Archery season is ready to start for most of the Midwest and some areas are in full swing. Countless hours have been spent by hunters everywhere tuning their bows and getting them just right in anticipation of the season. As we progress through the season, many hunters lose track of their bow maintenance. Unfortunately, this is the most important time to keep your bow in ship shape. Exposure to rain, ATV rides, and going through brush carrying your bow are just a handful of encounters your bow will have throughout the course of a season. Losing track of your bow care early in the season could cost you big when the rut rolls around and an opportunity slips away.
The first thing that should be done every time you get your bow out of the truck is check to make sure that everything is tight. In order to do this, make sure that you carry an Allen wrench with all of the sizes that you need to adjust everything on your bow. Check stabilizer, sights, rest, cable guard, and Limbsavers for those of you who have split-limb bows. If something other than your rest or sight is loose, just go ahead and tighten it down. If your sights or rest come loose, you will have to tighten it and then test fire it to see how far off your bow is before you go to the woods. If your rest is loose, go to the archery shop to check your center shot before trying to site your bow back in. A loose stabilizer or Limbsaver probably won't affect your arrow flight, but it will give the deer an opportunity to jump your arrow. Check your string and cable(s) for cuts and abrasions. If you see an issue, have it checked out immediately to prevent further damage. Standing at the truck is also a good time to draw your bow back just to make sure everything is smooth and silent. Creaking limbs, a shimmying cable slide, or a twisted string can really mess you up at the moment of truth. These problems can develop throughout the course of the season and should be addressed immediately before they get worse.
There are several preventative steps that can be taken to avoid disaster with your bow. First, make sure that you wax your string often. This is especially important after you have been out on a damp day. Scorpion Venom is an excellent wax that really gives life to your string. Waxing your string can also make the difference between an expensive string that lasts one year and a string that will give you great service for many years. A great way to protect your bow is to get a bow sling for taking in and out of the woods with you. The GamePlan Gear BowBat is an awesome piece of equipment for this. Not only does it protect nearly every part of your bow from briar's, rocks, and limbs, it also doubles as a pack to eliminate the need for a second pack. It has plenty of room to throw a face mask and other spare articles of clothing in as well as pockets to carry archery and hunting accessories in. The Primos Bow Sling is another great sling. It is a simple sling that protects your string, riser, and cams. While it doesn't have all the bells and whistles that the Bowbat has, it is a great sling for transport from your vehicle to the stand as well as everyday range use. Another thing to check out is your release. Make sure that it is functioning smooth. If it has any drag to it, put a drop of oil in the mechanism. Don't put too much on there and make sure that you spray it with a scent
eliminator before you take it to the woods. Hopefully these tips will save you a heartache and help you be more successful this year in the deer woods!
Hunting with crossbows has become the fastest growing segment of hunting the past several years and it is not showing any signs of abatement. The barriers to crossbow hunting are falling as more and more states are adding crossbow hunting to their approved hunting methods. Crossbow shooting is not just limited to hunting as there are a growing number of national shooting contests specifically for crossbows.
Crossbows represent another option for people to participate in archery who do not want to shoot a traditional or compound bow whether it is due to physical limitations, injuries, age or just the desire to shoot something different. They offer similar ballistics and accuracy to that of the compound bow while perhaps being easier to shoot for a beginner.
Horton crossbows are one of our featured lines of crossbows in our archery department. We have some of their top selling models including: the Brotherhood, Team Realtree Ultra Lite Express, the Bone Collector, the Legacy and the Vision 175. Most of these crossbows come in a complete package which includes everything you need to start shooting. Pictured below are the Legacy, the Team Realtree and the Vision models.
If you are interested in becoming part of this fast growing sport you will want to come by the archery department and try out one of these crossbows in our indoor archery range. Our professional archery associates will set you up and show you how to shoot one of these exciting crossbows. Whether you are interested in target shooting or hunting, the archery department is well stocked with all the cr
accessories you could need including: cocking devices such as the Horton EZ Crank, carbon and aluminum arrows, crossbow
scopes and sights, quivers replacement strings and targets.
Representatives from Horton are scheduled to be at the store during the upcoming Fall Hunting Classic where they will be able to answer any questions you might have about crossbows. There will be an opportunity to shoot one of their crossbows at our outdoor archery range. There will also be a new Horton crossbow given away as part of the program so keep checking our website to find out when they are scheduled to be here during the Fall Hunting Classic. I have included a picture of a trophy bear taken by pro hunter Gregg Ritz with a Horton crossbow at fifteen yards. I don’t think I would have let it get that close to me.
Bass Pro Shops
Archery is more than just bow hunting; it is also a great family sport. It is always nice to find an outdoor activity that the entire family can enjoy together and archery provides a great opportunity for just that. There are bows made for all members of the family from the Diamond Razor Edge bow for the younger members of the family and the Bear Home Wrecker bow for the ladies, to the PSE Stinger for the men. Another option is a Genesis, which can be shot by all members of the family.
Once you have the family outfitted with bows then you need a few arrows for each shooter and a target such as the RedHead Deluxe Bag Target to shoot at. I have seen first hand at our Family Archery Days at the store how much fun all members of the family have shooting and it is a great way to get the kids outdoors, away from the video games. The only other need is for a safe place to shoot. You really don’t need a big area to shoot just a safe shooting lane and a safe back stop.
If you have never shot a bow or are uncertain as to what the right bow to use for you or the other family members is then just come on by the store and visit our archery shop where our professional staff will help find you the right bow for each member of the family. They are also available to take you and the family into either our indoor range or bring you out to our outdoor range and get you started shooting.
For the more experienced shooter or hunter there is a great selection of bow packages ready to shoot out of the box such as the RedHead Blackout or the Diamond Fugitive RAK models. You also can customize the bow to your specific needs with a basic bow such as the PSE Bow Madness and select your own arrow rest such as the Quick Shot Whisker Biscuit which I personally use. You will also want a sight, a release, a wrist sling and a stabilizer. You will also need arrows which have to be customized to your bow and your draw length. There is a large selection of RedHead, Easton and Carbon Express arrows to choose from. There is also a wide selection of hunting broad heads to choose from such as Spitfire, Muzzy and Rage. Your final need will be for a target and some of the more popular models available are the Rhino block 18 Side, Shooter Buck 3D and RedHead 3D Deer targets.
Be sure to visit our archery shops where our pro staff is ready to help everyone from the beginner to the experienced shooter. Be sure to check our website for our next Family Archery Day and be part of this fun event.
Get out and enjoy the great outdoors
If you are looking to buy a bow for youth or women the Diamond Razor Edge is one of the best bows out there. This bow is amazing for growing youth. There are two sizes of this bow one that will go 15-30# and the next size that will go 30-60#. Both sizes have and 19-29” draw length adjustment. These adjustments allow youth to grow up with the bow for a long time. The bow comes set up with a sight, rest, quiver, wrist sling and peep. This is about everything you need but release and arrows to start shooting. Archery is a great hobby to get youth involved in. Hunting with archery equipment is very challenging and rewarding. Come in to your local Bass Pro and get one set up for your kids or self and get to shooting this summer!
Bowfishing is the practice of shooting fish with a specialized bow and barbed arrow with a a special line and reel connecting the two.
Bows Most people use the traditional long and re-curve bows to fish, but more and more are beginning to use the compound bow. Crossbows can also be used. Sights although not common can be used. Most look down the arrow in a line-of-sight shooting style.
Arrows Bowfishing arrows are heavier and stronger than regular hunting arrows. They are made out of fiberglass, solid aluminum, carbon fiber, and carbon fiber reinforced fiberglass. You don't use fletchings on bowfishing arrows because they are not needed for the short distance shots, and they can cause the arrow to flare off when they hit the water.
