Beginning Archery for Ladies, Part 2 - Proper Stance

Beginning Archery for Ladies - Bass Pro Shops AltoonaBy Alicia Bricker
Gun Vault Specialist
Bass Pro Shops Altoona

Now that you used my tips in Beginning Archery for Ladies, Part One, and have your bow picked out and set up, we need to work on the proper shooting form. Then watch for Part 3 next week, where we explore some of the accessories mentioned here in a little more detail.

StanceRight-handed archery stanceBeginning Archery for Ladies - Stance

First, you want to stand with your feet about shoulder width apart with the back leg a little more forward to give you a steady base. If you are shooting a right-handed bow, then your right foot will be in the back. Right-handed bows are held in the left hand and left-handed bows are held in the right. The front of your body will face out away from your target with your dominate hand on the opposite side of your body away from the target. The hand holding the bow will face the target. Everyone will stand a little different and you will develop your own stance over time. This is just a place to start when first learning.


(Right handed example)

When you are drawing back your bow to shoot, be sure to keep your arm just slightly under fully extended to keep it from extending into where the string will travel. I have noticed, especially with women, that our arms tend to extend past straight and this causes issues when shooting. Be sure to keep:

  1. Your arm straight or slightly bent,
  2. Your wrist straight, not bent,
  3. Your elbow rolled under.
     

< Incorrect - The elbow is Incorrect forearmextended into the path of the string.Correct Arm for Bow

 

 

 

Correct - Arm is straight, elbow slightly

bent to keep out of string’s path.>

 

 

Grip

Here is an example of how you can hold your bow when you are at full draw. The wrist sling, shown in the photo, keeps theUsing a wrist sling bow from falling to the ground, once the arrow has been released. When you grip the bow, you want to keep your fingers loose, so that you don’t jerk the bow with a tight grip. By keeping your fingers loose, you allow your bow to follow through with the shot. Allow the arrow to completely leave the bow before gripping it again. The wrist sling will allow the bow to roll forward, but it is around your wrist, so it won’t fall completely. Also, you don’t keep your hand loose for very long, after you have released the arrow, just long enough to follow through with your shot. You don’t want your bow to fall too far before gripping it again.

Anchor Point

The next thing to be conscious about when shooting is your anchor point. You want to draw your bow back to the exact same spot every time to keep your shots consistent. Do this by making a conscientious effort to place your hand at the same spot on your face every time you pull back your bow. If you are a finger shooter, it will be towards the front of your jaw and closer to your mouth. If you are a release shooter, it will be back closer to your ear. Every archer is different on this, and you will have to practice and find what works best for you to keep your shots accurate.

When you pull the stringAnchor Point back, you want to put the string up against the side of your nose and the edge of your mouth. For beginning archers, I recommend a kisser button like shown in the picture. This will help you feel where your string is when you are pulling it back, so you know it is the same every time. This photo shows where the string should land when you are pulling it back and where to anchor your string against your face using a release. All archers will be slightly different on this, so keep that in mind when you are starting to shoot. You will figure out your own anchor point, over time.

Consistency

The key to accuracy is to be as consistent as possible, doing it the same every time. When you pull the string back, you will learn by feel where your hand needs to be anchored in order to shoot the best. After a while, it will just become second nature and you won’t have to think about it. A good habit, when first starting out, is to make a mental check list. Go through and ask yourself:

  • Do you have a solid base, so your balance is steady?
  • Once you pull your string back:
    • Is your arm straight, but out of the path of the string?
    • Is your wrist straight?
    • Is your grip loose on the bow, so you don’t flinch the bow?
    • Is your string against your face in the same place, or the kisser button in the corner of your mouth?
    • Is your hand anchored in the right spot and the same place as before?

These questions will become unnecessary as you progress, but in the beginning it will help you increase your consistency and accuracy every time you shoot. Eventually,  you'll know what works and doesn’t work for you. Your stance and how you draw your bow will become second nature. Everyone develops their own style and knows what feels right for them. These are just a few tips that can get you started down the right path!

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Preparing for Your Elk Hunt Part 3

Practice Your Shooting

It really doesn’t matter what you shoot, whether if it’s a rifle, muzzle loader or bow (compound, re-curve, or long bow) you need to shoot year round. I know it gets very expensive to shoot a rifle or muzzle loader all the time but to stay proficient you need to shoot more than just a couple times a year. That’s not really the case with archery, we can shoot our arrows over and over unless you are a beginner and then you ruin a lot of arrows practicing. I can shoot my Carbon Express arrows over and over as long as I don’t miss and jack up an arrow which very rarely happens unless we are getting stupid and trying almost impossible shots.  Another advantage with archery is I can shoot in my back yard and no one cares, but if I started popping off with my 30-06, oh man look out, the cops will be there in a heartbeat with their guns drawn and aiming right at me. For the rifle and muzzle loaders if you can’t shoot a lot during off season you need to at least get out once a month or every other month before season and make sure your gun is still sighted in, plus if your gun is in a gun safe for extended periods of time you might start to have a rusting problem. When you do go shoot you may find something is wrong or broke or something breaks while you are at the range, if it does you can get it fixed before you go on your hunt. I had this happen a few years ago, I hadn’t shot my bow for a couple months because of an injury and when I pulled my bow out of the case and started waxing my string, I noticed that my cable guard slide was broke. I don’t know about you but most of the places I hunt it’s a long drive to a town that may or may not be able to fix the problem. If I wouldn’t have caught that broken slide I would have had a very long drive to find a place that would have one for my bow. The bottom line here is to shoot as much as possible so when that moment of truth comes along you’re ready.

Staying Organized

Keeping all your hunting equipment organized is one of the most import things to do that I can’t stress it enough. A lot of hunters when they get home throw everything in the corner of the garage, clean their gun, put it away in a gun safe and they're done until their next hunting season. Well the next hunting season arrives and you are going through everything trying reorganize and make sense of everything when come to find out, you left a pair of used socks in one of the bags, and the worst part of it all is there’s no laundry detergent made on this earth that’s going to take that smell out of everything you had in with those socks. This may be a little over kill but I think you get the picture.

I’m not much different but when I unload my truck I put everything into three different piles. One pile is all my hunting clothes, another is my regular clothes and then the third pile is all my other hunting stuff like my bow, boots, and that sort of stuff. My hunting clothes go straight into the washer and are washed with Hunter’s Specialties Scent-A-Way Laundry Detergent and then hung out side to dry. When it has all dried completely it is all folded and put back into my Hunter’s Specialties Scent Safe Travel Bags with one Primetime Fresh Earth Scent Wafer in each bag. Now I’m ready for my next hunt. I go as far as all my shirts are in one bag, my pants in another, and my coats in another. Each bag is marked so if I’m looking for a pair of pants I don’t have to go through all the bags to find them. While everything is washing I’m putting all my other stuff away down in the basement where it all has its own place, this way when I go looking for something I know where it is. Now my wife will disagree with this but at least I know where it is.  If something is broke I will fix it right away and if it’s something I can’t do I’ll get it to someone who can. There’s nothing worse than having something broke and forgetting about it and then as you’re getting everything out and ready for your hunt and you find it, well I know the words you’re going to use because it happened to me and it was a good thing there was no kids around when I found it. If you can fix it, fix it, but if it’s one of those items you can’t fix take it to someone and get it fixed right away.

Everything I have talked about organizing so far has been all about when you get home. Don’t forget about staying organized while hunting. I’m just as guilty as the next when it comes to staying organized. When I get back to camp after hunting all day all I can think of is getting something in my stomach and going to bed. Now the next morning comes and I’m scrambling to get a lunch made, make sure my hydration bladder has water in it and off I go with a pop tart in one hand and a soda in the other.  It's really frustrating when you’re about a mile from camp and all of a sudden you hear a bugle and you go to grab your cow call that normally hangs around your neck and it’s not there along with the rest of your calls. Been there, done that, but it only took that one time for me to learn that lesson the hard way.

Check Off Sheet

A check off sheet is something I feel every hunter should have, get one of those generic ones that you find in magazines or at the game and fish department and modify it for you. A rifle hunters check off sheet would be different then a bow hunters as would a muzzle loaders. Some of the items will be the same like your licenses, GPS/Maps/Compass, but a bow hunter doesn’t need blaze orange and a rifle hunter doesn’t need camo. I have my list broke down into categories, day pack, hunting clothing, camp clothing, camp accessories, and camping equipment. Like with my day pack, I have a list of everything I carry in it, my camp clothing is what I wear around camp and it’s broke down as far as how many pair of socks and underwear I bring.  It took me quite a while to come up with my lists, but I started with one of those generic lists a long time ago and went from there. Sometimes I may add to the list or I may remove some thing. Once you start don’t stop unless you feel everything you have is sufficient. I’ve been using these lists for a long time and things are constantly changing as to where I’m adding and subtracting all the time. I even have a needs list and a want list. The needs list is stuff I need before next year’s hunt. My want/wish list is a whole lot longer than all my other lists combined. I don’t think I need to explain what kind of list that is but you know, like a new AR15 to whack a few coyotes. Maybe if I’m real good this year Santa might bring me one.

Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight

Mark Campagnola

         

 

 

 

 

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Beginning Archery for Ladies - Part One: The Bow

BrickerBy - Alicia Bricker, Gun Vault Specialist

Ladies, are you interested in archery, but aren’t sure where to get started? Don't have someone who can take you out and show you the ropes? I'll get you started. Archery is a fun and exciting sport and anyone can get involved.

 

The Bow

First off, you'll need a bow that fits you - you need to be comfortable with how it feels when you shoot it. Go out and try several different bows. I suggest a bow that can grow with you as you get stronger. Two aspects that are important are the draw weight and the draw length. They make a variety of bows with different draw weight variations that you can try.

Draw weight - The amount of weight you will have to pull when drawing back your bow.

Draw length - The length you will draw your bow back. This varies with your "wing span" (length of your arms) and you will want to get this calculated before picking out your bow. Your draw length is determined by measuring the distance between your arms and you will need someone to help you measure.

1. Hold your arms straight out to your sides, palms facing forward.

2. Measure from the tip of your middle finger to the other tip of your middle finger then divide by 2.5.

This will give you an estimate of your draw length, but it may need to be adjusted depending on how it feels to you when shooting. Our archery experts can always help you determine what the best draw length is for you.

A couple of good beginner bows, both of which offer quite a bit of growth in draw weight are:

The Quest G5 Radical, which ranges as low as 15 Lbs up to 70 LBS draw weight with a draw length of 17.5” up to 30”

The Diamond Infinite Edge which ranges all the way from 5 LBS up to 70LBS for draw weight and a draw length from 13” up to 30”

As an adult, your draw length will stay the same.  However, kids that are still growing will be able to take advantage of the draw lengths being so versatile in the above listed bows allowing them to get comfortable with a bow and get it adjusted as they continue to grow.

The varying weights are a plus for women. It allows you to start out at a lower draw weight as you begin, then increase poundage as you grow stronger and more used to using those muscles as you continue practicing with your bow. There are many bows to choose from, but one of these could be a good place to start as you are learning the sport.

I suggest buying a bow package. That way everything you need to get started is already with the bow, instead of  buying each individual item that you need. Packages vary with the bow models, but will typically come with a: rest, quiver, sight, peep sight, wrist sling, and possibly a whisker biscuit. Some will come with a stabilizer and string stop as well.

You don't necessarily need these items on your bow and can always add them later on if you decide that you do want them. Let's take a look at what each of these do.

A stabilizer will help balance the bow and even out the weight in the front of the bow. The string stop is just what it sounds like. It stops the string from going forward after you release the arrow reducing some of the string vibration. This, in turn, seems to help reduce some of the excess noise. Neither a stabilizer nor string stop are must-haves, but are more of a personal preference.

String Stop                                 Stabilizer

string stop                         Archery - Stabilizer

 

Trophy Ridge Whisker BiscuitA whisker biscuit is a good idea to use as a rest for beginners. It holds the arrow in place, so there is less chance of the arrow slipping off the rest. You can change this out in the future for a drop away or other type of rest once, you get more comfortable shooting. The whiskers of the rest will eventually wear out as you shoot more arrows through it, so eventually you will need to replace it or buy a different rest.

 

 

The Sight - Before we talk about the sight on your bow, we need to talk about YOUR sight. You need to determine which is your dominant eye. Your dominant eye is the one that is dominant over the other when focusing on something. This will be the eye that you use to sight in your target. There is a simple tick that you can use to determine which eye is dominant.

1. Hold your hands out in front of you in a triangle placing your two index fingers together and your thumbs together.
2. Keep both eyes open and focus on a target or object about 10 yards away.
3. Close one eye then open it and then close the other then open it. The eye for which the object stays in the same place is your dominant eye.

If you have trouble with this exercise, try holding your hands in the same position as you just did and focusing on the object again with both eyes open. This time keep them open and slowly move your hands to your face while you are focusing both eyes on the object. The eye that your hands naturally go to is your dominant eye.

