Archive for the 'How To' Category

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Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Bike for Deer

 

            My year has three seasons:  hunting, cross country ski and mountain bike season.  But the more I enjoy each activity, the more I learn they are not mutually exclusive.

            Six years ago I started racing my mountain bike in NORBA (National Off-Road Bicycle Association) and EFTA (Eastern Fat Tire Association) cross country races.  I’m not very good, but fighting to stay out of last place helped me enter hunting season in shape for long walks and hard climbs.  It also helped me get permission for multiple hunting trips because I race throughout the New England area and I combine out of state races with long weekends away with my wife.  In the fall I found it much easier to say I was going to hunt bear in Maine one week and deer in New Hampshire another week after we had three summer vacations together.

            Eventually I realized that my mountain bike could help me hunt by doing more than just whipping me into shape.  So last summer instead of taking long road rides on my easy training days, I started riding slowly through the management areas that I hunt in the fall.  The mountain bike easily handled almost all the terrain and it was a great way to get through streams.  Suddenly the object of my slow rides changed from just resting for a race to searching for new places to hunt while resting for a race.  Every slow ride I zig zagged along dirt roads and narrow trails looking for transition areas, new places to put my stand and, most important, sign that deer had bedded, eaten or traveled near my route.  When I decided to scout the thick stuff it was easy to chain the bike to a tree and take off.

            I’d like to say I took a deer from one of the new spots I found, but I didn’t.  I did, however, learn that a mountain bike is not just a pre-season hunting tool.  In November it is an ideal transport to most of my stands and it will take you and your gear into thick woods farther, faster and with less scent than any other form of transportation.  In the same twenty minutes that another hunter could hike a mile into the woods, I could be two to two and a half miles from my truck with a set of wheels that might help me roll out a deer others pushed my way.  All a bike needs is solid ground and a trail or opening at least as wide as the handlebars.  If you doubt that, go on line and type “Mountain Bike Deer Hunt” into a search engine and see how many Outfitters and Lodges run summer mountain bike trips over the same terrain they hunt in the fall.

            In just one hunting season, I discovered many more advantages of a mountain bike.  The fat rubber tires cross open ground scent free.  There is no need to hike by headlamp or flashlight.  Several manufacturers make lights that clamp onto the handlebars and brightly light up a remote trail.  They are not the dim, bulky lamps that were around when I was a teenager.  Modern bike lights are designed for serious off road riding (and racing) and they use bright halogen bulbs and longer lasting batteries.

            Mountain bikes are modern beasts of burden, too.  Today it’s not uncommon to read about someone riding a bicycle cross country.  With the lightweight packs and racks, it’s easy to carry a tent, sleeping bag and enough food for a week on a bike.  Bike packs fit on the handlebars, under the cross bar, under the seat or over either wheel and they are as strong as backpacks.  Mountain bikes also have attachments for water bottles.  Most bikes carry two but some hold three bottles and there are insulated ones that will let you take cold drinks or hot soups as far as you want to go.  And your gun or bow will fit on a mountain bike with the same clamps used on ATV handlebars.

            Buying a Bike

            Today mountain bikes range in price from about $75 at the big discount stores to over $3,000 at the fancy bike shops. Fortunately the things that make bikes expensive are not the things a hunter needs.

            Frames are the biggest part of a bicycle and what they are made from will largely determine the price of the bike.  Steel frames are strong but heavy and they are used on the cheapest bikes.  Generally speaking, bikes get lighter and more expensive as the frames progress from steel to cro-moly (an alloy), to aluminum to carbon fiber.  Bike shops will tell you that the frame material is important in the transfer of energy from your foot to the chain, but unless you consistently find yourself getting to the deer stand fifteen seconds too late, you don’t need to spend an extra $200 to get a stiffer ride.

            I recommend starting your search by looking at bikes with good cro-moly or aluminum frames in the $300 to $500 range.  Manufacturers load the lower priced steel frames with the cheapest parts to keep the price low (usually for a discount store) so the bikes are noisier and more likely to develop problems.  The expensive aluminum or carbon fiber bikes are more than you need, and their fancy coatings may deter you from dragging them through the thick stuff.  After you’ve ridden a $300 to $500 bike, try some cheaper ones and some more expensive ones and see what works.  You may find everything you need for much less than $300, especially on line, but trying these mid range rides will give you an idea of what you like and some knowledge of the components that fit you best.

            Like all good hunting tools a mountain bike must fit the hunter, which means there is not one perfect bike for everybody out there.  Again, the frame is the most important part of the fit.  Better bikes come in sizes, usually ranging from about 17 to 22 inches.  This number is the frame size but not all manufacturers measure their frames the same way so not all 18 inch bikes will fit the same person.

            To see if the frame fits you, stand over the cross bar with the seat behind you.  There should be about two inches of clearance between the bar and your body, maybe a little more to account for thick clothes.

            Next, get on the seat, put one hand on a wall or a car and place your feet on the pedals.  Your leg should be slightly bent when the pedal is all the way down and you should still be able to raise or lower the seat.  Racers will tell you that tube angles are important, too.  I say test ride the bike.  If it feels good, and if it fits, it will hunt.

            To hunt best, you also have to consider pedals and shifting.  First the good news.  The best hunting pedals are the cheapest ones because competitive riders don’t want them.  Racers want clip in pedals or light weight alloy ones with cages for their shoes.  Hunters need big flat pedals they can pump with heavy boots.  If your dream ride doesn’t come with them, you’ll find them hanging up at most discount stores.

            Shifting is a little more complicated.  Today’s mountain bikes have up to 27 speeds.  They shift by inexpensive (and least reliable) thumb or index shifters, or much better grip shifts or rapid fire shifters.  Grip shifts turn on the inside of the hand grip and are the easiest to use with heavy gloves but for some reason, they are getting harder to find on mid range and expensive bikes.  The more a bike costs, the more likely it is to have rapid fire shifters, which are levers mounted at and under the handlebars.  One lever clicks the chain into a higher gear and the other drops it into a lower gear.  They work fine but they take a little practice and they are not as easy to work with gloves.  I’ve found that bike dealers will switch rapid fire with grip shifts to make a sale so try both and don’t be afraid to ask for whatever works best.

            The Down Side

            Mountain bikes are a great hunting tool but they aren’t perfect.  They can be noisy and they can smell, but with a little attention, they can still get you into the woods quieter and with less scent than your boots can.

            Bikes make most noise when they are out of tune, which usually means that something is loose.  All cables stretch, so after the first month of hard riding, shifting will get harder and noisier.  That’s why most bike shops offer a free first tune up when they sell a bike.  Once they tighten the stretched cables, the bike should be quiet again.  Of course, when you change gears the chain will move and the shifter may click.  This is easy to avoid by riding the last quarter mile in the same gear.  Just make sure it is the lowest gear you need to cover that terrain and you won’t have to shift or dismount.  If this doesn’t silence the bike, you can always push it the last quarter mile or chain it to a tree a few hundred yards from your stand.

            Bike chains need to be lubed and chain oil, like gun oil, can smell.  When I race I lube my chain every week.  When I hunt, I don’t lube it.  If you keep the chain clean, whatever lube was on it in the summer will get you through November.  If it does get too stiff, you can always hit it with a scent free gun oil.  And handlebars are nice places to hang scent pads.

            Finally, I learned the hard way what to carry beneath my seat.  In that small bag I keep a patch kit and a chain tool and I bolt a small air pump beside my water bottle.  In six years I’ve broken one chain (by trying to crank hard through a stream in a race) and I’ve gotten two flats.  Heavy duty tubes and proper tire pressure minimize that risk.

