Tag Archives: Bow hunting

The bow hunting offseason is now!

February 6, 2013


I have always marveled at stories about professional athletes who describe the work they do to try and win a championship.

A common thread is that the campaign started during the offseason. A familiar comment goes something like this: “The day after the season ended last year, I got right to work on my offseason conditioning, and right then and there I set my goal on winning a title.”

Look at Adrian Peterson. The recently announced NFL MVP has said many times that his campaign to be the best running back in the league began minutes after he tore his ACL in a game against the Washington Redskins last season. In fact, before he even left the stadium that fateful day in December 2011, he vowed to play the next season.

And, he did just that. Not only did he lead the league in rushing, he fell just nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s single-season record. And, in the process, he led the Vikings to the playoffs for the first time in three years. It is well documented how hard he worked to rehab his injured knee. He ended up playing in every single game. And, he left little doubt that he was the hardest working player on the team this year, maybe in the entire league.

I think about that now, with the bow hunting season closed and a seven-month wait until the start of the 2013 archery deer season. Unlike many other hunters, I don’t put my bow on the shelf at this time of year. I continue shooting, mostly to keep my muscles in shape. And, just as important, I am using this time to make improvements on my bow setup.

The biggest tweak is getting a new string on my bow. The old one was showing serious signs of wear, including some cut fibers that could hamper accuracy and lead to breaking of the string. So, I decided to replace it.

For advice, I visited an archery shop in Hudson called A-1 Archery. The guy I talked to recommended one made by a local company called Vapor Trail. I did some checking and saw some great reviews. I even called the company and talked to one of their technicians about the strings they manufacture. I love being able to call a company and actually talk to someone about the products. Seems like companies in the hunting and fishing industry understand this. It’s by no means the first time I have talked to a person at a company about its products. In fact, one time I talked to the company president about a turkey choke and he took my order over the phone! The turkey choke I ordered, called a Comp-N-Choke, has worked great for me, and it likely will be the last turkey choke I ever buy for my Remington 11-87.

I ended up ordering a Vapor Trail string, and got it installed at A-1 earlier this week. The technician there put it on while I waited, then I was able to take some test shots. They put on what’s called a peep sight on the string, which allows you to look through the same opening every time you shoot. Plus, I no longer need special tubing to keep the peep aligned correctly. Vapor Trail says there is no peep rotation in the string, therefore no need to install tubing to keep it in proper alignment.

I had problems with the tube breaking about once every month or two. That means you have to reattach it before you can see through the peep and shoot again. I always feared that it would happen when I was drawing back on a deer. Now, those worries are gone.

Next on my list is sighting in my bow with the new string. After that, I will look at stabilizers. I have a cheap one on my bow now, and would like a high-end one to make sure I can shoot more consistently. It’s all part of being prepared.

I’m really hoping to tag my first archery deer next season. I have gone two seasons without doing so, and the mistakes and failures have fueled my motivation to be successful next time around. I will do all I can to address the little things because that could make all the difference come September.

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Broken arrow leads to better bow shooting

August 13, 2012


I have one year of archery under my belt, and I have learned one very important thing – the key to success is in your head.

In other words, the sport is mostly mental. That important fact landed like a carbon arrowed zipped into a hay bale yesterday during a practice session.

As I draw near to the bow hunting opener next month, I am trying fine tune my shooting to make sure my arrow hits the mark when I – hopefully – take aim at a deer. Thus, instead of shooting several arrows at a time, I chose yesterday to shoot one arrow at a time. I am trying to make each and every shot count because, more than likely, I will get only one shot at any deer that comes my way.

At the same time, I wanted to test shoot two broadheads that I plan on using this fall – Rage and the new Ulmer Edge by Trophy Taker. The two heads are very similar. Both are mechanicals in which the blades deploy from the rear. The Rage comes with a practice head, while the Ulmer Edge comes with a set screw that keeps the blades from deploying during the shot. I like this feature, as it allows the archer to shoot with the actual head versus a separate practice head.

The good news is I shot both heads at 20 and 30 yards and they both hit in the same spot as my field points. So, I don’t need to do any more shooting with them.

