Episode 014 Dr. James Mather co-founder of thehuntblog.com a whitetail deer blog

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Dr. James Mather co-founder of thehuntblog.com
Dr. James Mather co-founder of thehuntblog.com

This is Bruce Hutcheon, your host of Whitetail Rendezvous. And we’re heading north of the border this morning. We’re up in Canada, up near Toronto, and we’ve got Dr. James Mather on the show today. Dr. James, say hello to the folks.

Dr. James: Hi, everybody. How are you? You are you Bruce? I’m pretty excited to be on the show here this morning.

Bruce: Well, we’re excited to have you and in our warm up we were just talking about a couple of things Dr. James is involved with and let’s just start off the show and tell the folks why you get involved with TheHuntBlog.com.

Dr. James: Yeah, sure, Bruce. Thanks for asking about that. So I’ve been hunting since as long as I can remember. My earliest memories are probably my dad going out hunting, and this was before the day of cell phones or anything, so you never knew, no one was sending you a text message that they got a deer. And so I would sit on the front porch, patiently waiting every fall morning for my dad to roll down the road and see if he had harvested any animals, and we would tell all these stories. And times have changed a lot since those young days and things are getting a lot more digital. But the thing that keeps attracting us, me to hunting anyway, is the story-telling. And it’s this telling the story of the other people or other hunters, people who aren’t hunters who are just interested. And so we got the idea, with this digital age that’s approaching, of creating a website, TheHuntBlog.com, for people to tell their stories.

And we started it kind of more as a hobby about five years ago, and it’s really kind of exploded since then. We get people from all over North America. We had this year from Texas, Maine, Minnesota, Ontario, Alberta, Ohio, all sending in their stories, telling their stories [inaudible 0:01:51]. I added all of their writing and kind of put something up on the website that they and their friends can all read and they can share and then we’ve got a really good response from it. Yeah, it’s preserving that story-telling because I think that’s so important for a lot of young hunters starting out. They spend so much time on their phones and digital stuff, that story-telling aspect is such a cool part of hunting,, what makes it fun for us.

Bruce: Let’s stay right there and talk about the tradition of hunting. How that started with you, who your mentors or important people in setting, in your life, the tradition of the hunt.

Dr. James: Yeah, absolutely. And I think every single person who’s a hunter, and that’s what’s neat about it, has their own story about how they started and who got them started. For some people it’s family members. For some people, it’s a friend. Some new people, it’s a co-worker. For me, I mean my dad obviously was a huge, huge influence, and even before him, my grandfather and great uncle were all hunters. My uncle ran a trap line. My dad’s babysitter when he was a kid was, you know they’d drop him off at the marsh with a box full of shells and his old [inaudible 0:03:07] and they would come pick him up in the afternoon and let him go out for some ducks all day. And then at some point along the line, he was working in a sporting goods store and he bought an old crossbow, a Daco Scorpion, and that crossbow has been passed down from hunter to hunter. It went to me, and now it’s gone to one of my friends, one of the guys I work with on TheHuntBlog.com to use. And my brother shot more deer, not necessarily trophies, but if that bow could talk, it could tell you some stories. And really my dad’s been such an influence in the hunting. He writes a lot on our website and he’s active in a lot of different social mediaries, too. But probably my dad’s been the biggest influence.

Bruce: Thank you for that. Let’s talk about the youth of today and how important it is for them to understand what magical things are available to them in the out of doors.

Dr. James: You know, Bruce, I think that’s so important that we keep the tradition alive of hunting and the experience of hunting. I mean not very many people these days get to experience the sun coming up out in the field or the woods waking up in the morning. And a lot of times, they think you can walk into Walmart or walk into any big box store and not think twice about where their food might be coming from. And the outdoors just has so many things to offer. It’s not about harvesting the animal. It’s the things that you probably never see otherwise — a salamander in the early spring, a doe with her fawns, two young fawns while you’re turkey-hunting. It’s the kind of things, you can’t ever put a price on that experience and it’s something I do look forward to bringing my kids into as they grow up and experiencing the outdoors. I mean it really keeps you in touch with reality, I think.

