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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

Mulie Glory

 

Mulie Glory

Deep in the Nevada high country, this bowhunter finds all the makings for a perfect hunt.

 

By Joe Bell

 

        Peering out of my solo tent, I was once again taken back by the scenery. Yesterday, my friend Angelo and I had hiked to this location, but after an early wake-up call, a four-hour horseback ride, the setting up of base camp, and then trekking several miles with heavy packs on to our spike camp, we were tired to say the least. Once we gobbled down our Mountain House dinners, we dove into our compact slumbers, and hit the hay.

 

Now, with my body fully energized, I could see the wilderness in all of its glory. The granite landforms were bold, sleek and seemingly oozing out of every nook and cranny in the landscape. Down below was a trickling creek, making its long, winding path to the desert floor below, miles and miles away. Near-vertical slopes of sage, with scatterings of pines and aspen, filled in the rest of the surroundings. Colorful and bountiful, it was a national-park viewpoint if I ever saw one, except there were no tourists or the humming of a nearby roadway. It was peaceful and dreamy. On this morning, instant coffee never tasted so sweet.

 

After munching down granola and powered milk from a Ziploc baggie, we loaded up our daypacks, made a short 60-degree ascent out of the big draw, and formulated a strategy for the morning’s hunt. Today, we would still-hunt a section of trees. In fact, it was the only substantial conglomerate of dark pines around for miles above 9,500 feet. Down below, the summer heat was already getting started, along with the buzzing of pesky flies, gnats, and mosquitoes. Here, it was cold, breezy, shady and pretty much void of insects. It had “perfect deer hangout” written all over it.

 

As we did some initial glassing of the area, I instantly spied some feeding deer, a couple bucks and four does. They were here, just like we had hoped. We plotted our routes; I went high up into the butte area, while Angelo covered the lower sections of the trees.

 

I moved quickly until I neared the grove of trees. I was tiptoeing now, relying on my soft boot soles to damper the ground’s crunch. I remember losing my focus for just a minute, and that’s when a massive buck jutted out from the base of some trees. He was only 45 yards up ahead of me. Upset, and going slower now, I continued on, hopeful for more chances.

 

Soon, my plotted still-hunt came to an abrupt end, and I began gazing out over new country just above the rise. Just then, a string of deer filed through the trees. Using my binocular, I noticed there were several bucks in the group, mostly tight-racked 3x3s and 4x4s. I felt a surge of adrenaline hit as well as the urge to shoot, but I had traveled to these mountains for something a little more.

 

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to hunt a lot of different places. But, the high country of the Silver State calls out to me like nothing else. It’s difficult to explain. There’s just something about this place I find mysterious and very engaging. It could be many things or all of them together. Perhaps it’s the parched, sandy soil, or the way the mahogany grows only at certain elevations. Or how the rock formations seem more like spirits rather lifeless features that hang suspended against the sky. Or maybe it’s the crisp, thin air that I find therapeutic, not in any way depleting like some do.

 

However, at the core of this pull is the big mule deer buck that calls this place home. Smart, wary, sure-footed, he has all of the makings of an impressive adversary. More so than anything, he’s my prime motivation for being here, and why I’ve planned so much and shot my bow so hard all year long. For me, adventure means pursuit, where challenge comes in the way of overcoming the terrain, the elements, an animal’s survival skills, and making the shot. That’s what it all boils down to for me.

 

After some time, I decided to end this still-hunting chess match. I hiked out beyond the mountain’s crest, where I could overlook an entirely new basin. Here, it was wide-open rock and sage. I breathed a sigh of relief. It was time to put my binocular and, hopefully, my stalking ability to good use. I feel very confident at doing this. I continued moving, sneaking to the edges along ridgelines, and peeking for an antler beam or a flicker of a tail.

 

Doing my best to hit every crack in the landscape, I eventually found myself spider crawling across the rocks, scanning all those tucked-away hiding spots. Before I knew it, I had two nice bucks glassed up. It was a cool scene: a sea of sage along a hairy precipitous slope, mountain mulies with large velvet racks, the sound of a nearby rushing creek, and the audible draft of the thermals. Heaven, no, but it sure provoked a thought or two about it.

 

In mere seconds, I was unlacing my boots and slipping on an extra set of wool socks to quiet stalking. I was taking no chances. Gingerly I began descending the loose rock, my sock-laden toes gripping the granite like little crab claws.

 

Sixty yards away I could see antler beams, only now they were going away. I upped the pace but it was no use. The bucks looked back, caught my movement, and hustled out of there — just another failed moment in bowhunting.

 

The next day fierce winds blew in and rain fell from the sky in buckets, occasionally subsiding to drizzles. I trekked around, but it was miserable. I saw one big buck, but, with some help from me, he quickly vaporized from the mountain.

 

The next couple days were increasingly dull, with few deer anywhere. I find that these are the days that require the most focus. Naturally, I thought about failure. Would I go home empty handed?

 

For a moment, my train of thought was distracted. Looking out at some steep hills, I saw an antler beam swaying in the shimmering ocean of brush. A buck, and a wide one at that. I hurriedly circled above, making my move. “Make this one count,” I kept telling myself as I continued the looping stalk. My negativity was erased just like that.

 

Crawling into some rimrock, I slithered my head just high enough so I could see where I had last spotted the buck. Nothing. I did a double take, only this time, my head was more in full view. Just when I was thinking, “What the heck?” there he stood, his eyes now boring a hole in me. Unbelievable. If every buck turned out this smart, I might never get my shot.

 

Nevada’s backcountry, though glorious for what it offers, represents a true paradox. It’s an awesome place to hunt, but it’s difficult to access, with the top hunting areas located 10 or more miles from the roadside. This calls for some serious grit if you plan on traveling by backpack.

 

Some guys do it this way, but most end up regretting it. This is classic, big-basin country, with pockets of deer here and there. Once animals are “bumped,” something they just aren’t used to in this road-less country, they tend to relocate many miles away. To access deer, you have to go deeper and deeper, expending a lot of leg power. This chore is complicated if you plan on carrying a 65-pound pack for 10 miles, then spike camping, day after day, chasing deer.

 

A better method is to use the services of a horse packer, which will place you in the middle of productive deer land from the get go. From here, set up a base camp or a supply center, where you’ll stash your extra food and supplies, and then trek out with a few night’s worth of essentials. This way you can place yourself in legitimate hunting spots daily, if necessary. If you end up pushing deer out of an area, no big deal – just keep moving. Eventually your bivy-style of hunting will lead you to more deer and more stalks.

 

Once the rainy weather left, things got back to normal. Midday temps soared into the high 70s, and deer sightings occurred mainly at peak morning and evening hours. Angelo and I did more of our daily chores of filtering water, analyzing topo maps, and talking strategy. The hunt was now half way through.

