Special Interview – Stand Alone Outdoors With John Musgrave

WTR Musgrave | Stand Alone Outdoors


People can never have enough of the outdoors and nature. The adventures that await are irreplaceable. Welcoming back hunter and the owner and video producer of Stand Alone Outdoors, John Musgrave is here to educate and encourage everyone about the art and passion of hunting, trapping, and experiencing the outdoors through the show, YouTube videos, and social media posts. In this episode, John shares his experiences in hunting and his top go-to techniques honed from over 30 plus years of hunting whitetails in central Illinois. John is first and foremost an archery hunter who loves to get up close and personal with his target bucks. He goes deeper as he voices out to be aware of how Illinois is being hit hard by EHD disease. He then talks about the land managers and hunters’ responsibility of their deer herd.

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Special Interview – Stand Alone Outdoors With John Musgrave

I’m pleased to have an alumni John Musgrave. John hales from Central, Illinois and he’s the owner, founder of Chief bottle washer and main camp cook at Stand Alone Outdoors. John, welcome back to the show, my friend.

Thank you.

The water has gone over the dam since we last talked and I want to find out what the heck’s going on with John Musgrave? It must have been a couple of years back since we talked.

It has been.

What’s going on in your life? Let’s start off and tell people about Stand Alone Outdoors.

Years ago, I was with Game Seekers Outdoors and a couple of years prior to that, I’d done the podcast with you before. We decided to part ways there on Game Seekers and I got to thinking, I love doing this so much, I don’t want to step away from it so I went ahead and started my own, Stand Alone Outdoors. There’s not much history behind it as far as how I chose the name, I was sitting there listening to music and heard a song called standalone and I was like, “Perfect name.” That’s pretty much how that was founded and it developed from there. Got in contact with some of the sponsors that I had been in contact with Game Seekers.

I got a hold of them and talked with them briefly about bringing them on as a sponsor with me. It snowballed from there. I brought another guy on with me, one of my good buddies, CJ Wilson. He is the co-owner and he’s a silent co-owner. We both got to video stuff and he’s taken all the fun out of my hunting, “I don’t want to do it, how about I’d be a silent partner.” He’s now the silent owner, we still keep up-to-date with each other on that, keep going. In the first year, we had plenty of footage that we went ahead and after that first deer season with everybody.

We got hooked up with GEN7 Outdoors. We ran three seasons there then it became, I’m guessing that the blue tongue and everybody with their jobs weren’t getting video footage of anything that we were wanting. We backed off and that’s where we’re at now with it. We’re on YouTube and I have two other staff members who are videoing their hunts. Hopefully, we’ll have a lot of good action there on YouTube. As I bring on more staff members, we can get back to doing the GEN7 and bring in everybody, what they came to know when Stand Alone first started.

Who’s the guy that runs the GEN7? I haven’t talked to him in a while.

Jody Blackwelder runs that, he’s a good man, he was understanding. When we first started, she’s in with the Hunt Channel, she’s the one that referred me to Jody. Christy King is her name.

Nice lady, she’s helped me in the industry. She’s a good influencer in the industry, that’s for sure. Shout out for Christy King.

She turned me on to Jody and we snowballed it from there and got things going. We ran that first year it was good, the second year was mediocre and then the third year, there was nothing there. We dropped out, unfortunately, and it sucked. He understood the reason why we dropped out, he’s a great guy to deal with. Hopefully, in the next few years, we can get back to it.

If somebody wants to reach out to you on social media, where do they go?

WTR Musgrave | Stand Alone Outdoors

Thank you can reach us on Facebook or they can reach us on our Instagram, @StandAloneOutdoors.

You mentioned something about Bluetongue or EHD, how has that impacted Illinois?

In my area, it has impacted big. I put trail cameras once a year or once a month during the off-season. I run five cameras and normally before thinking that it hit, I was getting probably 250 to 300 pictures a month out of each camera. It slowly seems like it’s taking effect and in a month’s time, I’m seeing maybe 100 pictures out of each camera of deer. I pulled cards and when I did, I’ve seen several deer that were skinny and they looked awful. I don’t know if it’s the case or the lack of nutrition around or what. I’ve also talked to other hunters around me. I had a conversation with my fire chief, we got to talk about the Bluetongue and the EHD and he said, “The deer numbers are definitely down.” He went out, bow hunted and he said, “Normally, I see 5 or 6 deer every half hour,” and he said, “I didn’t see one.” He found several dead deer on his property. I’ve talked to other guys, in the same way, they found the deer laying in their property. I’ve seen it on social media too as well. It’s been bad, the deer is still around, there are still some good deer around but they’re few.

