Tag Archives: tips

Sighting in new crossbow a breeze

February 11, 2016

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Got my hands on my new Parker Bushwacker crossbow last week. I didn’t wait long to put it together and sight it in.

I found it simple to put together and easy to use. I really like the way it feels in my hands, and it was amazingly easy to sight in. I started out at 10 yards, and it was very close. I moved back to 20, and it was just a tad low and to the left. A few clicks on the scope adjustments and I was dialed in dead center.

I took a few more shots to make sure, and every one hit the bullseye. I am supremely confident about hunting with this weapon. And, my hat’s off to Parker for making a solid crossbow that I’m sure will take down some animals for me.

I plan to use it this spring for turkey hunting. There’s a place in Wisconsin where I bow hunt where the landowner only allows bow hunting. And, with crossbows being legal for any hunter in this state, I plan to try mine there.

Should be fun. I feel confident I can make a shot on a gobbler out to at least 20 yards, even though a tom’s vital area is only the size of a tennis ball. The crossbow certainly is capable of hitting the target.

But, a critical decision is what broadhead to use. After doing some research online, I plan on trying the Spitfire Gobbler Getter by New Archery Products. It’s designed specifically for turkey hunting, and it has features to help put the bird down where he stands or close to it. Many hunters agonize over birds they hit with an arrow, but run or fly off. My brother-in-law just recently told me about a friend of his who hit three turkeys while archery hunting last spring, but didn’t recover any of them. That’s definitely an outcome I would like to avoid!

I may also try archery hunting for turkeys in Minnesota with my compound bow. An archery tag is good for the entire spring, so that would give me lots of time to try for a gobbler. I applied for the first season in the lottery. If I don’t get picked, I’m seriously thinking about buying an archery tag. I consider getting a turkey with a bow to be the supreme challenge in archery.

I need to decide if I’m up to the task!

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Archery season ends quietly

February 3, 2016

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It’s finally over. I went on my last archery hunt of the season Sunday, Jan. 31. In Wisconsin, one piece of property I hunt is located in the Hudson Metro Subunit, with an extended season that goes through Jan. 31.

I hadn’t hunted there since November, so I went on Saturday morning and did some scouting. There was deer sign aplenty throughout the property, including fresh droppings. I found a promising spot and threw down some corn, as baiting is legal in Wisconsin.

I went back to the spot Sunday afternoon for one final sit, with my friend’s crossbow in hand. When I got there, I checked the corn pile and did not see any fresh deer tracks indicating that deer had found the corn.

So, I went to a different spot where I had seen a good amount of tracks on Saturday. I set up in a cluster of pines and waited.

Nothing showed, and I spent the last 10 minutes of shooting light walking around to see if any deer were moving. None were, which resulted in a quiet ending to the archery season.

It was a season of peaks and valleys in terms of deer movement, with mostly valleys. There were many hours in a stand in both Minnesota and Wisconsin when I didn’t see a single deer. I blame the unusually warm fall, which may have been the culprit again last night, with temperatures near 40 degrees in the afternoon.

No matter when it is during the archery season, the colder the weather, the more deer move during daylight hours. I am hoping next year won’t be this warm. I talked to a lot of hunters during the season, including some who spent many days in the field, and they all reported drastically reduced deer sightings.

I know some people think the problem is lower deer numbers, but I hunt in areas with healthy deer populations. In fact, the deer sign on the property I hunted yesterday was very good. The deer are there, they just haven’t moved much during the day.

Well, I can’t complain. I had a good season overall, and was able to take two antlerless deer, one in Wisconsin with a crossbow and one in Minnesota with a shotgun. There’s plenty of venison in the freezer and my family is enjoying it. We had venison meatloaf just last week, and I will be making venison stew later this month.

So, I give thanks to the Lord for the blessings of this archery season!

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New Parker crossbow on the way!

January 29, 2016

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After lots and lots of research, I finally made a decision to purchase a crossbow. I had used a friend’s Excalibur crossbow in the fall and took a doe with it in Wisconsin, where crossbows are legal for all hunters with an archery license.

I enjoyed it so much, I decided I wanted one for myself. I shot several and really liked ones made by Parker. They have two lower-priced models that are nearly identical — the Enforcer and the Bushwacker. The former sells for $500, the latter for $400.

