Archive for the 'Hunting Stories' Category

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Published by archerchick on 08 Feb 2011

Hunt The Soft Mast ~ By Don Kirk


Bow and Arrow Hunting
August 1990

Hunt The Soft Mast- By Don Kirk
Little Known Whitetail Foods May Attract Large Trophy Bucks

I AM AWAKE five nights a week
devising new ways to take bigger
and better Whitetail bucks. Except
when filling out income tax
forms, boning up on how these
animals live, move about, forage and
breed is my only diversion from thinking
about hunting whitetail.

Acorns long dominated my bowhunting
strategies. Being an Easterner, this is
understandable. But these marble—sized
morsels are an unpredictable food
source. Their relative abundance ebbs
and flows from year to year. It took too
long for me to discover how the many
alternative foods used by whitetail when
hardwood mast is scarce can be used to
my advantage.

It is impossible for whitetail hunters
to know too much about what this
quarry dines on. Wildlife researchers
have identified more than six hundred
items in these animals’ diet. One area
many whitetail enthusiasts know too little
about is other important whitetail
foods, especially the so called soft mast
food group.

Acorns, the fruit of the widely distributed,
diverse oak family, are what is
referred to as hardwood mast. Although
usually less important to whitetail than
acorns, buckeyes, pecans, walnuts,
hickory, beechnuts and chinkapins are
other examples of hardwood mast.
Generally, hardwood mast is summarized
as nuts.

The soft mast food group is more
loosely defined than that of the
hardwood category, although many trees
that are hardwoods produce fleshy, soft
mast. The soft mast category includes
such easily recognized items as wild
grapes, persimmons, peaches, apples and
plums. It also includes lesser known
items like fungi — mushrooms — eaten
by deer, plus legumes such as soybeans
and corn.

Many hunters mistakenly believe the
rut is the only primary behavioral pat-
tern worth considering when formulating
whitetail bowhunting strategies. The mt
is the most driving force in the animals’
life cycle, but it is short—lived. Other
longer, seasonal patterns also exist and
even coincide with the rut. Do not
overlook the fact deer are cyclic, or
seasonal, feeders.

During the summer and winter
months, the whitetails’ food intake is
relatively modest. Socalled feeding
binges are uncommon at that time.
Feeding activity greatly accelerates during
the spring and fall months. The need
to recoup body weight following the lean
winter months explains their increased
interest in nourishment during spring.
Building up body fat reserves to help
them endure the rigors of winter is the
impetus for autumn preoccupation with
feeding.

Deer require diversity in their diets,
almost as much as humans. When
acorns are available in large numbers
during autumn, they account for fifty to
eighty—five percent of a whitetail’s daily
intake. When consuming soft mast, like
ripe persimmons or apples, these
animals may not get the same hefty shot
of protein or fats obtained when foraging
on acorns. However, they do receive
many otherwise difficult—to—find vitamins,
as well as complex carbohydrates
whitetail can easily convert to energy.
Soft mast food covers an incredibly

diverse group of whitetail foods. Contrary
to what many hunters believe, soft
mast augments the food needs throughout
the winter and they are not important
just during the summer and early
autumn months. Identifying the key soft
mast sources and ones used only
incidentally by deer is not simple. Many
of the soft mast foods utilized by deer,
like the beefsteak fungus and oyster
mushrooms, are scattered and considered
incidental to their diet needs.

Other types of soft mast food are
unknown to many hunters. During
autumn, deer eat large quantities of still-
moist, freshly fallen leaves of the flowering
dogwood for the digestive roughage
they provide. When available alongside
the brownish-colored leaves of oaks and
hickories which are high in bitter, tannic
acid, dogwood leaves are much preferred
by deer. Their deep scarlet
coloration gives a clue to the dogwood
leaf s sweet, high—sugar content.
Although they relish dogwood leaves
when feeding on acorns during the fall,
the location of these trees appears to
play only an incidental role in deer feeding
movements.

Many times, soft-mast-producing
plants are only locally important as deer
foods and easily escape notice by
bowhunters. Other soft mast feeding
areas, like a soybean field, are easily
identified by everyone. Cultivated grain
fields certainly concentrate deer, but so
do wild grains. However, success taking
deer from these open expanses requires
special tactics, different from those
available to long—range rifle hunters.
Bowhunters must identify travel routes
to and from these often heavily utilized
feeding sites.
During early winter, the seed—filled
heads of the green amaranth —— a tall,
weedy-looking plant commonly found in
cut·overs, along fence rows and sessionary
fields —— is a favorite deer forage item.
Sometimes referred to as wild wheat,
this widely distributed plant is cultivated
by natives of Central America, who
grind the seeds into flour.
Other sources of soft mast, such as
old apple or pear orchards at abandoned

homesteads, or a backwoods hollow that
is full of fruit-burdened wild grape vines,
can exert a strong concentrating force
on these animals. Whitetail, like
humans, have a sweet tooth. They are
drawn to the fragrant aroma of ripe,
fallen apples on the ground. It is not
uncommon for whitetail to overeat high-
carbohydrate sources of soft mast.
However, when this occurs, they get
rumen overload — or what some old-
timers call “bloat” among domestic
ruminants.

Acknowledging the deer where you
hunt possess remarkably diverse food

lists is the first step to understanding
how to take advantage of the soft mast
factor. In most instances, the importance
of specific types of soft mast is
either localized or important as a food
source for only short periods of time. It
is not uncommon for these two factors
to occur together.

Additionally, the abundance of acorns
where you hunt plays an important role
in deer shifting feeding emphasis from
hardwood mast to soft mast. During the
fall, acorns are the key to building body
fat content for winter. Poor hardwood
mast production forces deer to rely more
on soft mast. Even when acorns are
abundant, soft mast plays a key role in
their feeding, especially where early
bowhunting—only seasons occur.
A few years ago, I was hunting within
bow range of three large, acorn-laden
white oaks. While scouting the area, I
was impressed by the number of large
elderberry bushes that still held their
pungent, bluish-black fruit.
The elderberries would probably have
escaped my notice were it not for
Joann, my wife and photographer. For
years, she has been on a wild edibles
kick, making everything from fiddlehead
stew to her own maple syrup.
Hunting during the first morning near
the white oaks, I did not spot any deer.
At noon, I spied three white throat
patches milling about the dense elderberry
bushes, Although they were within
rock—throwing range of a ton of acorns,
the deer preferred to nibble at these
sweet, little berries.

Once located in significant numbers,
soft—mast—producing flora like elder-
berries, wild grapes, blackberries and
other similar plants can be counted on
to produce fruit season after season.
Called perennials, these plants are either
dormant during the winter, like deciduous trees,
or they will return the
following spring, unless a force such as
forest cutting or plowing changes their
surroundings.

Once the soft, moist flesh of their fruit
becomes dry and hard, many varieties of
soft mast are ignored by all but the
hungriest deer. Others, however, such as
wild rose hips. the bluish·black berries
of common greenbrier or the fleshy blue
berries of the sassafras tree, are
available over most whitetail range for
extended periods of time and they are
out during the hunting season. Such soft
mast items feature thick outer husks
able to retain moisture until spring.
Regions typically sport forests com-
posed of similar species of trees, while
local soft mast plant life varies considerably.
The varieties of soft mast are
maddeningly diverse. One key to solving
the soft mast dilemma is staying alert to
what type forage is locally available
where you hunt.

“Fine—tooth comb” scouting is needed
for acquiring this knowledge. For
instance, a field planted the previous
season in deer food crop, such as
soybeans, may this year lay fallow or be
planted in a crop that is less appealing
to whitetail. Change such as this completely
alters the local soft mast factor
of the preceeding years.
Other sources of soft mast are more
predictable, but they are usually
localized and require scouting to dis-
cover. These include where groves of
persimmon trees are found, or the location
of hillsides covered with tender
honeysuckle, which deer love.

When scouting, the three keys are to
stay alert for soft mast areas, to locate
signs of where berries, fruits or buds
have been nibbled off and the presence
of hoof tracks and droppings. The freshness
of the sign helps in estimating the
current utilization level of this feeding
site. The degree of feeding at a site
enables you to determine how important
this food source is at that time.
Prior to and during the rut, the importance
of knowing what the does are
feeding on cannot be overstated. This is
where quarry will spend considerable
time during the hunting season. It is true
that bucks do not forage much during
the breeding season, but one of the best
ways to locate a trophy-class buck is to
first identify where the does are likely to
spend time.

Does reveal their estrous condition to
bucks, but it is the buck that seeks out
ready-to-breed females. Does choose
where the game will be played. It is
usually near her family group’s bedding
and/ or feeding area. Figuring the soft
mast factor into your strategy can help
you solve problems in projecting elusive
deer movements that stump many archery
hunters.

Does are more challenging to scout
than bucks. They do not leave telltale
rubs or scrapes, indicators of the presence
of a jumbo antlered buck. Determining their
movement patterns includes
following game trails to bedding sites
and exploring forage areas for droppings
and hoof marks. Doe tracks differ only
slightly from those left behind by bucks.
The most reliable difference to distinguish
the sex of the trackmaker is that
the buck often leaves a dragging mark
behind his track.
When a locally utilized soft mast
source is pinpointed, it is hunted much
the same way archers locate around
oaks dropping heavy crops of acorns.
Do not locate a deer stand any closer to
their food source than necessary to
accomplish a clean kill.

If you are using a tree stand, locate as
high up the tree as possible; at least fifteen
to eighteen feet. When the soft
mast you are hunting over is a field,
such as corn or soybeans, locate your
elevated stand a few feet inside an
overgrown fence row.
Scent use confuses many deer hunters
first discovering the soft mast factor.
The inviting aroma given off by wild
grapes, corn, apples, soybeans and other
soft mast partially enables deer to locate
these edibles.

Many manmade scent manufacturers
have expanded their lines of deer urine
and gland scents to include fluids mixed
to imitate many of the most widespread
soft mast items. In this writer’s opinion,
attempting to mask oneself or lure deer
in by using food scents is risky.
Using manufactured food scents differs
from using whitetail urine and gland
scent products. Deer scents are tricky
business, even when using high-quality
deer urine or gland scent products. They
are effective under a narrow band of
conditions, such as applying buck urine/
tarsal gland mixtures to pre—rut scrapes,
or spraying doe estrous urine on cotton
balls when the rut is in full swing.
Deer behavior during the mt generally
is predictable. Manmade food scent
products, on the other hand, vary greatly
in terms of quality and how well they
match local bowhunting conditions.
Using a soft mast food scent such as
honeysuckle at the wrong place or time
can alarm deer. Soft-mast-imitating
scents sometimes work, but sex scents
are more effective in masking human
odor. When used at the right time, they
are less likely to give the wrong
message.
If you are overlooking the subtle soft
mast factor when formulating your deer
bowhunting strategies, think again. They
may not be the most important deer
movement factors around, but like the
old saying goes, every dog has its day.
>>>—>

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Published by archerchick on 07 Feb 2011

What You See…Is What You Get! By Roy Hoff


BOW AND ARROW HUNTING
October 1973

I AM WRITING THIS in an effort to be helpful
to the countless bowhunters who travel each year
a couple of thousand miles more or less to bag a deer,
perhaps with braggin’ size, rocking chair antlers, only
to return home and explain to the ever lovin’ how come
he got skunked. I was a member of this nationwide
group of buck-missers until about ten years ago, when
I came to the conclusion there was just no way I could
meet a trophy buck on his own terms and in h·is wild
habitat and come out a winner.

Know what I did? I joined the clan who hunt from
tree stands. This select group all are of the opinion
that using a bow and arrow really is hunting the hard
way. After ten years of figuring all the angles, bagging
a trophy buck deer still is no cinch. But when I learned
to hunt from a tree stand, Lady Luck started looking
my way and with a pleasant smile.
I built my first tree stand on the Wilcox Ranch
in 1960. The site was in a big cottonwood overlooking a
forty-acre alfalfa field. No stand could have been more
comfortable, and as safe as the roof of the nearby ranch
house, but for efficiency, and putting me on an even
footing with the big Utah bucks, it was a total loss. I’ll
tell you why.

I selected a tree with a beautiful view of the field.
I found soon this could be placed last on a list of necessary conditions.
This blind was immediately abandoned except for morning hunting. The field was in a
canyon. Deer, bedded on the canyon walls, could see
everything that was going on in the stand and, of course,
bypassed the spot at a considerable distance.
Lesson number one: select the site for your tree
stand so that the game can not look down through the
branches. All the area round the stand should be well
below eye level of the hunter and well above that of
the deer. Unless you make noise, the chances are a deer
will not look up into your tree. But if he approaches
your tree from any direction which places you eye level,
you might as well return to camp.

I strongly believe that of the deer’s senses, sight
is his best alarm signal. If you can see a certain movement
at a hundred yards, I’d venture to say a deer can
see the same movement at five hundred yards. I am
mindful of a lesson in the Boy Scout manual: If a
person becomes lost in a forest and hears a plane,
he should vigorously shake a young aspen or the limb
of a tree. Rescuers can spot the movement.
On opening morning of the hunting season, as

I make my way to a previously prepared stand, I probably
resemble a junk collector. I carry a gunny sack
over my shoulder in which are: pillow, down jacket,
mittens, large-size plastic bags, binoculars, raincoat,
apple and some Tootsie Rolls. The latter item may
be kids’ stuff, but you’d be surprised how good they
taste when you’re real hungry, even those which were
left over from last year. Another item which is always
good for a laugh is my piece of carpet for the floor
of my stand, to deaden the sound if I shuffle my feet
when a deer is nearby.

When night closes in, I put everything back in the
bag and tie it down for the night. Yes, even my bow. I,
of course, cover the fletching of my arrows with a
plastic bag as a protection from morning dew or rain.
My hunting partners look at me with tongue—·in—cheek
like I was cracking up. I explain to them when I am
returning from my blind at night or going to it in the
morning, it’s too dark for any possible shot. When making
this same journey in daylight, if I were to see a
deer I would pass up the shot. I can’t with any confidence
guess the distance of a shot, and foregoing the
shot would preclude any possibility of a bad hit.
If a bowman hunts from a tree stand, he will
fin·d there is a lot more to the sport than flinging arrows.
He will have an opportunity to see wildlife and
observe much in their kingdom he never previously
realized existed.

Often I have had a bird alight on a limb a few
feet from my nose. Keeping absolutely still, not even
blinking my eyes, I have watched the antics of these
winged creatures. It has often been humorous as a
feathered species cocks its head and curiously ex-
amines the funny—looking nearby object which was
not there the last time this roosting place was visited.
Every hunter knows creatures of our wildlife
kingdom have ways and means of communication. One
afternoon, while sitting in my tree stand on the Wilcox
Ranch in Utah, I had a fascinating experience of observing
a deer family tableau of communicating evidence
of danger followed by a signal that all was clear.
I had climbed into my tree stand shortly before
four -in the afternoon. I knew from past experience
that the chance of seeing a deer before sundown was
extremely remote. But I also had learned that it is
a good idea to arrive at your stand early, get settled
down and give any deer who has spotted you a chance
to convince himself you mean no harm.

