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Own Thing Hunting with Small Time Hunting
We’re heading out to Central Minnesota. We’re going to connect with Andrew Johnson of Small Town Hunters. Andrew, welcome to the show.
I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
We’re going to get a different flavor. In the warm-up, Andrew hit on something that I thought was awesome because he and his buddies live to be outdoors. Forget the video games and forget everything that a lot of people are spending time on. They love being outdoors. Let’s set the show right off with that. What’s up with ditching video games in the XBoxes and whatever the games and you decided to spend your life outdoors?
It’s a group of my cousins and we started this YouTube and this outdoors thing. Since we’ve been younger, we’re always outside, doing something, building forts at a young age. We get that from our grandpa. He’s the one who’s always saying be outdoors doing something. We were thinking since we’ve been doing this hunting thing ever since I could remember going out with my dad, why don’t we make a YouTube channel and express how we’re going to be outdoors all the time and how the world is changing towards that electronic age where we can still remember to try to be a kid again? I’m twenty, but I’ve been hunting since I was little. I go with my dad.
The big starter of the YouTube channel is Isaiah, he’s my cousin. He runs the YouTube channel and he’s only thirteen. You don’t see that kid. He doesn’t use a cell phone at all. He’s not inside watching TV and playing video games. He’s always outside doing chores. His brother, Paul, just turned eighteen. He’s like that too. He’s a big influence on Isaiah and that their older brother, Anthony, he’s about 24. He’s my best friend, my cousin. We’re always outdoors no matter what. I go there every weekend and we’re always doing something in the woods, trying to get stuff ready and outside and hanging out like that. Prepping for deer hunting. It’s a fun thing to do for us and gets us closer to the outdoors and enjoying life that way instead of your face put on a tablet, phone or screen.
You also said that your hunting style isn’t so much about the numbers. It’s sharing the tradition and the experience. Talk to me about that.
I was raised on hunting more for meat and a lifestyle, to be happy with what you got and what God blessed you with. That’s how my grandpa was raised. He was raised up in Michigan and hunting was his life too. That’s all he did. He farmed and hunted and he passed that onto us. He taught us to be happy with what we’re given and praise God for that. If it has the antlers, it’s a plus. If it has big antlers, that’s awesome. At the same time, we got to be happy with what’s put in front of us and enjoy it. It’s not so much about killing the animal. It’s more of like you said, the tradition. I go to my grandparents to hunt. That’s where I mainly hunt at. If not, more or less going out to the deer stand and killing an animal. It’s the time spent before that. I talked to my grandpa every day and I listened to all his stories from when he was younger. That’s what’s fun about it. After I go deer hunting, I come in the house and go talk to my grandma and play a game of Yahtzee or two. We talk about the hunting. That’s what it’s all about. If you end up killing something, that’s the bonus but it’s more or less tradition and time spent with the family.
Do you kill a buck or doe every year?
I average about a doe or a buck. I’ve only been bow hunting for the last couple of years. In my first year of bowhunting, I got a decent eight-point. I don’t know what it scored but it was a nice eight-point for my first year. In the past, I got a doe but I’ve shot a couple nice bucks in my day. On my sixteenth birthday, I shot about 140-inch eleven-point. That was a fun experience. It was a super nice buck. It was a gorgeous-looking deer. It was an awesome birthday present to myself. My cousins will shoot a couple of deer a year. They’re the ones who got me into bow hunting and a couple does, a few bucks, nothing overly big we’ve shot over the past few years, but we have been lucky enough to get a few deer here and there.
When you think about your gramps and the hunting tradition, what do you want to tell the audience? I don’t care what the audience age is or their sex, what do you want to tell them?
Enjoy the experience of being outdoors and being up in a deer stand. Spend time with your elders too. Your grandpa is lucky enough to still be around. Go talk to him. I’m sure he’s got stories especially outdoors. You can learn so much from these older people from a different year. Times have been changing a lot so it’s fun to get back to what the world used to be and listen to how they did it back in the day. I enjoyed all the stories I get from my grandpa. There’s always a lesson learned. Whenever you’re talking or listening to them, try to take something from every conversation, enjoy the time you have with them. That’s what it’s all about.
I can relate to your grandfather. Back in the day, we had jeans, rubber boots, red hat and red vests, red plaid wool. Forget the camo. Camo didn’t come on until in my mind after Vietnam. That’s when the camo craze started. We know the industry that it’s created. I think back and I think of all the deer I killed and the biggest thing that I learned and I’m going to ask you the same question, was if I watch my scent, I would see deer. Your thoughts?
