Archive for the 'Bowhunting' Category

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Published by archerchick on 23 Mar 2010

Wild Hogs – By Joe Bell

Wild Hogs – by Joe Bell

September 2005

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

Bow & Arrow Hunting September 2005

Few critters match the excitement theses animals offer the bowhunter during the spring and summer off-season.

In June, the California sun is notoriously known for casting out intense heat, particularly 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean where tentacles of rugged ridgelines spring out from the immense San Joaquin Valley. Here, the country changes drastically from some of the most robust vegetable- and fruit- growing soils in existence, to towering foothills and mountains dotted with wild oats, valley and blue oak trees, poison oak and various tangles of brush and manzanita. Among this picturesque backdrop live some of the wildest feral hogs known to man.
My hunting partner Chris Denham and I were soaking in the heat and enjoying the landscape as we glued our eyes to our 10-power binoculars. It was a bit early, but with a little luck, we would spot a couple of hogs early enough in the evening to have a legitimate stalk. Earlier in the day, we had walked some steep country and eventually Chris got into some pigs. But as it so often turns out, the kill just didn’t happen.

One of the chief problems with hunting wild hogs during the summer months is dealing with that short window of time you have when pigs are most active. Usually, the last hour of the day is peak hunting time, which means you can’t dally, and long stalks are usually out of the question. So when Chris and I noticed two dark silhouettes only a 3O minute stalk from the truck, I knew luck was finally on our side.

Soon, we were en route, wading through a sea of knee-high grass, across a creek bottom, and up the ridge. My pocket wind indicator was in constant motion. When we got close, I decided to send Chris out ahead. This was his second time hunting with me without the shooting opportunity he was looking for. The crisp under footing told me I needed to back up anyhow, allowing Chris to poke along 50 yards or so in front.

Easing over a rise, the pigs weren’t there. Chris went ahead, while I swung to the right. Soon I caught movement. The two nice boars were feeding along in a perfect place for an ambush. I plodded uphill to search for Chris, and now he was out of sight. I had tried to be unselfish, but these pigs are going to get away if I don’t do something! I went to retrace my steps only to never see the hogs again. Darn! I had let a good opportunity go by…and these moments aren’t abundant with these wild hogs.

Hunting opportunity flourishes today, and you Can find hog hunting places nearly everywhere-Florida, Texas, and in small hunting preserves throughout the Midwest and southern United States, But for my tastes, I like to hunt free-ranging wild hogs in country I’d usually stalk or still-hunt deer. Fortunately I was born and raised in California, which is home to an abundant wild hog population-and this population is spreading in some areas.

I have hunted pig in most sections of the state, but I have yet to find a place that seems as wild and as productive as hunting the famed Taejon Ranch, a historic 270,000-acre cattle ranch home to countless big-game critters ranging from Yellowstone elk, to deer, antelope, black bear, various predators-and a teeming wild pig population. You can seek out hogs in expansive locations, only to hunt an entirely different area come dusk. It all adds up to a true adventure, not casual off-season filler.

The glow of sunset was at it’s peak when Chris and I adjoined. The stalk had been mass confusion, and he was disappointed I didn’t capitalize on the opportunity. I rolled my eyes and mentioned that the boars didn’t show teeth big enough For me. (l was kidding, of course.) By the time we ate dinner, showered and rolled into bed, it was pushing 11 p.m. or so. The nights are short when bowhunting this country in the summer. That 3:30 a.m. wakeup call is ruthless. After coffee and two Pop-Tarts the feeling of aching sleeplessness was beginning to give way to visions of big-tusked wild boar, exposing that perfect quartering-away shot. What would we do without such aspirations?

After pursuing wild hogs for nearly 10 years, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are lots of different ways to hunt these critters. Classic spot-and-stalk hunting in rolling oak woodland-type country is the most enjoyable-but you’ll find that this hunting can be somewhat of a fairy tale at times. California hogs are truly wild-and even much wilder when hunting pressure hits. When this happens, they tend to roam about terrain with more cover, at least during hunting hours. In this case, you’ll have to really become a hunter, seeking our wily hogs in awkwardly dense locations.
Wild hogs are actually very intelligent creatures. Even farm hogs have proven to be the smartest among all domestic livestock. Now when you take a hog that lives in the wild, one that perhaps has been shot at by hunters, you’ve got yourself one crafty critter.

As we drove up the road, we came across a familiar location. Years ago, I saw a group of hogs cross this exact dirt pathway and amble off into an adjacent creek bottom. Moments later. I still-hunted my way up the cut and found myself face to face with a monstrous pig running unknowingly right at me. I drew my bow more so in self-defense and let the string slip from my finger tab as soon as I hit anchor. Fortunately the arrow hit the proper spot below its throat and drove to the fletching. It was one of the fastest kills I’d witnessed.

Now as we sped along, I couldn’t believe my eyes. About 15 or so hogs kicked up dust across the same bit of real estate and raced into an endless valley of grassland. Immediately, I recognized our opportunity. A narrow ravine slicing through the field would allow us to make an ambush. I banked the truck, and Chris and I scrambled to get our bows. Then we jogged as quickly as we could, eventually changing our clip to a fast walk. It worked like a charm, and Chris triggered a well-placed shot from 30 yards. Soon he was admiring his first California wild pig – a nice 150-pound boar.

To be successful on wild pigs, you must grasp their habits first and realize they do change depending on the season. Of course there are many factors at play here, but food and water are the primary ones, followed by hunting pressure. During the late winter/early spring months, water, and food usually aren’t much of a concern. Wild grass, roots, forbs, berries and other stuff are prevalent and moisture saturates these items at nightfall. With this being the case, wild pigs usually venture toward higher, more secluded ground when hunting pressure is existent. With low hunting pressure, they can still be in more of a “roaming” mode, which could make them difficult to locate.

When temperatures are on the rise, like in late spring and summer, wild pigs are likely to be found concentrated around water and food sources. Early-spring food is diminishing rapidly, and this is when hogs turn to other food like man-made such as walnuts and fruit. Keep in mind, wild pigs are omnivorous, so they’ll consume just about anything including meat from animal carcasses-even their own kind. In a nutshell, summer months can make for great hunting. Just hunt near water. I shot my biggest wild boar in early August as I saw the animal descending from rocky hilltops to a muddy waterhole.

However, during the summer months, if hunting pressure is existent, hogs may only lurk during the wee bit of daylight hours, leaving hunter with maybe a 45-minute window of opportunity to make a stalk- not always enough time. These are all generally based rules. I say this because I’ve glassed up lots of pigs in July roaming towering hillsides, miles away from their watering sources, so you just never know.

When in hog country, look for fresh sign. Tracks are always helpful, but make sure they are fresh, and then try to draw up some conclusions on ways of travel. I’ve read that wild pigs prefer to make their way straight up trails, not at an angle like deer do. Better yet are fresh droppings. These are a sure indicator that pigs are around. Pig scat is shaped much like horse droppings; only they aren’t as firm and not as long and copious.

Creek bottoms that have wallows in them are another good sign pigs are nearby. Recently used wallows are filled with mud, never clear water. Though I have no scientific claim to support this, I’ve noticed that a spring or summer rain seems to somehow increase the level of pig activity. Last April, rainy, drizzly weather appeared to threaten the outcome of my hunt, yet the exact opposite was the case. Each morning, I slid into my Cabelas Rain Suede raingear and still-hunted the hills. The very first evening I glass up animals on every hillside, eventually stalking in on a nice hog. However, I missed the 40-yard shot. The falling light and downhill shot got the best of me. Fortunately, the very next morning I set up a 25-yard shot I couldn’t miss. There were other trips in which I detected this “triggering” affect.

When you finally spot a hog you want to go after, keep in mind that wild hogs have one of the best noses in the business. You have to constantly check wind thermals, preferably with a wind-detector bottle. Depending on the situation. your stalking noise may or may not break your chances. During late-morning or early-evening hours, animals are naturally more alert, but as light diminishes. they feel more safe and are accustomed to their own and other pigs’ noisy feeding habits.’

Just a few weeks ago I was hunting an area along the central-coastal foothills. Conditions were hot, yet springtime rains hovered over the area for nearly a week before my hunt. I knew I’d have to hike far to find pigs, I detected intense hunting pressure in the area. too. On the second evening of the hunt, I climbed to a prominent vantage point and began glassing. About 45 minutes before dark, I noticed odd blemishes against a hill-side that I had been overlooking all evening. In a flash I was off on the stalk.

About 20 minutes later, I stripped my pack and slithered in line with the feeding hogs. The vegetation was much denser than what it appeared like at long range, and I found myself crawling through tunnels and cutting away wild vines with my broadhead-tipped shaft to
gain progress. As light was fading, the sound of the animals grinding their noses across the firm ground digging up dirt and roots grew more and more intense. Soon, I was plum out of walking room-about 10 yards from the feeding boar, but I had no clear shot. I didn’t want to rush the situation, but 10 minutes went by and eventually the boar sensed or smelled something. Soon he began chopping his mouth, making growl sounds and other threatening noises. Is a charge on its way, I thought? Soon the dual ended as I made a hasty move into a wall of brush to attempt a shot. Even so, the moment was well worth it.

If you’re into year-round bowhunting thrill, yet you don’t want to drop loads of money on a remote trip for exotics in New Zealand, Africa or some other hot destination, I’d recommend giving California’s wild hogs a try. They’re loads of fun. and the thrill-well, you just have to judge it for yourself.

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Published by archerchick on 23 Mar 2010

Trophies in Transitions – By Tim Burres

Trophies in Transitions – by Tim Burres
Bowhunting World October 2005
 
  

Most bowhunters try to hunt these same spots when the season opens. While this is a worthwhile starting point, it is important to note that a buck’s summer range and fall range can be quite different. For example, Mark Drury with Drury Outdoors videos, has been monitoring deer on his Midwest farm with trail cameras for three years. He feels that roughly 60% of the bucks he becomes familiar with have the same summer 

and fall ranges. That means that a full 40% of the bucks relocate at least slightly after they shed their velvet. 

In other words, you can’t be sure you are hunting a certain buck until you see him in that area at least two weeks after velvet shedding, which occurs around the first week of September in most areas. 

Even with that uncertainty factored in, you still have a chance at shooting a trophy the first week of the season. Mature bucks are often still on rough patterns at this time. Through the summer, they’ve become almost predictable, and a part of this lifestyle carries over into the first week of the bow season. 

