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Published by archerchick on 20 Mar 2010

Lore Of Elk Hunting – By Randy Templeton

Lore Of Elk Hunting – By Randy Templeton  May 2005

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

MAY 2005

I was some distance from my friend C.J., but even so I was sharing the excitement he was experiencing when the red-eyed bull came in silently to my calls. It was the second bull I’d called within range in just under an hour. The first didn’t show enough of itself to determine whether it was a legal bull or not. It was now just a matter of closing the deal with a well-placed arrow.

I’ll be the first to admit that I like shooting elk, but I also enjoy calling one in for a friend, especially for those that haven’t shot one. My first priority on this hunt was to call a bull for C.J. Davis, the PR director for Nikon. The season before he nearly had a solid shot at a fine elk but was betrayed in the final seconds by fickle winds.

I’ve been asked many times over the years what’s the magnet that draws me toward the mountains during the month of September each year? I’ve answered that question by simply saying that elk hunting is the ultimate high- altitude experience. Once you’ve spent a week in the pristine wilderness you’ll come back with an entirely different outlook on life. Let’s take a look at our exciting hunt and perhaps you’ll understand why so many hunters head for the mountains in pursuit of the mighty wapiti.

Saturday-Day 1
Our camp was tucked in the lower end of a canyon along a crystal clear stream rich with native brook trout. Once again we were using the outfitting services of Karl and Mona Maser of Ute Lodge. I’ve hunted the general area for 15 years and have killed an elk at least half of those years.

By 9 a.m. the packhorses and mules were loaded and we were at the trail-head. Arriving at our camp before noon, we unpacked our gear and rustled up some lunch. By 2 p.m. we were hoofing up the nearby mountain that I’d nicknamed “Hamburger Hill” after a movie I once watched. The canyon and surrounding mountainsides had fallen victim to a wildfire 10 years ago.

At first glance it doesn’t appear to be a place anyone would want to hunt, much less expect to see elk. However, it’s exactly why I’m drawn to the area. Hunting pressure is relatively low and the plush new growth attracts elk in numbers.

Arriving on the mountaintop by 3 p.m., we set up on the fringe of the firebreak where the first stand of green timber began. Fresh elk sign was plentiful, but week-old boot prints told the story that hunters had already been in the area. Not good.

My biggest concern was that the elk would be call shy, so I kept calling to a minimum. I’d gotten one bull to respond, but by the time I climbed to the bull’s general location he had
hushed. The remainder of the afternoon/evening was uneventful. As we descended in the dark, a bull (not big) bugled from the vicinity of where I’d just been.

Sunday–Day 2
The first morning we awoke to the ring of the annoying alarm clock ar 3:45 a.m. The skies were clear and the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees. By 5 a.m. we were climbing up the face of “Hamburger Hill” and 45 minutes later we arrived at the top.
I pulled out my Primos Terminator bugle tube and let out a couple of immature bull bugles. Almost instantly the deep-growling grunts of a herd bull echoed off from the mountain on the opposite side of the canyon. Even from that distance the raspy bugles of the king pin made the
short hairs stand up on the back of my neck.

My friend’s eyes lit up like a kid in a candy store. There wasn’t any chance of persuading him to stay put. I had been in a similar situation some years before and was quite confident the elk would
be long gone before C.J. could arrive. The sun was just beginning to peak over the eastern horizon when he took off down the mountain. I
elected to stay put.

Shortly after working my way around to the north face of the mountain, a bull responded to my calls. After 45 minutes of playing cat and mouse I had closed the distance to maybe 100 yards, but I still hadn’t laid eyes on the bull. It wasn’t long after the wind betrayed me ‘for the first time. The bull slipped off into the dark timber without making another peep.

A muzzleloader shot echoed through the canyon and the bull C.J. was chasing had gone silent. When arriving at camp I wasn’t all that surprised to learn that a muzzleloader hunter had slipped between C.J. and the bull. As it turned out, all C.J.’s efforts that morning were fruitless.

That evening, about an hour before dark I thought it was all going to come together when a mediocre sounding bull blasted out a bugle in close proximity.  We quickly set up and began calling. The bull responded and started shaving off the distance.

I caught a mere glimpse of a tan rump circling downwind.  We tried to make a quick move to avoid detection, but when the elk let out a screeching bark we knew the jig was up and
the hunt over.  We tucked tail and headed back to camp.

Monday – Day 3
The second morning brought on a heavy frost and temperatures approaching the 30-degree mark. By 5:45 a.m. we had reached the mountaintop and split up.  We both had bulls answering our calls that morning, but by 10 a.m. they had shut up.

The evening didn’t bring much excitement  Although two bulls were answering our calls, we were bitten again by the unpredictable winds.

Tuesday – Day 4

On Tuesday morning C.J. and I split up in order to cover more area. I had no more than made my first setup when a small 4×4 bull came running to the Primos Hoochie Mama call. Although he stopped perfectly broadside at 18 yards, I opted to pass on the opportunity with hopes of tagging something a bit bigger. My friend had a bull working his way, but it failed to show itself.

That afternoon we hunted the same area as the first day.  I had three different bulls answering my calls plus what was almost certainly another hunter. In all my years of elk hunting, I,ve only been called in once and found it somewhat embarrassing. I’ve since been a bit more reserved about rushing to everything that sounds like an elk.  We opted to stay put and saw no elk that evening.

About an hour after dark we heard splashing in the stream outside the cook tent and rushed outside with a flashlight,  I spotted movement in the bushes and not long after Karl appeared. Evidently, he had used a log to cross the stream, lost his balance and fell in. He was soaked from head to toe. As it turned out, Karl was our mystery elk hunter. Having hunted up the opposite side of the mountain range in the afternoon, he had two close encounters with 5×5 bulls. On one instance he stopped in a small meadow and not long after he began calling and a bull suddenly
appeared from behind. As Karl tried to get turned around to shoot, the bull spotted him and vacated the area. The second encounter was nearly the same scenario, but again
Karl was unable to get the shot off.

Based on the number of elk seen and the amount of fresh sign Karl found on the way up, we made a decision to hike over the mountain the next morning. Karl had recorded the coordinates of several park meadows on his GPS, including where he had the encounters with bulls.

Wednesday -Day 5
For the week we had a couple of close encounters and one shot opportunity. Our skimpy luck wasn’t due to our lack of effort nor because the elk weren’t there. There were plenty of elk, but the cards just weren’t falling in our favor.

The temperatures dropped into the low 20s that night, Leaving a thick layer of frost on everything. We took a different route up the mountain. After reaching the top we quickly moved toward a meadow where Karl had called in one of the two bulls. Moving from meadow to meadow, fresh calf-size rubs, wallows and droppings littered the landscape. Unfortunately, even though there was plenty of evidence of elk in the area, we failed to get a response.

Around noon Karl decided to begin hunting his way back down the mounrain. C.J. and I split up and hunted two meadows that were about a half-mile apart that afternoon.

About an hour before sunset two cows walked across the meadow and began feeding. I brought out the Lead Cow and Hoochie Mama calls and made a few chirps and mews. A raspy sounding bull answered almost immediately from the fringes of the far side. I continued using chirps and
mews, but threw out an occasional spike squeal to hopefully tick him off. I couldn’t see the bull, but heard him ripping up a tree with his antlers. The bull wouldn’t commit, so I decided to make the first move.

As I began skirting the edge to close the distance the wind shifted ever so slightly and the bull stopped calling.  Suddenly one of the cows let out a bark and elk took off running every which way.

A few minutes later I heard C.J. calling, then three distinctly different bulls answering him. This went on for nearly a half hour before they suddenly quit. At that point I was almost certain C.J. had connected. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When meeting at dark, I was surprised to learn that he hadn’t seen or heard anything. As it turned our, he was set up too close to the edge of a fast-moving stream and the noise had drowned out all the elk bugles. The best I can figure is, the bulls had circled around and caught his scent.

Considering all the activity that evening, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out where we’d be hunting the following afternoon.

Thursday-Day 6
I was up early with renewed enthusiasm. We decided to hunt the north face of the mountain in the morning and the south side that afternoon. Just before sunrise the growling bugle and chuckles of a herd bull echoed off the canyon walls. I was almost certain it was the same bull we
had nicknamed “the chuckler” and C.J. had chased the first morning. Other than that, the morning was a bust.

Wanting to arrive early to our newly found honey hole, we made record time climbing to the top that afternoon. We quickly hoofed up the steep ridge where I heard the three bulls answering C.J. the evening before.

Shortly after setting up, a bull answered further up the mountain. To confirm the location, I bugled once and got a response back.  We hustled up the mountain to cut the distance in half. Alternating between spike squeals, cow mews and chirps, the bull answered almost immediately.
I moved back 30 yards from C.J. and called again. A stick cracked and suddenly a bull appeared
from behind a cluster of stubby cedar trees, maybe 25 yards from C.J. I listened for the shot but
heard nothing.

Within a couple of seconds, the bull swapped ends and split the scene. As he headed for higher ground I could see four points on both sides. Although most first-time elk hunters dream of shooting a record-book bull, C.J. was just hoping to connect on something legal. Unfortunately, in this instance he couldn’t tell if the bull was legal or not until it charged off.
No problem, I thought, we’ll just see if we can’t call up
another.

Continuing to work the mountainside, we had three other bulls respond. In one instance I thought the bull was going to commit, but for unknown reasons he shut up. About a half-hour before sunset we began working our way down and came upon a relatively flat shelf. There was
a lot of fresh sign and it looked like a great location to call up a bull. I moved back 30 yards from C.J. and put out a few drops of Mrs. Doe Pee’s Fresh Cow Elk Lure in two locations, both upwind and downwind.

Alternating between the Primos Lead Cow and Hoochie Mama, I made several cow calls and bugled once.  A couple of minutes later I heard a stick crack and then heavy foot
steps from above. I looked up just in time to see the antler tips and ran rump of a bull prodding down the mountain. Suddenly the bull stopped 30 yards from C.J. I felt the wind at the back of my neck blowing toward the bull, so I quickly pulled out my wind checker containing elk scent
and gave it a couple of squeezes.