            So next year I hope to throw a deer over the cross bar and wheel it from a new area I found in July to the same old truck.  Will it happen?  Who knows.  But I’m sure my chances will be greater with the long distance scouting I’ll be doing on two wheels throughout one of my other favorite seasons.

4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 54 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5 (4 votes, average: 3.75 out of 5)
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Published by Bow on 08 May 2008

Staying Warm Means Hunting Longer

            Fifteen years ago on a February day when the wind chill was about 50 degrees below zero I turned 40 on the side of New Hampshire’s Mount Washington.  Almost every winter of the next decade, I climbed (or tried to climb) the highest mountain in the Northeast and twice I was beaten back by weather that made 50 below feel like spring.  Through these winter ascents on a mountain with the highest recorded wind on earth, I’ve learned how to dress for long days in tree stands when the mercury plunges.

Layers

            Layering is an art.  Piling on clothes until you look like the Michelin Man might keep you warm but it could also get you a role in the “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” commercial.  Whether climbing or hunting, three layers of clothing is the optimum combination for warmth, comfort and flexibility as long as the layers are the right material and the right fit.

            Many years ago my young son asked me a question that showed the science behind layering.  He came out of my bedroom holding a wool sweater and a cotton shirt and he asked why people say wool is warmer when they both feel the same.  The answer is that wool is not warmer than cotton.  In fact, no material is warmer than any other material.  Wrap thermometers inside your thickest down jacket and your thinnest cotton T-shirt and a half hour later they’ll both show room temperature.

            The science behind that youthful question is that certain materials keep you warmer than others by slowing the loss of the 98 degree heat your body produces.  Proper layering maximizes heat retention by utilizing different materials in each layer to trap heat and by limiting your body’s ability to sweat it away.

Base Layer

            The base layer is the layer against your skin and its primary role is to keep your skin dry to slow the loss of heat.  The purpose of sweating is to cool us off because sweat pulls heat from our skin faster than air does so to stay warm it’s important to stay dry by “wicking” sweat away as quickly as possible.

            First, forget the waffle pattern cotton longjohns your grandfather swore by.  Mountain climbers call cotton the death cloth because it absorbs sweat and actually increases heat loss by keeping water against your skin.  Seven years ago a new guy I took up Mount Washington wore his cotton briefs under his high tech underwear and mid way up the final headwall a sensitive part of his body chilled so much that the first thing he did when we got down was throw the briefs away.

            A good base layer should be a synthetic material such as polypropylene, thermax or comfortrel that fits snuggly against your skin.  These fabrics draw (wick) sweat from your skin to the far side of the fabric where it can evaporate without robbing your skin of heat.

            Although any polyester fabric can wick perspiration, the best synthetics are woven from hollow core fibers to help trap your body’s heat.  Like the hollow insulation in your sleeping bag, the hollow threads in base layers slow the transfer of your body heat by forcing it to travel through a layer of dead air.

            To understand how this works, picture a storm window with two layers of glass separated by an inch of air.  The heat from your home escapes quickly through the first solid pane of glass but the dead air is a poor conductor of heat and it slows the transfer to the outer pane.  To really appreciate how poorly air transfers heat, ask yourself how long you could hold your hand in boiling water, which is about 220 degrees.  The answer of course, is not at all.  Now consider how long you can reach into a 350 degree oven.  The answer is quite a while as long as you don’t touch anything solid.  That’s because it takes time for the dead air in the oven to transfer the much higher heat to your hand and it’s why eggs cook faster in boiling water than they would in a hotter oven.  Hollow fibers keep you warm on the same principle.

Middle Layer

            The second layer is your heat layer.  High tech long underwear slows heat loss by wicking sweat but the thick middle layer has to trap enough heat to keep you warm while letting you swing a rifle or hold a bow.

            While climbing, my middle layer is always a good polyester fleece.  Fleece cannot absorb water and a high quality fleece is lighter than any other material I’ve tried but will still retain more heat than heavier materials such as wool.  Less weight means more mobility and comfort. 

When hunting I’ll switch between fleece pullovers, insulated shirts and wool sweaters depending on how cold the morning is and how much I plan to move around.  One shortcoming I’ve found with fleece is that it’s never wind proof so if there’s a chance you’ll remove your outer layer on a windy day, you’re better off with another fabric.  I especially like insulated shirts because opening the buttons allows a lot of options to cool off as the temperature rises.  Wool shirts work the same way, I just don’t find them as comfortable.

Outer Layer

            Your outer layer is your defense against Mother Nature.  Like your base and mid-layers your outer layer helps trap your body’s heat, but it also has to stop the elements that can attack from outside.  Your outer coat has to withstand the harshest winds while repelling whatever the sky throws at you and still hold your body heat.  That’s the definition of fabrics like Goretex but many other fabrics, including tightly woven wool, offer protection from wind and rain.

            In the beginning I always wore a Goretex coat when climbing but in the past few seasons I switched to a heavy nylon jacket because it was more comfortable.  It works just as well at holding my heat in and the wind out but it’s too noisy for hunting.  My brother and I still argue about what’s the best fabric to climb in but even he has to admit that today there are many fabrics that are windproof, waterproof and warm.  If it’s quiet, too, it will be a good outer layer on stand.

Styling

            Choosing the proper materials for your base, mid and outer layer is not the end of the process.  To maximize heat retention you need to size the layers to optimize air’s insulating qualities.  The tighter your clothes fit the faster heat will transfer from one material to the next and the faster you will cool down, which is why thermal windows don’t touch and why down that lofts the highest keeps you warmest.  If your mid layer fits loosely over your base layer and your outer layer fits loosely over your mid layer, you’ve created two additional pockets of air that heat will have to pass through to get away.

            A few years ago I found this extra space was especially valuable in boots when I was forced to wear a pair a half size too large.  Since that day I’ve only bought hunting boots a half size larger than my dress shoes and my feet have stayed drier and warmer with a thermax liner and a wool sock inside an insulated boot, especially while walking.

            The style of your layers can also help regulate your body’s temperature.  A fleece top with at least a mid-length zipper allows you to vent excess heat while walking to a stand or if the temperature rises with the sun, which minimizes sweating, which also causes heat loss.  Today even base layers have buttons and zippers that let you regulate heat retention and wicking.

            Finally, through climbing and hunting I’ve learned that the reverse of my mother’s favorite winter lecture is true.  She always said to wear a hat because half of your body’s heat escapes through your head.  I have no idea if that figure is accurate, but I have found that removing my hat cools me off quickly.  Because I’m required to wear a blaze hat while walking to my stand I always have a thin baseball one in my pack to trade with the insulated one I wear on stand.  By switching back and forth, I stay legal and comfortable.

            A well planned three layer system keeps you warm and lets you cool off.  Just remember that all of your body feels cold so you may need glove liners to layer under heavy gloves or a balaclava to slip under a thick hat that might fit under a loose hood.  By opening, closing or removing layers you can stay comfortable to hunt harder and stay drier to spread less scent.

15 votes, average: 3.00 out of 515 votes, average: 3.00 out of 515 votes, average: 3.00 out of 515 votes, average: 3.00 out of 515 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5 (15 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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Published by DuckBuckGoose on 07 May 2008

Hunting The Moonphase – Does it Really Make a Difference?

Some guys I know swear by hunting moon phase patterns. Others think it is an “old wives tale”.  Honestly I’m not sure where I stand on this argument yet, but after studying the theories around this a little more, there is some research to show that the various phases of the moon can have an effect on not only deer activity, but on deer mating behavior as well.  Perhaps for these reasons, or their own personal experience, I hear more and more hunters are talking about moon phase deer hunting and using it as another tool in their arsenal as they try to take that big buck.

