Game Changer - Hunting GPS Maps!
One of the newest tools I put in my pack is Hunting GPS Maps. This little chip will change the way you hunt. I have hunted with a GPS for the past several seasons, and have previously used mapping software that showed where public and private ground is at, but not to the extent I can now. With the new addition of knowing who the landowners surrounding the public ground has helped a ton. I now hunt with total confidence as their site says.
I think the biggest help I have gained from this software is the PLAT maps for Google Earth. This addition has helped by allowing me to scout without leaving home. Recently on their website there was a blog added about locating elk with their products and is a great read and resource. It can be as simple as looking for things that any animal needs; food, water, and cover. In the past it was hard to do this with just Google Earth or putting your feet on the ground and finding those areas. Now with the Google Earth overlay maps you can do it right from home and know right where you are at. You can also create trails you want to try by simply using Google Earth components and hooking them up to your GPS. After hooking up your GPS you can take it in the field and follow the trail you just added on your computer.
I hunt public land the majority of the time and this is one product that has allowed me to go where I never thought was possible. It makes hunting and accessing single section areas a breeze. It can be difficult trying to navigate effectively guessing and thinking that you are in the right place. I never second guess where I'm at now and have no fear of going onto ground to follow an animal. In MT most boundaries are not marked at all and if they are it can be tough distinguish where you are at. It can get very costly by trespassing on private land and I'm one who respects private land and understand why it can be such a huge issue.
The maps are only compatible with Garmin GPS line. It is best to get a GPS with a color screen as the maps are colored for specific areas. They have a list on their site for the models that will work as well as an area where you can purchase them. They have several state chips so you can pick and choose what areas you want maps for. For a minimal cost you can get yourself on the road to becoming a more efficient hunter down the road and help you hunt areas untouched in the past. Take it from me this is the best tool out there to accessing more land and having the confidence to travel further from the road and know where you are at, at all times. This is one purchase you won't regret and make you wonder why this stuff wasn't available in the past.
Calling All Turkeys!
As turkey season is getting closer it's time to dust off the calls and get ready. I have certain ways I like to call and have had good and bad luck with them all. Sometimes the worst sound you make is exactly what they want to hear. I will go through the calling that I like to do and the types of calls I use.
Probably the most common call to use is the yelp. It is a location call and is the one I use the most. The yelp consists of a consistent sound on a cadence. This call can be done on a box call, slate, call and mouth calls. I will start calling with my box call and call quiet. I will vary the number of yelps I do anywhere from 3 up to 12 or more straight yelps. I have watched hens in the wild that will yelp up towards 20 times. Generally when I'm trying to locate a tom I will yelp 3 to 4 times and wait and see if I get an answer back. If I don't get an answer I will yelp again 3 to four times a little louder. After calling for around 15 to 20 minutes if I haven's located a tom I will hit different areas and continue yelping until I locate a bird. Also when trying to locate a bird I will cut mixed in with yelps to act like an excited hen, but I will cover cutting in a bit.
One I locate a bird I will set up and continue with yelps as well as cutting, purring, and putting. Having a variety of calling sequences will help you find birds more often and become more successful. Also when yelping there are different sounds as a young hen has a higher pitch and clear yelp, while a mature hen will have a deeper raspy yelp. For me I have had a little better luck yelping like a younger hen, but a mature tom will most likely like the sound of a more mature or dominant hen.
The next call I use most often is the cut. Cutting consists of what I would consider a short yelp. The yelp isn't a long call, but longer than cutting. In order to cut I use my box call and mouth call. I will give short quick burst in intermittent sequences. I will do cuts of 3's, 2's, and 1's and vary them in different orders. While cutting I will also yelp in between. When you combine the cut and yelp it signifies an excited hen and for me has been the most successful when calling toms in. It seems whenever the toms won't talk and I know they are in the area cutting and yelping together will sometimes get them fired up and have them come running in.
