Birds And Bone

Birds And Bone

Birds And Bone

Birds And Bone

Birds And Bone By the time that the first warm winds of springtime grace the landscape, most serious bowhunters are suffering from a serious case of cabin fever. With no antlered game to hunt for the past months, and the brutal conditions of winter to endure, dedicated bow-benders are looking for any type of an excuse to hit the woods – enter, shed antler hunting and bowhunting for turkeys. What more could/can a guy ask for?

The Reprieve
With excitement in the air this past April, I loaded up my troops — my wife Peggie and our dog Lulu – and headed to Kansas for a week of fun outdoor adventure. Rolling down the road for a couple of hours, we soon found ourselves pulling alongside a lakefront parking spot. With a comfortable camp quickly established, Peg and I put away a couple of sandwiches and soda, while Lulu hit the ground running.

If you’re springtime turkey hunting, you’re going to learn a lot about your deer herd also; information such as this – large shed antlers – is always promising!
If you’re springtime turkey hunting, you’re going to learn a lot about your deer herd also; information such as this – large shed antlers – is always promising!

Grabbing my fanny pack, I quickly headed into the nearby woods, to do a little shed antler hunting, with a secondary goal of accomplishing a little turkey and deer scouting at the same time. Making my way deep into a roadless section of the WMA that surrounded our campsite, I soon had distanced myself from anything human.

The sights, sounds and smells of the springtime woods revived me. Finding myself engrossed in the still-fresh abundant deer sign from the previous autumn’s rut cycle, I almost stumbled over the dropped antlers at my feet. Grabbing the find like a little kid does his weekly allowance, I almost squealed at my good fortune. The buck that had dropped this treasure was a nice one, and would certainly be a “keeper” this autumn.

Trekking on, I soon found myself hearing the faint sounds of an occasional gobble in the distance. Immediately going into a full sneak mode, I slowly advanced, carefully scanning the country ahead. Nearing a small clearing in the dense surroundings, I spotted a mature gobbler strutting in his isolated midday hideout. Not wanting to risk spooking the bird, I quickly decided to abort my stalk, opting for a different – and delayed — plan. Having found the bird’s “happy place,” I knew that I could lay in wait for him on the morrow , and most likely, have things much more my way. Slipping quietly away, I headed back to camp to prepare for the next day’s hunt. Half-way back to camp, I took possession of another trophy find – an exceptionally large and unique shed antler from a non-typical buck. This was turning out be a really great day in the woods!

Crunch Time
The following morning — with Peg rising shortly after sunup — I quickly relinquished “dog duty” to my mate, grabbed my gear, and headed afield. Making a stealthy approach to my intended destination, I soon found myself deploying my ground blind and decoys. Slipping into my hide, the strong fragrance of wet earth and fresh foliage filled the air. Arranging my gear inside the blind, I settled in for the wait – would it be long or short?

This is the bird the author arrowed on the trip.
This is the bird the author arrowed on the trip.

As the first hour slid by, I lounged in my camp-chairand simply enjoyed the sounds of spring that surrounded me – birds chirped, geese honked overhead and frogs croaked nearby. Wondering if my plan would produce desirable results, I began to second guess myself as the second hour passed. As noon approached, I was surely beginning to have doubts about my choice of actions, but I also knew that patience was vital – dozing off, I was determined to stay put.

Awakened by the sound of nearby rustling, I peered out of my hide to see a mature gobbler strutting around my decoys! Having arrived completely quietly, the bird had caught me unawares. Quickly and quietly, I prepared for a shot, slowly bringing my Mathews to full draw. Settling my pin on the plump strutter, I flipped the switch. A few seconds later, all was quiet, my bird expired before me. This had been a great day afield, and surely, there would be more to come – right at this moment, however, life was about as good as it could get! Click Here…



Realtree: Genesis of an Outdoor Empire

Realtree: Genesis of an Outdoor Empire

Realtree Back in 1986, very early in the camouflage revolution, a young and ambitious Bill Jordan (pictured above) decided to try his hand at designing a camo pattern. Today, many thousands of outdoorsmen are grateful indeed for that simple spark of outdoor creativity. Ever since, the large stable of wildly successful Realtree camo patterns that have followed have not only contributed to more hunting success in the field, but have launched a literal legion of faithful followers. But did it all happen as quick and easy as it seems today? Of course not.

