Archive for the 'Vintage Magazine Articles' Category

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Published by archerchick on 08 Dec 2011

Make Bucks Hunt You~ By Mark Hicks


Bowhunting World -October 2003
MAKE BUCKS HUNT YOU – By Mark Hicks

When it comes to hunting whitetails from above, it can be said with some degree of
certainty that the most intense physical and mental labor it takes place long before you
pick up a bow. While scouting, you can burn some serious boot leather while actively hunting for
travel routes, feeding spots, and bedding areas. Then there is the laborous search for
rubs, scrapes, tunnels, and trees you hope will put you within bow range of a sizable buck.
Once you actually climb into a stand and nock an arrow, you embark on the comparatively
passive, sit-and-wait phase. You must stay alert,of course, focus your
concentration, and overcome a covey of butterflies should a shot present itself. But the
next move is largely up to the buck. Or is it?
More and more consistently successful trophy whitetail bowhunters take an
aggressively active approach once aloft. They aren’t content to wait and intercept
bucks going about their normal, daily movements. To improve the odds, these hunters
know you can make bucks hunt you.

Senses and Scents
Bowhunters make bucks hunt back by
appealing to their senses of sight, hearing, or smell, or by arousing two or all
three of these senses. The primary tools
include scents, calls (including rattling),
and decoys. Granted. there is nothing
new or earth—shattering to these methods, but some hunters just seem to use of
these tools to greater advantage, while others spook more deer than they attract.
Lessons from skilled and successful
hunters can vastly improve your ability to use the tools at your disposal. Eddie
Salter, a member. of the Hunter’s Specialties Pro Staff, practically lives afield and
hunts whitetails across North America. In
the past four years alone, he has tagged
nine Pope and Young bucks. The largest,
from Iowa; scored 165;

In many instances, scents have been a
deciding factoring Salter’s successful hunts.
There’s no question, scents work to
your advantage, but using them improperly can send a buck into the next county.
“After several bad experiences, I realized I was contaminating the area with
human odors when I put out scents,” says
Salter. “My scent was putting off the
deer, not the deer scent itself.”

Though Salter always wears rubber
boots. and religiously buses scent eliminating soaps, detergents,and sprays; he
determined he was carelessly touching limbs and branches with {bare hands
when applying scents. He was raise
kneeling near to his mock scrapes, leaving human scent on the ground. a I
“Now I’m careful not to down or
touch anything when I use scents,” he says.
“I wear rubber, gloves to keep in my hands
from contaminating anything, and also to
prevent the scent from getting on me.”

Salter said he employs scent mainly
during and after the rut, specifically ;
Primetime Premium Doe Estrus doe-in-
heat urine and Primetime Dominant Buck
Urine. He doesn’t use sex—related scents
before the rut, because he claims they can
scare away does and smaller bucks. But,
as much confidence as Salter has in the
use of scents really are not his first priority
when he scouts, even during the rut.
“First I find a major food source and .
select, stand sites that intercept deer
moving to and from the feeding area?
Salter said. “Then, I look for fresh bucks
sign away from food sources. If I find a
place that’s really tom up and has several
scrapes, I’ll make two or three mock
scrapes there and lace them with doe
estrus and dominant buck scent.”

Beyond that tactic, Salter avoids other
mock scrapes and hunts near food sources.

Should he hunt two or three days without seeing a
worthy buck, he checks his mock scrapes. If they haven’t been
disturbed, Salter continues hunting food sources.

“But, if every bush and tree around one of my mock scrapes has been shredded
by antlers, I know I’m in business,” says Salter. “That tells me I’ve made a dominant buck mad, and he’ll be back
looking for the intruder. Now he’s hunting me.”

In this scenario, Salter responds by setting out three fresh mock scrapes within bow range of a tree stand.. He
figures three scrapes, spread about, are more likely to be winded by the buck
and bring him close. This ploy has yielded him trophy whitetails.

Sound Advice
To take advantage of a buck’s sense of hearing, Salter always has a grunt call
handy on stand. He grunts to any bucks he sees crossing out of bow range, and
also reports excellent success blind- grunting. When calling blind, Salter makes
a few serie sof short deep grunts
every 15 to 20 minutes.

“I make doe grunts more often than ,buck grunts,”,says Salter. “Doe grunts
get a buck is attention without rousing his hackles. He comes in more
relaxed. Doe grunts also don’t spook does and young bucks like a deep buck
grunt can.”

If he sees a buck in the distance that isn’t headed his way, Salter said he makes one or two doe grunts.
If the buck stops and begins coming along, he usually lets the game play out. It is only when a buck starts
moving away that Salter feels compelled to grunt again.

“Call too much when a buck is coming your way, and he’ll
know something isn’t right.” he said, “Keep quiet and be patient.”

Salter has turned around a number of reluctant bucks by following
doe grunts with buck grunts. he uses an adjustable call that allows him to change the grunts pitch
by applying linger pressure to the reed.

Rattling Dividends
West Virginian John Jezioro relies on a grunt tube and rattling antlers. He`s
learned through experience that rattling can pay off big time, but he’s also
discovered that it doesn’t work everywhere. Throughout his teenage years,
Jezioro banged antlers together while hunting West Virginia’s Appalachian
hardwoods. Despite his diligence, he failed to.rattle—in a single buck.

“West Virginia has far more does than bucks,” says Jezioro. “With so many
does around, a good buck is less likely to respond to rattling because he doesn’t
have to fight for companionship?
When he attended Ohio University, in rural and whitetail-rich southeastern
Ohio, Jezioro brought his bow and rattling antlers with him. Big bucks were a
little more common there, and the buck-to-doe ratio is balanced to the point
where bucks must regularly compete. By the time he graduated with a major
in chiropractic science, Jezioro had also eamed a minor degree in antler rattling.
Though he’s back living in West Virginia. Jezioro continues to hunt his old
Ohio haunts, a convenient two-hour drive from his home.

Jezioro took one of his highest scoring Buckeye bucks at the end of October
while rattling blind. That morning his rattling antlers lured two big bucks into a
large thicket on the end of a point and prompted them to fight. After a short but
intense battle, Jezioro arrowed the loser. Fortunately, the defeated buck carried the
bigger rack. The 10-point netted 152.

“A lot of hunters get caught off guard because they rattle continuously,”
Jezioro said.”Deer don’t fight that way. They lock horns, pause for a breather,
and then go at it again. Rattling without pauses doesn’t sound natural; It also
keeps you from detecting an approaching buck until it’s too late.”

Before Jezioro rattles, he grunts a three or four times. If there is no
response after about 12 minutes, he tickles the antlers together softly for 15 to
20 seconds, and then pauses about 10 seconds while intently watching for
deer, He repeats this procedure several times over a two minute period. Then
he waits 15 minutes or so and rattles it vigorously for about 20 seconds to imitate
two bucks in fierce combat. He waits at least a full 20 minutes before
presuming the sequence.

Seeing is Believing
Tom.Harkness, a real estate manager from Illinois, adds the allure of sight to his hunting
by using deer decoys, He believes scents and will pull whitetails closer.
but the sight of other deer can convince a normally cautious buck to completely
drop his guard. As a result, Harkness has taken seven Pope and Young bucks in
Illinois over the past 10 years.

“My first hunts with decoys didn’t work out,” says Harkness. “More than
once I’ve had bucks stare at my decoys 15 to 30 minutes. I tried grunting, but it
didn’t help. The bucks would stomp their hooves trying to make the decoys
move, and eventually leave.”

Success came quickly when Harkness added Tail-Waggers to
his decoys. This device makes a decoy’s tail swish every eight
seconds. This little added movement was enough to change a
wary buck into a sap that offered Harkness a close shot.

On that hunt, Harkness’ basic setup consisted of three decoys,
all within bow range. He placed a bedded doe so it was looking at a
small buck decoy standing beside it in the background,
he placed a tail-wagger rear decoy, which is the rear half of a deer, on
the edge of thick cover. The young buck decoy and the butt section both
featured tail waggers.

Harkness embellished the setup by placing two tarsal
glands from a previously- harvested buck on sticks; on
either side of his tree. The glands had been frozen to keep
them fresh.

After only two hours in, this stand, he saw a huge
buck in the distance, feeding on acorns. Harkness
grunted and the buck began feeding in his direction,
gradually working downwind.

When the buck came close
enough to view the decoys, its hair bristled. The heavy-antlered bruiser
crab-walked diagonally toward the decoys as the mechanical tails
swished in calming reassurance.
From there the buck circled around.

Harkness” tree, stopped six yards to one side, and snorted and wheezed. The little buck
decoy responded by flicking it’s tail, as if to say, “everything is just dandy!”

“At that point he could sense the buck was about to charge in and flatten my
decoy,” says Harness. “I should have waited for a better shot angle, But my
heart was pounding so hard I just couldn’t wait. The bucks attention was so
glued to the decoys I couldn’t have
spooked him if I tried.”

Harkness managed to keep his wits about him and made a perfect, clean
shot. The buck’s typical 10-point rack buck grossed 177 points and netted 161
3/8, making Harkness another convert
to the ever-growing “Make Bucks Hunt You” club. >>>—>

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Published by archerchick on 08 Dec 2011

Opening Day Whitetail Tactics ~By Bill Vaznis


Bowhunting World 2003

Opening Day Whitetail Tactics – by Bill Vaznis

The key to early-season action is food. Lush alfalfa fields, cornfields, and other crops are where the deer are now!

What is the absolute best time of year to ambush a trophy buck? When asked, most bowhunters would probably cast their vote for prerut or the peak of rut, when bucks are really on the move and not totally mindful of their environment, 24/7. Others might even opt for the late season, when they have a chance to catch a weary buck leaving his sanctuary
to search for food just before nightfall.

However, there is an increasing legion of devoted disciples who know that
you simply cannot pass up hunting on opening day if you’re truly intent
on taking a big deer with a bow.

When my pals and I first began bowhunting for whitetails, we always put in for mid-November vacation time, when we hoped the breeding season would be in full swing. Granted, we’d see a lot of bucks during those weeks, but their exact whereabouts on any given day were, like their behavior, difficult to predict.

One morning a buck might pass just beyond range, but we wouldn’t see him again for the rest of the season. And, if we didn’t get a crack at a
good buck then, we knew we were likely to lose those racked deer from the
herd to firearms hunters, leaving fewer bucks to pursue in the late season.

As a result of our failures, we began to focus on the prerut, when a buck’s travel patterns are somewhat predictable, especially around rubs and scrape lines. Even so, this still only gave us 10 to 14 days to locate a good buck, precious little time to gamble away an entire seasons efforts, even if you add the peak of the rut into the mix.
Like others who have played this game for many seasons, we finally were
struck by a good dose of deer-hunting reality.

We asked ourselves, why concentrate all our efforts on the prerut and peak of the rut? Like most deer hunters, we watch for deer and deer sign early in the vyear, paying particularly close attention to terrain features and ground cover that attract and hold deer — at least until the heat and biting insects of summer finally drive us from the woods.

Even during those months we cruise backroads in the early morning and late evening hours, glassing meadows and fields for feeding deer.
All it took for my buddies and I to lengthen our time afield and increase
our success was to change our attitude about the early weeks of the season.

I’m now a firm believer that getting serious about early season can really increase your chances of waylaying a trophy. ln fact, the opening morning and first afternoon can offer you the yery best odds for a bruiser buck. Doubt my words? Then read on.

First-Day Deer

The first year I seriously hunted during the early season , I caught a fat buck flatfooted as we both worked through standing corn, taking him 20 minutes into the season with a single arrow through the heart. The fact that he ignored my kneeling form and paid no attention to me as I took the l4 – yard shot is indicative of early·season bucks. Since then I have caught several racked bucks unaware as they went about their business on opening day, including two dandies sparring at sunrise!

What makes deer extra vulnerable on the first day of the season? That’s easy— first-day deer have not been spooked, pressured, scared, jumped, jolted, pushed, or otherwise harassed by humans since the end of the late bow season. As a result. it can take them a critical extra second or two to react before fleeing the scene. They’re also fairly predictable in their daily routines, which is generally centered around food
during those weeks, rather than chasing and breeding does.

“Arrowing a buck on opening day is still no easy task,” cautions ]eff Grab, big-woods specialist and co-owner of North Country Expeditions. “If you want to punch your tag early in the season, you
have to first know your hunting grounds like the back of your proverbial hand, and that means plenty of postseason and spring scouting. There is no such thing as spending too much time in the woods.And even when that is all said and done, you still have to go to ‘summer school,’ and learn to scout long distance.”

Early-season hunting means even earlier-season scouting, like in July when a buck’s antlers are already showing promise. I like to slip into strategic locations, like a knoll overlooking a known feeding
area, and glass for bucks as they emerge to feed in the late evening, or retreating at first light. I pay particularly close attention to secluded feeding areas adjacent to those preferred by yearling bucks and
family groups of does and fawns, as this will likely be where a mature buck will hang out to feed.

When you locate such a spot, you’ll find the buck will feed there
daily, and you can almost set your watch to his comings and goings.
It’s important to scout on the sly, as you don`t want to disturb the deer and their daily routines. This means staying downwind of any high·priority locations, as well as donning full camo dress. Quality binoculars are a must, as the very best bucks can often appear only in low-light conditions. Swarovski, Burris, and Zeiss are among the best, with the new Nikon 8×32 SEs getting my nod for their extraordinary ability to turn dawn and dusk into broad daylight with a simple
twist of the focusing ring.

Nikons new 14 – power, image-stabilizing binoculars can easily be carried into the field and hand held for a steady look at distant deer—a remarkable feat considering the beefed-up magnification. I used a pair of StabilEYEs last fall, and found them more practical than a high-
resolution spotting scope for keeping tabs on big-racked deer.

“Once you have the general location of several bucks pegged, it’s time to sneak in and do some on-the-ground scouting,” says Grab. “It’s important to wear scent-free clothing and rubber boots to help
make sure your human odor does not drift into known concentrations of
deer—and even then try to do your reconnoitering in the middle of the day, preferably for only an hour or two during or just before a rain shower.” Grab also believes in preparing several treestand locations, ground blind ambush sites, or still-hunting routes without putting any
stress on the deer herd.

Even with many hours afield, locating a mature buck is never easy, especially in thick summer foliage. More often than not, these bucks bed near feeding areas, and, as a consequence, do not travel much during daylight hours.

When l have a good hunch a mature buck is lurking nearby, I’ll stay put until the last glimmer of light fades from the scene. Several times l have seen bucks arise from their daytime lair only to begin feeding area. Upon first glance, such spots appear somewhat out of place, like
somebody was there with a weed whacker or a lawn mower. This is really a secret staging area where a lone buck will feed on secondary food sources until late in the evening. You can bet your last broad-
head that a buck is bedding within a stone’s throw of this “safety zone,”so be quiet and watch the wind while you’re in
the neighborhood.

“So far, so good,” says Grab, “but you must be extremely careful you don’t undo all your hard work at the last minute. Once the velvet has been removed and the buck’s antlers are hard-boned, I stay as far away from my hunting turf as much as possible.”

