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Illinois Doe Down! Bowhunting Dream Come True

by Cody Altizer 4. October 2010 09:40
Cody Altizer

When Todd Graf offered me the opportunity to move to Northern Illinois and work at the bowhunting.com office, I jumped at the chance to live and breathe bowhunting in the Mecca of the whitetail world.  Growing up as a young boy in Virginia I dreamed of hunting giant Midwestern whitetails.  I watched with envy as the “pros” flocked to Illinois to chase trophy deer.  I even joked with my friends back home, “I’m going to move to Illinois one day just to bow hunt monster whitetails.”  This past weekend, I found myself living a dream come true.

Click here to watch the footage of my doe harvest!


    Friday afternoon, October 1st, I climbed a tree for the first time bowhunting the state of Illinois.  With temperatures in the upper 60s and gusty winds, I honestly didn’t expect to see much deer movement.  I didn’t care.  I was just thrilled to be in the stand with a bow!  I was positioned in a narrow strip of timber that connects a bedding area and a standing corn field.  It was an ideal setup on paper, unfortunately, the afternoon passed without a single deer sighting.  Again, I could not have cared less.  I had a blast in the tree with my video camera recording the unfamiliar yet beautiful scenery and snapped several photos with my still camera as well.  I was going to capture every aspect of my first Illinois deer hunt.  As the evening passed and the sun began to set, I realized just how blessed I was to be living a dream.

 This shot gives you an idea of just how much fun I was having in the tree!

    I chose to sit out the Saturday morning hunt as I had several chores around my apartment that took top priority.  I elected to go to a different piece of property for the afternoon hunt, a piece that holds tremendous potential for big bucks as the fall progresses.  I quietly snuck into my stand downwind, strapped down my camera arm and got settled in for a promising afternoon hunt.  The weather was perfect for an early season bow hunt, albeit a little breezy.  With temperatures in the mid 50s and steadily dropping into the 40s as the evening progressed, I was certain I would see some activity.  Again, I was beat by the way of the whitetail; another hunt in Illinois without seeing a deer.  While in the stand Saturday afternoon I was texting back and forth with my brother and dad who were hunting the archery opener back home in Virginia.  After telling my brother, Damin, I had been skunked for the second straight hunt, he proceeds to tell me of the 15+ deer sightings he had throughout the day and the numerous encounters he had with young bucks.  To make matters worse, he tells me of the active scrape line he finds leading to one of our turnip food plots and the bountiful acorn crop on our hunting property.  I jokingly told him, “Forget Illinois, I am coming home!” 

My first Illinois bowhunt as a member of the bowhunting.com team was a memorable one, one that concluded with a gorgeous sunset.

     With opening weekend in Illinois almost over and without a single deer sighting, it was tempting to double my chances by hunting both the morning and evening on Sunday.  Still, chores around the apartment and responsibilities outside of hunting took top priority, so I slept in and opted for another afternoon hunt.  I headed back to the same piece of property I hunted Saturday, but hunted a different stand.  Justin Zarr and I hung this stand a little more than a week prior to Sunday feeling good about our chances from this location, so I was optimistic.  While aimlessly crossing an open cattle pasture, I spotted my first Illinois animal, a coyote feeding underneath a crab apple tree.  My initial reaction is, “Awesome, my first deer sighting!”  Further inspection reveals the problem animal that is the coyote.  Back home, coyotes, while present, lack the numbers of the packs in the Midwest.  In fact, I had only seen a handful of coyotes in my life prior to Sunday, so I took the opportunity and captured some quality footage.  At just 45 yards, it surprised me that he was completely unaware of my presence.  Sure, I was downwind, but I was in the middle of an open field.  As I began to film the pesky predator, he starts walking directly toward me, closing in at 30 yards.  I then realize that I might actually be able to shoot this thing.  With my camera in my right hand and bow in my left, I desperately try to get my bow prepared for a shot while simultaneously putting down my camera.  Just as I was about to set my camera down, the coyote spots me, not 20 yards from where I am standing and takes off in the opposite direction.  Excited to have finally seen an animal, let alone a close encounter with a coyote, I contently make my way to my stand.

