Nick Rodgers 11/27/13

                So if you are anything like me, you are at your wits end! Its late season and you’re still looking for that trophy. You have heard the bombardment of lead flying from the neighboring property and the only question in your mind is “Why am I not dropping the hammer”? Well my hunting friends it’s simple. We hunt with 60% skill and 40% luck (sometimes it’s the opposite). And yeah I know what you’re thinking, the guy you have heard of or saw a picture holding that massive 180 inch monster just makes you sick. Well if you have any luck like me it’s usually your neighbor who only hunts the rifle portion of deer season and usually borrows a gun to slay the monster (then drops the deer off at your house to be processed). Well it’s time to turn the tables and get down and dirty with these bruisers!
                Step out of your comfort zone for a moment and think. What would you do if you constantly got shot at? Would your reaction be fight or flight? Well for me it would be flight! And I don’t mean at a gradual pace I’m talking walking on water with high heels on! This has to have a valid point right? Well of course it does. You have hunted the same portion of property all year. Sure you changed stand locations according to wind direction, and deer activity, but are you really thinking that you have covered every aspect of late season you can think of? NO! Why do I say this with such enthusiasm? Well because to kill a trophy you have to think like a trophy. If I had hot lead screaming at me like a runaway dump truck every morning and evening when I was trying to nibble on a corn stalk or chasing tail I would presumably change my behaviors. And that’s exactly what these big boys do. Their morning routines change but only on the manor of being secure. So if you hold a portion of high hill or thick woods you are in the market for slamming a pig with tree tops as antlers! Don’t presume your hunt as a 9-5 job, look at it as a science project where you get to blow stuff up. Do the things you have only heard of, and hunt odd hours and really un-characteristic locations.
                One option is to start with the high ground for example. Get a good bird’s eye view of your property and open yourself up for a long shot. While most of us can scrounge up a quick meal form the pantry these bucks don’t have quite that accessibility. Food is second on their mind while in rut, but it’s foremost in the everyday life of survival. So no matter what the situation always know that everything has to feed no matter what. It’s just the time and place that you have to take into consideration. If your hunting high be ready for that late afternoon buck that tries to creep out into a local feeding area in search for the nutrition that keeps him growing. Don’t be afraid of getting in the morning stand at the time you would normally be leaving. More times than not that bruiser you have been seeing on camera at night is usually in hot pursuit trying to find the sweetheart of his dreams then tends to lay in his comfort zone in the morning recouping his energy. And that’s where the high ground has its advantages. When sitting late you will find that these bucks tend to move between the hours of 10 am-2pm in search of a quick take out meal. That’s when you have the chance to even the odds and take that wall hanger home. Be ready and willing to take the first chance you get at the monster, because the first glimpse you get of him may be your last! They move quick and have a goal (find food then go hide).
                For the hardcore buck hunter getting into the thick mess of things can be very rewarding! Most of my season consists of hunting known trails and feeding sources. But come late season I throw all of that out the window and put to use the instinct of a “survival buck”! There is no better place for a buck to hide than the places that we refuse to hunt! Most of us packing guns refuse to hunt in any location that does not provide a shot 360 degrees of a long range deer. But try and get comfortable with the idea of making a 50 yard shot through thick cover. This cover is what makes these ghosts of our dreams feel secure. So get in the thick of things and get ready to throw down the hammer on the buck of a lifetime. And when I’m talking thick cover I mean the kind of stuff that you and I can’t walk through and bucks can’t help but hit their rack on every single branch and twig smothering the area. Get deep and hold steady! This is the security that bucks love, the cover that they feel is crucial to seclude them from all predators and the security of being hidden in the brush. While there may be no determined timing that these bruisers will be traveling these routes, it’s a no brainer that they will find it and they will use it. So don’t be stubborn and avoid this area, be smart and shoot straight.

