New Friends, Old Stories

I have mentioned before that hunting seemingly more than any other past time seems to draw like minded people together. Perhaps it is because we share a deeper understanding of something raw and primitive to our human nature. Perhaps it is because we share a certain respect for the creatures we chase and a similar sense of accomplishment in the harvest. Or maybe, not unlike our website, we enjoy reliving each others stories.

It is not surprising because of these things two hunters stumbling across one and other by happenstance can sit and talk for hours like old friends. This story is paraphrased from a new and likely now to be long time friend Bob Watson who harvested a beautiful opening day buck. A great example of how hard work in the offseason can really pay off.

For Bob preparation for this buck started early in the season. “I start scouting in winter with snow on the ground.” Being that this was his first year hunting this particular property he knew he had a lot of work ahead of him to ready himself for the upcoming season so he scouted a lot.

Bob was meticulous in his planning; ” (He) scouted several times in the summer, especially after wet weather to look for tracks. Walked the woods looking for funnels and pinch points.” Scouting after a rain, as he pointed out, is great not only for seeing fresh sign but also helpful in keeping your scent exposure to a minimum.

After a few trips back and forth from the farm he was finally able to to identify his ambush point “There was only one tangled hole in a fairly tall fence, and it was a natural trail for deer.” This would be the spot that he would key in on especially in the early season while the bucks were still largely holding true to their summer patterns.

Bob took some time to scout with the property owner, and also gained knowledge from an elder neighbour who hunted the property in years past. The hard work and preparation paid off as they often do and this beautiful ten point was taken opening morning this season, at 7:45am.

Great Opening Day Whitetail Buck
Great Opening Day Whitetail Buck

I will let Bob take it from here “I was in my sit-and-climb as darkness broke and the forest awakened…I had the perfect tree (scouting for the ultimate tree in the off season is much of the fun). It wasn’t shooting light long when I looked up and along he came, right into my shooting lane, 18 yards, broadside, fore leg forward. I grunted to stop him, prefect shot at close range, and he trotted and walked 40 yards before I heard and saw him fall. It was perfect.”

Perfect indeed Bob! I look forward to sharing many more stories like these with you and thanks so much for sharing. The Hunt Blog crew has two deer of our own in the freezer but our Giant has continued to allude our arrows thus far. We can only hope as the rut heats up his luck will run out. Until next time…

– James
thehuntblog.com

Ohio Boss Buck

It was around 4:00pm on Thursday, October 1st here in good Ol’ Ohio! I was trying to decide on the best place could go based on the current conditions.

I knew that with a North wind there were only a few good stand locations to choose from. After some contemplation it occurred to me that I should return to my grandfathers farm where I had harvested my buck from last season. The conditions were in my favor to hunt there so off I went.

As murphy’s law would have it, turned out that they were harvesting beans in the field which my stand was facing. For a moment by spirits dipped, then I remembered I had one other place which hadn’t been bow hunted for almost two years.

Again I was on route to a different location. When I arrived I quickly grabbed my gear and headed for my stand. I kicked up nearly 10 turkey on the way there so I knew the animals weren’t being pressured by much.

I took my time to be quiet on the way to my stand. It was now close to 5:15. My vigilance had paid off and I knew I hadn’t jumped any deer on the way in. I settled in for the evening knowing they would be coming soon.

The setting was perfect. I had every advantage possible. There was a creek about 60 yards in front of me with an uncut cornfield behind it. A second cornfield stood just behind me. I was confident that I had chosen the right spot. I did my preseason homework, studied and patterned the routes these bucks were coming in on and now it was just a waiting game.

As it always seems to be with whitetail deer the anticipation is overwhelming. It was around 7:15 and I kept thinking something was gonna walk down the trail from behind me that goes directly under my stand.

I slowly turned around out of my own curiosity shortly after that thought crossed my mind And what do ya know. Here he comes. Slowly, I grabbed my Hoyt Ignite Compound bow and got situated. As he approached a large dead tree, I decided I should go ahead and draw. But, instead of him just stepping out broadside, he continued to walk away from me.

After about 2-3 minutes of being drawn back, I decided to let down because he wasn’t at the right angle. Moments later he started to turn so I drew back again, putting my 2nd pin on him at 25 yards.

I had practiced with my equipment all summer and was confident with my preparation. As I exhaled, I released the arrow sending my Shwacker broadhead right to where I wanted it to go… Time seemed to slow to a crawl as I watched the lighted nock on the end of my arrow disappear.