World OCTOBER 2005Bowhunting 

 

 

Usually these feeding patterns are short-lived, but you may get a full week of excitement before a number of factors, not the least of which is your presence, make the bucks more reclusive.

If you are having trouble finding the bucks during the week before opening day, forget the agricultural flelds and go deeper into the timber. Without a doubt, acorns are the number-one

attraction at this time. Where you find acorns, you will find the deer even if there are abundant agricultural crops nearby. They will literally run to a good acom-bearing tree after a windstorm brings down a load of nuts.

There are two categories of oak trees where most people hunt: red oak and white oak. Each of these categories has several subspecies, but within each category the trees are similar in their application to deer hunting. White oak trees have the potential to drop acorns every year though some years are definitely more bountiful than others are. Red oak trees only drop their acoms every other year. It pays to be able to identifiy each subspecies of oak.

After the acorns play out, the deer will generally drift back to the agricultural crops. They will still hit the alfalfa and clover, but soybeans tend to lose their attractiveness when the leaves and

beans are both drying down. You will see the deer also moving more toward corn and other carbohydrate-rich food sources.

I’ve also sat in some pretty incredible stands when apples and pears were dropping. Bucks zeroed in on the trees moming

and evening, seemingly trying to grab the freshly dropped bounty before other deer beat them to it. Unfortunately, you have to be on the buck’s pattern as soon as the season opens because pressure from other deer hunters and small-game hunters and the buck’s increasing

testosterone level make them change patterns. Even without any hunting pressure, a buck will begin turning into a ghost in early October.

tagging a nice buck during the first week of October depends on your ability to keep the buck from knowing he’s being hunted while you observe and tweak your stand location.

You have to become ultra-sneaky-much more so than is required for success during the rut.

Focus on Afternoon Hunts:

It may be tempting to try to hunt the buck in

the morning near his feeding area, but doing so is going to hurt your chances. You run the risk of moving him off his pattern before you can get enough information to take advantage of it. If you simply have to get into the woods, hunt somewhere else.

Cautious Scouting: Hunting a big buck during the first week of the season is a lot easier if you have seen what he is doing. Hang back with binoculars and learn as much as you can

about the overall situation before committing yourself to a plan. You have to fool many other eyes, ears and noses before the biggest bucks will reach the field. Consider how you will beat

all the deer in the herd before you pick a stand location.

Get Out Clean: More than likely you won’t get the buck you are hunting the very first evening you try for him. That means you will need a good way to get back to your vehicle without spooking the other deer in the feeding area. This is by far the

biggest challenge you will face when hunting food sources. Use the terrain and cover to your advantage. Make a wide circle around the field. Also, if it is impossible to get out clean, have

someone drive up to the field in a truck or ATV and move the deer off before you climb down.

MID-OCTOBER DOG DAYS

The middle of October is the hardest part of the month for tagging a nice buck. Hunting pressure, changing food sources and rising testosterone make bucks very unpredictable and reclusive. They’ll still feed but not in the open, and seeing them during daylight becomes harder.

It is common for a big buck to change pattems shortly after he sheds his velvet and certainly by early October. He seems to disappear from the face of the earth when he was once visible every single evening in his favorite soybean and alfalfa fields. They are still around and they are still active. If you aren’t seeing them you are hunting the wrong places. All deer change their behavior as they go from summer patterns to fall patterns, the main reason for this change is a change in food preferences. Telemetry studies by top research biologists show that the bucks continue to feed during these so called dog days of October. In other words, where is no biological basis for what I have referred to as the “dog days.”

Bucks love to scrape in the cool, damp earth found at the bottoms of draws and ravines. This is a great place to find sign, but a tough place to hunt. When the wind blows, it will swirl through these hollows until every deer in the area knows a man is nearby. Avoid these ravines and draws and focus instead on scrape lines on ridges and in other locations where you can better

control where your scent blows. You may have to hunt the best scrape areas from a distance on routes you feel the buck may use as he goes to freshen them.

CONCLUSION

October is not traditionally a bowhunter’s trophy time, but it is a fun month ro be in the woods. lt is also an excellent time to do your part by shooting a few does to keep the herd in check and supply winter meat.

While October is not as exciting or as productive as the first week of the primary rut, at least you’re hunting. As long as you are in the woods sticking to a sound strategy, anything can happen. It only takes one buck to change the entire season and he can come past at any time – even in October.

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Published by archerchick on 23 Mar 2010

Eye Level Black Bear – By Rick Combs

Eye Level Black Bears – By Rick Combs

Bow Hunting World Annual 2004-2005

Bowhunting World Annual 2004-2005

The Scenario I had envisioned entailed spotting the bear in a clearing, mapping out a strategy, then hunkering down and executing the perfect stalk.  What really happened was more like this:  We spotted the bear at about 30 yards in a thicket of spruce and aspens just before it dropped out of sight into a small drainage, and my guide was shoving me toward it as I struggled to knock an arrow.

“Go! Go! Go!” he hissed. “That’s a good bear! That’s a good bear! That’s a good bear! Get up there!”

Half expecting the bear to have vanished, but fully aware it could just as easily be moving my direction, I began walking carefully toward the lip of the ravine, bow at full draw.  As I peeked over and looked down on the gradual slope, the bear was standing broadside 10 steps away.  He ran forward a few yards, and I thought he’d be in the thicket before I could get off a good shot.  But then, inexplicably, he stopped and looked back.

I won’t pretend to know what goes through an animal’s mind at such a moment, but at the time it appeared for all the world he was thinking, “Wait a minute, I’m the bear. I’m not the one who is supposed to run”  I swung the sight pin to the crease behind the shoulder, released the arrow, and watched the fletching disappear in the sweet spot.

The bear lunged forward, running further down into the ravine to a slough.  Crossing it on a log, he stumbled once, nearly falling in, but made it to dry ground.  Every bowhunter’s instinct after arrowing an animal is to keep it in sight as long as possible, but as I attempted to move forward and to one side to do that, my guide was tugging me away from the action, fearing that I was trying to follow the bear immediately.

That bear was not the first I’d seen on this trip, and it would prove to be far from the last.  While in some ways the reality of my close encounter with a BC black bear did not live up to my fantasy, in all the ways that mattered British Columbia bear hunt was everything I’d hoped it would be and more.

To begin with it was a spot & stalk hunt.  There is a lot to be said for baited bear hunting, beginning with the fact that in some areas, hunting over bait is the only feasible way to go about hunting bears. Hound hunting, too, has its following where legal. Man and dog have hunted cooperatively for thousand’s of years, and for more than a few hunters, enjoying that primal link is the main reason for hunting. My fantasy, though, was a spot & stalk hunt. I wanted to do it on the ground, eye-to-eye, so to speak, with the bear.

Pick The Right Outfitter

Nonresident hunters are required to
hunt with one of the 240 licensed guide-outfitters in British Columbia. Barring extremely bad luck (record late snowfall and low temperatures, a major forest fire in your hunting area), most any of them will show you bears, and your  chances of getting a shot at a respectable
bruin are excellent. Even the most experienced trophy hunter with very high standards has a relatively good chance at shooting opportunities for trophy black bears or color phase bears in
British Columbia. The real question is,
what kind of overall hunting experience are you seeking? Are you interested only in a remote wilderness hunt from a spike camp, or would you prefer to stay in a comfortable lodge with hot tubs and other amenities!  Either is available, as well as nearly every variation in between, from snug cabins to heated wall tents to bed & breakfast ranches.

Baiting bears is not legal in British Columbia, and though it is legal to hunt with hounds, spot & stalk hunting is far and away the most popular approach.
Still, “spot & stalk” is not a particularly specific term. At one end of the spot
& stalk spectrum, the hunter can hunt exclusively on foot in remote, fly-in or pack-in areas, scouting for sign and glassing mountainside, aualance chutes, or natural openings.

On the other end of the spot & stalk
spectrum, there is cruising logging roads on ATVs or in 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
Logging is a major industry in British Columbia, which means, that in much of the province there are miles and miles of dirt logging roads, not to mention clearcuts. Clearcuts and logging roads produce copious quantities of the fresh green growth bears love to eat.

Of course, logging roads and clearcuts can be hunted on foot. The vehicles, obvious advantage is the opportunity they afford to cover great amounts of territory in short order.

Yet another alternative is hunting waterways from boats. In the case of
both wheeled vehicles and boats,glassing the area and moving on.  If bears are spotted from vehicles, hunters exit and stalk on foot to within bow range.

I spent a great deal of time researching my BC black bear hunt.  With so many top-notch outfitters in the region picking one was difficult.  In the end, I settled on Brett Thorpe and Bowron River Outfitters.  My homework paid off.  Though I’m perfectly happy to hunt from a tent camp in a spruce thicket, I have to admit the picturesque setting of Brett’s cabins on a lake reflecting surrounding snow capped mountains was a factor.

Brett himself was a factor, too.  I think it’s important that a hunter “click” with his guide or outfitter, and I knew I’d enjoy hunting with Brett from the moment we first made contact.  An avid bowhunter himself, Brett is intense about hunting, and his enthusiasm strikes a spark with anyone who is passionate about the sport.  Though he is new to the outfitting business, having only purchased his BC hunting concession two years ago, he has years of experience as a hunter and a guide.  He spent several years guiding and videotaping hunts for well-known black powder hunter and outfitter Jim Shockey.  Depending on the needs and wishes of his clients, Brett will make use of wheeled vehicles on logging roads, hunt the nearby Fraser River by boat, hunt strictly on foot, or use some combination of these methods.

Short of references from hunting buddies whose opinion you respect, the Internet and email are  great places to begin finding an outfitter. They’ll provide huge amounts of data in a hurry at little or no cost. It’s a good idea to write out a list of questions and issues that you
feel are important. Without a written list, you’ll quite likely get sidetracked on  discussions of peripheral issues and forget to cover some thing essential. Make  sure you understand what costs are covered, and ask specifically  about any additional costs you are likely to incur.
Ultimately there is no substitute for more personal modes of communication, so after narrowing the field to several possibilities, you’ll want to make some phone calls.  And though you’ve heard it before, it bears repeating.  Get references from hunters who did not fill a tag, if possible.  Then contact the references.

