Tag Archives: deer

Deer hunting in Europe

September 25, 2014

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I got a very intriguing email from my son Joe this morning. At the moment, he is in Rome working for the University of Dallas as a Rome Assistant. It’s a great job, and he is having the time of his life. He got the news he had been selected shortly before his graduation from the school in May. He got an English degree and was magna cum laude.

He is just a bit sad that his time in Rome means he will miss deer hunting this season. I have been trying help fill some of the gap with updates on my fall bow hunting experiences. Plus, he has been surfing YouTube and has found some videos, including on one hunting fallow deer in Hungary. I found it fascinating, and I think any deer hunting enthusiast will, too.

One of the practical benefits covered by the expert hunter in the video, Max Hunt (how’s that for an appropriate name?) has to do with arrow flight. Some slow motion video footage shows his arrows traveling in a clear spiral pattern closer to the release point, then stabilizing farther away. He notes that his groups aren’t as tight at 20 meters as they are at 25. I haven’t done as much testing at those ranges as he has, but I have noticed that I seem to shoot very well at 25 and 30 yards, sometimes better than at 20.

I was always puzzled by this. Now, based on the video footage, I have a little more insight on this. That alone was worth seeing the video, but there was some fun hunt footage, too, as he goes after a trophy buck. For those who want to see more of Max, they can go to his website. I plan on surfing it real soon.

Sure would be fun to try hunting in Europe. Joe holds out some small hope that he might get to do it during his year in Italy. I sincerely want him to get that opportunity!

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Archery season underway!

September 18, 2014

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I was pumped up for the archery opener on Saturday. Sept. 13 was the opener for both Minnesota and Wisconsin. This year, I decided to buy an archery tag for Wisconsin, which I got for half price because I am buying that license for the first time. Wisconsin started this policy a few years ago, and I decided to cash in this year.

That decision is rooted in the severe restrictions in place for Minnesota this year. Most areas of the state have a one-deer limit for the entire season, which means if I harvest a deer with my bow — any deer — I cannot tag another deer in any zone with a one-deer limit. I could, however, party hunt or hunt the few zones with higher limits.

I wanted the opportunity to harvest more than one deer, so I decided to buy the Wisconsin license. And, I crossed the St. Croix River to hunt in Wisconsin on the opener, and again yesterday afternoon.

The opener was very unusual, in that I was dressing for November rather than for mid-September. I got invited to hunt near Baldwin by Deacon Jake Anderson, who is on the path for ordination to the priesthood in May. He and I had talked about bow hunting together on his family’s land, and he was kind enough to give me the opportunity to hunt with him on opening day.

We had worked on putting several stands up two weeks beforehand, so we had some options for the opener. Deacon Jake took a stand where he had been successful in previous years, and I took a new one he just put up this summer.

Turns out, he had the hot stand. He saw six deer on opening morning and five or six more that evening. He had several small bucks come into bow range, but they weren’t big enough. A nice doe and her two fawns came in close, but not close enough. He uses a recurve, and his maximum distance is 20 yards. These deer were at 25.

Meanwhile, I had very little action at my stand. I saw something move across the clearing to the west, but couldn’t positively identify what it was. I think it was a deer, but saw it through some trees and didn’t get a good look at the body.

Yesterday, I went to another spot that is near Prescott. I had set up a stand the week before with another guy who hunts the land. He had shot a nice deer in this area, so he suggested I try setting up there.

We found one nice deer trail running along the ridge, and we threw up a ladder stand that I had brought. I think deer will move along this ridge, especially during the rut.

This time, all was quiet except for a handful of squirrels and two nice tom turkeys that walked through. I think they were about 20 yards away, and it would have been fun trying to take the shot. But, the nonresident turkey license is another $70, and I decided not to spend the extra money. I will definitely keep this property in mind for the spring, though. The landowner said there are lots of turkeys on the property, so it would be worth checking out.

Would have been nice to see a deer come walking past my stand, but I’m not discouraged. The early season can be challenging, as the deer mostly feed and bed down during this time. Once the rut kicks in, most of the deer, especially bucks, are on their feet a lot more. So, sightings usually go up, as do shot opportunities.

I look at early season hunting as mostly a tuneup for the rut. In fact, I got some valuable information while in my stand last night that will help me on later hunts. Seems the strap I use for my safety system was too short to go all the way around the oak tree where I had positioned my stand. I have a longer strap at home, but didn’t bring it. This morning, I put that longer strap in my backpack so it will be there the next time I sit in this stand.

I also was able to screw a metal post into the tree for my bow hanger. I don’t like doing it in the dark when I come out for a morning hunt. Now, it’s all set for the next time I hunt. I also have trail tacks put in so I can find the stand in the dark.

