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Bulldozers push out wildlife for more corn

by Patrick Durkin 22. June 2012 08:50
Patrick Durkin

If you drive through farm country these days, you’ll often see bulldozers pushing old farmsteads, fencerows and windbreaks into monstrous burn piles to expand high-priced cornfields for feeding cattle and brewing ethanol.
All those miles of former brush, oaks, box elder, tall grass, dark granite and crumbling limestone once served as valuable shelterbelts. Besides protecting farm fields from wind and water erosion, they also provided habitat for deer, rabbits, songbirds, pheasants and other wildlife.

Bulldozers pushed several hundred yards of shelterbelts into numerous burn-piles on this southern Wisconsin farm.

Since the Dust Bowl, agricultural agencies and conservationists encouraged and applauded farmers who built and maintained shelterbelts, viewing them as long-term investments in the land. But conservation apparently can’t compete with corn that’s worth nearly $6 per bushel today and consistently more than $4 per bushel the past five years after averaging $2.50 from 1973 through 2005.

This widespread conversion of year-round habitat to seasonal one-crop monocultures is happening from Ohio and Indiana to eastern Washington. And it’s not just shelterbelts and abandoned farmsteads. In the Dakotas, folks are burning off cattail marshes, and tiling the black muck below to expand corn and soybean fields. How many miles of shelterbelts have been lost? Well, no government agency tracks acreage kept as fencerows, windbreaks or vacant farmsteads. But the federal government’s Conservation Reserve Program provides an indicator. Wisconsin alone will lose 45,170 acres of CRP land this year, presumably to beans and corn.

Fencerows and other shelterbelts that provide year-round habitat for ringneck pheasants and other wildlife are being lost as farmers expand fields to grow more profitable corn and soybeans.

But the Badger State is only 15th in lost CRP acres. North Dakota will lose nearly 650,000 acres of CRP lands this year, worst in the nation. Montana is second with 435,000 lost acres, and then it’s Minnesota, 190,000 and South Dakota with 170,000.
In fact, Pheasants Forever estimates the Northern Plains will lose more than 1 million CRP acres in the program’s 2012 re-enrollment process. CRP is perhaps the most powerful conservation tool in U.S. history. Under CRP the past 25-plus years, the government paid farmers and ranchers to plant trees and grasses instead of crops along waterways and highly erodible areas to protect the land and prevent soils and nutrients from washing into rivers and streams.

Diane Peterson photo, Pheasants Forever: A hunter takes aim at a ringneck pheasant flushed from a brushy ditch.

Although payments for CRP lands were competitive with crop prices from the late 1980s through the mid-2000s, they’ve lagged with recent leaps in grain prices. What’s behind high grain prices? Some blame federal subsidies for ethanol production, while others cite rising global demands for cattle feed, including China, India and South America.
Scott Walter, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ upland game ecologist, tracks the state’s CRP acreage for the DNR. He said 51 percent of the country’s 2011 corn crop went to ethanol production, the first time in history that more corn went for fuel than food.

“That demand drives up not only corn prices, but food prices,” Walter said. “That puts more pressure on the land, it destroys more wildlife habitat, and it gives people fewer places to hunt. If your goal is to create more hunting opportunities, the challenge worsens for each acre lost to crop production.”

Dave Nomsen, vice president of governmental affairs for Pheasants Forever, said lost ditches, shelterbelts and old farmsteads have huge impacts on small game, upland birds and other wildlife.
“I’ve lived in Northern Plains states my entire life, and I’ve never seen pressure on the landscape like we have now,” Nomsen said. “It’s one thing to convert old grass into corn, but when you’re pulling out rocks, trees, wetlands and old farmyard foundations, and testing and capping wells on abandoned farmsteads, you’re investing significant time, effort and money into something that might not pay off for very long.”

Roger Hill photo, Pheasants Forever: The more shelterbelts lost to grain production, the fewer places for deer, pheasants, rabbits and other wildlife to live and hide.

Even so, Nomsen said it’s difficult to fault individuals who cash in on today’s high crop prices. “It’s a complex question and decision,” he said. “High land values are part of it, too. It’s tough for a landowner to stand pat with a $75 to $100 break on CRP acres when he can get two to three times that much by renting his fields to someone planting beans and corn.”
Nomsen and Walter also wonder what will happen if grain prices fall to where CRP rates are again competitive.

“Who’s going to put back those long strips of old trees, big rocks and old fencerows?” Walter asked.

For that matter, who’s going to replace the fertile topsoil that blows or drains away the next few years in the absence of shelterbelts?

Bowhunters Roundtable - Day 1 Update

by Justin Zarr 16. May 2012 14:45
Justin Zarr

When it comes to working in the outdoors and hunting industry, many people assume that it's just one perk after another. From being showered with free gear to being offered top quality hunts in the best areas many people think we are living the dream. While that isn't always true, we do get a few small perks every now and again. One of those perks is being able to meet with a variety of product manufacturers to learn about and play with their new products for the year.

For the past two years we have been invitied to the Bowhunter's Roundtable, which is held in Barry, Illinois. This event, put on by Media Direct Creative, pairs all of the major hunting media outlets with product manufacturers for a couple days of chat about what's new for this year. Day 1 of this 3 day event just wrapped up, so here's a few of the highlights of what took place.

Our day started out talking to the folks from Easton about their line of extremely durable and light-weight Kilo tents. While tents aren't necessarily a piece of gear that all bowhunters need, for those who pack into the high country in pursuit of elk or other high mountain animals, they are certainly a big deal. These Kilo tents are extremely light weight, waterproof and feature Easton's carbon rod technology instead of the standard fiberglass rods that many of us are used to.  The technology that has gone into these tents to make them light weight is simply amazing.  From the tent poles and stakes to the material itself, every piece has been engineered with a specific purpose.


Our cameraman Brandyn filming one of many interviews.  Make sure you check back next week as we'll be posting new product videos as soon as they are edited.


The tent poles of the Easton Kilo series tents use carbon fiber rods with a short monofilament tether to connect to the rods, which dramatically cuts down on weight from the traditional bungee style cords most of us are used to.

After Easton we met up with our friends from New Archery Products to get a little bit more hands-on training with the Killzone broadhead, Carbon Apache and ArmorRest. Although I'm shooting a Carbon Apache now, they very well may have talked me into giving the ArmorRest a shot. And of course, a little more education cemented my decision to use the Killzone to handle my killing duties this fall.


Todd checking out the new Killzone broadhead from NAP.  This rear-deploying head uses no o-rings, clips or collars to stay closed in flight and packs a whopping 2 inch cut.


Got Killzones?

We also got to meet up with Doug Mann from Stealth Cam, who gave us a firsthand look at a few new products. The new Drone trail camera system is certainly the big news for 2012. This trail camera unit works with Verizon wireless to transmit images from your camera to a Drone website where you can log in and view them at any time. Stay tuned for our full review and write-up of this product shortly, as the production units are just about ready to hit shelves.


The new Drone remote surveillance system - coming soon to a store near you!


Also new from Stealth Cam is a mid-season change to many of their cameras, uncluding the Unit OPS and Sniper Shadow, which will feature a new processor for better trigger speed and longer battery life.  The new cameras will also have several presest modes, which makes setup even easier.

Also new from Stealth is the Epic Carbine. Very similar to the Epic HD that I used quite a bit last fall, the Carbine has a new carbon fiber look, and a nano coating that makes it extremely water resistant even without a waterproof casing. That's great news for us hunters who don't just pack it up and head home when the weather gets tough.  Check out http://epicstealthcam.com/ to learn more.


The new EPIC HD Carbine.  If only I had kept my Z7Xtreme Tactical - it would have matched perfectly!

We ended the day with our a visit at the Brunton booth, where we were introduced to their innovative solar panels. These light weight panels are great for hunters who ne

ed to charge devices like cell phones or GPS units without access to utility power. These panels can also be used to charge Brunton's line of battery packs, which provide an extra boost of power for your devices on those long wilderness hunts.


Yours truly checking out the packable solar panels from Brunton.

Tomorrow we'll wrap up our trip to Pike County, Illinois with a few more meetings before heading back to reality (also known as the office). Check back on Friday for some more updates!


From PASA Park in the heart of deer hunting heaven - over and out!

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Food Plot Stand Location Tips

by Cody Altizer 16. May 2012 04:32
Cody Altizer

The art of taking a whitetail with archery tackle is a continually evolving sport.  As bowhunters, we are constantly on the lookout for strategies, gear and information that can tip the odds of arrowing a mature buck in our favor.  It’s hard to believe, in fact, that hunting from treestands was once thought of as unethical because it would make harvesting whitetails too easy.  We’ve come along away since then; however, many hunters still struggle to get within bow range of a mature whitetail buck during daytime hours.  In recent years hunting over, around and near food plots has become an increasingly popular hunting strategy.  If you’re looking for a new avenue in which to increase your chances of putting down a big bruiser buck this fall, read on for food plot hunting strategies and information!

It’s a common misconception that hunting over food plots is easy.  Some hunters have a very twisted idea that hunting over, or around food plots is no different than hunting over bait.  While that may be a great topic for a later article, I’ll preface this article by stating that hunting over food plots is not easy.  Food plots offer a variety of different hunting opportunities, so I’ll do my best to cover each option.

Food plot hunting is a great way to practice Quality Deer Management because you usually have ample opportunites to harvest adult does.

Retreat to the Timber

If you’ve incorporated food plots into your hunting strategy in the past, you probably quickly learned that the further away you get from the food plot, the better your chances of success can be.  This is true for both morning and afternoon hunts.  Setting up shop right on top of a food plot can be a great way to kill a deer, and it’s a topic I’ll touch on later in this article, but hunting back in the timber off the food plot keeps your very flexible as a bowhunter.  I’ll use my property as an example.

On my 260 acre hunting property in the mountains of Virginia, I have two destination food plots planted.  Each food plot is a little over an acre in size with one being planted in clover, and the other in alfalfa.  Both of these food plots are located in the center of my property strategically placed in areas that require deer to move past my stand sites when going to and from their bedding area.

By hunting off of these food plots, back in the timber, I am giving myself a better chance at seeing a mature buck during the daylight hours than if I were simply sitting right on the plot. Don’t let television shows and magazine articles fool you.  Mature bucks know what it takes to see another sun rise, and feeding in food plots during the day light is a sure fire way to ensure that doesn’t happen. As a result, mature bucks aren’t likely to visit food plots during the daytime.

For afternoon hunts during the early season, I like hanging my Lone Wolf stands about 50 yards or so back in the timber in order to catch bucks, or at least a mature doe, taking thier time getting to the food plot.   Temperatures in Virginia can vary greatly during early October, and if the mercury rises above 80 degrees, the deer aren’t likely to get to the food plot until after dusk.  I don’t want to get too close to the bedding area for an afternoon hunt, however, because I risk the chance of bumping a buck that may have gotten out of his bed earlier than normal.

I harvested this beautiful 127" 3 year old buck in late November, 2011.  I intercepted him on his way back to his bedding area after feeding in one of my clover food plots the night prior.

Many hunters don’t associate morning hunts with food plots.  While I certainly don’t advise sitting over a food plot during the morning (unless trail camera photos give you reason to), catching deer coming off the destination plots on their way back to bed can be a great big buck strategy.  In fact, my brother and I both used this method to shot our biggest bucks during the 2011 season.  

It’s been my experience that bucks will often times use the same trails when returning to their bed in the morning that they used to access the food plot the night prior.  This knowledge gave my brother and I the confidence to hang our stands on these trails and harvest both a 148” and 127” buck.  After field dressing the bucks we found each of their stomachs to be full of clover.  

My brother shot this 148", 15 point bruiser in early November.  He was set up on a trail that this buck used often to access our clover plot from his bedding area.

For morning hunts off of food plots, I like to be closer to bedding areas than if I was hunting the same food plot in the afternoon.  If you hunt to close to the food plot in the morning you run the risk of educating deer to your presence before the hunt even begins.  Also, you could climb your tree and get ready for the hunt well after the deer have exited the food plot and walked past your stand site.  Hunting close to bedding areas in the morning, with respect to food plots, eliminates both of those problems. 

Hunting OVER a Food Plot

As mentioned before, hunting directly over food plots can also prove to be a very successful option.  However, sitting directly over a food plot, or any food source for that matter, opens the door to several possible problems.  For one, I’ve always preferred bowhunting whitetails in transition areas; that is, in areas where they are moving, and less likely to look up and spot me in a tree.  When hunting over a food plot there are usually several eyes, ears and noses on the lookout for danger.  Also, when deer feed in a food plot, they usually feed well into the night; making getting down from stand undetected a very real concern.  

All that being said, sitting on a food plot for an afternoon deer hunt can be an effective strategy, and it’s one I utilize often.  There are two important factors to keep in mind, though, to ensure your hunt is as efficient as possible.  For starters, as is the case with all things deer hunting, pay special attention to the wind direction, and if your hunting in hilly country, the thermals as well.  There are few things as painful as sitting in a treestand looking over an empty food plot because the deer winded you.  

Obviously, you don’t want to hunt with a wind that blows your scent back into the timber in the direction in which your deer are traveling.  However, a wind that blows your scent directly out in the food plot isn’t ideal either.  If the deer that feed in your food plot are anything like mine, they prefer a certain area of the plot.  This is usually an inside corner.  A strategically placed Stealth Cam can reveal which inside corner your deer prefer, and you can hang your stands according.  Hunting inside corners is also beneficial because you can hunt cross winds that will keep you from being smelled by the deer.  

Be sure to pay attention to wind direction when hunting around food plots.  Deer are usually on high alert just prior to entering a food plot, so keep this in mind when hanging stands.

If possible, layout your food plot locations with wind direction in mind, and if possible, construct multiple food plots to accommodate different wind directions.  On my property, my two primary hunting plots are laid out to accommodate an east wind, and a west wind for afternoon hunts.  During the deer season, it’s very rare for my property to receive a due north or south wind, so if the forecast is calling for a west wind, I have a stand hung on a clover food plot specifically for that wind.  However, if a tricky east wind blows in, I have a Lone Wolf sitting over an alfalfa field.  

Find an Exit

The single most important factor that can make or break your hunt when sitting over a food plot is your entry and exit route.  Obviously, you don’t want to bump the deer on your way to the stand, but an effective exit strategy takes top priority.  If you don’t harvest a deer during an afternoon sit, chances are there will still be deer feeding in the field when it’s time to get down.

There are a few simple solutions to this problem.  If you’re hunting with a partner, you could have he or she pick you up with their ATV or truck.  Deer are usually very tolerable of a motorized vehicle, and being pushed out of a food plot by one isn’t a big deal.  I’ve also had a lot of success with “blowing” at a deer.  That is, mimicking the alarming sound a deer makes when it senses danger.  I usually do this after dark when it would be harder for a deer to pinpoint my location.  I can remember specific instances when I have blow a family group of does out of a food plot, only to have them return the next afternoon relaxed, calm and unaware of my presence.   I have also heard of hunters mimicking a coyote yelp or scream.  I’ve never done this and don’t question its effectiveness, convincing the deer that a coyote was on a field edge watching them is not a situation I’d like to mirror. 

Food plot hunting isn't as easy as it sounds, but if you follow the tips and information provided in this article then you could very well walk up to your biggest buck ever this fall when hunting food plots!

 

Not as Easy as it Sounds

Hunting over food plots sounds like an easy hunt, right?  The deer walk aimlessly out in a lush clover field, and you casually draw your bow back and send a Carbon Express right through the lungs.  Heck, if you’re lucky, another deer might make the same mistake.  While that may be true for the fortunate hunters who get to relive their hunts on national television, that isn’t the case for the most.  In fact, I sat overlooking a food plot roughly 10 hunts this past year and I only drew back once.  I couldn’t catch a break, nor could I figure out why, but I think it has something to do with me being a bad bowhunter.  

Conclusion

Food plot hunting is one of my favorite hunting strategies.  I usually see a lot of deer, and watching them interact with one another in a food source I created is a very rewarding feeling.  However, I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t expect to shoot a deer each time I hunted over or around a food plot.  Their ability to concentrate deer to a certain area makes for awesome bowhunting opportunities.  If you’ve struggled to find success hunting around food plots in the past, then hopefully the above article provided you with some insight that can help you put down a food plot buck this fall!

Bowhunting Black Bears

by Steve Flores 11. May 2012 14:50
Steve Flores

Let’s get right to the point. When you reach “full draw” on an animal that can kill you,if it chooses to do so the intensity level is, to say the least, high. And while a black bear may not seem as ominous as a grizzly or brown bear, the threat of bodily harm still remains. In fact, black bears can prove to be more dangerous simply because of their unpredictability and our own skepticism regarding just how much of a threat they really are. This leads many to let their guard down, thus opening the door for something bad to happen. However, if you find yourself face to face with a bruin, on purpose or otherwise, fret not; archery tackle can spell bad medicine for even the toughest black bear. 