How long does this run, until the deer all die? It’s transmitted by a tick or a mosquito bite, right?

The Bluetongue is from a mosquito bite and the EHD comes from a tick. The lack of water too has something to play in it on the Bluetongue, there’s some parasite in the water. It can get in the water and hurt the deer.

I didn’t realize we’re going to talk about this so I would have done some research. Somebody reach out to us at Whitetail Rendezvous or Stand Alone Outdoors and do some post. I came out of elk camp; my brain isn’t spun up on these diseases. CWD, I’m up to speed on but not on the others. You got Stand Alone Outdoors, what do you want that to become? What’s your purpose?

It’s like every small outdoor industry owner who’s running the TV show, you dream of making it big and becoming the big star like everybody else. Being able to quit your normal 9 to 5 job and hunt and fish and do all that for eleven versus working a normal 9 to 5 job and that’s my ultimate goal. It’s slowly flourishing, it’s getting there, it’s not quite there and I realize it takes time, I’m patient with it. I had a few other staff members that were along. I don’t think they weren’t as patient with it, they dropped away and said, “We’re done with this.”

It’s hard to be patient, you have to have good footage. It’s a crowded space and a YouTube channel and getting with Jody on GEN7 definitely a plus, but you got to get the content year after year and it takes a long time. I remember Bill Winky, he started off years ago it seems, and he sold out to RealTree. I remember talking to him and his first year there wasn’t much there and then he stayed after it and had a vision, had a dream, and the rest is history hunting whitetails.

My other two guys they still got the mediocre camera gear, we’re normal 9 to 5 working guys and we’re all on a budget. I’m sure you know and everyone else knows that is into this, good sound camera equipment that’s going to get you good quality footage is not cheap. I upgraded my camera, I happened to get lucky to be on Facebook, found a nice Sony Cam and it’s a normal $1,200, $1,300 camera and I got it for about half of that price. Now I have the camera and I’m quite impressed with it. I headed out, did a little bit of video on the deer that I did see in the morning and I’m impressed it. I’m impressed with the quality.

I did my dad’s wedding with it and they came out awesome. My dad was impressed with it as well. You got to have the camera equipment and you got to have the whole nine yards, the shotgun mic, the camera arm, the camera, and a good fluid head. I’ve told these guys that are with me, “That stuff’s not cheap. I understand that you guys are on a little tighter budget than I am and I get that part. Stick money back and when you get the money go ahead and update it.” It also goes along with you got to have good quality video editing software as well.

It’s a big job and people don’t understand. I jumped on Google on EHD in deer. The EHD is a viral disease found in white-tailed deer and some other ruminants, unlike chronic wasting disease EHD is spread by a biting midge, not by deer to deer. Deer to deer is CWD contact. The biting midge is a small flying insect associated with isolated water sources. That’s a background on it, and it seems Kentucky is getting hammered, Illinois is getting hammered. I saw our map briefly and throughout the whole Midwest, it’s a serious thing. I throw this out to everybody. If your land does have an EHD, think about what you are going to do and what you’re not going to do. The rut hasn’t even started and there’s not going to be a heck of a lot of bucks for the rut, not going to be there. It’s a matter of, how are we going to manage? It’s a management type of thing, think about that. Let’s go back, how long have you been hunting? Let’s talk about your hunting tradition.

I’ve been hunting since I was eight. I started as a little eight-year-old boy shooting a squirrel out of the tree with my dad, as we went and checked trees and it’s flourished into this. My dad is the one that got me into bowhunting and it carried on. Bowhunting is my passion, I enjoy it. It’s something about the thrill of getting that whitetail in there, twenty yards and watching it as it all unfolds as he walks in, reading his body language as he walks in. It’s been years and I’ve killed quite a few animals.

What’s your favorite time of the year to hunt?

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It’s got to be that late October to mid-November, right around that pre-rut and rut phase. I don’t know what it is, it’s something magical about it. There are lots of other hunters out there that feel the same way.

To you, when does the pre-rut begin? Up in Wisconsin, I know the dates to that, but what about Central Illinois?

