Archive for the 'Hunting Stories' Category

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Published by djohns13 on 07 Apr 2008

Two for two times two

A perfect fall 2006 morning saw me out with my nephew for a whitetail hunt.  My nephew, Jake, is an accomplished bowhunter who has harvested several deer and whom I feel safe and confident being in the woods with.  It appeared to be a great morning to be out and I was nervous with anticipation.  As the morning wore on, however, my anticipation turned to frustration as the woods seemed completely dead.  Not even the pesky squirrels were out and about.  Late in the morning, I decided to give Jake a call to set up a deer drive on the other end of the property.  Just as I was ready to dial his number, I saw two deer moving toward Jake’s stand.  Within seconds I heard the release of a bowstring and the sounds of chaos as the two deer bolted.  One headed directly toward me and got within about forty yards before slowing down.  Its beautiful head started to droop before it collapsed on the forest floor.  In a matter of seconds, a frustrating hunt had turned fruitful as my nephew had collected the first doe of the season.  To make things even better, Jake’s wife Janna was within days of delivering their firstborn, a beautiful baby girl who would be named Annie.  A freezer stocked with deer meat would do their young family a world of good.

The second doe had headed off a different direction but was circling back toward Jake’s doe.  Slowly it edged up to the doe and sniffed the arrow entry wound.  Then she raised her leg and kicked the dead doe three times as if trying to wake her up.  Seeing that the doe wasn’t going to move, the second doe began wandering away but closer to my location.  Within moments she was standing quartering away in an open shooting lane thirty two yards away.  My aim and release felt perfect but I heard a loud thud as the arrow sped toward the target.  My heart sunk as I thought I must have hit a previously undetected tree limb in mid-flight.  At the sound, the doe bolted away from me eliminating any ability to get a second shot.  As I watched her I noticed that her tail was held straight down rather than flagging alarm and I began to wonder if I had hit her after all.    In a few seconds I was astonished to see her go down, only about twenty five yards from the point of impact.  My legs got weak as I began to realize that my apparent miss was indeed dead on the mark and two freezers were going to be stocked with tender nutritious doe meat.

Fast forward to pre-rut 2007, and the deer hunting had been hard and frustrating.  The weather had been very uncooperative and EHD had thinned the herd earlier in the fall.  I had done my tree time and had enjoyed it for the most part but had yet to take a shot.  In fact, I had yet to see a buck of any time when I had a bow in my hand.

It was well before dawn when Jake and I slipped into our stands.  Jake was in a permanent stand that had been a proven performer over the past several years.  I had recently changed my stand location as the old location had seen next to no activity due to the drought.  I had little idea how the new location would pan out, but I knew the change was overdue and the activity raised my hopes.

As dawn arrrived, the chill of the morning was attacking me with full force.  Toes, ears and fingers were beginning to protest their suffering when I heard movement behind me.  Turning slowly I saw a yearling doe making her way within 5 yards of my tree.  Given the lack of results my season had seen so far, I was thinking about harvesting her when I noticed that she kept looking back over her shoulder.  Hoping she was looking for a trailing buck I let her go and she slowly moved on toward Jake’s stand.  Within seconds, more noise caught my attention and I turned to see a respectable eight pointer headed my way fast along the doe’s trail.  Knowing he was on a mission and wouldn’t slow down on his own, I doe called him but he didn’t notice.  As he ran practically right under my stand, I called again, this time much louder.  Again, he made no notice of me.  Knowing he would be out of range in mere seconds, I stood up and yelled “Stop”!  He slammed on the brakes and looked around trying to identify the sound.  As I swung the bow around to take aim, he headed off again in the direction of his potential mate.  I watched him disappear into the brush as I kicked myself for not doing more to stop him sooner.  A few minutes later the cell phone rang and Jake excitedly told me that he had just taken the eight pointer, his biggest to date.  He told me that we was actually ready to take the shot on the yearling doe when the buck caught up to her and he was able to swing around and take a good shot on the buck.  Less than fifty yards later the buck piled up and Jake’s season had taken a dramatic upward turn.

I was very excited for Jake and was happy that he had connected with the biggest so far, but was also letting myself get downhearted about my season.  I love being in the woods for any reason but not seeing many deer in my honey hole was taking its toll.  I continued survey the woods around when I noticed movement behind some trees to my right.  Slowly I figured out that is was an ear flipping and out walked one of the biggest does I have ever seen.  Her body looked every bit as big as the eight pointer and her long nose and sagging belly gave her away as one of the matriarchs of the woods.  She was slowly moving along the same path as the earlier deer had and would surely pass within feet of my tree.  My plan was to wait until she passed me and then stand to try to take a quartering away shot.  It seemed perfect until she saw my breath 18 feet up in the air!  I was shocked as she started stomping and blowing, alerting the entire woods to the trespasser in the tree.  Helplessly I sat as she passed the alert on throughout the woods.  If only I could have held my breath!  Finally she had seen enough and turned to trot away.  As she did, I stood and raised my bow in hopes of getting the shot.  About thirty yards away, she slowed down and turned to look back at me.  Luckily I was ready and the shot was true,  She bolted through the brush and ran approximately one hundreds yards, dead away from where my vehicle was parked, before going down.  As I sat back down, the reality of both of us scoring on the same day in the same woods two years in a row begin to sink in. 

As it turned out, Jake’s buck ran away from the vehicle as well but after a long, hard drag back to the truck we were both still giddy.  It turns out that my doe was at least five and a half years old and field dressed at 170 pounds.  A perfect deer to take from the herd.

The rest of the season turned out to be as frustrating as the first part except for me seeing the deer of my dreams in the final week of the season.  He was big bodied with a rack that was wide, massive and had too many points to count in our short meeting.  I will spend all of the off-season trying to get to know him better and on opening day I will be in a tree along one of his travel routes with my nephew Jake in another tree close by.  You can bet the farm on it.

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Published by Kelly Johnson on 03 Apr 2008

Illinois, a big buck, bad luck and a head wound. A story.

I once lived in Illinois for a short time and was so excited to get to hunt as a resident I could hardly contain myself. The Bowhunting angels were on my side THIS year.

I was lucky enough to get into Allerton Park. 2200 acres of wooded heaven that was gifted to the U of I 50 years ago and hadn’t been hunted until the prior year after 3 joggers were chased by swollen necked Casanovas looking for love in all the wrong places and one guy getting gang raped by a pack of rutting whitetails who thought his biking hot pants were indeed, very hot.

So I draw Oct 24-30th and I’m giddy as a schoolgirl getting ready for prom.

I have the spot, I have the gear, I have all my ducks in a row and this is going to be my season to smoke a P&Y world class Mega Buck. I’d seen pictures from the previous season and no less than a dozen deer over 160 were taken and 1 a beauty 16 point that scored 198 and change…I tinkled on the floor.

Oct 23 I started feeling a little sick-ish but ignored it completely. The weather was bad. Cold, rained like crazy the 22nd and 23rd and turned to ice that night. EVERYTHING had ½” sheath of ice.

Morning of I can’t remove the smile with a hammer even though I aint in the best shape. I have some serious lower bowel issues and my stomach is a turning inside out pretty regularly but I only have a week and by God I’m getting to the dream land.

I head out at a million O’clock and it’s slick. Real slick. The roads are evil even for a Michigander and there are more cars in the ditch than on the road. I spent 100% of the 35 minute trip (turned to an hour) in 4wd and 40% on the shoulder or in someone’s yard. Mostly backwards or sideways. The ice had claimed everything.

I get to my spot and park, climber, bow, headlamp, safety harness….check check check let’s get it on.

My climber is scaring me on the way up. Everything is iced like a glazed doughnut and I’m feeling increasingly like I may yak…I can shoot first and yak later.

I get to the top and get settle in to wait for dawn. Than I throw up.

I can hang. It passes and the sun starts to crawl over the ridge. I see some movement and grab the Binos….un-freakin believable. He’s a mainframe 10 that’s far and away the biggest deer I’ve ever seen in the woods. He gets to about 40 yards and my nausea returns. My mouth starts to water and swallow it away trying to wait for him to come into range.

30 yards…vitals behind a tree and one step and he’s as good as above the fireplace with a great story of fighting through the elements and sickness to trick this wary wizened monster buck to falling to my incredible hunting prowess….than I yak. It nearly hit him.
I feel like crying but can’t because I just hurled every bit of moisture left in my body but I sure as hell need to get out of here because this AINT workin’ today. I’ve blown it in the first hour of the first day.

I lower my gear and start the descent. As I sit down for a second about 4 feet into my declination to hurl again I see it as if it’s in slow motion….the bottom of my climber doesn’t quite catch…hanging in mid air by the strap that’s not knotted tight enough….it slips….and crashes to the base of the tree taking the express lane due to the 6” of ice covering every damn thing in this God forsaken woods.

I breathe deep…No problem. I’ll just bear hug the tree and slide down. Grip it real tight and nice and easy down to the bottom. I get all set and have a ferocious grip and look up at the seat of my climber…how the hell am I going to get it down?

Ahh…I’ll give it a little nudge and it’ll follow me.

I land at the base of the tree in .003 seconds and somewhere along the trip I’ve crapped my pants. I land on my butt so hard it knocks my wind out and I see stars…than I’m walloped in the head with the climber and don’t remember anything for a little while.

I wake up and my left eye glued shut in frozen blood. I’m bleeding, puking and I have soiled boxers and feeling pretty poorly at this minute. I sit up and the blood flows freely from my head.

I look around to try to get my bearings to the nearest road and quickest route to my truck and there stands that buck. Not 20 yards out just staring at me.

I swear to God I’ve never seen a deer smile before or after but this one did.

I make a snowball and whip it at his head.

I leave everything and make my way to the road…I’m relieved when I hear a car coming as I’m leaving a copious bloodtrail and I’m not sure how bad the gash on my cranium is.

The car comes around the corner and I see it’s a woman in her 50’s or so alone. I wave and our eyes meet…than she crashes off into the ditch and into a stand of young trees. I go over to help just as she throws it in reverse and backs out doing a 180 that would make Bow and Luke Duke envious…apparently I look pretty rough and she’s not taking any chances with a bloody guy in camo staggering out of the wood in the middle of nowhere.

I take the road back toward my truck and have fashioned a makeshift bandage from my knit hat…the bleeding has subsided somewhat but I’m feeling pretty weak, tired and I smell like poop. Than I yak again.

½ a mile left to get to my truck and the DNR rolls by and stops to give me a lift. He’s very concerned for me but I see the wound has almost stopped bleeding now. It looks like the top half of an egg is glued under my skin with an angry jagged red slash across the top. He kinda chuckles as he drops me off and tells me he’ll go get my gear for me. Than I yak again.

He returns my gear and makes sure I feel ok to drive and as he’s about to leave I can tell he’s trying to find words but struggling…than he asks, “ I know you’re having a hard day but I have to ask…did you **** in my truck?”

I went home and went back to bed still dreaming of that buck.

13 votes, average: 3.69 out of 513 votes, average: 3.69 out of 513 votes, average: 3.69 out of 513 votes, average: 3.69 out of 513 votes, average: 3.69 out of 5 (13 votes, average: 3.69 out of 5)
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Published by Kelly Johnson on 03 Apr 2008

Why you shouldn’t shoot a skunk

Back yard of Detroit Suburbia.
Life is good, kids asleep, neighbors over for a cocktail and little suburban backyard fire pit.

All is right with the world.

And here he comes.

Everyone’s a little buzzed. Guy from 3 doors down says ” Dude…$20 says ya can’t tag the stink kitty with the Rytera.”

Are you freakin’ kidding me?

Never, and I mean NEVER challenge Kelly after Jimmy’s been visiting.

Stealth mode to the garage, 3 boys behind me giggling like school girls.

Locked and loaded and around the back. Girls are smarter….they go next door.

He’s in the neigbors yard now but he’s with me. Kenny? Clear for takeoff?
“Take um”

Judo does a number even in the darkness we can tell…but lil evil aint done.

Reverse…..right back to us spraying his love juice all the way.

Dog? Direct hit.
Fence? Covered.

The juice is like olfactory napalm. Nauseating.

The girls are moving down a house yelling already, not 90 seconds into it.

He’s done. The aftermath is excruciating. No one is laughing anymore. Even the crickets have silenced in awe at our stupidity.

Kenny says ” I’ll grab your arrow, my stupid idea”

It’s still in him. He grabs the shaft and the skunk returns from the dead dangling from the shaft and sprays him dead in the chest.

And me, and the other 2 jackals who thought “aint my yard”

It’s an hour old and my neighbors have wisely fled to their own spousley punishment…not near the ferocity of mine.

My kids are awake. They ALL are.4 doors down I can hear yelling conversations only making out words like “school night” and “Motel” and “jackass”

So I sit in my garage, where I’ll be sleeping tonight, with my laptop and a clothes pin on my nose. Here to warn others of my foolishness.

Don’t shoot it unless it’s far away and you never, ever plan on using that arrow again.

*** Under no circumstances does the author condone drinking Jack Daniels or Jim Beam with a Bow and Arrow chaser. The above is a work of pure fiction…well most of it…ok, some of it….

5 votes, average: 2.80 out of 55 votes, average: 2.80 out of 55 votes, average: 2.80 out of 55 votes, average: 2.80 out of 55 votes, average: 2.80 out of 5 (5 votes, average: 2.80 out of 5)
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Published by wyojon137 on 31 Mar 2008

Five Days Hunting The Ghost

I put in my time that is for sure. I had applied for an X zone tag in Northern California for 6 straight years. Each year looking at maps and planning a trip that would be unique when compared to other hunt trips. Not that I would be farther out in the wilderness or physically challenged more so than in other years. But a trip that would put my bow hunting skills to an ultimate challenge, a spot and stalk hunt in the Northern California Wilderness. I have hunted here before and the deer seem to be a whole lot more educated that anywhere I have ever hunted. Mainly Blacktails with a few Mule Deer that migrate from Nevada, they are simply ghosts of the early morning, seldom seen and never heard.

So it started in the summer of 2007 when my X zone tag appeared in my mail. I was so excited I darn near started packing my truck in June. The hunt in October I began again doing my research in the hundreds of dollars of topo maps I have acquired of the area over the years. I called my Dad who lives near the hunt area, and asked him to do some scouting in the areas that I liked on my maps food, shelter and water, where you find that you will find deer just a matter of time.

Finally after a few agonizing months wait, one scouting trip the month before and a truck full of supplies, I was on my way. I met up with my father, my long time hunting partner and best friend, at his home 2 days before season. We threw together our pack and headed for the mountains. The night before opener I cold front blew in and dumped a foot and a half of snow on our base camp. I was quite pleased as I knew there would be deer up and feeding now that the storm had blown over. What I was not pleased about was how many people I saw, we had done our scouting but never took into account what prime location this was. After running into two other camps I decided to go over to the next side of the mountain, there was still good feed and with all the activity on this side the deer were likely to be headed over there.

I spent the first three mornings glassing a ridge line of oaks about 4 miles from camp that had seen quite a bit of activity in the last few days. I was seeing lots of deer, but that is just it, the ghost I was looking for was still absent. I spent the fourth day hunting near camp as there had been a large herd pushed through there by nearby hunting pressure. Again I never saw anything worth taking none of these deer were mature.

The deer I was looking for I found in September while I was scouting. A respectable four by four that had been the biggest one I saw in 3 days of scouting. He appeared as a ghost in the mist of the early morning and just as soon as hear showed his majesty, he was gone. Really I was getting discouraged. I had only planned 5 days of hunting, I have a job to get back to and I was right in the middle of my busy season. It seemed that all hope was lost. I could have taken a number of younger bucks, but I could do that back home. It was mid day when I decided to pack me a day pack with a tent and all my supplies and head on a hike to were I figured my deer might have went. I trekked out and headed northeast 9 miles, it was now or never. I finally made camp about 11:30 and set down for a good old dehydrated dinner. I had decided that I would shoot the first legal buck that I could with the short amount of time I had left.

I woke about an hour before dawn, had a bit to eat and slowly made my way to a ridge to glass that I had found on my map. What I found that morning was absolutely amazing; it was literally a deer haven. No one had made it out this far to hunt and just a mile east was all private. I had hit the jackpot, my deer had to be here somewhere, food water and shelter, it was just a matter of time. I slowly went from vantage point to vantage point and spent time glassing. By about 9 AM I found him. I would recognize this deer anywhere, the ghost, he deliberately and carefully made his way from mighty oak to mighty oak browsing on falls bounty of acorns, me in toe just a few hundred yards away, I watched as he wisely chose a bedding location to lay down for the day and that is when I made my move.

I went South around him and headed up the next ridge to position above him for a kill. Anyone that has hunted spot and stalk in the mountains knows just how far a few hundred yards really is. Two hours passed as I got behind him and above him. I pulled out my range finder and he was 250 yards still, I was hunting with my trusty Pearson recurve so I knew I needed to be less than thirty yards to kill, and that was pushing it. I spotted a rock outcropping that sat just above and to his right that would be perfect. The next 2 1/2 hours were the longest most agonizing of my life. I couldn’t move to fast or the ghost would pick me off and head out. I couldn’t move to slow because he would be getting up to feed or water soon. Every sound I made hurt, I wanted this deer bad enough that my patients was being tested to the max. I slowly made my way down the ridge, 100 yards to go. I took off my boot and threw on some extra sock. I painted my face, rolled down my sleeves and was ready to make a stalk on the ghost.

I slipped though the grass sticks and acorns undetected and at a snails pace. I closed the distance to 50 yards in no time, my heart started to beat a little faster, my breathing was quickened. I steadily made my way towards the rock, stopping every time he would twitch his ear or turn his head. I got to the rocks, my heart was uncontrollable, I leaned around them to get a range and he was 23 yards, close enough I thought, “Don’t mess this up it is your only chance.” I leaned out around the rocks once more I had a good broadside shot on the ghost that was still bedded down, I grabbed my bowstring drew to a solid anchor and let my arrow do it’s work, the 125 Magnus on the end did what it was supposed to, the buck ran 30 yards and piled up. I had done it, and now my heart and breathing was more out of control that it was before, I fell/sat down on the ground and let the adrenaline rush through me. The ghost was dead, the hunt was over, and the only thing left was the real work ahead of packing him out. But no bother, I would gladly pack him out again, guess it will just have to wait till next season.

4 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 54 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 3.50 out of 5)
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Published by Jeffress77 on 30 Mar 2008

How did you learn about scrapes? – An informative look into the detail regarding whitetail scrapes –

Growing up as a young hunter at the local shop or the 3D range, I would always hear other hunters chatting about rubs, scrapes, shed antlers, funnels, staging areas, and many other terms used about whitetail hunting in the Midwest.   Did I always know what the old guys were talking about?  That can be answered with a very quick “No.”  Now that whitetail hunting has become a passion and obsession that can only be understood by those men and women who also have my affliction, I can look back into my learning experiences to see exactly how and why I have learned so much.

Unlike many of the fine, budding youth hunters on the planet, I didn’t have a mentor.  My father worked hard to take care of my family.  With a newly handicapped mother, my dad found himself working just as hard at home as he did for a paycheck.  Hunting wasn’t a priority in his life.  My only living grandfather wasn’t healthy enough to take me out to the woods in the winter months.  Shooting sports and hunting, in general, were introduced by my uncle whose own family convictions kept him out of the woods for years upon end.  Hunting had no longer become a priority on his end of the line either. 

Although my first two or three outings into the whitetail woods were nothing to be excited about with single digit temperatures, double digit wind speeds, and heavy snowfall on public ground that hadn’t ever been seen by any of the four eyes of my uncle or myself, I was hooked.  The thought that a majestic creature like a deer may actually be that close to me, was more than I could bear.  I never set eyes on live deer that season, but I had to have more of that feeling.  After that, for years, I was forced to learn on my own.  I made my way into the thick brush and the outskirts of the Indiana croplands as often as I could during the season, paying no attention to wind direction, deer sign, or even getting off of the ground.  

Ten years later, hundreds of deer observed, and tons of blown opportunities behind me, I have developed a better understanding of what it takes to be successful “almost” every time that magical fall season starts approaching.  Continuous scouting for the season may just be the single most important tool in a whitetail hunter’s repertoire. 

When I look back to the days that words like scrapes, rubs, and funnels made as much sense as an Indian restaurant menu, I can laugh a little.  With a little more knowledge into the biology, and sexual tendencies of a whitetail deer, your hunting skills can be honed into what you always wanted them to be.  Trying to figure out why, when and where whitetail bucks and does make scrapes will only help in getting that buck you dream about.

