Published by RugerRedhawk on 17 Feb 2010
Archive for the 'Magazine Articles' Category
Published by archerchick on 17 Feb 2010
As the sun began to light up the eastern horizon, I spotted several birds in a big cottonwood tree along the creek behind me. I hunted the general area two seasons before, so I had a good idea where the turkeys would go when they pitched dawn from their roost. My ambush was near the edge of a green strip where three gobblers had been strutting their stuff quite frequently. A couple of soft yelps lit up the woods with a string of gobbles, one right after another. The best I could tell, there were at least three toms. maybe more.
After a few more purrs, clucks and yelps, I heard the turkeys fly down from their roost. Not long after, the gobblers came strutting along in the field. When they reached the crest ans saw the decoys, they picked up the pace and started running with their beards-a-swinging. As the lead gobbler (and biggest) spread his fan and danced his best jig in front of the decoy, I settled the sight pin and released the string. The Thunderhead zipped through the vitals, sending the hefty tom leaping into the air. When he hit the ground I ran to his rescue. He had a 10 3/4-inch beard, 1 2/-inch spurs and weighed 24 pounds. It was my second mature bird that spring.
Those who have bowhunted turkeys already know how tough it is to kill one of the spring kings, but you also know that it’s gratifying and a challenge well worth exploring. Let’s review a few basic tactics that could help you tag a longbeard with your bow.
LEARN THE LANGUAGE
Of all the turkeys I’ve killed, I’ve yet to take any two under the exact same conditions or using the same tactics. In other words, there isn’t any set of rules or script to follow for killing a gobbler. Some days a turkey might respond to soft yelps and purrs. Other times they may come running at the first sight of a decoy, and other times they won’t.
The same goes for calls –not all are created equal. Some days it might be a box and other times a diaphragm or slate that strikes the fancy of an ol’ tom. Even the best turkey hunters have been made to look like a fool at some point in time by a wily old gobbler. It only takes on bad call to take you out of the game, so you should master more than one call and carry three or four. When the moment of truth arrives, you’ll need both hands free for shooting. If a turkey hangs up or you need him to take one last step, there won’t be time to use a slate or a box. With that in mind a diaphragm call is one you’ll want to practice using.
One of the first things that I learned about turkey hunting was that continuous calling got me in trouble almost every time. I would venture to say more birds have been killed that came to investigate soft calls than those that would shatter your eardrum. Through the school of hard knocks, I learned that it’s always better to start out using calls sparingly as opposed to bellowing out loud, excited repetitions. Remember, if you take the bird’s “temperature” using light intermittent calls and he doesn’t get fired up or cut the distance, you can always increase the volume and pick up the pace.
TAG TEAM CALLING
Anytime you’re able to draw attention away from yourself, the better the chances are of fooling an “old sultan” of the woods. Despite their differences in size, elk and turkey hunting are similar in many ways. One of my favorite elk tactics is tag-team calling with a friend, and it works very well on turkeys, too! For this strategy, one person is the designated shooter and the other is the caller.
With that in mind, the first thing on the agenda is to decide who’s shooting and who’s calling. To keep it fair, I usually flip a coin. Second on the agenda is to anticipate the direction in which the tom will come from. Third, find a tree or bush to set up behind that will conceal your movements when drawing. The caller sets up and calls from 10 or 20 yards behind or off to one side of the shooter. When the unsuspecting turkey struts into range, wait until he gives you a broadside shot or turns facing away to take the shot.
GET IN THE ZONE
Like the tom in the beginning, I knew where he had been strutting and made sure I was there when the sun came up that morning. The gobbler had been using a green strip of grass along a cornfield that hadn’t been tilled to strut his stuff. In fact, I’d seen him there twice the week before.
If time allows, it’s always a good idea to do some pre-season scouting. By scouting I don’t mean going out to your favorite spot and try calling a turkey up. In fact, calling before the season opens is probably one of the worst things you can do. The only thing you stand to gain from it is educating the birds before opening day. Like any other game, the element of surprise is your biggest ally.
Similar to deer, turkeys have certain locations where they hold up before feeding. They also use certain terrain features for entering feeding and roosting spots. Take for example, a point that extends from an oak-ridge flat. The point might also serve as a crossover to another roosting location or feeding area. Many of these terrain features are natural funnels that turkeys use going from feeding to roosting spots. When scouting, follow the outside edges of the timbered areas and look for tracks, droppings and dusting sites. If there’s a creek bottom with big cottonwood trees or perhaps an oak ridge with mature trees, look around beneath them for sign like droppings and feathers that would confirm turkeys are roosting above.
Because patterns can change quickly due to breeding activity or hunting pressure, the week or so before opening day spend the first and last two hours glassing to determine what’s coming out and when to the spot where you found fresh sign. Although strutting areas are typically found in open areas like ridge tops, field edges and logging roads, unless you’ve actually seen the turkeys strutting they’re pretty tough to locate. When scouting, look for sign such as tracks that appear to go both directions, droppings and wing-drag marks in soft powdery soil around field edges, dirt roads and such.
All too often, the toms that were henned up first thing in the morning start looking for other breeding hens around midday. In many cases, the toms leave the hens and head for their strutting zones. It’s for that reason you might spend time glassing during the late morning and early afternoon to locate strutting areas. If you find an honest to goodness strut zone, get there before the turkeys do and set up.
If you’re using a blind, get it set up (or build one) before opening day. If you know where to the turkeys are roosting, slip in under the cover of darkness and get within 100 yards or so and set up. If you’re hunting from the ground, then pick out a tree big enough to hide behind and conceal your movements. Be sure to clear all the leaves and debris away from the tree base. When you sit down, remember to position yourself in such a way that you can draw and shoot in the same direction the bird is expected to come from with minimal movement. For example, face your bow -grip shoulder toward the turkey’s approach route or decoy spread. In doing so, you’ll have a wider range to wing and shoot without needing to adjust. Set out one or two decoys to enhance the setup. From your scouting you already know where the turkey is going, so there’s no need to call very much, perhaps every 20 or 30 minutes is plenty.
PREPARING FOR THE SHOT
One of the toughest parts of bowhunting turkeys is getting drawn and shooting without getting picked off first. More often than not, the proper decoy setup can significantly improve your chances of beating the turkey’s keen sense of eyesight. When most toms approach, I’ve learned that they like to make eye contact, regardless of whether it’s another tom or a hen. Because of that, I found it’s better to face a decoy towards me or sideways rather than facing away. As a tom comes in to investigate he’ll eventually turn his read end in my direction, allowing me to draw and shoot.
Chances are, any shot you get won’t be from the standing position. So, long before the season practice drawing and shooting from the sitting and kneeling positions.
Older birds that have survived a few seasons are usually hunter-wise and harder to kill. Although you’ll often need to be persistent when hunting wily birds, you’ll also need to show some patience, too.
I remember a time a few seasons back I’d been hunting an old tom for several days and anything that could go wrong, went wrong. I couldn’t sneak within range nor could I call him away from his hens, no matter how hard I tried.
Much to my surprise, one morning, the boss gobbler answered my calls with some real enthusiasm. Minutes later he flew down from the roost and landed just out of range from the decoy spread of two hens and a half-strutting jake named “Bubba.” I refrained from calling too much and it wasn’t long before he strutted into range, spitting and drumming all the way. It was one time where a combination of patience and persistence paid off.
Bowhunting the spring king might be tough, but the rewards are well worth the efforts. Sound scouting and hunting strategies are the keys that unlock the door to success <—<<
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Published by archerchick on 16 Feb 2010
The outcome was quite typical. There I was with my handheld 10-power glass while my elbows were braced against my knees, intently scoping out the surroundings, while my good buddy Ron was using his 15×56 Swarovski binocular mounted atop an ultra-sturdy Bogen tripod. I was coming up dry while Ron, who was pretty comfortable leaning against his Jeep, was identifying bucks all over the rugged, desert hillside. It became apparently obvious that I was using a poor glassing system, which was certainly limiting my chances of spotting and stalking a buck that day.
No matter what you hunt, to be most effective you must tailor your equipment to the type of hunting you’ll be doing. Out west, first and foremost this means employing clear, high-power optics and various glassing techniques that will enable you to spot game so the hunt can begin.
Personally, I don’t know anyone more gifted at spotting game in wide-open western country thatn some of the hardcore bowhunters and guides who live and do most of their hunting in the Southwest.
Here’s how many of these hunters approach glassing in such country. And due to their success on tough-to-bag critters, such as trophy mule deer, elk, desert bighorn sheet and Coues deer, I know you’ll want to begin employing their tricks and tactics.
Glassing Speed: Good or Bad?
As an outfitter in the Southwest, Chad Smith has one of the best reputations I know of. One of the reasons why he’s so successful with clients is due to his experience and savvy at spotting game amid the vast desert terrain. He’s done it for most of his life -20-plus years – so this guy knows his stuff.
When I quizzed Chad about his glassing techniques he kind of stunned me with some of his advice. It’s not what many so-called experts have been telling us over the years.
