Category Archives: Miscellaneous

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Safe Treestand Set-Ups

               Safety is more often discussed in hunting circles now than it has ever been in any time in the history of hunting.  As land, especially in the eastern half of the United States, is sub-divided more and more hunters are getting away from the deer drives of the past and employing the use of elevated stands to give themselves a visibility advantage and help conceal them from deer’s line of sight.  With the ascent comes inevitable risks.  The good thing is that the safety equipment that is being produced by outdoors manufacturers has never been simpler to use or as efficient as it is today.  The safety equipment you should be utilizing will vary depending on the type of stand you are using, but regardless of the style you choose, any time you are elevated, you should be using the right equipment that will ensure you make it home after the hunt.  Below, we’ll break down the equipment needed for climbing trees and hunting out of different types of stands and touch on some methods and tips for each.

1. Fixed position stands (including ladder stands)- If you have a place pre-scouted, as is often the case in lease situations or when you’ve purchased your own recreational property, its likely that you are going to want to have some pre-hung stands in place.  The advantage of these stand sets is that there is a lot less work involved to get into the tree and start hunting, and with that comes less noise.  These stands can be hung or set up well before hunting season starts so that the area has time to recover after your intrusion.  In these situations, it’s advisable for a hunter to select larger, more comfortable stands, especially if the location is in a travel corridor that provides a promising, all day rut hunt. Furthermore, weight isn’t as much of an issue, and because they are set before season, the noise created from setting up a larger, bulky stand isn’t as concerning as when you are setting a truly mobile stand in the middle of season.  Likewise, the commotion of carrying the pieces of a heavy ladder stand into the timber with your hunting buddy isn’t as concerning in July or August as it would be in September or October. 

               When setting up a fixed position stand it is important to utilize a safety harness that comes with loops along the waistline to incorporate a lineman’s belt or lineman’s rope system.  This system will allow you climb up a stick ladder while still being secured to the tree. The lineman’s belt will allow you to use two hands to attach buckles and set the stand platform on the tree.  A lineman’s belt will not completely restrict a fall, but if used properly it will keep you from falling the whole way to the ground.  By making sure that your lineman’s belt is always above waist height at its contact point with the tree, you can reduce the distance you will fall if an accident happens.  Your lineman’s rope or belt should be connected to your harness via a locking carabiner.  It is important that the carabiner have a threaded locking feature to prevent it from accidentally opening, potentially causing an accidental fall.

               Be sure to set your tree stand platform below the last steps on your climbing sticks so that you can step directly across, or down, onto the platform from the stick ladder.  You should also have your lineman’s belt above the treestand, so that you do not have to unhook it to climb into the stand.  This keeps you connected to the tree at all times and protects you from your own, human error as well as possible stand failures.  Once in your stand, a safety line can be attached to the tree above your head and dropped to the ground.  These life lines utilize a prusik knot system that allows you to slide the knot up and down the rope as long as tension is not applied to the knot.  With your safety harness tether connected to the prusik knot, a fall from the stand would result in the knot tightening around the lifeline and the friction on the rope will keep the knot from sliding.  Once your tether is connected to the prusik knot on the life line rope, you can remove your lineman’s belt.

               Ladder stands provide their own challenges and hunters should avoid setting ladder stands by themselves.  Stands can rotate and roll on a tree trunk, or, if not properly angled, they can easily tip over backward as the hunter climbs up to secure the ratchet straps around the tree.  Using a rope system around the ladder portion and connecting it to the tree trunk can help to keep the ladder against the tree.  It will not, however, completely eliminate the stands propensity to roll from side to side.  For this reason, it is imperative to have someone securing the bottom of the stand when you are climbing for the first time.  A safer option is to use a set of portable climbing sticks to climb the tree trunk and ratchet the stand tight to the tree before you climb it for the first time.  You can also drop a safety line at this time and climb the ladder stand fully secured to the tree.  Some manufacturers produce ladder stands with a hinging mechanism which grips the trunk of the tree when the weight of the stand rests against the hinge bar.  This is one example of the many safety improvements and innovations that are being made within the outdoor industry, but it is still advisable to have a hunting buddy present to steady the stand, even if you bought a ladder stand with this feature.  Once installed, ladder stands are some of the safest and most comfortable treestands available.  Many of them feature cushioned or sling seats, arm rests and shooting rails.