My grandpa, he’s the traditional hunter. He never used scent. I try to talk to him about that since that new age of scent is a big thing for me. We go back and forth with that him saying that he didn’t use scent. Now that I do, I do see a lot more deer. I get a lot of deer closer to me. That’s a big thing. In the past, I sat in a stand and I had eight deer in front of me and the farthest one away was only thirteen yards. I walked right where they came out though and they was no sign at all. There were a few mature does and a couple of young bucks and nothing. That scent game is a big thing for me now. Especially watching these other videos of hunters and watching on TV on how they control their scent game, it does work. That’s another thing that I’d like to get to talk about in future videos on our YouTube channel.
Let’s talk about that right now. Scent control, placenta traction or cover-ups, those are three different things directly. Let’s start with scent control.
With scent control, I don’t have the money to get all those scent crushers or huge blockers. I control my scent by putting it in a plastic bin. I make sure it’s shield with my hunting gear and I put that in the back of my truck. When I get out to where I’m going to walk to or whenever I take it out, I put them in my tailgate and then put it outside. I do have to sometimes wear it in the house and out to the field. It does show that way. I try as much as I can to control that. Sometimes, you can’t control that part, that aspect of it.Hunting is not just about killing an animal, it's tradition and time spent with family. Click To Tweet
What about the window? You know about scent cones and I’ve been close to deer, feet from deer. Either their retina and they could care less that I’m sitting there and looking like at stump or my scent is going away or I’m in some scent-retarded camo. Talk to me about how you control the dispersal of your scent.
With our property that I hunt on, it’s a smaller twenty-acre property that borderlines with a field and a swamp. I have different stand locations all throughout. My stand locations are fairly close to each other but how they’re set up is strategically for the wind, on how the wind is going to be blowing that day. I have three stands all within a radius of about 100 yards. They are in different locations on how the wind swirls, how I’ve seen that over the years and how I’m going to sit in those that day. I have one of spot that’s sitting over a food plot that is fairly good for wind. It has my back towards our house or the barn there. When that wind is blowing to the Southeast is when I sit there. I have a couple that borders the swamp, which is tough because the swamp does swirl your wind quite a bit with that cool air and warm air mixing. It does get the scent to swirl. That’s a little tougher spot. I’m back in the cold so I can control that scent pretty well. One spot is for later October, early November when they’re running. When my scent, I’m not too worried about it fully where I see buck’s running. I fit in that spot later in the year.
Is that a pinch point or a funnel you talked about?
Yes. We’ve got a four-wheeler trail running from hardwoods to a swamp there. They travel that quite well and it is a pinch point from pushing them from out to the field to the swamp. I found a nice location for that, a funnel for those deer there for early season anyways. I’m happy with that spot.
Thanks for the memory jog because my first buck with a bow, he came out of a swamp and I had a scent, I had doe estrous out on a swamp on a cornfield and he came underneath my tree and it was 20 yards away and I double on them and the rest as they say is history. I’m getting these memories flashbacks. He came right off of swamp, I could hear him coming. Even though it was October and he came right to that scent, my scent went over his head to those high up in a tree but the other scent wafted in. He was a young basket buck. It was a great buck and great eating. Thanks for the memory.
No problem. Another thing in Minnesota now is they passed a new law on deer trappings. They’re doing it in counties now, so you can’t have any mineral, you cannot have any salt. You cannot have any doe attractant and no doe estrous or nothing now. Certain counties in the state now trying to protect from CWD.
I heard that from my friend, Jeff Vance from Bucks of America who lives in Lacrosse. He mentioned that they’re trying to zero down and are grading deer. Deer are very social. They’re trying to not have everybody show up at the same place at the same time. They’re trying to do that and we’ll see how it is. Are units open to scent attractant and feeding or just food plots only?
It’s just food plots now. You cannot see it or anything like that. The other properties that I can hunt, you can’t put out attractants and stuff. It’s weird. It’s only a 20-mile difference from a couple spots that I go to. The DNR enforced that rule and I’m happy with it. It’s a different rule but I can see them enforcing that. You don’t want CWD running around the herd. At the same time, doe estrous is one that I disagree with. It’s a touchy thing for me but I get the feeding and the mineral and I can see that because I used mineral in the past and I could get up to fifteen deer in one little area. I can see where that can spread and stuff. I do get that. I get that they’re trying to help with the herd and trying to keep hunting a thing. I’m happy with it. We’ll have to get used to it. That’s all right.