“I use 10-power binoculars 90 percent of the time, even in the most expansive country,” Chad told me. “I’m more effective this way, since I can look over a lot of terrain, and in a short amount of time.”
Also, Chad doesn’t use a set pattern when glassing hillsides. He glasses those areas that appear best for holding game and then he moves out to the secondary locations. “I consider myself the world’s fastest glasser,” said Chad. “Some guys set up and just stare at terrain, virtually picking it apart. Personally, I think this technique limits your ability to cover a lot of terrain. That’s why I don’t glass this way. It sounds romantic to say you glassed up a leg, antler or ear of a deer, but nearly most of the time you’re glassing the whole deer,” said Chad, who obviously believes glassing speed can make the difference in success or failure. Of course, this goes against what many say, and that is to pick apart terrain slowly, not sweep past it. But Chad’s technique is well-honed, and what many would consider a “sweep” is a fast but well-orchestrated view of the surroundings.
Chad also routinely mounts his favorite 10×42 binocular (either a Leica or Zeiss) to a Gitzo 1228 LVL tripod that is equipped with a 3130 Bogen fluid head, doing a lot of long-range glassing this way. When at a high vantage point and he has already looked over the area with this 10-power glass, only will he then employ a big binocular to scour the terrain. For the past 10 years he’s used a Doctor 30×80 binocular for such work, which is no longer available. However, at this time, he’s working with the Outdoorsman in Phoenix (800/291-8065; www.outdoorsmans.com), on a prototype binocular that will offer 20-45 magnification with 55mm objective lenses, which he feels will be the ultimate long-range glassing tool.
According to Chad, one of the biggest mistakes he sees novice hunters make is failing to look over a valley or basin with the naked eye first before sitting down to intently glass. Sometimes game can be below you within 100 yards or so, and not a mile away. If you don’t scan terrain first, you could spook or limit our chances of the essence, particularly during the early seasons when the window of time when deer are on the move and more visible is 1 1/2 hours or less.
One big misconception out there is always glassing with the sun at your back. You have to learn to glass with the sun in your face. This allows you to look over terrain that is more shaded and more accommodating for animals to bed and feed in. Also, when it’s hot, says Chad, it’s a good idea to glass the shade all day long because that’s where you’ll find the animals.
Beyond knowing how to glass, you must know when to start your stalk as well. “If a buck isn’t in the right place for a stalk, you’ve got to wait,” said Chad. “We’ve sat on deer from daylight till dark waiting for the right moment to strike. And even then, you might have to try the next day, or the one after that.”
Glass All Day
Jay Scott has been hunting the Arizona mountains and deserts since he was 15 years old. However, he wasn’t very effective early on since he relied more on foot travel to locate game, rather than using good hunting optics to do the work. “I was introduced to hunting by my friend Jason Melde, and he was always a very good glasser,” says Jay. “Eventually, I ended up catching on over the years and began upping my success.”
When glassing, Jay prefers very prominent vantage points. “I feel the more country you can see, the better your chances are of finding the game you’re after.” Some hunters routinely glass from the truck, which Jay feels can be effective in some cases, particularly when you ‘re hunting a new place and you need to cover lots of country quickly. “I have been known to stand on top of my truck in some situations, especially in country that’s flat with no vantage points,” said Jay.
“I really don’t have a particular pattern and quite frankly don’t necessarily fall for the grid system,” said Jay. “I first glass what looks good to me, work the other areas and then do it all over again. If you get too caught up in a glassing grid it may cause you to miss something. For instance, if you are stuck in a grid and a buck walks through a saddle, you may miss the buck. If there are areas that you know will be consistent travel routes you need to be constantly checking back to them and then continue on with your glassing grid. Regardless of your technique, don’t leave any bit of terrain unturned with the binocular.”
While others consider prime time just that –prime time, Jay believes mid-day glassing has a lot of merit. “Me and my hunting partners have found some of best bucks during the middle of the day. You simply can’t quit glassing.”
Jay considers the following as the biggest rookie mistakes: not using a tripod, or using a flimsy cheap one; using low-quality optics; not getting comfortable enough to glass for long periods of time; failing to regularly clean lenses; arriving at key glassing spots too late in the morning. “Also, it is absolutely necessary to bed your quarry and then keep your buddy watching while you make your stalk.” said Jay. “By bedding the animal you usually are guaranteeing yourself 45 minutes to get into shooting position. A buddy who can signal you during the stalk is a deadly advantage.”
Favors Grid Glassing
As a hunting guide, consultant for Swarovski Optik, and native Arizonan, Chris Denham knows more than a thing or two about glassing game in the Southwest. Put more precisely, he knows a lot, and I consider him one of the best I’ve seen.
“Utilizing quality optics has been the most important part of my hunting for 25 years,” said Chris. “I was raised in Douglas and had the good fortune to hunt with Marvin and Warner Glenn. The Glenn family guided for Coues and mule deer using quality binoculars like Zeiss 10x40s and the better Bausch & Lomb models. I quickly learned that my success would be dependant on my ability to find deer before they found me, and quality binoculars gave me the advantage I needed.” “All of my optics are made by Swarovski,” said Chris. “I carry an 8×32 EL around my neck and a 15×56 SLC, and a STS-80 spotting scope in my pack. The EL is very easy to hold with one hand, which I think is beneficial to the bowhunter during the stalk. The 15-power binocular mounted to a tripod allows me to study fine details and find deer and sheep out to three miles, while the spotting scope is generally used to evaluate trophy-quality. When using the binocular I am not always able to determine if that funny-looking spot is a deer or an inanimate object; in a situation like this, the spotting scope will answer the question and allow you to move on or start stalking.”
When chosing a glassing area, Chris sizes up things very methodically. “I pay more attention to the sun than the wind direction,” said Chris. “On a cold morning animals will often move to or stay in a sunny spot, while on warm afternoons they will seek out some shade. Either way, don’t put yourself in a position that requires you to look directly into the sun.”
Like Chad Smith, Chris prefers to initially look over his immediate surroundings without optics. However, once he sits down to glass, he looks over the area systematically, glassing in a grid pattern. “I start at the bottom left corner of the area I want to cover and look at it for 10 to 20 seconds (depending on the species, terrain and vegetation),” said Chris. “After 20 seconds I will move a ‘half frame’ to the right, so I am essentially looking at each field of view twice. In areas that have a lot of concealed terrain or excessive vegetation, I may go through this routine three to four times.”
“Glassing effectively is much like reading a book with fine print; you need to be comfortable and relaxed to be effective. If you are shivering after a long hike, or you are forced to sit on sharp rocks, you will not want to glass for long. Carry a cushion or small chair (especially if the ground is wet) to sit on. I like to carry an extra shirt so that when I get sweaty on a hike I can put on the warm dry shirt when I stop to glass.”
“Talent is a gift you are born with and skill is something that can be obtained through proper training. Glassing is a skill, not a talent,” said Chris. “The first time I glass with a new hunter I always put them in charge of monitoring each deer I see. When trying to keep track of 1 to 10 deer at a time they learn to recognize deer when they can only see a small part of the deer. The more you watch an animal in multiple presentations, the more likely you will be able to recognize that animal in the future. This is glassing ‘practice’.”
“When stalking, I like to get within 200 yards with the wind in a safe direction and then study the stalk. You may have a prevailing southwest wind, but there may be a back draft in a small draw or canyon. In the winter (in the Southwest) it is not uncommon for the breezes to change 180 degrees as the frosty morning air reaches its afternoon peak. Pay close attention to what the wind is doing every day, even if you are not on an active stalk. This will improve your decision making when the adrenaline rush of a stalk sets in.” <—<<
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Published by archerchick on 16 Feb 2010
As the cold winds of winter usher in the end of most bow seasons, many hunters hang their gear up for another year. The off-season doldrums set in, and the thoughts of most serious bowhunters turn toward hunt planning for next autumn. There is, however, an alternative to this course of action –an often-overlooked opportunity to extend your bowhunting efforts another full month. Look to the desert southwest, the land of sunshine and wide-open spaces.
Often viewed as desolate and foreboding, the southern regions of Arizona and New Mexico offer pristine country rich in history, flora and fauna; a land as big as your imagination, most of which lies i nthe public domain. Herein lies a whole new bowhunting horizon, one ripe for the picking for the wilderness adventurer. Our most elusive whitetail lives here, as do wide-antlered mulies, which rule over a vast domain that stretches from earth to the sky and from horizon to horizon. Throw in some “pigs”–Javelina, as they are most often called –and you have a mix custom made for the daylight-to-dark bowhunting action.
A decade ago, my first trip to the desert Southwest produced a very secure hook-set on me. The vast solitude of the country stirred an extreme feeling of freedom and adventure inside me — a world of unlimited and unanswered questions. In the land of the Apache, I soon came to understand how the Native American people prospered, and why they loved their homeland so dearly and fought so fiercely to keep it.