A lot of times it depends on the weather. The pre-rut is probably around maybe the second week of October to the third week. It depends on the weather, the moon phase and all that. Sometimes I’ve not seen any rutting activity around here until late October, the last week of October. It’s booming about the second, third week of November. It takes its perch; it seems like one year it’ll be early October and you’re starting to see some pre-rut activity and then sometimes it’s the latter part that you start seeing it. On the private property that I hunt, generally, I start seeing that pre-rut activity second, third week of October.

Are you solely a treestand hunter or you spot and stalk or grumbling?

A little bit of ground blind and a whole lot of tree hunting. I’ve done the spot and stalk, not real crazy about it, there are other guys that do it. If I spot and stalk, I like to do it on a windy day. That way, I’ve got plenty of noise coverage of crunchy leaves and all that, it’s nice and easy.

Archery is your weapon of choice.


What’s the longest shot you’ve ever had on a whitetail?

If we’re talking about archery, 50 yards. He was walking and that hunt specifically was an eleven-point hunt, it’s on YouTube.

What’s your channel?

It’s Stand Alone Outdoors. He came in chasing a couple of does. I thought at the time when it happened, I thought he was standing still but after going back and re-looking at the footage he was not standing still, he was walking. He couldn’t have been walking fast because where I put my pin is exactly where I hit. He was hard quartering away from me and I slid up to the back of him, went up through the rib cage and caught the heart and part of the lung. With a shotgun, I do slug hunt during the Illinois slug season. I will say, 90 yards is probably about the farthest I’ve shot one.

How far do you practice out with your bow?

I don’t go past 50 yards, that’s about the farthest. Once in awhile, I’ll step back to 60 yards. I know where to put the pin if one stepped out and I was comfortable and had plenty of range to do it. It’s not something that I practice day in and day out like I do the 30, 40 and 50s.

WTR Musgrave | Stand Alone Outdoors

I’m shooting a crossbow and even though I could shoot way past 50 yards, I could shoot 100 yards. I’ve got that dialed into 50 yards. That’s where I leave it. I will go out to 60 yards on an elk. As far as whitetails, 50 yards and if they’re standing broadside in the field, I’ll take the shot. If I’m in the woods, 30 yards is a long shot in the woods anyway.

To paint a picture for everybody that’s reading, the private ground that I hunt when I do take those longer shots, it is mainly pasture type. There are some trees in there where my stand sits, nothing’s close together. If anybody has watched my videos, they’ll see most of the time it’s pasture-based, I’m not inside the woods. I did gain a piece of property that I can be back to hunt in the hardwoods, but 30 yards inside the woods is a long shot.

Tell me about your setup, your bow, broadheads, and arrows?

I shoot a Mathew Z7, it’s an older bow but it still gets the job done and I’m happy with it. I was shooting a High Country and I wasn’t happy with it, I switched back to the Matthews. I got Xecutioner broadheads on there, which are great. I’ve killed several deer with them, all of them have run maybe a total of 70 yards, and it varies. Where you put that arrow is the key factor there. These broadheads have a 2.5 inch cutting diameter. Anything in 2.5 inches, if you got a good main vein running through there, you clip that heart or you clip that lung, it leaves one heck of a blood trail.

I shoot a Black Eagle Outlaw Arrow 350s and they’re great, they withstand stand quite a bit. I killed two deer with one arrow, I shot a doe early season, and I’ve been using that same arrow and then harvested a nice nine-pointer later in the season with the same arrow. Unfortunately, he ran through a bunch of trees in Little Thicket and he caught the arrow and snapped it. Even the eleven-pointer that I shot years back that’s on the YouTube channel, when I went up to that backhand it went through and clipped that heart, that arrow was perfect and it was intact. It was still lodged in him and there wasn’t a thing wrong with it and I shot that with an Xecutioner broadhead as well. The broadhead was like it hadn’t even been shot with the exception of a little bit of blood on there.

Is that a three-blade or two-blade?

It’s a two-blade mechanical. It’s a 100-grain broadhead. They sell 125s two-blades and then they also have some fixed blades that are nice. Personally, I’m not a big fixed blade guy, I’ve always been a mechanical guy. I’ve never personally tried the fixed blades. I’ve seen some good kill shots with them on hogs and on some whitetails and they look like they put a good hole as the expendables. It’s a preference issue with everybody.

I’m shooting Iron Will. Unfortunately, my elk hunt didn’t offer any shots, I’m still looking for my first kill with them. I’ll have plenty of chances on the whitetail coming up. Do you travel out of state hunting whitetails?

No, I do not. I stay in the state of Illinois. I do travel to Southern Illinois and bow hunt a little bit down there, that’s where I slug hunt as well.

