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“Mr. Whitetail” Larry Weishuhn’s Deer Hunting Tips

January 31, 2012

Mr. White Tail, Larry Weishuhn’s Deer Hunting Tips

There’s a reason they call Larry Weishuhn Mr. Whitetail. It’s not because of television shows (on the Outdoor Channel, Sportsman Channel, etc …) or award winning writings (both books and articles) or his induction into the National Legends of the Outdoors Hall of Fame. The name spread because of these accolades, but it’s not why they pasted him with that moniker. He’s known as Mr. Whitetail because the man understands deer.

I’m a regular neophyte when it comes to hunting whitetail, but I wasn’t the only one at the NRA’s Great American Hunting & Outdoor Show who was dazzled by his seminar on hunting. Just like the seasoned hunters who asked the questions, I shook my head as he dispelled myths, revealed facts and laid out the groundwork for a successful hunting season.

Here’s some of his highlights (paraphrased):

  • Buying scent blockers always seemed like a waste to me. If the sun is in your eyes and wind at your back, you’d be amazed how good any scent blockers works.
  • If you want to learn about deer then study people. If you want to learn about people then study deer. It’s amazing the similarities we share.
  • We go out for deers early in the morning. Deers come out more between 10 am and 2 pm. Do they know we leave by 10 to go watch football or is that just part of their nature?
  • Predators don’t take down the weak and informed until they’ve eaten all the healthy ones. Why would they? Would you cut up a sickly cow or a robust steer?
  • 6-8 weeks before deer season opens, I hang blaze orange and dirty socks in the areas where I’m going to hunt. Once the season starts, they’ll be use to what I’m going to look like and what I’m going to smell like.
  • There are two parts of North America — those that have wild pigs and those that are going to have them.
  • Birth control for deer is foolish. Any medication or devices introduced into the mix eventually makes the rest of the herd sick. The only efficient method of birth control comes with a 130 grain solution.
  • You can kill as many deer on the ground as you can from a tree. But you don’t have to climb to get to the ground.

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Proper Turkey Decoy Placement

January 30, 2012

How close do you put your spring turkey decoy?

How close should you put your turkey decoy?

Many people tend to over think how close or how far away you should place your turkey decoy.  They worry “the tom won’t see my turkey decoy if he comes from over here,” or  ”if I put it too close the tom will see me.”  Hopefully I can make you rethink how to answer the question so you don’t make a mistake I have seen over and over again.

How close you put the turkey decoy is a weapons question

How close your put your turkey decoy is completely dependent on your weapon limitations.  When I set up to kill a tom in the spring or fall, the shooting is the easy part.  You place your turkey decoy at a distance you are comfortable you can hit it at 10 out of 10 times.  If you are shooting a longbow, the decoy may be 15 feet from your blind (I set them that close most of the time).  If the pattern on your new 12 gauge is most effective at 35 yards, you set the decoy at 35 yards.  With a top-quality turkey decoy, you have confidence the toms will confront him, so put the decoy where you are comfortable shooting, and you will make the shot.

How close you put the turkey decoy should dictate the spot you set up

Since how close you put the turkey decoy is a factor of the range at which you are comfortable shooting, it will dictate where you set up.  If your shotgun performs best at 35 yards, don’t set up where the farthest shot will be 15 yards.  Your group will be so tight you can easily miss the tom’s head and neck.  He only has to bob his head slightly as you squeeze the trigger for a complete miss.  A 35 yard optimum shot means you need to set up in a more open area to best use your choke’s pattern.  If you are shooting a self bow with a 5 yard comfort zone, you may pick tighter spots where the bird really needs to come looking for your turkey decoy.  You don’t have to set up in thick cover, but it is a good option, as the toms may not close the whole way in wide open areas where they know that their strutting antics are easily seen.  Our Best Turkey Decoy helps solve this open field issue, but if you run low quality fakes, it is a concern.

Our Best Turkey Decoy maximizes success by placing birds in your comfort zone

Many toms are missed each spring because of how close the toms come to the turkey decoy.  If your turkey decoy is not top of the line, you can’t predict how close the tom will approach.  If you put the turkey decoy at 35 and the bird hangs up at 50, you may miss the shot.  By using top quality decoys, like our Dakota jake, the toms are much more likely to come all the way to the decoy.  That means you decide how far the shot is, and having that control over shot distance means you know you can make the shot.

