By Alex Comstock
Recently, WhitetailDNA contributor Scott Spitzley came to me with the idea to interview a number of hunters from the popular website known as The Hunting Beast Forum. Many of you I’m sure are familiar with the site and its founder, Dan Infalt. The Hunting Beast is arguably the best hunting forum on the internet, and many top notch deer hunters across the nation are on it, and contribute to threads regularly. A lot of these hunters though aren’t “known” across the industry, though that doesn’t mean they’re not just as good or even better hunters than other industry known hunters that you often see get interviewed.
What this series is going to aim to do is we will be interviewing multiple hunters that use The Hunting Beast and ones that are veterans to the site and consistent big buck slayers that you maybe have never heard from before. We hope to bring new insight and hopefully these Q&A’s will help you grow as a deer hunter as well. So with that, let’s jump into the first Q&A of the series with Justin Wright.
By Scott Spitzley
First up to bat, we have Justin Wright, AKA Bowhunter4life on "The Hunting Beast" Forum. Justin is a Missouri native that no doubt has earned a lot of respect from everyone on the forum. He continues to show that he can get it done on a consistent basis on both public and private lands all while his humbleness in his success does not go unnoticed either.
I learned a lot more than I have already known about Justin just from reading his answers to my questions and I can assure you will get something out of this too. We were without a doubt very pumped to have him start off this series! Enjoy.
Q. How and when did your hunting journey begin?
Justin: My hunting journey began at a very young age. I started out with my dad in rifle season when I was probably 9-10 years old. Always been in the woods. I and my cousins did a lot of squirrel and rabbit hunting as we were growing up. Didn’t take long for deer to take ahold of me. Just loved the hunt for those animals and loved deer meat too! At first, it was the brown it’s down mentality. I put down a lot of does for several seasons. Growing up watching my dad take down some great bucks really inspired me to want to do the same. He had some great success with the rifle and seemed to always lay down a pretty nice buck. That’s when I decided that I’d try my luck at it. This would be no easy task for me, in fact, I wondered if it would ever even happen. Season after season I would screw it up. Move to soon, winded, get too excited or just plain out not see a buck. It was such a struggle but I believe sometimes that’s the best way for it to happen. The battle for me only fueled the fire even more. I kept working harder and harder to learn and understand these animals, still doing so today!
Q. What type of terrain(s) do you hunt?
Justin: Terrain types around here are pretty typical of big vast hardwood ridges. In most areas where I grew up hunting there was hardly any fields around. This really spreads the deer out and makes you hunt harder. If fields were present they were mostly hay fields for the cattle. I think this made me a much better hunter.
I do hunt in some farmland now with some pretty steep ridges that surround them. The farmland was a big change for me at first. I thought it was gonna be a cakewalk cause I knew where the deer would be going toward to feed but I was in for a rude awakening. The deer population was much higher making it harder to get in on bigger deer. After some work and a few hard lessons, I started to get a grip on things. So mainly for me now, it is hill country with some farmland mixed in it.
Q. Putting down mature bucks consistently is obviously not an issue for you. What is the most important thing you put into your style that helped you have that kind of success?
Justin: I certainly wouldn’t say that putting down mature deer has ever been an easy chore by any means. So much goes into it. Sure every once in a while a nut falls into the basket without having to search for it but that is seldom! I believe one of the biggest keys to my success is just staying open-minded out there and really trying not to overthink it. Great to read articles and there is a wealth of knowledge tucked away in the hunting beast but even yet you can’t go into the woods with an idea that deer do this so that’s what I’m looking for. Read the sign and figure out what they are doing! I’m always learning and changing up things trying to improve. I really try to walk away from the woods each time I go in with another little piece of the puzzle. It’s a puzzle that I know I will never finish or completely figure out, but that is the fun in it. It keeps you striving for more and that’s what keeps me going back! So I guess the simple answer would be let the deer tell you how to kill them. Find what they leave behind and put the pieces together the best you can. The more of this you do, the better you become at it.
Q. We are having this Q&A series specifically for veteran "The Hunting Beast" forum members that haven’t really had the chance to do a Q&A session before. How and when did you stumble across the forum, and how much do you think the forum impacted your success?