To help resist the temptation of looking around
or glassing the area to see if a herd of bucks is approaching,
I take a·long a favorite sporting magazine
and catch up on my reading. After reading two or
three pages, I glanced ahead while turning the page. To
use an old hunter’s cliche, there, on the far side of the
alfalfa field, a herd of deer had appeared as if by magic
There were four bucks and five does, all with their
noses in the feedbag. It was a sight to quicken the pulse
of any bowhunter. It would have taken a patient and
expert stalker to climb down out of the tree, make a
huge circle and approach the herd from the wooded
side of the field. It was a cinch I didn’t have the qualifications.

I continued to watch the feeding animals
with considerable excitement and fascination.
Suddenly the scene was changed. All heads being erect
with eyes focused toward the sound of a jeep engine starting.
Later I learned the card game had broke;
up and for something to do to kill time, Waldo Wilcox loaded the
hunters into a jeep pickup and headed for Cherry Meadows,
a distance of about ten miles up Range Creek Canyon.

The deer held their position until they saw movement
of the vehicle coming toward them. They quickly
dashed across the ranch road, use a draw for a short
distance, then topped out on a small hogback where
they could get a commanding view of approaching
danger.
The four bucks immediately laid down. The does
sort of messed around, nuzzling the ground and making
like they were doing the chores. Several minutes after
the sound of the truck was lost in the distance, all the
does started making their way back to the field. The
bucks, mind you, continued with their siesta. To me,
I imagined one buck, probably the boss of the outfit,
issued a command something like: “Okay, gals, let’s
get with it! Take a run down to the field and see what
gives with those hunters who just passed by !”

The does, upon reaching the road, looked first
up, then down the canyon. Perhaps two minutes later
all five of them walked nonchalantly into the alfalfa
and started grazing. They paid no more attention to
the road or vehicle.

Suddenly, as if the boss buck had wirelessed to
see if the coast were clear, all the does, as if at a command,
turned toward the mountainside and walked
slowly single file to the top of the hogback and joined
the apparently dozing bucks. Whatever means of communication was used it didn’t take long.
The does turned around and started down the hill. The bucks then
got up and joined the procession. When the herd, led
all the way by the does, reached the road they did not
hesitate to look up and down it for possible danger.
They crossed without hesitation, walked a few feet
into the meadow and immediately resumed feeding.
As a sort of epilog to this episode, two of the
hunters, upon their return to the meadow, spotted the
deer and made a successful stalk, Hank Krohn bagged
a buck and Milt Lewis a doe. Doug Easton got some
shooting, but no hits.

I highly recommend hunting from a tree stand.
Before I go into details of construction, I want to
emphasize two conditions: right at the top, as most
important, I want to stress the safety angle. Most any-
one could sit on a stool and watch the birds indefinitely.
But seeing a deer and with quickened pulse take a shot
at your quarry, you could easily step too far or lose
your balance and fall to the ground seriously injuring
yourself, even fatally. So, be a sissy like me and wear
a safety belt of some kind. I merely tie a length of
nylon rope around my waist, with the other end wrapped
around and tied to the tree. If you ever have need
for this device, I’m sure it won’t be very comfortable,
but most assuredly will save your life.

If climbing a ten-foot ladder gives you cold shiv-
ers, then hunting from a tree stand is not for you.
Next would be the comfort part of tree stand
building. My wife, Frieda, has often called me an ol’
wiggle—butt, because I never was able to sit still in a
cramped and uncomfortable position.
Construct your stand so you can occasionally
stand up and shake the kinks out of your lower extremeties.
I don’t mean like a jack-in-the-box, so your
movements might be noticed by a big buck bedded
on a nearby hillside. Even with the luxury of a pillow
I find a brief respite from sitting, about every half-
hour, is a real pleasure.


There are a number of portable stands which have
been advertised in Bow and Arrow magazine. I personally
like Ron’s Porta-Pak. It comes with shoulder
straps, so you can back-pack it into the woods. Best
of all, for me, it comes equipped with a canvas top
seat. Remember, there will be times when you will
have to spend hours in a confined area, and the less
you move around, changing positions, the better off
and more successful you’ll be.

If you are going to hunt within a day’s drive of
your home, I’d suggest you go on a scouting expedition
a week or two before opening day of season.
Look for tracks and other signs of the species of game
you’re going to hunt. For brevity of this article let’s
presume you are going deer hunting. Search for a
spring or other watering place where tracks indicate
the game has been visiting frequently.
Now we need a tree-—one we can climb into and
out of with safety. The tree should be within four
to ten steps from a waterhole, or used deer trail. This
so that when the deer puts in an appearance, you can be
on the alert and not move an eyelash until your game
is almost directly beneath you. This is what makes
tree stand hunting so popular. A deer cannot see you
draw your bow and loose the arrow.
A word of advice: practice shooting nearly straight
down. You will find it a lot more difficult than you
think——even using a sight. Talk your club members
into setting up one tree stand target. Use it for a
novelty event if nothing else. Upon arriving at my
tree stand, I never fail to shoot a few practice arrows,
picking certain spots where I believe a deer might
appear. I have found that a twenty-yard setting will
suffice for anything around the tree, even for an actual
distance much farther.

Let’s say we found a pine tree which was just
what we were looking for. It was forty or fifty feet
high and eighteen inches in diameter. The first limb
was ten feet off the ground. Being in a national forest,
we would not be permitted to nail climbing blocks to
the tree or build a stand of a permanent nature. We
would install a portable stand and use a rope ladder
to climb up to it.

To be sure, there are many ways to climb a tree,
an·d many different kinds of trees, each presenting
a particular problem in climbing. One time I was privileged
to hunt on the Walking Cane Ranch in Texas.
The land was covered with millions of scrub cedars.
All the equipment a hunter needed in this area was:
hammer, saw, two or three nails and a one—by—six two
feet long. No devices were needed to climb these cedars.
There were lots of limbs from top to bottom. After
reaching the top, the hunter would saw off a couple
of feet from the main trunk, then nail on the board for
his seat. An added pillow was for luxury.

In all of our western states, forests are composed
of pine, fir, hemlock, aspen, cottonwood and many
other species. Personally, after I have located a good
spot for a stand, I search for a tree with a natural
opening in the foliage about the right height for a stand.
This precludes the necessity of pruning many branches
in order to see out and get an arrow through. Often
a hunter will find where lightning has struck a tree
and gouged out an opening ideal for locating a stand.
Photographs accompanying this article will give
you a good idea of how to set up housekeeping in some
tree and make like an owl. It was my dream to present
a photo of me drawing a bow and aiming at a live
deer. Sort of having my cake and eating it, too. But
I found this chore more difficult than I thought. Deer
are narrow minded and uncooperative.

One photo depicts what looks like the real thing.
Here is how the shot was accomplished. About ten years
ago, I was hunting in Rock Creek Park, near Monte
Vista, Colorado. My hunting partner was Ernest Wilkinson,
local taxidermist and founder of the Piedra
Bowhunters Club. In his display room I feasted my
eyes on a life~like full mount of a f·our—by-four mule
buck deer.

Last summer en route to Colorado for a bear hunt,
I dragged this picture out of my memory file and stopped
by Ernie’s place to sort of say hi. It took a little
arm twisting, but within the hour we had loaded the
mount into a van, driven to a spot in Rock Creek Park,
where we had long ago hunted deer together, and
set up a realistic shot of Ernie sitting on a tree stand
with bow drawn and aiming at the one—for~twenty spot
on a trophy buck.
Don’t build your stand in the top of the highest
tree. When the wind blows you’ll wish you hadn’t, and
you might get seasick! I’d say the minimum height
should be ten feet, with a maximum of thirty. Remember,
the higher you climb, the more difficult it is to
get in and out of your stand and hoist your gear to

and from. For the latter chore I use a hundred—foot
length of quarter-inch nylon cord.
I recommend you be in your stand about half
an hour before daylight. This will give time for any
body odor lingering below to dissipate. Al-so any deer
who have been alerted by the noise you made getting
to your stand will have settled down and figured that
Whatever caused the disturbance had disappeared.
Hunting from a tree stand can be really exciting
at times. You may spot your deer at a considerable
distance and then observe it slowly making its way
toward your stand. I guarantee it will raise your blood
pressure and increase your heart beat! Have an area
picked where you are fairly sure of getting a good hit,
then wait until the ·deer reaches that spot. It will be a
bit rough, but wait him out.

“The greatest hunting thrill of my life was waiting
for a record—class buck slowly make his way to a spring
near my stand. He only had to cover two hundred
yards, but the way he picked his path, hesitating at
every step, it must have taken him two hundred minutes
to reach the spot where I planned to loose the arrow.
I forced myself to turn my eyes in another direction
from time to time s·o I could not see him and to better
hold back the buck fever which was creeping in. Even
though my bow arm was a bit on the shakey side, the
arrow flew true to the spot, and I had the further
thrill of seeing the big beauty go d·own for the count.
Th·is experience took place on the Lamicq ranch in
the high country, back of Grand junction, Colorado.
John, as an outfitter, is a firm believer in hunting from
a tree stand. Annual kill success of his clients tend·s to
prove this is the only way to go. Much of the Lamicq
property, owned or leased, covers the tops of several
huge ridges. Needless to say, ·if a hunter is thinking of
bagging a trophy buck he’d better go topside.
Ecologists complain that tree stand-s are ugly and
spoil the natural wilderness of a forest. I will admit
some I have seen are an eyesore, but I have been as-
signed to a tree in a certain small area and have had
difficulty finding the tree with the stand in it. The
hunter does not have to chop off limbs with reckless
abandon, even if there were no objection. If you leave
chopped-off limbs scattered around the foot of your
tree stand, forget it! Deer know when things are not
as they were yesterday and sense danger.
A word of caution: check your game laws. There
are a couple of states which prohibit hunting from a
tree. There also are several states which prohibit hunting
except from a tree stand. <——<<<<

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Published by archerchick on 12 Jan 2011

Buddy System Bowhunting ~By Joe Byers

Bowhunting World October 2005


BOWHUNTING WORLD
OCTOBER 2005

BUDDY SYSTEM BOWHUNTING By Joe Byers

Friends and family add spice to stick-and-string hunting. You’ll cover more ground, hunt more effectively, and double your fun afield.

I Fully Expected To Die
Dreading the crushing jaws of a savage brown tear. I clutched
the handle of my .44 Magnum pistol, thumb on the hammer,
finger on the trigger, throughout the night. Dozing occassionally,
I tried not to think of the 1,000-pound beasts splashing
about in the salmon stream less than 50 yards away.
“How come I have to sleep next to the entrance of the tent ?”
I complained to the outfitter.
“Don’t worry,” he said, having fun with my fright. “Bears
don’t always come through the doorway.”

That first night on Kodiak Island was the most harrowing
of my life. Fortunately, I had invited Bill “Bump” McKinley,
a high school acquaintance to join me. During the next seven
days, Bump and I developed a bond that has lasted nearly 2O
years. At first, our relationship was based on mutual dependence.
We shared equipment, helped pack game. explored unknown
mountains, and for a brief time became “mountain men of old.”
Today, we share treestand secrets, black bear hunts (now with
much greater confidence) and everything involving the outdoors.

Buddies Increase Effectiveness
Bowhunting is often a solitary, secretive sport. An archer may
slip softly to a treestand, spend the day in simple solitude and
gaze thankfully toward the setting sun. relishing the peace and
tranquility of a day without telephones and the stress of modern
life. Most treestands don’t have a shotgun seat because two fellows ,
hunting side by side create more movement. scent. and create
a dilemma—who shoots first? The most effective tactics for
whitetail deer dictate a solitary, well camouflaged, scent-free
hunter waiting silently at a prospective crossing.

Treestand hunting may be solitary, yet a buddy system approach
can make you more effective for whitetails and other game. Plus,
you’ll have lots more fun. Scouting is far more effective in pairs,
since discreet sign is much easier to find with four eyes and two
perspectives. Having a friends ear at local sporting shops and tuned
into general deer hunting discussions can pay big benefits. When
your phone rings and your bow-bud explodes with the news of a
big buck seen crossing the road or missed by a disgruntled archer,
you have a starting place for a trophy buck.

For example, African hunter Steve Kobrine and Jeff Harrison,
the urban deer specialist from Frederick Maryland, became
friends five years ago. Kobrine raises Nyala in South Africa and
only gets to hunt a few weeks in the states each fall. Kobrine put
Harrison onto his best stands, encouraging him to hunt in his
absence. Harrison reciprocates with the latest information and
best places to hunt when his buddy returns to the States. lnternational
bowhunting buddies may be the extreme, yet each per·
son is a more effective hunter in the process.
?

Many archers begin a hunt together and then head toward
separate stands. The advent of portable radios allows one
hunter to converse with another. lf he gets a shot, he can summon
his friend to help begin the trailing process. Working in
tandem, one archer can search while the other holds or marks
“last blood.” While one person searches for sign, the other can
watch ahead vigilantly in case a second shot is needed.
Once recovered, a buddy can be a tremendous assistance in field
dressing the animal. Positioning the animal, managing knives,
gloves, and gear, is greatly aided by a buddy. Dragging the beast to
the nearest access point is physically and emotionally easier.

Taking this a step further, most state laws require that a deer
carcass be retrieved in its entirety. A buddy will allow you to
hunt places less likely to be visited by solo archers. Steep terrain
and long distances are two hurdles that tend to develop
greater age structure (and bigger racks) in whitetail deer. Having
a buddy share the exertion can pay big benefits. Should you
both get lucky, you make two trips.
A buddy system improves your chances on most game
taken by calling, stalking and decoying, With turkeys, predators,
moose, and a host of other game, four eyes and legs are
better than a single set. After spotting a bedded muley buck,
having a friend provide hand signals can be invaluable. Ante»
lope decoying is exciting sport and much easier if a friend holds
the decoy. Will Primos, as evidenced in his video series, has
honed the buddy system for calling elk to a science. (Truth V
l Big Bulls is the latest.)


“Every animal has its own characteristics,” says Primos. “Bull
elk are often concerned about being blindsided by another bull,
and they protect their flanks. It wants to see the movement
of a cow, and in real thick places will hold up to look for the
calling animal. We like to have the caller 75 to 1OO yards
behind the shooter. Elk usually don’t circle like whitetails.
There is so much competition for cows that bulls come straight
in. This system has worked great for us and will increase your
success rate by 100 percent. Let one person do the calling and
the other do the shooting. It has worked wonders.”
A hunting buddy can make you a more effective hunter and
provide that extra impetus to embark upon a trip of a lifetime.
CIA “agents” (Central Iowa Archery, that is) Ray Neil and Craig
Wendt practice and shoot tournaments regulariy. They answered Africa’s call
together, having the time of their lives. Wendt saw five species of big game his
first afternoon and had two rhinos under his stand the second.
Talk about hunting stories!