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Bowling for Spring Gobblers: Strange Turkey Decoy Tactics

January 27, 2012

Bowling for Spring Gobblers: Strange Turkey Decoy Tactics

I’ve seen all kinds of turkey decoy tactics across the country in the past 20 years. Breeding sets, back feather rugs, and walking behind silhouettes. I have tried it all. At least I thought so until I hunted with guide Justin Nott at Laughing Water Ranch Outfitters in north central Nebraska. They take close to 100 turkeys every spring. I’ve seen a lot of weird turkey decoy tactics, and below is a favorite.

Turkey decoy tactics

Justin talked about one of the turkey decoy tactics he uses for gobblers in open meadows and fields. If you’ve hunted turkeys enough there’s a good chance you’ve been in this situation: a big strutter in the middle of a wide open field. Maybe he’s got a few hens with him or he’s just being a stubborn gobbler. You’ve thrown every call in your vest at him. He seems interested, but not coming any closer. The only chance you have to get that bird closer is to get a turkey decoy out in the field, but there’s no cover and no way to crawl out there without being seen. So how do you get the decoy out there? Simple, just throw it. Well, more of a controlled roll like you’re bowling. This may sound like a long shot, but it has actually worked for him many times. The throw is movement, which will always garner a turkey’s attention, and it’s surprising how often the reaction is positive.

Most turkey decoys don’t bowl real well. Justin was fortunate this past fall to field test the Best Turkey Decoy. The way the birds came in and crushed the turkey decoy made it feel like spring. He even had a good tom mount it, which is pretty rare to see in the fall. Not only is the Best Turkey Decoy a detailed and life-like turkey decoy, it almost always lands upright when tossed! Let’s face it, you’re not going to throw a cheap foam decoy too far. A full body strutter such as a Killer B or Pretty boy could work, but they’re too big and awkward to roll. Plus, if you’re using a real fan there’s a good chance you’ll destroy it. In the past, Nott used a specially modified mounted jake named Frankenstein. Unfortunately, Frankenstein was fairly delicate and wasn’t very fond of being tossed around, especially into a wet field. Still, it got quite a few wise old birds killed, but he was spending as much time repairing it as he was hunting.

Turkey decoy tactics practice

With a little practice, Justin says you can roll the Best Turkey Decoy out to 30 yards and make it sit upright 8 out of 10 times. Even if the turkey decoy doesn’t sit upright you’re still in the game. A quality turkey decoy laying on its side can give the impression of a wounded bird. Most toms, whether they’re the dominant bird in the area or not, will likely jump at the chance to easily get rid of potential competition. Also, turkeys know by instinct that a wounded bird can attract predators and will try to push it out of the area. He’s actually had birds commit to Frankenstein while he was lying upside down on his back.

Another situation this technique is good for is when you use a hen yelp to locate a bird in thicker timber and he’s already on top of you. The bird is coming and there is no time to think out the best set up. Just toss the turkey decoy in the direction of the bird and find the nearest tree. It might save you the heartache of spooking that fast-closing tom. A locator call such as an owl or crow call helps, but sometimes birds just wont respond, especially during midday.

Bowling turkey decoys is more of a last ditch effort, but it’s definitely something you want to keep at the bottom of your bag of tricks. I know there’s a good chance you’ll see me bowling for turkeys this spring. For more turkey decoy tactics, come see Justin at Laughing Water Ranch. Maybe we can go bowling together.

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The Making of a Film Production Company: Warm Springs Productions

January 26, 2012

The Making of a Film Production Company: Warm Springs Productions

Keep an eye on Warm Springs Productions and the TV series this film production house makes in the coming years. The company swept away three awards at the Golden Moose Awards presented by Outdoor Channel this year. This makes yet another addition to the recognition WSP has received in only its fourth year in business.

Most recently WSP won “Best Overall Series,” for Benelli Presents Duck Commander and “Best Graphics” and “Best Sound Design” for Buck Commander Protected By Under Armour at the 2012 Golden Moose Awards presented at SHOT Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. The first year the company was in business (2008), they took five of the 10 golden moose awards they were nominated for.

I spoke to Warm Springs Productions President Chris Richardson about the Montana company’s exponential growth since its founding in 2008.

“We had visions of success but, growing this quickly has been a unique experience,” said Richardson. WSP started out at a four-person operation in a tiny office that went on to produce 78 episodes for seven television series last year as a full production house that does everything in-house; the pre-production, graphics, sound, post-production, filming, and so on.

Bridger Pierce, the Director of Operations & Senior Producer of Outdoor Programming was also on hand to discuss the company’s successes. He was excited about the talented people at the company that make success possible. “I think Chris and Marc [Pierce, CEO] have done a great job of hiring within the outdoor industry and from outside of it,” Pierce said. “It’s through that bringing together of a great crew that Warm Springs was able to continue raising the ceiling on outdoor television.”

