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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.

Gator_Gar_Tactics

 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!

Gator_Gar_Tactics_2 

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.

Gator_Gar_Tactics_6

 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.

Gator_Gar_Tactics_4 

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 16 Nov 2009

Bulls in the Peak By Joe Bell

Bulls in the Peak

Bugling up elk during Colorado’s mid-September rut

simply epitomizes the rush of bowhunting big game.

By Joe Bell

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 

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We trudged along in the 7,500-foot elevation air, moving upward along an old two-track.  This trail would lead us to a good access point before we ascended to the high oak brush hills to intercept the elk.  It was still inky dark when we heard the distinct sound of elk antlers racking a tree.  The noise was coming just near the roadside.  We moved in to 50 yards and set up. 

 Kevin, a good friend and Bow & Arrow Hunting’s advertising director, was my guide.  Before he began his tenure at the magazine Kevin guided for Eagle Spirit Outfitters, the outfit we were hunting with, for several seasons.

  Kevin was at my rear, 20 or 30 yards back.  We waited for a bit, then I heard cow mews coming from Kevin’s diaphragm call.  It was still very dim, so I strained my eyes looking for movement.  The thrashing halted but then sliced the chilly air once again.  The bull wasn’t moving.

 I felt the desire to move, but with it still dark and my guide squeaking his mouth, I couldn’t move.  But this could be the easiest elk hunt ever, I thought.  I could creep up, wait for shooting light and arrow this bull.

 Moments later, the situation solved itself as the bull silently walked off.

 Over the years I’ve pursued elk off and on but never really seriously.  I did have a tough, unforgettable experience hunting elk on a drop-camp hunt a few falls ago in Colorado’s flattop wilderness.  After four days of wandering the alpine meadows and ridges, I got lucky, came across a rutting bull chasing three cows and fell in between.  The shot came fast, as they usually do, but I nailed the 6×7 bull with a 40-yard shot.  I was awestruck by the entire episode and became seriously hooked on the challenge of hunting elk.

Bulls in the Peak_2

 Last summer, after putting in for several premier out-of-state elk hunts, I came up empty-handed after the draws.  This directed me to Eagle Spirit Outfitters, which runs elk hunts amid some of Colorado’s best elk-rich areas.  The great thing about this outfit’s hunting areas is that permits are available over the counter!  Besides that, I’ve heard of Eagle Spirit’s excellent quality and success over the years, plus Kevin told me it was simply the place to go to hunt elk.  I was sold and I was “fit in” during the second week in September.

 Baffled by the bull’s reaction, Kevin and I continued our march up the mountain.  We could hear several bulls bugling in the distance.  With every step the sounds boosted our excitement.

 Following a well-beaten elk trail to a stand of aspens, we set up immediately as the bull responded to Kevin’s cow sounds.  The bull seemed as hot as they come, but to out disbelief, he hung up 125 yards out—only barely visible through the gap in the trees.  He was a nice 5×4.  Gosh, I hate when they do that.

  As cows shuffled around him, he galloped to the side and spun the females up the incline.  They were moving away from us.  But suddenly, we saw another bull, but this one was only a spike.  Then we heard another up the draw.  Was this one heading our way?

 Kevin and I hustled upward.  We chased and chased, but our effort proved useless.  Before we knew it, the temperatures were beginning to heat up and the prevalent elk sounds that surrounded us earlier on were all gone.  The morning hunt was over.

 We laughed and talked excitingly about the morning’s events as we drove back to the lodge.  The hunting was so exhilarating I felt numb.  I wish we could’ve stayed up there with the elk, but a warm breakfast did sound good.

I’ll have to say, for the most part, I’m a bowhunter who usually enjoys “roughing”it.  Meaning, I don’t mind a Spartan camp with a tent and no running water.  Usually, this kind of campsite brings you closer to the game, especially when you’re hunting backcountry animals like elk.  In fact, all my elk hunting has been done from rustic camps.

 That was until I came on this hunt.  We were staying in a ski-resort-type lodge that was nothing short of elaborate (really exquisite), with all the bells and whistles you could imagine.  These bells and whistles include full-time gourmet cook, cozy bedroom suites (one to two hunters per room) with our own bathroom/shower, and daily cleaning and laundry services.  How’s that for elk hunting!

Bulls in the Peak

But don’t let these fancy features fool you.  This outfit is all about quality elk bowhunting, first and foremost, and the main concern is providing you with a first-rate elk-hunting experience.  They just like to do it in style.

 In the next several days Kevin and I became a synchronized hunting team.  We got into plenty of elk, including bulls that would score in the 280s and 290s—fantastic bulls for this region.  We just kept having tough breaks.