Bruce: Let’s switch it over to whitetails. Why do you love hunting whitetails?

Dr. James: I’ve hunted whitetails probably more than any other species and I just absolutely love it. I think the challenge of it is big. I do a lot of bow hunting and I think that’s… The challenge of a whitetail deer — they’re abundant. They’re in lots of different places. At the same time, they have incredible hearing, an incredible sense of smell, and incredible instincts. It’s a pleasure to watch a whitetail deer work it’s way through the woods or through a meadow. To watch a doe approach a meadow with her young fawns and how she looks everywhere and just how they move. If you’ve ever walked along a deer trail, you can see how they can slip through just about the tightest thicket. You walk in, you say, “There’s no way in hell I could get through there,” and their deer trails go through it. They’re a beautiful animal. There are lots of opportunities to hunt them all over North America. It would be probably, I’d say, the most popular North American game animal. And if you really wanna test your wits with an animal, I think the whitetail deer, there’s nothing like it.

Bruce: Talk to me about the whitetail deer. Here in the states, there’s some 17, 18 million people that each fall pursue the white tail. And basically for our hunting tradition down here, and I would think it’s very similar north of the border is that the whitetail deer continues to hone the hunting tradition and welcome new members into it each and every year. Would you agree with that?

Dr. James: Oh, completely. I think a lot of people get introduced to hunting through whitetail deer hunting. Bow-hunting, as I said one thing, it’s a longer season. Up here, it runs from October first until December 31st. It’s a long season, there’s lots of opportunities, and it’s relatively, I shouldn’t say easy. But you can get started relatively inexpensively. Get yourself a bow and some camouflage and get into the woods. There’s people who do a lot of shotgun hunts and they’re more party-hunting. They’re more controlled hunts. They’re shorter time periods. And I think that’s a lot of times where you bring someone new in and say, “Hey, come on in, jump into our hunting party.” Or someone’s gonna bring their son along for the first time to get involved with the hunting party and do that sort of thing. And I think yeah, you’re exactly right. They are probably the most sought after animal and probably the one that gets most people involved in hunting.

Bruce: Let’s talk about your profession. Dr. James is a doctor. And what do you see or what’s the important thing about health in hunting? Let’s spend a couple minutes on that.

Dr. James: Yeah, sure. I mean this is something that’s always been close at heart for me. I do try to keep business and home separate, but unfortunately, every year, I run into the people, or you hear stories of people who have had a health-related incident that’s been related to hunting. I see people come into the emergency department that have had heart attacks while hunting. And I see people come in with more minor things, they haven’t been doing a lot of physical activity over the last eight, nine months, and decided to spend a week on a deer drive or a moose hunt, and now they’ve got tendinitis in their knee or ankle. So I do a lot of counseling for people, but nobody has to be running marathons or doing all of these cross fit stuff. You just need to be generally healthy — regular exercise, a balanced diet, see your doctor for regular checkups, go get an annual physical. I can’t stress the importance of, I look around my hunt camp every year and talking to the guys saying, “Have you seen your doctor in the last year, just to get a checkup?” So if he tells you that nothing is wrong and he sends you home with a clean bill of health, great. But maybe he’d pick something up and it could save your life. So I try to encourage everyone in my hunt camp to see their doctor on a regular basis. And I have a lot of patients who are hunters and go spend time with them talking about their hunt and talking to them their health. How I can get them ready for hunting season? What I can do to make sure that when they go into the woods they’re gonna be as safe as possible with their health?

Bruce: Thanks for sharing that information. Tell us about one of your whitetail “aha” moments. You just can’t figure out that one buck, you can’t figure out how to hunt a certain food lot, I mean wood lot.

Dr. James: Sure.

Bruce: A couple of those.