I hurried and called my dad and my best friend to tell them what I had just done. They arrived a while later and I climbed down to start tracking. There was one problem. No blood. As the winds picked up we decided to back out on this deer and return the next morning.

After not getting enough sleep the night before, we met up around 9:00. We headed back to where I last saw him and began searching. As we move on toward the creek, we still had no blood.

This is when it began to cross my mind that I made a bad shot. It made my stomach turn. Once we made it across the creek we followed the edge of the cornfield that was in front of me. We walked for approximately 150 yards and found my arrow, covered in blood, but there was still no blood on the ground.

We followed a set of rather large buck tracks for another 200 yards that brought us to another creek that split off and went two ways. My dad sent me down on way and he took the other. I got no more than 20 yards and found piles of blood for about 30 feet. Then it stopped. my dad found a stand near us and decided to climb up it to over look the areas around us.

“Jake! Run up that hill behind you! I think I might of found him!” I took off running up the hill without a second thought. When I came to the top, there he was laying in opening on top of this ridge. I was so happy to finally put my hands on this guy.

Jake with his trophy buck
Jake with his trophy buck

I was very disgusted with the bad shot I made on him and nothing is to blame but me. The buzzards had already started on him and the stench was terrific, and I knew that the meat wouldn’t have been any good due to them and the night temperatures being around 55. This was a very interesting first bow kill experience for me, but will not be my last!

Huge body on this ohio buck
Huge body on this Ohio buck

 

-Jake Woodruff

Mastering New Grounds – The 2015 Prologue

When if comes to deer hunting success the largest rate limiting factor is time. At least I believe that holds true for the vast majority of us any way. Everything that surrounds harvesting a great whitetail needs time. That and a little luck.

Three; three is the number of years that generally it takes me to hunt any given piece of whitetail property before I start to feel comfortable and confident with my approach. Although patterns change from year to year depending on crops, weather and surrounding property pressure, for the most part after spending 3 season sitting a piece of property I find that I have a pretty good idea whats going on.

Back to the former point however, time is not something very many of us have an excess of. So the purpose of this article along with our up coming video blog, is to document our approach to a new piece of property when you are on a time budget. Between the 6 different properties we have in 4 different WMUs we are up to our ears trying to just get these spots ready for the season. I look after two of them myself and with two young children and a full time job it is difficult to juggle it all.

As it is however the deer population in my home WMU’s have been stable but not thriving so additional deer tags have been eliminated once again this year. Not one to lie idle I was quick to adapt and focused my attention on a neighboring WMU some 40 mins away with flourishing whitetail numbers so much so they offer multiple additional tags.

Here I intended to share my step wise approach:

Step 1 July 2015 : I entered into the draw and drew a tag for a buck or doe in this new WMU. Success. This would be my primary hunting target, at least up until the rut. I try to keep our other two spots untouched so the hunting pressure is low leading into the rut when the entire Hunt Blog crew comes down for our annual hunt.

Step 2 August 2015: Find a property. This new zone has the bonus of having multiple public land hunting opportunities. For a small fee associated with buying a pass and proof of membership with The Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters you can gain access to this public land.

Step 3 Mid August: After securing a pass I began the process of reviewing aerial maps to choose the property I would focus on. This included a mix of reviewing maps provided by the conservation authority and from google maps.

Use areal maps to help maximize your scouting trips on new ground.
Use areal maps to help maximize your scouting trips on new ground.

Now keeping in mind the reason for this article, time, the next step in choosing a property is important. Now there will be no doubt a tendency to want to choose the largest most vast property with the greatest amount of woods. This seems logical to most whitetail hunters. But for me this is not the right approach. I chose a relatively small plot of land which looked to have good access points, some nice surrounding ag fields and some water. Knowing that I only have a month until season a smaller property with predictable feeding and bedding areas will be much easier to scout and although it may not hold the greatest number or largest deer it will most likely be my greatest chance of success.

I should also say that I am not going to be using this tag to target a trophy, although if my trail cameras suggest otherwise the plan may change, but Instead will be using this tag to fill my freezer buck or doe.

Step 4 Late August: Put some tires on the ground. Yes I said tires. Although aerial maps will show you the basic lay of the land some drive bys of the property are both time efficient and productive. They allow you to retrieve recon on the types of crops planted and therefor the likely harvest time. Also gives you an idea of the amount of traffic around the area. Drive bys can also give you a better idea of the area topography and how dense the forest is in the area. You may also benefit by talking to near by land owners, find out the amount of hunting pressure and typical deer sightings.

