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Bowhunters Roundtable - Day 1 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got Killzones?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yours truly checking out the packable solar panels from Brunton.

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

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


NAP Killzone Broadhead Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apex Gear Game Changer Quiver Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Game Changer is now attached and ready to roll.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Great Crossbow Debate

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

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

Crossbows Aren’t Really Bows

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

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

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

String and arrow?  Check.  Gunpowder?  Negative.

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

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

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

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

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

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

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

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

Crossbows?  Not in OUR archery season!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Eye of the Beholder

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

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

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

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

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

Live From the Wisconsin Deer Classic

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

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

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

Even the kids love!

Todd with the lucky winner of a new Can Cooker!

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

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

Yeah, there's a LOT of deer here.

This buck's got the mass.

These girls are showing some good support!

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

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

Now that's a lot of bone!

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

2012 Illinois Deer Classic - Monster Bucks & Bowhunting Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Got junk?

The mass on this deer is unreal.

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

Another 200+.

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

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

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

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

Another shot of my favorite buck.  He looks incredible.

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

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

Day 2 ATA Show Updates

by Justin Zarr 11. January 2012 07:43
Justin Zarr

Day 2 of the 2012 ATA show is half over and so far today I've seen several more cool new products for this year. Once again, I'll let the photos tell the story. After all, the products are the real stars of this show.

Under Armour has really come on strong with some new hunting products that feature their own scent elimination technology.  As seen here, they also have a line of camo undergarments just in case you ever get the inclination to hunt in your undies.


The Bone Collector gang can always be seen at various booths, posing for photos with their fans.

One of the cooler products I've seen, this removable insert from Clean-Shot uses a small allen-head set screw to flare out the back of the insert and hold it in place.  This actually creates a stronger connection than glue, and allows you to easily index your broadheads to match with your fletching.

Here's Chipper Jones signing a few autographs as well.  Lots of autographing going on here!

There's always a crowd at the Firenock booth where people are anxious to see the new iBowsight.

Also available from Clean-Shot is this new bowfishing point with a built-in laser that allows for easier and more precise aiming.  It's activated by a magnet and only comes on when you get to full draw.

The folks at Muddy Outdoors are branching out with a bunch of new products, including this really cool Bloodsport string suppressor.  Instead of a traditional rubber stopper, the Bloodsport uses a series of brushes to cradle and silence your bow string on the shot.  I tested it out in the shooting lanes and the difference is pretty impressive.

S4 gear, known for innovative products like the Lockdown optics system, introduced the "Wingman".  This cool arm mounts in your tree and allows you to have a movable shelf where you can store you goodies like grunt calls, cell phones and even a drink.  Although it may not be practical for the run-and-gun type hunter, it may be a hit with the guy who likes to have the ultimate in comfort.  It even has a built-in arm rest!

Well, break time is over!  Time to get back to work.  More updates coming soon!

ATA Show Day 1 Updates

by Justin Zarr 10. January 2012 12:03
Justin Zarr

Well, the first day of the 2012 ATA show is well under way and as always there's a TON of new products to check out. Here's a few of the the highlights from the show so far, starting with last night's party hosted by Outtech. There was free food, drinks and a live music performance by Josh Kelley. You know, the guy who's married to Katherine Heigl. Yeah, him. I'll let the photos tell the story for today's events so far. Hope you all enjoy it! There's plenty more to come after this.

Last night's Outtech Innovations show was a blast.  Not only was their food, beverages and entertainment, but we got to check out some of the great new products from companies like NAP, TruGlo, Flextone and ScentBlocker a day early.

Josh Kelley put on a great show for the crowd.

The morning crowd waiting to rush the show floor and start doing business.

My first stop of the day was to see Pat Hudak with Robinson Outdoor Products.  Pat was kind enough to show me the new Tree Spider Micro Harnress, which weighs just 1.7 pounds!  This great new addition to the Tree Spider line is sure to please a lot of bowhunters.  I know I'll be wearing one this fall.

The boys at Pine Ridge Archery have come out with a great new line of stablizers called the "Nitro Stabilizers". They are available in several camo patterns as well as the black tactical seen here. Their solid core design and shock fins kill vibration and noise, while allowing you to customize the look of your bow.

One of the very simple, yet very cool, new products for 2012.  The 3D Peep sight allows you to shoot distances well over 100 yards with the same sight you use to shoot 20 and 30 yards.  Thanks to an innovative design that utilizes two peep holes and a 2nd string loop to change your anchor point this nifty device makes it possible to extend your accuracy far beyond normal equipment.

Of course one of the most talked about new products is the Bowtech Insanity bow.  This new bow has a 6 inch brace height, measures 32 inches axle to axle, and produces speeds up to a whopping 355 fps.  On the down side, the bow is a bit heavy at 4.3 lbs.

The heart of the Insanity is the Binary cam system.

The new Deep Six line of broadheads from NAP is also getting a lot of attention.  The Big Nasty seems to be a "Big Hit".  If you want to learn more about the Deep Six broadheads click here.

Also new from NAP is the Killzone.  A 2 inch, 2 blade expandable broadhead that won't open in flight thanks to the unique spring-clip design.  No more O-rings!  The Killzone is available with a cut-on-contact razor tip, or a bone crunching Trophy Tip.  Click here to learn more about the new Killzone.

Another trail camera has hit the market - this time from the folks at Big Game treestands.  The Eyecon features a 5.0 megapixel camera and infrared "InvisiFlash".  More info coming on all of the new trail cameras for this year very shortly.

The EZ-Aim II trail camera mount is a very useful for positioning your trail camera anywhere you want it, regardless of how straight the tree is, or isn't.

New for 2012 the EZ Aim has been revised to accomodate cameras with tripod mounting screws in the back, rather than on the bottom.  A helpful improvement that will allow the EZ Aim to be used with just about any trail camera make or model.

G5 also has a 2 inch expandable broadhead for this year called the "Havoc".  It too features a blade retention system without any o-rings.

G5 also has a new line of quivers called the Head-loc.  At just $49 retail this quiver is a great value.  It features a vibration absorbing Exo-Flex hood and an extra mounting bracket for your tree.

The Gorilla girls were proudly showing off the new safety harnesses from Gorilla.

Speaking of safety harnesses, Lone Wolf has released the Alpha-Tech harness.  It features easy adjustments, a neoprene back and shoulders and neoprene-covered buckles for the ultimate in stealth.

The team over at Plano has developed a new line of high-end packs under the "Tenzing" name.  These packs feature kevlar-reinforced stress areas to ensure they can withstand any abuse you may be able to throw at them.  There are 10 packs available in the line all the way from small fanny backs to large full-frame packs.

I didn't have much of a chance to look at these, but they look sweet.  How can you go wrong with any product that keeps your feet warm when it's cold?  These insoles plus my HotMocs could be the greatest combination ever.

Stay tuned for more updates from tomorrow's show!

Q&A With the Pro's: Mechanical and Fixed Blade Broadheads

by Justin Zarr 13. December 2011 09:27
Justin Zarr

One of the hottest topics in the archery world is mechanical broadheads, I don't see this subject cooling down in the near future. I discussed mechanical broadheads (and fixed blade broadheads) with Chris Kozlik of New Archery Products, here is what he had to say...

New for 2012, the Deep 6 broadhead family has been engineered for small diameter arrows such as the Easton Injexion.


Q: The most common knock on mechanical broadheads seems to be that their blades open in flight, causing the arrow to fly off target which results in either a miss or a lost animal. What do you think about that?

A: Modern bows are certainly pushing the envelope on speed. Crossbows even more so. Having the blades on a mechanical head stay closed during flight is critical to hitting your mark. We’ve done extensive testing to make sure our heads work perfectly and stay closed during flight with the fastest equipment on the market. It’s easy to test. Hang a piece of paper in front of your target and shoot thru it. You should have a small hole, that shows the blades stayed closed. If not, it’s time to go find a better mechanical head.

Blades that open in flight are one of bowhunters major concerns in regards to mechanical broadheads.


Q: When it comes to shooting whitetail-sized game is there anything to be concerned about when shooting a mechanical broadhead?

A: Even though mechanicals have been on the market for over 20 years, there are still myths that revolve around the use of mechanical heads. Three statements seem to come up in conversation more than any others. Specifically, “You can’t take an angled shot with a mechanical” or “It takes too much energy to open the blades / a mechanical won’t penetrate well” or “My broadhead didn’t open!” I’d like to address these one at a time.

First off, any correct angled shot that you would take with a fixed blade, you can take with a mechanical. There are no additional restrictions. 45 degree quartering shots are no problem. Angles steeper than that and you risk the shot, mechanical or fixed blade, period. Three years ago, I received an email from a happy Spitfire customer who took such an angled shot that he cut 8 ribs clean thru and still had a full pass thru. I still have the pictures. Understanding that this shot should never have been attempted with a bow and arrow, it nonetheless proved to me the effectiveness of a full mechanical head even on a steep angled shot.

About blade opening and penetration, I’ll take that question in two parts.

Our mechanical heads use very little energy to open. The resistance that you feel by slowly opening a blade by hand simply isn’t there when the head slams into a target. I routinely demonstrate this by shooting a Spitfire thru a piece of cardboard using nothing more than a draw length check bow with a draw weight of 3 pounds. Blades will open every time. Now imagine a hunting arrow going 250 feet per second (which is 170 miles per hour!) with 60 pounds of kinetic energy. Even a modest 45 pounds of kinetic energy will cleanly kill any big buck out there with any well designed mechanical.

The biggest obstacle to getting a full pass is not the broadhead on the end of your arrow, but how well that arrow was flying as it hits the target. Any side to side whipping or porpoising of the arrow , either from a poorly tuned rest or string slap on your hunting clothes, will cause drastic reductions the penetration power of the arrow, regardless of the broadhead you choose. A bad flying arrow at close distance is even worse than one shot at longer distance because the vanes have no chance whatsoever to recover or get that arrow flying properly. In just the last few days I’ve had 2 bow setups, one being my own personal bow, which shot excellent field points at long distance (my first 50 yard robin hood) and still had a barrel rolling arrow coming out of the bow. Had I just installed a broadhead and gone hunting, the results would have been, regrettable. It’s easy to blame the broadhead when something goes wrong and in a lot of cases, the broadhead had nothing to do with the poor results. Take the time to tune your setup to perfection before stepping into the woods.

“My broadhead didn’t open,” is one of the biggest fear some people have of shooting a mechanical head. In the closed position, all of our heads are still angled partially open. In the 15 years that we have produced the Spitfire, we have never had a head that didn’t open. Like pushing on a door handle, the door has no choice but to pivot around its hinge and open. Now, what has tricked a few people along the way is that the blades may slam shut if the head goes thru a deer and into the dirt. Also in practice, if the head pops out the back of a target and the arrow stays in the target, the blades will again rocket forward and slam shut. In all cases, the head will show a little dent where the back of the blade whacks into the edge of the ferrule. It’s a witness mark that happens even on lower poundage bows. You can test this by taping a piece of paper on the back of a target block and shooting thru. Three large slots will be left in the paper. Even withdrawing an arrow from a deer or foam target will fold the blades closed again. On a yearly basis, I will receive one or two suspect heads where a customer believes it didn’t open. I’ll take a head that’s full of fur, dried blood, and dirt and shoot it as-is. The head will open perfectly! A few years ago, I shot a doe in Seneca, Wisconsin, quartering away at 20 yards with the first Spitfire Maxx prototype. The doe went downhill and out of sight. When I retrieved my arrow, the blades were shut. My gut response was predictable, I thought it didn’t open. Then I took a deep breath, looked for the dents where the blades hit the ferrule and found the head had worked perfectly. My doe was laying 50 yards away.


Q: Do mechanical broadheads really fly better than fixed-blade broadheads?

A: Yes. We have found that at or above 270 feet per second is where larger fixed blade heads can exhibit some wind drift. With precision tuning of the arrow rest and looking closely at the spine of the arrow, large fixed blades like the Thunderhead, can be made to fly extremely well. The faster the arrow goes, the more time you may need to spend on the tuning. Mechanicals almost always fly like field points. There’s very little wind resistance on mechanical heads, so no way to steer the arrow off of target. In 2001 I shot a caribou at 43 yards with a Spitfire with 30 mpg gusty winds and raining. Looking back at the video, you can see the arrow tracking perfectly to the animal and see just a white tuft of hair blow out the back of the animal. It was one of my best kills I’ve ever had, especially in bad conditions.

At high speeds fixed-blade broadheads can drift and plane but with a little bit of tuning, they too can fly like fieldpoints.

Q: Under what circumstances should someone not shoot a mechanical broadhead?

A: 40 foot pounds of kinetic energy would be the minimum I’d recommend when shooting a mechanical head. This would also be the minimum for fixed blades as well. Arrow flight and tuning is even more critical with bows that generate less kinetic energy. With today’s equipment, most hunters are far above this minimum.


Q: The hot trend in broadheads right now is massive cutting diameter. What do you think about that? And how does it affect arrow penetration?

A: Yes, cutting diameters on mechanicals are on the way up. With a setup that has 65 to 70 pounds of kinetic energy, the diameter can be increased with no lack of penetration on game animals. Our FOC crossbow head has a three inch cutting diameter. With crossbows generating 100 pounds of energy or more, this is no issue at all. That being said, it’s easy to forget that what was once an average cutting diameter of 1-1/4” a few years ago, some people now consider small. For decades Thunderheads have killed more deer, elk, moose and other big game animals with a cutting diameter of 1-3/16”. Moose and elk hunters have loved the killing power of the 1-1/8” Nitron for years. Blade sharpness, broadhead strength and quality, along with shot placement and arrow flight seem to be much more important than initial cutting diameter. We’ve seen many Spitfire kills where the entrance hole is bigger that the cutting diameter of the head!

