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Sometimes You Have to Hunt in the Rain

by Neal McCullough 29. September 2011 14:20
Neal McCullough

I am one of those bowhunters who doesn’t get hundreds of days in the field every year; I don’t spend weeks in Kansas, Iowa, and Canada from September to December (although sometimes I wish I could). That said, I have learned over the years that you have to make your hunts count. I believe in the old adage “you can’t get one if you aren’t out there” but, more specifically, out there at the right time. This past Tuesday evening was one of those “right times”.

Grant Jacobs and I always try to do an early season bowhunt in our properties in Pepin County. It’s a little bit of a drive (About 1 ½ hours) so we do our best to coordinate our varied work schedules and the ever-unpredictable fall weather to select the best day to hunt. Tuesday, flexibility at work magically coincided with some other key factors to make for a perfect evening hunt. Following are a couple of things that made this week’s hunt work:

1. Moontimes– The moon’s affect on whitetails was a subject of a recent blog of mine and the timing of this hunt was set up to be one of the best days in September according to the solar calendar. The moon was setting at 6:30PM (sunset was at 7:00PM) and the “best time” to hunt was 5:30PM – 7:26PM

The solar lunar calendar can be an effective tool during early season.

2. Wind – The particular location of the stand we were hunting in we call the “Elevator Ridge” and any wind out of the N/NW gives us the best chance to get a deer.

A Wind Checker and can help keep track of shifting winds/thermals to know where deer can bust you in the stand.

3. Beans – Although beans have browned in nearly all areas where we hunt, we knew that some of the green was still on the stem and pod. This, along with falling acorns, made for an ideal spot.

This button buck showed on Tuesday evening feeding in the beans, any remaining green soybean fields should be hunted now.

4. Rain – The toughest part of the day was the massive low pressure system that decided to park itself right over Chicago for what seemed like days and days. The weatherman called for continued rain at our stand that day, nonetheless we decided to go for it.

This stubborn low pressure system took days to move out of the midwest.

5. Scent Control – The wind and rain combined created a perfect scent killing solution for us; our scent was pushed away from the deer and much of that scent was knocked down by the rain.

We always wear Scent Blocker gear while hunting, there is no substitute for quality scent blocking clothing. Notice parts of the soybean field in the background are still green.

In the end, the hunt was one of the best early season hunts we have had in a while. Right on schedule, three mature does and a buck fawn all worked their way to within 25 yards and if it weren’t for tree limbs and low camera light, we would have had a shot. Last year we spent hours and hours hunting bad winds, bad moontimes, and frankly, bad stand sites. This year we got in the right place at the right time and got the season off to a great start. Good luck with your hunting seasons and remember; sometimes you have to hunt in the rain.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Chasing Speed Goats in Wyoming

by Neal McCullough 30. August 2011 15:46
Neal McCullough

A few weeks ago Grant Jacobs and I had a great time hunting with fellow pro-staffers Dustin DeCroo, Dan Schafer and John Herrmann in Wyoming.  Grant and I left Minnesota bright (or not so bright) and early on a Tuesday morning at three o’clock and after a 10 hour drive, we arrived in a small Wyoming town just in time for an afternoon waterhole hunt.  As we walked out to our stand, we were greeted with the sight of 30 goats staged directly above what would quickly become our new honey hole.  After setting up our blind we waited with high hopes of spotting a good buck.  While we certainly glimpsed plenty of does and fawns that first afternoon and evening, day one left us looking for a good shooter buck.  Nevertheless, we went into day two with high hopes. 

Grant Jacobs waiting patiently with his Mathews Z9 ready.

On Wednesday, we sat the entire day at the waterhole with action on and off throughout much of the afternoon. The clear highlight of our second day in Wyoming was when a good buck sauntered straight in for a shot at 40 yards.  I was filming and Grant had the buck in his sights.  Unfortunately, a combination of warm temperatures and a long distance (especially for a Midwestern hunter) coupled with inexperience and resulting nerves on both our parts, Grant shot just over the back of that buck and missed him, what an awesome opportunity! 

This shooter buck watered at 30 yards... check back to "Bowhunt or Die" to see all the action.

It wasn’t until day four of the hunt (our final day) that we decided to take a doe if the opportunity presented itself.  Having spent the three prior days waiting for shooter bucks to come along, we agreed that a mature doe would be worth taking as opposed to taking nothing at all.  It took all day, but around four in the afternoon, a big group of does and fawns came to water and with the camera rolling, Grant made a great 20 yard shot on a mature doe.

Grant and I with our last day Antelope Doe

Getting the doe down was definitely the highlight of our Wyoming hunt; it was truly the culmination of a whole load of new and exciting hunting experiences.  Throughout our weeklong hunt, we saw plenty of other wildlife, picked up on some distinctively Western hunting strategies and techniques and were challenged daily with the new terrain, weather and game. 