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
A person who has been bowhunting 10 years may have years of experience
or one year of experience IO times. When we practice, tune, and hunt
alone, we tend to do the same things the same way, year after year. Having a
hunting buddy, especially one who is comfortable making suggestions, allows
you to gain from his knowledge as well. I have hunted with headnets for many
years, primarily to cover the shine on my face. Once while hunting with Bump
on a minus-20-degree day, he explained how keeping his face covered with the
headnet had a dramatic warming effect. Since then I’ve carried a headnet in cold
weather and wear it, often over face camo paint. As you expand your hunting
circles, small tips and tactics from friends will increase your effectiveness.

Practice, like exercise, can be boring. Realistic 3·D targets pump up the
volume, yet the enjoyment of these figures can be improved through interaction.
Buddies add pressure and anxiety elements that are often missing from effective
practice regimens. Competitions inevitably evolves between shooters
Whether it’s the prestige of winning or the burden of paying for the Coke round,
practicing with buddies adds realism and greatly magnifies the enjoyment of archery.

Tuning, judging arrow flight, estimating distance, learning your effective range
and many more elements of bowhunting, will improve dramatically if undertaken
in an interactive environment. Also, you will stick to your practice schedule more
consistently with motivation from a friend. When you promise to shoot early
on Sunday morning, you’d better keep your cell phone on or face a raft of good
natured kidding next time.
?

Maybe you and your buddy will agree on the best bow, arrows, and broadhead.
Probably not! Much of the fun and enjoyment of archery comes from
analyzing and debating the elements of gear. Since each piece of equipment
will function according to the user, there may not be a “right” answer. In the
long run, this debate helps you and your buddy understand gear, how
it works, and why.

Of Stick, String, And Heart
My friendship with Bump had an air of predictability. We were about the same
age, grew up in the same town, and both loved to hunt. However, friend-
ships and special hunting relationships can spring from unusual or accidental
circumstances, even with rifle hunters. “l first met Dale Earnhardt in l992
at a hunting lodge in Michigan where l was filming whitetails,” said David
Blanton, producer of Realtree’s Monster Buck series. “The Realtree TV show
had just started, and l was getting deer behavioral footage. The guys at the
lodge mentioned that Dale was coming in to hunt. l had heard the name and
knew that he was a racer, but l didn’t know much about NASCAR or Dale.
?

That evening, l was working in the basement of the lodge when he
walked into the room. ` “‘What are you doing,’ he asked with sincere
interest. ” I’m logging deer footage,” l said with a welcoming glance.
He pulled up a stool, and l soon found out that he had come down here
to escape the hustle of the lodge and the attention people were giving him.
Dale was in the public spotlight, and he didn’t like that. He tolerated it, yet it
was not something he craved. He came down for some peace and quiet.
We talked into the wee hours of the morning about where he lived, the fence
he put up to raise deer and about deer hunting. l really saw how much he
loved deer. l think the fact that l was not in awe of him as a racer was the
reason we hit it off so big from day one.

“l will be hunting in the morning” said Dale as we finally headed up stairs.
“Why don’t you bring your camera?” We started by rattling deer. He was
intrigued by how we set up our equipment. That I could move around in
the woods quietly. He appreciated that. He started rattling and l had a grunt
call. It was his first grunt call experience, and he was surprised what it could
do. He was amazed. l ended up filming him killing a deer. and then we went
our separate ways.
?

“Two years later, he called me at work. We began hunting together and going to
North Carolina and to film deer. We always had such a big time together.”
Blanton continues, “Our relationship was centered around hunting. He didn’t
have many close relationships in life where he didn’t feel like he was being
used because he was a racing star. He felt very suspicious. It was racing but
deer that brought us together. l spent time at his place at North Carolina where a
very deep friendship develop. It continued through the years, and we hunted together
in Texas, Mexico, Michigan, Iowa, Utah, and each spring we hunted Georgia for turkeys.
I always gave Dale his room because he hunted like he drove – with very little patience,
wide open. That didn’t go hand in hand with video taping. There were times when Dale
and I really disagreed. He tried to hut like he raced, with little regard for the camera. We
clashed several times, but the fact that I was not in awe of him strengthened our friendship.
Dale always wanted to tell me about priorities in life. He’d call me up and say, “David, how much you been traveling?” knowing that it was fall and I travel a lot. He’d always talk about
keeping my family first. “Don’t let your career become more important than your family” he’d advise, asking in particular about my wife, Ginger.

He was such a genuinely thoughtful person. A very few people knew that outside of his family.
We talked about family and life while hunting. Dale was the first close friend I ever lost suddenly.
l wasn’t able to tell them good-bye. l treasure and value the conversations that we had in
treestands from Texas to Michigan to Mexico so much now. I will never forget the simple
conversations about family, God, and life in general. So many things we talked about that were confidential at the time and still are. Dale was a true sportsman, and so concerned about getting young people involved.

Little Buddies, Big Benefits
In our nation are millions of young girls and boys who yearn to explore the outdoors and will consider archery “very cool.” Each of us is a potential role model for archery and hunting. If
you demonstrate the fun, excitement, and enjoyment of the conservation ethic the youth of America will look up to us and bowhunting.

Girls’ Clubs, Boys’ Clubs, Scouts, 4-H and dozens of other youth groups welcome
speakers and/or a modest shooting-demonstration. The chance to nock an arrow or
just pull back a timber longbow is a big thrill to a child. When doing archery demonstrations at outdoor camps, I always put the target (balloons are great ) at “can’t miss” range. I remember
one second-grade girl who was very hesitant about pulling the bow, then exclaiming “Wow! Now I know what I want for Christmas.”

Introducing youngsters to stick and string is important, yet they need that special buddy
treatment to get them started. I grew up in a working family where my dad taught school all day long and farmed half the night. l don’t remember ever having a game of catch in the back yard,
yet we had and still have good times afield. Some sons have personal conflicts with their fathers, yet the hunting denominator creates a solid foundation in their relationships. lIve never been
able to persuade my dad to pick up a bow, yet we often hunt together when he totes a rifle or shotgun, and l a compound. We have driven non-stop 45 hours cross-country to hunt elk
dozen times, frozen in treestands. and told and relived the related adventures
countless times.
?

Closer Than You Think
Don’t overlook the lady who shares your life. Your best friend of the opposite sex
could be the best bowhunting buddy of all. Your relationship will elevate to another
level once you share the thrills and excitement of the outdoors. Brenda Valentine,
Kathy Butt, and countless other female archers have shattered all of the depend-
ency stereotypes. These gals can hunt!
?

Even Mom can get into the act. Frank Lindenberger, a taxidermist and
ardent archer from Pennsylvania, convinced Mary Ann, his mother, to join
him on a safari in South Africa with Ken Moody Safaris. “Exhilaration is an
understatement,” she said as she described her first day in a bow blind.
“The adrenaline flows, the heart palpitates and the breathing accelerates. all
the good things about hunting.” At times Ken and Mary Ann sat a blind
together, sometimes laughing so hard they worried about scaring game.
Finally, bowhunting buddy systems have a “big-picture” benefit. Americans
take bowhunting for granted, yet in most of Europe and England, hunting with
archery gear is strictly outlawed. Animal rights activists hate hunters of all sorts,
and often employ backhanded litigations to reduce or eliminate bowhunting
options. By working together in conservation and bowhunting advocacy
organizations, we can assure that the conservation heritage we enjoy
today will be preserved for future generations.

Bowhunting buddies come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and genders.
Extending the hand of friendship to a novice, fellow archer, even a stranger
may change both lives in unimagineable ways. Remember: Arrows fletched in
friendship always group tightly.

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Published by archerchick on 11 Jan 2011

The Perfect Morning Stand~ By Mike Strandlund

Bowhunting World October 2005


BOWHUNTING WORLD
October 2005

THE PERFECT MORNING STAND ~ By Mike Strandlund
?

On cool mornings during the rut, bedding areas may be your best bet.

If you hang around bowhunters enough, you’ll eventually hear some-
one say they were in the right place at the right time. Everyone nods
their head. The notion of time intersecting location is a well accepted
principle of bowhunting success. Nodding your head is easy, but really,
putting those two together is no simple matter. There are a lot of
trees out there and a lot of hours in the day. Making it happen by
design rather than by pure luck takes a little thought.

Big bucks can be taken at any time during the season and any time
during the day. They are always somewhere, even it you aren’t. If you
understand their behavior well enough to put yourself between their Point
A and Point B, you can manufacture your own right time and place. The
problem is, during most of the season they aren’t moving very well,
during the day, and these smart old deer are anything but predictable.
Year after year the rut comes to the rescue to put a little life into our
dreams. For a high percentage of hunters, the rut is the “right time.” But,
we deed to go a step farther. ?

In my experience, morning hunts produce more big buck sightings than
evening hunts. Hunters who spend a lot of time on stand will agree. Bucks
learn to let their guard down more in the morning and are on their feet
longer during daylight than they are in the afternoon. So, the “right time”
becomes a morning during the rut. But, why stop there? There’s more
we can use to narrow this down.

Studies I’ve read suggest that daytime buck activity north of the
Mason-Dixon tine starts to decline when the temperature gets above 45
degrees. It almost comes to a stop when the temperature reaches 60
degrees. So now the right time is a cool morning during the rut. Now all
we need is the right place.


The Right Place
For 50 weeks out of the year, bedding
areas are among the worst places you
could hunt. Try sneaking into Fort Knox
sometime. It won’t be long before the
alarms start sounding. That’s the level of
security deer exhibit in a bedding area for
most of the year. If a buck catches you
sneaking around his bedding area, he’s
gone. Just as a good burglar knows that
the best time to make a raid is when the
residents are out of town, we have our
own window of opportunity to hunt bedding
areas effectively during the rut.
During the two weeks that comprise
the peak-breeding phase of the rut, a high
percentage of the bucks are “out of town.”
They’re distracted from normal wariness by
the hope of cornering a doe, and they’re moving
more in the process spending time in places
where they haven’t taken a stick-by-stick and
leaf-by-leaf mental inventory.?

The one you see today may be miles away
tomorrow. You can afford to push a little
harder when the buck turnover rate is high.
When does are in estrus (characterizing
the peak breeding phase), mature bucks
spend most of their time looking for them.
Where do they go? Where would you go?
Feeding areas in the evening and bedding
areas in the morning.
Choosing the bedding areas you will
hunt depends a lot more on how you will get
in and out than on any other single factor.
Start with access, then move on to wind
control and finally worry about the specific
tree you’ll hunt.

Access
Bucks are slow to arrive in bedding areas
in the morning, so they won’t be the ones
that bust you if you make a sloppy approach.
Maybe you are thinking, “So what if I blow out
a couple of does?” It’s a big mistake because
if you push the does out, the bucks will stop
using the whole area eventually, plus any
deer that remain will display tense body
language that will bring the bucks to a
greater state of caution. Soon they will
stop moving naturally through the area. If
you can’t get to and from the stand without
spooking deer, you are actually hurting
your entire hunting area. That’s why getting
in clean is so important.


?

Bedding areas generally have a back
door that makes access easy. You have to
approach from the opposite direction as
the deer. In other words, you have to come
in from the direction away from the primary
food source. Surprisingly, some bedding
area stands can be hunted day after day if
the entry and exit routes are well-selected.
The only way you burn out a stand is if the
deer know you are using it. Keep them in
the dark and the stand can be productive
for the entire two weeks.
Take advantage of every trick to keep
deer from seeing you, smelling you and
hearing you as you approach the stand.
I’ve learned the value of setting stands
close to high-banked ditches and creeks. I
use the bank for cover as I walk right down
in the bottom, beneath the surrounding
terrain. I’ve walked right past deer this
way many times.
?

Another trick is to approach your
morning stands right at first light. It may
sound like heresy to hard-core bowhunters,
but I’ve found that sleeping in actually
works to your benefit when the woods are
dry and noisy underfoot. Wait until you can
just see the ground before heading to the
stand, and then walk rapidly. Rapid-fire
movements spook deer less than quiet
sounds of stealth. Also, there is a time
right at daybreak when the forest comes
to life and the sounds you make aren’t
singled out as easily.
?

Wind
The best bedding area stands
are located near ridge tops. Of course, you
have to go where the deer are, but given a
choice, hunt high where the wind is steady.
The wind is always steadier on high ground
than in areas that are protected and subject
to swirling. As a bonus, when you set up on
the downwind edge of a ridge top, the wind
will carry your scent above the deer down-
wind of your stand for a long distance. With
attention to eliminating odor, you should
be able to prevent most of the deer from
ever scenting you while on stand. If you’re
looking for a way to make your best start
productive for longer, this is a big one.

Be Conservative
While scouting I’ve seen a lot of stands
that are “one-hunt wonders.” I know
perfectly well what they look like because
I’ve put up my share of them over the years.
They are great for one hunt and then they go
downhill because too many deer scent you or run
across your ground scent. Generally, these
stands are the result of a combination of
greed and naivete. We long to be right in
the middle of the action, but that always
comes at a high cost. You will get busted
often – plain and simple. And, soon deer
will stop using the area around the stand.

There is no place I’ve ever hunted
where wild whitetails will tolerate human
presence without avoiding the area in the
future. Instead of hunting right in the Middle
of a bedding area and educating deer,
choose a tree on the fringe. Put your stand
on the backside of the tree, away from the
deer. You will have to stand facing the
tree most of the time, but the tree will
serve to keep you well-hidden even
from short range.
?

Accept the fact that you’ll have to watch
a few deer pass out of range. Be patient;
eventually one will come to the downwind
side of the ridge (your side) and you’ll get
a good shot. In the meantime, you will keep
the deer relaxed and moving naturally. Over
the long haul, that’s the key to successful
bowhunting.

Picking The Tree
Choosing an actual stand location in a bedding
area can be as much luck as skill. There is almost
no buck sign to guide you. By their very
nature, bedding areas aren’t travel routes.
You won’t find many trails or traditional
funnels to suggest the best stand location
There isn’t a single big rub, scrape or
trail visible from any of my best morning
stands. This is the hardest part for many
bowhunters to overcome. Too often, sign
becomes our only focus and we overlook
great stand locations as a result.

Buck movement patterns through bedding
areas seem on the surface to be
random. In most cases, the bucks follow
some kind of a pattern even if the pattern
is known only to them. In time, you will see
it start to develop. Certain places will seem to
be visited more often by bucks on the move,
or a certain tree will just seem to be common
to many of the paths taken by cruising bucks.
lt may take a couple of years for this to gel, but
you will end up with an awesome stand if you
are patient and watchful.

Occasionally you’ll actually find funnels
in bedding areas, though they tend to
be broad and very general in form. When
hunting ridges l look for areas where narrow
hogbacks in the ridge force traveling
bucks to come closer together. This simply
increases your odds that a buck passing through
the area will be within range.
Often, in other types of bedding areas,
you’ll find something subtle that pushes
deer toward one side or the other. It may
even be as simple as a big fallen tree
deer have to go around. Anything that
funnels movement (no matter how slightly)
tips the odds a little more your way and
is worth using to your advantage.