That’s low when it comes to crossbows, but still more than I had hoped to pay. I was hoping to pay $300 or less, but the more research I did, the less that seemed possible. I did see one for less than $300, but a guy in the archery department at Cabela’s advised against it. He was high on Parker crossbows, saying he does not see them get returned, plus they are made in the U.S. with a lifetime warranty.

I tried one out in two different stores, and they just felt good in my hands. The next task was trying to find the lowest price possible.

Today, I got a nice blessing when a guy from Parker emailed me that the company had some older Bushwackers (pre-2015) that they were closing out. The price was great — $225. Needless to say, I jumped all over that and ordered one right away.

It should come in the next week or two. I’m excited to use it, and may try it in Wisconsin during the turkey season this spring. One landowner where I hunt only allows bow hunting, so I’ll be good to go on his property with my new crossbow. Plus, I likely will be the only turkey hunter on his land this  spring.

I can’t wait to try it. And, of course, I will use it in the fall. My journey to crossbow ownership all started with some nagging shoulder pain that significantly influenced shooting with my compound. Now, I have the option of using the crossbow in Wisconsin. And, at age 54, I only have a few more years to reach the age requirement of 60 in Minnesota for crossbow use.

I’ll  be sure to follow up with more information about how the new crossbow shoots. Stay tuned!

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Deer hunting 2015: a bountiful harvest!

November 16, 2015

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This nice doe was taken with a crossbow in Wisconsin.

This nice doe was taken with a crossbow in Wisconsin.

On the crisp afternoon of Nov. 13, I sat peacefully in a deer stand in Wisconsin with my hands tucked into a camo muff.

Some important items were inside the muff — chemical handwarmer bags and a blaze orange rosary.

Never heard of a blaze orange rosary? Well, you obviously have never been to St. Hubert in Chanhassen. I procured my set of beads there Nov. 8, the day after the firearms deer opener and the day the parish celebrated the feast of its namesake, who also happens to be the patron saint of hunters.

I was first introduced to my deer hunting patron in 2012 by my oldest son Joe, who encouraged me to pray to St. Hubert. I did and was rewarded with a 10-point buck in the final minutes of the 3A firearms season, the largest I have ever taken.

Father Bruno Nwachukwu of St. Hubert in Chanhassen dresses up as St. Hubert and passes out blaze orange rosaries the weekend of Nov. 7-8.

Father Bruno Nwachukwu of St. Hubert in Chanhassen dresses up as St. Hubert and passes out blaze orange rosaries the weekend of Nov. 7-8.

Thus, I was highly motivated to come to St. Hubert parish to claim a set of blaze orange rosary beads. I also was treated to the sight of Father Bruno Nwachukwu, the associate pastor who dressed up as St. Hubert and handed out the rosaries and posed for pictures with a blowup deer.

By then, my hunt was well underway, and I was celebrating the success of the previous day. My friend and hunting partner, Bernie Schwab, and I both had tagged button bucks on the opening day of the 3A firearms season Nov. 7. They were considered antlerless deer, and were legal in this zone under the Hunter’s Choice rule, which allows hunters to tag one deer during the entire fall season, buck or doe.

With that accomplished, I was now trying to fill one of my archery tags in Wisconsin. I sat for six hours in a stand on one piece of property I was hunting the morning of Nov. 13, then switched to another farm after seeing no deer.

When I climbed into my stand at 3 p.m. with a little more than two hours of shooting light left, the high winds were starting to calm. I was optimistic that a deer would step out near my stand. I was hunting with a crossbow, which I had decided to do for the first time this year. Crossbows are legal in Wisconsin, and I wanted to try one out. Thanks to the generosity of a friend, Gary Altendorf, I had one in my hands on this cool afternoon.

Throughout the first hour of my sit, I fingered the rosary beads and said a few prayers to Mary. I don’t know how much pull she has in terms of bringing a whitetail my way, but I thought a Hail Mary or two couldn’t hurt.

A little after 4 p.m., I heard some rustling in the thick brush to the north of my stand. I knew this was a bedding area, so I started to feel anticipation. The noise got louder and closer, and I sensed a deer was near.

Then, only about 20 yards in front of me, a nice doe emerged from the brush and walked right at me. This is a fine shot if you’re holding a gun, not so much if you have a bow in your hands, even a crossbow. There’s a lot of bone in the way of the vitals when a deer is coming straight toward you.

