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Another Slow Weekend - Will Persistence Pay Off?

by Justin Zarr 8. November 2010 14:43
Justin Zarr

For the three of you who follow my blog posts you may know that I've been having some tough luck here in the suburbs of Northern Illinois.  Heading into this past weekend I've only made it out for a total of 5 sits with a grand total of zero deer sightings.  However, with some good bucks on my trail cameras I am determined to stick it out until the bitter end.  Either I'll end my season with my second Illinois buck or I'm going to die trying!

With November finally here I decided it would be a good idea to use some of that vacation time I've been saving up for a three day weekend.  Friday morning brought some unusually cold temps down into the low 20's so I figured the deer would be on their feet.  About an hour after light I finally caught sight of my first Lake County deer as two does stepped out of the thick timber into a small opening.  Although they were only does it sure felt good to see some deer!

This yearling doe stood in front of me feeding on grass and leaves for 10 to 15 minutes on Sunday morning.  If my freezer wasn't already full she might not have just gotten her picture taken!

Over the course of the next 3 days I hunted just about as hard and as smart as I could but only managed to see a bunch more does and some 1 1/2 year old bucks running around.  The big bucks still seem to be hanging low.  I'm not entirely sure if I just don't know what I'm doing, if the moon times kept their movement subdued during daylight, or if someone is just playing tricks on me and walking some pen-raised deer in front of my cameras when I'm not there!

If this guy was only about 3 years older and had an extra 150 inches of antler on his head....

Although I didn't see any good bucks this weekend I will consider this a big step in the right direction.  I saw deer on all 6 of my trips to the woods this weekend, which was a much needed confidence booster.  That, coupled with a familiar face (or rack?) showing up on my trail camera recently has renewed my drive to fill my 2nd tag with a suburban bruiser before it's all said and done.

"Big Mac" showed up on my camera several times over the past couple of weeks.  I got photos of this buck for the first time last December but never found any sheds or saw sign of him until he showed up in late October.  He is currently the #1 buck on my hit list.

My quest for a suburban whitetail will have to wait for awhile though, as I'll be heading down to West central, IL this weekend with my buddy Jeremy.  He's still looking for this first buck with a bow and I'll be hard at it looking for a true Illinois giant.  If one steps in front of me my suburban quest may be put on hold until next year, but I suppose there's worse ways to end your season.  With great moon times and a cold front moving in on Friday it looks like our chances are pretty good, so you never know what might happen.  The rut in Illinois is a wonderful thing!  If not, I'll return home to continue my quest the following weekend.  The once nice thing about the 'burbs is that they are bow-only which means I get to keep chasing these deer with archery tackle while the orange army takes to the woods.

Good luck once again to everyone who is still chasing their dream, whatever it may be.  Remember to hunt hard, hunt safe, and have some fun out there!

Full Moon Makes for Slow Bowhunting

by Justin Zarr 25. October 2010 05:36
Justin Zarr

This past weekend I decided to stay close to home and try to connect with one of the suburban bucks I've got on my trail cameras.  Unfortunately warm temps combined with a full moon and some on and off rain made for one slow weekend!  In three sits for a combined total of about 10 hours on stand I saw exactly ZERO whitetails, which now makes me 0 for 5 on my suburban hunts.  The only wildlife I managed to see was a lone coyote, a few squirrels, and a lonely raccoon who decided to take a nap ontop of my bow sling which I left at the bottom of my tree. 

Although it is a little discouraging not seeing any deer from stand, I know it's only a matter of time before one of the bucks I'm after shows up.  I'm not necessarily concerned with seeing a lot of deer, I want to see the right deer!  Having trail cam photos like this certainly does help keep me on my toes though.

This is a new buck that just showed up on my camera earlier this month.  He' s not a monster, but he's definitely a shooter for me.  Since he's sporting the same crab claw on his left side like two bucks I've chased in years previous (Mr. Buck and Mr. Buck Jr.) he has earned the name Mr. Buck the 3rd aka MB3.

A side profile of MB3 shows off his crab claw a little better.  Over the past 8 or 9 years we've gotten photos of probably 6 or 7 bucks with this exact same characteristic, all 9 pointers with virtually identical racks.  No matter how old they get their frame never gets much bigger than this.  They put on some mass and maybe spring a few kickers but by and large they don't get much bigger than 135 to 140 inches no matter how old they are.

Check out this little guy that was hanging out with MB3.  He has what looks like an old injury on his right side and some sort of growth/abscess on his left side.  It looks like a possible arrow injury from last season, but it's hard to be 100% sure.

Here's a close up.  Sure looks like an arrow hole to me.

Another interesting photo, this buck appears to have a busted antler on his right side that's hanging down over the side of his face.  Not sure if it grew like that or if he broke it in a fight.

And what trail cam photo montage would be complete without a photo of my #1 target buck "Little Mac" as he walked by my stand about 20 minutes before I arrived on Saturday morning.  Sooner or later this guy is going to make a mistake and when he does I hope I'm ready!