Giant cutting diameters are the hot trend, like this Spitfire Maxx.

Q: We all know that the sharpness of the blades on your broadhead is important for a quick kill, better blood trail and short recovery. How can the average bow hunter decide which broadheads have the sharpest blades?

A:Determining broadhead sharpness can be a little tricky sometimes. A lot of people will run their fingers over the blade and if you can feel it catch your skin, they believe it’s sharp. What you’re actually feeling is a roll over burr that some blades produce when being sharpened. Once the burr breaks off, there is a microscopic rounded edge that does not cut cleanly. It’s when you feel nothing at all, then look down and see your blood all over the place, then you truly have a sharp edge. If you don’t want to find out the hard way, slice thru a piece of notebook paper or shave the hair off the back of your hand to be sure. We make sure nothing touches the edge of our blades between when they were manufactured and when you screw them on you arrow to guarantee the sharpest blades possible.

There is no substitute for ultra-sharp blades, the blades on the NAP Hellrazor are just that.

Q: Why should bow hunters replace the blades on their broadheads with new ones from the manufacturer rather than trying to sharpen them on their own?

A: It’s always better to have brand new blades on your heads. Most blades like ours have multiple grind angles that can never truly be resharpened effectively by hand. A solid head like a Hellrazor can be made almost as sharp from the factory by using a high quality flat stone. Patience and skill are needed to get the edge perfect. I cannot overstate the importance of sharp blades for killing game animals as quick as possible. The cost of new, sharp replacement blades may be the difference between finding an animal or not when a marginal hit occurs.


Q: Is there any advantage to shooting a 125 grain broadhead rather than a 100 grain broadhead?

A: We’ve found that heavier heads up front do two important things. For one, they just seem to fly better. Moving the front of center balance point forward helps the arrows (or bolt) fly better. Tenpoint Crossbows regularly put brass inserts in their bolts for that very reason. In addition, the penetration power in increased. Studies have been done showing that an arrow of a given weight will out penetrate by just moving the weight forward. I put this to the test last year with a fellow employee at New Archery who has never had a full pass thru. He shoots a lighter weight bow and a short arrow. I constructed some Easton Full Metal Jacket arrows with a 60 grain brass insert. 24-1/2” arrow, 100 grain broadhead for a total weight of 428. Front of center comes in at 15.3 percent. Full pass thru’s are now happening. Don’t worry about any extra drop. Even 25 grains extra up front in stays inside a hunter’s normal grouping pattern inside of 30 yards. Arrow speed loss is negligible and in most cases, the kinetic energy has increased! Whatever grain weight broadhead you choose, make sure your arrow is spined out correctly.


Q:The past two years we’ve heard a lot about the NAP Bloodrunner broadhead. Can you tell us why this head has been so popular with bow hunters?

A: Mechanical head sales have soared over the last few years. There are dozens of different designs to choose from. Unfortunately some just don’t perform as well as others under hunting conditions. The Bloodrunner broadhead appeals to hunters who may have tried mechanicals before with bad results or people who would like to try a mechanical, but just seem leery about the whole idea. The Hybrid design of the head is such that in closed position, it has a 1 inch cutting diameter, and by pressing the point back, expands to 1-1/2”. “Even closed, it’s bound to work” is what I hear from potential customers. The fact is there’s no way for it not to open to 1-1/2” cut when passing thru a target. Confidence is key when selecting a broadhead and it’s easy to see how this head performs.

The NAP 2-Blade Bloodrunner offers a huge cutting diameter and a fail-proof expanding design.



Q: What broadhead will you be shooting this fall?

A: That’s always the toughest question for me to answer because all of the heads we make work so well. A lot of us over here shoot Spitfire’s and Bloodrunner’s. I’ll be shooting the Spitfire Maxx with a 1-3/4” cut. I just need to stay awake in the tree long enough to let one fly…..

The Spitfire Maxx is one of the favorite mechanical broadheads on the market.

HotMocs | The Cure For Cold Feet While Hunting

by Justin Zarr 23. November 2011 10:55
Justin Zarr

One of the primary keys to a successful hunt is often the ability to both sit in your stand for long periods of time, and stay as motionless as possible.  As I've found out over the years, both of those things are very difficult to do when you've got cold feet.  That is, until I discovered HotMocs.

My first introduction to the HotMocs product was back in '07 or '08 when they were called "ThermalFeet".  Being a person who seemingly gets cold feet even in mild temperatures they immediately peaked my interest.  After a quick look at the product I decided to give it a try.  My feet have been thanking me ever since!

The premise behind this great product is that it's a small, light-weight, easy to use boot cover that holds a disposable handwarmer on the top of your foot to keep it warm.  By placing the warmer on the top of your foot you keep heat directly over the arteries and veins that supply blood to the rest of your foot.  This essentially keeps your entire foot warm while on your stand.

I know it sounds a little crazy, but I'm telling you it works!  I've worn these in temps well into the teens and my feet have been toasty the entire hunt.  This coming from a guy who is notorious for getting cold feet.

There are several reasons that I prefer the HotMocs product over other methods of keeping your feet warm while on stand, the first of which is their size.  I know quite a few people who lug those large, bulky insulated boot covers with them and not one of them is ever happy about doing it.  These days it seems like we're all carrying more and more gear to our stands with us, and those big covers certainly don't help anything. 

HotMocs are small enough to literally fit right into your pocket if you wanted to.  They even come with a small carrying pouch to place them in when they're not being worn.

The second reason I like them is that they are extremely quiet.  Unlike a lot of the big boot covers which are made from a noisey nylon material, HotMocs are made from ultra-quiet fleece.  You can slip them on and off while in your stand with little to no noise, and you don't have to worry about the sound of them rubbing together on accident.

If you're interested in learning more about HotMocs check them out online at

One tip I can give you is that for really cold days, or extended sits, try using the larger body-sized handwarmers.  They are hotter and last longer, and really help keep your feet nice and toasty.  I was wearing my HotMocs last year when I shot my buck on November 15th and again this year when I shot my buck on November 20th.  Nothing makes shooting a buck more enjoyable than having warm feet when you do it!

For the proof that I've actually been using this product for years check out this Blog from December 2008!

The Rut Finally Comes To Illinois

by Justin Zarr 22. November 2011 15:16
Justin Zarr

First off, let me start by saying I wasn't complaining in my last Blog entry. By all accounts, had my season ended on the evening I wrote that very entry I would have been extremely pleased with the outcome. My Blog was more or less expressing my frustrations that the amount of rutting activity I had seen this year was very sub-par compared to years in the past. For me, the thrill of those classic rut hunts is really what defines my season. The cold mornings with bucks grunting and chasing does, seeing deer on a flat-out run across a field during the middle of the day, the tales of hunters having multiple big buck encounters in a single sit. Those are the things that had been lacking from my season so far.

That brings us to this past weekend here in Northern Illinois. With gun season open across much of the state many bowhunters had their archery gear put away temporarily. However, being a resident of the Chicago suburbs where many of our counties are bow-only, I was fortunate enough to be able to take to the woods with my Mathews in hand. Saturday morning found me perched in a tree where I shot a nice buck last fall, hoping for a November repeat. This time I had good friend, and cameraman, Mike Willand with me.

Over the course of the morning Mike and I saw a total of 8 deer, including two small bucks who were clearly out on the prowl looking for does. Now, I know this doesn't seem very substantial to a lot of people but keep in mind there's times when I don't see 8 deer in a MONTH of hunting on this farm. To see 8 in one sit is pretty incredible, and really helped fuel me for the rest of the weekend.

That same morning the coyotes were also out and about as we saw two of them, both within bow range of our stand. Fortunately for the 2nd coyote, my shooting was a bit off as he came by at 30 yards and I launched an arrow about an inch over his furry back.

My shot was a touch high as this big Illinois 'yote ducked my arrow and escaped unscathed.  These little buggers sure do move quick!

Saturday afternoon I was back in the same stand, this time self-filming as Mike had prior committments. Although I only saw one nice 2 1/2 year old that came by and offered a 10 yard shot, I heard the sounds of a good buck chasing a doe in the timber to my West. Branches cracking, leaves crunching, a buck grunting, roaring and snort-wheezing. Now THIS is what I was looking for! The buck and doe never showed themselves before darkness came, but I knew for a fact I had to get back in there the next morning.  If that does was hot there's bound to be one, if not several, good bucks competing for the right to breed her.

This busted up 2 1/2 year old paid me a visit on Saturday afternoon.  He worked a licking branch and urinated on his hocks just 7 yards from the base of my tree.

4:15 came awful early on Sunday morning, and despite my body telling me to stay in my nice warm bed, I got up and headed out. Knowing it could be my last good morning hunt before the rut was done for the year I was determined to get in a stand before daylight.

As the sun just began to peak over the horizon I spotted my first deer of the day, a young spike buck, making his way behind my stand. About an hour later I heard a deep grunt in the field behind me and turned around to see a doe flying across the field at break-neck speed. I knew a buck wasn't far away and kept my eyes peeled. A minute later I spotted the source of the grunt, a nice buck feeding in the cut corn. After looking him over with my binoculars for a minute or two I determined he was a shootable deer and tried to formulate a game plan for how I was going to get a shot at him. He was 100 yards away from me and straight down wind. Not a good sitaution.

The first thing I did was take out the bottle of Tink's 69 from my backpack and spray some into the air. Not only did I want him to get a whiff of doe estrus to try and attract him, but I wanted to cover up my scent and prevent him from spooking. During the peak of the rut a buck's desire to breed will often cause him to make mistakes he wouldn't normally make, and I was hoping that today this would be the case. So after a minute or two of letting the scent disperse, I broke out the grunt call and let out a series of short buck grunts. The minute he picked his head up and looked my direction I immediately stopped calling and grabbed my bow.

On queue the buck came in on a string, straight down the path I had walked into my stand that morning. With the camera rolling at my side the buck hung up at 18 yards and would not come a single step closer. With a steady North wind at 10 mph blowing both my scent and the Tink's straight into his nostrils the buck didn't know what to do. He looked and looked and looked some more, several times looking right up in the tree at me. I thought for sure I was busted, but thanks to my Lost Camo he never spotted me.

Eventually the buck turned and began to circle around my stand at about 22 yards. Unfortunately this particular piece of woods is extremely thick and wasn't trimmed out quite as well as it should have been so I never got a good shot opportunity at the buck. I had one very small window of opportunity, but when I grunted to stop him he took two steps before stopping and was directly behind a tree, effectively blocking any shot I had. After a second the buck continued on his way, out of bow range and eventually out of sight.

After I grunted in an attempt to stop this buck, he took two more steps before pausing behind some trees where I couldn't get a shot at him.

At this point I couldn't believe it! I had a shooter buck within 20 yards for well over 5 minutes and could never get a shot at him. How does that happen? So as I'm feeling sorry for myself, I do a quick interview and talk about what just happened before sending a text to Mike to let him know what's going on. Just as I put my phone away I hear something and look up to see the buck headed back my direction. So I quickly grab the camera, turn it on and get it positioned, grab my bow and get ready.

The buck steps out in the wide open at 30 yards when I grunt to stop him, settle my pin, and touch off the shot. With a "SMACK" that echoed throughout the woods the big bodied whitetail turned and ran only 5 yards before stopping and looking back to see what just happened, acting like nothing was wrong.  I could see my arrow protruding from his side with what looked like only 2-3 inches of penetration and my heart sank. A direct hit to the shoulder, forward and low, is rarely a good sign.

My buck just milliseconds before the arrow impacted him directly in the shoulder.

Over the course of the next 20 minutes I watched the buck slowly hobble his way through the woods before finally losing sight of him. Although I could see his tail twitching rapidly and see him stagger from time to time, I was very unsure of the hit and decided to back out.  An hour later I climbed down from my Lone Wolf stand and slowly made my way back to the truck. After talking it over with Mike we decided to wait 4-5 hours just to be safe before returning.  In my experience is always better to wait it on on a questionable hit, regardless of whether or not it's too far forward, or too far back.  The way this buck was acting I had a feeling he wouldn't travel far before laying down, and I hoped to find him nearby upon our return.

Not the type of reaction we all hope for after shooting a nice buck.  Making a questionable shot on a deer, buck or doe, leaves a sick pit in the stomach of any bowhunter.

Over 5 hours later at 1 pm we returned to the woods and immediately found good blood. In fact, the blood trail was much better than I thought it was going to be, which was encouraging. Roughly 30 yards up the trail we found my busted Gold Tip arrow and confirmed that penetration was only around 4 inches. My optimism faded a bit. However, as we continued on the blood trail was very easy to follow and at times very good. Then, right where I had last seen him, I spotted rack sticking up over a fallen log. My buck was down!

Finding blood like this is always an ecouraging sign when trailing a wounded deer.

Moments after spotting my buck laying just feet from where I last saw him hours earlier.  What a relief!

The feeling of relief was like a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders. There is nothing worse in the deer hunting woods than shooting and not recovering an animal, and I was honestly sick to my stomach thinking about not finding this deer. Knowing that he went down within 100 yards from the shot is a great feeling.