At this late point, Grab emphasizes that he won’t scout the area from a distance, sneak around feeding areas and travel routes at midday or even hang treestands. “I do everything I can to make my first day afield a surprise attack, and unless bad weather prevails or any of the bucks I have been watching are harassed by dogs, bird hunters, or other
bowhunters, I expect lots of action opening day.” .

Mistakes To Avoid

The biggest mistake early-season bowhunters can make is to traipse about
their deer woods erecting stands and cutting shooting lanes the last week or so before the opener. Even spotlighting, where legal, should be avoided. No matter how careful you are, you will invariably put pressure on the local herd, and they will adjust their daily routines accordingly.
When opening day arrives, it’s important to be totally prepared and avoid sloppy mistakes that can come from months of hunting downtime.

Maybe we don’t walk quietly in the woods, or don’t pay close enough attention to wind direction or available ground cover as we do after weeks of the routine. And if that isn’t bad enough, we`ll forget our safety belts, binoculars, and even our face masks! In effect, we
don’t have our act together yet, and as a result we make mistakes and errors on opening day that we might not make later in the season.

Remember, just because “your” buck is going about his daily routine oblivious to your intentions doesn’t mean he’s stupid. All it takes is one dumb mistake on your part, and he’ll hightail out of
your life forever. Last summer, I watched several record-class bucks feed on a farm I bowhunt regularly in upstate New York. One buck, a heavy-beamed 8-point, always entered a hayfield through an overgrown pasture, an ideal ambush site for a still hunter. On the first afternoon
of the regular season I began sneaking and peeking my way through the pasture. Unfortunately, the buck caught me trying to slip through a small opening, did a double take at my crouched form, snorted, and then vamoosed. Although I saw him cross a road more than a mile away during the peak of the rut, I never again spotted him on the farm.

But, had I waited for the prerut or peak of the rut to get a shot at him, I may not have seen him at all. One thing’s for certain: come July I’ll be glassing for velvet bucks, trying to learn as much as possible about the local herd , hoping for another chance at him on the next season opener. These days, instead of several weeks of howhunting,
I have several months to enjoy the sport. What a way to stretch the season!

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Published by archerchick on 05 Dec 2011

ELK ~ Run Silent, Run Deep ~by Bob Robb

Bowhunting World Oct 2003

Elk Run Silent, Run Deep ~By Bob Robb

 

There were bulls bugling at several  stations of the clock as l crept; along a wide trail near Steamboat  Springs, Colorado, last September. It was hot and dry, and walking the trail was the only way to move silently into the light breeze. Using my  binoculars to scan the thick brush carefully before each step, I eased  along, ears and nose and eyes on Red Alert. Suddenly a bull bugled just above me, not 60 yards away. lt was a Pope & Young class 6×6 bull that had not yet risen from his morning nap.

At 4:00 in the  afternoon, it was time for him to get up and move. Crouching behind some trail side brush, I watched the bull get up, move, 20 yards, and start raking a tree. That gave me the opening l needed  to slide to the left, and ease up the slope.  At 35 yards stopped, and when me bull lifted his head t0 bugle my arrow greeted  him. He never knew what happened.

This was not the first time I had slipped into bow range of a mature bull
elk without calling. I learned long ago that a poor caller like me is
better off with a sneak attack than trying to trick a bull to come to a
call, when the odds were he wasn’t going to come no matter how good a
caller I was.

Each season, more and more bowhunters are figuring this  out. They are
learning to use their calls to locate bulls, then sneak in  on them on cat’s feet. When they get close, they might use some cow calling. to stop the bulls for a shot, or to move him a few yards into an opening. In this gane silence is truly golden.

Strategy of the Pros

The “Run Silent, Run Deep”  approach has been used by several bowhunters for many years with great success. Perhaps the most graphic example is the world record bull bowhunting legend Chuck Adams arrowed in M0ntana in 2000. Adams stalked the bull as it moved toward a bedding area, herding his cows and never calling at all. Another elk hunting legend, Arizona’s Randy Ulmer, has taken more whopper bulls than one man should be allowed using the same method.

“My system is based  on the ability to travel light and fast, locating a herd of elk with the type of large old, bull I am interested in, then being able to stay with them and “stick-and-move” quickly and quietly to get into position for a shot” Ulmer said.

The Importance of Scouting

Ulmer is a big believer in  scouting, locating the kind of monster bull he wants to hunt.If he finds a herd of elk but it does not hold the size bull he’s after, he makes a note of it and moves on in search of the next herd.

“If you want to kill a true giant bull, there is no use wasting your time hunting a herd that
doesn’t have one.” he said. ” I know that sounds pretty basic, but there are a lot of hunters they’re searching for the ‘bull of the woods’ who spend too much of their valuable hunting time where one simply does not live. Most guys don’t spend enough time scouting – or because are from out of state, don’t have the season – and they end up spending a big chunk of their hunt simply trying to find a herd of elk.”

 

Why You Should Not Call
“Even if you are the best caller in the world, I have found that it is generally the younger bulls that come in, but old bulls don’t.” Ulmer said, ” If the big studs come at all, they get to a certain point  – usually somewhere between 70 and 100 yards – then stop and will not commit to come in any further. I believe that’s because at this point they are looking for another elk. If they don’t see one they get very suspicious and simply won’t come. At seven, to 10 years of age, they’ve seen a lot of elk hunters and they are not stupid. They also often will turn tail and sneak out of there. I also think the bigger bulls can tell the difference between people calling and elk calling. These old boys are going to sneak in, take a peek, try to get downwind of the caller, and try and smell what;s there. Sure there’s always the odd bigbull that gets killed by bugling or cow calling, but that’s the exception, not the rule.”

Hurry Up, Slow Down

 

When he’s located a herd of elk and it’s time to move in  on them, Ulmer, a fitness fanatic, noted that he uses two speeds. “There is very fast, and there is very slow, and no medium speed in my elk hunting,” Ulmer said. “When I’ve spotted a herd and i may have to circle them to get ahead of their line of travel, l go as fast as I can go. That can mean jogging for miles. Once I’ve gotten into position however, it becomes a slow, meticulous still-hunt stalking game.
” What happens is this,” Ulmer continued. “In the morning the elk have reached thick brush or their bedding grounds, and they  slow down. They’re a little nervous themselves, looking, listening, and smelling for  danger. You now have to stalk them like you would
a bedded mule deer buck, which in my mind is the most difficult of all western
game animals to  stalk and shoot. If you’ve happened to get ahead of them
and the herd is moving past you it is also a tough deal. The lead cow always
comes first, and she is always suspicious. Then the other elk file by, and they
are wired-up too. The bigger bulls always come last. That means you have
to beat all these other elk first to get your shot.

 

Ulmer’s Ideal Scenario

 

“Here’s my ideal morning scenario,”Ulmer said. “I’ve found a big bull and l have watched him and his herd go to bed. Now l have to make a decision. If  I
think there is so much hunting pressure in the area that  someone else may stumble by and bump him, l’ll go ahead and try and  stalk him. This is very hard, though, and l try and avoid this if  I can. There are just too many other elk around to make it a high-percentage
game. However, if he is in an area where there is little hunting pressure, l will
back off, take a little nap and relax, and about 4 p.m. or so l will get up and move into a spot 150 yards downwind of  the bull. and wait. Typically, a couple hours before dark the elk will get up, stretch, and nibble around. The bull will usually let out a little growl or soft bugle, and once l hear that l know right where he is. I try  and stay patient, because now is
the best chance to get him. After his quiet day. that bull is usually lazy and relatively unwary.

“At some point before the dark the bull will generally nib a tree, and this  is
when they become very vulnerable,” Ulmer said. “`Nomally they tend to  rub
for somewhere between lO to 15 seconds, then stop for up to 10 minutes, look
around, maybe call a little, but not move much. Then they’ll rub again, and stop again. This can go on for maybe 15 minutes at the  most, and now is when you have make your move
without hesitation. I line-up on the bull, try and get a quartering or complete butt-at-me
angle, and when he is rubbing his tree, I run as  fast as I can right at him. The second he stops, you have to stop. When he starts rubbing again,you run again. Before you know it you can be within good shooting range of him and get your shot off without him ever knowing you were there.”

 

If he catches up the elk herd and gets in tight to them in the thick cover,
this is when Ulmer may use his diaphragm call. “Big bulls like to get into the thick
stuff as  quickly as they can in the morning, and that’s where you catch up  with them,” he said. “lf you can slip-in close enough in this type of  cover you usually
just get a quick shot opportunity as they pass through the thick brush and small trees. When I see the bull coming l’ll draw my  bow and wait for him to get
into an opening, then I’ll blow sharply on my cow call to stop him. Almost
always the bull will stop, turn, and look right at you. 1fyou’re already at full
draw they will almost always let you release and watch the arrow all the way
in, and not jump the string like a deer. However, if they see you draw they’ll
run, so you have to be ready to shoot when you sound off on your call.”

 

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Published by archerchick on 05 Dec 2011

James E Churchill: Bowhunting’s Last Modern-Day Mountain Man – By Mark Melotik

 

 

 

Bowhunting World Xtreme 2004

James E Churchill: Bowhunting’s Last Modern Day Mountain Man – By Mark Melotik

Most bowhunters I
know, myself included, are far from what
you would call avid historians, but there
are exceptions—one of them being an inexplicable attraction
for many of us, to the 1972 Robert Redford movie Jeremiah Jolmson. The
main character may be fictitious, but
was plausible enough that he just might
have existed. When he wasn’t trapping
beaver, bobcats and marten for a living or
dodging surprise Indian attacks in the post
Civil War mid-19th Century, good ol`
Jeremiah was otherwise living life to its
fullest, chasing elk, deer and moose in the
pristine, unspoiled Rocky Mountain West.
Many avid bowhunters I know seem
to form a kindred bond after viewing
Johnson’s adventures. I found this exact,
well-used videotape atop a VCR owned
by an Ontario black bear outfitter some
years ago, and later found the film was
also the favorite of a whitetail outfitter
I visited the next fall down in Illinois.
Over the past several years I’ve been in
the company of many others who have
shamelessly confessed the same.
Maybe it’s my fascination with the
savagely independent outdoor lifestyle
of the vintage western mountain men
that first drew me to the writings of Wisconsin’s
James E. Churchill—someone I
came to know through his adventure
laden stories in magazines like Fur Fish

Game and Outdoor Life, and someone I
considered a true modern day mountain
man. Indeed, Redford’s deft portrayal may
have set the bar, but Churchill, to me,
seemed every bit as skilled and fearless. Of
course, it didn’t hurt that he lived in my
home state and also loved to bowhunt.
I was a sophomore in a Milwaukee
area high school back in 1987, when the
May issue of Outdoor Life arrived, holding
the story “We Took To The Woods.” In it,
author Churchill described how he had
suddenly up and quit his citified desk job
based in the all»too·populated southeast
corner of Wisconsin, From there he led his
wife, Joan, son Jim Jr., and daughter Jolain
to a true “Live-off-the-land” lifestyle in the
far northeast comer of the state——a lifestyle
that featured plenty of fishing, trapping.
and big woods bowhunting. I didn’t merely read the article, I devoured it.
Churchill’s plan was to become a full
time freelance writes which he did, but fir?
there was a cabin to build—by hand—on
the family’s newly acquired 40 acre parcel
located just west of the city of Florence. By
no mere coincidence, the Churchill spread
lay in the state’s least-populated county.

The Move Northward
To prepare for the move, the Churchills
had scrimped and saved to buy the land,
and set aside enough cash to make it
through that first rocky year—barely.
The unexpected high cost of installing
electricity and digging a well on the
property almost broke the family, but the
lack of a house payment and the family’s ingenuity got them by. Churchill
and his son Jim Jr. who then went by
the apt nickname “Trapper”—kept
themselves busy stocking the family
larder with more than 1OO snowshoe
hares that first year. There were also
plenty of sweet»tasting brook trout in
area lakes and streams, as well as meaty
northern pike, and plump bluegills.
It was very near the quaint A·frame
cabin, during that first fall, where Churchill
would arrow his best-ever whitetail buck,
a true northwoods brute sporting nine
thick tines and a burly body that dressed
nearly 2OO pounds. James Churchill would
bag a buck by bow virtually every year
since, according to Jim Jr, now 48, who still
lives in the Florence area with his own family.

That 1974 hunt is one of Jim Junior’s
two favorite bowhunting memories of his
woods wise father.
“Dad was hunting this area where two
small marshes had a brush strip between
them, in the center of a stretch of big
hardwoods,” Jim Jr. said. “the two marshes
had that little bottleneck between
them, and there was a faint deer trail
right down the middle of it. He knew
there was a big buck in there. On previ»
ous hunts, he saw the deer a couple of
times off in the distance, but one night,
everything was just right. In came the
I buck, and it ended up being a pretty fair
shot for a recurve—but it was a good
one. At the shot the deer took off running, and did a complete circle around the
treestand, and literally came right back to
where he had shot it. It died right there.
It was just a beauty, with a nice wide
spread. When I came home that night, we
went back out there and got it, and it was
just a neat time. It was the very first deer
we had gotten here, and it was a dandy.
I don’t think he ever got a bigger one.”
Jim Churchill was also very fond of
black bear hunting, which he did occasionally
with a bow in hand, but more typically with a muzzleloader, rifle, or camera.
His son Jim Jr. knew he didn’t have
to travel far for outstanding bear hunting.
“In Wisconsin, you can’t draw a bear tag every year, but dad was always
around them, I think he got his biggest kick taking photos of them. Most of
the bears he shot were on his 40 acres. I’m
sure there were some that were 400 plus
pounds. I’ve seen a lot of bear, and I know
how easy it is to overestimate them, but
some were well over 400 pounds. One
thing about bear, you might get a crack at
the big ones once a season, but they could
be pretty wary, Did dad like bear hunting
better than deer? That’s a tough call,
because I would say that he’d rather take
photos as much. or more with bears—but
he’d rather hunt for deer,”

A Natural Woodsman
What made Jim Churchill a great
bowhunter? No one knew him better
than his son.
“He just had a lot of knowledge of the
woods,” Jim Jr. said. “He was very
patient -very patient—always trying to
figure things out. His general knowledge
of the way deer acted in a certain area, he
had a really intuitive nature m to what was
a really good buck stand. In gun season, he
and I, we might only see three or four
deer the whole season, hut if you saw one,
chances are they would have horns—he
was just good at that. He’d never see a lot
of deer in a season, hut they typically had
horns on them. A lot of the time, he
would see a certain buck on a hunt, and
then would hunt for that deer exclusively.

