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Article of the Month – March 2008
Thursday, March 13th, 2008

Super Blind
By Ted Arndt

We were leaning against the root-ball of a downed silver birch. The trunk of the tree had fallen into a pasture where the dairy farmer had been spreading manure for a few weeks.  It was one of those priceless mornings when sound carries for miles and the woods behind us seemed to shudder with the thunderous gobbles of a least a half-dozen slammers as they tried to assert their authority from the safety of their roosting trees.  Soon the sun was breaking through the darkness to our left, casting long morning shadows across the field in front of us.  There was a chill in the air and as I worked my diaphragm call, circles of vapor rose from my mouth and broke up in the branches I had earlier placed over our heads.  My daughter Jocelyn seemed to sense an increase in the intensity of the morning’s action and became tense with excitement.  Call – gobble – wait:  that was the game we played with those toms as we sat anxiously in our blind.  Then, perhaps an hour after the fly-down, I heard some scratching to my left.  Slowly I turned and peered through some brush I’d placed just over the trunk of our fallen tree.  There, on the field-edge just twenty feet away emerged eight turkeys scratching at the grass and manure as, one by one, they stepped clear of the wood line.  The morning sun seemed to spotlight the turkeys while at the same time throwing concealing shadows into our blind.  Jocelyn rested the barrel of her shotgun on a log we had prepared in front of us and anticipated the shot.  It seemed like forever as the birds milled about on the other side of the tree, and the strain was wearing on my young girl. As she forced herself to breathe, and shifted the gun for a better angle she was far less than motionless, but the shadows, branches and logs concealed her movement from the approaching flock.  Finally, the birds rounded the tree in perfect range for a kill. I heard the safety snap off as one of the birds separated from the rest and then… BOOM!  The shot package savagely ripped into that tom’s neck just before the other birds scattered in all directions.

My daughter’s first turkey was one of those hunting moments that will last well beyond my ability to tell the story well.  It was the culminating event after many years of trial and error in the field, testing and re-testing different ideas until my young lady was finally old enough to share my passion for the chess game of turkey hunting.  What mattered most during the final moments of that hunt wasn’t calling or position though, but concealment.  It was the early youth hunt and there were plenty of birds, still in large flocks, wandering about the fields of our area of New York.  I knew, well before that hunt ever started, my greatest challenge wouldn’t be a lack of birds, but instead, the hiding of a hyperactive and adrenaline-juiced twelve-year-old. A kid who would get hungry and fidgety and bored and excited and distracted and every other thing we older folks are just plain too tired to think about.  And it would surely happen just when the birds finally decided to head our way. It was an 81 pound spit-fire of a problem that needed something more than just a good solution.  What it needed was the ultimate concealment; a blind that would allow my daughter the latitude to do what kids, well… just do,  but without spooking every  nearby turkey out of the county.  I needed Super-Blind!  But it was gonna be tough.  I’m not really into all that pop-up jazz where you can set up a frozen yogurt machine and watch the Yankees play the Socks while you wait for the birds to come.  I lean towards the natural stuff.  So, after I decided on a good, turkey-rich area, It took some initiative and went about creating the mother of all blinds.  This is the story of how I managed to pull it off.

It all started with a few trips into the woods a week or two before our actual hunt date.  On these preseason outings, I tried my best to familiarize myself with the lay of the land.  As I walked around potential hunting spots, I glassed the nearby ridges and hardwood stands.  Then I strolled along rises and feeding areas looking for signs that might reveal  how the land could influence the flock’s movements on the morning of the hunt.  Where were the most promising roosting sites and had they been recently used?   Where were the best feeding areas and the easiest corridors for the birds to get to them?  What were the potential obstacles, such as fences, creeks, and human activities that might interrupt their travel patterns?  Finally, after I felt I had a solid grasp of a turkey-rich area, I started to consider where my daughter and I would set up our ambush.

