The Hunting Beast Q&A Series: Louis Butkovich

By Scott Spitzley

Editor’s note: This is the last Q&A in our Hunting Beast series and is a good one! If you missed the first three, you can read them HERE, HERE, and HERE. I hope you enjoy! - Alex

Next, we have "Uncle Lou". Louis resides in Southeast Michigan with his wife and daughter. He owns the familiar company within the Beast called "Stealth Outdoors", using material designed for the mobile hunter eliminating Treestand and Stick noise. Uncle Lou is by far the most passionate hunter I have met on the Beast. He was also one of the first to welcome me to the forum when I joined a few years ago as well. I can't thank him enough for the amount of motivation he gives others on the forum and myself. Enjoy his story, I know a lot of members were looking forward to reading this one.

Q. How and when did your hunting journey begin?

Louis: I think it began before I did. I think it was in my DNA. I came from a mostly non-hunting family. I say mostly because I grew up where my dad was born, Southern Illinois, outside St. Louis. The name of the town is Wood River, Illinois right on the Mississippi River. My mom was from a farm in central Minnesota. My dad was the youngest of 8 boys and they were immigrants from the former Yugoslavia (now Croatia). None of them hunted. But my mom’s family had some hunters in it by marriage (she was one of 5 girls and one brother), and some of my cousins and a few Uncles hunted on that side. But I was never around Minnesota during hunting season. I think spending my summers on the farm and being around that side of my family may be responsible. But really just spending time on the farm, I think I developed a connection to the land. We would shoot birds and chipmunks and other things that boys do on a farm. Back home, my older brother and I started small game hunting when we were about 12 or so. Even though my dad didn’t hunt, he bought me and Stevie (my big bro) shotguns, and he would take us to his friend’s house outside of town and we started small game, rabbit, and squirrel. Then in high school some friends and us would go dove, squirrel, and rabbit.

In college, Eastern Illinois University, I had a friend from my hometown my older brother’s age and we started pheasant hunting together. I got a tip and took a ride and I stumbled on an area in Southern Champaign County that was full of pheasants. I told my roommate, Potsie, that I would knock on a few doors. Before you know it we had thousands of acres to hunt (those were really big farms) and we just hammered the pheasants in the late 80s. When Potsie graduated, I still had two years left. My junior year I hunted pheasants with a few other friends but it wasn’t the same. My senior year I decided to try deer with a bow. I had a Professor, Dr. Dewey H. Amos, he was great. He had a little farm outside of Charleston and let me hunt it. I can still see that first buck making a scrap, like it was yesterday. I had no idea what he was doing, he looked ridiculous pawing at the ground. I had climbed up a white oak tree and sat on a limb. Got a pair of tree-bark coveralls from a high school friend, and took that old Bear Grizzly compound that sat in the basement of my parents house. It was given to my brother and I from the next door neighbor. I bought some arrows and broad-heads and started deer hunting. This same season, I was at another college friend’s family farm outside Martinsville, Illinois. I was lying in a ditch that afternoon near a field. Right near dark the field filled with deer. The closest one got pulled up on. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but I took a very long shot (I won’t say how far, but it was way too far). It landed underneath it and spooked him back a few yards. The second arrow I just pulled up even higher. I think I was aiming more at the moon than at the deer. Whack! I got it, a button buck. That arrow launched so high it seemed to almost come straight down on it. It fell over dead, I probably spined it, no clue. A good thing I just read an article in American Hunter prior to the hunt on how to dress one out. That first gut job went pretty well. I called another buddy once we got back to school that night to hang it in his back yard. We hung it kinda low as I was heading back to Wood River in the morning.