Justin: The hunting beast has had a huge impact on me. There are some great hunters on there. I believe I stumbled across the site in 2013. It was a great place to chat with other good hunters and bounce ideas around. Really understanding deer bedding better has helped me a lot. In the big vast timber areas, it is very tough to figure out those beds and the hunting beast really shaved off the learning curve there. So many different ideas I’ve picked up and thoughts from the site. As I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, there is a wealth of knowledge tucked away in that forum. It is a great place to learn. I can say this much, I know I wouldn’t be where I’m at right now if it hadn’t been for the site. It gives you a whole new level of understanding and takes years away from trying to read and understand what deer are doing out in the field. Helps to better understand why they do what they do!
Q. What is YOUR definition of "Beast" style?
Justin: That’s a question I’ve never really thought about. The term is thrown around a lot now with the popularity of the site and all the things Dan Infalt has done over the past few years (articles, podcast, YouTube, etc). To me, it has always meant hunting bedding areas. Going in and learning bedding, then hunting it accordingly. For myself, I suppose the term would mean hunting them aggressively!
Q. Most of everyone on the forum correlates their style to hunting buck beds, but there is a lot more to it than just that. What do you think makes your hunting style different from others?
Justin: If I had to say one thing that I think most guys get to caught up on, it would be the bed itself. I’ve seen so many guys over the years so obsessed with finding that worn down to the dirt bed that they miss the bigger picture. They find it in the spring then come back and hunt it in the fall without any idea as to when or why the deer is there. If only it were that simple!
My style is different cause I’m going into these areas looking around near buck bedding trying to find any little bit of sign that tells me that deer is there now. I do this in the midst of the hunt! I have to find something cause my time is limited and I’ve tossed away too many sits at beds that I didn’t know whether the deer was there or not. I circle around nearby food or creek crossings trying to find evidence the deer is there now. Tracks are a huge key, and what I’m in search for most, but I will never overlook a fresh rub nor scrape. No matter what it has to be something fresh!
Q. You are on a blind 7-day whitetail hunt out-of-state on a piece you have never stepped foot on. Tell us what your strategy would be before heading there and what it would be going into it the day you show up.
Justin: I would no doubt be looking at aerial photos trying to zone in on spots of interest. Thick, wet, steep, or just simply a long distance from parking. Something that draws my attention. Once I have several spots located, I’d grab the bow and go check them out. I’m a pretty aggressive style hunter so depending on what type of terrain this is, likely I’m diving right in on it and seeing what I can find. If while I’m going in I see fresh sign that shows a decent buck is around and has been there recently then I may find a setup on the ground but if not then I’m pushing through all those areas till I find it. Sure that will blow some spots up but even if so maybe you see or hear the deer take off. Now you know one is using that spot. If I bump a buck off I’m staying tight to that spot till dark cause I’ve had luck in the past with them circling around and coming back in.
If this were more open type terrain then I might utilize glassing if possible and could see multiple areas of interest. If not, I’m moving and scouting till I find the key sign that is fresh and then I hunt it.
With a 7-day hunt, I’m staying on the ground and moving around. I’ve just had much better luck when I get aggressive with deer than I have sitting back waiting. One big thing I’m looking for while scouting these areas is how good can I access that spot. That is one thing I believe that is often not considered enough when getting into good areas. It will make or break you. I have to be able to get in there without blowing the hunt before it even begins.
Q. You only have 1 week out of the whole hunting season to hunt, which week do you choose?
Justin: I would say one of my favorite times is October 25th on through November 1st. The only downfall to that is a lot of guys are hitting the woods then. Seems the pressure keeps climbing each year. I have also grown to love the first few weeks of bow season. If I can find a good buck early season or maybe while scouting through areas I hit some fresh sign, those deer tend to be on a bed to food pattern so putting the pieces together is often much easier to do.
If I had to pick only one week though it would be October 25th-November 1! That’s just a great time to be in the deer woods. Big bucks are really getting interested in those first few does coming in.
Q. Tell us what your summer scouting consists of.
Justin: Summer scouting is not what it used to be for me. In the past, I was out there a ton looking for tracks around food or ditch crossings and running many cameras. Sure that all is very useful but weighing it out I’m not so sure doing that all summer long was all that helpful for me.
