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Updated: 5 years 7 weeks ago

Ground Blinds Galore

Tue, 05/01/2012 - 12:46

While walking the isles of the Iowa Deer Classic a few weeks ago I realized there are a lot of those semi-permanent ground blinds available today. There were blinds on display that resembled spaceships, giant cans, boxes, stumps or big pine bushes, and some were meant for ground use, others for elevated platforms. One even moves up, down and travels around. While many of these type blinds seem to have gun hunters more in mind, there are several that can also accommodate bowhunters. Here's a look at just a few of the ones I found.


"Why didn't I think of that?" is the first thing that came to mind when I saw the original Pine Blind. Then I remembered a few situations where during late winter nasty conditions the buck I was after would hide in a stand if pine trees. If only I had that Pine Blind in place! Their tag line is, "The best blind you can't find."

It has a realistic pine tree look with a full 360 degree view. Six panels with drop down windows are easy to adjust. Blind materials are of 100% plastic. It sits on a steel base and has 6 legs for easy leveling on all terrains. The blind is also handicap accessible. And it sure does look just like a pine tree or pine bush capable of blending well with the environment. www.pineblind.com

Another blind that blends in well with certain habitats is the Blind Ambition Bale Blind. Their tag line is, "The most realistic bale blinds on the market. " The blind looks like a big round bale which is something that animals get used to seeing in areas where these farming practices occur. The blind is lightweight, portable and easy to move. The main benefit I see with this type of blind is that deer require next to no acclimation time to this type of blind. www.baleblinds.com

Moving from blending in to standing out, let's review a few of the box blind types. "Elevated ground blind" sounds like an oxymoron, but some of the semi-permanent ground blinds can also be placed on elevated platforms and not all are box shaped.
I like the name of this next blind...Window-Tree Deer Stands. The blind is a solid one piece unit made from polyurethane. It weighs 350 pounds and can be tipped into a full size pick-up bed for transport between locations. It has a heavy duty frame built to accommodate 4x4 posts so you can elevate the blind if desired. www.fabradome.com

"Get a Stump, Hear the Thump." Okay then. The Stump 1 does resemble a tree stump and the company has progressed to Stumps 2, 3 and Stump 4 Deer Tower which is a bigger blind with more room. www.banksoutdoors.com


Shadow Hunter Blinds began as a way of making their own hunting blinds, but soon orders began pouring in as people heard about these blinds. They make several styles of blind in the Shadow Hunter Series including gun, archery, combo, crossbow, total view, octagon and wheelchair accessible. The 22 3/8 inch by 8 inch windows are large enough for nearly any angle of archery shot. There are many great standard features on each blind and upgrades are available. www.shadowhunterllc.com

 


I have heard many good things about the Redneck Blinds and got the chance to look them over while at the classic. Important features include roomy, well thought-out design of fiberglass construction with tinted tempered automotive glass windows that help hide movement inside the blind. According to the manufacturer these are among the largest windows in the industry. They blinds are modular and easy to assemble with high quality powder coating and weatherproofing details.

 

The 6x6 Buck Palace 360 Combo blind from Redneck Blinds is what I call one of those, "That's what I'm talkin' about!" blinds. It is extremely roomy and specifically designed for up to four hunters. It is great for filming hunts when you need room for the tripod, two people and gear. The blind features huge 46” tall bow windows enabling you to shoot from virtually any position within the blind, at any angle. www.redneckblinds.com The folks at Redneck Blinds identify 4 important questions that should be considered in any decision to purchase a ground blind. #1, Is the deer stand, deer blind, or camouflage well designed and constructed? #2, Are the products high quality, from fiberglass to resin molded material? #3, Will you be able to set up your hunting site easily? #4, Is the equipment portable enough for your needs?


With so many blinds on the market of many different proportions, features and materials, these are great questions to ask yourself when considering any semi-permanent ground blind or elevated blind purchase. Last but not least, is the Traveling Tower. "No Tree? No Problem!" Manufactured in MN, the Traveling Tower is built with electrolyzed powder coated steel which enables you to reach heights of 11 to 15 feet. The blind can be moved with your ATV and used for tree trimming, and other non-hunting activities such as gutter cleaning, painting, siding or working on variety of projects that would have required scaffolding or ladder climbing. www.travelingtower.com  Don't we wish more of our hunting gear would double as honey-do gear!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Apex Gear Game Changer Quiver Review

Thu, 04/26/2012 - 19:15

When it comes to archery accessories, it's hard to think of one less glamorous than the quiver.  Unlike arrows and broadheads you don’t get to watch them impact your target with the telltale “thud” all bowhunters love to hear.  Unlike sights they don’t have any fancy micro adjustments or fiber optics to play with.  No, the quiver is a relatively simple device with one purpose – to hold your arrows until they are ready to be shot.   Let’s face it, nobody has ever killed an animal and stopped to thank their quiver.

However with all of that said, I feel quivers are one of the accessories that have benefited the most in recent years from new innovations.  The new Game Changer quiver is no exception to that.

When I was first introduced to the Game Changer by Apex Gear at this year’s Mathews Retailer show in the Wisconsin Dells, I immediately took a shine to it.  Anyone who has read my Blogs for any length of time (all 12 of you) knows I’m a fan of archery gear that is rugged and durable.  When I drop my bow or hit it up against a tree as I’m fighting my way through a briar patch in the dark (I get lost a lot) I don’t want to worry about breaking things or items falling off my bow.   The Game Changer seems to have been built with guys like me in mind.


The new Game Changer arrow quiver from Apex Gear.  It even comes in Lost Camo to match my new Heli-m, which is important.  What will the deer think if they're killed by a guy whose accessories don't even match??

First off let’s cover the basics.  The body of the Game Changer quiver is made from CNC machined aluminum.  That means its metal, and I like metal.   Metal is strong and aluminum is light weight; both qualities that I look for in a quiver. 

Next, the Game Changer features dual arrow grippers.  Grippers keep my arrows in place and make sure they’re still there when I get to my treestand.  I like that.  One area I can’t comment on that has been brought up by more than a few bowhunters over the years is how do the grippers work with thin arrow shafts, like the Easton Axis or Injexion.  Well, I’m shooting Carbon Express Maximas so I don’t know.  Sorry guys.

The hood of the Game Changer features what’s called a “Tru Touch” soft feel coating, which gives it an almost velvet-like feeling.  While it feels cool when I rub my fingers on it, I’m not sure how it really helps make the quiver any better.

In addition to the Tru Touch coating, the quiver’s hood does feature several rubberized inserts that help dampen vibration for those hunters who still shoot with their quiver on.  I’m not one of those guys, so they don’t do much for me.


The built-in vibration dampeners are nice, but not very useful for those of us who prefer to shoot quiver-off.

Inside the hood you’ll find a “technical” rubber lining with little cups to hold your broadheads in place.  I prefer this type of liner versus the traditional foam that can dull broadheads over time as they are taken in and out.  Although getting your arrow into the cup every time is a bit of a chore, especially when it’s dark.  If Apex could somehow color those circles in bright orange we’d be in business.


Sure, they're easy to see now when I use the camera flash.  But in the dim light of an autum eve, I'll never be able to see these without some help.

Now we come to the good stuff, and probably the biggest selling point of the Game Changer – the mounting system.   The mounting bracket that screws onto your bow sight is extremely small and light weight, which means it’s not obtrusive unlike some mounts.  The quiver itself features a cam-lock type latching system that locks the quiver in place.  You can very easily take the quiver off with one hand, although putting it back on can be a bit of a chore sometimes.  I’m hoping once I wear the connection in a little more, it will slide on easier.  Of course the big test will be how easily I can get it back on in the darkness after an afternoon hunt this fall.


When it comes to quiver mounting brackets, less is definitely more.


The Game Changer is now attached and ready to roll.

The quiver mount that screws into the aluminum body is adjustable vertically, which is another great feature.  Being able to slide your quiver up and down on your bow based on your arrow length and axle to axle length can help keep your nocks out of the mud, which we all know can be a royal pain.  I’m sure we can find more constructive things to do while on stand than picking mud out of our arrows with tiny little twigs.

Thanks to the in-line mounting system, the Game Changer mounts very close to your bow, which is supposed to help reduce torque and produce better balance.   Of course I don’t shoot with my quiver on so this isn’t a huge benefit for me.


Without mounting it directly to the riser, I'm not sure the Game changer could get much closer.

The final feature I want to point out is the machined aluminum bracket that allows you to easily hang the quiver on a hook or branch after you take it off.  Why every quiver manufacturer doesn’t do this is beyond me.  It’s so simple and so easy, yet such a great feature.  A big Thank You to Apex for including it.


The hood-mounted quiver hook.  An ingenious invention and a simple benefit that can make or break your buying decision.

Well, that about sums up the Game Changer quiver from Apex Gear.  No, I don’t think it will help anyone kill a 200 inch buck this fall, but it will certainly help you get your arrows in and out of the woods securely and quietly.  Which, come to think of it, is probably a pretty big necessity if you want to shoot a 200 incher.  So if you happen to be in the market for a new quiver, give this one a look.  I have a feeling you’ll like it.

First Impressions of the Can Cooker

Thu, 04/26/2012 - 16:25

Right behind my passion for bowhunting comes cooking and eating so I’m always looking for better ways to prepare food.  The Can Cooker looked so easy, and it came with a lot of praise so I didn’t think there was any way it could live up to the hype.   With only one meal cooked in it so far I can’t say that it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I can say I cooked a meal that impressed everyone that sampled it. 

The Can Cooker is great for tailgating and can be used with any heat source.

I decided to start with a typical tail-gate type meal, bratwurst cooked with onions and peppers.  Until now, I have only grilled or smoked brats so steaming them was something new for me to try.  Right from the beginning I saw several advantages for using a Can Cooker for a tail-gate meal.  After chopping the onions and peppers the work was almost done at that point.  The Can Cooker can be used over almost any heat source making it very versatile in a variety of settings.  I chose to use my turkey fryer burner which was over-kill.  It doesn’t need that much heat to get the steaming process going.  Stove top burner, wood fire, charcoal, camp stove, will all work.  

The Can Cooker is as attractive as it is functional.

The directions say to spray the inside of the can with a non-stick spray so that’s what I did and then emptied the chopped onions and peppers into the bottom of the Can Cooker.  Next I placed the bratwurst on top of the onions and peppers and then for a twist I added two sliced apples on the top of the brats.  Then I opened three 12 ounce bottles of beer and poured the contents over all of the other ingredients.  I finished by using a generous amount of my favorite grilling spice.  I latched the lid, fired up the burner and sat back and waited for the steam to start spilling out of the vent hole on the lid.  Forty minutes after the steam starts and you’re done.   It can’t get much easier than that.  

 Cooking a variety of foods togather at one time is simple and easy with the Can Cooker.

Brats done on a grill can demand a lot of attention to make sure they don’t get over or under cooked and to make sure they don’t flare up and start a fire from the escaping grease.  Serving brats with onions and peppers can mean having to cook two things at once.  Combining all the ingredients together in the Can Cooker not only simplified things but I found it truly enhanced the flavor of the bratwurst.  I thought the apples were a great touch also.  

 Cleanup of the Can Cooker proved to be as easy as actually cooking the meal; thanks to the steam heating and the no-stick interior.

Cleaning up was very easy, maybe because of the steam nothing stuck to the can.  I just rinsed it out and then cleaned it with dish soap and a brush.  The Can Cooker comes with a nice cover with a draw string to keep it clean when stored and a small cook book and directions to get you started.   It’s large enough to make a meal big enough to feed a large crowd.  All in all I see many pluses in using the can cooker and no down sides.  It’s easy and versatile and makes a great meal. 
My wife, son and my best hunting buddy all thought the brats had better flavor than you get when grilling them and I agree.  To me, that’s the bottom line.  Give the Can Cooker a try, I think you’ll be impressed too.

Food Plot 101

Mon, 04/23/2012 - 16:52

One of the hottest topics in the hunting industry today is Food Plots.  Some hunters will argue that they are absolutely necessary to kill big bucks; others will say you don't need them.  Despite the fact that there is no magical big buck potion, food plots definitely have their place in deer management and can drastically increase a hunter's success….IF they are done right.  For a bowhunter who may be a novice when it comes to food plots, trying to figure out everything on your own can be a nightmare.  For example, what to plant, where to plant, and the never ending when, how, and why’s associated with growing food plots can drive a person crazy. Quite often, these are questions many landowners and managers don't have answers to. As a result, many guess or take the advice of friends.  This trial and error method produces mixed results because not everything works in every situation. Hunters also have many misconceptions about food plots; such as you must have access to large equipment to be successful. This isn't true in most cases.  The only thing a hunter really needs is a determined attitude and the patience to do things right. So, if you happen to be one of the many bowhunters who have wanted to start your very own food plot, but didn’t because you thought you couldn’t do it for one reason or another----then this article is for you. Let’s begin with the basics....the EXTREME basics.

