Monthly Archives: October 2015

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Ground Scent and Access Routes

For many of my early archery hunting years I failed to consider several of the smaller details surrounding archery hunting success.  One such detail was ground scent and stand access.  A lot of times the easiest access to a stand location is the same travel path that the deer routinely use.  Deer are lazy, and the secure path of least resistance is often where they travel.  And so it happens to be that we hunters can tend to be lazy as well.  Not coincidentally the path we often choose is the same path the deer walk.  I believe that many times the reason that we fail to see deer while on the stand is that the deer which would have come through our area are alerted before they are within sight (or smell) of a hunter in a treestand by the scent that hunter leaves on the ground.  That deer trail you crossed 100 yards to the west may be the tip-off a mature buck needs to head back in the direction he came from instead of continuing through your area.

I’ve started to consider my access routes to stand locations and have begun to tweak my approach in minor, subtle ways in order to avoid detection by deer.  When possible, I cut access paths through the woods in the spring so that the least amount of vegetation comes in contact with my clothing.  This also does a lot to reduce noise during your approach.  Secondly, when I am cutting these access lanes, it try to steer clear of known deer trails.  Sometimes this requires my access to the stand to be significantly longer, or a tougher walk.  But the results justify the additional effort.  In hill country, it can be almost impossible to avoid crossing some deer trails when you traverse a hill side to your stand location.  Getting creative about your access can solve many of your problems.  Perhaps you need to access your stand from the backside of the hill and drop down to your hunting position on the leeward side from the ridge top above.  If you are hunting later in the afternoon, your approach may need to be from the bottom of the hill and you may position your stand below the travel corridor you are hunting to take advantage of thermal currents than will pull your scent away from aproaching deer.  In these scenarios, it may be possible to never cross a deer path you expect travel to occur along.

Still, I seem to find situations where it is almost impossible to avoid crossing some deer paths on the way to my hunting location.  In these circumstances, it becomes even more important to have an idea of where the deer you are hunting is likely bedding.  If you have a good idea of the bedding that is being utilized on a specific wind direction, you can appropriately plan you access to both avoid bumping deer from that bedding area during your approach, and avoid having your scent entering the bedding area during your hunt.  If I have to cross a deer path, I will do it on the side of my stand opposite of where I expect the deer to travel from.  This way, by the time the deer are able to detect any ground scent, they will have already walked through several shooting lanes.  Keep in mind that the way you approach your stand can, and should, likely change depending on whether you are hunting that location in a morning or an afternoon.  Several of my stands should be accessed from the East in the morning and West in the afternoon, or vis-a-versa.  Below is an example of just that:

access

Hunting this stand on a N wind requires different access for evening vs. morning hunts. A wind with too much West in it can be problematic if deer are traveling from the Southeastern bedding area in the evening. However, splitting hairs can be necessary to position yourself in range of a mature deer and this stand can be successfully hunted on a NNW wind. This spot worked perfectly for an evening hunt that ended with a mid october mature doe kill.

If you are hunting on private land, another option may be to create an obstacle to deflect deer movement away from your access route.  This can be beneficial for changing a movement pattern just slightly enough to avoid wind detection as well.  If the trail you are hunting is below the only tree that can hold a treestand in the area, hinge cutting a line of brush to angle the trail above the tree can manipulate deer movement enough to allow you to access your treestand from the lower side and not have to cross the heavily travel path.  While this option is not viable for public land hunters in many states, those controlling their own piece of property can reap the rewards of a little sweat equity.

Paying attention to intricate details like access routes and accepting that it may take a little work to optimize your hunting situation can land you in a better position to capitalize on those precious opportunities at a savvy whitetail this year.

Leave your thoughts and comments below or email be at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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Why Kuiu.

I hesitated to write this blog because I wasn’t sure I wanted to venture down a “brand-specific” road.  There are brands that I trust and have used for a number of years with success, but that isn’t to say there aren’t other brands that would achieve the same or better results, perhaps with the same or better price, and so I remain open to the evolution of my gear.

