There’s no better feeling than doing something you love with someone you love, and that includes hunting! While spending a cold day in the great outdoors may not be for everyone, couples who hunt together know it’s an awesome way to bond and spend time with one another.

Read on to see what Mitch Strobl, our newlywed Director of Customer Relations, and SevenGen’s TJ Unger have to say about finding love in the blind.

TJ & Liz

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Who got you into hunting?

My father introduced me to whitetail hunting when I was 9 years old. I’ve since developed my passion for the outdoors and now get to share all that our hunting heritage has to offer with my best friend—my wife, Liz.

What do you love most about hunting with your wife?

Liz and I enjoy the adventure of new experiences where we have an opportunity to explore, learn and challenge ourselves. Hunting has been an ultimate avenue for us to share in these experiences and build lifelong memories along the way.

Has hunting brought you closer together? How?

Today, we are a society of constant connectivity—social media, television, Internet, etc., which often comes at the unfortunate expense of “family time.” Hunting is an exception and has, without question, made Liz and my relationship stronger and brought us closer together. The frequent “downtime” of the hunt allows us to grow through communication and involvement. We share stories, we laugh, argue, and sometimes even cry. Yes, we have the occasional “disagreement” in the tree stand, but we always persevere from 20 feet up! Whether it’s spring turkeys or autumn whitetails, the seasons afford Liz and me an opportunity for pure togetherness.

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What was your most memorable hunt together?

Liz and I share countless hours hunting together each year. One of our most memorable hunts was in the foothills of Nebraska, chasing turkeys with good friend Cory Peterson of Hidden Valley Outfitters. It was the afternoon of our last hunt, and my turn behind the trigger.  I had my heart set on bringing home a true Merriam gobbler and, with daylight fading, odds were not in my favor. We sat in our ground blind reminiscing on the week, when unexpectedly a true Merriam tom silently strutted into the open. At less than 10 steps, I was instantly ready to squeeze that trigger. Instead, I heard the whisper of my wife, coaching me to be patient and let things unfold so that we could enjoy the moment together.

Can hunting be romantic?

We, as sportsmen, know that it’s not just about the trophy — it’s about the experience, and together we are making memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. We also remind each other that hunting takes much patience … and so does love! And when asked if hunting can be romantic, Liz and I have two words: “Blind date”!

Mitch & Stephanie:

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Who got whom into hunting?

I introduced Stephanie to hunting, although she didn’t really have a choice. If she wanted to spend time with me, she HAD to go hunting.

What do you love most about hunting with your wife?

It’s pretty simple for Stephanie and me. Hunting equates to quality, uninterrupted time together. Too many times during everyday life we have responsibilities that limit our time together: work, family, etc. When we go hunting, it’s dedicated time where it’s just the two of us and the great outdoors. Having that time together is special; we’re out in nature and there are no distractions so that time is valuable to both of us. I believe that’s why we make such a great effort to hunt all the time!

Can hunting together be romantic?

Well, I guess it depends on what your definition of romantic is! Stephanie would be quick to tell you about how we put makeup on together in the bathroom mirror during waterfowl season. She’s really taken to my forest green, brown and black combo! And let me tell you, she looks good in camo! Okay, in all seriousness, hunting together is very romantic. Quality time is important to both of us, and hunting allows us to have plenty of uninterrupted quality time together. Plus, the fact that Stephanie takes the time and makes the effort to explore my hobby is very romantic, too.

Has hunting brought you closer together? How?

Absolutely, for two reasons: quality time and sacrifice. Hunting allows us to get away from our everyday life in the city and we can just “be.” Some of our best days together have been in pursuit of a deer, turkey or hog. Everything that goes into a hunt contributes to the experience: the planning, anticipation, getting ready, the drive there, the hunt, pictures, video, preparing the meat, cooking it, and eating it. It all adds up to a monumental experience together where we accomplished something. Plus, I’m grateful for the sacrifice on her end. I appreciate the fact that Stephanie proactively took the time and made the effort to experience a hobby that is and always will be very important to me. Of course, I do the same for her, so there’s equal appreciation and that significantly helps our relationship.

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What is your most memorable hunt together?

While my archery buck in Ohio is a close second, I’d have to say Stephanie’s first turkey hunt is our most memorable trip together. For those who have been turkey hunting before, you know what I’m talking about… when that first gobble cracks the morning silence, it sends goosebumps through every square inch of your body. I’ve never seen her eyes light up the way they did when she heard her first gobble. Well, except for when I proposed to her. I laughed because I knew exactly how she was feeling at that moment — she was hooked!