 

The next day, my plan was to venture into entirely new territory, searching for totally undisturbed bucks. During one glassing session, just after lunch, I spotted some movement, out in another basin. Though far away, I could see a few deer, including one that was running. I found this odd, and as I dialed in the binocular’s focus a deer-shaped figure with a long tail explained it all. A mountain lion was hot on the heels of a small doe, but the deer’s endurance won out – this time. I could only hope the big cat stayed away from my stomping grounds.

 

The next day, as I headed for a major ridge complex, I got lucky and spotted two bucks feeding near a spring area. I side-hilled into position, closing the gap. Stuck in the wide open, I had no choice but to watch and wait.

 

My hope was that the bucks would retire to their beds soon. By 10 am or so the thermals begin their steady, upward climb, which would allow me to approach from below and slightly to the side. Trying a stalk before then would most definitely come with the curse of frustratingly fickle winds.

 

The bigger buck’s tall, sweeping, symmetrical tines had my full attention. As his friend made his way into a nearby draw with trees, presumably to bed, the large buck slowly followed. I kept inching in, monitoring the wind as I went. However, instead of following his partner into the cut, the big buck began snorting, eventually running out, and back in my direction.

 

I’ll take a deer coming to me any day. I wasn’t sure of what spooked him, but at this point, I didn’t care.

 

And with that I went into proactive mode. The buck would likely pass below me, and the wind was right. Yet, too far below me wouldn’t do me any good. I knew I had to move.

 

I tore off my bivy pack and hurriedly scrambled down the shale-covered hillside to a slot in the terrain. My movement was totally hidden now, but I made a lot more noise than I should’ve and was wondering if I might have blown it entirely.

 

Creeping along like a turtle now, I neared the rise just above where I anticipated the buck to be, and nocked an arrow.

 

That’s when I saw massive velvet tines poking above the sage. Feeling the burst of adrenaline, I frantically put the rangefinder to work, but it was no use. The deer was still covered up by grass, and moving. Waiting to use the rangefinder could spell disaster, so I hit full draw and waited for the shot to come.

 

My eyes focused intently in on the buck’s body position, my aiming spot, and the shot distance. Soon enough, tunnel vision took over, and the arrow was on its way, streaking 40 yards downhill. At the thump of the arrow, the deer’s rear legs kicked outward, and then he streaked across the shale like a racehorse.

 

Fortunately, the blood trail was massive, and it led me right to the fallen buck. I couldn’t believe my fortune. What a trophy, was all I could think. After an hour or so of staring over the buck, I called Angelo on the radio and, fortunately, he was close by and came over promptly to help with photos and the chore of skinning.

 

His eyes became as big as mine as we continued to admire the great beast. We had spent a lot of time, preparation, and grueling legwork on these mountains. For me, the work was done. For him, tomorrow held the answer.

 

As we talked about all this, we noticed the warm, blue sky had suddenly vanished, and now darkened clouds filled the atmosphere. Thunder and lightning struck violently from above, and soon a full-blown hailstorm was upon on. We broke for cover. Within five minutes it was all over.

 

Then, suddenly, the clouds dispersed as fast as they had come, allowing the sun and bluish sky to prevail once again. Perhaps the mountain was angry. Perhaps this time it had lost, and somehow we had won. I’m really not sure, all I know was that I was happy to be there, with my good buddy Angelo and my prized mulie buck.

 

Sidebar 1:

Bivy Hunting the Backcountry

Arriving at a trailhead, loading up a pack, and heading off into the wild yonder just won’t cut it for productive bivy hunting. You must plan heavily, and plot out possible courses on a topo map well before the trips gets started.

 

Most importantly, choose a large chunk of roadless country to trek around on – an area about 5 square miles large. This will allow you to roam without bumping into hunters and their camps, which will be close to roads and remote lakes.

 

Also, be sure your travel crosses a water source at least once a day. You’ll need to re-supply continuously to stay hydrated and alive.

 

Also, pack light. Though about 1 ½ pounds heavier, I prefer a one-man tent over a bivy sack since it offers increased security and comfort from inclement weather. Bad weather can hit the high country at any time – even in early August. My favorite solo tent by far is the MSR Hubba.

 

Some of my main bivy gear consists of a Badlands 4500 or 2800 pack, MSR tent, Big Agnes sleeping bag, Therm-a-Rest Pro Lite 3 mattress pad, Petzl Tikka XP headlamp, Cabela’s Ultra Space rainsuit, Platypus 3-Liter Reservoir, Alaska Game Bags, MSR water filter and/or water tablets, MSR Pocket Rocket stove and MSR Titanium Kettle, and Lexan spoon. Loaded up for 3 or 4 days of bivy hunting, my pack weighs about 40 pounds with a full 3 liters of drinking water. –J.B.

 

Sidebar 2:

Altitude Sickness

Just last season, I heard about two guys that headed for the Nevada high country, and after hiking for a half-day or so, one of them became severely sick. He had an unstoppable nosebleed. With the sickness prevailing, the next morning they packed up and drove home.

 

At high elevation (usually 8,000 feet and higher), your body must adjust to the changing oxygen levels and air pressure. This can create serious problems for some individuals. Symptoms of altitude sickness include severe headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue.

 

The best way to prevent sickness is to “slowly” acclimate your body to high elevation. Camp at lower elevations for a day or two, then start your ascent. This tactic usually remedies the chance of getting altitude sickness. If you do become sick, descend to a lower elevation immediately, which should alleviate symptoms. –J.B.

 

 

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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

Patience Rules

Patience Rules

By Joe Bell

 

        Patience is something I’m slowly starting to understand. I’m still fairly young and hardheaded, but life has a way of smoothing down the edges, so to speak, and I’m much more at peace with things that would’ve rattled my cage in the past. This factor is becoming more and more prevalent in the way I approach hunting. Here are the areas in which I’ve improved immensely.

 

Ability to Plan

        To plan well you must have patience. Each winter and spring I figure out the animals I want to go after and intensify my focus. In the past, I hunted whatever, whenever—on a whim, and success was really so-so. Now, with a clear vision of my hunting goals and more detailed plans of how to proceed, my overall success is greater. I now know serious hunts require serious planning.

        With planning comes greater contentment, too. For example, my favorite animals to bowhunt are Western deer and elk. Yet, due to my non-planning nature, I ended up hunting other animals each season when all the while my heart was elsewhere. All I did was envision monster mulie and elk racks, even though I was in a treestand hunting Southern whitetails. Nothing wrong with that, but shouldn’t I be where my heart is? I think so.

        This past season, I allowed myself to bear down on these animals, and guess what? I was way more at peace and found myself on Cloud 9.

        Also, a good plan allows for enough time to scout and hunt each animal. Allowing only a few days on this or that trip is an indication of inexperience. Go on fewer trips but go for longer. You’ll bag more critters and hone your ability as a bowhunter because of it.

 

What Downtime?

        Every hunt has downtime, and some people just like to get upset about it. I don’t do that anymore. I enjoy every element of the hunt, even when I’m not seeing game or when the weather just plain stinks. During those times, I confront the challenge. I bowhunt for many reasons but challenge ranks among the top. When a certain trial comes my way I face it head-on, knowing it will make success that much sweeter.

