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Bulldozers push out wildlife for more corn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bowhunting Black Bears

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

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

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

Intimidation Factor

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

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

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

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

Point of Impact

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Flow

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

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

Odor Control

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

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

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


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

Real Work Lies Ahead for Wisconsin Deer Hunting Makeover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OK. Never mind.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Wisconsin Right to Add Wolf Hunting Season

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Coyotes Prey Heavily on Southeast’s Deer Fawns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Politics of Bowhunting, Deer Hunting Easy Compared to Crane Hunting

by Patrick Durkin 19. April 2012 03:34
Patrick Durkin

Deer hunting sparks some of the ugliest political fights you’ll ever see, whether it concerns antlerless hunts, deer baiting or opening our archery season to crossbows.

But to see true culture clashes, nothing compares to efforts to open hunting seasons on mourning doves or sandhill cranes. OK, wolves too. But that’s another blog.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese feed in a central Wisconsin field.

There’s no reasoning with many folks from the birding community when you calmly note their opposition lacks logic. Take Wisconsin, for example. You’d expect that with nine humdrum mourning dove seasons behind us that Wisconsinites could politely discuss a hunt for sandhill cranes.

But no. Mention a sandhill hunt, and folks still cock their fists and get sideways, even though no one’s life crumbled from dove hunting. No one seems to remember that spite vanished like spiced dove breasts on hor devours trays after dove season opened in 2003.

Likewise, if we established a sandhill crane season tomorrow, we’d be yawning by Labor Day. But in proposing a crane hunt this past winter, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, did Wisconsin hunters no favors by citing crop damage as a hunting justification.

If foraging cranes trouble Kleefisch and his fellow legislators, why did they abolish earn-a-buck rules for deer hunting? No critter rivals deer for damaging crops and plants, and no program whacked whitetails like earn-a-buck.

Sandhill cranes are distinguished by their red-capped head.

In killing EAB, lawmakers parroted my fellow hunters who claimed there aren’t enough deer, and that hunters aren’t pest-control officers. But when the Associated Press asked Marshfield’s Marlin Laidlaw, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress’s agricultural damage committee, about Kleefisch’s proposal, Laidlaw said sandhill cranes are out of control:

“The problem with the people who don’t understand wildlife and wildlife management, they join an organization and fall in love with a particular species. As far as they’re concerned, you can’t have too many. They just don’t get it. You’ve got to control populations.”

Hmm. Was Laidlaw talking about sandhill cranes or white-tailed deer? For years he loudly opposed EAB and the Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to reduce deer numbers.

We can agree, however, that most people don’t hunt to provide the public free pest-control services. We hunt because it’s exciting and challenging, and provides lean free-range meat no store can match. Granted, when the DNR regulates hunting to prevent critters from becoming a danger or nuisance, that’s a bonus; even a necessity. But it doesn’t motivate most hunters.

 Sandhill cranes can be viewed as both a majestic bird and great table fare.

Meanwhile, protectionists neither help cranes nor their cause by blindly opposing a hunt. Karen Etter Hale, a vice president of Wisconsin’s Audubon Council, told the AP: “If hunters want to further damage their reputation by pushing for yet another species to hunt, then that’s what they should do.”

Yep, that’s right. Stay on your side of the tracks, people. Folks like Etter Hale said the same thing about dove hunting in Wisconsin a decade ago. But a hunting season for a plentiful, large-bodied, good-eating bird isn’t about reputations. It’s about reminding our timid DNR of its historical mission to promote public hunting and fishing when self-sustaining species can provide meat, fur and recreation.

Meanwhile, Madison’s Audubon Society posted a “Sandhill Crane Hunt Alert” on its Web site, encouraging members to contact legislators.

Sigh. Why do people with similar goals hate working together? Hunters and bird-huggers both donate to habitat-conservation causes. Both smile and perk their ears at goose music and crane bugles. And both quote Aldo Leopold more than the Bible.

Well, here’s a Leopold quote bird-folks ignore: “Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.”

That’s the opening sentence of Leopold’s seminal book “Game Management,” which guided North America’s efforts to replenish the birds and mammals we nearly wiped out 100 years ago through unregulated development, market hunting and subsistence hunting.

In Leopold’s spirit, Etter Hale, Laidlaw and other conservation leaders should seize crane hunting as a chance to work together. First, they should join forces to establish the season, and require hunt applicants to pay $15 and those receiving a permit to pay $25 more. If opponents don’t like hunting, they can apply for permits and burn what they receive.

Next, the state could earmark fees for the International Crane Foundation, and equal amounts for the DNR’s endangered resources bureau, which needs help. Its 2011 budget was $5.9 million, most of it from donations.

That’s only 12 percent of the Wisconsin DNR’s combined budgets for its fisheries bureau, $26.5 million; and wildlife bureau, $21 million. Most of those budgets are funded by anglers, trappers and hunters.

Birders should be emulating that generosity rather than demanding government impose their values on everyone. Besides, as Leopold proved, people can be both hunters and bird-lovers. They can see sandhill cranes both as majestic birds and flying rib-eyes. They acknowledge -- and embrace – life’s apparent contradictions.

The great ones, like Leopold, make it look easy.


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 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


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! 


Wisconsin Bowhunter Completes 4-year Quest for Drop-Tine Buck

by Patrick Durkin 20. December 2011 13:27
Patrick Durkin

Paul Conley had every right to give himself high-fives and back slaps in early December after arrowing the trophy buck he hunted four years in Wisconsin's Chequamegon National Forest.

Instead, the 23-year-old Mellen, Wisconsin, bowhunter credited his girlfriend, Casey; children, Trinity and Xander; parents, Al and Theresa; as well as grandparents, siblings, buddies and his late friend, Tom Bruckner, for their help in his success Dec. 4.

Paul Conley, 23, shows the big drop-tine buck he shot Dec. 4 in the Chequamegon National Forest near his home in Mellen, Wisconsin.

It was Casey who chased him out the door for late-season hunts when he was burning out, Trinity who asked to see pictures of “Drop Time” when he returned, his grandparents who bought him his first compound bow, and Bruckner who assured him he’d eventually get the buck.

Yep, as Conley recited names, influences and vital roles, you’d have thought he was accepting an Academy Award or the Super Bowl trophy.

Then again, if you ask deer hunters, most would take Conley’s buck over an Oscar or a Lombardi. Why? Beneath the left antler beam on this monstrous 8-point buck hangs a rare 10.5-inch drop tine, which measures 6.5 inches around its end. Further, both main beams measure 21-1/8 inches in length and 7.5 inches around their bases. The tallest tines stand nearly 12 inches above the beams.

Brandon, Paul, Al and Theresa Conley pose with Paul’s monster buck at their home near Cayuga, Wisconsin.

Conley passed up shots at six different bucks the past four years after spotting this buck in his trail-camera photos in 2008. Since then, his cameras recorded the drop-tine buck in hundreds of photos and videos, documenting its growth, antler changes, and daily and seasonal travels.

For instance, the buck’s body appeared largest in 2008, and its antlers reached their peak growth in 2010. The buck’s distinctive drop tine appeared as an antler blemish in 2008 before sprouting into a long tine in 2009. It grew longer and more vertically in 2010, and blossomed into a replica of an old-time police Paddy-whacker this year.

Based on photos and the fact the buck wore its front bottom teeth to the gum, Conley estimates it was 8.5 years old. The buck never appeared at Conley’s bait sites until Halloween each fall, and then visited frequently until late January, when it migrated to winter deeryards farther south. The buck’s feeding visits, however, seldom occurred in daylight.

When Conley reviewed his trail-cam photos from Wisconsin’s nine-day firearms seasons from 2008-2011, none showed the buck during daylight. Until this month, its daylight visits occurred only during the rut from late October through mid-November.

When Conley shot the buck at 7:10 a.m. on Dec. 4, it marked only the second time the buck appeared in daylight after a gun season. The first time was the day before, according to his trail cameras.

Based on trail-cam photos the past four years, and the fact the buck had worn its front bottom teeth down to the gum, Conley estimates the buck was 8.5 years old.

The buck wasn’t eating bait, however, when Conley shot. It was about 300 yards away, returning to its bedding area.