Watch the season three promo of Duck Commander below

After fifty to sixty days of filming, 700 hours of footage and two to three weeks editing time per episode, WSP finally had 12 episodes of Duck Commander to present to the Outdoor Channel. In that time the crew really bonded with the Robertson family, the stars of the series.

“We spent hundreds of days in Monroe and it’s hard not to just become part of their family,” said Richardson. “They make you feel at home even if you’re manning the swamps with them for 40 days in a row…. I call them my second family when I’m down there.”

Both Richardson and Pierce recall the unruly time schedule of filming – cameramen had to get up before the hunters, around 3 o’clock in the morning, and they couldn’t sleep until filming was over; often times after 11 p.m. But the challenges were worth it.

“We would shoot long hours,” Pierce said, “but the reality is that we’ve got such a great staff who are creative minded and really want to put the best product on TV and so every single one of them isn’t satisfied until we accomplish that.”

And to accomplish that it took 700 hours of footage, most of which ended up on the editing floor, to produce 12 episodes of Benelli Presents Duck Commander. In that time, one camera fell into the swamp and every day the crew faced the challenges of pouring rain, ice-cold waters, humidity, keeping batteries charged and the many Louisiana mosquitos that breed in its swamps.

And while WSP can’t reveal everything they’re working on before its officially announced, look for projects WSP is working on right now with the Discovery Science channel, the History Channel and the shows that are already in production like Buck Commander and Making Monsters set to air soon.

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Sustainability: Wildlife is the Model

January 25, 2012

Sustainability: Wildlife is the Model

“Sustainable” (insert your preferred commodity here) has become the new buzzword for anyone and everyone who wants to make a serious impact to help conserve our planet’s natural resources.

For example, sustainable energy development has become most prevalent in recent times. The energy currently being produced on wind farms and via solar energy has greatly raised the awareness among the general American public for the concept of “sustainable.” More so that the term “green,” “sustainable” reflects both the common-sense utilization of resources with the goals of decreasing human impact on the planet — while still maintaining growth in our U.S. and world economies.

I would like to reflect today on an often overlooked natural resource that offers a sustainability paradigm: our nation’s abundance of wildlife. Please let me explain. Wildlife species, like the North American Whitetail Deer, are currently estimated at all time highs in their population count, with some estimates suggesting there are over 25 million deer in the U.S. alone. By contrast, deer populations at the turn of the 20th century dipped as low as 500,000.

So, how does this relate to sustainability?

Every state’s wildlife resources agency manages wildlife populations to prevent the ravages of overpopulation – and the dangers that come with it, such as vehicular accidents. They generally allot a certain percentage of the state’s deer herd to be harvested by hunters. The state tightly regulates the number of deer harvested so as to not exploit the herd, thus allowing continued growth. Hunters pay substantial fees for hunting licenses in order to pursue deer; this money goes to support habitat conservation to further the management of the species. Sustainable Harvest.

All hunters are expected to utilize the meat and venison from their harvest. Through hunting, individuals are able to provide a high-protein, low fat food sources for their family and friends. Sustainable Locavorism.

Because deer populations are so high, hunters harvest more meat than they and their friends can consume. The venison, however, does NOT go to waste. Programs like Sportsmen Against Hunger and Hunters Feeding the Hungry help individuals donate ground venison to local food banks. Meals made from venison that hunters have provided over the last 10 years to those less fortunate number in the tens of millions. Sustainable Giving.

Sustainable practices have long been a tradition of American culture, however only now has such a definition like “sustainable” being given to it. For wildlife and those that pursue game species, sustainability is the key to providing a true vale on the individual animal. Not only is the hunter gaining a valuable meat from the animal, but others within the community can realize the important role wildlife and hunting play to provide food to those less fortunate. Establishing a value that wildlife, in very real and tangible terms, helps feed others, encourages better and more productive management of these animals in the future.

Hunters have helped increase wildlife populations while putting hundreds of millions of dollars into conservation, and have provided hundreds of millions of healthy, organic meals for their families and the less fortunate in the process. If this is not the definition of sustainable, then I don’t know what is.

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Late Season Oklahoma Bow Hunting

January 25, 2012

Late Season Oklahoma Bow Hunting

As the sun set on the Western horizon, my wife Beth, cameraman Hunter, and I still had six more hours of driving to do. Traveling through Mississippi, the miles couldn’t move fast enough to the Oklahoma border. We were headed to hunt the Okie state for the first time and couldn’t be more excited for a late season bow hunt.