Line Bowfishing line is braided nylon, Dacron, or Spectra. 80-400lb test is the more common weights used. 600lb test is recommended for shooting sharks and alligators.
Reels There are three types of reels used in bowfishing. A hand-wrap is a custom made spool that sits on the front of your bow that allows your line to free spool off after a shot. You have to wrap your line back on the spool by hand. A spin-cast is a big version of a push button reel on the front of your bow. Make sure that before you shoot using a spin-cast reel that you "Push the Button" so that the line releases from the reel. The retriever is a reel made specifically for bow-fishing. It allows the line to come freely out of a bottle when shot. It also has a stopper to stop or slow down the line being pulled out of it by a fish. This type of reel is recommended for big fish.
Glasses in night time or day time a pair of polarized sun glasses to cut the glare, from sunlight or halogen light, off the water is essential.
Boats Any boat that is made for shallow water or has a platform for shooting can be used for bow-fishing. Air-boats, Jon boats, and Canoes are typically used for freshwater bow-fishing.
Aiming When bowfishing you are shooting in water. The water refracts light. This makes it seem like the fish is higher in your field of view than it really is. But no worries, by using the aiming tip you will become a more successful shooter. Aim 4 inches low for every 10 feet of lateral distance you are from the fish, and add 3 more inches for every foot of water in depth the fish is in. This might be difficult to pick up at first, but practice makes perfect, and shooting is the fun part.
Fresh water Bowfishing Species
Common Carp, Bighead Carp, Silver Carp, Grass Carp, River Carpsucker, Longnose Gar, Shortnose Gar, Spotted Gar, Alligator Gar, Paddlefish, Threadfin Shad, Frog, Bigmouth Buffalo, Smallmouth Buffalo, Freshwater Drum, Catfish, Tilapia, Snakehead, and American Alligators.
Saltwater water Bowfishing Species
Southern Stingray, Cownose Ray, Bullshark, Barracuda, Redfish, Flounder, Sheepshead
Check with you local marine police or game warden to see what species is legal to shoot in your state.
Some key items to checkout are:
Bow-Bear Archery Super Grizzly Recurve
Rest-AMSBowfishing Wave Bow-fishing Arrow Rest
Arrow-Muzzy Carbon Mag Bowfishing Arrow with Carp Point, Safety Slide and Uninock
Line-Muzzy Extreme Bowfishing line
Reels-Bohning Bowfishing Reel (Hand Wrap), AMSBowfishing Retriever Pro Bowfishing Reel (Retriever), Zebco 808 Bowfishing Reel(Spincaster).
Kit-AMSBowfishing Fish Hawk Compound Bow Bowfishing Package
Glasses-Sea Striker Sunglasses
Boat-Grizzly 2072 Jon
Remember have fun, be safe, and may God lead your way.
Richard Justin Louhier
Its Turkey time!
Bass Pro Shops will have you dressed to kill with our spring turkey hunt apparel checklist.
Hat- A full wide brim on a hat works best because it shadows your face and allows you to turn your head without changing your profile.
Facemask- This allows you to hide your face from the turkey without impairing your vision. A bandanna is traditionally used, but there are many different styles of masks available. A mask such as the RH Form Fit Full Face Mask is a popular buy. However, your choice should all depend on comfort because you don’t want to be adjusting constantly and let your prey see you.
Eduraskin Baselayer- The weather is getting warmer and when you’re out dressed in head to toe camo chasing after a tom you’re bound to perspire. The Enduraskin Baselayer won’t let your scent hinder your hunt. It not only will wick away moisture but its technology prevents the growth of odor-causing bacteria. So not only won’t they see you, they won’t be able to smell you either.
Camo Clothing- This is just another item of clothing to keep you hidden and blended so that the turkey cannot see you. However, another important element regarding your apparel is the amount of noise it makes. RH’s Silent Hide tops and bottoms are super quiet, durable and comfortable, perfect for the spring hunt.
Camo Rainwear– Spring is a season of unpredictable weather conditions. So don’t get caught in the rain without your rain suit. The RH Squaltex Bone dry Jacket and Pants will keep you dry and out of sight.
3D Camo Suit– A leafy suit over your regular clothing blend you into your surroundings. RH’s 3D Evolution suit is lightweight and made to match your hunting environment to a tee.
Gloves– RH’s Jersey Dot Grip glove is durable and breathable. The textured material on the palm provides enhanced grip which is excellent for bow hunting.
Other accessories that may come in handy when hunting your turkey is a gear bag to hold all your stuff and a hydration reservoir to keep you cool. When sitting in the bush trying not to move for hours, you want to be prepared for all the elements. With this check list you will have all your apparel bases covered.
This has been Genevieve DeBellis for Dressed to Kill: Spring Turkey Hunt Edition.
Suit up, and set out!
While Turkey season is among us, a lot of people will be spending their time in the woods, many of which will be after their first bird. I have gathered some information and put together a checklist for those “new” Turkey hunters.
Some of the items that are needed for the hunt are as follows:
Turkey calls are sold in different varieties such as the diaphragm, box call and the slate. Using these calls, hunters perform the yelp, tree yelp, cluck, cutt, cackle, purr, kee-kee, gobble and the spit and drum. Hunters should purchase a few of these calls and learn to call proficiently for success. Bass Pro Shops offer certain classes and contest on these calls. As well as having these items on sale.
Turkey have exceptional vision so hunters must conceal their identity. Camouflage clothing is required for turkey hunting, as hunters must sit on the ground during the hunt. Clothing should cover the entire body, including the arms so bring a long sleeved camo shirt or jacket, camo pants and boots. Turkey season is often a time when snakes abound, so many hunters wear snake boots which cover the leg up to the knee. Hunters should also wear a face mask or head net while turkey hunting. A head net makes a hunter more difficult for turkey to spot but has an opening for the eyes so the hunter's vision is not impaired. Bass Pro Shops carry a variety of these items and with a knowledgable staff to help you make sure you choose the right on
Turkey hunters can hunt turkey with a bow and arrow or a shotgun. Bow hunters should have their bow sighted in and purchase the correct turkey broad heads. Bass Pro Shops offer this in their Archery Department. Newly designed broad heads are more accurate and save the meat on the turkey by killing it without inflicting as much damage to the body. Hunters using shotguns to turkey hunt should be sure to bring turkey load shotgun shells, along with their shotguns to ensure their success. Apply for the correct hunting permit in the area you will be hunting and obtain the proper license before the hunt. Guidelines for permits and licensing are available at the Fish and Wildlife Commission in the state you are hunting in. We at Bass Pro as well offer your hunting license here at the service desk.
The whitetail world always amazes me. Year after year, bucks of monstrous proportions pop out of the woodwork throughout the country. Animals of mythical mass and tine-length break records every year. This is mostly due to quality deer management over the last decade and hunters’ efforts to improve the health and genetics of their herds.
I’ve seen this tactic work for several animals that I’ve pursued over the years, animals which had the potential to be world class. My trail cameras captured them season after season, and I’ve let them walk, hoping they make it through the hoards of hunters in the area. Again, my cameras proved that many do.
The number one defining attribute is age. If bucks are allowed to make it to maturity, their knowledge of their environment will ensure that they have a chance to make trophy caliber. Without our help, whitetails will seldom evolve into what every hunter is looking for.
My intrigue of whitetails lead me to the decision that I wanted to enter the hunting community as a manufacturer of hunting products, products which would make my own life easier in the field. In 2006, Innovative Hunting Solutions was born, as well as a new scent-dispersal system.