        Also, enjoying the camaraderie of my friends is a special part of every hunt. Nowhere can you build a bond like you can on a hunting trip. These days, I never take this aspect for granted.

 

Step-by-Step Approach

        With patience comes an understanding that when you follow steps A-Z, what you reach eventually is step Z, and Z is the killing part.

        Drawing down in the presence of an animal is a major mental overdose. A rush is good, but a crippling rush is bad. Some calmness is necessary to make a good shot. To maintain composure, focus on each step of the shot. Tell yourself: “Okay, I’ll draw slowly when he looks away, and then I’ll work through the shot process systematically, just like I do when shooting at home.” Most importantly, I’ll pick a very small spot on the animal’s chest and pretend it’s just another chip shot on the block target. When you do that, shots find their target—trust me.

        This step-by-step approach is helpful after the shot, too. Blood trailing isn’t all that difficult; you just need a system to work with. After the shot, focus on what the animal does, and don’t even think about moving until you mark exactly where the animal was standing when the arrow hit.

        From there, be smart and use common sense. Wait 30 minutes—even on the best hits—and much longer on the bad ones. If your hit was far back, wait for at least 6 hours, with 8 to 12 being even better. Give the animal and nature some time. If left alone, paunch-hit animals rarely travel more than 200 yards. Pushed, they travel further and usually leave zero blood. If you’re totally uncertain of the shot, but the blood looks good, err on the side of caution and wait 2 hours, then slowly investigate for more blood. If the blood isn’t bright and frothy, indicating a lung hit, back off and wait.

        Some bowhunters insist on trailing game immediately just because it’s raining or snowing. Big mistake. Waiting is always better, regardless of the circumstances.

 

Equipment Preparation

        Patience leads to more accurate equipment. Nowadays, when I’m working on tuning and sighting in a bow, I know perfection is somewhere out there waiting to be found. This is a slow process, and rushing it is bad. Excessive tuning means intense shooting. You can’t do something in one day that could take weeks. I know that and now just “roll” with the process. When my shooting muscles get tired I slack off—even for a day or two if needed. I never jeopardize shooting form and concentration for a poorly shooting bow. I tune, but maintain my shooting focus. It takes a long time to ingrain good shooting technique, but only a couple days to lose it.

 

Final Stalk

        Lastly, the final 100 yards of a stalk require more patience than all of these combined. Wary bucks or bulls are on a different timetable; it’s simple and slow. I now know I need to adjust my clock hand to tick just like theirs. My advances on game are now sluggish but deliberate, realizing that slow-motion speed is always better than fast and (usually) foolish. There are moments to speed up the clock, of course. But, all in all, patience is what prevails when easing inside-shot range of a tall-racked critter.

        This year I hope you exercise a similar kind of patience in all your hunting endeavors. As you do, success will be close at hand.

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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

No Regrets

No Regrets

 

We all have regrets, but that’s not a bad thing as long as we vouch to make things different from here on out. It gives us inspiration to change.

At the end of each bow season I seem to always have a few lingering regrets. I should’ve hunted longer, or in this special place; I should’ve stalked that buck or bull, despite 10 minutes of shooting light remaining; I should’ve planned my hunt better, put in more research or had a serious backup plan when things suddenly turned sour.

Last season, while deer hunting with my friend Angelo in the backcountry of Northern California, we became overrun with hunters. There was a big fire in one of the prominent wilderness areas and loads of traffic came our way. I couldn’t believe it.

The deer quickly became spooky or nonexistent, and we were left with determining what to do. I gazed out at some distant foothills and began quizzing Angelo. “How about those mountains?” I asked. “Any good?” “I’ve never been over there,” he said. “It could be good. Problem is, that’s a ways off and I don’t know where the water is. That’s a must, for you and the deer.” I felt overwhelmed with thoughts of loading up a bivy pack and soloing out, but was it smart? I rationalized the situation to death. In the end, I played it safe and decided not to go.

        A month later, while hunting elk in Arizona, once again I encountered intense hunting pressure. Everywhere I went I saw “teams” of guys calling their brains out and holding decoys. Even 300-class bulls were running from calls—satellite bulls for Arizona.

        My traditional hunting areas, which included several great spots, were contaminated badly. I began scouring topo maps, hoping for a solution. There was some deep-canyon country less-than-ideal for bowhunting. During lunchtime one day, I investigated. The country seemed daunting—where would I start? Time was running out. The more I thought, the less promise I saw in the country. Once again, I played it safe.

        On that same hunt I counted on the productivity of water holes. With so many camo-clad people running around, sitting tight in ambush made a lot of sense. The problem was, it had rained a lot leading up to the hunt—water holes, every one of them, were full. However, hunting water still seemed intelligent.

        I always look for out-of-the-way water “tanks,” as they call them in the Southwest, thinking the big bulls get away from commotion. I’ve learned first-hand this just isn’t true. Elk, at least in this region, don’t mind commotion, as long as they have dense woods for bedding and the security of darkness come feeding time.

        While overlooking my maps, I noticed a couple of roadside water holes in a past-productive area. I went there and checked it out. Driving into the area, dust was everywhere, ATVs and trucks zipping all about. The tank was no further than 20 yards from the road. Relatively fresh elk tracks dotted the water’s edge. “But hunt in this mad ruckus?” I thought, “No way!”

        As I swept the area on foot for fresh sign not far from the pond, I wasn’t in the least bit impressed. Evidence of elk looked old. Heading back to the truck, kicking pine cones as I went, a trophy bull suddenly shot out from the trees, about 35 yards away. I could hear trucks still buzzing in the distance as he sped away, his gnarly-thick main beams floating against the branches and blue sky. I blew it, over thinking once again and playing it safe.

        Later on I was hunting blacktail deer in one of my longtime hot spots. A monster buck was roaming the hills this year, and I was on him big time. Chasing does each moment I saw him, I circled in the wind like a prowling lion and waited to strike. One instance I caught him in between groups of does, drew on him while broadside, and just couldn’t get the shot off in time. It was the biggest crusher of the season.

        After several days of playing cat-and-mouse with this buck, it was time to go home. I was with my family and while I hunted, they killed time shopping and visiting with other family members. He’s gonna’ slip up, and I’ll get ’em I thought—one more day. Looking back, I should’ve pleaded hard with my wife. The hunting spirits were calling me more than ever before.

        I believe regrets come from over thinking certain situations. If you feel a calling, act on it. Don’t over-analyze and play it safe. Playing it safe leads to a season full of regrets. Mark my words, next season will be different.

Joe Bell

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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

Top Hunting Arrow

Top Hunting Arrow

When it comes to real bowhunting, don’t minimize your bow’s effectiveness by choosing too light of an arrow.

