Episode 032 Doug Kostreva – Owner Horny Buck Seed

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Doug Kostreva

Doug Kostreva

Interviewer : Okay I’m gonna count it down, five, four, three, two, one. Welcome to Whitetail Rendezvous. And we’re gonna welcome Doug Gestrara… is that right Doug?
Doug : Yup Doug Kostreva

Interviewer : From Hornybuck Seed Companies, up in Wisconsin, Doug’s just an amazing guy, and I’m so happy to welcome him to our community today, Doug welcome.

Doug : Thank you so much, I appreciate being on your show and thanks for having me.

Interviewer : Doug, lets talk about your company a little bit. Just give us about a couple of minutes about your seed company, why you started, and then we’ll go from there.

Doug : Well it started many, many years ago back in the 80’s. I’m a third generation farmer, living on the same farm my grandparents built in 1917, back in the early 80’s there was no such thing as a food plot. As a farmer we grew crops and vary rarely did you leave crops for your deer, sometimes they weren’t ripe so you left them and then deer got to eat them during the winter, and alfalfa you left in the winter you leave a little bit taller… so the deer would be in it eating.

As things started progressing, we started to find out that we did leave corn because it was too ripe to put in the bin, it wasn’t ripe enough to put in the bin, it was a little too wet, we’d leave it in for the winter we’d find out the deer would migrate towards it and we noticed the next year that we would have better deer volume, because deer are very ritualistic, they remember where their food source is from the year before.

So the very first thing I ever planted which was crazy enough to say was carrots, and my dad said I was absolutely insane nuts for doing it because carrot seed was so expensive in the day, which it still is today, and I went and I kind of dug them up a little bit and the deer started coming in and eating them, and I started putting more and more food plots in, I started trying different things. At the time there was no… [inaudible 00:00:2:00] weren’t big, this wasn’t big, there was no such thing as a radish or a turnip even in those days, you just never grew that for deer.

