We all know the outdoor world we know and love is constantly under attack. Whether it’s from politicians who want nothing more than to regulate us, or to groups who think they’re protecting animals by protesting us outdoorsmen and women, we’ve always got a fight on our hands.
What’s nice about the outdoors is there’s always people who are willing to stand up against those and protect our rights. I’ve compiled a few of my favorite groups that protect our hunting and outdoor heritage.
1. National Rife Association (NRA)-Well, what can you say? The NRA is America’s longest standing civil rights organization, constantly fighting to protect our Second Amendment rights. I can’t say enough good things about the NRA. With an outstanding reputation and following, the NRA is always on our side when it comes to our rights. Do yourself a favor and consider joining the cause with the NRA.
2. Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA)-The Quality Deer Management Association mission is “to ensure the future of white-tailed deer, wildlife habitat and our hunting heritage.” And it truly does just that. Since 1988, the QDMA has increased awareness across the country while compiling some of the best programs known. Programs such as herd management, herd monitoring and hunter management. Some of the tips and awareness QDMA brings to hunters will certainly ensure a healthy white-tail herd for years to come.
3. National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF)-The National Wild Turkey Federation is the leader in protecting the conservation of the wild turkey and our hunting heritage. Founded in 1973, the NWTF has helped restore a sustainable wild turkey population across the United States. With a local chapter in all 50 states, the NWTF has helped grow the population from 30,000 to more than 7 million across the United States, Mexico and Canada.
4. Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF)-The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has made its history on protecting and ensuring the future of Rocky Mountain elk and our hunting heritage. Founded in 1984 by four hunters in Montana, the RMEF now has more than 500 chapters across the United States. With each member, 90% of the dues go toward accomplishing the organization’s mission, while 6% goes to administrative costs and the remaining 4% goes to future fundraising.
These groups are the epitome of what our rights as citizens mean. You have the NRA constantly fighting to ensure we always have our right to bear arms, then you have groups like the NWTF, RMEF and QDMA working toward a common goal of ensuring we have a thriving population of whitetail deer, wild turkeys and elk for our future generations to enjoy. I think it’s great to see ourselves as sportsmen and women bond together for a common goal, and these groups certainly represent just that.
There are not too many things that can get a hunters blood pumping more than hearing a turkey gobble in the predawn morning. That thundering sound coming from the treetops is what drives us to get up well before sunrise and climb the hills and hollers in search of a longbeard. Here in Indiana the turkeys start gobbling good in March and we have almost a month and a half to wait until we can get after em. In the weeks leading up to the 2014 spring season my morning were spent on field edges and along country roads scouting and listening for roost spots and strut zones. The week before the season I had located multiple birds and did my best to pattern their movements. The only thing left to do was to secure some vacation time and tune up my calls in the hope that I would have a big longbeard in the decoys opening morning.
Trail cameras have really made scouting and maintaining your local deer herds much more manageable. What I’ve found is I’m able to effectively pattern deer and position myself in the best possible spots in any given situation. But it definitely took a lot of trial and error on my part. Below I’m going to share the top 5 tips I can think of for using trail cameras effectively.
1. Never discount quality deer sign- It was hard for me at first to differentiate between a spot that was already producing a lot of deer movement, and one I hoped would produce a lot of deer movement. I would place my cameras and mineral sites around spots that I wanted to be a honey hole. Well, long story short, it didn’t work out for me. This year, I took the approach of going to where the deer already are. I don’t have any proof yet, but I’m hopeful I’ll have better results because of it.
2. Don’t check the cameras too much- This can be one of the most difficult things a deer hunter encounters. Sure, we all get antsy when it comes to seeing if a big buck walked across the trail my camera is on, but we’ve got to learn how often to check our cameras! I try to leave the cameras for about 1-2 weeks before checking them. At first, I was checking it almost every other day. Needless to say, I learned from my mistakes when I would only have a handful of pictures.
3. Position the camera facing north or south- This was one that definitely caught me by surprise. I know it seems like common sense, but an east or west facing camera will have pictures blown out by the sun. This was one I learned quickly when I had hundreds of pictures that were not recognizable because the sun was blocking my view!
