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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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.

Fall Turkey

I came home yesterday in the late afternoon after having had a bit of a trying day, grabbed my compound bow and rangefinder and made my way out to the backyard target.

I had taken the rangefinder because I wanted to practice at 30 and 40 yards and I had not marked the distance. I warmed up at 20 yards then stepped back to 30 yards. I shot a few ends at 30 yards then heard heavy flapping on the other side of my house next to my driveway, I managed to look quickly enough to catch a turkey flying up to it’s roost. I walked further around the corner and switched from a target field tip arrow to a broadheaded  arrow, fortunately my quiver was attached to the bow.

I then spotted a 2nd turkey walking towards the same patch of woods where the first had roosted. I had my rangefinder so I quickly ranged a tree just ahead of him, 30 yards, the single pin sight was already set at that distance, so I drew, waited for the turkey to clear a clump of brush and loosed the arrow.

I hit my mark cleanly in the vitals and with it had my first ever successful hunt. Laurel and the kids arrived shortly thereafter and there was much excitement and the kids and I went down to the country store to tag him. I’d never tagged anything before so it was all novel. I later cleaned it, which was new too, YouTube showing me the way.

It is so interesting the changes we undergo as people, I would not have thought in prior years that I’d be a hunter, fascinating the paths we’ll take and the growth we can experience when we permit it.

C.

Red squirrels are loud, deer are quiet

I had my first hunt yesterday. I started trekking out there a little after 5 AM, the northerly that was predicted was really a southerly, which was not what I wanted as it would blow my scent downwind towards the deer,  but I have but my one stand and it was my first time so I pushed on.

I don’t know what flashlight protocol is,  I used one and wondered if every animal in the area was aware that an intruder was in the house.  Many moons ago, when I was in the army the flashlights came with colored lenses to reduce the likelihood of being spotted. I may try that next time.

A lot of things came to light that could use improvement. I could use a small pack as my pockets are full of stuff. I have to figure out a better way to play the wind, are flashlights a good or bad idea, etc?

In the treestand

I also discovered that red squirrels are loud and deer are quiet.

Red squirrels are a noisy bunch, you can hear them scurrying through the ground cover, in the trees and if they get to chattering, oh my god, cover thy ears. If you are a newbie like me every crack and crinkle in the forest is the monster buck of a lifetime about to present himself in fact it is really an ultra hyper 4 inch long red squirrel after his daily nut.

I spotted a doe out in the distance yesterday, not a sound, just appeared, totally silent.  That’s my current working theory anyway.

Speaking of silence, the other visitor I had yesterday was a cat, a cat out in the middle of the woods. What?? As far as I know cats are domesticated beings that live in houses and around them, not this cat. He was on the hunt too. Appeared silently out of nowhere (probably heard the red squirrel chatter) and about 8 yards from me. I could see him sniffing around, I was sure he’d made me but didn’t see me. My scent seemed to freak him out enough that he slinked away through the underbrush to other hunting grounds.

My last animal sighting was a raccoon. I was pretty excited about this one as he was big and fell under the huntable category unlike meow mix earlier. He was also but 8 yards from me, also sniffing around but never saw me. He then climbed a huge pine not 5 yards from me and when he got to my level, he sniffed around some more, I’m sure he knew I was there. Then climbed 75 feet or so up the pine to his resting spot, he was very interesting to watch, hunting wise he’s out of season.

Raccoon, sniffing me out!  (you can click on this to make it bigger)

So go my hunting experiences,  more soon…

A fast end of arrows – video

I thought It’d be great fun to do a video, so I put one together yesterday. It was my son’s, Dakota, idea to put the camera at the target so you could see the incoming arrows. Great idea laddie! Just glad we didn’t shoot the camera out!

Travelin’

I am in Rhode Island for schoolwork related to my job, I thought that I’d bring my compound bow along, something to do in the evenings after class at the local ranges. I was however worried about walking up the hotel’s front desk for check in with a black lethal looking compound bow and a quiver full of arrows and thought that having a case or bowbag would be a good idea. I looked around a bit to see what prices where but with my archery budget sorta maxed out I wasn’t hopeful. Then Laurel suggested why not make your own. In the past I’d made any number of different types of bags and other stuff usually related to boats and sailing.

Off to Joann Fabrics in Topsham for cloth, webbing, foam and velcro. The ladies there spotted me as the lost looking guy right away and helped me out. They were very knowledgeable and gave me a lot of suggestions on making the bag that I hadn’t considered.

This is Alistair and I sewing it up. It looks like that short stint in sailmaking finally paid off. Here’s a picture of the bag itself.

I’m staying just at the border of Mass and Rhode Island in a town called Westport, since I’ve been here I’ve had a chance to shoot at a couple of ranges. The first is Buckley Family Archery. This is a small start up family shop with 10 and 20 yard lanes, they are in the 2nd floor of an old mill in Fall River, Mass at 126 Shove St. Tel. 774.627.4091

Brian showed me around, set me up to shoot, and told me a bit about his business. He has an extensive JOAD (Junior Olympic Archery Development) program and lots of support from parents and families involved in archery. He also setup his chronograph and let me shoot through it to see what my bow was shooting for arrow speed.

Brian setting up his chronograph for me to shoot through.

The chronograph recorded 263 feet per second, that is with a 70 lb Bowtech SWAT that has been powered down to 50 lbs and a 364 grain arrow. It was really nice of him to do that, he didn’t charge me for it, although I’d gladly would have paid him, he just did it as we chatted about his range and plans, great guy.

Yesterday I went to Trader Jan’s Archery Pro-Shop, they have a full pro-shop plus 20 to 40 yard lanes for shooting plus a 3D archery shooting range. They are located at 288 Plymouth Ave in Fall River, Mass. Tel. 774.627.7743

40 yard shooting lane

Pro Shop

I’d spent some time shooting on the 20 yard lanes and I went to switch to the 40 yard lanes, I chatted with another archer who was shooting there, then picked up my bow, set up on the line and dry fired it! Dry firing a bow is to shoot a bow without an arrow. This is the biggest no-no in archery, as you can damage a bow very badly, the bow needs the resistance of the arrow to be ok.

I think I was distracted, who knows.. The string jumped the cams on the bow and broke some of the serving (tight wrapping around the bowstring) on the upper part of the string, it also distorted the peep sight, (small plastic circle on the string that helps you aim). Don and Jill at the shop were great, they put it in the bowpress right away and checked it out and told me they could have it for me the next day.

I went straight from school the next day and Jill had done a beautiful job, she also put on a new peep for me, she is obviously very skilled. Don seemed to be the front of the house and I watched him helping kids and new archers, giving them tips and setting them up, nice guy. He also showed me his Bowtech Destroyer with custom strings from Jill which he is selling, so if you need a bow…

Jill and Don

I spent an hour shooting at the 35 yard line, happy that I lucked out and the damage wasn’t great and that I’d been fortunate to be in good hands.