Establishing an intimate knowledge of your hunting area will go a long way toward reaching your management goals

It has been said that you must have long term goals to prevent frustration with short term failures. This is definitely true when it comes to habitat management.  Planning and forethought on the part of the hunter will have an immeasurable effect on the success of his/her food plots.  Because every piece of property is different, there is no food plot strategy that works for everyone. In order to be successful, one must carefully examine the needs and capabilities of his/her particular property before starting. The first question a hunter must ask himself is WHY do you want a food plot?  Is it to attract more deer to your property, or perhaps grow bigger bucks? Maybe it is to hold deer on your property by providing them with added nutrition. Before you plant the first seed, take a minute and write down what your short term and long term goals for the property are. This will help determine the starting point for your management plan because not all hunters want the same things, or can realistically achieve the same goals. For example, in the Southeastern part of the country, growing a “Booner  Buck” is not exactly an attainable goal. Many hunters in that region would be happy to simply see more deer while they are hunting. When it comes to your own wants and needs, think about what it is you ultimately wish to accomplish on your property.  Then, evaluate what your property's current short term and long term potential is; writing down its strengths and weaknesses. This will help you come up with a list of goals for the management of the property. 

 

Mineral Sites are an excellent means for not only attracting deer, but also helping bucks maximize their antler potential.

Once you have determined your goals, you can begin formulating a plan to carry them out.  The first thing that I like to do on a property is find out what kind of deer herd I am dealing with.  Although walking the property will give me clues about terrain, available forage, cover etc, there is no way I can accurately inventory the deer herd on a farm without added help.  One of the best tools for helping you do this is a good trail camera.  It will serve as your eyes in the woods….24 hours a day. When selecting a site to place a camera, I always pick an area where I can monitor and check it with minimal pressure to the local deer. This means placing my camera on the fringes of the property; places I can easily drive to or get very close to with my truck, thus minimizing the amount of human scent I leave in the area. This is a key step because the less intrusion I make, the more apt the deer will be to use the area. If placing minerals or attractants is not legal in your state, then pick a location that gets a lot of natural traffic, such as water holes, openings in fences, or where fence-rows meet the woods.  If putting out attractants is legal in your area, then by all means do so. This will increase the number of deer images you capture on your camera. Putting out minerals is also the easiest and cheapest way to establish deer numbers and develop a management plan on your property.  After that, the only decision you will have to make is do you want to simply attract more deer to your property or are you interested in growing bigger and healthier deer?  I know that is a simple question, but remember, we're taking baby steps here. If pure attraction is what you want out of your property, then a product such as Monster Raxx's Whitetail Magnet will work great.  It is a highly concentrated oil based attractant and deer find the sweet smell irresistible. On the other hand, if you want to attract deer, while at the same time, benefit them nutritionally, a product such as Monster Raxx's Trophy Minerals would be a suitable choice. This particular product still has some salt to attract deer, but has many different macro and trace minerals that will help with antler production and doe lactation which will lead to healthier fawns.  Mineral sites serve several roles to a hunter/ land manager. In addition to immediately attracting deer to your area and providing them with a nutritional boost, they help you inventory and keep track of your deer herd by documenting each visitor to the site. Plus they require very little effort on the hunter's part. I can't think of a product that gives a hunter more bang for his buck! 

 This plot was selected to be a "kill plot" inorder to intercept cruising bucks during the rut.

Once you have completed your mineral site setup, you can then begin to evaluate your property's food plot potential. The most important thing to remember is that without a clear picture of what your farm needs or what the conditions are, no one can offer a “catch-all” solution that will work.  The number one reason for food plot failure is improper site and/or forage selection. I cringe when I hear a plethora of different answers to questions regarding “what to plant” or “what to do” to improve a particular plot. While suggestions such as plant clover, plant beans, or add lime CAN be good, first and foremost, site selection and “plot purpose” must be taken into consideration. 
For example, currently I am working on a new plot on a piece of property that presents some unique challenges. I have hunted this particular farm for seven seasons. The entire southwestern corner of the property is roughly made up of 20 acre’s of impenetrable thicket; so thick that I can’t walk through it, much less hunt it.  The northeast section of this farm contains a swamp and holds a lot of deer.  The deer feed to the south in large agricultural fields. The swamp is the sanctuary on the property, so I don't hunt there. The center of the farm has little timber and is difficult to hunt.  I have put in a couple of plots in the center to provide late season forage for the deer.  This year I have decided to utilize the thicket that I haven’t been able to do anything with. 

 Treestand view from the "kill plot".

I have basically cleared out a section of the thicket where several trails crisscross and planted about a 1/3 acre “kill plot” in this section. I plan to utilize this particular area during the rut when I hope to capitalize on bucks cruising from North to South in search of does.  The addition of a plot surrounded by security cover will give wary bucks a spot to stop briefly and scent check for a receptive mate. Also, access to this location is perfect. With a North or Northeast wind I will be able to walk up the tree-line to the west and climb into the stand without alerting any deer to my presence. I cannot stress enough the importance of a covert access when hunting a food plot, or anywhere for that matter.  A good spot with perfect access is better than a great spot with bad access. If the deer know you are hunting them the greenest plot in the world won't do you any good. Once you have selected a location, you must decide on what type of forage to plant. Before doing this please remember to do one thing……A SOIL TEST!  This information will prove to be invaluable.  Not only will it provide you with soil PH, it will tell you soil type and nutrient levels as well. This will help you determine what kind of plot will grow the best on your land. 

After a site has been selected for your new food plot, it is vital to conduct a soil sample test.

In the case of the new plot on my farm, the soil test indicated my PH was low, and the soil was sandy, but organic matter was high. This is fairly typical of plots in the woods that have never been cultivated.  I wanted a clover plot, but typically clovers do better in heavier soils because they need a good amount of moisture. Based on the information in my soil test, I decided on a blend of annual clovers and brassicas, as well as alfalfa and chicory. I want a plot that will have peak attractiveness during the rut; when I plan to hunt it. The clovers and brassicas will provide that attractiveness, while the alfalfa's large roots will help hold moisture that the soil won’t; which allows the clover to attach to and utilize the water in its root system.
There are forages that would be easier to establish, but again I want peak attraction to be late October through November. The annual clovers will provide a quick green-up and will give the plot attractiveness while the lime builds up in the soil to raise the PH. Once the PH reaches 6.5, hopefully by next year, then I will plant a perennial. 

Success is failure turned inside out.  No matter what your goals are for a property, careful planning will make all the difference in the success of your food plots.  It isn't rocket science by any means, and anyone who wants to do it can.  All it takes is effort, determination, and creativity.  Just remember that to reach a destination, you must first know where you are going.  Make a list of management goals for your property, stick to them, and don't cut any corners achieving them.  If done correctly, food plots will be another deadly weapon in your arsenal of tactics. In my next article we will discuss soil testing a little more in-depth and move forward with the over-all food plot construction.

Real Work Lies Ahead for Wisconsin Deer Hunting Makeover

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 15:42

Deer hunters who chronically crab about the Department of Natural Resources were cheering and toasting Dr. James Kroll – the “deer czar” – in early April for his harsh preliminary report on the DNR’s deer-management program.

Meanwhile, the agency’s defenders glared. They attacked the report and Kroll personally. They said this proves he just wants the $150,000 fee, and that he repeated every bad thing Gov. Scott Walker and his toadies dictated about the DNR’s deer program. Not only that, but Kroll’s an egotistical second-guesser who wants to build 8-foot fences around every 5-, 40- and 160-acre hunting property in Wisconsin.

Sigh. Welcome to Year 75 (or thereabouts) of Wisconsin’s mind-numbing deer scrum.

Much work remains before the three-man review team releases its recommendations for revamping Wisconsin's deer program in late June.

Seriously, folks: Stop strutting and pouting. In three months, no one will remember this report. By then we’ll have the final report to cheer or condemn. The sides could switch roles if June’s report turns all those grins and frowns upside down.

Or maybe DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp will email outraged press releases to support her wildlife staff, and condemn the Ph.D.s – Kroll and teammates Gary Alt and Dave Guynn – for being rude. After all, she ripped Democrats and Sen. Dale Schultz in March for allegedly disrespecting the DNR while dooming the proposed Gogebic taconite mine near Mellen.

Of course, few realized Stepp was merely defending her environmental-regs staff against doubts they could protect natural resources near the mine. She said so in a statement to skeptical DNR staff hours later.

In fact, to show Kroll’s team she has her biologists’ backs, Stepp could reuse part of her mining statement, and replace “Democrat state senators” with the trio’s names. Try this: “In the end, don't we trust regulating agencies to do their job? On my travels throughout the state, I have found that most … citizens … trust the DNR to do its job. Why don't Kroll, Alt and Guynn?”

Many Wisconsin hunters have long distrusted the Department of Natural Resources' deer-herd estimates.

OK. Never mind.

Trouble is, many hunters have never trusted state biologists to manage deer, and Stepp won’t challenge those doing so now. She even sat silently as the Legislature stripped the DNR of its most powerful deer-management tools this past year.

But maybe Stepp senses futility in fighting. After all, our hunting forefathers of the 1930s and ’40s even scorned Aldo Leopold, the University of Wisconsin’s first professor of wildlife management. A hunters’ rights newspaper, “Save Wisconsin Deer,” slammed the iconic professor for backing “the infamous and bloody 1943 deer slaughter.” The paper also claimed Leopold admitted his deer estimates “were PURE GUESSWORK.”

Imagine: Poor Aldo was ruining “our deer” before biologists even invented the DNR’s demonized Sex-Age-Kill formula for estimating herd sizes.

Hunters will be called on to help with more boots-on-the-ground research.

But make no mistake: Kroll’s team is correct in saying this entire issue centers on endless arguing over numerical goals and estimates impossible to explain to laymen. If hunters don’t see deer, they blame predators and deer estimates. And before wolves returned the past 15 years, some blamed the Chippewa.

That doesn’t mean the SAK is useless. It just means DNR biologists should leave SAK estimates atop their desks for historical, professional reference. Arguing its art, data and formulas outside the office is a fool’s errand. And yet they’d persist if given the chance.

Kroll’s team correctly emphasizes these needs: more in-depth habitat analysis, better forest management for deer, and hunter-researchers to document browse damage and other deer-related field work.

Dr. James C. Kroll, Stephen F. Austin University

In launching those efforts, perhaps we could intelligently express deer-management goals with criteria such as harvest levels, success rates, deer condition, crop-damage claims, deer-vehicle collisions, and forest health and diversity. People can see, touch and understand such things.

What Kroll’s team can’t ignore, however, is deer baiting. Their report lists the top 15 concerns hunters posted on Kroll’s Web site. Three (20 percent) involve baiting. Of the top five concerns, “Come to a decision on baiting” was No. 4. Yet the report ignores baiting while addressing the other top concerns: “too many predators,” “DNR doesn’t listen,” “inaccurate population estimates” and “eliminate earn-a-buck.”

Was this preliminary report unfair to the DNR? Maybe, but by bluntly listing the problems, Kroll has been able to hold his town meetings (April 16-21) and focus on solutions, not endless grievances.

Those meetings and the recommendations that follow will truly determine if Kroll’s team earns the money Wisconsin’s hunters are paying them.

 

 

 

 

Wisconsin Right to Add Wolf Hunting Season

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 15:21

Wisconsin lawmakers did the right thing in March by adding the gray wolf to Wisconsin’s list of wildlife that can be hunted and trapped.

With wolf numbers beyond 800 and still climbing – and with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ proven record of scientifically regulating furbearer seasons for foxes, coyotes and bobcats – it’s sensible and consistent to allow wolf hunting and trapping.

The new law also lets the DNR’s bureau of endangered resources off the financial hook when wolves kill pets, cattle, calves, horses, hunting dogs, domestic deer and other livestock. Future wolf-depredation payments will come solely from fees paid by hunters and trappers wishing to hunt wolves.

Predator hunting tends to require serious specialists. Generalists tend to quit when a hunt proves difficult.

Those fees will consist of $10 applications to enter drawings for wolf permits, and $50 (residents) and $250 (nonresidents) licenses for those drawing permits. Those fees will fund depredation payments as long as gray wolves stay off state and federal endangered species lists.

In other words, wolves remain with deer, bears, wild turkeys and Canada geese as Wisconsin’s only animals inspiring government-run entitlement programs. What if a raccoon drowns your Dalmatian or a coyote kills your cat? Sorry. Not the state’s problems.

For more than 20 years, farmers losing crops to browsing deer have been eligible for depredation payments bankrolled by hunting-license fees. Likewise, since 1985, farmers and other folks could receive state-paid death benefits when wolves ate their pet, livestock or other “property.”

License fees paid by hunters will be used to compensate people who lose pets to wolves.

Houndsmen can still seek compensation if wolves kill their dogs while they hunt bears, bobcats or raccoons. But if they’re hunting wolves with hounds when their dog dies in action, the state won’t compensate.

Most noteworthy is that the DNR’s endangered-resources program will no longer pay for misbehaving wolves. That’s also consistent and sensible. The bureau has never had much money, and yet it kept making wolf-depredation payments even after Wisconsin delisted wolves in 2004 and the feds first delisted them in 2007.

Why did the endangered-resources bureau pay nearly $887,500 for wolf-killed pets and livestock the past seven years when wolves were no longer endangered or threatened? Because state law required it.

You might recall that former state Sen. Kevin Shibilski, D-Stevens Point, is a bear-hunting houndsman. Shibilski – there’s no “I” in team but there’s three in Shibilski – wrote the provision that states: “For the purpose of payment of damage claims, the gray wolf shall be considered an endangered or threatened species regardless of whether the wolf is listed as such.”