Moonphase Calendar

If you’re not yet familiar with moon phase hunting, one of the most popular theories suggests that the female deer’s reproductive cycle is influenced by the different phases of the moon. This theory also says that a doe’s reproductive cycle peaks in the three or four days surrounding the second full moon after the autumnal equinox (which is either September 22nd or 23rd, depending on the year). Due to their instinctual drive to breed, bucks are also most active around this time, and will be more easily seen during daylight hours, as they are moving about looking for hot does. If you would like to check out what the moonphase will be when planning your dates for “deer camp” or days off this fall,  here are a couple of web sites that I found that you might find helpful:

http://stardate.org/nightsky/moon/

http://www.moon-phases.net

I can’t promise you that hunting the moon phase will help you harvest a trophy buck this year.  But when it comes to hunting, it never hurts to try new things and keep learning.  And, if you look at the November 2008 calendar in the picture, it just might give you a good excuse to take off work on a Thursday in mid November.  Don’t try calling me that day, I’ll be in a treestand!

DuckBuckGoose – Cincinnati, Ohio – 5/7/08

1 vote, average: 3.00 out of 51 vote, average: 3.00 out of 51 vote, average: 3.00 out of 51 vote, average: 3.00 out of 51 vote, average: 3.00 out of 5 (1 votes, average: 3.00 out of 5)
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Published by cmherrmann on 06 May 2008

Keeping Your Computer Safe on the Internet

First I want to start with some simple thing to keep your computer safe and sound while browsing the web and then I will suggest some things to keep all of you data safe.   Most of this information pertains to Windows XP since I believe that is what most people are using.

Windows has a built-in firewall, but I wouldn’t rely on it. It hides you on the Internet. That means you’re protected from incoming transmissions. But if you get malware on your machine, the Windows firewall won’t help you. It doesn’t block outgoing transmissions. The ones listed below are free and do a good job of blocking unwanted traffic in both directions.

Comondo Firewall Pro http://www.personalfirewall.comodo.com/download_firewall.html

ZoneAlarm http://www.zonealarm.com/store/content/company/products/znalm/freeDownload.jsp

Ashampoo http://www.download.com/Ashampoo-FireWall/3000-10435_4-10575187.html

Antivirus software is essential. Although a firewall is the first line of defense, a few bad eggs inevitably make it through. That’s when a good antivirus program saves the day.

Antivirus programs need frequent updates to be able to identify the latest threats. Most programs require paid subscriptions for these updates. But you can still find some that offer free updates.

AVG Anti-Virus http://free.grisoft.com/doc/downloads-products/us/frt/0?prd=aff

Avast Anti-Virus http://www.download.com/Avast-Home-Edition/3000-2239_4-10019223.html?part=dl-AvastHome&subj=dl&tag=button&cdlpid=10019223

Avira http://www.download.com/Avira-AntiVir-PersonalEdition-Classic/3000-2239_4-10322935.html?part=dl-10322935&subj=dl&tag=button

Along with firewall and antivirus programs, anti-spyware is a security must-have. Spyware is a particularly unpredictable type of threat. It can trigger pop-ups or cause your computer to slow to a crawl.

Even worse, spyware can work in the background without noticeable symptoms. You should use a few anti-spyware programs to ensure that each possible threat is detected.

Spybot Search & Destroy http://www.download.com/Spybot-Search-Destroy/3000-8022_4-10122137.html?tag=lst-1

AVG Anti-Spyware http://free.grisoft.com/doc/5390/us/frt/0?prd=asf

SpywareBlaster http://www.javacoolsoftware.com/spywareblaster.html

SpywareBlaster is an effective anti-spyware tool. Unlike most anti-spyware programs, it does not scan the hard drive for spyware. Its strategy instead is to prevent modifications of your files and settings. For example, it can block browser toolbars from installing themselves.

SpywareBlaster can be used to prevent changes to Windows’ HOSTS file. It also has a System Snapshot feature similar to Windows’ System Restore. SpywareBlaster will report any changes to your system since the last snapshot.

Now that we have the basics covered lets go a step further.  There are a lot of things that need to be updated on a PC besides the normal things like your Anti-Virus, Anti-Spyware, and Windows itself.   Many other programs need to be updated because of Security Problems.

Windows  Update http://update.microsoft.com/microsoftupdate/v6/default.aspx?ln=en-us  (You will need to use IE)

Microsoft Office Update http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/downloads/maincatalog.aspx   (You will need to use IE)

Next is a great program Secunia that will check for a lot of other programs that need to be updated like RealPlayer, iTunes, Flash Player, Java and many more.    Just click on the Start Now Button.         http://secunia.com/software_inspector/

Any old versions of Java found can be removed in the Add Remove Program section of Control Pane.
If you use a combination of all of these Programs your PC will be fairly safe but nothing is 100%.   That is why I suggest that everyone who has any data on their PC that they would hate to loose, and that is all of us, do the following.    Go out and buy an External USB 2.0 Hard Drive with a capacity of somewhere between 120 and 500 gig.   Also buy a copy of a program called Norton Ghost, any version from 9 on up will work with Windows XP.  Norton Ghost will make an exact duplicate of your Hard Drive.   If your Hard Drive dies (all of them will sooner or later) or you get a virus, spyware, or delete an important document by mistake you can simply boot from the Ghost CD and restore your PC exactly as it was when you did the backup.   No reinstalling Windows, all of your programs and having all of your data gone forever.

Now it is important to do regular backups, I suggest weekly since it will only take about 30 minutes and most of it takes place with no user input, so you can start it and walk away.  This has saved my butt more than once!

If you follow these tip you will be relatively safe but as I said before nothing is 100% so make sure and do those backups to protect your data!

6 votes, average: 4.00 out of 56 votes, average: 4.00 out of 56 votes, average: 4.00 out of 56 votes, average: 4.00 out of 56 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5 (6 votes, average: 4.00 out of 5)
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Published by RightWing on 06 May 2008

Hunter’s Tips for Body Odor Control………..

                         

   While sweat is often blamed for spooking game, it is really an oversight. Sweat is an odorless, colorless, natural secretion from our bodies. Perspiration is in fact not the cause of body odor. There are several kinds of bacteria that live on the skin’s surface, some of these bacteria feed on our perspiration. The byproduct from this bacterial feeding action is what we and other animals smell and indentify as body odor.

  To combat this phenomenon, one must destroy or reduce the culprit bacteria. Masking the odor is not a viable solution, it has been proven that whitetail deer can smell multiple odors at once and distinguish each of them individually. The process of applying so called “Cover scent” will do little, if any, good to fool a whitetail’s nose.

  Then the question still remains, how do I fight “Game Spooking” body odor? Luckily there are some practical, inexpensive and effective methods. Most of these products can be bought at any drug store or even a supermarket.  Here are five (5) methods that I will explain in detail; you will find them to be extremely effective with zero gimmicks.

*         Cleanse – Your body……..

*         Neutralize – Odor causing Bacteria…….

*         Maintain – Clean clothing/footwear…….

