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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

An Introduction to Outdoor Photography

by Cody Altizer 30. March 2012 09:19
Cody Altizer

It was that time of year that deer hunters across the country dream about; mid-November, overcast, temperatures in the upper 30s and a little breezy.  The weather was perfect.  I was set up downwind of a sanctuary that I knew several bucks felt comfortable moving in and out of during the daylight and, coupled with the time of year and weather conditions, I had high hopes for the afternoon’s hunt.  I caught movement coming out of the sanctuary a little early than I expected, about 3:30, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain.  A quick glance through my binoculars revealed the sex of the whitetail; perfect, a buck.  

I was downwind and he was clueless of my existence.  I took a deep breath and calmly grabbed my weapon, all the while keeping my eyes locked on him as to immediately freeze should he peg my location.  He aimlessly crossed the steep ditch that separated his safety net from my stand location, and I slowly shifted my position to ready myself for the upcoming shot.  He was at 20 yards, but the angle was poor and I knew he’d come closer.  Finally, he stopped at 8 yards and began munching on acorns.  This was it, the perfect shot, the perfect angle, it was now or never.  Quietly, I focused on the unaware buck and... CLICK! Perfect!  I had just executed the shot on an unexpecting whitetail buck, what could better? 

This "soon-to-be" giant buck made the mistake of stopping right underneath my treestand in mid-November.  I took several photos of him that afternoon as he munched on acorns and kept me company for hours.

Well, several things could have been better.  For one, I could have “shot” the buck with my bow, not my camera, and two, the buck could have been bigger than a button buck, but I was thrilled nonetheless.  For me personally, hunting whitetail deer and photography are one in the same.  They both provide me with an inexplicable amount of satisfaction and enjoyment. Conversely, they are a skill and passion of mine that I will never fully understand and master, and do quite well knowing that.   

That being said, I’m sure the majority all of us have been outdoors, not even hunting I’m sure, and the natural world struck us with such beauty and awe, that we felt compelled to take a picture.  There’s no such thing as a bad picture, except a picture not taken.  The world famous Ansel Adams once authored this quote, “There are no rules for good photographs, just good photographs.”  I agree wholeheartedly.  However, since outdoor photography is art, a form of personal expression, I  wouldn’t feel comfortable authoring a “How To: Outdoor Photography” article, but I’ve learned enough through trial and error (many errors) on how to get the most out of your outdoor, landscape, scenic and hunting related photographs.

Rules of Composition

As stated above, I don’t feel comfortable at all writing an article telling you how you should go about taking your photos.  We’ve all been blessed with a creative mind, some more so than others, but it would be repulsive of me to claim to stake as an omniscient photographer, because there is no such thing.

There are however, a few rules that should be followed to get the most out of your photos, the rules of composition.  A poorly structured photo can turn a beautiful image into a train wreck.  

Rule of Thirds

The first and most common rule is the rule of thirds which states that you should place the most important subjects of your photo along 9 equal, imaginary segments broken down by two vertical and horizontal imaginary lines.  This adds depth, interest and balance to your photo, and can help tell a more involved story opposed to a subject centered image.

An example of how the rule of thirds helps balance the photo.

Ascending or Descending Lines

A little quality time in a treestand will tell you that we live in a vertical world.  It makes sense, because everything grows towards the sun, so it’s only natural that our eyes are drawn to lines.  Keeping these lines in mind when taking photos can greatly determine how we look at a photograph and the best part is, it’s up to the viewer to determine what each line means and how it tells a story within a photo.

An example of descending lines can take your eyes straight to the subject of the photo.


Experimenting with different viewpoints is a very fun and unique way to develop your own creative photography style.  When outside shooting photos, we often feel rushed to get the perfect shot, without taking into consideration how the image could look if we changed our view point.  Changing your viewpoint can be easily done by shooting your subject at an angle, from an elevated position or from ground level.  Again, it’s your creative decision.  Photography is starting to sound pretty cool now, isn’t it?

I dropped down to my knees to capture this photograph.  Simply standing and shooting down at my dad's hand wouldn't have created such a dramatic effect.


Depth is perhaps my favorite photography “rule” simply because the majority of my photos are meant to tell a story, and adding depth to an image is a great way to do so.  Altering your framing as to place different subjects at varying distances in the foreground, middle ground, or background (or all three) adds depth to the story literally, as well as figuratively.  Another cool photography technique is using one subject to block, or reveal (your creative mind will decide that for you), another subject.  Again, this is another cool way to tell a story with an image.  

There are two subjects in this photo, one the foreground and one in the background.  Combined, the two come together to tell a story about the hunter and his beliefs.

Another shot where depth helps tell a more complete story.

Photography Equipment

In a world powered by social media, beautiful outdoor images pop up in our news feed and timelines regularly.  That’s because the technology in cameras continues to evolve making photography easier to learn and practice, more user friendly.  Fantastic photos can be taken with small point and shoots, and even mobile devices can capture a beautiful image. 

However, if you’re truly interested in outdoor photography, you’re going to need much, much more than those devices.  A point shoot can’t gather enough light to do a sunset justice, and your iPhone isn’t capable of the long exposures required to capture starlit nights.   

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are becoming more and more popular, because they are becoming cheaper, easier to use and are capturing incredible images like never before.  What body you decide on is a lot like what bow you decide to shoot, it’s purely a personal preference.  Some cameras just feel better in hand to some photographers, while others don’t.  The bottom line is the camera doesn’t make a great shot, the photographer manning the camera does.

Before purchasing a camera and lens, develop a budget with which you are comfortable.  When making purchase decisions, however, remember that a quality lens is far more important that the camera body.

Many folks who are new or inexperienced in the world of photography mistakenly think that a camera body is the most important piece of equipment needed for their arsenal, when in reality they couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Yes, a camera body is important, of course, but it takes a figurative back seat to what lens you are attaching to that body.  Provided you don’t crack the glass, your lens will outlive any camera body, and your glass quality is what really gives you the beautiful contrast, sharpness, clarity and depth of field that will really make your photos pop.   

Landscape, Scenic Photography

Landscape photography is perhaps the most common form of photography, simply because the natural world is filled to the brim with beautiful imagery everywhere you look.  Whether you live in the city, the mountains or the Great Plains, breathtaking views are plentiful and willing to be captured by the creative and willing photographer.  

I've often heard folks say that the world just looks dead in late December.  I beg to differ!

Personally, I want to create a sense of passion with my landscape photos, a feeling that the viewer was there with me when I took the photo, and I want to share with them how I see the world.  Rarely do I want to trigger a viewer’s intellectual.  To me, as complex as photography can be, it should be more about feelings and emotions, and less about thinking and the analytical.  This can be easily achieved with landscape photography.  A shot of a bronze sky over a barn could tell a story of a hot, hard day’s work during the summer.  While a barren field with overcast skies certainly tells illustrates a blustery cold winters day.

What mood do you feel after viewing this photo?  I think of a springtime thunderstorm about dump buckets of rain on a booming clover food plot!

To me, this photo has great sentimental value.  But for you, however, it could mean something totally different!  That's the beauty of photography.

Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is perhaps the sexiest form of photography, especially to us hunters, because if there’s a substitute to putting an arrow through a mature whitetail, snapping a photo of him with your camera has to be a close second.  Unfortunately, wildlife photography is also the most difficult form of outdoor photography, because, like hunting you’re at the animal’s mercy.  

This is my favorite photo of a whitetail deer that I have ever been lucky enough to capture.  I was simply in the right place at the right time.

The most common obstacle outdoor photographer’s encounter when trying to capture images of wildlife is getting close to their subject.  It’s been well documented that animals aren’t comfortable in the presence of humans, especially when said human has a strange decide pointing right at them, it tends to make them uneasy and on edge.  So, to capture wildlife when they are calm and relaxed, a lens with a strong zoom, at least 200mm, is almost necessary.  This will allow animals within 40 yards to be photographed tightly enough for a strong image, and will allow for incredible detail for close up shots on animals less than 20 yards.  

This buck was no more than 20 yards from my car when he posed for me for a little over 2 minutes this past August.  I was able to capture several photos and record about 30 seconds of video footage of him as well.

Actually capturing images of wildlife (okay, some wildlife) isn’t as hard as it first sounds.  When I say wildlife photographer, I am sure you are thinking of an individual in a ghile suit hidden in the brush waiting for a deer to walk by.  While that is certainly one way to capture photos, and necessary for many species of wildlife, beautiful photos of deer, turkeys, birds of prey, and the occasional fox or coyote can be attributed to a simple drive around back country roads.  Animals feeding in fields near roadways are usually very tolerable of vehicles and will often allow you to snap several shots before either trotting back to cover, or resume feeding, especially during the summer.  

Every so often you stumble your way onto a crisp, clear and colorful photo.  Such is the case with this nervous doe.  She was very close to my car, and I was fortunate enough to grab a couple photos of her before she bolted back in the timber. 