Every winter I longingly anticipate the chance to take my bow and arrows and quietly melt back into a time and place where the spirits of Cochise, Victorio and Geronimo still move like the wind. Let’s take a look at some of the logistics involved in pulling off just such an adventure.
In relation to my outings, I place an emphasis on remoteness. In other words, when I hit the high-desert backcountry, I must be totally self-sufficient. The first item necessary in order to accomplish this is a dependable vehicle, one with good rubber on it, spares available and extra fuel readily accessible. A four-wheel-drive is recommended, and it’s a good idea to take some tire chains. A winch, or cable hoist and nylon strap can be a lifesaver also. Throw a high-lift jack in the mix to top off the deal.
Desert weather can fluctuate wildly from week to week. Commonly, you’ll enjoy endless days of sunshine, warmth and arid conditions, though seemingly out of nowhere, you can have repeated days of soaking rains and/or snow. When the desert gets wet, vehicular travel can literally come to a standstill; be prepared to wait such spells out in the comfort of a well-stocked base camp.
I take an elaborate array of gear for my base camp, including two large tents, propane stove, heaters and lanterns. Sturdy foldout tables and comfortable chairs make the cook tent a pleasant place to hang out in the darkness of a cold desert evening. If you can stand the noise and fumes a generator can supply electricity for many uses.
Long before leaving home, I prepare numerous large meals for my trip, vacuum packing all of them into single serving portions, and freezing them. I then line the bottom of an extremely large cooler with a block ice, place a sheetmetal cover over the ice then stack all my pre-prepared meals on top. Another medium-sized cooler suffices for all other miscellaneous cold items, including drinks. I also have a large dry-storage container well stocked with countless other food supplies, which I conveniently place in a corner of the cook tent. Also, I make sure my cook tent has no floor — there are many pluses to this. Such being the case, I am able to hang a solar shower from the frame of my cook tent, fire up a propane heater and take a shower in comfort. I take a piece of 2-inch thick corrugated rubber as a mat to stand on while showering, for obvious reasons. Be sure to take a large amount of water with you; I have a 50-gallon container neatly mounted on my ATV trailer. With such a setup, I’m able to eat well, lounge comfortably and stay clean for many weeks. Yes, I believe in good, long outings!
For my sleep/clothing tent, I use a long, wide, high-quality cot, sleeping pad and cold-weather goose-down bag, I place a small foldout aluminum table at one end of my bed and a 4×4-foot section of thick carpet on the tent floor beside my cot. A propane heater will be within close reach when I go to bed, so that I can light it directly from my sleeping bag in the mornings. I line one side of my living quarters with two to three large plastic tubs containing all my clothing, neatly and smartly arranged. Such a setup keeps the wheels turning smoothly from day to day.
Okay, here’s where I am going to shame myself: I used to blaspheme ATVs, but now I own one – ha, who’d a thought it! Honestly, they’re very handy for maneuvering around the countless two-track roads that most desert areas offer, especially when things are wet. Even when Mother Earth is dry, an ATV can sure save a lot of wear and tear on your pickup truck. Just remember; Please don’t take them cross-country — that’s when their use falls into the classification of abusive.
THE GRAY GHOST
For a Midwestern Whitetail hunter like myself, the chance to extend my whitetail season by a month is an appealing thought. Throw in the fact that the climate in Coues (pronounced “cows”) country is much more hospitable, and the fact that Coues whitetails are the ultimate bow challenge, and you have a very tempting mix. Reasons enough to point my old Ford south many years ago.
From the get-go, I was led to believe that spot-and-stalk was the only way to effectively bowhunt Coues deer. Well, let me tell you this: Maybe such is the case for the died-in-the-wool western bowhunters out there (whatever blows your skirt up!), but as for me –a heartland ambusher– I’m here to tell you that there is more than one way to skin a cat. I’m talking about tree stand and/or ground blind hunting in rutting-buck travel corridors, and along scrape and rub-lines (Double Bull archery makes some extremely portable and effective blinds, perfect for just such applications).
In other words, what I’m saying is this: If you’re a good Eastern whitetail bowhunter (add a lot more hump-and-get-it to the mix), you can be a good Coues hunter too. Since the main difference between Eastern and Western whitetail hunting lies in the “size” of the land out west and the dispersion of the deer in it, you have to be willing to put in a lot of vertical and horizontal miles in search of deer concentrations. Then, once reasonable concentrations are found, narrowing down ambush spots can prove to be an even more daunting challenge. But then again, what more challenge could a hard-core bowtoter ask for?
Whenever I’ve done all that I can to place my warm body in a high-quality ambush spot, I make sure that I carry a lunch in my Badlands 2200 series backpack, along with my Scent-Lok clothing, and stay on stand all day. At this point, nothing else you can do will up your odds for success more than sheer time spent on stand. And honestly, I’ve found rutting Coues bucks to move just about as liberally during midday times as they do during the early-morning and late-evening hours.
DESERT MULE DEER
Last, but certainly not least, comes the opportunity to possibly cross paths with a mule deer buck whose antlers may be as expansive as the desert sky. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that all the big mulies live in the “traditional” haunts of the Rocky Mountains. Though, admittedly, finding a top-end buck in desert terrain can be like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack, certainly it can be done. Personally, I’ve taken a 30 incher and a 34 incher!
For desert mulies, concentrate on extremely remote locations; mulies don’t tolerate human intrusion well at all. Also, concentrate on foothills regions, but don’t overlook desert “flats” either. I’ve run across some real bruisers in the seemingly uninhabited cactus and mesquite country far out in the desert valleys.
During the rut, mature bucks lord over harems of does, constantly vying for breeding opportunities. This can make them extremely susceptible to approach, yet, on the other side of the coin, you’re dealing with the wariness of a large group of does. In such a scenario, I attempt to simply “hang out” near the rear of the herd, waiting for the boss to make a pass through the area. With patience and stealth you can expect a golden opportunity in time.
Since spot-and-stalk is the usual tactic of choice, good optics and a flat-shooting bow are prerequisite for success. Here I rely on Nikon optics and a Mathews Switchback bow, which launches a Beman ICS 340 tipped with a Rocky Mountain Ti-100 at 275 fps. This rig –groomed with a Black Gold sight and rest — is a dependable nail-driver out to ranges farther than I feel comfortable mentioning. For just such times as this, a quality rangefinder can prove worth it’s weight in gold.
THE “OTHER” CHOICE
Finally, if you’re so inclined, “porkers” may be the order of the day. Javelina offer a different and unusual bowhunting break from the pull-your-hair-out daily grind of Coues deer hunting. With javelina, the key to success lies mainly in locating the little buggers. Chances are, if you find ’em, you can kill ’em. They don’t see particularly well, and they don’t have the ears of a mule deer. Their sense of smell, however is excellent,and they won’t question what their nose tells them. Stay downwind, and move slowly, and chances are good that you’ll pull a string on one.
Cover a lot of ground, looking for rootings and tracks in zones where desert flats blend into mountain foothills. Glass open hillsides at any time of the day for javelina, because they haven’t heard about the early morning and late-evening rule. When stalking them to within bow range, consider the use of fleece overboots to muffle your footfalls.
WRAP IT UP
Of all the do-it-yourself bowhuting trips that I make each year, I look most forward to my annual pilgrimage to the high desert. It’s hard to put into words why this is so, yet, suffice it to say that I consider this trip to be the “coming together” of a fine mixture of all the true ingredients of what bowhunting is all about –this trip is truly a smorgasborgh of experiences. From the day I arrive in this land of stark contrasts each season, I begin dreading the day that I’ll have to head home –that’s the definition of a cherished trip indeed. <—-<<<
In the wide-open space of the desert southwest lies spectacular scenery and trophies to boot–all available to you during the off-season!
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Published by archerchick on 16 Feb 2010
My Christmas Eve Buck
The wiser members of the Tribe Nuge were just a shot away, snug around the home fireplace preparing a hot meal for the old hunter’s return, blue-spruce tree aglow in the corner of our home with celebratory decorations aglitter. With the 30-below wind chill numbing my inner bones, I could hardly wait for dark to take over the swamp so I could join them for a Nugent American tradition of grand Christmas spirit. Meanwhile, Old Man Winter was doing all he could to blow me clean out of my tree stand. Motor City MadMan indeed. Motor City NutJob is more like it.
But now he came, and a powerful, inner instinct overwhelmed the frozen wind and any thought of comfort. I could hardly believe my eyes that such a beast was approaching on this horrendous, brutal night. He was a great stag, and he was coming my way. I pushed and pulled on my frozen muscles in preparation to draw my bow as does and young deer crunched the icy snow below me, luring the old monarch into range. The magnificent buck paused every few steps to test the wind and my patience, and on he came.