Confidence in your equipment can go a long way toward keeping you calm and steady when the moment of truth arrives. Choose your weapon wisely.

Intimidation Factor

In my opinion, the most difficult part of trying to harvest a black bear with a bow is dealing with the “intimidation” that usually accompanies such a task. Like I said, when you draw back on a potentially dangerous animal, it isn’t like drawing back on a whitetail buck. Yes, emotions will be heightened, and excitement levels will rise, but trust me, it is a different emotion---one that certainly requires a different thought process.

 
Black Bears don’t look so intimidating once they are off their feet. In fact, “ground-shrinkage” is common and often drastic in most cases.

The first thing you need to realize is that black bears are not known to be “man-eaters”. Although they have attacked and mauled humans, for the most part, they are just as afraid of you as you are of them (where have we heard that before). Quite often, you will never even know that you have spooked one in the woods because they will flee the scene long before you arrive. Also, despite their “hulking” stature, black bears are rather small once they are on the ground, stone dead.

I learned this fact on my first black bear hunt in Canada many years ago. The first time I saw a bruin I was amazed at how big it “appeared”. However, I was even more shocked when my guide and I approached the bear after I introduced him to the business end of my arrow. In all honesty, I didn’t believe it was the same animal I had shot just moments before. Part of my misconception was due to the intimidation factor, and some of it was a result of a black bears nature to “puff” itself up in an effort to appear bigger than it actually is; especially when approaching a bait sight or otherwise. When you combine those two stimuli it is easy to see how an approaching bruin can seem larger than life. However, in actuality, they are most often the opposite.

Point of Impact

The largest part of a black bear, and certainly the one area you want to avoid hitting with an arrow, is the front shoulders. This area is very big and muscular and obviously presents the greatest obstacle for your broadhead and arrow. Apart from that region, black bears are rather small. Therefore, placing an arrow tight behind the shoulder (not into it) is of utmost importance. I have killed whitetails by driving an arrow through the shoulders (not on purpose), but I try to avoid such a shot scenario at all costs when it comes to black bears. 

  
You don’t need heavy draw weight to take down a black bear. It can be done using moderate poundage and a sharp broadhead---if shot placement is good. The author’s wife (pictured here) has taken numerous bear with such equipment.

Unlike whitetails, the coat on a black bear is, well…..black. As a result, there are no defining colorations separating or outlining the shoulder from ribs like that of a whitetail. Instead, when you peer through your peep-sight at a black bear all you see is BLACK. This can make the task of “picking a spot” much more difficult, which in turn, can result in botched shots.

When faced with shooting a black bear, I try to divide the animal in half. In other words, I will establish a horizontal center line, and then a vertical center line. Together the two will make sort of a “crosshair”. This will usually give me a good “starting point”. The main thing is not to stray too far to the “rear” of where these two lines intersect because that could result in a gut shot animal, which we all know is bad news. Once I establish where these two lines intersect, I move my point of aim slightly toward the shoulders; making sure I don’t aim directly into the shoulder but rather tight behind it (if I can properly make out the shoulder region). After that, I leave the rest up to my broadhead and arrow. 


Locating a “defined” aiming point in a sea of BLACK can make proper shot placement difficult. Therefore, take a few extra seconds to make sure your sight pin is in the sweet-spot before dumping the bowstring.

Blood Flow

Most often, the blood trail of a bow-shot whitetail will more closely resemble that of a “road”; even more so if shot placement is good and broadheads are sharp. This is due mainly to the short, rather non-absorbent hair of a deer. Black bears, on the other hand, are entirely different. Even when your arrow blows through the boiler room of a bruin, its long, sponge-like hair will often prevent a great deal of blood from hitting the ground. Don’t let this fact discourage you from taking up the trail or naively assuming that you have made a bad hit. I have shot, and trailed, bears that scarcely bleed a drop----despite the fact that they were mortally hit. Sometimes the blood trail will be good, but don’t be surprised if it isn’t. Trust your instincts and take up the trail until you’ve exhausted all effort to find the animal.


Blood on the ground makes tracking easier. However, when trailing a black bear, it isn’t necessarily an indication of a well-placed arrow. A bear’s thick coat will often soak up a lot of the blood before it hits the ground. 

Odor Control

Bears, for the most part, have poor eye-sight. However, they can easily detect movement and without question have very good hearing. But perhaps their greatest defense is their nose. With an unbelievable ability to “sniff-out” danger, food, or a mate, black bears will likely smell you before you even see them. Most often, when hunting over bait, bears will approach downwind despite the fact that they may smell danger. Heavily baited areas are marked with human scent (mostly unintentionally) and therefore many bears become accustomed to it and can’t distinguish between “baiter” and/or “hunter”.  While smaller, immature bears may come close I believe the oldest, largest, and wisest bears often shy away until nightfall; never presenting a shot. 


Regardless of where you hunt black bears, strict attention to odor is paramount for success. Take every “scent-reducing” precaution you can or the hunt will be over before it starts. Pictured here is the latest breakthrough in odor control technology, Under Armour’s new Scent Control clothing line (available summer 2012).

If you happen to be hunting black bears in a big-timber setting, such as I do, then odor control is critical. In most instances baiting is not legal and therefore any hint of human odor near your stand will send bears running in the other direction. With that in mind, the same steps that are taken to fool the nose of a whitetail must also be followed when hunting bears. In fact, your efforts should be increased because, yes, they can smell that good.  Use of a product like Tink's B-tech odor eliminators is an absolute must when hunting black bears.  From the hair & body wash to the field sprays, I recommend using them all to keep your human scent down to an absolute minimum.  Above all else, too much scent can ruin your hunt before it even begins.

Conclusion

With the end of turkey season fast approaching, it’s time to shift our focus to spring black bear.  Regardless of whether you are hunting with an outfitter or in your own backyard, consider these key points before hitting the woods. If you do, I promise you will be the one doing the intimidating in the spring bear woods. Good luck!

NAP Killzone Broadhead Review

by Justin Zarr 9. May 2012 01:54
Justin Zarr

The last gear review I wrote was about a quiver which, as I pointed out, is probably one of the least glamorous pieces of equipment you can carry into the field with you. This month we're doing a complete 180 and covering one of the most heatedly debated products in the bowhunting world; the broadhead. The business end of an archer's arrow is often held in high praise when things go well, and damned when they don't. In many eyes it can mean the difference between another taxidermy bill or more than a few sleepless nights. Ah yes, the broadhead is bowhunting's biggest scapegoat.

When it comes to picking a broadhead, there seem to be two general trains of thought. Either the compact, fixed-blade heads that are strong and durable, or the large expandable heads that are accurate and open up giant wounds in their intended target. Both will get the job done if put in the right spot, but many archers tend to pick one side of the fence or the other. For those who like big holes and a no-fail design, the new Killzone broadhead from New Archery Products may just be the next "big" thing. (pun intended)


The new Killzone broadhead from New Archery Products.  A rear-deploying mechanical broadhead with a 2 inch cut that uses no o-rings or rubberbands to keep the blades closed in flight.  

The Killzone is a rear-deploying 2 blade mechanical broadhead that opens to a full 2 inches as it enters the target. That is nearly twice the diameter as your average fixed-blade head. What that means for you mechanical broadhead shooters is giant entry wounds, and hopefully shorter and easier recoveries of game animals.


As you can see, the Killzone left a MASSIVE entry hole on this Kansas buck last November.   Bigger holes usually means better blood trails and quicker recoveries.


NAP Marketing & Sales Manager Brady Arview with his 2011 Kansas whitetail - one of the first to fall victim to the new Killzone.

A 2 inch cut mechanical broadhead isn't exactly a new idea, we all know that. So what makes the Killzone special? That little gem of innovation lays inside the ferrule of the broadhead, and is the mechanism that holds the blades closed in flight. NAP's patented spring-clip design has been around for years in the venerable Spitfire broadhead, and has helped bowhunters kill countless animals. Those who frequent Internet Forums or the local bow shop can atest that they've never heard anyone complain about a Spitfire blade opening in flight, which bodes well for the Killzone. The same can't be said for some of the other mechanical broadheads on the market.

With the patented spring-clip design the Killzone's blades will not deploy prematurely, which means you don't have to worry about your arrow running off course on accident. For the bowhunters who have always been leary of mechanical heads due to the possibility of failure this should bring a big sigh of relief.


The Killzone's blades won't open in flight, but they had no trouble opening up on my backyard target.  The top left arrow shows just how big the Killzone's entry hole is.  The other two arrows were tipped with a field point, and a Killzone practice head.  All shot from a distance of 25 yards, I'd say that's good enough to fill my tags this fall.

The Killzone comes in three different configurations - a chisel-style Trophy Tip, a cut-on-contact Razor Tip, or the red Deep Six model that is compatible with the new Easton Deep Six components. All three designs are available in 100 grains and feature the same 2 inch cutting diameter. Practice heads are available as well, which means you can save your sharp blades for when you really need them.


The razor-tipped cut-on-contact Killzone, in the closed position, shown next to the Killzone practice head.

As an admitted fixed-blade fanatic, I was a bit skeptical of these large mechanical broadheads. I'm a big proponent of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". However, curiousity has gotten the best of me and I truly want to see what the talk is all about.  With the new design of this broadhead eliminating any worry about blades opening in flight or in my quiver, I have a lot more confidence in this design than I did in before.   So when I take to the woods this fall, my Apex quiver will be full of Killzone broadheads with a Trophy Tip. And when the business end of my arrow makes the acquaintance of a wary whitetail, I'm sure you'll hear all about it right here.


Citibank asks "What's in your wallet?"  I ask "What's in your quiver?"

Watch this video to learn more about the new NAP Killzone.

One Tough Buck | Crazy Trail Camera Photos

by Bow Staff 3. May 2012 08:22
Bow Staff

These incredible trail camera photos have been making the rounds for the past few months, and we wanted to share them with those who haven't seen them yet.  Anyone who hunts whitetails can atest to their toughness, and this buck is certainly no exception to that rule. 

The story below was included with the photos as they were e-mailed to us.  We have no idea if it is true or not, but regardless of the story these are some incredible pictures.  It truly is unfortunate to see a wounded animal, especially when that wound was caused by a hunter, however it's also a harsh reminder that even though we may try our best and do everything right, the hunter doesn't always win.

"I shot this buck on Nov. 16 in Kansas from a ground blind at 16 yards with a 70 lbs. bow and a Rage 3 blade broad head.  I waited until he was quartering away and aimed for the opposite shoulder.  The arrow penetrated almost to the fletching.  The deer ran about 60 yards, stopped, staggered and almost went down.  He looked around then ran another 120 yards and jumped over the neighbors fence.  We obtained permission to look for him and did so for most of the next two days.  We trailed him about 1/4 mile and lost blood.  We then put a tracking dog on him, but never found the buck.  When the neighbor checked his trail cameras this is what he found.

I have shot several deer with this broad head with amazing results and some of the shots were not this good.  I am saddened and puzzled by this outcome.

My gut feeling is that the broad head deflected off the ribs and never entered the heart/lung area.  If you zoom in on some of the photos you can see that the broad head did open fully on impact and there was a very good blood trail for 5-600 yards.

The neighbor has promised to check his cameras regularly to try and see if he makes it or not."

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

CHOOSING A QUALITY ARCHERY PRO-SHOP PART 2

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. 

 

Conclusion
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.

Ground Blinds Galore

by Brenda Potts 1. May 2012 06:46
Brenda Potts

While walking the isles of the Iowa Deer Classic a few weeks ago I realized there are a lot of those semi-permanent ground blinds available today. There were blinds on display that resembled spaceships, giant cans, boxes, stumps or big pine bushes, and some were meant for ground use, others for elevated platforms. One even moves up, down and travels around. While many of these type blinds seem to have gun hunters more in mind, there are several that can also accommodate bowhunters. Here's a look at just a few of the ones I found.


"Why didn't I think of that?" is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the original Pine Blind. Then I remembered a few situations where during late winter nasty conditions the buck I was after would hide in a stand if pine trees. If only I had that Pine Blind in place! Their tag line is, "The best blind you can't find."

It has a realistic pine tree look with a full 360 degree view. Six panels with drop down windows are easy to adjust. Blind materials are of 100% plastic. It sits on a steel base and has 6 legs for easy leveling on all terrains. The blind is also handicap accessible. And it sure does look just like a pine tree or pine bush capable of blending well with the environment. www.pineblind.com

Another blind that blends in well with certain habitats is the Blind Ambition Bale Blind. Their tag line is, "The most realistic bale blinds on the market. " The blind looks like a big round bale which is something that animals get used to seeing in areas where these farming practices occur. The blind is lightweight, portable and easy to move. The main benefit I see with this type of blind is that deer require next to no acclimation time to this type of blind. www.baleblinds.com

Moving from blending in to standing out, let's review a few of the box blind types. "Elevated ground blind" sounds like an oxymoron, but some of the semi-permanent ground blinds can also be placed on elevated platforms and not all are box shaped.
I like the name of this next blind...Window-Tree Deer Stands. The blind is a solid one piece unit made from polyurethane. It weighs 350 pounds and can be tipped into a full size pick-up bed for transport between locations. It has a heavy duty frame built to accommodate 4x4 posts so you can elevate the blind if desired. www.fabradome.com

"Get a Stump, Hear the Thump." Okay then. The Stump 1 does resemble a tree stump and the company has progressed to Stumps 2, 3 and Stump 4 Deer Tower which is a bigger blind with more room. www.banksoutdoors.com


Shadow Hunter Blinds began as a way of making their own hunting blinds, but soon orders began pouring in as people heard about these blinds. They make several styles of blind in the Shadow Hunter Series including gun, archery, combo, crossbow, total view, octagon and wheelchair accessible. The 22 3/8 inch by 8 inch windows are large enough for nearly any angle of archery shot. There are many great standard features on each blind and upgrades are available. www.shadowhunterllc.com

 


I have heard many good things about the Redneck Blinds and got the chance to look them over while at the classic. Important features include roomy, well thought-out design of fiberglass construction with tinted tempered automotive glass windows that help hide movement inside the blind. According to the manufacturer these are among the largest windows in the industry. They blinds are modular and easy to assemble with high quality powder coating and weatherproofing details.

 

The 6x6 Buck Palace 360 Combo blind from Redneck Blinds is what I call one of those, "That's what I'm talkin' about!" blinds. It is extremely roomy and specifically designed for up to four hunters. It is great for filming hunts when you need room for the tripod, two people and gear. The blind features huge 46” tall bow windows enabling you to shoot from virtually any position within the blind, at any angle. www.redneckblinds.com The folks at Redneck Blinds identify 4 important questions that should be considered in any decision to purchase a ground blind. #1, Is the deer stand, deer blind, or camouflage well designed and constructed? #2, Are the products high quality, from fiberglass to resin molded material? #3, Will you be able to set up your hunting site easily? #4, Is the equipment portable enough for your needs?


With so many blinds on the market of many different proportions, features and materials, these are great questions to ask yourself when considering any semi-permanent ground blind or elevated blind purchase. Last but not least, is the Traveling Tower. "No Tree? No Problem!" Manufactured in MN, the Traveling Tower is built with electrolyzed powder coated steel which enables you to reach heights of 11 to 15 feet. The blind can be moved with your ATV and used for tree trimming, and other non-hunting activities such as gutter cleaning, painting, siding or working on variety of projects that would have required scaffolding or ladder climbing. www.travelingtower.com  Don't we wish more of our hunting gear would double as honey-do gear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apex Gear Game Changer Quiver Review

by Justin Zarr 26. April 2012 13:15
Justin Zarr

When it comes to archery accessories, it's hard to think of one less glamorous than the quiver.  Unlike arrows and broadheads you don’t get to watch them impact your target with the telltale “thud” all bowhunters love to hear.  Unlike sights they don’t have any fancy micro adjustments or fiber optics to play with.  No, the quiver is a relatively simple device with one purpose – to hold your arrows until they are ready to be shot.   Let’s face it, nobody has ever killed an animal and stopped to thank their quiver.

However with all of that said, I feel quivers are one of the accessories that have benefited the most in recent years from new innovations.  The new Game Changer quiver is no exception to that.

When I was first introduced to the Game Changer by Apex Gear at this year’s Mathews Retailer show in the Wisconsin Dells, I immediately took a shine to it.  Anyone who has read my Blogs for any length of time (all 12 of you) knows I’m a fan of archery gear that is rugged and durable.  When I drop my bow or hit it up against a tree as I’m fighting my way through a briar patch in the dark (I get lost a lot) I don’t want to worry about breaking things or items falling off my bow.   The Game Changer seems to have been built with guys like me in mind.