As I drove home, I imagined what it will be like hunting this property during the rut.

I’m sure looking forward to November!

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2013 Outdoors highlights

January 2, 2014

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As I look ahead to outdoor adventures in 2014, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look back on 2013 and recall the blessings of the year. There were many highlights, and I offer this list of the best ones:

Snow bird

It might seem tough to name turkey hunting in the snow – in May! – as a highlight, but May 5 will go down as both a unique and awesome day in the turkey woods. Just days earlier, the area I hunt in Wisconsin was blanketed by 15 inches of snow. It was very strange driving out to my hunting spot and seeing snow everywhere. It looked more like December than May.

I must admit, I had to fight off feelings of despair during my hour-long drive to Ellsworth the morning of my hunt. Would the turkeys be radically affected by the snow? Would they still be interested in breeding? Would they gobble?

Turns out, the birds were quite active indeed. In fact, I had a nice 2-year-old tom on the ground in less than an hour. He gobbled very eagerly on the roost, and I coaxed him in with some aggressive hen calling followed by some soft calling at the end. The bird was standing in the snow when I shot him, and I was sitting in the snow against a tree. It was the first time in almost 30 years of turkey hunting that I had hunted in snow that actually was accumulated on the ground.

It was a very unusual hunt, and a very cool experience overall. But, I NEVER want to hunt in snow again in May. Let’s hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I did continue to hunt after that because I had bonus tags that the state offers. The hunting was extremely difficult and the toms had lots of hens around. I believe this was caused by the fact that the snow destroyed eggs the hens had laid, so they went out to breed again. Thus, I had very little success calling another bird in. I had some jakes (young toms) come in fairly close, but they ended up not being in gun range. I fired, thinking they were, but they were too far and merely ran off at the shot.

The good news is I spent a lot of time in the woods and learned the properties well. So, i should be in fine shape this year. I look for it to be a good spring season. Two years ago, the early and warm spring caused a very good hatch, and there were lots of jakes running around during the 2013 season. That means lots of mature 2-year-olds this year. I can’t wait!

Buck for the fireplace

Just weeks after finishing my turkey hunting season, I got a call from Lee’s Taxidermy in Prescott, Wis. to let me know that my whitetail buck mount was done. It was the largest buck I had ever taken and I’m not sure if I will ever top it, or even match it. I took Joe, my oldest son, to the taxidermy shop to pick it up. Then, when I got home, I put it up on the fireplace.

Joe has a nice buck mount, too, and we discussed whose was better. Lee Schommer, the taxidermist, said his scored 151, and mine about 153. He did not take exact measurements of mine, but says whenever he tries to estimate the score of a buck, he’s usually within 2 inches of the exact score. So, bottom line is that our bucks are very even. The rack on Joe’s is thicker, but my rack is wider and has taller tines. Honestly, Joe and I are not competitive when it comes to trying to get the biggest rack. It was just fun to compare our buck mounts.

Claire’s first walleye

My 11-year-old daughter Claire caught her first walleye in June on Upper Red Lake. Due to a very busy schedule, we were able to run up to Upper Red for an evening of fishing. We contacted Bear Paw Guides and hired Tyler Brasel to guide Claire, my wife Julie and I for the evening. Just days earlier, the protected slot loosened to allow the taking of fish up to 20 inches, versus 17 prior to that. So, we were very optimistic about being able to catch fish to take home.

The trip did not disappoint. We had our four-fish limit for the three of us (12 fish total) in an hour, and Claire caught lots of fish, starting with her first-ever walleye. Tyler set her up with a bobber rig and it worked beautifully for Claire. Tyler has young kids of his own, so he is very good at helping children catch fish. He did an awesome job with Claire, and it’s a trip we will never forget. Hopefully, we can get back up there again this summer.

‘Tonka bass

I went out to Lake Minnetonka on the Fourth of July with my son Joe to try for some largemouth bass. He was home for the summer and wanted to do some fishing. I wasn’t sure how it would go, as I hadn’t been on the lake in years. However, I did very well on the lake when I did fish it regularly, and wanted to hit my old spots to see if they produced.

Turns out, one spot in particular was as good as it used to be. We caught several nice bass on it, including a feisty 18-incher, and I went home very satisfied. Joe got some action, too, although he was a bit rusty at fishing with plastic worms. Near the end, he started to get the hang of it, and pulling a bass over the gunwale put a smile on his face. I would definitely like to do some bass fishing in 2014!

