Archive for the 'Hunting Stories' Category

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Published by bigbearsarchery on 04 May 2008

Learning Turkey Lessons the Hard Way

Turkey season is fast approaching here in Pennsylvania.  As I sit here and go over in my head all the things I need to do to get ready for it I can’t help but recall the experiences of my first turkey hunt.

            It wasn’t that long ago, just a couple of years in fact.  My friends, Mark and Justin Nagy, called me one day and asked if I was interested in going to Oklahoma on a hunt for Rio Grande turkeys.  I’d hunted all of my life since I turned the legal age but only for whitetail and black bears, never turkey.  I had some money saved up and the idea of going on a hunt with my friends was exciting so I quickly accepted their invitation.

            Now when the situation calls for it I will hunt with a gun but I am first and foremost a bowhunter.  So naturally that was the method I chose to use on my turkey hunt.  I didn’t even take a gun.  My effective range with a bow is 50 yards and I felt confident that if I could get a turkey within that range I would have no problem making the shot.

            Finally the day of the hunt arrived and as our plane landed in Oklahoma City we were greeted by 50 mph winds with gusts that approached 60 mph.  It was mid-afternoon by the time we met our outfitter and bought our licenses.  The wind had picked up even more force by this time, so much that when we put one of our rental cars in neutral it began to slowly blow it down the outfitters driveway.  We decided to wait it out at our guide’s house in the hope that the wind would stop and we could still salvage some of the afternoon.  Around five o’clock the weather calmed down enough to go hunting and we figured if nothing else we could roost some birds for the morning hunt.

            The next morning dawned about as perfect morning as you could ask for.  Moderate temperatures, clear skies, and no winds greeted us as the sun crept over the horizon.  From the ground blind we had constructed the night before, Justin and I could see the dark outlines of the turkeys still on their perch.  As the sun climbed higher a few of the birds began to gobble from the roost.  Not long after the sound of wings drifted across the field as the birds left their trees and headed our direction, just as we had planned.

            Justin began to call softly and the morning calm was rocked by thunderous gobbles from every direction.  Justin and I looked at each other, the same thought on both our minds.  There were a lot more turkeys here than the ones we had roosted the previous evening.  I could see the tips of their fans, glowing gold in the western sun, moving closer just above the tall grass.  As I clipped my release on the string I was sure the birds could here my heart thumping in my chest.  Justin whispered, “Get ready” and I came to full draw, waiting for one of the long beards to come strutting into our decoys.

            For what seemed like hours I remained motionless, sweat running down and stinging my eyes.  My arm was beginning to quiver when I heard Justin whisper, “Let down.”

            As I did I looked and saw the birds walking into the brush a few hundred yards to our left.  Within a few moments the turkeys were out of view and Justin and I were left alone in the field.

            “What happened?” I asked, turning to look at Justin.

            “I don’t know,” he answered.  “They just walked off.  They didn’t spook.  They just left.”

            We caught the occasional glimpse of them, several hundred yards away now, as they paralleled the river on the other side of the brush line.  We tried calling the birds back to us but they would have no part of it. 

After a while Justin suggested we move further south along the river.  For the next two hours we walked and called, quickly setting up whenever we got a response.  The only reward we got for our efforts was a nice leisurely stroll through some beautiful Oklahoma country.  We decided to return to our early morning spot and construct a ground blind along the southeastern edge of the field in the hopes of catching the birds as they returned that evening to roost.

Once we finished our blind we decided to return to the truck for some lunch.  As we began crossing the field we saw the turkeys from that morning still milling about beside the river.  As quickly as we could without spooking the birds we moved to within a hundred and fifty yards and began calling.  We got an immediate response and the birds moved back into the field.  But just as had happened that morning they refused to come within range.  I had reached my breaking point and decided to put a stalk on the birds.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell anyone how amazingly ineffective and stupid this was.

Justin stayed where he was and continued to calling I moved back into the woods and crept along the brush on the opposite side of the turkeys, I closed to within sixty yards but had reached an opening in the brush.  I waited until I thought all the birds had moved out of sight and then crossed the opening.  It might have been a successful maneuver had it not been for the ten birds I hadn’t seen right on the other side of the brush.  A series of alarm putts and those ten birds along with the twenty or so I had been following shot across the field as fast as they could go.

I stood up as my query moved further and further away.  It was at this moment turkeys burst out from every direction I could see.  There were literally hundreds of birds running or flying in every direction.  One turkey paused long enough for me to get a shot off but I was so worked up at this point that I’m not sure I even aimed.  I watched helpless as my arrow landed, stuck in the dirt five yards short of its target.  That was it the birds were gone.  I know what all of you are thinking, I’m an idiot.  Well, you’re right, I am.  Over the next day and a half I saw some hens but no gobblers. 

Finally, on the evening of the last day of our hunt I borrowed a Mossberg .12 gauge in a last ditch effort.  Thirty minutes before dark fate smiled on me and I took a nice gobbler at twelve yards.  The bird weighed out at 21lbs with an 8” beard and 1 ¼” spurs.

Taking my tom was obviously the highlight of my hunt, but it was my newfound respect for turkeys as a game animal and the hard lessons I learned that will stick with me always.

 

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Published by DuckBuckGoose on 04 May 2008

Strategic Treestand Placement – How to Find the Perfect Ambush Location

Everyone knows that hunting from a treestand can increase your odds of harvesting a deer. But if you want to set yourself up to take a mature buck, there’s much more to it that finding a straight, sturdy tree. Here are some strategies, tips and considerations to help you improve your odds of success.buck in trees

Deer Trails & Travel Corridors:
Just because you can easily see a deer trail, doesn’t mean it is a good spot to hunt. In fact, most mature bucks avoid the “super-highway”, primary deer trails, and prefer the paths less traveled. (If they didn’t, they’d probably never have become mature bucks.) Many hunters on the other hand hunt the most obvious trails. Let them have those spots. Their loss will be your gain.

When you find secondary trails, scout them to see if they have any fresh scrapes or rubs, and dense cover nearby. If they do, they’re probably a good place to start your stand location search. Next, try to find “pinch-points” or bottlenecks somewhere along that trail. Pinch points areas that tend to funnel deer into a more defined and predictable area, and can be created by both natural and man-made structure. For example, wooded fence lines can create pinch points. Thin strips of cover that connect two larger areas of cover can create good pinch points. Natural barriers like ponds and steep ravines can create pinch points. Look for all of the above and more along secondary deer trails and you’re well on your way to finding a good spot to hang a stand.

Food Sources:
Fields filled with a food source like corn, alfalfa, turnips, clover or today’s fancy food plot mixtures can be highly effective at attracting whitetails. When hunting food source fields look for the quietest, most distant corner and set up just inside the woods near that corner. Since the biggest bucks often wait until dark to enter a field, you can sometimes ambush them before dark in their staging areas inside the wood line on a field’s perimeter.

Water Sources:
Small ponds, water holes and woodland streams can be good places to ambush deer at mid-day. If you’re hunting over water sources, check the edges for tracks in the soft earth. Doing so can help you hone in on the most used sections, and will help you pick the best tree in which to set your stand.

Prevailing Winds:
No matter your thoughts about scent blocking clothing, cover scents, special breath control chewing gums, or any of the other products available to aid with scent control, do not think you can forget about wind direction. You can’t. A mature bucks nose will beat you almost every time. That said, when choosing your stand locations, make sure you know the direction of the prevailing winds in that area and choose your tree accordingly. Always place your stand on the downwind side of the expected travel path of the deer.

When hunting mountains or hill country, you also need to keep thermal winds in mind. Thermal winds change throughout the day as the air heats and cools – typically moving air uphill in the morning as the temperatures rise and back downhill in the evening as it cools.