The new Game Changer arrow quiver from Apex Gear.  It even comes in Lost Camo to match my new Heli-m, which is important.  What will the deer think if they're killed by a guy whose accessories don't even match??

First off let’s cover the basics.  The body of the Game Changer quiver is made from CNC machined aluminum.  That means its metal, and I like metal.   Metal is strong and aluminum is light weight; both qualities that I look for in a quiver. 

Next, the Game Changer features dual arrow grippers.  Grippers keep my arrows in place and make sure they’re still there when I get to my treestand.  I like that.  One area I can’t comment on that has been brought up by more than a few bowhunters over the years is how do the grippers work with thin arrow shafts, like the Easton Axis or Injexion.  Well, I’m shooting Carbon Express Maximas so I don’t know.  Sorry guys.

The hood of the Game Changer features what’s called a “Tru Touch” soft feel coating, which gives it an almost velvet-like feeling.  While it feels cool when I rub my fingers on it, I’m not sure how it really helps make the quiver any better.

In addition to the Tru Touch coating, the quiver’s hood does feature several rubberized inserts that help dampen vibration for those hunters who still shoot with their quiver on.  I’m not one of those guys, so they don’t do much for me.


The built-in vibration dampeners are nice, but not very useful for those of us who prefer to shoot quiver-off.

Inside the hood you’ll find a “technical” rubber lining with little cups to hold your broadheads in place.  I prefer this type of liner versus the traditional foam that can dull broadheads over time as they are taken in and out.  Although getting your arrow into the cup every time is a bit of a chore, especially when it’s dark.  If Apex could somehow color those circles in bright orange we’d be in business.


Sure, they're easy to see now when I use the camera flash.  But in the dim light of an autum eve, I'll never be able to see these without some help.

Now we come to the good stuff, and probably the biggest selling point of the Game Changer – the mounting system.   The mounting bracket that screws onto your bow sight is extremely small and light weight, which means it’s not obtrusive unlike some mounts.  The quiver itself features a cam-lock type latching system that locks the quiver in place.  You can very easily take the quiver off with one hand, although putting it back on can be a bit of a chore sometimes.  I’m hoping once I wear the connection in a little more, it will slide on easier.  Of course the big test will be how easily I can get it back on in the darkness after an afternoon hunt this fall.


When it comes to quiver mounting brackets, less is definitely more.


The Game Changer is now attached and ready to roll.

The quiver mount that screws into the aluminum body is adjustable vertically, which is another great feature.  Being able to slide your quiver up and down on your bow based on your arrow length and axle to axle length can help keep your nocks out of the mud, which we all know can be a royal pain.  I’m sure we can find more constructive things to do while on stand than picking mud out of our arrows with tiny little twigs.

Thanks to the in-line mounting system, the Game Changer mounts very close to your bow, which is supposed to help reduce torque and produce better balance.   Of course I don’t shoot with my quiver on so this isn’t a huge benefit for me.


Without mounting it directly to the riser, I'm not sure the Game changer could get much closer.

The final feature I want to point out is the machined aluminum bracket that allows you to easily hang the quiver on a hook or branch after you take it off.  Why every quiver manufacturer doesn’t do this is beyond me.  It’s so simple and so easy, yet such a great feature.  A big Thank You to Apex for including it.


The hood-mounted quiver hook.  An ingenious invention and a simple benefit that can make or break your buying decision.

Well, that about sums up the Game Changer quiver from Apex Gear.  No, I don’t think it will help anyone kill a 200 inch buck this fall, but it will certainly help you get your arrows in and out of the woods securely and quietly.  Which, come to think of it, is probably a pretty big necessity if you want to shoot a 200 incher.  So if you happen to be in the market for a new quiver, give this one a look.  I have a feeling you’ll like it.

Food Plot 101

by Jordan Howell 23. April 2012 10:52
Jordan Howell

One of the hottest topics in the hunting industry today is Food Plots.  Some hunters will argue that they are absolutely necessary to kill big bucks; others will say you don't need them.  Despite the fact that there is no magical big buck potion, food plots definitely have their place in deer management and can drastically increase a hunter's success….IF they are done right.  For a bowhunter who may be a novice when it comes to food plots, trying to figure out everything on your own can be a nightmare.  For example, what to plant, where to plant, and the never ending when, how, and why’s associated with growing food plots can drive a person crazy. Quite often, these are questions many landowners and managers don't have answers to. As a result, many guess or take the advice of friends.  This trial and error method produces mixed results because not everything works in every situation. Hunters also have many misconceptions about food plots; such as you must have access to large equipment to be successful. This isn't true in most cases.  The only thing a hunter really needs is a determined attitude and the patience to do things right. So, if you happen to be one of the many bowhunters who have wanted to start your very own food plot, but didn’t because you thought you couldn’t do it for one reason or another----then this article is for you. Let’s begin with the basics....the EXTREME basics.

Establishing an intimate knowledge of your hunting area will go a long way toward reaching your management goals

It has been said that you must have long term goals to prevent frustration with short term failures. This is definitely true when it comes to habitat management.  Planning and forethought on the part of the hunter will have an immeasurable effect on the success of his/her food plots.  Because every piece of property is different, there is no food plot strategy that works for everyone. In order to be successful, one must carefully examine the needs and capabilities of his/her particular property before starting. The first question a hunter must ask himself is WHY do you want a food plot?  Is it to attract more deer to your property, or perhaps grow bigger bucks? Maybe it is to hold deer on your property by providing them with added nutrition. Before you plant the first seed, take a minute and write down what your short term and long term goals for the property are. This will help determine the starting point for your management plan because not all hunters want the same things, or can realistically achieve the same goals. For example, in the Southeastern part of the country, growing a “Booner  Buck” is not exactly an attainable goal. Many hunters in that region would be happy to simply see more deer while they are hunting. When it comes to your own wants and needs, think about what it is you ultimately wish to accomplish on your property.  Then, evaluate what your property's current short term and long term potential is; writing down its strengths and weaknesses. This will help you come up with a list of goals for the management of the property. 

 

Mineral Sites are an excellent means for not only attracting deer, but also helping bucks maximize their antler potential.

Once you have determined your goals, you can begin formulating a plan to carry them out.  The first thing that I like to do on a property is find out what kind of deer herd I am dealing with.  Although walking the property will give me clues about terrain, available forage, cover etc, there is no way I can accurately inventory the deer herd on a farm without added help.  One of the best tools for helping you do this is a good trail camera.  It will serve as your eyes in the woods….24 hours a day. When selecting a site to place a camera, I always pick an area where I can monitor and check it with minimal pressure to the local deer. This means placing my camera on the fringes of the property; places I can easily drive to or get very close to with my truck, thus minimizing the amount of human scent I leave in the area. This is a key step because the less intrusion I make, the more apt the deer will be to use the area. If placing minerals or attractants is not legal in your state, then pick a location that gets a lot of natural traffic, such as water holes, openings in fences, or where fence-rows meet the woods.  If putting out attractants is legal in your area, then by all means do so. This will increase the number of deer images you capture on your camera. Putting out minerals is also the easiest and cheapest way to establish deer numbers and develop a management plan on your property.  After that, the only decision you will have to make is do you want to simply attract more deer to your property or are you interested in growing bigger and healthier deer?  I know that is a simple question, but remember, we're taking baby steps here. If pure attraction is what you want out of your property, then a product such as Monster Raxx's Whitetail Magnet will work great.  It is a highly concentrated oil based attractant and deer find the sweet smell irresistible. On the other hand, if you want to attract deer, while at the same time, benefit them nutritionally, a product such as Monster Raxx's Trophy Minerals would be a suitable choice. This particular product still has some salt to attract deer, but has many different macro and trace minerals that will help with antler production and doe lactation which will lead to healthier fawns.  Mineral sites serve several roles to a hunter/ land manager. In addition to immediately attracting deer to your area and providing them with a nutritional boost, they help you inventory and keep track of your deer herd by documenting each visitor to the site. Plus they require very little effort on the hunter's part. I can't think of a product that gives a hunter more bang for his buck! 

 This plot was selected to be a "kill plot" inorder to intercept cruising bucks during the rut.

Once you have completed your mineral site setup, you can then begin to evaluate your property's food plot potential. The most important thing to remember is that without a clear picture of what your farm needs or what the conditions are, no one can offer a “catch-all” solution that will work.  The number one reason for food plot failure is improper site and/or forage selection. I cringe when I hear a plethora of different answers to questions regarding “what to plant” or “what to do” to improve a particular plot. While suggestions such as plant clover, plant beans, or add lime CAN be good, first and foremost, site selection and “plot purpose” must be taken into consideration. 
For example, currently I am working on a new plot on a piece of property that presents some unique challenges. I have hunted this particular farm for seven seasons. The entire southwestern corner of the property is roughly made up of 20 acre’s of impenetrable thicket; so thick that I can’t walk through it, much less hunt it.  The northeast section of this farm contains a swamp and holds a lot of deer.  The deer feed to the south in large agricultural fields. The swamp is the sanctuary on the property, so I don't hunt there. The center of the farm has little timber and is difficult to hunt.  I have put in a couple of plots in the center to provide late season forage for the deer.  This year I have decided to utilize the thicket that I haven’t been able to do anything with. 

 Treestand view from the "kill plot".

I have basically cleared out a section of the thicket where several trails crisscross and planted about a 1/3 acre “kill plot” in this section. I plan to utilize this particular area during the rut when I hope to capitalize on bucks cruising from North to South in search of does.  The addition of a plot surrounded by security cover will give wary bucks a spot to stop briefly and scent check for a receptive mate. Also, access to this location is perfect. With a North or Northeast wind I will be able to walk up the tree-line to the west and climb into the stand without alerting any deer to my presence. I cannot stress enough the importance of a covert access when hunting a food plot, or anywhere for that matter.  A good spot with perfect access is better than a great spot with bad access. If the deer know you are hunting them the greenest plot in the world won't do you any good. Once you have selected a location, you must decide on what type of forage to plant. Before doing this please remember to do one thing……A SOIL TEST!  This information will prove to be invaluable.  Not only will it provide you with soil PH, it will tell you soil type and nutrient levels as well. This will help you determine what kind of plot will grow the best on your land. 

After a site has been selected for your new food plot, it is vital to conduct a soil sample test.

In the case of the new plot on my farm, the soil test indicated my PH was low, and the soil was sandy, but organic matter was high. This is fairly typical of plots in the woods that have never been cultivated.  I wanted a clover plot, but typically clovers do better in heavier soils because they need a good amount of moisture. Based on the information in my soil test, I decided on a blend of annual clovers and brassicas, as well as alfalfa and chicory. I want a plot that will have peak attractiveness during the rut; when I plan to hunt it. The clovers and brassicas will provide that attractiveness, while the alfalfa's large roots will help hold moisture that the soil won’t; which allows the clover to attach to and utilize the water in its root system.
There are forages that would be easier to establish, but again I want peak attraction to be late October through November. The annual clovers will provide a quick green-up and will give the plot attractiveness while the lime builds up in the soil to raise the PH. Once the PH reaches 6.5, hopefully by next year, then I will plant a perennial. 

Success is failure turned inside out.  No matter what your goals are for a property, careful planning will make all the difference in the success of your food plots.  It isn't rocket science by any means, and anyone who wants to do it can.  All it takes is effort, determination, and creativity.  Just remember that to reach a destination, you must first know where you are going.  Make a list of management goals for your property, stick to them, and don't cut any corners achieving them.  If done correctly, food plots will be another deadly weapon in your arsenal of tactics. In my next article we will discuss soil testing a little more in-depth and move forward with the over-all food plot construction.

Real Work Lies Ahead for Wisconsin Deer Hunting Makeover

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:42
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunters who chronically crab about the Department of Natural Resources were cheering and toasting Dr. James Kroll – the “deer czar” – in early April for his harsh preliminary report on the DNR’s deer-management program.

Meanwhile, the agency’s defenders glared. They attacked the report and Kroll personally. They said this proves he just wants the $150,000 fee, and that he repeated every bad thing Gov. Scott Walker and his toadies dictated about the DNR’s deer program. Not only that, but Kroll’s an egotistical second-guesser who wants to build 8-foot fences around every 5-, 40- and 160-acre hunting property in Wisconsin.

Sigh. Welcome to Year 75 (or thereabouts) of Wisconsin’s mind-numbing deer scrum.

Much work remains before the three-man review team releases its recommendations for revamping Wisconsin's deer program in late June.

Seriously, folks: Stop strutting and pouting. In three months, no one will remember this report. By then we’ll have the final report to cheer or condemn. The sides could switch roles if June’s report turns all those grins and frowns upside down.

Or maybe DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp will email outraged press releases to support her wildlife staff, and condemn the Ph.D.s – Kroll and teammates Gary Alt and Dave Guynn – for being rude. After all, she ripped Democrats and Sen. Dale Schultz in March for allegedly disrespecting the DNR while dooming the proposed Gogebic taconite mine near Mellen.

Of course, few realized Stepp was merely defending her environmental-regs staff against doubts they could protect natural resources near the mine. She said so in a statement to skeptical DNR staff hours later.

In fact, to show Kroll’s team she has her biologists’ backs, Stepp could reuse part of her mining statement, and replace “Democrat state senators” with the trio’s names. Try this: “In the end, don't we trust regulating agencies to do their job? On my travels throughout the state, I have found that most … citizens … trust the DNR to do its job. Why don't Kroll, Alt and Guynn?”

Many Wisconsin hunters have long distrusted the Department of Natural Resources' deer-herd estimates.

OK. Never mind.

Trouble is, many hunters have never trusted state biologists to manage deer, and Stepp won’t challenge those doing so now. She even sat silently as the Legislature stripped the DNR of its most powerful deer-management tools this past year.

But maybe Stepp senses futility in fighting. After all, our hunting forefathers of the 1930s and ’40s even scorned Aldo Leopold, the University of Wisconsin’s first professor of wildlife management. A hunters’ rights newspaper, “Save Wisconsin Deer,” slammed the iconic professor for backing “the infamous and bloody 1943 deer slaughter.” The paper also claimed Leopold admitted his deer estimates “were PURE GUESSWORK.”

Imagine: Poor Aldo was ruining “our deer” before biologists even invented the DNR’s demonized Sex-Age-Kill formula for estimating herd sizes.

Hunters will be called on to help with more boots-on-the-ground research.

But make no mistake: Kroll’s team is correct in saying this entire issue centers on endless arguing over numerical goals and estimates impossible to explain to laymen. If hunters don’t see deer, they blame predators and deer estimates. And before wolves returned the past 15 years, some blamed the Chippewa.

That doesn’t mean the SAK is useless. It just means DNR biologists should leave SAK estimates atop their desks for historical, professional reference. Arguing its art, data and formulas outside the office is a fool’s errand. And yet they’d persist if given the chance.

Kroll’s team correctly emphasizes these needs: more in-depth habitat analysis, better forest management for deer, and hunter-researchers to document browse damage and other deer-related field work.

Dr. James C. Kroll, Stephen F. Austin University

In launching those efforts, perhaps we could intelligently express deer-management goals with criteria such as harvest levels, success rates, deer condition, crop-damage claims, deer-vehicle collisions, and forest health and diversity. People can see, touch and understand such things.

What Kroll’s team can’t ignore, however, is deer baiting. Their report lists the top 15 concerns hunters posted on Kroll’s Web site. Three (20 percent) involve baiting. Of the top five concerns, “Come to a decision on baiting” was No. 4. Yet the report ignores baiting while addressing the other top concerns: “too many predators,” “DNR doesn’t listen,” “inaccurate population estimates” and “eliminate earn-a-buck.”

Was this preliminary report unfair to the DNR? Maybe, but by bluntly listing the problems, Kroll has been able to hold his town meetings (April 16-21) and focus on solutions, not endless grievances.

Those meetings and the recommendations that follow will truly determine if Kroll’s team earns the money Wisconsin’s hunters are paying them.

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Right to Add Wolf Hunting Season

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:21
Patrick Durkin

Wisconsin lawmakers did the right thing in March by adding the gray wolf to Wisconsin’s list of wildlife that can be hunted and trapped.

With wolf numbers beyond 800 and still climbing – and with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ proven record of scientifically regulating furbearer seasons for foxes, coyotes and bobcats – it’s sensible and consistent to allow wolf hunting and trapping.

The new law also lets the DNR’s bureau of endangered resources off the financial hook when wolves kill pets, cattle, calves, horses, hunting dogs, domestic deer and other livestock. Future wolf-depredation payments will come solely from fees paid by hunters and trappers wishing to hunt wolves.