How Stalkable Are Bears?
I hate to say “that depends,” but that depends. In my experience, hunting pressure is a major factor in stalking any species. I have greatly enjoyed spotting and stalking wild hogs in relatively remote parts of Florida, but have hunted them in other areas where heavy hunting pressure made them almost entirely nocturnal and all but stalkable.
On the flip side, wild turkeys are often regarded as unstalkable, but on a memorable morning in Wyoming, I followed a flock of Merriams with my camera, back and forth along a ridgeline, several times getting within 20 yards of the birds.

Hunting pressure in BC is relatively light.  Bears in remote areas are accustomed to being at the top of the food chain, and though black bears are rarely aggressive toward people, many of them are not easily intimidated, either.
The chief vulnerability of bears anywhere is their eyes;  they can see alright, especially movement.  Their sense of smell is excellent, and it is usually what betrays the hunter.  Their preoccupation with food, both in the spring when they’ve just come out of hibernation, and in the fall when they’re bulking up to prepare for a long winter, is another vulnerability.  In any case, the hunter who gets downwind and approaches carefully -using foliage and terrain for concealment, freezing when the bear looks up and moving cautiously when its head is down or hidden – should sooner or later get within bow range of a bear.  After that, it’s a matter of not coming unglued long enough to make the shot.

A few hours prior to the incident recounted earlier, I muffed my first opportunity:  a 40-yard shot at a good bear.  Forty yards is a long shot for me, but not beyond my range if conditions are right and I don’t have to rush.  The bear was up a hill and looking back at me, and my arrow went a good five inches to the right of my aiming spot.  Luckily a spruce tree intervened to prevent a gut shot.  I’ll blame the steep uphill angle, but I can’t deny pure excitement probably was a factor.

Reality may never live up to fantasies in all the particulars, but with a little homework to find the outfitter who will best meet your needs and desires, along with some planning and preparation, a British Columbia spot & stalk black bear hunt can be a reality you’ll look back on fondly for the rest of your life.

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Published by archerchick on 23 Mar 2010

5 Stand Setups To Avoid -By Mike Strandlund

5 Stand Setups To Avoid – By Mike Strandlund
Bowhunting World Annual 2004

No matter how good they seem at the moment, don’t get sucked into setting stands in these tempting situations.

Bowhunting World Annual 2004-2005

Are you familiar with the story of the Sirens in Greek mythology?
They were the beautiful temptresses who sang a wondrous song
that ultimately lured sailors and their ships to a tragic death on
the rocks. The moral of the story? Looks can be deceiving.
Bowhunters have their own Sirens to deal with: treestand
spots that appear ever so attractive on the surface, but will ultimately
break your heart and dash your spirit asunder-onto the rocks, so
to speak. The lure that these five stands present can be nearly over.
powering. Here’s how to identify these sites before you become a proverbial moth,
nose-diving full throttle into the flames of bowhunting disaster.

Ravine Crossings
This tempting location probably claims more victims than nearly all the others combined.
Even experienced hunters can fall for its raw appeal.
Here’s how this site casts its spell: You’re scouting for a stand that will work during the rut. One good choice is a funnel between two bedding areas used by does, so you look for just such a perfect buck trap. In rough country bedding areas are typically on points and short ridges overlooking large ravines or valleys. They’re predictable sanctuaries and will show heavy
signs of bedding activity everywhere they’re found.

When crossing the ravine to check out the points on the other side, you’ll invariably notice some
tremendous trails crossing the bottom. They cut deeply into the soft earth where several trails come together to cross the ditch. Wow! A mother lode of sign! At first glance it appears to be a great funnel between two bedding areas, made even better by the fact that you can sneak up the ditch to get to the stand. They’ll never know what hit them.

You’ve just stepped into the snare that’s going to make you miserable and ruin what could have been a great area. It’s darned tough to walk past such an obviously-attractive location without spending a half hour looking for the perfect tree to place a stand. But, hold your horses for a minute. What’s going to happen when the wind blows, or worse yet, when it gusts? Your scent is going to wash all over that ravine until every deer within a quarter-mile radius knows you’re there. That’s not going to help them feel very relaxed and comfortable around home, is it?

From the number of stands I’ve seen in ravines while I’m scouting, it would appear that many bowhunters fall victim to the tremendous sign found in these places.  Remember this rule of thumb: If the spot you are considering is protected from the direct flow of the wind by features of the terrain, it ls not a dependable spot, regardless of how much sign you find. There are definitely better places to hunt the deer that made that tempting sign. The ravine crossing is a seductive spot, but it’s one you should walk past.

Beware, The “Easy” Stand
Most of us prefer a stand that’s easy to travel to, over one that requires a GPS, reflector
pins, and maybe even a bit of luck to find. Some bowhunters are comforted when they roll out of bed in the morning to know they are heading for a stand they can easily walk to. They may even go out of their way to hunt only such spots-and they pay the price.

I have a friend who loves the easy stand. In the back of Ron’s mind lurks the ever-present fear that he will get lost in the dark woods and end up spending his entire morning hiking up and down hills, trying to find his vehicle. As a result, he makes many mistakes in the type of stands he hunts. And, they are deadly mistakes for old Ron.

The classic blunder occurs when he chooses to approach his morning stands by walking directly across open fields.  Typically, in the agricultural country where we hunt together, that means he’s walking across a harvested crop field- a feeding area. And, where do you think the deer are
going to be a half hour before first light? Right Either they’re still out feeding or on the very fringe of the cover, picking their way slowly toward their bedding area (and maybe toward one of my stands). When my buddy Ron rams right into them, all bets are suddenly off.

On one edge we have treestands placed about 100 yards apart. It takes me about an hour to make my entry the back way (away from the feeding areas), while staying in the timber and using ditches, draws, and creeks to get to my stand without spooking any deer. It takes Ron about five minutes to drive his ATV along the edge of the field, walk the remaining 150 yards across the bean field, and then 100 yards through the woods to his stand. Sure, his approach is a lot easier than mine, but he may as well stay home -that’s easier yet.

Don’t fall victim to the temptation to take the easy route to your stand areas. If you are thinking about hunting a morning stand and plan to walk across a feeding area to get to it, do yourself a favor and reconsider.

“Hot” Scrapes During Peak Rut
In the first place, there is no such thing as a “hot” scrape during the peak of the rut. Bucks don’t use them then-at least not with any consistency. Beyond that, we need to resist the temptation to become too sign-oriented. Granted, buck sign sets our imaginations to churning, and we soon envision thick-necked bruisers ripping up a tree trunk or pawing dirt like some antlered Brahma bull preparing to charge.

Yet despite its affect on our imaginations, buck sign can be a seductive killer. Rarely is it a useful indicator of a great stand location and never is this more true than when you decide to sit over a scrape during the peak of the rut.

Admittedly, I’ve been sucked-in by big scrapes many times. I remember an entire season more
than a decade ago when I hunted them exclusively. All my spring scouting had been focused on finding the biggest and best scrapes on the farms I had permission to hunt. That year for a full two weeks of hunting during the rut I never saw a buck actually freshen one of those scrapes. In fact, most of them became covered with leaves as I stubbornly waited for the buck that made them to return. I became so discouraged that year that I vowed never to hunt a scrape again. And, I’ve Pretty well stuck to my guns.

Once the rut peaks, bucks are far too busy chasing and bird-dogging does to worry about freshening scrapes. If they do hit one it is purely a chance event. Sometimes they just pass through and come upon it-they’d be there with or without the scrape. Once the bucks start chasing does, I stop intentionally hunting scrapes.

There may be a time in late October when bucks actually go out of their way to hit a scrape and make them worth hunting, but during the rut these patches of pawed dirt are worthless. It will also
distract you from hunting the doe concentration areas and the travel routes between them, where the bucks can actually be found at these times.

Unless you have located a good scrape line and plan to sit above it long before the does come into estrous, you are reducing your odds by focusing on scrapes.
When you scout your hunting area, keep your eye on the ball: terrain, bedding
areas, feeding areas, and the best funnels you can find-and forget about scrapes.

Whenever you hunt a high-activity area that isn’t perfect (and very few of them are), you
run the risk of educating nearly every deer in your hunting area.

Ridges in the Evening

I love hunting along ridge top bedding areas during the morning, but I’ve stopped hunting them anymore during the afternoon. I’ve tried, and I’ll probably try again. And, I’ll come away with the same conviction: I just wasted a good afternoon hunting a dead area. It’s not like bucks don’t walk through the bedding areas in the afternoons looking for does-they do, but not for very long. The real action is already up on its feet and walking toward a feeding area.

Hunt the places the deer are moving toward, not the places they are coming from. This simple philosophy can nearly double the length of time the deer are active around your stand. Suppose the deer get up from their beds an hour before sunset and start drifting toward their feeding areas. You have a brief flurry of activity and then everything is moving away from you. Within a half hour everything is pretty well finished in the area near your stand.  That little dab of activity is just not worth the risk you take of bumping and educating deer when you try to enter the stand spot.

That brings up the second reason why you should skip bedding areas in the afternoon: it’s nearly impossible to approach them during the day without blowing the hunt.  Deer don’t pick their bedding areas randomly-they are the safest places within their home range and where they have the ultimate advantage. Your approach can either be seen or smelled by every deer within a pretty large area. You might as well just drive to your stand on your four-Wheeler trailing 10 feet of your dirty laundry behind.
These are my favorite morning spots. You can sneak in easily while the deer are close to their feeding areas and be waiting for them. But don’t let the great action in the a.m. tempt you into thinking these are good afternoon stands. You’ll be sorely disappointed.

Early Season Bedding Areas
The temptation to hunt your best morning and evening stands as soon as the season opens is almost irresistible. I used to do it, but discovered it’s another deadly mistake. Accelerating the education of your deer well before the rut means they will be tougher to hunt when prime time finally arrives.

It is only natural after being away from the hunt for several months to want to jump right into it with gusto. On top of that, you’re accustomed to a normal hunting day that includes a morning and an evening session. Unfortunately, there are few spots for a decent morning hunt during the early season, other than in a bedding area. The desire to hunt mornings will have you invading bedding areas without a clear idea of their patterns at a time when the deer are living fairly close to home and highly sensitive to hunting pressure. That’s not such a good idea.