I wondered if this deer would walk right under my stand. Then, a few seconds after this doe popped out, another one emerged behind it. It followed the first, but then turned slightly away from me to nibble on a branch.

That exposed part of its front flank, and I saw my opportunity. I put the crosshairs of the scope on it and popped the trigger. The arrow (called a bolt) found its mark and hit the deer in the spine. It went down immediately, which meant there would be no tracking required.

Most bow hunters will say that tracking a deer after it’s hit is the hardest part of bow hunting. After having done it a few times, I would agree. So, I was very relieved to not have that chore ahead of me.

I did put a second shot into the deer to make sure it was down, then I went and told the landowner. She offered to drive her tractor up to the spot where my doe was. I quickly and eagerly accepted.

Within an hour, I was on my way back to St. Paul and Stasny’s Meat Market, where I get my deer processed. The guys there do a great job, including owner Jim Stasny, who almost always is there to check in my deer. Their summer sausage is legendary, and I always make sure to order some.

I now have two deer at Stasny’s. Both were young, which will make for some good eating.

The good news is I have more tags left to fill in Wisconsin. I still have my buck tag, plus a county doe tag. I can buy more bonus doe tags if I want, which is a nice option to have.

But, I have not been seeing nearly as many deer as last year, so I’m not sure how many more shot opportunities I will get. I think the warm weather in October and November severely curtailed deer movement overall, especially during the daytime.

That’s why the cooler days are so important. A chill is in the forecast for later this week, and I will take Friday off to hunt. It’s the day before Wisconsin’s firearms deer opener, so it will be the last day of quiet before guns start blazing in the badger state.

After shooting my compound bow year round, it sure would be nice to draw back on a deer. Maybe, Friday it will happen!

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Turkey talk proves fun

October 12, 2015

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I decided to buy a fall turkey tag this year. Part of the reason was to gain more woodsmanship and knowledge of the birds, which will hopefully bear fruit next spring when I chase gobblers.

Another reason is for food. Wild turkey is excellent to eat, and I don’t have any left in my freezer. I got just one bird this spring, so I want to get another one for the freezer.

I should be writing about doing just that, but the truth is, I blew two golden opportunities. It showed that I’m rustier than I thought. Despite getting a late start, I had a shot opportunity minutes in to my hunt at Spot No. 2. I was walking along a narrow cow pasture, then spotted movement just on the edge of the woods. I saw two hens walking into the woods, but thought they were out of range.

Looking back, I don’t think they were. I could have raised my shotgun and fired, and more than likely would have dropped one of the birds, but instead I pulled back and tried to circle around and stalk in on them. But, when I got there, they were gone. Fall turkeys move almost continuously in the fall, so you’d better take a shot when you get the chance.

I moved to another area of the property, and set up at the top of the ridge. The landowner said there were birds in the area, so I sat down and did some yelps and lost calls (called the kee kee run). To my delight and surprise, a hen yelped back. She was either at the bottom of the valley or up on the other side. I couldn’t tell.

We went back and forth for probably about 10-15 minutes, but she didn’t seem to get any closer. Then, she shut up. I figured she wasn’t willing to come that far, and that I would have to go to her.

That’s exactly what I did. I hoofed it around to the other side of the valley. Just as I got there, I heard a yelp. To my utter frustration, it came from right where I had just been sitting and calling. She came after all.

It was not a happy moment for me. I sure learned my lesson. From now on, I’m going to stay put. The flocking instinct is strong in the fall, and turkeys just seem to want to gather up with other turkeys, even if they take their sweet time. Now I know.

Hopefully, I will be a better hunter next time. I definitely want to get after fall turkeys again this season. I have until Nov. 1 to hunt. But, I want to save those last few days in October for bow hunting. That’s when the real fun begins!

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Don’t forget about turkeys this fall

October 2, 2015

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Hunting seasons are open in Minnesota, and I have been focusing my efforts on bow hunting for whitetail deer. But, a package that arrived in the mail yesterday pulled my attention toward another game animal — the wild turkey.

The fall season for turkeys opens tomorrow, and will stay open until Nov. 1. With a new call in my hand, I want to go after these birds. It’s a simple mouth diaphragm call, but it’s wickedly good at producing the full range of hen calls, including the kee-kee run they use in the fall.