With the full moon now past us and a cold front set to move through the Midwest later this week primetime is right around the corner!  If you can be in the woods this Thursday or Friday after the front moves through I have a feeling you'll see a lot of buck movement.  Calling should work well as the bucks are getting pretty aggressive before the does start to pop.  So whatever you've gotta do to get in the woods, do it this weekend!


Bowhunting Success Requires Adaptability

by Cody Altizer 27. September 2010 10:24
Cody Altizer

   For the second straight weekend, Todd Graf and I headed north to Wisconsin in hopes of connecting on an early season whitetail on film.  For the second straight weekend, we worked our tails off to tip the odds in our favor of doing so.  Unlike last weekend, however, we came back to Illinois with a mature doe to our credit.  The harvest of Todd’s early season doe is a testament to two things: less than ideal hunting conditions, but more importantly, our ability to adapt.
    Success in hunting, like success in life in general, is directly correlated between one’s ability to adapt to adverse conditions.  Before the season begins, we as bowhunters have grand plans of tagging an unsuspecting buck that we feel we have patterned all summer.  As opening day approaches, we think to ourselves, “I just need that typical early season wind, a cool afternoon, and that buck is mine!”  While this may be this case for some hunters across the land, this does not describe me and Todd’s first two weekends of the season.  We were faced with problematic Northeast winds and a true ignorance to the deer’s early season patterns.  Nevertheless, we adjusted to the circumstances by being mobile and willing to put in a little extra time and effort.  Here is a quick rundown of techniques that helped put Todd and I on some early season deer.

Click here to see the footage of Todd's Wisconsin Doe Harvest

Trail Cameras

By now most hunters know trail cameras can be an important scouting tool when used correctly.  They key word is, correctly.  By quickly accessing and monitoring trail cameras you can gain a better understanding of the deer movement. Todd and I relied on his Reconyx, Bushnell and Cam Trakker trail cameras to better determine which areas were void of deer, and which were worthy of a hunt.  When deploying or checking trail cameras, it is critical to be as scent free as possible and leave the area completely unmolested as possible.  This means wearing rubber boots and/or rubber gloves and avoid touching any trees or lower level vegetation.  The slightest foreign odor in a deer’s home range can tip them off to your presence thus drastically decreasing your chances.   Keep unfamiliar noise to a minimum as well.  Treat trail camera trips just as you would an actual hunting trip.  Whisper if you are hunting with a partner, walk on matted leaves or grass if possible and don’t make any unnecessary noise.  Be as quiet as possible.  Conversely, when Todd and I checked our trail cameras we left the pickup truck running because the areas we were hunting were close to major roadways.  The deer in these areas are accustomed to traffic noise and paid little attention to a running automobile.  Remember, it is important to recognize your hunting scenarios and adapt accordingly.

Monitoring trail cameras revealed to Todd which areas we should focus our efforts on.  Trail cameras are a great scouting tool when used correctly.


    Being flexible when it comes to our hunting spots played a key role in Todd harvesting his doe.  During our 4 combined days in Wisconsin we hung multiple stand locations for various winds giving ourselves the most options possible depending on several hunting related factors including weather, food availability (both agricultural natural crops), wind direction and trail camera intel.  We cashed in on food availability by finding a nice pinch point loaded with acorns.   Being a mobile hunter is not a style that is appealing or suitable for everyone.  It requires a lot of extra time and energy taking down and hanging new sets.  Portable, lightweight tree stands, like those from Lone Wolf, Muddy Outdoors or Gorilla are ideal as are the sticks provided by those manufacturers.  These stands are extremely light weight, portable and easy to carry in and out of the woods.  Being mobile also requires the use of a good pruning saw, like the Hooyman, to quickly trim shooting lanes and clean out the trees you want to hunt.  Again, being a mobile hunter requires extra effort; this may mean getting up an hour earlier in the morning to hang a stand in the dark or hanging a set at lunch and hunting that area the rest of the afternoon.  It can be tiring, but it can definitely be worth it.

Hanging new stands requires diligence and extra effort, but it can also be a deadly tactic when bowhunting whitetails.


    Last and certainly not least, Todd and I relied on our intuition in harvesting a mature doe on film.  Preparing for our fifth hunt together, we were really unsure which stand we were going to hunt.  We settled down, looked at the wind, discussed food sources and quickly decided that acorns were our best bet for an afternoon hunt.  By developing a sound game plan based on our hunting intuition we felt confident and hopeful heading to the stand Sunday afternoon.  Trust your instincts, like Todd and I did, develop a sound game plan and you will find yourself feeling more confident in your hunting spots.


    Sure, Todd didn’t harvest a “Booner” this past weekend in Wisconsin, but we did come back with some cool footage and meat in the freezer.  We were faced with a little early season struggle but we adapted and succeeded.  Hopefully, our success this past weekend provided you with a blueprint of how to adapt and make the most of your given hunting scenario.  With October right around the corner, we are all sure to be experiencing some great hunting soon!