This brings us to the story at hand. We were contacted by customers almost immediately after our product hit the shelves. One customer, Brian, really stood out. He hunted mature whitetails in Michigan as seriously as anyone I knew; he had a passion for big bucks.
Brian used his trail cameras to scour properties across southern Michigan, using as much land as he could to find the buck he would spend the season chasing. Because Brian had access to numerous properties he was able to single out some rather large bucks. The photos were impressive. In the fall of 2006, he sent me a photo of a handsome long-beamed, tall-tined buck walking under his empty stand on December 6th. I remember the pain in his voice when he told me the story of why he had missed the hunt. Long days were spent during the last few weeks of the season to no avail.
I kept in touch with Brian throughout the spring and early fall of 2007. His cameras were showing no sign of this highly anticipated buck. Days rolled into weeks and weeks turned into months. After much thought, Brian realized that this deer was a transient and that, for some reason, only showed his presence during the tail end of the rut.
The whole month of November passed without a word from Brian. I imagined the thoughts that were racing through his head. A buck of that stature is hard to come by anywhere in the country, let alone Michigan. As anyone would, he and the property owner kept the buck a secret knowing that the pressure in the area would double if word got out.
On the 10th of December, I received a call from Brian. I could tell from the excitement in his voice that the buck had returned. A few days earlier, he placed dominant buck urine on an active scrape, checked his camera and found a photo of the very buck from the season before. Unfortunately that was it, almost like déjà vu, the buck disappeared without another sighting or picture that season.
As both were avid bird hunters, Brian and the property owner worked with Pheasants Forever to enhance the wildlife habitat on the property the next spring. They planted corn, buck oats, soy beans, and clover plots in and around the perimeter of an apple orchard.
The plantings proved to be successful. Bird and deer numbers were up, but the 2008 season came and left without any sign of the ghost-like whitetail. Did another hunter put a fatal shot on him? Did he get hit by a vehicle? Could he possibly have died of old age? All these questions were going through Brian’s mind. Talk about mental anguish!
The 2009 season came in quick. Brian was back on the property running cameras and looking for signs of the giant buck. I even lent him a few of my own cameras to help the cause, meanwhile wondering how something so big could just disappear.
Then, one November evening, I received a call from Brian. His first words were “THE IS DOWN!” The event unfolded like this . . .
BRIAN HEADED TO THE STAND AT 6:15 A.M.
Because of bad wind directions for a week, Brian had been waiting to hunt a stand overlooking standing corn and oat plots intersected by narrow hedgerows. His camera had shown a lot of rutting activity in this area and the conditions seemed perfect.
It was early November, the temperature was 37 degrees, and the rut was at its peak. The wind was at a standstill and every step sounded like the one that would give him away. Brian stopped every 20 yards or so in order to make himself sound like a weary animal, eventually making his way to his blind without alarming any game.
Busting brush to the south a mature doe made her way through the orchard in front of Brian. Daylight was still 15 minutes away, but, through his binoculars, Brian could see a heavy-framed buck standing no less than 20 yards from his stand. With the buck so close, he didn’t want to give away his location, so he sat motionless. The buck grunted again and proceeded to chase the does.
The scene was quiet. Thoughts were circling Brian’s head like a whirlwind. He wondered if he could have made the shot earlier that morning. All of a sudden, a doe broke the hedgerow with a 150-class buck in tow. Brian had little time to control his emotions, let alone gather his gear. The two whitetails blew by his stand before Brian could get his composure.
Over the next 20 minutes, the trophy buck chased the doe over just about every inch of the five-acre food plots, except for the area where Brian was perched. Situated in his stand, ready for any shot, Brian watched helplessly as the chase lost momentum and eventually the deer began to feed out of range.
Brian thought to try and call the buck in, but he knew he would alarm the deer because of the wind direction. He had to sit back and wait to see how the deer would react and how the day would unfold.
A grunt, snort, and wheeze, downwind from the orchard put Brian at full alert. While slowly gathering his bow and attaching his release, Brian looked up to see the very buck that haunted his dreams for the last three years penetrating the hedgerow 90 yards from his stand.
The buck was leaving a dust trail as he blew through the neighboring field at full throttle catching the 150, 11-point that was tending the doe unaware and helpless. He drove his massive antlers in the chest of the 11-point and pummeled him to the ground. After little resistance, the mature buck chased the doe due south, directly away from Brian, disappearing into the hardwoods.
Brian was still trying to get over the fact that the buck of his dreams and three years of anticipation simply ran by, out of range, in a cloud of dust. Feeling sorry for himself, he raised his head in the direction of the hedgerow to the south. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the front profile of the enormous rack working its way into the clover.
All emotions erupted at once. At first, Brian thought for sure he had another chance. Then he realized the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Where was the doe? He told me, at that point, his arrow was uncontrollably rattling in his rest.
There the buck stood, 90 yards away, scanning the food plot with a look of intensity in his eyes. The only thing moving was his ears, scanning the area like radar. Another 10 minutes went by, and then the beast slowly walked out of the danger zone the wind was providing.
To Brian’s amazement, a 1-1/2 year old 8-point walked directly up to the monarch and began to spar with him. The giant buck simply let the smaller buck bounce his meager head gear from inside to inside of the massive 10- point frame.
This was Brian’s chance. He reached into his bag and began the task of trying to call in the brute. He tried grunting, rolling the can, and even rattling. Nothing seemed to faze the buck. He looked up a few times, but seemingly had no interest.
Brian endured another 15 minutes of mental torture and again had to watch the buck fade away into the thick Michigan undergrowth. There was nothing he could do but watch and hope the doe showed up again, hopefully pulling the buck into range.
Brian had no intention on hunting all day until he saw how the morning had unfolded. He was supposed to hunt the morning and return home to help his wife prepare for his son Jacob’s first birthday party. Brian knew he had to make a choice. He was hoping his wife would forgive him.
For the next five hours, Brian had numerous chasing does in and around the food plots he was overlooking, never going more than 30 minutes without seeing rutting activity. He knew his wife was going to be mad, but there was no way he was leaving.
The weather was exceptionally warm for November and Brian was contemplating shedding a layer when all of a sudden five does broke through the hedgerow into the clover. Fifteen seconds later, he heard brush busting. Taking his attention off the does, he could not believe his eyes. The buck was back!
Trying to keep his composure and not spook the does, Brian gathered his gear and positioned himself. The does stopped to feed below his stand at seven yards. The massive buck sat tight, scanning the area from the hedgerow 25 yards to the south.
The buck was directly downwind and couldn’t see Brian because the sun was behind his back. He just sat still, patrolling the does. Brian prayed that his scent-free clothing and spray would be enough.
Brian’s head was a whirlwind of emotions. It took everything he had to keep it together. Was this going to be another close call? How could the buck not smell him? He hoped that the buck would forgive him and keep his attention on the does.
A shift in the wind gave Brian hope, when the does began to slowly move toward the south. The buck flared his nostrils, turning south, taking three steps. The does watched the buck as Brian drew his bow.
As Brian tried to steady his Red Dot scope from bouncing all over the kill zone, he kept saying “it’s only a deer” over and over again. After little hesitation, his bow launched forward and the 100g broadhead ripped through the ribs behind the front leg of the buck. Jumping straight up, the buck kicked, then drunkenly stumbled 40 yards and fell on his side against a fallen log.
That day, proved that perseverance and patience pay off. After the 60-day drying period, the massive animal net 203-5/8 non-typical in the Boone and Crocket scoring system, having less than six inches of deductions, making the record books both typical and non-typical.