  On one particular morning, we set up along a ridge top—on one side was all oak brush with a big pond down below, and the other side was aspens intermixed with dark timber.  Upon scaling the hillside, Kevin bugled and got a response—several responses from different bulls.  The sound of an entire herd of cows and three or four bulls grew closer and closer.

 Unfortunately the animals crossed 90 yards down slope, way out of effective range of my Mathews Q2XL.  First the cows passed, then two bulls, one a 4×4, the other a 5×5.  Once they were out of the clear, I scampered behind brush and dashed from bush to bush trying to sneak close.  All the while the bulls were shattering the mountain air with sounds of dominance.

 I was nearly within bow range when I heard the timber below come alive.  From the sounds, there were three bulls in the patch of aspens.  My breathing quickly sped up, and without notice out came a giant bull.  He was caked in mud from hoof to antlers, clearly the dominant bull of the pack—the herd bull.  His 6×6 rack glittered in the morning sun.  He would score near the 300 mark.

  With some other elk in the open, I couldn’t move.  As he walked out of sight, the others followed. Eventually, it was the fifth and last day of the hunt.  Jim Sanchez’s son, Jacob, 25, had tagged his clients out and would be helping Kevin guide me.  Jacob and his brother Joe are astute elk hunters, bowhunters themselves, who know this elk country like their own two hands.

 On the final day, Kevin, Jacob and I hiked along an old road in the early morning blackness.  We wanted to reach the base of the mountain before light.  The elk would be moving fast from the flats to high bedding areas.

Just before reaching the location, Jacob challenged a bull in the distance with his Primos Pallet Plate diaphragm bugle call.  The bull’s interest level seemed right, so we raced closer and set up.  When he didn’t come on strong, we moved closer again.  We were mimicking a real bull.

 Bulls in the Peak_3

It wasn’t too long before we spotted two bulls, one was a 5×5, the other a 4×4.  The bulls appeared to be in a sparing match—nothing heavy but surely ticking their horns together.

 Jacob signaled to follow and we moved quickly but silently until reaching the edge of a clearing.  Jacob cow called, and cow called some more.  The bull’s bugled back.  Jacob called again.

 “There he is,” Jacob whispered as the five-point bull darted up the hill away from us.  “He’s leaving.”

 Meanwhile, the other bull let out a throaty, raspy cry, “The other one’s coming!”  Jacob hissed.  “Get down!”

Bulls in the Peak_4

 Seconds later the bull appeared, about 80 yards away, and was coming straight on.  He sounded off then dropped out of sight in a small gully.  I quickly estimated distances all around with my eyes, and drew my bow.  I figured he’d come up near the 40- to 35- yard spot.

 About 10 seconds later, he popped into view, at about 45 yards away.  He blasted the air with a throaty roar.  I held and held as he stopped, bugled again and took slow steps forward.

Holding the bow for nearly a minute, I was beginning to creep at full draw, fatigue surely settling in.  I was on  my knees and out in the open.  The bull stopped, stared hard at my outline with glowing eyes and gave the look every long-time bowhunter knows.  It was now or never.  I knew if I let down, he’d surely swap ends and explode away.

With the bull facing me, roughly 35 yards away, I felt confident of placing the arrow in the soft spot below his thought.  I snapped the pin on the spot and shot.

I watched in a split second as the arrow flashed near my line of sight and smashed into the elk.  He barely staggered and walked off.  I loaded another arrow, but there was no chance for a second opportunity.

 A half-hour later, we were at the hit sight.  Strangely enough, my arrow was lying on the ground, coated only with a bit of blood and hair.  I felt utter disgust, as I knew the arrow had hit off center and glanced off heavy bone.

 We tracked what blood there was for 500-plus yards.  It was obvious the hit severed no arteries or vitals, surely a superficial wound the elk would quickly recover from.  In fact, we believe we heard him bugle again, while in pursuit of cows.

 The following evening we found ourselves on high ground, looking downward with binoculars at a dozen elk, including a couple fine bulls.  Knowing the elk were quite far and we only had very little daylight left, we ran as fast as we could to intercept the moving animals.  Jacob knew where they were headed.

 It’s amazing the amount of ground a hunter can cover when the pressure is on.  Eventually we find ourselves within near striking distance.  We crept silently through the noisy vegetation.  There were elk all around; we just couldn’t see them.

 “This way,” Jacob commanded.

 He’s right up there.  “Go as fast as you can!”

 I darted forward, dodged a bush here and there and spotted the bull.  I came to full draw as he stopped.  But there was no shot.  Twigs obscured my shooting lane.  I stepped sideways, but shooting opportunities at live animals come and go in milliseconds.  A millisecond had gone by and this one was gone.  The elk took a couple steps and entered the brush.