So far I have committed not more than a couple hours to this new spot and have a wealth of information. I have an idea of what crops are where, prevailing wind directions, and have identified where I can park and approach the location from. I should also note that attachable tree stands are prohibited so all of my hunting will be done from the ground or climbing stand.

Step 5 First week September: Lace up your boots. Most physically demanding part but most important. I park and approach from the areas where I have previously predicted I will hunt. Keep in mind wind and stealth as you do not want to tip off the animals this close to the season. Be observant from the moment you park. Are the signs of other vehicles/multiple. Foot prints. Dog prints (people often walk dogs in these conservation areas and can certainly affect deer movement). Look for trail tap and markers. then I start my trek towards an area I have pre identified as a jumping off point for my hunting. This is almost always on a field edge well away fro where I predict the deer will be moving. I will use this as an observation set early in the season to observe the deer movement. Once I reach this location I hang a trail camera. And this is important. I hang a camera with a time lapse setting set to record first and last light. This will give mer great insight into where and when the deer are moving before I even sit in my tree.

Step 6: After setting this out I trim and clear my trail back to my approach point and mark it well with reflectors +/- tape. And that is it. That will be the last time I set foot on those grounds until hunting my first evening. I say evening for a reason. I don’t want to risk bumping deer in a spot I don’t know, traveling back to their beds in the morning. So I stick to evenings until I get a little more information.

And that is where the story ends for now. Stay tuned throughout the 2015 season and hopefully we will be able to show you another successful deer hunt webisode. Until then enjoy your hunt and be safe.

James
thehuntblog.com

Second Tom of the Season – Team Work

With one nice Tom down the Huntblog Caledon crew set out on their second hunt of the season. This time out it was just Pierre and I and we decided to set up in the same area as opening day. The weather this day was the complete opposite of opening day which was nothing short of miserable. Today however we were greeted with bluebird skies, warm temperature and no wind.

Similar to opening morning we both had Toms gobbling around us at first light but we just couldn’t persuade them to come to our calls and decoy setups. We did however spot 8 different Toms that morning so we were optimistic for a successful afternoon hunt.

We broke for lunch and after discussing setup alternatives we decided to stay with the ones we had used for the morning hunt. Around 3:00 pm we spotted a couple of Toms moving in and out of a fence row about 300 yards south of our location. It wasn’t until an hour later that one of the Toms started working its way across the cut corn field towards Pierre.

He held up a couple of times but responded each time to Pierre’s low pitched hen calls with a few return gobbles. He continued a very slow but deliberate approach across the field when at 150 yards out he appeared to lay eyes on Pierre’s two Hen decoys. Pierre lost sight of him for about ten minutes but I assured him that the Tom had fixed his attention on his decoys. It was at this point that Pierre and I watched as the Tom started to approach in full strut dragging his wing tips in the dirt as he covered the field.

At 100 yards he seemed to suddenly lose his attention towards the decoys and looked like he may head into the bush so Pierre made a few soft Hen calls. Immediately he was back on track and rapidly closing the distance. Pierre watched and sat motionless from his manmade natural ground blind as the bird began to intensify his mating dance.

When the bird reached twenty yards, Pierre raised his 12 gauge and took aim. A single shot rang out and I watched as the bird flopped on the ground in front of Pierre. Pierre pumped his fist into the air and together we whooped it up.

Piere with his Tom
Pierre with his Tom

When I got over to Pierre he held up the Tom which looked like the twin to the bird our hunting partner Herb had taken on opening day. Again we replayed the hunt from start to finish and both commented on how spectacular the mating show was that we had witnessed.

We took a bunch of pictures and some video and headed back home to show off the spoils of our hunt to Herb.

Two hunts and two birds….the 2015 season was off to a great start!

 

Story by HuntBlog Prostaffer

Greg Mather

Early Season Gobbling

Opening day of the 2015 turkey season for the Caledon HuntBlog crew was far from perfect weather wise as it delivered a little bit of everything. The day started with over cast skies and within a half an hour of sunrise it began to rain. Temperatures were very cold and rain soon turned to a sleet and wet snow mix. Adding to the discomfort was a strong north wind blowing in our faces.

Even with the elements against us ours spirits remained high because we had been scouting for several weeks prior to the season and we knew we had a good population of Tom’s roaming the property.