Two weeks later, during firearm season, the property owner harvested the first buck Brian saw that memorable day. The buck net 146 with an 8 broken G2. The antlers were the spitting image of Brian’s buck, proof that Michigan has what it takes to produce world-class animals.
Bass Pro Hunting Pro Staff
With the aid of the Michigan has exploded. The hard work of these organizations has opened vast opportunities for hunters across the country., federal and state programs, as well as local contributions, the turkey population throughout
While attending Ferris State University, I was fortunate enough to participate in a trapping program with a professor who had a grant from the Michigan DNR. His research included attaching radio receivers to birds who had been trapped and relocated to an area where research was done years earlier.
The trapping process proved quite interesting. We would bait an area with corn and set up a net which was anchored to the ground on one side. Adjacent to the anchors were pipes with a rocket charge that would propel the opposite end of the net over the flock of feeding turkeys.
It was quite a sight to see. As soon as the net was fired, it was a fast scramble to subdue as many birds as we could before they escaped. The professor would attach the radio receivers to equal numbers of toms and hens.
Over the next six months, we tracked the flock weekly to study their movements as well as find out what caused some bird mortality. We found that a few died from starvation due to deep snow and cold temperatures. The thing that surprised us the most was that the great horned owl seemed to be harder on turkeys than the weather and all other predators combined.
Ultimately, the wild turkey is a survivor that adapts well to the pressures of nature, overturning Michigan’s sometimes harsh habitats. Their wide-spread flocks have proved that they multiply quickly and are once again thriving throughout the state.
I’ve seen the efforts of these restocking programs turn the empty woods into veritable playgrounds for the turkey enthusiast. The diverse habitat of state and federal lands now support healthy populations of the once extinct birds.
In past years, I would apply for a permit on my father’s land in northern Michigan, knowing that the abundance of birds in the area would give me a shot at a productive season. Tags on the other hand, were hard to come by. The applicants were greater in the areas of known bird concentrations, which seemed to turn the application process in these prime areas into a gamble of sorts, decreasing my chance of drawing a tag.
With the growing population of relocated birds in southern Michigan, I decided to concentrate my effort in scouting state lands within a short distance of my home. The results were amazing. I located turkeys on several state-owned parcels not more than a half-hour’s drive from my home base. I found that tags were more available and the turkeys were plentiful.
Most hunters shy away from the state and federal lands due to the fear of hunting pressure and shorter seasons associated with government lands. As with deer hunting, I’ve found that, if you use the hunting pressure to your advantage, things can fall into place.
After extensive scouting for the last few years, the opening day of the 2009 turkey season proved to be a prime example. My father and I drove out to a small section of state land on opening morning. We set up in an area I knew to have a lot of activity. The toms were roosting on a private piece of property a half mile away, adjacent to where we set up.
A half mile may seem to be a long way from the roost, but we set up in an area the birds would head to when the pressure was on. We placed our decoys on a hard wood ridge leading into a thick marshy tag alder swamp. We knew we wouldn’t have much action early, but we were counting on the birds working their way down the ridge later in the morning.
The sun was just breaking the horizon when two hunters passed by, apparently running a little late. The toms were gobbling in the distance and my father and I laughed as we watched the latecomers pick up their pace.
We knew we were in an area the birds liked to visit. We knew the toms were interested in rounding up hens that nested near the thick swampy area near us. The hens, on the other hand, were just not ready to do any breeding, so we were prepared to sit all day and wait for them to come to us.
Conventional tactics for turkey hunting involve a lot of “run and gunning,” but hunting pressured birds is a little different. If provoked, by soft random calling, the pressured toms would eventually end up in front of us.
The gobbling slowed down around 8:30 and the calling from the two other hunters seemed to come from every inch of the property to the east. By 9:00, though, the other party, discouraged, headed to their truck and left. We let the woods quiet down for the next hour and just relaxed and enjoyed the morning.
At 10:00, I let out a couple of soft yelps from my mouth call and a bird responded with a gobble to the south. I knew the birds had been hearing a lot of aggressive calling so we sat back and decided to wait another half hour before calling again.
Patience is the name of the game when hunting pressured birds. They may not be the smartest animals in the woods, but they definitely have a good sense of survival. Luckily, in the spring, toms have short-term memory, and that’s where you can take advantage of a situation like this.
At 10:30, I let out a locator yelp. Almost instantly a tom let out a gobble a few hundred yards to the east. Again, I didn’t want to over call so we decided to sit tight for a while.
The sun was getting pretty high and I knew we had a good chance of a tom sneaking in without making a sound. We had the hen decoys in plain view of any approaching bird for at least 80-100 yards, and we were at full alert. I was changing calls when my dad whispered “there’s two gobblers in the decoys.” He was already in position with his 1100. I cracked a smile and slowly reached for my bow. The extra effort we spent concealing the blind before daylight proved to our advantage. The birds had no idea that we were there.
I asked my dad if he was ready and he replied, “yeah.” I placed my pin on the top of the breast on the lead tom. Without thinking, my arrow was on its way, breaking his neck. My dad followed up, making quick work of the other gobbler. We looked at each other and laughed, when my dad said, “I wonder why those other guys were in such a hurry?”
The moral of this story is that turkeys are just turkeys. They pick their home turf and will always return to the area where they feel safe. If you put in the time and scout the pre-season, you‘ll be one step ahead.Dave Lee
Every year it’s the same scenario, weeks of scouting, hanging stands, and endless hours of tuning our bows, all steps necessary to make us better hunters. Year after year, we reapply these tactics to ease the anticipation of the fast approaching season. All of which are mandatory to become proficient at what we love.
A select few are able to capitalize on the pre-season scouting and take a mature buck early in the fall. The reality of every season is that days pass and weeks seem to blend together making our hearts sink due to the lack of sightings. Hunting pressure ultimately improves the bucks will to survive and they inevitably become nocturnal.
The question is “Do you have the patience to wait them out?” Do you spend countless hours in the stand to get the one opportunity to prove yourself a hunter? Can we predict the thoughts and actions of these amazing animals? Over time, history has proved that whitetails follow patterns, which if monitored closely, can put you in the right situation to harvest the animal you’re after.
There are endless articles, DVDs, and TV shows on how, when and where, but nothing prepares us more than time spent in the stand, watching wild animals in their own environment and learning more each time we revisit their habitat.
Throughout my 25 plus years of experience, I’ve found that the key is not to be detected while invading their territory. What many hunters need to recognize is that whitetails know their range like you know your own home. They sense when things are out of place. They pick up on change and their sixth sense is always on high alert. Like humans, age gives them the knowledge required to survive in their hostile world. Learning more about their environment will ultimately make you the hunter you need to be.
One of the most common mistakes hunters make is to overhunt stand locations. In doing so, the animals recognize the threat and simply reroute their activities, leaving most in wonder, not even knowing the buck they are after is simply circling around them or waiting until dark to do their daily activity. The key is to set up several stand locations in the same area, using the wind and cover to stay concealed from their incredible senses.
Most times, the trip to your stand location can be more critical than the days spent in the stand. Bumping a mature buck on the way in can be devastating to your efforts. Raking trails from two different directions to your stand can do three very important things, the most important being wind. The whitetail’s nose can detect your scent from incredible distances.
Planning a downwind approach can make the difference between a good hunt and wasted effort. Secondly, using raked trails eliminates unneeded noise during your approach to your favorite haunt. I can’t tell you how many times this tactic has allowed me to enter my stand undetected with animals within bow distance from my stands. Lastly, the fresh earth in the trail can give you some insight through tracks that have crossed your path.
Through trial and error, I’ve learned that stand concealment is as important as location. Taking this extra step has proved to be invaluable. Using oak and cedar bows affixed to the tree will give many advantages.