My style of hunting has changed therefore so has my need to scout all the time. I do a lot of my scouting while I’m on the hunt now. That being the case I don’t do as much offseason scouting and honestly in the past I believe some of it hurt me cause I almost had to have some type of evidence a buck was around so if I couldn’t find it outside of the bedding area, I was diving in on it even during the summer months. That’s when I was looking for specific treestand locations to hunt come opener. I feel there was a lot of unnecessary pressure I put on spots before the season even began. Things can change in just a matter of days with deer and their patterns. I find it much better to scout maybe the day before the hunt or on the day of the hunt, then you find out what the deer are doing now!
I still run a few cameras on specific spots that I know I’m not doing any harm too. I will get out and glass a couple of areas in late August and make a few passes through some spots looking for tracks but overall my summer scouting is not what it used to be. In order to kill a deer, you have to know what he is doing now, not what he did last week!
Q. Out of the four seasons of the year, which one is most crucial when it comes to scouting? Tell us why.
Justin: Well for me this kinda refers back to my last answer but without a doubt, it would be whatever season it is while the hunt is going down! I’m scouting when the season is on seeing what the bucks are doing at the time I’m hunting them.
Q. If you had anything to improve on, what would it be?
Justin: I could write a book on things I could improve on but I’ll try to keep the answer short here. I believe one big thing I need to improve on is not being so obsessed with chasing down a good buck each year. Maybe letting go a little of that and spending some more time going hunting with my dad and brother or just family in general. I’ve got to a point where I’m so driven when the season kicks off I lose focus of some other more important things. Spend time hunting with those I used to hunt with and my Dad especially because he is the one that got me started in this at a very young age.
My daughter is getting older and showing some interest in hunting. That’s super exciting for me and will definitely turn my attention to her if it continues. We have been working this summer on shooting so we will see what the season brings this year.
Again my short answer is to slow down and go enjoy some hunting time with family. The memories are much greater than the racks on the wall. I have to admit that sometimes I forget that!
Q. Tell us about your most memorable hunt.
Justin: I had been asked this question in the past and believe I may have answered it a little differently than the answer I’m about to give. I have so many great memories in hunting that it is hard to just say one is the most memorable. The one that is coming to mind now is a hunt I went on with my dad. This was when I was younger and had not killed all that many good bucks.
This was a spot my dad had scouted out and found. I lived several hours away at the time so he had a spot picked out for me. The hunt takes place in late October and the deer were just starting to show interest in the ladies. We went up on this ridge top where he had found some sign nearby and showed me a tree he thought would be good. I climbed up in it and settled in for the evening hunt. Pretty slow night till right near last light. I heard some deer coming up from behind me and sure enough, it was a nice 8 point followed by 4 does. Oddly enough he was leading the does on up toward a pond while feeding on acorns. They closed the distance and got to within roughly 20 yards which is when I took the shot. The buck crashed off and dad was not hunting too far away. The does went running on by him after I had arrowed the buck. A little bit after dark Dad showed up and I told him the story. We searched around and found a little blood. Went just a little ways and we decided to wait till the following morning to search. I know I didn’t sleep but maybe a few hours that night. I’ve been through several of those nights throughout my years of hunting and I’m sure many others out there can relate, it is not pleasant by any means.
The next morning we headed out to continue our search. The blood trail wasn’t great but we were finding enough. We had thought he went off this steep ridge down toward a bottom that fell off onto a gravel road. We searched and searched all the way down this bottom not finding anything. When we hit the gravel road at the bottom we were trying to find anything, running track or maybe a speck of blood. We found nothing! I was getting very discouraged at that point. We decided to go back up to the last blood and just started creeping along looking for anything. At times I was on my hands and knees looking for anything, as was my dad. This was a long slow search and I think we both thought at times it was over with but we kept on. The deer had made a hard 90-degree turn that we missed. After several hours of searching, we spotted the buck facing away from us on the side of this steep ridge. We were both jacked up and ran quickly over to that deer. He was at the time my biggest buck to date. Nice tall tined 8-point and to have that all go down with my dad there and him sitting me up on the spot just made for a great memorable hunt. One I’ll never forget. Those hard knocks along the way only made the successful hunt that much sweeter in the end!!
To see more from Justin, be sure to visit The Hunting Beast Forum and if you haven’t, consider signing up!