Breakthrough with a bow

Of course, my top highlight of the year has to be getting my first deer with a bow. Everything came together on the morning of Nov. 6. A young buck with a small eight-point rack came walking by my stand at just 10 yards, giving me a perfect broadside shot. I drew back as he stepped past me and I quickly found his vital area with my 20-yard pin. All of my practice and preparation paid off with a perfect pass-through shot. Tracking was easy in the snow and I found my buck about 100 yards from where I took the shot. It’s hard to put into words the feeling of finding my deer after the shot. I had hit about a half dozen deer previously, but didn’t find a single one, including a small doe that I hit in late September. Ask any bow hunter, and they’ll tell you that failure to find a deer that’s hit is a very sick feeling. Hopefully, I’ll be able to duplicate my success next year.

Sons come through

It was also a good deer hunting year for my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy. Joe got a small whitetail doe on the last day of our hunt in Montana over Thanksgiving week, and Andy ended up taking a doe in Montana plus a doe in Minnesota. So, our freezer is full, plus we were able to give venison away. Our family has been feasting on venison in the last few weeks, and I’m sure our supply of meat will last into the spring and summer. There’s nothing like venison steaks on the grill!

One intriguing possibility for 2014 would be taking Claire turkey hunting. She has expressed interest, and I have said I will take her if she wants to go. She turns 12 in April, and that would be very fun to chase gobblers with her. She’s not sure if she actually could pull the trigger on an animal. But if we go out and call a bird in, and she decides not to shoot, that’s fine with me. I like going out into the woods, especially in the spring, so she won’t disappoint me if she decides to hold off on the shot. We’ll see what she says as we get closer to the turkey season.

The next thing I’ll do is contact landowners after the Wisconsin turkey lottery. I have been blessed to have several landowners who continue to let me hunt, and I can’t wait to get after those birds in 2014!

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Shotgun problem solved… probably

December 19, 2013

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I picked up my shotgun today from Joe’s Sporting Goods in Roseville. I missed a shot at a deer at 15 yards during the firearms season and I wanted the store’s gunsmith to check it out. I suspected maybe it was my scope, as my brother had experienced a similar problem several years ago.

But, the gunsmith did not find a problem with the scope. He fired three test rounds at 25 yards and got a very tight group, with the holes touching each other. He even gave me the target he used for the test shots, along with the box of ammo he used, which had two rounds left in it.

In talking things over with someone in the gun department, it looks like the problem most likely is the new ammo that I tried this fall. I used to use Federal shotgun slugs, called Barnes Expanders. But, the company quit making them earlier this year after Barnes was bought out by another company and terminated its contract with Federal to supply the sabot slugs used in this round.

So, I tried a new offering by Federal, and it appears that it doesn’t work well in my gun. I had trouble sighting in these slugs two weeks before the season, but finally seemed to get them dialed in.

But, I didn’t hit the deer with them when I used them in the field. I fired four times at the doe and never touched her. That’s enough to convince me to try another slug.

I plan on going with the slugs the gunsmith used, also made by Federal. The company has made these for a long time, the guy in Joe’s gun department told me, and it’s very likely they won’t be discontinued any time soon.

And, the best part is they are very modestly priced – $6.99 for a box of five. That’s several dollars less than I paid for a box of Barnes Expanders. Even though I was happy to pay more for the Barnes Expanders, I’m tickled that these slugs cost less.

Hopefully, they will work just as well when next firearms deer season rolls around!

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Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013

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I’m sure my next-door neighbor was giving me a funny look when I went outside the other night to fire up my charcoal grill.

He was shoveling his driveway. Usually, shoveling and grilling don’t happen at the same time. For most folks, the grilling season ends by Thanksgiving and doesn’t start up again until the snow melts and the birds start singing.

I’m a little different. My grilling season never ends. That does not mean I have no limits. When temperatures plunged down into the single digits recently, my grill stood idle on my back deck.

But, the mercury pushed up to a balmy mark near 30 degrees on Monday, so I decided it was time for grilled venison steaks. The cold didn’t bother me as I poured charcoal into my metal cylinder and stuffed two pages of newspaper underneath. It did take a couple tries, but the coals eventually heated up to a beautiful red glow.

This meal was going to be special, featuring the first meal of steaks from the buck I killed with my bow in early November. Because I was trying for my first deer with a bow, I chose to take a smaller buck. The decision was made easy by the fact that this deer presented a perfect broadside shot at 10 yards, which is every bowhunter’s hope while sitting in a stand.

Now was going to be the payoff, I said to myself as I pulled the marinated steaks out of the refrigerator. Every deer hunter likes to take a big buck, which I did a year ago. But, true meat lovers like me know that the best tasting deer are the younger ones. And, a young buck is the best of all because it has a larger, adult body, but is young enough for the meat to be tender.

