. That’s how I’m looking at them.
We’re big shed hunters too. We find bigger sheds in the animals we hunt and that keeps us going as hunters, “Look at this whitetail. It’s 186. I want to know where he’s living.” Those quality bucks, those big, old mature bucks, they were the first to go. The wolves took them first and then we lost that quality. We stopped finding those sheds and same with elk too. The only ones that were making it where these young ones full of energy. They’re able to have enough energy to outrun wolves. Deer and elk were not even making it past five years to survive a wolf pack. If I was an elk, I’d be dead too because I’ve had several wolves come into my calls and they’re smart.Knowing how the terrain lays and how animals react when snowstorm or rainstorm hits is helpful. Click To Tweet
What are the rules? You’re out DIY hunting elk or deer, rifle or bow, what do you have to do to protect yourself?
I always carry a pistol. In this country, you have to with the grizzlies and the wolves. We have a high grizzly population too. It has to be a decent caliber. A 44-mag is what a lot of guys carry around here and I do too. I also carry pepper spray. I don’t believe that pepper spray is going to work but at least, if I run out of bullets, I’ve got an alternative. The picture of those wolves, the story on that, I was elk hunting and I was eighteen days in the woods and couldn’t get the elk to talk. That’s the thing, even if the elk are there during the rut, they won’t bugle because if they bugle, the wolf pack moves in on them. They stopped calling and they go silent. I saw a lot of elk sign but they weren’t talking because they knew as soon as they start talking, a wolf pack is going to move through and they’re going to get pushed out. I moved into this drainage and I’ve seen big bulls in there before, I was hoping I can find a big bull in here.
I was cow calling because I was making a lot of sound in the brush and I do that to cover my sounds. If an elk does hear me, it’s like another elk walking through. I was cow calling and walking slowly in the brush and I looked to my left, there was a wolf trotting at me at fifteen yards. By the time I got my arrow nock and pulled back, he was at six yards. I let the arrow fly and I put it center chest right under the chin. He took two leaps away from me and tipped over and I was so happy. He was still there lying dead at ten yards and the whole pack of wolves came out and like, “What happened to our friend?” There was no sound of a gunshot, they were sniffing and I got another opportunity. I nocked another arrow, pulled back and took a neck shot. I usually don’t take neck shots with a bow but it’s a wolf. I straight up spined it and he dropped right on top and I have a pocket full of tags. I have five wolf tags and then they scattered in the brush. One popped out in the opening at 30 yards. I nocked another arrow, pulled back and stuck it. He didn’t know where that arrow came from. He ran somewhat passed to me but was looking delirious. His eyes were closed in as he was running and he was stumbling on the brush. I was like, “I’ve got three dead wolves with my bow.”
I tried tracking him and it rained that morning and it got a little weird. The brush is about probably waist-high and there’s a wounded wolf. That’s not comfortable tracking that yourself. I did the best I could in that huckleberry brush. It rained that morning and you’re trying to wipe the leaf with your finger to see if you can get blood. The leaves are red and it gives a false impression that it’s blood. I had two down and the third one, I think he died. The good thing was a wolf trapper moved in that winter and he trapped close to a dozen in that area alone. In total, he and his son trapped nineteen that year. They trapped the pack that was messing with that area. I’m starting to see some recovery with some of the wildlife in there, which is great. It shows that this part of predator management is working in some areas that we’re helping. The trappings had been the most helpful with our wolf problems.
They can trap from when to when?
Correct me if I’m wrong, I think it’s November and it goes to March. They want to do it to where you’re not interfering with the grizzlies because they are still endangered and they wanted to make sure all the bears are in their dens before the wolf trapping begins. They’re trying to loosen some rules with at least footholds because footholds are not lethal. You can always get an animal out of a foothold but it’s more snares is what they’re concerned about. Anything that gets in a snare, there is a good chance it’s going to die but that’s the most effective way to trap wolves. Wolves make their runs every so often and if you can get a wolf to hit your baits, you can get more than one in one at one time with the snares. If you’ve got a foothold, you’re only catching one wolf at a time. It’s not as effective as snares.