A saddle is another feature that really
improves ridge hunting success. Bucks
use the saddle to cross over the ridge
serving as a second travel route when hunting
bucks that are cruising along the ridge itself.

Remain Undetected
Does often browse for an hour or more
when they get back into a bedding area.
They rarely bed right down. This can be a
tough time because as the does mill around, a few
invariably start to drift over to your stand.
If the setup isn’t perfect you will get busted.

I’ve also had entire family groups bed
down for hours at a time within 10 yards
of my tree. That makes life miserable
because you can’t move to stretch or even
change positions. This is rare, however
because you can usually count on some
kind of buck to come along and run them
out before too long.

?

More Thoughts On Timing

When you start noticing bucks seriously
chasing does, it’s time to start spending
your mornings hunting bedding areas
Here‘s what you can expect.

The bucks that visit doe bedding areas
aren’t interested in bedding down, at least
not until late in the morning. After several
years of hunting bedding areas in the morning,
I’ve only seen a few bucks actually bed
down. instead of bedding, the bucks cruise
through with the intention of checking as
many does as possible before moving on.
They jump them up, sniff around and then
move on.

As the sun begins to rise, the does will
start to show up first, usually right after first
light. Generally, they are by themselves or
in small family groups with another doe or
two and a few fawns. The bucks usually
don’t start coming through until well after
sunrise. Some mornings they were so late
in arriving that l figured the show was over
before it even started only to see the first
buck about the time l would normally think
about climbing down. In other words, don’t
give up too early—bedding areas can produce
action well into the late morning.
Possibly the best part about hunting
bedding areas at this time of the season
is the sheer number of hours that bucks
are active. lf you’re hunting edges, the
activity slows shortly after sunrise. When
the deer disappear from these places,
where do you think they are heading?
That’s right, toward doe bedding areas.

Deeper in the cover the bucks keep
moving for hours. The majority of the action
occurs during the first four hours of the
morning—actual|y the second, third and
fourth hours. I challenge you to find another
stand location where you can expect three
hours of activity each morning.

I remember hearing a humorous remark
by noted gun writer Craig Boddington. He
said, “Bowhunting is like shopping. Gun
hunting is like buying.” Some mornings the
action in these bedding areas makes
bowhunting seem a lot more like buying, too.
At its best, the morning action is awesome
bordering on unbelievable, like the morning
I spent covered up by more than a dozen
bucks trailing two hot does that passed
right under my stand. The right time? That’s
easy; a cool morning during the rut. The
right place? That’s easy, too; A doe bedding
area is the handsdown pick. <–<<

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Published by archerchick on 10 Jan 2011

Let Your Eyes Do The Walking ~ By Dwight R. Schuh


Bow & Arrow Magazine
Bowhunter’s Annual 1979

LET YOUR EYES DO THE WALKING ~ BY DWIGHT R. SCHUH
Knowing Where To Look Is The Real Key To Efficient Spotting Of Game.

FROM HIGH ON THE cliff I could see two men hunting slowly across a sagebrush flat. Then the buck appeared between me and the hunters. He moved cautiously toward the head of a shallow canyon where the men would soon cross. Obviously, he had them spotted.

Just beneath a low rim the big four-point stopped and peeked over. For ten minutes or more he stood motionless, watching the hunters approach from a hundred yards away only to pass within thirty yards of his position. Surely his antlers were in their view. But they didn’t notice, and continued past the buck and across the flat.

When the hunters were well beyond, the buck slipped back under the rim, sneaked some distance
away from them. then trotted onto the flat, following the very route the men had just come from. I
couldn’t help but laugh. Mule deer are stupid?

I also had to reflect on this drama. Frequently, I’d hunted this country the way those hunters were
doing, covering as much ground as possible, looking for deer out ahead. I figured the more ground covered the more game seen, and the more game seen, the better the hunting. But this episode impressed on me the folly of that philosophy. How many big bucks had sneaked away from me? And how many times had I seen deer racing away I through the woods or across the sage flats, deer that had seen me before I’d seen them? Many times, that’s for sure. And just as sure, none of those deer had ended up on a meat pole.

A deer that sneaks away or is running full-bore is no game for the bow and arrow. Generally, to get a good shot a bowhunter must see an animal before it sees him, and his best bet for doing that is to stay in one spot and to look.

A moving hunter just sets himself up to be spotted. The less moving and more observing a bowhunter does, the better his chances for seeing unspooked game, an advantage that not only gives him time to plan a good elk but time to size up antlers and body condition as well. It gives him time to size up the overall situation, too, a point I’ve learned the value, of many times. In one
particular instance, I’d watched a dandy three-point buck bed in high sage.

In a hurry to get a shot, I went right after it without looking further. The stalk looked easy, but
about a quarter-mile short of my goal, two forked—horn bucks boiled out of the sage at my feet.,Of course, their snorting and stomping spooked my quarry. With more time
spent observing, I’d have seen them and could have planned
my stalk along a different route.

Finally, an emphasis on eye, rather than leg, power can save a hunter a lot of energy and can make him much more efficient. With his eyes, he can cover more ground more quickly, more quietly and more thoroughly than with his feet, I’ve spent days sneaking and peering over rimrocks, looking for deer bedded at the base of the cliffs. In three seasons of this, not once did I catch a buck there although deer beds were thick. Finally, frustrated, I went to a point overlooking a stretch of cliffs and settled in to watch.

The first day, three bucks walked across the flat above and picked their way down the rim. They bedded in the shadows at the base of a cliff. An hour later, knowing exactly where they were, I walked right to their position and collected a forked horn. I’d~.scored finally, because I’d
found an efficient way of hunting this country. I’d saved myself many more miles of fruitless walking as well.

The same game—spotting principles apply to all hunting situations, whether still-hunting through thick woods, watching from a stand, or spot-and-stalk hunting desert country. The differences are only a matter of degree.

The biggest advantage over game a hunter can give himself is to look for animals that are moving and are in the open. That may seem obvious, but a lot of hunters haven’t caught on.

“Ninety percent of the people who hunt here head out from camp to hunt about 8 or 9 o’clock,
just when they should be calling it quits for the day,” the manager of a bowhunting area told me. “And they’re returning to camp in the afternoon about the time they should be heading out to hunt.”

His point was that they were missing the prime hunting times of the day. Beyond any question, the first hour of daylight in the morning and the last hour in the evening are
the best times for spotting game (with exception of antelope which area active throughout the day).
As an example, during the 1977 season, my wife and I were perched on a desert cliff before daybreak. As the dawn glow slowly lightened a broad sage flat below us, we began to make out deer. By the time the sun came up, we had twenty-eight bucks in plain view. They were scattered all over, moving and feeding. By 8a.m. they’d vanished. A latecomer would have sworn the flat was barren. But we knew better. The bucks had just settled into the high sage for the day.

Another time, one August, we were overlooking a brush patch surrounded by dense oak trees. The parched California foothills looked lifeless. But at 6 p.m. the sun dipped behind a ridge, flooding the brush with shade, and within fifteen minutes, blacktails began slipping from the
oaks. By 6:30, a half-hour before sunset, We could see six large bucks and a number of does, all in the open.

In both cases, we could have blistered our eyes all day, scouring the brush for deer. Most likely we’d have seen none. But during the prime times, early and late, the deer were as easy to see as cows grazing a grassy hillside.

Certain weather can give the same advantage that early and late daytime periods can, because under some conditions, deer and elk may feed all day, making them easy to spot. Although game animals normally seek shelter during windy, violent storms, they’ll often be active and feeding preceding and following such storms. And on heavily overcast, drizzly days I’ve had excellent success spotting both deer and elk throughout the day. In fact, I’ve taken two elk that were feeding in the open during midday downpours.

Some hunters believe they have an advantage during breeding seasons because animals in rut supposedly for stupid things, but I don’t agree. Bucks or bull elk may indeed be less cautious at this time, but the real advantage is the fact that, rather than bedding all day, these animals
are active and moving, often in the open, making them much easier to spot than under normal conditions. In most regions, deer rut in November and December, elk in September. If seasons in your area are in progress at these times, take advantage of them.

In some cases, the later the season the better the game-spotting conditions. In western Oregon, for example, the early bow season is in September, the late season in November. In September, jungle—like foliage limits visibility to a few yards, but by the late season, leaves have fallen. A
hunter can see farther into the brush and actually can spot deer moving on adjacent hillsides, an impossibility earlier.

Snow is another advantage in late-season hunting. Not only are animals often more concentrated by snow but they’re the most visible against a white background.
Dan Eastmen, an Oregon biologist who’s spent years surveying deer, told me he felt knowing where to look was the real key to “efficient” spotting. His point was that a person can’t go into the field with wide-angle vision, looking at any and everywhere and expect to see much game. He has to concentrate his looking on habitat roost likely to hold animals.

Foe example, deer may use different slopes under various conditions. During dry season and hot weather, they’ll concentrate on north and east facing slopes where moisture lasts longest.

This is particularly true in dry country. When I first hunted desert mule deer, I spend days looking for bucks and nearly dropped my teeth every time I saw one, the occurance was so rare. Then Dan Herrig, a wildlife biologist who’d spent months observing desert bucks, set me straight.

“In this country during the Summer, I spend my time watching north slopes.” Herrig said ” A north exposure holds moisture longest and It’s shaded and cool. I look under trees, and in the shade at the bases of bushes and rocks. That’s where the bucks will bed.

Taking Herrig’s advice, I began seeing more deer than I’d dreamed existed. Up until then I’d been looking everywhere, and probably ninety percent of the country I looked at held no deer at all. Of course the preferred slope depends on the weather and season. During a cold spell, deer may move to a warm south or west facing slope. Picking the right are is a matter of judgement. Herrig offered another bit of advice that has paid off for me.
“Deer have traditional bedding areas.” he said “They’ll come back to the same places year after year.”

Under several juniper trees in a steep canyon he pointed out deer beds that had been worn two and three-feet deep from constant use by deer. Such beds. are especially common in steep, rocky terrain where bedding sites area at a premium. A hunter who knows the location of these traditional areas can expect to observe deer there consistently.

Food and cover are, of course, are major influences on game distribution. Vegetation and terrain that supply these basics will vary considerably from one region to another, but the principle is the same everywhere. For example around extensive new clearcuts or in open desert or grassland, areas with plenty of feed animals may congregate near pockets of good cover. In forested wilderness, on the other hand, climax vegetation generally guarantees a surplus of cover, but forage often is scarce. Here a hunter should locate and concentrate spotting efforts on areas where game animals will feed.

Prehunt reconnaissance of an area is a good idea, but not only to look for sign verifying the presence of game, but also to plan your hunt. In open country find cliffs, hilltops or other observation points that overlook feeding or bedding areas. In denser country, pick places for stands near clearings or well-used trails where visibility is good, or outline still-hunting routes from which you can observe promising habitat.

Keep two things in mind as you plan. First evaluate prevailing wind direction. If you try to observe country from the upwind side, animals will vacate before you ever see them.

Second, consider the sun. In dense canyon bottom this may not be a concern, but in open country, it’s vital. Without reservation I say never hunt or glass toward the sun. With that bright light in your face, you can see next to nothing. In the morning glass or still hunt from east to west and vice versa in the afternoon. Have alternate observation points and hunting routes in mind to make this possible and to compensate for changing winds.

The one essential equipment item for all game spotting is binoculars. Nobody can hunt as efficiently, under any conditions, with bare eyes as he can with binoculars.

That’s because binoculars not only magnify detail, but at close range, the isolate it. The, closer you focus, the shallower the depth-of-field, so that only objects in the plane of focus are sharp. If you’re focused for thirty yards an antler tine at that distance will stand out strikingly from
that blurred brush in front and behind. Binoculars also gather light, a real advantage early and late and on dark days.

During serious hunting, you’ll use binoculars constantly, probably several hours a day, so they have to be handy. To mak sure mine are, I have put an elastic band on them. , I hang the glasses around my neck then slip the elastic around my chest. The elastic band holds the glasses snug
against my body, but it stretches enough to allow bringing
them to my eyes.

Cheap binoculars are a waste of money. They’re often poorly aligned and
will make you cross eyed and dizzy. Good glasses start at about $100.

In open country 8x or 10x binoculars are good, but for all-around use, 6X or 7X are probably better. I’ve been more than satisfied with my Bausch & Lomb 7X35s.

A spotting scope is invaluable in open country where visibility is great. For the money, l think a fixed-power scope of 15X or 20X is the best buy. Variable power, say
15x-60x is fine under ideal conditions, but often, heatwaves cause such distortion that magnification over about 25x is useless.

High-power, optical equipment must be held solid. Binoculars of 7X, for example, magnify every movement you make by seven times. You won’t see much more than blurry scenery if you’re standing, holding binoculars with one hand. Use a tripod. or sit down, wrap your hands around your glasses, rest your elbows on your knees, and brace your hands against your forehead to form a solid glassing position. With a spotting scope, use a tripod.

To glass efficiently, be systematic. Whether you`re inspecting a brush patch at thirty yards or an open canyon face a mile away. divide the area into sections and cover it thoroughly from one side to the other.

l use two approaches to game spotting. One is to glass once, slowly and meticulously. from one side of an area to the other, trying to make out every detail the first time though. The other approach is to cover the country rapidly, going over it several times. Generally, the second
approach works better for me. My thinking is that if animals are in cover, I probably won’t see them, no matter how long I stare at one place. But if I’m hunting during a prime time when animals are active and moving, they’ll sooner or later work into a position where they can be seen easily. Even if I overlook animals the first, second or third times, I’ll eventually spot them if I cover an area enough times. Besides, rapid glassing seems to cause less eye strain than staring for a long period at one spot.

Game spotting takes time. A quick once-over won’t do. If l`m observing open country where visibility may be a mile or more, I glass for two or three hours from one position. In dense forest, of course, where visibility is thirty yardis, nobody is going to stay in one place for three hours.
There, a few minutes from each position may be long enough. Probably more important in dense country than absolute time is the ratio of time spent moving to
observing. A moving hunter won’t see nearly as much as
one who’s motionless, and he’s much more likely to be
spotted himself. Most good still—hunters agree that they
spend no more than a quarter of their time moving. They
spend the other three-quarters stationary, studying the
brush ahead.
The old cliche about “practice makes perfect” definitely
applies to game spotting. During my first years of big-game
hunting, I felt blind. My companions always spotted deer
before I did. But with experience, I’ve learned to make out
detail, and now the sight of a deer’s leg, an antler tine or a
flicking ear catches my eye immediately. My vision is no
better. Practice simply has put meaning into these details.
Practice is the only way to develop spotting skill.
And this skill is at the heart of productive hunting.
Whatever your circumstances, you’ll have little success
hunting with the bow and arrow if you can’t spot game
animals before they spot you. And rarely will you if you’re
hunting by leg power alone. If you’ve found yourself leaving
lots of tracks across the landscape but seeing less
than your share of game, get smart. Sit down, get out your
binoculars and let your eyes do the walking. <—·<<<<

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Published by archerchick on 09 Jan 2011

The Inside Edge ~ By Mark Hicks


Bowhunting World
October 2006

The Inside Edge by Mark Hicks

?

