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Deer Hunting: Late Season is a Game Changer

By Kevin Reese

Christmas Credit Where It’s Due… Before we talk late season hunting, Kelly, Jacob and I would like to wish you and your families the merriest of Christmases this year. Our prayer through this holiday season is simply that you know, understand and embrace the Reason for the season. Make a simple birthday song your newest Christmas tradition. Santa is one cool cat but not nearly as awesome as the Lion and the Lamb. Give credit where it’s due this Christmas and commit random acts of kindness.

That said, let’s talk hunting…

Mike Kormos, Editor at the Corsicana Daily Sun, in Corsicana, TX, takes a nice 8-pt. buck!

Corsicana, Texas resident, Mike Kormos and a nice 8-Pt.

Late season deer hunting, fraught with the challenges of downright cold temps and bucks that have decided the nightlife is better for their health. Too often, it seems, deer lockdown after the rut, while does still dot the landscape on occasion, bucks have wised-up and don’t care nearly as much about the does as they did weeks earlier. Food sources change, too. Acorns are on the ground, others sources have dried up or gone… the changing season seems to change EVERTHING we know about deer hunting from the early season through the rut.

I often remind people that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Consistently hunting an area, or hunting it the same way is never a good idea; after all, if food sources, activity, temperatures and down-and-dirty deer behavior (rut) have all changed, why wouldn’t you change the way and places you hunt?

It’s easy for us to get stuck in a routine; it’s a path of least resistance – we don’t have to change anything – same Bat channel, same Bat time. Unfortunately the fault in our logic often is that as much as we think we have deer patterned, by mid-season they have likely patterned us; they know the paths we take to our stands or blinds and know where those setups are located. You might get the surprise of your life if you change the setup. More than once, simple changes have been the difference between seeing nothing… AGAIN, and killing the buck of a lifetime.

Consider trading in your regular spot for something less expected. Don’t be afraid to scout and find prospective areas during a quiet, scent controlled mid-day browse but stay away from known bedding areas and keep your bow or rifle with you – you just never know – stranger things have happened. Consider predominant winds when you find signs of deer activity like scat, scrapes, hoof prints, rubs, etc. Set up your blind or stand on the downwind side of observed activity. After setting up a stand or blind in a new location stay out of the area for several days, if possible, before returning to hunt.

Consider what it is exactly you are hunting over and whether interest in those food and water sources change as temperatures drop, acorns fall and the season progresses. How does the change from fall to winter alter activity and food sources? Are they rutting? Is that trail if front of your setup still used? Is water close by? Is it still their first or only choice? Use changes in weather and activity as the measuring stick you use to grade the effectiveness of your current position. Is it time to change your game? When deer have disappeared, your only option is to find out where they went.

Hunt funnels, pinch points, water sources, trails and areas with heavy acorn concentration or other desirable food sources; ask any hunter sitting over a feeder what happens when the acorns fall. In short, those changes must define where and how you hunt. Hunting over active sign as the season progresses makes infinitely more sense than sticking to the same old setup because you saw a buck working a scrape in early October. The lesson here is, “The only constant is change.”

A lack of success spanning the season can be more than frustrating; it can be downright mentally and physically draining. Human nature, if not kept in check, is to see your cup half empty. Pessimism is a hunter, too. It invades your thoughts and manipulates your decisions. Remember how many times Thomas Edison learned how NOT to make a light bulb? You may remember my pop’s best advice; I’ve made mention of it many times, “If you ask a thousand girls to dance, one of ’em’s gonna’ say, ‘Yes.’” There is nothing truer in our pursuit of wild game although there are times you must change the way you ask the question or approach the “girl”. Often, your biggest hurdle is yourself. Be a warrior against pessimism and a champion of tenacity. Attitude is everything; it either keeps you indoors or pushes you in the woods for another day of celebrating our outdoor heritage no matter the odds or the outcome. “You can’t win if you don’t play!” I’ll see you in the woods.