I have tried and tried to do this call over the years, which is a series of short, high-pitched whistles, but have failed miserably. That is, until I tried a mouth call from a company called Tom Teasers in Georgia. The company makes one called Cracked Corn, which I got several years ago and hadn’t gotten around to trying yet. I picked it up earlier this summer and decided to try it out. I gave the kee-kee one more try, and to my surprise, I did it beautifully on this call!

What’s more, I was able to do all kinds of other hen sounds really well, too. Just like that, I found my new go-to call. I decided to call the company to say how much I like this call. I ended up on the phone with Tommy Walton, the owner and founder. We talked for a while, then he generously offered to send me some more Cracked Corn calls, plus several other mouth calls. He even threw in two beautiful box calls!

I felt like I was in heaven. When I got ready for bed last night at 11:30, I couldn’t resist trying out the new box calls. I worked them softly, then decided I would really fire them up this morning.

In a word, they’re awesome, too. So, thanks to Tommy for getting all of these great calls in my hands. We talked about turkey and deer hunting over the phone, and I told him he should come up here to hunt sometime. It’s a long way from Georgia, but we have some good opportunities up here.

Maybe he’ll take me up on that sometime. If he does, I know what calls I’ll be using on our turkey hunts!

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Archery season finally underway

September 28, 2015

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I finally got out into the woods with my bow over the weekend. With my wife on retreat and my two kids living at home having plans for the evening, I went to one of my hunting properties in Wisconsin to sit in a stand.

I am excited about this stand, which is set up along a trail that runs parallel to a ridge along the St. Croix River. Early season is always a crapshoot, but I fully expect this spot to be good once the rut kicks into high gear and the deer start moving more during the day.

It was a gorgeous evening, and I was all smiles as I climbed into a stand for the first time this season. I settled in and leaned back against the tree where my ladder stand was positioned. There was lots of squirrel activity, and a couple of them chattered at me for a while. They will often do that when they spot a hunter in a tree. I find it annoying, but they usually quit making a racket after a while.

With about an hour of shooting light left, I heard some noise below me about 25-30 yards away. I looked down and saw a deer walking through. It was out of range, and I could only see part of it. But, I did make out the legs. It walked and stopped a couple of times, then continued on. I pulled out my grunt call and gave a few grunts in case the deer was a buck.

Whatever it was, I was not able to steer the deer my way. That ended up being the only one I saw. I’m not disappointed at all. I enjoyed a beautiful evening, and at least saw a deer. Last year, I didn’t see a deer from my stands until Nov. 1.

I can’t wait for the rut to get going. In about a month, things should start cranking up. I hope to spend plenty of time in my stands. The good news is, when the timing is right, sometimes the sits are short, meaning a deer comes by early and I get a shot off. Two of the three deer I have taken with a bow have come before 7 a.m. The third came at 11 a.m.

When it comes to deer hunting, timing is everything. That’s why I plan to be in the woods as much as I can in early November.

 

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Beautiful weather makes putting up deer stands fun

August 6, 2015

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Success in bow hunting is all about preparation. One of the key elements is putting up stands well in advance so that the deer get used to them.

It’s also important to place them in such a way that you can hunt in as many different wind directions as possible without spooking deer. That’s the hard part.

I am hunting a new piece of property down near Red Wing, and I had put up two stands earlier in the year. But, I needed at least one more, according to a whitetail bow hunting expert, Jim Hill, who has shot dozens of trophy bucks in his lifetime.

Heeding his advice, I went down on Tuesday with a friend to put up a third stand along a ridge that looks promising for deer movement. We got the job done without a lot of sweat, which is surprising for this time of year. The humidity was low and it was nice and cool, with a northwest breeze making it even more comfortable.

I may be set with my three stands, but I’m contemplating a fourth. Have to think about that. One thing’s for sure: The crops look healthy and robust. I am hunting near the edge of a soybean field, and the plants look green and vibrant. If the September archery opener happens while the leaves are still green, I should have good deer movement into the field. But, the leaves often turn yellow by that time, and the deer shy away from them until after the beans are harvested.

I’ll be sure to check a day or two before the opener to see if the soybean leaves are still green. If so, I’m in business. Otherwise, I’ll probably wait until after they’re harvested. Not a big deal, as the law allows me to tag just one deer in this area, Zone 3. More than likely, I’ll hold out for a buck, which has to have at least four antler points on one side. I’m hoping I will get a shot at one this year.

