Know Your Store: The Mel Johnson Buck

Mel Johnson Buck
From a makeshift ground blind, Mel Johnson harvested a typical whitetail in the fall of 1965
that no one has been able to approach with archery gear since.

At 204 4/8 net inches, the deer stands today as the World Record archery typical whitetail. Only two typical have been taken since that officially score higher – both with firearm. The buck weighed 270 lbs. field dressed and an estimated 340 lbs. live.

Mel used a 65-70 pound Howatt recurve bow, Micro-Flite fiberglass arrows with Zwickey  broadheads and little else in the way of equipment. Mel’s deer received both the Ishi Award (Pope & Young) and the Sagamore Hill Award (Boone & Crockett), a distinction no other game animal can claim.

Mel is retired from his career as a Caterpillar mechanic and lives in Woodford County, Illinois. He continues to bowhunt for deer and enjoys turkey hunts.

Location: Foyer

Fall Hunting Seasons are Approaching, are you Camo Ready?

Fall is an exciting time for hunters. It's when a lot of hunting seasons open up across the country and you need to make sure your camouflage is just as ready for hunting as you are. There are many patterns out there and choosing the right one for your surroundings is paramount in your success in taking home the game animal you are after. The big four here in the south when it comes to camouflage are RealTree AP, Mossy Oak Break-up Infinity, RealTree Max-4 and Mossy Oak Duck Blind.

First let's start with saying you were going to get geared up for your fall deer season. RealTree AP is a widely used pattern here in the south and features a light grey neutral base but also has dark contrasts like shadows to really help blend in. RealTree AP also has mixed pines and dark hardwoods which really covers a wide range of forests. Say you are looking for a little bit of a darker pattern for where you hunt though, Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity would be your camo of choice. Mossy Oak Break-Up Infinity has a soft brown base with highlights of grey, tan, and green thrown in to really break up an hunters silhouette. One great product that comes in both of these patterns is the Scent Blocker Super Freak jacket. The Scent Blocker Super Freak Jacket features SPF 60 Scent Blocker Cold Fusion technology, DWR water repellent fabric, and a safety harness slit in the back which are all features for a good all round hunting jacket for deer hunters whether they are in a tree stand on a pine tree or down in a river bottom hunting behind a ground blind. Another great product that could be paired with the Super Freak Jacket and also comes in both patterns is the Browning Hell's Canyon pants. These pants are quiet, windproof, and also feature Browning's OdorSmart technology for true stealth in the woods whether you are stalk hunting or watching a green plot from a ladder stand.

Scentblocker super freak jacket  browning hell's canyon pants

Next let's say you are getting ready for the upcoming waterfowl seasons. A widely used waterfowl camo is the RealTree Max-4. RealTree Max-4 features plant life such as cattails, cornstalks, sunflowers, oak and maple leaves, and cedar and oak limbs. This camo works great with waterfowl because they simply just ignore those things, it blends whether you are sitting on a river bank waiting for ducks or you are sitting on the edge of a corn field watching a pond for geese. Another great waterfowl pattern is the Mossy Oak Duck Blind. Mossy Oak Duck Blind starts out with dirt colors with different shades to show both wet and dry ground and then is covered with elements of millet, wild oats, corn stalks, Johnson Grass, soybeans and other grasses. These elements really create a 3-D feel and a sense of depth to completely blend in with the background you are using to take down waterfowl. One jacket that can be bought in either of these patterns is the Under Armour Skysweeper Jacket. The Skysweeper has a comfortable styling so it is easy to wear over waders, it features magnetic storage pocket, slash hand warmer pockets, 100% waterproof fabric, shooting shoulder and an adjustable/removable hood. One other great product that can be found in both these camo patterns is the RedHead Bone-Dry Canvasback insulated bibs. These bibs feature a Bone-Dry membrane for 100% waterproof performance while still remaining very breathable. The bibs also feature 150 gram thermolite insulation, plenty of pockets on both front and back, and also have reinforced seat and knees with ripstop honeycomb fabric.

UnderArmour Skysweeper jacket   RedHead CanvasBack insulated bibs

All of these products can be found at your local Bass Pro Shops store or online at Thanks for reading and stay safe hunters.

Ethan Aycox
Bass Pro Shops
Camo Pro Staff
Spanish Fort, AL



Preparing for a Scent-Free Hunt

The opening of archery season is less than two weeks away in Missouri. If you’re planning to climb into a tree stand or sit in a ground blind this season to harvest deer, I bet you’ve already invested a good amount of time in getting ready. You’ve probably been shooting your bow more than Robin Hood, and you may have spent your summer weekends hanging stands and trimming shooting lanes.  But there is something else that you can’t afford to forget about as you prepare for September 15: scent control.
If you haven’t already done it, make sure you wash all of your clothes – including your socks, hats, and underwear - in a special scent-free and UV-free laundry detergent

Hang them outside to dry – away from any strange smells like smoke, gasoline, or a BBQ grill – and then store them in an air tight storage container like this one.

Since there are almost always cedar trees in the areas where I hunt, I always throw a few small cedar branches in the bottom of the container as an extra way to ensure that my clothes won’t smell out of place once I put them on and enter the woods. And don’t forget to wash and store any other accessories you take with you, like backpacks and safety harnesses.
For those things that you can’t wash and store – like binoculars, range finders, deer calls, and even your bow – make sure you have a good supply of scent-eliminating spray on hand to apply to your gear before you hit the woods. Personally, I prefer to use Wildlife Research Center’s scent-eliminating spray 

But a new product this year that I’ve heard great things about and am excited to use is Wildlife Research Center’s “Gold Spray” which claims to be beyond 99% effective at stopping replicated human odor , based on testing at Rutgers University.
Finally, make sure you take a shower prior to each hunt using scent-eliminating soap and shampoo.  There are a wide array of these products available at Bass Pro.  For several years now, I’ve used Hunter’s Specialties Scent-A-Way Liquid Antibacterial Soap with nothing but good results.
If you’ve hunted deer before, you know that the biggest obstacle we face in being successful is fooling the deer’s nose. Make sure you enter the woods as scent-free as absolutely possible for each and every hunt this fall, and you won’t regret it.
I’d love to hear what your favorite scent-reduction products are. What do you use that I didn’t mention?

Scent Control
Todd Pridemore, Local Hunting Pro Team Member



There are several different camouflage patterns and selecting the right one for your hunting needs will depend upon what type of hunting you want to do and your location.  The following is a quick guide to help you select the right camouflage pattern for your next hunting trip.

Realtree AP (all purpose) is the most flexible of camp patterns.  It can be worn during several seasons.

Realtree APG (all purpose green) is also flexible but has added dots of green to be used in Spring and early Fall.

Realtree Max 1 is intended for hunting in open terrain such as sage covered hillsides, mesquite flats, open prairies, deserts, rocky terrain, and croplands.

Realtree Max 4 is intended for open terrain where the foliage is dense.  This pattern is popular for waterfowl hunting.

Realtree APS (all purpose snow) is used for big game and predator hunting in winter landscapes.

Realtree APB (all purpose blaze) is used when blaze is legally required, but additional concealment is wanted.  Please note that this pattern may not meet the blaze requirements in all states.  Check with local authorities to assure compliance.

Mossy Oak Break Up is intended for general purpose woodland hunting.

Mossy Oak Obsession has a lighter background for woodland and non-woodland choices.  This pattern is excellent for Spring and early Fall hunting.

Mossy Oak Duck Blind is specifically for waterfowl hunting.

Mossy Oak Brush is used for open range hunting when natural cover is limited.

Mossy Oak Treestand is intended for whitetail or hog tree stand hunting.

Mossy Oak Break Up Infinity has more depth against any background.  This pattern breaks up your silhouette in any woodland environment.

Mossy Oak Bottomland has dull, flat colors that blend well with the ground and understory of big hardwoods and swampy areas.

Mossy Oak Shadow Branch is used for hunting bare woods and bottomlands in the dead of Winter.

Mossy Oak Break Up Vertigo; also in tan or grey, are used to elevated positions.  The contrast in the patterns helps to prevent the "black blob" effect.

Find all of your camouflage clothing needs and don't forget the Scent-A-Way while at Bass Pro Shops.

By Samantha Whittle, Camo Lead


Bow Hunting Gobblers

The ultimate challenge for an adrenaline craving turkey hunter is to pursue a trophy tom with archery equipment. The harvest of a mature, wily gobbler is an achievement in itself, but to do this with a bow is something hard to top in the world of hunting. Just a few years back, the market for turkey hunters was solely devoted to the shotgunners. Now we have availability for turkey broadheads, arrows designed to shoot them, and other supplies to help the hunter that chooses to chase turkeys with the "stick and string."

The broadhead market for turkey hunters has changed drastically in the last couple of years. The option we use to have was to make a deer hunting broadhead work. Now there are several options from the guillotine to mechanical heads. The Guillotine Fixed-Blade is designed to make effective head and neck shots. When attempting this shot, the result is a hit or miss per say. This broadhead is most accurate with an arrow with large feather fletching, such as the Carbon Express Flu Flu. Another option is the mechanical broadhead. When shooting a turkey with a bow, the goal is for the arrow to slow down on impact, rather than blowing thru the bird. This means more energy hitting the turkey and often knocking the bird down. An arrow that just zips right thru the bird will allow them to run and sometimes fly, making the recovery much more difficult. A good option for field point accuracy and good hunting performance is the new Rage Turkey 3-Blade. This broadhead has extra long blades, that help slow the arrow penetration speed and will keep the turkey from running as far.

The primary reason that turkey hunting with a bow is so difficult is the draw back process. Ground blinds help hide movement and allow a bowhunter to make it to full draw without being detected. The Primos Escape Deluxe Blind has lots of room and huge windows, allowing a hunter to have the ability to shoot a bow comfortably. It is easy to set up and take down, with a hub style design.

If turkey hunting with a shotgun is something that you have somewhat mastered, or if you just want an extreme challenge, break out the bow this spring and see what you can do. Taking a gobbler with archery equipment is something any hunter should be proud of.


Turkey Hunting Accessories

Turkey season started Saturday, March 24, 2012 in Georgia and already some of our customers have been in with some great tales of success. One customer showed his success with a picture of a large turkey with an 11” beard and 1 7/8” spurs.

If you are a novice or an experienced turkey hunter we have all types of accessories that can help to make your season a total success.

For archers, the same equipment will work for turkeys as for all other big game animals except when using either the Magnus Bullhead ($39.99) or The Guillotine ($24.88) broadheads you will need a longer arrow so the broadhead will clear the front of the riser. This is one of the best ways to kill a bird aiming at the head instead of the body. Results are amazing.  If you want to shoot the traditional way, a good broadhead choice is the NAP Spitfire mechanical ($34.99).

If you are a bowhunter you know that there is a lot of movement when coming to full draw so the use of a ground blind is a necessity. The Primos Escape Ground Blind is lightweight, easy to set up and is on sale for $89.99. When hunting out of a blind remember to only open two windows so the animals cannot see your silhouette.  Face camo is also a must.

After you have chosen your hunting spot and set up the ground blind, you will need to have several calls and decoys ready in order to get the birds close enough for a shot. Primos Turkey Starter kit,  is a slate and box call in one package and is on sale for $34.99. For the more experienced callers, Redhead RTX Mount calls (triple reed) for 6.99 and the Redhead Pro 4 Pack of triple reed calls for $11.99. Flextone Run & Gun Compact call package is on sale for $19.99.

Redhead Semi Feeding Jake Decoy

The Redhead Semi Feeding Jake Decoy is on sale for $19.99 and the Pretty Boy Decoy Set is on sale for $69.97. Both are excellent choices of turkey decoys.

Pretty Boy

For those archers that are not turkey hunters, 3D season has started with at least one tournament each weekend in the Atlanta area. Come by our archery department and let our associates help to adjust or upgrade your bow for better results either on the range or in the field.

Thank you for reading

Bill Millican

You can follow me on


Dead Shot Field Pod

 At Bass Pro Shops we have what I think is the best rifle/shotgun rest I have seen in a while.  It is the Dead Shot Field Pod by Coldwell Shooting Systems.  It’s lightweight aluminum, only about 5 pounds, makes it easy to carry into the field with you.  The design of this rest can adjust to any rifle, shotgun, even cross bows.  It adjusts from 20 inches up to 42 inches in height.  Whether you are sitting on the ground or in a chair, your gun is always at the ready.  It would be great for turkey hunters, works great in ground blinds where you don’t have time to bring your gun up to ready.  It pivots up, down and left and right for a full range of motion for easy target acquisition.  It is priced right at &99.99, marks it affordable for just about anyone.  This is one rifle rest that could really help make a successful hunt.