*         Mask – We’ll talk about this one…… 🙂

*         Play the wind – Enough said………

 

Cleanse- Wash often, showers are good, but soaking bathes are better. Several excellent unscented soaps are available to the general consumer (that’s right, not just for hunters) most of these are marked as “Hypo allergenic” and contain no fragrances. My personal favorite is “Dove” unscented bar soap, because it works well for the hunter, it’s inexpensive and is available almost everywhere.  You can usually find four bar packages of it for under $5.00

 

Neutralize- As I mentioned earlier in the article, bacteria feeding on our perspiration is the culprit in causing body odor. The best ways to reduce the amount of body odor lies in our ability to reduce or temporarily destroy the bacteria. Baking soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) applied during your shower/bath will change the PH on the skin’s surface creating a hostile living environment for the bacteria. Scrubbing down with a good antiseptic is even better. Beta-dine is my personal favorite because almost all hospital and doctor’s offices use it a surgical scrub and surgeons shower with it before an operation. If you are not familiar with Betadine, it is the reddish-orange liquid the doctors and nurses swab onto your arm before sticking you with a needle (bringing back memories now, Huh?). It does have and odor but will dissipate with rinse water and the smell will disappear real quickly (most water supplies contain Iodine anyway), so this is not a problem at all. Just follow the directions on the back of the bottle when using. I pour about a tablespoon full of the antiseptic on a washcloth then lather up real good. I then use another teaspoon in my hair as a shampoo. Rinse well with water afterward, to remove the Betadine and the residual dead bacteria, yeasts, molds and germs from your skin’s surface.

 This treatment will leave you bacteria free for about 6-8 hours. You can buy this antiseptic at most drug stores for around $10.00 a bottle and it will last you the entire season. Another possible brand to use is Hibbi-cleanse but it tends to cost more for a lesser quantity. You will find that having either of these two items beneficial for home first-aid duty as well.  While at the drug store check out alfalfa pills, they contain chlorophyll from plant leaves and will help to fight bad breath. Doctors also recommend them to diabetic patients to remove odor from urine. Personally, I usually just chew the leaves of one of several species of the wild mint family (wild spearmint, horsemint, wild peppermint etc) they are usually blooming during the early bow season and resemble nothing else in the woods, but to be safe before trying, research books of edible wild plants from your library and learn to recognize them. They are natural and leave your mouth with a minty mouthwash taste, plus the chlorophyll from the leaves will help to reduce mouth odor as well. I finish up this regimen with an application of unscented underarm deodorant. I like Arid unscented in either the solid or roll-on you can pick this up for around $1.00.

 

 Maintain- I keep a couple plastic totes with latches around to store my camo and layering clothes in. In this container clothing will stay dry and scent free, but there is a routine that I go though before any of my hunting clothes are ready for the plastic tote. I first run several empty loads of water through the washing machine to remove residual fragrances from standard detergents the family uses for general washing. When the washer is properly prepared I wash my camo in cold water (it keeps the colors from running and is great for washing camo in because it is usually not all that dirty anyway). I again use unscented products that are available at supermarket, just look for the brands marked hypo-allergenic (or unscented), my favorite brand is “ALL” unscented concentrated liquid, but there are many other adequate brands available. It works well in cold water cycles, has no odor, and it is fairly in-expensive too. I then, either hang them out to air dry (weather permitting) or place them in the dryer. My clothes dryer gets a similar treatment to that of the washer, I run a couple loads of wet, clean, and scent free, towels though to remove any odors that might be left behind from the general wash. Inside my plastic tote, I keep a small draw stringed cloth bag containing cedar chips; they give the clothes a natural scent and help to protect expensive wool camo from moths during long periods of storage.  In my hunting footwear I sprinkle a little bit of baking soda to help reduce bacterial growth. Before entering my treestand I apply a clothing neutralizer like the scent-a-way products as a final step.

 

Mask- I already mentioned earlier that I am not a big fan of food-type masking scents like acorn, sweet corn and grape. I also feel earth scents and fox urines are of little use for really helping to fool a deer’s nose. I have however found one masking scent that I believe is the “real deal” and has really surprised me over the years, it will provide you with some room for error while stand hunting. Skunk scent seems to overload the deer’s sense of smell. I have also discovered that they are not afraid of it; on contrary they are very curious of the skunk smell. Whitetail will often, for unknown reasons, seek out and investigate the source.  I place the skunk scent on cotton balls in three places around my stand. This method seems to triangulate the smell and makes it harder for deer to wind you regardless of the wind direction. Just place it at the base of three trees and let the morning and evening thermals do the rest. There are still a few sources of skunk scent available, but the best I have tried is the Bob Kirschner Deer lure company. Bob’s “Skunk Essence” it is harvested in Pennsylvania and has no equal for a masking scent. Bob’s skunk scent is so powerful that he will only package it in amber glass bottles then he seals it with wax. One bottle of this stuff will last you an entire season, though I personally buy enough for two seasons. I have used it for many years, while hunting whitetail both East and West of the Mississippi River. Trust me this is a cover scent that works.

 

Playing the wind- Being vigilant of predominate wind directions when picking a stand is a major “feather in the bowhunter’s cap”. I try to avoid areas where the terrain might cause the air to swirl. Research and try to gain a good understanding of thermals, this information is invaluable. As a rule of thumb try to hunt from higher locations in the morning when the heating air expands and rises, the opposite holds true for evening hunts, always try on hunt on lower ground in the afternoon as the air cools and settles back to the ground. Thermals are present even on calm days and can carry a hunter’s scent for great distances.

 

   All these things will help you this fall when trying to fool those wise old whitetails. Just remember me and this article while you are enjoying those fresh backstraps with friends and family members.

   Stay scent free and shoot straight………..

 

Written By Jason Wilborn     Monroe Tennessee

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Published by RightWing on 06 May 2008

Unlocking the Secrets of Secondary Food Sources…..

 

                        

   During the early years of cutting my teeth on the riser of a hunting bow, I tasted success. Closure came in the form of a Tennessee spike-horn buck. He was taken down in all his glory one particularly beautiful autumn afternoon. The deer was oblivious to my presence while he busily munched honeysuckle. This previously overlooked food source laid close to the thicket he and other small bucks used as bedding cover.

  Later, as the gun season grew ever closer, a fat Kentucky doe fell to the romantic “Twang” of the bowstring. She had been meandering along the brushy property line of an old homestead I had gained permission to hunt. That day her appetite had lead her to, of all things, “Poke berries”.  This was not what most hunters considered typical deer forage.

  The short bow season that followed the ending of the rifle portion also provided numerous chances to refresh the family venison supply, and thus pad the freezer. The most notable of which, was a most appreciated young six point buck. I had watched this deer for the better part of the chilly, late season afternoon. The buck nibbled on lichens from wind fallen logs that littered the otherwise open forest floor.  A silent arrow quickly dispatched the buck and ended the productive evening hunt.

  You are probably wondering at this point, of what importance are these three separate and seemingly unrelated hunts? The fact that all three happened during a year that most considered to be a poor year for deer hunting. An unusually dry summer had caused an almost complete failure to cultivated crops; as a result, most farmers harvested the small remaining portions much earlier than in prior years. To compound an already less than desirable situation, the mast of the white oak was almost non-existent. 

   While most veterans of the deer woods elected to concentrate on watering holes and to enjoy the cooler air associated with moving water, I decided to go a different route. I felt the other end of the spectrum needed exploring. Thus, while others practiced with their bows and worked on shrinking those arrow groupings, I spent my available time in the local library. Numerous books on the subjects of woodland plants, wild flowers and tree identification soon made their way into my research regimen. I yearned for every morsel of literature pertaining to the subject of deer browse that I could find. The lessons learned about whitetail behavior in previous years coupled with the new knowledge gained, no doubt, tipped the scales in this bowhunter’s favor that fall. A good working knowledge of secondary food sources is most valuable to even the most casual bowhunter.

