How good of a Turkey Hunter are You?
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Turkey Hunters might be even more passionate about chasing a long bird as a Whitetail Deer Hunter chasing a monster buck.  The reality is both require skills, determination, practice and right equipment.  I will profess that I am not as skilled as a Turkey Hunter as I am a Deer Hunter but I love to chase those birds with a bow.  I have just started getting hard-core with Turkey Hunting over the past few years. Turkey in itself is hard enough but swop out a shotgun with a bow and it becomes even more difficult.  My goal is to help you learn from my mistakes and share some pearls I have learned.

There are three areas I would suggest you consider for this upcoming season and they are 1) What Equipment & Resources are you using 2) Strategies & Bowhunting Tips to consider and 3) Practice Scenarios. If you are a beginner or intermediate turkey hunter this article may benefit you.  If you are a very seasoned Turkey Hunter not sure this article is for you.

Equipment and Resources

Like Deer Hunting there is no one product or company that has the magic bullet or in our case arrow.  There are many good products and companies that provide great products.  In my opinion Turkey Hunting Equipment becomes very personal.  For example; some folks are better with one type of mouth call vs. another.  Some hunters only use a box call or slate.  Others use all of them.  As a bow hunter, I like a mouth call b/c it helps me deal with one less thing.  I have been trying a number of mouth calls over past few years.  This year I have found the Knight & Hale mouth calls fit me well.  Does not mean the other Primos calls I have used don’t work well.  I am currently practicing with the Primos Lil’ Hot Box and really like it.  I will be hunting with it.  I have also tried the new Knight & Hale Push – Pull Plus call.  I like it and it is good call for someone just getting into chasing birds.  I think it boils down to confidence in your equipment.   Try them all as much as you can.

Next you need to utilize the DVDs many of the companies provide with their calls when you buy them. Most of the time they are good.  I love the DVD that Primos puts out with many of their calls.  They do a very good job of educating you on how to use calls.  Other resources would be to get a mentor to help make sure you are making the calls correctly.  If you do not have this go to www.NWTF.com and they have a place to listen to different Turkey Calls to compare your calling to.
Take away is to try a number of brands & products to see what works best for YOU.

Strategies & Bowhunting Tips

If you bow hunt big game with your bow there are many skills you can bring to Turkey Hunting.  With that said these long beards can be very difficult and require some new thought process.  You are NOT going to get busted because your scent is not under control.  You will get busted if you move too much because their eyesight is Great.  They also excellent hearing some you have to be quite and make good calls or it is a NO GO!  We have some good resources on specific Strategies and Bowhunting Tips at www.blog.stickmearchery.com for you to reference in areas such as Shot Placement, Calling, Broadheads and Video.  For this article consider scenarios where you would hunt from a ground blind and scenarios where you would hunt from the ground with a bow.  Both of these scenarios can be very productive and produce great results but do require some thinking ahead.  For example; if hunting off the ground need to ensure have enough back drop cover to draw bow and decoy placement is important so you can draw bow for clean shot without being seen.  Bill harvested this big Osceola Gobbler with his bow hunting from the ground.

Practice – Practice – Practice

We also hear about shooting our bow prior to Deer Season.  Well you should practice now for Turkey Season if you dare to hunt with a bow.  Practice from your ground blind and practice from the ground if that is how you will be hunting.  Now take it up a notch and put the mouth call in your mouth and draw your bow.  Try making a Cluck at Full Draw that sounds real.  Hold the bow for a few seconds then let it rip.  Did you hit where you need to?  If not, keep practicing.  The reason for this is if you are going to hunt by your self you may need to mouth call to get that Gobbler within Bow range.  Practice it now and it will pay off.  Practice when ever and where ever you can.  I drive my family crazy with my constant calling while I am in my office.  I have also been known to have my calls with me while watching my boys baseball practice.  I will go out into the field away from everyone so I can practice.  At the same time watching my boys play ball.

Products referenced in Archery Shop


Knight & Hale Push – Pull Plus
Primos Diagram Calls
Knight & Hale Judgment Day 4- Pack Diagram

Other new turkey calls for 2011 are the following……

Flextone Big Sexy Mouth Call

Primos Lil Hot Box


Where to Stick’em – Bowhunting Turkey’s
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If you are bowhunting a Turkey you most likely bowhunt big game as well. If that is the case you know how vital a well placed arrow is to ethically harvest that animal. We also know that each animal’s vitals are placed in slightly different places within each animal. The same holds true with a Gobbler. Below is a review of a variety of shot placements for the bowhunter to ethically harvest a Long Beard. Some of these shot are more preferred than others.
What Broadhead to use? In most cases any broadhead that you would use for bowhunting deer would work for harvesting a turkey. Now, I have my favorites and there are some broadheads designed specifically for shooting a Turkey. Key factors for you to consider for shooting a Turkey is to make sure your broadhead Flies Straight, is Sharp and is not Loud. What do I mean by load? If you have ever “safely” positioned yourself to be able listen to a broadhead as it flies into the target. We do this anytime we shoot a new broadhead. Keep in mind we are putting all safety measures in place. Believe it or not some broadheads are “LOUD” and make a lot of noise down range as it hits target. As you know a Turkey can hear very well and your target zone is smaller with a Turkey. Now the faster your bow shoots this becomes less of an issue. I have shot the NAP Thunderhead and Thunderhead Edge with a lot of success. I like them because they shoot really well and are SHARP! There are many other broadheads that are effective and do the job. The Guillotine type of Broadheads for Turkey Bowhunting  such as the Magnus Bullhead Turkey Broadhead, Gobbler Guillotine Turkey Broadhead, and The Guillotine Turkey Broadhead are becoming more and more popular. They are extremely effective. Below are a few examples of these types of Broadheads for Bowhunting Turkeys. If you are going to shoot these make sure you take the time before Turkey Season to practice and tune them for your bow.