As it turns out, I believe that I may have hit one of the major veins or arteries that runs up the deer's neck, because on inspection my arrow never actually penetrated the chest cavity. The lack of penetration was caused because I did hit the front shoulder, but luckily I had enough power behind my arrow to push in far enough to get the job done. I give all the credit to the NAP Hellrazor broadhead I was shooting. In this particular case the solid one-piece stainless steel broadhead was the difference between my success and failure on this hunt. Proving yet again why I favor a durable, tough-as-nails fixed blade head over a massive expandable head any day of the week.

After not having any good bucks on trail camera all summer and fall, it was nice to catch up with this guy.  A solid 3 1/2 year old buck, he may not score much but he's a great trophy and a wonderful way to end my 2011 bowhunting season here in Illinois.

With all of this said, my 2011 season is officially in the books and it's time to start thinking 2012 already. I plan on continuing to run several Stealth Cams on my various hunting properties to inventory the bucks that are still around, and of course shed season will be here before we know it! In between those two we've got several trade shows to attend so I'll certainly stay busy.

Look for the full video of this hunt on an upcoming episode of Bowhunt or Die. We still have 6 more exciting buck hunts to bring you over the next several weeks, including mine. To those of you still hunting out there remember to be safe, shoot straight and most importantly have fun!

Where Have All the Bucks Gone?

by Justin Zarr 18. November 2011 10:18
Justin Zarr

I don't know about the rest of you bowhunters out there, but this year's rut and poor hunting conditions have about got me beat! I've been hunting relatively hard, when time and work permits, since the end of October with very little success since my last Blog entry.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, I don't get to hunt every day. Like most of you who read this I have a regular job that keeps me occupied from Monday to Friday and the vast majority of my hunting is done on the weekends. That usually leaves me enough time for about 20 to 30 sits per year in stand, with only a third of those being during prime time. So when the sun is shining, I've got to make hay!

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother rattling.  It never seems to work for me.

The weekend of November 6th & 7th should have, by all accounts, been pretty good. We were just approaching the full moon and the weather was decent. However, after three hunts that weekend I had seen a grand total of 5 deer. The only bucks that showed up were a couple of love sick year and a half olds. Certainly not the caliber of deer that Mike and I are looking for.  Although they make for some entertaining hunts, after the first few you start to question whether or not a bigger buck is ever going to show up.

This little guy was right under my stand as I filmed him.  He had no idea Mike and I were perched just 15 feet above him.

I really nice 1 1/2 year old buck that Mike grunted in last weekend.  Give him a few years and he may be worthy of a shot.

The following weekend was much of the same. 4 sits yielded a total of 9 deer and again nothing with antlers older than a year and a half. High winds, a nearly full moon and warming temperatures certainly didn't help deer movmement, but I thought I would have seen SOMETHING moving around.

When you're sitting in your treestand in the morning waiting for the sun to come up and the moon is so bright you can almost shoot, it's usually not a good sign.

On Friday evening (11/11), at the end of a frustrating sit I did shoot a nice big doe that came out into a corn field in front of me. With shooting light fading and a 35+ yard shot I never saw exactly where my arrow hit her, but I was 99% confident the shot was good. However, after not seeing the deer drop in sight and not finding much blood I elected to wait until the morning to recover her. Unfortunately the local coyotes had different plans in mind as they found my doe, just over the rise out of site from my stand. Figures.

Although I double lunged this doe, the entrance and exit holes were both high which resulted in a poor blood trail.  Electing to let her lay overnight I was disappointed to find the coyotes got to her before I did.  Ironically, she was only 40 yards away from where I had followed the blood trail, but was unable to find her after dark.

Besides the lack of buck sightings from stand, it's been a tough year for trail cameras too. My trail cameras are working hard for me, but the big guys just don't seem to be cooperating. Despite my best efforts to local another shooter buck, I haven't found anything that really gets me excited for these cold November (and soon December) mornings.

Bucks like the one seen here have been frequent visitors to my Tink's mock scrapes, but the big guys have been eluding me so far.

This big guy we nicknamed "Goldberg" has been a frequent visitor in front of our Stealth Cam Prowlers, but with a busted main beam he's off the hit list for this year.  I just hope a neighbor doesn't get him during gun season.  If he makes it, he'll scare you next year.

Now that gun season is on here in Illinois I'll be limited to hunting my spot in bow-only Lake County, which unfortuantely isn't holding many trophy bucks this fall. The biggest buck I have on camera is a spindly 10 point that may have grossed in the mid 120's before he busted off a few of his tines!

"Spud Webb" before he busted off his right G2 and possibly several other tines.  Not a bad buck, but not exactly the caliber of deer I'm looking to put my 2nd buck tag on.

Okay, I guess I shouldn't be complaining too much here. All things considered I've had a really good season. I've harvested 3 deer, all on film, one of which is my biggest buck ever. That buck, which you can read about by clicking here, ended up gross scoring just over 158 inches which is far bigger than I originally thought. Although I'm not looking forward to another taxidermy bill, I won't mind admiring him for years to come.

So with all of that said, it's certainly not time to give up now! There's nearly 2 months of season left here in Illinois and if I want to fill my 2nd buck tag I'm going to have to keep hunting hard. So tomorrow morning when I'm in my Lone Wolf stand with Mathews in hand, I'll try to picture my tag wrapped around 150 inches of antler I know could be around the next tree.


October Bowhunting Success | A Buck Named Hitch

by Justin Zarr 31. October 2011 16:14
Justin Zarr

This particular tale begins in the spring of 2011.  After one of my most successful bowhunting seasons to date, I decided it was time to move on from the lease I had come to call home the past three seasons.  The days of chasing Dope Ear and Schafer were over, and it was time to find some new ground.  Preferably something closer than the 250 mile drive I had been making almost every weekend during the fall.  So with mixed emotions I let the landowner now that we would be moving on, and the search for a new hunting spot began.

Through some hard work, and some much needed luck, my good friend and hunting partner Mike Willand found just such a spot.  Located in far Northwestern Illinois, this small slice of heaven hugs the bluffs of the mighty Mississippi River and looked to be very promising.  After a brief conversation, confirming that we both agreed that this was our new spot, we signed the paperwork and began preparations for the fall.

Our first trip to the new farm was on a hot summer day in Mid-July.  This was the first time I had ever stepped foot on this farm in person.  Those of you who are big on pre-season scouting know how nearly impossible it can be to scout effectively during the summer months.  The foliage is thick, the bugs are horrible, the temperatures are hot and the humidity is suffocating.  In light of this, Mike and I did the majority of our scouting and planning of stand locations before ever heading to the woods.  Aerial photos and topographic maps are without question your best friend when it comes to scouting new ground.

Having a general idea where we wanted to hang our Lone Wolf stands before heading into the field helped tremendously and allowed us to hang several sets on our first trip that July day, and finish up the remaining sets during a return trip in August.  The 2nd set we hung was located nearly in the center of the farm along what we figured would be a good travel corridor during the rut. 

The dog days of summer may not be the optimal time to hang stands, but sometimes you don't have much of a choice.  One of the keys to being successful is being prepared, not just in hunting but in all aspects of life.  Here Mike is making his way down the field edge to hang one of our Lone Wolf stands in preparation for fall.

Located on the side of a ridge we had a corn field to the North of us and a creek to the South.  To most people this stand doesn’t appear to be anything special, and probably wouldn’t be a spot many people would put a stand.  However, the topography doesn’t lie.  If a deer wanted to move from the big timber to our West through our woods to check does in the bedding area to our East, he would most likely come through this spot.

While hanging stands that warm July day we also set out a trail camera on a fence crossing, hoping to get an inventory of the resident deer herd.   On our return trip in August we checked the camera and much to our liking we had captured several pictures of what appeared to be a nice buck.  The date on the first image was 7-27-11, which was Mike’s 4 year wedding anniversary.  This prompted us to name the buck in the photos “Hitch”.

Our first photo of Hitch, taken in late July.  The forked brow tine on his left side is a dead giveaway.

Fast forward to October 1st, our first day in stand on this farm.  Opening Morning was relatively uneventful as we only saw one small buck and a doe.  During the middle of the day while killing time before our evening hunt we checked our trail camera again, this time on a different fence crossing, and once again captured several photos of Hitch – this time out of velvet.

The next, and last, photo captured of Hitch on this farm.  This photo was taken in late September and we never got another photo of him on this farm.  Although we weren't getting pictures of him, we were confident he was still around.

Over the next several weeks we only hunted this farm a total of 3 days.  While we knew the farm was holding some good deer, we didn’t want to ruin our hunting before things were getting good.  At just over 100 acres it’s easy to put too much pressure on the deer early and decrease your chances of shooting a good buck.  We’ve made that mistake in the past and didn’t want to make it again.  So we bit our tongues and we waited.

The weekend of October 29th it was time to get serious.  Instead of leaving home at 2:30 am like we had done previously, we drove out on Friday night and got a hotel room.  Some extra sleep and a shower were in order now that the bigger bucks were likely on their feet during daylight hours. 

Our plan for this morning was somewhat different than the previous 3 trips to the farm.  Instead of circling around the edge of the property and coming in from the West, we were going to sneak straight up the middle and approach the stand from the East.  You see, earlier in October during our morning walk into the stand we had spooked what sounded like a big deer in the standing corn field.  Upon closer inspection of the area we found several big scrapes, some rubs and a definite “smell” of buck.  Whoever it was, that deer had been marking his territory when we so rudely interrupted him.  Not wanting to make the same mistake again, we altered our entry route accordingly.

Upon entering the woods on Saturday morning we once again encountered the distinct smell of buck.  Many of you likely know what I’m talking about.  The musky smell of rutting whitetail buck is unmistakable and running into that during late October likely means you’re in a buck’s core area.  Also during our trip into the stand, which was our first to this stand for the year, we found several big beds that reinforced our theory that we were in a buck’s bedroom.

As the sun rose on the chilly 29 degree morning, the daylight revealed several rubs and a scrape all within 30 yards of our stand location.  Although we had hung this stand in preparation for a good travel route, it appears that we ended up in a buck bedding area.  In late October in Northern Illinois there are certainly worse places to be!

The first hour of our morning was relatively uneventful until a small button buck made an appearance.   Showing up almost directly downwind of us the young buck was nervous, but unsure of just what he was smelling.  This is until he busted us up in the tree, trying to have a little fun at his expense.  I supposed that’s what we get for screwing around.

Our first visitor of the day, a young button buck.  Anytime you start seeing yearlings out on your own you know the rut is getting close. 

Roughly 45 minutes later, shortly before 9 am, I heard footsteps on the ridge to our West and shortly after I spotted a deer moving through the brush.  I told Mike we had a deer on the opposite ridge working our way, and we both stood up.  As the deer moved out from behind a tree the glimmer of white antlers could be seen and my heart rate quickened.  I put up my Vortex binoculars to size the buck up, to which Mike responded “Put away your binoculars and grab your bow, it’s a shooter!”

Of course I didn’t listen to him as I wanted to make 100% sure this buck was a shooter before I switched my brain into kill mode.  I’ve made the mistake before of not taking time to confirm the buck’s age and rack size and buck fever has gotten the best of me.  However, that wasn’t a problem this time.  As soon as my glass hit his rack I said to Mike “It’s Hitch”.   I immediately put down the binos and reached for my Mathews.

A shot of Hitch as he approached our stand location.  Here at roughly 35 yards I have no good shot opportunities.

Over the course of the next several minutes Hitch crossed the ridge and made his way in front of our stand.  He crossed broadside at just over 30 yards, but I had no shot.  The problem with hunting these hilly areas is that often times you can’t get high enough up in the trees to trim long shooting lanes, which was the case here.  Most of my shots were within 20 yards so he was going to have to close the distance before I could get an arrow headed his direction.

After passing in front of the stand Hitch took an abrupt left and began heading away from us.  Immediately, a small feeling of defeat began to set in.  He had come so close, but was now headed in the wrong direction.  While part of me immediately wanted to reach for my grunt call in an attempt to turn him around, the veteran deer hunter in me knew better.  The buck was still within 40 yards and grunting too soon would sure do nothing but send him in the opposite direction even faster.  My plan was to let him get out to 80 yards or so before hitting the call.  But before that could happen, a little bit of luck headed my way.  Hitch decided to turn around and come back towards us.

As the buck approached our stand and got to within 20 yards he had two trails to pick from.  Both crossed well within shooting range, but one went into an open area that would make for great video and the other behind a small tree holding on dearly to its leaves.  At this point my luck had started to run out, as he picked the trail shrouded by fall foliage.

When Hitch stepped into the open at just 18 yards I grunted to stop him, settled the pin on his shoulder, and sent an NAP Hellrazor tipped arrow his way.  The arrow slammed into the brute’s shoulder and he tore off up the hill, stopping just 50 yards away.  After just 20 seconds the mighty warrior staggered, and despite his best efforts, fell over as Mike continued to roll footage.  Nearly 3 months to the day after showing up on our trail camera, Hitch was dead.

The post-shot celebration was much as you would expect.  Mike and I were in somewhat of a state of disbelief as to what just happened.  You see, things just never seem to work out like this for us.  We hunt harder than most people we know, put more time into our stand setups and preparation, and yet rarely do our plans seem to go, well, as planned.  In this case, our plan was thought out and executed to perfection.  In just the 7th sit on a brand new farm the #1 target on our Hit List was down.  What a way to end October!

My initial reaction after the shot.  I can't believe I just shot Hitch!