So, taking this deer was a no-brainer. The good news is, the area I hunt in the metro seems to have lots of small bucks. I have seen eight so far this archery season, and I’m sure there are even more roaming the woods. Interestingly, I have read recently that metro areas, particularly those off limits to hunting or open only to archery hunting, can have more bucks than areas that allow gun hunting.

I think a major reason for this is that the younger bucks are often very active in the fall, roaming the woods looking for does and often getting run off by bigger bucks. Plus, they are less wary and educated than older bucks, which are highly adept at avoiding hunters.

Thus, I am optimistic that I will continue to see small bucks on this property, though sighting a bigger one would be just fine, too! On the other hand, it’s very hard to argue against harvesting a young buck once the meat ends up on your plate.

And, I have to say, the grilled venison steaks from this young buck did NOT disappoint. They were delicious. I cooked them medium to medium rare, and I used a marinade created by some friends of mine, Bob and Christine Brickweg. Christine would not call herself a gourmet chef, but she definitely knows how to prepare venison!

Her marinade, which I simply call the “Brickweg marinade,” is very simple to make. You buy packets of Italian dressing and make it according to the directions on the back of the packet. But, you need to make two key substitutions. Instead of regular vegetable oil, use olive oil. And, instead of vinegar, use balsamic vinegar.

I usually make a double recipe with two packets. Then, you pour over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours, flipping the meat over halfway through the process to make sure the marinade soaks into both sides. I usually do the marinade right before I go to bed, then flip the meat the next morning. But the time the coals are hot, I’m good to go!

If you were fortunate to get a deer this fall, give this recipe a try. I am convinced that you will not be disappointed!

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Trying to solve a tricky shotgun problem

December 6, 2013

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I bought my Remington 11-87 shotgun in 1995 from Joe’s Sporting Goods in St. Paul, which now is located on County Road B near Rice Street just off of Interstate 694.

Within a year or two, I bought a Leupold Shotgun scope, at the recommendation of Jim Rauscher, one of the owners of Joe’s. I have not been sorry for that decision, having killed at least a dozen deer with that scope and gun combination.

In fact, last year with that shotgun, I killed the biggest buck I have ever taken. Thus, I was brimming with confidence again this year when I went out into the field with my trusty 11-87 on opening day of the firearms season Nov. 9.

Alas, the gun failed me for the first time. On the second day of the season, a small doe came around behind my stand and stepped out into the picked corn field in front of me. I had a perfect 15-yard broadside shot to my left. Amazingly, after I pulled the trigger, the deer ran out into the field and stood there. I shot again, then it took off. I fired two more times, and the deer crossed the field without a scratch.

Meanwhile, I was left scratching my head trying to figure out how that could happen. I thought back to when I had sighted in the gun two weeks earlier. I had some trouble getting it zeroed in, with a few shots unexplainably missing the mark. I finally got it dialed in – or so I thought – and figured I was good to go.

I was wrong. I ended up getting only that one shot opportunity, so I walked away from the firearms season a bit frustrated. Today, I decided to take action. I took the gun to Joe’s and handed it over to the store’s trusty gunsmith, Bob Everson, to take a look at it.

I also plan on sending the scope in to Leupold for a thorough examination if need be. The guy I talked to at Joe’s said the people in the Leupold repair shop strip down the scope and go over it in fine detail. If something is wrong with the scope, he assured me, they will find it and fix it.

The good news is that Leupold has a lifetime warranty for all of its scopes. So, in all likelihood, whatever may be wrong with my scope will be covered under the lifetime warranty.

That’s why it pays to buy a product like Leupold. These scopes cost a little more than some others, but the quality plus lifetime warranty are more than worth it. I’ve had the scope about 17 years and this is the first problem I’ve had with it. Other cheaper brands sometimes don’t even last this long. So, the $220 I spent on this scope has proved to be a worthwhile investment.

To others who have had equipment problems this year, I say now’s the time to do something about it. The frustration and disappointment are still fresh, and there’s plenty of time to resolve the issue before next season. If you put away a faulty gun or bow into storage, you may not pull it out and take it in for repairs until it’s too late to have it ready to go before the next season.

Don’t wait. Trust me, the disappointment of seeing a deer run off unharmed after taking what should be a sure kill shot is a bad feeling. I hope it never happens again.

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Finally… some deer in Montana!

December 2, 2013

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After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

After days of tough hunting, Joe Hrbacek finally takes a whitetail doe in Montana.

When I hunt whitetail deer in Montana, it’s usually not a matter of if I get a deer, but when. This year was different, however.

Vastly different. I went to Great Falls with my wife Julie and four kids, and three of us bought whitetail doe tags. With the price of a buck tag set at $500-plus, going after does is the only affordable option.

Unfortunately, this year featured a severe outbreak of a disease called EHD, which is spread by a midge that hatches in water. Massive whitetail die-offs were reported across the state in late September and early October. Some areas saw death rates as high as 90 percent.

We normally hunt about an hour east of Great Falls. My father-in-law, Bob Guditis, said he saw only one or two whitetails in the area the entire fall before we got out there on Nov. 24. His outlook was bleak, to the point of suggesting that we try hunting for something different, like ducks and geese.

We contemplated this option, but in the end, felt like we wanted to try for whitetails. The allure of venison is just too strong for us to resist. Besides, we were trying to get deer for people here in Minnesota who walked away from the firearms season empty-handed.

So, my two oldest sons, Joe and Andy, and I all bought the doe tags and decided to struggle through the tough conditions. We found out very quickly that Grandpa Bob was spot on about the whitetails. On the first morning of our hunt, we went to the usual places where we had killed deer in the past, and saw no whitetails anywhere.

Time for Plan B

So, we had to formulate a different option. Because hunting for whitetails was closed north and west of the Missouri River, which cuts through Great Falls, we had to stay south and east. We found some state land and Block Management Area parcels to hunt, and went at it on Tuesday. Plus, Grandpa Bob owned a small piece of land right on the Missouri, on the side of the river open to hunting.

We did see some whitetails, but the sightings were way down from previous years. It’s a spot-and-stalk game in Montana, and we were able to go on just four stalks the entire week. I was trying to help the boys get their deer, so when we were together, I always tried to let them be the shooters. When we split up, I could take my turn on the trigger.

Problem was, every time we split up, the result was always the same for me – no deer. That didn’t bother me, as long as the boys still got their chances.

They had a nice opportunity on Wednesday evening, when a doe and fawn came out into a field. However, they couldn’t get as close as they wanted, and had to take long shots, which they missed. I was about a half mile away and heard the shots, but nothing came out for me.

Finally, on Friday about 1 p.m., we saw a group of does with a buck on a piece of state land. The three of us began the stalk, with the conditions being favorable. The deer were facing away from us and the wind was in our face. Plus, there was just enough contour on the land to allow us to move in undetected.

However, about 200 yards in, a doe jumped up to our left and ran behind us. We figured it was one of the deer in the group we originally spotted, and that it had seen us and spooked. The others were sure to jump up and run, too, we thought. But, they didn’t. And, amazingly, this particular doe eventually stopped about 500 yards beyond us and stood there. Not only that, she was looking away from us.

Time for action

So, Andy decided to try and stalk in on this deer, while Joe and I went after the others. Andy got to within about 150 yards and laid down for a shot. Meanwhile, Joe and I snuck in on the other does and buck. Joe made it to a post that was well within rifle range and sat up to get ready to shoot. I hung back to make sure I didn’t spook any deer before he got a chance to pull the trigger.

I alternated between watching Joe and watching Andy. Eventually, I saw Andy get ready to shoot, and then heard his shot. I watched the deer through my binoculars as it ran off. It went about 75 to 100 yards and dropped. Then, I turned my attention to Joe, who was still lining up his shot. I found out later the strong winds blowing in his face were making it very difficult to steady his rifle. Unfortunately, it was not possible to lay down for the shot, which is one effective way of dealing with wind.

Finally, Joe took a shot at one of the does, which was bedded in the grass. He thinks his shot went low. The two does and buck jumped up and ran off. He shot again, but didn’t connect. It is about impossible to hit a deer that is spooked and running at full speed.

The good news is, Joe got another chance the very next day. This time, the deer was only about 80 yards away and standing broadside. Joe didn’t miss this time, and that pushed our deer total to two for the trip.

As for me, I never fired a shot the entire time. That’s OK. I wanted the boys to get a deer way more than I wanted one for myself. I have been in the woods quite a bit this fall, and was able to take my first deer with a bow. That makes my season a success, no matter what would happen after that. Joe, on the other hand, had only the six days of this trip to deer hunt. When we spotted the two does on Saturday, he offered me the chance to stalk in on them, based on the fact that he had shot at deer twice already.

But, there was no way I was going to take this chance away from him. And, the smile on his face after the doe went down confirmed that I had made the right choice. It meant that all three deer hunters in our family got a deer this year.

Tough season overall

That’s an amazing feat, considering how tough the season has been this year. Theories abound as to why, but almost every deer hunter in Minnesota this year is saying that it has been a tough season and that deer sightings are down. And, of course, the disease outbreak in Montana is making its whitetail hunting even more difficult than in Minnesota.