“I had just moved my tree stand to that spot 15 hours before,” Conley said. “I thought I’d try cutting him off between his bed and the bait. I thought he might be going from his bedding area to the bait at dawn. I was expecting him from the west, but he came from the east. It looks like he ran all night and hit the bait before bedding down for the day.”

Conley said his long hunt and analysis of trail-cam photos also revealed interesting details about the buck’s rut-season movements. “Two days after the full moon (in late October to early November), he was out cruising during daylight all four years,” Conley said. “That’s when bucks really started chasing does.”

Conley couldn’t estimate how many hours he spent on stand since 2008, but he was there every day – usually dawn to dusk – starting in late October and running through gun season. He saw the buck six times while hunting; once in 2008, never in 2009, twice in 2010 and three times this year.

He missed killing the buck in 2010 when his arrow cut off a branch between him and the buck. That happened the Saturday before gun season, and it was the first deer he saw during a weeklong vigil.

This year he saw the buck the Monday and Tuesday before gun season, but it wasn’t close enough to shoot. His trail-cam photos also documented three other daytime visits in November while Conley was working.

The buck's drop tine reached 10.5 inches this year, its largest size since first growing in 2009.

The day he arrowed the buck, he chose his bow instead of a muzzleloader. “I really wanted to get him with a bow,” he said. “That was one of my main goals from the start.”

Soon after he made the 15-yard shot and watched the buck fall five yards away, he called two friends with his news. The word spread so fast his cell phone buzzed the rest of the day.

“Everyone in town knew I was hunting a big drop-tine buck,” Conley said. “I kept it hush-hush the first two years, but I couldn’t keep it in after that. I had friends from here to Green Bay calling to see if I had gotten him.”

What will he do for an encore? Although the Cayuga area holds some of Wisconsin’s lowest deer populations, and most hunters go days, weeks or years without seeing a whitetail, Conley thinks big bucks are worth the wait.

“It wasn’t easy, but shooting this one fulfilled a dream,” he said. “There’s other big bucks out there, and some of them have his antler traits.”




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.




Curiosity Kills Whitetails Too, Not Just Cats!

by Patrick Durkin 17. November 2011 13:54
Patrick Durkin


RED OAK, Iowa – The white-tailed doe lying dead in the creek bottom on a recent Tuesday morning proved cats aren’t the only creatures killed by curiosity.

That doe would still be alive if she had simply kept feeding downhill in the steep gully 35 yards from my tree stand. Unfortunately for her -- but fortunately for my venison supply -- she spotted movement as I turned my feet to follow her progress, bow in hand and arrow nocked.

I froze when she stopped and stared up at me, her head jerking up and down, then back and forth, trying to get a better look. After studying my statue imitation for two minutes, the doe flicked her tail and resumed feeding downstream. She still stopped occasionally to look my way, but was no longer on red alert.

Patrick Durkin prepares to pull his bow-killed doe from a creek bottom in southwestern Iowa in late October.

When she was 50 yards farther down the creek, she jerked around and looked upstream to the east. I watched as a larger doe stepped into view.  If this second doe stayed her course, she would soon offer a 20-yard shot.

As I extended my left arm to start drawing my bow, the bigger doe thrust her nose high overhead to test the wind. Then she whirled and cantered back upstream. Obviously, she had caught my scent on an errant breeze.

The first doe still stood in the creek bottom below, watching her counterpart flee. She seemed puzzled, and her curiosity soon betrayed her. Rather than resume feeding, she walked to the spot where the other doe had caught my scent. The breeze now favored me, however, and the doe soon relaxed and walked within 18 yards of me. I drew my bow when she looked away, but I wasn’t fast enough.

Jay McAninch admires the 9-point buck he bow-killed near Red Oak, Iowa, on Oct. 25.

As I settled in at full draw and aimed, the doe whirled to face me head-on. She now presented too narrow of a shot angle, so all I could do was stare at her while holding my 65-pound bow at full draw. Again, she jerked her head back and forth, up and down, more vigorously than before.

I hoped she would relax before my strength gave out from keeping the bow drawn. A minute dragged by and maybe another. Just as my right arm began twitching with fatigue, the doe turned and walked five yards, offering a quartering-away shot angle.

After aligning my bow sight, I settled the top sight-pin behind the doe’s left shoulder and released the arrow. It flew true and the doe took off, mortally wounded. After running downhill into the gully and back up its far slope, the doe stopped atop the embankment, wavered and tumbled back down the hill. Its body came to rest on a fallen log at the creek’s edge.

This buck fell within 80 yards after getting double-lunged at 20 yards.

My friend, Jay McAninch of Centreville, Va., soon arrived with my truck to help field dress the doe and take it to Jill and Roger Bergstrom’s farm a mile away. McAninch and I were making our third Iowa bowhunt since first drawing a nonresident archery license in 2004. He grew up in Red Oak, and with help from Jill, his sister-in-law, secures permission for us to hunt nearby farms.

This was the third day of our six-day bowhunt and it grew even more memorable before sunset. That night, McAninch and I hunted a farm east of town we hadn’t tried before. I saw only one doe, but when McAninch picked me up after dark, he announced he had shot a big-bodied buck and felt confident the wound was fatal.

We discussed our options and decided to wait until morning to track and retrieve it. The night would be cool, so we wouldn’t lose any meat to spoilage. When we returned Wednesday morning, McAninch suggested I hunt till 9 a.m. before helping him. He said he would send a text message if/when he found his buck before then.

These fawns were just two of several deer walking within bow range of the author.

At 8:12 McAninch texted to say his search was underway. At 8:37 my iPhone’s vibrated to tell me I had email. The subject line of the first message read, “Found him.” The buck’s photo was attached.

The buck hadn’t run 100 yards before dying, and it was a stout-framed 9-pointer with shoulders and hind legs resembling a steer’s. McAninch said it was the biggest buck of his life and asked if I would remove its cape so he could take it to a taxidermist.

“No sweat; happy to help,” I said. “You know what will happen the next three days, though? Every time we hunt, you’ll see only bucks and I’ll see only antlerless deer, and we won’t fill our second tag.”

If that forecast proves false, you’ll be the first to know.


Do Whitetails Have a Sixth Sense that Detects Hunters?

by Patrick Durkin 17. November 2011 13:38
Patrick Durkin


While peering through yellowing leaves in the aspens surrounding my tree stand a few weeks ago, I watched three deer trot down an open hillside toward the woods’ edge. Seconds later the lead deer, a yearling buck, flickered through the sumacs bordering the woods and headed toward the oak holding me and my stand.

I wasn’t interested in shooting the 4-point buck, so I turned my attention to the other two deer, which were lingering in the sumacs. Moments later an adult doe walked into view, heading straight toward me. To her rear, another adult doe fed into view. With an antlerless tag burning a hole in my pocket,  I decided to try arrowing the first doe.

Can deer sense a hunter lurking nearby, even when it can't see or smell us?

As the thought took hold, a jolt of predatory adrenaline raced through my system. Just then, the lead doe jerked up her head and stared at me. My mind raced. Had I twitched, moved my bow or cocked my head without realizing it? What caught her attention?

For about 30 seconds the doe stared at me, occasionally dropping her head as if to feed, and then jerking it back up. When that didn’t work, she jutted her head first to the right, then to the left, trying for different views. Unlike humans, deer have poor  three-dimensional vision, so they often take several views to get a perspective on possible threats.

All told, she must have taken eight such “readings” in those 30 seconds before walking off stiff-legged, occasionally stopping and stamping the ground with a front hoof. When the doe got about 30 yards away and was still unsure about me, she looked  over her shoulder a couple of more times, and then trotted away.

If this buck had a cold, prickly feeling on the back of its neck when walking into range of Minnesota's Sara Larsen, it didn't heed its internal warning soon enough.

Once all three deer were gone, I kept wondering how the doe had suddenly picked me out. Maybe my silhouette was too obvious against the gray-dawn sky. Or maybe it was the deer’s sixth sense, which hunters often ascribe to whitetails. Could that doe have somehow sensed my deadly intentions when I decided I wanted to shoot her?

Don’t laugh. I’m not sure I believe deer can sense danger, but I know deer hunters more skilled than me who swear deer have that power. Besides, anyone who has a dog can attest how quickly Rover knows your mood without hearing your voice. And who hasn’t had a cold, prickly feeling on the back of the neck when something doesn’t seem right, or when you sense someone is watching?

