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, walk and scout.

I worked Saturday, so missed a chance to give hunting a go again.

Sunday in Maine is a closed day to chasing critters, it also rained which was threatening to keep me home all day, which given enough time would probably make me a crank, so after some calls to friends I got permission to stroll through their properties, look around, hone my new found scouting skills and just be outside in these early fall days.

Beaver dam area

Because I was in a beaver area, 1st thought was beaver tracks but not convinced yet.. any thoughts??

Turkeys

Turkey scat