Discover Red Vanes Outdoors with Gavin Leonard

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes Outdoors


Nowadays, hunters are inspired to film their hunts for different reasons. Red Vanes Outdoors’ goal is to bring footage from all over the world doing what they love to do – harvesting mature whitetail bucks. Gavin Leonard shares his journey into the world of video photography with the filming of Red Vanes Outdoors. His work can be found on his social media sites, the hunting channel, and soon he hopes on the Sportsmans channel. Gavin’s passion is way ahead of his years, and his ability to read a sign and make stand site decisions has yielded some awesome footage as well as exciting stories. Learn about his one-day hunt sequence that will blow your mind. Discover as well how to find deer on public land in Virginia, why poaching is a massive problem in the state, and Gavin’s advice to young people who are starting in the hunting arena.

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Discover Red Vanes Outdoors with Gavin Leonard

We’re heading out to Virginia and we’re going to meet up with Gavin Leonard. He is the host and owner of Red Vanes Outdoors. Gavin, welcome to the show.

Thanks for having me, Bruce. How are you?

I’m doing fine. It took us a little while to get together, but we finally get it done. That’s a pretty nice buck you’ve got.

It’s not bad. It came from Iowa and there are a couple more.

Any from Virginia?

There are a couple in my room from Virginia. We’ve killed some good deer from Virginia.

I have an Iowa buck, it’s a previous deer I shot. A little young, but he’s 132. I didn’t care. It was such a gorgeous deer. I’d been hunting for days. It was getting late in the evening and the light was absolutely perfect. I wish I had filmed that because it would have been completely awesome how the light was bouncing off his tines and stuff. He’s got between six and eight-inches brow tides. I saw those and I didn’t see anything else. I was hunting with a muzzler.

I have been there trying to get it down for sure.

That’s why I shot him and the bigger deer were killed that week, but it mattered. It’s the prettiest I’ve ever killed. I killed a couple and I’m just happy with him. Tell me the story about the buck you killed.

My dad killed it. I was younger and I went to Iowa where he had killed this deer. We sat in the same spot. He actually shot another one 60 plus deer. It was probably 58, 59 yards. It was about negative ten. We had been sitting there.

With a muzzleloader?

No, a bow.

Was it a late bow season?

We had been sitting there pretty much all day. It was freezing and it came running. We had set exactly where it came out of the woods. It was about 58 yards. He didn’t stop it. He hit it a little far back and the deer bled more than any deer I’ve ever seen bleed and not be able to find it. It stood in a soybean field where he shot it and turned it around to look at us. I was sitting there and looking. Our camera actually died as I was filling it. I threw the binoculars on it and the blood was pouring. I was like, “This deer is going to die.” We had walked a long way to get back to that spot because we hunt on public.

You were DIY in public land Iowa, late-season January.

I forgot the exact month, but it was late.

December, January or whatever.

He shot up 58 yards. It turned right when he shot, he hit it far back and it poured the blood. A long story short, we looked for probably three hours up until the night and tracked it. We were going to go back to the hotel because we were leaving the next day. That morning we were going to spend on looking for it. We just wanted to try and get ahold us some dogs and stuff, but it actually snowed about a foot that night. It messed up the whole story ending for us, but it was a beautiful deer. I’ve got it on film. It’s on our Instagram, the deer itself, the video. It had been beautiful, another wall hanger for sure.

You didn’t get the deer.

I didn’t at that time.

Was it dark blood? Do you think he got the liver?

No, I think he hit that main artery in its butt. Usually, the deer bleed out fairly quick from that.

That’s not a bad shot. It’s not a recommended shot. You take the femoral artery and they just drain.

We were shooting Rage Broadhead, and we had great success with the Rages. They sliced it wide open and tracked it. I know the deer died, which is probably the worst part of it, but just the snow ultimately got us and it’s hard to do anything in a foot of snow.

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes Outdoors

You can proximity gauge it because you go last page, the last blood, but from there it’s hard.

A hope and prayer at that point.

Have you hunted in Iowa yourself?

I went with him, but I mainly filmed them. I did hunt a little bit, but I’m going to be able to draw a tag. I’m going out there on November 10th for about a week. I’m excited for that for sure.