 

By Joe Bell

 

        Most passionate bowhunters I know are serious shooters who love to participate in 3-D tournaments during the spring and summer months. In this game, shooting distances to life-like targets are totally unmarked. These events are challenging and loads of fun, and achieving a top score comes down to pure shooting ability and accurate guessing of the range. Those that consistently do well are not only talented shots but choose equipment most suited for the task—a super-accurate setup that drives an arrow at high speed. The reason for this is the fast arrow bales them out of minimal mistakes in distance judging and still allows a good “hit” on the animal.

        Problem is, most of these shooters become so familiar (and confident) with this gear that they often use the same setup and arrow combination for their big-game hunting. Once they outfit these arrows with mechanical or low profile fixed-blade broadheads, they hunt. Most of their buddies are following suit, so it all seems like the way to go. I think this is a big mistake. Here’s why.

 

Where Energy Counts

        If you bowhunt less-than-hardy animals, such as pronghorn antelope, blacktail deer or smallish whitetails, then your 330-grain 3-D arrow remains a sensible choice. I say screw on some proven broadheads, sight-in, and go hunting.

        However, if you often target elk, big whitetails, or stocky mule deer and often consider shots at extended ranges, choosing a light and “speedy” 3-D arrow could potentially prove disastrous. A super-light arrow just doesn’t absorb a bow’s energy well enough, and you’ll need all you can get for big critters, particularly on downrange shots. Without sufficient energy, poor penetration occurs. Also, when I say “extended ranges,” I mean legitimate bowshots out to 40 or 50 yards.

        It appears an arrow’s Kinetic Energy output is the fundamental way to determine its penetrating ability, minus the factor of broadhead selection of course. With that being the case, lets examine two arrows, a light vs. a medium-weight arrow, and see what the numbers conclude.

 

The Test: Light Vs. Medium-Weight Shaft

        Using one of my setups, I shot two arrows through the chronograph—one weighing 343 grains, the other 426—weight difference, 83 grains. Both were spined correctly for the bow. Here are the arrow speeds and energy values.

        The light arrow shot 279 fps, the heavier arrow 256 fps — a 23 fps difference. That’s a substantial difference and the faster arrow will no doubt make you a better shooter on the 3-D course.

        However, lets plug in these arrow weights and arrow speeds into the kinetic energy formula, which is: Velocity (squared) x Arrow Weight divided by 450,240 = Kinetic Energy in foot-pounds.

 

The light arrow: 77841 x 343 divided by 450,240 = 59.30 foot-pounds. The heavier arrow: 65536 x 426 divided by 450,240 = 62 foot-pounds. The difference: 2.7 foot-pounds. Obviously, this is not significant, but even then the energy difference is close to 5 percent – and that’s measured right out of the bow!

        But that’s not what this article is about. It’s about downrange energy—where it matters most in bowhunting situations.

        Placing the same chronograph at the 40-yard mark, here were the arrows speeds, which we’ll then plug in to determine energy values.

        At 40 yards, the light arrow traveled at 265 fps, the heavier arrow at 245 fps. The speed difference in the two shafts is nearly the same, however, the light arrow has slowed down 15 fps, compared to 10 fps of the heavier arrow, since the time of take off.

        Though the light arrow is still flying in a fast and flat arch, it is losing energy and speed much more rapidly compared to the slower, heavier arrow.

        Let’s compute the kinetic energy values at the 40-yard mark. The light arrow: 70225 x 343 divided by 450,240 = 53.49 foot-pounds. The heavier arrow: 60025 x 426 divided by 450,240 = 56.79 foot-pounds. The difference is now 3.3 foot-pounds, which equals about 7 percent more energy. The significance is going up, and it intensifies more and more as the distance increases.

        When bowhunting the West, 40 to 50-yard shots are very common when pursuing mule deer, caribou and sometimes elk in open country. This 7 extra percent of penetrating energy can really save the day if you nick a shoulder bone, take an angled shot, or simply want two holes in the animal’s chest instead of one for better blood trailing and all around increased killing efficiency.

        Also, our test here involves only a slightly heavier arrow—a light vs. a medium-weight shaft. Take this test to an extreme level and the energy differences become more significant. For example, when comparing a 500-grain vs. a 300-grain arrow, the difference in energy output is about 8 or 9 percent at 40 yards. At 50 and 60 yards, the energy output opens up to 10 percent or more.

 

Momentum and Angled Hits

        Trying to shed some light on the factor of arrow weight and momentum, I did a test a couple years ago in which I shot a couple different arrows into a sheet of plywood. The plywood was positioned at a 60-degree angle and shot from 20 yards. Using various broadheads, it became obvious that a heavier arrow could make a difference on angled hits.

        Each time, the heavier 450-grain arrow penetrated reliably whereas the lighter 340-grain arrow ricocheted off the board. Plywood is not an animal, but its rather rigid like a shoulder bone on a deer or elk, so some reasonable conclusions can be taken from this test. Although this examination was far from formal, it sure increased my confidence when using heavier arrow setups in the woods.

 

Other Pros

        Beyond its capability to penetrate better, a medium-weight arrow yields other favorable qualities.

        One important factor is “forgiveness,” and this holds true whether you use fixed or mechanical broadheads. There’s a good reason why indoor target shooters use the heaviest arrows and point-combinations spined correctly for their bows. The goal: create shafts that are as stable and forgiving as possible. The objective in this game is to hit the x-ring each and every time at 18 meters and these oversize, super-heavy 500 to 600-grain “logs” maximize this effort.

        A heavier hunting arrow will shoot more forgiving and accurate for the same reason. Due to sheer weight and slower launch speeds, it is more stable and less likely to be “thrown” off target because of a minor release or follow-through flaw. I urge you to switch to a heavier arrow and do your own testing. Despite less-than-perfect archery form, heavier arrows seem to stay on target. This characteristic is especially useful when you’re faced with high-adrenaline, high-pressure shots in the field. A fast arrow may be a blessing on the 3-D range, but a slower heavier arrow counts for more in a tree stand when you’ve got the jitters and crunch time has arrived.

        I noticed this forgiveness factor when doing the velocity tests for this article. My chronograph has a rather small 10-inch square-triangle-like shooting tunnel. At 40 yards, it looks about 5 inches wide. With the heavier arrows, I knew I’d thread the eye of the needle. With the lighter arrows, I had some twitchy doubts, though I got them all through. Still, mentally, it was different, and bowhunting is all mental.

        Heavier arrows are quieter too. Go ahead and deck out your bow with all the latest sound-dampening accessories hoping for the quietest shot possible. But realize a heavier arrow will always emit a duller thud at the shot. This ultra-quiet thud could get you a second shot, just in case you need it. That’s a big deal.

        Finally, heavier arrows, whether all carbon, carbon/aluminum or all-aluminum, are usually more durable and longer lasting. When you “slap” arrows together, ultra-light arrows tend to fracture easier, becoming a constant nuisance. Heavier arrows keep you less worried and shooting more, whether it is at targets or dirt clumps and stumps as you “plink” your way back into elk camp.

