Monthly Archives: December 2018

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How to Lead a Running Deer

Category : Miscellaneous

There is always debate around the concept of shooting at running deer.  Some hunters don’t feel that it is an ethical shot choice.  They cite the higher propensity for wounding an animal as the reason why running shots are unsportsmanlike.  I don’t know if there is any statistical research on the subject, but I would contend that it comes down to knowing your own marksmanship abilities and making the right shot decisions in each individual scenario.  I’ve seen running deer that I have elected to not shoot at, and to the contrary,  I’ve shot at running deer on many occasions during my years of hunting.  I have probably cleanly missed more than I have hit, but I can say with certainty that I have wounded and lost far fewer running deer than deer I have shot at while they were standing still.

Some hunters aren’t the best judges of distance, and that includes both distance to the game and the distance they are actually “leading” the deer.  (Even fewer yet know the distance they should be leading a deer.)  But even if you know the deer is at 200 yards and you should lead it by 8-10 feet, unless you have considered how to judge what 8 feet in front of an animal at 200 yards looks like, your shots are still little more than guesswork. 

Its important to consider that there are a multitude of variables that can change how far to lead a deer.  For example, a deer that is not running perpendicular to you requires less of a lead than one that is running the same speed while passing you broadside.  For example, if a deer is running away from a hunter at a 45 degree angle, the lateral distance covered in relation to the hunter’s position would be almost 10 feet less, per second, than a deer running broadside at the same speed and distance.  So, to keep the examples simple, for the sake of illustration, we are going to limit this discussion to deer that are running perpendicular to the hunter at 100 yards. 

To complete this calculation you will need to know the velocity of your bullet and estimate the approximate speed the deer is running.  Realistically, whether the cartridge load you shoot has a velocity of 2800 fps or 3000 fps will affect the calculation at 100 yards very little.  Furthermore, as a bullet travels over distance, it loses velocity, but, again, this will not make a significant difference to the calculation at distances within 100 yards.

Whitetail deer can run at speeds up to 30 mph.  Its safe to assume that there are times, when deer are being pushed, that they run at full speed. However, it is more likely that the deer you shoot at will be clocking at something less than its maximum, especially before your first shot.  So assuming a deer is traveling at a good clip of 20 MPH, perpendicular to the hunter, at 100 yards, how far will the deer travel by the time the bullet reaches it? 

  1. First, you’ll need to convert that 20 miles per hour to feet per second so that the units your are using for the deer’s speed and the bullet’s speed are the same.  The quick way to do this is by typing into google “20 MPH in FPS”.  The result is 29.333 Feet Per Second.
  2.  Now calculate how long it will take your bullet to travel 100 yards (300 feet).  We will assume the bullet velocity is 2900 FPS, which is in the realm of average for most big game calibers.  Divide 300 by 2900 and you will have a very close approximation of the time it takes for your bullet to travel 100 yards; .103 seconds.  You can also find a ballistics chart for your caliber that will tell you the milliseconds of travel for varying distances.
  3. Now, multiply the distance a deer running at 20 MPH travels in 1 second (29.333) by .103 seconds.  The answer is 3.02 feet.  In other words, a deer running at 20 MPH will travel 3.02 feet in the time it takes a bullet moving at 2900 FPS to travel 100 yards.             
Ballistics Chart example for .270 Winchester, 130 gr. Silvertip bullet. (gundata.org)

Now that we know a deer running 100 yards away, at close to full speed, will cover about 3 feet before a bullet will reach them, we need to know how far to lead them to hit the vitals; and we need to determine some aiming points to reference in a fast shooting situation.  Here is what you should remember.

  1. An adult deer’s body, from the point of the shoulder to the tail, is typically between 3 feet and 4 feet long. 
  2. If you do a google image search for “running deer”, you will quickly see that its pretty safe to say that the length of the head and neck of an adult deer can be near half its body.  That means that when an adult deer is running, its nose is approximately 18 inches to 2 feet beyond the front of the shoulder.  From nose to tail, an adult deer extended in its stride will measure between 5-6 feet.
  3. Considering an adult deer with a body length of 4 feet, the vital area between the shoulder blade and the paunch will span about 12-18 inches behind the front line of the deer’s chest. 