As he turned his head to follow an old doe, I initiated my hunter’s prayer, my arrow coming back gracefully, like the Zen ballet of life and death that is, and in and instant, the razor sharp broadhead had sliced clean through the old boy’s vitals and it was all over except for the jubilation. He died in but seconds before me, tipping over in the pure white snow of the marsh, just 25 yards away. In astonished disbelief, I looked to the heavens and said another prayer of thanks, thank carefully descended my icy perch and proceeded with the stirring recovery of rituals of such a precious gift. The purity of my act was obvious to all who are honest about nature. Balance, biodiversity and perfect protein for the table were the irrefutable win-win-win of the occasion.
With the help of my family, we jubilantly dragged the amazing animal back to the barn and soon my frozen garments were replaced with a nice, warm, cushy robe, slippers and a scrumptious hot meal. The Santa Claus of fresh meat has landed.
The American Dream is truly amazing any way you choose it, but this hands-on outdoor conservation lifestyle of hunting, fishing and trapping keeps one honest to the cause and effect with the good Mother Earth and all her creatures and resources. The gorgeous spruce Christmas tree we so joyously decorated together was once again harvested from the thousands of various trees we plant each spring. The natural season of planting is as important to us as the natural season of harvest, and it means so much more to us knowing we personally plant thousands of trees for every one we utilize. Just as the thriving deer populations prove, a reasoning predator will always put more back than we take. The Christmas season is surely a time of giving, but the Nugents don’t limit such conscientiousness to a single time of year. We just go a little wilder at Christmas.
The mouth-watering, aromatically stimulating spread on our Christmas dinner table is not only delicious and invigorating, but also happens to be the healthiest food available to mankind. Our wild turkey is pure, organic food; the roasted venison haunch and mallards a testament to the perfection of God’s natural, renewable bounty. We do it every year, and will forever.
Watching my children grow up in such a spiritually connected lifestyle has served them well, and their integrity and quality of life is my proudest accomplishment. They are all giving, loving, caring, independent, resourceful, funny, clever, productive American citizens solidly in the asset column of life. Now with grandchildren at the party, the traditional Nugent family fun factor continues off-the-charts. Though the gift wrapping and unwrapping can be best described as a consumer orgy, steps towards practicality are being upgraded every year. We try to provide as many gifts to U.S. Military families as we possibly can, for but by the blood of warriors can any celebration take place at all.
We keep Christ in Christmas regardless of trends or the PC denial curse. We celebrate the gift of life, we celebrate American freedom, and we celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ.
Communicate and ask Uncle Ted directly at NugentUSA@cs.com or visit tednugent.com.
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Published by archerchick on 16 Feb 2010
The Master Offers Some Little-Known Tips For Whitetail Success -1977
I THINK MOST HUNTERS, whether devotees of the rifle or the bow, are in agreement that there are very few trophies more coveted than that first whitetail that “makes the book.”
There are no shortcuts to trophy hunting. The confidence and positive attitude so necessary for success requires dedication, time and, yes, hard work. The latter, however, can be compared to being head judge in a beauty contest – while classed as work, it certainly has its high points and a sustained interest level.
Many books and countless articles have been written on the subject of hunting the elusive whitetail. Rather than rehash the basic hunting tactics that can be read about in many other such sources, I will here dwell a bit on factors which perhaps are not usually stressed enough.
For example, the movement of deer from bed grounds to feeding areas and back again is a daily occurrence under normal circumstances, and along this trail the success or failure of a bowhunter lies. In periods other than the rutting moon, understanding this route and the time element involved is the secret of success.
What motivates deer to move or bed down, other than satisfying their hunger? Why do all deer in an area start to move to or from feeding areas at almost the same time? The main reason for this is the temperature, or, more correctly, the changing of it. A deer’s very existence depends on the constant use of its well-tuned senses and probably the keenest of these is the sense of smell. The message that it is time to eat is received not merely by his stomach, but also through his nose. He moves to and from feed and bed on air currents. The motivation is a thermal air drift, caused by the changing temperatures.
During the day, the thermal air drift is to higher ground due to the warming trend. As the weather cools towards evening, a reversal takes place and the drift is to lower ground. Deer move daily before these reversals take place. They move toward the lower feeding grounds while the thermal air currents are traveling upward. This affords them the knowledge of any impending danger ahead. By the same token, they start moving to the higher bedding ground in early morning before the reversal, while the direction of the drift is still downward. Any hunter who has sat in a blind in the evening near a meadow or corn field has experienced this reversal – like a cold, clammy hand – as the thermal drift settled around him.
In comparatively flat country, a marsh, swamp, pond or larger body of water acts the same as a low meadow, ravine, canyon or flat below higher, rougher or more timbered areas. That is, the thermal flow is toward them during the evening and hours of darkness and away from them as the air warms during daylight. Deer normally bed on slightly higher ground due to the rising air drift which affords them advance warning of anything approaching from below.
In choosing a bed ground, they invariably will pick a southerly exposure, at least partially, meaning either south, southeast or southwest, to obtain some benefit of warmth as they rest. This choice may be altered if foul or extremely adverse weather such as high wind, rain or snow comes in from these directions. They may then choose the lee side of a slope to obtain a break from the elements. Keeping this in mind, the hunter may save many fruitless hours by not hunting slopes that parallel the storm direction, as both sides of such slopes are hit directly by the bad weather. So, let thermal air currents and prevailing winds govern your choice of hunting elevations while still-hunting, or in the placement of blinds while watching.
While still-hunting or sneaking is the most challenging and exciting form of deer hunting, by far the majority of archers depend upon blinds or stands for ultimate success. The reason of course is the limited accurate range of the bow, which, when combined with the deer’s natural protective screen of finely honed senses, makes a close approach in the open extremely difficult.
In recent years, laws have been amended to allow bowhunting from elevated blinds in a majority of our states. The use of windfalls or portable tree platforms, or – as is the practice in Texas – the use of man-made towers, if located and used properly, is a tremendous equalizer in overcoming the odds against success. However, contrary to what many people think, it does not insure you the choice of any animal in the area. The placement and use must not be haphazard.
One distinct advantage the elevated stand offers is that it normally allows the flow of the hunter’s scent above any approaching animal. Also, because of the way their heads are set on the necks, deer seldom raise their heads at a sharp angle. Moreover, they are not inclined to look up, because in their normal range they have no natural enemies which attack from above. They often ignore movement or sound overhead, apparently believing it to be branches rubbing in the breeze or the movement of a bird or squirrel. Precautions are necessary, however, to insure retaining the advantage of elevation.
From what I have experienced in the past few seasons, during which the use of elevated tree stands has greatly expanded in legality and popularity, one should not count on a deer never looking up. These animals have survived for eons, often on the very fringes of civilization, by their ability to learn. It is my belief that within the foreseeable future one of the advantages of the elevated blind will be largely negated by most of our deer, especially the trophy bucks, looking upward as they move along.
For this reason, you should choose your background for a tree stand carefully as you would for a blind on ground level. If you silhouette yourself against the skyline you’re asking to be seen prematurely with any movement you make. The higher your elevation above eye level, of course, the less this is true, but many states have a stipulation on total elevation varying between six and fifteen feet.
A large-trunked tree or one with heavy foliaged limbs behind you will help blend your camouflage-suited figure into the trunk. If you choose to take your stand in a tree at the top of a rise, don’t place yourself in a direct line with any trails coming toward you. You might be fifteen feet above the trail, but because of the slope of the hill, the angle of vision of any animal approaching from below would be higher than usual and it might be looking right at you.
Caution should be exercised in removing branches and brush to clear shooting lanes near the approach to a stand. Deer are cautious of new breaks on a well-known route and sometimes will shy around them.
It is most important to try plenty of practice shots from your chosen stand before you hunt from it. It is unbelievable how often very close shots at deer from an elevated stand fly harmlessly over their backs. The angle will fool even the experienced shooter unless he is prepared to compensate properly for it. This can only be accomplished by practice shots from that position. I make it a habit to carry a couple of blunt arrows in my bowquiver, and each time I finish a watching period I shoot them at a fallen leaf or other mark before descending from my perch. If you don’t do this your chances of missing that nice buck when he does come along are great.
All in all, this method of hunting is the most effective one for deer. I’ve had numerous animals within twenty feet of my stand with no realization whatsoever of my presence.
If your heart is set on an encounter with a trophy buck, you must first find his home territory, and this will not necessarily be in or on the fringe of the highest concentration of deer in the area. Scrapes are the best indication of a buck’s presence and the approach of the rut, during which time he is more vulnerable. Scrapes are just what the word implies – spots where the ground cover is pawed or scraped away exposing the dark soil, much like a fresh garden plot ready for planting. These can be a few feet to a few yards in diameter.
The earliest scrapes your scouting turns up are usually along the edges of cover, on or near defined trails, and mark the buck’s territory. These scrapes will often be beside a small tree where the buck has stripped off the bark in the process of polishing his antlers and preparing for the battles to come. The scrape may also be under the limbs of a tree or branches of a large bush showing signs of being severely thrashed by the buck’s rack.
