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Archive for March, 2009

Duped by Decoys
Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Duped by Decoys
by Dylan R Ainsworth

Mistakes this spring left me wondering if I’ll ever enter the woods with a turkey decoy again.
 
 My new found annoyance for the fake birds started off the very first day of open season before daybreak. My ol’ man and I crept silently along a secluded field edge under the cover of darkness.  The bitter chill of this early May morning in Vermont stimulated my senses. We slinked as close to the roost tree as we felt comfortable. 

I set-up my camera on a tripod, and got into position against a stout pine. The ol’man crawled a distance into the open field to set out a breeding pair of turkey decoys.  I sat not twenty yards away, yet I could not see him through the dimness of the dawn mixed with a slight fog that loomed over the field. Then from the serene silence came the two most wretched sounds I could image hearing. The first was a swooshing of plastic bird against vinyl carrying bag.

Immediately following came a precession of wing flapping descending from the tall oaks directly above where I sat.  “Perhaps we got a little too close this time.” I thought to myself, as my dad made his way back to the wood line oblivious to the fact that we were busted. Upon relaying the news he insisted that we stay in hopes of calling the tom in after daylight.

The sun rose to reveal four hens a hundred yards away. They made their way, randomly pecking across the field paying no interest to the false full strut tom parading in front of us, or the clucks and purrs emitting from our box call.  Once the group entered the woods I convinced the ol’ man to admit defeat in hopes of moving to a different area.   To top off the humiliation, as we were driving away down a narrow dirt road, there standing in the driveway of a double-wide trailer, was our quarry. He displayed his distinct fan which had two feathers broken off as if to say “yes it is me, a half-mile away”. My ol’man and I contemplated an ambush from another direction but decided that we’d messed with this bird enough and were likely to make him leave the area entirely if pursued further.

We still had the major portion of the morning to hunt, so it was off to our back-up, the farm near home. To my amazement, there was a flock of five birds in the middle of  the farthest field visible from the road. The ol’ man was apprehensive about stalking up to them until I mapped out a route which took us up a creek bed. Closing the distance to a hundred yards we set-up in an adjacent field separated by a row of aspen. To our delight a hen showed interest in our first series of yelps and headed toward us, bringing a  larger bird in tow. From that distance, even through the trees I could clearly make out his head blazoned with bright red. As the two birds crossed into the field I gained a clear view through my Bushnell binos of the bird’s short beard, which in a queer way stuck straight up toward his beak. Once the hen was aware of the large tom decoy in the brush to my right she skirted to the wood line and rejoined the three other birds. They continued making their way to a plowed section of field behind and to the right of our position. Among them I spotted a tom, who upon seeing our decoy led his harem in the opposite direction.  

 My ol’ man lured the jake closer.  I watched as the full fan of the bird still in the flock was moving farther and farther away. The small turkey came within ten yards and put on an excellent show for the camera with his upright beard. We had no intentions of bagging an immature bird on the first day of the season so I filmed as he meandered by. Nearing the gobbler decoy, he kept a cautious distance while inspecting the rubber hen that was mounted beneath. He eventually lost interest and rejoined the rest of the flock, including the longbeard who so bluntly avoided our decoys.
 

We glassed the large tom that strutted five hundred yards away. With only one hour left, we had to make a quick plan if we were going to get set up on the gobbler. However our plans were made for us. I watched in astonishment as a man dressed all in blue carrying a shotgun walked through the middle of the field toward the flock. We immediately left and notified the farmer of the intrusion this passer-by was making on his posted property.
 

The next morning came and I was sitting in the same spot that my father took his tom from the previous year. I was watching an obscured creature coming to investigate the solo hen decoy resting in front of my dad. It was well before daylight so my initial thought was that it was a fox. Nearing the decoy the black object raised its head, gave an alarm putt and sped off in the opposite direction. I was dumbfounded that a turkey would be down from the roost this early and also curious as to what spooked it. Daylight came and in front of me lay a rubber hen on its  side! The early riser must have thought the unstaked decoy was a dead comrade and fled in fear.
 