Climbing stands– Climbing treestands can be some of the safest and most comfortable treestands to use.  Many manufacturers offer several different models of climbing stands, featuring a wide range of options. It’s important to remember that if used incorrectly, climbers, like any treestand, can present some dangers.  Hunters using climbing stands will be selecting trees without branches and this cuts down on the number of safety steps needed, considerably.  Attaching your tree strap or tree rope to your safety harness tether before climbing onto the platform of your climber may seem like overkill, but it is the best way to stay safe.  Even a 2.5-3 ft. fall can be severe, depending on how a hunter contacts the ground.  Once you begin your ascent, make sure to keep the harness tether and tree strap above your head, moving it up as your climb.  The tether should not hang across your neck or face, or go under your arm.  Keeping the tether and rope assembly above you as you climb limits the distance you will fall if your climber slips on the tree or you lose your balance and fall during your climb.

Once you reach hunting height, set your tree rope so that your tether has the slightest bit of slack when you are sitting down.  This will ensure that you will not experience a big impact and shock if you were to doze off while sitting in the stand and fell out.  It will also reduce (as much as possible) the distance it will take to engage the tether if you fall while standing.  Thirdly, this will keep the harness tether out of your way and make it easy to duck your head under it and/or pass your bow from one side of the tree to the other, if you must make such an adjustment when a shot presents itself.

               Aside from the obvious need to wear a harness at all times while climbing and hunting from a climbing style treestand, it is equally as important to set your climber on the tree correctly before you begin to climb.  Most climbing stands use an adjustable cable or belt that goes around the tree.  The tree stand essentially becomes a lever, and when you put weight on it, the tree cable “pulls” against the back of the tree and the V bracket of the platform “pushes” against the front of the trunk.  To effectively engage this simple mechanism, the angle of the platform must be correct.  Most trees are a bit larger at the bottom than they are 20-25 feet up, so you must also account for this difference in diameter.  Set the belt or cable a little short so that the climber starts at a slight angle when at ground level.  This will ensure that is sits level when at hunting height.  If you adjust the tree belt too far in, or out, you will end up with a platform that is pitched up or down.  Both scenarios can be problematic for safety, and neither is conducive to a comfortable hunt.  A platform that is angled down runs the risk of rotating over, a situation where the stand platform essentially collapses downward under the weight of the hunter. A climber set with an aggressive upward angle can create an issue where enough leverage is not able to be applied to the front of the stand to get a good “bite” on the tree, or, the angle doesn’t allow the teeth in the V bracket to engage the tree bark properly.  When this occurs, a hunter is at risk of experiencing a wild ride as the stand platform can, without warning, slide down the trunk of the tree.

3. Mobile Hang-On stands – The process of setting up a mobile hang-on style stand is very similar to that of a pre-hung fixed position stand.  There are, however, a few minor differences that are important to note.  One of the advantages of a mobile stand hang-on versus any of the other stands is their increased versatility.  While they may take longer than a climber to set up, and the stand weight combined with a set of mobile climbing sticks is typically a heavier package than a streamlined climber, a hunter opens up more tree options when using one of these stands.  Trees with low branches, which can provide addition cover to the elevated hunter, are now an option, as are trees that are less-than-straight.  Additionally, these stands are far lighter than their more “permanent” cousins, so they require a lot less effort and wrestling to get them into a tree.  This makes the stand-hanging process with these stands arguably safer than with larger, heavier fixed position stands; and it is definitely quieter.