Todd and I with his 2010 early season Wisconsin doe.

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

Trail Cameras Off To A Slow Start

by Justin Zarr 14. July 2010 16:19
Justin Zarr

For some reason when it comes to trail cameras and summertime, I feel like I'm cursed.  I've been running trail cameras staring in early July for the last 4 or 5 years and I've yet to get a photo of a really good velvet buck.  Sometimes I feel like I'm cursed, especially when I see some of the bucks that others are getting on their cameras.  My only real excuse is that in the urban areas I hunt I'm terrified to put a camera on a field edge for fear of it getting stolen, so I often put them in the woods where foilage is thick and deer can be hard to find during the summer.  Typical travel corridors aren't being used as heavily as deer aren't really traveling very far, and there won't be any active scrapes for a few months yet.  So these typical hotbeds of trail camera activity are fairly slow right now.

So like usual, my first batch of photos produced nothing but a couple of does.  After seeing these results I do believe I'll have to move at least one of these cameras before the summer ends!  If my next batch of photos still doesn't reveal any bucks, at least I'll know where not to look for buck bedding areas come October.

Right now I have a Moultrie i40 and a Reconyx Hyperfire HC500 out.  Both cams have great color quality during the day, and superb IR flash range at night.  However, they aren't without their flaws!  Both cameras seem to have a distinct problem with motion blur during those low-light daytime images.  Many of my Reconyx photos are really blurry, which make the photos almost worthless.  The Moultrie has similar issues with blur, combined with a lot of empty images.  I'm not sure what's setting off the motion sensor but I've got probably 50% empty images so far, which is typical for this particular cam.  The Reconyx however had zero blank photos and did not miss a beat when it comes to capturing images.  That's one thing that HC500 does extremely well.

A typical daytime image from my Reconyx.  This doe and fawn seem to love working the trail I have this particular camera on, as I have quite a number of pictures of them.

The night time IR range on the HC500 is superb.  I just wish it was a nice buck instead!

The Moultrie i40 has some better color saturation, but motion blur is still a big issue.

I have the AM/PM reversed on this camera so it's only 3 in the afternoon.  Not quite sure why the IR triggered, but the overall quality of the photo isn't bad.

After checking both of these cameras, and almost dying of blood loss from the mosquitos, I set my ScoutGuard SG550 out inside a chunk of woods where I captured my two best bucks on camera last fall.  I'm really hoping to get a glimpse of one of the big boys this summer so I know they're still around.  Come October it always helps that motivation to know you've got a few target bucks to chase.  Now it's just a waiting game.  I'll go back in two weeks and, provided nobody steals my cameras, we'll see what we've got!

This Saturday Mike and I are headed to his lease to see if we can't film some velvet bucks in a giant soybean field so hopefully we get some good footage for you next week.  Check back soon and I'll let you know how things go!

Reconyx Hyperfire HC500 Trail Camera | First Impressions

by Bow Staff 2. May 2010 16:10
Bow Staff

In 2002 Reconyx burst onto the trail camera scene with a new line of trail cameras whose price tags caused a lot of jaws to drop.  With many of the popular digital trail cameras selling for around $200 or less, the Reconyx line was nearly 3 times the price which raised a lot of eyebrows.  However, over the next several years the new company proved that they were a force to be reckoned with.  Incredible trigger speed, battery life, and reliabilty combined with the RapidFire technology made the RC55 and RC60 trail cameras two of the best options according to many trail cam enthusiasts.

Early in 2010 Reconyx announced it would be coming out with two new cameras, the HC500 and HC600.  Both cameras would feature the same RapidFire technology that made the first cams so successful but in a smaller package with better battery life and a lower pricetag.  Too good to be true?  Not from what I can see.

My first shipment of HC500's arrived late last week and I was eager to test one of them out to see how they compared to the older models.  The first thing I noticed was the much smaller package of the HC500, which is a welcome change.  You can fit a couple of these little guys in your pack and not even know they're there.  The smaller housing also makes them more difficult to spot, both by wildlife and potential thieves.  Despite the new smaller size, all Reconyx units still come with a built-in carrying handle which is yet another great feature.

I've waited a few months to get my hands on one of these new Reconyx HC500 units.  Let the fun begin!

The HC500 mounted to a small tree in my yard.  The smaller size of this trail camera is great for situations like this.

Upon opening the unit you'll notice right away that it uses AA batteries as opposed to the C cell batteries of the old units.  The HC500 and HC600 both take 12, yes TWELVE, AA batteries.  Reconyx recommends either Energizer Lithiums or NiMH rechargeables (which may be the smart option considering the cost of Lithiums).  Of course all I had laying around were standard alkalines, which will work in the HC500 unit but are not recommended in the Hight Output units as they don't have the same performance in hot or cold weather, or at night.  According to the owner's manual even with alkaline batteries the HC500 can still take 20,000 or more images.  With a good set of Lithiums you can get as many as 40,000 images!  In any case, for this test my Duracell Alkalines worked just fine.  Combined with a 2 GB SD card I was ready to start my tests.

