Archive for the ‘How To’ Category

Using Trail Cameras in Trapping

December 18th, 2016 by BTC Editor

 

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“Sometimes people wonder if animals are suffering or what exactly happens after they’re trapped. After an initial period of attempting to get away — which is why trappers run multiple swivel points and laminate the trap jaws so no paw damage occurs — the animal lies peacefully until the trapper arrives to check his traps. At that point, the trapper can decide to turn it loose or harvest it, depending on the conservation goals for the property he or she is trapping.

“Trappers are the best outdoorsmen there are,” the game warden replied when I told him I trapped. It was a routine license check while deer hunting, and once that formality was out of the way we began chatting. I don’t know if I fit into THAT category, but I certainly strive to learn all I can from those who’ve gone before me. Trappers settled this country, and their skillset often determined living or dying in those days. It’s a time-honored tradition where not much has changed: the methods, the techniques and even the equipment could easily be interchanged with those who came before us more than 200 years ago.

But there’s been one concession to modern, cutting-edge technology that has advanced the trapper’s knowledge more than any other single item: the trail camera. For years, we trappers have studied the tracks left behind of an animal at our sets, trying to figure out why he stepped here and not there. Snow is like a God-send to the trapper, and we’ll get out and follow a set of tracks for miles just to study the species we love to go after. What caused him to stray from the path he was walking there, and what attracted his attention enough to cause him to deviate from his destination?

Staggs first recorded this nice bobcat visiting his set four days before the second time it made an appearance; another added benefit of using trail cameras while ‘cat trapping is helping to pattern them, as big males will often make a 5-day loop around their territory.

 

With the technical advances in trail cameras over the past decade or so, a treasure-trove of information is now readily available to the average person, and chief among those questions that get asked more than any other: How does animal XYZ work a set? Tracks give clues, but there’s nothing like actually WATCHING a bobcat tip-toe gingerly through your walk-through set… or a coyote approach your dirt-hole set from the side, because he didn’t know that the “front” of your set was the front.

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Pictures are great, but video mode and the information it captures is priceless. Invisible night-vision infrared LED illumination is a must when capturing predators on video like this; if they see a red glow light up the area, they’re gone … and unlikely to return. Give it a try sometime if you’re a trapper, and see how much your knowledge base is increased. Or, even if you’re not a trapper, you may enjoy expanding your horizons beyond merely trying to capture deer on camera. The next time you’re in a Bass Pro or Cabela’s, or even an old hardware store that may have a trapping section, pick up a bottle of gland lure. Dip a bit out with a Q-tip and place it under a fallen limb on the forest floor. You may be amazed to see the number of predators you get video of which you had no idea were around.

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Greg Staggs is the former back-page columnist for Inside Archery, and his writing regularly appears in such magazines as Outdoor Life and Petersen’s Bowhunting. Staggs loves introducing his two boys to all things outdoors, including fishing, trapping, canoeing and camping, and has been chasing turkeys and big game exclusively with archery equipment for over 20 years.

Late Season Trail Camera Placement

December 11th, 2016 by BTC Editor

As deer season is winding down and will soon be coming to an end, now is the perfect time to re-position your trail cameras and change your game plan for hunting late season whitetail bucks. As the seasons change, so does a whitetail’s pattern as they shift their focus from the rut to food once again. Here are a couple of tips on trail camera setup and placement to help you get the most out of your cameras before deer season closes.

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Camera Location: Pinch Points and Travel Corridors

While I move most of my cameras to new locations post-rut, I still like to leave one or two at prior locations like pinch points, known deer trails and travel corridors to catch any bucks that may still be out cruising for does. As the fawns come into estrous late in the season, often referred to as the “Second Rut”, these locations are great for catching buck movement in the daylight. It appears to me that is exactly what is going on in the next series of pictures.

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My Setup

When placing my cameras at the above locations, I like to set them up on burst mode to make sure I don’t miss any deer activity. For example, say I had my camera set up to take a picture every 5 seconds, but in normal mode. If this buck would have been trailing this fawn right on its tail, I may not have gotten a picture of him. In burst mode the camera takes several images, one after another, before stopping to reset.

 

Camera Location: Food Sources

Moving trail cameras to the remaining food sources is a good strategy for late season scouting. By now most of the acorns have either rotted or been eaten, so I like to move more of my cameras from the woods to our food plots in the fields. We have a couple of fields planted in winter wheat, clover and chicory, and another one planted in turnips. These have proven year after year to be the hot spots on our property for hunting late season bucks, and this year is no different! After checking my cameras this weekend, this buck has shown up in the daylight hours almost every day in one of our wheat and chicory plots.