Stand height:
Hunters have differing opinions about this, but some basic rules of thumb are; try to get to a height where you have tree limbs, leaves or other cover behind you to break up your outline. Also, the higher the amount of hunting pressure, the higher you should set your stand. A fairly standard height for stands is 15 feet at the footrest. Personally I like to be a good 20 feet in the tree where I hunt, but the conditions in your area might be different and require less or more height. Keep your weapon and expected shot range in mind also. You don’t want to put yourself so high that your expected shot with a bow is at too steep an angle and limits your ability to get a double lung or heart shot.

Give Yourself Options – Set Multiple Stands:
Even your favorite “honey hole” isn’t always going to be the best spot to hunt. Wind direction, foliage, food supply and breeding conditions are constantly changing throughout the deer season. That’s why the most successful hunters will set multiple stands and give themselves several places to hunt – so they can choose the best ambush location on any give day, based on the conditions they face.

Be Prepared To Be Mobile:
Last season I had what I thought was a great stand location set. As it turned out, it was a great stand for seeing traveling bucks – the only problem was the path they were traveling by that point in the season was 100 yards out of bow range. But there was good news…from where I was, I could tell that several bucks were following this same network of secondary paths that I hadn’t seen during my summer scouting trips. So, that following November morning I took my Summit Viper climbing stand into the woods well before daylight and set up where that network trails converged. It worked like a charm and I arrowed a nice buck at 25 yards –right where I expected him to be. The lesson here is be prepared to be flexible, and consider adding a climbing or quick setting mobile stand to your arsenal for just this type of occasion.

If you have other tips and ideas to share about treestand placement, please do so in the comments section below. Doing so helps us all get smarter and more strategic about how we hunt the whitetail woods.

DuckBuckGoose – May 3, 2008 – Cincinnati, OH

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Published by harleyrider on 30 Apr 2008

Treestand Fall Restraint Systems — Use & Tips

How to Arrive Back Home Alive

By Len Hinrichs

Evan was looking forward to this hunt like none he had ever before.  The rut was in high gear and he had an entire week of hard-earned vacation ahead of him to do nothing but bowhunt for a huge buck that he had been scouting since last year.  His close friend Jerry was due to join him the next day at their lease so that they could hunt the week together, but Evan thought he would get a head start by setting one last treestand in a hardwood funnel he just knew that big buck would be crossing sometime during the week’s hunt.  As the morning dew began to burn off, Evan began assembling several climbing sticks and fastening them to the trunk of a suitable oak; alternately climbing and fastening the sections until he arrived at 20 feet.  That completed, he climbed back down and retrieved a brand new loc-on stand purchased especially for this occasion.  After a brief rest, he muscled back up the tree with the stand in tow to set it in place.  After struggling with it’s positioning for several minutes, Evan finally managed to get the stand fastened to the trunk of the tree.  He stood on the top climbing stick rung for a few moments to survey the area from his vantage point.  It was a beautiful day and he could almost taste the backstraps as he stepped up onto the treestand’s platform.  That’s where things went very wrong……..

Jerry arrived at their hunting cabin the next morning and was curiously surprised that Evan wasn’t there.  Evan was always a reliable, punctual person so it wasn’t like him to not be where they had agreed to meet.  After stowing his gear, Jerry remembered that Evan might have gone out to place that funnel stand that they had discussed, so he set out in his car to give him a hand.  Knowing the general area where they wanted to place this stand, Jerry went there and was puzzled to find Evan’s truck but not his friend.  Sensing something was not quite right, Jerry began calling and walking a grid pattern through the funnel area until, late in the morning, he came upon the sight that will never leave his memory: the broken body of his friend and hunting partner, dead at the base of that oak.

Although the story just related and the characters described are fictitious, similar scenarios happen with startling regularity throughout hunting seasons across this country.

Background

Hunting from an elevated position, or treestand, can be a highly effective method for hunters pursuing wild game such as whitetail deer, bear, hogs, elk, turkeys, etc.  The increased elevation offers several advantages over a ground-based stand: 1) it provides a higher vantage point for improved game spotting; 2) it allows the hunter to remain hidden above the game’s normal line of sight; and 3) it provides a greater level of scent control by allowing the hunter’s odor to disperse a greater distance from their stand location.  All of these advantages make treestand hunting very popular, with millions of hunters taking to the trees each year.

However, this popularity has made treestand accidents one of the most prevalent causes of serious injuries or death suffered by hunters.  Statistics show that approximately 1 out of every 3 treestand hunters will suffer a significant fall in their lifetime.  Those aren’t good odds!

The disturbing news is that most serious treestand fall accidents are experienced by hunters who either:  don’t use any form of fall protection equipment at all; use uncertified or outdated fall protection equipment; or use or install their fall protection equipment improperly.  Typical reasons that hunters give for not using fall protection are that they find it “uncomfortable” or “inconvenient” or that it doesn’t fit in with the “macho” image of hunting.  Some contend that “I never needed one before, so I don’t need it now”.  Well, it’s pretty inconvenient to be paralyzed or dead (and none too macho)! 

The good news is that the vast majority of these injuries are preventable by using proper safety precautions and equipment while installing, ascending, descending, and hunting from elevated stands. The following general guidelines will assist you in making decisions that will make treestand hunting a lifelong, rewarding, and safe experience.

Fall Restraint Systems

Always wear a fall restraint system (a.k.a. fall arrest system or safety harness ) any time you are off the ground while hunting – it is your single most important piece of hunting equipment.  A fall restraint system is any device(s) that hunters use to attach themselves to a tree or elevated position to keep them from falling to the ground in an uncontrolled manner and subsequently allows them to safely descend to the ground after falling.  A fall restraint system should be worn at all times while off the ground rather than just at final elevation, since the majority of treestand falls occur while ascending or descending the tree, and stepping across or onto the treestand platform.  The bottom line is that a safety harness can only protect you from a fall if you are actually wearing it when you fall.

Full-body harnesses with straps that encircle the torso, legs, and shoulders allowing a fallen hunter to hang in an upright position are now the only type of fall restraint system recommended by the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) as well as other leading hunter safety organizations.  The old-style belts or chest-type harnesses that were often used by hunters in the past are no longer recommended and should not be used.  Full-body harnesses come in several designs including the standard strap and buckle harness; vests with the harness incorporated into the shell; and hybrids that are somewhere in between. With the number of styles available, it should be relatively easy for almost any hunter to find a harness that is safe, comfortable, and easy for them to use. Interestingly enough, many if not all TMA-certified treestands now include a basic full-body harness at no extra charge.  Regardless of the type of full-body harness you choose, make sure that it is properly sized to fit you and that you are within the specified weight limits for that particular harness.  A properly fitted harness will comfortably allow enough adjustment to accommodate heavier clothing worn during cold weather.

Use the following Safety Guidelines from the TMA website to guide you in the proper use and maintenance of your harness.