Something got it, either dogs or coyotes. Ripped it up pretty good. I was bummed, but yet excited I got one. A bow-hunter was born, I was pumped. Nothing like your first archery kill to stoke the inner beast. Backing up to the summer between my Junior and Senior year, I will explain how I ended up in Michigan. I had to go to South Dakota for field camp. As part of my geology degree this was a requirement. Well our school ran a longstanding camp there and because the demand for geologist was in decline at this time we started taking on students from other schools. Well there was a young lady from Detroit, Wayne State University, along with a few other students from that school and a few others that attended. The reason I tell that is because that is how I ended up in the Detroit area. Helen is her name and she became my wife, and still puts up with me. For a young new bow-hunter, what better place to be than in Michigan? Possibly another upper Midwest state, but there is no denying the long standing tradition of deer hunting in Michigan. I graduated in May 1990, moved to Michigan in June, after getting a job in the environmental field, and started hunting deer with a used bow I bought at a local shop in Keego Harbor, MI. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but that was not about to stop me. I hunted with a friend from work or alone. Helen and I bought the house we still live in, in 1992 in Holly, Michigan. Then in 1994, I got a new neighbor. Randy. He is a hunter, bow, shotgun, rifle, muzzle-loader, deer, small game, out west, you get the point. He turned my hunting career. Actually he took me under his wing and we did a lot of hunting together starting the next year - 1995. He took me to one of his local spots for archery hunting. Still not having shot a deer in the entire time in Michigan, November 15, 1995, Michigan fire arms opener, a hunter was born. Prior to Randy talking me into gun hunting, I was afraid to go in the woods during the gun season as Michigan would have about a million gun hunters. Randy assured me it would be fine. I played hooky from work and he took me to his private spot, followed by a walk around in Holly State Rec area. We started walking in together about 50 yards apart, and before you know it he was gone. So I was walking down the hill and a deer jumped up and took off running. I pulled up the 870 pump with slugs and boom boom. Felt like I was wing shooting pheasants in Champaign County. I hit him both times on a dead run, but it was a long track job, thanks to a dusting of snow and Randy we found it. A scraggly racked buck with a solid body, I loved it. This walking around and finding animals and shooting them is fun. I did not remember how to gut a deer, Randy took care of it, and even helped me butcher. Went on a couple of solo DIY rifle season hunts in Colorado for elk in 1997, and 1998. Tag soup was had, but the experience was great. Started reading Field & Stream as a kid and always wanted to elk hunt. So I did it. Lots of people ask questions about how you do it, and wonder, but sometimes you just need to go and experience it.

I better stop there, I guess I answered the question and hopefully didn’t lose everyone after that long winded answer. About the only thing I did not tell you in the opening answer are how many brothers and sisters I have. I was one of four kids, two brothers, and one sister. My dad was a river boat captain on the Mississippi. The Mississippi goes up to Minnesota (you’ll get it in a second).


Q. What type of terrain(s) do you hunt? (Hill country, marsh land, farm country, etc)

Louis: I have always been drawn to the thick nasty stuff; it just seemed like that is where the deer would be. I have hunted farms as I had a couple private places in MI from around 2000 to around 2013, but I liked thick and nasty. In the last 5-10 years I have become interested in Hills. Hills in Michigan are different than a lot of places. The entire Lower Peninsula is all glacial debris, or sand, gravel, till plains, and some lake plains, with rare exception. So the hills are not what they would be in other places, not quite as much relief, but mostly interrupted with swamp and lakes. I have been hunting the Huron National forest in NE Lower Peninsula for about the last 10 or so years, and love walking around it during gun season, it is somewhat hilly. I mostly stay around SE Michigan during archery or early season, there I cling to swamp and Marsh and thick nasty stuff. I don’t hunt much private land anymore. Been to a buddy’s farm lease 1 day each of the last two seasons, and really that was enough private hunting for me. It is just too easy to over-hunt a farm, and outside of a day or two here or there, I would rather hunt public land anymore. Is it my BEAST influence, possibly?