The three of us fanned out across our hunting property trying to take advantage of the fact that the birds were scattered around the farm. Herb was set up in the bush and Pierre and I were set up on the west side of the bush bordering a cut corn field. We had some early action with gobbling all around us including a deer that walked up to Herb in the dark and stood directly in front of him at five yards.

Around 7:00 am I had a couple of gobbling Toms behind me that closed to within 50 yards but wouldn’t come any closer. Pierre had Toms gobbling behind him as well and a small Jake that came into his decoys shortly after daybreak followed by two curious Hens.

Around 9:30 we had two Tom’s enter the south end of the corn field and although we were pretty sure they spotted Pierre’s decoys they just didn’t seem interested in coming over. They fed out in the corn for about an hour then headed back into the bush. Around 10:30 the weather improved a bit as the skies began to clear but the temperatures remained cool as the north wind continued to blow at around 30 km/h.

Herb headed back to the truck around 11am and was greeted by a visit frim our local Game Warden. After a quick chat and check of his license and equipment he moved on down the field to check on Pierre and I. Of course everything checked out and after a friendly conversation he wished us good luck and was on his way.

Its a game of patience
Its a game of patience

At noon we met at the truck for lunch and chatted about the morning’s lack of production which none of us could explain based on the large number of birds we had seen during our preseason scouting trips.

Around 2:00 pm we headed back to our setups except this time Herb had relocated to a spot in the fence row bordering the east end of the corn field. Around 3:30 pm we had two Hens come into the corn field and they worked their way across the field towards Herb’s location. About 100 yards from him they decided to take cover in a piece of long grass that was situated in a low area in the corn field. We continued to glass the fields from our individual locations when I spotted a very nice Tom enter the corn field from the south. He was feeding across the field at a steady pace. At this point I alerted both Herb and Pierre of his presence but only Pierre could see the bird because Herb was blocked out by a hill in the field. I had a perfect vantage point, albeit from a long ways away, but I had a good view of how the bird was moving across the field. When the bird was about 200 yards from Pierre, he decided to try a few hen calls to see if he could draw the birds attention to his decoy set. This appeared to grab the Toms attention as he started to strut towards Pierre’s setup. He closed to within 100 yards of Pierre and then gradually started heading away from him in the direction of the two hens that were concealed in the grassy depression in the corn field. At that point I radioed Herb and let him know that the Tom had changed direction and was heading east towards him. At this point the Tom made a very deliberate point of cutting across the corn field and enter into the clover field were Herb had a major decoy spread set up.

I say major because Herb had a very elaborate setup consisting of a two feeding Hens, a Jake and a strutting Tom. Unfortunately the field the Tom was in had a number of small rise and falls in it and Herb could not see the Tom as it began its approach to his setup. The Tom on the other hand had a perfect view of Herb’s decoys and began to approach in full strut. The only inkling Herb had that the Tom was approaching was a few short gobbles. We decided to switch over to text messaging so that the Tom wouldn’t hear us and this proved to be a good decision. The Tom let out one last gobble when he was approximately 50 yards out from Herb. It looked like this was coming together perfectly for Herb when suddenly the two Hens located in the grassy depression in the corn field popped out from their cover. They had obviously heard the Toms gobble and came out to investigate. The Tom quickly took notice of the two Hens and appeared confused. He was still focussed on the decoy setup but he just couldn’t resist the attraction offered to him by the two live Hens.

Fortunately for Herb the two Hens were moving up the field towards his locations so I texted him to stay motionless. They walked through the corn and passed by Herb at around twenty yards with the Tom hot on their trail. Herb didn’t move a muscle and from my long distance vantage point I could see the Tom approaching Herb at full strut. My last text to Herb was get ready buddy he’s about to pass you.

I watched closely as the Tom strutted through the corn field right up to Herb where he laid in wait quiet, calm and motionless. At 15 yards Herb rose up, shouldered his 12 gauge and delivered a deadly shot to the head of the passing Tom dropping the bird in its tracks.

Good preparation can mean everything for early season birds
Good preparation can mean everything for early season birds

All three of us erupted in unison with yelps of joy none louder than Herb. As fast as we could Pierre and I made our way towards Herb pumping our fist into the air to help celebrate our partner’s success of the hunt.

