Tag Archives: tips

Not too cold for grilled venison!

December 18, 2013


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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Wisconsin turkey lottery deadline is today!

December 10, 2013


For those thinking ahead to spring, it’s time to act if you want to hunt gobblers in Wisconsin. Today is the deadline for applying in the Wisconsin wild turkey lottery. Those who go to the wild turkey page on the Wisconsin DNR can apply online as well as learn all of important details about the spring turkey season.

I have gone every year since 2007 and have failed to tag a tom just once. Six out of seven years isn’t bad! Even last year, when a monster storm hit right during my season in early May, I managed to take a nice mature tom. It was a very unusual hunt – in the snow in May. But, I happened to set up near where a very eager gobbler was roosted. I started walking toward the woods at about 5:15 a.m. and had my bird just a little before 6. It was my fastest hunt ever.

I firmly believe this year will be excellent. There were lots of birds around last year where I hunted, but very few got shot. I think the cold spring turned many hunters away. And, with good reason. The birds were not very cooperative overall, and lots of hunters went home empty handed.

That just leaves more turkeys for this year. Not only that, the hatch was very good the year before, which should mean lots of 2-year-old toms gobbling in the woods. Last year, I saw a group of seven or eight jakes (young toms) on one of the properties I hunt, and none of them were taken, even though I shot at them several times.

So, those birds should be back this year – and I can’t wait!

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Trying to solve a tricky shotgun problem

December 6, 2013


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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A nice doe, and fixing my bow

November 19, 2013


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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Finally, a deer with my bow!

November 7, 2013


After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 7.

After three seasons of challenges and heartaches, success finally comes on Nov. 6

As I climbed into my deer stand for a day of bow hunting yesterday, Nov. 6, I was greeted with a spectacular sight – a fresh layer of snow on the ground.

It had snowed overnight, creating a winter wonderland. It was cold, quiet and beautiful, and I was very thankful to be enjoying God’s work of art on this crisp fall morning.

Of course, I was hoping the icing on the cake would be the sight of a deer walking past my stand and giving me an opportunity to harvest my first whitetail with a bow.

It didn’t take long for the landscape to come to life. Less than an hour into the hunt, I saw a doe racing into the field just to the south of me. She circled around, then dashed back into the woods. I knew what was going on – she was being chased by a buck.

A very good sign! The rut seemed to be taking longer to kick in this year, and this was an indication that things were finally happening. My optimism skyrocketed as I continued my vigil.

Only about 15 or 20 minutes later, another doe came dashing out into the field, this time with two fawns in tow. Then, a fourth deer came out behind her. This one was a small buck, and it was grunting as it tried to keep pace with the doe.

This was going to be a good day, I figured. Although I was planning to sit all day, I had a feeling I wouldn’t have to wait that long for a deer to come close enough for a shot.

A third sighting

Would I see something close enough for a shot? That’s the question I asked myself as I continued standing watch over the trail coming east from a thicket nearby. I just had a sense that something might come out of there.

As the clouds cleared around 8 a.m. and the sun made an appearance, the snow began to melt. The snow that had coated tree branches began sounding like rain as it let go and fell to the ground. It was a lot of noise, and I wondered if it might make the deer nervous.

I also knew it would make it harder to hear whitetails approach. So, I would have to be on my toes. As the minutes ticked by and it got close to 9, I thought I heard some noise coming from the thicket. It seemed like more than just the snow melting and landing on the ground like raindrops.

I decided to keep an eye on the thicket, and continued looking that way. Then, when I looked back there to my left once again, I was startled by the sight of a deer walking from the thicket toward me. Its head was down, so I didn’t know if it was a buck or doe at first. After a few seconds, it looked up and I saw antlers. A buck!

Close encounter

My heart raced momentarily, then my mind kicked in and started thinking about what to do next. With the buck’s head down as he continued to walk, I slowly reached over and grabbed my bow, which was sitting strategically in front of me on a holder. As soon as I put my left hand around the grip, the buck shot his head up and looked right at me – pretty unnerving at only about 15 yards!