Once the shock wore off and text messages were sent out we climbed down to retrieve our trophy.  Despite seeing him fall we still followed the blood trail, which was incredible.  Both deer I’ve shot with the Hellrazor this season have left great trails, which is a testament to both good shot placement as well as razor sharp broadheads.  You don’t need a 2 inch cut to put a deer down quickly provided you hit them in the right place.  My shot on Hitch was about 3 inches further forward than I would have liked, however my arrow penetrated completely through the big-bodied whitetail thanks to the ultra tough Hellrazor broadhead.  I know a lot of guys like big cutting diameters, but I'll take a small, accurate, tough-as-nails broadhead any day no matter how big the cutting diameter.

There are few better feelings for a bow hunter than the first time you wrap your hands around the antlers of a buck you just shot.

Guessing Hitch at 225+ lbs on the hoof we enlisted the help of our friend and other hunting partner Mr. Kenny Tekampe to help us drag the brute out.  Luckily we only had about a 60 yard drag to the field edge, where we were able to drive the truck and pick him up.  After a photo and video session for this week’s episode of Bowhunt or Die we loaded him up and headed to the deer processor.

I didn’t have a chance to put a tape to him, but I would guess he scores somewhere around 145 inches, which makes him my best buck to date.  I’ve yet to enter any of my qualifying bucks into the P&Y record book, but I just may with this one.  He is a great example of what the Midwest has to offer when it comes to high quality whitetails.

My best buck to date, and first buck shot with my Mathews z7 Xtreme.  If my luck continues it won't be the last either.

One thing I want to point out before I end this Blog is that this buck wasn’t a result of just my efforts alone.  It was a team effort that required of hard work, planning, and sacrifice by my friend, hunting partner, cameraman and partner in crime Mike Willand.  Mike and I dedicate nearly ½ of our season each year to film each other, which is not only a lot of work but a huge sacrifice.  For those of you who have never done it, imagine sitting in a tree on a cold November morning with your bow in the truck and a camera in your hand.  

So a big Thank You goes out to Mike for all of his help.   From finding this farm for us to hunt, to battling with me about treestand locations to filming one of the most memorable hunts of my life, you’re a great friend and not a half bad cameraman.  Hopefully I can repay the favor before the season is over!

Be sure to check out our online show, Bowhunt or Die, this Friday as the full video of this hunt will be featured in this week’s episode.  And if you missed last week’s show, but sure to check it out as it features Mike’s hunt for a great suburban whitetail from earlier this October.

The end of a successful hunt is always bittersweet.  The thrill of the hunt is mixed with the disappointment of knowing this particular adventure has come to an end.  However, knowing that the season is young and the peak of the rut is still ahead of us gives me hope that there are more exciting hunts to come before the 2011 season is over.

Cyclops Flare Spotlight Review

by Justin Zarr 13. October 2011 14:35
Justin Zarr

Flashlights are one of those pieces of gear that most of us forget about until we need them the most.  Whether we're changing a flat tire on the side of the road or helping a buddy track out a wounded deer, having a good, dependable light is a must.  While I've owned a number of flashlights of all shapes and sizes in my life, the Cyclops Flare is my current favorite.

This particular spotlight has already proven itself extremely handy this fall as I used it during an evening track job with my hunting partner Mike Willand.  Even with two other guys both with flashlights in hand, the Flare outshined them both and allowed me to see the blood trail yards ahead of everyone else.

With 3 high output LED bulbs the Flare puts out 193 lumens of bright white light.  For those of you keeping score at home, that's a LOT of light.  By comparison my 3 D-Cell Mag Lite with Krypton bulb, which has been my go-to light for a number of years, only puts out somewhere around 20 lumens of light. (Current figures using the newest methods for measuring lumens are currently unavailable on Mag Lite's website).

This picture shows the beam of light emmited from a 3 D-cell Mag Lite.  The photo was taken on my deck, and the deer target is 23 yards away.

This photo, taken in the exact same spot, shows the beam of light emmitted from the 193 lumen Cyclops Flare light.  A noticable improvement, wouldn't you say?

The 3 high powered LED lights provide the 193 lumen output of the Cyclops Flare.  The additional 6 low power green LEDs located around the outside of the light provide a good amount of light for scanning the immediate area in front of you.

Using the high power LED bulbs the Cyclops will burn for an impressive 3.5 hours.  By switching down to the 6 low power green LED bulbs you can squeeze out 100 hours of burn time.  The green lights are good for viewing the immediate area when you don't need the brightest of bright lights.  They're also good for find your way to your stand in the dark if you dont' want to alert game, or other hunters, to your presence.

The Cyclops Flare runs off 6 AA batteries which, nicely enough, are included with the light.

Aside from it's just it's sheer brightness I've become a big fan of the Cyclops' ergonomic handle.  Using the always-on lock switch I can turn the light on, and pan the area I'm exploring with ease. 

All in all, I've been extremely impressed with the Flare so far.  I've had it for a few months now and used it a handful of times and walked away impressed every time.  Hopefully I can put it to good use this fall on a few more blood trails.

If you're looking for a new flashlight for not just hunting purposes, but any purpose, check out the Flare.  With a $50 retail cost you can't go wrong.

The Cyclops Flare spotlight - a great bargain at just $50.

Using Deer Lures: An Interview with Terry Rohm of Tink’s Hunting Products

by Justin Zarr 12. October 2011 15:40
Justin Zarr

I’ve explored many different roads when it comes to hunting techniques over the years, but one that has eluded me so far is the use of scents. Sure, in my younger days I would drag some doe estrus lure around behind me and maybe hang up a film canister full of stinky cotton balls, but there was never any real technique put into it. Like a lot of young hunters I was simply throwing stuff against the proverbial wall to see what would stick. With little to no success using these scents I gave up on them and moved on to other tactics.

Now as I enter in my 30’s and feel that I have a decent grasp on some semi-advanced techniques I’ve began to come full circle with scents. This renewed interested started several years ago with the rising popularity of mock scrapes. I’ve learned quite a bit from talking with people who have successfully used them to harvest deer, including my friend and hunting partner Mike Willand. You can read Mike’s blog entries about mock scrapes by clicking here.

Outside of mock scrapes my interest has been peaked regarding the use of both curiosity scents and as well as rut scents such as buck urine and doe estrus. My thought process here is that we spend much of our time trying to lure in a whitetail buck using the sight of a decoy or the sound of a grunt call, why not attack his sense of smell as well?

To help me answer a few of the questions on how to most effectively use scents to my advantage I turned to an industry expert, Terry Rohm of Tink’s Hunting Products. Terry has been with Tink’s for over 20 years and undoubtedly has a wealth of knowledge on how to, and just as importantly how not to, use scents to your advantage. Below is a short series of questions and answers that I hope will help lead me in the right direction this fall. Hopefully you can learn a thing or two as well.

Terry Rohm of Tink's Hunting Products is no stranger to using deer scents to help him tag trophy whitetails like this.

Q: What do you believe is the biggest mistake that hunters make when using scents while deer hunting?

A: I think there are two mistakes hunters make. 1st they depend too much on the lure to shoot a deer. Deer lure is another tool for a hunter to use just like your bow or treestand. Hunters need to keep in mind they still have to do their home work and also realize deer lures are not magic. 2nd mistake, and this is going to sound like a sales pitch, but some hunters do not use enough lure. A deer has to smell it to work. This is why we say to put out 3 scent bombs or so. If the wind is not going in the right direction the deer will never smell it.

Q: What time of year do you feel that using scents is most effective?

A: The rut, when those ole bucks are up on their feet chasing does. Lure can also help stop a buck to get a shot with a bow. This is a great time to use a drag line or boot pad with lure on it going to your stand. You have seen buck with their nose to the ground just trying to pick up any scent of a doe, bang he hits your drag trail and here he comes!

Q: Can you describe what you feel is the perfect situation in which to use deer scents as an attractant?

A: I think one of the best examples I give is where I’m hunting thick areas where viability is poor and I know bucks travel that area. I want my lure to drift into that thick cover to pull a buck out for a shot. I used our Tink’s #69 Buck Bomb on a hunt in Montana that worked great. We set up next to some thick willows we knew deer were going through. I would spray the Bomb every now and then and it was bringing deer out of the willows to locate the lure.

Q: How do synthetic scents differ from natural scents, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of both?

A: I don’t know if there is really any advantages or disadvantages to either type of lure. As a company we work hard at controlling the formulas of both our synthetics and natural urine formulas to make them both effective. Most synthetics have an indefinite shelf life, however with natural urines air will break it down over time, which is called bacterial decomposition.

I think the #1 question I often get is “Will my Tink’s 69 be good next year?” and the answer is Yes, as long as the cap it tight and no air gets to it. It will be good for years, just like a fine wine!

Q: What do you feel is the most effective way to disperse scents?

A: I really like two different methods. The first is our orange Scent Bombs. It is very easy to put 3 or more out and unlike the old film canisters they are not messy. Since we put a reflective strip on the outside they are very easy to find with a flashlight after you climb down from an evening hunt. Hunters can also use them as a yardage marker.

The next would be our Tink’s Buck Bomb. I love this thing when I’ve got deer headed down wind of me and I know they will be going through my scent stream. I just take it out and spurt it a few times like a spray paint can. You have to do this before they hit your scent stream. Most of the time the deer will lock up and stop smell a bit and then move on. The thing I’m really trying to avoid by doing this is to keep them from blowing and running. Of course if they smell it and come in for a shot, even better!

Q: What is the most effective way to create and hunt over a drag line?

A: A huge mistake when using a drag line or boot pads is that when they go right to the bottom of their stand and stop. As a bow hunter this doesn’t offer a good shot. The deer will follow it with his nose to the ground and coming right at you, no shot! You need to think about the approach to your stand. I like to drag it if front of my stand or where ever my best shot is and then go a little farther to get a good quartering away shot and stop. Then I want to hang it up.

When using a drag rag in conjunction with deer lure, make sure not to end the scent trail at the bottom of your treestand.  Instead, drag the lure through your best shooting lane and then hang it up in a tree.  This will offer you a much better shot opportunity if a buck comes in to investigate.

Q: Is there any time when a hunter should avoid using scents?

A: The only time I don’t is when I’m hunting in an oak tree with acorns falling and I know deer are feeding under it. In this case I want the area to be as natural as it can be.

Q: Will curiosity scents work on a mature buck during the early season?

A: Yes, a curiosity lure is a great choice early in the season. Bucks are concentrating on feeding and some may be rubbing a bit. Things are changing fast in their world so when a buck smells something they can’t identify they search for the source and see if it’s something they can eat or see what the new smell is. Tink’s Magnetics is a great scent for early season buck hunting as it’s both a curiosity scent but also appeals to a buck’s sex drive as well.

Q: How important is controlling the amount of human scent around your stand site while you are placing out and using deer scents?

A: Human scent left behind can and will ruin your hunt, period!!! Hunters need to wear rubber boots, rubber gloves and try not to rub up against any brush. I have heard several stories from hunters that say deer lure spooked the deer. After listing to their stories I’ve come to find out the deer went straight to the Scent Bomb and stuck his nose on it and then spooked. My first question is usually “Why did you not shoot the buck before he got there?” Most likely when he stuck his nose on it he smelled the scent from the hunter’s fingers, which caused him to spook. So always make sure you’re wearing rubber gloves when using any type of scent or deer lure.

When using deer lures it's imperative that you wear rubber gloves in order to minimize the amount of human scent you leave behind.  Remember, when a buck smells the lure he will be on full alert, analyzing every smell that hits his nostrils.  If he smells human scent mixed with your lure he may bolt before you can get a shot.

Q: What is the best tip you can give to a hunter who is looking to use scents in order to help him harvest a mature whitetail?

A: Wind is #1. You have got to have the right wind to hunt a stand if you want to be successful.  Even when using deer lures, if a buck smells you the game is over.

Aside from that, there are several things that will affect how well scents and lures work. Hunters must evaluate their hunting area before deciding if and when to use scents. Factors like hunting pressure, the age structure of your deer herd, the amount of big bucks in your area and the buck to doe ratio will all determine how effective the use of deer scents will be. If you have way too many does in your area then tools like lures, grunt calls and rattling horns may not work well because a buck does not have to compete for breeding rights.

My best tip to shoot a big buck using lures is that you’ve got to hunt big bucks where big bucks are! Do that, and everything else will fall in place.

With a wall full of bucks like this, there's no doubt that Terry knows what he's talking about.  You can be sure that I'll be putting some of his advice to work over the next several weeks.

Well, there you have it folks. Some of the best information you’re going to get about hunting whitetails using deer scents, straight from the horse’s mouth. Terry Rohm has killed a pile of great bucks in his life, many of which fell victim to his use of scents and attractants to lure them in range. I know I’ll be experimenting with the use of deer scents this fall and I’ll be sure to report back on both my successes as well as failures.

Good luck out there! And of course if you have any comments or questions please feel free to post them at the end of this Blog and I’ll do my best to get them answered for you.

Slow Opening Weekend of Bowhunting in Illinois

by Justin Zarr 5. October 2011 02:47
Justin Zarr

October 1st is a magical day for many bowhunters across the US, and especially here in Illinois.  Despite the fact that early season hunting is rarely productive for all but the luckiest of hunters, there's something special about that first sit of the year.  Whether it's the sights and sounds of nature coming alive with the rise of the sun or the thoughts of monster bucks dancing in our heads, it's like Christmas morning for grown-ups.

This October 1st was no exception for both myself as well as my hunting partner/cameraman Mike Willand.  With a new piece of property to hunt for this fall we were amped up to hit the road and get up in a tree.  So when my alarm went off at 1:45 on Saturday morning it didn't take much effort to get me out of bed and ready to go.  Some 2 1/2 hours later we arrived at our hunting grounds and quickly got geared up for the morning sit.