I watched C.J. draw, but he didn’t shoot. Something told me that he didn’t have a clear shot,
so I made a few soft mews. About the same time the bull made one step forward, I heard a thump. Instantly the bull whirled around and charged back in the same direction.

Although C.J. felt the shot looked good, the results of a quick search of the area for blood didn’t paint a very promising picture. Blood was sparse and we didn’t find the arrow, which meant it might not have passed completely through. Like any other suspect hit, rather than make matters worse we decided to return in the morning. Temperatures had been hovering near freezing so we were confident the meat wouldn’t spoil.

Friday-Day 7
It was a restless night for both of us, but more so for C.J. I reassured him that we’d find his bull.

By 8 a.m. we had climbed the mountain and began our search. Starting where we left off it wasn’t long before the blood trail petered out. Rather than wander around aimlessly looking for blood, I flagged the last location and we started a grid search looking for blood. After an hour of fruitless searching, we split up. It was maybe 10 minutes later when I heard C.J. hollering, “I found him!”

I found C.J. sitting proudly over his first elk, a 5×5 Colorado bull.
Unfortunately our decision to leave the bull overnight had cost us part of, the hindquarters to the coyotes.
It took nearly three hours to skin, quarter and pack the meat to a location where Karl could get to it with the packhorses.

As mentioned earlier, my first priority on this hunt was to call in an elk for my friend. I was able to
accomplish that, plus I had an opportunity to shoot a 4×4, but I chose to pass. I’ll be the first to
admit that every hunt hasn’t ended with filling my tag, but for me elk hunting is more than that. The lore of elk hunting is spending time with good friends each fall chasing one of
the most elusive big-game animals of all. If I take home an elk, that’s just
icing on the cake. <–<<

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Published by archerchick on 20 Mar 2010

Early Bucks – By Steve Bartylla

Early Bucks – By Steve Bartylla  September 2005

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com


Don’t let non-rutting bucks intimidate you. Here’s the key to successfully ambushing these seemingly wary deer.

This is too good to be true. That was my first thought when one of the owners of the hunting outfit I was with confidently stated that I would leave Alberta with the opportunity at a 150-inch or better buck. Now, I could see that he hadn’t been exaggerating. There, 20 yards away, stood a clean 10-point that would measure somewhere in the 160s. Because I was shooting expandable heads, I was unable to cover the windows of my Double Bull blind with shoot through mesh. To safely conceal my movement, I would have to wait until the buck dropped his head.

As the buck pawed to reach the snow-covered alfalfa, seconds seemed to drag on for minutes. finally he dropped his head to feed and gave me the chance I was waiting for. However, what happened next is not nearly as important as the events that lead to this point.

An unexpected family matter had trimmed my scheduled eight-day hunt to merely three days. To complicate matters more was scouting land I’d never stepped foot on and a fresh snow that had erased the deer trails. The final kicker was that the rut cycle in Northern Alberta lags significantly behind the upper Midwest. The result was that despite the snow and cold temperatures, I’d be hunting non-rutting bucks still in their early-season patterns.

The first day of the hunt was interesting, to say the least. Because of my unfamiliarity with the area, I set a stand that provided the best view of a large alfalfa field. I reasoned the odds of a monster naturally traveling within bow range were slim, but I hoped this placement would allow me to spot and pattern a mature buck.

I also had an ace up my sleeve. With timber wolves being the greatest threat these deer would face, I was told that the deer found safety in numbers. To create this illusion, I set two Montana doe and a Custom Robotic Wildlife buck decoys out in front of my stand. To my amazement, this approach produced 21 different buck sightings in a single afternoon!

Though this group included several good bucks and one true slammer, the mission was not accomplished. As things so often go when hunting, the big boy entered the field from one of my stands blind spots. I was unable to narrow down his trail, and an overnight snowfall eliminated any chance of backtracking. However, I was closer than when I began. I knew it was very possible to take a mature buck off the field. With having already hung a low-impact morning stand in the woods with my scouting efforts.

The next afternoon was the true key. With no one location along the woods providing a view of the entire field, I did what I should have the first afternoon: I pulled the truck into some cover that provided a full view of the large field and strictly observed. As luck would have it, the mid-160s buck entered the field again just before dark. I was in business.

The next and final day, I did what I believe is one of the keys to consistent success on early-season bucks. I set up where my observations had dictated. I positioned myself where I observed the slammer entering the field.

With the morning hunt out of the way, I was ready to make my move. Having mentally marked a strategically positioned round bale the afternoon before, I made a bee-line across the field. After clearing the snow from the floor area, I positioned the Double Bull blind behind the bale and covered it with excess snow. Retracing my path across the field, I had managed to keep my disturbances to a minimum.

Later that afternoon, I followed the entrance path through the field back in. Thirty yards before reaching the blind, still 50 yards from the wood line I placed the RoboCoy buck decoy. It was my hope that any nearby deer would focus their attention on the decoy, pulling their eyes away from the blind. With some buck urine placed between it’s back legs, I entered the blind and settled in for the hunt.

Several close encounters with does and young bucks later, we return to big boy entering the scene. As I slowly raised my bow to shoot, tragedy hit. The inability to cover the windows in mesh and a perfect sun angle allowed for light to reflect off my bow. Just that quick, the buck’s head snapped up and he began staring a hole into the previously unnoticed blind. Freezing, not quite in position to draw and unable to move undetected, I knew the gig was up. Two explosions of snow from his hooves and he was gone.

As light began to fade, an eight-point in the mid120s strolled by the blind at 10 yards. i spent the closing minutes of my brief 2004 Alberta hunt watching his interaction with the RoboCoy. Though the hunt ended with an unfilled tag, I feel it beautifully illustrates the key to taking mature bucks that are exhibiting early-season behavior.

Find the Food Source

To begin with, consistently taking early-season bucks starts with identifying the best food and/or water sources. This is typically the foundation from which early-season tactics are built upon. The first of this groundwork can be laid in summer. One step in accomplishing this is glassing oaks. Doing so allows you to gauge the coming fall’s acorn crops. An oak tree doesn’t produce acorn crops each year. For one thing, it takes the acorns of most members of the red oak family two years to mature. Therefore if an individual tree produced last year, it isn’t capable of producing again this season. White oaks are able to produce fruit every year , but that doesn’t guarantee production. Droughts, untimely high winds, late frosts and insect infestations are just some of the things that can cause crop failure or low rates of production. Glassing oaks during summer can go a long way toward pointing you to which ones should be hunted in the fall.

As with the oaks, various factors can affect farm crops as well. For example, late-planted soybeans are more likely to still be in the highly desirable green state when season opens. Lack of fertilizing, heavy weed infestations, too much rain or too little all have adverse affects on crop production. A late summer inspection shows the health and maturity state of the crop. Simply put, each plant species has a maturity state at which it’s most desirable, and thriving crops have a lot more drawing power than ones struggling to produce. Summer inspection can go a long way toward showing the hunter where the big boys will be feeding when summer begins.

That proved helpful in taking my 2004 Wisconsin buck. A long east-west ridge paralleled valleys filled with corn and alfalfa. With the area yielding a nonexistent acorn crop, it was easy to determine that alfalfa, would be the best draw. After that, it was a simple matter of observing the buck and following his previous year’s rubline to a good ambush point. The third day of season the mid 146 4/8-inch 10-point was mine.

Find The Buck

As was the case with both the Alberta and Wisconsin bucks, finding them is incredibly important. The vast majority of off-season buck movement occurs between bedding and water and food sources. Without knowing a specific buck’s patterns, we must rely on blind luck. Furthermore, because bucks are moving so much less than when the desire to breed begins kicking in, placing our faith in luck is most often an endeavor wraught with disappointment.

Seeing a mature buck removes any doubt if there is one in the area to harvest. As obvious as that sounds, it’s amazing how many hunters don’t take the simple steps to determine if a buck meeting their standard is present. The easiest way to accomplish this is to observe the food source. In many situations, this can be done without having to leave the truck. In the case of both bucks, all it took was arriving before dark, pulling the truck into some cover and watching what came out where.

When the setting isn’t suited for vehicle observation it’s often impossible to perform in-field observations. When doing this, it’s important to keep the odds of being busted by deer to a minimum. Playing the wind, calculating the best route and observing from a distance are all helpful. Infrared trail cameras can also be helpful tools for finding mature bucks. Determining if a shooter is present can be as easy as placing it over a water hole or hopping the units around around the food source.

When covering food sources, I begin by placing infrared units in the areas that show the heaviest signs of feeding. If the food source is too large for one setup to do it justice, after a week or two, it can be relocated to cover another section. Commonly, a month is more than enough time to determine if and where a mature buck is entering the food source.

Nail His Trail

The “where” component is nearly as critical as the “if.” As already mentioned, early-season buck movement is rather limited. Because bucks aren’t roaming all over the woods it becomes more important to be sure that your stand is covering one of his primary trails. Obviously, both trail camera and observations can answer what trail(s) he uses most often. When relying on observations, be sure to mentally note a landmark that will later lead you to the trail. In the excitement of seeing a shooter on your hunting ground it becomes remarkably easy to not notice the exact trail he uses. Disciplining yourself to note a landmark before drooling over his rack increases the chances of of finding that trail later.

Another means of identifying a mature buck’s trail is by looking for fresh rubs. Rubbing activity is inspired by two factors. The first is to aid in the velvet shedding process. Next is the gradual rise in testosterone levels. During velvet shedding, young bucks don’t commonly exert the energy to truly rip up a tree. Shredded trees are more often the result of testosterone levels. Furthermore, the blood levels of testosterone in mature bucks rises higher and faster then their little brothers. Because of all that, well-worked September and early October rubs are good indications of a mature buck.

Though there are fewer rubs in early season, there are often enough to determine a mature buck’s trail. Doing so can be accomplished by circling the food source and following each trail a short way into the woods. Because many early rubs occur as the buck stages up just before entering the food source, following each trail no more than 100 yards is typically enough and also keeps our disturbances down.