Arriving after midnight, we quickly found our beds so we could start off first thing in the morning. As daylight came the deer movement began. Since hunting over feeders is legal in the state, and late season food sources are a strong necessity to get a shot, we were going to use these to our advantage. Beth was hunting the top of a ridge and not long after being in the stand she had deer coming in. After the first few came in to feed, a nice buck followed but never offered Beth a clear shot.

Setting up just off a food plot on a hardwood creek bottom, I saw a few deer after first light, none large enough to shoot or close enough. Suddenly I saw a nice buck trotting across the plot. He was heading away and I decided to blow my grunt call. With a few short tending grunts, the buck stopped and headed straight for us! He came in on a string to the call and stopped at 15 yard…right behind a tree! Standing there looking, the buck knew something wasn’t right and trotted back up the ridge and out of bow range. Talk about a great start to the trip!

The afternoon was also slow for me, only seeing a doe with two yearlings, but Beth was wrapped up on a food plot with deer. She saw several bucks that were nice and a couple of shooters. None offered her a shot on the first afternoon though.

When morning two began we awoke to rain, which isn’t a good combination for video gear or bows for the most part. We decided to tough it out in ground blinds, we normally hunt in Ghostblinds but in the rain we needed cover for the video cameras. Sitting in the blind as daylight approached we watched the woods come alive on the top of a hardwoods ridge. With the acorns long gone, the only food available was the feeder setup 15 yards away. Several does and yearlings along with one small-racked buck came in to feed then eased back down the ridge. I thought to myself that the rain was setting in harder and the deer would stop their moving for the morning when I looked to our right and a buck was coming up the ridge. Checking him out with my Hawke binoculars, he was a nice eight with a broken rack. As I looked at him, a giant eight point walked into view. This buck had it all: mass, tine length, width, and height.

Quickly I told Hunter there was a shooter coming in and to get ready with the camera. I clipped my release on my loop and readied myself for the shot. The bigger buck came right in and began feeding. I slowly drew by my bow and anchored for the shot. Gently touching the trigger, my arrow released and I hear a loud thwack and watched the buck hit the ground right there! What happened? The chair I was sitting in was a little low in the blind so after I released the arrow, my fletchings clipped the edge of the blind window just enough to kick my arrow up. Luckily my Muzzy plowed the deer’s spine and dropped him right there. After a follow up shot the buck was done. Was I lucky or the buck just unlucky? I will never know, but I had my Oklahoma tag filled!

Beth was back on the same food plot she hunted the afternoon before and again had encounters with a couple nice bucks with no luck. She was looking for her first deer with a bow and was doing all she could to contain herself. She finally had a nice eight point in range and drew back on him only to have a doe walk in the way and she was never able to get a shot off. Over the next three days she saw plenty of deer but no shooters to get an arrow towards. As dark fell on the last afternoon, I asked her if she wanted to give it one more try the next morning before we had to head home. Her answer, “I didn’t pay all this money for a tag to eat it!” She learned from me many times that tag sandwiches don’t taste good!

The last morning she climbed in the stand well before daylight and was ready. The morning was fairly slow then two bucks came in to feed. One was a real nice eight point, and on the last day she wasn’t giving any a pass! She drew back her Elite bow, anchored and placed her pink Muzzy right behind the buck’s shoulder at 31 yards. Beth had just filled her tag and arrowed her first ever deer with a bow, a nice eight point on top of all that!

There is nothing like spending time in the woods with the ones you love. Getting to share Beth’s first bow kill with her was very special and hopefully the first of many to come. She never hunted before meeting me, I don’t know if I’ve created a monster or not but she straight loves the outdoors and filling her tags as much as I do. I know I’m blessed for sure!

Until next time, God bless and good hunting.

Gear list:

  • Bow: Elite Pulse (Michael) Elite GT500 (Beth)
  • Rest: QAD Ultrarest HD (Michael and Beth)
  • Sight: Spot-Hogg Hogg-It (Michael and Beth)
  • Broadhead: Muzzy MX-3 ,100 grain (Michael), Muzzy 100 grain 3 blade Pink (Beth)
  • Fletchings: Bohning Blazer vanes (Michael and Beth)
  • Optics: Hawke Frontier ED 43mm (Michael and Beth)
  • Release: Scott Quick Shot (Michael), Scott Little Goose (Beth)
  • Scent Eliminator: Lethal Field Spray (Michael and Beth)
  • Attractant: Muzzy Bowhunter Setup (Michael and Beth)
  • Camo: Realtree APG by Gamehide (Michael and Beth)
  • Safety Vest: Hunter Safety System Pro Series (Michael and Beth)
  • Pack: Gameplan Gear Spot N Stalk (Michael and Beth)
  • Stablizer: X-Factor Outdoors System (Michael and Beth)
  • Boots: Lacrosse Alpha Burly in Realtree APG (Michael and Beth)