4. Try and find places off the beaten path- Unfortunately, we have to always worry about thieves. It’s a shame, but it is a reality. The first trail camera I purchased was set up off of a frequented 4-wheeler path, and it got stolen within the first week. I learned my lesson, though, because I decided to go off of the main trail and find somewhere that others probably would be going. Since then, I have had pretty good luck with my cameras. I hope that luck continues this fall (fingers crossed)!
5. Give the deer reason to stop in front of the camera- By all means, a well-placed mineral site or food plot will do wonders. I like to get out in the early season and freshen up my mineral sites. It helps the deer grow, and it gives them a reason to pose for the camera! One thing I did when I was first using cameras was to just set it up on a trail. I got some pictures, but they were usually blurry and didn’t capture the whole deer. Now, trail cameras have come a long way, but why maker it any harder on ourselves?
It’s been somewhat of a roller coaster ride of emotions during the first seven days of Ohio’s turkey season. I’ve had turkeys be non-responsive to any form of calling, to gobbling at everything that makes a peep. However, I haven’t been able to close the deal yet.
I’ve got a couple different ideas as to why nothing has seemed to pan out for me just yet. The first being hens. I love to hate them. They can make the most vocal gobbler in the woods stay loyal to his queen hen. Last week I parked at a barn on the property I was hunting at 5:30 a.m. As I was loading up gear, I heard a turkey sound off in the distance. By the time I got to the spot I was going to set up, I probably heard this gobbler fire off about 25 gobbles.
By the time light rolled around, this gobbler sounded off an easy 75 times. He was gobbling at absolutely everything. A couple other gobblers also started to make some noise in other areas, but this guy just wouldn’t shut up!
That was, of course, until it was time to fly down. I assumed I was about 250-300 yards from this boy. As soon as it was time I figured for him to fly down, he completely stopped gobbling. Not even a courtesy gobble!
I threw everything but the kitchen sink at this gobbler trying to get a response to let me know he was in the area or walking the other way. I had to go into work that morning, so I had to cut my hunt short.
Because I was close to the property line, I wasn’t able to move any closer to this gobbler. But my thoughts are that he had other plans with a hen in the area that I possibly didn’t hear.
On the bright side, I still have three weeks to get the job done! No doubt I’ll be back, and hopefully, this gobbler meets his maker sooner rather than later!
Note: This article first appeared in Mid-America Waterfowl magazine
Chances are if you are a duck hunter, you have heard the stories of people involved in accidents. Guys who sank their boat; the guy who fell through the ice and drowned chasing a crippled duck. Most of us hear these stories and genuinely feel bad for them and their families, because as fellow duck hunters, they are our brothers and sisters.
Yet, the messages of these stories tend to go through one ear and out the other. Recently a buddy and I were involved in the kind of incident most of us think will not and cannot happen to us — but it did!
On Sunday, November 11, three friends and I began our day at a draw-in waterfowl area. But as each of us drew a pill from the box, it became apparent we would not be hunting there that day. Instead then, we hustled an hour and a half to a lake that has been real good to us duck hunting-wise the past few years. We had a spot in mind, reached it by boat, and began setting decoys for a shoot.
It was raining, freezing rain, flurrying. Then it stopped — and began to rain mallards. There were ducks everywhere, and of every kind. Between the four of us, we had 10 greenheads, 3 hen mallards, and a mixture of other ducks.
In all the great shooting, fun and excitement, it never crossed our minds that for a couple of us, this hot-barrel duck hunt might be our last.
It was getting close to 1 o’clock. I had promised my folks I would be home by 2 for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, Trent decided that while two of our friends started picking up the decoy spread, he and I would motor across the lake to my pickup. He would then run back and shuttle the others and the gear across the water to their vehicle.
As Trent and I were idling along (yes, I said idling), we were still amazed at the amount of birds flying. Even though we had limited out and were getting off the lake, there were still tons of birds in the air. It was a day of duck hunting every duck hunter dreams of.