Minimize Disturbances

Minimizing our disturbances is important. Ideally preparing our stands should be done during midday hours without leaving leaving tell-tale odors or signs of our stand preparations behind. The setting for the Alberta buck was ideal. With the buck trail located from a distance, I slipped in and prepped the blind with out stepping in the woods. With the wind blowing out into the field and the round bale hiding the blind, no deer could pick up on my intrusion until after they were already within bow range.

More commonly, some intrusion into the woods is often necessary. Taking odor control steps, proper timing and and keeping trimming low all will help. Another way to minimize disturbances is planning the best route in and out of the stand. Hunting in and near food sources is a productive early-season tactic. If pressure is kept low, it’s possible to intercept mature buck feeding activity before dark. Still the bucks don’t always cooperate and can certainly show up after dark. It goes without saying that it often takes more than one hunt to fill a buck tag. One of the primary reasons that a stands odds of producing go down with each hunt is because of sloppy entrance and exits.

When selecting routes, be sure to take the most low-impact choice, regardless of the extra effort it may require. Irrigation ditches, erosion cuts or any other feature that limits the chances of crossing deer trails and keeps our profiles low should be explored.

When a good route out doesn’t exist, having someone drive to the stand to extract the hunter is an option. In most settings, deer will be much more tolerant of a vehicle than a hunter walking through the field. Minimizing disturbances also includes simply hunting smart. Mature bucks are rarely tolerant of hunting pressure. This is particularly true early in the season. During this period food sources are commonly abundant. When safer alternatives are available, the incentive for a buck to subject itself to danger is minimal.

It therefore becomes important to employ sound-hunting tactics. It can be hard to stay away from a stand you know covers a mature buck’s trail. However, playing the wind and refraining from over-hunting stands is well worth it. The alternative is driving the buck from the area.

Early season can be a great time to fill a buck tag. Keying in on food and water is a great way to do it. After sighting a mature buck and determining his trail, it really comes down to keeping disturbances low and a bit of luck. The funny thing about most lucky hunters is that they do what they can to make their own luck. Following these guidelines may just help you become a luckier hunter and fill out early as well.

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Published by archerchick on 20 Mar 2010

Javelina Country – By Dennis Sturgis, Jr.

Javelina Country – By  Dennis Sturgis, Jr.  September 2005

This west Texas hotspot made the perfect bowhunting adventure.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

The van’s headlights stabbed into the darkness as we turned off the blacktop. A gravel lane led to the  west Texas ranch house that would be our home for the next few days.   Numerous cholla cacti loomed up in the headlights along the lane.  The Cholla Cacti have a stick man appearance and they seemed to be waving hello as they flashed by.

My hunting partners were Rich Niblock and Darryl Quidort from Michigan, and Dale Karch from Indiana. Earlier in the day we flew from South Bend to El Paso. After renting a van we drove on to Marfa. The drive was uneventful other than Dale getting a friendly warning on speed from a state trooper. Dale and his wife, Sandie, own 3Rivers archery. Dale sent the trooper back to his cruiser with a new catalog. In Marfa, we picked up our groceries and continued to the ranch.


I’d hunted this area before and really enjoyed it. The mountainous desert terrain made for great spot-and-stalk hunting. The land is desolate yet beautiful and full of mystery. the town of Marfa is known for it’s ghost lights. These lights first appeared reported by one of the early settlers in 1883. Apparently they existed before as they were spoken about by the local Apache. The lights can be viewed at night and have been described in several ways. Generally they are viewed at a distance, but there have been isolated reports of tiny fireballs of light just outside and inside vehicles. More than one scientific study has been conducted with different theories presented. In the end, the source of the ghost lights remains a mystery. Good friends, miles of remote country, a healthy population of  javelina and a little mystery all added up to the recipe for a bowhunting adventure.

At the ranch house we met up with the other members of our hunting party. Eric Radcliffe. also from Indiana, had driven down since he wanted to see the country. Dale’s longtime friend, Dick boss from Colorado, was the final member of our hunting party. Eric and Dick had already been into javelina. They stalked a group that afternoon and Dick shot a nice boar. After unpacking and putting away the groceries, we hit the sack for an early start in the morning.

We rose early and dressed in hunting clothes. The typical cheerful pre-hunt chatter took place as bows were strung and quivers loaded. I listened to the bragging, teasing and equipment comparisons with a smile. It felt good to be in hunting camp.

Wayne Weimers, our guide, pulled in before daylight. Over breakfast, we discussed our plans for the day…and Dick’s snoring. One of the neighboring ranchers, Dave Williams, also drove up to help get everyone into javelina on the 116,000 acres we had available to hunt. At sunrise we shot a few practice arrows and prepared to head out. Dale, Eric and I jumped in Wayne’s Suburban to check out some brushy canyons to the south. Dale had hunted this ranch for javelins the previous winter and wanted to video the action this year for an upcoming 3Rivers DVD production. Today was my day to be cameraman.

On the way to a vantage point where we planned to glass, Wayne spotted some javies in the distance. They milled around, feeding in some prickly pear. We checked the wind and planned our approach. After making a wide circle to get the wind in our favor, we split up. Eric stalked to one side of the small group while Dale and I snuck to the other side. I tried to stay practically in Dale’s hip pocket as he edged nearer to the javelina. The warm sun felt good on our shoulders as we slipped through the cactus, and in several minutes, we sandwiched our quarry. The wind held steady, and we slowly closed the gap. Javelina backs appeared occasionally above the cactus. I pushed the record button when Eric Pulled his longbow to full draw and released an arrow. A fatally-hit boar flashed between the cacti and disappeared into a thick tangle of cat claw. Eric used a pair of hand pruners to wade in and claim his trophy.

We rode back to the ranch house to care for the javelina and grab some sandwiches for lunch. In the afternoon, Rich and I went out with Wayne. Although we had several stalks, a good video shot never came together. Arriving back at camp, we learned both Dale and Darryl had collected javelina. Eric set a nice stand for feral hogs and collected a nice meat hog.

On day two of our hunt, I videoed Rich take his first-ever javelina. Later Eric punched his second javelina tag. Eric also found a an arrowhead. Dave, the rancher, said it was made by the “old ones.” He said the last time it was touched by a human was 1,000 to 2,000 years ago.

Rich and I started day three out with a double on two huge javies. We skinned them out for full-body mounts. Wayne took us to a big rock overhang with an aqua-colored pool in front of it. The rock walls were covered with pictographs made by people who had hunted here long ago. We enjoyed setting around a campfire that evening, and Wayne prepared a delicious wild-game supper.

Our hunt passed quickly: each day was full of excitement. On our final day, we had to leave at noon to catch our flight out of El Paso. I was the only hunter not to shoot my second javelina. Wayne was insistent that we get my second javy. I told him I was perfectly happy, but I wouldn’t mind taking some photos of javelina sign. He agreed, commenting that we could hunt along the way. We jumped in the Suburban and drove to a part of the ranch that had good sign to photograph.

Wayne is a retired patrolman as well as hunting guide. I enjoyed listening to his stories. Between photo sessions, Wayne spotted a javelina. “Let’s go get him,” he blurted. After giving Wayne a quick video camera lesson, we stalked into the wind after the boar. The stalk was classic. Using cactus clumps for cover, we ended up 10 yards from the javelina. Wayne was right over my shoulder: I rose up and shot and arrow right over its back. I quickly nocked another arrow. The javelina stood about 20 yards distant now. I glanced at Wayne. He said “I’m on him.”

I shot again and groaned when my arrow bounced off a rock. I nocked another arrow. The javy was out there now but in the open. “I’m on him, I’m on him,” Wayne spewed. Feeling obliged to shoot: I took my time and shot again. The arrow arched out and centered the kill area. The boar ran 15 yards and fell over. “that was a hell of a shot!” Wayne exclaimed. “Well, it was a lot harder than the first two,” I answered, shaking my head.

At noon we drove back down the gravel lane toward the highway. I glanced at the cholla cacti again. They seemed to be waving good-bye, and I hoped it wouldn’t be too long before I could return.

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Published by admin on 16 Mar 2010

The quest for King Crab Claw

The quest for King Crab Claw

By Bob Lott / Intrepid Outdoors
It was the 2006 Deer season in the state of Wyoming, and my first trip out to the Solitude ranch. My intentions were not of hunting the ranch, but to film ranch owner Mike Schmid on a deer hunt. I had met Mike earlier in the year, after he’d decided to sponsor a youth program that I later became Secretary to. My first impression of the guy was, that he was down to earth, and open to ideas and opinions, which in my mind, was one of many reasons he’d become so very successful in the business world. This ability to be open-minded would also be the sole reason for his success on the hunt I’m about to tell you about.

After arriving at the ranch, I unloaded my gear, picked out a bunkhouse, and headed for the cook shack for some lunch. It didn’t take long before Mike and I were going over trail cam photos of some of the biggest Whitetails that roamed his ranch. This later became our, every morning while drinking coffee before the hunt, ritual. He really wanted to harvest one of two deer, King Crab-Claw, or Split G2, which were both at the top of the “Ten Most Wanted” list. The list, which was largely made up of deer that were thought to be mature and in their prime, was created by Mike and some other good friends.

One of the first things I noticed about hunting with Mike, was his ability to listen to different game plans, sort through it, add his experience of hunting the ranch, and come up somewhere in between. After going over all of his information on the two deer, we came up with a plan to hunt “Muddy Pond” the next morning.

After lunch, we headed down to “Muddy Pond” to add a treestand to an existing standsite. With one stand already set high up in a big Ponderosa Pine tree, all we needed was one more for a good camera angle. Once the stand was set, the game was officially on; we had made our first move in a chess match that would last just four short days.

The one advantage we had going into the game was that both G2, and Crab-Claw were both being captured on Trail Cams in the same vicinity. Mike already said he’d be happy with either deer, so it bettered our odds knowing that there were two target deer in the area we’d be hunting.

We set out early the next morning to climb into our little makeshift video studio, and immediately started seeing deer at the break of daylight. This was my first time hunting in Wyoming, and wasn’t quite ready for the amount of deer seen on our first hunt. The deer just kept coming; some drank at the pond others just passed through. By 10 AM we had seen at least 10 different bucks, 15 does and a pile of Merriam Turkeys.