Now, here’s the thing with Stephanie: She talks A LOT. So the second she heard that gobble, question after question ensued, to the point where I thought SURELY there can’t be any more! Looking back, the questions are what I loved the most. It reminded me of what it’s like to be a new hunter. Of course, I was more than happy to answer them.

The gobblers continued doing their thing for 20 minutes or so, and I was able to give Stephanie the full play-by-play of what was about to happen with my mad calling skills (not). I’d been turkey hunting before, and my call does nothing but scare those turkeys the other way! But I couldn’t help myself. I sent out a few clucks and purrs and sure enough, they flew down the opposite direction. Panic mode set in. Stephanie was convinced that I blew it. I assured her they’d be back around, it would just take patience. It was that point in the season where if you couldn’t pull a tom away first thing in the morning, you’d better wait until late morning, so that’s what we did. They went on their way and we repositioned in a high-activity area. Sure enough, they eventually came by our setup and everything worked out perfectly.

 

There was a huge group of them, which worried me. We were tucked up under a cedar bush, so we were definitely concealed, but with a group of 10 or so turkeys I thought for sure they’d bust us. Luckily, one of the gobblers ventured out on his own, a fatal mistake. Steph did everything just like we practiced, made me so proud! She asked to turn off the safety, I confirmed. She aimed at the neck and put a good ethical shot on him! That’s when the tears came… which, is something I wasn’t necessarily expecting, but it turned into one of those moments we still talk about on a regular basis. It’s a big deal, taking an animal’s life. I tried my best to prepare her for the seriousness of the situation, but it’s truly something you have to experience in order to fully understand it. After the initial shock eased, then the laughter and excitement came in. Looking back on the video, we had such a good time. We made fools of ourselves, yes, but it was totally worth it. What an experience to share together, something we’ll definitely remember forever.

 

Image and Story credit: TJ Unger, Pro Staff Member for Dominator365 and Director of Business Development for SevenGen 

Wisconsin bowhunter learned the hard way to respect a wounded doe. What went wrong?

Deer Attacks Hunter

A hunter in Wisconsin got a rough reminder about bowhunting safety on Friday when he was attacked by a deer he was hunting.

The report, making the rounds as a “revenge of the deer” tale, says the 72-year-old hunter was injured when the doe he was tracking while crossbow hunting surprised him and hit him in the leg. He was transported by ambulance to the hospital and his current condition is unknown. The deer got away.

This is a rare and bizarre situation: most of the time, hunters come home unscathed, but incidents like this can be serious if proper precautions aren’t taken.

Let’s look at the safety measures this hunter may have missed:
• He did not approach the deer from behind and above. If he had, the deer would have been more likely to leap away from him, rather than toward him.
• He didn’t make a clean shot, leaving the doe wounded. Proper shot placement is critical; on a deer, bowhunters should aim for the chest cavity, with intent to strike the liver, diaphragm, lungs and heart.

But he did a lot right, too:
• He waited before tracking the deer. It’s unclear how long he waited, but it’s safest to wait at least 30 minutes to an hour.
• Friends or family knew where he was hunting, and were able to help him get out when he was injured.
• He sought medical attention quickly.

It’s important to remember that these kinds of incidents are pretty rare: in 2007 (the last year data is available), there was only one crossbow-related injury reported, according to the IHEA-USA. That’s in large part because of hunter education and safety measures. That said, a lot can happen in the field—it’s wild out there!

If you want to brush up on your bowhunting safety, it’s always good to take a bowhunting education course for your state.

Have you ever experienced “revenge of the deer”? What happened?

Hunters differ on a lot of aspects of hunting – favorite game, trophies vs. meat, stalking or stand hunting – but one thing we can all agree on is: Geez, can hunting be expensive! Camo, guns, ammo, licenses, packs, knives, scopes, binoculars, boots, dogs, gas, duck stamps, guides – it all adds up quickly.

However, we’re all happy to have paid the price when we’re successful in the end. We all want to get value for our hunting expenditures. “Cheap” and “expensive” are relative terms – depending on how useful your purchase was and how much you love it – so as long as you get what you were expecting, you’re happy.

We asked some of our friends and followers to tell us what gear had given them a lot of value. That’s not to say they’re cheap – some are inexpensive – but rather that you’ll get more than your money’s worth from these products.

Tim Wagner: Federal Fusion Ammo477666

I began using Federal Fusion ammunition soon after it came out in 2005. I had always used Remington Core-Lokt ammo, but I had a couple of instances when I didn’t like its performance on deer. The marketing caught my attention – the lead core is bonded to the copper jacket and it is affordable. And, the performance proved it wasn’t just marketing. Most of my shots on deer passed completely through, and at the time I was using just a .243. When I did manage to dig one out of a deer, it was perfectly mushroomed and intact.