The rest of the season came and went leaving me wishing I’d blasted the jake from day one. Learning from your mistakes is a part of hunting and in each mistake there is a lesson.  I think maybe next year I’ll leave the decoy bag at home and forgo anymore lessons in that department.

Workin’ With Your Decoys
Monday, March 23rd, 2009

Workin’ with your Decoys
By Ted Arndt

A light rain was falling as I watched the birds enter the field from an opening in the trees at its far corner.  It was 9:25 and the intermittent rain and cold winds had kept the turkeys in the roost for a bit longer than was usual.  I counted six hens with the gobbler I’d been calling before they disappeared behind a slight rise as they scratched their way along the opposite side of the field.  Just when the last bird was out of sight, I let go with a short series of cackles and was instantly rewarded by the staccato burst of a long gobble.  Then silence.

 My eyes feverishly scanned back and forth across an expanse of corn stubble, but it seemed an eternity before I saw the flock again.  Then, directly in front of me and out about 120 yards, I could just make out the top of an enormous fan and then a white head.  Scattered on either side, the rest of the birds materialized as they slowly followed the gobbler across the field towards my set-up.  I cackled once more as the tom turned to face my decoys, and he came straight at them.

 I waited motionless; gun shouldered and on my knee, as the small flock hung up for a few minutes about 60 yards out.  Finally, after two hens joined my decoys, the old red-head committed.  When he passed the farthest decoy, I knew he was within 35 yards.  I was dialed in as the old gobbler passed the middle decoy of my three-bird spread.  The click of the safety seemed like a rifle shot as I made final adjustments for the kill.  I purred one more time as the gobbler came to full strut.  When the old boy craned his neck to locate the sound, I began to put pressure on the trigger.  Suddenly, my Wingmaster rocked, pushing me backwards as I sent the deadly package of buffered six shot on its way.  The booming report scattered hens in all directions, but when I brought the gun back down, that old tom lay fluttering in the field almost exactly between the two closest decoys.  At 25 yards, he had taken at least a dozen lethal hits in the head and upper neck.

 As with many turkey stories, this successful hunt was the culmination of thorough pre-season scouting, careful sight selection and hours of calling practice with my wife yelling at me from the kitchen.  What really mattered during those final moments though was the decoy setup.  After all, decoys are a time-tested method of bringing in the gobblers.  But what can we really get out of them?  Just how does one set-up decoys for maximum effectiveness? In order to get the most from their plastic hens, turkey hunters should consider several aspects of the decoy set-up beside their visibility to approaching toms.  These factors include axis of approach, decoy orientation and ranging.

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 One time a while back I was onto a pretty nice gobbler, and like the bird described above, he hung-up in clear view, this time about 100 yards out.  He was directly in line with me, decoys exactly between us.  “Great!” you might say, but not so in this case.  When I called to get him moving again, he localized me by scanning beyond the decoys and never came an inch closer.  This occurred even though I was in full camo and in what I consider a pretty decent stand.  How might I have bagged that fellow?  If I’d anticipated the turkey’s axis of approach, I could have offset my decoys by 15 yards or more.  This has worked well for me in the past, likely because it distracts gobblers from my calling position.  It’s just not a great idea to get those turkeys looking in your direction if you can help it, and it only takes a little foresight to prevent in most situations. 

 OK, so you’ve considered the most likely direction from which that fat old boss’ll be coming and you’ve set the spread off-axis so he won’t be looking your way.  Now its time to think about which way he he’ll likely be traveling.  You may think this is nuts, but I’d swear that the older birds are sometimes a bit egotistical.  If they already have hens with them, they might not turn and come in for just a couple more, especially if they think they might hook up with ‘em later.  If you face your decoys in the opposite direction though, it may help to “turn the bird”.  It’s as if some gobblers like the challenge of corralling hard-to-get hens and will move more quickly for a decoy spread that gives that impression.  This makes some sense when you consider that many toms will hold tight if the caller gives them the idea that a hen is a little too eager.