We were just about to get down when Mike nudged me, and pointed towards the brush, slowly turning the camera on, I watched with excitement when a Coyote walked out of the brush and down to the pond to get a drink. I immediately started to film in hopes Mike would take advantage of getting rid of one of the many deer killers that roam his ranch.

As I filmed the totally unaware Coyote drinking from the nasty looking water hole, I saw Mike out of the corner of my eye give me the nod as if to ask “are you on him”, I immediately gave him the same nod back, which in cameraman language means, “yes I am, take him”! In a slow, smooth motion, he drew his 70 lb Martin bow straight back, settled his pin and drilled that Coyote right in the heart. As quick as he came in, it was over even quicker, the dog didn’t last five seconds. Mike turned toward me with a big smile, gave me a high-five, then went on to tell the camera how, “if you’re going to manage your deer herd, you need to also manage your predators”.

That evening we decided to hunt a series of major trails that connected two Food Plots together along a ridge top. Again, during the middle of the day, we had set two stands in what seemed to be a perfect place to intercept one of the big boys we were after. The information gathered on this hunt would prove very valuable later on down the road. As we settled in for the evening, we had plenty of action, seeing deer the entire time we were there. We had already started to plan the next mornings hunt, when Mike looked up on the ridge about 120 yards away, and spotted Crab-Claw easing down the ridge toward the Food Plot. Mike quickly grabbed his Binoculars and was able to see that Crab-Claw was on the opposite side of an old fence that also followed the ridge down from the higher ground. This info turned out to be crucial to killing the deer later on in the hunt. After seeing the deer, we knew it was just a matter of smart planning, before getting a crack at him.

The next morning found us in a totally different section of the ranch. We decided the night before, that we’d leave the area with the two target deer alone, because we really wasn’t sure what either buck was doing in the morning. Rather than risk bumping the deer out of the area, we decided to get a better idea of the caliber of deer that were using another big Food Plot, planted with Oats, and Alfalfa. Running a little late, we didn’t get to a good stand location until well after daylight. As Mike watched for deer, I climbed up and set two stands for us to hunt from. After settling in, we immediately had deer all around us, in fact, on that morning it’s safe to say we had about 100 deer around us. Although we saw some real nice bucks, none of them had the headgear that Mike was looking for. It was then decided to take a doe if a good dry one gave him the opportunity. It wasn’t long before a doe was headed for our tree, and Mike was checking her pretty hard to see if she was dry, after determining she was, once again the hunt was on. As she closed the distance to ten yards, Mike drew his Martin bow and made a perfect shot through both lungs, she ran about 40 yards and fell over. Although Mike’s shot hit it’s mark, I, on the other hand, missed mine. I didn’t get the impact of the arrow with the camera, this would later come back to haunt me. Once again we high-fived, loaded her up in the Gator, and headed back to the ranch.

That evening we were considering hunting the ridge that Crab-Claw had walked down, but Mike was a little hesitant not knowing for sure which side of the ridge he had come from. If we hunted the opposite side of the ridge that we hunted the night before, and stayed down off of the ridge about 100 yards, this could possibly give us the information we needed to confirm that the buck was using the actual ridge to walk down? We knew from the night before when Mike glassed him, that he had walked down the ridge-fence opposite of our location, but did he come from the top or did he come from the other side? We decided to play it safe, and set up in a good location that would give us the answers to our questions.

After climbing into the stands we had just set, I looked up and caught a glimpse of a deer; I quickly pulled up my binoculars, and saw it was good ten point that would surely make Pope and Young. I also noticed he was coming from the high point that we believed was the bedding area, and was walking right down the ridge top like we hoped. It was at that point that we knew we had our final piece of the puzzle. We set there the rest of the evening watching 100’s of deer all over the ranch. Our location provided us with the perfect vantage point to see a big part of the ranch, so we were able to watch Whitetail deer, Merriam turkeys, and Antelope literally in every direction. Although we didn’t actually see Crab Claw, we felt confident that we had now covered all the possible Scenarios to this deer’s feeding pattern.

The next morning found us on the “Muddy Pond”. We were playing it safe, and didn’t want to ruin a chance at Crab-Claw by guessing what trail he might use to head for his bedding area. Again, it was a very game filled morning hunt, seeing as many Turkeys as deer, but didn’t see the buck we were after. We headed back to the ranch, where we later decided our only option was to set up on the ridge for that evenings hunt. It turned out to be the right decision.

With tree-stands on our backs, we headed up to the ridge that we just knew the buck was going to walk down later that evening. As I set our stands, Mike acted as ground man, and tied all of our gear onto the bow-rope for me to pull up. As we both settled in, I noticed a beat down trail that was leading right to our tree. I turned to Mike,and wispered, he’s going to come right down that trail isn’t he? Mike responded, I hope so! After deciding on a good spot for Mike to take the shot for video purposes, we both sat with anticipation. I don’t think we were there more than an hour when I noticed tines coming over the hill, I quickly turned to Mike and said he’s coming…and he’s on that trial! I immediately turned the camera on and began filming Crab-Claw as he walked right down the trail like he was tied to a string; at the same time Mike was busy positioning himself for the shot. As the deer closed the distance, stopping only once to check his route. I quickly found myself in a bind, Mike was already drawn, and I had no clear view of the buck. I scrambled to try to get him in frame, even bumping Mike a couple of times in the back with the camera in the process, but before I could, Mike took the shot and drilled the deer. As the buck ran off, I was able to get back on him to get him heading over the hill, but was pretty upset with myself for not getting the impact. Mike was also upset at himself, for not waiting for the right moment, but we quickly got over it, and began celebrating the great event that just took place. We sat there in the tree just long enough to gain enough composure to climb down. Once on the ground we did a quick follow up of the shot, finding the arrow in the process. Judging from the arrow, we decided that the shot could’ve been a little far back, so we quickly remembered my brother Bill’s words of wisdom in just this type of situation; “If he’s dead now, he’ll be dead tomorrow”. With that in mind, we decided to wait until the next morning to go after Mike’s trophy.

The next morning we headed back up the ridge, where after a brief search, found us quickly celebrating over the deer that was otherwise known as “King Crab-Claw”. After doing some closers for the video, and pictures for the scrapbook, we loaded him up and headed back to the ranch. The feeling of harvesting one of the “Ten Most Wanted” was pretty overwhelming for both of us. Before the hunt began, we were just two guys that never hunted together, but knew, that with enough respect for each other’s experience and ideas, we could get it done. In just four short days, I filmed Mike take a Coyote, a Whitetail doe, and the second best archery buck of his life. What a hunt!!!

The Solitude Ranch is by far the finest place I’ve had the pleasure of visiting. I highly recommend it to all hunters, big and small. Book your hunt before it’s too late.

 

 
Bob Lott
 

 
 
 
 
 

Bob Lott / Producer

Intrepid Outdoors on Pursuit TV

Office 740/887/5024

Cell 614/348/6028

3133 Sugar Run Rd

Chillicothe, Ohio 45601

www.intrepidoutdoors.com

www.huntsro.com

“The Long & Short of Big Game Hunting”

“Get a Child in the Wild”

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Published by admin on 23 Feb 2010

GODBLESS THE CHILDREN by Ted Nugent

GODBLESS THE CHILDREN

by Ted Nugent

 

Braelyn is a beautiful eleven year old young lady and Nathanial is a fine, fourteen year old young man. Their smiles said it all. Under the glow of a burning Texas sun, they took turns carefully working the bolt of the lightweight Henry Repeating Arms .22 rifle. With the “aim small, miss small” mantra of a professional sniper, they zeroed in on the tiny bullseyes of the Caldwell targets and punched one ragged hole after another, shot after shot, celebrating the inescapable joys of our beloved marksmanship discipline. What we have here is the purest form of shooting fun known to mankind. One God given, US Constitutionally guaranteed individual right, coming up! Kids and guns. Perfect indeed. Make no mistake, in the world of logic, self evident truth, goodwill, decency and quality American family life, there are few activities that connect every age, lifestyle or walk of life so positively as the shooting sports in all their various forms. I don’t care where you come from or how you live, when introduced to the ultimate good, clean family fun of plinking, there is not a man, woman or child that fails to get a serious rise out of a casual day of shooting. It is pure, natural and contagious when approached thoughtfully. I suppose I could go into detail about the difference between conscientious, supervised shooting fun and the criminal curse of gangbanging and dangerous, irresponsible gunplay, but I won’t. We will leave that for apologetic whiners and excuse makers of the spiritually challenged left. Adios, MoFo. The Nugent family is certainly blessed to be welcomed into so many American families’ lives via the requests by their children each year, every year for many, many years. That they even think of the ol’ MotorCity Madman WhackMaster is a testimony to their connection to what I ultimately stand for, and their families’ comfort level allowing me to take them in and teach them to hunt, fish, trap, shoot and explore the wilds is all the evidence I will ever need to know that I am on the right course. I shall carry on. In fact, I shall turn up the heat, thank you. The greatest and bravest kids in the world make the trip out to our SpiritWild Ranch in central Texas each year. Many are very ill, and are helped out by the generous donations by Americans to charities like Hunt of A Lifetime, Wish Upon A Star, Dream Weavers, Safari Club International, Texas’ own Legacy Outfitters, our own Ted Nugent Kamp for Kids and Freedom’s Angels, and numerous other wonderful non-profit organizations. Even though some soulless administrator at the Make A Wish Foundation created the heartless policy to not grant hunting wishes to terminally ill children, I work with them often too. But when the kids show up from that otherwise fine, loving organization, I take them hunting anyway. Improvise, adapt, defy and overcome-that’s what I always say. To witness the momentary escape from their pain and suffering as these very special young boys and girls enjoy archery, firearms, fishing and just stretching out in the wild, it surely cleanses and fortifies the soul. It is magic to all involved. On this exciting adventure, Braelyn and Nate had, according to them, two of the most “funnest days of their lives” with us recently. They picked up on precision shooting and archery skills like fish to water. In fact it was hard to get them to put the guns and bows and arrows down at all in order to get to the serious business of mesquite grilled backstrap. Serious, serious stuff! They were our guests through the Herculean efforts of another grand charity created by American Airlines right here in Texas, called the Snowball Express. They assist in helping the children of our heroic US Military warriors who have made the ultimate sacrifice by volunteering and dying for their country. The families of the US Warriors sacrifice much too, and the least we can do is to give back as much as humanly possible to show our deep appreciation for the incredible gift of freedom that is paid for by the blood of these warriors. We are so very proud of Americans and Texans who just keep on giving and giving. When a child needs help, there is never a shortage of generosity in this great land. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for such charity events, work and opportunities. Give all you can and do all you can. I promise you, nothing in life will bring you a more powerful sense of gratification and fulfillment than sharing our outdoors passions with the kids, anywhere, anytime, anyplace, anyhow. Do it. God bless the children. God bless them all. To find out more about these various charities bringing happiness to kids everywhere, go to tednugent.com.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Feb 2010

Aquatic Archery – By Mark Morrison

Aquatic Archery – By Mark Morrison
April 2005

Spark up the off-season by hunting these underwater targets.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

April 2005

To archers like myself who eat, sleep and bleed bowhunting, it seems there’s never enough time to bowhunt. When there is ample time, sometimes our prey is scarce and the waiting game we play can become monotonous. The same can also be said for sport fishing. However, when you combine these two great past-times-bowhunting and fishing-you’ll step into an all out action-packed activity called bowfishing, one of the fastest growing segments of archery today.