The bird was a beauty with a 9 inch beard and one inch spurs. We shared some laughs and the excitement grew as we replayed the hunt over and over. I can honestly say that the only thing bigger than the bird was the smile on Herb’s face. The key to the success of this hunt was help from Herb’s hunting partners but most importantly Herb’s ability as a seasoned hunter to remain calm and motionless.

Story by HuntBlog Prostaffer

Greg Mather

“Quality” Deer Management

What comes to mind for you when I say quality deer management? Common rhetoric in the hunting world, disseminated largely by popular hunting media would lead you to believe that it is the practice of selectively shooting mature trophy whitetail deer. Now to be fair some hunting programers do a better job with this than others but the core values of QDMA are actually in fact supporting a strong deer heard.

Follow good conservation, manage doe populations, be selective in your harvest of bucks but above all else it is different from hunter to hunter and from one hunting location to another. For many hunters, especially those who are not fortunate enough to have access to large acreages of private land, the practice of selectively shooting pope and young whitetails just isn’t practical. Many of us also do not have the luxury of planting food plots to “grow big deer”.

In southern Ontario where we hunt, we chase whitetails in small woodlots often not much larger than 100 acres surrounded by vast area’s of farm land. Often these area’s are shared by multiple hunting parties using a variety of tactics; shotgun, muzzle loading weapons and bows. It is a reality to which we are accustomed and quite frankly embrace. Whitetail deer populations are not overwhelming large but stable. Hunting opportunities remain plentiful and most land owners in rural area’s of the province are happy to share the bounty of their land.

For the most part in Ontario if I were to mention the topic of leasing hunting lands hunters would look at me puzzled without the slightest idea what I am speaking of. Something for which I am quite pleased. However, without hunting land leases the practice of letting a whitetail “pass” year after year until he is a giant just doesn’t work.

As a bow hunter many of the land owners are quite happy to allow me to hunt until the start of the first shotgun season when the farmers and friends take to the woods dawned in blaze orange, after an exhausting fall harvest, to fill their freezers with venison for the winter. And although the shotgun isn’t my weapon of choice I respect it all the same and am always excited to join in after the hunt to see it’s bounty and share in the stories.

Still this sort of hunting climate makes it ever difficult to find the elusive whitetail who has been both wise and fortunate enough to reach 5 or 6 years old. That said I would venture that any buck making it to 3.5 in our neck of the woods will prove a bigger foe than a 7 year old buck that has been selectively passed year in and year out until his antlers have reached gigantic proportions.

I pass the young bucks and usually forgo taking a mature doe until after the rut when finding a post gun season buck becomes a rarity. But come December the first mature doe that walks past my stand beware! That is if it is not too cold and I am not to rusty from a season only drawing on the old target bag on our back 20. That said you have to personalize the experience and this is simply the practice that works best for my values of quality deer management. I will more than happily pass a 3.5 year old 120 class 8 point as this is a very mature a cleaver deer in our region and not a regular sighting.

A successful late season harvest.
A successful late season harvest.

I guess as I am preparing to put out my camera’s and officially start my 2015 whitetail season tomorrow I wanted to write this article to highlight that it is the work and process that goes into the harvest not the size of the antlers that makes the trophy. After putting in hours of work scouting and cutting trails, hanging stands, quality deer management for me will be when the first set of back straps hits the BBQ this fall as the hunt blog boys stand around reliving the successful hunt.

Above all practice good conservation, enjoy the outdoors and good friends and be proud of the Quality of the experience not just the Quality of the antlers.

 

– James
thehuntblog.com

Gobbled – Spring Turkey Hunting

In 4 years since I bought my first turkey tag there have been plenty of encounters but my first long beard has proven to be more of an adversary than I could have previously imagined. I can confidently say that I fancy myself a good whitetail hunter and am reasonably proficient at pursuing this quarry. But perhaps; perhaps it might be just this confidence that has me scratching my head at the end of another turkey season wondering where I went wrong.

Quite different from whitetail deer season which is more of a methodical endurance race, where the early weeks of the hunt are spent feeling out your prey, turkey hunting is more a kin to a sprint to the finish. A shorter season, with more aggressive hunting tactics, and often the first days of the season being the most fortuitous. Perhaps it has been my continued goal to harvest a bird on film. Or may be just the hunting gods telling me that I need to put in my dues before I can be rewarded.

