Virginia isn't in the top ten states for incredible whitetail hunting, and yet a couple of hunters from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia found their way onto the television screen, sharing their experiences from the whitetail woods of the east coast. Beginning in the early 2000's, Chris says he and co-host Eric Hale started hunting together and filming some of those hunts. The footage wasn't great, Chris says, and they didn't even have a kill shot on film, however that didn't stop them from submitting that footage to the Drury's. Out of the blue they received a phone call from Mark Drury inviting them to apply to be a part of a new show they were putting together. Part of that application, Chris says, was the requirement that there be a kill shot submitted with their footage. Chris and Eric went to the game warden and were able to secure a crop damage permit and from that opportunity they built a story and filmed their hunt. Some of the other teams had incredible footage of incredible bucks, Chris says, and their submission didn't seem as impressive. However, with just one doe kill with a shotgun, the guys ended up being cast on Drury Outdoors' show "Dream Season". Being cast on the show was probably more about their personalities and storytelling, than their hunting ability, he says. Chris says they spent five to six years with the Drury's before moving on and starting a new hunting show, "Legends of the Fall". After another five years or so, they were again ready to branch out and start something fresh and new. Chris said it made sense to bring their hometown friend Jason Bowers into the fold and begin "Red Rising" which is now in its seventh season.
Virginia may not be a well established big buck mecca, but Chris says there is fantastic whitetail hunting available in the Old Dominion state. Hunters just have to be selective about where they focus their attention. The central and eastern parts of the state produce some really big bucks, he says. However, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia where he is located, the whitetail hunting is more meat centered rather than big buck centered. The, "if it's brown it's down," mantra holds true in this part of the state, he says, and you aren't going to see a lot of really mature bucks. Management practices to help bolster deer numbers, age structure and trophy potential are difficult here because there aren't a lot of big properties. A 200-acre farm is a very big farm in his neck of the woods. This part of Virginia is not like the midwest, Chris says. You can't manage the herd and keep up with the same deer year after year, it's nearly impossible.
Chris further elaborates on the differences between hunting the east coast and the midwest as he talks about tactics. Whitetail hunting anywhere across the country isn't an "easy" pursuit, but there are some areas that are more conducive than others. The east coast throws a lot of obstacles at hunters, Chris says. There are a lot of mountains and the rough terrain that goes with them, and then there are the trees. The east coast is nearly 80% canopy cover, he notes, and that means hunters will be hunting tough wooded terrain almost exclusively. The situation differs in the midwest, he says. Having experience hunting midwestern big buck power houses like Kansas and Iowa, Chris compares the geography and says there are a lot more pinch points and funnels for hunters to use to their advantage in the midwest. In addition, a look at an aerial photo of your midwestern hunting locale can provide almost all the information you need to get to know the land, find likely travel corridors, identify food and water sources and then pinpoint where you need to position yourself. Nearly all of that information can be gleaned from looking at an image online, without ever leaving the comfort of your home. It's just easier to figure out the farms in the midwest than it is on the east coast, he says. When hunting the east coast, Chris says he focuses on identifying saddles in the mountain ranges and the oak ridges that hold a lot of acorns. While he does plant food plots, Chris says it's a rare occasion that he takes a buck out in a food plot. Instead, his hunts are focused on transitional areas and travel corridors between bedding areas and food sources. As a matter of opinion, Chris says he believes that if you are a good hunter on the east coast, you can be a great hunter in the midwest. Not minimizing what is required of a midwestern hunter to kill a whitetail, he says the truth is that east coast hunting is a whole different beast and those challenges help to uniquely prepare east coast hunters for more success in the midwest.
Watch Chris Ward and his fellow co-hosts each week on "Red Rising", Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET on Sportsman Channel. Look for the all-new 7th season to kick off this summer. In the meantime, you can catch up with previous seasons of "Red Rising" anytime on MyOutdoorTV.