Aim for his neck – This can be an extremely effective kill shot for a Turkey but you need to use a certain type of broadhead for it. A Guillotine type of Broadhead is Preferred. This type of broadhead will take his head slap off his body. You can view a few different types of Guillotine Broadheads at the end of the article…..
Walking Away Backbone/Spine Shot -is one of the shot placement options for bowhunting Turkeys. This shot if done correctly will immediately immobilize the bird and it should die quickly. The ideal scenario for this shot is with the Turkey standing straight up with his head up and back towards you. A shooting scenario that is NOT recommend to take is if the turkey has his head down and is walking away feeding. This is not an ideal shot due to the angle of his spine.
Broadside ShotThe shot placement is where the Butt of the Wing connects to the turkey’s body. A tip is to follow his leg up his body. Based on the vitals of a turkey you will be able to ethically harvest the bird in this area. This shot will most likely break the wings, hit backbone or hit heart/lungs. If you shoot too far forward you will may miss the vitals.
Standing Upright Facing Archery Shot PlacementThis is not the most ideal shot but if you do take this shot aim at a point that is ~ 4-5 inches below the base of his neck or about an inch below where the beard is attached to a Gobbler’s body. Your arrow should break his back , hit heart/lung area, and/or break wing….
Texas Heart Archery Shot This is not the most ideal shot but can be an effective one if that is all you have to work with. If you are not able to get the bird to come out of a strut by making a few clucks and he is walking a way in full strut. With his back toward you and fan is hiding you, draw your bow and aim at his vent or anus. In this scenario your broadhead and arrow should hit heart, lungs, or liver along with breaking a wing or leg….
Strutting Facing Archery ShotIn this scenario if you are not able to get the bird to get broadside and / or come out of full strut. Aim slightly below where his beard comes our from his feathers. Do not forget to adjust your aim left or right if he is standing at an angle.
Broadside Archery Shot “Strutting Gobbler” While effective not the most desired shot but many times this is what you are dealt with. When you take this shot with your bow, aim for a spot in front of the secondary, bronze colored, wing feathers. This will be near the black-tipped body of feathers begins. This point will be directly in-line with the hip joint. Another way to think of it is to follow his leg up his body to where you see the red dot on the picture. It may look like you are shooting back but that is the area of the vitals for a Turkey.


Put Grunt down and pick up Box Call….
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If you are like me you are already beginning to think about Turkey Season.  I hunted for the last time this past week and have already had a mind shift toward chasing some long beards across the USA….  In spite of growing up on a ranch in Florida Turkey Hunting was not a big part of what we did.  We hunted Deer and Hogs.  Over the past several years I have fallen in love with bowhunting turkeys.

Chasing an Osceola Turkey or any turkey can present its own challenges but add a Bow and Arrow to the mix.  It can be just down right tough.  This year we will be Turkey Hunting in Florida, South Carolina, Illinois and Kentucky.    Let’s talk about some sure fire ways to killing a bird with a Bow and some sure fire ways of messing up (Which I have done plenty of).

Starting with the basics are key no matter if you are hunting with gun or bow.  This includes practicing your calling, thinking about set ups, and getting your equipment ready.  Now you might be awesome caller but I am not.  I am good but do not profess to be an expert.  I have some buddies that are ridiculously good.  So, for me I will start calling and practicing my calls over the next month (in the truck, at home, baseball practice….).

A Turkey has unreal hearing so you have to be able to “talk the talk” or that old bird or hen will not respond.  Thus the hunt is over!  This becomes especially more pronounced as the season progresses and the birds have been hunted.  Expand your calling ability by learning new types of calls or calling scenarios.  If you are good at box call try to use a mouth call or vice versa.  This may help you close the deal on a gobbler that is held up but will not come all the way in.  That extra sound may do the trick.  I have gotten better at the mouth call and slate call over the past few years.  Although, I still have  difficulty in making a purr with my mouth call.  So, I rely on my slate or friction call to do it.  I will continue to practice but until then I will use different calls to help me in the field.  Practice with a friend and have them critique you.  You may think you sound great but all reality is you may need some work. Now is the time to work on it.

Next think about your set ups…….1) How will you hunt these birds on the ground?  2) Will you use a ground blind, hunt on the ground, listen, spot and stalk, ect…  I do not believe there is only one way to bowhunt a Turkey.  All can be effective.  There is no question that hunting from the ground can be very challenging because of the lack of concealment beyond your camo.  Consider scenarios where you will have some backdrop, logs, bushes, trees to help conceal you as you draw your bow.  Bowhunting out of a ground blind is pretty straightforward.  A key factor is where you set up your blind in relation to where the turkey is going to be coming and where you place your decoys.

Something I have seen over the years is that a Turkey will NOT get alarmed at the sight of a ground blind newly placed in an area.  They will be so focused on the decoys they will pay no attention to the blind.  So, worry less about concealing the blind but more on where to place it to ensure you can pull the birds in for effective shot.  Now, I love to hunt from the ground.  It can be very challenging but I enjoy the challenge.  So what are some good lessons to follow.  In this case position yourself within your effective shooting range but find cover to allow you to draw your bow.  Strategic placement of your decoys can greatly help you here.  When that gobbler comes in and is so focused on that decoy he will be less focused on what is around him.  This allows you to draw your bow and make the shot without getting busted.  Finding the right backdrop or creating the right backdrop is vital to you being able to pull this off.  Additionally, I am a huge fan of a 3-D leafy type of camo.  I have used the Mossy Oak Diffusion in Obsession Camo for Turkey hunting and for early season bowhunting for big game.  It is lightweight, provides great concealment and breaths very well.  No matter what camo you use finding something that matches your hunting environment is the take away.

Decoy placement is something that I have made a lot of mistakes on over the past few years.  Do you use a hen with gobbler or just a hen?  Do you use a Jake with hen to simulate a young turkey breading hen.  The key is thinking about the scenarios you are hunting, the how the birds in that area react to certain scenarios, and how you place your birds.  For example, in Florida we have not had a lot of luck using a gobbler with our hens.  Not to say that does not work great but we have found that the birds on the ranch we hunt will not respond as well as just using a hen or adding a Jake to the hen.  Additionally, where you place the decoys in relation to where you will be shooting is important.  If you put them too close you may get busted but can not put to far away to be able to ethically take shot with bow.   Think about how that gobbler would come into that area.  If he is not comfortable he will not come in.  Make sure the decoys are visible and then in a position that will allow you to call and make your shot.