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Deer Decoy Placement

January 20, 2012

Deer Decoy Placement

You’re sitting in the tree. You have been set up since before daylight and your decoy is out. Within range, you have high hopes and you have confidence you have gotten in without leaving a scent trail, other than an attractant. Lets say you have a buck decoy out and have done all the work you can to get it as attractive to a buck as possible. All the right moves, all the right timing, all the right scents are in place. Everything seems to be in your favor to get this buck you have worked for, into position for a good shot. It’s archery and your range is at 20 yards. With confidence levels this high, it’s hard not to get excited about what may transpire in the next few moments or hours.

Wind is right, temperatures are cold, but tolerable. The woods seem to be speaking and the nature moves all around you. You have your stand set up to be able to ambush him as he steps out from the trail and investigates your decoy. You know what he looks like with all the cam pictures you have. Some deer filter out across the field and you begin wondering if he has changed his pattern. The deer in the field are eating, comfortable and slowly, more and more are showing up to feed. So far, things look very good.

Then, it happens. He comes out from the opposite side of the field. Murphy’s Law has reared his ugly head. Although there are several deer wandering away from you, there is still hope. You give him a grunt to get his attention. He looks up and sees this decoy, a mature buck decoy,  standing at the edge of his field. His tail twitches, ears ease back a little, you can tell he isnt happy with the thought of a competitor moving in on his prospects. You give him another grunt and he begins making his way towards your decoy. Now the heart quickens, blood is pumping and the adrenaline is filling your system like a boost of high octane caffeine.

As you ready for the shot, he is coming in on a string. This is what you have anticipated for weeks or even months. It’s going to happen and you are ready. As the buck approaches, he lays his ears back, moves downwind and makes his final approach. Now, at this point, the question is, how did you orient the decoy, relative to your stand? Did you place it looking away from you? Towards you? At a right angle, quartering away?  Or did you even give it a thought?

Even though there is no guarantee on how a wild animal will act, or react, in a given situation, there are a few things you can take into account when placing your decoy out in front of your stand. Let’s say, again, you have placed a buck decoy out. Most would consider this to be a threat to a mature buck, as he sees it as the “new kid” on the block. He will most likely approach it with an aggressive stance and approach from somewhere in front or slightly quartering into the front of this decoy. This would tend to make you want to place your decoy in such a way that, when your intended target is within range, you have a shot with as high a percentage as possible, to make a lung shot. Ideally, your shot would be a quartering away shot at a slight angle, or a full broadside shot.  There is no way to tell how the buck will approach your decoy. If possible, you can use a tree, bush or other obstacles to “force” his approach. But again, no guarantees. Mostly, a wild animal is going to act just as it is, wild. We can only guess, at best, what they may do and how they will act.

Now, with a doe, in my opinion, this tactic is a little more dependable. Chances are this buck will approach with one thing in mind.  This is the rut, and they are rutting. This doe smells like she is ready and willing. You have him approaching and, when he begins his final approach, there is a great chance he will do this from behind her. He wants to be careful when he makes his investigation. You have set your doe decoy up with her facing away, slightly quartering to one side or the other. The best we can do is try and increase our odds and hope for the best. Even when we do everything right, sometimes it just doesn’t work out the way we pictured it. Just remember that we can study every movement we can, make an educated evaluation with the information we have gathered over our lives and make the highest percentage shots we can, when we do get that shot.

Do your homework, go the extra mile, make that seemingly unnecessary adjustment, practice ethics and conservation. Make your shot count. Practice shooting, trailing wounded game tactics and think about what you’re doing and why. We all take calculated risks when we hunt and if we can make it an activity with knowledge at the forefront, most times it is successful whether make a harvest or not. Teach this to our young. Pass on the respect and conservation minded way of our heritage. We need to follow the right paths for our children to walk behind us, as we have done with the ones who have taught us.

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Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks: Part Two

January 10, 2012

Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks: Part Two

Different Personalities

Individual mule deer personality has been overlooked for too long. This may be because many hunting styles don’t allow or require a hunter to identify the personality traits of their prey, or it may be due to the moral complications that arise within most empathetic humans (including me). Either way, it is a handicap to ignore such powerful, deterministic attributes of individual animal behavior.

Let me be clear, I do not use the word personality to imply that deer are somehow, mentally or emotionally, equal to humans. I’m using it loosely to describe “the organization of the individual’s distinguishing character traits, attitudes, or habits”, as stated in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Each individual will demonstrate behaviors that we would classify into categories like: reclusive, timid, nervous, aggressive, social, laid back, etc. The value in making these personality distinctions is apparent when making critical decisions during a stalk.