TMA Treestand Safety Guidelines

  • ALWAYS wear a Fall-Arrest System (FAS)/Full Body Harness meeting TMA Standards even during ascent and descent.  Be aware that single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer the preferred Fall-Arrest devices and should not be used.  Failure to use a FAS could result in serious injury or death.
  • ALWAYS read and understand the manufacturer’s WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS before using the treestand each season.  Practice with the treestand at ground level prior to using at elevated positions.  Maintain the WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS for later review as needed, for instructions on usage to anyone borrowing your stand, or to pass on when selling the treestand.  Use all safety devices provided with your treestand.  Never exceed the weight limit specified by the manufacturer.  If you have any questions after reviewing the WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS, please contact the manufacturer.
  • ALWAYS inspect the treestand and the Fall-Arrest System for signs of wear or damage before each use.  Contact the manufacturer for replacement parts.  Destroy all products that cannot be repaired by the manufacturer and/or exceed recommended expiration date, or if the manufacturer no longer exists.  The FAS should be discarded and replaced after a fall has occurred.
  • ALWAYS practice in your Full Body Harness in the presence of a responsible adult, learning what it feels like to hang suspended in it at ground level.
  • ALWAYS attach your Full Body Harness in the manner and method described by the manufacturer.  Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover into your treestand.  Be aware of the hazards associated with Full Body Harnesses and the fact that prolonged suspension in a harness may be fatal.  Have in place a plan for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices that may be easily reached and used while suspended.  If rescue personnel cannot be notified, you must have a plan for recover/escape.  If you have to hang suspended for a period of time before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion.  Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death.  If you do not have the ability to recover/escape, hunt from the ground.
  • ALWAYS hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
  • ALWAYS carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your FAS.  Watch for changing weather conditions.  In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
  • ALWAYS select the proper tree for use with your treestand.  Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your treestand’s instructions.  Do not climb or place a treestand against a leaning tree.  Never leave a treestand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
  • ALWAYS use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your treestand once you have reached your desired hunting height.  Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back.  Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
  • ALWAYS know your physical limitations.  Don’t take chances.  If you start thinking about how high you are, don’t go any higher.
  • NEVER use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modifications to a purchased treestand without the manufacturer’s written permission.  Only purchase and use treestands and Fall-Arrest Systems meeting or exceeding TMA standards.  For a detailed list of certified products, contact the TMA office or refer to the TMA web site at http://www.tmastands.com.
  • NEVER hurry!!  While climbing with a treestand, make slow, even movements of no more than ten to twelve inches at a time.  Make sure you have proper contact with the tree and/or treestand every time you move.  On ladder-type treestands, maintain three points of contact with each step.

In addition, you should keep your safety harness clean and dry and store it out of direct sunlight, away from chemicals and possible ozone sources.

Additional Tips for Use of a Fall Restraint System

There are several methods for safely attaching your fall restraint system while ascending and/or descending your selected tree.  Each has it’s specific uses depending on the task being performed.

  • Lineman style ropes which fasten around the tree and directly to D-loops on the harness belt are used to ascend and descend the tree while still allowing the climber to keep his/her hands free.  This is particularly useful for hanging loc-on stands, placing tree steps, or trimming branches.
  • Top-fastened tree ropes are attached to the tree at stand height and hang down to near ground level.  The safety harness tether is attached to the the tree rope via a small sling tied into a special Prussic knot.  The Prussic knot it designed to be slid up or down the tree rope with minimal effort, but locks to the tree rope in the event of a fall.  This setup is useful for ascending/descending ladder stands and loc-on stands that are semi-permanent or already in position.
  • Mechanical retractors are attached to the tree at stand height and consist of a mechanical reel-type retractor similar to an automatic seat belt retractor.  The safety harness tether is attached to the free end of retractor when standing on the ground and as the tree is climbed, the retractor automatically takes up the slack belt.  In the event of a fall, the retractor immediately and automatically locks thereby arresting the fall.
  • Standard tree straps and ropes are attached by looping them around the tree to be climbed then fastening them directly to the safety harness tether.  The tree strap/rope is pushed up/down the tree and snugged up with each step.  These are predominantly used while ascending trees using climbing style treestands.

No matter which type of safety harness attachment system is used, the safety tether should always be kept as short as possible and should be fastened above head height while standing in the treestand.  This will minimize the distance that you can drop if you you lose your balance and fall from the stand platform.  It will also allow a better opportunity for you to crawl back into your stand should you experience a fall.

Make sure when setting stands that you extend your tree steps or ladder system at least 3 feet above the platform level of the stand so that you can step down onto the platform when transitioning to the stand.  This makes it much easier to get into your stand in the dark or during inclement weather.

Always use a pull-up rope to hoist weapons or equipment into your stand.  Make sure all weapons are unloaded and securely fastened before hoisting.

If You Do Fall While Wearing a Fall Restraint System

If the worst happens and you do fall from your stand or while ascending/descending a tree while wearing an appropriate fall restraint system, what do you do next?  The first thing is DON’T PANIC!  Assuming you’re conscious and not seriously injured, you need to make an effort to get yourself either back onto your platform or to the ground as quickly as you safely can.  Even though your harness has kept you from falling to the ground, you may now be in danger of another serious condition called “suspension trauma”.  If you are allowed to hang from your harness for even a relatively short time (i.e., less than 15 minutes), blood will begin to  pool in your lower extremities, thereby starving your central core area and brain for needed oxygen, causing you to pass out and eventually die.  It is imperative that you quickly alleviate this situation in one of several ways. 

  • Crawl back onto your stand platform.  This is possible if you attached your safety tether high and short enough that your fall was minimal and you can easily reach the platform.
  • You may have to descend the tree.  To facilitate this it is recommended that you carry an extra screw-in tree step or a length of sturdy rope sufficient to go around the tree you’re climbing in an easily accessible pocket on your person.  In the event of a fall, you can then insert the tree step or loop and fasten the rope around the tree in order to give you a place to step up to take your weight off the harness.  By alternating moving the step/rope and hanging in your harness, hopefully you can safely descend to the ground.
  • If you can’t immediately extricate yourself by climbing back onto your stand platform or safely descending the tree, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion with your body and legs.  This will help to keep blood circulating from your legs to the rest of your body.  Remember, this is only a stopgap method.  You still need to continue to try and either climb back onto the stand platform or descend the tree as soon as possible.
  • Only as a last resort, you may have to cut your tether and hopefully climb/slide down the tree trunk in a controlled fashion, minimizing injury.  For this you should always carry a knife or shielded strap cutter that is readily accessible or fastened to your harness so that you can reach it easily.  Remember that your full weight will come to bear once you cut your safety tether so hang onto the tree tightly or be prepared for a quick descent!

Summary

Hunting from an elevated treestand can enhance your opportunities as a hunter to see and kill more game.  However, these opportunities are tempered by the many risks associated with the use of treestands that should not be ignored.  Proper use of a certified fall restraint system and thoughtful installation and use of your treestand and accessories can go a long ways towards ensuring that you have a safe and successful hunt.  Remember to arrive back home alive!

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Published by Mead on 28 Apr 2008

Why I Hunt: The Loss of a Dear Friend

     Every fall I get asked the same question: Why do you hunt?

     The answer is simple. I have always found peace in the woods.

     When I was a child I went hunting to accompany my dad. I wanted to see wild animals. On numerous occasions I had small birds land on the brim of my hat. I also had chipmunks and red squirrels scurry up my legs. Every time we went to the woods I came back with a memory.

     At the time I didn’t think these events would hang around in my memory, but as I get older the memories become more and more alive. These memories make me see how how those cold days in the woods every fall helped my dad and I create a bond that nobody can truly understand but us.

     As humans we all have best friends. I have been fortunate enough to have two of them throughout my life. My father is one of these friends. My other friend, who I also have shared many trials and tribulations with, is now gone.

     As I head to the woods this fall it will be a new era for me. I will be forever thankful that my dad will be by my side to comfort, guide and help me get through the tremendous pain and hurt that goes along with losing a person so close to me.

     When I shuffle through the leaves and trudge through the wet snow, I will have a constant reminder of this person: the gold medical alert necklace that dangles from my neck. My friend was thoughtful enough to give it to me just in case I ever need it to save my life.

     I used to sit in the woods and wonder what my friend was thinking. I would ask now and then, but I never felt like I knew for sure. I always wondered what I could do to make our friendship better. We had been friends since childhood. We had counted on each other for comfort and security. Now, more than ever, since I lost this dear friend, I’m thankful that dad and I formed the friendship we did when I was young. He doesn’t replace my friend, but he is there to help me get beyond my loss.

     I can now see how important those trips to the woods were for me. When I was young, dad taught me how to deal with my feelings. I learned that it was okay to be mad, angry, happy or sad. I am thankful for this because I’ve had every type of emotion on this roller coaster ride the last year.