Outdoor photography is a wonderful art form and a beautiful means of expression.  It gives creative minds a chance to come out and play and, with a little practice, it gives not so creative minds a chance to explore the world in ways they never thought possible.  If you’re an amateur or photographer who is just beginning to explore the world of capturing still images, or a seasoned veteran who’s been shooting their entire lives, I hope this article has given you some useful information you can to the field with you.  Just remember, there are no rules when it comes to photography, so grab your camera, head outside snap some photos and about all else, enjoy the beauty that is the natural world! 

Whitetail Deer Herd Health And Using the Winter Severity Index

by Neal McCullough 29. February 2012 02:42
Neal McCullough

Winter can be hard on wildlife—deer especially. During the winter months, wildlife agencies and departments in many states monitor the health of their respective deer herds using a system called the Winter-Severity Index (WSI).   This index is a simple calculation based on two key components of winter survival for whitetail deer: temperature and snow depth.  The index is a cumulative sum of the number of days with 18” of snow + numbers of days with temperatures below zero.  These scores are added together between December 1 and April 30.  Any total of 100+ is considered very severe, 81 – 100 is severe, 51 – 80 is moderate and anything lower than 50 is considered mild.  In Wisconsin, for example, the long term average for this index is 55.

The above chart shows this history of the Wisconsin WSI (1960 - 2010)

I spoke with Michael Zeckmeister of the Wisconsin DNR last week and at this point in the year, nearly all stations are in the single digits or teens; meaning this is shaping up to what could be a very mild winter.  This same time last year could have “gone either way” according to Zeckmesiter, with 60% of the stations reporting 16” of snow or more.   But last winter ended up staying around moderate for most stations (Wisconsin State Average = 47 for 2010/2011).  And this year we will probably end up mild or close to moderate unless, of course, we see some drastic changes in the weather.  Typically, the “tipping point” for winter is the 3rd week of February and as of today – we are starting March in a good place.

The above map shows WSI recording stations in Northern Wisconsin.

The above maps shows WSI recording stations in Northern Minnesota with measurements for 2011

Like any index, the WSI is not a perfect indicator of health of the herd; other factors do come into play.  These are a few additional factors that many wildlife managers consider:
•    Annual Summer Rainfall – Good rainfall in the summer and into the fall provides growth of summer vegetation that can help deer build fat reserves for the winter.
•    Arrival of Winter – The earlier arrival of winter (snow and cold in November or earlier) can have a significant cumulative effect on whitetail deer.  The longer winter waits to arrive, the better.
•    Type of Snow – Some snow storms may produce 10” – 15” of very light fluffy snow, through which it is generally easier for deer to travel.  Heavy dense snow or crusted layers of snow can make it difficult for whitetail deer to access food as well as escape predators.
•    Timing Spring Green-Up – This factor is probably as important as any; the sooner spring green-up arrives, the better the chances for herds to rebound after a long winter. 

The WSI is a great tool for wildlife managers to measure the current and/or future health of the whitetail deer herd.  However, it isn’t 100% accurate and they will make adjustments and use their discretion when determining how the deer herd is faring overall.  I always keep an eye out for these full reports in my home states of Minnesota and Wisconsin (typically they are ready at the end of April);  some DNR websites even offer current views of the Index as the winter progresses.

Current WSI (February 22, 2012) for Minnesota

Lets hope this mild season continues for not only whitetail deer but also for turkeys, pheasants, grouse, and all wildlife... Oh and this mild WSI Index also means that I don't have to shovel my driveway as much, which is an added bonus.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Choosing a Quality Archery Pro Shop - Part 1

by Steve Flores 26. February 2012 08:48
Steve Flores

Whether you're looking to purchase the latest bow on the market, or simply want to upgrade your current rig, the road to finding a quality pro-shop, one that knows how to set you up right, can throw more twists and turns at you than the track at Laguna Seca; but it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, consider the following advice, and the next time you walk into an establishment looking for excellent service, you’ll be walking out with a smile.

Why Pro Shop?
There are several reasons why the beginning to mid-level archery enthusiast should choose a Pro-Shop. Perhaps one of the chief reasons would be a familiarity with bow “set-up” procedures; or better yet, a lack there of. Given the wide array of compound bows available today and the mind staggering number of equipment options being offered, choosing the products that will work best with you, your bow, and your style of hunting or shooting can be a daunting task; especially if you, like the majority of bowhunters, are not schooled in the “technical aspects” of archery. In which case, “properly” setting-up your new rig will be a difficult goal to accomplish.

To combat this harsh reality you will need to find someone who knows what works, what doesn’t----and why. You need to find someone with the experience and mechanical proficiency to do things the right way. To put it simple, you need to enlist the help and guidance of a quality pro-shop.


In archery, confidence can go a long way toward success. And nothing will give you more confidence than knowing your bow-rig is set up correctly. A quality pro-shop can make you an accurate, self-assured shooter by setting you up with the right gear.

A Good Start
One of the most critical issues faced while attempting to correctly set up your bow revolves around the arrow rest. Today’s rest of choice is almost unanimously the “drop-away” version.  While this style of arrow rest most often represents the most accurate choice, it only works when installed correctly. Simply adding one to your bow doesn’t exactly mean that you will automatically achieve “laser-beam” type arrow flight. Unless you know how to set one up and what to look for when determining whether or not it is functioning properly, you’re most likely not going to get the added performance you paid extra money for; perfect arrow flight after the shot with no contact between the rest and you’re arrow’s fletching.

 Most Pro-Shop experts will say the a critical starting point when setting up your bow involves choosing a quality arrow rest. Pictured here is the new NAP Apache Carbon drop-away mounted to a 2012 Mathews Helim.

Properly tuning a drop-away style arrow rest sometimes requires a lot of tinkering and technical “know-how” in order to get things just right. Some models simply do not match well with certain bow brands, some do not match well no matter what brand of bow you shoot, and some even require the shooter to orient the fletching a particular way. For example, some rests simply will not tolerate a cock-vane “up” orientation, conversely, others do. Some may call for a rotation with the cock-vane to the side in order to achieve good results, some may not. Unless you know which fall-away rest your bow prefers and how to correctly set it up, you could spend hours and hours trying to tune it. This is where a quality pro-shop can make all the difference. They’ve been there, done that. They know which rests work and what type of bow and arrow system they work well with. Obviously their knowledge can save you valuable time and money, but more importantly, they will insure the job is done right”.

Learn from the Best
Another significant reason for choosing a pro-shop is a shortening of the learning curve. Most aspects of archery are rarely cut and dry. Consequently, in order to avoid the many pitfalls facing a newcomer it pays to find someone who has been around the block a time or two. A quality pro-shop is the ideal place to find such an individual. In one afternoon, you can learn valuable insight with regards to shooting tips, equipment choices and bowhunting wisdom in general; things that otherwise may have taken you years of trial and error to figure out on your own. Talk about an advantage!  When you consider the valuable information available at top notch establishments and the immediate affects it can/will have on your success as an archer and bowhunter, it is clear why finding a quality pro-shop is so important. The “networking” potential in these venues is immense. 

 Anytime you can be around other bowhunters or archers is a great time to learn something new. No other venue offers as much opportunity for this than a quality pro-shop.

Added Benefits
In addition to insuring that your equipment functions as it should, along with the ability to speed up the learning process, pro-shops offer several added advantages over the DIY (do it yourself) route. For instance, good shops will often times offer their customers “free” shooting lessons and advice after purchasing a new bow-rig. Most often, at the really good shops, a certified IBO pro shooter will be on hand to assist with the lessons. Obviously, this type of professional attention is invaluable. Not only does it insure that proper shooting habits are instilled from the start, it also guarantees that the majority of bad habits that plague archers all over the country are immediately recognized and avoided.

Also, don’t overlook the fact that most quality shops will be happy to provide their loyal customers with “perks” so to speak.  These gestures of appreciation can come in many forms.  Most often minor adjustments are made to your rig at no charge. Sometimes hats and shirts are given away as well; providing advertisement for the shop owner and perhaps a means of showcasing favored equipment and/or facilities for (you) the shooter. 
Another nice benefit of the pro-shop is the option to go in and “test” drive new equipment before actually putting down your hard earned cash and then realizing you made the wrong choice. Without a doubt, pro-shops are a bee-hive of knowledge, experience and camaraderie just waiting to be discovered. 

Most good shops will have a place to “test drive” merchandise before actually buying it. This is an essential part of the process that ensures you leave with a smile on your face; the right set-up in the right hands will often cause such a reaction.

Making the Right Choice
When choosing a pro-shop one of the most important things to remember is that the devil is in the details. What I mean, is that there usually isn’t one or two defining characteristics that will reveal that you are in the wrong place. Rather, there will most likely be a number of little things that, while seeming trivial at first, could reveal clues too much larger issues.For example, be cautious of shops that try to push a certain piece of equipment into your hands.  Having said that, let’s make clear that in order to accurately judge the true intentions of the guy behind the counter you must first understand that there is a difference between pushing a product and eagerly suggesting one. If a certain piece of equipment really is better than the one you initially went in to purchase, the guy selling it to you should be able to explain exactly why it is better. If he can’t, then that might be the first clue that your best interest aren’t what he had in mind. 