We had all kinds of visitors at the watering hole including this Badger.

Overall Wyoming was an incredible experience for Grant and me and we have Dustin DeCroo to thank for most of it.  He set us on great spots and we had unbelievable encounters and chances.  Western hunting is not easy: long shots, tough terrain, hot temperatures, and goats with excellent vision definitely made for a challenging hunt.  I have a newfound respect for Western hunters; the experience was humbling and I feel grateful just to have been able to spend a little time with the pronghorns of the sage dotted plains of Wyoming. 

 See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

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

Bowhunting Internship Is Over- Until Next Time Illinois!

by Cody Altizer 28. January 2011 10:41
Cody Altizer

The afternoon of September 17, 2010 found me sitting in a treestand in Northern Illinois, dripping with sweat from the late summer heat and fighting off nasty mosquitoes left and right.  I had just finished hanging a second treestand on a piece of property Todd Graf allowed to hunt, and remember watching an endless Midwestern sunset thinking to myself, “I am 800 miles from home, sitting in a treestand with no clue what the next 5 months have in store for me.  What have I gotten myself in to?”  Well, this past weekend, January 22nd, I took that same treestand down in over 6 inches of snow and a wind chill of 5 degrees.  As I took down that same stand and watched the same sun slip beneath the horizon, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past 5 months.

When Todd Graf offered me an internship at the office last June, I accepted the position almost immediately and was anxious to make the move from Virginia to Illinois.  The opportunity to live in Illinois for an entire hunting season seemed too good to be true, but it was very real and I promised myself to make the most of it.

My first weekend on the job consisted of me filming Todd on his property in Wisconsin for the archery opener.

Todd and I wasted little time getting to know each other as we climbed in the tree for the first time together my first weekend on the job for the opening weekend of the Wisconsin archery season.  That first weekend was a nightmare.  Todd and I were clumsy with all of our hunting and camera gear, got busted several times on stand by wary whitetails and our communication in the stand was atrocious.  My first weekend on the job, and I was already questioning whether or not I worthy of the position.  Fortunately, with little time to sulk, Todd and I headed back to Wisconsin the following weekend and I was able to film him harvesting a big, mature doe.  The ice had been broken and I was ready to climb in the tree myself!

I was able to film Todd harvesting this doe on a late September bow hunt in Wisconsin.

The following weekend marked the beginning of a new chapter in my bowhunting career.  October 1st meant the first day of the Illinois bow season and I couldn’t wait to get settled in the stand and hunt those famed Illinois whitetails.  My first two hunts as an Illinois bowhunter yielded frustrating results; I didn’t see a single deer!  On Sunday afternoon October 3rd, I went to my best stand on one of the properties Todd granted me permission to hunt, and was optimistic about my chances.  About an hour before sunset, a mature doe snuck up on me, but I was able to harvest my first Illinois whitetail on film.  I was pumped!  Follow this link to view the footage of my first Illinios whitetail!

After a slow first couple of days in Illinois, I was able to film myself harvesting mature doe on October 3rd.

The weeks that followed were a little bit of a rollercoaster ride.  My site broke while in the stand on a morning hunt in Central Illinois on Justin Zarr’s lease, however, that same weekend I was able to film Justin’s friend Jeremy Enders harvest his first deer which was a cool experience.  I remember Jeremy shaking like a leaf when that doe walked in at less than 10 yards, but Jeremy made a perfect shot on her and I was able to capture it all on film.    My luck then turned sour again, as I was in a minor car accident the following weekend that forced me to take precious time out of the stand to get the car repaired.  I was thankful to not have been injured, but I wanted to be in the woods!

My view from behind the camera just seconds before Jeremy shot his first deer.

While I was thrilled with the harvest of my first Illinois whitetail, I was still driven to get my first Illinois buck as well.  It was Halloween weekend and Justin and I were headed down to his lease in Central Illinois in Pike County for a three day hunting adventure.  He and I struck up a deal. I was to film him for three hunts and then I had three hunts to get it done myself.  After seeing some awesome buck activity filming Justin three times, I couldn’t wait to try my luck on a Pike County buck.  I didn’t have to wait long, because on my first hunt, again about an hour before sunset, a shooter buck stopped perfectly broadside in my shooting lane and I put an arrow right through his heart.  On the afternoon of October 30th, you would have been hard pressed to find happier bowhunter.  It was literally a dream come true, harvesting a good buck in Pike County, Illinois, and I couldn’t have been more thankful.  Click here to view the footage of my buck harvest as seen in Bowhunt or Die.