Q. What is the most important thing you put into your style that helped you have success?

Louis: Walking around and being able to make a quick shot. I am not a very patient person and I have gotten down out of tree-stands to see what is over there. I have even taken my ground game from gun season to archery season, since 2009. In 2009 cross bows became legal in Michigan. Now I am completely able bodied to this day, and always have been, but legal is legal for me. I am a hunter; I refuse to let the weapon define me. I am not a trad hunter, a compound hunter, shotgun, rifle, handgun, or muzzle-loader. I have and use them all, I am a hunter. And I will not apologize for using a crossbow in archery where legal. Quick side note, I have been practicing with the long bow quite a bit lately, and hope to use it this year, but that is to be determined. So in 2009 this 150 lb Horton Legend falls in my hands, from a man some may have never heard of, Gerry Kaufman. I met him through business. He was second generation and ran Wyondotte Leather. Gerry’s dad started this company making leather goods for Fred Bear back in the 40s. The nostalgia when I would go to his shop was pretty awesome. Anyway Horton had sent Gerry this cross bow. It was sitting in his office in a box, and I said whats up with that. Next thing you know we were out in the alley shooting it at a target. I told Gerry I better take that home and get it sighted in for you. He agreed and we both knew what would happen. I called Gerry a few days later and said how much. He said $275, done. I think I clocked it at 264 fps on the chronograph with 125 grain heads. Well my plan was to get within 40 yards and start shooting deer from the ground. In the next two seasons I was 3 for 4 and most shots were within 20-25. I even missed a coyote with it. Sailed high over its back, meaning I was closer than 30, as I used that pin. I was addicted, really still am, to this creeping around trying to go stand animals up to shoot.

Q. Being that we are having this Q&A series specifically for “The Hunting Beast” forum members. How and when did you stumble across the forum, and how much do you think the forum impacted your success?

Louis: I found out about Dan back in 2008. I went to the ATA show in Indianapolis that year and met a guy from an on-line forum. I did not have a clue what a forum was so I checked it out. That is where I found Dan Infalt. Dan showed a pile of his huge bucks on that site one post. I was amazed and was asking myself who the heck is this guy? Well “this guy” had another forum name in his signature and I was off checking out this very successful hunter. I went to this new forum and I read all of Dan’s articles and became a gawker of his first forum. After a while a post caught me on the emotional side and I chimed in. Dan was very welcoming and a great guy. I have gotten to know Dan well and I will say, not only is he one of, if not the best deer hunter alive, he is also a great teacher and has given so much back to the hunting world that I am proud to call him a friend today.

Dan and the Hunting BEAST has and continue to have a huge impact on me and my hunting. The stuff Dan teaches is really common sense and hard work, but no one else has really captured it like he has. Common sense is really the wrong phrase, it just seems factual. It is like he is teaching physics, it’s basically facts, and the deeper you get into it the more advanced it gets. Again, he is very talented at both hunting and teaching. When it comes to my success, that is where I will start to qualify things. I have not shot a wall of mature bucks, neither before I found Dan, nor since. However, his teaching have totally changed the way I think about hunting, and for the better. I feel that for myself, or anyone who comes in contact with his library of information can take it to the next level when they are ready to dedicate the time to it. Because it is based on so much work, I have just not taken my mature buck hunting to the next level. But feel I could when I want to . Also, I enjoy the knowledge, again it just changes the way you think about hunting, in a positive way.

I am just having too much fun keeping deer hunting recreational that at this point I don’t want to add any pressure upon myself to become the next mature buck hunting maniac. But I am glad to see that he has inspired many.


Q. What is YOUR definition of “Beast style”?

Louis: To me BEAST Style is hard work, tactical, scout, scout, hunt, mobile, quiet efficient hunting. AND smart, you have to hunt smart, it’s all very intellectual. You learn the basics and then go from there. The basic rule, is finding where they are. They are where they bed. If you want to get a chance you have to get close to where you have a chance in daylight.

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? 

Louis: Well, when I first found Dan I tried the off-season scouting for beds. I am just not very good at it. I can find beds, and find them in thick stuff, I just am not confident of when they use them. So since I don’t scout that much anymore, I just key on thick nasty areas, and areas where I have seen, or bumped deer before. Again, I am not targeting just mature bucks, I am not there yet. I am still deer hunting. But one thing I do, I guess you would call it in season scouting. I scout suspected bedding areas with weapon in hand. I really think my ground game is probably the most skillful thing I do. I go in these thick, suspected bedding areas, looking for a deer. If I catch one in there, I am trying to kill it. I love organic food, or God’s grocery store.