Personality cannot be precisely measured, and a particular buck may not fit squarely into the same category when two different people are observing him. This is because personality is an impression that the buck has on the observer as the buck interacts with both the environment and other mule deer. So it is both social and environmental.

Example

I once watched a bachelor group of 5 bucks do their thing on an alpine slope for two straight weeks. There was one forked horn buck, two average size four-point bucks, one big four point buck, and one monster three by four buck. Over the course of these two weeks each buck demonstrated distinct personalities and preferences, and they did not change from day to day.To differentiate between age class traits and personality traits, I can only compare within age classes. The two larger bucks had similar sized antlers and similar body characteristics (drooping briquette, grey face, swollen belly, sway back, thick subcutaneous fat layer) that made them class four bucks. Here are some of the observations I made.

The big four-point buck was a bully, plain and simple. In the morning when it was about time to bed, this big buck always made the decision about where to go. If a couple of other deer bedded down, he would just keep on going to the place he wanted to bed, and the other deer would eventually get up and follow him. He always used the nicest beds. And when he wanted a different one (even if it wasn’t better) he would simply walk over to another deer and literally kick him out. I never saw him away from the group (even other years), but he was a jerk, so it was like he was not content being grumpy on his own, he needed others to pick on.

The Huge three by four buck was much more laid back. I only watched him kick another buck out of its bed once, and that was  because when he had gotten up to stretch his legs and pee, one of the small four point bucks laid in his bed. While bedded down, he was much more relaxed than the big four point – frequently closing his eyes and laying his head on the ground. He never engaged in sparing challenges with the other bucks. One time another buck came up to him aggressively and almost clashed antlers with him, but when he didn’t flinch, the oncoming opponent veered to the side like a trick high-five. On really hot days, when nice cool beds were taken, this buck would wander down the hill a bit and bed on his own, or lay in a marginal bed near the group. This was surprising since he had the heaviest body and biggest antlers of the group.

So what if mule deer do have personality?

When we recognize that mule deer are not simply a pile of senses wrapped in leather – that each individual may react to similar stimuli in different ways – then we are one step closer to predicting what that trophy buck in the spotting scope will do.

Using the same two bucks from earlier – the bully 4×4 and the laid back 3×4 – let’s construct a stalk for each and identify some of the differences. It is 11am; you are sitting behind the spotting scope, just below skyline, looking down on an alpine meadow. The meadow is mostly Alpine Knotweed (2’ tall) growing straight out of a rock field, there is a small patch of (5-10) White-bark pine trees off to the side, and the whole thing is tilted like a church roof, breaking into cliffs below. There are 5 bucks, just as before, and they are all bedded in those trees to escape the already hot sun. On a day like today the thermals will be ripping straight uphill so a stalk from above just may do the trick – but there is no cover and the rock is to noisy.

Jerk buck (4×4): Since a stalk from above is out of the question I’m going to have to get creative. I know that mule deer like to get up and stretch periodically throughout the day. Maybe I can ambush him when he walks just a short distance away from the group. This would allow me to stay 80-90 yards away, and I could probably get there by slithering through this 2’ high Alpine Knotweed meadow. But which way will he walk when he gets up and stretches? Generally, bucks will walk out into the meadow they just fed in, so this might just work! But I’m worried because all those young bucks are so busy milling around and randomly feeding out into the meadow. They would bust me long before that grumpy old buck would get off his rear. Maybe I could ambush the whole group when they move out to feed in the evening. Mule deer normally side-hill away from their beds so if I just got down there and waited for them they might come right by me. He is so uptight though he’s probably going to be fighting the younger bucks to lead the front of the pack. If that happens, and I pop up out of the grass right in front of them, they’re going to split before I reach my draw anchor. I guess I could wait till tomorrow and see if they bed somewhere a bit better. Maybe I’ll see which direction they are feeding in the morning and get into the nearest bedding site before they do. He should be the first one to arrive. I’m running low on food and water is half a mile away, but it’s worth it if I want to kill this old grump.