   So, you might ask, how can I apply this newly found food source knowledge to real world hunting scenarios?  The answer is simple and as old as mankind itself. Granted, the generations of hunters before us had to acquire woodsmanship skills becoming woods-wise, meanwhile developing their own personal “mental database” of deer-lore to be successful. Every encounter with our quarry can become a learning experience if one remains vigilant to the details of the encounter.

  Many volumes could be written on the subject of whitetail food sources, and we would probably still leave out pertinent facts on the matter. Due to regional flora diversity and a mind-boggling number of known browse/forage plants, I can only summarize. The following is just a few ways to utilize this food source  information in your quest to unlocking the secrets of your own whitetail diet database.

    First off, deer have a very wide ranging list of possible botanical delicacies. White Oak acorns are of course among the very top of this list, and if you chose to hunt solely over a ‘Hot’ stand of white oaks; you can almost be guaranteed some bow hunting action.  However, years like the one mentioned at the beginning of this article, occasionally come around. 2007 being one example, due to the occurrence of a late spring hard freeze, the white oak mast crop was all but wiped out in much of the Southeastern and Midwestern states. Red Oaks which acorns were almost unaffected were quickly consumed by deer and other competing wildlife. Here again, a personal knowledge of secondary food source plants became invaluable.  Woody browse and the remaining soft mast became the prime feed for whitetails.

  Often times a savvy hunter can just broadcast commercial plant food on existing food sources to create an instant hot zone. Fertilizer like a 10-10-10 mix hand tossed on stands of honeysuckle, multi-flora roses and blackberry brambles can lead to mid and late winter success. The same principles can be utilized with native soft vegetation like sweet clovers, vetches, kudzu and trefoils, as well as numerous legume and non-legume species.  Recently logged over tracts (even though aesthetically undesirable) can become deer magnets if garden lime is used to make the soil less acid so native plants get a chance to grab a foothold. This combined with the additional sunlight available from a treeless skyline allow these important plants to flourish. Even saplings with nutritious buds and twigs will benefit from such a treatment.  

  I encourage you to do your homework discovering and unlocking the secrets to secondary food sources.  All these ideas will help you harvest more game, however you might take caution before playing the stock market this fall, and I certainly wouldn’t buy shares in the “Freezer Wrap” industry; because you might find yourself getting in trouble for “Insider Trading”.

 

 

Written by Jason Wilborn       Monroe Tennessee

 

 

 

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Published by Shaman on 05 May 2008

Poor Mans Turkey Target

As a person on a budget, I am always looking for ways to scrimp and save. A couple of years ago, I got into bowhunting for turkeys. Unfortunately, there was little in the way for turkey targets for bow hunters. I had bought a paper photorealistic target and tacked it to the Morrell Fieldpoint bag. It did not last long. I then took another paper target and glued it to cardboard. It lasted a little longer, but not much.

Then, I hit on the proper combination.

Ingredients:

  • Fieldpoint Bag
  • Children’s Puzzlemat
  • Photorealitstic Turkey Target
  • Glue

Glue your photorealistic target
http://www.turkeyhuntingsecrets.com/store/images/deltabkturkeytarget.jpg

To the PuzzleMat
http://karateinsider.com/images/heavy_bags/puzzle_mats.jpg

Drop your FP bag to the ground and place the puzzlemat with picture in front of your FP bag.
Since the paper is glued to the mat, the paper does not tear on arrow removal.
Shoot it like crazy! The mat and target will last hundreds of arrows worth of shots.

I’ve attached a video of how it works. Sorry the sound is a little muffled, it was windy that day.

Video of Turkey Target

3 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 53 votes, average: 3.33 out of 5 (3 votes, average: 3.33 out of 5)
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Published by DuckBuckGoose on 04 May 2008

Tips for Securing Trophy Buck Hunting Land

Private Property Sign

These days, finding property to hunt that has a high potential to hold a trophy whitetail deer can be a significant challenge. While public land offers convenience and is open to all, it can get significant hunting pressure – which usually means that it is less likely to have bucks live to maturity. So…the best options for finding trophy hunting land tend to be; 1) Getting EXCLUSIVE permission to hunt private and rural land, 2) Leasing private hunting land or using an outfitter, or 3) Getting permission to hunt land that other hunters overlook (which may or may not be rural). In this post, I’ll dig into each of these options a little bit, and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Three Key Elements: Food, Water & Cover

First, let’s focus on what deer seek out in the land they inhabit, so we can better define what we are looking for in hunting land. For deer to survive throughout the year they need three essential elements; food, water and adequate cover. If at some point they are lacking any one of these elements they will move to a new location until they have access again to all three. Beyond these three elements, for a deer to grow into a true “trophy animal” they simply need the time to grow to a mature age without being hunted and harvested or pressured out of an area. Again, that’s where the three land options that follow should be focused on if you want to increase your odd of harvesting a trophy animal.

 

Option 1: Getting EXCLUSIVE permission to hunt private, rural land

For most hunters, this is the ideal scenario because large tracts of rural, private land that don’t have a lot of pressure can be havens for trophy bucks. But, these areas can be hard to find if you are starting from square one. To help you narrow your search there are a number of tools you can use that many hunters don’t know about, or don’t think to use. Among those are:

Tool #1: Google Maps / Google Earth.  This is an unbelievable resource that hunters of the past did not have. This tool uses the latest satellite photography to let you view your hunting area, or possible new hunting areas from a birds eye view. It will help you identify terrain features, pinch points, streams, relative distances, and will even provide you with specific GPS coordinates. Beyond that, you can draw on the digital maps and photos with the computer, save notes by location, and print them to take along on your next hunt. I would highly recommend you learn to use these tools (don’t worry, its easy) and use them often. The more you scout and the better records you keep, the more successful you will be in the field this year, and in the years to come.

Tool #2: The DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer for your state.  This tool is derived from aerial maps and has a great level of detail. It will help you identify general topography, streams, roads, and high potential deer habitat and is a great resource to keep in your truck for anytime scouting.

Tool #3: Plat Books can be very helpful, once you choose the county or counties in which you think you may want to hunt. Plat books will show you who owns the various parcels of land (usually just those over 5 acres) in a particular county. Platbooks can be purchased through several sources including; the Farm Bureau, County Treasury Office, The County Soil & Water Conservation Office and other places. One convenient Plat book publisher/seller is Rockford Map Publishers (http://www.rockfordmap.com). They publish good quality Platbooks for about 20 states.

Tool #4: County Auditor Websites – As more and more public information goes online, many of the County Auditor offices are putting the key information you are looking for on the web, and all in one place. If your target county does this, consider yourself blessed, because it can be a treasure trove of the most up-to-date information, including; land owner’s names, property lines, addresses of the property and the address of where the owner lives (if different).

Tool #5: The Phone Book – Once you find the land and the landowner’s name using the plat books or county auditor’s site, the phone book can be the next tool in your arsenal to help you get permission. County phone books can be used to look up the names you find in your search. If the names can’t be found in local phone books don’t give up hope. You can still find them by visiting the County Treasury Office, and asking the good people there where the property taxes are being sent for your target parcel of land. This information is part of public record.

Tool # 6: Topographic Maps – Some hunters find these really helpful. Others don’t feel they’re necessary since many of the tools mentioned above give you a good sense for topography. However, if you are scouting large tracts of land where knowing the topography will be a key element to a successful hunt, then getting a topographic map could be a good option.

