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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!

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., 

 

 

 

 

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.

It Just Keeps Getting Better

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. January 2012 04:41
Daniel James Hendricks

It has become an United Foundation For Disabled Archers (UFFDA) tradition for the participants of each hunt to walk around at the end of the year’s event scratching their heads mumbling to themselves about how they didn’t think it could get any better than this year. But sure enough, the next year comes and that hunt miraculously turns out to be by far the best one yet! Well rest assured that after reading and hearing reports from the 2011 Camp Wilderness and Camp Tesomas events that fine tradition has once again been carried on. This year’s events were the best ever for both the Minnesota and Wisconsin crews. And to both  teams I tip my hat and offer a hearty congratulations for all of the hard work, excellent spirit and stellar results.

The Camp Wilderness hunt celebrated its 17th consecutive year by hosting 32 hunters over a beautiful weekend that culminated Saturday with the biggest and most successful banquet we have ever had. The facility was packed to the seams with hunters, UFFDA staff, landowners, kids and a lot of folks that just came to camp for the evening to see what all of the excitement was about. By night’s end, the great food, hearty laughter, the emotional highs and excellent deals garnered on the auctions brought the 2011 hunt to a jubilant close. The next morning as the tired, but very content UFFDA campers headed home, each bore a peaceful and satisfied smile upon their face. This hunt had definitely been the best yet!

Matt Klein with dad, Mark & local guide, Blake Johnson

The deer harvest was pretty much normal, but then again, the whitetail body count has never been what our annual conclave is about. On Thursday, the first night of the hunt, Matt Klein scored a double by taking two does. Terry Schwartz nailed a four point buck to put him out in front for the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award and our veteran beautiful Lady Huntress, Terrie Schrank took nice doe. Friday’s hunt produced three more does. Stan (The Killer) Koich took one, Board Member, Tim Sartwell took another and the third was taken by Karl Anderson. 

On Saturday, Leon Holmin shot a spike buck and our newest and rookie beautiful Lady Huntress, Dawn Peterson took a fine doe. Another first year hunter, Tom Voight took a seven point buck, which handily won him the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award. Besides the beautiful hunting knife donated by Delaney’s, Tom’s big buck won the number one slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness hunt so we will be seeing more of him for sure. Tom’s buck brought our total reported harvest to ten for this year’s event.  A warm congratulation goes out to all of the UFFDA hunters and their guides for a job well done, whether you took a deer or not.

Terry Schwartz and local guide, George Darchuk

For the duration of the hunt, the weather was beautiful, there was only one minor injury (a finger smashed in a kitchen) and seemingly everyone had a wonderful time. The food this year, as with every year, was plentiful, delicious and nourishing. Were it not for the talented and dedicated kitchen staff, the hungry participants of the hunt would not be nearly as happy as they always are. Over the delightful UFFDA cuisine, companionship is always heightened to its apex making the hours spent in the homey Camp Wilderness mess hall a very special place where some of the fondest UFFDA memories are created. We sincerely thank all of the food preparers and handlers for their smiling faces and the hearty results of their labors that are seemingly designed to keep the entire crew fat and sassy. 

Tim Sartwell with local guide, Rick Knobloch

To everyone who was at this year’s hunt, it was also a very special occasion in that it allowed us all to share in Greg Waite’s last UFFDA hunt. It was obvious that Greg knew that his time with us all was near it end. He dove into the activity and lapped up every second of the action driving himself to complete exhaustion each day. We will all remember Greg’s presence there and will cherish the last time that he shared himself with his UFFDA Family. Two other long-time UFFDA members who are doing their best to fend off the viciousness and cruelty of cancer were also in attendance. Delmer Bentz and Karl Denly both showed up in spite of failing health and much pain to deal with. Having these three very special men at Camp Wilderness was both inspiring and at the same time, very sad. We all hate to see loved ones suffer so much, but how deeply we are moved by their courage and their overwhelming need to be with the people that they have grown to love as they shared a common joy of doing for others. Bless them all!

The “One-Shot” target shoot for all qualified UFFDA hunters was held again this year as the contestants vied for the Kalk Traveling Trophy. In 2010 possession of the prestigious award was won by Mike Schurch who was a first time attendee at this annual UFFDA gathering. Well guess what? This year the Kalk trophy was won by Ben Rouw of Becker, MN who was also a first time hunt attendee. Go figure! Congratulations, Ben and welcome to the family. Ben also won the number two slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness Hunt so we will be seeing him again next year.

Tom Voight with local guides, Mike Hinton & Rick Knobloch

The participation in the Camp Wilderness Hunt by the local citizens continues to grow with new faces, new properties and new volunteers showing up at camp each year. We are so grateful for that hometown participation from the folks around the Park Rapids area as it enriches the event tremendously. We at UFFDA know that volunteerism is not at the top of everyone’s priority list of things to do, but when these special volunteers step forward from the surrounding community, you know that you are definitely partaking of the cream. The fine folks that have joined our mission from the Park Rapids area drive home that point with tremendous force every year. Thank you, one and all for blessing our efforts with your presence, sharing your land and just plain rolling up your sleeves and helping us make it all happen.

And to the benevolent donors both large and small that fund our undertaking, thank you for your continued support of the UFFDA Mission. Through your generosity, you give life to one of the most selfless efforts by a group of bowhunters who wish only to share the joys of hunting by recruiting and hosting bowhunting events for physically challenged people. Every year we accommodate new disabled members that enter the woods as bowhunters for the first time, learning the joys of pursuing wild things in a proud tradition that since the dawn of time has given the hunter his purpose. 

 

Terrie Schrank with local guide, Perry Melbo

Through your support, disabled hunters are provided with a cost-free outing that is as good as it gets. They are fed, tutored and catered to by dedicated volunteers who give up much of their personal time and resources, just for the radiance that can only be captured by unselfishly serving others. More specifically in the case of UFFDA, our entire family is so privileged to be able to watch new hunters experience for the very first time the thrill of taking a big game animal with a string and a stick; and then listening as the successful hunter shares the unforgettable excitement of an experience that is so unique that it can never be equaled again.

And that, dear friends, is the bottom line of what we do and why we do it. Once you have seen a hunter proudly roll into the Camp’s mess hall in a wheelchair prepared to share his or her tale of triumph about taking their first deer with a bow, you just know that this is the very heart of UFFDA, the organ that gives it its life. So to every supporter of the passion, whether you are on the front lines guiding the hunters, feeding them, providing the land for them to hunt, supporting the banquets or just donating from afar, you are an intricate part of a very noble endeavor to serve the disabled hunter, while nurturing our hunting heritage and the overall image of the modern hunter. Thank you for doing your part and doing it so well.

 

Stan (The Killer) Koich

As the United Foundation For Disabled Archers begins to prepare of its 18th season of service, we hope that you will continue to man your stations and also continue to support our worthy mission. Whatever your role, you are very important to the completion of the UFFDA Mission and its continued success. Thank you for the past year and now onward to the creation of new adventures that are destined to make us all winners for the right reasons.

Karl Anderson and local guide Tim Williams

 

Saying Goodbye to the 2011 Bow Season

by Cody Altizer 16. January 2012 11:34
Cody Altizer

Have you ever experienced something that contrasts so sharply with itself that it almost takes on two different beings, two unique personalities?  For example, the skyline of a city at sunrise is as equally beautiful with its color and glamour as it is destructive with its pollution and noise.  What if I told you that the Rocky Mountains, the powerful backbone of America that even the mightiest of hunters can’t sometimes conquer, is actually corroding yearly at the hands of water and ice?  On January 7th I experienced a similar juxtaposition.  I climbed a tree to go hunting, a decision that would generally lead to a kill and death.  However this time, it was to extend the life of the previous 3 months through spiritual and personal reflection.

A shot of my home away from home, so to speak.  I've spent the better part of my 22 years in this camp and the surrounding woods and fields chasing whitetail deer.  Maybe it's not home away from home and it's just..home?

As I settled into my stand, I decided to just close my eyes and let my mind wander, rather than trying to reminisce about certain memories.  That didn’t last long, because a meat fly landed on my nose and I grinned to myself as I swatted him away, because I couldn’t believe how warm it was for a January hunt.  It must have been 65 degrees, 20 degrees warmer than it was at the same time opening day over 3 months prior.

After I ridded myself of the pesky insect, my mind truly began to wander, but in a direction I certainly hadn’t intended it to.  I wanted to relive the day my brother shot the 150” giant we had been hunting all year, and how we celebrated in the woods together, sharing an indescribable fraternal connection.  I badly wanted to replay the events of the day I shot my biggest buck to date, and how countless hours of hard work had paid off.  Finally, I wanted to remember cutting up deer meat with my family the night my dad shot his first buck in 6 years while watching college football.  But, as is often the case, my mind had other ideas.

On my last hunt of the season, I climbed a tree not wanting to shoot a deer, but instead reminisce over the memories of what was my best season to date.

Instead, my mind wandered to different memories.  For instance, I remembered an early November hunt that my brother had offered to film.  We were hunting over one of our food plots, and I had just finished hanging his camera stand when he told me there were three does quickly coming down the opposite side ridge.  I hurried down, and he hurried back up as I followed him, praying the deer wouldn’t see us.  Magically, we got set up safely in our stands just as the deer came into view.  Strapping the camera arm to the tree was out of the question as this point as the doe and her twin fawns were at 40 yards and closing.  The twins got a free pass as they sprinted in the food plot chasing each other back and forth excited for an afternoon of feasting on oats and clover.  I laughed to myself because their eagerness reminded me of how I must have acted when I went to Chucky Cheese as a kid.  

I refocused on the doe and recognized her as a doe we had been seeing the last 4 years and had earned the name “Momma.”  She had a distinctive white streak down her nose, and was once so comfortable with my presence she would almost eat out of my hands when I would put out minerals during the summer.  She had to be at least 7 years old, and I was prepared to take her life if she gave me the opportunity.  She was at 15 yards when I drew my bow and at 7 yards when I settled the pin, there was only one problem: a small branch protected her vitals from my arrow.  She stood there for close to 20 seconds completely unaware of my brother and me sitting 20 feet above her.  I could have shot her in the shoulder blade, and I know I would have gotten enough penetration that she wouldn’t make it far, but I couldn’t do it.  I could have shot through the small branches and, at just 7 yards, the arrow wouldn’t deflect enough to make much of a difference, but I’m not that type of hunter.  Momma deserved more than that.  After scanning the field for danger she took the final step I needed to clear her vitals, and when she did I tried to stop her.  I was going for a subtle bleat, but a loud, boisterous grunt is what erupted from my mouth.  To this day, I don't know how that happened.  She didn’t think twice about stopping and looking up, and she bolted immediately back in the direction from which she came.  I had no choice but shake my head and smile while my brother laughed at me.  I guess my subconscious simply wouldn’t let me kill Momma.  

One of the many images I have of an old doe we call, "Momma."  She's an old doe, wise to my ways, and would be a true trophy if I could harvest her next fall.

Eyes still closed, my mind ironically shifted to a morning where my eyes were full of wonder and curiosity.  I had just hung a stand a few days prior in an area I hadn’t hunted for close to 10 years.  I could just never convince myself there would be deer there.  However, a trail camera on a mock scrape had revealed this area was actually a deer haven with two monster bucks working the scrape.  To say I was excited about be an insult to how eager I was to get in the tree on an early November morning.  I had hiked close to a mile to get to my stand, got settled in and said the same prayer I say before every hunt, giving thanks for the opportunity and the ability to hunt, asking for safety and, if it were in His will, to bless me with some luck, in any way He felt fit.  

After a deep breath I looked up and was blindsided by how clear the stars were.  It was beautifully cold and clear, and the stars could have never been brighter.  The frosty field I was overlooking harmoniously joined forces with the stars and the result was a glittering dance floor for me to enjoy.  It was one of those mornings where it was literally difficult for me to take my eyes of the sky, and I was glad I didn’t.  I must have seen 5 shooting stars that morning, and I made a wish on each and every one of them.  By the time the sun had risen I had already deemed the morning a success and readied myself for the actual hunt.  Over the next 4 hours I saw close to 10 deer, one of them being one of the bucks I was hunting, but he was just out of bow range.  It was an awesome morning and one that I am thankful I could experience.

One of my favorite things about hunting season is the clairty of the stars on crisp cool mornings.  This picture could never do the real image justice.

The season was now a little less than an hour from being over and I had decided to do my best to relive the morning I shot my buck, High n’ Tight.  I was, after all, sitting in the exact same stand.  Right on cue, however, my mind had other ideas.  I thought about the first time I had seen High n’ Tight from stand.  It was a terribly windy day, and I had gotten in my stand a little before noon hoping to see some midday rutting activity.  I suppose my plan had worked because I saw High n’ Tight, although only briefly, about 100 yards in the thick timber.  Unfortunately, he left as quickly as he came, but I had hoped he would make another appearance, only this time closer.

Unfortunately, he never showed himself again that day, but I did have an encounter with a different buck.  About 3:00 I had a button buck make his way out of a nearby bedding area and made a beeline right for my stand.  The minute he got underneath my stand he stopped, set up shop, and began feeding on acorns.  He looked up at me briefly, almost as if to say, “I’m glad you’re here Cody!  I think I’ll just hang out with you this afternoon, I know you won’t shoot me, will ya?!”  I tried not to anthropomorphize, and decided to take out my camera and snap some photos of the small buck.  He was only 5 yards from the base of my tree, and I was worried he’d spook if he heard the shutter.  I decided to risk it and see what happened.  I snapped a couple images, and it was clear he heard the shutter, because he jerked his head up with each picture I took.  I thought it was funny, so I decided to take some more.  With each shot, up went his head and back went his ears.  He could clearly ear me, but he hadn’t been around long enough to know that suspicious noises from above generally mean danger.  We repeated this process frequently the entire afternoon and the laughs he gave me far outweighed the fact that I could be unnecessarily educating a buck I could be trying to kill in the three years.  Oh well, hunting is supposed to be fun, right?

This little guy never could quite figure out what was making the clicking noise in the tree above him.  He knew something was there, but I don't think he really cared what it was.  He was more concerned with eating acorns than avoiding danger at the time.

By this time sunset was quickly approaching and since I wasn’t going to shoot anything I decided to make my way back to the camp so I could enjoy the last sunset of the season.  It was the perfect ending to the perfect season.  I sat on a picnic table, spitting sunflower seeds watching the clouds blow in and subconsciously began subtly shaking my head in agreement. I suppose it was to both acknowledge what a blessing the previous three months had been as well as let the woods and wildlife know that I was ready to begin preparation for another season.  Because after all, saying goodbye to one season only means saying hello to the next.   

What The Heck Is Going On?

by Daniel James Hendricks 5. January 2012 12:06
Daniel James Hendricks

It has become an UFFDA tradition for the participants of each hunt to walk around at the end of the year’s event scratching their heads mumbling to themselves about how they didn’t think it could get any better than this year. But sure enough, the next year comes and that hunt miraculously turns out to be by far the best one yet! Well rest assured that after reading and hearing reports from the 2011 Camp Wilderness and Camp Tesomas events that fine tradition has once again been carried on. This year’s events were the best ever for both the Minnesota and Wisconsin crews. And to both  teams I tip my hat and offer a hearty congratulations for all of the hard work, excellent spirit and stellar results.

The Camp Wilderness hunt celebrated its 17th consecutive year by hosting 32 hunters over a beautiful weekend that culminated Saturday with the biggest and most successful banquet we have ever had. The facility was packed to the seams with hunters, UFFDA staff, landowners, kids and a lot of folks that just came to camp for the evening to see what all of the excitement was about. By night’s end, the great food, hearty laughter, the emotional highs and excellent deals garnered on the auctions brought the 2011 hunt to a jubilant close. The next morning as the tired, but very content UFFDA campers headed home, each bore a peaceful and satisfied smile upon their face. This hunt had definitely been the best yet!

 Karl Anderson and local guide Tim Williams

The deer harvest was pretty much normal, but then again, the whitetail body count has never been what our annual conclave is about. On Thursday, the first night of the hunt, Matt Klein scored a double by taking two does. Terry Schwartz nailed a four point buck to put him out in front for the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award and our veteran beautiful Lady Huntress, Terrie Schrank took nice doe. Friday’s hunt produced three more does. Stan (The Killer) Koich took one, Board Member, Tim Sartwell took another and the third was taken by Karl Anderson. 

On Saturday, Leon Holmin shot a spike buck and our newest and rookie beautiful Lady Huntress, Dawn Peterson took a fine doe. Another first year hunter, Tom Voight took a seven point buck, which handily won him the Delaney’s Sports Big Buck Award. Besides the beautiful hunting knife donated by Delaney’s, Tom’s big buck won the number one slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness hunt so we will be seeing more of him for sure. Tom’s buck brought our total reported harvest to ten for this year’s event.  A warm congratulation goes out to all of the UFFDA hunters and their guides for a job well done, whether you took a deer or not.