My intent isn’t to plug a specific company’s product.  My intent is to talk about a system and the benefits it provides.  If another system provides the same efficiencies at a better price point, I’m open to it.  Kuiu made sense for me, another company’s line may makes sense for your style of hunting.  The important part is that your clothing choices are well thought out and give you the functionality you need. Good clothing keeps you in the stand longer and therefore can increase your chances of success.

So here’s why Kuiu:

Versatility-

Good hunting clothing is expensive.  Highly efficient insulation as well as water repellent, breathable membranes come at a premium, so it was important for me to maximize the number of clothing combinations I could make from the least number of pieces in order to address early to late season insulation needs from one single system.  The ability to do this is one of the main reasons I chose Kuiu over similar hunting clothing systems.

A Simple System-

The idea behind a gear system is pretty simple.  First, you have a next-to-skin layer that needs to feature both moisture wicking properties and odor control.  Merino wool has natural odor eliminating capabilities and draws moisture off your skin and into the garment where it can evaporate while the base layer still provides warmth and insulation.  Synthetic base layers can also do a good job of insulating, and some of them are incredibly fast drying and also feature odor fighting properties that are manufactured into the fabric.  It is simply hard to beat the warmth of natural fiber merino wool which is why I selected merino wool base layers of various weights. (Base layers will fit tighter to the skin, so order the same size as you normally wear in T-shirts.)

The second layer of your gear system is your insulation layer.  Here again comes the option of natural vs. synthetic.  Kuiu has a high loft down system that is incredibly light weight and compact.  Packing layers into your stand location becomes easier with this ultra light insulation system and reduces perspiration and therefore body odor. (I purchased XL Superdown layers even though I were a Large in other clothing.  The XL fits perfectly and allows for merino layers to fit nicely underneath.)

A midweight thermal hooded sweatshirt can act as both an outer layer during earlier season hunts and an insulation layer in the dead of winter.  The best thing about Kuiu’s Pelaton full zip hoodie is its versatility.  The knitted fabric stretches to fit comfortably over insulation layers without elastic and fits perfectly over only merino layers as well.  (Because I planned to use the Pelaton hoodie over my down layer and I ordered an XL Superdown layer, I also ordered an XL hoodie, which fits perfectly over the insulation layer.)

Outer layers comprised of Toray Primeflex material are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent).  The Attack pants can be used as a perfect early season pant or as a shell layer during later season hunts.  The natural stretch of the fabric allows them to fit over the merino and Superdown layers.  The Attack pants are the most comfortable pair of pants I have ever worn, hunting or otherwise, and allow an unrestricted range of motion for demanding hunting styles or hanging stands on run-and-gun sets.  I bought the Guide jacket because I like an outer layer with a hood for added weather protection.  Made of the same Primeflex material as the Attack pants, the guide jacket also features micro fleece backing for added warmth and comfort on later season hunts.  This was another big reason I chose the guide jacket, as I feel added warmth in your core is important on cold late November/December hunts.  Wind and water resistant, light rains will bead off this Primeflex fabric but they remain breathable to keep an active hunter’s body heat regulated.  (Order at least one waist size larger than you typically would wear to allow for room for your base layers.  I wear a 34 waist in blue jeans, but ordered a 36 in Attack pants and they fit perfectly over the under layers.)

Several rain gear option exist, and this might be an area you can forego if you are looking to save some money.  I chose to select the Teton rain system because it was the most economical of the choices and the water permeability of 10,000mm is suitable for any conditions I will find myself in.  Mostly, my goal with rain gear is to be able to stay out in a light rain and not have to worry about my guide jacket or attack pants being water logged for the next day’s hunt.  You can learn more about waterproof ratings and how they are calculated here.

The layer combinations are nearly endless and this gives you options from early to late season with just a few simply clothing items.

