It’s as old as time itself. The bow and arrow continue to be a tool to harvest animals year after year. Our equipment may have been upgraded for power and speed, but the objective remains the same—keep your scent trail downwind of your prey’s highly sensitive nose, produce enough power to penetrate the hide of that animal for a quick and clean kill, and, when necessary, track it to recover the animal. Pretty basic stuff, right? But what about the before process? I’m talking about the time leading up to the beginning of the season when you should be checking your equipment, scouting your hunting grounds and perfecting your form.

Crack Open That Case

I hear so many stories of people who finish up their whitetail season and simply put their bow away in its case for the year until a month before the next season kicks off. Then, it’s a mad scramble to replace parts and re-establish a proper form. In the midst of it all, they venture out into the field with less-than-acceptable equipment and wonder why that buck they eyed at 17 yards is bounding away unscathed. What we do to prepare is just as important, maybe even more important, than being out in the field. When you draw back and anchor, is your confidence going to be at 100% because you’ve put your time in? Are you even going to be able to draw back at all?If you don’t put time into field scouting, you’ve lost before you even step foot out the door.

If you’ve read some of my other articles, you probably know what I’m about to say! It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about dove, duck, deer, turkey or hogs. If you don’t put time into field scouting, you’ve lost before you even step foot out the door on opening morning. Just because you “know” there’s deer in the area doesn’t mean you know where they’re traveling to or from or even why. Locate those game trails or use cameras (where allowed by law) to figure out the highest activity periods in the area. Then, set your stands and blinds accordingly. Never set up directly on the trail. Provide yourself enough of a vantage point to observe a large portion of the trail and the surrounding area. Brush your ground blinds in, don’t just assume a camouflaged fabric dome is going to fool that old bruiser. Check your tree stands for stability. Replace any worn or broken straps, and clear your shooting lanes. There’s no reason why all of this can’t be performed at least a month before the season kicks off. And it keeps your scent out of the woods as well.

Never set up directly on the trail. Provide yourself enough of a vantage point to observe a large portion of the trail and the surrounding area. Brush your ground blinds in, don’t just assume a camouflaged fabric dome is going to fool that old bruiser. Check your tree stands for stability. Replace any worn or broken straps, and clear your shooting lanes. There’s no reason why all of this can’t be performed at least a month before the season kicks off. And it keeps your scent out of the woods as well.

Choosing Your Instrument

If you are new to bow hunting or if you realize that your current bow is not as durable as you’d like, it might be time to purchase yourself a new bow. Purchasing a bow may seem like a simple task, but the amount of options to consider can be overwhelming. All that said, the two main types of bows that hunters use are compound and recurve bows.

For a bow that is both accurate and simple to use, the compound bow is a great choice. If you want to step up your game, the recurve bow is your best bet. Typically, whenever I make large purchases, I look at product reviews and product blogs for information. An extremely useful and informative source is Outside Pursuits – a product review website that caters to outdoor and hunting enthusiasts. Check out their product review blog to help narrow down your options.

Pinpoint Accuracy

How many times have you visited the archery range this off-season?

We spend hundreds, maybe even thousands, of dollars on our archery equipment so that it can perform at its absolute best. And when the time comes to perform, that arrow is going to fly exactly where you put it. Or, so you think. If we’re not continually working to improve ourselves and properly maintaining our equipment, we can’t really expect to be in top archer shape when the moment presents itself. How many times have you visited the archery range this off-season? When was the last time you replaced those frayed bowstrings? Is your setup properly tuned? I like to drop my bow off at my local shop and let them tune everything every off-season. Is it overkill to do it every year? Maybe. But the peace of mind it provides to me is priceless.

Archery Range

From there, I start at the bottom and work my way up. Even though it comes from the shop already paper-tuned, I put it to paper myself just to make sure it’s flight is exactly the way I like it. Next, I check and recheck all of my pins and make any necessary adjustments for my field points. In the terrain I hunt, I’ll never see a shot longer than 40 yards, but you might be pushing 60 or 70 yards. So work at those distances.  Make them a priority for those just-in-case moments. When adjusting your sight and pins, it’s very important to remember that you “follow the arrow.” If you’re hitting high and to the left, adjust your sight high and to the left. Again, this method is only for adjusting your pins!