Q. You are on a blind 7-day hunt out-of-state Whitetail hunt 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.

Louis: I love new ground. I get bored easily. I basically answered this question on my DIY solo elk hunt last year in CO in my post on the BEAST. I would really do the same thing on a deer hunt. Before I get there, I am studying maps and looking at access. If I misread your question and I cannot cyber scout at all, when I get there I am still looking at access and where pressure could come from. I want to try to come in a different way, or at a different time (not weekend), and I am not afraid to walk. On a blind hunt, I am trying to access a different way from suspected pressure, and look for thick potential bedding and then I could spend my day picking around or creeping through. Looking for bodies. Many times while I am doing this, since I try so hard to be quiet, you will see a deer stand up and look at the foreign intruder, sometimes they bolt, but when you do everything right, they stand up and wonder what you are and what you are doing there, and they are looking for movement. At that time, be real calm maybe even say hi, real quiet, and then shoot them. But don’t jerk the weapon up, like you are antsy. I am impatient, but sometimes when you are in the zone, things slow down, and it is calming.


Q. You only have 1 week out of the whole hunting season to hunt, which week do you choose?

Louis: November 15, gun opener in Michigan. I go to my good friend Dan’s hunting camp in NE lower Michigan and go in the Huron National forest and go walking around.

Q. Tell us what your summer scouting consists of. (Glassing, shining, boots on the ground, etc.)

Louis: Really not much. This is one area I am really deficient at. I would like to do some glassing and shinning, and I say that every year. But I am a morning person. I go to bed around 10 or so and usually get up early. If I ever get motivated to summer scout, I should learn to go shine at around 3 am. Might catch deer going back to bed, or near bedding. But again I am pretty deficient at summer scouting. I have one camera and ran it in a neighbor’s back yard when I got it. It was cool to see things, but it just isn’t in my routine. I keep telling myself I should go hang it across the lake (public hunting area), but the dang mosquitoes and deer flies just swarm me. I fish in the summers and maybe cyber scout a bit, and plot, and plan, but not much scouting.

Q. Which part of the year is most crucial when it comes to scouting? Tell us why. (In-season scouting, spring, winter etc)

Louis: For me definitely in-season scouting. Not because that is what I have learned that it is the best time, but because that is when I finally get out there. I am still learning and trying to figure out night sign vs. daylight sign. That is a hard thing to figure out. But if you walk into suspected bedding and a deer jumps up and runs out (I didn’t say I always stand them up, only if you did everything right, and came in quiet and didn’t get winded or seen), you were in the right spot, and that is definitely daytime sign. In Michigan, at least to me, spring, summer, and even late winter doesn’t mean much to me because I don’t spend enough time patterning them year around. So only in season is important to me. But being a part of the BEAST, that is not the right answer, there is definitely valuable intel to be had for these other seasons.

Q. If you had anything to improve on, what would it be?

Louis: My scouting, and really my technology. I love maps, remember I am, or was a long time ago a geologist. I loving looking at air photos and topos, pick a spot and try to go ground hunt it. I usually pick a spot and do more of a wonder around it. Just poking around, and sometimes I get to the area, and sometimes I get side tracked, or maybe some would call it turned around. I am a map and a compass guy, and it shows. If I knew how to download a spot to a map on a higher tech GPS, with OnX or onstand, or some of that, and really plan my route, that could help me. I am just having too much fun to really give a crap though. I have a lot of pressure from work and I just try hard to keep hunting recreational. My outlet. I hunt hard, I just don’t put a lot of pressure on myself outside of filling tags. I may grow, and really think I have in the last 10-11 years, as I no longer shoot any buck (I graduated from spikes and buttons to basket rack 8s), I try a little harder to shoot better bucks. But sometimes I just want to take a walk, shoot a deer, gut it, drag it, hang it, and butcher it. I love the whole process. Eating them, then just relives the hunt.