No doubt that Mike is pumped up for opening day!  Ah, the enthusiasm of October 1st.  Let's see how you feel come mid-November!

With temps in the low 30's on opening morning our hopes were high that we would see some deer movement.  Shortly after Mike's first interview of the year (I was behind the camera) he spotted the first whiteail of 2011 creeping its way along the creek line.  Even though he was just a young fork buck, the first deer of the year always gets the blood flowing.

This yearling buck came to within 10 yards of our stand on Opening morning.  Not the shooter we're looking for, but the first deer of the year is always exciting!

After the morning sit was over Mike and I checked a trail camera we had set out about a month earlier on a fence crossing.  Much to our delight, our target buck from earlier this summer "Hitch" had showed up during late September along with another shooter buck we're calling "Little Nicky".

Our #1 target buck, Hitch, out of velvet.  We're hoping to have some encounters with him this fall that end with him in the back of the truck.

Our #2 target buck, Little Nicky.  Although his rack isn't huge, judging from his head and neck he looks like a good mature whitetail.

With some renewed anticipation we headed out for the afternoon hunt, this time with me in front of the camera.  Unforutnately we were unable to sit the stand we really wanted to be in, which overlooked some big oak trees that are dropping acorns.  Due to the NE wind direction we were forced to sit on the edge of a standing corn field where we were limited to spotting just 4 turkeys and a few squirrels.

Have you guys seen any deer around here?  Because I sure haven't!

With a long season ahead of us we both decided to sleep in on Sunday morning and just hunt the afternoon.  This time we split up and hunted by ourselves.  Of course I had a very slow night with only a single red fox sighting and about a thousand squirrels running around.  Mike, on the other hand, had some great luck and managed to put a nice doe on the ground.  Keep an eye on his Blog for the full story in the next couple of days.

We'll be back at it this weekend despite the forcast of warm temps.  At least we'll have the South winds we need to hunt our better stands, so hopefully we'll get lucky and see one of our target bucks.

Trail Cameras Don't Always Have Good News

by Justin Zarr 26. September 2011 16:18
Justin Zarr

With the price of today's trail cameras well within reach of most bowhunters, you're hard pressed to find a hunter who doesn't own at least one or two. Most of us put these handy little devices out during the mid-summer months in hopes of catching a monster buck lurking within our hunting areas. Just one photo is all it takes to get your blood pumping and cause many nights of lost sleep leading up to the hunting season. However, this isn't always how it plays out in the whitetail woods.

Heading into this summer I was admittedly anxious to find out what would show up on my trail cameras at one of my primary hunting areas here in the Chicagoland suburbs. Last year was one of the worst years for getting pictures of good bucks on this farm, despite the fact that I was able to connect on a very nice whitetail in mid-November. Having taken out the lone buck that was a consistant resident of this area I was unsure who would take his place come this fall.

After shooting this buck last fall I was somewhat concerned to see what bucks, if any, moved in to take his place.  During the course of the fall he was the only buck that showed up with any consistancy on my trail cameras.

With 6 trail cameras running since early July, my fears have somewhat come true. I have yet to get a single picture of a buck I would consider a shooter. In fact, it took several months before I got a picture of a buck at all! If anyone is proof that there isn't a Booner behind every tree here in Illinois, it's certainly me.

This up and coming 2 year old has been a regular on two of my cameras this summer.  He's nice, but not a shooter.

It seems like each year I have a plethora of these messed-up yearling bucks running around.  I have no idea what happens to them after the fall is over.  They seemingly disappear.

I'm pretty sure this buck is a 3 year old, but his jacked up left side doesn't exactly get my heart pounding.

I believe this the the oldest buck I've captured on my camera this summer at 4 or 5 years old, but he won't score much over 100 inches with that rack.  If I see him, there's a very real chance he'll get an arrow flung his way...

Another up and coming 2 year old who will probably disappear after this season.

Possibly the best buck I have on camera so far, I think this buck is 3 years old and will be lucky to hit 125 inches gross.  A nice buck, but not what I'm looking for this season.

Despite my lack of targets for this fall, I'm not worried yet. Every year there's always a few bucks who move through this area during the end of October and into November when the rut kicks in. I know my stands are hung in the best spots to catch one of these cruisers when they make the mistake of coming through, so there's no need to panic quite yet. The same goes for those of you out there who are in a similar situation. Just because the big bucks are eluding your trail cameras right now doesn't mean they won't make the mistake of moving into your area later in the year. The key is to hunt hard, hunt smart and be ready when he shows up! After all, you just never know what's going to happen in the whitetail woods.

I captured several photos of this buck, nicknamed "Big Mac", last season but nothing after November 18th.  I didn't find his sheds and don't have any photos of him so far this year.  Although I have no idea if he's alive or not, I'm still holding out hope that he's around and until I know otherwise he is my #1 target on this particular farm.

With that said, heading into opening weekend Mike and I will be hunting a new farm that we picked up roughly 2 1/2 hours from home. We know there's at least one shooter roaming those woods and we're pretty sure there's a few more where he came from. This weekend we plan on putting out a few mock scrapes using our Tink's Power Scrape and seeing what our new Stealth Cam Prowler trail cameras can pick up. I have a feeling we'll be pleasantly surprised the next time we check our trail cameras.  The Prowler shoots great HD videos so I'm excited to see what shows up.  As most of you know, scrapes are possibly the single best place to get a lot of photos/videos of the bucks in your particular area. 

The angle of this photo is deceiving, but with a few weeks left to grow I'm hoping this buck topped out well into the 140's, which makes him a shooter in my book.

Good luck to those of you who are heading out for October 1st this weekend. Remember to always wear your safety harness and shoot straight!


Bowhunting Elk in Colorado

by Justin Zarr 25. September 2011 11:31
Justin Zarr

Nearly two years ago our good friend and forum member Dan Mater (130Woodman) asked Mike Willand and myself if we'd like to go elk hunting with him in Colorado. Having prior obligations for the 2010 season we decided as a group that 2011 would be the year we headed West to chase elk together. So on Friday September 16th we packed up the truck and hit the road. Some 17 hours later we rolled into town and without sleeping, hit the mountain.

After 6 straight days of walking 8 to 12 miles a day (mostly uphill I believe) we returned home defeated this past Friday. We're not entirely sure what the problem was, but it seems like a very late spring has turned into a very late fall with the majority of the elk not bugling much. Those of you who have hunted elk on public lands probably know that when the elk aren't talking, the hunting can be tough. We only heard a handful of bugles during our trip, and most of those were far away and were unresponsive to Dan's calling. The lone elk who responded and came into calling was on the 2nd to last night of our trip, and the only night where Mike and I split off on our own to hopefully cover more ground. So while Dan had an angry bull at 40 yards, Mike and I were a mile and a half up the mountain watching nothing but squirrels and birds. Figures!

I'm no expert, but I don't think late September in the mountains of Colorado is supposed to be this green.

So instead of spending most of our time trying to coax an angry bull into bow range, we spent the majority of our time simply trying to locate elk to hunt. Many of the typical spots where Dan has has success in years past were nearly void of elk sign. So we scoured the mountains as best as our Midwestern legs and lungs would allow us, and in the end came up emptyhanded.

Mike and Dan listening for a response after letting out a bugle during our Day 3 climb to nearly 11,000 feet.

Mike and I were all geared up to capture some exciting footage for "Bowhunt or Die", but the elk just didn't feel like cooperating.

Although none of us bagged an elk on this trip, I have to say it wasn't a complete bust. The three of us shared more laughs than I've had in a long time, experienced some amazing scenery and breathtaking views, and solidified our friendships which will most assuredly spend more time in the field together in the future. I'm not going to say I'm not disappointed that none of us got a shot opportunity because I am, but hey, that's life!

Sunset on the last night of our trip.  It's not an elk in the truck, but not a bad way to end the week.

For those of you who have never elk hunted before, here are just a few tips that I learned during my hiking adventure, which was disguised as a hunting trip.

1. Make sure you have good-fitting, comfortable, waterproof boots. Us Midwestern guys may think we're used to walking a lot up some of these "hills", but trust me it's NOTHING like climbing 2,000-3,000 feet in elevation up a mountain side which takes sometimes 2 to 4 hours. Having boots that fit well, are comfortable, and waterproof will make your hunt 100x better. If your feet get wet, sore or blistered on the first couple of days you're in for a LONG week.  My boot of choice on this trip was the Rocky Lynx, which worked out great.

2. Bring plenty of food and water. During this trip I typically went through about 2-3 liters of water per day. 2 liters were in the water bladder in my pack, and the other in bottles I brought with me. Hiking up these mountains all day is tough work, and you'll be glad you brought the extra water. I also packed 2 sandwiches, 2 Nutrigrain bars, and 2 granola bars for the day as well. When you leave the truck at 5 am and get back at 8 pm you'll need the food.

Peanut Butter & Honey?  Don't mind if I do...

3. Have a good pack. Although after the first day or two I took out everything I didn't need, I still found myself bringing a lot of gear up the mountain with me. Whether it's extra clothes, 1st aid kit, water, food, binos, rangefinder, GPS etc you'll be taking a lot of stuff with you each day. Having a pack that is light weight, adjustable, comfortable and big enough for all of your gear is a must. On this trip I used the Blacks Creek 3:16 Lumbar pack, and it was awesome. Roomy enough to hold all of my junk, and comfortable enough not to bog me down. I'll be doing a full write-up on this pack in the next week or so. IMO, it's the best pack I've ever personally used/owned.

Mike glassing for elk.  Keep looking buddy!

4. Dress appropriately. Unlike some of the short walks to your treestand on a cold November morning where you can get away with wearing most of your layering clothing, you can't do that when hunting elk. After my first day of trying that, I learned my lesson pretty quickly. By the 3rd day I was walking up the mountain in the mornings in nothing but a t-shirt, with no hat. Once we got up the mountain and slowed down I would then add my Scent Shield Merino Wool insulating layer and top if off with a Lost Camo hoody from Gamehide.

Even though we didn't so much as lay eyes on an elk, I still had a great trip.  A big thanks to Dan Mater for bringing Mike and I out for our first elk hunt, and dealing with our ridiculousness all week!

So with our elk hunt now officially over, Mike and I are turning our attention towards our true love - chasing whitetails here in Illinois. Our season opens up next Saturday and you can bet we'll be perched up in a tree somewhere. After last week's bowhunting frustration I feel sorry for the first doe that wanders within bow range of us!

Treestand Placement - Morning Stands vrs Evening Stands

by Justin Zarr 2. September 2011 10:05
Justin Zarr

It’s that time of year again where many of us are finishing up our final treestand preparations for the fast approaching season.  While many bow hunters are simply checking the condition of stands that have been in place for years, others are studying topographic and aerial maps, checking deer sign and trying to formulate a plan that will help them be successful.  When it comes to picking out your stand locations I’ve found it helps to determine if you’re looking for a morning location or an evening location.

By and large one of the biggest mistakes I see novice hunters make is hunting stand locations at the wrong times.  Unfortunately for many of these hunters, they often don’t realize what’s going on until it’s too late.  This is primarily due to the fact that they are spooking deer that they may never see or hear.

Keep in mind that some of the strategies I’m about to talk about are not fool proof.These are more of a general guideline that may help you get close enough for a shot, or at least determine the exact spot you need to be in order to make something happen this season.


As a general rule of thumb, try to avoid hunting food sources in the mornings.  Most whitetails are typically active during the night, much of which is spent feeding.  In many cases whitetails will still be feeding in the hours leading up to sunrise which means you stand a good chance of spooking them on your way into your stand if you are trying to hunt over a food source (or too close to one).  Walk into that food plot you spent hours working on this summer an hour before daylight and chances are you’ll spot several sets of eyeballs in your flashlight before you hear the telltale snort of a whitetail headed the other direction.

When it comes to avoiding food sources in the morning this also includes the entrance route to your stands.  As a young hunter I always took the path of least resistance to my stand locations, which often meant marching through the direct center of a cut corn or bean field an hour before light.  I would see eyes reflecting back in my flashlight and hear deer snorting at me on my walk in, but didn’t put two and two together as to why my morning hunts were often so unproductive until some years later.  Looking back on those days I can’t help but laugh at my ignorance. 

In order to maintain undetected try to slip into your stand using natural features such as creeks, ravines, and standing crops to your advantage.  Take care to avoid walking field edges or areas within sight or earshot of a food source where you think deer may be.  In most cases this is going to make your morning walk longer and more difficult than you’re used to, however it will almost surely increase your morning deer sightings.

So if not food sources, where should you hunt in the mornings?  My personal favorite places to hunt during the morning are as close as I can get to a good bedding area.  The intent is to catch deer coming off the feed sources at night and working their way back to safety to bed for the day.  This tactic, although productive, does pose several risks that must be taken into consideration.

First, you need to set up between the food and the bedding area.  If you set up on the wrong side of the bedroom you may find yourself playing more games on your phone than watching deer.   When picking your stand location it is helpful to keep in mind the various food sources available to your local whitetails and hang several stand sets that you can utilize as the food sources change.  When farmers begin taking in crops or acorns begin to drop the deer will begin utilizing different food sources and, in some cases, different bedding areas as well.  A general rule of thumb is that you can never have too many stand locations to pick from.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to harvest this nice Illinois buck on the morning of October 19th.  I was set up very close to a small bedding area that was surrounded by rubs when he appeared shortly after daylight.  Mid to late October is a great time to catch bucks like this on their feet just late enough to get a shot at them.