But, he’d hunt smart. He didn’t want
to spook it out of the area, so he’d hunt a
particular stand only if the wind was night.”
Of course, Jim Churchill chronicled
his many adventures tor a variety of magazines, whose readers he took along every
step of the way. Churchills nonflashy,
matter of-fact writing style never seemed
to be with the tact that he was a pioneer
when it came to off beat tactics, such as
bear bowhunting with the use of canoes,
bowhunting snowshoe hares in winter,
and north country predator calling, all of
which were featured in Bowhunting World
in the early 1990s.
One of the best outdoor photos I’ve
ever seen was a shot Churchill had taken
with the help of a remote control camera.
The wily woodsman had located the
haunt of a particularly large bobcat, and
for the shot to work, he would need to call
the cat to a certain, predetermined spot.
With the use of a raven call—imitating
the regular, raucous crows the scavenging
birds make when dinner is located—the
plan came together like clockwork: in
the forefront of the frame you see the
back of the large, inquisitive tom, sitting
and facing Churchill, with weapon in
hand, in the background. He’d tripped the
remote camera at exactly the light instant,
and bagged the bobcat in the next.
What many didn’t know about this
rugged “been-there, done-that” Journalist, is
that he actually worked with a partner,
receiving a good deal of typing and editing
help from his devoted, supportive wife, Joan.

“When we first moved here, for four
years, l always did Jim’s typing—he would
type it up and l would edit it,” said Joan
Churchill, who still lives in the same rustic A-frame cabin the family built in `74.
“We worked together most every day.
When computers came along, it was wonderful. We wrote every manuscript together,

and all of his 13 books. It was a really good life. I have no regrets moving up
here. I can go out on our porch and drink
my coffee, and it’s so peaceful and quiet.
If you hear a car you know it’s coming to
my house. I’ll live here as long as I can.”
Joan described her husband as an
energetic man who was always on the
go—looking for material for his next
feature article or book, always eager for
his next outdoor adventure.
“He was compelled to write,” Joan
said. “He wouldn’t have been able to
live in the city. l know he needed to be
in the wilds. For 13 years, we lived in
Racine [Wis]. He grew up in Tomah,
[Wis.], out in the country. He was a fish
out of water living down in the cities—
around too many people.

“The move was great for the kids.
Our son really enjoys it. Our daughter
Jolain—she left for awhile—and l wondered

if she’d ever be back here. But
today, here she is, living very near here,
with her own family in [Michigan’s]
Upper Peninsula. So it was a great move
all the way around. Jim had 28 years of
doing what he wanted to do here. You
can’t ask for more than that. We were
married 47 years, and for the past 28
years, we lived the way we wanted.
“Jim was a planner, he wasn’t a rash person,”
Joan continued, describing their
unique back country lifestyle. “We didn’t
have a mortgage, because we built the
house as we could. Not that there weren’t
lean years; we didn’t have an awful lot of
money, but we managed fine. We were
never snowed in, because we had a tractor
with a bucket, and then the town started
taking care of the road. But that first
winter, we burned wood, and we didn’t
have the wood cut for the whole year, like
you should have, so you had to go out and
cut it every day—that was pretty tough.
The next summer, Him and Jim cut the
wood in the spring and let it dry out good,
and we had no problem after that.”
Joan Churchill also remembers how
Jim’s freelancing career paid off unexpectedly
one winter, during a stretch
when money was especially scarce.
“Christmas was coming, and we didn’t have any extra money, so things
were looking pretty tight. Then, we
received a check from Fur~Fish·Game
just one week before Christmas—I’ll
never forget that.”
One Last Hunt
Interestingly, after nearly 30 straight
years of life as a full-time outdoor
writers span that included Jim
Churchill bagging a Wisconsin buck
virtually each and every fall—Jim
Junior’s two favorite bowhunting memories
stem from his dad’s very first hunt
at the family’s Florence home——and
also, his father’s very last.
“That last fall, he had seen this
deer—a nice 9~point—while driving
into a spot to do some grouse hunting,”
Jim Jr. recalled. “So he started scouting
around for it. In that first week of the
bow season, he was having trouble with
his shoulder. He was having trouble
pulling his bow back, but he went ahead
and hunted anyway—he would have
hunted with a spear if he had to.
“He was hunting from the ground at
the time, and sure enough, here that
buck came, down a trail, not 15 yards
away, but dad couldn’t pull his bow back.
He had to let that buck walk on by.
“Then his shoulder got better, and
he stuck with hunting the trail that big
buck was running on. He saw it again in
October, about the middle of the

month, and then it was the last week [of
the early bow season in November].
The shoulder was feeling much better,
and he was again hunting on the
ground—he didn’t use a treestand the
last few years, but he was a deadly shot
out to about 35 yards.
“The trail that buck was using traveled
through some short, thick balsams,
about 6 to 8 foot tall. Eventually he
heard something coming through there,
got a glimpse of it and sure enough, it
was that same buck. He ended up arrowing
it right behind the front shoulder. He
called me up to help track it. It went
about 150 yards, but you could see right
away it was dead in its tracks.
“Maybe that memory is so great
because it was his last buck with a bow,”
Jim Jr. remembered. “He died in 2002,
and that hunt was in November of 2001.
That buck was a dandy. Body wise, it
wasn’t quite as big as that first~year buck,
but he hunted hard for it. l think it did
bother him that he couldn’t get that bow
back during that first encounter. But
then, he would have been out there even
if he couldn’t pull a bow back at all.”
Avid big woods bowhunter and Journalist James E. Churchill passed away at
age 68, on May 29, 2002, at his back-
country Florence home. He was preparing to be treated for cancer when a
blood clot took him suddenly. That was
a blessing, according to his wife Joan—
she knew that her husbands energetic,
always~on-the-go lifestyle wouldn’t have
meshed well with an extended hospital
stay or lengthy incapacitation.
l didn’t know the man personally, but
I’d say Joan got it exactly right. When
you’re a true Mountain Man—even one
of the modern»day variety—there are
always new trails to be blazed. Few ever did
it any better than James E. Churchill.  >>>—>

 

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Published by archerchick on 05 Dec 2011

Extreme Tactics For Monster Elk ~ By Chuck Adams


Bowhunting World Xtreme 2004

Extreme Tactics For Monster Elk – By Chuck Adams

On September 24, 2003, Chuck Adams defied all
odds by bagging yet another monster elk—the fifth in a row gross
scoring over 370 record·book points. Chuck’s ’03 giant is a symmetrical
6×6 with main beams over 60 inches, an inside spread over 60 inches,
and average tine length over 18 inches. With a green gross score of
423 and a green net score of 412, this bull has a chance to eclipse
Chuck’s own Pope and Young World Record from 2000. P&Y panel
judging will occur in early 2005.

What follows here are exciting details about this huge bull plus
specific tactics Chuck uses to locate and shoot oversize elk like this one.
was scrambling down a near-vertical slope when the accident; occurred. Pine
I needles gave way underfoot, and I fell on my butt as I skated toward a cliff 50
feet below me.
The wild ride ended after I smacked a four inch pine, pinwheeled upside-down,
and collided with another small tree. I hugged the trunk like a long»lost friend, my
body aching but my bow miraculously still in my fist. My feet dangled over a five foot ledge.

Seconds later, the bull I was after bugled just below. I saw antler tips first, and
then the animal sauntered into view. At less than 20 yards, he looked immense.
But fortunately for me, my first really clear look showed massive beams and long
brow tines but little else to write home about. I say “fortunately”, because I could
not have shot my bow to save my life.
The bull’s rack had seven points on the left and eight on the right, but main beams
were short and tine length petered out near the top. The mature but only moderately large monarch climbed higher and veered directly beneath me. Shooting distance, had I been able to shoot and had I wanted to shoot, was less than ten yards.

After the elk disappeared, I dug in my heels, scooted away from the edge, and
crawled uphill to safety. Unless you’re dead, things can usually be worse. I was
tickled to still be in one piece with no broken bones and a promising elk season
ahead of me.
The very next day, I saw the monstrous bull I finally shot three days after that.
I had found a great elk area—a place I’d never hunted before with fresh sign and
enough undisturbed animals to allow a quality bowhunt. How I found the place
is a story in and of itself.

In Search 0f Extreme Habitat
My guide and I have hunted together for years. We are friends, we think alike,
and we dearly love to chase big elk. So after seeing a number of so»so bulls in
places we’d hunted in times past, we decided to pull up stakes and try new ground.
We weren’t interested in ordinary elk, and we knew that somewhere there had
to be a brute.

I looked at topo maps for hours with specific things in mind. I passed over
places with classic alpine elk habitat, because I knew there’d be other bowhunters
there. I was looking instead for corncob»rough, extremely steep ground on the
ragged edge of known elk»producing places. Modem elk are expanding their range
in many parts of the West, and I wanted to find a spot where elk hunting might
not yet be popular.
My 2000 World Record elk had lived in such a place—difficult to penetrate, even
more difficult to hunt, and just enough off the beaten path to not be hammered by
guns or bows. A truly monster bull elk is at least six years old, sometimes eight
or ten. Very few animals reach ripe old age
without having a hideaway with light hunting pressure.

Some bowhunters believe the best elk
are found on private, expensive guided
ground. It’s to think the grass is greener
in such places. In fact, some archers have
told me they assumed my biggest elk have
been taken in pricey outfitted areas where
hunting is easy.

No so. As a matter of fact, I believe that
places frequented by outfitters might be
the very worst spots for genuinely huge
bulls. Serious, hard»hunting outfitters
know every inch of their private leased
ground, and they tend to keep elk age in
such places lower than it needs to be for tip-
top antlers. One very successful elk outfitter
recently told me he deliberately harvests
bulls at about five years of age. He
explained that most hunters are tickled
with a 330 or 340 elk, and added that he
made more money by managing for nice elk
rather than extraordinary elk. Savvy outfitters
concentrate on the bottom line, not
World Record antlers.

If I wanted a decent 6×6 bull and had
the money to spend, I might bowhunt such
a place. Quite a few privately owned elk
properties in New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado, Montana, and other
states will consistently produce record·book bulls in the
290 to 320 range. A few will yield even better elk.
But for truly huge old mossbacks, I
prefer offbeat pockets not routinely hunt»
ed by guides. Such places are often public
land or private property where free trespass
permission can be obtained.

Covering The Ground
The place my guide and I circled on my
map on September 20 was typically untypical
elk habitat. It was dozens of miles
from known and popular hunting places,
but close enough to hold at least a few
elk. It was murderously steep, with contour lines almost overlapping on the map.
Although I’d never been there, my guide
told me the general area had been heavily clear cut decades earlier, with nasty
timber-choked draws surrounded by wide·
open country. It did not look like elk terrain,
he said, and we probably would not
see other bowhunters. He said we could
probably get permission to hunt sections
that were not public land—an important
factor for elk success. When bulls rut,
they move with track shoes on. You can-
not score if you are stuck on one isolated
square mile of real estate. You’ve got to
move, and sometimes move quickly, over
mile after mile of rugged habitat.

When I first saw the new country on
Sunday, September 21, I was not impressed.
It was indeed open by elk»hunting standard,
with ancient pine stumps littering yellow»
grass hillsides. But slopes were cratered
with sudden pockets of timber and brush,
and deceptively deep canyons knifed
downward off the peaks.

On the second ridgeline we hiked, I
found a string of sap-oozing antler rubs
and piles of fresh elk droppings. Just over
the top, out of sight from an old road, was
a giant gorge with trees as thick as dog
hair. Loggers had taken the easy trees and
left the difficult ones behind. Despite a
severe drought in the West, stem»cured
grass was knee-deep under the trees. Somewhere below,
a stream bubbled merrily
over rocks.
Here, tucked out of sight, was a little
piece of elk heaven.
As if on cue, a bull growled deep in
the draw. It was the single, throaty rumble
of a wild elk that didn’t want to be
chased. . . just the sort of elk I love to chase.
The bull never made another peep, and it
was late in the morning, but I went after
him anyway. My trusty guide was lurking
a safe distance behind.

Going Strong All Day
Covering ground in the elk woods does
not only mean looking at plenty of places
with maps and vehicles. It also means
hiking long distance, both to scout and
to hunt.
Here I was, slipping downward
through very thick trees, late in the
morning with daytime heat settling into
the canyon. I do not believe in penetrating elk-bedding zones, because
bumped animals don’t always come back.
But the bull sound below me had been
too tantalizing, I had not yet seen a really large elk despite days
and days of hunting, and I just wanted a peek.

I got my peek in spades a few minutes
later. The pungent barnyard odor of elk
suddenly hit my nostrils, and then a big,
amber-colored cow exploded from her bed
directly in front of me. Suddenly, the
whole hillside was churning with elk
hooves and dust. I ran to a nearby point,
poked my head over the edge, and spotted
colossal elk antlers twisting downward
through the trees. The bull was hot on the
heels of eight females, hazing them like a
cutting horse after cows. Seconds later,
with the vision of giant antlers burned into
my brain, the small herd vanished beyond
a ridge.

I could not believe my eyes. This
bull was definitely larger than my 2002
elk, and the one in 2002 had officially
gross scored 377 2/8 and net scored 368 4/8
The back “whale tails” on the rack I had
just seen were immense, the main beams
dropping downward on both sides of the
rump. The spread looked impossible-
the widest I had ever seen on a live elk
or in a picture. As I compared my snap
impression with the World Record I had
taken in 2000, I kept coming back to a
startling possibility. This elk might be
just as big!

As my guide and I tramped the high
ridges the rest of the day to look for sign
and orient ourselves to the area, I kept
second·guessing my judgment. As I report»
ed in a 2001 issue of Bowhunting World,
bull elk scoring over 400 points are incredibly rare.
I had said then, and I kept telling
myself now, that seeing two such bulls in
a lifetime was impossible. Despite several million elk harvested in North
America during the past l0O years, fewer than
three dozen typical bulls had officially beat
the 400 inch mark.

We covered ground all day long, and
walked all the next day as well. We did not
hear or see so much as one elk during those
20·plus hours. There were pockets of fresh
sign, but not a lot of animals in the area. It
didn’t matter to me. At that point, I was
only interested in one elk-—the whopper in
the deep, dark canyon.

Refining The Game Plan
On Tuesday, September 23, I saw the big
bull again. It was mid-morning, and we
had just about given up on hunting. Glassing distant slopes had turned up one
raghorn 5×5, two spikes, and one cow.
just as we dropped our binoculars and
stood to leave our prominent perch, ell;
began streaming from a cut in a mountain
half a mile away. At the rear was a huge-
bodied bull with ivory·tipped antlers.
Even from 800 yards, the bull was unmistakable. My guide was flabbergasted The animal was a true rump scratcher, and all the tines were
long. I was beginning to believe that lightning just might strike twice
in the same place.
Before we could get anywhere close, the bull and his eight-cow harem
vanished in the very same canyon were I’d seen them two days before.
As many readers of Bowhunting World know, I prefer not to call elk.

Calling is certainly exciting, and young bulls certainly respond to well
practiced bugles and grunts. But old, hard»hunted bulls are wise.
I suspect they recognize the voices of other real elk in their area, and I know
they move away from imitation calls. You simply do not live six or eight
years by charging every bugle and grunt you hear.

The bulls I hunt don”t even call much themselves. They know from
past experience that mouthing off can be hazardous to their health,
Only when pressed by a rival bull or an overly aggressive pipsqueak do
they bother to answer back.