That’s a little bit different, that slug hunting stuff, isn’t it?

It is, you can reach out there and touch them, let me tell you. Case on point, a few years back, I got a Mossberg Tactical Turkey 535, twelve-gauge. My oldest daughter decided she wanted to slug hunt. She went with me; she took my typical twenty-gauge that I slug hunt with. I threw a scope on that Tactical turkey, I put a slug choke in there and I took it out. Opening day, we sidled it in and out to 50 yards I was golden. That following morning, we had unpronounced, we didn’t even know it, I looked down the edge of the field here comes a deer, what we thought was a doe because I can tell the second deer was a buck. My daughter is like, “Can I take it?” I said, “Of course, you could take it, it’s whatever you want to kill.”

It gets up closer and she realizes that it’s a buck and it’s a small little four-pointer and she says, “Dad, it’s small. Do I have to take it? Do you want me to take it?” I said, “It’s what you want to do honey.” She decides she’s going to harvest it. She shoots it, it runs off, I tell her to stay watching it. While the other buck, it was a small eight-point, I was chasing him away. My dad was down the field, my dad watched all this unfold. He told me part of the story, there was a doe down by him. This eight-pointer was chasing that small four-pointer away. I’m videoing her and videoing her deer, then all of a sudden I look over and the small eight pointer is standing there looking at me and I’m caught in the excitement.

I swing this Tactical Turkey around and I shoot, and I missed. He runs out there about 90 yards and I put the crosshair right at the top of his back and I squeeze the trigger. I thought I missed. Five minutes goes by and my dad calls me he says, “Did she get it?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Did you shoot the one in the field?” I said, “Yeah, they were both in the field but which one?” He said, “The second one.” I said, “He’s in the woods dead. It’s laying out there in the middle of the field, I watched it fall over.” With the slug gun, 90 yards is probably pretty impressive in my book. Every other deer that I’ve shot with a slug gun has been within probably 40 yards.

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Let’s talk about processing, how do you process your meat?

About 95% to 96% of the meat we process ourselves. I bring it back home, skin, quarter it. I get it in a cooler. I bring it in and whatever we decide we’re going to want, burgers, steaks, roasts, and cut it up accordingly. I’ve been processing deer since I was probably 12, 13 years old. I’ve got a pretty good act for it. I can do one pretty well. A decent 120-pound deer, I can do it around 2.5 hours probably from start to finish.

That’s cutting and wrapping and labeling. Do you put them in the vacuum sealer?

No, we take freezer paper. If we’re doing loins, we’ll take freezer paper, wrap it in the freezer paper and then it goes in a nice Ziploc baggie to help with the freezer burn and then burger it, and goes straight into a quart baggie, they’re one pound a piece. Seal her up and toss her down into the deep freezer.

Do you make your own salami and jerky?

I tried that at one time, and I wasn’t impressed with how it turned out. If I have any specialty stuff done, we take it to a processor somewhere and get it done.

We process at the Bunkhouse Crew, Randall and Steve and myself. We got the grinder and then we get the casings and all that. It does take a while, but one thing that I’ve seen and enjoy is the process getting the deer hung, they age a little bit. Here in Wisconsin, we start bringing them in and we’re sure as heck not watching TV anyway. For a couple of hours every single night, we’re processing deer and getting them into the freezer. We do use vacuum seals and that’s how we do it. My buddy Randall, he’s canning the stuff. He’s canning venison and we had some in elk camp, he brought some out for elk camp and it was darn good.

That’s one thing I haven’t tried, canned venison.

It tasted fine. It’s like anything, you got to learn it. If you haven’t started processing your own deer, you need to do that because it saves you money and 1 or 2 years, you’d paid for all your equipment.

I’ve got fortunate, I’ve been doing it since I was 12 or 13. The grinder that we have for the burger, it’s probably pretty close to twenty years older. It’s seen a lot of deer meat run through it. I was fortunate enough, growing up that’s what we’ve lived off of. It was deer meat. I’m fortunate that me and my dad got into the dairy industry, through the wintertime the ice cream business is what we’ve done. Ice cream business was slow through the wintertime and my dad’s overtime was cut to a minimum. We lived off the deer meat. We learned it and I learned it. I brought my wife on and that’s the other thing, getting it done in 2.5 hours, that’s not just me.