 

Go With a Medium-Weight Shaft

        By bumping up arrow weight 75 to 100 grains, you gain a lot, as our downrange tests tell us. Yet, you still achieve a fairly fast arrow setup. This gives you the best of both worlds – a quick arrow that fly reasonably flat but hits hard when it arrives. And since a heavier shaft is potentially more forgiving and accurate, it makes a better choice when you might just get one shot during a hunt, or even for the entire season.

 

Bottom Line

        Light arrows may rule for 3-D shooting, but don’t make them your first choice for bowhunting magnum-size big game that simply require more downrange punch. By all means use light, accurate arrows during the spring and summer when 3-D tournaments are a great way to sharpen your archery skills. But be wise and make the switch back to a more reliable heavier arrow setup. As long as you give yourself a month or two of time familiarizing yourself with this slower setup’s trajectory, you’ll find yourself no less confident come hunting time.

        Besides, your laser rangefinder will tell you the exact distance to your buck or bull on 90 percent of your shots. From here the job is simple—execute a good shot. Your “beefy” arrow choice will take care of the rest. The numbers tell us so.

 

 

 

 

(camera graphic) Joe Bell

 

The author shot this Sitka blacktail deer straight through the onside shoulder blade. Despite this, his 400-grain arrow setup penetrated completely, downing the animal quickly.

 

Slightly heavier arrows are, on average, more accurate. The author shot this three-arrow group from 55 yards using a BowTech Guardian and Easton AC Super Slim 390-grain arrows.

 

Bell believes heavier arrows are more forgiving to shoot, particularly in the field when adrenaline is flowing. He made a precise 35-yard, quartering-away shot on this javelina using a 425-grain arrow, despite a slight “rushed” pluck of the string using a fingers release.

 

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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

Mountain Nomads

Mountain Nomads

Bowhunt these caribou in the early season and you’ll get a sense of where their name comes from.

 

By Joe Bell

 

            Bowhunting dreams do come true. One day you plant a seed to do something and, with a lot of patience, perseverance and perhaps fate, it becomes reality.

            This brings me to my hunt for mountain caribou. Last fall I lived the dream I had long awaited, and the experience was pretty special from the time the bush plane buzzed down in to a remote tent camp to when it flew me out 10 days later.

            Despite living this fairytale, it was certainly not without difficulty. Reality is always different from our dreamy imaginations. Before the hunt I had thoughts of what to expect…we always do. It was going to be an expensive caribou hunt deep in the Canadian wilderness. Certainly, big-racked animals would be everywhere. Shot opportunities would be abundant. It would be a slam-dunk. Those were my thoughts in a nutshell. However, after a couple days of serious 10-plus-mile hiking, trudging thick willow and steep shale-laden slopes, I knew my preconceived impressions were way off. This was no cushy caribou hunt, if such a thing exists. It was quite apparent that these caribou weren’t lowland dwellers like the others I’ve pursued over the years. They are called mountain caribou for a reason, as some of the distant gray spots we examined from long-range (using a spotting scope of course) were way up in the highest crags. I was hunting Dall sheep, not caribou. In some ways I thought that was cool, in other ways, not so.

            While researching mountain caribou hunts, I realized most were backpack- or horseback-style adventures. Now I know why. I was hunting from a base camp where the only way to access elevated drainages with snowpacks (where the caribou go to get away from biting insects) was to cross many rivers and hike and hike, each and every day. I’m in fairly decent shape so I don’t mind pounding the trails. But certainly backpacking would allow greater flexibility and effectiveness to reach the caribou.

            These animals travel in small herds, sometimes by themselves, and you can hike all day just to get to one snowpack and find a bull not big enough for a stalk. When that happens, the day is nearly expired and you wait for the next morning to try again. These are not big-herd caribou like the others I’ve hunted. They are much different.

            Despite all this, I was in good hands. My guide Craig was a great hunter and had plenty of experience guiding bowhunters. I knew my chance would come sooner or later. The country here is stunning, and it reminded me of my dreams each day. Canada’s wilderness is unscarred and pristine. Few places soothe the eyes more, especially when you spot a tall-racked ’bou on one of the emerald-colored slopes. It was day three and a nice trophy caribou was only 100 yards or so above us, seemingly unaware of our presence.

            I attempted a stalk, but God didn’t make these critters stupid. They have good eyes and a great sense of smell. The bull trotted off across the gorge, but soon eased back into a relaxed feeding mode.

            I was off and running down the hill. I had to cross a steep draw, and then I began clawing my way up the other side. This is rugged country to traverse and, though the caribou looked like a beacon on the hillside, a wall of chest-high alder brush was awaiting me. Step after step I battled my way through it, keeping the huge rack in sight. As I closed in, I was certain of a shot and a likely dead caribou. But as I got closer, the brush thickened. Soon it was over my head and I kind of went into a panic. Now what? Fortunately I came up for air and spotted the caribou again, and from 50 yards I nocked an arrow, while brush was still clinging to my arrow.

            Yet a shot wasn’t in the cards. The bull sensed something and trotted away, only stopping and quartering 75 yards away—too far for a shot. Mountain caribou are likely the least hunted and understood caribou. These animals live in very hard-to-reach mountain regions, making travel more tedious. Also, mountain caribou exist only in Canada, in the provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, NWT, and the Yukon. Non-residents must book with an outfitter, and permits are in limited supply. In addition, horseback and backpack hunting are the preferred methods, making it costly and complicated for outfitters to arrange these hunts. As a result, these hunts carry high price tags—usually $5,500 to $7,000.

            During the early season these caribou are found in the highest elevations to escape the annoying black flies. As temperatures cool, by mid-September, these animals venture downward into lower valleys where they are much more accessible. This is the best time to hunt them. (Now I know.)

            Mountain caribou have antlers maybe a bit smaller in size to their barren ground cousins in Alaska, but mountain ’bou tend to have antlers with greater mass, which gives them a very impressive look. Body wise they are the largest of all the ’bou, with bulls weighing as much as 600 pounds.

            The next two days of hunting were very similar—more walking and few caribou spotted. We did see some distant Dall sheep on rocky hillsides. I was hoping to see more of these regal animals, since I’ve never seen one before this day. Like most die-hard bowhunters out there, I fantasize about hunting America’s mountain sheep. As prices for these hunts continue to soar, I wonder if this dream will ever come true. Even so, dreams keep us going, so I’ll stay encouraged.

            By day five I was becoming a bit antsy. We were seeing a spindly bull here and there, but as I mentally averaged out the sightings per day of bull caribou over the course of five days, the calculation was not comforting. Even my guide admitted to fewer caribou than normal.

            A few years of experience being in these situations and having decent success kept me positive and calm. Sooner or later, an arrow would leave my bow. I was certain of it.