Wolf licenses will cost $50 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The new law repeals that sneaky raid of the endangered-resources program, which has compensated increasingly more wolf damage recently. Although annual payouts averaged $127,000 the past seven years, they nearly tripled from $106,000 in 2009 to $300,000 in 2011, and are expected to hit $320,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the endangered-resources program suffered steady declines the past decade in its two primary funding sources: tax check-offs and specialty license plates. Perhaps it’s coincidence, but taxpayers now have nine additional check-off options for charitable donations, and motorists now have nearly 30 novelty license-plate options.

Going forward, lawmakers are gambling there will be enough interest in wolf hunting and trapping to fund and reduce depredation costs. Who knows how many Wisconsin hunters will want wolf permits? Trapping and predator hunting tend to attract serious specialists. Even if initial interest in wolves is high, dabblers and generalists will likely fade away when permit allocations are minuscule and wolf hunting proves difficult.

Still, here’s one estimate: A DNR study of the wolf bill’s fiscal impacts notes that Idaho issued 26,428 licenses for its first wolf hunt in 2009. Idaho closed the season when reaching its quota. But if interest in wolves parallels bears among Wisconsin hunters, about 100,000 might apply for a permit.

With scenarios ranging from 25,000 to 100,000 applicants, wolf hunting would generate $250,000 to $1 million in application fees. But if the DNR is conservative and issues, say 200 licenses, that’s only $10,000 more.

Those numbers suggest we’ll see tremendous shortfalls in wolf-depredation payments. If so, the new law makes no provision for the unfunded balance. Compensation payments will be made on a prorated, i.e., discounted, basis.

While this new law might prove good for wolves and Wisconsin, don’t expect widespread joy and satisfaction from those losing pets and livestock to wolves..

 

 

 

Wisconsin Misses Chance to Expand Crossbow Hunting

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 15:03

You might assume the Wisconsin Bowhunters Association slept better in March after the Legislature adjourned without loosening crossbow restrictions for the state’s four-month archery deer season.

Pfft! Not a chance. Just as Ahab hunted his white whale till death, so must WBH chieftains stalk the crossbow to their graves. You’ll never persuade them it’s a divisive waste of time, effort and talent.

What’s more troubling is the Department of Natural Resources dodging efforts to expand crossbow use. DNR spokesmen typically say crossbows are a “social” question hunters must decide themselves, even as the agency struggles to control deer across much of Wisconsin’s southern two-thirds.

Lowering the crossbow age limit to 55 from 65 in Wisconsin would increase participation and stabilize license-buying declines.

If that’s not enough contradiction, many legislators and DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp claim they’re forever exploring ways to recruit and retain hunters, and expand hunting opportunities. That’s great, but most agency-directed efforts require patient, perennial educational programs designed to get youngsters off their PlayStations and into the woods.

As much as we need steady, far-sighted programs, we also need simple regulation changes to create opportunities for current or lapsed hunters. That’s why it’s frustrating to see the DNR and lawmakers forgo proposals to lower the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season. Crossbows are only legal during archery season for bowhunters 65 and older, or those with doctor-certified handicaps.

Late archery seasons are a great time to go crossbow hunting.

Talk about missing a chance to please rank-and-file hunter-voters. As Rob Bohmann, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, told lawmakers in February, they’d hit a home run by lowering the crossbow age to 55.

After all, when the Congress floated the idea as an advisory question in April 2010, voters passed it statewide, 2,014 to 1,767, a 53-47 margin. It also passed in county voting, 42-25 (a 63-37 margin), with five counties tied.

When the DNR took that vote and made it a formal proposal at the April 2011 hearings, the WBH rallied its members, hoping to squash it. Instead, the question passed by a wider margin statewide than in 2010, 2,806-2,198, a 56-44 margin. It also passed by a larger margin in county voting, 55-16 (77-23), with one tie.

Even so, the proposal was MIA in autumn 2011 as the Legislature passed other DNR-backed hunting proposals OK’d at April’s hearings.

The Wisconsin Bowhunters Association spent about $8,000 on lobbyists in 2011, with about half of it fighting against crossbows.

What about the age-55 crossbow plan? Well, the most effective lobbying and deal-making might be the kind that prevents legislation from getting drafted. Maybe we should respect the WBH and its lobbyist, Ronald Kuehn of DeWitt Ross & Stevens SC, for persuading lawmakers to ignore the public’s crossbow wishes.

In 2011, the WBH paid nearly $8,000 for 40 hours of lobbying. Government Accountability Board records show about half that effort targeted crossbows and crossbow-related issues. Again, that’s the WBH’s prerogative and destiny. It’s incapable of any other action, given its petrified attitude toward crossbows.

But if the DNR is serious about boosting hunter numbers and license revenues, it should have opposed the WBH and worked with lawmakers to lower the crossbow age to 55 or 50. Granted, no one knows how much that would boost bowhunting participation, but license sales to bowhunters 65 and older rose steadily once Wisconsin first allowed crossbows in 2003.

The Wisconsin DNR and lawmakers ignored public sentiments that favored lowering the crossbow age from 65 to 55 for archery deer season.

Based on that trend, a DNR analysis projected annual archery-license sales would increase by about 1,700 annually if the age were lowered to 55. That’s no sea change, but it would maintain bowhunter numbers, and give more people access to our longest, most opportunity-rich deer season.

Instead, lawmakers passed a bill in March that merely allows crossbows during gun seasons for deer, bear, elk, turkeys and small game. Earlier, on a 60-35 party-line vote, Assembly Republicans rejected anamendment by Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, to lower the crossbow age to 55 for archery deer season.

Milroy said in an interview March 13 that he hopes to work with the WBH and Conservation Congress next year on a compromise, such as a crossbow-specific season requiring a separate license.

Unfortunately, there’s even less chance of the WBH compromising on crossbows than there is of generating new revenues and hunting opportunities from the gun-season bill awaiting Gov. Walker’s signature., 

 

 

 

 

Coyotes Prey Heavily on Southeast’s Deer Fawns

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 14:46

SANDESTIN, Fla. – If you’re a Great Lakes States bowhunter who blames every apparent deer shortage on predators, be thankful you don’t hunt parts of the Southeastern United States. Coyotes in some Southeastern regions prey so heavily on newborn whitetails that less than one in five fawns lives four months.

And if you’re a Great Lakes wildlife biologist discussing predators with your colleagues, ask yourself the last time one of them told you to “Get with it!” or “Get your head out of (long pause) the sand” in public.

Well, many wildlife managers talked that way a few weeks ago at the 35th annual Southeast Deer Study Group meeting, which attracted about 325 deer biologists and researchers from universities, wildlife agencies, and timber companies across the South and northward. I’ve been attending this annual gathering since 1991 because it’s a great source for the latest research on white-tailed deer.

In some parts of the whitetail's Southeastern range, many fawns don’t live to see their third month.

At a forum I attended one night, a speaker asked the audience if coyotes were having significant impacts in their areas. About half the wildlife pros raised their hands. Minutes later, John Kilgo, a wildlife researcher with the USDA Forest Service in South Carolina said:

“My guess is that the skeptics haven’t yet seen places that once had deer but don’t anymore. The data we collected at the Savannah River Site (South Carolina) showed it took a 75 percent harvest reduction by hunters to level the population decline. Also, preliminary research doesn’t show much promise for mitigating coyote impacts on deer by improving and expanding fawning cover, or increasing buffer foods.”

Ten years ago, most Southeastern biologists never thought they’d be worrying about coyotes, which aren’t native to the region. But as coyotes moved in the past 30 years, they adapted, reproduced, and learned newborn fawns were easy prey.

Coyotes can kill deer in winter, but do most of their predation when fawns are less than a week old.

“Coyotes are increasing at rates that remind me of what our deer herds did in the 1980s and ’90s,” said Dr. Charles Ruth, deer project supervisor for South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources. “When I talked to folks 10 years ago, I often said if I could get my foot on our deer herd, I would pull out my knife. Well, I’m kind of having to chill out on that approach.”

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of predator-deer impacts is their wide variability within regions and states. When Kilgo reviewed pre-2005 predation studies across the United States, he found coyote-inflicted mortality on deer averaged 16 percent in Northern states and 44 percent in Southern states.

Black bears killed more fawns than coyotes did in a Wisconsin study.

“The North’s highest mortality rate was 38 percent,” he said. “That doesn’t even reach the South’s average,” he said.

But it’s not consistent across the South, either. A 2008-2011 study on northern Virginia’s Quantico Marine Corps base found 60 percent of fawns lived past three months, and more died of natural causes, 53 percent, than predation, 18 percent.

But in 2011, in the first year of a study at the Fort Bragg Military Institution in North Carolina, researchers reported only five of 27 fawns (18.5 percent) survived their first four months, with 15 of the 22 dead fawns (68 percent) killed by coyotes or bobcats.

How do those studies compare to similar research by the Wisconsin DNR? To refresh, one study site is a 3,500-square mile Northern-forest setting in Sawyer, Price and Rusk counties. The other is a 2,300-square mile east-central farmland setting in Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties.

A Michigan study is finding coyotes to be the whitetail's No. 1 predation risk.

During the first year (2011) of Wisconsin’s Northern study, 27 percent of ID-tagged fawns (eight of 30) survived seven months, with 17 of 30 (57 percent) killed by predators. Five others died of starvation or other causes. The top predator was black bears, with five fawn kills. Unknown predators killed four; hunters, three; bobcats, two; unknown canid, two; and coyote, one.

For perspective, a 1973-1983 study in Minnesota’s northeastern forests found annual fawn survival was 31 percent, not significantly better.

But in the first year of Wisconsin’s east-central farmland study, 62.5 percent of ID-tagged fawns (30 of 48) survived seven months, with eight of the 18 deaths (44 percent) caused by predators. The others died of starvation, six (33 percent); vehicle collisions, three (16.5 percent); and unknown causes, one. The top predator was coyotes, with four fawn kills. Hunters killed two; black bears, one; and unknown, one.

Meanwhile, researchers in Michigan’s south-central Upper Peninsula estimated fawn survival at 37 percent in January 2011after two years of study in Menominee County. With three years of data now in, researchers report 47 of their ID-tagged fawns were killed by four-legged predators.

 Coyotes killed 22 fawns (47 percent of kills), followed by bobcats, 12 (25.5 percent), unknown predators, five (11 percent), black bears, four (8.5 percent) and wolves, four (8.5 percent).

 What to make of all this? Few hunters or biologists will find much comfort or scientific certainty in such varying, ever-changing numbers.

Politics of Bowhunting, Deer Hunting Easy Compared to Crane Hunting

Thu, 04/19/2012 - 09:34

Deer hunting sparks some of the ugliest political fights you’ll ever see, whether it concerns antlerless hunts, deer baiting or opening our archery season to crossbows.

But to see true culture clashes, nothing compares to efforts to open hunting seasons on mourning doves or sandhill cranes. OK, wolves too. But that’s another blog.

Sandhill cranes and Canada geese feed in a central Wisconsin field.

There’s no reasoning with many folks from the birding community when you calmly note their opposition lacks logic. Take Wisconsin, for example. You’d expect that with nine humdrum mourning dove seasons behind us that Wisconsinites could politely discuss a hunt for sandhill cranes.

But no. Mention a sandhill hunt, and folks still cock their fists and get sideways, even though no one’s life crumbled from dove hunting. No one seems to remember that spite vanished like spiced dove breasts on hor devours trays after dove season opened in 2003.

Likewise, if we established a sandhill crane season tomorrow, we’d be yawning by Labor Day. But in proposing a crane hunt this past winter, Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, did Wisconsin hunters no favors by citing crop damage as a hunting justification.

If foraging cranes trouble Kleefisch and his fellow legislators, why did they abolish earn-a-buck rules for deer hunting? No critter rivals deer for damaging crops and plants, and no program whacked whitetails like earn-a-buck.

Sandhill cranes are distinguished by their red-capped head.

In killing EAB, lawmakers parroted my fellow hunters who claimed there aren’t enough deer, and that hunters aren’t pest-control officers. But when the Associated Press asked Marshfield’s Marlin Laidlaw, chairman of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress’s agricultural damage committee, about Kleefisch’s proposal, Laidlaw said sandhill cranes are out of control:

“The problem with the people who don’t understand wildlife and wildlife management, they join an organization and fall in love with a particular species. As far as they’re concerned, you can’t have too many. They just don’t get it. You’ve got to control populations.”

Hmm. Was Laidlaw talking about sandhill cranes or white-tailed deer? For years he loudly opposed EAB and the Department of Natural Resources’ efforts to reduce deer numbers.

We can agree, however, that most people don’t hunt to provide the public free pest-control services. We hunt because it’s exciting and challenging, and provides lean free-range meat no store can match. Granted, when the DNR regulates hunting to prevent critters from becoming a danger or nuisance, that’s a bonus; even a necessity. But it doesn’t motivate most hunters.

 Sandhill cranes can be viewed as both a majestic bird and great table fare.

Meanwhile, protectionists neither help cranes nor their cause by blindly opposing a hunt. Karen Etter Hale, a vice president of Wisconsin’s Audubon Council, told the AP: “If hunters want to further damage their reputation by pushing for yet another species to hunt, then that’s what they should do.”

Yep, that’s right. Stay on your side of the tracks, people. Folks like Etter Hale said the same thing about dove hunting in Wisconsin a decade ago. But a hunting season for a plentiful, large-bodied, good-eating bird isn’t about reputations. It’s about reminding our timid DNR of its historical mission to promote public hunting and fishing when self-sustaining species can provide meat, fur and recreation.