Matt Klein with dad, Mark & local guide, Blake Johnson

For the duration of the hunt, the weather was beautiful, there was only one minor injury (a finger smashed in a kitchen) and seemingly everyone had a wonderful time. The food this year, as with every year, was plentiful, delicious and nourishing. Were it not for the talented and dedicated kitchen staff, the hungry participants of the hunt would not be nearly as happy as they always are. Over the delightful UFFDA cuisine, companionship is always heightened to its apex making the hours spent in the homey Camp Wilderness mess hall a very special place where some of the fondest UFFDA memories are created. We sincerely thank all of the food preparers and handlers for their smiling faces and the hearty results of their labors that are seemingly designed to keep the entire crew fat and sassy. 

 

Stan (The Killer) Koich

To everyone who was at this year’s hunt, it was also a very special occasion in that it allowed us all to share in Greg Waite’s last UFFDA hunt. It was obvious that Greg knew that his time with us all was near it end. He dove into the activity and lapped up every second of the action driving himself to complete exhaustion each day. We will all remember Greg’s presence there and will cherish the last time that he shared himself with his UFFDA Family. Two other long-time UFFDA members who are doing their best to fend off the viciousness and cruelty of cancer were also in attendance. Delmer Bentz and Karl Denly both showed up in spite of failing health and much pain to deal with. Having these three very special men at Camp Wilderness was both inspiring and at the same time, very sad. We all hate to see loved ones suffer so much, but how deeply we are moved by their courage and their overwhelming need to be with the people that they have grown to love as they shared a common joy of doing for others. Bless them all!

Terry Schwartz and local guide, George Darchuk

The “One-Shot” target shoot for all qualified UFFDA hunters was held again this year as the contestants vied for the Kalk Traveling Trophy. In 2010 possession of the prestigious award was won by Mike Schurch who was a first time attendee at this annual UFFDA gathering. Well guess what? This year the Kalk trophy was won by Ben Rouw of Becker, MN who was also a first time hunt attendee. Go figure! Congratulations, Ben and welcome to the family. Ben also won the number two slot in the 2012 Camp Wilderness Hunt so we will be seeing him again next year. The participation in the Camp Wilderness Hunt by the local citizens continues to grow with new faces, new properties and new volunteers showing up at camp each year. We are so grateful for that hometown participation from the folks around the Park Rapids area as it enriches the event tremendously. We at UFFDA know that volunteerism is not at the top of everyone’s priority list of things to do, but when these special volunteers step forward from the surrounding community, you know that you are definitely partaking of the cream. The fine folks that have joined our mission from the Park Rapids area drive home that point with tremendous force every year. Thank you, one and all for blessing our efforts with your presence, sharing your land and just plain rolling up your sleeves and helping us make it all happen.

 

And to the benevolent donors both large and small that fund our undertaking, thank you for your continued support of the UFFDA Mission. Through your generosity, you give life to one of the most selfless efforts by a group of bowhunters who wish only to share the joys of hunting by recruiting and hosting bowhunting events for physically challenged people. Every year we accommodate new disabled members that enter the woods as bowhunters for the first time, learning the joys of pursuing wild things in a proud tradition that since the dawn of time has given the hunter his purpose.   

Tim Sartwell with local guide, Rick Knobloch


Through your support, disabled hunters are provided with a cost-free outing that is as good as it gets. They are fed, tutored and catered to by dedicated volunteers who give up much of their personal time and resources, just for the radiance that can only be captured by unselfishly serving others. More specifically in the case of UFFDA, our entire family is so privileged to be able to watch new hunters experience for the very first time the thrill of taking a big game animal with a string and a stick; and then listening as the successful hunter shares the unforgettable excitement of an experience that is so unique that it can never be equaled again.

 

Terrie Schrank with local guide, Perry Melbo

 

And that, dear friends, is the bottom line of what we do and why we do it. Once you have seen a hunter proudly roll into the Camp’s mess hall in a wheelchair prepared to share his or her tale of triumph about taking their first deer with a bow, you just know that this is the very heart of UFFDA, the organ that gives it its life. So to every supporter of the passion, whether you are on the front lines guiding the hunters, feeding them, providing the land for them to hunt, supporting the banquets or just donating from afar, you are an intricate part of a very noble endeavor to serve the disabled hunter, while nurturing our hunting heritage and the overall image of the modern hunter. Thank you for doing your part and doing it so well. 

 

As the United Foundation For Disabled Archers begins to prepare of its 18th season of service, we hope that you will continue to man your stations and also continue to support our worthy mission. Whatever your role, you are very important to the completion of the UFFDA Mission and its continued success. Thank you for the past year and now onward to the creation of new adventures that are destined to make us all winners for the right reasons.

 

 

 Tom Voight with local guides, Mike Hinton & Rick Knobloch

 

High Mountain Success

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The blood trail was nothing short of amazing!

 Nothing sweeter than High Mountain Success!

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

 Same NAP Broadhead....Same result!

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

 

Coulee Critter on the Diamond K

by Daniel James Hendricks 24. December 2011 04:07
Daniel James Hendricks

Since 2003, Kim and Cindy Kafka, owners of the Diamond K Ranch in Havre, MT have generously donated an Elk Hunt on their ranch to be auctioned off at the Annual UFFDA Banquet in an effort to support its mission.  The 2011 hunt was purchased by UFFDA Charter Member and longtime friend, John Swanson of Sauk Rapids, MN.  John lost his right leg during Desert Shield in 1990.  He has been a hunter since the very first UFFDA hunt back in 1995 and has served on the board of directors; he is also the current Range Master at the UFFDA Camp Wilderness Hunt in Park Rapids, MN.

Havre, MT is located in Central Montana about 40 miles south of the Canadian Border.

The third element of the Diamond K Adventure was the ranch’s Elk keeper, Skip Owens.  Skip has been the guide on each and every UFFDA hunt at the Diamond K since 2003, and like the Kafka’s, not only has he served us well, but he has become a very dear friend.  This year, instead of staying in a hotel, Skip and his mother, Berta invited us to stay in their home where we were treated like visiting royalty, helping to make it the best trip yet.  As with each and every UFFDA hunt, one thinks it can’t get any better; then the next one comes along and amazingly, the bar is raised.

Bringing the Kafka’s, Owens and Swanson together was my assigned job and suffice it to say, I love my work.  Taking photographs and the literal documentation of the hunt, as well as serving as the court jester were my responsibilities and I dived into my chores with gusto.  

Although the hunt was rigorous, John Swanson reveled in the experience. 

The 15-hour trip out to Havre was marred by bad roads for part of the journey, but even the slick byways were unable to squelch the excitement that had us as giddy as a couple of lads bound for their very first “big-hunt”.  John had never taken an elk; but had dreamed about a trip to the Diamond K hunt since the very first year it had been offered to the UFFDA membership. 

On the first day of the hunt, we awoke to partly cloudy skies and mild temperatures for early December.  A fresh dusting of snow had fallen over night adding to the 3-inch base, freshening up the surface and making it easy to identify fresh tracks.  The elk was in a 2600 acre pasture that we were able glass from Skip’s front porch.  We tried to locate the bull, but were only able to see a few of the 40 to 50 head of the buffalo that populate the pasture. 

The pristine beauty of the mountain slope was made even more so by the layer of white frosting of freshly fallen snow.

The first order of business was to sight in the crossbow to make sure that it was still on the mark.  John had asked to borrow my Scorpyd 165, not only because he admires the bow for its performance, but also because it is equipped with the HHA Optimizer Speed Dial, which allows the archer to launch an arrow accurately from zero to 80 yards with a simple turn of the dial.  He realized that in order to take the bull with a crossbow, he had to be prepared to take a longer shot than what he was used to.  The Scorpyd and the Optimizer Speed Dial would make that shot possible, if it had to be made.

We loaded up and headed for the bull’s stomping grounds, each filled with excitement over the onset of the chase.  The first objective was to find the bull and that task proved to be no easy chore.  As we began our search, John discovered that what appeared to be a smooth, but steep slope from a mile away was instead was a complicated system of hidden coulees that spread out over the mountain side like the veins of the circulatory system in the human body.  The natural gashes in the landscape ran deep and were shrouded in thick underbrush providing all the natural cover that any wild thing needs to hide and survive. 

John’s special prosthesis enabled him to negotiate the treacherous terrain like a pro.

Finding the bull proved difficult, but a steady search of the coulees with three sets of eyes eventually located the animal bedded down in thick brush halfway up a draw.  We analyzed the situation and then Skip carefully laid out his plan of attack.  The objective would be to sneak down an adjoining coulee to where it emptied into the ravine that held our bull.  John would have to make about a 40-yard shot to take his trophy if the stalk worked as planned, but of course, it didn’t.  As soon as human heads came into view, the bull jumped up and bounded out of the coulee stopping on the top of the rise to peer back and scoff, erasing John’s chance for a shot.  The bull paused long enough for me to nail it half a dozen times with my camera and then disappeared, making a clean escape.  Round one went to the bull.

Our quarry was far too smart to let us get close after the first stalk.

From that point on, the bull was on the constant move successfully keeping itself far away from the danger that it had correctly recognized us to be.  No matter what we tried, the elk out maneuvered our attempts to close the gap, rendering our efforts fruitless.  It was Skip that first detected a pattern in the animal’s flight pattern and his knowledge of the mountainside gave birth to a new brainstorm.  He took us to a ravine that was dotted by the fresh tracks made earlier by our quarry.  He pointed to the thick cover of pucker brush and tall prairie grass that covered one slope and told us to find a good spot there and wait.  It was on the alee side of the coulee so we were protected from the frigid wind chill and had to deal only with snow packed ground on which we rested our cold-sensitive butts. 

Ambush was our only recourse and Skip found a perfect spot for John to set up.

Skip moved away to begin to dog the bull hoping that the plan he had hatched would successfully provide John with what he believed would be a 30 yard shot.  John set the Speed Dial at 30 yards and we nestled deeply into the shelter of the underbrush to wait.  Positioned myself above John, I dialed my Sony camera to the video mode hoping to catch the all the action live if Skip’s scheme went as planned.  John was the first to detect the approach of the elk as he picked out the bull’s ankles popping as it neared our ambush.   Instead of following the trail along the ridge it angled down to the bottom of the coulee, moving directly towards the hunter.  At ten yards, I heard the subtle bark of the Scorpyd as it launched its projectile into the unsuspecting creature.  Taken totally by surprise, the big bull spun in a blink and bounded up to the top of the coulee.  It stopped and turned, staring back at the bottom of the ravine in a vain attempt to determine what had just happened.  After a short pause, the confused bull turned to flee taking only ten steps before gracefully somersaulting into death.  It was over!

After the shot, John was all smiles.  The elk never had a clue that John was there until it was too late.

Skip had watched the bull come back out of the coulee thinking we had been busted and that the elk had made good its escape.  Then, through his field glasses, he saw the blood escaping from both sides of the animal before it crashed to the ground.  Rushing to the coulee, he triumphantly joined us for the celebration we had all been working towards.  After many photos had been taken of the successful team, the real work began.  The animal was field dressed and then slowly, but surely drug by very small gains into the back of the pickup.  Thank goodness the huge expired beast came equipped with a pair of really big handles!  We hauled our trophy back to the ranch, where big machinery helped to complete the final processes of skinning and quartering the elk.  Once that was done, it was off to the locker where the bull was to be cut and wrapped.  From there, it was home for supper and a jubilant celebration that brought a fitting end to what had been a very special hunt. 

Guide, Skip Owens and John with his trophy of a lifetime.

The next day was spent tying up the loose ends and spending some quality time with our hosts.  On Sunday morning, John and I stopped at the ranch and collected the meat and the head then headed for home warmed by all of the good things that had taken place over the last four days. A hearty thank-you goes out to Kim and Cindy for their continued, generous support of the UFFDA Mission and their warm and wonderful hospitality.  We truly thank Skip and Berta for opening their home to us and treating us like part of their family.  And to Skip, a very special and heartfelt acknowledgement for his extraordinary service and all the hard work he put forth to make this hunt such a great success.  We love you all. 

Left to right: John Swanson, Kim Kafka, Skip Owens and Cindy Kafka.

Until next year, my Diamond K friends, fare the well!

Crossbow Review: Parker Hornet Extreme

by Daniel James Hendricks 20. December 2011 13:51
Daniel James Hendricks

As crossbows slowly gain more ground each year, the manufacturers continue to amaze me with the improved quality they are making to their bows. I have previously explained how I’ve become a Crossbow Tramp having one affair after another with some truly great and very beautiful bows. Let me share the details of my latest fling with a pretty lady from Parker by the name of Hornet Extreme.

Upon opening the box, I first noticed her soft, almost sensual skin. The Soft Touch Finish of a Parker bow is a wonderful thing to experience and the Vista camo only makes it more desirable. Her petite 32” length and 21.2” width is made more appealing by the 7.5 lb mass weight. When taken into your arms, her sleek stature is made even more pleasurable by the Thumb-hole Pistol Grip and the Vented Forearm with Safety Finger Flange.


Adding to the physical beauty is the Red Hot string and cable with an Auto-engage, ambidextrous Safety that, much to my personal pleasure, is completely silent when released. The tell-tale click of a stiff safety can bring calamity in the quiet woods, but it’s not a problem with the Hornet Extreme. The trigger on this bow is another dream feature. Smooth, quiet with a surprise release is what you can expect with every trip of her trigger. And when it comes to power and stamina, the Hornet’s 165 lb draw weight and 11.6” power stroke launches a 400 grain, 20” arrow at 315 fps. It is important to note that a moon nock is required for this bow and proper string alignment is necessary or a dry-fire could occur. As with all crossbows, the arrow must be properly seated and limbs must be clear of obstructions or misfortune could ruin your hunt.

Once assembled, I headed out to hunting partner, Perry Mason’s to utilize his range for the first rendezvous with my new lady friend. After we had allowed time for Perry to ooh and ah my new pal, we went to work to see exactly what she could do. My Hornet Extreme is topped with the Illuminated Multi-Reticle Scope with four circles.

We sighted the top circle in at 20 yards very quickly and then proceeded to determine the exact distance of the next three. Much to my surprise the reticules hit dead center in the bulls-eye at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards. That doesn’t happen very often. Usually they vary to something like 20, 28, 35 and 42 yards, but seldom does a scope give your clear 10-yard increments. It’s very important to determine the marks for your scope before you take it into the field.

Shooting from Perry’s bench rest, we consistently pierced the bulls-eye at all four ranges. I am not entirely sure, but given the quality and performance of the scope, I believe it to be a Hawke Optic’s scope which makes some of the very best scopes in the industry. The consistency of the bow at the four distances and the repeated bulls-eyes made Perry and me giggle with glee. This Hornet is one dependable and consistent shooting machine.

The next phase was to take the bow into the field and see how it performed on a live target. The next scheduled hunt was at Ozark Mountain Outfitters, where we were plagued by a full moon, a bumper acorn crop and warm weather. Passing on a 50-yard shot at a doe and a 30-yard shot at turkeys the first day, I hoped for a closer shot before the week’s end. It didn’t come.

On the last morning of the hunt a flock of turkeys materialized out of the thick underbrush and fed along the far side of the food plot I guarded. I had ranged a lone pine tree at the far end of the plot at 50-yards, but held my fire in hopes that the birds would venture closer for a shot. It didn’t happen. When the birds began to filter back into the underbrush, I decided it was now or never.

There were turkeys pecking around the big pine, which I knew to be 50-yards. We had consistently shot bulls-eyes at that distance on the range so I was willing to give it a go. The ladderstand I was in had a rail around it allowing me to stabilize my shot. A bird near the tree came to attention when I moved my head to the scope, which provided me a great vertical target; it was up to me to manage the left and right.

I placed the 50-yard circle on the bird’s chest and gently squeezed the trigger. The silence was shattered as the Lumen-Arrow broke free of its constraints and set sail for the other end of the little lea. The bright red end of the arrow lit the shaded sky as I watched it arc across the little glen and then disappear into the chest of the luckless wild turkey. The bird dropped like a pole axed steer, its spine completely severed by the Grim Reaper broadhead.

Upon further investigation, the shot had been exactly 52 yards; the arrow impacting exactly where I’d aimed. I had my first crossbow turkey thanks to the precise performance of the Hornet Extreme. This crossbow starts out at around $600 and has the definite approval of the Crossbow Tramp. But please, if you choose this bow, take the time to watch the instructional video that is included in the package before you fall in love with your new Hornet Extreme.

 

 

Persistence Pays - Big Buck Down in Virginia

by Cody Altizer 5. December 2011 17:24
Cody Altizer

Disclaimer: Okay, let me preface this blog by stating that, like my previous blog, this blog is dedicated to another gun kill.  Yes, obviously this is a bowhunting website, but I (and many of our other staff members as well) equally enjoy taking to the woods every fall with rifle and/or muzzleloader.  After all, we are all hunters and we must support one another, regardless of choice of weapon.  Disclaimer over, read on for the actual blog!

Quite frankly, this has been one of the slowest, most frustrating hunting seasons I have ever been a part of.  I went into this season more prepared and more excited than I had ever gone into a previous season.  Food plots were prepped and planted in the spring and maintained throughout the summer.  Stands were hung during the dog days of summer, and my Mathews was shooting darts.  I was ready to rock n’ roll! 

