How To Prepare For The Bird Season

Shake off the rust and go to your local shooting park and brake a few targets.

It’s about this time of the year that you will find, if you have one in your area, the shooting parks are much  busier than any other time of the year.  Why is that?  Well, all of the upland game bird and waterfowl seasons are just around the corner and the majority of hunters had put their shotguns in cases or safes for the summer.  Now it is time to shake the rust off and get your shotgun out and shoot a few clay birds.

Most hunters don’t forget how to shoot they just don’t practice enough and most of the time they are a little late with their shots and end up shooting behind their pray.

There is a ideal comparison to the shooting sports, bird hunting and several sports activities.  Yes, football for one.  Quarterbacks On the majority of their passes quarterbacks have to lead the receivers.  From my own experiences practice is the only way to condition the mind to consistently find the target.  Baseball, hockey and basketball all have similar aspects to the concept of follow through and lead.  The same applies to shooting.  The pitcher in baseball must follow through with every pitch to be accurate.  Have you heard the comment, repeat the motion?   It applies to all sports including shooting.

Consistency also plays a major roll in becoming a good and accurate shooter.  Taking advantage of shooting at clay birds is the ideal way to develop and maintain your shooting techniques.

All of the shooting sport activities such as trap, sporting clays, 5 stand and skeet all assist in improving your shooting skills.  When you can continually repeat the proper stance and placement of the shotgun to your shoulder and cheek, which are the basic fundamentals of shooting,  your consistency will dramatically improve.

It never hurts to find a shooting instructor to analyze your form.  In my case I always had a coach to watch and video my throwing motion.  There is nothing better than to have another set of eyes to help get you get back on track.

The Outdoor Quarterback

October Deer, Where Should You Sit and Why?

October is the perfect month to scout your deer hunting areas, so get off the couch and get in a stand.

Over the years I found that hunting in October is an opportunity to see what deer are showing up at either your food plots or your feeders.  It is a great time to harvest a doe or start your herd management program.  Occasionally someone will get lucky and stick a monster buck who is on a feeding pattern, and gets too close!

If you live in an area where you are getting some early fall temperatures, you will see much more deer movement than those of us living in the mid west where the weather can’t make up it’s mind to start the fall or continue the late summer trends.  Nevertheless it is a chance to get in a tree stand or in a ground blind with your bow and check things out.  I know it happens, which we have already seen this year, that some of the normal deer patterns from the past have changed, because of that, we have relocated our stands.  Ponds dry up, row crops change or acorns are better at one location than another.  There are a number of factors that can redirect the deer.  This is another advantage of going out in October before the pre-rut or rut begins.  See for yourself what the deer are doing, don’t just depend on what is showing up on the cameras.

Use October as a time to find the deer and identify changes in their behavior.  It is a good time to start looking for early signs, rubs, scrapes and heavily used game trails.  Don’t get stuck on one location because the tree fits your stand really well.  If you do your homework during October it will pay dividends in November.  One other note, don’t forget to bring your video camera.  It’s an ideal time to get good footage of the deer in your area.

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Get Ready, The Birds Are Coming Back

Good news, the quail an pheasant populations are back up in the Mid West!

For years my passion for the outdoors evolved around upland bird hunting, specifically quail.  Growing up in Southern California, we had a lot of quail in Riverside County.  Actually we had two different sub species of quail to hunt, California quail and Gambel quail.  It was not unusual to find a covey of 150 birds, so you can imagine how disappointed I was when I went on my first bobwhite quail hunt, which was in Oklahoma!  A covey of about 25 birds got up, my brother in-law and his brother and I shot, of course I was waiting for the other 125 birds to get up!  Mac and Adrian both looked at me and said,”what are you doing”, I said waiting for the rest of the birds.  They both laughed and said, that was a huge covey, it doesn’t get much better than that.  I told them, you both would go out of your minds if you saw the size of the coveys we have in California.  Needless to say, my first lesson in bobwhite quail hunting was much different than expected.

