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
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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.

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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.

Storms

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.

082800_h_duck2
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.

082800_h_duck
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.

 

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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.

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Helping Newcomers

By Brenda Valentine

Ask a Pro

Helping Newcomers: Offer a Gentle Welcome to the World of Hunting

Brenda Valentine

 

Q: I want to share my hunting experiences and enthusiasm with my wife, but I'm not sure how to introduce her to the outdoors without overwhelming her. As a successful woman hunter, what is your opinion?

- Thomas Curtis

 

A: Not all women - or men - have a hunting instinct. I believe everyone has a special gift or talent. Some are gifted musicians, and others are talented carpenters, athletes or artists. Many women have the instinct and timing to be a hunter but haven't had the opportunity to use those skills.

 

As a teacher and mentor, here are my suggestions. I can't guarantee your wife will become a hunter, but you can pat yourself on the back for doing it the right way.

n Start right. Make sure your wife understands why you hunt. Although it might be difficult to put into words, she must understand that hunting is more than killing. Teach her about wildlife and conservation. Enroll her in hunter education, and attend classes with her so you can discuss the lessons.

 

Encourage her to attend Women in the Outdoors workshops, which are offered by the National Wild Turkey Federation. These all-women events are less intimidating and will help her realize how popular hunting is among women.

 

n Start slow. Many of the things you've done since childhood are new for your wife. Many women fear guns because of the noise and recoil. Acclimate her with a small-caliber gun, and spend time shooting and learning the gun's mechanics so she gains confidence.

If she plans to bow-hunt, make sure her bow fits properly. Correct draw length and weight are paramount. Most women have excellent eye-hand coordination, which helps them become skilled markswomen.

 

n Start low. At my hunting schools, height is the No. 1 fear among women. Start by hunting from a ground blind or short platform until she builds confidence.

 

n  Stay warm. Women are less tolerant of cold than men, which means we have to be more prepared. I dress in layers, starting with silk long underwear and heavy longjohns. I use wool clothing covered with outer garments featuring GoreTex/Windstopper. Use a neck gaiter and insulated hat, along with wool socks and heavily insulated boots for head-to-toe comfort. One of my stay-warm-all-day secrets is the Heater Body Suit by Heater Clothing, which helps me withstand the rawest conditions.

 

n Celebrate small accomplishments. Don't put trophy limitations on a new hunter, or compare size and numbers. Hunting shouldn't be competitive. No matter what your wife kills, congratulate her, and share her joy. Few people start out taking record animals, and those that do usually don't hunt long.

 

And last, don't come crying if she becomes a better hunter than you imagined. Remember, you wanted a lifetime hunting partner.

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Disorganized Hunters

By Jerry Martin

Your clothing scraping against the tree, that one little accessory that got in the way of a limb -- these and many other weird noises can all cost you a big buck.

There is no reason for you to be disorganized when that trophy deer approaches, especially with all the multipocket clothing, fanny packs and day packs on the market today.

As soon as you reach your treestand or ground blind, organize all your accessories and make sure they are not in your way. Even a bow hanger in the wrong location can get in your way and cost you that trophy. Make sure you can get to your binoculars, rangefinder, calls and anything else you might need without a hassle.

Never hang anything in a place you think the deer won't come from. The minute you do that, they will.

Jerry Martin is co-host of 100% Real Hunting on The Versus Network

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Hunting Boot Buyer's Guide

By Wade Bourne

One good indicator of boot quality is thickness of the leather.

Boots are the Rodney Dangerfield members of a hunter's wardrobe.  They rarely get the respect they deserve.

     
This is because most hunters don't know much about boots - their materials, features and functions.  More boots are bought by whim than through studied selection.  Few customers -- know what constitutes good value in boots and how to match an individual's needs with available boot options.

     
This is ironic, since boots play such a critical role in success in the outdoors.  Boots which are comfortable, which keep feet protected and dry, go a long way toward enhancing a hunter's pleasures.  Conversely, boots which rub, which leak or which don't keep feet warm can ruin a trip in a hurry.

     
Following is "Hunting Boots from A to Z."  This guide has been compiled with the assistance of some of the top hunting boot designers in the country.  Readers should study the following sections to educate themselves about hunting boots features.  Then, the next time their old boots wear out and a new pair is needed, they will be more able to make a more informed selection.

 

Boot Materials

     
Modern hunting boots come in three primary materials:  leather, fabric, and rubber -- each of which has its own unique characteristics.

     
Leather is the most traditional outer material.  Several types of leather are used in bootmaking:  cow hide, boar hide, kangaroo, etc.  Of these, cow hide is predominant.  Cow hide is strong.  It wears well.  It is less expensive than other leathers.  Considering its price and performance, this is perhaps the best outer boot material in existence.

     
A green (untanned) cow hide is thick, so it is normally split into two layers before tanning.  "Top leather" shows the grain of the outer skin, and it is the toughest of the two layers.  The "split" layer is the bottom, fleshy side, and it tans with a smooth or suede finish.  This "split" is tough in its own right, and being less expensive than top leather, it constitutes a very good per-dollar value.  Its main drawback is its tendency to abrade, owing to its smooth surface.

     
One good indicator of boot quality is thickness of the leather.  Thicker leather provides more protection and durability.  When considering leather boots, check exposed edges for thickness.

     
Another widely used leather in bootmaking is boar hide.  This leather is extremely tough.  However, it has a very coarse outer grain, which some consumers do not like. 

     
Kangaroo leather offers a combination of armor-like toughness and light weight.  (Its fibers grow in a cross-hatch pattern, which provides this strength.)  Because of these factors, this leather is typically used in upland hunting boots.  Kangaroo boots are typically expensive because of the cost of this specialty leather.

     
Many leather boots are oil-tanned, which means they are impregnated with Neatsfoot-type oil.  This process helps turn water, but it does not render the leather 100% waterproof.  However, full waterproofness of leather can be achieved through chemical treatment or impregnation with silicon.

     

The best application for rubber boots is wearing in a wet environment.

Many modern boots are made with full fabric outers, or combinations or fabric with leather and/or rubber.  These fabrics include natural fibers, manmade polymers and nylons.

     
Canvas (cotton) is the most prevalent of the natural fabrics, though it is rarely used in serious hunting boots because it absorbs water, leading to mildew and rot.  Manmade polymer threads are woven into a fabric which is stronger than canvas, but not as strong as nylon.  Boots made from polymer fabrics are inexpensive, but their longevity is consistent with their cost.

     
Far and away, the best fabric for boots is nylon, which is tough and a good value for its cost.  One of the most widely used nylon fabrics is Cordura, which comes in a range of thicknesses.  Cordura has a rough texture and abrades and becomes fuzzy through extended wear.  However, this material is very hardy as an outer material in boots.

     
The advantages of fabrics in boot construction are several.  They are cheaper than leather.  They are lighter than leather.  They can be colored or camouflaged in any pattern.  Fabric boots require no breaking in.

     
Fabrics' disadvantages include:  their strands may eventually unravel due to abrasion and pulling; they offer less protection than leather against sharp sticks or rocks; and they have more seams, which increases the chance of a blown seam at an inopportune time.

     
Boot buyers might consider the following guidelines for choosing between leather and fabric boots.  For sporadic or light duty use, all-fabric boots are sufficient.  For moderate use, fabric/leather combo boots are a good choice.  (The leather should be used where the boots are more likely to receive their hardest wear - toe, sides, etc.)  For serious hunting, especially in steep or rocky terrain, all leather boots are best.

     
Rubber is the third main boot material.  Its primary feature is its efficiency in turning water.  However, rubber boots trap and hold body moisture, so feet in rubber boots will get wet from their own perspiration.  Also, rubber is susceptible to tearing from sharp objects.  The best application for rubber boots is wearing in a wet environment, especially during long periods of inactivity (sitting in a deerstand or a duck blind) so the feet won't perspire.

 

Boot Construction

     
In bootmaking, "construction" means how the sole is attached to the uppers.

     
Goodyear Welt is the most traditional and most durable of all construction methods.  In this process, a welt (ribbon of leather or rubber) is stitched to the boot upper, insole and lining in one operation.  Then the outsole is stitched to the bottom of the welt.  The outsole is wider than the boot, and stitching is apparent.

     
Goodyear Welt boots are extremely tough.  They provide excellent traction and the best lateral stability of all boots.  Also, they are easily repairable at any shoe shop.  On the downside, Goodyear Welt boots are more expensive than boots of other construction types.

     
In cement construction, leather is wrapped around a "last" (foot-shaped form) and cemented to the bottom of an insole.  Then the outsole is cemented to the bottom of the insole.  This process requires minimal labor, so these boots cost less than other construction types.  Their main disadvantage is that, if a good cement bond is not achieved, the outsole can pull loose, and they are difficult to repair.

     
"Process 82" involves stitching a leather upper to a welt and stretching over a heated bronze form.  Then a pure rubber outsole is molded directly to the leather.  Thus, the welt and vulcanized bottom become one.  This process is inexpensive, and the result is one of the most durable construction processes.  Disadvantages include slightly higher weight and the inability to waterproof these boots without using a waterproof membrane bootie.

     

Air bob outsoles are good in rocks, dry dirt, and mud, plus they are self-cleaning.

Moccasin construction is what its name implies.  The foot is totally enclosed in a leather moccasin, then the outsole is stitched on the bottom.  This construction is very tough.  However, if the cement outer bond breaks down, grit can work in between the leather and the outsole and cause discomfort to the wearer.  Also, moccasin construction is done by hand, so it is expensive.

 

Boot Outsoles

     
"Outsole" is the term for the bottom surface of the boot, what actually "digs into the dirt."  Outsoles come in a variety of materials and tread designs for different terrain conditions.

     
Manufacturers typically develop outsole designs that are different from their competitors'.  However, most outsoles can be classified into one of the four following categories:

     
Vibram Lugs - A "lug" is "a projection by which a thing is held or supported."  In bootmaking, a lug is a hard rubber cleat with a sharp outside edge for digging or wedging into hard surfaces such as rocks, dry dirt or clay.  Thus, lug soles have dependable records in rugged terrain.  They are workhorses which are typically used when conditions are demanding and grades are steep.  Their drawback is that, since the lugs are deep and closely spaced, mud packs around them and is difficult to get out.

     
Air Bobs - Air bob outsoles provide great traction in a broad range of terrain conditions.  Air bob soles are dotted with rounded knobs which have hollow cores.  These "bobs" flex when contacting hard surfaces.  Each bob acts as an independent claw or finger, gripping where it contacts the ground.  Air bob outsoles are good in rocks and dry dirt.  They are equally efficient in mud, plus they are self-cleaning.  Their rounded design and abundance of space between bobs discourages mud buildups.  Air bobs make for a great all-purpose outsole.

     
Shallow Tread - These outsoles have a thin, wavy pattern for use in mud, grass and other slick walking surfaces.  Their main purposes are to provide traction while not picking up mud.  These soles are typically used on rubber boots and upland hunting boots.  They are not suitable for steep terrain.

     
Hiking/Athletic - Athletic outsoles have shallow lugs which are omni-directional.  They are very general in purpose.  They provide fair traction, shallow grip and light weight for all-purpose use.  Their main disadvantage is that they are not self-cleaning.  They will pick up and hold mud, which diminishes their grip and adds to their weight.

 

Boot Height

     
Hunting boots come in a range of heights from ankle high to almost-knee high.  The standard height is 8-10 inches (measured from the top of the sole).  Boots in this range provide plenty ankle support and lower leg protection.  They are tall enough to allow wearers to wade through shallow creeks or puddles without having water come over their boot tops.  Also, standard height boots with gusseted tongues (stitched up the sides) will help keep out seeds, pebbles, etc.

     
For walking in rough terrain where steep climbs or descents are expected, hunters should wear boots at least 8 inches high for strong ankle support.  Otherwise, boot height is a matter of personal preference in terms of comfort, support and leg protection.  Taller boots provide more support, but they also weigh more (and cost more).

 

Boot height is a matter of personal preference in terms of comfort, support and leg protection.

Insulation, Lining, Insole

     
Insulation provides dead air space in boot walls which traps and retains body heat.  The more dead air space per square inch of insulation, the more efficient it is.

     
Some hunters have better circulation and greater tolerance to cold than others, so the "right amount" of boot insulation is a personal matter.  Those who seldom have cold feet should stick with lighter insulation weights, while those who have chronic problems with cold feet should go heavier.  Also, hunters who walk continuously will need less insulation than others who sit or stand inactively for long periods.

     
Boot insulation comes in three main forms:  micro-fiber insulation (i.e., Thinsulate), felt, and foam.  Micro-fiber insulation is a padding which contains thousands of tiny fibers which provide loft and dead air space.  This type insulation is very effective at a reasonable cost.  It comes in different weights (200 grams, 400 grams, 1000 grams).  The higher the number, the greater the insulating capacity.  Also, heavier insulations are thicker, so boots with 1000 gram Thinsulate have bulkier walls than similar boots with 400 or 200 grams insulation.

     
Felt booties inside "pac boots" are a traditional combination for extremely cold temperatures.  However, felt is bulky and heavy, and it tends to hold foot moisture.

     
Foam insulation provides dead air space, but it is less efficient than other boot insulations.  (It takes more quantity for an equivalent insulating index.)  Thus, foam-insulated boots are bulky and typically lower in quality and price than similar boots with micro-fiber or felt insulation.    

     
When deciding on the right amount of insulation, the following general guidelines will apply to most hunters.  For bitter cold conditions and periods of inactivity, consider boots with felt liners or 1000 grams of Thinsulate.  For general purpose wear in temperate climates, boots with 400 grams of Thinsulate are a good choice.  For active wear in temperate to warm climates, consider boots with 200 grams of Thinsulate, or perhaps no insulation at all.

     
Another consideration is where insulation is applied in boots.  Some boots have insulation over the instep and up the sides of the foot, but not over the toes.  Properly insulated boots have insulation completely over the toes, top and sides of the foot.  Heat rises, and it will escape through the top of boots if no insulation is present to hold it in.