Predator hunting tends to require serious specialists. Generalists tend to quit when a hunt proves difficult.

Those fees will consist of $10 applications to enter drawings for wolf permits, and $50 (residents) and $250 (nonresidents) licenses for those drawing permits. Those fees will fund depredation payments as long as gray wolves stay off state and federal endangered species lists.

In other words, wolves remain with deer, bears, wild turkeys and Canada geese as Wisconsin’s only animals inspiring government-run entitlement programs. What if a raccoon drowns your Dalmatian or a coyote kills your cat? Sorry. Not the state’s problems.

For more than 20 years, farmers losing crops to browsing deer have been eligible for depredation payments bankrolled by hunting-license fees. Likewise, since 1985, farmers and other folks could receive state-paid death benefits when wolves ate their pet, livestock or other “property.”

License fees paid by hunters will be used to compensate people who lose pets to wolves.

Houndsmen can still seek compensation if wolves kill their dogs while they hunt bears, bobcats or raccoons. But if they’re hunting wolves with hounds when their dog dies in action, the state won’t compensate.

Most noteworthy is that the DNR’s endangered-resources program will no longer pay for misbehaving wolves. That’s also consistent and sensible. The bureau has never had much money, and yet it kept making wolf-depredation payments even after Wisconsin delisted wolves in 2004 and the feds first delisted them in 2007.

Why did the endangered-resources bureau pay nearly $887,500 for wolf-killed pets and livestock the past seven years when wolves were no longer endangered or threatened? Because state law required it.

You might recall that former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski, D-Stevens Point, is a bear-hunting houndsman. Shibilski – there’s no “I” in team but there’s three in Shibilski – wrote the provision that states: “For the purpose of payment of damage claims, the gray wolf shall be considered an endangered or threatened species regardless of whether the wolf is listed as such.”

Wolf licenses will cost $50 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The new law repeals that sneaky raid of the endangered-resources program, which has compensated increasingly more wolf damage recently. Although annual payouts averaged $127,000 the past seven years, they nearly tripled from $106,000 in 2009 to $300,000 in 2011, and are expected to hit $320,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the endangered-resources program suffered steady declines the past decade in its two primary funding sources: tax check-offs and specialty license plates. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but taxpayers now have nine additional check-off options for charitable donations, and motorists now have nearly 30 novelty license-plate options.

Going forward, lawmakers are gambling there will be enough interest in wolf hunting and trapping to fund and reduce depredation costs. Who knows how many Wisconsin hunters will want wolf permits? Trapping and predator hunting tend to attract serious specialists. Even if initial interest in wolves is high, dabblers and generalists will likely fade away when permit allocations are minuscule and wolf hunting proves difficult.

Still, here’s one estimate: A DNR study of the wolf bill’s fiscal impacts notes that Idaho issued 26,428 licenses for its first wolf hunt in 2009. Idaho closed the season when reaching its quota. But if interest in wolves parallels bears among Wisconsin hunters, about 100,000 might apply for a permit.

With scenarios ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 applicants, wolf hunting would generate $250,000 to $1 million in application fees. But if the DNR is conservative and issues, say 200 licenses, that’s only $10,000 more.

Those numbers suggest we’ll see tremendous shortfalls in wolf-depredation payments. If so, the new law makes no provision for the unfunded balance. Compensation payments will be made on a prorated, i.e., discounted, basis.

While this new law might prove good for wolves and Wisconsin, don’t expect widespread joy and satisfaction from those losing pets and livestock to wolves..

 

 

 

Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 09:03
Patrick Durkin

You might assume the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association slept better in March after the Legislature adjourned without loosening crossbow restrictions for the state’s four-month archery deer season.

Pfft! Not a chance. Just as Ahab hunted his white whale till death, so must WBH chieftains stalk the crossbow to their graves. You’ll never persuade them it’s a divisive waste of time, effort and talent.

What’s more troubling is the Department of Natural Resources dodging efforts to expand crossbow use. DNR spokesmen typically say crossbows are a “social” question hunters must decide themselves, even as the agency struggles to control deer across much of Wisconsin’s southern two-thirds.

Lowering the crossbow age limit to 55 from 65 in Wisconsin would increase participation and stabilize license-buying declines.

If that’s not enough contradiction, many legislators and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp claim they’re forever exploring ways to recruit and retain hunters, and expand hunting opportunities. That’s great, but most agency-directed efforts require patient, perennial educational programs designed to get youngsters off their PlayStations and into the woods.

As much as we need steady, far-sighted programs, we also need simple regulation changes to create opportunities for current or lapsed hunters. That’s why it’s frustrating to see the DNR and lawmakers forgo proposals to lower the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season. Crossbows are only legal during archery season for bowhunters 65 and older, or those with doctor-certified handicaps.

Late archery seasons are a great time to go crossbow hunting.

Talk about missing a chance to please rank-and-file hunter-voters. As Rob Bohmann, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told lawmakers in February, they’d hit a home run by lowering the crossbow age to 55.

After all, when the Congress floated the idea as an advisory question in April 2010, voters passed it statewide, 2,014 to 1,767, a 53-47 margin. It also passed in county voting, 42-25 (a 63-37 margin), with five counties tied.

When the DNR took that vote and made it a formal proposal at the April 2011 hearings, the WBH rallied its members, hoping to squash it. Instead, the question passed by a wider margin statewide than in 2010, 2,806-2,198, a 56-44 margin. It also passed by a larger margin in county voting, 55-16 (77-23), with one tie.

Even so, the proposal was MIA in autumn 2011 as the Legislature passed other DNR-backed hunting proposals OK’d at April’s hearings.

The Wisconsin Bowhunters Association spent about $8,000 on lobbyists in 2011, with about half of it fighting against crossbows.

What about the age-55 crossbow plan? Well, the most effective lobbying and deal-making might be the kind that prevents legislation from getting drafted. Maybe we should respect the WBH and its lobbyist, Ronald Kuehn of DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, for persuading lawmakers to ignore the public’s crossbow wishes.

In 2011, the WBH paid nearly $8,000 for 40 hours of lobbying. Government Accountability Board records show about half that effort targeted crossbows and crossbow-related issues. Again, that’s the WBH’s prerogative and destiny. It’s incapable of any other action, given its petrified attitude toward crossbows.

But if the DNR is serious about boosting hunter numbers and license revenues, it should have opposed the WBH and worked with lawmakers to lower the crossbow age to 55 or 50. Granted, no one knows how much that would boost bowhunting participation, but license sales to bowhunters 65 and older rose steadily once Wisconsin first allowed crossbows in 2003.

The Wisconsin DNR and lawmakers ignored public sentiments that favored lowering the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season.

Based on that trend, a DNR analysis projected annual archery-license sales would increase by about 1,700 annually if the age were lowered to 55. That’s no sea change, but it would maintain bowhunter numbers, and give more people access to our longest, most opportunity-rich deer season.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill in March that merely allows crossbows during gun seasons for deer, bear, elk, turkeys and small game. Earlier, on a 60-35 party-line vote, Assembly Republicans rejected anamendment by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to lower the crossbow age to 55 for archery deer season.

Milroy said in an interview March 13 that he hopes to work with the WBH and Conservation Congress next year on a compromise, such as a crossbow-specific season requiring a separate license.

Unfortunately, there’s even less chance of the WBH compromising on crossbows than there is of generating new revenues and hunting opportunities from the gun-season bill awaiting Gov. Walker’s signature., 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes Prey Heavily on Southeast’s Deer Fawns

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 08:46
Patrick Durkin

SANDESTIN, Fla. – If you’re a Great Lakes States bowhunter who blames every apparent deer shortage on predators, be thankful you don’t hunt parts of the Southeastern United States. Coyotes in some Southeastern regions prey so heavily on newborn whitetails that less than one in five fawns lives four months.

And if you’re a Great Lakes wildlife biologist discussing predators with your colleagues, ask yourself the last time one of them told you to “Get with it!” or “Get your head out of (long pause) the sand” in public.

Well, many wildlife managers talked that way a few weeks ago at the 35th annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting, which attracted about 325 deer biologists and researchers from universities, wildlife agencies, and timber companies across the South and northward. I’ve been attending this annual gathering since 1991 because it’s a great source for the latest research on white-tailed deer.

In some parts of the whitetail's Southeastern range, many fawns don’t live to see their third month.

At a forum I attended one night, a speaker asked the audience if coyotes were having significant impacts in their areas. About half the wildlife pros raised their hands. Minutes later, John Kilgo, a wildlife researcher with the USDA Forest Service in South Carolina said:

“My guess is that the skeptics haven’t yet seen places that once had deer but don’t anymore. The data we collected at the Savannah River Site (South Carolina) showed it took a 75 percent harvest reduction by hunters to level the population decline. Also, preliminary research doesn’t show much promise for mitigating coyote impacts on deer by improving and expanding fawning cover, or increasing buffer foods.”

Ten years ago, most Southeastern biologists never thought they’d be worrying about coyotes, which aren’t native to the region. But as coyotes moved in the past 30 years, they adapted, reproduced, and learned newborn fawns were easy prey.

Coyotes can kill deer in winter, but do most of their predation when fawns are less than a week old.

“Coyotes are increasing at rates that remind me of what our deer herds did in the 1980s and ’90s,” said Dr. Charles Ruth, deer project supervisor for South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources. “When I talked to folks 10 years ago, I often said if I could get my foot on our deer herd, I would pull out my knife. Well, I’m kind of having to chill out on that approach.”

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of predator-deer impacts is their wide variability within regions and states. When Kilgo reviewed pre-2005 predation studies across the United States, he found coyote-inflicted mortality on deer averaged 16 percent in Northern states and 44 percent in Southern states.

Black bears killed more fawns than coyotes did in a Wisconsin study.

“The North’s highest mortality rate was 38 percent,” he said. “That doesn’t even reach the South’s average,” he said.

But it’s not consistent across the South, either. A 2008-2011 study on northern Virginia’s Quantico Marine Corps base found 60 percent of fawns lived past three months, and more died of natural causes, 53 percent, than predation, 18 percent.

But in 2011, in the first year of a study at the Fort Bragg Military Institution in North Carolina, researchers reported only five of 27 fawns (18.5 percent) survived their first four months, with 15 of the 22 dead fawns (68 percent) killed by coyotes or bobcats.

How do those studies compare to similar research by the Wisconsin DNR? To refresh, one study site is a 3,500-square mile Northern-forest setting in Sawyer, Price and Rusk counties. The other is a 2,300-square mile east-central farmland setting in Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties.

A Michigan study is finding coyotes to be the whitetail's No. 1 predation risk.

During the first year (2011) of Wisconsin’s Northern study, 27 percent of ID-tagged fawns (eight of 30) survived seven months, with 17 of 30 (57 percent) killed by predators. Five others died of starvation or other causes. The top predator was black bears, with five fawn kills. Unknown predators killed four; hunters, three; bobcats, two; unknown canid, two; and coyote, one.

For perspective, a 1973-1983 study in Minnesota’s northeastern forests found annual fawn survival was 31 percent, not significantly better.

But in the first year of Wisconsin’s east-central farmland study, 62.5 percent of ID-tagged fawns (30 of 48) survived seven months, with eight of the 18 deaths (44 percent) caused by predators. The others died of starvation, six (33 percent); vehicle collisions, three (16.5 percent); and unknown causes, one. The top predator was coyotes, with four fawn kills. Hunters killed two; black bears, one; and unknown, one.

Meanwhile, researchers in Michigan’s south-central Upper Peninsula estimated fawn survival at 37 percent in January 2011after two years of study in Menominee County. With three years of data now in, researchers report 47 of their ID-tagged fawns were killed by four-legged predators.

 Coyotes killed 22 fawns (47 percent of kills), followed by bobcats, 12 (25.5 percent), unknown predators, five (11 percent), black bears, four (8.5 percent) and wolves, four (8.5 percent).

 What to make of all this? Few hunters or biologists will find much comfort or scientific certainty in such varying, ever-changing numbers.

The Great Crossbow Debate

by Justin Zarr 16. April 2012 13:44
Justin Zarr

Over the past several years, few topics have stirred more controversy in the bowhunting community than that of the legalization of crossbows.  From coast to coast, State wildlife agencies are weighing their options and proposing legislation that expands the use of crossbows during hunting seasons.  However, that new legislation is often met by fierce opposition from individuals as well as both national and State bowhunting organizations.  My question is, why all the hate?

Crossbows Aren’t Really Bows

Possibly the most common argument against the legalization of crossbows into archery seasons is that they, in fact, aren’t really bows at all.  Many anti-crossbow advocates claim that due to the nature of their appearance, in that they have a stock and trigger mechanism and are not drawn and held by hand, that crossbows are more like a firearm than a traditional bow.  I must admit, this particular argument has always given me reason to laugh.  I suppose the inclusion of the word “bow” in the word “crossbow” isn’t quite good enough for some people, so let’s delve a bit deeper.

As defined in Webster’s Dictionary, a firearm is “a weapon from which a projectile can be discharged by an explosion caused by igniting gunpowder”.  The last time I checked, crossbows did not use gunpowder or any other exploding substance to fire a projectile.

When looking up the definition of the word “bow” in the same Dictionary you will find “a weapon for shooting arrows, consisting of an arch of flexible wood, plastic, metal, etc bent by a string fastened at each end”.  This definition certainly seems more applicable to modern crossbows, which use bowed limbs and a string to fire an arrow, don’t you think?


String and arrow?  Check.  Gunpowder?  Negative.

Many State and local bowhunting organizations who are opposed to crossbow use often define the word “bow” for their own internal purposes.  In doing so, many clearly state that a bow is only a bow when it is hand drawn and hand held.  Despite how these groups seek to define the word for their own agendas, the definition of this word in the English language poses no restrictions on the method by which the string is drawn or held.


Historic crossbows, dating back as far as 400 B.C. look about as much like today's modern crossbows as modern compounds look like historic longbows.

Another comparison made between crossbows and firearms is their effective hunting range.  Many anti-crossbow advocates claim that modern crossbows can be used to shoot 200 or even 300 yards.  Clearly these people are misinformed.  In fact, most modern crossbows have an effective hunting range of 30-40 yards for most shooters, which is about the same as a modern compound bow.

Remember, we’re talking about bow HUNTING here.  While the method by which the arrow is fired may differ, it does not detract from the fact that you need to put yourself within shooting distance of your quarry before you can be successful.  While a crossbow can make the execution of the shot easier, it is by no means a guarantee of success.  There are plenty of crossbow hunters out there who have eaten tag soup and can attest to that.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Moving on from the bow versus firearm debate, the next most common arguments against crossbows all seem to originate from two things; fear and selfishness.  A quick search on the Internet for articles and comments about crossbows and crossbow hunting turns up a myriad of unfounded fears and accusations.  Fear that allowing crossbows in archery seasons will ruin our bowhunting heritage, shorten our seasons, destroy our wildlife populations, and cause our woods to be overrun by unsafe hunters.  It seems to me that the only thing we should be afraid of is our own ignorance.

Let us first take a look at some of the numbers behind the great crossbow debate.  When discussing the expansion of crossbow hunting, many of those who are opposed often rely on potential figures rather than actual numbers.  In my opinion, this is not only irresponsible but also only works when you are attempting to gain supporters through fear and ignorance.  Consider Pennsylvania as an example.

In 2009 crossbows were made legal for use during all archery seasons in the Keystone State.  Prior to this legislation passing, there was much controversy over the potential effects to the State’s deer population and harvest numbers.  Representatives of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania went on record saying they expected as many as 200,000 new bowhunters to enter the woods over the next three seasons should the new crossbow legislation pass.  This, as intended, sent thousands of bowhunters across the state into an uproar and threw gasoline on the proverbial fire.


Crossbows?  Not in OUR archery season!

A year later, after the smoke had cleared and hunting seasons had ended, Pennsylvania issued a report that there was indeed an increase in archery license sales in the 2009 season.  However, the increase was just over 15,000 new license sales, not 200,000.  In fact, 2009 archery license sales in Pennsylvania were only 401 more than nearly a decade earlier in 2001.  In 2010 archery license sales increased by just over 3,000 and in 2011 archery license sales rose by another 8,277 units.  These past three years of increases have stimulated Pensylvania’s archery license sales, which had been in decline prior to the legalization of crossbows.  To date, there has been a 9.75% increase in the amount of licenses sold since the crossbow legislation was passed.  This increase is a far cry from the 74% growth predicted by the UBP.

The Pope & Young Club, one of the oldest and most well respect bowhunting groups in the world, has taken a clear stance against crossbow use in archery seasons.  According to their website: “the Pope and Young Club considers the use of crossbows during bowhunting seasons to be a serious threat to the future of bowhunting.”   Apparently their view on crossbows is as antiquated and backwards as their scoring system. 