After a couple of severe ice storms and heavy snow falls, followed by two years of droughts, the quail and pheasant population was nearly wiped out throughout the mid west.  Two other major factors for the decline of both quail and pheasants has been farming practices and predators. Now if you see a 10 bird covey you get excited.  It has been nearly twenty years, a lot of research and work, to get the bird counts back to somewhat normal.

The term farming from fence post to fence post was being used. It meant there wasn’t any cover left for the birds to nest in or to have protection from predators.  Now with CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) fields, the cover is being reestablished and the population of upland game birds are increasing.  Good news for all of us who grew up chasing quail and pheasants and watching good dogs work.  So get ready, the birds are making a comeback!   At least in the mid west.

The Outdoor Quarterback

2017 Elk Hunt, Is 8 feet too close?

Sometimes too close isn’t good. On this hunt it was a close encounter of the first kind!

I just returned from my annual archery elk in near Chama NM at Fishtail Ranch.  Over the years I have found it to be one of the best elk hunting areas in the country.  You may not find the biggest elk there, but the elk population in the Chama area is incredible. Even though I saw and heard elk every place we hunted, because of high afternoon temperatures the elk weren’t very vocal.  Which brings me to my story and the closest encounter I have ever had with a bull elk.

My hunting partner, Stanley Oakes, and I went to an area we both had hunted several times over the years, it was near a waterhole I had the privilege of naming.  Traditionally whoever discovers a new area and then takes a elk gets the honor of naming that location, so I named the waterhole “The Endzone”.

It was a perfect morning, temperatures were in the high 30’s with very little wind.  We called a little and listened and to our surprise nothing responded.  Then about 45 minutes later after a few more cow calls, we heard an bugle.  Although he was pretty far away, we decided to go after him.  We stopped after about a 100 yards because we both thought we heard another bull above us much closer.  We called and he answered, so off we went.  I have always been a stickler for keeping the wind in my favor, even if it meant walking twice as far.  As we were working our way towards the bull, he would periodically bugle giving away his location.  After several bugles from the same location we guessed he was already bedded down.  Now we knew we had to keep the wind in our favor and try to work up to the level where he was bedded.  Once we did that Stanley backed off about 50 yards, putting me between the bull and Stanley.  We both started calling back and forth until the bull got up from his bed and started towards us.  At that time I stopped calling and Stanley would cow call of and on.

As I took my position I was about 30 yards from the crest of a little mound.  I felt like if the bull came across the mountain on the flat above me I would never get a shot.  So I moved up about fifteen yards behind three aspen trees.  I stood back about four feet from the tree to clear them from my bow.  My thoughts were, if he comes above or below me I should have no more than a 15 yard shot.  It was obvious to me the elk didn’t read our script and instead of walking above or below me, he walked through a thicket straight at me.  When he stepped out from behind the aspen trees he was at EIGHT FEET!  Anticipating he was coming I had drawn my bow.  When I looked through my pep, all I could see is brown hair.  I shoot with both eyes open so I knew I was right on him, but what I didn’t see was two little branches off the aspen tree four feet in front of me.  Yes, I managed to hit one of the branches that wasn’t any larger than a pencil, deflecting my arrow about 6 feet from the elk into the ground!

We had worked that bull perfectly, did everything right and it was an awesome experience.  I have always come to the conclusion that you learn something new on every hunt, what I learned on this hunt was, 8 feet is way too close!

The Outdoor Quarterback

Don’t Leave Home Without It, Use a Packing List!

Without a packing list you will forget something!