Here is one of literally hundreds of photos I got of High n' Tight after the season last year.  He certainly wasn't shy as a 2 year old, but it's funny how a whitetail wises up between their second and third birthday.  During the spring, summer and fall, he became a ghost.

I had trail camera photos of two different bucks I was going to be on the lookout for.  The first was a 4 year old buck we had decided to call Clyde.  He was a mainframe 10, and the best we could tell from trail camera photos he would score close to 150 inches.  The second buck, and quite honestly, the buck I thought I would have the best chance at shooting, was a buck nicknamed High n’ Tight.  High n’ Tight was a frequent visitor to our food plots last winter as a 2 year old, and I was excited about hunting him this season as a 3 year old.  His brow tines were high and tight (hence the nickname) and we had over 100 photos of him feeding in our food plots.  He was so visible in our food plots and on trails to and from bedding areas, that I was sure I would get a crack at him early this season.

High n' Tight on his way back to bed in early February.  I searched for hours on end for his sheds, but to no avail.

Unfortunately, as you may have read here, my season got off to a rocky start immediately.  I regrouped after my opening day misfortune, and hunted relatively hard the entire month of October.  As you may have read in my previous blog, I hunted mostly afternoons near food sources as to not pressure a certain buck I had my eyes on.  As the month of October neared its end and November quickly approaching, I was excited about the thought of hunting rutting whitetails.   I had plenty of food available on the property; the deer I would be hunting hadn’t been pressured, and rubs and scrapes and were popping up over night on trails leading to and from bedding areas.  My goal this season was to hunt exclusively with my bow.  I knew it would be tempting to swap the bow for my muzzleloader or rifle once their respective seasons came in, but I wanted, no, needed, to harvest a buck with my this year.  It would be fantastic to harvest a 3 year old buck with my bow in the mountains I hunt, and I was going to be relentless in my pursuit of that goal.

By the time November rolled around, I was a lot like the bucks that were maxed out on testosterone at the same time, it was go time!  Clyde had been captured several times on trail camera, but High n’ Tight was nowhere to be found.  He was so visible during the winter, I simply couldn’t believe he just up and vanished.  Was he poached during the summer?  Did he establish a new home range?  Had Clyde scared him completely out of the state of Virginia?  I was pretty disappointed that the buck I thought I had the best chance of shooting had completely disappeared.

High n' Tight with his older brother, Clyde in January of this year.  I actually didn't know it was Clyde until my brother shot him in early November.  A small cut in his left ear let me know that it was in fact him in this photo.

Nevertheless, on November 1st I checked my Stealth Cam that was overlooking one of my mock scrapes on a field edge, and it revealed Clyde had visited just two days prior.  The next day I took down my Lone Wolf Assault and sticks, packed it on my back and moved it a half mile east to the location of the mock scrape.  The next morning I was 15 yards from that mock scrape and ready to arrow Clyde at 15 yards.  That morning was an exciting morning to be on stand to say the least.  I didn’t see Clyde, but I did see a handful of does and had a close encounter with another one of my target bucks, a tall racked 8 pointer I call Mr. Two Bits.  I have quite a bit of history with Mr. Two Bits, including still photos and video footage of him in velvet in July, and a handful of trail camera photos of him throughout September and October.  He walked out past me at 60 yards, but he busted me as I was trying to get my camera situated and get some footage of him.  So close!  I got down that morning optimistic about what the rest of the month would hold, but I was oblivious to the tough hunting I was about to endure.

In the following weeks I got served a huge dose of bowhunting reality.  The weather for bowhunting the rut was simply terrible.  The following weather pattern repeated itself for almost the entire month: three days of rain, a day of high winds, and then warming temperatures until the next storm system blew in bringing more rain.  It was incredibly frustrating, but I kept hunting hard.  In fact, I was hunting harder than ever.  My Lone Wolf Sit and Climb and I got to be exceptionally close, and I took down and moved my Lone Wolf Assault at least 6 times during a span of 10 days when I thought the bucks would be rutting the hardest.  My efforts were futile.  The terrible weather partnered with a full moon in mid-November and forced me to go deer less on more hunts that I would care to admit.  My brother shot Clyde on November the 12th with his muzzleloader, but that was the only buck activity we experienced the first couple weeks of November.  Exhausted, I took a handful of days off from hunting to get a change of scenery, recharge my batteries and get re-focused for the second half of the month.

My Mathews Z7 Xtreme and Lone Wolf Assault and Sticks at the ready.  I logged a lot of stand time with this combo during October and November.

My first hunt after my vacation from hunting was a lot like the first two weeks of November.  Dumping rains kept me in bed the morning of November 17th, and I elected to get in my stand around noon to see if I could catch any bucks up on their feet before the high winds moved.  At 12:45 I heard a deer running behind me to the east and quickly threw up my Leupold Acadia’s to see what causing the commotion.  Shooter buck!  I counted 10 points, good tine length and estimated the buck to score around 130 inches.  Unfortunately, he was downwind of me and a little jittery with the blustery winds.  I wanted so badly to throw him a couple of contact grunts to gauge his interest and aggressiveness, but thought better of it.  Being downwind, he would pick me off in a heartbeat.  Helpless, I spent the better part of 5 minutes glassing him out through my binoculars.  I saw a good right main beam, and 4 tall tines shooting into the air.  He was a great buck, but I had to watch him turn around and trot off in the direction from which he came.  I’m not sure if he winded me, or was more interested in some does.  Nevertheless, I settled back in and enjoyed another deerless afternoon. 

I checked a trail camera on the way out that afternoon and was excited to find a lot of good deer, including a couple shooters moving through the area.  I keep a running file of all the bucks I have gotten on trail camera over the years, and as I copied the new entries into the “Bucks” file, I couldn’t help but notice High n’ Tight.  I had honestly forgotten about him because Clyde and Mr. Two Bits had stolen my attention the majority of the season.  As I sifted through the 50 photos that I kept of him, I couldn’t help but smile.  He was quite the clueless little two year old, who seemed to enjoy having his picture taken.  He was never far from the camera and offered several good looks of his rack, almost as if to say, “Look at me, Cody!  Just think of how big I will be next year!”  I laughed to myself and shut off the computer.

This photo was snapped after I hung my Lone Wolf in some of the nastiest cover on our property.  Warm temperatures and a full moon forced me to get right in the deer's bedroom.

My luck over the next week never improved.  One hunt, I forgot my binoculars.  The next, my safety harness.  Yes, my safety harness.  Don’t worry, I dropped my gear and made the long walk back to camp and put it on before returning to my stand.  I simply couldn’t catch a break.  The bad weather ensued, but I kept pushing on.  I continued to move my stands trying to get closer to the bucks I was chasing.  That plan, like my others, failed me.  There were many instances where I would move my stand from location “a’ to location “b” only to have deer walking right by the tree where my stand was hung at location “a.”  It got quite comical at times, but I couldn’t convince myself that I wasn’t going to catch a break sooner or later.  Fortunately, it proved to be sooner.

The morning of November 26th found me perched in one of my favorite stands.  In fact, it was in this stand that I shot my first deer ever when I was 6 years old.  It was creatively called, “Cody’s Stand” and is a great stand to not only see deer from, but watch the woods wake up as the sun rises.  About 8:00 the sun is high enough in the sky to just barely peak over the mountain to the South of me, and you can literally watch the sun rays shoot through the tall pines in front of the stand.  The frost dances in the forest openings, and I have never seen a deer look so pretty in the sun when they cross a trail 60 yards in front of my stand.  It's poetic.

Like always, I was in my stand over an hour before first light.  With plenty of time to spare, I tightened up my safety harness (I remembered it this time) and took a nice nap.  Getting up at 4:15 in the morning got harder and harder to do with each passing day during November, and these naps weren’t uncommon.  I have an incredible internal clock, and wanted to sleep not a minute past 6:30.  Sure enough, I woke up, checked my watch and it read 6:28.  I was alive, refreshed and ready to hunt!

Sweet November had finally arrived!  Unfortunately, the bucks didn't get the memo until later in the month.

It was a beautiful morning.  It was cold, calm and clear.  The sun had yet to rise, but there was enough light to make out my surroundings.  I was situated halfway between 1 acre of clover, 1 acre of turnips and a known buck bedding area.  The wind was out of the South.  I was expecting to see deer working their way in front of me walking East to West (left to right) back to bed after feeding in the food plots the previous night.  Right at 7:00 am I saw a flicker of movement about 100 yards to my south east.  There is a painfully annoying autumn olive bush at that exact location that always looks like a deer moving with the breeze blows, so I assumed that was what caused my heart to skip a beat.  Wait a minute, why is that autumn olive bush walking?  Bam, it’s a deer.  Up go my Leupold’s and I see a good buck coming my way.  He stops and I have just a couple seconds to determine he has a great rack but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  Just like that, he had disappeared into the timber and I lost him.  He was coming from my turnip food plot, and I was confident he would walk the trail 60 yards right in front of my stand, but I had a decision to make.  Is he a shooter?  He had a beautiful set of antlers, but wasn’t a big bodied deer.  I had to make up my mind.  I decided, “If he takes this trail right in front of my stand, I am taking this deer!”

There was only one problem; I still couldn’t find him in the thick timber!  I was looking frantically with my binoculars, but just couldn’t find him.  Finally, I wised up and let my ears find him for me.  I heard consistent footsteps and my eyes trusted my ears and I spotted him walking on the trail that would take him right in front of my stand.  He was in a hurry to get back to his bed, so I quickly grabbed my rifle, waited for him to walk into my shooting lane and stopped him with a soft grunt.  He threw his head up in my direction, and I settled the crosshairs right behind his shoulder.  My rifle rang out, and I saw him buckle up hard before racing straight down below my stand.  I knew he was hit, and hit hard, so I obviously started talking to myself, “That buck is hit hard, that buck is hit hard!”  I had just lost sight of him when I thought I had heard and saw him fall, but I just couldn’t tell.  I welcomed the shakes and adrenaline rush, removed my lucky orange beanie, stuffed it in my pocket, and took a deep breath.  

I texted my brother and dad saying, “Just took a shot on a good buck.  Think I made a good hit, didn’t see him go down.”  My brother responded, “Can I come up?!”  I replied, “Yes, but take your time.  I held right on the heart and he buckled up pretty good, just didn’t see him go down.”  I sent that text at 7:21, no more than 20 minutes later my brother was underneath my stand.  He was just as excited as I was.   

Persistence pays! I was finally able to catch up with High n' Tight the morning of November 25th.

I knew exactly where he was standing, so my brother and I went to recover my blood.  There was blood all over the place at the point of impact.  I’m surprised I didn’t break my brother’s hand when I gave him a fist pound and blurted, “That’s what I am talking about!”  He now calls me Stan Potts, go figure. 

I saw High n' Tight's right main beam a little over a week prior to me taking him.  Having history with a buck you eventually end up harvesting is a sweet feeling!

We took our time following the trail, and as I peaked up over the small hill where I last saw him, there he lay.  I saw a gorgeous right main beam with 4 tall tines, the same buck that slipped past me just a week before!  I walked up to him, lifted his head, looked him over in admiration and was surprised yet again, it was High n’ Tight!  The tall, sharp brow tines gave him away.  I immediately looked up at my brother, who was filming the recovery, and just stared at him blankly.  The buck that I thought I had the best chance at shooting this year, had evaded all 6 of my trail cameras, managed to hide from me all season despite my best efforts and nearly snuck by me again.  

Meet High n' Tight, my biggest buck to date, and the deer I am most proud of!

My dad got down out of his stand early, met my brother and in the frosty timber where High n’ Tight fell, and we celebrated like only a father/son hunting team can.  My brother graciously took a couple hundred photos of me and High n’ Tight, and we taped him out at 126 7/8”, my biggest buck to date, and quite frankly the buck I am most proud of.  I hunt harder than the majority of the guys I know.  The amount of time and effort I spend in preparation, hanging stands, trimming lanes, moving stands, mock scraping, food plotting, etc. is mind boggling, and it would have been easy for me to give in after the rough start to the season I endured and chalk it up to bad luck, but I stayed persistent, kept my nose to the grind stone just waiting for something good to happen, and it did.  I’m still amazed at the irony with High n’ Tight.  I had ran 6 trail cameras all summer and fall, hunted countless stands, moved those stands and moved them again trying to find this guy.  All the while, he was feeding in the same food plot the night before I shot him that he was so visible in from January to March.  

After countless hours of preparation, scouting and time in the stand, giving Thanks is the most appropriate way to honor and give respect to the animal.

This buck, and this hunting season really, also means a lot to me on an emotion level.  My brother, and hunting partner, Damin, will be getting married next spring, and while we’ll still get hunt with each other, our brotherly relationship will take a back seat to him starting a family, as it should.  My brother was right alongside me the majority of this hunting season, which to us began back in January, the day the 2010 season went out.  We shed hunted together, planted the food plots together, hung and moved stands together and, like the previous 20 years of our lives, we were inseparable.  It made for a special season that we each got to be in the woods when the other shot the biggest buck of his life.  To add to the irony, High n’ Tight and Clyde actually grouped up and ran together after the 2010 season.  Where there was one, there was the other.  In the food plots, traveling on trails, they trusted each other. They were, ironically, inseparable.  Just like my brother and I.  Who would have thought that two lucky brothers would be so fortunate to harvest such awesome whitetails that were, in a very real sense, brothers as well?

A Buck Named Clyde: A Testament to Food Plots, QDM and Mock Scrapes

by Cody Altizer 3. December 2011 09:39
Cody Altizer

There are a bevy of emotions we as hunters are fortunate to experience throughout the course of a deer season.  There is the rush of seeing your arrow bury itself behind your prey’s shoulder.  Then there are the uncontrollable shakes that violently rock your body before, during and after the shot at that big buck.  And don’t forget, the most humbling of all, the feeling of thankfulness and gratefulness experienced when you kneel over your trophy, be it a buck or doe, be it big or small.  Finally, there is the camaraderie experienced between you and your hunting buddies.  A couple weeks ago, I got to share an extremely memorable time in the woods with my brother, Damin, as he shot a true giant Virginia whitetail, a buck named Clyde.  

One of the first pictures we got of Clyde.  This image was taken in early January in our clover food plot.

The story for this buck actually begins in 2007, ironically, the birth year of Clyde.  It was that year that my brother, my dad and I really decided to commit to Quality Deer Management (QDM) and try to improve the health of our deer herd and our property’s habitat.  We began planting food plots, established mineral stations and decided to take at least 5 does off our 260 acre property every year.  The mineral stations attracted deer to our property during the summer, and shooting does increased rut activity immediately.  However, I was still unhappy with the amount of food we had on our property during the hunting season.  I simply wasn’t content with the small, secluded food plots we had planted in the past.  Every year, I urged my dad to consider planting two one acre fields in clover.  I was convinced that having a consistent, centralized food source would make a world of difference in holding deer on our property during the hunting season.  During the rut, I was exicted about the amount of rubs and scrapes that would appear in the runways and funnels leading from the fields to bedding areas.

 

Clyde all but disappeared during the spring and summer, except for visiting one of my mineral stations in mid-June, when this photo was taken.

Fast forward to February, 2010, we had finally gained the resources to plant the two large fields, and I can still remember cruising along in my neighbor’s borrowed 40 horsepower tractor and plowing up the field.  By the time I had finished, it was well after dark and the headlights of the tractor were synonymous with a bright future on our hunting property, a future I was extremely excited about.  

This trail camera photo was captured on a frosty night in late September.  The long sweeping right main beam told me who this buck was.  It was this photo that earned him the nickname "Clyde."

That spring and summer I sprayed and tilled, sprayed and tilled, to keep the weeds and have a clean seed bed for the 2010 hunting season.  In August I planted some Imperial Whitetail Clover and oats into the food plots.  We have found that planting clover in the fall and allowing it establish a strong root system in the winter will allow it to explode the following spring.  Obviously, both forages would be attractive to the deer during the season, but the oats were more of a cover crop to keep the deer from overbrowsing the clover.  

Fast forward to this past January, I was in Huntley, IL preparing for the 2011 ATA Show at the Bowhunting.com office and my brother sent me a couple of trail camera images of a buck feeding in our food plot the night after the season went out.  The buck was a 3 year old, had several busted tines, but was clearly a shooter and had the potential to balloon into a true giant the following season.  Our winters in Western Virginia don’t pose serious threats to a whitetail’s life, even worn down bucks, so my primary concern keeping him on our property that following year.  With two acres of lush clover just waiting to explode with a little sunlight and warm weather, I was confident we would regularly catch him on camera feeding in our food plots during the summer.

By mid-October Clyde was convinced their was an intruder buck in his territory thanks to my mock scrapes.

As is often the case with deer hunting and habitat management, things don’t go as expected.  The food plots exploded all right, providing a nutritious, tasty food source to our local whitetails all spring and summer.  Unfortunately, however, we only captured the buck on camera just once during the entire summer, and it wasn’t even in our food plots.  On June 19th he made a brief stop at one of my Monster Raxx mineral stations.  I knew it was the buck from the previous winter, by a cluster of abnormal points on his right main beam.  While he didn’t spend as much time in our food plots, I wasn’t overly concerned.  I knew where he was bedding and knew that having several does feeding in our food plots during the actual hunting season would greatly benefit us.  