The performance was so good that rather than spend a lot of money on more expensive ammo for a safari to South Africa, I took Federal Fusion for my .30-06. I could afford to practice with it at the range beforehand, too. It performed flawlessly. The skinners brought me bullets from a close-in gemsbok shot and a 220-yard blesbok shot – both, again, had mushroomed perfectly and retained almost all their original weight. My professional hunter, like most PHs, was an advocate for the Swift A-frame bullet. However, that was the first time he had seen the Fusions, and he said he was impressed.

I’m still impressed, and that’s why I use the 120-grain Federal Fusions in my .25-06 for whitetails. Most of the common cartridges sell at retailers for between $20-$35 for a 20-round box.

 

Twitter user @sarahaustin110: Ozonics Scent Eliminator

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From the Ozonics website: “Ozonics transforms oxygen molecules into ozone molecules and, with a silent fan, projects them downwind out over your scent zone where these unstable molecules bond with your scent molecules, rendering them unrecognizable to deer and other scent-savvy game.”

 

Mia Anstine: Leatherman Wave

With advances in technology and production, prices have dropped for many hunting items. With reduced prices, some products have also diminished the quality of their items. One item I’ve always found to be of excellent quality and come in handy is my multi-tool. I carry the Leatherman® Wave®. It has a screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, saw and knives. It’s my all-around “MacGyver” tool. I’ve used it to wire broken fences closed so horses can’t escape. It’s come in handy for replacing light bulbs in a pinch. I even use it to skin, cape and field dress elk. It’s a tool that is definitely worth the price.

 

Will from Will to Hunt: Garmin 64ST

For a long time I’ve depended on just using my cell phone and simple maps for scouting and recording my hunt locations, but making the switch to a high-quality GPS has immensely improved my hunting. I can quickly mark and pinpoint areas while scouting, and on backpacking hunts I can easily see where I’ve been and make sure I’m not slipping onto private property.

The Garmin 64ST comes preloaded with all U.S. topographic maps and it’s easy to add in additional information like property lines and waypoints. Plus, it’s rugged enough to take a beating and powers up and finds my location in no time.

 

Mitch Strobl: RedHead Hunting Apparel

The RedHead® brand, from Bass Pro Shops, is high-quality gear for a very reasonable price. I can often find the camo, jackets, gloves, hats, etc., for well less than brand name prices, and the performance is as good or better, in my mind.

Overall, the reason I vote for RedHead gear is simple: my main goal is maximizing my dollar without sacrificing performance. I work hard for my money, and I want to make sure the gear that I buy works just as hard for me in the field. With RedHead, I can be confident that I’m getting quality, dependable gear that won’t let me down. It might not be the flashiest gear you can find out there, but it gets the job done, is dependable, and is priced fairly. For example, when I’m waterfowl hunting, I’m able to outfit myself with RedHead apparel and the difference in cost vs. other brands lets me buy the things I need most – more shells! (Yes, I miss a lot … but don’t we all?)

A few examples for waterfowl hunting:canvas

1.     Hunting Waders– RedHead’s classic neoprene waders provide everything that I need to shoot some ducks, and they are literally half the price of other comparable waders. They are waterproof, insulated, and have all the features that I need without extra bells and whistles. For example: They have a front equipment pocket, built-in shell holder, and loops for my clip-on accessories. I like to be lightweight when I’m in the field, so I don’t need much more than that. I just want to stay dry, warm, and ready for action.

2.     Waterfowl Jacket – Like the waders listed above, I like this jacket is because it’s built for the simple hunter. While it has many other practical uses, it’s great for the traveling waterfowl hunter. One week I might be in the cold, icy north, and the next week 1,000 miles south in 70-degree Texas. The versatility found in this jacket makes it worth the money because you essentially get two jackets in one. The removable insulated layer comes out with a few zippers and snaps, and that’s my favorite feature. The hooded outer shell is breathable, yet windproof and waterproof, which is perfect for any waterfowl setup. Plus you have all the other niceties like cargo pockets, hand warmer pockets, magnetic pocket snaps, and elastic wristbands to keep the water out.

3.  Decoy gloves – These decoy gloves just work for my two main goals: Keep my hands warm and keep my hands dry. When I’m setting up decoys, I don’t want to worry about my hands getting chilled to the bone before my hunt. I want gloves that accomplish those two goals at a fair price.

Remember: Do your research! When using any product mentioned here (or elsewhere), always review and follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and safety recommendations.