Then I started planting several different things, and the market started to go, I just only did it for myself, then I ended up having a landscaping company, a startup landscaping company and I was doing that and I started planting for some of my customers who had their weekend warrior cabins, cause I lived 50 miles north of Green Bay, so we are kind of what we call vacation land, so a lot of people have their weekend warriors, they come up and they have their cabins on lakes [inaudible 00:02:38] on their property, and they wanted to have deer in their backyard.
So as I’d put their lawn in for their cabin, they asked if I could plant something so they could watch wild life, and that’s really how this all kind of came to plan so to speak, more by accident, but like you said, there’s no such thing as an accident and it happened for a reason and the good Lord up above is the one who geared me in this direction, and we started up the seed company just basically by putting things together to make it work for people, to help people to grow deer.
Interviewer: Doug let’s switch it up now, and talk about your love for deer hunting. So how you got started on that.
Doug : I think I was very blessed to have a very hunting family, my father took me hunting, way back as long as I can remember. And I know as a kid, I know that there’s no kid that can sit still, there’s no kid that is that great in a deer stand, but he would always try to figure out a way to make time to take me somehow, some way, and back when I was a young kid many years ago, there was not a lot of deer, there was actually a thing called party tags. And you were only allowed to shoot one doe among five people, and bucks were very small. Anything with three inches, if they had three inch pikes in Wisconsin that was legal game and you shot it, because there just was not a lot of deer. But as time has kind of progressed and I think it’s nationwide now, people are getting a lot more into the deer management end of it, so to speak, especially if they have enough land where they can hold and harbor deer. Deer can live on, you can keep deer on 16 acres, it’s gonna happen. It’s not that hard.
If they’ve got a water source, a bedding source and a food source, they will stay there. You’re gonna have your roamers, but you’re gonna have a lot of deer that are gonna stay tight. That 50 acres is their house, it’s no different than your own home. You stay out of their home and they will feel comfortable moving around in your house. If you go into their house and start bumping them or moving deer or going into their bedding area or putting up cameras and checking them every day, you are on their time and their territory and they get a little skittish, especially the older deer, them are the ones that you’re trying to kill.
So there’s a lot to this, but yet it’s very simple, but people can make it so difficult, if that makes sense. But that is really how we, as I started hunting, I got into learning techniques and how to do them, and it all started from a little kid on, and my son is only eight and my daughter is ten, my son is into hunting big time and it’s probably no different than I was as a kid. I had a BB gun and I was shooting everything I could see, and he’s in the same boat, so we’re very blessed.
Interviewer: Thank you for that. You mentioned lessons learned, lets talk about a couple of lessons you learned, one as a young man, two when you’re going to college or you’re working the farm, so you’re 18 to 20-ish then into your 30s, three different times, three different age brackets, but what lessons did you take out of those periods of time?
Doug: I think if there was getting back to the deer hunting end of it, as I grew older, when you’re a kid, you think you know everything, and I think that goes for all kids of today, and I was no different than any other kid. When I first started bow hunting I was maybe 16 years old and I thought that deer were big brown and dumb, to find out that between their nose and their eyes they will outfox anybody, especially an old adult.
As I got older you try to outsmart them, but you know always remember they’ve got a sixth sense too and they’re always one step ahead of you. So as I got to be an older hunter now, I started to not overpressure deer. And I started to do things a little bit differently on my food plots, I’d always try to get them in transition areas, I don’t hunt food plots a lot, I just don’t, I try to get them in a transition area, so A) they don’t see you get up in that stand, and B) They don’t see you get down from the stand.
I try to get them in the areas where they’re gonna be moving from their bedding area to their food plot area, that way I’m not disturbing the food plot, and I don’t hunt day after day in the same stand. I watch wind direction, you just learn as you get older to become a better hunter, a more successful hunter that is. But it all comes back down to growing the deer, keeping the deer on your property, nutritional value, minerals, water, bedding, everything that coincides with eachother to help you become a successful hunter.
Interviewer : How do you identify a transitional area in northern Wisconsin, well, just north of Green Bay and I believe it’s highway 24?
Doug: What I do, [inaudible 00:07:44]. Here’s what I do, I try to figure out where is the deer bedding, where are the deer gonna be feeding, where is the water source, where can I put my mineral. I always try to put stands up for predominately northwest winds, the rule of thumb that is your number one wind when you start getting into September and October. It just is what it is, that’s just the way the wind blows where the jet stream is, that’s the way it kind of seems to work for me. I try to transition them so that I’m at least 50 to 100 yards off of the food plot.