Deer utilize a scrape, which is basically a pawing motion on the ground in conjunction with their scent glands and urinary/solid waste, to create a sexual or territorial marking for communication with other deer.  Deer use mainly five different glands to communicate with the other deer.  The pre-orbital (around the eyes), and tarsal glands (inside the hind legs) are familiar to most hunters, but whitetail bucks and does alike utilize the interdigital glands (between the hoof toes), forehead glands, and metatarsal glands (below the tarsal glands).  These scent glands leave a blueprint, unique to each deer, which may arouse curiosity, stimulation, or anger instincts to other deer in a scrape or on surrounding flora.

In the past 20 or so years creating your own scrape or continuing the curiosity or sexual impulses of an existing scrape has become a valuable addition in the hunter’s bag of tricks.  This is a fairly easy way of patterning deer, not only during the pre-rut, but all season. You can actually treat scrapes all year long during the pre/post rut periods by using “non-sexual” scents. By this I mean non-estrus urines or ammonia-based synthetics that are available on the growing scent market.

Sexual scents are present during stages of the rut, but not as effective any other time of the year. Using estrus urine in June or February is going to confuse the deer and possibly provide a means of avoidance in that area. If you are nearing the rut within two-three weeks (second week in October here in the Midwest), it would help to use a buck urine/dominant buck urine/tarsal gland/doe urine combination.  Providing a pre-orbital scent or an overhanging licking branch positioned lower (for use by does) and possibly one higher (for use by dominant bucks) are necessary additions to a good scrape. The buck urine provides a territorial scent, keeping the other bucks interested in who is visiting the same scrape that he is. The tarsal gland scent is another territorial scrape scent on which bucks will urinate in the scrapes to provide another point of territory and communication.  Female deer also often frequent scrapes to leave their urine, pre-orbital, metatarsal, and interdigital scent also. The licking branches are rubbed, licked, and nibbled to provide pre-orbital and forehead gland scent deposit as well.

During the rut, including the week before and possibly a few weeks after the final stages (of the first rut) is a good time to introduce estrus doe urine into the scrape. This will trigger the highly sexual interests of the bucks. The tarsal/urine buck scents from other deer will also trigger an intense anger towards another deer, possibly having the buck wondering “Who is coming here on my turf? Who is trying to get my females?”

Often, making these scrapes early in the season will allow for the deer to tend to the scrapes themselves. If one or two deer are interested in the scrape early on, they will tend to the scrape and leave their REAL scents in the FAKE scrape. Now your original FAKE scrape has become an ACTIVE scrape, the deer are using it regularly, and you may not need to tend to it again.

Since deer also often defecate in or around their scrapes, one technique that Michigan hunters Greg and Fred Abbas of A-Way Outdoors use with their scrapes is to put droppings from another buck in a different hunting area in their mock scrapes. Fred Abbas harvested a nice buck from a different part of the county, but also harvested his droppings and dirt from the scrapes in that area. Fred utilized the distant buck’s scents to make his own success in another area.

Use trail cameras or other forms of monitoring to observe your scrapes.  See what works and what doesn’t for your area. Try these great scent tactics this year, and make sure you use good scent-free methods of treating/making the scrapes. Use rubber boots, possibly gloves, and stay on the outside of the scrapes and never step too close. Maybe, just maybe, you will be able to baffle a kid at the local shop just I like used to be baffled when the good hunters started talking about their scrape success!

2 votes, average: 3.00 out of 52 votes, average: 3.00 out of 52 votes, average: 3.00 out of 52 votes, average: 3.00 out of 52 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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Published by keep on 28 Mar 2008

A Bowhunter’s Obligation

The morning starts to break, cool, crisp and new. Like all of us he sits in the stand waiting, listening. Then a snap of a twig and leaves shuffling, the adrenaline rush, then quiet again. Hours pass with nothing but hope, soon that hope passes as well.  It’s late morning and he starts looking forward to the next day because now it is time to get home and go about the business of taking care of life.

Meanwhile, his son/ daughter has gotten out of bed and started their normal day. A quick breakfast, little to no interaction with the rest of the family then rush off to their room to have a fun filled weekend watching TV or staying on the computer being taught values by someone other than their parent. Values we wouldn’t want them to have, nor would we approve of them. Values like animal rights, anti-hunting or worse.

