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Preseason Bowhunting Preparations

by Neal McCullough 31. July 2011 15:07
Neal McCullough

Tomorrow is August 1st and as the summer finally winds down this month, I’ll be ramping up my preparations for the impending hunting season.  If you’re a hunter like me, the anticipation—and the accompanying scheduling, strategizing and planning—is almost as exciting as the season itself. 

Of course, preparation for the upcoming season starts way before August.  I spent some time this June and July creating Monster Raxx mineral sites—in my hunting spots in Minnesota and Wisconsin—and strategically placing trail cameras around these sites.  Recently, I’ve had time to check my various trail camera locations and have been pleased to see that some of the bucks I was chasing last year, along with some new ones, that are showing up on my cameras. 

This "High-Brow" buck showed up on my CamTrakker on July 17, 2011

These next few weeks leading up to opening day will definitely give me an idea of what big deer I’ll have a chance at this season as I continue to check my trail cameras in different locations.

Monster Raxx mineral sites have been extremely effective for me this year.

Apart from all the time I spent collecting vital information on the deer in my properties, I’ve also spent time working on fine-tuning my new Matthews Z7 Extreme to tightening my shot groups at 20, 30, 40 and even 50 yards.  I have always liked the advice to "practice at 50 yards so 25 yards feels like a chip shot" when getting my bow ready for the season. I have spent a few afternoons doing this very thing at a local target range near my house. With my sight pins adjusted and I am very close to being “dialed-in” for the 2011 season (most years my goal is to be ready August 1 - this year is no exception). 


Real Avid's "Toolio" makes bow tuning fast and easy; here I am adjusting my site pins while target shooting. 

As if the anticipation of whitetail opener wasn’t enough to fill up my August, on the 15th of this month, we’ll be heading to Wyoming to hunt Pronghorn Antelope.  This will definitely be a new experience for me; I’m excited for the new challenges that this hunt will bring—from the open terrain to hunting a new quarry—it should be a great adventure.  We’ll be capturing the hunt on film, so for those of you who follow the Bowhunt or Die webisodes, check back at the end of August to see how our inaugural antelope hunt turned out.  

I may not have any trail cameras on Wyoming Antelope; but this southeastern MN buck has my attention.

Good luck with your preseason scouting and hopefully your seasons are successful.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Bowhunt or Die: 2011 Story Lines

by Neal McCullough 19. January 2011 12:22
Neal McCullough

On Sunday January 9, I looked out my window and watched the sun set over the suburbs of Minneapolis and let out a big sigh.  The end of the archery season (in Wisconsin) is always tough, the end of any hunting season is.   As a bowhunter – I spend so much energy and time preparing, hunting, changing tactics, and dealing with the cold, rain, snow, sleet, heat, and wind that I am exhausted by the time January rolls around. This December in Minnesota and Wisconsin was particularly difficult as we received over 30” of snow making some very tough hunting… snowshoes were a necessity and deer movement was limited. My highlight was November 7 – shooting my best archery deer to date (on film) in Wisconsin.  I made a great 30+ yard shot (heart) but didn’t know until the recovery; it’s always better to wait when you are unsure.  The hunt was featured on Bowhunt or Die Episode 7 and if you haven’t already check it out here.  I also was able to harvest a doe early season (here) in one of my metro spots. 

Pepin County Buck – November 7, 2010

Overall it was a great season but with the turning of the New Year it’s time to spend a bit of time on the storylines for my 2011 season:

 “Breaking the Streak”
Grant Jacobs is my hunting partner for the Bowhunt or Die series here on and he has been hunting hard since 2009 to get to deer down.  His last successful hunt was October 29, 2009 – he was able to harvest a nice 3 ½ year old buck.  Since then however he hasn’t had been able to shoot a buck or doe with his bow!  To his credit – he has had many opportunities but trying to get it on film is a unique challenge.  This year he will shoot a big buck, and I will be behind the camera to capture it.

Grant and I in the tree during the November Rut

“Big Surprise”
This is an individual goal for me – hunting the tough terrain of Houston County, MN  I only saw him during daylight hours once last year... and he will be #1 for me next year!

The latest photo of this monster – December 14, 2010 (After Shotgun Season)

“Turkey by Arrow”
This is an individual goal I had for several years now – I applied for Minnesota Turkey License and if I am drawn I would love a chance to get a turkey (on film).  For those who turkey hunt check out for all the latest turkey gear at:

“Gear, Products, Tools, and Ideas"

Finally, this year will be a year of testing new gear, new products, new tools, and new ideas.  Last year I spent lots of time trying to figure out new properties and setups; this year my goal is to focus on strategies and new gear to help make my hunts on my properties better.  This will start this spring with Turkey Hunting, Shed Hunting... then Summer Scouting with trail cameras and food plots, and finally fall bow season preparations. 