Don’t be satisfied to settle down near the first scrapes found. Later scrapes will be made as the rut approaches its peak. These scrapes will be in or near heavier cover and usually off the regular trails. They will be larger and more defined than the boundary scrapes and will retain the strong scent the buck has left there.
Erecting a tree stand near the latter spots can really pay off. Don’t make the mistake of positioning your stand too close to the scrape. Get back fifteen or twenty yards, where you can cover the most likely approach lanes as well as the scrape itself. This will give you the possibility of a side-angle shot which is the easiest to make. Even though you’ll be elevated, be sure to take the prevailing wind drift into account and choose a spot downwind of the key area, the same as you would for a ground-level blind. Otherwise, a tricky air current could betray you at just the wrong moment. A little scent at ground level can be used to overpower whatever wisps of your odor linger, but don’t overdo it. Sweet apple cider seems to work as well as any commercial scent, even in areas where there are no apples.
Once a stand is erected in such a location, don’t spend any more time scouting or milling about that immediate area. Leave too much of your scent behind and a smart buck will not come in. On those occasions when you hunt from the stand, approach it quickly from the direction opposite the hot spot, climb up immediately, and then remain quiet. No smoking, no candy bars, no fidgeting around if you are really serious about getting a crack at “old rockin’ chair.” One bit of carelessness can overdo all your careful preparations and, even with you well-positioned, elevated blind, you’ll need all the breaks you can get in reducing a trophy whitetail to meat in the pot and a bow rack on the wall. <—<<
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Published by admin on 15 Feb 2010
Trekking into new mulie country brings back memories and
instills a lesson in effective hunting tactics.
By Eddie Claypool
I’ll never forget my first bowhunting excursion out West—back in late August of 1980. A friend of mine and I loaded up my old truck and headed for the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. Not knowing straight up from sideways about what we were getting into, yet fueled by being young and naive, we loaded up our backpacks and headed into the roughest, most remote sections of the Weminuche Wilderness Area.
To say that the next few days were a cram course of learning experiences would be an understatement. Both of us had tags for elk and mule deer ($450 for all four tags), thus we were basically looking for anything with four hooves and hair—and hopefully, antlers. Secretly, my personal fantasy consisted of me smiling or “hero” photos while gripping the massive beams of a giant, velvet-antlered mule deer buck.
On the fourth morning of our excellent adventure, while glassing a timberline basin, I spotted just such an animal. Though half a mile away, through the clear alpine air my cheap department-store binocular nevertheless revealed a giant halo over the brute’s head. Grabbing gear and hustling that direction, I was soon within slow-down-and-take-it-easy range.
With the passing of another half-hour—with some serious crawling behind me—I peered through the stunted, alpine brush at a fuzzy antlered monarch such as I’ve never seen before. Judging the yardage to be “about 30,” I knocked an arrow, drew my bow and slowly raised up from the brush. Quivering like an aspen leaf in a breeze, I settled (yeah, sure!) my third pin on his ribcage and let ‘er fly—right over his back. My arrow—and my “buck of a lifetime”—headed for the timber in the bottom of the drainage 1,000 feet below.
As I sat there that morning, the bittersweet emotions that flooded over me would determine the course of my bowhunting life for many years to come. I knew that somehow, some way, some day I had to bow-kill a giant mule deer buck. Little did I know that many miles, many years and many bucks later, I would still be searching for a buck as large as that first one.
Today, 21 years after that fateful encounter, I can honestly say that I’ve veen blessed with a few good ones—and been close to a few other whoppers. Yet my goal has remained elusive. The one thing that I’ve came to realize is that locating a 190-inch-plus buck—and then bow-killing it—certainly has to be one of the West’s greatest bowhunting challenges. When you throw in the added obstacles of do-it-yourself, open-access, public-land hunting you’re striving for success that few will ever taste. Nevertheless, it’s a noble undertaking whose intangible rewards—a lung-full of pure mountain air; and eye-full of crimson desert sunset—are actually worth more than the original goal.
My pursuit of mulies led me from cactus flats to alpine basins, to the plains and prairies where I have experienced my coyote-like stalks. Last August, however, I spent a couple of weeks in some new and intriguing country in southeastern Utah. The canyon land mesa country of the San Juan Elk Ridge unit provided me with its own unique type of challenge.
Having spent most of my mule-deer hunting time in fairly open country, the thickly vegetated topography of this area threw me for a loop. Long-distance glassing opportunities were almost non-existent, thus dictating an approach to success that revolved around waterhole hunting and-or still-hunting.
After a couple of days spent in my truck becoming familiar with the area, I settled on a spot that appealed to me. Oak brush, juniper and pine-covered mesas—intermingled with occasional openings—dropped off into deep, brushy, rocky canyons averaging 1,000 to 2,000 feet deep. As I began to still-hunt through the different types of habitat in my location, it became clear that the larger bucks were bedding on the sides of the canyons. Most of the does and small-to-medium sized bucks preferred the tops of the mesas.
For more than a week, I spent my mornings and evenings trying to slip along the brushy canyon sides. I was seeing a few large bucks, yet due to the impossibility of stealthy movement, they always seemed to spot me first. I was getting fairly frustrated with my constant still-hunting failures and my inability to come up with a better plan of attack. Maybe I should take a day of from the rough canyon country and try my luck in the more still-hunter friendly country on the mesa tops?
Day 10 of my outing found me relocated to the cooler, higher oak brush and pine country of my unit. Certainly, the physical and mental outlook aspect of the hunt would be much more pleasant up here. I could see farther, stalk quieter and sweat less. Now the question was, “Were there any big boys around?”
With the passing of a few more days, it became apparent that the big bucks were almost non-existent on the tops. Now, with only three days remaining until I was to leave for a New Mexico elk hunt, I needed to decide whether to go back to the canyons and hope for a miracle, or stay on top and try to simply harvest a nice buck. Choosing the latter, I set forth with new goals.
Noon on the last day of the hunt found me deer-less. Packing camp, I toyed with the idea of skipping the last evening of hunting. Having always been more persistent than talented, I opted to stay. Memories of last-minute bucks and bulls from trips past solidified my reserve.
Setting out for my last evening afield, I was in a reflective mood. Slipping quietly along for short distances, then setting for awhile, I soon spotted the unmistakable reddish-brown color of deer ahead. My 10×40 binocular revealed respectable antler on one of the five bucks. Slipping my shoes off and donning a pair of thick socks, I began to sneak forward. Using tree trunks for separation, I closed the distance in short order. A last look through my binos confirmed the fact that the largest buck would do just fine. Ranging the buck at 41 yards, knocking an arrow and coming to full-draw, I eased our from behind my tree.
When the bow went off, I knew the shot was perfect. The buck expired whithin sight, allowing me the luxury of simply settling to the ground and giving thanks. A short time later I held his fuzzy antlers in my hand, once again realizing the importance of staying the course to the end. I’ll take luck any day.
Mule Deer Basics
Access: Without a doubt, the best odds for quick, easy bowhunting success on big-antlered mulies occurs on expansive, outfitted, private-land hunts. If you have more money than time, then this type of outing is for you. Start saving your greenbacks, consult the outfitters guide in the back of this magazine and then begin researching possibilities.
On the other hand, if the accruement of experience and the satisfaction that accompanies it are priorities of your hunt, consider hunting on your own. Take the basics of woods savvy, camping gear and physical conditioning, throw in a couple of weeks vacation, add a liberal dose of mental toughness and determination and you’ve got the makings of a successful outing. For best odds at a public-land trophy, consider applying for drawing hunts in areas that are managed to produce good percentages of mature bucks. Most western game departments offer such opportunities. The drawing odds can be long for these hunts, yet when a tag is drawn, you can expect to have access to a resource that can rival the quality of some of the best private ranch hunts.
There is plenty of open-access public land out there for the do-it-yourselfers of the bowhunting world, with realistic possibilities at record-class deer. Often, some of the biggest bucks available can be found near urban and/or agricultural areas. Many times these bucks spend their nights feeding in crop fields on private land, then traveling to patchwork public ground nearby to bed.
One of my best bucks was killed on a small piece of BLM ground almost within the city limits of a small town. The buck was traveling from his bedding area on the public ground to a small farm field on private ground to feed at night. With a small amount of research I was able to locate access onto the public ground. Building a ground blind in the buck’s travel route—which I carefully reconnoitered from a distance for a few days— I was able to harvest the 170-class buck as he headed to the farmer’s field to stuff himself on protein-rich alfalfa.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are the bucks that live in extremely rugged, remote locations. Over the years, I’ve encountered many monster mulies while backpacking in alpine wilderness areas. Bowhuting at the timberline requires a special breed of individual that is willing to endure the extreme mental and physical obstacles involved in tackling this harsh climate and terrain. There are few deer that reside in the vast, imposing county and finding them can be like looking for the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” Conversely, there cannot be a more satisfied bowhunter than the one who finds, stalks and kills a big timberline mulie buck—it’s the epitome of a genuine Rocky Mountain high!