So, given our calculations, which are based on some approximations regarding the deer’s estimated rate of travel, we can make a reasonable estimation on how to aim at a running deer, relative to our estimations of the body size of a mature whitetail.  When a deer is traveling 20 MPH at 100 yards, and your round is traveling at 2900 FPS, you will need to aim somewhere between the front of the deer’s chest and in line with its nose to connect with the vital region of the animal.  Variation occurs based on the individual body characteristics/proportions of the specific animal in your cross hairs, the exact rate of it’s travel, your bullet velocity and, of course, the angle the deer is running in relation to your position.  

Even though you can put mathematical calculation to a scenario for the sake of an article, it is easy to see how the actual situation in the field is impossible to measure in the split-second that a hunter typically has to make a decision to shoot or not; and then also decide just where to aim.  This is likely why many people feel that a running shot is less than ethical.  At times, in some situations, this is certainly true; but in other scenarios, or for hunters who are highly proficient with their firearm, running shots may be a necessary and effective means to filling a tag and they can be incredibly lethal if executed with careful precision. 


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How to Hunt Hill Country Draws

Maximizing your time on a large piece of public land requires that you understand how deer utilize certain terrain features for both bedding and travel.  Natural funnels can be productive spots during hunting season, especially considering the limited range of archery tackle, and so you should be zeroing in on these features during your post season scouting.  There are a lot of things that can serve to funnel deer movement, or cause them to want to bed in a certain area, but for the purpose of this article we will be discussing draws.

If you aren’t familiar with hill country you may not be experienced in reading topographical maps.  There are plenty of YouTube videos out there to assist you with this, but in short, the closer together the elevation lines are the steeper the incline.  Keeping this concept in mind, the areas that look like a deep ‘v’ into the side of a mountain, with close elevation lines, are deep draws.  Draws are a pretty simple terrain feature to locate and some of them can be fairly easy to set up on for a hunt.  Others can come with more complexities.

Scouting Draws

A property I had the opportunity to scout this past weekend had several terrain features that drew me to it.  It had points with deep draws cut into the mountain, along with transitions created by vegetation changes, and several areas of early succession timber yielding to larger areas of brush patches consisting of saplings and red brier thickets.  Generally speaking, the vegetation and terrain diversity is what drew me to the area, and I mapped out areas that I assumed would have both deer travel and deer bedding and hit the timber.

The two main draws on this piece were among my first scouting destinations.  Although deer are agile creatures that could very likely traverse just about any terrain, animals in nature require the conservation of energy for survival. More exertion equals more calories burned and thus the potential of depleted reserves when energy is needed for survival.  No, I don’t think a deer consciously thinks about its caloric intake, but meals aren’t guaranteed in nature and I think animals naturally conserve.  If there were ones who didn’t, they’ve been taken care of by natural selection at this point.  All this means is that a deer, left to its own choice, is going to use the path of least resistance.  Think about how you would prefer to navigate a draw; likely you will gravitate to the bottom or the top instead of traversing a steep bank, littered with blown down trees, halfway up.  Sure, you might find a flatter crossing somewhere in the middle, but the one thing you can count on is that the very bottom and the very top are usually going to be much easier walking.  This is why deer traversing around the point of a hill will often take a longer route around the top side of the draw.  You can almost bet on a well worn trail being present at the first easily-navigable crossing toward the top of the draw.  There is often a worn trail at the bottom as well, but winds can be unpredictable at lower elevations and finding a situation with a wind exception, where hunting low in this terrain is possible, is a good subject for another article.

Bedding and Stand Locations

(In the photo above, the red lines are deer trails, the yellow circles are natural funnels or pinch points created by the terrain and/or vegetation change, the red X’s are beds and the yellow dots are buck rubs.  The diagram shows one bed on a point and another bed on a micro point on the side of a bowl that has been created by the convergence of multiple draws.)

