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CHOOSING A QUALITY ARCHERY PRO-SHOP PART 2

by Steve Flores 1. May 2012 10:16
Steve Flores

In Part 1 of this 2 Part series, we discussed the importance of choosing a quality pro-shop when making a new bow purchase or when simply adding upgrades to your current rig. There is no denying the “networking” value of an archery pro-shop, not to mention the fact that finding a good one can drastically shorten your learning curve. However, as I alluded to in last month’s article, finding one can sometimes be difficult. When searching for a quality pro-shop, be mindful of the presence or absence of the following traits: 

Good pro-shop’s not only help speed up the learning process for those who are new to archery, they also help veterans make sound decisions in equipment, shooting form, and everything else “archery” related.

Additional Clues
Years in business
–- Consider how many years the potential shop of interest has been in business before making a commitment. Undoubtedly, a pro-shop that is brand new is perfectly capable of providing quality service. Nonetheless, don’t assume that to be the truth merely because the sign on the front door says so. On the other hand, some businesses may not provide the best service, even though they have been around for quite some time.  
Variety -- Some say it is the spice of life. To an archer searching for a good place to take his equipment, it is a symbol of foundation. Simply put, oftentimes a good pro-shop, one that is committed to the happiness of the customer, will not only carry a wide variety of bows, and accessories, but will generally have the necessary equipment on hand to “test-drive” products of interest.  
Word Of Mouth -- When all else fails, hopefully you will know someone whom you can trust enough to point you in the right direction. If you happen to know an individual that takes their bowhunting and archery seriously, odds are good that he/she has already waded through the quagmire of imposter “pro-shops” and can quickly and easily tell you exactly where to start; or quite simply….whom to avoid.  

Take a good, hard look at your pro-shop of interest and listen to what others are saying and you will most likely know if it is worth walking through the front door or not.

Sign of The Times
We live in a society that demands a quick turnaround. We order food, and we want it in no more than a few minutes; often less. If the wait is much longer, we become irritated. It seems that this attitude has found its way into the world of purchasing archery equipment. The trend these days seems to be to purchase a bow quickly from somewhere other than the pro-shop, thus saving a small amount of money, then, going into the pro-shop to have it set-up. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for trying to save money whenever I can, but to me, this isn’t the way to do it. 

In today’s tough economic times it is understandable to look for ways to save a little money. However, in the long run, pro-shops will not only save you time and money sifting through faulty equipment, most shop owners “reward” their loyal customers in many ways you can’t put a price tag on.

Take my brother for example. Recently, he was in the market for a completely new bow setup.  Devoting an entire afternoon to test shooting each model of interest, he easily narrowed the field down to one. Being the type who always looks for “a deal”, he quickly went online to compare prices with the pro-shop. After a little searching, he was able to find a source that would perhaps save him just enough money to buy a dozen, high quality carbon arrows. When he asked me what I thought he should do, I promptly suggested he forget about the money he thought he was going to save and give his business to the local shop owner. Why?  Because, in the long run, he would gain more than the small monetary sum dangling in front of him.

After a little self-conflict, and despite the fact that the shop owner told him he could not match the prices he had found elsewhere, he chose the pro-shop----lucky for him. A few weeks after receiving his bow and getting it properly set up it was accidentally dry-fired.  As a result, the string and cam both were ruined. Upon returning to the shop, expecting some lengthy downtime, he was pleasantly surprised when the owner informed him that he had a brand new cam on the shelf and would happily replace his damaged one. The bigger surprise came when he tallied up the price. Zero, zip, zilch!

When something bad happens, and your hunt or your season is in jeopardy, it is nice to know you have a resource that can get things fixed and get you back in the field as quickly as possible. How much is that worth to you?

Apparently, the owner had acquired the part for the same price through an arrangement with the company and decided it was only fair to pass along the savings to his customers. My guess is he now has a customer for life. Sure, it is easy and tempting to sniff out a deal and save a little cash, and I’m not saying one shouldn’t participate in such transactions.  What I am saying, is make sure the money you are potentially saving is really worth it in the long run.  Remember, sometimes the most important part of the deal has little to do with dollar signs. 

 

Conclusion
In an ideal world, everyone who picked up a bow would have the technical know-how to perform any and every type of procedure necessary to insure optimal bow performance.  However, you and I both know that isn’t the case. For the individuals just getting started in this wonderful sport or the guys who would rather let someone else handle “the technical stuff”----there is hope. It is called “The Pro-Shop.”  Many establishments carry the name, but only a few actually fit the description. Hopefully, by now, you can recognize which ones are which.

Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:03
Patrick Durkin

You might assume the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association slept better in March after the Legislature adjourned without loosening crossbow restrictions for the state’s four-month archery deer season.

Pfft! Not a chance. Just as Ahab hunted his white whale till death, so must WBH chieftains stalk the crossbow to their graves. You’ll never persuade them it’s a divisive waste of time, effort and talent.

What’s more troubling is the Department of Natural Resources dodging efforts to expand crossbow use. DNR spokesmen typically say crossbows are a “social” question hunters must decide themselves, even as the agency struggles to control deer across much of Wisconsin’s southern two-thirds.

Lowering the crossbow age limit to 55 from 65 in Wisconsin would increase participation and stabilize license-buying declines.

If that’s not enough contradiction, many legislators and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp claim they’re forever exploring ways to recruit and retain hunters, and expand hunting opportunities. That’s great, but most agency-directed efforts require patient, perennial educational programs designed to get youngsters off their PlayStations and into the woods.

As much as we need steady, far-sighted programs, we also need simple regulation changes to create opportunities for current or lapsed hunters. That’s why it’s frustrating to see the DNR and lawmakers forgo proposals to lower the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season. Crossbows are only legal during archery season for bowhunters 65 and older, or those with doctor-certified handicaps.

Late archery seasons are a great time to go crossbow hunting.

Talk about missing a chance to please rank-and-file hunter-voters. As Rob Bohmann, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told lawmakers in February, they’d hit a home run by lowering the crossbow age to 55.

After all, when the Congress floated the idea as an advisory question in April 2010, voters passed it statewide, 2,014 to 1,767, a 53-47 margin. It also passed in county voting, 42-25 (a 63-37 margin), with five counties tied.

When the DNR took that vote and made it a formal proposal at the April 2011 hearings, the WBH rallied its members, hoping to squash it. Instead, the question passed by a wider margin statewide than in 2010, 2,806-2,198, a 56-44 margin. It also passed by a larger margin in county voting, 55-16 (77-23), with one tie.

Even so, the proposal was MIA in autumn 2011 as the Legislature passed other DNR-backed hunting proposals OK’d at April’s hearings.

The Wisconsin Bowhunters Association spent about $8,000 on lobbyists in 2011, with about half of it fighting against crossbows.

What about the age-55 crossbow plan? Well, the most effective lobbying and deal-making might be the kind that prevents legislation from getting drafted. Maybe we should respect the WBH and its lobbyist, Ronald Kuehn of DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, for persuading lawmakers to ignore the public’s crossbow wishes.

In 2011, the WBH paid nearly $8,000 for 40 hours of lobbying. Government Accountability Board records show about half that effort targeted crossbows and crossbow-related issues. Again, that’s the WBH’s prerogative and destiny. It’s incapable of any other action, given its petrified attitude toward crossbows.

But if the DNR is serious about boosting hunter numbers and license revenues, it should have opposed the WBH and worked with lawmakers to lower the crossbow age to 55 or 50. Granted, no one knows how much that would boost bowhunting participation, but license sales to bowhunters 65 and older rose steadily once Wisconsin first allowed crossbows in 2003.

The Wisconsin DNR and lawmakers ignored public sentiments that favored lowering the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season.

Based on that trend, a DNR analysis projected annual archery-license sales would increase by about 1,700 annually if the age were lowered to 55. That’s no sea change, but it would maintain bowhunter numbers, and give more people access to our longest, most opportunity-rich deer season.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill in March that merely allows crossbows during gun seasons for deer, bear, elk, turkeys and small game. Earlier, on a 60-35 party-line vote, Assembly Republicans rejected anamendment by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to lower the crossbow age to 55 for archery deer season.

Milroy said in an interview March 13 that he hopes to work with the WBH and Conservation Congress next year on a compromise, such as a crossbow-specific season requiring a separate license.

Unfortunately, there’s even less chance of the WBH compromising on crossbows than there is of generating new revenues and hunting opportunities from the gun-season bill awaiting Gov. Walker’s signature., 

 

 

 

 

Politics of Bowhunting, Deer Hunting Easy Compared to Crane Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 03:34
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunting sparks some of the ugliest political fights you’ll ever see, whether it concerns antlerless hunts, deer baiting or opening our archery season to crossbows.

But to see true culture clashes, nothing compares to efforts to open hunting seasons on mourning doves or sandhill cranes. OK, wolves too. But that’s another blog.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese feed in a central Wisconsin field.

There’s no reasoning with many folks from the birding community when you calmly note their opposition lacks logic. Take Wisconsin, for example. You’d expect that with nine humdrum mourning dove seasons behind us that Wisconsinites could politely discuss a hunt for sandhill cranes.

But no. Mention a sandhill hunt, and folks still cock their fists and get sideways, even though no one’s life crumbled from dove hunting. No one seems to remember that spite vanished like spiced dove breasts on hor devours trays after dove season opened in 2003.

Likewise, if we established a sandhill crane season tomorrow, we’d be yawning by Labor Day. But in proposing a crane hunt this past winter, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, did Wisconsin hunters no favors by citing crop damage as a hunting justification.

If foraging cranes trouble Kleefisch and his fellow legislators, why did they abolish earn-a-buck rules for deer hunting? No critter rivals deer for damaging crops and plants, and no program whacked whitetails like earn-a-buck.

Sandhill cranes are distinguished by their red-capped head.

In killing EAB, lawmakers parroted my fellow hunters who claimed there aren’t enough deer, and that hunters aren’t pest-control officers. But when the Associated Press asked Marshfield’s Marlin Laidlaw, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress’s agricultural damage committee, about Kleefisch’s proposal, Laidlaw said sandhill cranes are out of control:

“The problem with the people who don’t understand wildlife and wildlife management, they join an organization and fall in love with a particular species. As far as they’re concerned, you can’t have too many. They just don’t get it. You’ve got to control populations.”

Hmm. Was Laidlaw talking about sandhill cranes or white-tailed deer? For years he loudly opposed EAB and the Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to reduce deer numbers.

We can agree, however, that most people don’t hunt to provide the public free pest-control services. We hunt because it’s exciting and challenging, and provides lean free-range meat no store can match. Granted, when the DNR regulates hunting to prevent critters from becoming a danger or nuisance, that’s a bonus; even a necessity. But it doesn’t motivate most hunters.

 Sandhill cranes can be viewed as both a majestic bird and great table fare.

Meanwhile, protectionists neither help cranes nor their cause by blindly opposing a hunt. Karen Etter Hale, a vice president of Wisconsin’s Audubon Council, told the AP: “If hunters want to further damage their reputation by pushing for yet another species to hunt, then that’s what they should do.”

Yep, that’s right. Stay on your side of the tracks, people. Folks like Etter Hale said the same thing about dove hunting in Wisconsin a decade ago. But a hunting season for a plentiful, large-bodied, good-eating bird isn’t about reputations. It’s about reminding our timid DNR of its historical mission to promote public hunting and fishing when self-sustaining species can provide meat, fur and recreation.

Meanwhile, Madison’s Audubon Society posted a “Sandhill Crane Hunt Alert” on its Web site, encouraging members to contact legislators.

Sigh. Why do people with similar goals hate working together? Hunters and bird-huggers both donate to habitat-conservation causes. Both smile and perk their ears at goose music and crane bugles. And both quote Aldo Leopold more than the Bible.

Well, here’s a Leopold quote bird-folks ignore: “Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.”

That’s the opening sentence of Leopold’s seminal book “Game Management,” which guided North America’s efforts to replenish the birds and mammals we nearly wiped out 100 years ago through unregulated development, market hunting and subsistence hunting.

In Leopold’s spirit, Etter Hale, Laidlaw and other conservation leaders should seize crane hunting as a chance to work together. First, they should join forces to establish the season, and require hunt applicants to pay $15 and those receiving a permit to pay $25 more. If opponents don’t like hunting, they can apply for permits and burn what they receive.

Next, the state could earmark fees for the International Crane Foundation, and equal amounts for the DNR’s endangered resources bureau, which needs help. Its 2011 budget was $5.9 million, most of it from donations.

That’s only 12 percent of the Wisconsin DNR’s combined budgets for its fisheries bureau, $26.5 million; and wildlife bureau, $21 million. Most of those budgets are funded by anglers, trappers and hunters.

Birders should be emulating that generosity rather than demanding government impose their values on everyone. Besides, as Leopold proved, people can be both hunters and bird-lovers. They can see sandhill cranes both as majestic birds and flying rib-eyes. They acknowledge -- and embrace – life’s apparent contradictions.

The great ones, like Leopold, make it look easy.

 

Turkey Hunting Basics: “A Beginners Guide to Chasing Long-Beards”

by Dustin DeCroo 11. April 2012 08:25
Dustin DeCroo

Your bow in hand and arrow nocked, the horizon in the Eastern sky begins turning pink and orange, the gobbles in the trees above tell you the game is about to begin. Are you ready? In this “Beginner’s Guide to Chasing Long-Beards,” you’ll learn six simple tips guaranteed to help your turkey bowhunting career more successful.

Turkey Tip No. 1: Do your scouting homework.
The single most important part of being a successful turkey hunter is having an idea where your birds are and what they’re doing. There is simply no substitute for quality scouting if you want to be a successful turkey hunter, but what is “quality scouting?”
Quality scouting is having a pretty decent idea as to what your birds are doing throughout the day, not just where they roost or where they feed. If you know where they want to be, you can be waiting at that spot before they get there and that alone will put the odds in your favor.
Finding a roost is the easiest part of scouting, you simply follow your ears to where the birds are before sunrise or after sunset. Turkeys love to roost near water, whether it is a creek, stream, river or pond. Turkeys also prefer to roost in Cottonwoods, large Oaks or other mature trees. Hunting the roost can be incredible, but often times the action is early and short lived as the birds move out. Turkeys typically fly down out of the roost 15-20 minutes prior to sunrise, sometimes earlier or later, but 15-20 minutes is fairly standard. Wind, rain and cloud cover are all factors that will affect how early or late the birds will come down out of the roost. There aren’t many things in the outdoors that are more exciting than sitting within 50 yards of a roost tree full of gobbling birds when it is turkey season. When the birds come down out of the tree, they’ll peck around for a few minutes waking up and then begin to strut for the ladies. The hens will promptly begin leading the toms (strutting all the way of course) to the feeding area where they’ll show up an hour or two after daybreak. Depending on the weather conditions, the birds may stay in the field for the duration of the day, but most likely they’ll take a little break to hang out in a shady location before heading back to the field (or other food source) in the afternoon. From the feeding area, they’ll begin to work their way back to the roost to spend the night. Turkeys will generally have several “roosting” trees in a given location; this area will almost always be used unless the birds are continually pushed off the roost or spooked out of the area before dark.

 
Using your Stealth Cam trail camera is a great way to scout for turkeys while you're at work or school.

Turkey Tip No. 2: Don’t give up in the middle of the day.
The majority of bowhunters are deer hunters, and as deer hunters we’ve been trained that daylight and dusk are our best opportunities to harvest animals, and while this may be true with crepuscular animals such as deer, it doesn’t hold as true with turkeys. Mid-day and early afternoon often provide better opportunities at calling in a Tom. Sometime in the mid to late morning the hens and toms will separate, either because the hens are going to nest, or because the toms are giving up on the hens that are unwilling to breed. As the season progresses on, typically, the birds will spend less time together in the mornings and evenings because the hens that have been bred leave to sit on their nest. This is the best opportunity to call in a long-beard, this is the time during the day that you will have the least competition with live hens… and that is a good thing.

During these warmer, slower hours of mid-day, you can increase your chances significantly if you have an idea where the birds tend to “loaf.” “Loafing” is often times a shady area on the edge of a field where the birds hang out and pass the time. If you can place yourself where the turkeys naturally want to be at any given time during the day, you will give yourself many more opportunities as success, guaranteed. Calling a tom to a location that he already wants to be, without the distraction of live hens is the perfect scenario for a turkey hunter. Remember, your goal for scouting prior to the hunt was to know where the birds want to be throughout the day, so that you can beat them to that location.


During the middle of the day turkeys like to "loaf" in shaded areas, if you know where these areas are, success is just around the corner.

Turkey Tip No. 3: Don’t be afraid to use a push-button turkey call.
Turkey calling can be as exciting as it gets when it’s good and it can also make you want to pull your hair out when it’s tough. Fortunately for turkey hunters, we don’t have to be world champion turkey callers to get the job done. There are four main types of calls that turkey hunters have access to: diaphragm calls, box calls, friction (slate) calls and a push-button call. All of these calls have advantages and disadvantages over the others, but as turkey bowhunters, let us discuss the two best calls for bowhunting turkeys.