Fortunately, I remembered what my friend and mentor Steve Huettl had told me to do when this happens – freeze and wait for the deer to lower its head and resume walking. I did so, and the buck eventually dropped its head and kept coming toward me. He looked up one more time, then worked his way to a perfect broadside position.

He stopped one last time just before getting even with me, and I knew I was just seconds away from a shot opportunity. I could have thought about all of the other shots I have taken at deer with my bow over these last three seasons – eight total, with five hitting the deer, but zero recoveries. Instead, I pushed all of the previous failures out of my mind and got ready to draw.

The moment of truth

After nibling on a small bush almost barren of leaves, the buck slowly took a couple of steps and drew even with me. I could have drawn and shot at this point, but I decided to let him walk a step or two past me. This does two important things: 1. Gets that pesky front shoulder out of the way, and 2. Puts me out of the deer’s field of view, allowing movement of drawing back without being seen.

This is a point that I think some bow hunters miss, but it causes such a tremendous advantage. The buck got past me and stopped. I drew back, anchored my 20-yard pin behind his front leg and released the arrow. Thanks to a lighted nock with my NuFletch system, I saw that the arrow had passed through the deer. It was sticking in the ground, clearly visible in the snow. Also, I happened to catch a spot of red on the deer’s body as it jumped and bounded off.

Everything looked and felt right. Would this be the time that I would finally recover a deer and put a tag on it?

Time for tracking

Experienced bow hunters will say it is after the shot that the hunt actually begins. I watched the buck run out of sight, then I sat still for a minute to contemplate what had just happened. Then, I called Steve and told him the news. He suggested that I take my binoculars out and look at the arrow to see if there was any blood.

I pulled them out of my backpack and locked the lenses onto the arrow. Sure enough, there were drops of blood under the fletching that were easily visible in the snow. This is a GREAT sign, and my hopes soared after seeing this.

I waited for about 45 minutes, then climbed down to start tracking. The first thing I did was go over to my arrow and take a look at it. I pulled it out of the ground and saw that it was soaked in blood from end to end. I also saw that the Rage two-blade mechanical broadhead was fully deployed. I had a very good feeling about this!

I went over to the last place I saw the deer and began looking at the ground for blood. I saw a few drops in the snow right away and started following them. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but it left a steady trail that I was able to follow without too much trouble. Then, I hit a large spot where the snow had melted, and my heart sank. Had I waited too long to track?

I called Steve and asked him what to do. He told me that it’s not uncommon for deer not to bleed too much initially, and said I just need to keep looking for more blood, and to take my time. So, I paused, took a deep breath, and walked past the bare spot to the snow beyond it.

Not this time

But, a question started to nag at me: Would this search for a deer turn up empty like all the others? It was hard to shake this doubt, even though there were plenty of encouraging signs. I decided to take Steve’s advice and work slowly and methodically, even if it meant getting down on my hands and knees to look for blood.

That maneuver proved unnecessary. I spotted blood quickly after that, and there seemed to be more of it. Then, I got to a thicker spot of woods, and looked at a couple of downed branches covered with snow. There was blood on the branches, and I started to develop a clear sense of anticipation. The buck couldn’t be far away, I thought.

I spotted more blood as I continued walking, and finally noticed it higher up on some shrubs. It was glistening against the snow, and I just felt I would find the buck soon. I plowed ahead, picking up the pace a bit as the blood trail started to get heavier.

Finally, I looked ahead and saw something brown laying on the ground. I stepped ahead quickly, still not fully committed to believing it was my buck. After all, I had been fooled by logs before.

This was no log. It was him! I knelt down and put my hands on him. Shortly after that came my prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, which is my custom. In that joyful moment, three seasons of frustration melted away along with the shrinking snow pack on the ground. A beautiful morning just became perfect for this hunter!