Ramming around in bedding areas early in the season may seem logical on the surface (where else are you going to get them in the morning?), but the damage you can do to your hunting area and your odds later in the season outweighs the benefits of being in the woods a few more hours each day. Besides, if you keep them acting naturally and on a Patten, you’ll have a decent chance of taking the buck you want in the evening by hunting only where he feeds.

When deer are in feeding patterns, concentrate on your home-front honey-dos in the morning, so you’ll have them out of the way before the rut Instead, focus all your efforts on hunting the feeding areas in the evening. You can Patten them from a distance, producing almost no impact until you move in for the kill. If that honey-do list is already complete, spend your mornings watching the deer leave feeding areas from a distance. This will give you the best possible feedback about where the bucks will be found that afternoon. If you insist on hunting in the morning, definitely
stay away from your best areas and hunt bedding areas in places that you don’t plan to hunt much later in the season.

I hunted the Milk River in northern Montana a few seasons back. It’s a river bottom with very limited cover, most of it located inside the river bends and in low swampy areas nearby. The bucks are very visible from the bluffs over-looking the river and we spent our mornings watching them leave the alfalfa fields so we could peg the trails most likely to produce action when they came back out in the afternoon. It would have been hunting’s version of suicide to sit back in those river bends in the morning. Sure, we might have gotten lucky and picked off a buck when he
came back to bed, but the impact more likely would have pushed them into the surrounding coulee country or at very least made them nocturnal.

Four or five bowhunters may hunt that stretch of river during a week, but almost no one actually sits in a treestand during the mornings. The odds of ruining whatever feeding patterns we’ve been
able to uncover are too much of a risk.  We focused on the easy patterns (where they feed) and forgot about the hard patterns (where they bed). It’s good advice for anyone hunting early-season bucks.

Conclusion
Obvious spots are often the worst locations for a stand-not because they don’t contain deer, but just the opposite.  These spots are high-activity areas, loaded with sign, and probably the best
hotspots your hunting area has to offer.  But, as you’ve hopefully gathered from my observations, therein lies their greatest seduction. Whenever you hunt a high-activity area that isn’t perfect (and
very few of them are), you run the risk of quickly educating nearly every deer in the neighborhood.

There are few things you can do that will have a more damaging affect on your chances for success than spending time hunting any one of these five deceitful stands. If you resist their temptations, your success rate will reap great benefits from your discipline.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Mar 2010

Funneling Deer – By Steve Bartylla

Funneling Deer – By Steve Bartylla

Bowhunting World Annual 2004-2005

It was one of the most frustrating experiences of my young bowhunting life but it was also one of the most important. As soon as school would let out, I’d grab my stuff and, brimming with anticipation, head for the stand on the alfalfa field. Yet, as darkness fell, I’d leave feeling dejected once again.

It wasn’t that I didn’t see deer. I saw plenty when walking across the field
after dark.The problem was that they were playing “musical trails.” No matter which trail I’d set up on the deer would use another.  After a week of this, the breakthrough I needed finally came to me.

Truth be told, it was my trapping that led me to it. I was constructing a trail set for mink. To funnel mink movement down the main travel way, I had blocked several minor trails. As I set the trap, it occurred to me: Why couldn’t I apply the same technique to deer movement? From that moment on, I began to apply many of the trapping principles that focus animal travels to bowhunting.

BLOCKING TRAILS
initially, it was blocking deer trails. The alfalfa field boasted five heavily used deer trails. With the landowner’s permission, I headed out with a saw and began my task The first step was choosing the trails I wanted to hunt. Because of the level of use and flexibility for wind directions, I selected the two that exited the woods on opposite inside corners. Next, I blocked the remaining trails
along the field. To accomplish that, I piled brush and limbs at the entrances. Of course, deer still could go around, but it encouraged them to use mine.

To further encourage the use of my trails, I raked the grass and debris along the first 20 yards from the point the trail entered the woods after completion, it gave the illusion that they were the field’s only primary entrance and exit routes.  And, as important, they appeared as the easiest and most popular routes.

Finally, I followed the chosen trails into the woods. Where lesser-used trails splintered off toward the field, I blocked them as well. Unlike the trails entering the field, I only used enough branches to make it inconvenient to cross Because the splinter trails ran to the same field, it didn’t take as much encouragement to get deer to continue to follow the main trail.

Although these alterations may seem minor, they did make a positive difference Deer are lazy by nature. When everything else is equal, they will take the path of least resistance to where they want to go. After giving the farm a week off, sightings on the corner trail were noticeably up. On my third sit, even that young kid was able to arrow a deer.   The best part of this technique is that it can be used in any situation where trails break off before hitting your stand. Furthermore, the further ahead of season this is done, and the more the blockades that are maintained, the better the results.

SETTING THE TABLE
ln later years, I began creating food plots to help funnel deer activity. Outside of the rut, most deer movement consists of traveling between bedding and feeding. Therefore, introducing a prime food source can lead deer past more advantageous stand locations.

Donnie Mc0lellan runs a very successful guide service in Grant City, Missouri Bucks
& Beards Outfitters consistently sends high percentage of their bowhunters home with trophy whitetails. One of the key reasons for this is the food plot strategy they employ.
“Finding big deer has never been a problem for me,” states Donnie. “They are here.’

It is getting my hunters into stands without tipping any deer that takes work. To avoid that, I spend countless hours walking ditches.  They are one of the best ways to get in and out. In areas that don’t have good routes, I put in food plots so they draw deer through areas I can get my hunters into. I put a lot of work into it, it  is worth it, though.  A lot more hunters go home happy ”

To get the most from a new food plot, several factors should be considered. Because they can alter deer travels, the plots should be positioned to provide the most productive hunting. To do so, identifying bedding areas is key The plot should be located so stands can be positioned between bedding and feeding.  Positioning the plot so a funnel lies between it and bedding is also advantageous. Also, undetectable routes to and from the stand should be available.

Donnie agrees with these food plot placement strategies wholeheartedly. “It all keys off of the bedding areas,” he says “I’m often shocked at how many people slap food plots out without first analyzing how they will affect deer movement and how they can place them to their own advantage. If I’m going, to go through the work to put one in, my plantings are going to be positioned so they funnel deer through areas that will do my hunters the most good !”

Additional steps can be taken to make them even better. Locating plots where deer feel safe leads to better hunting.  Openings within the woods, remote corners of fields and areas bordered by thick cover all help provide the illusion of safety. If plots are positioned between 100 and 500 yards of the bedding areas, that also increases the likelihood of catching daylight movement.
Although plantings are more common, natural food sources can be manipulated to accomplish the same effect.

For example, spring fertilizing and removing competing species can increase a mast tree’s food production. Even overgrown meadows can be made more desirable through applying a lawn fertilizer and cutting them as a farmer would a hayfield. Taking these steps helps keep the grasses and weeds more digestible and nutritious, which will draw more deer. Like creating a new food plot, hunters can enhance existing food sources on locations that help funnel deer past potential stand sites.

MAKING THE BED
As stated previously, most non-rut deer travels are between bedding and feeding. Just as we can affect feeding locations with food plots and more desirable native forages, surprisingly we can also have an affect on bedding locations.  Creating a bedding area can be created with a chain saw.   First, select an are of woods and proceed to cut the trees within. When making the cut, begin it about three feet from the ground and cut down at a 45- degree angle, stopping about three-fourths of the way through. Now, the tree can be pushed over or left for the wind to do it.

One of the goals is to allow the branches  to maintain a connection to the root system.  Using this technique allows certain species such as maples and oaks, to bend without completely breaking. With the connection,  the tree will to continue to grow, albeit at a much slower pace. To increase chances of survival, the cutting should be done in the winter , well before leaf-out. Keep in mind that some trees, such as poplar, birch and most pines, will snap every time, but their tops still provide food bedding cover.

This technique immediately creates a thick tangle of cover, as well as a bounty of food. The forest floor receives increased sunlight, which promotes the growth Of new greenery and
saplings. Along with that, the trees that retain the root connection provide Leafy growth for browse and buds for winter months.

To make these locations better still, we need to understand what deer seek for bed ding. Although there are exceptions, you will find that most bedding sites offer a combination of:
At least two escape routes.
Either thick cover or good visibility
Conditions allowing them to use their
sense of smell to cover their back.

These cutting technique provide the cover deer seek. Putting these efforts into locations that meet the other criteria on our list almost guarantees that deer will use them for bedding.

For example, let’s say we have a food plot along a creek bottom, flanked by ridges on each side. Applying our cutting technique the ridge side, just below the crest, would give them everything they desired. Not only do they have the thick cover, the slope also provides visibility.

By creating a bedding area on the sides of both ridges, deer would be able to choose which allowed the wind current to best cover them from the backside of the ridge. If they sensed danger, they could drop down, cut over, or dash along the ridge in either direction.

Because Nature rarely provides all of this, deer will pack into our constructed bedding sites.

Creating Trails
As in every technique discussed up to this point, knowing how the resident deer use the area is very beneficial. However, in creating trails, knowing whitetail travel patterns is essential. In order for this method to work best, you must know where the bedding and feeding areas are. Before we discuss how to create such trails, we should discuss what deer look for in selecting a travel route:

* Cover: Deer feel safest when traveling
in heavy cover.

* Gentle corners: Because they like to
see the path ahead of them, deer don’t like
taking 90 degree turns on their trails. Gently
sweeping corners allow the whitetail to see
the path before them and anticipate the dangers
that may lie ahead

* Ease of travel: Deer are lazy creatures by nature and,
all else being equal, will take the easiest route between
two points.

* Quickest route: The quickest route
between two points is a straight line. Deer
will usually select the straightest route that
provides cover, gentle corners, easiest travel
and a favorable wind direction.

With these factors in mind, we can now begin connecting food sources and bedding
areas By cleaning 5 foot-wide trails through the thickest cover between bedding and
feeding areas, we create trails that offer ease of travel, the feeling of safety and a
corridor that will be used heavily by deer. In areas that receive significant snowfalls, pulling a weighted sled along the.- trails can achieve outstanding results. In the winter months, two of the Northern whitetail’s top priorities are conserving energy and acquiring nutrition. During this difficult season, a whitetail’s life depends heavily on the amount of energy expended compared to nutrition taken in.

Creating trails through the snow that lead to the food sources creates an irresistible draw to deer enduring these conditions. So much so that once a trail is established, the heavy traffic from the deer will keep it open all winter long Because of this, the greater the snow depth, the more concentrated the deer activity becomes.  Although it may seem like a lot of effort to create these trails, they are worth the effort.