Mellow buck (3×4): Now imagine you want to kill the huge 3×4 buck. Since the situation is the same, and he has similar age-class related similarities with the big 4×4 buck, I am going to run into a lot of the same obstacles. It is still going to be nearly impossible for me to stalk in from above, so that is out of the question. The younger bucks are still going to be on edge and milling about, so I can’t hang out close to the group for very long. He likes to sleep in his bed a lot so maybe I could spook the rest of the deer off while I move in fast and hope that he is slow enough to get a shot off. That is way too risky though – it may take a week to find another buck of this caliber. If I watch him long enough he may move to a bed further away from the group. If he does move to a far away bed I will need to be closer so that I can capitalize on it right away before he moves again. Ambushing him in the evening when they side-hill out into the meadow might work – he is so laid back he will probably bring up the rear of the group and I could remain hidden until the others pass by. Bingo! I like this. If I set up for this ambush I will be ready to take advantage of either situation: if he relocates to a far away bed, or if he comes out into to meadow behind the rest of the group. And, if I never get a chance at him today, I can slip out after the sun goes down without spooking a single one of them.

Of course, hind sight is 20/20, but these are the sort of things to think about when you are planning a stalk. I will talk about this more later, but I like to give myself several hours to plan a stalk and this is why. The more time spent figuring your buck out and running scenarios of possible stalking strategies, the more likely a stalk will be successful. The last scenario was based on a situation I experienced several years ago. I wanted to kill the big 3×4 – don’t ask why, he’s just my flavor – and I killed him by sneaking down in the meadow, at the same elevation as he was bedded, and waiting (7.5 hours) for the group of bucks to pass before rising out of the grass and putting my arrow through his heart.

To go back to part one of this guide, click here.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks: Part Two

Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks: Part One

January 9, 2012

Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks

Alpine buck age classes

Alpine bucks are not all the same – and this fact is not to be taken lightly. They can be grouped by age, and then again by personality. Yes that’s right, I said personality. Most toddlers can’t use the toilet (age class trait), but only so many like to hit, or cuddle with the dog, or have screaming contests (personality). But for now let’s just explore some of the traits of each age class.

Class One: Greenhorns, first timers, rookies; whatever you wish to call them. They are young and dumb and stick together in the hills. They wander at random times of the day and visit water more often. When these young bucks are hanging out with older bucks they will almost always get stuck bedding out in the sun or in hotter beds when shaded spots are limited.

Class Two: Middle age bucks are a couple of years older. They have seen the world, they know not to underestimate their predators, and they are nervous – all the time. They will rarely sleep in the middle of the day, and are constantly moving around and surveying their surroundings.

Class Three: Then there are the elites, the dominant bucks, those bucks that are right at their prime and a bit cocky about of it. They know the mountains well and use everything to their advantage. They are relaxed and will often lay their heads on the ground and sleep soon after laying in a new bed. It’s not uncommon to see a doe without a fawn hanging out with these bucks on the upper slopes. They know to duck and hide when danger is afar, and to never return to an area if they have seen danger there before.

Class Four: Lastly there are the old bucks, the regress bucks, the ones sporting thick, knobby antlers with plenty of trash. Generally these old boys are overweight and lazy. They don’t like to move unless it pays off in food, safety, or sex. They know the land better than the rest and are often the hardest to find. Once you do find one of these old dogs though, they are the easiest to pattern and stalk. Unlike younger bucks, these guys follow a much tighter routine. Their old age has made digestion harder and their rumen larger, so they spend more time in each bed chewing and re-chewing their cud until it is small enough to exit the rumen and enter the rest of the digestive tract, and finally allow for another meal to be consumed.  In their beds their eyes droop with lethargy and loose skin folds over their legs. When danger appears they are slower to react and will think twice before jumping from their bed in a full sprint.

The right buck

Stalking a buck is very hard on your body – and mind if you are unsuccessful. After a failed stalk it is common to be deathly dehydrated, sore, hungry, and ticked off. To shake that off and go on another stalk is not an easy thing to do. That is why it is very important to choose your battle wisely and stalk the right buck, in the right situation.

Aren’t all high-country bucks good bucks? You bet they are! But they are not all equally hard to kill. Some bucks are very hard to kill because they are paranoid, only bed for short periods of time, and hang out in groups more often etc. That kind of sounds like a young forked horn or three-point doesn’t it? You got it. I would say a young buck is harder to kill in the high country than an old sway-back. That works out pretty good for the hunter now doesn’t it. The only exception are the class 3 bucks that have big horns but are still edgy. It’s up to you if you want to take one of these on, but if you can find an even older buck you will have a much easier stalk.

Why old bucks are less difficult to kill:

  • More relaxed (In bed and when feeding)
  • Bed for longer periods of time during the day (longer time to digest food)
  • Feed later in the morning (easier to locate)
  • less social (hang out on their own more)
  • Hold their ground when danger approaches (hoping it will pass)
  • Don’t “jump the string” (slower reaction time)

To continue on to part two of the Cliff Hunter’s guide for using personality traits to hunt mature bucks, click here.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - Use Personality Traits to Harvest Mature Bucks: Part One

By Waterfowlers, For Waterfowlers: Hard Core Decoys

January 6, 2012

By Waterfowlers, For Waterfowlers: Hard Core Decoys

Breaking news – it has just been announced that Hard Core Decoys is now owned by Hard Core Brands International, LLC and Jim Shiefelbein…click here to read the press release.