My Halloween Weekend buck that I was fortunate to harvest on Justin's lease in Pike County, Illinois.  This is not only my first Illinois buck, but my biggest buck to date.  I am super proud of this buck!

Harvesting that buck was a bittersweet moment, because it meant I was tagged out in Illinois.  As a non-resident I was only issued one buck tag and one doe tag.  But given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.  I was able to hunt back home in Virginia for a week over the Thanksgiving holiday, but just couldn’t seal the deal on a Virginia whitetail.  I was bound and determined to shoot an Illinois buck and a Virginia buck in the same season, but I just couldn’t pull it off.

I went home for the Thanksgiving holiday and was thankful to do a little hunting with my brother, who doubled as a camera man.

When I got back to Illinois after a blessed week at home for Thanksgiving, Mother Nature smacked me in the face with some brutally cold weather.  But cold weather means usually means good hunting and Todd and I hit his property hard several times hoping a giant buck would visit one of Todd’s food plots.  We saw several does during those hunts, a couple younger bucks and one nice buck that was a borderline shooter, but Todd elected to pass.  I was, however, able to film Todd’s good friend Dr. Ali Shaibani harvesting his deer.  Ali was the second hunter I was fortunate enough to film harvesting their first deer in 2010, which was pretty special!

As December faded into January, my primary focus wasn’t on bowhunting anymore, but on the annual ATA Show in Indianapolis, Indiana.  I had heard several bowhunters talk about the ATA Show and how cool it was to hang out with all the pros and see all the new gear, but I never thought that I would actually be able to attend.   Just like the majority of my experiences in Illinois, the 2011 ATA was another first for me.  I couldn’t believe how big the show was!  Every time I turned around I saw one of the pro hunters I grew up watching on TV just carrying on a casual conversation with a dealer.  It was a bowhunter’s paradise!  However, like my Halloween Weekend buck harvest, the ATA Show was a bittersweet experience because after the show, I had just a couple weeks before my internship was over.  Just like that, 5 months had flown by and it was time for me to go home.

Here I am posing with Jim Shockey at the 2011 ATA Show.  Jim was a cool guy to hang out with and meeting him was one of the many highlights of my first ATA Show experience.

Todd asked me just the other day what my favorite part of the internship and living in Illinois was.  It was a cliché question, but it completely caught me off guard because I honestly hadn’t thought about it.  It would have been easy to say the ATA Show, or harvesting two Illinois whitetails on film, or even being with Jeremy and Ali when they shot their first deer, but those thoughts never entered my mind.  I simply answered, “The relationships.”  In the future when I look back at my time as an intern at, I’ll think of the great friendships I had made, particularly those with Todd and Justin.  I can’t thank them enough for all that they did for me over the last 5 months and all they taught me.  Not to mention everything I learned from them by just hanging around them in the woods and in the office.  I’ll never forget the famous motivational speeches Todd gave me when he sensed I was lagging behind or getting discouraged, and the laughs I shared with Justin when hunting with him on his lease are irreplaceable. 

To Todd and Justin, I can only hope that one day I will be able to return the favor, and I look forward to the adventures we are sure to share in the future; thank you!


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

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 9 Recap

by Cody Altizer 13. December 2010 05:10
Cody Altizer

 As the cold, blustery days slowly inch towards the end of the calendar year, so the hunting gets tougher for whitetail enthusiasts across the country.  For the first time this season, Bowhunt or Die went live with an episode that did not feature one of our team members harvesting a deer.  Unfortunately, that is the way late season hunting goes, but our staff members were still out there hunting hard.  Let’s recap the action from Episode 9 of Bowhunt or Die!

Click here to watch the footage of Bowhunt or Die! Episode 9!

 Todd Graf kicks off December hunting his piece of property in Northwestern Illinois looking to harvest his second Illinois monster of the 2010 season.  Todd has invested a lot of time and effort into this piece of property to provide a literal buffet for whitetails in the form of food plots.  Everything from turnips, clover, sorghum, corn and soybeans has been planted to attract deer to his property and it’s beginning to pay off big time.  Todd wasn’t able to harvest a buck for this week’s episode, but he saw plenty of deer and passed on several smaller bucks.  Whitetails are a slave to their stomach this time of year and Todd has plenty of food to give himself a legitimate chance at a monster during the late season.  We will have to see how it pans out!

Pictured is one of the nice bucks Todd passed on in Episode 9 of Bowhunt or Die!  He certainly is a nice buck, but just not what Todd is looking for.  Note the food that is available to this buck.  With turnips to his left and corn to his right he'll definitely have plenty to eat on this winter!