Second, watch the wind carefully.  I prefer to hunt on a cross wind, which is blowing perpendicular to both the bedding and feeding areas.  This allows me to get into the stand without blowing out deer from the food source, yet doesn’t expose me to any deer that may happen to slip into the bedroom from another direction without me knowing.  Of course I don’t always get this ideal wind which means that you’ll often have to pick a stand with the wind blowing at least partially into the bedding area.  Be sure to hunt these stands very sparingly as you may only have one or two opportunities to hunt them on a non-perfect wind before they are blown out.  However, if you’ve played your cards right once chance may be all you need.
Also, when picking a morning stand you have to consider not just your entrance but your exit as well.  Don’t walk through the middle of the bedding area on your way back to the truck unless you enjoy not seeing deer from that stand.  They key is to remain undetected so try exiting through those food sources you avoided in the morning, where you’re less likely to encounter a bedded buck.

This map of a property I used to hunt shows both morning "M" and evening "E" setups.  For the morning hunts I would sneak down the road and into the woods in order to catch the deer moving off the feed fields back into the timber.  Conversely, evening setups overlooking a standing bean field were very productive and allowed easy access without spooking deer bedded in the timber.

Finally, make sure you get into your stand early.  Many of the mature bucks we’re hunting prefer to be off the food sources and headed back to bed well before daylight.  If you’re walking into your stand 20 minutes before shooting light and run into a buck headed the same direction you may have just blown your chance.  I like to be in my stand and ready to go at least an hour before shooting light, which often means leaving the truck a solid 2 hours before shooting light.  This gives me time to cool off from that extra long hike, get my gear ready and let the woods settle back down before the sun peaks over the horizon.  If you do nothing else, try getting into your stands much earlier than you do know and you’ll be surprised at how many more deer you will begin to see.


During evening hunts I prefer to hunt close to, if not overlooking, a hot food source.  The majority of your deer will be bedded down during the daytime and get up near dusk to begin feeding.  In most cases they will begin to work their way towards food sources where they can chow down all night under the cover of darkness.  Does will almost always be the first deer to enter a field at night, with most mature bucks not willing to expose themselves until the cover of darkness is close.

Finding a hot food source, like this standing corn field, is a great starting point for your evening hunts.  After you've located the destination food source try to locate where the deer are entering the fields and set up on the down wind side.

Just like hunting during the morning you need to be aware of your wind direction and approach to the stand.  Your wind should typically be blowing from your location towards the food source, or perpendicular to it.  Make sure to avoid having your wind blow directly into the area you expect the deer to approach from (the bedding area).  I know this seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised at the number of hunters who simply pick a stand on the edge of a field without paying attention to wind direction.

Approaching your stand doesn’t necessarily require as much work as your morning sets as walking through or on the edge of your agricultural fields is a great way to get into your stand undetected.  The key is to avoid walking through any timber or locations you think deer may be bedded such as CRP, overgrown pastures, or any thick cover.  If you just go trouncing through the middle of the woods on your way into your stand you may very well blow out the bedded deer before they have a chance to make their way to your food source.

For those of you with good agricultural fields or food plots, and unpressured deer, you may have good luck directly overlooking the food source.  However, as many of us have found out, sitting directly on a food source may provide consistent sightings of does and small bucks but not the mature deer we’re after.  This can be attributed to the fact that often times big bucks like to hang back in the woods and wait for the cover of darkness before coming out into the open.  After all, they didn’t get that big by being stupid. 

In these cases you’ll often find a heavy concentration of buck sign (rubs and scrapes) either just inside the field edge, or just outside of the bedding area.  If you start seeing this increase in sign during mid-October but no buck sightings in the fields you may need to move your stand in closer to the bedding area and try to catch these bucks while they are staging.  Staying mobile by either using a climbing stand or a set of Lone Wolf climbing sticks and hang-on stand can present a huge benefit to the bow hunter.

A great way to help you determine when the bucks are visiting your food sources is to use a trail camera. When it comes to trail cameras many hunters simply use them to gather an inventory of their deer herd, but not as actual scouting tools.  If you can change your way of thinking and place your camera in strategic areas to tell you when deer are active it can help you figure out which places to hunt, and which places to avoid.  If you are getting nothing but night time photos of your target bucks on field edges, try moving back 100 yards or so and see if you can surprise him before darkness falls.

If your trail camera is showing you a lot of buck activity in your food source after dark, you may need to move in closer to the bedding area in order to catch a buck on his feet during daylight hours.

Another overlooked evening set that often times coincides with staging areas are acorn drops.  Often times I see people underestimating the power of acorns when it comes to whitetail hunting, which is a big mistake.  There are few foods a whitetail enjoys more than a fresh crop of acorns, especially white acorns.  If you can find a white oak that’s dropping acorns in between a bedding area and your primary food source you may just have found one of your best evening setups. 

Several years ago I was fortunate enough to find a “magic oak” tree that was dropping acorns so often it sounded like it was raining.  Located about 100 yards off a field edge this tree was attracting all of the local bucks who would eat and spend time sparring and interacting with each other before dark.  After observing this movement from a stand that was just out of range I repositioned my Lone Wolf treestand to move in on the action and two nights later killed one of my best bucks with a bow.

After spotting this buck feeding on acorns under a huge white oak tree, I repositioned my Lone Wolf stand and shot him two nights later under the same tree.  Mid to late October is a great time to locate, pattern, and harvest a good buck before the rut kicks in and he disappears from his core area.


The above tips are simply a guideline that should help you get close to the deer you’re hunting and be able to observe their movements and patterns.  With a little bit of luck (and some newfound skills) you’ll be able to hang a stand and kill a deer from it using these tips.  However, that’s not always the case.  Bowhunting is a game of inches and sometimes you’ll find that your stand is close but not close enough to give you a shot.  When this happens you need to be ready to move.

Possibly the biggest mistake I see people make is hunting the same stand over and over again, hoping that someday a deer will walk within range.  While there are certain stands that can produce year in and year out I’ve found that those “killing stands” aren’t as common as I would like.  Sure, you may have SEEN a buck from this stand two years ago, and your uncle may have killed one with his gun a decade ago, but what is going on in your woods today?  As food sources change from year to year and other factors including hunting and outside pressure change, deer will alter their movement patterns.  In these cases you need to be ready to move.

I believe the #1 reason most hunters don’t move their stands more often is a combination of laziness and difficulty of moving stands.  If you’re using a ladder stand you can pretty much forget about being mobile.  Likewise, using screw-in steps and heavy steel hang-on stands can present quite the challenge as well.  Having a good, lightweight treestand setup is the only way to go when it comes to staying mobile.  My personal choice, as mentioned earlier, is a Lone Wolf hang-on stand and climbing sticks.  With this setup and I can scout a staging area with fresh sign and be set up and hunting in less than 20 minutes.  Often times this means the difference between success and failure.

Investing in a good light-weight setup like a Lone Wolf Alpha can pay dividends during the hunting season.  If you're not getting close enough for a shot in your current location, don't be afraid to move!  A wise bowhunter once said that the difference between a good stand and a great stand is sometimes less than 10 yards.

So if you find yourself in the position of seeing a lot of deer but not getting close enough for a shot, try moving your stand location and see what happens.  After all, the window of opportunity for most of us is relatively small.  Between weekends and a few “call in sick” days most of us only get to spend somewhere between 5 and 10 days in a stand while the hunting is good (end of October to mid November).  If you don’t do it now, you may be waiting until next year to wrap your tag around a nice set of whitetail antlers.

Essential Tools For Hanging Treestands

by Justin Zarr 24. July 2011 16:23
Justin Zarr

Every year about this time I curse myself for not hanging more treestands during the spring. It seems like I always start out with good intentions, but once the weather breaks my mind wanders to other things and before you know it August is staring you in the face. So despite the heat and the bugs it's time to hang a few treestands before fall comes. So I grab my stand-hanging pack, some bug spray, a couple Lone Wolf stands and off I go.

Inside my stand-hanging pack there's a variety of tools and supplies that are essential to hanging stands quickly, effectively and most important safely. In no order of imporance here are the items I carry with me while hanging and trimming treestand locations.

  • Lineman's Belt
  • Hand Saw
  • Extentible Pole Saw
  • Hand Pruners
  • Screw-in tree steps
  • Gear hooks
  • Realtree E-Z Hangers
  • Bright Eyes reflective tacks
  • Bow ropes/Hoists
  • Treestand lock
  • Bug Spray


All of this gear has it's specific purpose that allows me to hang and trim my treestand locations more quickly and safely than ever before.

Let's start with the lineman's belt. This is probably the most important piece of gear to have as it not only makes hanging stands a LOT easier, it makes it a lot safer as well. I personally use the Treehopper belt, which I have retrofitted with a Lone Wolf linesman's belt. I prefer not to wear my full body harness that I wear while hunting primarily because I don't want to get it smelly with bug spray and sweat. The Treehopper is extremely easy to use and allows me to hang stands and sticks while having both hands free. If you're hanging stands without some kind of lineman's belt do yourself, and your family, a favor and get one before you hang another stand. Even if you don't ever slip, you'll thank me after seeing how much easier it is to hang a stand when you have both hands free.

After you get your stands up in the tree it's time to trim some shooting lanes. There's three tools I use for this - the hand saw, pole saw and hand pruners. With these three items you should be able to trim just about any shooting lane you could need. Since these tools are used quite a bit, and used hard, I make sure to use the best ones I can find. I've found the best combination to be the Wicked Tree Gear hand saw, Treehopper "Lane Maker" ratcheting pruners, and Hooyman 10 foot extentible pole saw.

The Wicked Tree Gear hand saw is a brand new product for this year, and so far it's performed extremely well. What sets this particular saw apart is the all-metal construction and extremely durable blade. There isn't a single plastic part on this saw which means it's extremely durable and won't break on you. The blade is sharp and tough, which means I can not only saw through large limbs but use it for the old "grip and rip", slashing down small twigs, vines, weeds, etc. This is a great product and if you're sick and tired of buying a new hand saw (or two) every year, I suggest you get a Wicked.

The Wicked Tree saw features a cast-aluminum handle and hardened steel hardware, which makes it extremely durable and a great option for hunters who are hard on their gear.

Hand pruners are another item I use a ton. After breaking several pairs of cheap plastic-handle pruners, and not being able to cut through large limbs with standard pruners, I discovered the Lane Maker from Treehopper. Like the Wicked hand saw, the Lane Maker is 100% metal which makes it extremely durable. Mine has made it through two hunting seasons along with constant use around my yard during the off-season, and it's still going strong. The ratching action allows you to cut through limbs up to 1" in diamater, which is very nice.

The ratcheting action of the Lane Maker pruners makes them great for cutting through larger limbs.

Anyone who has read my Blogs over the past several seasons knows how much I like my Hooyman Extendible Saw. The 10 foot version is perfect for reaching some of those out-of-range limbs, and it's packability is great for both pre-season and in-season lane trimming. It's not the greatest pole saw in the world as far as the durability of the blade goes, but the packability and versatility makes this saw certainly worth the purchase.

Here Pro Staff Blogger Scott Abbott uses his 10 foot Hooyman saw to trim shooting lanes during the summer.

With the stand hung and lanes trimmed before I leave I always make sure that it's properly "accessorized". That includes hanging a bow rope, screwing in several small gear hooks to hang my pack, rattling antlers, quiver, etc and a bow hanger. I personally like the Realtree E-Z Hanger, which seems to be a pretty popular choice with quite a few hunters. Unfortuatnely with some of the less-than-honest folks roaming the woods these days, I also lock my stands to the tree before leaving as well. Although it won't completely prevent stand theft, it will hopefully deter it.

On my way out of the woods I like to mark my stands with a few Bright Eyes reflective tacks. This allows me to better find the stand again when it's dark. This is very helpful those first few hunts of the year when you've haven't been to that stand in a couple of months. After all, nobody likes wandering around the woods in the dark, looking for their stand on opening day!

A couple other items I carry with me at all times are spare tree straps and a couple of screw-in tree steps. You never know when you'll need an extra strap or two to help get your sticks or stand around larger trees, or when you'll need that one extra step to get your stand in just the right spot.

So as you head out this summer to prepare your stand for fall, make sure you bring everything you'll need to get the job done right the first time. Making sure your stands are 100% ready to go before the season starts can not only increase your chances of success but make your hunt a lot more enjoyable as well.

Bowhunting Get Together a Huge Success

by Justin Zarr 24. June 2011 05:51
Justin Zarr

Building on the tradition of the past 2 years, the staff here at was extremely excited about our 3rd annual Get Together. Much like deer camp, this event has become an annual tradition that we all look forward to. Each year we dedicate quite a bit of our time and energy to making the event bigger and better than the year before and this was no exception.

As you may have read on Cody Altizer's blog, the event started for us on Friday June 10th with our Hunting Network staff meeting. Seeing as though many of our team members are located all over the country this is a great opportunity for everyone to get together and go over a few of the finer points that help make the finest bow hunting website in the world. We were also fortunate enough to have several of our Sponsors pay us a visit to inform everyone about their companies and their products.

The following day, June 11th, the official Get Together was held at Coon Creek Hunt Club in Garden Prairie, IL. This even is open to anyone who wants to come out and enjoy a day of good old fashioned fun. Which means if you haven't been to an event yet, you better be there next year!

We started the day off with getting everyone signed up and assigned to a team, then it was time to start shooting. As always we had numerous shooting events set up for everyone to participate in.

A group of shooters getting signed up the the day's events.

Yours truly giving some basic safety instructions before beginning the shoot.