     
A boot lining is the material which surrounds the foot and directly contacts it.  Its purpose is to provide a good fit and feel.  A lining decreases friction where the inner boot contacts the foot, thus reducing the chance of blisters.  A boot lining also holds insulation in place, and it provides inside protection for waterproof membrane booties.

     
Most boots have linings of leather or manmade fabrics.  Leather linings are a traditional mark of quality.  However, modern nylon and polyester linings are softer, lighter, more comfortable and less expensive than leather linings.  The best linings are nylon fabrics, which last longer and wear better than other linings.  (A lining of Cambrelle is an industry standard.)

     
The insole is the inside bottom of the boot - what the foots stands on.  It defines how much room the foot has to move and flex inside the boot.  Overall, the insole determines the shape, size and fit of the boot as well as the comfort level.

     
Most modern insoles are made from fiberboard which is treated to prevent bacteria and odor buildup.  These insoles are lighter in weight and less expensive than leather insoles, which they replaced.  Also, some companies are now fitting hunting boots with removable orthotic inserts molded from foam.  These inserts are in the form of a foot, with extra support in the arch and heel areas.  They provide additional shock absorption, and they insulate the bottom of the foot from temperature extremes.

 

Waterproofness

     
Waterproofness in boots in achieved by using waterproof leather, incorporating a waterproof membrane bootie, or molding boots from rubber.

     
Waterproof leather is treated with silicon or other chemicals which causes the fibers to swell and lock out water.  These boots still "breathe" (allow foot moisture to pass from the inside of the boot to the outside), though not as well as do boots with waterproof membrane booties.  The seams of waterproof leather boots are sealed with rubber cement, and non-absorbing nylon thread is used in the stitching.  Top quality waterproof leather boots, properly maintained, will provide long-lasting service.

     
To maintain waterproof leather boots, hose off mud and dirt at the end of the day. If necessary, clean them with a soft bristle brush, then allow them to dry at room temperature (not by the fire!).  Do not use soap or oil-based treatments on waterproof leather boots.  Instead, treat them occasionally with a silicon spray.

     
Sewing a waterproof membrane bootie (i.e., Gore-Tex) between boots' outer and inner materials is another way to keep water out.  These membranes have tiny pores which allow sweat vapor to escape from inside the boot but keep water molecules out.  Thus, "Gore-Tex boots" are waterproof, but they also breathe, which keeps feet dry and warm.  (Some boot models incorporate both waterproof leather and a waterproof membrane liner for ultimate waterproofness.)

 

Lacing Systems

     
Several types of eyelets, hooks and rings are available for lacing boots.  Following is a list of these hardware types and their characteristics.

     
Eyelets:  These round grommets are the strongest, least expensive lacing system.  However, they also require the longest time to lace and unlace.  Laces must be threaded through and tightened at each pair of eyelets for a snug fit.

     
D-Rings:  Laces pass easily through these hanging D-shaped rings, which provide speed in lacing.  Also, since D-rings put no tension on the laces, one pull will tighten or loosen several junctions simultaneously.  However, D-rings won't hold tension on laces once they're tightened.  For this reason, D-rings are typically used in combination with eyelets or cinch hooks to offer both lacing speed and a strong grip.

     
Hooks:
  Metal hooks are the fastest lacing system, but they are the least secure.  If the laces loosen while the boots are worn, they may work out of a hook, and the boots will become unlaced.  The strongest hooks (and most costly) are machined; stamped hooks are weaker and less expensive.  Also, the best attachment system is with small steel washers to hold hooks in place.  Hooks that are crimped directly onto the leather at the back of the hole tend to "eat" their way through the hole over time and pull free.  Thus, hooks without washer backings are a sign of lesser quality.

     
Cinch hooks:  These are similar to standard hooks, but they are narrower in the notch.  When a lace is pulled tight through a cinch hook, the hook will hold it securely until a knot is tied.  Cinch hooks are frequently used at the flex notch (where the boot is designed to bend).  This allows someone lacing boots to keep tension in the lower eyelets or rings while the upper part of the boot is laced.

     
Many boots offer combinations of the above lacing hardware.  The best way to test a particular lacing system is to put the boots on, then lace them completely.  Check for security of lacing, speed/ease of lacing, tightness and overall comfort.

     
When it comes to laces, the best option is round braided nylon laces.  These are long-lasting, and they flatten under tension and provide a good grip.  Conversely, laces of leather or cotton will eventually rot and break when pulled tight during lacing.

 

Making the Right Choice

     
Great values exist in modern hunting boots, thanks to new materials and manufacturing technologies.  Some insulated waterproof models retail for less than $100.  These boots offer reliable service for hunters who don't get into the field very often and who have a hard time justifying big bucks for top line boots. 

     
On the other hand, highest quality boots provide exceptional durability and comfort.  They typically sell for $200 or more.  These boots are for the avid, frequent hunter who needs the best footwear and is willing to pay for it.

     
Hunters shopping for new boots should carefully consider how they will be used.  Will they be worn more for walking or stand hunting?  Will the ground be rocky, muddy or sandy?  Will the terrain be hilly or flat?  How important is waterproofness, weight, insulation, ruggedness, ankle support, etc?  What is the best lacing system?

     
By referring to the sections above, a hunter needing new boots can answer these questions, then pick a pair tailored to his specific needs.  The guesswork is gone.  Whim is replaced by knowledge, and the results are more comfortable feet and more enjoyable forays into the backcountry.

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Turkey Hunting Blinds and Tactics

By Tracy Breen

Jakehouse Turkey Blind

The smallest of the bunch, Ameristep's Jakehouse Blind is extremely portable and fits into the pocket of your turkey vest during transport.

Things are changing in the world of turkey hunting -- a sport that's now more popular than ever before. Increased popularity has prompted the creation of new products designed to help hunters succeed in the woods. In turkey hunting, no single piece of gear has increased the success rate of hunters like the ground blind.

Over the years, if I'd been hunting from a ground blind, I probably would have an extra fan on the wall and turkey dinner in the freezer. I was often unsuccessful due to the keen eye sight of the weary old gobbler. If you want to learn how to use a ground blind and the advantages they offer turkey hunters, keep reading.

Whether you hunt with a gun or a bow, pop-up blinds are a great tool to use when hunting turkeys. For starters, blinds made today by companies such as Double Bull, Eastman Outfitters and Ameristep are designed with the turkey hunter in mind. Hub-style blinds are easy and quick to set up. They take only seconds to open, put into place and prepare for the hunter to slip inside. If you aren't crazy about lugging a twenty pound blind around with you into the woods, most manufacturers offer a sack that holds the blind, which has shoulder straps so you can haul it into the woods on your back. They also offer small, one-man blinds that weigh a fraction of the larger blinds and conceal one man enough to shoulder a gun or draw a bow without being seen. The smaller blind outlines are easily broken up so weary game won't suspect a thing.

Using a pop-up blind offers many advantages. For instance, it's never fun to sit out in the woods on a cool spring day while it is raining or drizzling. With a pop-up blind, you will most likely stay dry and will be able to hunt longer because you are not uncomfortable and damp. Being wet quickly shortens a day in the field.  Pop-up blinds allow you to set up in places you previously wouldn't have been able to.

Tent Chair Blind

SCENTite Tent Chair Blind set up at the edge of a field.

Open field hunting without a blind is a difficult task. There is nothing to lean up against or break up your outline. Lying on your stomach for hours on end can be a pain in the neck...literally. A blind can be placed in the middle of an open field or on the edge of an open field and you are instantly in business. Unlike deer, turkeys don't pay attention to blinds. In open terrain, I've watched toms walk within inches of my blind strutting for my decoy or other hens. They don't pay attention to me as I bring my bow to full draw and send an arrow sailing.

In addition to open farm fields, blinds also work well set up on food plots that turkeys frequent. My favorite set up with a blind is hunting over a smaller plot and setting the blind in the middle of it. This allows me to turn and shoot in any direction; something that would not happen if I was sitting against a tree.

Hunting from a blind allows you to bring extra gear into the woods. Often if I am hunting from a blind, I plan on staying in the blind the majority of the day. When I hunt all day, bringing extra clothes, calls and food is easily done when hunting from the blind.

Blinds provide you with the ability to videotape your hunts without being seen. If there are two hunters in the blind, one can hunt and the other can film. Hand signals and whispering can occur so the hunter can tell his friend behind the camera where the birds are coming from or signal that he is going to take a shot. Some blinds even offer camera ports that are designed so that the camera lens can sit outside the blind. This allows the camera to capture an unobstructed view of the action. If you are hunting alone and want to tape our own hunt, Pine Ridge Archery is offering the Turkey Pod -- a handy tripod-like device that sticks into the ground and holds a video camera. This allows you to point the camera in the direction you believe the tom will be coming from and hunt. Hunters who want to capture their favorite hunting moments on film have discovered there is no better way to do it than from a pop-up blind.

Getting kids involved in the outdoors is becoming more difficult as television and video games take the center stage. Blinds give you the opportunity to take your kids into the woods with you and provide them with some wiggle room; kids do not have to sit still the entire time. I know kids who brought a coloring book or Bass Pro Shops' catalog with them to keep them occupied until it was time for action. Kids can even take a nap in the blind. Either way, being in the blind exposes them to the woods.

Matrix 360 Blind

Double Bull Matrix 360 with the Surround Sight netting down.

A blind is a great way to introduce first-year turkey hunters who are in their early teens to the sport. They can move around and have fun. Hunters can call and keep an eye out for birds, and when the tom gets close, you can give the teen the gun and get them ready for the shot. Kids also hate the pesky bugs that enjoy hanging out in the woods. By limiting the number of windows you have open, you can limit the number of bugs that come into the blind. You can't get rid of all of them, but being in an enclosed area with only a few windows open can reduce the number of skeeters that make it into the blind.

Most blind companies offer shoot through windows that allow bowhunters the ability to keep the windows closed. The shoot through mesh is camouflage and allows little light in, keeping you concealed. Most companies offer blinds that allow 360-degree viewing, eliminating blind spots while hunting. Below are four blinds that are just the ticket for spring turkey hunting:

Double Bull Blinds, the innovator of the modern pop-up ground blind, is offering the Matrix Series this year. The Matrix 360 offers everything hunters would ever want in a turkey blind. It has easy access door openings, silent arrow ports for shooting, and a cleverly designed infinitely adjustable window system that allows hunters to shoot in 360 degrees and adjust the window openings up or down so if they want to see more or let a little more light in, they can.

Ameristep has the Brickhouse TSC. This blind is priced to sell and offers features like the Durashell and Shadowguard, which make a strong blind that help keep the hunter concealed. It has a hub style frame and nine zippered windows, giving hunters plenty of shooting options.

A relatively new blind to the hunting market is the Tent Chair Blind by SCENTite. This unique one-man blind is attached to a fold up chair. Simply sit down in the chair and flip the blind over the top of you. This feature instantly conceals you and provides you with a comfortable place to sit. The blind is small and compact and is easily transported.

Trading total concealment for ultimate portability, Jakehouse Blinds by Ameristep provide three-sided cover and feature 2-foot nylon panels with internal spring steel frames that quickly unfold for set-up and take down. One- and two-person models are available, both of which fold into a 10" x 2" pouch that you can easily stow in your turkey vest.

As you get your calls, turkey vest, and gun ready for turkey season, keep in mind that your most important piece of equipment might be a pop-up blind. The biggest obstacle you face is choosing a blind. With so many great options, going to Bass Pro Shops to choose a blind is like sending a kid into a candy store. Chances are you will be there for hours, and when you leave you will probably have a blind and a dozen other new gizmos.  Regardless of the blind you choose, you will go home happy. Your spouse might not, but you will! 

 

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Electronic Dog Training Collar Guide

By Tracy Breen

Electronic Training Dog Collar
Collars for hunting dogs should have an extended range and several levels of intensity.

Most hunters who pursue upland game or waterfowl with a dog eventually invest in an electronic collar to help train and control their hunting companion. There are many collars on the market, and that makes it difficult to know which collar is the right one for your hunting preference and budget. For instance, one collar may only be a hundred dollars, but the effective range of that collar may only be a few hundred yards. On the other hand, you may find a collar with a one-mile range that costs much more than you had planed to spend. As you can see, finding the collar that fits your needs and budget can be difficult.

According to John Seroczynski from D.T. Systems, Inc, most bird hunters buy more collar than they need, which isn't always the right thing to do. "There are several collars on the market that have a wide array of features. In many cases, hunters get frustrated and purchase a collar they think will do the job. Hunters spend hundreds of dollars on a collar because they think that since it's expensive, it must be good. Most hunters simply spend more money than they need to on collars," Seroczynski explained.

Electronic Dog Training Collar
Waterfowlers should look for a collar that's extremely durable and waterproof.

Seroczynski believes dog owners should determine the amount of time their dog spends in the field. "A large majority of dogs are indoor dogs. They spend most of their time sitting on the couch napping. A dog that spends most of his time as a house dog and chases squirrels in the backyard part of the time doesn't need a collar with a one-mile range. He simply needs a durable, waterproof, lightweight collar," Seroczynski added. If your dog is more of a house dog, you can purchase a collar for a couple hundred dollars that will keep your dog in the yard instead of the street or off the couch when company is over. Regardless of the collar you choose, the most important thing is knowing how and when to use the collar. Seroczynski believes the training collar should be placed on a dog for a few hours a day for weeks, if not months, before you actually turn it on and use it.

If your dog lives in the house but spends a fair amount of time in the duck blind, your dog requires a collar with more features than the dog that lives on the couch. You are going to want a collar that has an effective range greater than a few hundred yards. You're also going to want a collar that is extremely durable and waterproof because a marsh full of weeds, muck and water can be hard on a collar. If your dog tends to wander, a collar with many levels of intensity is also vital; if your four-legged companion takes off to chase a deer, duck or some other critter while you're hunting, you'll want to be able to stop him. Collars with a few settings might not send enough juice to the collar to get your dog's attention. When choosing a collar for a hunting dog, purchase one with several levels of intensity. Some companies produce collars with a dozen or more levels of stimulation, giving you -- the dog handler -- plenty of options.