 We then catch back up with Pro Staffer John Hermann and join his quest for an Illinois buck.  As you probably know John harvested a monster buck in Wisconsin during the early season, and if he were able to, taking down an Illinois giant would cap off an incredible season.  John had several great encounters with some smaller bucks, as well as a shooter buck he had been chasing that just didn’t want to commit to his calling.  Despite not being able to harvest a buck in Illinois, John had several cool encounters with bucks which is always exciting.  Sometimes it’s just not meant to be!

John Hermann had several nice buck encounters on his Illinois hunting trip, he just wasn't able to connect on the buck he was looking for.  John had no intentions of shooting this buck as he skirted past his stand, unaware of John's presence.

 Bowhunt or Die then heads east for the first time this season as I hunted my home piece of property in Western Virginia for the Thanksgiving holiday.  My brother offered to be my cameraman for the week (which was a pleasure as I had been self-filming all year) and we were determined to harvest a deer on film.  Despite our efforts, we just weren’t able to get close enough for a shot over the Thanksgiving holiday.  We saw plenty of deer, but the 4th week of gun season in Virginia just put those deer on edge making them extremely difficult to bow hunt and forcing me to return to Illinois empty handed.  Still, it was a blessing to be able to go home and spend quality time in the woods with my family which made the trip a success.

This photo is one of our food plots my family has planted on our hunting property in Western Virginia.  It was fun to be able to hunt back home for a week, I just wish I could have connected on a deer!

 After chasing whitetails hard for 2 and a half straight months Todd and Justin Zarr took a break from the woods and attended the recent Mathews Retailer Show in Wisconsin.  This show featured the release of the new Z7 family of bows by Mathews as well as other cool products and accessories that will be released for the 2011 hunting season.  Visit our New Products video gallery for more in depth coverage and an exclusive first look at some of these exciting new products.

Here is Justin pictured with the Mathews rep at the Mathews Retailer show in Wisconsin talking about the new Z7 family of bows.

 Although our team wasn’t able to harvest any deer for the first time this season, Bowhunt or Die was still an exciting episode.  Our guys are still out there hunting hard and documenting their hunts on film to share with everyone, so be sure you continue to tune in to Bowhunt or Die the rest of the season!


Bowhunt or Die! Episode 8 Recap

by Cody Altizer 7. December 2010 03:34
Cody Altizer

 After taking a week off to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday, Bowhunt or Die! returned for Episode 8 of its inaugural season.  While our team spent Thanksgiving being thankful for friends, family and good food, the whitetails across the country were thankful our hunters weren’t out hunting them!  With the type of season our team has had this far who could blame them?  Still, Episode 8 chronicles 4 more exciting hunts in Illinois and Wisconsin and 2 more bucks and 2 does were harvested.  Let’s take a look at how things went down!

To watch the footage of Episode 8 of Bowhunt or Die! follow this link!

 Justin Zarr kicks Episode 8 off on his lease in West Central Illinois.  Justin spent three days on his lease in Pike and Brown Counties hunting those famed whitetails hard, but wasn’t able to get it done.  Despite his rough luck down south Justin kept at it the following Monday on his hunting property in Lake County, Illinois.  If you have followed Bowhunt or Die! this season, you know how much time and effort Justin has put into this piece of property hoping to harvest a nice whitetail.  Finally, his patience was rewarded when a buck Justin has over 50 trail camera pictures made an appearance.  It looked like this buck, better known as Little Mac, was going to cross a creek and present a 10 yard chip shot; however, when he crossed the creek Justin attempted to stop him with his mouth call.  The results were not what any hunter would expect as the buck apparently was alarmed by the call and took off in the opposite direction!  After going back across the creek he stopped and gave Justin a small window of opportunity and Justin capitalized on it big time!  He put a Nitron tipped arrow right behind Little Mac’s shoulder and the buck was dead within seconds!  Just like that Justin had accomplished his biggest goal of the 2010 season, harvesting a buck in Lake County, Illinois.  Click here to read about the sentimental value this particular buck holds to Justin by reading his own recap of this hunt.  Way to go, Justin!

Justin's immediate reaction after the shot was priceless.  When you work as hard for a buck as Justin did for Little Mac, emotions can quickly run high after a successful shot.

Here is Justin after he recovered his buck, Little Mac.  Congrats again to Justin for working extremely hard for this buck and making it happen.

 We then head to Wisconsin with John Hermann as he attempts to harvest a couple does.  If you remember, John got his 2010 season off to an incredible start by harvesting a giant 150” 8 pointer in early October.  Unfortunately, that was the only buck John could harvest in Wisconsin (I am sure he is not complaining) and he was limited to shooting does the rest of the year.  He set out a goal to harvest two does off a certain piece of property and was able to accomplish that goal in one weekend.  John was also able to get some great footage of a mature buck over the course of the weekend as well.  While he wasn’t able to shoot that big buck, simply being able to watch him interact with the other deer was enjoyable I am sure.  Congrats on a productive weekend, John!