Hunt hard, hunt often.

TIPS FOR A GREAT HUNTING PHOTO: Be in natural settings, not in the back of a truck or a garage floor. Clean up as much blood as you can. RESPECT THE ANIMAL. Keep rifle barrels pointed away from people. Take the photo from a lower position… your deer will grow! Consider if you would frame the photo and place it on your mantle. If you would, great! If not, take the time to get it right.

Brian Beauchamp Buck 2014-sm

 


Cold Weather Bowhunting

Seven Tips Every Extreme Hunter Should Know

*As published at www.GlobalOutfitters.com

By Kevin Reese

Cold weather bowhunting offers great opportunities to see and harvest some of our nation’s finest trophies in some of the most pristine environments on the planet; however, doing so comes at a price. Do you have what it takes to stand up against brutal subzero conditions? Hunting deer in some of Montana’s most brutal, bone-chilling environments, where survival is dependent on preparation and on the fly decision making has taught me some valuable lessons. Here are the top seven:

 

Stand Guard… in Layers!

Dressing for cold weather hunting is not as much about dressing in layers as what comprises the layers. Starting with a moisture-wicking under garment like Under Armour is a great way to suppress moisture, by way of perspiration. The next layer, also good as the initial base layer is a set of polypropylene thermal underwear. Polypropylene also possesses great moisture wicking, great drying, breathing and insulating characteristics. The next layer may be comprised of fleece. Fleece shares the nearly the same insulating ability as wool at half the weight; however, because of its inability to protect from biting wind, I do not recommend it as your outer layer. My personal choice for an outer layer is wool. Yes, wool is heavy, but it’s virtually waterproof, protects well from the brutal whipping wind and has a phenomenal insulating factor. And, because bulk is a bowhunter’s enemy, wool is quieter and far less bulky than most down outer wear applications. Because we also spend a lot of time on our feet, heat loss via conduction is a serious concern. My premier choice for footwear is a 1600-gram Thinsulate waterproof hunting boot at mid-calf height; coupled with wool socks and ThermaCELL’s new Heated Insoles, the combination cannot be beat! Turn the ThermaCELL Heated Insoles to the high setting of 111 degrees and you’ll swear your sitting fireside!

 

Hypo What?

Hypothermia! It’s the number one killer of ill-prepared hunters in blistering cold conditions. Hypothermia attacks when your body temperature drops to a point that impacts normal metabolism and your body is incapable of replenishing lost heat, usually around 95 degrees. As hypothermia quickly progresses uncontrollable shivering and mental confusion set in leaving a slightly disoriented hunter utterly lost and incapable of making critical, sound decisions. The number one catalyst for a healthy dose of hypothermia is moisture. Killing moisture at its onset is critical to combating opportunities to develop hypothermia.

 

Keep it Covered!

Keep every exposed part of your body covered, at least within reason. We can’t very well run around like wool mummies but we can protection from conduction as mentioned above. A fleece or wool balaclava is perfect for dangerously cold temperatures where frostbite is a concern on exposed skin and ice particles may be as comfortable to breathe in as you would like. Good boots and insulated bowhunting gloves also are essential to protect against frostbite.

 

Compression is King!

As mentioned above, wool is a great choice as an outer garment not just because of its great insulating properties but also because unlike other bulky garments, wool is generally flat, laying close to your body contour. Before hunting in cold weather, dress in all layers you expect to hunt in and practice. Ensure there is no contact between you, your bow and your string. Also make sure your layers do not inhibit your ability to shoot with proper form and anchor in the proper place. Contact with layers must be dealt with and can be improved by applying a compression sock to the forearm of your forward hand and even an outer belt around your torso, if necessary.

 

Survival is Serious Business!