Despite the addition of 15,000 more archery hunters in the 2009 season, overall harvest numbers in Pennsylvania fell by nearly 27,000 total deer that year.  In 2010 the total deer harvest climbed back to 316,000, which was still shy of 2008’s pre-crossbow number of 335,000 and well below Pennsylvania’s peak deer harvest of 517,000 whitetails in 2002.  Clearly, the legalization of crossbows during archery season has had little to no effect on overall deer harvest across the State. 

Not to single out Pennsylvania as the only state to provide evidence that crossbows don’t cause massive spikes in hunter participation or harvest numbers, let’s take a look at Ohio.  The Buckeye state has allowed crossbows as a legal weapon for hunting since 1976.  Surely more than three decades of data should be able to give us an insight into the true effect of crossbows in archery seasons, no?

Going back to 2005, crossbow hunters accounted for 16% of Ohio’s whitetail deer harvest that fall.  During the same year, traditional bow hunters (those using “vertical” bows) accounted for just over 12% of the total harvest.   In 2010 crossbow hunters had grown to account for 18% of Ohio’s deer harvest, while vertical bowhunters accounted for just over 17%.  What this means for those of you keeping score at home, is that over a 6 year period from 2005 to 2010 the crossbow harvest of Ohio whitetails grew by just over 2 %, while the vertical bow harvest grew by more than 5%.  While there is no doubt that both segments are continuing to grow each year, the number of deer being harvested with vertical bows is actually growing at a faster pace than those taken with crossbows. 

Despite the legal use of crossbows during archery season in Ohio their whitetail population is flourishing.  In 2009 more than 260,000 whitetails were harvested in Ohio which was a new all-time record, set 33 years after the legalization of crossbows.  Although the recorded whitetail harvest has dropped to just 219,000 whitetails from the 2011/2012 season, most people attribute this to new regulations which no longer require you to check your deer in at a check station, but instead provide the option to do it over the phone or online.
As the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie.  In states where crossbows are 100% legal during archery season, we have seen no evidence of a drop in overall deer numbers or an unmanageable increase in hunter numbers.  So why all the worry?


Each year Ohio produces a considerable number of trophy whitetails
such as this, despite the legalized use of crossbows in archery season
for over 30 years.

Unfortunately hunters are a selfish lot; especially bowhunters.  Despite our extended seasons and liberal bag limits, it never seems to be good enough to satisfy our needs.  We want more deer to hunt, bigger deer to hunt, and more land all to ourselves to do it on.  In my opinion, these are three of the primary reasons people oppose crossbow hunting, but are too afraid to admit.  After all, it’s easier to spread false claims and fear monger than it is to admit you’re selfish person, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the hypocrisy around the fear of too many hunters in the woods.   Many groups, like the UBP, fear that there will be an increase in the amount of crossbow hunters in the woods during “their” archery season.  This of course increases hunter pressure on the whitetail population and decreases the amount of land per hunter, making it more difficult to harvest an animal.  None of this has anything to do with proper management of the whitetail population or concern for the health of the herd as a whole, but rather concern for the individual’s own chances for success. 

Where it becomes hypocritical is when many of these anti-crossbow advocates claim to be worried about the alleged decline of hunters and future of hunting as a whole.  Their goals and mission statements are to help fight anti-hunting and grow the sport of bowhunting – so long as you conform to their rules and their way of thinking.  If you don’t, well then I guess growing hunter numbers isn’t really that important after all.

The Eye of the Beholder

The final topic I want to cover, and one that I feel very passionate about, is the claim that crossbows diminish the experience and heritage of bowhunting.  I’ve found that this particular topic is often most difficult to debate, as there are no facts or figures to support either side.  However, that fact in itself should be enough to prove how ignorant this belief is.

Everyone hunts for their own reasons.  Whether you take to the woods with a longbow, compound, crossbow, rifle or shotgun, you do so for your own reasons.  Some do it for the solitude of a cold morning in a treestand, while others do it for the camaraderie of deer camp.  Some do it for the thrill and challenge of stalking their quarry at eye level, while others do it to put meat on the table for their family.  Whatever our reasons are for hunting, they are ours alone.  Nobody can tell us how to feel or what type of experience we should have depending on the weapon in our hand.  Those who seek to tell us that the quality of our experiences should be dictated by their beliefs are sadly misguided.


While my weapon of choice remains the compund bow, my love for hunting and the outdoors extends far beyond the weapon I carry into the field.

For me, my experience is directly related to the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel after harvesting an animal with archery equipment.  My bow is an extension of who I am as a hunter and I will hunt with a compound bow so long as I am physically able.  That is who I am, and those are my ideals.  I do not force them on others, nor do I judge those who don’t share them with me.  Instead, I offer my support and encouragement to any hunter who enters the woods, regardless of which manner weapon they chose.

I strongly encourage everyone that reads this who does not support the use of crossbows during archery seasons to reconsider their beliefs.  We may all choose different paths, but in the end they all lead to the same place.

Turkey Hunting Basics: “A Beginners Guide to Chasing Long-Beards”

by Dustin DeCroo 11. April 2012 08:25
Dustin DeCroo

Your bow in hand and arrow nocked, the horizon in the Eastern sky begins turning pink and orange, the gobbles in the trees above tell you the game is about to begin. Are you ready? In this “Beginner’s Guide to Chasing Long-Beards,” you’ll learn six simple tips guaranteed to help your turkey bowhunting career more successful.

Turkey Tip No. 1: Do your scouting homework.
The single most important part of being a successful turkey hunter is having an idea where your birds are and what they’re doing. There is simply no substitute for quality scouting if you want to be a successful turkey hunter, but what is “quality scouting?”
Quality scouting is having a pretty decent idea as to what your birds are doing throughout the day, not just where they roost or where they feed. If you know where they want to be, you can be waiting at that spot before they get there and that alone will put the odds in your favor.
Finding a roost is the easiest part of scouting, you simply follow your ears to where the birds are before sunrise or after sunset. Turkeys love to roost near water, whether it is a creek, stream, river or pond. Turkeys also prefer to roost in Cottonwoods, large Oaks or other mature trees. Hunting the roost can be incredible, but often times the action is early and short lived as the birds move out. Turkeys typically fly down out of the roost 15-20 minutes prior to sunrise, sometimes earlier or later, but 15-20 minutes is fairly standard. Wind, rain and cloud cover are all factors that will affect how early or late the birds will come down out of the roost. There aren’t many things in the outdoors that are more exciting than sitting within 50 yards of a roost tree full of gobbling birds when it is turkey season. When the birds come down out of the tree, they’ll peck around for a few minutes waking up and then begin to strut for the ladies. The hens will promptly begin leading the toms (strutting all the way of course) to the feeding area where they’ll show up an hour or two after daybreak. Depending on the weather conditions, the birds may stay in the field for the duration of the day, but most likely they’ll take a little break to hang out in a shady location before heading back to the field (or other food source) in the afternoon. From the feeding area, they’ll begin to work their way back to the roost to spend the night. Turkeys will generally have several “roosting” trees in a given location; this area will almost always be used unless the birds are continually pushed off the roost or spooked out of the area before dark.

 
Using your Stealth Cam trail camera is a great way to scout for turkeys while you're at work or school.

Turkey Tip No. 2: Don’t give up in the middle of the day.
The majority of bowhunters are deer hunters, and as deer hunters we’ve been trained that daylight and dusk are our best opportunities to harvest animals, and while this may be true with crepuscular animals such as deer, it doesn’t hold as true with turkeys. Mid-day and early afternoon often provide better opportunities at calling in a Tom. Sometime in the mid to late morning the hens and toms will separate, either because the hens are going to nest, or because the toms are giving up on the hens that are unwilling to breed. As the season progresses on, typically, the birds will spend less time together in the mornings and evenings because the hens that have been bred leave to sit on their nest. This is the best opportunity to call in a long-beard, this is the time during the day that you will have the least competition with live hens… and that is a good thing.

During these warmer, slower hours of mid-day, you can increase your chances significantly if you have an idea where the birds tend to “loaf.” “Loafing” is often times a shady area on the edge of a field where the birds hang out and pass the time. If you can place yourself where the turkeys naturally want to be at any given time during the day, you will give yourself many more opportunities as success, guaranteed. Calling a tom to a location that he already wants to be, without the distraction of live hens is the perfect scenario for a turkey hunter. Remember, your goal for scouting prior to the hunt was to know where the birds want to be throughout the day, so that you can beat them to that location.


During the middle of the day turkeys like to "loaf" in shaded areas, if you know where these areas are, success is just around the corner.

Turkey Tip No. 3: Don’t be afraid to use a push-button turkey call.
Turkey calling can be as exciting as it gets when it’s good and it can also make you want to pull your hair out when it’s tough. Fortunately for turkey hunters, we don’t have to be world champion turkey callers to get the job done. There are four main types of calls that turkey hunters have access to: diaphragm calls, box calls, friction (slate) calls and a push-button call. All of these calls have advantages and disadvantages over the others, but as turkey bowhunters, let us discuss the two best calls for bowhunting turkeys.

The diaphragm call (or mouth call) is the favorite of many experienced turkey callers because it gives you a great deal of tone versatility and it can be 100% hands free. When you need to make a cluck and you’re at full draw, the diaphragm call is the only call that can make that happen. You can switch out diaphragm calls for different wind conditions or just different sounds altogether. The down side of the diaphragm turkey call is that it takes, by far, the most time to become proficient. For beginning hunters, it is a great idea to practice the diaphragm from the beginning (while practicing the easier calls), but don’t feel like you have to take it to the field until you’re ready. Keep in mind, turkeys all sound different, similar to a human voice or the bugle of a bull elk, so you don’t have to sound “perfect.”
Perhaps the best option for beginning turkey bowhunters is the push-button call. This call gets overlooked by lots of people because they see the push-button turkey call as a “child’s” call. The push-button call takes only one hand to operate and has an almost fail-proof design. Simply push the button to make the cluck, yelp, purr, putt or whichever call you like. This call is by far the easiest to learn and sounds great as well. With a few minutes practice you will have all the skills you need to call in and kill a gobbler with your bow.

Turkey Tip No. 4: Patience equals success.
The number one mistake that turkey hunters make is being impatient. When birds are gobbling and moving all around, it’s easy to get caught up in the action and get in a hurry. The best example of this is when you’re calling to a tom that you know is close. You call, he gobbles, you call, he gobbles, you call, and he goes quiet. We all want to hear that tom gobble every time we call; it reassures us that he hasn’t vacated the area. Lots of turkey hunters give up when a bird goes quiet, big mistake. More often than not, the bird is expecting you (the hen) to come looking for him, and most likely, he didn’t leave. Be ready, sit tight and he’ll either come in silently or when he gets tired of looking for you, he will gobble. Don’t be afraid to give him 20 minutes (or more) of silence before making a move. Practice patience and you will bag more turkeys, period.


Bowhunting.com Staff member Dan Schafer excercised patience to wait for these birds to get into range.

Turkey Tip No. 5: Don’t overcall.
Turkey calling is fun, but keeping your calling to a minimum is best, try not to call more than every 10-15 minutes. Learn to putt, purr, yelp and cackle and use them in that order. The majority of the sounds turkeys make are putts (not warning putts) and purrs, then the yelp and occasionally the cackle. If putts and purrs aren’t working, then mix in yelps with your putts and purrs. Saving the excited cackle for a tough bird is a great strategy, don’t pull out the “trick play” until you’re in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. When you do get the attention of a bird and you can see him coming, quit calling. He knows you’re there and is obviously interested, if he stops give some putts and purrs to keep his attention. If you continue calling, you risk him holding up to wait for the hen (you) because you’re too vocal. The tom will be in range shortly, don’t push him.


When a bird is coming in on a string, it's time to be quiet and pick up your bow.


Turkey Tip No. 6: Lower your draw weight.
Bowhunters often get caught up in the speed and momentum or KE that their bow setup produces. Obviously, turkeys are smaller animals than the big game animals that most bowhunters chase, and the need for speed and hard hitting arrows is little to none. Far more important is being able to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time, especially if you’re not in a ground blind. You may have one opportunity to draw and then have to wait for the bird to enter your shooting lane, not being over bowed will allow you the holding time to make the shot count.


Lowering your draw weight will allow you to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time.

Bowhunting Products for Turkey Hunters
Every magazine you pick up or turkey hunting website you visit has hundreds of products that you could spend your money on. Here are a few of the products that could be considered “must-have” products for the turkey bowhunter.


New Archery Products – Spitfire Gobbler Getter Broadhead

 Avian X Turkey Decoys by Zink Calls

 


 A-Way Turkey Trooper 2000 Deluxe Turkey Call

Ameristep Lost Camo Blind


CamoFX Lost Camo face paint


ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

 


Sawyer Permethrin clothing spray mosquito protection

Turkey Decoying to the Next Level

by Josh Fletcher 2. April 2012 13:04
Josh Fletcher

As turkey season is nearing this spring, majority of hunters that take to the woods will be carrying a turkey decoy or a whole flock of decoys. There is no questioning their effectiveness at fooling a long beard, but in this article we will cover tips and tactics that will take your decoying to the next level.

Questions turkey hunters ask themselves as they head to the woods each day is how many decoys do I use? Single or multiple hen decoys? Do you use a Jake, or a full strut decoy with hens? Where do you place them? How far do you set them away from your set up? To answer these questions we will first break it down, taking it one step at a time.

To help explain how to take your decoying to the next level, we broke the spring season down into time frames and explain what the turkeys are often doing this time of the year. This time frame is based on over eighteen years of observation here in the Midwest, if you live farther south, you will more likely see these events occurring earlier in the spring.

The biggest key to success with utilizing your decoys will be based upon what the birds are doing in your area at that given time. Even though the dates might be earlier or later based upon your geographical region, pay extra attention to what the birds are doing in your area. Locate below the description that best matches what the turkeys in your area are doing and base your turkey decoy tactics based upon the recommendations below.

Decoys are a must have tool when archery hunting turkeys


April 1st – May 1st

Flock Observation:

During the early spring from March to the beginning of April, majority of the birds are located in large flocks. You may see a flock of ten or more long beards hanging together; as it gets closer to April you will see more interaction between toms and hens. Seeing three to five toms in full strut with a dozen hens at this time of year is not uncommon.

Paying attention to what the turkeys in your area are doing and what you see in the flocks will dictate the decoy tactics that you will utilize. In the early part of the season here in my home State of Wisconsin, you will often see several toms strutting together with a flock of hens.

This is the stage of the breeding season that is similar to bachelor groups of bucks, the toms are still tolerant of each other and the dominant tom is willing to allow his subordinate buddy to hang out with him and his flock of hens.

Decoying Tactics:

Even though they are tolerant of each other they have worked out their pecking order in the flock. If you are seeing two or more toms strutting together in your hunting area, is when a full strut decoy with two or more hens will be the most effective.

By placing a full strut decoy with several fake ladies will eat away at the dominant tom. Your strutting fake also gives the subordinate toms an opportunity to maintain a higher position in the dominance chain by whooping the butt of your fake strutter.

Place the strutting decoy close to several hen decoys. We prefer to use a feeding and a breeding hen position decoys. For best results for a shot opportunity, place the strutting decoy facing you. As the jealous toms approach your set up, often they will come in at the shoulder or wing side of the decoy. They will often work their way up to the head of the decoy. This position will draw the attention away from you allowing you an opportunity to make your final movement before you make your shot.

As you reach later in this time period, we often find that a half strut or a three quarter strut Jake decoy works better than a full strut decoy. As the spring draws on, dominant toms begin to become less tolerant of their buddies and begin picking more and more on them eventually driving them from the flock. Because of this, some of the subordinate toms become more leery of picking a fight. So you will want to tone down the dominance of your decoy, a subordinate tom and his buddy may tuck tail and run from a strutting decoy but may feel like a tough guy to a less superior Jake decoy.

If you are working two or more toms, try a jake decoy with hens to make them jealous

May 1st- Mid May

Flock Observation:

At this time you will see more birds strutting by themselves or with several hens. Occasionally there will be two long beards together at the beginning of this stage; however by now most toms are no longer tolerant of their sidekicks like they were earlier in the season. This is also the time of year that the hens begin nesting. They go off and leave the toms to sit on their nests or they don’t hang with the flock for as long in the morning as they did earlier in the season.

Watch the flocks in your area, if you’re seeing more single toms or a tom with smaller amount of hens there is a good chance you are in this phase of the decoying season.

Decoying Tactics:

Since the toms are no longer tolerant of each other, you would think that a tom or a jake decoy would work best, however experience says differently. At this time of the season the majority of the subordinate toms have experienced their share of butt whooping, and will more than likely be turned away by a tom or jake decoy.