John Hermann had a successful weekend hunt in Northern Wisconsin as he achieved his goal of harvesting a couple does.  Nice work, John!

 While John Hermann was having excellent luck in Wisconsin, Bowhunt or Die! front man Todd Graf was not.  Todd has worked extremely hard in Wisconsin this year hoping to harvest a nice buck and was presented with a shot opportunity on a mid-November hunt, but unfortunately he missed.  The particular tree Todd was hunting out of is a perfect tree for killing big bucks, but it makes for difficult shot angles and Todd just wasn’t able to pull it off.  To make matters worse, the same buck strolled back by later that day at 39 yards, but Todd just wasn’t comfortable with the shot.  Despite his tough luck, Todd deserves a lot of credit for passing up on shot at redemption by passing on a shot he wasn’t 100% comfortable with. 

A shot of the buck Todd missed on his quest for a Wisconsin bruiser.  Don't you just hate it when they look back at you out range as if to say, "You can't shoot me now!"  Don't worry about it Todd, we all miss and I am sure you will get one during the late season!

 If you remember Episode 5, staff member Josh Fletcher harvested a giant Wisconsin buck on the first day of his planned two week vacation.  Since he quickly tagged out, he offered to run the camera for his brother Clint, hoping to film him harvesting a nice buck.  At very first light on the morning of November 13th, a nice buck came in and Clint was fortunate enough to harvest him.  I personally know how much fun it is to be able to hunt and film with your brother, so I am sure Josh and Clint had a great time in the tree together.  Good jobs guys!

Staff member Josh Fletcher took time out of his vacation to film his brother, Clint, harvesting this nice buck.  There is no time better spent than sharing a hunt with your brother and congratulations to Clint for harvesting a nice buck!

 Another exciting and successful episode has come and gone for the team.  Wow, it’s hard to believe that we are already one week into December!  Time sure does fly in the deer woods.  The late season is officially upon us which means snow and super cold temperatures which can make for incredibly fun hunts.  Stay tuned to Bowhunt or Die! to see how the team performs during December.

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 7 Recap

by Cody Altizer 19. November 2010 09:53
Cody Altizer

 While it may seem hard to believe, Bowhunt or Die has reached Episode 7 of the 2010 bowhunting season.  With the rut in full swing, our staff members flooded the woods and fields of Wisconsin and Illinois in hopes of harvesting a mature buck on film.  Two of our most persistent Pro Staffers, Mike Willand and Neal McCullough, both harvested good bucks and Todd Graf continued his Quality Deer Management efforts by harvesting his second doe of the season.  In case you missed Episode 7 of Bowhunt or Die, read on for a recap!

Click on this link to view the footage from Episode 7!

 Neal McCullough was the first out of the gates and he brought us an exciting hunt for a Wisconsin 10 pointer.  Neal has been hunting hard all year long and just hadn’t been able to put fit the pieces together, but he stayed resilient and kept after it knowing the only way to tag a big buck was to keep working hard.  On the morning of November 7th, Neal was able to call in a big rutting buck while hunting in Pepin County, Wisconsin.  The big buck was so focused on the buck he thought he heard making the grunt, that he paid no attention to Neal’s mouth grunt to stop him.  Neal had to practically yell at the buck, but when the buck stopped, Neal took hit shot.  The shot didn’t get much penetration, but Neal gave the buck plenty of time and was able to recover his buck.  Congrats Neal on a well-deserved, hard earned Wisconsin buck!

Pro Staffer Neal McCullough had been working very, very hard throughout the season and was thrilled when he harvested this buck.  The expression on his face says it all!

 We then head to Northwestern Illinois and join staff member Mike Willand in JoDaviess County.  Mike’s 2010 season thus far was similar to Neal’s in that he was seeing good bucks from stand, he just wasn’t able to close the deal or they weren’t the caliber buck he was looking for.  All that changed, however, on the afternoon of November 11th.  Just as soon as Mike got settled in his stand, a mature buck pushed a doe across the bean field Mike was situated on and the buck casually walked right in front of Mike’s stand at no more than 20 yards.  Mike’s first shot was true; however, the buck stayed within range and presented another shot.  Mike’s second was through the lungs and the buck laid down and expired; a quick, clean kill!  The result was Mike’s first self filmed buck harvest on an old, mature buck.  Nicely done, Mike!

Mike Willand looking over his first self-filmed buck kill.  While Mike's buck certainly isn't the largest scoring whitetail in Illinois, one cannot refute this buck had some age on him making him extremely difficult to kill and equally rewarding.