Getting your Equipment Ready – Okay, next think about your equipment.  I am a gadget guy.  I love having some of the newest equipment to help me in the field.  That is just me but I will use a call that I have been comfortable with but if there is a new type of call I will use it.  If there is a new decoy I may try it.  With all that said get your equipment out now to make sure it is working well and ready for that first hunt.  Last thing you want to do is get ready that first morning and something go wrong that ruins that first morning….

Other new turkey calls for 2011 are the following……

Flextone Big Sexy Mouth Call

Grading your Bowhunting Season – What did you learn……
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Every year I seem to look back on the season and analyze how things went.  As I have progressed as a bowhunter it has been less about how many deer I harvested and more about what I have learned.  This year is no different.  I have one more week left in the archery season here in Georgia and I will get after it a few more times.  If I do not pull off getting the buck I had been hunting I will be disappointed but will look forward to the potential of this mature buck next season.  How do you measure the success of your season.  There is no question that one of main goals of bowhunting is to harvest a mature buck (s) during the season.  Beyond that I do like to critique myself on the following areas:

1.    What did I do well?
2.    What areas did I not do well or short cutted?
3.    What did I learn about the property I am hunting?
4.    What will I do differently next year?
5.    Why do I think that buck out smarted me?
6.    How will I hunt this property next year?

These are just a few things I focus on as I wrap up the season.  I think it is always healthy to critique your skills.  That is the only way you will truly get better in the woods so you see more deer and have a chance to harvest that particular buck you are chasing.  So, lets use my season as example of what I did well and what I did not execute effectively….

What I did well
I am  a very detailed person when it comes to bowhunting and preparing for the bowhunt.  I think about my scent before and during the hunt, I used more aerial maps this year to better understand the property and deer movement.  I focused on the food sources for my Georgia and South Carolina properties.  I practiced a lot in the off season, used good Bowhunting Equipment, and used resources such as our Game Forecast charts and moon phases to determine when to hunt (oh yea the weather channel to).   Now I saw a lot of deer and a number of really good bucks that I passed on.  Although, I only had one encounter with a really big mature deer in Georgia (150 class deer).  It was a great encounter but did not work out to my advantage.

What I did NOT do well
With all that said I did a fair number of things right as a bowhunter.  So, why did I not shoot more deer?  It boils down to the details.  There were times I was not the most strategic with the wind as I went to and left my stands.  My stand locations were good but not great.  I should have been more focused on better travel zones to and from bedding and food sources.  While I did hunt these kinds of areas looking back I would make some changes for next year.  I put time into our food plots but they did not have the yield this year I expected in spite of doing many of the basics such as ph tests, fertilizer, lime, good seed, ect…  Having a proven game plan in important and following it is key.  What happens if your game plan is not getting you the results you are looking for.  You need to change it if you wan to get different results.  Taking a new risk on a new stand location in an area you would not normally choose can be productive.  I did not do that as much as I should have this year.

What will I do differently next year?
Hunting the Wind – when you only have one stand location and the weather changes for the better you want to get to woods ASAP.  Well, what if the wind is NOT PERFECT do you still hunt.  Well, I did make the mistake several times by gambling and went hunting.  I knew better but only had a few chances to hunt so I rolled the dice.  Well the outcomes was NO BUCKS.  Does it mean that b/c of the wind I was not able to harvest a deer.  Maybe, Maybe Not.  I will say it sure did not HELP me with a bad wind.  I will also be more focused on the wind as I get to my stand and will have multiple stands set up even on small piece of property.

Food Plots– I love putting in food plots even though I have made mistakes in the past.  I have done some awesome food plots that have produced unreal results and know the potential of a well done food source.  This year on our South Carolina Farm we made two big mistakes that resulted in weak food plots.  The first was we did not use enough seed, and secondly, the way we prepared the plot beds hurt the potential of the seed to germinate.  We will use a better method of raking in the seed once it has been applied or used a no till drill this year.  Additionally, I am going use a variety of seeds including corn as a crop this year.

Stand Location – setting up in the right location is critical to continue success.  Easier said than done.  So, where do you focus your efforts?  I always start with Food, Cover and Water as my primary considerations.  Next, I factor in things such as part of the season (Early, Rut, Late Season), Staging areas to food sources, and how will get to that particular location.  One thing I did not do as well as I would have liked this year is consider pressure on the property.  I do not necessarily mean hunting pressure but human pressure.  I hunt some suburban areas that have some human pressure that caused deer to be more nocturnal.  While the property on the surface looked like deer would be all over it.  The deer only moved in certain areas during the day due to this pressure.  Understanding the pressure and considering how the deer will adjust to this pressure will help me have better set up for next season.

Using Maps– Ariel Maps can be a huge asset in helping you better understand your property or a new piece of property you may be hunting for the first time.  Identifying Saddles, Funnels and other key areas that deer regularly use can save time and effort in locating a good deer.

When to Hunt and when not to hunt – I have gotten more disciplined on not going into the woods when the wind or conditions are not right.  It can be hard to do when you only have a few opportunities to hunt a particular piece of property.  Minimizing human pressure and being there when the conditions are to your advantage can pay off big….

Getting to my stand – Doing this with out getting busted can be a real challenge especially here  in the Southeast when you have so much cover that can have deer bedded in.  This is especially true on our South Carolina farm that has a lot of cover and a lot of deer on it.  Trying to slip into your stand without getting busted can be a real challenge.  Thinking about the wind direction as you get to the stand is key.  Don’t be afraid to take the long way there or use a creek, stream, or bad boy buggy to get there.

To learn more about bowhunting tips or to check out the latest Bowhunting Equipment. come back to www.StickemArchery.com- Archery Shop.

Best Hunt I Ever Had…..
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I have been fortunate enough to bowhunt and harvest some quality deer over the years with my business partner and long time friend Bill Lawson.  Together we have harvested some great deer with our bows and in 2007 I thought I had topped my hunting career with 193-inch state record buck in Georgia (previous Woods n Water Magazine Cover).  Well, all that changed when I took my 8-year-old son Tyler “T-Bone” Stephens, on his first hunting trip in South Carolina.  It was finally his time to try to shoot his first deer.  Prior to the trip his grandma “Jan” got him a new Remington Youth Model 243 with Nikon Scope.