Bill Jordan
Bill Jordan

Bill was born and raised in Columbus, Georgia. He attended Columbus High School, where he competed in track, basketball and football. Bill earned All-State Honors as receiver before graduating in 1969. Bill was highly recruited out of high school by many major universities, but decided on Ole Miss, where he played wide receiver, catching passes from football legend Archie Manning. Following graduation from Ole Miss, Bill returned to Columbus, where he worked for the family boat dealership, Leon Jordan Marine.

Jordan had entered the hunting industry in 1983, when he started Spartan Archery Products in a back room of his father’s boat dealership in Columbus. Spartan manufactured T-shirts at a local mill, which were sold to a variety of large retail customers across the country. But the commodity garment trade was a tough, low-profit-margin business that depended on high volume—not easy for an established company and nearly impossible for a startup. Jordan was pinching pennies and fishing bass tournaments on the side to create income. Meanwhile, he was constantly searching for ways to separate his company from the crowd.

The Oak That Led to Opportunity
And that is how Jordan came to be sitting in his parents’ front yard one day in 1986, with paper and colored pencils, sketching and coloring the bark of a giant oak tree that grew there. Jordan believed that by layering the images of twigs and leaves over a vertical bark background, he could create a three-dimensional appearance that would match a variety of terrain—and make his pattern distinct.

Using local mills, Jordan navigated the printing process until he finally had a set of camouflage clothing to photograph.

Always the promoter, Jordan began to photograph the garments on bowhunters in tree stands. Every month for about eight months, he sent the images to hunting clothing buyers across the nation.

But Jordan couldn’t send sample garments, because the camo was doing too good a job disappearing.

“We couldn’t get the pattern to stay on the pants,” he remembered. “It rubbed off. I had only one suit and no additional fabric, so I kept sending photos.”

When December rolled around, the buyers were clamoring for garments.

“I didn’t have any garments,” Bill recalled. “But I couldn’t tell them that, so I just sent them some more photos.”

In 1988, Jordan added bark and leaf overlays to his original Realtree® Pattern to create Brown-Leaf® and Grey-Leaf®.
In 1988, Jordan added bark and leaf overlays to his original Realtree® Pattern to create Brown-Leaf® and Grey-Leaf®.

The problem would be resolved, but with no time to spare. Jordan began working with Eastbank Textiles, and they met the printing challenge just one week before the Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show. At last, Jordan was on his way home with about 30 yards of the printed fabric to be made into garments for the show. But the airline sent the box of fabric to Columbus, Ohio, instead of Columbus, Georgia. Disaster loomed.

“I finally got the fabric on Monday, and the show started that Thursday,” Jordan said. “I rushed it to the manufacturer and they made the basic garments by Wednesday morning. I had naked mannequins waiting at the SHOT Show, and I was sitting in Columbus waiting to get pants sewn.”

That afternoon, Jordan flew out for the SHOT Show.

“There we were, dressing mannequins at midnight, the night before the show started,” Jordan recalled. “The anxiety at that point was unbelievable. I had no credibility in this business, and there I was—after teasing all these buyers—dressing my mannequins with the only garments I had in the whole world, just hours before the show started. I had no manufacturer making this clothing—just Spartan, and Spartan had no money. I couldn’t even have sold to the first retailer if I had wanted to. I had no licensing agreements to work with and no real idea what I was going to do next. I only knew I had a few pieces of clothing, a 20-by-20-foot booth, and hopefully some very influential people stopping by to see me.

One Look Was All it Took
“On the opening morning of the SHOT show, at 9:30, here came the Bass Pro Shops buyer. Ten minutes later, the Oshman’s buyer walked into the booth. After another 10 minutes, here came the Wal-Mart buyer,” Jordan recalled. “I had all three of them in the booth at the same time. I was thinking, ‘Now what am I going to do?’”

When Wally Switzer from Wal-Mart asked Jordan if he would be able to make the garments to fill their orders, Bill admitted he could never begin to handle the orders. It takes a lot of money to fire up a clothing manufacturing business, and Bill was out of cash. Wally told Bill that Wal-Mart had a company called Walls that made some of their hunting clothing. The Bass Pro buyer said the same thing, and so did the Oshman’s buyer. The name Walls kept coming up.

“Then they asked me, ‘Who’s your hat company? Who’s your glove company?’” says Bill. “I said, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know, who do you want it to be?’”