I got to give props to my wife and my kids. They step in and they help out you get it done. I get it ground up if its burger. They’ll sit there and they’ll get it packaged for me. The loins, I’ll get them cut up they package that stuff. I was fortunate. My dad decided to give it up. He’s got a lot of things going on in his life. He doesn’t process his own anymore. The only thing he processes are the back straps. The rest of it, he takes to butcher and has it done. He gave me the grinder that I have now, which has seen hundreds of deer run through it. In the next few years, I’ll be making a big purchase and buying a new grinder, but for now, what we got it works.

John, I’d like you to share your three go-to techniques for archery hunting. If you had to pick five days to hunt during a year, what days they would be?

I’ll run you through what I do. It’s what I do on a daily basis as I hunt. I get out of my truck, get all the gear gathered up. I get about not even a quarter way to my stand, whichever stand site I might be doing. I take the good old buck bombs and I’ll spray the bottom of my boots like a drag rag. I also have a drag rag and I’ll soak that in doe estrus. The bottom of my boots is buck. I finish walking to my stand and then I’ll take that buck bomb and hit every once in a while certain different areas. If I haven’t already got them out, I’ll make a mock scrape, get that done and taking care of them sprayed. It seems to work pretty well and crawl up there in the tree. If I see a good buck and he’s out there in a distance, I may throw a couple of grunts at him. When it gets into the pre-rut, in the rut, I will carry a set of rattling horns with me and do little light rattling, if I see one out there at the distance and I don’t think he’s coming in. If he’s not going to come in, you’re not going to hurt anything.

Those were my tactics for what I do. Besides running the cameras, I run my trail cameras around May and run them until the second week into deer season. Deer season ends about two weeks, I’ll pull them after that. I only do that to see if they’ve started dropping their horns yet if it’s time to get out and start looking for sheds. The season here in Illinois ends around the 20th of January. Taking into the two weeks, you’re looking into the end of January and normally some bucks are starting to shed their antlers, it gives you a time frame of when you can get out there and start doing that shed hunting. That postseason scouting that everybody should be doing and starting to pattern them for the next year. That’s pretty much my go-to tactics right there.

WTR Musgrave | Stand Alone Outdoors

The best of five days?

I’m going to say, from about Halloween and about the 4th or 5th of November seems to be my best five days.

Tell the readers one more time on how they get a hold of you.

You can get a hold of me through Facebook on Stand Alone Outdoors, Instagram it’s @StandAloneOutdoors. If you want to email me, StandAloneOutdoors@yahoo.com and feel free to ask any questions, any tips that you might be willing to share. If you read something on the podcast that interests you and want me to elaborate a little more, reach out and I’m happy to answer any questions, give any advice that’s needed.

This has been good. If you’re not familiar with CWD and EHD, do some research. They’re big topics in the hunting industry and it’s not good for our deer herd. You got to know what to do, how to do it, and where to do it. Each state is changing regulations on using doe urine because of the chronic wasting disease. You got to make sure about scents and about baiting. I know a lot of states have changed their baiting regs in chronic wasting. They want to disperse deer not have them get near each other and pass CWD along. Hunting isn’t just about hunting now, it’s about conservation, it’s about stewardship, and it’s about habitat management. You’ve got to know what’s going on with the deer herd in your area and then manage your deer herd accordingly. Any last thoughts, John?

You got to know what’s going on in your area. You go out there day after day and you sit up there and you’re not seeing deer and you wonder why. It could be the EHD or the chronic wasting or the Bluetongue that’s affecting your area. The more you take an interest in the conservation, the better off you’re going to pattern your deer and learning what’s on your property and what’s not.

I want to thank you for that. I hope you enjoyed this. If you have any questions reach out to me at WhitetailRendezvous@gmail.com. Don’t forget, I’ve created Deer Hunting Institute part one, that’s a deer hunting course. It’s a thirteen-module course. If you’re interested in getting it, send me an email at DeerHuntingInstitute@gmail.com and I’ll tell you how to get your course. Thank you so much for reading.

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About john Musgrave

WTR Musgrave | Stand Alone Outdoors

John Musgrave is the Owner and video producer of Stand Alone Outdoors TV show only airing on OAN TV and YouTube currently and the Tv show was established in Jan 2016. John is passionate about the outdoors and showing others the way of hunting and fishing in the outdoors. Stand Alone Outdoors has a Facebook page as well as a website and Instagram page and also a YouTube channel of course.

We here at Stand Alone Outdoors are here to educate and encourage everyone about the art and passion of hunting, trapping and experiencing the outdoors through the T.V. show and Youtube video’s and social media post.