I invited my brother Ronnie and his two sons, Griffin and Easton, to come for their first deer hunt as well.  Along for the hunt that weekend were my lease partners Aaron and Rhett Walker.  It was to be a family weekend to let the boys hunt.  With cold weather and rain it had the potential to be a great weekend.  The first day Tyler and I saw a few does but could not close the deal with none of them presenting an ethical shot.  We also saw a few spikes but I asked Tyler to wait and see if we see a nice 4-point for 6-point for him.  My nephew Easton was the first one on the board with an awesome doe he harvested on Saturday Night with a 270.  Just a great hunt for him.   The next morning his brother, Griffin, steps up and shots a great first buck at 175 yards.  We were all excited for these boys to get deer on their first hunt.  Both of them did a great job as if they had been hunting for years.  Tyler and I did not see anything that Sunday morning.  Additionally, my brother and everyone had to leave camp and head home with exception of Aaron.
So it is Aaron, Tyler and I have one more hunt on Sunday Night.  It is cold and very windy.  Almost to the point I am concerned the deer may not move.  Tyler has seen deer over the weekend but has not been able to pull the trigger.   We got in the stand about 3:45pm and did not see anything until 5pm when Tyler said, “Dad I see some does”.  He looked through the binoculars and said there are more coming out.”  They piled out and were feeding about 150 yards from blind.  I told Tyler lets take our time and make this happen.  After a few minutes of the does moving back and forth, one finally stepped out of the bunch broadside.  I told him to take the shot when he was ready.  He took a breath and fired but he missed.  Without getting upset we saw three of the does were still there.  The wind was helpful in not allowing the deer to know just where shot come from.  I said, “No problem buddy lets chamber another one and take another shot.”  One of the does turned broadside and Tyler took his time and let it roll.  That deer dropped in her tracks.  Needless to say we were over the top happy and high fiving.  Tyler does not get excited about a lot of things but I saw a new level of excitement that made me beyond happy.  He was smiling from ear to ear.

Well in most cases that would be a great end to a first hunt but it did not stop there.    I told “T-Bone” to wait for a few minutes and see what happens.  Well, as luck would have it he said Dad I see another deer.  It was a huge doe in the tree line that eventually stepped out at 130 yards.  I told him to get ready and take her.  He took his time and waited for her to turn.  Once she did he put it on her shoulder, took a breathe and fired.  It was a perfect shot.  She “jumped up” and ran off.  I knew he had hit her good.  At this point it was getting close to dark with only about 30 -40 minutes left of light.  Knowing I may not have a lot of blood with the 243, I decided to get down and find that second deer.  Tyler and I got down and when we got to his first doe and I hugged him with so much pride.  As I walked into the woods to find his second doe she was laying dead only 10 yards from where he shot her.  I drug her out and pulled both of them to the road.  At this point he is beyond excited.  At the same time Aaron is in a near by stand wondering what the heck is going on with some many shots.

I explained to Tyler we need to go back to the stand and wait until dark to go get Mr. Aaron.  As we are walking back to the blind I see a mature buck right in front of the stand feeding at 125 yards.  I froze and told “T-Bone” not to move.  We slowly squatted down on the ground right beside the blind.  I asked Tyler if he could make this shot and he said, “Dad I can do it”.  I said okay buddy because this is a good buck.  The deer was looking dead at us but was not overly spooked based on his body language.  We did not move and waited to see what he did.  He put his head down and I told Tyler to get ready.  I was squatted behind him acting as a brace as he positioned the rifle for a steady shot.  I told him to wait and see if he will turn broadside and once he does you have to make the shot.  As luck would have it the deer turned and I told him to put it on his shoulder and shoot.  He took a breath and shot.  The deer jumped up and ran off.  At this point I am a wreck as my son has just shot two does and now a big South Carolina buck.  I thought he was an eight point based on how quick it happened but at this time would have been happy for him to shoot a nice 4 or 6 point let alone a big 8.  Needless to say Tyler was coming out of his skin as well with excitement and joy.  I asked Tyler to explain to me what he did and where he shot the deer.  He said Dad I put it on his shoulder but I may have shot high.  I again explained to him we need to get in the stand and wait.  We cannot push the deer and we will give it a few more minutes and go get Mr. Aaron.  As we are waiting I see a coyote down by the does Tyler had just shot and I told him to get his gun ready and shoot him.  He told me he could not see him well, so I took the gun and shot the coyote.  At this point Aaron is just not sure what to think since we have now shot 5 times.
We go get Aaron and tell him the story as he thinks we are pulling his chain.  We get to the does and take pictures and then go track this buck.  Remember the wind is very strong still and getting worse.  I track this buck and walk up within 12 yards of him bedded down.  He is not dead.  He turns his head and looks at me as I am holding the light.  My heart sank a bit but I knew he was hit hard b/c he did not move.  I quickly turned the light off and eased out.  I went back to the truck and we decided to give this deer all night and not push him.  That is hard news for an 8 year old who just shot a big buck that we have to wait to find him.  Tyler’s words to me were “Dad that deer will die, I know I hit him good.”  I said okay buddy Mr. Aaron and I will find this deer but we have to give him some time.  It was a long night but we got back to the woods early the next morning and found where he was laying down.  Although, he was not there and there was not a lot of blood.  My heart sank a little again but knew he was hit hard.  As any parent would do in this situation is you stay positive and prepare for a long day of tracking to find him.  At this point I am looking for any other sign and Aaron hears something and steps up on a fallen tree.  He had heard a coyote on Tyler’s deer.  He saw a big coyote run off and then yelled to Tyler “T-Bone I found your Buck”.  Anyone that has to gone through this knows the feeling of over joy when you hear those words and when it is your child’s deer you feel even better.  While the coyotes had found the buck and did some damage to his body we found the deer.  The eight point that I thought Tyler had shot turned out to be a perfect 10-point with a kicker.  We were in shock of how good this deer was and Tyler was over whelmed with joy as he was holding his horns and I was squeezing him about to death with hugs.  I think Aaron and I were even more excited with how this turned out and how good this buck was for him.  While I do hate loosing any of the meat to a coyote it was the right thing to do to ensure we got this deer.  As I examined the deer to find where the bullet went in, I smiled as I saw a bullet whole that was a bit high in the shoulder.   He hit dead center in the shoulder but a little high just like he told me he did.