Dead Shot Field Pod

Mark Doiron

Hunting Associate

Denham Springs


Getting Prepped for Turkey Season

With turkey season just around the corner it is time to start shooting again. Practice is especially crucial when your chasing those big spring long beards with their keen eyes and small vital area you really need to be confident in your shooting. 3D shooting is probably the best way to get this practice, it will help with judging yardage and shot placement.

Once you have the confidence in your shooting its time to work on getting close enough to take that shot. The most effective way to get close with a bow is from a ground blind. There are many different types of blinds on the market today ranging from one person spring steel style to the bigger and better hub style blinds. You can find a good selection of sizes and camo patterns at the Bass Pro Shops in Sevierville,TN. Some such blinds are the Red Head Blackout and the Red Head Enigma with their Realtree Camo and blacked out inside makes them the perfect choice for getting that shot off undetected.

Stop by for a visit at my Sevierville Bass Pro Shops located on I-40 at Exit 407.  I'm happy to answer any questions about turkey bow hunting or any other Archery-related topic.  Just ask for me, Chris Holt.

I look forward to seeing you!


Talkin' Turkey

Hunting Manager Shaun BequeaithSpring turkey hunting in Iowa will be here before you know it!  What can you be doing now to prepare? 

Bass Pro Shops Altoona Hunting Manager Shaun Bequeaith suggests practicing your turkey calls. Don't wait until the season is here...start practicing now. 

I recommend  using a hub style blind. Practice setting  it up...I practice in my living room each year to ensure it's easy," says Bequeaith.

If you don't, you may find yourself upset and frustrated in the dark, still trying to set  up the blind, while the gobblers are fired up and the sun is rising. 

BPS Lead Jason CochraneFor more information on Iowa's spring turkey season rules and regs, visit

For example, practice with a mouth call while you're driving to or from work.

However, Bequeaith says, you can call birds in but knowing where they roost and where the go when they hit the ground is a big part of the hunt.  So, scouting and preparation are key.

"When it's time to scout, do it from a distance. Sit on top of a ridge or a spot where you can see and hear for quit a don't want to spook any birds. From this spot you can find out where they are roosting and see where they fly down to."Spring Turkey

Bequeaith strongly recommends NOT practicing calls from your hunting area. This will only educate the birds and make them "call shy."  He says when scouting to include finding a good place for your blind and good visibility for your decoy.  Again, when it comes to ground blinds and turkey hunting, practice makes perfect...or at least makes the set-up easier!

Michigan Monster

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,168 buck 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 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 “THEmichigan monster BIG BUCK IS DOWN!” The event unfolded like this . . .


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.

 6:35 A.M.

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.

8:30 A.M.

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.

 9:00 A.M.

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.

 10:35 A.M.

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.

bbBrian 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 young bucks 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.

4:20 P.M.

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.

4:25 P.M.

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.

4:30 P.M.

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, Brian Hughes 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 recordL&T 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.

Dave Lee

Bass Pro Hunting Pro Staff


Cold Weather Hunting

Tired of getting cold in your tree stand or ground blind? Arc Outdoors has a great product that can extend your hunting season into the colder weather, giving you more chances when there is typically less pressure.

Arc Outdoors has a great line of hunting apparel that will really make those cold (almost too cold) days in the tree stand seem like they are a normal Fall morning/afternoon. The arctic shield liner in the jacket is not only windproof and waterproof but it retains up to 90 % of your body heat and returns it right back to you. This membrane is an awesome innovation in the hunting industry because it not only is warmer than most regular insulation,  it is also half the weight and bulk of normal late season jackets or parkas.

Arc makes the jackets in three levels of warmth:
  • Level 1 being the lightest with just a small amount of retain in the jacket.
  • Level 2 has more Arctic Shield in the garment while still maintaining the light weight feel.
  • Level 3 is the warmest of the warm.
There are a few things to watch for while wearing Arctic Shield , making sure you don't over heat going to your stand and making sure you put it on before you get cold. Those are the only two major concerns with this material. Overall, if you're looking for a great late season suit to stay warm in the harshest of elements and not break the bank, Arctic shield is one of the best directions to go.  

Arctic Sheild
( Val Elswick , part time camo associate at the Rossford Ohio Bass Pro Shop, with her button buck she shot while wearing the level 3 Bibs and Parka)

Written By Reese Brossia

Bowhunting Black Bears in Georgia

2011 Bear Taxid CloseBlack Bear season in Georgia coincides with the regular deer season starting in mid September and ending the first of December.
The regulations for Georgia are a little different than in most other states in that a hunter cannot use bait or bait scents to lure bears into range. In other words, you must hunt black bears on their own ground using just your hunting skills. I have been bow hunting bears for the last 3 years taking a small one late last year. Working with a fellow bow hunter has proven to be most helpful and last month all of my preparations became a reality.

First, I had to get my equipment setup for bear hunting. It is a little different in that my hunting is from the ground as I have to hike more than a mile to get to the specific area to see bears. That included purchasing the correct products for the hunt all of which we stock at Bass Pro Shops in Atlanta. Some interesting facts about Black Bears is that they are 95% vegetarian. Finding a good food source is critical. They really love acorns and good crops in neighboring fields. Their nose and ears are great but their eyes are not good at all. Basically, a hunter needs to play the wind and stay quiet when hunting.

I started with Victory Archery Arrows and tipped them with Magnus Stinger 4 Blade 100 grain broadheads. Bears are thicker than whitetail deer so a good sharp broadhead is very important. Next I would need a ground blind and a really good seat pad from Primos Hunting products.
A good backpack would be necessary to get all of my equipment along with my bow and arrows to the hunting location. Badlands makes several packs that are comfortable and will carry not only your gear but can accommodate your gun or bow easily. The last equipment for the bow hunt would be the clothing. Scent-Lok has all of the necessities needed for a great hunting experience from base layers to outer clothing needed to keep you warm and scent free along with a good scent eliminating spray Scent Killer from Wildlife Research Center. Danner boots coupled with Redhead Lifetime socks are necessary as a lot of hiking in the mountains is required. Windicator from Hunter's Specialties will make sure that I am positioned perfectly for the shot.

Finally with all of the pre-scouting done and the animals located, it was time for the season to start. The first few weeks I located several bears but all of them were on the move and would not give me a broadside shot which is required for harvesting a black bear. Some of the encounters were comical and scary at the same time. On one occasion, I came face to face with a large bear at a distance of about 30 yards. We had a stand off for about 30 seconds before the bear turned and walked away. I thought he was gone and settled in for the rest of the hunt. About 5 minutes later I turned to look back in the general direction of the bear only to see him not more than 20 Feet away looking at me through some low bushes. He startled me and then he left the area for good. Black bears can be quiet as a church mouse when the need arises. 

