Millsview Whitetails

Managing for High Quality Deer

By: Gail Veley
Originally appeared in the Winter 2017-18 Issue of the Upper Midwest Cervid Newsletter
You don't need to guess what Greg Mills is doing at 6 a.m. give or take every morning on his deer fawn. After he gets his coffee, that is. If it's cold he's bundled up. If it‘s warmer it won't take as long to dress. But regardless, like most devoted deer farmers, he's on his ATV doing a loop around Millsview Whitetails taking a headcount of his deer widely known for their symmetrical and clean look. Mills makes sure his deer are healthy and ready for another day on the farm in St. Joseph, Illinois. He makes certain no deer look 'droopy’ or sick and that there's no antler damage.

“I put a heated cab on my ATV so it's not so bad in the winter,” he grinned, noting that his wife of 32 years, Becky, prefers to join him deer farming when the weather is more agreeable.

A 6th generation farmer, Mills, 54, started his deer farm in 2006, after spending time as both a grain and hog farmer. “It seemed natural since I have a huge passion for hunting that I would try deer farming. They are a fascinating animal and the most popular for big game hunting.” His 12-acre deer farm is home to 35 does and 45 bucks who produce close to 50 fawns each year.

Although his Dad was not an avid hunter, his Grandfather was as well as an avid fisherman. His sons have been following in his footsteps to carry on the love of deer and hunting. However, Mills is the first one in a long line of farmers to become a deer farmer.

“They wondered why I was doing it at first and then thought it was pretty neat,” he said. But when Arthur appeared on the scene, “neat” turned into complete awe. Arthur, the impressive buck on this month's cover, scored 309 with a frame score of 242. “He’s a very special deer.” Mills said. “It's very gratifying to raise such a high-quality deer.” All of Mills’ deer are officially registered with The North American Deer Registry. This gives a buyer great comfort in the certainty of what they are buying, such as offspring from Arthur's line.

Arthur, out of Archer and a mother who was a full sister to Silver King, is part of The A Team and Fred Huebner's deer farm in Iowa. Mills bought Archer's semen to breed his doe, and had high hopes given his bloodlines. “We knew when he was two, we had something. Good luck and good decisions are the reason we have him." In addition to Arthur, Mills uses a few other high-quality bucks for breeding including Rockin' Express, who at one time was responsible for 60% of the genetics on his farm.

Mills believes that being a deer farmer and witnessing close up what a deer reacts to and how they react to it, has enabled him to become a better hunter. He also feels that deer in a preserve are not easier targets for hunters, given the choice between hunting on public land or a preserve.

“The deer at my farm know my voice and what vehicles we drive," Mills said. “They become scared with different noises, vehicles, and people."

Arthur, a large bodied buck with a calm nature, can help bring notoriety to hunting preserves in the form of high-quality offspring. Mills notes that hunters are beginning to shy away from public lands and move towards hunting in preserves where healthy, thriving deer are the mainstay.

"People try a preserve for the first time and they think it's pretty cool," he said. "We are managing for quality deer to make the experience worthwhile. There's a fair amount of knowledge and good animal husbandry in what we do."

Mills hopes to continue carrying on with his passion for many, many years to come and also hopes legislation becomes even more favorable for Illinois deer farmers in the near future. Millsview Whitetails has been extensively featured on Keith Warren's Deer and Wildlife Stories. To view the episode, go to: