Archive for the 'Bowhunting' Category

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Published by Will.V on 09 May 2008

My First Draw on an Animal.

2007 Deer season was my first season of hunting any animal.  I got 3 weekends to hunt in our local park.
First weekend was the first weekend in October…95 degrees sitting in a tree being packed off by stand by mosquitoes. This was a bad first hunt for a guy!  By the time I got back that night, my back was covered in bites.  Second weekend (November) a small doe came in, but too far off to take a shot.  Pretty disheartening, really.
3rd weekend (January), I am sitting in a blind.  I get there about an 1 hour before sunrise and fall asleep in the chair.  I wake up just before dawn, but with enough light to see (and during legal shooting hours).  I awake about 2 minutes when 6 doe come barreling over the hill coming right for me.  I immediately crap myself and try to remember what I am supposed to do. Oh yeah!  The bow.  I slide off my chair and onto my knees, grab my bow and wait for my opening.  A couple smaller does are running around chasing each other.  Being the greedy guy I am, I am only watching the biggest doe here.  She was nice.  Probably 3 – 3 1/2 year old doe by my untrained eyes (she gets older/bigger every time I tell this story).  I decide that she is going to be the one to make me into a full fledged hunter.
By this time, I have 2 does at about 15 yards, 2 at 40 yards, and 1 at 20 yards.  But the one I have my eye on, the big one, is at 30 yards… and behind a tree.  I am trying to be patient and control my breathing.  I swear the 2 at 15 yards hear me and start to look my way.  I notice them staring at me and I decide to hold my breath.  Bad idea.  That just makes me start to breathe harder after I can’t hold it any longer.  Much to my surprise they go back to chasing each other again.  I decide to move a little to my left so I can get a better angle on my big doe when she steps out from the tree.  Then terror strikes.  When I start to move my knees to scoot over…I hear this awful sound that can only be described as velcro.  I slowly turn my head thinking my jacket is caught on something, but it wasn’t.  I try it again.  Again the nightmarish sound louder than a 12 guage.   I look up and thankfully none of the does notice.  I try it one more time, but this time very slowly. Sound is still there, but now I know where it is coming from.  My knees of my pants are stuck to the frozen ground.  Am I destined to fail at deer hunting?  I keep moving slowly, keeping the sound as quiet as possible, and eventually get them free.  I scoot over and am now looking through an opening in the blind.  Now sitting where I think I have the best shot, I see the doe start to move forward.  Game time, baby.  I lift my bow and draw back the shakiest draw I have ever made.  Breathing becomes even louder and faster, and I can’t believe they don’t hear me.  I have a decent shooting lane, except I have to shoot over this small branch about 5 feet in front of the blind.  Not a problem, I have been practicing since last winter and feel confident in my shooting ability.  I finally get to full draw.  She still isn’t out all the way.  Vitals are only halfway out from behind the tree, so I have to wait.  No problem, I have been practicing holding my draw since last winter and feel confident in my ablility.  About an hour later (probably 25 seconds, really) she is completely out from behind this tree.  Fantastic.  This is the moment I have worked for all season.  I pick my spot.  “Aim small, Miss small” as the elders in my hunting group always say.  No problem, I have been practicing since last winter and feel confident in my shooting ability.  I let her fly.
But I make a mistake.  A mistake I am sure many beginners make.  Something I have been practicing since last winter.  Something I felt confident about.  I got excited.  I “peeked”.  When the release let the arrow fly, I peeked over the bow to see where the arrow went.  I dropped my bow just enough to see.  I didn’t do what I practiced since last winter to do.  I didn’t follow through, by keeping the bow up.  The arrow came out below where I planned, and hit that small branch 5 feet in front of my blind.  It ricocheted off that branch and flew 2 feet in front of the big does face.  To my horror I saw all 6 doe look up, and run.  My heart drops into my boots and shoulders go limp.  Disappointment at it’s worst. 

But wow, what a rush!  I have never felt like that before.  Even missing the shot completely, the rush was indescribable.  Maybe this is what hunting is really about.  That was worth all the mosquito bites.  That was worth the sore butt from sitting 12 hours in a tree.  That rush was the most intense feeling I have ever felt.  And that was a doe!  I can not even fathom a big buck walking past my stand.  Even having completely missed my shot, the smile wrapped across my face is fantastic.  That rush has just made me a full fledged hunting addict.  My record 0 – 1.  But wait until next season.

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Published by tim9910 on 08 May 2008

Success for Beginning Bowhunters

For most hunters that decide to make the transition from barrels and bullets to strings and arrows, it can get off to a tricky start. I began hunting with my dad when I was young, probably 7 or 8 years old. I remember when I finally got to carry my own gun, a 20 gauge pump action with slugs. Back then, we were not allowed to harvest does in the county we hunted, so although seeing many deer I wasn’t able to close the deal. I got my first bow when I was 12, an old Bear Grizzly II from a pawn shop. I shot daily until I could shoot 3-4 inch groups at 30 yards, shooting barebow with fingers. When I was 13, on that same property I had hunted all those years, I set up a stand for my first bowhunting experience near a pond with a steep ridge to my back loaded with white oaks. That first morning, a nice 8 point came trotting towards me grunting lowly and checking the ground, as if there was a doe ready for his acquaintance. I was so excited about seeing a buck in the woods, I didn’t even raise my bow to shoot! I saw him again the next day, but this time he was right behind a doe and never came within 50 yards of my stand. Finally at 14 I harvested a doe with my bow and the rest is history, I have been hooked since that day.

Fast forward now about 15 years, a friend of mine has a better story. In 2006, Byron Howton, a friend and colleague of mine, started bowhunting. He bought a bow early in the year, practiced until he was sure about himself, and sought all the info he could gather from friends and more experienced bowhunters. He scouted a piece of public land, on Skiatook WMA, and found some good places to hang stands. Then, to my amazement, he harvested a legal doe in the first few weeks of the season. We were all happy for him, especially being his first bow kill and doing it on heavily pressured hunting ground. Then, rifle season rolled along, he took the week off work and bowhunted the entire time. On November 16, he and his wife Melissa took to the woods. She set up in a ground blind about 60 yards behind his treestand. They were on stand well before legal light, and the weather was calm and clear. It was a quiet morning, a few hours passed and Melissa decided to leave the confinement of the ground blind and still hunt a little. She hunts with a crossbow, so there is the advantage of being able to shoot without movement. After Byron saw her moving out further, he decided to give a couple soft grunts with his call. After the second or third grunt, a nice 8 point cleared the brush about 60 yards out. He was in no hurry, not like was seeking the call, but made the journey towards it anyway. After he got within 30 yards, Byron drew his Reflex bow, and settled the second pin behind the bucks shoulder. He released the arrow, but with the excitement, didn’t see the impact. But then he saw as the buck was running off, the quarter of his arrow shaft sticking out from the side of the deer. He waited about 20 minutes, then decided to get down and check for blood. He and his wife found the deer only 35 yards away, hit through both lungs. You can imagine the excitement now, two deer in his first season, one of which is a nice buck. I’m glad everybody is not the successful their first season, or there would be no place left to hunt!

No matter if it takes a week or 10 years, harvesting an animal with a bow is an experience to behold. I have forgotten deer taken with rifles, but remember every arrow flight that penetrated a kill zone. It’s always like slow motion for me, and the excitement never goes away. I still shake like a squirrels tail even when it’s a doe I just took. I guess if that ever went away, it wouldn’t be so addicting. If you are a beginning a bowhunter, and having bad luck like so many of us have had, don’t get discouraged. Use every moment in the stand as a learning experience. Remember where the deer came from, and where they went. What time they moved, the time of year and what the food sources were at the time. After you spend time and keep compiling this data, you’ll eventually put the pieces of the puzzle together. Success in the woods is not always harvesting animals, but seeing them in their natural state undisturbed. You can learn things in early bow season about deer that you never would have known if you weren’t out there, putting in your time. Not everyone is going to have a first season like my friends, but if you keep at it, eventually you will get something on the ground, and then start doing it consistently.

It’s even more of a challenge for an experienced hunter to teach children. They want results, and if they have multiple outings with no sign of deer, they can quickly become frustrated and bored. Reassuring them that success will come, and maybe mixing in a few squirrel hunts in between deer hunts will help. If they can get out in the woods and move around a little more, and bring home some squirrel for the pan, it can help to rekindle the drive to pursue more challenging game. The main thing is to find something positive about each outing. Something you see in the woods that may seem insignificant to you could spark a lot of interest in someone of lesser experience. A good example is as the sun goes down in a draw, feeling the rush of cooler air. Thermals are a complicated but interesting event that happens in the woods. Explaining what causes these and how they affect scent control and stand placement can be very educational to a beginning archer. At the same time though, don’t overload them with information and confuse them to the point of boredom again. There is a fine line between good hunting education and cramming for a final exam type of education.

Byron has been bitten by the bug now, and he has started to shoot 3D tournaments with us now. He has talked about hunting non-stop since Jan 15th, the end of our season in Oklahoma. He has also kept the fire burning in me, which usually dies about December, when I have spent so many hours in a stand I begin getting burned out. I didn’t harvest a single deer last year, but had several within a few yards of my stand. I count that as successful, I could have easily taken a couple of deer, but decided to let them walk for another year. That’s easier to do on private land, where they have a chance at making it. Only the good Lord knows what this October will bring us, but I know one thing for certain, my friends and I will be in a tree somewhere waiting to find out!

-Tim Hicks

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Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Bike for Deer


            My year has three seasons:  hunting, cross country ski and mountain bike season.  But the more I enjoy each activity, the more I learn they are not mutually exclusive.

            Six years ago I started racing my mountain bike in NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) and EFTA (Eastern Fat Tire Association) cross country races.  I’m not very good, but fighting to stay out of last place helped me enter hunting season in shape for long walks and hard climbs.  It also helped me get permission for multiple hunting trips because I race throughout the New England area and I combine out of state races with long weekends away with my wife.  In the fall I found it much easier to say I was going to hunt bear in Maine one week and deer in New Hampshire another week after we had three summer vacations together.

            Eventually I realized that my mountain bike could help me hunt by doing more than just whipping me into shape.  So last summer instead of taking long road rides on my easy training days, I started riding slowly through the management areas that I hunt in the fall.  The mountain bike easily handled almost all the terrain and it was a great way to get through streams.  Suddenly the object of my slow rides changed from just resting for a race to searching for new places to hunt while resting for a race.  Every slow ride I zig zagged along dirt roads and narrow trails looking for transition areas, new places to put my stand and, most important, sign that deer had bedded, eaten or traveled near my route.  When I decided to scout the thick stuff it was easy to chain the bike to a tree and take off.

            I’d like to say I took a deer from one of the new spots I found, but I didn’t.  I did, however, learn that a mountain bike is not just a pre-season hunting tool.  In November it is an ideal transport to most of my stands and it will take you and your gear into thick woods farther, faster and with less scent than any other form of transportation.  In the same twenty minutes that another hunter could hike a mile into the woods, I could be two to two and a half miles from my truck with a set of wheels that might help me roll out a deer others pushed my way.  All a bike needs is solid ground and a trail or opening at least as wide as the handlebars.  If you doubt that, go on line and type “Mountain Bike Deer Hunt” into a search engine and see how many Outfitters and Lodges run summer mountain bike trips over the same terrain they hunt in the fall.

            In just one hunting season, I discovered many more advantages of a mountain bike.  The fat rubber tires cross open ground scent free.  There is no need to hike by headlamp or flashlight.  Several manufacturers make lights that clamp onto the handlebars and brightly light up a remote trail.  They are not the dim, bulky lamps that were around when I was a teenager.  Modern bike lights are designed for serious off road riding (and racing) and they use bright halogen bulbs and longer lasting batteries.

            Mountain bikes are modern beasts of burden, too.  Today it’s not uncommon to read about someone riding a bicycle cross country.  With the lightweight packs and racks, it’s easy to carry a tent, sleeping bag and enough food for a week on a bike.  Bike packs fit on the handlebars, under the cross bar, under the seat or over either wheel and they are as strong as backpacks.  Mountain bikes also have attachments for water bottles.  Most bikes carry two but some hold three bottles and there are insulated ones that will let you take cold drinks or hot soups as far as you want to go.  And your gun or bow will fit on a mountain bike with the same clamps used on ATV handlebars.

            Buying a Bike

            Today mountain bikes range in price from about $75 at the big discount stores to over $3,000 at the fancy bike shops. Fortunately the things that make bikes expensive are not the things a hunter needs.

            Frames are the biggest part of a bicycle and what they are made from will largely determine the price of the bike.  Steel frames are strong but heavy and they are used on the cheapest bikes.  Generally speaking, bikes get lighter and more expensive as the frames progress from steel to cro-moly (an alloy), to aluminum to carbon fiber.  Bike shops will tell you that the frame material is important in the transfer of energy from your foot to the chain, but unless you consistently find yourself getting to the deer stand fifteen seconds too late, you don’t need to spend an extra $200 to get a stiffer ride.

            I recommend starting your search by looking at bikes with good cro-moly or aluminum frames in the $300 to $500 range.  Manufacturers load the lower priced steel frames with the cheapest parts to keep the price low (usually for a discount store) so the bikes are noisier and more likely to develop problems.  The expensive aluminum or carbon fiber bikes are more than you need, and their fancy coatings may deter you from dragging them through the thick stuff.  After you’ve ridden a $300 to $500 bike, try some cheaper ones and some more expensive ones and see what works.  You may find everything you need for much less than $300, especially on line, but trying these mid range rides will give you an idea of what you like and some knowledge of the components that fit you best.

            Like all good hunting tools a mountain bike must fit the hunter, which means there is not one perfect bike for everybody out there.  Again, the frame is the most important part of the fit.  Better bikes come in sizes, usually ranging from about 17 to 22 inches.  This number is the frame size but not all manufacturers measure their frames the same way so not all 18 inch bikes will fit the same person.

            To see if the frame fits you, stand over the cross bar with the seat behind you.  There should be about two inches of clearance between the bar and your body, maybe a little more to account for thick clothes.

            Next, get on the seat, put one hand on a wall or a car and place your feet on the pedals.  Your leg should be slightly bent when the pedal is all the way down and you should still be able to raise or lower the seat.  Racers will tell you that tube angles are important, too.  I say test ride the bike.  If it feels good, and if it fits, it will hunt.

            To hunt best, you also have to consider pedals and shifting.  First the good news.  The best hunting pedals are the cheapest ones because competitive riders don’t want them.  Racers want clip in pedals or light weight alloy ones with cages for their shoes.  Hunters need big flat pedals they can pump with heavy boots.  If your dream ride doesn’t come with them, you’ll find them hanging up at most discount stores.

            Shifting is a little more complicated.  Today’s mountain bikes have up to 27 speeds.  They shift by inexpensive (and least reliable) thumb or index shifters, or much better grip shifts or rapid fire shifters.  Grip shifts turn on the inside of the hand grip and are the easiest to use with heavy gloves but for some reason, they are getting harder to find on mid range and expensive bikes.  The more a bike costs, the more likely it is to have rapid fire shifters, which are levers mounted at and under the handlebars.  One lever clicks the chain into a higher gear and the other drops it into a lower gear.  They work fine but they take a little practice and they are not as easy to work with gloves.  I’ve found that bike dealers will switch rapid fire with grip shifts to make a sale so try both and don’t be afraid to ask for whatever works best.

            The Down Side

            Mountain bikes are a great hunting tool but they aren’t perfect.  They can be noisy and they can smell, but with a little attention, they can still get you into the woods quieter and with less scent than your boots can.

            Bikes make most noise when they are out of tune, which usually means that something is loose.  All cables stretch, so after the first month of hard riding, shifting will get harder and noisier.  That’s why most bike shops offer a free first tune up when they sell a bike.  Once they tighten the stretched cables, the bike should be quiet again.  Of course, when you change gears the chain will move and the shifter may click.  This is easy to avoid by riding the last quarter mile in the same gear.  Just make sure it is the lowest gear you need to cover that terrain and you won’t have to shift or dismount.  If this doesn’t silence the bike, you can always push it the last quarter mile or chain it to a tree a few hundred yards from your stand.

            Bike chains need to be lubed and chain oil, like gun oil, can smell.  When I race I lube my chain every week.  When I hunt, I don’t lube it.  If you keep the chain clean, whatever lube was on it in the summer will get you through November.  If it does get too stiff, you can always hit it with a scent free gun oil.  And handlebars are nice places to hang scent pads.

            Finally, I learned the hard way what to carry beneath my seat.  In that small bag I keep a patch kit and a chain tool and I bolt a small air pump beside my water bottle.  In six years I’ve broken one chain (by trying to crank hard through a stream in a race) and I’ve gotten two flats.  Heavy duty tubes and proper tire pressure minimize that risk.

            So next year I hope to throw a deer over the cross bar and wheel it from a new area I found in July to the same old truck.  Will it happen?  Who knows.  But I’m sure my chances will be greater with the long distance scouting I’ll be doing on two wheels throughout one of my other favorite seasons.

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Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Staying Warm Means Hunting Longer

            Fifteen years ago on a February day when the wind chill was about 50 degrees below zero I turned 40 on the side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.  Almost every winter of the next decade, I climbed (or tried to climb) the highest mountain in the Northeast and twice I was beaten back by weather that made 50 below feel like spring.  Through these winter ascents on a mountain with the highest recorded wind on earth, I’ve learned how to dress for long days in tree stands when the mercury plunges.


            Layering is an art.  Piling on clothes until you look like the Michelin Man might keep you warm but it could also get you a role in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.  Whether climbing or hunting, three layers of clothing is the optimum combination for warmth, comfort and flexibility as long as the layers are the right material and the right fit.

            Many years ago my young son asked me a question that showed the science behind layering.  He came out of my bedroom holding a wool sweater and a cotton shirt and he asked why people say wool is warmer when they both feel the same.  The answer is that wool is not warmer than cotton.  In fact, no material is warmer than any other material.  Wrap thermometers inside your thickest down jacket and your thinnest cotton T-shirt and a half hour later they’ll both show room temperature.

            The science behind that youthful question is that certain materials keep you warmer than others by slowing the loss of the 98 degree heat your body produces.  Proper layering maximizes heat retention by utilizing different materials in each layer to trap heat and by limiting your body’s ability to sweat it away.

Base Layer

            The base layer is the layer against your skin and its primary role is to keep your skin dry to slow the loss of heat.  The purpose of sweating is to cool us off because sweat pulls heat from our skin faster than air does so to stay warm it’s important to stay dry by “wicking” sweat away as quickly as possible.

            First, forget the waffle pattern cotton longjohns your grandfather swore by.  Mountain climbers call cotton the death cloth because it absorbs sweat and actually increases heat loss by keeping water against your skin.  Seven years ago a new guy I took up Mount Washington wore his cotton briefs under his high tech underwear and mid way up the final headwall a sensitive part of his body chilled so much that the first thing he did when we got down was throw the briefs away.

            A good base layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene, thermax or comfortrel that fits snuggly against your skin.  These fabrics draw (wick) sweat from your skin to the far side of the fabric where it can evaporate without robbing your skin of heat.

            Although any polyester fabric can wick perspiration, the best synthetics are woven from hollow core fibers to help trap your body’s heat.  Like the hollow insulation in your sleeping bag, the hollow threads in base layers slow the transfer of your body heat by forcing it to travel through a layer of dead air.

            To understand how this works, picture a storm window with two layers of glass separated by an inch of air.  The heat from your home escapes quickly through the first solid pane of glass but the dead air is a poor conductor of heat and it slows the transfer to the outer pane.  To really appreciate how poorly air transfers heat, ask yourself how long you could hold your hand in boiling water, which is about 220 degrees.  The answer of course, is not at all.  Now consider how long you can reach into a 350 degree oven.  The answer is quite a while as long as you don’t touch anything solid.  That’s because it takes time for the dead air in the oven to transfer the much higher heat to your hand and it’s why eggs cook faster in boiling water than they would in a hotter oven.  Hollow fibers keep you warm on the same principle.

Middle Layer

            The second layer is your heat layer.  High tech long underwear slows heat loss by wicking sweat but the thick middle layer has to trap enough heat to keep you warm while letting you swing a rifle or hold a bow.

            While climbing, my middle layer is always a good polyester fleece.  Fleece cannot absorb water and a high quality fleece is lighter than any other material I’ve tried but will still retain more heat than heavier materials such as wool.  Less weight means more mobility and comfort. 

When hunting I’ll switch between fleece pullovers, insulated shirts and wool sweaters depending on how cold the morning is and how much I plan to move around.  One shortcoming I’ve found with fleece is that it’s never wind proof so if there’s a chance you’ll remove your outer layer on a windy day, you’re better off with another fabric.  I especially like insulated shirts because opening the buttons allows a lot of options to cool off as the temperature rises.  Wool shirts work the same way, I just don’t find them as comfortable.

Outer Layer

            Your outer layer is your defense against Mother Nature.  Like your base and mid-layers your outer layer helps trap your body’s heat, but it also has to stop the elements that can attack from outside.  Your outer coat has to withstand the harshest winds while repelling whatever the sky throws at you and still hold your body heat.  That’s the definition of fabrics like Goretex but many other fabrics, including tightly woven wool, offer protection from wind and rain.

            In the beginning I always wore a Goretex coat when climbing but in the past few seasons I switched to a heavy nylon jacket because it was more comfortable.  It works just as well at holding my heat in and the wind out but it’s too noisy for hunting.  My brother and I still argue about what’s the best fabric to climb in but even he has to admit that today there are many fabrics that are windproof, waterproof and warm.  If it’s quiet, too, it will be a good outer layer on stand.


            Choosing the proper materials for your base, mid and outer layer is not the end of the process.  To maximize heat retention you need to size the layers to optimize air’s insulating qualities.  The tighter your clothes fit the faster heat will transfer from one material to the next and the faster you will cool down, which is why thermal windows don’t touch and why down that lofts the highest keeps you warmest.  If your mid layer fits loosely over your base layer and your outer layer fits loosely over your mid layer, you’ve created two additional pockets of air that heat will have to pass through to get away.

            A few years ago I found this extra space was especially valuable in boots when I was forced to wear a pair a half size too large.  Since that day I’ve only bought hunting boots a half size larger than my dress shoes and my feet have stayed drier and warmer with a thermax liner and a wool sock inside an insulated boot, especially while walking.

            The style of your layers can also help regulate your body’s temperature.  A fleece top with at least a mid-length zipper allows you to vent excess heat while walking to a stand or if the temperature rises with the sun, which minimizes sweating, which also causes heat loss.  Today even base layers have buttons and zippers that let you regulate heat retention and wicking.

            Finally, through climbing and hunting I’ve learned that the reverse of my mother’s favorite winter lecture is true.  She always said to wear a hat because half of your body’s heat escapes through your head.  I have no idea if that figure is accurate, but I have found that removing my hat cools me off quickly.  Because I’m required to wear a blaze hat while walking to my stand I always have a thin baseball one in my pack to trade with the insulated one I wear on stand.  By switching back and forth, I stay legal and comfortable.

            A well planned three layer system keeps you warm and lets you cool off.  Just remember that all of your body feels cold so you may need glove liners to layer under heavy gloves or a balaclava to slip under a thick hat that might fit under a loose hood.  By opening, closing or removing layers you can stay comfortable to hunt harder and stay drier to spread less scent.

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Published by DuckBuckGoose on 07 May 2008

Hunting The Moonphase – Does it Really Make a Difference?

Some guys I know swear by hunting moon phase patterns. Others think it is an “old wives tale”.  Honestly I’m not sure where I stand on this argument yet, but after studying the theories around this a little more, there is some research to show that the various phases of the moon can have an effect on not only deer activity, but on deer mating behavior as well.  Perhaps for these reasons, or their own personal experience, I hear more and more hunters are talking about moon phase deer hunting and using it as another tool in their arsenal as they try to take that big buck.

Moonphase Calendar

If you’re not yet familiar with moon phase hunting, one of the most popular theories suggests that the female deer’s reproductive cycle is influenced by the different phases of the moon. This theory also says that a doe’s reproductive cycle peaks in the three or four days surrounding the second full moon after the autumnal equinox (which is either September 22nd or 23rd, depending on the year). Due to their instinctual drive to breed, bucks are also most active around this time, and will be more easily seen during daylight hours, as they are moving about looking for hot does. If you would like to check out what the moonphase will be when planning your dates for “deer camp” or days off this fall,  here are a couple of web sites that I found that you might find helpful:

I can’t promise you that hunting the moon phase will help you harvest a trophy buck this year.  But when it comes to hunting, it never hurts to try new things and keep learning.  And, if you look at the November 2008 calendar in the picture, it just might give you a good excuse to take off work on a Thursday in mid November.  Don’t try calling me that day, I’ll be in a treestand!

DuckBuckGoose – Cincinnati, Ohio – 5/7/08

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Published by soularcher on 06 May 2008

Three Lessons

Three Lessons

By Joe Shuhay

(Soularcher on AT posts)


The first day had come, and I was up at 3:30 AM to eat, shower and dress.  Luckily my new spot was only 20 minutes away, and I could get in my stand at least an hour before daylight.  As daylight broke, the woods started to come alive with movement and sound.  I had spotted many doe and a small buck.  At about 10:00 AM a small doe came underneath my stand, and I let the Muzzy do its work, and work it did!  It was a very clean kill.  But this isn’t where the story ends…

The doe ran about 15 yards and fell.  While I waited for the animal to expire, I had noticed a very bad fray through the string serving right underneath my bottom cam!  It was obviously dangerous, and it had to be fixed.  I was lucky that I wasn’t hurt!  

LESSON #1:  Always inspect your bowstring and equipment well before the hunt.  This will give you time to swap strings and make repairs.  It will also save you from injury or a missed opportunity!

Instead of taking my Archery Research AR31 bow to the area expert, I took it to a local guy that ran a shop out of his house, to save money (a lot of money).  He was a very nice man, but I should’ve taken the hint when I entered his shop and saw that he specialized in traditional equipment (an art form in itself).  I returned that Friday afternoon for the bow, and $16.00 later I had a new string.  Sixteen Bucks!

I wanted to hunt the next day because I wouldn’t have another chance until the following weekend, and I knew there were a few nice buck cruising the area.  Needless to say, I didn’t get to shoot the bow before the hunt.  I know, I know…  I heard that little voice inside, but didn’t listen: “What if?  You didn’t shoot it, stretch the string, check it out…  Is this safe?”  Nope, I didn’t listen.   I was too worried about getting out the next day.

LESON #2:  Always inspect a repair or string installation when you get your bow back, and always shoot the bow and allow for string stretch.

I got out to my stand and opted to hunt the northern part of an oak flat, due to wind conditions, and I expected action.  There was still a little doubt in the back of my mind due to not shooting the bow the night before.  Any archer knows that reduced confidence in your form or equipment can definitely have a detrimental effect on your mindset for the hunt.  At about 9:30 AM, two doe came bursting from the laurel to my left at about 20 yards.  They stopped and then looked back.  That’s when I knew he was coming!  I waited, and saw a flicker, then a very wide eight came out into full view and paused sniffing the doe’s trail.  I drew and viewed the magnificent animal broadside at fifteen yards!  I pulled the trigger on my Scott release, the arrow flew, and…  Nothing…  Nothing!!!  I watched helplessly as the high-tined buck trotted away pursuing the doe.  I  climbed down and retrieved my arrow; it went right underneath the buck’s belly by at least a foot!

At noon I went home and shot at my target at 10 yards to troubleshoot the issue.  The arrow didn’t even make it to the target!  It was buried in the ground at about eight yards in front of me.  A closer inspection of my bow revealed that the string was not installed on the bottom cam properly which effected the whole setup.  

LESSON #3:  Pay the extra cash to get a job done by someone that knows the technology, or get the tools and learn to do it yourself, and you can rest easier in the knowledge that the job was done correctly (also refer to LESSON #2).

I don’t hold the bowsmith responsible, I knew full well that he had his specialty and, to his credit, he tried his best.  I hold my own impatience and thriftiness as the reasons that that hunt worked out the way it did.  Believe me when I say that I learned a difficult lesson that day.  The sign of a good hunter is the humility and willingness to learn and improve.



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Published by RightWing on 06 May 2008

Unlocking the Secrets of Secondary Food Sources…..



   During the early years of cutting my teeth on the riser of a hunting bow, I tasted success. Closure came in the form of a Tennessee spike-horn buck. He was taken down in all his glory one particularly beautiful autumn afternoon. The deer was oblivious to my presence while he busily munched honeysuckle. This previously overlooked food source laid close to the thicket he and other small bucks used as bedding cover.

  Later, as the gun season grew ever closer, a fat Kentucky doe fell to the romantic “Twang” of the bowstring. She had been meandering along the brushy property line of an old homestead I had gained permission to hunt. That day her appetite had lead her to, of all things, “Poke berries”.  This was not what most hunters considered typical deer forage.

  The short bow season that followed the ending of the rifle portion also provided numerous chances to refresh the family venison supply, and thus pad the freezer. The most notable of which, was a most appreciated young six point buck. I had watched this deer for the better part of the chilly, late season afternoon. The buck nibbled on lichens from wind fallen logs that littered the otherwise open forest floor.  A silent arrow quickly dispatched the buck and ended the productive evening hunt.

  You are probably wondering at this point, of what importance are these three separate and seemingly unrelated hunts? The fact that all three happened during a year that most considered to be a poor year for deer hunting. An unusually dry summer had caused an almost complete failure to cultivated crops; as a result, most farmers harvested the small remaining portions much earlier than in prior years. To compound an already less than desirable situation, the mast of the white oak was almost non-existent. 

   While most veterans of the deer woods elected to concentrate on watering holes and to enjoy the cooler air associated with moving water, I decided to go a different route. I felt the other end of the spectrum needed exploring. Thus, while others practiced with their bows and worked on shrinking those arrow groupings, I spent my available time in the local library. Numerous books on the subjects of woodland plants, wild flowers and tree identification soon made their way into my research regimen. I yearned for every morsel of literature pertaining to the subject of deer browse that I could find. The lessons learned about whitetail behavior in previous years coupled with the new knowledge gained, no doubt, tipped the scales in this bowhunter’s favor that fall. A good working knowledge of secondary food sources is most valuable to even the most casual bowhunter.

   So, you might ask, how can I apply this newly found food source knowledge to real world hunting scenarios?  The answer is simple and as old as mankind itself. Granted, the generations of hunters before us had to acquire woodsmanship skills becoming woods-wise, meanwhile developing their own personal “mental database” of deer-lore to be successful. Every encounter with our quarry can become a learning experience if one remains vigilant to the details of the encounter.

  Many volumes could be written on the subject of whitetail food sources, and we would probably still leave out pertinent facts on the matter. Due to regional flora diversity and a mind-boggling number of known browse/forage plants, I can only summarize. The following is just a few ways to utilize this food source  information in your quest to unlocking the secrets of your own whitetail diet database.

    First off, deer have a very wide ranging list of possible botanical delicacies. White Oak acorns are of course among the very top of this list, and if you chose to hunt solely over a ‘Hot’ stand of white oaks; you can almost be guaranteed some bow hunting action.  However, years like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, occasionally come around. 2007 being one example, due to the occurrence of a late spring hard freeze, the white oak mast crop was all but wiped out in much of the Southeastern and Midwestern states. Red Oaks which acorns were almost unaffected were quickly consumed by deer and other competing wildlife. Here again, a personal knowledge of secondary food source plants became invaluable.  Woody browse and the remaining soft mast became the prime feed for whitetails.

  Often times a savvy hunter can just broadcast commercial plant food on existing food sources to create an instant hot zone. Fertilizer like a 10-10-10 mix hand tossed on stands of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses and blackberry brambles can lead to mid and late winter success. The same principles can be utilized with native soft vegetation like sweet clovers, vetches, kudzu and trefoils, as well as numerous legume and non-legume species.  Recently logged over tracts (even though aesthetically undesirable) can become deer magnets if garden lime is used to make the soil less acid so native plants get a chance to grab a foothold. This combined with the additional sunlight available from a treeless skyline allow these important plants to flourish. Even saplings with nutritious buds and twigs will benefit from such a treatment.  

  I encourage you to do your homework discovering and unlocking the secrets to secondary food sources.  All these ideas will help you harvest more game, however you might take caution before playing the stock market this fall, and I certainly wouldn’t buy shares in the “Freezer Wrap” industry; because you might find yourself getting in trouble for “Insider Trading”.



Written by Jason Wilborn       Monroe Tennessee




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Published by Mapes on 05 May 2008

The ten deadiest sins of bowhunting

In the eight years that ive been a bowhunter, never had i had such a memorable season than the 2007 whitetail season. Many years previous i had figured out exactly what NOT to do while in the stand, and i had figured out how not to screw up the perfect situation. Why was 2007 so different? I have no idea, but that year, i commited the 10 deadliest sins of bowhunting.

     It was one week before the bow hunting opener,and once again i found myself traveling to my soon to be stand location. The woods is my favorite place to be, and i tend to overdue it every year. Yes the relationship stuggles, but i make up for it with flowers and a trip to the movie theater. This was not unlike any other day, it smelled the same, looked the same and felt the same as always. But as soon as i stepped into the woodlot, i knew that i was about to screw up. That just made me want to go further, and thats exaclty what i did. I took, maybe, three more steps and i heard that all too familiar sound of breaking sticks and crunching leaves. The buck of a lifetime was making a break for the swamp in front of me, and it was all i could do to not faint at the sight of those bleached white horns. I immidiately turned around and walked out, got into my truck, and left tread marks in the soft mud. I had just made the first deadliest sin.  Entering the woods at the wrong time, and spooking the one animal i was after.

     A week later, October 1st, was my birthday. I was heading to the same spot i had spooked the buck out of the week before. “He wont remember me” i thought to myself. Well, i never got the chance to find out if he remembered me or not. My stand was hung beautifully along the edge of the thickest swamp i could find. Notice the “was” in the previous sentence. The tree was still there, yes, but something was missing.My tree steps, my stand, and even my screw in bow holder were all gone. Deadly sin number two, hang a sweet stand location, and dont lock it up. Yes, even on private land, it matters.

     October 2nd, deadliest sin number three was commited. Another potential sweet spot, hung on the edge of a food plot with thick woods on all sides. Mosquitos were flying everywhere this evening, and it was only 80 degrees, if not more. The swamp sits behind me, with no more than birds and squirrels making any noise. It was nearing dark, i figured i had at least an hour left before i had to leave the stand. I lit a cigarette, and sat down on the small seat of my hang on. Puff after puff i looked through the swamp, but nothing was visible to my eyes. My cigarette was flicked to the ground, and i swatted at the mosquitos buzzing around my head. “Snap, crunch crunch crunch.” That didnt sound so good. I looked slowly through the woods, and there it was. HORNS! Where they had come from, i dont know. But they certainly weren’t coming my way. The buck stopped long enough to give me the look that said, “busted”, and turned to slowly walk away. Deadliest sin number three, go out hunting on an 80 degree day with out any unscented bug spray and a tee shirt on.

     October 3rd, a cousin called and wanted to go hunting the next morning.”Sure”, i said, “come on down, ive got a good stand for you to hunt.” I waited for a few hours, and he finally arrived.  He asked about his stand site, and i informed him about the funnel he would be hunting, that sat beautifully between two corn fields. He got real excited, and asked to go shoot bows. I got out my brand new X-Force, not even a month old yet. Her camo glistened in the light, and her sights sat brightly in my peep site. Shot after shot, i was consistently grouping arrows within an inch of each other. “Can i shoot your bow?” he asked. I handed it too him, and he made the unfortunate attempt to draw it back, without the one most important thing that stood between the hunter and the hunted. The 300 grain Radial X-Weave tipped with a 100 grain field point. Halfway drawn, he started to strain, but he got it to full draw, only to have the string slip out of his fingers. The unforgiving snap of the bowstring was like a shot through the heart. Her cams snapped forward, and the cables wound up and got kinked with the string. Sixty dollars and one week later, i was again shooting my beautiful hunting partner.Deadly sin number four, buy a new bow and let a kid, who can’t even climb a stand without breaking something, try to draw it back.

     The morning of October 20th was a very cool, frosty morning. The sting of the fresh air filled my lungs as the frost broke away under my feet. I walked into the open field, and knew that something was moving. Didn’t phase me, so i kept walking. I stopped at the bottom edge of the field, and looked up at the sky. The stars were bright, and one of them seemed to have a resemblence of an arrow. I followed it down through the sky, and then to the ground in front of me. There, not fifty yards away, stood a beautiful buck. His horns stood out in the moonlight, and his body swayed as he ran farther and farther away. I continued onto my stand, only after kicking myself once or swice.Deadliest sin number five, see something in the field in front of you and continue to walk one foot in front of the other, without paying it the slightest glance.

       I was in my stand within ten minutes, and my bow was seated gingerly between my palm and fingers. I looked around, checked my watch, and then looked again. I knew i just scared a good deer, but you can’t change the past. Just then i heard a grunt, and here came a small buck. He walked directly towards me, where a small four point was standing below me, but i never knew he was there. The four point turned and hauled donkey through the swamp. The other buck, a five point, came to twenty yards, and i drew my bow. He stopped and looked staight at me, but my pin floated gently over his vitals. “Thwack!” went the bow, and the rage broadhead flew right over his back. He ran off, and turned around again. My bow again was drawn, same pin on his vitals, and again i released. This arrow flew true, through both lungs, and out the other side. The buck kicked his hind legs and ran off into the woods. I took a deep breath, and waited for twenty minutes. Upon climbing down, i found the first arrow. It was ten yards from my tree, and i shot my twenty yard pin. The other was laced in light red, bubbly blood. Deadliest sin number six, misjudge an easy shot at a good deer, and shoot over it’s back.

5 point

     Two weeks later, i was in the woods again. This time i was in a different spot that i had hung three days earlier, with rubs all around. It was a chilly afternoon, but the wind was calm and my nerves were settling after a long days work. My stand was comfy, and my butt sank into the soft foam. After a while, it started to get uncomfortable because i sank through the foam to the hard seat below. It was almost dark, so i figured id get down and head home. I hit the bottom of the stand, and picked up my bow. When i started walking, I was abrubtly halted by the sound of a grunt. A doe ran by me, within thirty yards, plainly visible in the remaining daylight. But, the doe is not the one that made the grunt. There he was, the same buck i spooked a week before season, heading straight at me, at the base of my tree, with nothing more than a sore butt ready to kill him with. He ran right by me without even shooting me a glance, and was gone into the woods, still grunting with every step. Deadliest sin number seven, get out of your stand too early just to scare the buck of a lifetime away, again.

     My hunting buddy called me on the radio not more than five minutes later. “There is a giant buck with two does right below me right now!” Well, why he had to call me to tell me i didn’t know, but i started to walk towards him. He called again and said that he had just shot at the huge ten point, twelve yards away.I was on my way to his stand, excited already. We had both seen nice bucks tonight, and he even shot at the one he saw. Deadliest sin number eight, let your buddy, that can’t hit a brick wall, sit one of your best stands. Add deadliest sin number seven to sin number eight, and its a sure plan for defeat.

      It was not a week later, and my twin brothers were hunting with me. I sat one in the funnel between the corn fields, and decided where to put the other. “Well, i want to sit where you saw the big one,” he said. So i agreed, even though I didnt want to. The morning was slow, squirrels were running everywhere, and i even saw a turkey. Not a single deer passed me all morning, and it was starting to rain. I climbed down, and slowly walked through the puddles. They splashed beneath my feet as I though, “I sure hope one of them saw something.” Joey was down already, running to me through the field. “I saw a GIANT!” he exclaimed. Great, now i hoped he shot it. “It was like fifty yards away, and i dont feel comfortable shooting that far.” Well, that was a good idea. He walked me to where the buck stood, and i paced the ground towards the stand. The base of the tree was twenty six yards from where the buck stood, and his jaw hit the ground. “I could have shot him!?” Sure enough, he was sighted in to thirty yards, dead center everytime. Deadliest sin number nine, change your mind about where you are hunting on a given day, only to find out it was, again, the wrong decision.

     It was the end of the deer season, now January 2008. I had finally comitted deadliest sin number ten. Commit the first nine sins all in one season, wish that you hadn’t, and be tired of hunting. One day after season, you now look forward to doing it all over again next year.

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Published by Shaman on 05 May 2008

Poor Mans Turkey Target

As a person on a budget, I am always looking for ways to scrimp and save. A couple of years ago, I got into bowhunting for turkeys. Unfortunately, there was little in the way for turkey targets for bow hunters. I had bought a paper photorealistic target and tacked it to the Morrell Fieldpoint bag. It did not last long. I then took another paper target and glued it to cardboard. It lasted a little longer, but not much.

Then, I hit on the proper combination.


  • Fieldpoint Bag
  • Children’s Puzzlemat
  • Photorealitstic Turkey Target
  • Glue

Glue your photorealistic target

To the PuzzleMat

Drop your FP bag to the ground and place the puzzlemat with picture in front of your FP bag.
Since the paper is glued to the mat, the paper does not tear on arrow removal.
Shoot it like crazy! The mat and target will last hundreds of arrows worth of shots.

I’ve attached a video of how it works. Sorry the sound is a little muffled, it was windy that day.

Video of Turkey Target

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Published by Shaman on 05 May 2008

Turkey Lurky Come on By!

Turkey hunting, from first to last

My Morning, had to leave blind at 9am due to work.

  • 4:30am: head to blind, set up 1 hen facing off canter to left of blind.
  • 5:00am: get first gobble response
  • 6:00am: Finally lure the tom over the crest and he sees decoy.
  • 6:00am-8:00am: Tom stops gobbling and Struts, Preens and Stands on Log showing off. Slowly, SLOWLY displays, preens, and peck feeds down the entire length of the field edge to the right, around the corner and hangs up 30yds short and behind vegetation (not clearable)
  • 8:05am: Second Tom blast into the field gobbling like crazy.
  • 8:10am: I give up on closer Tom who is stalled and I Box Call the Field Gobbler. He approaches 60 yards out and sees decoy.
  • 8:10am-8:50am: He circles around to the left continues crossing the field, enters the woods and comes in behind me. He would not enter by 3 rear facing shooting lanes and ends up walking off as well.
  • 9:00am: I head out, no turkeys in sight.

I moved my blind.
I think the distance that the Toms have to cross from the far side of the field put them on edge when they do not see any hen movement for so long.

I got 2 shots off out of the blind last year when Paired Toms rushed the decoy, but have had 4 other times when single birds fetch up after crossing a couple hundred yards only to see the decoy never move or call back.

I’ve moved my blind over the little crest and 1/2 to the other side of the field where they usually enter to give them less distance to consider the immobile hen before they are in range.

Guess that is why they call it Turkey Hunting and not Turkey Shooting.

Day 2

Another near miss.
Set up this morning and 2 hens, a jake, and small tom come into the field.
They just would not respond to calling and calmly pecked and strolled on by out of range.

At least there are birds about!
Tomorrow I get 4 hours in the blind.
We’ll see what happens.

Day 3

This morning was even more stressful than the other morning.
A larger flock (for around here) came into the top of the field.
About 10 hens, one big tom and 1 jake (I thought).
I called to them as they crossed the top of the field and slowly 4 hens and the jake broke off and started coming by way, the long way. They did a giant circle around the field and came into the decoys the opposite side of where they entered the field.

Now, I am getting excited. They slowly come in and I notice the jack is a young Tom. More color and a 2-3″ beard. Here they come, but the tom is out the outside and they are all kind of huddled together. I draw back and hold waiting for a gap…. wait for it… wait for it….
GAH… have to let down.

They peck along slowly, with the Tom still on the outside and just poking his head up every so often and looking at the decoys. I draw back again… wait… wait… wait…….. wait. MAN!
I let down again. Still now shot. Now they are about 3/4 out of my shooting arc and still moving along.

I take a couple deep breaths and draw back again. Watching them slowly walk out of my arc and range. The whole time there was not ONE break in the flock that let me have a shot at the small tom.

I’m trying to convince myself it is for the best, that I succeeded in calling them in, and that I’ll gt another chance. I have 2 days this week, a week off, and another week before my season is over. And I know there are two other big Toms around. But man! I just wanted to tag out and eat some turkey!!!

Day 4

Cold, Rainy, Damp.
No turkeys.

Day 5

Got up at what I thought was 2am with the baby to feed him.
Then as I was prepping the bottle I realize it said 12:00 not 2:00.. WHOOOOOHOOOOO
2 extra hours of sleep!

So, I get up again at 2:30am, get ready and head down to my Dads.
Get there, say hi and we head out to the blind around 4:30am.
The landowner had said she saw 1 big tom and a couple jakes almost every morning, so we waited.
Around 6:45am a lone jake came in my Dad spotted him out his side of the blind.

I promised my wife that if it had a beard, I would take it down.
He had a beard, so I waited for him to get into my shooting lane and took him down at 21.5 yards.

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