Meanwhile, Madison’s Audubon Society posted a “Sandhill Crane Hunt Alert” on its Web site, encouraging members to contact legislators.

Sigh. Why do people with similar goals hate working together? Hunters and bird-huggers both donate to habitat-conservation causes. Both smile and perk their ears at goose music and crane bugles. And both quote Aldo Leopold more than the Bible.

Well, here’s a Leopold quote bird-folks ignore: “Game management is the art of making land produce sustained annual crops of wild game for recreational use.”

That’s the opening sentence of Leopold’s seminal book “Game Management,” which guided North America’s efforts to replenish the birds and mammals we nearly wiped out 100 years ago through unregulated development, market hunting and subsistence hunting.

In Leopold’s spirit, Etter Hale, Laidlaw and other conservation leaders should seize crane hunting as a chance to work together. First, they should join forces to establish the season, and require hunt applicants to pay $15 and those receiving a permit to pay $25 more. If opponents don’t like hunting, they can apply for permits and burn what they receive.

Next, the state could earmark fees for the International Crane Foundation, and equal amounts for the DNR’s endangered resources bureau, which needs help. Its 2011 budget was $5.9 million, most of it from donations.

That’s only 12 percent of the Wisconsin DNR’s combined budgets for its fisheries bureau, $26.5 million; and wildlife bureau, $21 million. Most of those budgets are funded by anglers, trappers and hunters.

Birders should be emulating that generosity rather than demanding government impose their values on everyone. Besides, as Leopold proved, people can be both hunters and bird-lovers. They can see sandhill cranes both as majestic birds and flying rib-eyes. They acknowledge -- and embrace – life’s apparent contradictions.

The great ones, like Leopold, make it look easy.

 

Titanium Xtreme Bow Sight by Archer Xtreme Product Review

Wed, 04/18/2012 - 12:40

Every year I find a bowhunting sight that I like enough to use for the rest of my life, but each January my curiosity overwhelms me and my Mathews takes on a new look. This year my sight of choice is still unofficial, but the two competitors are the AXT (Archer Xtreme) Carbon Carnivore and the AXT Titanium Xtreme bowhunting sights. As of right now, the Titanium Xtreme is mounted on my new Heli-m but I can’t say for sure which one will be there come the Fall 2012.

Let's take an in-depth look at the Titanium Xtreme bow sight by Archer Xtreme.


The Titanium Xtreme bow sight by Archer Xtreme

The Titanium Xtreme (XT) bow sight is constructed of the strong, ultra-light material we all know as Titanium. The Titanium XT is built on the successful Carbon Carnivore platform with some minor changes. The first, and most obvious, is the switch from carbon fiber to titanium. Titanium is twice as strong as aluminum and 45% lighter than steel. The benefits of titanium (aside from a stronger and lighter material) are that titanium, unlike steel, will not rust and is not easily corroded.

Product engineering never ceases to amaze me in the archery industry. The Titanium Xtreme bow sight is the first sight constructed of titanium and is without question on the cutting edge. The Titanium Xtreme is a “no nonsense” sight. Bow manufacturers are producing light weight bows for back country minded hunters and Archer Xtreme is the front-runner for this trend when it comes to archery accessories. The Titanium XT design is super light weight with unnecessary material cut out around the sight housing and mounting bracket. There is only one slight change that may be beneficial to the design of the Titanium Xtreme and this would be to add a little bit of material to mounting bracket in the X-axis. This would provide a little extra rigidity to the sight and offer archer's some additional peace of mind.


The Titanium Xtreme sight is a light weight, well designed bow sight with clearly defined laser etched graduations and micro adjustment for fine tuning.

The Titanium Xtreme includes all the features that bowhunters expect out of high-end hunting sights. Tool-less windage and elevation adjustment are micro-adjustable. The adjustment knobs produce a very tight and audible “click,” when adjusting the sight housing there is no guessing as to how much adjustment you’re making. The sight housing adjustment blocks are also laser engraved for accurate adjustments. Around the large 2” sight housing is the HV Fiber Guard Ring system, this is a colored sight ring for proper peep sight alignment of the sight housing. The Fiber Guard Ring color can be ordered in fluorescent red, orange or green.


The adjustment knobs allow you to feel and hear each click while adjusting your sigh for windage and elevation.

The Titanium Xtreme includes five .019” diameter pins that come in green, red and yellow super flex fiber-optic. The sight pins of the AXT Titanium Xtreme sight incorporate C.C.P. (Center Core Pin) technology which is a tubular pin with the fiber optic running through the middle, this allows the fiber to be 100% protected at all times, eliminating the issue of broken fibers. The sight pins have an additional 8” of fiber for light accumulation in low-light situations that is neatly stowed out of the way down and around the sight mounting bracket with the Fiber Harness bracket system. Absolute Zero pin-gap spacing is possible for today’s high-speed bows.


Archer Xtreme's Titanium Xtreme sight uses Center Core Pin technology to protect the fiber optics.

One feature that is particularly nice to see included on a high-end bow sight, is the rear mounted LED pin light. The light sits at the very back of the mounting bracket where the sight mounts to the riser of the bow, turning the light on is simple and discrete.


The Titanium Xtreme comes with an LED light already mounted to the sight.

Archer Xtreme’s Titanium Xtreme sight is right/left hand adjustable by reversing the mounting bracket and replacing the bubble level to the top of the pin guard.

All in all, the sight is an excellent choice for the bowhunter looking for a performance driven bow sight. I used the Titanium Xtreme sight to take down my first animal with my Mathews Heli-m, a Rio- Grande turkey in Oklahoma. If you’re looking for a high quality sight to dress up your new bow or simply to upgrade the sight on your old favorite, the Titanium Xtreme by Archer Xtreme is worth a serious look.


My first animal of 2012, an Oklahoma turkey. My sight on this trip was the Archer Xtreme Titanium Xtreme.

Check back next month to see a review of the Carbon Carnivore by Archer Xtreme. You can also watch a video review of this sight and other Archer Xtreme products by clicking here, Archer Xtreme Products 2012.

The Great Crossbow Debate

Mon, 04/16/2012 - 19:44

Over the past several years, few topics have stirred more controversy in the bowhunting community than that of the legalization of crossbows.  From coast to coast, State wildlife agencies are weighing their options and proposing legislation that expands the use of crossbows during hunting seasons.  However, that new legislation is often met by fierce opposition from individuals as well as both national and State bowhunting organizations.  My question is, why all the hate?

Crossbows Aren’t Really Bows

Possibly the most common argument against the legalization of crossbows into archery seasons is that they, in fact, aren’t really bows at all.  Many anti-crossbow advocates claim that due to the nature of their appearance, in that they have a stock and trigger mechanism and are not drawn and held by hand, that crossbows are more like a firearm than a traditional bow.  I must admit, this particular argument has always given me reason to laugh.  I suppose the inclusion of the word “bow” in the word “crossbow” isn’t quite good enough for some people, so let’s delve a bit deeper.

As defined in Webster’s Dictionary, a firearm is “a weapon from which a projectile can be discharged by an explosion caused by igniting gunpowder”.  The last time I checked, crossbows did not use gunpowder or any other exploding substance to fire a projectile.

When looking up the definition of the word “bow” in the same Dictionary you will find “a weapon for shooting arrows, consisting of an arch of flexible wood, plastic, metal, etc bent by a string fastened at each end”.  This definition certainly seems more applicable to modern crossbows, which use bowed limbs and a string to fire an arrow, don’t you think?


String and arrow?  Check.  Gunpowder?  Negative.

Many State and local bowhunting organizations who are opposed to crossbow use often define the word “bow” for their own internal purposes.  In doing so, many clearly state that a bow is only a bow when it is hand drawn and hand held.  Despite how these groups seek to define the word for their own agendas, the definition of this word in the English language poses no restrictions on the method by which the string is drawn or held.


Historic crossbows, dating back as far as 400 B.C. look about as much like today's modern crossbows as modern compounds look like historic longbows.

Another comparison made between crossbows and firearms is their effective hunting range.  Many anti-crossbow advocates claim that modern crossbows can be used to shoot 200 or even 300 yards.  Clearly these people are misinformed.  In fact, most modern crossbows have an effective hunting range of 30-40 yards for most shooters, which is about the same as a modern compound bow.

Remember, we’re talking about bow HUNTING here.  While the method by which the arrow is fired may differ, it does not detract from the fact that you need to put yourself within shooting distance of your quarry before you can be successful.  While a crossbow can make the execution of the shot easier, it is by no means a guarantee of success.  There are plenty of crossbow hunters out there who have eaten tag soup and can attest to that.

Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Moving on from the bow versus firearm debate, the next most common arguments against crossbows all seem to originate from two things; fear and selfishness.  A quick search on the Internet for articles and comments about crossbows and crossbow hunting turns up a myriad of unfounded fears and accusations.  Fear that allowing crossbows in archery seasons will ruin our bowhunting heritage, shorten our seasons, destroy our wildlife populations, and cause our woods to be overrun by unsafe hunters.  It seems to me that the only thing we should be afraid of is our own ignorance.

Let us first take a look at some of the numbers behind the great crossbow debate.  When discussing the expansion of crossbow hunting, many of those who are opposed often rely on potential figures rather than actual numbers.  In my opinion, this is not only irresponsible but also only works when you are attempting to gain supporters through fear and ignorance.  Consider Pennsylvania as an example.

In 2009 crossbows were made legal for use during all archery seasons in the Keystone State.  Prior to this legislation passing, there was much controversy over the potential effects to the State’s deer population and harvest numbers.  Representatives of the United Bowhunters of Pennsylvania went on record saying they expected as many as 200,000 new bowhunters to enter the woods over the next three seasons should the new crossbow legislation pass.  This, as intended, sent thousands of bowhunters across the state into an uproar and threw gasoline on the proverbial fire.


Crossbows?  Not in OUR archery season!

A year later, after the smoke had cleared and hunting seasons had ended, Pennsylvania issued a report that there was indeed an increase in archery license sales in the 2009 season.  However, the increase was just over 15,000 new license sales, not 200,000.  In fact, 2009 archery license sales in Pennsylvania were only 401 more than nearly a decade earlier in 2001.  In 2010 archery license sales increased by just over 3,000 and in 2011 archery license sales rose by another 8,277 units.  These past three years of increases have stimulated Pensylvania’s archery license sales, which had been in decline prior to the legalization of crossbows.  To date, there has been a 9.75% increase in the amount of licenses sold since the crossbow legislation was passed.  This increase is a far cry from the 74% growth predicted by the UBP.

The Pope & Young Club, one of the oldest and most well respect bowhunting groups in the world, has taken a clear stance against crossbow use in archery seasons.  According to their website: “the Pope and Young Club considers the use of crossbows during bowhunting seasons to be a serious threat to the future of bowhunting.”   Apparently their view on crossbows is as antiquated and backwards as their scoring system. 

Despite the addition of 15,000 more archery hunters in the 2009 season, overall harvest numbers in Pennsylvania fell by nearly 27,000 total deer that year.  In 2010 the total deer harvest climbed back to 316,000, which was still shy of 2008’s pre-crossbow number of 335,000 and well below Pennsylvania’s peak deer harvest of 517,000 whitetails in 2002.  Clearly, the legalization of crossbows during archery season has had little to no effect on overall deer harvest across the State. 

Not to single out Pennsylvania as the only state to provide evidence that crossbows don’t cause massive spikes in hunter participation or harvest numbers, let’s take a look at Ohio.  The Buckeye state has allowed crossbows as a legal weapon for hunting since 1976.  Surely more than three decades of data should be able to give us an insight into the true effect of crossbows in archery seasons, no?

Going back to 2005, crossbow hunters accounted for 16% of Ohio’s whitetail deer harvest that fall.  During the same year, traditional bow hunters (those using “vertical” bows) accounted for just over 12% of the total harvest.   In 2010 crossbow hunters had grown to account for 18% of Ohio’s deer harvest, while vertical bowhunters accounted for just over 17%.  What this means for those of you keeping score at home, is that over a 6 year period from 2005 to 2010 the crossbow harvest of Ohio whitetails grew by just over 2 %, while the vertical bow harvest grew by more than 5%.  While there is no doubt that both segments are continuing to grow each year, the number of deer being harvested with vertical bows is actually growing at a faster pace than those taken with crossbows. 

Despite the legal use of crossbows during archery season in Ohio their whitetail population is flourishing.  In 2009 more than 260,000 whitetails were harvested in Ohio which was a new all-time record, set 33 years after the legalization of crossbows.  Although the recorded whitetail harvest has dropped to just 219,000 whitetails from the 2011/2012 season, most people attribute this to new regulations which no longer require you to check your deer in at a check station, but instead provide the option to do it over the phone or online.
As the saying goes, the numbers don’t lie.  In states where crossbows are 100% legal during archery season, we have seen no evidence of a drop in overall deer numbers or an unmanageable increase in hunter numbers.  So why all the worry?


Each year Ohio produces a considerable number of trophy whitetails
such as this, despite the legalized use of crossbows in archery season
for over 30 years.