We explained to him that it does not always work out like this to shoot 3 deer in one night.  While this was Tyler’s Day I am more proud of how he handled himself and just how cool and collected he was at 8 years old during the entire hunt.  To miss his first deer that night and come back and ultimately shoot three deer is a great accomplishment.  I truly love the outdoors and bowhunting is my passion.  I have harvested some great deer but my hunting has now gone to the next level with my son now being part of a special group of sportsmen.   While this was a unique sequence of events it was one that I will always remember and remind Tyler of as he grows up.  This weekend reminds me of the being blessed with my children, great friends, family and the love of the outdoors.  For those who do not do this or look down on hunters they are truly misguided!  Thanks for reading my son’s story, as this was the best hunt of my life!

Late Season Bowhunting Tips
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By Brian Stephens
Stick’em Archery

For the most part the primary rut is over.  If you were fortunate to harvest a mature buck up to this point in the season, congratulations!  If you are like many of us and just did not see the type of deer you were looking for it is time to focus on late season strategies and tactics to have another opportunity to get on a mature deer.  I have several quotes that I will often relate to in my professional career that, I think are transferable to bow hunting.  The first is “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is a sign of insanity” and the second is “Perpetual Optimism is a Force Multiplier”.  How do this relate to bow hunting?  In order to be successful we have to adjust the way we hunt during the Early Season, the Rut and now the Late Season.  I am of the belief that you have to be willing to go where the deer are as they adjust their patterns to the changing season.  While bow hunting is one of the most gratifying sports it can also be very frustrating and difficult.  It is so important to stay positive and have the right mind set even when you are going through a dry spell.  I am going to share some tips on hunting the late season to hopefully give you one last opportunity to harvest a mature animal.  We will discuss factors that drive deer’s behavior this time of year, stand placement, and external factors such as the moon/WIND.

A few things that I focus on no matter what phase of the hunting season we are in and that is deer revolve around 1) Food, 2) Water, and 3) Cover.  We have had a tremendous amount of success over the years by considering these factors.  Understand that the food sources, water and cover may vary throughout the season.  Based on this it is important that you adjust your strategies/tactics.  During the late season the primary rut has occurred and bucks are looking for food to recover.  So, finding the food source is a primary factor.  This may be a food plot, and / or natural food source.  If you don’t have a food plot you may want to consider one for next year.  There are a number of resources on the site that can walk you through the right food plot for your areas.  Now we need to consider the cover situation.  As we know the cover is going to change dramatically during the winter.  A mature buck is going to find the thickest cover available to not only bed but also travel through to get to the food source.


Now consider your stand set up.  Do you put your stand on the food plot?  Maybe, but I would suggest that you first think about 1) Where are the deer bedding this time of year?, 2) Where is the food source?, and 3) How are they going to travel to the food source? A mature buck many times is going to wait until dark or right before dark before you would see him in the food plot.  So how do you get on him?  I would suggest that you get between his bedding area and the food source.  Find the travel zone and staging area that you think he is going to use.  We have all seen that once the rut has occurred many of the mature bucks will go nocturnal.  It can be challenging to have an opportunity harvest a quality deer during shooting hours.  If you can find the crossing, funnel or bottleneck that may be between the bedding area and food source, you may have a good chance at getting a shot.

A few other things that are vital to consider are managing the WIND, stand placement and getting to your stand.  The wind factor is nothing you don’t already know about, but this still is over looked many times.  Where you set up your stand and the tree you find is very important.  Consider finding the area that you believe that buck is going to travel through (cover) between bedding area and food source.  Pick a tree that is in staging area that is close to the bedding area but not so close that you will bump that deer as you approach your stand.  Next, is finding the right tree with enough cover.  This can obviously be tough this time of year.  Look for a tree that can give you some kind of backdrop and that is not right on the trail.  Get a few yards off the trail, so you can draw your bow without getting busted.  Now that you have found your tree think about how you are going to get to your stand.  Think about getting to your strand without walking down the trail the deer travel or walking by the bedding area to get to your stand.  Something that can be challenging this time of year in areas where the leaves are on the ground.  As you have experienced, it can be noisy in the mornings getting to your stand.  A trick I learned from someone many years ago and that is to mimic a buck chasing a doe.  You can walk at fast pace (without tripping) while blowing the grunt call as you walk.  While the primary rut is over, there will be some does that come in late that bucks will want to breed (Think about the bucks you have seen chasing a doe – it makes a lot of noise).  This has worked for me on several occasions when I have been walking to my stand and had a deer blow.  They did not wind me but I did scare them.  I immediately got on the grunt call and quickly walked to the stand.  I have seen the deer come back towards the stand as I got up in the tree to investigate.

Finally, I believe you need to put everything in your favor that you can control.  We cannot control the weather and the wind.  Although, we can work around them to some degree.  One factor that I believe in and that is hunting around the moon phases.  If I only have a few days to hunt, I am going to pick the days that the moon is going to be in my favor.  We have a number of resources that you can use on the site such as the Game Forecast Charts .  While there are no absolutes, I do believe the moon has impact on deer movement.  The major feeding times are going to revolve around the moon up and moon down phases.  Now, I don’t protest to be a moon expert.  I am a bow hunter that try’s to put as many factors in my favor as I can.

Late Season Bowhunting Adjustments
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Its time for a 4th Qrt change in you bowhunting game plan…….

Hopefully for you it has been a great hunting season so far and you harvested a few bucks up to this point in the season.  If not or if you have another tag how are you going to hunt that deer during December and January?  We know that does drive a bucks behavior during the rut, food will be a primary driver during the late season for these bucks to recover from many days of running hard and not eating much.  I will say if you can find a location with a good food source and is holding some does that is the best of all worlds based on a buck getting to eat and find some does that may be coming in to late estrus cycle.


What kind of food source?
It really depends on where you are hunting and what food plots you have put in during the fall.   Food sources that are high in carbohydrates are a preferred food and if it is legal to use deer supplements or attractants  such as Acorn Rage Drop in Block, Acorn Rage, Primos Swamp Donkey, C’Mere Deer, and BoneDmonium.  You can use them to compliment the left over cut corn fields, or food plots such as Mossy Oak Bilogic Max Attract.

Stand Location?