A tom or jake decoy will work if you’re calling the dominant tom in the area; however for one dominant tom you may have five or more subordinate toms. If you are like me I would rather play the odds in my favor and not use a male decoy that may spook one of the subordinate toms in the area.

At this stage in the breeding season your best results will come with a single hen or a flock of hen decoys. This is the time of the spring it is best to lighten your load and leave the tom decoy at home unless you are working a flock with two or more toms.

Later on in the spring less can be more, don't be afraid to use just a single hen


Mid May- End of May

Flock Observations:

At this time of the season you will often see a single tom strutting by himself or they may just have a couple of hens with him. It’s also not uncommon to see just one single hen by herself feeding in a field.

This is when the hens nesting is in full swing, the flocks are no longer and the birds have a tendency of doing their own thing, whether it be a single long beard strutting or just a single hen feeding by herself before she heads back to her nest in the morning.

Decoy Tactics:

At this time of the year less is more. Since it is uncommon to see flocks of birds hanging out together at the end of spring, we have experienced better results with just a single hen decoy.

Long beards are out looking and hanging out in their strut zones at this time of year hoping to pick up the last of the hens to breed before the season is over.

If you are hunting in a heavily hunted area they have pretty much seen every decoy and heard every call in the books by this time of the year. Your plan of attack if this is familiar to your situation is to tone down the calling and keep it simple. A lone feeding hen decoy is all you need, don’t overdo it this time of the year, keep it simple and cover ground looking for a lonely long beard.

Conclusion of Seasonal Set-ups:

The biggest piece of advice that we can give you is watch what the flocks in your area are doing and match your decoy set up to what you’re seeing around you. If you’re seeing several toms together and the season is early, don’t be afraid to go with a strutting decoy with hens.

As the season progresses and the flocks continue to break up and you’re seeing more single toms with hens, leave the strutting decoys at home and continue using a single hen or a flock of hen decoys.

When you begin seeing single toms with only a handful or less of hens, or seeing more lone hens in your area, we recommend leaving the flock at home and pack light. Just carry a single hen decoy for your best results.

One thing we do want to mention is that these are recommendations based upon years of experience and there are always exceptions to the rules because the only thing predictable with turkeys is that they are unpredictable.

In other words you may be able to bring in a long beard using a strutting decoy at the end of the season; however we like to have the odds in our favor. I’m not saying a strutting decoy won’t work at the end of the season, but you will have better odds with just a single hen than risking spooking a subordinate long beard that has already received a butt whooping from his buddies for the last three weeks.

A good rule of thumb is if you know you will be working two or more long beards hanging together, it is a safe bet to go with a jake decoy with several hens.

Decoy Placement:

Regardless of the time of year we like to keep our decoys close. If we are using a full pop-up ground blind and hunting with the bow, we will often keep the decoys 5 to 10 yards from the blind. If we are just sitting next to a tree or using a gun, often we try to keep the decoys from 10 to 15 yards away.

The reason for keeping the decoys close is just in case the tom hangs up and decides to make the decoys come to him; often he is still within range of the weapon of choice. This also holds true if the gobbler comes in and sees something that he doesn’t like. If you keep the decoys closer to you, you have a better chance of him being in range before he makes up his mind and bolts for the hills.

The other reason we like to keep the decoys close is that if we are “Cutting n’ Running” we often find ourselves scrambling to set up before the hot gobbler comes in. By keeping the decoys close we run less of a risk bumping the hot bird while running out to set up the fakes.

By placing the decoys behind you, forces the long beard to look down the road at the decoys, past your set-up

The next tactic we love to deploy is what we refer to as the “Walk past set-up”. This decoy set up is ideal for logging or access roads. If you’re hunting a long narrow open stretch of terrain such as a power line right of way or a logging road and a turkey gobbles in front of you down the logging road, we will place the decoys 10 to 15 yards behind us down the logging road.

By placing the decoys behind your set up which is on the side of the logging road, the long beard is looking past you at the decoys, this will cause the tom to almost walk right on top of you as he closes the distance to the decoys. This tactic will literally put him in your lap, but be careful not to let him get so close to you that you cannot move without being busted.

Tips for Productive Decoys:

As with any decoys, realism is the key. We have all driven by a field and seen another hunter’s set up with their decoys in the field. If we can tell from several hundred yards away that those are decoys in the field, you can bet a bird with an eye sight five times better than ours can definitely tell something isn’t right with that set up.

With modern technology, turkey decoys are becoming more realistic than ever. Some of the most realistic decoys on the market are Avian X by the Zink Company and the Dave Smith Turkey Decoys. They are very realistic decoys, but be prepared to take out a small loan to buy the whole flock.

Another tip for owning a flock of high quality realistic fakes is to buy in the buddy system. I along with two very close hunting partners all bought a decoy. We often hunt together and enjoy the hunt as a group, when we combine our decoys we now have a flock of the most realistic decoys on the market.

Avian X decoys by Zink Calls offers a truly realistic decoy



To make your decoys look even more realistic you can always add your own feathers to your decoys. Some companies allow you to use a real turkey fan for more realism. There is also a company that makes a product that is basically a cape of turkey feathers to be placed over your existing decoy.

If you’re real handy you can always make your own stuffer decoy for the most realistic decoy out there. By having a taxidermy back ground, several years ago I and some friends got clever and skinned out a turkey cape. We then tanned the cape and glued it on to one of our strutting decoys. We then bolted on some real wings with a real tail fan. We have used our homemade stuffer we named “KJ” for several years with great success. Even though KJ has taken a real beating over the years he is still working like he did the first day we made him.

Next is decoy body positions, hen decoys come in three to four different positions. The one position that we try to avoid is the head straight up or alert position. If you have ever been busted by a turkey you have quickly learned that when a bird sees something they don’t like the crane their neck strait up to get a better look. To me this is an alert position, and we much prefer a more relaxed looking flock or single hen. To vary the look of your flock the best positions are the feeding and the breeding position.

Movement adds realism to your decoys. If you are using more than one decoy you will get better results with more movement in your decoy set. If you watch a flock of turkeys you will see some feeding, some standing still, and even some flapping and stretching their wings. There is more movement visible with more birds in a flock.

To make your flock move with realism look for decoys such as those with a bobble head, or even a bobbing tail, also the lighter decoys will waddle beautifully under the right amount of breeze to bring your flock alive.

Conclusion:

Turkey decoys can be the difference from a hunt or a hunt of a life time. If you have never tried using decoys, you’re missing out on some real excitement. Decoys can pull a long beard that would ignore your sweet calling but couldn’t resist seeing an intruder with his ladies clear across the field, serving your next long beard up on a silver platter.

Just like your favorite turkey calls or even your weapon of choice, you won’t want to be in the turkey woods without a decoy. You may not necessarily use a decoy on every set up, but at least you will have it in case you need it.

The key to taking your decoying to the next level is as simple as paying attention to what the turkeys are doing around you. These simple observations will dictate whether you will want to use a whole flock or just a single hen.

Live From the Wisconsin Deer Classic

by Justin Zarr 31. March 2012 11:56
Justin Zarr

The 2012 Wisconsin Deer Classic is just over halfway over and it's been on HECK of a show so far!  The attendance has been incredible so far.  There's times where you can barely walk down the isles there's so many people here to enjoy the big bucks, good food and hunting gear.  We've met literally thousands of people the past two days, and we're looking forward to meeting more tomorrow!  If you come to the show make sure you stop by to sign up for our sweepstakes - we're giving away a Mathews bow and a Lone Wolf treestand!


The Johnny King buck made an appearance at the booth for awhile.  Is this the rightful world record typical?  B&C says no. 


Even the kids love Bowhunting.com!


Todd with the lucky winner of a new Can Cooker!


Stop by and pick up a poker chip.  You could be the lucky winner!


This monster was shot near Fon Du Lac this past season.  You may have seen photos of it floating around the Internet for awhile.


Yeah, there's a LOT of deer here.


This buck's got the mass.


These girls are showing Bowhunting.com some good support!


One of my favorite deer of the show so far.  A great 6 1/2 year old Wisconsin brute.


If you like high racks, this buck is pretty incredible!


Now that's a lot of bone!


Click here if you want to see even more photos from the 2012 Wisconsin Deer & Turkey Expo!

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.

Viewpoint

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

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. 

Conclusion 

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! 

2012 Illinois Deer Classic - Monster Bucks & Bowhunting Friends

by Justin Zarr 25. March 2012 08:10
Justin Zarr

The 2012 Illinios Deer Classic, held in Peoria Illinois, is starting to wind down but before we pack up and head home I wanted to give you all a quick update on what you missed if you weren't here.  As always, the Peoria Civic Center was packed full of hunters looking to stock up on gear, meet new friends and check out some of the giant bucks on display.  It always amazes me how many 200+" bucks are on display here, which represents only a small fraction of the whitetails harvested in the Land of Lincoln each fall.  I would really like to see a few of the giants that never make it into the public eye.

For those of you who are going to be around Madison Wisconsin next weekend make sure you stop in and say hello.  We'll be giving away a new Mathews Heli-m bow as well as a Lone Wolf climbing treestand so you don't want to miss out!


Look for the Bowhunt or Die neon sign and you'll find us!


If you're looking for good deals on gear, the Deer Classics are the place to be.


This officially wins the "Creepiest Mount" award.  Who actually mounts their dog???


Our buddy Dorge with Firenock is always eager to show off his new products.


My favorite mount of the whole show.  What a giant!


Looking for a unique way to display your European mount?  Check out Dutch Fork trophy plaques.  Very cool!


Our cameraman/editor Brandyn Streeter was on hand to shoot interviews with a lot of the exhibitors.  Stay tuned to the New Products section of Bowhunting.com for videos in the next few weeks.


Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the new Mathews Heli-m and Epic Cam on display.


She loves her rack!  Check out the Pink Rack Project when you get a chance.  A great cause helping to fight breast cancer.


Todd & Richie post with the lucky winners of a new Can Cooker.


Todd signing an autograph for a Bowhunt or Die fan.  Thanks for stopping by!


Can you tell I love giant 8 points?  What a stud!


Got junk?


The mass on this deer is unreal.


If I ever shoot a 240" whitetail, I'll get a full body mount too.


Another 200+.


"Sweetness", the buck Todd was chasing for 3 seasons.  He offically scores just over 212" net NT.  What a giant!


The new world record 9 point, along with a few other 'impressive' bucks.


My 2nd favorite mount in the show.  This photo doesn't even do it justice.  This is an incredible deer and a great mount.


This deer is scored as a typical 8 point frame with junk still nets over 200" non-typical.  Amazing.  AND it was shot by a 12 year old kid.  Pretty impresive, eh?


Another shot of my favorite buck.  He looks incredible.


Our buddy Byron Ferguson stopped by to say hi.  He's an amazing shot!


Former UFC Heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia stopped by and showed Richie whats up after a little smack talk.

For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

by Patrick Durkin 15. March 2012 00:48
Patrick Durkin

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

SHOT Show has changed, stayed the same since January 1991

by Patrick Durkin 14. March 2012 23:50
Patrick Durkin

While checking in and picking up my media credentials at the 2012 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas in January, I realized I was attending my 22nd consecutive SHOT Show. My first was in Dallas in January 1991.

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in a hotel elevator the first morning when two guys next to me started complaining. They said they’d been coming to the show “for years,” and groaned about the “long day” ahead.

Pretty girls staff many SHOT Show booths to greet visitors and hand out information.

“It’s not getting any easier,” one guy said.

“Nine hours of walking and standing on cement covered by thin carpeting,” the other sighed. “The more I do this, the worse I feel.”

I glanced at them, expecting to see men in their 40s, maybe even 50s. But no, they weren’t even close to my age, 56. They looked to be in their mid-30s; late 30s at the most.

I couldn’t help but smile and ask: “How many SHOT Shows have you attended?”

The guy nearest me said, “Seven.” His friend replied, “Me too.”

Author and former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer sold and signed copies of his latest book for charity at the 2012 SHOT Show.

I must have smiled wider, because one of them asked politely, “I take it this isn’t your first one?”

I silently thanked him for not adding, “Old Timer” to the end of his sentence. Then I told him this was No. 22 for me, and I hoped I’d be around for at least 22 more. “They’re all a blur now,” I said.

My companions seemed impressed, even apologetic. “I guess we shouldn’t be complaining, should we?”

Terry Drury, left, and Mark Drury, center, talk with Cuz Strickland of Mossy Oak fame.

“Well, don’t let me ruin a good time for you,” I laughed, and wished them well.

The fact is, the SHOT Show is a demanding way to spend four days, but as I’ll always say, “It beats working for a living.” My typical day at SHOT begins about 4:30 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Although the show is held in Las Vegas most years, I estimate I’ve spent no more than $70 gambling in all my walks back and forth between the show and my hotel room. And if I were to subtract two $20 bets I’ve made on Super Bowls played during SHOT Show weekends, I’ve spent about $30 on the slots.

The fact is, I must cover so much ground each day of SHOT that I’m too tired to do anything fun in Vegas at night. Plus, I usually file two 700-word articles each night of the Show, and another 700-word newspaper column one morning. Such articles don’t get written unless I visit a lot of booths and attend several press conferences each day.

Astronaut Joe Engle posed for a photo with my daughter, Leah Durkin, at a recent SHOT Show.

Yeah, my job requires a lot of notes, photographs and interviews. And I can’t say I look forward to my nine hours on the show floor each day, and roughly three hours of work before and after the show. Before self pity creeps in, though, I remind myself there’s only a few thousand hunters and shooters who would love to have my job.

During all these years attending SHOT, I think often about how it has changed. During the early 1990s, the show truly featured hunting. All the archery companies were clustered in one part of its massive floor, and the firearms companies stretched endlessly in the other three directions. I spent two days in each, and never came close to seeing everything.

By the late 1990s, the archery industry had all but abandoned the SHOT Show in favor of the ATA Trade Show. About the only archery companies you see at SHOT now are crossbow manufacturers. If not for them and a few tree-stand companies, you wouldn’t suspect the archery industry was once a key player at SHOT.

Miles of carpeted aisles lead SHOT Show business people past thousands of manufacturers' booths.

Then, soon after 9-11 and the United States’ “War on Terror,” SHOT attracted a growing number of entrepreneurs and manufacturers that specialize in police and military hardware. Unlike the archery and firearms industries, however, I don’t see as much overlap between the firearms and police-military industries. I often feel like I’m learning everything from scratch when working the booths in the law-enforcement wings.

Still, there’s one great thing about the SHOT Show that never changes: It never bores me. I always meet nice people who are passionate about their work, play and business. And whether it’ 1991 or 2012, I’ll often see celebrities roaming the aisles or standing at booths to meet people and sign autographs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet astronaut Joe Engle, test-pilot Chuck Yeager, football coach Bud Grant, actor/gunnery sergeant R. Lee Ermey, and various singers and musicians.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: Some companies still hire pretty girls to hand out brochures and pose for pictures with middle-aged and aging guys like me. After 22 years, I’m still not sure if those girls truly generate business for the exhibitors. I’ll never forget when I ran into my old boss at the 1992 SHOT Show, and said: “Al, you won’t believe this. I just saw two really pretty girls in bikinis working at a booth two aisles over.”

You'll never visit every booth at the SHOT Show, even if you spend every hour of all four days on the show floor.

Al smiled and asked, “Which company are they working for and what were they selling?”

I stood silent, totally dumbstruck. Finally I said: “You know. I never thought to look or ask.”

Al smiled again and said, “I rest my case.”

Well, at the 2012 SHOT Show I still saw a lot of pretty, smiling girls working the booths of several companies. None wore bikinis, but six weeks later, I still can’t answer Al’s timeless question: I don’t know who they worked for or what they were selling.

Maybe I’ll pay more attention and remember such things at the 2013 SHOT Show, but don’t hold me to it.

 

 

 

Bison By Bow The Moment of Truth

by Josh Fletcher 29. February 2012 10:52
Josh Fletcher

On the morning of Thursday February 16th I had no problem getting out of bed, now falling asleep the night before was a different story. I lay in bed running my mental check list over and over again in my head, afraid that I was going to forget something. The next day I was prepared for a once and a life time hunt at the Scenic View Ranch in North East Iowa on a buffalo hunt with a bow.

As Thursday afternoon dragged on I tripled checked my equipment, shot my bow, packed and repacked our hunting rig while waiting for our camera man Bryce, (also referred to as Loo Loo) to arrive before we would depart to Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin where our hotel was located for the night’s stay.
 
Prior Bryce’s arrival I must have worn marks in the floor form the constant pacing as my nerves for the upcoming hunt was getting the best of me.

