Archive for the 'General Archery' Category

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Published by admin on 18 Nov 2009

How To Plan A Successful Big-Game Bowhunt By Fred Bear

How To Plan A Successful Big-Game Bowhunt
Step-By-Step Guidelines And Advice
From A Bowhunting Master
By Fred Bear

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 The object of any big-game hunting trip is a thrilling and rewarding adventure in the great outdoors.  Every hunter hopes to come back from a trip with meat and trophies, and certainly these add fulfillment.  But even without these end results a hunting expedition can be the highlight of your year.

 It is impossible to guarantee results on such an outing, regardless of how plentiful the game.  The vagaries of weather and the innumerable small adventures that can plague the bowhunter are completely beyond prediction.  Yet some of the best hunts I’ve ever had were nonproductive in terms of trophies, but made enjoyable by good companions, a comfortable camp and interesting encounters with wildlife in pristine surroundings.

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Careful preparation is the best guarantee for a successful hunt.  The factors I consider most important are: a wise choice of companion(s); a productive hunting area; careful selection of a guide, if needed; proper preparations for food and shelter; plans made well ahead of time; and physical conditioning.

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Your hunting companions may be of entirely different social and financial status than yourself, but their likes and interests should be the same.  You should know them well enough to be assured they are dependable as sportsman, not easily discouraged, willing to do their share and capable of accepting mishaps without complaint.  Nothing can ruin a hunt more completely than a hunter who is lazy argumentative or complains with little provocation.

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 For short hunts not involving wilderness country or pack trips, a party of two is ideal.  Each can hunt alone (the most productive method), yet share the companionship of the evening campfire and the chores of cooking and keeping the camp in order.  In addition, if one suffers an accident or onset of sickness, help is there.

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 On wilderness hunts, four hunters make a good group.  Each has a partner, and partners can alternate as desired.  The hunting territory can be covered more effectively and camp labors involved in an extended trip are lightened.

 Your planned hunt may be into a neighboring state, one of the Canadian Provinces, or Alaska.  The basic consideration is the game sought.  Never plan a hunt around the hope of getting a great variety of trophies.  Determine what species you want most and pick a region where it is prevalent.  Any other species should be considered as a lucky bonus.  Often, of course, one region will offer excellent chances for more than one species, examples being a combined elk and mule deer hunt in the Rockies, a moos and caribou hunt in Alaska, or a mountain sheep and mountain goat hunt in British Columbia or Alberta.

 If such exotic game as Dall or Stone sheep, grizzly, or mountain caribou is the object, a fairly costly trip into a wilderness area may be less expensive in the long run than several trips into more heavily hunted regions where the chances are slimmer.

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 How do you pick the right area for the species sought?  One of the best sources for such information is the United States Interior Department’s Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington, D.C.  It publishes state-by-state game census figures, a brief study of which can give the nonresident hunter a good idea of where the species is most abundant.  Other good sources are the various state fish and game departments, or in the case of Canada, the Provincial Lands and Forests Departments.  The major hunting and fishing magazines often have special sections devoted to regional reporting on game abundance and the annuals published by both firearms and archery magazines, such as this one, contain useful information.  A state-by-state list of bowhunting seasons, for example, can be found elsewhere in this publication.

 If it is meat on the table and the enjoyment of a successful hunt you have in mind, then concentrate on states with high game population and hunter-success ratios.  If a trophy specimen is your aim, however, be selective as to the area you choose.  Excellent sources for this information are the books, Bowhunting Big Game Records of North America, from the Pope and Young Club, Route 1, Box 147, Salmon Idaho 83467 ($17.50), and North American Big Game (seventh edition), from the Boone and Crockett Club, 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15213 ($25).
 
 When writing state of provincial departments for general information, be sure to request data on licenses, hunting regulations and a listing of approved, licensed guides.  An excellent additional aid is the Denali Directory, issued by the National Rifleman’s Association, 1600 Rhode Island Avenue, Washington, D.C. 20036 ($2.50).  It contains hunting information and guide listings for each state along with season dates and license fees.

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Many Western states, Alaska and Canadian provinces require nonresident hunters to have a guide.  Such a service is considered necessary to prevent game-law violations and to keep those hunters unfamiliar with the country from becoming lost.

 Even when not required by law, it often is a good idea to use the services of a guide in country new to you.  He knows the region, where the game is and the best way to get it .  Just as important, he does much of the routine camp work such as tending horses, cutting wood and cooking, thus leaving the hunters more time to concentrate on hunting.

 Write the guides you select, requesting types of hunts, services available, and rates.  Be sure to start this program well before your tentative hunting date.  Many of the best guides and outfitters are booked well in advance, often over a year.  In addition, many nonresident hunting licenses and game tags are sold out early in the year on a first-come, first-served basis.

 Printed or photocopied form letters sent out “blanket”-style to all the outfitters you can find is not a wise policy.  Such coverage may do more harm than good, leaving a bad impression with the more reliable sources.  Be somewhat selective and write individual, personalized letters.  This will convince the recipients that you are serious in your interest.  In these contacts, be sure to state our hunting preferences and ask for a list of references.  Any reputable outfitter or guide will be entirely cooperative in supplying names of previous clients.  Contact these hunters by phone or letter for first-hand evaluation.

 After narrowing the choice down to two or three outfitters, contact each one again, by telephone whenever possible.  Find out how much time will be devoted to the actual hunt, how many hunters per guide, what equipment you are required to bring.  If your party is small, will you be thrown in with other hunters?  Is the area accessible to the public?  And what weather conditions may be expected?

 Be sure to spell out your bowhunting requirements.  The majority of outfitters have had no experience in guiding bowhunters and thus may not realize how you wish to operate once the game is found.  Some may not even wish to guide you when they find that you hunt with the bow, possibly in the belief that the lower trophy-success ratio that is accepted by bowhunters will not help their promotional records.

 No matter how small your question may be, it is best to ask it in advance.  If the outfitter is slow to answer, or can’t answer, mark him off your list.

 Having accomplished this, you are prepared to hunt the game of your choice in the best area available with a person or persons thoroughly familiar with the region.  This alone will give you a great feeling of confidence.  But give and take between an outfitter and client is a two-way street, with trust and teamwork being absolutely necessary for a good hunt.  When all’s said and done, there is still some trial and error to be undergone in picking an outfitter.  If you book a guide and have a good hunt then you think he is great.  But another hunter may not be successful in getting the trophy he wants despite the best efforts of a competent guide, and may be bitter about the whole trip and about the guide as a result.

 An example of what can occur, even to highly experienced wilderness travelers, happened to be a friend, Raoy Torrey of Salmon, Idaho.  Torrey is a director of the Pope and Young Club, born and bred to the woods, and is himself a qualified big-game outfitter and guide.

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 A few years ago, Torrey and a companion, also an experienced guide, were contemplating a trip into the far north for a Dall sheep hunt.  They happened to run into a fellow in a taxidermy shop who was a registered guide in the Mackenzie District of the Northwest Territories.  He impressed them with his accounts of the country and after extended conversation they decided to book a hunt with him.

 When the time came, they flew from Idaho to the settlement of Norman Wells, a jumping-off place for access to the northern Mackenzie Mountains.  After they had waited there 2 ½ days for their outfitter to get organized, he finally rented the services of a local bush pilot to fly the two hunters some one hundred miles north to an unnamed wilderness lake, where he said he had a camp.  He stated that he would come in himself on a second flight.
 
 To shorten a trying tale, the hunters were dropped off on the lake shore but found no signs of a camp.  Furthermore, scouting revealed the entire area to be completely devoid of game and the lake without fish.  They spent 2 ½ weeks waiting for their guide, who never showed up.

 Two things kept them going.  Torrey had packed a mountain tent and small Primus-type stove in his duffle, and when rations got low they hiked many miles to another area where they succeeded in killing a small sheep.  Finally, a passing plane spotted the HELP sign spelled out in plastic letters alongside their orange tent and got them out.

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 This incident could easily have been tragic if the hunters involved had been less experienced and cool-headed.  As it was, they were out a substantial deposit apiece and fortunate to get out while still in good physical condition.

 And what happened to the outfitter?  Nothing.  Torrey and his friend would have had to stay in Canada for an extended period in order to locate and bring the miscreant to justice, which just wasn’t practical for them as they both had jobs to get back to.  They learned later that although the guide involved had been reliable at one time, they happened to tie up with him just as he was going out of business.  He shunted them off just to get rid of them, then disappeared, neglecting to tell anyone else of their whereabouts.

 So you see, bad experiences with guides can happen to anyone.  And it has happened to me, although under circumstances much less critical than in Torrey’s case.

 These good friends, a well-known outdoor writer and two other experienced woodsmen, invited me to accompany them on a spring bear hunt in Ontario.  One purpose of the week’s trip was to obtain promotional material for a motor company’s all-terrain vehicles.