The HC500 with batteries installed and SD card ready to go.  The SD card slot is very easy to access, which is very nice when you have gloves on during cold weather.

Without looking at the instructions (hey, I'm a guy) I popped in the batteries and the SD card, then fired the HC500 up.  The first thing it did was ask me to program the date and time.  Upon completion it let me know my card was empty and I was running on full battery life.   Before I put the camera on a tree I stepped through some of the settings just to see how everything worked.  There's only a few buttons on these Reconyx units so they're not too hard to figure out.  You can adjust just about every setting you can think of from time between triggers to how many triggers the camera takes each time it's triggered, sensitivity levels, and much more.  Out of the box the Reconyx RC500 is set to take 3 images per trigger with a 1 second delay between images, and no delay between triggerings.  I modified these settings to put the cam in RapidFire mode with 15 seconds between triggerings.

The LCD screen is bright and clear, both in the daylight and at night thanks to the new backlight (a huge improvement over the old units).  With just 3 buttons to pick from setup is a breeze.  Leave the HC500 on it's default settings and you can be ready to start using it in seconds, even without reading the directions.

Once I got the camera hooked on a tree in my back yard with the included adjustable bungee, I put it into the "Walk Test" mode.  This allows you to walk in front of the cam and see at which points you're triggering a picture to be taken.  This feature is great for making sure you've got everything lined up to cover the area you want.  Once you're satisfied with the camera's position you can simply leave - 2 minutes without a motion trigger will arm the camera.  This is great because you don't have to go back to the cam and open it up, risking messing up your alignment, to arm it.

The adjustable bungee cord included with all Reconyx trail cameras works great on virtually any size tree.  If you don't want to use the bungee cord the new HC500 will accomodate a Master Python lock for added security (sold separately).

Here's the results of my afternoon testing: 148 triggering events took 444 photos over just a couple hours.  I did have a few blank images, but generally they were on photos #2 or #3 in the sequence when the target was moving at a pretty good pace.  Just a note: I put my test cam much lower than I normally would as I was using my dog for a test subject.  She's only about 50 lbs and stands about 1/2 the height of a whitetail doe, so I figured this would give me a more realistic scenario.  As you'll see in the pictures below the Reconyx RC500 stamps the date, time, moon phase, temp, and photo # on each picture.  You can also personalize the message on the bottom of the image, but I was in too much of a hurry to play around for that today.

By default the HC500 takes still images in 1080P resolution (which technically is a video resolution, not a still image resolution, but I guess that's marketing for ya).  What this means for you is that the images are 3008x2000 pixels, which is plenty big to blow up and look at those little kickers on the bases of the buck you're chasing.  If you want to print an image out the print size will be roughly 10"x6", which is pretty good.  The images below have been reduced to 600x399 to fit on the screen, which is 1/5 the size of the original.

In this first photo you can see there's still good light and the color saturation is great.  We are roughly 15 feet from the camera at this point.  As you can see this is triggering #3 of the sequence.  The nice thing about the RapidFire is that if the subject is slowly moving in front of the cam you are almost guaranteed to get at least one great photo that is centered and exactly what you're looking for.

In this photo you can see my neighbor in the brown shirt behind the fence tending to his Sunday afternoon fire.  He is approximately 70 feet away from the camera at this point.  I captured a ton of photos of him over the course of the day, which is pretty impressive.  The sensitivity on this camera is excellent.

As with all digital trail cameras I've ever used, you still have some motion blur on daylight photos where the subject is moving at a fast pace.  This is just the nature of the beast when trying to keep the shutter open long enough to get good light.  Not as bad as some trail cameras I've used, but not great either. 

Here's a good example of a low light photo from the HC500.  You can't tell as much in this scaled down version, but there is quite a bit of noise/grain in this image.  Again, it's just the nature of the beast for digital cameras and its not as bad as I've seen on other cameras like my Cuddeback Capture which is good to see.

The last photo is me coming at night to check the "low-glow" IR technology.  A lot of people always ask us about the red "flash" spooking deer.  I'm here to tell you that unless you're looking right into the flash on these cameras you're not even going to notice it going off.  Even knowing the camera was there I almost missed the IR flash as it was so dull and so quick.  Because the cam is so low on the tree a lot of the grass in front of me absorbed the flash, but the brightness and clarity look pretty good to me.  You can easily make out my feance in the background which is about 50 feet away.

All in all I'm very impressed with the Reconyx RC500 trail camera.  This cam is incredibly easy to set up, the trigger speed is great, photo clarity is good, and the RapidFire technology still amazes me.  With a price tag now just over $400 the HC500 is still pretty pricey, but if you're tired of blank images, dead batteries, and unreliable trail cameras it may be time to consider a Reconyx.  I know I am!

Be sure to check the shopping cart over the next couple of days as these new trail cameras become available for purchase.