The diaphragm call (or mouth call) is the favorite of many experienced turkey callers because it gives you a great deal of tone versatility and it can be 100% hands free. When you need to make a cluck and you’re at full draw, the diaphragm call is the only call that can make that happen. You can switch out diaphragm calls for different wind conditions or just different sounds altogether. The down side of the diaphragm turkey call is that it takes, by far, the most time to become proficient. For beginning hunters, it is a great idea to practice the diaphragm from the beginning (while practicing the easier calls), but don’t feel like you have to take it to the field until you’re ready. Keep in mind, turkeys all sound different, similar to a human voice or the bugle of a bull elk, so you don’t have to sound “perfect.”
Perhaps the best option for beginning turkey bowhunters is the push-button call. This call gets overlooked by lots of people because they see the push-button turkey call as a “child’s” call. The push-button call takes only one hand to operate and has an almost fail-proof design. Simply push the button to make the cluck, yelp, purr, putt or whichever call you like. This call is by far the easiest to learn and sounds great as well. With a few minutes practice you will have all the skills you need to call in and kill a gobbler with your bow.

Turkey Tip No. 4: Patience equals success.
The number one mistake that turkey hunters make is being impatient. When birds are gobbling and moving all around, it’s easy to get caught up in the action and get in a hurry. The best example of this is when you’re calling to a tom that you know is close. You call, he gobbles, you call, he gobbles, you call, and he goes quiet. We all want to hear that tom gobble every time we call; it reassures us that he hasn’t vacated the area. Lots of turkey hunters give up when a bird goes quiet, big mistake. More often than not, the bird is expecting you (the hen) to come looking for him, and most likely, he didn’t leave. Be ready, sit tight and he’ll either come in silently or when he gets tired of looking for you, he will gobble. Don’t be afraid to give him 20 minutes (or more) of silence before making a move. Practice patience and you will bag more turkeys, period.


Bowhunting.com Staff member Dan Schafer excercised patience to wait for these birds to get into range.

Turkey Tip No. 5: Don’t overcall.
Turkey calling is fun, but keeping your calling to a minimum is best, try not to call more than every 10-15 minutes. Learn to putt, purr, yelp and cackle and use them in that order. The majority of the sounds turkeys make are putts (not warning putts) and purrs, then the yelp and occasionally the cackle. If putts and purrs aren’t working, then mix in yelps with your putts and purrs. Saving the excited cackle for a tough bird is a great strategy, don’t pull out the “trick play” until you’re in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. When you do get the attention of a bird and you can see him coming, quit calling. He knows you’re there and is obviously interested, if he stops give some putts and purrs to keep his attention. If you continue calling, you risk him holding up to wait for the hen (you) because you’re too vocal. The tom will be in range shortly, don’t push him.


When a bird is coming in on a string, it's time to be quiet and pick up your bow.


Turkey Tip No. 6: Lower your draw weight.
Bowhunters often get caught up in the speed and momentum or KE that their bow setup produces. Obviously, turkeys are smaller animals than the big game animals that most bowhunters chase, and the need for speed and hard hitting arrows is little to none. Far more important is being able to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time, especially if you’re not in a ground blind. You may have one opportunity to draw and then have to wait for the bird to enter your shooting lane, not being over bowed will allow you the holding time to make the shot count.


Lowering your draw weight will allow you to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time.

Bowhunting Products for Turkey Hunters
Every magazine you pick up or turkey hunting website you visit has hundreds of products that you could spend your money on. Here are a few of the products that could be considered “must-have” products for the turkey bowhunter.


New Archery Products – Spitfire Gobbler Getter Broadhead

 Avian X Turkey Decoys by Zink Calls

 


 A-Way Turkey Trooper 2000 Deluxe Turkey Call

Ameristep Lost Camo Blind


CamoFX Lost Camo face paint


ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

 


Sawyer Permethrin clothing spray mosquito protection

For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

by Patrick Durkin 15. March 2012 00:48
Patrick Durkin

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

SHOT Show has changed, stayed the same since January 1991

by Patrick Durkin 14. March 2012 23:50
Patrick Durkin

While checking in and picking up my media credentials at the 2012 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas in January, I realized I was attending my 22nd consecutive SHOT Show. My first was in Dallas in January 1991.

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in a hotel elevator the first morning when two guys next to me started complaining. They said they’d been coming to the show “for years,” and groaned about the “long day” ahead.

Pretty girls staff many SHOT Show booths to greet visitors and hand out information.

“It’s not getting any easier,” one guy said.

“Nine hours of walking and standing on cement covered by thin carpeting,” the other sighed. “The more I do this, the worse I feel.”

I glanced at them, expecting to see men in their 40s, maybe even 50s. But no, they weren’t even close to my age, 56. They looked to be in their mid-30s; late 30s at the most.

I couldn’t help but smile and ask: “How many SHOT Shows have you attended?”

The guy nearest me said, “Seven.” His friend replied, “Me too.”

Author and former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer sold and signed copies of his latest book for charity at the 2012 SHOT Show.

I must have smiled wider, because one of them asked politely, “I take it this isn’t your first one?”

I silently thanked him for not adding, “Old Timer” to the end of his sentence. Then I told him this was No. 22 for me, and I hoped I’d be around for at least 22 more. “They’re all a blur now,” I said.

My companions seemed impressed, even apologetic. “I guess we shouldn’t be complaining, should we?”

Terry Drury, left, and Mark Drury, center, talk with Cuz Strickland of Mossy Oak fame.

“Well, don’t let me ruin a good time for you,” I laughed, and wished them well.

The fact is, the SHOT Show is a demanding way to spend four days, but as I’ll always say, “It beats working for a living.” My typical day at SHOT begins about 4:30 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Although the show is held in Las Vegas most years, I estimate I’ve spent no more than $70 gambling in all my walks back and forth between the show and my hotel room. And if I were to subtract two $20 bets I’ve made on Super Bowls played during SHOT Show weekends, I’ve spent about $30 on the slots.

The fact is, I must cover so much ground each day of SHOT that I’m too tired to do anything fun in Vegas at night. Plus, I usually file two 700-word articles each night of the Show, and another 700-word newspaper column one morning. Such articles don’t get written unless I visit a lot of booths and attend several press conferences each day.

Astronaut Joe Engle posed for a photo with my daughter, Leah Durkin, at a recent SHOT Show.

Yeah, my job requires a lot of notes, photographs and interviews. And I can’t say I look forward to my nine hours on the show floor each day, and roughly three hours of work before and after the show. Before self pity creeps in, though, I remind myself there’s only a few thousand hunters and shooters who would love to have my job.

During all these years attending SHOT, I think often about how it has changed. During the early 1990s, the show truly featured hunting. All the archery companies were clustered in one part of its massive floor, and the firearms companies stretched endlessly in the other three directions. I spent two days in each, and never came close to seeing everything.

By the late 1990s, the archery industry had all but abandoned the SHOT Show in favor of the ATA Trade Show. About the only archery companies you see at SHOT now are crossbow manufacturers. If not for them and a few tree-stand companies, you wouldn’t suspect the archery industry was once a key player at SHOT.

Miles of carpeted aisles lead SHOT Show business people past thousands of manufacturers' booths.

Then, soon after 9-11 and the United States’ “War on Terror,” SHOT attracted a growing number of entrepreneurs and manufacturers that specialize in police and military hardware. Unlike the archery and firearms industries, however, I don’t see as much overlap between the firearms and police-military industries. I often feel like I’m learning everything from scratch when working the booths in the law-enforcement wings.

Still, there’s one great thing about the SHOT Show that never changes: It never bores me. I always meet nice people who are passionate about their work, play and business. And whether it’ 1991 or 2012, I’ll often see celebrities roaming the aisles or standing at booths to meet people and sign autographs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet astronaut Joe Engle, test-pilot Chuck Yeager, football coach Bud Grant, actor/gunnery sergeant R. Lee Ermey, and various singers and musicians.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: Some companies still hire pretty girls to hand out brochures and pose for pictures with middle-aged and aging guys like me. After 22 years, I’m still not sure if those girls truly generate business for the exhibitors. I’ll never forget when I ran into my old boss at the 1992 SHOT Show, and said: “Al, you won’t believe this. I just saw two really pretty girls in bikinis working at a booth two aisles over.”

You'll never visit every booth at the SHOT Show, even if you spend every hour of all four days on the show floor.

Al smiled and asked, “Which company are they working for and what were they selling?”

I stood silent, totally dumbstruck. Finally I said: “You know. I never thought to look or ask.”

Al smiled again and said, “I rest my case.”

Well, at the 2012 SHOT Show I still saw a lot of pretty, smiling girls working the booths of several companies. None wore bikinis, but six weeks later, I still can’t answer Al’s timeless question: I don’t know who they worked for or what they were selling.

Maybe I’ll pay more attention and remember such things at the 2013 SHOT Show, but don’t hold me to it.

 

 

 

Shooting lanes

by Matt Cheever 23. January 2012 10:11
Matt Cheever

There seems to be two distinct schools of thought when it comes to pruning shooting lanes, most gravitate to one end or the other with a few folks hovering in the middle.  On the one hand you have guys that don’t like to cut anything they don’t absolutely have to, in fact these extremist at times won’t cut a single limb and just rely on the deer to step through a tiny opening at the moment of truth. You can probably tell by my description this mindset doesn’t include me.
The other school of thought is to make sure you have a clear shot with reasonable shooting lanes in any possible area the deer could travel through. The obvious down side is you open yourself up more to be picked off and you disturb the deer’s living room at some point. I tend to lean more in this direction but am cautious as not to open things up too much and ruin a stand site.


The ramifications of too much or too little are huge.  If you film your hunts like I do, you need to consider camera angle and not having to focus through a lot of limbs to capture the image; if you take too many limbs it leaves a huge hole that lends itself nicely as a focal point for the deer’s line of sight.  You want at least three good shooting lanes, preferably one to each side at an angle to your stand and another one straight in front of you. I realize many like to have their stand on the back side of a tree for concealment but this makes it very difficult if not impossible to film your own hunts.


An extendable power chain saw is very effective when you have many limbs or larger limbs to do prune 


Where is the fine line between these two you may ask? I have an approach that may take advantage of the best of both words.  Take some time during the late Winter months while out hiking or shed hunting and do your heavy pruning; you know that one big limb 20 yards out 18 feet up that always seems to be between you and the deer, take out a pole chain saw, extendable hand saw or even a small hand saw that you can duck tape to a sapling and get that limb down.  Do your massive pruning directly after season if you have determined to keep that stand site. There are three benefits, one is having less of an impact on the deer you are hunting, two is you will open things up but allow new spring growth to come back in and camo up your area a bit; last but not least you are putting more tree buds on the ground for the deer to browse, why not do it when they need food the most?


Don’t be afraid to use a large saw for nuisance trees in the winter months as long as the land owner doesn’t mind.

 


Doing this late season pruning isn’t a catch all, you will still need to pop a few little twigs out of the way come late summer or fall, but it will be with minimal disturbance. Late summer is a great time to slide in there and take a hand saw and quietly snag a few nuisance limbs. The perfect tool for small touch up or public land pruning where chainsaws may not be allowed is the Hooyman extending saw. This model reaches around ten feet, or can be used as just a hand saw, and folds up small enough to take on each hunt if necessary



I don’t personally like climbing stands but if I did, this would be a must have tool


I find there is always that one little twig that seems to cause most of the problems, but I have eliminated that by toting this aluminum I beam framed saw along with me


Get out in the woods during late winter and don’t let that one little limb or big limb keep you from your trophy next fall. You will be amazed how your success rate goes up once you take out the limb factor excuse.  Remember to be safe when using saws in trees and always have a safety harness on.

Until next time, be safe and God bless
Matt Cheever 

 

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Saying Goodbye to the 2011 Bow Season

by Cody Altizer 16. January 2012 11:34
Cody Altizer

Have you ever experienced something that contrasts so sharply with itself that it almost takes on two different beings, two unique personalities?  For example, the skyline of a city at sunrise is as equally beautiful with its color and glamour as it is destructive with its pollution and noise.  What if I told you that the Rocky Mountains, the powerful backbone of America that even the mightiest of hunters can’t sometimes conquer, is actually corroding yearly at the hands of water and ice?  On January 7th I experienced a similar juxtaposition.  I climbed a tree to go hunting, a decision that would generally lead to a kill and death.  However this time, it was to extend the life of the previous 3 months through spiritual and personal reflection.

A shot of my home away from home, so to speak.  I've spent the better part of my 22 years in this camp and the surrounding woods and fields chasing whitetail deer.  Maybe it's not home away from home and it's just..home?

As I settled into my stand, I decided to just close my eyes and let my mind wander, rather than trying to reminisce about certain memories.  That didn’t last long, because a meat fly landed on my nose and I grinned to myself as I swatted him away, because I couldn’t believe how warm it was for a January hunt.  It must have been 65 degrees, 20 degrees warmer than it was at the same time opening day over 3 months prior.

After I ridded myself of the pesky insect, my mind truly began to wander, but in a direction I certainly hadn’t intended it to.  I wanted to relive the day my brother shot the 150” giant we had been hunting all year, and how we celebrated in the woods together, sharing an indescribable fraternal connection.  I badly wanted to replay the events of the day I shot my biggest buck to date, and how countless hours of hard work had paid off.  Finally, I wanted to remember cutting up deer meat with my family the night my dad shot his first buck in 6 years while watching college football.  But, as is often the case, my mind had other ideas.

On my last hunt of the season, I climbed a tree not wanting to shoot a deer, but instead reminisce over the memories of what was my best season to date.

Instead, my mind wandered to different memories.  For instance, I remembered an early November hunt that my brother had offered to film.  We were hunting over one of our food plots, and I had just finished hanging his camera stand when he told me there were three does quickly coming down the opposite side ridge.  I hurried down, and he hurried back up as I followed him, praying the deer wouldn’t see us.  Magically, we got set up safely in our stands just as the deer came into view.  Strapping the camera arm to the tree was out of the question as this point as the doe and her twin fawns were at 40 yards and closing.  The twins got a free pass as they sprinted in the food plot chasing each other back and forth excited for an afternoon of feasting on oats and clover.  I laughed to myself because their eagerness reminded me of how I must have acted when I went to Chucky Cheese as a kid.  

I refocused on the doe and recognized her as a doe we had been seeing the last 4 years and had earned the name “Momma.”  She had a distinctive white streak down her nose, and was once so comfortable with my presence she would almost eat out of my hands when I would put out minerals during the summer.  She had to be at least 7 years old, and I was prepared to take her life if she gave me the opportunity.  She was at 15 yards when I drew my bow and at 7 yards when I settled the pin, there was only one problem: a small branch protected her vitals from my arrow.  She stood there for close to 20 seconds completely unaware of my brother and me sitting 20 feet above her.  I could have shot her in the shoulder blade, and I know I would have gotten enough penetration that she wouldn’t make it far, but I couldn’t do it.  I could have shot through the small branches and, at just 7 yards, the arrow wouldn’t deflect enough to make much of a difference, but I’m not that type of hunter.  Momma deserved more than that.  After scanning the field for danger she took the final step I needed to clear her vitals, and when she did I tried to stop her.  I was going for a subtle bleat, but a loud, boisterous grunt is what erupted from my mouth.  To this day, I don't know how that happened.  She didn’t think twice about stopping and looking up, and she bolted immediately back in the direction from which she came.  I had no choice but shake my head and smile while my brother laughed at me.  I guess my subconscious simply wouldn’t let me kill Momma.  

One of the many images I have of an old doe we call, "Momma."  She's an old doe, wise to my ways, and would be a true trophy if I could harvest her next fall.

Eyes still closed, my mind ironically shifted to a morning where my eyes were full of wonder and curiosity.  I had just hung a stand a few days prior in an area I hadn’t hunted for close to 10 years.  I could just never convince myself there would be deer there.  However, a trail camera on a mock scrape had revealed this area was actually a deer haven with two monster bucks working the scrape.  To say I was excited about be an insult to how eager I was to get in the tree on an early November morning.  I had hiked close to a mile to get to my stand, got settled in and said the same prayer I say before every hunt, giving thanks for the opportunity and the ability to hunt, asking for safety and, if it were in His will, to bless me with some luck, in any way He felt fit.  

After a deep breath I looked up and was blindsided by how clear the stars were.  It was beautifully cold and clear, and the stars could have never been brighter.  The frosty field I was overlooking harmoniously joined forces with the stars and the result was a glittering dance floor for me to enjoy.  It was one of those mornings where it was literally difficult for me to take my eyes of the sky, and I was glad I didn’t.  I must have seen 5 shooting stars that morning, and I made a wish on each and every one of them.  By the time the sun had risen I had already deemed the morning a success and readied myself for the actual hunt.  Over the next 4 hours I saw close to 10 deer, one of them being one of the bucks I was hunting, but he was just out of bow range.  It was an awesome morning and one that I am thankful I could experience.