Tactics: Early-seasoned bucks are usually found in loosely knit bachelor groups, thus making locating them a “feast or famine” situation. You should cover a lot of ground when initially tackling a new area. When possible, velvet antlered bucks prefer to reside in fairly open country because they are very conscious of their “crown” at this time of year. Bucks often bed on open slopes that provide random shade and are exposed to prevailing breezes. Glass open areas from prominent points in early-morning and late-evening times. Foot-scout for water sources and concentration of fresh sign during midday periods.
Once hotspots are found, monitor activity for as long as necessary to determine proper tactics. It is common fare when bowhunting for early-season mulies to spend much more time glassing than hunting, so don’t handicap yourself by going afield with optics that are less than top quality. Here is where the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies.
Published by admin on 15 Feb 2010
Hi Spirit: New Brunswick Bruins
For a rockin’ good time, try for a far-North spring blackie.
By Ted Nugent
The impenetrably thick dark spruce forests appeared to flow on forever in the Canadian North Country. Cruising up Highway 1 out of Saint John, New Brunswick, into yet another beautiful valley of green spring fields and rolling dairy farms, I see small, quaint white farmhouses that dot the wilderness landscape here and there. Yellow diamond-shaped moose crossing signs appear every few miles to remind us we’re not in West Virginia, and the stunning scenery has a calming effect on me as we wind our way deeper into what we know is serious black bear country. If it’s black bear habitat, baby, you know you’re in God’s country, and we take it all in appreciatively every mile of our Maritime Province journey.
Just last night, my band rocked the house royal with Lynayrd Skynyrd in Barrie, Ontario, outside Toronto, Canada’s number one cosmopolitan megacity. Amazingly, within a short drive of Toronto, just 100 miles northeast near the town of Bobcaygeon, some of the world’s densest populations of bear can be found.
Unfortunately, and in fact, quite sadly, all our bear hunting party again this spring would not, and legally could not, pay to hunt here because the Ontario government officials were caught taking bribes from a rich antihunting fanatic named Bob Shadd. They had the audacity to ban the spring bear hunt on a mindless, dishonest whim in direct defiance of their own Ministry of Natural Resources proven policy.
Thousands of bear hunters, including the customs officers we met crossing the border from Michigan, would not spend our tens of millions of dollars on this scientifically supported spring bear hunt in Ontario, and would instead take these precious revenues to New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska, Idaho and elsewhere to buy licenses, permits, guides, outfitters, food, lodging, groceries, meals, supplies, sporting goods, bait, rental cars, souvenirs and assorted other goods and services that are essential for average bear hunting needs and desires. So be it.
Pathetically and indecently, Ontario will continue to charge the good citizens of that province to kill more sows and cubs than ever in recorded history, and then bury their wasted, desecrated carcasses in a pit somewhere like so much worthless trash. Good call Ontario. That’s how to respect black bears. Carry on.
Since 1983, Ron Slipp and his family have operated the Slipp Brothers Ltd. Hunting and Outfitting operation near the small village of Hoyt, New Brunswick. Specializing in spring and fall bear hunts, as well as other traditional fall hunting for moose, deer and small game like grouse and rabbits, they run a tip-top camp with mostly repeat customers from all over the world. It’s easy to see why as we inspect the well-built, comfortable cabins complete with bunks and clean linens, hot showers, refrigerators and wood stoves. At the bustling kitchen and mess hall, we put away a delicious hot meal of fresh salad, scrumptious au gratin potatoes and baked ham with ice cream for dessert. It turns out that every meal is like this.
There will be no roughing it at this far away hunting camp, that’s for sure. As a proud board member of the great Canadian Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), I joined dedicated COHA directors Andy Kowalczewski and Ray Gosselin for a three-day bear hunt in between my Canadian concert dates. I cannot imagine sitting in a hotel room when hear good bear county with an open season underway. No way!
Ron has a perfect replica of his bear-set treestand right at camp, and after our hearty, rib-sticking dinner, we took some practice shots at the Delta and McKenzie bear targets to limber up our travel muscles and get our minds right for the Monday hunt.
Joined in camp by a good group of New York hunters, spirits ran high as they always do in such settings. The guys were hunting with rifles, shotguns and an assortment of archery gear. Videos and photos of past critter encounters were shared with growing anticipation for the afternoon hunt, and the camaraderie was thick and uppity. The Bear Spirit was in camp.
Our first afternoon and stand was like the majority of bear stand vigils—cold, wet and long. After six rugged, very wet and cold hours, a hot shower and wood stove heat felt nothing short of miraculous, and sound sleep came easily again.
Day two dawned colder yet with the icy rain still coming down hard. But later in the day, with slightly clearing skies, we headed into our stands with solid enthusiasm and hope. As the rain slowly subsided and the wind died down, the dark of night slowly consumed the day. Local hunter and trapper Randy Mercercou was able to videotape over my shoulder a pair of handsome black bears marauding in and out of the dense brush around tour treestand. With too little light to shoot, we nonetheless took great quantities of bear medicine into our hearts and souls.
Day three was the charm. Even as we enjoyed a fine day of leisurely camp life, clearing skies brought with them new hopes of increased bear activity. All hunters geared up and headed for their stands early, knowing that this dramatic upgrade in weather spelled bear all over it. Randy and I too were settled 22 feet up in our jackpine platform 90 minutes earlier, cocked, locked and more than ready to rock, doc! Patience is job-one when hunting anything, but absolutely essential for quality and effective bear hunting with the bow and arrow. Add to these nearly insurmountable odds the burden of videotaping, and you’ve got yourself one hell of a gonzo task on hand. Now in our 11th hour maneuver, nerves and tension were on a tightrope.
Nothing but birds for four hours, then, with but 45 minutes of shooting light left, a distant crack of a twig snapped us to attention. Right then a big black blob appeared 60 yards out in the dense boreal scrub. My heart pounded like a double live gonzo big bass drum gone Motor City Mad Man full-tilt boogie. I love when that happens. This first bear took his time peaking in and out of the thick vegetation. As it slowly tip-toed toward us, its head jerked up, looking behind, then dashed wildly off, galloping and splashing through the deep water to out left. We both knew why. The arrival of a larger, more dominant bear always scares off a smaller bruin, so our intensity accelerated further yet. And thar she blows! A larger black blob now poked its brown-muzzled head through the green foliage, and cautiously moved our way. My adrenaline glands had full liftoff! I forced myself to breathe easy. Here he comes! Imminent full bluntal Nugity or bust.
A typical move pulled by bears coming to bait is to snatch and run. As I came to full draw, that’s exactly what he did. Before I could hope to steady my hold, he was lurching back into the underbrush, beef shankbone clutched in his jaws. No shot. The bear was gone just long enough to devour his succulent hibernation wake up breakfast before he slowly sauntered in for more. This time I figured I was ready for his quickie maneuver. This time, as I thought I had properly anticipated his grab and run tactic, I released my arrow to a flash of fur and my 500 grains of razor-sharp Nugent Blade feathered deathray zipped harmlessly where there had been vitals and a ribcage a mere nanosecond before. Rats!
But I am here to hell you , my Pearson bow, equipped with a full compliment of Sims Vibration Laboratory silencing products was so quiet, the bear only leapt a few feat and looked back, confused. I was already loading another all-white carbon arrow onto my string when he ambled back for another crack at the free chow. This time I let fly a second faster and the arrow smacked hard with a loud, KRAK! My Magnus broadhead had penetrated deep into the bear’s neck completely severing the spinal column, bringing the beast crashing down hard like a pole axed polecat. An immediate second arrow slammed right through the beast’s head, penetrating the brain, bringing all movement to an abrupt end. All rejoice! The rug has landed!
Randy and I breathed a sigh of relief in unison, I scrambled down the ladder right away and the bear was dead. We celebrated the Great Spirit of the Bear and took many photos and video footage for the “Spirit of the Wild” TV show that will appear on the Outdoor Channel and numerous network affiliates nationwide. More than a little honor and respect were given the beast in its death and we dragged our prize from the depths of the Canadian forest with a prayer for the wild things on our lips.
Published by admin on 08 Feb 2010
The Bear That Wouldn’t Stop
A seemingly well hit bruin turns a
recovery mission into a total nightmare.
By Randy Templeton
It was September 1986 and we were along on our second Ontario black bear hunt. Our hunt in the spring had been a total bust for my hunting pal Craig Owens and me. It didn’t take long to realize swatting skeeters and no-see-ums wasn’t exactly our idea of hunting. Even after dousing ourselves with bug dope—and our ankles and shirt cuffs duck-taped shut—the biting, blood-sucking phantoms always seemed to find a clear pathway to bare flesh. Plus we didn’t have a crack at any bears on that trip.
Bud Dickson, one of Ontario’s leading authorities on problem bears and certainly a top-shelf outfitter based out of Atikokan, invited Craig and me on a return trip, this time during the upcoming fall. I was very reluctant to the invite at first, considering our previous journey. Not to mention, the dates conflicted with when Craig and I usually go elk hunting. But Bud explained during the fall it’s too cold for bugs, and bears would be feeding rigorously before hibernation. Bud also explained that boars would be roaming the woods for the last receptive sows. After hearing all this, the temptation was too high, and we moved our elk hunt out a week and headed for Ontario!