It looks like you’re getting tags every year.

Just about every other year we get one.

He either gets one or you get one.

Where you got to put in a point and they got up a good point system out there in it. Honestly, I think every state should implement it just because it allows everybody an opportunity. It allows the deer to grow and not get hunted so much that they can’t grow because you’ve got people over hunting deer. Every part you go is over hunted. I liked their system. You got appointed a point. After that point, you usually can get a draw for different counties out there. Some counties take one point, some take all the way up to like seven or eight.

The Southern Zones below I-80 are hard. Those are the two zones, but you get north of Des Moines up along the Missouri River all the way across, it isn’t as hard. I’ve got two points and I don’t hunt by myself anymore. I’ve got to wait for my buddy to get two points and then we’ll be back there probably next.

It’s awesome. It’s probably my favorite place I’ll ever be hunting.

It was a lot of big deer and my $0.02 worth. The secret is there is DIY land for late season hunts that you can have an opportunity to shoot a mature buck. I’m not going to say it’s going to be a Booner, but I’m going to see a 150 class, four-and-a-half-year-old deer or older. You’ll have an opportunity if you have five days.

Most of those deer, he killed the two big ones. I don’t know how big, you can see on my phone, but if you get a good angle, you guys would see just how big they are. They’re both pushing 160 or over 160. I’m not exactly sure what they scored, but they’re right there over that 160 mark and they’re both on public land in Iowa. We’re about an hour and a half over the Missouri border where we hunt in Iowa.

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Have you ever thought about hunting in Missouri?

We did. We went there and I went from my senior trip in high school. My dad took me in and we scouted it. They actually had it flooded the year before or that year and it was just not good. We didn’t see a sign or anything. We didn’t have a very good hunt that year, but they got some big deer as well.

They really do. I had a friend who hunted for 36 hours. He left Wisconsin, drove there and got home in 36 hours and killed the Pope and Young class deer.

They’ve got some big deer. You just got to find them.

That’s like anything. How do you find them? We get thousands of people trying to figure out how to find deer on public land. That’s what you’re talking about. How do you find deer out of state, right home or in Virginia?

In Virginia, it’s tough. We actually own some of our private land here in Virginia. About 100, 120 acres, which isn’t huge. The problem I’ve found here in Virginia, we’re a big believer in management. On our farm, we manage it pretty well. We do everything we can with food plots and everything to attract the deer to our property just so we can let them grow. Our neighbors and the people around in my area is bad about shooting young deer, which I’m all for it. If it’s a kid or something, but if you’ve killed five 160s in your life, as an example or whatever, I feel like you should let some of the younger deer grow. I feel like it’s a big problem in our area. I really do think my area can have some big deer if people would manage better. Poaching is a big problem where I live as well.

Why so?

I live out in the county. I live twenty minutes from a big city. It’s not a big city, but it’s pretty big. I live out in the county and everybody comes here. Ride the roads at nights with their buddies and it makes it a nightmare.

Are they shooting to eat?

They’re shooting illegally to have a good story with their buddies. It’s a headache.

What does the DNR say?

We got the game ones out here pretty heavy and it’s gotten better the last couple of years, but there’s not enough game once around here to cover all the land. That makes it tough.

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes OutdoorsI don’t hear a lot about poaching. It does happen, but it’s self-controlled and people know they hang out at the bars or whatever. They know that some of the people will turn them in. They know that and they know they can’t get in a fight or anything like that because in the end, they’re going to lose out as opposed to say, “If you do something, I’m going to do something to you.” It’s kind of where I hunt in Wisconsin. It is where people say, “No, we’re growing big deer and we want to continue to grow big deer.” If you’re going to do that, just because you’re drinking beer with your buddies and going out shooting deer, then that’s not so good.

The worst part about it, it’s not even their property. They don’t care. I’ve actually seen people shoot at deer illegally from the road around here and just not even on the property. It infuriates me. When we go to Iowa and stuff like that, I haven’t seen any issues when we’ve been out there or heard of it. We got back from Hupp Outfitters in Ohio on a turkey hunt. They said I didn’t have any issues with it either. It’s a beautiful place up there. They’ve got some monster deer. We had a good time up there.