There are several places to get topographic maps, including some sporting goods stores or government offices. However, two of the most convenient places I’ve found to buy them are http://www.usgs.gov and http://www.mytopo.com. Both of these web sites allow you to buy printed maps or have custom printed maps sent to you. Both sites also have free or paid products to choose from. Here’s a tip…If you’re going to deer camp with several other hunters, that might be a good time to have a custom printed map made. That way you can use for planning your daily hunts, to detail where each of you will be hunting, and to help you determine higher potential deer travel routes. Plus, if you’re going with a group you can split the cost of the map.

 

Option 2: Leasing private hunting land or using an outfitter

Finding free land to hunt is obviously the best option, but for some people who have the financial means and limited time for scouting, finding a hunting lease or booking guided or semi-guided hunts with an outfitter can be a good solution. If looking for a lease here are a few things you’ll want to consider:

Make sure the lease you get gives you exclusive rights to hunt the land. Or, at least make sure you know and trust the other hunters who will be using the lease. There’s nothing worse then paying a lot of money for a lease and then having some “yahoos” ruin your hunting opportunities by doing something stupid.

Ask the landowner or leasing agent if you can scout the property before putting any money down on the lease. When you scout the property look for deer sign, but also make sure it has plenty of the three elements mentioned earlier; food, water and adequate cover. Also, ask if the landowner has any pictures of deer roaming or harvested on the property. Introducing yourself to neighbors and asking them about the local deer herd can be another good way to gauge a lease’s potential.

Before searching for a lease, make sure you can’t get permission to hunt the land for free. Find the properties you want to hunt, then do your homework, knock on doors and ask permission. If you get turned down, offering to lease the land can be a good fallback position.

A hunting lease is a legally binding contract that gives exclusive rights to hunt land, in exchange for a fee. If you’re not working through a broker who provides a good lease contract, make sure you get one and get it signed. Also, make sure the lease is very clear about specifics like;

• Who the landowner is

• Who has permission to hunt and scout the land (make sure you have exclusivity),

• What animals are allowed to be hunted and how (is gun hunting allowed, or is it archery only?),

• The effective dates of the lease

• If camping/fires are allowed on the land, if that is something you may want to do

• Where vehicles are, or are not allowed on the land

• What rights you have to modify the land (can you put in food plots, cut trees, etc?)

• What the price and term of the lease is

• Any other intentions you have and want to clarify in the lease

If a landowner won’t grant you exclusive permission for free, there’s nothing stopping you from asking them if you can lease their land for hunting, But if you want to greatly expand your search, there are several hunting lease brokers that you can use to find and lease land. Many of them are online and let you search properties through their online databases. Doing a simple Google search for “Hunting Lease” or “Hunting lease brokers” will help you find several options like: Basecampleasing.com, Nationalhuntingleases.com, Leasehunting.com, Findahuntinglease.com, hightechredneck.com and more.

 

Option 3: Getting permission to hunt land that other hunters overlook. 

This article is about increasing your odds of harvesting a mature trophy buck. You may think that your county or state doesn’t have any trophy bucks in it. In most cases that is not true. If you look in your state record buck you’d probably find that just about every county in your state has trophy animals on record. The key to hunting trophy bucks then isn’t necessarily finding some remote new places to hunt, but finding the right places to hunt – some of which might be much closer than you think.

Consider this…as the population of people in the nation continues to grow, many more people are choosing to move out of the congestion of cities and into the country. Often times they will buy five to ten acre lots because they enjoy being surrounded by nature. You will probably find that the majority of these landowners will not allow hunting on their properties – providing the deer population a “safe zone” to grow old in. However, these areas are worth investigating and seeking permission in. If you can get access, this can be some of the best trophy buck land around.

Finding The Edges Will Give You an Edge:

Deer are “edge animals”, and looking for different types of edges is a great strategy for finding them. For deer hunting, I’ve found that “edge” can be defined a few different ways. A “Cover Edge” is the where two types of cover meet – like where the woods and a field meet, or where a thick bedding area joins more open timber. This is often a great type of edge for setting your stand and finding travel routes. Another type of edge is what I call the “Pressure Edge”. The Pressure Edge is where a deer safe zone property borders one that you can hunt. If you’re hunting in a highly pressured region the best place to find a trophy buck is to gain permission to hunt in their safe zone. The next best place to hunt them is on the Pressure Edge, right next to a known safe zone. Gain permission in either of them and your odds of seeing trophy animals increases dramatically.

Look for safe zones and pressure edges on the urban borders and city limits, or within one of the many townships that contain good cover. Many of these areas will allow archery hunting. Sometimes a special permit is required in the more urban areas. (Make sure you check your state and local regulations and stick to the letter of the law. Nothing will tighten hunting restrictions for everyone faster than hunters who break the rules.)

A good strategy is to look at a map of your area and look for the possible safe zones and pressure edges. Places to key in on include city or county parks, scouting and church camps, airports, mining operations and gravel pits, federal wildlife areas, airports, golf courses, shooting clubs and more. One you start looking the map you will be surprised at how many pressure edges you’ll be able to find. Once you find these areas, make a list of the ones you’d like to investigate further. Then use the tools and tactics mentioned earlier in Option 1 to systematically pursue gaining permission to hunt them.

At the end of the day it is all about playing the odds. The more landowners you approach about getting permission, the more likely you are to get a place to hunt. And the less pressured the land you find, the more likely it is to hold mature, trophy bucks. Use this logic starting now, and you are sure to increase your odds of hanging a trophy animal on your wall in the seasons to come.

DuckBuckGoose – Cincinnati, OH

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Published by DuckBuckGoose on 04 May 2008

Strategic Treestand Placement – How to Find the Perfect Ambush Location

Everyone knows that hunting from a treestand can increase your odds of harvesting a deer. But if you want to set yourself up to take a mature buck, there’s much more to it that finding a straight, sturdy tree. Here are some strategies, tips and considerations to help you improve your odds of success.buck in trees

Deer Trails & Travel Corridors:
Just because you can easily see a deer trail, doesn’t mean it is a good spot to hunt. In fact, most mature bucks avoid the “super-highway”, primary deer trails, and prefer the paths less traveled. (If they didn’t, they’d probably never have become mature bucks.) Many hunters on the other hand hunt the most obvious trails. Let them have those spots. Their loss will be your gain.

When you find secondary trails, scout them to see if they have any fresh scrapes or rubs, and dense cover nearby. If they do, they’re probably a good place to start your stand location search. Next, try to find “pinch-points” or bottlenecks somewhere along that trail. Pinch points areas that tend to funnel deer into a more defined and predictable area, and can be created by both natural and man-made structure. For example, wooded fence lines can create pinch points. Thin strips of cover that connect two larger areas of cover can create good pinch points. Natural barriers like ponds and steep ravines can create pinch points. Look for all of the above and more along secondary deer trails and you’re well on your way to finding a good spot to hang a stand.

Food Sources:
Fields filled with a food source like corn, alfalfa, turnips, clover or today’s fancy food plot mixtures can be highly effective at attracting whitetails. When hunting food source fields look for the quietest, most distant corner and set up just inside the woods near that corner. Since the biggest bucks often wait until dark to enter a field, you can sometimes ambush them before dark in their staging areas inside the wood line on a field’s perimeter.

Water Sources:
Small ponds, water holes and woodland streams can be good places to ambush deer at mid-day. If you’re hunting over water sources, check the edges for tracks in the soft earth. Doing so can help you hone in on the most used sections, and will help you pick the best tree in which to set your stand.

Prevailing Winds:
No matter your thoughts about scent blocking clothing, cover scents, special breath control chewing gums, or any of the other products available to aid with scent control, do not think you can forget about wind direction. You can’t. A mature bucks nose will beat you almost every time. That said, when choosing your stand locations, make sure you know the direction of the prevailing winds in that area and choose your tree accordingly. Always place your stand on the downwind side of the expected travel path of the deer.