Such elk require you to refine your game plan. Call only to locate
bulls from a distance. Be quiet and stalk through heavy cover that trophy bulls prefer.
Dog the edges of elk herds, Sooner or later, the big
guy just might swagger into bow range. Never, but never let him know
you’re there. You should stay out of sight and out of his mind—a total
surprise to the bull when your arrow smacks him through the chest.
Going For The Shot

I hiked the mountainside downwind from the elk bedding canyon
till dark on Tuesday. Elk seldom move much before dead dark in
warm weather, and it was certainly warm. But my goal was not
shooting an elk that day, anyway. It was learning terrain so I might set up a shot
tomorrow.

First light on Wednesday morning
found me crouched on a knob near the
bottom of the mountain. A long slash of
wide»open ground stretched upward to the
top….a slash I now knew by heart. With
luck, the bull might push his cows across as
he had the morning before.

Bingo! Three elk appeared high on
the slope where the ones had been the day
before. My heart leaped. . .and then I
relaxed. These were small bulls, not the
macho kind capable of holding cows.
The trio wandered out of sight. Seconds later,
a string of cows appeared a little lower down.
Hot on their heels was the
massive bull.

I ran 125 yards like a madman, scrambling up an open cut that rose sharply I
toward the elk. Out of breath and shaking from excitement, I peeked beyond a bank
of dirt. Here came the cows, mincing along a narrow trail beaten into the hill,
They were barely 2O yards away! I ducked, nocked an arrow, and buried
my shoulder in the near-vertical slope,

Only my eyeballs moved as the females
slipped past me on the upwind side. I could
see the shine of their noses, the glitter of
their eyes, and the delicate flutter of their
eyelids. As the eighth cow moved past
and disappeared, I tensed to take the shot.
Nothing. No antlers, no sound, and
not even any dust, I waited as endless seconds plodded by,
Still no bull, Far uphill, a squeaky bugle erupted from
a patch of timber. Suddenly, polished
antlers appeared much closer above a hill.
They glittered like the mouth of hell as the
giant bull strolled out well above the cows.
I groaned, drew my Reflex bow, and tried
to estimate the distance over the arrow. It
was now or never, and I was determined to
make it now, When you think you can
make the shot, you should go for the shot!

The bull stopped and whipped his head
uphill, gawking toward the elk that had just
called. I guessed 45 yards, planted my sight
pin, and let the bowstring go. Half a second later,
the shaft hammered home with
a meaty, satisfying thump!

The bull staggered ahead, but he did not
go far with a broadhead through both lungs.
I had my elk, and I was thunderstruck by
the size of the beast.

Extreme hunting in an extreme elk
area had paid off with an extreme but very
makeable shot. The animal was also
extreme——extremely big and extremely
exciting. My guide and I rough scored
him well over 4OO points, and even after
half a year, the antlers still unofficially
score nearly three inches larger than my
current P&Y World Record.

Only expert panel judges can sort out
the fine points of officially measuring tines,
assessing main beams, and determining
exactly where the inside spread should be
taped. Half a dozen P&Y points can magically appear
or vanish in one serious measuring session, so l do not know for sure
how this animal will stack up.
But I do know he’s big. That bull
stunned me to my boots when l first laid eyes
on his antlers, and I’m still in awe of his
heavy headgear today. The memories of the
hunt and the thrill of wrapping my hands
around those massive beams are the things
that matter most. >—->>

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Published by archerchick on 08 Jul 2011

Turkey Grand Slam ~By Stan Chiras


BOWHUNTING WORLD
June 1989

TURKEY GRAND SLAM ~ By Stan Chiras

A Novice Tells How It’s Done

I had just started hunting these magnificent birds last year and already I was hopelessly
addicted. Most turkey hunters will tell you there is no cure, and their wives will agree! I was no exception. The desire to get the Grand Slam came as the result of simply wanting to do a lot of
gobbler chasing in my second season. It seemed reasonable to let that chase take me to
places where the different species of turkey called home. The problem then became
one of “how to” and “how to afford it all! ”

?

I could scratch out the time, for my occupation would let me mix travel and sales
calls, with frequent returns to my home base in Wyoming. I began calling friends,
trying to locate good spots to hunt. Being a bowhunter, I didn’t really want to lessen my
odds by hunting areas that the guns had pounded. I came up with some areas that sounded good and made me feel fairly confident of success. Nonetheless, I contacted some guides as back-ups, telling them that I wanted to first try hunting alone. My feelings are that if someone else locates and calls the bird for me, I am little more than a shooter and the essence of the hunt is lost. Besides, guides cost money and it would cost enough getting from one place to another.

?

I spent the winter planning. Every detail, from equipment to travel routes to photography was studied, pondered and finalized. My plan was to get licenses in seven states and try get my four birds from them. I spent countless hours crouched in my living room practicing sitting still, calling and even aiming at gobblers on videos I had rented!


?

My bow, a High Country Trophy Hunter, was tuned from wheel to wheel. I broke in
several spare strings and set up my Amacker Banjo sight to hit dead on from five to 25
yards. I shot day after day, until I could hit the fist-sized vitals of my turkey target every time
within that range. I was detemined to shoot 4 within 25 yards where my skill level would make
me confident of a clean kill.

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Every morning, before leaving for work, I would step out the door and take one, and only
one shot. There are no warm-up shots at turkeys and I expected no follow-ups. If the shot
was true, my day was off to a great start. If it was errant, I felt like a toad. Eventually all my
arrows hit the mark, the result of practiced concentation and an awful lot of desire.

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My bow was short enough that I could shoot while sitting, which greatly reduced
critical movement which had cost me shots at a couple gobblers during my first season.
That, coupled with 65 percent let-off made what I considered the ultimate turkey weapon. I
would be able to draw when my quarry’s vision was obstructed and hold for a long time if necessary.

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The last thing I did was shoot the bow set at a shorter draw length than normal for me. The
bow came a little shy of my draw and quite by accident I learned it could help. Since I’m no
student of target archery, I hope it will suffice that with the slightly shorter draw I did
not suffer from any creep and it was very easy to find a consistent form. Whatever, I was
shootiing much better than I ever had before and that`s the way to start a hunt like this one.

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A personal commitment was made as well: I would be more patient than I had ever
been my life in every circumstance I encountered. Secondly, I vowed to be persistant.
I would not quit until I dropped from exhaustion and there wasn’t a turkey season open in
the entire country. (It’s very interesting to note that three of the birds were taken on the
last day of the hunt after my hopes had been well dashed. I doubt I’ll ever give up early in
my life again!)

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Conditioning is necessary because turkey hunting can be very strenuous, both physically
and mentally. There are times when you get on a gobbler in a hurry and cross ravines or penetrate thick hillsides as though they weren’t there. Other situations are stealth, either in stalking into an area to set up or sitting still for hours on end. Both as s lot easier to do if you’re in shape.

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Still, other times will find the turkey hunter down and out and in need of a psychological lift. Perhaps the birds are not gobbling, or they come in silently and you muff the set-up. Sometimes they answer your every call for two hours and then simply walk off gobbling into the woods. At times like these, you have to find a way to make the most of the encounter. A hunter who tends to say “I almost got one in today and sure learned what I might want to do with the next one,” will find
himself ready to go the next morning. You can’t let those turkeys get you down! They’re
just teaching you a little humility.

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Wyoming Merriam’s

My first bird dropped to my Zwickey-tipped XX75 within five minutes on opening day in the Black Hills of northeastern Wyoming. As I nestled into some brush I had scoured. three gobblers were calling to the hens and each other. (As I was to learn with all my subsequent hunts, it is often best to be there on the first day, when the birds are ready and not yet fully aware of the dangers afield.)

The Wyoming Merriam’s turkey responded quickly to my call. Two gobblers came in and I shot the second, a bird with a 9 1/2 inch beard that weighed 18 pounds. He took my first arrow at 22 yards through the vitals and caught a second well-placed shaft moments later as insurance. It proved to be unnecessary. He made it over a rise and into a draw before expiring. I took the quick, clean
kill as a good omen for the hunts to come.

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The next weekend found me in Montana, searching for another gobbler and hoping my
luck would continue. I just shook my head in mild disbelief when my evening yelping
located a gobbler. A likely looking clearing would be my morning hide. Daybreak found
me nestled against a large cottonwood tree, hoping for the best.

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Have you ever seen something in the semi-darkness and had your eyes play every trick in
the book on you? Well, there I was, waiting for the fun to begin, when a subtle “spitting”
sound caught my attention. I stared into the uncertain landscape, sure I heard a tom drumming.
It had to be a gobbler, but it was much too early for one to be on the ground and I had not heard anything fly down. I began to pick out a dark spot in front of me, at a range I couldn’t determine. In the low light the spot seemed to appear and disappear, than move. I would have to wait.

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Meanwhile, the birds in the nearby trees began to gobble and my attention shifted to them. It seemed like mere minutes later when the object I had tried to make out on the ground was a clearly identifiable gobbler. He was strutting back and forth about twenty yards in front of me. I froze. Arrowing gobblers is far more complicated than getting one in range. Their eyes are
very sharp and detect the slightest thing out of place. Movement is simply impossible. Where a deer might just wait an extra second and even shrug off something if it doesn’t move again, a turkey just leaves. There are no second chances.

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Let a turkey hear you and the scenario is the same. They teach you in a hurry that one mistake is all you get. The challenge is getting your bow to full draw, aiming and shooting before they know you are there. My mental conditioning was the most valuable asset for the hunt I had and discipline
was the key. If the bird could see me, or other birds could. there was no sense in doing anything. It would seem a shame to just let a gobbler walk off. but often it was all I could do.

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Desperation attempts are a waste of time on turkeys. They only educate the birds to your
presence and lessen your chances of success for the next day. I waited for this bird to turn, facing dead away from me, when his fanned tail would effectively block him from seeing me. He
turned. I drew. I could hardly see the dual pins of my sight and a quick sighting on the brighter horizon enabled me to set in and make the shot. The arrow struck home, sending a solid “whack”
back to my ears. He turned again, stared directly at the source of the sound and caught
my next arrow squarely in the breast. My second bird was down.

?

A second Merriam’s with good technique; no mistakes so far on this venture! My shooting had been perfect. Both birds were done for the first arrows, but a second shaft conveniently laid next to me had struck home both times. Had they been really needed, they would have done the job. The practice and planning were paying off.

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l thought of several setups for taking turkeys during the planning stages for this hunt. The trick is to get them in and be able to make the motion of the shot undetected. The easiest way to do this is to park yourself against a very large tree in a woods with lots of other trees in front of you. When the bird passes behind one you`ll have a chance to draw. When he steps out the shot is yours.

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Another way to fool an old tom is to draw him past you with the aid of a decoy. Try to set yourself up facing away from the bird as you call, although the urge to turn and look him over can be almost cruel! If you call and the bird comes in, sights the decoy and then approaches it, a shot at a fanned bird facing away can be your reward.

?

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Remember to anticipate the spot you expect the bird to be and then position yourself for that shot. Right handed archers will want the bird to the left of the way they are facing, nd the opposite is true for lefties. There is nothing more depressing than being unable to shoot because of body position.

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Rio Grande

My Rio Grande bird had to be taken by another method. I was hunting a ranch in west Texas almost devoid of trees suitable for the turkey hunter to “fade” into. To make matters worse, the birds were concentrated in large flocks. Not once did I call in just one gobbler. Usually they came with hens, or jakes or even other gobblers but the number of birds was rarely under ten. That’s a lot of eyes to deal with! I had to resort to a makeshift blind.
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I carried some camo netting for just such a predicament. After calling in bird after bird to amply let them wander off I decided that it was time. A ravine that was scattered with small cedars made a perfect location for my barrier. I draped the netting between the cedars and leaned boughs up against the whole affair. A huge gobbler that had already come in on three occasions in the previous five days was my target. I hoped my blind would let me get a shot at him on my last day.

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My luck seemed to turn, because that was the only morning that I did not call a gobbler in. Perseverance would have to be the key: I decided to stay behind the netting for the entire day. That afternoon the gobbler showed up, all alone for the first time. He was history. I was sure of it.
The bum just ignored my calls. To this day it makes no sense. Eventually he wandered off into a brushy hillside. I was devastated. Since I was due to head for Florida in the morning it seemed the slam was over. I sat there and pondered my plight well into evening.

Almost miraculously, a group of six jakes came up behind me shortly before sunset. I
decided to take one, since a gobbler wasn’t likely to make an appearance. They came in
and circled my calling, offering me a head-on shot at the lead bird. The blind worked perfectly. If only I had used it earlier in the week. The arrow caught the bird off center by an
inch. But I celebrated too soon. The jake was nowhere to be found. I had to cancel my flight
to resume the search in the light of dawn. As luck would have it, I found the bird in the morning darkness while I was sneaking in to set up for another hunt (Texas allows you two spring birds so I was going to try for another before looking for the jake). Later I passed up a shot at two gobblers with medium-sized beards because I failed to recognize just what they were at first. I guarantee I will never do that again. Round tails are not jakes.

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Osceola

I gathered up my dog (who was patiently waiting in the car on all my hunts), the bird
and a bunch of gear and headed off to central Florida for what I expected to be a very tough
bird to get, the Osceola. I wasn’t disappointed, for not only were they tough to hunt, they were scarce as hen`s teeth. The practical problem of needing to make a living meant I would have to return home in only three days. It was difficult to feel confident with so little time to get to know the
area and find birds.

An important element for success on any hunt is scouting. I would rather spend three or
four days of a seven day hunt scouting, and hope my preparation would yield positive results later, than just plow in and hunt fret day one. The second night of my three precious days finally found me watching a long-bearded gobbler go to his roost. The next morning I sat against a pine tree next to the cypress swamp that held the gobbler. I almost wished this turkey wasn’t so impressive, for
not getting him would be like missing a Pope and Young buck. I said I almost wished it, mind you; I wasn’t complaining.

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He gobbled in the heavy mist of morning, a mist that was really a fog. First two hens
came down and immediately wandered off. Soon he would follow. He had to, for I had no
time left. He landed exactly where he had taken off from the night before. My decoys
were placed next to the edge of some pines and I was motionless next to one of them. He
ignored my decoys and began to wander off. Knowing full well that this old boy had gotten
that magnificent beard by letting things come to him, I decided to purr and cluck very softly.
He gobbled and fanned. With the fog and this cautious Osceola gobbler and a hunter relying
on his instincts for what to do next, the moment was pure magic.

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He hung around in front of me for a while and then just disappeared. A few purrs, ending with only slightly louder clucks carried out from my call. I kept it up for a minute or so, hoping my adversary would come back. Then my prayers were answered as he appeared off to my right, very near the spot he had flown down to. It was perfect for a left-handed shooter. I wouldn’t have to shift position at all to aim and shoot from the sitting position.

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Things looked very good. He was interested and coming in slow and deliberate. The
fog had him wet and his fan looked pretty bad, but do you think I cared! He was the lord and
master of this little piece of paradise and I had been invited for the show.The gobbler got as close as 15 yards and must have decided that the decoys should have moved by now. I was sure he would leave. It was time to act. I had strung some camo netting around me, about six feet out, to break my outline. If he turned I would draw. He did, and so did I, except he had turned straight at
me. I froze and luckily he did not notice my movements through the fog. The net had done
its job.