 Bowhunt or Die host Todd Graf jumps in on the action as he continues his pursuit for his second buck of the 2010 season.  Todd continued to put in a ton of time and effort and his drive in the whitetail woods to be successful is admirable.  Unfortunately, despite several more buck encounters, Todd just wasn’t able harvest a nice buck for this week’s episode.  On the other hand, Todd was able to harvest a nice adult doe off one of his hunting properties.  Quality Deer Management is very important to Todd and he takes the practice very seriously, so it was a virtual no brainer to thin out the herd and put a little meat in the freezer when the opportunity presented itself.  Great job Todd, now you can focus your efforts on that second monster buck of the season!

This screen shot was taken just seconds before Todd Graf released an arrow.  Todd takes Quality Deer Management very seriously and he didn't hesitate to take this doe to ensure better hunting opportunities in the future.

 John Mueller concludes Episode 7 of Bowhunt or Die as he toughs out a frustrating November.  As amazing as the rut can be for some hunters, it can be equally as frustrating for others as was the case for John.  He had been seeing great activity and some good bucks, just couldn’t coax them in close enough or they were too busy with a doe.  But at the end of the day, that’s bowhunting.  As frustrating as it can be sometimes, that’s also the beauty of the sport because we appreciate the sweeter moments that much more.  Don’t give up, John.  When you do connect, it will only make that feeling that much more enjoyable!

One of the several bucks John Mueller had an encounter with over the past several weeks.  While John wasn't able to harvest a buck, he has certainly put the time and effort in to do so.  Patience pays, John!  Patience pays.

 That wraps up the action for Bowhunt or Die Episode 7.  Unfortunately, firearm season settles in for the majority of the country so there will not be a Bowhunt or Die next week.  If you are a gun hunter, please be safe and remember to wear blaze orange!  Until the next episode of Bowhunt or Die, enjoy the Thanksgiving Week with your family and have a blessed holiday! 

2010 Bowhunting Season In Pictures.....So Far

by John Mueller 15. November 2010 13:57
John Mueller

I have had a very good season of bowhunting so far. I have seen a lot of deer, including a few good bucks and a lot of small bucks. I have even managed to kill a doe in the early season. But I just can't seem to be in the right spot when a big buck does show up in daylight. This is also the first season I have made the commitment to seriously concentrate on filming all of my hunts. I have had some interesting encounters while doing this. It is a challange, but fun and rewarding too. So here is my season in pictures so far.


I now carry the camera and camera arm along on every hunt. It takes a little more time and is more weight to lug around, but it's always fun to go back and see what happened on the previous hunts.

Looking over the food plot on a mid October hunt.

Bowhunting during youth gun season. Hunter orange required for bowhunters also.

My trap has been set. A strategically placed path through the corn planted with turnips.

Tools of the trade. The Bowtech Captain is waiting for action.

The Rage is at the ready.

Trying the other end of the food plot.

The autumn colors are starting to pop.

Scrapes are showing up everywhere.


The leaves have almost all fallen, leaving the woods more open.

Trying to make a big buck mad and attack the poor little decoy for invading his territory.

My early October doe harvest which can be seen on Bowhunt or Die, episode 2.


Bowhunt or Die! Episode 6 Recap

by Cody Altizer 15. November 2010 09:22
Cody Altizer

 Episode 6 of Bowhunt or Die marked the beginning of Sweet November in the whitetail woods and to hunters around the country it meant the beginning of the rut.  The Bowhunt or Die team continued their impressive streak of laying down quality whitetails on film in Episode 6 as two more Illinois bucks were harvested.  In case you missed our last installment of Bowhunt or Die, read on as we recap the action!

Follow this link to watch the exciting bowhunting action of Bowhunt or Die Episode 6.

 Richie Music continued his dream season as he harvested yet another Illinois buck.  For the second sit in a row from the exact same tree, Richie was able to harvest a bruiser Northern Illinois buck.  This buck followed the exact same script as his buck the week before, walking down the exact same trail and stopping at the same spot.  Richie’s shot was farther back than he would have liked, but knew that if he didn’t push the buck and gave him plenty of time to expire, he would recover his trophy.  A wise decision by Richie resulted in the recovery of Richie’s second buck.  Unfortunately for Richie, he is now tagged out in Illinois, but I am sure he is not complaining.  Two bucks and two does down is a great season for anyone.  Nicely done, Richie!

Look familiar?  This Illinois beauty of a buck stopped in the same place as the buck Richie harvested in last week's episode.  Richie made his shot count and harvested his second Illinois bruiser from the same stand.

This was Richie's second buck of the 2010 bowhunting season.  Richie has truly had a season to remember and we are grateful he shared his success on Bowhunt or Die with quality footage.