 The outdoor writer had an outfitter lined up for us.  As it turned out, he had made several inquiries of guides for the proposed hunting region, from advertisements in outdoor magazines.  One of the answers he received was written with pencil on an of piece of butcher’s paper.  Aha, he thought, this fellow must be a real old backwoods type who seldom gets out of the bush, and proceeded to make final arrangements with him.

 Upon arriving in the village of Temagami, we found the “outfitter” to be a town dweller who knew little about the territory beyond it’s limits.  He had hired a couple of local Indians to do the guiding for us.  Well, there are woods Indians and there are town tavern Indians.  Our guides soon proved to be of the latter strain.

 One of them took us many miles up lake Temagami to a recently vacated lumber camp where black bear were supposed to be numerous.  There must have been a large celebration of some type the night before.  Our guide was in such bad shape that we had to run the boat for him.  After two fruitless days at that location, the guide said he’d take us to another lumber camp where he’d seen “plenty bear” just a week previously.  To get there we drove miles over a rough bush road, only to be stopped a few miles short of our goal by a heavy chain across the road.  Our guide couldn’t understand this sudden blockage, although a brief inspection of the lock and chain plainly revealed that it had been firmly in place for more than a season.

 One member of the party was dropped off in the afternoon on an isolated island in the lake – another great bear haunt and a good spot for an evening’s watch, according to guide.

 The evening turned into a black night, the atmosphere turned into pouring rain, and the island turned into an R&R area for mosquitoes.  The guide became involved in another celebration and forgot to pick up the hunter until the next morning.

 We finally called a halt to such proceedings and fired the outfitter, losing, of course, the one-third down payment in the process.  His final magnanimous offer was to sell us a couple of long-defunct bear from the town cooler – purchased no doubt from local hunters for that purpose.

 We were fortunate enough to make other arrangements that turned our trip into a successful one, but that’s another story.  Suffice it to say that we had really been taken in.  It can happen despite precautions.  I believe the most workable preventative is to plan a hunt early enough to obtain and thoroughly check out the outfitter’s references.

 
 If the plan is to hunt with an outfitter in a wilderness area, all of the major equipment such as horses, packs, tents, stoves, cooking gear and food, as well as a horse wrangler and cook, is gernerally furnished.  Sometimes the outfitter also furnishes sleeping bags, but it is best to take your own if you have one.  Your list will also include proper clothing, hunting tackle, binoculars and spotting scope, camera and film, toilet articles and a ditty bag with first-aid items, extra compass, waterproof match case, small notebook and pencil, and mending material for both clothing and tackle.

 Fundamental equipment for off-the-track big-game hunting, where the services of an outfitter or guide are not required, includes clothing, personal items, camp gear and food, a compass and map of the area, hunting tackle and a method of transporting it all.

 The tendency of beginning hunter is to take along many unnecessary items.  The veteran hunter goes light but right.  It is axiomatic that if a hunter can keep warm, dry and well-fed, the chances of his hunt being successful are increased.

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The modern hunter camping on his own or with companions uses one of the several excellent brands of rigid pack frames for carrying his equipment.  The old scale of thirty-five pounds for the average man is a good one, with then pounds less for a woman or youth.  The backpacking bowhunter who is actually living in the bush will carry roughly two-thirds of his load in equipment and one third in food.

 Just a few years ago, food supplies either had to be fresh or canned, with three to four pounds of food and cooking gear needed per man per meal. The new processed foods shrink this to one pound per man per day.  One man in a party of four can carry all the food necessary for the entire group for a week without strain.  One man can carry dehydrated or freeze-dried foods that would be equivalent to packhorse load of canned and fresh foods, and with absolutely no danger of spoilage.  And, if the approximate balance of meat, fruit and vegetables eaten at home is maintained, the diet won’t be lopsided in any direction.

 In addition, of course, would be the hand-carried bow and arrows, a sturdy belt knife and small hatchet.  Late in the season when bad weather is likely, a small tent should be substituted for the plastic sheet.  And in some circumstances, depending upon season and terrain, a canteen and halazone tablets would be necessary.

 By all means take along a camera and notebook.  They may seem superfluous at first thought, but there is absolutely nothing like having a few photographs and field notes to later help recall the details of a hunt.

 The related subjects of making up menus, preparing foods, choosing campsites, proper clothing and footgear balance, map reading and emergency procedures are all important, but obviously cannot be covered in an article of this length.  Suffice it to say that all are important in planning for a hunt.  There are many excellent books that can be purchased or borrowed from a library covering all such details.  A few volumes I can recommend are Camping & Woodcraft, by Denise Van Lear (a Sierra Club book); Skills for Taming the Wild, by Bradford Angier; Complete Book of Hunting, by Clyde Ormond; Outdoor Encyclopedia, edited by Vin T. Sparano (an Outdoor Life book); Lure of the Open, edited by Joe Godfrey, Jr. and Frank Dufresne (a Sportsman’s Club of America book); and Backpacker’s Digest, by C.R. Learn and Mike O’Neal.  Additional sources of backpacking information are, “The Art& Science of Backpacking” from Himalayan Industries, 807Ocen View Avenue, Monterey, California, and “Enjoyable Backpacking” from Gerry Mountain Sports, Incorporated, Box 910, Boulder, Colorado.  Both are free for the asking.

 There remains one important aspect: physical conditioning.  If you re planning to hunt at higher altitudes than you are used to, or in particularly rugged terrain, this could well be the most important factor in the success or failure of your hunt.  Being in the best shape possible can be more important than skill with your bow, because if you can’t get to where the trophy animals live then you certainly can’t hit them.  Doing lots of climbing up hills or stairs, jogging in your hunting boots, working with wights, calisthenics and just plain running are all good conditioners.

 These are the basics.  There are few wilderness hunts that in retrospect can be said to be absolutely perfect in all details, even when the desired trophies are secured.  However, proper great experience afield and of smoothing off at least some of the otherwise rough edges in the process.

 Good huning.

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Published by admin on 17 Nov 2009

How To: Make A Small-Game Stopper By C.R. Learn

How To: Make A Small-Game Stopper
Step-By-Step Directions For A Simple, Inexpensive
Call That’ll Stop ‘Em Cold In Their Tracks
By C.R. Learn

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

cover 

Rabbits Run, quail fly and squirrels dodge into holes or flip around trees when they feel they’re being threatened, right?  These are their protective systems, and you can capitalize on these systems by making what I call a small-game stopper.  It’s easy to make quickly if you have some broken cedar shafts laying around.

 The small-game stopper actually is the idea of Charlie Farmer, who came by one day to show me his quail stopper, which is a section of cedar shafting, slotted and fitted with a piece of plastic that results in a reed-type instrument.  When you blow hard into it it makes a screech like a hunting hawk and Farmer said that quails will sit and rabbis stop when they hear that screech.  This gives you a chance to get within range before they take off again – a small but important edge when you’re out to bag them.

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Materials needed for the small-game stopper are a section of cedar shafting (you can use a piece you cut off from the last arrow you made or a broken shaft or even a new one, if need be) a rivet or setter system of some type to clinch the end together, a rivet or an eyelet or even a small bolt to seal and hold the end of the section, a hacksaw, medium to fine-grit sandpaper, a piece of hard billfold plastic, scissors and a drill or hole punch.

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Cut the shaft section to a 3 ½-inch length (you can make it three inches, but the 3 ½-inch length gives deeper tones with the plastic insert).  Drill a hole through the cut section of the cedar to fit the size of the eyelet (or rivet or small bolt) you’ll be using.  After the hole has been drilled take a hacksaw and cut the section down to within an inch of the end – this will give you a slot.  Sand between the cut to remove the hair edges left by the saw blade.  This is important because the hair grain would make a difference in the sound of your call and the tone will change as the unit wears.

 At this point you will have a 31/2-inch cedar shaft section slotted and drilled on the open end.  With scissors cut the plastic the width of the cedar section and a little bit longer.  Insert this to within one-sixteenth of an inch from the end of the slotted cut.  Don’t go all the way to the end – the plastic must vibrate and won’t be able to if you have it jammed to the end.  Mark this point and take a drill or hole punch and punch a hole in the plastic for the rivet, eyelet or bolt to fit.  Place the plastic and then crimp into position with the setter.

 You must cut or shave the ends to fit the length of the rivet or eyelet you use.  If you have a rivet that will fit without any shaving on the section, fine.  If not you’ll have to cut a curved section to allow for the length of the rivet.  It’s a simple task, but it must be done or the rivet can’t set.

 If you’ve used an eyelet for the project, you’ll have a hole in the call that you can use for attaching a carrying cord.  This will keep the unit in place when you are moving and it can hand from a belt or pin on your jacket.

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 As for vibrations on this project, you can vary the type of plastic used.  Just remember that the thicket the plastic, the deeper the tone.  Thinner plastic makes a higher screech.  And, as previously mentioned, the length of the cedar section can make a difference too.
 To use the small-game stopper, you blow on it, varying the intensity of your breath for the different sounds you wish to imitate – the screech of a hawk, the chatter of a squirrel, the call of a quail and so on.  After you’ve made a hawk call the small game will hunker down and freeze, waiting for the deadly enemy to move on.  You can take a shot then or  wait until they bolt and take a running shot.