Your dominant eye may be the same as your dominant hand or you may be "cross eye" dominate. These means you are right-handed and left eye dominant or left-handed and right eye dominant. If you are dominant on the same hand and eye then that is the bow you will need. Ex: right eye and right hand = right handed bow. If you are cross eye dominant, you may want to try getting a bow that goes with the eye that you are dominant with, since it is easier to train your hand than your eye. If you try this, but cannot get used to it, then you will have to train your eye if you opt for a bow for your dominant hand and non-dominant eye. To do this you will have to make sure that your dominant eye is either closed when shooting or covered so that your other eye is able to focus.

Beginning Archery for Ladies - Cobra Bushwacker SightA sight has pins in it that you will use when shooting a target at different distances. The top pin will be for the closest distance and the bottom pin for the furthest distance. Different sights offer a different amount of pins. You will set the pins for about 10 yards difference in each. Some people set the first pin at 10 or 20 yards. You can also start at 10 yards and then later adjust it to 20 yards, once you become more accurate. Sight pins are typically fiber optic and some are even lighted, which helps in lower light settings. Some come with a bubble level, so you can judge when you are tilting your bow and when it is level. When you first set up your bow you will need to adjust the pins for the distances that you want, which means you will need to shoot from each distance to set each pin. Our archery experts can help you get this set up and will get the pins set as close as possible, but some tweaking may be necessary once you start shooting more accurately. Then you can tell if you are off target either up and down or right and left, which you learn by the grouping of your arrows. Example: If you are shooting tight groups (the arrows all land in the same generalG5 Meta Peep area close together), but they are always to the right of where you are shooting, then your sight needs adjusted.

A peep sight is set up in your string and is just a small circle with a hole in it. When you have your bow at full draw, it should line up at eye level, so you can look through it and line it up with the pin on your sight. There are different colors and styles to choose from on these.Quiver

 

 

A quiver is what holds your arrows when you are not shooting them. You can get one that stays attached to the bow or one that is detachable. There are also quivers that you can sling over your shoulder or clip onto your hip. Most bow packages include a quiver that mounts to the bow. The amount of arrows that a quiver can hold varies usually around 4 to 6. They just clip in fletching down with the point up in the foam to keep the tip or broadhead from cutting anything.

A wrist sling also usually comes with a package, but is not a necessary accessory. This can help prevent the archer from torquing the bow with their grip when shooting. You want a loose grip when at full draw with your fingers open and the bow resting between your thumb and index finger - resting on your palm, so you don’t flinch the bow with a tight grip. The wrist sling is attached below the grip on the bow and goes loosely around your wrist. You still want to grab your bow before it fully falls, but this allows you to let your arrow leave your bow before you grip onto your bow again (follow through). Grip it while you are pulling it back but relax your hand before you shoot your arrow.

How to grip bow

A kisser button is not a necessary accessory, but is an inexpensive one that you can add in order to help build your consistency when drawing back your bow. It helps you anchor your string in the same place every time when shooting. I recommend it for a beginning archer, since it helps you feel where your string is anchored and will get you used to anchoring in the same place. An anchor point is where you rest your hand or release every time you draw back your bow. Consistency in anchoring is important since that will increase your shooting accuracy. When drawing back the bow, you will want to place the kisser at the corner of your mouth. The person setting up your bow will set this where it needs to be for you. It will be placed above your D-loop on your string. 

                                                            Kisser button

(This picture shows the placement of the kisser button at the corner of the mouth.)

A D-Loop is something that not all archers have put on their strings, but is something that most release shooters use. It is just a small loop added on the string where you will nock your arrow and then use the loop to hook your release onto. The arrow will nock between the two knots holding the D-loop to the string.

Our archery experts can assist you in chosing the right bow for you as well as setting everything up and getting you ready to shoot. All the accessories discussed here come in a variety of styles and colors as well. Do some research on different bows and all of the other items to see what you like first, before making a final purchase. There is a lot of information available to help you make a decision on picking out what is right for you. You can also come in and talk to one of the archery experts and they will help guide you on this first step of your journey.

The example below will help show the different accessories I've discussed and where they are located at on the bow, once it has been set up.

Bear Siren set up

Next up - The Stance

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Grandpa's Buck

GRANDPA'S BUCK

BY: Dominic Sabatina

     Every weekend for the first six years of my life was spent with my grandparents. On the weekends that my father’s parents would come to visit I was always excited because I knew that those weekends meant two things; Saturday Fishing at the local pond with Grandpa Max, ice cream following and Church on Sunday followed by our traditional Italian feast! When I was just seven years old my Parents moved from great state of Ohio to “the valley of the sun”, Peoria Arizona.  After moving across the country the traditional weekends went away. Well, at least the fishing and ice cream did. My Father ALWAYS worked hard and did not have the time to be an avid outdoors-man like Grandpa Max was.

     Throughout my childhood and teen aged years I was only able to visit my grandparents twice, once at age 10 and once at the age of 18. During the last trip I found out that my Grandpa Max was a World War Two Veteran of the 244th Field Artillery Battalion in Patton's Third Army. His battalion earned 5 battle participation stars for Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes and Central Europe. He was at the Battle of the Bulge. He was a walking piece of American history!

I was about to start a military career, following in his footsteps, and didn't even know it. This was also probably the last time I would see my grandmother, Elizabeth. She suffered from Alzheimer's disease and unfortunately passed away during my first year in the Navy. When I retired from the Navy I knew it was my time to get back some of what I lost during my younger years. I made regular trips from my home in Illinois to Ohio to visit my grandfather who was still alive at the age of 98.

During my time in the Navy I became a fisherman and developed a true passion for bow hunting. Over the years, when I had time away from the Navy, I would trek out to the woods, climb a tree, hope for the best and I got lucky a few times. I have harvested five black tailed deer in Washington State, A mule deer and antelope in Wyoming and in my new home in Illinois, two white tailed deer. All of these deer have been harvested with arrows that I have built myself and part of the process for me is a sentimental one. Each year I place the initials of the people I care about (family and old hunting buddies) on one of the fletchings on each of the arrows in my quiver. This gives me the feeling that I am not alone, and that I have part of them with me on every hunt. While I am out there alone, braving the elements in hopes of getting the opportunity of a lifetime, I pull an arrow from my quiver and dedicate that hunt to them. Just for old times’ sake.

     The last week of September in 2013 finally came after a long off season of checking camera footage, picking spots and hanging sets. The opener (October 1st) was getting close and my level of excitement was quickly rising. On September 29th I received a phone call from one of my older sisters. Accompanying that call was the worst news I had heard all year. My Beloved Grandpa Max, WWII walking piece of American History and the last of that generation in our family had passed away due to natural causes at the age of 98. I was crushed. My father no longer had living parents and I was not able to get back near the amount of time with my Grandpa as I wanted.

     All of this still fresh in my mind, October 1st came and I was in the stand, but my mind wasn't. My mind was on an upcoming road trip with my father.  Once again, October 3rd came and I was in the stand but my mind was not there. That was my last hunt before the road trip. My Father and I were driving to Ohio to pay respects to the man that, through God, gave us life.

On October 5th 2013, my father's 65th birthday, we said our last “see ya later” and we buried Grandpa Max.

I came home from that trip and I didn't hunt for two weeks. I decided that my next hunt would be the evening of October 24th.

The evening prior, I was preparing for the next day's hunt and talking with my wife Tiffani. I was checking off all of my gear and making sure I had everything ready to go as I was headed to the farm right after work the next day.  Tiffani wished me luck as she always does and said to me, “maybe Grandpa Max will put your big buck in front of you”.

Now, I have been chasing this certain “Big Buck” since he was 4. He is now 7 and boy is he a dandy!  I kind of chuckled at the thought and then it hit me. I looked over at my quiver and noticed that not one of my arrows had initials on them. I looked at Tiffani and said “I know why I have not harvested a deer yet this year”. She asked me why and I said to her, “I forgot to initial my arrows. With everything that has happened here lately, I guess I just wasn't thinking about it”.

I grabbed a sharpie and started from the end. When I got to the number one arrow in my quiver I looked up at Tiffani. She was waiting there to see how long it was going to take me to write my grandpa's initials on an arrow.  I said to her, “My grandpa gets my number arrow this year”.  M.S. (Matthew Sabatina) got placed on the fetching of my number one arrow.

The next day was a great day all around. Everything when smooth, not one ounce of anything negative happened that day. I just didn't know why but it was probably one of the best days I had at work and when work was over I headed to the farm. I made it to the blind, set up my Boss Buck Decoy and settled down in the blind for a good evening of hunting. 

I pulled an old trusty Carbon-Tech Whitetail arrow with a G5 T3 expandable broad head from my quiver and knocked it on the string of my Strother Infinity. I pulled my Flex Tone Bone Collector Series call from my pack and started calling. I am sitting on a Red Head Blackout 360 degree swivel chair leaned back, bow laying against my chest; call in my shooting hand and my other on the bow grip.  I looked out to the sky and said “Grandpa, Please give me a sign that you are watching over me right now, please let me harvest a deer today”.

My cell phone vibrated, so I picked it up with my grip hand and answered the text from a buddy asking if I had seen anything yet.  I finished answering his question with a “no”. I pressed the send button on my phone and when I looked up there was a buck standing 20 yards away from the blind in the biggest shooting lane I had made. He was not the dandy that I was hoping to see but it was the first one of the year.  Time at this point seemed like it was moving in slow motion. The buck was standing there glaring at my Boss Buck Decoy. My phone and Flex Tone (which were still in my hands) slowly and silently found their way to the dirt. Grip hand on the bow, release connected to the D-Loop, I slowly sat up. I remember thinking,”I can't believe he is still just standing there”.

I came to full draw and anchored the string. While looking though the peep and orienting my 20 yard pin over his vitals he put his nose to the ground and started to move down wind of the decoy. Since I practice scent free odor control and invested in “Ever Calm” from Bass Pro Shops, all he was going to smell was another deer. He only took two steps with his nose to the ground and he stopped, picked his head up and glared at my decoy again. My finger was resting on the trigger and with just a little more back tension my release opened. 

The arrow left my bow traveling 288 Feet per second. When it hit the G5 opened up and the arrow made a clean pass through the deer punching a hole directly through the center of the heart. I could not have asked for a better shot. The deer traveled 10 yards and fell over dead right in front of the blind.  I exploded with excitement! I reached for another arrow and as I did I noticed that it was my grandpa's arrow that passed through the deer. My emotions overwhelmed me and all I could do at that point, with tears streaming from eyes, was look up to the sky and say,”I love you! I love you! I love you! Thank you Grandpa for watching over me and giving me a sign that you were here with me!

The first thing I did was call my Father to tell him what happened.  He simply said to me,” Your Grandpa was there with you and he guided that arrow”.

In honor of that experience I decided that I was going to complete an antler mount dedicated to my Grandpa Max. Here it is. Thank You Grandpa for all of the Wonderful memories. You'll never be forgotten.

 

 

 

   

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Bucks and Barn Cats - Lessons at Season's End

By Christie Moe, Apparel Associate
Bass Pro Shops Altoona

As someone who loves to write and tell stories, the hardest part for me has always been where to begin. Many experiences and influences in my life led to my decision to hunt this past fall. My family has always been an active, outdoor- loving family. I was six when I first went camping and canoeing in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in Minnesota. I grew up doing a lot of camping, hiking, canoeing, and fishing. For me, that was just what you did in the summer. 

I never really got interested in hunting, even after my mom married my step-father, who is an avid outdoorsman and hunter. I started archery when I was a senior in high school, but never even considered going out hunting with my step-dad. At the time, my mom likely wouldn't have allowed it, since I’m her baby girl. She had a difficult enough time with it this season, even though I’m 23 years old and have been married for over a year. However, between my step-father’s excitement to finally have a hunting buddy (neither of my step-brothers have ever taken an interest), and my own determination to go, my mom reluctantly held back her objections.

I spent weeks preparing for the start of bow season. I practiced as often as I could, focusing on improving my ability to hold my bow drawn for an extended period and keep it steady, and spent countless hours completing the online hunter’s safety course. I bought and borrowed all the accessories I thought I would need (my being hired at Bass Pro Shops in late October was no coincidence!). My mom would say I enjoyed the shopping as much as the hunt and that wouldn't be untrue...I love to shop. I enjoy looking good, even if there’s no one but the squirrels and the birds to see me. My husband, a U.S. Navy sailor deployed in the Atlantic, emailed me more than once about what all I could possibly have spent so much on at Bass Pro. I easily won him over with the promise of deer jerky and by saving extra money the next month. 

View from a blindWhen I decided I wanted to go hunting, I daydreamed a lot about the deer I would get; my heart was set on getting a buck. After all, I needed a trophy to mount on my wall and a pair of antlers seemed like a perfect crown for my achievement. A nice little six-point buck didn't seem like it could be too hard to get, and I was hunting with my step-father who gets at least one deer every bow season. Well, deer season has come and gone, and I don’t even have ground venison to show for all my efforts (sorry hubby, no jerky). The most important lesson I learned about hunting is that you can’t shoot what you don’t see and, after passing up more than one shot early on in the season, I didn't see much at all. I had never realized that just being in the right place at the right time is such a huge part of hunting. You can do all the recon you want with your trail cameras and looking for scrapes and prints; it doesn't guarantee that the deer will be there when you are. 