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Nick Rodgers 11/6/13
Buck fever is in full force and the rut is on! So what to do now? In the beginning of the season we played the stand locations according to wind direction, moon phase, food sources, and bedding areas. Well now it’s time to change the game and get ready to knock down that bruiser buck. Should it be field edges or heavy hardwoods your hunting, there really is no such thing as a bad place to hunt during the rut. The key is knowing how to use the land to your advantage, and taking advantage of every chance that presents itself to put a set of antlers on the wall.
            While the rut kicks in, the groups of deer you have been seeing traveling together will no longer exist. Bucks hit the “RAGE” button and necks begin to swell and tempers flare. Doe’s will tend to stick to smaller groups and eventually will be seen traveling alone from having been chased to every corner of whitetail land. As the bucks have departed from their bachelor groups they have by now been steady at keeping up on their rub and scrape lines to mark out their territories. While some of us see this sign as a sure thing a buck is near don’t be too quick to judge what you see.  Often time’s doe’s will use these scrapes more so than a buck will. Along with that being said, a heavy rub line may also seem to be promising but remember that the buck doing all the tree thrashing may be 5 miles away at any given time. With that being said there are advantages to every part of the sign we have been noticing. With doe’s using these scrapes it is a great indicator that you have a four legged lure in your area that may make old bucky trip up and hang around long enough to present an opportunity to make a shot. As far as the rub lines go, they’re not a bad place by any means to hunt. For instance bucks have been known to travel 5 miles and sometimes more while at the peak of rut. These boys will most likely be revisiting their dominant domain by following their rub lines and scrapes as a way of picking up their “mail” to see if any does have taken interest or are in the area. So it’s up to you
on how hard you want to hunt sign. While it can be very rewarding there are some other ways to put that big boy down.

            I was a huge procrastinator on using my topo maps of the properties I hunt until it became apparent that this may be the best tool you could ever use. While some of these bucks may seem like there I.Q. went from 190 to a slim 20 during the rut there are some principles that they stick to such as cover, food sources, and quickest but secure point from a-b during the rut. You may see several bucks in your area from day to day chasing in all direction but it’s what the bruisers are doing that you need to be concerned with. These bosses of the woods don’t play completely dumb, even in the peak of rut they are aware of their surroundings and they will usually take every precaution before making themselves an easy target. When using a topo map during the rut for example, find places that provide cover and acts as a funnel to push these bucks into the zone. Whatever you do don’t become stuck in the normal routine of early morning and evening hunts. Don’t be afraid to mix it up, I can say from personal experience that some of the biggest bucks I have ever killed were between the hours of 10am-2pm. These big boys don’t play by normal rules and they got big for a reason, their smart.
            Hunting these trophies becomes a game of patience and adaption. Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be afraid to change the way you approach them. If you’re like me every minute in the stand is a minute closer to the end of season so make every second count. Watch what these deer are doing. When the rut is at peak don’t be afraid to sit an extra hour in the stand. As most of you have noticed a buck chasing a doe at full sprint seems like a jet fighter moving across your path and before you know it he’s gone. When you have the chance to act on an opportunity like this don’t think that staying perfectly still and quiet will make him stop broadside and present a shot for no reason. When you’re in your stand have everything you need ready at all times like your Stevens bow, gun, rattling antlers, and a grunt call. Don’t be shy on slammin those antlers together followed by a few long and loud grunts. These big bucks are not here to play nice and if they think another opponent is in their ring they will be more than willing to stand up to the challenge and that’s when you make an opportunity present itself. Along with this don’t be afraid to hunt in the middle of the day. Most of these bucks that are only seen in rarity is because they travel at night looking for a doe and are too tired to be traveling in search of anything during the hours we seem to be accustom to. That’s when the mid-day hunts can be a huge success. These boys will often times travel to their next staging position for a short period of time in the middle of the day once they have rested from their nightly runs. This is when you are able to change the odds in your favor and pull the hammer down on that monster.
            Some of the “tools” of the rut I prefer are a set of rattling antlers, grunt call, estrus scent, buck bombs, and even decoys. These can make a hunt much more successful by out smarting that trophy buck. As far as using in combination, I would say that one of my favorite things to use is an estrus scent. The reason being is you can place them in a spot that you can pick out and when that buck gets down wind it will lure him towards your position and heighten the odds of him stepping within your sights. When it comes to an upwind opportunity where the buck will never have the chance to catch wind of your estrus scent is when it comes in handy to be ready for the rattle and grunt like you’re going into the ring Evander Holyfield style and make that buck come in for a close up. While other parts of the season it may seem like deer are weary of scent and noise it’s the rut that changes everything. Bucks will stand their ground against other bucks due to the fact they don’t want any competition with their ladies. Make yourself present as a competitor, and outsmart that buck you have only heard of. Then open up a spot in the truck bed before the ride home cause that monster is coming home with you.
            So when all is said and done remember that while the rut is in full effect make sure to use every tool you have (topo maps, grunt call, rattling antlers, estrus scents, etc.) and use them to your advantage to put yourself between the buck of your dreams and the doe he has on his mind.