Unfortunately hunters are a selfish lot; especially bowhunters.  Despite our extended seasons and liberal bag limits, it never seems to be good enough to satisfy our needs.  We want more deer to hunt, bigger deer to hunt, and more land all to ourselves to do it on.  In my opinion, these are three of the primary reasons people oppose crossbow hunting, but are too afraid to admit.  After all, it’s easier to spread false claims and fear monger than it is to admit you’re selfish person, isn’t it?

Let’s take a look at the hypocrisy around the fear of too many hunters in the woods.   Many groups, like the UBP, fear that there will be an increase in the amount of crossbow hunters in the woods during “their” archery season.  This of course increases hunter pressure on the whitetail population and decreases the amount of land per hunter, making it more difficult to harvest an animal.  None of this has anything to do with proper management of the whitetail population or concern for the health of the herd as a whole, but rather concern for the individual’s own chances for success. 

Where it becomes hypocritical is when many of these anti-crossbow advocates claim to be worried about the alleged decline of hunters and future of hunting as a whole.  Their goals and mission statements are to help fight anti-hunting and grow the sport of bowhunting – so long as you conform to their rules and their way of thinking.  If you don’t, well then I guess growing hunter numbers isn’t really that important after all.

The Eye of the Beholder

The final topic I want to cover, and one that I feel very passionate about, is the claim that crossbows diminish the experience and heritage of bowhunting.  I’ve found that this particular topic is often most difficult to debate, as there are no facts or figures to support either side.  However, that fact in itself should be enough to prove how ignorant this belief is.

Everyone hunts for their own reasons.  Whether you take to the woods with a longbow, compound, crossbow, rifle or shotgun, you do so for your own reasons.  Some do it for the solitude of a cold morning in a treestand, while others do it for the camaraderie of deer camp.  Some do it for the thrill and challenge of stalking their quarry at eye level, while others do it to put meat on the table for their family.  Whatever our reasons are for hunting, they are ours alone.  Nobody can tell us how to feel or what type of experience we should have depending on the weapon in our hand.  Those who seek to tell us that the quality of our experiences should be dictated by their beliefs are sadly misguided.


While my weapon of choice remains the compund bow, my love for hunting and the outdoors extends far beyond the weapon I carry into the field.

For me, my experience is directly related to the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel after harvesting an animal with archery equipment.  My bow is an extension of who I am as a hunter and I will hunt with a compound bow so long as I am physically able.  That is who I am, and those are my ideals.  I do not force them on others, nor do I judge those who don’t share them with me.  Instead, I offer my support and encouragement to any hunter who enters the woods, regardless of which manner weapon they chose.

I strongly encourage everyone that reads this who does not support the use of crossbows during archery seasons to reconsider their beliefs.  We may all choose different paths, but in the end they all lead to the same place.

Turkey Hunting Basics: “A Beginners Guide to Chasing Long-Beards”

Wed, 04/11/2012 - 14:25

Your bow in hand and arrow nocked, the horizon in the Eastern sky begins turning pink and orange, the gobbles in the trees above tell you the game is about to begin. Are you ready? In this “Beginner’s Guide to Chasing Long-Beards,” you’ll learn six simple tips guaranteed to help your turkey bowhunting career more successful.

Turkey Tip No. 1: Do your scouting homework.
The single most important part of being a successful turkey hunter is having an idea where your birds are and what they’re doing. There is simply no substitute for quality scouting if you want to be a successful turkey hunter, but what is “quality scouting?”
Quality scouting is having a pretty decent idea as to what your birds are doing throughout the day, not just where they roost or where they feed. If you know where they want to be, you can be waiting at that spot before they get there and that alone will put the odds in your favor.
Finding a roost is the easiest part of scouting, you simply follow your ears to where the birds are before sunrise or after sunset. Turkeys love to roost near water, whether it is a creek, stream, river or pond. Turkeys also prefer to roost in Cottonwoods, large Oaks or other mature trees. Hunting the roost can be incredible, but often times the action is early and short lived as the birds move out. Turkeys typically fly down out of the roost 15-20 minutes prior to sunrise, sometimes earlier or later, but 15-20 minutes is fairly standard. Wind, rain and cloud cover are all factors that will affect how early or late the birds will come down out of the roost. There aren’t many things in the outdoors that are more exciting than sitting within 50 yards of a roost tree full of gobbling birds when it is turkey season. When the birds come down out of the tree, they’ll peck around for a few minutes waking up and then begin to strut for the ladies. The hens will promptly begin leading the toms (strutting all the way of course) to the feeding area where they’ll show up an hour or two after daybreak. Depending on the weather conditions, the birds may stay in the field for the duration of the day, but most likely they’ll take a little break to hang out in a shady location before heading back to the field (or other food source) in the afternoon. From the feeding area, they’ll begin to work their way back to the roost to spend the night. Turkeys will generally have several “roosting” trees in a given location; this area will almost always be used unless the birds are continually pushed off the roost or spooked out of the area before dark.

 
Using your Stealth Cam trail camera is a great way to scout for turkeys while you're at work or school.

Turkey Tip No. 2: Don’t give up in the middle of the day.
The majority of bowhunters are deer hunters, and as deer hunters we’ve been trained that daylight and dusk are our best opportunities to harvest animals, and while this may be true with crepuscular animals such as deer, it doesn’t hold as true with turkeys. Mid-day and early afternoon often provide better opportunities at calling in a Tom. Sometime in the mid to late morning the hens and toms will separate, either because the hens are going to nest, or because the toms are giving up on the hens that are unwilling to breed. As the season progresses on, typically, the birds will spend less time together in the mornings and evenings because the hens that have been bred leave to sit on their nest. This is the best opportunity to call in a long-beard, this is the time during the day that you will have the least competition with live hens… and that is a good thing.

During these warmer, slower hours of mid-day, you can increase your chances significantly if you have an idea where the birds tend to “loaf.” “Loafing” is often times a shady area on the edge of a field where the birds hang out and pass the time. If you can place yourself where the turkeys naturally want to be at any given time during the day, you will give yourself many more opportunities as success, guaranteed. Calling a tom to a location that he already wants to be, without the distraction of live hens is the perfect scenario for a turkey hunter. Remember, your goal for scouting prior to the hunt was to know where the birds want to be throughout the day, so that you can beat them to that location.


During the middle of the day turkeys like to "loaf" in shaded areas, if you know where these areas are, success is just around the corner.

Turkey Tip No. 3: Don’t be afraid to use a push-button turkey call.
Turkey calling can be as exciting as it gets when it’s good and it can also make you want to pull your hair out when it’s tough. Fortunately for turkey hunters, we don’t have to be world champion turkey callers to get the job done. There are four main types of calls that turkey hunters have access to: diaphragm calls, box calls, friction (slate) calls and a push-button call. All of these calls have advantages and disadvantages over the others, but as turkey bowhunters, let us discuss the two best calls for bowhunting turkeys.

The diaphragm call (or mouth call) is the favorite of many experienced turkey callers because it gives you a great deal of tone versatility and it can be 100% hands free. When you need to make a cluck and you’re at full draw, the diaphragm call is the only call that can make that happen. You can switch out diaphragm calls for different wind conditions or just different sounds altogether. The down side of the diaphragm turkey call is that it takes, by far, the most time to become proficient. For beginning hunters, it is a great idea to practice the diaphragm from the beginning (while practicing the easier calls), but don’t feel like you have to take it to the field until you’re ready. Keep in mind, turkeys all sound different, similar to a human voice or the bugle of a bull elk, so you don’t have to sound “perfect.”
Perhaps the best option for beginning turkey bowhunters is the push-button call. This call gets overlooked by lots of people because they see the push-button turkey call as a “child’s” call. The push-button call takes only one hand to operate and has an almost fail-proof design. Simply push the button to make the cluck, yelp, purr, putt or whichever call you like. This call is by far the easiest to learn and sounds great as well. With a few minutes practice you will have all the skills you need to call in and kill a gobbler with your bow.

Turkey Tip No. 4: Patience equals success.
The number one mistake that turkey hunters make is being impatient. When birds are gobbling and moving all around, it’s easy to get caught up in the action and get in a hurry. The best example of this is when you’re calling to a tom that you know is close. You call, he gobbles, you call, he gobbles, you call, and he goes quiet. We all want to hear that tom gobble every time we call; it reassures us that he hasn’t vacated the area. Lots of turkey hunters give up when a bird goes quiet, big mistake. More often than not, the bird is expecting you (the hen) to come looking for him, and most likely, he didn’t leave. Be ready, sit tight and he’ll either come in silently or when he gets tired of looking for you, he will gobble. Don’t be afraid to give him 20 minutes (or more) of silence before making a move. Practice patience and you will bag more turkeys, period.


Bowhunting.com Staff member Dan Schafer excercised patience to wait for these birds to get into range.

Turkey Tip No. 5: Don’t overcall.
Turkey calling is fun, but keeping your calling to a minimum is best, try not to call more than every 10-15 minutes. Learn to putt, purr, yelp and cackle and use them in that order. The majority of the sounds turkeys make are putts (not warning putts) and purrs, then the yelp and occasionally the cackle. If putts and purrs aren’t working, then mix in yelps with your putts and purrs. Saving the excited cackle for a tough bird is a great strategy, don’t pull out the “trick play” until you’re in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. When you do get the attention of a bird and you can see him coming, quit calling. He knows you’re there and is obviously interested, if he stops give some putts and purrs to keep his attention. If you continue calling, you risk him holding up to wait for the hen (you) because you’re too vocal. The tom will be in range shortly, don’t push him.


When a bird is coming in on a string, it's time to be quiet and pick up your bow.


Turkey Tip No. 6: Lower your draw weight.
Bowhunters often get caught up in the speed and momentum or KE that their bow setup produces. Obviously, turkeys are smaller animals than the big game animals that most bowhunters chase, and the need for speed and hard hitting arrows is little to none. Far more important is being able to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time, especially if you’re not in a ground blind. You may have one opportunity to draw and then have to wait for the bird to enter your shooting lane, not being over bowed will allow you the holding time to make the shot count.


Lowering your draw weight will allow you to hold your bow at full draw for an extended period of time.

Bowhunting Products for Turkey Hunters
Every magazine you pick up or turkey hunting website you visit has hundreds of products that you could spend your money on. Here are a few of the products that could be considered “must-have” products for the turkey bowhunter.


New Archery Products – Spitfire Gobbler Getter Broadhead

 Avian X Turkey Decoys by Zink Calls

 


 A-Way Turkey Trooper 2000 Deluxe Turkey Call

Ameristep Lost Camo Blind


CamoFX Lost Camo face paint


ThermaCELL Mosquito Repellent

 


Sawyer Permethrin clothing spray mosquito protection

Turkey Decoying to the Next Level

Mon, 04/02/2012 - 19:04

As turkey season is nearing this spring, majority of hunters that take to the woods will be carrying a turkey decoy or a whole flock of decoys. There is no questioning their effectiveness at fooling a long beard, but in this article we will cover tips and tactics that will take your decoying to the next level.

Questions turkey hunters ask themselves as they head to the woods each day is how many decoys do I use? Single or multiple hen decoys? Do you use a Jake, or a full strut decoy with hens? Where do you place them? How far do you set them away from your set up? To answer these questions we will first break it down, taking it one step at a time.

To help explain how to take your decoying to the next level, we broke the spring season down into time frames and explain what the turkeys are often doing this time of the year. This time frame is based on over eighteen years of observation here in the Midwest, if you live farther south, you will more likely see these events occurring earlier in the spring.

The biggest key to success with utilizing your decoys will be based upon what the birds are doing in your area at that given time. Even though the dates might be earlier or later based upon your geographical region, pay extra attention to what the birds are doing in your area. Locate below the description that best matches what the turkeys in your area are doing and base your turkey decoy tactics based upon the recommendations below.

Decoys are a must have tool when archery hunting turkeys


April 1st – May 1st

Flock Observation:

During the early spring from March to the beginning of April, majority of the birds are located in large flocks. You may see a flock of ten or more long beards hanging together; as it gets closer to April you will see more interaction between toms and hens. Seeing three to five toms in full strut with a dozen hens at this time of year is not uncommon.

Paying attention to what the turkeys in your area are doing and what you see in the flocks will dictate the decoy tactics that you will utilize. In the early part of the season here in my home State of Wisconsin, you will often see several toms strutting together with a flock of hens.

This is the stage of the breeding season that is similar to bachelor groups of bucks, the toms are still tolerant of each other and the dominant tom is willing to allow his subordinate buddy to hang out with him and his flock of hens.

Decoying Tactics:

Even though they are tolerant of each other they have worked out their pecking order in the flock. If you are seeing two or more toms strutting together in your hunting area, is when a full strut decoy with two or more hens will be the most effective.

By placing a full strut decoy with several fake ladies will eat away at the dominant tom. Your strutting fake also gives the subordinate toms an opportunity to maintain a higher position in the dominance chain by whooping the butt of your fake strutter.

Place the strutting decoy close to several hen decoys. We prefer to use a feeding and a breeding hen position decoys. For best results for a shot opportunity, place the strutting decoy facing you. As the jealous toms approach your set up, often they will come in at the shoulder or wing side of the decoy. They will often work their way up to the head of the decoy. This position will draw the attention away from you allowing you an opportunity to make your final movement before you make your shot.