During the third week of the season, I located a place for a good ground blind between two trails that would put me 15 yards from one trail and 30 yards from another trail. October 10 found me in that location 30 minutes before daylight and ready for the day to begin. Shooting light was at 7:30am and I was ready, listening to the day awake and watching the trails intently. Then, at 7:35am I heard a branch break down the hill from me. Then another and another getting closer each time. At 7:40am, the big black bear came into view at 60 yards and closing pretty quick. I grabbed my bow and got ready for a shot. The bear turned to his right and chose the trail that would bring him the closest to my position. At one point he stopped to eat some Rhododendron leaves not more than 25 yards away. I drew my bow and got ready for him to step into the shooting lane. He stopped perfectly at 15 yards and I released my arrow. A perfect broadside shot and the bear turned and ran back down the hill from where he had come. Thank goodness he ran down the hill toward the truck. I was located almost one mile up the mountain in thick brush.

After waiting for about 30 minutes I called a friend to help with the recovery. We found him in no time as the Magnus Stinger broadhead had done its job perfectly. Upon inspection of the bear, he weighed 320 pounds and would make the Pope & Young record books with no trouble. He was a huge male that was around 15-20 years old with a perfect long coat. Black bears need several qualities to make the record books. Pope & Young record for bow and arrows need a measurement of the skull of 18 inches and for Boone & Crockett the measurement needs to be more than 21 inches. Field judging is critical and not that easy but there are keys to when viewing big bears. First look at the ears. Small bears look like dogs with their ears close together. As a bear ages the ears spread to the sides and a crease becomes evident in the middle. The next feature is the legs. Large heavy bears have short thick legs with big bellies hanging down. Once you have those two features, it is time to get into position for the shot. Black Bear hunting with either gun or bow is exciting and I encourage all hunters to put their skills to the test.

Bill Millican
Bass Pro Shops Atlanta
Archery Specialists. 


Scout Out Your Archery Buck Today

Summer is off-season for most deer hunters.  We are busy working and trying our best to stay cool.  However, you could be missing some of the best scouting of the year!  If you're in the Midwest the bucks are in bachelor groups right now and are coming out regularly to feed on the delicious beans and alfalfa.  I'm sure some of you guys have food plots that are beginning to get chewed up as well.  The best part is that the bucks have had enough antler growth at this point to be able to see their potential and know what you have running around your hunting area. 

Setting up a ground blind on a likely field and getting video footage is fun to do this time of year.  It also serves as good reference to see how your deer develop and how their habits may have changed from summer to season.  I like to look for an area that has alfalfa or young beans with several woodlots in the vicinity.  Second crop beans will be the best choice for deer season, although you may see a lot of deer in early beans in July.  If you can find an edge that has some white oak trees around it, that is the best spot to start.  Monitor the field to see where the deer enter and exit the field and set up a spot to watch them from a blind one hundred to two hundred yards away.  Sometimes it can get hot, so pick you up an Ameristep Blind Fan.  They run quiet and even have a LED light system built in.

If you do not have the time or means to set up and video deer during the summer, the next best option is to set out game cameras.  Really, you can get better surveillance on deer using a game camera because it captures everything that happens for multiple days, even when you can't be there.  In addition, you can fine tune your scouting by pinpoint certain deer, which we will talk about later.  Choose a spot just as you would if you were going out to video deer.  Walk the edge of a woods along the field and look for trails leading into the field.  Again, you will probably find that an area with white oaks is a preferred route.  The acorns have not really fallen at this point, but later in the summer and early fall, big bucks will stage just inside of the woods and eat acorns and green briar while they wait for the cover of darkness to enter the field.  Whenever you find a good trail, set your game camera up either facing into the woods down the trail or straight out into the field.  This will allow your camera to take multiple pictures as the deer come or go.  Of course, some of the new game cameras, like the Moultrie® Game Spy® M-80 Mini, have a time-lapse feature.  This is really neat because instead of taking pictures every so often, it takes a constant video of the area during daylight hours.  It will automatically switch to an infrared camera at night and begin taking photos again.  You can stream the entire daylight video on your computer whenever you view your SD card.  Although not available with the time-lapse feature, Wildview Cameras and Wildgame Innovations cameras are also great choices at a lower price. 

Now we will talk about fine tuning your scouting to pinpoint certain deer and locate their bedding areas.  Deer are willing to enter the fields freely during the summer. As season draws near and the days grow shorter, the deer stay in their bedding areas longer into the evening and begin using the fields more after dark.  They will leave their bed closer to dark each day.  I believe that they try to time it so that they are entering the field right at dark each night.  This is why it is important to find their bedding area and the trail they use to get from there to their feeding area.  What you can do to accomplish this is adjust your game camera down the trail, into the woods a little bit at a time.  You start out covering the entry point of the field.  Move your game camera back the trail into the woods to the first good split or crossing in the trail.  Usually this should be no more than 50-100 yards back, depending on the terrain and type of woods you are hunting in.   Set your camera up there and watch it for several days.  If you lose track of the deer your were trying to scout, move your camera closer to the field on the first trail, and confirm that the deer is still using the area.  If you kept contact with the deer on your second game camera setup, continue to move your camera down the direction that it came from until you feel comfortable that you know where it is bedding.  Resist the urge to enter the bedding area as you can spoil your chances if it is a mature buck that you are chasing.  Even though it is early in the summer, you may spook him just enough to make him change his habits and you would have to start over with your scouting.

You can now add all of this homework up and make a good decision on stand placement.  Obviously, you want to be between the bedding and feeding area.  Furthermore, it is ideal to get as close to the bedding area as possible without spooking the deer you are hunting.  With the right conditions (strong wind, wet ground, etc), you may be able to slip inside of one hundred yards and climb a stand without the deer knowing you are there.  If you happen to find a staging area inside the woods that the deer are using, put a stand there.  Remember, you are looking for white oak trees and green briar as a staging point identifier, along with heavy deer traffic.  I have had many encounters when deer slipped into a staging area, stayed there until it was dark, and then entered the field.  Some deer do not make these mistakes and stay close to their bedding area until the light is gone.  It is absolutely critical to hunt these areas only when the wind is right for it, even if it means letting your stand sit empty for opening day. These deer have been in a feeding pattern all year and see the same things everyday, so anything out of the ordinary may throw them off.  Get your stands in now so they have plenty of time to adjust.   

Good Huntin'

Get "Indiana Ready" For Spring Turkey

Spring is here and the weather has finally broken for the most part, but you never know what kind of surprises Northwest Indiana can bring you. With spring turkey season right around the corner, April 27th – May 15th, local hunters are preparing themselves for all possible conditions. Portage Bass Pro Shops offers an incredible variety of Hunting Rain Gear & Hunting Rainwear for both men and women to be ready for our April showers that are sure to come.       RedHead Strutting Tom Decoy           

Every hunter knows that the hardest part of hunting is finding the property and grounds to do so. Unfortunately, I can’t help you so much with the property aspect of the hunt, so after you have the hard part taken care of, apparel and equipment are the next steps in line. RedHead offers a range of his/her turkey vests and the majority are available on Clearance right now through the website.


Then you have a collection of calls, choke tubes, ammunition, decoys, blinds, boots, and can’t forget about the archery equipment for those who bump the challenge up a notch and get those gobblers as close as they can. All of these items are advertised in the Turkey Hunting Sale Ad that is running until May 1st.  


Among the typical “stuff” you need to take with you, please don’t forget your license! As an Indiana resident you will need a resident turkey hunting license and a valid game bird habitat stamp privilege. As far as any information on non-resident, lifetime hunting license holders, or land owner permits feel free to visit the Indiana DNR website and view the 2011 Spring Turkey Hunting Guide. Also, if you have interest in learning more on wild turkey population, conservation, restoration, behavior, characteristics, diet, and harvest reports check out DNR: Turkey and get educated!!


Good luck to everyone this season! Hit me with any questions, concerns, and I definitely can’t wait to hear about your successes out in the field. Pictures are always proof that stories aren’t being told too, so I’m excited to see everyone’s harvests! 

Good Hunting to all you guys and gals!!!

Aim Small, Miss Small
Kayla :)



Gearing Up For Spring Turkey

April is here and it's time to pull out your turkey gear and take inventory for what you have and what you need. Go ahead and start practicing on your calling, making sure your box calls are chalked up well and your slates are conditioned for another year of calling. By starting to practice early this will help you have more confidence in your calling ability so that on opening morning you are not worried about the sound of the call and you can concentrate on listening for that gobbler to answer youRed Head Snake Boot back.

Another key item to have for the Carolinas is a good pair or snake boots.  With all the walking you can easily do in a day turkey hunting you need to make sure you have a comfortable pair of boots and have them broke in before hand.

Red Head Hub Style BlindIf you have an area that you have been seeing birds already, set up a ground blind or stake out blind so they will not be spooked of it popping up just days before opening morning. We have a great RedHead Hub Style Blind that comes with a tripod stool, easy to set up and take down along with Ameristep and Primos brands. It's not a bad idea to have a blind set up just in case you have a rainy day so you can at least be dry. If you are taking a kid with you having a blind allows for a kid to be a kid and not have to sit completely still all day.

Pick up a few decoys that way when your calling in that Tom you can at least give him something to look at. Turkeys have amazing eye sight so when your calling and he sees your decoys he will hopefully be headed your way. Also by having decoys out this allows you to adjust his position according to the way he is coming in since their attention will be on the decoys.

Get out and try to pattern your turkeys ahead of time seeing which way they fly down, what field they tend to go to first and the route they like to travel daily. If you can not get out to do this then spend a few hours walking the woods looking for scratching in the leaves and tracks on the ground. Then set up a camera on what you believe to be a hot spot for turkeys so you can see what time of the day they are coming through.

To check season dates visit the NC Wildlife link below:


Public Land Turkeys

With the aid of the National Wild Turkey Federation, federal and state programs, as well as local contributions, the turkey population throughout Michigan has exploded. The hard work of these organizations has opened vast opportunities for hunters across the country.

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 whereyoung birds 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.

Tylers tomI’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 weredouble down 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.

public landConventional 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 20 year old PSEleast 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
Bass Pro Hunting Staff

Camping: How to Cope with Nuisance Wildlife

By Keith Sutton

John Q. Camper was having a nice visit. He arrived at the state park late in the morning, set up a small tent, stowed his gear and food inside, then decided to take a hike down one of the park trails. When he returned, he noticed a bag of food overturned near the entrance of the tent. He went over to check it, and that's when the skunk -- munching on Twinkies in the paper sack -- sprayed him in the face. Not only did the skunk spray temporarily blind him, it ruined his tent and everything inside.


At another campground, Charlie Q. Camper is trying to figure out what happened to the cookies he just opened and placed on a picnic table. He'd laid the snacks down momentarily while he walked to the restroom, and when he returned, half the package was empty. No one was in sight so he was puzzled -- but not for long. As he sat staring at the half-empty cookie bag, a jay swooped down and grabbed another Nutter Butter.


That incident was minor compared to what happened that night. Something awoke Charlie, something cold wriggling against his leg in his sleeping bag. He grabbed a flashlight, carefully unzipped the bag and found a small copperhead that had squeezed into the bag next to him. Charlie froze for a moment, paralyzed with fear, then carefully slid out of the bag and used a stick to lift the snake and carry it outside. He thanked his lucky stars he hadn't rolled over on the serpent and gotten bitten.


Little Johnny Camper wasn't quite as lucky. He was eating lunch at a picnic table with his family, and when he lifted a soda can to take a drink, a yellow-jacket stung him on the lip. Johnny is allergic to insect stings. Fortunately, his mother had brought along a sting kit containing the medicine needed to counteract Johnny's allergic reaction. She gave him a shot, and Johnny was okay except for a grossly swollen lip that was painful for several hours.


One reason we enjoy camping is because of the opportunities it provides to commune with Mother Nature. As the campers above learned, however, Mother Nature can sometimes be a nuisance or even dangerous. Seeing critters around camp can seem nice until those critters start causing problems.


There are some basic guidelines we can follow, however, to help make our experiences with wild animals less stressful for them and less dangerous for us. The first rule is to check your warm and fuzzy feelings at the door because these aren't cartoon characters. They're wild animals that can be unpredictable. It's best to discourage visits by most animals, both for your sake and the critter's.


Food Problems


As the scenarios at the beginning of this story indicate, food is one of the primary wildlife attractors in camp. It may seem like you're doing the right thing when you feed a family of hungry raccoons that visits your camp, but if one of those coons bites you, it will have to be destroyed and you'll wind up taking painful rabies shots. Nobody wins.