The close call
The close call

No matter what the reason, as I have learned time and time again when pursing a wild animal, you will repeatedly be humbled. But this is what keeps us coming back. The opportunity to match wits with an ever weary adversary. We hunt our Turkey on heavily trafficked public land and these birds will test the resolve of even the most seasoned hunter. In any event I felt the story of this years turkey hunt could perhaps be better told through the lens of my camera rather than the pixels on this screen. Watch the video by clicking below:

2015 Turkey Short

My season wrapped up in 3 minutes of video and our first take at publication of a video blog through our youtube channel. I hope you enjoy and watch for our offseason publication “In The Footsteps of Giants”. This will be our teaser for our 2015 dear hunt webisodes. Thanks to all those who have tuned into our 2014 whitetail hunts and I guarantee bigger and better footage and videography for this years hunts.

Counting down to deer season.

James
thehuntblog.com

Kick Start Your Hunting Company

Hunting and fishing have always been a way of life in our family. A lot has change over the years from those early days clinging to a home made wooden platform in a tree. There has been a steady evolution in hunting gear with ongoing advances in technology.

As much as hunting has been a long tradition in north America so has the entrepreneurial spirit. As hunters spending many hours in the field we have often found ourselves longing for a tool not yet invented to perform some necessary task or find ourselves asking how can we do this better, faster, more efficiently.

Over the years we have “MacGyver’d” our fair share of tools of the trade that we find useful in the field. More recently we have started the long process of bringing some of our inventions to other hunters. Unfortunately, the hunting industry being as large as it is with many powerful companies dominating much of the market this can be a daunting task.

Thankfully with the impressive growth of social media in the hunting community there are options for growing your small company. Through our connections with the hunt blog we have managed to meet and find some terrific small hunting business that offer useful products and great personal customer service. Something sought after in the hunting world.

Still, starting up a company takes time and money. In this article I am going to talk to you about a growing trend that is going to help you bring your business to reality or even grow your already established company.

Kickstarter is a website growing in popularity and allows people to pitch their product to customers and allow them to support the company by pre-ordering products such that manufacturing can be undertaken without the substantial amounts of capital usually required.

For already existing companies the site can be used to get customers to support expansion of your company and develop new products.

Kickstarter Campaign
Kickstarter Campaign

For example, we have been helping develop a product with a new outdoors company. The product called Game Pegs has been brought through the development stages over the last number of years and they now have a product and manufacturer lined up to bring the finished product to market. Unfortunately it would cost a substantial amount of capital to make the initial product order in large enough quantity to keep the price affordable for the average hunter.

Instead, via Kickstarter, the company is allowing customers to preorder the product at a reduced price to allow them to make the manufacturing purchase. It is a great option for small start-up companies without substantial capital or investors.

You can get more information about how kickstarter works at Kickstarter.com and also check out the game pegs kickstarter campaign. If we have tweaked your interest stay tuned for more articles as we plan on doing a series on how to run a successful kickstarter campaign.

Thanks for reading. We hope you are enjoying or getting excited for Turkey season and make sure to buy your Game Pegs this april.

 

James
thehuntblog.com

The Last Hour – Prime Time in the Whitetail Woods

Every accomplished whitetail hunter looks forward to the “last hour” even if they are fatigued from being out all day in beautiful bluebird skies, pouring rain, snow or freezing cold temperatures and haven’t seen a single deer. The HuntBlog team are no different than anyone else, in fact, we have gone so far as to label it the “bewitching hour” and we often let each other know over our communication devices to focus because the “bewitching hour” is upon us. But why is this the most exciting hunting hour of the day?

To tell you the truth I have always been a firm believer of getting into the stand well before daylight and I have personally shot more deer in the “first hour” of the hunt than any other time of the day but still, like most of you …. I am a die hard… can’t wait for… the last hour of the day kind of guy.

The reasons for this vary from hunter to hunter but the most common thread seems to be that this is the time of day that hunters no matter how experienced see the most deer. Sounds simple enough so where is the “magic”? The fact is there really is no magic involved at all it’s merely the nature of the beast we pursue that makes this time of the day seem so special.

It’s no secret that deer are nocturnal especially big bucks that prefer to bed down during the daylight hours and wait for the cloak of darkness to move around. We all have hundreds of night time trail camera pictures to support this observation. The hard truth of the matter is, that’s why big bucks live long enough to grow into big bucks. That’s not to say that big bucks won’t move around in the morning or during midday because they do. I shot my personal best 179 6/8 net typical Boone and Crockett Ontario Whitetail Buck on an unusually warm and sunny November day in 2009 at 1:00 pm in the afternoon. He was travelling with two impressive 8 points hot on the trail of a big Doe who was obviously in heat. I have in fact been fortunate enough to shoot some very nice bucks at all different times of the day but still I am the first one to admit that my excitement heightens during the “last hour” of daylight.