Everything the father holds dear, the cool crisp mornings, ever-lasting friendships, the adrenaline rush, the enjoyment of an unsuccessful hunt and the exuberance of a successful hunt, will now be in jeopardy in the future. Not bringing the child into the fold may not create an anti-hunter, although it could, it will create an indifferent non-hunter. By not taking time to include him/her on the hunt mentioned at the beginning of the story will force the boy/ girl to get their enjoyment, knowledege and adrenaline rush else where.

I believe bowhunters are obligated to introduce this great sport to new non-hunters, especially kids, as they are our future. Although no deer were harvested in the hunt, valuable time was lost, time to teach, teach about nature, animal  movements, and just time spent together.  If we were to each make a commitment to get one new person involved per year we would increase our numbers greatly and the fear of our sport being legislated away would be all but gone within a decade.

I never thought it would be possible that I could ever watch someone else hunt and be more happy over their success than any I have had in the past, but it happened. I took my daughter on her first hunt which happened to be a bowhunt. She has been with me as I hunted for at least half the season every year since she was four, just learning and talking to each other. Now she is nine and she still has much to learn but that one weekend she took huge strides. As for me, to be there the first time she drew on and animal and let down because it was turned wrong, then again because another animal was behind it was an emotional roller coaster not only on me but her as well. Finally, it all came together and she pulled off a great shot and she had her first animal. If I could explain, and I can’t, the excitement, jubilation and squeals in the blind, I would tell you those noises would be etched in you mind forever as they are mine. I would also tell you that with all my love of bowhunting I would set the bow down and not pick it up again as long as I could sit next to her when she hunts. Yes, it’s that rewarding getting a kid involved.

The whole hunt I just described was an accumulation of getting a kid involved. I wasn’t the guy sitting in the tree by himself, I had her with me. She was with me when we spooked animals and when we both sat there coloring in coloring books. She was with me when she had complete melt downs in the blind because she fell asleep and got a crick in her neck and when she learned that the moisture in your breath will stick to the top of the blind when its cold and create a single snowflake that will fall every few minutes. She was with me at five when I had shot my biggest deer to date and with me when we met my wife to track her first deer she ever shot. She has turned into a great tracker and is heading to be a great hunter. In turn I got to be with her on her first hunt.

As I said before, it is our obligation to get the kids involved in order to sustain this sport we love. The rewards will be better that you could imagine, not monetary, but memories. After all that, the one thing I can say to you, my bowhunting brothers and sisters, is that you will not have to worry about my daughter being anti-hunting, she is and will remain one of us because I got a kid involved. I ask that you do the same and help our future.

The morning starts to break, cool, crisp and new. Like all of us he sits in the stand waiting, listening. Then the snap of a twig and the leaves shuffling, the adrenaline rush, then quiet again. He looks at her and says “did you hear that?”. She questions back “yea, what was that?”………………………………

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Published by slbeasley on 23 Mar 2008


 Hunting Over Waterholes For Elk May Be Your Best Bet

By Stacy Beasley  

elk drinking     Bob Brown is new to bow hunting. In fact, prior to the 2003 season he had only a year’s worth of archery experience under his newly purchased camouflage. In that year he was able to tag a turkey – at 40 yards, his only game with a bow. From that point forward, Bob began to dream of bigger and better pursuits. His dream led him and two friends, Jody Baugh and Scott Trent, to northeastern New Mexico to Milligan Brand Outfitters for the opening morning of the 2003 New Mexico elk season. Little did Bob know, his winning hand was about to be dealt.

      On the first morning of the hunt, Bob quietly made his way to his stand overlooking one of Milligan’s waterholes. When he got within a stone’s throw of the waterhole he heard a lot of splashing and commotion. “I did not know if it was a bear or an elk.” Bob approached the waterhole cautiously. Every time the animal splashed Bob would move. With the wind in his face and the sun sneaking up behind, he quietly crawled up the dam. Suddenly the splashing stopped. At the top, Bob carefully peeked into the waterhole. “Whatever was making the commotion was gone,” said Bob, he climbed into his stand and waited for his shot at a waterhole wapiti. By noon Bob was headed back to camp. He told his story to his guide. The guide was certain that what Bob had heard that morning was a bull elk and that he would be back for an evening drink. Now it was up to Bob to play his cards right. By 2:30 p.m. he was back on the same stand. Soon he spotted several elk in a meadow to his left. He pulled out his Hoochie Mama cow call, squeezed it, and a bull raised its head. “The call got his attention and made him very curious.” Bob watched as the curious bull approached the waterhole. “He looked around for the cow, then decided to take a drink.” The bull spread his front legs, lowered his head and went down for a drink. Just before his lips touched the water, he raised his head. Again he went down for a drink, and again he raised his head. On third time he lowered his head, he began to suck in the muddy water. “That is when I drew back my 165 pound Martin Prowler,” smiled Bob. “Actually its only 65 pounds, but it sure felt like 165 pounds when a magnificent animal like that is only yards from you.” Bob lightly touched the release trigger, and then a smile lit up his face when he saw the arrow hits its mark. The following morning Bob was able to wrap his tag around the antler of his first waterhole wapiti.