Another great call is the purr. I will purr on a box call, slate call, and mouth call. The most difficult call to master is the purr. I will only use the purr when I have a bird coming in. It has a great calming affect and lets the tom know the hen is relaxed and works great to bring that tom just a little bit closer. The purr can be achieved on a mouth call by basically fluttering your tongue as you blow air. On a slate call the easiest way is to simply lightly drag your friction stick across the top of the slate. It will almost softly bounce on top of the slate making the purring sound. Finally on the box call you simply do the same as the slate call and softly take the top of the box call along the edge. I don't use this call all that often, but it is a great tool to have and use as all calling can trigger a response.
Putts and Clucks
A call I will commonly group together with purring is putting. Putting is also known as clucking. I will putt on my slate call and mouth calls. To putt you simply blow lightly with a mouth call and almost say the word "putt." The putt or cluck is used by turkeys to keep track of each other and has a good calming effect. It is a very quiet call so in close proximity is where it works best, but you can use it when they are further out as well as their hearing is unbelievable.
A call I don't use are kee kee runs. Kee kee runs are typically used by a hen who has lost track of her polts or young. It is almost a whistle sound. You can make kee kee runs with a mouth call by using more pressure and more air. It is very high pitched and goes great by adding a few soft purrs in the mix. Again this isn't a call I use, but a great tool to have just in case it might be the only thing they will respond to.
These are just a few of the things I use to call turkeys in. The way I have found what works best is to simply go out and use them on the real thing. I have found that I kind of have things going right when I have a hen come in and can talk back and forth with her. That is a great sign that your calling is working. The goal might not be to have hens come in, but when they do and you can talk back and forth it is a blast. As I stated before a young hen has worked for me in the past, but you never know when that boss hen raspy sound will work better. Doing different sets of calls in random orders are the best way to go. The key is sounding as realistic as you can, and that can only happen with time in the field and practice.
If you are just starting to call I would advise to start with a box call as it can be the easiest to use and the loudest when locating and quietest when they are coming. Also just concentrate on yelping and cutting and you should do just fine. The other thing to avoid, which I am guilty of, is not over calling. The best way to do it is get a bird going and make sure you can tell he is coming in and stop calling. If he is coming in he will most likely keep gobbling even when you aren't calling. If this is the case it doesn't hurt to call back every now and again, but don't over call. I find myself just enjoying them come in close and getting them to gobble, but this can also prevent a bird from coming in.
I have found success in turkey hunting by mastering calling and placing decoys so the birds have something to look at. The calls I use can be found at buglingbull.com. They have a variety of turkey calls that work great. To learn how to call just jump on the web and search and you will be amazed at the resources available. I hope these tips will help you bag your first bird or a good refresher on calling.
Selecting The Bow For You
Finding a bow that works for you can be hard and easy at the same time. There is a lot that goes into selecting the right bow for you individually.
The best way I can give advice on finding the right one is to go to a local archery shop and have a tech fit you. They will measure your draw length and weight. The weight can be adjusted to your liking after you make your purchase. They will also get it all tuned and ready to shoot. If you think just because you just went and spent $1,500.00 on a new bow you made the best decision on a bow, you may be wrong. And just because your friend says the bow he or she shoots is the best thing since sliced bread doesn't mean that is the bow for you. There is a true difference in a high end expensive bow from a low end bow, but just because of the higher price tag doesn't mean it is a better bow for you individually.
I myself used to figure the more I spend the better the bow will be. I went to a shop and had them measure me and fit the bow to my liking. I had a price range I was interested in and shot 3 different bows. The first one I shot was the Hoyt AlphaMax 32. It was lightweight, very durable, super quiet, and had a very smooth draw. It just felt right. It's hard to explain, but when you feel it you know. Up until I had tried this bow I had shot an older Browning, that I traded for. I was never measured for it and never shot it before I purchased it. It was a lesson I learned the hard way. The other two bows were Bowtechs. I liked how they shot, but just not as much as the Hoyt. Nothing personal against Bowtech as they are making some of the better bows out there. The Hoyt just felt more comfortable to me personally. I felt more hand shock with the Bowtechs, and their draw just wasn't quite as nice. In the end I walked out of the archery shop a satisfied, $1,000 less in my pocket, customer. Looking back I wouldn't change a thing.
