Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Adventure - 48 Hours in Alaska - Bow Hunting

Join this bowhunter and his friend for an unforgettable experience in the wilds of the Alaskan backcountry.

Planning a do-it-yourself bowhunt to Alaska is an adventure in itself. This was my sixth such trip to the great state. My buddy Jason and I went together and I thought we were prepared for anything that would be thrown at us. We had been planning this trip for over a year. We decided to use the transporter, 40 Mile Air, out of Tok, to do a drop-camp for caribou. We would be hunting the 40 Mile caribou herd, which is known for producing some nice record-book caribou every season. The 40 Mile herd is one of Alaska’s smaller caribou herds with an estimated 40,000 animals. I guess 40,000 animals is small when compared to the Alaskan Western Artic herd, which is reportedly over 400,000 animals strong.

deer huntingThe logistics of getting to Tok went off without a hitch, and it wasn’t long before I was climbing into the back seat of the Piper Super Cub aircraft. This was my first ride in a Cub, and to say I was excited would be an understatement. Jason had his own plane to ride in. Our pilots, Leif and Randy, gave us an incredible one-hour flight to the leading edge of the 40 mile herd. Surprisingly, we only spotted a few bears, moose and a lone wolf during the flight. No caribou. It wasn’t until we cleared the last ridge that we spotted the first few caribou. Then we spotted a wave of caribou in the valley that we were going to land in. We literally had caribou on our short Cub landing strip, which was nothing more than a 100-yard flat spot of gravel, clear of brush and boulders.

Caribou Everywhere
That day, Jason and I set up a modest but comfortable camp. Because of weight limitations on the Cub flight, we had lightweight backpacking gear and freeze-dried food. We had enough supplies for our planned eight days in the bush. Alaska law prohibits hunting the same day you fly so we had to sit in camp and watch beautiful caribou bulls migrating through the valley. What a wonderful sight we had waited a long time to see.
The next morning we woke up to a dense fog and heavy drizzle. This was far from prime hunting conditions. Excitement was in the air, though, as we had prepared and traveled a long ways to get to this moment in time. I decided to make a hot cup of coffee, soak in the beautiful surroundings and give my wife, Jennifer, a call on the sat phone. I wanted to tell her we had arrived to camp safely.

5 Tips for Planning Your Trip

#1: Planning: I consider planning a bowhunting trip to Alaska as part of the adventure. First off you need to know what your goal is and what kind of adventure you are looking for. There are many things to consider. To hunt some species you are required to have a guide. Most of the other species are affordable for the middle-class DIY hunter. You also need to decide what type of hunt is available for that particular species you want to hunt and if it’s possible to hunt multiple species. Resources I use for planning my hunts are the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the internet, and the most reliable is a personal friend or acquaintance who had done the hunt before.

#2: Equipment: My suggestion is to buy the best equipment you can afford. Some standard equipment used in the lower 48 states might have to be considered survival equipment in Alaska, ie - tent, sleeping bag, rain gear... Buying cheap gear at Wally World isn’t going to cut it in Alaska. One other thing to consider is weight. Most likely your trip will involve some type of flying. Whether it is a commercial or bush flight, there will be weight limitations. Know what these limits are and pack accordingly. Some equipment is better off rented when you arrive in Alaska. There are many rental services available. Check ahead and secure the rental equipment before you go.

#3: Packing: The logistics involved in getting to your hunting destination may involve several different modes of travel: Commercial airline, vehicle, boat, bush plane, raft… You have to be prepared and knowledgeable for every leg of your trip. I’ve found that packing gear in to small organized soft duffle bags work best. It’s much easier to get these smaller bags in to the cargo compartment of a small plane and your pilot will appreciate it. You can then put the smaller bags in to a larger duffle for the commercial flight and leave that bag with the transporter while you are in the field. If possible, these duffle bags should be waterproof. There’s a good chance you will encounter wet weather on your hunt, lots of it. Another good container is an ice chest or large plastic tub. These containers can be left with the transporter and will be helpful with getting all that precious meat home. The standard airline approved hard case for your bow will help get it there intact.

#4: Safety Gear: Like I mentioned earlier, some gear you bring may be used to save your life. Bring a good quality synthetic sleeping bag and four season tent. It’s almost a guarantee that you will encounter inclement weather which  you will not be able to hunt in. I’ve spent many huntless days stuck in a tent because of the weather. I consider rain gear as safety gear. If you get wet, hypothermia is a real possibility. Most outdoorsmen in Alaska prefer durable PVC rain gear like Helly Hanson Impertech. Bring a satellite phone. You can use it to communicate with the transporter as well as get help in the case of an emergency. There are satellite phone rental companies located in Alaska and the lower 48.