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It seemed like forever, but he turned away, with his fanned tail blocking me from his
sight. This time I got to full draw and came down on my target. He turned sideways and I
once again thanked my bow for its high let-off, as I had to wait for him to settle down
before letting the arrow f`ly. It struck with a solid whack, indicating a pretty good hit.
Then he surprised me and flew to the top of a nearby pine. He was history though, and I
knew it.

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A short time later he came down, while I patiently waited in silence, not wanting to risk
spooking him into the thick cypress swamps nearby. His beard was over ll inches and he was
a true trophy. Now the heat was really on. With one bird to go there was no turning back and my confidence level was soaring. An urgent pressure to succeed was overshadowing my thoughts.
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Eastern Turkey

Earlier I spoke of the planning that went into this venture. It is one of the most important factors for success, for you simply can’t get them where you can’t find them. Unfortunately, I hadn’t given enough thought to the order I was hunting the different species. I should have started with the eastern, gone after the Florida next and the other later. The reason? It’s easy for me to say now: The eastern turkey get the most pressure and react quickly, making things very tough for the
hunter, especially the bowhunter. I haven’t said much about my calling because it isn’t that good. I rely primarily on a box call and stick to a limited vocabulary of yelps, clucks, purrs, cackles and Cutts. Since I feel a little inexperienced I tend to call less often and more softly, hoping to convince a bird with the coy approach. Turkey hunters have told me a lot of things about calling and it seems many different approaches work. I think the secret lies with the birds themselves, for some days they come in like hungry wolves and other times they plan the classic “you come to me” game.

A quick trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota, since I had a tag to left to fill there. I wanted to sharpen my calling and hunting skills before going after the much respected eastern gobblers.
as with the other two Merriam’s, I found a bird the first evening out and setup in a likely opening the next morning. A whole bunch of birds came in, including five gobblers and quite a few jakes. They strutted about in front of me, offering no chance to draw with all those alert eyes on call. My only recourse was to wait for them to leave and hope a gobbler would be among the last to go, thus offering me a shot

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The last bird was fanned out and strutting across to my right. When he crossed behind a large cottonwood, one of several in front of me, I came to full draw. He stepped out and the arrow smacked home , hitting him in the wing butt. After waiting a while, I crept up a small rise, expecting to see him on the other side. What I saw was a red head and a blur of feathers as he rocketed off to some distant brush. I was baffled. The arrow had hit just where it was supposed to so he should
have been down. I decided to wait a while longer and sneak up on the brush.
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When a hungry coyote showed up and I decided to pass up the shot, it turned into a
godsend. The canine hit the turkey’s trail and immediately raced off to fetch the bird. I figured
it would be easy to follow and make the coyote give it up. But it didn’t go quite that
way. The gobbler came bursting out of the thicket and flew up to a treetop about a quarter
mile away. Now all I had to do was to wait for the bird to expire.
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After awhile I decided that he wasn’t coming down so a stalk was in order. Luckily, the
wind picked up making the bird face into it just to hold on. It also covered the sound of my
approach. I had never shot up in a tree before and decided to simply aim dead center, hoping it would be good. The arrow centered the gobbler and he was mine.

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On To The East

I got busy trying to locate birds in New York, and acting on a tip from Charles Alsheimer, called in a super gobbler. I didn’t get the bird but felt extremely good about having
called up my first eastern. Charlie later showed me a thing or two about cackling and
purring on a diaphragm which helped me make major strides in my calling. Unfortunately, hordes of hunters moved into the area that weekend and the birds went silent. I decided it would take a few days to calm things down and headed off to a farm in West Virginia, about six hours away, to try anew. I had learned a lot about these birds. They
are the ultimate survivors, fleeing at the slightest miscue. Their eyes are absolutely
unforgiving, their ears superb and their gobbles were incredibly enchanting.

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Several days of rain had put a damper on my spirits, although I kept at it every day until the noon stopping time dictated by law. Somehow the last day of the hunt snuck up and promised to be the first clear day of the week. It was now or never. A tom had gobbled
just before noon the day before in a beautiful little hollow, but refused to come to my pleadings. I would try to take him. I found it was best on all my hunts to try to set my tactics for the morning the night before and then just spend the night dreaming about the wonderful
things to come.

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I was beginning to feel like the real master of myself, more than I ever had in my life. My
mind was full of constant rumblings about the value of planning, practice, patience and perseverance (my four P’s). I slipped into position an extra hour early, as I had done on the two previous last day hunts. I was going to kill that bird, I was positive. If only one had gobbled that morning . . .

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I called three times that morning, from my hide nestled in the corner of the hollow. Since
moving was not part of the day’s program, I settled in on my Komfort Turkey pad for the
long haul, which passed all too quickly. The season would end at noon. At 10:53 my last
soft yelps of the morning broke the still air. Again, nothing.

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If you had been there you would know the feeling I cannot describe as a bird came from
under a shady tree, just across the hollow from one very shaken turkey hunter. He
strode into the bright sunlight and stared directly into the woods that held me. This was
one of the infamous ‘”silent gobblers” we have all heard so much about.
He dropped into a depression and I grabbed the bow I had foolishly put down an
hour earlier. As it turned out, I could have eaten lunch during the amount of time it took
him to reappear. Fighting the urge to rise up a little and peak to confirm his whereabouts became a difficult task, but I held firm. He appeared, still looking at my location.

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He began to scratch about and feed in the closely cropped pasture, practically in my
lap. He noticed my decoys which I had partially concealed in some bushes off to the uphill
side of my hide. I was six or seven yards into the dark forest and it felt safe. Yet he continued to scratch about, glancing at the decoys from time to time. There was no strutting,
only feeding stares. The whole time he was facing directly at this archer and offered abslutely no chance for a shot. I kept telling myself that my Grand Slam was right in front of
me and all I had to do was wait for the right moment.

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He was about 20 yards out. The shot should be a piece of cake. I glanced down to
make sure the arrow was on the rest and nothing was going to get in my way when I pulled
up. Much to my dismay, I noticed some debris on the sight and there was nothing that could be done about it. I would have to ignore it when it came time to aim.

When he finally turned away and put his head down to feed I acted smoothly and
quickly. I arrived at full draw and decided to wait for him to go through a cycle of checking
the area for danger as he had been doing between each series of scratches. He seemed to
take forever to drop that periscope (as I had come to call their heads in frustration many
times before) and I once again thanked High Country for that let-off. The pin was cluttered
with leaf matter that made aiming less than ideal.
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After 26 days of hunting and a string of success, I began to crack. Pressure had been
an integral part of the challenge all along. It made the hunts very serious matters and
added to the enjoyment. But now I couldn’t stop the pin from circling the bird. To top it
off, he took a step forward and it seemed like he would just walk away and I would be frozen there, like a fool. I was screaming at myself to
get it done.

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The arrow struck the bird, who was quartering away, dead center. The force of the 75
pound bow drove him several yards across the field. I’m not sure I remember releasing too
well. It just happened regardless of what was going on in my worn-out mind. I’d like to
think that all the practice had paid off. The gobbler flopped down the ravine and
into the woods. He was done though, for I had seen the strike. I slowly made my way over to the edge of the woods and spotted the magnificent creature. It was clear that he was expiring and, as with any game animal I have ever taken, I backed off to let him spend his last moments in peace. He never knew what hit him and my presence would only add terror to his end. I was happy and sad in a way that I can’t describe but I think a lot of you know
what I’m talking about.

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It was over. I fell to the ground and just lay there, thinking. My eastern wild turkey was a
few yards away in the West Virginia woods. I didn’t have to get up at 3:30 a.m. tomorrow
and I wasn’t sure I liked that for the sunrise had become a special time filled with anticipation
that each day would be better than the last. I guess they had been.

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Published by archerchick on 08 Jul 2011

Muskox with a Bow~By David Richey


Bowhunting World
Febraury 1990

Muskox with a Bow~ By David Richey

The bull was big… and close Ikey Nanegoak, my Inuit guide,
had spotted the muskox bull two miles away across the frozen
tundra of the Northwest Territories. Even at that distance the
animal looked massive.

We parked the snowmobile two miles away and began a methodical
stalk through the frozen rock formations to a boulder only 20 yards from
the unsuspecting bull. The animal was close enough for a bow shot but
we first had to size up its horns and boss to see if it would make
the Pope and Young club record books. The bull’s right horn was massive
We green scored the right side, including the bony boss, at over 65 inches.
Now if the bull would only turn and give us a peek at the left side.

Five minutes later the bull swiveled around the paw at a new patch of snow
for the lichens below, and the left horn was a bitter pill to swallow. It was
broken off eight inches back from the tip, and badly broomed like the horns of a full curl
bighorn ram.

“Too bad,” Ikey said as we started figuring deduction points. “If both horns would have
been equal that would be a new world record muskox.”

My muskox hunt had begun the day before with a grueling sled ride behind Nanegoak’s.
Yamaha snowmobile on a 90-mile journey across frozen Queen Maude Gulf to an
isolated trappers shack at one end of Victoria Island. The island, north of the northwestern
mainland portion of the Northwest Territories (NWT), is one of several NWT islands that
support good muskox herds.

My experience with winter is in Michigan is heavy snow and occasional temperatures
that plunge to zero. It couldn’t prepare me for an April hunt on an Arctic island where the
thermometer often registers 70 degrees below zero.

Snow squeaked underfoot and my nostril hairs froze instantly in the minus 40-degree
temperature as our snowmobile and sled skidded to a halt on Queen Maude Gulf. We’d
just begun my muskox hunt, and four hours after departing from Cambridge Bay on Victoria
Island, we had troubles.

It wasn’t serious yet, but anytime hunters have problems in cold weather, the complexion of
the hunt can change in a moments notice. A whiteout had washed across the barren Gulf, and
robbed us of all visible landmarks and our sense of direction. It was impossible to see the faint
snowmobile track leading across the gulf toward the island shack we would use as our hunt
headquarters.

Conditions can rapidly change in
the arctic, and seconds later the whiteout had
disappeared and was replaced by bright sun-
light.
“Hurry. We go fast, and find the snowmobile track,”
Nanegoak urged.
I didn’t need further encouragement. The
idea of being stranded on the ice when the
bottom fell out of the thermometer is enough
to get anyone moving quickly, despite the
bulky caribou skin parka, skin pants and
mukluks.
We found the old trapping shack two hours
later and just before daylight passed into the
nothingness of an arctic night. The all-white
arctic rock ledge holding the trappers shack
stood out like a sore thumb in the landscape,
but the bone-chilling cold made it look as inviting
as a palace in the tropics.
Nanegoak and l unload food and survival
gear — including an emergency radio -— from
the 24-foot sled that had beat my backside
nearly raw over 90 miles of frozen Queen
Maude Gulf and Victoria Island`s wind-swept
island rock. The sled had pounded its way
over pressure ridges and rocks, and the snow-
mobile had broken a ski en route to our island
shelter.

A quick supper, some quiet conversation
and an hour of listening to Inuits talking on the
radio provided our evening entertainment.
Eight hours of deathlike sleep rallied me
around for the next day ’s hunt.
The day dawned clear, cold and bright, and
with a cherry-red sunrise gave high expectations
of seeing my first muskox. Nanegoak,
from Bathurst Inlet, was making breakfast as I
scratched rime from the tiny window for a
look at the barren landscape.
An arctic white fox was nosing around
near camp, and with two quick shots my cam-
era recorded his image on film. We quickly
ate our breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and tea,
and began the hour-long process of getting
ready to hunt.

It’s not easy donning caribou skin parkas
and mukluks over other clothing. The skin
garments were tight fitting, and my antics of
pulling on this highly effective Eskimo garb
reminded me of an old lady pulling on her
girdle.
“Today, all I want is to see a muskox,” I
said. “Just get me close enough to a few animals
so I can see what they look like. I want to
gauge just how long the chest hair is, and the
exact location of the heart and lungs in that
massive chest.
“If we find a trophy animal today I’ll hunt
tomorrow. I’d like a rubberneck tour of the
island to see its wildlife and landscape. I don’t
want my hunt to end the first day.” Nanegoak
speaks excellent English, and he promised a
tour that would show me white fox, Peary caribou and muskox.
My butt bounced against the hard wood
seat of the sled as Nanegoak’s snowmobile
pulled me along at 15 miles per hour. Several
white foxes scuttled away through nearby
rockpiles, and Peaiy caribou bounded over
the frozen landscape like youngsters hopping
down a sidewalk on Pogo sticks.

Two hours later I saw what I’d traveled
thousands of air miles to see — muskox.
Nanegoak spotted the first herd nearly two
miles away, and they looked like black lumps
of coal against the snow-covered island rock.
“We’ll stalk closer for a better look,” he
said. “We can get to within 100 yards, and
you can study the animals before you start
hunting.

“Maybe one of the bulls will meet your
requirements. If there’s a big bull in that herd
we can come back tomorrow and stalk him
again. He probably won’t be too far away unless
some wolves move in and chase them
away.”
The stalk went without incident, and
brought us to the close-up vantage point described at the beginning of the story.
“Much of the time muskox horns are
nearly identical Nanegoak said after we discovered
the broomed left horn. “He’s the
largest muskox I’ve ever seen. He’s big, but
with the deduction points he probably wouldn’t
score 100 points. Let’s look for another herd, and maybe we can find something
rnore symmetrical.

Muskox are considered an arctic oddity. It
is neither an ox nor does it exude musk.
Rather, it is a close relative to the bison.
We studied the bull for several minutes. As
an ethical bowhunter, and one concerned with
making a clean kill, it was my wish to determine
the depth of the chest and the length of
the chest hair. An arrow shot too low would
sirnply cut hair from the brisket and allow the
animal to get away. Or, even worse, an arrow
improperly placed may wound the muskox.

We finally left the muskox and walked for
a half-mile before talking. Nanegoak proceeded
to explain the Inuit’s position in guidng muskox
hunters on the arctic islands.
“Muskox thrive on many arctic islands
and in some parts of the mainland Northwest
Territories,” he said. “‘They grow long hair
which offers insulation from extreme cold,
and that hairy pelt enables them to survive
temperatures that can drop to minus 70 degrees.

“These animals are an important food
source for the Eskimo people. Robes are
made from hides, and the meat is eaten. We
treat trophy bulls with respect and these animals
are the only ones we allow sportsmen to
hunt. For our purposes we prefer to eat cows,
calfs and immature muskox bulls.”

Nanegoak said paying hunters may only
take the hide, head, horns and 50 pounds of
meat from their kill. The Eskimo people use
the rest of the meat leaving nothing to waste.
My April hunt, just before the muskox
season ended, came as winter was ending its
six-month grip on the arctic. Even so, Victoria
Island’s evening temperatures plummeted
to minus 40 degrees and only reached IO degrees
below zero during the day.