All animals have trails because they’re in drainage and they go from here to here. Are the wolves the same? Do you use the game trails? The woods are pretty big and you’re putting up the snares. How does all that work?
They’re a unique animal like that. They don’t necessarily have trails that you can see but they do run the same routes if they’re not interfered. As a trapper, if you see a wolf go under a blowdown and he makes his rounds, if you’re consistently baiting there and they’re coming through, there’s a good chance it’s going to go under that blow down again. You try to set a snare there or a foothold where you saw that track was and spots where they pee. That’s a spot where they’re going to most likely pee again. Anyone out there that coyote hunts, it’s very similar to a spot where you’ll see coyotes go and urinate. That’s probably a good spot to put a foothold because most likely a wolf is going to go there and try to mark his territory in the same spot. They will run their routes but they don’t have packed down trails like a deer and elk will. If they’re finding out that their family’s dying pretty quick with trapping then they change their routes out a little bit. They used to use roads a lot too because it helps them save energy. Because of the hunting and trapping, they’re not using the roads and skid trails as much because they feel a little danger there.
Let’s get back to whitetail hunting. When did you start whitetail hunting?
Now you can hunt earlier but when I was young, it was when I turned age twelve. That was the time where I can hunt for my first whitetail. I give myself some props and a little pat on the back. I started passing up bucks early on. That first day of deer season I could’ve shot a four-point and my dad was holding it. He was like, “You should wait.” I was like, “That’s a four-point.” It’s my first deer ever and I wanted to hunt so bad. Later that night, it got too dark but a big buck came out and I was like, “That’s why you pass that deer.” Ever since then, I don’t think I’ve killed anything smaller. I’ve killed some 4x4s but they’re big ones.
I’ve always killed a pretty good quality. I was passing out bigger bucks when I was a kid than I am now because we had more quality when I was younger. I shot this nice 5×6 one time and I can’t believe to this day, I’m like, “Why did I almost pass that buck up?” I almost passed it up. He scored 152 and because his one side was a four-point and then he had double laggers and the other side is a five and the double laggers. We did have some serious quality when I was a young hunter. At fourteen and fifteen years old, I was killing some nice bucks. We had that dead spot for a while when the wolves were high population. We’ve been managing our wolves for seven years or so. We’re seeing quality come back and I’m starting to harvest those big bucks again. I harvested a big one in Montana and it was a 9×5. He was a cool buck and I rattled him in and that’s what I said my favorite way to call in those big bucks and that’ll go timbers rattling.
Why do you think that works?In the country where you have the grizzlies and the wolves, it’s important to always carry a decent caliber pistol. Click To Tweet
Bucks love the rutting activity. They’re so territorial. If you can get to where you see a lot of scrapes, it’s game on. This is the kind of the terminology we started using, it’s called microsites. Elk, deer and whitetails are having that. Although we don’t have the numbers of whitetails, if you can get into where you see whitetail activity, there’s a lot of them in that one area but you can cover several miles and not see one deer track. In that one general spotting timber, you can find it and you’ll have the whole place to yourself. You’re not around other hunters because there’s so much country and that’s what’s the same with that buck.
How I harvested that big one was, I got a tip from a guy who wasn’t deer hunting and he saw that big buck pass through two days in a row in the very same spot. When you first look at that buck, he looks like a 170-class whitetail but he’s 160, which is still huge. That’s what I love about those timber bucks is that they don’t see people. You can get an old mature buck without having any competitions. When I was younger, a lot of people have this idea that private land has the biggest deer. That is a farce because you get to all these checkered places and all those deer have to cross people eventually once in their life and they eventually get shot. I feel like these valley deer that always crossed through people’s homes and stuff, there are some nice ones running around but they’ve seen people and people don’t give them a chance to grow up. That buck that I shot, I don’t think he saw a person in his entire life either. He’s never even seen a field. These are true mountain whitetails. It’s cool to think that too. I may be the first person that buck has ever encountered.
Where do they live? Do you see the high country, then they come down lower to the rut because that’s where the does are?