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Warm Temperatures in the Midwest; Great News For Hunting Food Plots!

by Todd Graf 20. April 2010 15:02
Todd Graf

These recent warm temperatures and relatively dry weather has been great for those of us who want to get any early start on our food plots.  Unlike last year I am already ahead of schedule by two weeks which is always a good thing!

My fertilzer tests were done early, the results are back already and fertilzer has been spread.  Additionally the majority of my fields have been burned off or mowed off, my clover has been planted and I just had a large group of seedling trees planted as well. I have to admit I am feeling ahead of the game.  I decided not to chase any turkeys this spring, but instead to focus on making adjustments so I can hopefully put myself in a position to havest a nice buck this fall.  So far things have been going very well and I'm really pleased with the progress I've made.

This spring I am going to test forage beans and a sorghum plot to see what kind of wildlife I can attract, and how well those plots hold up.

As you may have seen in some of my earlier Blogs and video posts, shed antler hunting was a sucess this year as I did find a few more then usual.  Myself and a couple good friends of mine picked up quite a few antlers in and around my winter food plots, including the matched set to a buck I call "Flyer".  He is #1 on my hit list for this fall.

With the bowhunting season less than 5 months away now (in Wisconsin anyways) I'm starting to think about some new gear and getting everything tuned up this summer.  After my trips to the ATA Show and both the Iowa and Wisconsin Deer & Turkey Expos I've put together a short list of some new products that you should be keeping an eye on for this fall.  If you're in the market for some new gear you may want to check these out.

Mathews Z7 compound bow - I shot this bow at the Wisconsin show and man is it smooth and fast.  Mathews has always been regarded as one of, if not the best, bow manufacturer out there and it's not hard to see why with bows like the Z7. Also, if you haven't read the full blown compound bow report that we put together on of all the new bows for this year, check it out

Camtrakker MK10 Scouting Camera - everyone knows I'm a trail camera junkie and having tested the new MK10 recently I think there may be a few more of these in my scouting arsenal come summertime.  This new camera takes 5 MP photos both by day and night, and has the option of either a standard strobe flash or infrared flash, which is a very unique and awesome feature.  You can purchase the MK10 right here on by clicking this link.

New Archery Products 2 Blade BloodRunner - I shot the 3 blade version of this broadhead last year and was super impressed with it's performance.  Now that the 2 blade version is out with it's enormous 2 1/16" cutting diameter I'm looking forward to heading into the field with these on the end of my arrow this fall. 

Reconyx new Hyperfire Series Trail Camera - although I haven't had a chance to use one in the field yet, if these new cameras perform anythng like my RC55's and RC60's do I think they will be a super hot ticket for bowhunters this fall. 

Pine Ridge Archery Ground Blind Camera Mount - last year I purchased a new ground blind to hunt from with my son, and we had a blast together.  The trouble was, with two of us in the blind it got really cramped with my big video tripod.  This new camera mount from the guys at Pine Ridge Archery takes up barely any room and it works for both filming your own hunts as well as filming with another person.  Great tool!

Havalon Piranta Knives - in case you missed our video review of this product earlier this year, you have to check these things out.  They feature a replaceable razor blade which means you get the sharpest blade possible every time.  No more messing with sharpeners or trying to use a dull knife when field dressing or caping out your next trophy.

Knight & Hale Ultimate Fighting Purr Call - even though I may not be chasing turkeys this spring, I know a lot of you are!  This new call from Knight & Hale is an entire fighting purr system in one compact unit that can be used with just one hand.  Click here to purchase in the store. 

Knight & Hale Pack Rack - Another great compact calling option from Knight & Hale is the Pack Rack and new Pack Rack Magnum.  This compact call simulates the sound of two bucks fighting and is contained in one compact package that provides ease of mobility and use.  Great for bowhunters who want to pack light and not lug around a full set of rattling antlers.  Click here to purchase.

Summit Treestands Switchblade - Summit has long been known for the comfort of their treestands and the Switchblade is no exception.  The Switchblade is basically the same as the popular Viper in a new collapsible version for easier transport in and out of your hunting area. Look for these in the shopping cart later this year.

Code Blue Grave Digger lures - available in Whitetail Doe Estrous and Whitetail Buck Urine, these lures stay strong regardless of weather conditions.  This means you won't have to refresh your mock scrapes and scent stations as frequently even after it rains.  Be on the lookout for these products in the cart later this summer when they become available.

Another thing I want to mention are a few of the new websites that have recently been designed and built by us here at the Rhino Group.  For those of you that don't know, we develop custom websites for many businesses in the hunting industry.  Below are a few of the more recent websites we built that you may want to check out. - The Legends of the Fall is a brand new TV show airing this summer on the Outdoor Channel featuring a few notable faces that you may have seen over the years on Drury Outdoors videos and TV shows.  Mike & Bonnie McFerrin, Eric Hale, Chris Ward, Mark Luster, and Dave Bogart have teamed up to create this new show that is packed full of both monster bucks and good laughs. 
 - This new website for Robinson Outdoor Products (Scent Blocker & Scent Shield) features a complete upgrade of their existing shopping cart along with a ton of great interactive features like a trophy gallery, video clips from popular TV shows like Michael Waddell's Bone Collector, Tech Tips, and much more. 