But do deer and other prey animals get such sensations? That’s a question that will never be answered with authority. After all, we don’t even know how much extra sensory power humans have, so how can we prove or disprove such abilities in a nervous, jumpy critter like a whitetail?

Some skeptics of the "sixth sense" believe deer pick up errant odors or sounds, not just "bad vibes."

A friend in Ontario, however, believes animals can sense intentions. Lil Anderson of Kenora is married to a deer hunting pal of mine, and when she goes deer hunting, she has an incredible knack for getting close to deer. She’s been so close she can hear their stomachs growling, and she has pinpointed deer after hearing them sniff the air as they try to locate her.

Anderson thinks deer get close to her because they don’t always perceive her as a threat, even though she has killed some impressive bucks in her time. Besides her job with Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources, she also works as a wildlife rehabilitator. At any given time, Anderson is nursing bald eagles, geese, beavers, cub bears and fawns back to health. She says her "patients" instantly sense her mood when she approaches. If she’s tense, they respond in kind. 

A wildlife rehabilitator interviewed for this article says her "patients" quickly sense if she's stressed as soon as she approaches.

Anderson believes it’s possible deer don’t always get so close to me or her husband because they detect our intentions. I’m not sure I agree, and joke that it might just be that she smells nicer than we do, or maybe she doesn’t shake as much as I do from buck fever.

I guess we won’t settle this one today, but if you want to share your thoughts, you know how to reach me.


Bugling Bull Leads Bowhunter to First Cow Elk

by Patrick Durkin 5. October 2011 03:40
Patrick Durkin


SODA SPRINGS, Idaho – Two blue coolers sit in the shade at camp’s edge, crammed with the heart, liver, tenderloins and several-score pounds of other meat we hauled off the mountain Sunday when Karl Malcolm bow-killed his first elk.

After reviewing topographical maps, we decided Malcolm arrowed the cow about 2 miles and 1,600 feet above our campsite, which sits at 5,500 feet of elevation. Just to make sure we earned her meat, the cow ran 120 yards down the mountain’s far side before collapsing in the first bushes stout enough to block her 500-pound body from sliding farther.

Karl Malcolm admires the cow elk he arrowed Sept. 11 in southeastern Idaho.

As Mark Endris and I congratulated Malcolm at the kill site, I reminded him he broke camp policy: “I told you not to hunt any higher and farther than the saddle. We figured 1-1/2 miles and 1,200 feet above camp is far enough to pack an elk.”

He just smiled and said: “I heard a bugle up here. I had to follow.”

I dropped the subject, hating to sound like a grumpy 55-year-old scolding an eager pup of 29.

“Well, tell the story,” I said. “What happened?”

Patrick Durkin, left, and Karl Malcolm bone out Malcolm's cow elk.

Malcolm had sat on a ridgeline a mile from camp till 8 a.m. After hearing nothing, he stalked uphill toward the saddle, a flat meadow where two east-west ridgelines converge beneath a steep north-south ridgeline.

Elk cross often feed in the saddle and bed nearby. In fact, two days before, Malcolm got within 53 yards of the “king of the mountain,” a trophy bull no hunter would spurn. Although Malcolm had a clear shot at the bull, he passed it, thinking it too far for a bow and arrow.

Mark Endris, foreground, and Patrick Durkin head back to camp with meat-filled backpacks.

As he returned to the saddle Sunday, with the passed shot’s memory replaying in Second-Thoughts Theater, Malcolm spotted a cow elk feeding downhill. He tried moving in front of her, but never got close enough to shoot.

As that opportunity passed, a bull bugled from atop the north-south ridgeline. Malcolm hoofed uphill several hundred yards to the plateau, and then moved toward the bull’s last sound.

Patrick Durkin inspects a bull elk's impressive rub.

As he inched over and stalked downhill, he spotted an ear twitch in the brush below. At least three elk were 40 yards away. When they acted nervous and minced northward, Malcolm stooped and trotted downhill, angling to cut them off.

He stopped about 20 yards uphill from the elk, which grew increasingly spooky. Malcolm drew his bow, anticipating they would cross an opening below. He released his arrow when the lead cow stepped out. The arrow and three-blade Muzzy broadhead cleaved both lungs and clattered into the brush below.

After the cow fled and collapsed, Malcolm sat, waited an hour before trailing his kill, and then summoned his packers. Endris and I reached him within two hours, toting freighter-size backpacks, knives, sharpener and large meat-storage bags.

We congratulated him while admiring the elk’s tan hide, rock-rounded hoofs, and chocolate-brown head and neck. After taking photos, we rolled the old girl onto her back so Malcolm could field dress her.

The three-hour job that followed reduced the beautiful elk into a hide, skeleton, gut-pile and more than 250 pounds of boned-out meat. Malcolm and I worked at opposite ends of the elk, filleting its meat and dropping the sweet slabs into 2-gallon plastic bags. As each bag filled, Endris sealed and slid it into our packs’ cargo holds.

A view of Idaho's elk country.

With the meat removed, Malcolm extracted the elk’s two “ivory” or “whistler” teeth – their canines -- and sealed them in a bag for safe-keeping and jewelry. We then adjusted the loads on both freighter packs, and transferred the hide and leftover meat to Endris’ army backpack.

I’ve walked farther distances and lifted heavier weights, but never at the same time in combination. The pack-out took about 2-1/2 hours, most of it down steep, brushy mountainsides, causing constant mental reminders of “baby steps, baby steps.”

We seldom sat to rest, finding it easier to simply bend over and wait as our breathing returned to normal. Darkness greeted us as we stumbled into camp and transferred the meat to the coolers.

I congratulated Malcolm once more, silently praised the elk for her meat, and then welcomed an 8-hour sleep to toast our labors.



Giving Back to Landowners

by Neal McCullough 7. June 2011 11:46
Neal McCullough

One of my favorite ways to secure a hunting spot is creating value with the landowner where I would like to hunt.  Over the years this has been a very successful way to not only find good hunting land but also meet great new people. This past weekend Grant and I spent the day helping a landowner clear trails at one of our best hunting spots in Pepin County Wisconsin.  It was a little bit of hard work, but I have found that creating that value for the landowner in return the value we are getting (hunting rights) was a great trade.  If you don’t have equipment you can rent from many local rental shops.

Local Rental Shops will usually have Brush Cutters/Mowers/Saws to rent for the day at very reasonable costs.

After getting the equipment for the day we loaded the truck and headed to Pepin to meet the landowner and help with trail clearing and brush cutting.

A little hard work and spending time with the landowner can go a long way.

This is just one example but below are many more additional tips for landowner relationships when getting/keeping hunting access.

• Gain permission on any land you plan to hunt, fish, scout, or even walk on. - This is a no brainer and be sure to respect the owners wishes; who knows maybe next year they will change their mind.
• Ignorance of land boundaries is not an excuse to trespass! – Spend the money on a plat book and learn the “lay of the land”

Plat Maps like this one are available for every county.

• Communication! Communication! Communication! – Keep lines of communication open (email/call/text) and let them know what you are up to, keep them in the loop.  Most of the time I’ve found they are interested in when you will be there and what you are doing.
• Watch out for tractors, gates, buildings, and other equipment – You are a guest on the property, treat it with respect.
• Keep the current crops/livestock in mind when you hunt – You are sharing the land WITH the farmer; remember they have a job to do as well.
• Offer to help the farmer in whatever way you can – Whether that is monetarily through a lease or just helping clear brush.  Always give be giving back!
• Pack in, Pack out – If you bring it on the land be sure to take it with you.  This applies to garbage, but also to your hunting equipment.  Make sure you talk with the farmer regarding removal your tree stands each year.
• Thank you notes – This simple gesture at the end of the season can seal the deal for next year.  Write a short note to the landowner; let them just how much you appreciate the chance to hunt!

After a hard day’s work, treat yourself to a bowhunters favorite activity... some deer scouting and trail camera hanging!