            In the valleys not far from camp, we spotted a couple massive moose. These 60-inch-plus bulls were incredible as they mysteriously grazed through the dense alder. They were made for this country—long legs to counter heavy brush and water, extra-thick hair to battle the changing climates, and powerful necks to swing their heads during mating battles and survival fights against wolves and grizzlies.

            This was wild country, evident by the sign of daily-fresh wolf and bear tracks. I was moved by the thought of early settlers living in this land. How did they do it? I couldn’t help but think how easy we have it in this modern life—so many luxuries and almost always taken for granted. This is one of the benefits of being a hunter. The mountains teach you the simple things in life. The harshness of it makes you appreciate the comforts we have. This is such a blessing that tends to keep you more grounded.

            One morning, while climbing a draw to reach a herd of caribou, we were met by a bear. Interior, mountain grizzlies like this don’t know man much, and this one didn’t seem fearful at all. Oh boy, I thought. This 400-pound bear was minding his own business and now things were going to get sticky—right in the middle of a stalk! As my guide began working the bolt on his 300 Win. Mag., a charge seemed likely. I was very thankful as the bear came more upwind and caught our scent. Once that happened, he never stopped running.

            A couple hours later, the sky grew darker and the clasp of thunder stunned my nerves. One minute sunshine, the next pelting rain and wind. I couldn’t expect anything less in the Canadian wilderness. I tore into my pack and fitted on raingear.

            Moving upward, we climbed until cresting a slope, peering out across a gorgeous mountain basin dotted with our herd of caribou. There were three trophy bulls in the group, and we inched in closer when the time was right. Soon the sky let in light and a rainbow touched the backs’ of the caribou. It was a dream-like picture—better, really.

            Unfortunately, it didn’t end that way as the caribou did what they almost always do—wander too fast for human legs to catch. To reach a new basin with more caribou would take another day, and so we sped back down the mountain looking toward another five-mile walk back to base camp.

            Each day after a quick cup of coffee I’d take a few shots with my gear. I find this invaluable to keeping my mind and muscles in shooting mode. My setup, and me, continued to perform true and my spirits remained high.

            Would today be the day? It was day seven and I was hoping. The breakfast table was a good motivator, too, I guess. With a nearby shelf of Safari Club and other trophy-minded publications, most filled with exotic trophy hunts like mountain caribou, it was hard not reading them. It was time to snap a photo of my own big trophy for the magazine, I thought each day as I loaded up my pack. Now that I think about it, maybe those magazines were more of a distraction.

            I laced up my Danner boots and soon we were walking the familiar “main trail” out across the valley that connected us to countless canyons and upper drainages. We had to cross two or three rivers daily. There was no easy way about it. To keep feet dry for the day’s hunt you would simply shed your boots and socks and wad the ice-cold water and pick your way across a bed of sharp, slick bedrock. It was a difficult, painful balancing act. Many times, on our way into camp, I’d say the heck with it and cross with my boots on, soaking them to the bone! The mile or so walk from there, back into camp, was a pretty mushy experience.

            Today I brought along my Nike rubber sandals. My guide was amazed when I soared across the stream. I flung them across to him and he was in heaven. What a secret weapon. Once we climbed to a good vantage point, we noticed a nice bull in an upward snow pack. He wasn’t monstrous, but with little debate the decision was made. We’d climb.

            This trek took us across some neat terrain but it was all vertical. For reasons beyond me, I like gnarly hunting country. It adds to the adventure and makes for a seriously physical hunt. I like that.

            With tall willow slopes, our best plan was to use a narrow ravine with rushing water going down it. Much of it was half frozen, making footing difficult, but the little waterfalls made it breathtaking and more pleasant.

            In time we were closing in on the bull. A looping, upward “hook” would place us on a cliff just above the caribou, probably 40 yards of less from him. He was facing the cliff’s wall with his head down when I came upon him, sweat now beading down my forehead. The shot was nearly straight down.

            I waited for the right angle and slowly drew. I was as calm as I’ve ever been during a shot. I visualized the vital zone and held solid. Automatically the arrow sped away. As the bull staggered to the ground, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There, illuminated in the bright sun, lay my trophy caribou. It was a real life dream come true.

 

Sidebar:

Five-Star Optics

Optically, I was well equipped for this trip. I was using Nikon’s Premier 10×42 LX-L binocular and brand-new Nikon Fieldscope ED 50. Both models are top-of-the line in their categories.

            Each model uses the finest cut glass and Nikon’s best multi-layer lens coatings. The result is incredible brightness and resolution, even under lowlight.

            The 10×42 binocular I’ve used for several seasons now and I found them ideal for this type of hunting. Glassing sessions were intense on this trip. At 28 ounces, they are just compact and light enough for easy packing yet are just heavy enough for comfortable glassing stability (lighter binoculars tend to shake more). They are 100 percent waterproof and shockproof, so they can tolerate the worst hunting conditions.

            The new compact Fieldscope ED 50 is by far the best compact spotting scope I’ve ever used. So light, so compact, yet it’s optically incredible. The brightness and sharpness of this spotting scope will rival even some of the best full-size spotters. It brings a new meaning to compact spotting scopes. It will be a constant companion on future mountain hunts. For more information, go to www.nikonsportoptics.com. <—J.B.>

 

Sidebar 2:

Vital Field Gear

 

Footwear: This is true mountain hunting, so bring boots that are waterproof, fairly tall and offer good ankle support and traction. My guide was using Cabela’s Canada Hunting Boot by Meindl. I switched between Danner Pronghorns and Agitator Mid; both worked perfectly. The Agitators are low-top hiking boots, not really serious mountain shoes. However, they worked great and offered excellent ankle support and comfort. Always bring two sets of boots so you can rotate when one set becomes fully wet.

 

Raingear: I used Cabela’s excellent ultra-lightweight Stillhunter ES1 RainSystem. It worked well. However, the more I hunt in north county, the more I favor rainwear with no a slicker outer surface. Though not as breathable, this type of rainwear doesn’t retain water, and so it dries more rapidly. No one likes to put on wet rainwear. Besides, I find you wear rainwear more intermittently than all the time. For this reason, you want lightweight and quick-drying rainwear.

 

Clothing: I prefer fleece, wool or Cabela’s Microtex in the far North. Microtex is hard to beat since it’s lightweight, comfortable (even in a variety of temperatures), and dries very fast. These duds, along with Cabela’s Berber Fleece Vest, Berber Microweight Fleece Sweater, and Mossy Oak APX VaporTec undergarments round out must-haves for me.

 

Backpack: I used a Badlands 2800 packs, which I consider one of the most versatile packs available. Unloaded it’s very streamlined and lightweight, yet it expands to accommodate larger, heavier loads. I prefer it for remote day hunts where I need to carry lots of gear and possibly meat and antlers out. I also favor the new Nikon Field Recon Optics daypack for less involved day hunting.