     My dad might not have known what he was giving to me at the time because I sure didn’t know. However, over the last few years I have learned that he gave me the inner strength that I would need on my journey through life. He also gave me the ability to understand that if you sit tight under the trees, even in the pouring rain, you can still find miracles in the harshest of times. I’ve seen deer pick through the leaves in search of food. Although it’s pouring rain, the deer don’t acknowledge the weather. They move forward just to survive. It makes me realize that I too must continue moving ahead.

     One year I regularly observed the same group of deer early in the season. As the season progressed a fawn disappeared, but the family carried on in normal fashion. I always wondered what happened to that fawn. I will never know, but I could see that the family moved along because time doesn’t stand still for anyone or anything. Although I lost the closest friend of my life I know that I must move forward.  There’s no going back in time and there’s no figuring out the ups and downs in life. Sometimes the answers are right in front of us if we only open our eyes to see them. I’m sure nobody will ever take my friend’s place, but I may start new memories with a friend I haven’t met yet or a friend who has stood in the shadows waiting for more of my time.

     When I was a boy, my dad taught me to expect the unexpected. One night my father brought me bowhunting. We sat on a log a few feet behind a stump. As the sun faded and the woods became gray a deer ran stratight at us. The deer jumped over the stump and landed about a foot to our left. The deer never knew we were there. That night I learned that you never know what might happen.

     This lesson came back to me last fall. Although I always enjoyed hunting, I hunted with half a heart in the early part of the fall. By the middle of the fall I just couldn’t go back to the woods. My friend was gone. Gone like a leaf falling from a big oak on a windy fall day. It was just like the deer from when I was young. A few snapping sticks alerted me and my dad that the deer was headed toward us, but we didn’t know what to expect.

     The experience with my friend was similar to that childhood memory. My friend was quiet, reserved and just didn’t welcome much discussion. I tried to talk, but the communication was non-existent. Before I knew it my lifelong friend had disappeared. I sat for months on end in the darkest of nights trying to figure out why, but nobody could help. I felt lost in a huge tract of wild forest. I was as empty as a well without water.

     Every hunter has a favorite spot. My favorite spot is a big oak tree on the side of a mountain. Every year I go to this place because it gives me something I need, something I can’t describe to anyone.

     It’s the same thing my friend gave me. As nobody can replace a fallen tree, nobody can replace this person. A new journey has started for me. Hopefully If I cross enough hills and valleys I can find a new tree to sit under. A tree to support my back, rest my shoulders on and listen to my dreams.

     I go to the woods every year to find myself. I love to sit as the sun peeks out from behind the mountains first thing in the morning. I love to hear the woods come alive with animals. I also like sitting silently and thanking my parents for making me who I am today.

     The next time somebody asks you why you hunt, please take the time to think about it. Take your child with you or your niece or nephew or the neighbor’s kid. You could affect their lives in more positive ways than you could ever imagine. I thank my mom and dad for always being there and showing me the way.

     As for my friend who is gone, I want you to know that you were one of the greatest memories I will ever have. I want to thank you for saving my life on numerous occasions in the middle of the night when I suffered from diabetic insulin reactions. I know it wasn’t easy and I know it wasn’t fun. But, find comfort in the fact that I will be forever thankful that you gave me the ability to continue living and walking across the forest floor every fall in search of inner peace. Thank you and goodbye, my friend. I will never forget you.

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Published by whitetail101 on 28 Apr 2008

A Pennsylvania Longbeard

A Pennsylvania Longbeard

 

He was coming down the rise 50 yds to my right in full strut, fixated on my decoy setup.  A full season of frustration and anxiety was about to become pure elation.  As he made his way to the decoys, I slowly slid the safety off and hunkered down behind the BSA 4×32 scope on top of my customized Remington 870.

 

The Pennsylvania Spring Gobbler season for 2007 began not unlike the 24 seasons before.  I was out until dark the Friday evening before, on a neighboring farm known to hold a good turkey population.  Pulling into the parking area along a tractor road, I watched eight longbeards across the field feeding toward the roost site.  After locating a good spot within 100 yards of the roost site, I went home to prepare for the coming morning.

 

The alarm went off at 4 am opening day, April 27th.  After much anticipation resulting in a long sleepless night, I got up and made breakfast while waiting for my friend Eugene to arrive.  One look out the window at the light rain falling told me today was going to be a difficult day.  Eugene arrived and we drove to the farm and parked by the old barn.  After making my way to the chosen spot on a wooded point where three fields join together, I placed my two decoys at 30 yards, while Eugene decided to sit on the top of the ridge just below the barn. 

 

Just before sunrise, I pulled out my HS Strut 360 slate call and made a couple of soft tree yelps.  The morning stillness was immediately broken by several gobblers answering from all points of the compass.  Softly calling again, they immediately answered. By the sound of the gobbling they were still on their roosts.  After several minutes of this racket the woods became silent again, except for the sound of the rain striking the leaves from last fall.  We sat through another hour of silence before Eugene decided to quit for the day.  I decided to move to nearby State Game Lands for some running and gunning.  As shooting hours came to an end at noon I heard a couple of gobblers, but saw nothing the rest of the morning,

 

For the next two weeks I hunted in the morning before work, but didn’t hear or see any gobblers.

 

Each day for the last week of the season I took a half day vacation from work to hunt. The weather cooperated and the birds responded.  On Monday several gobblers answered my calls and came into the field, but they would not come into my comfort zone of 40 yards.  On Tuesday a gobbler answered from the old spruce tree at the top of our property. He started right at first light and sounded like he was pacing back and forth at the top of the ridge.  I had all but given up on him when his last gobble came from 25 yards to my left behind a screen of green briar. Thinking he would move from the green briar to the decoys, I put the call away and got the gun ready.  He had other ideas however, and appeared in a position where I could not get the gun on him.  The old gobbler must not have liked the decoy set up and returned to the top of the ridge.  Failing to call him back into range, I broke off the hunt and left for work.

 

The rest of the week produced no sightings or gobbling.

 

The last day began at 4 am just as it had on opening day; except for clear skies and comfortable temperatures.  I hit the snooze bar a few times too many and realized that it was already shooting light.  Skipping breakfast, I grabbed my gear and went to my opening day spot.  I placed three decoys — a hen and a jake/hen mating setup — at 30 yards from my position. After waiting what seemed like forever, I began a series of tree yelps and elicited a gobble from the next ridge.  Calling again he filled the valley with boisterous gobbling.  He continued to answer me for about the next half hour, but didn’t seem like he was moving toward me at all. I contemplated moving to his ridge when he gobbled in the valley between us, and this told me he was headed my way.  Calling to him again produced no response.  The silence continued for about 30 minutes before he double gobbled 100 yards to my right.  My heart began to race as the gobbler approached, and I continued calling to him. As he crested the slight rise at 75 yards, his head and neck reminded me of a little red periscope. I slowly raised my gun into position as he continued to move to the decoys in full strut; spitting and drumming as he marched.  At 50 yards I released the safety and prepared to collect my prize. At 35 yards he entered the field of view, filling my sight picture with a wondrous display of color. When the crosshairs settled on the base of his neck, the Remington roared and the old gobbler dropped where he stood.

 

After fifteen frustrating days of hunting during the two month long season, my excitement could no longer be contained.  The jubilant shouting could be heard for miles.  I admired his 11 inch beard and one inch spurs for several minutes, before hoisting the 17 pound behemoth over my shoulder and making the long satisfying walk back to the truck. 

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Published by agruver on 28 Apr 2008

Colorado Archery Elk hunt

Colorado 2007…

 

February 2006, after unsuccessfully getting drawn for a Wyoming Archery Elk license, I made arrangements with 2 friends to apply for a Colorado Archery Elk hunt.

 

May 2006 – Unsuccessful draw of a Colorado Archery Elk License – 1 point earned (maybe next year…).  Later that month, received a check in the mail returning my $500.  How often do you get a check in the mail for $500 and are disappointed about it?