The snow pushes them down too. If you get massive snow early on, it is game on because it pulls them all off. They’ll stay in the high country with elk and mule deer. You’ll have motion cameras up in that high country and we’ve had nice bucks. We’ll be trying to pattern elk in our area and you’ll get an elk, a moose, a mountain lion and all of a sudden, this big buck comes walking through on the motion camera on a spot where you don’t expect a whitetail to be.
What’s the elevation there?
The highest elevation is 7,000 to 8,000 feet and then the valley is 1,900 to 2,000. Our highest peak’s close to 8,000.
8,000 feet of transition zone means different things to people. The seasonal transition zone is where they can’t find any forage and they’re coming down. This is an interesting conversation because you’re the first person I’ve talked to about hunting whitetails off the river bottoms.
It’s so different here and we do have river bottoms. Those mountain bucks are a different breed. With any whitetail, they’re all the same in some way but they have to act differently in order to survive. Their territory is a lot bigger with those mountain whitetails. If you have a motion camera and you have a scent scrape in this drainage, you can have another motion camera in different drainage ten miles away and have the very same buck check that scrapes ten miles away and he’ll make that route. They have to cover that much ground in order to find does because there’s so much country out there and there’s not that many of them. If they’re going to find does, they’re going to have to travel a lot more. These valley whitetails, their territory is so much smaller because there are many deer in the valley, in the farm fields and stuff. You see those bucks regularly. It’s unique and they are ghosts.
His behavior has changed because you probably don’t see too many immature deer up high in the mountains.
It weeds out over because of the wolves and stuff. It takes all the stupid ones out. There are some immature deer. It’s the ones that survive all the years. They’re the ones that grow the biggest. There’s no limit with age with those big mountain bucks. I feel like in the valley there is. It’s like that buck has to survive six or seven years in the valley and dodge all those farmers that love shooting deer in order for him to grow to a nice quality buck. It’s hard to do that and you have to manage them properly too. You can’t be shooting the first four-point. You have to let them grow up. I know guys that have 1,000-acre ranches and they can’t get that quality that the mountains bring.
The only times those big bucks get killed by hunters that don’t know what they’re doing is you get that deep snow and one of those big bucks will get stupid and he’ll go pop out in the valley chasing one of the does around. It’s a buck that nobody’s ever seen before. There was a 175-incher shot and it was in an area where there were a lot of road hunters that hunt. It’s like, “How did that buck show up?” If you look at the terrain, I’ve found some giants on that sheds on that mountain. That buck peeled over must have caught wind of a hot doe and he pulled into an area where there were a lot of road hunters and he died. It’s like, “Why not me? Why don’t I get that lucky?” I always have to work for mine.
In my experience, on the thermals, the wind and everything, when does get into estrus, they can smell them from a long way away. I’m talking a mile away if all the conditions are right. You could be a buck up on a ridge and the winds coming off the valley and bouncing up and all of a sudden, they get a whiff of that. Once the buck gets that, then it’s game on. He’s not going to do anything but find that doe.Whitetails are all the same in some way, but they have to act differently in order to survive. Click To Tweet
That’s the only downside to calling or trying to rattle too is if you’ve got a buck that’s hot on a doe, you’re not going to get his attention off. I’ve tried and I’ve seen bucks on a mission on a hot doe. I’ve rattled muleys and it’s not that common. You don’t hear people talking about rattling mule deer bucks but I’ve done it. I’ve watched a mule deer completely ignore my rattle. He’s not a big one and I let him go. That’s the one thing that people need to realize too just because it doesn’t work the first time doesn’t mean it’s not going to work the second time. I can’t tell you how many people have told me rattling sucks. It’s a patience game. A lot of the hunting up here, when you’re hunting mule deer and elk, it doesn’t take as much patience. It’s more of you are hiking a lot, you’re glassing a lot and you’re covering ground but whitetails you’ve got to find them. The whitetails are more of a patience game as we all know. A lot of hunters that are used to hunting elk and mule deer don’t have the patience. I feel like I do.