 

A shot of my special edition bowhunting.com Quikfletch.  Little did I know that just hours after this photo was taken, my Quikfletch would turn a bright, solid red!

    Once in my stand, I prepare to strap my camera arm to the tree to get settled in for the evening hunt.  As I secure my camera arm and begin to get my video camera situated, I spot movement to my left; the coyote is back!  This time he makes his way by my stand at no more than 15 yards.  Unfortunately this time, my bow was still tied to the rope at the bottom of the tree.  Adding insult to injury, he sits down quite happily and scans the cow pasture he just came from.  Furthermore, he decides now might be a good time to relax and lies down on his belly.  So, for the second time in less than 10 minutes, I have a coyote at 20 yards or less and am unable to take a shot.  Realizing I have little to lose, I slowly try to raise my bow up the tree.  Of course, being just 15 yards from the base of the tree he spots my movement and boogers off, this time for good.  After finally getting settled into the stand I determine that the afternoon hunt will be a success regardless if I see a deer or not, based solely on the two encounters with the coyote.  Still, I remained hopeful for my first Illinois deer.  
   As the hours passed without seeing a single deer, I remained entertained by the numerous squirrels that scurried about searching for acorns and hickory nuts and decided to do a quick interview.  Just as I got my camera turned around I see a big doe right over top of my camera lens at just 25 yards and making her way towards my stand.  Before I know it she is at 10 yards from my tree and all I have managed to do is get her in frame on my camcorder.  She wastes little time and is now 3 yards from the base of my tree before I take a chance at turning around and grabbing my bow.  Fortunately, she breaks left and with her back to me I am able to stand, grab my bow and position the camcorder ready for the shot.  Now, I just need her to take a couple steps down the trail for a perfect 10 yard quartering away shot.  As she makes her way down the trail, I draw.  She flips the script, turns back broadside and is looking directly at me.  I quickly settle the pin behind the shoulder and release the arrow.  THWACK!  The sound all bowhunters love to hear indicating a true hit.  I watch her tear through the underbrush out of sight.  My NAP Thunderhead Edge struck true and proved devastating as I could see blood spilling from both sides.   Feeling confident in my shot I make a couple phone calls letting my family and Todd know of my luck.  After waiting 30 minutes I get down from my stand, quickly find my arrow, pick up the blood trail and wait for Todd to arrive to film the recovery footage.  Just like that, in less than 30 seconds, I see, film, shoot at, and harvest my first Illinois whitetail, an old, heavy, mature doe!  I was pumped to say the least and amazed at how big she was compared to the deer back home.  Regrettably, we didn’t weigh her, but I would estimate the doe to field dress 130 pounds, maybe bigger.  She was huge!

 One happy hunter!  My first Illinois whitetail was a big, mature doe, a deer that I am extremely proud of.

My first bow harvest on film.  Self-filming can be difficult, but I had a blast in the tree with my camera and now I can relive this memorable hunt forever.

Opening weekend in Illinois resulted in a big doe down for this Virginia boy.  Despite my opening weekend fortune, the weekend would have been would have been a success had I not seen a single deer.  Realizing that I was living a dream come true made every minute in the tree enjoyable.  Being blessed with a beautiful mature doe was just icing on the cake.  With the entire season ahead of me, I can now focus all of my attention on harvesting a mature buck and filming other members of the bowhunting.com team.  Regardless of my luck the rest of the fall, I can look back at opening weekend to remind myself just how fortunate I am!

Gear Relied on During the Harvest:  Click on the red link to purchase the item right here on bowhunting.com


NAP Thunderhead EdgeI was excited to use the new Thunderhead Edge this year and I wasn't disappointed.  This broadhead flies true and leaves gaping entrance and exit wounds.