I hope this season you take a little time to appreciate the land you get access to, and more importantly, the landowner.
See you in the woods,
Neal McCullough

Coyote Control - Necessary Part of Deer Management

by Patrick Durkin 31. May 2011 11:14
Patrick Durkin


After listening all day to university researchers and agency biologists discuss problems caused by white-tailed deer overabundance in Eastern states, Professor Valerius Geist of Canada opened his evening address with a prediction: “Enjoy your problem while it lasts, because the coyote is coming. Once he’s here, you’ll miss your deer problems.”

That was February 1994 in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting. Seventeen years later, with new studies documenting unprecedented fawn losses to the Southeast’s growing coyote population, some biologists call Geist prophetic.

Coyotes have long been part of the whitetail's world in the Great Lakes area and other regions,

but they've expanded their range into the Southeast in recent years.

Some even think coyotes threaten Southeastern herds, and possibly deer hunting itself. “If the coyote is not yet a problem on your property, he will be in a few years,” said Mark Buxton, a wildlife manager with Southeastern Wildlife Habitat Services in Thomaston, Alabama, and Ehrhardt, South Carolina. “If you think you have a few coyotes, you actually have lots of coyotes.”

Buxton made his remarks in July 2010 at the Quality Deer Management Association’s annual convention in Louisville, Kentucky.

“We’ve long talked about food plots, timber-stand improvements and restoring native vegetation so deer can maximize their potential,” said Buxton, who has managed hunting properties for about 25 years. “The coyote is the next big part of that equation. As deer densities drop and coyote numbers rise, deer won’t be able to recruit enough fawns to overcome what coyotes kill.”

Wildlife researchers, however, aren’t so sure. They say the coyote is so new to Southeastern states that it generates more questions than answers. This gritty predator, which isn’t native to that region, didn’t appear there until the 1960s. In fact, South Carolina didn’t have coyotes until the 1980s. Later, from 1997 through 2006, the state’s deer herd declined 36 percent.

Because of coyote predation, biologists in the Southeast might have to prescribe smaller antlerless deer harvests by hunters.

Is that a coincidence? Answering such questions remains speculative, says Professor Karl Miller at the University of Georgia. “The Southeast has managed whitetails in the absence of predators for decades,” Miller said. “The coyote presents new considerations for everyone.”

Professor Stephen Ditchkoff at Auburn University in Alabama agrees. “We’re still early in that process,” he said. Ditchkoff and his graduate students see coyote problems at an Alabama site where they’re using GPS-equipped collars to study deer movements. When they started the study five years ago, they seldom lost a fawn to predation. But in 2008 they lost 17 of 50 fawns (34 percent) they collared, and in 2009 they lost more than half. They attribute most losses to coyotes.

In an Auburn study on fawn-survival research at a South Carolina military base, Ditchkoff said coyotes kill eight of nine fawns soon after they’re born, mostly between ages 2 to 6 weeks.

Miller has co-authored much of the Southeast’s recent research on coyotes. In one study in southwestern Georgia, the university compared fawn-to-doe ratios in two areas: an 11,000-acre area where trappers removed 23 coyotes and three bobcats, and a 7,000-acre area where no trapping was done. The trapped area had two fawns for every three does, and the untrapped area had two fawns for every 28 does.

Miller is also monitoring coyote studies by the U.S. Forest Service at South Carolina’s Savannah River Site. Researchers reported 75 percent of the site’s fawns die before they’re 6 weeks old, with coyotes likely responsible for 85 percent of the deaths.

Because such evidence suggests coyotes are crimping the fawn pipeline for Southeastern deer, Miller, Ditchkoff and other researchers are pushing for more research.

“We have to assess if and where we have coyote problems, and what’s the best way to address them,” Miller said. “But are coyotes going to affect the future of deer hunting? I don’t think so. Texas has had coyotes a long time, and so have parts of the Midwest, Louisiana and Mississippi. That being said, I suspect coyote densities are even higher in parts of the Southeast. We need more research so we can offer specific, well-informed management decisions. In some areas, managers might have to adjust antlerless harvests to account for coyotes. In other areas, intensive predator control might be necessary.”

Ditchkoff thinks coyotes have reached saturation levels in many parts of the Southeast, but that doesn’t mean deer hunting is imperiled. “I think this will eventually level out and stabilize,” he said. “Hunting will be part of the mix, but we have to figure out what the new model will be for deer management.”

Miller said another complication is that some coyote behaviors in the Southeast differ from those in other regions. For instance, unlike Western coyotes, Southeastern coyotes seldom form packs. They tend to be solitary or paired mates.

Does that affect how they hunt? Coyote-fawn predation has long been viewed as opportunistic and random; that is, fawns were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Buxton believes it’s not random on a 2,000-acre property he manages. From Spring 2009 through early summer 2010, he caught 34 of 63 coyotes (54 percent) during fawning months.

“That tells me coyotes are targeting fawns,” Buxton said. “When fawns start hitting the ground, it’s game-on for coyotes.”

Can hunters and wildlife managers boost fawn survival in areas with lots of coyotes? Buxton and other biologists, such as Dr. Grant Woods of Woods and Associates, encourage deer hunters to work with professional trappers to kill coyotes and learn trapping tactics. Woods has documented 16 percent fawn survival on his 1,500-acre property in southwestern Missouri. After attributing most of that loss to coyotes, he traps them every chance he gets.

“Shooting an occasional coyote from your deer stand won’t help,” Woods said. “You have to get after them and stay after them.”

Realize, though, that trapping and hunting will never eradicate them. “The more you shoot, the more they produce,” Buxton said. “Based on food supplies and the coyote population, they produce pups to fill the void. You’ll never solve this by playing around. You have to be serious about it.”




That's Life - A Hunter takes a Vacation

by Daniel James Hendricks 6. May 2011 02:43
Daniel James Hendricks


A bachelor group of Sika bucks looks on as we park our vehicle.  Only one antler of the orginal ten remains, but it is a beauty.

Someone once wrote, “Life is what happens while you are making other plans.”  If we carefully analyze our lives, we will quickly see that no truer words were ever written.

Last week, Karen and I escaped the ho-hum routine of everyday life by checking into Palmquist’s The Farm for three days of relaxation, great food and even greater company.  I have been visiting The Farm for ten years now hunting their awesome deer herd with a crossbow and a camera.  Karen had heard countless stories and seen thousands of photos of all of the beautiful qualities that this unique get-away has to offer, but had never been there.  My deepening love for the place and the people necessitated bringing my wife there so she could experience firsthand what I have had to deal with over the last decade. 

The power of Mother Nature to reclaim what was once hers is fascinating.  Trees growing in an ancient trailer...amazing.

The Farm not only offers hunting for trophy whitetail bucks, but it is also a bed and breakfast, offering cross-country skiing, hay rides, bird hunting as well as hosting weddings and family reunions with the capability to house the whole gang in a rural setting that is right out of the Good Old Days.   It offers a glimpse of what life was in days gone by with down to earth hosts and a continuous flow of local residents that tell and retell tales of colorful characters that have passed through their lives over the four generations that The Farm has existed.

One of the activities I had planned was to get out into the woods to look for sheds and share some quality woods time with my Doxie, Moses Joseph or Mojo as I lovingly call him.  We headed out on Friday morning after having coffee with the local boys, anxious to hit the woods with daydreams of deep piles of sheds in the back of the vehicle on the return trip.  Mojo seemed to know that Daddy and he were off on an adventure as he lay on my lap shaking with excitement as I drove to our destination. 

This is my best friend and buddy, Moses Joseph Hendricks or Mojo as we are fond of calling him.  Mojo is a minature, piebald Dachshund.

When we reached the first gate, I slipped out of the vehicle and opened it up.  When I returned to the Jeep and lifted the handle, I was greeted to a locked door! Mojo’s excitement had him bouncing on my arm rest and in the process he had all doors to my running vehicle locked tight.  The motor was running with my cell phone in plain sight on the center console.  How lovely can it get!

Sensing that something was terribly wrong, Mojo came to the driver’s side window and frantically began clawing at the glass in an effort to create a way in for me.  I am constantly touched by the emotional ties that I have with this little creature and the fact that he realized we were seriously screwed here was just one more of those special moments. 

Rounding a corner, we caught a couple of whitetail bucks, sans their antlers, standing under one of my favorite photo blinds.

