Hunting – Year 2

The novice goes into the woods, year two.

The novice being me of course, year one had a lofty learning curve and the steep curve continues this second year.

In the beginning it often seems that the more you know the less you know. The important thing is to grasp enough of the blocky fundamentals to be effective… or lucky!

I had a lucky turkey last year, I wasn’t hunting and a turkey came to me, I still had to do my part but luck it was.

I also shot a doe, not lucky. That really was hunting, the result of scouting, a setup, and persistence.

Deer track

Prior to getting into hunting I envisioned hunting as stalking, while stalking is a method of hunting, I think that the majority of bowhunters in the northeast and possibly elsewhere rely on some sort of ambush, and a successful ambush takes knowledge of your quarry, scouting, setup and patience.

The patience part means waiting, and waiting is directly proportional to how good your information is. If you know deer pass a break in a fence every day at 5:30, then you can setup for that spot and that time, increasing your chances (think game cameras). If you don’t know that you may have to wait all day for a deer to appear and they may not, they may not show up all week and or all month. Having good info is key.

Scouting your quarry, turkeys scat and found feather.

Scouting your quarry, turkeys scat and found feather.

I hunt with a compound bow, although the rest of the year I shoot a recurve. Why  the compound?

Bowtech SWAT on my elevated practice platform, not the latest and greatest, but plenty of bow for the job.

Bowtech SWAT on my elevated practice platform, not the latest and greatest, but plenty of bow for the job.

I just feel that the size, added control of a bow with let off, speed and my comfort level makes the compound a good choice. I’m also a new hunter with plenty to learn, the greater challenge of using a recurve can wait till I’m a better hunter.

Which brings up practice. I shoot a recurve the rest of the year which means that when hunting season approaches, it is important that I get back on my compound horse and practice up. I don’t have any animal targets but I do have plenty of bag targets.

My 20 and 40 yard targets.

My 20 and 40 yard targets.

This year I started my practice at 20 yards to get all the mechanics back then quickly moved out to 40 yards. My thinking being that if I can hone 40 then 20 and 30 should come easier. Once I’m feeling confident I climb up on my roof and practice at 20, 30 and 40 to simulate shooting from a treestand.

Bag targets at 20, 40 and 30 yards, left to right.

Practicing from my roof to simulate treestand conditions, bag targets are set, left to right at 20, 40 and 30 yards.

Practice paying off, 40 yards from elevated position.

Practice paying off, 40 yards from elevated position.

I also tried running to the target and back to get my heart rate up and then shooting to simulate the increased heart rate and adrenalin boost you get when the game you’re hunting shows up.

That is indeed a special moment, when you practice even in challenging situations you are more aware of your form, your bowarm is firm, bowshoulder down, your grip is relaxed and you’re releasing with backtension. When “your” deer shows up, it may fill you with enough buck fever that you pay little to no attention to the shot sequence, form or anything else. The idea is to hone it through enough practice that muscle memory takes over and you make a good shot.

If I have the good fortune this year to draw on a deer I plan to try and focus on form and shot sequence as a way to stay calm. Of course, these things are easy to say, the action of the moment is a completely different thing, so it will remain to be seen.

This is where I’m at on my 2nd year. I’m learning new things, I don’t know what is useful yet, but, we’ll see what proves out over time.

Good luck to all who choose to hunt with a bow. May all your efforts pay off.

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Steve Dunsmoor – Lakeside Archery

I got to the Sunday shoot at Lakeside Archery in Yarmouth, Maine early. It was snowing and nobody else had arrived yet, although it looked like someone had already been up and plowed the long driveway to the range.

I stepped out and walked into the range, there was Steve Dunsmoor, the owner of Lakeside archery numbering scorecards with lane assignments. The range was neat, clean and organized, the practice targets were up and everything was ready for the day’s competition.

Steve Dunsmoor owner of Lakeside Archery, scorecards in hand and ready for the upcoming shoot.

Steve Dunsmoor owner of Lakeside Archery, scorecards in hand and ready for the upcoming shoot.

Steve is a pretty dedicated guy and provides Maine archers not only his services as a level 4 coach and proshop owner but also a heck of an archery facility. With a 16 lane indoor range, an outdoor range out to 80 yards, and a full fledged 3D and  field course. There isn’t another facility like his in the state, very likely there aren’t too many in New England.

Having great facilities is not the end though, Steve also runs a very active JOAD program, league nights, hunting safety courses, is a Maine tagging station and hosts a variety of archery competitions at his facility.

Did I mention how helpful Steve can be??

Steve always seems to have Allen wrenches in his pocket to help somebody out with, or a suggestion, kindly put, often in the form of an example or a small story that illustrates the point and leaves you a better archer. I for one have benefited from many of his golden nuggets.

You can find Steve and Lakeside Archery at:

55 Cumberland Road, North Yarmouth, in Maine.  Phone:(207) 829-6213

Some of the upcoming events at Lakeside Archery are:

  • 2013 3rd Annual Lakeside Archery Amateur Classic  –  (3rd Leg of MAA Triple Crown Event)  January 27, 2013  9:00AM

  • 2013 2nd Annual Lakeside Archery Traditional Classic. March 17, 2013 9:00AM – All you trad guys and gals this is your chance to compete!

I’ll be at the Traditional Classic, I hope to see you there!

First Deer

I took Tuesday off from work to go hunting, I went out in the morning on my property with no success, around the middle of the day I went into public land near my home and in the afternoon I went to a friend’s property where I have a blind setup on a field.

I had setup the blind almost a month prior, enough time for the deer to get used to a new object in their environment and brushed it in to help it blend and so it wouldn’t stick out.

