Archive for January, 2014

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Published by admin on 29 Jan 2014

Stick to the Plan – By Jason Herbert

 

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Stick to the Plan
By Jason Herbert

Driving to the new farm refreshed my hunting patience. I had been out in the woods since 5:30 am. It was now 11:00 am and I was birdless. Most hunters would have given up long ago. Not me, I had a plan and I was sticking to it. At about 11:25 my plan had worked, with three longbeards coming into my sweet calls like they had read the script. At 11:30 I had one giant tom slung over my shoulder on the way back to the truck.

I love to turkey hunt, but I can’t sit still, so at times it’s a real challenge. When I first started turkey hunting, I’d hunt in the same spot, nice and still till about nine o’clock and then head home. On the way home, I’d see toms strutting everywhere and I soon realized I was doing something wrong. Since then I have developed a solid plan that works for me. I hunt in phases. Each phase is a time of the day that corresponds to certain turkey behaviors. I hate wearing a watch, but when I am hunting with my plan, I use one to keep me on track and keep me disciplined. When I am bored stiff hunting, time seems to move really slowly, the watch keeps me honest.  I also bring plenty of food and water, in case the plan takes a while to work. When I leave on a turkey hunt, I don’t plan to come home till I got a bird or it’s dark.

The first phase of the plan is the hunt at first light. I get up really early, to arrive in my spot well before the song birds start chirping. When the birds start to chirp, the turkeys get woken up. If possible, sneaking in before they are awake decreases my chances of getting busted. At this point on the day, I like to get in nice and tight to roosting areas. The idea is to be there or nearby when the toms fly down and start to gather their hens. Hopefully my decoy will catch their attention to being them into gun range. The first few hours after the birds fly down, this are will be a good one to hunt. The birds will mill around, eat a bit, get organized and eventually head off somewhere else. If I have not killed a bird in phase one, I switch to phase two at about nine o’clock.

Phase two is moving to a strutting zone. A strutting zone is an open area where a tom can strut and bee seen showing off from far away. I prefer to hunt field edges during this portion of my hunt. If you do not have access to fields, try open ridge tops or flat river bottoms. When I move to a new spot, I get to stretch, re-charge my batteries for a quick minute or two, and re-focus. I quickly get set up and start calling. Sometimes I use a decoy, sometimes I don’t. At about mid morning the hens will leave the toms and return to their nests to tend their eggs. Now the lonely toms will get trying to find more hens. Usually they will head to a strut zone to show off a bit, hoping to find a new girl. I like to beat them there. These lonely strutting toms are usually pretty cooperative to calling efforts. I hunt the strut zones till about noon or shortly after.

At this point, I make a crucial decision to stay or go. I am blessed with many small chunks of turkey hunting property. More often than not, I am ready for a change so I drive to another property. I keep food in my car, so I maximize my time out of the woods by eating along the way. When I get to a new property, I head straight to a strut zone. This is a difficult task. Quite often I am arriving at the new property mid day, and the toms have already beaten me to the fields. That is ok, just set up close and start working them. If there are no birds in the strut zone, quickly and quietly get set up, the birds will not be far off. The scenario I described previously occurred on a high point in a hayfield, a perfect strut zone. The toms came in on a string because at that point in the day, their hens were on the nests, and this new “girl” in town caught their attention. I guarantee if I had been in that spot all morning, calling the entire time, they would not have been so eager to respond. Variety is the spice of life, and that rings true in the turkey world as well.

If the second strut zone doesn’t pay off after a few hours, hop back in the truck and drive to the third, and fourth, and fifth, etc… Like I said, I have a lot of different farms where I can turkey hunt. I have called in several nice birds in the late afternoon and early evening hours. I have noticed at that time of day, they don’t gobble as much, so keep your eyes peeled. If you are not as fortunate as I am, and you need to focus on one piece of property, there is still hope.

 

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If you can’t go to a new property, pretend like you left. By now, every turkey in the county has heard your calls, so it is time to take a break. This is hard to do for a lot of turkey hunters, but it is important that the calling stops for a while. At about one PM, I’ll head to a dust bowl. Turkeys need to dust frequently, and dust bowls are great mid day social gathering spots. If an active dust bowl is accessible, sit by it and be patient, eventually something will show up. I’ll sit a dustbowl for a few hours in the early afternoon.

At about three pm I’ll start “running and gunning”. What this means to me is that I wander around the property ever so slowly, calling the whole time. Try to use new calls now and mix up the cadence as well. Calls tend to lose their effectiveness each time they are used, so a fresh set of calls and a new style could really change your luck. Walk to all the old spots, calling and listening. As I said earlier, the turkeys don’t gobble as much later in the day so you’ll really need to practice expert woodsmanship here. Keep it up till you find a bird to work, or until it gets to be evening, whichever comes first.