Dr. James: So I think the whitetail deer will always humble you. Right when you think you’ve got them figured out, they pull something new out of the hat. One of my favorite places, especially if I’m hunting a new area for whitetail, at least first hunt from an observation point, don’t go diving right into the middle of the wood lot right away. So many times, you see a deer trail heading in a certain direction and you assume he’s gonna come out somewhere on that trail. But those trails will circle up into the field almost every time, or I’m sorry, downwind of the field. So be aware of that. Look from a distance. Watch where you’re going. They will never cease to amaze you with how they approach a field. A mature buck or a mature doe, a mature doe that’s raised two fawns despite hunting, coyotes, and wolves is a smart animal. They will always approach from the downwind side and you just have to give them respect. Give them the respect they deserve. They’re a smart animal. And spend some time watching how they move, not just during hunting season but at all times of the year.

Bruce: Let’s talk about where you go on the internet, the library, to get resources to learn how to be a better whitetail hunter.

Dr. James: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. A lot of people ask me, “Well, how do I get involved? How do I learn about this? Where do I go?” Social media is becoming so big and the internet is growing fast from, as I mentioned before, the days when you started hunting and cell phones didn’t even exist. There’s such a wealth of information. So using a variety of sources, we’re on the social media sites, it connects a lot of different hunters from all over North America with people who share their strategies. There’s a lot of good websites out there. Podcasts are a great source of information. Sometimes you get so sick and tired of hopping in your car, turning on the radio, and hearing the same songs over, and over, and over again. I work in our rural emergency department, so I’ve got about an hour drive to work, I’ll throw in a podcast and it lets me hear what other people are doing. And a lot of times, when you listen to what other people are doing with their hunting experiences, you can pick up things that you say, “Hey, you know what? That might work with such-and-such a farm that I hunt on. I’d like to try that.” Or “I’d like to try that spot and stalk method with the bow, stalking a corn field or something like that.” I also subscribe to a couple of different magazines, local [inaudible 0:12:43] here as well, just because I like to support the local magazines in Ontario. And you learn about all the local bucks that people are shooting. It’s cool to watch on television all the big bucks being shot in the Midwest and Missouri and Ohio. But it’s nice to see some of the local deer they’re taking as well. So I subscribe to a couple of local magazines as well.

Bruce: Do you use any specific app on your smart phone?

Dr. James: For hunting-related?

Bruce: Yes.

Dr. James: Probably the biggest thing I use is Google Maps, to be honest. It’s gone such a long way. I remember the old days, we’d hunt up, way up north, up in [inaudible 0:13:25]. We’d have all of the yellow topographical maps and trying to figure it out. Now with Google Maps, you can pull it up, you’ve got GPS at your fingertips. You can see ponds, you can just, you look at the map and you can see almost where the deer funnels are gonna be. Even on a giant, 3,000 acres of forest, you can kind of see where the trees change. So that’s something I think is invaluable. And also when you’re hunting with a group of guys, especially when you go hunting, we send each other way-points. We drop points into Google Maps and send it to each other so everyone knows where everyone else is hunting. And I also use it for my wife. She always worries when I’m up in tree stands, so she knows my GPS coordinates of all my tree stands are, so if there’s ever an issue, she could find me. Safety above everything. We’ve all got families to come home to, so that’s the most important thing.

Bruce: Let’s talk about safety in the tree stand, in the ground blind, or in the hunting camp.