 One last advantage of this inexpensive, easy-to-make unit is that you can use it to call your hunting buddies when you are in the field.  That’s a far better idea than shouting while hunting.

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Published by admin on 17 Nov 2009

Nearing the Zone By Thomas Hicks

Nearing the Zone
Get within a big buck’s bedding area for the perfect ambush.
By Thomas Hicks

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 How often have you walked through your hunting area and become instantly pumped with anticipation as your eyes feasted on sign left by what has to be a huge buck?  But what follows is usually a long sit in your stand for days or even an entire season wondering where this illusive monster is.  But how could this be?  Why aren’t you seeing the deer making these enormous rubs and leaving behind such gigantic tracks?

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 Big whitetail bucks are elusive creatures, but they don’t possess special powers that enable them to vanish when the need arises and reappear only when danger has past.  And they surely don’t live in caves or climb trees.  So how do big bucks avoid us?  They simply spend daylight hours glued to cover.  In a place that has proven to be a safe harbor and has kept them alive through many hunting seasons.

 Safe Zones
 Armed with the knowledge that big, mature whitetails continuously bed in predetermined safety zones each hunting season.  I concentrate scouting and planning strategies accordingly.  Throughout the year and even while hunting I search for clues that may indicate where a trophy buck is bedding.  I try to relate any big-buck sign I find to where the buck is seeking shelter during hunting hours.

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 Of course, immediately after hunting season is a great time to locate the secure bedding areas of surviving bucks.  Snow can greatly enhance your scouting effort by producing the map effect.  Freshly fallen snow allows you to follow large bucks’ nighttime movements, hopefully leading you straight to his day-time security zone.  Without snow I still look for large tracks that may be entering and exiting thick cover.

 

 During springtime when bucks may not be so dependent on these primary bedding areas, I enter and investigate them, gathering even more information.  When examining bedding sites, I look for clues that a large animal is actually using the area for daytime hiding.  I gape for large single beds with many droppings compressed into one solid mass.  This large solid fecal material coupled with large-diameter bedding sign is sure evidence that a big buck is spending countless daytime hours in that area.  I spend a great deal of time scouting the area looking for these giant beds.  I stick to thick cover and walk on less conspicuous routes that are located downwind from main deer trails.

 With the amount of time bucks spend in these areas, chances are high for finding some good sheds.  Once found, these sheds provide valuable information and can help predict a buck’s trophy potential for the upcoming season.

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 Food Holds Answers
 I first look at the relationship between the secure bedding zones and any early-season feeding sites.  Knowing that mature bucks will seek out high-calorie foods in early fall, I key in on what high-calorie food sources will be available and located near bedding sites.  Mature bucks will feed during legal hunting hours as they gorge themselves for optimal weight gain.  Body mass will be their number one ally when they begin fighting for breeding rights.  Oak and beech trees located near a newly discovered bedding area will be like candy and offer great places to plan ambush sites.

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 I also like to speak with area farmers to gain information on what agricultural crops will be growing in adjacent fields in the coming fall.  Cornfields in the right locations can act like magnets as deer move to them during the early-season feeding frenzy.  A stand set between a bedding site and corn or acorns can be well worth a hunter’s effort when it comes time to hunt.

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Rutting Sign
 The second objective I home in on is scrapes and rutting sign located close to known big-buck bedding areas.  When rutting and breeding become the priority over feeding, the same rule applies when looking for ambush sites.  Mature whitetails will engage in rutting activity throughout their territory, but the majority of it will be done close to their safe zone during daylight hours.

 I look for primary breeding scrapes, which usually show up on the upwind edge of the buck’s bedroom.  These scrapes can be easily spotted in the early spring before spring foliage starts to grow.  Primary scrapes have plenty of trails leading both toward and away from them, resembling the hub of a wheel.  These scrapes are larger in diameter and have an overhead-licking branch.  The location is upwind from the bedding site for the following reason.  Resident does are familiar with dominant buck bedding areas and preferred daytime breeding crapes.  The bucks, on the other hand, strategically bed downwind from these scrapes for one obvious reason:  A hot doe visiting one of these scrapes can be easily detected.  A mature buck will respond quickly and without hesitation to breeding opportunities that present within the confines of their safety zone.

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Where to Set Up
 Once you’ve found a buck’s “bedroom” and nearby feeding and rutting sites, there’s one thing left to do.  The final step is choosing optimal sites to ambush your prey.  For each setup, consider where the buck is when bedding, feeding or rutting in relation to your stand.  Try to imagine the buck in any of these three locations and pick trees for different wind directions, where he cannot wind you as he travels back and forth.  Remember that these older bucks have zero tolerance for even a whiff of their main predator, so be careful to pick and hunt stand locations only when the wind direction favors them.  I like to hand prune shooting lanes and approach routes in late spring and early summer.  I then vacate the area and don’t return until hunting time.

 Nearing_the_Zone_5

A couple of years ago, I located a large buck bedding in a small previously logged woodlot,  The new growth was heavy with thick berry bushes.  The woodlot had adequate feed on one end and rutting sign from the fall before on the other.  The only difficulty was that the woodlot was so thick it was hard to penetrate and find good stand locations.  I divided the woodlot in two and made plans to hunt each end during the upcoming season.  During the month of April, my son Stephen and I spent a couple of Saturdays braving the berry bushes looking for stand sites and then cut trails upwind that the bucks would use as they traveled between feeding and rutting zones.  The trails were also placed so the bucks would walk well within bow range.  This strategy took a little extra time and effort, but the result was well worth it.

 When we were done preparing, Steve and I had placed a total of six stands in and on each end of the woodlot.  Each stand was strategically placed for different wind directions.  We carefully plotted approach routes to each stand and agreed not to hunt any stand unless the wind was favorable.  That fall we both had our archery bucks by Halloween.  As I reflect back, the time my son and I spent together scouting and centering our hunting plans around the bedding area was almost as rewarding as the success we later enjoyed.  It certainly made our success much more meaningful.

 
 Bedroom Music
 A final tactic when hunting mature whitetails close to their safety zone is luring them in.  With the right setup and enough practice, older bucks will investigate realistic auditory and olfactory enticement (deer calling).  The main thing we must remember is to position ourselves in areas bucks will feel safe enough to move in during legal hunting hours.  Your number one objective should be to stay close enough to their bedroom but still remain undetected as you start your ruse.  A critical aspect you must realize is that dominant bucks are very territorial and they will not tolerate intruding bucks that may try to penetrate their safe haven.  These bucks will also be very vulnerable to any olfactory and auditory stimulation you deliver which suggests an intruding buck or estrus doe is in the area.

 Hunting mature whitetails in their bedrooms is very tricky business.  It’s critical that you remain undetected and keep the buck from knowing you’ve positioned yourself within the confines of his domain.  As you scout, remember the behavior of older bucks and stay close to their bedrooms when planning ambush sites.  Use the wind in your favor, and don’t hunt a setup unless the wind direction is right.  Start planning now and the results could certainly exceed your expectations.

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Published by admin on 17 Nov 2009

Gator Gar Tactics By Mark Morrison

Gator Gar Tactics
Bowfishing for carp is fun, but if you’re ready to up the challenge and
go after something bigger, alligator gars present the ultimate bowfishing adventure!
By Mark Morrison

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

Ask any avid bowfisher which species they’d most like to harvest and the answer, without question, would be the prehistoric, monster-sized alligator gar.  After all, these freshwater behemoths can reach 8 feet in length and stretch a scale over 250 pounds, making even the largest carp look minnow-like in comparison!

 So, it’s easy to see why Bowfishing Association of America’s Vice President Mark Ellenberg and longtime bowfishing partners Jerry Carstens and Adam Keller frequently travel from their central Minnesota homes to Arkansas and Texas to experience tackle-busting aquatic battles with gator gar.

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 On their initial trip to southern Arkansas the trio teamed up with the BAA’s official ambassador of bowfishing.  Lance “Sully” Sullentrop to match wits with Ouchita river alligator gar.  Lance, who resides in nearby Monticello and knows these waters intimately, had the boys into big gar from the start.  While Adam and Jerry prowled the main river channel for gar.  Lance and Mark moved into an adjacent meandering cove to continue their search.  Minutes later, Lance spied a slowly cruising gator gar mere feet off the boat’s side and he instinctively fired a sharp Muzzy arrow into the fish’s broad back.

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 The solidly hit fish stripped Lance’s line and floated free of his bow and settled into the security of a deep-water hole.  Lance retrieved his float and line and gingerly played the fish until Mark was able to place a second arrow into the beast.  The tremendous fish wasted no time burning Mark’s line from his bow reel and sped away towing two large floats.  It took the two fishing archers some time to relocate the gar since it had fled into a deep channel and submerged both floats from sight.