               Just as you did when hanging a fixed position stand, it is imperative to use a safety harness with lineman’s rope capabilities.  The lineman’s rope should be used at all times when ascending or descending the climbing sticks.  When using the kind of modular climbing sticks that are necessary for mobile hunting, a lineman’s belt adds an increased level of safety while making it easier and more convenient to set your sticks and stand.  Being able to use both hands makes set up and tear down of the stand a much quicker and quieter process.  Many harnesses come with a lineman’s belt included; however, few if any come with a second lineman’s belt.  This is where hunters are most likely to cut corners when using a mobile hang-on stand.  Because this type of stand gives you the ability to hunt trees with branches or forks, you will need a second lineman rope to stay connected to the tree at all times.  When you encounter a branch, run your second lineman rope above it and connect it to your harness before you disconnect from the first belt.  Avoid the temptation to simply unclip the lineman’s rope with one hand, while holding on to the climbing stick with the other hand, in order to move the rope above the branch.  This is the best way to have an unnecessary accident and become a hunting statistic.  Likewise, be sure to use the one lineman’s rope or belt and connect it to the tree to serve as your tree rope. Clip in to this rope with your harness’s tether before you disconnect your first lineman’s belt.  When the hunt is over, you can do these steps in reverse and stay tied in at all times.

Other tips-         

When you are hunting from an elevated position, it is always good to let someone know where you are.  Dropping a location pin on your phone and sending it to a family member or trusted hunting partner can cut down on the time it takes for help to find you if you were to encounter a life threatening situation.  If you are hunting in an area that has cell phone service, it is a good idea to keep your cell phone in a chest pocket of your hunting coat rather than in a backpack that hangs from your tree, or in a pants pocket.  Depending on how you fall, you may not be able to reach you back pack, or the leg straps of your safety harness might make some of your pants pockets inaccessible.  If a leg strap happens to be positioned over your phone, depending on the impact, your phone could be damaged in the fall. 

If you properly adjust your tether, and you are reasonably fit, there is a possibility that you will be able to regain your position on your stand platform (assuming that your stand was not what failed and caused the fall).  If this is impossible, you need to be aware of the possibility and dangers of suspension trauma.  The same safety harness that just saved your life can become a danger if you are not prepared to take the next steps.  Hanging motionless from a harness, (with the legs straps further reducing blood flow), can reduce circulation and cause blood to pool in lower extremities due to gravity and inactivity.  This inhibits the circulation of a significant amount of blood volume to the rest of the body.  Loss of consciousness can subsequently occur within 10-15 minutes.  If this happens to a person who is merely standing on level ground, they will faint and then the horizontal positioning of their body will redistribute the blood throughout, via gravity, and they will regain consciousness.  However, if you are stuck in a vertical position because of your harness and you lose consciousness, gravity will not be able to help distribute the blood throughout your body and death can occur.  To help prevent this from happening, many safety harness manufacturers have begun to include a webbing strap that is connected to the harness and features a loop on the end so that the suspended hunter can put a boot in the loop and periodically take pressure off the leg straps of the harness.  This movement allows circulation to occur and keeps the hunter conscious.  If your harness doesn’t have this feature, be sure to find one that does and remember to continue to move extremities after a fall, so as to ward against the blood pooling effect that a static, vertical position can have on your body.

               Elevated hunting is one of the most effective methods a hunter can use to kill a deer.  Along with the advent and advancement of trail cameras, innovations within the competitive treestand marketplace are likely one of the things most responsible for hunters becoming more effective than ever in their pursuits of whitetail deer.  The advancements within the industry have made it safer than it ever has been to hunt from an elevated position; but in order to realize the benefits of these innovations and improvements, a hunter has to be committed to the correct utilization of these tools and safety mechanisms.  In short, don’t cut corners on quality when choosing treestands and treestand safety gear, and never cut corners on proven treestand safety practices in the field!  Happy (safe) hunting!


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Choosing the Right Release

A beginner’s guide to release styles.