 Though I didn’t arrow an elk during my five days of hunting, I had an unforgettable time, plus I learned many essential lessons.  First, never take a frontal shot on an elk unless it is at point-blank range.  Second, there’s no such thing as an easy elk hunt.  There were many times I thought this “lodge” elk hunt on private hunting ground was going to be a cinch.  And three, no matter what happens, good or bad, remember, elk hunting during the peak of the rut is as good as bowhunting gets, so soak it in and keep it fun— no matter what.

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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!

 Aquatic_Archery_2

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.

Aquatic_Archery_3

 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.

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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).

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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 12 Oct 2009

Stick Bows: See The Arrow!

Stick Bows: See The Arrow!
Shoot a visible arrow so you can identify your hits.
By Joe Blake

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

 At 27 yards the big pronghorn buck stood, legs splayed, as it quenched its thirst at the muddy pond.  The only problem from my perspective in the well-situated pit blind was that another smaller buck stood adjacent to the animal I was concentrating on and effectively prevented a shot.  All I could do was wait and hope that the smaller buck finished drinking and left before my target departed. 

 That’s exactly what happened!  One minute both bucks were noisily gulping down the dirty water and the next minute my buck stood alone as his counterpart turned to vacate the area.  Quickly coming to full draw, I concentrated on the trophy’s chest and released the heavy cedar arrow, but that’s when things became sketchy.  Sure, the Zwickey-tipped arrow ate up the distance in an instant and hit home with a resounding thud, but that was all I knew for sure.  You see, I had recently made up these arrows and used a black cock feather, two gray-barred hen feathers and a black nock…what could I have been thinking!

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 Brighten the Way
 One of the most important points to releasing an arrow at a big-game animal is to be able to follow its flight and identify the hit, and this is virtually impossible when using dark or drab-colored fletching and nocks.  This is especially true for instinctive bowhunters who must train their eyes to the flight of the arrow in order to learn to shoot well.  Obviously, if you can’t see what your arrow is doing on each and every shot you can never complete the learning process, and for this reason it is imperative that you use the arrows that you can see well in flight.

 From a personal standpoint, I have always preferred yellow fletching and nocks more than any other color, but white, red, orange, chartreuse and others might work for you as well or better.  Each bowhunter is different and has different preferences when it comes to arrow colors and combinations.  Also, some hunters can get by with just a bright cock feather or even simply a bright-colored nock and follow their arrow’s flight just fine, which is great if you are concerned that the game you are after might pick up a quiver full of brightly colored arrows.

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 From years of experience I don’t believe that bright arrows alarm game unless you are waving your bow and arrows around like a flag;  the possible exception being when you are bowhunting for turkeys because they see colors better than other game.  For this reason, I strongly suggest that a bowhunter experiment during the off-season to come up with a color combination that is visible and is to his or her liking.

 Dipping Helps Little
 On the opening hunt I had dipped the crown on my arrows in bright orange which shows up great when the arrows are in the quiver but the color of the cap dip is of little use when the arrow is in flight because you won’t see it!  As luck would have it I didn’t need to identify the hit because the arrow effectively cut the big buck’s heart right in half and he only made it 50 yards before going down in a cloud of dust.  But had the hit been less than ideal the lack of visibility from my arrows could have caused problems.  This is because identifying the hit is of paramount importance because it tells you what type of tracking job you might expect and how you should proceed.

 Now let’s fast forward nearly 20 years to a definitely older and hopefully wiser bowhunter who is carrying a quiver fill of very visible, white arrows.  White cap dip, three white feathers, white nock.  As the tall-tined eight pointer turns broadside at 17 yards the hunter sends a cedar arrow perfectly through the deer’s ribcage and watches as the shaft skips across the hay-field behind the deer.  The results mirror that of my previously mentioned antelope hunt in that the buck raced away but folded up in plain sight only 60 or so yards away.  But what differs is that I knew instantly that the shot was perfect and that the buck’s flight would be short.  The only reason I could be so sure of this was because my white feathers told me so!

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 As with nearly all of life’s decisions, arrow colors are a matter of personal preference, but don’t overlook the importance of visible arrows on your next hunt.  If you are a stickbow shooter who uses instinct alone to guide your shafts then don’t even consider an arrow you can’t follow in flight.  While visibility has its practical side, also don’t overlook the sheer joy of watching your arrow arch gracefully toward its intended target, whether it is that buck of a lifetime, a 3-D target or simply a rotten stump.  There’s something almost magical about watching your arrow and target come together, and I for one intend to enjoy the experience by using visible arrows for all of my shooting.

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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.

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 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!