When hunting mountains or hill country, you also need to keep thermal winds in mind. Thermal winds change throughout the day as the air heats and cools – typically moving air uphill in the morning as the temperatures rise and back downhill in the evening as it cools.

Stand height:
Hunters have differing opinions about this, but some basic rules of thumb are; try to get to a height where you have tree limbs, leaves or other cover behind you to break up your outline. Also, the higher the amount of hunting pressure, the higher you should set your stand. A fairly standard height for stands is 15 feet at the footrest. Personally I like to be a good 20 feet in the tree where I hunt, but the conditions in your area might be different and require less or more height. Keep your weapon and expected shot range in mind also. You don’t want to put yourself so high that your expected shot with a bow is at too steep an angle and limits your ability to get a double lung or heart shot.

Give Yourself Options – Set Multiple Stands:
Even your favorite “honey hole” isn’t always going to be the best spot to hunt. Wind direction, foliage, food supply and breeding conditions are constantly changing throughout the deer season. That’s why the most successful hunters will set multiple stands and give themselves several places to hunt – so they can choose the best ambush location on any give day, based on the conditions they face.

Be Prepared To Be Mobile:
Last season I had what I thought was a great stand location set. As it turned out, it was a great stand for seeing traveling bucks – the only problem was the path they were traveling by that point in the season was 100 yards out of bow range. But there was good news…from where I was, I could tell that several bucks were following this same network of secondary paths that I hadn’t seen during my summer scouting trips. So, that following November morning I took my Summit Viper climbing stand into the woods well before daylight and set up where that network trails converged. It worked like a charm and I arrowed a nice buck at 25 yards –right where I expected him to be. The lesson here is be prepared to be flexible, and consider adding a climbing or quick setting mobile stand to your arsenal for just this type of occasion.

If you have other tips and ideas to share about treestand placement, please do so in the comments section below. Doing so helps us all get smarter and more strategic about how we hunt the whitetail woods.

DuckBuckGoose – May 3, 2008 – Cincinnati, OH

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Published by harleyrider on 30 Apr 2008

Treestand Fall Restraint Systems — Use & Tips

How to Arrive Back Home Alive

By Len Hinrichs

Evan was looking forward to this hunt like none he had ever before.  The rut was in high gear and he had an entire week of hard-earned vacation ahead of him to do nothing but bowhunt for a huge buck that he had been scouting since last year.  His close friend Jerry was due to join him the next day at their lease so that they could hunt the week together, but Evan thought he would get a head start by setting one last treestand in a hardwood funnel he just knew that big buck would be crossing sometime during the week’s hunt.  As the morning dew began to burn off, Evan began assembling several climbing sticks and fastening them to the trunk of a suitable oak; alternately climbing and fastening the sections until he arrived at 20 feet.  That completed, he climbed back down and retrieved a brand new loc-on stand purchased especially for this occasion.  After a brief rest, he muscled back up the tree with the stand in tow to set it in place.  After struggling with it’s positioning for several minutes, Evan finally managed to get the stand fastened to the trunk of the tree.  He stood on the top climbing stick rung for a few moments to survey the area from his vantage point.  It was a beautiful day and he could almost taste the backstraps as he stepped up onto the treestand’s platform.  That’s where things went very wrong……..

Jerry arrived at their hunting cabin the next morning and was curiously surprised that Evan wasn’t there.  Evan was always a reliable, punctual person so it wasn’t like him to not be where they had agreed to meet.  After stowing his gear, Jerry remembered that Evan might have gone out to place that funnel stand that they had discussed, so he set out in his car to give him a hand.  Knowing the general area where they wanted to place this stand, Jerry went there and was puzzled to find Evan’s truck but not his friend.  Sensing something was not quite right, Jerry began calling and walking a grid pattern through the funnel area until, late in the morning, he came upon the sight that will never leave his memory: the broken body of his friend and hunting partner, dead at the base of that oak.

Although the story just related and the characters described are fictitious, similar scenarios happen with startling regularity throughout hunting seasons across this country.

Background

Hunting from an elevated position, or treestand, can be a highly effective method for hunters pursuing wild game such as whitetail deer, bear, hogs, elk, turkeys, etc.  The increased elevation offers several advantages over a ground-based stand: 1) it provides a higher vantage point for improved game spotting; 2) it allows the hunter to remain hidden above the game’s normal line of sight; and 3) it provides a greater level of scent control by allowing the hunter’s odor to disperse a greater distance from their stand location.  All of these advantages make treestand hunting very popular, with millions of hunters taking to the trees each year.

However, this popularity has made treestand accidents one of the most prevalent causes of serious injuries or death suffered by hunters.  Statistics show that approximately 1 out of every 3 treestand hunters will suffer a significant fall in their lifetime.  Those aren’t good odds!

The disturbing news is that most serious treestand fall accidents are experienced by hunters who either:  don’t use any form of fall protection equipment at all; use uncertified or outdated fall protection equipment; or use or install their fall protection equipment improperly.  Typical reasons that hunters give for not using fall protection are that they find it “uncomfortable” or “inconvenient” or that it doesn’t fit in with the “macho” image of hunting.  Some contend that “I never needed one before, so I don’t need it now”.  Well, it’s pretty inconvenient to be paralyzed or dead (and none too macho)! 

The good news is that the vast majority of these injuries are preventable by using proper safety precautions and equipment while installing, ascending, descending, and hunting from elevated stands. The following general guidelines will assist you in making decisions that will make treestand hunting a lifelong, rewarding, and safe experience.

Fall Restraint Systems

Always wear a fall restraint system (a.k.a. fall arrest system or safety harness ) any time you are off the ground while hunting – it is your single most important piece of hunting equipment.  A fall restraint system is any device(s) that hunters use to attach themselves to a tree or elevated position to keep them from falling to the ground in an uncontrolled manner and subsequently allows them to safely descend to the ground after falling.  A fall restraint system should be worn at all times while off the ground rather than just at final elevation, since the majority of treestand falls occur while ascending or descending the tree, and stepping across or onto the treestand platform.  The bottom line is that a safety harness can only protect you from a fall if you are actually wearing it when you fall.

Full-body harnesses with straps that encircle the torso, legs, and shoulders allowing a fallen hunter to hang in an upright position are now the only type of fall restraint system recommended by the Treestand Manufacturer’s Association (TMA) as well as other leading hunter safety organizations.  The old-style belts or chest-type harnesses that were often used by hunters in the past are no longer recommended and should not be used.  Full-body harnesses come in several designs including the standard strap and buckle harness; vests with the harness incorporated into the shell; and hybrids that are somewhere in between. With the number of styles available, it should be relatively easy for almost any hunter to find a harness that is safe, comfortable, and easy for them to use. Interestingly enough, many if not all TMA-certified treestands now include a basic full-body harness at no extra charge.  Regardless of the type of full-body harness you choose, make sure that it is properly sized to fit you and that you are within the specified weight limits for that particular harness.  A properly fitted harness will comfortably allow enough adjustment to accommodate heavier clothing worn during cold weather.

Use the following Safety Guidelines from the TMA website to guide you in the proper use and maintenance of your harness.

