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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

Shed Hunting; BH.Com members discuss their best tips for finding bone.

by Bow Staff 22. April 2009 14:31
Bow Staff

No longer just an ordinary weekend hobby, modern bowhunting can rely on the success of how you spend your off-season days just as much as your in-season days. This includes food plots, scouting, and even shed hunting.

Bowhunting.Com forum members talk below on the how’s and why’s of shed hunting and how they can lead you to better deer hunting results or just more days in the field.

Troy Pottenger (Shed); An Idaho native and shed hunter of more than 27 years, Troy hunts some of the hardest back-country terrain for mature whitetail bucks and trophy elk. While his yearly shed counts can greatly fluctuate, Troy found 98 or 99 shed antlers in 2007!

                                                                                                                                                                                                            Troy Pottenger, shed hunting some of Idaho's toughest terrain.

When asked if shed hunting ever leads to the success of taking a whitetail, Troy’s response was simply absolutely. Troy has killed seven whitetail bucks over the years that he has the sheds of, concluding that the keys to his success are locating a buck’s core living area starting with shed hunting. In fact, two of Troy’s seven buck kills have been less than 300 yards from where one or more of that buck’s sheds have been found. The remaining whitetail bucks were taken all within 1 mile.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Troy with a matched shed antler set off the same whitetail buck he would eventually take, seen here, in the background.

In mountain country, continues Troy, without a heavy snowstorm early on into winter the bucks will still be in their usual core living areas. “Big mature bucks lock into a living pattern and into a comfort zone, find their big sheds in this country and you can almost guarantee he will be within a square mile,” states Troy.

Troy’s shedding experiences have left him with these invaluable truths;

- Find the food bucks are feeding on during the shed dropping phases and you’ll find the bone.
- Determination. Wearing out the boot leather when you’re into a place shed antlers should be. Grid it like a type-writer.
- Over time, your eyes will begin to train themselves on what they’re looking for. Soon you will be seeking shed parts, not whole shed antlers.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Above; Troy sits with a really nice 5 point side.

Lance Sherman (Wiaxle); The Wisconsin native has been shed hunting for the better part of the last 15 years, however, his first several years were full of broken hunts as he was still learning his shed skills. Lance now averages around 30 per year, with this year (2009) being his best year ever at 32 with still some time left on the clock before the spring green up.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Lance, at home, shows off his second biggest matched shed antler set that he's ever found.

Lance’s greatest key to his success is the all too familiar argument; if you have the food then you will have the bucks. For the last couple years, Lance has left corn up for the winter, pulling in a lot of the deer from the surrounding area. And subsequently, the whitetail bucks too. “The last two years we have found 60+ each year, previously the best we had done is maybe 30, the corn has made a world of difference,” admires Lance.

Lance argues these 9 tips every shed hunter should follow.

- Get out and walk! We are finding sheds in areas we have been through dozens of times through the course of the season. Walk!
- Bedding areas and travels corridors from the bedding area to food sources are often the best areas to find antlers.
- Southern exposures, areas where deer can get in some sun.
- Train your eyes to see the antlers (best way take a horn with you and throw it, and try to find it) think about finding the little ones, if you can find those, the big ones are easy.
- Go over the same area from different angles.
- Check areas that you see deer during the hunting season.
- Go slow.
- Watch your feet.
- Check out everything, and then repeat!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Lance's dad, pictured above, poses with one of several whitetail bucks the Sherman family have found sheds from over the years.

Dan Richardson (BloodCrick); The 43 year old Indiana resident has been shed hunting his home state for nearly 20 years. Dan believes that finding the shed is just icing on the cake; the real reason for his shed hunts is in the scouting that is performed while out in the woods this time of the year. Each year Dan averages more than 50 hours of shed hunting to his regular scouting walks.

                                                                                                                                                                                       Dan Richardson poses above with his first matched set of the 2009 shed hunting year.

Most of the ground Dan hunts is rough and rugged strip mine country. Dan even jokes, “Some of it is almost impossible to hunt without feeling like your going to die!”

Although Dan has not been lucky enough to take a whitetail buck that he has found the sheds from, he has been fortunate enough to create many stories with them, along with the use of his trailcamera. Certainly invaluable information when hunting these mature bucks, the combination of a photo and an antler can be.

                                                                                                                                                                        Nicknamed "the corkscrew buck", Dan has several trailcamera pictures and sheds off this particular whitetail.

Dan believes the secrets to his success when finding antlers are;

       -   Putting on the miles!
       -   Looking between good bedding areas and solid food sources.
       -   Putting on the miles!