With the attractant, if I took doe estrous in a bottle but didn’t put it on the ground or anything and just misted it and squirted in the air, that’s illegal?
Yes, that’s illegal. You can’t have any attractants for the deer. That’s one thing. You can’t go out and spray it. It’s going to be hard to tell but still you’ve got to follow the rules.
How about buck scrapes?
As long as you don’t put any estrous down. You can make a buck scrape and you can bear that ground up.
I can’t trip anything into it.
Can’t trip anything into it. No.
If I had any type of attractant, it doesn’t matter what it is, that’s out?
Yes, that’s completely out. It’s an interesting rule. We’re going to have to adapt to it. I have a feeling there’ll be moving into the whole state of Minnesota in the next couple of years. They’re doing a test trial of these in fifteen counties in Minnesota. It’s a lot in Central Minnesota. It goes down to the Southeast corner too.
I’ll be hunting in the Southeast corner and I already knew about that. What if it’s on your clothes? If I spray deer estrous on my hat, is that illegal? Not having on me in the field. Before I go into the field, I’ll put Down Wind or something like that in my clothes to kill my scent, where I’ll take the little bottle and mist it onto my clothes.
That’s one I don’t know about for sure. I have to look that up. I went through the DNR handbook from Minnesota, how many times I’ve read it over and over trying to find the actual specifications for it. I’m not 100% sure on that one right there.
I would think it would be illegal in my opinion. Let me know, DNR Minnesota, if I’m correct or not. Before going in the woods at your truck, you put some on your person, which isn’t the best thing because now you’re attracting them. Their nose is going to go right to you in a tree stand. If you’re high enough, it’s going to dissipate through the woods. What about Buck Bombs or the stuff out of the guy out of Winona who has that cover-up scent?
The only thing you can use is a scent control, odor blocker is what I’ve been heard and told. I’m not 100% sure. Buck Bombs, I don’t know. You can’t quote me on that. I’m not 100% sure on that. I stay away with that. There’s a rule that’s borderline. I stay away from that.
Here are my two cents on the whole thing. Things are changing because of CWD. Read up on it. It’s your responsibility. It’s not, “I didn’t know. I shouldn’t have done that.” Don’t put yourself in that position. If you’re in those states, don’t buy it so you won’t have it and you go from there. That’s about all I can say. You’ve got to be smart because we want to keep hunting alive. Let’s talk about Small Town Hunters. You said you have a low-budget crew, you’ve got a YouTube channel. How do people find you?
We reach out on Twitter. I reach out to a lot of people asking, “It would be great if you could take a peek at our video and leave some feedback. If not, thank you and enjoy your day.” We’ve got a lot of relatives too. We have people watch. In four months on the YouTube channel, we’re already up to 220-some subscribers, which isn’t a crazy amount but it’s a great growth already. It’s fun. We’re low-budget hunters so I feel like we can relate to a lot of people that hunt. Instead of watching all those big YouTube channels and TV shows where they have thousands of dollars at their disposal and great camera equipment, here’s us younger guys in a tree stand with a couple of hundred-dollar cameras. We have some nice bows that we’ve been saving up for so we have decent equipment. Seeing different aspects of hunting for us younger generation and how we do it and how we have fun doing it.
I love the word fun because so many people make it a chore and they get all wound up. I’ve got hitlists for the various farms I’m going to hunt. I’m particular now because I’m hunting for the right deer and on the home farm, I shoot those every gun season. That’s what I shoot. I’d rather shoot does and a buck. Doing the archery, not so much. There’s one field that I’ll take those off of but everything else I won’t because I don’t want to mess it up for the bucks. That’s my choice. When you think about it, it is fun. You have seen Andrew here, a young guy coming up and he’s the generation that we want to have enjoy the sport. It’s such a joy, Andrew, to have you on the show and talking about it. You’ve got a YouTube channel. What’s the name of that again?
That’s Small Town Hunters. That’s our YouTube channel. We have our Twitter that’s @SmallTownHunter also. Our Facebook page is @SmallTownHunters. The best way to connect with us is through YouTube and Twitter. I’m on Twitter at least once or twice a day, checking out tweets and responding to people and posting my pictures of what we call our hitlist bucks too. I have a little twenty-acre property. I’ve had sixteen different bucks show up. I know it’s early season but I’ve got a couple bucks that are nice, mature deer and I’m excited to get out there. It’s fun to use social media to reach out to people. Hopefully, they can share our videos and enjoy them as much as we like making them.