So, I am VERY happy with our results this year. And, deer hunting is not over yet. There is the archery season here in Minnesota, which goes until the end of the month. I hope to get out a time or two before it closes. I’m thinking it would be nice to get out after we have some snow on the ground. Then, you can see where the deer are moving. Plus, tracking is a lot easier with snow on the ground. That was the case when I shot my buck with a bow in early November.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll get another deer with my bow. That would be fun. And, it would give me more venison to eat and share with family and friends.

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A nice doe, and fixing my bow

November 19, 2013

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The 3A firearms deer season was very, very tough this year. Deer sightings were down from last year, which meant few shot opportunities. I missed a shot at a small doe on Nov. 10, and didn’t see a deer on Nov. 14 when my friend Bernie Schwab and I went out for an afternoon hunt.

The next day, my son, Andy, went out for an all-day hunt. He hunted one stand in the morning, then switched to another after not seeing a deer. Near the end of the day, he decided to climb down and walk the edge of a picked cornfield. His decision paid off when a doe jumped out of the woods and ran out in front of him. She stopped at about 50 yards, and he took a quick shot while she was stationary.

She turned and ran, and he wasn’t sure if he hit her or not. Then, on the far side of the field, he heard what he thought was a crashing sound in the woods. He walked over, then spotted her on the ground just a few yards into the woods. Turns out he made a perfect shot, and in the process, harvested his first deer ever in Minnesota.

That’s two deer for our family, with both getting processed at Stasny’s meat market in St. Paul. The buck I shot with my bow on Nov. 6 is already in the freezer, and Andy’s will end up there soon.

I went out one last time on the final day of the gun season on Sunday. I saw a doe and fawn enter the field with about 15 minutes of shooting light left. They were very far away (about 150 yards) and it was very windy, so I felt the shot was too far. It didn’t seem like they were going to get any closer, so I decided to climb down and stalk in on them. But, I think they saw me climbing down from the stand because when I crested the hill, they were gone. Oh well. That’s how it goes.

Bad bow decision

Meanwhile, I had a problem to deal with. On Saturday, when I went out to take some practice shots with my bow, I committed the cardinal sin of archery – I drew back and hit my release with no arrow nocked. That’s called dry firing and it can damage or even ruin your bow. It was a sick sound when I released the string, and an even sicker feeling after realizing what I had done.

Immediately, I called A1 Archery in Hudson to tell them what happened and ask what I should do. The guy I talked to said to bring my bow in so they could look at it. He said the guys there should be able to fix it, but there could be damage to the string, cams or limbs. I was very nervous, but hopeful that I didn’t ruin the bow.

I took it in yesterday (Monday) and one of the guys gave it a thorough check. Turns out, the only problem was that the string twisted, causing the peep sight to move out of position. He put my bow on a press, and fixed the problem in a matter of minutes. And, as a bonus, he fixed another problem on my bow – stripped threads where my stabilizer screws into the bow. Here’s the best part – they did not charge me a penny for the repairs! Not only that, they let me shoot some arrows at their indoor range to verify that the bow was working the way it should.

It definitely was worth the trip, and I say a big THANK YOU to the guys at A1 Archery. I was already a loyal customer before I went in, and now I will be an A1 customer for life. Not sure when I will need to get a new bow, but if and when I do, you can bet I’ll be going to A1. My brother-in-law did, and he’s very happy with the Mission bow he bought there. In fact, he took a doe with it several weeks ago. Maybe, he’ll take a nice buck with it someday. I sure hope he does.

I never would have imagined that I would go home from A1 yesterday with a bow in better working order than before the dry firing. That proves the truth of one of my favorite Scripture verses, Romans 8:28, which says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

I’m especially glad to have the bow working again because I plan to hunt later this week for a doe. I have two bonus antlerless tags left, and I would like to fill at least one of them so I can give some venison to people who didn’t get a deer during the gun season this year.

St. Hubert, please help me!

 

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Deer not so active on gun opener

November 12, 2013

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As always, I was brimming with optimism on the morning of the Minnesota firearms deer opener. I was hunting the property near Red Wing where I had taken the largest buck of my life on the last day of the 2012 season.

My plan was to hunt in my tripod stand in the middle of the property in the morning, then switch to a ladder stand on the south end where I had shot my big buck. Amazingly, I did not see a deer all day, and didn’t hear much shooting either.

My brother Paul and son Andy were on properties nearby, and neither of them saw a deer all weekend. We hunted all day on Saturday, then came back Sunday afternoon.