Upon arrival, we were greeted by our guide Garth Stromberg who told us the bears had been quite active and visiting the baits at nearly the precision of a Swiss timepiece. In fact, just days before our arrival they filmed five large boars over one bait site. Garth said one would tip the scales at 400 pounds or better and another would be pushing 600 pounds. We were excited.
Our accommodations were better than most, a log cabin on the bank of a pristine lake. The first afternoon was spent fishing for walleye and northern pike, both or which we enjoyed for dinner. That evening, Craig and I experienced a spectacular show of northern lights, neither or which we’d ever seen. An assortment of bright beams of light shot from between the clouds and danced on the lake.
The first morning we walked to our stand sites under the cover of darkness, each of us carrying a bait bucket in one hand and a bow in the other. A layer of frost covered the ground, and the smell of autumn was in the air. Without warning, a cool breeze hit and I was overcome with an eerie feeling we weren’t alone. A sudden “woof” coming from the darkness and the sound of rattling brush sent chills up my spine. A bear hadn’t been more than 25 yards from where we stood. The remaining distance to our stands seemed like eternity. An occasional snap of twigs and rustling of leaves had my wits on end.
Craig and I split up and moments later I was settling in my stand. That is when I spotted a bulky figure beginning to materialize. Then, just as quickly as it appeared, it vanished back into the shadows. I wasn’t sure what it was.
That afternoon found us carrying bait in plastic grocery bags filled with fruitcake, peanut butter, sweet rolls and bread smothered with pancake syrup. As I approached my bait I could hear twigs snap nearby. I thought I’d be lucky to reach the stand before a bear comes charging in for dinner. Rather than bury the bag under the pile, I simply laid it on top and tiptoed to the stand.
Suddenly, I heard a rustle then saw some small poplar trees whipping back and forth. Two giant bodies towered on the skyline. Slowly, two moose moseyed down the slope and passed within 40 yards, but neither paid any attention.
I was caught off-guard some time later when a large bear ever so quietly stepped out from beneath an umbrella of brilliant colored foliage. He stopped at less than 10 yards and balanced on two legs. His jet-black eyes met mine in a blank but cold and chilling stare. At that point, I wasn’t quite certain the goodies lying on the log pile were his primary objective.
Remembering what Bud Dickson told me about shot placement I wasn’t about to take the shot until the old boar settled in for the smorgasbord. Those thoughts had no more than passed when he made a beeline for the bait, grabbed the entire bait bag and ran for cover! One small piece of bread fell in the opening marking his escape route. At less than 30 yards the bear ate all the contents, including the bag from behind a cluster of berry bushes.
Thinking the bear would return for the last scrap, I stood ready with an arrow knocked. He came close, but much to my surprise the temptation wasn’t great enough. Instead, out came another bear, but one that didn’t compare to the big bear’s size. I passed on the shot.
The following morning we spent baiting various sites getting ready for the afternoon hunt. Craig elected to hunt elsewhere and I chose to stay put hoping for a second opportunity at my bait site.
Upon arrival a dozen clattering gray jays were scavenging the bait station. To ensure there wasn’t a repeat performance of the afternoon before, I buried the bait deep beneath a pile of logs and then poured raw molasses on the logs to sweeten the deal.
Only minutes had passed when the woods grew silent, and I sensed something was amiss. Looking over my shoulder, I spotted two black silhouettes. After nearly an hour the smallest outline cautiously inched toward the opening licking its chops. Within a few yards he stopped long enough to take a brief but sneering glance, then woofed before running for cover.
Overcome by temptation, just minutes later the old bore walked directly beneath the stand spanning two trees and stopped. Sniffing the ladder, he put one paw on the first step and stared upward as if he were going to join me. Let me tell you, I was about to jump out of my pants. Fortunately, he must have decided the aerial perch wouldn’t support both our weight and climbed back down. Slowly but surely, he slumbered to the pile and began peeling off logs, tossing them aside like toothpicks.
Giving the skittish critter plenty of time to settle in, I slowly drew my bow and anchored for a quartering away shot. Milliseconds later the 160-grain Snuffer broadhead sank out of sight and reappeared while exiting the front shoulder on the opposite side, sending the bear charging.
About an hour later, it was nearly dark. Figuring the bear had plenty of time to expire, I climbed down with flashlight in hand and soon picked up a good blood trail. I remember thinking at the time how ludicrous it was trailing a bear in the dark. These thoughts had no more than passed when a growl and popping jaw sent me hightailing for higher ground.
Returning to camp, we collectively agreed to wait until morning before taking after the bear, giving it plenty of time to expire. Craig hunted the following morning, but unfortunately it was another no-show.
Garth arrived sometime around 10 a.m. with his tracking dog. The blood trail petered out at the edge of a swamp, at which time he turned his hound loose. No more than 10 minutes had passed when the dog began baying. Garth turned toward me and said, “There’s your bear!” Suddenly the barking stopped and then picked up again some distance away. Oh, no, the bear is alive!
We hustled into the swamp and soon located the dog some 80 or more yards away snapping at the bear’s heels. From behind, Garth and Craig whispered, “Why don’t you just slip up there and finish him off?”
“Ok, I’ll try,” I said reluctantly. Really I was thinking, Why don’t one of you go finish him off if it sounds so easy.
Closing the gap to about 35 yards, I was taunted from behind to shoot. Not exactly in a calm state, I drew and released the string, sending the Dougherty Natural aluminum arrow skipping into oblivion. The bear ran a short distance, maybe 30 yards before lying down, giving me only a rump view.
Once again taking my two buddies’ ill advice from behind, I sent another mini-missile on the way. With the shaft buried to the fletching the bear spun around in circles like a dog chasing its tail and then took up the charge. Having made only two steps backward the dog suddenly appeared between us, luckily diverting the bear’s attention.
To make an even longer story short, I was down to three arrows and there was no sign of the bear weakening. While in the process of trailing the bear, he eventually offered a broadside shot. Quickly I shot and my arrow passed clean through his chest. Craig quickly and graciously volunteered to walk some two miles or more to get a slug gun—just in case. Garth and I continued following the bear hoping he’d expire—soon. He’d have to.
Eventually the bear bedded down in a stand of tightly grouped saplings where we watched from a distance. After a half-hour or so without any movement, I decided to slip in closer. At 20 yards a narrow opening offered what appeared to be a clear path. As bad luck would have it the Snuffer found the only tree between us. Startled, the bear jumped up and ran from sight.
Now I was down to one arrow. Within minutes the dog located the bear again lying on a rise in the swamp. Although he appeared to be dead, we approached with caution when closing the gap to maybe 25 yards the bear got up and slowly began circling down wind. I quickly drew and held steady before letting the last arrow slip free. Upon impact the bear let out a roar and turned to make a charge. Once again the dog redirected the boar’s attention, giving us time to escape out of harm’s way.
Scouring the area we found the badly bent and blood-soaked arrow. Looking at Garth, I said “So now what?”
“ We wait,” he replied.
While in the process of trying to straighten the arrow, I was entertained by Garth chopping down a small sapling. “What the heck are you going to do with that,” I said.
“Well, I’m making a spear just in case.”
Please, Craig, hurry with that gun.
After an hour the young guide turned the god loose again. Having barely lost sight of him, the all-too-familiar baying sound pinpointed his location. Following our ears, we found the bear bedded down behind a large brush pile growling and snapping its jaws at the circling dog. First eyeballing a clear path for retreat, I made a mad dash for the brush pile with an arrow knocked. Leaping aloft, I drew and sank the arrow behind the shoulder. All hell broke loose upon impact, causing the bear to let out a furious roar, standing on its hind legs and swatting air!
I’ve never been much for a long distance runner but I’m somewhat quick out of the gate. Leaping out over the barking dog, I was running for all it was worth. Hearing a yelp. I glanced over my shoulder only in time to see the dog sailing through the air and hear Garth yelling. “Oh my dog!” With one swat the enraged bear sent the dog airborne before sprinting another 50 yards and going down.
Shortly thereafter the dog reappeared and a close examination uncovered four claw marks on the rump, none of which were serious. Nevertheless, I truly believe things could have taken a serous turn for the worst had the dog not been there.
While field dressing the bear, I was somewhat curious to know where the first arrow had taken the bear, considering how long he lived. Interestingly, the first arrow caught the top of the liver and one lung. I’ve known of whitetails that have survived with one lung but never without both. The second arrow penetrated the same lung and the third severed the heart. One can only surmise this was one tough bear with a will to live.
If you’re wondering what happened to Craig, well he showed up after all the excitement and field dressing was complete, none of which he claims to have missed. The Ontario Department of Ministry aged the bear from a tooth submitted and later sent a letter stating the bear was 7 years old, much older than the “average bear.”