 

May 24th 2007 AM, impatiently hit the refresh button of my web browser waiting for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources to update their web site with the Elk Lottery results.  SUCCESS!!!  We were drawn!  The planning begins!

 

90 days prior to hunt, 6 AM pre-work workouts start (and continued until I left for Colorado):

Monday – biking 8 miles,

Tuesday – jogging 4 miles,

Wednesday  – 45 minutes on the Elliptical Exercise machine,

            Thursday – Day off or repeat one of previous workouts,

Friday – Repeat one of first 3 days or walk 2 miles with loaded pack frame.

Saturday – Swim 500 yards in the Alleghany river (across and back) plus waterskiing.

 

Work lunch hour    Skipped the usual fast food with co-workers and instead walked for an hour and drank a Slim-Fast.  I apologize to my co-workers for those hot days where I came back to work sweaty.

 

July & August 2007, included:

  • Playing all of ElkNuts (www.elknut.com) videos. 
  • Practicing Elk calls in my back yard. 
  • Listening to the ElkNuts cassette tape on the way to work. 
  • Surfing the Topo map sites like Google Earth and http://ndis.nrel.colostate.edu/Maps which allows you to enter GPS co-ordinates provided by my friends who had hunted there before. 
  • Numerous email correspondences with my hunting buddies regarding the hunt. 
  • Shooting as much 3D as my loving wife would allow (some of which included taking my 2 year old and allowing him to sit on the targets, pretending he was riding them) plus shooting in the back yard and in our basement as well…
  • Sharpening the broad heads (thanks Dad) and hunting knife. 
  • Trips to Cabela’s and ELKNUT.COM for last minute items. 
  • Surfing Sites like ElkHeaven.com & sagecreekforums.com to read everything I could.

 

August 29th – Finally!  The day we leave for Colorado brought me terrible stomach cramps I assume from the stress and made for the start of a long ride.  It is always bittersweet to say goodbye to the family to leave on a hunting trip.  The workout sessions paid off for a total weight loss of 18 pounds over the summer and the best shape I have been in since high school!

 

August 31st  – 5:00 AM (6000 feet in elevation) – Wake up in a Colorado motel after driving 26 hours straight the day before from Pennsylvania to Colorado.  This was our feeble attempt to acclimate to the altitude prior to the hunt.

 

9:30 AM – 8200 feet at the trailhead.  We prepared our pack frames with only the essentials for 6 days in the high country.  About 2 miles into the hike, my buddies say “No Cows past this point”, it was just too far to pack one out just for meat…

 

Half way to camp, we heard some cows chirping.  I wanted to set up on them and call but the wind was all wrong and no one really wanted to take off their packs and change into camo when we were already hot and sweaty and only half way to the camp site.

 

3:00 PM 9000 feet at camp location – A quick baby wipe bath after setting up my one man tent, and got dressed to hunt that evening with the intention of getting higher in elevation and glassing for elk for the next mornings hunt.

 

3:05 PM – change camo to rain camo gear due to threatening rain showers. 

 

5:30 PM – After stopping to catch my breath (I mean take magnificent high mountain scenery pictures) several times (glad I worked out as much as I did), I finally found the first nice wallow in the draw that my hunting buddies directed me to.

 

I let out what I thought to be a terrible sounding location bugle (not enough air in the lungs for that first call).  About ¾ of the way up the mountain I hear an answer.  It is hard to put into words what emotions I went through hearing that first bugle after so much planning and effort that went into this hunting trip.  When the adrenaline subsided, I quickly set up downwind of the wallow and ranged several yardages.  15 or so daunting minutes go by and nothing happens.  This time I try to get more air in my lungs to make a better sounding location bugle.  The bull quickly answers me again in what I believe is the same spot he called from before.  I distinctly remember thinking about one of the ElkNuts videos where he mentions being in the elks “comfort zone” – a place where you can call back and forth with an elk all day and he will never come in but is happy to answer you.  Quickly I scurry up the hill gaining about 300 – 400 feet of elevation in the dark timber and it occurs to me that I am no longer sure of the exact direction to go in.  Up ahead is a small park (opening in the dark timber – sorry not sure all people in Pennsylvania know what parks are out west).  I sneak up to the edge but see no elk.  I tried a lost cow call in hopes to get him to sneak in on me but no luck.  Several minutes go by and I decide to continue side-hilling the dark timber.  Then it happens!  I can hear a thrashing, (it was raking!) – an elk rubbing his horns.  I can feel my pulse jump (and not from the altitude but it was close to 10,000 feet now).  There is a very narrow park ahead of me running up hill with a high rim on the far side so I skirted it on the up hill side.  I remember attempting to sneak as quietly as I could in what looked similar to what we (in Pennsylvania) call golden rod, only it has leaves too.  Not sure what the plant is called in Colorado but it is very noisy, especially if you step on it and it seems to grow in marshy/wet areas of the high country.  What seemed to take forever to me, sneaking / crawling across this opening to get to the rim up ahead was about to pay off.  Just before I get to where I wanted to be, I see 2 cows below me just in the dark timber.  Then suddenly, I hear cow mews all around.  Just past the rim ahead of me I then hear real soft chuckles as if he was saying “Stay close Girls”.  Finally I reach the rim and peek over. 

 

There he is at about 80 yards, black horns and a muddy belly as he tosses mud up in the air with his horns.  Not sure how long I sat there in awe over this magnificent sight, (I am sure it was only a few seconds but I still have that picture burned into my head – and I hope I will never forget it).  I make some calls with the Hoochie-Mama (because it was the easiest call to use and not mess up under the conditions).  It did not really do anything to him, but many of the cows seemed to like it and made calls of their own.  Now he turns and heads away from me into the dark timber and begins to rake a tree again.  So I made the decision to step back from the rim of the wallow and sneak around below to the right and come in from the dark timber on the far side.  I get about 15 yards and it hits me.  I can no longer hear him raking and do not know where he is anymore.  So I sneak right back to where I was before and peek over the rim again.  There he was back in the wallow and soon lets out another soft bugle!  Then I got the bright idea of making a popping grunt to make him come my way. 

 

Well, not sure why, but he acted like he did not even hear it.  He started to ease off to my right where I last heard the cows but the yardage was still too far.  At that moment, a cow appears about 25 yards to my left and feeds on through, thank God for the wind in my face during this whole experience.  He seemed to react to her call and made a beeline right to her, this brought him quartering across in front of me at about 60 yards.  I came to full draw and remember leaning to one side so to not hit one of those golden rod plants.  In hind sight, I remember Paul’s (ElkNuts) instructions to always voice grunt to stop them.  Well I didn’t, and am not sure if I would have been physically able to make any noise with all the excitement and adrenalin.  I took the shot and it hit back further than I’d wanted, “Definitely guts” I thought, as I could see half of my fletchings sticking out when he jumped.  He only went about 25 or 30 yards into the dark timber and just stood there.  I remember thinking “bad shot, bad shot…DROP, DROP, DROP”.  But he just stood there.  I sat there and glassed him (now at about 100 yards) as it began to get dark.  My shot was at 7:30 and I knew it would be pitch black around 8:00 pm.  I got out my GPS and waited for a lock.  I also got out my orange marking tape and snuck it into the pine next to me on the down hill side.  My GPS got a lock and I hit MARK.  “009” was the waypoint name that was assigned and no time to rename it (seems like a strange detail to remember, but I do).  I made the decision to back out and come back the next morning.

 

8:15 (ish) pm – almost back to camp.  I was almost running down over the hill in the black timber until I got to the park just above the camp.  Halfway through the park, I see 4 bulls about 100 yards ahead of me and 2 cows above me.  The first bull was a spike but the next 3 were legal bulls and nice shooters.  Not very observant of me to walk up on them like that but I guess I had other things on my mind…  I remember thinking, “don’t blow these guys out of here” and my buddies can hunt them tomorrow. 