 After a lengthy and nervous wait, the gar resumed its flight and the floats popped to the surface.  Mark quickly snagged the floats and carefully played the gar for a long, tiring 30 minutes until Lance was able to end the battle with a well-placed vital shot.  The gigantic gar spun the indicator on Lance’s scale to a jaw-dropping 180 pounds!  The next day Mark, Jerry and Adam teamed up to collect another hard-earned gar—a well-fed brute that pulled the scale to a whopping 130 pounds!

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Getting Gar Ready
 Before embarking on a trip for gator gar you’ll need to update your current bowfishing setup.  Because big gator gar can splinter standard fiberglass fishing arrows like toothpicks, you’ll want to move up to rugged aluminum and glass laminated shafts like Muzzy Product’s Big Game and Penetrator arrows.  These arrows come rigged with cable and swivel systems that serves two purposes.  (1.) Most importantly, it keeps your reel’s line out in front of the bow, eliminating possibly injurious backlashes, and (2.) if a hard fighting gar should snap your arrow you’ll still be fastened to the cable and your fish.

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 Unless you’d like to see a favorite reel or bow yanked overboard by a fast-fleeing gar, I strongly suggest using an AMS Slotted Retriever reel.  This reel is specifically designed for use with a float that pulls safely away from the bow when a trophy gar darts to the end of your line.  This allows you to follow the float, and the fish, until you’re positioned for another shot, but it is capable of storing a large amount of fishing line, which allows fish hunters to take 20- or even 30-yard shots at gar.  No matter what style reel my bowfishing cronies and I use, we always replace the factory line with non-abrading gar-tough 400-pound test braided Fast Flight bowfishing line.

 Many times rolling or surfacing gar will present only fleeting shot opportunities, so carrying a fast-handling recurve bow is a smart choice.  If you choose to hunt gar with a compound bow, I suggest employing a round-wheel model or an inherently smooth drawing Oneida Eagle bow.  These bows cannot only be shot quickly, they also can be shot all day without fatigue associated with hard-drawing, extreme-cam bows.  Regardless of bow design, stick with a draw weight of 55 pounds or higher if you can easily handle it.  Gator gar have thick hides covered with glass-hard bony scales that will stop arrows cold fired from ultra-light draw weight bows.

 Sharp Points are Key
 Of course, bow poundage alone doesn’t guarantee adequate penetration on a gar.  Most often it’s the business end of the fishing arrow hat does this work and one of the best gar-getting points on the market is the Muzzy Quick-Release Gar point.   This beefy stainless steel head features non-yielding barbs and a surgically sharp Trocar tip designed for smashing through gar armature.  Plus, if you happen to dull the tip on an underwater obstruction, it’s a snap to install a new, inexpensive replaceable tip.

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To accurately shoot gator gar you first need to spot ’em, so wear a quality pair of polarized glasses and a hat with a good sun-blocking brim (“boonie” style hats work great!) on daytime hunts.  Also, don’t forget to bring along a hefty gaff for dragging skewered gar on board and a baseball bat or similar tool for finishing off arrowed fish.  The last thing you want is a 150-pound fish with a nasty disposition and deadly sharp teeth wildly thrashing in the confines of your boat!

 Where to Go
 While gator gar are present in all the Gulf coast states, Arkansas and Oklahoma, the best bowfishing occurs in Texas, Alabama and Louisiana.  When researching a gar-hunting locale, look for impoundments, rivers and estuaries that flow to the Gulf of Mexico.  Rivers like the Brazos, Rio Grande and Trinity in Texas and the Mobile Delta region in Alabama are all popular alligator gar hunting destinations.  To further aid in securing a place to hunt gar, simply use the Internet and type in “alligator gar” and search the sites you find.  Also, check out the bowfishing forums on the Bowsite, (www.bowsite.com) and the BAA’s website (www.bowfishingassociation.com) as well as the Texas Bowfishing Association (www.prismnet.com/~timmckee/).

 

Calling and talking to area fisheries personnel in your prospective hunt area will also help nail down bonafide gar waters and hot spots.  Avid bowfishers living long distances from gar territory can also hire the services of qualified gator gar bowfishing guide.  Information and links to several guides can be found on both BAA and TBA websites.

 Boats are Needed
 Unlike bowfishing for carp and buffalo where it’s common to wade and hunt in shallow water, to effectively hunt gator gar you’ll need to employ a specialized bowfishing craft.  Not only is it much easier to spot gar from an elevated shooting platform, it is much safer than wading (in my experience) in waters that are also home to unsavory predatory critters like alligators and cottonmouth snakes!  The best time to stalk gator gar is at night, in a boat equipped for prowling the darkness (see boat set up sidebar).  During the hot summer months gator gar spend the bulk of their time loafing in deep water until dusk when they move onto shallow flats and up creek arms to feed.  Alligator gar can also be found in abundant numbers during the day, feeding and rolling in the fast water below dams.  In the spring, look for gator gar on broad shallow flats and in newly flooded backwaters as well as the previously mentioned creek arms.

Gator_Gar_Tactics_5 

Because gar spawn when the water warms during early spring, your chances of bagging a trophy are equally good when hunting day or night.  Regardless if you’re hunting rivers or lakes, during the day or after dark do your bowfishing in areas with a rich supply of gator gar food fish.  Their favorite prey is buffalo and shad and if you locate concentrated numbers of these, you’ve found an excellent spot to waylay a feeding gator gar.

 Alligator gar are shy critters and they won’t hesitate to sneak away from noisy bow fishermen.  We all remember fishing trips where our elders pounded into our heads the adage: “stay quiet or you’ll spook the fish!”  This rule definitely applies to gator gar hunting.  If you’re covering likely looking gar water with an electric trolling motor or anchoring among an active school of rolling gar you should keep boat noise to a hush.  Sometimes this can be the difference between just glimpsing a gar or getting a point-blank boat-side shot!

 Shoot Precisely
 And, when it comes time to take that long-awaited shot, make sure the gar is broadside or preferably, slightly quartering away so your arrow can find its way between the gar’s steely, overlapping scales.  Do not fire an arrow at a gar directly facing you, because it will skid off the gar’s armored hide and the fish will waste no time bolting for safer waters.

 You can bowfish for gator gar solo but smart bowfishers opt for the help an onboard partner affords.  This way, after a trophy gar is hit, one bowfisher can keep his full attention on tracking the float and maneuvering the boat around obstacles while the other readies for a second shot.

 Many bow fishermen are content plunking carp in backyard waterways, while others can’t wait to tackle new and varied challenges.  If you’re looking for the ultimate bowfishing adventure and don’t mind tangling with fish that outweigh most whitetails and can bite back, then alligator gar bowfishing is for you!

 To obtain quality gator gar-getting equipment, contact Muzzy Bowfishing Products, Dept. BAH, 110 Beasley Road, Cartersville, GA 30120; (770)-387-9300; www.badtothebone.com or from the bowfishing fanatics at Sully’s Bowfishing Stuff, 125 Westgate Drive, Monticello, AR 71665; (800)-447-2759; www.sullysbowfishing.com

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Published by usaoutback on 16 Nov 2009

The Right Trail- How to blood trail your deer this year

Every hunter has an obligation to know how to trail a wounded animal. It is vital to the hunter to only take the shot that allows a clear path to the vitals of the animal. Know YOUR limitations and stick to them. Missed shots make lousy blood trails.
Imagine yourself in a tree stand during bow season and the buck of your dreams offers you a broadside shot. You draw your bow, aim, release and the buck bounds off into the brush. If you find yourself in this scenario this fall, here is some information that will help you bring your animal from the field to the freezer-

I. Pick a Spot- Mentally pick a spot on the animal when taking your shot; never look at the entire animal. Also, pick a landmark (spot) where the animal was standing when it was hit. Whether it is a tree, bush or rock, these objects will help you locate the beginning of the trail to your quarry.

II. Sit and Think- It seems to be commonly accepted practice to wait at least a half of an hour before trailing. Listen for the animal’s direction of travel. If a fatal shot was made, you may even hear the animal fall. Replay the shot and think of what the animal’s reaction was to the shot. Be patient. A quick pursuit could push the animal into clotting the wound. Massive bleeding is the cause of death when bowhunting. If the animal stumbled or ran off wobbly, the arrow probably hit a shoulder, leg or vertebrae. A gut or intestinal hit will cause an animal to stagger and run away slowly. Finding your arrow and blood trail will give you an idea where you hit the animal.

III. Find Your Arrow- After the waiting period, go to the point of impact and locate your arrow. Hair, blood, bone and fluid on the arrow can tell you where you hit the animal.

Ask yourself the following questions-
1. What color is the blood or fluid on the arrow?
2. Is there any brown or green fluid on the arrow?
3. Is the blood light or dark?
4. Are there any bubbles in the blood?
5. Is there any hair in the area?
6. Is there an odor to the arrow?