At the same exact instant, we both shifted our gaze from the sky … to the stump in front of us!
“Stick!” we yelled simultaneously.
The stump, angled just right, made the boat go straight up and sideways at the same time. It all happened in a matter of seconds. The four life jackets that had been within arm’s reach now seemed miles away as water poured into the boat. Trent yelled, “Grab the life jacket!”
I ended up grabbing one; however, thinking back as the boat was rolling, I just kind of stood there. So MANY things go through your head in seconds and I froze, thinking “this is really happening.” Trent hopped out the back of the boat by the motor as I jumped away from the boat. Once again, everything took place in a matter of seconds.
I went underwater and popped back up — but not without a struggle.
The water was cold, and even though I’m a good swimmer I was finding it difficult with my waders and amount of clothing I had on. Luckily I was with someone who was calmer and was able to direct me in what to do. He shouted, “Kick your waders off and relax!”
Thinking back to those stories we’ve all read before, I remembered that’s the first thing they always tell you to do in such an incident: kick your waders off. I always thought if that was me, I would drown because it takes a person to stand behind me and pull my waders on. So how was I supposed to get them off in an accident?
However, when I undid the straps, my waders seemed to just fall off. I swam toward the boat. We were probably 75 yards from shore at this point. Trent tried to pull me on top of the boat with him. But it was not going to hold the weight of both of us on top, so I stayed in the water and held onto his hand and a handle on the boat.
Trent yelled back to our buddies who were picking up decoys, “Hey, call 911, we flipped the boat!” We were 200 yards from where we were hunting, so I can understand why one just looked over and yelled “What happened?” But it didn’t take long to for him to see what was going on. Then both of them bolted out of the water and grabbed their cell phones. Well, one of them grabbed his cell phone — the only one out of the four of us who even had his phone.
While I was sitting there floating, freezing, panicking, I heard Trent make the comment, “Man, my boat is trashed, huh?”
That was the last thing I wanted to hear! I told him, “Your boat!? What about my gun, what about my Canon camera?”
Just as that last word rolled off of my tongue, my camera came floating to the surface in its Pelican case — right in front of me.
I looked at Trent and told him, “I am going to float on this and kick my way to shore.” He said he would only let me go if I knew for sure I was going to make it.
“I think so,” I said.
The air-tight camera case was all I had for a floatation device. All other life jackets were lost as the boat rolled … including the one I once grasped in my hand. When your boat flips, it is like a hand grenade goes off inside, especially if the wind is blowing. Spare gas cans, marsh seats, guns, even the ducks you shot that day … go every which way and you wonder if you will ever even see any of these things again.
That is, of course, after you worry if anyone will ever see you again.
I swam for shore. I was within 30 yards when I felt like my efforts to reach shore were not working out. I wasn’t going anywhere anymore. So I decided it must be my coveralls and rain jacket dragging me down, just as my waders had. So I kicked them off as well, keeping my coveralls in one hand and my camera case in the other. I figured if I was going to survive, I might as well keep something, considering I had lost all my other things. Also, I didn’t want to have to replace everything in my wallet.
I made it another 15 yards and once again my momentum quit. But this time, as I kicked my feet in another panic, I felt one foot touch bottom.
Then I hit the ground running. I ran to my truck shedding clothing, socks, shorts — every layer I had on, figuring wet clothes weren’t going to do me any good.
I got to my truck, turned the heat on, took my phone out of the glove box and dialed 911. They barely got out “911 what’s your emergency?” before I was shouting where I was and what happened. The lady asked if I was okay and said that someone had already dialed 911, that I should stay in my truck and wait for them, and that is what I did.
About five minutes after I reached my truck, help arrived. But before it did, I received a casual call from my Dad, just wondering how the hunting had gone that day. What he got was me crying saying I was so sorry and that we had flipped the boat and where we were at and that I was so sorry. I told him it was just me and that Trent was still out there — and he immediately assumed the worst. He informed my Mom, and they both headed out to where we were. By the time they got there, the Conservation Department had already arrived with a boat to pick up Trent. He, too, was escorted to an ambulance and treated for hypothermia and pneumonia.