Our sole consolation that evening was the
trappers cabin. It was snug and warm, heated
by a propane cookstove and a kerosene heater.
The sun had lost its feeble hold on the day’s
warmth, and as it plunged out of sight the temperature
dropped 20 degrees in as many minutes.
Dawn breaks like thunder in the arctic.
The sun popped over the eastern horizon of
Queen Maude Gulf, and one minute it was
dark and the next the world was bathed in
bright sunshine.

“Ready to go hunting?” Nanegoak asked
as the breakfast pancakes, eggs and sausage
were shoveled down. “Today we’ll find other
muskox, locate a big bull and try to get close
enough for a shot. If we have any luck we’ll be
back by dark with a fine trophy bull.”
I wiggled into my parka, pants and mukluks after
dressing in wool pants and a down
jacket. A wool stocking cap kept my ears and
head warm. I was ready.

Nanegoak was warming the snowmobile
as I double checked my Oneida Screaming
Eagle bow. I chose the bow for this hunt be-
cause it is less apt to freeze and snap in the
bitter cold temperatures. Wood bows with
wood or fiberglass limbs may shatter when
used in very cold weather.

The bow performed flawlessly, and I
screwed Game Tracker Terminator Double
Cut broadheads to my 2217 Easton shafts.
Now, all I had to do was to stay warm until we
spotted a muskox herd.
We cruised the seemingly barren island
until we found the muskox. Northwest Territories
law forbids getting closer than two
miles to muskox by snowmobile. If we spotted
some animals we’d have to stalk on foot to
within bow range.

We would ride for 10 minutes, approach
the top of a hill and park just below the crest.
Ikey and I would sneak up to the ridge and
glass for muskox. Two hours passed before
we spotted a muskox herd.

“No big bulls in that herd,” Nanegoak
said after glassing the animals. “There are 14
small bulls, cows and yearlings but nothing of
trophy size. Let’s go back to the snowmobile
and try another area.”
The sharp-eyed Inuit spotted another herd
three hours later. He pulled the snowmobile
and sled to a halt below a windswept ridge,
and studied the herd intently before giving me
a thumbs-up sign.

‘“There’s one big bull in that herd,” Nanegoak said.
“The big one is with a smaller bull,
and they are 200 yards from 12 other muskox.
Get ready, and we’ll go on foot from here.
Stay low, and we’ll follow this ridge line until
we reach that rock pile. Then we’ll move to-
ward the animals, and you’d better pray that
another rock outcropping is there to provide
cover. Grab your bow, and let’s go.”

He led me on a slow stalk toward the herd.
It was easy for the first mile but then we had to
crouch low and run from boulder to boulder to
reach a shallow depression that offered good
cover. It gave us cover for another half-mile.
Nanegoak suggested we rest for a moment
behind a huge boulder while he crawled to the
top of a ridge to check the big bull. He wiggled
through three inches of snow to glass the
muskox, and several minutes later was back
wearing a broad grin,
“We’re still a half-mile from the bull and
he’s big,” the guide said. “His horns will
score at least 100 Pope and Young points, and
perhaps a bit more.

That was great news. The minimum score
to enter a muskox in the prestigious Pope and
Young scoring competition is 65 points. Any
animal over 90 points is a trophy to be proud
of, and a bull that scores above 100 points is
exceptional .

We began a rock to rock stalk that took 30
minutes before we crawled within 50 yards of
the big bull. Now the big and the small bull
were only 100 yards from the herd as they
slowly fed toward that direction.
We had run out of cover. We stalked as
close as we could without moving into the
open, and now the bull was close, but still too
far away for a bow shot.
“Can you hit him from here?” Nanegoak
asked as he apparently read my mind. “It’s a
long bow shot but it may be tough getting
closer.”

I practice shooting my bow year-round,
but most of my shots are at 30 yards or less.
I’m competent at that range but never practice
at 50 yards simply because I prefer getting
closer or not taking a shot.

“It`s too far,” I said. “We either have to get
closer or find another bull in an area where we
can stalk to within 30 yards.”
For me, the thrill of the hunt lies in the
stalk and knowing a good shot can be made.
Wounding a big game animal is a sin, and the
thought of a 50-yard shot was something I
wasn’t prepared to try.
Nanegoak thought about the problem before his fact lit up.
“Old Eskimo trick,” he said. “We’ll walk
slowly and as close as possible until the
muskox turn, and then we stop. I’ll move
slowly across in front of them, and as they
watch me, you move closer. Just move slow
and quiet, and move only when they stare in
my direction.”
We moved slowly out from cover, and I felt
as exposed as a nudist in church. We began
walking toward the two bulls, and when they
sensed our movement their heads turned our
way.

We stopped and stood motionless for 30
seconds. Nanegoak began walking slowly
across in front of the bulls, and they looked
his way. My mukluks made little sound as I
eased forward, a step at a time, in a completely
exposed stalk.
The guide would move, and the bulls
would face the moving man. Then it was my
turn, and soon I sensed that slow movements
didn’t disturb the animals. I sneaked to within
30 yards before determining that it was time to
draw and shoot.

My Screaming Eagle came to full draw,
and the 30—yard pin snugged down low behind
the front shoulder of the big bull.
It was a good hit, and 20 seconds later the
bull lurched off on a short run. It staggered
and fell after running only 50 yards. The Double
Cut broadhead had done a good job of
cutting through thick hair and hide, and the
bull was dead within 30 seconds of the hit.
It was a thrilling hunt. The kill was anticlimatic
compared to the unique open-ground
stalk, spending several days with my young
Inuit guide, and learning more about myself
and the land I hunted.

Make no mistake about it: Muskox hunting
is not for the faint hearted. The weather
during an arctic winter is brutally cold, and
all bowhunting equipment must function
properly. And one costly mistake can jeopradize
the life of a careless hunter.

However, in this day and age it is a hunt
where sportsmen have an excellent chance of
scoring on a Pope and Young record-book animal.
The animals are majestic in their all-
white environment, and both the hunt and the
terrain is fascinating.

Now, my 100 6/ 8-inch record-book
muskox is mounted life size. It reminds me of
a wild and free land, and the stark beauty of
the arctic environment is forever etched in my
memory.
This trip proved that Canada ’s wild North-
west Territories offers great bow hunting
action . . . even in the dead of winter. Perhaps
one day I will return, and relive one of the
most memorable hunts of my career.

EDITOR ’S NOTE: David Richey has been
a fulltime outdoor writer-photographer for
more than 21 years, and this article was based ‘
on a hunt he made in April 1988. It was his
seventh trip to the Northwest Territories.

Richey is the staff outdoor columnist for
The Detroit News, Michigan’s largest daily
newspaper and the fifth largest in North
America. He rates his midwinter arctic experience
as one of the finest in his many years of
traveling around the world in search of magazine articles.
He and his wife, a well-known fish and
wild game cook, live on a 100 percent diet of
fish and game taken on their trips. >>—>

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Published by archerchick on 08 Jul 2011

Adventures in Antelope~ By Rick Sapp


BOWHUNTING WORLD
June 1989

Adventures in Antelope ~ By Rick Sapp

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At the moment, momma and the kids were relaxing by an indoor heated
pool at a plush motel in the Black Hills which, according to the Black Hills
Chamber of Commerce, is one of America‘s top family vacation destinations. They were
going to see Mount Rushmore and Bear Country U.S.A. and Devil ’s Tower. They
would pay to watch “incredible trained animals operate the Bewitched Village” at the
Reptile Gardens near Rapid City. If they really got lucky, the Ghosts of Deadwood Gulch
Wax Museum wouldn’t have closed for the season and, of course, everyone was excited
about the dino dogs and bronto-burgers served at the Flintstones “original” Bedrock
City.

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Not dad, though. Dad was sitting in a hole in the ground, in the dark. Dad was shivering
because the wind was blowing 40 miles an hour and because it was raining and, occasionally,
hailing. Dad, dressed for temperatures in the 70s when the chill factor was in the
20s, was catching his death of cold. No “Family Approved Attractions” for dad. Instead, dad
was having fun! He was bowhunting antelope. I was an incredibly lucky man. Oh, not
lucky to miss the dino dogs or the 20-minute Rushmore blasting movie at Rushmore-Borglum
Story with mom and the kids, not really. I was lucky because in the most miserable weather
I could imagine for September in Wyoming, with pale yellow smoke belching out of Yellowstone Park 250 miles northwest and filtering eerily through my blind, a fine pronghorn antelope buck was walking into my shooting lane on Frank and Elaine Moore’s Spearhead Ranch.

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Unquestionably, the opportunity to bow-hunt pronghorns is an adventure that should
involve the entire family. You can drop your spouse (wife or husband) and children in the
Black Hills where they can enjoy some of the most spectacular tourist sights since the
invention of neon and plastic and, just 100 miles farther west, you will find some of the finest
pronghorn hunting in the U.S. Everyone will be happy and you’ll be a hero. Now, it isn’t
very often you have that chance, is it?

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Bowhunting Antelope

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Antelope are open country grazers and September is an ideal month to bowhunt them
in Wyoming. Because they water several times during the day, alone or in groups, the
most productive way to bowhunt these prairie speedsters is by ambush at a waterhole. They
can be stalked, but because their vision is eight times more acute than a human’s, stalking t
hem is tough and usually requires longer range accuracy than most bowhunters can
muster.

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Ambushing antelope requires discipline and endurance. If you are hunting from an
open ground blind or sitting above a watering tank strapped to a windmill, you’ll need to be
extremely careful with your movements – from early in the morning until dark. In this
respect, bowhunting antelope is like bow-hunting whitetails. You can not predict when
they will come to water, but they do come, every day, and that fact is consolation for
endless hours alone in a blind.

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Make your hours in a blind comfortable. Take a book, lunch and a full water bottle.
Don’t forget a pee bottle and a roll of toilet tissue, either. Take a bag of hard candy or
chewing gum. If the blind is open, you’ll need protection from the sun and wind. Because
the prairie is glaringly bright through midday, you’ll be glad you remembered polarized
sun glasses such as the popular sportsmens’ glasses made by Bushnell. On the high
prairies, the wind is a continual companion and you’ll need a lip balm like Chap Stick or
Overcast 15 Sunscreen. And, if you have hacked your blind out of the hard prairie,
you’ll want a cushion like a Therm-a-Seat to ease the pain on your backside. Although
designed more for protection during cold weather, the beauty of the Therm-a-Seat is
that the multiple thorns, stickers and prairie cactus can’t destroy it, because the foam seat
is puncture-proof.

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The same gear you use bowhunting whitetails is fine for antelope. A full-grown buck
antelope weighs less than 100 pounds. Remember, though, that a blind is a restrictive
shooting environment, so whatever you hunt with, arrange it in the blind so that you can
come to full draw quietly, with a minimum of visible movement and with total clearance for
your bow and arrow.

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When antelope come in to a water hole or cattle feed station, they’re alert with their eyes
and ears – but not their nose. I’ve never had a problem with human odor when bowhunting
antelope from ground blinds; either I’m buried in the ground and surrounded with aromatic sage
or they’ve seen my movement from hundreds of yards and refuse to come in. Generally, antelope will study a water hole from 100 yards to a quarter mile away, watching for danger before they come in. Then, it will be at a run. If you’re dozing, you’ll open your eyes to find the prairie goats already in your shooting lane. Don`t rush! They will probably put their heads down once or twice
only to jerk them back up suddenly and look around. When they do put them down for good, they’ll take a long drink. Draw then, relax and take your shot.

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I drew the “Grandpa Blind” the night before the hunt began on the Spearhead Ranch.
Frank oriented us to the blinds and the hunting procedures and then Elaine filled us with
barbecue chicken, home-made biscuits, potatoes and spinach salad. The weather looked
threatening, but after a year of drought, Frank admitted he was torn between praying for rain
and realizing that rain and wind made the bowhunting difficult, even in his fully-enclosed blinds.

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Monday, I was lucky. I had antelope at the blind several times: bucks, with horns above
their ears and black cheek patches; does, with the characteristic, tiny twisted horns only a
few inches in height; and fawns. It was the first day, so I waited, just enjoying the show.
What were mom and the kids doing while I was hunched over in this incredibly lousy
weather? Sleeping in. An omelette, pancake and bacon breakfast. A dip in the covered,
heated pool. Video games. A warm nap and on and on.

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Tuesday, I was lucky again. I put on every stitch of clothing I had brought except Monday’s underwear: a reversible Fieldline camo jacket, one side quiet cloth and the other a
nylon shell, helped protect me from the chill wind blowing through the cracks in the blind.
A Bob Fratzke Winona Camo knit sweater and a light pair of 100 percent polypropylene
long underwear from Kenyon Products in Rhode Island helped my body retain heat during
a long day.

Antelope moved to the blind’s water and cattle feed late in the day. At 4:45 p.m., eight
does and fawns wandered in, fed, watered and moved away. At 5:30, nine does and fawns
and one good buck, his horns well above his ears, appeared. I eased into position and
waited. From a kneeling position, the shot was slightly uphill. As the buck moved from
feed to water, through the crowd of antelope, I drew, aimed and released. The 2317 Easton
shaft tipped with the 125-grain, three-blade Terminator Double Cut broadhead, propelled
by my 67-pound American Timberwolf cam bow, speared the buck in mid-stride, crushing
its left shoulder and projecting out the opposite side. It ran 100 yards and piled up.

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As the adrenaline subsided and my heart dropped down out of my throat, I wondered
what mom and the kids were doing. Were they gawking at the “mechanical cowboy band and eight-foot jackalope” at Wall Drug, an hour east of the Black Hills? Were they listening to
“PeeWee Van Family” present an original mountain and country music show, “hillbilly-
style,” at the Mountain Music Show three miles north of Custer? Heck, I still had time to
join them, maybe even on the 400-foot-long twister slide at Rushmore Waterslide Park
where, “The water’s heated and the fun is non-stop.”

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“Hey, wait for me kids! Guess what I did in Wyoming. I was in this hunting blind on the
Spearhead Ranch, see, looking for a big buck antelope and one day …. ”

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Moore’s View

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I was lucky to have a big black-horned buck walk into my shooting lane the second day of my antelope hunt at Frank and Elaine Moore’s Spearhead Ranch in Converse County, Wyoming, 100 miles west of the Black Hills. It gave this Mid-Westemer time to tour the ranch and ask owner Frank
Moore a few questions which evenings in the bunkhouse might not have allowed.

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Frank, how did you and Elaine get started on the Spearhead Ranch?

My great granddad came to Wyoming as a cowpuncher on a trail drive a century ago and got work on the Ogalalla Ranch. In those days, the big spreads were owned by cattle barons who lived in England. For them, having a ranch in Wyoming was like having a cabin in the mountains would be for us. After a couple tough winters, though, they lost a lot of money. When they sold out, my great granddad ended up with the Ogalalla and it’s come down through the family ever since. Daddy bought the Spearhead, adjacent to the Ogalalla, in ’72 and Elaine and I sold a farm near Douglas and moved up to operate it. The Spearhead and the Ogalalla are about 40,000 acres each. By “big ranch” standards, the Spearhead’s not that big…but it’s still a big ranch.