FENCING
Yet another method of funneling deer is altering fences. Deer often travel significant distances to cross at the easiest point in a fence. For hunters, this is an advantage.

My first attempt at creating  a fence crossing occurred many years ago on my uncle’s dairy farm I had spent a summer’s day walking a barbed wire fence line that cut through the middle of his woods About every 100 yards, I would intercept a trail that crossed the fence The problem was that no trail seemed better than any other.

Luckily, I took care of this with a little work. After selecting the fence crossing that was best for hunting, I invested a day in discouraging deer to use any other. To do that I clogged the other spots where deer crawled under and fixed up the places where the top wire strand was broken or drooped.

Finally, I made the crossing by my stand even better Wrapping a strand of wire around the fence and cinching it tight created both a low spot over which deer could jump and an easier path to crawl under.

Shoveling out some dirt underneath the fence was the icing on the cake. With that, I had the best fence crossing point. Opening day of bow season found me perched in the tree that overlooked my new fence crossing. Because of the deer sign I saw during the times I inspected and maintained my fence blockades, I was brimming with confidence So much so, that I passed
shots on the first four deer that came through That may not sound like much, but in those days shot opportunities were rare and they were the first deer I had ever taken a pass on. By the fifth, a large doe, I couldn’t resist any longer and shot as she paused before crossing.   This demonstrates another advantage of these fence crossing funnels: Deer often pause, posing for the shot, before attempting to cross The result is often a perfect shot opportunity.

As productive as that technique is, we can take it a step further to promote the use of our crossing. Adding a strand to the top and bottom of the fence goes a long way towards discouraging crossings at other locations. It is best to use barbed wire when adding an extra
strand; however, bailing twine will also work.

Another way to use fencing is to erect it to funnel deer activity. A mere 20 to 50 yards is all I generally use.  Both snow fence and chicken wire work very nicely for this.

Although I use this technique very sparsely, it can be extremely effective.

For example, I have a stand that is 75 yards south of a river The most commonly used trails are within 30 yards to the south of the stand. However, every now and the- . buck skirts the river without offering me a shot opportunity. Still, if I relocated closer to the river, I would miss more opportunities.

Then, one day it hit me. Just make it so that the deer couldn’t skirt me along the riverbank. Although I could have piled brush, placing 50 yards of chicken wire from the river toward my stand was much easier.   Doing so has resulted in harvesting several three-year-old bucks that would have otherwise escaped unscathed.

The techniques discussed here all are proven for focusing deer movement When combined in a thorough plan, they provide a hunter the ability to dictate movement patterns to deer. Obviously, this greatly benefits those who want to make their lands produce the best possible hunting. However, without exception, the landowners permission must be sought before taking any of these steps.  To not do so is simply wrong.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Mar 2010

Mulie Magic – By Steve Byers

Mulie Magic – By Steve Byers
September 2005

Bowhunting  trophy mule deer is no cakewalk, but every now and then it all comes together oh so sweet.

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

Bow & Arrow Hunting September 2005

The trek one makes to a true trophy animal can take many twists and turns. I have been on hunts where it can take weeks, sometimes months, for that one shot to happen. On the flip side of that is where Bruce Barrie’s hunt lies for mule deer and elk in western Colorado last season. Bruce hunted with my wonderful wife, Cassie, and me. As Bruce and I spoke on the phone countless times over the summer, I assured him that getting a nice mulie in the 160-plus range wasn’t out of the realm of possibility. (I think Bruce thought I might not know how to field-judge mule deer!) Our phone conversations consisted of me telling Bruce that I had just seen another 180-inch monster and him going “Really?”
I scouted a farm area near my home we call the “strip.” It consists of four large farms and is about 5 miles long and 3 miles wide. This area has turned out six “book bucks” in the past four years, with the smallest being a 161-inch 4×4. To see a group of bucks all in the 170s is not uncommon. I grew up hunting these farms as a kid, and I have had many encounters with some true giants. With only my family having access to bowhunt, we have gone on a very strict management program. We have decided on shooting only deer that we think will make it to 150 or higher. My summer scouting had turned up many “shooters,” and I was feeling confident we would get the job done. I felt like Bruce’s best chance at a buck would be on the ground doing some spot and stalk attempts.

Bruce was set to arrive in Montrose on Aug. 27, and I was sure his best chance at a “wall hanger” would be the first week of the season. When Bruce got here, he shot his bow to reassure that everything made it OK, and we went and got him an elk tag.

With the best time to hunt these bucks being in the evening, we would do some elk hunting in the mornings. I also have a ranch on the Uncompahgre Plateau, which harbors many elk and mule deer. We would spend our mornings chasing bugling bulls here. The evening before season started, I took Bruce on a short drive through some of the property we would be hunting. I have been after a large 3×3 on the strip for about five years now. Encounters with him are so common that my good friend Evan Baise began calling him “Pot Belly,” aptly named for his 350-pound frame. As we drove along the dirt road, I pointed out different fields where many large bucks had been taken over the years. When we approached a particular alfalfa field, I warned Bruce to keep an eye out for “Pot Belly,” because we had spotted him there all summer long. There he was, 40 yards from the truck, just feeding away. Bruce was amazed by the sheer size of this old mature buck. I urged Bruce to take him whenever the chance presented itself. Bruce laughed and said “Sweet!”

After a fairly uneventful first day, our second morning dawned with bulls bugling in a distant draw. We quickly cut the distance to about 400 yards of the screaming bulls. The bulls seemed to be heading toward a large ravine on a neighboring ranch. After setting up three or four times, we were nearing the fence line ourselves. I decided that we needed to get to a stand of aspens, near the lip of the large ravine . Bruce and Cassie quickly raced forward to set up, and when they got about 50 yards in front of me, I began cow calling. The bull responded with a low guttural roar from about 150 yards through the aspens.

Almost instantly another bull in the bottom of the ravine answered him. We were in the driver’s seat now! It seemed that the two bull elks were racing to see who could get to me first. I was pleading frantically with my cow call for the closest bull to come in. He responded by coming to the fence line about 30 yards in front of Bruce. When the bull jumped the fence, Bruce seized the opportunity and drew his bow. The bull was now 25 yards and nearing broadside. When the shot went off, Bruce’s setup was so quiet, the bull barely even moved. I assumed Bruce must have missed, so I took my cow calling into overdrive. I was so focused on watching the bull that I didn’t notice that Bruce had nocked another arrow. This time I watched as another arrow passed completely through the bull from only 35 yards this time. The bull stumbled stiff legged a mere 60 yards before expiring. Bruce had hit the 5×6 the first time, but an extremely quiet setup allowed a follow-up shot to be made.

I can’t begin to explain how impressed I was with Bruce’s choice of a broadhead, the 100-grain Turbo. I think it is one of the best penetrating heads that Barrie Archery has ever designed. After 20-plus years in the wapiti woods pursuing these beautiful animals, I can clearly say that the single most important aspect I look for is a broadhead that provides excellent penetration. With a large bull sometimes tripping the scales near 1,000 pounds, everything is bigger, so you need good penetration just to get to the kill zone.

It was time to shift our focus to chasing mulies the following morning. This for me, is bowhunting in its rawest form – you versus an animal with extremely keen senses on level ground. I cut my bowhunting teeth spotting and stalking mule deer, and I am proud to say that I am a much better bowhunter because of it. After blowing thousands of stalks, you become much more aware of the noise you may be making and things going on around you.

It was Aug. 30, a cool snap had hit, and we had a full moon. It seemed like everything was going our way. With a southwest wind, the game plan this morning was to slip south, with the wind in our faces, along the edge of a large marsh. Hoping to ambush a mature buck there, we set out. We quickly covered a mile or so, and as we were nearing a field edge , suddenly a large buck appeared 200 yards to our right. It was apparent that he was already aware of our presence. A mature 4×4 with good width and deep forks, I quickly judged him at 180 gross.

With the buck already aware of us, we decided to leave him alone and possibly look for him later that afternoon. We then turned and went straight east for a mile or two to a large draw. The west-facing slope of this draw is covered with a jungle of large cottonwoods and small willows, and I had seen many bucks in here all summer long.

To get to this draw we would be crossing the same field where we had seen Pot-Belly a few days before. We were both optimistic, it was still early, and we just knew good things would happen. We slowly crept our way to a large drainage ditch in the bottom of the draw. Just as quickly as we arrived, I spotted bucks, sky-lined by the rising sun. Bruce looked at me and said, ” What should we do?” I quickly replied, “I think we are in a good spot.”

Bruce must have thought I was nuts! These bucks were 300 yards away, and still showing no signs of coming our way, but over the course of scouting this draw, I had seen this same group of bucks work their way to the drainage ditch that we were now hidden by. There were six bucks in this group, and while not our largest, some showed potential. The bucks were just about parallel to us when they started down into the draw. we agreed that the largest buck might go 170 gross. I asked Bruce if he was interested in taking this buck and he gave me the combination head-nod and “Uh-Huh.”

When the bucks reached the bottom of the draw, tamaracks and willows engulfed them. We weren’t sure where they were when suddenly Bruce muttered, “Here they come.” All we could see were velvet-covered antler tips until they stepped out 30 yards from us. The big buck was the fourth to come out into the open, and he moved toward us slightly and then turned perfectly giving Bruce a quartering-away 25-yard shot.

As he drew his bow, all of the bucks peered at us. Luckily for us, there was a huge cottonwood behind us and there must have been a glare from the rising sun. With this glare in their eyes, Bruce reached full draw. When the shot broke, I could clearly see the arrow strike through the buck.

We hadn’t gone 30 yards on the blood trail when Bruce yelled, “There he is!” Bruce couldn’t wait to get his hands on him! With nearly 40 inches of mass, and 4-inch brow tines, this buck is truly magnificent! As a testament to the great habitat on the Strip, this was only a 3 1/2-year-old buck. They say give your bucks time and food. Well, I like to say give my bucks sweet corn and alfalfa, and me some time to hunt them!