 

Archery Gear: Any perfectly tuned and accurate bow setup will do. Practice at extended ranges so you can handle 40 and even 50-yard shots under pressure. I prefer a rugged, fixed-blade head when bowhunting big caribou. My Mathews Conquest 3, Easton Super Slim 400 (400 grains) arrow, and G5 100-grain Striker broadhead worked wonderfully. I use a Nikon Monarch Laser 800 rangefinder—it’s superbly accurate. I use a Double SKB case for air travel.

 

Outfitter: I booked my hunt with NWT Outfitters (www.nwtoutfitters.com)

 

Miscellaneous: Be sure to bring a compact digital camera with extra memory cards and lots of batteries. You’ll want to take lots of pictures on this trip. I prefer to use Op/Tech neoprene cases to store my camera, GPS, and other fragile gear in. They are light, quiet and protect gear well. <—J.B.>

 

 

Hunting areas in the Northwest Territories are only accessible via plane. It’s wilderness hunting at its best.

 

:

The author’s mountain caribou, taken after seven long days trekking the near-vertical terrain these animals call home. He used a Mathews Conquest 3 bow, Easton 400 Super Slim arrow, and G5 Striker broadhead.

 

:

The grizzly bear encountered by the author and his team of guides. He nearly charged!

 

Lots of long-range glassing is the name of the game when hunting mountain caribou.

 

 

After a long walk, the author reached this basin only to find a few caribou—no good bulls. It made for a long day.

 

 

The pack-out after a successful shot—a dream come true!

Joe Bell

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Published by kbrando on 20 Aug 2008

Missing the Mark

Missing the Mark

I kept looking back to see if I was being stalked myself as I crawled for the mulie buck out on the prairie. Lions and bobcats look for weak prey, and I’m sure I appeared just that, flopping around like an oversized jackrabbit. But the real challenge at hand was combating the harem of 25 does, not the buck and prowling predators. Added to the mix was cold-slapping rain and snow now peppering my face, and the jagged rocks jabbing at my side with every slide forward. But this is bowhunting, and I expected plenty of discomfort out there—that’s just part of it at times.

Eventually, after two separate stalks on the same herd of deer and nearly a day of crawling, I finally got my chance. The does, single-file, suddenly began chasing a coyote across the prairie. I was tucked carefully under the cover of a juniper as they began moving by. Soon the buck trailed, too, and I began my mental shot preparation.

I put the rangefinder on every doe that strolled by. I wanted to be at full draw and ready to go when the buck popped into view. Mental distractions were abundant. My heart began hammering in my chest, the branches were beginning to cling to my body, and the weight of my bow felt heavy as I slowly tugged the string straight and smoothly to anchor. I held and held.

Suddenly, there he was, and my sight pin was steady on his chest. Once his vitals cleared a branch, I let my mind do the rest, and the shot was off. I listened for the slap of the arrow, but it didn’t come. At mid-range I lost sight of the arrow. Somehow I had clipped a branch, veering my arrow slightly upward.

As I recovered my arrow stuck in an old stump, I was crushed. Confidence in the shot and the sureness of notching my tag vaporized. But this also is part of bowhunting at times.

As I walked back to the truck with my head hung low, I was certainly discouraged, but I also had some sense of victory. The hunt was energizing. I was getting down and dirty with wary public-land deer. As a Western bowhunter, this kind of hunting stirs my soul, as I’m sure it does for other bowhunters. 

Later that day, as I drove along the county road through the forest, I came upon a stopped “super stomper” truck and a bowman with a nocked arrow peering off to the side of the road in what appeared “shot mode.” He looked at me and jogged back to his truck; the door was already open. He kept his tinted window up as I idled by.

I continued to drive another 1/4 mile, only to come upon another truck hauling wood. Driving 15 miles per hour, he was really loaded down. As I passed and waived my hand, I noticed a release strapped around his wrist. He was road hunting, too.

After a hard day of hunting, these scenes really sickened my stomach. Hunting in fair chase means meeting prey on their terms, entering their environment and using your equipment and your wits. You do just like past generations have done since the beginning of time—use your own two feet and your mental capacity to outsmart crafty, wild game. That’s the essence of hunting. Driving around in a heated vehicle “hunting” from the side of the road is not fair chase.

No serious cowboy would use his truck to rope a cow, and no real bowhunter would use his truck to shoot a deer. There’s simply nothing manly about it.

On this day of highs and lows, it reminds me of the saying: “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it.” Those who road hunt are not only breaking the law, but are missing the point of bowhunting by a long shot.

Really, it comes down to this: The hunt is in the journey and not the result. Grasp this and you’ll never lose sight of what’s important.  

Gabby Lee

 

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Published by Benchleg01 on 17 Aug 2008

My first Archery Elk

my-first-archery-elk

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Published by NTYMADATER on 16 Aug 2008

Non-typical hunting story

Non-Typical Hunting Story

 

It was November 17, 2007 the first day of Virginia’s firearms deer season; however, instead of carrying a rifle I had my bow.  This would be the first year I decided to hunt with a bow exclusively.   I was in my favorite tree stand situated in a perfect funnel.  It’s a small strip of timber about 60 yards wide bordered by a river to the south and a large open field to the north.  It connects a bedding area to the east and a stand of white oaks to the west.  Since my stand is in the middle of the funnel every deer that comes through will pass within bow range of my stand.   Thanks to my Mossy Oak camouflage a deer has never seen me in this stand.  At least not until it was too late.

This particular morning I had a north wind so I used my hip boots to wade the river coming in from the south thus keeping the wind in my face.  I was situated in my stand one hour before sunrise in order to let the woods settle down from any disturbance I made coming in.  Several deer passed by in the darkness unaware of my presence.  The way this stand is situated it is practically windproof.  Especially with the upward pull of the morning thermals.  I have hunted this stand for several years and I have never been winded.  I can thank ScentBlocker to some extent but knowing how to use wind direction and thermals is also an important role in staying undetected by a whitetails keen sense of smell.  Thermals can best be defined as the movement of air as it is heated or cooled.  In the morning air is being heated and it rises.  The opposite happens at sundown.  The air is cooled and it is pushed down.

When it finally got light enough to see several doe groups started to file past my stand.  There was also a young fork horn and a six pointer that ambled by.  I almost picked up my bow when a nice 8 pointer came by but I was waiting on one particular buck that I had been hunting for 3 years.  The first time I saw him was as a 3 year old 10 pointer.  Over the next couple of years he added more mass and several sticker points.  I had only seen him with my own eyes 2 times in 3 years.  Every spring I would question all the local farmers to see if they had seen “my deer”.  Everyone knew him because he was the biggest deer around. 

Around eleven o’clock the action started to slow down.  I relaxed a little and started to think about what I had packed for lunch.  Then I caught movement coming from the east.  I immediately got my binoculars up and tried to find the source.  It was a deer a big deer by itself coming my way with its head down.  I never actually saw his rack but I knew it had to be “my buck”.  So I stood up and prepared to make the shot.  If he continued on his present course he would come by my stand at 20 yards.  He was on a trail that had given me several shot opportunities over the years.  As he disappeared into a cutout I knew the next time I saw him he would be within bow range.  It seemed like it took forever for him to close the last 50 yards but the woods were quiet and the leaves were dry so I could hear him coming.  I actually thought why is he making so much noise.  He was moving slow very slow for some reason. 