Electronic Dog Training Collar
Upland bird hunters should purchase a collar with a range of a mile or more.

If you are an upland bird hunter, you may want to consider purchasing a collar with an extreme range -- basically, a mile or more. Bird dogs can cover a lot of ground in a hurry, and having a collar that can reach out and touch a dog -- even if they are a mile away -- is important.

Upland bird hunting often brings you and your dog into tall grass and thick cover. Having a training collar that has a built-in beeper is also a good idea. When your dog runs in front of you, you will know where they are even if you can't see them. Beeper collars beep every few seconds if a dog goes on point, which will increase the number of birds you put in your vest at the end of the day simply because you'll know when your dog has found a bird.

Another option to consider is purchasing a two-dog system. Seroczynski says many one-dog owners are buying two-dog systems. "We sell a lot of two collar systems to hunters who have one dog because they think they might purchase a second dog in the future, and controlling two dogs with one transmitter will be easier than having two collars controlled by two transmitters. Another reason one-dog owners might purchase a two-collar system is, if the battery goes dead or if they have a problem with one collar, they'll always have a backup."

It is important to look into the warranty of the collar before making a purchase. "Not all collars are created equal and neither are their warranties or reliability in the field. Hunters should look into the history of the brand, the reliability of the collar and the type of warranty that comes with the collar. If a collar is constantly getting repaired, it won't do you or your dog any good," Serocyznski added.

Electronic Dog Training Collar
Knowing how and when to use an electronic collar is of the utmost importance, regardless of the collar you choose.

Researching the types of battery options is also important. Some collars offer rechargeable batteries; others use conventional batteries. Knowing how long the batteries will last before they will need to be replaced or recharged is important. Changing batteries every time you go hunting can be a nuisance and can get expensive. 

Twenty years ago, there weren't many features to choose from when it came to selecting a training collar. Most brands had a button or two that you pushed that stimulated the dog. Features on training collars have increased with technology over the years. Below are a few of the collars available at Bass Pro Shops and the key features that make them stand out above the crowd.

The H2O series from D.T. Systems is a great collar for the serious hunter. It has an effective range of one mile and has unique features. The new jump stimulation feature allows two stimulation levels to be programmed at the same time. One setting can be set for normal training or hunting conditions, and the second can be set for dangerous situations when you need to get the dog's attention immediately. Instead of fumbling around trying to increase the intensity level manually, simply hit the preprogrammed button, and you will instantly get your dog's attention. The collar comes with 16 levels of intensity including positive vibration that can be used to provide positive reinforcement when the dog does something right or used to warn him that he will be shocked if he doesn't stop his current behavior. Like all D.T. Systems collars, the H2O series comes with rechargeable batteries. The collar also operates on a F.M. signal. A.M. signals operate on lines of sight. If a hill, mountain or garage is between you and your dog, the collar might not work. With a F.M. signal, the collar will operate properly even if there is an obstruction between you and your dog.

The Redhead 1200 Series Training Collar is perfect for hunters who want a collar that is big on features and reasonably priced. It has a 1200-yard range, comes with rechargeable batteries and is waterproof. It also has 16 levels of stimulation and the positive vibration feature.

Serious hunters may want to consider the 1600 NCP Series Collar from Dogtra. This durable, waterproof training collar offers a range that extends up to a 1/2 mile. It offers momentary and continuous stimulation modes with a patented rheostat intensity control, which gives the handler numerous stimulation levels to choose from. This collar comes with rechargeable batteries for the collar and the transmitter.

Tri-Tronics has been in the training collar business for a long time. They offer a variety of features that gun dog owners are sure to love. Their G2 Pro Series Model features a whopping 18 levels of continuous stimulation and 18 levels of momentary stimulation. The Pro Series can accommodate up to 3 collars and has a range that goes up to 1 mile. The collar comes with rechargeable batteries. The collar and the transmitter each have a battery life indicator so you will always know when you need to recharge the batteries.

The collars listed above are just a sample of some of the great training collars that are available for the serious hunter. If your dog is more of a lap dog than a hunting dog, the manufacturers listed above make great collars that will help you control your dog in the house or yard. These collars don't come with the same number of features, which makes the collars less expensive.

Regardless of the collar you purchase, remember that a training collar is not a quick-fix device that will cure your dog of its' behavioral problems. In fact, if you don't use the collar properly, it could create more problems. Make sure you read about training collars and how to train a dog with a collar before you strap the collar on your dog.

View all Electronic Training Collars

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Bow Sight Buyer's Guide

By Tracy Breen

RedHead Kryptik 5-Pin Bow Sight
Adjustable multi-pin sights allow archers to set each pin to a specific yardage in increments up to 40 yards.

There are few accessories on a bow as important as the sight. After all, your sight is the tool used to take aim at your target. Rarely will you find a high-end rifle without a sophisticated scope, and the same can be said about bows. That's why experienced archers choose new sights very carefully; they know a quality sight is worth its weight in gold when that once-in-a-lifetime shot presents itself. So what, exactly, do most experienced hunters look for in a bow sight?

Durability

Durability should be a key factor in the sight selection process. Plastic can be hard and durable, and if you choose a plastic sight, make sure it's extremely tough. However, I prefer sights made up of at least some metal, if not completely metal. Since bow sights protrude out in front of the bow, they often get hung up on limbs, banged against rocks, and regularly take a beating in the woods. I've been on trips out West where my bow and everything on it got beat up during a two-week backpack hunt. If my sight would have been fragile or made out of inferior, inexpensive components, it wouldn't have survived the trip. I know hunters who've had pins and pin guards break in the woods. When that happens, the hunt comes to an abrupt halt. That's why choosing a sight that's super tough is vital.

Single-pin designs are popular with archers who hunt dense cover and other places where shots are usually 30 yards or less. Number of Pins

Another point to consider is whether to purchase a sight with a single pin or multiple pins. I've used both and prefer a one-pin sight. At the moment of truth, I don't want to worry about using the wrong pin when I aim. Both types, however, have advantages and disadvantages. Using a single-pin sight gives hunters a larger field of view. A single-pin sight is also easier to aim. However, a multiple-pin sight doesn't have to be adjusted at the moment of truth -- simply choose the pin you want to use and aim. In some hunting situations, single-pin sights have to be adjusted before archers can shoot; this could cost you a shot opportunity if it takes too long to adjust your sight.

Ease of Adjustability

Hunters should also consider how easy it is to adjust the sight pins. Many sights require a wrench to adjust the pins. In the last few years, however, some companies started producing sights with large knobs so that archers can quickly adjust for windage and elevation. Using a sight that can be adjusted easily makes sighting in your bow easier. It may also make you a more accurate shooter because when the pins are slightly off, tweaking the sight is a piece of cake.

Illuminated Pins

Pin brightness is another important factor to consider. Most companies use fiber-optic pins that are extremely bright. However, not all fiber-optic pins are created equal. Some sights have brighter pins than others. I've left a sight on the store counter because the pins weren't bright enough, even though it had many of the other features I like.

If you're a diehard whitetail hunter, you already know that the best time to be in the woods is the first hour of daylight and the last hour of daylight. If you use a sight with super bright pins, you can hunt until it is almost completely dark outside. If you use a sight with pins that fade in brightness as the sun goes down, you might lose the ability to see your pins at prime time.

Tru Glo Pendulum Bow Sight
Designed specifically for treestand archers, pendulum sights have a pin that "swings," making adjustments for distance automatic.

Bow hunting from ground blinds continues to gain popularity. While inside a dark popup blind, hunters usually loose the last half hour of hunting time because they can no longer see the pins on their sight. With a super bright fiber-optic sight, you can gain a few extra minutes of hunting time, even if you are hunting from a popup blind.

A few companies have introduced battery-powered sights to the archery world. Two battery-operated sights that have received a lot of attention are HHA Sports Optimizer-Lite Plus with Red Dot Scope and Summit's Hot Dot Bow Sight. The extreme brightness of battery-powered sights make them very useful in those low-light situations, such as hunting from a popup blind. Check your state's regulations before using a battery-operated sight, though, as many states don't allow the use of battery-powered sights for hunting. If your state does allow their use and you know you'll be hunting from a popup blind, a battery-operated sight might be just the ticket for you.

Vertical, Horizontal & Swinging Pins

You also may want to consider whether you want a sight with vertical or horizontal pins. Some companies such as Trophy Ridge make sights with inline vertical pins. The advantage to inline vertical pins is that, if you torque your bow while aiming, you'll quickly see that the pins are out of alignment. Some sights are made with both vertical and horizontal pins. This type of setup offers the best of both worlds in one sight.

If treestand hunting is your specialty, pendulum sights are a popular choice because they offer one pin that swings back and forth. It automatically adjusts as you aim at targets that are at 30 or 40 yards. Sight it in at twenty yards and you should be good to go. A word of caution about pendulum sights: they only have one use. Unlike other sights that work on the ground, in the tree, and out to extreme ranges of 50 yards and beyond, a pendulum sight only works from a treestand.

Peeps ensure that you line up with your sight pin each time you shoot. Bubble Levels

Many of today's sights come with built-in bubble levels. Most archers don't pay attention to the bubble as much as they should. Western bowhunters, however, enjoy hunting with a sight that comes with a bubble because the bubble quickly tells them if the bow is torqued when taking steep-angled shots at elk and other game while shooting downhill. A sight equipped with a bubble level allows hunters to quickly adjust the bow and the shot. Several sights come with a bubble. I prefer a sight that has an extra-large, easy-to-see bubble like the Trophy Taker Top Pin Sight or the Tru-Glo Range Rover sight.

Peeps and Kissers

Consider adding a peep sight to your setup. Peep sights increase accuracy by forcing you to line up with the pin the same way every time you shoot. Since there are several inches between the peep and the pin, if you aren't aiming properly, the pin won't line up accurately within the hole of the peep. A peep sight forces you to anchor and shoot the same way every time you shoot.

Some bowhunters complain that, when using a peep, you can't see the sight pin in low-light conditions. Although that used to be true, many companies now make peep sights with extra-large apertures designed for low-light conditions. The G5 Meta Peep is one example.

Some archers use a kisser button to create an accurate anchor point instead of using a peep sight. Others use a peep sight and kisser button together.

There are several sights on the market that are bright, durable and easy to adjust. When choosing a sight, make a checklist of the features you desire most. Chances are good that while shopping, you'll find multiple sights that fit the bill. The tough part will be choosing from that final group. If possible, shoot with a few different sights from your final group before making your purchase.

Check out the full line of compound bow sights at Bass Pro Shops.

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RedHead Kronik Compound Bow Package

By Tracy Breen

Kronic Bow
Author Tracy Breen aligns the Kronic's Tru-Glo 3-pin fiber-optic sight with his target.

I test a variety of bows each year. This year I tested about eight different bows for a variety of magazine and website articles. Some were short, some were long; some were super fast and others were super quiet. All of them cost a lot of money. My opinion on the quality of a bow is based on a few factors. Is the bow quiet? Is it fast? How well does it shoot? How pricey is the bow? Some bows cost a lot of money and are worth every penny. Other bows cost a lot of money and don't have half the features of similar bows that are almost half the price. The new Kronik bow from RedHead has several exciting features and costs much less than many of the high-end bows on the market today.

LIGHT AS A FEATHER

One of the first things I noticed about the Kronik was how lightweight it is. It only weighs 3.4 pounds, which is a lot lighter than the bows I shot in my youth. Bows have come a long way in recent years. Since the bow weighs less than 4 pounds, it is a great bow for the Western hunter who is trying to carry as little weight as possible. Even with a sight, rest, and other gizmos and gadgets attached, the Kronik will probably still only tip the scales at 5 or 6 pounds.

NICE AND SHORT

Bows have gotten much shorter in recent years. Bows used to be 35 inches or longer, but diehard treestand hunters started seeing the value in having a short bow. Extra short bows have more speed than ever before but are often around 30 inches in length. The Kronik falls into that category. At only 30-5/8" long, the Kronik is easy to maneuver in the tree. With the popularity of ground blinds on the rise, an extra short bow also comes in handy when hunting from a chair inside a blind.

FORGIVING

Many bowhunters have shied away from short bows because they believe short bows aren't as forgiving or as accurate as long bows. The Kronik has a generous brace height of 7-1/8", making it a forgiving bow that will shoot tight groups and get the job done in the field, regardless if hunters are hunting 20 yards away from a runway in the Midwest or taking 50 yard shots at caribou on the open tundra.

SUPER FAST

The Kronik can also fling an arrow as fast as many bows in the higher price bracket. The Kronik delivers 304 FPS IBO. With speed like that, most hunters should be able to use a single pin out to 30 yards. The Kronik is able to deliver extreme speeds thanks to the aggressive smooth-shooting single cam. Like all single-cam bows, the Kronik shoots fast but is extremely easy to tune and work on, which makes timing issues a thing of the past.

EXTRA FEATURES

There are several little features on this bow that caught my eye. It has an adjustable draw length of 25-30 inches and can be adjusted without the use of a bow press. With an extreme range of adjustability, the bow can fit a wide variety of hunters. A father can shoot the bow for a few years and then pass the bow on to the next generation and they can use it. The Kronik can easily accommodate adult and teenage hunters. Given the fact that a bow press isn't required to adjust the draw length, almost anyone can easily adjust the Kronik with a little patience, a little practice and a few tools.

Kronic Limb with Rubber Device
Kronik limb with anti-vibration device

 

Another small feature hunters will enjoy about the Kronik is the two-piece polycarbonate grip that helps reduce hand torque, which can rob an archer of accuracy. Like most expensive bows, the Kronik comes with parallel limbs which helps cancel out vibration, creating a super smooth shooting bow and a tough machined aluminum riser that will withstand the abuse that hunters often put their bows through while in the field.

The Kronik comes with 80% let off but can be adjusted to 65% let off. Either way, the bow is easy to draw and shoot. If you hunt in extremely cold conditions, going with 80% let off makes the bow extra easy to get to full draw, especially when you have cold muscles and a healthy case of buck fever!

COMES WITH LOTS OF ACCESSORIES

The Kronik comes equipped with a number of accessories. The bow comes completely set up with a sight, rest, quiver and wrist strap. The accessories are top notch and high quality, just like the bow. The Sight is a Tru-Glo 3-pin fiber optic sight that is built for the hunter who wants to be able to see his pins at first light and during the last few minutes of prime time hunting just before dark.

Kronic Arrow Rest
Hostage capture-style arrow rest

The Hostage capture-style rest is perfect for bowhunters who are just getting into the sport and veteran hunters. It is easy to use and cradles the arrow while coming to full draw, ensuring that the arrow never leaves the rest, even if a hunter is shaking like a leaf.

To top it off, the bow comes with a nice, lightweight, one-piece four-arrow quiver that is perfect for hunting. If hunters were to buy the accessories separately, it would add hundreds of dollars to the total cost of the bow. Since the Kronik is sold as a package, hunters save lots of hard-earned money.

Most bowhunters worry about bow noise and vibration. The Kronik comes with a few anti-vibration rubber devices on the strings and the limbs that reduce noise and vibration. I also added a few gadgets to further reduce noise and vibration. I screwed in a Doinker Chubby Stabilizer while testing the bow and put on a String Tamer. These two inexpensive devices helped eliminate the little noise and vibration that the Kronik has. I also shot the bow without add-on items and noticed right out of the box the bow is extremely smooth.

When testing the bow, I used a few different types of arrows including the RedHead brand Carbon Max2 arrows. These super tough carbon arrows feature an outer weave of carbon for extreme strength and front of center technology, which delivers superior down range accuracy. The arrows come fletched with 4-inch Duravanes so hunters just need to cut them to length and have the inserts glued in and they are ready to shoot.

The Kronik is a great bow by itself, but when the extra accessories are added, it's an excellent bow for a great price. When you consider the fact that the bow comes with everything set up, it increases the value even more. If you are just getting started in bowhunting, the last thing you want to do is worry about setting up a bow or finding someone to do it for you. The Kronik is ready to go right out of the box.



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Trailing Shot Deer

By Bob Foulkrod

foulkrod2Bowhunters have no higher priority than recovering the game they shoot. It isn't just a matter of ethics; it's where our sport is most vulnerable to opponents. Bowhunters know the 30- to 40-percent loss rate cited by animal-rights groups is greatly exaggerated. Learning how to lower your odds for losing a single deer is the best way to combat bowhunting's enemies. 

Prepare for a successful recovery by packing along a watch, notepad, pencil, compass, survey tape and flashlight. The first four items are needed to document what happens immediately after you shoot. 

When a deer flees, listen intently for noise. Discern where the animal ran, listening closely to see if it fell or kept running. The longer you hear the animal, the farther it is probably traveling. Listen for the melon-plunking sound of an arrow striking flesh, or the crack of a broadhead hitting bone. 

Immediately after the shot, catch your breath. Now record the time and the direction the deer fled. Sit tight and keep your composure. Inexperienced bowhunters mistakenly climb down too quickly to check the fruits of their efforts. 

Unfortunately, all shots are not clean kills. When liver- or gut-shots occur, pushing the animal can be disastrous. Jumped too quickly after they have lain down to die, deer often get a "second breath" and can sometimes cover over a mile before stopping again. 

Note how the animal reacts to the shot. Missed deer usually run away, but so do those that are heart- and lung-shot. A whitetail that prances off could mean a miss. Deer jumping up and bowing up in the middle are often gut-shot. 

Wait 45 to 60 minutes before leaving your tree stand. 

bow_trail2When on the ground, it is time to solve the mystery of where the deer is. Gather all the evidence. Go to where the animal was shot. Are there blood spots or splatters? Is it a lot or a little? Is fluid other than blood present? Recovering the arrow is key. Fluids or substances other than blood on an arrow shaft can reveal if the animal was gut- or liver-shot. Resist the temptation to quickly trail such deer; it may take 4 to 6 hours, and sometimes longer, for them to perish. Wait 3 to 4 hours before tracking the blood trail. 

Following a blood trail can be tricky. First, review your evidence. Mark the initial blood spot with a 12-inch strip of bright-orange surveyor tape tied well above the ground for visibility. In your notepad record the compass direction. Tie surveyor tape above the other blood drops. Do not walk on the blood trail. If you need to start over later, a walked-upon blood trail can be useless. 

Accurately reading a blood trail requires time spent trailing. Each tracking chore is unique. Easy-to-follow gusher blood trails occur when primary blood vessels are severed. These are in the neck's carotid artery, the pyloric artery behind the stomach paunch, the aortic artery under the spine, or the hindquarter's femoral artery. 

Not all mortally arrowed deer immediately spill blood, however. Hard-hit deer typically leave blood 15 to 25 yards from where they were shot. 

The color and condition of the blood sometimes reveal the type of hit inflicted. Bright-red is a great sign, usually indicating an oxygen-rich artery has been clipped. Pinkish, frothy blood usually indicates a lung hit. Easy-to-follow dark-red droplets that disappear after a couple of hundred yards often indicate a muscle shot. Chances of recovering such deer are low. 

Be alert for blood where you don't expect it. Take your time. Be observant. Understand that wounds do not always bleed externally, and that blood trails often "dry up". Many times your tracking efforts will move from following a blood trail to following nothing. This is a critical point. Look back at your surveyor-tape trail, and slowly move in the charted direction. Be alert for sign other than blood. Overturned leaves, hoof prints, trampled grass, and tufts of hair and leaves pressed flat when a deer lies down must be searched for. 

Some hunting experts recommend a "circle search" when a blood trail is exhausted. Such a search starts where the last sign was marked, expanding from the center with each circle. This is largely a one- to three-man effort. It often works, but this random approach is not foolproof. 

It is tough enough to find a buck during daylights when there's little blood. Night recovery is far more difficult, but it can be done if you are persistent. Flashlights such as the large Streamlite model I use project a bright beam and are a must to carry. My Streamlite's blinding light is great for illuminating wide areas of ground, actually making blood drops appear to glow. 

 Make sure you know the local hunting laws when trailing deer at night. Some states prohibit carrying a firearm or bow in the woods along with a light after legal shooting hours. 

So you did all of the above and still can't find your deer? Believe it or not, there is a foolproof method for finding lost deer. Several years ago while running my deer hunting camp in northeastern Pennsylvania, I became frustrated with losing animals I knew were mortally shot. After considerable thought, I came up with what I named the "grid system for recovering animals". I recommend it as a last resort to those determined not to abandon a deer. 

 Once you have come to the end of the blood trail, initiate a "grid search." This is a manpower-intense undertaking. I like to use eight to twelve people. Using a compass, I line people in a row, shoulder-to-shoulder, to go in one direction. The searchers must be close enough to one another to clearly see the feet of the person on each side. The line moves slowly, searching for the deer as it goes. After going 50 to 100 yards, or reaching a barrier such as a fence or road, the line "flip-flops", then moves across the same tract. This is repeated until a grid has been thoroughly searched. If the deer has not been found, the same thing is done in the direction the animal is thought to have gone. After using the grid system for recovery everywhere from Mississippi to Montana, I have yet to see it fail to turn up a lost deer. 

Sooner or later, most bowhunters face the frustration of losing a trail or having it dry up because of rain, or just bad luck. Grid searches are not as well-known as circle searches, but in my opinion they are more effective. A grid search is something of a "community" effort. It may sound cumbersome, but it is without question the most foolproof approach to finding a lost whitetail. 

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How Cold are Your Puppies?

By Paul & Julie Knutson

012201_h_dogout1
Hunting dogs work hard; it's up to you to protect them from the elements.

Most dogs love doing anything outdoors -- hot or cold.  It's not uncommon for an enthusiastic dog to be too excited about the business at hand and ignore the cold and snow. Dogs can wind up with frostbite before they are aware anything is wrong.  You cannot always use the animal to gauge if things are going all right.  There are some common-sense guidelines in doing anything with your dog outdoors.

Make sure your dog has the coat and the feet for what you are planning to do.  Dogs kept indoors do not have a coat that will insulate well enough to withstand icy water or much exposure to cold wind or moisture.  Even with one of the neoprene coats available, the dogs legs, stomach, head, etc. are not protected and they'll get very cold.  Feet that are used to carpet or a well-sodded back yard will get cut to ribbons on ice, frozen branches and hard snow.  Boots can work, but they have to be comfortable and stay on, and not enchant the dog so that is spends all its time thinking about its shoes instead of the job at hand.

Dogs to be used for hunting should start the day well prepared, just as you would.  They should be well hydrated and have a light breakfast.  They should have water and food available throughout the day.  A bite of your ham sandwich does not count here.  The energy and nutrition makeup of a good-quality performance food has the best balance of what the dog needs. Carry some dry food with you in a plastic bag. A handful of kibbles every hour or two will keep the dog's body chemistry fit for action or cold.

Shivering can mean the dog is cold, or that the dog is anticipating the action.  It can be a little of both.  Make sure you know your dog well enough to know why the dog is shivering.  Shivering is a way to generate body heat in a dog, so a little shivering may not mean anything is wrong.  Nonstop shivering means the dog is cold, so put yourself in your dogs shoes.  If you were sitting in a blind shivering for an hour, odds are you wouldn't be enjoying yourself.

012901_h_dogout3
Dog boots should not distract the animal. If they do, the dog forgets its job.

Keep dogs warm first and foremost by keeping them dry.  Dampness is a good conduit for removing heat from the body.  Dry a dog by removing the water from the coat top layer, avoid if possible rubbing the dog so hard you kill the air insulation layer next to the skin.  Minimize their time in the water.  If you have trained your dog to take a straight line in the water, then move so your dog takes the shortest reasonable water route to the bird.  A 50 yard swim in icy water can teach a dog to hate retrieving in the water, where a shorter, quick retrieve still lets them have fun without freezing.

Keep duck dogs out of the water in between retrieves.  Keep them out of the wind and out of the moisture.  A neoprene coat can be very helpful in keeping the dog warm between innings.

Upland hunting dogs do not tend to get wet so much as they get hurt.  Snowdrift-covered barbed wire, heavy cover and deadfall can be deadly to a dog, or at the very least, extremely abrasive to the face, front and underside of a dog.  A protective chest and stomach vest is a must for the upland hunter, particularly in cover of any significance.  Boots may or may not be necessary to protect the feet form the same hazards, including stickers, broken rocks or ice, and abrasive vegetation.  If the ground is not so harsh, the boots are not necessary, but the vest can only be a benefit to the ardent upland hunter.   Orange vests can also make it easier to spot your dog bobbing through the cover.

Upland hunting dogs need water just as much in the cold as they do in the heat.  Always carry a container of water, and even if it's cold, watch for signs of overheating.  Because you are not in danger of overheating does not mean the track star in front of you is not generating a great deal of body heat.

Rest your dog as often as the dog needs it, not as often as it's convenient to your hunting group.  Because a dog will hunt for 3 hours does not mean it should hunt for 3 hours.  Rotating dogs usually handles this issue, but if you are hunting with only one, plan on resting the dog before it desperately needs it.  Fatigue, cold and injury will take a dog completely out of action, and none of those are necessary if you keep a close enough eye on the situation.

Traveling in Cold Weather

We have all seen the airline crate sitting in the back of the pickup truck heading down the interstate at 75 miles per hour.  Calculate the wind chill of 75-mph winds.  It is a big drop in the temperature.  Even if it's in the forties outdoors, a speed like that in the back of the truck drops the temperature to below zero.  If you are going to carry your dog outside the vehicle, then do several things:

  • Keep the wind out of the dog box.  If you use an airline crate, buy one of the insulated covers for it so the wind does not freeze your dog.  At the same time, make sure there is a source of fresh air for the dog.
  • Give the dog some form of bedding, just like the doghouse, so it can nest up and use its body heat to stay warm in the very frigid temperatures to which it is being exposed.  Again, grass hay is a good one and if it blows out into the bed of the truck, no one will care.
  • Keep the box located close to the cab of the truck, where the wind effects are the least.  Make sure and secure the box so that an accident or quick braking action will not send the dog and its box out onto the highway.
  • Don't put a bowl of water in the box.  Give your dog water before it travels and on breaks.  Water in a bowl, even one secured to the box will spill and get the bedding wet.  It's not necessary to have water at all times during travel.
  • Always be sure and travel with a dry dog; not a soaking wet one.  It is very hard to dry and warm up in a little box when the dog is wet.
  • Many times people put more than one dog into a box so they can keep each other warm.  This can be a good idea if the dogs like to keep each other warm.  If you and your hunting buddy each have a big macho male, putting them together for a night or a long trip might result in one and half dogs coming out at the end of the trip.  Think about things like that before putting any dog at risk.  

Safety Concerns

As with any hunting or outdoor activity, there are a few things to keep in the back of your mind to make sure you and your dog return home with the smiles from a good trip:

  • Do not put your dog into water that is covered with ice.  Ice can break on a dog, and it will fall into water and come up under the ice.  There are many sad stories about someone losing a great hunting buddy under a partial cover of ice.  Avoid the risk entirely.  No matter how willing your dog may be, the risk is too high.  Losing one duck is preferable to losing a great dog.
  • Watch for frostbite on toes, noses, bellies and undercarriages.  The skin does not turn blue like ours, and might not change appearance at all until it's too late.  Minimize skin exposure to harsh elements.
  • Feet can be a real problem, especially for those dogs with hair between their pads.  This hair is a site for ice ball formation, and huge ice balls can form under dog's feet.  This is painful and can really limit the dog's mobility. Trim foot hair under toes and keep a close eye on ice formation under the feet.
  • Check your dog routinely for punctures, scrapes and any damage to the nose, eye and face area.  Enthusiastic hunters will not show signs of being hurt, and the cold tends to make the human hunters pay less attention to the details of their dog.  Hazards under snow banks, in the water or even in brush piles take only a second to hurt an animal.  Check your dog anytime they have been out of sight for very long or have been in circumstances that may hold hazards you cannot see.  A routine and cursory check may save you from large problem down the line.
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A Season to Remember

By Tom Cannon

"Quick, cover up," someone hollered. Seconds later, thundering shots rang out in the early morning air, shattering the silence while a pair of Mallards fell from the sky. "Man, those ducks came from nowhere," I exclaimed. Quickly, I reloaded my pump, as a lone pintail drake slid into the decoy spread. One more booming shoot and he was to join his ill-fated friends.

 

The eerie blue pre-dawn backdrop was rapidly disappearing, being replaced by bright rays of sunlight that bounced off the green heads of our decoys as they bobbed on the water's surface. Maybe it was the emerald colored heads of the new Greenhead Gear decoys or possibly the championship-winning calling produced by Bill Cooksey, my partner, that was drawing the ducks in close. Whatever the case, these North Dakota ducks seemed drawn to this pothole with reckless abandon.

 

Throughout the initial hours of daylight, I witnessed more mallards, pintails, and widgeons than I had viewed the previous two seasons. If this was any indication of the duck population, then the coming season should be one to remember. Everywhere we looked ducks dotted the horizon. It was enough to make a waterfowler gasp in awe.

 

Suddenly the calm was interrupted by a lingering hail call, offered to draw the attention of a passing trio. Like a traffic cop, Cooksey directed the feathered flyers right into our spread of decoys, where they were met with a swarm of steel. On this morning, Bill showcased the skills that earned him the 2003 U.S. Open Duck Calling Contest trophy. Most of the passing birds were suckers for his sweet serenade allowing us to take intimate, close-range shots.

 

While I accepted a drake retrieved from the shallow waters by our canine companion, Sky, I couldn't help but remember previous hunts. Much like the stock market duck, hunting has it's up and down years. Nature has its own system, a series of cycles that allow for lean years as well those with "bumper crops" of ducks. Amongst my travels in the first several weeks of the 2003 season, it appears that this may be one of those glory years for waterfowl and hunters alike. Populations in Canada, the Dakotas, and traditional breeding grounds were far better than recent years. Mallards and other puddle ducks increased their numbers substantially allowing for liberal bag limits again this season. Further research (i.e. hunting) by this writer proved that the biologists might have even underestimated the hunting forecast.

 

No matter where my travels took me in the North Country, I witnessed ducks and geese frolicking in potholes, sloughs, or ponds. Although waterfowl research wasn't part of my educational experience, it didn't take a scientist to read the writing on the wall in the breeding grounds. Simply put, this fall is the time to dust off those waders and polish up on your calling skills.

 

The wail of Bill's hail call drew me back to reality. Immediately I froze doing my best to blend into the marsh grass. Like a swarm of mosquitoes, the teal buzzed through our set up looking for a place to light. Finding a spot to their liking, they began to ease in and were hit with a barrage. Sky, our lone retriever for the trip, earned his keep as he repeatedly brought duck after duck to the hands of his master, Travis.

 

As much as I enjoy watching the birds fly, I never tire of viewing a good retriever do what he was born to do -- chase down ducks. Sky was as much an integral part of this hunt as any of us human hunters, plus he didn't get critical of the occasional erratic shot.

 

It wasn't long before Sky earned additional praise as he relentlessly tracked down a diving Mallard Drake that seemed to swim through every acre of the impoundment. Tired, but evidently pleased with himself, the blond workhorse trotted back to shore with another greenhead to be added to the bag. Watching his eyes and reactions to the sights and sounds of the hunt, I realized that die hard duck hunters are born to the craft whether they are human or canine.

 

In short order, our foursome had limits of six ducks each. As we began to stow decoys, pick up spent hulls and trash, it became evident that there were similarities to all successful hunts. Sure, calling played its role and shouldn't be overlooked, but Cooksey admitted it didn't take a contest champion to call wild ducks. Several factors are always involved when a memorable hunt is reminisced.

 

Location has to be one of the most important. The best calling will not talk a duck out of going where he really wants to be. Scouting your hunting areas is critical. Determine where the ducks rest and feed, paying close attention to the times these activities occur. Should you mistakenly hunt your waterhole when the ducks are flying out to feed, it's likely to be an exercise in futility.

 

Likewise when hunting a large field or impoundment, try to narrow down the location preferred by your quarry. Often a distance of 50 to 100 yards will mean the difference in a quick limit or going home frustrated and empty handed. Keen eyes will spot clues such as feathers, webbed footprints, or the telltale sign of droppings amongst crop stubble. Make a mental note, set this spot as waypoint in your GPS, or drive a stake into the ground once the honey hole is found. This will ensure the best shooting upon your return.

 

Camo and concealment rate right up there with good calling. Since waterfowl have the advantage of height on hunters, they can easily see anything out of the ordinary. Take the extra time and effort to blend in and mask any un-necessary movement.

 

One of the best methods to stay hidden and prevent incoming waterfowl from noticing the slightest motion is to utilize a ground blind. One of the industry leaders, Avery offers several models of the "layout" type blinds, which have proven so successful in the last few years. Specifically designed by guides and waterfowl experts, these blinds typically offer many advantages over just laying amongst the decoys. First and foremost, the layout Avery blinds offer the hunter maximum comfort, allowing him to remain hidden but ready for action. Additionally the layout type blinds shelter the hunter from most of the elements and camouflages his movements. Several different models are available from the lightweight Power Hunter, to the ultra roomy Migrator model. Recently Avery developed a similar type blind for your Lab. Remember that these blinds cover up movement by hunters or dogs that can easily spook arriving flocks of birds. Experience has proven the layout blind is worth its weight in gold.

 

Camo is the other factor that is rarely given much thought. Sure the Shadowgrass pattern closely imitates the background of most hunting areas. But why not take a little time to spruce up the camo on the blind by adding some vegetation. Veteran hunters like Bill Cooksey and Travis Mueller recommend "brushing" a blind. Simply put, "brushing" is nothing more than applying native vegetation to the exterior of the blind. "Our blinds feature webbing that crisscrosses the entire exterior, allowing grass, stubble, or reeds to be easily inserted," advised Mueller an Avery sales rep and veteran hunter. Ten minutes of labor will allow the blinds to blend into their surroundings, thus increasing the hunter's advantage. Be sure when changing areas, to also change the vegetation on the blind if it doesn't match the surroundings perfectly. Corn stubble won't work well in a marsh setting or vice versa.

 

"Just like calling, there is no replacement for good decoys," lectured Cooksey. "When a duck or goose hears that call, he immediately looks for the bird producing that sound. Hopefully your decoy catches his attention and leads him into the trap," he added. Brightly painted decoys with proper details will fool more birds than old worn out or dull blocks. If all of your decoys are faded, paintless, or full of pellets consider replacing them with new innovative dekes like those offered by Greenhead Gear.

 

A common mistake novice hunters make is having all of their decoys facing the same way. Spread them out; face some into the wind and other in random patterns. Also in a separate spot leading up into the main decoy spread, create a small cluster like an approaching family group. Ensure that room is left in the spread for incoming ducks or geese to land among the imitations. Otherwise they might land out of range.

 

Hunting waterfowl isn't a science or some tough book to crack. Simply utilize these basic tips and spend some time in the field and your success stories will begin to mount. Nothing is more thrilling than hearing the whistle of wings as Mallards drop into your spread of decoys. Pride and confidence will grow as you begin to "speak" to the ducks, turning them from their chosen route and leading them into your oasis.

 

If you have even considered taking up the sport or have been away from the duck marsh or goose fields, this is truly the year to try your hand. Never have I experienced the numbers of waterfowl as I did this early season. A few properly timed cold fronts hopefully will funnel the waterfowl south as the season's progress. Most states have as liberal a season and limits as allowed in the last decade. Give it a try and you might find yourself covered up with ducks and geese.

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Second Coming of the American Cocker

By James Card

American Cocker Spaniel

A mouthful of bird. American cockers are expected to handle all gamebirds: from the woodcock that gives them the name "cocker" to wrangling a Canada goose with confidence. Photo by Vickie Dahlk.

Lady was her name and, with big eyes and honey brown tresses, she was the cocker spaniel that entered American consciousness in 1955. Her owner: Walt Disney. She was the co-star in animation film Lady and the Tramp, and whether the Disney crew knew it or not, they were glamorizing a breed that had already reached a height of popularity no other breed has matched since. 

The American cocker spaniel held the number one spot for A.K.C. registrations from 1936 to 1952.  Later they were at the top of the list from 1983 to 1990 for a total of 23 years as America's most popular purebred.

The popularity of the breed translated into many things over the years: because of their undeniable cute looks they excelled in the show ring and were bred likewise. The popularity meant market demand, and the American cocker breed became associated with unscrupulous puppy mills that bred cockers with little regard for conformation, health concerns or hunting abilities.

Among bird hunters, the prevailing sentiment was that American cockers were diminished as sporting breed because of the emphasis of being a home companion and a show ring star. In his book, A Rough Shooting Dog, Charles Fergus wrote, "The American cocker was once a superior grouse and woodcock dog. Today it is a pop-eyed lap pet with a penchant for pissing on the carpet." This sorry sentence is a biased cheap shot on American cockers in an otherwise brilliant memoir of upland hunting.

The American cocker spaniel has a long history as a hunting dog, and while they have been looked upon as an over popularized house pet, handfuls of bird hunters across the United States continue to train and bred the American cocker for their field abilities.

James B. Spencer revised his opinion of the American cocker in the second edition of his well-regarded book, HUP! Training Flushing Spaniels the American Way, mentioning that he was influenced by the work of the Great Lakes American Cocker Spaniel Hunting Enthusiasts (G.L.A.C.S.E.), a group "dedicated to bringing back the American Cocker Spaniel as a hunting companion."

American Cocker Spaniel

An American cocker charges back with a ringneck. Many owners of American cocker spaniels mention that the breed excels on pheasants. Photo by Bob and Marsha Linehan

The current president of GLACSE, Vickie Dahlk, said, "Our club has over fifty members across the country. I get calls all the time from people looking for a cocker to hunt with.  When I am out training or hunting and other people see me with my dogs, I get comments like, 'my uncle had a cocker that he hunted with,' or 'my grandfather always hunted with cockers.'"

Spencer acceded in his book that the American cocker spaniel makes a fine hunting companion but cautiously repeated the old saw about field bred cockers: "Since working American cockers are so few and non-working cockers so plentiful, if you hanker for one of these hardy little hustlers as a hunting buddy, you should select a breeder with consummate care."

In his book Pheasants of the Mind, Datus Proper makes a boorish remark of flushing spaniels: "Spaniels are often built right if you get the little ones, under forty pounds.  Avoid show strains like the plague.  They were designed for gathering dust under sofas."

However, Dahlk points out that isn't entirely the case, "The only thing that too much show breeding has done is cockers now have much more coat and are smaller than they were forty years ago.  They still have natural instinct and hunting abilities." 

She noted that at the American Spaniel Club Nationals cockers are put through an instinct evaluation where dogs that have never seen a bird before are tested to see how they react.  Cockers trained for show, obedience and agility end up flushing and chasing birds with some even retrieving them. 

"All of my cockers have been from show lines. Most have show champions as parents.  The first cockers I owned in 1986, we only hunted with them," said Dahlk.  "Since I began training for AKC hunt tests about six years ago, all of my dogs have reached Senior Hunter titles and I have two right now working in Masters. In our club, all the cockers are from show lines and are working in the field, and running in AKC hunt tests and ASC Working Dog tests. I don't think that there is a hereditary disadvantage."

American Cocker Spaniel

American cockers have little qualms about getting wet during hunting season. Photo by James Card

Jeff Thomas of south-central Pennsylvania has seen a "slow but sure" increase in American cockers in the field and at AKC hunt tests. He uses his American cockers on guided hunting trips for pheasants. As a guide he holds high standards for his spaniels and has owned cockers from show and field lines. 

"I know there's a lot of debate between field and show lines in which would be the best hunter. I guess my answer to this is look for the proven hunting line. Period. I believe the breeding counts a lot if you want a gun dog. I just think the desire and instincts from a proven hunting line are hard to beat in any breed. Could you overcome this? Probably. With proper training you could achieve your goal to some extent. I guess it's how much you hunt and would that dog be enjoyable to hunt over. And there will be your difference."

Bob and Marsha Linehan of San Diego hunt with their family of American cockers called Pudg'gee Ann's Field Bred American Cocker Spaniels. They've heard reoccurring comments about the classic American cockers: "When we hunt our cockers, there are lots of hunters in their seventies who say, 'Now there's a hunting dog,' referring to our cockers.  Most of them hunted over cockers in the forties and fifties.  They tell us stories about their cockers and seem to miss hunting over these pint-size but dynamic and smart hunting dogs."

Bob Linehan got his first cocker from a breeder uninterested in hunting. After lots of training, his dog Pudg'gee earned a Senior Hunting title and a Working Dog Excellent title.  He said, "We absolutely believe that a 'generic' cocker pup can be trained to be a proper gun dog," but added, "Getting a cocker pup from field lines would make it easier to predict that the cocker has good hunting abilities. Breeding makes it easier for the person who wants a hunting cocker." 

As the smallest dog of the sporting breeds, pound for pound they are the toughest gun dogs out there; canine pocket rockets that weasel under swales of matted swamp grass after a rooster pheasant; leap over deadfall thrice their size and able to haul a Canada goose out of black water slough. They do all of this with an immense eagerness to hunt with its master. Cockers especially excel in close quartering in brushy cover, often checking back to the hunter. They will hunt for you, but would rather hunt with you.  "You can't beat a cocker's loyalty. And they have the heart of a lion," said Thomas.

The breed does have two main drawbacks. One is the coat which will vacuum up burrs if left uncut. But with regular maintenance they can be shorn as short as a pointer's coat.  The second is cold weather water retrieves. Thomas said," They can't sit in a duck blind when it gets really cold. Their body mass can't take it." Also, they will struggle against strong river currents. His solution is to use them for waterfowl in early season and hunt potholes and small lakes. 

One myth is that American cockers are unable to cover as much terrain as larger breeds.  "But they don't have to because they are more thorough on the ground they cover," said Thomas. "The end result is mostly same numbers of birds."  He cited timed bird dog competitions open to all flushing and pointing breeds where his cockers have taken first place five times.

American Cocker Spaniel

Destined for work in the wetlands? A cocker pup comes home after exploring a nearby swamp. Photo by James Card

In their book, Urban Gun Dogs, authors Anthony Z. Roettger and Benjamin H. Schleider III, make a strong case for small-sized spaniels as the hunting breeds of choice for the modern-day hunter that is cramped for training grounds and living space. They write, "As a rule of thumb for the urban resident, the smaller the dog is, the better. Small dogs require less space in the home and especially in the car. Spaniels and retrievers are well sized for urban hunters."

Their book is groundbreaking in the sense that they are the first outdoor writers to acknowledge that most gun dog owner-trainers do not live on a sprawling fantasy ranch with a stocked aviary of quail and pheasants to conduct daily field training regimens that require open space, gunfire and live birds. 

Overpopulation, suburban sprawl, and stricter pet laws make it tough on today's gun dog trainers. American cockers can be trained in the home and a small backyard, and later on the way to the field, they will fit into your subcompact econo-car without any trouble. At the city park with their friendly comportment, they are less intimidating to strangers than a slobbering 82-pound Chesapeake Bay retriever, and that means less headaches for a dog owner living in an urban area with dog-phobic freaks.

"Their small body size makes them great an inside house dog. Having a cocker is the best of all worlds. When the cocker is out in the field, they are all business and are interested in hunting only," said Marsha Linehan.  "Then after a long (or short) day of hunting, take your cocker home and you will have a loving companion who is happy to be on your lap, getting love."

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Bowhunting Gobblers

By Tracy Breen

Bowhunting Turkey
A turkey's vital area is extremely small, making it difficult to hit the mark, but not impossible.

 

For most die-hard turkey hunters, harvesting a turkey with a bow is the ultimate challenge. Sooner or later, many turkey hunters who have taken several turkeys with a gun decide to accept the challenge of harvesting a turkey with a bow.

Unfortunately, most hunters who have tried it end up going home empty handed for one reason or another. Regardless of how skilled hunters are with a compound bow and arrow, harvesting a turkey with a bow is extremely challenging. In some ways, it is more challenging than harvesting a deer with a bow. Turkeys are smaller and their vital area is extremely small, making it difficult to hit the mark.

On the other hand, killing a tom with archery gear isn't impossible. If hunters possess the right gear and pay attention to the fine details, they may end up smiling with a harvested bird they took with a bow. It may take an extra few days in the woods to accomplish the task, but how many of us would object to spending an extra day or two in the woods?

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

For starters, if you want to kill a turkey with a bow, you need to be extremely accurate. Mere inches separate the difference between going home with a turkey and going home empty handed. Purchasing a 3D turkey target is a wise investment. You can shoot at a block target all day, but once you shoot at a turkey target, you will realize just how small their vitals are. Most experts say their vitals are about the size of a softball. Due to the size of their vitals, I wouldn't recommend shooting at a turkey that is more than twenty yards away unless your last name is "Robin Hood." Almost anyone can consistently group arrows inside something the size of a softball at close ranges. However, at thirty yards, it is a whole different story.

SHOT PLACEMENT

Bowhunting Turkey
If you misjudge the distance by a few yards, you may miss the turkey completely. Use a rangefinder to get exact yardage.

Long before you enter the woods, you need to know where to aim on a turkey. Most hunters believe the best place to aim is where the wing bone meets the body. Even though you can kill a turkey if you hit them near the wing bone, other locations on the turkey provide a better target. My favorite shot is just above where the legs meet the body. The vitals on a turkey are farther back than most people realize. They are directly above the turkeys' legs. By sending an arrow through the top of the legs, you are sending it into the boiler room. Shooting a turkey above the legs also eliminates their ability to walk away. Most hunters who shoot a turkey don't recover it because they don't find it after the shot. They simply run and hide, never to be seen again. If you take out their legs, the game is over.

Another great place to shoot a turkey is in the head. If you hit them in the head, the game is over instantly. If you miss them, they live to see another day and aren't wounded unlike many birds that are shot in the body. The disadvantage to this method is not many of us are good enough with a bow to lop off a turkeys' head.

BROADHEAD SELECTION

Picking out the perfect broadhead is very important. For deer hunting, almost any broadhead will do the job. With turkey hunting, the right broadhead makes all the difference in the world. I've found a few broadheads that stand out above the crowd. The Steel Force Talon is a great cut-on-contact head that was designed for turkey hunting. The serrated edges on the talon points forward, which decreases penetration. This keeps the broadhead in the turkey, creating massive damage instead of passing completely through. Turkey hunters do a variety of things to decrease penetration on a bird, including using dull broadheads and putting a large washer on the head to slow it down. The Talon eliminates the need for extra gadgets.

Guillotine Broadhead for Turkey
Guillotine Broadheads are designed to be shot directly at the turkey's head.

Any expandable broadhead works great on turkeys. They create a large entrance wound and quickly send a tom to his grave.

Another broadhead worth mentioning is the Gobbler Guillotine Broadhead. This head was designed to be shot at turkeys' heads. It has a whopping four-inch cutting diameter, so if you are not dead on, the blades will still come in contact with the turkeys head and get the job done. If you use this style of broadhead, keep in mind that your only option is a head shot.

POP-UP BLINDS

Another problem associated with hunting turkeys with a bow is being seen when you come to full draw. The way to solve that problem is to use a pop-up ground blind. In recent years, companies like Double Bull have introduced ground blinds that pop up in a few seconds and weigh less than twenty pounds. They also have a black interior so turkeys can't see inside them. A hunter could do jumping jacks in a ground blind and not be seen, thanks to the black interior. A pop-up blind makes harvesting a turkey with a bow easier than it used to be.

DECOYS

Turkey decoys are a must when hunting with a bow. They serve a few purposes. They help you judge distance and help bring a tom within bow range. If you set a decoy at ten yards and see a turkey at twenty, you can use the decoy as a reference point. Having a decoy present often brings a tom those last few yards that we often need to feel comfortable with a shot. When choosing decoys, consider using a strutting decoy like a Pretty Boy. Strutting decoys often bring territorial toms within bow range.

OTHER OPTIONS

Another thing you won't want to leave home without is a rangefinder. When turkey hunting, if you misjudge the distance by a few yards, you may miss the turkey completely. Having a rangefinder allows you to know exactly what the yardage is. The click of a button can make the difference between success and failure.

Bowhunting Turkey
Pop-up blinds prevent you from being seen when you come to a full draw.

Some hunters don't leave home without a string tracker. Although it can be very useful in locating your bird after the shot, it can also impact arrow flight. If you are going to use one, practice with it a lot before you go hunting. If you aim for the vitals above the legs as previously discussed, you won't need one.

Knowing how to use mouth calls is vital when bowhunting for turkeys, especially if you are hunting alone. If you use a box call or a slate call, you can't operate the call and shoot your bow at the same time. With a diaphragm call, you can cluck a few times while at full draw, just before letting the arrow fly. This keeps the tom interested and standing still while you take the shot.

With the right gear and knowledge, killing a tom with a bow isn't as difficult as it seems. The hardest thing is the recovery after the shot, and we can eliminate that problem using the options listed above. Owning the right gear can make or break a hunt, as with all hunting. However, if you don't know how to use the gear you own, you won't succeed. Practice with your bow as much as possible before the season opens. If you have a few of the items listed above and can hit an apple at twenty yards, you just might end up smiling over a tom harvested with a stick and string on opening day.

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Go Hog Wild!

By Keith Riehn

Wild Hog Hunting

Author Keith Riehn with his Texas hog.

Wild hog hunting seems to be getting more and more popular among American bowhunters. If you have a passion for the outdoors and the pursuit of wild game and have not tried hunting wild hogs, you better get out there and give it a try. I have found that hunting hogs is challenging, exciting and very rewarding. Don't cut these animals short; they provide everything a quality hunt involves.

Last fall I found out that I was going to have a chance to do some Texas hog hunting in February, which instantly provided some relief from the dreaded realization that the end of the whitetail archery season was rapidly approaching.

This particular hog hunt was in northeastern Texas, but wild hogs can be found in nearly half of the states in the United States. The largest numbers of hogs are found in the warm area climates of Texas, Florida, California and Hawaii. Numbers of wild hogs continue to increase in many of the Midwestern states, which is not a good thing as far as farmers and other landowners are concerned. For this reason, finding a place to hunt hogs is usually not a problem.

There are many legal methods to hunt hogs. Weapon choices include firearms, archery and knives. They can be hunted from a treestand, ground blind, by spotting and stalking, and through the use of hunting dogs. The versatility of hog hunting is one of many things that draw so many people to the sport.

With little effort, obtaining a place to hunt without the use of a guide service can be achieved; however, there are an abundance of outfitters with high quality hunts available at an affordable price. Either way, you will find wild hogs anything but pushovers, and an absolute blast to hunt.

My Texas Hunt

My latest trip to Texas was filled with anticipation. Shane Allman, who had invited Robin Parks and myself to join him on a hunt at his land lease, had sent us various pictures of hogs of all shapes and sizes taken at many of his deer feeders. Seeing as we've dedicated ourselves to filming all of our hunts, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get some great footage along with an enjoyable hunting experience.

The temperatures were unusually cold on our trip to Texas. The first couple of days were very slow as far as hog movement. Swirling winds were no help either since hogs have an extremely good sense of smell. Paying close attention to wind direction while hunting wild hogs is every bit as important as it is hunting whitetail deer.  We did see a few hogs circling the feeders and had a few close calls but came up empty on our first couple of outings. I was reminded that hunting hogs is just that -- hunting -- and nothing is a guarantee.

I was hoping to get a crack at a nice big boar before the trip ended, but I wasn't about to go home empty handed if a good sow presented herself, especially after the first couple of frustrating days. On the last evening of my hunt, things turned for the better. The morning was not productive, so we decided to try a new spot that Shane had shown us our first day in Texas. This particular spot was in a clearing about the size of an acre. There were feeders on both ends. The cameraman and I settled in downwind of the feeder on the north end of the clearing. We hid ourselves on our knees between a pile of brush and a log. If I leaned out behind our make shift blind I could see the feeder to the south.

With about an hour left of daylight, three small black hogs came at a full trot to the feeder in front of us. Trailing them was a nice big black boar that approached with great caution. I can't express enough that these animals, especially mature hogs, are very wise and alert. He seemed to know something wasn't right and stayed just out of bow range. Every time I thought he was going to make the mistake of venturing in close enough for a shot, he would change his mind and circle again. As bad as this big boar wanted some of that corn, he just was not willing to let his guard down. As the smaller hogs finished up their meal, they trotted back off into the brush in the direction they came from, taking my anticipated pork loins with them.

Hog Hunting

One of many trail camera pictures from a known wallowing area.

About the time discouragement was starting to settle in, I leaned out to look at the other feeder to the south. There stood three really nice sows gobbling up what was left of the corn from the feeder. This was my last hope. "What are the chances they will come to this feeder once they finish up," I whispered to my buddy, Clint Vanetta, who was running the camera. Almost on key, they turned and walked at a fast pace towards our feeder. The small pack included a white hog, a reddish brown hog and a dark black one.

We agreed that the reddish brown sow was the largest of the three. I knew there wouldn't be much time, because there was no corn left under our feeder. I instantly drew my bow as they approached. The hog I was aiming at stopped dead in her tracks and looked straight towards us. Luckily for me, she was standing perfectly broadside just 25 yards away. I wasted no time letting the arrow fly, which hit its mark with only a few minutes of daylight to spare. I could not have been happier. I can say with confidence that I was as pumped, nervous, excited and packed with as much adrenalin over this hog as I have ever experienced while hunting.

A Little Wild Hog Background

The domestic hogs and their feral relatives found in the United States all stem back to Eurasia. Pure Eurasian hogs are classified as exotics. Hogs that were originally domestic and have gone wild are what we call feral hogs. Often wild boars are referred to as "razorbacks," which comes from their tendency to stand the bristles up on their back.

Boars tend to have prominent tusks while sows have much smaller ones. These tusks never stop growing. The lower jaws produce what are called "cutters," which can be razor sharp and quite dangerous to predators and careless hunters and dogs. The boars use these cutters for fighting and rooting. These cutters are what many hunters are looking for in picking out a trophy boar.

Wild boars have a shield covering their shoulders and part of their ribs. The shield is made up of cartilage and scar tissue and will become thicker and harder as it heals each time from injury. Hunters need to be aware of this shield as they are tough enough to stop bullets and arrows. Shot placement is very important on a big boar.

Scouting

Like anything else you may want to hunt, you have to find where hogs are spending their time in order to put one in your freezer. Hogs tend to stay in very dense cover that is accessible to water. They will spend a lot of time rolling around in mud and water to keep themselves cool and free of insects. After wallowing in the mud, they will seek out trees that they can rub their bodies on to clean themselves. If you find a water source with many of these mud plastered trees nearby, you can bet they spend some time there during daylight hours.

Aside from wallows and mud caked trees, another thing to look for is places where hogs have been rooting. Hogs will do some unbelievable damage to the ground as they tear up tree roots looking for insects and worms. They will often lie inside these big holes after the damage is done. Sows will also dig out a nest in depressions in the terrain or under a wood pile. Hogs will often tear up farmer's fields and forest floors in their efforts to find food and shelter. This is one reason why obtaining permission to hunt hogs is not a hard task.

Hog tracks are easy to find in places where they frequent, mainly because they like moist terrain. Hog tracks will tell you a lot about where hogs are coming and going. They will lead from feeding areas to bedding areas. They will lead you to tunnels in the brush where hogs like to hide. If you find an area where a boar is spending a lot of time, you may actually be able smell the stench. Two other things to keep an eye out for are scat and hair on barbed wire where they like to crawl under.

It is very hard to pin point a food source for hogs because they will eat just about anything and everything. They are omnivores and most definitely opportunists. This is why feeders are a valuable tool in areas that are too thick to hunt any other way. This is the case in many parts of Texas where hog hunting is so prevalent.