One of my favorite things about hunting season is the clairty of the stars on crisp cool mornings.  This picture could never do the real image justice.

The season was now a little less than an hour from being over and I had decided to do my best to relive the morning I shot my buck, High n’ Tight.  I was, after all, sitting in the exact same stand.  Right on cue, however, my mind had other ideas.  I thought about the first time I had seen High n’ Tight from stand.  It was a terribly windy day, and I had gotten in my stand a little before noon hoping to see some midday rutting activity.  I suppose my plan had worked because I saw High n’ Tight, although only briefly, about 100 yards in the thick timber.  Unfortunately, he left as quickly as he came, but I had hoped he would make another appearance, only this time closer.

Unfortunately, he never showed himself again that day, but I did have an encounter with a different buck.  About 3:00 I had a button buck make his way out of a nearby bedding area and made a beeline right for my stand.  The minute he got underneath my stand he stopped, set up shop, and began feeding on acorns.  He looked up at me briefly, almost as if to say, “I’m glad you’re here Cody!  I think I’ll just hang out with you this afternoon, I know you won’t shoot me, will ya?!”  I tried not to anthropomorphize, and decided to take out my camera and snap some photos of the small buck.  He was only 5 yards from the base of my tree, and I was worried he’d spook if he heard the shutter.  I decided to risk it and see what happened.  I snapped a couple images, and it was clear he heard the shutter, because he jerked his head up with each picture I took.  I thought it was funny, so I decided to take some more.  With each shot, up went his head and back went his ears.  He could clearly ear me, but he hadn’t been around long enough to know that suspicious noises from above generally mean danger.  We repeated this process frequently the entire afternoon and the laughs he gave me far outweighed the fact that I could be unnecessarily educating a buck I could be trying to kill in the three years.  Oh well, hunting is supposed to be fun, right?

This little guy never could quite figure out what was making the clicking noise in the tree above him.  He knew something was there, but I don't think he really cared what it was.  He was more concerned with eating acorns than avoiding danger at the time.

By this time sunset was quickly approaching and since I wasn’t going to shoot anything I decided to make my way back to the camp so I could enjoy the last sunset of the season.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect season.  I sat on a picnic table, spitting sunflower seeds watching the clouds blow in and subconsciously began subtly shaking my head in agreement. I suppose it was to both acknowledge what a blessing the previous three months had been as well as let the woods and wildlife know that I was ready to begin preparation for another season.  Because after all, saying goodbye to one season only means saying hello to the next.   

Turkey Triumph

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. November 2011 15:03
Daniel James Hendricks

 

 Hunting during the full moon sucks!  The past four days of pursuit the rough and tumble landscapes of south central Missouri had given credence to that fact.  We were hunting with Jim and Darlene Wilson of Ozark Mountain Outfitters and the dire circumstances were aided and abetted by a bumper crop of acorns and weather that was just a shade too warm.  None of our hunters were seeing big bucks, although a yearling buck and a couple of does had been taken.  One of our hunters had taken a turkey, but in general the hunting was very poor.

 

  I had passed on a doe the first morning that had grazed within fifty yards and than a flock of turkeys that had come as close as thirty yards.  In both incidences I was not comfortable taking such long shots.  Although the crossbow I was using, a Parker Hornet Extreme, had preformed faultlessly on the range by slamming arrows into the bull's-eye on every shot all the way out to fifty yards, shooting at a living target was a little bit more serious. 

  On Thursday morning, I watched as a yearling buck wandered down the trail and passed the ladderstand I occupied.  All that befell the unsuspecting creature was being shot with a digital camera a hundred times.  By the time Friday rolled around, I was getting antsy and impatient wanting to put the Hornet into action just to see how it would perform while taking live game. 

 I was dropped off well before daylight at a little food plot surrounded by heavy timber.  As dawn arrived from the east, it overpowered the fleeing darkness and blossomed into full daylight.  The morning passed quickly as I sat atop my perch wondering if I would even get a chance to shoot this fine crossbow that patiently rested in my lap waiting to be called upon to do its thing. 

 Several hours into the day, I caught movement on the far side of the food plot.   A flock of turkeys emerged from the heavy cover of the underbrush and slowly worked their way around the far edge of the clearing.  I had ranged the large pine tree at the opposite end of the field at 50 yards.  Too far to shoot, especially at a turkey considering how small the vitals are, so all I could do is hope that the birds would move down the field giving me a closer target. 

  The flock, numbering about twenty birds, worked its way to the other side of the plot and them moved back again.  It seemed pretty obvious that they were not about to cross the food plot and as birds began to be swallowed up by the same brush that had burped them out earlier, I realized that my opportunity was about to dissolve into goose eggs.  I thought about our experience on the range.  The Hornet was right on the money at fifty yards from a bench rest.  This particular ladderstand had a rail that went all the way around it that would provide me with a stable shooting rest.  

 I knew that the big pine which was now surrounded by feeding turkeys was exactly fifty yards so the distance of the shot was more or less locked in.  This was the last day of the hunt and I was running out of time.  I was using a Lumen-Arrows tipped with a Grim Reaper broadhead so there was no lack of confidence in my projectile.  I reasoned is the worse that could happen was that I would miss and would have to eat a little humble pie and take a bit of good natured kidding about my marksmanship.  I made my decision, I would take the shot.

  As I moved bring my head and scope together, one of the birds went into fencepost mode.  You turkey-hunters know what I mean.  That’s when the bird stands at perfect attention, straight as an arrow and still as a rock while it studies you carefully with that incredible vision that is possessed by the wild turkey.  And when it did that I moved the crosshairs to the hen’s chest thinking that position just took care of my up and down variances.  Now it was just a matter of getting my left to right exact.

  I steadied the Hornet on the rail and placed the smallest circle of the scope on the birds chest and slowly squeezed the trigger of the bow.  The release came as a surprise, launching the arrow into the crisp morning air.  The Lumenok lit into a fiery red leaving a trail as it arched over the little food plot completely disappearing into the dark copper chest of the clueless bird.  The hapless creature dropping to the ground like a feather covered bag of dirty laundry. 

 Birds exploded in every direction as I quickly recocked the crossbow and loaded another arrow, but the only remaining sign of turkeys was their excited chatter from the thick brush as the said things like, “Did you see that shot?”; and “That was unbeleiveable!  We’re never going to be safe around here if he doesn’t go home!”;  and “Poor old Mable, he caught her looking!”.  I am not entirely sure about the translations, but I think I am pretty close. 

 Bottom line is that the arrow entered the bird severing its spine from a distance of 52 yards.  My first turkey with a crossbow with a shot that only could only make me smile.  Thanks to great bow, arrow and broadhead combination, along with a stand that provided a steady rest I was able to make a perfect shot.  It is amazing what one can accomplish when he has topshelf equipment and a bird that cooperates by standing fencepost style.

 

EQUIPMENT LIST:

     CROSSBOW:  Parker Hornet Extreme

     ARROW:  20” Lumen-Arrows

     BROADHEAD: 100 Grain Grim Reaper

     OPTICS: Alpen Pro 8 x 42 Binoculars & Model 119-10x32 Monocular

     RANGEFINDER: Bushnell Yardage Pro

     CAMERA:  Sony DSC-H50

     TARGET: Rinehart 18 to 1

Bye, Bye Birdie!

HBM Hunt Club Report: 2011 Antelope Roundup

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. November 2011 14:17
Daniel James Hendricks

 

As sure as the last days of August signal the dusk of summer, they usher in the breaking dawn of the fall hunting season.  And of course the hors d'oeuvre of the fall hunting buffet is Pronghorn Antelope.  Now Douglas, Wyoming is the historical birth place of the Jackalope, but, in my humble opinion, it is also the Pronghorn Capitol of the world.  There may be better places, but I have yet to see one and I would require a pile of documentation to make me think otherwise.  For the second consecutive year the HBM gang gathered at Douglas to do our part at thinning out the flourishing goat herds of SW Wyoming.  Last year there were but three of us; this year our ranks swelled to sixteen.  And for five days we romped and stomped creating memories that none of us are likely to forget.

Our host for this year’s adventure was George LeBar of the LeBar Ranch and his Gamekeeper, Mike Judd.  The LeBar Ranch is a mere 65,000 acres and is covered up with antelope, mule deer and a hundred other species of wildlife.  The only sparse feature on the LeBar Ranch is trees and that characteristic exposes the vast Wyoming sky for exactly what it is…knockout gorgeous.  The billowing cloudscapes and brilliantly colored sunrises and sunsets were inspiring, especially to a country boy from Minnesota where most of the sky is hidden from view by a thick wall of green forest.  On the eve of the hunt, we gathered at the Kimbal Headquarters which served as the team’s gathering spot, providing our campers with running water, a shower and electricity for emergency uses; and also with a great location for processing our game and sharing the camaraderie that is so very important to an HBM gathering.  

The ranch catered a huge feast of wonderful food to feed our hunters as they were introduced to George LeBar and his mother, Victoria; as well as Mike’s wife Kristi, his mother, Lois and his son, Skeeter.   Final registration was taken care of and the hunters were shown to the blinds that they would be using the following day.  Spirits were high and all were excited to begin the hunt.
Young Nick McElwee was the first to score with a short 85-yard chip shot made with his vertical bow, a feat that was held in awe and perhaps ever some disbelief by the elder crossbow hunters in the group.  Once Nick broke the ice, goats began to fall everywhere. 

We had a total of 15 hunters on the LeBar Ranch and one other member who was hunting on a neighboring ranch and to properly tell all of the stories would require a novel akin to War and Peace.  Some of the shenanigans of the week-long adventure have been permanently filed away under the label of What happens in Wyoming, stays in Wyoming.  Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all and memories were made a mile a minute.   At the end of the week every license was filled but one; and that hunter has to resign because of the pain and discomfort of sitting for long periods of time.  I had purchased an extra doe tag and filled that along with my buck tag so technically one could say that we went 16 for 16.

 Ron Williams, a veteran hunter in the HBM Hunt Club, donated a dozen of his beautiful handcrafted crossbow arrows as the prize for the person that shot the largest antelope.  As luck would have it, Ron shot the largest antelope, but then presented the arrows to Gene Strei, who shot the second biggest goat.  Thanks Ron, you are indeed one of the great ones.  Our entire team would like to thank our host, George LeBar, his sparkling mother; Victoria and the ranch staff.  We wish to especially thank the LeBar Ranch Gamekeeper, Mike Judd along with his family for the exceptional service, the kind consideration and the wonderful conversations shared during the down times of the hunt.  Mike went out of his way to see to our needs and to make sure that we got the most out of our visit to the ranch and for that we are very grateful; thank you, Sir.  


We are going to do it again next year and the twelve spots are already being spoken for.  If you want to join us in 2012, give us a call at 320-634-3660 to get you name on the list.  You won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

The Rut Finally Comes To Illinois

by Justin Zarr 22. November 2011 15:16
Justin Zarr

First off, let me start by saying I wasn't complaining in my last Blog entry. By all accounts, had my season ended on the evening I wrote that very entry I would have been extremely pleased with the outcome. My Blog was more or less expressing my frustrations that the amount of rutting activity I had seen this year was very sub-par compared to years in the past. For me, the thrill of those classic rut hunts is really what defines my season. The cold mornings with bucks grunting and chasing does, seeing deer on a flat-out run across a field during the middle of the day, the tales of hunters having multiple big buck encounters in a single sit. Those are the things that had been lacking from my season so far.

That brings us to this past weekend here in Northern Illinois. With gun season open across much of the state many bowhunters had their archery gear put away temporarily. However, being a resident of the Chicago suburbs where many of our counties are bow-only, I was fortunate enough to be able to take to the woods with my Mathews in hand. Saturday morning found me perched in a tree where I shot a nice buck last fall, hoping for a November repeat. This time I had good friend, and cameraman, Mike Willand with me.

Over the course of the morning Mike and I saw a total of 8 deer, including two small bucks who were clearly out on the prowl looking for does. Now, I know this doesn't seem very substantial to a lot of people but keep in mind there's times when I don't see 8 deer in a MONTH of hunting on this farm. To see 8 in one sit is pretty incredible, and really helped fuel me for the rest of the weekend.

That same morning the coyotes were also out and about as we saw two of them, both within bow range of our stand. Fortunately for the 2nd coyote, my shooting was a bit off as he came by at 30 yards and I launched an arrow about an inch over his furry back.


My shot was a touch high as this big Illinois 'yote ducked my arrow and escaped unscathed.  These little buggers sure do move quick!

Saturday afternoon I was back in the same stand, this time self-filming as Mike had prior committments. Although I only saw one nice 2 1/2 year old that came by and offered a 10 yard shot, I heard the sounds of a good buck chasing a doe in the timber to my West. Branches cracking, leaves crunching, a buck grunting, roaring and snort-wheezing. Now THIS is what I was looking for! The buck and doe never showed themselves before darkness came, but I knew for a fact I had to get back in there the next morning.  If that does was hot there's bound to be one, if not several, good bucks competing for the right to breed her.


This busted up 2 1/2 year old paid me a visit on Saturday afternoon.  He worked a licking branch and urinated on his hocks just 7 yards from the base of my tree.

4:15 came awful early on Sunday morning, and despite my body telling me to stay in my nice warm bed, I got up and headed out. Knowing it could be my last good morning hunt before the rut was done for the year I was determined to get in a stand before daylight.

As the sun just began to peak over the horizon I spotted my first deer of the day, a young spike buck, making his way behind my stand. About an hour later I heard a deep grunt in the field behind me and turned around to see a doe flying across the field at break-neck speed. I knew a buck wasn't far away and kept my eyes peeled. A minute later I spotted the source of the grunt, a nice buck feeding in the cut corn. After looking him over with my binoculars for a minute or two I determined he was a shootable deer and tried to formulate a game plan for how I was going to get a shot at him. He was 100 yards away from me and straight down wind. Not a good sitaution.

The first thing I did was take out the bottle of Tink's 69 from my backpack and spray some into the air. Not only did I want him to get a whiff of doe estrus to try and attract him, but I wanted to cover up my scent and prevent him from spooking. During the peak of the rut a buck's desire to breed will often cause him to make mistakes he wouldn't normally make, and I was hoping that today this would be the case. So after a minute or two of letting the scent disperse, I broke out the grunt call and let out a series of short buck grunts. The minute he picked his head up and looked my direction I immediately stopped calling and grabbed my bow.

On queue the buck came in on a string, straight down the path I had walked into my stand that morning. With the camera rolling at my side the buck hung up at 18 yards and would not come a single step closer. With a steady North wind at 10 mph blowing both my scent and the Tink's straight into his nostrils the buck didn't know what to do. He looked and looked and looked some more, several times looking right up in the tree at me. I thought for sure I was busted, but thanks to my Lost Camo he never spotted me.

Eventually the buck turned and began to circle around my stand at about 22 yards. Unfortunately this particular piece of woods is extremely thick and wasn't trimmed out quite as well as it should have been so I never got a good shot opportunity at the buck. I had one very small window of opportunity, but when I grunted to stop him he took two steps before stopping and was directly behind a tree, effectively blocking any shot I had. After a second the buck continued on his way, out of bow range and eventually out of sight.


After I grunted in an attempt to stop this buck, he took two more steps before pausing behind some trees where I couldn't get a shot at him.

At this point I couldn't believe it! I had a shooter buck within 20 yards for well over 5 minutes and could never get a shot at him. How does that happen? So as I'm feeling sorry for myself, I do a quick interview and talk about what just happened before sending a text to Mike to let him know what's going on. Just as I put my phone away I hear something and look up to see the buck headed back my direction. So I quickly grab the camera, turn it on and get it positioned, grab my bow and get ready.

The buck steps out in the wide open at 30 yards when I grunt to stop him, settle my pin, and touch off the shot. With a "SMACK" that echoed throughout the woods the big bodied whitetail turned and ran only 5 yards before stopping and looking back to see what just happened, acting like nothing was wrong.  I could see my arrow protruding from his side with what looked like only 2-3 inches of penetration and my heart sank. A direct hit to the shoulder, forward and low, is rarely a good sign.


My buck just milliseconds before the arrow impacted him directly in the shoulder.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes I watched the buck slowly hobble his way through the woods before finally losing sight of him. Although I could see his tail twitching rapidly and see him stagger from time to time, I was very unsure of the hit and decided to back out.  An hour later I climbed down from my Lone Wolf stand and slowly made my way back to the truck. After talking it over with Mike we decided to wait 4-5 hours just to be safe before returning.  In my experience is always better to wait it on on a questionable hit, regardless of whether or not it's too far forward, or too far back.  The way this buck was acting I had a feeling he wouldn't travel far before laying down, and I hoped to find him nearby upon our return.