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Technology Is Here To Stay
Jake Myrtue 10/30/13

          I find the debate between technology and hunting to be fascinating.  When I starting sitting in tree stands with my father at 5 years old we sat in homemade wooden stands built with hammer, nails and sweat.  I remember my father hunting with a blue jean jacket and blue jeans on and me in one piece coveralls.  We didn’t have scent clothing, no spray, and didn’t pay attention to wind direction.  Trailcams were a thing of the future and aluminum arrows were the hot ticket item at the time.  We weren’t trophy hunting dad was there to fill the freezer.  I joke around with him now about the way they did things then when he sees me with all the perks of today’s products.  I just tell him with a smile, “Old school days are over.”
          I recently had a few conversations with other hunters with a variety of opinions of technology in the hunting industry.  I find myself having the same opinion on certain issues and not knowing why.  One older gentleman, when discussing a product that had just come out, asked why we needed to bring technology into hunting.  Can’t we keep hunting traditional?  Sitting back in my chair I asked him then if he shot a recurve.  Answer was no.  Said he loved his new compound bow, shoots 340 feet per second, with a big smirk on his face. Asked him if those pictures of the buck he was going to chase this year were someone else’s pictures? “No, got those pictures on the south farm on one of my digital trailcams”, he replied kind of confused knowing I knew the answer before I asked.  I continued with this parade of questions before getting to heart of what I was getting at.
         Point of the story is that he was using technology all the time but didn’t even think about it.  Not a lot of people think they are using technology until a product that pushes the limits gets them fired up.  From the clothes we wear to the new bows that shoot faster, straighter, farther too digital trailcams all the way down to our releases we use to shoot our carbon arrows.  Technology is everywhere and will be everywhere from this day moving forward.  Some will indeed be reluctant to use technology and some hunters will embrace it.  New products come out every day that push the envelope.  You don’t have to agree with every product, but before you knock someone for integrating technology in their hunting arsenal, take a good look and what you’re doing and you too may be surprised.  I know I was when I sat and thought about where I am to where I was 20 years ago.  I personally, do not agree with every single product out in the market today nor would I use them, but I am a lot more open minded now to them and the hunters that choose to use them.  As the saying goes “To each their own”.



The Path Less Taken...