#5: Meat Transportation: Getting your meat and trophy home should be included in your trip planning. I’ve explored different methods to accomplish this and found out that it can be costly if you are not prepared. If you are flying you must know the rules for each leg of your trip. The rules vary between airlines and transporters. Generally, the meat bags need to be manageable and under fifty pounds. The containers should be approved,  good quality and leak proof. Antlers are not allowed on some airlines. Meat and antlers can be shipped through some commercial cargo companies as they ship perishables to and from Alaska. Know the transportation rules before you go and be prepared. There is nothing better than barbequed caribou steaks after a successful DIY hunt in Alaska.

By Ed Fanchin

Posted by Bow and Arrow Hunting Magazine

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Mule Deer Diary - Bow Hunting

Pursuing the wide-open plains bucks of eastern Wyoming.

Story and photos by Chuck Frick

Mule deer hunting conjures up images of towing mountains, pine forests, rocky outcrops, green valleys and mountain streams. You pack in by foot or on horseback, set up base camp and then, climbing thousands of feet, go out in search of the elusive mulie buck to glass and stalk.

But, in my mind, none of that was going to happen. I am in what I think is pretty good shape for my age. I work out on a regular basis and walk frequently, but I can’t handle that kind of hunt. I wanted to have the opportunity to hunt mule deer, but the venue was going to have to be different.

Bow hunt
In August 2010, I was hunting antelope with Table Mountain Outfitter owner Scott Denny in Wyoming. We were seeing lots of mule deer going to and coming from the blind. The terrain was something I could handle and the elevation would not be a problem. I asked Scott, who operates the business with his wife, Angie, about their archery mule deer hunts. What Scott told me made a favorable impression, and I booked a mule deer hunt to begin Sept. 1, 2011.

Day One

Scott Heit was my guide, and we left camp before daylight. Scott had to drop off one hunter at a blind to hunt antelope, and then we drove to an area near an alfalfa field. Because we were running late, the deer were already leaving the field by the time we got to a suitable spot to glass. Scott and I started walking and glassing for deer. We saw several bucks and a couple of nice ones, but they were on their way to a bedding area, and we were never able to try a stalk. I walked a lot that morning.

That afternoon Scott dropped me off at a remote blind that had been frequented by deer the year before. The water hole had dried up and the only water was in a little catch basin. I did not see an animal except for some cattle about a mile away at another water hole.

Day Two

Scott left me where we were the previous morning while he took the other hunter to his blind. As I came over a rise, I saw a buck below. I sat down until he disappeared in a gully. I then hurried down the hill and just got to the bottom when I saw what I thought was the same buck, and he saw me. He was not startled, so I eased down in the gully and tried to follow. No luck.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Too Much FOC - Bow Hunting

Q: Hi Joe. I just switched to Victory’s VAP arrows, which use outsert-type adapters. I like the arrow’s slim design a lot, but I’m concerned about the arrow’s front-of-center (FOC) weight.

These arrows offer two types of outserts: aluminum (33 grains) or stainless-steel (92 grains). So far I really like the stainless steel version since it’s extremely durable, but they do increase the arrow’s FOC a lot when using a 100-grain point. I know adding FOC is a good thing for long-range accuracy, but will this setup take this factor too far? How much would you consider too much FOC?


C.P., via email

A: You can’t really put a number on ideal FOC weight. It’s best to shoot groups and decide for yourselves. As you point out, added FOC can be a very good thing because it creates better arrow control. Anytime there’s less weight at the rear of the arrow, then the fletching doesn’t have to do as much to properly steer the arrow on course. This adds up to enhanced flight stability, especially with fixed-blade broadheads.

This is why Olympic archers that shoot 90 meters prefer heavy FOCs—to optimize accuracy while using small fletching for reduced wind drift.

In addition, higher FOC weights go better with shorter arrows. This has to do with the distance between the center balance of the arrow (the point at which it balances on your finger or pencil) and the weight of the fletching. This measurement is reduced anytime the arrow is shortened, and for this reason, shorter arrows are theoretically less stable in flight, thus the need for more FOC. 

However, going beyond say 18 to 20 percent FOC will certainly come with a trajectory tradeoff. If you often shoot beyond 50 yards, then you’ll notice a drastic arrow drop at this distance compared to a normal FOC of 8 to 12 percent. 

To counter an extreme FOC weight with your arrows, you can consider a couple options: 1. You can switch to 85-grain heads.
2. And you can start using an arrow wrap at the rear of the shaft.