Mobility-

Mobile hunting has its value when pursuing whitetails.  Getting into remote areas is hard work and packing a stand and other gear makes it that much more difficult.  The ability to improvise and adjust is worth the effort however.  Being mobile is easier when you are wearing ultralight gear.  Insulation layers that weigh a few ounces and outer layers with the same kind of lightweight efficiency make it easier to carry layers in without adding significant weight to your pack.    I can’t tell you how cumbersome packing in heavy, inefficient layers can be.  Pack weight is something that shouldn’t be overlooked, whether you are hunting remote public parcels or walking into small pieces of private ground.  Weight means work and work means sweat.  Sweat increases your human scent and makes it easier for deer to detect you, and long hours in the stand with sweat soaked base layers lead to a cold and miserable sit.

Price-

If you look at the price tag on some of the items on Kuiu’s website, you may wonder how price could be a benefit when purchasing Kuiu gear.  Certainly, Kuiu is an investment and there is cheaper hunting clothing to found.  But when comparing similar quality, (and more importantly, efficiency), in clothing it is hard to match the price point of Kuiu’s gear.  Similar clothing manufacturers are based on a retail model which requires significant retail mark-ups.  Some of these other gear systems might be available at your local sporting goods store, however, if you are serious about streamlining your gear system, there is a good chance you know more than the floor rep about the product line.  When this happens, you are paying for a retail markup that isn’t giving you much value-added when you don’t receive added expertise from the salespersons at the store.  You may also find that more items are needed to achieve the same kind of system that Kuiu can provide with fewer items.  Some layering systems from other high end manufacturers utilize heavily insulated outer layers which are harder to pack into your hunting location and don’t provide as much versatility.  To achieve the same flexibility you may find yourself buying more items, and adding additional high priced items equals way more expensive overall.  Kuiu isn’t cheap by any means, but its pricing structure is more palatable than other manufacturers who produce clothing of similar quality.

Conclusion-

Kuiu isn’t going to be for everyone.  Some people’s hunting styles will lend themselves to traditional hunting that may be acquired for cheaper prices.  However, for those looking for an ultralight option to provide mobility, versatility and efficiency, it is hard to match the price/quality ratio of Kuiu.

What does your clothing system look like to get you from early to late season?  Leave your comments below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte

 


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Is all scent created equal?

A good majority of bowhunters are aware of the necessary precautions that must be taken to control human odor when entering the woods.  There is certainly debate whether or not some of the advertised products work, or if there is simply no substitute for woodsmanship.

Aside from that discussion, I recently encountered a situation that lead me to believe that other factors are at play in how much human scent a deer will tolerate.  In this particular situation, I was positioned over a well used trail that entered a bedding area about 75 yards to the Northwest of my position.  The wind was from the NE and I when I hung the set I suspected that the wind would carrying any scent out and over the approaching deer.  In theory, this would be correct, but the conditions of the day (cool, damp, overcast) had the heavy cool air dropping more quickly than I expected due to a lack of morning thermal activity and the approaching deer were able to pick up enough scent to make them uneasy, although not spooked.  I’ll be adjusting the stand by 25 yards the next time I sit, but that’s subject matter for another blog.

How might have this situation played out differently if it occurred on a field edge?  In my experiences, areas where deer are more accustomed to encountering human scent may be a bit more forgiving when it comes to scent control.  Field lanes, the edges or crop fields or old logging two tracks that receive more frequent human travel are examples of areas where deer may be less spooked when catching a bit of scent.  Its not to say that you can enter these areas with no regard to scent control but you may be able to get away with a bit more.

As you push in closer to bedding areas, the necessity of paying attention to scent control becomes more imperative.  There is no substitute for playing the wind, however, putting as many odds in your favor as possible is good practice.  Mature deer that pick up even the slightest indication of intrusion into their bedroom are going to be alarmed.  If you are inside their security cover this is not a normal occurrence for them.  Unlike field edges, which receive human activity on a more regular basis, whitetails often bed in certain areas because they are secure and not invaded by humans.  For this reason you need to consider both your airborne scent and ground scent.  Avoiding an access route to a stand that crosses deer paths is imperative and setting up in a way to avoid your scent entering the bedding area or flowing over the deer trail is also necessary for success.