The gang from Pine Ridge Archery making their way out to the course.

Thanks to our friends at Rinehart Targets, our 3-D course was better than ever! We had a dozen new archery targets that were in tip-top shape which made both scoring and arrow removal inifinitely better than in previous years. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of shooting a course with Rinehart targets I highly recommend you do so as soon as possible. Having shot at just about every 3-D target on the market I can unquestionably say these targets are the best. In fact, we threw awal all of our non-Rinehart targets simply because they had fallen apart to the point they were unusable.

And you thought a wounded bear was dangerous?  Here Steve Flores finds out what happens when you don't put a Velociraptor down on the first shot!

A great shot of an arrow in flight, courtesy of Jason McKee.

Clinton Fawcett taking aim with his Z7 Xtreme Tactical on the practice range.

Jared Schlipf from Lone Wolf Treestands showing off his perfect shot on the elk from 60 yards.  Luck, or is he just that good?

A group of shooters tallying up their scores after shooting at the 30 point buck.

When all of the scores were tallied up it was 1st time attendee Tony Platt who went home with the 1st place trophy. Pro Staff members Dean Krueger and Dustin DeCroo came in 2nd and 3rd place respectibly.

Our long distance shoot for this year was set at roughly 70 yards, which made it pretty challenging for a lot of our shooters. Personally speaking I only have pins out to 50 yards for my bowhunting needs so it was an "aim high and pray" moment! Although my long range skills weren't very impressive, some of our shooters were remarkably accurate. In the end it was none other than Jared Schlipf, President of Lone Wolf Treestands, who went home with the RhinoBlock target for this long range accuracy. Nice shooting Jared!

John Mueller taking aim at the Rinehart RhinoBlock.  How far is that again?

Jared showing us how long distance shooting should be done.

In the Iron Buck Challenge we had quite the competition this year. In the end, after some fancy one-foot shooting and quite a few busted arrows it was Forum member Steve Renner (Dawg007) who went home with the $100 cash prize. Congrats Steve!

"Rusty" certainly claimed his fair share of arrows over the course of his two days spent in Illinois.

Todd with the lucky winner of the Iron Buck Challenge.

We also had the 5 target pop-up 3D Challenge back again as well. Although Dustin and I both turned in scores of 56 out of 60 on multiple occassions, it was the shoot operator Mark Wagner who turned in a perfect score of 60/60 to take top honors. I'm calling an unfair home-field advantage on this one, but it was good shooting regardless!

The big winner of the day was long-time friend, supporter and target-builder Dan Richardson (aka bloodcrik) who went home with a brand new Mathews z7 Xtreme. Congrats to Dan, he definitely deserved it! Dan already has his new bow set up and shooting great - check out his Forum post here.

Our friends at Lone Wolf donated a new Alpha Hang-On II treestand to our raffle, which was won by our friend Ryan Culvey. I know he's extremely excited to get that stand hung before October rolls around. I have to admit that I'm a little jealous of Ryan. Even I don't have a new Lone Wolf stand yet!

A big extended THANK YOU goes to all of our Sponsors who attended the event and donated prizes for the raffle! That includes Mathews, Lone Wolf, New Archery Products, Tink's, Monster Raxx, Pine Ridge Archery, Rinehart Targets and Rut Junkie Apparel.

All in all, the day was a huge success with over 90 of our best bowhunting friends in attendance. Everyone had a great day of shooting, hanging out with good friends, and enjoying the great outdoors. We can't thank you all enough for coming out and we're hoping to see you all again next year!

We'll be ready for next year.  Will you?


Mathews Z7 Xtreme Tactical Bow Review

by Justin Zarr 20. May 2011 14:52
Justin Zarr

Z7 Xtreme Tactical

Late each year as fall gives way to winter the big names in archery begin releasing the details of their upcoming bow lineup. With much anticipation bowhunters across the world take to the Internet to get a glimpse of next year's offerings, often speculating about the new innovations that will soon be available for their shooting pleasure. Much of that chatter and anticipation always surrounds the new bow lineup from industry leader Mathews. Since the early 1990's Mathews has introduced dozens of technologies that have changed the face of archery as we know it and kept archers everywhere scrambling to find out what's new from year to year.

In 2010 Mathews introduced the Z7, which featured a myriad of new technologies and eventually became their best selling bow of all time. With the all-new Gridlock riser, reverse-assist roller guard and Z7 cam this bow has all the features a bowhunter could possibly ask for. So how did Mathews improve their lineup for 2011 you ask? The answer to that question is the Z7 Xtreme. A short axle-to-axle bow that is surprisingly agile, forgiving and a pure joy to shoot.

When my Z7 Xtreme Tactical showed up back in late February my first impression was that this is unquestionably the sharpest looking bow I've ever owned. Being the industry leader that they are, Mathews didn't want to just offer their customers another black bow. Instead they took it to a whole new level with a variety of accents that make this bow stand out. From the carbon fiber dipped limbs to the phantom gray anodized cam this bow is a flat out looker. Judging from the reaction it got while on display in our booth at both the Illinois and Wisconsin Deer classics there's no doubt it's a hit. But the important question is - how does it shoot?

The carbon-fiber dipped limbs give the Z7 Xtreme Tactical one of the sleakest looks of any bow on the market today.

Being just 28 inches from axle to axle, the Z7 Xtreme is one of the shortest hunting bows on the market today. For many years archers have shied away from shorter ATA bows as they tended to be less stable and less forgiving, making them harder to shoot. What many archers forget, however, is that was yesterday and this is today. Modern bows are infinitely more stable and forgiving than their counterparts of yesteryear and the Z7 Xtreme is a testament to that. Thanks to parallel limb technology and long riser designs, today's short bows are extremely stable and pleasantly forgiving.

One of the reasons for the forgiving nature of this bow is the generous 7 3/8" brace height. Over the past several years many bowhunters have settled on a brace height of around 7 inches as the "sweet spot", if you will. Anything less than 7 inches is usually considered somewhat less forgiving and "speedy" while anything over 7 inches is often considered slow and forgiving. At just over that magical mark the Z7 Xtreme is certainly forgiving, but it is anything but slow. In fact, thanks to the smooth-drawing ZX cam this little rocket fires arrows at an impressive 330 fps IBO. Not bad!

As many archers have experienced over the years, single cam bows such as the Z7 Xtreme generally have a very smooth draw cycle. In fact, this is why many bowhunters prefer them over the many variations of the dual cam system that are on the market. Having owned two other single cam bows in my life I can tell you the ZX cam is extremely smooth on the draw and has a great valley. When the cam breaks over there isn't a noticable "thunk" or bump, but rather it slides right into full draw where, thanks to the 80% letoff, you feel like you can hold all day.

With accuracy like this there's no doubt the Z7 Xtreme is going to bring home the bacon (or venison) for more than a few bowhunters this fall.

Another great feature of this particular bow is the new Focus Grip. Unlike traditional grips that are flat on the surface, the Focus Grip has a patent-penting "Focus Ridge" down the center of the grip. This ridge allows you to make sure that you are aligning your hand correctly. Additionally, in the event of an uneven or torqued grip it allows the pressure to be focused on the center of the grip which minizes side to side torque. Having shot this bow for several months now I can say I really like this grip. Its very comfortable and allow me to achieve consistant hand placement to help my accuracy.

The Focus Grip combed with Gridlock riser and Reverse Assist Roller Guard make the Z7 Xtreme one of the most techologically advanced hunting bows ever made.

The proof is in the pudding!

Of course many bowhunters have asked the question "Why shoot such a short bow?". Personally I think the answer to that question is simple - maneuverability! Anyone who has bowhunted for any length of time can atest to the fact that bowhunting is a game of inches. In many cases those few inches can mean the difference between success and failure. The Z7 Xtreme's compact size allows you to maneuver this bow easier while in a ground blind, while sneaking through brush, or while trying to squeeze around branches to make a shot. Much of my hunting philosophy is based around maximizing the opportunities that present themselves to me, and I feel the Z7 Xtreme allows me to do just that.

A great view of the Gridlock riser - one of the many innovations Mathews has introduced to the archery industry.

If you're in the market for a new bow, I would highly recommend you visit your local Mathews dealer to shoot one of these bows and make the decision for yourself. I have a very good feeling you won't be disappointed!

Hopefully this is the last thing a big buck sees come October....

Gold Tip Kinetic Pro 400 Arrow Review

by Justin Zarr 12. April 2011 09:11
Justin Zarr

Each year after our annual pilgrimmage to the ATA show I usually return home with a rather lengthy list of "must haves" for the following season.  Although there's usually nothing wrong with the gear I already own, as an archery addict I simply enjoy getting new stuff.  I liken it to my wife's obsession with shoes and jeans.  Each pair does the same thing as the others, but it's always nice to have new ones.

At the top of my list for this year is the new Gold Tip Kinetic arrows.  I began shooting Gold Tip arrows a few years back when Easton discontinued the A/C SuperSlim and have been very pleased with their performance.  To date I have shot both the Pro Hunter and Velocity Pro arrows with much success, having harvested several animals with each flavor.  With an upcoming trip to Colorado to chase elk around the Rocky Mountains I decided I wanted a slightly heavier arrow for this year, and the Kinetic fits that bill wonderfully.

The Kinetic Pro shafts have a distinctive yellow label so you can easily tell them apart from the Kinetic XT (Green) and Kinetic Hunter (Orange) which have different weight and straightness tolerances.

With a 28" draw shooting roughly 65 lbs a 400 spine arrow seems to fly the best for me, and the Kinetic in that size weighs in at 9.5 grains per inch.  Compared to the Pro Hunter 5575 at 8.2 gpi and the Velocity Pro 400 at 7.4 gpi the Kinetic may be slightly slower but it's going to pack a bigger punch when it impacts the target.  With Gold Tip's Accu-Tough Nock and Insert along with an NAP Quikfletch and 125 grain tip my finished arrow weighs in at right around 450 grains with a 13.5% FOC.  All things considered that's just about the perfect hunting arrow if you ask me.

Cut, fletched with NAP Quikfletches and ready to shoot.

Now if you're asking yourself what's so special about the Gold Tip Kinetic other than it's weight, I'll tell you: the Kinetic is Gold Tip's first small diameter carbon arrow.  With an outside diameter of just .270" the Kinetic is smaller than the Pro Hunter at .285" but not quite as small as the Easton Axis 400 at .265" or the Victory Archery VAP 400 at a mere .225".  The reason many hunters have come to prefer today's smaller diameter arrows is for their excellent penetration.  The smaller surface area of these arrows generates less friction on it's way through the target, which means your arrow will not slow down or lose energy as quickly as a larger diameter arrow.

Looking at the end of an unfinished shaft you can see the Gold Tip Kinetic arrow has a thicker wall than most carbon arrows, which creates the toughness and durability that bowhunters are looking for.  As with any carbon arrow shaft, make sure you square off the ends with something like the G5 Arrow Squaring Device (ASD) before installing your inserts or nocks.

Compared directly to the Easton Axis 400 and the Victory Archery VAP 400 here's how the Kinetic Pro 400 matches up.

Kinetc Pro 400 - 9.5 gpi
Axis 400 - 9.0 gpi
VAP 400 V1 - 6.8 gpi

Kinetc Pro 400 - +/-.001"
Axis 400 - +/- .003"
VAP 400 V1 - +/- .001"

Weight Tolerance
Kinetc Pro 400 - +/-0.5 grains/dz
Axis 400 - +/- 2.0 grains/dz
VAP 400 V1 - +/- .5 grains/dz

One big difference between these hard hitting arrows is the insert technology.  Easton pioneered the Hidden Insert Technology (H.I.T.) that many of their arrows use.  This technology actually places the insert completely inside of the arrow (hence the name Hidden) and the base of your point rests directly on the arrow shaft.  Both the Kinetic and the VAP on the other hand use an insert which is essentially a hybrid of an insert and an outsert.  The majority of the insert does slide into the arrow shaft, however about 1/2 inch remains outside of the arrow with the base of the insert resting flush against the arrow shaft.  The jury is still out on this particular insert technology, but so far I haven't had any troubles with it at all.

Here you can see the Accu-Tough insert, which sticks out of the shaft by about 1/2 inch.

This is what the Accu-Tough inserts and nocks look like before being installed into the arrow shaft.  As you can see, the majority of the Accu-Tough insert actually resides on the inside of the arrow shaft.

A big plus for all Gold Tip inserts, not just the Accu-Tough series used in the Kinetic arrows, is the compatibility with Gold Tip's brass weight system.  These tiny screw-on weights are available in 10, 20 or 50 grains and allow you to fully cusomtize your setup for precise FOC.  There's been a big push lately for a higher FOC in hunting arrow setups, especially those with fixed-blade heads.  Studies have been showing a higher FOC (around 15%) can actually increase your down range accuracy.  When hunting in areas where shots of 30-50 yards are common, this can be critical.   Additionally, many people believe that a higher FOC will help increase penetration as your arrow will not have as much flex when impacting the target, thus retaining more of it's kinetic energy.

Here's an example of a 20 grain Gold Tip brass weight, which screws directly into the back of your insert.  If you need to add more or remove them once your inserts have been installed Gold Tip sells a really, really long allen key that you can use to screw them in and out.

I will personally be experimenting with the 20 grain weights to see how they effect my accuracy using both 100 and 125 grain broadheads.  The thing I like the best about these weights is that they open up the window of opportunity to use a lot of broadheads that aren't available in 125 grains.  So I can still shoot a 100 grain Spitfire Maxx and using a 20 grain brass insert weight achieve virtually the same finished arrow weight and FOC as if I had a 125 grain broadhead.  Genius!