     Ray Milligan, owner and operator of Milligan Brand has taken over twenty bulls at waterholes and has been outfitting elk hunters for over fifteen years. When it comes to hunting elk over water he knows his stuff. He is confident that water can be the elk hunter’s ace in the hole, if he/she plays by the rules.

 Rule #1: Find a Prime Location

“Don’t try to hunt over waterholes that are near rivers, streams, and lakes,” advises Milligan. “Rather look for waterholes in arid areas with an abundant food source, especially acorns, and heavy cover. If the hunter is not able to hunt arid places but only higher elevations they should hunt springs as a main water source. Look for springs on the east and north faces of the mountains because these areas are cooler and are prime bedding locations.”

      “Elk need a minimum of 10 gallons of water in them at all times. A hunter can bet on an elk visiting a water source at least twice a day,” says Ray. “They are more likely to drink just before bedding or after they get up from their beds.” If Ray had to choose to hunt elk over waterholes in the morning or evening, he would choose an evening hunt. “Hunting over waterholes in the evening is three times better because the elk seem to come to waterholes more often in the evening.” 

Rule #2: Make a Good Set Up

     Hunting elk over water is best done in a tree stand. All of Milligan’s stands our set between 12 and 15 feet. “Any higher than that and the hunter can expect less penetration especially if shooting an expandable broadhead,” says Ray. When hunting elk over water the bowhunter must pay attention to the sun and wind thermals.

     The sun can be your worst enemy, so use it to your advantage. Ray says, “Never set your stand over a waterhole with the sun in your face. If it reflects off your clothes, skin, or your bow, it will give your position away. Also, if the sun is shining in your face, it will hinder you from seeing an approaching elk in time for you to get ready for the shot. Always set your stand with the sun at your back.”

The most common mistake that the flatland deer hunter makes when hunting mountainous areas is in not knowing about the thermals and how to use them to their advantage. Thermals are simply air currents that rise and fall with the temperatures. Troy Peterson, avid elk hunter and owner of Conejos Cabins in Antonito, Colorado, testifies that wind thermals may be the number one reason why most bow hunters fail to connect with an elk. “The wind may be in your favor one moment and your worst enemy the next,” claims Peterson. The flatlander needs to know the thermal rule of thumb: In the morning western air currents are usually calm until the sun rises over the mountains and warms the air. As the temperature rises, expect the air current to rise. In the evening as the temperature drops, the air currents generally flow downward.

     Therefore, when hunting elk over a waterhole in the evening it would be wise, says Ray, to place your stand on the drainage side of the waterhole so that the thermals will pull your scent down the drainage and away from an approaching elk.

Rule #3: Know When to Shoot

     Elk will approach the waterhole fully aware of danger. They will relax a little when they go down for a drink; yet don’t draw back just yet. Ray advises his clients to wait until they hear the elk drinking, then slowly count, one . . .two . . . three. Then draw back, relax, aim, and shoot. “Oftentimes the elk will go down to drink, then suddenly raise its head, doing this two or three times. So wait until it is committed to drinking.”

     If you are interested in hunting elk over waterholes, Milligan advises an early season hunt because that is when the bow hunter will see the most elk coming to a waterhole. However, if the hunter cannot make an early season hunt, he says the late season is good also and that many big bulls have been taken over waterholes during the peak of the rut.

     For more information on hunting elk over waterholes contact Ray Milligan at Milligan Brand Outfitters phone 1-505-756-2630 or visit them on the web at

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