The wind, I believe, had a lot to do with the diminished deer movement. This was as windy an opener as I have every seen, with gusts of more than 30 mph throughout the day.

Sunday was quieter, so we were hopeful for a deer sighting. In the last half hour of shooting light, I finally heard something walking behind me. A small doe walked right past my stand and continued in the woods to my left. I didn’t have a clear shot, but figured she would turn right to go into the picked corn field in front of me.

I was right. She turned at about 15 yards and slowly walked toward the edge of the field. Finally, she stepped out, giving me a full view and a perfect broadside. I put the crosshairs behind her shoulder and fired.

She jumped and ran, so I fired again. I was expecting her to drop, but she didn’t. She continued to run around in the field, obviously confused by the loud noise that shattered the quiet and peaceful evening.

As it turns out, I shot four times, and all were off the mark. But, it was the first miss that was particularly disturbing. I have not missed a broadside shot at a deer standing still from within 50 yards since buying the shotgun and scope in 1997.

What’s the problem?

Something had to be wrong. I thought back to two years ago, when I took my dad on a special hunt for war veterans up at Camp Ripley. His guide for the hunt inadvertently ran over my shotgun with his pickup. I took it in to a gunsmith when I got back, and he gave it a clean bill of health except for some shifting of the scope on the cantilever barrel.

It seemed to work fine that year, as I shot three deer, a nice eight-point buck and two does. Then, last year, I shot the big buck with it. I figured nothing was wrong, and went to sight it in this year several weeks ago.

I ended up having trouble zeroing it in at 50 yards, with one shot hitting low and to the left after I had made adjustments. Finally, I thought I had it dialed in at 50 yards. I even took a shot at 100 yards, and it hit with two inches of the bullseye.

But, I think I should have paid attention to the errant shots. I called the company that makes the scope, Leupold, and described my problems. The guy I talked to said there definitely could be some internal problems, perhaps caused by the gun and scope getting run over. He recommended that I send the scope in.

I will definitely do that. And, I plan on using a different gun if I am able to get back out in the field during the rest of the season. I’m not too disappointed, though, as I already have one deer at the butcher. Actually, I was trying to get a deer for the landowner, who had a license plus a special landowner doe tag. He has health issues, and all he is able to do is drive around his lower field with his shotgun and look for deer. I promised to help him get one, so I wasn’t happy about missing that doe.

Oh well. That’s how it goes sometimes. Equipment problems happen, and I suppose I should have expected some damage to the scope and sent it in earlier. That one is on me. Fortunately, we have another shotgun that isn’t being used that I can take out into the field later this week.

More bow hunting action

Meanwhile, I decided to go out into the woods this morning closer to home for a morning bow hunt. The temperature dipped all the way down to 13 degrees, but I was comfortable thanks to a new set of Gamehide hunting clothes I picked up yesterday afternoon from my friend Steve Huettl. It was time for a new set, and the timing was great.

I planned to sit until about 9 a.m., if I could stand it that long. Actually, I think I could have lasted all day, except for cold toes. I ended up seeing six deer, four bucks and two does. The bucks came in close, and I think I could have gotten a shot off at one of them, except for the fact that you are only allowed one buck per year in Minnesota. So, I had to merely watch the bucks, which was fun. I always enjoy deer sightings in close.

The first deer I saw were two does that came in to about 25 or 30 yards. One of them turned broadside, and I took a shot. But, the arrow sailed low. I think it was a combination of the deer being farther away than I thought, and possibly hitting a branch. That’s the trouble with longer shots. You need to be sure of the exact distance of the deer, plus make sure there aren’t little branches in the way. With the foliage down, those pesky little branches are much harder to see. You can think you have a clear shot, but don’t.

That was my problem. Oh well. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s always nice to hunt on crisp November days, and seeing six deer definitely was worth it. Hopefully, I’ll get more bow hunting in before the season ends at the end of December.

Up next: Montana the week of Thanksgiving. We will buy $80 whitetail doe tags and, hopefully, have some action out west!

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How does arrow fletching affect your bow hunt?

October 9, 2013

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I must admit, I have given very little thought to arrow fletching as it relates to flight and, ultimately, what happens when an arrow hits a deer.

Another recent failure in the woods, plus an article in North American Hunter magazine turned my attention toward this topic recently. After hitting yet another deer three weeks ago and failing to recover it, I started asking myself questions. Although I figured out that it was a shoulder hit, which almost always results in little to no penetration into the vital area, I couldn’t help but wonder if the poor penetration had anything to do with my setup.