Hardest task ever

I have always had a deep respect for bow hunters, especially those who are able to harvest a deer. I found out firsthand how difficult this can be. I was just hoping that on one magical occasion, things would all come together and I could have a successful bow hunt. This was the day.  Thanks be to God!

Of course, with the deer recovered, the real work began. I went back to my car and got my camera. I took some pictures, field dressed the deer, then began the journey back to the car. Fortunately, my good friend Bernie Schwab had loaned me his deer cart. Otherwise, I might still be dragging that buck out.

I got it back to car, then went home and exchanged the car for our van and hooked up the trailer. I picked up the deer, then headed to Stasny’s Food Market on Western Avenue in St. Paul for processing. The owner of the store, Jim Stasny, was there, and I gladly put in an order for some of his awesome venison summer sausage to make from my trimmings.

A happy ending to a wonderful day in the woods!


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Deer stand shortcut spells trouble

November 5, 2013


There I was, in the dark and getting ready to hunt last Friday morning. I had climbed into one of my ladder stands and was getting my bow and other gear ready. I dropped my bow hanger to the ground and tried to climb down quickly to retrieve it.

Then, trouble hit, in a big way. I felt a wobble as I started going down the steps, then a jolt as one ladder section gave way. One side of the section had popped loose, and I figured a fall was coming.

Fortunately, the other side of the section held together, and I was able to finish the climb down. What a relief!

The failure, however, was not due to a faulty stand, but rather a faulty installer. I decided not to use the safety pins that come with the stand to keep just this sort of thing from happening. A friend who helped me put it up said they are not necessary, as the weight of the hunter will push the sections tightly together.

He was wrong, and I relayed the story to him. Later that morning, I bought bolts at Fleet Farm and reinforced the stand. It is now rock solid, and I am ready to hunt the rut, which is later this year but should kick in with the cold weather that is coming in.

Interestingly, after the stand collapsed, I hustled about 150 yards to another one and climbed in for a two-hour hunt. A small buck came in to about 15 yards and was standing broadside at about 15 yards. I drew back and tried to put my 20-yard pin on the buck, but my glasses were slightly fogged and I couldn’t find the deer. A second or two later, he walked through the shooting lane and never presented another shot opportunity.

Oh well, that’s how it goes. I’m just glad I was able to discover the danger of my stand now – and didn’t get hurt! I then went down to Red Wing the next day to put bolts into another stand we put up, one that my son, Andy, will hunt in on the opening day of the 3A firearms season, which opens this Saturday.

The lesson in all of this is simple, and I pass it along to all deer hunters who will go out into the woods on Saturday – DO NOT TAKE ANY SHORTCUTS when it comes to putting up your stands. Assemble them properly and utilize all safety features, including body harness.

May all deer hunters have a safe and fun hunt this season!

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Boat winterizing is simple

October 29, 2013


I took advantage of the warm weather on Sunday to winterize my boat. It’s a simple task, but very important, especially if you want the boat to perform well next spring.

That’s right. Good performance next fishing season hinges on what you do with your boat now. I do a few simple steps, and my boat runs well the next open-water season. This is my to-do list for winterizing:

1. Take care of your gas. I take the outboard motor tank and empty the gas into my car’s gas tank. Then, I put in fresh gas along with Sta-bil fuel stabilizer. The directions call for 1 ounce of Sta-bil for every 2 1/2 gallons of gas. I pump about a gallon into the tank, add the Sta-bil, then put another gallon-and-a-half of gas in. I shake it a little after that to be sure it’s mixed well.

2. Start your engine. Then, I hook up the tank with the fresh gas and start up the engine. You have to be sure to have water going into the engine, or you’ll burn up your engine. Simply take what’s called ear muffs and place them over the intake on the lower part of the motor. Attach them to a garden hose and turn the water on. Then, once you see that there’s a good seal on the ear muffs, start up your motor and let it run for 10 minutes. That uses up the old gas and puts the fresh gas in the carburetor and internal hoses. And, be sure to look and see that water is coming out of the engine.