 

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My Setup

The Timelapse mode on my Browning Trail Cameras is perfect for watching bigger open areas, like our food plots. For the most part, we know where our deer are entering this field, which is why I put this camera where I did. But, deer will often be in that same location and you’d never know it because they are too far away to trigger the camera. Timelapse Mode solves that problem since it can capture game at 200+ yards away. Plus, you can easily view a full day’s worth of pictures in just minutes, thanks to the Buck Watch Timelapse Viewer Plus software that is included with every Browning Trail Camera.

If you still have a deer tag you’re trying to fill, utilize your trail cameras as best you can. They are a deer hunter’s most valuable scouting tool! I shot my biggest buck to date on the last day of Missouri’s 2014 archery season as he was making his way into our turnip plot. Had I not been watching and patterning him with my trail cameras, I may have picked a different stand in that food plot and missed my chance at him.

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Aside from avoiding tag soup, there are other benefits to keeping your trail cameras out during late season. Use them to help take inventory of what deer survived the season, determine your buck to doe ratio, and age of your deer. Looking over this season’s pictures, as well as pictures from prior season, will help you determine your game plan for next season. Another benefit to keeping your cameras set up so late in the year is to aid with shed hunting. Once you start getting pictures of bucks dropping their antlers, you’ll have a better idea of when and where to start looking for sheds.

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Deer season isn’t over until it’s over, so if you’ve already taken down your game cameras for the year, I recommend getting them back out! The above late season trail camera locations and setups have helped me fill my deer tags in the past. Even if I don’t fill my archery tags this year, I have already gained some valuable information to carry over into next season, thanks to my Browning Trail Cameras!

 

By Andrea Haas

Andrea Haas is a Pro-Staffer from Missouri who enjoys hunting deer, turkeys, and upland birds. She is also the founder of the Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.

Traveling With Firearms – Part 2

November 27th, 2016 by BTC Editor

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Taking your Firearm Hunting in Foreign Countries

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As a hunter, your gun is your best friend. You have spent many hours with it, target shooting, in the stand, bumping around in the back of the truck; it becomes more than just a gun to you. Of course, no matter where in the world you are hunting, you want to take your best friend with you, but that is not always possible. When planning an international hunting trip it is always important to know the rules and regulations around carrying your own firearm for hunting purposes.

First, every country is different. In Wild West terms, I will do the Good, the Bad and the Ugly in reverse, starting with the unfriendly or not-so-friendly countries.  Argentina offers great hunting opportunities for fowl, red stag, black buck and other species, but you cannot bring your own gun. Outfitters will offer many options for rifle and shotgun rental and ammunition. You might miss your best friend on this trip, but it will still be a great experience.

Another Spanish speaking country that offers beautiful scenery, wonderful hunting and great food, but difficulty with guns is Spain. The Ibex grand slam might be on your list of dream hunts, but if you want to take your own rifle, you need to start your planning at least six months in advance. Paperwork must be filed through the Spanish Consulate in the United States. Depending on where you live, this office could be located in a few different cities and you must file with the right one for your resident location. Getting representatives to answer phone calls or respond to emails can be an issue. This is another country where it is best to coordinate a rifle with your outfitter.

The last on my list of difficult countries: Australia. I love Australia, the beauty of the outback, the friendliness of the people, the remote locations where all you see for miles and miles are red dirt and wallabies, but if you want to bring your own gun, be prepared. There is a lengthy amount of paperwork that must be filed before you leave. This includes police reports from your hometown, submitted to Australia and returned to you. The process should be started a minimum of three months before you leave. This also requires a fee of over $100 USD, but it must be paid in Australian dollars. Your outfitter will help you with all of this, but it is an added headache for you and them. There is now also the issue of leaving the country. Additional paperwork must now be filed in order for you to take your gun out of the country when you leave. If you are planning on doing any additional touring while on your Australia trip, please leave your gun at home. Each state requires you to have a firearms license to transport your firearm in that state. You cannot get a firearms license unless you are hunting with an outfitter in that state. Therefore, if you are hunting in the Northern Territory and you bring your own gun, you have permission to have the gun in the Northern Territory, but if you would like to travel to Sydney after your hunt, you do not have permission to have a firearm in New South Wales. My advice, use a firearm provided by your outfitter when hunting in Australia.

Now that the Ugly is out of the way, the Bad. These countries might have a bad reputation on the global front, but they are quite friendly to firearms for hunting. Two of my dream hunts, an Ibex in Turkey and the big boy Marco Polo in Tajikistan. Both countries might make the news politically, but your outfitter will get your gun through on arrival. Make sure you communicate with your outfitter and let them know what you are bringing so they will have everything taken care of when you arrive.

Finally, the Good.  New Zealand. My favorite place to hunt, so far, and an easy country to bring your own firearm for hunting. There is a $25 NZD fee on arrival and your guns will be inspected by the police as you go through customs. That’s it. Make sure your firearm is in a hard case with lock, stored with no ammunition in the chamber and the magazine is separate if it is full. Now you are free to enjoy the beauty of New Zealand and the wonderful hunting opportunities that abound in this country down under.