Deer will simply not tolerate the presence of humans in their bedding areas, and for this reason, bed hunting is high risk and high reward.  Often, when accessing a remote bedding area, you are burning a bridge to get there and you will only have a hunt or two per season in that location.  Choosing your hunting times wisely and waiting for the perfect conditions is important in order to stay undetected and increase your odds.  An approaching buck that catches your scent close to his bed is not going to stick around and give you multiple shot opportunities like immature deer may do when encountering residual human odor along a field edge, so play the wind, consider your access and be as scent free as possible.

What do you think?  Leave a comment below or email me at commongroundbowhunter@gmail.com

-Reuben Dourte


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2015 Target Bucks

Some of the bucks we will be chasing this year.


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2015 Hunting Journal: Opening Day(s)

Opening day in the Empire State arrived October 1st with Pennsylvania’s opener following closely behind on the 3rd.  And while the tropical storm/hurricane, which is moving up the east coast and dumping buckets of rain on us, is putting a dampener on our opening day in PA, October 1st in New York was prime conditions for deer movement.

The barometer rose north of 30.2 and the rain broke for a day between fronts.  The moon was a few days past full and the Northeast wind seemed to be the last piece needed in order to align all the stars for a great hunt.

This year I decided to give up October mornings, well, at least 90% of the time anyway.  I decided that there might be a few mornings that could warrant taking a chance if the access was good and trail camera pictures showed bucks on their feet in the first hours of daylight.  Another exception I decided I would make if the conditions warranted it would be to hunt the morning of opening day.  Since a good many positive factors aligned I headed to one of my better stands for a morning hunt.  On the way, I would walk right past several trail cameras so in the darkness I swapped cards and then scrolled through the photos on my DSLR camera.

One of our target bucks. He is a regular on the property.

One of our target bucks. He is a regular on the property.

The stand I sat for this hunt was located about 75 yards from a bedding area on the adjacent parcel.  I sat on the edge of a transition between thicker succession timber and a more open portion of the woods.  My spot was still relatively thick, visibility of only 30-40 yards, max, and the deer felt comfortable moving in this part of the woods because it received little to no human activity all year long.  The bedding is located slightly north west of my position and a Northeast wind carries scent past the bedding area where a bedded deer would not be able to detect a hunter’s presence.  A deer approaching the stand from the Northwest could do so with a NE cross wind and feel secure, so I felt confident that an all day sit could produce results of either deer entering the bedding in the morning or exiting the bedding in the evening on the way to a alfalfa field further down the ridgeline.

The hunt, 10/01/2015:

I got to my stand between 5:00-5:15 AM and was situated around 5:45 AM, about an hour before daylight.  For the first 3 hours of daylight I began to wonder if I had made a mistake because no deer were moving through the area.  I was continuously checking the wind currents to make sure they were doing what I thought they were.  The wind was coming over my back from the NE as expected, but the heavy, moisture laden cool air was causing my scent to drop more quickly than I had hoped.  To exacerbate the problem, the pines behind me created an unexpected eddy-ing effect, causing the wind stream to plummet in front of me where the main course of travel was.

Buck Bed is indicated by red circle, stand location by red 'X'. Blue arrows show wind direction. White lines indicate deer trails. (Alfalfa, standing corn and clover food plots to the east.

Buck Bed is indicated by red circle, stand location by red ‘X’. Blue arrows show wind direction. White lines indicate deer trails. (Alfalfa, standing corn and clover food plots to the east.

Even with these unexpected conditions, I knew the scenario would improve as the day progressed because of thermal activity heating the air and causing the currents to rise.  I also knew that a deer would have to expose itself for a shot opportunity before it could ever catch my scent, so being quick on the draw would still allow me a chance at a buck, if one showed.