Did you pay them to hunt turkeys?

They let us come up and hunt with them. They’ve got some great land. They’ve got almost 3,000 acres and they’re great people.

What’s their name?

Hupp Outfitters in Ohio.

Where are they located?

They’re right there at the Ohio West Virginia border. They’ve got a beautiful lodge. They feed you like a king. We’ve seen ten deer every morning, turkey hunting. That was a good sign and they’re good people. We had a great time. We got eight-and-a-half-inch bearded hen for mine, Abby did. It was cool. I’m sure the other people killed them, but we had never killed one and it was an eight-and-a-half-inch bearded hen, so it was pretty cool. It’s just

It’s always good to give people shout outs that have treated you right. When is that footage going to be up on your show on Red Vanes?

We’re going to get it put together. Right now is a tough time for me because I just completed real estate school and I have one test left last from my state boards to pass it. It’s tough right now but we’re trying to get that done and get it out.

In your bio, you said you’re trying to go to work not mostly whitetail properties.

I’ll probably work around here for about a year and get some experience. Me and Dan Perez, I talk to him quite a bit, the owner of Whitetail Properties through Red Vanes. Red Vanes have made a connection because wanting a property is all about hunting. That’s my plan and a couple of years to get on with them and work for them.

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Are you going to move up to Iowa?

If dad would let us, I would in a heartbeat.

People want to buy where the deer are. It’s expensive anyplace. I live in Colorado and the average person can’t buy a thousand acres out here. You can’t do it. Even in Wisconsin, in Buffalo County where I’ve hunted in $60,000 for a hundred acres for lease. It’s a lot of money. This guy’s coming out of Chicago and Minneapolis, mostly Chicago and Milwaukee. They’ll get up there and five or six of them get in and they’ll go, “Fine, we’ll do it.” It’s a lot of money.

It always helps if you could split it up with people.

It’s just the way it is. I’m not sure I’m going to change it. It’s a commodity because there’s only so much land and farmers are realizing. It’s good for farmers because all of a sudden, they’re making really serious money and they can pay their taxes and buy a new truck and that sort of thing.

It all goes around for sure. It’s like a circle.

I’m happy for them. It makes it tough for guys looking for a place to hunt, especially Buffalo County and stuff, those days are gone. If you don’t know somebody that’s got land, then you’ve got to not hunt or pay an outfitter. Tell me about Red Vanes. Let’s talk about why you started it, where do you want it to go and where people can see your product.

I played baseball my whole life in college. I grew up hunting. My dad had always got me and I’d been in the woods ever since I could walk. For my area, we always killed big deer, me and him, every year. It drew attention like at your local gas stations and stuff like that, which I always thought was cool growing up. One day, we killed a deer and I was like, “I’m going to make an Instagram.” I made an Instagram account. My mom and I were driving down the road and I was like, “I wonder what I’m going to call it.” I came up with the name Red Vanes Outdoors because we shot it with a bow and it turned the vanes red, so it stuck. It just took off.

I made an Instagram account, I kept posting pictures and good content and it took off. On our first year, we were fortunate enough to sign with the Hunt Channel and we aired some episodes with them. We’re also growing our YouTube channel. What we’re doing right now is filming and traveling as much as possible to Iowa and Ohio and places like that to try to get footage and to get all the episodes stored up. We’re in talks with the Sportsman Channel pretty heavy, but it’s impossible to air with anybody unless you had the episodes put together.

You’ve got to have the content.

That’s what we’re doing. We’re filming our butts off and trying to get the episodes and content put together and ready for them. Hopefully, we’ll work something out and get on there and get it on with them, but it’s been a blessing for sure. It’s really taken off and I couldn’t be more thankful from everything that’s given me so far.

What do you mean it’s really taken off?