The list of rough fish species available to bow-fishers across the United States is nearly endless. Due to their wide distribution, common carp, buffalo and gar are the species most often pursued. Because of their ever-expanding range and penchant for rapid reproduction, carp are the top fish hunted by bowfishers. Average size “bronze-backs” range from 10 to 15 pounds. But they regularly reach 40 pounds and monsters as large as 80 pounds have been harvested by fishing archers! Carp are strong fighters that prefer wild close-in, fin-to-toe battles.

Arguably the most aesthetic of rough fishes are buffalo (including bigmouth, black and small mouth), which have a distinctive color scheme that features jet-black dorsal areas that fade into shiny silvery-blue sides. Typical buffalo weigh 10 to 15 pounds and trophy specimens grow as large as 30 to 60 pounds! Buffalo are speed merchants, well known to knowledgeable bowfishers for their tremendous battling skills. When struck with a well-placed fishing arrow buffalo don’t hesitate to employ their inherent speed to streak bullet-like for deep-water sanctuary. It sometimes takes a Herculean (but always fun) effort to bring the fast departing fish under control!

Although gar (shortnose, spotted, long-nose and alligator) are found throughout the U.S., they are more predominate in southern waters. Typical spotted and shortnose gar encountered on the water average 5 pounds and hefty specimens will weigh as much as 10 pounds. Longnose gar (easily recognized by their ultra-long, tooth-filled ‘noses”) weigh 5 to 20 pounds and monsters as large as 50 pounds have been bow-bagged in the extreme southern tier of their range. Alligator gar are the monarchs of the rough fish world. “Gator” gar inhabit rivers and reservoirs in the gulf coast regions of states like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida. These gar are formidable opponents that can tip the scales in excess of 200 pounds! Although any size “gator” gar can test a bowfisher’s mettle, seasoned fish hunters agree that the bench-mark for trophies is 100 pounds.

Longnose gar are plentiful only in a few water ways in my home state of Minnesota. Still every spring and summer, I make many treks to a few select area lakes and aim all my efforts at chasing these challenging fish. One steamy Saturday last July still stands out in my mind. The wind was dead calm, the air sultry and the intense sun had sizzled the temperature to near 100 degrees – nowhere near ideal conditions for any other bowhunting pursuit but perfect for hunting heat-loving longnose gar.

I cranked my outboard to life and raced across the lake toward a small inlet stream. I figured where the creek emptied into a weed infested bay, good numbers of gar should be there to feed and loaf. To avoid spooking the gar I shut the outboard down 100 yards from the inlet. After scrambling upon my elevated platform and lowering the electric foot controlled trolling motor, I began a methodical stalk toward the weedline. The coon-tail weeds were unusually thick…perfect habitat for gar.

Approaching the inlet I was astonished to observe an estimated 100 gar lazily hanging out at varying depths within the weeds. I immediately stopped the trolling motor and silently drifted through the incredible school of gar. My search for a suitable trophy didn’t take long, because a huge long-nose unexpectedly surfaced and gulped air not 5 yards off the boat’s bow!

I carefully brought my recurve to full draw, picked an aiming spot on the gar and drove my heavy Muzzy Penetrator arrow at the gar’s enameled hide. The arrow’s impact was akin to striking a match to gunpowder. One moment the gar was slowly slicing through the water, the next it was displaying acrobatic maneuvers that would’ve made a sailfish seasick! The sight of a 5-foot gar completely clearing the water and shaking it’s toothy beak from side to side was awe-inspiring.

The sharp Stingray fishing point and 350-pound test BCY synthetic line held firm and I soon had the gar reeled alongside my boat. Since I didn’t relish having my hands raked to shreds by the gars protruding razor-like dentures, I was very careful when I grabbed my arrow to hoist the fish aboard. As soon as that was accomplished I permanently silenced the gar with a sharp rap from my “bonker” ( a short section of steel pipe).

This is necessary because a gar of this size coming to life in the confines of a boat can cause a lot of havoc including spilled tackle boxes, shredded clothing and lacerated body parts! Hanging the substantial fish from my electronic
scale revealed it to weigh an incredible 19 pounds. I couldn’t have scripted a better start to my day. Bagging trophies like the above
mentioned gar is the result of pre-season scouting and realistic “on the water” archery practice. Successfully arrowing underwater prey requires you to compensate for light refraction. Simply put, refraction bends light rays in such a way that fish always appear higher (or closer) than they actually are. To compensate for refraction you must aim low to connect with your quarry.

How low? That knowledge only comes with shooting experience. The best rule of thumb is to aim low, then aim lower! Soon your instincts will take over and you’ll begin hitting with surprising consistency! Since no two bowfishing shots are alike in range or depth, sight-equipped bows are a hindrance. Shooting instinctively and letting the shot happen naturally is the ideal method for arrowing rough fish. Also, to block out annoying surface glare and make the task of spotting and arrowing fish easier it is a must that you wear a quality pair of polarized sunglasses and a hat with an efficient sun blocking brim.

My above gar hunt represented a typical, (albeit very exciting) bowfishing outing. Previously, I started my season in early May hunting for bowfin (dogfish) and common carp. I usually continue to hunt carp, buffalo and gar throughout the summer and into early fall. I also travel to neighboring states to hunt Asian bighead carp (a plankton feeding river-ine fish that can easily attain weights in excess of 50 pounds) and white amur (grass carp).
Even with all this variety, I always find time to make several forays for “dusk to dawn’ hunts. My bowfishing rig sports a 2,000-watt generator which sends power to a bank of halogen lamps that pierce the inky blackness, illuminating the water around my boat for 10 yards. Despite the constant humming produced by the generator rough fish like buffalo, carp, sheephead and gar are more relaxed at night and far easier to approach. In fact nighttime bowfishing is so productive many bowfishers (especially those in southern states, where day- time temps can reach dangerous levels) ignore day-light hunting altogether and do all of their bowfishing under the cover of darkness.


I’ve been a self-proclaimed bowfishing addict for 20 years and I’ve acquired all the latest gear to make myself a more efficient predator of fish. I didn’t start out that way though. Like many other youngsters, I literally cut my bowhunting teeth on rough fish at an early age. Each spring when the annual sucker spawning runs were in full gear my buddies and I would grab our little fiberglass recurves and wooden arrows (equipped with crude homemade barbed fishing heads) and dash for the nearest creek in anticipation of filling our stringers with cold water suckers.
Those early days provided a lot of action (which is what restless young archers crave) in the form of endless shot opportunities and heavy bags of fish. But, the real challenge was bringing our fish to shore after a successful shot, You see, at the time we neither had the inclination or resources to attach a reel and line to our bows. So…after arrowing a fish we’d simply ditch our bows and race downstream after the fast departing fish! Knowing where the fish was in the stream was fairly easy; we just had to keep an eye on our brightly colored fletchings juning up like oversized pencil bobbers through the water’s surface. Of course, we had to sprint well ahead of our quarry and ambush them on a shallow stretch to finally bring them to hand. This was accomplished by grasping the arrow and fish simultaneously and tossing the squirming, slippery prize onto the bank.

It was definitely great fun for neophyte archers like us. Because bowfishing is a year-round, day or night sport in many states, it is ideally suited for passionate bowhunters of any age looking to extend their hunting season. Be careful, however because bowfishing excitement is contagious. Your bowhunting goals may soon include harvesting trophies like 4O-pound carp, 50-pound buffalo fish and maybe even 5-
foot streamlined predators with bony armatures and mouths stuffed full of needle sharp teeth!

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Published by archerchick on 22 Feb 2010

One Day Gobbler- By Joe Bell

One-Day Gobbler – By Joe Bell

Bowhunting turkeys is no gimme, yet with the right tactics and a drive to succeed, luck will eventually shine through.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com


We strolled across the darkened field as dawn’s orange-red plume was rising above the horizon. Double Bull specialist Tom Carroll pulled a crow call from his pocket and blasted through the pre-dawn silence to rile up any nearby gobblers. Immediately a tom fired back, giving us his approximate location. Tom and his good hunting buddy Jeff Zimmerman, who designs game calls, are experts at this trade. Me, I’m more of of a western big-game fanatic, so I just watched and admired these guys who have such intense enthusiasm for bowhunting long beards.

We set up in a meadow of trees, a natural strutting site for big gobblers, according to Tom. Quickly we popped up the Double Bull T-5 Pro Staff blinds. Tom and I would be in one while Jeff would set up 50 or so yards to our side-just in case the birds did something unorthodox. The Flambeau decoys were in place 15 yards from the shooting window, and I was on ready with my bow clutched in my hand.

Minutes went by, the sound of his gobbles telling us he was on the ground now. The hunt was on. Soon the sound grew louder as he closed in on us. Tom and Jeff worked in tandem, reverbating clucks, purrs and yelps with such precision and smoothness.