 Well now; the set-up is perfect, off-axis and coy.  The gobbler’s on his way in and you’re ready to shoot.  Finally, WHAM!  You send some lead down-range and… holy smokes! That gobbler manages to slip his head right through your pattern!  This will never happen if you use your decoys as range markers.  My stride is about a yard long. When I reach my stand, I grab my backpack, turn, and march-off twenty good paces.  There I set my first decoy.  Ten more paces and the second one goes in.  Another five and the third (if I decide to use three) gets planted.  With this set up, when that bird gets to the farthest decoy, I know I’ve got to get set.  When he passes the middle one, he’s in range.  I always shoot after he passes the second and before he gets to the closest “hen”.  Any closer than the nearest decoy and my pattern is tight enough that the shot becomes more difficult; beyond the farthest and it’s not a sure thing.  If he doesn’t come closer than the thirty yard decoy, I don’t let go.  It’s that simple. I’ve been using this technique since who-knows-when and I haven’t let a bird go once he entered my kill zone.   Now, I use a three inch 12 gauge and a good old-fashioned factory 30 inch, full-choke barrel.  If you’ve got a three and a half 10 gauge turkey buster with one of those ultra tight choke tubes, you maybe can put that spread out a bit farther… fine.  But always pace off the distance so you know for certain how far you’ll be shooting.  Not only does it give you confidence before you take your shot, but it really does prevent maimed birds and a lot of disappointment.

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 So, the next time you’re preparing for a turkey hunt, put as much thought into your decoy spread as you do your blind site.  If you consider the axis of approach of that old tom, your decoys’ orientation, and their use as range markers, you’ll bring your spread to a whole new level.  Now, I know everyone has their opinion and maybe I share mine more often than I should, but I’m convinced these three guidelines for turkey decoy set-up will help you to bag more birds.

Review of the Done Deal Bow by Bear Archery
Saturday, March 21st, 2009

The Done Deal Bow by Bear Archery

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Bear Archery has a long and storied history of manufacturing quality bows. The first compound bow that I owned was the Bear Whitetail II (I got it when I was 12 years old and made some fond memories with that bow) so when we got the chance to review the newest line of Bear bows we got a little excited! I’ll be honest, it’s been several years since Bear came out with anything that turned our heads. Within the last couple of years however, the design team at Bear must have pulling some all nighters! They are now not only developing bows that look sharp, but are packed with features you’d find on any top dollar bow out there on the market. Since teaming up with the guys from Primos Hunting Calls, Bear Archery has several bows that appeal to various levels of bowhunting experience. One of those bows is the Done Deal and after some extensive testing, I can honestly say that its performance far outweighs its price tag.

�Specs on the Done Deal:

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Axle to Axle Length: 32.25 inches
Draw Weight: 60lbs / 70lbs
Draw Length Range: 24 – 30 inches
Speed (IBO): 307 – 311 fps
Brace Height: 7.25 inches
Mass Weight: 3.8lbs
Let-Off: 80%

First Impressions: This bow looks sharp with the Realtree APG HD camo finish and the added dual color string is a head turner as well. This bow came with zero blemishes on the limbs or riser and I was pleased to see extra serving on the areas where the string would contact the Dual Arc String Suppressors. The bow felt very light in the hand and the sleek profile of the riser and grip had me chomping at the bit to shoot it.

Grip: The one-piece synthetic grip feels great in the hand. The slim nature of the overall grip and narrow throat is something that we personally like. I noticed no hand torque with my particular style of grip (fingers laid on the front of the riser rather than open). The synthetic rubber material serves as a vibration dampener and we thought the Orange Bear logo on the handle is a nice match to the Tech Twist string and cables.