One of the first things I learned was that I am not a quiet person. People who know me might scoff at that, since I’m more inclined to listen than to do most of the talking in a conversation. However, I fidget, stomp, squeak my chair, rustle around in my pack, sneeze, blow my nose, cough, and occasionally snore. These normally inconsequential and unnoticeable habits seem very loud when you are trying to be as quiet as possible and lie in wait for an animal with incredible hearing. I often wonder if the times that we didn't see any deer were because I wasn't quiet enough. Support Pole grazed by Arrow

On one of my first times out I had a beautiful eight-point buck come walking across my sights.  We were in my step-dad’s ground blind and conditions that day were fairly close to perfect. The sun was shining, it was cool, and the wind was blowing elsewhere, but not in the field's edge where we were crouched. The buck stopped about 25 yards away from us, quartering away from me. I drew my bow and took aim, barely able to keep from shaking with excitement. I kept him in my sights, as he took a few steps more, and gently pulled the trigger on my release. One of the difficulties I had with the release was my tendency to punch the trigger, but this time, my pull was smooth as silk.  Everything about the shot felt perfect and right...for about a half of a heartbeat. Then my broadhead grazed one of the support poles on the blind, and my arrow went flying off into the weeds to the left. As I gazed in shocked dismay, my beautiful buck, that should have been ready to keel over, pranced away after a doe. Three hours later, after nothing else came by, my step-dad and I began our search for my arrow. After about a half an hour, we gave up and I was back to Bass Pro to have new arrows cut. The lesson I learned that trip was to be more aware of my surroundings. I should have realized that the support pole was in my way, but I had tunnel vision and only saw the deer.

During another trip, my step-dad and I had nestled our ground blind in amid some tall grass and a deadfall. We knew the area well and spotted tracks that were fairly fresh; we felt confident we would see something that evening. We saw nothing, but I hung in there even though it was a mere fourteen degrees out. Finally, in the last minutes of shooting time, we heard something. I prepared to draw my bow. Suddenly, we heard a buck behind us. Somehow, the buck managed to sneak around us and came upon our blind from behind. We managed to startle each other and the buck took off. We had placed our blind strategically, so that the deer would take the path in front of us. Lesson learned: Deer don’t always stick to the path. Sometimes, they are unpredictable.

I did the majority of my hunting from my step-dad’s ground blind, but there were a couple of occasions when we went out and did some stalking. Later on in the season, we were hunting down by the river. Being goose season, as well as bow season for deer, the spot we picked was not ideal. As the goose hunters got closer to us, we realized that we wouldn't see anything. The noise from the shotguns had likely scared off all the deer off. So we decided to leave the blind and stalk. I got to know the woods pretty well at that time. Thus, when hunting on my own one day, I thought little of going off and seeing if I could find some deer somewhere other than where I was at. I did just fine for the most part, but then, on my way back, I somehow got turned around. I was lost. The big mistake I had made, though, was that I had left my pack at the blind, including my emergency kit, hunter’s license, and ID.  While nothing happened, and I managed to find my way back (slightly worse for wear and a little dehydrated), I did get a bit of a scare and learned a crucial lesson about not being stupid: never ever leave your emergency supplies.

My step-dad and I made a few hunting trips down to my uncle’s place near Indianola. My uncle has a decent amount of land to hunt on, and he and my cousin both managed to get large bucks early in the season. On our first trip down, I drank a decent amount of coffee, as traveling down there meant we had to get up an hour earlier than normal. Suffice it to say, the lesson I learned here was that a hunter never wants to drink too much coffee before going hunting, especially as it gets colder out.Hunting Cat

The cold is one of the things I do not like about hunting. I might get bored while waiting, but I don’t mind being bored. I hate the cold though. During bow season, I easily went through two large packs of hand warmers and three large packs of toe warmers, not to mention a ton of the large 18-hour body warmers. I like things that keep me warm. My uncle, like most people who live out in the country, has a few outdoor cats. On one particular trip, one of the kittens followed us down to the food plot. My step-dad positioned himself at one end of the field with me at the opposite end.  The little kitten was not inclined to leave us, and we weren't inclined to try and bring her all the way back up to the house, when she would likely just follow us back down again. To make a long story short, the kitten ended up in my coat. To keep her out of the way, I just quickly stuffed her inside and zipped it up. She ended up sitting right on top of my body warmers, and only poked her head out on occasion. She was more than content to stay in my coat and out of the way (for those wondering, no her incredibly loud purring didn't keep the deer away). I learned that sometimes sharing the experience with a friend makes the trip a lot more pleasant. Especially when you don’t get anything.

While I never did get a deer this season, I truly enjoyed the experience and learned a lot. I am continuing my outdoor adventures currently by hunting squirrel and rabbit with pellet gun. I haven’t got anything yet, but hopefully my next hunt will be more successful than my last. The thing I've enjoyed most about hunting is having some bonding time with my step-dad. The whole experience has made me appreciate the outdoors and his knowledge of it even more.  

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"A Season of Memories"

A Season of Memories

By: Jerry L. Costabile

It’s been a memorable deer season so far; the Costabile’s - 2 and the deer - 2. After practicing all summer, the bow season was to open the second week of September in Wisconsin and I couldn’t wait! This was to be the first season that my two youngest sons were going to bow hunt and I could only hope that they would get an opportunity to harvest their first whitetail with a bow and arrow. I was thinking back to my first hunts with my Bear 55# recurve, I’ll just say that I have taken more fish with that bow than deer! I tried to get good with it last year but the fence in the back yard told me that I better stick with my Ross compound.

The boys were shooting pretty darn well by the time the season arrived and they were both excited for the first hunt of the season. Kyle, my youngest had the first opportunity. It was opening weekend and he was sitting in the stand that I was very successful in the previous season. I knew he would see deer and if he could keep his nerves controlled, we could have the first venison of the year. At last light on his first bow hunt, Kyle let an arrow go on a nice buck well within range. The shot was low and the deer ran off unharmed. Deer -1, Us -0. Kyle’s disappointment that evening made me want to work harder to help him be successful, but the memory of his excitement will live with me forever.

We bow hunted thru September and October with numerous deer seen, passed on a few, and had a few that just didn’t give us that ethical shot we all strive for. Then with the first week of November upon us, we were ready for the love sick bucks to make mistakes. There were does around to bring the bucks, we just needed the rut to fire up! But it was a strange season for the rut; it never showed itself like we expected it to in early November. There were just a few scrapes and rubs, the does were walking around without a buck behind them, and the bucks were just not acting like they should.

We continued to hunt and watched as the action stayed the same every day, the does were around, but the bucks weren’t chasing them. One of the strangest early Novembers I have seen, one for the memory.

Jake was going to college and working two jobs, so his time in the stand was limited. He came home for a weekend at the beginning of November and was ready to get out to his stand. On the evening of the 7th, right at last light, a nice buck came into view on his left. In a matter of seconds, Jake was presented with a broadside shot at his first deer with a bow. With it all happening so fast, he didn’t even have time to get nervous, once the deer was in front of him at 17 yards he drew back and let the arrow fly. His practice paid off, a perfect double lung shot put the 9 pointer down at about 50 yards. His first bow harvest is a nice buck! I happen to be hunting with him that evening so it was exciting for me to be part of this. As we were dragging the buck back to the truck, I looked over and realized that the boy that had helped me many times before with this job was now a man. He didn’t see the tears of pride that I shed in the darkness as we made our way to the truck, but I know that this memory will live with me forever. Deer – 1, Us – 1.

Gun season arrived and the cold of winter right along with it. Opening day found us with subzero wind chills and snow cover. The boys and I hunted for three days in the north woods of Wisconsin, we saw deer, but the deer didn’t read the script as to how to cooperate. After a couple of close calls, we headed back to the southeastern part of the state without firing a shot. I think the boys were more disappointed than I was, but I reminded them that we still have a lot of season left and we’ll get another opportunity to fill our tags.

The three and a half hour drive back, gave me time to reflect on the last three days I just spent with my two youngest sons. The memories we had just created were much more valuable to me than the harvesting of a deer. Sure it would have been awesome if they would have gotten a deer, but to me, it was a success just because we were together. There were laughs at the motel room, laughs in the truck, and laughs out hunting. The laugh out hunting was at my expense, I had a bottle of water in the back of my vest that partially froze on an evening hunt. As I made my way out of the woods in the dark, I kept hearing a noise behind me that sounded just like something walking on the frozen snow covered leaves. I must have looked like a dog chasing his tail as I spun around in a circle, with my gun at ready, trying to find the creature chasing me! When I realized it was the frozen water sloshing in the plastic bottle, I laughed at myself out loud, and glad no one saw me. When I told the story to the boys, they laughed hysterically! Those memories will live with me forever.

Upon getting back home from our trip, we unloaded all of our gear and without any time wasted, the boys grabbed their bows, jumped into my truck and headed out to their stands. I guess they weren’t done yet! I’m always a little nervous when they are out there and I am not with them. They know to keep in touch with me; I want to know when they are up in their stands and when they get down. I guess texting isn’t so bad! I sat in the living room, tired from an early start that morning hunting, and the long drive back. I was doing my usual worrying and wondering about the boys and it had been dark for a few minutes and I hadn’t heard from them, so I called Jake. When he answered the phone, I could tell by the excitement in his voice that something happened. “Dad, I just shot at the biggest buck I have ever seen!”  “Did you hit him?” I asked. “I don’t know, I saw the Lumenoc when it left my bow, but I can’t see it now.” Jake explained with excitement. After I thought for a minute, I said, “Let’s leave it alone tonight and we will come back in the morning when we have good light.” Jake had a long night thinking about his shot, Morning came and we took up the track the buck left in the snow, with no sign of a hit. I told Jake, “The good, he’s not injured because of a bad shot, the bad, you missed him cleanly. He is still out there and we have a lot of season left.” My words didn’t help the feeling of a miss on a big buck for Jake, but I could only hope he would get another chance. I remember all of the misses I made in my deer hunting and they are memories I relive every season. The deer now 2, and we were still at 1.

The boys and I hunted every chance we had, work schedules, school, sports, all limited our time in the stands. With snow on the ground, we could see there was good deer movement  and felt confident that it was just a matter of time before the next opportunity presented itself.

On December 3rd, I would have a chance to get into my tree stand for an afternoon sit. I got myself ready and was headed out the door with my bow in my hand, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to use my shotgun instead. I wish I can explain why I changed my mind, but I can’t. It was just one of those moves a hunter makes without knowing why. It was a very foggy afternoon, there was snow on the ground and the temperature was above freezing making a good recipe for fog. After I got into my stand, I realized how thick the fog was. I couldn’t see 100 yards in any direction! I knew that if I were to see a deer, it was going to be in range and appear very quickly. This means that it would disappear just as quick. These thoughts were going thru my mind for the first hour and a half as I was trying to stay mentally ready so nothing slipped by without me seeing it. Around 4:00pm, I had one of those hunter intuitions, I thought to myself, “I could see a big old buck using this fog to slip out of his bedding hideout.” Ten minutes later I looked to my right and sure enough, there he was slipping from the bedding area that the deer have been using all season. If I would have brought my bow, I would have had to watch him disappear into the fog. I could see he was a good buck , so I got my gun ready found him in the scope and with a grunting sound from my mouth,  I stopped him in mid stride. I centered the crosshairs on him and squeezed the trigger only to see him drop straight down and not move again. Big buck down!! After watching for any movement for about fifteen minutes, I climbed down and walked the 75 yards to where the buck went down. As I approached him, I could see that he was a REALLY good buck and got a little excited! Not only did he have great headgear, but his body was huge. This was going to take more than just me to get him back to the truck for sure! I validated my tag, attached it to his antler, and started making phone calls. I took a picture with my phone and sent it to Jake and Kyle, I wanted them to know first even though they weren’t there. After I called some friends for help, but before I started the not so fun job required when you harvest a deer, I lifted his head with my hands holding his antlers and admired him. He was a beautiful example of a whitetail buck, a mature, heavy 9 pointer. “I’m very fortunate” I told myself,  and with closed eyes, I said a silent thank you.

Within a few minutes of sending the picture out, I got a text back from Jake, he said this wasn’t the deer that he missed, and it was bigger!

As of this writing, the score between the deer and the Costabile boys, is tied at 2, but we are not done yet! Our late bow hunting season runs until January 31st and it will take some toughness to sit in January weather, but we’re up to it! Kyle has been hunting hard and he is determined to take a deer with his bow. There were chances to hunt with a gun but I got “no dad, I want to use my bow!”

No matter what the end results are of our deer hunting season, I will have made irreplaceable memories with my two youngest sons that no deer could compare. I hear hunters complain about what they didn’t see or didn’t kill without even thinking of the memories that they lived. Remember it isn’t about the game taken, it’s about the memories made.