Carry a first aid kit and outdoor survival kit including water-resistant matches or a lighter, fire starters, a compass and or a GPS, your cell phone, emergency blanket, poncho and other items in your backpack. You may laugh but I also carry my ThermaCELL mosquito repellant unit. ThermaCELL operates by igniting a butane cartridge via a spark; one cartridge can burn for as long as four hours. In a pinch, that ThermaCELL unit does a great job of warming hands and other things and the butane may come in handy as a fire starter if you find yourself in survival mode! Great resources expanding on first aid and survival kits can easily be found via your internet search engine.

 

Eat Like a King!

 High calorie foods also are suggested; your metabolism has more to do with your body heat than many people realize. You must have calorie intake to keep your metabolism at a normal state. Slowing of your metabolism as a result of calorie intake can lead to loss of body heat and hypothermia.

 

Plan Your Hunt, Hunt Your Plan!

Having a plan before you hit the woods just makes survival sense! Adhering to a good plan only increases your chances of having a successful, memorable and safe hunt. However, things can and do happen when we least expect it. Anytime you venture into the woods, especially in extreme, life threatening temperatures, make sure you outline your hunt as much as possible. Include detailed information about your hunt locations, dates, times of travel, trail markers, companies, outfitters, other hunters in your party including contact information, etc. Leave a copy of all of your plans with someone you trust who is not going with you. If the unthinkable happens, people are more apt to effect product searches by using a copy of your itinerary and hunt plan.

Kevin can be reached at kevinr@just-hunt.com for questions and comments.


Guts, Grit and Glory

Inside the Mind of a Bowhunter

*As published at www.GlobalOutfitters.com

By Kevin Reese

 Friend and owner of Hardcore Huntin’ Music, Steve Conover says it best in a song from his Hardcore Huntin’ Hits CD entitled Real Tree Hugger. “Rise, kill and eat. That’s good enough for me. It’s a tree huggin’ way of life.” The shortest way to explain a real tree hugger is simply to provide sustenance for their family; however, hidden in the shadow of simple provision lies the complexity of what truly drives a tree huggin’ bowhunter into the woods. Human nature, spiritual fulfillment and the flat-out adrenaline rush that follows a double-lung shot at close range are a few of those complexities that keep us in the woods day after day, season after season with stick and string in hand.

 

Proud Providers

There is no debating our primary objective. While the “journey” and coinciding memories are a the heart of a successful hunt, there is no denying the principle reason we are hunting and passing on our heritage as hunters. We are either providing or teaching to provide. If we weren’t trying to fill the freezer we couldn’t really call it hunting, could we? We were perfectly designed to provide and by nature our instincts tell us we must in order to ensure survival. While we have any number of other options to provide in this day and age, the nature of provision has never loosened its grip. If anything it has become the driving force behind our total bowhunting experience; leaving us not just as providers but considering our means of take there truly is a sense of pride in success.

 

Finding YOUR Center-Shot

Establishing your center-shot in archery involves a tuning technique that perfectly aligns your arrow with your limbs, string, bow sight and arrow rest. With finely tuned center-shot your arrows fly much truer; there’s a certain raw beauty in good arrow flight that assures us we’ll hit our mark if everything we’ve done up to the point of release is also aligned.

 

While rifle hunters scratch their heads at a bowhunter’s shear tenacity in the stand, we seldom call it tenacity ourselves. We call it exorcising our inner demons, reversing our priorities and clearing out our waste baskets of meaningless-busyness. While rifle hunters wonder how we can spend countless hours waiting on one good shot, we wonder how they miss the greatest trophy of all… finding your center-shot.

 

Look ‘Em in the Eye

I love a good hunting story. I’ve listened to scores of tall tales about spectacular kills from afar, fogged scopes, misfires at the moment of truth and perfect shots; however, a vast majority of the stories lack what a bowhunter craves most – intimacy. Certain intangible rewards reveal themselves to every bowhunter during the most critical moments that rifle hunters rarely experience. Look ‘em in the eye. Witness the haunting thud of your arrow as it pushes through hide and into the vitals. Experience the adrenaline of up close and personal hunting where you know your prey on a level rifle hunters simply do not understand or embrace.