 

bobbyMy 5-year-old son just received — from his grandpa, my dad — my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun that I first got when I was about his age. And, he got a hand-me-down little compound bow and arrows from my teenage nephew at the same time. Of course, this made me super excited and had me dreaming about taking him to the deer stand with his BB gun to chase away squirrels.

Him, though? Well, Bobby wasn’t nearly as excited as me. We’ve gone out with the BB gun and the bow and shot at targets a few times, but it’s always at my prompting. And, when I asked him if he wanted to go sit in the deer stand with me … he very politely declined. The call of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels is just too strong in this one.

But, that’s OK. He asks me to go outside and play football or baseball, or to walk around our property and feed the catfish in the pond — when he’s ready to do that. And, I’m confident that he’ll get into hunting on his own time-frame. Or, maybe he won’t, and my disappointment at that would be really insignificant compared to the mental damage I would be doing if I forced him to participate in something that he just doesn’t like.

Don’t write me off as being weak just yet — we have our fights when I make him eat his vegetables. I’m not going to let him decide he doesn’t like something without trying it first. But, I’m going to take the approach to some things that I really care about — like hunting — that doctor’s take in the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no wrong.” After that, the real question will be: When he’s ready, how will I make sure he likes it?

BB Guns, .22s, and Soft Recoil Pads

Listen, there is no room for macho with kids who are new to hunting. The fastest way to make any experience unenjoyable is to make it physically painful. So, start kids off shooting with a BB or pellet gun. Let them get deadly accurate. Then, move them up to a .22 rimfire rifle — and put hearing protection on them. Let them get deadly accurate. Then move them up to a small center-fire rifle.

A .223 will kill a deer dead-right-there. A .243 might give a little more margin for error. Shot placement is critical, and the more your child flinches at recoil, the less likely he or she is to aim small and miss small. We even made an infographic about caliber selection where we grouped some light-kicking rounds.

Even rifles and shotguns with light recoil can be too much for a lightweight kid to handle comfortably. In those circumstances, there are plenty of soft recoil pads that can be swapped onto a stock to further reduce the kick. Pain serves no purpose, so for a child, try to eliminate it altogether.

Interactive Target Practice

You know why video games are awesome? They move and blow up and — well, they’re exciting. You know why generations of kids shot glass bottles and left messes all over back-40s and public land around the country? Yeah, because they “blow up.”

You have to start kids with target practice because you need them to be confident that they will be successful. But, you can’t just make them shoot paper, because that’s not very exciting. Thankfully, there are tons of options outside of glass bottles — spinning targets, bouncing targets, “bleeding” targets, shoot and see targets, and of course, clay targets.

Early Success

There is a reason why most hunters traditionally have started hunting small game — plentiful shooting opportunities. I didn’t start my son off fishing for bass. I started him with a worm and bobber for panfish, so he could be successful and experience the fun of the sport. And, I won’t start him hunting in the deer blind. He’ll sit next to me in the woods for squirrels, and we’ll have a 20-gauge and target loads with a nice soft recoil pad for doves. Why not a .410 for even easier shooting? Remember, success is the key, and I want him throwing several hundred 7 ½ pellets out there at those doves for a better chance at connecting.

Actually, as soon as he masters his Red Ryder, I’ll move him up to a pellet gun and he can keep the starlings, grackles, and squirrels out of our garden. I already know that if he considers something “hard to do,” he’s unlikely to keep at it right now. Hunting isn’t known for being easy, but increasing the chances of success early on can be done.

A Hunter’s Education and Educating a Hunter

Of course, I’ll want him to pass his Hunter Ed course sometime early on. That’s something we’ll do together, and I’ll be talking about it as a rite of passage — not like it’s schoolwork or a grind. We already spend a lot of time reading tracks when we’re out in the woods — he’s a dinosaur nut, so we always have our heads down looking for fossils, anyway. I think that’s a key to getting kids interested in hunting, too — make it relatable to another hobby or interest of theirs.

Don’t be afraid to get the young ones into the nitty-gritty of hunting, either. Bobby likes to watch me skin squirrels and breast out doves — he thinks it is “gross,” but he kind of likes gross. He likes seeing the heart and other organs, because it was all theoretical to him before he saw it in person. And, he’s an avowed carnivore, so he knows we’re eating the deer or squirrel or doves that daddy killed. He knows exactly how they get from field to plate, and if he’s not squeamish now, he probably never will be.

The bottom line is — I love hunting and I love my son. I want my son to love hunting. But, no matter what happens, I’ll always love my son. More — I’ll always love my son, more. As long as he never becomes a <shudder> … vegetarian.