 

 

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"A Daydream Come True"

A Daydream Come True

By: Jerry Costabile

Going back to when I was a young boy growing up on the shores of Lake Michigan, I was fascinated by the late season divers that would appear in late December and January.

Hunting in the southeastern Wisconsin, I saw and hunted mallards, teal and occasionally we would see a diver or two late in the duck season. But I couldn’t wait until those later months when the big water divers started showing up on the lakefront and in the harbors. Goldeneyes, Buffelheads, Redheads, and the duck that fascinated me the most, the oldsquaw.

When I saw a beautiful drake oldsquaw, I watched him dive and reappear 20, 30, 40 yards or better away from where he disappeared. I don’t know why, but I would watch him dive over and over, always hoping to one day to be able to hunt them.

By luck or fate, in early October, I met a gentleman while walking thru the fishing department who was looking at salmon lures. Being the salmon fisherman that I am, (and I love to talk fishing!) I approached him and we learned that we had a lot in common, including duck hunting. Within minutes of introductions, we were on the subject of hunting oldsquaw! Without a hesitation, my new friend, invited myself and my sons to hunt with him and his son in November. This was too much too believe, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up just yet. I have been here before and could only hope that this stranger was going to take us out on this duck hunters dream hunt.

Well, the first week of November I get a call and it is him with the invitation still alive, asking me when we could come up and hunt. I couldn’t believe it; I was going to get to hunt oldsquaw! When I got home that day, I told the boys that this hunt was on and we were going to go on the hunt in the next two weeks. I showed both of my boys what an oldsquaw looked like and how we were going to hunt them. You see this time of the year, these birds are miles off the shores of Lake Michigan and we would be hunting them in lay-out boats in the open water. This is something else that I have always dreamed of doing. Hunting divers from a boat that is about 10 feet long and is only about 6 to 8 inches above the waterline. Most of the boat is below the surface of the water, this allows the hunter to lay very low to the water and create a low profile helping to hide from the ducks. I was coming apart at the seams waiting for that day to come!

With a phone call the evening before we were leaving, I found out that we were going to have good weather and an ideal wind to hunt the big water. The Dodge Ram was packed and ready the night before and I got no sleep with anticipation of the hunt I have thought about every time I saw a drake oldsquaw swimming in the harbor during the winter for all of those years. We pulled out of the driveway at 2:30am and headed north to Two Rivers, Wisconsin. I had a cup of coffee and pure adrenaline to keep me awake for the 2 hour drive, this was it, I was going to be hunting oldsquaw and it looked like nothing was going to stop me!

Upon arriving at the boat launch, there was our crew setting up the boat and equipment for our hunt. To say I was excited was an understatement, I was beside myself! But I had to keep myself under control because I had two teenage boys who were also on a first time hunt. For my youngest son, this was his first real duck hunt, and what a way to be introduced to duck hunting!  After loading our gear into the boat, we were headed down the ramp and launching the tender boat, a 25 foot Duck Water Ocean. This boat is a beast! Loaded on the tender, is a 10 foot Waterfowl-Works UFO layout boat and a 14 foot Bankes Hercules layout boat.

The boat was in the water and we boarded with excitement! Decoy bags stacked everywhere, camouflaged bags and cased guns tucked under the shelves that line the inside of the boat. There were milk crates lined up filled with anchor line and buckets loaded with 100’ and 50’ decoy lines. This boat was well equipped and ready for work!

  With the sun just making a thin line to the east, we headed out for our spot already marked on the GPS. We were in a two to three foot waves and the boat was cutting thru them like a Naval U- Boat.  I must have looked like a dog with its head out of the truck window, I had my chin up and my eyes closed. At that moment, I was thinking how lucky I am to be there and with a prayer and thanks to the man upstairs, I was ready!

Once we determined what the morning flight pattern was going to be that the ducks would use, we started to set up. Layout boats in and anchored, and then the lines of decoys were stretched out to form a perfect pattern that would later pull in hundreds of ducks. When the man said that I would be one of the first in a layout boat, my heart started racing! This was it, I was about to live out a hunt that I have daydreamed about since I was kid. I was watching thousands of ducks flying all around us and knew that we were in the right location.  I want to confess that I studied Outdoor Life and Field & Stream while I was in school, like a valedictorian studied all of those other books! Even though I had never done this before, my long days and nights of cramming and memorizing was about to be put to a test. I knew I was going to pass this one!

I was given a quick rundown of how to enter the layout, and over the side I went. Once I got in and lay down comfortably, my gun and ammo was handed to me and that fast, the tender boat was gone. The other layout would be occupied by my youngest son Kyle. I was a bit nervous with him about thirty yards to my right and this being all new to him. I guess being a dad and not being there to guide him every step of the way, had me feeling a little uneasy. But within minutes, he showed me he was up for the challenge. He dropped his first ever duck, a drake oldsquaw at that, with a beautiful shot! Man was I pumped, now it was my turn, the first pair came in on my left and banked into the decoys perfectly. As they reached the decoy spread, I sat up, took aim, and missed. Not once, but twice! “OK Jerry, calm down and figure it out!” I said this out loud and reloaded. Then another pair came beautifully into the spread, and flying directly at me. When they got into about twenty yards, I sat up and followed the lead duck and fired. Bingo, first bird down! Just like Kyle had done, I radioed the tender boat that I had a bird down and they pushed the throttle of the 250 hp Mercury Optimax Pro X/S down and raced into scoop up my bird with a fish net and raced back out to about 400 yards to wait for the next downed bird.

This went on for about 45 minutes until we both had three birds. The last bird I shot was a gorgeous drake oldsquaw and when the tender crew picked up the bird, over the radio I heard “Jerry, you will want to have this one mounted, it’s a beauty!” If my day would have ended right then, I was happy. The one duck that I had wanted to harvest since I was a young boy was now waiting for me.

After the next two guys got in to the layout boats, and I was on board the tender boat, I held in my hand, this amazing bird that I had so much respect and admiration for. I bowed my head and thanked its creator for allowing me to fulfill a dream with this beautiful bird.

The morning finished with a limit of oldsquaw for everyone, and after the gear was stowed in the tender, we headed back to shore. Once pictures were done and everything loaded back in the Dodge, we headed north to hunt the next day in a new location and another species of duck. But that’s another story.

Thank you to my boys, Jake and Kyle, for living this lifelong adventure with me. As I get older, these times together mean a lot to me. I love you guys.

Mike and Greyson, you guys are true ambassadors to the waterfowl nation!

 JJ, of JJ’s Guide Service, nobody works harder to see that the job gets done.

 

 

 

 

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Bow Season is Upon Us

September 28th is opening weekend for bow season this year and it is approaching quickly. This time of the year the archery department is busy seven days a week as people are tuning up bows, honing in their skills and getting prepared for the season. As you hunters look over your gear and evaluate possible upgrades or some adjustments, know that Bass Pro Shops in Garland has well trained bow techs and avid bow hunters working at the counter. We are confident in working on or with any bow you may bring into our shop.  So if you notice that your old arrow rest may look worn or a bit outdated please bring it up to us. Our techs will suggest a rest that is affordable and compatible for your setup. Or perhaps your sight just is not as bright as you may want, we have plenty of sights that are affordable and maintenance free. The convenient features found in these two products allow hunters to make last minute adjustments without having to spend a lot of time setting everything back up. A quick swap of a sight or rest can make the difference in bagging your 2013 trophy.

One rest I would like to mention is the Trophy Ridge Whisker Biscuit. This whisker biscuit is offered in several sizes and either black or camo. At a $39.99 price point, this arrow rest is affordable and features easy adjustability that puts you the shooter back on target in no time. (Prices will range $39.99-$69.99 depending on features and color)

Arrow Rest

 A fiber optic sight I would suggest looking at would be the Trophy Ridge Outlaw 4 pin sight. This sight is light weight and has four .019” fiber optic pins. Other special features include a sight light and it is ambidextrous so it will mount to either a right or left handed bow. This is a tough sight to beat at the price of $49.99 and it makes for an excellent last minute upgrade to improve your odds this season. Come in and see us here at Bass Pro Shops in Garland and let us help make this year’s bow season one of your best. 

Outlaw Bow Sight

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Choosing the Perfect Bow

When choosing a bow, the first thing you need to do is research the different bows that are out on the market.  There are many different makes and styles of bows.  A few we carry are the Diamond’s Infinite edge $349.99, PSE’s Stinger $399.99, and Bear’s Outbreak $399.99.  They may have a lot of the same things in common. As you compare all makes and models, you will begin to narrow it down.  You have to decide what your main priorities are.  Do you want speed? Are you concerned with noise? How about comfort?  These are just a few things that you should consider.  Then, talk to people that you know who own bows.  Get their opinions. This will also help narrow the bows down. 

Before going in to pick out a bow, you must determine what your dominate eye is.  This can be done by holding your hands out in front of you.  Make a triangle by overlapping the space between your index finger and thumb with the same space on your opposite hand. Look at an object through the triangle hole made by your hands, preferably something round like a door knob. Focus on the object not your hands. Now close one of your eyes. If you still see the object with your left eye open, you are left eyed dominate. If you still see the object with your right eye open you are right eyed dominate.

Once you have found out your eye dominates the fun part begins. Getting the bow in your hands and shooting.  I would recommend that you try out as many as you can.  Now keep in mind you only want to try a few out at a time, because it can start to get very overwhelming.  Get a couple, and shoot them side by side.  Once you have come down to the bow you want, it has to be set up for you.    

When setting the bow up to fit you, we have to decide what your anchor point is going to be. This can be done by using the tip of your nose.  You can also use the corner of your mouth with a kisser button.  If you can get more than one anchor point, is even better.  This helps in finding out where to set your draw length.  Another thing to think about is will you be using a release or shooting with fingers. It will also help later on when you begin the sighting in process. 

The next step is to find your correct draw weight.  There is no mathematical equation to determine what your draw weight should be.  This is something that must be comfortable to you. Some people opt for a draw weight that is slightly lighter, with the idea that they can hold the bow at full draw longer in a hunting situation.  Others want the increased arrow speed a heavier draw weight can allow. 

Once your draw length and weight have been adjusted, you will have to purchase arrows.  Much like bows, there are many makes out there. Arrows are determined off of what your draw length and draw weight is.  You have to also decide what you are going to do with those arrows.  Are you going to hunt with them, or is it just for target shooting only?  Once that is decided we can measure the arrow to your bow.

As you start this journey in choosing a bow, remember to do as much research as possible.  Shoot the different makes and models. Find your dominate eye. Pick the bow that meets your needs.  Determine the arrows that are going to work the best for you.

Feel free to come in to your local Bass Pro Shops and we will be glad to assist you!

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Tips From The Power Pros: Maintenance, Batteries and Impellers

Power Pros

 

Batteries

Motors in the marine industry have come a long ways in the last 10-12 years. In fact, it is not uncommon to see points and condensers on a stern drive that is around 25-30 years old. For the most part, those times are behind us. Emissions regulations have changed the way motors are made. Soon the last of the carbureted stern drives will roll off the assembly lines, all 2 stroke engines except direct injected are gone, and I wouldn't’t be surprised to see them disappear in the next 10-15 years as well. Control cables are being replaced with “Fly by wire” systems such as DTS (Digital Throttle and Shift) or the AXIUS and Zeus systems. (If you have not seen either of these systems, check them out. I docked a 45’ boat with Zeus on a windy day easier than I could a 17’ bass boat. If your waiting in line for the gas dock you can press the “Skyhook” button and with a link from the boat to a satellite it will keep your bow pointing in the direction you had it in when you pushed the button, and within a few feet front to back and side to side. 

If this caught your interest click here, and you’ll be happy to know that Mercury Verado engines will soon be introducing their own type of “Axius” system called “Joystick Piloting”.  Where on the Axuis stern drive system the twin outdrives turn independently of each other, this system will allow Twin Verado engines to turn independently of each other, so no bow thruster is needed. I cannot wait to see this system on a Mako 284CC)

 

So with all the new electronics I am seeing out there from Direct injected Opti-Max engines, Supercharged Verados with DTS, to Axius controlled stern drives with Vessel View, I keep coming across an engine fault code over and over again…. “Low battery voltage fault”. I see it most often in an Opti-Max motor on a fishing boat.  Running down to the auto parts store and grabbing a battery that looks close to the same size does not work! These engines need a lot of cold cranking amps. With a Verado or Stern drive utilizing the DTS system, if the computer does not see a certain amount of voltage on start up, the computer will abort the start up process. That’s why it is very important to get a a trained Mercury/Mercruiser Technician to get the right battery for your system.

Another low voltage problem I see is caused by the boat builder not using the correct gauge wire. So, if you know you have the right battery and you keep seeing this code on your Smartcraft gauges, that may need to be looked at by a Mercury/Mercruiser dealer. It usually takes about a year or two before it starts causing problems. If this turns out to be your problem, the correct size wire needs to be run.