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Africa has been left for last, one because it is fairly simple, two because it is a continent, not a country. There are quite a few countries within Africa to hunt. Make sure you coordinate with your outfitter in case there are specifics for your desired location. There is usually just paperwork on arrival. An agent can be pre-booked to meet and greet you and get your firearms through quickly. It is worth the money to take this route.

The most important part of traveling with firearms is preparation. Make sure you ask your outfitter what needs to be done for your specific hunting location. Talk to other people who have been to that country hunting and get their opinion and experience. It might be difficult to leave your best friend behind on your hunt of a lifetime, but that is a better option than getting it confiscated by the government of a faraway place. And that, is the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of traveling with firearms.

By Lora Gene Young

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Lora Gene Young is an avid outdoors-woman from North Carolina. Lora guides hunts in both New Zealand and Australia and is also a member of Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.

 

Traveling With Firearms – Part 1

November 21st, 2016 by BTC Editor

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Hunting trips are times to relax, be one with nature, enjoy the great outdoors and camaraderie with like-minded peers, and bond with family. No matter the reason for your hunting excursion, quarreling with airlines over firearm transportation is the worst way to start your journey. Here are a few tips to help you start your trip on the right foot.

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First and foremost, firearms must be transported in a hard case. There can be multiple guns within each hard case, but it must be a hard case. Next, in conjunction with the hard case, the case must be able to be locked securely. Most cases have reinforced locations for two locks, some have a metal rod with one lock. If there is a place for two locks, many airports require both locks. Even if your departure city airport does not require both locks, when you leave your hunting destination that city airport might require both locks. It’s best to cover all bases and have all locks in place.

Secondly, firearms must be transported unloaded. Make sure you double check that the magazine is not in the gun and the barrel is clear. The bolt/action can be transported in the gun, but the gun must be clear of ammunition. Though the firearm must be clear of ammunition, ammo can be transported in the case with the firearm.

Finally, firearms are checked baggage. Just like other checked baggage make sure you know the weight limits associated with your airline. Most have a 50 pound limit, but double check before hand so you do not have any trouble at check-in.

Lock your empty firearm in a hard case and enjoy your vacation. Bon voyage!

 

By Lora Gene Young

Lora Gene Young is an avid outdoors-woman from North Carolina. Lora guides hunts in both New Zealand and Australia and is also a member of Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.

Wild Game Thanksgiving Dinner

November 13th, 2016 by BTC Editor

It’s that time of year again, where we sit down with family and celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s a time to reflect on all that we are thankful for. For a hunter, this includes the memories in the field and the wild game that was harvested. In my opinion, there’s no better time than Thanksgiving to serve wild game. If you prefer a more non-traditional Thanksgiving dinner, here are a couple of simple recipes to try that you and your family are sure to appreciate.

The main course and side is a dinner kit from Hunter Gatherer Game Dinners.

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[Main course]

Seared Venison with Red Wine Chocolate Sauce

INGREDIENTS

  • 12 oz. venison, elk, buffalo, filet mignon or rib eye steak (I prefer venison filet mignon)
  • You’ll need to buy:
    • 2 oz. pancetta or Italian bacon
    • 1 – 8 oz. can low-sodium chicken broth
    • 1 stick unsalted butter
    • 1 cup Red Wine
  • There are seasonings for the meat in individual packets labeled with numbers, as well as step-by-step instructions so it’s super easy to make!

[Side]

Wild Rice with Cranberries

  • The wild rice and cranberries are also included in this kit, along with preparation instructions.

 

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[Dessert]

Persimmon Bread

Most know that deer love to eat persimmons, but have you ever tried one? If you’ve ever tried one before they are ripe you probably think cooking anything with persimmons sounds like a bad idea, as they are awfully bitter. But once they turn ripe they are sweet and are great to use for pies, breads, cakes and cookies. Once they turn a purple/gray color and get soft they are ready for picking, usually after the first couple of frosts.

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This recipe is my pumpkin bread recipe, but I swapped the 15 oz can pumpkin for 15 oz of persimmon pulp. To me, ripe persimmons taste very similar and have the same consistency as a pumpkin. To get the pulp you will want to smash the persimmons into a bowl through a cone shaped collander, this way you don’t get the skins or seeds in the pulp. We picked these and after smashing all of them through the collander we probably have about 4-5 cups of persimmon pulp. I put the pulp into zip-loc baggies, about 2 cups per baggie, and store them in the freezer until ready to use for cooking.

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup cooking oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 15 oz persimmon pulp
DIRECTIONS
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 2 loaf pans.
  • In an extra large mixing bowl, beat sugar and oil with electric mixer on medium speed. Add eggs & beat well; set sugar mixture aside
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon & nutmeg. Alternately add flour mixture & the water to sugar mixture, beating on low after each addition until just combined.
  • Beat in the persimmon pulp.
  • Spoon batter into pans
  • Bake 55-65 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean
  • Cool in pan on wire rack for 10 minutes. Wrap & store overnight before slicing (The recipe calls for this, but I never do this. I absolutely love warm bread right out of the oven!)