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes Outdoors

It’s provided opportunities for me and the people on my team like friends at the real estate. I would’ve never met Dan Perez or probably been interested in liking properties as a profession. If it weren’t for Red Vanes, I would’ve been a normal real estate agent. Through Red Vanes, it helped me make connections. People like Hupp Outfitters, it’s allows me to get up and do some deer hunting in different counties. It gave me some sponsors. We’ve been fortunate enough to link up with some pretty significant sponsors. It helps every time anybody wants to sponsor so we can buy a tag somewhere, traveling, get film and help us live out our dreams of hunting for a living. That’s the ultimate goal is doing this for a living. That’s where we’re at right now and the goals we have in place.

What advice would you give somebody starting out like you are if they want to get into the industry?

My advice would be a good person and if someone decides to sponsor you, truly work hard for them and be good to them. Mainly, I would say that film everything and to be always honest, do everything right and everything will come back. It’s like a circle. I always say it will come back to you so be a good person and do things the right way. Also, try to get your name out there is the best way possible. Make Instagram, Facebook and YouTube channels. It’s really where everything’s going, it’s social media. Grow your social media. Start your website, get you some off the payroll, try to make as many connections, and get your name and your team’s name out there as possible. If you do everything right, it will take off for you.

Social Media and the digital world, you’re in Virginia. I’m in Colorado and we’re chit-chatting and video calling, and we’re making content for Whitetail Rendezvous. That’s what it’s all about. It’s easy but also hard. I liked how you said you’ve got to work at it and you’ve got to be a good person. There are no shortcuts.

It’s a job. Not everybody can be Mark, Terry and Gary and would be able to do it full-time. We have real jobs and it’s definitely hard, but it’s worth every penny of hard work.

Do you think you could make a living with Whitetail Properties? That’s a competitive real estate and a competitive business because there’s only so much dirt out there.

It hurts me when I’m in Virginia working for them. It’s not as big as Iowa or something, but I think with Red Vanes, I can make that happen. It can be beneficial as a career for me. I’m looking forward to it.

Let’s talk about hunting styles. I know you’re doing a lot of filming, but when you’d go out to hunt, do you self-film or have somebody else film you?

It’s so hard to self-film. I can’t self-film just through your arms and tripods stuff like that. I always try to have someone there to film.

What’s your favorite time personally to hunt in Virginia?

November for sure. The first couple of weeks when deer are on summer patterns. They’re still here.

On our farm, the best deal we’ve taken off was in September in Wisconsin. I think it’s the second week or first week of September and we killed a 180 buck. We had watched it all year, all summer. It was pretty easy when they’re on that pattern.

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They haven’t been introduced to human scent. They haven’t been hunted and they’re on their pattern. They are doing their thing. Sneak in there and kill one.

It’s the right place and right time. Garrett said it was easy because he could see where they were feeding right below his house on the farm through the woods and stuff. Every night he’d just watch it and then got in this tree and he walked under, then that was that. It’s anti-climatic. You think it’s shooting 180 buck, but he did all the work all summer with trail cameras and personal observation. It was an old deer, six and a half years old

Me and my buddy, early on, it was 75 degrees. I went to Indiana with Jeffrey Shaw, he’s on my team. He shoots from Matthews and is a really good buddy of mine. I drove up to Indiana and met up with him. We stayed at his house. I had planned on staying there for about a week and when I got there, he had let up a 156-inch deer walk that he didn’t know it was a 156-inch deer. He showed me the footage. It’s the way it came in. It did not look 156 but I hit it up there after he told me that. We went and two-man set up the film. We hung at about 2:00. We went back to his house, grabbed some food and stuff, and went right back in. Thirty minutes later, got on the stand, I was actually sitting there eating a snippy, I looked over and I said, “Big buck.” This buck had been bedded there the entire time we were on the stand.

He never left, didn’t he? Was he 100 yards from you?

No, 50, 60 yards. He came in the twenty yards. It was the same deer and he scored 156. His body was a freaking tank. You can see the pictures over at Red Vanes. It’s on my Instagram. That was one of the coolest hunts I’ve ever been a part of. I couldn’t believe that deer was bedded there 50, 60 yards the entire time. We snuck in twenty minutes afterward and killed it. It was 375 degrees, early season and super hot and it was awesome.

Let’s camp out here and take this apart. The night before out of the same stand, had the guy seen the deer?

He had seen the deer and he was filming the deer. He was using the climber at that point.

A different stand then. Did you set hang-ons, a double set?