The first is cover. The branches help break up your silhouette and, more importantly, the animals become comfortable with the mass of foliage. The cedar not only provides all season cover, but also emits one of the best cover scents available to the whitetail hunter. You will be amazed at how pungent the conifer can be if you roll a small sprig between your hands before each hunt. This proven tactic has eliminated countless threats of being detected.
There is no doubt that cover scents will improve your odds as well. Coon urine is by far one of the most effective scents on the market. Raccoons are territorial animals which routinely mark their territory in the canopy above the forest floor. Placing the urine directly downwind from your stand will greatly decrease your odds of being detected from below. I can’t count the number of times bucks have been on the wrong end of the wind and, after getting a nose full of coon urine, turn their head with disgust and go on with their business. As simple as it is, this tactic has saved countless hunts for me.
In order to harvest a mature buck you have to hunt big bucks. Timing is the most critical aspect of hunting mature whitetails. As hard as it may seem, you have to pick the right time to hunt certain areas. Sometimes staying out of a buck’s core area will keep his comfort level in check, allowing you to wait out his arrival in a funnel area connected to his favorite lair. Obviously, the rut is the time to move into the pinch points, and time in the stand will up your odds of success.
History has proved that mature whitetails travel during the day at the peak of the rut. In the real world, time is hard to come by, but if you want to take full opportunity of this special event you need to suck it up and sit all day. Stay at high alert and anticipate the opportunity. Following through with mental preparation will greatly increase your odds.
Perpetration and nerves becomes the root of all evil in the whitetail woods. Countless hours of practice can lead to overcompensation in your thoughts. Hitting the 12 ring really doesn’t matter when you’re taking a shot at a basketball sized target. Nerves are calmed by the confidence you hold within. With confidence, the shot of a lifetime will certainly end in triumph.
Bass Pro Shops Hunting Staff
The end of each archery season seems to leave us with the “what if” syndrome. What if, I let him take one more step? What if, I made a better shot placement? What if I took the shot? The list goes on, ending the season with mixed emotions on our performance and perhaps doubts about the next season.
As hunters, we need to hone our skills and equipment to their absolute best. Bows need to be at their maximum potential. Hours at the range will build confidence in order to make the next shot count. We owe that to the quarry we pursue.
Bow hunting is a game of nerves, testing us each time we draw on an animal, evaluating our own destiny every time we pull the trigger. Hunting a mature whitetail closes the window of opportunity, sometimes only giving a hunter few sightings throughout the season. When it happens, your heart skips a beat, opening room for error.
In the off season, hunting rough fish, such as carp and gar, can give you the confidence needed to excel in the sport of bow hunting. Shooting paper and 3D courses will help you to become one with your bow, but leaves out the determining factor as to how will you react in a live situation.
May showers begin warming the waters across the country, sparking the annual migration of invasive species, fish that serve no purpose in our ecosystem, and, in many cases, devastating our precious fisheries and waterways. One doesn’t have to go far to find such sport. Most tributaries and lakes supply hunters with more than an ample supply of these lake terrorists. Equipment is minimal. An older compound or recurve outfitted with a bow fishing reel and arrow will do. It’s not necessary to use your high-tech hunting bow. The mechanics and instincts are the same.
Launching an arrow accurately at a moving fish demands concentration and an awareness of everything going on at that single moment in time. Refraction caused by surface tension, water depth, and knowing the limits of your bow all come in to play. Details need to be double-checked before each shot, fins or fur.
Bow fishing will give you the insight on anticipated shot placement and helps with follow-through on moving targets. Above all, it lets you know which shots you can make in certain situations, the same reflection required while overlooking a buck on high alert.
Over time, primal instincts will come into play. Hand-eye coordination and reaction time will improve. Confidence levels will rise, giving you the best advantage in any hunting situation, leaving you without doubt when quick decisions are required.
Bass Pro Hunting Staff
By Don Wirth
"High water often means increased current, and bass react to the heavy flow by moving extremely tight to current-breaking objects," Dance explaines.
Another spring bass trip ruined by high water? Most bassers would turn around and head back home, but once you put the following advice from bass fishing legends Bill Dance, Ron Shuffield and Jim Rivers into practice, you'll view high water as a golden opportunity rather than a disaster.
TIP # 1: FISH FLOODED TERRITORY
"When a lake rises dramatically, it inundates acres and acres of cover that's absolutely brimming with feeding potential for bass," says veteran Bismark, Ark. bass pro Ron Shuffield. "All sorts of vegetation, including grass and bushes, becomes covered with water. Bluegills pack into the newly-flooded shallows to feast on worms and insects, and bass are right behind them."
Shuffield recalls a regional tournament he fished at Millwood Lake, Ark. one March weekend. "It rained for eight days straight prior to the tournament and by the time I arrived, the lake had risen past the marina parking lot. Two hundred fishermen had registered for the two-day event; 80 of them dropped out when they got there and saw how high the water was." But Shuffield hung tough and ended up coming in second with 20 bass weighing 71 pounds. "I caught all my fish from flooded fields," he said. "I used my trolling motor to maneuver as far back into the newly-inundated fields as I could, then ran spinnerbaits with big Colorado blades around flooded fences, logs, any wood cover I could locate. There was a bass on nearly every piece of wood. I remember hooking a 4-pounder that wrapped my line around some cover; when I went to free the line from the obstruction, I discovered it was a submerged fence post with a 'No Trespassing' sign nailed to it, totally underwater. The guy who won the event had over 80 pounds; all his fish came from flooded fields, too."
Since newly-risen water is often murky to downright muddy, Shuffield opts for big lures that create plenty of vibration. "The hard-throbbing Colorado-blade spinnerbait worked great in this scenario because bass hanging tight to cover didn't have to see it, they could feel it," he explained.
TIP # 2: BUMP COVER
Bass fishing superstar Bill Dance taught me about the sensational fishing potential in rivers during high water. I hooked up with the TV fishing host below Pickwick Dam, Tenn., one April morning, only to find the Tennessee River a raging torrent.
"Back the boat in," Dance requested. He was obviously eager to get fishing.
"You gotta be kidding!" I laughed. "This fishing trip is toast. The river's in the trees and the current's at least 15 mph. You can't catch bass under these conditions!"
Wrong! As it turned out, we had a spectacular day of bass fishing, boating over 40 bass between us including a 7 pound largemouth and a 6 pound smallmouth. And we did it all by bumping cover.
"High water often means increased current, and bass react to the heavy flow by moving extremely tight to current-breaking objects," Dance explained. "Large rocks, stumps and logs provide especially good shelter from current. Bass hold close to the downstream side of this cover. Smallmouths may rush out into the fast water to grab passing prey; largemouths are more likely to hunker down tight to the object and avoid fast water entirely."
An hour into our fishing trip, the score was Dance 9 bass, Wirth 0. I started paying closer attention to what the master was doing: he would maneuver his boat very close to shore and pitch his lure, a black and chartreuse jig dressed with a pork chunk, right against the bank. Every one of his bites came immediately as the lure sank out of sight. "The fish are holding real tight to rocks and stumps that have been covered by the high water; if you don't actually bump the lure into the cover, you won't get bit," he instructed. "You've got to literally drop the lure on their heads. These fish aren't moving an inch to strike." I followed suit; my first bass was a 5 pound largemouth. On my next pitch, my jig was snatched by a monster smallie that ran under the boat and popped 15-pound mono.
As Dance proved, short, accurate pitches to current breaks were mandatory -- a miss was as good as a mile. Long casts resulted in the line being swept downstream, pulling the lure off its mark.