As hunting season quickly approached and the temperatures began dropping quickly, I was anxious to see if the buck had began visiting our food plots.  The two clover food plots were planted right in the center of our property, so to visit them, either to feed or check for does, he would have to walk right by several of my stand sites.  Nevertheless, when I checked my cameras on October 1st I was thrilled to find the buck feeding in our food plot just two nights before.  I sent a picture to my brother via cell phone with the text reading, “huge buck in upper field, 140+."  A long sweeping right main beam and the abnormal points on the same side made Clyde an easy choice for a nickname (See Clint Eastwood’s famous flick, “Every Which Way but Loose”).    Let the chess match begin.

This trail camera photo revealed to us Clyde's bedding area.  This photo was taken two nights before Halloween about 30 minutes before sunrise.  

I knew it would be unwise to dive right in after this buck after a handful of nighttime trail camera photos.  I knew where he was bedding, I knew how he accessing our food plots, I just had to be patient and not over hunt him.  I immediately made a series of mock scrapes along his access trails to and from the food plot using Tink’s Power Scrape.  The idea was to paint a picture of another big, old buck  moving into his territory.  He didn’t like the thought of that.  He began working over those scrapes within days, and the giant rubs and scrapes that dotted the edge of the food plots could only have been made by him.  This was his food plot, the clover belonged to him, the does belonged to him; no other bucks were welcome.

After seeing the massive rubs and watching the scrapes being freshened up nightly, I took extreme measures as to not pressure the buck.  The only problem with the location of our two food plots is location.  Yes, they were centrally located, but they were also right beside our hunting camp, which sees a lot of human activity.  During October, I likely only hunted 3 mornings so I didn’t push him off the food plot on my way to the stand.  My dad and brother would have liked to kill me because I was constantly reminding them to be quiet around the camp and to walk on the far side of the camp to hide our existence from deer feeding in the food plot. I probably took it too far in some cases, but there was a giant buck living very close by, and I was determined that one of use was going to kill him.

Throughout October we captured Clyde on trail camera in the food plot, at mock scrapes, and on trails heading back to his bed in the late morning.  My brother had two weeks of vacation planned for early November and we were going to exhaust every opportunity we had to close the deal on the giant.  Unfortunately we got slammed by two weeks of bad weather.  Dumping rains, high winds and warm temperatures made hunting very difficult.  At the end of every unsuccessful day of hunting my brother would ask me, “Where in the world Clyde?”  My response was always the same, “Not far.”

Multiple rubs of this size began popping up in trails and runways from the food plot to bedding areas.  Clyde was becoming more and more vulnerable with each passing day.  We were onto him, we just had to play it smart.

Friday November 11th was again a terribly slow day of hunting.  A full moon and high winds and warm temperatures had shut down all deer movement, but there was hope in sight.  The first clear, cold night in several weeks was forecasted that night.  That night I remember my brother asking me yet again, “Where is Clyde?”  But this time I responded, “Not far.  He’s got to be covering some ground at night, if we can get a good, hard frost tonight, that should keep him on his feet longer into the morning on his way back to bed for the day.”  It wasn’t much to go on, but was it was a hopeful thought, and that was all we needed.

I had been bowhunting like a madman the first two weeks of November, so I elected to take my muzzleloader that morning for a change of pace.  We had got the hard frost we were hoping for and we had got into our stands over an hour before first light.  I had seen a couple does filtering back to bed right at first light, and was hopeful a buck would soon follow suit, but I never got the chance to find out.  At 7:14 I heard my brother’s muzzleloader ring out.  Since it was my brother’s last day of vacation, we both decided to try and shoot a couple does if the opportunity presented itself, so I just assumed he had shot a doe.  However, his “13 pointer down!!!!!” text eliminated that theory.  My mind began racing, “Did he really shoot a 13 pointer?  Maybe he did shoot a doe and is just joking around.  A 13 pointer?  Clyde was only a 10 in the trail camera photos.”   Anxious to see what he had shot I responded, “Can I come up?”  His response, “Clyde!!!!”  I gathered my gear, got down out of my stand and all but ran through the woods to see the fallen giant.

My brother and hunting partner, Damin, admiring the legendary buck known as Clyde.  Mission complete!

When I finally met up with my brother, he had his coat draped over Clyde’s rack.  As he unveiled him, I simply couldn’t believe the massive antlers coming off this buck’s head; a true giant.  I must have hugged and high fived Damin a good 20 times in a span of 5 minutes.  Damin relived the hunt for me, and I was happy as could be for him.  It turns out that cold, hard frost kept Clyde on his feet just long enough this morning, because my brother shot him working one of the mock scrape lines I had built back in early October.  My brother stopped him at 50 yards broadside, and made a perfect shot, and Clyde died within sight.  

Clyde is by far the biggest buck ever taken off our property.  The hard work we all put in over the past 4 years finally paid off with a dandy buck.

I offered to drag Clyde out of the woods for Damin, we met up with my dad and mom at camp and thus began the day of celebration.  We took well over 100 photos, put a tape to him, weighed him, caped him out and readied him for the taxidermist.  Clyde ended up scoring 148 6/8” as a mainframe 10 with 5 kickers.  He had three abnormal points sprouting at the base of his right G3 and had an inch and a half kicker at the base of each antler.  He was 220 pounds live weight and dressed 185, which makes for a giant bodied whitetail in Western Virginia.

The fallen giant and the lucky hunter who harvested him overlooking the mountains and food plot the massive buck once called home.

While Clyde scored well, and was the size of a small cow, his statistics do very little for this buck's legacy.  When I think of Clyde I will think of the countless hours spent running trail cameras, planting food plots, freshening mineral stations, and scouting since 2007, the year he was born and the year we started QDM.  I will think of the discussions I had with my dad and brother about when, and how we should go about trying to harvest this deer.  But ultimately, I will remember walking up to the fallen buck with my brother standing over him with a contagious smile and the brotherly emotions we shared in the woods November 12th.  That, I think, is what Clyde most represents and what an animal of his caliber should be remembered for.

Turkey Triumph

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. November 2011 15:03
Daniel James Hendricks

 

 Hunting during the full moon sucks!  The past four days of pursuit the rough and tumble landscapes of south central Missouri had given credence to that fact.  We were hunting with Jim and Darlene Wilson of Ozark Mountain Outfitters and the dire circumstances were aided and abetted by a bumper crop of acorns and weather that was just a shade too warm.  None of our hunters were seeing big bucks, although a yearling buck and a couple of does had been taken.  One of our hunters had taken a turkey, but in general the hunting was very poor.

 

  I had passed on a doe the first morning that had grazed within fifty yards and than a flock of turkeys that had come as close as thirty yards.  In both incidences I was not comfortable taking such long shots.  Although the crossbow I was using, a Parker Hornet Extreme, had preformed faultlessly on the range by slamming arrows into the bull's-eye on every shot all the way out to fifty yards, shooting at a living target was a little bit more serious. 

  On Thursday morning, I watched as a yearling buck wandered down the trail and passed the ladderstand I occupied.  All that befell the unsuspecting creature was being shot with a digital camera a hundred times.  By the time Friday rolled around, I was getting antsy and impatient wanting to put the Hornet into action just to see how it would perform while taking live game. 

 I was dropped off well before daylight at a little food plot surrounded by heavy timber.  As dawn arrived from the east, it overpowered the fleeing darkness and blossomed into full daylight.  The morning passed quickly as I sat atop my perch wondering if I would even get a chance to shoot this fine crossbow that patiently rested in my lap waiting to be called upon to do its thing. 

 Several hours into the day, I caught movement on the far side of the food plot.   A flock of turkeys emerged from the heavy cover of the underbrush and slowly worked their way around the far edge of the clearing.  I had ranged the large pine tree at the opposite end of the field at 50 yards.  Too far to shoot, especially at a turkey considering how small the vitals are, so all I could do is hope that the birds would move down the field giving me a closer target. 

  The flock, numbering about twenty birds, worked its way to the other side of the plot and them moved back again.  It seemed pretty obvious that they were not about to cross the food plot and as birds began to be swallowed up by the same brush that had burped them out earlier, I realized that my opportunity was about to dissolve into goose eggs.  I thought about our experience on the range.  The Hornet was right on the money at fifty yards from a bench rest.  This particular ladderstand had a rail that went all the way around it that would provide me with a stable shooting rest.  

 I knew that the big pine which was now surrounded by feeding turkeys was exactly fifty yards so the distance of the shot was more or less locked in.  This was the last day of the hunt and I was running out of time.  I was using a Lumen-Arrows tipped with a Grim Reaper broadhead so there was no lack of confidence in my projectile.  I reasoned is the worse that could happen was that I would miss and would have to eat a little humble pie and take a bit of good natured kidding about my marksmanship.  I made my decision, I would take the shot.

  As I moved bring my head and scope together, one of the birds went into fencepost mode.  You turkey-hunters know what I mean.  That’s when the bird stands at perfect attention, straight as an arrow and still as a rock while it studies you carefully with that incredible vision that is possessed by the wild turkey.  And when it did that I moved the crosshairs to the hen’s chest thinking that position just took care of my up and down variances.  Now it was just a matter of getting my left to right exact.

  I steadied the Hornet on the rail and placed the smallest circle of the scope on the birds chest and slowly squeezed the trigger of the bow.  The release came as a surprise, launching the arrow into the crisp morning air.  The Lumenok lit into a fiery red leaving a trail as it arched over the little food plot completely disappearing into the dark copper chest of the clueless bird.  The hapless creature dropping to the ground like a feather covered bag of dirty laundry. 

 Birds exploded in every direction as I quickly recocked the crossbow and loaded another arrow, but the only remaining sign of turkeys was their excited chatter from the thick brush as the said things like, “Did you see that shot?”; and “That was unbeleiveable!  We’re never going to be safe around here if he doesn’t go home!”;  and “Poor old Mable, he caught her looking!”.  I am not entirely sure about the translations, but I think I am pretty close. 

 Bottom line is that the arrow entered the bird severing its spine from a distance of 52 yards.  My first turkey with a crossbow with a shot that only could only make me smile.  Thanks to great bow, arrow and broadhead combination, along with a stand that provided a steady rest I was able to make a perfect shot.  It is amazing what one can accomplish when he has topshelf equipment and a bird that cooperates by standing fencepost style.

 

EQUIPMENT LIST:

     CROSSBOW:  Parker Hornet Extreme

     ARROW:  20” Lumen-Arrows

     BROADHEAD: 100 Grain Grim Reaper

     OPTICS: Alpen Pro 8 x 42 Binoculars & Model 119-10x32 Monocular

     RANGEFINDER: Bushnell Yardage Pro

     CAMERA:  Sony DSC-H50

     TARGET: Rinehart 18 to 1

Bye, Bye Birdie!

HBM Hunt Club Report: 2011 Antelope Roundup

by Daniel James Hendricks 28. November 2011 14:17
Daniel James Hendricks

 

As sure as the last days of August signal the dusk of summer, they usher in the breaking dawn of the fall hunting season.  And of course the hors d'oeuvre of the fall hunting buffet is Pronghorn Antelope.  Now Douglas, Wyoming is the historical birth place of the Jackalope, but, in my humble opinion, it is also the Pronghorn Capitol of the world.  There may be better places, but I have yet to see one and I would require a pile of documentation to make me think otherwise.  For the second consecutive year the HBM gang gathered at Douglas to do our part at thinning out the flourishing goat herds of SW Wyoming.  Last year there were but three of us; this year our ranks swelled to sixteen.  And for five days we romped and stomped creating memories that none of us are likely to forget.

Our host for this year’s adventure was George LeBar of the LeBar Ranch and his Gamekeeper, Mike Judd.  The LeBar Ranch is a mere 65,000 acres and is covered up with antelope, mule deer and a hundred other species of wildlife.  The only sparse feature on the LeBar Ranch is trees and that characteristic exposes the vast Wyoming sky for exactly what it is…knockout gorgeous.  The billowing cloudscapes and brilliantly colored sunrises and sunsets were inspiring, especially to a country boy from Minnesota where most of the sky is hidden from view by a thick wall of green forest.  On the eve of the hunt, we gathered at the Kimbal Headquarters which served as the team’s gathering spot, providing our campers with running water, a shower and electricity for emergency uses; and also with a great location for processing our game and sharing the camaraderie that is so very important to an HBM gathering.  

The ranch catered a huge feast of wonderful food to feed our hunters as they were introduced to George LeBar and his mother, Victoria; as well as Mike’s wife Kristi, his mother, Lois and his son, Skeeter.   Final registration was taken care of and the hunters were shown to the blinds that they would be using the following day.  Spirits were high and all were excited to begin the hunt.
Young Nick McElwee was the first to score with a short 85-yard chip shot made with his vertical bow, a feat that was held in awe and perhaps ever some disbelief by the elder crossbow hunters in the group.  Once Nick broke the ice, goats began to fall everywhere. 

We had a total of 15 hunters on the LeBar Ranch and one other member who was hunting on a neighboring ranch and to properly tell all of the stories would require a novel akin to War and Peace.  Some of the shenanigans of the week-long adventure have been permanently filed away under the label of What happens in Wyoming, stays in Wyoming.  Suffice it to say that a good time was had by all and memories were made a mile a minute.   At the end of the week every license was filled but one; and that hunter has to resign because of the pain and discomfort of sitting for long periods of time.  I had purchased an extra doe tag and filled that along with my buck tag so technically one could say that we went 16 for 16.

 Ron Williams, a veteran hunter in the HBM Hunt Club, donated a dozen of his beautiful handcrafted crossbow arrows as the prize for the person that shot the largest antelope.  As luck would have it, Ron shot the largest antelope, but then presented the arrows to Gene Strei, who shot the second biggest goat.  Thanks Ron, you are indeed one of the great ones.  Our entire team would like to thank our host, George LeBar, his sparkling mother; Victoria and the ranch staff.  We wish to especially thank the LeBar Ranch Gamekeeper, Mike Judd along with his family for the exceptional service, the kind consideration and the wonderful conversations shared during the down times of the hunt.  Mike went out of his way to see to our needs and to make sure that we got the most out of our visit to the ranch and for that we are very grateful; thank you, Sir.  


We are going to do it again next year and the twelve spots are already being spoken for.  If you want to join us in 2012, give us a call at 320-634-3660 to get you name on the list.  You won’t be sorry.

 

 

 

Dressing for a Cold Weather Hunt

by Josh Fletcher 14. November 2011 10:42
Josh Fletcher

As the rut heats up, the temperature begins to drop, and if you get cold you won’t sit long causing you to miss out on valuable time in the tree stand. A good family friend has been preaching to our deer camp members that you can’t kill deer sitting back at camp. To be able to sit long hours under cold temperatures requires a specific layering system.
 
The system that I describe below is tried and true. There are no gimmicks or one product by itself. The layering system requires specific layers that serve specific purposes, however when used together the layers work like a team to keep you in the stand longer under extreme temperatures.

Extreme weather calls for proper layering, or your hunt will come to a quick halt

Base Layer

To start with, the base layer is your most important layer to your body’s cold weather system. The base layer will mean the difference between a long and comfortable sit or a really short and cold sit. If you get sweated up while walking into your stand it’s up to the base layer to pull you through the cold weather wait.

Cotton may be a comfortable fabric for lounging around the house; however it spells disaster for a cold weather sit. The reason is that cotton absorbs sweat and moisture very well, however traps it and does not allow the moisture to evaporate quickly, leaving a wet fabric against your skin. Wet clothing then means a short sit when the temperatures drop. In short, avoid any base layer that has cotton as its main fabric.

Some people prefer to wear a form fitting base layer, to allow the base layer to grab perspiration and wick away moisture in locations of your body that a loose fitting shirt normally would not have full contact with.

The best fabrics for your base layer are polyester and merino wool. When reading the tags on your long underwear you will want polyester or a polyester/ wool blend. The polyester wicks sweat from your body and quickly evaporates the moisture leaving your body dry. I prefer my base layer to be a mock turtle neck or a full turtle neck.
 
Pocket Layer

The pocket layer can consist of any type of shirt that has chest pockets, as long as it is not made of cotton. If you perspire heavily while heading to your stand you will run the risk of having moisture bleed through your base layer and absorbed by your pocket layer.

The pocket layer often consists of polyester, but it should have chest pockets. The purpose of this layer is to hold commercial air activated hand and body warmers. By placing hand warmers in your pockets of your pocket layer allows the hand warmers to be added to the heat created by your body. Another location to place the adhesive warmers is the area of your kidneys. The weight of your pocket layer shirt will depend on the weather conditions you will be facing.

It is not recommended to wear any garments with hoods except for your outer layer. The reason is that the hood sticks out over your outer layer, if it gets wet from either rain or snow, it will cause the moisture to be wicked by the fabric and be pulled into your inner layer holding the moisture against the back of your neck.