3. Fog your engine. With your engine running, take off the cover and remove the plate that covers the carburetors. Spray fogging oil for about 5 seconds into each one. The engine will slow down and smoke will billow out of it. That’s what you want. After spraying the last one, shut off the engine.

4. Change oil in lower unit. Now comes the messiest part of the job – changing the lower unit gear lube. You can do it in the spring, but I do it in the fall while I’m working on everything else. On the lower unit are two screws, one higher up and one down low. Take both off, starting with the higher one, and drain the old gear lube into a pan. Often, it looks milky, which is a sign that it needs to be replaced. Some people think you can get away with changing it every other year, but it’s not very expensive, so I do it every year. After the old lube has drained, screw a pump into the lower hole and pump in the new lube until it runs out the top hole. Then, put the screw back into the top hole, and unscrew the pump from the bottom hole. As quickly as you can, put the bottom screw on. You may lose a little lube, but that won’t be a problem.

5. Charge batteries and store properly. Disconnect all wires from your marine batteries and charge each one. They store well with a full charge. Once charged, place them on a shelf. Do NOT put them on concrete. Doing so will drain them of the charge. And, store them outside. A battery expert I talked to said this is the best. It’s tempting to bring them inside, but he said this is wrong. So, I follow his advice. He says a marine battery lasts about three years, so you may need to replace it in the spring.

All of these steps shouldn’t take more than an hour. I wish I could have used my boat more this summer, but it just didn’t work out. The fact that my gear lube wasn’t milky tells me the boat got less use than previous years.

Hopefully, next year I will get out on the water more!

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Federal offers new shotgun slug

October 21, 2013

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I was surprised when I went to Mills Fleet Farm yesterday to buy shotgun slugs for the upcoming 3A firearms season. I was there to buy a few five-round boxes of Federal sabot slugs, called Barnes Xpander.

They have performed beautifully for me, taking down nice bucks the last two years and at least a dozen other deer over the last 10 years. In all honesty, I was planning on using them for the rest of my shotgun hunting days.

Alas, I was shocked to discover that they were nowhere to be found at Fleet Farm. When I got home, I checked the website for Federal and learned that the company no longer makes the Barnes Xpander. It has been replaced by a slug called Vital Shok Trophy Copper.

I was stunned. Why would Federal try to fix something that isn’t broke? I have had great results with this copper slug. It’s very accurate all the way out to 100 yards, and I was done experimenting with shotgun slugs after trying these.

Now, I have to start all over again. I decided to look up information on the slug on Federal’s website, and the news might not be as bad as I think.

Seems the company has done some tweaking and come up with a slug that is slightly lighter than the 3/4-ounce Barnes Xpander that I used previously (the Xpander was offered in 3/4-ounce and 1-ounce slug weights, with me choosing the former for flatter shooting). The new slug weighs 300 grains, which is slightly lighter than the 3/4-ounce Barnes (.69 ounces when you convert)

I ended up calling Federal today and was able to talk to a customer service rep. He said that the Barnes bullet company was bought out, and the new company ended its relationship with Federal. So, Federal had no choice but to come up with a new slug to replace the Xpander.

The guy I talked to said a new slug already was in the works, so the company moved the development of it to the front burner. The new Vital Shok round is now on the shelves, and he said extensive testing by Federal indicates it is every bit as accurate as the Barnes, if not slightly more so.

I hope that’s true. Shotguns are notoriously finicky when it comes to different brands of slugs. Some shoot great, others horrible, and often there is no discernible reason for the difference.

So, the bottom line is: You have to try the slugs and see how they work in your gun. I am sure hoping these new slugs perform like the Barnes Xpanders did in my gun, a Remington 11-87 with a rifled barrel. There’s nothing like seeing your slugs consistently hit the bullseye at 50 yards, and even 100.

That’s what I got with the Xpanders. I will go out and buy some of the new Vital Shok and see if I can duplicate the results I had with the Barnes.