The bad news – and what gave me the opportunity to learn an important lesson – is that my favorite arrow broke during the session. I didn’t have the foam target propped up well enough, and it fell over after my arrow hit, snapping the arrow.

I was bummed at first, but then decided to take the advice of my wife, who told me that situations like this can be opportunities if you let them.

I decided to test that theory. I said to myself, “Well, I’ll just  have to find a new favorite arrow.”

Guess what? I have a bunch of them now. Why? I learned that what really makes an arrow hit the mark is good form. When I shot several others arrows after my “favorite one” broke, I was able to get all of the others to hit at or near the bullseye. As I increased my concentration to try and find a new favorite arrow, my form got better and all of my shots were good.

That’s a great lesson to learn, and it helps my confidence way more than believing I shoot better with my “favorite” arrow. The truth is, today’s carbon arrows (which is what most bow hunters use today) are remarkably consistent from one arrow to the next. In fact, the carbon arrow is one of modern archery’s best technological advancements. Thus, when you buy a set of arrows from a given company (I happen to use Gold Tip), all of them should hit in the same spot, at least at short distances like 20 or 30 yards

In the long run, I think I’ll be much better off believing that my shooting form is the critical factor, not which particular arrow I’m shooting. Yesterday, after my practice session, I was able to proudly tell my wife Julie that I applied her little kernel of wisdom to archery.

Who knows? Maybe she’ll be able to offer me more good advice, like where to put up my stands.


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Enjoying a great day in the woods

March 16, 2012


I took some time yesterday to do some deer scouting down in Goodhue County. I found a new piece of property to bow hunt, and I will be taking my disabled friend, John Nesheim, out this fall. The plan is to set up several spots for both of us to hunt, then hunt together during the archery season.

We actually have two pieces of private property – at least John does. One landowner gave both of us permission to hunt, while his next-door neighbor will just allow John to hunt. That’s fine with me. There are plenty of good spots on the one piece we both have permission to hunt, which is about twice as big as the other.

This will work out great because John is the only one who will be hunting the one piece, so he will get a chance at unpressured deer. That’s always the ideal. And, I can set up on the other piece near the border of the piece John will hunt. Thus, we both will end up being able to hunt unpressured deer.

My friend, Rod, and I walked the larger property and found several good-looking spots. Now, we have to get some stands and ground blinds set up. It would be nice to do this before the trees green up, but we won’t have long before that happens, with the weather warming up fast.

I hope to get out there again in the next week or so. Meanwhile, after we finished hiking around, we went to Rod’s place in Red Wing and had a nice venison dinner. I made one of my favorites – venison cheeseburger on a stick. It included two of his favorite ingredients: ketchup and bacon. It was delicious.

After dinner, we headed outside for some archery shooting. That proved to be an amazing experience. Rod said we were going to try shooting at longer distances like 40, 50 yards and even more.

I freaked at the idea of shooting at such long range. I shoot at 20 yards about 90 percent of the time, and only rarely have tried 40 yards – never 50.

The results proved shocking to me. After painting a black bullseye on his target block about the size of a softball, I tried shooting at 20, 30, 40 and, finally, 50 yards. I was worried about even hitting the block, which is about 2 feet wide and 3 feet tall, at that distance.

Turns out, I did much better. The first few shots, I was within about 6 inches of the black mark. Then, a little later, I actually put one in the bullseye and the others close to it. Finally, on my last group of three shots, I put them ALL of them inside the bullseye.

Needless to say, my confidence took a big leap forward. As Rod pointed out, it’s not so much that I will necessarily try to shoot at a deer  50 yards away. It’s more that I will feel much more confident at shorter distances like 20 yards. I have heard many times that the average length of an archery shot at a deer is about 18 yards. I now am confident that I can make that shot.

Now, I need to keep shooting and get stands and blinds set up for the fall. Oh, and I’ve got a little turkey hunting to do in the next few weeks.

Q: What has been your favorite way to enjoy this beautiful stretch of weather we’re having?

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Archery problem solved!

February 2, 2012

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Going back to late October, I have had accuracy issues with my compound bow. In about mid October, I went to Schaffer Performance Archery in Burnsville to get a new arrow rest developed by the shop owner, John Schaffer. It’s called the Opposition rest and it’s supposed to increase accuracy by minimizing the amount of contact with the arrow after at the string is released.