I considered my options and then began looking for the right sized rock which I quickly located.  There was a tall narrow safety glass window right behind the regular window on the rear doors…that became my target.  It was sturdy glass and the process of trying to smash it took multiple attempts, which only upset Mojo even further.  When at last it exploded into a million shards, I reached inside and opened the door.  When I climbed into the front of the vehicle, Mojo jumped into my lap covering my face with exuberant kisses, relieved to be safely back in Daddy’s arms, once again.

We headed through the gates and spent the rest of the morning tromping through the very wet and beautiful Northern Wisconsin woods collecting a total of three pieces of whitetail ivory before heading back to The Farm tired, wet and happy in spite of the window.  One of our local friends had invited Karen and me over for a lunch of fried pan fish and an opportunity to meet his wife. Before we pulled out of his yard we had the hole patched with pink Styrofoam and Duck tape and the broken glass pretty much removed via his shop vac.  The patch job didn’t look like much, but it was solidly done and withstood the five-hour trip home without so much as a single leak.  Thank you, Brother Hank. 

After the window incident, we were rewarded to an absolutely beautiful morning in the woods.  Wispy fog hung over the crystal clear pools of ice water, created by freshly melted snow.

The original plan was to take my best friend, Mojo out for a scenic walk in the woods and to maybe find some sheds.  I did not plan on getting locked out of the Jeep or having to smash a window out, but that’s life and life is what happens while you are making other plans. 

Mojo and I even found a few antlers to make the day even better than it already was.

The beauty that is found in the forest constantly amazes me.  Everywhere I look there are sights that give me reason to pause and admire.

These stones have not been rolling for they have gathered moss!

A minor set back, a beautiful forest, wild creatures, the devotion of a wonderful little dog and the Spring song of a Robin...That's Life!


The Crossbow Really Got His Goat

by Daniel James Hendricks 25. April 2011 00:40
Daniel James Hendricks


Less than five minutes after the outfitter’s truck disappeared from sight down the dry, dusty trail, the hunter saw six antelope moving towards the windmill where he was perched 15 feet above the ground.  The animals stopped eighty yards from the waterhole and studied the windmill searching for danger.  For what seemed like a very long time to the hunter, the goats just stared at him convincing him that they had surely spotted him and were not coming in to drink.

He suddenly caught movement out of the corner of his eye and slowly turned to see another group of goats quickly moving towards the waterhole from the opposite direction in what appeared to be an effort to beat the first group to happy hour.  As they quickly spread out along the edge of the pond to slurp up water, the hunter’s attention zeroed in on the three huge bucks that lined up side by side at the water’s edge.  Each of them would have been a super trophy, but the center buck was offering the best angle for a good, clean shot.  A young doe had moved in front of the big buck blocking its vitals, but then nervously moved away from the buck.  The archer raised his crossbow, centered on the loper’s rib cage and squeezed the trigger.  The tranquility of the scene was shattered as the bow barked, launching its projectile.  Animals exploded into motion heading in different directions, all away from the pond.  The hunter watched animals scatter, suspecting that he had missed the buck as it fled the scene seemingly unscathed.   The Antelope ran eighty yards and laid down.  The hunter studied that buck through field glasses as it rose, turned around and then lay back down again facing away.  The hapless Billy never got up again.  

Geno's first Antelope ever and his first kill with a crossbow.

On his very first crossbow hunt, the bowhunter had taken his first Pronghorn Antelope during the first half-hour on the first day on the stand.  Not a bad way to remember his maiden hunt with a crossbow.  The hunter climbed down from his perch and went to examine his trophy.  He had been told to look for one with prongs at ear level or higher.  His buck’s prongs didn’t even start until two full inches above the ears and it had really good mass.  This was a dandy buck, a “King Prong” and the hunter knew it.  The hunter was Gene Strie from Bellingham, Minnesota, an ACF member since 2001.  He’d never hunted with a crossbow; his weapon of choice was the compound bow.   Strie belongs to the ACF because he believes in its mission of promoting and preserving all forms of hunting with all weapons.  Gene sees no threat or evil in the crossbow, rather is more threatened by those who are bent on destroying hunting opportunities, even if those aggressors are other hunters.  In his heart and mind, the ACF objectives are as it should be.

Strie has been a regular participant in the HBM hunts in the past and when he learned that HBM Publisher, DJH was headed for Douglas to check out an antelope hunt that had been recommended by ACF member, Ron Williams, he asked to join in the expedition.  Arrangements were made, licenses were applied for and when confirmation of being drawn arrived with the licenses, reservations were made at a local hotel. When Gene called to let DJH know that he had received his license in the mail he was informed that the crossbow was a legal option in WY and invited to use one for the hunt.  He agreed and picked one up on his very next trip through Glenwood.  After just a few days with the crossbow on his backyard range, Gene had developed a new hunting passion as he relationship with the crossbow deepened. 

Ol' Geno makes new friends where ever he goes.  He espeically likes card sharks.

On the evening of August 28, Gene and DJH met Ron Williams in Douglas and the next day the hunt began.  Gene’s hunt set a new record for the shortest at 25 minutes, which gave him plenty of time to check out all of the great sites and attractions there are to see in Douglas (the birthplace of the Jackalope) and spend some time with his camera hunting the countless antelope that populate Converse county.  And while he playing the role of tourist, he was already planning his next crossbow hunting adventure.

Douglas, Wyoming is the birthplace of the World Famous Jackalope.


One last shot of a very happy hunter with a record book Pronghorn Antelope.


Why I Pick Compounds over Traditional - Recurves and Longbows

by Patrick Durkin 23. April 2011 13:20
Patrick Durkin

While test-shooting four models of 100-grain broadheads recently, I couldn’t help but think about my first archery season for white-tailed deer 40 years ago.

My bowhunting setup in 1971 consisted of cedar arrows, Bear Razorhead broadheads, and a 43-pound Bear Grizzly recurve bow. I traded away that bow in 1974 after switching to an Allen compound bow.

I’m now hunting with my 12th bow since switching to compounds 37 years ago. Most of those retired bows still hang in my basement’s rafters. I can’t bring myself to get rid of them.

Today’s archery equipment can make average shooters good, and good shooters excellent.

In the interest of safety -- mine and anyone nearby – I’ll never shoot some of those compounds again, especially the first two. And in the interest of my forearm, I’ll never shoot the third one, either. Its string had a painful tendency to smack my forearm at the least hint of handle torque. Sentiment is the only thing keeping those three bows hanging around.

However, I would feel confident shooting and hunting with any of the other 11 or so compounds, all bought or acquired since the late 1980s.

Even though practice, perseverance and woodsmanship separate good bowhunters from average-and-worse bowhunters, today’s archery equipment can make average shooters good, and good shooters excellent. The new bows and arrows now for sale are superior to anything I hunted with 25 years ago and before.

Today's bows are better than ever, but so are our releases and arrow rests

I’ll also take today’s broadheads over the reputable, but heavy, Bodkin and Razorhead broadheads of my youth. For instance, throughout spring and summer I’ll practice with 100-grain field-points in the backyard. When I replace the field-points with three-blade 100-grain broadheads made by Muzzy, New Archery Products, Field Logic or Tru-Fire, to name a few, I seldom need to make big adjustments to my sights.

I doubt my bow is tuned any more finely than most archers’ bows, but it still launches most broadheads with bull’s-eye accuracy. I never had that type of “out-of-the-box” performance with yesterday’s broadheads.

Of course, maybe part of that accuracy can be attributed to the mechanical trigger release I use instead of the traditional three-finger approach. After struggling with a bad flinch in fall 1983, I made that switch and never looked back.

Or maybe it’s today’s fall-away rests that make the biggest difference. I was impressed how much better broadheads shot when I scrapped the old shoot-through rest for a fall-away about five years ago.

Or maybe it’s the carbon arrow shafts I now shoot. Or is the carbon/aluminum combination shaft that makes the difference? No matter. All of today’s shafts are better than the old cedar or fiberglass shafts I used in the early 1970s.

As recently 1995, though, I killed deer with ancient heavy aluminum shafts -- Easton 2020s for you old guys -- that I bought in 1977. I moved on only when my supply of 2020s in the Autumn Orange finish finally ran low in the mid-1990s.

Another big advantage enjoyed by today’s bowhunters are fiber-optic pin sights. Was it really the mid-1990s when I still thought a dot of red or white paint on a pin sight was as good as it could get, short of battery-powered lighted sights? How quaint.