TIP # 3: FISH RAPID WARMUPS
Jim Rivers is a living legend among smallmouth anglers. The Ringgold, Ga. basser has had his name in both the IGFA and Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame record books numerous times over the years for his catches of giant smallmouths from Pickwick Lake, Ala. He'll tell you that day or night, the first high water of spring is prime time for mega-bronzebacks.
"Usually by late winter, the water at Pickwick is around 40 degrees, and the fish are very inactive," Rivers said. "But when the first warm rain hammers the area, normally in late February or early March, the lake level rises dramatically and the water temp can jump up 10 degrees overnight. If it rains hard enough for them to open the flood gates at the Wilson Dam upstream, a torrent of warmer water washes downstream, and you get a tremendous movement of baitfish and bass into the headwaters of the reservoir."
In high, fast water, Rivers uses a method that at first sounds unlikely, but upon reflection makes a great deal of sense. "I spool a stiff spinning outfit with 4 pound mono and fish a sparsely-tied 3/8-ounce hair jig dressed with a small grub or pork eel. The biggest smallies will be holding tight to rockpiles at the base of bluffs. My goal is to make every cast as accurate as possible; you've only got one shot at a piece of structure when you're drifting in 20 mph current. Heavy line and big, bulky lures create way too much drag. The line gets a big bow in it so you can't feel light strikes, and the lure is washed yards off its mark. Light line and compact baits, that's the ticket in high, fast water."
TIP # 4: RATTLES RULE
"In high water, you gotta make some noise if you wanna catch some bass," Bill Dance says. He proved his point one March morning when we fished a muddy oxbow lake off the Mississippi River near Tunica, Miss. Several days of torrential rain had risen the lake level by two feet. Dance showed up at the ramp with his aluminum bass boat and announced, "Get set for a day of stump bumpin'!"
The picturesque lake was a maze of flooded cypress trees, so many of them that a trolling motor was almost useless. Grabbing cypress knobs, Dance and I pushed and pulled our way into the newly-flooded perimeter of the lake, and began casting rattling crankbaits into water only inches deep. We caught a bunch of good bass that day, fat prespawn largemouths up to 6 pounds. Dance put the two biggest fish in the livewell; when the light was perfect for some grip-n-grin photos, he opened the lid and exclaimed, "Look what these girls have been eating!" I peered inside to see four big crayfish which the bass had spit up.
No wonder rattling lures worked so well! The rising water had apparently sent crayfish on a scavenger hunt in the shallow margin of the lake; bass, sensing a feeding opportunity, moved in for an easy meal. "Crayfish make a clicking sound as they crawl across the bottom," Bill pointed out. "Rooting those crankbaits with rattle inserts against the bottom was a convincing craw imitation."
Dance doesn't just opt for rattling crankbaits in rising water. He'll use jigs with rattles inside the head or attached to the hook shank, and has been known to cement a glass worm rattle to the wire arm of a spinnerbait, too.
TIP # 5: FISH THE TWILIGHT ZONE
"Clear lakes can be a bear to fish in spring," Ron Shuffield said. "They're the last lakes in your region to warm up, and bass in them can be real sluggish. You can catch 'em on a suspending jerkbait, but you have to fish these lures super-slow. In tournaments, I opt for a faster approach."
Once seasonal gully-washers have caused the lake to rise into the trees, Shuffield puts his bass rig into warp drive and heads for the back-ends of feeder creeks where he looks for the "twilight one" where clear and muddy water meet. "I run up the creek as far as I can go, looking for a dramatic variation in the water color. If the rain occurred the night before the tournament, I usually find muddy water pouring in. If it rained two or three days previously, the mouth of the creek may be muddy, but the inflowing water at the back may be clear. I don't care what color the water flowing in is, as long as it's different from the main body of the tributary. Bass will stack up where the water colors mix."
Shuffield fishes a crankbait, jig or spinnerbait where dark and clear water meet. "This is a tremendous predatorial edge for bass. They'll usually sit in the murky water, sometimes in places only a foot deep, where they can prey on crawfish and shad passing by in the clearer zone."
Crawfish colors are Shuffield's favorites for this pattern: brown or green jigs, red crankbaits, etc. He also likes a spinnerbait with two small Colorado blades, "just big enough to create a little flash in that discolored water."
By James O. Fraioli
Part of the Hidden Lake Chain of lakes, Cliff produces some of the best shallow-water rainbow and cutthroat action.
"There's one," Gordon whispers. "Ten o'clock, moving to 12 . . . Cast right there!" A large shadow moves in our direction then makes a leisurely turn. I can make out the dark olive-green back which is generously speckled with black spots. My heart pounds as I silently make a cast, the gold-bladed spinner falling just in front of the inquisitive fish.
"Let it sink..." Gordon hisses. I wait for a moment, and then crank the handle of my spinning reel, my eyes following the artificial bait. Suddenly, the rainbow tears after my spinner, smashing the lure from the side. Feeling the weight of the attack, I set the hook -- hard -- the tip of my rod bent over like the St. Louis Arch. I smile in delight as a bald eagle, which has been watching us, lifts from its perch just a few hundred feet from where we drift.
"That's a nice one," says Gordon from the helm, his healthy frame silhouetted against the Beaverhead National Forest. The lively rainbow jumps not once or twice, but three times. "Well done," my veteran guide commends, "now bring 'er in."
Cliff and Wade Lakes
Anglers who know the secrets of Montana's mountain lakes have learned to deal with such excitement, and the rewards are well worth it. Less than one mile wide by four miles long, Cliff Lake is an extraordinary place. The hidden jewel, once traversed by Lewis and Clark on their historic journey west, offers pristine habitat just thirty miles from Yellowstone National Park. Surrounded by aspens, firs, pines and snow peaked mountains, Cliff is part of the Hidden Lake Chain of lakes, and produces some of the best shallow-water rainbow and cutthroat action.
Trout are particularly abundant in the Antelope and West Arm of Cliff Lake, where the carnivorous fish cruise the low water, feasting voraciously on hovering insects. Average size is between 16- and 18-inches, although Cliff produced the state record rainbow trout weighing 20 pounds, which stood from 1952 until the record was broken in 1988. Fishing the lake requires nothing special. Fly-fishing, spin-casting and trolling are all productive. The key is to work the edge of the shorelines and weed banks where the trout are lurking, ready to ambush their prey. The accompanying wildlife is also nothing short of astonishing. Elk, moose and waterfowl frequent the waterfront, while bald eagles, hawks and ospreys take to the peaks where enormous boulders balance precariously, a ghostly remembrance of the 1959 earthquake, the largest in Montana history.
Cliff Lake is open all year, with the best fishing beginning after the first snow melt, around the last week in May. During the summer months, when the water temperature reaches the high 50s, the trout become incredibly active, continually on the hunt for food. This is one of the most exciting times to fish the lake. The sunny days will force the trout to be wary of looming shadows, but you will have a blast casting to lively rainbows and cutthroats in five to ten feet of water.
Trout fishing is equally productive at neighboring Wade Lake, only a quarter mile away. Despite its miniature size (1/3 mile wide and 2 miles long), Wade has earned a reputation for large, great fighting native rainbow and German brown trout. Sheltered in a forested canyon, Wade Lake still holds the Montana State record brown at 29 pounds. Prime fishing months are in the summer, where the same methods for fishing Cliff Lake apply. Winter also bodes well for ice fishermen as the lake remains partially frozen. Wade is designated a Watchable Wildlife Viewing Site, so there are ample opportunities to observe bald eagles, trumpeter swans, waterfowl, river otters and beavers while angling for a keeper. From January through March, hundreds of native rainbow trout spawn in the stream just below the Wade Lake Resort, a sight not to be missed.