Stay tuned for a review!


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October lull, getting ready for rut, and NuFletch

October 18, 2013


I went out bow hunting yesterday morning on a metro property, hoping I might get a chance at a deer. I ended up seeing several wild turkeys, including a nice tom, but the deer didn’t show.

I have heard about something called the October lull, and my friend and mentor, Steve Huettl, believes it’s real. Hard to know why, but deer seem to move less in early to mid October.

Things could improve with the cold weather, however. Steve just emailed me today and wrote that two hunters he has talked to saw lots of deer movement today. It cooled off today, and temperatures are predicted to stay in the 40s all of next week. In fact, some light snow could even fall on Sunday.

Steve says cold increases deer movement during the rut, so this could be a good year if the cold sticks around the rest of the month and into November. I will say, I always do well in the cold. Last year, when I shot my big buck on the last day of the 3A firearms season Nov. 11, the temperature dropped throughout the day, from the low 40s all the way down into the 20s after dark.

About 12 years ago, I hunted an early doe season the third weekend in October over in Wisconsin. In fact, I hunted it two years in a row. I had two doe tags each year and filled three out of four. I should have filled the fourth, but missed several shots at group of does on the last day. That’s on me. Both years, it was cold during the antlerless hunts.

Hopefully, the cold will get the deer moving. I’ve got several stands set up, both here in the metro and down in Red Wing. I may get out at the end of next week, if things look promising. For sure, I’ll go out at the end of the month and the first part of November.

Prepare for the cold

Now’s a good time to start thinking about the cold and how to dress for it, particularly if you’re planning on being in a stand for any length of time. I’ve got a pretty good system that has worked well for me.

It starts with a good base layer. I have a set of Under Armour – leggings and long-sleeve top in its Cold Gear line. My wife bought it for me several years ago, and it really helps. Next, I put on wool pants and a wool sweater. I do like wool, and it works very well until the temperatures get really cold, like the teens or even single digits.

My top layer is an insulated set of bibs and jacket. I wear a hat, of course, but keeping my hands warm for bow hunting presents a unique challenge.

Steve says he does not like to shoot with gloves on, particularly on his release hand. So, he puts his hands inside a muff, the kind you see NFL  quarterbacks using in cold weather. I have done this and it works.

But, there is one key ingredient for keeping both your hands and feet warm – using chemical hand warmers (the small resin bags). I have used them for years and they really work. Now’s the time to stock up. I put them inside the muff and my hands stay warm. I also put the toe warmers inside my boots and that works very well. I have socks that are called Smartwool, and I use a pair of insulated rubber boots made by a company called Muck.

This setup usually keeps me warm. But, cold and a strong wind can make it tough. That was the case last fall on Nov. 11. Fortunately, I was able to hang on until the final minutes of legal shooting time to get my buck.

NuFletch test

I got NuFletch installed on my arrows on Monday at A1 Archery in Hudson. It didn’t take long, and one of the guys paper tuned my bow when he was done. He had to move my arrow rest a little, and I had to move my sight pin a bit as my arrows now were hitting low. But, I got that adjusted at A1’s indoor range, and I went home happy with my setup.

I did some more testing at home and found that my arrows now fly slightly flatter – and quieter. The flatter your arrows shoot, the less you have to think about where to put your sight pin on a deer. I can now use my 20-yard pin from 0-25 yards without having to move the pin up or down on a deer.

That’s huge. Before, I was hitting a few inches high at 10 and 15 yards, and a few inches low at 25. So, I always had to think about exactly what distance I was shooting at a deer, and compensate accordingly. I didn’t do that well enough on a doe I shot at four weeks ago, and I ended up hitting it in the shoulder.

I definitely don’t want that to happen again. I’m hoping that, with NuFletch, I will avoid this problem. We’ll see. Not sure when I’ll get out next, but I plan to be out there during the rut.

I think I’m ready for it.

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How does arrow fletching affect your bow hunt?

October 9, 2013


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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