Smart campers store all foods, including dog food and horse feed, in closed, wildlife-resistant containers.

Likewise, feeding the semi-tame crow that's been coming around may seem really neat until that same crow flies off with your car keys. Crows and ravens like shiny objects almost as much as they like Oreos and potato chips.


Smart campers store all foods, including dog food and horse feed, in closed, wildlife-resistant containers. They also keep sleeping bags, tents and sleeping areas free of food and beverage odors. And they never sleep in clothes that were worn while cooking.


Keep a clean camp. After meals, wipe down tables and chairs. Wash dishes and utensils immediately and dispose of wastewater downwind, at least 100 feet from your sleeping area. Store odorous items such as garbage in wildlife-resistant containers.


When leaving camp, pack all food scraps and trash in sealed plastic bags and take it with you for proper disposal. When these items are left behind or buried, they attract animals to campsites, increasing the chance of bad encounters either for you or the next campers.


Hunting Camps


In hunting camps, there are additional precautions you should take, especially in areas inhabited by bears:

  • Wear gloves and an apron when dressing game to reduce odors on your clothing.
  • When you gut an animal, separate the carcass from the entrails. Then quickly remove the carcass from the area. The longer a carcass is left in the field, the greater the chance of a bear-human conflict. Be sure not to leave entrails within one mile of a trail, campsite, picnic area or parking lot.
  • Don't store game carcasses too close to camp or near a trail. Bears attracted by the smell may cause problems. You also should remember to take a pulley system and rope to camp so you can hang game and food out of reach of bears. Carcasses and food bags should be at least 10-15 feet above the ground and four feet out from the supporting structure.
  • Hang game and food items so they can be seen from a distance. This allows you to observe the items when you return. If a bear has claimed the food for itself, you can avoid it. Surrender the carcass or food to a bear if he has already begun feeding on it.
  • Knives and other tools used when dressing game should be washed thoroughly and stored with your game.


To prevent stings, watch for and avoid nests of stinging insects. Mosquitoes, Ticks and Other Bugs


Biting bugs such as mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, horseflies and gnats can quickly bring an end to your comfort around the campground, so take along something that will repel these little nasties. Citronella candles and the various bug repellent devices now on the market may help keep them away from the immediate area, but for thorough protection you may need to apply a good insect repellent to your skin.


For added protection, wear a hat, long-sleeve shirt and long pants. Camp in open, wind-swept areas if possible and use insect-proof tents with fine mesh screens.


Stinging insects such as wasps, bees, hornets, velvet ants and fire ants also can cause problems, especially for those allergic to stings. People vary in their reactions to stings. Most have only temporary discomfort. But some go into severe, sometimes fatal, shock. A doctor-prescribed medication should always be carried by people allergic to stings.


Stings happen when you least expect them. You drink a bee with your soda pop. You sit on a soft dirt mound of FIRE ANTS! You snag your fishing line on a limb attached to a hornet nest. You drive your tent stake through a nest of ground yellow jackets.


To prevent stings, watch for and avoid nests of stinging insects. Wear shoes outdoors. Don't wear perfume and bright-colored clothing outdoors as these attract stinging insects. Don't leave food exposed outside and don't swat at stinging insects.


Mammal Pests


Little critters like mice and porcupines may not cause campers the sleepless nights we often have when visiting bear country. But no one wants to wake up and find a mouse-sized hole in a brand-new backpack, or porcupine tooth-marks in a favorite pair of perfectly broken-in boots.


With these animals, you need to remember, it's not what you call food that counts; it's what they call food that counts! That includes cooking utensils, toothpaste, sunscreen and garbage. It can also include T-shirts, boots and the hip-belt of a pack, all of which can taste delicious to salt-loving porcupines and even deer. Natural fabrics are at risk, as well; mice use them as nesting material.


It's better to place such items in a pack or bag that is hung from a tree branch, even if the branch is only a few feet off the ground. Don't leave your stuff on the ground. When it's up out of the way, animals are less likely to find it.


It's also a good idea to keep your distance from bigger animals, even if they seem tame. A deer or elk that seems friendly could lash out with its hooves and cause serious injuries. Female animals with young can be especially unpredictable and dangerous. It's best to always keep your distance, and don't feed animals, even if they come into camp looking hungry. It's a strong temptation to feed seemingly friendly wildlife, but that accomplishes two negative ends. It makes them dependent upon human food, and it encourages them to hang around a human camp, both of which can be dangerous for them.


Always watch where you step and where you place your hands. Snakes


Snakes occasionally turn up in campsites, but you can reduce problems with them if you follow these precautions.

Camp in an area that's open, with no brush, fallen trees or rock piles nearby. Don't handle snakes or provoke them; most bites occur in this way. Learn the types of snakes likely to be encountered where you're camping, particularly venomous species, and keep your distance. Wear shoes when walking outside, and use a flashlight at night to light your path. Always watch where you step and where you place your hands. If someone in camp does get bitten, seek medical attention immediately.

A Final Word


This article isn't meant to discourage you from enjoying wildlife around camp. When you're doing so, however, use good judgment and a little common sense. Don't inadvertently place yourself in a situation that could cause harm to you or the animal.


Forecast Your Duck Hunting Success

By Keith Sutton

082800_h_duck1Weather conditions have an enormous influence on duck hunting success.  To make the most of their days afield, waterfowlers must understand weather patterns and how they affect bird behavior. 

Foul weather, for instance, is usually considered a duck hunter's greatest blessing.  But to be consistently successful, even under these favorable conditions, a hunter must know how storm fronts influence ducks.  On the flip side of the coin, sunny "bluebird" days are considered a duck hunter's bane.  Yet the hunter who knows how fair-weather conditions affect duck behavior will often bring home a limit.

Sunny, cloudy, windy, calm, freezing, warm -- let's focus on conditions waterfowlers often encounter and some tips for hunting ducks successfully no matter what the forecast.


A low-pressure system in the weather forecast indicates rain is on the way -- bad news for most, but not for the duck hunter.  Along with a stiffening wind, storm fronts increase cloud cover.  Ducks stop feeding at night and move more early and late in the day.  There's no glare off gun barrels and upturned faces, and no distinguishing shadows to reveal the silhouette of a waiting hunter.  The hunting picture begins to improve.

As winds intensify, ducks move to protected areas -- river backwaters, lake coves, green-timber openings, the lee side of islands.  Rain and/or sleet intensifies their scramble for shelter, limiting and defining the places they are likely to be.  More and more birds move into fewer and fewer areas.  The savvy hunter is a step ahead of them, setting out decoys and preparing to shortstop their weather-driven migration.