The reason why I try to get a little bit further off of the food plot is that your bigger, dominant deer, your three and a half, your four and a half year old buck, rule of thumb, will not come out and hit the plots in the day light. They do sometimes, don’t get me wrong, that’s if you don’t disturb them much, but rule of thumb, they are moving in the [duff], when you can still shoot them, but they will come and they will get within 40, 50 yards of a food plot and they’ll stand there and wait until dark and they see enough of their associates out there, if there’s other deer out there that maybe make them feel a little bit more at ease.
But I’ve watched deer, I love watching deer and I watch deer and how they react and I have stands in the woods and I watch how they come, and especially I had some bucks who were four and a half years old and they were pretty hungry, they came out to check the plot and they wouldn’t go out on a plot because there were no deer out on that plot, and they would sit there and watch and watch and watch. And as soon as a doe and a couple fawns came out and maybe a little doe and maybe another little buck, then they’re like “Oh you know what, I can come out now, because you know what, if there was some harm, they would have been in danger by now.” So it’s all about getting the deer to relax, giving them that warm fuzzy feeling, and that’s how I go about hunting.
Interviewer: You mentioned a buck will hang up or wait, 40, 50, possibly even 60 yards off of a field depending on the terrain, if he’s got a nice ridge he can look down into the field, the food plot, he can do it from further than that if the timber’s open. Do you have a name for that area? I’ve heard people say [inaudible 00:10:00] and staging areas, do you, what do you call that place that they wait?
Doug: I just call it a transition area. I guess whatever makes you happy. You can call it a lot of different things, but for me it’s always the transition area, it’s always moving from the bedding area to the feeding area.
You can call it a staging area, that’s a great name for it, all that they mean is just different words. But food plot, there’s a difference between a food plot and a kill plot. That’s another thing that people don’t realize, even though they’re the same thing but yet they’re different. A kill plot is usually something that’s a half acre or less, that means it’s not gonna harbor many deer, it’s gonna be very secluded, they’re gonna feel secluded, especially if that half acre, quarter acre is surrounded by woods and trees, they’re gonna feel a little bit more seclusion. It’s gonna be a little bit more of an area where they get a little earlier, they’re gonna feel a little bit, cause they can feel the danger, they can see, they just feel a little more secluded in the area to go and get that. That is a kill plot, that is a place where a lot of guys like to put their stands on, a small little plot, shoot deer off the plot.
I don’t tell people how to hunt, I don’t care how you hunt, if it works for you, cause what might work for me might not work for you, or the next guy or the next guy. Everybody is gonna be different, it doesn’t matter who you are, everybody is gonna hunt different, they’re gonna have different success ratios, they’re gonna have different deer.
I’ve hunted several different states, and I have realized that whitetails are white tails, but they’re all different in their area. Every one of them is different, they have different temperaments, they have different ways of being there, I’ve been at places where the deer aren’t even afraid of humans, and I have places where you can’t 200 yards from a deer, it depends on the area.
So getting back to the kill plot, you’ve got a food plot, food plot rule of thumb to me is over two acres, anything that’s two acres and over, that is a food plot, which means you’re gonna grow the three main words that I’ve learned in keeping deer: groceries, groceries, groceries. The more food you can give them, the more food you have for them, then deer subconsciously know that the food source is there, and especially in northern Wisconsin, you start getting snow, it gets cold, it’s below zero, they need a food source.
The more you can grow, they mentally will come and they will herd in that area, because they know they will always have a food source. Anything carbs and sugars is what they need to keep their fat on them, and keep their [inauidible 00:12:56] on, so they are putting on fat and keeping warm basically.
Interviewer: Lets just recap, I’ve been taking notes feverishly here, there’s a food plot that’s over two acres, there’s a kill plot, or I’ve heard it referred to as a micro plot that’s a half acre to a quarter acre. And the key to bringing in mature deer is to give them a sense of security, give them confidence that nobody’s gonna see them and groceries, groceries, groceries. You’ve gotta feed deer, or deer want carbs and sugars. Does that summarize it for our listeners?
Doug : Well in the fall months, in the summer months, in the spring time like right now okay, here’s where the big transition is that people don’t understand. Spring and summer are more crucial for deer than in the fall. And where I’m getting at is deer in the springtime are coming off the winter, they need a good source of mineral. Mineral is so crucial. I am blessed to work with a lot of different deer farms throughout the Midwest, I know a lot of guys who’ll go out to deer farms, hey listen, I don’t care how you hunt, I don’t care what you hunt, I’m not a judge, jury and trial.
I have guys that hunt on reserves, and you know what? God bless them, they’re hunting, and the problem with society today is that they throw deer farmers under the bus. The real reason is a lot of them can’t afford to go there, or they just don’t want to go there. That’s their choice. But I’ll tell you what, I know there’s reserves out there that I hunt on, I don’t go and hunt on them, but I go and I help, and there are deer in there that [inaudible 00:14:46], that is how bad it has gotten, okay?