NAP Apache Arrow RestI love my Apache rest.  The minute I installed it on my bow and began shooting I noticed a quieter shot and tighter groups.  I'll be using the Apache for a long, long time.

NAP Bowhunting.com Quikfletch:  The entire Quikfletch line makes fletching arrows a breeze. 

The special edition bowhunting.com series simply look cool, I prefer all white.

Blacks Creek Bone Collector 1.5 Backpack:  The Bone Collector 1.5 is the ideal pack for hunters who carry a lot of gear but do not want to be slowed down in the woods.  I carry all of my cameras and equipment in my pack and don't miss a beat sneaking through the woods.

G5 Optix LE .019A great hunting sight.  It's rock solid and adjustments come easily.  Like the Apache, this will be in my arsenal of gear for a very long time.

Archery Opener in Wisconsin; Bowhunting The Early Season

by Cody Altizer 20. September 2010 10:18
Cody Altizer

The morning of Saturday, September 18th, began a new chapter in my short hunting career; the role of camera man.  Bowhunting.Com founder, Todd Graf, and I left Huntley, Illinois Saturday morning around eight and headed north to Central Wisconsin for the archery opener.  I was experiencing a rollercoaster of emotions. The anticipation and excitement of sitting in a tree stand 900 miles from home to the nervousness of making sure I pressed record when we saw deer!  Nevertheless, Todd and I were eager to hunt some whitetails.
    We chose to sit out opening morning, because as many of you know, morning hunts during the early season can make for some long, uneventful hours in a tree.  On the drive up we were tremendously surprised by how far ahead the areas farmers had gotten.  Many of the corn and soybean fields had been picked clean, with combines running continuously through the fields that still had crops standing.  Less standing corn will give those old, mature bucks less places to hide!

My camera setup for 2010 purchased from Campbell Cameras through their brand new website constructed by the Rhino Group.  This fall will be my first season seriously filming myself and others.  It adds a whole new dimension to the hunt which can be frustrating at times, but rewarding all the same.

    Saturday afternoon found Todd and me sitting in a double set in some pine trees overlooking a corn field where Todd had some good day time trail camera photos on his Reconyx and CamTrakker cameras.  With a west wind forecasted we were sure we would have some action.  Unfortunately, as the sun began to set and the afternoon started to cool, the thermals began to swirl.  We ended up seeing 8-10 does Saturday afternoon, but were busted by several more.  The way our stands were hung in the thick pine trees, deer could literally be right under our stands without us knowing they were there.  We found this out the hard way.  A few times were sitting comfortably in our stand, only to be frightened by the sound of deer blowing at us.  I believe we were just as scared by them as they were of us!  That wasn’t the only thing that went wrong, either.  Todd and I were extremely clumsy in the stand with our gear.  Throughout the course of the afternoon we dropped Todd’s bow and my camera arm.  In spite of our misfortune, we still saw deer which is always a good thing.

My view from our opening day stand in Wisconsin.  Despite being 900 miles from home, I quickly found that the tranquility and peacefulness of bowhunting follows you everywhere.

    We opted to pass on a Sunday morning hunt, instead Todd and his friend, Paul Mazur, scouted around their swamp dominated hunting property.  Hoping to hunt the pine tree set again that afternoon with a more favorable wind, we were bummed to find an east wind forecasted. So we got creative and did a quick speed scouting session only to find a great spot. It was a phenomenal pinch point littered with acorns dotted with early season scrapes.  We hung our stands, trimmed some shooting lanes and got settled in for another promising afternoon.  Again, we were skunked by the whitetail!  We saw a couple does and fawns with Todd passing on a easy shot on one of the does.  With the entire season ahead of him, passing on an early season doe isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Todd drawing his bow back in preparation for the evening hunt. It's always a good idea to draw your bow when you get in stand in case you have to trim any last minute shooting lanes.