 - also known as the Mossy Oak Rustiks brand, Legacy Quest Outdoors offers a variety of products made from rustick and antique woods that have been collected from a variety of sources including old barns, railroads, bridge trussels, and other unique places.  If you're looking for a great way to bring the rustic feeling of the outdoors into your home or cabin you won't want to miss this!  A full online catalog and shopping cart lets you browse their selection of products from the comfort of your own home and order most of them online.


If you have a business in need of website development, whether you are in the hunting industry or not, give us a call at 847-515-8000 and find out what the Rhino Group can do for you.  Or check out our online portfolio at

All in all I am looking forward to a great year and I want to take a few moments to mention a new friend of mine and more importantly the doctor that has saved my son's life. My son Craig, age 5 at the time, was diagnosed with an extremely rare health issue - increased intracranial venous pressure over a year ago.  This high pressure in his brain caused him to lose vision in his left eye and also caused a subdural hematoma (blood inside his head). Dr. Ali Shaibani was able to figure out Craig’s problems had recognized that Craig was missing his left sigmoid transverse sinus and had a large occlusion in right one. This was causing backpressure in Craig’s head and if untreated would have lead our little man to even worse places. Dr. Shaibani was able to successfully place a stent in Craig’s brain to decrease the pressure. This is a very rare case and Craig is on the recovery track. The cool part is I have been able to get to know Dr. Shaibani more closely and wouldn't you know it - he wants to start bowhunting! I am very glad that I've been able to kick start his hunting opportunities and I look forward to helping him harvest his first deer this fall.

Dr. Shaibani with his new Diamand Stud bow setup, purchased right here at  Thanks for being so good at what you do!

My little man starting his way to a healthy recovery.

Todd Graf - Strength & Honor!

Reconyx Trail Camera Speed & Temperature Test!

by Bow Staff 27. April 2009 15:46
Bow Staff

Many of you have been writing in asking about the Reconyx's speed. So when we came across this serious of photos we figured it really told the story.

Take a close look at the time stamps on these images - Truely Impressive!













To Learn more about Reconyx Cameras - Click Here!

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

All New Trail Cameras for 2009 - Announced at the bowhunting ATA Show.

by Todd Graf 10. January 2009 13:09
Todd Graf

Here is the run down for all the new trail cameras for 2009.

CamTrakker - Unit MK-8

After talking with Dan Stoneburner, the owner of CamTrakker, I found that his focus will remain the same as he continues to improve on the CamTrakker MK-8. Although this unit was released in 2008, changes have been made to the unit's firmware upgrades. The MK-8's most recent update has really made the unit very stable and is working great. If you have already purchased a Camtrakker MK-8 you should contact CamTrakker to make sure your unit is upgraded to the newest version.

Here are some of the highlighted features of the CamTrakker MK-8:

  1. Adjustable flash ranges for both IR operation and Strobe flash operation.
  2. Long lasting lead-acid battery life, included with purchase.
  3. Easy to use & set-up
  4. Ability to view photos in the field.
  5. Easy access to both battery and SD Card
  6. High quality images
  7. Burst mode for daytime images

Recon Outdoors - Viper

The Viper is one of the latest additions to the Recon Outdoors line of Infrared digital scouting and security cameras.  We will be adding Recon trail cameras to our site this year and we look forward to testing these units.

Here are some of the highlighted features:

  1. New shape and superior functionality - this unit is extremely small
  2. 2.1 MP infrared images
  3. You no longer have to open the unit to check cameras status
  4. One keypad on the front of the unit allows you to view everything including picture count, battery voltage, available memory space all at a glance of any eye.
  5. Available in no camo and Mossy Oak Tree Stand.

Bushnell - All New - Trophy Cam Model (119415) includes built in LCD color viewer & 119405 (B & W Text LCD)

You will not believe the size of this unit. It is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and is packed with some incredible features. This unit is so small you could fit them right into your pants pockets.

  1. 3 / 5 Mp high quality full color
  2. Day / Night Auto sensor
  3. Adjustable PIR (low/medium/High)
  4. Trigger speed less than 1 second
  5. Multi image mode - 1 - 3 images per trigger
  6. Temperature ranges / -5 - 140 degrees
  7. 24 infrared night vision LED's - 45 feet range
  8. Runs off of 8 AA batteries for up to 6 months.
  9. Video length up to 60 seconds.
  10. Requires the purchase of a SD Card.
  11. Model 119415 comes with color built-in LCD color viewfinder

In the photo above you can see how small the new Bushnell Trophy Cam is comed to the older units.

Reconyx - MC65 Solocam IR - All New for 2009

Reconyx introduced the next generation in digtail scouting with the Mathews edition Solocam camera.