The deer are so secluded, they have… there’s 400 acres, and I’ll tell you right, a lot of them are fenced in, but them deer are in there and they are secluded, it is hard to hunt them. Getting back to the deer farms, I learned a lot from them. White tails are white tails whether they’re in a fence or out in the wild. I learned what they need, antler growth, what do they need, and it all starts with the doe’s and the fawns, the healthier your fawns are born, the better off they’re gonna be long term.
Your doe’s, they need minerals, plenty of them, things for their milk, when the fawns are sucking, they’re getting all the nutrition, all the microorganisms, all of the things that they need to grow, to help with the antibodies to fight bacteria, to fight infections, to fight diseases. The healthier your doe fawns are, and your buck fawns are, the next year the bigger they’re gonna be.
Mineral plays such a big key in the health, and proteins. Spring time, they need protein, they don’t need carbs in the spring, they don’t need to worry about fat structure in the spring, they need beans, they need alfalfa, they need clovers, they need things that are high, high, high in protein.
Protein is health, the healthier the deer, the bigger the antler gets, the calmer they are. I’ve got different minerals, some things that lowers their blood temperatures, anything that gets their blood to flow to keep them healthy. The healthier you are, the healthier the deer are, the bigger they grow, and it gets back to their stress level. The lower your deers stress, heat is a high stress problem for them: coyotes, wolves, bears, I mean, humans, anything, you can leave deer alone, leave them in their home, and like I said, back to the food, minerals and bedding area, they will grow so much better and so much bigger, and everybody’s all about “I want a big rack,” that is what they’re looking to shoot. And I respect that, but it’s not always about the antlers, it’s about the maturity of the deer.
I try to tell people, you know it’s hard to pass sometimes on a fork, and that’s all you think you’re gonna see, but you know, there’s always that chance that you’re not gonna kill him and you know what, maybe the neighbor won’t see him either and maybe the next year they might end up being a nice eight pointer at two and a half years old.
You sit there and you think of that eight pointer and at three and a half and four and a half, and all of a sudden it’s a 10 with a 20 inch spread and you know it’s gonna make a 160 – 170 inch deer. That’s what everyone’s dream is, but it starts with the fawn, it starts with getting them off to a good start, it starts with letting them go to let them grow.
I’ve got a lot of guys who are like “Well if I don’t shoot him my neighbor’s gonna kill him.” You know what? Try to work with your neighbor, I know neighbors, I get it, it’s a jealousy thing. It brings out the worst, white tails bring out the worst in neighbors. I don’t get it, but you know it’s hard to work together, and you know what, until you’re genuinely proud for somebody for what they kill, it’s hard to really make a focus on yourself on what you’re really trying to accomplish.
Back to that 16 acres, like I always tell everybody, you can keep deer on your property, and the only time you’re gonna get your roamers, but if you leave their bedding area alone, and they’ve got a food source and they’ve got a water source, I’ll tell you right now, deer do not like to roam like everybody thinks they do. They just don’t, it’s a proven fact. 80% of all deer are homebodies, they just are. Bucks are gonna travel when it’s breeding time, understandable, but then again, sometimes the minute there’s danger or they know they’re in danger, what’s the first thing they do? They go to their happy place, their safe haven, their home where they know they can go and nobody bothers them, and deer do not need to eat for a week at a time, but they need to drink every three days, that’s just the way they’re genetically made up.
So deer can sit down and they can sit tight for seven days and not even move if they can just go up and get a drink out of a puddle, they will stay in a certain area for the whole time. I learned that from deer farms and how they’re hunted and how it works, and that’s where I get all of my information from, not just off of other hunters, but I learn from deer biologists and how they track them, they collar them. So that’s how you learn transition areas and how deer move and not every deer is the same, but they’re genetically made up to be a certain way, and that is rule of thumb, 80% are gonna act that way. Sorry if I rambled, but that’s just how it works for me.
Interviewer: Can we just touch up on what you said, spring and summer is the most crucial time, because the doe’s are feeding and then weening their fawns off, so at that point in time they need a diet of high protein. In the fall, for energy, carbs and sugar, is that basically the foundation we’re looking at?
Doug: That is, the rule of thumb, that is the best way to put it. The proteins, they don’t need fat content in the summer, in fact, deer will eat corn all year round. That’s another thing too that people don’t understand about deer and roaming.
God created deer to be browsers, they are a browser, they are made to eat a little bit here and a little bit here. Whereas cattle have the same stomach structure but they’re grazers, they eat everything in their sight, they just mow it and go. Deer, they have the same type of stomachs, now cattle, if you feed them pure corn, and you get them on pure corn, the corn will kill, in their stomachs, it will kill all of the good bugs and bacteria that’s in their stomach, and believe it or not, cattle will die from straight corn.
So deer are no different, they need a roughage along with their corn in the fall. That is why I overstress on your radishes, your turnips, like our deadzone blend is phenomenal for winter. Checkmate, it’s got some grasses, it’s got oats and peas and winter rye and turnips in it, so it’s got the greens along with the grass, it’s all roughage, it helps to break down and metabolize.