Jake Myrtue 10/16/13

          As a hunter, I have evolved in a lot of different ways.  One major way is the exit and entrance to a stand.  As a kid, we basically hung a stand on a deer trail, most of the time next to food.  We parked the truck where convenient and walked in the easiest way possible.  I don’t remember bedding areas or wind directions ever being discussed or exit/entrance strategies.  We were hoping the first doe walked by so we could fill the freezer and call it a success.  I also remember getting snorted and blown at by deer a lot as we entered and exited our location.  It was also thought that those people shooting nice bucks were just “lucky”.  Luck does play into the harvest of a mature deer and with some, yes it was complete luck, but with others doing it consistently there was and still is, more to it.
         There is lots of things that go into the harvest of a mature buck.  One major strategy, as my hunting career has evolved in my opinion, is the exit and entrance to a stand.  I learned this strategy from my college roommate.  I dabbled in it a little bit before but this guy to it to another level.  From then on, before every stand I hang I think of how I am going to get in and out as quiet and undetected as possible.  Since I’ve started this I’ve taken multiple mature bucks of various age classes.  There are times I hang stands with a confident strategy only to find out I’m wrong during the first sit of the season and the woods come alive with symphony of stomping and blowing.  Lessons learned.  Some sets I may walk 3 times farther to get there then if I would if I walked straight to my stand.  You will find the best routes as you get to know your area.  Where the deer are are coming from and going to?  Where’s their bed and where’s their feed?  What wind is best for exit/entrance? What terrain features do I have at my disposal?
         Last year we hung a stand on an open ridge that acted as a staging area for deer as they exited their thick bedding area.  We could hunt this stand with any wind out of the south.  The easiest walk would have been to walk in from the west and walk 500 yards down the open ridge.  With doing that deer could silhouette us and also with a south wind deer could get our sent of where we walked in.  So getting the aerial photos out we determined to come up from the bottom right to the back of the stand.  Doing this we kept the wind directly in our face and we could enter unseen and undetected.  The walk was twice as far and uphill most of the way but was the necessary ingredient to my brother scoring on a 165 inch 10 point the first year we hung it.  The both us were forced to take our time in order to not sweat to death and we were able to hunt the standing numerous times without getting scented once as deer walked by at 10-20 yards.
        Don’t let a mature bucks know you’re there if you can help it.  I know that’s what happened when I was younger and sometimes still happens today.  You may think you have the upper hand but in a mature whitetails living room this is very tough.  But there are things you could and should do to sneak in the back door when no one is home. It may take you more time, it may take more effort, but if you dot your i’s and cross your t’s I think you will find yourself seeing more deer and seeing more mature deer.  Don’t be afraid to try new things and think outside the box.  As my college roommate would turn to me and say as the walk in got tough, “the stuff we do to kill big deer”.


Fall Feathers
Nick Rodgers - 10/9/13

        So here it begins. Bow season has arrived and buck fever overcomes all thoughts and actions. We all do our rituals such as deer camp, several loads of de-scenting laundry (For some of us that’s the only voluntary laundry to be done on our part for the year), travel plans for the “Big Hunts”, and re-organizing our bow cases like we have a severe case of O.C.D
       While some of us zone in and concentrate mainly on those elusive brown creatures, we often forget about the all-seeing turkey’s of the fall. From years of hunting I have takin a strong passion for fall turkey hunting for several reasons. As you sit in your stand waiting for that monster buck to stumble your way and give you the perfect 20yd broadside shot there is often more silent time in the stand than action.  So here it begins, the evenings and afternoons spent in early bow season I often keep track of the turkeys I see (literally put notes in my phone). I believe very strongly in paying very close attention to the timing of these birds. More times than not you can put these feathered friends on a timer and expect them to arrive on time. I can remember last year within the first month of early bow season and hunting the same location like a ritual I had a group of 8-12 turkeys coming past my stand within 50yds almost every evening hunt at 3:30-4:00 pm like clockwork. Needless to say on opening day of fall shotgun season for turkeys my total hunt from walking the field from the truck to the stand and back with bird in hand was an hour and a half.
       While it sounds like a generic description of targeting fall turkeys there are still more factors that will make every fall hunter more successful. As most will notice in spring it becomes very common to see these birds in the fields feeding on bugs, struttin their colors, and sounding off like a tiny t-rex, these birds of the spring seem to disappear and turn into a new breed when it becomes fall. While hunting turkeys hard in the fall it has come obvious with these birds that their diet, distance they cover, places they roost, and vocals of the groups completely change. When the cool fall days arrive and the bugs become slim pickings it’s almost an instant change in the way we think of turkeys. They begin to hold tight to the woods and huddle together in search for food. After years of watching their habits transition with the seasons it’s obvious that acorns, beans, and corn become like filet mignon on the bird menu. Take notes while in the field like time, diet, roosting area, size of the group, what does the group consist of (toms, hens, poults). Determine which birds you want to target and make a game plan.  While the normal “yelp” can be a deadly call to lead a sure sighted bird within range keep in mind that there will often times be multiple birds accompanying your target so make sure your set up is flawless. Not to mention here in the Midwest you are able to take 2 birds in the same day and can be of either sex. So set up and be ready to sling some shoulder bruising lead.
       In the end it comes down to some simple homework in the stand while you let your eyes and ears do the work. Keep tabs on the turkeys. Time, location, food source, vocalization and use all of this to your advantage. While fall turkey season usually opens a few weeks after bow season begins it’s these first few weeks of work that can make that hard fall turkey hunt seem like shooting fish in a barrel. So to all you die-hards out there “happy fall feathers”.


