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Summer Bowhunting Preparations and Activities

by Todd Graf 2. June 2011 05:50
Todd Graf

As the month of May slowly burns away into June, I can’t help but think that the hunting season begins in just three and a half months.  Before I know it, I will be sitting in a tree in my swamp property of Wisconsin waiting for a mature buck to make the fatal mistake of wandering by my position.  That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done before I can convince myself I am ready for another season, and I am looking forward to an exciting and eventful summer. 

The cool, rainy weather we have had here in the Midwest has been great for my clover and chicory plots!

One of my favorite offseason activities is prepping food plots and other habitat management projects for the upcoming season.  My ultimate goal is to provide the whitetails that visit my property with enough food sources that they don’t need to leave my property.  It may sound like a losing battle, but I welcome the challenge!

These apple trees are only in their second year of growth, however, they are growing beautifully.  Once they begin to produce fruit they will provide another food source for the deer on my property.

The cool rainy weather has been perfect for my clover and chicory plots so far this spring; a few spots measured over 20 inches of growth!  I hate to have to mow it this week, with it looking so beautiful, but it is the best option for weed control.  This time of year also means corn planting time in the Midwest.  When it comes to late season food plot attraction, it’s tough to beat corn.  My corn plots got absolutely hammered last winter during the late season.  The deer are worn down for the rut and crave the carbohydrate rich kernels of corn that keep their bodies warm during the winter cold!  I have also been very pleased with the apple trees I had planted.  They are now in their second year of growth and have almost doubled their size.  

Here I am getting ready to plant my corn.  I can't wait for the late season when the deer will really hit my corn plots hard!

Despite the fact that I killed this field with Round Up and most of the grass was dead, the ground was still pretty hard and the corn was not getting into the ground.  I made a few adjustments and was back in business!  Persistence pays!

This time of year is also my favorite time to get out in the backyard and fling some arrows.  Just recently, I have taken the time to get my little man, Craig, involved in the sport of archery.  If you have little ones that are interested in bowhunting or archery, I strongly recommend you look into the Mathews line of kids bows.  From Mathews to Mission Archery to the Genesis line of bows, they have the flexibility and specifications to get your kids started bowhunting.  With the number of kids hunting decreasing every year, it is important that we get our youth involved in the sport we love so much so that one day they may experience the rush and thrill of deer hunting!

Here's my little man, Craig, getting set up with his new Mathews Craze!

Craig was having a little trouble pulling back the Craze, so I ordered the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, but the specs on the Menace fit Craig better physically.  At this point, it is all about keeping Craig interested and having fun!

I first set up Craig with the Mathews Craze, but the draw length was about two inches too long and Craig was having to lean back to hold up the weight, so I decided to go ahead and order the Mathews Menace.  The Craze was a great bow, however, with adjustable draw lengths anywhere from 15-70 pounds and 80% let-off; it can be enjoyed by beginner archers or all skills and age levels.  The Menace weighs about .6 pounds lighter than the Craze and the draw length is two inches shorter than the Craze, so it fits Craig much better physically which will allow for a better overall experience.  But above all else, the goal is to make sure that he is having fun! Staff members Richie Music and Tom Alford also came over for a friendly bow shooting competition.  We enjoyed a day of dialing in our Mathews and preparing for the upcoming Get Together and Bow Shoot at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, Illinois.  This is going to be our biggest and best shoot yet, and I encourage everyone who is able to make it to come out and enjoy a fun day of shooting, prizes, food and beverages.  If you are looking for more information, visit this link which will direct you to our forum where you will find all the information you need.  Every one is welcome hope to see every one of you there!

A shot of my backyard practice range.  

Here I am prepping for the 3rd Annual Get Together and Bow Shoot.  I think that would kill a turkey, don't you?

Richie's last shot before he lost the competition to Tom and I.  Now he owes us a pizza!

Richie just couldn't pull it off after 4 shots.  Oh well, stick to hunting those giant sub-urban whitetails, Richie!

To makes things interesting we spiced up our shooting with a little competition, and my buddy Richie Music came out on the losing end.  He may be an expert when it comes to shooting giant bucks from the same tree stand, but he was no match for me and Tom!  He was unable to shoot the Rinehart target in the head above the red line at 30 yards, so he has to buy both Tom and I a pizza!  Better luck next time, Richie!  

Before we all know it we’ll bow hunting our favorite spots in the bitter cold of sweet November.  It’s an exciting thought, but be sure you enjoy yourself this summer.  Get a kid involved in archery or have your buddies over to the house for a night of shooting and friendly competition; it’s equally as rewarding as harvesting that mature buck you’ve been patterning!  Okay, maybe not, but it does make the summer go by more quickly! 