Not the type of reaction we all hope for after shooting a nice buck.  Making a questionable shot on a deer, buck or doe, leaves a sick pit in the stomach of any bowhunter.

Over 5 hours later at 1 pm we returned to the woods and immediately found good blood. In fact, the blood trail was much better than I thought it was going to be, which was encouraging. Roughly 30 yards up the trail we found my busted Gold Tip arrow and confirmed that penetration was only around 4 inches. My optimism faded a bit. However, as we continued on the blood trail was very easy to follow and at times very good. Then, right where I had last seen him, I spotted rack sticking up over a fallen log. My buck was down!


Finding blood like this is always an ecouraging sign when trailing a wounded deer.


Moments after spotting my buck laying just feet from where I last saw him hours earlier.  What a relief!

The feeling of relief was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. There is nothing worse in the deer hunting woods than shooting and not recovering an animal, and I was honestly sick to my stomach thinking about not finding this deer. Knowing that he went down within 100 yards from the shot is a great feeling.

As it turns out, I believe that I may have hit one of the major veins or arteries that runs up the deer's neck, because on inspection my arrow never actually penetrated the chest cavity. The lack of penetration was caused because I did hit the front shoulder, but luckily I had enough power behind my arrow to push in far enough to get the job done. I give all the credit to the NAP Hellrazor broadhead I was shooting. In this particular case the solid one-piece stainless steel broadhead was the difference between my success and failure on this hunt. Proving yet again why I favor a durable, tough-as-nails fixed blade head over a massive expandable head any day of the week.


After not having any good bucks on trail camera all summer and fall, it was nice to catch up with this guy.  A solid 3 1/2 year old buck, he may not score much but he's a great trophy and a wonderful way to end my 2011 bowhunting season here in Illinois.

With all of this said, my 2011 season is officially in the books and it's time to start thinking 2012 already. I plan on continuing to run several Stealth Cams on my various hunting properties to inventory the bucks that are still around, and of course shed season will be here before we know it! In between those two we've got several trade shows to attend so I'll certainly stay busy.

Look for the full video of this hunt on an upcoming episode of Bowhunt or Die. We still have 6 more exciting buck hunts to bring you over the next several weeks, including mine. To those of you still hunting out there remember to be safe, shoot straight and most importantly have fun!

Big Buck Down - The Taking of a Mock Scrape Buck

by Mike Willand 22. November 2011 15:00
Mike Willand

Bowhunting is detective work. If you’re like me you have many different stand sites set up across numerous different properties covering a handful of different regions of your home state - sometimes over several states. Taking clues that are left behind by deer, revisiting past sightings and experiences, all the while trying to piece together the big picture to make that next move on where the buck you’re looking for will be hiding. Sometimes you guess wrong and sometimes you guess right.

On Monday, November 14th, I guessed right.


For weeks leading up to that Monday I had been grimacing at all the bucks falling to friends of mine across the country. Not in jealousy mind you, but in regret that the days I was pleading to take off from work would be too late into November and past the peak of the rut throughout northern Illinois.

My decision to take the 14th-17th off was based on this year’s poor crop of what I call shooter whitetail. Older deer just never seemed to start expanding their home ranges till after Veterans Day. That’s what I was looking for on that Monday - a buck searching for love far from where he typically calls home.

For weeks, my good friend Justin Zarr and I had been capturing nothing but younger deer on our Stealthcams. Together, we have nearly twenty of them, scattered over four different farms, covering a hundred miles in between. Going into the 2011 season we only had one buck that either of us really wanted to take on camera. Justin would end up the lucky hunter on Halloween weekend, with me behind camera, and a buck called “Hitch”. Two weeks had gone by and we still had nothing else to chase. 

All three of my mock scrapes were flourishing with whitetail activity. The problem was all three of them had a regular onslaught of 100 - 120 inch bucks calling them their own. For Justin and me, once “Hitch” was taken, there seemed to be a major gap between age groups.

Although not the quality of buck I was hoping for, pictures like this are testimonials of a well planned mock scrape. Here, a young buck stands on his back legs to work the above licking branches.

My only chance was to await the days I believed older bucks would begin to stretch their home range, and this is why I chose the 14th -17th of November. Figuring if I failed to find a buck during this time frame, the following week yielded more days off for the Thanksgiving holiday and yet another chance to find a cruiser buck that Justin and I hoped existed. It was a shot in the dark.

Sunday night, November 13th, found me staring at the Scoutlook Weather website for what seemed like eternity, finally making the decision to sit my favorite mock scrape all day beginning the following morning. I shut off my computer and went to bed.

I awoke the next morning especially early. I wanted plenty of time to make and pack a solid lunch for the more than 10 hour sit that I was already dreading. Two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, no less than thirty carrot sticks, a large bag of animal crackers, an apple, and nearly 50 ounces of water were going to be my only sources of comfort for the remainder of the day.

The drive in was uneventful, a far cry from the morning before when no less than four different deer nearly ended up on the hood of my truck. A couple days past full moon, I was hoping the deer were returning to late morning movement again. The past several days had deer on their feet just after legal shooting light, something every deer hunter loathes to witness - myself especially.

Once dressed, I made the trek to my treestand. The moon was so bright I never turned on my headlamp that morning. I could easily make out the woods as it lay before me. When I hit the pond, which is what I used to creep into this set-up undetected, I noticed the water had risen several inches after the recent rainfall. Several steps later and I found myself in too deep – literally! After a false step, a small amount of water had gotten over the top of my 18 inch rubber boots, enough to soak my feet and cause me to curse in the dark! I stepped back a few feet and ended up getting out of the water forty yards short of where I normally step out from. I decided the pond was too dangerous to navigate in the dark, fearing a fall would send me and my video camera into the drink. A fall I surely could have lived with, but my camera may not have made it through. With my camera dangling around my neck I took another way in, trouncing through a section of tall grass that skirted the pond. With each step I took, the frosted stems sounded like firecrackers in the once soundless woods.

Once in stand I readied myself for the day. I hung my bow, my pack, and set up the camera for the self-filming session I was sure to receive as the day waned on. Not ten minutes into my sit and I heard the dreadful footsteps of deer in the dark. I turned and looked in the direction they were coming from, and made out what appeared to be two deer in the loud grasses I had just walked in from. No doubt as I peered at their faint images, they had heard me walking in. Immediately I thought my day was already beginning badly. These two deer were surely going to bust me!  And – I thought, if they heard me walk in, they were already in an area deer don’t typically show up in until about an hour after shooting light. The full moon had foiled me again – I thought!

After a few moments, the two deer ran away to the other side of the woods. I couldn’t tell if their tails were up, but I knew they had cut my trail in. I looked up into the starry sky wondering if my decision to not walk the pond all the way in would cost me the entire day’s sit.

The remainder of my sit in the dark anticipating the sunrise was silent. Only a far off cry of an owl could faintly be heard.

I turned my video camera’s power on just at shooting light, something I’ve done for much of the season so I wouldn’t have to fumble for it once the moment of truth arrived at first light. Standing up now, I faced the direction of my mock scrape. It laid just over twenty yards from me. It was not uncommon to hear the deer at the scrape before seeing them. The soft ground surrounding the scrape often made deer nearly impossible to detect if not for the fact that they would often stop to hit the licking branches which strung out from every which angle above it. The overcast sky kept the earth dim as I anticipated the hours ahead.

Just before sunrise I heard loud, drawn out doe bleats coming from the direction I had seen the two does run to about 45 minutes before. I reached for my grunt tube immediately as experience has taught me that when deer are vocal – you are vocal. I quickly threw out four or five short grunts and then stopped, wondering what I was thinking. I didn’t want to scare the potential bait away, and began to bleat loudly and drawn out, just as I had heard. I did this six or seven times, then silenced my grunt, shoving it back into my pocket from where it came.

I heard the running of a deer in the marsh behind me and turned my entire body to make out a buck advancing quickly on me. Without even throwing up my optics I saw that it was a good buck, at least 130-class! As soon as I recognized who the buck was I heard a very faint stick snap from the direction I was previously looking – over toward my scrape. I turned my head and came eye to eye with a shooter buck not more than twelve yards away and peering into the cattails waiting to see what all the commotion was about.

I believe the buck who was approaching from the marsh was this handsome 3 year old I called "Larry Bird". Here "Larry" works my mock scrapes licking branch.

With his eyes fixated on the bog, I turned back quickly and grabbed my bow, even glancing into the camera screen at the same time to see if the buck was in frame. All I saw was the weak outlines of the trees as the image was still too dark – camera light had not yet begun. I forgot about filming and drew!

With the buck slightly quartering in, I found my pin and settled it on his shoulder. Within moments I released! The buck took off through the timber but didn’t make it far, crashing a short distance away. The sounds of the surrounding woods quickly hushed once again. I could see two does in the distance, their tails showing white. The buck in the marsh slopped through the water traveling further and further out of earshot. I calmed myself, waiting for the earth to return to silence.

I could see a small section of my arrow, bloody and broken, laying where the buck once stood. Reaching for my phone I called my wife and daughter to tell them the news – Daddy is done!

A special thanks to Bowhunting.Com president Todd Graf for coming out to take these great pictures.

I would wait another twenty minutes before getting down from the tree to pick up the blood trail. Figuring the buck had made it into the cattails which surrounded my stand I didn’t want to take anything for granted. I was quiet, calm, and ready to put a second shot in him if need be. I took just three steps from where our encounter began, looked up and could see his body just off in the distance. I approached slowly, eyeing the buck up and down to make certain he was expired, and all the time grinning from ear to ear.

On the first day of my four day hunting vacation, within just a few minutes of light, my season was over. I knelt down beside the buck and looked to the sky once more.

My smile says it all! The buck from unknown origin showed up at my mock scrape the same day I did - ending my 2011 deer season.

Where Have All the Bucks Gone?

by Justin Zarr 18. November 2011 10:18
Justin Zarr

I don't know about the rest of you bowhunters out there, but this year's rut and poor hunting conditions have about got me beat! I've been hunting relatively hard, when time and work permits, since the end of October with very little success since my last Blog entry.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don't get to hunt every day. Like most of you who read this I have a regular job that keeps me occupied from Monday to Friday and the vast majority of my hunting is done on the weekends. That usually leaves me enough time for about 20 to 30 sits per year in stand, with only a third of those being during prime time. So when the sun is shining, I've got to make hay!


Sometimes I wonder why I even bother rattling.  It never seems to work for me.

The weekend of November 6th & 7th should have, by all accounts, been pretty good. We were just approaching the full moon and the weather was decent. However, after three hunts that weekend I had seen a grand total of 5 deer. The only bucks that showed up were a couple of love sick year and a half olds. Certainly not the caliber of deer that Mike and I are looking for.  Although they make for some entertaining hunts, after the first few you start to question whether or not a bigger buck is ever going to show up.


This little guy was right under my stand as I filmed him.  He had no idea Mike and I were perched just 15 feet above him.


I really nice 1 1/2 year old buck that Mike grunted in last weekend.  Give him a few years and he may be worthy of a shot.

The following weekend was much of the same. 4 sits yielded a total of 9 deer and again nothing with antlers older than a year and a half. High winds, a nearly full moon and warming temperatures certainly didn't help deer movmement, but I thought I would have seen SOMETHING moving around.


When you're sitting in your treestand in the morning waiting for the sun to come up and the moon is so bright you can almost shoot, it's usually not a good sign.

On Friday evening (11/11), at the end of a frustrating sit I did shoot a nice big doe that came out into a corn field in front of me. With shooting light fading and a 35+ yard shot I never saw exactly where my arrow hit her, but I was 99% confident the shot was good. However, after not seeing the deer drop in sight and not finding much blood I elected to wait until the morning to recover her. Unfortunately the local coyotes had different plans in mind as they found my doe, just over the rise out of site from my stand. Figures.


Although I double lunged this doe, the entrance and exit holes were both high which resulted in a poor blood trail.  Electing to let her lay overnight I was disappointed to find the coyotes got to her before I did.  Ironically, she was only 40 yards away from where I had followed the blood trail, but was unable to find her after dark.

Besides the lack of buck sightings from stand, it's been a tough year for trail cameras too. My trail cameras are working hard for me, but the big guys just don't seem to be cooperating. Despite my best efforts to local another shooter buck, I haven't found anything that really gets me excited for these cold November (and soon December) mornings.


Bucks like the one seen here have been frequent visitors to my Tink's mock scrapes, but the big guys have been eluding me so far.


This big guy we nicknamed "Goldberg" has been a frequent visitor in front of our Stealth Cam Prowlers, but with a busted main beam he's off the hit list for this year.  I just hope a neighbor doesn't get him during gun season.  If he makes it, he'll scare you next year.

Now that gun season is on here in Illinois I'll be limited to hunting my spot in bow-only Lake County, which unfortuantely isn't holding many trophy bucks this fall. The biggest buck I have on camera is a spindly 10 point that may have grossed in the mid 120's before he busted off a few of his tines!


"Spud Webb" before he busted off his right G2 and possibly several other tines.  Not a bad buck, but not exactly the caliber of deer I'm looking to put my 2nd buck tag on.

Okay, I guess I shouldn't be complaining too much here. All things considered I've had a really good season. I've harvested 3 deer, all on film, one of which is my biggest buck ever. That buck, which you can read about by clicking here, ended up gross scoring just over 158 inches which is far bigger than I originally thought. Although I'm not looking forward to another taxidermy bill, I won't mind admiring him for years to come.

So with all of that said, it's certainly not time to give up now! There's nearly 2 months of season left here in Illinois and if I want to fill my 2nd buck tag I'm going to have to keep hunting hard. So tomorrow morning when I'm in my Lone Wolf stand with Mathews in hand, I'll try to picture my tag wrapped around 150 inches of antler I know could be around the next tree.

 

October Bowhunting Success | A Buck Named Hitch

by Justin Zarr 31. October 2011 16:14
Justin Zarr

This particular tale begins in the spring of 2011.  After one of my most successful bowhunting seasons to date, I decided it was time to move on from the lease I had come to call home the past three seasons.  The days of chasing Dope Ear and Schafer were over, and it was time to find some new ground.  Preferably something closer than the 250 mile drive I had been making almost every weekend during the fall.  So with mixed emotions I let the landowner now that we would be moving on, and the search for a new hunting spot began.

Through some hard work, and some much needed luck, my good friend and hunting partner Mike Willand found just such a spot.  Located in far Northwestern Illinois, this small slice of heaven hugs the bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River and looked to be very promising.  After a brief conversation, confirming that we both agreed that this was our new spot, we signed the paperwork and began preparations for the fall.

Our first trip to the new farm was on a hot summer day in Mid-July.  This was the first time I had ever stepped foot on this farm in person.  Those of you who are big on pre-season scouting know how nearly impossible it can be to scout effectively during the summer months.  The foliage is thick, the bugs are horrible, the temperatures are hot and the humidity is suffocating.  In light of this, Mike and I did the majority of our scouting and planning of stand locations before ever heading to the woods.  Aerial photos and topographic maps are without question your best friend when it comes to scouting new ground.

Having a general idea where we wanted to hang our Lone Wolf stands before heading into the field helped tremendously and allowed us to hang several sets on our first trip that July day, and finish up the remaining sets during a return trip in August.  The 2nd set we hung was located nearly in the center of the farm along what we figured would be a good travel corridor during the rut. 


The dog days of summer may not be the optimal time to hang stands, but sometimes you don't have much of a choice.  One of the keys to being successful is being prepared, not just in hunting but in all aspects of life.  Here Mike is making his way down the field edge to hang one of our Lone Wolf stands in preparation for fall.

Located on the side of a ridge we had a corn field to the North of us and a creek to the South.  To most people this stand doesn’t appear to be anything special, and probably wouldn’t be a spot many people would put a stand.  However, the topography doesn’t lie.  If a deer wanted to move from the big timber to our West through our woods to check does in the bedding area to our East, he would most likely come through this spot.

While hanging stands that warm July day we also set out a trail camera on a fence crossing, hoping to get an inventory of the resident deer herd.   On our return trip in August we checked the camera and much to our liking we had captured several pictures of what appeared to be a nice buck.  The date on the first image was 7-27-11, which was Mike’s 4 year wedding anniversary.  This prompted us to name the buck in the photos “Hitch”.


Our first photo of Hitch, taken in late July.  The forked brow tine on his left side is a dead giveaway.

Fast forward to October 1st, our first day in stand on this farm.  Opening Morning was relatively uneventful as we only saw one small buck and a doe.  During the middle of the day while killing time before our evening hunt we checked our trail camera again, this time on a different fence crossing, and once again captured several photos of Hitch – this time out of velvet.


The next, and last, photo captured of Hitch on this farm.  This photo was taken in late September and we never got another photo of him on this farm.  Although we weren't getting pictures of him, we were confident he was still around.