It becomes clear while reading the above statements what makes a shed hunter so successful. With determination, understanding certain whitetail behaviors and a great amount of used shoe leather, these 3 individuals walk more than 300 hours into the deer woods each spring! With all of these extra hours come valuable miles, of which, some priceless information can come from.

To get more involved and learn a few more tricks of the shed hunting trade from these members, or others like them, join up and click here


Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Case closed on the "Tank".

by Scott Abbott 16. March 2009 09:32
Scott Abbott

Summer 2007 while glassing a bean field I located a nice bachelor group of bucks using a drainage ditch as a travel corridor to exit a swamp that they were using as bedding cover.  I didn't have my digital camera with me that day so I went back the next three nights hoping to see them repeat their movements through the ditch.  The third night was a success and they made an appearance before night fall.  Even with my camera tapped out to it's 10X optical zoom maximum, it just wasn't enough to really see what the bucks were packing.   I could tell they were all good bucks and I could see the ones left and right side didn't match.  Curiosity was getting to me, I really wanted to know what these guys were packing.

The buck all the way to the left is the "Tank".

Soon after I formulated a plan and set a game camera up to take advantage of this travel pattern they were using.  The mission was a success, as I got many photos of each of the bucks.   When checking the memory card for the first time my buddy says, "Man that bucks body is a tank!"  From there on, he was known as the Tank.   He featured a solid typical four points on his right and an odd shaped three point main frame and a kicker on his left.

The Tank in full velvet.  Impressive neck and body size for August.

We are now almost into hard antler, a cool photo showing him shedding his velvet.

Finally, hard antler.

Even though he wasn't on my "hit list", I never did see him during hunting season and did not get any more trail camera photos of him once our archery season opened the first Saturday of October.  So many times over the years hunting season closes and I have high aspirations to find the sheds of some of the better bucks I located over the previous summer / fall.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to locate some of their bone, but most times they just seem to have disappeared.  I did find the right side of the biggest buck of this bachelor group last winter, but found nothing of the tank or the "Tall Ten". 

While walking a very nasty multi flora thicket today I could see a solid four point side 30-35 yards ahead....  Five minutes later I finally wrestled my way over through the green briar and I immediately recognized the remains as the Tank.  I examined the skeletal remains as best I could for a clue to his death but I couldn't find anything to convince me of what happened.  It really is bitter sweet finding the remains of a whitetail you have history with.  I had always hoped he just moved on to another area, but this just wasn't the case.     

Closure has been found on the Tank and the case is now officially closed.  I always had a soft spot for this buck because I shot a buck here in 2003 that had similar non-typical growth on his right side (pictured below).


Final Preparations For Bowhunting Season

by Justin Zarr 21. September 2008 16:38
Justin Zarr

It never seems to fail; no matter how good our intentions are for getting stands hung and trimmed out months before the season starts, life seems to find a way to deviate us from those plans.  In my particular case, I've been planning a wedding for the past 13 months which has taken a lot of time away from my normal routine of scouting, stand hanging, and general preparation for bowhunting season.  In fact, it's less than 10 days until the Illinois archery season opens and I haven't purchased my tags or even shot any broadheads yet!  Although I do plan on getting a few shooting sessions in this week if at all possible.  I'll be back in town on October 5th and plan to hit the ground running when I get return, so it's definitely time to start getting things in gear.

This past Saturday Mike and I spent some time hanging the last few stands, trimming the last few lanes, and making the last of our pre-season preparations at our local hunting spots.  It's amazing to me how grown up some of these stands can get after only one season.  Shooting lanes that were clear last year have grown over and needed a little bit of TLC before the season opens, which is just what we gave them.  I was able to give my Hooyman Extentible Tree Saw its first workout of the year and overall I was happy with it.  I'm a little hard on my saws and pretty critical of their performance, but overall it held up well.  It definitely works better as an extentible saw than a traditional hand saw as the handle was a little flimsy for my liking.  My Felco hand saw still can't be beat for standard duty, but for those pesky limbs and twigs that are out of arm's reach, the Hooyman works great.  I would definitely recommend this product to any bowhunter who does a lot of standing hanging both before and during their bowhunting seasons.  If you're interested in trying one out, we have them for sale in our shopping cart right here on for only $38.99.

We also happened on our first rubs of the year as well.  With the bucks having shed their velvet their testosterone levels are starting to pick up a bit so we should be seeing more and more rubs pop up over the next few weeks, and pretty soon a few scrapes as well.  I can't wait!

This is the kind of stuff that should get every bowhunter excited for the fall!  We found this fresh rub in a heavy fencerow between two standing corn fields that connects two small woodlots.  It's a great place to catch a buck traveling if they leave the corn up.  But once the corn comes down these bucks don't like being caught out in the open during daylight unless they're chasing a hot doe in November.