 We then followed Todd Graf on his quest for either his second Illinois giant, or a monster Wisconsin buck, whichever came first.  Todd hunted the end of October and early November hard and had some great, close encounters with some dandy Wisconsin bucks, but they just wouldn’t cooperate.  As Todd stated, as magical as the rut can be to bowhunters, it can turn into a game of cat and mouse.  With bucks tending and chasing does across open fields and through the timber, sometimes you just have to hope you are in the right tree at the right time.  With plenty of season left and knowing the hardcore hunter that Todd is, I know he will put in the time and effort and ultimately have an opportunity to bag one of those Wisconsin brutes that have given him the slip so far this season. 

This is one of the Wisconsin brutes Todd has been chasing this season.  A true giant for any state, I know Todd will do whatever it takes to give himself the best opportunity to harvest this giant by the season's end.

 Bowhunt or Die then introduces its newest and youngest team member, Brady Scheffler.  Brady’s first appearance on Bowhunt or Die was a memorable one has he filmed himself shooting a great Illinois buck.  Brady got up in his stand plenty early one morning and right at first light a buck that Brady had a lot of history with this season presented a shot.  Brady’s shot was true and, despite running farther than expected after the shot, the buck died along a creek bottom.  Big congratulations Brady on harvesting such a fine whitetail and welcome to the team!

This buck had given Brady the slip throughout the month of October, staying just out of range just as he did in this photo.  It was only a matter of time before Brady caught up with him.

Brady recapping the action of his self-filmed buck harvest.  As our newest staff member, Brady made his first appearance on Bowhunt or Die a memorable by taking this great buck. 

 We concluded Episode 6 of Bowhunt or Die by following Justin Zarr on a couple hunts on his property in Northern Illinois.  Justin’s determination to harvest a buck off this piece of property is admirable as he relentlessly tries to figure out these wary suburban bucks.  If you recall in previous episodes, Justin had hunted this piece of property numerous times without even seeing a deer.  Fortunately for Justin he was able to get on some good deer this go around.  While they were just does and smaller bucks, seeing deer is always a morale booster and proves that Justin is inching closer and closer to harvesting a buck in Lake County, Illinois.  Only time will tell if he will be able to do it, so be sure to tune into next week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die to see how he does.

Just a doe?  Not hardly.  Justin was finally able to see some deer from his Lake County property during Episode 6.  During the rut if you find the does, you'll find the bucks.  It's only a matter of time for Justin.

 The 2010 bowhunting season has been very good to the Bowhunt or Die and the first week of November was no different.  Every week I say it will be tough to top the previous week’s episode, but somehow our guys manage to do it.  With the rut now in full swing, I fully expect this week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die to be one of the best ones yet.  Of course, there will only be one way for you to find out.  So, tune in next week to see if the Bowhunt or Die team can continue its impressive inaugural season. 

Bowhunt or Die! Episode 5 Recap

by Cody Altizer 8. November 2010 08:43
Cody Altizer

 The fifth episode of Bowhunt or Die was our best episode so far this season, hands down.  Halloween Weekend was good to the team as 4 bucks hit the ground totaling over 540 inches of bone.  Episode 5 is full of big buck action from Central Illinois and Wisconsin so read on and let’s recap Halloween Weekend on Bowhunt or Die!

Click this link to watch the footage from Episode 5 of Bowhunt or Die!

 Josh Fletcher got things started off for us with an exciting hunt in Wisconsin.  Josh was in the tree October 28th for the first day of what was a planned two week vacation to bowhunt the rut.  Fortunately, (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it) Josh filled his buck tag on his first trip out.  Josh had a nice buck chasing a doe right underneath his stand and, just as he was recapping what he saw with an interview, he hears the crunching of leaves, spots a shooter buck, quickly turns the camera around and prepares for the shot.  With the buck in frame, Josh releases an arrow tipped with the NAP Bloodrunner towards the giant Wisconsin buck.  All in a matter of seconds, Josh had successfully filmed himself shooting the biggest buck of his life!  To top it off, the big bodied whitetail died within just 40 yards of his truck making for an easy drag.  Well done, Josh!

Josh Fletcher posing happily with the biggest buck of his life, a monster Wisconsin 12 pointer.

 We then climb up the tree with Richie Music on a suburban hunt in Northern Illinois.  Despite the annoyances of hunting suburbia, Richie was determined and optimistic about seeing deer and shooting a good buck.  Richie didn’t have to wait long, because around 4 o’clock a monster Illinois 11 pointer walked right into Richie’s shooting lane.  Richie quietly drew his bow, released and let his NAP Bloodunner do its job.  A perfect double lung shot resulted in a dead deer, a happy bowhunter and the biggest buck of Richie’s life on the ground.  Richie’s reaction after he shot the buck is what deer hunting is all about.  Just watching Richie’s excitement and enthusiasm is enough to make me get back in the woods right now!  Kudos to Richie for self-filming the biggest buck harvest of his life with bow and arrow, good job Richie!