The best place to hunt a field may not be along its edge, but at least 20 yards from the edge, farther back in the woods. Here’s Why.

The first truly big buck l ever saw while hunting crossed 20
yards from my treestand more than 3O years ago. lt was a
symmetrical 8-pointer with a wide spread, tall tines, and
heavy mass. Looking back through the years, l believe it would
have easily netted 140.

l had found the buck’s rubs scouting a point of hardwoods that reached
into a pasture in south Ohio. A cluster of several trees, up 6 inches in
diameter, bore scars. A distinct deer trail lead to the point along the
wooded side of the pastures fence. l figured this was the buck’s travel
route and l hung a stand in a tulip poplar within easy bow range of the
trail. l was in that stand every evening during the last few weeks of October.
On weekends, l was there mornings and evenings. l would never spend
that much time in any stand today, but l was just getting into bowhunting
and was greener than a corn sprout. l would have gladly shot the first
whitetail that stepped into bow range. Two does entered the pasture
before dark on three or four evenings, but they never offered a shot.
?

It was a balmy, overcast morning early November when l saw the 8-pointer.
l heard it grunt, turned my head and then watched the grand animal cross
behind my stand as it altenately sniffed the ground and scent-checked the wind. My
treestand didn’t allow me to shoot in that direction, and l knew nothing then about
calling deer. l could only watch in awe the buck slowly passed out of bow range
and out of sight. l can still see his bone white antlers glowing in the dim woods.

?

Sat Up Farther Back
I missed my chance at that buck because I made a mistake that plagues many
hunters today. I had set up for a shot along a field edge when I should have
been farther back in the woods along what I call “the inside edge.” Yes, slews
of whitetails are shot every year from treestands situated along field edges.
But, most of these deer are dropped early in the season when bucks are more
interested in food sources than female companionship.

Field edges become less productive as bucks enter the pre-rut and rutting
phases and begin searching for does. Any buck intent on finding a hot doe isn’t
likely to waltz into a field, though it may quickly cross an open field to see whats
shakin’ on the other side. A smart old buck on a mission normally won’t enter
a field until after his nose tells him that an estrus doe is feeding out there.
Instead of walking into the field or around its perimeter, a mature buck typically passes
by 2O yards or more back in the woods. Here, it can stay out of sight
and scent-check for does from a safe vantage point. The route the buck travels
during this reconnaissance is the inside edge, and you’ll often find rubs and scrapes here.

Though you may find rubs and scrapes anywhere along the field’s
edge, these are typically made after dark when bucks feel safe enough to venture
into the open fields. Since a buck must travel downwind
of a field to scent-check it, this is where you should look for the inside edge.
First, determine the predominant wind direction. For example, the predominant
wind in southeast Ohio where l hunt is from the southwest. Therefore,
l look for an inside edge near the northeast corner of a field.
?

l hunt the northeast corner because this is where a buck travels a diagonal
route as it cuts across the wind. This lets the buck scent-check the field efficiently
with the shortest traveling distance, The buck comes closest to the field at
its northeast corner, which makes this the ideal place to intercept him. Set
your treestand about 2O yards down-wind from the buck’s path. This puts
you at least 40 yards from the field, depending on how far back the buck”s
inside travel edge is situated. A stand back in the woods also offers
better concealment. Most of the leaves have fallen when the rut gets under»
way. When you’re perched in a bare stand along the edge of a field, a buck
is more likely to spot you. A treestand hack in the woods breaks up your outline
and helps you go undetected.

?

Pay Attention To The Wind & Routes

What do you do when the wind changes direction? Iowan Rick White, a member
of the Hunters Specialties pro staff. stays away from the inside edge rather than
tipping off a buck to his stand location. “I’ll hunt a different stand around that field
where the wind is to my advantage, or l hunt a different area altogether,” White
says. “You get only one chance at a big buck and you don’t want to blow it by
hunting with a bad wind.”

Even when the wind is right. “White takes precautions to avoid spooking
deer on the way to his stand. He takes the shortest, quietest route possible
that keeps him downwind of deer and their bedding areas. If the best approach
is to cross the field, White generally hunts an inside edge in the afternoon
only during the early season. By crossing the field in the morning, he would spook
any deer feeding there. During the peak of the rut, when bucks are pushing does
around, White will gamble on crossing a field for a morning hunt.

When he searches for an inside edge, White looks for buck sign associated
with intersecting trails, bottlenecks, pinch points, or some terrain feature
that funnels deer past a particular tree. “I usually don’t get back in more
than 2O yards or so from the field,” White says. “I want to be close enough
that I can see what’s happening in the field. That way, I might notice another corner
where deer are coming into the field.”

Before bucks get into the pre-rut and rutting phases, they often use inside
edges as evening staging areas before they enter fields after dark to feed.
White took advantage of this tendency during an early October hunt in Iowa.
At 3 p.m. he climbed into an old fence line oak 5O yards from an alfalfa field.
From this vantage, he could see the field and well over 100 yards through
the stand of mature hardwoods.
?

An hour before dark, does started to filter through the hardwoods, browsing
and feeding on acorns as they headed to the field. About 30 minutes later, White
spotted a dandy 10-point buck casually feeding on acorns l5O yards away. He
rattled lightly with his rattle bag, followed up with a few mature buck grunts
on his Hunter’s Specialties Tru Talker, and the buck came right to him. “He wasn’t
looking for a fight, he was just curious to see what was going on,” White says.
“That’s typical early in the season.” The buck came down the fence that
lead to White’s tree and never tried to circle downwind of him. “Early in the
season, bucks often beeline it straight to the sound,” White says. “They’re more
cautious during the tut and usually in downwind then.”
?

White smoked the buck with his Mathews compound at 15 yards. It scored
137 4/8. Had White set his stand on the edge of the alfalfa field, he might not
have seen that buck back in the woods. If he had called to the buck from the field
edge, it probably would have been leery of coming near the field before dark.
And, even if the buck did respond to a call from the field edge, it would have
approached from White’s downwind side and may have winded him.
?

Missouri bowhunter Alex Rutledge, another member of the Hunters Specialties pro staff,
also takes advantage of inside edges downwind from fields. He stresses
that mature trophy bucks are nocturnal and don’t appear in these areas until the
last 30 minutes of daylight. If you’re on a field edge at this critical time, the
bucks will be crossing behind you. “Most bucks travel into a cross-wind well back from
the edge of a field,”

?

Rutledge says. “If the cover is thick a buck may pass within 5O yards of the field. If it`s
a wide open woods, the buck may scent-check the field from 100 yards
or more away.” Big tracks, clumpy droppings, and rubs tell Rutledge where a buck
is crossing along an inside edge. After he finds what he’s looking for, Rutledge places
treestand downwind from the buck’s trail. When he’s hunting hilly terrain,
Rutledge never sets a stand in the bottom or along the side of a hollow.

“The wind constantly swirls in those draws,” Rutledge says. “lf you set a stand
there, you’re going to get winded. I always set my stand on top of a hill, or
close to the top where the wind direction is more consistent. A lot of bucks
cross over the ends on points, and that’s a great place to catch them.”
A point overlooking a field may not strike you as an inside edge, but that may
very well be the case if you hunt whitetails in hill country. Rutledge has taken bucks
from such places that were crossing 125 yards downwind from a field.

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Published by archerchick on 08 Jan 2011

Calling In The Elk~ By Doug Kittredge


BOW & ARROW HUNTING
BOWHUNTERS ANNUAL 1979

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com
Calling In The Elk ~By Douglas Kittredge
“Successful elk hunting has little to do with luck.”
Standing about five feet at the shoulders, from eight hundred to over one thousand pounds, a mature bull elk can challenge any bowhunter.

Fortunate is the man who
hunts elk with a bow. His season comes at a time when the few available odds can be in his favor: weather rare ly severe, fewer hunters roaming the woods, early Fall rains to dampen his
footsteps; but most valuable, this is the time of the breeding period, or rut.
This is the period when even the cagiest of bulls puts aside his normal caution for the more important matter at hand.

There was a time when elk were extremely common animals, found in
great herds roaming the plains of the West. Because of market hunting pressure, the turn of this century saw the herds decimated to only 40,000 animals. Fortunate for today’s hunters,
the elk is an adaptable animal and has shifted habitat from exposed open plains to sheltered mountain forests where they now thrive in ever increasing numbers — literally an elk explosion by some states’ reports!

Though in ancient times some ten subspecies of these magnificent animals roamed North America, today, there are but four, and of these our hunting is directed primarily to the .
Roosevelt .and the Yellowstone varieties.

The true name is wapiti, from the Shawnee Indians. “Elk” really belongs
to a different animal, the European moose. Standing about five feet at the shoulders and from eight hundred to over 1000 pounds, a mature bull elk is a formidable creature, particularly when a bowhunter, previously acquainted only with deer, suddenly confronts one at close range. Such a
large target is mighty deceiving, making him seem much closer than he really is.

The mating season, or rut, probably does not actually start until mid
September, but bugling often is heard much earlier, starting in the latter part
of August in some areas. Cows do not breed until their third year; however, bulls participate at age two and often account for the majority of actual breeding in their younger years as the
older herd bull becomes more involved in chasing harassing competition away
from his harem.

As the rut progresses, the bulls become increasingly preoccupied with
their activity. They pay less and less attention to what is going on about
them. I’ve spoken with knowledgeable elk hunters who tell tales about elk do-
ing almost stupid things — perhaps walking right in toward a waiting hunter,
nose to the ground and sun at high noon. Or just standing there shaking
his rack from side to side while the archer excitedly lets fly arrow after
arrow. The height of the rut usually occurs toward the end of September
and lasts into the middle of October. During this time pugnacious old bulls
gather together their harems, consisting of perhaps only a few to more
than twenty cows. Smaller bulls are driven from the herd and the herd bull
becomes ready for combat as he plays his role in this yearly ritual.

Now is the time for the bowhunter to take advantage of the situation.
The smaller bulls hang around the harem, looking for opportunity to cut
out an amorous cow while the herd bull has his attention drawn elsewhere.
Challenge is given in musical notes, unique to this animal. It is a full-chested
effort that many outdoorsmen acclaim as the most exciting sound in
nature. Beginning on a low note, the call rises up the scale in three or four
tones to peak in a clear bugle held as long as the air supply lasts, then fades
abruptly into a series of almost hiccup type savage grunts. No two elk sound
exactly the same. The larger, mature bulls usually can be determined by
their coarse, deeper calls, while the young animals make with a thin, high-
pitched whistle. As the older bulls become increasingly upset, their calls can
transform into a chilling scream, lacking almost all musical qualities, even
becoming nothing but a series of deep- throated grunts. Many successful elk
callers attempt to reproduce only this grunting part of the call, feeling it does
more to arouse a challenge and has less chance for slip-up by making a false-
sounding note.

The courting efforts take their toll on the condition of an active bull elk,
burning off most of his accumulated Summer fat, scarring his neck and
bruising his chest through wounds from other rivals’ horns. He enters the
threat of coming Winter in badly weakened condition. It is reported
that a weight loss of three hundred pounds is not uncommon among herd
bulls during the rut.

An elk is an impressively antlered trophy. The immense antler display
begins to bud forth in May and continues growth into the first of August
when the blood vessels constrict and the horn growth hardens, soon to be
rubbed and polished to a magnificent fighting tool. The yearling bull grows
only spike horns, measuring ten to twenty inches in length. Each year the
bull grows a new set of antlers. By the time he reaches three years old, this
growth starts to become impressive, being more massive and up to five
points on each side. From this point the antler growth becomes larger and
heavier each season. A mature bull sports a head dress of six, seven or
even more points on a side, weighing fifty pounds or more. It is little
wonder their neck muscles and bones are so massive!

Elk thrive on browse, grass and forbs. Preference changes with availability
and the season of the year. During the Fall bowhunting periods, grass
fills most of their needs. They tend to be early morning and late evening
feeders, spending their midday in secluded, shaded bedding areas. Most
beginning elk hunters misjudge the speed of travel of a browsing elk herd.
It is almost impossible to keep up with using normal pussy-footing tactics.
They average better than one mile per hour and tend to browse in a straight
line, heading into the wind. Thus, a better technique calls for rapidly circling
the animals at a fast trot, dropping far enough to one side to keep
noise of travel from being important. The hunter should either get out in
front of the moving quarry to position himself in a hidden location, letting
the herd move to him; or be able to sneak in directly from the side.

Rarely is it a bull that is boss of the herd, rather it’s a wise old cow that
has her eyes, ears, and nose poised on what goes on about her. A bark-like
call acts as a warning of any danger, with headlong flight soon to follow.
As with many herd animals, elk often panic and stampede en masses, taking
their cue from other animals in the group whether they themselves have
seen a real danger or only imagined it. Such stampedes usually end quickly,
as soon as cover is reached, and the hunter can rapidly circle again to catch
up with the group. However, some elk movements are remarkable in distance
traveled. It is not uncommon to have spooked animals travel five miles or
more, going farther than just the next drainage cover.

During archery seasons, elk usually are found at the higher elevations
where they can take advantage of cooling breezes. They are restless animals,
perhaps because of the huge amount of food required. I have seen some
daily movements involving over eight miles of travel from feeding area to
bedding ground undergone on a daily basis. Elk water at least one time each
day and they may travel some miles to get to it. Rare is it that good elk habitat
does not contain an ample supply of this important liquid relatively closeby.
Their daily movements involve a pattern of feeding, watering and resting.
They tend to browse uphill from the bottomlands during the early morning hours, bedding in the cool thick timber during midday, resuming the browsing late in the afternoon,
moving in a downhill direction until after dark. Elk do feed during bright
moonlight periods of the month and most hunters feel their chances of success
are better during the dark phase of the moon.

Elk are bothered by hot weather. At times, they may seek bedding far out on an open point where refreshing breezes make life more comfortable and free of flies. High winds put elk
down into the safety of sheltered canyons where they can hear approaching
danger more easily. In heavily hunted areas, elk quickly become aware of the
pressure and either completely leave the area for more remote parts, or they change their habits such that they rarely leave the thicker-timbered hillsides, rarely being seen out in the
open. During such times, a patient hunter stands a chance of getting into the action by lurking high in a tree overlooking a well-used main trail or hidden water hole.

Successful elk hunting has little to do with luck. The hunt must be planned in detail. Six states account for eighty-five percent of the elk taken: Colorado, Wyoming, Oregon, Washington, Montana and Idaho — with Arizona and New Mexico becoming more popular with knowing bowhunters

First on the planning agenda should be writing the Fish and Game Department, c/o the capital city.of each state in which you are interested. Request information on expected season
dates, license costs, regulations and any suggestions as to possible hunting areas you might consider. If the name and address of the state bowhunting organization, or of individual hunters is available, it is a wise plan to contact them as well. Working out the details of a successful elk hunt takes time, so start well in advance of the season opening.