Insulating Layer

The insulating layer is the clothing layer that will hold the warmth created by your body heat and the added warmth from the hand warmers. The fabric of choice is wool.  Wool has been used by old time hunters from the 1800’s. Wool also retains heat even if wet. I personally prefer this layer to be a vest. I prefer vests because they free up my arms from bulk after dressing in several layers, making it easier to pull back my bow and decreases the bulk of fabric on my arms to cause string interference with my bow.
 
Wind Proof Layer

Wool and other high quality fabrics work great at holding in body temperature, however as the wind blows through your insulating layer, it will rob you of your precious and important body heat. This layer consists of a special wind blocking fabric that is designed for stopping heat robbing wind from your insulating layer. Products that work great for this layer can be WindBlocker by Scent Blocker, GORE-TEX, or other breathable water proof fabrics.

Outer Layer

This is your last layer; you will want this layer to be a quiet fabric. The reason being is that most wind proof fabrics have a tendency to be a little noisy. This has to do with the materials used to stop the wind. Your outer layer will cover and dampen the sound made by the wind proof layer. I prefer a heavy fleece jacket. For years I also used wool as my outer layer, both work great for added insulation. Your outer layer should be a good insulating layer to catch any heat that may escape from your other layers.

Pant Layering

I placed how you layer for pants in a category of its own, because how you layer with your pants will depend on your hunting situation and weather conditions.

First with pant layering you will want to start with a base layer just like your top. You will again want to use a fabric for long underwear consisting of polyester or a polyester/ merino wool blend. Also just like the top you want this layer for its moisture wicking capabilities along with added heat insulation.

For crisp cold days with minimal snow depth or no rain, I wear a polyester blend pant. The thickness of the pant will depend on the outside temperature. For extremely cold days I will often wear a wool pant instead of polyester.

The outer layer will consist of a heavy fleece or wool, for warmth and quietness of walking to and from your stand.

As you noticed there is no wind proof layer involved unless there is a special weather condition. The reason for this is when you are walking to your stand wearing a water proof or wind proof pant you will begin to sweat and accumulate moisture. The only time that I will utilize a wind proof or water proof pant, is when I am walking through deep snow, extremely windy conditions, or rain. It is recommended that if you have a long walk to your stand, pack in your wind proof layer and put it on when you get to your stand to avoid accumulating extra moisture.

Another trick that I have learned to deal with mild depth of snow to avoid carrying a wind proof layer is to utilize snow gators. These are a shin high water proof fabric that covers the top of your boots and shins. This helps to keep your pant legs dry during the walk in to your stand.

You get what you pay for is the "golden rule" when it comes to a quality pair of hunting boots

Foot Layers

A complete cold weather set up doesn’t just end with your body. Your feet are just as important. If your feet get cold, you will be packing it in for the day very soon.

To start with you will want a good pair of socks as your base layer, just like the base layer for your body you will want them to wick moisture from your feet. If you have a problem with extra perspiration on your feet, it is also recommended to powder your feet with a moisture absorbent foot powder.

The next layer for your feet is a high quality pair of wool socks. Just like your body this is also your insulating layer to hold the heat from your foot. I also recommend using commercial toe warmers to help produce more heat to be held in by your hunting boots for extreme cold weather sits.

Your boots are the most important item for your feet and your whole body. This is an item that you don’t want to skimp on warmth or quality. A good high quality pair of hunting boots will keep your feet warm and dry, and will last you for years. I once owned pair of high quality pack boots for twelve years before replacing them.
You are better off paying more for a good quality pair of boots than skimping and buying boots to get you by. Often cheaper boots won’t last as long as a good quality pair, causing you to buy more boots and paying more for several pair of less quality foot wear than if you just purchased a good quality pair from the start.

I recommend a good quality pair of pack boots for cold weather hunts. Also keep in mind when looking for boots that just because they are rated for -25 degrees does not mean they will keep your feet warm down to -25 degrees. You will want to select a hunting boot that is designed for the type of extreme temperature that you are likely to encounter on your hunt.

You will also want to make sure that your hunting boots are 100% water proof with no exceptions. If your feet get wet, you’re done hunting. It’s that simple. Long story made short when selecting hunting boots, get the best quality hunting boot that you can afford, this is one part of the cold weather system you don’t want to skimp on.

Gloves

I personally prefer to wear thinner glove used with a hand warmer muff. A hand warmer muff has a waist strap and attaches at your waist. With openings at each end you can keep your hands warm without added bulk and loss of finger dexterity for handling your bow and other items.

If you decide not to use a hand warmer muff, you will want to use mittens instead of gloves. Mittens keep your fingers warmer because they are allowed to share heat produced by each finger, versus gloves separate your fingers allowing only the heat produced by each finger to keep that particular finger warm. Basically mittens work on the concept of warmth in numbers.

Hats

Like your feet this is another layer that you don’t want to skimp on. Majority of your body heat is lost from the top of your head. Use a thick high quality hat that covers your ears down to your neck. Also like your base layer you don’t want to use any hat made of cotton. You want to keep your head warm and dry.

A good quality warm hat is a must for a cold weather hunt

Neck Gaiter

Once you use a neck gaiter during a cold weather hunt, you won’t leave home without one. Select a good neck gaiter that obviously covers your neck but also is able to be pulled up over your nose and mouth without exposing your neck. The purpose of this is to reflect the heat given off by your breath to keep your face and neck warm.

Back Pack

With your cold weather system you’re designed to stay stationary for long periods of time. You won’t be able to walk a considerable distance without getting sweated up while wearing your cold weather system. For that reason you will want a good quiet back pack to allow you to pack in your cloths.
 
I usually walk into the stand wearing just my base layer and pocket layer, if it is extremely cold out I will also walk in with my wool insulating layer. The rest of the layers go into your back pack. You never want to walk into your stand wearing your wind proof layer. The reason being, these layers are designed to stop wind cutting down on the clothing’s ability to breathe. By wearing this layer while walking you will often accumulate moisture from the wind proof layer.
The key to the back pack is to pack in your layers to be put on once at the stand, because you want to avoid getting heavily sweated up for your cold weather sits.

Conclusion

The key to dressing for extreme temperatures is to utilize layers. Like assembly line workers, each layer has a special purpose and design. However to keep you warm under cold temperatures each layer needs to perform its job and work together as a team to maximize and retain your core body’s heat. The key is to prevent the loss of as much body heat as you can. Several thinner layers will help hold in more body temperature than two heavy bulky layers. Use special layers for maximized warmth this year, because after all you can’t kill deer sitting back at camp.

The Highs and Lows of Self Filming

by John Mueller 7. November 2011 14:11
John Mueller

Self filming your hunts can be one of the most rewarding experiences in your hunting career when you capture that trophy of a lifetime on video or as I recently discovered, the most disappointing. You must remember to hit record to capture that hunt of a lifetime. I was recently bowhunting on my property and had a nice buck put on a fine show, but I never hit the record button. So I’ll relive the hunt in written form for you to enjoy.

The evening prior to my hunt I had seen my first shooter buck of the season cruise over the ridge I was hunting on. Later I could hear him grunting down the hillside, presumably chasing does. Once the chasing starts happening on my farm I have a stand I head to down in a hollow. There are a bunch of small fingers that feed into the area around my stand and the bucks cruise up and down these fingers and through the bottom looking for receptive does. I purposely have stayed out of this area, leaving it alone until the chasing starts.

The ridge the buck took down into the hollow in front of my stand.

My Lone Wolf Hang On high in a Hickory Tree.

It was particularly windy that late October afternoon when I headed down to the stand nicknamed “The Well”, for it’s location in the bottom of the hollow. I figured the wind would also push deer movement down out of the windy conditions. Once settled in I could see both scrapes and rubs from my stand. To say I was excited is an understatement. My first deer sighting was a small fork horned buck. This was appropriate; I think I’ve turned into a fork horn magnet this year. I’ve seen more of them than any other type of deer. I did get some good video of him passing by the stand and working a scrape, completely unaware of my presence.

One of the many scrapes in the bottom of the hollow.

A good sized rub nerby my stand.

About 6:00 I spotted a deer coming down one of the fingers in front of me. I threw up my binos and saw decent antlers on its head. In one motion I stood up turned on my Canon XA10 and wireless mics and grabbed my bow. I glanced up and he was still traveling straight to my stand. I searched for the buck in the cameras view finder. Considering I use reading glasses whenever I need to see something closer than arms length, this is no easy task. I finally find him on the screen and zoom in, all the while trying to decide if I’m going to shoot this buck. He’s no monster by any means, but I haven’t shot a buck in 2 years, so he’s looking pretty good to me. He proceeds down the small ridge into the bottom and stops at a scrape 15 yards directly in front of me. I swing the camera on him and catch him working over the earth in the scrape and then he turns his attention to the licking branch. First he rakes it back and forth with his antlers and forehead, and then he takes it in his mouth and deposits his saliva all over it marking it as his. Well after that show I figure this will make a great episode for Bowhunt or Die and if he offers me a shot, I’ll take it. After working the scrape for a few minutes the bucks takes a few steps and slightly quarters away and stops. I draw back, take aim high on his last rib and touch off the shot. I see my arrow disappear and the buck blasts off across the hollow and up the other side. As he comes to a stop 1/3 of the way up I swing the camera over and find him in the viewfinder just as he starts to crash down the hillside and come to rest on the floor of the hollow.

I’m thinking, wow did that just happen, that was awesome and spin the camera around to catch my reaction…………That’s when I notice the little light in the viewfinder that is supposed to be red………is still green. In my excitement to find the buck in the viewfinder as he was originally coming down the hillside, I never hit the record button. I had just failed to capture the whole hunt on video. So now I had a borderline shooter buck on the ground with absolutely no video footage of the kill. I wanted to jump out of the stand with my safety line around my neck. I literally felt sick to my stomach, as you can see in this week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die. This is not the reaction I wanted to record when I swung the camera around after the buck hit the ground.

There was a great blood trail, but I didn't need it this time, I watched him crash.

So about all you get from this buck harvest is my sick feeling in the stand, a shot of the bloody arrow, a short walk to the buck (interrupted by a neighbor) and me sitting behind the buck the next morning. I really didn’t feel much like filming after I got down out of the tree that night and I had to get 2 buddies just to help me get him out of that hollow. It’s too steep to drive my four wheeler down there to haul him out.

The buck I thought I was making a "Movie Star" out of.

Now don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy filming my hunts and have some great footage from other hunts that I will no doubt relive time and again in the future. But this was the low of lows and I can assure you it will NEVER happen to me again. If you don’t already do so, I highly recommend videoing your own hunts or team up with a partner and capture your hunts on video. When it all works out you have memories for the rest of your lives to share with family and friends and the hunting community. When you do decide to start videoing your hunts, give our friends at Campbell Cameras a call. They have everything you need to get started from cameras to wireless mics, tree arms and all the accessories too. Happy filming………..and don’t forget to hit RECORD!!

Crossbow REVIEW – Barnett’s Ghost 350

by Daniel James Hendricks 19. October 2011 01:53
Daniel James Hendricks

  Over the years I have watched as Barnett crossbows steadily evolved, getting better with each passing year due largely, I believe, to the creative genius of David Barnett.  Many still consider Barnett products to be inferior to most crossbows on the market based simply on the fact that Barnett is priced at a working man’s level of affordability.  One hears chatter about break downs and mechanical problems from the Barnett line, but based on my vast personal contact with grassroots crossbow hunters, there seems to be no more problems with Barnett than most other brands. In an age where crossbows are becoming far more complicated and increasingly powerful, I truly believe that a large part of mechanical troubles originate with improper usage by the owners.  Users who believe that an Owner’s Manual is a guide to refer to when you have a problem and not a instructional guide from which to learn proper handling and use of their new hunting implement.  Regardless of which crossbow you purchase, please spend the time to read the Owner’s Manual from cover to cover, at least once.  The time invested in that little booklet will pay big dividends in the safe use and longevity of your crossbow.

 The unique and artistic design of the Ghost incorporates the foot stirrup right into the bow.

 Barnett’s Ghost 350 arrived at my door in two pieces, which was not a transportation tragedy, but instead the traditional manner that it is shipped.  Once assembled with a single bolt, which firmly attached the bow to the stock, I careful inspected the crossbow.  The first thing that caught my eye was the classic design; one that incorporated the foot stirrup right into the contour of the bow in an undeniable artistic manner, giving the Ghost 350 a very unique and quite handsome appearance. 

 The 3x30 scope on the Ghost is enhanced by reticules are illuminated circles.

 The overall length is 37”; its only 24” wide and has a 12” power stroke; that combined with the 175 lb draw weight produces a stunning 350 fps.  The carbon riser and aluminum flight deck keep the total weight to right around 7.5 pounds.  The bow is enhanced with the Barnett AVI technology molded over laminated limbs reducing noise and vibration up to 30%.  Whiplash cams, a very sensitive anti-dry fire mechanism and one of the finest triggers I have ever seen on a crossbow top this package off.  The stock is beautifully adorned in Realtree APG Black camo.  My Ghost 350 package included an illuminated 3x32 scope, four 20’ arrows, a 4-arrow quiver and a rope cocking device.

 The overall appearance of the Ghost 350 is second to none.

 It all made for a very striking package in appearance, but I was anxious to see how the Ghost 350 preformed on the range.  My first observation was the bow’s extreme comfort when shouldered.  The fit was accented by the raised cheek rest, a thumb hole stock and the extra wide fore-stock (which also keeps one’s fingers clear of the string when firing), which naturally forms the bow to my body.  The scope was very close to zero and within the first half dozen shots the Ghost was impaling the bull's-eye with every release.  We zeroed the top mark in at 20 yards, which automatically placed mark #2 at 30 yards.  Mark #3 zeroed in at 35 yards and mark #4 was right on at 43 yards.  (Never assume that the reticules of the scope on your new bow will automatically be zeroed in at 30, 40, 50 and sixty.  Shoot and move until you have determined the yardage for each mark and then mark it down on a piece of tape and adhere in plain sight to your bow for reference.)  A note of the yardages was made and then there was little left to do but enjoy the smooth performance of the Ghost 350. 

 The trigger on the Ghost 350 is one of the finest I have ever seen on a crossbow.

 It was quiet, fast, consistent and deadly accurate, just what any person would expect from a state-of-the-art, respectably scary Ghost.  The thing that I am most impressed with, however, was that darn trigger.  It’s just as fine a trigger as I have experienced on any rifle.  Smooth, light and with a surprise release; it is just amazing to experience that well-crafted of a trigger on a crossbow.

 Since I present my reviews from a hunter’s point of view, the question is, “How did the Ghost 350 perform in the field?”  The targeted game for the test was Pronghorn Antelope on our annual pilgrimage to Douglas, WY.  I combined the Ghost with Lumen-Arrows and Grim Reaper broadheads experiencing excellent results.

Buck taken at 16 yards. 

 The buck was taken at 16 yards and went perhaps 50 yards.  I was not pleased with the shot as the nervous animal, from a standing broadside shot, actually began to spin away from the arrow before it arrived.  Entry was back a little far, but due to the angle of the body as it was turning away, the exit was just behind the front leg on the opposite side.  The buck expired within five minutes.  The Lumen-Arrow passed completely through the goat and was intact, although buried deeply into the sloping bank of the waterhole.  The doe was taken from a standing broadside shot of 18 to 20 yards.  The arrow passed through the heart damaging both front legs causing the animal to collapse in less than 30 yards, in all probability, being out before hitting the ground.  The arrow was broken due to the major contact with the front legs of the goat, but the Lumenok was retrieved in excellent shape and still burning brightly.

 The doe was taken with the Ghost 350 and a single arrow to the heart at under 20 yards.

 I ran into only one problem while using this bow and guess what?  User error!  And that is where, experience has taught me, most crossbow problems originate.  This problem was self-inflicted and occurred while trying to uncock the bow by firing an arrow from of it.  It occurred on the first day of hunting.  I had passed on a shooter-buck because I had been caught with a camera in my hands (that same buck became a victim of the Ghost 350 the following day).  When I attempted to take the bow off safe, the latch would not budge.  At first I thought I had gotten dirt into the latching mechanism, but a quick shot of WD40 had no visible affect on the problem.  After a few minutes of painful pondering the problem, the solution to dawned on me; I recalled that the Operation Manual had specified moon nocks and upon checking my arrow, I discovered that I was trying to unload my bow with a flat nock.  The anti-dry fire mechanism on this bow is so finely crafted that even this minor detail prevented the bow from being discharged.  That kind of engineering can only be admired and respected, which is more than can be said for my personal attention to arrow selection.  

The thumb-hole stock and raise cheek piece make this bow extremely comfortable to shoulder.

 The bottom line is that the Ghost 350 is one fine crossbow from this hunter’s point of view and the fact that you can get completely set up for around $600 only makes it better.  Barnett has been manufacturing some excellent and reliable crossbows at friendly prices in the past few years and if you are in the market, you owe it to yourself to check them out.  But whatever crossbow you decide upon, do yourself a big favor and study the Owner’s Manual carefully.  It will save you a lot of headaches, not to mention the inconvenience of service calls. 