Here are my battery recommendations for some common engines:

8HP- 115HP Fourstroke -- 400 CCA Minimum

Older Carburated 2 strokes to 90HP -- 400 CCA Minimum

Any Opti-Max or EFI two stroke -- 800CCA Minimum

Any Verado with DTS -- 800 CCA Minimum

Any Mercruiser Product -- 800 CCA Minimum

 

On a side note with batteries, if you are working on any battery, take off your rings.

consequences of not removing rings

While tightening a battery on a closed bow ski boat I burned my left ring finger badly. The wrench was on the positive terminal and my ring bumped the negative terminal on the battery with the ring against the wrench inside my hand. Sparks flew. I burned my right fingers and thumb trying to get the ring off! Thankfully I was near water and was able to jump out of the boat and put my hand in a puddle. The ring sizzled when it hit the water. I immediately grabbed the ring again, this time getting it off (with skin still attached to it) and 8 years later I still have a clearly visible scar and some gold on my ½ wrench.  The moral of the story is don’t just assume you can be careful, take the ring off. It’s the last thing you’re thinking about when you’re working on your boat

(or car, mower, etc) but the “reminder” that you’re wearing it is unpleasant to say the least.

 

Impellers

Another item that most people don’t understand is the cooling system in a boat. In a car you have a radiator, and you might look at the fluid level every now and then and away you go. Cooling on boats is different. All boats, even stern drives with closed loop cooling systems, use impellers to cool of the off the engine. Closed cooling systems simply use a heat exchanger the has fresh cool water on one side cooling the hot anti-freeze off on the other.

This is how it works: a rubber impeller simply sucks the water out of the lake (or which ever type of water system you are running in), cools off the engine, and then the water is discharged out with the exhaust tube.

There are two primary types of impellers that come in all different sizes, Volume and Pressure. Both are made out of rubber. Volume is a little more forgiving, which is why we are seeing it on more and more engines. Pressure impellers can completely fail in seconds. One minute you’re cruising on the water, the next you’re overheating. When you stop pumping water and the engine starts to get hot, serious engine damage can occur quickly. Wires begin melting onto the engine, on stern drives the exhaust boots start to melt as well. Sometimes I find the exhaust flappers in the exhaust tube when this happens.

impellers

 

If run to long in this condition, complete engine failure is immanent.

Preventative maintenance guidelines recommend that you go no longer than three years or 100 hours on a impeller. If you run in shallow water where there is a lot of sand or debris,  intervals between service shorten.

Often I have been asked, “Jason, I only have about 20 hours on my motor in the last 3 years, why should I replace the impeller?” Yes, there would be very little wear on the impeller in that case, BUT the rubber will start to harden and the impeller vanes will not draw the water in like they should. Rubber parts can dry rot, harden, and break down.  It’s not the amount of hours or the wear and tear that you need to be concerned about in this case, it’s the age and condition of the part itself. On newer motors that monitor water pump pressure the break down of the impeller can cause a fault as well. If the computer does not see a certain amount of water pressure at a certain RPM it will cause the engine to go into power reduction mode.  So if you have a monitoring system and do not hear a system check beep when you turn your key on, get that repaired, even if you just had your impeller serviced. It can save you a ton of money if that warning system is kept up and working properly.

Every boater knows that when you plan that perfect day on the lake, some sort of mechanical issue can always pop up to ruin it.  However, you can drastically reduce the odds of it happening to you if you keep up on routine and preventative maintenance and keep good records of the services you have performed.

 

For more on maintenance see our other informative blogs!

Boat Motor Maintenance

Ethanol Fuel: Do's and Don'ts

Happy Boating!

Jason Wipp

Master MerCruiser Technician

Master Mercury Outboard Technician

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Are You Ready for Hunting Season?

Hello Bass Pro Shops Customers! Are you doing last minute shopping for this year’s hunting season? Listed below are some checklists you need to be looking over to make sure have everything you need this cold hunting season.

 

Preseason Checklist

Purchase hunting licenses

Secure landowners permission

Take hunter safety courses

Preseason scouting

Get physically fit

Sight-in rifle

Schedule vacation time

Vehicle maintenance

Camp repair

Purchase or reload ammunition

 

Clothing Checklist

Check weather report for proper dress

Hat (Be sure it has the required amount  of fluorescent orange)

Coat 

Jacket

Vest

Pants

Shirts 

Sweater

Boots

Extra socks

Rain Gear 

Face Mask

Field Gear and Accessories

Knife sharpened

Flashlight and batteries

Drag rope

License and holder

Pencil string or plastic tie down for tagging

Field dressing kit

Compass

Masking scents

Deer/Turkey calls

Water bottle

Thermos

   

First-Aid kit

Whistle

Hunter's seat cushion

Tree stand (with safety belt)

Hand warmers

Daypack with lunch and snacks

 

Personal Checkpoints

Prescription medicine

Wallet with ID money and credit cards

Keys to camp, gun cabinet, and extra vehicle keys

Leave details of your hunting itinerary with your family

Cellular phone if possible

 

After the Hunt

Mail in harvest report card (if you got lucky!)

Process deer, turkey, etc.

Taxidermy arrangements (hope you saved some money!)

Clean and store all your gear

If you hunted on private property share you harvest with the landowner and send the landowner a thank-you note.

 

A few Other Things to Check....

Don’t wait until the night before the season opens to start gathering all your hunting gear. Here’s a look at how to avoid first-day glitches that could cost you a shot.

We’ve all done it at one time or another: It’s the day before deer season and you’ve waited until the last minute to round up all the gear you’ll need for tomorrow’s hunt. You’re nearly in a panic as you go through a mental checklist while you rummage through closets, attics and the garage.

You fill the pockets of your hunting coat and your daypack with everything you think you’ll need for the next day, dust off your favorite tack-driver, and pile everything by the back door. The next morning, you’re halfway to your stand before you realize you’ve forgotten some essential item – a facemask, gloves or even ammunition!

Forgetfulness and haste have probably saved the lives of more game animals than just about any other hunter’s gaffe you can think of. Perhaps the most frustrating part is that most of these glitches are preventable. What follows is a rundown of essential and non-essential items to help you avoid the pitfalls of poor preparation this opening day.

Batteries

Its opening morning and you head off down that long trail through the woods to your stand. Halfway there you notice your flashlight beam seems to be growing dimmer. At first you think it’s just your imagination, but before long the light fizzles, and though you’re only a few hundred yards from your stand, you might as well be a mile away. You won’t find it now until the sun comes up.

Dead batteries top the list of common opening-day glitches. Deer hunters have come to rely on a number of battery-operated devices, including flashlights, range finders, hand-held GPS units and two-way radios, to name a few. We love them when they work, but curse them when they don’t, even though it’s usually our own fault.

A little preventive maintenance can save a lot of frustration. Always check every battery-operated tool before the season opens. Test each device to see if it works. If you have a battery tester, use it. If you don’t, get one. One alternative is to buy batteries with built-in strength indicators. And remember this simple rule: When in doubt, throw them out. Batteries are cheap. It also doesn’t hurt to keep spare batteries in your pack, just in case.

Guns and Bows

“It shot fine last year when I put it away” is a common lament heard at deer camps all around the country, usually after opening day misses. This is one of the most common blunders hunters make. There are hundreds of reasons why your gun or bow’s point of aim could change between seasons. Maybe you, or someone else, bumped it unknowingly. A different bullet weight, a different brand, even a different batch of ammunition could make a difference. Maybe you left too much oil in the barrel when you cleaned it. Or maybe you didn’t clean it and a drop of water turned the fine grooves inside your barrel into a spot of rust.

Leave nothing to chance. Make sure all the moving parts are in working order. Clean off the heavy coat of oil you applied for storage and replace it with a fine coating of synthetic lube that won’t freeze or gum up. Next, check all screws for tightness, especially on scope mounts and rings. Finally, take it to the range and fire it, using whatever ammunition you’ll be hunting with. Shoot enough to make sure your point of impact is correct and consistent.

If you’re bow hunting, sight pins can come out of alignment. Check all cams to make sure they’re turning freely and lubricate any moving parts that might make noise with a scent-free lube. When you’re done sighting in with field points, shoot a few broad heads to make sure your bow is still on. (Broad heads will often shoot differently than field tips, and this is a common source of “pilot error.”)

A Miscellany of Other Items

Whether you stuff them in your pockets, hang them off your belt or put them in a daypack, there’s an endless list of miscellaneous items you can take into the woods. Some are necessary; others merely make your endeavor more comfortable or efficient. First, let’s take a look at the essentials.

If I had to pick one item from my daypack that I would never be without, it would have to be a compass. You may be very familiar with the area you hunt and only headed out for an hour or two, but what if you decide to pick up a hot track on your way in, or end up following a long blood trail? Good outdoorsmen never get “lost,” but they sometimes get turned around. A compass will help you find the shortest route to get in and out of the woods. You can also use it to take a bearing on an animal’s direction after the shot and while tracking to help in recovery.

Obviously, you’ll need field-dressing supplies that are in good condition, particularly a sharp knife. I recall one opening morning when I was not so well prepared. I made a good shot and found the fallen buck easily, but my elation quickly turned to frustration when I realized I’d forgotten my knife.

I only made that mistake once, but I’d need all of my scarred fingers to count the number of times I’ve field dressed a deer with a dull knife. I now carry two knives, and I sharpen them before the season and after every use.

Other field-dressing supplies you may want to include are rubber gloves, a small length of cord to tie-off innards or attach your tag, and a small sealable plastic bag with some moist wipes for cleaning up your hands.

The list of what could be considered non-essential gear is limited only by your own needs or desires. Binoculars and range finders are particularly helpful in locating and judging game and accurately estimating distances.

Many hunters now use scents and calls to help draw game closer. You may need a saw for limbing or boning. If you’re a tree-stand hunter, you’ll need a rope to haul your bow or gun up with and something to hang them on.

You may want to include some sort of wind-checking device, such as a bottle of fine powder or tufts of silk.

Two items that could arguably be considered essential are a water bottle and a survival kit. Under moderate conditions water will help quench your thirst and in hot weather it will keep you hydrated. A survival kit is an insurance policy you hope you’ll never need. But if you do have a need for one at some point, it’s nice to have it.

LICENSES

A hunting license is one of those things you should take care of well before the season begins, particularly if you’re traveling out of state. Every state has different license sales procedures. Some may require you to purchase your hunting license from your local town office, which may only be open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-4 p.m. Others require that you apply by mail, which could take several weeks, provided nothing gets lost in transit. Even if the local license vendor is just around the corner and open 24 hours a day, leave nothing to chance. He could run out of licenses, particularly as it gets closer to opening day.

CHECK THE REGULATIONS

As I sat in my tree stand watching the forest slowly come to life, I waited anxiously for the first distant shots that would announce the opening of another deer season.

Thirty minutes after first light I still hadn’t heard a shot. I suddenly began to get a very uneasy feeling that maybe I’d somehow jumped the gun. I fumbled through my pack searching in vain for the rulebook that wasn’t there. It was another half hour before I finally heard the first shots that put me at ease, but that first hour was one of the least enjoyable opening mornings I’ve ever spent.

Since that day I’ve learned to take nothing for granted. Regulations often change from year to year, and though state fish and game agencies do their best to keep us informed, it is ultimately up to the hunter to know the current laws and seasons.

MAKE A CHECKLIST

Even though I always go over a mental checklist, I still manage to forget something. I finally remedied that by making a written list. That way it’s all there in black and white and I don’t have to rely on memories of last year’s hunt

 

-Rebecca

Hunting Department

Leeds Alabama

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Outdoor Essentials - The 1-2-3 of Fall Transition Bass Fishing

Bass Pro Shops ProsBy:  Lance Baker, Bass Pro Shops Altoona Pro Staff

Well, September is here and a lot of you are just itching to get in your deer stands and day dreaming of that once in a lifetime GIANT to walk in front of you at bow range!  Well, for us bass fishermen, it's almost the same!

Fall is a fantastic time of year here in Iowa to accomplish your goal of catching (and RELEASING :) ) one of many GIANT largemouth/smallmouth, as well! Just think of fall as the opposite in transition from spring.  On our local lakes the fish are going to start making their way from their summer, deep areas back up shallow for what is, by far, the ultimate in feeding to put weight on before our dreaded winter!

The first thing that’s important in this transition is the obvious…falling water temps. We are going to need some cool nights and days ahead of us to trigger this move.

Start really paying attention to the weekly forecast and watch for the water to jump down into the 70’s. The real key here is not necessarily a magic water temp number but more of a 5-10 degree shift that will trigger this move almost at a blink of an eye. Fall rains can also be really key for making some temps fall quickly!

The next key is to familiarize yourself with what your local lakes main forage may be. 