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Rare and awesome bow hunting advice

July 14, 2015

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I first met Jim Hill back in the early 1990s. I was working as a sports editor at the Bloomington Sun-Current chain of weekly newspapers, and a reader suggested I do a story on Hill, who lives in the western suburbs and works in Eden Prairie.

I was told Hill had shot not one giant whitetail buck, but two, in the same season, one in Minnesota and one in a neighboring state. Thought it was worth looking into, so I called Jim and went to pay him a visit.

He showed me photos of the two bruisers he took with his bow, and I published one of them, the Minnesota buck. I also got some valuable hunting lessons that day, plus a Scent-Lok suit from Jim, who was a rep for the company (I think he still is).

I stored those lessons, and have met up with Jim a few times since. He even went scouting with me a while back on a property near Red Wing where I hunt.

I caught up with him last week and told him I had taken up bow hunting five years ago and managed to take three deer with a bow over the last two seasons.

I was itching for more knowledge and asked Jim if we could sit down and talk. He gladly agreed, and we had a very productive conversation at a local Perkins restaurant in Bloomington.

It’s rare to meet a bow hunter of Jim’s caliber, rarer still to sit down and get some tips. Not only that, he agreed to go out with me to a new property I’ll be hunting this fall near Red Wing.

How cool is that? This is a guy who routinely shoots bucks bigger than anything I may ever see. Last fall, for example, he shot a giant buck in Kansas that he says had a gross antler score of 200-plus inches. Wow! He showed me a picture on his phone, and I don’t think he was exaggerating one bit.

I made it clear to him that I am not looking for something like that. Rather, I want to have close encounters with deer and, hopefully, get a nice-sized buck this fall. In the area where I hunt, a buck has to have at least four antler points on one side to be legal. So, I will be passing on the smaller bucks.

But, if any legal buck passes by and offers a good shot, I likely will take it. Jim was not judgmental in the least, and fully supported my goal. After all, I’m still relatively new to archery hunting, and I want to have more practice at taking shots at deer. Thus, I don’t think passing up legal deer is a good idea for me.

I’m hoping Jim can help me have success. I believe he can, especially if he comes down to scout with me. In return, I will try to help him find a place to hunt down there. Because of the antler restriction, I know there are big bucks running around — and lots of them.

Are there the huge bucks Jim goes after? Hard to say. These giants are rare no matter where you hunt, and it takes a hunter with special skill — and patience — to take them.

Jim definitely is that kind of hunter. I am very, very grateful that he has offered to help me. If he can identify the right stand locations, and give me tips on how to set up and hunt, I should have a fun fall!

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Finally. . . let the fishing begin

July 7, 2015

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On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

On the first fishing trip of the year in Minnesota, this nice bass provided a fun fight.

I usually don’t wait until July to buy my Minnesota fishing license. So, making the purchase on July 3 this year is out of character for me. In fact, I bought a fishing license for Montana before I got one for my home state.

Who would have thought? In a normal year, I would start my fishing season in late May or early June. This year, I just didn’t get around to it. Plus, the weather had some wild mood swings last month, which can throw fish patterns out of whack and make catching them tough.

I decided simply not to mess with these unstable conditions and just wait. As I have learned over the years, timing is everything.

Finally, a good stretch of warm, stable weather settled in last week, so I turned my thoughts to getting out in my boat for the first time this season. Plus, my brother Paul and his two sons Matthew and Michael had the itch pretty bad.

I happily obliged, and we went to the southwest metro to fish a small bass lake called O’Dowd. It’s pretty shallow, which makes it easier to find fish. Simply cruise weed edges and toss plastic worms or a jig-and-pig, and usually you’ll connect with bass at some point.

Unfortunately, a number of pleasure boaters joined us on the lake. That isn’t always a problem, but on a small, shallow lake, it’s definitely more of a challenge.

What’s more, some of these folks think nothing of buzzing past very close at high speeds. I am continually amazed at such rudeness.

I think that was our biggest challenge on this day. Finding quiet water was tough, and boats zipped over some of my favorite spots repeatedly.

In the midst of all that activity, a few bass chose to respond to our offerings. I caught a chunky, feisty fighter that measured 17 1/2 inches. Very respectable. I know the lake holds bigger, as I landed a 19-incher several years ago. Lots of metro lakes contain bass this size, which is good news for avid bass anglers like me.

I hope to get out on the water again soon. For me, mid to late July and August are prime time. That’s when the deep weedline pattern I like so much begins to heat up. So, the best is yet to come!

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