Low pressure in the forecast indicates rain is on the way -- bad news for most, but not for avid waterfowlers.  

Changing winds also work in the hunter's favor.  In our part of the world, they usually begin in the south, then blow round the compass--southeast, east, northeast, north, then finally northwest--as the low is replaced by a high-pressure, fair-weather system.  Sanctuaries at the onset of the storm lose their protection as it progresses.  Ducks settle into one lee then are forced to find another.  They fly throughout the day and lose much of their cussed wariness.  Most fly low as they work the slower air near ground.  In the right place at such a time, a hunter with a few decoys is sure to find a bit of duck-hunting heaven.

As the weather changes, the successful duck hunter remains mobile, adapting to changing winds and changing lees.  A well-camouflaged duck boat is a special asset now, providing easy access to every inch of shoreline, transportation for the hunter and his equipment, and a ready-made blind that melts into the landscape.  If water isn't too deep, chest waders serve the same purpose.  Moving from place to place, you can hunker down in a wet marsh or stand by a cypress without getting wet.  A waterproof parka and gloves complete your weather-proofing, keeping you warm and dry.

Fair Skies

Clear, warm, windless days can make duck hunting tough.  Ducks can now fly and raft, dabble or dive anywhere they please.  Direct sunlight makes upturned faces glow with electric intensity.  Even a perfectly camouflaged duck hunter is often revealed by the outline of shadows, and the slightest movement stands out like black on white.  If the weather pattern holds for several days, birds quickly learn hunter patterns--where they like to hide, when they like to gun, and where the safe zones are.

In this situation, remember that ducks may come and go where they please, but they never do it at random.  The flight lanes they establish, the fields and woods they feed in, the places they raft are purposely chosen, usually because they offer respite from hunter disturbance.  By patterning the movements of birds in your area, you can overcome the disadvantages of blue-sky hunting.

The best way to do this is to simply go duck hunting.  Set out a few decoys in a place you've chosen to the best of your hunting ability, then watch the comings and goings of birds throughout the day.  Resolve to stay put, even if shooting isn't good.  Note the time the ducks start flying and the routes they follow; the places where they fly high and fly low; the time they return; and the places they raft up.  Once you've determined their flight, feeding and resting patterns, you can position yourself to intercept on future hunts.

Freezing Weather

Extreme cold is both a blessing and bane.  When shallows ice over, ducks concentrate in remaining areas of open water.  Caloric intake must increase to compensate for lower temperatures, so twice-daily feeding becomes the norm.  At temperatures below 20 degrees, you'll start noticing afternoon feeding flights in addition to the usual predawn movements.  Unfortunately, freezing weather also makes boat travel more difficult and tests one's ability to withstand winter's cold.  Hunters must cope with the frigid temperatures in order to be successful.

Knowing how ducks will act in a variety of weather situations is the key to consistent success.  

Part of that coping is knowing where water will be open in freezing temperatures.  This may be in the main body of a creek or river where currents prevent ice-up; in a sheltered backwater area protected by levees or high banks; or in shallow green-timber flats that receive some current from adjacent streams.  

One area I often hunt is in the bend of a small bayou.  When the water's up, it runs across the inside bend of timber.  This creates a three-acre sanctuary of unfrozen water right in the middle of the frozen pin-oak bottoms.  During winter's worst weather, it's wall-to-wall ducks.

Most avid hunters work unfrozen river channels during frigid weather.  They boat the river until they scare up a flock of ducks, then they move in and set up where the ducks flushed.  Often, decoys are set in strings at the edge of willows, high banks and other sheltered spots.  The boat is hidden in cover with a camouflage net stretched over it.  The hunters stand in waders next to trees.  The ducks they flushed will soon return, and when they do, the fun begins.

Snowstorms & Fog

When visibility is limited by fog or heavy snow, callers have a field day.  In this situation, it pays to keep your call sounding whether you see ducks or not.  Poor visibility may keep most ducks grounded, but those that are caught en route automatically set their flaps and start listening for friendly calls.  Few duck hunting moments are as exciting as hearing unseen mallards answering a call in fog.

Snow Cover

Cold alone won't drive ducks from an area where food is plentiful, but if snow gets several inches deep or becomes glazed with ice, ducks must move elsewhere to find their groceries.

Here again, it pays to know where ducks are likely to go when conditions get bad.  If woods remain open and acorns are plentiful, ducks accustomed to feeding in fields may gather in flooded timber when snow piles up.  Cornfields are so attractive, they may continue drawing dense concentrations of birds even when blanketed with snow.  Hunting diving ducks like scaup and buffleheads often remains productive even though mallards and other dabblers have been forced to move out.

The smart waterfowler matches hunting tactics to the weather throughout the season.  By applying scouting techniques and a little reasoning about duck behavior, he develops an instinct for determining where and how to hunt no matter what's going on outside.  Blue skies or gray, the odds are in his favor.



Prepare for Bear: Bowhunter's Guide

By Alyssa Haukom

Is bear hunting difficult to prepare for?  Absolutely not, although it is obviously more time consuming the first time around.

While technically easy to prepare for, my first black bear bowhunt proved to be more of a lesson in black bear research than I imagined.  Here are some basic pointers to help you prepare for your first bow hunt for black bear.


I'd desperately longed to hunt black bear for over two years.  I'd bowhunted whitetails for many years, yet somehow I imagined embarking on a black bear bow hunt was significantly more difficult and more dangerous.  As a woman bowhunter, I knew no other women locally that hunted bear.  But as my acquaintances in the hunting industry broadened and I traveled to hunt camps in other states, my interest in hunting black bears increased substantially as did my knowledge of exactly what a black bear bow hunt entailed.  Turns out, as a seasoned bowhunter, preparing for my first black bear bow hunt was much easier than I'd imagined, but it required much more reading and studying than I'd expected.  What resulted was pure black bear hunting addiction!