He was close now, and I got the feeling that the shot would come fast. I was running on one maybe two hours of sleep thanks to a full day’s worth of airports and plane delays. By the time tom and Jeff picked me up it was late into the evening. Then we drove for a couple of hours, grabbed a snack and hit the bunks. Tom informed me that we were looking at a two-hour drive or so to reach the hunting area so this meant little sleep.

About the time the excitement began, so did the confusion. Oh, the tom got close but decided to pass us by. By the sounds, there were too many hens in his entourage to get excited about one more.

As we assembled blinds and decoys, I couldn’t help but admire this Kansas prairie land. It was my first time hunting in the Land of Oz, and I was digging it.The country was very open, with strips of trees and scrub brush laced along waterways. As a big-bodied buck sprung from his bed (with heavy bases and tines), bounding down the ripples in the tall grass, I felt a twinge of romance for the country. I will definitely return to hunt giant bucks here.

Our Tactics
We were hunting Rio Grande birds on 15,000-plus acres of land so we had plenty of options. When it comes to avoiding human calling attempts, eastern gobblers could be the toughest to trick, But in my experience, a wise, old Rio Grande turkey is no slouch in this department. They can go call-shy at the flick of a switch. And that’s what these birds did to us. This meant improvising.

Throughout the bulk of the day, we made typical setups with blinds and decoys and calling, but birds didn’t seem to move our way. We continued to cover ground furiously, looking for that one lonely gobbler. We never found him, but we did spot a big gobbler walking in an alfalfa field, along with a horde of hens.

Our window of opportunity was to dash a 1/2-mile or so to the edge of the field, slither our way down a cut that would hide our approach, then wet up in their travel path. (Hey, this is my kind of hunting- spot and stalk.) Tom And I were staking in the decoys when we got busted. Really, we probably didn’t need the decoys on this setup, which made it that much more frustrating. Tom expertly handled the blind, erecting it ever so slowly.

Tom gave his best calling renditions, piquing the birds’ curiosity. A couple of hens, along with the gobbler began a slow approach, but something was obviously wrong, I’m sure they thought. We watched them return to the field, and after hours of sitting in the blind intermittently, we watched as they slowly filed around the blind – 60 yards past.

I was about to think these birds weren’t killable, bur Tom’s success the day before proved that wasn’t true. Tom and Jeff were out testing the water, so to speak, before I arrived. The winds were gusting, yet Jeff and Tom coaxed two birds off the roost and within 15 yards of the blind. After a few soft purrs, the bird came a-runnin’. A shot from Tom’s bow sent an arrow perfectly through one of the bird’s chests. He captured it all on video.

What I Learned
I’m not a very experienced turkey hunter, but I’m learning quickly just what it takes to consistently bag longbeards with a bow. I know first-hand that you need calling expertise, call-shy birds or not. If you don’t know how to verbally entice a tom, he’ll go somewhere else. You must know what to announce and when to announce it. How do you learn? You follow experts around, and then learn by trial and error on your own, calling a lot and making mistakes.

Also, the turkey hunting I know doesn’t incorporate morning and evening setups only. If you want a bird badly, then you’ll need to stay out all day. Further, a good turkey hunter adapts to changing conditions. This means doing whatever it takes to get your bird. Thin of off-the-wall ideas, and you’ll make it as a turkey hunter. This could mean stalking birds, ambushing them along fields or getting more aggressive with your calling.

Near Day’s End
With little sleep, water or food, the day was turning long. I had a couple of energy bars in my pack, and Tom shared his Kudos bars and dried fruit. By the time evening rolled around, I was becoming dreary eyed. The plan was to go back to a roost area- a possible hen pickup area for gobblers. It was about 5 p.m. when our setup was complete. Tom and Jeff fired up their Bad Buzzard slate calls- a design made personally by Jeff- and instantly the show was on.

We had two gobblers coming at full throttle. The video camera was rolling and the adrenaline was flowing. The longbeards came at us in a zig-zag pattern. Suddenly they were 30 yards away and closing. I wanted to shoot the lead bird, but he passed my shooting window like lightning. I slapped the gap pins on the rear bird and took the shot as he slowly walked by.

He jumped, swayed and stumbled until he came to rest 100 yards away. A finishing arrow put him down for good. It’s kind of bizarre how only one day of turkey hunting could bring about so much. Maybe that’s the nature of the beast, the nature of bowhunting turkeys.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Feb 2010

Nutrition That Kills – By Steve Bartylla

Nutrition That Kills – By Steve Bartylla

May 2005

Quality bucks are the result of quality foods.  Here’s how to provide the nutritional value deer require for each phase of the year.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

May 2005

Catching a glimpse of movement, I poked my cameraman’s foot and pointed to the approaching buck.  Knowing Craig was burning tape, I engaged myself in debate on whether he was a shooter deer or not.  At first glance, his rack didn’t overly impress.  The profile view displayed respectable mass and high main beams, but his times were relatively short.  Turning to face me, the internal debate ended swiftly upon seeing the 20-inch-plus inside spread.  This was most definitely a 3 1/2 year-old animal, and I wanted him.

As he continued on, I positioned myself for the shot and waited for his headon approach to change.  That’s when things started going wrong.

With the buck barely 5 yards away, I began drawing my Mathews bow.  Unfortunately I’d forgotten about Craig’s filming stand directly above me.  While drawing, I clanked the top wheel of the bow on the bottom of the stand just above my head.

As the buck skipped 20 yards away, I still believed that I could make the shot.  Chances were good that the steady, light rain would cause the mature buck to doubt his ears.  At about 30 yards out, I drew and settled my knuckle behind my ear.  As he now calmly walked straight away, all I needed was for him to make a slight turn.

Luckily, by the time I reached 35 yards out, he had forgotten all about the phantom noise.  Coming to a stop, he paused to scan the creek bottom for does. Turning just a bit as he did, I let the arrow fly.  With the Rocky Mountain Snyper burrowing into his vitals, the buck exploded for the creek bottom.  Just as he neared the bank, he fell to the ground.  The mature nine-point was mine.

The previous year, the hunting outfit www.PerformanceOutdoors.com contacted me as a consultant to help set up their “Sanctuary Farm.”  From a personal standpoint, this buck was the culmination of many hours spent scouting, instituting an advanced food-plot plan and pegging more than 30 stand sites.

In this article, the first of a two part series, I will delve into the advanced food plot strategies I put in place on this specific deer property.  In the next issue, we will cover scouting, marking stand locations for each phase of the season and selecting low-impact stand routes.  Best of all, this seldom seen inside look at a premier outfitter’s approach can be applied to any whitetail hunting land, allowing you to get the most from your property.

YEAR ROUND NUTRITION
For a deer property to reach it’s full potential, the deer themselves must have an adequate amount of high-quality, year round nutrition.  Having plots that draw and hold deer during the season is also important, but deer simply can’t meet their own generic potential unless adequate nutrition is available 365 days year. If quality food sources are lacking during any one season the resident deer will have poor reproduction rates, body size and antler size, and their overall health will suffer.

Furthermore, drawing and holding deer on wwwPerformanceOutdoors.com;s properties has obvious benefits. The more time deer spend on their properties; the better they can protect the local herd from other hunters and poachers. This allows young bucks to grow old, which will increase their hunter’s odds of harvesting what they helped to produce.

However, before any of this was possible, we first needed to. identify what nutrition the deer required.  Much like people, deer need to consume a balance of fats, carbohydrates and protein.

Food high in fats and carbohydrates is great for building fat reserves and supplying energy. When deer are preparing for enduring winter, this can be critical, particularly in  the Upper Midwest and areas further north. it’s also equally important for southern deer that must endure drought induced food shortages.

Though seldom mentioned, fats and carbohydrates also indirectly play a significant role in antler development.  During the spring, the first thing bucks address ls building their bodies back up from the toll that both the rut and winter took on them. With a worn-down body, they’ll  have little energy-energy that can go into growing healthy, large antlers. Since diets high in fat and carbs help to build
and maintain fat, they create potential energy reserves for deer that must endure the negative energy balance. This is why it’s important during the late fall and winter for deer to get the energy they require for healthy antler growth.

On the flip side, the important role that protein plays in antler development is well documented. A buck requires  diets consisting of 20 percent or more protein to produce quality antlers. Recent studies have shown that this level is needed even before velvet antlers begin to form. To get maximum antler production, these levels should be provided from mid-winter on through the shedding of velvet.

Furthermore, protein levels are also important for fetus development, milk production, muscle development and overall health. Though certain vitamins and minerals are also important, satisfying a whitetail deers needs for fats, carbohydrates and proteins is a great place to begin.

HOLDING PLOTS
My first task is always to ensure that the property has enough nutrition to draw and hold deer. In doing this,  I want  many holding plots to be centrally located on the property.  First, that positioning makes it much harder for neighboring hunters to take advantage of my efforts. Second, it helps inspire more deer to bed on the managed properly.

Finally, it provides the hunter with much lower impact routes to and from stands. All too often prime food sources either dot or surround the outer edges of hunting properties.  When that is the case, the hunter is often forced to kick out deer when crossing the fields. Furthermore, it becomes much
more difficult for the hunter to slip into stands between bedding and feeding for morning hunts. A centrally placed food plot fulfills all concerns a hunter might have.

Size is another concern for holding plots. Since they will be the backbone of our nutrition plan, holding plots must be large enough to produce the volume of forage that resident deer will require. There is no set formula for determining this size requirement. It becomes a balance of other available forages, crop yield and deer density. When other feeding options are limited, our planting yield is low and deer density is high we must have larger holding plots than when the reverse is true. As a general rule of thumb, I never make holding plots of grains less than five acres
and plots of greens less than two acres.

Luckily, The Sanctuary Farm already had hay, soybeans and cornfields centrally located.  In this case, it was simply a matter of buying standing corn and beans from the farmer.  Doing so ensured that adequate carbohydrates and fats would be available to deer on the
property, and the hayfield would provide the initial supply of protein.