Trophy Trout in Neighboring Waters
Cliff and Wade Lakes are located in the heart of Greater Yellowstone's world famous fly-fishing country. Nearby, dozens of other mountain lakes, streams and rivers support abundant populations of rainbow, brown and cutthroat trout. One of these prized spots is the famed Madison River, ranked as one of the best trout fisheries in the world. This catch-and-release river teems with wild rainbow and brown trout that average 15". The dry-fly fisherman, nymph fisherman and streamer fisherman all enjoy success on the Madison.
The best advice if you want to try landing a sizeable trout is to fish from a drift boat. Lining up a guide who knows the river is the way to go. Nymphing as you journey downstream with either a large stonefly or dry fly at the surface will usually provoke a strike. Note that strikes and snags look and feel the same, so set the hook every time to ensure you don't miss your chance at a trophy.
Knowledgeable fishing guides are stationed at many of the Madison River lodges and resorts, or you can simply find one by asking around. Papoose Creek Lodge (406/682-3030; www.papoosecreek.com), located in the upper Madison River Valley, offers veteran guides, along with first-class accommodations, fine food, and genuine hospitality. For those who can afford it, spending a day -- or even a week -- at Papoose Creek Lodge while fishing with their experienced guides is truly a one-of-a-kind experience!
No matter what time of year you visit Southwest Montana, it only takes one trip to discover the undisturbed beauty and finest fishing the State has to offer. Landing twenty trout in an afternoon while under the watchful eye of a bald eagle paints a memorable picture. Best of all, the many lakes and rivers in Montana reveal their treasures slowly, always holding something in reserve for the next encounter.
By Don Sangster
Any hunter who has ever heard the thunderous gobble of a nearby male turkey knows why turkey hunting is one of the most exciting pursuits that a sportsman can undertake. However, to the newcomer, the special seasons, along with the specialized gear and tactics, can also be intimidating. Everything you need to know to get started in this thrilling sport is covered in this two-part series. In Part I, we covered the rules and tactics. Now we'll discuss the gear and safety.
By "scratching" the tip of the pen-shaped striker across the surface of the box, a number of different turkey calls can be imitated with excellent realism.The Gear
Calls: As you can tell, being able to imitate the sounds that real turkeys make is the key to success, whether in spring or fall. Fortunately, there are a number of different calls available to replicate just about any sound a live turkey can make.
Diaphragm calls use small, horseshoe-shaped pieces of flat aluminum with one or more pieces of thin latex stretched across them to create a reed. These calls are probably the most popular type of call used by turkey hunters. This is because these mouth calls produce excellent imitations of a range of different turkey sounds, and don't require the hunter to make any noticeable hand movements while also allowing him to have both hands free to mount a gun or draw a bow. Although these calls are also the most difficult to learn to use and require the most practice, all turkey hunters should strive to master the diaphragm call.
Friction calls are another popular type of call. These actually consist of two separate pieces, namely a round, flat box, called a sounding board, with a slate, glass, or aluminum surface, and a peg, or striker, with a pencil-like shaft of wood or some man-made material. By "scratching" the tip of the pen-shaped striker across the surface of the box, a number of different turkey calls can be imitated with excellent realism. The disadvantage of friction calls is that most require two hands to operate, and some also won't work when wet due to the materials used for the surface of the box and/or the head of the striker.
The other popular type of turkey call is the box call. A box call is simply a rectangular-shaped wooden box with a lid. By dragging the lightly-chalked bottom of the lid across the edges of the box, extremely realistic turkey sounds can be produced. These calls are very easy to use and can be heard from a long distance, but, as with slate calls, they require two hands and most types cannot be used in the rain.
Regardless of what type of call you purchase, if you don't know an experienced turkey hunter who can teach you how to use it, a good instructional audio cassette or videotape is another essential piece of equipment. Play the tape over and over until you can reproduce most of the key sounds, and then practice, and practice some more. But don't just start practicing the night before opening day. Turkeys have excellent hearing, and can tell a good call from a poor one, which is why many hunters practice their calling year round.
Although there are other types of mouth and friction calls available, most hunters use one of the above calls. In fact, many hunters use a number of different calls, of different varieties, in order to imitate the sound of different birds. As you can imagine, it can be difficult to carry such an assortment of different calls into the field. That is why most turkey hunters wear a turkey vest.
The other popular type of turkey call is the box call. A box call is simply a rectangular-shaped wooden box with a lid.
Camouflage: Unlike many of the game species that hunters pursue, turkeys can see color, and have excellent visual acuity as well. That means that unnecessary movement should always be avoided, and full head-to-toe camouflage is required to cover up all necessary movement. Face and hands should also be camouflaged. This is especially true for bowhunters, since more movement is required to lift, draw and aim a bow than with a shotgun.
But not all camouflage is the same. Army surplus jungle camouflage is better than nothing, but there are dozens of superior camo patterns available to today's turkey hunters. Regardless of where you hunt, there is a camo pattern to match, and a camo pattern that matches the terrain and cover you will be hunting in will do a better job of breaking up your outline and concealing your movements.
Camo colors can be matched as well. During the early spring, when new vegetation and leaves have not yet sprouted, a pattern with more browns and greys is more effective than one that is predominantly green. This is also true for fall turkey hunting. However, a pattern containing more greens will blend in much better as the spring progresses.
Guns and Bows: Guns or bows must accord to local regulations, which usually mandate shotguns of between 10 and 20 gauge, loaded with shot sizes of between #4 and #6, and bows of similar pound pull as those required for hunting deer. Some jurisdictions also allow the use of rifles and handguns during their fall seasons. Calibers starting with the .22 centerfires on up to the various deer-class cartridges are appropriate.
When hunting with a shotgun, always aim for the turkey's head and neck. Never shoot at the thick and boney body of a turkey, as it will usually result in just a wounded bird. Because a turkey's head and neck is a small target - about the size of your wrist and fist - tight turkey chokes are the way to go. As a result, many hunters opt for iron sights and even scopes on tight-shooting turkey guns. However; make sure that you pattern your shotgun in advance to see how it shoots, and try different ammunition if you are not happy with the results.
When you do get a big gobbler in your shotgun's sights, try to avoid taking the shot while the bird is all puffed up and strutting. During such posture, the gobbler will actually pull his vulnerable head and neck down and into his chest, partially shielding the target area. Instead, wait for him to straighten up and stick his head up, offering a much better target.
Bowhunters should use razor-sharp broadheads suitable for deer, and aim for the turkey's vital internal organs.
The beauty of a blind is that it conceals all movement, especially when the bird is in close and you're getting ready to shoot.Accessories: Portable or natural blinds are also popular with some hunters. The beauty of a blind is that it conceals all movement, especially when the bird is in close and you're getting ready to shoot. Blinds are very popular with bowhunters, as raising, drawing and aiming a bow requires much more movement than a shotgun does. Doing all of that without being spotted can be very difficult, especially when you are in view of more than one bird.
Besides a small stool and/or seat cushion to sit on, the final piece of equipment that most turkey hunters rely on is a decoy or two. An imitation hen or jake serves to not only add a visual confirmation of what the gobbler is hearing, but also helps to focus the turkey's attention away from the hunter during the final key moments before the shot.
Decoys should be used with caution, however, especially while hunting on public land. Although calling a turkey into shooting range is what it's all about, and not to mention the fact that they are just too wary to be stalked with any real degree of success, some hunters may spot your decoy, mistake it for a live bird, and decide to try to sneak up on it. Should you see another hunter stalking your decoy, quickly speak up in a firm voice. This brings us to a word on turkey hunting safety.