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Published by archerchick on 22 Mar 2010

Bowhunter’s Bonanza -Ben Pearson’s National Contest 1970

Bowhunter’s Bonanza – March 1970
Five Lucky Hunters Win Trip To Fabulous Alaska In Ben Pearson’s National Contest

James Marcoux of Fox Lake, Wisconsin had often dreamed,
as have most bowhunters, of making a trip to Alaska for moose and caribou. Imagine the thrill experienced by Marcoux and four other men scattered across the United States when they learned they had won a place on Ben Pearson’s fantastic Bowhunters Bonanza.
Stanley Spilecki, New Britain, Connecticut; Al Miller, Rockwood, Pennsylvania; Dave
Pederson, Landing, New Jersey; and E.L. Knight of Pryor, Oklahoma all received word that
they would accompany Ben Pearson’s Jim Dougherty on an all-expense trip to a remote camp on the Mishik River, 160 miles west of King Salmon on the Alaskan Peninsula.  Winners were selected by a drawing after entering the Bonanza Contest.

Also accompanying Dougherty were three members of the famed Ben Pearson
Bowhunting Staff: Don Mclntosh of Billings, Montana; George Wright of La Crescenta,
California; and Danny Lloyd of Columbus, Ohio, Lloyd is also a Ben Pearson sales representative.

The week-long hunt was headed by guide Ed King of Naknek, Alaska who guided Dougherty to his record class moose and caribou in 1969 for the filming of Record Book Bowhunting – Alaskan Style recently released by the Ben Pearson Film Library.

Led by King, Dougherty and the Staff Members, the hunt was action packed from the first day
in spite of worsening weather that ranged from winds to 70 knots, rain, sleet and snow.
While not stalking moose and caribou, the group fished for salmon with marginal success in
the flooded Mishik River and hunted ptarmigan in the vicinity of camp.

In terms of hunting success the trip was fabulous with a 60 percent success ratio, three moose and three caribou for ten hunters. AII participants got good shooting, getting chased by several belligerent moose in the process and on one occasion literally tripping over a brown bear laying up on a caribou kill.

It was for all involved the trip of a lifetime into the last big game frontier, an adventure that will long live in the memories of those that found it was truly a Bonanza.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Mar 2010

Dream Buck- By Randy Templeton

Dream Buck- By Randy Templeton

September 2005

Here’s the story about a magnificent Illinois monster buck.

Bow & Arrow Hunting September 2005

When Dan Nordstrom of Coal Valley, Illinois. crept into the woods one afternoon last November, he had no idea what was in store for him. For sure Dan didn’t know what he’d see, much less shoot one of the largest bucks, killed by any archer in the state during the 2004 season.When Dan started bowhunting 14 years ago, he had a dream of someday shooting a buck that would break the 200-inch barrier. That dream became reality when a giant non-typical stepped into a clearing this past fall. Let’s take a look at the exciting events that led up to Dan scoring on this buck of a lifetime.

Post season Scouting Pays Off

“I spend a considerable amount of time in the woods during the post-season, and I don’t worry too much about spooking deer since the season is still several months away, and any intrusion will be forgotten Dan explained. ‘That’s why the off season is a good time to thoroughly dissect a piece of land. I typically search for rubs, rublines, old scrapes, bedding areas and trails that lead to and from feeding and bedding locations.”

In the late winter and early spring, Dan also spends time hunting for shed antlers. In fact, in the spring of 2003 he picked up a set with striking similarities to those on the buck he shot this past season” Although Dan said he can’t be certain, it’s quite possible the sheds are from the same deer or perhaps from another in the same gene pool.

In addition to scouting, Dan utilizes the post-season to clear shooting lanes or drop trees to create a funnel. By the time the season rolls around the deer are pretty much programmed to travel where he wants them. For example, if a buck is traveling just out of bow range, Dan says, dropping a tree in the trail can shift his travel pattern enough to put him within range.

Dan continued; ‘Late winter is also a good rime to identify potential locations for food plots. When planting time arrives in April or May, I’m ready to get started. I’m still experimenting with food plots, like clover, alfalfa and recently chicory.

“Several years ago I purchased 90 acres from a friend of mine who’s a logger by trade. The property is unique- there’s about 25 acres of creek-bottom marsh that borders 65 acres of hardwood timber. The big, mature trees were logged off, but it sparked a lot of new growth, and it’s gotten pretty thick since. It’s become real deer habitat.

“A couple of years later I bought an additional 10 acres that butts up to the other” Dan added. “That piece consists of 20 acres of pasture and 10 acres of timber. It might be only 120 acres total but it’s got a little bit of everything to offer in terms of habitat. When considering how the land is laid out, plus all the improvements I’ve made with adding food plots, it’s a hunter’s dream come true .”

Dan’s Bowhunting Strategy

“Face it, in the Midwest we’re not hunting Large-timber whitetails. The woods are typically small ranging from 25 to l00 acres. We have the upper hand after harvest, mainly because most of the deer are funneled into and concentrated in these small wood lots, and we’re able to take advantage of that. Our biggest challenge is getting to and from stands undetected. I do a lot of edge hunting to avoid burning out my timbers.

When it comes to hunting big deer I think we’ve all got different opinions on how to go about it. Likewise, I’m confident that we can all pretty much agree on what not to do. For example, if I already know there’s a big deer running on my property, it doesn’t make any sense to penetrate his bedroom or private area and risk bumping him out altogether. Throughout the summer and until the season starts, I stay completely out of the woods. Instead, I spend a lot of time glassing crops from a safe distance to learn where and when deer enter the fields to feed. “My favorite time to hunt whitetails is during the hard pre-rut, which begins about Oct. 25 and ends around Nov. 10 in Illinois. I think it’s the best time to identify a big buck’s pattern, which makes it possible to
close the distance.”

Scent Control A Must

Although I’d like to believe most hunters throw caution to the wind and take measures to avoid detection, Dan suspects that some hunters are more concerned about what the wind is doing at their stand, rather than what it’s doing as they go to and from it. The savvy hunters feel that it’s important to know and understand what the wind is doing all the time. Like many, Dan takes all the necessary precautions before a
hunt, showering with unscented soap and storing his outer clothes in a scent-free bag or container. Most important, Nordstrom claims that wearing a full-length Scent-Lok suit, rubber boots, and spraying himself down and gear with HS Scent-A-Way spray has been the key to bearing a whitetail’s keen sense of smell.

The Season Begins
Here is Dan Nordstrom’s account of the start to his season: “For years, my friend Dan Coons and I have always hunted together on opening weekend. We both try to put a doe in the freezer early so we can then concentrate on hunting a buck. As it turned out, Dan shot a doe
the first afternoon and I killed mine during the second. “l actually hunt several places, but to avoid burning any of them out too early, I typically spend the first three weeks of the season spreading out my days hunting different spots.

“On Halloween my brother, Mike, and my nephew, Ross Nordstrom, came in to town and wanted to do some deer hunting. I took them out and tried to put them on a deer, but it just didn’t happen. ‘A friend, Jonathon Lujan, was up from New Mexico that same week hunting with another friend of ours, Jeff Campagna. It was Nov. 1 and I remember it was raining that day. We all got together for lunch and sat around dis-
cussing whether or not we were going out. The rain let up a little, so I ended up going out that afternoon and it paid off.
“I gathered up my gear and headed for a stand along the edge of a small picked cornfield. About 3:40 that afternoon,
three big bucks entered the secluded corner on the far end of the field to feed. The deer seem to like that corner because
it’s isolated and hidden from any roads. It’s not unusual to see 15 or more does feeding there in the evening. During the pre-rut and rut, the bucks seem to hang around the edges and come out every so often to check on the ladies.
“Unfortunately, I d forgotten my good binocular. Using my small compacts it was difficult to tell just how big the bucks were, but one was exceptionally bigger than the others and definitely a shooter. “The bucks fed for a while, then slipped back into the woods using the same trail. I already had a stand set up close to where the biggest buck went in. In the worst-case scenario, I figured my longest shot would be 30 yards.

The wind was out of the northwest and if it stayed steady, I’d hunt the stand the next evening. If the buck came from the west again, the wind would be at his back, so chances are I’d get a shot off long before he winded me. “The next afternoon, I was running a bit late. When arriving, I quickly slipped into my Scent-Lok suit and sprayed down my outer clothes and gear with Scent-A-Way.

I made way toward the stand and arrived about 3:20. “After getting settled in I bleated a few times on ‘The Can.’ I normally do this because I think it has a calming effect on any deer that might have heard me walking in. Chances are they think it’s just another deer and not a threat.
“Shortly afterward, a doe and button buck cautiously moved through and began feeding. I don’t think they smelled me, but the doe knew something wasn’t quite right. It was exactly 20 minutes after climbing into the stand (3:40) when I spotted a buck walking up the fence
line. He was coming so fast I didn’t have a lot of time to look him over, but he was definitely a shooter! It looked like the same buck I’d seen the afternoon before.

“I got in position to shoot, but just two or three steps short of giving me a broadside shot, he stopped. Only a few seconds passed before he turned and started walking away. I quickly drew the Hoyt UltraTec bow and mouthed a murrp. The buck stopped quartering away, so I tucked the pin behind the last rib and punched the release. The arrowed buried itself to the fletching and the buck charged off with his tail tucked between his legs. I visually marked the location 50 yards away where I’d last seen him. Seconds later I heard a crashing noise that led me to believe he’d gone down.

“I waited maybe 30 minutes or so before climbing down to take up the trail. I went to where I last saw him, but didn’t find any blood right away.
With my binocular I scanned the area ahead and spotted his white belly just 40 yards further down the hill. I approached cautiously, but he was down for good. It wasn’t until I walked up on him and grabbed the antlers that I was able to grasp how big the buck reality was. I’ve been waiting a long time to shoot a buck like this, and words can’t express how I felt at that moment. This was the fourth buck I’ve shot that will qualified for the Pope & Young Club record book, but also my biggest to date and a dream season come true!”

One thing that’s interesting to note is the time of day Dan killed his deer. The giant came meandering down the same trail heading toward the
field to feed and check on the does at exactly the same time as he did the previous day. It goes to show that big bucks can be patterned and killed during the pre-rut.

After the mandatory 60-day drying period, Dan took his Warren County giant to Tim Talmsley and had it officially measured. The buck had 18 scorable points and gross scored 203 6/8 and netted 194 0/8 inches. There were a couple of deer killed in 2004 that scored higher than the Nordstrom buck, but from a personal viewpoint, none were nearly as impressive.