Every one of these questions will give you clues to locating your animal. Let’s go into more detail-

1. Blood Color. The blood color and consistency will help identify the type of hit. Bright red blood with no bubbles signifies a muscle/arterial hit. Dark red blood with no bubbles indicates a hit in a vein, liver or kidney. Pinkish blood with small bubbles is a good indicator of a vital hit in the heart/lung area. Blood that has a clear, odorous fluid with food matter is a sign of a stomach, intestine or bladder hit. If this is the case, you should wait at least 45 minutes to an hour before pursuing the animal. The animal will soon feel sick and lay down in the vicinity if it is not pursued too soon. Death could be in a few hours or a few days with this type of hit. Unless there is a threat of meat spoilage, give the animal at least four hours before searching heavily.

2. Hair. Look for any hair in the area where the animal was standing when it was hit. Broadheads ALWAYS cut hair upon entry. The hair you find can help identify where on the body you hit the animal. Long, dark hair comes from the neck and back of a deer. Short, dark hair grows on the head, legs and brisket. Light, white hair is from the belly and behind the legs.

IV. Mark Your Trail- I carry a roll of orange surveyor’s tape strictly for marking trails. It is very visible and will help identify a direction of travel if you lose the blood trail.*
*Note- Don’t forget to remove your markers after you find your animal. Always leave the woods cleaner than when you arrived.

V. Get Help- “Two heads are better than one” holds true when trailing a wounded animal. Back in 1989, I shot a fat little four point that ran off into the brush. Since I was hunting three miles from home, I drove home to ask my wife to help trail my deer. She was a great help following the blood drops that were easily lost in the red leaves of fall. There were times when I lost the trail but Denise kept me from straying off the deer’s direction of travel. We found the buck in less than an hour in a thicket less than 100 yards from where he was shot. It was gratifying to share the experience with the person who suffered through my countless hours of preseason rituals.

VI. Cut grids- If you find yourself at “the end of the trail,” cut grids starting at the last marker. I use a compass and markers to search an area and do so in a snail shell pattern. This type of search will eventually have you back-tracking to the origin of the trail. Check known escape routes, bedding areas and water sources in the area you are hunting. Wounded animals often return to the preferred areas of security- especially down hill when mortally wounded.

VII. Use All Clues- Every blade of grass, broken spider web and snapped twig can be a clue to finding your animal. Does a rock look like it was recently kicked? What direction is a broken weed pointing? Did a red squirrel or birds start making an unusual amount of noise in a thicket close by? All of these “little” things can make a difference.

VIII. Electronic Tracking Devices- There are electronic tracking devices on the market that measure temperature changes as slight as a degree and have ranges up to 300 yards. I don’t have any experience with these units but I thought I would mention that they are available.

Your proficiency with your weapon of choice will determine the future of hunting. Be a responsible hunter and acquire the skills needed to make a quick and clean killing shot this fall. Your actions represent ALL sportsmen.
If you are an experienced hunter and tracker, teach those nimrod skills to the less experienced hunters. Share the hunting experience with someone who has never hunted. By all means, get involved with your local sportsmen clubs. Join some of the state and national organizations that are fighting for your PRIVILEGE to hunt. By helping others in our ranks, we help ourselves. Happy blood trails.

*Learn about ‘Making Sense out of Scents’ and ‘Call of the Week’ by going to www.usaoutbacktv.com

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Published by admin on 13 Oct 2009

Aquatic Archery By Mark Morrison

Aquatic Archery
Spark up the off-season by hunting these underwater targets.
By Mark Morrison

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

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 To archers like myself who eat, sleep and bleed bowhunting, it seems there’s never enough time to bowhunt.  When there is ample time, sometimes our prey is scarce and the waiting game we play can become monotonous.  The same can also be said for sport fishing.  However, when you combine these two great past-times – bowhunting and fishing – you’ll step into an all out action-packed activity called bowfishing, one of the fastest growing segments of archery today.

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 The list of rough fish species available to bow-fishers across the United States is nearly endless.  Due to their wide distribution, common carp, buffalo and gar are the species most often pursued.

 Because of their ever-expanding range and penchant for rapid reproduction, carp are the top fish hunted by bowfishers.  Average size “bronze-backs” range from 10 to 15 pounds.  But they regularly reach 40 pounds and monsters as large as 80 pounds have been harvested by fishing archers!  Carp are strong fighters that prefer wild close-in, fin-to-toe battles.

 Arguably the most aesthetic of rough fishes are buffalo (including bigmouth, black and small mouth), which have a distinctive color scheme that features jet-black dorsal areas that fade into shiny silvery-blue sides.  Typical buffalo weigh 10 to 15 pounds and trophy specimens grow as large as 30 to 60 pounds!  Buffalo are speed merchants, well known to knowledgeable bowfishers for their tremendous battling skills.  When struck with a well-placed fishing arrow buffalo don’t hesitate to employ their inherent speed to streak bullet-like for deep-water sanctuary.  It sometime takes a Herculean (but always fun) effort to bring the fast departing fish under control!

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Although gar (shortnose, spotted, longnose and alligator) are found throughout the U.S., they are more predominate in southern waters.  Typical spotted and shortnose gar encountered on the water average 5 pounds and hefty specimens will weigh as much as 10 pounds.  Longnose gar (easily recognized by their ultra-long, tooth filled “noses”) weigh 5 to 20 pounds and monsters as large as 50 pounds have been bow-bagged in the extreme southern southern tier of their range.  Alligator gar are the monarchs of the rough fish world.  “Gator” gar inhabit rivers and reservoirs in the gulf coast regions of the states like Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Florida.  These gar are formidable opponents that can tip the scales in excess of 200 pounds!  Although any size “gator” gar can test a bowfisher’s mettle, seasoned fish hunters agree that the benchmark for trophies is 100 pounds.

 Longnose gar are plentiful only if a few water-ways in my home state of Minnesota.  Still, every spring and summer, I make many treks to a few select area lakes and aim all my efforts at chasing these challenging fish.

 Aquatic_Archery

One steamy Saturday last July still stands out in my mind.  The wind was dead calm, the air sultry and the intense sun had sizzled the temperature to near 100 degrees – nowhere near ideal conditions for any other bowhunting pursuit but perfect for hunting heat-loving longnose gar.

 I cranked my outboard to life and raced across the lake toward a small inlet stream.  I figured where the creek emptied into a weed infested bay, good numbers of gar should be there to feed and loaf.

 To avoid spooking the gar I shut the outboard down 100 yards from the inlet.  After scrambling upon my elevated shooting platform and lowering the electric foot r=controlled trolling motor, I began a methodical stalk toward the weedline.  The coon-tail weeds were unusually thick…perfect habitat for gar.

 I carefully brought my recurve to full draw, picked an aiming spot on the gar and drove my heavy Muzzy Penetrator arrow at the gar’s enameled hide.  The arrow’s impact was akin to striking a match to gunpowder.  One moment the gar was slowly slicing through the water, the next it was displaying acrobatic maneuvers that would’ve made a sailfish seasick!  The sight of a 5-foot gar completely clearing the water and shaking its toothy beak from side to side was awe-inspiring.

 The sharp Stingray fishing point and 350-pound test BCY synthetic line held firm and I soon had the gar reeled alongside my boat.

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 Since I didn’t relish having my hands raked to shreds by the gars protruding razor like dentures, I was very careful when I grabbed my arrow to hoist the fish aboard.  As soon as that was accomplished I permanently still the gar with a sharp rap from my “bonker” (a short section of steel pipe).  This is necessary because a gar o this size coming to life in the confines of a boat can cause a lot of havoc including spilled tackle boxes, shredded clothing and lacerated body parts!  Hanging the substantial fish from my electronic scale revealed it to weigh an incredible 19 pounds.  I couldn’t have scripted a better start to my day.

 Aquatic_Archery_4

Bagging trophies like the above mentioned gar is a result of pre-season scouting and realistic “on the water” archery practice.  Successfully arrowing underwater prey requires you to compensate for light refraction.  Simply put, refraction bends light rays in such a way that fish always appear higher (or closer) than they actually are.  To compensate for refraction you must aim low to connect with your quarry.  How low?  That knowledge only comes with shooting experience.  The best rule of thumb is to aim low, then aim lower!  Soon your instincts will take over and you’ll begin hitting with surprising consistency!  Since no two bowfishing shots are alike in range or depth, sight-equipped bows are a hindrance.  Shooting instinctively and letting the shot happen naturally is the ideal method for arrowing rough fish.  Also, to block out annoying surface glare and make the task of spotting and arrowing fish easier it is a must that you wear a quality pair of polarized sunglasses and a hat with an efficient sun-blocking brim.
 
 My above gar hunt represented a typical (albeit very exciting) bowfishing outing.  Previously, I started my season in early May hunting for bowfin (dogfish) and common carp.  I usually continue to hunt carp, buffalo and gar throughout the summer and into early fall.  I also travel to neighboring states to hunt Asian bighead carp (a plankton feeding riverine fish that can easily attain weights in excess of 50 pounds) and white amur (grass carp).