    Convinced that we had found a great spot the night before, we headed to the pinch point with another unusual east wind the following morning.  The spot just looked too good to not hunt there.  A lone doe made her way by our stand, unfortunately, it was at dawn and not enough camera light allowed for an attempted shot.  The rest of the morning passed without incident, except for the three turkeys that, unbeknownst to me, managed pick us out of our tree stand over 100 yards away while we remained motionless with ample cover in stand.  Those birds have some incredible eye sight!  Again, we came away empty handed but we still some saw some animals which makes any hunt worthwhile.

It's important to make sure "all systems are go" when filming hunts.  There is a lot that goes into capturing good footage and telling a good story, but it's worth it when you can play the video back after the hunt.

     Opening weekend in Wisconsin was like riding a rollercoaster.  We were up and down, up and down.  We were clumsy with our gear, unorganized in the stand and educated several deer.  However, we were blessed with beautiful fall weather, a couple close encounters, discovered a bountiful acorn crop (which seems to be consistent across the country) and found an awesome pinch point for future hunts.  Sound familiar?  Early season hunting is just that, a roller coaster, but that’s what makes it so much fun!  Good luck to all you fortunate bowhunters who get the unique chance to hunt September while the rest of us have to wait until October.  God Bless and Happy Hunting!

Bowhunting.com and the colors of early fall, our favorite time of year is upon us.  Get out there, be safe and enjoy yourselves this fall!

Antelope Down! Bowhunting Success in Wyoming

by Justin Zarr 7. September 2010 14:19
Justin Zarr

A few months back Todd and I decided we should go on a bowhunting trip this year.  Most of our bowhunting time is spent chasing whitetails in Illinois or Wisconsin and we figured it would be good to get out and experience something new.  After all, life is short and if you don't do it now who knows if you'll ever be able to.  So with that said, we settled on an antelope hunt with our friends Scott & Angie Denny at Table Mountain Outfitters.

The next few weeks we got our flights booked, rental car reserved, and tags ordered.  All that was left to do was wait for August to come and make sure our bowhunting gear was ready to go.  When August 26th finally showed up we were Wyoming-bound.

After a full body scan at O'Hare we boarded our plane and headed for Salt Lake City.  Unfortunately a mechanical failure with our connecting flight to Casper caused a 12 hour delay in our trip, but we managed to pass the time by working out at the local Hyatt hotel, watching a movie on Pay Per View, and of course getting in a nice relaxing nap.  We finally flew out of Utah at 10 pm and landed in Casper, Wyoming at around 11:30.

Our good friend and Bowhunting.com Pro Staff member Dustin Decroo was nice enough to pick us up from the airport and drive us up to camp.  Being a Wyoming resident Dustin had already filled his antelope tag earlier that week and volunteered to run the video camera for me during my hunt.

Six a.m. came all too quickly the next morning, and after a cup of coffee and making sure our bows were sighted in we headed into town to get our archery licenses.  By 9:15 our guide, Mr. Scuba Steve, was dropping us off in our blind which was located roughly in the middle of nowhere.  So Dustin and I packed our gear into the blind, got set up, and began our wait.


The terrain in Wyoming in quite different than Illinois!  Beautiful country though, I love it.

Within 2 hours we had our first visitors of the day as a group of 3 mule deer does paid us a visit.  This was my first hunt out of ground blind and with these deer at eye level a mere 15 yards away I thought for sure we would get busted.  But low and behold they never knew we were there, even as I snapped photos with my Nikon DSLR.  Eventually they moved off into the vast expanse of sage brush and cactus.


Our view from the ground blind.  Exciting, I know!


Dustin ready for some action with our new Sony HDR-AX2000 that we picked up from Campbell Cameras.


Our first visitors of the day.


Yours truly, watching for goats to show up.