I know there are guys that are more patient than I am but I can sit in a treestand for four hours if I have to. You’ve got to put in the time and it’s something about being completely still and completely quiet. The woods start to come alive. I learned that at an early age. When we had tons of deer before the wolves, I would sit at a trail. I didn’t know anything about whitetails but I would sit on a trail with my little 40-pound bow and I’d have a deer walking down the trail and walk past me. It was so cool. It taught me a lot right there. Be patient, stay still, wait and don’t leave. Many people leave during prime time. They’re like, “It’s half an hour until it gets dark. I don’t want to walk out back to the pickup in the dark,” and they leave and they missed the best time of the day. It cracks me up. I see people do it all the time.
You shared a lot of lessons learned and to be a good whitetail hunter one, invoke patience, especially during the rut. There are times that you can spot and stalk. In the early season, you can pattern deer and you’re intercepting them rather than anything else. They’re coming through here. I’m going to set up here, they’re going to walk by me again and they do if nobody changes them. These mountain bucks intrigue me because they’re in big timber.
They are and it makes it nice in some way too. If you’re in an area with some big bucks like that big timber, the good side to it, choking out the brush in some way get the bucks out. Whitetails love thickets and they like to stay hidden but big timber gives them the false impression that they’re hidden. They’ll move through that old-growth timber as if it’s a thicket and they feel a lot safer. If you find some openings, you’re trying to set your treestand and you’re trying to bring them out, it’s a little bit tougher. Being in that old-growth timber, they act like they’re hidden and they can’t be seen. I’ve been rattling and they’ll walk right past you.
You get rub lines and you get scrapes, is that correct?
Yes. Our hunting’s a little bit different because we’re hunting mountain deer. They like those benches. If you hunt in the mountain, you’ll see those slabs, like a bench. Those deer parallel that. Bucks love using that. If you start seeing a lot of scrape activity and you rattle there once and you don’t have any luck, it doesn’t matter. Come back and try rattling there again because that buck will eventually come back. That’s the secret with scent scrapes. If you do set scent scrapes and you have bucks hitting it, they hit it triple the time when the rut gets hot.
You’re talking about mock scrapes.
Yeah, they start hitting them a lot more frequently but bucks are patterned. Whitetails are very well patterned. That’s why I love whitetails. It’s not like an elk or a mule deer. If you have a big buck that’s passing through that area, there’s a good chance it’s coming back. Don’t give up and stay in that area.
You can pattern elk if they’re not busted or boogered up. They’re in 10,000 acres and they’re only in 10% of the acreage at any one time.
Like in areas I’ve hunted in Southern Idaho with less wolf activity, they are quietly patterned. They’ll come to the fields and they’ll come up the mountains or they have their little patterns. Ours don’t stay around long. They’re drainage hoppers. They will get a little bit after the rut but they’re moving a lot. You can pattern them but not like a whitetail.
We talked about wolves and there’s an open season, where are we at with grizzly bears in Idaho?
Wildlife officials have said that we have enough to say they’re no longer on the endangered species list but the reason why they still are on the endangered species list is that I call them radical environmentalist. I feel like we’re all environmentalist in some way and we all care about the environment but these are people that are so extreme that all they can think about is the fuzzy, cute animal versus what’s right for nature. They’re getting high in population. It was supposed to be our first bear season for grizzlies and it was shut down by a judge because of spiritual reasons. That’s literally what was said. It was a spiritual reason for people they shut down the season and not for what’s going on.To grow nice quality bucks, you have to manage them properly. You can't be shooting the first four-point. You have to let them grow up. Click To Tweet
One of the drainages that we hunt elk, my brother and I, we set up a motion camera where there is a corridor where wildlife like to travel, wolves, elk and deer, about everything. We set the motion camera there for two weeks. We climbed up on the ridge next to our camp and we counted five grizzlies sitting in one spot, a big boar and three cubs. When we came down and got the motion camera, we started counting grizzly after grizzly and they weren’t the same grizzlies. We calculated in that one little spot next to our camp. There are eleven grizzlies living there. That’s a lot of grizzlies. If you don’t have a good huckleberry year, things can get bad.