Over the next several weeks we only hunted this farm a total of 3 days.  While we knew the farm was holding some good deer, we didn’t want to ruin our hunting before things were getting good.  At just over 100 acres it’s easy to put too much pressure on the deer early and decrease your chances of shooting a good buck.  We’ve made that mistake in the past and didn’t want to make it again.  So we bit our tongues and we waited.

The weekend of October 29th it was time to get serious.  Instead of leaving home at 2:30 am like we had done previously, we drove out on Friday night and got a hotel room.  Some extra sleep and a shower were in order now that the bigger bucks were likely on their feet during daylight hours. 

Our plan for this morning was somewhat different than the previous 3 trips to the farm.  Instead of circling around the edge of the property and coming in from the West, we were going to sneak straight up the middle and approach the stand from the East.  You see, earlier in October during our morning walk into the stand we had spooked what sounded like a big deer in the standing corn field.  Upon closer inspection of the area we found several big scrapes, some rubs and a definite “smell” of buck.  Whoever it was, that deer had been marking his territory when we so rudely interrupted him.  Not wanting to make the same mistake again, we altered our entry route accordingly.

Upon entering the woods on Saturday morning we once again encountered the distinct smell of buck.  Many of you likely know what I’m talking about.  The musky smell of rutting whitetail buck is unmistakable and running into that during late October likely means you’re in a buck’s core area.  Also during our trip into the stand, which was our first to this stand for the year, we found several big beds that reinforced our theory that we were in a buck’s bedroom.

As the sun rose on the chilly 29 degree morning, the daylight revealed several rubs and a scrape all within 30 yards of our stand location.  Although we had hung this stand in preparation for a good travel route, it appears that we ended up in a buck bedding area.  In late October in Northern Illinois there are certainly worse places to be!

The first hour of our morning was relatively uneventful until a small button buck made an appearance.   Showing up almost directly downwind of us the young buck was nervous, but unsure of just what he was smelling.  This is until he busted us up in the tree, trying to have a little fun at his expense.  I supposed that’s what we get for screwing around.


Our first visitor of the day, a young button buck.  Anytime you start seeing yearlings out on your own you know the rut is getting close. 

Roughly 45 minutes later, shortly before 9 am, I heard footsteps on the ridge to our West and shortly after I spotted a deer moving through the brush.  I told Mike we had a deer on the opposite ridge working our way, and we both stood up.  As the deer moved out from behind a tree the glimmer of white antlers could be seen and my heart rate quickened.  I put up my Vortex binoculars to size the buck up, to which Mike responded “Put away your binoculars and grab your bow, it’s a shooter!”

Of course I didn’t listen to him as I wanted to make 100% sure this buck was a shooter before I switched my brain into kill mode.  I’ve made the mistake before of not taking time to confirm the buck’s age and rack size and buck fever has gotten the best of me.  However, that wasn’t a problem this time.  As soon as my glass hit his rack I said to Mike “It’s Hitch”.   I immediately put down the binos and reached for my Mathews.


A shot of Hitch as he approached our stand location.  Here at roughly 35 yards I have no good shot opportunities.

Over the course of the next several minutes Hitch crossed the ridge and made his way in front of our stand.  He crossed broadside at just over 30 yards, but I had no shot.  The problem with hunting these hilly areas is that often times you can’t get high enough up in the trees to trim long shooting lanes, which was the case here.  Most of my shots were within 20 yards so he was going to have to close the distance before I could get an arrow headed his direction.

After passing in front of the stand Hitch took an abrupt left and began heading away from us.  Immediately, a small feeling of defeat began to set in.  He had come so close, but was now headed in the wrong direction.  While part of me immediately wanted to reach for my grunt call in an attempt to turn him around, the veteran deer hunter in me knew better.  The buck was still within 40 yards and grunting too soon would sure do nothing but send him in the opposite direction even faster.  My plan was to let him get out to 80 yards or so before hitting the call.  But before that could happen, a little bit of luck headed my way.  Hitch decided to turn around and come back towards us.

As the buck approached our stand and got to within 20 yards he had two trails to pick from.  Both crossed well within shooting range, but one went into an open area that would make for great video and the other behind a small tree holding on dearly to its leaves.  At this point my luck had started to run out, as he picked the trail shrouded by fall foliage.

When Hitch stepped into the open at just 18 yards I grunted to stop him, settled the pin on his shoulder, and sent an NAP Hellrazor tipped arrow his way.  The arrow slammed into the brute’s shoulder and he tore off up the hill, stopping just 50 yards away.  After just 20 seconds the mighty warrior staggered, and despite his best efforts, fell over as Mike continued to roll footage.  Nearly 3 months to the day after showing up on our trail camera, Hitch was dead.

The post-shot celebration was much as you would expect.  Mike and I were in somewhat of a state of disbelief as to what just happened.  You see, things just never seem to work out like this for us.  We hunt harder than most people we know, put more time into our stand setups and preparation, and yet rarely do our plans seem to go, well, as planned.  In this case, our plan was thought out and executed to perfection.  In just the 7th sit on a brand new farm the #1 target on our Hit List was down.  What a way to end October!


My initial reaction after the shot.  I can't believe I just shot Hitch!

Once the shock wore off and text messages were sent out we climbed down to retrieve our trophy.  Despite seeing him fall we still followed the blood trail, which was incredible.  Both deer I’ve shot with the Hellrazor this season have left great trails, which is a testament to both good shot placement as well as razor sharp broadheads.  You don’t need a 2 inch cut to put a deer down quickly provided you hit them in the right place.  My shot on Hitch was about 3 inches further forward than I would have liked, however my arrow penetrated completely through the big-bodied whitetail thanks to the ultra tough Hellrazor broadhead.  I know a lot of guys like big cutting diameters, but I'll take a small, accurate, tough-as-nails broadhead any day no matter how big the cutting diameter.


There are few better feelings for a bow hunter than the first time you wrap your hands around the antlers of a buck you just shot.

Guessing Hitch at 225+ lbs on the hoof we enlisted the help of our friend and other hunting partner Mr. Kenny Tekampe to help us drag the brute out.  Luckily we only had about a 60 yard drag to the field edge, where we were able to drive the truck and pick him up.  After a photo and video session for this week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die we loaded him up and headed to the deer processor.

I didn’t have a chance to put a tape to him, but I would guess he scores somewhere around 145 inches, which makes him my best buck to date.  I’ve yet to enter any of my qualifying bucks into the P&Y record book, but I just may with this one.  He is a great example of what the Midwest has to offer when it comes to high quality whitetails.


My best buck to date, and first buck shot with my Mathews z7 Xtreme.  If my luck continues it won't be the last either.

One thing I want to point out before I end this Blog is that this buck wasn’t a result of just my efforts alone.  It was a team effort that required of hard work, planning, and sacrifice by my friend, hunting partner, cameraman and partner in crime Mike Willand.  Mike and I dedicate nearly ½ of our season each year to film each other, which is not only a lot of work but a huge sacrifice.  For those of you who have never done it, imagine sitting in a tree on a cold November morning with your bow in the truck and a camera in your hand.  

So a big Thank You goes out to Mike for all of his help.   From finding this farm for us to hunt, to battling with me about treestand locations to filming one of the most memorable hunts of my life, you’re a great friend and not a half bad cameraman.  Hopefully I can repay the favor before the season is over!

Be sure to check out our online show, Bowhunt or Die, this Friday as the full video of this hunt will be featured in this week’s episode.  And if you missed last week’s show, but sure to check it out as it features Mike’s hunt for a great suburban whitetail from earlier this October.


The end of a successful hunt is always bittersweet.  The thrill of the hunt is mixed with the disappointment of knowing this particular adventure has come to an end.  However, knowing that the season is young and the peak of the rut is still ahead of us gives me hope that there are more exciting hunts to come before the 2011 season is over.

Slow Opening Weekend of Bowhunting in Illinois

by Justin Zarr 5. October 2011 02:47
Justin Zarr

October 1st is a magical day for many bowhunters across the US, and especially here in Illinois.  Despite the fact that early season hunting is rarely productive for all but the luckiest of hunters, there's something special about that first sit of the year.  Whether it's the sights and sounds of nature coming alive with the rise of the sun or the thoughts of monster bucks dancing in our heads, it's like Christmas morning for grown-ups.

This October 1st was no exception for both myself as well as my hunting partner/cameraman Mike Willand.  With a new piece of property to hunt for this fall we were amped up to hit the road and get up in a tree.  So when my alarm went off at 1:45 on Saturday morning it didn't take much effort to get me out of bed and ready to go.  Some 2 1/2 hours later we arrived at our hunting grounds and quickly got geared up for the morning sit.


No doubt that Mike is pumped up for opening day!  Ah, the enthusiasm of October 1st.  Let's see how you feel come mid-November!

With temps in the low 30's on opening morning our hopes were high that we would see some deer movement.  Shortly after Mike's first interview of the year (I was behind the camera) he spotted the first whiteail of 2011 creeping its way along the creek line.  Even though he was just a young fork buck, the first deer of the year always gets the blood flowing.


This yearling buck came to within 10 yards of our stand on Opening morning.  Not the shooter we're looking for, but the first deer of the year is always exciting!

After the morning sit was over Mike and I checked a trail camera we had set out about a month earlier on a fence crossing.  Much to our delight, our target buck from earlier this summer "Hitch" had showed up during late September along with another shooter buck we're calling "Little Nicky".


Our #1 target buck, Hitch, out of velvet.  We're hoping to have some encounters with him this fall that end with him in the back of the truck.


Our #2 target buck, Little Nicky.  Although his rack isn't huge, judging from his head and neck he looks like a good mature whitetail.

With some renewed anticipation we headed out for the afternoon hunt, this time with me in front of the camera.  Unforutnately we were unable to sit the stand we really wanted to be in, which overlooked some big oak trees that are dropping acorns.  Due to the NE wind direction we were forced to sit on the edge of a standing corn field where we were limited to spotting just 4 turkeys and a few squirrels.


Have you guys seen any deer around here?  Because I sure haven't!

With a long season ahead of us we both decided to sleep in on Sunday morning and just hunt the afternoon.  This time we split up and hunted by ourselves.  Of course I had a very slow night with only a single red fox sighting and about a thousand squirrels running around.  Mike, on the other hand, had some great luck and managed to put a nice doe on the ground.  Keep an eye on his Blog for the full story in the next couple of days.

We'll be back at it this weekend despite the forcast of warm temps.  At least we'll have the South winds we need to hunt our better stands, so hopefully we'll get lucky and see one of our target bucks.

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

Trail Cameras Don't Always Have Good News

by Justin Zarr 26. September 2011 16:18
Justin Zarr


With the price of today's trail cameras well within reach of most bowhunters, you're hard pressed to find a hunter who doesn't own at least one or two. Most of us put these handy little devices out during the mid-summer months in hopes of catching a monster buck lurking within our hunting areas. Just one photo is all it takes to get your blood pumping and cause many nights of lost sleep leading up to the hunting season. However, this isn't always how it plays out in the whitetail woods.

Heading into this summer I was admittedly anxious to find out what would show up on my trail cameras at one of my primary hunting areas here in the Chicagoland suburbs. Last year was one of the worst years for getting pictures of good bucks on this farm, despite the fact that I was able to connect on a very nice whitetail in mid-November. Having taken out the lone buck that was a consistant resident of this area I was unsure who would take his place come this fall.


After shooting this buck last fall I was somewhat concerned to see what bucks, if any, moved in to take his place.  During the course of the fall he was the only buck that showed up with any consistancy on my trail cameras.

With 6 trail cameras running since early July, my fears have somewhat come true. I have yet to get a single picture of a buck I would consider a shooter. In fact, it took several months before I got a picture of a buck at all! If anyone is proof that there isn't a Booner behind every tree here in Illinois, it's certainly me.


This up and coming 2 year old has been a regular on two of my cameras this summer.  He's nice, but not a shooter.


It seems like each year I have a plethora of these messed-up yearling bucks running around.  I have no idea what happens to them after the fall is over.  They seemingly disappear.


I'm pretty sure this buck is a 3 year old, but his jacked up left side doesn't exactly get my heart pounding.


I believe this the the oldest buck I've captured on my camera this summer at 4 or 5 years old, but he won't score much over 100 inches with that rack.  If I see him, there's a very real chance he'll get an arrow flung his way...


Another up and coming 2 year old who will probably disappear after this season.


Possibly the best buck I have on camera so far, I think this buck is 3 years old and will be lucky to hit 125 inches gross.  A nice buck, but not what I'm looking for this season.

Despite my lack of targets for this fall, I'm not worried yet. Every year there's always a few bucks who move through this area during the end of October and into November when the rut kicks in. I know my stands are hung in the best spots to catch one of these cruisers when they make the mistake of coming through, so there's no need to panic quite yet. The same goes for those of you out there who are in a similar situation. Just because the big bucks are eluding your trail cameras right now doesn't mean they won't make the mistake of moving into your area later in the year. The key is to hunt hard, hunt smart and be ready when he shows up! After all, you just never know what's going to happen in the whitetail woods.


I captured several photos of this buck, nicknamed "Big Mac", last season but nothing after November 18th.  I didn't find his sheds and don't have any photos of him so far this year.  Although I have no idea if he's alive or not, I'm still holding out hope that he's around and until I know otherwise he is my #1 target on this particular farm.

With that said, heading into opening weekend Mike and I will be hunting a new farm that we picked up roughly 2 1/2 hours from home. We know there's at least one shooter roaming those woods and we're pretty sure there's a few more where he came from. This weekend we plan on putting out a few mock scrapes using our Tink's Power Scrape and seeing what our new Stealth Cam Prowler trail cameras can pick up. I have a feeling we'll be pleasantly surprised the next time we check our trail cameras.  The Prowler shoots great HD videos so I'm excited to see what shows up.  As most of you know, scrapes are possibly the single best place to get a lot of photos/videos of the bucks in your particular area. 


The angle of this photo is deceiving, but with a few weeks left to grow I'm hoping this buck topped out well into the 140's, which makes him a shooter in my book.

Good luck to those of you who are heading out for October 1st this weekend. Remember to always wear your safety harness and shoot straight!

 

Bowhunting Elk in Colorado

by Justin Zarr 25. September 2011 11:31
Justin Zarr

Nearly two years ago our good friend and Bowhunting.com forum member Dan Mater (130Woodman) asked Mike Willand and myself if we'd like to go elk hunting with him in Colorado. Having prior obligations for the 2010 season we decided as a group that 2011 would be the year we headed West to chase elk together. So on Friday September 16th we packed up the truck and hit the road. Some 17 hours later we rolled into town and without sleeping, hit the mountain.

After 6 straight days of walking 8 to 12 miles a day (mostly uphill I believe) we returned home defeated this past Friday. We're not entirely sure what the problem was, but it seems like a very late spring has turned into a very late fall with the majority of the elk not bugling much. Those of you who have hunted elk on public lands probably know that when the elk aren't talking, the hunting can be tough. We only heard a handful of bugles during our trip, and most of those were far away and were unresponsive to Dan's calling. The lone elk who responded and came into calling was on the 2nd to last night of our trip, and the only night where Mike and I split off on our own to hopefully cover more ground. So while Dan had an angry bull at 40 yards, Mike and I were a mile and a half up the mountain watching nothing but squirrels and birds. Figures!


I'm no expert, but I don't think late September in the mountains of Colorado is supposed to be this green.

So instead of spending most of our time trying to coax an angry bull into bow range, we spent the majority of our time simply trying to locate elk to hunt. Many of the typical spots where Dan has has success in years past were nearly void of elk sign. So we scoured the mountains as best as our Midwestern legs and lungs would allow us, and in the end came up emptyhanded.


Mike and Dan listening for a response after letting out a bugle during our Day 3 climb to nearly 11,000 feet.


Mike and I were all geared up to capture some exciting footage for "Bowhunt or Die", but the elk just didn't feel like cooperating.

Although none of us bagged an elk on this trip, I have to say it wasn't a complete bust. The three of us shared more laughs than I've had in a long time, experienced some amazing scenery and breathtaking views, and solidified our friendships which will most assuredly spend more time in the field together in the future. I'm not going to say I'm not disappointed that none of us got a shot opportunity because I am, but hey, that's life!


Sunset on the last night of our trip.  It's not an elk in the truck, but not a bad way to end the week.

For those of you who have never elk hunted before, here are just a few tips that I learned during my hiking adventure, which was disguised as a hunting trip.

1. Make sure you have good-fitting, comfortable, waterproof boots. Us Midwestern guys may think we're used to walking a lot up some of these "hills", but trust me it's NOTHING like climbing 2,000-3,000 feet in elevation up a mountain side which takes sometimes 2 to 4 hours. Having boots that fit well, are comfortable, and waterproof will make your hunt 100x better. If your feet get wet, sore or blistered on the first couple of days you're in for a LONG week.  My boot of choice on this trip was the Rocky Lynx, which worked out great.