Here on a few of our favorite reservoirs (Saylorville & Rathbun) the shad are what we all are looking for with their migrations back from being suspended schools in deep water to them moving up and back towards the creek arms. Lakes with bluegills are not much different...every species must feed for the upcoming winter months.  Remember spring transitions as mentioned before and reverse it by starting deep at the first stopping point whether it is a main lake point leading into a big creek arm or the first break line leading into a cove.  From there simply work your way shallow stopping at all secondary’s on the way until you find where the fish are concentrated. Follow your channels all the way back and check every sudden depth change or potential holding structure you may find along the way.  I will say, if you are fishing in lakes with grass, stay on the lookout for any green aquatic vegetation left because the fish WILL be there around it.  Bluegills seem to follow the grass lines in our lakes shallow as they die off feeding on what’s left in the living weeds, plus the oxygen content is higher there just like in the summer time.  Watch your graph as well and if you see a good grass line, use a spoon or rattle-trap and let it sink to the bottom and rip chunks of grass up with a swift lift until you find the green stuff!!  You’ll have no doubt when you find it due to the dying grass looking to be about like what you’d have in a two week old salad ;) Make sure to keeps your eyes sharp and always be looking.

Bait choices in the fall can be little more open with the fish feeding hard this time of year. 

Remember to match the hatch of your local lake and fish accordingly.  It is very easy to start with search baits to cover water on your progression shallow.  Start with spinnerbaits, chatterbaits, swim jigs, lipless cranks, and square bill crankbaits covering as much water as possible and making sure to deflect off any rock, wood, etc.  The fish will be on a reaction bite and these will for sure get one of our local sows to swing and bite.  Once you have found the depth and area these fish are holding in try and keep them fired up as long as possible with repeated cast to keep them chasing.  Have a buzzbait or spook style topwater tied on, because if you get them blowing the shad up or running the bluegill packs hard it will be the ultimate topwater bite! Once things have slowed down a bit (which lets hope they don’t ;) slow down your presentation like normal and try and pick through a few extra bites and potentially a BIG one with more finesse presentations such as a shaky-head, small finesse jig, or any of your favorite soft plastics.  It seems this time of the year when you set the hook at anytime it could be an Iowa fish of a lifetime!

Kary and I want to thank everyone for all the good wishes this season and for following us on the Bass Pro Shops Altoona Facebook page and blogs! We hope to see everyone this fall out on the water sharing a tradition we were all lucky to be handed down!!!  Remember if you ever have any questions from either one of us, feel free to post them on the FB page and we will get them answered ASAP!!!  

 --LanceLance Baker

 Learn more from our Pros at the upcoming Fall Fishing Weekend, September 22-23!

 

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Using Coyote Calls

In my previous article I wrote about the different types of coyote calls which were the mouth reed, hand held blowing (internal external reed), and the digital electronic caller. I also talked a little about the three types of instincts we play on. Those were food, sexual, and territorial. During this time of the year and depending on the weather I like to play on their sexual and territorial instincts first. I will use all three calls but I rely more on my hand held Mac Daddy Howler and mouth reeds then the electronic. The reason why is, I’m going to be howling and barking with different emotional tones to get a coyote fired up, not to say you can’t do this with an electronic call I just prefer to start this way. 

When I start off in the mornings I like to be in my hunting area just before the sun comes up. I will sit and listen for any type of coyote vocalizations. Right after the sun comes up is usually when the coyotes are more vocal and when they are I have them located if I haven’t done so already. Once I have them located but they are quit a long ways off, I will sneak in closer using the terrain to conceal my every move. If they are within a few hundred yards I will find a good place to set up with the wind in my favor. Both ways I will set up my Montana coyote decoy (Kojo) and my speaker for my remote electronic call, plus a rabbit decoy (Miss Hoptober) so any coyote coming in will see both decoys. The reason I put my speaker out with the decoys is if I do need it for other sounds I don’t have to take the risk of moving and being busted. Depending on the terrain and wind depends on how I will set up; I’ll have my decoys out in front and to the right or left side of me with the wind in my favor. I will start off with a normal howl to hear or maybe see what kind of response I get. If I don’t get a response within 15 seconds I will howl again only this time with a little more emotion, meaning, I will bark a few times before I howl. Still if there is no response I’m NOT going to get up and move and set up again. Coyotes sometimes will come in silent so I will throw a few more barks out with my mouth reed and then wait with my gun or bow ready to shoot. If still nothing, I will use my electronic call and do a howl and then a rabbit in distress with it. Now I’m acting like another coyote invading their territory plus killing something in their backyard which is a double slap in their face. I will play the distress call on and off for about ten minutes and if still nothing then it’s time to find another place to set up and do it all over again. I will continue doing this all day or till I run out of land, or bullets.

Sometimes I have to deviate from what I just explained when I’m out hunting. Maybe the weather turns nasty or it’s warmer then normal. If it’s been cold and or a lot of snow you can use an animal in distress call because they have to eat, especially during the mating season. If the weather has been warm, use coyote vocalizations to bring them in. If I’m using coyote vocalizations I will use both decoys and speaker. If it’s an animal in distress call I’ll use my rabbit decoy and speaker. Sometimes you just have to mix things up and adapt to the situation at hand, and sometimes it’s just good old lady luck.

 

Mark Campagnola

Hunt Hard & Shoot Straight

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Horse Creek Game Plantation

My wife once said “Walter, you never know when a really good time is going to sneak up on you.” I think this applies to a hunting trip that I had the pleasure of taking at Horse Creek Plantation in January.

This all started about five years ago. I was working in archery when a grandfather approached the archery counter with his grandson. He was frustrated because he had purchased a bow from Bass Pro and he could not shoot the bow very well. The bow was not set up right for his grandson, so I set the bow to the correct draw length and poundage. I took a considerable amount of time explaining how to sight it in as neither one had any experience. They thanked me and headed to the elevator. Two minutes later the grandson started running back and handed me a piece of paper with his grandfather’s name and phone number. He said “my Pawpaw said any time you want to hunt you call him.” Year after year passed and I never called. They would come in and shop and remind me of the invitation. Well, this year I decided to call. We lined up a three day weekend and I invited Dean Clark to come along. Dean works in hunting with me and we affectionately refer to him as Mr. Dean. We left work one Thursday evening and arrived at the so called “camp House”. These accommodations were unbelievable! This place had 4 bedrooms and fireplace, television, kitchen and a front porch with rocking chairs. It also had back decks facing a pond stocked with fish.

Camp House

hunting 03.JPG

Camp House (inside)

 

Next door was a processing building with stainless sinks grinders and saws. Behind this building was a catfish pond. They took us out on the Polaris, an ATV, to show us a couple of shooting houses and food plots to hunt in the morning. They handed us keys to two ATV’s and said we could ride them to the stand in the morning. We could not believe how nice this was as we settled into our king size beds that night.

The next morning, as I sat in the shooting house overlooking a food plot, I heard the sound of a truck coming. I peered out the back window and saw Mr. Price, the owner, coming in. I got on the ATV and met him back at the lodge. He loaded Mr. Dean and me in the Polaris and he proceeded to show us the rest of the property.

As soon as we returned to the lodge we loaded up tree stands and blinds and headed out for the evening deer hunt. We didn’t have any deer sightings that day and returned to the lodge for a good meal and watched hunting videos. Mr. Price asked if we would be interested in shooting birds tomorrow after leaving the deer stands. We of course told him that we would love to shoot some birds.

The next morning we were up early and headed for the stands. This was another slow morning for me but Mr. Dean had a visit from a doe that after a lot of head bobbing at the blind left the food plot.

We returned to the lodge where Mr. Price was waiting. This is where it really got interesting. He instructed his care taker to go get some pheasant, chucker, and quail and release them. We then got in the Polaris with a trailer behind that had seats for hunters and kennels for the dogs. We drove over to the kennels where we collared three dogs and put them in the kennels on the trailer.

hunting 18.JPG

Dog Kennels

After releasing the dogs they instantly went to work finding the birds. Not much time had passed before they were pointing the first bird. Our guide called us up on both sides and kicked the brush that the dogs were locked up on. A pheasant took flight and Mr. Dean dispatched him quickly. The dogs instantly retrieved the bird and went back to work. It wasn’t long before they were on point again. We repeated the previous process and a chucker flushed on my side. Much to my surprise I dispatched that bird. This was the first time I had done any kind of upland hunting. This process was repeated over and over. To say we enjoyed our selves would be an understatement. After we shot all the birds Mr. Price offered to clean the birds while we headed for the deer stands.

hunting 28.JPG

Mr. Dean

 

That evening on stand I turned to the left in time to see a flash of whitetail and hear one blowing at me. They ran up and down the hill to my left and eventually grew quiet. Later on that evening as it was getting really dark I heard deer walking into the opening but it was so dark I could not tell what they were. We returned back to camp exhausted.

The next morning we were off to the deer stands and more sightings of does. We returned to the camp where we were treated to a lunch of Tomato gravy and biscuits, venison sausage, and grits. After lunch more birds were released and we were back in the field. This was a repeat of the first day and we shot plenty of birds. We saw a pheasant that was headed across the road. We took the dogs over and could not find this bird so we returned to the other birds and finished our hunt.

hunting 34.JPG

Walter Andrews

 

We cleaned the birds from the days hunt and decided we were too exhausted to deer hunt that evening. We started packing for home and Mr. Price said that maybe we could come back in the spring for turkey season. I would be crazy not to take that invitation and told him I would love to come back. After we had loaded the last of our gear and were about to get in the trucks, we looked to the edge of the clearing and the pheasant that had crossed the road was looking back at us.  It seems a fitting end to a great trip.

For more information please call:  George L. Price (850) 537-3882 or (850) 543-0682. You can also find them online at http://horsecreekgameplantation.com.

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Choosing a Good Hunting Pack - Part 1

When it comes to hunting packs I have to admit that I have what my wife says is a very big fetish for them. At last count I figured I could have a garage sell with just my packs alone and probably make enough money to make my truck payment, but what’s really funny about this is, I’m always looking for a new and better pack then the one I’m using now. The deal is there are so many different packs out there to choose from it’s hard to decide which is best for you and fit your needs. This is why I decided to make this a two part blog because there is so much information I can’t do it all in one. Personally I feel that any time you go out pre-scouting or hunting you should have some type of pack with survival gear and a small first aid kit on if not just for safety reasons. Accidents do happen
 
Hunting packs come in all different sizes, shapes, and camo patterns imaginable, from small little fanny packs with about 480 cubic inches, up to packs with over 7,000 cubic inches of space that you use to pack in for a couple of days or more. When I first started archery hunting I used a small fanny pack that was made out of nylon, I still have that pack by the way. It worked for a couple years but then I started to find out that I really needed to carry a little more than that fanny pack could hold, so I ended up buying a little bigger pack. This will go on throughout your whole hunting career until you figure out exactly what you need and what you don’t. The main essentials that I will never leave out of my pack are my survival items. These consist of a small first aid kit, one extra pair of socks, a pair of insulated waterproof gloves, some fishing hooks and line, my Katadyn® water purifier and enough fire starter that I should have a flammable label on the back of my pack. If I have to spend the night in the woods I will have a big fire to stay warm.
 
Choosing a Pack
After thirty plus years of hunting elk, I have only three very simple but yet important items I look for in a pack, quietness, comfortable, and plenty of room for what I need.  First is quietness, when I started hunting almost every pack made was out of nylon or some other type of noisy material that when you brushed against a tree branch you would hear like a ripping sound. Any unnatural sound an animal hears will put them on alert and nylon against a tree branch is very much, unnatural. There was one or two other packs made that where a little more quiet but they cost almost an arm and a leg back then. Now days hunting packs are made out of cotton, fleece or other types of quiet material, so a quiet pack really isn’t too hard to find.
 
Comfort is very important when looking for any kind of pack that you are going to be carrying around on your back all day. Sometimes a pack looks comfortable so you put it on and it feels good so you buy it, then when you load it down with your equipment it’s not so comfortable any more so you have to take it back and find another one. Hopefully you find this out at home and not at elk camp. When I look at a new pack, I put it on and adjust it to how I like my packs to be and then have my wife or son pull pressure down on it like it has a load in it to see how it feels; you would be surprised at how well this works. I’ve weighed my day pack with no water in the hydration bag or spotting scope and tripod and it weighs twenty-two pounds, that’s why I don’t fill my hydration bag the full two litters, or carry my spotting scope every time I go out. If I need more water I will use my water purifier. Then you have the waist belt and shoulder straps. On a good day pack the waist belt and shoulder straps should have at least 1 to 1 ½ inch thick pad for comfort. On your bigger packs the waist belt and shoulder straps should have a least 1 ½ to 2 inch thick padding because you will carry more weight. The majority of the weight on any kind of pack should rest on your waist and not your shoulders, your shoulders straps should be for support but not the load bearing of all the weight. There’s also a chest strap that keeps your shoulder straps from falling down. I always use this strap because I can’t stand for my shoulder straps doing this.
 