If you get a good huckleberry year, you can glass these grizzlies’ miles from camp but they’re not going to bother your camp. My brother shot a bull a couple of years back and we got all the meat, brought it back to camp, the gut pile was still there and the very next day, we glassed a grizzly about six or seven miles away. His nose was in the air and within minutes he was at that gut pile. It was a very poor year for huckleberries and he needed that. He wanted some food but it was scary to think that our camp was not that far away from where that gut pile was and that’s where the meat was. We had the meat hanging next to camp. If it wasn’t that much farther away from that grizzly would have chosen the meat instead and we’d have problems at camp.
We looked at other predators that are being managed properly and we’re not having problems with them in the valley with people. Grizzlies, we’re having problems because they’re not being managed. They’re running out of the territory, they’re running out of food and they’ll either go ballistic or they’re going to cause a problem with people because they need food. They’re causing problems and we need to start managing them. Our own authorities have admitted this and wildlife biologists have admitted this but they have no control, which is unfortunate. Wildlife biologists have more control over wildlife and anything. It’s in the wrong hands. It’s in these environmental scoops that have enough money, they throw an ad, “Look at how sad this seal is. Save the seals,” and then they get that money and throw it towards that. We’re being controlled over that. Our hands are tied.
It happened with our caribous. We had caribou here that went endangered or became extinct because of the wolves. They released the wolves here and we had endangered species of caribou with only fifteen left. What do you think those wolves are going to do to that fifteen caribou? They demolished them and they’re trying to come up with reasons of why they were killed. We know why they were killed. We trapped one of those wolves with a fish and game collar and the wildlife biologist told us that if we didn’t trap the wolf, then they would have themselves because that was one of the wolves that were killing those caribou. We know but the public doesn’t know.
Some of the public care, some are neutral and some are, I don’t call them radical, I call them tourist environmentalist because they only think with one part of their brain. Scientific basis means absolutely nothing and that’s sad because it takes science to manage them. It got decimated in Idaho because wolves are going to eat what they’re going to eat and that’s what they do. They kill stuff and they eat it. People don’t realize when they don’t have a steak that something had to die. They don’t make that leap.
I would say that people, the environmentalists out there to go completely vegan and don’t eat another piece of meat. Don’t eat any fish because the fish had to die. Don’t eat any chicken because the chicken had to die. Don’t eat beef because a cow had to die. Eliminate that from your diet and people can survive as vegans and if that’s your choice, go for it but don’t come around and tell me that I’m wrong because I kill stuff. I’m not. If you read the Bible, we were told to be stewards and that’s what hunters are. We’re stewards.
We are and we’re part of nature. What do you think we are? We’re mammals and omnivores. We’ve got to eat but we have to do it responsibly and that’s what we’re doing. We’re doing it responsibly. People don’t like to bring up what we did in the past and we have the technology to study wildlife and to know how much we can hunt and how much we can’t. Look at whitetails. There are more whitetails than there was when Lewis and Clark crossed the plains.
They are everywhere. I think the biological terminology is they pioneered and they get in these drainages and they kept going. From Tom Schneider, I realized there are mountain bucks. I’ve heard in the Appalachian Mountains, they hunt mountain bucks. It isn’t all that different but they had decided I’m leaving the valley because if I stay there, I’m going to die from a bull or a wolf. I’m living in the mountains. I get some peace and quiet because my range is extended greatly.
A lot of it had to do with the logging.
Let’s talk about that because that’s your business and how logging has impacted. There are some people that are again saying, “You’re killing trees.”
We’d didn’t have elk up here until logging happened. If you were to go and ask any of the old timers that live before the 1950s, we didn’t have whitetails, moose and elk in our area because our timber would grow so thick that it would take away all the vegetation. What logging has done is we created our own ecosystem up here. This is a logging town and I love the old photos of my grandpa. My whole family’s loggers. Even on my mom’s side, my grandpa hauled logs but when you look at our mountains, they were logged pretty hard but they grow fast too.