If there was one thing I'd like to see changed about these arrows it would be an additional size/spine offering in the 340/350 range.  Many of today's bows are really cranking out some impressive speeds and requiring a stiffer spine than bows of the past.  Although Gold Tip offers the Kinetic in a 300 and even a 200 spine, a 340 or 350 would definitely be a welcome addition.  I myself prefer a slightly stiffer spined arrow with a heavier tip.  For now the 400's seem to be working out alright.  If I run into weak spine issues while paper tuning I can always chop and inch or so off the back and stiffen them up a bit.

So far the results of my initial testing have been positive.  The Kinetics are performing flawlessly out to 30 yard using my 125 grain field points with no brass weights.  As I continue to shoot longer distances I'll make sure to keep you updated on my findings.  And of course provided things go well this fall you'll see me shooting either an elk, some whitetails or both with these new arrows.

One of my first groupings at 20 yards.  Look close - there's 3 arrows there, not just two.  This is coming from my brand new z7 Xtreme which I haven't even tuned yet.  Not too shabby!

I'll be sure to continue reporting in on the performance of these new arrows as I get the opportunity to shoot them more in coming months.  Provided they tune and continue to fly well they will most likely reside in my quiver come September.

Giant Whitetails of the 2011 Illinois Deer Classic

by Justin Zarr 28. March 2011 14:20
Justin Zarr

With the "show season" in full swing it seems like just about every weekend from now until the fall there's a deer show being held somewhere. From coast to coast there's no doubt that deer hunters love to get together, check out some new products, enjoy a few tasty beverages and look at BIG whitetails! This past weekend the Illinois Deer & Turkey Expo, commonly referred to as the "Deer Classic", was held in Peoria, IL and I was there working in the booth. For those of you who stopped by and said hello or purchased a hat or DVD from us - THANK YOU! It's great talking to fellow bowhunters who share our passion for being in the woods.

For me personally, the highlight of the show is always the vast number of HUGE whitetails on display. Every year I am simply amazed at the sheer number of world class whitetails that are harvested here in my home state. I just hope that some day one of them will have my name next to it! And what's even more amazing is that these deer represent only a small fraction of the giants taken here in the Land of Lincoln each fall. Illinois may have high taxes and be short on jobs right now, but one thing we're not short on is trophy bucks - that's for sure! 

Below are a few of the trophies that really caught my eye this weekend. If you happened to be at the show and snapped photos of any bucks that I missed, feel free to post them on our Facebook page at For those of you who will be in Madison, Wisconsin this weekend please stop by and say hello to us. We'd love to meet you!

Now that my friends, is a bunch of bone!


For me, this was the coolest buck of the show.  The new IL State Record 8 point buck which scored 173 inches.  Now THAT is impressive!  Even more impressive, is that it came from the same county where I live.  Why don't I ever see deer like that??


One of my favorite mounts of the show.  I really like those wall pedestal mounts - especially when they have 190 inches of antler attached to them.


A couple of true Illinois brutes.


You certainly don't see brow tines like those every day.


A great looking mount for a great buck.


Another one of my favorites - this deer was an absolute HOG.  The taxidermist did a great job replicating his "Roman" nose.  This deer had a mane too!


Another 170 inch 8 point.  Incredible!


One of this year's main attractions - "Shag Nasty" scores over 237 inches!  Truly a remarkable animal.


Possibly the coolest pedestal mount I've ever seen - the pedestal is made from shed antlers found on the farm where this buck was harvested.  How cool is that??

Getting A Good Whitetail Deer Mount

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

European Skull Mounts; The Shoulder Mount Alternative

by Justin Zarr 1. February 2011 13:53
Justin Zarr

For many bowhunters the pinnacle of their successes in the field often end up as a nice shoulder mount on the wall in their den (or in the living room in some lucky cases).  Up until just recently I never gave a second thought to what I would do with my trophies when they were picked up from the butcher shop.  They were put in the back of the truck and delivered to the local taxidermist - along with a hefty deposit check!  Several months later after agonizing over which pose I wanted my new trophy to assume for the remainder of his days, I would write that second painful check and then ride home alongside my new mount.

After some spirited talks with the wife about where the new addition to our family would reside (and I ask, what's so wrong with the bedroom anyways?) I would pick out a spot in the den, office, basement, or garage and proudly display the result of my hard work.  Eventually friends, family and my hunting buddies would come over to stand around and discuss the finer points of my new mount.  In most cases the talks would always center around the fact that I thought he was bigger when I first saw him..  But alas, I digress!  As my walls have begun to fill up and my attempts to convert the bedroom into a new trophy room have failed, I have begun to discover the elgance (and affordability) of a nice European skull mount.

My first Euro mount came about after harvesting a nice mid-October Illinois whitetail.  Unfortunately due to a single-lung shot I was unable to recover the buck right away.  By the time I luckily stumbled upon the buck the next day, laying in a creek not 40 yards from my truck, the meat and cape had both been ruined.  Although it's not the optimal outcome I was glad to have recovered the animal.  Not wanting to go through the hassle of finding and purchasing another cape for the buck, I decided to get a Euro mount done.

Roughly a month later I got a call from my taxidermist that my buck was ready to be picked up.  In comparison to the standard 12 month wait on a shoulder mount this was some quick turnaround!  I picked up my skull a few days later and was amazed to see just how good it looked.  It had been professionally cleaned and looked great.  A friend of my dad's made me a nice wood plaque to display the skull on, and shortly thereafter it was hung up above the computer I'm sitting at right now.  And to be honest, even though it's probably the smallest rack of any buck I have in my office, its the one I look at the most.  I'm not sure what it is, but the beauty of the mount is quite intriguing.

From the creek...... the wall.

My 2nd European mount was done on the antelope I harvested this past summer in Wyoming while hunting with Table Mountain Outfitters.  Although it was my first antelope and a very memorable hunt, the buck didn't meet P&Y minimum requirements so I decided to get another skull mount.  My reasoning for this is that at just 30 years old I plan on shooting a whole bunch of animals before I hang up my bow including a few more speed goats.  After all, that was a fun hunt!  Knowing that, and hoping to score on a bigger buck one day I opted for the Euro mount. staff member Jessica Edd actually handled the mount for me and much like my whitetail from the year before, it turned out great!  I haven't gotten a plaque for it yet, but it still looks great on the wall by itself.

From the field..... the wall.  Thanks again to Jessica Edd for the great job!

Having been fortunate enough to harvest two nice whitetails with my bow this fall I opted to only get a shoulder mount on one, while getting a Euro mount on the other.  This decision was partially monetary (hey, saving almost $400 in taxidermy bills is never a bad thing) and partially because I want to continue to fill out my European mount collection as I get older.   I should have my newest addition to the family back from the taxi before too long, and I'll make sure to post an update when he arrives!

If you're looking for an economical alternative to a shoulder mount for your next harvest, I'd seriously consider a European Mount.  I was skeptical how much I would like them at first, but the more I look at them the more I like them.  Perhaps you'll feel the same way!

ATA Show 2011 Day 2 Final Bowhunting Gear Update

by Justin Zarr 7. January 2011 13:40
Justin Zarr

After grabbing some lunch I headed back into the show and continued my quest to find the best new bowhunting gear.  Of course on my way back in I couldn't help but notice the extremely large Tree Spider banner hanging over the entrance.  Robinson Outdoors did a heck of a job promoting this new safety harness!

While checking out the product innovations room I met up with the guys from Huntin' Is Good.  This is a unique line of clothing and accessories that promotes a positive message that well, Huntin' Is Good!  While helping to promote and unite the sport we all love, Huntin' Is Good also donates a portion of all proceeds to charities that actively defend our rights to hunt. 

Also in the innovations room was a 3-D archery target cover.  While it may not be the most glamourous thing in the world, it's very effective at protecting your often expensive investment.  The cover is UV and weather resistant and will help protect your target against fading and cracking.

After moving all of their production back to the US, Lone Wolf stands has made some much needed improvements to their line of industry leading treestands.  The new castings look amazing, and the improved bow holder now accomodates most parallel limb bows.  If you're looking for a great treestand that's well built and will last you a lifetime, be sure to check out Lone Wolf.  Yes, they're pricey, but they're worth every penny.

Also new in the treestand relm are the Bone Collector stands from Ameristep.  The all-black and green stands look pretty cool, and they're reasonably priced.  The seats are plenty wide and look comfortable, but are still quite heavy due to their steel construction.

Primos has a couple new trail cameras for this year including the smaller Super Model.  Retailing for just over $200 this is smaller camera than their current Truth lineup that boasts a full color screen on the BACK of the unit.  It doubles as an in-field viewer when needed.  I will post additional info after the show is over and I've got some more time.  It looks like a cool little camera.

These lovely ladies at the Scent Blocker booth are showing off their new line of Sola women's apparel and also helping to spread the love!


2011 ATA Show Day 2 - More Bowhunting Gear

by Justin Zarr 7. January 2011 06:08
Justin Zarr

Halfway through Day 2 of the 2011 ATA Show and I'm seeing a bunch of cool new bowhunting products that are coming out for this year.

The staff working hard updating blogs, videos, and articles from the hotel this morning.

Two companies are now producing treestands with cast aluminum platforms; Gorilla and Leverage (River's Edge).  For many years Lone Wolf held the patent on the cast aluminum platform but with that running out recently we're starting to see some of these new products hit the market.

Both stands are nice, but lack the refinement and adjustability of the Lone WOlf.  The Gorilla stands have no side to side adjustments or platform leveling, which is slightly disappointing.  The Leverage stand is very well made and the platform casting looks amazing.  The platform is only 3/4" thick and the entire stand weighs in at just 14 lbs, but also lacks the side to side adjustments that I'd like to see.  The seat leveling system also leaves some to be desired.  Both stands will retail around $199, but for that price I'd like to see some extra functionality added to them.

The new cast aluminum stand from Leverage.

Cast aluminum treestand from Gorilla.

New from Mountain Mike's reproductions is their turkey mounting kit called the Beard Collector.  This kit is very well made and looks great.  The plaque comes with a fan mount, an option for mounting the spurs, and hanging up to 5 beards.  The beards are mounted via a very simple and effective screw system with shotgun shell covers.  This is a killer new product for you turkey hunters looking for a classier way to display your trophies.

Trophy Taker has come out with a new line of field points that include a small o-ring for a secure fit.  These points screw in nice and tight and won't come loose after every shot.  I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about with how annoying it can be to re-tighten your field points every time you pull them out of the target.  A very simple, yet effective new product.

As usual the stars are out signing autographs at various booths around the show. 

And as promised, here's a better photo of the Tree Spider harness from Robinson Outdoors.  SO far this product has been the talk of the show.  Light, easy, fast, and safe.

I'm grabbing some lunch now and will update with another blog after the show ends tonight.

2011 ATA Show Day 1 - Cool Bowhunting Products

by Justin Zarr 6. January 2011 11:47
Justin Zarr

 Day 1 of the 2010 ATA show went extremely fast as it seems to do every year.  It's amazing how quickly an 8 hour day can pass when you're enjoying yourself, checking out new bowhunting products and meeting with friends you only get to see once or twice a year.  I didn't have a chance to walk the entire show today but I did manage to scope out a few cool new products.

I started my day off at the New Archery Products booth when I was able to get ahold of the new Apache Stabilizer.  There may not be any revolutionary technology here, but this is another solid product that is well built, functional and very reasonably priced.  For a projected retail of $39.99 (black version) and $49.99 (Realtree camo) this stabilizer features NAP's proprietary sound dampening material and includes a 3" carbon fiber extension arm.  This will allow archers to customize the size of their stabilizer based on their wants and needs.

The Apache Stabilizer in Realtree shown with 3" carbon fiber extension (not attached).

They sure look good on all those Mathews bows!

WHile at the NAP booth I got to visit briefly with the Whitetail Freaks Don & Kandi Kisky, who are always extremely nice, and country music star Craig Morgan.  To me this is half the fun of these shows, being able to talk with people you don't get a chance to see very often.

Craig Morgan chatting with the Kisky's and Brady Arview from NAP.

Another product that caught my eye, and a lot of other eyes as well, is the new Tree Spider harness from Robinson Outdoors.  This new safety harness is lightweight and easy to adjust, which is what demanding bowhunters want.  Judging from the buzz around this product I have a feeling it will be a huge seller in 2011.  Check out more at

I'll get a better photo of the Tree Spider harness tomorrow, I promise!

New from Muddy Outdoors for this year is their Bloodsport treestand.  This all-black stand is based on the Hunter Pro platform so it's very lightweight and it now features the same rope cam system as Muddy's climbing sticks.  Using this stand along with a set of their climbing sticks should be a great combination for mobile hunters who demand their equipment be quiet and light weight.

The Bloodsport, Muddy Outdoors' first stand using their rope cam technology.  Super light and ultra quiet.

Tink's is expanding on their deer decoy lineup with the new Mister October decoy.  This self-inflatable decoy is very lightweight and when deflated can be fit easily into your pack.  No more wrestling with noisey hard-plastic decoys!  Combine Mister October and Miss November and you have a very deadly combination.

Mister October and Miss November - inflatable deer decoys from Tink's.

My buddies Mike and Shawn from Heartland Bowhunter, signing autographs at the Muzzy booth today.

Of course I saw a ton of other products and people today, but I'll have to bring you the update on those tomorrow!  Be sure to check our Facebook and Twitter pages as I update them throughout the day (and night) with cool photos and info from the show!

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