By Andrea Haas

Andrea Haas is a Pro-Staffer from Missouri who enjoys hunting deer, turkeys, and upland birds. She is also the founder of the Huntress View, an organization formed to help strengthen the ever growing community of women hunters.

Taxidermy: Caring For Your Animal Pre-Mount

November 6th, 2016 by BTC Editor

As hunters and huntresses, we sometimes harvest that special animal that may be a first, a big buck, big fish, or beautifully plumed bird to get preserved and hang on the wall as a trophy. When you have that trophy in hand, what are the next steps to take to make sure it is properly cared for until it is safely in the hands of the taxidermist, and how do we care for the mounts when we get them back? 

Growing up in a taxidermy family, I have seen everything from freezer burns and premature decay to faded and bug infested mounts. The care of an animal before and after it is mounted is key in keeping it beautiful for many, many years.

One of the first and very best things you can do before going afield is research taxidermists in your area and find one you are comfortable with. Most taxidermists will welcome you into their shops and showrooms that showcase their work. Talk to other hunters and find out what taxidermists they recommend. Do not go with the cheapest option because the mount will more than likely be poor quality. Bottom line, you’re going to get what you pay for.

Before the animal is mounted and before you are able to get it to the taxidermist, proper storage in the freezer is crucial to producing a good mount. Freezer burns are a common result of improper packing. On the other end, not getting the animal in the freezer soon enough can result in premature decay. 

Mammal, bird and fish taxidermy are very different, so the way they are taken to the taxidermist will be different. When you collect any mammal, the first thing to know for field care is to avoid dragging the animal if at all possible. There are many tools/equipment out there to help you transport your animal. The second thing to know is to keep the animal cool until you can get it skinned or to the taxidermy shop no matter what kind of animal it is. Always consult with the taxidermist before skinning it. The quickest way to ruin a trophy is to skin it wrong. You may also want to wash off any excess blood or body fluids prior to freezing. The third thing is get it to the taxidermist as soon as possible. Carting a deer around is a bad idea, but a coyote or fox is an even worse idea. As nature rapidly takes it course, bacteria starts to grow as soon as the animal dies and the skin will start ‘turning green’ or rotting.

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Birds will be put in the freezer exactly like they were shot. It’s not necessary to do any kind of skinning, so don’t take any of the meat or entrails out. The proper freezing position is to put the head on the chest of the bird and wrap it in a couple garbage bags and tightly seal it. Freezer Ziplock bags are also something good to use. Be careful to not bend or twist tail and wing feathers. One common misnomer is to put a bird in nylon hose and wrap it in newspaper. Many taxidermists cringe when a bird is brought to them inside a hose and even worse wrapped in newspaper. Newspaper will begin the process of dehydration and promote freezer burn, making the taxidermists job more difficult. Once you get a properly wrapped bird in the freezer, call your taxidermist and make arrangements to take it to them.

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Fish have a completely different scenario than mammals and birds. The very first thing you should do when you pull the fish out of the water is take good quality, clear pictures of it. Take an overall profile picture and make sure to get any special markings or colors you want the finished mount to have. If you’re going to release the fish, measure it from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tail and the girth all around the body of the fish. If you are keeping the fish, do not skin or gut it and don’t put it on a stringer if you don’t absolutely have to. The best place to keep it is in a cooler or live well until it can be put in a freezer. When you’re ready to freeze it, get a wet t-shirt or towel and roll the fish in it. Wet towels or shirts are key in protecting the fish from freezer burn. Never use newspapers or paper towels. Put the wrapped fish into a trash bag and seal it tight. If you need to, double bag it. If it’s possible, freeze it on a flat board.

Try to have an idea of the position you want your animal mounted in. It will be that way forever. The taxidermist may be able to provide some ideas of positioning, but to avoid delays it is best to know what you want ahead of time.

When you see your mount for the first time, the memories come flooding back. You want it to look like that forever right? When placing your mount in your home, the best thing you can do is to keep it out of sunlight to prevent colors from fading and keep it dusted. Just like anything else sitting on the shelf, it will collect dust. Consult with your taxidermist about what is best to use for cleaning your particular mount. For fish and birds, a feather duster is most likely to be recommended along with never using any chemicals, as they will build up over time and cannot be removed. Dusting also applies to deer, however, some hair care type products are available.

Hopefully these tips will aid you in the process of preserving that special animal you were able to harvest, and to keep the memories of a hunt alive for years to come.

By Allison Stegmann

Allison is an avid waterfowl hunter from Iowa. She is currently a student at the University of Northern Iowa studying Leisure, Youth, and Human Services with an emphasis in Outdoor Recreation. Allison is also a member of of Huntress View, a team dedicated to strengthening the ever-growing community of women hunters.