As you reach later in this time period, we often find that a half strut or a three quarter strut Jake decoy works better than a full strut decoy. As the spring draws on, dominant toms begin to become less tolerant of their buddies and begin picking more and more on them eventually driving them from the flock. Because of this, some of the subordinate toms become more leery of picking a fight. So you will want to tone down the dominance of your decoy, a subordinate tom and his buddy may tuck tail and run from a strutting decoy but may feel like a tough guy to a less superior Jake decoy.

If you are working two or more toms, try a jake decoy with hens to make them jealous

May 1st- Mid May

Flock Observation:

At this time you will see more birds strutting by themselves or with several hens. Occasionally there will be two long beards together at the beginning of this stage; however by now most toms are no longer tolerant of their sidekicks like they were earlier in the season. This is also the time of year that the hens begin nesting. They go off and leave the toms to sit on their nests or they don’t hang with the flock for as long in the morning as they did earlier in the season.

Watch the flocks in your area, if you’re seeing more single toms or a tom with smaller amount of hens there is a good chance you are in this phase of the decoying season.

Decoying Tactics:

Since the toms are no longer tolerant of each other, you would think that a tom or a jake decoy would work best, however experience says differently. At this time of the season the majority of the subordinate toms have experienced their share of butt whooping, and will more than likely be turned away by a tom or jake decoy.

A tom or jake decoy will work if you’re calling the dominant tom in the area; however for one dominant tom you may have five or more subordinate toms. If you are like me I would rather play the odds in my favor and not use a male decoy that may spook one of the subordinate toms in the area.

At this stage in the breeding season your best results will come with a single hen or a flock of hen decoys. This is the time of the spring it is best to lighten your load and leave the tom decoy at home unless you are working a flock with two or more toms.

Later on in the spring less can be more, don't be afraid to use just a single hen


Mid May- End of May

Flock Observations:

At this time of the season you will often see a single tom strutting by himself or they may just have a couple of hens with him. It’s also not uncommon to see just one single hen by herself feeding in a field.

This is when the hens nesting is in full swing, the flocks are no longer and the birds have a tendency of doing their own thing, whether it be a single long beard strutting or just a single hen feeding by herself before she heads back to her nest in the morning.

Decoy Tactics:

At this time of the year less is more. Since it is uncommon to see flocks of birds hanging out together at the end of spring, we have experienced better results with just a single hen decoy.

Long beards are out looking and hanging out in their strut zones at this time of year hoping to pick up the last of the hens to breed before the season is over.

If you are hunting in a heavily hunted area they have pretty much seen every decoy and heard every call in the books by this time of the year. Your plan of attack if this is familiar to your situation is to tone down the calling and keep it simple. A lone feeding hen decoy is all you need, don’t overdo it this time of the year, keep it simple and cover ground looking for a lonely long beard.

Conclusion of Seasonal Set-ups:

The biggest piece of advice that we can give you is watch what the flocks in your area are doing and match your decoy set up to what you’re seeing around you. If you’re seeing several toms together and the season is early, don’t be afraid to go with a strutting decoy with hens.

As the season progresses and the flocks continue to break up and you’re seeing more single toms with hens, leave the strutting decoys at home and continue using a single hen or a flock of hen decoys.

When you begin seeing single toms with only a handful or less of hens, or seeing more lone hens in your area, we recommend leaving the flock at home and pack light. Just carry a single hen decoy for your best results.

One thing we do want to mention is that these are recommendations based upon years of experience and there are always exceptions to the rules because the only thing predictable with turkeys is that they are unpredictable.

In other words you may be able to bring in a long beard using a strutting decoy at the end of the season; however we like to have the odds in our favor. I’m not saying a strutting decoy won’t work at the end of the season, but you will have better odds with just a single hen than risking spooking a subordinate long beard that has already received a butt whooping from his buddies for the last three weeks.

A good rule of thumb is if you know you will be working two or more long beards hanging together, it is a safe bet to go with a jake decoy with several hens.

Decoy Placement:

Regardless of the time of year we like to keep our decoys close. If we are using a full pop-up ground blind and hunting with the bow, we will often keep the decoys 5 to 10 yards from the blind. If we are just sitting next to a tree or using a gun, often we try to keep the decoys from 10 to 15 yards away.

The reason for keeping the decoys close is just in case the tom hangs up and decides to make the decoys come to him; often he is still within range of the weapon of choice. This also holds true if the gobbler comes in and sees something that he doesn’t like. If you keep the decoys closer to you, you have a better chance of him being in range before he makes up his mind and bolts for the hills.

The other reason we like to keep the decoys close is that if we are “Cutting n’ Running” we often find ourselves scrambling to set up before the hot gobbler comes in. By keeping the decoys close we run less of a risk bumping the hot bird while running out to set up the fakes.

By placing the decoys behind you, forces the long beard to look down the road at the decoys, past your set-up

The next tactic we love to deploy is what we refer to as the “Walk past set-up”. This decoy set up is ideal for logging or access roads. If you’re hunting a long narrow open stretch of terrain such as a power line right of way or a logging road and a turkey gobbles in front of you down the logging road, we will place the decoys 10 to 15 yards behind us down the logging road.

By placing the decoys behind your set up which is on the side of the logging road, the long beard is looking past you at the decoys, this will cause the tom to almost walk right on top of you as he closes the distance to the decoys. This tactic will literally put him in your lap, but be careful not to let him get so close to you that you cannot move without being busted.

Tips for Productive Decoys:

As with any decoys, realism is the key. We have all driven by a field and seen another hunter’s set up with their decoys in the field. If we can tell from several hundred yards away that those are decoys in the field, you can bet a bird with an eye sight five times better than ours can definitely tell something isn’t right with that set up.

With modern technology, turkey decoys are becoming more realistic than ever. Some of the most realistic decoys on the market are Avian X by the Zink Company and the Dave Smith Turkey Decoys. They are very realistic decoys, but be prepared to take out a small loan to buy the whole flock.

Another tip for owning a flock of high quality realistic fakes is to buy in the buddy system. I along with two very close hunting partners all bought a decoy. We often hunt together and enjoy the hunt as a group, when we combine our decoys we now have a flock of the most realistic decoys on the market.

Avian X decoys by Zink Calls offers a truly realistic decoy



To make your decoys look even more realistic you can always add your own feathers to your decoys. Some companies allow you to use a real turkey fan for more realism. There is also a company that makes a product that is basically a cape of turkey feathers to be placed over your existing decoy.

If you’re real handy you can always make your own stuffer decoy for the most realistic decoy out there. By having a taxidermy back ground, several years ago I and some friends got clever and skinned out a turkey cape. We then tanned the cape and glued it on to one of our strutting decoys. We then bolted on some real wings with a real tail fan. We have used our homemade stuffer we named “KJ” for several years with great success. Even though KJ has taken a real beating over the years he is still working like he did the first day we made him.

Next is decoy body positions, hen decoys come in three to four different positions. The one position that we try to avoid is the head straight up or alert position. If you have ever been busted by a turkey you have quickly learned that when a bird sees something they don’t like the crane their neck strait up to get a better look. To me this is an alert position, and we much prefer a more relaxed looking flock or single hen. To vary the look of your flock the best positions are the feeding and the breeding position.

Movement adds realism to your decoys. If you are using more than one decoy you will get better results with more movement in your decoy set. If you watch a flock of turkeys you will see some feeding, some standing still, and even some flapping and stretching their wings. There is more movement visible with more birds in a flock.

To make your flock move with realism look for decoys such as those with a bobble head, or even a bobbing tail, also the lighter decoys will waddle beautifully under the right amount of breeze to bring your flock alive.

Conclusion:

Turkey decoys can be the difference from a hunt or a hunt of a life time. If you have never tried using decoys, you’re missing out on some real excitement. Decoys can pull a long beard that would ignore your sweet calling but couldn’t resist seeing an intruder with his ladies clear across the field, serving your next long beard up on a silver platter.

Just like your favorite turkey calls or even your weapon of choice, you won’t want to be in the turkey woods without a decoy. You may not necessarily use a decoy on every set up, but at least you will have it in case you need it.

The key to taking your decoying to the next level is as simple as paying attention to what the turkeys are doing around you. These simple observations will dictate whether you will want to use a whole flock or just a single hen.

Live From the Wisconsin Deer Classic

Sat, 03/31/2012 - 17:56

The 2012 Wisconsin Deer Classic is just over halfway over and it's been on HECK of a show so far!  The attendance has been incredible so far.  There's times where you can barely walk down the isles there's so many people here to enjoy the big bucks, good food and hunting gear.  We've met literally thousands of people the past two days, and we're looking forward to meeting more tomorrow!  If you come to the show make sure you stop by to sign up for our sweepstakes - we're giving away a Mathews bow and a Lone Wolf treestand!


The Johnny King buck made an appearance at the booth for awhile.  Is this the rightful world record typical?  B&C says no. 


Even the kids love Bowhunting.com!


Todd with the lucky winner of a new Can Cooker!


Stop by and pick up a poker chip.  You could be the lucky winner!


This monster was shot near Fon Du Lac this past season.  You may have seen photos of it floating around the Internet for awhile.


Yeah, there's a LOT of deer here.


This buck's got the mass.


These girls are showing Bowhunting.com some good support!


One of my favorite deer of the show so far.  A great 6 1/2 year old Wisconsin brute.


If you like high racks, this buck is pretty incredible!


Now that's a lot of bone!


Click here if you want to see even more photos from the 2012 Wisconsin Deer & Turkey Expo!

An Introduction to Outdoor Photography

Fri, 03/30/2012 - 15:19

It was that time of year that deer hunters across the country dream about; mid-November, overcast, temperatures in the upper 30s and a little breezy.  The weather was perfect.  I was set up downwind of a sanctuary that I knew several bucks felt comfortable moving in and out of during the daylight and, coupled with the time of year and weather conditions, I had high hopes for the afternoon’s hunt.  I caught movement coming out of the sanctuary a little early than I expected, about 3:30, but I certainly wasn’t going to complain.  A quick glance through my binoculars revealed the sex of the whitetail; perfect, a buck.  

I was downwind and he was clueless of my existence.  I took a deep breath and calmly grabbed my weapon, all the while keeping my eyes locked on him as to immediately freeze should he peg my location.  He aimlessly crossed the steep ditch that separated his safety net from my stand location, and I slowly shifted my position to ready myself for the upcoming shot.  He was at 20 yards, but the angle was poor and I knew he’d come closer.  Finally, he stopped at 8 yards and began munching on acorns.  This was it, the perfect shot, the perfect angle, it was now or never.  Quietly, I focused on the unaware buck and... CLICK! Perfect!  I had just executed the shot on an unexpecting whitetail buck, what could better? 

This "soon-to-be" giant buck made the mistake of stopping right underneath my treestand in mid-November.  I took several photos of him that afternoon as he munched on acorns and kept me company for hours.

Well, several things could have been better.  For one, I could have “shot” the buck with my bow, not my camera, and two, the buck could have been bigger than a button buck, but I was thrilled nonetheless.  For me personally, hunting whitetail deer and photography are one in the same.  They both provide me with an inexplicable amount of satisfaction and enjoyment. Conversely, they are a skill and passion of mine that I will never fully understand and master, and do quite well knowing that.   

That being said, I’m sure the majority all of us have been outdoors, not even hunting I’m sure, and the natural world struck us with such beauty and awe, that we felt compelled to take a picture.  There’s no such thing as a bad picture, except a picture not taken.  The world famous Ansel Adams once authored this quote, “There are no rules for good photographs, just good photographs.”  I agree wholeheartedly.  However, since outdoor photography is art, a form of personal expression, I  wouldn’t feel comfortable authoring a “How To: Outdoor Photography” article, but I’ve learned enough through trial and error (many errors) on how to get the most out of your outdoor, landscape, scenic and hunting related photographs.

Rules of Composition

As stated above, I don’t feel comfortable at all writing an article telling you how you should go about taking your photos.  We’ve all been blessed with a creative mind, some more so than others, but it would be repulsive of me to claim to stake as an omniscient photographer, because there is no such thing.

There are however, a few rules that should be followed to get the most out of your photos, the rules of composition.  A poorly structured photo can turn a beautiful image into a train wreck.  

Rule of Thirds

The first and most common rule is the rule of thirds which states that you should place the most important subjects of your photo along 9 equal, imaginary segments broken down by two vertical and horizontal imaginary lines.  This adds depth, interest and balance to your photo, and can help tell a more involved story opposed to a subject centered image.

An example of how the rule of thirds helps balance the photo.

Ascending or Descending Lines

A little quality time in a treestand will tell you that we live in a vertical world.  It makes sense, because everything grows towards the sun, so it’s only natural that our eyes are drawn to lines.  Keeping these lines in mind when taking photos can greatly determine how we look at a photograph and the best part is, it’s up to the viewer to determine what each line means and how it tells a story within a photo.

An example of descending lines can take your eyes straight to the subject of the photo.

Viewpoint

Experimenting with different viewpoints is a very fun and unique way to develop your own creative photography style.  When outside shooting photos, we often feel rushed to get the perfect shot, without taking into consideration how the image could look if we changed our view point.  Changing your viewpoint can be easily done by shooting your subject at an angle, from an elevated position or from ground level.  Again, it’s your creative decision.  Photography is starting to sound pretty cool now, isn’t it?

I dropped down to my knees to capture this photograph.  Simply standing and shooting down at my dad's hand wouldn't have created such a dramatic effect.