Fine Tune Your Instrument

Once you have your field points dialed in, work with your broadheads. Yes, they’re going to tear up your target faster. But, the difference in flight patterns between field points and broadheads can be very large. And the difference is not just with a fixed blade. It can affect mechanicals too. Just because mechanicals are advertised to fly like field points doesn’t mean that they actually will fly like field points. The last set of mechanicals that I used were 3” too low and 2” to the left.  It was a far cry from a field point flight. When tuning for broadheads, remember that you’re adjusting your rest, not your sight. And in so doing, you’re adjusting in the opposite direction of where your broadheads are striking. If you’re hitting low and to the right, you’re going to move your rest higher and to the left. It’s always the opposite for rest adjustment. And whenever you are adjusting your arrow rest, whether left, right, up or down, less is more. It does not take a lot of adjustment to a modern arrow rest to change an arrow’s flight path considerably. Work in small increments, you’ll be amazed at how much you accomplish with very fine tuning.

…And Stay Safe

I don’t like wearing a harness! But I also know that if anything were to ever happen, it would save my life. There is no doubt in my mind.

Finally, let’s talk about safety. I know it’s an issue that gets mentioned often. However, from my own observation, I rarely see it practiced in the field. Our goal (more so than tagging that buck we’ve had our eye on the last 3 seasons) is to ultimately come home safely to our families and friends. We owe it to them to take every precaution necessary to ensure we leave our hunting area in exactly the same condition that we entered it in. I’ll be the first one to say this. I don’t like wearing a harness!  But I also know that if anything were to ever happen, it would save my life. There is no doubt about that in my mind. So, familiarize yourself with your harness and tree strap, know what to do in the event of a fall and know how to recover from it. Use a lifeline when you climb, every time. If you’re using a climbing tree stand, take the extra time to work your tree strap up the tree as you climb and never let it take on too much slack. If you’re worried about how long it will take to maneuver up the tree with how many adjustments you’ll have to make to your strap, arrive earlier to allow yourself that extra time. There really is no excuse for disregarding your own safety.

For us bowhunters, it all comes down to just a few short seconds. Those seconds may seem like minutes or even hours as you sit there waiting for that big, mature buck to clear that brush or step past that scraggly oak. The adrenaline will be full on, your muscles will quiver and your heart will beat as though you’ve run 10 miles in record time. But all the time you’ve put in at the range and into the land and the money you spent on preparing your equipment comes down to just a few ticks of the clock. You’ve done it right up to this point, so seal the deal. Let that arrow fly and take in that beautiful “SCHWACK!” as it echoes through the woods.

Montana hunter Dan Mock has been a hunter education instructor for three years. He shares these stories of how to be prepared when hunting or hiking in bear country.

I love bears, especially when they are in their comfort zone—either paralleling me or heading the other way.
But having one sniffing at my head through a backpacking tent does not engender the most secure feelings!
To my way of thinking, the best places to canoe, backpack or hunt must have bears and no roads. Bears symbolize the wild with a touch of risk. To enjoy these areas, you must always control or at the least minimize the risk factors for the bear’s safety and your own. Killing a bear is seldom the answer. For one thing, it may not be open season or you may not have a bear tag. Besides, I don’t want to eat another bear.
But I’m not afraid of doing what needs to be done when the situation calls for it. For example, while hunting moose in British Columbia, Canada, the guide asked if I minded cropping an aggressive black bear that had twice chased his mother into her log house. (That is a big no-no.) The bear brought the following action upon itself: shot with a 180 gr. 300 WIN Mag, death was almost instant at 75 yards.

Bear Crossing

One time I took my brother-in-law hunting in an area halfway between easy hunting and the farms below, assuring him his first buck. Leaving him well-situated 300 yards away, I thought I’d take a nap when some instinct said, WAKE UP NOW.
A fast-moving black boar was making tracks down the trail that I had my legs across. Not wanting to share the trail or pet him, I shot him twice, very fast. The Remington .308, 150 gr. did in the 450-pound black bear at 35 yards.
Thinking back over the years, I am sure that big brute had no idea my legs were blocking his trail. However, he was inside my comfort zone, and I’m not that comfortable with danger.mock-bear-group

A Surefire Wake Up Call

Another black bear decided to investigate a new smell—my cowboy coffee. Four of us were on a nine-day canoe trip down the John River out of the Alaska’s Brooks Range when one evening we decided to camp on an island. The river had 3 channels on the left and one on the right. What a magnificent spot.
At 5 a.m. my buddy was 150 yards from our tents, sipping coffee and admiring the hilltop caribou and hill-side sheep, when a black bear stepped out of the forest 250 yards away. Nose in the air, it crossed the first river channel. My pal’s admiration suddenly stopped when the coffee hit my friend’s sleepy brain and he realized what was coming: that bear was on the way for breakfast.
Being awakened with “bear in camp!” definitely brings you out of the sleeping bag eyes wide.
Two of the defenders, armed with bear spray, ran to the kitchen to save the coffee. Shotgun in hand, I found the bear in the nearest channel, 6 feet down the bank and five yards out from shore, nonchalantly swimming the fast current. I turned him three times by shouting nicely to please remove himself from the camp area. He’d started to leave but kept swimming back. Not GOOD!
Just as I was about to pull the shotgun trigger for a warning shot in the water, the bear decided there was no sugar in the coffee and left down river.
My friend and hunting buddy said “boy, that was a big bear!”
I said, “they all look big.”
He replied, “But that one was soaking wet!” He was dead on.

