Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Point Blank Buck

A good friend of ours, Ivan, demonstrated some fine hunting skills this year in Wyoming. We asked him to write a story for our blog which he was kind enough to do. Congrats Ivan, great story, great adventure, and even greater hunting!

Ivan used a Wapiti "Rick Duggan 28 Special" and a STOS broadhead on his hunt.

I hope you enjoy the story as much as I did.


by Ivan James

A couple of years ago a friend had invited me to hunt mule deer on his Wyoming ranch. We would be just a hop, skip and three jumps from Riverton. It only took two years to draw the tag. I headed to Wyoming in early September, sandwiching the mule deer hunt between my own Colorado elk hunting and helping out with a friend's Colorado moose hunt.

The first evening John gave me a tour of the ranch which consisted of irrigated alfalfa fields, creosote bush, sagebrush, winter pasture, and rough sandstone hills. 

The first several days I focused on some irrigated alfalfa fields being utilized by quite a few does. I was able to glass does and bucks every morning and evening, though often on neighboring ranches. Stalking conditions were difficult in the open fields. Glassing the winter pasture proved unrewarding due to the height of the cover. 

After spending quite a bit of time glassing, while perched in the sandstone bluffs, I finally decided to concentrate on the alfalfa fields. I slowly moved westward through the morning, giving a thorough glassing from each promontory.  By noon I had reached the western boundary of the ranch. Having not brought my lunch and nearly exhausting my water supply, I turned to work back towards my embarking point. Almost immediately I saw two small bucks feeding a half mile to the east. Having no appreciable cover for the first several hundred yards, I remained motionless glassing the bucks.  A half hour later they bedded in a stalkable location, my hunt began!

A cliff to their right prevented me from approaching their downwind side.  Therefore I had to pass low, about 150 yards to the north, and in front of them. That would enable me to circle far enough upwind so as not to be detected. Then I would have to circle again to their south in order to approach from downwind.

By the time I had this figured out and placed myself in front of them they had resumed feeding. I was able to stay low enough to take advantage of the undulating sandstone rocks. Their racks were in view but they could not see me. By now they were standing in the shade of a rock with a concave north face. I had to lose sight of them as I circled far upwind and around to their southeast. I started to approach what I thought was the rock providing them shade.  The last 30 yards of the stalk included 20 yards of crunchy gravel and then a 10 yard climb up the rock which shaded them. 

Having not seen the bucks for some time, I slowly climbed the rock, glancing in a 180 degree swath to pick them up should they have moved.  ­Nearing the crest of the rock, I saw their antlers, but 20 yards to the west underneath a different rock. From this position they would see me before I had a clear shot on their vitals.  I had to backtrack the 30 yards, shift over 20 yards, and again cross the crunchy gravel and climb up the correct rock.

As I came up to the top of the correct rock, the toes of my boots were directly over the shoulder of the larger of the buck, his antlers just inches below the rock I was standing on.  The smaller buck was about four yards to my left. I did not want to shoot straight down, unless I made a spine shot I would probably only get one lung. I was not willing to take that chance. 

I waited motionless for something to happen. Though it seemed like a long time, it was probably only seconds before the smaller buck started to spook. This alarmed the larger buck. The half tension in my bow string easily translated to full draw as the bucks spooked. I swung up in one fluid motion, the arrow was released at three yards on the running buck. This is a shot that I could confidently take with my recurve, but would have passed if shooting a compound.  The arrow entered high on the buck’s left side taking out both lungs at it traversed down and forward.  At 70 yards the buck’s rear legs began to buckle, 10 yards more and he was down, it all happened in mere seconds. 

It was a small 3X4, not a buck that some would get excited about. But the memory of my first stalk, let alone to point-blank range, will last me a lifetime.

Thanks to my friend John for inviting me to hunt his ranch and for putting me up in their beautiful ranch house that he built himself, and to his son for helping me carry the deer off of the sandstone bluffs.  

Friday, November 18, 2011

More Deer Hunting Pics

Well Tom and Dan got back from Wisconsin/Nebraska last week. They had a great time but didn't shoot any bucks. 

It seems Danny's luck has run out this year, at least for killing big animals. Four different times while hunting in Wisconsin somebody saw a big buck under the stand that he was NOT sitting in. I don't think anybody can say he deserves any different, but I would have loved to see him cap off his terrific season with a big whitetail. There is always the late season...

The action was pretty good in Nebraska. The deer were running pretty good and there was several big buck sightings.

One afternoon Danny and Blake spotted a buck and a doe bed down in the tall red grass atop one of the canyons. Blake took point on this stalk and closed the distance to less than 20 yards. When the buck stood up Blake made a lethal shot with his Robertson recurve.

Just before expiring

Well the season is winding down but there will be at least one or two more deer hunts coming up. Keep checking back!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Nebraska Deer Hunting

I did not think I was going to get a chance to get to whitetail hunt this year before the gun hunters go in and get everything wound up. With a one year old son at home it is tough to get out that much, and I used up a lot of favors and kitchen points elk and moose hunting. I luckily found a day and a half to hunt though. I went to Nebraska with my cousin, Chad.