Hunting elk is an expensive undertaking, even when hunting without a paid guide or outfitter. There is no guarantee of hunter success. In fact, doing it the hard way with bow and
arrow puts the odds against you about nine to one. With increasing hunting pressure, decreasing available habitat and more restrictive hunting seasons, the best chance for success lies with booking a guided hunt through a reputable outfitter, Such a man should be able to put you in an
area where game is known to be, saving you the days of pre-season scouting. He also arranges for handling of the meat once you have an animal down — no small matter in the steep, remote areas most elk prefer.

Finding a suitable outfitter for a bowhunting experience can be highly frustrating. Most guides would rather hunt with a rifleman, as it makes their job many times easier. A number of
them look down on bows as ineffective for hunting these tough animals.
Frequently a bowman can be put in on game, only to have the wind shift so
he doesn’t get his shot, it becomes a miss, or there is a branch in the way.
Unless the guide is well acquainted with the quirks of hunting with bows,
he can lose patience with the hunter and his enthusiasm actually can
diminish the hunter’s chance for success.

The larger outdoor magazines contain sections devoted solely to listings
by the outfitting fraternity. Many Fish and Game Departments have published
listings of registered guides in their state. Write as many as you can. Not
only ask for their brochure, rates, and other pertinent information, but specifically request information about their capabilities of guiding a bowhunter. It is wise to request a minimum of three recent clients’ names as references. A phone call to a reference is worth many times that of a letter, for it gives a chance to listen to the tone of voice, or any hesitancy in giving an answer. Try to find out how the man felt the hunting conditions to be. Did game abound in the area? What
was the competitive hunting pressure from others in camp and other camps
in the area? What about the terrain and the weather? Did the guide perform as expected? And most important: Would he return to hunt with this particular guide again if he had the
chance?

Beware of any outfitter who makes fancy promises and fills his camp too full of hunters. Good guides rarely guarantee anything other than a good hunting experience under conditions
of fair chase, particularly when hunting an animal as elusive as an elk, with a bow. The top guided hunts have a single guide with a maximum of two hunters, and though admittedly more
costly, the best arrangement is one guide to a single hunter. Over half a dozen hunters in a single camp begins to spell overhunting of the area. You also want to know what flexibility you
might have in relocating the camp should the game not prove abundant or move out of the area.

Top guides and outfitters are much in demand, often being booked solid a
full year in advance. If you find this the case with the guide of your choice,
ask if he might be able to suggest another he considers capable, but perhaps not so well established. Though a quality guided hunt provides better chances for success, many of us cannot afford the bucks required. The well—conditioned, properly-prepared,
do it~yourself hunter still can have a good crack at this wily game. Begin setting up your plans by
writing for hunting maps of the area you have decided on. The Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management both publish such material. Topo maps are another vital addition and may be
obtained from many sporting goods outlets.

Consider how you are going to maneuver around in the hunting country. In most areas a four-wheel-A drive vehicle or a horse will be needed, though more and more backpackers
are going after elk. Elk hunting demands equipment that is in dependable, first-rate condition. Though archery seasons usually are blessed with fine weather, it can change overnight to an early season blizzard. Most hunters take more gear than they need until they learn how to
plan for all eventualities without duplication. I like to allow for a layered type of clothing outfit that provides a minimum amount of covering should the temperature be in the seventies,
yet I can keep adding another shirt or pair of long johns as needed to provide
warmth down to ten degrees or so. Nothing beats a good sleeping bag, so if money is to be saved, do so elsewhere and pay a little more for a sound night’s sleep. The same applies to boots, tent and backpack. Remember that elk inhabitat mountainous country and the smooth soled boots used by an Eastern whitetail hunter
don’t apply.

Being in shape physically is easy to say, but all too few of us really prepare for hiking the high mountain country where chances for elk will be best. Probably the inability to move around easily in hunting country accounts for more unfilled elk tags than any other single thing. Considering the
cost and effort most of us expend to hunt elk, it behooves us to prepare a bit in advance.

Start by paying a visit to your doctor. Tell him what you plan. He might
want to give you a brief examination, then offer his advice for an exercise
program you can follow a few months before the hunt. A couple of months
before the season I like to begin jogging or walking a few miles each day,
at a speed fast enough to work up the heartbeat and get my wind to puffing.
If a horse is part of the hunting plan, regular riding a few weeks ahead of
time can make the whole trip more enjoyable. Plan to be in the hunting area
several days ahead of time. Western elk areas tend to be at high altitude where
acclimatization can be a major help.

As most bowhunting seasons occur during the rut, the majority of hunters
take along some form of elk call. Over the years, these bugles have been fashioned from just about every type of plastic tube, bamboo, metal gas pipe, rubber hose, or modified reed calls.
Exactly imitating a bull’s bugle is difficult, if not impossible. I don’t believe I have ever heard a man-made call which sounds exactly the same as a real elk, and many of those on the market are
at best but a faint imitation. Accordingly, most hunters will acknowledge that the elk herds are becoming Wage wise” to the human efforts of trying to sound like a bull. In some areas, it is
rare for the elk to bugle at all, other than for a short while during height of the rut. In most areas. a poorly executed bugle will announce the hunter’s presence, instantly silencing the whistling bulls, putting the herd into flight, or at least on wary alert.

Correct use of a good bugle can save a lot of miles of walking. When an
answer is received, it shows the location of the elk, assures you of being in elk terrain, and that you can slow your travel and begin use of your hunting skills in working in for a shot. Though bulls will come in to an elk call, it has been my experience that more likely they will answer, then move the; gathering of cows out ahead of the: getting away from what they believe
to be a rival, challenging bull. I suggest moving in on the answering bull using a circling movement
watching to keep the wind in your favor and moving at the pace of a fast walk or trot. Don’t be too concerned about noise, just try to get out ahead if the elk as quickly as possible. Don’t
call again for about ten minutes. If the bull calls again before the ten minute; are up, try to decide if it is the same bull that first answered your call and he is moving toward or away from you. If toward you, hide in a position where you think you will be able to get a clear shot. Wait a minute or two before making another call, perhaps shielding your call behind your hand or shoulder to sort of muffle the sound and eliminate giving it true direction.

Keep your calls short. Don’t call too often. Try to let the bull make all the moves. He may continue coming in even though you don’t answer him again, and by staying silent you eliminate any chance of a poorly made call alarming him. I like to make a grunt
by sucking in my breath behind the flat of my hand, but unless you know
what you are doing, you can choke up and ruin the whole thing.
I found that the quickest way to learn how to call up elk was to spend a
few days in the field, after the close of the regular season, to try calling. Most
archery seasons close just as the rut is really beginning to hit its full peak. Arranging your schedule to allow a few extra days following the season can work wonders in polishing up your
technique. Here is a time when you can experiment with anything and failure won’t matter,

First crack of morning and just before it is too dark to hunt legally are the prime times for calling. Some hunters even go out well after dark, leaving their bows behind, to make a bugle or two directed into canyons or up mountainsides where they hope an answering hull will indicate a new
place to try hunting. Except during the height of the rut, most elk terminate their bugling shortly after dawn. In working through your selected hunting country, when no elk are known to be close by, try to cover as much ground as possible, looking for fresh signs of droppings or tracks. Make
a bugle every fifteen or twenty minutes during the first hour or so of morning and the last half hour of evening.

Keep your eyes peeled for spring fed areas in small alpine meadows
where elk may be wallowing in the mud. An elk wallow is an important
part of the rutting ritual Here the bull will paw, dig and urinate, until he has a sloppy quagmire in
which he`ll roll around much like a domestic hog. Such wallows are used year after year.
There is a strong, distinctive odor in the wallow area during the rutting season. Frequently an alert hunter will recognize this unique smell when pussy-footing through the woods, signaling him of animals in the area long before they actually come into view.

This scent of elk is a good one to help mask the human odor. I like to step on fresh droppings as I come across them, squashing them well into the soles of my boots. I also rub some
onto the cuffs of my pants. One elk hunter told me he ties an old sock to his belt. In the sock he puts any fresh droppings he might find, a little of the odorous mud from a wallow, the
scented dark urine spot from a fresh elk bed he comes across; anything that
is strongly elk scented. Then he dips his sock in such water seepage as he may come across, letting the resulting mess slop around against his leg, splattering his pants and the trail around
him. There is a certain air about him, but he doesn’t smell of man!

An elk’s best protection is his nose. The careful hunter must pay strict attention to keeping the direction of wind movement in his face. Hunting clothes never should be worn near a campfire. Cigarette smoke is a no·no. Care must be taken not to slop gasoline when gassing up the transportation buggy. Don’t consume strong coffee first thing in the morning…it
exudes from the skin much like eating raw garlic or onion.

Barely second to his nose are the elk`s eyes and any movement spotted will bring his immediate attention. Noise seems to be the only place where there’s a bit of a chink in his armor — perhaps because an elk is pretty noisy himself — but just let the sound be foreign to the woods, such as
a clink of metal or a rubbed thump of a bowstring, and he’s all ears. The lean, red meat of the elk is absolutely the best there is. No moose, sheep or deer I’ve ever had quite equals the flavor. Because the animal is so large and the insulating qualities of the heavy hide so good, elk meat spoils easily. By the very nature of the bow and arrow where there is a time lapse in between shooting the animal, then finding his carcass, time is against us.

The man who hunts with a bow must be prepared on the spot to take adequate care of his animal. Carry a small knapsack in which you have all the necessities: a small hoist for moving his heavy body, saw or ax for splitting up the carcass, a stout skinning knife and sharpening equipment, extra rope, and plastic trash bag to protect the innards.

It is important to get the hide off the animal as quickly as you have dressed it out. Open up the body well and let it begin to cool. lf possible, the carcass should be cut into quarters,
then hung high in trees so air circulates fully around the meat. A couple of temporary cheesecloth deer bags carried in the knapsack will afford protection from insects. If the meat has to be
backpacked out, boning will reduce the weight about forty percent; even then, it will take a number of loads. Elk meat should be hung in a cold room to age for a week or ten days.

This breaks down the muscle tissue and makes it tender. You can keep your meat in camp, even with relatively warm temperatures, by hanging it out during the nighttime coolness and wrapping it
well in blankets or old sleeping bags during the heat of the day. Cook in the same manner as a fine cut of beef, remembering that it takes a little less time and heat to cook to the same degree of doneness, Any of your favorite recipes for beef will prove doubly tasty when you prepare
it with elk!

To hunt this regal animal and tramp through his beautiful western lands is
an experience to be cherished. With sound game—management programs
and sportsman-like pursuit, we should look forward to continued outstanding
hunting recreation for ourselves and our offspring in many lifetimes to
follow. <——<<<

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Published by archerchick on 08 Jan 2011

DIXIE WHITETAILS ~ By Roger Combs


BOW & ARROW HUNTING
October 1989

Dixie Whitetails ~ By Roger Combs
Mississippi abounds in deer, offering bowhunters plenty of opportunity at reasonable cost.

MISSISSIPPI IS not usually the first state that comes to mind when
bowhunters get together to talk about whitetail hot spots. Not a lot has been written about
the area which, in fact, abounds in the elusive game most of us spend hunting
seasons pursuing. Due to several factors, whitetail deer in Dixie, in Mississippi, in particular, are
doing well.They are plentiful, healthy, enjoy growing populations in most areas and, on some well managed private and public ranges, are producing trophy antler racks.

The state’s Department of Wildlife Conservation encourages enlightened game management on privately owned farms and clubs, including the necessary food crops and either-sex game harvesting. One of the most common and earlier symptoms of a dwindling food supply is a
decline in buck antler development. In fact, say Mississippi game management experts, when a deer herd has been above carrying capacity for several years, even older bucks may grown only spike antlers.

Many of the private areas of Mississippi are leased or owned by hunting or wildlife clubs, practicing modern deer management techniques. One such is the Pecan Grove Wildlife Club at Fort Adams.
Located in the southwest corner of the state, it’s just north of the Louisiana state line and on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River. The club is owned and developed by businessman George Haynes of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Haynes obtained the old 7000—acre plantation several years ago and has implemented programs to improve deer, wild turkey, duck and small game habitat.

My introduction to the club came as a result of an invitation from Haynes through the good offices of Bill Bynum, a successful bowhunter who is familiar with whitetails in the South. The state’s deer season for archery opened the first of October and ran until November 18 in 1988. Those who hunt with archery and/ or black powder are permitted to take up to five bucks per season, plus three does.

The regular firearms season opens the day after archery season closes and runs
until past the middle of January of the following year. If they wish, archers may hunt also during the firearms season with bow and arrows, but they must abide by the gun season rules, which include the wearing of a specified minimum of hunter orange outer clothing. Only bowhunters
and muzzleloaders may take the extra three does per season.

The Pecan Grove Wildlife Club lodge is located about an hour south of Natchez, Mississippi and about an hour north of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is just northwest of the early settlement of Fort Adams on the banks of the Buffalo River. Both cities have frequent airline flights from and to any place. The club acreage includes access to Lake Mary and the banks of the Mississippi River for plenty of fishing opportunities.

I flew to Baton Rouge the day before opening day of the 1988 season and was met at the airport by George Haynes. During the drive to Fort Adams, Haynes outlined the club’s program for conservation and game management. All wildlife is left in its natural state. Deer food plots are
planted. as is millet for ducks, crimson clover for turkey and deer. Haynes has initiated a timber management system, selectively cutting certain areas to enhance hunting potential. Timber cutting thins out some areas, allowing more deer browse to grow.

Haynes also has taken steps to construct a number of water control structures on the property, with better hunting in mind. The club property is located along the banks of the Mississippi and Buffalo Rivers and, because of that, subject to partial flooding from time to time. When the property was farmed, the flooding brought silt and topsoil down, creating rich farm land. Flooding also helps to restock the many fishing ponds, lakes and streams in the area.

Lake Mary is one of the large ox—bow lakes at Pecan Grove. Ox—bow lakes, explained Haynes, are formed when the river, after years of flowing around a sharp bend, eventually floods through the curve in an effort to flow in a straight line. The original river bend is left isolated, leaving an ox-
bow—shaped lake. There are hundreds along a river as extensive as the Mississippi. Lake Mary is full of bass, bream, crappie and catfish, as well as a locally popular fish called sac—a-lair. On the way to the club lodge, Haynes and I spend an hour examining his concrete boat launching ramp and fishing dock recently installed on the lake’s shore. Crossing the Buffalo River and turning off the dirt road to the parking area of the lodge, one is struck immediately by the
fact that the building is constructed upon log pilings which raise it about twenty feet
above ground level. The guest rooms, large dining room and meeting room are all on the higher level. The meat processing area and recreation/ indoor archery range room are at ground level. Whenl naively asked about the height of the building, I was reminded that, at times, the Buffalo River floods, putting much of the property under the water.

Haynes and his staff have spent time surveying the property during all seasons
to determine the natural deer travel routes, feeding and bedding areas. In some places,
they have constructed rather permanent tree or free—standing stands to take advantage of the knowledge. Before opening day, the guides are out, making a final survey and marking the
route into the tree stand locations with red tape so hunters can find their ways in the pre—dawn darkness. Undergrowth is heavy because of the rich soil and the seasonal
rainfall. In some areas, access routes have been cut through the brush to enable hunters to make their way without becoming soaked while passing through the wet growth.