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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 07 Oct 2009

California Wild Hogs By Joe Bell

 

California Wild Hogs

Want real bowhunting fun?  Experience the thrill of stalking wild pigs amid

the rugged hills of the Golden State.

By Joe Bell

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com/

California_Wild_Hogs_2 California_Wild_Hogs_3          

With the June temperatures looming beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit, I knew a tough hunt was in store for us.  Besides brutally hot weather, my friend Art Cain and I were facing a grueling 2,000-foot climb up a towering ridgeline.  You’d think we were nuts to go climbing such a hill in this weather, but we’d spotted some giant hogs with our binoculars feeding on the tops of these ridgelines.  Each one had its snout buried ear-deep in wild oats.  Even though these hogs were a half-mile away, we could see their huge heads and “teeth bumps” along their jaws.  They were definitely worth the work. 

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           As we bounced down the canyon road in the pickup, we glanced at our watches and realized it was still early, 2:30 in the afternoon.  So we decided to pull over and hunt ground squirrels for a bit.  Within minutes we were into the pesky varmints.  After many hits and misses we jumped back in the truck and continued our drive.  Rounding a sharp bend we immediately spotted a group of hogs moseying across the road.  I couldn’t believe it!  What were they doing out in 105-degree weather?

             The answer came quickly as we drove up another 50 yards, stopped the truck and bailed out.  Instantly I could hear water trickling down a nearby ravine.  Art and I grabbed our bows and trotted across a big field toward the creek.

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            When we got to the creek’s edge, we slowed to a bobcat’s crawl with our arrows already knocked.  We slinked along and suddenly spotted hooves!  The pigs were on the move.  Art darted forward and I hooked to the left, just in case they were to double back.

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            As I worked uphill I crouched to clear an overhanging tree branch and saw pig feet beneath the canopy of oak leaves.  The pigs were 15 yards away and closing in!  I quickly drew my bow as I saw the sight of teeth barreling down on me, from only 10 steps away!  As soon as my fingers hit anchor, the arrow was gone.

           The arrow nicked the pig’s lower jaw and angled forward into its chest.  I ran backward after the shot, but fortunately, the pig veered, charged upward, and stumbled, then slid to the bottom of the hill.  It was all over in seconds!

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These Hogs are Different

          In the past few months I’ve talked to several highly experienced bowhunters who just recently tasted the fun of bowhunting California’s wild hogs, and what I heard back was, “Man was that a great hunt,” and “I’ve  never enjoyed a hunt so much.  It was incredible!”  Both of these comments came from guys that have traveled abroad to hunt animals like Rocky Mountain goat, Alaskan moose, giant elk and other coveted trophies.  So for them to say a California pig hunt was great and incredible says a lot.

            Outside California’s crowded megalopolis areas, you’ll find a maze of truly wild foothill country meshed with oak trees, poison oak, chaparral, various water ways and a number of big game, including wild feral hogs.  Because California’s country is rugged with no game fences present, the wild pigs that live here offer a supreme off-season challenge for the bowhunter.  You simply have to hunt these hogs to see what you’re missing!

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   When and Where to Hunt

          In California, you can pursue wild pigs year ’round, with no bag limits.  The only thing required is a valid state general hunting license ($100 for non-residents) and a pig tag ($13 for one nonresident tag).  And with no bag or possession limit, these animals are almost considered vermin, since they are considered overpopulated on private lands and do immense damage to valuable agricultural crops.

            My favorite time to hunt pigs is generally during the cooler, sometimes drizzly late-winter and early-spring months.  During this time, your morning hunts end later and evening hunts begin sooner.  This maximizes your hunting opportunity.  But I will say, I enjoy hunting pigs at any time of the year, and I’ve also noticed that during the summer months, food and water is sparser and hogs tend to be more concentrated.  So really, take your pick.

            The Golden State offers public-land hunting opportunity, but it isn’t very good.  In fact, I would highly recommend avoiding the frustration and pitfalls associated with public-land pig hunting.  Instead, save a few extra bucks and book a private-land hunt with a reputable bowhunting outfitter.  For the last several years I’ve hunted on the Tejon Ranch, a 270,000-acre parcel of stunning flatlands, foothills and forested mountains that come chock-full of game of all kinds.  My friend and outfitter Don Smith provides the best wild pig hunting I’ve ever experienced in the state.

            Give it a Try!

          The off-season means downtime for the big-game hunter, a time to work on bow equipment, bow fish and maybe even shoot in a few 3-D tournaments.  But the thrill, adventure and adrenaline rush of big-game hunting doesn’t have to end now.  Spice up your off-season with some rewarding big-game pursuit—the pursuit of California’s wild hogs!

 

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