Riser: The sleek profile of the machined aluminum riser caught our eye immediately. It has a lower degree of reflex from past Bear s and that translates to a more forgiving shot. Bear has found a way with this lightweight riser to combine strength and accuracy into a more maneuverable profile for the tree stand and blind hunter.

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Limbs: The limbs of the Done Deal are split, which Bear calls “Quad” limbs, and are flared toward the cam and idler wheel. This flaring helps to distribute the associated stress of the draw and shot cycle allowing for the limbs to be lighter while at the same time, stronger. The limbs are short and also, what Bear calls, “Beyond Parallel” providing for a smooth release and the further reduction of vibration.

Dual Arc String Suppressors: We were very intrigued as to how effective the Dual Arc String Suppressors would be in our testing. Not only did we question there shot dampening abilities, we wondered how the contact area of the string and rubber stoppers would hold up as well. Extending from the back of the riser, these rubber tipped arms did a phenomenal job at silencing the shot. I’ve never owned a bow that I did not put some sort of aftermarket dampening accessories on. Whether that is in the form of limb dampeners or string dampeners, I always felt that I could make the shot quieter. Not only did I not feel the need to do this with the Done Deal, I could not discern any noticeable difference in noise or vibration even when my curiosity got the best of me and I played around with the dampeners. With the Dual Arc Suppressors, you get all the silencing attributes of on-string dampeners without the extra weight slowing your shot down. Kudos to the engineers at Bear for this design!

Cam and Idler: Simply put, we love this cam configuration. The oversized cam design along with the asymmetric power track provides an ultra smooth draw with a rock solid wall. There is very little valley with this set-up and we were able to achieve very good speeds with our hunting arrows. (A consistent 280 fps at 70lbs / 29 inch Draw and 400 grain Victory V1 Arrows) A good showing of how smooth this cam is that it allows me to shoot two weeks of video league (A make-up week and regularly scheduled week) on the same night, back to back, with very little stress to my shoulder. That’s 60 shots in under an hour with virtually no fatigue. The cam comes in 1 inch modular increments with 1/2 inch post increments. A large range of the draw length can be adjusted without a bow press.

Limb Cups: The limb cups contain rubber isolation boots that keep the base of the limbs from actually touching the limb cup. This separation further serves to reduce vibration transfer at the shot to the riser. The metallic green color of these limb cups fit in well with the overall color scheme of the bow.

Difference Between Truth 2 and Done Deal: If you’ve noticed some similarities between Bear’s flagship Truth 2 bow and the Done Deal, that’s because there’s not much difference. Here are the basic differences in a nutshell

The Done Deal / The Truth 2

Price: $579.99 / $699.99
Length: 32.25 in. / 33 in.
Speed (IBO):307-311 fps / 314-318 fps
Brace Height:7.25 in. / 7 in.
Mass Weight:3.8 lbs / 3.9 lbs
String: Tech Twist / Winner’s Choice
Extras on Truth 2 but not on Done Deal: Axle-Mounted weighted dampeners and Stainless Steel Stabilizer bushing

Fast Facts & Summary: Dan and I would characterize the Done Deal as an excellent choice for serious bowhunters that want to maximize bang for their buck! This bow has top shelf quality features for a mid range price tag. Here’s another Fast Facts video production on the Done Deal

�

Our Marks on the Done Deal by Bear Archery

Workmanship: 5 out of 5
Zero flaws in finish and after looking at the row of Bear s at our local pro shop; this confirms our high score in this area.

Draw Cycle: 5 out of 5
Who doesn’t love a nice big, smooth drawing cam?

Hand shock / Noise: 5 out of 5
The combination of vibration eliminating features found on this bow works! I can’t be any clearer than that.

Speed: 4 out of 5
The Done Deal doesn’t claim to be a speed bow but with the limb/cam and Dual Arc String Suppressor configuration, we got pretty good speed with our relatively heavy hunting arrows.