The lodge itself can accommodate up to a hundred people during the hunting season.
In 1988, we had about sixty hunters and guides in the place the night before opening morning. Rooms are comfortable, set up with double bunk beds and enough bathrooms to handle the group. The lodge also features a meeting or seminar room, a dining room large enough for hungry hunters and food as delicious as one can find anywhere. After supper before opening day, Bill
Bynum, who does work for Robbins Scents, spent an hour discussing scents and how to
use them in the Mississippi terrain. The rut comes later in this part of the country usually cooler weather does not arrive until late December » and the rut may extend into late January. October is a bit early for establishing mock scrapes, but Bynum said he was going to try the technique in a day or so. Bynum’s plan had to be modified some- what because of Mother Nature. It began
to rain hard that night and continued through most of the opening day. Any artificial scents would have been washed away. That heavy rain was to be the ending of the most of us for the first three days of the archery season.

The rain changed the standard routes and hot spots which had been scouted over
several weeks by guides at the Pecan Grove club property. Some of the lower pockets
were flooded and the deer were using different routes to and from bedding areas.
Nobody said bowhunting was supposed to be easy. Hunters may use the permanent stands
at the club or they may bring their own climbing and portable stands. Or they may
not use a stand at all, choosing to still—hunt areas of their choice. Some stands are within a few minutes’ walk from the lodge, while others require a four-wheel-drive vehicle drive of a half—hour or so to reach.

Daniel Littleton and his crew plotted out likely areas on the maps before opening
day and assigned guides and transportation to each hunter.
Those who had the longest travel time launched earliest in order to be on their
stands well before first light. The wise bowhunter will bring a small flashlight in
his day pack or pocket so as to easily follow the marked trail into the stand. The
unfamiliar terrain can be confusing, especially in the dark and rain. Guides will
offer to escort each hunter to the stand, but another human only adds to the amount of
scent left on the trail.

Hunting the Deep South in October is almost sure to be in rain, at least part of the
time, so a bowhunter is advised to bring lightweight rainproof camo clothing. The weather is warm. but if you get soaked and a breeze comes up, you can become chilled and remain uncomfortable during hours on the stand. Another Robbins product welcomed by all, was their mosquito repellent. As soon as the rain stopped, the temperature rose and large, yellow looking mosquitoes
found us on the stands. These suckers seemed able to penetrate even heavy cloth. The Robbins repellent was effective on all my exposed skin and eventually, I rubbed some on my camouflage sleeves and trousers. I had no trouble with mosquitoes after that.

After daylight, I was able to hear, but not see some of my fellow hunters as they apparently released arrows several hundred yards away. I learned later, as the truck picked each of us up for the return run to lunch in the lodge, that none had any more luck then. There were no deer taken
on opening day. We each returned to stand in the afternoon and remained until well after dark, but nobody scored. The following day dawned bright and clear, although there were still plenty of
low areas with too much water. The weather was cool and a warm jacket felt comfortable in the early morning. Later it warmed up a bit, but the day remained comfortable in full camouflage clothing. With the rain, walking and stalking quietly through the woods was easier, because everything underfoot was wet and soft. On the other hand, deer, too, move more quietly through
the same woods.

This day, my hunting partner was Richard Sapp of Bear Archery in Florida. As we were on our way along a path not far from the lodge to take up adjacent tree stands, we jumped two whitetail does which had been hidden in the underbrush. lf they hadn’t. we probably would never have
seen them, even from ten or fifteen yards away. Neither of us had arrows out of the quiver, so we did not have a shot, but their presence gave us encouragement. State game department officials oversee and approve or disapprove local hunting club activities, while offering advice to managers about how to improve the quality and quantity of deer and other game. Pecan Grove and other neighboring private clubs generally subscribe to the state’s progressive philosophy of harvesting a large percentage of does each year, until the quality of bucks shows improvements.

To over simplify the program, it boils down to reducing the number of females
and male spikes in any given year, the expectation being that the remaining does
will fill out the habitat by giving birth to more twin fawns. Theoretically, the next~
year fawns will be fifty percent males. As this serious culling continues for four to
six years, the buck—to-doe ratio and the quality of trophy bucks improves dramatically. The state encourages the practice by permitting three does per year during the archery and primitive weapons seasons, with some other special antlerless seasons in certain locations.

Good habitat is essential to the development of trophy whitetails. Some of Pecan Grove’s cutover areas have been allowed browse. Some nearby farms have acres of soybeans and com, which promote healthy growth among the deer herds. The club also uses mineral—fortified salt licks, proven successful for improved antler development.
In some areas of the South, the whitetail herds are not noted for their quality; just their quantity. Left unmanaged, some of these herds produce small deer, with a preponderance of females. Without hunting pressures, they soon eat and reproduce their way past habitat capacity. With progressive management, private hunting clubs are able to produce plenty of healthy
trophy bucks.

My equipment consisted of an older model Jennings Unistar bow, shooting Easton 2117 XX75 Autumn Orange arrows made up by FS Arrows (Dept. BA, 2852 Walnut, Unit 2,Tustin,CA 92680.)
I carried the arrows in a bow-mounted quiver from Jennings Archery (Dept. BA, 4600 41st Blvd., Gainesville, FL 32601). I also carried a pair of excellent light gathering binoculars from Ranging (Dept. BA, Rts. 5 & 20, East Bloomfield, NY 14443). Distances in the thick growth were
not long, but the five-power glasses helped pick out details in the dim light of morning
and evening. I carried the lot in a rugged Bow Guard case from Quality Shop (Dept. BA, Box
291, Dana Point, CA 92629.) That case has seen duty through many thousands of airline miles, through wet and cold boats and truck beds, without any damage to the contents.

Most of the growth in Mississippi in October was still predominately green, although there were some early signs of changing colors. I chose to wear the ASAT camouflage clothing pattem from Brigade Quartermasters (Dept. BA, 1025 Cobb International Boulevard, Kennesaw, GA 30144) because of its durability, lightweight and ability to blend in with most habitat. When wet, the ASAT material dries quickly and the design includes lots of pockets to carry extra gear up the tree.
Undergrowth was always wet, raining or not. I was happy to have on a pair of LaCrosse hunting boots (LaCross Footwear, Dept. BA, P.O. Box 1328, La Crosse, WI 54602) which never let in any water. They are rubber on the bottom, with Cordura nylon uppers. They are fast to lace and, with wool socks, my feet never got cold, no matter how rainy it was nor how inactive I was on the stand.

On an earlier mule deer hunt in the Nevada high country, I had good use from
a pair of Deerslayer bowhunting gloves. The Ridgewood Group (Dept. BA, Box 27, Rock Island, IL 61201) makes these gloves in either right or left-handed versions, in the tan Trebark camo pattern. The bow hand glove features an integral forearm guard. The palms and fingers are made of deerskin, with three reinforced finger tabs on the string hand glove. The ground floor of the lodge includes an indoor archery range lighted for night practice. Many of us availed ourselves of the facility. That, unfortunately, was the only archery shooting I was able to do on this trip. Bill Bynum, who has hunted here before, took a doe on the second day.

Just before dark that same day, I heard one of my neighboring tree standers let an arrow fly, followed by sounds of running feet that indicated a hit deer. When the truck arrived after dark, we all used our flashlights to follow the blood trail for what seemed like hundreds of yards, until the
returning rain washed the sign away. As happens sometimes, that was a deer we did not recover.
The fourth day of the season, the day I was scheduled to head back to the Baton Rouge airport, a taxidermist from neighboring Lafayette, Louisiana, Byron Latour, downed a small three—by-three buck. It wasn’t a giant wall-hanger, but would fill the venison larder.

When I was back at our California editorial offices, George Haynes called
from Baton Rouge. He said I should have stayed for the second week of the season,
as it opened up for the bowhunters. Overall, the season saw a sixty-percent success
rate for whitetail bowhunters. l’ll have to try again another year.

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Published by archerchick on 07 Jan 2011

WHITETAIL BASICS ~ By Charlie Kroll


BOW & ARROW HUNTING
OCTOBER 1989


WHITETAIL BASICS ~ By Charlie Kroll

Still-hunting is the purest form of the sport, but becoming a lost art.

HALF A CENTURY ago, when I first began hunting deer, the longbow,
wood arrows and single—blade broadheads were the only available choices
for an aspiring bowhunter. Hunting from elevated stands was illegal and still hunting, a ground—blind ambush or a group drive were the options of pursuit.
Still-hunting was then, and remains today, the purest form of the sport, placing the hunter and the hunted on more equal footing than drives or ambushes.

Today, however, still-hunting is all but a lost art. Why do I bring it up? Simply because
I believe it is to the advantage of the novice to give it a try. By doing so, one can learn more about what makes his quarry tick and about the balance existing between instincts and reasoning than
in any other way.

We all are taught that basics win sporting events. In football, it’s the basics of blocking and tackling. In basketball, it’s the basics of dribbling, passing and follow-up and in track and field,
it’s timing and pace that separate the winners from the losers.

Success in hunting also depends greatly on basics, but of a slightly different sort. The basics I refer to here are those governing the actions of the game, i.e., knowledge of animal senses of sight, smell and hearing and how critically these are employed. It is really difficult for the beginner to realize how honed these senses are in deer. The best way to find out is to devote some time to the one-on-one still-hunt, which is simply the attempt to discover game while slowly easing through the coverts, followed by a careful stalk to get within reasonable arrow range.

It takes some personal experience to fully comprehend the extreme acuteness of sight in an animal that can hardly distinguish a man at rest from a stump, yet can detect the slightest motion a hundred yards away across tree trunks, logs or brush and when every branch is swaying with the breeze.

To avoid the senses of sight and hearing requires not only reasonably quiet underfooting, but also acquired skill and care in moving, aided by eyesight almost as keen as that of the game.
When you begin to comprehend the sharpness of the eyes against which you are matched, you are still about as far as ever from understanding the nose of the deer. The idea that the animal can detect your odor a quarter of a mile away when no breeze is blowing is often rather astounding to the novice. Still more so is the idea that the slightest taint of human odor reaching that keen nose causes instantaneous reaction.

When a deer is alerted by sound or sight it may pause to assess the possible danger. But when man scent reaches its nose, it is gone; right now! It generally costs the beginner, as it did me, many bitter days of frustration learning that he cannot trifle with the nose of the deer.

Therefore, your first care in still hunting should be to constantly be aware of the direction of the wind, however light it may be. Pay attention fo the old adage of hunting high ground
early and low ground late in the day to take advantage of the thermal flows.

Cross currents may at time enable you to work within bow shot of a deer, but you can’t really rely on it, especially if the current tends to shift about, as it often does in hilly country. Use of a cover scent may be of help, but it is my studied opinion that if a deer can smell anything you have on, it can detect the human odor as well.

lt is almost as hard to realize the acuteness of hearing of a deer. Probably more deer are lost to the tyro through this than any other cause. The great majority of those that elude hunters, escape unseen and generally unheard. It takes long to learn that you cannot afford to crack even the lightest twig, or even let the softest snow pack too fast beneath your foot. You can hardly move
too quietly in even the wildest of cover.

There is a lot to be said for observing just how unalarmed deer move while
feeding and imitating those movements when some ground cover noise is unavoidable.
If you are in dense cover where you suspect deer are skulking or hiding, do not be misled by the fact that at such times they do not seem to mind noise. When deer hide it is because they know
what you are, but believe you cannot see them.

Some hunters believe that a day of blustering wind is a good one, providing you keep facing into it. It has been my experience, though, that such a day is a poor time to still—hunt because the
animals are highly nervous with watching and listening. The best type of day for this activity is a dull, overcast day, possibly with intermittent light drizzle, following an all-night rain.

One of my greatest bowhunting achievements was made years ago on just such a day, when I managed to get close enough to a feeding whitetail to completely unglue it by a tap on the
rump with the tip of my bow.

Incidentallly, if hunting on such a day, stick pretty much to the lower ground levels. Moisture causes air to settle and there is less chance of it carrying a message of danger than if you
were on higher ground. Of extreme importance to the still- hunter is that he sees the game before it sees him. Given two creatures in the woods, each in search of the other, the greater advantage lies with the one that happens to be still when the other one is moving within sight range. The best
time for this with deer is when they are feeding and moving, for they are nearly impossible to approach when bedded.

This is why early morning and evening are good, as then the deer are moving and feeding. Just after daylight is the best hour of all, as the animals have alternately fed and rested all night
relatively undisturbed, they are then as relaxed and unwary as they ever get. To take proper advantage of this, you absolutely have to be in their travel area, between feeding and bedding
grounds, before dawn breaks. I f you have to hurry to get there before daybreak, you might as well forget it. You will then have to go against the first law of the still—hunter: a snail’s pace.

You cannot movefast and you cannot move constantly and expect to see animals before they see you. Yes, there are certainly other considerations to be noted in order to achieve success. Among these are appropriate dress of a camo pattern blending with the general type of terrain hunted and of soft, noiseless finish; proper attention to camouflage of the face, hands and bow, some knowledge of current food preferences and knowledge of such signs as mbs, scrapes and
in-use trails.

Next to the difficulty of comprehending the acuteness of a deer’s senses is that of understanding how one looks in cover. Your ideas might come from seeing deer in a zoo or park, or from pictures. But you are almost certain to start out by looking for an entire deer, whereas you might better be looking for almost anything else. ln the woods, you seldom see more than part of a deer, at least to begin with. Concentration should be on horizontal lines and on color patches or spots out of place, plus slight movements such as that of an ear, nose, antlers or tail. To succeed at this
you need to do considerably more looking than moving.

When you are moving in cover, every step you take opens new avenues of vision. You must curb the tendency to see what’s over’ the next rise. If you don’t travel slowly you won’t see any-
thing there except perhaps the sight of a white flag waving goodbye. Again, the name of game is seeing the quarry before it sees you. Deer have good peripheral vision, but it is possible to approach one broadside, providing that you move slowly, directly toward it and only when its head is down. In such a final attempt to close within arrow range, avoid direct eye contact, concentrating instead on the spot you want to hit and remembering that whitetail usually signals a lift of the head by first wiggling its tail a bit. Of course, an approach from behind is the best one when possible, especially when the animal is moving into or across the wind.


It sometimes happens that a novice has the luck to run into a “foolish” deer or two on his first hunt. If he is successful, he will begin to think there is nothing to it. Then, of course, he may hunt
for several years with no repeat of his original success. Any bowman matching himself for several seasons against the whitetail deer will not only acknowledge the acuteness of their sensory defenses, but may come to believe that they have a sixth sense on top of all the rest.