What’s In Your Hunting Pack?

October 30th, 2016 by BTC Editor

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In two days, a couple buddies and I are heading to Pike County for a four-day bowhunting trip… No, not THAT Pike County, but it’s close. In fact, it’s right across the river from it. Both my pals are fairly novice bowhunters, and this is the first full season for one of them. Seeing as how I’ve been on several 10-day, DIY excursions to Colorado chasing my beloved wapiti, they’re leaning on me heavily to provide guidance as to what to bring. It’s actually not that uncommon a question from even veteran bowyers, as I see the “What’s In Your Bag?” query on the bowhunting forums quite often.

After well over a couple decades’ worth of bowhunting, with most of that time consisting of over 100 stand sits annually, I’ve definitely settled on a list of “must-haves” as well as items that have found their way into and out of my fanny pack. I’ll break down below exactly what I carry with me, and the use for each item.

  • A small Ziploc bag (for weather protection) holding a good amount of toilet paper, plus hunting licenses. Also included in this bag are small zip ties for affixing the licenses to the deer’s back legs, a tube of chapstick (seems my lips are prone to drying out on windy days while on stand), and a handful of cherry cough drops (nothing worse than getting that tickle in your throat when you’re set up within 100 yards of that big buck’s bedding area!). I also put a nice lensatic compass in the bag, to keep the glass lens from getting scratched all up by the other items in my pack.dsc_0015-copy

I’ll give you a tip about the toilet paper before moving on… I carry quite a bit of it with me, and obviously you probably realize one of its primary purposes. But I also lean on it just as heavily when tracking a deer at night by propane lantern. I tear off little half-squares and place every couple feet along the blood trail I’m unwinding… it’s remarkable how you can hold up your lantern and see those white squares trailing off into the blackness, and they’ll really help you get a “line” on the direction the deer’s traveling and where to look for next blood if you’re having difficulties. An added bonus is that when you’re done, you don’t have to go back and retrieve all of them — just let the next rain dissolve all of them for you.

  • A mini-mag flashlight… the triple-battery version. I often end up in hairy places after dark I’ve never been through before, and I like to see what I’m trying to wade through – be it thorn bushes or a small creek. The version I like to carry just fits into my fanny pack from end to end, and utilizes three “AA” batteries.

 

  • A headlamp. Sometimes, I’ll opt to turn my cap around backwards and slap on the headlamp. It’s especially helpful when I’m assembling my stand at the bottom of my tree after I get down in the pitch black, or when I’m gutting a deer after dark.

 

  • A Leatherman multipurpose tool, the small kind. It contains a three-inch knife blade that I’ve used to gut over 50 deer, antelope and elk with. And on the off chance I need a pair of pliers, they’re included too.

 

  • Limb saw… to trim shooting lanes with, and more importantly to cut off small branches on the tree I’m going up with my climber.

 

  • My pull-up rope. I bought a commercial one with the plastic swiveling ends and hooks on it, cut those off and attached those to 30’ of parachute cord. Packs much tighter than the commercial one I bought.

 

  • Rattle bag. I’ve got a very nice set of real rattling antlers that sound awesome, but they’re a pain to carry all the time. My rattle bag fits nicely inside my pack and is always there from the third week of October until December.

 

  • Bleat can. I can’t attribute any single deer to coming in to the can call, but I’ll mix it into my rattling sequences any way; the hope is it’ll sound like the estrus doe that the two bucks are fighting over.

 

  • True Talker grunt tube. This has accounted for more deer riding home with me than any other single piece of equipment.

 

  • Ninety percent of the time, my shot opportunities are limited by heavy undergrowth and are 30 yards or less. Every once in a while though, I’ll sit a field edge where the rangefinder comes in handy.

 

  • Diaphragm turkey call in a clear case. Archery deer tags come with two turkey tags included, and I won’t pass up an opportunity to call to a passing flock. I’ve got a wall-full of turkey fans above my desk that were all taken with my bow in deer season.

 

  • Extra release. In case I leave my main one at the truck or it falls out of the tree for some reason.

 

  • Four bow hooks. My bow goes on one above my left shoulder, and my fanny pack hangs from one around seat height on the same side of the tree. The other two are spares.

 

  • A Kwikee Quiver caddy with my Octane quiver holder attached. I screw this into the left side of the tree, and affix my quiver upside-down so if I shoot and need to reload quickly, I simply reach behind me without looking and pull another arrow out.

 

  • A hand-held Magellan GPS. This is a recently new addition to my pack, and one that I’ve come to value. I shoot a lot of deer just before dark as evening hunts comprise 98% of my trips afield (I’m just not a morning person). Usually, by the time I recover the deer and head back to my vehicle to get my game cart, it’s pitch black once I return to the scene of the crime. Having marked where my deer is laying via the GPS sure does make it a whole lot easier once everything looks completely different in the dark – and a whole lot easier to get out of the woods.