The One I Let Get Away

With 63 years of hunting and playing explorer in the woods, there are many times I’ve needed fast, clear thinking. Being able to make the correct decisions fast comes either through experience or good training, and it can and will save lives, human or otherwise. Plan ahead, prepare mentally and physically. Do not run! Walking backwards is fun unless you trip.
While archery hunting the other day I had to walk–with the wind–to pick up a long shelf leading to a great hunting area.  As a hunter I know walking with the wind is the best way to guarantee yourself you will not have to clean or pack game animals—they’ll smell you coming way too far in advance!
I knew that, but through habit I stayed off the gravel game trails and walked quietly on the leaves and bark on the side. As I topped a small rise, God gave me a gift. There, 12 yards away, was a 300-pound black bear eating stunted blueberry leaves. We were thrust into each others’ discomfort zone. I froze, eyeing every movement. Defense-driven, I reached for an arrow, then realized, No, I do not want to kill another bear.  I had no tag and right now I’m a little chicken. Although the thought occurred to me to take a cell phone picture, the noise and risk was too high. Instead I got out my bear spray, clicked off the safety and aimed it forward.
All this thinking and action was noodled over a very long time—2 to 3 seconds that felt like forever!
Blackie took one step forward and stopped eating. He had caught my smell and out of the corner of his eye could see me standing stock still. The bear never looked at me, but kept his head low in a submissive way, slowly turning around broadside, trying to show nonaggression.
He knew he made a mistake, but all he wanted was to get out of the dangerous situation. He should have smelled me long before I saw him. This concerned me until he showed the submissive stance. Still, why didn’t he run long before our encounter? The only possible answer is that he was intent on putting on fat just before hibernation come snow or me.
Once again I experienced the predator zone. Everything was matter of fact and under control.
Before the encounter I was prepared mentally and physically (I had my bear spray handy). Because of that awareness, both me and the bear made it out safely that day.

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Scouting land to hunt turkey this time of year is an important part of the hunting experience for hunters both seasoned and amateur. Diligent and thorough pre-season scouting can lead to better bird location, more game plan options and increased odds of scoring. Here’s a scouting overview for hunters new to the sport or those who need a quick refresher.

Pre-Planning: Where to Hunt

As you plan your turkey hunt, it’s all about location, location, location. Choosing between public and private property is usually the first step in deciding where you hunt. If a particular piece of private land catches your eye, many landowners and farmers are open to hunters who want to chase turkeys. However, always be sure to get a landowner’s permission before you begin hunting on their property.
You can also contact a government organization, like your state wildlife agency, for public recommendations. From there, review the location by using an app or aerial map from Google Maps. Big Game Logic explains how this wide view not only familiarizes you with a target spot but allows you to determine how turkeys may enter and exit the location.

The Trek: Road Scouting

For novice hunters, your four-wheel drive truck can be a valuable asset while hunting.
You can scout entirely from your truck from behind a pair of binoculars, especially in the morning. Before the sun rises on a calm, clear morning is the best time of day to know where turkeys go after coming out of a roost, as well as hearing their whereabouts.
During this pre-dawn scout, stop often to hoot and listen, according to Outdoor Life. Make sure to observe the sand, mud, and dirt beneath you to identify any signs of birds—keep an eye out for toe trackings, droppings and feathers that can lead you to a win.
ATVs, SUVs and pickup trucks are top vehicles for your hunting adventure. As a hunter’s No. 1 choice, trucks offer the horsepower, bed space and ability to traverse rugged land, so make sure to equip your truck with all-terrain tires that have reliable traction and tread surface to handle all types of on- and off-road hunting adventures.
Be aware that you can only scout on approved roads and that hunting from your vehicle is illegal in most cases; exceptions are sometimes made for hunters with disabilities, but be sure to check your state’s hunting regulations for specifics.