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For bowhunters who’ve never been to Eastern Wyoming, how would you describe
the landscape where they’ll be bowhunting antelope?

It’s rolling grassland, good short grass prairie; probably some of the best grass country
in the state. The Spearhead is predominantly covered with native gamma grass and
sage. It doesn’t look like a lot of feed out there, because ’88 was very dry, but this is
good grass with lots of punch to it. It’s really good feed. Aside from having huntable populations of antelope, elk, turkey, whitetails and muleys, we run 2,500 sheep and 450 cows. According to the Game & Fish people, antelope and sheep feed on different things, but it’s basically the same: gamma grass – and sage in the winter.

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How did you get started outfitting bow-hunters?

Elaine and I started guiding hunters as a personal business, a way to make a little extra
income. In ’78, we had our first bowhunters on the ranch and the season went pretty well,
even with a lot of mistakes on our part. Pretty soon, though, we started making a little bit of
a name. With ranching being as poor a business as it has been the last couple years, a lot of
people are turning to hunting for income. When I got into the outfitting business, people looked
at me like I was crazy, but now there are a bunch doing it. It has turned into another source of income for the ranch. Bowhunting got into my blood in a hurry. In ’80, I killed my first deer with a bow and was hooked. I shoot a Bear recurve, because I need something mechanically simple that I
can throw in the back of the truck, something that can stand some abuse and won’t end up
tearing up before I need it.

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How do hunting and ranching get along?

Not real well. Better now that I’ve gotten support from the family, though. Fall is a busy
time of year on a ranch. I have to work hard before and after hunting season to make up for
it. It’s just something you have to work around. There’s a certain amount of conflict between outfitting and my own hunting. I can fit the business into the ranch, but when I try to I
fit my own bowhunting time in, too, something has to give. Somebody has to take up the
slack for me. Outfitting hunters is a lot of work. People try to figure out the kind of money you’re
making and they think you’re really hauling it in, but it’s not a business to get rich on. For
me, because I already have the ranch and ranching covers most of my overhead expenses, outfitting is a good source of income. Still, it takes a lot of work year round trying to
stay on top of things. Annually, it’s probably a quarter of my time.

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What ’s the future of bowhunting out here?

It’s getting bigger all the time. Game & Fish really struggles to manage antelope populations. They can’t control winter weather and if they don’t control the hunting kill, they end up with a lot of antelope, but no trophies. Because I take does off every year and strictly control the hunting, I’ve still got antelope on my place that’ll go 16 inches. I’d say the herd quality is as good now as it has
ever been. The reason I can maintain good herd quality is that bowhunters won’t take the cream of
the crop. They just can’t do it. They’ll take a lot of antelope and they’ll take nice ones, but
they can’t shoot them at long range. So, I have good success with bowhunters and still have
quality, year after year.

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I do have to take some gun hunters, though. I’d like to just take bowhunters, but I
can’t get enough kill to maintain herd balance. With 2,000 antelope on the ranch, I
should take 150 to 200 every year. I don’t have any problem at all with rifle hunters,
but as a rule, bowhunters are more serious. They’re out there to hunt, not just have
a good time. They’re serious about their hunting, because they have to be. Rifle hunters
know they’re going to get something. We’ve been 100 percent with rifle hunters…it’s not
a problem. It’s just a matter of what they want. That’s almost secondary to rifle
hunters, though. They’re there to have some fun and BS and get away from home.

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Tell me about your facilities. Your bunkhouse is two heavy-duty 24×60 foot trailers joined at the middle. It has a kitchen and dining room, toilets for men and women, complete shower and bath facilities, separate rooms for every two to four hunters and even a washer and dryer.

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Our bunkhouse is a wilderness oil field camp. It came out of Canada. It’s designed for
a crew to live in way back in the woods, when they have to stay until they get a job completed.
It’s built heavy duty so oil field roughnecks can’t tear it up. Roughnecks are a pretty
hard bunch and they don’t take good care of things. That’s why it’s got the funny doors like
you see on walk-in coolers. The bunkhouse can handle 27 hunters at a time, but the ranch itself can easily handle 30. Years ago, when the law allowed open hunting, it wouldn’t be unusual to have over 100 hunters out there. To be able to provide the kind of service I think you should provide, l2
is the most I can take and still get to know people, provide a hunt they feel is a quality experience and not just a commercial operation that’s only running people through to get their money.

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Frank, my blind was triangular. It measured eight feet to a side and the plywood
walls were sunk in the ground three feet. With the awful weather we’ve had this
week, I was glad it was covered, too. And it wasn’t a problem sitting still for a couple
days when I could sit in a bucket seat out of a car. How did you learn to build such
terrific blinds?

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We started with pit blinds. Although they were hard to dig, they worked well; but they
don’t work for just anybody. You’ve got to be a dedicated hunter and willing to sit still, because
you just can’t make a pit blind concealed enough for someone who hasn’t bowhunted
much. Then we went to blinds made from hay bales. They were naturals and they held your
scent in, but they were hard to build. It took about a pickup load of hay per blind and, as a
rule, you lost half the hay. You lost more than half the feed value of the hay while it was just
sitting there exposed to the sun, too. And hay bale blinds deteriorate pretty fast. People get
excited and knock the sides down when they get something, or cattle knock them down.

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So, I wanted to go to something easier to work with and something more permanent.
After a lot of trial and error, we eventually went to solid wall panels and then buried
them. They had looked bad when they were totally above ground. So, it was trial and
error. And a bowhunter here a couple years ago suggested the bucket seats – $5 from a
junk yard in Casper! These blinds are easier to maintain and a lot more comfortable than
anything else I know of.

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You have 10 years in the business of outfitting bowhunters. What should a bow-hunter ask when he books a hunt here or elsewhere?

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l’d say, just talk for a while about the general hunting situation and get a feel for the
outfitter to see if you like and trust the person first. Then ask about the quality and about the
distance of shots. Ask about the percentage of people getting shots, not about the percentage
of kills, because kills depend on the quality of bowhunter you’ve got in a blind. Get some references and then call them. Find out if the outfitter is telling the truth, if he’s honest. That’s really all you’re booking the hunt on. If he doesn’t tell you the truth, you’re going to get a bad hunt. To me, that’s the most important thing.

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Published by archerchick on 07 Jul 2011

Quebec Bear and Bull ~ By Roy Goodwin


BOWHUNTING WORLD
February 28, 1990

QUEBEC BEAR AND BULL
Story & Photos By Roy Goodwin

Standing face to face with a 300 pound black bear at 20 yards
had my heart pounding like Indian drums. I had come to full draw
as he walked into the little clearing just above me on the riverbank.
He knew we were there and stared at me with those beady little eyes
as he closed the distance from 25 to 20 yards. I couldn’t move, I could
only wait for him to turn away to leave and then hope to slip my arrow
in behind his front shoulder. He didn’t move. The seconds ticked off like
hours as I held my 70 pound Ben Pearson Renegade bow at full draw.

The bear kept staring into my eyes while smelling the cool fall air for a
hint of what I was.

The idea of bowhunting black bear by stalking them on the ground had been
formulated the year before. I was hunting at the Delay River North Camp in the
northwest portion of Quebec with my long time hunting partner, Ray Moulton.
We were guests of Bob Foulkrod, US marketing manager of this bowhunter-only
camp, specializing in trophy caribou. Bob accompanies all hunters at his camp
and, as prior clients from his Ontario bear camp, he had asked us up for what
was to be the first year at this new operation.

Aside from hunting, we were to video tape
the camp and the animals to make a video for
Bob’s promotional use at future shows and
conventions. The prior hunt was great. We
took two Pope and Young caribou each and
shot hours of great wildlife video. While
there, we also noticed a sizeable population of
black bear.
Hardly a day went by when bear weren’t
spotted feeding on the blueberry-covered hill-
sides that bordered the river valley. It didn’t
take a lot of convincing to get me to book a
bear/caribou combination hunt for the following year.

To give me plenty of opportunity to take a
bear on the ground, I booked a full 10 day
hunt rather than the five days customarily
booked for caribou. Having been on eight
bear hunts, I was well aware of all the things
that could go wrong. I wanted to allow myself
every opportunity to take a bear — and if possible
a record book bear! In the previous hunts
I had taken one mature bear, but it didn’t
make the minimum score for entry into the
Pope and Young record book. I really wanted
this hunt to end differently.

During the year between hunts, Ray and I
formed a video production company and purchased
all new 3/4-inch broadcast quality
video gear. We also released our first video
production, Caribou Experience, from the
source footage taken at B0b’s camp during
our first trip there. While we had captured
hundreds of trophy caribou on tape, the production
lacked the arrow strike kill shots so
important to the marketability of a hunting
video. It was a simple task to convince Ray to
join me for the second trip. With all our new
gear we would attempt to produce the ultimate
caribou video. We felt confident, based on
last year’s experience, that we could fill our
caribou tags easily within a few days. We
would then film other hunters in camp and
concentrate on finding me a trophy bear.
Plans made and gear packed, we were finally
on our way.

From our homes in central Massachusetts,
it took about six hours to drive to Montreal.
There we met a commercial flight that hopped
its way north to Scheffersville. Once at the
Scheffersville airport we were picked up by a
van and driven across town to Squaw Lake.
It’s here that most float plane traffic for
hunters and fishermen for the entire region
centers.
Once at Squaw Lake our baggage was
loaded onto skid racks and weighed in preparation
for loading into the float plane. Every
load is carefully planned. If the plane has extra
carrying capacity with hunters and gear
aboard, then that weight is added with camp
supplies.

The only form of transportation in this region
is by expensive float plane, so no wasted
space can be afforded. While the loads were
readied, we busied ourselves purchasing licenses
and tags as well as grabbing a hot meal
at the cafeteria. Finally we boarded the Beaver float
plane for the last leg of our long journey.
Two hours later we landed at camp.

As the Beaver banked the last time to set up
for landing in the river in front of camp, I
couldn’t help feeling I was coming home. The
first year’s hunt, camp, and most importantly
the guides and cook were so great I’d hated
leaving — coming back gave me a warm feeling
inside. Having heard the planes approach
we were greeted by the full welcoming party.
Bob, the guides and the out-going hunters
were all on the floating dock anxiously awaiting our arrival.

Warm greetings, unloading. hunting re-
ports, and reloading out of the way, the plane
taxied to mid-river and took off. The hunt was
about to begin. We scurried to get our gear
stowed in the guest tent, dressed in our camo
gear, and put our archery and camera gear
together.
Soon we were loaded and headed up-
stream with Bob at the controls of our
freighter canoe. We accomplished a little
filming that first afternoon, but no shots were
attempted as we felt we had plenty of time and
no large wall hangers cooperated. The day
ended with a fine meal and formulation of a
game plan for the following morning. So that
Bob could concentrate on the caribou hunters
in camp who had but four days left, it was
decided that Ray and I would hunt bear the
next day.

After an early breakfast we loaded our
gear into a canoe for the day ’s journey. Several
bear had been spotted downstream in the past
week including one large one. Rosier, a new
guide in camp, would be our chauffeur.
As we glided slowly downstream we continually
glassed both banks of the river. The
heavily forested river bottom rapidly gives
way to rising tundra hillsides in all directions.
It ’s on these hillsides that the greatest delicacy
for black bear can be found — blueberries!
The ground is literally covered with them.
And, the combination of the blueberries,
cover, and the river, acts as a magnet to bear.
Within a few short miles we spotted a huge
bear. Checking the wind, we decided to motor
well downstream of the bear’s location to
start our stalk. It would be quiet a hike with all
the camera gear through heavy timber, a small
bog and finally up a steep hillside. We hiked
about seven miles that day, saw three bear,
shot a little film and got three days worth of
exercise -— but no bear.

The next morning we decided to limit the
hiking by taking a stand on some caribou trails
at the rivers edge. From here we were in position
to film several other hunters and hope-
fully hundreds of passing caribou. It worked!
We got two arrow strike kills on film, and
filmed several hundred animals. Toward the
end of the day we also spotted a huge black
bear on the opposite bank of the river coming
down a game trail to water. The next morning
we would try for this bear.

Day four started early as we headed up-
stream before 7 a.m. We wanted to get into a
good position to glass the riverbank area
where the bear was spotted the night before.
Shortly after eight o’clock the bear ambled
into view, then proceeded to the river. He
drank. bathed, and relaxed at the waters edge
for quite some time before retreating into the
timbered fringes of the river valley. Bob decided
to go for the bear while Ray and I filmed
from across the river. Bob’s plan was to quietly
get into position downwind of the bear’s
trail and wait. When the bear went down to
drink from the river, Bob would stalk toward
his trail and ambush him on his return trip. It
worked like a charm, and the scenario was all
recorded on video tape, including three arrow
strikes and the bears expiration at full stride.
To minimize the disturbance of the migrating
caribou, Bob hauled his bear downstream
closer to camp for pictures and field dressing.

It was during the field dressing that I happened
to spot a big bear working his way to-
ward us. He was walking up-wind, but was
too far away to be effected by our scent. We
decided to cut inland and stalk around him to
get the wind in our favor. This bear would be
mine if I was lucky.
After stalking for a half-hour, I was staring
down the bear at 20 yards. The bear kept
smelling the air trying to decided what I was,
while I stayed at full draw and Ray filmed
away. I wanted the bear to turn to leave before
shooting, but he was in no hurry. After the
longest 45 seconds of my life, I decided to try
a frontal shot. I’ve helped skin out many bear
and realized this was not as good an angle as
broadside, but there would be no choice. Besides,
the bear was several feet above me and
only 20 yards away, How far could he go after
a Thunderhead 125 tipped aluminum shaft
had passed through him lengthwise? Fifty
yards. We bagged two nice bear in one day
with bow and arrow, stalked and killed on the
ground, and filmed it all on broadcast quality
video. We celebrated heavily that night!

For the remainder of our trip we filmed
thousands of caribou — including some nice
trophies harvested with stick and string. But
the big bull I had returned for had eluded me.
Finally, on the last day of the hunt a wide-
racked old bull passed my blind at 10 yards.
He didn’t have the double shovels and back
points I was looking for, but had as high and
wide a rack as I’d seen.

Again, the Thunderhead did its job. Passing
through both lungs the arrow continued
out the other side of the bull about 30 yards.
The bull barely made 12 yards proving the
effectiveness of a properly placed shot. The
bull turned out to be a fine trophy green scoring
over 395 Pope and Young points.
Once again we hated to leave this place.
The hunting was the best, both in quantity of
game sighted and quality of trophies harvested.
Good food, good friends, good fishing and good
weather put the icing on the
cake. Yes, I’ll miss this camp until I return
again.