The tops of a draw, or even a minor erosion cut, are often a great place for a tree stand, but, there are some exceptions.  One frustration the public land hunter in the Northeast may find is that just as the deer like to use the top edge of these cuts, the DNR or Game Commissions also like to put people trails at or near these areas.  After all, if its easier walking for the deer its going to be easier walking for the people too.  Many of the trails also wrap around, or drop down, points that might other wise hold good bedding potential.  Most people will tell you that hill country bedding can be found on points and spurs along the 2/3 elevation.  While this is true in many scenarios, human traffic can and will alter these bedding locations, especially around the population centers that can be found in the northeast.

If the people trails on a piece of public seem to be eliminating bedding on the points of hills, I look to the draws.  Often, you will find a small micro point, or secondary, point that provides just a bit extra vantage along the side of the draw.  This can especially be true if the more abundant vegetation (that is often present on the sides of draws) can create some back cover for a bedded deer.  They will still have an excellent vantage with multiple escape routes should danger present itself, and they are able to avoid the higher human traffic areas out on the points.  The small points are often so subtle that they can’t be seen on a topo map, so expect it to take some leg work to find these areas.

Field Edge Pinch Points

In agricultural areas, a draw may continue out into a crop field or open CRP.  The draw may be creating a low spot, or bowl, in the field that acts as a thermal drain.  Because of the scent advantage created by this thermal effect, deer may utilize this area before committing to the field to feed in the evening. The field edge may also create a more pronounced pinch point with the top of the draw, pushing deer travel above the draw but still inside the cover of the woods.  It can be tempting to hunt right over a pinch like this, but not all are created equal.  Depending on the elevation and the topography surrounding the draw, the winds can be unpredictable in these areas and have a swirling effect.  You may often be better served to hunt just off those pinch points, along the side of the ridge spur at higher elevation, where the wind can be more predictable.   Also remember that thermal currents can pull your scent into draws in an advantageous way, allowing you to “cheat” the wind.  However, draws can have a profound effect on wind currents and wind swirls can jettison around a point to a bedded buck if you aren’t aware of the thermal activity on the property you are hunting.  Some of this comes from experience, and it is admittedly one of the most challenging things to map and learn as a hunter.  Its also a great reason why using milk weed seeds to map the wind and thermal currents should be considered non-optional.

Access

Draws also can provide great stand access options.  Any deep cuts or drainages offer visual barriers for access.  As we’ve discussed, they are often mostly void of deer travel so your ground scent becomes less of an issue.  If you have the opportunity to clear them of any downed trees or brush, they can also be a silent access option.  Often, runoff water washes crunchy leaves out of the center of the ditch and the terrain itself can help to confine some of the noise of your approach.

Conclusion

Make sure you key in on a draw if there is one on the property you are hunting.  They are great places to narrow deer movement and to catch deer on a bed to feed pattern, as well as cruising bucks in pre-rut.  They can provide some of the most productive stand locations in the woods.

-By Reuben Dourte


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Is Back Tension Possible with an Index Finger Release?

Category : Miscellaneous

Reviewing the Carter Like Mike Release.

Index finger releases for compound bow hunters have been popular for many years now.  There are some pretty obvious advantages to them, so it is easy to see why they are the choice of so many bowhunters.  First, they are relatively simple to operate. They are also pretty convenient for hunting applications. Most index finger releases utilize some kind of wrist strap, be it a buckle or Velcro, and so they are always right where you need them when a deer walks into range.  Many index finger releases are also offered at a great price point and that likely adds to their popularity. The other case for hunting with an index finger release is that, with the punch of the trigger, you can send off a shot at an animal in an instant, with no need to apply back tension and pull through your shot.  While it’s probably not the most correct way to aim and shoot, it can be an efficient method to putting a deer on the ground when you have a small window of opportunity presenting itself.