It’s that time of the year so I am getting gear together to head out to New Mexico for an archery elk hunt. Even though this is my 17th annual trip I still  put together a packing list of things I need to bring.  Normally I have put a first draft of items to bring and without fail I always find that I have left something off the list that I really need.  On this trip I will be staying at a lodge and don’t need things like a sleeping bag or camp gear such as a tent, stove, cooking utensils, food and etc…

That packing list is much more in depth and several pages in length.  Even the packing list I put together for this hunt is pretty detailed.  From clothes, light weight for warm weather and heavier clothing for colder days.  To rain gear which is always at the top of my list.  Out west you can count on rain usually every afternoon.  There is nothing worse then getting soaked and being a long way from your vehicle or camp, it makes for a miserable hunt.  Make sure it is a priority on your list.

I always consider the type of hunting I will be doing and that determines the type of boots I will be using.  Light weight for hiking and heavier and warmer for sitting in tree stands.  The obvious next items are socks, thick or medium.  Medium weight socks for hiking and heavier for sitting. There is nothing worse than getting cold feet and hands setting in a tree stand or in a ground blind.  I also take several types of gloves for the very same reasons.  I also take a couple different types of long underwear, again light weight for hiking and heavier for sitting or for very cold days when I am spot and stalk hunting.  I think you can see where I am going with my packing list, just one type or style is not enough.  That goes for your outerwear as well.

The biggest challenge I have is what extra equipment I need to bring for my bow.  I always bring a second bow just in case something serious happens to my favorite bow.  I do bring enough replacement parts to fix or replace just about anything that would go wrong or break like the peepsite, fletching, nocks and inserts for the arrows.  Extra releases, broad heads, D-loop string and oh yes, tools!  The list is much longer but I think you get the idea.  Without an extensive packing list, I will guarantee you will leave something behind that would be vital to your hunt or equipment.

Make up a packing list and check it several times.  I have found that laying everything out and checking it off my list is the very best way not leave home without it!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

Early Season Elk, The Heat or the Moon?

Give me cooler temperatures and a full moon over hot weather and no moon anytime!

Early season archery elk season is under way and the reports I am getting are that temperatures seem to be having more of an affect on the elk than normal.  I don’t think the full moon is helping either.  So the long debated question is, would you rather be hunting higher than normal temperatures and the dark of the moon or much cooler temperatures and a full moon?

My personal preference is give me cool mornings and evenings and I will take the full moon.  I have always believed that if you have cool damp mornings and evenings, the cow elk start their estrus sooner.  I also believe that the bulls testosterone levels begin to elevate, when that happens their rutting activity is more consistent.

Just like us humans, when the temperatures are cooler we are much more active than on 100 degree days.  History shows the elk are the same way.  They stay out longer in the mornings and get up earlier in the evenings.  The one thing I have really noticed over the years are the bulls are much more vocal when cooler temperatures exist.  The combination of warm temperatures and a full moon is the recipe for success and lends itself to unproductive days.  In many cases the elk won’t even begin their activities until after dark and will be back in their bedding areas before daylight.  This is what I call a bad formula for archery elk hunting.

One of the only solutions to hunting in warm temperatures is finding the water holes.  Sometimes this can be very difficult to do based on current drought conditions in your hunting area.  In my opinion, it is the single best tactic that has greatest potential of success.  Find the water!

Sometimes we are dealt with both issues, warm weather and a full moon.  What I do know that is you can’t stick one sitting in the den watching TV and it beats the hell out of being at work!

The Outdoor Quarterback

September Is The Best Month Of The Year

Arrowhead
Arrowhead

I have always felt September is the best month of the year for several reasons.  First, it’s the start of the NFL regular season.  College football also kicks off, no pun intended.  Second, the early archery seasons open around the country, which means archery elk to me.  Next, the start of fantasy football.  Even I can say that watching the NFL has become a lot more fun and entertaining because of fantasy football leagues.  Our draft is coming up soon and is always the best party of the year.

Fantasy Party
Fantasy Party

If you happen to live in a city that has a competitive major league baseball team, then a run at the playoffs is icing on the September cake!

Back to NFL football and the upcoming hunting season.  Hopes are high for every team, even the Cleveland Browns.  They have some young talented players who have already lived up to or exceeded expectations.  As excited as I am for the NFL season to start, I can’t wait to hear the first elk bugle in the woods, it is a adrenaline rush like no other!  The anticipation is similar to that of the opening kickoff to a new season, hopes are high.