 Aquatic_Archery_7

Even with all this variety, I always find time to make several forays for “dusk to dawn” hunts.  My7 bowfishing rig sports a 2,000-watt generator which sends power to a bank of halogen lamps that pierce the inky blackness, illuminating the water around my boat for 10 yards.  Despite the constant humming produced by the generator, rough fish like buffalo, carp, sheephead and gar are more relaxed at night and far easier to approach.  In fact nightime bowfishing is so productive many bowfishers (especially those in southern states, where daytime temps can reach dangerous levels) ignore daylight hunting altogether and do all of their bowfishing under the cover of darkness.

 
 I’ve been a self-proclaimed bowfishing addict for 20 years and I’ve acquired all the latest gear to make myself a more efficient predator of fish.  I didn’t start out that way though.  Like many other youngsters, I literally cut my bowhunting teeth on rough fish at an early age.  Each spring when the annual sucker spawning runs were in full gear my buddies and I would grab our little fiberglass recurves and wooden arrows( equipped with crude homemade barbed fishing heads) and dash for the nearest creek in anticipation of filling our stringers with cold water suckers.

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 Those early days provided a lot of action (which is what restless young archers crave) in the form of endless shot opportunities and heavy bags of fish.  But, the real challenge was bringing our fish to shore after successful shot.  You see, at the time we neither had the inclination or resources to attach a reel and line to our bows.  So…after arrowing a fish we’d simply ditch our bows and race downstream after the fast departing fish!  Knowing where the fish was in the stream was fairly easy; we just had to keep an eye on our brightly colored fetching jutting up like oversized pencil bobber through the water’s surface.  Of course, we had to sprint well ahead or our quarry and ambush them on a shallow stretch to finally bring them to hand.  This was accomplished by grasping the arrow and fish simultaneously and tossing the squirming, slippery prize onto the bank.  It was definitely great fun for neophyte archers like us.

 Because bowfishing is a year-round, day or night sport in many states, it is ideally suited for passionate bowhunters of any age looking to extend their hunting season.  Be careful, however, because bowfishing excitement is contagious.  Your bowhunting goals may soon include harvesting trophies like 40-pound carp, 50-pound buffalo fish and maybe even 5-foot streamlined predators with bony armatures and mouths stuffed full of needle sharp teath!

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Published by admin on 13 Oct 2009

Correcting a Bad Habit By Byron Ferguson

Correcting a Bad Habit
By Byron Ferguson

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

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 Regardless of what kind of bow you shoot – recurve, longbow or compound – at some point you are going to develop a bad shooting habit.  You may develop faulty release, target panic or some other nasty shooting habit.  And in most cases, the bad habit usually strikes when you least expect.

 Picture this common scenario.  You are out on the backyard range and have been shooting great all week.  Maybe you’re excited about a big tournament or special hunt coming up and so you practice more than usual.  Then, the next day, you start to begin your normal shooting practice and suddenly your arrows are spraying all over the target.  You quickly ask yourself, “How is this happening?”

 The first move a shooter makes when such a shooting malady occurs is o start doubting their equipment.  Of course, for the compound shooter, there is more equipment to doubt.  But even traditional archers doubt their simplified gear.  Once your bow is shooting well, you should record its brace height, the location of the nockset, tip-to-tip length and other key measurements so you can quickly check your equipment of poor shooting occurs.  If your shooting does go haywire and all measurements check out okay, you’ll know poor accuracy is due to pilot error and not faulty equipment.

Concentration is a Must
 The single biggest reason why traditional shooters fall into shooting slumps or bad habits is because of lack of concentration.  When shooting, you should only be thinking about one thing – and that is aiming.  Each arrow you shoot should be shot as if it’s going to be the only arrow of the day.  In other words, devote as much concentration into each shot as you can.  This will greatly improve your accuracy and shooting form.

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 Another key pointer when practicing is to never shoot when you’re frustrated or tired.  Persisting to shoot a bow when you are tense and angry will program your mind to acquire a negative shot sequence which could lead to freezing, snap shooting or other symptoms of the dreaded shooting disease known as target panic.  Shooting while your muscles ache or hurt will also cause bad habits to occur – habits that when developed are increasingly difficult to overcome.  Whether you feel tired or frustrated, you should quit shooting immediately and pick up shooting another day.

Practice Up Close
 Whenever my accuracy begins to go haywire due to lack of concentration, I’ll shoot at a big bull’s-eye from close range (about 5 yards).  When doing this, I shoot one arrow repeatedly, taking plenty of time between shots.  I find it easy to regain my concentration back when shooting from this close.  For some reason, your mind knows that you can’t miss from this distance, which allows you to relax and shoot with great confidence.  I do this close-range practice routine until I feel my shooting rhythm coming back.  Then I’ll move back to maybe 10 yards and keep shooting until I’m shooting with total confidence.

 My friend John Sloan, Bow and Arrow Hunting’s  editor-at-large, told me about a shooting difficulty had not long ago.  “I got this new bow and it was shooting perfectly,” Sloan told me.  “Then one day I was missing the entire butt.  I couldn’t hit a barn wall.  Naturally, I started fighting my equipment and fighting my form.  It got worse.  I started back with one arrow at three feet, shooting with my eyes closed.  After a day of that, I moved to 10 yards.  Finally after three or four days of just increasing the distance and shooting one or two arrows, with plenty of time between each, I was back shooting fin again.  But every practice session started with three or four shots from close range.”

 The next time you start spraying arrows across the target, don’t fight it.  Although I always like to stop on a perfect shot, sometimes you just have to put the equipment up.  But many times, you can correct the problem by getting close to the target.  Never practice a bad habit.  Correct it.

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Published by admin on 12 Oct 2009

Map & Compass

Map & Compass
Weather you hunt wilderness elk or small woodlot whitetails,

a good topo map and compass will always increase your effectiveness as a hunter.
By Bill Vaznis

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 “ It will be shooting light soon,” Bob said as he pulled the 4×4 off the road and down into a gully.  He left the diesel running and turned on the dome light to show me an old topo map complete with diagrams and plenty of notes in the margins.  “Take this old logging road down to the clear-cut, about a half-mile away,” he said, “and then work your way along this edge.  I’ve seen elk here, here and on this ridge just below the cut.  It should take you most of the morning to cover it thoroughly.

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 “When you get to the creek, cross it just inside the cut, and have your lunch.  Then take out your compass and head 280 degrees for about a mile until you reach a rocky bluff and a line of aspens.  Follow the line of trees due south.  Keep your eyes open now because there have been a couple of big bulls seen here in recent days.  You should come out on this other logging road around sunset.  I’ll pick you up there.  Any questions?”

 “Yes,” I replied.  “What happens if I don’t hit the logging road by dark?”

 “Just shoot three arrows in the air,” laughed Bob, “and I’ll park the truck and come in to get you.  If I can’t find you by midnight, however, I’ll tell the guys back at camp that you are good and lost, and they can divvy up your gear.”

 “You won’t have to get out of the truck,” I replied with feigned sarcasm.  “Just open up a thermos of hot coffee, and hang it out the window.  I can smell a cup of hot coffee a mile away.  Besides, I know you’ve got your eyes on my bow case and Gore-Tex rain gear, so I’ll be sure to be at the logging road by dark.  See you then buddy!”

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 Orienteering Basics
 It is difficult to take full advantage of a topo map when hunting for elk, moose or deer unless you know exactly where you are in relation to the map.  One way to orient yourself is by simple inspection.  Take up a position in your hunting area that offers you good visibility, and then pick out a few prominent physical features such as hilltops or a lake.  Orientate the map until its typographical symbols correspond to the terrain in front of you, and then using the contour lines try to pinpoint your exact location on the map.

 A more precise method is to set our compass at 360 degrees and place the side edge of its transparent base plate on a line parallel with the Magnetic North line.  Use the Declination Diagram found in the map’s margin.

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 Now, point the Direction-of-Travel needle to the north and rotate the map and compass together until the north part of the compass needle points to the “N” on the compass housing.  (Some models have a black outline of an arrow permanently drawn inside and on the floor of the housing.  It always points to “N” on the compass housing and some outdoorsmen find it easier to align the magnetic needle with this arrow.)  Make sure your jack knife or wristwatch are not influencing the compass needle.  There, you have oriented the compass, map and yourself to Magnetic North.  It is that simple!

 Scouting Big Woods
 Topographical symbols and the spacing of contour lines can help you locate probable feeding and bedding sites, as well as runways and escape routes, from the comfort of camp.  Basically, the closer the contour lines are to each other, the steeper you’ll find the terrain.  Most ridge contours point downhill toward lowland feeding areas while valley contours point uphill towards the higher elevations—two locations elk and deer like to frequent!.

 I often study those little brown squiggles for hours trying to locate bottlenecks, saddles, gentle slopes and natural crossings that often govern the daily movements of most big-game animals.  I always check out meadows, burn-overs, clear-cuts and old farmsteads for evidence of feeding activity, and , the edges of dense swamps, nearby high ridges and the tops of steep ravines for possible bedding sites.