TMA Treestand Safety Guidelines

  • ALWAYS wear a Fall-Arrest System (FAS)/Full Body Harness meeting TMA Standards even during ascent and descent.  Be aware that single strap belts and chest harnesses are no longer the preferred Fall-Arrest devices and should not be used.  Failure to use a FAS could result in serious injury or death.
  • ALWAYS read and understand the manufacturer’s WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS before using the treestand each season.  Practice with the treestand at ground level prior to using at elevated positions.  Maintain the WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS for later review as needed, for instructions on usage to anyone borrowing your stand, or to pass on when selling the treestand.  Use all safety devices provided with your treestand.  Never exceed the weight limit specified by the manufacturer.  If you have any questions after reviewing the WARNINGS & INSTRUCTIONS, please contact the manufacturer.
  • ALWAYS inspect the treestand and the Fall-Arrest System for signs of wear or damage before each use.  Contact the manufacturer for replacement parts.  Destroy all products that cannot be repaired by the manufacturer and/or exceed recommended expiration date, or if the manufacturer no longer exists.  The FAS should be discarded and replaced after a fall has occurred.
  • ALWAYS practice in your Full Body Harness in the presence of a responsible adult, learning what it feels like to hang suspended in it at ground level.
  • ALWAYS attach your Full Body Harness in the manner and method described by the manufacturer.  Failure to do so may result in suspension without the ability to recover into your treestand.  Be aware of the hazards associated with Full Body Harnesses and the fact that prolonged suspension in a harness may be fatal.  Have in place a plan for rescue, including the use of cell phones or signal devices that may be easily reached and used while suspended.  If rescue personnel cannot be notified, you must have a plan for recover/escape.  If you have to hang suspended for a period of time before help arrives, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion.  Failure to recover in a timely manner could result in serious injury or death.  If you do not have the ability to recover/escape, hunt from the ground.
  • ALWAYS hunt with a plan and if possible a buddy. Before you leave home, let others know your exact hunting location, when you plan to return and who is with you.
  • ALWAYS carry emergency signal devices such as a cell phone, walkie-talkie, whistle, signal flare, PLD (personal locator device) and flashlight on your person at all times and within reach even while you are suspended in your FAS.  Watch for changing weather conditions.  In the event of an accident, remain calm and seek help immediately.
  • ALWAYS select the proper tree for use with your treestand.  Select a live straight tree that fits within the size limits recommended in your treestand’s instructions.  Do not climb or place a treestand against a leaning tree.  Never leave a treestand installed for more than two weeks since damage could result from changing weather conditions and/or from other factors not obvious with a visual inspection.
  • ALWAYS use a haul line to pull up your gear and unloaded firearm or bow to your treestand once you have reached your desired hunting height.  Never climb with anything in your hands or on your back.  Prior to descending, lower your equipment on the opposite side of the tree.
  • ALWAYS know your physical limitations.  Don’t take chances.  If you start thinking about how high you are, don’t go any higher.
  • NEVER use homemade or permanently elevated stands or make modifications to a purchased treestand without the manufacturer’s written permission.  Only purchase and use treestands and Fall-Arrest Systems meeting or exceeding TMA standards.  For a detailed list of certified products, contact the TMA office or refer to the TMA web site at http://www.tmastands.com.
  • NEVER hurry!!  While climbing with a treestand, make slow, even movements of no more than ten to twelve inches at a time.  Make sure you have proper contact with the tree and/or treestand every time you move.  On ladder-type treestands, maintain three points of contact with each step.

In addition, you should keep your safety harness clean and dry and store it out of direct sunlight, away from chemicals and possible ozone sources.

Additional Tips for Use of a Fall Restraint System

There are several methods for safely attaching your fall restraint system while ascending and/or descending your selected tree.  Each has it’s specific uses depending on the task being performed.

  • Lineman style ropes which fasten around the tree and directly to D-loops on the harness belt are used to ascend and descend the tree while still allowing the climber to keep his/her hands free.  This is particularly useful for hanging loc-on stands, placing tree steps, or trimming branches.
  • Top-fastened tree ropes are attached to the tree at stand height and hang down to near ground level.  The safety harness tether is attached to the the tree rope via a small sling tied into a special Prussic knot.  The Prussic knot it designed to be slid up or down the tree rope with minimal effort, but locks to the tree rope in the event of a fall.  This setup is useful for ascending/descending ladder stands and loc-on stands that are semi-permanent or already in position.
  • Mechanical retractors are attached to the tree at stand height and consist of a mechanical reel-type retractor similar to an automatic seat belt retractor.  The safety harness tether is attached to the free end of retractor when standing on the ground and as the tree is climbed, the retractor automatically takes up the slack belt.  In the event of a fall, the retractor immediately and automatically locks thereby arresting the fall.
  • Standard tree straps and ropes are attached by looping them around the tree to be climbed then fastening them directly to the safety harness tether.  The tree strap/rope is pushed up/down the tree and snugged up with each step.  These are predominantly used while ascending trees using climbing style treestands.

No matter which type of safety harness attachment system is used, the safety tether should always be kept as short as possible and should be fastened above head height while standing in the treestand.  This will minimize the distance that you can drop if you you lose your balance and fall from the stand platform.  It will also allow a better opportunity for you to crawl back into your stand should you experience a fall.

Make sure when setting stands that you extend your tree steps or ladder system at least 3 feet above the platform level of the stand so that you can step down onto the platform when transitioning to the stand.  This makes it much easier to get into your stand in the dark or during inclement weather.

Always use a pull-up rope to hoist weapons or equipment into your stand.  Make sure all weapons are unloaded and securely fastened before hoisting.

If You Do Fall While Wearing a Fall Restraint System

If the worst happens and you do fall from your stand or while ascending/descending a tree while wearing an appropriate fall restraint system, what do you do next?  The first thing is DON’T PANIC!  Assuming you’re conscious and not seriously injured, you need to make an effort to get yourself either back onto your platform or to the ground as quickly as you safely can.  Even though your harness has kept you from falling to the ground, you may now be in danger of another serious condition called “suspension trauma”.  If you are allowed to hang from your harness for even a relatively short time (i.e., less than 15 minutes), blood will begin to  pool in your lower extremities, thereby starving your central core area and brain for needed oxygen, causing you to pass out and eventually die.  It is imperative that you quickly alleviate this situation in one of several ways. 

  • Crawl back onto your stand platform.  This is possible if you attached your safety tether high and short enough that your fall was minimal and you can easily reach the platform.
  • You may have to descend the tree.  To facilitate this it is recommended that you carry an extra screw-in tree step or a length of sturdy rope sufficient to go around the tree you’re climbing in an easily accessible pocket on your person.  In the event of a fall, you can then insert the tree step or loop and fasten the rope around the tree in order to give you a place to step up to take your weight off the harness.  By alternating moving the step/rope and hanging in your harness, hopefully you can safely descend to the ground.
  • If you can’t immediately extricate yourself by climbing back onto your stand platform or safely descending the tree, exercise your legs by pushing against the tree or doing any other form of continuous motion with your body and legs.  This will help to keep blood circulating from your legs to the rest of your body.  Remember, this is only a stopgap method.  You still need to continue to try and either climb back onto the stand platform or descend the tree as soon as possible.
  • Only as a last resort, you may have to cut your tether and hopefully climb/slide down the tree trunk in a controlled fashion, minimizing injury.  For this you should always carry a knife or shielded strap cutter that is readily accessible or fastened to your harness so that you can reach it easily.  Remember that your full weight will come to bear once you cut your safety tether so hang onto the tree tightly or be prepared for a quick descent!

Summary

Hunting from an elevated treestand can enhance your opportunities as a hunter to see and kill more game.  However, these opportunities are tempered by the many risks associated with the use of treestands that should not be ignored.  Proper use of a certified fall restraint system and thoughtful installation and use of your treestand and accessories can go a long ways towards ensuring that you have a safe and successful hunt.  Remember to arrive back home alive!

 

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