Elk
Elk

There are the obvious players everyone will try and draft, Tom Brady, Aaron Rogers, Drew Brees, Julio Jones, Antonio Brown, David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell if he ever signs his franchise tag contract, which he will.  The trick is to find players that earn points who are hidden gems.  Tyreek Hill last year would have been one of those players.  I think a player who seems to fly under the radar is Golden Tate of the Lions.  He may be one of the best number two receivers you can pick up.  Another player I would take a close look at is rookie wide receiver Cooper Kupp from the LA Rams.  He not a number one, but I think will catch a lot of passes, he is a sleeper.  Another receiver, who has a new quarterback throwing to him, is Ted Ginn.  His new quarterback is Drew Brees.

So what makes September so special?  I shoot my bow everyday, get ready for my fantasy league, train for the first hunt of the fall, watch the Royals make a run at the playoffs and prepare for the start of the NFL season.  What is it they say?  “It just doesn’t get any better than this”.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Make Your Western Hunts Fun, Get In Shape

cardio
cardio

For several years I have help guided elk hunters in northern New Mexico, around the Chama area.  I have found the majority of hunters I guide come from the mid-west or the eastern part of the country.  I have discovered many, if not most, of those hunters are not in good enough shape to really enjoy their hunts.  It is simply a lack of cardiovascular conditioning.walkingforcardio

I have experienced hunters being so out of breath that when the moment of truth came, they could not steady themselves to draw their bow or steady their rifle.  In most all of those cases the hunter never got a opportunity to shoot.  We have found that once an elk gets withing shooting range, either with a bow or rifle, you have around 11 to 15 seconds to make the shot.  Once you get in that range there is very little time to catch your breath, steady your rest or calm yourself down.  If you can eliminate a couple of those elements at the critical moment, you will increase your opportunity for success.

Getting yourself in really good shape, referring to your cardiovascular conditioning, you can take care of the heavy breathing interference.  If you can control that part then becoming steady to draw your bow, mount or shoulder your rifle becomes a none factor.  Calming yourself is a matter of focus.  If you are out of shape your focus and attention to details leading up to your shot no longer exists.  Everyone gets excited when a shooting scenario presents itself, it’s natural, it is those hunters who are in good physical condition and that can bring their emotions under control quicker, will experience success more often.

The conditioning philosophy is relevant in just about every sport.  When professional athletes get fatigued, their performances quickly declines.  The same will happen with hunters.  I know when quarterbacks throws come up short it is usually because their legs are tired.  You have seen it with major league pitchers, when they begin to loose command of their pitches, it is normally their legs that get tired not their arms.

Getting in shape for a western hunt requires that you must improve your cardiovascular condition.  Work your legs and your core.  Exercises to Improve Cardiovascular Endurance.  This year make your western hunt more enjoyable, get in shape!

The Outdoor Quarterback

 

 

Where Is The Logic?

No one seems to have a consistent answer to the question, can a legally licensed hunter hunt in two states on the same day and shoot two legal limits while staying within the possession limit regulations?

Recently I was asked a question regarding waterfowl hunting and the interpretation of a law or regulation involving a duck hunt that may occur on a same day between two states.  The question was logical the answer had zero logic.  I have an answer, but I told the individual that I would first like to call the local game warden and get his view on the very convoluted law or regulation. Here is the scenario, if an individual owned property in one state and had the opportunity to hunt the same day in the adjacent state, could he in fact hunt both states on the same day and harvest a legal limit of ducks, in both states?  Of course all the proper licenses and stamps for both states where in hand and the hunter would have been totally legal.   Now to be even more descriptive explaining the event, one hunt took place early morning in one state and the second hunt took place late in the afternoon in another state, on the same day, over 4 hours away.