2. Bring plenty of food and water. During this trip I typically went through about 2-3 liters of water per day. 2 liters were in the water bladder in my pack, and the other in bottles I brought with me. Hiking up these mountains all day is tough work, and you'll be glad you brought the extra water. I also packed 2 sandwiches, 2 Nutrigrain bars, and 2 granola bars for the day as well. When you leave the truck at 5 am and get back at 8 pm you'll need the food.


Peanut Butter & Honey?  Don't mind if I do...

3. Have a good pack. Although after the first day or two I took out everything I didn't need, I still found myself bringing a lot of gear up the mountain with me. Whether it's extra clothes, 1st aid kit, water, food, binos, rangefinder, GPS etc you'll be taking a lot of stuff with you each day. Having a pack that is light weight, adjustable, comfortable and big enough for all of your gear is a must. On this trip I used the Blacks Creek 3:16 Lumbar pack, and it was awesome. Roomy enough to hold all of my junk, and comfortable enough not to bog me down. I'll be doing a full write-up on this pack in the next week or so. IMO, it's the best pack I've ever personally used/owned.


Mike glassing for elk.  Keep looking buddy!

4. Dress appropriately. Unlike some of the short walks to your treestand on a cold November morning where you can get away with wearing most of your layering clothing, you can't do that when hunting elk. After my first day of trying that, I learned my lesson pretty quickly. By the 3rd day I was walking up the mountain in the mornings in nothing but a t-shirt, with no hat. Once we got up the mountain and slowed down I would then add my Scent Shield Merino Wool insulating layer and top if off with a Lost Camo hoody from Gamehide.


Even though we didn't so much as lay eyes on an elk, I still had a great trip.  A big thanks to Dan Mater for bringing Mike and I out for our first elk hunt, and dealing with our ridiculousness all week!

So with our elk hunt now officially over, Mike and I are turning our attention towards our true love - chasing whitetails here in Illinois. Our season opens up next Saturday and you can bet we'll be perched up in a tree somewhere. After last week's bowhunting frustration I feel sorry for the first doe that wanders within bow range of us!

Treestand Placement - Morning Stands vrs Evening Stands

by Justin Zarr 2. September 2011 10:05
Justin Zarr

It’s that time of year again where many of us are finishing up our final treestand preparations for the fast approaching season.  While many bow hunters are simply checking the condition of stands that have been in place for years, others are studying topographic and aerial maps, checking deer sign and trying to formulate a plan that will help them be successful.  When it comes to picking out your stand locations I’ve found it helps to determine if you’re looking for a morning location or an evening location.

By and large one of the biggest mistakes I see novice hunters make is hunting stand locations at the wrong times.  Unfortunately for many of these hunters, they often don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late.  This is primarily due to the fact that they are spooking deer that they may never see or hear.

Keep in mind that some of the strategies I’m about to talk about are not fool proof.These are more of a general guideline that may help you get close enough for a shot, or at least determine the exact spot you need to be in order to make something happen this season.

MORNING STANDS

As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid hunting food sources in the mornings.  Most whitetails are typically active during the night, much of which is spent feeding.  In many cases whitetails will still be feeding in the hours leading up to sunrise which means you stand a good chance of spooking them on your way into your stand if you are trying to hunt over a food source (or too close to one).  Walk into that food plot you spent hours working on this summer an hour before daylight and chances are you’ll spot several sets of eyeballs in your flashlight before you hear the telltale snort of a whitetail headed the other direction.

When it comes to avoiding food sources in the morning this also includes the entrance route to your stands.  As a young hunter I always took the path of least resistance to my stand locations, which often meant marching through the direct center of a cut corn or bean field an hour before light.  I would see eyes reflecting back in my flashlight and hear deer snorting at me on my walk in, but didn’t put two and two together as to why my morning hunts were often so unproductive until some years later.  Looking back on those days I can’t help but laugh at my ignorance. 

In order to maintain undetected try to slip into your stand using natural features such as creeks, ravines, and standing crops to your advantage.  Take care to avoid walking field edges or areas within sight or earshot of a food source where you think deer may be.  In most cases this is going to make your morning walk longer and more difficult than you’re used to, however it will almost surely increase your morning deer sightings.

So if not food sources, where should you hunt in the mornings?  My personal favorite places to hunt during the morning are as close as I can get to a good bedding area.  The intent is to catch deer coming off the feed sources at night and working their way back to safety to bed for the day.  This tactic, although productive, does pose several risks that must be taken into consideration.

First, you need to set up between the food and the bedding area.  If you set up on the wrong side of the bedroom you may find yourself playing more games on your phone than watching deer.   When picking your stand location it is helpful to keep in mind the various food sources available to your local whitetails and hang several stand sets that you can utilize as the food sources change.  When farmers begin taking in crops or acorns begin to drop the deer will begin utilizing different food sources and, in some cases, different bedding areas as well.  A general rule of thumb is that you can never have too many stand locations to pick from.


Several years ago I was lucky enough to harvest this nice Illinois buck on the morning of October 19th.  I was set up very close to a small bedding area that was surrounded by rubs when he appeared shortly after daylight.  Mid to late October is a great time to catch bucks like this on their feet just late enough to get a shot at them.

Second, watch the wind carefully.  I prefer to hunt on a cross wind, which is blowing perpendicular to both the bedding and feeding areas.  This allows me to get into the stand without blowing out deer from the food source, yet doesn’t expose me to any deer that may happen to slip into the bedroom from another direction without me knowing.  Of course I don’t always get this ideal wind which means that you’ll often have to pick a stand with the wind blowing at least partially into the bedding area.  Be sure to hunt these stands very sparingly as you may only have one or two opportunities to hunt them on a non-perfect wind before they are blown out.  However, if you’ve played your cards right once chance may be all you need.
Also, when picking a morning stand you have to consider not just your entrance but your exit as well.  Don’t walk through the middle of the bedding area on your way back to the truck unless you enjoy not seeing deer from that stand.  They key is to remain undetected so try exiting through those food sources you avoided in the morning, where you’re less likely to encounter a bedded buck.


This map of a property I used to hunt shows both morning "M" and evening "E" setups.  For the morning hunts I would sneak down the road and into the woods in order to catch the deer moving off the feed fields back into the timber.  Conversely, evening setups overlooking a standing bean field were very productive and allowed easy access without spooking deer bedded in the timber.

Finally, make sure you get into your stand early.  Many of the mature bucks we’re hunting prefer to be off the food sources and headed back to bed well before daylight.  If you’re walking into your stand 20 minutes before shooting light and run into a buck headed the same direction you may have just blown your chance.  I like to be in my stand and ready to go at least an hour before shooting light, which often means leaving the truck a solid 2 hours before shooting light.  This gives me time to cool off from that extra long hike, get my gear ready and let the woods settle back down before the sun peaks over the horizon.  If you do nothing else, try getting into your stands much earlier than you do know and you’ll be surprised at how many more deer you will begin to see.

EVENING STANDS

During evening hunts I prefer to hunt close to, if not overlooking, a hot food source.  The majority of your deer will be bedded down during the daytime and get up near dusk to begin feeding.  In most cases they will begin to work their way towards food sources where they can chow down all night under the cover of darkness.  Does will almost always be the first deer to enter a field at night, with most mature bucks not willing to expose themselves until the cover of darkness is close.


Finding a hot food source, like this standing corn field, is a great starting point for your evening hunts.  After you've located the destination food source try to locate where the deer are entering the fields and set up on the down wind side.

Just like hunting during the morning you need to be aware of your wind direction and approach to the stand.  Your wind should typically be blowing from your location towards the food source, or perpendicular to it.  Make sure to avoid having your wind blow directly into the area you expect the deer to approach from (the bedding area).  I know this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of hunters who simply pick a stand on the edge of a field without paying attention to wind direction.

Approaching your stand doesn’t necessarily require as much work as your morning sets as walking through or on the edge of your agricultural fields is a great way to get into your stand undetected.  The key is to avoid walking through any timber or locations you think deer may be bedded such as CRP, overgrown pastures, or any thick cover.  If you just go trouncing through the middle of the woods on your way into your stand you may very well blow out the bedded deer before they have a chance to make their way to your food source.

For those of you with good agricultural fields or food plots, and unpressured deer, you may have good luck directly overlooking the food source.  However, as many of us have found out, sitting directly on a food source may provide consistent sightings of does and small bucks but not the mature deer we’re after.  This can be attributed to the fact that often times big bucks like to hang back in the woods and wait for the cover of darkness before coming out into the open.  After all, they didn’t get that big by being stupid. 

In these cases you’ll often find a heavy concentration of buck sign (rubs and scrapes) either just inside the field edge, or just outside of the bedding area.  If you start seeing this increase in sign during mid-October but no buck sightings in the fields you may need to move your stand in closer to the bedding area and try to catch these bucks while they are staging.  Staying mobile by either using a climbing stand or a set of Lone Wolf climbing sticks and hang-on stand can present a huge benefit to the bow hunter.

A great way to help you determine when the bucks are visiting your food sources is to use a trail camera. When it comes to trail cameras many hunters simply use them to gather an inventory of their deer herd, but not as actual scouting tools.  If you can change your way of thinking and place your camera in strategic areas to tell you when deer are active it can help you figure out which places to hunt, and which places to avoid.  If you are getting nothing but night time photos of your target bucks on field edges, try moving back 100 yards or so and see if you can surprise him before darkness falls.


If your trail camera is showing you a lot of buck activity in your food source after dark, you may need to move in closer to the bedding area in order to catch a buck on his feet during daylight hours.

Another overlooked evening set that often times coincides with staging areas are acorn drops.  Often times I see people underestimating the power of acorns when it comes to whitetail hunting, which is a big mistake.  There are few foods a whitetail enjoys more than a fresh crop of acorns, especially white acorns.  If you can find a white oak that’s dropping acorns in between a bedding area and your primary food source you may just have found one of your best evening setups. 

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to find a “magic oak” tree that was dropping acorns so often it sounded like it was raining.  Located about 100 yards off a field edge this tree was attracting all of the local bucks who would eat and spend time sparring and interacting with each other before dark.  After observing this movement from a stand that was just out of range I repositioned my Lone Wolf treestand to move in on the action and two nights later killed one of my best bucks with a bow.


After spotting this buck feeding on acorns under a huge white oak tree, I repositioned my Lone Wolf stand and shot him two nights later under the same tree.  Mid to late October is a great time to locate, pattern, and harvest a good buck before the rut kicks in and he disappears from his core area.

BE READY TO MOVE

The above tips are simply a guideline that should help you get close to the deer you’re hunting and be able to observe their movements and patterns.  With a little bit of luck (and some newfound skills) you’ll be able to hang a stand and kill a deer from it using these tips.  However, that’s not always the case.  Bowhunting is a game of inches and sometimes you’ll find that your stand is close but not close enough to give you a shot.  When this happens you need to be ready to move.

Possibly the biggest mistake I see people make is hunting the same stand over and over again, hoping that someday a deer will walk within range.  While there are certain stands that can produce year in and year out I’ve found that those “killing stands” aren’t as common as I would like.  Sure, you may have SEEN a buck from this stand two years ago, and your uncle may have killed one with his gun a decade ago, but what is going on in your woods today?  As food sources change from year to year and other factors including hunting and outside pressure change, deer will alter their movement patterns.  In these cases you need to be ready to move.

I believe the #1 reason most hunters don’t move their stands more often is a combination of laziness and difficulty of moving stands.  If you’re using a ladder stand you can pretty much forget about being mobile.  Likewise, using screw-in steps and heavy steel hang-on stands can present quite the challenge as well.  Having a good, lightweight treestand setup is the only way to go when it comes to staying mobile.  My personal choice, as mentioned earlier, is a Lone Wolf hang-on stand and climbing sticks.  With this setup and I can scout a staging area with fresh sign and be set up and hunting in less than 20 minutes.  Often times this means the difference between success and failure.


Investing in a good light-weight setup like a Lone Wolf Alpha can pay dividends during the hunting season.  If you're not getting close enough for a shot in your current location, don't be afraid to move!  A wise bowhunter once said that the difference between a good stand and a great stand is sometimes less than 10 yards.

So if you find yourself in the position of seeing a lot of deer but not getting close enough for a shot, try moving your stand location and see what happens.  After all, the window of opportunity for most of us is relatively small.  Between weekends and a few “call in sick” days most of us only get to spend somewhere between 5 and 10 days in a stand while the hunting is good (end of October to mid November).  If you don’t do it now, you may be waiting until next year to wrap your tag around a nice set of whitetail antlers.

Bow Seasons Opening Day

by Mike Willand 31. August 2011 14:55
Mike Willand

I awake. Eyes still shut and body still warm. I sit up in my soft bed still hunched over, grasping a minor head pain from the few cocktails which visited me the night before. My eyelids open faintly as I put foot into action, followed by weight, and then in one swift motion stand erect, yet unstable. I shake it off with a forceful yawn.

I ease across the bedroom floor being careful not to wake my beautiful wife as she sleeps so peacefully and so carelessly without thought of the day that will soon follow. The bedroom door squeaks ever so softly as I dance through the doorway and into the hall, shutting the door behind.

I proceed next into my daughter’s room and peak over her tiny crib. Leaning over her nightly fortress, I place my lips on her cheek, run my hand softly over her hair, and disappear back into the loneliness of an empty hallway. The whole time wondering if she’ll ask where I am when she awakes.

Into our guest bathroom I go. Parades of womanly decorations greet me in my tiny chamber. Quickly I undress and step into the shower. The water instantly awakens my senses with a frigid reminder of the upcoming months in which I will make this an almost daily routine. However, today is different. It’s a day I have yearned for since the robin's return in late March and the television first roared with the crowds of summer’s baseball admirers. Today is the opening day of archery season and my body is still fresh from the short hibernation of the hunter.

Storms of memories cascade into my aching head as I continue to shower. Thoughts and dreams of a new year in stand amongst my most favored of competitors - the whitetail. And I thank God I can do it again! As I close my eyes to rinse the soap off my hide, the visions of the great deer I have known flood into my mind like the great Mississippi in spring. And then dreams of the great bucks I anticipate to encounter this year trade with them.

I step from the shower with a great loud thud which is heard throughout the land! Yet a soft touch onto my bathroom floor. My ears are erect now, senses sharpening, and blood at a steady gait tingles through my veins and quickens its pace. The predator within me - awakes! Within minutes, I am dressed and descend down our home's dark winding stairs.

I march into the kitchen with great pride. It has been so long since this moment and I am overwhelmed with anticipation for what the season might bring. I open the fridge to quench my thirst, followed by my greedy acquisition of the last apple. Standing over the kitchen sink I stare out our window into the dark unknown. I knew the ground I would hunt this morning, and knew the tree I wanted to hunt from. The young oak stood on the edge of a secluded meadow, where switch grasses grew as tall as a man. Surrounded by apple trees, this oak has proved its worth over the years with encounter after encounter. But as I took the first bite of my forbidden fruit I wondered if today it could yet yield even another encounter. I continue to chomp at my apple and walk out of our home, locking the door behind.

The cool air gripped me so, causing my heart to skip a beat and blood to quicken once again! It is a crisp air, so full of life and with the whispering promise of an autumn to follow. The gentle breeze blows from the south but still harbors the last hints of summer's domain.

My truck waits out front like a chariot waiting to cry unto battle. Packed the night before, it stood motionless waiting for its master. I cross the grass with such eagerness. This drive I knew would be the beginning of many and would take me to unknown places in the months to follow. It would be the first of another year, filled with the trials that I am to set before myself. There will be triumph! There will be pain. Moments in between scattered with my thoughts, prayers, frustration, eagerness, loss, and ultimately – belief. A deep belief within myself and something Above me still.

The truck roars into gear as I leave my familiar home. The beams from my vehicle are about the only light in an otherwise dark and sleepy neighborhood. I turn the corner heading out of town. The whitetail woods my next destination.

On the highway I glance at the dashboard, seeking out the morning's present time. It spoke ten after four. I knew a twenty minute drive laid itself ahead of me. It would put me into my perch at ten till five I presumed. This meant a good hour before a legal shooting light. A perfect time, I thought, to get into an eagerly awaited and ready position, waiting for the first footsteps of autumn's prey.

Trailing down the highway I begin to drift. Thoughts and dreams billow into my mind once more. Visions of the past reappeared as if to haunt my present memory. The Big Nine who slipped away, the Great Ten who I could not draw on! Little bucks, dozens of does, and the found sheds of whitetail that were never even seen by me. And then my imagination! Conjuring mythical males with countless inches of antler! Greater whitetail than I have ever known seep into my brain and deliberately force me down a path of personal glory! My head is flooded with these thoughts as I continue down the road.

As I pull over the river, I can see my destination in sight. A twenty two minute drive was about to abruptly end. As I slow my faithful steed to an eventual stop, I feel my blood begin to quicken once more!