Going from my old bow to the Hoyt I shoot now showed me just how far the archery world has progressed. There is a reason more and more people are getting into archery hunting. With new technology comes nicer more durable equipment. I have thought about upgrading many a time, but have been very satisfied with my current bow I just can't put it down. It also gives me a greater appreciation for older archers who have had success with older equipment and guys that are still shooting traditional. I will give some pointers on finding that right bow for you personally.
After picking up your bow the next thing is to practice, practice, practice. If you think you can just pick up a bow and go kill an animal, it just isn't that easy. I don't shoot near as much as I should, but I make sure and get out two to three times a week and shoot at least 30 to 50 arrows each outing around a month or two months before season. Ideally its best to shoot everyday to perfect your form, which will make you that much better of an archer. Also don't just practice the same distances every time. Shoot at odd yardages as well as shooting positions from standing, kneeling, and sitting in a chair. The farther distance you can become accurate at the easier the closer shots become. 90 yards isn't anything you should try and kill an animal at, but practicing at that range will make you that much more effective at 40 and 50 yards.
Getting into archery hunting can be the most rewarding thing you can do. It takes a lot of patience and skill to be able to kill an animal at under 50 yards, and even greater skill at under 30 yards. Be prepared to be frustrated as archery hunting is not for someone who thinks it is an easy thing to do. Today's outdoor shows may make it look easy, but the people on those shows put in the time and effort it takes to become a successful archer. It will test everything you thought you knew about hunting.
Have you ever wanted to hunt away from the road? Go a little farther from the pickup or main camp? Growing up in South Dakota I never really got to experience this very thing. I would generally go out with friends and family and spent a lot of time in the pickup or walking draws, and getting picked up at the other end.
It wasn't until I moved to Montana I got to experience hunting from a camp. My first experience was finally in 2008 when I drew a very coveted rifle elk tag on the Custer National Forest. I was lucky enough to score on a great bull the first morning out. I also had camped out of a small tent a couple of times with my brothers if we ventured a long ways from home, but elk camp was the first time in a large canvas tent.
In 2010 it would be my first trip to the mountains of Montana, when my Brother Todd drew a mountain goat tag. This was also where I figured out when you think you are in decent shape, try going after mountain goats and you will find out what kind of shape you are actually in. It will be a trip I will remember for the rest of my life. Although it wasn't my hunt it was still very special to me getting to share time on the mountain with my brothers as Kirk came as well. We backpacked in around 8 miles. After hiking in we set up camp. This is where I got my first true taste of a camp away from any amenities. After this trip I began to collect gear that would be vital to make camping like this just that much more comfortable.
In 2012 Todd and I went elk hunting and did the same sort of set up camping away from the pickup and trail head. I scoured the internet looking for sources for backpacking, and found a great source at www.kenetrek.com. They have an equipment list on there that assisted me greatly as I began the process of getting ready for the fall hunt. Some items I had and some I did not. I will list the things I take along for a hunt that can sustain you for approximately 5 to 7 days.
My list consists of the following:
This pretty much sums up what I will pack for an extended stay. It may seem like a lot, but it isn't bad when you get everything packed up. It also helps if you are hunting with other people as you avoid doubling up on items and you can split the weight. With everything in my pack it weighs roughly 45 to 50 lbs.
I hope this will help anyone who has ever wanted to hunt a little farther from the road. I'm not an expert at backpack hunting, but enjoy doing it and gain more experience each year. One of the biggest keys to hunting away from the road and main camp is to find water. If you can't find water your hunt will be over before it gets started. Here are some pictures of my empty pack and equipment and then what it looks like fully loaded.
Decoying is one of my favorite things to do. There is a time and a place where decoys can help you become more successful. I primarily use Montana Decoy Inc. decoys. I have learned through trial and error on some good ways and some bad ways to decoy. I will discuss different species and some tactics I have used to help get more opportunities and be more successful.