You can log a clear cut, like cut every tree and in five years, you can’t see in front of your face. The trees grow that fast. People don’t understand it’s a renewable resource. Don’t worry, they will grow back but that’s what creates this vegetation. When you cut all those trees, that brush that has always needed that sunlight to grow, grows and clear cuts are the best way to hunt. Animals use it. Whitetails will treat it like a field and you get that brush going. As you would pattern on whitetail on a field, they’ll come out at night and use the clear cuts. They feel safer in timber like any deer does and thickets but all the vegetation and the foods out in the fields, otherwise they’re highly dependent on that moss. They’re hoping and crossing their hooves that a tree falls, it gives them enough food for moss. They can’t depend on trees that fall over and it’s the same with mule deer and everything like that.Clear cuts are the best way to hunt. Animals use it and whitetails treat it like a field. Click To Tweet
Some of the imbalance that they’re talking about is what that has done is that’s brought more predators that took out the caribou too. That’s what they’re trying to blame is that because of the logging it’s brought in deer and elk and it also brought in the massive amount of predators. They’re the ones that released the predators. The wolves didn’t come here naturally. They placed them here. You can’t blame it on the logging that brought the food source for the predators and the predators got here. That’s a weird take on that but we’re trying to get more and more logging again and they’re getting back into logging.
They have to get lumber from someplace.
It’s a farm. We’re farming our natural resource and it grows back and you have to do it responsibly like anything. We do a lot of selective logging where you only log the merchantable trees and there are trees that are not quite tall yet and you leave them and they still grow that brush. You open it up enough to where you still got trees that are 30 to 40 feet tall and you get the underbrush four or five years later, those trees are ready to log and you log those ones, you leave the small one. There’s quite the cycle there. My parents have 150 acres and he’s logged that seven times. It keeps on growing and keeps on logging it. I logged my property, I have fifteen acres and there’s still forest there. It’s not clear cut. There are proper ways to log and it does benefit the wildlife.
You’ve shared a lot of information. I’m trying to pull it all together. I’m thinking of a couple of people I’m going to reach out to because I like somebody to write an article about hunting mountain whitetail. That’s fascinating and it’s a completely different set. I’ve seen mule deer above 12,000 feet. I’ve never seen a whitetail, but I have seen them 8,000 along the Arkansas Valley rear drainage. There are feeder creeks in that. They come off at Arkansas and go up into the mountains, it’s no big deal. What I’m thinking is they’re probably there but nobody hunts them because they’re hunting elk or mule deer.
That’s usually what it is and it’s easier to hunt a valley deer. There’s more in the valley but quality-wise, I don’t think I’ve ever killed a quality one in the valley.
Just to recap of your big buck, it was a spot and stalk. You’re still hunting, correct?
I’m still hunting. I hunted it as if I hunted a mule deer. It was a spot and stalk, glassing and I was using grunts but that one the grunt did not do anything. He was exhausted from the rut and it’s the time. I put in the time and I stayed where there was a lot of feed for mule deer and whitetails.
You use your glasses. Don’t glass with your scope. Don’t do that. You mentioned you go slow, you look for signs and you’re patient. Hunting elk is patience. I can think of a couple of different instances I shot an elk because I was hunting like I’m hunting whitetail. I saw a sign and I stopped. I hunted until I found what I call whitetail land, a core area. I stopped and I was able to get him because everything stopped and I start taking the glasses and parting the trees. If you’re in areas that do have wolves, enjoy it but be prepared to protect yourself because they’re primeval. They’re unbelievable species and you know you’re in the wilderness when you hear a wolf howl. Is there anything you can add on the wolves?
They need to get managed because they produce like a coyote.
You talked about the hunting tradition with your grandfather and all the way through because you’re in the logging business, you’re in the woods all the time. Every single day you see something that gives you more information for the upcoming hunting season.
It conditions me too being out in the woods and going through the weather. My body is so conditioned. When the hunting season hits, it’s great. I’ve done office jobs before and when that season hits, I’m so sweaty, I don’t like it. When you’re out working in the woods, you’ll get used to it. You’re like, “It’s no big deal. It’s another day out in the woods.”
This has been amazing, Tom. Thank you so much for joining Whitetail Rendezvous. We’re launching Deer Hunting Institute. What I’d like to do is tape a segment with you as hunting western whitetails in the mountain. We’ll get you part of the Deer Hunting Institute membership. I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot. We shared some stories and I look forward to the next time.
Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
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About Tom Schneider
I have lived in North Idaho my entire life. When I turned 12, I harvested my first 5×5(10pt) buck.