Depth

Depth is perhaps my favorite photography “rule” simply because the majority of my photos are meant to tell a story, and adding depth to an image is a great way to do so.  Altering your framing as to place different subjects at varying distances in the foreground, middle ground, or background (or all three) adds depth to the story literally, as well as figuratively.  Another cool photography technique is using one subject to block, or reveal (your creative mind will decide that for you), another subject.  Again, this is another cool way to tell a story with an image.  

There are two subjects in this photo, one the foreground and one in the background.  Combined, the two come together to tell a story about the hunter and his beliefs.

Another shot where depth helps tell a more complete story.

Photography Equipment

In a world powered by social media, beautiful outdoor images pop up in our news feed and timelines regularly.  That’s because the technology in cameras continues to evolve making photography easier to learn and practice, more user friendly.  Fantastic photos can be taken with small point and shoots, and even mobile devices can capture a beautiful image. 

However, if you’re truly interested in outdoor photography, you’re going to need much, much more than those devices.  A point shoot can’t gather enough light to do a sunset justice, and your iPhone isn’t capable of the long exposures required to capture starlit nights.   

Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) cameras are becoming more and more popular, because they are becoming cheaper, easier to use and are capturing incredible images like never before.  What body you decide on is a lot like what bow you decide to shoot, it’s purely a personal preference.  Some cameras just feel better in hand to some photographers, while others don’t.  The bottom line is the camera doesn’t make a great shot, the photographer manning the camera does.

Before purchasing a camera and lens, develop a budget with which you are comfortable.  When making purchase decisions, however, remember that a quality lens is far more important that the camera body.

Many folks who are new or inexperienced in the world of photography mistakenly think that a camera body is the most important piece of equipment needed for their arsenal, when in reality they couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Yes, a camera body is important, of course, but it takes a figurative back seat to what lens you are attaching to that body.  Provided you don’t crack the glass, your lens will outlive any camera body, and your glass quality is what really gives you the beautiful contrast, sharpness, clarity and depth of field that will really make your photos pop.   

Landscape, Scenic Photography

Landscape photography is perhaps the most common form of photography, simply because the natural world is filled to the brim with beautiful imagery everywhere you look.  Whether you live in the city, the mountains or the Great Plains, breathtaking views are plentiful and willing to be captured by the creative and willing photographer.  

I've often heard folks say that the world just looks dead in late December.  I beg to differ!

Personally, I want to create a sense of passion with my landscape photos, a feeling that the viewer was there with me when I took the photo, and I want to share with them how I see the world.  Rarely do I want to trigger a viewer’s intellectual.  To me, as complex as photography can be, it should be more about feelings and emotions, and less about thinking and the analytical.  This can be easily achieved with landscape photography.  A shot of a bronze sky over a barn could tell a story of a hot, hard day’s work during the summer.  While a barren field with overcast skies certainly tells illustrates a blustery cold winters day.

What mood do you feel after viewing this photo?  I think of a springtime thunderstorm about dump buckets of rain on a booming clover food plot!

To me, this photo has great sentimental value.  But for you, however, it could mean something totally different!  That's the beauty of photography.

Wildlife Photography

Wildlife photography is perhaps the sexiest form of photography, especially to us hunters, because if there’s a substitute to putting an arrow through a mature whitetail, snapping a photo of him with your camera has to be a close second.  Unfortunately, wildlife photography is also the most difficult form of outdoor photography, because, like hunting you’re at the animal’s mercy.  

This is my favorite photo of a whitetail deer that I have ever been lucky enough to capture.  I was simply in the right place at the right time.

The most common obstacle outdoor photographer’s encounter when trying to capture images of wildlife is getting close to their subject.  It’s been well documented that animals aren’t comfortable in the presence of humans, especially when said human has a strange decide pointing right at them, it tends to make them uneasy and on edge.  So, to capture wildlife when they are calm and relaxed, a lens with a strong zoom, at least 200mm, is almost necessary.  This will allow animals within 40 yards to be photographed tightly enough for a strong image, and will allow for incredible detail for close up shots on animals less than 20 yards.  

This buck was no more than 20 yards from my car when he posed for me for a little over 2 minutes this past August.  I was able to capture several photos and record about 30 seconds of video footage of him as well.

Actually capturing images of wildlife (okay, some wildlife) isn’t as hard as it first sounds.  When I say wildlife photographer, I am sure you are thinking of an individual in a ghile suit hidden in the brush waiting for a deer to walk by.  While that is certainly one way to capture photos, and necessary for many species of wildlife, beautiful photos of deer, turkeys, birds of prey, and the occasional fox or coyote can be attributed to a simple drive around back country roads.  Animals feeding in fields near roadways are usually very tolerable of vehicles and will often allow you to snap several shots before either trotting back to cover, or resume feeding, especially during the summer.  

Every so often you stumble your way onto a crisp, clear and colorful photo.  Such is the case with this nervous doe.  She was very close to my car, and I was fortunate enough to grab a couple photos of her before she bolted back in the timber. 

Conclusion 

Outdoor photography is a wonderful art form and a beautiful means of expression.  It gives creative minds a chance to come out and play and, with a little practice, it gives not so creative minds a chance to explore the world in ways they never thought possible.  If you’re an amateur or photographer who is just beginning to explore the world of capturing still images, or a seasoned veteran who’s been shooting their entire lives, I hope this article has given you some useful information you can to the field with you.  Just remember, there are no rules when it comes to photography, so grab your camera, head outside snap some photos and about all else, enjoy the beauty that is the natural world! 

2012 Illinois Deer Classic - Monster Bucks & Bowhunting Friends

Sun, 03/25/2012 - 14:10

The 2012 Illinios Deer Classic, held in Peoria Illinois, is starting to wind down but before we pack up and head home I wanted to give you all a quick update on what you missed if you weren't here.  As always, the Peoria Civic Center was packed full of hunters looking to stock up on gear, meet new friends and check out some of the giant bucks on display.  It always amazes me how many 200+" bucks are on display here, which represents only a small fraction of the whitetails harvested in the Land of Lincoln each fall.  I would really like to see a few of the giants that never make it into the public eye.

For those of you who are going to be around Madison Wisconsin next weekend make sure you stop in and say hello.  We'll be giving away a new Mathews Heli-m bow as well as a Lone Wolf climbing treestand so you don't want to miss out!


Look for the Bowhunt or Die neon sign and you'll find us!


If you're looking for good deals on gear, the Deer Classics are the place to be.


This officially wins the "Creepiest Mount" award.  Who actually mounts their dog???


Our buddy Dorge with Firenock is always eager to show off his new products.


My favorite mount of the whole show.  What a giant!


Looking for a unique way to display your European mount?  Check out Dutch Fork trophy plaques.  Very cool!


Our cameraman/editor Brandyn Streeter was on hand to shoot interviews with a lot of the exhibitors.  Stay tuned to the New Products section of Bowhunting.com for videos in the next few weeks.


Everyone wanted to get a glimpse of the new Mathews Heli-m and Epic Cam on display.


She loves her rack!  Check out the Pink Rack Project when you get a chance.  A great cause helping to fight breast cancer.


Todd & Richie post with the lucky winners of a new Can Cooker.


Todd signing an autograph for a Bowhunt or Die fan.  Thanks for stopping by!


Can you tell I love giant 8 points?  What a stud!


Got junk?


The mass on this deer is unreal.


If I ever shoot a 240" whitetail, I'll get a full body mount too.


Another 200+.


"Sweetness", the buck Todd was chasing for 3 seasons.  He offically scores just over 212" net NT.  What a giant!


The new world record 9 point, along with a few other 'impressive' bucks.


My 2nd favorite mount in the show.  This photo doesn't even do it justice.  This is an incredible deer and a great mount.


This deer is scored as a typical 8 point frame with junk still nets over 200" non-typical.  Amazing.  AND it was shot by a 12 year old kid.  Pretty impresive, eh?


Another shot of my favorite buck.  He looks incredible.


Our buddy Byron Ferguson stopped by to say hi.  He's an amazing shot!


Former UFC Heavyweight champ Tim Sylvia stopped by and showed Richie whats up after a little smack talk.

NAP Spitfire Gobbler Getter Broadhead Review

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 14:57

New Archery Products has built a solid reputation around designing and building top of the line archery products. NAP produces the oldest, most trusted fixed blade head of all time, the Thunderhead; and arguably the most reliable mechanical broadhead on the market, the Spitfire. Technology continues to progress in every aspect of life and the broadhead industry is no different. Welcome, Spitfire Gobbler Getter.


New Archery Products Spitfire Gobbler Getter

Bowhunters have long since discovered the advantages of mechanical broadheads for hunting turkeys and in 2011 NAP created an expandable broadhead designed specifically for turkey hunters. The Spitfire Gobbler Getter is a variation of the already proven Spitfire broadhead.  The expandable turkey broadhead is available in 100 or 125 grains, has a 1 1/2" cutting diameter and over 3" of cutting surface.  Similar to the original Spitfire, the Gobbler Getter integrates Micro Grooved Slimline Ferrule technology to allow air to pass over the ferrule with less resistance, thus, providing the truest arrow flight possible. The Diamize sharpened blades are sharpened through a rigorous process ensuring exceptionally sharp blades to produce the cleanest cuts for maximum hemorrhaging and quicker kills. The blades on both the Spitfire and the Spitfire Gobbler Getter are locked into place with a hidden blade tension clip that NAP guarantees will not allow the blades to open in flight. Finally, the radical change that transforms the Spitfire to the Spitfire Gobbler Getter is the shock inducing Gobbler point, a rounded tip in place of the hardened Trophy Tip. The sole purpose of the Gobbler tip is to minimize pass throughs, delivering the most shock possible into the gobbler. Why would anyone not want a complete pass through? Let us take a harder look.

Turkeys are tough birds, period. There is no arguing that fact. There are a couple of significant differences between turkeys and other big game animals that bowhunters pursue. The first being, turkeys have the ability to fly away after they are shot. Obviously, this creates its own, set of problems. Second, blood trailing a turkey can be extremely difficult because they don’t have much blood to lose and feathers can soak up the majority of your blood trail before it reaches the ground. For these reasons, the idea behind the Gobbler Getter is to put the bird on the ground where he stands or shortly thereafter, before he has the opportunity to fly. This is achieved with the combination of a large cutting surface and by the Gobbler point helping the arrow expend its energy in the bird. This delivered “shock” works the same way bullets deliver shock or “knock down power” to an animal.



The Gobbler point is designed to deliver shock in the same manner a bullet delivers "knock down power."

Let us be honest. Every broadhead on the market today will kill a turkey if the arrow is placed correctly. This holds true with deer as well. Every broadhead on the market will kill a heart shot deer. Unfortunately, I don’t make a perfect shot on every animal. My theory on broadheads, is that I don’t buy a broadhead for the perfect shot. I buy a broadhead that provides me the best chance of recovering my animal on a poorly executed shot. For this reason, my quiver was loaded with NAP Gobbler Getters in the Spring of 2011, and will be again in 2012.

In preparation for bowhunting turkeys, I practiced shooting my Z7Xtreme at distances out to 70 yards strictly to test the flight of the Gobbler Getter. The Gobbler Getter tipped arrows were flying like darts, at any distance, off the string of my Mathews. The Merriams and Rio Grande turkeys of the Western United States were kind to me, providing me the opportunity to take a total of five toms with the Gobbler Getter broadhead in the Spring of 2011. The NAP broadheads performed exactly as they were designed putting birds down on the spot on multiple occasions. My bow is set up with a 29 inch draw length at 70 pounds and I’m shooting a 413 grain arrow at 286 feet per second. That’s a significant amount of kinetic energy to be stopped in something as small as a turkey. While my arrows did pass through, they were all lying on the ground where the bird stood or were sticking with the fletchings straight into the air, thus, the energy was delivered to the bird instead of the dirt on the backside. On one particular bird in Wyoming, I made a shot that was higher than expected but the large cutting surface and cutting diameter allowed the shot to be fatal and the bird was recovered within 75 yards. 


These big Mearriams gobblers were two of the first toms to fall to my Spitfire Gobbler Getter broadheads.

The main criteria I have for selecting a broadhead are: true flight, sharpness, durability and performing in the manner they were designed (i.e. turkey shots, turkey head shots, or ultra penetration on large game). If we’re talking about a mechanical broadhead, I want the blades to open when and only when they strike the target, not in the quiver or on their way to the target. There are numerous quality expandable broadheads on the market but if you are looking for a five star turkey specific broadhead, I recommend giving the Spitfire Gobbler Getter a chance at taking down your next tom.

 

For some reason, hunters often struggle to find satisfaction

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 06:48

For all the fun, challenge and satisfaction we find in scouting, hunting sheds and bowhunting deer, elk and other critters, I’m often struck how often guys tell me they’re unhappy with the neighbors, deer numbers or rut activity.

Research shows that "nonconsumptive" recreationists – such as hikers, bikers, campers and rowers – report more satisfaction from their activities than do hunters, anglers and mushroom hunters.

It seems I’m not alone. In fact, here’s something to think about: If hunters, anglers and mushroom pickers want to return home feeling happier and more satisfied after every outing, we might want to take up hiking, camping, canoeing or birdwatching.

Like it or not, research consistently shows “consumptive” recreationists – hunter-gatherers – report significantly lower satisfaction ratings than our “nonconsumptive” counterparts.