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Published by archerchick on 22 Mar 2010

80 Years With Fred Bear – By Bob Brandau

80 Years With Fred Bear – By Bob Brandau
March 1982

We’re damn lucky to have Fred Bear around.  In a time when folks tell us there are no heroes left, we only need look to Fred to know it isn’t true.
For the bowhunter, Fred has done it all. He’s taken world-class big game on every continent and built a career around his love for a sport. He stood and was counted as a conservationist when the word was still unknown to most sportsmen.

The John Wayne of the bowhunter’s world Fred attracts a crowd wherever he goes. Autographs, handshakes and flash bulbs are as much a part of his day as the sun. Yet unlike many other people in that position, his sincere smile never fades and his patience while listening to another
hunter’s whitetail adventure is unending.

His ability as a woodsman is equalled to or surpassed by his talents as a businessman, and inventor. Much of the archery tackle we use today is based on inventions cultivated in his fertile mind decades ago. Along with a few other adventuresome pioneers, Fred turned an obscure hobby into a national pastime and industry.

Starting in a depression torn 1933 in the United States, Fred slowly built his archery company from a garage in Detroit to the world leader it is today: His factory now produces products known around the world and employs about 350 people.

Fred’s cunning as a hunter and friendly nature have brought him many honors and thrills. He’s dined with royalty and dipped beans out a can with African bushmen.  Some of the adventures he’s had would seem outlandish even when printed in a young boy’s favorite book.

And of all the game Fred has taken through the years, what has been the toughest
to hunt? The whitetail deer.

“There’s no doubt about it, the whitetail deer is the smartest craftiest game animal a man can hunt with a bow,” he said- But what does Fred consider to be the toughest most dangerous game to chase with bow and arrow? Excerpts from the book, Fred Bear’s Field Notes, and an article printed in Outdoor Life in the early 1960s show that to be the African lion.

“Of all the “if-you-start-it, I’ll-finish it” game a hunter can go after with either gun or bow, the two big wonderful cats of Africa and Asia, the lion and tiger, head my list. There is something about them that no other animal can match, a mysterious, regal quality of fearlessness and arrogance and terrible power. In my book the man who kills either of them has reached the pinnacle
of the trophy hunter’s world.”

Fred said recently that the animal he had long considered to be the top hunter’s trophy also provided him with his most exciting and memorable hunt “Well, I had a lot of most memorable hunts, I guess. The most exciting of course, was when we were ambushed by a lion for half a night in Africa. I’ve spent a few nights in a tree with a grizzly down below and a couple cape buffalo have come close and then there were the polar bears. I guess you can call them memorable in terms of excitement.   In just the case of excitement my most memorable hunt would be the lion because in most of the exciting experiences I have had, the high point was over in a second or two. You knew you were either going to get in trouble or not. But the case of the lion went on for about six hours and that certainly was memorable.”

A short time after his encounter with the lions of Portuguese Africa in 1965, he recalled the story like this:

“I eased to my knees and picked up my bow. There were two lions, both big-maned males lying beside the wildebeest carcass.  Quietly as I moved, they saw me instantly, stopped feeding and stared balefully at the blind.

“One was broadside to me, with his head turned in my direction. The other lay
behind him facing us head on. I picked the closest one and drove my arrow for a spot
behind his shoulder.

“There wasn’t enough light to follow the arrow’s flight but the lion left no doubt that it had been hit. He ripped out a roaring blood chilling snarl and both animals sprang to their feet.   The rear one shot off to the left running in long bounds. The other curved hell-bent toward the blind, growling and roaring But when he was only yards away, he swerved off to the left and streaked past
within a few feet of us. The last we heard of him was an ear-splitting roar out in the gathering darkness.

“For another 10 minutes; there was dead silence, with five pairs of ears straining for some sound that would tell us where the lions had gone and what they were doing. When it was full dark one of the pair announced his return with a roar that came from no more than 20 yards away and rattled the very leaves of the blind

“One thing we knew for sure. If either lion was bent on revenge, our brush blind would no more stop him than a garden fence stops a hungry deer. He wouldn’t even have to smash through it. He’d come sailing over and the last we’d see of him would be his black silhouette against the faint light that still lingered in the sky.

“There was half an hour of agonizing silence. Nobody moved, spoke, coughed or even cleared his throat My legs were getting stiff and cramped but it was imperative to endure it without stirring. It was cold but no one so much as touched his blanket Tension and suspense filled the blind like fog.

The lion ripped the night apart once more with a long series of roars and snarls, again only a few yards beyond our barricade. I’ve heard bears, tigers and even elephants scream their anger and defiance, and any one of them can make the hair on a man’s neck stand up like porcupine quills. But I don’t believe any other sound that comes from an animal’s throat is as awesome and frightening as the roar of a lion close up.

Another half an hour went by, seeming like half the night.  Then the situation took a new turn.
A lion spoke up from half a mile away giving the half purring half moaning get-together call and another answered farther off in the distance. I had listened to those typical sounds of the African night before and thought them interesting and thrilling. Now they turned my blood to water. Our lion didn’t give us much time to worry about any other, however he let go another bone-shaking roar.

After a few minutes, the lion roared again. The silence settled down and nothing happened for an hour. At the end of that time, Luiz (one of the native guides) inched over to our side of the blind.
“Baas, I can hear lion eating,” he said. ” I think he feed on the dead one.”

We cocked our ears and sure enough we could hear the ripping of flesh and the clicking of teeth out there in the dark, 50 or 60 feet away.

For the first time we had something to go on. It was very unlikely that a wounded lion would be feeding and if this was the unwounded one, quarrelsome as he was, we were in less danger than we had feared. But if Luiz’s hunch was right by morning, the pelt of my lion would be torn and worthless.

“Will one lion really eat another?” I asked Wally, my guide. “Indeed they will,” he assured me.

By this time the tension in the blind had become too much for the native guides to bear, and they issued the ultimatum of either climbing the trees or going back to camp. Knowing that the trees would not support the three natives, and that any commotion was likely to bring on a charge from the lion, Freds party decided to make a break for it in the car.

Taking nothing but the guns with them, they piled into the car, stomped on the starter and knifed out into the African darkness.

“To my immense relief,” Fred continued, “the first thing we found when we went back the next morning was what was left of the python (shot the day before by Fred while making the blind). We agreed that it might have been the snake on which we had heard the lion feeding and our hunch proved good. When we picked up the blood trail of the lion I hit and followed it for 200 yards,
we found a magnificent cat stone dead since the evening before. Needless to say, I didn’t give the python another thought “My arrow had gone in low, back of a foreleg and ranged through both lungs, causing severe hemorrhage. A full-grown male with a heavy mane, he weighed 460 pounds and measured an even 10 feet pegged out.

“Looking back on those thrilling hours in the blind, with the lion growling and feeding in the darkness, I couldn’t blame the guides for not wanting to lion hunt again. But when I got back to camp, and I saw him reaching four feet above my head with the tip of his tail brushing the ground, I knew I wouldn’t trade that night for anything that ever happened to me on a hunt He was the greatest trophy I have killed, and he left me, as a bowhunter, no place to go.”

But Fred’s conquests as a hunter did not end after that long six-hour wait in a blind on the flats of Portuguese Africa He went on to down a polar bear, after three trys, 500 miles north of Fairbanks, Alaska and a 1,800 Asiatic buffalo in Brazil. Even today he is a familiar face around many campfires in the United States, offering a tale of adventure or two.

Anyone who has been lucky enough to hear Fred spin a tale has heard one of the masters. You may be sitting in an auditorium, but when the griz growls and the guide’s hands are skinned as he climbs a tree for safety, you can taste the adrenalin in your mouth. With the gestures of a magician.  Fred can tell a story that rivals those of Davey Crockett and Mark Twain. Those
who have heard his tales more than once may notice slight changes in “fact’ as he draws them together for the audience, but it doesn’t matter since the end result of excitement is always the same.

Fred is one the few individuals who has had the opportunity to hunt most of the game animals the world has to offer. He has hunted above the Arctic Circle, at the Equator and in lands untouched by modem civilization. Based on that experience, he said that if a hunter had only one “exotic” hunt to go on in his life, he should go to British Columbia or Alaska.

“Now, Africa is great,” he said, “but in British Columbia or Alaska you can drink from any stream you happen to run across.  The hunting conditions are much better and the terrain won’t be burned up like it is in Africa during the dry season when you hunt. The mountains, the snow capped peaks and trees-yes, that s what I’d recommend. You won’t see nearly as much game, but after all the kill is the anti climax. You go to enjoy yourself and to have fun in the outdoors with the birds, the bees, the animals, and the people.”

To say that Fred represents that last generation of the wild and free American hunter would be unfair. To say that his contributions to both bowhunting and conservation make him an outstanding American would be much more appropriate.

And although Fred’s tales of excitement are untarnished with the years, the role of the hunter has taken on an increasingly important duty. Today’s hunter, Fred said, should be more concerned with environmental issues. With the nation’s foremost conservationist Teddy Roosevelt, to serve
as his “idol,” Fred has taken a leadership role in backing sound conservation practices. People should take time out of their leisure hours to help promote conservation practices, he said
“Too many hunters today place too big an emphasis on the kill. When you read the stories, the emphasis is too much on the kill-instead of being in nature’s great outdoors,” he said.
“Too many people are uncomfortable in the woods. They don’t feel at home when actually they should be. The woods is a friendly place. Yes, the woods is big place to get lost in, or to get into trouble in, but the main thing when outdoors is to use good judgment stay out of trouble and have a good time.

“A downed animal is most certainly the object of a hunting trip, but it becomes an anticlimax when compared to the many pleasures of the hunt.  A period of remorse is in order. Perhaps a few words of forgiveness for having taken a life. After this there is a self-satisfaction for having accomplished a successful stalk and made a good shot.

“But a hunt based only on trophies taken falls short of what the ultimate goal should be. I have known many hunters who, returning empty-handed, have had nothing to say of the enjoyment of time spent in nature’s outdoors.

“I like to think that an expedition should be looked upon whether it be an evening hunt nearby or a prolonged trip to some far off place, as a venture into an unspoiled area. With time to commune with your inner soul as you share the outdoors with the birds, animals and fish that live there.