Overall Value: 5 out of 5
The Done Deal is an excellent value at a mid level price range.

Accessories Used While Testing the Done Deal:
Ultra Rest from Quality Archery Products
Victory Arrows
Go Pro Hero Camera (Head Cam)
S-Coil Stabilizer
ProChrono Digital PAL Chronograph

Special Thanks to Archery Connection in Middleburgh NY for the use of the lanes during the production of our Fast Facts bow review

March 2009 Member Profile
Monday, March 2nd, 2009

This Month’s Member profile is on Joel Medley from Elgin, South Carolina

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(Pictured: Joel and his son spending some time in the outdoors)

HH:    Tell us a little about yourself and hunting background Joel.

Joel:  My family currently lives just north of Columbia, SC; and I am an educator by profession – taught, been a principal, and worked at the state level.  The Lord made it abundantly clear that we were to move here through so many open doors (e.g. our house sold in 3 days during this awful market).  My wife just loves her job of being a stay home mom, and it thrills my heart every day when I open that garage door – my son is standing there waiving at me.

The statement that changed my life was made by a pastor in Minnesota.  John Piper has said that “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.”  Despite all the turmoil and uncertainty in the world today, God never changes and that is my anchor.  True satisfaction can be found in Him and not money or things in this world. 

My hunting background is owed to my grandfather, who took me small game hunting as a little boy, and my father, who introduced me to the wonders of archery.  As I reached middle school, I hit a growth spurt and basketball became my passion instead.  After years of playing, finishing college, and tearing my ACL, the basketball passion waned; so I returned to my love of the outdoors.  A friend of mine and former Marine in NC helped me rekindle those lost skills while also honing them tremendously.

I am probably the only hunter known to mankind that has hunted for as long as I have without ever taking a buck.  I’ve jumped them on the way to my stand and on my way out of my stand.  I’ve come closer to hitting one with my truck than when hunting.  It goes without saying, but that’s frustrating – especially when you see the answer to question 5 below.

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

Joel:  Without a doubt, bowhunting is my favorite!  I currently use a Quest QS33 set to 70 pounds at a 29 inch draw.  This is the smoothest and quietest bow I’ve ever had my hands on.  I cannot afford this “big name” bows but got a great deal on this Quest.  I utilize a Tru-Glo Xtreme sight, Hostage rest, and Fuse Carbon Connexion stabilizer.  I am not loyal to any brand of broadheads (beginning to lean toward the G5 Montecs though) or arrows at this time. 

Shooting a deer at 125 yards with a rifle is one thing; but when you are up close and personal, that’s another story.  The first deer I shot with my bow was an incredible experience.  That doe was sniffing me out (lesson learned) and stomping that right foot.  The only thing that saved me was my location because I put my Summit climber in great cover.  The shot was negligible (lesson learned), but the Lord blessed me to find her 2 hours later.  The humbling part was the ½ drag out of the thickest brush known to man.  Why?  Because I left my knife in my vehicle (lesson learned) and could not field dress her. 

HH:  What advice about this type of hunting can you relay to the members of Heritage Hunters?

Joel:  As you can tell from the story above, my first deer with a bow taught me four big lessons:  (1) scent control, (2) stand placement, (3) confidence in your shot, and (4) always be prepared.  First, I don’t have a lot of money to put into scent control clothing, so I store my hunting clothes according to the area I will be hunting (e.g. if lots of pines are around, I’ll put fresh pine clippings in my storage box).  I have also utilized some of that scent cover spray and scent-free detergent.  To dry those clothes, I also put some leaves, dirt, and pine cones in a moist, tied-up old pillow case.  The high heat releases those “earthy” odors and helps cover the human smell too.  Second, the key to your stand placement is blending.  If you “stick out like a sore thumb,” you are busted.  Find your location in the late winter and do the trimming then, so those shooting lanes are ready for hunting season.  Third, when in doubt about a shot, don’t.  I have been lucky thus far in that every animal I’ve shot has made it to the freezer.  I had a couple deer in great lanes that were just a little far for me, and I had to pass because merely wounding an animal is not my intention.  Finally, take everything you need with you.  That ½ mile drag in 90 degree heat was not what I had hoped for.  When I called my wife, expecting some sympathy, her retort was simple:  “Hey, it’s your fault for not being prepared.  Just suck it up and get that deer home.”  The Lord placed good women here to keep us humble!