I love Nebraska, the open country is great for seeing a lot of deer. I love the canyons, the red grass, the bottoms, and the massive crop fields. In one and a half days I saw mule deer, whitetail deer, a badger, a coyote, an opossum, raccoons, and all sorts of birds.

Here is a field edge where I had a stand set up. I could have shot at a small buck here but I did not want to end my hunt so soon. I enjoying just watching the deer as much as anything. I spent this evening watching lots of deer and enjoying the sunset.

Looking out from my stand.

One evening Chad and I decided to hang a stand and sit next to each other. I don't know the farmer too well and he gave me permission to hunt as long as I only shot a doe. I am okay with that. I figured it would be a nice chance to sit and b.s. with Chad, and maybe watch him shoot a nice buck. The chances of shooting a doe here are very high. I knew it would be an enjoyable evening.

A doe right beneath Chad's feet.

Early in the evening a doe came out of a cornfield and started to feed away from us. No biggie, there are lots of deer here and we knew there would be more. A few minutes after leaving our sight she came bounding back towards us. She ran past us and never stopped long enough, or close enough for a shot. It wasn't long before we saw what spooked her - a beautiful coyote came trotting past us. Those dang things are everywhere...

That doe never really left, she just stood behind us looking at that coyote until he trotted off. Once he did she started making her way back towards us. I am sure she got a little whiff of the two hunters sitting 20 feet above her. She circled us twice, stomping her feet, and even blew a few times before she came close enough for a shot.

She was walking in to my shooting opening when I pulled my bow back. I never really noticed that I let go, nor did I notice that she was walking when I did. My anchor was solid and I felt zoned in on my aiming point. My first reaction after letting go of the string was good, I knew I had picked a spot and I had a good release. The initial arrow flight looked great. The arrow never slowed down when it hit her. One second it was there, the next it was gone. For a split second my stomach sank. That shot was too high. She ran off and I told Chad that the shot was too high. However, as you can see in the video, the doe died exactly 14 seconds after the arrow passed through her.

Upon examining the exit hole, the arrow came out below the center line of her body and closer to her front leg. The video is a bit misleading, the entrance looks further back than it was.

This was the first time I used the VPA Penetrator broadhead. I used the 200gr model. I was obviously very please with the results.

I shot this doe with a Rampart longbow, 62@28, and a Carbon Express Heritage 250 arrow. I shoot 200gr up front and my total arrow weight is about 550gr.

Dad and Danny leave for Wisconsin at the end of the week. We should have a lot more deer hunting stories and, if they're lucky, some success photos as well. Check back soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Ontario Moose Hunt

We just got back from an Ontario moose hunt. We had an absolutely great time, caught lots of fish, and Danny continued his amazing season with a 53" bull moose. I'm going to cut his bowstring!

We have been to this place twice before. Wine Lake Camp near Parrault Falls. A few years ago Herb, owner of Wine Lake, was in our store to buy some archery supplies. Herb is a traditional archer who lives in Nederland, CO during the winters. Herb overheard Tom talking about moose hunting and told him about his camp.

Wine Lake is mostly a fishing camp, but Herb gets a few bear and moose tags a year. At the time he was sold out on bull moose tags, but we have been able to go on two cow hunts in the past four years. We are on the list for bull tags in 2013.

This year we got lucky, Herb called because he had a cancellation from one of his bull hunters. He asked if we would like the tag, which we jumped on! Herb offers the fairest price moose hunts that I have ever heard of. Party hunting is legal in Ontario, so Danny and I bought calf tags and Dad had the bull tag. We were all hunting for a bull though, we could kill one, and it was going to be a team effort. None of us care who gets the shot.

In Ontario, a non-resident moose hunter must be accommodated, he cannot go moose hunting on his own. A guide does not have to accompany the hunter in the field, but the hunter must purchase the license through a camp and sleep there.  We were able to hunt on our own which we like. Herb gave us excellent advice on moose hunting strategy and also where he sees the most moose action.

Wine Lake Camp is a two hour boat drive from the nearest road. There are no roads for about ten miles in any direction from this camp. This makes for some excellent undisturbed fishing and hunting.  Here we are boating in.

On the way in Herb showed us some rocks with some old Native paintings on them.
The water in Wine Lake is crystal clear
The first night out provided some excellent sights, but we heard no moose.
There was a lot of moose activity around one of the rivers connecting a few lakes. We spent the majority of our time listening from the boat. We heard a cow or two bawling almost every time we went out. We would locate ourselves on shore according to the wind and either call close to the water, or try to make our way through the dense forest to get in better calling position.

Sometime in the late 80's a massive tornado came through and wiped out all of the trees on this hillside, except one. This lone monarch stood out well above the rest. It was quite a sight.

Fishing in Canada cannot be beat. A limit of walleye after a few hours of fishing. We would hunt in the morning and evening, and fish all afternoon. What can beat that!?
We also caught a pile of smallmouth.

Lake trout are not easy to catch this time of the year, but Danny managed to catch a few.
I'm not a trophy hunter, but I am a trophy fisherman. While Danny and Dad were snapping up the walleye left and right my mission on this trip was to catch a 40"+ pike. This was the biggest I caught, 38.5".