 

Guts, Grit and Glory

This is where guts meet grit head on; the place where a bowhunter’s story rivets the rifle hunter; it rarely happens the other way around. Embracing the opportunity to get outdoors and close the distance means embracing the good, bad and ugly of bowhunting. Doing so surely leads to the one intangible reward bowhunters crave more than meat on the table – glory! Nothing plays in the mind and on the heartstrings of a bowhunter more than glory. Some would call it the X-factor. Whatever you call it; few rifle hunters ever experience it.  

…and they think we’re crazy!

Hunt hard, hunt often.

Support my friend and fellow tree hugger Steve Conover! His music is “by, for and about hunters.”

Like him on Facebook at:  http://www.facebook.com/HardcoreHuntinMusic

Click “Share” on Hardcore Huntin’ Music’s Facebook page then email HuntingMusic@mail.com to receive a free .mp3 of his hit song Real Tree Hugger!

Buy Steve Conover’s CD, Hardcore Hunting Hits, at www.HuntingMusicCD.com or in iTunes format at www.HuntingMusic.com.  

Kevin can be reached at kevinr@just-hunt.com for questions and comments.


An Ounce of Prevention

Listen, Scout & Know Before You Go!

*As published at www.GlobalOutfitters.com

By Kevin Reese

 

I knew I was going to be hunting there and had the time to go. He even invited me to help check stands, etc. but I declined; I was simply too busy. The result of my inability to “make time” was the excruciating hunt I describe for you below.

 

The Cost of Poor Planning

 

My guts wrenched as panic struck. I watched as the sun rose while frantically scanning the ground below. 20 feet up in my climbing stand, I succumbed to the brutal realization that what I thought was a trail in front of me was simply the remnants of one. The searing heat radiating through my insides intensified when my eyes locked on a super highway not more than 100 yards to my right; it was heavily cloaked by a mesquite thicket but would have been easily seen in the daylight. The sight was double upsetting than simply hunting an old trail, and it got worse. Over my right shoulder where I never expected to shoot was a significant branch covered in trash, completely blocking any potential for a shot regardless of distance; the only remaining shooting lanes were to the front and on my left side at 90 degrees. With daylight now sweeping away the shadows, it was too late to adjust. I rattled quite a bit and brought in several great bucks that hit a doe trail early on and blew me off. I could have rappelled from my treestand and it wouldn’t have made any difference to them.

 

Several of the bucks I rattled in would have been considered a trophy in anyone’s book; they had mass, points, spread, maturity, everything! However, the only one I pulled within range of my ill-planned setup was young 6-point. It was nice to watch him from a distance of only five yards but frustrating at the same time. While watching those bucks file down the super highway in the distance and witnessing this young buck eating grass at such close range, all I could think about was “I can’t… I’m too busy.” If I would have spent even 30 minutes walking the area weeks before, I would have known exactly where to place my stand in that general area. The result was that my stand was hung in the worst possible area and in the worst direction.

 

Fool Me Twice… Shame on Me!

 

It was like rewinding a video tape to a previous year’s hunt. I thought I had learned my lesson but obviously had not. I’m reminded of an old adage, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” I don’t think it ever applied to my hunting life anymore than in those two hunts combined. The good news is I am still able to get into a climbing stand (or any other) and easily trek back up a tree. Lord willing, that ability will continue to exist for many years to come so I have ample opportunities to make good on lessons learned.

 

My advice is simply to walk on the rocks I stumble on; learn from my mistakes and hard-learned missteps to avoid pitfalls like the one I described above. The easiest way to prevent epic failures in your hunting experiences is by listening to people, scouting and learning about the animals you pursue. Be prepared for as many situations as you can dream up, especially with bowhunting where every detail is critical. In the end, success and mistakes combined, hunting is more about the journey than the end of a blood trail.  

 

Hunt hard, hunt often.

 

Kevin can be reached at kevinr@just-hunt.com for questions and comments.