Speaking of hard horned bucks, I got my first trail camera pictures of bucks who had shed their velvet.  One is a tight-racked 10 pointer that I have several pictures of throughout the summer months.  I originally thought this buck was older than he really is, as he looks like a 2 1/2 year old buck to me.  He also exhibits the exact same characteristics of so many other bucks on this property over the past 6 years we've been hunting it.  Narrow rack, short brows, and G3's that are every so slightly longer than his G2's.    I don't think he has the genetics to blow into anything huge, but I guess we'll have to wait and see over the next few years if he makes it through.

This buck is a perfect representative of the type  of genetics we have on this particular farm.  Year after year, fresh crops of bucks pop up with racks that look identical to one another.

The second buck was the first antlered deer photo I've gotten all summer on what we call the "main farm" property.  It's hard to be totally sure, but I believe that we got a few photos of this particular buck last year during the late season.  At the time he had what looked like a fresh wound on his left side and we wondered if he would make it through the season.  Well, if this photo is indeed the same buck (and I think it is) it looks like he's doing just fine.  He appears to be either a 2 1/2 or 3 1/2 year old buck with either very small or no brow tines.  I'm sure I'll get a few more looks at him this fall once I get my cameras over some scrapes, so I'm looking forward to getting to see his rack a little better.  This is also the 2nd group of photos from my Cuddeback Capture and so far I've been very happy with it's performance.  Flash range is good, batteries are holding strong after nearly a month, and I haven't had any motion-blur problems like I did with my Cuddeback Excite.  For a $200 you can't beat it right now.  Check them out over at, we have them in stock and ready to ship!

It's a little hard to tell from this small photo, but this buck appears to have some healed-over scars on his left side just behind his shoulder as well as right in front of his hind leg.  I think this is the same buck we got two photos of last year during the late season.

This will probably be my last update until October as I've got a busy week ahead of me followed by my wedding next Saturday (GULP) and then a week-long trip to Mexico.  I should be nice and rested when I get back and ready to get in a tree and shoot something!  Good luck to everyone who is hunting - be safe and shoot straight!

Summer wouldn't be complete without at least one trespasser randomly walking through the woods that are clearly posted with "NO TRESPASSING" signs on all 4 sides.  I just wish the photo was a little bit more clear so I could make out who this jackrod is, and what we's got in his hand.  Kinda looks like a camcorder to me??

Pre-Season Check-up: Food Sources

by Scott Abbott 7. September 2008 11:10
Scott Abbott

The clock has been ticking time away, summer is now all but gone. I look at the calender to find myself three Saturdays shy of opening day.  This time of year is always hectic. Finishing up chores at home, checking game cameras, getting our gear tuned up and loose ends taken care of for autumns duties.

Today I spent a few hours checking on the local agriculture, as well as the hard and soft mast crops.




Most of the beans in the area are still green. A few fields are starting to show the signs of the impending harvest season by turning yellow.  I anticipate the deer moving out of the beans in the next couple weeks.



The corn kernels have dried out and the stocks and leaves are now turning yellow like the beans.  As you can see the animals are feasting on an outstanding growing seasons bounty.  The corn harvest will be some of the best in years.



Disappointed, I was not able to locate any areas with a high concentration of white oaks bearing mast.  The acorns were hit or miss.  All that I was able to locate were still green with very few of them on the ground.   This could very well be a blessing with the acorns still green.  With any luck they will wait to drop on or after our opener on September 27th.



The apple output this year is phenomenal, the wildlife are scarfing up the cast apples as fast as they fall.  I only wish I had an apple grove to set up on this fall. I am sure they will be a hot food source around opening day where they are available.

Longing to run into an old friend.

by Scott Abbott 3. September 2008 12:31
Scott Abbott

If there ever was a buck that I would love to get an opportunity to have 20 feet below me and 20 yards out.....  This is him. 


 A velvet photo showing a broken tine hanging down still attached by velvet.


In hard antler.

My first sighting of the double beam buck was summer of 2007. I was glassing a bean field adjacent to a dried up swamp that is now a tall weedy bedding area. He exited the tall weeds and followed a ditch East along the backside of the bean field.  He drank from the ditch and then waded into the beans. I glassed him numerous times in the beans last summer and also had quite a few trail cam photos of him. He quit being active during daylight hours in mid to late August.  From there on out I had no more sightings or photos of him while the sun was up.  I did however get trail cam photos of him after dark into early September.  Mid September on I had no confirmation that he was still around, no sightings, no trail cam photos, nothing. 