Find the Hens: Refining Gobbler Hunting Skills

Three national turkey-calling champions have shared their expert tips with Outdoor Life for hunting successes. Shane Hendershot, a two-time national grand champion, explains that one of his most deadly tactics is to disguise himself as a flock of turkeys, rather than just a single bird. Multiple different calls can include gobbler yelps, a box or pot call, diaphragm in mouth and kee-kees.
Mitchell Johnson, 2009 world friction calling champion, adds that it’s also important to read a bird’s mood. Try out different calls, with a clear or raspy voice, to see which one attracts the turkey’s response. Stick with that call, then resort to silence to bring in the tom if it stops moving and stays in one place.
For Ben Yargus, 2008 grand national champion, once he knows where specific birds regularly roost throughout the season, he’ll use a small saw to cut tree limbs and build a natural blind to conceal himself during calls. Make sure the blind is tall enough to hide behind, yet small enough for you to swing your gun into action. The closer you can get to the turkey, the better you can observe their behavior to your advantage.

Hunting Partner: Two is Better than One

One great benefit of hunting as a team, rather than solo, is that each hunter brings a different skill set to the hunt. A pair can also utilize better strategies that couldn’t be deployed alone. Rex Reynolds, a passionate turkey hunting sportsman and Wild Turkey Report contributor, shares that each hunter can scout and roost birds in two different areas as options for the best hunt.
Then, by morning, your team can meet up to exchange ideas, decide on the best one and execute different calling styles. A two-person setup is also advantageous: As one hunter serves as a caller, the shooter can run a good distance ahead, even throwing out a few yelps and preparing to shoot once the turkey enters the shooting range.
For more information about wild turkeys and hunting, check out the National Wild Turkey Foundation, the ultimate online hub for the hunting lifestyle. From hunting tips and wildlife conservation information to event listings and additional resources, this website has you covered.

Montana hunter education instructor Randy Allen has been an instructor for 15 years, and now he always shares this story. He says, “This is something that happened to me and my son last year that I now tell my classes about as a part of my ethics section.”

This is how I was raised to treat other people when in the outdoors. It is not about what I did—I am not tooting my own horn—but it is about the reciprocation of a kind of respectful action. Let’s face it, we have all done something right at one time or another only to have the other person ignore or disregard your kind act. The mutual respect for one another is the best thing to remember.

One September afternoon, my son and I decided to ride our motorbikes.  We like to ride dirt roads to see what we can see so I usually choose an out-of-the-way place.  One such place for us was way up Lolo Creek off the highway. We had been there in the spring and summer with hardly anyone else around.  Now this was September, when it is bow, grouse and wood season, so I half-expected for other people be around.

I like to park is down an old, unused road that crosses this neat little stream and just beyond that a short distance is a landing from an old logging operation where I usually unload the bikes.  As I pulled down there, I noticed a Jeep parked along the trail, with a shotgun-toting lady and her dog walking down the road just about at the stream.  I didn’t think much of it as in my mind, person + gun + dog = heading up or down the creek to hunt grouse, and I was only going about another 100 yards or so to park.

Well, just then a truck slowly came down the road with a load of wood on.  I pulled in behind the Jeep to let him go by; he passes her and goes by me.  I start back down the road toward the lady and her dog, and when she sees me her shoulders just drop like she is bummed, thinking, “too much traffic.”  

Seeing this, I quickly deduce that she wants to hunt up this little road instead of the creek, but she has given up and turned back to her Jeep.  I pull up alongside of her as she walks back and quickly explain that I didn’t want to mess up her hunt. I told her I had intended to only go a short ways further to unload the bikes, but since she was hunting, I would back up and go park behind her.  We would then unload the bikes and go riding, but in the opposite direction.  Her surprise and happiness at this turn of events was obvious and a heartfelt se gave me a heartfelt “thank you!”  We parted and my son and I went for a ride.

A couple of times during the ride, I thought about her, wondering if she got anything and hoping she did.  When we got back to the truck, she was gone, so we rode up where she had hunted just to look around.  I hadn’t been that direction before and it was a very pretty area, perfect for grouse. 

We rode back to the truck and loaded up.  When I got in behind the wheel and looked out the windshield, I saw something under my wiper blade.  It was a tail feather from a ruffed grouse.  I thought, “All right, she did get one.”  Then I showed it to my son, and I said, “see son, this is how it should be. She appreciated what we did for her so much that this is her way of saying thank you and ‘I got one.'”  What a great day that was!

Hunter education instructor Randy Allen with his son and the grouse feather they received as a gift.

Hunter education instructor Randy Allen with his son and the grouse feather they received as a gift.

Do You Have a Hunting Safety Story You’d Like to Share?

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