The Rewards

Aside from being one of the most challenging and fun animals to hunt, they are also extremely tasty. There are a variety of ways to cook wild hog, most of which are the same as you would a domestic hog. I decided to cut up the meat from my Texas hog into small chunks, which I then tore apart and simmered in BBQ sauce. This was my version of pulled pork. It made for some delicious sandwiches for many weeks to come. If you have access to a smoker or a meat processor, smoked tenderloin is as good as it gets!

Get Out There!

There are so many reasons to try hog hunting that I won't even try to name them all. The greatest thing is that the seasons are very liberal since hogs are not considered game animals in most states. You can find a good hog hunt any time of year.

Hog hunts are as challenging as you make them. I prefer the close up encounters provided from bowhunting, but many people get just as much of a kick from hunting them with firearms. In some states it is legal to hunt them with dogs, and some hunters choose to take their hog with a knife. With that being said, there is no reason for you not to give hog hunting a shot. I can promise that you won't be sorry. If you are like me, you will only find yourself looking forward to your next chance to Go Hog Wild!

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Decoying Waterfowl: The Art and Science

By James Joslin

Decoys in Timber
A duck hunter retrieves a bird after firing into a group of mallards. Note that the decoys include hen and drake dekes placed closely together to simulate the pairing of mates that occurs late in duck season.

"A thousand years ago in the Southwest, an Indian sat in a cave and fashioned a counterfeit canvasback duck. He formed the head and body of reeds, bound them tightly with bulrushes and colored them with pigments. Finally he stuck feathers into the body to make it as lifelike as possible.

"The finished product was what is now the world's oldest known waterfowl decoy. It was discovered in Lovelock Cave, Nevada, in 1924. Today anybody can see it in New York's Museum of the American Indian."

That is how Erwin A. Bauer chose to begin Chapter 8: "Waterfowl Decoys" in his book, The Duck Hunter's Bible.

I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this work when Mom found one at a flea market during my early teenage years. The purchase cost me only $1, but the purchase price has been returned to me a thousandfold by the information and guidance contained within its pages.

Although the publication date shows 1965, little has truly changed in the basic concept of decoying waterfowl over the 40+ years that have elapsed since this Bible hit the bookstores.

Decoying ducks and geese involves using the birds' senses of sight and instinct against them. Basically, you want the spread of duck and/or goose decoys to look as real as possible -- in the eyes of the ducks and geese.

Over the decades upon decades that man has pursued waterfowl, much advice has been dispensed. And, much of that advice is still valid today.

Colony Waterfowl
Snow and blue geese are colony waterfowl, meaning that they relate to one another in large groups -- sometimes into the hundreds or thousands.

One concept of proper decoying deals with the shape of a decoy setup. In this vein, duck decoys may be arranged in shapes that appear to roughly translate into the letters J, C, O, U or V, or into shapes like a fish hook or a half moon. Meanwhile, goose decoys may be arranged in patterns resembling the letters X, O, Y or V, with some modification based on the wind. The key ingredient found in the idea of decoy setup shapes is that a hole, or landing zone, needs to be left in the setup to provide a spot where the ducks and/or geese can land well within shotgun range.

Other lessons learned by yesteryear's waterfowlers include those of varied decoy sizes and shapes, playing the numbers game, use of color and contrast, high visibility positioning, the allure of movement and the impression of security and comfort. Briefly touching on each of these facets of decoying waterfowl, here are the general ideas behind each concept.

Sizes and Shapes
Decoys of various size and shape offer a look of realism to a decoy spread. After all, all ducks don't look identical, and the same is true of geese. Incorporating different types, brands and species of decoys should accomplish the thrust of this belief. One way I have found to set this idea in motion is to use goose decoys while duck hunting or vice versa. The addition of those other birds seems to translate into more shooting based on my hunting experiences.

Hunters may find that ducks and geese are more willing to work their decoy spreads by mixing birds to give an appeal to more species and the appearance of available food and security.The Numbers Game
Most waterfowl are more likely to come to a higher number of bodies, whether on the water or in a field. Think of it like this. Do you want to go to the party where there are only a handful of guests, or would you rather head over to the big party where everybody is having a good time? Enough said. That being said, you may have to go against the grain later in the season when ducks and/or geese become educated and decoy shy.

Color and Contrast
Waterfowl biologists have noted that two colors that (according to the artsy set) aren't even actual colors are the colors that pop out most when doing aerial surveys of waterfowl. Those are black and white. In keeping with this school of thought, some hunters have added white to some of their decoys or have darkened the paint scheme of some mallard hens or Canada geese. The addition of contrast to this equation means that you should keep in mind what will show up when the birds are flying over. Dark bodies against a dark field don't provide much contrast. But, adding, for instance, some snow goose decoys to one side of a spread of Canadas would give those birds something to key in on as they ponder where to land.

High Visibility
Have you ever noticed that when geese or ducks are funneling down into a spot, it seems like every other bird within five miles is drawn in like a magnet? Why? Well, the other birds can see that action. This sort of activity can be accomplished by hunters wanting to add kites to a spread. Or, keeping this a ground game, position the decoys at a spot where the birds can easily see them when passing overhead or fairly near. This could mean a high point in a field for a dry land setup or keeping decoys out of the brush and vegetation when in the water.

Movement
How many of us have purchased a Mojo Mallard or similar product? Of course, these spinning-wing decoys can be highly effective, but they are illegal in some areas. There are, however, many other ways to impart movement to waterfowl decoys. One of the oldest tricks for duck hunting is the use of a jerk rig. A string is attached to one or more decoy and run to the blind or other hiding spot of the hunters. When ducks pass by, pulling on the string creates surface action on the water. Meanwhile, decoying geese has included such tactics as flagging. Taking this even one step farther, you can even wave your "wings" to attract the attention of geese still at some distance from your setup.

White-fronted geese, commonly referred to as Specklebellies, are familial birds as evidenced by this hunter retrieving his harvest from a group of decoys barely numbering double digits.Security and Comfort
Just like us humans, waterfowl have their own Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Yes, the birds want food, rest and companionship. All these things can be advertised to ducks and geese through a decoy spread. Security is an issue that can go hand in hand with the numbers game. Food can appear readily available by having the decoys in a spot where harvested grain has been spilled. Rest and companionship go together to provide comfort for the birds. With predators, including man, always on the prowl, ducks and geese look for spots that provide them both security and comfort. Consider a day with high winds, and note that birds will often seek out a place that blocks those winds. Or, think about how waterfowl sometimes choose to land near other birds like herons. That's why manufacturers produce confidence decoys (read Keith Sutton's article Confidence Decoys and Duck Hunting).

In recent years, though, some of the newer generation's waterfowlers have spoken up and noted that bucking the trend is the way to go in decoying ducks and geese. Thus, some have abandoned the idea of certain setup shapes, excessive numbers of decoys and other long held decoying beliefs.

Truthfully, the best way to learn is through trial and error and showing a willingness to adapt to varied situations and learn from more experienced waterfowlers. So, if all else fails, find the oldest, crusty duck and goose hunter in your neighborhood. Offer to buy a steak dinner. Then, get pen and paper ready and beg to tag along for a few trips.

To illustrate the individuality and intelligence that hunters must apply to waterfowl decoying, I turn again to Bauer and The Duck Hunter's Bible. In the latter paragraphs of Chapter 8, he wrote:

"The proper placement of decoys and the arrangement of a good stool (old name for a decoy spread) is a subject for controversy wherever two or more duck hunters gather. Ducks are about as unpredictable as trout in heavily fished waters. To say that one type of placement will work is about like saying a certain fly will always catch trout. Trout fishermen know there is no such fly.

"To tell the truth, entire volumes could be written on the proper placement of waterfowl decoys. But it really boils down to the individual shooter's ingenuity and to his instinct for what will more quickly and more effectively attract waterfowl within shooting range. Some days the ducks will make a man feel he is truly an expert and that he has at last mastered decoy placement. On other days they will make him wish he had stayed home."

Additional Decoying Tips

Late in the duck season, place some mallard drake and hen decoys in pairs. The pairing off of mated mallards coincides with the end of duck season, so this might provide a little more realism for the greenheads and susies you want to bag. As for geese, consider placing dark goose (Canada or white-fronted geese) decoys in family groups of three to eight and light goose (snow and blue geese) decoys in colony groups of 12-50 or more. That's how they tend to relate in real life and why it takes fewer decoys to get Canadas and specklebellies consistently into shotgun range.

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Open Country Whitetail Options

By Michael D. Faw

Open Country Deer Hunting
Tall grasses hide more deer than many hunters believe. Think more about hunting pheasants and you'll find your deer.

Most hunters firmly believe that pressured whitetails head deep into the dark forests, duck into the thickest brush found there, and hunker down and wait it out until hunting season passes. Being smart beasts (as nature intended), the deer know you'll be looking for them there, so they've moved. Today's crafty deer are often found in places you overlook -- the open areas that have been considered as prime rabbit and pheasant hunting grounds. The open fields have been viewed as totally void of deer. Today, more deer, including bucks, are definitely hiding in open grounds.

There are many reasons for whitetails to hunker down in wide open spaces: tall CRP grasses help hide bedded deer, but make it easy for them to raise their heads to see approaching hunters; in most cases, the open areas are closer to food sources, and foods attract does, and thus that's where the bucks want to be waiting and ready each fall; finally, overgrown fence rows and deep, brush-choked ditches threading through fields also offer up the dense cover that bucks seek when the hunting pressure increases. All of these areas are often quickly by-passed by hunters who head for the forests and tall trees. Is it time to change your hunting tactics?

Maybe your next hunt should start across a seemingly deer-barren CRP field, in the weeds and brush around a cornfield, or along a creek that's twisting through an abandoned and over-grown farm field. Bucks are lurking there, and watching you walk and drive past. Go take a look, and be prepared to shoot.

The Open Ground Option

I first saw a hunter exploring "open ground" in eastern Colorado a few seasons past. He swore he'd been watching a nearby valley when he saw a buck walk up on a very open CRP grass-covered hillside and then bed. The hunter had glanced back often, and indicated he never saw the deer stand or leave. Then he asked would I help move the buck so he could possibly get a shot?

Open Country Whitetails
Glassing for bucks hiding in grasses and open spaces.

That hunter simply drove around to the back of the hill, and found a place where he could watch a lot of the surrounding open ground. After a brief wait, I started walking exactly where he pointed into the head-tall grass. I was about 10 yards away when the buck exploded from its bed and dashed across the nearby hilltop. I caught brief glances of a white tail as the buck bounded up over the grasses, and then I heard a shot. Seems the buck stepped into an open trail on the opposite side of the hill and my friend saw an opportunity when the buck paused to look back. I would have been among the many hunters who would have thought that there was no way any normal whitetail would even think about hiding in that grass. There were no trees around.

The point was driven home a few seasons later when a landowner told me to sit on her front porch if I wanted to get a big buck. Then, while I walked past to hunt in the distant woods up the valley behind her home, she told me an old crafty buck was walking through her yard and then hiding down by the creek in a thin ribbon of brush. It was several football field lengths across the open hayfields to the forests where I thought any decent deer would be hiding -- and found.

When I walked down to the creek to scout, I found tangles of honeysuckle and brush that opened with tunnels running underneath. Those deer were hidden once they moved into the drainage, and they felt safe. A few days later I climbed into a strategically placed treestand where I could peer down into the brush and along the creek, and a short period later I spotted a deer. Along one of the well-worn trails came a buck that seemed to be carefree and content to hide in this small ribbon of cover. His hiding days were over when I settled the Swarovski scope atop my Browning rifle.

Pheasant Tactics Take Deer

Hunters all across the Midwest are reporting the same events to me: as they hunt pheasants, they are jumping deer from beds in open areas. Most hunters express utter dismay! Overgrown fence rows, ditches along fields, and open grounds seem to be the new hangout for old bucks. Several of those hunters have also said they now walk -- make that sneak at a snail's pace --along those areas to hunt deer with a firearm. You can too -- with success.

Deer bedded in open grass
Deer use open spaces more than most hunters realize!

The first important tactic for success is to pre-scout. Study the brush from afar with a binocular or spotting scope. You might see only antler tips and never see a whole deer. It's to your advantage to know where a buck is bedded when possible. You can then better plan your approach, and predict how the buck might escape. This also lets you use the wind to your advantage. You don't want the wind to give away your scent and approach well before you arrive, or the deer will bolt and possibly never be seen. Most deer bed where they can see danger approaching from their front and smell danger approaching from their rear.

If you do have friends hunting with you, plan to play a well-known pheasant hunting tactic. In addition to having someone on each side of a fence row or ditch when possible, also "post a blocker" at the far end. Much like pheasants that will sprint down a hedgerow, weary bucks will stay inside their ribbon of cover and only dash into the wide open spaces as a last resort. Some of these fence rows and ditches stop along the woods or against a river, but when there are open gates or roads, or turns, those are the points where a hunter should be waiting. Any fleeing buck could expose himself and those seconds in the open should be the opportunity any hunter needs to connect.

You can also hunt these key areas solo by either placing a treestand or setting up a ground blind where you can watch some of these open areas.  The key to bagging your buck is staying a safe distance away and observing as much space as possible. Whitetails that have discovered these open areas for safety are very reluctant to leave, and some pheasant hunters have reported almost stepping on a deer before it sprang to its feet and dashed away.

Open Country Whitetails
Any cover located when hunting in open country should be studied carefully.

Run, Buck, Run -- Then Stop

If you do flush -- or make that jump -- a buck from its bed, expect to see a mad dash as you look into a tall white tail. You need to cause that buck to slam on the brakes because running shots have an extremely low percentage of success, even for the "practiced experts."
Whistling can cause a buck to stop and look back, and yelling "whoa" has often produced the same effect for some astute hunters. A loud and forceful buck grunt has also stopped some fleeing deer in their tracks.  Many hunters also report that voicing "Maaaaa" will stop most running deer. It's as if they've heard a fawn and must naturally stop to locate it.