Late afternoon/early evening finds me back where I started, the hunt has come full circle, and I’m at the roosting area. The turkeys will need to come back to roost eventually, so sit and be patient. Make sure to check your state regulations on legal turkey hunting hours, some don’t allow evening hunts. When I am in a roost area, I do not call or use a decoy at all. This is very similar to deer hunting. Just sit, wait patently, and keep your fingers crossed. If you do not kill a bird this way, listen for roost gobbling. The toms will gobble quite a bit again before dark, trying to gather and inventory hens in the area. Make sure you pay attention to where the gobbles are coming from, and start back near them in the morning.

By having a plan, a watch, and a bit of self discipline, I have become a much better turkey hunter. Many of the toms that I have shot have happened after ten o’clock, and on the second or third farm I tried that day. A lot of good turkey hunting time is wasted at the local diner when guys sit only their first light spot, see a “henned up” tom, and drive away complaining about him. To me when I see a henned up tom, I see a bird that can be hunted at a later time, and I also see a chance to hop in the truck grab a bit t eat, and start fresh at a new spot. Have fun, be safe, and remember to stick to the plan.

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Published by admin on 23 Jan 2014

GUIDED OR NOT – LOCAL OR ABROAD Part 2 By D. I. Hay

GUIDED OR NOT  –  LOCAL OR ABROAD Part 2
D. I. Hay

            Well, I guess I had better start this segment off by first apologizing to you for not making the “before Christmas” deadline.  I certainly wish I could have accomplished that, but unfortunately I was down and out with a horrible flu bug which ‘grounded’ me not only for the complete Festive Season, but also into 2014.

Well, hopefully the first part of this series did, in fact “sow the seed” and some serious thought went into what we could reasonably accomplish with the circumstances surrounding our daily lives. Please remember we are all individuals and each of us has our own personal set of circumstances. Before we get underway let’s recap the main points from the last article:

1.        The problematical one was concerning the financial obligation with regards to taking on the total cost of entering into an agreement with a potential Outfitter.  What other costs were associated with a fully guided hunt?

2.        Which animal(s) are we going to hunt and where?

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Cape Buffalo taken in Zimbabwe in 2013

             So, let’s get started with the third one:

3.        Make a definitive plan based on the real factors in our lives.

If we have had a hard and real look at what we can afford without inconveniencing our family (best to discuss what you are planning with the whole family present, hence avoiding a ‘sticky’ situation later on – sometimes it is accepted if we give up smoking and dedicate those dollars toward our hunt??), we will be able to determine how long we will have to save before we will have enough funds to cover the hunt and the animals we would like to harvest on this adventure. It is not an uncommon occurrence to have to save for two or more years before there is enough funds set aside to cover the costs. We will have a chance to discuss some of the associated costs with an outfitted\guided hunt a bit later. One deciding factor will be the distance you will have to travel to your hunt destination?  It may be within your State\Province, your Country, North America or somewhere far away. You should be able to figure out the cost of travel at the current rates and then you will have to guess at what the cost of fuel will be when your time arrives to travel – now there is a brain-teaser??.

There is a lot of assistance out there these days to make your job a lot easier than it was, say 20 – 30 years ago, when we depended upon the mail to receive the Outfitter’s Brochure, although we could contact them via phone and that is still a good idea. It must be remembered  Outfitters are usually busy most of the year either getting ready for the upcoming hunting season, looking after clients during the hunting season and cleaning up and replacing any equipment, which may need replacement due to normal wear & tear.  Also lots attend Outdoor Shows in the off-season, as that is where most clients are secured.

Today, most Outfitters host websites, which provide you with the various animals they offer, cost(s) of the guided hunt, seasons, cost of licenses and any other costs associated with that Outfitter’s particular hunt. Also, and most importantly they list References and it would be a very solid investment to make contact with a couple of these to ensure this Outfitter is going to supply exactly what you are looking for, as well as how the hospitality was.  This might be a bit biased, as no one is going to look bad on a website constructed for their business – I certainly know I wouldn’t.

There are numerous “Hunting Consultants\Booking Agents” who have many Outfitters from every conceivable part of the world listed with them.  Their services should cost you absolutely nothing, as they usually receive a commission from the Outfitter upon completion of the hunt. In my case, I love talking to hunters and am happy when they have had a successful hunt, in all aspects of it. Many of them also can look after your travel arrangements and there is usually a slight cost for this effort. Usually, these people should be familiar with hunting the animal(s) you are interested in or at least have hunted that part of the world.  If not, they will still have knowledge of those animals and the geography. If they do not handle travel arrangements, there are several very good Travel Agencies out there who cater to hunters and know everything connected to ensuring you arrive at your destination.