It seemed to work fine initially, but my accuracy started getting worse and worse, especially within the last month or so. Then, it hit rock bottom on Sunday when one of my arrows hit 4 feet left of the mark and 2 feet down at only 20 yards. Needless to say, I was freaked out.

So, yesterday afternoon, it was off to Schaffer Archery I went to look for answers. Surely, I hadn’t regressed in my shooting skills, I thought, rookie though I may be.

Thankfully, it took John a matter of seconds to diagnose the problem — a loose string dampening rod. It’s basically a plastic rod with a rubber piece on the end that is tightened down by screwing it into the back side of the bow. When the string is released, it eventually hits the dampening rod, which stops the string as the arrow leaves it. I hadn’t bothered to check the tightness in a while, and John discovered that it was very loose. That causes the rubber piece to turn and move which, in turn, causes erratic arrow flight like I had experienced.

John tightened the rod down and shot three arrows himself before handing the bow to me. Here’s the amazing part — John normally shoots left-handed, but he got a tighter group shooting right-handed with my bow at 20 yards than I ever had. In fact, two of the arrows he shot were touching.

Then, it was my turn. My three-shot groups weren’t as tight as his, but they were far better than I had been getting. On one series, I got a 2-inch group, with two of the arrows touching.

Hallelujah! “Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about,” I said to myself as I pulled the arrows out of the backstop. Now, here’s perhaps the best part of all — it only cost $10. John diagnosed the problem, tightened the rod and even adjusted my sight when we discovered that my arrows were hitting an inch or two to the right. I only had to pay a $10 range fee for shooting, which, in my opinion, was a small price for solving this aggravating problem.

I anticipate lots of better shooting ahead. Can’t wait to get out there with my newly repaired bow. Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but reflect upon the experience and wonder if there are any loose string dampening rods in my spiritual life that are making my efforts to follow the Lord miss the mark. Perhaps, I can give that more thought when Lent begins on Feb. 22.


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Deer encounter on the archery opener

September 19, 2011


I was excited as I headed out Saturday morning for the archery deer opener. Optimism ran high as I walked into the woods to my stand at about 6 a.m.

I had put up the stand two weeks ago in an area where there were lots of tracks. After practicing all summer — even once from the stand — I was confident I could make a 20-yard shot, possibly even a 30-yarder. It was just a matter of waiting to see if any deer would walk by.

I set up the stand so that the platform was parallel with the trail, which was to my left. That would put me in position for the kind of shot I could make.

Once in the stand, I saw a small clearing to my right that I hadn’t paid attention to when I put the stand up. I wondered what I would do if I a deer passed by there.

Early action

Wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what happened. At about 7 a.m., a doe appeared in the clearing, but I was facing the wrong way. I decided to try and grab my bow and turn all the way around to my right and toward the deer. I did so and stood up, and the deer looked up at me. But, it didn’t spook. So, I knocked an arrow and started to draw back.

Unfortunately, I accidentally hit my release and the arrow zinged harmlessly into the ground about 10 yards away. Amazingly, the deer did not spook or even react to the shot. So, I reached back around to my left to pull another arrow out of my quiver.

I turned back toward the deer again, and still, it didn’t spook, although it froze where it stood and continued looking up at me. It was standing perfectly broadside, so this was good news.

Because I was in an awkward position, I didn’t have good leverage to pull the bow back. In fact, it took me three tries to do it. Then, I encountered another problem. I had trouble seeing my 20-yard pin, which was the one I needed to use. But, I managed to find the deer’s body in my sight line and released the arrow.

I heard the telltale smack as the arrow hit the deer. She jumped up and ran off to my right.

Let the tracking begin

She disappeared quickly, and I knew the second phase of the hunt was now beginning — tracking. At that moment, I realized how little preparation I had done for this task. Unfortunately, this would end up costing me.

The first thing I did was send a text to my friend and hunting mentor, Steve Huettl, who works for Gamehide camouflage clothing. He advised me to wait an hour before attempting to find the deer. I had no problem with that. I was in no hurry, and the last thing I wanted to do was push the deer. Often after they’re hit, deer like to bed down. Sometimes, they will die right there.