Without even you knowing about it, you’re part of the archery generation recruit, retain and reactivate. Thank you for that because we need more guys like you and I’m sure there are girls out there doing exactly the same thing. They’ll say, “Here’s who we are. We love being outdoors and we’re going to share it with you and hope you enjoy the show.
If we can persuade people to start hunting more and enjoy it more, that’s all we need. We don’t need to make money. I have no problem not making money out of this. If we can connect to people and persuade them to try and do things out and get into hunting, that’s what it’s all about.
What’s your view of the future of hunting?
The future of hunting is a different subject especially in Minnesota. Female hunters can use pink camo so they could get more hunters going, which is awesome. I’d love to get some more hunters out in the area, I got a whole bunch of younger siblings too. I’ve got a sister that’s thirteen and she’s going to be hunting this year, I’m getting her into that. Minnesota passed the new law for a special use season throughout the whole state from October 17th to the 20th for rifle. That’s super cool for them to do that, to try and get people hunting. It is a dying thing. People are getting not bored of it but they don’t feel like killing an animal anymore. That’s different times now. People are feeling bad about it. The way I explained when people say, “How could you kill an innocent animal like that?” I don’t say I’m killing it just to kill it. I’m not killing it because it’s fun.
I’m killing it because honestly, we use that meat throughout the winter. We’re not craving that or depending on that, but it helps out with grocery bills and all sorts of stuff like that for my family and my parents. After each year, we go back and I cut it up all myself and we make jerky out of it. We make steaks and then we do whatever else we have left with a scratch. We use the whole deer. That’s a view I have on that generation that’s like, “I don’t want to kill an animal.” It’s not just killing. It’s providing. I would love to see more hunters. You’re outdoors, you’re enjoying what God has made and given us. It’s a beautiful thing to be outside. Even if you don’t see a deer, I could sit in a deer stand all day and enjoy being outside. What Fred Bear said is, “A hunter and a stand are twenty feet closer to God.” That’s a true thing. It’s incredible.
For a young person, you have a lot of wisdom.Be happy with what you're given and praise God for that. Click To Tweet
I have to thank my grandpa on that one.
That sounds great. Let’s talk about hunting. Let’s talk about tips, techniques. You got a 20-acre parcel that you hunt. How many stands do you have on that?
For that twenty-acre, I have about nine different stands, which is crazy to think. Some are for guns specifically. I built my grandpa a brand new stand last year because he’s having a hard time walking up ladders. I built him a nice big stand, closed in, insulated with windows and everything. That’s overlooking a little three-acre field we have. That buds up to a 50-acre field that is turning into CRP, which is exciting to see. We plan on making a food plot in that three-acre property but we never got time. It’s a nice bedding area. It buds up right against the swamp. That’s one stand there. That’s the main runner for gun is you get those bucks chasing those does out of that swamp. That’s the main part for gun. We set up that one strategically. I have a couple overlooking a food plot or two. A couple bud up against that swamp where they bed down for the day and then come out to feed during that. We’ve used strategy but we also use trail cameras to see where the deer are funneling and we hunt over areas like that. We’re not your most traditional hunters. That looks like a good tree. That looks like a good stand. We’re going to throw that up there.
I have not. That’ll be a good one to watch.
He is good at getting on top of deer in the swamps and hunting the bedding areas within the 100 yards of them. Dan is a heck of a guy and what he shared with me and thousands of other people works if you apply it. When you said swamp, I said, “You need to get on his stuff because he’ll give you some ideas and then you can figure out, ‘That’s how we can close a deal on some different deer that you see during the summer but you never see in the fall but they’re still there.’”
That would be awesome. That would be great. I’d love learning new stuff. Almost every day I’m watching a video trying to learn something new. That will be a good one to go check out and hopefully learn from that one.
How many places do you have the hunt then?
With me and my cousins, Paul and Isaiah, the two younger ones, they went around to a lot of places and got permission, which is awesome to see. They always go ask politely and every day if they kill a deer off that property, they’d bring them part of that deer. With all of us together, I’d say we have about six properties to hunt. We also have a nice set of state land here in Minnesota that we hunted a few times last year. They didn’t get any deer but had some awesome sign. It’s a nice transition from swamp to field to hardwoods. It’s a cool spot. I don’t think too many people know about it, so we’ll be doing a little bit of hunting in there too. A change of scenery when we do that mainly just to change something up and go to a different place and try to find a cool spot to sit.
Tell me about your stand strategy. How do you exit and access those standards?