Yes, still-hunting is the toughest way to go, but remember, if a kill every time out were the most important part of hunting, you wouldn’t be reading BOW & ARROW HUNTING. The still-hunt
is the most exciting, the most challenging and when success is finally achieved, the most satisfying adventure the lands beyond the pavement have to offer. <–<<

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Published by archerchick on 06 Jan 2011

Ground Attack ~ By Jeff Murray

BOWHUNTING WORLD
October 2006

GROUND ATTACK – By Jeff Murray

When it comes to getting close, your tactics toolbelt should include blinds.  No longer the cumbersome contraptions they once were.  Today’s innovative blinds are proving their worth with top guides and outfiitters.

According to recent Pope and Young records, about three-fourths of all
whitetail entries involve treestands. But as much as I love a “height advantage”
I find myself land-lubbing it more and more each year. In fact, I’m just about convinced
that the portable ground blind—which used to be an oxymoron I0 years ago—is as
effective as the portable treestand.

Have I lost my mind? Some of it. I know I’ve lost my narrow-mindedness, not to mention
a few staunch opinions. And I’m also losing some habits, such as fighting with treesteps
in my sleep; dreaming about falling out of trees, and nightmares about swaying in wind
and rain from dark-dawn to dusk-dark.  My new outlook is fueled by two key factors.

First, the latest portable designs are, well. more portable than ever. And second, we’ve
learned a lot about ground pounding from a decade of hardcore experience. We’ve
learned for example that blinds are ideal for turkeys. But blinds are equally deadly on
pronghorns, mule deer and elk. We’ve even learned that whitetails are susceptible to the
right blind at the right place with the right tactic.

Need proof? How about the 200—inch 5×5 buck that Mike Wheeler guided New Jersey
bow hunter Aaron Moore last year.   If that deer isn’t big enough for you, consider the 2003 monster (38 points, 307 5/8
harvested by 15—year-old Tony Lovstuen.
Yes, it was taken from a ground blind.

OLD VS. NEW

The first portable blind I hunted out of was an Invisiblind that Mark Mueller asked me to
field-test. Erection and disassembly were a little time-consuming, no doubt, but it was a
leap in the right direction. Mueller figured out back then that camo netting goes
with portable blinds like peanut butter & jelly sandwiches go with kids. He relied on the
netting mainly for concealing hunters inside and the ability to shoot broadheads through
the material. But the netting proved to serve another important purpose .

In 1995 I first heard about Double Bull Blinds and I got my hands on a lightweight
model the following year. This blind date was made in heaven. The pop—out hubs
locked rods in place that, in turn, stretched the walls of the tent-like structure neatly
into place. In seconds l was up and running and down ‘n’ dirty bowhuntin’. My new blind
was a constant companion in turkey country, and I was madly in love with it.

Shortly thereafter I discovered the “coiled” spring steel concept. Today, anyone can stow
away, say, on Ameristep Doghouse portable, even if an airline ticket is part of the hunt; the
blind’s dimensions are a mere 2×24 inches. And blinds keep getting better and better.
Double Bull now offers the Matrix, a 360-degree viewing and shooting blind that has all
the bells and whistles. Not to be outdone,  Ameristep is promoting the Brickhouse Half-
N-Half that features two complementary camo patterns on opposite sides, just in case the
scenery calls for flexibility. Underbrush incorporates  3-D leafy material that blends naturally
with surroundings and moves in synch with Natures wind currents; the Bowhunter spans 5×5 feet and weighs—what else?—5 pounds.
Then there’s a series of Excent (carbon-activated fabric lined) models from Eastman Outfitters to help deal with scent buildup.

GETTING GROUNDED

Blinds offer several distinct advantages. Most are strategic, but the one topping my list
is psychological: l’m addicted to eye-to-eye combat, with game being clueless to my
presence. I feel like the Invisible Man inside a portable. Other advantages include:
*Extreme portability (no treesteps, no ladders, no safety belts).
*Surprising scent—control (top models sporting a roof and four walls confine scent
with remarkable efficiency).
*No trees, no sweat (set up where you want, not where a tree says so).
*Deke out turkeys and deer with a well-placed decoy.

*Hunt aggressively while relaxing (ignore wind, rain, snow; relax in a folding camp chair or recliner).
* Hunt trophy elk and pronghorns near waterholes without a pick and shovel.
*Make a mule deer’s frontline defense- acute eyesight—his Achilles’ heel.
This is all possible if you follow the rules. Start with no flappin’. lf your blind flaps in the breeze, it will spook game. Period. So
make good use of tent spikes, but also make a discerning purchase and eliminate models
that are loose-fitting and baggy. Another bugaboo associated with ground blinds is the Black Hole Syndrome. Deer are
especially spooky when confronted with a small, dark object. Perhaps its because critters such as fox, coyotes and wolves prey out of
dens. Regardless, the best antidote is camo netting. Because it reflects sunlight, it replaces dark shadows with greens, browns and grays.
“I remember the day we finally saw the Iight,” recalled Brooks Johnson, of Double Bull
Archery. “We got a tip from Mike Palmer, a custom bowyer from Texas with a ton of experience
hunting whitetails from the ground. He told us about the netting, and over the years we’ve
continually improved ways to eliminate the dark openings on our silent windows.
Ironically, after removing black from the setup, the next critical step is adding black-
today, all Double Bull blinds are jet black inside, as are the carbon-fabric-lined models
from Eastman Outfitters and Ameristep. “If a bIind’s interior is camouflage material
and you wear camouflage clothing,” adds Johnson’s partner, Keith Beam, “you’re fine
as long as you don’t move. But the instant you draw your bow, deer will usually spot
you. We learned that from twin-blind setups we filmed out of. Nowadays, we always wear
black inside—we even customize the upper limb of our bows—because black against
black is virtually invisible. You’ve got to experience it to believe it ”
To that end, Double Bull offers a complete  line of “Ninja” accessories, including a black
head cover and a black fleece jacket. When  the weather is warm (a little greenhouse
effect can really heat up these blinds), a   Scent-Lok Base layer long-sleeve top is ideal.
This ultra-lightweight polyester garment  contains scent-eliminating activated charcoal
plus an anti-microbial bacteria fighter.   “You get a great one-two punch,” says veteran
bowhunter Tod Graham. “Invisibility plus  personal odor elimination. But you still need to
go the extra mile, scent-wise, on the outside [of  the blind]. For example, when hunting out West,
cut some sage brush and place it on the roof.   In farm country, fresh cow pies will do. In deep
woods, cedar and pine boughs are great.”

SETUPS FOR BLIND LUCK

How you set up a blind is as important as  where you place it. What works for one
species likely won’t work for another. Let’s start with turkeys. l recently asked Ameristep’s
Pat McKenna if their blinds helped beginners with gobblers. He sent me a stack of testimonials.
Consider that 15-year-old Ashely Cole   shot her first big tom with her father on a
Wisconsin hunt; Justin Temple scored on   his first tom in Michigan; Mike Gaboriault, a
disabled Gulf War veteran from Vermont,  followed suit. These turkey success stories
seem to have no end!  Set up a blind where turkeys are likely to pitch off a roost, and
return to it toward evening (where legal hunting hours apply). Or, find a travel route
connecting loafing and feeding areas. You’ll see for yourself if you watch a little TV and
let Ralph and Vicki Cianciarulo (Archers Choice), Mike Avery (Outdoor Magazine), or
the Scent-Lok gang take you along for the ride.   The antelope, according to guide and
outfitter Fred Eichler, is the perfect big game if species to take portable blind—hunting to
the next level. “From 10 years of antelope  guiding, l’d say you get the best of both
worlds—a good challenge, yet good odds if you do your homework.”
Eichler offers these tips for the prairies:

*When setting up a blind on a water hole or cattle tank, first determine the side
with the most tracks along the shoreline. To further tip the odds, pile up some
sagebrush on the opposite side to discourage antelope from drinking there. Even an
arrow in the mud with a flapping sock can redirect antelope to your side of the pond.
“*Wind can be a factor, but antelope usually rely more on their eyes than their noses,
especially where there is little human activity.  Although Eichler has harvested antelope
on the same day he’s set up his blind, its usually best to give them time to acclimate to the
setup—as much as four weeks, if possible.

Whitetails are the big leagues of the ground attack game. Start by mastering the
“50/100 Rule. Interestingly, in dense cover where visibility is limited to 50 yards or less,
it’s critical that the blind not be recognizable.  The best tack, according to outfitter extraordinaire Steve Shoop, is building a brush
pile during the off season, then sawing a hole inside and placing the blind within. This hides the blind, all right, but also gives deer
a chance to get used to the brush pile.

Popular TV host Jay Gregory tried blind-hunting last year and arrowed a fine whitetail. “If you’re lucky enough to
hunt an area with cedars, try this,” Gregory says. “Prune just enough boughs to wedge your blind up against the tree trunk. Then
place the boughs on top and in front of the blind. The scent of the fresh [cuttings] seems

to help, and cedars are usually thick enough to obscure the blind. I shot my buck on the
same day I set up my blind!”
Now for the “100” part of the 50/100 Rule.
Ironically, deer tend to ignore a blind when they can spot it from 100 yards or more.
Apparently, they eye it over and, if nothing moves and no scent alerts them, they consider
it a part of the landscape much like, say, an abandoned truck or tractor in a field. ln fact, wherever man-made
structures are common, ground blinds are ideal, according to a noted whitetail guide like Wheeler. Zero in
on windmills, abandoned buildings, farm machinery, center pivot irrigation stations, old tires, hay bales, silos, fences, gates—you
name it. “Deer are already used to something  different in their area,” Wheeler maintains, “and a blind just seems to fit right in.”
Elk are particularly vulnerable to a discriminating blind setup. A few years ago,  Nebraska buddy Doug Tryon shared a secret
mountain-top burn in southern Colorado where elk fed predictably on the lush vegetation. But they showed up only when the wind kissed
their noses, and it was impossible to get below them. So I came prepared and tucked a portable
blind into a clump of junipers. Blind luck!  Cows meandered within feet, and a raghorn wandered with in 10 yards. Soon a nice bull
showed up and took the whole herd with him, but here’s betting he’ll be there again this fall ….

Levi Johnson, from Winnette, Montana, guides elk for Flatwillow Creek Outfitters
considers a ground blind a top tactic for arrowing big bulls:
“Once our bulls gather cows,   there are too many eyes and  noses for the average hunter
to deal with. But setting up over water, especially on a  hot September afternoon,  can simplify a complicated
hunt. ln 2005, Mike Huff  and l watched a nice 300- class 6X6 steer his cows
into a steep draw where the wind was all wrong  for a morning hunt. So we backed out and returned in
the afternoon, set up our blind on a waterhole at the end of the draw and, in the scorching
100 degree heat, watched the bull jump into the pond with a cow and calf next to him.
They were clear up to their bellies when I shot the bull at 45 yards.
“Last fall, I set up my blind near a different waterhole on the second evening of archery

season. I’d tried in vain to hunt this waterhole with a treestand, but the wind was always giving me away. Well, I heard what sounded like
hooves pounding turf, and when I peered out of my window I saw about 20 cows and a big 7×7 heading straight for me. I let all of the elk
drink, and the bull was within easy bow range when my arrow found its mark.”

Johnson’s keys to hunting elk with ground blinds;

*Since elk don’t seem too bothered by blinds, don’t waste a lot of time brushing them in. In fact, you can hunt out of a blind
the day you set it up over a waterhole.
*Always stake your blind down no matter the weather. In Western states like Montana, it can be calm one second and a tornado the next.
*Open only the windows you intend to shoot out of, and leave the others shut tight; the less light inside the blind the better.
Stay calm and wait for a good shot.  When Johnson’s friends watched the video of last year’s hunt, they wondered why it took
him so long to shoot. The longer you let a bull relax at a waterhole, the better the results. Be patient. Resist the urge to leave the
blind for any reason. Stay put and stay tuned.
Mule deer, like the one whitetail expert Tod Graham is posing with above, can be had
for the right price The price is mainly scouting for details. “Glass fields early and late to
locate a worthy buck, figure out his bedding area with different winds, and take good
notes Graham says. “Once you see a buck use the same trail twice, you can kill him
with a blind. The third time’s the charm.  “I don’t worry much about cover, because
it usually doesn’t exist in good muley country.

Just put your blind where you can get off a good shot—even in the middle of a field.
Mulies must think it’s a hay bale the farmer has relocated because they don’t veer
around it. I remember telling this to my guide in Alberta last year. I’d suggested we
set up my portable blind on the downwind side of a wild oat field where a big buck

was hanging out with a bachelor group of six other bucks. The guide chuckled at my suggestion, but l got the last laugh when he
helped me drag 195 inches of muley antlers back to his truck.”
Drew H. Butterwick, Double Bull pro staffer and host of Art of Deception (Men’s Channel), loves bowhunting black bears out
of a portable ground blind. “Close contact is why we bowhunt, and a blind can put you in the heart of the action,” he says. “But blinds
are superior to treestands for bear hunting. It is easier to intercept ’staging’ bruins that
hang back from a bait as darkness  approaches. And you get a 360-degree view that usually allows you to see under tree
branches that would otherwise obstruct  your vision from an elevated stand. l also believe you can do a better job of judging
bears at eye level. Last and maybe not least, mosquitoes and blackflies can be kept to a minimum – the shoot through camouflage
netting on my Matrix model acts as bug netting.”

Final footnote; While bears don’t associate blinds with danger, they are inquisitive creatures and could do some
serious damage if you don’t remove the blind after each day’s hunt.

lf an African safari is on your crosshairs, Butterwick recommends stowing away a  portable blind in your luggage.“A moveable
pop-up blind offers many more options than pits and fixed setups,” he says. “The wind is always shifting, and swapping sides of a
waterhole really increases the odds. Portable  concealment can mean the difference  between no shot and a record-class animal.”

THE ART OF BLINDSIDING:
HOW TO SHOOT

Tod Graham hunts exclusively from ground blinds and has blindsided more than 20
Pope and Young whitetails. Learn from his proven shooting tips;
*Practice drawing your bow inside the blind to gauge how much clearance you need for bow limbs and arrows.
*Always double-check the gap between  the window opening and your sight pins. If you don’t rehearse the draw, you could end up
missing the window and shooting the wall.

Visualize where the shots are most likely to occur; you’ll probably be right more

times than not. Position your chair carefully; Graham likes to shoot at a 45edegree angle to the window.
* Practice shooting arrows out ofa blind, including through the netting, especially if you aren’t used to shooting from a sitting or —
kneeling position.
* Always use a rangefinder if time permits; depth perception is affected by the netting.

For ideal blind placement, avoid a rising and setting sun in your face. Also, setting
up in the shade improves your ability to see through netting.
Use a bow holder, such as the one Double Bull Archery markets, to keep your bow
in a handy position. (You may have to be quicker on the draw from the ground than
from a treestand)
*Practice shooting from inside the blind at different distances, angles and times of
day. Be sure to dress in hunting garb.  The dark interior of a ground blind reduces the amount of light available to your
sight pins. You may need a larger peep and possibly a light (check local regulations).
•Blinds can often accommodate two hunters. Practice together ahead of time to avoid the proverbial Chinese fire drill.

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