  1. 1/5 Second Trigger speed
  2. 1 Photo per second
  3. Lo-Glow IR - Semi-Convert
  4. IR Flash range of 50 feet
  5. CF up to 32 Gig - 4 gig card holds up to 10 - 15,000 photos
  6. Color by Day / Mono at Night
  7. 1080 High Definition images
  8. Operating tempatures - -20 to +120 degrees

Predator Trailcams - All new for the Xtinction & Evolution XR is "One touch set-up"

  1. "One touch set-up feature" Install batteries, Insert storage device choose - one touch option ans walk away! Its that simple.
  2. The Xtinction features included - Double Vision Technology which uses 32 or 48 "True" infrared emitters. With 32 emitters activated the nighttime range will be 25 - 30ft, depending on conditions and settings. If 48 emitters are activated the nightime range will increase out to 40+ feet.
  3. High Resolution Images - 3.2 Day / 1.3 Night.
  4. Both units come standard with Next Generation Camo.
  5. 4 digit securtiy code can be entered on both units to prevent theft.
  6. Both photos and videos can be viewed in the field.

I have also been told that improvements have been made to increase the overall battery life of these units.

Moultrie Game Spy Management system - New units for 2009 Include the following features - (4 New Models)

Moultrie has really made some big improvements to their trail camera lineup for this year.  Just about every complaint that customers had about these units has been addressed.  They are smaller, the batteries and flash card are eaiser to access, and the trigger speed has been improved as well.  The only thing that has been sacrificed in this year's units is they now take 4 D-cell batteries instead of 6, which will give up some battery life in order to acheive a smaller package.  After looking at the cameras firsthand, I think it was a good trade-off.

Game Spy I-45 Includes -

  1. 4.0 Mega Pixel
  2. 50ft Flash Range
  3. Tempature, moon phase, time, date and camera ID on every photo and video
  4. Color during the day / IR during night
  5. Three picture resolutions / two video resolutions
  6. Operates on 4 D-cell batteries
  7. Upgradeable software

Game Spy I-65 Includes -

  1. 6.0 Mega pixel images
  2. 1.8 inch built-in picture and video viewer
  3. Barometric pressure
  4. Password security
  5. Time-lapse mode
  6. Four picture resolutions
  7. The I-65 Also includes all the features of the I-45!

Two other units, the Game Spy M-45 & M-65 are both available with the same features as the I-45 and I-65 except with a standard flash unit, not infrared.

But these great new features aren't even the best part about these new Moultrie units.  With all of the new units you can at anytime purchase a modem which attaches to the unit and will wirelessly transmit images through AT&T's cellular network. Once the images are sent you can log into Moultrie's new Game Management website which will offer you private access to manage your photos, data and cameras all through your computer once signed up.  I have to admit this is pretty cool that you can buy the moden attachment when your ready.  Retail cost on the modem unit is going to be around $150.

The new Moultrie I-45 and I-65 trail cameras.  You can see the overall package has been completely redesigned for this year.

The website being displayed above the Moultrie's Game Management site where you can manage your cameras and images when using the modem adapter.

New Cuddeback Units for 2009

The folks at Cuddeback are releasing two new units for 2009, however they are still in production and didn't have any working samples for us to look at or photograph.  We did get some specs on the forthcoming cameras though.  The two new units are the NoFlash X2 and the Expert X2.  These are essentially upgraded versions of the old NoFlash and Expert units with a few improvements.  The NoFlash X2 will take 5.0 mega pixel images during the day and 1.3 mega pixel black and white images by night.  The interesting part about the NoFlash X2 is that it uses two separate cameras for taking pictures by day and by night., meaning each one is optimized for the best quality at both times.  The NoFlash X2 also features 15 second delays during both day and night and you can set different delays for each.  Video clips are now shot at 18 frames per second for higher quality.

Both cameras will now accept SD cards instead of CF cards (which are more expensive and harder to find than SD) and a new "Genius" mounting system.  The Expert X2 has all the same features as the NoFlash X2 in a standard flash camera, however it only has a minimum 30 second delay at night and 15 second delay during the daytime.  As soon as we get some more information or photos we'll be sure to blog about them.

It should also be noted that a new firmware version has been released for the Capture IR cameras, which greatly increases the flash range of these cameras.  Visit Cuddeback's website to download the firmware and upgrade your camera today.

Most importantly we will be stocking, selling and testing all units right here at!

To view photo samples you can check out our new site -!

Trail Camera Cold Weather Test Part 1

by Todd Graf 30. December 2008 16:04
Todd Graf

Last week here in Northern Illinois we had some extremely cold weather move in with real temperatures near 0 and windchills of around -30.  With the harsh temperatures and extreme winds I spent most of my time inside where it was warm, but still had several trail cameras out in the field doing some late season scouting for me.  I figured that this would be a great time to check their performance and see just how well they were holding up under these conditions.  I had a Reconyx PC90 professional unit, a Predator Xtinction, and a Smart Scouter all set up in a small late season food source that would be perfect for testing.  So I set out with my friend and cameraman Paul Mazur to see how each unit was holding up. 