Q. Tell us about your most memorable hunt.

Louis: Too many to have just one. I have lost some really close people in my life. Everyone does or will go through it. I am not looking for sympathy, just that when you mention memorable hunts,

I just can’t forget these people. My older brother was my best friend. When I moved to Michigan he started coming up in the fall to hunt with me. He even went up to the UP with me a few times, those are now all memorable. My last hunt with him, he shot a huge public land Turkey just up the road here on public land 2006. My cousin Wamp, I always looked up to him. He was about 6’7”, so literally. My last hunt with him in Nebraska I will never forget. I shot a big doe mule deer in 2008. My other cousin Louie was there as well. And Louie and I hunted in Wyoming in 2000 and stayed at Wamp’s. Louie shot a huge cow elk on that hunt. That was the first ever elk I helped pack off a mountain.

All the cousins I mentioned that hunt, and I can’t leave out Mike (aka arrowbender on the BEAST) are all on my mom’s side, and we all lived far apart, but there is a pretty cool bond between the cousins on my mom’s side despite the distance. Louie and Mike are still with us. In 2006, cousin Louie and I went to Idaho to hunt with one of his neighbors from MN, who moved west years earlier. This was a very emotional hunt, as my cousin lost his 18 yr old son in a motorcycle accident on Easter Sunday and asked me to go with him that fall to Kenny’s to hunt Elk, which I agreed to. On my way out my big bro was killed in a car accident, I had to turn around as I was not to Louie’s yet in Minnesota. Had to delay the trip for a week or so, but Louie and I had to go, it was a mission. I shot my first bull elk. Potsie is no longer with us either, those pheasant hunts and our time in college together was very memorable. Now that I brought everyone down, let’s end on a positive note. Life is a lot like hunting. It is a cycle. We only get one go at it here, we need to have fun, work hard, leave something behind, and Thank God for what we have, not what we do not have. My good friend Dan here in Michigan, his son has turned into a pretty good young hunter. In I think 2009, I was heading up to stay at a friend’s camp not far from where Dan’s camp is for the Michigan Nov 15, gun opener. I was going to hunt the Huron National Forest. Go do my walk around thing. Well Dan’s son Patrick was going to hunt another private spot, but got pimped by another friend of Dan’s the day before the hunt. Now Patrick is 13 or 14 or whatever the legal age is to hunt in Michigan. Dan asked me if I would sit with Patrick in a blind on private. I enthusiastically agreed to this. About 9 am or so, we spot a good buck for this area and it disappeared. Patrick and I made a plan, now granted he was a kid, but when he was young it was always like hunting with a buddy, not a buddy’s kid. So anyway, we ended up getting out of the blind walking this tall grass, and low and behold there they were bedded. I was looking right at them both and told Patrick there they are, I could see him look way ahead, I said no, right there, about 30 yards tops in front of us. I said I will shoot the doe in her bed, and when the buck stands up drill him. BANG! BANG! Two dead deer in their beds. That was pretty awesome. November 15, 2014, I shot a buck on Dan’s neighbors (where we had permission) just before entering the forest for my daily walk. I got busted by a group of does. I had not shot a deer yet that season and this is the TB area and one of the few areas you can shoot a doe with a buck tag in firearm season. I was going to shoot the first deer I saw. They were not even down wind, oh well. But within minutes of spooking the does, a buck appears – downwind. I shoot, and wound him. Dang it. Off I go in the forest on crunchy, frozen leaves. Very little blood, just following kicked over leaves and spots of blood for about a ½ mile. I jump what I thought was the buck, and finish him off, blew a fist size hole in the neck. I gut him and didn’t really pay attention, but that was the only wound. Dan met me back on private with a four wheeler, and actually walked back in the forest a bit to help me finish the drag. When we got to the private, it soaked in that that was not the deer I wounded. It only had one hole in it. So off I went to find the buck I wounded. I caught up to it a couple miles back, finished it off and started dragging. I drug that deer by myself all the way back to the private. I hit that land about 5 pm just before dark. I didn’t, or couldn’t drag another inch. I called the owners son Charlie who was in a blind not far from me. I walked over and had a cold beer with Charlie, and let Patrick and another young neighbor (Shawn) retrieve the deer from where I left it. That was the first time I ever shot two bucks on the opener. And the first time I had to drag two deer I had shot in one day out of the forest.

So much for one story.

Thanks for having me, I appreciate the opportunity to share some hunting talk with you guys.