Dr. James: Yeah, the one thing I stress to everybody and anyone who comes and hunts with me will get a lecture about it, and I don’t care if I sound like a broken record, it’s a safety harness. They are relatively inexpensive now. You can get one that’s easy to put on, that’s comfortable, that you’re gonna use. Because if it’s a pain to put on and it’s uncomfortable and it’s cumbersome, you’re not gonna use it. So get one that’s easy, comfortable, easy to use. There’s lots of different ones in the market now. Wear one every time you climb the tree. I don’t care how high it is, I don’t care if you have a climbing stand, I don’t care if it’s a ladder stand with a rail on it. Always use a climbing stand. The other thing I always talk to people about is making sure, at least some people, especially a lot of people in Ontario, we go moose hunting. We go way up north, in the middle of nowhere where you’re bringing generators and you have to bring your gasoline for your trucks. You’re miles from a hospital. Make sure people are trained in first aid. Make sure a couple people in your group know CPR, basic life support. It has changed a lot over the year. Some people are still thinking we do chest compression and breaths. For people who aren’t experts trained in it, it’s just chest compressions and it’s go fast and go deep. So make sure people are trained in first aid. Make sure you have a good first aid kit — splints, cotton bandages. If you have a cut, applying compression on wounds, these kinds of things are invaluable when you’re up there. Don’t go unprepared. Make sure you have these things. Plan for the worst and you won’t have any problems. But if you don’t prepare, you can end up in trouble in a hurry.

Bruce: Share with us about your new blogging and a TV show that you’re blogging for, take a couple minutes and tell us about that.

Dr. James: Yeah, so it’s funny how the hunting industry works sometimes. You meet a lot of interesting people, especially with social media now, how you run into people. We’ve had our blog website for about five years, TheHuntBlog.com. And we were out hunting one day and actually ran into a gentleman and he was a pro-staff for The Hitmen Canada, so The Hitmen is an association with Blaine Anthony. And he was pro-staff on The Hitmen Canada, he’s actually starting his own show called Game Chasers TV which is gonna be a community hunting and fishing show that is going to be airing in the fall of next year, 2016. And Tom Martin who is one of the heads of the television show reached out to me and said, “Hey, we’re wondering if you might be willing to do some blogging for us and write about some health stuff,” you know from our perspective and hunting experiences on their website and help run their blog. So I said I’d be more than happy to and I always like to help and support people in the industry, and I think Tom’s got a great idea for an awesome show. That Game Chasers TV is gonna be, I think, aired on, I’m pretty sure it’s the Sportsman Channel or Wild TV up in Canada. But yeah, they’ve got some great hunt camps up in Quebec as well as down in Texas, and they’re gonna be doing [inaudible 0:17:40] and whitetails, bears, moose, caribou, [inaudible 0:17:44], and the whole nine yards. So I’m excited to be a part of that and starting it as well.

Bruce: Tell us about women and the outdoors. In the states here, women are the fastest-growing segment of the hunting industry. How is it up in Canada?

Dr. James: You know, I think it’s really starting to take off as well. And I think a lot of that is people wanting to get the experience more, wanting to learn more about the experience of hunting, and that it’s not just about going out and killing an animal. It’s about the whole experience. I was looking at our analytics of our website the other day and we actually, of all our viewers 46% of them are female. So I think that goes to tell you just how big it’s getting for women. I think it’s so important, especially for younger populations. And that percentage goes up to over 50% in the population aged 18 to 34 of people who come into our website. About half of the whitetail buck stories that we got on the website last year were all from women hunters. And a bunch of them were all first-time, first whitetail harvest, and you could just read the excitement in their stories. And that’s why I get excited about it on our website is reading the excitement of the people, their first buck, and telling the story. I think women are going to continue to grow in the outdoor world and going to quite enjoy that hunting experience.

Bruce: Thanks for that. Let’s spend just a couple minutes now, you just got 100 acres, 200 acres of wood lot in Canada, and you’re gonna hunt it for the first time next fall. What are you gonna do between now and next fall to make sure you’re ready to hunt it?

Dr. James: Yeah, that’s something I think a lot of whitetail hunters experience. You get your hands on a new piece of property and it’s what do you approach? A lot of people think you just walk out there and then you shoot a deer and that’s that. My approach has really changed over the years. Back when I was starting out hunting, it would be, “You know, let’s just put a stand up on the edge of our corn field and call it a day.” Things are a lot more planned out now. It’s more tactical. The first thing I do is start looking at maps, looking for areas where the tree lines change from pine to dense shrubs to areas that are swampy. Looking for water sources. Trying to pinpoint where the deer are gonna be traveling. Next thing I’m gonna do is look for food. Food’s obviously important because that’s where they’re gonna be going to in the evenings and coming back from in the morning. So identifying what you think the food sources are gonna be. And a lot of times, that’s putting feet on the ground. You have to get out there and walk it, because looking at a big plot of woods isn’t gonna tell you where the acorn trees are, where the browse is. There might be farmer’s fields but what is that farmer planting? Deer aren’t only gonna eat soybeans. They aren’t only gonna eat corn. So look at what the farmers are planting.