See you in the woods,

Neal McCullough

The 2011 Bows are Here... Pick the Right One!

by Dustin DeCroo 14. December 2010 19:17
Dustin DeCroo

The 2011 bows have arrived and if you’re like me, you’re always excited to see what our favorite companies are putting on the shelves. The 2011 line-up is as impressive as it has ever been and it is up to us to choose the one fits the best. Selecting a bow that fits both our body and our application will help make us the best shooters we can be. Axle-to-axle length, brace height, draw weight, draw length and mass weight are a few of the first items that need to be considered for a proper fit.

These are a few of the new Z7 Series for 2011 from Mathews!

The first step in determining which bow is best for anyone, is to determine what the primary use of the bow will be. For instance, will it be used predominantly out of a tree stand or will it spend more time being packed around on spot and stalk type hunts? Do you want a longer bow that is more stable and forgiving or something shorter that is more compact and easier to pack around?

Hoyt's Carbon Element and the CRX 32 are only a couple of the additions for 2011!

Next, the draw length must be correct and the draw weight should be comfortable. I’m amazed on a regular basis at how many people attempt to draw more weight than they should or how their draw length is a complete misfit. It is a very common misconception that a 65 or 70 pound draw weight is required to kill most big game animals in North America. In reality 50 or 55 pounds is sufficient to kill even large animals like elk or moose. If you cannot draw your bow straight back without having to aim at the sky or “sky draw,” you are attempting to draw too much weight. With a proper draw length, the anchor point of the string (D-loop or the corner of the string) should sit at the corner of your mouth and the end of your nose should touch the string between the anchor point and the peep sight (if you use one)… all this with your bow arm slightly bent. I see lots of people with the string on the side of their face and sometimes all the way back to their ear, both are examples of a draw length that is too long. Make sure that both your draw length and weight are correct and your shooting will only get better.

After you determine your draw length and weight, it’s time to consider how you like a bow to feel. Do you like a very light weight bow, or something a little heavier? Perhaps you prefer a hard wall at full draw as opposed to a spongy wall when you are at full draw. Smooth draw or maybe a bit more aggressive draw cycle? Sometimes the only way to figure out what “feel” you like is to shoot several different bows on the market.

Now that you have a properly fitting draw length and weight, know what you’ll use your bow for and you know how you want your bow to feel… it is time to make sure that you understand what specifications to look at that will accommodate your needs and preferences.

Axle-to-axle length (commonly referred to as ATA or axle length) is the distance between the axels in the middle of each cam. Generally speaking the longer the ATA distance, the more forgiving a bow can be. A long ATA is also beneficial to shooters with long draw lengths because it has a larger string angle at full draw which will prevent nock pinch. A long ATA is also beneficial to finger shooters that do not use a release. Short ATA’s lengths are generally more light weight and less obtrusive in a tree stand. A short ATA may be something like 31” or less, while a long ATA might be 35” or longer. The new Mathews Z7 Extreme sports a 28” ATA length and their Z7 has a mid-length 32” ATA. Most all bow manufacturers have something that will fit the needs of every shooter.

The z7extreme from Mathews is a compact bow with a short axle-to-axle length of 28 inches but a forgiving brace height of 7 3/8".

Brace height is probably the most overlooked spec on any bow, specifically for new shooters. The brace height is measured from the string (at rest) to the center of the riser or the inside of the grip. A long brace height like the 8 ¾” on the Mathews Z9 generally produces a little less speed but is much more forgiving to poor form or an unsteady release. On the contrary, a 6 ¾” brace height like that of Hoyt’s Alphaburner produces much more speed but will most likely be less forgiving. Most people opt for a happy medium with sometime like the Bowtech Destroyer 340 or Mathews z7 which both have a 7” brace height.

Hoyt's Alphaburner

The z9 from Mathews has a long brace height for smooth shooting and is great for archers with long draw lengths.

The IBO speed is often times the first spec that bowhunters notice. The IBO speed is a “bottom line” speed that levels the playing field in speed calculation. IBO speed is calculated by shooting a 300 grain arrow out of a bow with a 70lb draw weight and 30” draw length. Speed is important but regardless of how fast a bow is, an animal will always hear the bow go off before the arrow arrives. The speed of sound is 1,126 FPS and the fastest bows on the market can only safely sling an arrow slightly over 350FPS.

Back in the 2011 lineup for Bowtech the proven Bowtech Destroyer 340 is a complete package!

Finally, one of the specifications that I pay much attention to, is the mass weight of the bow. For the type of hunting I do, I prefer a light weight bow something that is under four pounds (bare bow weight) whereas lots of tree stand hunters prefer a heavier (often times more steady) bow. Don’t forget that the weight of your bow can be doubled by the time all the accessories are in place.

Pick a bow that fits and you’ll be sure to shoot better and be more successful in your bowhunting adventures!!!

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