Awhile later another mule deer doe approached with a fawn in toe, also looking for some a drink of water.  Around this time Dustin spotted a group of 5 antelope bucks on the horizon about 1,000 yards behind the blind.  Over the course of the next hour the bucks made their way slowly toward us as we munched on some cookies, drank some Ginger Ale and relaxed with our boots off.

Eventually the 5 antelope made their way directly into the water hole and started drinking.  The biggest of the bucks, an easy P&Y contender, offered up a perfect broadside shot but I couldn't take it as another buck came in and stood shoulder to shoulder with him.  I was afraid a pass through shot would take out both bucks, so after being at full draw from a minute or so I had to let down.

A few seconds later the biggest buck moved off the water hole and I came to full draw again.  Unfortunately the buck turned quartering into me just as I settled my pin on him and once again I couldn't take the shot.  At this point I started getting nervous that they were going to leave, so I told Dustin to swing the camera onto the 2nd biggest buck who was still drinking. 

When Dustin confirmed that he was on the buck I touched off my release and sent an NAP Nitron tipped Gold Tip straight through the buck's vitals.  He ran a mere 30 yards before tipping over on film - he never knew what hit him!

After a brief celebration in the blind Dustin and I put our boots back on and set out to recover my goat.  I picked up my arrow, which had passed cleanly through the buck, and headed over to where he fell.


My first-ever antelope - taken a mere 3 hours into our hunt.

For my first antelope ever, he's a great buck.  Certainly not the monster that many people hope for, but plenty big for this goat hunter!  To say I was excited was an understatement.  Less than 3 hours into my Wyoming antelope hunt and I was already tagged out.  I'll take that any day of the week!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE VIDEO OF OUR ENTIRE WYOMING ANTELOPE HUNT - NOW IN HD!


Dustin and I with our trophy.  A big thanks to my cameraman for coming out and spending some time in the blind with me.  We'll have to do it again soon!


First kill for the Bowhunting.com Edition Quikfletch.  "James Westfall" did his job well.

Once our guide came to pick us up and we headed back to camp Dustin and I took the opportunity to ride around the area and glass for other animals.  We saw and incredible amount of game including TONS of mule deer, antelope and even a few nice whitetails down in the river bottoms.  Wyoming truly is a hunter's paradise, and Table Mountain Outfitters certainly has an abundance of trophy animals.  During our time in camp we got to hang out with Vicki Cianciarulo from Archer's Choice Media, Brenda Potts, and Joel Maxfield from Mathews who all tagged out on nice antelope as well.  What a blast!


Some WY scenery.

This was a great way to start off our season and I'm really looking forward to October when I can get out and start chasing whitetails.  For now, my antelope high will carry me through the next month!  A big, big THANK YOU to Todd Graf for allowing me to tag along on this trip and to Scott and Angie Denny with Table Mountain Outfitters.  These guys put on some of the best hunts in Wyoming, and I wouldn't hesitate to go back hunting with them.

Gear used on this trip:
(Click the red links to buy any of these products from the Bowhunting.com store)

NAP Nitron Broadheads - fly like darts and tough as nails.  A very underrated broadhead in my opinion.  I've been shooting them since 2006 and they've never let me down.  Just be careful with the blades, they're scary sharp!

Gold Tip Velocity Pro 400 Arrows - lightweight, fast, and strong.  My first animal harvested with these new shafts and they worked great.  All washed up and ready for the next animal!

NAP Apache rest - you may have read my review of this rest earlier.  It's pretty much bulletproof and deadly accurate.  A great hunting arrow rest.

Bowhunting.com Edition Quikfletch - by far the coolest rendition of the popular Quikfletch products.

Axcel Armortech Sight - much like the NAP rest this thing is pretty well bulletproof and very reliable.  I can't say enough good things about this particular sight.  I'm shooting the 4 pin .019 "HS" (high speed) model.

ScentBlocker S3 Silverback Loose Fit Shirt - a super comfortable base layer that is breathable and kept me cool despite the 90 degree temps.  I'll definitely be wearing this as a base layer come October.

 




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