The Reconyx PC90

Predator Xtinction

Smart Scouter

We first drove my Polaris Ranger in front of each camera on our way to check them, then came back and walked in front of the cameras and then filmed an interview segment in front of them as well.  I knew this would give each camera an ample opportunity to capture some photos before I retrieved the memory cards and went back inside to view the results.  Click on this link or the image below to watch Part 1 of the tests as we braved the cold temperatures and crazy winds!

After the first round of testing Paul and I were able to view the results on my computer.  The Reconyx camera performed wonderfully and despite a sluggish LCD display in the cold temperatures it took the most photos of us as we ran our tests.  The sensitivity and burst mode on this camera are awesome as it performed just as well as it did earlier in the year under more pleasant conditions.

The Predator Xtinction also performed well and captured several video clips of Paul and I during our testing.  Again, the LCD display was a little sluggish in the cold weather but not nearly as bad as the older Predator Evolution models.  Cold weather performance seems to have been greatly improved in this camera.  You can click on this link or the image below to watch one of the clips we got from our Xtinction despite the -30* temperatures.

Predator Xtinction cold weather video test

The last camera, the Smart Scouter, did capture our photos but failed to send them to the Smart Scouter server and to my e-mail until the following day.  I'm not sure what caused this delay, but it was a bit frustrating as I had hoped for immediate results.  When you're paying a monthly service fee and a fee per image that is sent to your e-mail, you expect to have immediate results.  But even if they were slow in arriving, the Smart Scouter did take our picture several times.

The Smart Scouter did work and the pictures did show up, they were just a day late!

You can click this link here to the image below to watch a video of our results.

Justin is working on a cold weather review of three other cameras, the Cuddeback Capture and Moultrie I40 that he did the following day.  It will be posted shortly, followed then by a side-by-side comparison of all cameras and how long their batteries last in cold weather.  We plan on putting all of our cameras to the test this winter to see which hold up, and with fall short in these harsh conditions so stay tuned!  We are also adding to the battle ground the Cuddeback IR and the Camtrakker MK-8 so stay tuned.


Friends and Trail Cameras!

by Todd Graf 9. December 2008 15:09
Todd Graf

I'm not sure how this happens or what gets into my buddies when I ask them to change out my trail camera memory cards and batteries but I sure get a kick out of the photos. The first set of photos are great - you will see the classic photos of us sneaking into our stands and whether its before or after the bucks always seem to come by:

Here is Justin leaving he stand - and of course he did not see any bucks on this evening hunt.

And of course later that night here comes a nice buck right up the same trail Justin just walked out.

Here I am walking to my stand for a morning hunt.

And this buck wanted to find out what was going on just 3 minutes later!

Here I am a few days earlier sneaking in for another morning hunt...

And here goes a nice buck sneaking out, only 1/2 hour later!

Of course I save the best for last!

I am embrassed to say Horseshoe hunts with me when you look at him in this photo, actually now that I think about it he always runs with his arms like this.

I wish he (Justin) was a little older of a buck because I would have taken him for sure.

What fun would it be to have a post without a trespasser! Hours after it snows and this guy can't resist but to follow a set of deer tracks over several people's properties! Yes, I did call the police and they did visit him. It turns out after talking with serveral of my neighbors he thinks he owns the entire county. I hope he finally gets the drift after a visit from the boys in blue!

I did not want to end on a negative note so here is a nice buck that I hope made it though the gun seaon as he will be incredible next year!

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Trail Cameras & Horseflies

by Todd Graf 30. August 2008 15:05
Todd Graf

I have finally admitted to having a problem when it comes to trail cameras - I am addicted! I just really enjoy using and trying all of the camera models. I can still remember the film days, collecting all the film out of my Camtrakkers and rushing to Wal-Mart to get the photos developed in an hour. I know I am not the only one who did that! I don’t even want to think about how much money I had spent – I try to forget those days. Digital cameras rock. Many of you know that we have launched a new site where our pro-staff is reporting which trail cameras really work well and which ones don’t. Check it out at If you have any questions or comments let us know.  We're also working to make sure that we have all models in stock and ready to ship so if you're looking for a new trail camera, be sure to check us out.

Here are some photos from this year - take a look……


Camtrakker - The highest quality digital trail camera pictures you'll ever get! 

Another shot from my CamTrakker - you simply can't beat them for quality photos!

At TrailCam.Com we're committed to testing them all!!! We will keep you informed this season to which one of the trail cameras we test works the best.

A shot from the new CamTrakker MK-8 - It has a super long lasting battery and the flash range is amazing.

This shot is from my new Reconyx RC60.  I saw the Drury's pushing this unit so I had to give it a chance. So far I have been impressed with it. Battery life has been good, photos are clear both day and night but the IR range could be a little better. I am still testing this unit -  I will let you know my final thoughts later this year.

The horseflies are really starting to tick me off this year, I don't think I have ever seen them this bad!

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