I wish I had gotten his followup voicemail message before I went looking for the deer. In it, he said that if I’m not sure where I had hit the deer, I should climb down, leave the area and come back several hours later. That way, if the deer wasn’t hit in the vitals, it might bed down and, eventually, die from loss of blood.

At about 8:20, I climbed down and started walking toward where my arrow hit the deer. On my way over, a deer jumped up a ways to my left and ran off. Wow, I thought, another deer. Later, I would find out I was wrong — wrong in the worst way.

Enter agony

I found the arrow after  a few minutes and looked to see if it had blood on it. I was saddened to see that it did not. I wondered if I had missed, then noticed a brown, slimy substance covering the arrow. Then, it hit me — a gut shot!

That is every hunter’s worst nightmare. In many cases, the deer will die, but it can go a long ways, especially if it’s pushed. And, on top of that, gut shot wounds don’t bleed much. Thus, it’s very easy to lose the blood trail.

That’s exactly what happened. I saw some blood at first, then followed it a ways. The blood trail curved around and went back left, heading right in the direction of the deer I had spooked after climbing down. I then realized that the deer I had jumped was, indeed, the one I had hit. I saw a small pool of blood where it had been standing, then it went back to just a few drops here and there. I decided to go back and get some blaze orange tape so I could mark the blood trail.

Once back at the car, I called Steve one more time. He answered and told me about his earlier message. But, it was too late. The damage had been done — I had spooked the deer.

What’s sad is that it had been standing for a while in a spot very close to where it had stood when I hit it. Maybe, it would have bedded down right there, making for an easy recovery several hours later, which is the amount of time it takes for a gut-shot deer to die.

Time for learning

Well, now I know what to do the next time this happens. When in doubt, back away and wait several hours before tracking. Another thing I learned is that pin brightness matters in low light. The next day, when I hunted in the evening, I noticed that my red pins (for 20 and 40 yards) went dark well before legal shooting hours ended. But, my green pins seemed to stay bright a lot longer.

I wondered about this phenomenon and took my question to an expert — John Schaffer at Schaffer Performance Archery in Burnsville. He is a bow hunter himself, and when I asked him about pin brightness, he said yes, indeed, the red ones go dark in low light. He said I should make a green pin my 20-yard pin.

That won’t be a problem. I had the top one, which is green, as my 10-yard pin. But, I don’t need a 10-yard pin anymore because my bow shoots almost exactly the same at 10 yards as it does at 20, thanks to increasing the draw weight from 48 to 55 pounds. So, I’m good on that pin to at least 20 yards, probably 25. Then, my next pin, which is red, will become my 30-yard.

Nothing beats a good rest

This is an example of one of the little things that can make all the difference in bow hunting. Another is arrow rest, which I have been learning a lot about recently. Steve uses a new one designed by Schaffer Performance Archery called an opposition rest. Basically, it holds the arrow in place with two sliding plates that move horizontally. When the string is released, the plates slide away so that the arrow fletching does not touch them. Thus, you get a clean release. That, in turn, leads to greater accuracy and, ultimately, tighter shot groups.

The only downside is the price — $140. It’s a little high for me, but how can I say no to something that will improve accuracy? After all, I’ve already lost one gut-shot deer. I don’t want that happening again this season — or ever.

The guys at Schaffer say they can install the rest (at no charge if there aren’t any complications) and have me shooting accurately with it before I leave the shop. With more than three months left in the bow hunting season, maybe now’s a good time to switch.

My wallet may hurt, but that’s better than the pain of failing to recover a deer. Another tip I got, this one from shop owner John Schaffer, had to do with the peep sight mounted on my string. I told him I think this may have contributed to the visibility problem. My string is split three ways to hold the peep, which does cause some visibility issues, which, I believe, were compounded in low light when I tried to aim at the deer.

John said there is a better peep that only splits two ways and will not obstruct my vision in any way. I plan on paying a visit to his shop for a peep change.

Incidentally, I went back out Sunday night and saw a deer in the exact same spot as the one the day before. This time, the doe that came through spooked after I turned to grab my bow. That’s OK. Not sure I wanted to try that shot again anyway. I may try to move the stand so I can get a better shot angle on this spot. And, I’ll buy a pole saw to do some trimming.

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