It didn’t take long and Bryce arrived. As we traveled we talked about the possibilities and the tactics to employ for the next day’s hunt. Neither Bryce nor I have ever hunted on a ranch a day in our life, so we had no idea what to expect. I was towing a trailer with an empty freezer to hall the rewards of a successful hunt back from Iowa. We also had several rubber bins packed with all the equipment and supplies to process a 1,000 pound animal ourselves.

The next morning came early, and both Bryce and I didn’t even wait for the alarm clock to go off. We sprung out of bed like kids on Christmas morning. We scrambled about the hotel room resembling ants in a freshly kicked anthill. We quickly prepared our gear and donned on our camo as we headed out the door.

As we crossed over the mighty Mississippi River and entered Iowa it hit me. This hunt was really happening. We were going to be chasing bison by bow. We would be partaking in a hunt that has taken place thousands of years ago. We would be hunting the great thunder beast that once roamed North America by the millions.

We arrived at the beautiful Scenic View Ranch just outside the small town of Monona Iowa, around 8:00 am. When we arrived we met with Co-owner of the ranch, Rex. He gave us a quick tour of the ranch.

A view from the top deck of the cabin at the ranch

Scenic View Ranch is working on expanding the hunting experience for their hunters. Rex showed us their skinning and meat processing shed that they are currently building for hunters such as ourselves that wanted to process their own meat while on the property. They have a large electric winch to hang your animal up and to assist with skinning; they also have the shed equipped with a walk in cooler and a walk in freezer.

Next he showed us their guest cabin that they are also currently building for guests to stay at to enjoy trout fishing in the summer, or hunting in the fall and winter months. I must say that to me this is much more than a cabin, once complete this would be my dream home. With two large decks that sat on the Yellow River, along with several bedrooms and loft, it is sure to be a hunters dream to spend the night in preparing for the next day’s hunt.

Once complete the cabin will have a rustic feel for the hunters to enjoy

After a quick tour and some final shots with the bow, we were cut loose to match wits with the large baffalo that roam the Mississippi River bluffs.

As we entered the property we felt like we were entering Jurassic Park. As we topped one of the many bluffs on the property it was common to see large white rams, bull elk, and whitetail deer. However for all the animals we were seeing the one we were after seemed to be nonexistent. As we glassed the large bluffs, open fields and down into the deep cuts, we realized that the buffalo could be any ware.

After searching for several hours, luck was finely on our side. As I looked up the hillside approximately 150 yards away I observed a large bull bison bedded, looking directly at us.

A herd of white rams added to the feel that we were hunting in "Jurassic Park"

With Bryce filming every move, I quickly turned to him and asked, “Well, what do you think?” We quickly devised a plan to make a large circle and to approach the buffalo from the back side, for two reasons. The first, being that we were currently staring directly in to the sun. If we circled, we could put the sun at our backs to help disguise our approach. Second with the crusty snow on the ground, we wanted to approach from an area of the ridge that had minimal amount of snow on the ground.

As we circled this bison, only one thing ran through my mind, how big this animal really was! The size of this buffalo just got bigger and bigger with every step we made towards him.

As we got within 70 yards of the buffalo, he spotted us and the gig was up. The massive beast rose to his feet, now alert. Unsure just how spooky buffalo are, or how close the shaggy beast would let us get before he would run or possibly charge, we decided to stay still for a while to allow the buffalo to calm back down before we would begin continuing our stalk.

Bryce (Loo Loo) filming every move of the hunt to share with the viewers

After he calmed back down, we again began our approach. As we got closer, Bryce made several references towards being able to film from a distance while I continue the stalk, along with the fact he was not sure just how quick a 1,000 pound animal can turn and charge. I quickly realized that my camera man did not trust my shooting abilities!  Knowing that if this beast charged, I needed my camera man with in a push-able or trip-able distance to buy time for my escape, I reassured Bryce that everything was going to be fine and to continue our approach.
 
As we cautiously approached the bison, we closed the distance down to thirty yards. I took a minute to regain my composure before drawing back on the slightly quartering away buffalo. As I began to draw my bow is the when the moment that I least expected occurred to me. At that moment I looked into the bison’s eyes. Those big deep eyes locked me in a trance for what was a split second, but felt like minutes. As I looked into his eyes I could see history flashing by. I imagined what the great Native tribes on the prairies thought as they also gazed into those same eyes. They too must have seen an animal that was created for man’s survival. A beast that was designed for sheer power, that once it was killed it would provide hundreds of pounds of food, shelter, and tools.

 I also saw the sadness. The sadness of a great free roaming species that once roamed North America in the millions, that was decimated merely for their fur and tong. I saw the ancestors of this great animal, as they lay in the prairies to rot.

 I also felt the pride that this animal will feed my family with clean pure meat, like its ancestors did for the early settlers and the Native Americans before.
 
After realizing just how amazing this large animal truly was, I needed to provide the purest meat designed by the good Lord himself for my family. I came to full draw, took a deep breath, and picked a spot for the arrow to drive home. As the arrow released from the string, the world seemed to be placed into slow motion. I remember seeing the rotation of the fletching as it glided through the air. I could hear a loud “thwack “as the arrow pierced through the thick furry coat. The arrow drove home perfectly behind the shoulder, assuring a quick and clean kill.

The blood trail made by the NAP two blade Blood Runner 

 
At the speed of sound everything was back playing before me at normal speed. The large buffalo with a kick, took off running down the hill towards a thick brushy bottom. As he ran down the ridge we could see the blood as it streamed from his side. He immediately turned and ran his way back up the ridge towards our direction. This is when Bryce decided he no longer wanted to be in-between me and the running bison. At this time is when the video footage becomes a bit shaky as he and I shuffled for cover.
 
As we were pushing for cover, is when the buffalo succumbed to his fatal wound. In less than fifty yards of the initial shot the 1,000 pound animal instantly fell to the ground quickly expiring.

The Carbon Express Maxima performed flawlessly with a well-placed shot

 
As any hunter knows, this is when the sudden dump of adrenalin pierces through our vanes. I couldn’t stop shaking as my legs became week. The moment of truth was presented and executed perfectly, for I had just provided hundreds of pounds of food for my family and friends.

The animal rights activists and non-hunting community will never understand this moment of truth. Yes we as hunters kill; we talk about blood and quick kills, but we are not barbarians. We study the animals that we hunt. We respect the animal and understand wildlife management, that some must die to provide life for others. We are predators just like the bear or the wolf. As hunters we refused to depend on rich business men and the stock market to feed our family. We refuse to feed our family with imported animals that are pumped full of growth hormones from other countries to produce more meat.  We are conservationists, predators, and providers.

We are predators just like the bear or the wolf

As I walked up to the fallen beast, I knelt down beside him. I said a prayer of thanks, for this big bull made the ultimate sacrifice. He sacrificed his life to feed my family. As Bryce and I admired the fallen bison, we talked about how life must have been when they once roamed in the millions, what the first settlers must have thought when they first laid eyes on a prairie that was black with herds of bison a mile or more long. As we sat there next to just one buffalo, what was life like when so many once roamed our continent?

This was truly the hunt of a life time that I will never forget

The sad reality is we will never know, we can only assume and imagine. One great aspect of history is that like a good book it is up to the reader to paint his or her own picture of what life was once like, the possibilities are in the eyes of the beholder.

As this great beast has fallen, it will provide life. To be a part of this great experience words cannot describe, for that moment in the Iowa bluffs, I was a part of history. It was the memories and the insight of what life was like when times were much simpler and the understanding of life was much clearer. This I am forever grateful for and these are the memories that can never be taken away. For this day I experienced the moment of truth.

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

Late Winter Is The Best Time To Scout Your Deer Woods

by John Mueller 22. February 2012 11:49
John Mueller

Just as the title says, “Late Winter Is The Best Time to Scout Your Woods”. There are many advantages to scouting this time of year. From sign being more visible to not spooking the deer you are hunting to just getting out and curing a bout of cabin fever, get out and scout.

Scouting this time of year is low impact on my hunting grounds. I’m not hunting them any more so I don’t mind if I spook a few deer.  They will be long over the intrusion by the time hunting season rolls around this fall. Plus it gets me out of the house and into the woods again. I just need to be in the woods every now and again.

My main reason for wanting to hit the woods scouting in late winter is the sign is very easy to spot this time of year. The leaves are all gone and the woods are wide open, enabling me to see a long ways through the woods. If there is no snow on the ground as is the case this year on my farm the well used deer paths look more like cattle trails full of hoof prints. The deer tend to have just a couple main food sources left and they hit those more regularly now and use the same paths traveling back and forth from food to bed. Make note of these trails for future late season ambush points if the food sources are the same as this year. These trails can also lead you to preferred late season bedding areas. While these may not be the same bedding areas the deer will use during early season, keep them in mind if you still have an unfilled tag as next season is winding down. Deer will return to favored bedding areas, it’s where the feel safe.

 

This is the type of trail to set a stand up on for a late season hunt.

Buck sign also sticks out like a sore thumb this time of year. Well used scrapes will be the only places where leaves and other debris doesn't cover the forest floor. Especially look on old logging roads or field edges where branvhes hang out into the field. These would be great places to start a mock scrape next fall and set up a trail camera to take inventory of the bucks in your neighborhood. The shredded trunks of rubbed trees are easily spotted without all of the underbrush hiding them in late winter too. Rub lines can be detected by standing next to one rub and looking ahead for the next one and so on. This can be good place to hang a stand next fall too. The buck is showing you a travel route he likes to use when traveling across your land.

Many times bucks will use the same location for scrapes year after year.

If you use exclusion cages in your food plots you can tell which crops the deer favor the most on your land. This will allow you to design your food plots to have the deer end up in front of your stand. By planting their most favored food near the funnels and pinch points where your stands are hung, you can coax them into bow range without them even feeling the pressure of the forced movement.

I think they really, really liked the winter wheat. I'll be planting more of it this fall.

The one thing I don't like finding on my late season scouting trips are the remains of deer. This can mean my predator population is too high or the deer are stressed because of the cold weather. Or it could have been a wounded animal that finally succumed to his injuries. I'm especially not wanting to find the remains of any of the bucks I was chasing last year or the ones I passed up hoping he would be a bruiser this fall.

Definately a scene I don't want to find on my property.


But this on the other hand, is what we all want to find while scouting for next season.

Bison by bow Part 1

by Josh Fletcher 13. February 2012 14:45
Josh Fletcher

The North American Bison also called the buffalo once roamed in the eastern forests, the oak savannahs of the Midwest, in the vast prairies and mountains of the west.  The Bison population in the early 1800’s was estimated at approximately 50 million strong.  It was common for trains to be stopped for hours waiting for the immense herds of the thunder beasts to cross the railroad tracks. Herds would stretch miles wide by miles long, turning the prairie black from a distance with their shaggy coats. The bison were Mother Nature’s cultivators of the prairie. With so many bison with their massive weight, the hooves would tear up the prairie, stirring up dormant seeds in the soil, buffalo chips were natural fertilizer to help jump start the new seeds growth, to provide new and fresh forage in the years to come. They were the perfect balance between fauna and flora on the North American continent.

The Native Americans survived off the large thundering beasts. Natives would do large buffalo drives, luring and funneling bison to stampede off an edge of a cliff, ultimately falling to their death. Quickly the members of the tribe would all work together at cutting up and utilizing the dead beasts. The bones were used as tools, hides as shelter and cloths, dried meat for food and the bladders for water bags. Nothing was left to waste; the bison provided life to those who depended on them.

The author making his final preparations before the hunt

After the Spanish introduced the horse to North America, Native Americans developed new and more efficient ways of feeding their families with buffalo. They utilized this new animal that carried man on their back while running at the speed of the bison. Native Americans began chasing bison on horseback. They were equipped with spears and the bow and arrow. The arrows were often equipped with flint sharpened to a razors edge.

As the early settlers began expanding their way west of the Mississippi River, the bison began to compete with the settler’s crops and cattle for the valuable yet vulnerable land.  The settlers had no concept of conservation, and believed that they would never eliminate the herds in their life time.
 
As the railroads worked their way west, buffalo were shot to feed the workers. These buffalo hunters were hired by the railroad companies to supply fresh buffalo meat to their workers. One of these buffalo hunters became known as Buffalo Bill Cody.

The bison hunters would use the modern technology of the time with their long range guns. They would look for the herd leader. By taking out the leader of the herd first, the remainder of the bison would stand there not knowing what to do. They would just keep dropping the bison one by one until they ran out of shells. I was once written by a buffalo hunter that his hunting partners shot so many bison that they had to urinate on their guns to cool the barrels.
 
As railroad’s made their way west, the hide of the bison became popular, along with the bison tongue as a delicacy in fancy restaurants. The hunters turned from shooting for meat to shooting for hide and tongue. Thousands of carcasses would be left to waste in the blood stained prairies. The vast herds of approximately 50 million strong were decimated to less than a 1,500 in North America. As the bison disappeared, early conservationists realized that the bison were on the brink of being extinct.

Citizens lobbied the United States President Ulysses S. Grant to help save the buffalo. President Grant replied that the Indians depend on the buffalo to live, with the elimination of the buffalo, means the elimination of the Indians, leaving them subject to reservations. President Grant refused to save the bison.

Several private organizations along with concerned citizens captured and raised several of their own herds to prevent them from becoming just a page in the history book. Other remaining herds sought refuge in the remote Canadian wilderness.

Today the bison are no longer in danger of becoming extinct. The population that was once approximately 1,500 animals has been brought back to approximately 500,000. This is still a far cry from the once 50 million that roamed North America. Out of 500,000 bison today, half is found in the United States. Out of approximately 250,000 animals in the US, over 90 percent are privately owned bison on farms and ranches.
 
I began my quest for taking a buffalo with the bow just this winter. Being intrigued by the history of the North American Bison, I too wanted to take part in a hunt that dates back centuries ago. I began my quest looking for a free ranging wild buffalo.  After doing research on places to go, I quickly felt the impact of the early settlers over a hundred years ago. There are only several select areas in North America that true free ranging bison exist. They are Alaska, parts of Canada, Utah, Arizona, along with smaller herds in several other states. I learned that some of these tags may take a life time to draw, or the price of the tag was too high for me to afford in my life time. I was determined to hunt bison by bow and was not willing to except that this hunt may take years before I could get a chance. I realized that my best option was to begin looking at hunting with the 90 percent private herds for a hunt this year.

I began calling outfitters and ranchers. The first one I called offered the quality of hunt I was looking for. I wanted to fill my freezer with good clean high quality protein at a reasonable price. With all things there are the pluses and the minuses. This ranch offered a great hunt, however by the time I paid for the hunt and the gas to get out to South Dakota I would have maxed out my wallet for this years hunt.

Again being determined to find the right place to make my dream hunt come true at a reasonable price and at a very short notice, I contacted another ranch. This ranch offered a bison hunt at a reasonable price and was close to home. When I asked how big of an area I would have to chase down my dream bison, I was told it was a vast 70 acres! That’s not vast! That’s a pasture! Was my reply as I quickly hung up the phone trying to be polite to the rancher.  I know that the majority of buffalo are privately owned on ranches but I still wanted a real experience, not a walk up to your animal and kill it experience.
 
Just when I thought there was no hope for a buffalo hunt this year, and that it may take me many years to draw a wild herd tag, I found a ranch located in north east Iowa. The ranch is called Scenic View Ranch, located near the little town of Monona, Iowa. I quickly called the owner, Lloyd Johanningmeier. As I asked Lloyd questions about his ranch, I quickly realized this is where I am going to try and take my first buffalo with the bow.
 
Scenic View Ranch has over 300 acres of beautiful hard woods bluffs with the fastest running river in Iowa, the Yellow River running through the property. As I talked with Lloyd it became quickly apparent that Scenic View Ranch’s main goal to show the hunter a good time in a very relaxed atmosphere. Some ranches I contacted did not even allow archery hunting for buffalo, but not Lloyd, he actually encouraged it and his hunts were close to home at a very reasonable price.
 
I have never hunted on a ranch a day in my life, so I have no clue what to expect.  My biggest concern was that I did not want a “canned” hunt. I truly wanted to match wits with one of these big thunder beasts. Lloyd reassured me that this will truly be a hunt. 300 acres in the wide open prairie may seem small, but 300 acres in the large rolling hard wood bluffs means they can be any ware. Also some ranches would not let you keep your entire animal that you killed. Being a do-it yourself style of hunter, I didn’t feel that this was fare. If I’m paying for the hunt, shouldn’t I get to keep the entire animal that I killed? At Scenic View Ranch you keep what you shoot, and you don’t pay unless you shoot what you are looking for.