Suggesting certain equipment options is fine as long as the reasoning behind such advice can be validated. If the transaction doesn’t ultimately benefit you the shooter, then it’s probably not a good investment. A reputable shop will do nothing without your best interest in mind.

In contrast, guys working at shops that are the “real deal” will often have their own personal bows on hand and can readily show you exactly what equipment they are using. More importantly, they can also tell you why they are using it. If that happens to be the case, pay close attention to what these individuals are telling you because odds are good that they have already sifted through the “low-grade” stuff and have found the best of what the market has to offer. Essentially, they can save you time, money and in the end make your set-up the best it can be.

Post-Sale Service
Another indication as to whether or not you have made a wise choice lies in what happens after the sale. Is that where the service ends? Are you no longer ministered to like customer #1? If things seem to drastically change after you’ve spent the last of your piggy bank funds, then you’ve probably made the wrong choice. Case in point, even though it has been a few years since my last bow purchase, if I were to walk into my pro-shop today, the owner (Frank) would treat me like I was the most important guy in the building. Frank Addington and his wife Kathy, own and operate Addington’s Bowhunter Shop in Winfield, WV, and have been providing customers top quality service for over 25 years. When it comes to knowing what the consumer wants and needs, they are masters. 

 The benefits of any good pro-shop shouldn't stop once a purchase has been made. In fact, service typically gets better and better if you’ve selected the right shop for your needs.

In addition, if I was having a problem with my bow-rig he wouldn’t hesitate to fix it for me. Now you might be thinking that I receive special treatment for being a “writer” or something along those lines ….wrong! Frank treats everyone the same---like a close personal friend.

To Be Continued

Of course, there are other important aspects that go into selecting a quality pro-shop. In Part 2, I will delve a little deeper into the process and offer some final tips that will get you pointed in the right direction.

The New Whitetail Slam - Just what you're looking for?

by Steve Flores 21. February 2012 09:20
Steve Flores

Those familiar with general record keeping organizations have likely heard the term “Slam” used in reference to animals taken within a specific species.  Many examples of this exist for all of the major big-game animals as well as turkey. Now, passionate “deer hunters” can join in the record keeping process by registering their deer, big or small, with the “Whitetail Slam” organization.

Meet the latest record-keeping organization for hunters interested in completing the Whitetail Slam!

This new organization allows users to keep track of the deer they have harvested (online via the website) from the 8 “pre-selected” regions. Participants can earn “Whitetail Slam” status or “Ultimate Whitetail Slam” status; while at the same time qualifying for various prizes and hunting packages. And, it doesn’t matter when the deer was harvested. Simply fill out the registration form and your first buck is “free”. After that, an additional fee must be paid for each deer registered. 

 Different people find value in different things. Bowhunting is no different. Do you find your "trophy" or "record" in a number....or in the overall experience surrounding the hunt?

Here is how it works.
· Harvest a buck or enter bucks from years past, from any or all 8 Whitetail SLAM Buck sub-groups (Any legal buck qualifies)
· Register any 4 bucks and earn a Whitetail SLAM.
· Register all 8 bucks for the Ultimate Whitetail SLAM.
· Hunters Achieving the Whitetail SLAM or Ultimate Whitetail SLAM will be honored with a framed certificate of achievement and entered into the Whitetail SLAM archive and annual publication in the year they register their SLAM, and will receive an official "SLAMMER" achievement package commemorating their successful completion of the Whitetail SLAM or Ultimate Whitetail SLAM.

* These successful hunters may also be recognized on Whitetail SLAM TV, magazine, website or other Whitetail SLAM features for their accomplishments and dedication to mastering the skills of the hunt.
* Enter details and a photo of your buck(s) online & pay a one-time administrative processing fee for each buck entered.
* Set up your personal SLAM Page featuring one or more bucks from any 8 SLAM categories to personalize and feature your hunts with photos, stories, strategies, gear and tactics used!
* Enter ONLINE our monthly free grand prize giveaway = dream hunts filmed by Tom Miranda Outdoors for feature on WhitetailSLAM TV on NBC SPORTS and Sportsman channel, will be given away each month.

Is the value of a hunt measured by the size or score of the rack or is it found in the overall experience?

According to the webpage, “Whitetail SLAM” was created as a means to organize and recognize the uniqueness of regional whitetail groups and the intrinsic value and worthy pursuit of each.

Take a look at “Whitetail Slam” and let me know what you think about this latest record keeping method. Is it good for hunting? Is it good for you? What is it really all about? Only you can answer those questions. I have my own opinions but I would love to hear what the readers of think about the subject. Go ahead……sound off!

Categories: Blog | Current News | Pro Staff

High Mountain Success

by Steve Flores 27. December 2011 06:08
Steve Flores

With so many rolling hills, food plots, and big buck sightings, it’s easy for an eastern guy to be a little jealous of his “mid-western” bowhunting brothers. After all, such particulars are seldom enjoyed in my neck of the woods. Still, the goal remains the same…..arrow a whitetail buck; plain and simple. So, in an effort to see that this goal is reached it is important that I keep my edge throughout the season. This includes not only my shooting form, but my body as well. Hunting whitetails in the rugged hills of southern WV is no walk in the park, and typically, one shot is all I get…if I’m lucky. Therefore, when the opportunity does arrive, I want to do everything in my power to close the deal. This begins and ends with “in-season” shooting, along with a steady dose of cardio and weight training.

So often, once the season begins, we find little time for shooting practice. However, it only takes a few arrows to keep shooting form and muscle memory intact. For me, this means sneaking outside the house to sling a few arrows whenever time allows; even if it is only one shot. This, by nature, more closely resembles real-life hunting scenarios; as opposed to haphazardly launching dozens of arrows into my 3-D target.


 It only takes a few arrows a day to keep muscle memory intact and shooting form polished. 

The season started out slow, which is typical of big-timber bowhunting, with little deer sightings. With so much territory to roam, it can be extremely difficult to nail down a good buck before the rut begins in November. Therefore, I usually keep a low profile and work the “fringes” of my hunting areas in an effort not to disturb the does before the bucks are actually on their feet cruising.

Early season can be a frustrating time for the big timber bowhunter. Patience is the best medicine for success. 

As November rolled around, I found myself perched in my favorite rut stand; located adjacent to a small doe bedding area, within a natural funnel. As the early morning sun broke through the dark grey clouds, I caught movement down the steep hillside below. Realizing that I was watching a buck cruise for does, I grabbed my grunt tube and let out a few soft “uurrppss” in an effort to get his attention. Watching him walk in the opposite direction I assumed my efforts had failed.

 Big Woods whitetails are like ghosts. If you encounter a good one consider yourself blessed.

Little to my knowledge, the savvy buck was simply using the terrain to his advantage in order to close the distance between us. Within minutes, the love-crazed whitetail was coming straight at me; grunting every step of the way. When he got within range I slowly brought my Mathews ez7 to full draw and waited for him to turn broadside. Just as he turned I settled the pin on my Trijicon sight high on his shoulder and stopped him with a mouth grunt; focusing on the single hair I wanted to split until the bow simply fired. The NAP Thunderhead Razor broadhead zipped through him like a hot knife through butter. In an instant he bolted straight away. However, his journey didn’t last long. Within seconds he was doing the “death sway” as he staggered and fell to the ground. Settling into my Lone Wolf stand I sat down and thanked God for the blessing I had just been given. 

The combination of an NAP Thunderhead Razor broadhead and NAP Quick fletch proved lethal.

The blood trail was nothing short of amazing!

 Nothing sweeter than High Mountain Success!

The following week, I filled my second archery tag on another mountain whitetail. This particular buck was caught cruising through one of my favorite hunting spots. What makes it so special is that it is located in a ridge top saddle, next to a bedding thicket, and is loaded with oak trees that drop acorns like rain. When the rut is on, or any time of year for that matter, it is dynamite spot to arrow a deer. Also, it should be noted that this buck was shot with the same NAP Thunderhead Razor that I took my first buck with. After simply re-sharpening the blades, the broadhead was just as deadly as it was the day it came out of the package. But don’t take my word for it. See the blood trail below and decide for yourself.

 Same NAP Broadhead....Same result!

  The combination of quality gear, a lot of patience, and Blessings from above, made this a great year. Happy Holidays! 


Broadhead Review - NAP Thunderhead Razor

by Steve Flores 6. September 2011 14:31
Steve Flores

Each fall the scenario is the same. Months of summer shooting has built confidence to the bursting point as arrow after (field point tipped) arrow lands exactly where you want it to. Opening day draws near and you decide that it is time to dust off your broadheads and give them a practice shot or two. With confidence still breaming from beneath your camo hat, you draw, come to anchor, find your aiming point, and release. Much to your dismay, your broadhead tipped arrow flies well off the mark; nowhere near the point of impact you experienced during the previous months. It is odd, but in that one instance, all of the shooting confidence you had, which took months to acquire, suddenly slips away….effortlessly. With arrows that are impacting in different locations, and only weeks (maybe days) to correct the problem, panic often ensues and shooting prowess suffers. 

Months of summer shooting and the confidence it builds can quickly vanish when field points are replaced with your actual hunting setup.