Both of these will lessen your FOC value.  –Joe Bell

Source: Bow & Arrow Hunting

Monday, February 18, 2013

Full Cry for Bruins

Hunting behind a pack of hounds is more exciting than most know.
By Chuck Adams

It was late morning when we found the track—a kidney-shaped flat spot on a snow-covered bank by the road. My heart leaped to my throat. The print was made by a hind foot … an oval impression wider than my hand. It was the biggest I had seen on the hunt.
Bucky Stone inspected the track, falling on one knee to study every detail.

“Nice bear,” Bucky finally said. “Let’s try him.”

Bow Shooting
He dropped the tailgate on the 4×4 pickup, exposing two dogbox doors with wire-mesh centers. Behind milled a dozen Walker hounds, scrunching their noses against the wire with nervous whines. Bucky slipped an arm behind one door and pulled out Toughie, a raw-boned hound with badly tattered ears. He closed the door and led the dog to the track. Toughie sucked in air and uttered a drawn-out bawl of joy. The other dogs went absolutely nuts. It looked like we might have a bear race after all.

Four days of hunting had made me begin to wonder. Bucky was one of northern California’s most widely respected bear guides, scoring close to l00 percent for hunters every year. As a matter of fact, he operated on a no-kill, no-pay basis—proof of his ability to produce. If a hunter wanted a bear, Bucky could get him one for sure. The only hunters who did not score were too soft to walk to the bear once hounds put it up a tree.

The past few days had not been dull. I had seen a bear every day but one. My problem was a desire to shoot a really big bruin with a bow. It was November l98l, and I had taken average bears with archery tackle in the past. Now, I wanted a magnum hide with thick, late-fall fur. I knew that California produced some of the biggest bears on the continent. All I had to do was find one.

What to Look For

Track size is not always an indicator of trophy size, but it usually tells the tale. A few small bears have big feet—just as a few small people wear size l2 shoes. But a bear with big feet normally has a big frame and a big skull to match. As Bucky opened both hound boxes and a stream of dog flesh poured over the tailgate, I crossed my fingers and hoped the bear at the end of the tracks had plenty of distance between its ears.

On the surface of things, hound hunting seems simple. Hunters drive roads until a bear track is found along a cutbank or road shoulder. A sharp-eyed hound man can spot a track in the snow at 30 miles per hour. For insurance, a “strike dog” is put on the back of the pickup to test the wind as the rig moves along. When air currents are right, a seasoned strike dog can smell a bear track up to eight hours old. If scent remains, the hound bawls its head off.

Excerpted from a recent issue of Bow and Arrow.

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Thursday, February 14, 2013

Western Trail Cam Use

Using trail cams in western big-game country is catching on, but with so much public-land real estate involved, knowing where to set up can be tricky. Here’s how to do it right.

BAH-1212-CAM-PIX-01: Big mulie bucks are often nomadic and difficult to pattern. Trail cams help immensely with locating bucks and determining which areas hold the most deer.

I was speaking recently with one of my hunting buddies from Wisconsin. When I told him I was just out checking my trail cameras, he immediately stopped the conversation. “Wait a second,” he said. “You actually put trail cams up out there? I figured that was mostly an eastern thing.” I think he may have even thrown a “don’tcha know” in there for emphasis too.

I could only shake my head. That statement exemplifies one of the bigger misconceptions in hunting today. While they may have originated as a tool primarily used by whitetail deer hunters east of the Rockies, trail cameras have now worked their way into the western hunting scene in a big way. Our eastern hunting brethren may not fully realize it, but trail cameras most certainly have a place in the western hunter’s tool chest.

Scouting cameras out west are invaluable tools when used properly. After putting cameras to work in my local hunting areas over the last few years, I look back and almost chuckle at how I used to walk the woods rather aimlessly, without much of a strategy. Trail cams changed all that for me, and since their employment, I’ve enjoyed far greater hunting success.

The key to an effective trail camera strategy can be summarized with the old adage often referred to when discussing real estate… location, location, location. This is no different.  Your camera must be placed on good real estate to be effective.

When one thinks of hunting in the West, the mind may conjure up images of big country–wide-open vistas, perhaps expansive sage flats, aspen or evergreen pockets, alpine mountains, or maybe even an open desert environment. It could be intimidating to look out at such an expanse of country and attempt to determine proper camera placement. We must break each setting down to determine optimal locations.

Focus on the Basics
Regardless of the type of habitat, there are three components that all good hunting country will have: food, water and cover. We must learn how to use these elements to our advantage when seeking good camera locations.

When considering food, the obvious place to set a camera is over a bait or mineral station. That, however, is illegal in many western states. Agriculture may be the next best thing. Alfalfa abounds in the West and attracts deer and elk like a magnet. A camera placed on a well used trail entering a field can be an excellent resource to find out what kind of animals are using the area. Better yet, multiple cameras placed on several trails surrounding a field can help to pinpoint exactly which trails are most commonly used and when.