The safety release and anti-dry fire mechanism are extremely well designed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hunting Food Plots: Experiences and Lessons Learned

by Cody Altizer 15. October 2011 11:38
Cody Altizer

If you have followed my blog with any regularity over the last several months, you are surely aware of the time, effort and enthusiasm I have poured into my food plots preparing them for the upcoming deer season.  I have planted food plots regularly since 2007 and achieved good results, but this hunting season was going to be the first season I would spend considerable time actually hunting the plots.  Whether it is hunting directly over the plot, hunting a man made funnel designed to push the deer past my stand on their way to feed for the afternoon, or hunting trails and runways hundreds of yards off the food plots trying to intercept the deer returning to their beds in the morning, I was excited.  Well, after three hunts hunting the situations above, I am here to share my experiences and the lessons learned from each hunt.   

Preparing a food plot for hunting purposes is a process that began way back in February when my brother, dad and I made a man made funnel to push the deer by my stand on their way to the food plot.  The following month I frost seeded my clover food plots to give it a head start when spring’s warmth would kickoff the growing the season.  It continued into the summer months with regular mowing to keep the weeds controlled and to ensure that the plot stays healthy and attractive to deer.  Finally, as summer burned away into fall, I plated an additional strip of turnips and oats along the timber line of my food plots to provide some variety and increase shot opportunities should I decide to hunt directly over the plot.  The day prior to opening day two weeks ago, I sat in my hunting camp a couple hundred yards off my favorite plot and observed for two hours over 20 deer feed feverishly on the green clover.  I was excited and ready to hunt!  

By hunting smart and analyzing the situation from a distance, I was better able to determine when was the best time to sneak in for the kill.  Now, if I could only figure out the "kill" part...

Opening morning I elected to go to one of my better stands located some 300 yards east of my clover and turnip food plots.  With a West-Northwest wind, I would be downwind of the food plots and would hopefully catch the deer returning to their bed after feeding in the food plots during the night.  My planned worked to perfection, as I had a perfect shot opportunity on a doe at 15 yards, but I made a poor shot on her and never recovered her.  Despite my poor shooting, I believe that shot opportunity is a direct result of the food plots.  Having a food source, in this case located in the center of my property, is extremely advantageous because it increases traffic of both bucks and does on my entire property.  Equally important in this case is how my property is structured regarding the planting locations of the two food plots.   There are known bedding areas around the food plots and there is great edge cover surrounding the food plots allowing the deer to quickly find refuge should danger approach.  I’m also able to enter and exit my stands downwind without being detected.  Being centrally located pulls deer off neighboring properties and keeps them on my property longer.  However, if there weren’t adequate cover around the food plot or bedding areas nearby, the deer wouldn’t feel as secure using my food plots. When planting food plots for hunting purposes, consider your property layout and how the surrounding terrain and prevailing wind direction can impact your hunts.

I spent the entire afternoon on opening day looking for the doe I shot that morning, so I wasn’t able to hunt that afternoon.  The following Monday, however, I climbed into my Lone Wolf stand with a good feeling about the afternoon hunt.  Temperatures were in the low 50s with a stiff breeze out of the West, perfect for this particular location.  I was tucked back in the timber off my clover plot 40 yards sitting right at the pinch I had worked so hard on during the winter.  I snuck into my stand around 2:30 knowing the deer would be moving earlier in the day with the cold front blowing through.  Every 10 minutes or so I would check the wind direction to make sure it stayed true out of the West.  It was beautifully constant.  A little after 5 o’clock I went ahead and stood up to prepare myself for primetime movement and ready myself for a shot.  The deer I was hunting hadn’t been pressured and had been using the trail I was set up over every afternoon routinely. 

Just like any hunting situation, playing close attention to the wind is critically important.  When hunting food plots, this is no different.

 Just as I had stood up I felt a cooling sensation on my face, the same cooling sensation that relaxes and eases the stress of all hunters while on stand; a nice cool breeze.  There was only one problem, that breeze was out of the East, my stomach sank.  Almost immediately I heard deer blowing in all directions west of my location.  I was busted.  The winds shifted and my hunt was ruined.  I heard deer stomping and blowing like crazy no more than 60 yards from my stand.  After I knew they were gone for good, I immediately got down out of the stand with an hour and half of daylight left.  There was no sense is stinking up the spot.  I exited the area and headed back to camp frustrated.  Another seemingly “perfect” opportunity missed.  

The lesson learned here is simple; food plot hunting isn’t immune to swirling winds.  It’s misconceived that when you hunt food plots, the deer aimlessly walk out into your food plot and you shoot them.  Sometimes if you are lucky, you might shoot two.  That’s how it goes on the television shows after all, right?  I needed a West wind to hunt that pinch and I got it.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes of swirling winds blew that hunt for me.  Fortunately, my confidence was restored as I watched from afar 6 does and a handful of yearling bucks feed in that food plot during the last hour of daylight.  Getting down before I did any further damage proved to be the right move.  

The day after my wind swirling fiasco, I took down my Lone Wolf and tucked it into a red maple on an inside corner right on the edge of the clover where deer enter and exit the field.  I wasn’t completely confident with the cover I had back in the timber, and since the deer had busted me, I wanted to keep them guessing.  I had initially considered hanging the stand in the maple during the summer, but decided to go deeper in the timber next to my funnel.  Having a “back-up” tree picked out before the season starts can prove to be a wise decision if you get busted from your first stand choice.  I had taken down, moved my stand 100 yards east and had it hung all in less than 30 minutes.  That simply would not have been possible without my Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks, and it allowed me plenty of time to cool off before the afternoon sit.  I was happy with my new stand choice as it provided me with ample cover and two shooting lanes at 15 yards.  It would be impossible for the deer to see me until it’s too late, or at least that’s the plan.

The temperatures had warmed to the mid 70s by this point but I was confident I would see deer activity before dark.  In fact, I watched with frustration and a feeling of “can’t I catch a break?” as deer fed on my turnips to the south of me out of range. They weren’t supposed to touch those until the first frost!  Ah, the joys of high deer densities, I guess. Nevertheless, I knew deer would feed in the clover before too long.  At 6:00, just like clockwork, 7 does came running out of the timber to feed on the clover.  Literally, they were running.  I think they were actually more invested in an afternoon of tag and chase than they were feeding because for 10 minutes they chased each other back and forth in the clover.  It was fun to watch, and reassuring because these were likely the same deer that had busted me just days prior.  They still felt completely safe feeding during the daytime, which made me feel good.  

My Lone Wolf Alpha and Sticks allow me to stay mobile, keep the deer guessing and keep my best areas fresh.

At one point one of the larger does got irritated and came within 20 yards of my stand, but a branch prevented a shot.  The younger does kept chasing each other back and forth, in and out of the timber, back into the plot and back out again for another 10 minutes or so until a yearling buck decided that the game his sisters was playing looked like fun.  There must have been a “no boys allowed” clause in the rule, because the does quickly became agitated with the young buck and fled the food plot entirely.  I got down with about 10 minutes of light left when there were no longer any deer in the field and snuck back to camp.  I came close again, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer and it was an enjoyable hunt nonetheless.  

That hunt reinforced a strategy that I don’t think enough hunters employ, being mobile.  Just days before that hunt nearly every deer in the area knew they were being hunted due to the swirling winds.  However, by staying flexible, and having a back up tree in mind, I was able to buy myself another hunt on that plot within just a couple of days by keeping the deer guessing.  Deer are very instinctive animals, but I am convinced they aren’t good problem solvers.  If you get lazy and educate the deer to your location, you’re opportunities will be limited.  However if you can keep them guessing by staying mobile, keeping areas fresh and hunting the wind correctly, the deer will continue to feel comfortable feeding in your food plot during daytime hours.

I had three hunts game planned around my food plots during the first week of the season, but wasn’t able to harvest a deer.  I haven’t hunted since last Thursday and likely won’t hunt again until next Wednesday, so I am anxious to get back in stand with the cooler temperature and better moon phases.  I wish I could have called this blog: “How To:  Successful Food Plot Hunting Strategies” but that simply wouldn’t be the case, because I haven’t been successful yet.  The season is still young, and the cooler temperatures will hopefully drive the deer to the carbohydrate rich food plots.  Stay tuned to my blog throughout the season to see if my food plots will pay dividends as the season progresses!

 

Humbling Beginning to My 2011 Bowhunting Season

by Cody Altizer 5. October 2011 07:17
Cody Altizer

It’s no secret that bowhunting teaches ones many lessons and can provide a hunter with as many emotions over the course of the season.  Obviously, before the season begins we are about to explode with excitement and anticipation about the season that lies ahead, and can’t wait to get up a tree.  This year was no different for me, however; I was quickly brought back down to earth after self-inflicted difficult first hunt.  If bowhunting hasn’t taught you about humility, allow the recollection of my opening weekend to be a brief introduction.

Bright red blood with bubbles staind the forest floor in Virginia early Saturday morning, but no deer were recovered.  I have only one choice now, learn from my mistakes and keep moving forward!

I had predicted that I would shoot a deer on opening day in my blog back during the spring due the success of my food plots.  When opening morning rolled around, I was as confident as ever that I would accomplish that goal.  My food plots were booming with as many as 15-20 deer feeding in them regularly each and every afternoon.  With temperatures in the upper 30s opening morning, I elected to go to my best stand site with the hopes of arrowing at least a mature doe.  I had turnips to my west, clover and oats to my Northwest, and acorns due north; I was downwind of all of it.  I had a good feeling.

My Mathews Z7 Xtreme waiting patiently...

I welcomed the early season tranquility like a long lost friend, and patiently waited for the deer to wander past my stand on their way to bed down for the day.  Around 8:00 I had two mature does and their little ones meander their way toward my stand before a deer about 100 yards to my North began to blow nervously before finally trotting off.  Even with my scent control regimen in full force, the deer must have crossed my entrance path and picked up my scent.  The two does and fawns trusted their sister’s warning blows and casually began feeding in the opposite direction.  No worries I thought, the morning is still young.  About 8:30 I happened to look directly behind me in the forest opening and saw two fawns chasing one another back and forth about 40 yards away, playing and enjoying the warm sunlight.  I looked even closer and there was their mother 20 yards downwind of me and closing quickly.  I grabbed my Mathews, but thought for sure she would wind before I could get a shot.  My Scent Blocker suit performed admirably in the situation, as she continued on.  In less than 30 seconds from the time I first saw her, she was underneath my stand and walking away on a mission.  I waited until she got 15 yards (I hope I never shoot straight down on a deer) from my stand, stopper her, and released my arrow.  She mule kicked and tore down into the steep creek bottom below me out of sight.  “Yes!” I thought to myself.  Mission accomplished; doe down on opening day.  The thick foliage kept me from watching her too far from the point of impact, but I was confident she was down close.  Then, my excitement turned to worry.  I glassed down to look at my arrow and saw no blood on it.  This made me nervous.  I waited a half hour, got down, retrieved my arrow and found only muscle on the arrow.  I immediately backed out, texted some friends, and decided to give her a couple of hours.  I had hit her forward, but was still confident I would find her.

There are few things better in this world than a Mathews bow and the beautiful fall colors!

After waiting a couple hours, I dressed down, grabbed my bow and camera and headed out to pick up the trail.  I found blood about 20 yards from the POI and it became easier and easier to follow as I headed down the steep ridge I was hunting.  My hope strengthened when I found bubbles complimenting the bright red blood trail.  “She can’t be far,” I thought.  The blood trail weakened as she started making her way up the steep ridge adjacent to my stand, but it was still consistent enough for me to follow without much difficulty.  I took my time; meticulously following the blood trail and marking my trail so I could better figure out which way she was headed and how badly she may have been hit.  I followed the trail some 500 yards over the course of 3 hours before it abruptly ended.  It wasn’t a great blood trail, but I could follow it easily enough and its consistency led me to believe me she may bleed out soon.  Each time I crested a knoll or entered some fallen trees, I thought for sure I would find her, but no luck.

Opening weekend wasn't a TOTAL bust, as I got a picture of this buck on my Stealth Cam.  This buck is the biggest buck that I have ever gotten on trail camera on my property, and would be the biggest buck ever harvested if I, my brother or dad can harvest him.

I decided to back out again and wait for my dad to get home, 2 hours later, and we would pick up the trail together.  Sure enough, roughly 200 yards from where I lost blood, my dad picked up the trail.  Again, decent blood with bubbles (they had dried by this point).  After I lost blood earlier, I wasn’t confident we would find her.  But she was bleeding badly enough and heading straight down into the steepest creek bottoms Millboro, Virginia, has to offer.  My dad and I followed the blood another 100 yards through the creek bottom, confident we would look up and find her dead trying to get out of the steep ridges.  Again, no such luck.  As we pressed on I told dad, “If she’s going to die, she’ll die in these bottoms.  Trying to get up and out of here would be enough to kill her.”  It didn’t.  We lost blood and scoured the ridge tops and bottoms looking for a dead deer another 2 hours, but we never found her.  I can only hope she made it out alive, but I am afraid that’s just wishful thinking.

Daytime photos of shooter bucks are always exciting!

Very rarely do plans come together as perfectly as they did opening morning on my hunting property, and it truly sickens me that I made a bad shot on the deer.  She came in quickly and I rushed the shot, no excuses.  However, given the opportunity, I would likely handle the situation the same.  In fact, in 2009 I harvested a doe in the exact same scenario from the exact same stand at the exact same spot I shot this doe.  She came in quickly; I grabbed my bow, stopped her at 14 yards and put an arrow through both lungs.  She died within 50 yards.  Bowhunting is a game of inches and I missed my spot by just inches.  

I now have two photos of the same buck (pictured above), at two very different locations.  I now have a general idea of where he is spending his time and luckily, I can hunt travel routes that he'll likely use once the rut approaches.

I am sure that a blog dedicated to the wounding of a deer and not recovering it is about as unexciting and buzz killing as it can get for a deer hunter this time of year, but I felt the need to tell the story, because it is real.  Refusing to do so would be unfair to you, the reader, who will follow my blog throughout the fall.  I feel it would also be criminally disrespectful to the deer and nature to neglect sharing my unfortunate experiences due to pride or arrogance.  When it comes to hunting whitetails, I want to be held accountable and responsible for all the decisions and experiences I have in the woods.

Losing a deer is tough, but it’s real, and I must move on.  Fortunately, there is a lot of season ahead of me and I have a lot to look forward to.  My trail cameras captured photos of two different bucks that I will spend a lot of time trying to kill this fall.  What’s even more encouraging is that the bucks in the photos were feeding in my clover food plot, close to a handful of my stands.  Granted, the photos were at night, but it’s still early and those bucks are getting more and more restless by the day.  I encourage you to follow my blog throughout the season to see how my fall progresses.  Sure, I hit a small bump in the road early on, but I plan on making this a season to remember, so you’ll want to keep checking back for more updates!

Sometimes You Have to Hunt in the Rain

by Neal McCullough 29. September 2011 14:20
Neal McCullough

I am one of those bowhunters who doesn’t get hundreds of days in the field every year; I don’t spend weeks in Kansas, Iowa, and Canada from September to December (although sometimes I wish I could). That said, I have learned over the years that you have to make your hunts count. I believe in the old adage “you can’t get one if you aren’t out there” but, more specifically, out there at the right time. This past Tuesday evening was one of those “right times”.

Grant Jacobs and I always try to do an early season bowhunt in our properties in Pepin County. It’s a little bit of a drive (About 1 ½ hours) so we do our best to coordinate our varied work schedules and the ever-unpredictable fall weather to select the best day to hunt. Tuesday, flexibility at work magically coincided with some other key factors to make for a perfect evening hunt. Following are a couple of things that made this week’s hunt work:

1. Moontimes– The moon’s affect on whitetails was a subject of a recent blog of mine and the timing of this hunt was set up to be one of the best days in September according to the solar calendar. The moon was setting at 6:30PM (sunset was at 7:00PM) and the “best time” to hunt was 5:30PM – 7:26PM


The solar lunar calendar can be an effective tool during early season.

2. Wind – The particular location of the stand we were hunting in we call the “Elevator Ridge” and any wind out of the N/NW gives us the best chance to get a deer.


A Wind Checker and can help keep track of shifting winds/thermals to know where deer can bust you in the stand.

3. Beans – Although beans have browned in nearly all areas where we hunt, we knew that some of the green was still on the stem and pod. This, along with falling acorns, made for an ideal spot.


This button buck showed on Tuesday evening feeding in the beans, any remaining green soybean fields should be hunted now.

4. Rain – The toughest part of the day was the massive low pressure system that decided to park itself right over Chicago for what seemed like days and days. The weatherman called for continued rain at our stand that day, nonetheless we decided to go for it.


This stubborn low pressure system took days to move out of the midwest.

5. Scent Control – The wind and rain combined created a perfect scent killing solution for us; our scent was pushed away from the deer and much of that scent was knocked down by the rain.


We always wear Scent Blocker gear while hunting, there is no substitute for quality scent blocking clothing. Notice parts of the soybean field in the background are still green.