Not every company can live up to its tagline, much less its name. Hard Core Decoys, manufacturer and supplier of premium waterfowl decoys, is one that can. Hard Core Decoys makes decoys for the true “hard core” waterfowl hunters out there, the ones that hunt 99% of the days open for waterfowl season, missing that 1% for a brother’s wedding or a friend’s homecoming. That much was evident as I spoke with Vice President Mike Galloway on the phone: he was on the road in the Mississippi Delta, looking out for birds in the midst of a hunt. I was lucky enough to catch him for the low-down on just what Hard Core Decoys is all about.

“What sets us apart from our competitors is that our products are made by waterfowlers, for waterfowlers,” Galloway says. Every member of the staff, from the creators and manufacturers to (of course) the pro staff who put the decoys to the test out in the field, participates in the pursuit of the elusive game. “We’re not just some conglomerate that absorbed a decoy maker. We’re the guys who are part of the sport,” Galloway continues. “When we make decoys, we don’t just pick one body and put four different postures on it. Each one of our decoys is dynamic and as close to reality as possible.”

Galloway is drawn to the sport, and by extension the industry, for the camaraderie and the social nature of a waterfowl hunt. “I love to deer hunt, but that’s basically a solo activity,” Galloway explains, continuing that “waterfowl hunting is a communal activity. While you’re out there, you share stories or a cigar with your buddies in the covert. You watch that Mississippi Delta sunrise together, and if there’s anything in this world that will make you believe in God, it’s that.” On his own dedication to the hunt, Galloway adds “in pursuit of waterfowl, you’re actually hunting. There’s serious thought involved – you mess up a single thing or improperly position a single decoy and those birds aren’t coming anywhere near you. It’s chess and it’s checkers: you’ve gotta think, but you’ve also got plenty of action and in the end you’re having fun.”

Hard Core takes that deep sense of community and the “team hunt” attitude into their products. They make decoys not only that the consumer wants, but that they want. “We wouldn’t put our name on a decoy that we wouldn’t use or stand behind ourselves. Our decoys perfectly recreate resting postures, sleeping postures and every possible true waterfowl position – no detail or expense is spared in the creation of our products,” Galloway asserts.

Everything Galloway told me about over the phone was backed up by Rick Carone, one of Hard Core’s pro staff and an expert waterfowl hunter who I spoke to after interviewing Mike. He sang the praises of the decoys themselves, saying “partly, they’re the perfect replication of a real goose. And what’s more, they’ve got so many different poses that it allows you to make your decoy flock so much more dynamic and realistic. Not all decoys do that.” Then, touching on the camaraderie alluded to by the Hard Core VP, Carone detailed a “wounded warrior” hunt they took an Afghan vet on during his recent return to the United States.

“Mike [Galloway] sent an email around to all of us asking if we’d be able to lend a hand, and he immediately got an overwhelming response in support,” Carone says. Echoing what Galloway had just told me minutes before, Carone added that “we went out to hunt with the vet and shared stories, from war and from hunts. We thanked him for his service, got his own opinions on what was happening overseas and then some. It wasn’t just about the birds but about the fact of being out on the hunt with your friends, new and old.” Straight out of the battlefield and into the wetlands, Hard Core remains dedicated to those who dedicate themselves to the pursuit of difficult game.

In addition to their personal commitment to their work, they go beyond the call of duty and back up their products with promises unique to the industry. For one thing, they absolutely guarantee delivery to retailers. “That’s a huge thing in the decoy market,” Galloway explained to me, “a lot of the times companies oversell and under deliver. Not so with us.” Adding to that, Galloway says “if you have an issue with one of your decoys, we guarantee that when you call Hard Core you will be speaking directly with a member of the Hard Core team who will help you out, not some call service in India.”

One thing you can’t say about Hard Core is that they’re static or stuck in their ways. Galloway could hardly contain his excitement over the phone, telling me that very soon they’ll be “blowing the doors off the outdoor industry.” As much as I pried, Galloway’s lips were sealed about the details.

Whatever happens in the year to come, you can be sure to hear about it first on Outdoor Hub.

Outdoor Hub, The Outdoor Information Engine - By Waterfowlers, For Waterfowlers: Hard Core Decoys

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