Editors Note: Bob Foulkrod no longer guides
at the Delay River Camp, but hunts can still be
booked there through Bob Foulkrod’s Bow-
hunting Adventures. He can be contacted at
R.D. 1, Box 140, Troy, PA 16947.
Delay River Outfitters can also be contacted directly.
Address inquiries to J.A.
Layden, President, Delay River Outfitters,
P.O. Box 7217, Charlesbourg, Quebec, Canada GIG SE5.
>>—>

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Published by archerchick on 07 Jul 2011

Mark Of The Whitetail – By Steve Brockmann


Bowhunting World
February 1990

Mark Of The Whitetail By Steve Brockmann

Almost everyone enjoys seeing deer while stumbling around the outdoors
even if they’re not hunting. But, while an encounter with wild deer is almost
universally a valued experience, for the deer hunter such an encounter is
the primary objective.

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For those specifically searching for deer, the quest can be frustrating. Deer
often avoid humans, so finding them may be difficult. This is especially true
of whitetail deer, which in general inhabit heavy cover, and are usually warier
than western mule deer.

Whitetails do leave a number of signs in their passing, however, and the careful
student of the outdoors can often tell a great deal about the deer in the area from
these signs. Correct interpretations of deer sign often lead to a direct encounter
with this elusive species.

Signs left by the whitetail include droppings, tracks, trails, rubs, scrapes, beds,
browse marks, hair and shed antlers. Each can tell something about the local deer
but the best understanding always comes when all possible sources of information
are considered.

Droppings are perhaps the most commonly encountered , and most easily recognized
deer sign. Researchers have used fecal pellets to to determine diets, habitat use patterns
and population sizes. Bowhunters can determine many of the same things, though perhaps on a rougher scale, by observing the consistancy and location, and abundance of deer droppings
they encounter in the field.

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The most common form of dropping is the pellet. These cylinders range from about one-half to
over an inch in length and from about one-quarter to one-half inch in diameter. This is the deer dropping most of us are familiar with, but it is not the only type. Pellets are produced whenever deer are eating dry vegetation or browse (twigs, buds and leaves of woody species rather than grasses and forbs). Across most of the whitetail’s range, this means late summer through early spring.

The other form of deer dropping is produced when deer have been eating succulent green forage.
These are globular masses of indefinate shape. Sometimes they resemble blobs of mud, while at other times they appear more like a segmented mass of many small blobs. For the lack of a more
universal term, these soft droppings are sometimes referred to as “plops”. Plops may be up to two inches in diameter and are usually green when fresh and black or dark brown when older. They are most commonly produced during spring and early summer, when new growth is abundant.
Where palatable plants occur near banks, lakes or bogs, deer may produce plops throughout the summer and into the fall.

The distribution of droppings can be a clue to the habitat use patterns and distribution of the deer.
Successful interpretation lies on a general knowledge of deer habits, however. Whitetail deer usually bed in heavy cover during the day, and move to open areas, such as meadows, agricultural fields or timber cuts during the night. In some cases ,shrub patches or dense stands of trees are the preferred feeding sites.

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Deer usually defecate upon rising in the evening, and droppings are often deposited in a distinct pile. If you can find an area of dense brush with many such piles, chances are you have found a
frequently used bedding area. Look nearby for beds, where the vegetation has been flattened by
deer lying down.

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A relatively open, but timbered, ridge may be used as a travel corridor between the bedding area and feeding area. These corridors can sometimes be identified by the large number of deer pellets scattered along them. Deer often void while on the move, so droppings may be spread out, rather than in small groups. in some regions, bedding areas are immediately adjacent to feeding areas
so distinct travel corridors may not exist.

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Feeding areas will also usually contain deer droppings, but these are likely to be scattered at a much lower density than in either bedding areas or travel corridors.

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Areas with abundant droppings usually hold more deer than those that with fewer droppings, but one can be fooled. In the northern portion f the whitetail’s range, deer frequently concentrate in relatively small areas during the most severe weather. These wintering areas often hold high densities of deer pellets, but very few deer during most of the year. Whitetails usually select stands of mature evergreens for winter habitat, so large concentrations of deer pellets in a stand of large old pines, firs or cedars may tip you off to a winter yard.

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Shed antlers which are usually dropped in early winter, are another clue as to the location of winter ranges, and can give a good idea of the size of the bucks in the area. In most areas, the largest antlers are usually found shed on the winter ranges rather than on the heads of hunters-harvested animals.

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On winter ranges, deer are most likely to be encountered during winter, of course. It is important to realize, though, that deer coping with deep snow are often walking a fine line between starvation
and survival, and that running from humans can represent a critical drain of the deer’s limited energy. Wintering areas are usually best avoided during the time that deer are using them.

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The age of droppings can be very helpful in deciphering the routine of the local deer, but this is often difficult to determine. Very fresh droppings are wet, warm, and often steaming. Within a day
they often have adried outer coat, but are usually soft easily crushed and moist inside. Many factors including temperature, precipitation, eposure and deer diet affect the rate at which pellets
dry. In moist areas, pellets may decompose within weeks, while in drier areas they may last for many years.

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Because whitetails habitually follow the same routes, and because deer often travel in groups, whitetail habitat is usually laced with a network of trails. Researchers have found that larger deer populations make more trails than do smaller deer populations, given similar habitat. Thus an area with lots of trails usually has lots of deer. But comparing the number of deer trails in two areas of habitat types will not necessarily provide a reliable comparison of the relative sizes of the deer populations.

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Some trails connect food or water to bedding cover. Others lead to fence crossings or through heavy cover. Many of the trails are used only after dark, especially wide trails in open habitat. Chances are best of seeing deer where many trails funnel together, for example where a broken fence makes crossing easier, or where a narrow strip of cover connects two forrested areas. These areas can be very productive for the bowhunter who can slip into such an area and wait patiently down-wind, perhaps in a tree stand.

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Low fence wires, especially those marked with tufts of deer hair, often reveal where deer cross from one pasture to another. These sites should be noted by those trying to determine travel routes of deer in a given area, as they may provide another good opportunity to ambush a buck.

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Deer tracks are frequently encountered, and, depending on the circumstances, one may be able to tell where the deer was coming from from or going to, how fast it was going, what it was doing, how long ago it was there, and perhaps the sex and six=ze of the deer.

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Tracks may be found in snow, soil, or vegetation. By far the easiest to identify are those tracks left in fresh snow. If the snow is very recent, there is little doubt about how long ago
the deer was there, and there will usually be a clear record of where the deer came from and where it was going. Tracks can be followed forward, in an attempt to find the deer that
made the track, or they can be followed backwards, to find out what the deer has been
to. Some hunters have developed tracking to a fine art, and several books have been written on the subject.

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Careful tracking and persistence has led many hunters to fine bucks, but the technique is not usually an easy shortcut to a trophy, especially for the hunter. The tricks a whitetail can pull to throw a pursuer from his track are legendary; From mixing with other deer tracks, to walking in streams, to constantly circling downwind to check for followers, a wary whitetail is a challenge for any tracker.

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For the bowhunter interested in learning about deer, but wishing to avoid direct harassment of the deer, backtracking can be rewarding and often more enlightening than forward tracking. It allows one to interpret the behavior of undisturbed deer something that is difficult to do when one is forward tracking. It is also an effective way to learn the location of local feeding areas, bedding areas, and travel routes between the two.

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Whether forward-tracking or backtracking, the process is the same find a track and follow it for as long as possible, The interpretations made along the way can help you determine what the deer was doing when it was there. Gait is an obvious attribute one can determine about a track. Short, staggered strides indicate that the deer was walking slowly. It
may have been hiding, watching, and sneaking, or it may have been feeding through an
area. Nipped buds and twigs can help make a case for feeding. By noting which species are
most heavily browsed, and which not browsed, one can learn a great deal about food preferences in the area.

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Longer strides laid out along a straighter course indicate a deer moving along with a
destination in mind. Such movements are common when deer travel between feeding
areas and bedding areas. A buck in search of receptive does during the breeding season
also moves along at a good pace, so keep this in mind if tracks are found during the November rut.

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When frightened, whitetails run in long bounds, which have distinctive marks. Tracks
of all four feet register together, with distances of up to 20 feet separating each landing
mark. Snow or dirt is often thrown forward from the force of the landing and push-off of
each bound. Sometimes backtracking will reveal what scared the deer. A car, coyote, dog
or human is often the cause. If the track is very fresh, you may well have frightened the
deer yourself.

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As with droppings, aging very fresh tracks is not difficult. Tracks in snow will usually
freeze overnight, so check for a think glaze of ice in the track if a track looks crisp and fresh. In some conditions, tracks may appear new for several days, but truly fresh tracks will almost always have loose snow in the hoof print itself or along the drag marks left in
front of or behind the print. After a few hours in sunlight, or a few minutes in strong wind,
some tracks may be obliterated. In these cases, it is best to reserve judgement on the
age of the track until they are followed into a sheltered site.

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If the edges are melted out and indistinct, or an icy glaze has formed on the tracks in the
shade, they are likely a day or more old. Fresh tracks in fluffy, powdery snow may be very
indistinct, and might appear to be very old at first glance. Again, however, the snow filling
the tracks will be loose and fluffy rather than either frozen solid or wet and slushy. Knowledge of how long since the last snow, and of weather conditions since then, can be helpful in determining the age of a track.


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Obviously, small deer make small tracks and large deer make large tracks. The tracks
of fawns are relatively easy to distinguish, and the medium-sized deer traveling with them
are usually does, though small bucks could be among the does and fawns. During the November rut, bucks of any size may be traveling with the does and fawns.

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Like fawn tracks, those of the biggest bucks are not particularly difficult to identify,
though it may take a bit more experience to know what qualifies as a truly large track. In
very heavily hunted populations, few or no bucks reach trophy size, so the largest tracks
may well be those of the oldest does. Bucks continue to grow for several years after the
age at which does reach full size, however, and bucks are almost invariably larger than
females of similar age. In populations where some of the bucks are able to survive to a ripe
old age the biggest tracks are usually made by big bucks.

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A number of other clues can be used to separate tracks of bucks from those of does.
These clues become especially important when trying to decide if a moderate-sized
track was made by an adult doe or by a young to moderate-aged buck. No one sign is fully
fool-proof, and each has been contested by experienced hunters. A combination of factors, however, can usually be relied upon to reveal the sex of the deer.

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In shallow snow (under about one inch) bucks tend to drag their feet, while does tend
to lift theirs. In deeper snow, all deer show drag marks, so this cannot be relied upon in
all cases. Probably the next most reliable sign is the pattern of urination revealed in the
snow. Bucks usually leave a small, neat hole with crisp edges, where a steady stream has
entered the snow. Does, by contrast, tend to leave more of a puddle. During the rut, bucks
may dribble urine along their track, rather than stopping to relieve themselves.

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Individual tracks of a buck also tend to be staggered from side to side and pointed outwards, rather than in a straight line, like those of a doe. Some authors claim that bucks will walk around dense brush patches and trees, to avoid tangling their antlers, while does will wiggle their way through or against such obstacles. My experience has been somewhat different on this matter, as I have tracked bucks through very dense brush patches. In fact, bucks have frequently been noted to use the most dense tangles of cover to a much greater extent than do the females.

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If you find a bed along the track you are following, you may be able to make out where the deer laid its head when it slept. Occasionally an antler will leave an impression in the snow here, which will give you solid evidence as to the sex of the deer. Similarly, you may be able to detect antler marks in the snow where the deer has fed, if the snow is fairly deep.

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One final bit of evidence, which pops up with a fair degree of regularity along a buck’s trail, especially during the rut, is the rub. If a lone set of tracks leads to a sapling which has had bark or branches stripped, and that material is lying on top of the snow, accept that as
final proof that you have found a buck’s trail.

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Rubs are created by bucks as they scrape their antlers on small trees. This is done in late summer to remove the velvet from the fully grown antlers, but the activity continues through the rut. Scent glands in the skin of the forehead are thought to produce a personal odor, so rubs become a business card, of sorts, for individual bucks. Be aware of rubs , even when you’re not following a trail in the snow. These indicate that a buck has passed through the area, and may be living nearby.

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Some very successful hunters maintain that individual bucks mark their consistently used travel routes by a series of rubs. These marked routes are usually found downwind of major deer trails, and are located in heavy cover. Observing a buck in such an area is
often difficult because these routes are hidden and may be used only under cover of darkness.

Scrapes are another sign left by bucks only, and have fascinated hunters and researchers for years. Scrapes are triangular impressions in the soil, pawed out by the buck during the rut. Again, a personal odor is deposited, this time from the interdigital glands found between the toes of the front foot.

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The scrape apparently serves as a meeting place for bucks, who are ready and willing to breed through much of the fall, and the does, who come into heat for only 24 hours at a time. If not bred, the doe will recycle and come into heat between 21 and 30 days later, but this happens only two or three times per year for each doe. When her time comes, each doe
must seek out a suitable buck. This is most easily done, apparently, by leaving a message
on the buck’s answering machine: she urinates in his scrape. When the buck checks back later he will notice the message and search out the doe, who is usually nearby.

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These scrapes, then, are an important sign to the deer herd, and should be noticed by the
bowhunter interested in learning about whitetails in the area. Scrapes are usually from one
to three feet in diameter, and consist of a shallow fan-shaped depression of bare soil from
which all leaves, needles, and other litter have been removed. Scrapes are often found along edges between brushy areas and mature timber, or along field edges. Often a series of small scrapes, each approximately 100 yards or more apart, will lead to a larger, more active “primary” or “hub” scrape. This primary scrape will usually be under an over-
hanging branch, which will be licked, nuzzled, and rubbed by several of the bucks in
an area.

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For the hunter, the primary scrape is the best sign of all to find, for it means that one or
more mature bucks are in the area, and probably will return. The trick becomes approaching the scrape and waiting patiently, undetected. Scrapes are usually checked from downwind, so hunters are often detected as they wait. Stands situated well downwind of scrapes have proven to be the most reliable.

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The approach to the stand must be planned carefully if one expects a reasonable shot at a
calm animal. If the wind carries your scent through the cover he is hiding in as you walk
to your stand, you likely will never see him at the scrape. The scents associated with your
boots and pants alone are enough to alert a whitetail if he encounters them on his way in.
He will probably either sneak off quietly, maybe without your even knowing, or perhaps he’ll snort, raise his tail, turn, and break into graceful, but heartbreaking, bounds.

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The route to the stand should be planned to minimize the chances of winds carrying your
scent to the deer (think about the locations of feeding and bedding areas). A cover scent,
applied to pant legs (from the knee down) and boots (the toe and the sole are the most critical) can help hide the entry trail from deer that cross it in their wanderings. A lure made from the urine of estrus does can even bring a rutting buck to your stand, right along the path you followed.

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Scrapes are perhaps the ultimate sign to the hunter, and a fascinating phenomenon for
others, but those illiterate in the more basic language of droppings, tracks, and rubs will
likely find few scrapes, and may use the scrapes they do find inappropriately. Once
daily movement patterns of the local deer are worked out, likely places for scrapes can be
predicted, and logical strategies can be plotted.

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As experiences in an area accumulate, more of the details of the deer population can
be filled in. Conjecture can be replaced by observation, and familiarity will replace
confusion. One emotion that probably will not disappear is a near constant amazement at the survival capacity of the whitetail, and a respect for the resourcefulness of a species that
continues to expand its range in the face of increasing human populations and the pressures they place on the environment. >>—>

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