In the end, the hunt was one of the best early season hunts we have had in a while. Right on schedule, three mature does and a buck fawn all worked their way to within 25 yards and if it weren’t for tree limbs and low camera light, we would have had a shot. Last year we spent hours and hours hunting bad winds, bad moontimes, and frankly, bad stand sites. This year we got in the right place at the right time and got the season off to a great start. Good luck with your hunting seasons and remember; sometimes you have to hunt in the rain.

See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Bowhunting - The Game of Choices

by Cody Altizer 21. September 2011 13:23
Cody Altizer

When I am in the treestand bowhunting, I am at the mercy of Mother Nature.  I sit in a tree, hoping the wind stays constant of out of the West, assuming the deer will visit my food plot this afternoon, and wishing for that big buck I caught on trail camera to visit the mock scrape 20 yards in front of my stand.  A more proud hunter wouldn’t admit, but we have little control over the outcome of our hunts.  Sure, we can puff out our chest and proclaim, “If I get a North wind I know I can shoot that buck!”  Or, “If I get adequate rainfall my food plots will turn into a deer magnet!” I do it.  We all do it.  But those are not variables we can control, nor should we want to be able to control them.  Fortunately, there are factors that determine whether our hunt was a “successful” one or not, and we have plenty of control of these.

There are so many variables we can't control when we go bowhunting, the wind, but we do have complete control over perhaps the most important factor, our attitude.

Everyone hunts for different reasons.  Many love the taste of venison. Some, unfortunately, need that tasty venison to feed their families.  Others are trophy hunters, whose pursuit of whitetails is driven by large antlers and record book entries.  Some enjoy the interaction and competition between themselves and Mother Nature, matching wits with one of Her most adaptive and instinctive critters.  Then there are the hunters who genuinely climb a tree every fall to fully engage themselves in nature, and simply enjoy the tranquility and peacefulness that only time spent in the woods can provide.  However, while everyone hunts for different reasons, we can all choose how we hunt and what we deem a successful outing. 

What means to more to you when you are hunting, killing a deer, or your involvement with Nature?

You can enjoy your hunt, take it for all it’s worth; squeeze out every drop nature and the whitetail woods has to offer, or you can let the distractions of the outside world pollute your mind.  You can immerse yourself in the crisp, innocent fall air while watching the sun burn off the frost on the grass in the morning, or wonder if your time is better spent at work earning the extra dollar.  You have a choice.  When that shooter buck makes his way towards your stand and locks up quartering to you when he catches your scent, do you try to squeeze in the shot in before he bolts, or do you chalk that round up to the whitetail?  You have a choice.  You’ve had your eyes on a specific buck and have been hunting him hard all season long, just waiting for him to make a mistake, when your buddy waltzes into the woods and drops him his first afternoon out; are you going to sulk and pout, or congratulate him and celebrate his success?  You have a choice.  Is the thrill of the kill, the notoriety and “fame” that comes with harvesting a mature buck more important to you than the pursuit, the quick, humane kill and the bittersweet realization that you just accomplished a feat that Mother Nature and her fiercest winters, and most efficient predators couldn’t?  The choice is up to you.

This fall while you're hunting your tail off like the rest of us, take a minute and look at the hunt from the outside in.  Hopefully, it will give you a unique perspective you may have never known existed.  If anything else, it will recharge your batteries and allow your mind to properly focus.

The reasons why and how we hunt vary with the individual, as they should.  But the choice as to whether or not we enjoy ourselves and the precious time we spend in the woods every fall is the same – that decision belongs to the individual.  When you are the woods this fall, hunting hard, investing countless hours and immeasurable amounts of energy trying to harvest a worthy buck (just like I will), do yourself a favor, stop for just a brief minute, take a deep breath and let it all sink in.  Choosing to do so will create a simple emotion that every hunter can share and relate to.  Plus, don’t we owe it to ourselves, the sport and the animals that we hunt to be responsible and make good decisions?  You have a choice.

2011 Wyoming Antelope Roundup Part 2 - Two For the Doe

by Daniel James Hendricks 18. September 2011 23:44
Daniel James Hendricks

  The only thing better than hunting antelope is eating it.  So this past year, when I learned from my guide, Mike Judd that I could acquire a doe tag for a mere $34 dollars, I had Kristi Judd purchase a doe tag for me.  After all, my biggest complaint about an antelope is that they are not very large, but even a doe is worth an extra $34 based on the undeniable quality of antelope meat. Once my hunt began, I filled my buck tag on the second day of my hunt clearing the way to harvest the first doe antelope of my hunting career.  In the stand shortly after daylight, I began the task of locating the animals that were scattered in that pastures around me.  I choose the particular blind I was hunting in because the hunter that had taken his antelope there earlier in the week, had informed me that he had cell reception.  As far as we were out of Douglas, cell reception was difficult, especially on my cheap phone.  Reception was a positive, but the view was a negative.  I had a lot of blind spots where I was unable to see what would be coming to water until it got right on top of me. 

 So I just closed down most of the windows in the blind leaving small cracks from which to check for critters.  The waterhole at the front of the blind was the important spot and I had a wide window there to take care of business should an opportunity present itself.  After glassing the surrounding pastures for a while to locate the visible goats, I dug out my cell phone called my mom and dad in Florida.  Dad was running an errand so mom and I began to solve the world’s toughest problems like the true experts that we have become from years or diligent practice.  As I talked, I glanced to the east and saw antelope silhouetted against the morning sun, running towards the windmill.  I rapidly explained to my mother what was happening and excused myself.  Her last words were, “Go get `em, son!” 

 I tucked the phone away, grabbed the bow and waited for the arrival of my guests.  The small group consisted of a doe and two fawns and a yearling buck.  I had not wanted to take a wet doe, but since the fawns were both good sized and they had a chaperon, I was in a hurry to hit the road, so taking this doe would allow me time to skin and quarter, check out of the hotel and be in Longmont, Colorado by 5 pm.  Decision made, I clicked the bow off safe and waited for a broadside shot.

  I was able to range the doe at 18 yards, before the animal turned broadside giving me a perfect shot as it scanned the horizon to the west for danger.  Placing the zero on its heart, I slowly squeezed the trigger until the snap of the bow’s limbs startled me.  The antelope exploded into a blur of action, but for the doe, it was too late…She was a goner!  The doomed doe ran directly away from me I watched her life-fluids gushing out of both sides of her body.  As I watched the antelope collapse, I never did see which way the other three disappear.  They were just gone when I looked around.  The doe had gone down in a matter of seconds, not even covering forty yards before succumbing to its wound. 

 I dug the phone out and hit redial and my mother answered on the very first ring. 
 “Well?” she inquired.
 When she learned that I had bagged my doe and she just giggled like a teenage and congratulated me.  We talked for a few more minutes and then I told her I had to get to work.  Hanging up, I called Mike right away and told him I was done.  He said he would be there shortly so I ventured out to collect the photographs I needed to wrap up my mission.

 When Mike arrived he took some shots of me with the goat and then I field dressed it.  The heart had a hole in it, bringing me a great deal of satisfaction.  If one is going to hunt an animal, he should try to make a shot that will dispense it as quickly and humanely as possible.  Nothing is more effective at doing than a broadhead-tipped arrow through the heart.  It had been a compassionate and merciful end for creature and for that I was so very thankful.

 We hauled the animal back to the Kimbal HQ where I skinned and quartered it, placed it on ice and then packed my hunting gear.  After bidding farewell to Mike, I drove to Douglas, checked out of the hotel and headed for Colorado.

 This was my first doe antelope and I was convinced, especially after noting how easily the hide pulled away from the carcass, that there could possibly be no finer eating that what Karen and I were going to experience from the flesh of this doe.  The antelope is the first thing to disappear from our freezer and for the next year, we would have a little extra of it to be blessed at our table.  I can’t thank George LeBar enough for his kind hospitality and sharing the family ranch; the same heartfelt gratitude is also offered to Mike and Kristi Judd.

 

2011 Wyoming Antelope Roundup Part 1 - One for the Billy

by Daniel James Hendricks 18. September 2011 23:19
Daniel James Hendricks

 My #1 reason for hunting Pronghorn Antelope is the fact that the season opens a full month before that of the Minnesota whitetail.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to get out there and do some hunting while one waits for the local deer to become legitimate targets.  Reason #2 is that their flesh is more popular at our dining table than venison is, especially with my Redhead.  That alone is reason enough to pack up my gear and head for the picturesque landscapes of SE Wyoming in pursuit of wily pronghorn.

 Reason #3 for hunting goats is that the only thing this hunter enjoys more than eating antelope is photographing them, and the area around Douglas provides plenty of opportunity to do just that.  This past season, the LeBar Ranch played host to our annual HBM Hunt Club expedition and we were treated to the excellent guidance of Mike Judd, the ranch’s Gamekeeper.  Mike is a local Wyoming boy that knows his way around hunting the range and is extremely knowledgeable as well as being very intelligent and personable.

 The first 2½ days were spent helping Mike serve the 14 other HBM members that were attending the Antelope Roundup.  By Wednesday, most of them had filled out so Mike gave me the nod to begin my hunt that afternoon.  We were setup at one of the ranch’s unique windmill blinds by 2:30 p.m. in a slab-wood structure that protects the machinery of the windmill; but also provides the perfect cover to conceal a ground blind. 

 The single downside of the setting  is that the only vista is directly ahead, overlooking the waterhole and beyond.  Mike, however, cleverly selected a blind with a zippered opening in the roof, which allowed me to stand and poke my head through the top of the blind providing a clear 360° view of the surrounding countryside.  Experience quickly taught me that the antelope found nothing threatening about my big head poking out of the structure that they accept as a permanent part of the windmill. That first afternoon, the only animal that came into the waterhole was a shooter buck that caught me with camera in hand shooting Meadow Larks that bathed in the pond.  It was the first afternoon so I didn’t even pick up my bow, but instead shot as many photos of the old goat as I could.  

 The next morning I was in the blind before sunrise, ready to lower the boom on the first Billy that wandered it for a drink.  As I glassed the area at first light, I saw antelope all around me; all far away, but there, nonetheless.  The waterhole is located in a shallow bowl that was perhaps a mile long and half a mile wide. The lowest part of the bowl was covered by high grass that had turned as brown as the surrounding pasture from a lack of rainfall.  Were it not for the windmill with its rotary energy filling the waterhole, there probably would not have been and animal for a mile.  But the area around the pond was green and prosperous thanks to the towering pump that noisily sucked the water from the deep recesses of the earth.

 All day long I glassed a shooter buck on the south side of the bowl; it was so far away, I could barely see it with the naked eye.  It would eat and then bed down; then it would rise, eat some more and bed down again.  This went on until 4:30 pm when it finally headed across the bottom in the direction of the windmill.  At times it completely disappeared into the tall grass, but then would magically reappear as it continued in my direction, albeit at a very slow pace.

 Adrenaline began to pollute my system as I monitored the buck’s advancing progress from the skylight of the blind.  When it was just about step out of the tall grass, I sat down, grabbed my crossbow with quaking hands and waited for it to appear in my shooting window.  The antelope took its sweet time about it; apparently it was in no big hurry to die.  When it came around the blind it walked quickly to the water’s edge and began taking long, noisy slurps of the refreshing liquid while providing me with a standing broadside shot. 

 I brought top reticule of the scope to the goat’s rib cage, steadied the bow by resting my elbows on my knees, then slowly squeezed the trigger until the bow noisily spit its projectile at the watering buck.  The alert animal almost spun out of the way of the arrow, but the bow was too fast and the distance too short for it to make good its escape.  The turning motion of the antelope caused the arrow to enter further back than intended, but because of the angle of the twisting body it exited further ahead having the same effect of a quartering away shot; it sealed the fate of the hapless pronghorn.  It trotted about fifty yards, stopped and then collapsed within a few short minutes.

 I waited until the head lay motionless then went to retrieve my vehicle.  Once back at the blind, I took some photos, dressed the goat and then drug it to the water hole to wash it out.  Once it was squeaky clean, I posed the critter, shot some photos of me with the goat using the camera’s 10 second timer.  When I had the photos I needed, I took down the blind, packed my gear into the jeep, policed that area and then went to get Mike to help me transport the animal back to the ranch so that I could get it on ice ASAP.  It had been a very good day.
 A very special thank you is extended to George LeBar and Mike Judd for their kindness and support in making this hunt and photo safari most memorable and productive by sharing the Lebar Ranch. 

Stan Potts' First Velvet Whitetail

by Brenda Potts 18. September 2011 09:41
Brenda Potts

After more than 45 years of bowhunting, Stan finally got his first whitetail buck in velvet, and it is quite a trophy. With 16 scorable points, the basic framed 7 x 5 with 4 stickers, grosses 197 4/8 inches.

Four strategies came together to let Stan kill this buck. First, they had a couple photos on a trail camera that let them know the buck was on the property. Second, topo maps and aerial photos gave an indication of how the buck might be moving to and from bedding and food sources. Third, a small, early season, green field food plot located in a very secluded timber setting was key to catching this buck on his feet in daylight hours. And fourth, an unbelievable intuitive knowledge of big buck habits honed over many years of bowhunting, combined with confidence in the stand choice is what finally pulled it all together. This was a non-guided hunt on private property we just leased in western Kentucky. No outfitter was involved.

Stan and cameraman Barry Greenhaw went in a few days prior to the Kentucky bow opener to scout and learn the property. They had never been on this farm before and had only just recently closed the deal on the lease. They quickly hung 4 double stand sets for filming and tried not to disturb the property.

The KY bow season opened with super hot temps in the high 90s. They decided not to hunt at all the first day. On the second afternoon, t he temps weren't much better and they only saw a few deer from the stand that afternoon. Stan poured over the topo maps and aerial photos of the farm. They didn't want to spend time on foot going through the property any more than they had to for fear of putting the big buck off his pattern. He decided by looking at the maps the most logical place for the buck to be bedded was on some benches in a big drainage.  He predicted the buck would be using the drainage to go to and from a secluded green food plot.


The weather cooled off on Monday. The stand location they decided to hunt was nearly half a mile from where they had trail camera photos of the buck, but Stan felt sure the buck would eventually use the drainage to feed.

I drove them to the stand in a utility vehicle Monday afternoon. There were already does and fawn in the field and they scattered when we approached. I waited until they were in the treestands before pulling out of the field. Stan said it wasn't 10 minutes before they deer came back out. Eventually a doe got downwind of them and spooked all the deer out of the food plot. After 45 minutes Barry spotted a buck stepping out of the timber into the foot plot. It was the buck they were after!

A second buck a 150 class 10 pointer was with him. That deer was broadside at 20 yards for about 10 minutes but the buck Stan wanted most did not present a good shot. He was either quartering toward or behind, or in front of the other buck. Finally after what seemed like an eternity, but was probably more like 10 minutes, the buck began to move toward another one that had just appeared. This gave Stan the chance he had been waiting for. The shot was broadside at about 20 yards. With Mathews in hand he sent his broadhead to its mark and the deer didn't go far, going down in the timber. Footage from the hunt will be on Mathews Dominant Bucks TV (Outdoor Channel) and North American Whitetail TV (Sportsmen Channel) next year.

 

 

Bowhunting Wisconsin Whitetails and Wyoming Elk

by Todd Graf 14. September 2011 14:32
Todd Graf

‘Tis the season, folks!  As I write this blog, I am washing my clothes, fine tuning my Mathews Monster, cleaning out my truck and doing anything bowhunting related to pass the time before the Wisconsin archery opener this Saturday!  Ah, bow season is finally here!  After a terribly long offseason, I can’t wait to get up a tree Saturday morning and enjoy the beautiful scenery that Central Wisconsin has to offer.

After a slow start to the offseason with my Camtrakkers, I was finally able to get some Wisconsin shooter bucks showing up on my cameras, just in time for the season!   Honestly, while getting pictures of big bucks on trail camera during the summer is fun, it does little to help me kill them come fall, because I know their patterns will change drastically.  However, knowing where mature bucks are spending their time on my property during late August and early September can really help me get a bead on those bucks heading into the hunting season.  

I am hoping that any of these nice Wisconsin whitetails will make the mistake of walking under my stand this fall!

With the bucks seemingly coming out of the wood works in the last couple weeks, I have decided to try and implement a new strategy this fall to better my chances of harvesting a mature buck: hunting out of a ground blind.  I recently set out a hay bale blind that will enable me to hunt (successfully, hopefully) off the ground this fall.  This is a new tactic for me and one I am excited about trying.  Normally, my hunting strategy consists of me hunting out of a Lone Wolf Hang-On and set of sticks and staying mobile to keep the deer from patterning me.  In fact, my 2010 Illinois buck was a result of moving my set to get closer to the action.  However, sometimes there simply isn’t a tree suitable for a treestand of any sort where the deer are congregating, and hunting out of a ground blind is the next best option.  One thing is for sure, I can’t wait to get up close and personal with the deer this fall!

Hopefully this hay bale blind will allow me to get up closer and personal with some monster bucks this season.  