Next is considering where you should hang your stand or bowhunting blind.  Where you have it currently might be fine but the woods have changed since November and bedding areas  may have changed to some degree based on the pressure and available cover.  I believe the key is to pin point your food source, the bedding area and staging areas between them.  That is where you want to set up.  There is a fine balance between getting to close to food and bedding area.  If you are too close to the food source you may not see the deer during shooting hours and if you get too close to the bedding area you may bump that deer.  Using your game cameras and adjusting a few stands for the wind, you have a chance of getting that wise ole buck that has eluded everyone up to this point.  A trick I have learned over the years from Dr. Grant Woods is to put my game cameras high up on a tree, so I can determine where deer are entering and exiting the food source.  This will help me determine where to hang my stand in the staging area.  A Deer has to eat and if you set up correctly you may catch him.

Calling During this Time?

Calling deer during this time can have some success but may be hit or miss.  For some bucks they are still looking for does to come into second cycle of estrus and may respond to some calling.  My experience is to not over do it, as not to Spook deer from coming in to feed or waiting until dark.

Tree Stands or Blinds?

A few other things to consider is bowhunting out of a ground blind vs. tree stand.  The weather can be extremely cold and hard to deal with in the open.  A bowhunting ground blind can block some of the conditions and allow you to stay out longer.  Finally, make sure you practice shooting your bow in your extreme weather bowhuning clothing.  When you have all those layers on, face mask, ect.. you need to make sure you can effectively shoot your bow without anything interfering with your shot.  Finally, I do like to use our Game Forecast Charts to help me determine the moon phase and the best feeding times if I hae limited days to hunt.  Additionally, if you are hunting a specific buck and do not want to over hunt the stand these Charts will help determine the days with the best feeding times around morning and afternoon.

New Bows by G5 Outdoors
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Memphis, Michigan- Quest BowhuntingTM, a division of G5 Outdoors, Introduces the new Torch Bow featuring the QS SD Cam Technology. With the release of this bow Quest targets the next generation of avid hunters so they too can enjoy all the great qualities that the Quest Bow line offers. The Torch gives young, small frame, women and intermediate hunters all of the features they need for a rewarding and enjoyable shooting experience.

“Quest is very proud to offer a bow that caters to the needs of the next generation of hunters. Stated Quest President and co-owner Matt Grace. “Bowhunting is a great way for parents and their children to share a common love for the outdoors, and what better way to learn than with a Quest Torch.”

A Forged T6061 aluminum riser makes this bow durable and lightweight, allowing a hunter to make the most of his time in the field.

The Torch’s Fuel: The Torch features a forged T6061 aluminum riser – making it durable yet light weight. The Bow measures 33? axle-to-axle, has a 6? brace height, weighs in at 4.2 lbs and comes draw lengths ranging from 24? to 28? and draw weights in 30 to 45 pounds. In addition, the Torch is available in the impressive and innovative GfadeTM finish including Pink AP Snow Camo or AP camo.

An economical price of $399.99 in the GfadeTM pattern and $379.99 in Camo makes it very easy for someone to get their first bow. The Torch continues Quest’s commitment to delivering superior performance and value to hard working, hard hunting archery enthusiasts. Quest Bowhunting: The Bowhunters’ Bow

About Quest Bowhunting:

Quest Bowhunting™ is a family owned business backed by more than 40 years of precision manufacturing experience. Quest Bowhunting™ strives to provide superior Bowhunting products that enhance the archery experience. To learn more about Quest™, visit www.questbowhunting.com or call (866) 456-8836.

Memphis, Mich. – G5® Outdoors, the leading manufacturer in premium archery equipment and design introduces a revolutionary new bow line – PrimeTM . With its proprietary and exclusive Parallel Cam Technology, this new line of premiums bows virtually eliminates CAM LEAN, making the bows more forgiving and more accurate at greater distances.

“The new Prime Bows will raise the bar in compound bow performance.” Stated President Matt Grace. “We are thrilled with the ingenuity our engineers and designers have shown in developing a product that effectively addresses one of the nagging problems in current bow designs.”

The Parallel Cam Technology looks to make CAM LEAN a problem of the past as the new design balances the load equally on each side of the cable resulting in practically no CAM LEAN, reduced horizontal nock travel, and reduced limb fatigue. In addition to the Parallel Cam Design, the new Prime series offers a long list of unique features that make the bow truly one of a kind:

* Forged 7000 Series T6 Aluminum Riser is twice as strong as traditional 6061 T6 aluminum risers.
o This durable design helps to increase riser stiffness and reduce shooter’s hand shock.
* C-1 Laminated Limbs
o These limbs utilize a cross weft design to significantly reduce torsional stresses in the limb resulting in improved consistency and accuracy
* GoreTM Fiber String & Cables
o This proprietary string material is a blend of Gore TM performance fibers and BCYTM 452X.
o The Marriage of these tow industry leading technologies results in a superior string with less vibration, a reduction in noise, and increased durability.
* TI-Glide Titanium Flexing Cable System
o The Prime’s Flexible Titanium cable guard system reduces cam lean by 25% by reducing side load on the cables during draw. In conjunction with the Parallel Cam Design, cam lean is virtually eliminated.
* Shield Grip
o First of its kind in the industry, made of G10 material that repels water, odors or any other unwanted element. It stays dry and comfortable in the hand no matter the conditions.
* Available in Optifade TM Forest, Optifade TM Open Country , Realtree AP HD TM or Black
o Superior patterns for superior concealment.

The revolutionary Prime bow is available in two models the Shift and the Centroid.

Shift Specs
IBO Speed (FPS) 333
Axle to Axle (in) 30?
Brace Height 7?
Mass Weight 4 lbs.
Draw Length 26? – 30?
Draw Weight (lbs) 40-50, 50-60, 60-70

Centroid Specs
IBO Speed (FPS) 330
Axle to Axle (in) 34?
Brace Height 7?
Mass Weight 4.3 lbs
Draw Length 27? – 31?
Draw Weight (lbs) 40-50, 50-60, 60-70

Finally, Prime seeks to deliver the highest level of Quality Assurance in the Bow Industry. Every Prime bow is fully assembled and tune. G5 then takes the extra effort of cycling every bow 100 times on an automated cycling machine, and then super tunes the bow again. This process ensures that strings are properly stretched, and limbs and limb pockets have properly settled – eliminating the need to retune your bow after your first 100 shots.