Like a lot of bowhunters, I have experienced this dilemma. It isn’t fun. Even with a highly tuned bow, and arrows that have been meticulously constructed (see additional blogs), I have had very little luck getting any type of fixed-blade broadhead to fly like my field points. I have heard it said that no broadhead will fly like a field point. Honestly, I used to believe that. I mean, after all, when you replace a bullet shaped nose with one bearing “wings”, arrow-flight is bound to get dicey. And for the most part, it always did. That was, until I started using products from New Archery Products, also known as NAP. 

The New NAP Thunderhead Razor exhibited the best flight characteristics of any fixed-blade broadhead I have ever tested.

As an outdoor writer and bloger, I am sometimes approached with the prospect of using certain hunting items. In addition, some of the products I use are a direct result of relationships I have built in the outdoor industry. I receive product, and in return, I use it and promote it whenever I can. This leads some to believe that I have no choice but to churn-out “good ink” for sponsors.
In reality, I value my efforts and time spent in the timber too much to take chances with faulty equipment, sponsor or not. Simply put, if I don’t believe in something I won’t use it. So, when I was faced with the prospect of trying out some new fixed-blade broadheads, I was a little more than skeptical. Why? Well, I guess it is because I’ve never been able to find one that flew like my field points. Even more, most never flew with the dart-like characteristics of a field point tipped arrow. Instead, they mostly wobbled off of an obvious center-line all the way to the target. As a result, I had turned to a highly effective mechanical-style broadhead for all of my hunting. 
With these experiences in the back of my mind I headed out to the back yard target. My first shot landed a field-point tipped arrow into the bulls-eye at 30 yards. Cool, but it was time for the real test. Next, I placed a new, out-of-the box, NAP Thunderhead Razor to the end of my Carbon Express Mach 5 arrow and came to full draw. When my broadhead nearly cut my other arrow in half I immediately saw visions of a downed buck. However, I tried to contain my excitement for a few more minutes. Retrieving my arrow I quickly scurried back to 50 yards and again drew back with the Thunderhead tipped arrow. Realizing that this distance would surely reveal any imperfections, not only in my shooting form, but the arrow, broadhead, fletching combination I was using, I wasn’t expecting the same outcome I had received at the closer 30 yard distance. 

Field-point and broadhead groups like this, shot at 50 yards, can only mean one thing.....dead-on accuracy.

When the release trigger broke, I watched as the arrow flew with laser like precision and dead-centered the baseball-size dot. Words can’t explain my excitement. Finally, after so much time spent searching, I had found a deadly accurate, fixed-blade broadhead. Shot after shot proved that my setup, and meticulous attention to detail while building my arrows, had paid off. More importantly, was the fact that I was using quality broadheads combined with unique arrow fletching. 

Without a doubt, the business end of the Razor is very intimidating. This thing will definately let some blood flow.

The NAP Thunderhead has been around for a long time. However, with advancements in technology, the flight characteristics of this new (Razor) fixed-blade head are amazing. With a micro-grooved ferrule, off-set blades, and patented trophy-tip point, the Thunderhead Razor delivers accuracy and bone-splitting penetration, while providing a 1 1/8” cutting diameter. Certainly that is plenty of medicine for a big-timber, WV buck or anything else I may encounter this fall. In addition, the Razor comes fully assembled and ready to shoot right out of the box. That means you don’t have to spend time assembling the blades onto the ferrule.  

I hope to introduce this guy to my new broadhead of choice very soon.

If you’ve tried to get your fixed-blade broadheads to fly true but seem to be coming up short, maybe it’s time to give the  Thunderhead Razor a try before opening day. In my humble opinion, when you combine this head with precisely made arrows and the awesome NAP Quick Fletch system, you will experience the type of hunting accuracy that will drive nails and launch confidence into the next stratosphere. Visit for more info.

Edge Your Way in to a Trophy Buck

by Josh Fletcher 24. August 2011 11:15
Josh Fletcher

With archery season quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about stand placement.  Hunting is an odds game, you have to be in a high percentage location for the most success.  Those locations are often funnels such as bottle necks and travel routes such as edges. Deer along with many other animals, including humans are creatures that love to travel along edges.

Hard Edges

There are two types of edges. The first are hard edges, they are a major break from one terrain to another. An example of a hard edge is a field meeting woods, the location of two terrains meeting together. Deer love to travel these edges; however most bucks love to travel the hard edge from inside the woods.

This map shows the line of a hard edge. Expect a mature buck to travel inside the cover of the woods and not in the open field.

A classic example of how deer travel hard edges was a hunt in Bayfield County during the pre-rut when I was scouting the edge of a large clear cut. I noticed several scrapes out on the clear cut’s open edge, however inside the woods approximately seventy five yards along the south east corner of the clear cut there were numerous large rubs. The rub line paralleled the clear cut’s edge. The dilemma I had was deciding if I was going to place my stand on the open edge overlooking the clear cut that had scrapes along it, or inside the woods overlooking the rub line. Knowing that most trophy class public land bucks won’t feel comfortable exposing themselves out in the open of the clear cut, I opted to hunt the trail that followed along the rubs that parallel the open edge.

As the sun began to rise that cold November morning it wasn’t long when I heard a snap from a broken twig and the swishing of leaves from shuffling feet. A big north woods eight point was walking along the trail of rubs inside the wood line. I quickly came to full draw, made a grunt with my voice to stop him, and made a perfect shot on a stump just over his back, never to see that big brute ever again. Yes, buck fever got the best of me. As I sat there in my stand I began to analyze what made that set up a productive one, minus the poor shot.

For starters there where several trails that ran straight from the woods to the clear cut, there were about a half dozen of these north and south trails (from woods to clear cut.) Then inside the woods on the south and east side of the clear cut approximately seventy five yards in the woods was a trail that traveled parallel to the clear cut that was littered with rubs.

The above map shows how deer use hard edges. Hunt the cross trail to intercept a buck this fall.

What this big brute was doing is waiting till mid-morning, to let any possible does that were feeding out in the clear cut time to travel the north and south trails directly back to bed for the morning. By traveling on the east and west trail, he was able to cross trail or check each north and south trail as he crosses them to scent check for a hot doe. After checking one trail, he continued east until he came to the next trail and checked that one. He continued to do this until I decided to send a warning shot in his direction.
Big bucks are opportunistic and during the rut they are working at peak efficiency trying to scent check and cover as much ground using as little energy as possible. This buck was not only scent checking trails but he was traveling in the south east corner of the cut over. By doing this he was also able to use the wind to his advantage. With a North West wind, any scent of a hot doe would be blowing to the south east right into the nose of this old north woods buck. Also the rubs I found where made either by him or other bucks taking out their aggression and leaving scent markers of their travel route which was on the cross trail.  Even though I was not able to seal the deal on this buck, it is a classic example of how deer use hard edges.

The author's brother, Clint Fletcher harvested this buck while hunting a hard edge consisting of a pine plantation meeting open marsh grass.

Recap About Hard Edges

•You will find majority of scrapes along the open side of a hard edge.
•Look inside the woods of a hard edge for a cross trail that parallels the field.
•Hunt the cross trail on the downwind side of a field especially during the pre-rut and seeking phase.
•Focus your efforts just off of the field edge into the woods. Unless during the rut, most trophy class bucks will not expose themselves to the openness of the field.   They will always maintain a position of cover.
•Hard edges are most productive during the pre- rut.

Soft Edges

The second type of edge is called soft edges. These are two terrains that are semi different meeting in a same location. An example of a soft edge is an oak hard woods meeting a cedar swamp. Soft edges can also be a location in the woods of the same tree species but different arrangement, basically where a thick stand of pines meeting a more open stand of pines. The soft edges are my favorite edges to hunt, however you must be observant to spot these edges, as I have often found that the most productive soft edges can be hard to spot.

The above picture shows thick short pines meeting tall open pines, creating a soft edge.

An example of a soft edge is an area on a piece of property I used to hunt. It was an oak hardwoods draw that was approximately two hundred yards wide. I set up my stand more in the center of the draw hoping to catch a buck traveling in the draw feeding on acorns. On every occasion I saw deer traveling approximately eighty yards to the south of me. Enough was enough and I knew I needed to move. As I walked over to where I was seeing the deer traveling, I noticed right away why all the deer where traveling to the south of me. Most of the draw was open oaks, however south of my original stand location was a thick line of blackberry brush and the deer where walking along the edge of the brush. With most of the draw being wide open, the deer felt more comfortable traveling along the thick black berry brush, using it as a point of reference for them to travel though the draw.
Another example of a soft edge was the buck I shot last fall. I was hunting a soft edge consisting of jack pines meeting poplar trees along a drainage ditch. There was a trail that funneled down through the jack pine point, leading to the drainage ditch, the trail then crossed and followed the drainage ditch to thick red willows. It was the end of October and a doe being chased by two bucks, the second was the one I shot. The doe used this soft edge to elude the two boys that were chasing her.  Whether it is early season or late fall, deer travel soft edges to get from one location to the other.

The author harvested this buck last fall as he chased a doe along a soft edge.