You could ask me any day of the year, and that’s what I’ll have in my fanny pack. It’s the main component of a system that I’ve fine-tuned for over 20 years of bowhunting, and it’s what enables me to grab my gear extremely quickly when I get home and be on my way to the woods in just a few minutes. I’m never scrambling around looking for this item or that; I simply know exactly where everything I need is.

Now, if it was only that easy to know where that big buck was…

 

Greg Staggs is the former back-page columnist for Inside Archery, and his writing regularly appears in such magazines as Outdoor Life and Petersen’s Bowhunting. Staggs loves introducing his two boys to all things outdoors, including fishing, trapping, canoeing and camping, and has been chasing turkeys and big game exclusively with archery equipment for over 20 years.

Raising Chickens and Ducks

October 24th, 2016 by BTC Editor

Raising chickens and ducks (or the benefits of getting them out of your house by building a coop)

By Kristen A. Schmitt

When we moved from city to country, we knew one thing: we wanted chickens. Organic eggs were expensive enough and already a big part of our lives. From both a cost and food standpoint it made sense to raise laying hens ourselves. Before long, we had 12 chicks nestled in a box in our living room that scratched and chirped in their nest of pine shavings, creating a dust storm that coated nearly every surface imaginable. Because it was only March – and they were only a few days old – we couldn’t exactly transport them outside. So we made due with our new chirpy acquaintances over the next couple of months.

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Raising chickens isn’t rocket science. But if you haven’t done it before, here’s what you need to get started:

  • Cardboard box (how big depends on how many chicks you have)
  • Pine chips
  • Heat lamp
  • Food (chick starter is available at Tractor Supply)
  • Food dish
  • Water dish
  • Water
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We weathered an indoor tiny rooster escape (he hung out under our piano feebly cockadoodling for about an hour before I could grab him and put him back in the box) and plenty of soggy pine chips, but, for the most part, once they were about six weeks old – and the weather was warm enough – we transitioned them out to their coop (bought off of craigslist from a local farmer). Since then, they have been pretty much maintenance free and even moved with us from Vermont to upstate New York this summer. While we left their digs behind, we’ve since converted a stall in our barn for the “girls” and they have adjusted easily to their new space.

And then there were ducks

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Last spring, we were so over winter – so much so that during a routine Tractor Supply stop to pick up chicken feed and dog food, we ended up with a rather odd impulse purchase: three tiny ducklings. They were a spring preview, so to speak, because even though there was still snow on the ground, the fact that ducklings were available for $2.49 each meant that warmer weather was just around the corner.

We didn’t anticipate a few things with our impulse buy:

  • Ducks grow faster than chickens. They quickly outgrew the medium-sized box we had for them and, soon, we had a refrigerator box in our living room.
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  • Ducks are messy. Not only do they tip and spill water (so that we also had a tarp under the box in the living room), but they spent time in our bathtub, getting used to swimming. Cleanup afterwards was never a fun chore.
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  • Ducks are loud. Every night at 2 a.m. or so, they would start quacking. While we were thankful that our daughter managed to sleep through it, it drove my husband and me absolutely crazy.

After a few weeks, I was counting down the days to spring thaw and a duck coop. While coop design can range from geodesic dome to princess castle, we went with a basic do-it-yourself concept that primarily utilized pallet wood and ended up looking rather rustic chic.

Supplies:

  • Pallets
  • Foam insulation
  • Lumber for door and additional framing of structure (including outside attached yard if building one)
  • Plywood for roof and interior to cover insulation
  • Roofing material
  • Linoleum for floor (ducks are messy)
  • Door hardware
  • Chicken wire (for outside attached yard)

Tools:

  • Sawzall reciprocating saw with bi-metal blade
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Power screwdriver
  • Pliers
  • Staple gun
  • Staples

Here’s what we did:

  • Found a pallet big enough for the base. Because we only have three ducks, our coop didn’t need to be as big as the chicken coop.
  • Stockpiled other pallets. We used a sawzall reciprocating saw to take them apart. This method made it not necessary to remove the nails – we just sawed through them.
  • Next, we framed in the coop, angling the roof for easy snow removal. The roof was a single piece of plywood – the standard size from Home Depot ended up fitting perfectly without any extra sawing.
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  • With a pile of pallet wood already disassembled, we nailed the boards to the frame.
  • On the interior, we lined the walls and ceiling with insulation before covering that with plywood.
  • Once the structure was solid, we built simple doors: one big enough for us to get into the coop for cleaning and feeding and another smaller door on the other side to let the ducks in and out.
coop2

 

  • Install thick linoleum floor to keep the place waterproof. Like I said above, ducks are messy. In fact, keep the water source out in the attached yard of the coop to minimize water inside.
  • Framing in the outside yard was a matter of simply following the roof line and using some 2x4s and chicken wire.
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  • The final step was lining the inside of the coop with pine chips and hanging the feeder in the corner.
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When it was time for the ducks to move out of my living room and into their coop, I’d been looking forward to it for a while. And I’d like to think that they were, too, considering how pleased they were with their new digs. That night, the silence in the house was absolutely priceless.