 

After waiting several minutes for them to clear out, and starting for camp again, I find out that my flashlight will not turn on.  Must have gotten bumped on at some point on the trip out west and the batteries were dead.  Not a big deal when I was in the park and knew that camp was ahead on the edge of the dark timber, but I was not sure if I needed to gain or drop in elevation.  I had borrowed my Dads GPS, an old Garmin 12 that does not have a light on it (or I just don’t know how to turn it on) so I could not get the direction from it.  Luckily I see the flashlights of my 2 buddies.  By now I am worried sick about my shot placement, or lack thereof.  Your brain tends to play dirty tricks on you as to where you remember seeing the arrow hit.  I play it cool in camp, walking in and not saying anything.  They start chirping about how they called in 1 bull but could not get a shot and later saw 26 cows and several bulls on my side and that they found a skull of a rag horn (later dubbed “Old Dead Head”).

 

The truth comes out about me hitting one and we forge a plan to get up at first light – 6:00 am and get my bull.

 

The night from hell.  You know in your heart that you have made the right decision to back off a bad hit and give it time, but that never makes it any easier.  Not sure how many times I tossed and turned that night retracing my steps and the events of my hunt.  Then it happened.  The worst sound you can imagine in this situation.  Rain.  If I had any supper in my stomach at that point, I would have thrown it up.  There was nothing I could do but just sit there and stare into the darkness and listen to it hit my tent.  Man that sucked.  Not sure of how many light showers hit us during the night but I was miserable thinking of the blood trail being washed away.  In the early morning I remember hearing coyotes howling and thinking to myself “don’t eat my elk”…

 

 

September 1st – The next morning.  Later in the hunt, the guys accused me of running up the hill that morning and said I was no longer allowed on point when walking.  I guess it was the adrenalin again and wishing the impossible of finding my elk.  Well, my GPS took me right to where I shot and when I peeked over the rim, THERE HE WAS!  That was an emotional HIGH for me followed by the worst low of my hunting career.  His head turned.  He was still alive.  I must thank Kirt who was with me at the time and helped me make a wise decision to back out again.  I am sure that if we would have jumped it, there would not have been a blood trail to follow and we could have lost him in the dark timber.

 

So I proceeded to follow my two hunting buddies on a long walk (to kill time for me) so that they could get some hunting in that day.  We came upon a huge park on the back side of the mountain and sat there and ate lunch (well actually brunch).  While sitting there we had a few cows come by at about 35 yards that quickly winded us. 

 

Now it was time again to check on my bull.  We snuck in from the down hill side with the wind in our face once again to the spot where I had shot my elk.  This time, the Bull was laying there motionless.  Not sure how long I stood there glassing him, but finally my buddies said lets go get him.  As my excitement level hit an all time high, I went straight towards him.  The bull was expired, and I was so excited that I led my buddies right across the middle of that marshy wallow to get to him.  I remember thinking that I wish my Dad was there to see him, that he would be so proud.  But 10,000 feet and his heart condition just don’t mix (this hunt was not for him). 

 

I tried something new this time, as it was my second bull and the first with the bow.  I took out my space blanket and used it to set the meat on as we de-boned it.  This worked out great and I highly recommend it…  A few years ago, I watched Paul (ElkNut) de-bone one of his own bulls without gutting it and I passed this knowledge on to my two hunting buddies.  What they really thought was interesting was taking out the tenderloins without getting into the cavity.  Later in the trip I got the title of Dentist.  I still do not know of a good way to get the ivory teeth (Whistlers?) out other than to just flat out dull a knife. 

 

The good news was the pack out was all down hill.  We took the meat back to camp where we had a deer carrier (with wheels).  It was the expensive aluminum one from Cabelas.  Camp was located about 300 yards from a main horse trail that led back to the Trailhead.  Well you might guess where this is going.  I looked it up when I got back home and it was supposed to be rated for 250 pounds.  After about 500 yards the back of the carrier broke off so we untied the 4 meat bags, moved the portion of the frame that broke off in front of the wheels and tied everything back on and continued for the trailhead.  The closer we got to the truck, the more the carrier bowed in the middle.  Luckily we had tie-downs on it which basically were the only thing holding it together when we finally made it back.  I said goodbye to my buddies who promptly headed back in to camp in an attempt to get some hunting in that night.

 

Next was the hour ride back to town calling everyone I knew.  I was excited to find a butcher open on the weekend after 6 pm, and with it being 88 degrees in town, I chose to let them do it all for me.  While in town, I had a list of things to do.  I stopped at a car wash to hose down the coolers, my pack frame, the tie downs and the deer carrier (even though it was broken, it still attracted flies and bees).  Next I was off to find a shower.  Interestingly enough, the Laundromat in town also had a shower.  Possibly the best $2.00 in quarters I have ever spent.  While there I put the meat bags (from ElkNut.com) in the washer in case I ever need to re-use them again!  Next it was off to the gas station for that $3.00/gallon stuff and a T-shirt with Colorado and an Elk on it.  Then on to the grocery store for batteries for my flashlight, another pair of rubber surgical gloves for the three of us (in case we got a second elk), and another DVD for my buddy’s camcorder. Finally I sat down to a steak dinner at a local pub.  An excellent steak (sure beat the MRE’s), but lacking in conversation as the waitress did not care that I just killed the biggest bull of my life with a bow. 

 

I crawled into the back of the suburban for the night as it was too late to make it back to the trailhead let alone even think about making it back to the camp site, even though that is where I wished I was at that moment.  The next morning I rose early and headed to McDonalds for a quick breakfast and a restroom call.  Porcelain really beats going in the woods.  I was ready to head back to the trailhead when I got the call (My buddy was able to get reception from the top of the mountain).  Kirt had just hit a bull and I was to get my a$$ up there pronto.

 

Well, the adrenalin kicked in all over again but luckily I still had my wits about me.  I drove to the hardware store in town – Murdock’s I think it was called.  I had stopped there the night before and it was closed but knew it opened at 7:30 am.  The problem was it was only 7:00 am.  So I paced in the parking lot for a few minutes and decided to knock on the door since I could see people inside and did not want to waste a half hour in case they did not have one.  The lady did not open the door but asked if she could help me.  I promptly asked if they sold deer carriers!  As luck would have it, they did, but still did not open until 7:30.  So I ran next door to the gas station and got 3 blocks of ice (and another Colorado elk t-shirt) and a bottle of Gatorade for the long walk in.  Back to the hardware store and paced until 7:25 when they opened the doors early for me.  They had a nice carrier on display and several more in boxes.  But that meant assembly required and time I did not have, so I asked the manager if they would sell the display.  I should write them a thank you letter because they did, and off I headed to the trailhead.

 

Once again, I headed to camp and all of those workouts prior to the hunt paid off because I made it in record time with no stops for air.  When I got to the tents, a 2-way radio was on my tent and I called them and got directions to where his bull was.  Well, that did not exactly work out too well – “Follow the creek by the camp and stay to the right when it branches off”.  I did that, but came upon a marshy area and somehow ended up taking another left branch and ended up in a completely different draw.  I eventually found them and to my surprise there lay a nice 5×5 bull with a 25 yard double lung shot.  Kirt’s first bull with the bow!  Wow, what are the odds I thought… 2 bulls!  More pictures!  Kirt had snuck up on the bull just after it bugled.