Recap about soft edges

•Soft edges are subtle and often over looked.
•They can be productive at all times of the season.
•Soft edges make great travel corridors during the rut.
•Deer often travel along soft edges because they use them as a point of reference when traveling. Much in the same way we travel on a particular road to work every  day.
•Unlike hard edges, set up on the more open side of the edge, and make sure you are with in shooting distance of the soft edge.

In conclusion, animals are creatures of habit and edges. The next time you take a walk in the woods, pay attention to the terrain that you walk though. When you stop and think about it, you also travel edges just like deer. The key is to take a step back and study how you would travel through the woods because often deer travel the exact same way, and that travel is along some form of edges whether it be a soft edge or a hard edge. Pay attention to this and key in on edges this year to edge your way in to a trophy buck this year.

The Great Debate: Speed vs. Kinetic Energy

by Steve Flores 31. July 2011 16:10
Steve Flores

Generally speaking, if you can’t hit what you are aiming at it really doesn’t matter how fast your arrow is traveling or how much of a punch it is carrying.  I was reminded of this fact while prepping for the fast approaching whitetail season. 

Opening day is fast approaching. Have you given any thought to your ammo and how it can affect your hunt? If not, you should.

Perched in my practice stand, I took aim at the second furthest target which was about 25 yards away. Slowly squeezing the release trigger I was pleased when my arrow “12 ringed” the bedded doe. Moving on to the next target in line, a standing buck some 30 yards away, I took aim, squeezed, and watched as my arrow nearly dropped out of the kill zone. Immediately, I began replaying my shot sequence trying to figure out what I had done wrong.

When preping for "real-world" shooting scenrio's, make sure your practice sessions resemble "real-world" shooting scenrio's; if they don't you're wasting your time.

Suddenly, I realized that I had forgotten to dial-in the correct yardage on my single pin, moveable sight. As it turned out, it was still set for the previous 25 yard shot. Irritated with my carelessness, I found comfort knowing that, had that been a real world hunting situation, I still would have made a lethal hit. Naturally, this event got me thinking about arrows, grain scales, and the all-important fact that you must first hit what you are aiming at…..otherwise everything else becomes irrelevant. 

 Single pin, moveable sights are great, unless of course you forget to dial them in to the correct yardage. Such mistakes are made for a forgiving bow/arrow setup.

My first thought surrounded my recent decision to switch arrows. My new selection was a touch lighter (25 grains to be exact) than the heavier shafts I decided to retire. Yeah, they are carrying a little less foot-pounds of energy, but they make up for it in other areas. For instance, my yardage-dial oversight was similar to misjudging the yardage by only 5 yards in the field. And even though it was off the intented mark, it still was a killing shot. Had I been shooting the heavier shaft, I would have essentially wounded the whitetail standing downrange or completely missed it. My hope would be to miss it completely but who knows what the outcome would have been. My point is, when it comes to bowhunting whitetails, a super-heavy shaft isn’t really necessary, and in all actuality, could hurt your chances for success. Sure, when elk or grizzly are the target, every spare foot-pound of energy could make a difference, but whitetails hardly measure up to such quarry; even big bodied mid-western bucks. 

This black bear was no match for a low poundage setup and a mid-weight arrow. My wife made easy work of this bruin with one well placed shot.

Even more, when you consider the kinetic energy formula, speed is squared….velocity (squared) x arrow weight / 450, 240 = kinetic energy. If you plug-in some of your own numbers you will quickly see that the payoff in added foot pounds of energy is marginal between a heavy shaft and a mid-weight shaft. However, the difference in arrow speed, range estimation errors, and your ability to hit what you are aiming at are greatly affected. An incorrect guess in yardage, by 5 yards or more, could spell disaster. You should also consider that the further the shot, the more likely a mis-judgement is going to result in a complete miss.

Tough game demands more kinetic energy. Whitetails....not as much as one might think. Consider your quarry and select your arrows accordingly.

This fall, when the stakes are high and the pressure is on, I know what type of arrow I will be shooting. My arrow of choice will work for me, not against me. My arrow of choice will make me look like a better shot than I really aim. I can live with that.
Missed opportunities…that’s a different story.

Categories: Blog | Bowhunting Blogs

Deadly Summer Practice - Extending Your Effective Bow-Killing Range

by Steve Flores 10. July 2011 15:09
Steve Flores

There is no denying that “closer is better” when it comes to dumping the bowstring on the trophy of your dreams. However, adding just 10 yards to your effective killing distance can have a huge impact on the likelihood that you return home with a filled tag this fall. I know there have been a few times in my career when I would have done just about anything (relatively speaking) to have been just 10 yards closer to an animal. This wishful thinking is typically connected in one way or another to a very large whitetail. And, while I don’t attempt, nor advocate, long-range “pokes” at deer or any other big-game animal, with today’s equipment and a disciplined practice regimen, adding 10 or 15 yards to your effective killing range is a realistic and attainable goal. However, there are a few key points to consider in order to get the most out of your practice efforts this summer.

Long-Distance is Key
The first thing you need to understand is that in order to increase your EKR (Effective Killing Range) you’re going to have to step outside of your comfort zone….at least temporarily. This means shooting at distances you would never attempt in the field. It may sound intimidating, but I promise, after shooting at a 3-D target from 75 yards away, for a week straight, that 40 yards shot that once made you cringe will seem like mere child’s play.
A good rule of thumb to go by when trying to decide how far is far enough when practicing, is to first consider the maximum distance from which you would like to be able to deliver a killing shot. For example, if you want to be deadly at, say, 40 yards, then you should be shooting regularly at 50 and 60 yards. Shooting under pressure, from a stand, in an awkward position, with cold, lethargic muscles, combined with the overwhelming effects of “buck fever”, can easily turn routine shooting ranges into anything but. It is funny (frustrating actually) how a previously acceptable shooting distance can suddenly look out of reach as you struggle to compose yourself. Therefore, it is imperative to combat this situation by going overboard in your summer-time preparation. This means shooting while you are out of your comfort zone, i.e. long-range. 

 In the initial stages of “long-range” shooting, expect accuracy to suffer. While this may be unavoidable, it is not un-fixable. With a little practice, your groups will tighten back up, but more importantly, your confidence during “typical” bowhunting shots will soar. This 70 yard group will add nothing but confidence during routine bowhunting shots.

However, before you step outside to do some long-range shooting, be sure to leave your ego in the house. I say that because when you first start slinging arrows from “way back”, your patterns are going to more closely resemble that of a shotgun, rather than the tight groups you might be accustomed to. Naturally, your first reaction will be to move back up to a comfortable distance in order to tighten up your groups again, and thus, restore your self-esteem. Unfortunately, that won’t make you a better shot this fall; especially when the chips are down. The point is, keep your eye on the goal at hand (extending your EKR) and forget about shooting bad for a week or so. I promise the payoff will be enormous.

The Right Stuff
While some equipment choices will definitely make shooting at long distances much easier, that doesn’t mean you have to abandon your current hunting rig. In fact, it is best to practice with the exact same setup you plan to hunt with. That is why I try to build my bow in a way that allows me to handle a variety of shooting situations…long or short range.


Practicing with the same setup you plan to hunt with just makes good sense.

The first piece of equipment I like to concentrate on is the bow sight. When considering certain models, I like to think of the differences between a pistol and a rifle. In other words, it is much easier to shoot at long range with a rifle (with the front sight being further away from the eye) than it is with a pistol who’s sights are closer together. The same goes when shooting a bow. The further away from your eye you can put your sight pins, the more accurate your setup will be; particularly at long range.


Sights that incorporate some type of “extension” bar are great for getting the sight pin as far away from the eye as possible, thus increasing accuracy.

Next, is the pin size itself. Large diameters may mean increased visibility, but at longer ranges, they can actually hinder accuracy because their size will tend to cover up a portion of the target. However, low-light bowhunting conditions dictate highly visible pins, so what’s a guy to do? Simply choose a pin diameter somewhere in the middle. This usually means a diameter somewhere in the neighborhood of .029”. Yes, you will experience a little target “cover-up” at longer distances, but the bottom line is this is, not Remember, the goal is to become a better bowhunter.

Before purchasing your next bow sight, consider how far away your shots will be and choose your fiber optics accordingly.


With the unique “triangular” aiming point on the new Trijicon AccuPin bow sight there is no need to worry about target “cover-up”. Shooters can simply use the tip of the aiming point for the most precise shooting possible...up close, or far away.

Lastly, consider the object you are propelling down-range. Differences in arrows aren’t very noticeable at stretches of 30 yards or less. However, launching “cut-rate” shafts at long range will quickly offer plenty of reasons to spring for arrows with tighter manufacturing tolerances. This is even truer when placing a broadhead on the end of your arrow. Variances in arrow straightness, weight and spine, combined with broadhead tolerances, and the straightness of the insert face, all conspire to steer your arrow off its intended mark. And, as the distance grows, so does the effects sub-par equipment will have. So, choose the best arrow and broadhead combo you can afford; especially if you hope to extend your killing range this fall.