About G5 Outdoors:

G5® Outdoors L.L.C. is a family owned business established in 2000 and backed by more than 40 years of precision manufacturing experience. G5® strives to provide superior products that are Designed to Hunt™ through precision manufacturing and innovative design. To learn more about the new prime series of bows, visit www.g5prime.com or call (866)456-8836.  The new G5 bows will soon be available on Stickemarchery.com Archery Store

Dynamics of whitetail rut and “calling” scenarios
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Dynamics of the Whitetail Rut

There are several behaviors associated with the whitetail “rut”. The first sign of rutting behavior is often sparring among bucks. Sparring may take place between bucks of equal stature or between a dominant and subordinate or immature buck. Initially, these are usually short-lived, low intensity, pushing and shoving matches. These sparring scenarios may help establish the dominance hierarchy among males. As the peak of the breeding season approaches, sparring matches may give way to full-blown antler fights. These generally take place between bucks of similar hierarchical status.

Two other behaviors associated with the rut are “rubbing” and “making scrapes.” Both serve as scent signposts for olfactory and, perhaps, visual communication.  You can start to see signs of rubbing not long after velvet is dried and/or shed, but continues throughout the rutting period. A rub is initially made by a buck rubbing his antlers and forehead (for scent deposition) on a shrub or small tree. Once created, a rub may be used by several bucks or does. Generally, bucks begin “making scrapes” several weeks after the first rubs appear. This “scrapping” activity increases as the breeding season peaks and then declines throughout the remainder of the rutting period. A scrape is made by a buck pawing a spot of ground, usually to bare soil, and rub-urinating in that soil.  Scent from the forehead, preorbital gland or mouth is often deposited on the broken branch.

A common belief is that cooler weather is responsible for the increased rutting activity at this time; however, photo-period is the primary contributor. During this two to three week period, most does come into estrous for the first time of the season. Does are receptive for around 24 hours. If they are not bred during this time frame, they generally recycle in three to four weeks. A doe will recycle several times; however, failure to conceive during the first or second estrous period may indicate an improper buck to doe ratio. As the peak of the rut approaches, there is an increase in bucks chasing does (usually before she is receptive) and bucks tending does (usually during a doe’s receptive period).  Most antler fights occur during this period when they do occur.  Your number of mature bucks and the buck to doe ratio can have impact on how much fighting you will see or will actually occur.  Frequency of antler fights declines after the peak of the rut.

Calling During the Whitetail Rut

Let’s do some deer talk’n as it relates to the behaviors of whitetails described above.  It is that time to get out the rattle bag, horns and calls.  You may already have some deer in pre-rut or even chasing does.  We have all seen in the field or on a TV show how effective calling can be during the Pre-Rut, Rut and Post Rut.   Based on that let me ask you how effective has it been for you over that years?  For me I have had varied success and have asked myself what is driving this?

  • Am I calling correctly?
  • Am I using the right call for the right scenario?

I do believe that there is a strategy to calling.  This includes 1) when to call, 2) how loud to call, 3) when not to call, and 4) which calls to use. Let’s go through some of these scenarios:

Pre – Rut deer are becoming more aggressive and beginning to let other bucks know they are in the area via scrapes and rubs as described above.  When you are seeing this kind of “sign” using a grunt call and some light rattling can be effective.  Factors to consider during this time are the number of dominant bucks, buck to doe ratio, and the amount of sign you are seeing.  If you do not have a large number of dominant bucks too aggressive of calling can Primos Uproar Deer Call some bucks not come in to investigate due to being afraid of getting their butts kicked.  Also consider that if you do call in a scenario where you do not have a lot of mature deer then using grunt call sequences that are not overly aggressive or “deep”.  Consider using a young buck sounds to entice the bucks you do have to come in and demonstrate dominance.  This may give you a better chance of getting a shot on the most mature you have on the property.

Rut/ChasingDuring this magical time you can get very aggressive with your calls that would include rattling, doe in estrus calls, and grunt calls.  There are a number of calls you can use for doe in estrus that include Primos Lil Can, Primos Long Can, and others.  Additionally, you can use rattling horns or rattle bags such as these Flextone Battle Bag.  There are a number of calling sequences you can execute during this time that include the following:

  • Roar (introduced by Primos) – which is an aggressive call where a buck is defending a hot doe.  He is saying ” Hey Get Out of Here”
  • Communication Grunt – deeper single note type of grunt vocalizations saying “Hey I Am Over Here”
  • Tending Grunt – many times made by smaller or younger bucks chasing does.  Often the Mature Buck is watching and waiting for that moment to move in
  • Snort Wheeze – Vocalization between two bucks being very aggressive towards each other

The use of decoys during this time can also produce great results.  There are a number of good decoys on the market such as the Primos Scarface (seen below) and Harry. Using a decoy on the edge of a field so that buck can see it as they are cruising.  Face the decoy towards you because that buck is going to come in behind the decoy.  This gives you time to draw your bow and get ready for shot.  Make sure you spray your decoy down with a scent eliminator such as Dead Down Wind or Scent Away Sprays. Then adding some type of doe in estrus doe scent can help bring that buck in.

Rut/BreedingDuring this time it can be tough hunting b/c many of the mature bucks are locked down with that buck.  Where she goes he goes.  He is not likely to break away from her so calling may produce limited results.  You may consider hunting over those food sources near cover to catch him on her tail as she goes to get something to eat.

Post RutDuring this time you will have bucks back on the move to play clean up for any does that have come into estrus late.  Hunting over food sources with some estrus bleats may help produce some positive results.  Heavy rattling may produce some results but consider during this time these bucks may be worn down and less willing to get into a fight.  If you have not put in your food plot then do as soon as possible.  Depending on your hunting scenario or food plot size you may consider doing a small food plot that uses a contact seed that will quickly germinate and produce results.  Seeds such as Biologic “Hot Spot” can be very effective in these scenarios to provide a highly nutritional food source during the winter to help draw in does and thus bucks on these does.

More on the Calls referenced above….

The Original Flexible Game Call maker has teamed up with Michael Waddell and the whole Bone Collector Brotherhood to create possibly the most innovative deer call to enter the woods. To put it bluntly, we put THE WHOLE HERD IN ONE CALL. The Buck Collector produces all known vocalizations as well as wheeze sounds through one killer deer call. No matter what deer vocalization you need to produce, the Buck Collector will do it simply by squeezing the labeled buttons while you blow. The call even has an integrated snort wheeze that amplifies the sound as it travels through the exhaust chamber.