The three of them stayed in Realtree’s booth for a long time that morning, talking with Bill and asking questions. Finally Switzer left and returned with his contact from Walls. Walls wanted to buy the fabric from Eastbank Textiles, manufacture the garments with it, and then see how well they sold. That’s when licensing was born.

Eastbank Textiles had been responsible for finding a successful printing process, so that company became Bill Jordan’s first licensee. Eastbank Textiles paid the license fee on each yard of fabric and passed the cost on to the manufacturer. At that time, no one really knew how to set up such an agreement, so that first contract that Bill hammered out with Eastbank Textiles became the model for all the licensing agreements he has made since.

As a humorous aside, Spartan-Realtree Products (the company’s new name) couldn’t afford to pay for the entire 20-by-20-foot SHOT Show booth that year, so Bill had worked it out so that he could pay half up front and the rest on arrival. Click Here…


Hunting Tactics

Traveling For Turkeys: 5 Proven Hunting Tactics

Traveling For Turkeys: 5 Proven Hunting Tactics

Hunting Tactics Wisconsin’s Brian Lovett is a longtime turkey hunting addict who loves to share both his passion, and accumulated wisdom, with aspiring and veteran turkey hunters alike.

Hunting Tactics Lovett, 49, has written several books on the subject, and has become somewhat of an expert when it comes to maximizing success while traveling the nation—and beyond—in search of his favorite game bird. A meticulous record-keeper, Lovett has hunted turkeys for 27 years, during which time he has chased the birds in 20 different states and Mexico, and bagged 136 birds, including several “Grand Slams” of the four major U.S. subspecies (Eastern, Osceola, Rio Grande, and Merriam’s) and he’s also taken a Gould’s turkey in Mexico.

“I’ve even counted my misses,” Lovett says, “but we’ll leave that number to the imagination.”

Through it all, Lovett has amassed several travel tips for aspiring turkey-crazed travelers. Here are his top five:

1. Smart Planning Helps Deliver More Success
“The Number-One tip for any traveling hunter is smart planning in advance of any trip,” Lovett says. “It’s easy to read about chasing Merriam’s turkeys near Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, but once you’re out there, the new and different terrain can intimidate people. Well before a trip I try to talk to state biologists and get an idea of what I might expect; information on bird numbers, preferred habitat. I also like to talk to local hunters, learn what they advise. The season opens in mid-April but is that the best time to go? Also, I try to get all licenses in advance, to make sure everything is legal and ready. If I’m going with an outfitter, I make sure to get references, and especially, for the clients who didn’t score.”

2. Use Your Knowledge Of Local Birds
Be sure to remember that turkeys are pretty much turkeys wherever you go,” Lovett advises. “The places they inhabit might change, but by and large they still behave like turkeys. It’s all about keeping an open mind, and learning how you need to adapt your tactics to the unique conditions you might be facing. In my home state of Wisconsin, you’re mostly hopping from small wooded property to small wooded property, where the birds aren’t moving very far over the course of a day. But in Texas, once they fly down they can hit the ground running and might not stop, ranging over a huge area.”

3. Prepare For Multi-State Success
Make sure your calls, guns, and other gear is tuned and ready to go,” Lovett says. “It’s one thing to go out hunting on your back 40, but if your calls aren’t conditioned, or if you have some type of gear malfunction, you’ll be wasting valuable time. Also make sure you’re prepared with the right clothing and boots; I always over-prepare, bringing both heavy clothing and light stuff, to meet most any conditions.”

4. Check (And Respect) Your Effective Range
“Always pattern your gun to determine your effective range,” Lovett advises. “I usually draw a 10-inch circle on a turkey target, and as long as I’m putting 100 pellets in that circle, I’m confident at that range. My favorite shot size, the one I always fall back on, is Heavier Than Lead 6 shot, which equates to a Lead 5 shot. Lead No. 4s will carry more down-range energy, but you will sacrifice some pattern density with those. My favorite turkey gun is a Remington 870 I’ve had for about 16 years, and I also have a Mossberg 835 that has been a great gun for me, but that old 870 is my fall-back.”