Since purchasing my first compound bow at the age of 13, I’ve shot a good handful of index finger releases.  All have been caliper style releases with either minor adjustability or none at all. My shot process went off without a hitch for many years and I shot accurately with these releases.  It wasn’t until I found myself with more career and family responsibilities, and less time to practice and shoot my bow, that I began to realize that I was suffering from target panic; and the shot activation sequence I was using with these releases was exacerbating the problem.  I began to evaluate my shooting and started to read as much as I could about target panic. Some of the information was helpful, some wasn’t. But, what I ultimately determined was that the light trigger on the release I was shooting was creating shot anticipation issues.  When my finger would contact the trigger I would immediately want to pull because I expected it to go off at any moment due to the trigger sensitivity of the release I was using. So, I started to search for a release with a heavier trigger, one that I could better “load”  for a smoother shot execution.  Its important to mention that trying to utilize any concept of back tension with an index release wasn’t on my radar at this time; I simply wanted to be able to achieve a longer and slower trigger pull process.

Through the search for solutions, I adjusted the travel on the index finger release I was currently using so that it would require a longer trigger pull.  When that didn’t work, I sought out a release with adjustable trigger tension. The pro shop I went to didn’t carry anything like what I was asking for and I was advised that I would need to start shooting a thumb trigger if I wanted an adjustable trigger tension feature.  They also suggested a different index finger caliper release that seemed to have more trigger tension right out of the box, so I bought it and went home. For a few shooting sessions, the new release seemed to solve some of the problems I was having. The trigger did seemed to have a bit more tension, but there was still no adjustment for it, and unlike my old release, the travel on the new release was not adjustable.  Looking back and evaluating the situation, my shots initially felt better because my brain wasn’t yet used to the ignition point of the new release, allowing for a bit more surprise in the release. Our brains learn quickly though, and given the large amount of travel in this release and the lack of trigger tension adjustability, I was soon finding myself back where I started.

After what ultimately culminated into several years of frustration, and at times confusion, I found what I consider to be one of the best (if not the best) index finger releases currently available to archers.  The Carter Like Mike simultaneously changes the game and sets the standard to which all other index finger releases should be measured.  Out of the box the release feels like a great, high quality tool that can withstand use and abuse for a lifetime. In fact, I fully expect my son to use this release when he starts shooting archery.  The adjustability of this release is like nothing I have encountered from the numerous index finger releases I have shot with in the past. The tension can be adjusted from 0-5 pounds and the crispness with which the trigger engages is like that of a high end rifle.  Likewise, the trigger travel can be adjusted to the shooters preference. My personal preference is little to no travel. I found that the travel in the index finger release I shot before the Like Mike was adding to my target panic. Although I could “set the hook” on that release, it was incredibly hard to load the trigger and apply back tension in order to pull through the shot without actually moving my index finger through the trigger mechanism.  The amount of movement that would be needed to engage the trigger without moving my finger was just not achievable through a proper expansion movement, and partially engaging the trigger to remove some of the travel just created the same hair-trigger affect I was trying to get away from in the first place.

The Carter Like Mike solved all of these problems.  I was able to set the trigger tension very high. In fact, to begin with, I set it higher than I expect to keep it, and did so in order to force myself to work on my form and shot concentration.  At the same time the travel is very minimal; the release is basically adjusted for enough travel to allow for the bow to be drawn back without the trigger releasing. This minimal amount of trigger travel allows me to utilize some of the principles of back tension in conjunction with an index finger release, something that is extremely hard to accomplish with the index finger releases that are lacking the adjustability of the Like Mike.

The Like Mike comes with a Scott brand buckle strap and the release head is attached via a webbing strap.  Full adjustability is achieved by moving the webbing connection within the metal bracket, which is then tightened with two small Allen bolts.  Some people may find that they want a more padded wrist strap, and there are several good options that are compatible with the Like Mike if one searches for replacement release straps for a few minutes on Google.  I personally appreciate the simplicity and lack of bulk the Scott wrist strap offers, as it will fit nicely under the cuff of my hunting coat this Fall.

To sum it up, the Carter Like Mike is a class leader.  It is a tool that will allow bowhunters who are dealing with target panic symptoms to more easily regain control of their shot process and return to a place of consistent and accurate shooting.  In that sense, it can be a game changer for those who choose to make an investment into one of the most important pieces of bowhunting equipment they will purchase. The benefits of a Carter Like Mike release are profound enough that, after shooting it, I believe that most bowhunters would find themselves to be more accurate and proficient with the combination of this release and a lower-end bow than they would be when shooting a flagship bow with an economy release aid.