Early Spring Bowhunting Preparations

by Todd Graf 29. April 2011 08:55
Todd Graf

Springtime is upon us, fellow bowhunters!  With the snow and cold days behind us (I hope) here in Northern Illinois, it is time to really focus on preparing for the 2011 deer season, which will be here before you know it!  April was an especially very busy month for me (then again, what month isn’t) between trade shows, habitat management projects on my properties and a little turkey hunting adventure with my little man, Craig.

As many of your probably know, was well represented at the Illinois and Wisconsin Deer Classics over the past month.  I always enjoy those shows and it is a real blast to get out there and meet the genuine, down to earth bowhunters who love and enjoy the sport just as much as I do!  We had a great showing at both of these expos and I met a lot of great new people and saw some magnificent deer as well.

By far my favorite mount at the Illinois Deer and Turkey Expo was this 197" monster harvested by Mason Paul.  I love how the mount sits on top of the collection of antlers!

I also enjoyed meeting some of our loyal Facebook friends at the show as well.  If you haven't done so, check out on Facebook here!

I was excited to get my 2010 buck from officially being scored by the Pope and Young Club.  This monster Illinois whitetail buck officially netted 140 3/8”!  This was my third straight season of harvest a buck over 140 inches with my bow.  I understand that hunting mature, trophy bucks isn’t for everyone, but man, I can’t get enough of it!

From the field...

... to the record book!

Despite the dreary weather we have been experiencing in the Upper Midwest, I have been able to get out on my hunting property and begin work on some of my offseason habitat improvement projects.  Don’t let the cold and wet conditions keep you from bettering your hunting property, now is the perfect time!  I was fortunate enough to get a lot of work done recently.  On one of my 60 acre farms I just finished a TSI (Timber Stand Improvement) project on 10 acres that will increase the health and longevity of the forested area on this farm.  I know a lot of talk these days are about food plots being the secret to killing big deer, and they certainly help, TSI is also a great way to improve the overall habitat on your property as well.  I also mowed down the standing corn stalks from last year, fertilized several food plots and performed some controlled burns to get the soil ready for food plot and native grass plantings.

Conrolled burns will greatly improve the soil for my summer food plot and native grass plantings.  

Finding sheds is always exciting!  This one looks like it may be a couple years old.

I was also able to plant some hardwood and softwood trees, as well as some soft mast bearing trees as well to create added diversity for the deer that visit my farm,  All in all, I planted and caged (have to keep the deer away from them for now!) 50 oaks, 6 pears, 30 pines and 30 more apple trees.  The oaks and apple trees won’t bear fruit for several years down the road, but it will be an enjoyable experience watching them grow and mature through the years.  However, what I take pride in is the thought that my little man Craig will have the opportunity to hunt from those same trees in the future!  A big part of Quality Deer Management is protecting this sport we enjoy so much, and ensuring that younger generations can enjoy it just the same as we did!     

These trees may be small now, but one day my son, Craig, will hopefully be hanging a tree stand from them!

Speaking of Craig, he and I were able to get out together to do a little turkey hunting a couple weeks ago.  We didn’t see any, but their thunderous gobbles rang throughout the woods and got Craig and I both pretty excited!  

Our turkey hunting set-up; Craig and didn't see any but we sure heard them gobbling!

Unfortunately, the onset of Spring also means it is tick season, and man, do I hate these things!   These pesky pests used to find their way on me every time I went outside this time of year.  However, this year I have been wearing Elimitck Clothing from Gamehide Gear and haven’t found a single tick on me.  Elimitick Clothing is my clothing of choice this time of year that is for sure!

ElimiTick Clothing from Gamehide Gear is my clothing of choice this time of year. 

I’d like to close out this blog by show an example of just how random my life can be.  My wife talked me into buying a goat!  My wife loves all animals and, even though I enjoy nothing more than harvesting mature animals during the fall, I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals as well. Maybe, buying this goat will earn me some brownie points this fall and a little extra time in the treestand? We’ll see! 

Yes, somehow I got talked into buying a goat!

Bowhunting Insight; What Are You Giving Back?

by Cody Altizer 30. December 2010 07:50
Cody Altizer

 With the Christmas Holiday still fresh in our minds, we certainly feel a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for the time spent with family and the gifts we received.  Often times, however, we forget about what we gave and how those gifts impact other’s lives.  Unfortunately, this is often the case in the world of deer hunting as well.  We get so caught up in the “take, take, take!” aspect of bowhunting that we forget to give back.  With precious resources such as the wilderness and whitetail available to us, I feel that what we give back to Mother Nature is far more important than what we take from Her.

   I love shooting deer as much as anybody I know.  The feeling I get from having outsmarted a whitetail’s wits provides me with a high that can literally last for days.  First, the adrenaline rush immediately following the shot is unlike any other; I wouldn’t trade it for the world!  Recovering the deer is a testament to my tireless work ethic during the summer practicing with my bow to make sure I make a quick, clean kill.  Being able to hold the antlers of a bow harvested buck is indescribable, and it feels good to know that I was able to provide food for myself and family.  I earn respect of friends and fellow bowhunters every time I slay a whitetail and I share beautiful harvest pictures of my trophy on the internet to let others know of my success.  Man, it feels good to take a deer doesn’t it?!  Yes, of course it does, but in that sequence of events you didn’t once hear me mention of what I gave back to Mother Nature in return, did you?  I sound pretty selfish now, huh?  Giving back to Mother Nature, your deer herd, and the sport of bowhunting in general is far more rewarding than actually taking a deer and there are endless ways of doing so.