5. Change Decoy Tactics As Needed
Remember to change your decoy tactics as the season progresses,” Lovett says. “I always bring and use the most-realistic decoys I can afford, and I will start in early spring using two or three hens, with a jake or a strutter. Usually I will have one feeding hen, and maybe a “looker hen” and a breeder hen, with a jake or strutter behind them. If for some reason there is a really big jake crop, I will leave out the strutter. As the season progresses, I might take the strutter out of there and use just a few hens, and then late in the season, I will use just a single hen. Especially during the late season in Wisconsin and Minnesota, in May, it’s natural for those hens to be out by themselves. I set my decoys about 25 yards away, close enough that if a bird hangs up, you can still take it with an ethical shot, say, 45 yards and in.” Click Here…


Carolina’s Coastal

North Carolina’s Coastal Waterfowl Bonanza

Carolina’s Coastal A salty sea breeze carried dark, ominous clouds in from the northeast as we settled into the weathered wooden blind and began our vigil. But when a sliver of orange sun suddenly glimmered through the blanket of gray clouds, I took it as an omen of good things to come.

Carolina’s Coastal And judging from the sounds around us, we were definitely in for a waterfowling day to remember. Dabblers and divers called to each other from every direction as we waited for legal shooting light.

When that precise minute finally arrived, the sky was filled with birds. Singles, small groups and large flocks of ducks were coursing through the air around us. With a few subtle calls, our guide turned several of the groups our way, and soon the sound of shotguns joined the chorus of duck talk.

First came the speedy buffleheads. Then a gadwall flew in, followed by another, then two pintails. A lone black duck approached next, and after that, widgeons flashed overhead. Scoters and mallards soon appeared, several falling to our shots, others flying away as fast as their wings could take them.

It was a hectic morning of duck watching and duck shooting. By the time the action paused, we had ten birds of six different species laid neatly across the floor of the blind.

It was time for a halt. But later snow geese would beckon. And if we had been smart and applied for a permit, tundra swans would have joined the available waterfowl to pursue.

You’ve probably heard of the Outer Banks as a world-famous surf fishing destination. But this narrow band of barrier islands off the northeast coast of North Carolina is also a winter waterfowling paradise. The 175-mile long chain of sandy islands is one of the best spots in the East for ducks, geese, and swans. And if you want to make it a combo trip, surf fishing is also terrific here right now.

The area from Cape Hatteras north to the Virginia border includes five inlets and a smorgasbord of bays, sounds, and backwater sloughs that attract waterfowl by the tens of thousands every winter. Since the temperature averages 43 degrees in January, there’s always plenty of unfrozen water to keep attracting birds and lots of aquatic vegetation for them to feed on.

All four sounds on the inland side of the barrier islands hold ducks including Albemarle, Croatan, Currituck, and Pamlico. Smaller, secluded creeks and coves protected from the strong breezes that blow across this area can be particularly good spots to set out a decoy spread.

Public hunting is available on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore at a number of locations. Twenty blinds are also offered on Bodie Island for hunters chosen in lotteries. Both Ocracoke and Hatteras islands are open for public hunting with some restrictions. Consult the Wildlife Resources Commissionfor current rules and regulations.

The state also offers duck hunting by permit on its Roanoke Island Marsh Game Lands near Manteo, which covers 1,766 acres. The site listed above has all the details on hunting there.

Hunters coming for the first time would do wise to consider hiring a guide. They know how to navigate the sometimes tricky shallows and monitor the tides to set up in the best areas at the right times. They have the blinds and are experts at calling in most cases. Outfitters also usually have retrievers to fetch birds, which adds immeasurably to the hunting experience.

One of the best operations is Outer Banks Waterfowl and Fishing Guide Service (; 252-261-7842) which has been in operation for over 35 years. They were the guides in the hunt described at the beginning of this piece. Other outfitters can be located on the internet or through local chambers of commerce.

A typical guided hunt offers an incredible chance for a varied bag. An average harvest for a party is about ten ducks, including five to seven different species and possibly snow geese and brant as well. Common varieties include black ducks, mallards, pintails, widgeons, teal, buffleheads, gadwalls, scaup, and scoters. One time you might hunt in a marsh blind, the next time a semi-pit blind, open water layout boat, brush blind, or stake blind.

Guides will monitor bird movements from day to day and pick the location and type of blind and location that offers the best chances for an active day of both shooting and waterfowl watching. And that second factor is an equal part of the pull of this area. Seeing the sheer abundance of ducks trading across the skies throughout the day is a thrill in itself.