Young Bloods 
Justin Huebner - 9/25/13

      Well, it's the end of September and that is means for excitement for me for a couple of reasons: 1. It is dangerously close to opening day of bow season for whitetails, and even more importantly 2. Youth season for deer is here again.  Opening day for a deer hunter is comparable to Christmas morning for a child.  It's nearly impossible to get a good night's sleep the night before and getting up at stupid-thirty isn't even a chore.  With that being said, youth season brings more excitement for me than opening day of my own season. 
        I have the pleasure and honor of taking out my old neighbor, and now friend, Ross.  Ross' mother, Jill, was my realtor when I was looking to purchase my first home after I accepted my job out of college in 2009.   As we were driving around from house to house throughout Pella, it became quite apparent to Jill how serious of a hunter I was, especially for deer.  She had mentioned that Ross loved to hunt but didn't get to go very often since he didn't have an adult to take him seeing as his father didn't particularly enjoy hunting anymore, after being involved in a hunting accident years ago. 
        I thought about what she had told me over the next few days, wondering if I should actually be responsible for a kid in view of the fact that I had very little experience guiding another hunter, let alone taking care of a kid.  I kept coming back to how fortunate I was to have my Uncle Dennis take me under his wing after my father passed away when I was about Ross' age and show me the right way to hunt.  Finally, I offered to take Ross hunting if his parents would allow it. 
        I picked Ross up the next day for opening day of youth season, his excitement impossible to hide as I pulled into the driveway.  We went to a local public hunting tract I had never seen before, but as we quickly found out it really didn't matter.  Within 45 minutes of getting settled into our spot against a couple trees we had 3 does walk within 40 yards.  Ross was flawless in getting his gun raised, settling onto the last doe, pulling the trigger, and center punching her through both lungs.  I told Ross "She's not going far".
       Using the moment to teach him how to properly blood trail a wounded deer, he methodically led the way to the expired deer.  The pure joy and pride for what he had just accomplished is something I couldn’t possibly forget.  The phone call to his parents to tell them the good news was priceless after I overheard his father tell him how proud of him he was.
       After a quick trip back to town to get my knife I forgot (I'm chalking that up to early season wrinkles), I taught Ross how to field dress a deer and we drug her to the truck to head home. We were without a camera so Jill had to capture the moment back home.
       Now fast forward to 2013 and the challenge has grown.  Ross really wants to harvest a buck this year, which shows me his true hunter's spirit.  It would be easy for him to decide to shoot the first deer that wandered by so the early mornings and countless hours in the woods came to an end.  But I am proud of him for wanting to put in the work to accomplish a goal he made for himself before the season, and I'm humbled by the fact he allows me to be a part of his journey.
       I personally take pride in doing my part as a hunter by passing along my voice as an outdoorsman and outdoor enthusiast to the next generation.  Equally important, is also teaching the significance of voicing our opinions as gun owners and citizens of this great country.  The cowardly acts of a small number of mentally unstable individuals involved in mass shootings are leading the media and some politicians to lump all gun owners into the same category, and this is putting our Second Amendment rights at serious risk.  We as outdoorsmen/women and gun owners need our voices to be louder than ever to protect our God given rights, and without the next generation this voice will become more faint as time goes on.  I don't mean to turn this into a political debate, but I'm simply saying that if we willingly forfeit some of our basic rights by giving politicians an inch, they'll take a mile. 
       I'd like to say that Ross gets more out of our hunting trips than I do, but I just don't see how that's possible. It is so rewarding to be a part of it, and watch a kid develop the love of the sport.  While taking a new hunter to the woods is a lot of work and preparation, we owe it to the next generation to pass along what was once done for us.  Patience, diligence, dedication, respect, preparation, and responsibility are attributes on a list that only begin to scratch the surface learned by each and every true hunter…attributes that are all utilized at some point in our lives.  So go out there and find a young hunter that wants to head to the woods.  I promise you it will be something that neither of you will ever forget.