The flextone® deer calls developed by Tom Wiley feature a patented combination of hard and soft parts that mimic the rigid voice box and soft, flexible neck and mouth tissues of a game animal. This design produces an enhanced control of volume and tone, giving you a fuller range of vocalizations and a more natural sound. The All-N-One Deer Call also features buttons that show the user where to squeeze the call, (F) for fawn, (D) for doe, (YB) for young buck or just blow without squeezing for a mature buck. The opposite end also has a (Vol) button for volume control. Now you have the flexibility to produce a full range of vocalizations with one deer call. The flextone® All-N-One Deer Call will, with just the squeeze of a button, accurately produce a fawn bleat or distress, a doe bleat or grunt, as well as a young buck or a mature buck grunt. Not only will you appreciate the natural sounds this call makes but also the sounds it does not make if accidentally coming in contact with your gun or bow. (Model ftd)

Flextone Battle Bag

The Flextone Battle Bag is the ultimate fighting machine. The flexible/stretchable bag makes it easy to mesh the synthetic fighting sticks together and gives you more volume than other bags. The design also keeps the sticks from making unwanted noise when entering your hunting area.

The Primos Up ROAR Deer Call® truly is a “Triple Threat”. It combines 3 of the most effective calls to bring deer in close. It has 2 chambers, an Aggressive Grunt and an Estrus Bleat, topped off with a Wheeze tube to challenge bucks to a fight. The Grunt chamber reproduces a deep, resonating aggressive grunt that is made by bucks during the rut. The Bleat chamber reproduces a loud Estrus Bleat made by receptive does. When using these calls in combination you can sound like a buck chasing a hot doe. This will make other bucks jealous and come running to see what’s causing the Up ROAR®.

For more information visit Stick’em Archery @ www.Stickemarchery.com

Where did he go and how do I hunt him in October?
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It’s second quarter of football game and you have not scored a touch down.  Is it time to panic and change total game plan?  Maybe – Maybe not.  Any good coach has come into the game with a solid game plan based on film, and knowledge of other team.  Well it is getting close to the middle of October and I have not killed the deer I have been scouting on my Georgia property.  I am hunting about 50 acres that is a 50/50 split of rural and suburban area.  Going into the season I had a stand set up in the area of game pictures.  This area was close to water and cover.  I was confident in my set up but after several hunts and seeing small bucks and few does, I have not seen the mature bucks.  Where did they go? Are they gone?

Yes, I am a little frustrated but it is not time to panic and over hunt an area.  I am taking a step back to re-evalute my set ups and what these bucks may be doing.  First, thing I did is consider the below factors based on this part of the season (October 1st – November 1st)….

  • Food source will change to acorns
  • Weather is getting cooler and there is more water in creeks due to rain
  • Behaviors will begin to change mid to later October with bucks making scrapes, rubs near bedding areas and travel zones

Based on these factors I took out my Ariel Map (Mapping the Outdoors) and began to factor in these things and “think like a Buck” to see where he may go to find these areas.  After doing this I have identified a few new locations to hunt over the next several weeks.

I also like to think ahead to determine how I will hunt during November and December.  Realizing most of the bedding area will not change I need to deal with the food source after the deer have moved off the acorns.  On this property there is a lot of browse but not existing food plots.  So, I have made my own using a combination of Mossy Oak’s “Hot Spot” blend and some rye seed.  Both of these are contact seeds that do not require a lot of work or land prep.  You can put them in areas of the woods that will attract does and bucks near travel areas and near cover for a staging buck.  After studying the Ariel Map I have put out three small plots using a hard rake, seed, and some quality fertilizer.  By the time the acorns are gone these should be nice little food plots.

We are going into the 2nd Qrt and I am changing my plays but not the game plan.  You need to be smart and consider that you need to adjust to deal with your property dynamics and changing behaviors of deer as the season progresses.  Something else to consider is if you have not harvested that buck you are hunting yet and you are hunting him out of the same stand.  Back off a bit and do not over hunt him.  Follow your game plan that includes these factors: weather conditions, WIND, Moon, Food Sources, bedding areas and stand location.  At this point make sure all of these conditions are good and then go after him.  If the WIND is wrong and it is warm with bad moon you may want to stay home.

As the rut approaches these new set ups where I have placed my small food plots will hopefully pull in some traveling bucks.  While the area I am hunting is only  50 acres there is other property around me that holds deer that I know will travel.  My goal is to provide something not only for the does to feed on,which will pull in the bucks.  I believe it will be a hot spot for the bucks that are traveling to hit for quick “feeding” as they are passing through.  Below is some additional information based on an article by Quality Deer Management Association that discusses deer travel behaviors prior to and during the rut.

Buck Excursions (Quality Whitetails Magazine by QDMA)

During summer, daily buck movements tended to be short trips from bedding to feeding areas, but this changed dramatically during the breeding season.  Beginning during the pre-rut, several bucks covered large portions of their home ranges and then returned to their core areas within 8-30 hours.

Additionally, 58 percent of bucks also made excursions outside of their home ranges during the rut, often staying in the new locations 6-24 hours before returning to their home ranges.  While unsure, researchers speculated that these bucks likely were in pursuit of an estrous doe.  These seemingly random excursions outside of a buck’s normal home range could explain how some bucks that have never been seen or photographed previously seem to magically appear and either get harvested or vanish, never to be seen again on the property.

Another interesting finding was the change in time of day the excursions occurred.  During both the pre-rut and post-rut periods approximately 70% of excursions occurred during nighttime hrs; whereas during the peak rut, 70% occurred during daylight hours. This certainly helps explain the increased visibility of bucks by hunters during the rut.

I will keep you posted on the progress of my changing plays within my game plan.  I have taken some of these same steps on my South Carolina farm.  While this piece of property is much larger and the food plots are bigger I am executing many of the same principles.  Good luck in October!

By Brian Stephens, StickemArchery.com

Information from the Quality Deer Management Association was referenced in this article.  To become a member or to learn more about the resources available go to www.QDMA.com.

Infolinks 2013