Another important option for hunters to look for is the natural pause that deer often have when they spring from their bed, or just as they encounter an obstacle. The deer simply stops (often for about 6 seconds) to study its options, and to locate or evaluate the danger, before making the next move. When a deer stops is not the time for any hunter to dally. You need to raise the rifle, settle the sights, and make a shot.

Geared to Go

Attention to details will also help you down your deer in open country. You need to move in stealth mode, so wear clothing that helps to keep movement quiet. Fleece outer layers will be noiseless, but Cordura and most "brush pants" will scrape and be noisy. You'll also need comfortable footwear with aggressive soles. Plan to take a walk and sit less for most open ground hunts. You will also need footwear tread that grips the ground in case you have to drop down a bank, or climb up and out of a ditch.

You should also work to remove or silence anything that bangs against your rifle, such as a call or binoculars. Noisy hunting gear often sounds like loud bells to lurking whitetails, letting them know that hunters are approaching.

When you are pursuing deer across open ground, you could be making a long distance shot and need a steady rifle. Forget the bi- and tripod shooting sticks, and use a monopod. You'll have fewer legs to be entangled in grasses, and still be able to quickly steady a rifle. Don't count on trees and fence posts for supports since they'll be far and few between. That's another reason it's called open ground.

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Bowhunting Basics

By Keith Riehn

What is it about pursuing wild animals with a bow that really gets my adrenaline rushing?  I'm not sure I can answer that question with a concrete explanation.  There is just something mysterious about the inner drive that keeps bowhunters hungry for that next hunt, as if life depended on it.  Whether I got this intractable passion through heredity or conditioning, one thing is for certain, I have the fever! 

 

Though the passion may not be explainable, there are some obvious reasons as to why a hunter may decide to take up archery hunting.  As a teenager my father introduced me to hunting deer and turkey.  Within a few years I realized that I could no longer stand the overwhelming desire for the seasons to roll back around.  It was then that I discovered that if I take up bowhunting I could pursue big game for nearly one third of the year.  Anything that could put me in the woods that often was definitely worth looking into.  Generous hunting seasons were my main motive to take up the sport.  If you like a challenge and enjoy the outdoors,  bowhunting has just what you need.  Most serious bow hunters are competitive in nature and thrive on the chore of outwitting their prey on its own turf.  Bowhunting is not for everyone, but if you can handle some frustration and you are willing to invest some time and energy towards achieving a tremendously rewarding task, then you may have found your niche. 

 

Once you have decided that you are up to the challenge of bowhunting, it is time to invest in some equipment. The amount of money you will need to spend will greatly depend on your personal preference and personality.  Some archers keep things very simple and still achieve great success while others find the need to have the most updated and sophisticated equipment no matter the cost.  Most bowhunters find a happy medium somewhere in between.  There are items that are essential to having success and others that are basically just bells and whistles.  Assuming you are just getting into the sport, lets cover some basics that you will require. 

 

The bow:  There are so many quality bows to choose from, the decision will really just come down to personal preference.  There are five characteristics that archers look for when deciding what is right for them.  What is top priority to you may not be top priority to the next hunter.  These characteristics are:

 

  • Quality
  • Speed
  • Accuracy
  • Forgiveness
  • Aesthetics        

     

Quality -  Is the bow going  to endure the abuse often associated with bowhunting? Lets face it, the tactics necessary to take game with a bow does not allow the hunter to pamper his weapon.  A bow hunter will be traveling through thick cover, climbing to elevated tree stands and  often putting the bow through potentially rigorous conditions.  Are the manufacturers reputable and do they stand behind their product?  Is the bow quiet, yet efficient?  Ask these questions to fellow bowhunters.  The best quality bows will have proven themselves.    

 

Speed -  To many archers this is a top priority.  To others it is just one more variable to consider.  There is no question that speed has many advantages.  A blistering arrow flies with less trajectory for longer distance allowing the hunter more room for error in judging distance.  However, speed does come with a price.  Some degree of accuracy and consistency  is often sacrificed to achieve greater velocity.     

 

Accuracy - Plain and simple, accuracy is critical.  When a hunter feels confident in his shot placement, success usually follows.  To be accurate it takes a well tuned bow and a great deal of practice.   To achieve accuracy, a hunter needs a bow that feels comfortable and fits properly.  Before deciding on a particular bow,  I would encourage any bowhunter to become familiar with the many styles and types available. 

 

Forgiveness - Of the five characteristics listed, this may be the most beneficial  to a less experienced bowhunter.  Forgiveness is the measure of the amount of error in the archers form, grip, anchor and release a bow will allow when achieving an accurate shot.  As a general rule, bows with a longer brace height of close to 8 inches will have more forgiveness than those with shorter brace heights.  Brace height is the distance from the bow handle to the string of an undrawn bow.  Larger brace height comes with the price of a degree of speed loss, though many bows with large brace heights today are still producing remarkable speeds.    

 

Aesthetics -  It would be naive to say that looks do not matter to most hunters.  Some will claim it is not important, and to some it is really low on the priority list.  However, break out a bow in a crowd of bowhunters and the first thing commented on will be its looks. 

 

The best advise I can give it to look at all five characteristics and make sure the bow you choose is a good mixture of each.   Usually one of these characteristics will stand out a little more than the others and that is where personal preference comes in to play.

 

Once you have chosen a bow with the characteristic that you desire,  it is time to decide on the essential accessories required for your set up. These are:

 

  • Arrow Rest
  • Sights
  • Stabilizer
  • Wrist strap

     

Arrow Rest -   The rest is the accessory that supports the arrow during the shot process.  There are many types of rests to choose from.  Personal preference will come into play when choosing a good rest.  Through the year, many changes have been made to make rests more practical and efficient for the bowhunter. There are rests available that secure the arrow, eliminating the chance that the arrow could fall off the rest at a critical moment. To many bowhunters this feature is invaluable.  Another feature on some of the latest designed rests are the ability for the support arm of the rest to actually drop out of the way as the string is released, eliminating all contact with the arrow. By doing this, the possibilities of unwanted interference and noise made from arrow friction with the rest  are a thing of the past. My recommendations are to find a rest that is easy to adjust while tuning and accommodates what you feel will be most beneficial for your hunting style.

 

Sights - Sights act as an aiming point of reference on your target to aid you in making an accurate shot.  Multiple sight pins allow a hunter to set a reference at several yardages, eliminating the need to aim high or low on a target after judging the distance of the shot.  Many hunters are shooting high speed bows that produce very flat trajectory and prefer to use just a single pin. With a little practice you may find that this helps to keep things simple. Some states allow the use of electronically lighted pins which could come in handy at dusk and dawn. Check the game laws in the areas you will be hunting to see if this option is available to you.  Decide what you want out of your sight before making a purchase.

 

Stabilizer -  This is a weighted extension that protrudes from the front of the bow to help the hunter with balanced form while shooting.  Most stabilizers are efficient so there is no need to get real technical when choosing one.  I suggest  that you find one that also serves the purpose of eliminating unwanted vibration allowing a smoother, quieter shot. Less recoil means less noise and less hand shock.

 

Wrist Strap -  Any wrist strap that is comfortable to you will do the job.  It is simply there to assure that the bow will not leave your hand during recoil. The last thing you will want to see is your bow plummeting to the ground from an elevated tree stand.

 

Other items you may want to consider for your bow are:

 

  • String and limb silencers
  • String loop (for use with a release aide)
  • Arrow quiver

Arrows

 

The biggest decision you will have to make about arrow selection is whether to use aluminum or carbon arrows.  Aluminum arrows have been a proven asset to bowhunters for many years.  They provide stable and consistent flight with a surplus of penetration.  Aluminum arrows tend to be heavier than carbons which teamed with speed can produce unmatched penetration.  Carbons on the other hand are very durable and dependable in maintaining straightness.  Because they are lighter and often more narrow, they offer the bowhunter  faster arrow speed and flatter trajectory.  Most arrow manufacturers have an arrow shaft selection chart to aid  you in choosing the right arrow for your set up.  Another minor decision to make will be choosing between feather or plastic veins to stabilize the arrow in flight. The average fletching is around 4 inches in length but can be larger or smaller depending if you are looking for more stability or speed.

 

Now for the business end of the arrow! After practicing with field points and maintaining a respectable grouping out to at least 20 yards, you will become more confident in making a clean shot  on an animal.  One of the most important variables in making a clean kill will be the amount of penetration the arrow gets and damage done to the vital organs as the arrow passes through.  A top quality broadhead will be a determining factor in getting this job done effectively.  Do not cut corners in choosing a broadhead.  

 

Fixed blade heads and mechanical heads are the two main types of broadheads being used by the majority of bowhunters.  A strong case could be made for choosing either style of broadhead, and you will find advocates of both throughout the bowhunting population.  Fixed blade heads have no moving parts and tend to be very durable and reliable.  Mechanical heads have floating blades that open on impact and tend to be easily transitioned from field points with little or no difference in flight.  Try both and see what works for you. Confidence in your broadhead will go a long way in feeling good about your shot.

 

Optional Equipment for Hunting

 

Once you have your bow and arrows ready to go, there are some optional equipment to consider to make your hunts successful.  I find that for bowhunting a lightweight, easy to set up and take down treestand  is almost a necessity.  Climbing treestands work great if there are trees available with little or no limbs up to twenty feet from the base.  Hang-on treestands work just about anywhere there is a tree and are quite handy teamed with the right steps or ladder.

 

Ground blinds seem to be becoming increasingly popular with bowhunters.  Most serious bowhunters have a good quality blind in their arsenal for those times when treestands are not a good option.  If you plan to hunt turkeys with your bow, a good blind will be invaluable.

 

Camouflage clothing for all weather conditions is a must. Bow seasons across North America tend to be quite liberal in length.  Count on hunting in just about any and all types of weather conditions.  Staying comfortable will keep you in the field. Success in bowhunting is usually teamed with long hours of relentless pursuit.  You have to be out there to be successful.  A nice roomy backpack to hold additional clothing and food will aid you in preparing for weather changes and temperature fluctuations.

 

Long hours in boots that are too hot in early season will lead to shortened hunts and undesirable excess odor.  On the flip side, nothing will send a hunter back to camp quicker than cold feet. There are too many quality footwear products available these days for a hunter to allow this to happen.

 

As a bowhunter, you will find that hours can be spent looking through catalogues and surfing the Internet looking at all of the latest gadgets and equipment available to make your hunt more enjoyable.  Nothing beats trial and error and seeking advice from fellow bowhunters to find what all you will feel is necessary for your hunting experiences.

 

Now that you have the equipment necessary to start hunting, how can you put yourself within bow range of your game?  Obviously, your strategy and the degree of difficulty will vary from animal-to-animal.  There are two key ingredients to harvesting an animal with a bow and arrow. These are preparation and fortune.  Preparation begins with knowing your equipment and your personal limitations.  It is not necessary to mimic the skills of Robin Hood  in order to make a clean shot on your prey.  What it takes is substantial practice and recognition of your effective range. I have found that 3-D targets are one of the best ways to sharpen these skills.  Most 3-D targets come with an outline of the vital section of a life size animal.  Visualize different scenarios as you draw back and focus on the target.  Nothing builds confidence more than walking up to a 3D target with 3 or 4 well placed arrows protruding from the boiler room.  Don't forget to practice from various elevations.  Shot placement can change with changing angles.  Keep working yourself farther and farther from the target until you start noticing marginal shot placement consistency.  Once you establish this marginal distance, work your way back towards the target until you find yourself drilling the kill zone with tight arrow groups.  Make note of this distance and discipline yourself  not to take shots at live animals beyond this distance.  You have established your "effective range."

 

Once you become comfortable with your shooting ability, it is time to focus on how to put  yourself within effective range of a live animal.  Whitetail deer are the most popular game animal bowhunted in North America and thought by many to be the most challenging. Bowhunting expert Chuck Adams claims that if you can take a whitetail deer with a bow then you can feel confident that you have the skills to take any huntible game animal in North America.  There are an endless number of resources available such as magazines, books, and videos pertaining to hunting deer.  One topic that always surfaces in achieving success is "scouting." Many deer hunters will make their first trip into the woods on opening day of rifle season and harvest a deer. Not to take away from the challenge of rifle hunting, but that kind of fortune just does not happen often for bowhunters.  To get within range of deer on a consistent basis takes a respectable amount of scouting. Its is critical to understand the purpose of deer movement in your area and gain knowledge of the routes they will take to get from bedding areas to feeding areas and vise versa.  The movements will change as the season progresses due to changes in the availability of preferred food sources.  Changes will also occur with even more severity as the mating or "rutting" period occurs.  Catching a deer in a vulnerable state of mind is a big key to success. The best way to accomplish this is to not educate the deer.  A deer sensing "pressure" is very difficult to catch off guard.  Once you establish good stand sites, stay away from the areas you are intending to hunt.  The most important key to fooling a whitetail is not allowing him to get a whiff of human scent.  Deer rely heavily on their nose as their main source of defense.  Staying undetected in close range can be quite a task.  There are many scent eliminating products available and they certainly help, but nothing beats paying attention to wind direction.  If you keep the wind direction in your favor you will drastically improve you odds of arrowing a deer.  I mentioned "fortune" as the other key factor along with preparation in being successful on a particular hunt. No matter how much time and effort you put in to your hunt, your fate is ultimately controlled by the instincts and choices the animal will make on its own.  You never know when opportunity will knock, so be prepared to answer when it does.

 

Although deer are the most popular game animal pursued by bowhunters, you will find that there are a number of other challenging creatures out there to chase with a stick and string. The deer hunting tips pertaining to scouting and pressure will go along ways in hunting just about all game with a few modifications. I can't emphasize enough how important it is not to educate any animal to the fact that they are being hunted if you plan on getting within bow range.  Familiarize yourself with various game and remember there is always more to learn about the sport. This ongoing lessons are what keeps my mind drifting away throughout the year anticipating trying something new while bowhunting. Are you looking for a challenge with countless satisfactions and rewards? If so, take up bowhunting.

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