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Kristen A. Schmitt writes about wildlife, sustainable agriculture, environmental issues and the outdoors. Her work has appeared in National Geographic, Fast Company, Audubon, Eating Well,USA Today, Hunt & Fish and others. Follow her @Kristen_Schmitt.

Early Season Bowhunting Tactics

October 2nd, 2016 by BTC Editor

By Greg Staggs

good-one

 

I turned and idled gently up the drive, palms getting clammy even as my breathing became shallower. Easing my truck to a stop, I quietly reached down and turned off the ignition and allowed the silence to envelope me. Going over my planned routine seemed to settle me a bit, and I took one last deep breath and opened the door. I had been thinking about this moment for weeks and it was finally here. Sliding off my seat, I walked as confidently as I could up to the door, knocked and asked if my date was ready.

First dates in high school probably provided as much nervous anticipation as anything I would experience for the first part of my life… until I started bowhunting. Today, I still idle gently into my parking spot. My palms may not be as clammy, but my senses are definitely heightened as adrenaline courses through my veins, thinking about the possibilities, the “what-ifs”… And my planned routine? It’s down to a science.

Chasing whitetails across the Midwest in September and October is truly a love of my life these days. Here are three things that have become a part of my routine that’s led to years of punched tags and filled freezers early in the season.

  • Scout with a light footprint. Amazingly enough, I don’t spend a lot of time in the woods in the summer. Most of my whitetail hunting is done on public land with miles of corn and soybeans backing up to the woods. I’ve spent many a night tucked into a fence row on the opposite side of a field glassing to identify which corners the deer are using to enter the fields.

 

  • Stay away as much as possible. If I can place a trail camera there on one visit and retrieve a card from it a month later, it’s harder for the deer to pattern me but I’m gaining valuable reconnaissance the whole time I wasn’t there. Taking it a step further, even my trail-camera placement leaves little presence. Ever walked into the woods and noticed a camera staring at you at eye-level? It can be obtrusive and stick out like a sore thumb. I’ve had deer think the same thing; I can tell by their reactions I’ve captured. A lot of times these days – especially on public land – I’ll take a lightweight climber with me and angle my camera down from twelve feet or so. It also keeps honest people honest, as my Dad used to say.
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  • Hunt with a light footprint. The first couple months of archery seasons in the Midwest can be downright hot. Deer don’t like to travel any farther than they have to, which means they’ll often bed less than 100 yards inside the woodline. If you plan to dive deeper in the woods this time of year, plan on bumping some deer. I’d rather sneak in and out of the edge a few times than blunder up once and alert every deer in the woods to your presence – especially a full month ahead of that magical November time-frame.

 

Greg Staggs is the former back-page columnist for Inside Archery, and his writing regularly appears in such magazines as Outdoor Life and Petersen’s Bowhunting. Staggs loves introducing his two boys to all things outdoors, including fishing, trapping, canoeing and camping, and has been chasing turkeys and big game exclusively with archery equipment for over 20 years.

 

Archery Tips with Levi Morgan

September 18th, 2016 by BTC Editor

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BTC: What steps do you go through mentally when you draw back on an animal to ensure your form is right and to help calm your nerves?

Levi: You know it’s funny, I don’t think. I think it’s all in practice when you do that because everybody, including myself, when you get out there in the woods and that buck of a lifetime steps out, no matter how hard I try or how much I tell myself, “Hey, I’m going to really slow down next time and I’m going to think about what I’m doing”, I look back and go “Man, that was a blur. You know, I don’t even remember that.” I don’t remember what I did, I don’t remember why I did it, so I think It’s so important to not just get your bow and go out and shoot just once every couple of weeks or get it & take it out 3 weeks before season, because you have to create that muscle memory and teach yourself to slow down and practice.

One thing I do is hunt with a caliper release. When a big deer would come out, I would draw back and get in such a hurry that when my pin got there I would just press the release off. I wasn’t really freaking out or anything, but I was rushing the shot every time. I was afraid the deer was going to run or it was going to see me, I was just nervous. So when I need to slow myself down, I started hunting with what’s called a back-tension release, or a hinge release, which forces you to slow down. You can’t shoot it fast or it’s an epic fail, so it forced me to slow down.

I really feel like it’s easy to say, I’m going to think about all these different steps when a big buck comes out. But the truth of the matter is, I really feel like people are going to do what comes naturally to them, which is why I think it’s so important beforehand to be prepared and have your equipment fit you perfect. Really get to know it and shoot it all the time because when you get nervous and everything goes blank, you’re going to revert back to what you do naturally with that bow and the way you practice with it. I really think that’s the best way to be prepared for the moment of truth.