Although most of the early fiber-optic pins were flimsy and needed protecting, they make up for this shortcoming with high visibility. Even in the shadows of dawn and dusk, they were highly visible, and made battery power almost irrelevant.

Sure, I know what some people are thinking: All this technology creates an unfair advantage for bowhunters. Buck pellets. One constant, despite all the advances, is the fact that bows remain short-range weapons. I killed my first deer with a 35-yard shot with the 43-pound recurve bow in 1973. That still ranks as my farthest shot on a whitetail.

In fact, a good self-imposed restriction for my bow-shots on woodland whitetails might always be about 25 yards. The value of today’s equipment is that it reduces the chance for errors and poor shots at such ranges.

Recurve bows aren't for everyone, but some skilled archers are deadly with them

If you’re a master with the old gear, recurves or longbows, that’s fine. But if you’re not so hot with truly traditional equipment, you might consider moving on to compounds or crossbows. We’re hunting deer, not the past, right?

I’m as sentimental as the next guy about my old archery gear, but I’m more deadly with the modern stuff. And that’s how I’ve come to view old gear vs. new gear: Even though sentimentality gives me warm feelings, those thoughts wouldn’t outweigh the guilt I’d feel if my old gear wounded a deer unnecessarily.






2010 Ozark Mountain Outfitters

by Daniel James Hendricks 20. April 2011 10:32
Daniel James Hendricks


Had this buck been two years older, it would have found its way to the camp meat pole, but it drew a pass when the author let it walk.

Since 2006, we've made a trip to Missouri to visit Jim and Darlene Wilson, at Ozark Mountain Outfitters (OMO).  They provide some of the best whitetail and turkey hunting available in the U.S.; doing it while keeping their hunters comfortable and well fed from arrival to departure.  It’s always a pleasure to gather around the table in the warm and homey kitchen of the OMO Lodge. 

One of the trademarks of Jim’s establishment is large numbers of wild game; whitetails, wild turkeys and varmints abound in the 3-square miles that makeup the rugged OMO.  When you hunt with Jim you know you are going to see a lot of game.  The only entity that can affect that given is Mother Nature; and boy did she lower the boom in 2010.  

 Delmer Bentz; Daniel Hendricks and Bob Jacobs, made up the Minnesota connection on this hunt.

The secret to OMO’s success is the countless food plots that Jim toils over so long and so hard.  Beautiful little Gardens of Eden that draw in the game and hold it by providing a nutritious assortment of crops that keep the critters fat, sassy and happy.  However, in order to be effective, they must have one thing – water!  In 2010, that is one thing they didn’t get.  They burned up and when replanted, the seed just lay in the ground, not germinating for lack of life-giving moisture.

To make matters even worse, the acorn crop was a barn-buster!  Huge acorns covered the ground so thickly that it was almost impossible to put your foot down without stepping on one.  With the food plots dehydrating in the sun and the deep woods full of nutritious acorns, the hunting… (how can I say this?)…it sucked!  

The team gathers around Delmer Bentz’s doe as they prepare to move it on the last leg of the journey back to the truck.

Our team managed to take a few deer and a turkey, but the big bucks showed themselves only a few times and then they were well out of bow range.  In spite of hunting that left a lot to be desired, our crew had a wonderful time sharing the beauty of the outdoors, the gorgeous weather and the special camaraderie that was shared by all.       

Joining us this year were Jackie Seale from AL, Harold Webster from MS, Bill Brown from NY; and Delmer Bentz & Bob Jacobs, both from Minnesota.  Bill Brown was the only member that hadn’t hunted OMO before, the rest were veterans who knew what to expect on a normal year.  Fortunately, all were experienced hunters that understand the difference weather conditions can make in the final results of a hunt, both good and bad. 

L - R: Harold Webster, Darlene Wilson, Jackie Seale,  Jim Wilson,  Francis Wilson, Bob Jacobs, Delmere Bentz, Daniel Hendricks and Bill Brown.

Jackie Seale was the first to draw blood when she took a big doe. Delmer Bentz took a doe and Harold Webster took a young buck and a turkey.  Some of us had chances to take antlerless or young bucks, but passed as we were waiting for bigger and better things.  Once again, most of the shooting was done with cameras and there were plenty of things to photograph, both in and out of the woods. 

Jackie Seale poses with her first crossbow kill ever, a nice Ozark Mountain Outfitters doe.

Jim and Darlene worked hard moving us from stand to stand as they tried their best to locate the whitetails and provide their hunters with an opportunity.  Their dedication to the mission filling their hunter’s tags is both inspiring and commendable, but as hard as they tried, not even they could overcome the circumstances inflicted by the extended dry-spell.

The upside of the drought that had plagued OMO since spring was that we had beautiful weather with bright star-filled nights and brilliant, breathtaking colors that were brought about early by dryness.   It was an absolute pleasure to sit a stand in natural comfort as we watched the goings-on of the feral world that we all love so dearly.  It was a complete and absolute escape from the telephone, the intranet, unannounced company and deadlines, all while basking in the glorious majesty that, for some of us, can only be found while immersed in the tranquil depth of the wild. 

This is a Box Turtle, which when threatened by danger completely seals itself in its shell.

Philosophically…it was what it was!  Each member of the team gleaned glory out of the hunt, enjoying the positives that were found each day in the environment and the very special people that shared the experience.  Most were friends from previous hunts and the reunion of comrades is always valued greatly by the members of the ACF. 

Thanks Jim and Darlene for the sincere dedication and kindness you showed to us during our week with OMO.  We had a grand time and will return in 2011 to do battle with your wily whitetails; your tricky turkeys and of course, the whimsical weather. 

Another young buck that passed just twenty yards from the Grim Reaper and was unaware of how close it came to being a freezer stuffer. 

Harold Webster poses with a turkey that was retrieved by the team mascot, Tracker, which is a complete story of its own.


Kansas Turkey Tag Out: When Preparation Meets Opportunity

by Steve Flores 10. April 2011 14:16
Steve Flores

In my last post I was getting ready to head out west on my first wild turkey hunt. To say I was excited would be an understatement. With that hunt now in the “memory bank”, all I can say is that Kansas was good to me and without a doubt it was a blessed hunt. However, my influence in the outcome was minuscule at best. Sure, I practiced with my bow and made certain everything was in order; you know….the usual stuff you do before a big hunt. But, beyond that I would feel like a hypocrite if I tried to portray my good fortune as anything other than surrounding myself with people who knew a lot more than I did.  

Greenhorn best describes this guy when it comes to bowhunting long beards.

When I met my guide, I was a little concerned. He was young and full of enthusiasm and I worried he might know as little as I did about chasing turkey’s with a bow and arrow. Thankfully, I was wrong; as his aggressive calling style and youthful “never give up attitude” proved to be a deadly combination.
When the sun came up on my first morning in Kansas I was greeted with a beautiful symphony of endless “gobble-gobble-gobbles”. Turkey’s were everywhere! With each subtle call my guide seemed to orchestrate the perfect invitation. As 5 jakes, 2 long-beards and a lone hen were seduced to within range of our ground-blind I knew it was just a matter if time before my new Mathews eZ7 would get to eat. 

The Mathews eZ7 proved to be smooth drawing and super accurate.

 Being new to the challenge of chasing turkeys with a bow, I can honestly say I wasn’t going to be choosey with my first bird. As soon as the opportunity presented itself I had every intention of loosing an arrow. To my delight, a certain “Jake” decided he would be the one. Just as he was about to reach full-strut my bow string jumped forward. The shot happened so quickly I almost didn’t see the arrow zip through him. His expiration proved to be just as fast as he was dead-in-the-air within a matter of seconds. With my first tag filled on a handsome “Jake” it was time to go after my first gobbler. 

My first turkey with a bow was a thing of beauty…even if he was a “Jake”.

 The NAP Gobbler Getter hit him like Thor’s Hammer.

Moving to a different location, Shane (my guide) and I settled in for what we hoped would be an eventful evening. Once again, his aggressive calling and persistent attitude paid off. With a handful of “jakes” showing mild interest in our setup before heading to roost, we were just about to throw in the towel. Then, a lone gobble ignited a glimmer of hope. Thirty minutes later, with shooting light fading, Shane had managed to lure my second opportunity within bow range.