I pull off the road and onto the gravel beside it, shutting off the lights in one fluid motion. My hand turns the key and an eerie silence falls once more to me. The door to my truck opens with swift intentions, and a blanket of cool, crisp air charges in! Instantly I am outside my truck and gearing up for what will be my final descent before dawn. I sit down on my tailgate buttoning and pulling at the cotton camouflage that will hide me from searching eyes. Soon, I am lacing up the boots that will guide me over various and often intemperate terrains.

With my earthly uniform now covering my body I reach for the one item that will separate my intentions from friendly to foe. I open its casing and am overcome with what this moment truly resembles. It is man's first instinct now buried in a world of conveniences and farce. An item so basic in principle and yet so regarded even in this day. As I take hold of the almost primitive object, it is like I am reaching back to ancestral needs. It is my bow! Where string and stick meet with an unearthly BUMP! As if to say to the gods our species will not fail and become earth's most fabled of predators! Holding it I feel a pure restoration of the human spirit.

I am now ready. I am now equipped. I begin my hike into the great woods lying ahead of me, one foot after the next. And although I walk into these woods with no one by my side - I am not alone.

Good luck on opening day.

Nikon Binoculars Review

by Brenda Potts 24. August 2011 07:28
Brenda Potts

I didn't think I would find a reasonably priced, light weight bino that I like better than my Nikon-SHE Safari binocular for bowhunting. Don't get me wrong, I still love the SHE Safari binos because they are so small, made for a woman, super light weight and they are available in cool colors with a beautiful carrying bag. My SHE binos took a beating last year as I wore them on all my Midwestern hunts  and they stood up to the abuse very well.


But the new Nikon Pro Staff 7 Binocular has a great feel and fit. If you want me to get all technical and discuss things like angular field of view (whether it's apparent/degrees versus real/degrees) or objective diameter, well, I'm not. You can go online and check out all the techy stuff. I am just impressed with hands on performance and practical use. But here are a few facts - the phase correction coated roof prisms result in higher resolution. They also have a high eye point design which I really like and the rubber armouring provides a comfortable grip and shock resistance. They are also light weight which I appreciate even more.

Left to right Pro Staff 7,   EDG 10x42,    EDG 8x32,    SHE Safari 10x36


Of course the EDG are still the top of the line bino from Nikon. They are great for every type of hunt but I used them mostly on my western hunts where lots of long range glassing was required. 
I have to admit it is so funny to see warnings and cautions in the instructions in several languages that tell the user to "never look at the sun directly while using binoculars," or "do not look through the binoculars while walking, you may walk into something and get hurt" or "do not swing the binoculars by their straps, they may hit someone and cause injury." Well duh!
It is good to read the instructions. If I had done so when I first got my EDG binos I would have realized the reason I could not get them to focus precisely was because the diopter had not yet been adjusted to my eye. The diopter adjustment ring is covered by the focus ring and made apparent by pulling out the focusing ring, so it is not apparent at first glance. It is a simple adjustment once you read the instructions. Once again, well duh!


The EDG binos have very bright, clear fields of view with sharper, clearer images all the way to the lens periphery.  I noticed this was a huge help in long range glassing over lots of wide open terrain.  And their ability to let you see well into the late hours of the day as light quickly fades are another big advantage. Plus they are waterproof.


I also like the design of the protective eyecap with a neck strap eyelet so it will not get separated from the binocular (I am notorious for losing those things if they are not attached in some way).  You may use optional horn-shaped rubber eyecups that come with the binocular. These are easy to slip on and off as needed but cannot be used with eyeglasses. The objective lens caps attach to the body of the binos and are easy to slip on and off quietly.  I noticed they sometimes pop open if you lay the binos down horizontally on a flat hard surface. They can be removed if you prefer not to use them at all. The focusing ring is large, smooth and easy to adjust with either hand.

I recommend the Nikon lens cleaning kit that is compact and easy to carry with you in a pocket or pack.


For the past couple weeks we have been watching big bucks in the bean fields in the evenings and have been able to use the new Nikon EDG and Pro Staff 7. So far, both are impressive. The true test will begin in a couple weeks. We will let you know how both binos make it through the season.

 

 

 

Bowhunting Get Together a Huge Success

by Justin Zarr 24. June 2011 05:51
Justin Zarr

Building on the tradition of the past 2 years, the staff here at Bowhunting.com was extremely excited about our 3rd annual Get Together. Much like deer camp, this event has become an annual tradition that we all look forward to. Each year we dedicate quite a bit of our time and energy to making the event bigger and better than the year before and this was no exception.

As you may have read on Cody Altizer's blog, the event started for us on Friday June 10th with our Hunting Network staff meeting. Seeing as though many of our team members are located all over the country this is a great opportunity for everyone to get together and go over a few of the finer points that help make Bowhunting.com the finest bow hunting website in the world. We were also fortunate enough to have several of our Sponsors pay us a visit to inform everyone about their companies and their products.

The following day, June 11th, the official Get Together was held at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, IL. This even is open to anyone who wants to come out and enjoy a day of good old fashioned fun. Which means if you haven't been to an event yet, you better be there next year!

We started the day off with getting everyone signed up and assigned to a team, then it was time to start shooting. As always we had numerous shooting events set up for everyone to participate in.


A group of shooters getting signed up the the day's events.


Yours truly giving some basic safety instructions before beginning the shoot.


The gang from Pine Ridge Archery making their way out to the course.

Thanks to our friends at Rinehart Targets, our 3-D course was better than ever! We had a dozen new archery targets that were in tip-top shape which made both scoring and arrow removal inifinitely better than in previous years. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of shooting a course with Rinehart targets I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible. Having shot at just about every 3-D target on the market I can unquestionably say these targets are the best. In fact, we threw awal all of our non-Rinehart targets simply because they had fallen apart to the point they were unusable.


And you thought a wounded bear was dangerous?  Here Steve Flores finds out what happens when you don't put a Velociraptor down on the first shot!


A great shot of an arrow in flight, courtesy of Jason McKee.


Clinton Fawcett taking aim with his Z7 Xtreme Tactical on the practice range.


Jared Schlipf from Lone Wolf Treestands showing off his perfect shot on the elk from 60 yards.  Luck, or is he just that good?


A group of shooters tallying up their scores after shooting at the 30 point buck.

When all of the scores were tallied up it was 1st time attendee Tony Platt who went home with the 1st place trophy. Pro Staff members Dean Krueger and Dustin DeCroo came in 2nd and 3rd place respectibly.

Our long distance shoot for this year was set at roughly 70 yards, which made it pretty challenging for a lot of our shooters. Personally speaking I only have pins out to 50 yards for my bowhunting needs so it was an "aim high and pray" moment! Although my long range skills weren't very impressive, some of our shooters were remarkably accurate. In the end it was none other than Jared Schlipf, President of Lone Wolf Treestands, who went home with the RhinoBlock target for this long range accuracy. Nice shooting Jared!


John Mueller taking aim at the Rinehart RhinoBlock.  How far is that again?


Jared showing us how long distance shooting should be done.

In the Iron Buck Challenge we had quite the competition this year. In the end, after some fancy one-foot shooting and quite a few busted arrows it was Forum member Steve Renner (Dawg007) who went home with the $100 cash prize. Congrats Steve!


"Rusty" certainly claimed his fair share of arrows over the course of his two days spent in Illinois.


Todd with the lucky winner of the Iron Buck Challenge.

We also had the 5 target pop-up 3D Challenge back again as well. Although Dustin and I both turned in scores of 56 out of 60 on multiple occassions, it was the shoot operator Mark Wagner who turned in a perfect score of 60/60 to take top honors. I'm calling an unfair home-field advantage on this one, but it was good shooting regardless!

The big winner of the day was long-time Bowhunting.com friend, supporter and target-builder Dan Richardson (aka bloodcrik) who went home with a brand new Mathews z7 Xtreme. Congrats to Dan, he definitely deserved it! Dan already has his new bow set up and shooting great - check out his Forum post here.

Our friends at Lone Wolf donated a new Alpha Hang-On II treestand to our raffle, which was won by our friend Ryan Culvey. I know he's extremely excited to get that stand hung before October rolls around. I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of Ryan. Even I don't have a new Lone Wolf stand yet!

A big extended THANK YOU goes to all of our Sponsors who attended the event and donated prizes for the raffle! That includes Mathews, Lone Wolf, New Archery Products, Tink's, Monster Raxx, Pine Ridge Archery, Rinehart Targets and Rut Junkie Apparel.

All in all, the day was a huge success with over 90 of our best bowhunting friends in attendance. Everyone had a great day of shooting, hanging out with good friends, and enjoying the great outdoors. We can't thank you all enough for coming out and we're hoping to see you all again next year!

 
We'll be ready for next year.  Will you?

 

2011 Turkey Hunting Recap

by Dustin DeCroo 22. May 2011 11:52
Dustin DeCroo

 

Turkey season is always highly anticipated for me and the Spring of 2011 was no different. I received my new Mathews z7xtreme at the end of March, waiting for the opener was much the same as a kid waiting for Christmas morning. I had hoped to hunt Turkeys in Wyoming, Kansas and Oklahoma but only accomplished two of the three. The season was still an extreme success as I was able to kill three toms on video and have some great hunts with my best of friends.

These Wyoming Merriams were fired up well before opening day.

The first weekend following the 6th of April in Oklahoma has become a new found tradition with my friends Tony and Trey. The birds are plentiful as are the laughs and good times. My flight to Oklahoma city was delayed four hours in Denver and after a two hour drive we finally arrived and went to sleep around 4:30am. Three short hours later we woke to a risen sun and the smell of Folgers brewing in the pot. Before the strike of noon there were three Rios in the back of the Duramax. The afternoon hunt would be my first chance to draw blood with the new Mathews.

The Oklahoma Red Dirt was our hot and dry home for the weekend

Trey and I set up the Double Bull and decoys on a flat where the birds generally pass through on their way to roost. It was 98 degrees when we left the truck and one degree less than it would take to melt a human body, on the inside of the blind. After an hour of heavy perspiration didn’t we had birds working. A group of jakes spotted the B-Mobile and quickly came to investigate. The biggest of the birds was sporting a five inch beard and with three tags in my pocket, he was worthy of my new bow’s first kill and to test the new NAP Gobbler Getter broadhead. The bird stopped at 22 yards and my NAP Quikfletch disappeared behind the wing bone, bird number one was in the dirt. The rest of the evening supplied more jakes but no long beards. The majority of the rest of the trip I spent behind the camera, but the birds escaped our efforts. The footage of this hunt should be on Season 2, Episode 3 of Bowhunt or Die in June.

My first kill of 2011 and the first kill with my z7xtreme.

 

The following weekend Bowhunting.com Prostaff member Dan Schafer traveled to my house in Wyoming to chase Merriams. We had a fantastic hunt killing four long beards in two days, but I’ll let the video tell you the story... Check it out here.

Dan's spot and stalk Merriams in Wyoming!

Tagged out!

Unfortunately, other commitments kept me from hunting Easterns in Kansas but hopefully next spring, I’ll pick up right were I left off in 2011. Now it’s time to start stickin’ wild hogs and Alligator Gar in the South!

Confessions of a Lazy Hunter Part 1; Post-Season Scouting

by Justin Zarr 9. March 2011 15:40
Justin Zarr

Developing a particular set of skills to your highest ability is no easy task.  Whether it's shooting a bow, hunting for deer, swinging a baseball bat or any other skill that is learned over time it often requires a deep knowledge and fundamental understanding of both the basics as well as advanced techniques.  For those of us who spend much of our time pursuing whitetail deer it has been engrained in our brains that post-season scouting is possibly the best way to gain a better understanding of our quarry.  In light of this we spend countless hours walking countless miles around our hunting grounds each winter and spring, hoping to unlock the mysteries of killing trophy whitetails.

As a young whitetail hunter I bought into pretty much every piece of information I read in a magazine or book, or saw on TV or in a video - including the post-season scouting craze.  I figured that unless I got out in the woods and walked until I had blisters on my feet, cataloging every piece of deer sign I could find I wasn't a "serious" hunter.  Surely THIS would start me on the path to success!  Despite my best efforts, and after several seasons of unfilled tags, I began taking a closer look into my techniques which started with post-season scouting.  I was putting in the time, so why wasn't I seeing the rewards? 


I've spent many hours walking up and down hills, across creeks and ravines, through snow, mud and water - and for what?  It suppose it was good excercise anyways...

The answer to this, my bowhunting friends, is that I wasn't really learning anything that was helping me become a better bowhunter!  I was simply doing as I was told, but never fully understanding why or how it was going to benefit me.  Heck, part of it was probably just to tell my buddies that I spent 4 hours walking in the woods today just to prove how "serious" I really was!  Allow me to explain futher...

For most deer hunters our post-season scouting is done during late winter and early spring.  The trouble with this is that much of of the sign we're seeing now was made after the season ended and the local whitetails have drastically altered virtually every aspect of their lives.  After the rut winds down and cold weather moves in it's not uncommon for deer to move several miles to find a good food source.  During much of December and all through January and February it's entirely possible that the deer you were hunting last fall, and will be hunting again next fall, are not using your hunting property at all!  So you put the miles on your boots but can't seem to figure out where all the deer went.  In some cases we may even write off particular areas due to lack of deer sign.

Conversely, you may have one of the better food sources in the area and thus have an overwhelming amount of deer sign.  I know many hunters who have been fooled into thinking that the concentration of sign automatically means this is spot they should be hunting.  So they come back during the summer and hang their treestands, but are sadly disappointed come fall when the spot fails to produce the action they were hoping for.  Typically this is because all of these deer who were so heavily concentrated during the winter months have dispersed and could very well be miles away once again.  Sadly, hunting where the deer were 8 months ago really doesn't do us a whole lot of good.


Heavily packed trails and fence crossings like this are quite often located next to primary winter food sources.  Despite their appearance these areas of concentrated late-season sign aren't always the best spots to hunt come next fall.

Another often misleading piece of sign are shed antlers.  Although they are certainly enjoyable to find, in many cases they don't tell us any helpful information about how to kill that particular animal.  Most often I've found that shed antlers only tell us that animal happened to be in that spot at that particular time, and nothing more.  Why is this?  Once again we go back to winter food sources.  Bucks will travel great distance to find enough food to get them through winter, during which time they will frequently bed close to this food source.  Consider the fact that most antlers are found in or directly adjecent to winter food and bedding sources this does little to tell us where that whitetail may be come October.

This about this - how many shed antlers have you found off bucks that you've never seen or have no trail camera photos of?  Additionally, how many bucks do you see countless times throughout the hunting season and get tons of trail camera pictures of, yet can never find their sheds? 

Now not all post-season scouting can be quite so misleading.  The prime example of this is buck rubs - and more specifically BIG buck rubs.  A big buck rub is generally one of our first indications that there's a trophy quality whitetail in our hunting area.  Although a big rub doesn't necessarily mean it was made by a big buck, the chances are pretty good that it was.  Finding a large rub, and more importantly a bunch of large rubs, is a pretty good indicator that you're onto a potential hot spot for next fall. 

The trick here is to determine what type of area these rubs are being made in.  Is this a thick area that a buck may be using to bed in?  Or is it on the edge of a field where a buck is staging before dark?  Or maybe the rubs are located along some type of travel corridor in between doe bedding areas?  It is important to try and figure out why these rubs were being made here in order to figure out the most effecctive way to hunt that spot in the future.  Of course this assuming you can prove that a big buck is still using this area.  But that's another topic for another Blog.


Finding this type of rub is enough to get any bowhunter's heart pumping, but it's important to analyze the big picture before deciding to hunt this area.  A large rub like this one, located just yards off a primary food source, is quite often made at night which doesn't always indicate a good place to hunt. 

Most of us hunt the same properties year after year which hopefully means we've learned quite a bit about the deer we're hunting.  For the most part doe bedding areas don't move around from year to year and our natural funnels and pinch points usually aren't going anywhere either.  So once you've located these areas there's usually no need to overly scout them each year.  Taking a quick walk through them to make sure nothing drastic has changed should suffice in most cases.  The rest of your time in the woods is probably best spent looking for shed antlers, because even though they might not help us a whole lot they sure are a bunch of fun to find!


The bigger of these two shed antlers is from a buck that was never seen while hunting this particular farm, nor where there any trail camera photos of him either.  Although he's a nice mature animal that we would like to harvest, there's no guarantee that he'll be anywhere near this spot come summer or fall.  Don't make the mistake of assuming just because you found a buck's shed that he's calling that area home.

The past 5 seasons I've been lucky enough to harvest 6 good whitetails with my bow, miss a 7th, and videotape my good friend Mike Willand harvest an 8th all without the aid of post-season scouting.  While I feel that these winter and spring walk-a-thons do serve a few good purposes, by and large I'm beginning to think they're rather unnecessary and overrated.  Maybe it's time we break the cycle of trying to become the most hardcore, shed-hunting, deer-scouting bowhunter on the block and start focusing on scouting smarter, not harder.