I got into the blind around two o’clock, the interior of the blind is black so I wore black so as to camouflage with the inside. I had gotten reports from the property owner of deer crossing the field, I had seen deer standing next to the blind when I’d intended to go hunting but gotten there late. I also had trailcam pictures of these deer, so I was feeling confident about my chances at seeing them that day. I had drawn a doe tag in the anydeer lottery which was good as I’d only spotted does out there and on the trail camera.

I had talked to other hunters about this field situation and what they would recommend for setting up there. An experienced hunter advised to not hunt the area in the morning because it is adjacent to bedding areas and often the deer will bed on the field itself, sounded like good advice so I had reserved this spot for the afternoon.

I sat on an upside down five gallon bucket and felt tired. It had been an early morning and I found myself with the bow on my lap and my head on top of the bow, not quite sleeping but in a trancelike state. That restored my energy enough that I was able to sit up with my senses on high alert, listening for footfalls. I also took the time to take a few pictures from the inside of the blind using the panorama feature on my son’s camera. See below:

View from the blind.

At around 3:30 I heard them. Pretty loud on the field grass, more than one and coming fast. The adrenalin kicked in and my heart started pounding like it was going to come out of my chest.

They came into sight quickly from the right, paused a second dead ahead at 20 yards, I didn’t have my bow up and I didn’t dare raise it as I was sure they were looking at me. They moved further left and I had the obstruction of one of the diagonal supports on the blind. I took the opportunity to raise the bow, draw and aim, except that the arrow exits the bow lower than the line of sight and I was afraid I’d hit the  window crossbar, they moved further left 30 plus yards, then everything happened as if I had been switched into auto-instinctive mode, I had a correction to make because the single pin sight was set at 25 yards and now they were further, the mind never entered into it, I just automatically raised the bow to the correct height and loosed the arrow at the largest doe. A hit! The three deer took off across the field into a strip of woods with a small ravine and I lost sight of them.

When using archery gear an animal very rarely just falls over after a shot, what typically happens is they take off and you patiently wait then track them to recover your quarry, so I waited, then walked across the field where they had  disappeared. I saw plenty of sign that the doe had gone through there, I climbed up the shallow ravine and exited into another field. It was twilight then but as I looked left I thought I could see a shape, I walked closer and sure enough it was the doe. She had gone a total of about 100 yards.

I felt elated and thankful. I called my wife Laurel to tell her, then set up a towing harness to drag the deer off the field. I had never field dressed a deer before and although I’d watched the YouTube videos I thought some guidance would help. I called my neighbor, Aaron, who is a longtime hunter and we agreed that I’d go tag the deer then meet at my house after he’d had a chance to vote.

This proved to be a good decision as  nothing really compares to someone showing you the ins and outs first hand. Thank you Aaron!

Once we were done, Laurel took the tenderloins and fried them with onions and we all had a beer to celebrate.

The day was over, I was grateful and thrilled at my first deer.

Treestands – my first

Sunday, I purchased a tree stand, I got the type you hang not the ladder type, I half wished I’d gotten the ladder type as setting it up would have been easier and in the end  cheaper as you don’t have to buy screw in rungs or climbing sticks to get up there, but I wanted to make it as low key as possible so went with a hanging type.

Ladder tree stand

It took me far longer to install than I thought it would, first to assemble the stand then to scout for the right tree on my property, lastly to set it up. I had bought screw in rungs, which screw into the tree, setting these up to 18 ft or so takes a bit, I had an actual aluminum ladder out there with me to help with the process.

Hanging the actual chair was a little less dramatic than I expected but all of it is working at enough height that if you took a fall you could hurt yourself badly. With the chair came a harness and as soon as I could set up a safety line up there, I donned it and climbed up and just sat for a while.

You may know by now that hunting and hunting stuff is new to me so I wasn’t ready after laboring for the respit the stand provided, and how quiet and beautiful it can be up there. I’m guessing half the guys (and gals) are there for the introspection and the hunting is just incidental.

The climb down was a little awkward as I had to do the rung thing and slide the safety prussic knot down as I descended, made me wonder what going up there in the dark was going to be like. There will certainly be a lot of new and firsts in the coming weeks. I’m excited to experience it.

More to come..

Bowhunting Whitetails – Getting ready

The archery deer hunting season starts in Maine on September 27th which is a scant four days away, it has taken me a bit by surprise, I thought it started in October! I will have to get into high gear to be ready.

Fortunately I have been scouting the land around my house for months and months, I’ve also been asking for advice from hunting neighbors, reading up, and just getting in the flow of the season, as I’ve mentioned before I am new to hunting so everything is fresh and eye opening.

One of the fascinating things I’ve discovered in the hunting world are trail cameras, for those that don’t know they are motion sensitive, weatherproof cameras that you can mount in areas where you suspect activity and gain valuable information about the movement of your quarry.

I went well intentioned to buy the cheapest available a week ago, about $ 65.00, but was successfully talked into a bit of a better model by the hunting salesfolk, spent about twice what I had planned, $ 140.00, then also had to get accessories, memory chip and batteries, another $ 30.00 or so.

You pre-set the time and date on the camera then hang it in the woods, it comes with a strap that you can put around a tree and then you’re ready.

The totally captivating part of all of this are the photos of course:

My first picture!

A lot of does around my area.

The photos provide date, time, temp and moon phase. Here is a daytime picture, same location:

If you look carefully there are two deer in this picture, one is on the very left edge of the frame, hidden in the foliage. You can click on the photo to get a bigger image.

I don’t have a tree stand as of yet, thinking I had more time so this morning I’m off to do that. Then scout for a good location for it.

More to come..