With a change of scenery, hopes were high to fill my final tag.

Peering through the faint camouflage of the blind, I anxiously watched as the long-beard made his way toward our decoy some 15 yards away. When he paused and began to turn his back on his adversary, I drilled him with an NAP tipped, Easton Flatline arrow. Upon impact, the stunned gobbler quickly began to scamper across the lonely field. Hugs and congratulations quickly followed as we watched him topple over some distance away.


With a pounding heart I managed to seal the deal on my first gobbler…thanks largely to the efforts of my young guide.

Looking back now, if I can take credit for anything it would be: surrounding myself with a good turkey caller, having a buddy who was kind enough to envite me along on this hunt (and booking said hunt with a great outfitter), and taking along an awesome bow. After all, when it comes to successfully tagging turkey’s, what more does a greenhorn like me need?

If you would like to book your very own turkey adventure contact Rodney Kelly at Kansas Big Buck Outfitters. God Bless.







Turkey Tune-Up: Preparations for Bowhunting Spring Turkey

by Steve Flores 31. March 2011 16:09
Steve Flores

With opening day of most big-game bow seasons still several turns of the calendar away, it’s nice to know there is something to take the edge off. Thank God for Springtime Turkey hunting!! With a Kansas trip in my sights, I am feverishly preparing for my hunt while at the same time tackling all the other issues that everyday life throws at me. But, don’t dare pity me because life is good. I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to participate in another treasured bow season.

Kansas Turkey tags can easily be acquired “on-line” in a matter of minutes.

For shooting in a seated position, nothing compares to the comfort and versatility of the Hunt More 360 chair. It is AWESOME!

Without a doubt, one of my favorite parts of bowhunting is the preparation. I thoroughly enjoy the tinkering of gear; fletching arrows, sighting in bows, selecting clothing, and clearing schedules. For turkeys, the preparation is a little different. To begin with, I conduct a good deal of my shooting from a seated position. This will be similar to the actual shot (Lord willing it occurs), so it only stands to reason that I try to emulate shooting from a seated position inside a ground blind. 

 Nothing beats a fresh set of fletched arrows.

The NAP Gobbler Getter definitely has “the looks that kill”. Performance should be nothing short of excellent.

Next are the broadheads. For this trip, I am taking along NAP’s Gobbler Getter’s. While I can’t comment on their performance (1st time using them) I do like what I see. With an Exclusive Silver Bullet round point designed to crush bone and a large 1 ½ inch cut, I doubt any gobbler will stand a chance if he comes within range of my Mathews EZ7. Of course, as with any broadhead, a few practice shots should be taken before heading afield; even when using mechanicals. The Gobbler Getter proved to be as accurate as my field points of equal weight; requiring no adjustment to my sight pins.

The ScentBlocker S3 shirt, made with real Bamboo, is comfort personified. 

The fit and feel of the No-Recoil jacket is great. Check out the cool “Harmonic Damper” zipper.

Last is clothing options. Since turkey’s can’t smell like a whitetail (that would make them un-killable) my usual scent-free wardrobe is somewhat reduced; leaving more traditional choices in hunting clothes. However, I’m not totally leaving behind my ScentBlocker gear. I will be taking along the S3 long sleeve t-shirt in Lost camo as well as the lightweight, Mathews edition, BOA Hiker boots. In addition, for those cold mornings before the sun comes up, I have chosen the No-Recoil Jacket and Pant from the fine folks at Gamehide. With their patented “Freedom Sleeve” cut, this jacket should provide effortless movement inside a tight groundblind; making it easier to reach full draw.

It's almost time.....

With licenses bought, money saved, and dreams dreamt, I prepare to head out on my first Kansas turkey hunt. I hope the following months find you preparing for your own adventure….one made just for taking the edge off of a long, cold, winter. God bless.


Crossbows are the Right Choice for Some Bowhunters

by Patrick Durkin 24. March 2011 13:23
Patrick Durkin

Of the many fish, fowl and big-game mounts hanging in my home, the one most intriguing to friends and family is a wild boar my daughter Leah shot in Florida with a crossbow when she was 14.

Yep. A crossbow. And none of our guests cares. Rather than hear me talk about the differences between recurves, longbows, compounds and crossbows, they’d rather hear about a 175-pound wild pig, and how a teenage girl killed it with an arrow.

Unlike some bowhunters, our house-guests never sneer or ask how I could let my daughter hunt with a crossbow. They don’t call it Satan’s tool or a cross-gun. Nor do they claim it’s the No. 1 threat to “bowhunting as we know it.”

That last claim bothers me. How can crossbows pose a bigger threat to bowhunting than things like urban sprawl, shrinking access to hunting land, and declining hunter numbers? Most states are losing hunters every year, which makes hunters an increasingly declining minority in our communities and American society.

That’s why I see nothing wrong with states like Michigan, New York, Delaware, Nebraska, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, South Carolina and others allowing crossbows for at least part of their archery deer seasons.

Until 2002, the only states with that freedom were Ohio, Arkansas and Wyoming. As we look ahead to Fall 2011, nearly 30 states and provinces will allow crossbows for everyone during all or part of their regular big-game archery seasons; and others allow crossbows for older hunters, or during bear and turkey seasons.

I’d much rather see people hunting with crossbows than to watch hunting participation rates keep plunging. Still, I always encourage critics to tell me why they oppose crossbows, thinking maybe I’ve missed something in the discussion.

Unfortunately, the answers opponents keep giving are mostly faith-based accusations, not logical, factual criticisms. That made me think that maybe I wasn’t asking my questions the right way.

But then I came across the a 2005 study commissioned by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, which hired Cornell University to study attitudes about expanding crossbow hunting for deer and turkeys. Over the years, Cornell has led the way in studying hunters, hunting trends and hunting participation rates. I assume they know more about asking questions than I do.

So, Cornell’s researchers asked opponents why crossbows shouldn’t be allowed during the regular archery season. Here’s the top two reasons they heard:

-- “Crossbows are not bows,” 35 percent.

-- “I do not want crossbows in the woods with me,” 15 percent.

I don’t see many facts in either statement; just unsubstantiated opinion.

If crossbows are not bows, what are they? True, the crossbow’s bow is mounted on a rifle stock, but it still uses bow-limbs and bow-strings to shoot arrows. In fact, the federal government defines crossbows as archery equipment, subjecting them to the same federal excise taxes as other bows.

In addition, the flight paths of a crossbow’s arrow far more resembles those of other bows, not any firearm. At 50 yards, a crossbow-launched arrow drops an average of about 39 inches, while an arrow from a compound bow drops about 46 inches. In other words, depending on which make and model you shoot, trajectories overlap.

Meanwhile, a bullet from an in-line muzzleloader sighted in 3 inches high at 50 yards won’t drop below 24 inches until traveling about 300 yards. A modern shotgun slug sighted dead-on at 50 yards won’t drop below 11 inches until traveling about 125 yards. And a bullet from a .30-06 rifle sighted in 2 inches high at 100 yards won’t drop below 50 inches until traveling about 500 yards.

Do crossbows require less practice to attain proficiency? Yes. But is that bad? In a society with less time for recreation and fewer places to practice, many folks cite “less practice, greater proficiency” as a plus.

The biggest so-called threat from crossbows is that they increase participation in archery season. That’s not a bad thing, is it? In Wisconsin, for example, since allowing archers 65 and older to hunt with crossbows in 2003, the state has sold 74 percent more archery licenses to people in that age bracket. While that might sound really impressive, in real numbers that’s 9,851 in 2002 and 17,135 in 2007. They’re not overrunning the woods.

Further, as other states study new crossbow hunters, it’s increasingly clear that nearly a third of them have never before used archery equipment. And nearly half of the new archers are age 50 or older. Even better, once they start hunting with crossbows, they typically keep hunting longer than other people their age. Some of us think that’s a good thing. It’s recruitment and retention.

Personally, I’ve hunted with compound bows since 1975 and with recurves before that. I don’t foresee using a crossbow to hunt elk or deer anytime soon. They’re clumsy to carry and maneuver through brush, making them difficult to use anywhere except a blind or tree stand. Still, if I could use a crossbow in December when cold weather sometimes makes it difficult to draw a compound bow, I’d try it. It sounds fun.