 One fall, while bowhunting for elk in Colorado, we found a hotspot for elk by closely studying a topo map.  We knew there was a herd of elk nearby, but they seemed to disappear from the face of the earth once the bulls stopped bugling.  A creek bed, however, caught our attention.  It seemed to meander effortlessly through the valley we were hunting.  Upon closer examination, however, we “saw” on the map where a steep ridge blocked the creek at one point causing it to flow due east for a few hundred yards before it resumed its natural course.  That herd of elk was holed up on the bend of that creek, and if it wasn’t for an unexpected close encounter with two black bears we might have arrowed one of those bulls.

 Finding Your Way Around
 There is no mystery to navigating in the big woods.  Just use your common sense and follow these basic rules and you can hunt with confidence just about anywhere in North America.

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 The first rule is simple.  Before you take that initial step into the wilderness, pick out a prominent landmark to help you return to your starting point.  A mountain peak or ridgeline can often help you stay oriented without a compass—even in the dark.  In other cases, I like to use a power line right-of-way, a river or even a dirt road as a backdrop.  This will allow me to find camp even if I overshoot my starting point.

 For example, let’s say you want to hunt an aspen-covered ridge that lies due north of a large stream.  No matter where you are at quitting time, all you have to do is travel due south to hit the river.  The best part is you can be off by a half mile and still locate your starting point in the dark by simply following the river’s bank back to your vehicle.

 Of course, back bearings are not always so easy to figure out.  Let’s say your forward compass reading to the ridge is not magnetic north (zero or 360 degrees), but rather 95 degrees.  In this case, traveling due south to get yourself out of the woods could get you good and lost!

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 The rule of thumb to reverse directions is to add 180 degrees if your forward reading is less than  180 degrees.  Conversely, if your forward reading is more than 180 degrees, then subtract 180 degrees.  In this latter case, your return compass reading or back bearing will be 275 degrees.

 If you can’t remember which is which, don’t worry.  Choosing the wrong formula will result in an answer of less then zero degrees or more than 360 degrees, and both of these are of course nonsense.

 Don’t wait until you get turned around to figure out how to get back to camp.  Know where you are at all times! One way to do this is to sketch your forward progress, keeping note of pertinent landmarks you encounter en route.  Write down degree bearings, too.  It is easy to forget what direction you want to follow after a day of chasing big whitetails about.

Map_and_Compass_7

 As you hike through the woods, turn around once in a while to see what the return trail looks like.  It is amazing how different everything can appear from this new perspective!  Nothing is more disconcerting then to be on the correct path to camp, but not recognize it as such even in good light.

  A few words of caution now about navigating in the big woods—beware of lateral drift!  You can become hopelessly lost by following your compass “more or less” in the general direction you want to go.  Lateral drift occurs when you take one step in the right direction, say due north, but two or three to the “left” to go around a rock or fallen tree.  In essence, you have gone one step in the correct direction, and two in the wrong direction—due west!  Where do you think you’ll be in two hours? I can assure you it will not be due north of your original position!

 To counteract lateral drift, pick out a landmark straight ahead in the direction you want to travel, even if it is only 50 yards away, go to it, and then sight down your compass to another landmark.  Continue with this procedure, and you’ll soon be out of the woods.  Remember the shortest distance between two points is a straight line!

 Map_and_Compass_9

Of course this can be tricky sometimes, especially in the dark.  If I am going “way back,” I stuff a shoulder pack with a small flashlight, extra batteries, some dry clothes, water-proof matches, some food and a small plastic tarp in case I get a bit “bewildered” or get a shot late in the day.  Trying to find the blood trail in the big woods on a return trip the following morning can be like looking for the proverbial needle.  It might be much easier to stay with the animal overnight, and then continue to follow the blood trail the next morning in good light.

 Finally, always trust your compass.  Human beings were not born with a “sense” of direction.  If your compass indicates you must turn around and go back through the swamp, then do it!  Try and keep in mind that it is you who are confused—not your compass!

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Published by admin on 09 Oct 2009

Hi Spirit: Texas Fallow Deer By: Ted Nugent

Hi Spirit: Texas Fallow Deer

Here’s some cool, off-season fun!

By: Ted Nugent

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 

            The intense, nonstop grunting of rutting fallow deer can best be described as the continuous, deep guttural growling of a hyperventilating leopard.  Hell, if I had to wait all year to breed, I’d probably make obnoxious noises too!  It’s wildly eerie and foreboding, especially if you may be unfamiliar with these big, handsome European deer.  Their breeding grunts are much louder than that of a whitetail, more intense and seemingly around the clock. 

            The good news is that some real smart Texan hunters began importing these beautiful, delicious beasts into the wilds of the Lone Star State back in the late 1800s.  Now, for the simple reason that they are valued as game animals, there are far more fallow deer in Texas today than can be found on the entire European continent.  That’s how ya do that if ya truly care about wildlife, one of the many reasons I’m so proud to be a hunter.  No animal rights fleeb has ever done jack squat for any animals or habitat.  The idea of animal rights is one big lie. 

            But my ears don’t lie, and the surround sound of intense growls stabbin in and out of the thick Texas Hill Country  caderbreaks had me vibrating with joyful anticipation.  Bookend bull elk screamed their rutting glory from both sides nearby on the north and south ridgelines, lifting the hair on the back of my neck up a notch or two.  I believe the whole damn ponytail was nearly skybound at this point, the audio stimuli neck and neck with the brilliant visual allure of golden sunrays glistening off the white-gray caleechi gravel around the cedars and live oaks.  Even my nostrils were pumping with a delicious cocktail of pine, earth tones and mad bull musk wafting about my face. 

            Good God, I love this hunting game!  A pair of cottontail rabbits hopped in unison below my NorthStar ladder stand, and I just leaned forward and sighed a huge sigh of happiness.  Say YOWZA and pass the Great Spirit in megawads of hallelujah! 

            Directly behind me in the glow of the morning sunrise came an abrupt and loud grunt.  I dared not move to take a peek; it was that close.  In my hard left peripheral vision a white form emerged from the dark green cedar clump as an all white fallow doe poked her nose into the grass break.  To my immediate right, ace videographer Ronnie Bradford zoomed the camera onto the pretty white deer and we had live action video liftoff.  More blaring grunts and growls came from every direction and the Spirit of the Wild jam session was kicked up a beat by two ravens raising cacophinic hell right over our heads.  It was wonderful.  I thought I was loud.  Every hunt is very inspirational stuff for this old guitar player. 

            Without hesitation I slowly lifted my bow into semi-shooting position, expecting a buck to follow the doe into the clearing.  I waited as more wonderful creature sounds bumped and grinded the cold, still, morning air.  My Mossy Oak camo did its job perfectly when the deer appeared to stare a hole clean through me, never identifying me as human.  (Of course some folks have suspected this about me all along.) 

            The gentle breeze was blowing away from her to us, but now my gaze brought to my attention movement to our right, directly downwind to the trail behind Ronnie.  A light-colored form could be seen amongst the thick buckerbrush and I immediately recognized it as antlers.  Big antlers!  Fallow buck antlers, and they are spinning to and fro, radaring the danger zone before him.  I worried about our scent getting to the buck and blowing our ambush.  But another advantageous product was doing its job too.  Fortunately, we had sprayed ourselves down with Nature’s Essence. 

            “Essence of Fall” cover scent, and the big, bad hombre stuck his nose out and ambled into view.  Wow! A gorgeous gray-white, spotted fallow buck entering the Nuge Zone!  The wary old monarch kept the overhanging cedar limbs around him, taking one ultra cautious step at a time, his eyes riveted on the pretty little thang feeding to my left.  At one point he was nearly in shooting position when he spang back into the thicket with a leap.  I took advantage of this disrupting move to slowly swing my bow up into shoot-ready position, and as he cautiously stepped forth, I burned my vision into the pocket of his chest directly behind his shoulder.  Now he looked away, and my bowstring came back into the corner of my mouth, the WhackMaster arrow and Nugent Blade back to full draw.  I kissed my dinner arrow goodbye, and in an instant it was gone and vanishing into his foreleg crease with nary a sound, the Sims silencing products eliminating any bow twang whatsoever. 

            The buck exploded 180 degrees and the doe jerked her head erect.  Ronnie stood up in his stand to film the beast dash away to his last resting place in the beautiful green prickly pear cactus patch only 50 yards away.  He was stone dead in an instant.  My cherry-red arrow lay in the grass where he had stood but a moment ago, and all returned to normal once again in the peaceful Texas Hill Country.  I leaned back against the tree bark and smiled broadly for the camera.  I love to share my happiness with my fellow wildlife enthusiasts.  The Spirit of the Wild was soaring high on the wings of an American eagle again. 

            I made my statement on camera about the special feelings I was experiencing, trying hard to put into words the awesome dynamics of such powerful sensations.  We tracked the big buck on a very educational bloodtrail, recovered the handsome beast and exposed a roll of film to document the memorable occasion.  With echoes of bugling elk, cawing crows and grunting deer still reverberating throughout the land, we tied a Glenn’s DeerHandle onto the stunning horns and pulled him back to the road.