The answer I got back was no, they couldn’t.  There was also some confusion on his part because it is a federal regulation and not a state regulation, but the state game warden must enforce the regulation.  His initial response was, this is a very confusing issue.  It is referred to as the Aggregate total of birds.  I asked him to explain, he did his best but we were both confused at the end of the discussion because he said, it is all based on the flyway you are hunting in.  For instance the Mississippi flyway or the Central flyway.  I said okay, if that is the case, if I hunted in the Mississippi flyway in the morning than I should be able to hunt in the Central flyway in the afternoon.  He didn’t have a answer to that question and was going contact a federal agent for a definitive answer.  So, because there are different limits in each state, as he was trying to explain the very confusing regulation, there is an aggregate of the total number of ducks you could take in a day.  So I set up another scenario with him, in Missouri you can shoot 6 ducks, four of which can be mallards, and two of those can be hens, plus you get two bonus ducks such as teal, wigeon, gadwall, etc…   if I shoot my limit of 6 ducks in Missouri, 4 mallards and two bonus ducks, can I then move over to Kansas and shoot one more mallard because in Kansas you can shoot 5 mallards?  Even though I have exceeded the aggregate of 6 ducks!  Do I have the right to shoot the 5th mallard?   No answer!

I, and many other hunters who hunt in two states, don’t see any logic in this regulation or law.  If I have paid for all my licenses and stamps and I am totally legal to hunt in both states, haven’t I paid for the right to hunt in both states and shoot a legal limit in both.  I understand there are regulations and laws regarding possession limits, but if I am well within the possession limits then I should, legally, be able to hunt both states on the same day.  How about using a little logic here.

The Outdoor Quarterback

Time To Tune Up

Time to tune up your hunting and fishing equipment. Fishing is still good and the early archery seasons are just around the corner. Don’t let equipment malfunctions be the reason for your hunting or fishing trip to go south. Simple maintenance is all it takes.

As I was going through my hunting and fishing gear I realized my hunting and fishing equipment needed tuning up.  My urgency was more with my fishing gear because there are still plenty of good fishing opportunities left.  With that said, early archery elk season is not that far off either.  I have already started my body tune up but as I was looking at my archery equipment, it dawned on me that I had not taken care of some routine maintenance issues on my bows, releases and arrows.  It’s a good idea to routinely check your bow strings and cables.  If the strings are frayed and dry make sure you wax them.  I use a leather glove to apply the wax to the string, that way I can create friction to melt the wax in and on the string.  For your cables just check to see if there is any unusual wear and make sure they fit correctly on your wheels or cam’s.  Check all the fasteners on your bow, make sure they are secured, including your sites and rests.  Don’t forget your D-loop and peep.  Just a solid once over will normally work, but don’t take anything for granted.  You can live with operator error, it’s the mechanical issues that causes most of hunting heart burn!

For your arrows, check for any irregularities in arrow flight.  They could have been nicked or the fletching could be torn or separated from the arrow.  Both of these can alter your arrow flight significantly.  Make sure your inserts and knocks are secure as well.  None of these checks take long, it is just good practice to routinely check all of your equipment.  Don’t forget your releases.  They will sometimes collect dust or some other foreign object.  Both of those will cause release malfunction, trust me I learned that lesson the hard way.

I know I am guilty of not changing my fishing line near often enough.  It is a simple task that I ignore way to much.  I don’t fish for a living but I have opportunities to fish where there some real quality fish and there is nothing more frustrating than to loose a good fish because of fishing line integrity.  So I changed the line on all my reels,  Now if I loose a fish more than likely it will operator error and not the age of the line.

I have some of the same neglect issues with my reels, I just expect them to work!  Not so fast my friends, they need tuning up just like any other piece of equipment.  They collect dust and need to be cleaned and lubricated periodically to work properly.  So in addition to new line on my reels, I did a complete oil and lube job on all of them.

My confidence is much higher now that my hunting and fishing equipment has been tuned up.  No more neglect!

The Outdoor Quarterback