9:50 AM- A group of two adult does and two fawns traveled through my shooting lane and never stopped or indicated that they caught any intruders scent. The were headed East to West as I suspected most of the morning activity would occur.

10:50 AM- Another family group of does moved one of my other shooting lanes.  This time only a doe fawn was on the trail ten yards south of me, while the two mature does were another 15 yards below her.  By this time the thermal drafts had begun carrying the milkweed out farther from my stand before it was dropping to the ground below.  The largest doe stood at 25 yards and continued to scent check the wind and eventually turned and walked further down hill to continue in the westward direction with the other two deer in toe.

11:50 AM- Two adult doe and two fawns walked from the East right beneath my stand and began to smell the ground where I had walked.  The wind was carrying my scent over their backs, but the seemed uneasy about ground scent and moved further south along the same path as the previous deer before they continued west.

12:50 PM- A lone adult doe moved from the East to the north of my location.  The wind had become unpredictable and had briefly switched from NE to SE.  As the doe passed my stand she caught my scent in the swirling wind and loped off to the bedding area to the NW of my position.

2:00 PM- I saw movement on the west side of the bedding area which is located to the NW of my stand.  I was nervous because the wind had more East in it than North by this time and I thought there was a good chance a deer coming past my stand from the bedding area would be able to smell me before it entered my shooting lane.  The first deer I saw headed back into the thicket and then I noticed a large body moving South.  It was one of those times when you didn’t need to see the headgear to know it was a buck, because it was significantly bigger than all the mature does you had been seeing up that point.  It was indeed a buck, but not one of the ones I wanted to kill.  This was fork horn that was a regular on trail camera.  The buck had the biggest yearling body I have ever seen and I kept expecting more antlers to accompany it as he moved closer.  Luckily, the wind shifted as the buck approached and I continued to put out milkweed seeds to see exactly what the currents were doing.  The sun broke through the clouds and almost instantly the milkweed began to rise as the air heated rapidly.  This allowed the buck to approach to 15 yards without detecting me.  He stood and surveyed the area for a bit and then somehow he picked me out of the tree, even looking through a hemlock tree that was between us.  He bounded off about 40 yards and the last glimpse I caught was him walking back into the bedding area casually.

3:00 PM- The wind current changed and was coming almost due East with gusts coming from the ESE.  I was afraid this wind would carry my scent straight into the bedding area I was hunting over and further time in the stand would begin to do more damage than good.  At 3:00 PM I packed up and quietly slipped out of the area and headed home.

What went right:

The deer are utilizing that area on a regular basis, and they aren’t afraid to move there during daylight hours, even during midday.  This is a spot that can produce, but it has to be hunted right.  Choosing days with the right wind, and/or saving it for high barometric pressure days during the pre-rut is going to be key.  Hunted sparingly, this spot should stay good all season.

What went wrong:

I think some of the unknowns of hunting a new area of the property caught up to me during this hunt.  I suspected that the Northest wind would carry my scent further down hill.  However, several factors, including some of the compenents of the weather as well as the vegetation features around me inhibited the wind from doing exactly what I thought it would.  While I don’t believe the wind activity hindered any deer sightings (to bust me they had to be in my shooting lane), there is just something I hate about any deer getting an education that I was/am in the area.  To combat this, I picked a tree further to the south that still provides great shot opportunities and less chance of being winded.  It is further from the hemlock trees and should allow for more consistent wind current and less swirling activity.  Sometimes 25 yards makes all the difference in the world.  The tradeoff is going to be a bit of a sacrifice of available cover, so I will have to position the stand on the back side of the tree, which will make shot opportunities more limited and filming a bit more challenging, but that’s the way its going to have to go.  I will need to stay out of this area over the next 4 weeks and only return in late October to intercept a rutting buck if I haven’t already tagged out by that time (I’m usually not that lucky!).

Thanks for reading the beginning of the 2015 Common Ground Bowhunter Field Journal, I hope you will follow along this season, and I promise the following posts will be more concise.