Greg Mather with his trophy buck
Greg with his trophy buck

So again we are asked the question …. why is this? Deer of both sexes and any age group are for the most part nocturnal. They feed and breed mostly from early evening right through the night until just after daybreak. But there are several factors that can change this pattern such as weather, hunter pressure, predators and most importantly the rut! Weather seems to have the least effect but I do find you have a much better chance of seeing deer late morning or midday during low winds, overcast, drizzly or better yet … foggy days. The reason for this is that deer just feel more comfortable moving around in these conditions because there is less noise. I find there is no better time to be in the stand than a calm foggy morning and I rarely miss one of these. Hunter pressure is not something I have really had to deal with in my home bow hunting territory as I have the luxury of hunting private land but that being said, we do have some productive areas of public land that I hunt with my son in southwestern Ontario where hunter pressure is a definite factor that can have a dramatic effect on deer movement. This is especially true the first week or so after the shotgun season is over and bow hunting has resumed. During this period the “bewitching hour” definitely lives up to its name because the deer have been pushed so hard the week before that they have now hunkered down during the core daylight hours rarely to be seen until just before dark if at all. Predator problems such as coyotes can be an issue but not always a negative unless your property is overrun with them which is the case in some areas of the province. The advantage occurs when coyotes stay hunting actively until late into the morning. When this happens they will often push deer to you that you would have never normally got a chance to take. The negative occurs when you do connect during the “last hour” and the deer runs off. In the areas we hunt if you don’t find your deer within 2 hours after dark sets in then you can pretty much count on the coyotes finding it for you. I had the unfortunate experience a few years back of taking a very nice Doe with 10 minutes of shooting light left. I found her about 30 minutes later and started to gut her when I suddenly realized that I had company in the form of three very hungry coyotes. They must have been experiencing a similar difficult success rate in their hunting as mine because they had no intentions of backing off no matter how much I tried to scare them off. I had been hunting 15 days straight at different times of the day and the “last hour” had paid off this evening so there was no way I was giving up my prize but these coyotes had other ideas. It was all I could do to keep them at bay for over an hour until my two hunting partners were able to hook up with me. That night the “last hour” became known to me as the “horror hour” and one I will never forget.

Heavy beamed whitetail
Heavy beamed whitetail

This leads me to the “rut” which in our area starts around the first week of November and last about two weeks. During this time of year under the right conditions the whole day can sometimes feel like the “last hour” if you are lucky enough to have a good deer population in your area. That being said I still look forward to the last hour of the day during the rut with increased excitement.

One point I will make is that seeing deer during the “last hour” and shooting deer during the “last hour” are two totally different things. Anybody can go out and see deer in the last hour but the successful hunter will be the hunter that knows how to read the deer and most importantly determine why he is seeing them “where” and “when” he is seeing them. This is called patterning and this is where spending countless hours scouting and the use of trail cameras really pays off. In most cases deer are coming out at this time of the day after being bedded down for a long period and they will be seeking food, water or the company of other deer. Recognizing where these sources of food and water are located on your property and finding the travel corridors the deer are using to get to them is the real “magic” of the “last hour”.

My last two pieces of advice about the “last hour” are my most important ones. The first is that after you have established a pattern of where and the approximate time that the deer are coming out, you then need to pick a stand location about 50 to 100 yds back along the game trail they are using. This will insure that you will have good legal shooting light to make your best shot. In most cases this will be the mid-point between their afternoon bedding area and the night time food plots they are feeding on so it is wise to move into these stands very slowly and quietly. I recommend you don’t hunt these locations during an all-day sit. Instead use them as your evening go to spot only and move into them in late afternoon about a couple hours before you expect the movement to take place. The second and most important tip is to always use illuminated nocks on all your arrows or bolts when you are hunting this period of the day. The reason for this is that you are most certainly going to be looking at a retrieve in the dark after your successful “last hour” hunt. Finding a blood soaked arrow will help you find the blood trail that will turn the “last hour” or “bewitching hour” into “Happy Hour” back at your camp.

 

Hunting Bucks in Prime Time
Hunting Bucks in Prime Time

Good Hunting!