Now for the hard part, deciding how big of a pack do you really need? I bring two different packs to elk camp, one is my day pack for those one day outings and the other is a lot larger combination pack/ meat pack. I will use the larger pack if we decide to go further in and spend a night or two (spike camp) away from our base camp, or I can detach the pack portion and have just a meat pack frame to pack an elk out. When choosing a pack think about what you really need to carry. Your first thought should be survival gear, a small first aid kit, water, flashlight with extra batteries, and high protein foods (trail mix, granola bars ect) then what ever else you want to carry. After this put all of it on the floor and look to see if the pack you need has to have a lot of little pockets for small stuff, and or a large compartment for bigger items. My new RedHead Spot & Stalk Seat Pack has two main compartments that open like a book; I chose this pack because of this feature. How many times have you sat there and needed something and you had to dig down to the bottom of your pack to get it. With this pack you just lay it down, unzip it and there is everything you need without having to pull everything out and then re-packing it. It has a built in seat for comfort, two side pockets for my spotting scope and tripod, and places to tie stuff to, plus I can put a gun or bow on the back of it if I don’t want to carry them by hand. On the left yoke strap there is a built in LED light and on the other strap is a lens cleaning cloth for your binoculars, scope or even your eye glasses. The dimensions of this pack are 22”H x 14.5” W x 9” D with 3,500 cubic inches of room. I like a pack this size because other then my normal stuff that I carry I take my Squaltex rain gear ninety percent of the time, my Montana Decoys, or when its cold in the morning I can take off my coat and tie it off on the outside of the pack as the day warms up.
 
My larger pack is the RedHead Enduroflex Plus™ Field Frame; it has the same features as my day pack with the LED light and the lens cleaning cloth on the yoke straps plus it comes four 1”W x 6’L and two 1”W x 8’L heavy duty web tie down straps. It has 7,130 cubic inches of room, the dimensions are 36”H x 17.5”W x 10.5”D. It can also hold a bow or gun on the back and has plenty of tie offs. The main compartment can be loaded from the top or bottom. The big thing here is if you’re not in good physical shape you won’t make it very far with this large of a pack with everything in it that you need for a pack in hunting trip. I did a three day pack in with this pack and I had everything you need and it weighed close to fifty pounds. So when choosing a pack think about what your needs are and then start looking for the right pack for you.

We just covered the beginning of hunting packs and in my next blog we are going to go more in-depth on all the different styles of packs out there.
 
Mark Campagnola,
RedHead Hunting Pro Staff
Hunter’s Specialties Pro Staff
Montana Decoy Pro Staff
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Patience and Perseverance with Foul Weather Birds

By Mark Campagnola

The three P's birdIt never fails, every spring I go out on my back deck and I hear the Robins singing and all of a sudden I hear the Merriam’s turkey gobbling in my head and it won’t stop. It’s an obsession that won’t go away, and this year was no different, those gobbles in my head was getting louder and louder and I knew spring turkey season was just around the corner. The weather here in Colorado this year was unusually dry but very windy from January through March. When April came, Mother Nature made up for it, we had rain storms and snow storms coming through on a weekly base. I’m from Colorado and have been hunting turkeys here about 18 years now so I know bad weather is always a possibility, but this year felt different, my gut was telling me it wasn’t going to be a typical spring. I had ever thing planned for the second weekend of the season. I had all my light weight Real Tree Silent-Hide camo clothing packed plus my winter clothing I take elk hunting. The most important item’s on my list was my rain gear, my Red Head Squaltex coat and bibs plus my Red Head Ultra Hunter side zip boots. I knew with that combination Mother Nature could throw any snow or rain at me and I wouldn’t get wet.

Well the second weekend came and Mother Nature made it impossible, it wasn’t rain or snow, it was the wind again. I’m talking 60 mile an hour gusts in the area where I was going. Hunting turkeys in that kind of wind is almost impossible. I have hunted turkeys in windy conditions with success before, but with it blowing that hard, I decided I would wait.

The one hunt I do remember when the wind was blowing real hard we couldn’t buy a gobble all day. It didn’t matter what type of call we would use, a diaphragm, slate, or even a box call, they just weren’t talking, or were they?  Late that afternoon after putting on a few miles and probably losing a couple pounds I let out with a few loud yelps on my Hunters Specialties’ Field Champion box call and a tom immediately gobbled back, next thing I knew he was running down a two track road, wind at his back coming right at me. The turkeys were talking, we just couldn’t hear them, nor could they hear us.

If you don’t have a choice and have to hunt on windy days the best call to start with is a box call, you can really get on it loud so the birds can hear you at a further distance. Be PATIENT; take your time when moving from one location to another. Spend a little longer on your set up then you would on a calm day, you never know when a bird might just get into hearing distance and as your packing it up to move you spook it because of your movement. I always carry binoculars no matter what animal I’m hunting and every time before I leave a set up I will glass the whole area just in case something is coming in silent, especially on windy days. When you are ready to move, stay another ten to fifteen minutes, be PATIENT. It’s really hard to say where the birds are going to be when the wind is blowing hard, sometimes they may be in a valley where the wind isn’t blowing as hard, or they may even be in the thick oak brush or timber. I’ve even seen them in open fields on days like this.

When I finally did make it out a week later with my 12 year old son Cody we didn’t have the wind to contend with it was snow, rain, and cold. Our first night out it was forty  degrees according to my Brunton ADC-Summit and we only had one bird gobbling at us and all he did was take us up and down the mountain staying ahead of us before he quit gobbling. It was almost dark and what the bird didn’t know was we knew where he was roosting and where to get on him in the morning. The one thing about a Merriam’s turkey, at least in my experience is, they never roost in the exact same tree night after night. They may roost in the same area but not the same tree. The next morning 4:30 came way too soon, Cody decided to stay in bed but I hadn’t really got to hunt or kill a turkey in two years because of two back surgeries, I was going to suck it up as much as possible and get out. It was still plenty dark when I got to the area where I wanted to start up the mountain when I heard a gobble come from the area where we had put the bird to bed the night before. It was a humid cold and I could see my breath as I hiked up the hill and when the sun came up it didn’t show its smiling face to me. Mother Nature was showing me hers and she wasn’t very happy. I worked my way up to a long meadow surrounded by oak brush on three sides and timber to the west. That bird was in that patch of timber gobbling so I set out my Montana 3D hen decoys got comfortable and started yelping lightly on my Hunter’s Specialties’ Infinite Latex 2.5 diaphragm. That bird gobbled at my every yelp in that timber but would not break and come in. I decided to give him the silent treatment for about ten minutes, which drove him nuts when I wouldn’t answer his gobbles, but he still wouldn’t move out of the timber. He just kept going back and forth waiting for me to come to him. Then the weather started to really turn ugly, a slight mist, colder and then a heavy fog started to roll in out of the north and down through the timber. That bird kept gobbling until the fog rolled into the area in which he was and that’s when he just shut up and didn’t utter another sound. It didn’t matter what I did he was silent. This is where perseverance took over, my back does not like cold, damp, weather and it was letting me know it too but I kept hunting. This is where a lot of hunters will quit hunting because of the weather and I might have also too but something wasn’t letting me. I worked my way up a ridge line that ran East and West till I came to a two track road I knew of that ran North and South. I called about every 100 yards or so to that point, even trying my Hammering crow call to shock gobble something but it was still silent. I walked down that two track road very slowly for about a quarter mile North (which had turkey droppings all over it) when I heard a hen yelp to my left about 100 yards up in the timber and below the fog line. I yelped but nothing yelped back at me and then it happened, a tom gobbled about 200 yards in front of me and then another one gobbled. Half time was over and the game was back on. I eased up about 70 yards or so, set up my decoys, got comfortable and started calling. Immediately one of the toms was answering me and then two more chimed in but they sounded more like they were shock gobbling at the first bird and not to my calling. First, I thought maybe some jakes but that couldn’t be the case because when jakes gobble they gobble at everything and these two birds weren’t, maybe I had the boss gobbler and the other two were subordinates but yet mature. I still couldn’t get any of them to move towards me after 15 minutes so I decided to grab my decoys and move closer. I don’t like doing this because of movement but I had the terrain on my side this time and there was no way they were going to see me. I eased up another 50 yards and used my binoculars when I spotted one bird about 60 yards to my right through some oak brush out in a small meadow. I looked for the other two but couldn’t see them so when that bird put his head down to feed I got on my belly and put my hen decoys behind me and then slid back up real slow and started out with a couple soft yelps with my diaphragm. One of the birds gobbled to my left further in the meadow but I couldn’t see him. The bird I could see had about a nine inch beard and at one point at forty yards I had my 12 Gauge Mossberg 835 “Ulta-Mag” with the Hunter’s Specialties’ full choke undertakers neon green bead right on his head through a very small opening, but there were too many oak brush branches in the way and if I was to shoot I would have either wounded him or missed all together. This is where the three P’s come into play, PATIENCE, PATIENCE, and more PATIENCE. Finally that bird started coming towards my right through the oak brush and I was starting to follow him when the bird that was doing all the gobbling came over a little tiny knoll in full strut spittin and drumming to my left about fifteen yards away. I figured he would come up through a small opening in the oak brush onto the road I was on about twenty yards to my left before the other bird would, and if he did he would bust me and it would be over. So I slowly moved my gun to my left without being busted by either bird (my lucky day) when he saw my decoys and turned and came up an opening no more than ten feet away in full strut. Out of all the turkeys I’ve killed in this area, not a one has ever been any closer than thirty to thirty-five yards so when I use a shot gun and not my bow I always shoot a 3 ½ inch shell with 4 shot. You can say I want to reach out and touch them. Well this day all I needed was a baseball bat he was that close. When he cleared the oak brush he was ten feet from the end of my barrel, I couldn’t believe this, two mature toms one on my right no more than ten yards away  in the brush and another ten feet to my left and I have my bead on his head. I clucked on my diaphragm and the bird turned towards me in full strut, I wasn’t going to shoot him and blow off part of his beautiful fan so I clucked again and this time he turned, put his head up and I pulled the trigger. The bird did a back flip and was down, I had no idea how big his beard was or how long his spurs were, all I know was I got my bird and size didn’t matter.

The biggest part of this hunt was perseverance and patience. If I would have not kept going just because of the weather and my back I would have come home empty handed. If I would not have had patience, the same would have happened, going home empty handed. Don’t let a little bad weather stop you from staying in the field a little longer and upping your odds of filling your tag on a foul weather bird!

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Michigan Monster

The whitetail world always amazes me. Year after year, bucks of monstrous proportions pop out of the woodwork throughout the country. Animals of mythical mass and tine-length break records every year. This is mostly due to quality deer management over the last decade and hunters’ efforts to improve the health and genetics of their herds.

 I’ve seen this tactic work for several animals that I’ve pursued over the years, animals which had the potential to be world class. My trail cameras captured them season after season, and I’ve let them walk, hoping they make it through the hoards of hunters in the area. Again, my cameras proved that many do.

 The number one defining attribute is age. If bucks are allowed to make it to maturity,168 buck their knowledge of their environment will ensure that they have a chance to make trophy caliber. Without our help, whitetails will seldom evolve into what every hunter is looking for.

 My intrigue of whitetails lead me to the decision that I wanted to enter the hunting community as a manufacturer of hunting products, products which would make my own life easier in the field. In 2006, Innovative Hunting Solutions was born, as well as a new scent-dispersal system.

 This brings us to the story at hand. We were contacted by customers almost immediately after our product hit the shelves. One customer, Brian, really stood out. He hunted mature whitetails in Michigan as seriously as anyone I knew; he had a passion for big bucks.

 Brian used his trail cameras to scour properties across southern Michigan, using as much land as he could to find the buck he would spend the season chasing. Because Brian had access to numerous properties he was able to single out some rather large bucks. The photos were impressive. In the fall of 2006, he sent me a photo of a handsome long-beamed, tall-tined buck walking under his empty stand on December 6th.  I remember the pain in his voice when he told me the story of why he had missed the hunt. Long days were spent during the last few weeks of the season to no avail.

 I kept in touch with Brian throughout the spring and early fall of 2007. His cameras were showing no sign of this highly anticipated buck. Days rolled into weeks and weeks turned into months. After much thought, Brian realized that this deer was a transient and that, for some reason, only showed his presence during the tail end of the rut.

 The whole month of November passed without a word from Brian. I imagined the thoughts that were racing through his head. A buck of that stature is hard to come by anywhere in the country, let alone Michigan. As anyone would, he and the property owner kept the buck a secret knowing that the pressure in the area would double if word got out.

 On the 10th of December, I received a call from Brian. I could tell from the excitementbigbuckballz.com in his voice that the buck had returned. A few days earlier, he placed dominant buck urine on an active scrape, checked his camera and found a photo of the very buck from the season before. Unfortunately that was it, almost like déjà vu, the buck disappeared without another sighting or picture that season.

 As both were avid bird hunters, Brian and the property owner worked with Pheasants Forever to enhance the wildlife habitat on the property the next spring. They planted corn, buck oats, soy beans, and clover plots in and around the perimeter of an apple orchard.

 The plantings proved to be successful. Bird and deer numbers were up, but the 2008 season came and left without any sign of the ghost-like whitetail. Did another hunter put a fatal shot on him? Did he get hit by a vehicle? Could he possibly have died of old age? All these questions were going through Brian’s mind. Talk about mental anguish!

 The 2009 season came in quick. Brian was back on the property running cameras and looking for signs of the giant buck. I even lent him a few of my own cameras to help the cause, meanwhile wondering how something so big could just disappear.