When we returned to Atikokan, I was approached by a man who claims to have harvested more than two-dozen bears (26 to be exact) over the years and consequently has plenty of exciting stories to convey. His advice was to never, never take up the trail of a wounded bear. Good advice, I’d say.
Some years before he and a friend found themselves in a very similar situation that nearly turned tragic. While moving in for a finishing shot, the bear attacked, taking down hi friend. Before he could stop the bear, his hunting partner’s arm had been severely mauled. Although surviving, he nearly bled to death before arriving at a nearby hospital!
Published by admin on 03 Feb 2010
To achieve accuracy with broadheads, straight arrow flight must follow,
and nothing decides this more than the fletching on the arrow.
By Joe Bell
Ask any qualified engineer and they’ll tell you that aerodynamics is a complicated subject. Variables are far and wide when dealing with air resistance and the shape of things. This is why designing aircraft is such a high-paying profession – it’s not easy.
This is also why tuning arrows for straight flight ca n sometimes wear out even the most experienced archers. We’ve learned over the years that to obtain precisely straight arrow flight, we must first choose the correctly spined arrow shaft for our bow. To find this out, we shoot this “bare” shaft through taut paper to see if it punches a neat bullet hole (or slight horizontal tear with a finger release). If it does, then it’s the correct shaft for our setup.
Once this is done, we’re left with choosing the proper amount of fletching for our arrows. The fletching on an arrow are responsible for one thing: to cause drag – or friction – that will help stabilize the arrow in flight, therefore allowing it to fly straight through the air and to its intended target. Of course, when you add a fixed-blade broadhead to the picture, this steering effect becomes much more complicated – similar to the aerodynamics behind building airplanes – because now the front end of the shaft wants to “steer” as well.
So in a sense, with fixed-blade broadheads – and even with mechanical broadheads – fletching size, configuration and the orientation in which they are attached is the only element that can control whether or not your arrows fly straight. This is why the subject of arrow fletching is so important.
According to Bob Mizek, one of New Archery Products’ top engineers, the most critical time the flight of a broadhead-tipped arrow is affected is when the arrow first comes out of the bow and before the arrow starts to rotate. “Aerodynamically speaking, the blades of a broadhead act like canards on an airplane,” Mizek said. “Anyway, unless the arrow comes off the string perfectly with perfect center-shot, perfect vertical orientation, perfect nock travel, and with no torque on the grip, the air stream will push against the side of one or more blades, forcing the arrow away from its desired path. Aerodynamically, this is called yaw if it’s left to right and pitch if it’s up and down.
“When the arrow rotates, centrifugal force pushes the arrow back towards its true center and reduces pitch and yaw (this would be a bad thing in an airplane for obvious reasons but is a good thing in an arrow since an arrow does not have a pilot to do course corrections),” Mizek added. “The sooner you can get the arrow rotating, the sooner yaw and pitch can be reduced or eliminated, resulting in tighter groups. Arrows that are tipped with field points or mechanical broadheads still benefit from the arrow rotating because one side of an arrow experiencing yaw or pitch feels air pressure more than the other, causing the arrow to fly inconsistently.”
As you may know, New Archer Products invented the new QuikSpin plastic vanes that were designed to maximize arrow spin, and therefore maximize arrow control and accuracy. The vanes are said to begin spinning an arrow almost immediately out of the bow. This in turn allows the arrow to experience air drag sooner in flight, which theoretically should make the arrow more stable and less susceptible to the forces of side air resistance that could push it off course.
“For reference, a typical arrow fletched offset with 4-inch QuikSpin vanes start rotating in only 18 inches. It reaches full rotation in two to three yards,” Mizek said. “The same arrow set up with conventional vanes typically requires 12 yards. The effect on accuracy by getting the arrow spinning sooner and then faster is incredible.
Are the Rules Changing?
Over the years, we’ve been told that the amount of air drag cased by fletching is dependent on its size and shape. For more air drag, you use longer fletching. For less, you use shorter fletching. For the ultimate in air drag, use the same size feathers. Right? Well, in the pat couple of years I’ve learned the rules may be changing.
While on a hunting trip with my good friend Bruce Barrie, I noticed his arrows were dressed with target-size vanes (they were Duravane’s 3-D vanes). I asked him how he could be shooting such a small vane, but he swore by what great arrow flight he was achieving with small fixed bladed heads, even at sever high speeds.
Later, a rep from Norway (the company that makes the Duravanes) told me that the secret behind these 2.3-inch vanes was its design. The vanes may be short, but the design is very rigid to deduce blade “flap” through the air, which increases its ability to create air drag. Plus, the vane’s compact size optimizes clearance with arrow rests.
This same concept is the premise behind Bohning’s excellent new Blazer vane. At only 2 inches long, this vane is said to offer all the stabilization required to properly steer fixed-blade broadheads. The Blazer vane is slightly more than 1/2-inch tall and the vane is very rigid so wind flap is nearly if not completely eliminated.
Personally, I believe some longer/larger fletching is more prone to “flapping” when they are subjected to high speeds. With slower arrow speeds, air resistance isn’t as violent, therefore arrows fletched with longer/larger fletching provide excellent air drag and arrow control. But with modern speed bows and carbon arrows, reducing arrow speed isn’t really an option, nor do most bowhunters want slow arrow speed.
NAP’s QuikSpin vanes, I’m told, were not only designed to spin the arrow faster but also to prevent from flapping wildly in the air stream. How is this done? The vane incorporates micro-grooves on one side that promote rigidity, even at that critical moment when the arrow immediately leaves the bow.
Arizona Archery Enterprises uses a “rough” finish on its Elite Plastifletch that promotes better steering in flight. The vanes are also made of special material that has better memory (ability to flap back to shape) to reduce the affects of vane flap.
Norway adds a unique, slightly tapered “blade” on their Duravanes from the base of the vane to the top to enhance steering power and to reduce vane weight. This same feature is said to eliminate blade flap and noise, too.
What about feathers? Feathers are said to offer about twice the amount of air drag as equal size vanes. The reason for this can be attributed to a feather’s surface, which is rough and full of natural “slits” that apparently cause for more air resistance or drag.
What about the orientation of fletching, the manner in which they are fletched on the shaft – either straight, offset or helical offset?
While designing the QuikSpin vane, New Archery Products has conducted many tests on the affects of air drag caused by various types of arrow fletching.
“We determined with a rather detailed and complex series of tests that to stabilize a broadhead at about 260 feet per second the arrow needs to turn about one rotation over 3 yards,” said Cary J. Pickands, technical support specialist for New Archery Products. “Our previously recorded data was then able to provide even more information, and in this case, very useable information. We looked at each data set and found the range at which each fletching type produced one full turn.”
During testing, Pickands and other members of NAP’s staff discovered that standard 4-inch vanes (AAE Plastifletch, Duravane, Bohning Killer Vanes, etc.) fletched with a 1/16-inch offset reaches one full rotation between 12 to 15 yards; 5-inch helical feathers fletched with a 3- to 4- degree wrap reaches one full rotation in between 4 and 7 yards; NAP QuickSpin 4-inch vanes fletched perfectly straight reaches one full rotation between 4 and 7 yards; and NAP QuikSpin 4-inch vanes fletched with a 1/16-inch offset reached one full rotation between 1 and 4 yards.
“As far as we can tell arrow speed has no effect on whether the vane will control the arrow,” Pickands said. “We’ve shot broadhead-tipped arrows in excess of 330 fps with phenomenal accuracy and precision.”
Testing Fletching: What Really Works?
Ultimately, only you can decide what fletching type and orientation provides adequate steering for your particular arrows and broadhead combination. Shooting different combinations of fletching with your chosen broadhead usually does this.
My good friend Ron Way, who is an engineer in the aerospace industry, told me that there are many variables that affect aerodynamics and stable flight, whether it is an aircraft or an arrow. “Very small variation can change the dynamics of flight such as the grip on the handle, a poor release, out-or-position anchor (from leaning/twisting), wind, or low or high altitudes (air density),” he said. “An arrow that is marginally stable can show decent flight when conditions are good but can be horrible if one or more of the variables change.”
Arrow Trajectory and Fletching
Ideally you should equip your arrow shafts with the smallest possible fletching that will stabilize your broadhead. This way, you can maximize your arrow’s downrange speed for flatter trajectory. Smaller fletching also means less side air resistance of the arrow that translates into less horizontal arrow drift. Also, consider the orientation of your fletching; the more offset and/or helical you apply to fletching, the slower the arrow will fly because more drag is occurring.
It Comes Down to Accuracy
The bottom line with fletching is what produces the best accuracy for you. While testing some of today’s modern fletching. I’ve noticed that in some cases the length of the fletching is not as important as the stiffness (or in other cases the memory) and the height of the fletching. The greater the stiffness (or memory) and the taller the fletch air drag becomes more pronounced for increased arrow stabilization. But then again, that’s just another impression in the world of aerodynamics.