I was worried my Mom would be mad that I had single-handedly ruined our early Thanksgiving dinner plans. Yet to my surprise, she was not. I was embraced by both of my parents in a way that you could feel their relief.
All and all, everything turned out okay that day. We had to give the sheriff’s department and Conservation agents our statements of what happened, and we both were allowed to go home without taking an ambulance ride to a hospital. Even my camera was bone-dry inside the Pelican case!
However, my gun, shell bag, and waders, including Trent’s boat were now property of the lake.
We were lucky to be alive in my opinion. God was really watching over us that cold, windy Sunday.
But it doesn’t end there! The following Wednesday, God was with us again as Trent was able to recover his boat. When they dragged the boat in, it acted like a scoop across the bottom and they were also able to recover my gun, waders, shell bag, even the ducks I had shot that day! Sounds like a great story, right? Everyone turned out unscathed, and everything was recovered without damage except a swamp seat or two.
You know, my sister asked my Dad a week after the event if Trent and I could have really died. My Dad paused and said that we very well could have but we were fortunate enough to know we had to kick our waders off and get out of the chilled water. We owe that knowledge to stories such as this one.
In addition, to highlight our mistakes, we had four life jackets in the boat, all within arm’s reach. But in seconds, they were out of reach.
Things could have been a whole lot worse. I hope as a duck hunter that none of my fellow hunters ever have to go through something such as this. As you know though, things happen in an instant that we can’t explain. To break this thing down, be prepared, wear a life jacket, have a cell phone, make sure someone knows where you are hunting, and try not to panic if things do take a turn for the worse.
To everyone, have a great hunt, but most importantly — make it a safe hunt.
As the sun set the other night on the highway coming home from snow goose hunting, it was almost like it was setting on my season as well. Every year I say that I am probably not going to get to hunt as much as last year and then the next year rolls around and I say the same thing. Well this year was no exception either. As the fall rolled around instead of going to Highland Community College like I did last year, this year I was going to Kansas State. And you guessed it like the previous years before I said to myself, “hmm probably not going to get to hunt as much this year because of college.” Turned out I was completely wrong.
As it turned out even with working part time and taking 15 credit hours this year’s season was good to me! I still found time to scout and hunt sometimes even quick ones before class. Although the spring conservation order for snows is still not over yet; I just feel as though my season is at a close with being deep into this second semester and work piling up! (I am taking 18 credit hours this semester and working 20 to 30hrs a week.) Nevertheless, this year we still managed to scratch out 198 ducks, 103 Canada Geese, 1 speck, and 529 snows. I realize there are people out there who have shot way more than this and way less than this but I feel like it’s a good number for people who have a lot on their plates.
The main thing I want to emphasize is to never set the standards of your season before your season. This year I focused a bunch on quality of hunts instead of quantity. I knew that I was going to get to go on many hunts so the ones that I did go on I had to make them count. So scouting played an important role this year, especially hunting in an area I am not entirely familiar with! Although the odds seemed to be against us at times everything still turned out okay in the end. Sometimes it’s not always about train wrecking the birds each hunt. Sometimes it’s just the experience.
Just like the young K-State basketball team, even though we didn’t win the national championship we had some good games! Just beating KU at home should be considered a success; it goes back to the quantity VS quality. Although we didn’t rack up a huge win streak (quantity) we still had (quality) by beating KU. Just like Wichita State. If you look at the grand scheme of things yes, it was a bummer they didn’t win the national championship either, but if I was a senior on that squad you can end your season knowing you went the longest run undefeated!
It’s here—the end of archery season. For many of us, that’s a bitter-sweet time. On one hand, you’re able to kick back and relax. Maybe spend some time with your family. On the other hand, that means you have a while before it’s time to climb back into that tree stand. There are a lot of different things you can do to keep you occupied. I’ve compiled the top 5 things I like to do until that magical time in September.