As I pondered that, I ran into an article in the October issue of North American Hunter (page 28). Managing editor Dave Maas tested a new product called NuFletch, and had very favorable comments about the results. Basically, it’s a short aluminum arrow shaft section that screws into the back end of your arrow, in which you can slide vanes in and out. That means you easily can replace damaged vanes in the field.

But, there’s more, according to Maas. The short piece of aluminum that now sits on the rear end of the arrow adds weight and stiffness to the arrow. That, in turn, increases penetration.

It’s not a hard thing to test. All you have to do is see how deep into your target arrows with NuFletch penetrate versus standard arrows. When I went online to see if others had tested NuFletch, I read that some archers were getting 3-4 inches of deeper penetration into their targets.

I can’t help but think that this will make a difference in the field. One thing I am really hoping for is to get a pass-through on a deer this year (through the vitals, of course). The best blood trails always come from pass throughs. Not hard to understand why: two holes in the deer and no arrow in the deer to block blood flow.

I can’t say I completely understand what NuFletch does to arrow flight. What I can say is I sent an email to the company and got a response from the CEO, John Marshall. Very impressive!

How it works

I then followed up with a phone call, and we spent about 15-20 minutes talking about NuFletch. He said the NuFletch basically does two things: 1. Reduces oscillation in arrow flight (not detectable by the naked eye), thereby keeping the kinetic energy up, which results in a stronger hit on a deer, plus less loss in arrow speed down range; and, 2. Puts more mass at the back end of the arrow, which creates a hammer-and-nail effect when the arrow hits the deer. Simply put, the higher weight on the back end of the arrow drives the front end of the arrow harder when it hits something.

Some might say this all sounds good on paper, but Marshall also realizes that he needs proof. So, he told me that he has done testing with a chronograph, which measures arrow speed. He admits that there is a slight loss of speed right off the bow (about 8-10 feet per second). But, down range speeds don’t drop as much as standard arrows.

And, when the speed drops less, the arrow trajectory flattens. Any bow hunter will tell you that flat trajectories are huge because misses on deer tend to be more vertical than horizontal. I vividly recall missing a nice eight-point buck two years ago when the arrow sailed underneath the deer’s body. Maybe, just maybe NuFletch could have made the difference.

Hard to say on that one. But, what it could mean is that I might be able to aim the exact same way on a deer with my 20-yard pin all the way out to 25 yards. Right now, my 20-yard pin puts me 2 inches high at 10 yards, 3 inches high at 15, right on at 20 and about 4-5 inches low at 25.

That means I have to move my pin up a bit at 25 yards to put the arrow in the vitals. Not a big deal, you say? I agree, except that with everything that you have to think about when lining up a shot at a deer – not to mention the added factor of being super excited – moving your pin up a few inches at 25 yards is something you easily could forget.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have my arrows hit at 25 yards to close to where they hit at 20 that I don’t have to change my aiming point? I’ve said since I first started shooting a bow 2 1/2 years ago that the simpler I can make the process, the better.

Simple and better?

Hopefully, NuFletch will both simplify the process and give me better arrow performance. Oh, and here’s another thing that Maas pointed out: He saw less wind drift with NuFletch. At 40 yards, his NuFletch arrows drifted only 1-3 inches in a strong crosswind, as opposed to 6-8 inches with standard arrows.

What this hints at is increased accuracy. Marshall is convinced I will shoot tighter groups with NuFletch. I can’t wait to find out. Believe me, once I get NuFletch on my arrows, I am going to give this product a thorough test.

Speaking of installation, I am going to go to A1 Archery in Hudson for that. Marshall is going to ship the product there, and the guys at the shop have agreed to install it for me. They have not worked with NuFletch, and don’t currently have it on their shelves.

Paper tuning a must

So, I guess that makes me their guinea pig. That’s fine with me. But, Marshall did give me one VERY important tip – it is critical to paper tune my bow after installing NuFletch. A small adjustment to my arrow rest may be needed to get the arrows with NuFletch to fly straight. He said this is one big mistake made by many people who try his product. Then, when the arrows don’t fly the same as their standard ones, they complain and say the product is junk.

What I have learned over the years is you MUST use a product correctly in order to determine its effectiveness. Some small detail that seems insignificant can, in fact, be huge. Marshall is telling me that paper tuning your bow after installing NuFletch is one such detail. I will make sure to paper tune my bow at A1.

I’m not worried. It’s not a complicated product, and Marshall said I could install NuFletch myself. Several months ago, I might have tried. But, with the archery deer season underway, I would rather let experienced bow techs tackle the job, hence my planned visit to A1.

I will go there sometime in the next week or so. With the rut just around the corner, I hope to have NuFletch on my arrows when the bucks start cruising!

 

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