When setting up in a calling location, find a nice tree to sit against, making sure that the tree is at least as wide as your shoulders, and make sure that you have good visibility to spot approaching hunters, as well as approaching turkeys.
Never wear visible items of clothing in white, red or blue, as these colors can be mistaken for parts of a turkey. Similarly, when you bag your bird and are carrying it out of the field, make sure that the bird is either completely concealed or that you and the bird are marked with a sufficient amount of hunter orange to alert other hunters.
Don't let what may seem like a lot of complicated gear, rules and tactics keep you from trying this exciting sport. A little bit of basic knowledge will help you sort through the confusion, and you'll soon discover what great sport turkey hunting is.
By Jerry Martin
I'm a novice bow-hunter, and I find the amount of archery equipment and accessories mind-boggling. Can you recommend a basic, effective setup for whitetails?
Bow-hunting can be as simple or complicated as you choose. I recommend keeping your gear quiet, simple and dependable. Every major bow manufacturer offers bows in various sizes, styles and prices, and most work if used correctly.
Fit is important when choosing a bow. Beginners commonly pull too much weight or stretch past their draw length, which is why they should be measured by a bow technician.
Try several bows, and make your decision based on fit, feel, comfort and price.
Arrow speed is often overrated. I'm more concerned with forgiveness and stability. Speed, which creates flatter trajectory, compensates for not knowing distance. Instead of blazing arrow speed, I rely on a laser range-finder. By knowing which pin to use, I take the uncertainty out of shooting.
Beginners often overlook the importance of a rest. Your rest should have a simple design because extra screws, springs and moveable parts can cause breakdowns. With rests, quiet and reliable are buzz words.
Most bow-hunters are more accurate and consistent when using a sight. Purchase a sturdy sight, and don't ignore micro-adjustability, which is nice for precise settings. Fiber-optic pins are popular, and rightfully so. In most situations, a three-pin sight is sufficient.
I can't overemphasize quietness. Bow-hunting is such a close-range sport that the slightest noise can ruin your chances. Your bow will shoot quieter if the limb-bolts are bottomed out, which limits limb vibration. However, only tighten your limb bolts if you can comfortably pull the added weight. I also cover the sight window and all exposed metal with adhesive camouflage fleece material.
A bow is no better than the arrow it shoots. Arrows must be straight and matched and spined for the bow. Arrow material is a personal choice, but consider these differences: Aluminum is affordable and effective, but it bends easily and is less durable than carbon or carbon-aluminum shafts. Carbon arrows might be more expensive, but they are almost indestructible.
Feathers vs. plastic vanes is another personal choice. Feathers are more forgiving but noisier. Plastic vanes are better in wet weather but are more difficult to tune off some rests. Whatever you prefer, use at least a 4-inch helical fletching for the best flight with broadheads.
Broadheads are to bow-hunting what bullets are to gun-hunting, so choose wisely. I use replaceable three-blade broadheads, and I insist on scalpel-sharp blades that attach securely to a near indestructible ferrule.
Always paper-tune your arrows for perfect flight. After all, proper shot placement and sharp broadheads are the keys to successful bow-hunting.
By Brenda Valentine
The shooting and hunting industry has experienced a steady influx of women and youngsters, which has created more demand for small bows. After all, proper fit, which ensures comfort and success, is critical.
In the past few years, archery manufacturers have worked to meet demand for bows with shorter draw lengths and lighter draw weights. These bows fall between children's toys and the linebacker-sized bows that were standard for decades. The result was smaller, state-of-the-art bows.
I recently field-tested bows from several manufacturers and realized that the market for small bows is substantial. The choices are endless for children's starter bows, scaled-down women's bows and even bows with draw-lengths shorter than 28 inches.
When seeking the perfect bow with a short draw length, assess your needs. I need a bow with a 25-inch draw length and at least 50 pounds of draw weight. I also want a bow that weighs 3 to 5 pounds, with an axle-to-axle length of 31 to 34 inches. I am more interested in dependability, forgiveness and efficiency than raw speed or high let-off. However, chronographing is a standard part of my evaluations to ensure my bow produces adequate kinetic energy. Cost, recoil, balance, quietness, grip design, brace height, factory warranty and overall quality are also factors.
For my tests, I set up each bow with a peep sight, Limb Savers, a Whisker Biscuit arrow rest, a two-piece mounted arrow quiver, a three-pin fiber-optic sight and a Gator Jaw release aid. I used 375-grain, 26-inch Carbon Express arrow shafts with Ultra Nocks. My arrows were fletched with three 4-inch feathers and tipped with a 100-grain broadhead. Each bow was paper-tuned, set at 50 pounds and chronographed with a Radarchron.
The Contestants, Please
Parker Compound Bows might be a new kid on the block, but the company has done its homework. The Challenger was Parker's first small bow with a mass weight of 21/2 pounds, a draw length of 22 to 27 inches and a draw weight of 20 to 50 pounds. It retails for about $300, and was such a hit that Parker designed a top-of-the-line model called the Ultra-Lite 31.
The Ultra-Lite 31 is tough enough for all conditions, yet it shoots well. It produces respectable arrow speed, which testifies to its design efficiency. This one-cam, solid-limb bow has a draw range of 23 to 30 inches and includes a lifetime warranty.
Renegade Archery, another newcomer, offers three bows with draw lengths shorter than 25 inches. The LS-II, Renegade's youth/ladies bow, includes the precision craftsmanship standard in larger bows. I tested the Tominator-II, which has a 7-inch brace height, making it comfortable and forgiving. The bow, which costs $439, features Realtree Hardwoods camouflage, an intricately machined riser and a rich-looking walnut grip.
Hoyt USA, one of the oldest, most respected names in archery, is known for two things: high-quality products and innovation, which is evident in the bridge-truss design of Hoyt's Total Engineering Concept riser.
I shot the Hoyt HavocTec with three-quarter split limbs and double Versa-Cams. The bow weighs about 3 pounds, comes in draw lengths down to 24 inches, has a 71/2-inch brace height and measures 31 inches axle-to-axle. This bow is quiet and produces little recoil.
North American Archery Group in Gainesville, Fla., produces Jennings products, which have become a household name. I prefer Jennings' Buckmaster G2, a top-of-the-line bow with many bells and whistles. The modular, weighted one-cam allows 8 inches of draw length adjustments, and the split carbon limbs are set in beefed-up limb pockets with a Sims riser and limb dampeners. It features a forgiving 71/2-inch brace height and 31-inch axle length. The bow retails for about $500.
Clearwater Storm might sound like a new company, but owners Burly Hall and David Powers, have spent their lives looking down a bow-string.
I tested the Storm Super Lite, which is available with a 23-inch draw in the two-cam model and a 24-inch draw length in the one-cam style. The 34-inch axle length double-cam was speedy and pleasing to shoot, but the bow's hatchet cams are best suited for an experienced shooter. The $469 price is appropriate.
Mathews has become an archery icon. The longer-riser/short-parallel-limb design has become almost as copied as Mathews' one-cam technology. I tested the Mathews Q2, which has draw-length specific cams in many sizes. Mathews bows are available in archery pro-shops.
Browning Archery needs no introduction. The company has been building short-draw bows for decades and leads the youth-bow pack with the Micro Midas. This bow is extremely adjustable and suited for growing youngsters. It weighs 21/2 pounds and costs about $200. I've used this bow in many hunting situations, and it has always proven itself.
These are just some of the short-draw bows on the market. Never before have smaller archers had so many bows to choose from. The problem is no longer, "Where can I get a bow to fit me?" but rather, "Which one do I shoot first?"