Most everyone knows about decoying antelope during the rut. I haven't had much luck doing that, but have had more luck decoying on water holes. For instance in 2010 I set up on a water hole and had three bucks come in, but never got closer than 80 yards. During that setup I had the doe decoy on the water, as if she was drinking, and the buck next to my blind. The three bucks that came in were all younger smaller bucks, and it appeared the buck decoy intimidated them. The next morning I set up just the doe decoy, and the buck I shot, which is pictured, sprinted to the water and gave me a great shot. The buck was relaxed and fed. I have also had instances though that the decoy did not work on water. I had several does come in one afternoon and were very weary about approaching. They eventually left the area.
Just this past season I used the decoy on a prairie dog town during the early season. The rut had not kicked in, but bucks were becoming territorial. I had been watching a mature buck with a bunch of does, and finally was able to work my way in get my decoy in sight. The antelope were feeding a long ways away, but my decoy caught the attention of the buck. He came running in and checked me out for several minutes. The buck just didn't close the distance and stood at 72 yards for quite a while. The buck eventually left to get back to his does, and again for a second time came running back. Again he never got any closer so I was never offered a shot. Of course the one day I forgot my decoy I got my opportunity. I had a buck come running as I was stalking on him and his does on a water hole. Some cattle began to watch me and the antelope buck became angry and came to see what the cattle were looking at. Had I had my decoy I'm guessing he probably would have run me over. The buck didn't see another buck and stopped for me at 45 yards. I guessed the range at 35 and shot just under him. Everything happened so fast that I didn't have time to grab my rangefinder. With the decoy the buck may have came much closer.
I have yet to try the decoy in the rut, but know they work as I have heard many tactics and stories on decoying antelope during the rut.
For my setup on antelope I usually do the following:
In the video there is a couple of ways I set my decoys in front of my blind.
Mule Deer and Whitetail
Another popular animal to decoy is deer. I have had luck on both whitetail and mule deer. Again I use the Montana Decoy Inc. decoys.
I do a lot of blind hunting and have had varied success in the blind with the mule deer doe decoy outside of the blind. The deer become curious and approach the decoy, but will sometimes keep their distance. It has been a great way to pull them in from a distance and bring them to my location to check things out. The biggest problem I have seen is that they become weary when there is no movement. The feeding pose does great though as it keeps them calm and helps ease them in. If you read my blog from my 2012 archery buck I never got to use the doe decoy, but the buck was rutting very hard and just seeing something he thought might be another doe brought him right in. If I had the decoy it may have been a much closer shot. Once again things can happen so fast you may not have time to set up. I do always have the option though.
Mule deer don't seem to decoy as well as the whitetails for me. During the rut it can be the perfect time to have that mature buck get puffed up and come check out another smaller buck in his area. I haven't hunted much in the rut, but from articles read and videos watched the buck decoy can be a great asset to you add to your gear. I have had good luck with the Dreamy doe on whitetail bucks in the pre-rut though. In early October I will locate bucks and set the doe and simply use a bleat can. In 2011 I had a small whitetail buck come to my calling on a string. I had the dreamy doe set up in the open and got down wind. I spotted the buck around 400 yards away and he slowly worked to where I was calling from. The buck came close and started to work down wind where I was located, and he stopped broadside for me at 20 yards. I had ranged the area where I thought he would come out at and the range was 30 yards. I shot and missed over his back, but without the calling and decoy I would have never had the opportunity. I hunt primarily on the ground as well and it is a great tactic.
For my setup on deer I usually do the following:
There is no better example for decoying than turkeys in the spring. It is an amazing feeling watching a big tom come into your setup looking for a fight. The spring can be a down time for some hunters, but for me its a time to get out and stretch the legs and get the bow out.