So, we should have now determined where we are going to hunt (area), what animals we are going to pursue and the time required in order to put away the required funds to make this dream become a reality.

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Alberta Mule Deer taken in 2013

 

4.        Assessing all the costs associated with the hunt.

Now here is an extremely important factor, which you may or may not want to consider – do you want to hunt alone or with a friend or two? 1 X 1 (one hunter for one guide) is the most expensive way to hunt.  It is usually cheaper for a 2 X 1 (two hunters for one guide). Some Outfitters will give a discount price if the group numbers 3 or more.  It is a great way to cut down on costs and enjoy the adventure with friends or your wife\husband\son\daughter. I know some African Outfitters offer special Father\Son hunts at a really affordable price.

The first cost to consider is travel.  If you are able to drive and there are more than just you traveling, then the fuel costs can be drastically reduced.  The same cannot be said for flying, that is unless there are ten or more people – smile. I have always found that Wednesdays are the cheapest day to fly and if hunting in North America the hunting season is either in the Spring (Bears) or Fall (rest of the Big Game animals) and that is a good thing.  If you are planning on hunting out of North America or in the northern reaches of North America, please take into consideration airlines charge more per person during the ‘holiday’ season or as they would name it “peak time”.

Do we ‘need’ any additional equipment\clothing?  Outfitters do not supply personal gear like sleeping bags\air mattresses and required clothing for their area.  It is a good idea to check with the Outfitters who you think may be the one you are going to finally book with, as to what is required for personal gear – most provide this and some even have it posted on their website.  It is not a great way to start off a hunt by not having the necessary personal equipment.  I have hunted all over North America and have been to Africa several times and I always check to ensure I have the not only proper, but necessary personal gear.  I cannot stress this enough, as if you have not travelled much, this can be a real bad experience.  Spring & Fall are very finicky, as far as weather changes go and one must always be prepared. Not meaning to “cry wolf” here, but some hunts are conducted a long way from what we normally associate with as civilization and sometimes one flies from the airport where the commercial plane landed straight into the Outfitter’s main camp and then may fly out to a “Spike” camp. So, it is imperative you have everything you need to keep you comfortable, warm, dry and safe against the elements. But this can be discussed in more detail with either the Hunting Consultant\Booking Agent or the Outfitter and please pay heed to what they suggest.

A little thought of expenses is with reference to the meat from the trophy (I use the word trophy here meaning any animal you take is your trophy, regardless of size).  This matter depends on the animal you are hunting.  If you are required to fly into the Outfitter’s main camp, there will definitely be a weight restriction on you and your gear.  Usually, in the case of moose especially, it may take an extra flight to get the meat out and you will be responsible for this extra cost.  Along with this comes getting it home.  The Outfitter will usually have the facility to freeze the meat and that way you can put it in a plastic garbage bag(s) and then in a duffle bag (the extra one you remembered to take with you).  If your flight from camp to your home is less than 24 hours, it should be good when you arrive.  Extra baggage is cheaper than shipping via a reefer (cold storage truck). In a lot of cases the meat or a part of it can be left with the Outfitter, as it will be used in the camp kitchen or he may distribute it to needy families. While we are on the topic of the animal, in our initial planning process, we should have decided whether or not we are going to get the trophy mounted or not.  Some will, if it is of a certain size, others will just take pictures and have that as the reminder of their hunt of a lifetime. I always carry two cameras with me – one a small one and then a larger one.  Remember, we cannot turn back the clock and one should take as many pictures as possible – better too many than too few.

The last major expense to be completely clear about is any additional costs associated with the physical hunt itself, such as travel from the airport to the hunting area.  Usually the hunter is responsible for any meals and accommodations before and after the hunt and travel from their residence to the point of contact, as stated by the Outfitter.

A minor expense, but an extremely important one is health insurance.  Check to see what your current health insurance covers and what it does not.  The cost of extra health insurance is usually minimal.  One has to check this one out in detail, as health costs are extremely expensive and one certainly doesn’t go on these hunts with the intention of either getting sick or injured, but things do happen.

It is hoped this covers some of the areas one should be aware of when planning a hunt. If there are any questions\queries, please do not hesitate in emailing me at  bluecollarhuntz@gmail.com.

There are a couple of personal areas of preparation, which I will cover in the next article.

Take care and stay safe.

 

 

Yours in the Field

D. I. (Ian) Hay

Owner

Blue Collar Adventures

www.bluecollaradventures.ca

bluecollarhuntz@gmail.com

 

 

 

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