What matters more than my fun and personal choices, however, is the importance of expanding hunting opportunities for everyone in this era when hunter numbers are declining and deer herds are stable or climbing. Remember, for 60 years we’ve justified hunting as the most effective means of managing the public’s deer herd. And we’ve offered bowhunting as a safe, quiet, effective way to reduce deer herds in urban and suburban areas.

I worry that if we abando n those responsibilities out of spite for crossbows, the public might conclude our interests are too emotional and self-serving to support or take seriously. In turn, bowhunting itself would lose credibility and relevance.

Now that would be a legitimate threat to bowhunting.



Armchair Whitetail Scouting

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

and the rewards will be well worth it!

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











Oklahoma’s McAlester Bucks Wow Deer Researchers

by Patrick Durkin 26. February 2011 09:01
Patrick Durkin

Every February since 1991 I’ve flown to cities from Maryland to Texas and Arkansas to Florida to attend the annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting. That’s where white-tailed deer biologists from universities and wildlife agencies gather to hear -- and sometimes debate -- the latest research on whitetails and whitetail management.

The two-day conference features 32 research presentations by university students and professors, as well as researchers from government agencies, private corporations and nongovernment organizations.

Trust me, the speakers won’t be insulted when I say their 20-minute talks would drive most deer hunters from the room. And those who don’t flee are probably asleep in their seats. It’s rare for their talks to include topics like rattling, calling, decoying or scent-based tactics for whitetails.

Joking aside, I respect and appreciate the researchers’ work. Their presentations simply aren’t made for TV or scripted for entertainment. All 32 talks discuss hardcore scientific research, and they’re seldom juicy or colorful. Even so, almost every bit of this research is relevant to deer hunting. That’s because these biologists study deer nutrition, habitat preferences, travel patterns, predator impacts, disease prevalence and breeding habits, to name a few.

That’s why I haven’t missed a meeting the past 20 years. As an outdoor writer, I’m always looking for scientific insights that my readers will find useful, and this is a target-rich environment. This is where many of the nation’s top deer researchers and managers meet, and most are good at translating their science for laymen like me.

The meetings rotate between 16 states in the Southeast, which allows the host state to show off its home-grown assets to the 400-plus attendees. This year’s meeting was held February 20-22 in Oklahoma City at the downtown Sheraton. As attendees entered the hotel’s conference center last week, they often stopped to admire an impressive display of bow-killed bucks from the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant.

When looking for familiar faces in the crowd, I usually saw Bill Starry, McAlester’s longtime natural resources manager. Starry has held that position 30 years, so he knows nearly every inch of McAlester’s 45,000 acres. He also manages the base’s unique bowhunting program that’s restricted to traditional archery equipment.

Yep. That means no compound bows. It also means no binoculars, no cameras, no rangefinders, no GPS units and no two-way radios, to name a few of the hunt’s forbidden items. Despite such restrictions, Starry said this primitive bowhunt remains extremely popular. In 2010, more than 22 ,000 bowhunters applied for one of its coveted 1,600 permits. Of those drawing a tag, roughly 13 percent each year kill a buck or antlerless deer.

Bowhunting is allowed on 40,000 (89 percent) of McAlester’s 45,000 acres, but the base is broken up into four hunting areas that accommodate 85 to 90 bowhunters each. The bowhunters can put their tree stand anywhere they want on the 10,000 acres they’re assigned. Starry works with them to make this a quality hunt, but they can’t roam the base at will. After all, much of the munitions being used in Afghanistan and Iraq originate from McAlester.

“There’s more tons of TNT stored there than just about anywhere else in the world,” Starry said. “The most difficult part of the hunt is meeting all the military’s security concerns. It’s a tough job, but we can conduct this hunt safely so the Army can still do its military missions.”

Starry said McAlester’s bowhunters achieve annual harvests of 225 to 250 deer, with a buck-to-doe harvest ratio of nearly 1-1. Of the approximately 120 bucks bowhunters kill each fall, about 11 to 13 qualify for the Pope and Young Club’s record book. In fact, during the past five years, 63 of McAlester’s bucks have achieved P&Y status. Of those, 40 gross-scored more than 140 inches, and 17 gross-scored 150 or better, with some approaching 200. 

“Our program proves there’s a lot of bowhunters looking for a challenging, high-quality hunt,” Starry said. “They know their odds of drawing a tag are low, but they keep applying. They also know their odds of getting one McAlester’s big bucks are also low, but everyone wants a crack at them.”

Starry said the archery hunts’ 1-1 harvest ratio has kept the herd stable for several years. Although bowhunters account for most of McAlester’s annual deer harvest, the base also holds a “Wounded Warriors” hunt each hunt for war veterans, as well as a youth-only shotgun hunt for antlerless deer.

To learn more about the McAlester bowhunts and see photos of its legendary bucks, please look them up on the web.

Bill Starry, second photo below, has been the natural resources manager at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma for 30 years. The other photos, courtesy of the MAAP web site, show some of the impressive bucks arrowed during recent traditional bowhunts at the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant in Oklahoma.





Hunting Big Axis Bucks in June

by Daniel James Hendricks 23. February 2011 00:08
Daniel James Hendricks

Undeniably one of the most beautiful deer on the planet, the Axis deer is a sight to behold.  Easily identifiable by its rich auburn color, dappled with white spots (not unlike a whitetail fawn) and creamy tan trim, the Axis (or Chital Deer as it is known as in its home of origin, India) is certifiable eye-candy. 
More akin to the North American Elk rather than the deer family, the Axis deer has another very peculiar and interesting trait.  Like cattle, it breeds year round.  There is no set time for the rut or fawning.  The Axis deer can be born anytime of the year and bucks are known to drop their antlers on or about their birthday, every year.
 When we hunt the Rio Bonito Ranch in Texas, the Axis deer is a common sight, appearing in great numbers with the bucks in all stages of antler development.  The Axis deer was introduced to Texas in 1932 and free ranging and ranch herds have grown to vast numbers making this very special creature the most abundant exotic ungulate in Texas.
Perhaps the characteristic that the Axis is most famous for is the high quality and succulent flavor of its meat.  The Axis deer is touted by many as the most delicious of all game animals in the world.  As with all food stuffs, individual opinion is the final determination, but the unusually fine taste and quality of properly cared for Axis deer meat is undeniable by anyone.
For years I have patiently waited for an opportunity to add and mature, hard-horned Axis buck to my trophy wall and freezer, but have been unable to do so as our annual trip to the Hill Country of Texas takes place in February and the majority of the bucks on the Rio Bonito Ranch are still in velvet at that time.  Gwen Huges, the Ranch’s manager, does not allow Axis bucks to be taken in velvet as she insists on seeing them reach full maturity before harvest.  This practice has earned the Rio Bonito Ranch extensive recognition and a bevy of awards for the Ranch’s big Axis bucks with the Texas Exotic Association.
The bulk of the Rio Bonito Axis herd goes into rut in June a month or so after the bucks shed their velvet.  While discussing her herd, an interesting situation came up during our most recent visit to the Rio in early February.  Gwen generously offered an opportunity for my friends and I to help her thin out her very large Axis deer buck population.  The hunt will take place the first full week in June, which is in the beginning of the heaviest Axis rut on the Rio Bonito Ranch.  That is the time when the big Axis bucks are coming out of the woodwork and tearing things and each other up in search of cycling does. 
The hunt will be five days long and consist of camping on the Rio Bonito Camp site or staying in a hotel in Junction.  The hunt will include an Axis buck or an Aoudad ram and all the hogs you care to shoot.  All hogs killed must be taken by hunters for consumption and not left as offal. 
This is a wonderful opportunity to take a unique trophy as well being able to hunt big bucks in June. The hunt is $1495, the special Texas Exotic license is $48 and tipping of the guides that will see you to and from your stands and help you find the best locations to take an Axis buck on the ranch’s 26 square miles is required.  The ranch has a skinner/butcher and your animals can be stored in the ranch’s walk-in cooler
If you are interested in joining us for this hunt, please look me up.  Any weapon is allowable on this hunt; rifle, black powder, pistol and all forms of archery including the crossbow.  We are limited to 20 hunters so if you are interested don’t drag your feet.  At this price, this hunt will fill quickly.


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