Fixed-blade accuracy like this is hard to achieve with mediocre equipment. The combination of a properly tuned bow, in this case a Mathews eZ7, precision arrows (Gold-Tip Pro Hunters), and meticulously made broadheads (NAP), all add up to make for a deadly package at any range. 

I have used a number of quality arrows over the years; these include shafts made by Easton, Gold Tip and Carbon Express. With regard to broadhead choices, I can honestly say, those manufactured by NAP have provided the best fixed-blade flight thus far….and no, not because they are a sponsor of See accuracy displayed in photo above and decide for yourself.

Ignore What You See
The last point I want to cover is the sight picture. You see, when you’re standing 20-30 yards from the target, your pin will appear to hold “rock-steady” on your aiming point. However, as the distance grows, your pin will appear to move more erratically; almost seemingly with a mind of its own. You will suddenly feel incapable of holding the pin steady, on the exact target spot you want to hit. This will then create an urge to further “control” how steady you aim, which will ironically lead to more pin movement and thus, more effort to control it. It is a crazy cycle of which there is only one solution….forget about the sight pin movement! Just get your pin as close as possible to the spot you want to hit, and then forget about it. Let it roll around in the smallest circle possible. I like to do this until the bow fires (using a surprise release). 

 Resist the urge to hold your sight pin “dead-on” the target, regardless of the range. It is an unachievable goal and will ruin your ability to shoot well; especially when attempting long-range shots. Instead, strive to let it move in the smallest circle possible around the target spot.

Don’t forget, this entire process of learning to shoot at long range will take some getting used to, but when that giant buck comes strolling down the trail this fall, all you will be thinking about is how confident you are in your ability to make the shot….despite the distance reading on your rangefinder.

Gear Review: Leupold RX-1000i TBR Rangefinder

by Steve Flores 4. June 2011 01:07
Steve Flores

In the world of bowhunting, undoubtedly the most vital piece of information any hunter can have at their disposal is knowing exactly how far away the target animal is. Making an accurate shot with archery equipment requires knowing the precise yardage to the target because the projectile (arrow) is traveling substantially slower than, say, that of a bullet. Depending on the speed of your setup, a miscalculation of only 5 yards could drastically alter your impact point---resulting in a missed or wounded animal!

However, years ago, technological advancements brought to the market a rather crude (by today’s standards) but effective piece of equipment that helped bowhunters across the country determine exactly how far away that rutting buck or bull elk was before dumping the bowstring. This device, called a Rangefinder, worked by looking through the unit’s eye-piece and turning a dial until two images of the same object came together. Once the images (of a tree, rock, buck, whatever) became one, the corresponding distance could be read and the correct sight pin selected for the shot. While it was a breakthrough at the time, and was somewhat more accurate than guessing, I found the unit was slow, cumbersome and sometimes not as accurate as I hoped. These downfalls were only exaggerated during “heat of the moment” situations where quick, simple ranging was needed.  

Knowing the distance to your target is half the battle. A good rangefinder will make the task much easier.

Fast forwarding to the present day…..
WOW! Hold on to your camo hat! Today’s rangefinders are ultra-compact, user friendly, lightning-fast, and most important….deadly accurate. A perfect example of such a unit is the new RX-1000i TBR Laser Rangefinder by optics giant Leupold. Let’s take a closer look at this engineering masterpiece.  

 The RX-1000i TRB is simplistic genius. It is simple to use, deadly accurate, feature-packed, ultra-compact, lightweight, rugged and dependable. Best of all….it’s a Leupold.

The RX1000i TBR
Removing the new Rx-1000i TBR from the box, the first thing I noticed was how strikingly compact it was. This thing can easily fit inside a small pocket or around the neck, with little interference while making the shot. In addition, the RX’s ergonomics allowed it sit comfortably in my hand, which made the task of “ranging” feel almost second-nature.
Peering through the monocular I was pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the picture. Distant objects were brought closer and displayed as crisp, clear images into my watchful eye thanks to the 6x magnification, manual focus capabilities, and high-quality lenses.


Depressing the power button quickly brought the display-screen to life in brilliant red color; this was a nice break from the drab, black colors I had grown accustomed to with other rangefinders.

Locating a distant object, I eagerly depressed the power button to get my first reading. As quickly as I had pushed the button, the yardage was displayed back to me. I figured this would change as the distance to the target grew; meaning, the rangefinder would need a little more time to tell me the distance to a far off object. Wrong! Ranging several trees, shrubs and rocks on nearby mountain sides, the RX-1000i TBR continued to display the distance with mind-boggling speed. I quickly realized my old rangefinder had just become obsolete. 

Of course, simply providing bowhunters with quick, accurate readings (+-5 yards) at distances of 125 yards or less and (+- 3 yards) beyond 125 yards is great, but Leupold added so much more to this rangefinder than basic range estimations. With a built in “Scan Mode”, the shooter can follow an animal as it moves through the timber….all while receiving continuous measurements of the moving object. This feature can also be used to obtain the range of multiple animals or objects by simply moving the reticle from one target to another while holding down the POWER button. Awesome!

 Not only is the RX1000i feature-packed, it is also weatherproof. You can rest assured that harsh conditions won’t hamper its performance.

The RX-1000i TBR also offers True Ballistic Range technology for both bow and rifle users. Even though this is a bowhunting site, I feel it is worth mentioning that the TBR function for rifles shooters is simply amazing; offering ballistics for 7 different rifle groups, the appropriate range to the target, as well as “hold over” (in inches) for that target! This feature will provide unmatched accuracy no matter what your weapon of choice. 

 Steep shooting angles will not be a problem thanks to the TBR function on the RX-1000i.

When it comes to shooting out of a treestand or up and down steep terrain, the RX will provide the equivalent horizontal range (level shooting distance) for arrows when in the BOW mode. This display range represents the ballistically equivalent horizontal distance to the target if the target is 125 yards away or less. If the target is further the unit simply displays the Line of Sight (LOS) distance. The True Ballistic Range feature is only available on the TBR model rangefinder. 

 Great ergonomics and a gridded, soft rubber shell make the RX-1000i easy to handle and hard to drop.

Lastly, the RX1000i TBR Rangefinder comes with special DNA. This feature is Leupold’s next generation laser engine. The DNA (Digitally eNhanced Accuracy) makes significant improvements in what matters most to hunters; distance measurement accuracy and displayed range precision. The new advanced signal processing techniques in the DNA engine raises the bar of the laser measurements with 0.5 yard accuracy of distance measurements and the displayed range precision using the bright OLED display in 1/10th yard increments out to 125 yards. 

The case for the RX was also very nice. Instead of a noisy, game-spooking Velcro opening, it has an ultra-smooth, dead-silent, magnetic flip open lid.

You may be telling yourself that a rangefinder is just a rangefinder. Honestly, I thought the same thing. That was until I got my hands on this unit. Now I understand that sometimes there is more to these handy devices than meets the eye. Without a doubt, the latest offering from Leupold is a huge step up from your average, run-of-the-mill rangefinder. Check them out if you get a chance.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Leupold also offers a bow mounted rangefinder? Talk about a sweet addition to your favorite bow! Maybe we’ll cover that awesome piece of technology next time. Until then…….  

Gear Review- NAP Apache Arrow Rest, QuikFletch, and Bloodrunner Broadhead

by Steve Flores 17. May 2011 14:09
Steve Flores

The older I get, the less I like change; particularly when it comes to my bowhunting gear. It is an emotion that I try hard to reverse. Nevertheless, as a regular contributor to and Bow and Arrow Hunting magazine, I am often asked to try different products and offer an opinion. Sometimes, these products must replace an “old favorite” that I have grown accustomed to using and trust very much when it comes to filling tags. Such was the case with my latest gear review.

First on the list is the new Apache Arrow Rest from the fine folks at New Archery Products (NAP). On the surface this rest looks very similar to other drop-away rests on the market. However, when you consider the features found on the Apache, compared to the cost, what you have is anything but a comparable, run-of-the mill drop-away.

The NAP Apache Arrow Rest is big on features and low on cost.

As the NAP Apache was being installed on my Mathews eZ7, I honestly had mixed feelings….stemming mainly from the price of the unit. I know, I know, I shouldn’t feel that way and I hate to admit it. But hey, the arrow rest that it was replacing had been with me a long time and cost 3 times as much! Sorry, but I’m only human. Besides, I think readers deserve an honest review, and that was my thoughts. At any rate, in a matter of minutes the Apache was set up and I was headed to the range.

Built from precision-machined aluminum, the Apache is lightweight and will function flawlessly under tough hunting conditions. In addition, the tool-free adjustments, and laser-etched graduation marks offer precise in-the-field fine tuning.

It didn’t take long for me to realize that this arrow rest was deadly quiet, and launched my arrows as accurately as anything I had previously tested; my feelings of discontent were slowly starting to erode. Shot after shot, my arrow groups proved to be nock busting tight. Suddenly, change didn’t seem so bad after all. The confidence I thought I had lost was quickly being restored. Happy with the results I was seeing, I decided to move on to the next product on my list.

The Apache drop away provides total arrow containment. Complete with a 360 degree sound-dampening pad and a pre-installed felt silencer on the v-launcher. Combined, these features guarantee a smooth, whisper silent draw.