The small hunting boat that we spent the majority of our time hunting from.

The moose action was pretty good. Like I said, we heard cows bawling on almost every outing. I called in a bull to Dad and Danny on the third day of the hunt. He was only 25 yards away from those two, with me another 20yds behind them. I don't like admitting the mistake I made, but it's too stupid not to share. I did not know the bull was only a few steps away from providing one of those two a shot. Between grunts a small black fly flew in to my mouth and hit the hangy ball thing. I tried to muffle my cough but it wasn't enough. When I coughed the bull turned on a dime and went back from where he came. Unreal. I'm sure they were a little annoyed with me, but they never said it.

The last evening of our hunt we slipped in to a bay where Herb heard a bull grunting that morning. We only had an hour of light left. I gave off two soft grunts and got an immediate reply. We drew straws to determine who the shooter would be every day. Danny was up. Dad and I sent him down the shore line 75 yards while we stayed back and called. When the bull wasn't grunting it sounded like he was tearing down the forest. He was hot! 

I would give a few grunts and the bull would immediately respond every single time. When he was working towards us I stayed quiet. When he would stop I would grunt or Dad would rake a tree. It did not take long before we figured the bull was right on top of Danny. We could see him but we could not see the bull.

We watched as Danny came to full draw. Oh the thoughts that run through your head at those times! "It's gonna happen, it's gonna happen. What's going on? Why isn't he shooting? Is it too far? Should I grunt or would that screw him up? What's he doing? He's going to have to let down soon..." Danny sat there at full draw for no less than 15 seconds! We didn't know what to do, we just stood there watching through our binos for an eternity. 

We did not know it, but the bull was only SIX YARDS from Danny. Danny had to draw his bow at the time he did because once the bull emerged from behind some trees there would be no other time for him to draw. Of course the bull stopped with his vitals covered and his head sticking out. The bull just stood there making soft grunts and smacking his big lips together.

Danny said he never even felt the weight of his bow. He didn't know if, or when the bull was going to walk out from those trees. Danny leaned out, just a little bit, so that he could get an arrow past the brush and in to the bulls vitals. Danny is a fine shot, but I think anybody can hit a moose at six yards. He shot.

From my perspective I could see Danny shoot but I still had no idea how far the shot was. In an instant the bull came crashing out of the brush, his head down. It looked to me like he ran right over the top of Danny (he missed him by four steps!). The bull ran out in to the middle of the lake. I'm looking at the bull now, I don't see an arrow and I don't see any blood. I bring up my binoculars to look and then I remember Danny. Oh crap, it had to have run him over. I look back to Danny and see him moving around. Okay good, he's alright. I look back to the bull, and as my eyes move from Danny to the bull a white streak practically follows their same path.

I heard the arrow in flight as much as I saw it. Zzzzzzzzzzzp, WHACK! "Nice!" I thought. If he missed him the first time that one was perfect. The second shot was about 50 yards, and Danny hit him as good as could be.

The bull's back legs buckled almost immediately as the second arrow hit him. Then I knew that the first shot was also right on the money. The sight that unfolded in the next 45 seconds was both the saddest, and most utterly spectacular thing I have ever seen. The bull died in the water but not without demonstrating a ferocious will to survive. The power of this moose, his head flying up, his legs kicking, the water and blood flying absolutely everywhere...I will have a crisp and clear memory of that sight for the rest of my life. I've never seen so much blood. It was not fun watching that moose die. After the water stopped flying and the moose lay motionless nobody moved, nobody looked at each other, nobody said anything - we all just stood there with our jaws open.

Then the emotion of what just happened flooded over us. Dad and I ran 75 yards over to Danny and Danny lifted me up in the air. We couldn't believe what just happened. Danny was trembling, "Did you see that thing?! Tell me you saw that! He was RIGHT HERE!" Danny said, pointing basically to his feet.

We recapped what had just happened and what we were thinking from our various view points. We all looked out in to the lake. What the heck are we going to do now!?

The second arrow - 50 yards is a far shot with a recurve. It couldn't have been better.

We went back to get Herb, he would know what to do. And he did. Herb grabbed some come-a-longs and some rope. We tied a rope around the bulls head and back legs and dragged him on shore as far as we could. Then we used the come-a-longs to inch him up the rest of the way.

What a year so far!

Danny used a Hawk recurve on this hunt. His first shot was with a Grizzly broadhead. He hit the moose directly above the leg and centered a big rib. The broadhead split the rib into three pieces and the arrow lodged in the far shoulder. The second arrow was tipped with a VPA Terminator broadhead. This arrow slipped between the ribs and also parked in the far shoulder. Neither arrow produced an exit hole but they both penetrated the entire cavity. Since the bull ran right in to a lake there was no blood trail. But I watched the blood coming out of the moose's sides and mouth, if we did have to trail this moose it would have been a bloodtrail to match all bloodtrails.

We go back to Wine Lake in 2013 with two bull tags in our pockets. I cannot wait. It is one of the most pristine and beautiful places I have ever been.

Up next - WHITETAILS!!!
stay tuned...