 

That day was long for me as I helped pack out the bull to the trailhead (and on ice) and hiked back in to camp for the second time.  The next morning came early and we headed up into the dark timber again.  We did not walk 15 minutes when Kirt grabbed Bill and whispered there’s a cow in the meadow ahead of us.  We never heard a noise to know she was there or any other calls that morning.  She moved off to the left and out came a small rag horn at about 35 yards.  Bill quickly drew back and whispered “It’s too dark, I can’t see my pins”.  He let one go and it did not make it ½ way to the bull before it hit the ground with sparks flying.  I remember thinking that’s it, that was his chance, that’s all you get, that’s all you can expect on such a short hunt…  We stood there in awe, and I think I gave a couple of calls on the hoochie-mama.  Well, another bull crested the hill.  All I saw was the horns and the light came on in my head as to what to do.  I quickly backed up and went straight away from my two buddies into the dark timber calling on the hoochie-mama.  I broke some sticks while walking.  As a Pennsylvania Whitetail hunter, it is taboo to make any noise while hunting, but Elk seem to love to hear a small branch break as reassurance that the call they hear is real.

 

Then I hear it.  Thwack.  That hollow sound that an arrow makes when hitting the chest cavity.  I sat there for a second and thought did this just happen?  Could we go 3 for 3?  Then I began calling again, almost non-stop.  Another trick I learned first hand from the ElkNut!  A few seconds later, I hear another Thwack.  Now I was confused.  I know he did not miss the first time and that the second arrow sounded the same.  I must have been about 80 yards from my buddies now so I started back to see what the heck just happened. 

 

When I got to them, they were giddy.  Kirt kept saying to Bill (teasing him) “Turn my peep – Turn my peep”.  But it was Bill that had been shooting.  I guess when Bill drew back, his peep did not turn open and he could not see through it.  So he had Kirt turn his peep while at full draw on the ELK.  He made his first shot at 40 yards slightly back with the bull quartering to him (not good).  But the Elk jumped and stood at 60 yards again (I like to think because of my calling in the background), so again Bill drew back and had Kirt turn his peep, this time connecting slightly back with the bull quartering away (bingo). 

 

Later, on the 26 hour ride home to PA this became known as the impressive “cross arrow placement tactic”.  Now the waiting started.  Kirt went up the hill first (imagine 60 yards at a 45 degree grade).  Bill stood with me with eyes that were glazed over replaying the events that just happened.   Kirt whispered down to us “First Blood”.  That was a good sign, so we moved up to where he was and attempted to find any of the 3 arrows that were now missing from his quiver.  No luck.  We gave the bull an hour and proceeded to track it.  It amazes me how hard it is to see blood on pine needles before the sun is high in the sky.  We tracked for about 150 yards (I was in the rear and took the job of staying on the last spot of blood until the next was found).  Soon I saw Bill point and at the same time Bill and Kirt raise their binoculars.  Next I saw Bills bow raised above his head in sheer joy, while Kirt yelled “He’s down! – He’s down!!!”.  After several photos, the cell phones came out.  First calls went to the 2 guys that were also invited for this trip, but chose not to go.  I remember hearing “3 bulls down and headed for home…YEAH WE GOT THREE BULLS… no kidding”.

 

I have read that the odds of killing an elk with the bow are around 18% for an archery hunter.  Don’t ask me how 3 guys killed each of their first bulls with the bow on the same trip, because I don’t know.  I don’t know that we could ever do it again.  I cannot believe it even happened in the first place.  But I can’t wait to go again…

 

Why this one meant so much to me?

  • No outfitter
  • No guide
  • No one calling for me
  • National Forest land (No fences)

 

Equipment:

 

07 Hoyt Vectrix XL (need to thank Gold-n-Grain Archery)

70#’s

280 feet per second

About 77 pounds of kinetic energy

Bemoan ISC Hunter 400’s – 436 grains

4 ½ inch Duravanes

Magnus Buzz Cut Stingers 100g (need to thank Magnus broad heads)

Trophy Ridge Rhino Guide series 5 pin sight

Trophy Taker Pronghorn rest

 

I need to thank the ElkNut (www.elknut.com) for teaching this Pennsylvania native how to Elk hunt, his videos are the only ones I own.  I especially need to thank my Wife and children for my time away from home and time spent focusing on this trip.  They have allowed me to live my dream.  And also thanks to the man upstairs for answering a prayer or two along the way…

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Published by Gear Junky on 27 Apr 2008

When you come to a fork in the road, take it

When I was fourteen, my family was lucky enough to hunt Oregon’s famous Antone Ranch for big game each year. My grandpa knew the owner, and we had hunting privileges for a couple of decades until an outfitter made his way in and showed us the way out. We enjoyed some great times over those years, and one of them in particular comes to mind.

I was mule deer hunting when God sent an early Christmas gift to me one memorable evening. As I headed back to camp, I stumbled upon a broadside buck at ten yards. He was frozen and shocked – I froze up in shock – and neither of us had any clue what to do next. In my defense, I hadn’t killed my first deer yet so I was a bit overwhelmed, and in his defense, his back right hoof was stuck in a barbed-wire fence. An even match, as I recall.

You may assume that this scenario proved to be unfortunate for our fine furry friend, but in fact the opposite was true. As luck would have it, I had grown up reading every copy of the Eastman’s Hunting Journal that I could get my fingers on, so with visions of world-class trophies dancing in my head, I was determined to reserve my first bullet for a four-point, nothing less. I’d like to say that I had high ethical standards and wouldn’t have shot a buck that was trapped by a bloody leg in sharp metal wire, but…I was fourteen, and probably had the ethics of a billy goat like most high school freshmen. ‘Twas youth that saved that muley’s life.

I approached him slowly, saying, “Easy, little buddy, I’m not going to hurt you, I’m here to help you.” Maybe it was my reputation as an aspiring young assassin, or maybe it was the loaded .257 in my hands, but in any case he didn’t look convinced. I stepped within reach of his hind quarters and saw that he had tried to jump the fence, but came up short and snagged his back hoof. He now had a leg injury that would make Joe Theisman proud; it wouldn’t be long before the coyotes would come to play.

Once I realized that the bloody hind leg wasn’t actually broken, I pulled out my Maglite, jammed it between the two twisted wires, and pried an opening so he could wiggle his leg free. To thank me for my kindness, he kicked me in the thigh before yanking his hoof clear of the wire. He hobbled about fifteen yards before pausing to lick the wound and shake off the pain. After a minute he regained his senses, took one last gander at a fourteen year-old boy with a rifle and a hunting tag, and promptly bolted off. He was limping slightly, but looked like he’d recover.

But, like most hunting stories told by men with weapons, this tale does not end well for the young buck. You see, my grandpa did not grow up reading Eastman’s Hunting Journals, he already had a den full of four points, and was known for his insatiable affinity for tender young venison. Standing on the other side of the ridge, he was more than happy to unload on an eighteen-month-old buck with a limp and a death wish.

You can imagine the jokes and the punchlines that we came up with that night while grandpa cooked up the backstrap. Sometimes comedy writes itself.

Yep, it’s all true. (Except the parts that aren’t.)

2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Published by Gear Junky on 20 Apr 2008

The Bull

(While I work on my next series of must-have gear recommendations, here’s a poem that I spent at least twenty minutes on. Get your Kleenex ready.)

The Bull

My bugle echoed across the ridge,

his quickly fired back;

We each stalked angrily toward the meadow,

both eager to attack.


His antlers tipped with ivory gleamed

like candles in the dew;

My arrows tipped with razors

longed to find their bloody hue.


His breath could chill a mountainside,

his growl meant certain doom;

My stomach growled from last night’s taco,

my breath could clear a room.


With unbridled fury he raked a sapling,

then grunted deep in rut;

I grunted when an ice-cold sapling

jabbed me in the butt.


He proudly strode into the open

and welcomed a fair fight;

I proudly hid behind a stump

and gripped my weapon tight.


He closed the gap to thirty yards –

then stopped to turn away;

Before his instincts could save his hide

my arrow made him pay.


His spirit is still resting

in the meadow on that ridge;

Part of him rests upon my wall,

and part of him in my fridge.