HARVEST PLOTS
With a good start on holding plots, I shifted my attention to creating harvest plots that would
further address the protein deficiency during late winter, spring and summer. Though harvest plots
certainly can help address nutritional needs, they are also geared more toward effectively positioning deer for a shot. To do so most effectively, they must contain the most highly desired food source in the area, and they must provide a feeling of safety, which means they must be ideally located.  Since harvest plots are designed for on-site hunting, it stands to reason they require plantings that are most effective at drawing deer. When selecting a crop, I most often
go for greens. It has been my experience that deer will gravitate to certain greens as long as they are in an ideal growth state. The only food source that I have found that can consistently draw deer better are acorns.

Because of this, I commonly plant a harvest plot in half clover or alfalfa and half Antler King’s Fall/Winter/Spring or Buck Forage Oats. Clovers and alfalfas can be counted on for drawing in deer until a heavy frost turns them sour.  Once that occurs, few native or planted greens can still be desirable.

However, Antler King’s Buck Forage Oats can survive and thrive in all but deep frosts, as can the
Fall/Winter/Spring mix. Splitting a harvest plot between clover or alfalfa and half Fall/Winter/Spring or Buck Forage. Oats creates a location that will draw deer from the season’s opener on through the closing day.

To provide the feeling of safety the harvest plot should either be tucked in remote corners of open fields or in their own one- or two-acre opening. Surrounding them as much as practical with escape cover encourages daylight feeding.

Achieving ideal location for a food plot requires knowing
the habitat and how deer use it.

To put things in perspective, before I even began planning  wwv. PerformanceOutdoors. com’s harvest plot locations I had already spent several days scouting in both the winter and spring. This was important to get an accurate picture of early-and late-season deer-movement patterns.
While scouting, I placed a premium on locating bedding areas and funnels.

These findings led me to select the locations for the harvest food plots. By knowing where the bedding areas and funnels were. I could position the plots to force deer through funnels while going to and returning from the food sources.

It’s occasionally possible to do that and also have a funnel divide two existing food sources.  That’s the position I took to shoot the buck at the beginning of this article by knowing the deer’s patterns before planning plot locations, I was able to encourage them through an already good funnel.  Bucks traveling between feeding an bedding, as well as those cruising between food sources to check for does, would likely pass this stand site.

When funnels don’t exist, placing harvest plots between bedding areas and holding plots is a good option.  Often, mature bucks aren’t willing to step into the larger holding plots until after dark.  However, those same bucks commonly will engage in daylight feeding in the smaller, seemingly safer harvest plots.  By positioning it between bedding and the holding plot,  many deer that would otherwise go directly to the holding plots will first snack in the harvest plot.

Finally, the shape and size of these harvest plots can be molded to further maximize shot opportunities. Relatively. narrow elbow or horseshoe-shaped plot’s, between one and
two acres in size, provide the ultimate in close encounters. When given the choice, deer prefer to be able to see the entire plot at once. To do this, they must feed at the point in the bend where they can see both ends. At the very least, the majority of bucks will walk through that point to investigate the other side.

In either case, stands positioned at the mid-point of the plot, on both sides of the bend point, will provide shots at any of these animals. As a bonus, this placement also allows one of the two stands to be safely hunted during any wind direction. Something, as seemingly little as the shape of our of harvest plot can dramatically increase the number of deer harvested from these stands.

During the 2004 archery season,
www. PerformanceOutdoors.com’s hunters took four trophy bucks and missed shot opportunities at three others on their 55-acre Sanctuary Farm. Just as important, trophy buck sightings continued throughout the entire season.

As you will see in the next part of this series, many factors played into this success. However, the well-planned food plot strategy played a significant role. -When a property possesses adequate protective cover, a combination of well-planned holding and harvest plots, it will increase the health, quality and number of deer on a property as well as make them easier to harvest. Instead of guessing where the deer will feed most, we can dictate to them where they want to be. That alone provides the hunter with a tremendous advantage. As almost any serious whitetail hunter would
agree, we can use every ethical advantage we can get. <— <<

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Published by archerchick on 22 Feb 2010

Horns Of A Lifetime – By John Klus

Horns Of A Lifetime – By John Klus

May 2005

The buck was huge – giant – but it wasn’t the focus of this father and son hunt

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

May 2005

For most people, Sept. 9, 2004, was like any other day. If you lived in Florida you were trying to evacuate the state due to hurricanes. If you lived in New York you were preparing for another anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks. But if you were around Peace River, Alberta, Canada, you were preparing for hunting season.

Being from Wisconsin I am used to starting my hunting in the middle of September. I run a hunting and fishing guide service so I am outdoors all the time, but there is always a trade off By being a guide, instead of harvesting and catching, I am usually doing all the cleaning and netting. But on Sept. 9 it was different; I was the hunter.

My father, who was 69 at the time, and I decided to take one more trip together before time took its toll on him. Along with age, during the summer of 2002 he was diagnosed with leukemia.
In addition to that my grandfather died in March 2004 and we figured it would be a good time to get away. My grandfather’s death was hard because he played an enormous role in my father’s life like my father plays in mine.

From the time I was 3 or 4 years old, I cannot remember a weekend I did not spend with my father out in the woods hunting or fishing. The outdoors is where we spent 12 months out of the year.  My father gave me the greatest gift of all, the outdoors. He showed me that the outdoors was more than a place to hunt and fish. He made it my church. Instead of sitting in a pew on Sunday morning, my children and I sit in treestands. Our choir is not a line of people singing, it is the Sandhill cranes and Canadian geese flying overhead. It is a place we think about yesterday, today and the days to come. It’s a place that makes my soul whole and defines who and what I am. Because of this bond, my father and I are best friends. And at this time we decided to take one more trip. For this trip we did not choose to go to New Mexico for a giant bull elk, we did not choose Siberia, Russia, for a monster brown bear and we did not choose to go to Saskatchewan for enormous whitetails.

For this last trip we decided to go to Alberta for elk and mule deer. ‘We weren’t going there for the size of the animals but because of an outfitter. If you know anything about Peace River, Alberta, it is not known for its huge elk, moose or bear. But it is known for having lots of them and more importantly it is known for having Jordy McAuley. Jordy McAuley, at least in my eyes, is a world famous guide. Jordy, if you have not heard of him, runs McAuley Outfitters out of Peace River. He has been guiding for decades, from Alaska to Africa and everywhere in between. He grew up doing it. Like my family, it was and is a family tradition and a way of life. His father was a guide. And like me, Jordy understands how a father becomes a best friend and a hero. You can see Jordy eyes light up when he tells tales of his father’s experiences. Jordy’s father unfortunately was piloting a bush plane by himself when he got caught in a horrific whiteout. That whiteout snowstorm took his life and some hunting history with him. But when you hear Jordy talk about his father and the memories, Jordy’s father comes alive again. When you look into Jordy’s eyes you can still see the pain of losing his best friend at a young age. But on this day it seemed that Jordy’s father, my grandfather and many hunting buddies from the past guided us on a journey that we will not ever forget.

Our 10-day hunt started on Sept. 6. We had hunted with Jordy a couple of years earlier and were amazed at the numbers of animals. On any given day we would see 100 mule deer, 50 of which were bucks, various elk moose and bear.  But this trip was different. The Peace River area had seen a month of straight rain and was not looking to slow down. The animals seemed to be nonexistent. To be frank, we saw more animals in one day a couple of years earlier than we saw all 10 days this year. Any hunter knows, when times like this strikes, every animal counts; there is no room for
errors because you may not get another chance.

Like every other morning it was raining. Like every other morning we started off elk hunting. Like every other morning we heard nothing. Due to the weather, the elk were not cooperating. No bugling, no movement, nothing. So by 9 a.m. every day we were deer hunting. The majority of the
day consisted of covering ground and glassing for bedded bucks or bucks on the move. Due to not seeing much game, it made the trip a little more exciting. Every time we saw horns or what we thought were horns our sense of sight and smell heightened. We became a little more observant, the adrenaline rushes were a little stronger and our value of seeing hair was higher.

We covered a lot of ground that day and glassed a lot of sticks and bushes that looked like deer. Like the first few days, it was raining. At noon we sat down and had our lunch and as usual caught a little shuteye. With it not getting dark until 9 p.m. and it getting light by 5 a.m., sleep was a precious resource. But by 1 p.m. we were pounding it again. At around 2 p.m. the rain finally broke for the first time since we had been in Alberta. We were glassing an open area with a small strip of woods down the middle and suddenly my Swarovski binocular caught a rare but familiar
glimpse-horns, and a lot of them.

Anyone that has trophy hunted knows and understands the ordeal of trying to score an animal through a binocular and figuring out what it is going to score. But: this animal was one that you dropped the binocular and started planning your stalk.

The animal was bedded down about 800 yards away, upwind and along the strip of woods. Things in that aspect looked good, but the only problem was that everything was surrounded by nothing but grass. The grass was neither tall enough to walk through, nor was it tall enough to kneel
through, but we hoped that it was high enough to belly crawl through. After a three-person roundtable discussion, there was some significant doubt whether or not this could be done. But as most of us spot-and-stalk hunters know, a lot can be made of nothing. The plan was to mark the tree where he was bedded and start belly crawling. Jordy and my father stayed back on a hillside to watch the festivities.

Alberta’s soil is clay-like. When dry, it is very hard and quiet. When wet, it is very sticky, thick and noisy. Needless to say, after a month of constant rain, the soil was more like a thick soup than dirt. But I did not come all the way here to go home with dirty boots and nothing to eat. And anyway, I heard Jordy telling my dad that he was not giving me a chance in hell to get this done. As Jordy would say, “You are going to bugger the animal” as I went to start the 800-yard stalk.

Every time I planted a hand, the mud would seep in between my fingers. Every time I moved a foot in the mud, it would make a slurping, sucking noise. Every time I moved my bow another couple of feet I would see the mud building up around arrows, strings, pins, peeps and cams. Things did not look good at this point but I continued to crawl.

After an hour of crawling I finally saw trees. After I reached the trees I figured it was about 250 yards
down the tree line and the buck should be there. It is that easy, right? I slowly but surely got on my knees behind a large bush to try and make another mark on the tree we saw the deer under. I saw the tree and again started crawling After another half an hour I started to get close – close enough for me to make moves slower and more methodical.  I figured I was close enough to start looking for a good tree or brush pile to get into a shooting position.