As with most hunts, this hunt required steady nerves and excellent shooting skills first and foremost; but I found several additional ingredients necessary before embarking on my first black bear hunt:

Keen awareness of your own shooting ability and your bow's kinetic energy (distances achievable with adequate poundage pulled for good penetration and a successful kill shot) Thorough understanding of the location of a bear's vitals and optimal shot placement from different angles Ability to correctly access and judge bear size and age General knowledge about bear behavior, primarily feeding behavior and common bait site behavior General knowledge about sow and cub behavior, primarily for safety's sake Excellent scent control Excellent bug suit and head net protection Ability to remain on stand and motionless for hours

Best practice advice: purchase a 3-D bear target or two and shoot regularly with it. Equipment


I discovered that basically the equipment I used for whitetail was sufficient for bear.  While this may not always be the case, I found my 60-pound pull weight on my Outback bow and my 3-bladed 100-grain Muzzy broadhead (1 3/16-inch cutting diameter) very sufficient to take down a nice bear with a well-placed shot up to 40 yards.  A lighter weight bow is of course possible, but hunters must consider the kinetic energy of their bow, the shot distance and resulting penetration before executing any shot; especially at a mature black bear. Any seasoned hunter should be able to prepare easily for bear hunting, with possible minor alterations in bow set-up, poundage and type of broadhead used.  The main factor to consider is the "well-placed" shot.  A lighter weight bow can be just as effective as a heavier poundage bow, depending on the proximity of the bear and the shot executed.  Regardless of the bow weight, bear hunting 101:  focus on studying bear anatomy, know your own bow's effective killing power, and acknowledge its (and your) limitations.  Best practice advice: purchase a 3-D bear target or two and shoot regularly with it.





Bear I.D.


As a beginner bear hunter, I found the most difficult task was learning to identify the size (weight) and age of a bear.  If a hunter doesn't live in an area frequented by black bears, it is an uncommon sight and a task that takes some time and experience to correctly access the weight and age of a mature bear.  If your bear hunts are a year apart, that doesn't leave the hunter with much time for practice judging bears on a regular basis.  Requesting a guide sit with you in the tree may be preferred for beginner bear hunters, but eventually you'll likely wish to hunt on your own.  Though it may sound silly, a visit to the local zoo may be in order for observing bear and learning how to better judge their size.  Watching bear hunting videos is another great aid.  Other variables to observe: When it stands broadside, does its belly hang low or not, does its legs and body look lanky or stocky?  Is its face pointed and more dog-like (young) or more square (mature)?  Is its fur extremely puffy and furry (younger) or does the bear sport a beautiful black coat?  Do its ears look large in comparison to its head (young), or do its ears look small, spaced further apart, and its head large and round like a basketball?


Is the bear pear-shaped (more typical of a female bear, with thinner shoulders and a wider rear-end) or is it more squared (male) and does it swagger like a bow-legged cowboy?  Lone bears are typically boars, and a bear accompanied by smaller bears, a sow with cubs.


These are just some ideas on how to judge size and I.D. the bear you're watching, but the best judging comes from experience and spending time a field studying and hunting bears.






Bear Vitals


To learn all I could about a bear's vitals, I consulted magazines, books and the internet.  I sought out bear anatomy and organ illustrations and committed them to memory, noting that the heart lies further forward in a bear's chest than in a whitetails.'  I also noted the lung location,

You never know when a shot will present itself and you need to be ready at all times and in all possible positions.

with vitals being located a little higher than a whitetails, and made a mental note to keep in mind how misleading a bear's body outline can appear when masked with a bounty of black, puffy fur.  Several inches of their thick coat can make pin alignment on its kill zone unnerving, making it imperative to consider that factor before releasing an arrow.  As with whitetails, I consider the best shot scenario to be a quartering away shot.  However, one should practice and consider shot placement from many angles; perfectly broadside, standing/sitting upright looking at you, standing/sitting upright with it's back to you, and quartering toward you.  While some hunters proclaim a head-on shot possible with a bow (shooting into the lower neck), I think it would be best to pass and wait for another opportunity before risking that low-percentage shot. 


Practice shooting while both standing and sitting on the ground, in a ground blind, and in a treestand; one never knows when a shot will present itself and you need to be ready at all times and in all possible positions.  Try shooting at close distances of a mere 5 yards, but also out to 30 or 40 yards, if your bow has enough kinetic energy to execute a killing shot at such distances.


Bear Behavior


Next in preparation for bear: read all you can about black bear behavior; spring vs. fall feeding behavior, aggressive behavior, and how sows and cubs interact and communicate with one another.  Learn to identify common bait site behaviors and how a bear reacts when another bear is in the vicinity.  Watch bear when they enter an area for clues to the presence of other bears.  Like whitetails, you can learn a lot by what's going on around you by taking clues from their behavior (birds, squirrels, raccoons and rabbits too) and where they're looking.  Younger, nervous bears are obvious indicators that a more mature bear is lurking.  Carefully watch the bears once they begin feeding.  Observe and listen to a sow and her cubs; sows are especially vocal and communication marked by much popping and snapping of her jaws.  Know that sow's can be the most dangerous bear in the woods if they feel their cubs are in danger.  Be sure to never come between a sow and her cubs, and remain calm if a cub decides to climb the tree your in.  A slight tap on their sensitive nose with your arrow should send them shimmying back down as quickly as they climbed up.


Scent and Bug Control


Bears have an acute sense of smell, many times more effective than a whitetails, and as such, extreme care must be taken to remain scent-free at all times while bear hunting.  Use scent-containment clothing and scent-free sprays, rubber boots and avoid using any type of scented bug sprays.  On the way to your stand, do not touch any brush, and do not snap limbs or branches.  Climb into your stand quickly and quietly.  It's imperative to wear a quality bug suit and high-visibility head net that will allow effective shooting in low light situations.  You'll find a quality bug suit essential to your sanity when hunting in Canada, and a must to aid yourself in remaining motionless while in your stand for hours.  No one needs to be swatting at black flies and mosquitoes, when they should be concentrating on spotting an approaching bear!  Be sure to practice shooting your bow with your head net on and in similar low-light conditions far in advance of your hunt so you will feel comfortable and confidant in your shooting ability while wearing the head net.


Preparing for a bear hunt should be a relatively smooth transition from other types of bowhunting as long as you're confidant in your shooting ability and equipment.   As a new hunting adventure, it may involve far more research than you might imagine, but the key is in acquiring knowledge about the game you'll pursue...from its looks and behavior, to its vitals and shot placement, to being able to properly identify an adult bear.


Is bear hunting difficult to prepare for?  Absolutely not, although it is obviously more time consuming the first time around.  Dangerous to hunt? Perhaps more so than some other types of game, but you'll find it appreciably safer and less threatening after acquiring essential knowledge about bears, their behavior, and their habitat. 


Do your homework and study bears, hunt safe and hunt smart, keep your shooting skills sharp, your bow tuned, routinely check all equipment, and you'll be prepared for bear.