 Then, one November evening, I received a call from Brian. His first words were “THEmichigan monster BIG BUCK IS DOWN!” The event unfolded like this . . .

 BRIAN HEADED TO THE STAND AT 6:15 A.M.

Because of bad wind directions for a week, Brian had been waiting to hunt a stand overlooking standing corn and oat plots intersected by narrow hedgerows. His camera had shown a lot of rutting activity in this area and the conditions seemed perfect.

 It was early November, the temperature was 37 degrees, and the rut was at its peak. The wind was at a standstill and every step sounded like the one that would give him away. Brian stopped every 20 yards or so in order to make himself sound like a weary animal, eventually making his way to his blind without alarming any game.

 6:35 A.M.

Busting brush to the south a mature doe made her way through the orchard in front of Brian. Daylight was still 15 minutes away, but, through his binoculars, Brian could see a heavy-framed buck standing no less than 20 yards from his stand. With the buck so close, he didn’t want to give away his location, so he sat motionless. The buck grunted again and proceeded to chase the does.

8:30 A.M.

The scene was quiet. Thoughts were circling Brian’s head like a whirlwind. He wondered if he could have made the shot earlier that morning. All of a sudden, a doe broke the hedgerow with a 150-class buck in tow. Brian had little time to control his emotions, let alone gather his gear. The two whitetails blew by his stand before Brian could get his composure.

Over the next 20 minutes, the trophy buck chased the doe over just about every inch of the five-acre food plots, except for the area where Brian was perched. Situated in his stand, ready for any shot, Brian watched helplessly as the chase lost momentum and eventually the deer began to feed out of range.

 Brian thought to try and call the buck in, but he knew he would alarm the deer because of the wind direction. He had to sit back and wait to see how the deer would react and how the day would unfold.

 9:00 A.M.

A grunt, snort, and wheeze, downwind from the orchard put Brian at full alert. While slowly gathering his bow and attaching his release, Brian looked up to see the very buck that haunted his dreams for the last three years penetrating the hedgerow 90 yards from his stand.

The buck was leaving a dust trail as he blew through the neighboring field at full throttle catching the 150, 11-point that was tending the doe unaware and helpless. He drove his massive antlers in the chest of the 11-point and pummeled him to the ground. After little resistance, the mature buck chased the doe due south, directly away from Brian, disappearing into the hardwoods.

 10:35 A.M.

Brian was still trying to get over the fact that the buck of his dreams and three years of anticipation simply ran by, out of range, in a cloud of dust. Feeling sorry for himself, he raised his head in the direction of the hedgerow to the south. His heart skipped a beat when he saw the front profile of the enormous rack working its way into the clover.

All emotions erupted at once. At first, Brian thought for sure he had another chance. Then he realized the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. Where was the doe?  He told me, at that point, his arrow was uncontrollably rattling in his rest.

There the buck stood, 90 yards away, scanning the food plot with a look of intensity in his eyes. The only thing moving was his ears, scanning the area like radar. Another 10 minutes went by, and then the beast slowly walked out of the danger zone the wind was providing.

To Brian’s amazement, a 1-1/2 year old 8-point walked directly up to the monarch and began to spar with him. The giant buck simply let the smaller buck bounce his meager head gear from inside to inside of the massive 10- point frame.

This was Brian’s chance. He reached into his bag and began the task of trying to call in the brute. He tried grunting, rolling the can, and even rattling. Nothing seemed to faze the buck. He looked up a few times, but seemingly had no interest.

bbBrian endured another 15 minutes of mental torture and again had to watch the buck fade away into the thick Michigan undergrowth. There was nothing he could do but watch and hope the doe showed up again, hopefully pulling the buck into range.

THE SITUATION

Brian had no intention on hunting all day until he saw how the morning had unfolded. He was supposed to hunt the morning and return home to help his wife prepare for his son Jacob’s first birthday party. Brian knew he had to make a choice. He was hoping his wife would forgive him.

For the next five hours, Brian had numerous young bucks chasing does in and around the food plots he was overlooking, never going more than 30 minutes without seeing rutting activity. He knew his wife was going to be mad, but there was no way he was leaving.

4:20 P.M.

The weather was exceptionally warm for November and Brian was contemplating shedding a layer when all of a sudden five does broke through the hedgerow into the clover. Fifteen seconds later, he heard brush busting. Taking his attention off the does, he could not believe his eyes. The buck was back!

Trying to keep his composure and not spook the does, Brian gathered his gear and positioned himself. The does stopped to feed below his stand at seven yards. The massive buck sat tight, scanning the area from the hedgerow 25 yards to the south.

The buck was directly downwind and couldn’t see Brian because the sun was behind his back.  He just sat still, patrolling the does. Brian prayed that his scent-free clothing and spray would be enough.

4:25 P.M.

Brian’s head was a whirlwind of emotions. It took everything he had to keep it together. Was this going to be another close call? How could the buck not smell him? He hoped that the buck would forgive him and keep his attention on the does.

4:30 P.M.

A shift in the wind gave Brian hope, when the does began to slowly move toward the south. The buck flared his nostrils, turning south, taking three steps. The does watched the buck as Brian drew his bow.

As Brian tried to steady his Red Dot scope from bouncing all over the kill zone, he kept saying “it’s only a deer” over and over again. After little hesitation, his bow launched forward and the 100g broadhead ripped through the ribs behind the front leg of the buck. Jumping straight up, the buck kicked, then drunkenly stumbled 40 yards and fell on his side against a fallen log.

THE CONCLUSION

That day, Brian Hughes proved that perseverance and patience pay off. After the 60-day drying period, the massive animal net 203-5/8 non-typical in the Boone and Crocket scoring system, having less than six inches of deductions, making the recordL&T books both typical and non-typical.

Two weeks later, during firearm season, the property owner harvested the first buck Brian saw that memorable day.  The buck net 146 with an 8 broken G2. The antlers were the spitting image of Brian’s buck, proof that Michigan has what it takes to produce world-class animals.

Dave Lee

Bass Pro Hunting Pro Staff

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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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Choosing the Right Trolling Motor

By Justin Hoffman

 Trolling Motor
Many professionals believe that the best rule of thumb is to buy the biggest motor you can afford -- within reason, of course.

Fishing has long been known as a game of stealth. Putting yourself in the optimum position for making that next cast (while being extra quiet), can also lead you on your way to a hearty bend in the rod. These two characteristics are what make trolling motors a godsend for the fishing fraternity. Not only can anglers have total control over their craft at all times, they can also move effortlessly from spot to spot, and ultimately put more fish in the boat. Come and jump on the trolling motor bandwagon, and find out which is the right pick for you and your boat. 

The Importance of Thrust

 

Trolling motors, or electric positioning motors, use battery power in order to propel a boat. The amount of power or strength needed to move through the water is described as "pounds of thrust." This power rating is common to all motors on the market, and is one of the most important aspects to consider when selecting the right unit to match your craft. With insufficient power behind you, working your boat through wind, high waves or weedy conditions can be all but impossible. 

 

Many factors fall into the equation when deciding on the necessary power needed for optimum performance. Some common questions to ask yourself are:  Is your boat heavy, and what is the length? Do you store a lot of gear, or fish with more than one person? Do you fish in adverse conditions, such as high winds and rough water? The following chart details the minimum amount of thrust required depending on the size of your craft.

 

Boat Length in Feet

Pounds of
Thrust Required

12 30
13 30
14 32
15 36
16 40
17 50
18 55
19 65
20 74
21 74
22 101

 This chart is meant to convey "normal fishing conditions." If you answered "yes" to any of the previous questions I posed, moving up to the next level of thrust is highly recommended. If your boat, gear, and passengers are extremely heavy, going to a motor with even more thrust would be your best bet.  

Many professionals believe that the best rule of thumb is to buy the biggest motor you can afford, all within reason of course. (A big, overpowering motor can also offer disadvantages if it literally "dwarfs" the size of your boat.)  Choose wisely and weigh all of the variables. Running a motor that is under rated for your craft can only lead to misery and headaches when venturing out on the water.

 

Voltage and Batteries

 

Electric trolling motors come in three separate power systems: 12, 24, or 36-volts. To make it easier to understand, a 12-volt trolling motor is run off of one, 12-volt deep cycle marine battery. In order for a 24-volt motor to work, it must be run off of two separate batteries, and a 36-volt version requires three.

 

A 12-volt trolling motor is the most inexpensive and easiest to run. It does, however, lack the staying power and thrust that the other two provide.  A 24- or 36-volt system will allow the angler to fish longer periods out on the water, as they draw lower amps while providing increased thrust for more power. 

 

If your boat is 16-foot or smaller, a high-thrust 12-volt model will be adequate for the conditions that you will face. If your boat is any longer, moving up to a 24- or 36-volt system is the only way to go for hassle-free boating.

 

Be certain not to scrimp and save on the batteries. Buying a high quality, deep-cycle marine battery (some are designed specifically for electric motors) will ensure that you are receiving the maximum power and longevity that is on the market. This will provide piece of mind in case you ever find yourself stranded out on the lake, nursing an overheated or blown outboard motor that just won't fire up!

 

A bow-mounted motor will provide superior maneuverability and better control.

 

 

Bow or Transom?

 

There are two kinds of trolling motors available -- a bow mount (installed at the front of the boat), and a transom mount (manufactured for the back). In order to install a bow mount, you must have sufficient room up front, as well as a mounting bracket or plate to affix the housing.  You must also have a flat bottom platform to fish from in order to make the set-up feasible.

 

A transom motor simply clamps onto the stern of the boat and will work with any style of craft.

 

A bow-mounted motor will provide superior maneuverability and better control, allowing the angler to fish easier and more efficiently. (This increase in maneuvering ability is due to the fact that bow-mounts "pull" your boat through the water, in comparison to a transom "pushing".) If your boat is 14-foot or larger and can accommodate a bow-mount, most certainly go that route.  You won't regret it.

 

For small boats, dinghies and canoes, a transom mount would be the best choice. These motors work great for general positioning and trolling application -- exactly what they were designed for. Whatever you decide, owning any kind of trolling motor is definitely better than not.

 

Hand or Foot Control?  

 

If you decide to purchase a bow mount motor, the next decision to make is whether to operate it by hand or foot. Although both have their merits, trying each version and finding which is most comfortable to use is probably your best bet. The following chart outlines some advantages and disadvantages for both:


  Advantages  Disadvantages
Foot Control 
  • Hands-free usage
  • Easy to use  
  • Can be used anywhere in boat
  • More clutter on deck (pedal)

  • More parts to break or malfunction

  • Slower response time on some models

Hand Control 
  • No clutter on deck
  • Real-time response
  • Hand not always on your rod
  • Can only be used from bow

 

My personal preference is for the foot-control model, as this allows me to have a completely hands-free fishing experience. Some will argue that the hand control outweighs the merits of the foot. Taking the time to talk to different users of both models will enable you to figure out which is best for you. 

Whatever version of motor you choose, both will require practice on the water in order to become comfortable with them. Once you do, however, the possibilities are endless.  

Shaft Length

 

Self-directional motors offer anglers more time to fish.


 

 

Shaft length is important for optimum control of your boat. If the shaft chosen is too short, the prop may not be sufficiently submerged during rough or adverse conditions. If it is too long, shallow water operation may pose a continuous problem. Finding the appropriate length for the size of craft you own will ensure safe and carefree boating.

 

The shaft length is dictated by the height of the bow or stern. Deep V boats will require a longer shaft, whereas the shortest length will adequately serve canoes. 

 

Additional Features

 

Technology is expanding in the land of the trolling motor, and new features and wrinkles become available anually. Here are a few that are worth checking out:

 

Built-In Battery Gauge -- Some models of trolling motors have battery gauges built in to the housing or head of the unit. This gauge will allow an angler to quickly and easily check how much power is left in the battery itself, making it a no-brainer for estimating fishing time left or when to clamp the charger on.

 

Digital Displays -- High-end models are now coming standard with digital screens, complete with readouts of speed and depth. Although these motors come at a price, the technology is certain to put you on more fish.

 

Self-Directional Motors - An interesting feature, in that it allows total hand and foot-free operation, and will follow shorelines or depth contours on its very own.  It will even steer you in a straight line when the winds are howling!

 

Here are a few more things to look for when making your final decision:

Composite or stainless steel shaft will endure shock and stand up to abuse much better than weaker metals. Make sure the prop is weedless, and that replacement blades are available for your specific model. Ensure that the mount is heavy duty and strong. The less plastic parts it has, the better. If you plan on using the foot-control pedal from anywhere in the boat, make sure the cable is sufficient in length for the size of your craft. 

Trolling motors add a completely new dimension to fishing.  Perfecting boat control, fishing inaccessible areas and maintaining a silent approach will ensure added enjoyment and more fish for the angler willing to experiment.  Shop around, take each style for a test drive and pay attention to detail - banner days on the lake await you.

 

Check out the full line of Trolling Motors at Bass Pro Shops.

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