Family Fun: If you bring the family, there’s plenty for them to do. Try visiting the North Carolina Aquarium, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, Elizabeth Gardens, or the Nags Head Woods Preserve. Sea shell collecting, fishing, and bird watching are other popular activities. For details on these activities and destinations as well as restaurants and motels, visit Click Here…


Duck Tactics

Late-Season Duck Tactics

Duck Tactics Late-season ducks are no pushovers, but you can consistently put them on the water by following these five tips.

Duck Tactics 1. Late-season ducks, especially mallards, are notorious for circling repeatedly before committing to the decoys. What they are looking for is anything that looks suspicious — like your white face looking up at them! Camouflage everything, wear a facemask and don’t move.

The author advises to call less as the season gets down to the last week or two.

2. Unless you are a caller of championship caliber, call less as the season gets down to the last week or two. Ducks have heard a lot of bad calling by now and they know that it means trouble.

3. Lots and lots of decoys work, no question about it, but so do meager spreads. I’ve killed a lot of late season mallards over a mere dozen decoys. Go with mostly drakes and pick out those with the brightest paint. Sometimes I even touch mine up a bit come the late season. Color does not mean much most of the season, but it does now.

4. Drop down from No. 2 steel to BB’s. The last birds of the year are not only more muscular and heavier feathered, but your shots are likely to be a tad longer as well.

3. Lots and lots of decoys work, no question about it, but so do meager spreads. I’ve killed a lot of late season mallards over a mere dozen decoys. Go with mostly drakes and pick out those with the brightest paint. Sometimes I even touch mine up a bit come the late season. Color does not mean much most of the season, but it does now.

4. Drop down from No. 2 steel to BB’s. The last birds of the year are not only more muscular and heavier feathered, but your shots are likely to be a tad longer as well.

5. Wear a life jacket. You won’t last long in the cold waters of the late season without one!

Shop The Sportsman’s Guide for a great selection of Waterfowl Hunting Gear! Click Here…


Midday Magic

Time For Some Midday Magic

Midday Magic At 1:45 p.m. I heard a twig snap behind me and turned slowly to see a beautiful, lone buck at about 80 yards, in no particular hurry but picking its way slowly through the brush, away from me. Time for action. Instantly I grabbed the grunt and gave a good loud BLAT. Nothing. In seconds I grunted again, a bit louder. This time the buck perked up and trained its ears toward me, yet still feigned indifference. It moved no closer…then turned and looked away! Hmmm.

BLAT! I grunted at him once again. Then 30 seconds later, again. Unbelievably, it took six- to eight grunts—with the buck nonchalantly standing there in place—before I could coax a meaningful reaction. And then, just like that, the buck committed. I’ll never forget its loud-and-clear body language: “Yeah, I really wasn’t planning on heading that way, but it sounds like a buck is grunting at something over there and chances are it’s a doe…”

The author's buck where it fell, in a cut soybean field just outside the wooded draw it was cruising for hot does.
The author’s buck where it fell, in a cut soybean field just outside the wooded draw it was cruising for hot does.

As it turned my way, the buck had to cross a steep, dry creekbed; as it dropped down it mostly disappeared but then popped back into view—on a steady mission toward me! It was then I knew the shot would happen. As the buck passed a large deadfall I slowly drew my bow—undetected—and waited. On he came, and with each step his thick rack and blocky, linebacker body grew still larger. When he reached 27 yards—broadside—I released and watched the mechanical-tippedCarbon Express arrow hit the moving buck solidly.

Later, some 200 yards from the shot site, I knelt beside a true Kansas monarch. Despite the fact the thick-necked battler had broken off two points and part of a third, my first glimpse of the tall, massive, basic 10-point rack still managed to steal every bit of my anxious breath. Glimpsing that gorgeous deer confirmed—yet again—what I’d known for several years running: Big rutty Kansas bucks are suckers for aggressive calling techniques. Click Here…


Deer Calling

The Best State For Deer Calling?

The Best State For Deer Calling?

Why travel to Kansas during the whitetail rut packing an arsenal of deer calls? Upon your return your next call just might be to your favorite taxidermist.

Headed to Kansas to hunt the whitetail rut? Don’t forget a good grunt call. Or doe bleat. Or rattling system. After bowhunting this whitetail mecca for the past 10 years or so I’ve found Kansas bucks to be some of the most call-friendly beasts on the planet, and I’m not talking just the little guys.