A recipicating saw does an excellent job at cutting through large bone

 
Lloyd was patient with me and all the questions that I was inquiring about the hunt, and every time I talked with him, the conversation started out about the hunt but quickly we found ourselves talking like we have known each other for years. It didn’t take me long to book my buffalo hunt at Scenic View Ranch.

With the hunt booked, I immediately began preparing for the hunt. I will be using the Mathews Helim bow set at 68 pounds of draw weight. My arrows are Carbon Express Maxima Hunters and the broad heads will be the NAP two blade Blood Runners.

I quickly started hitting the range, fine tuning my archery skills. The best part about shooting outside in the winter time is that I’m practicing at the range wearing the heavy bulky clothing that I will be wearing during the hunt.

While practicing daily under cold weather conditions, I also hit the web and books learning about the anatomy of the buffalo. The key is a well-placed shot. You can shoot 80 pounds with the  best broad head, but if you don’t hit your mark, or if you don’t even know where that mark even is, that high powered bow doesn’t do you any good. I quickly learned that the vitals in a buffalo sit very low in the chest cavity, I also learned from reading forums of different hunters that most people shoot too high in the buffalo’s chest. The mark that I am looking for is the top of the heart or both lungs. If I find the buffalo’s elbow joint and draw a horizontal line until I hit the shoulder crease, ware those two lines meet will be my mark. Hopefully I can be presented with a quartering away shot to lodge the arrow up into the kill zone of the big thunder beast.

It takes alot of preperation to process a 1000 pund animal yourself

Next I had to figure out what I’m going to do with the buffalo if all goes right and I get him on the ground. Again being a do-it yourself hunter, I’m choosing to process the buffalo myself. To transport the meat we are using an elk hunting trick, by placing a freezer in a trailer and trailering it to the hunting location. This works great for handling a large animal such as an elk. Once back at camp, you cut the meat up and vacuum pack the meat prior to placing it in the freezer. Then just plug the freezer into a portable generator and let it run over night to cool and freeze the meat if you are in a remote location. If the meat is frozen solid and the lid stays closed, the meat will remain frozen in the freezer for days. Also a chest freezer has the capabilities of holding several hundred pounds of meat.

For cutting the meat we will be bringing knives of varying sizes. A handy trick for cutting large sections of bone, such as splitting a carcass in half, is using a reciprocating saw with a fine tooth blade. We will also have a hand bone saw for the smaller bone cuts. I also have two vacuum packing machines; two meat grinders, 200 one pound bags for holding ground burger, 12 boxes of vacuum bags, freezer paper, and don’t forget a good knife sharpener.
 
The weather looks like it is going to be warm, in the mid 30’s for the hunt which is going to take place in less than a week, on February 17. We will be packing all the camera gear to bring the action into your home right here at Bowhunting.com. Be sure to check back for part two of this blog to read about how the hunt unfolded, and the end results.

2012 Mathews Retailer Show Round-Up

by Bow Staff 6. February 2012 01:53
Bow Staff

After my trip this past December to the Mathews Archery Retailer Show I was amazed at how innovative archery companies can be.  With each passing season the new bowhunting and archery equipment that hits the market gets lighter, stronger and more versatile than ever before.  Below are thirteen items from the show that I thought every diehard bowhunter would want to know about.

The 2012 Tight Spot Quiver shown here is lighter than previous models which will work perfectly with the new Mathews Helim The Tight Spot quiver attaches and detaches from your bow quickly and fits snugly against the riser of the bow, reportedly eliminating bow torque issues often caused by a bulky quiver.

Another item that caught my eye is a Mathews bow display called WeaponRax. This classy looking display holds one bow and a few arrows and turns your Mathews bow into a piece of artwork that you can display in your living room, den or dead animal room. The WeaponRax is available in black or oak. Many retailers were purchasing them at the show to show off Mathews bows in their retail stores.

Hot Shot Manufacturing’s new Infinity release is available with a leather Lost Camo wrist strap. The Infinity features a “Lever-Link” trigger that replaces traditional roller bearings, creating a crisp shot and less trigger creep, resulting in tighter arrow groups. The extra-tough actuating mechanism features less friction than roller bearings so the release will work flawlessly for years without getting stiff or difficult to pull due to harsh weather or dirt from spending hours in the woods.

Carbon Express has long been considered a leader in arrow technology. Mathews is a leader in bow technology so it makes sense for these two industry leaders to team up. The Mathews Edition Carbon Express Maxima Hunter comes in Lost Camo and has the great features you are accustomed to from the Maxima Hunter including weight forward technology, Buff Tuff carbon weaving and the extra strong BullDog nock collar.

If you are a diehard turkey hunter, you will want to check out the Turkey Nightmare Lost Camo blind. This unique umbrella blind mounts to your bow and has a shooting window in the center of it. The umbrella blocks the turkey from seeing you draw your bow but the window allows you to see and aim at the turkey. One of the most difficult things about bowhunting turkeys is getting your bow drawn without being busted. This blind will make bowhunting turkeys much easier.

Pine Ridge Archery makes a variety of archery products. For 2012, they have all kinds of new products that come in Lost Camo and bright colors for all the archers who want their bow and everything on it to be color coordinated. Their new Nitro Stabilizer is available in Lost Camo. They have brightly colored wrist slings, peep sights, peep sight tubing and a variety of other products. For more information, visit www.pineridgearchery.com

American Leather Klassics has teamed up with Mathews to produce fine leather products. In this picture, you can see the Mathews leather belt. They also make Lost Camo picture frames, wallets and are even producing Lost Camo dog collars and leashes for your favorite dog. They offer a wide variety of Lost Camo leather products.

Invisible Hunter makes a variety of scent eliminating products including Invisible Hunter Fresh Earth spray. This product comes in a Mathews Lost Camo spray bottle. Invisible Hunter uses enzymes to destroy human odor, not just mask it like many odor eliminating sprays do. Almost all deer hunters use scent eliminating sprays of some kind; now you can try one based on science, not smoke and mirrors.

Schaffer Performance Archery has given the Opposition Arrow Rest a facelift. The new Opposition Lite is 20% lighter than the previous model, comes in Lost Camo and comes with unique technology like Glide Away jaws that pinch the arrow so your arrow can’t come off the rest as you draw. A button on the rest allows you to lock your arrow into position before you draw or allow the jaws to lock the arrow in place as you draw. When you shoot your bow, the jaws glide to the right and left for total arrow clearance. The Opposition rest has been tested at 418 FPS!

Mathews Archery fans love to tell the world how proud they are to shoot a Mathews Bow. Camo Wraps make unique Lost Camo vehicle wraps and Mathews stickers that look great on almost anything. Their accessory wraps can be used on cameras, phones and anything you want to deck out in Lost Camo.

Blacks Creek Guide Gear makes great backpacks, duffle bags and bow cases. Here you can see the new Blacks Creek Helim bow case that looks almost as cool as the new Helim and protects your favorite bow from getting nicks or dings while traveling to your favorite hunting spot. Blacks Creek displayed some great new duffle bags at the Mathews Show that are perfect for the traveling hunter.

Grim Reaper Broadheads is offering the Mathews Edition mechanical broadhead. This razor-sharp killing machine has a gold feral that will look great flying out of your favorite Mathews bow. My favorite Grim Reaper Mathews head is a 3-blade head that offers a razor-cut tip and has a whopping 2-inch cutting diameter.

Axion Archery is offering some great products for 2012 including the new Zone drop away wrest and the GLT Triad Stabilizer that is very sleek and innovative and will look great on any Mathews bow that has the Grid Lock riser.

About the Author: Tracy Breen is a full time freelance writer and works with several companies in the outdoor industry including Mathews Archery, Schaffer Archery, Hot Shot Manufacturing and Pine Ridge Archery.

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Post Season Training: Next Season Starts Now

by Steve Flores 25. January 2012 13:01
Steve Flores

Now that most hunting seasons have closed, it is important to discuss a common “post-season” trap. And, while it may seem innocent in nature, make no mistake it is one that prevents a lot of bowhunters from reaching their maximum potential; with regard to bow shooting skills, number of tags filled and even overall physical fitness. I understand that after many long months chasing your favorite game animal the urge to “take it easy” for a while can be overwhelming. However, if you want next season to be better than last season, now is the absolute best time to work toward that goal. Later, in subsequent blogs, we will discuss Hunting Prowess (tags filled), and Physical Fitness in more detail. But for now, let’s take a closer look at the first of these three areas: Shooting Skill. 

Your favorite treestand may be sitting dormant, but that doesn't mean that the time for perparation is over. 

Shooting Skills
You don’t have to be a competitive shooter to be a successful bowhunter. In reality, perhaps the most deciding factor in closing the deal on your next bowhunting opportunity comes down to 2 things: muscle memory and your ability to handle pressure. Thankfully, if you put enough time into actually shooting your bow, muscle memory will take care of itself. This is important because you might believe that you can talk yourself through such details as picking a spot, bending at the waste, relaxing your shooting hand or squeezing the release trigger----all in the heat of the moment! But, the truth is, you will most likely forget, simply because your heart will be in your throat. I know because I have tried. It should come as no surprise that my odds of success were very low during those seasons when I tried to will my way through tough shooting situations. 

The off-season is a great time to introduce advanced shooting techniques such as "Blind-Bale Shooting" into your practice regimen.

During those seasons when I failed to pick up my bow until late summer, I was essentially “relearning” all of the skills I had worked so hard on during the previous year. As a result, even though I was practicing, I wasn’t really making any strides in my ability to shoot well. Thankfully, I wasn’t loosing much either. But honestly, I definitely wasn’t getting any better. I quickly learned that maintaining some form of consistency during the off-season was the only way to really improve my proficiency to hit what I was aiming at in actual hunting situations. Some of this included just slinging arrows in the back yard. A good deal of it however, entailed actually shooting from a treestand, long-range shooting, and even up close, blank-bale shooting. 

Shooting from the ground, in a kneeling position, while wearing a face-mask, can affect your odds of filling a tag; especially if you wait until the moment of truth to find out if doing so alters such things as anchor point and arrow flight.

I should also mention how important it is to make a good deal of your practice time “situational”. For example, if you primarily hunt above “terra-firma”, then you should conduct the majority of your practice sessions from a treestand. This will only add “realism” to the situation and better prepare you for the real thing; and, what better time to do this than during the boring winter months. In addition, shooting outside when it is cold allows you to evaluate your cold-weather gear for any potential interference problems with the bowstring. This can be hard to do in the heat of summer or just before opening day when temps are still high. 

 

While everyone else is spending time doing something non-archery related, why not try out a new grip or arrow and broadhead combination. The new Mathews Focus grip is great for reducing hand-torque and the new NAP Big Nasty broadhead, along with the new Easton INJEXION arrows should prove to be leathal. It's never too late to start dialing things in and testing new gear.

Pressure
Your ability to handle a pressure situation in the treestand can be increased by spending time behind the bowstring. There is no question that when your shooting skills improve----your confidence goes up. When your confidence goes up, so does your ability to manage pressure; simply because you expect to perform well. The old cliché that archery is 90% mental carries a lot of merit. Even if you only shoot a few arrows a week, that is better than laying the bow down for the entire off-season (until just a few weeks before opening day).

 

When the moment I have worked so hard for finally arrives......I want nothing more than to deliver. For me, this starts in the off-season.

I like to think that my bow is an extension of my arm. I maintain that feeling by making sure I don’t let too much time go by without launching some arrows downrange. When faced with an actual shot on a living, breathing animal, I want my mind and body to go into sort of an “auto-pilot” mode. That way, all I have to do is find the single hair I want to split….nothing more. Of course, I am only human and completely capable of screwing things up. However, I can decrease the chances of that happening by constantly sharpening my shooting skills----year round. 

Next time we will discuss ways to improve our ability to fill tags. Again, post season is the optimum time-frame to accomplish this. However, there is more to it than aimlessly stumbling through the woods. You need to have a plan.

Shooting lanes

by Matt Cheever 23. January 2012 10:11
Matt Cheever

There seems to be two distinct schools of thought when it comes to pruning shooting lanes, most gravitate to one end or the other with a few folks hovering in the middle.  On the one hand you have guys that don’t like to cut anything they don’t absolutely have to, in fact these extremist at times won’t cut a single limb and just rely on the deer to step through a tiny opening at the moment of truth. You can probably tell by my description this mindset doesn’t include me.
The other school of thought is to make sure you have a clear shot with reasonable shooting lanes in any possible area the deer could travel through. The obvious down side is you open yourself up more to be picked off and you disturb the deer’s living room at some point. I tend to lean more in this direction but am cautious as not to open things up too much and ruin a stand site.


The ramifications of too much or too little are huge.  If you film your hunts like I do, you need to consider camera angle and not having to focus through a lot of limbs to capture the image; if you take too many limbs it leaves a huge hole that lends itself nicely as a focal point for the deer’s line of sight.  You want at least three good shooting lanes, preferably one to each side at an angle to your stand and another one straight in front of you. I realize many like to have their stand on the back side of a tree for concealment but this makes it very difficult if not impossible to film your own hunts.


An extendable power chain saw is very effective when you have many limbs or larger limbs to do prune 


Where is the fine line between these two you may ask? I have an approach that may take advantage of the best of both words.  Take some time during the late Winter months while out hiking or shed hunting and do your heavy pruning; you know that one big limb 20 yards out 18 feet up that always seems to be between you and the deer, take out a pole chain saw, extendable hand saw or even a small hand saw that you can duck tape to a sapling and get that limb down.  Do your massive pruning directly after season if you have determined to keep that stand site. There are three benefits, one is having less of an impact on the deer you are hunting, two is you will open things up but allow new spring growth to come back in and camo up your area a bit; last but not least you are putting more tree buds on the ground for the deer to browse, why not do it when they need food the most?


Don’t be afraid to use a large saw for nuisance trees in the winter months as long as the land owner doesn’t mind.

 


Doing this late season pruning isn’t a catch all, you will still need to pop a few little twigs out of the way come late summer or fall, but it will be with minimal disturbance. Late summer is a great time to slide in there and take a hand saw and quietly snag a few nuisance limbs. The perfect tool for small touch up or public land pruning where chainsaws may not be allowed is the Hooyman extending saw. This model reaches around ten feet, or can be used as just a hand saw, and folds up small enough to take on each hunt if necessary



I don’t personally like climbing stands but if I did, this would be a must have tool


I find there is always that one little twig that seems to cause most of the problems, but I have eliminated that by toting this aluminum I beam framed saw along with me


Get out in the woods during late winter and don’t let that one little limb or big limb keep you from your trophy next fall. You will be amazed how your success rate goes up once you take out the limb factor excuse.  Remember to be safe when using saws in trees and always have a safety harness on.

Until next time, be safe and God bless
Matt Cheever 

 

Categories: Bowhunting Blogs

Stealth Cam Introduces the New Trail Camera Field App

by Todd Graf 23. January 2012 08:55
Todd Graf

If you know me personally, have followed my blog over the years, or regularly watch Bowhunt or Die, you know by now that I am a trail camera junky.  Over the years I have amassed an impressive (or embarrassing, if you ask my wife) number of trail cameras of nearly every brand.  There technology simply allows me to scout and monitor bucks without putting added pressure on them.  Trail cameras are a useful tool for bowhunters that promise to increase your success rate.

That being said, trail cameras have come a long way since their inception over a decade ago.  They now take crystal clear images, record HD video and can send your images wirelessly from the unit to your e-mail account (see Stealth Cam’s new Drone system).  Well, Stealth Cam, the trail camera I rely on most in the field, has taken scouting technology one step further with their new Trail Camera Field App.  This hunter friendly mobile app costs only $1.99 and is available for both Apple and Android powered devices.  

It comes packed with a boatload of innovative features that can assist hunters in a variety of ways.  It comes integrated with GPS mapping technology that not only allows you to mark your trail camera locations, but also other important marking points such as tree stands, water holes, scrapes, rubs, you name it!  You can save and share these markers to your Facebook page or your friends via e-mail as well.  Or, simply save them to your personal gallery.  

The app also has built in functionality that can help you plan out your hunts better as well.  Hunters can get weather forecasts by entering their city, state or zip code, or by letting the location based feature on the camera precisely identify your location.  Not only weather forecasts, DETAILED weather forecasts including 24 hour, 3 day or an extended 10 day forecast while not only providing your usually weather information, but also hunter friendly info such as sunrise and sunset times, moon phase and barometric pressure.  The Trail Cam Field App also has a built in photo managing / sharing function that allows hunters to fully customize their photo gallery by location, date, weapon or species.  You can then share your photos via social media and receive comments in real time.  You can also get video tips and information straight from the Stealth Cam Pro Staff as well. 

If this app is something that intrigues you, feel free to contact the Stealth Cam team for tech tips or general information regarding this app, I encourage you to check out their website here.  Happy off-season everyone! 




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