When Professor Jerry Vaske at Colorado State University reported this finding in 1982, he also predicted it wouldn’t change much over time. Why? Probably because hunter-gatherers typically have specific goals like shooting a deer or catching a perch. Further, even if we choose great spots with higher odds of reaching our goals, we can’t control deer activity or perch feeding habits.

Nonconsumptive recreationists don’t have such exact goals and expectations. Plus, they usually have more control in determining their outing’s satisfaction, whether it’s a campsite’s location, a trail’s scenery, a hike’s length, or a rapids’ degree of difficulty. They can choose outings that best match their skills and interests, which increases satisfaction.

Sure, hunters and anglers also enjoy violet sunrises, fog-shrouded valleys and smoky-gold tamaracks, but these are desserts, not necessarily main courses.

Friends enjoy a campfire after a full day of bowhunting elk in Idaho.

And although we photograph snow-draped cedars for their beauty, we judge the snow’s usefulness by whether it helps us see deer, find tracks, or hear hoofsteps. Likewise, we might appreciate a cool breeze on hot afternoons, but then we’ll curse it for ruining our casts, blowing our scent to deer, or pushing our boat off biting fish.

Too many standards. Too little control. Too many distractions and failed expectations.

And ultimately, too much room for frustration.

So when Professor Vaske recently updated and expanded his 1982 research, no wonder he found hunters and anglers still aren’t as satisfied as bikers, climbers, kayakers, runners and other nonconsumptive recreationists. This time, Vaske and his research assistant, Jennifer Roemer, analyzed 102 studies – 57 consumptive and 45 nonconsumptive – that examined satisfaction levels of participants in a wide range of outdoor activities from 1975 through 2005.

Even mushroom hunters tend to report less overall satisfaction in the outdoors than do campers.

Despite the large sample, the results differed little from his 1982 research. This shouldn’t surprise anyone, but I’m guessing some bowhunters and fishermen will take it personally.

Yes, not everyone feels dissatisfied. Many of us enjoy every outing, and don’t need to arrow a big buck to feel content. It says so on our bumper stickers “The worst day bowhunting beats the best day working.”

Unfortunately, we aren’t the majority. When researchers compile data and cross-check answers, they often find things that separate fibs from fact, and wishes from reality.

Even though birders report greater satisfaction than do hunters, how many of us would trade bowhunting for birdwatching?

Vaske notes that while hunters and anglers have other goals that influence satisfaction -- such as camaraderie, solitude and being alone in nature – the research found these things were “partial substitutes” and of “secondary importance.” In fact, “seeing, shooting and bagging game” remain the most important factors for evaluating hunting and fishing experiences, and “the strongest predictors of overall satisfaction.”

In contrast, the goals of campers, backpackers and other nonconsumptive types are more general, Vaske writes. They, too, might feel motivated to test skills, seek solitude, experience nature and spend time with friends. These goals, however, aren’t as specific as catching a meal of bluegills or shooting a doe for the family’s larder. Therefore, nonconsumptive goals are “more easily substituted if one goal is not satisfied.”

Even when some of us go snowshoeing, our main interest is scouting for deer sign.

In other words, it’s probably asking too much of hunting – on land or in the water – to satisfy all hunters all the time. For example, when Wisconsin deer hunters rated their experiences the past 10 years of record-setting seasons, you would have thought some were being water-boarded.

After setting the Wisconsin-record deer kill (528,494) in 2000, the majority opinion – 40.8 percent of hunters – judged the season’s quality “about average.” After Wisconsin’s No. 2 gun-deer season (413,794 kills) in 2004, the majority – 52 percent – ranked its quality “low.” And after tallying Wisconsin’s No. 3 gun season (402,563 kills) in 2007, the majority – 53.6 percent – also ranked it “low.”

Worse, some think it’s the government’s responsibility to satisfy and make them happy by supplying more deer, even as they protest taxes, threaten license boycotts, and demand government get off their backs.

Unfortunately, if anyone thinks lawmakers can deliver long-term hunting and fishing satisfaction, their frustrations and disappointments are just beginning.

SHOT Show has changed, stayed the same since January 1991

Thu, 03/15/2012 - 05:50

While checking in and picking up my media credentials at the 2012 Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade Show in Las Vegas in January, I realized I was attending my 22nd consecutive SHOT Show. My first was in Dallas in January 1991.

Maybe that’s why I couldn’t help but eavesdrop in a hotel elevator the first morning when two guys next to me started complaining. They said they’d been coming to the show “for years,” and groaned about the “long day” ahead.

Pretty girls staff many SHOT Show booths to greet visitors and hand out information.

“It’s not getting any easier,” one guy said.

“Nine hours of walking and standing on cement covered by thin carpeting,” the other sighed. “The more I do this, the worse I feel.”

I glanced at them, expecting to see men in their 40s, maybe even 50s. But no, they weren’t even close to my age, 56. They looked to be in their mid-30s; late 30s at the most.

I couldn’t help but smile and ask: “How many SHOT Shows have you attended?”

The guy nearest me said, “Seven.” His friend replied, “Me too.”

Author and former Navy SEAL Chuck Pfarrer sold and signed copies of his latest book for charity at the 2012 SHOT Show.

I must have smiled wider, because one of them asked politely, “I take it this isn’t your first one?”

I silently thanked him for not adding, “Old Timer” to the end of his sentence. Then I told him this was No. 22 for me, and I hoped I’d be around for at least 22 more. “They’re all a blur now,” I said.

My companions seemed impressed, even apologetic. “I guess we shouldn’t be complaining, should we?”

Terry Drury, left, and Mark Drury, center, talk with Cuz Strickland of Mossy Oak fame.

“Well, don’t let me ruin a good time for you,” I laughed, and wished them well.

The fact is, the SHOT Show is a demanding way to spend four days, but as I’ll always say, “It beats working for a living.” My typical day at SHOT begins about 4:30 a.m. and ends at 10 p.m. Although the show is held in Las Vegas most years, I estimate I’ve spent no more than $70 gambling in all my walks back and forth between the show and my hotel room. And if I were to subtract two $20 bets I’ve made on Super Bowls played during SHOT Show weekends, I’ve spent about $30 on the slots.

The fact is, I must cover so much ground each day of SHOT that I’m too tired to do anything fun in Vegas at night. Plus, I usually file two 700-word articles each night of the Show, and another 700-word newspaper column one morning. Such articles don’t get written unless I visit a lot of booths and attend several press conferences each day.

Astronaut Joe Engle posed for a photo with my daughter, Leah Durkin, at a recent SHOT Show.

Yeah, my job requires a lot of notes, photographs and interviews. And I can’t say I look forward to my nine hours on the show floor each day, and roughly three hours of work before and after the show. Before self pity creeps in, though, I remind myself there’s only a few thousand hunters and shooters who would love to have my job.

During all these years attending SHOT, I think often about how it has changed. During the early 1990s, the show truly featured hunting. All the archery companies were clustered in one part of its massive floor, and the firearms companies stretched endlessly in the other three directions. I spent two days in each, and never came close to seeing everything.

By the late 1990s, the archery industry had all but abandoned the SHOT Show in favor of the ATA Trade Show. About the only archery companies you see at SHOT now are crossbow manufacturers. If not for them and a few tree-stand companies, you wouldn’t suspect the archery industry was once a key player at SHOT.

Miles of carpeted aisles lead SHOT Show business people past thousands of manufacturers' booths.

Then, soon after 9-11 and the United States’ “War on Terror,” SHOT attracted a growing number of entrepreneurs and manufacturers that specialize in police and military hardware. Unlike the archery and firearms industries, however, I don’t see as much overlap between the firearms and police-military industries. I often feel like I’m learning everything from scratch when working the booths in the law-enforcement wings.

Still, there’s one great thing about the SHOT Show that never changes: It never bores me. I always meet nice people who are passionate about their work, play and business. And whether it’ 1991 or 2012, I’ll often see celebrities roaming the aisles or standing at booths to meet people and sign autographs. Over the years, I’ve been fortunate to meet astronaut Joe Engle, test-pilot Chuck Yeager, football coach Bud Grant, actor/gunnery sergeant R. Lee Ermey, and various singers and musicians.

Another thing that hasn’t changed: Some companies still hire pretty girls to hand out brochures and pose for pictures with middle-aged and aging guys like me. After 22 years, I’m still not sure if those girls truly generate business for the exhibitors. I’ll never forget when I ran into my old boss at the 1992 SHOT Show, and said: “Al, you won’t believe this. I just saw two really pretty girls in bikinis working at a booth two aisles over.”

You'll never visit every booth at the SHOT Show, even if you spend every hour of all four days on the show floor.

Al smiled and asked, “Which company are they working for and what were they selling?”

I stood silent, totally dumbstruck. Finally I said: “You know. I never thought to look or ask.”

Al smiled again and said, “I rest my case.”

Well, at the 2012 SHOT Show I still saw a lot of pretty, smiling girls working the booths of several companies. None wore bikinis, but six weeks later, I still can’t answer Al’s timeless question: I don’t know who they worked for or what they were selling.

Maybe I’ll pay more attention and remember such things at the 2013 SHOT Show, but don’t hold me to it.

 

 

 

NAP 2 Blade Bloodrunner REVIEW - My Turkey Broadhead of Choice

Wed, 03/14/2012 - 20:50

In my opinion huge expandable broadheads are made for turkey hunting. I’m not worried about getting a pass through; I’d rather have my arrow stay in the bird. My goal is to do as much damage as I possibly can and do it as fast as I can. With its 2-1/16” cut when open the NAP 2 Blade Bloodrunner helps me achieve this goal.

The 2 Blade Bloodrunner is one wicked Broadhead.

When turkey hunting, unlike deer hunting, I’d rather have my arrow stay in the animal. If I don’t get an instant kill from my shot, having the arrow stay in the bird will prevent it from flying away. While a turkey is very good at running off after taking an arrow, he could put a lot more distance between himself and the hunter if he can fly away. Another benefit of having the arrow stay in the bird is he is much easier to spot lying in the woods with my Luminock sticking in the air glowing. I even back my draw weight off 5 pounds or so just so I have a better chance of my arrow staying in the gobbler.

When hit by a huge cutting diameter broadhead like the 2 Blade Bloodrunner, a massive amount of damage is inflicted to an animal the size of a Tom Turkey, putting him down in short order even with a marginal hit. Plus it delivers a great deal of shock to the animal, knocking him off his feet and disorienting him. Huge old Gobblers can be very tough animals to bring down. I’ve had a couple run off after taking a load of #5 shot from my 3-1/2” 12 gauge shells. I’m looking for all the stopping power I can get from my broadhead and the NAP 2 Blade Bloodrunner gives me that.

BloodRunner technology gives you the best of both worlds a fixed blade broadhead that expands upon impact and gives a hunter the peace of mind that it will cut no matter what! Just check out these impressive specs.
• 2-blade 100 grains (125 grain also available)
• Open Cutting Diameter: 2-1/6”
• Closed Cutting Diameter: 1-1/8”
• Blade Thickness: .039”
• Super-strong stainless steel razor sharp blades
• MSRP: $39.99 for a 3 pack
• Fixed position practice heads available

At 1-1/8" when closed and 2-1/16" when opened, NAP's 2-blade Bloodrunner is ready for the biggest of game.

The bloodrunner is unique in the fact that it is held closed by spring pressure and then expands to its full 2-1/16” cut upon contact with its target. It will stay open as long as it has pressure on the front of the broadhead. There are no o-rings or rubber bands to fail or loose. It cannot fail to open on contact. And if it starts to back out of the animal, the blades cannot close up like some mechanical broadheads will. So it will continue to do damage with its exposed blades.

Turkeys have a very small vital area when compared to the whitetails most of us are accustomed to bow hunting. The 2-1/16” cutting diameter of the Bloodrunner helps out just a little bit with getting the blades where they need to be. With this massive cut I don’t need to be as precise with shots. After all a Thundering Gobbler at 10-20 yards can give anyone a case of the shakes. I also do most of my bowhunting for turkeys from ground blinds and shots are frequently are taken from my knees and from odd positions to get the right angle out of the windows. All of these factors can have an adverse effect on my shots accuracy. The Bloodrunner gives me the advantage of having a small profile head in flight, but still gives me the huge cut after opening and allows for a little bit of the shakes.

Aim at the spot where the wing meets the body on a broadside gobbler.

My personal experience with the Bloodrunner doesn’t include a turkey kill as of yet. But I have taken a coyote and 2 whitetails with them. I couldn’t have asked for better performance from a broadhead. Once I had my bow tuned and had achieved perfect arrow flight, accuracy was never an issue. I knew if a shot presented itself, I could put the broadhead where it needed to be. Both the entrance and exit holes were unbelievable. All 3 animals were double lunged and recovered in less than 75 yards. I have no doubt if a gobbler presents me with a shot opportunity the Bloodrunner will do its job as long as I do mine.

Bowhunting.com prostaffer Dan Schaffer doubled up on Merriams with his Mathews Bow in Wyoming last spring.

If you plan on pursuing Wild Turkeys with bow in hand this spring, do yourself a favor and use the biggest broadhead you can shoot accurately. I’m putting my money on the NAP 2 Blade Bloodrunner. Hopefully you’ll see me in an upcoming episode of our webshow Bowhunt or Die this spring sitting beside a big old Tom Turkey with my Mathews in my hand and a Bloodrunner on my arrow.

Check out this video REVIEW done last year by our very own Justin Zarr.