It’s hard to believe, but in just a couple of days, I will be up a tree hunting whitetails.  Even harder to believe is that following my first couple hunts in Wisconsin, I will be making a trip out to Table Mountain Outfitters in Wyoming to hunt with longtime friends Scott and Angie Denny.  I am particularly excited for this trip, and am hoping to duplicate the success I had last year antelope hunting.  If you remember, Justin Zarr and I both shot good antelope bucks hunting with Scott and Angie.  I am hoping that Table Mountain Outfitters can turn into my little Western honey hole!  

My little man, Craig, standing next to some native grasses.  If I were a deer, I would definitely want to hide in there, then come out for an afternoon snack on some clover, wouldn't you?

Craig and his friend, Sammy, are looking forward to hunting together out of this comfortable condo.  In fact, when those brutally cold Midwest temperatures arrive late season, I may even sneak up there for a hunt or two.  

I genuinely wish each and every one of you the best of luck this fall, but more importantly, wish you safe travels and time afield.  I’ll be spending a lot of time in the woods between Illinois and Wisconsin, so if you see me out there keeping the roads hot, stop by and say hello!  I always have a little free time to talk hunting!  If you guys are hunting out of a tree, please be sure to wear your safety harness, and remember you have a family waiting for you at home.   No buck, regardless how big, is worth risking your life over!  Also, if you are fortunate enough to enjoy some success, we here at bowhunting.com want to share in your success!  Please send us your trophy photos to this link here!  Good luck this fall everyone, stay safe and happy hunting!

Bow Seasons Opening Day

by Mike Willand 31. August 2011 14:55
Mike Willand

I awake. Eyes still shut and body still warm. I sit up in my soft bed still hunched over, grasping a minor head pain from the few cocktails which visited me the night before. My eyelids open faintly as I put foot into action, followed by weight, and then in one swift motion stand erect, yet unstable. I shake it off with a forceful yawn.

I ease across the bedroom floor being careful not to wake my beautiful wife as she sleeps so peacefully and so carelessly without thought of the day that will soon follow. The bedroom door squeaks ever so softly as I dance through the doorway and into the hall, shutting the door behind.

I proceed next into my daughter’s room and peak over her tiny crib. Leaning over her nightly fortress, I place my lips on her cheek, run my hand softly over her hair, and disappear back into the loneliness of an empty hallway. The whole time wondering if she’ll ask where I am when she awakes.

Into our guest bathroom I go. Parades of womanly decorations greet me in my tiny chamber. Quickly I undress and step into the shower. The water instantly awakens my senses with a frigid reminder of the upcoming months in which I will make this an almost daily routine. However, today is different. It’s a day I have yearned for since the robin's return in late March and the television first roared with the crowds of summer’s baseball admirers. Today is the opening day of archery season and my body is still fresh from the short hibernation of the hunter.

Storms of memories cascade into my aching head as I continue to shower. Thoughts and dreams of a new year in stand amongst my most favored of competitors - the whitetail. And I thank God I can do it again! As I close my eyes to rinse the soap off my hide, the visions of the great deer I have known flood into my mind like the great Mississippi in spring. And then dreams of the great bucks I anticipate to encounter this year trade with them.

I step from the shower with a great loud thud which is heard throughout the land! Yet a soft touch onto my bathroom floor. My ears are erect now, senses sharpening, and blood at a steady gait tingles through my veins and quickens its pace. The predator within me - awakes! Within minutes, I am dressed and descend down our home's dark winding stairs.

I march into the kitchen with great pride. It has been so long since this moment and I am overwhelmed with anticipation for what the season might bring. I open the fridge to quench my thirst, followed by my greedy acquisition of the last apple. Standing over the kitchen sink I stare out our window into the dark unknown. I knew the ground I would hunt this morning, and knew the tree I wanted to hunt from. The young oak stood on the edge of a secluded meadow, where switch grasses grew as tall as a man. Surrounded by apple trees, this oak has proved its worth over the years with encounter after encounter. But as I took the first bite of my forbidden fruit I wondered if today it could yet yield even another encounter. I continue to chomp at my apple and walk out of our home, locking the door behind.

The cool air gripped me so, causing my heart to skip a beat and blood to quicken once again! It is a crisp air, so full of life and with the whispering promise of an autumn to follow. The gentle breeze blows from the south but still harbors the last hints of summer's domain.

My truck waits out front like a chariot waiting to cry unto battle. Packed the night before, it stood motionless waiting for its master. I cross the grass with such eagerness. This drive I knew would be the beginning of many and would take me to unknown places in the months to follow. It would be the first of another year, filled with the trials that I am to set before myself. There will be triumph! There will be pain. Moments in between scattered with my thoughts, prayers, frustration, eagerness, loss, and ultimately – belief. A deep belief within myself and something Above me still.

The truck roars into gear as I leave my familiar home. The beams from my vehicle are about the only light in an otherwise dark and sleepy neighborhood. I turn the corner heading out of town. The whitetail woods my next destination.

On the highway I glance at the dashboard, seeking out the morning's present time. It spoke ten after four. I knew a twenty minute drive laid itself ahead of me. It would put me into my perch at ten till five I presumed. This meant a good hour before a legal shooting light. A perfect time, I thought, to get into an eagerly awaited and ready position, waiting for the first footsteps of autumn's prey.

Trailing down the highway I begin to drift. Thoughts and dreams billow into my mind once more. Visions of the past reappeared as if to haunt my present memory. The Big Nine who slipped away, the Great Ten who I could not draw on! Little bucks, dozens of does, and the found sheds of whitetail that were never even seen by me. And then my imagination! Conjuring mythical males with countless inches of antler! Greater whitetail than I have ever known seep into my brain and deliberately force me down a path of personal glory! My head is flooded with these thoughts as I continue down the road.

As I pull over the river, I can see my destination in sight. A twenty two minute drive was about to abruptly end. As I slow my faithful steed to an eventual stop, I feel my blood begin to quicken once more!

I pull off the road and onto the gravel beside it, shutting off the lights in one fluid motion. My hand turns the key and an eerie silence falls once more to me. The door to my truck opens with swift intentions, and a blanket of cool, crisp air charges in! Instantly I am outside my truck and gearing up for what will be my final descent before dawn. I sit down on my tailgate buttoning and pulling at the cotton camouflage that will hide me from searching eyes. Soon, I am lacing up the boots that will guide me over various and often intemperate terrains.

With my earthly uniform now covering my body I reach for the one item that will separate my intentions from friendly to foe. I open its casing and am overcome with what this moment truly resembles. It is man's first instinct now buried in a world of conveniences and farce. An item so basic in principle and yet so regarded even in this day. As I take hold of the almost primitive object, it is like I am reaching back to ancestral needs. It is my bow! Where string and stick meet with an unearthly BUMP! As if to say to the gods our species will not fail and become earth's most fabled of predators! Holding it I feel a pure restoration of the human spirit.

I am now ready. I am now equipped. I begin my hike into the great woods lying ahead of me, one foot after the next. And although I walk into these woods with no one by my side - I am not alone.

Good luck on opening day.

Wyoming Antelope Hunting Success

by Dan Schafer 31. August 2011 14:32
Dan Schafer

While driving to Wyoming on August 14th, my hunting partner John Herrmann and I were talking about what we expected from our antelope hunt.  In all honesty, it was more about getting away in August to hunt and hang out with our good friend Dustin DeCroo and get to know fellow Bowhunting.com Staff members Neal McCullough and Grant Jacobs.  We were just as equally excited about the possibility of fly fishing in the mountains as we were about antelope hunting.  With temperatures in the low to mid-90s, it’s hard for a couple of midwestern guys like us to get into the true hunting mood.  That all changed after we crossed the border into Wyoming that evening.

It was a welcome sight to see the Welcome to Wyoming sign.  Forever West and home of many antelope.


After spotting our first antelope in the sagebrush, we started to forget all about the weather.  We started talking about what it was going to be like to hunt these speedsters.  If you’ve ever been with a good friend on a hunt you know exactly what I’m talking about.  You start envisioning different scenarios and how each one will play out.  You even feed off of each other’s energy and begin to get more and more excited.  Yeah, we were starting to talk a little bit less about the trout and more about the antelope.  Our game faces were starting to come on.

A couple hours later we were at Dustin’s travel trailer, which was parked in Daniel Peak’s yard, just south of Gillette.  Unfortunately, Dustin was a couple hours away taking care of some last minute business and John and I felt a little bit like we were intruding in a stranger’s yard.  The feeling of trespassing soon faded when we met Daniel.  For our 6 days in Wyoming, we couldn’t have asked for a better host. 

With a couple hours of daylight left, we called Dustin and he gave us directions to the area we would be hunting.  From the time we pulled out of Daniel’s driveway, to scouting the land we would be hunting and back to Daniel’s house, I don’t believe there was more than 2 minutes that went by where we didn’t have antelope in sight!  Trout?  What trout?  By this time, we were in all out Fall hunting mode and couldn’t wait for the morning. 

That evening, back at the trailer, our esteemed guide Dustin showed up and our mouths were moving more than an 8th grade girl’s at a slumber party about all the antelope we had seen.  After watching the full moon rise and sharing a couple cold drinks, it was time to hit the sleeping bags.  The morning of August 15th couldn’t come soon enough. 

After waking up, it was decided that John would be up first.  To be truthful, having him shoot an antelope on this trip would mean just as much as shooting one myself.  It wasn’t long until we spotted our first good buck of the morning that we felt we could put a good stalk on.  Then, after a short 1-mile walk and 20 minute blown stalk, it was apparent to these two Wisconsin boys that we were in for a serious challenge.  Never having stalked big game in the open sage country, we sounded like a herd of buffalo.  Well, at least I did!  All we could do is laugh and head back to the truck. 

This same scenario played out pretty much the whole first day.  Spot, stalk and watch the antelope run away.  Repeat.  Getting within range of the amazing eyesight these animals have is one thing, but to do it all on film was an extra challenge we were starting to think might be impossible to overcome.  After the final blown stalk in the evening, John looked at us and said, “Well, that was number twelve and thirteen is my lucky number!” 

The next morning we were able to spot a buck not far from where John had a very close encounter the day before.  Without giving away all the details of the hunt before the next episode of Bowhunt or Die comes out, John was able to seal the deal on his first antelope!  You guessed it, on lucky stalk number 13!

John Herrmann with his first Antelope!  The smile says it all!


Now, unfortunately, I would love to tell you exactly how the rest of the hunt unfolded, but I won’t.  I know, you probably hate me right now, but the wait will be worth it for Episode 7 of this season’s Bowhunt or Die webshow that will be released shortly.  I can tell you this though; I was able to take my first antelope.  The events that unfolded around it still mystify me today.  If I weren’t able to put my hands on him, I would have thought he was a mirage.

I was also able to shoot my first antelope.  You'll have to check out the next episode of Bowhunt or Die to see how the hunt unfolded!


Sometimes a hunting trip goes way beyond the animals we chase.  To tag out on this trip was great, but can’t compare to the strengthened bond between good friends and meeting new friends.  I honestly don’t think I would do half of the things I do if it wasn’t for the people I share them with.  Those bonds and memories will last for an eternity.

Hunting trips are more than just about the animals we chase.  The friendships we strengthened are the true trophy.


Oh, those trout we were so jacked up to catch?  We didn’t completely forget about them!  We were able to get to the mountains and catch a few, share even more laughs and finish off an unexpectedly amazing trip with great friends.

We were even able to squeeze in a little trout fishing.  John with a beautiful mountain brown trout.


A big thanks goes out to Daniel Peak for letting us cut up our antelope in his garage and open up his house to a few strangers that he didn’t know.  Thanks again big man and I look forward to the day when our paths cross again!  Hopefully with you packing an elk out for me!

Our host, Daniel Peak was able to tag this beautiful antelope while we were in Wyoming.  Congrats and thanks again Daniel!

 

The sun may set on one adventure, but it always rises again to begin another.

Adapting to changes will determine whitetail success

by Scott Abbott 31. August 2011 14:11
Scott Abbott

Situations that are out of our control can come along and impact our season at any time. How we adapt to these changes will dictate our level of success in the woods. Staying positive and developing a new plan of attack is key.

The winter before last I was blindsided with the sight of Amish logging my favorite piece of land. This spring after one and a half years they finally finished their work and pulled out of the area.  What was once a beautiful stand of timber chock full of white oak trees is now a huge tangle of tree tops and weeds.  There is a positive to be found here though, I am sure the deer will move more on this land during daylight hours now because of the vast amount of security cover. However, I now lack all of my ambush points from yesteryear and must change my mindset and tactics to be successful on this property.

Stepping back for a moment and digesting all of the changes, it lead my mind to a new setup. One I am very confident in.  I am not one to hunt near field edges but this one is different, hear me out....  The clear cut is located to the North of this stand site and reaches all the way to the fields edge, that is planted in corn. This is a huge benefit because as I already mentioned, that clear cut offers daylight security cover for the deer to transition from it to the food source. This stand site is also located on a breakline of a 100 yard wide strip of timber that meets the clear cut and an inside field corner. Say what? That is a lot to envision. Allow my photos to help clear this up.

This is a view from my approximate stand location looking North into the clear cut.  The corn field is located 20 yards to my East and 100 yards to my South. The bucks love traveling along the transition of one type of cover and another. The following picture shows exactly that with a well used trail leading to the corn field along this transition line. 

This trail is located about ten yards into the timber off of the transition with the clear cut, it takes the deer right to the inside corner of the corn field. I expect most of my encounters to be from the deer traveling this line as well as coming from the clear cut to the inside corner.

 

This view to the East shows the corn field, the fields inside corner and the transition of the field and the clear cut.

The will be my view to the West where I expect to see the deer traveling to and from when utilizing the corn field. Traveling West takes the deer to an old swamp bed that was drained a few years ago. It has served as bedding since it was drained.

The corn kernels are already hard and the deer and other wildlife are hitting it heavily.

In my opinion with out a doubt the best type of cover to hunt is security cover. No matter what your archery season pressure is, if you are hunting a stand location with cover that gives whitetail the security to move during the day, the number of deer you will see will skyrocket.

There really is a lot going on at this stand location, it is not that often that you locate a place that offers so many desirable features in one spot. I expect the stand location to be a hub of whitetail activity. There is one thing this spot is lacking to this point though, a legitimate shooter buck.  I have had two cameras on this property since the middle of June and have yet to capture a photo of a buck I want to chase.  This is not necessarily bad news though, as late summer always has a shuffling of many bucks leaving their summer areas to relocate to their fall haunts. Keep that bit of info fresh on your mind and keep an eye out for new bucks on your properties in the coming weeks.

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Chasing Speed Goats in Wyoming

by Neal McCullough 30. August 2011 15:46
Neal McCullough

A few weeks ago Grant Jacobs and I had a great time hunting with fellow pro-staffers Dustin DeCroo, Dan Schafer and John Herrmann in Wyoming.  Grant and I left Minnesota bright (or not so bright) and early on a Tuesday morning at three o’clock and after a 10 hour drive, we arrived in a small Wyoming town just in time for an afternoon waterhole hunt.  As we walked out to our stand, we were greeted with the sight of 30 goats staged directly above what would quickly become our new honey hole.  After setting up our blind we waited with high hopes of spotting a good buck.  While we certainly glimpsed plenty of does and fawns that first afternoon and evening, day one left us looking for a good shooter buck.  Nevertheless, we went into day two with high hopes. 


Grant Jacobs waiting patiently with his Mathews Z9 ready.

On Wednesday, we sat the entire day at the waterhole with action on and off throughout much of the afternoon. The clear highlight of our second day in Wyoming was when a good buck sauntered straight in for a shot at 40 yards.  I was filming and Grant had the buck in his sights.  Unfortunately, a combination of warm temperatures and a long distance (especially for a Midwestern hunter) coupled with inexperience and resulting nerves on both our parts, Grant shot just over the back of that buck and missed him, what an awesome opportunity! 


This shooter buck watered at 30 yards... check back to "Bowhunt or Die" to see all the action.

It wasn’t until day four of the hunt (our final day) that we decided to take a doe if the opportunity presented itself.  Having spent the three prior days waiting for shooter bucks to come along, we agreed that a mature doe would be worth taking as opposed to taking nothing at all.  It took all day, but around four in the afternoon, a big group of does and fawns came to water and with the camera rolling, Grant made a great 20 yard shot on a mature doe.


Grant and I with our last day Antelope Doe

Getting the doe down was definitely the highlight of our Wyoming hunt; it was truly the culmination of a whole load of new and exciting hunting experiences.  Throughout our weeklong hunt, we saw plenty of other wildlife, picked up on some distinctively Western hunting strategies and techniques and were challenged daily with the new terrain, weather and game. 


We had all kinds of visitors at the watering hole including this Badger.

Overall Wyoming was an incredible experience for Grant and me and we have Dustin DeCroo to thank for most of it.  He set us on great spots and we had unbelievable encounters and chances.  Western hunting is not easy: long shots, tough terrain, hot temperatures, and goats with excellent vision definitely made for a challenging hunt.  I have a newfound respect for Western hunters; the experience was humbling and I feel grateful just to have been able to spend a little time with the pronghorns of the sage dotted plains of Wyoming. 

 See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough




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