Aggressive calling techniques during the month of November—using all three calls mentioned above—have consistently helped me lure-in top-end-class bucks, thick-necked brutes scoring from 140- to 180 inches, and I’ve been fortunate enough to arrow a few of them. Bring the right aggressive mindset, and you can taste Sunflower State success as well.

In November 2014, some extreme conditions, a last-minute stand move, and some untimely absentmindedness very nearly cost me a chance at another Kansas brute of a buck. After spending the bone-chilling 4-degree morning in a ladder stand overlooking an expansive cut soybean field, haunted only briefly by a single, mature doe some 300 yards distant, I knew it was time for a new plan. By 9:45 a.m. I was enjoying the warmth generated by the half-mile hike back to my truck, and by 11 I’d hung my handy portable in a secluded, wooded draw that held great promise.

I’d hurried to hang the stand, figuring the morning’s brutal conditions would set up perfectly for a time-honored “10 to 2” rut movement pattern. But shortly after I climbed aboard my stand and settled in, I experienced a panic attack: Where was my grunt call? In the confusion of unpacking my morning gear, and repacking to hang the portable stand, had I left my new call back at the truck?

This battle-worn bruiser is more proof that Kansas bucks are susceptible to the right rut-time calling techniques.
This battle-worn bruiser is more proof that Kansas bucks are susceptible to the right rut-time calling techniques.

And then it hit me. I recalled that I’d removed the dangling call from my neck and stashed it in a side pant pocket, in the interest of increased safety while hanging the portable stand. The call had been out of sight, and apparently, out of mind. Whew. In seconds, I’d liberated the sleek, ultra-realistic-sounding call from its zippered hideaway and once again had it hanging reassuringly from my neck—tucked neatly behind my binos as per usual—for quick and easy access. Panic attack averted. With all my gear now ready for action, things just seemed to fall in place. At 12:30 p.m. I had a wide little six-point stroll up the brushy draw—and then right under my stand—helping me feel good about my decision to relocate. Click Here…


Muzzleloader Deer Hunt

Muzzleloader Deer Hunt

When I returned shortly after sunrise the next morning, my jaw dropped. The deer was gone. No drag marks, no chewed remains from coyotes. It was simply gone.

ne large pad print of a bear told the story of what happened to the author's hard-earned doe.
One large pad print of a bear told the story of what happened to the author’s hard-earned doe.

Chillingly, it dawned on me what had happened. There was no other explanation. A bear had taken the deer. A shudder went up my spine when I conjured the image of a 300- to 400-pound bear calmly snatching up the doe in its jaws like we might casually grab an apple as we pass a bowl of fruit sitting on a table, and then lumbering up the mountain as the deer’s limbs dragged limply on the ground.

Examining the area more carefully, I made out a single footprint of a bruin. The pad measured 6 inches across: a massive 7-foot bear, likely 400 pounds-plus!

This is the bear the author believes "stole" his field-dressed doe. He saw it during spring, but never during hunting season.
This is the bear the author believes “stole” his field-dressed doe. He saw it during spring, but never during hunting season.

I searched far and wide looking for the deer or what might remain of it that day and the next, with no luck. I watched the skies for buzzards or alert crows that might home in on the doe’s remains. Nothing. The buzzards I did see were high in the sky, searching without focus. No crows were around.

As I continued to search, wandering through some dense, thick cover, the hair bristled on the back of my neck. What if I did find the bear, or stumbled upon him 10 yards away in a thicket munching on my doe? How would he react? What would I do?

Eventually, not knowing which direction he might have headed, I gave up the search. There would likely be little left of the doe, anyway.

It was a hard lesson learned. The next deer, I vowed, was coming out with me, even if it was midnight when we made it out of the woods!

Postscript: Not only did I drag my next whitetail out the same evening I shot it, as a precaution, I wired it to the 20-foot extension ladder behind my house where I hang deer. If the bear could drag that 150-pound, 8-point buck, along with the ladder up into the woods, well, I guess he’d get that one, too. Click Here…


Chilling Conclusion

Muzzleloader Deer Hunt Ends With Chilling Conclusion

Muzzleloader Deer Hunt Ends With Chilling Conclusion

Chilling Conclusion It had been a slow season for many Virginia bowhunters, yours truly included. The weather was unseasonably hot and dry. Crops were strong and acorns reasonably plentiful so deer didn’t have to move much. And they didn’t.