When his head finally popped up over the bank my heart sank.  It was a doe.  Then I saw why she had been making so much noise and moving so slowly.  She was dragging her left back leg.  She had apparently been wounded.  Of course when I saw this it was obvious that I was going to take a shot.  My heart started to race again. When her head disappeared behind a bush I drew my bow.  She cleared the bush and paused for a second to rest.  Looking through my Red Hawk peep I settled my 20 yard pin behind the front shoulder and squeezed the trigger.  I watched as the Slick Trick tipped Easton disappeared right where I was aiming.  You would be surprised how fast a mature deer with a wounded leg can move especially after a double lung hit.  I watched as she ran down the hill and expired. 

I sat back down and waited thirty minutes expecting someone to come by trailing a wounded deer.  I was hoping it was a young kid looking for his or her first deer.  It wasn’t exactly how I had imagined the day would end but it was still rewarding especially if I had allowed a youngster to find their first deer.  After climbing down and finding my arrow I followed the blood trail even though I had seen the deer fall.  As I rolled the deer over and prepared to field dress her I realized why no one had showed up.  The wound wasn’t from a bullet.  She had clearly been hit by a car.  I could still take solace knowing I had ended what was sure to be a long painful death.

I never did see “my buck” but there is always next year.

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Published by Sr_Egor on 15 Aug 2008

…One Good Buck…

…One Good Buck…

 

…click was all I heard as the buck slipped behind a cedar and vanished into the hillside.   My heart sank to my gut as the realization set in:  I had just missed my last opportunity of the season to harvest a deer, a really nice deer, a personal best.  Not a monster, but a, heavy mature 7 point, and some meat on the table none the less… 

 

My Grandpa Rogers had hunted the majority of his life.  His passion for hunting was passed down to his sons, and my father passed his love for the outdoors down to me.  Grandpa had harvested many deer in his lifetime, probably only bucks; he was an “old school” hunter.  We lost our lease in the late 80’s.  We did not hunt whitetail for almost a decade, until my uncle purchased some land on the southwest edge of the Texas Hill Country in 1999.  Grandpa was getting up in years so the first order of business was to find a spot close to camp for him to hunt.  We picked a site at the bottom of a gently sloping hill that had a trail back to camp and more importantly a short walk.  We appropriately named the spot Grandpa’s Blind, although the blind was still lacking.

The first two years we slept in a tent and sleeping bags.  He was always cold so he did not go out much, if at all.  The next season we upgraded to a trailer.  Grandpa was able to stay warm at night, maybe a little too warm.  It seemed he would rather stay warm and cozy in bed than get up for the morning hunt.  One bitter December morning I asked, “Grandpa, you goin’ out?”  As I glanced over at him, all I could see was his blaze orange knit hat sticking out from the covers.  A few minutes had passed when he poked his head out and said, “Son, I don’t think I have many hunts left in me”.  “Surely you have one good buck left in you Grandpa,” I replied.  He let out a disagreeing, “Yeah,” and sank beneath the covers leaving only that blaze orange hat exposed.  I headed out to Grandpa’s Blind that morning without putting too much thought into our brief conversation.  We had a little ground blind set up overlooking a feeder about 90 yards away.  Grandpa’s Blind was pretty active that morning.  The frigid air had the deer up early moving around.  I watched several doe travel down the hillside to the feeder.  They seemed to dawdle around graze in and out of the cedars.  Due to the cold and lack of a gun rest, I would watch them through the scope for a few seconds at a time then put the gun back down to warm up my hands.  As I was peering through the scope, I unexpectedly spotted another set of legs beneath the cedars.  Minute after minute after minute went by, finally a hearty old buck hastily made his way from behind the cedar.  I knew I would have only a few seconds to react.  I steadied the gun, with an unsteady hand, against a trembling shoulder, with a shaky elbow on a wobbly knee.  Finally I zeroed in on that little spot just behind the front leg …inhale…exhale…squeeze…click…

By the time I realized what happened and my thumb reached the safety, all that was exposed were the hind quarters.  I briefly contemplated shooting through the cedar, but that idea was quickly expelled.  The wise buck was able to slink off just as craftily as he came in.

                A few weeks later Grandpa made it to his blind and harvested a mature, main frame 8 point, with the G2 broke off near the main beam.  I was not at the ranch that weekend, but when the mount came back from the taxidermist I recognized that distinguished old buck immediately.  It was the same buck I encountered that chilly December morning at Grandpa’s Blind.  Grandpa passed a few years later, without harvesting another animal.  Sitting on the front pew of Grandpa’s memorial service, our conversation hit me like a load of 00 buck shot.  What I once perceived as a missed opportunity, in retrospect, became one of my most memorable hunts:

I had the pleasure of missing Grandpa’s last buck.

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Published by atm7819 on 15 Aug 2008

Wow!

“Wow!”  As the sun begins to light up the early morning sky I scan the field in front of me for the big buck that I am expecting.  I know where he feeds, where he sleeps, when he travels, and every inch of his massive rack.  Unfortunately, this has not helped me so far this season.  I have passed on several nice bucks waiting for him.  Today, on the last morning of archery season will probably be my last chance.  All the hours of work and preparation have lead me here, to this spot, to this moment, to him.  Suddenly, I catch some movement at the edge of the field to the left of my stand.  The wind is perfect and somehow I know it is him.  I reach for my bow without even seeing him.  No need for a rangefinder.  I have played this moment out in my mind a thousand times.  I know where he will head, I know where he will stop, and the yardage is ingrained in my mind.  Turning my attention back to the field, I panic.  He is moving too fast.  At this rate he will pass through my shooting lane within 10 seconds.  I attach my release and raise my bow.  Suddenly he stops.  I have seen this image in my mind every night for the last year.  Every scouting trip, every seed planted, every morning or evening in the stand has been for this shot.  Miraculously he is standing in the exact spot I had envisioned, twenty-five yards, quartering away.  He seems to be waiting for me to take the shot.  Thwaak!  The arrow flies true and he goes down before he crosses the field.  “Wow!”  At this moment, everything slows down and I am able to feel His presence.  I begin to realize that this as close to Heaven on earth for me as I can imagine.  God touches people in different ways.  He is able to “personalize” our blessings.  He knows me and He knows you.  Every time in my life that I have had one of those “wow” moments, He was there.  It could be something as simple as catching a bass, hearing a turkey gobble, or making a perfect shot on a monster whitetail.  It could be something incredible like making that first eye contact with the woman you will someday marry or the first time you hold your newborn baby in your arms.  Our God blesses us everyday of our lives.  Sometimes we just have to slow down enough to realize it.  “Wow!”

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