The main property that I hunt at my grandparents, it’s a twenty-acre property. We have a little bit of passion that they do use these travel corridors which is tough to walk and enter a stand. Sometimes I have that stand that borders that swamp down in a corner there. I take a long way around so I had to walk out into that three-acre field and go all the way around it so I don’t draw my center that little bedding area and have to exit the stand from the back. Depending on how the deer were out that night in that spot, I can take the walk back to the four-wheeler trail as much as I don’t like it, I do. I have my food plot. I have a good exit and enter. It’s perfect. It’s another trail that the deer don’t use because it’s closer to the house and it brings me right to the stand. It’s that way. The none-traditional hunters of us, we don’t focus on that aspect all that much. I would love to have a bigger property where I could focus on that. As us hunters, we’ve had success with walking into our stand and setting up and calling it good.
Do you vocalize with deer at all?
My first deer, I shot with my bow. I was grunting. There’s this little basket, eight-point. For my first year, that will be good. I watched him chase a fawn the whole morning and he sat out there 50 yards from me the whole time and I wasn’t comfortable with shooting 50 with my bow. I kept grunting and he looked and got a little closer. I got sick of it and I drew back at 40 and I shot and I miss right below him and he didn’t know what happened. He ran off into the woods there and I could see him and I kept grunting. I was watching him. All of a sudden, I look to my right and here’s a way bigger, eight-point only fifteen yards from me. It was a cool scene. It was a cool morning and he had his head down and had his mouth open, grunting back and you could see the steam coming right from out of his mouth.
That was super cool and in fifteen yards, I put an arrow in him and that was a nice eight-point. As a proud first deer from my bow, I was super excited and it was a nice heavy deer. Other than that, we do rattle. We use rattle bags later in the year. The pre-rut in Minnesota from what I’ve figured out is late October and then the rut starts in mid-November when the gun season starts. It’s tough to transition from bow to gun and keep rattling. Vocalization is not our main topic or main fix we use, but it’s also fun to keep you entertained in the stand too. We look up tips and tricks on different pages to see how to do it, when to do it, how often. We have all different opinions on one to call.
How about decoys?
I have not personally used decoys. My cousin on his property behind his house, he has a gorgeous-looking food plot on this 2-acre properties. From the stand, you can see his house and we get deer in there all the time. We got about a quarter-acre food plot in the woods and we throw a decoy out there and it’s on a hillside. The deer on the top of the hill see that decoy and we have noticed them moving down through the area and using the decoy. That’s mainly attractive. We don’t have any buck decoys or running buck decoys. One thing we do talk about possibly if we do get some extra money is to try that out. It’s not like we have a lot of money at our disposal to put that back into hunting. We all have other things. Our job is to control a lot of it but at the same time, it’s not like where you can drop off a couple of hundred bucks here and there for that.
Thanks for that. What’s your final thoughts to the audience?
It’s to enjoy hunting as much as you can. It’s a fun activity that you’re blessed to do. If you don’t see anything, don’t get down on yourself. Enjoy it. You’re outside by yourself, you’re with nature. Breathe that in. Let all the stress go. Enjoy having your time outside. Give thanks to God and keep hunting. Have fun while you’re doing it.
Andrew Johnson, thank you so much from Small Towel Hunters. How can people find you again on social media?
We have @SmallTownHunter on Twitter. We have our Facebook page, @SmallTownHunters. My personal Twitter that I’m on quite a bit and coincide with the Small Town Hunters, that’s called @MN_ Whitetail. You want to send us a message through there. We’ve been getting a few people to give us sponsors now, we’re working on that. If you’ve got questions, send them our way. If you’ve got tips and tricks to share with us, we’d be glad to take it and share your pictures with us. We’d happy to retweet and talk about it with you.
Andrew, thank you so much for being a guest on Whitetail Rendezvous.
Thank you for having me.
- Small Town Hunters
- Jeff Vance – Past episode
- Down Wind
- Small Town Hunters – YouTube channel
- @SmallTownHunter – Twitter
- @SmallTownHunters – Facebook
- Dan Infalt – Past episode
- The Hunting Beast
- @MN_ Whitetail – Andrew Johnson’s Twitter
About Andrew Johnson
Were a group of younger guys from Minnesota, we don’t have the resources or money of the big-time hunters. We were raised on hunting from our grandpas and dads, The “crew” is Myself, Drew, then Isaiah. the boy behind the channel and filming, Paul is the next guy. We have brothers on the team with Isaiah and then Anthony is the oldest out of us 4, the one I hunt with the most and talk strategy with.
So, listen to our un traditional ways we have for hunting with the limited land and resources we have. And get a different perspective on hunting ways some people use