Next month I'll continue my Lazy Hunter blog with some talk about locating whitetails using trail cameras, and how that information can help lead us in the right direction.  Until then, feel free to skip your post season scouting trips and spend some much-need time with your family or working off that "honey do" list you built up last November!

Planning Your Out of State Bowhunt for 2011

by Dustin DeCroo 15. February 2011 14:08
Dustin DeCroo


The Fall 2010 season comes to a close and it’s time for many hunters to start planning their Non-Resident Fall adventures for 2011.

While many bowhunters are having treestand withdrawals in February and March, I enjoy the excitement of doing research and planning my out-of-state hunts for the upcoming Fall.  The reality of nonresident hunting is that, generally it is significantly more difficult to be successful (in terms of harvesting an animal) than in the region that you call home.  Let us be honest, it’s expensive, time consuming and can be a lot of work but at the same time it can be one of the most gratifying and memorable experiences you’ll ever have.  As Americans we’re blessed with a plethora of big game animals to hunt and it is up to us to take advantage of it.

I was fortunate enough to film Bowhunting.com's Justin Zarr as he traveled from Illinois to hunt Wyoming Pronghorn.


 

My good friend Steve Abbott also traveled to Wyoming to hunt pronghorn

I have been fortunate enough to travel the country to hunt for the last five seasons and the planning can almost be overwhelming.  What do I hunt?  Which state do I visit?  Which unit do I hunt?  When do I apply?  How much will everything cost?  These questions and a million others have to be answered before the ball gets rolling.

There is no doubt that I love chasing whitetails but bugling bulls and spot and stalk type bowhunts are my true passion when it comes to bowhunting.  I would love for everyone to be able to experience those hunts, so let me give a little bit of (hopefully) helpful information.

The real work begins after you decide what you want to hunt and the more research you do, the better chance you’ll be rewarded in the end.  Every state has a DNR or Game & Fish website that will tell you the process for hunting in that particular state.  With that said, I have never found a more frustrating group of websites to visi.  For all of the Western states, I have not found a more useful source than the  MRS or Members Research Supplement section found in Eastman’s Hunting and Bowhunting Journal.  The MRS is found only in subscription issues of the magazine but is incredibly informative.  It provides you with application deadlines and prices, drawing odds, trophy qualit y, percentage of public lands, season dates and non-resident success rates, to name a few.  The MRS includes this information for nearly every big game animal that resides in the Western united states.

 

My friends Trey Kolar, Tony Stickland and drew Wyoming Elk tags in 2007.

 

In my experience Iowa, Illinois and Kansas are the three main whitetail states that require you to apply for a non-resident tag.

Starting the planning process now assures that you don’t miss any deadlines, can save some hard earned cash and get your body in the proper physical condition for whichever hunt you choose.

 

My dad drew non-resident elk and moose tags in 2009 killed this great Wyoming bull.

Bowhunter's Using the Moon

by Neal McCullough 14. February 2011 12:00
Neal McCullough

Like many modern bowhunters I spend a fair amount of time online searching for good information & websites on whitetail hunting.  Since you are reading this you are already at great starting point; bowhunting.com is one of the best resources for all things bowhunting!  Late last season I stumbled across another good resource called USPrimetimes.com.  The basic description of what the site provides is “the most advanced Solunar system available, using it will make your fishing and hunting trips more productive by giving you the times fish and wildlife are most likely to be active. So you know the primetimes to be in the field or on the water.”

The site is pretty basic in its design; the only information the user is required to input is a date and a location.  In this case I will use the ZIP code of my home in Minneapolis (Note the system with automatically adjust time based on your input) and today’s date.  Additionally I have checked to include Weather Forecast; this option is only available if you select today’s date.

The next option to select is the 30-day forecast (7-day is the default option).  This shows 30 days of forecasts based on each day’s “overall forecast” using the system.  Numeric rankings between 1 & 100 are assigned into categories of Excellent, Very Good, Good, and Average.

Each day can be selected for a more detailed view.  In this case I selected this Saturday February 19 and you can see details of “peak” times as well as Sun/Moon rises, sets and transit times.  The forecast highlights morning, afternoon, and dusk forecasts to assist in timing of hunts.

Finally valuable details in table format including weather, success forecast, moon overhead/underfoot, sunrise/set, first/last light and moon phase.  All this great information is organized by date and in table format at the bottom of the page.


The site has lots of other great pieces information for any hunter; the last I will highlight is a “3 hour” detailed weather forecast.  Definitely check it out in the weather section of the page.

The key thing to remember with any forecast is that it is a prediction.  I strongly believe that the moon plays an important role in wildlife activity.  I also think that weather, time of year, hunting pressure, stand location, scent control, and luck play a role.  But, I think that good hunters have lots of tools available to them and this is one of them.  So next season as you plan your hunts, check out at www.usprimetimes.com and maybe you will gain the extra encouragement (or energy) to stay for little longer sit during the midday rut!

See you in the woods,

Neal McCullough

Wisconsin Late Season Bowhunting Success - The Perfect 12

by Dan Schafer 16. January 2011 18:15
Dan Schafer

Like a lot of stories in the modern age of bowhunting, this one starts with a single trail camera picture. Two days after the Wisconsin muzzleloader season ended, my brother Rick was checking cameras and got a shock when he looked at the pictures and saw a buck we had never seen before. He called me up and said, “You’re not going to believe this, but I am looking at a picture of a perfect 12.” Since December 10th, this buck was simply known as “Perfect 12.”

Now, we have a dilemma. With the extremely wet late summer and heavy clay ground that our property sits on, we were unable to get our food plots in. Essentially, we have no reason for this buck to stay on our property. Since baiting is legal in WI, (two gallons per 40 acres) we decided to give it a try. We knew it would be nearly; remember I say nearly, impossible to kill a mature buck like this over bait. Our plan was simply to provide a food source we were lacking, place trail cameras there and hunt it as if it were a food plot.

Over the next couple days we placed two gallons of corn at five different spots over our 560 acres. Two of those spots were at box tower stands that my nephew, Nick Schafer, could hunt out of. With the early snowstorms we had this year, there was going to be a limited amount of areas that he could get to and hunt from his wheelchair. But, with those snowstorms and deep snow, little did we know how effective the feeding would be at these stands. With no food plots or standing crops within a few miles of us, the deer took to our new food sources very quickly.

Over the course of the next week we ended up getting a number of trail camera pictures of Perfect 12, but like we suspected, all at night and at different stands. He seemed to have no real pattern. On December 20th, to our amazement, we got several daytime pictures of him at one of the stands Nick would be able to hunt. Unfortunately, as you can see, the date and time was wrong on the camera. I had forgotten to check the batteries on the DLC Covert and in the extreme cold weather the date and time were reset. With the very busy Christmas season in the family grocery business, Nick and his dad Jeff (another of my brothers) would not be able to hunt the stand until the following week.

 

The day after Christmas we headed up to the cabin with high hopes that this buck would still be visiting Nick’s stand in daylight hours. Shortly after getting in the stand, does, fawns and even a couple young bucks that had shed both sides starting filtering in. It wasn’t long before it was getting dark and the hopes that Perfect 12 would show had faded. Over the course of the next couple weeks, Nick and Jeff were able to hunt a few more times, but the result was always the same, lots of does and fawns, but no Perfect 12.

On January 8th, with two days left in the WI archery season, we took Nick and Jeff out to the stand. The idea of getting a shot at Perfect 12 had disappeared and Nick was planning on shooting the first big doe that walked in. It didn’t take long and Jeff was fast asleep in his chair, sawing logs and dreaming of big bucks. A few minutes later Nick sees movement 60 yards in front of them. For a moment, he thought he was dreaming as well, as Perfect 12 seemingly materializes out of thin air. Trying to wake his dad, Nick whispers, “big buck.” He could hear Jeff stirring a little bit and simply said, “don’t move, big buck.” It didn’t take long for Jeff to see the giant walking at them, turning his head to the side to get his rack through the brush.

Let me say, at this moment, if I could pick one person who I have 100% confidence to make a shot in an extreme high-pressure situation, it would be Nick. I have never seen a person so calm and patient when it comes to shooting, as him. He rightfully earned the nickname “Deadeye” years ago.

As the buck approached the food, Nick shouldered his Ten Point crossbow and waited for the moment of truth. 30 seconds later, the buck gave him a perfect broadside shot. Like he’s done dozens of times, Nick squeezed the trigger and sent the NAP Thunderhead on its way through both lungs! Once again, Nick lived up to the nickname “Deadeye” and sent Perfect 12 to meet the Sandman and take a little dirt nap.

When I came in from hunting that night I could see the look on Nick’s face. Anyone that knows him will tell you that he has an infectious smile and when I saw it, I knew something great happened. After hearing the story of how Perfect 12 stepped out of the brush at 1:45 in the afternoon and Nick anchoring him with a perfect shot, I couldn’t wait to go help retrieve him take pictures.

Again, a huge congrats Nick, and a bigger Thank You for letting me be a part of it and being such a huge inspiration to me.

2011 ATA Show Day 1 - Cool Bowhunting Products

by Justin Zarr 6. January 2011 11:47
Justin Zarr

 Day 1 of the 2010 ATA show went extremely fast as it seems to do every year.  It's amazing how quickly an 8 hour day can pass when you're enjoying yourself, checking out new bowhunting products and meeting with friends you only get to see once or twice a year.  I didn't have a chance to walk the entire show today but I did manage to scope out a few cool new products.

I started my day off at the New Archery Products booth when I was able to get ahold of the new Apache Stabilizer.  There may not be any revolutionary technology here, but this is another solid product that is well built, functional and very reasonably priced.  For a projected retail of $39.99 (black version) and $49.99 (Realtree camo) this stabilizer features NAP's proprietary sound dampening material and includes a 3" carbon fiber extension arm.  This will allow archers to customize the size of their stabilizer based on their wants and needs.


The Apache Stabilizer in Realtree shown with 3" carbon fiber extension (not attached).


They sure look good on all those Mathews bows!

WHile at the NAP booth I got to visit briefly with the Whitetail Freaks Don & Kandi Kisky, who are always extremely nice, and country music star Craig Morgan.  To me this is half the fun of these shows, being able to talk with people you don't get a chance to see very often.


Craig Morgan chatting with the Kisky's and Brady Arview from NAP.

Another product that caught my eye, and a lot of other eyes as well, is the new Tree Spider harness from Robinson Outdoors.  This new safety harness is lightweight and easy to adjust, which is what demanding bowhunters want.  Judging from the buzz around this product I have a feeling it will be a huge seller in 2011.  Check out more at treespidersafety.com.


I'll get a better photo of the Tree Spider harness tomorrow, I promise!

New from Muddy Outdoors for this year is their Bloodsport treestand.  This all-black stand is based on the Hunter Pro platform so it's very lightweight and it now features the same rope cam system as Muddy's climbing sticks.  Using this stand along with a set of their climbing sticks should be a great combination for mobile hunters who demand their equipment be quiet and light weight.


The Bloodsport, Muddy Outdoors' first stand using their rope cam technology.  Super light and ultra quiet.

Tink's is expanding on their deer decoy lineup with the new Mister October decoy.  This self-inflatable decoy is very lightweight and when deflated can be fit easily into your pack.  No more wrestling with noisey hard-plastic decoys!  Combine Mister October and Miss November and you have a very deadly combination.


Mister October and Miss November - inflatable deer decoys from Tink's.


My buddies Mike and Shawn from Heartland Bowhunter, signing autographs at the Muzzy booth today.

Of course I saw a ton of other products and people today, but I'll have to bring you the update on those tomorrow!  Be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages as I update them throughout the day (and night) with cool photos and info from the show!

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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 Bowhunting.com 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.

Thankful for Bowhunting Home, Time With Family

by Cody Altizer 30. November 2010 02:27
Cody Altizer

 If you have followed my blog throughout the 2010 hunting season, you certainly know how much I am enjoying my time in the upper Midwest.  Whether it be chasing these giant whitetails with bow in hand or behind the camera filming Justin Zarr and Todd Graf and their hunts, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every second I’ve spent in the deer woods of Wisconsin and Illinois so far this year.  However, this past week was by far the most enjoyable time I’ve spent hunting all year as I was able to fly back home and hunt my family owned property in Virginia the entire week of Thanksgiving.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to harvest a deer back home, but the time spent in the tree with my brother, around the hunting camp with my dad and at the dinner table with my mom is what made the trip so enjoyable.

My second home, Rocking Chair Hunt Club.  It was a blast to be able to be able to go home and hunt the property I grew up on.  There is nothing better!


 When I flew in on the 19th I had high hopes of harvesting a Virginia whitetail the following week.  I knew it was going to be tough as Virginia was currently in its fourth week of gun season (two weeks of early Muzzleloading followed by two weeks of rifle season) but I was still optimistic.  My brother had been my eyes and ears all season long had been seeing some quality bucks and plenty of does so I was eager to get in the treestand.  However, extremely warm temperatures slowed deer movement early in the week and I didn’t even see a deer Monday or Tuesday. 
Wednesday morning my brother and I saw plenty of good deer activity, but as is often the case in the big woods mountains of Virginia; the deer just seemed to wander through the woods without any sense of direction and never made it by our stand.  Wednesday afternoon was much like Monday and Tuesday as I never saw a deer from stand.  I will admit though, that I took out my Traditions muzzleloader hoping to harvest a buck that way, but to no avail.  Thanksgiving morning my brother and I were back at and again saw several deer, just nothing within bow range.  We did, however, see well over 40 turkeys that morning and in my experience, deer just don’t tolerate the noise turkeys make scratching through the woods.  Then again, my brother and I got pretty fed up with seeing gang after gang of turkeys too!

It was nice to have a camera man film my hunts for a change.  A BIG thanks goes out to my brother, Damin, for giving up quality hunting time to film my hunts.  We probably ended up scaring away more deer than we actually saw because we were laughing so hard at each other in the treestand.  I wouldn't trade that time in the stand for anything!


I chose to sleep in on Friday to catch up on a little sleep to prepare myself for the last day and a half of hunting because I was really going to get after it hard.  Friday afternoon my brother and snuck as close as we could get to a bedding area without disturbing the deer with climbers on our back.  Prior to this hunt I wasn’t a big fan of climbing tree stands.  I trusted their safety and purpose, but honestly didn’t like the effort it took to get up a tree and would just assume carry a hang on and sticks with me in the woods.  However, my brother had just bought the Summit Viper and allowed me to try it out and all I can say is this: I WILL buy one this offseason.  It was an incredibly light treestand to carry into the woods, setup easily and I was able to safely ascend up the tree and get set up within no time.  I felt safe and stealthy the entire time and decided I needed one for myself. 

We intensely practice Quality Deer Management on hunting property in Bath County, Virginia.  If you have the time, land and resources to do, I encourage you to implement some sort of management plan on your hunting property.  Results won't be immediate, but the gratification you will receive from benefitting your herd and habitat is well worth the patience required.


Friday afternoon ended up turning out to be our most productive hunt of the entire week.  Around 4 pm we had a group of does make their way out of the bedding area we were set up so close to.  As soon as exited from the bedding area they began feeding on white oak acorns about 70 yards north of our stand.  I knew that the longer they fed on those acorns, the less our chances would be of being able to harvest one of these deer.  I’ve learned the longer you have deer around your stand that aren’t in bow range, the less chance you will have of shooting them.  We’d been given a steady dose of South, Southwest Winds that afternoon; however, after 45 minutes of those feeding on acorns the winds shifted out of the east and they busted us, just as they were begin to make their way past our climbers.  It was a tough break to catch, but it was an exciting encounter nonetheless.  Just a heart-pounding, close encounter was all I really needed to call my trip home a success in terms of hunting.  My brother and I hunted hard Saturday from the same location, but high winds only resulted in us seeing a couple spikes harassing a doe in the morning, and a solid 2 year old 8 pointer in the afternoon.  Just as quickly as my hunting trip back home started, it was over.

One of the several scrapes we found littered throughout our hunting property.  We knew the big bucks were there, we just couldn't pull it off!  Bowhunting during the second week of rifle season proved to be quite a challenge, but I have no regrets taking my bow hunting rather than my rifle.

A view of one our Imperial Whitetail Clover Food Plots.  We planted this plot in early August and despite a lack of consistent rainfall, the food plot has flourished.  I am really looking forward to how it goes back next spring!


I wasn’t able to harvest a deer on my home property in Bath County, Virginia, but I had an incredible time at home nonetheless.  We manage those 260 acres of paradise very intensely and our food plots were doing exceptionally well, the timber was littered with scrapes and rubs and throughout the course of the week between my dad, my brother and me, we all several young bucks that made it through the rifle season and will be shooters next year.  But, of course, the best part was spending time with my family over the Thanksgiving holiday and enjoying quality time together.  Christmas will be here before you know it and I am anxiously looking forward to returning home to the Virginia Mountains and hunting late season whitetails with my family!

 




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