1. TURKEY HUNT: Turkey hunting is by far my biggest past time. Nothing gets me more jacked up than hearing a big ole gobbler sound off in the distance on a sunny morning. As soon as opening day comes in April, I’m in the woods as much as I can trying to fill my tags.
2. 3D SHOOTS: The spring & summer is a perfect time to tune your archery skills at your local club’s 3D shoots. I recently started shooting 3D, and I have to say, it’s a blast! It’s a great time to go fling some arrows, and it definitely helps improve your accuracy.
3. TRADE SHOWS: This time of the year is when I like to catch up on all of my local trade shows. I try to attend as many as possible to keep up on what’s going on in the hunting industry and see what new products will be coming out. In Ohio, I generally attend the Columbus Deer & Turkey Expo and the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show. In fact, CollegiateCamo will have a booth at the Monster Buck Classic in Kansas Jan. 24-26! Stop by and see us.
4. GEAR INVENTORY: It’s always a good practice to make sure all of your gear is in working order. I like to go through it all, clean it up, and put it away for next season. It definitely helps make everything last longer when it’s take care of.
5. FISHING: What’s more enjoyable than sitting on the lake or pond fishing? There’s not a whole lot more that can be as relaxing as casting a line and just chilling out for a few hours.
Let me start that no hunter should ever expect to fill a tag. It is a privilege that we are able to hunt and being in the woods is part of the reason I love hunting so much. That being said I had high hopes going into my vacation. I had planned it out for almost a year and thought that since I killed my buck last year on November 2 that I would try a bracket that date and then leave some time for after that date in case rutting activity had not fully exploded.
My camera was revealing mature bucks were in the area but limited movement during the daytime. No matter I was still excited to be hunting feeling that that could change any day while I was on vacation. I was keep contact with fellow pro staffer Brad Tansey and we were comparing notes. Neither of us was really seeing the activity we were expecting.
Best opportunity was on Nov. 2 at about the end of shooting light I had a mature 8-point come by and stops at my stand 20 yards. I contemplated shooting him for 10 minutes and decided to let him pass being I had a whole week of hunting left. Looking back maybe I should have released that arrow.
I continued to talk with Brad during the week that I still wasn’t seeing the rutting activity that everyone else was experiencing. Checking forums and seeing pictures coming across social media of big bucks being taken had me wondering if I was in the wrong spot on the property, or was the doe to buck ratio out of control on the property I hunt? I was running every imaginable possibility through my mind.
I ended my vacation on Nov. 11 without filling my buck tag as of yet. Still have a lot of season left.
Let me just start with the fact that I’m having mixed emotions this year about the rut. I’ve hunted more this year since moving closer to home with my fiancée. With anticipation of November coming up, I decided to take two vacation day Nov. 7-8 to hunt the Ohio rut. Here lies the problem. The rut wasn’t in. I’ve been seeing things all over Facebook & Twitter about how bucks are chasing does and the rut was in full swing. Not in my neck of the woods.
I kept in close contact with fellow Pro Staffer Chris Travers via text to see how his Ohio rut was panning out because he took some vacation time as well. He had some activity, but nothing that truly indicated the rut was full-blown. I tried to read up and form a general opinion about all of the rut guides and professionals giving their advice for rut hunters across the country. My opinion is that the rut happens at different times for different areas. I know that might sound like something that’s common sense, but if you really think about it, different deer do different things at different times. Common sense, right? Well with all of the rut guides and tips out there, it’s easy for hunters just getting started to believe the rut is going to be the same few days in Iowa as it is in Northeast Ohio.
Some may disagree, but that’s my honest opinion. From now on, I’m going to stop putting so much emphasis on what the guides say and more on what my deer are actually doing. As I write this blog on Nov. 13, I would say the rut is probably picking up in my neck of the woods. I started seeing some scrapes and rubs toward the end of last week when I had to go back to work. Go figure!
Whether the rut was in or it wasn’t, I still had a blast. I wouldn’t trade being in the woods for anything. You can bet I’ll be out there again Hoyt in hand ready to release an arrow.