Archive for the 'Hunting Stories' Category

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Published by Jeffress77 on 30 Mar 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Published by keep on 28 Mar 2008

A Bowhunter’s Obligation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Published by slbeasley on 23 Mar 2008

ACE IN THE HOLE

 Hunting Over Waterholes For Elk May Be Your Best Bet

By Stacy Beasley  

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

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

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

 Rule #1: Find a Prime Location

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

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

Rule #2: Make a Good Set Up

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

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

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

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

Rule #3: Know When to Shoot

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

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

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

 

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