Once again, the next test item in question was poised to replace a favorite piece of equipment in my gear bag. Opening the package of QuikFletch arrow wraps and vanes I was again skeptical. But this time it had more to do with precision than anything else. You see, the control freak in me loves to build arrows. That way, I can wrap each one myself, and glue each vane on individually using the same fletching jig. This meticulous attention to detail increases the likelihood that all of the arrows in my quiver will perform the same no matter which one I reach for. The thought of applying an arrow wrap and vanes all at once, in a matter of seconds, left a huge doubt in my mind regarding the precision and accuracy of these things. But, in the name of good journalism, I decided to give them a shot, no pun intended.

The author was understandably skeptical given the simple nature of the NAP QuikFletch system.

It would have taken me longer to open up a tube of fletching glue than it took to make my first arrow, complete with a wrap and 3 vanes. Placing my arrow in a pot of boiling water, with the QuickFletch in place, the job was done in literally 10 seconds flat! The smile on my face could be seen from my treestand, miles away from my kitchen stove. There was only one thing on my mind now.
As a father of 3, time is something I have very little of. What I was holding in my hand was the mother of all time savers! Suddenly, I saw a vision of endless arrows, all perfectly fletched and ready for action. No longer would I be forced to build my arrows late at night, when the house was quiet and everyone was sound asleep.

 The QuikFletch system can literally create a finished arrow, complete with wrap and 3 vanes in a matter of seconds! Creating more time for additional bowhunting tasks.

However, the big question still remained. How accurate would my newly made QuikFlecth arrows be? After all, saving time becomes a moot point if a product becomes a liability in the field. So again, off to the range I went. It only took a round or two to see for myself that this product performed better than I ever dreamed it could. I had never shot tighter groups in my career; especially from a bow that I was still breaking in! Yet, there were my arrows, in the target butt, waded together like a tightly-nit sweater. I was literally amazed that something so simple could produce such great arrow flight. 

Not only is the NAP QuikFletch fast and simple, it is deadly accurate as well. With a combination of NAP’S patented microgrooves, kicker and super-tough material, the Quick-Spin vane provides a flatter trajectory than standard vanes and increases arrow spin by as much as 300%. This would explain the exceptional accuracy I was achieving.

Last on my list was the NAP Bloodrunner Broadhead. You would think by now my cynical attitude would have changed. But, I have shot enough broadheads in my day, each promising accurate flight, to realize I shouldn’t jump to conclusions just yet. Carefully screwing the razor-sharp broadhead to the end of my Gold Tip Pro Hunter shaft, I stepped back to a comfortable 30 yard distance and came to full draw.

 A lot of broadheads claim accurate arrow flight but don’t necessarily deliver. Would the NAP Bloodrunner prove to be different?

Not knowing what to expect, I slowly squeezed my release trigger until the bow jumped forward. The arrow impacted in nearly the same hole as my field points! Awesome, a broadhead that didn’t fly like a wounded duck! Deciding to launch another shot downrange, I eased back the little “e” and settled in for the shot. Upon impact I knew something had happened. Walking up to the target face I was astonished at what I found. I have shot several Robin Hood’s in my day, but never with broadheads. That was all I needed to know about the accuracy of this particular head. It was an expensive lesson, but the results would make for a great conversation piece.

 Thanks to the hybrid design of the Bloodrunner, you get a broadhead with a low, in-flight measurement of 1 inch; providing pin-point arrow flight. Upon impact, the broadheads piston motion opens up the blades to a devastating 1 ½ inches.

With three tough, scary sharp blades, the Bloodrunner can slice through soft tissue and organs with little effort while handling the toughest impacts with bone.

There is little doubt that the NAP combination I’ve recently discovered has just become my new favorite! I can’t argue with the results, regardless of my reluctance to change. If, like myself, you’ve been thinking that low cost, simple setup, easy application and uncomplicated design equals less accuracy, forgiveness, precision, or confidence….think again. NAP has a number of products that shatter that myth.  Check out their latest batch of goodies at You won’t be sorry you did.

After the Shot—Clues to recovering your next whitetail

by Steve Flores 9. May 2011 14:50
Steve Flores

Months of preparation, hours and hours of practice time, days of hanging stand after stand, all come down to one split second, one opportunity to loose an arrow at the whitetail of your dreams, or at least, the whitetail of the moment.  When the shot finally happens there is a great sense of relief; especially if it is a solid hit.  However, before you start reaching for that tag there are a few steps that should be taken to ensure you make the right decisions during this very critical, but often overlooked, time.


Unless you witness your deer “topple-over”, don’t assume that you’ve made a lethal hit. Follow up with caution until your hands are wrapped around the antlers for real.

Remember the last Spot
If the deer you’ve just shot happens to run away, pay special attention to the very last place it was standing (or running) before loosing sight of it.  Look for easily recognizable landmarks such as rocks, downed trees or unique logs.  These will aid you in locating that “last spot seen” once you are actually on the ground because the topography will look vastly different once you climb out of your stand.  This can result in following the wrong trail and possibly loosing your deer.

There is a huge difference in how things look from 20 feet up in a treestand and ground level. This can add confusion to an already tedious moment in the hunt.

In addition, once the animal is no longer visible, you should pay special attention to any noise or racket in order to determine if your animal has crashed to the ground or has kept running.  Even fatally shot deer will run.  Some make it a short distance and fall dead, some run a little further before expiring.  Either way, there is no set distance to how far they can or will run; even if your arrow passes completely through the boiler room.

 Once your deer is out of sight, your sense of hearing should take over in order to detect the sound of cracking limbs or the overabundance of leaves rustling….followed by dead silence.

Find your Arrow
The reason it’s so vital to find your arrow is simple.  It holds a ton of clues as to the location of impact.  For instance, an arrow covered in bright red blood, filled with tiny air bubbles, indicates a solid lung hit.  An arrow with brown and green residue on it, accompanied by a “staunch” odor is typical of a gut shot animal.  And lastly, dark red blood on your arrow may be an indication of a liver hit. 

 You never really know what your arrow is going to do after it impacts flesh and bone. Therefore, it is vital to locate it if at all possible in order to better evaluate the situation.

If you typically experience trouble locating your arrow after the shot, there are several aftermarket items designed to help bowhunters not only find their arrow after the shot, but watch it while it is in flight as well.  One such product is “lighted” nocks.  Much like a tracer round fired from a rifle, arrows with lighted nocks are highly visible from the moment they leave the bowstring until the instant they disappear into hide and hair.  This makes determining exactly where your arrow impacted much easier; which in turn will help you make the best decisions about how badly the animal is hurt and when to take up the trail.

 Lighted nocks greatly enhance your ability to “track” your arrow in flight. Arrow “wraps” are also a good idea if you have trouble finding your arrow once it is on the ground.

Tic Toc, Tic Toc
You’ve found your arrow.  You’ve determine to the best of your ability what type of hit it was.  Now you must decide what to do.  For starters, even if I know my shot was on the money, I think it is a wise choice not to follow the blood trail for at least 20-30 minutes.  That may sound like a long time; especially if you know your buck is lying just around the point.  However, when you consider the time it takes to gather your composure, collect your gear, and climb down, such a waiting period will go by rather quickly. 

Climbing down too soon after the shoot can not only hurt your chances of recovering your deer, it can also increase the odds that you injure yourself.  Maneuvering down a tree while under the influence of adrenaline isn’t the smartest thing to do. Settle your nerves first, then climb down.

When it comes to recovering your deer, the “gut shot” doesn’t have to be the kiss of death.  The problem arises from bowhunters pushing deer too soon.  A gut shot deer is likely going to die.  The trick is to leave it alone and let it expire as closely to where you shot it as possible.  Since there will be very little blood to follow, it is vital that the deer drop within close proximity of your stand site.  Otherwise, a long tracking job usually results in a lost deer.
Gut shot deer get a minimum of 8 hours wait time in my book.  If I happen to make this shot right before last light, I will usually elect to return the next morning; making sure I leave the area as quietly as possible.  If it is the start of a hot, early season day, I will usually cut that time in half; hoping to recover the deer before meat spoilage occurs; making a bad situation even worse. 

 This buck was left to lay overnight after a suspected liver shot. Expecting to find the deer piled-up the next morning, the author and his hunting buddy were astonished when the bruiser sprang to his feet mere yards from them. A follow up shot by the author’s friend ended the 12 hour plus ordeal.

The same goes for liver shots.  This type of wound will definitely take down a whitetail.  However, ample time must be given before taking up the trail; especially if your broadhead doesn’t punch right through the center of this organ.  Of course, there is no way of knowing how well you hit the liver until you actually perform the field dressing chores.  Therefore, proceed with caution.

 Making the shot is only the beginning. The real work, as they say, begins afterward. Do your best to follow up your shot with a level head. The outcome of your hunt depends on it.

You’ve worked your tail off  to get to the point where you hear your bowstring jump forward and watch your arrow cut a straight path to its target.  Don’t screw things up now.  Take a moment to settle your nerves; watching and listening to everything around you.  Then, make your decisions based on the information you have collected.  If you do, the odds are pretty good you will make the right ones.