And  in another vein, if it is a lengthy trip, select your companions well. A hunting trip
is a great place to test the mettle of your friends.  “I feel like one of God’s chosen people, having had the experiences I’ve had in his great outdoors,” said Fred. <–<<

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Published by archerchick on 21 Mar 2010

Gila Miracle – By Eddie Claypool

Gila Miracle – By Eddie Claypool

September 2005

http://www.bowandarrowhunting.com

Every twist and turn haunts this bowhunter as he makes his way through the New Mexico wilderness.

Bow & Arrow Hunting September 2005

For the past twenty years I’ve been an impassioned, do-it-yourself elk bowhunter. Over this time, I’ve been involved in about every kind of situation imaginable – both good and bad. It seems that the bad memories stick in my mind indefinitely, while the good memories migrate to the back recesses of my mind. I think this is only a natural process since it’s the bad experiences that leave big scars, while the good memories are constantly being shuffled to the back of our memory by new, good times afield.

A few seasons ago, I went on a solo bowhunt for elk in the Gila country of southwestern New Mexico and made memories from both ends of the spectrum – incredible misfortune, followed by seemingly impossible. In the end, simple perseverance was the key to pulling something out of nothing. Let’s take a look at an outing that was one of the most bittersweet elk hunts I’ve ever been on.

High Hopes

I’d been coming to the Gila for a lot of years; I knew the resource and how to take advantage of it. I’d come alone for a reason – to hunt long, hard and effectively. Since I was on a mission to harvest an exceptional bull, I was willing to sacrifice the benefits of companionship in order to better focus on my self-centered goal…sometimes a guy has just gotta do what a guy has just gotta do.

Two days before the bow opener found me at a remote trailhead packing my mule(Runt) for a trip deep into the wilderness. Past Experience in the area had shown me a couple of remote ridges where groups of “bachelor” bulls liked to spend their summer while growing their massive crowns. I knew that if I could get into an area where such a situation existed, I could very possibly get a bull to respond to my calling. The element of surprise, coupled with the “virginity” of such unbothered bulls, could put a big bull in my lap fast – it had happened before.

As I headed down the trail, I was excited and my hopes were high. A long six hours later – with 14 miles behind me and almost 4,000 feet below me – I was dragging. Picking a spot for my camp, I began to get situated. After unsaddling Runt, I led my long-eared helper to a nearby creek so that he could get a drink. Hurrying along, in a split-second, I somehow manged to let a tree limb rake across my left eye. Knowing that I’d scratched my eye rather badly, I figured that I’d simply have to put up with some serious discomfort for a day or two…little did I know.

Sometime during the early morning hours, I awoke to a burning pain in my eye – I knew that something was seriously wrong. Now what? It was the day before the season opened, I was 14 miles from the truck (90 more to the nearest town of any size) and I couldn’t function! There was a battle going on inside me – the hunter side of me wanted to tough it out and go hunting, while the common sense side said that my eye needed immediate medical attention. By the time that day-light had finally arrived, I’d rolled around in my sleeping bag for long enough to know that I had to get to town and find out what the problem was- what a nightmare!

Deciding to leave my camp where it was at, I snapped a lead rope onto Runt as a new day dawned around me and began the long walk out. Seriously unhappy about the mess that I’d gotten myself into, I mulled the situation around in my mind. My eye was swelled so much that I could hardly see from it; it was six hours to the truck and another three hours to town! The question was, could even I get to town in time to get in to see a doctor today? Man, oh man, I sure needed too.

The Twilight Zone
Rolling into Silver City, New Mexico, at 3:30 p.m., one of the first places I saw was an optometrist’s office. It was open! Wheeling into a parking space, I jumped out and ran inside. Yes, they’d see me. The prognosis was this: I had an eye ulcer, probably caused by some type of bacteria that had gotten into the cut on my eye, and the condition was serious. I would be treated with antibiotic drops and pills, and if the condition hadn’t shown signs of improvement within 24 hours, I’d be sent to an ophthalmologist for further treatment. I would have to get a motel for the night, then come back for another check-up the following evening. This was more than I’d planned for. After all, I had a mule unattended, elk that needed to be hunted and a hunting trip budget that hadn’t allowed for all this extra expense. Could it get any better than this? Oh, yeah.
The following evening (the second day of bow season) I plodded back to the doc, praying for a release-it wasn’t to be. Things weren’t worse, but they weren’t noticeably better either. Doc said, “You need to come back the next day.” My head was spinning…could I leave Runt unattended another day? What if he’d knocked his water tub over the first day? Almost certainly, he had. I couldn’t believe it-what a nightmare! Finally-on my third day in town-the Doc finally saw what he was looking for-improvement in the eye. He would release me for three days, then I had to be checked again. Unbelievable, what a nightmare! How was I ever going to hunt elk under these circumstances? There was no way I had time to get back to my wilderness camp and get any hunting done! Well, maybe I could at least get back to my camp and pack it out to the truck. Maybe I could at least hunt from the road somewhere? So much for my original high hopes and dreams. What a nightmare.

And The Beat Goes On
Dashing back to the trailhead, I arrived at sunset on the third day of my “hunt.” Heading to the spot where I’d left Runt staked out, what should I find? No mule-only a rope, one end tied to a tree, the other end loose. Could it get any better than this? Oh, yeah.

After a mostly sleepless night, I set about searching for Runt the next day. I wanted to be mad at the mule, but the truth was, if one jackass had tied the other one up better, neither jackass would be in the situation that they were now in. After a full day of fruitless searching, I was in a mood, fit to be tied.

Late afternoon of the next day (the fifth of my hunt), I finally found Runt at an outfitters’ camp, about 5 miles down a trail into the wilderness. He seemed to be perfectly content socializing with his newfound horse friends. As a matter of fact, he didn’t seem very glad to see me at all- guess I was giving out bad vibes. I rounded him up and we headed back down the trail. Getting back to the truck at sunset. I picketed Runt, whipped up a meal on my Coleman stove then fell into the sack. Tomorrow was my doctor’s appointment-in that town 100 miles away-oh, joy! What a nightmare!
Noon of the sixth day of my hunt found me reading about elk hunting while sitting in the waiting room of the doctor’s office-man, was I ever praying. I needed a permanent release from civilization so that I could get into the woods-my shorts were getting in a permanent wad. Luckily, a short hour later, I was out of the doctor’s care for good. I headed back for the trailhead, Runt, and some wilderness elk hunting as fast as my old Ford could go-sadly, that wasn’t very fast.

When It Rains, It Pours
On the way back to camp that evening, I had two flats on my truck-simultaneously-and I only had one spare. I was starting to think that this elk hunting thing just wasn’t meant to be. Never had I been involved in such a non-ending nightmare-would this endless procession of pit-falls ever come to an end? And if it did, what kind of an end was that going to be? Feeling cursed, I wondered if I should just load up and head for home? Having never been a quitter, I reached deep inside for the perseverance to keep up the fight. If
nothing else, I’d go down while screaming defiance at the demons of defeat.

The following day, I finally got back on the road again, headed for camp and and Runt (I hoped). I’d long since forgotten what day of the season it was, but I knew one thing for sure – I didn’t have many more days left to work with. What should I do? Did I have the time to pack into the wilderness and start over, or should I simply day hunt into much more accessible areas? I felt the tug of my original dreams pulling at my inner being, so the matter was settled.

Going For Broke
Bright and early the next morning, Runt and I were to be found plodding submissively down an old, familiar trail.
This would be the third time that we’d hiked back and forth on this trail in the past 10 days. As of yet, the only positive to have come from all this hiking was that I was becoming much more mentally and physically tough. Now, if I could just combine this with some actual time spent hunting, maybe something good would come from all the fuss. After all, things had to go my way soon, didn’t they? Right….

Reaching my old campsite, things fell into place quickly. Grabbing my Mathews bow, I headed for the hills. Ah, it sure felt good to finally have the monkey off my back for a while. As I hiked for a distant ridge, I was finally at peace-things seemed to finally be going my way. Huh, those dark clouds coming in from the west surely weren’t a threat, were they? Wow, that one cloud sure looks like a monkey….

By the time I reached the 2-mile-from-camp point, I knew I was in for trouble. Boiling, black clouds were pouring in and distant thunder was starting to roll down the valley toward me. It just so happened that I’d forgotten to throw my rain suit in my daypack and I knew that my Scent-Lok camo would provide little protection from the rain. Since it was clear what was about to happen, I turned around and hurried back to camp. I’d no more than dove into my dome tent when the downpour and wind hit. For
the rest of the night-and well on into the morning-the storm of the century raged. I’ve never seen it rain harder or
longer-it was a genuine life-threatening flood. Everything was running water, including the higher flatter ground that I was camped on. Water in my tent, in my bag, water down the crack of my…well, you know what. I never thought the next morning was going to come. The next day was spent recuperating from the storm-everything I had was wet. Luckily, the sun came out midday and I was able to get almost everything dried out by sundown. To top it all off, it was a fact that I wasn’t going to be able to hunt the next day either because all the valleys and ravines were raging torrents’–I wouldn’t be able to get across any of them.

Going Out In Style
After another day spent doing nothing-with only two days of the season left-I was about to go blind-staggering wild. I was nearly two weeks into this trip, and as of yet, hadn’t spent a single day hunting! Loading up my backpack
on the morning of the next-to-last day of season, I finally headed out to do some hunting…I hoped.

By evening, I was in a vast trailless area that I knew for certain held elk. Toward sunset, a distant bugle drifted to my ears; Hurrying that direction, I closed the distance-but not before dark caught up with me. Throwing up my spike camp, I hit the sack, drifting off to the sound of near-by bugles. I hoped that tomorrow would be a good day.

At first light, I was within 200 yards of the belligerent bull-he’d sounded off all night, never getting out of earshot. Pulling our my bugle, I sent a challenge toward the hot-to-trot. A piercing scream came back immediately, shortly followed by the sound of breaking brush. Clipping my release on my bowstring, I slowly slid an arrow across the prongs of my rest. As my hand touched my face, big antlers came bobbing into view. As the big bull stepped briskly into an opening at 40 yards, I stopped him with a cow mew from the diaphragm
in my mouth. He’d do just fine-thump…the arrow left my bow. Center-punched, the big bull darted out of sight.

Later, as I knelt over the trophy, I had to marvel-this trip had been unbelievable! I’d endured everything that the
anti-hunting demons could throw at me, yet, after having hunted for less than 24 hours, I was tagged-out with a whopper 7×6 bull-I’ll take luck anytime! —

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