HH:  If you could hunt anywhere in the world for any type of animal, where and what would it be for?

Joel:  This is a tough one.  I will be living a dream in September when I get to go elk hunting in Washington.  I’ve never had the opportunity to leave the country, so a fly-in hunt somewhere in Canada would be great.  As far as the animal, moose would be an option, but I’d probably want to try my hand at bear hunting – archery of course. 

HH:  How did your Fall Seasons turn out?

Joel:  Oh boy, don’t get me started here because it was the worst hunting season of my life.  Part of the problem is that, with a recent move to another state, I have not yet made connections for private land.  While living in NC, I had 3 great places (2 of them private) within 20 minutes of the house; but here in SC, the closest land I’ve found is an hour away.  With a little boy at home and wanting to be with him, that scenario is not conducive to getting to the woods often.

I did not get any deer this year.  I did draw back on a shooter buck, which would have been my first ever, to await his clearing of a stand of pines.  Just before he took that final step, two dogs came running into the field and away that buck went.  To add insult to injury, those dogs proceeded to “love one another.”  That pretty much sums up how this season progressed.

HH:  What are your plans for the 2009 Seasons (Turkey / Deer / Waterfowl / hogs)?

Joel:  I’ve never been turkey or waterfowl hunting and am trying to find someone here that can mentor me in that process.  For sure, I’ll be back in the woods for some deer and squirrel while also sitting in fields for some dove. 

I’m really excited about September because the family is off to Washington.  My wife has friends up there and they are avid hunters.  We visited them in the past and I was taught to fly fish – what a relaxing venture.  When we get there, I’ll participate in my first archery elk hunt.  Probably on two days, we’ll hunt elk in the mornings and evenings while fishing for steelhead during the day.  Only 6 more months!

HH:  Can you tell us the story behind your HH forum screen name?

Joel:  “JEMEDM” really does not have a big story behind it.  I took my three initials and combined them with my wife’s three initials to create the screen name.  It always reminds me of what’s truly important in life.

HH:  How are you passing on / or intend to pass on the Hunting Heritage?

Joel:  My son is 15 months old, and I’ve already taken him out in the woods with me to do some scouting.  I bought this back-pack carrier and he loves that thing.  My wife will not yet allow me to take him on a hunting trip, and that’s okay.  I will strap him in that carrier and will shoot my bow with him back there.  If you want to test your accuracy, see how well you shoot with a 25 pound boy on your back that is constantly squirming and smacking you with sticks!  Needless to say, my budget for arrows has increased a bit.  He has gotten to the point now that he calms down when I draw back; and when I release that arrow, he goes “OOOOOHHHHH!”  There’s nothing like that in the world.

My hope is to instill in him a love for the outdoors and the skills necessary to survive.  Unfortunately, hunting and fishing traditions are diminishing among this younger generation; and when they learn to love the outdoors, they will exert more effort in taking care of it.

HH:  What’s the best thing you like about TheHeritageHunters.com?

Joel:  I really like the variety offered.  Some other sites only focus on archery or guns, but this site has a healthy mix.  Living in the warm South, I’ve never had the chance to talk about ice fishing with anyone until joining this site.  The people on here have been wonderful!  I do not have a local bow shop remotely close – more than 80 miles away – but through this site, I’ve been able to make a contact in Michigan that will serve as my “local” shop.

Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions Joel and thank you for your membership to Heritage Hunters!                            – Heritage Hunters Staff

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