Texas_Fallow_Deer 

            Back to camp, mu buck would hang next to five other magnificent fallow bucks, all much larger than mine.  Steve, Gary, Steven, Tom and Michael had all taken trophy stag in the last few days here.  Outdoor Edge knives made skinning and boning of  the meat an easy and enjoyable task.  Fat, juicy backstraps would be grilled to perfection tonight, and grand celebration would ensue.  As the fiery Texas sun descends on another great day of hunting, the bucks would be still grunting and carrying on, and the tribe of happy hunters at the Young Ranch would sing along in the great Spirit of the Wild fallow deer event.

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Published by admin on 08 Oct 2009

Fool a Tom By John Trout, Jr.

Fool a Tom

It takes a determined bowhunter and the right method to beat

the sharp eyes of a wild turkey.

By John Trout, Jr.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 

fool_a_tom          

  Like many avid archers, I had always wanted to take a wild turkey with a bow. My first attempt came a few years ago on a ranch in Texas where there were plenty of gobblers. I had hunted with a shotgun since the 19070s and had taken several birds, but now it seemed the large quantity of birds on the Texas ranch would offer room for error. If I goofed up as assumed, I would probably be able to locate another turkey and try again. I quickly discovered my prophecy would come true.

 fool_a_tom_7         

  My first failure came in the late afternoon after I set up near a waterhole and placed a netting blind around me. Only 30 minutes after setting up, a turkey answered my call. Eventually, three gobblers showed up and made their way to within 30 yards of the blind. I drew the bowstring and watched with enthusiasm as I released the arrow. Ir sailed inches under the gobbler’s breast. Needless to say, the turkeys vanished. My next attempt came the following morning. Instead of using a blind, I decided to go after a gobbling turkey and set up when necessary against a tree. It almost worked. The bird responded to my hen talk and approached to within 12 yards. Hidden behind a dense mesquite tree, I attempted to draw my bow. A moment later, the gobbler spotted me and scurried away. 

fool_a_tom_4         In my first attempt to take a wild turkey with a bow and arrow, I used both types of methods. I used a blind and the run-and-call tactic. There are pros and cons for each technique. For instance, when using a blind, the archer can normally rely on staying well hidden. However, keep in mind that many who hunt out of a blind are actually using a deer hunting method-spending time in one location waiting to ambush a turkey. This is not appealing to all turkey hunters. Some of today’s blinds do set up fast and easy, though, which allows more opportunity to use the run-and-call method.

fool_a_tom_3        

 Fast Action

  The run-and call tactic allows the hunter to try various strategies. For example, the archer can set up where desired and move if necessary. As most turkey hunters know, moving and calling often builds the confidence of a wary gobbler, and will sometimes make the difference in prompting a bird to come in. The drawback is obvious, however. The hunter is usually not totally hidden and the bow must be drawn undetected. 

            Michael Waddell, a videographer for Realtree, has taken several birds with a bow using the run-and-call tactic. In fact, of all the birds he has harvested, he has never used a blind. Interestingly, he took several turkeys with a bow before using a shotgun.

            Waddell readily admits that setting up is probably the ultimate challenge of bowhunting turkeys when using the run-and-call tactic. When pursuing turkeys in the hardwoods, he does it just as if he was using a shotgun. He waits for the right movement if the turkey’s eyes are not hidden behind a tree.           

            Although some bowhunters prefer using a small stool, Waddell relies on sitting flat on his rear against a tree. He claims a short bow is helpful. However, he added that an archer must watch their form when shooting from this position.                     

            Waddell added that the primary reason he doesn’t use blinds to hunt turkeys is that it isn’t his desire. He loves to go after a bird that gobbles, hoping to make something happen. By using the run-and-call tactic, he can get as close as necessary to a turkey. He also knows that some turkeys won’t come into calls from a long distance. 

fool_a_tom_6           

 Although getting the bow drawn can be a problem for run-and-call hunters, Waddell said that hitting the turkey has often been his biggest problem. He believes that today’s camo patterns and gear have made it easier for hunters to draw their bow without being seen. But they must still be able to hit a small target. He recalls a few gobblers that have come to within 30 to 40 yards. These are usually dead birds for the shotgunner, but for the archer they are difficult targets.

            Preparing for the Shot

            After setting up on a turkey, Waddell will sometimes use a rangefinder before the turkey comes in.  Once the bird shows up, he knows precisely the range before getting a shooting opportunity.  Nonetheless, he believes that archers should practice out to 30 yards.  Getting a bird in closer is extremely hard, although Waddell’s closest kill came at only 10 steps.

            Decoys are another option.  Decoys are not always sure bets, but they fool some gobblers.  Their effectiveness usually depends upon the nature of the turkey and how often decoys are used in a given area.  Waddell claims that the advantage is placing the decoys close enough to make certain a gobbler will come into your effective shooting range and having the patience to wait to shoot until the turkey is there.

            “If they work, decoys allow you to call your shot.  If you’re hoping for a 15- to 20-yard shot, place your decoys only that far away.  On a few occasions, I’ve set up decoys less than 10 yards away,”  Waddell explained.

            Another advantage is that decoys will sometimes make a gobbler strut.  If the gobbler turns, the tail feathers of the strutting bird will shield the eyes of the turkey and allow the archer to draw his bow.

 fool_a_tom_5          

My good friend Tim Hilsmeyer recently took his first Eastern gobbler with his bow.  He shot the turkey at 16 yards from a homemade blind nestled along the fringe of an opening where a few birds passed through daily.  Nevertheless, the turkey did not come easy.  During the first two days in the blind, he had to pass shots because birds were out of range or were in dense cover.  Finally, a gobbler stepped into a good opening and offered the perfect shot.

            Before his bowkill, Hilsmeyer had taken several turkeys with a shotgun.  His first attempt with his bow occurred a few years ago.  Using the run-and-call method, he moved in close to a gobbling bird, set up and called the turkey to within 14yards.  It all went perfectly until the gobbler spotted him drawing his bow.  Eager and unwilling to give up on the idea of killing a turkey with a bow, Hilsmeyer then decided to try the blind.  However, don’t believe for a moment that the bird came easy.        

            Hilsmeyer had done his homework before opening day arrived.  Many of those who hunt using a blind make certain that turkeys are using the area.  After all, if you are going to dedicate your hunting to using a blind and waiting for turkeys to show up, you must be somewhat sure that your time won’t be wasted.           

            Hilsmeyer claims the particular area he found was second to nothing.  He called the area a transition zone.  There were hardwoods, a pine thicket where a few turkeys roosted, and a small lake on one side that seemed to funnel the birds into an open area near the blind.  Although he spent several days listening to gobbles near the opening, Hilsmeyer also discovered numerous tracks.

            Many archers who choose to hunt from a blind select agricultural fields, pastures or other openings that attract turkeys in the morning after they leave the roost.  Blinds are usually set up along the fringes where a background exists.  Most successful bowhunters claim that turkeys pay little or no attention to the blind if they are set up by cover and remain somewhat hidden.

            Although Hilsmeyer spent hours constructing a home-made blind, he is now considering a commercial blind that will work as well.  He recommends a blind that is large enough to allow you to sit on a stool and shoot, and one that provides comfort and maneuverability.

            Hilsmeyer suggests using turkey calls occasionally to lure birds in close.  He says that it’s common for turkeys to pass by the blind out of bow range.  A call or two, however, might be all it takes to lure the bird into shooting range.  He also uses decoys, but admits that many birds become shy after seeing them for a day or two.  He places the decoys only 15 yards from the blind.

fool_a_tom_2          

  Perseverance is the final factor of using a blind in an area where you expect turkeys to be.  Hunters must force themselves to stay put and not to go to a gobbling turkey.  In fact, this is the reason some hunters prefer not to use the blind method.  Some archers would rather pursue a gobbling turkey and abandon a blind simply because they don’t like the idea of sitting tight.  Hilsmeyer says he spent several hours in the blind each day until he killed the turkey early in the morning on the third day.  However, he added that it took every bit of patience he could muster up to stay in the blind and listen to turkeys gobbling in the area.

            Perhaps the last thing I should mention is your decision to try to kill a turkey with a bow.  If you’ve done it faithfully with a shotgun previously, you already know it’s going to get tougher with a bow.  Once you find out how difficult it is, you might think about hanging the bow up until deer season and sticking with the shotgun.  This is not to discourage you from bowhunting turkeys, but Hilsmeyer said that if an archer really wants to kill a turkey with a bow, he should never try it for only a day or two.

“You just tell yourself, ‘I’m going to hunt the whole season with a bow…I can do this and it’s going to work’,: Hilsmeyer said.  There are far more turkey hunting tactics that I could have discussed in this article, but I’m sure you get the point.  First you make up your mind that you want to challenge a wild turkey with a bow and arrow.  Once you decide to do it, you choose the method that will get the job done.  After that, it boils down to beating the eyes of a gobbler up close.

 

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