I have had great success turkey hunting with decoys. I again use the Montana Decoy Inc. turkey decoys. I am very excited for the coming spring as they have now come out with a new 3D tom. Check out the site to get filled in on Papa Strut. I have also hunted with friends who use the B-Mobile tom from Primos and have seen great success with that as well. I prefer the Montana Decoy though due to the weight and portability. I can easily fit 4 decoys in my pack with leg poles and don't notice the weight at all.
For my turkey set up I usually do the following:
Now to one of my favorite animals to decoy. The elk is a special animal and one I anticipate with excitement hunting in the fall. There is no other animal that gets my blood going like a bull during the rut. There are many tactics to use on elk and decoying is a great way to do it.
I have had varied success in using decoys on elk. Sometimes things happen so fast I don't have time to set them up, but that's when it's fun hunting and exciting. On my cow this year they came so quick there wasn't time to think about it.
In 2011 I had amazing encounters while using the decoys. I found a good water source that was being used a bunch. I set up my blind and set up the Flasher and Ms. Sept. The first bull that came out stepped out at around 150 yards into the open. I called, but the bull just didn't seem too interested. It was a mature 350 inch bull that got my heart racing even at 150 yards. About a half hour later another bull popped out in the same spot as the previous bull. I gave him a few light cow calls and he came running. I had made one fatal mistake and that was not setting up for the wind. The bull got within 80 yards and worked down wind of my set up. His nose got me and he was gone. It was amazing though to watch him pick up his head look at the decoys and come sprinting on a mission. About an hour later I was still in my blind cow calling and heard a cough behind my blind. I peaked out the back window and to my amazement 5 cows and a bull were able to sneak quietly behind me and were standing less than 20 yards away. They were looking at the decoys and continued to feed like it was no big deal. I was waiting for a shot on the bull, but he stayed at the right spot where my only shot was his neck or head. On all of these occasions I would not have had the encounters I did without the decoys.
One thing I have notice with elk is that they have amazing hearing and can locate your calling and locate it at the exact point of the calling. The decoys can help when calling by directing their attention on the decoys. This was shown to me during the 2009 and 2012 seasons. In 2009 my friend Stephen traveled out and partook in our elk camp. It was his last day out for the week and we spotted 9 cows and calves. It would have been great to get a bull, but I told him if he gets an opportunity on a cow not to pass as any elk with a bow is a true trophy. We set up with him sitting around 40 yards in front of me and I sat behind a tree and called. It worked like a charm and the lead cow and a calf came right in. The cow had me pegged and became suspicious as she could tell where the calling was coming from, but couldn't see any elk. Stephen was fortunate enough and the cow was only 17 yards away. The cow was getting ready to leave and Stephen made a great shot and a memory we will always remember. In this set up a decoy would have been key to keeping the cow around longer and possibly having her step on him. The next hunt was this last fall with my Brother Todd. We located some elk in the morning and elected to sleep for the afternoon with the elk and would begin calling in the afternoon. This time we had the decoys and they proved to be the key to the hunt. Todd began to call while I was set up with the decoys in some cover. We set up the Flasher to where only her head was showing, and Ms. Sept. to where only the hind end was visible yet visible enough to where you could see she was feeding. I sat patiently waiting for Todd to tell me to call. Pretty soon I could hear Todd giving me the OK. I began to call softly and watch the cow go from weary to spotting the decoys and coming in on a string. The cow came right to the decoys and offered Todd a broadside shot at 38 yards. He made a perfect double lung shot and she tipped over 100 yards later. Todd told me if it hadn't been for the decoys he may very well have not killed that cow.
If you are looking for that leg up on the elk decoying is a great way to have them come in calm and let their guard down enough for you to maybe get that shot you didn't get in the past.
For my elk set up I usually do the following.
As you can tell decoys are a big part of my tactics when it comes to hunting. It is fun to watch animals interact with the decoys, and they have helped me in more ways that hurt. If you are looking to get a leg up go to www.montanadecoy.com and pick up some of their decoys and try them out. These are just a few of the tactics that have been successful, but as I stated before trial and error is a great way to see what works best and ways to improve your success in the field.