A scenic shot of three does feeding in a clover plot with my family's hunting camp in the background.  It's images like these that make me want to keep giving back to Mother Nature and the property I hunt every year.

   I’ve been fully engulfed in the world of Quality Deer Management (QDM) for about 4 years now.  On my home piece of property in Virginia, my family and I have invested countless hours and a lot of money (more than I care to admit!) towards bettering the habitat for not just deer, but wildlife in general.  The 7 food plots we plant yearly have had a tremendous impact on our deer herd.  Fawns are born healthier, does are heavier and the bucks sport larger racks.  Allowing power lines and fields to grow tall and thick has provided excellent fawning areas for does, increased overall bedding area and allows more deer to feel comfortable on our property. However, it has also helped the grouse population on our property rebound, which in turn provides a delicious food source for the foxes and bobcats that call our property home.  Every winter I head out with a chainsaw and cut pole size poplar trees at knee level to allow the deer to browse on the young, tender buds during winter.  The following spring, the stump will sprout several young poplar saplings which will again provide tender, nutritious browse.  Every winter my family and I will plant 5-6 fruit trees to provide a delicious food source in the coming years, and we also prune the natural fruit trees to allow for better fruit production.  The local black bear population sure appreciates this! This past spring, my brother and I transplanted close over 50 yearling autumn olive bushes to provide cover and food for deer, bears and turkeys that otherwise would have been cut and mowed over.  We also transplanted close to 20 white cedars that weren’t receiving enough sunlight.  This will provide a food source for birds, squirrels and deer, as well as providing some thermal bedding cover for the deer during the winter.  It may sound as if I am patting myself and stroking my ego, but that’s not the case.  The pride and fulfillment I derive from giving back to Mother Nature is simply a great feeling.

These two pear trees were planted in the Spring of 2008.  They likely won't produce any fruit for a couple more years, but knowing the deer will have a sustainable food source in the years to come keeps me planting fruit trees every year.

   Sure, the food plots are expensive.  By the time you buy the seed, lime, fertilizer, and diesel fuel for the tractor you have spent a lot of money.  The fruit trees aren’t cheap either, and it takes at least 5-6 years for them produce fruit and there is no guarantee they will live to reach maturity.  However, watching deer feed in the food plots before dusk and monitoring the fruit trees growth every year is worth every penny.
   Carefully planned timber harvests have also had a positive impact on our property’s habitat and can produce a good source of income as well.  Removing trees that provide little benefit to wildlife such as Virginia pine, black locust and yellow poplar among others, allow for more sunlight to reach the forest floor which results in a thick understory of lush, nutritious vegetation for all animals. 

Too many deer can create a lot problems including disease and winter starvation.  Harvesting does is a great way to ensure a healthy deer herd.

   Habitat management is just one aspect of QDM that enables you to give back to the deer herd.  Herd management is equally rewarding and has a far greater impact on the overall health of a deer herd.  Regularly harvesting does will decrease the threat of disease transmission and preserves the habitat for the rest of the deer herd and other creatures as well.  It’s hard to believe, but whitetails actually eat between 1-1 ½ tons of food per year.  Removing just two does off a hundred acre piece of property provides the deer herd with up to three tons of food the following year!  It’s truly amazing when you think about it.  Harvesting does is also a great way to put food on your table, and allows you to donate the meat to needy families who need it more than you.  Think about it, by harvesting just one doe, you aren’t just putting more food in the bellies of the wildlife on your property, but providing a family with several meals as well.  Giving back sounds pretty good right now doesn’t it?

Regularly harvesting does benefits many.  It contributes to a healthy deer herd and an overall healthier ecosystem, and puts delicious meat on the table for you or needy families.

   QDM isn’t the only way to give back.  Introducing a kid or friend to hunting protects the future of our sport and can change their life in the process.   Hunting numbers is declining with the majority of our nation’s hunters being 50 years old or older!  This is frightening news for the future of our sport.  We have got to pull kids off the computer and video game systems and introduce them to the outdoors.  It will change their lives for the better, and can change yours too if you let it.  I credit my father for getting me involved in hunting and the patience, persistence, determination and work ethic I have developed today came directly from sitting in a tree stand from October through January as a kid.  

 With the 2010-2011 deer season wrapping up in many states across the United States, now is a perfect time to sit back and reflect on the past year, but more importantly plan for the year ahead.  For the 2011 season I encourage, no, challenge you to give back to whitetail woods more than you take.  It will be your best season to date if you do so.

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