I noticed as I explored that a farmer had been spreading manure in the back corner of a tucked-away field.  When I checked with him he said he intended to continue fertilizing that particular field, though he would not be spreading there the morning of our hunt. While perhaps not the best smelling patch of land I’d ever encountered, the farmer’s activities certainly had the potential to continue to attract the turkeys that I’d seen in the area. With this good news in hand, I returned to that little “honey-hole” and gave it some serious thought.  The field in question was an odd-shaped, five-acre plot.  It was a rough triangle, apex pointing towards a high oak and maple covered ridge with a down-hill side that ran just about east-west.  There were two trees (both large birches) that had collapsed into the field during an ice storm the previous fall and both had pulled up large chunks of earth with their roots as they went down.  It was obvious from all of the tracks and scrapings that the turkeys were turning leaves as they entered the field from both up-hill sides of this promising patch of land.  They would then continue feeding on the manure along the field-edge once they cleared the tree line.  But where to create this blind-of-blinds to spring a trap on the birds that would almost certainly enter this field? 

I finally decided the blind should go at the base of the fallen tree to the east.  This position would optimize the sun by casting shadows into our blind instead of throwing penetrating rays in our eyes as the turkeys were entering the field in the morning.  The large root-ball would offer comfort and additional concealment from behind and the trunk of the tree would allow us to “peek over” to our left while we concentrated on the most likely approach from our up-hill right.  This was indeed a stronger position than a similar set-up to the west, but I still wasn’t confident that it could hide my amped-up daughter when it counted the most.

That’s when the work started.  First, I went into the blind and cleared away any sticks and stems that might poke and prod us in the back and butt-cheeks as we waited (likely for two or more hours) for the birds to come down from their roost and work their way into gun range.  I then found two short trunk sections and stacked them log-cabin fashion in front of our blind.  These would give good natural cover from the front and would also allow Jocelyn to rest the big twelve’s barrel on something to steady her shot… if it ever actually came to that.

Now I sat as I would on the morning of our hunt and peered over the logs into the field.  I decided Jocelyn would need two firing cut-outs, one parallel to the trunk of our birch tree and another facing a bit farther to our right.  This would allow her two opportunities to do her deadly work while still offering concealment should she pass up her first crack at the birds.  I used anvil-type garden shears to clip any foliage in the way of these two firing lanes.  I cut the obstructing saplings and brush at steep angles so I could later use them to add any final touches to the blind. I pushed some of the clipped sticks into the dirt of the root ball so they would hang over our heads in sort-of fan pattern.  I hoped this would maximize the shadowing effect of the early-morning sun as it rose from almost directly behind us. The remaining cuttings were pushed back into the ground to fill any noticeable gaps in the blind that were obvious when I came out into the field and peered back in from a turkey’s eye view.

After a bit of work, I felt I had a blind system that not used the natural world to best effect, but that considered the lay of the land, the position of the sun, and other factors such as field usage that can have an dramatic impact on the success of any turkey hunt.  I had created the blind I needed to help my daughter harvest her first bird.  In the end, the turkeys actually came from an unanticipated direction, but our blind came through for us anyway.  The smile on my daughter’s face when she finally rolled that bird was worth every hour or the time it took to make “Super Blind”.

Member Profile: March 2008
Thursday, March 13th, 2008

This month’s Member Spotlight is on:
Ted Arndt from Fort Plain, NY. Ted joined Heritage Hunters last summer and has since written some Monthly Articles that will appear in the coming months on the website. We thought we’d give him a chance to talk about his hunting heritage.100_2424.JPG

HH: How did you get started hunting ?

TA: My father was always interested in firearms. After he introduced me to them, I combined that with my life-long interest in anything outdoors and kind of taught myself to hunt small game. Later, after my Navy days, I revisited my childhood interests, and picked up archery and turkey hunting. Aside from my family, these are now the great passions in my life.

HH: What is your favorite type of hunting and why?

TA: I love early season deer hunting with my bow. It’s warm and quiet out there in September and early October and I really enjoy my time in the woods then. I also love Spring turkey hunting. That time of the year, it’s “the only game in town” and I love being in on it when a young hunter harvests his first gobbler.

HH: What is my biggest piece of advice to our members?

TA: Regardless of your choice of firearm, bow or season, make every effort to enjoy everything about your time in the woods. Too many hunters get so caught up in things like rack size or number of pheasants or geese that they lose sight of the really important things. Your experience outdoors should be precious, regardless of your harvest. I believe that’s the key to not only our own personal success, but also to the preservation of our heritage as hunters.

HH: Why do you like writing about hunting?