Also, when I’m sitting in the stand or when I’m out hunting sheep, I imagine opportunities happening. For instance, if a buck comes down that trail, where am I going to shoot him at? Where am I going to stop him at? How is he going to be angled if he’s on that trail or if he walks out into the food plot? I try to imagine every scenario that could happen to me while I’m sitting there or while I’m hiking so when it does happen I’ve already kind of played it out in my mind that I’m going to stop him here and he’s going to be perfectly broadside or a little quartered away.

Obviously in hunting, you never know what’s going to happen, but that has helped me before. Nothing is as important as just being really prepared.

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BTC: A lot of archers and bow hunters struggle with target panic. What advice do you have on how to overcome this?

Levi: Target panic is probably the most common thing in archery. I think almost everybody has been through it at one time or another if they’ve shot a bow long enough. There are so many causes of it and because of that there are a lot of cures. I think some of the main causes of target panic are too heavy poundage, too long of a draw length, or not having equipment that fits you. Also things like your peep being too small and things in your sights that are making you too uncomfortable, for example your pins being too small to see, the target being blurry…All of those things can cause it.

Another major cause is holding your breath when you shoot. I’ve talked to professional fighters and doctors about that. When you hold your breath the first muscle that starts to break down is your eyes. That’s a huge cause of target panic so that’s why it’s so important to keep breathing. I’ve seen people pull back, hold their breath and aim too long and just feeling like they HAVE to shoot now. That’s really all that target panic is, no matter what the cause, is when the pin hits the target they feel like they have to shoot now.

I think the best cure for target panic is to stand in your yard, pull back and aim at the target with your arrow loaded and finger on the release. Put your pin in the middle and leave it there but don’t shoot the arrow. When your pin starts to go, let it down. Take a few seconds to regroup, then pull back and aim at the target and let down again without shooting. Do that over and over for however long you normally practice for about a week or so. All that’s doing is letting your mind know, “It’s ok for my pin to sit there. I’m in control. I don’t have to fire this shot”. Also what it’s going to do, is you’re going to aim at the middle longer and longer, allowing you to build up that confidence and stamina to keep your pin in the middle longer to let you execute that perfect shot.

I think that’s one of the best drills there is. It lets you just focus on aiming, relaxes your mind and lets yourself know that it’s ok to aim at the target and not fire that arrow as soon as the pin gets in the middle.

BTC: What are some of the bad habits you’ve had as an archer and what helped you the most in overcoming them?

Levi: I think my worst habit, as a hunter and shooter, is when I get in a hurry. I go out and practice just to be practicing. Practicing numb is what I call it. I think when you stop trying to get better, you’re going backwards. For me, I think it’s really important to count on myself, even in practice. I don’t go out and shoot at 30 or 40 yards at the same dot every day. I try to challenge myself, whether that’s moving back further distances or trying to hit so many arrows in a row on a certain dot. Whatever games you can play to make it fun for you, that makes you challenge yourself and keep trying to get better every single time you practice and not get complacent. What should be 4 inch groups at 40 yards may be plenty good to go hunting, but it’s not the best that you can do. I think a lot of people say, “Well that’s good enough”. I’ve heard it so many times. It’s easy to do that when you’re shooting good enough but it’s important I think, for me especially, to keep challenging myself and keep trying to shoot better groups at further distances and really keep it fun and interesting during practice.

 

BTC: You’re going to Alaska soon to hunt sheep as part of your quest to complete the Super Slam with your bow. How far are you from completing the Super Slam?

Levi: There’s 29 animals in the Super Slam and I have killed 17 of the 29 with a bow, so I’ve got 12 left.

 

BTC: Which animal has been your favorite to hunt so far?

Levi: Probably my Dall Sheep in the Yukon. It was the hardest. I guess it felt the best when it was over. It was the most satisfying when the hunt was done because of how hard we had to work. We spent 14 days on horseback (The episode just aired the evening we talked on the Sportsmen Channel).

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BTC: Do you have any advice for others who are wanting to complete the Super Slam?

Levi: Yes. Go to their website, www.superslam.org. The first thing I would say to do is to become a member of Super Slam because they give away hunts every month, and these adventure type of hunts are not cheap or easy to go about getting.

 

Also, do a lot of research. These are not your normal types of hunts. I grew up a whitetail guy, hunting whitetail in the Midwest. When I started doing these hunts, going to the Arctic, Mexico, the Yukon and all over the world, it was just a wakeup call on what gear I needed and how little I actually knew about my equipment. I think it really teaches you a lot when you go to those places and you’re riding on a horse for 14 days. You never know when something can go wrong, so get to know your equipment really well, do your research on what you need to take, and don’t cut corners on your gear. The weather is so uncontrollable out there on these adventure hunts.

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