We bought a farm. 64 acres of possibility in the heart of Michigan. A small property with a big vision.
Bryan Callen might've got himself a deer but had a little bit of trouble dragging it out. Luckily, First Lite's Ryan Callaghan and his moustache were there to help him out.
We bought a farm. Sixty-four acres of possibilities in the heart of Michigan with the potential to become the perfect wildlife haven and deer hunting spot. In the first episode of the show, Steven Rinella and Mark Kenyon lay out a plan to turn this run-of-the-mill chunk of dirt into prime habitat for everything from whitetails, to squirrels, to pollinators. Along the way they find out exactly what kind of property they now own, and how much work it's going to take to transform it into something more.
In episode two of our new series, Back 40, Mark is making the first habitat improvements on the hunting property. He calls in some help, but gets varying opinions on what to do. He also battles a stubborn mower, rutted up trails, and a group of angry bees.
After spending August working his ass off on the Back 40, Mark Kenyon is ready to get the heck off of the property and let it rest. Michigan is one of the most heavily hunted states in the country for whitetails, which gives our crew the opportunity to be one of the few small properties that doesn’t spook every mature buck into the next county. As it turns out, Steven Rinella and Janis Putelis have a different idea. It's the opening day of squirrel season, and the boys are ready to get after ol' bushy, even if they have to tromp through Mark's sanctuary to do it.
With all of the preseason commotion on the property now behind him, Mark Kenyon can finally start deer hunting. After kicking off the season with little action, Mark welcomes his first guest to hunt the farm. Luke Macaulay is a professor and cooperative extension specialist at UC Berkeley, an unlikely spot to find a guy who is thinking about hunting and habitat fragmentation. Macaulay’s recent research has taken steps toward proving what Mark has always believed: This small property and others like it can make a real difference. It seems impossible to boil down all of Macaulay’s work and perspective, so Mark has invited him to the Back 40 to find out just how much of an impact hunting on private lands has on conservation.
Fall has settled across the Back 40, and deer season is in full swing. With a few target bucks identified, Mark Kenyon has invited Doug Duren to hunt the late October pre-rut. Both Kenyon and Duren are disciples of conservation writer Aldo Leopold, who famously advocated for Americans to develop a new land ethic. Leopold challenged us to shift our relationship with the land, to act as stewards instead of conquerors. We’d all like to see these guys get a big buck, but deer down or not, they’ll explore how a small property in Michigan can model Leopold’s land ethic for modern America.
With October in the rear view mirror and two great hunts in the books, Mark Kenyon is ready for the early-November whitetail rut. Mark is rejoined by MeatEater colleague Ben O’Brien for a week of all-day sits in hopes of taking home one of the few mature bucks that have been spotted on the property. It seems like all the sweat and stress of the last five months has led up to these crucial days.
After a long season on the property, Mark Kenyon finally gets a payoff when he recovers the mature buck he calls “The Wide Eight.” He also gets to share it all with his father, as the Kenyon men celebrate Mark’s success and head out to the Back 40 in hopes of creating a new hunting story together. After an unsuccessful few days of hunting on the property, Mark and his dad reflect on their family’s love for whitetails and two frantic weeks of the rut in 2019. There will be more twists and turns yet on this property, but killing The Wide Eight will be a high note. The Kenyon family will be looking back on this one for quite a while.
After five months of dedication to the Back 40 for Mark Kenyon, every corner of the property is connected to a lesson. Luckily, there’s still one more chance to capitalize on everything learned this year. Joining Mark for the final hunt of the season is MeatEater’s conservation director Ryan “Cal” Callaghan, and his good friend Anna Borgman, a first-time hunter who grew up in a small town in Oregon. Anna is a part of a program called the Good Meat Project where she teaches butchering classes and promotes an honest approach to eating farm-raised meat. In the final episode of season one, Cal and Mark show Anna the ropes.