The same tree with different stands. He had a little clover, a little poor man plot he had put it in. That deer was bedded right there. He walked right past it and it was last light. On the footage, you couldn’t tell. It looked like it was a 140-inch deer, but he didn’t want to shoot it because he wanted better footage. I got up there and it unfolded.

Where’s the tree? Do you have a kill plot out or why is that deer bedded there?

He’s an old deer that lived there. Not many people can get to that spot. It’s a pretty good hike if you walk. We had a four-wheeler and parked it really close because we thought that that deer would be coming from a different direction. He was making a circle around the farm. The farm borders on public land and we were actually sitting on public when we killed it, but that deer would walk and do a circle on his whole farm and bed on public. He would feed only at nights and he would lay there all day on that public piece of property. My friend patterned him through trail cameras and snuck on around his bed area and killed him.

The wind was in your favor.

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes Outdoors


It was in our favor.

It had to hear you though you’re talking.

You would think. I sit in there with video and everything. Standing, sitting there, hanging on a stand, and we were on the floor when we were up there. Nothing. I sit there and think about it sometimes how we pulled that off, but we did. I’ve got the pictures to prove it and the video. The video’s up on our YouTube channel. It’s a pretty cool hunt.

I’m trying to break it down. You got a buck. He’s never been pressured at all. Is he used to seeing people or not?

I don’t think so. He’s the first deer on the first twenty minutes. He’s bedded down. He was probably getting ready to start his circle regimen that he’d been doing every day. He stood up and came right in. I think it was a five or a five-and-a-half-year-old deer. That’s probably the coolest hunt I’ve been on as far as how it all played out. When I was editing, I was like, “This is hard to edit. It was the first deer and he got no B roll. Nothing.” We edited it exactly how it happened.

Do you ever use a run and gun technique where you have an observation stand and watch bucks coming in, pattern them and they can go in just like you did when you hung up a stand and killed the buck that night?

Maybe not in a stand, but how my farm’s set up, we can drive and look at fields a lot during the evenings. We used to drive or video and spotting scopes and binoculars, maybe write down on a notebook and try to get a pattern of them. Running trail cameras is huge in patterning deer. My friend named the deer, Bushes. That’s what ultimately led to us killing it. It was trail cameras.

If somebody wants to get ahold of you, how would they do that, Gavin?

Send us a message on Instagram, @Red_Vanes_Outdoors and there’s an email in the bio, you can go ahead. It says, “Click here for email.” You can send us a message on Facebook, but Instagram is the easiest way.

If somebody wants to reach out to you on social media and go from there?

Any questions or anything. It’s always nice meeting new people, just message. It can go a long way.

Are you booked for the year?

We’re not booked for the year. We’re hopefully going to get back up to Ohio, going to Iowa, going with an outfitter in Missouri, Twisted Oaks. That’s our three main ones right now. We’re going to hopefully, me, Chandler Davis and the rest of our team, try lease farming in Ohio, Kentucky. We’re trying to get a couple of deer up there.

Did somebody got some land in you said Ohio, Kentucky?

We’re going to look for a lease up there.

If you know somebody in Ohio, Kentucky, get ahold of Gavin and have a chit-chat with him.

I appreciate it. We’ll take care of the property. We’ll work something out.

Are there any last words?

I appreciate you having me on. It’s been a blast.

It’s been a pleasure and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. I hope we can hunt together sometime.

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About Gavin Leonard

WTR Gavin | Red Vanes OutdoorsMy name is Gavin Leonard and I’m the owner of Red Vanes Outdoors. Besides hunting, I played college baseball and for a living, I am becoming a real estate agent.

I hope to work for Whitetail Properties. I’ve been hunting since I could walk, and it’s been a dream of mine to have a hunting business/TV show. Red Vanes has given amazing opportunities and introduced me to many new friends. With Red Vanes, I’ve gotten to travel the world and do what I love.

Through Red Vanes, I’ve been able to spend quality time hunting with my dad and that’s really how it started. A few years ago, I started filming hunting with my dad and some friends and the Hunt Channel picked us up. Since that day, things have taken off and I can’t wait to see where all Red Vanes goes!