By

ProStaffer Greg Mather

For TheHuntBlog

Only Fixed Blades

I will not use an expandable broadhead. Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying you shouldn’t. And I am not saying that I never will. I am simply saying that most or some or a few of you shouldn’t. Let me explain.

One benefit of not having any association with any company is that I can write freely. I know that a number of you who live and die by your expandable brand are cringing about my first paragraph but stay with me.

A quick review. Arrows, like shotguns, kill by penetrating trauma to the animal. This is different from high velocity rifles that rely heavily on weight retention and blunt force trauma to inflict fatal damage. In order for penetrating trauma to be effective we rely a little more on precision placement. So what are the important aspects of a successful broadhead.

Choices Choices
Choices Choices
  1. If your arrow doesn’t consistently fly where you aim it then it is useless. Accuracy depends on practicing with your equipment and most importantly knowing its limits. Remember this. When I choose an arrow/broadhead combo I want to be certain that at the range for which I am confident the setup will preform every time. There is no doubt that a streamlined expandable head will be more accurate at a longer distance especially with external factors like wind when compared to less arrow dynamic fixed blade head.
  2. Wound cavity/entrance wound. Ya I hear all you expandable guys and girls getting excited. No doubt. The size of the entrance wound that can be engineered using an expandable head can far out do that of our standard fixed blade. Bigger and bigger fixed blade heads become less and less aerodynamic, to put it simply. This limits the ability for creating larger cutting diameters with a fixed blade.
  1. And this my friends is what I argue is the most important of all the factors when considering a broadhead. Exit wounds are where it’s at. Exit wounds make blood trails. And big bucks pile up at the end of blood trails. What makes for good penetration? Well that is all based on energy transfer. In the most basic form energy in the arrow is stored in the arrows speed together with its weight. When then blades on an expandable deploy there is a loss of this energy. It’s a fact. We can’t escape physics unfortunately. Now when you shoot a high energy cross bow with heavier bolts or a heavy fast shooting compound setup this energy may be negligible. This fact however begs the question. Do I have what it takes?

And I my friends do not. I shoot a 58# bow with a 29” draw. 250 grain arrows and 100 grain broadheads. This all means that my kinetic energy is relatively low. I have come full circle. I started with fixed blade. Went to mechanicals for several years, and with a good deal of success I should add.

My main reason for switching to mechanicals in the first place was two fold. 1 – they are more accurate. I could confidently shoot further with a streamlined arrowhead that emulates the field tips I practice with. Wind plays less havoc on the compact design taking yet another variable out of the equation. 2 – they are more forgiving. What I mean by this is that with large cutting diameters leaving giant entrance wounds there is more room for error and a better chance of recovering a deer that was shot a little further back than intended.

So with this in mind why switch? Well back to penetration. You just can’t penetrate like you can with a fixed blade. Especially with a lower kinetic energy setup. I can affect the accuracy component. I shorten up my range. I don’t use a fixed blade that doesn’t come with a practice blade to tune my setup. With closer shots and confidence in my setup I never worry about needing that extra forgiveness.

Looks like pretty good shot placement but the autopsy suggested otherwise! Expandable never penetrated.
Looks like pretty good shot placement but the autopsy suggested otherwise! Expandable never penetrated into the chest cavity. See the video footage on the video tab.

In short for me it is all about penetration. When I use my cross bow the expandable is back in the equation because of the higher energy bolts are fired with. Otherwise I cannot over emphasize the importance of penetration. If you aren’t regularly getting pass troughs’ with your expandable then you need to rethink your setup.

If accuracy is your concern then try some different fixed blades until you find one that works and move your stand 10 yards closer to the deer trail.

I have been bow hunting since I was strong enough to load my Dad’s 140lb Astro Daco crossbow and have been in the woods hunting for much longer. I have learned so much since those early days. A great thing about hunting is that you are always learning. Furthermore since we have embarked on the hunt blog project my learning has evolved exponentially.

We have developed a successful blog and are excited about the forward progress we continue to make. Along with documenting our triumphs and defeats in type we are also entering into the world of filming our hunts. We have spent countless hours learning physics, software, and art of video production. We have also had the opportunity to be actively involved in field testing a number of products for a developing hunting company.

We are grateful for all our readers who have enjoyed watching the growth of our blog and are excited to bring them into the future with us. I hope you enjoyed the post and that you continue to write to us with your hunting stories to help us learn with you. As always we appreciate your comments!

 

James