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...

Danny's 2011 Elk

Ol' Danny boy really worked his butt off this season. He spent a ton of time scouting this summer. Exploring some rugged new country, and of course checking in on some old haunts. Danny did some fine hunting to get this bull, being his older brother it can be hard to admit that he's better than me at anything. I will say this, he is a better elk hunter.

Danny covered more ground this season than I could do in two. The way he shot this bull amazes me (this is an older brother talking here). It was something I would have never done. I simply wouldn't have had the confidence in the plan, or in my sneakability.

Danny has a handful of good but not great bulls under his belt. He is not a trophy hunter by any means, but with all of the great bulls he was seeing this year he was hoping for something with 6 points. Opening weekend Danny passed up on a few nice 5 points, bulls he would have shot in a heart beat any other season. Throughout the year Danny was at full draw on a few other nice 6 point bulls, but the shot just wasn't there, so he never let go of the string.

Late on the evening of Sept. 15th Danny got on the edge of a big herd of elk that were out feeding in a thick willow bog. He got to within 50 yards of the herd bull that night. Because of thick cover he never got a clear look at the bull's rack, just enough to know it was a true monster. His bugle, though, was unmistakable. It was the nastiest bugle Danny has heard in his 16 years of elk hunting.

The next morning, Friday the 16th, Danny was back in that same vicinity hoping that the elk were still going to be there. As the sun was gaining height, with neither sight or sound of elk, Danny was about to dive off of this steep ridge and climb the next three ridges to the North looking for something.

Right before he started off he heard it. The bugle of bugles. The kind that makes your stomach turn over and your mouth hang open. It was the same bull. He knew where the bull was, and he knew it was likely the bull would come his way. Waiting a few minutes confirmed his hunch, the bull bugled again, closer. And then again, closer yet.

It was a very windy day, with the elk coming his way he decided not to call. Instead he got on the back side of the ridge he was on, opposite the elk. Herd bulls usually round up the back of the herd. Danny knew that if he stayed on the same side of the ridge as the elk he would be inundated with cows any moment. With strong swirly winds, and that many eyes, his chance of getting a shot at the bull would be very slim. There were too many cows. By getting on the back side of the hill, out of sight of the elk, he planned on using his ears to parallel the herd. He knew, after years of seeing the elk move along this ridge, that the elk would eventually pop on to his side where the shade was better.

Danny learned this trick from our Dad, who did the same thing with him when Danny was 14 years old - different ridge, same trick. It produced a shot on a monster bull. That was back before Dad was a deadeye (by his own admission).

So Danny sat and listened. Then he heard it. The pop of a branch that he was waiting for. He started paralleling the herd. Thinking that he was ahead of the elk he angled towards the top of the hill. All of the sudden Danny saw antlers, it was a nice 6 point satellite, but not the herd bull. The elk were moving too quick, and Danny had fallen behind. No shot presented itself on the satellite bull so Danny dropped back down his side of the ridge and quickly moved forward to get even with the main herd.  As he got to where he thought he was close to the elk the big bull bugled a mere thirty yards away. The elk had popped the ridge and were now on his side!

Now he really slowed down. Take a step... look.... listen.

After a few minutes of this a cow rang out with a few whiny mews.  Branches popped to his left and then he saw her trotting right towards him. A second later he caught a glimpse of the 4th tine of the big bull and his massive body right on her heels. It takes a certain amount of luck to get a shot at an animal like this, no matter how well your plan comes together. Danny got that luck.

Now he's got an arrow nocked, bow pointing right where the elk are headed.

Here she comes, perfect, 8 yards right through a beautiful shooting lane. Any moment now and the bull will follow her. But he doesn't, of course. Instead of taking a few steps around a gnarled mess of trees the big bull walks right through them. Now he's through the opening and Danny has to improvise. With the bull at 15 yards Danny crouched down to his knees, his bow horizontal to, and about 6 inches off of the ground. The kind of shot you take at the range just for fun, but Danny had to do it to shoot underneath some branches that were covering the bull's vitals. He drew his bow, reached full draw, picked a spot, and loosed the arrow.

16 years of waiting for and dreaming of a shot like this. A monster bull at 15 yards, lip curling and grunting at the cow that just brought him over. The arrow is on it's way, no...NO! It barely nicked the bottom of a branch, the branch that he was trying to shoot under, and dove under nearth the bull's massive chest. Devastation doesn't begin to describe the feeling. How can that be, how can that happen? Thousands of arrows shot at the practice range in preparation for THIS MOMENT! NOOO!

But the wind was howling that day. The bull didn't have any idea that he'd been shot at he just stood there curling his upper lip. The desperation of the moment made taking out a second arrow pure reaction. It was on the string but the bull was moving again. This is a densely timbered hill side, he's behind a lot of trees now. Danny had to move. With the big herd close by it was risky, but he was able to go five or six steps. The bull is at 32 yards now, the exact distance that Danny has been shooting in the back yard. Hundreds and hundreds of arrows this summer at this distance. He doesn't even think twice. The shot opening was small. The elk's chest was framed between two trees, with limbs above his back.

The second arrow was on it's way. The shot was perfect, to the exact hair that Danny was aiming at. The bull was slightly quartered away, the arrow entered just above the elbow. Penetration was good, looked like it parked in the far shoulder (confirmed later).

The bull blasted across the mountain. The remainder of the herd jumped, but quickly calmed back down as Danny called to try and stop the big bull. Danny knew the shot was lethal, and he knew the bull would be piled up not very far away. He wanted so badly to go and find him but all of the cows were just standing around. So he waited.  An hour later all of the cows had meandered away.

I sure would have loved to be with Danny when he killed this bull. But at least I got to be apart of the cleaning and the pack out. The pack out wasn't too horrible.

Danny and I with his bull

We did some pretty careful cleaning knowing that the dangerous end of the arrow was still somewhere inside the cavity. After removing the heart and lungs we still didn't see it. Peeling apart the lungs finally exposed the arrow, just like this.

The head and cape topped the scales right at 85 lbs. Not horrible, but walking through the brush was difficult. How elk remain silent when moving through the trees with this kind of headgear is beyond me.

Danny shot this elk with a Rampart recurve and a Grizzly broadhead. The bloodtrail was profuse and easy to follow. But with an arrow in the heart that would be expected. He is shooting a 225 grain broadhead and 630 grains of total arrow weight.

Nice job Danny! A fine mule deer, a monster bull elk, how could the season get any better? (oh, it does)