That’s why when I create, when our company, I always try to put blends, everything is blended, it’s all about, its kind of like you going to a restaurant, and when you go to a restaurant, sometimes you might be in the mood for one thing, but you go to the same restaurant you might be in the mood for something different.
I want my plots to be that restaurant of variety. Some nights they come in and they might want to eat alfalfa, the next night they might want to eat clover, next night they might come in and they might want to eat turnips, or they might want to eat hickory, or they might want to eat radishes, variety, variety, variety. The more variety you have in your food plots, or your food system, the more deer will harbor, because everyday they’re gonna crave something different.
I can’t overemphasize that, it’s no different in the fall when it starts to freeze up here, deer are not into the alfalfa, they don’t need proteins, their body mentally know that they need carbs, they need sugar, they need to put fat on. They might be into acorns like crazy, they might be in corn fields or in the [inaudible 00:22:36], they’re gonna be eating what their body knows they need for carbs and sugar. Now beans are a high source of protein, by far one of the best blends, or best things that a deer can eat, just because they’re getting the best of both worlds, protein and carbs. Corn is more of a high carb high starch, it turns to fat, it is a great food source. I still put some corn in on my food plot areas where I’m feeding them for winters, I’ll put in a couple acres of corn, and leave it for them.
I’ll also have my deadzone, which has got the radishes and sugar beets and I’ve got some kale in there and it’s got different things that it’s gonna be palatable to their systems so they can eat the corn and eat the greens and if you plant it young, later in the year where it’s gonna be prime when it freezes, it’s gonna stay green all winter and they will eat it all winter long, they’ll dig through the snow just to gobble it up. It’s cause that’s just what their body needs.
Interviewer : Doug we’re getting to the point in the show, I know you’ve been sharing, I heard some of your blends and everything, but here’s the time you give a couple of minutes, wrapping up the show so you can talk to our listeners about specifics about Hornybuck Seed Company. And anything else you want to share.
Doug: Well, a couple of things, we own a company and it is called Hornybuck Seed Company, we are on Hornybuckseed.com. If you are really truly wanting to get started or you’re looking for a great feed, you can go there and find it, we do ship it. If you’re looking to do one thing we didn’t touch on real quickly is soil testing, before you put your plot in, please do a soil test. I don’t care if you do it with your local co-op, if you want soil test kits, just email me at doug@hornybuckseed and I will get some mailed out to you. They’re 18 dollars when you send them in to the company, but I will tell you right now, you’ve got to know where your PH is, and you’ve got to do weed kill, and we can maybe touch on that in another segment, but there’s so much more than just planting.
There is ground prep and how to do it, and the best way to do it, and how to do your best PH, and there’s all these other things to touch on, but if you have any other questions, you can email me at doug@hornybuckseed.com and I will get to them the best I can. Otherwise if there are any other questions, we do have some phone staff on there, you can also email them and they will get back to you. We’re all about trying to be customer service. We want you to succeed because if you fail, we fail.
The more I can teach you, the more I can teach people, the more they learn, the more successful they’re gonna be, and it’s all about putting your money, your hard earned money, and doing it correctly. Because you know what, there’s so much more than just “Well I’m just gonna throw this down and hope it works.” I don’t believe in poke and hoping, I believe in doing it correctly.
Interviewer: I’ve got a whole page of notes here and I hope our listeners heard what Doug was saying this morning about growing a healthy herd. Yes we all like to shoot, we’ve got dreams of shooting, 160 sized bucks, in reality, they’re out there, but will we ever see them? Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. The biggest takeaway that I’m looking at here is that you have to know how to take care of your herd. If you do that, as Doug said, at 16 acres, you could have a huntable herd.
Doug: Absolutely, and it all starts with mineral, look up our [inaudible 00:26:00] mineral, it’s on our Hornybuckseed page, mineral and we are shipping it by the ton literally, throughout the whole entire United States. I’ve got so many guys on it, on an average right now, I’ve got guys in the wild that are using it, and they’re showing me their sheds, and they’re averaging anywhere from 30 to 40 inches of growth in a three to four and a half year old buck. We have the sheds to prove it, this is out in the wild, this is not in a pen.
In a pen we’re growing 180 inch year and a half olds, so I get a lot of information back to that pen, I’m telling you what, support your deer farmers, even though you don’t believe in hunting that way, but I’ll tell you right now, they do a lot of research, they do a lot of things to help out the deer herd as far as what to do, I use a lot of information they give me, and I’ll tell you right now, it is a wealth of information for you. These people grow deer, even though they’re in a pen, you’re also growing deer out in the wild, you know what, it’s the same, but different, it’s just fair chase versus in a pen. I’ll tell you right now there’s a wealth of information out there, and I learned from the best. And I’ll tell you right now we have some of the best products out there, bar none.
Interviewer : Doug, on behalf of the Whitetail Rendezvous community, thank you, and I can’t wait till we get you back on the show, you’re a kick. Everybody, thank you for joining us today, and may all your hunts be great ones. Thank you again.
Doug : Thank you very much bud.

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