***********************************************************************

2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 52 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5 (2 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Published by djohns13 on 15 Apr 2008

Trying to Impress Dad

 It was a cold, dreary November afternoon as my Mom and I drove to meet my dad.  It was deer season and my dad had begrudgingly agreed to take a break from hunting to spend some time with family.  You see, deer season was HIS time, a two and a half week period each year that he absolutely lived for.  He usually left home the night before opening day, popped back in for a quick Thanksgiving dinner, and then was gone again.  We didn’t see him again until he took his one allotted buck or the season ended, whichever came first.  There weren’t many deer during those days so the hunting was hard and often frustrating.  Most seasons’ successes were not measured in actually harvesting a deer but more in how many were seen during the season.  Success percentage rates were in the single digits during those times, and the rural communities would be abuzz with news of the harvest of trophy bucks.  Consistently harvesting whitetails in those days was a sure way to assure you folk hero status around town.  For many, it was also a way to ensure that the family was well fed during the long cold Indiana winters.  Hearing the news that Dad had gotten a deer was cause for joyous celebration around my house.  I knew Dad would be the talk of the town and I knew that Mom would have a big worry lifted off of her shoulders once the freezer was full of deer meat.

I was too young to remember the occasion for this particular visit but it involved having dinner with the entire family and I was very excited to see everyone most of all my dad.  I was still young enough to not be aware of his imperfections and flaws, I only saw him as the greatest man in the world, one that I was going to grow up to be just like.  One of these days I hoped I would grow up to be a great outdoorsman just like he was.

As we pulled into the area where his truck was parked I noticed him loading something into the truck bed camper.  Later I found that after hunting deer unsuccessfully with his bow in the morning, he had switched over to his trusty twelve gauge shotgun and had limited out rabbit hunting.  Five beautiful rabbits were lying on the floor of the camper and boy was I impressed with my dad’s hunting ability.

Somehow I talked my way into being able to ride in the camper on the way to my grandparents’ house.  Just me, the rabbits, Dad’s archery equipment and the long road ahead of us.  The whole trip I dreamed of how I was the mighty hunter who had victoriously bagged the rabbits and was able to feed my village.  I would return home a hero as everyone in the village feasted and congratulated me on my great hunting skills.  They would acknowledge that I was a great hunter like my father and maybe even he would be impressed by my harvest.  The fantasies went on and on during the trip as I acted out the hunt in its various forms.  In my mind, it was the most successful hunting expedition ever; that is until the truck stopped and my dad opened the camper door.  There in plain sight were five horribly mutilated rabbits and the camper floor cut to pieces where the “great hunter” had repeatedly bagged his game by stabbing them with his dad’s arrows!  To this day I can’t truly understand what made me do that but apparently Dad found it at least a little humorous as my punishment was minimal.  I don’t think I impressed him though because every time he recounted the tale he could hardly finish because he was laughing so hard!

3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 53 votes, average: 4.33 out of 53 votes, average: 4.33 out of 53 votes, average: 4.33 out of 53 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 4.33 out of 5)
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Published by djohns13 on 15 Apr 2008

How I Found the Woods inside Detroit International Airport

“Excuse me sir, do you deer hunt?”

“Uh hmm, excuse me sir, do you deer hunt?”

The second time around woke me up from reading a deer hunting article in Outdoor Life magazine.  I looked up to see a well-built rugged looking young man with a load of outdoor looking straight at me.  “Uh yes, well no, I mean I used to and I would like to again” I stuttered.

“Well, if you want to, what’s stopping you?”

“That’s a good question and unfortunately there’s no short answer to it,” I answered.

“Hey, we’re stuck in the Detroit airport on the day before Thanksgiving and we’re not going anywhere soon.  Give me the long version.”

And so I began.   I grew up in a blue collar hunting household in Indiana where the biggest holiday of the year was opening day of shotgun deer season.  I hunted mushrooms, mammals and birds, fished like it was going out of style, trapped furbearers and even harvested wild ginseng.  I guess it came natural with my Cherokee indian lineage.  I picked up a bow when I was about 12 years old and fell in love with it.  For a couple of years, it seemed to have grown roots into my hands as I hardly ever let it go.  I even won a state-level championship for my age group and couldn’t ever imagine not having archery be the focal point of my life.

Then I discovered girls.  To be more precise, I found the wrong girl.  In trying to please her, I strayed far from my outdoor roots.  My father wasn’t about to butt into my business but I knew it hurt him that I was nowhere to be found during hunting season.  We fished together on Father’s Day each year but that was it for me.  It was always in the back of my mind, and I even dreamed about being outdoors, but I could seem to fnd a way to get there.  As a result, with each year my discontent grew.

Flash forward a few years and I find myself with a new girl, the absolute right girl for me, with a house and a career and a baby on the way.  Everything was going very well, except that I still wasn’t out in the wild.  Occasionally we would do some hiking but there was little time for anything else.  My discontent had been replaced by happiness with a simmering desire to get reconnected with the woods as soon as possible.  Life was good for the most part, then the bottom fell out.  My father died of cancer just a few months too early to see his first grandchild be born, and I had my own brush with mortality.  As I recovered, my son was born to have problems of his own.  He would spend considerable amounts of time in and out of hospitals and treatment centers.  There was so much going on and so much grieving to do, that I didn’t have time to miss the woods even though I needed it more than ever.

Flash forward again several years and my life has been rebounded nicely.  I am healthy, my son’s health is improving, I now have three kids with a big house and my career is booming.  There are only two downsides.  First, I am still not in the woods as much as I want and second, I am stuck in the Detroit Airport trying unsuccessfully to get home for Thanksgiving dinner with the family.

And now standing before me is my hunting/trapping/fishing/outdoor guardian angel and neither of us have a clue how much he will impact my family’s life.

He listens patiently to all the reasons why I am not in the woods and then hits me with the truth bomb.  “You need to be outdoors with your kids.  They are growing up fast you know.”  A profound statement from a guy still too young to legally drink.  He proceeds to tell me his story, which is that he is nineteen years old and trying to make a connecting flight to hook up with his dad for a whitetail hunt in Minnesota.  He is particularly excited about this because since his mom and dad got divorced the relationship with his dad hasn’t been good.  It seems the only time they get along is when they are hunting or fishing together and he misses all of the good times.  His words were giving me flashbacks of myself and my dad, as well as thoughts of me and my oldest son and our struggling relationship.  He mentioned that being in the woods seemed to provide solutions to problems in the rest of his life, and boy did I ever need to come up with some solutions myself.  He had just finished a hunt in Ohio and harvested a really nice buck but this upcoming hunt was really important to him because it was with his dad.  Man, how I wished that my dad was still around to go hunting with again.

We talked for a a few more hours about family and all aspects of deer hunting and then he leaned over and said, “Get back into deer hunting.  You need it and your kids need it too.”  As if on cue, the voice over the intercom announced that his flight was now ready for board and he jumped up to leave knowing he was going to make the hunt he so desparately wanted.  I leaned back in my chair not knowing if I was going to make my holiday dinner, but definitely knowing that I was going to get my kids up in a deer stand as soon as possible.

Flash forward one day and I am sitting at home enjoying a great turkey dinner rattling on about this great kid I met in the airport and how I had decided that the kids were getting new bows for Christmas so they could take up the sport that had been so much a part of my life.  They did get their bows for Christmas and so did I thanks to a great wife who heard every word of what I had said that day.

Flash forward to present day and all three of my kids have sat in the tree stand with me.  My middle son even called in the deer that I harvested with a bow three years ago.  My daughter is actively involved in 4-H shooting sports and my oldest son is starting to fall in love with trap shooting.  And to top it all off, today on my lunch hour I stuck wooden stakes in the ground marking where my new food plot is going to be planted in a few weeks.  About twenty yards from the edge of the plot in a big tree is a buddy stand where me and the kids are going to spend some quality time this fall.

It is hard to imagine things getting much better.

 

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