In the absence of bait or agriculture, effectively placing a camera on a food source may be difficult. In a natural environment, food sources can be of multiple varieties and spread out over a large range. It could be nearly impossible to narrow the feeding locations down to a very specific small area in which to hang a camera. Under these circumstances, you may be better off keying in on the remaining two elements, water and cover, when deciding where to place your camera.

Story and photos by Nate Treadwell

Posted by Bow & Arrow Hunting

Monday, January 21, 2013

Made to Be Mobile

If you’re tired of bulky, heavy climbing sticks, then Gorilla’s new King Kong climbing sticks should fill the bill. They are not only safe and durable, but they are lighter, thanks to combining durable steel construction with lightweight aluminum steps. The new climbing sticks are extremely portable and built with the mobile hunter in mind. Each stick easily locks to the other, while the aluminum steps conveniently fold out of the way. The saw-tooth step design is built for superior footing and traction even in slick conditions. Each stick is securely and strongly assembled with XT-6TM red nylon bushings and washers. The King Kong climbing sticks fit trees ranging in size from 8 to 22 inches in diameter. Each stick weighs four pounds, measures 32 inches (3 pack), and is rated for 250 pounds.Visit

Posted By: Bow & Arrow Hunting

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Early Elk - Bow Hunting

Don’t resist the chance to bowhunt elk before the rut – it’s not as challenging as you might think.
By Jason Stafford

The author's dad took his
first-ever archery elk during
 a mid-August hunting trip to Wyoming
As darkness turned into dawn, my dad and buddy Ron could see 11 velvet-clad bulls feeding on an open hillside. The elk were above several fingers of dark timber.  It was late August and two days into Wyoming’s early archery elk season. 

They had no problem finding bulls feeding out in the open during various scouting trips and for each day of the season so far. The animals were around, it was just a matter of playing cat and mouse in the woods and setting up a shot. So far that hadn’t happened, though. Dad was the shooter on this hunt, and he was hoping for a pretty slam-dunk shot on what would be his first-ever archery bull. 

As the scorching sun began to warm the hillside, three bulls broke away from the big group and headed for a patch of trees that Ron was very familiar with. It was the moment to strike, but they had to move fast in order to intercept the bulls before they got into timber too dense and noisy for quiet stalking.

The jungle-like timber was in a deep canyon along with a small spring pond. They moved in and set up near this pond and a small clearing.

Moments later, the bulls fed out in front of them, just inside dad’s effective range. Once Ron checked the distance with his Nikon rangefinder, old pop came to full draw and let ‘er rip. The arrow flew true, and the nice velvet-antlered bull was down for good.

Most guys who bowhunt elk prefer to call or chase them when they are bugling, rutting, and chasing cows around. They enjoy the excitement and thrill of hearing thunderous bull elk talk echoing through the trees and canyons.

There’s no doubt mid-to-late September elk hunting can be exhilarating and productive, especially for those that love to call. But I’ve found bow hunting elk earlier on to be such as effective if not more so. During the rut, bulls become rivals and separate in order to sort out their dominance and to search for cows in estrous. This makes them harder to follow at times, I believe, which can add frustration to the hunt.

Whereas, during the early season, elk follow a consistent pattern, the same one they followed during the late-summer and the weeks leading up to opening day. This means if you’ve located elk during your scouting trips, then you can find them in the same place again.    

August and early September can surely bring warmer temperatures, but sometimes this can actually make animals more concentrated near water sources. This can make for more hunting action.

Also, in most western states, such as New Mexico, earlier hunts are much easier to draw. This could make them even more attractive if you know how to approach this kind of hunting. 

In this article I would like to offer a few tips for harvesting early-season elk. Each one has been proven to work well for me and my close hunting buddies. 

Pattern & Ambush
Like early whitetails, early elk are easy to pattern. Their daily rituals are straightforward -- they bed in heavy cover during the heat of the day, and then they move to feed, usually along open hillsides.

In the evenings, when they first start moving, they often prefer to water. They also like to water just prior to bedding in the morning.

Understanding these basic patterns will allow you to take an effective ambush somewhere along their travel routes – to and from feed or water. It’s that simple.

Another great thing about early elk is that they are still in summer bachelor groups. During August bowhunts, mature bulls are commonly seen in groups of three to ten, all feeding together. They are easier to locate this way, and more bulls in one spot means a high chance for shooting opportunity.

Be Patient & Aggressive
Depending on the terrain, early elk are ideal for employing spot and stalk. If you can glass them, then you should be able to move on them. The key is glassing them up early enough in the day so you can catch them in a vulnerable spot.

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