Armchair Whitetail Scouting

by Steve Flores 21. March 2011 13:16
Steve Flores

Flying under the whitetail radar, while effectively locating your next trophy from the comfort of your own home, is actually easier than it sounds using these three steps.

Record Books
They may not have the glitz and glamour compared to other methods used to uncover whitetail hotspots, but don’t kid yourself regarding their value.  If properly utilized, record books are the next best thing to someone actually telling you where the whitetail hotspots are located.  You see, most individuals are reluctant to reveal their exact whereabouts when they experience any type of consistent success; especially when hunting on public land, and without a doubt if the animal is of Pope and Young caliber.  However, upon entering their trophy into the record books, they must at least divulge the general area of the harvest.  And that is where this entire process begins. 

Another good source of information is your local taxidermist. They are witness to a large variety of bucks and usually know the exact details of the kill. (i.e. harvest data: time, date, location)

Searching through the most recent edition of P&Y records will ultimately tell you (among other things), where the best bucks is being taken.  Finding a hotspot is as easy as calculating the total number of entries for any given county within the state you are researching.  Obviously, when you find a county that is consistently producing a high number of record class bucks, then that is where you will most likely want to concentrate your efforts.

Topo Maps
When using the lay of the land as a guide for stand placement, whether you’re in an entirely new spot or on very familiar hunting ground, the first thing you need to do is realize there are 2 types of terrain features….Positive and Negative.  Both will influence deer movement.  Your job is to utilize the clues found on your topo map to determine which types your area holds and how the deer are going to respond to them.  Then, act accordingly.


Don’t dismiss the amount of information contained in a topo map. Take your time and study one of your area before actually walking in on foot to further investigate.

When looking at your map, try to find negative terrain features that funnel deer movement into a pinch point.  For example, a small drain possessing steep side-hills that eventually turn into gradual slopes near the top is an excellent illustration of how negative terrain can funnel and influence deer movement.  Ideally, any deer moving through the area will most likely cross near the top, where the slope is not as radical.  An actual observation of the land should reveal heavy trails at the top which will coincide with the “widely spaced” contour lines from your topo map. For the most part deer are lazy and will often take the path of least resistance; as long as it provides them with the safety needed to get from point A to point B. Use this behavior to your advantage when thinking about possible stand locations.

Positive terrain features on the other hand will include, but not limit themselves to: ridge-top saddles, shallow creek crossings, overgrown logging roads, bench flats, and/or gradually sloping hollows.  In the past, I have set up in saddles discovered using only a topo map and long range observation, and struck pay-dirt my first time in the stand; mainly due to a bucks tendency to use a low lying saddle when crossing over a ridge in order to prevent sky-lining himself. 

Scouting Cameras
You should already have a good idea about where you are going to hang your camera based on the info (lay of the land) gathered from your maps.  Within that chosen area, consider setting up your camera near recently discovered “pinch points”.  Ideally, you’ll want to be set up in high traffic areas; somewhere near bedding/feeding locations or along the transition routes in between. However, if you are unfamiliar with the locale, it may take a little more investigating to discover such places.


Scouting cameras are your eyes when you are not there. Set them up in the right locations and they can pay off in a big way.

  Not only can game cameras reveal travel patterns of target bucks known to frequent your area, they can also provide evidence of NEW bucks that have moved in for any number of reasons. 

While conducting your search, look for heavily used trails leading to pinch points that choke deer movement into a confined area; increasing the likelihood that you will capture useful images.  Remember though, that the overall goal is to remain under the whitetails radar, so try to conduct your camera hanging/scouting before the season starts.  Also, do your best to get the camera location right the first time in order to avoid disturbing the area any more than what is absolutely necessary.  If you have thoroughly studied your maps, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Finding a good location to hang your treestand will be much easier having followed these three tips......

and the rewards will be well worth it!

Locating your next trophy without tipping your hand can be difficult to say the least.  However, with a little more homework, and a lot less footwork, you can accomplish far more than you thought possible.  Remember to utilize the information found in record books and harvest reports to get you headed in the right direction.  Then, obtain a topographic map of the area and study it as if your life depended on it. Lastly, go in and hang a scouting camera based on positive and negative terrain features and see if your hunch was right.  My bet is you will be going back very soon to hang a stand. Good luck and God Bless!











Getting A Good Whitetail Deer Mount

by Justin Zarr 17. March 2011 15:15
Justin Zarr

A few weeks ago I wrote a Blog about how much I was starting to like European Skull Mounts.  Although that still holds true, there's still something that's undeniably cool about a really good whitetail shoulder mount.  However, for as much as a good mount can enhance your trophy forever - a bad mount can all but ruin your trophy just as quickly.

When it comes to whitetail mounts I will admit, I'm a bit of a "mount snob".  I am pretty quick to judge nearly all whitetail mounts that I see, either good or bad.  In my opinion if you're going to pay good money to get a buck mounted, you fully intend on keeping that mount for the rest of your life so you should want it to look good and hold up over time.  In order to get that high quality you need to find a good taxidermist, and often times be willing to pay a little more money.  Just like anything in life when it comes to taxidermy, you get what you pay for.

The main areas I look for in a quality whitetail mount are the eyes (and more specifically the pre-orbital glands in front of the eyes), the nose, the placement of the ears and the mouth.  In my option these are the four hardest details to get right.  These are the things that separate a good mount from a bad mount.  Let me show you some examples.

The eyes of a whitetail deer mount are probably the one thing I see that are most commonly done badly.  Everyone knows what I'm talking about - the deer mount that looks like it got ran over my a steam roller and the eyes are bugging out of the deer's head.  Every time I see one of these I think to myself "Did the person who mounted this deer really think that looks good?"  On a good whiteail mount the eyes will be properly set into the face, and the pre-orbital gland will be a noticable "divit" directly in front of it.  Additionally, the taxidermist will commonly apply some sort of epoxy and paint this area as well.

A good whitetail deer mount starts is the eyes.  Having them set into the face at the right angle and paying attention to the pre-orbital gland is extremely important and can make or break your trophy's appearance.

The next item I notice on a lot of bad mounts is the mouth.  I don't know about you but the last time I checked deer didn't walk around the woods with a smile on their face.  So the case of the "Smiling Deer" is another disaster when it comes to getting a good mount.  I have a few photos of some smiling deer mounts, but none of them belong to me so I won't post them here.   I'm sure most of you know what I'm talking about and if you don't, rest assured when you see one you will!

The nose is another important piece of the good mount puzzle.  Most commonly the nose of the mount is formed using an epoxy and then the "Wrinkles" are pressed into it using a roller.  In some cases the taxidermist will actually form the wrinkles individually, but that is usually only done for taxidermy competitionis where every detail counts.  In the case of a bad mount, the nose is usually mis-shaped, appears flat, or in some cases looks like it's ready to peel off the mount entirely.  The nose is also one of the first areas to start showing the age of the mount, so making sure your taxidermist is using the highest quality supplies is very important.

The amount of detail put into the nose also plays a vital role in how well your whitetail mount will end up looking.

I shot this buck in 1999 and now over a decade later the nose is holding up great - proof that using high quality materials truly does matter.

Here's a great example of what I would consider a bad mount.   Notice how the eyes are bugging out of the deer's head, the pre-orbital glands are not in the proper place, and the nose is not only flat looking, but is also starting to crack and show serious signs of aging.

Finally, the ear placement and quality can also make or break your mount.  I've seen several mounts where the ears appear to be located 1/4 of the way down the deer's neck, and in some cases seen them so thin that the insides are nothing but the plastic form and some paint.

Aside from the quality of the workmanship your taxidermist offers, there are several other factors that go into getting a good quality whitetail mount.  The most important in my option are picking the right pose and the right ear alignment for your buck.  Of course both of these are personal preferences, but selecting ones that accent the qualities of your deer will produce a better product in the end.

The newest addition to my family of whitetail mounts and another fine example of quality taxidermy work done by my long-time taxidermist, friend, and great storyteller Mr. Dale Schwab.

For big mature bucks with swollen necks, I like a mount that really shows off the deer's size.  Something with an offset shoulder can really help accentuate the size of the deer (provided your taxidermist ordered the right size form that is).  Additionally, making sure the deer is facing the proper direction for when he'll be on your wall is important as well.  Having a buck in the corner staring straight into the adjacent wall is never a good way to display your trophy.

As for the ear alignment, if your buck has a narrow rack it's often good to position the ears in a somewhat laid back position.  This will help make the rack stand off the buck's head and appear wider.  If your buck does have a nice wide rack, putting the ears out wide will help draw attention to his width.

Selecting the right form and ear alignment for your whitetail deer mount can greatly increase it's visual appeal, and provide you with a mount that you will be happy with for the rest of your life.

All in all when it comes to getting a good whitetail mount you need to shop around, compare the work of your local taxidermists and get recommendations from friends or customers whose work you've been able to inspect.  Going through a little bit of trouble to find a good taxidermist and paying a little extra is well worth it in the end.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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