After a slow bow season, author was seeking a fat doe to fill the freezer with during his state's early muzzleloader season.
After a slow bow season, the author was seeking a fat doe to fill the freezer with during his state’s early muzzleloader season.

Then, when I finally had chances and does walked into range, I foolishly passed them up in hopes a mature buck might be coming next. Venison in the freezer from last year was running thin, though. Something had to be done.

When early muzzleloader season for Virginia came in, I finally decided enough was enough. I needed to get serious and harvest a doe for the freezer. I could worry about antlers later when the rut kicked in and rifle season arrived.

Does are legal throughout the two-week black-powder season, so I decided this day I would finally bring home the bacon, or rather the steaks, roasts and burger that I would get from a corpulent doe.

It was Veteran’s Day. As I sat on stand wiling the minutes away, I said a silent thanks to our country’s armed forces. My mind also drifted back to the greatest veteran I knew, who I’d lost too many years ago, my father.

Then I thought about deer. And precisely, why weren’t they showing up?

This was a natural transition corridor they used moving from daytime bedding areas in the wooded foothills of Little North Mountain as they headed towards farmers’ alfalfa fields and food plots I’d planted. The wind, for a change, was perfect. But where were the deer?

Finally, with the sun sinking lower in the West, a fawn appeared, then another, then two deer that looked like mature does. Food had been so abundant the fawns were almost as fat as the does! I scanned particularly hard to make sure I targeted a doe at least 1-1/2 years or older. A dark, gray-coated one with vivid white circles around her eyes looked like she fit the bill.

Aiming carefully with the .50-caliber rifle, I settled the crosshairs behind her shoulder, calmed my nerves, and squeezed off.

The cap fired, and then a split-second later, 120 grains of Triple 7 pellets ignited and the sabot bullet was on its way. I couldn’t be sure how the deer reacted. It was a close shot—maybe 60 yards. I didn’t know how I could miss. But anything can happen in hunting — a flinch, a twitch, a sudden move by the quarry.

I lowered the rifle, climbed down, reloaded, and went to look where the deer had stood. I found a few clumps of hair, a tiny speck or two of blood.

Unsure, I decided to wait. An hour later, I began my search. For 30 minutes, the situation looked grim. No deer. No blood.

Finally, with daylight dwindling fast, I glanced up a steep, rocky creek bed and there was the doe lying dead at water’s edge. She had not gone 100 yards after the shot. She was bigger than I’d thought — probably close to 100 pounds field-dressed.

It was almost dark. Getting this deer out would be a challenge. It was a steep 60-degree angle on each side of the rocky slopes bordering the creek. They were wet and slippery. And it would be an arduous, potentially dangerous drag out in the dark if I opted to go down the creek bed.

I decided to field dress the deer and retrieve it during full daylight the next day. Rolling up my sleeves I completed the chore and saw that the bullet had hit both lungs.

Placing several stout branches under the doe for air circulation, I spread the ribs wide to facilitate cooling. I left a sweaty hat on the carcass to ward off coyotes and walked back to my home, half a mile away, as the sun set. Propped open, she would cool overnight. I’d haul her out and hang her behind the shed at first light the next morning.

It was a routine I’d done before when harvesting a buck or doe late in the day. I had no qualms about leaving her and had never had a coyote or anything disturb the animal overnight with all of the human scent and a hat or jacket left at the site.

Finally, I had a fat doe for the freezer. She would make some tasty venison.

Unfortunately, that was the same thought someone else had. Click Here…



Bowhunting: 10 Ways to Success!

Bowhunting: 10 Ways to Success!

Packing and Gear Tips for “Adventure” Bowhunters

Bowhunting For the most part, bowhunters are dreamers—we’re always using our spare time to devise intricate plans to help us get the drop on our next target. Some don’t stop there, and scrimp, save, and sacrifice to experience a true “dream trip” adventure—likely one they’ve imagined since their youth. Minnesota’s John Schaffer, 45, is one of those big dreamers, but he’s one of the lucky few who are realizing those dreams. And lucky for us all, he’s only too happy to help others realize theirs. Schaffer happens to be one of the most knowledgeable archer-bowhunters in the nation, and he regularly doles out sage advice from behind the counter of his successful archery pro shop, Schaffer Performance Archery, based in Burnsville, Minn.