TA: I’m a teacher as well as a hunter and I feel writing is the best way to motivate our readers to stick to the values and principals that have made our sport such a wonderful family experience. It’s also a way to remind myself of some of the great experiences (and sometimes not so great ones) that I’ve had in the field. Besides, the details really seem to come out when I’m immersed in a story and it’s almost like I get a chance to live them again.

HH: If you had an opportunity to hunt anything, anywhere, what would it be and where?

TA: That’s a tough one. I’d really like to take my wife and kids and go for one of those epic waterfowl hunts in one of the great American flyway states. We could all use a week in a beautiful lodge and It would be great watch the family as they had a go at some fast-moving ducks. That’d really be a thrill.

HH: How are you passing on your hunting heritage?

TA: I want to pass on my hunting heritage not only by writing, but by sharing the hunting experience in every regard. I teach hunting safety for New York State and I take special needs kids out for hunts whenever I can. The most important part of my hunting legacy, if that’s what it is, is certainly the values I try to instill in my own children. When I’m 90, I want my daughter’s or son’s kids to help me park under a tree and then call in a fat one for me. That would be the perfect end to the ups and downs of my experience as a hunter.

Article of the Month
Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Each Month we’ll bring you Articles written by Heritage Hunters Staff as well as our Members.  These articles will provide a means to inform, preserve and document the hunting expertise of our staff and our members.  We’ve always heard the phrase “Write about what you know“.  Well, that’s what this area of our Member’s Corner is all about.  Click on Article of the Month at the right to read our latest submission!

 If you’ve got an idea for an article or would like to submit one for approval by our staff, send it to: info@theheritagehunters.com

A Birthday Hunt To Remember
Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

Written By Dale Smith (HH Staff)

It was a Friday night when I came up with the plan.  Dan and I had been burning the candle at both ends trying to come up with good footage all bowseason and I was feeling like a change of pace.  I called up my old man on the eve of his birthday and invited him on a bowhunt.  I said “Hey, It’ll be like old times.  We’ll go to two separate stands and see if we can get old mossy horns to come by!”  I pretty much knew he’d say yes since my mother clued me in a few days before that he’d like to go with me “If I wasn’t too busy filming”.  Yeah, I admit I often get a little too wrapped up in doing the filming thing and need to take more time to smell the fresh earth wafers!
 My Dad was having a tough season and he hadn’t really been seeing any deer.  He went to a stand that had been productive in past years and I sat on the other side of the road hoping like Hell he’d at least see something.  Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t been cheated in his hunting career.  He’s shot some dandies but not many with the bow.  I looked at my watch about 8:43am and thought to myself, “Man I just hope Dad’s seeing something”.  The irony in this statement is that I’m sure he was thinking the same thing for me. Just then this 200lb-plus bruiser comes trotting out of the dingweeds looking for a fight.  His neck was puffed up and when I stopped him with a mouth bleat, he turned slightly quartering to me.  I picked a spot and drove the arrow from the top of his right shoulder down through his off left hind quarter with no exit that I could see. He ran off into the hardwoods but the blood trail wasn’t very good.  He was filling up inside but the arrow was plugging the exit hole.  I waited an hour, backed out and got Dad.  I told him I needed his help tracking a deer that I had shot.  I mentioned nothing about this deer’s size at the time.  This is where that mystical time came into play where we’ll both remember every step for a long time.  Here we had the hunter who passed down the heritage to the guy who helped start “Heritage Hunters”.  Very cool for me indeed!

Now I pretty much knew this deer was in trouble but the lack of blood concerned me.  Dad was cool and collected. He took notice of hair, scuff marks, and the little blood we had.  We took it easy and finally came upon him.  It was quite comical because I saw the deer first and kind of whispered to Dad but his old ears couldn’t hear me, even though he was about 5 steps away.  Finally I said rather loudly, “Dad!” and he looked up.  We went up to the beast and just hugged each other.  He was beaming with pride and we both took a knee giving thanks and praise.  Even though the only deer Dad saw that morning was the one I had shot, it sure was enough to make this particular birthday one for the memory banks! On a side note, he also learned a little about the whole process Dan and I go through with the video/still picture side of things after the deer is recovered.  I had the old guy snapping pictures right and left and running the camera. He’s got a greater appreciation for that stuff now.  He even hauled the tripod up in the woods for the picture you see here.

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 Dan and I are often asked why we started “Heritage Hunters”.  I think this story pretty much sums it up!

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