As October turned to November, I found myself sidelined with a shoulder injury and missed the rest of the season....  Game over for the year.... The rut came and went as did our shotgun and muzzleloader seasons.  Was he shot by another hunter?  Did he leave the area?  Had he been hit by a car?   None of the other guys who hunt this farm had laid eyes on him either, he seemed to vanish.  I had all of these questions, but no answers....  That is until one evening last winter I was out shed hunting and came across a familiar sight a few yards ahead....


He had broke off his brow tine as well as a kicker
point off his base since my last sightings of him.

There laid the double beam side of the buck I had all those questions about and thought so much about.... It felt good to know that he was still alive and in the area.... Although, many more hours never turned up a find on the other side.  The non-typical side is all it took to get my enthusiasm rejuvenated for another round with this whitetail.

This year has started no different than last year ended... I have not saw or got a trail cam photo of him this year. But what's new? Persistence payed off last year with this shed, hopefully, it will again this fall with an opportunity at the buck I covet so much.

First hard antlered buck of the summer!

by Scott Abbott 28. August 2008 11:58
Scott Abbott

It is almost that time..... I am now exactly one month away from Ohio's 2008-2009 bow opener. The anticipation has been building and last evening I got another shot of adrenaline while pulling out of a gas well access road after checking a game cam. Across the road in a very lush and green soy bean field was a bachelor group of four bucks. It was a hodgepodge of a bachelor group if I have ever saw one as well. A yearling spike, an 80 inch eight point, a 110 inch eight point and a very good looking 10 point, in hard antler I would put into the low to mid 140's!

Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos of them. I did however run into a few more bucks as I drove to another farm. I snapped this photo about 3/4's of a mile down the road from the farm I hunt. Not a slammer, but a solid buck none-the-less.


Acorns are dropping!

by Justin Zarr 25. August 2008 05:06
Justin Zarr

September is less than a week away now and the deer are definitely getting off their summer feed patterns in the soybean and alfalfa fields and moving into the corn and oak flats to much on their favorite treat - the acorn!  If the amount of decreased deer sightings in the evenings hasn't clued you in, the increase in trail camera activity in the woods certainly should have.  I had over 100 photos on my Cuddeback Excite trail camera over the past two weeks.  This is in a very small woodlot that doesn't usually see much deer traffic until the rut.  But with a good crop of corn and lots of acorns falling the bucks are hitting it pretty hard right now.  I got pictures of 7 or 8 different bucks over the past two weeks.  I usually don't see that many bucks on this property unless they're cruising for does, but once again the drawing power of a deer's stomach is proven to be a determining factor in their travel patterns.  If I'm lucky enough to have some standing corn when the season starts it could prove to be some good early-season hunting in this spot.

Here's a few of the bucks that made their appearance over the past few weeks.

I got a few pictures of this tight-racked 10 point in 2006 and Mike found 1 of his sheds in the spring of 2007 but he disappeared last year.  Now he's back and doesn't look like he's put much antler growth on, which is typical of bucks in this immediate area.  They seem to reach a point where they just don't grow much anymore.  I'm not sure if it's the genetics or what, but I don't think this guy is going to grow too much more.  Might be time to take a "crack" at him if he shows up in October!

This goofy half-racked buck has been showing up on my camera pretty consistantly this summer, quite often during the day.  He's got a real good left side, but his right is just a big massive beam with one or two small kickers coming off it.

I believe this particular buck is bigger than he looks in this photo.  I've got a few others of him from other angles during the day that aren't quite as good, but he looks much nicer.  I'm guessing he may go in the mid-130's and he's definitely a buck I'd shoot if given the opportunity.

This is the first look I've gotten at this big seven pointer, whom I'm dubbed the "7 Stud".  He's got one heck of a body on him for late summer and I'm anxious to see if I can get a few more looks at him.   Like all the bucks on this farm he's not much in the rack department, but looks like at least a 3 year old deer.

The "Nubbin 8" has been one of the most visible bucks on my camera since early July.  I think he's a good solid 2 1/2 that's right about out to his ears with some short tines and virtually no brows.  I may or may not pass him up if given the opportunity.  Depends on how I'm feeling that day!

This little guy looks like he's got some potential if he can make it a few years!

Last but not least this buck looks to be an 8 point similar in size to the Nubbin 8 with much better brows.  Mike thinks he's seen this deer a few times this summer on this farm, so hopefully we get a few more pics of him, or maybe a look at him this fall.  He's probably in the 120" range, which is pushing the pass/don't pass line for me.  Again, depends on what kind of mood I'm in the day he walks by!
Categories: Justin Zarr

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