Talk with the local farmers. A lot of them will be happy to share, “Oh, yeah I saw a nice, big buck the other day and this is where he was.” So put some feet on the ground, put your time in. A trail camera is something you make huge use of. Before I ever go to all the work of hanging a tree stand, I’ve run a trail camera in that spot, always. There’s no blind hanging a tree stand. There’s always been a trail camera there for a few weeks before. And you know it’s exciting. We like to go for walks out and check the trail cameras. We’re just excited to send pictures to, the guys that I hunt with are from all over the province. So I’d send texts to them and go in our groups and post pictures of the deer that we’re getting there. It just helps build the excitement for the upcoming year.

Bruce: We’re getting to the point in the show where we’re gonna have an open mic, Dr. James. So I know we’ve touch on some of your businesses and some of your involvement in the whitetail industry but here’s a time to give people your URLs, how best to get in touch with you, shout outs for manufacturers or people that sponsor you. So here you go, you get a couple of minutes on the open mic.

Dr. James: All right, well thanks a lot, Bruce. I’d like to thank you for getting me on the show, too. I’ve really quite enjoyed it. The one big thing that we’re working on at the moment is something called Game Peg, you can get more information at GamePegs.com. This is a product, or actually an invention I had some time ago and I was approached by someone in the industry saying, “Hey, do you think you’d ever wanna market this?” So I’ve been really closely involved in designing the product. I do a lot of solo hunting and that’s really what the product’s kind of tailored towards is guys who hunt on their own and it’s a field dressing aid that actually makes it easier to field dress your deer in the bush, especially when you’re by yourself. If you’ve ever hunted up North or anywhere where there’s coyotes or wolves and they’d be howling while you’re trying to field dress a deer in the dark, you want to be in and out, quick and efficiently and safe [Blank Audio 0:22:47]

Bruce: Hello.

Dr. James: … to deer field dressing. And you can find out more information at GamePegs.com about that. And it’s gonna be going up for sale in this coming fall. I’m gonna try and get a bunch of these into some hunter’s hands for this fall.

Bruce: How about The Hunt Blog or Game Chasers TV?

Dr. James: Yeah. so The Hunt Blog is our website, TheHuntBlog.com, you can reach me, and if you have stories you can submit them through the site. We get a lot of our submissions through Twitter. You can find me on Twitter, @TheHuntBlog. You can also check us out and send me an email if you would like as well, either to James@TheHuntBlog.com or James@UCHunting.com, either of those places are are good places to get in touch. I’m always happy just to talk whitetails and turkey and any kind of hunting. Game Chasers, they’re just in the process of getting their website up and running. GameChasersTV.com, but you can just check them out online and follow them on Twitter, @GameChasersTV. And you get more information about what they’re up to and find out more from them. And I know that Tom, who’s the head guy there, will be happy to talk hunting with you if you guys drop them a line on Game Chasers TV at Twitter.

Bruce: Dr. James, thank you so much for joining us today on Whitetail Rendezvous. Listeners, I hope you got a couple takeaways. One of the biggest takeaways that I have is health and hunting and how important it is. Hey, just go out once a year, check in with your doctor, and get a check up. I think that’s critical for us all. And the other thing is if you’re up in the air, use a safety harness. Today there’s no excuse not to because so many different types and they’re integrated in suits now. I use a Spider harness myself, and I put that, it’s integrated right with my scent-blocker clothes. So with that, Dr. James Mather from Ontario, Canada, thank you for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous.

Dr. James: Thank you very much, Bruce. I really appreciate it.