Schaffer’s impressive resume includes a long stint as an accomplished, professional archer, he’s owned and operated his namesake pro shop for the last 18 years, and, since 1989, has simultaneously manufactured premium archery equipment—gear that includes the well-known and unique Schaffer Opposition arrow rest, and Opposition Air Quick Detach bow sight.

Adventure bowhunter John Schaffer.
Adventure Bowhunter John Schaffer.

Originally, Schaffer designed and built his respected accessories (known for their “bombproof” construction), to withstand the rigorous demands of traveling archers. And Schaffer knows how to build a rugged accessory. As proof, the veteran, adventure-seeking bowhunter is a mere seven animals away from completing a life goal: bow-bagging a North American Super Slam of 29 big game animals. Recently, I sat down with Schaffer to get some packing and gear tips for like-minded “adventure” bowhunters—people who might be making their own “hunt of a lifetime.” Heed Schaffer’s sound advice, and your dreams just might become reality!

Double-Wrap Your Bow
“What I like to do with my hard bow case is gut it, take out all the foam inserts, and put my bow in there, packed inside of a thin, separate soft case,” Schaffer says. “This ‘double casing’ offers the best protection to the bow, but the main reason is that, if I have to jump into a [tiny] float plane, I can pull off that hard shell, and still have my bow protected and ready to go.”

It should be noted that Schaffer, an archery technician par excellence, saves space and weight these days by carrying just one fully-rigged bow, and some key replacement components: 2 sets of limbs, a set of cams, and strings and cables. With these, even miles from nowhere, Schaffer can completely rebuild even a “blown-up” compound, in about an hour (he recommends that the rest of us carry a second, fully rigged and ready backup bow in case of breakdown).

Socks as Travel Bags?
Also inside his hard bow case, Schaffer will cram all the accessories he can (extra sight, bow stabilizer, releases, and more) packed inside his extra socks, which act as cushioning material to prevent damage to his precious bow. “And it also keeps everything from shifting around,” he says.

Make The Most of Carry-Ons
The well-traveled Schaffer has more horror stories than most when it comes to lost or misrouted hunt luggage. To prevent expensive hunt delays, he uses an extra-large carry-on pack (an ancient, full-size mountaineering-style internal frame pack) that allows him to safeguard several important items. On a typical hunt, Schaffer will bring the carry-on, as well as two checked bags: A large duffel bag and the hard bow case detailed above, filled with both bow and gear.

“I have had so many bad experiences with luggage being lost, that now I get on the plane thinking, ‘can I still hunt if the airlines lose my gear duffel?’ That’s my goal, so I get on the plane wearing my hunting boots, and inside my carry-on, I keep a base layer, an insulating layer, rain gear, and hats and gloves, so even if they lose my duffle, I can still hunt. I also carry on a binocular, spotting scope if needed, and rangefinder—anything they will let you take on the plane that is necessary to the hunt.”

Serious Phone Service
“Another critical piece of travel gear is my satellite phone. I take it with me wherever I go. One main reason is, I’m a father and a husband. The phone helps keep my wife sane when I’m on some far-flung trip, and it’s nice to be able to check in on the family, and my business, no matter where I am. A couple of times, I’ve had conversations on top of the mountain that have saved me from delays in production, and things like that. And, of course, the primary reason is safety; when you’re out there, and it’s just you and the guide, something could happen to the guide just as easily as to you. You’ve got to be prepared.”

Schaffer has had his sat phone (by Globalstar) for about 10 years, after purchasing it for about $1,000. He pays a monthly service fee—a minimum plan is about $30 per—that he keeps active year-round due primarily to deactivation/reactivation costs that make the continuous service a virtual wash.

One of the biggest keys to a successful elk bowhunt? Get yourself in top shape months before you leave...and stay there. Start now!
Schaffer says a critical piece of his travel gear is his satellite phone. In case something bad happens in the middle of nowhere, you can call for help.

“On my stone sheep hunt in B.C., I tagged out early, and I was with an assistant guide who didn’t have a phone,” Schaffer remembered. “I called the float plane base and told them they could come pick us up; they were originally going to get us five days later. It’s really a no-brainer to carry a sat phone, and I always bring an extra battery, although I’ve never needed one.” Click Here…