Before nocking an arrow I decided to make sure the animal was still there and in a position for rne to shoot. As I hid behind a fallen tree I peeked my head over the top, But to my disappointment there was nothing-all the crawling for nothing. Thar cannot be! Jordy and my father would have hollered that the critter had bolted, right?

I decided to belly crawl to the other side of the strip and check if he switched sides. I had to roll underneath a log and crawl through a puddle to finally reach a bush that I could kneel behind. I got half way on my knees and my eyes picked up that rare but familiar sight again-horns, and a lot of them. But this time they were close, real close.  The animal was no more than 20 yards away, quartering away and up wind. It cant get any better than this. Though the adrenaline rush was on, I slowed the heart rate, nocked the arrow and started to draw. The buck was mine for sure.

Think again.

I noticed my arrow was caked with mud. i could not close my release on the string due to mud. My peep sight was sealed shut with mud. I could not even see my pins thanks to mud. My bow’s cam looked like a mud ball. There was no way an arrow could make any kind of forward motion out of this bow. I regrettably laid back down into the mud. I found a small stick and started working on the muddy figure that somewhere underneath was my bow. Fifteen minutes past and I figured the Mathews Icon would at least be able to advance an arrow into the air. I got to my knees again and like before, nothing I looked and looked and looked. Nothing.

Did he hear me scraping mud off my bow? Was I too close and did he smell me? Like before, I decided to crawl back to the other side of the strip again and see if he was there. I crawled back
through the puddle and started to roll underneath the log when I heard something, something that sounded like chewing. And chewing it was. and again, I saw that familiar sight- a lot of horns. The animal was eating his way down the tree line. Eating his way to 10 yards away, then 7, and then 5 then 3. The buck was getting into knifing range for Pete’s sake!

Unfortunately I was still underneath the log with my bow on my chest. I could not move or he would see me. Eventually, he noticed that this muddy log wasn’t lying there before. As I anticipated, I heard the slurp, slurp, slurp sound. But this time it was not my feet but the hoofs of the monster buck jumping away. I quickly got to my knees, nocked an arrow and as I did so the buck suddenly stopped and was looking back at the “muddy, smelly log.”  In a split second I estimated his distance at 40 yards, pulled back and launched the arrow.  As if the arrow had a guiding hand with eyes the arrow entered the chest cavity and went through the other side.

After visualizing the shot and thinking if it was a good hit or not, I heard from 800 yards away, back on a hill, “He’s down! He’s down!”  I looked back and saw my father and Jordy  moving toward me in and excited trot.  I waited for them and then proceeded to follow the blood trail for 70 yards and came upon the dead animal.

For a few minutes, not much was said.  We just huddled around the beast in amazement.  At no time during my sneak did I realize how large the animal actually was.  After seeing how big the animal actually was we realized how spectacular this event was.  My father whispering ” I am so proud of you.” broke the silence.  In my 30 years of life I cannot remember another time in my life where time stood still.  The event was not special because the animal died: it was special because I was with my father.

After the event sank in, it was evident that we were not alone, I could feel Mother Nature in all its glory mourning the fall of a king.  I could feel my grandfather, Jordy’s father and all of our past hunting influences right there standing with us, celebrating and burning the memory into our souls.  But more importantly, my father was there.  For hours the three of us took pictures and relived the story over and over.

No matter how special the killing of this animal was, the event is outweighed by the time I got to spend with my father one more time.  As always, the greatest gift I have ever and will ever receive in my life is the gift of the outdoors, a gift that turned into my spiritual retreat.  And thanks to my dad I received that gift at a young age.  My father taught all of us that the important things in this life are not money or material things.  Instead, it is your children and how you make a difference in their live. Thanks Dad. <—<<

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Published by archerchick on 22 Feb 2010

12 FEET UP – By Rob Evans

12 FEET UP – By Rob Evans
April 2005

After 32 record-book bucks, this Minnesota bowhunter doesn’t see any disadvantages of low treestand perches.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

My hunting partner had told me that my perch for the day would be a mere 12 feet above the floor, so I was pretty certain that I could keep my dramatic fear of heights at bay. I climbed up the tree at “0 to dark-30,” and waited for the sun to wake up.

As the darkness began to slip away, I looked below me and found that while one part of the tree was only 12 feet high, the stand that I was sitting in was over a ravine. There I sat, staring at an abyss that was no less than 80 feet below. My job, my partner told me, was to simply shoot across a narrow ravine to a well-use trail. All I could do was fight off a panic attack. Sweat Poured out, I was shaking, and my fingernails were blood red as I hugged the tree down to safety. We came back later, and my friend retrieved my bow and other gear as I sat firmly planted below.

I won’t lie, my hunting style was born due to my fear of heights, but I’ve learned that there is no reason a person needs to sit 20-plus feet high as many trophy hunters claim. In fact, I can sit and look at some 32 record-book bucks mounted in my home that prove my point. I don’t unveil my buck kills to boast, but rather to prove that there is no shame in hunting low.

I’ve taken my fair share of ribbings from my &quot;expert&quot; buddy trophy hunters. But the fact is, while in the Army, I learned to improvise, and that’s just what I find myself doing by hunting low exclusively out of ladder stands.

Precautions Are Needed
First off, I don’t believe that hunting low always that deer will be able to scent a person. In the morning and evening when hunting, when hunting is often best, many time the wind is often low. With that in mind, if I’m sitting at 12 feet and whatever scent that exists might disburse similar to a cone, like sonar. Say my scent goes down and out from the tree at ground level out about 8 feet. Well I better make sure that the shots I need to make are 20 yards or better from my stand so that the bucks just won’t nail me. If a person is 20 feet or higher, their scent has a longer time to expand before it hits the ground, meaning that a buck has more scent surface area in which to detect you.

As with any hunting situation, I am almost overly cautious with the way I enter and leave my stand. At no time am I going to sit a stand if I have walked an area where my scent could blow into a buck’s lair. Further I often have two stands setups for hunting-one spot so that I can manipulate the wind in a matter that will keep my scent safely away from the deer.

My de-scenting preparation is extreme. Wildlife Research offers plenty of elixirs that not only mask, but also kill unfriendly odors. A Scent Lok suit is all the additional insurance needed to keep scent bottled up.

I also de-scent all my equipment- from my bow to my ladder stand. As I set up, I’m wearing rubber gloves, and I douse my equipment with spray. Once I set up my ladder, as I descend the the stand, I soak every rung of the ladder with spray so it is literally dripping when I’m at ground level. When I come back to hunt the spot, the stand and all around it is void of any impure smells.

One buck, shot in Minnesota back in 2002, was taken not more than 10 to 12 feet above the ground. I was hunting a small 1/2 -acre wood lot off of a picked corn field and slough. The spot was small, so most hunters would think with it being in the open that a person would have to get really high to evade a buck’s glance.

I found a low cedar tree off a fence row that was perfect, but not very tall. I passed up several nice bucks in the couple of times I hunted, having and eye on a nice 150-class eight-pointer. Having no luck, I laid a scent trail from the slough from a hot area I had located about 60 yards from my stand. I put just a drop of scent from the hot area all the way to my stand and just past. I never put too much scent down, just enough to spark curiosity. In this case, we were talking about and early December hunt, so the bucks were by no means in peak rut.

After laying the trail a few hours later a 187- inch 12- pointer walked right where he needed to be. He returned to his slough about 60 yards away and fell over dead.

Aren’t Ladders Cumbersome?
A friend of mine who was sold on portable hang-ons and tree steps once bet me that he could get set up much quicker than I could. The bet was that we had to set up the stand, fire an arrow, and return to the truck. He had 12 tree steps and a hang-on; I had my ladder stand. We both set up and I was back at the truck sipping on a glass of port I had in my backpack. He never gave me the business again about my ladder stand and it’s cumbersome qualities.

Customize Your Stand
When I hunt, I do it with intelligence about the area I plan to use. I scout during, before and after the season so that when I need to set up I’m in and out quickly. For the early season, I set up by midsummer and have everything ready to go for an opening weekend hunt. For the pre-rut and rut, I will have a stand ready in the general area that basic hunting principles show: funnels, bedding areas and food sources. The same goes for late-season hunts; you need to have some stands set, but I always carry extra in case I need to improvise.

When I set up a ladder stand, I always try to do it in a cedar or pine tree. For one, they offer added scent blocking, And two, they offer good cover. I try to never cut any branches from the tree I’m hunting in, but instead, tie off limbs to my stand for an ad-hoc blind around me. I carry some twine and a large bolt with me. When a limb is in the way, but too high for me to reach, I tie the twine to the bolt and toss the bolt up above the limb. Then I pull the limb down and tie it to the the rungs of the ladder. I can make a blind in this fashion in just a few minutes and literally envelope myself in a cocoon of limbs that no whitetail will see through.

I’ve had big bucks bed right below me, and even have had them scratch their backs on the ladder itself. If you do things right, with regard to scent control and camouflaging the stand there is no better cover out there.

Subtle Tips
Often times guys tell me that they set up stands high so they can get away with more movement on the stand. To that I say, if you are comfortable in the stand, you don’t need to be shifting around and stretching every few minutes. I’m 60 years old now and I like to be comfortable and safe when I hunt. A nice ladder is easier to climb, has a big platform and a comfortable seat that many smaller portables don’t offer. You have to be in the woods to shoot a deer, and ladder stands just make the hunt more enjoyable. To further the ladder’s benefits, I have often used individual sections of them to carry/drag game out of the woods.

Beyond Strategy, Luck Plays a Factor
Beyond the tools a person chooses to use in their pursuit for big bucks, I want people to know that I don’t think of myself as the most skilled hunter in the world. I’m lucky. And luck plays 75 percent of the game. Sure, a person needs to hunt using sound strategy, and they need to play the wind; they need to hunt smart. But the bottom line is that a person needs some luck to take large bucks, and for that matter, they need to hunt in an area that has large bucks.

Each person may have their own standards for what they call a trophy animal. But I think that when they pursue that animal, they can do it from the 5- to 12 – foot range just as I have and be just as successful as the cowboys out there who claim there noses need to bleed from their stand.

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