The monster 11 pointer just before Richie's arrow strikes true.  The bright red streak you see above and to the right of the buck's rack is Richie's arrow.


Richie with the biggest buck of his life.  A mainframe 10 with a split left G2, long main beams and a super wide spread make Richie's buck a buck of a lifetime.

 Bowhunt or Die then makes the trip south to Central Illinois and Pike County as I continue my quest for not only my first Illinois buck, but my first buck with a bow period.  After filming Justin Zarr for three days, I set out on my own and my first afternoon out I had some action.  About 5:45 I catch movement out of my left eye and see a shooter buck making his towards me.  I immediately take a deep breath, grab my bow, situate the camera and stand up to get ready for the shot.  The buck cooperates beautifully and walks right in an opening just 20 yards from my stand and when he stops, I shoot.  My arrow hit its mark as I watched my Thunderhead Edge pass quickly through the buck’s heart.  I was pumped!  I was able to film myself shooting my first Illinois buck as well as my first buck with a bow.  There is no better feeling!

My first buck with a bow, my first Illinois buck and my biggest buck to date.  I was able to self-film myself harvesting this buck and am extremely proud of him!

 The big buck action continues as we follow Justin Zarr on the same piece of property as he looks for a big buck.  If you have watched the previous episodes of Bowhunt or Die, you’ve watched Justin pass on several nice bucks looking for a mature, Illinois whitetail.  Justin hunted hard for two straight days and despite numerous encounters with younger bucks and a couple close calls with two shooters, Justin headed into Halloween morning without a deer.  Justin is living proof, however, that persistence pays because Halloween morning Justin’s patience was rewarded.  An old, battle tested buck made the mistake of stopping in Justin’s shooting lane and Justin made a perfect shot on him.  Justin’s NAP Nitron made a quick, clean kill on a bruiser Illinois buck.  Justin’s buck actually had three tines broken off which adds character to his rack and proves this old buck was a warrior!  Congrats Justin!

Justin's reaction right after he shot his buck.  This is what bowhunting is all about!

Justin proudly poses with his Halloween buck.  The buck had three broken tines, but he was still a great trophy nonetheless.

 Episode 5 was packed full of exciting buck action, and the hunts shared were similar and unique in several ways.  Josh, Richie, and I all shot the biggest bucks of our lives.  We were all able to successfully self-film the buck harvests featured in Episode 5 and we all relied on NAP broadheads to harvest our bucks.  Combine this with the fact that Josh shot his buck on October 28th, Richie on the 29th, mine on the 30th and Justin’s on the 31st and it all adds up to make for a pretty cool show!  While it may seem as if Episode 5 will be impossible to top, I would put nothing past the Pro Staff with the rut now in full swing.  Tune in this Friday for a new episode of Bowhunt or Die to find out!

Bowhunt or Die: Bowhunting.Com's New Semi-Live Hunting Show

by Cody Altizer 15. October 2010 04:06
Cody Altizer

 If you are a serious bowhunter you probably already know that is the ultimate online resource for everything bowhunting.  Top notch gear review videos, information packed Pro Staff blogs, and of course the best bowhunting products for sale are what make the premiere bowhunting website in the world.  For the 2010 fall hunting season we have created another monster to share with our loyal bowhunting customers and followers: our very own, semi-live hunting show; Bowhunt or Die!

 Our second episode just went up live, and you can view it by following this link!  Todd Graff experiences some awesome early season buck encounters and Dustin DeCroo and John Mueller both harvest does.

 Bowhunt or Die will be posted live every Friday, just below the Pro Staff blogs and will feature hunts from our Pro Staffers from the previous week.  It’s as close to sitting in tree with us as you can get!  Throughout the course of the season you can expect to see exciting hunts from Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Wyoming and Virginia.  Our Pro Staffers are just regular guys who enjoy filming hunts and testing out the best bowhunting gear available and sharing our experiences with you. 

 In case you missed our premiere show, you can check it out here.  Our debut episode includes Todd's continued early season mature buck sightings, my first chance at an Illinois whitetail, and Richie Music's doe harvest.

The team looks forward to sharing our experiences with you this fall and wishes you a safe and successful hunting season!

About the Authors

The staff is made up of "Average Joe" bowhunters from around the country who are serious about one thing - BOWHUNTING.  Keep up to date with them as they work year-round at persuing their passion and bring you the most up-to-date information on bowhunting gear and archery equipment.

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