            When it comes to choosing archery equipment, the options seem nearly endless and paralysis by analysis can certainly become a real thing.  Enter any online forum and ask for advice and you’re bound to be inundated with a lot of opinions, and most of them, well-meaning.  Having such a plethora of options is both a blessing and a curse to an archer.  It certainly makes finding the right “fit” a possibility, regardless of the product type; but it also makes the selection process much more difficult.  Throw into the mix the influence of social media and it is easy to be thrown off course by what other hunters and shooters are doing instead of what is the best option given an archer’s own unique circumstances.  Release aids are a product that is offered in a wide array of styles, from a wide array of brands and manufacturers.  Finding the right release aid depends on application and what feels comfortable to the archer; but it’s imperative he or she understands the difference in the functionality of the four main types of releases on the market, so as to be able to make an educated purchasing decision.  

-Index Trigger- Index finger releases are widely popular with hunters.  Typically, these releases utilize some kind of wrist strap, (usually with a Velcro or buckle closure), which attaches to the shank of the release.  Index trigger releases have a trigger similar to a firearm, which is activated by the shooter’s index finger.   This type of release is extremely popular with hunters for multiple reasons.  First, the release is always attached to the hunter’s wrist and so it is “at-the-ready” when a target animal steps into a shooting lane.  When still hunting, the release can’t fall out of the hunter’s pocket, and it allows for a quick connection and draw sequence when milliseconds count.  Additionally, index trigger releases are, by and large, the most economical release option on the market.  While there is, indeed, tremendous variation in pricing, some models of index trigger releases can be purchased for as little as $20-30.  This gives the entry level archer and hunter an economical option.  Many index trigger releases offer the benefit of simplicity, as well.  While the lack of adjust-ability may be a deterrent to some, many hunters appreciate a basic design that works reliably, without the need for tweaks.  Still, there are several index trigger releases that offer a wide range of trigger adjust-ability, including both tension and travel.  These highly adjustable releases sit atop this category, but the adjust-ability comes with a higher price; though many archers will find it to be a worthwhile investment in order to achieve gains in both accuracy and consistency.

-Thumb Trigger- Thumb trigger releases are handheld release aids that use a barrel-like trigger that is engaged with the archer’s thumb.  Some archers who are experiencing target panic with a basic index trigger release will graduate to a thumb trigger in attempt to overcome their symptoms.  A thumb trigger release utilized properly can, indeed, help an archer achieve a surprise release and help avoid shot anticipation that leads to target panic.  However, when the shooter utilizes the thumb barrel like a simple trigger, it can be just as easy to “punch” a trigger with a thumb release as it is with an index finger release. 

Many thumb trigger releases offer trigger tension and travel adjust-ability.  A thumb release that is adjusted for minimal trigger travel, and enough tension to allow the shooters thumb settle around the trigger without firing, can be correctly activated with much the same shot sequence as a hinge style release.  The movement to activate the trigger doesn’t come from the shooters thumb, or wrist, but instead from the motion of applying back tension against the bows back-wall through the contraction of the muscles in the archer’s back.  This expansion movement causes a slight rotation of the release in the shooters hand, at which time a correctly adjusted thumb trigger will be activated as it is pressed into the shooter’s thumb.  The result is a surprise release. 

Some hunters who choose a thumb release may gravitate toward a closed jaw style that can be clipped onto the bows D-loop so that it is always in position to quickly draw on a game animal.  Others may opt for an open hook design that allows for faster loading on the D-Loop.  Many hunters feel that a thumb trigger provides a similar feel and shot sequence as the hinge release they use for target practice or competition shooting, but still gives the same deliberate trigger pull option (although less technically correct) as an index finger release, in the event a fast shot needs executed before the window of opportunity closes.  In this manner, this style of release becomes a very viable happy-medium.

-Hinge-  Hinge releases are another type of handheld release that are popular with target archers.  As mentioned, the shot activation sequence with a hinge has similarities to that of a thumb trigger release, but a hinge release lacks a “trigger”.  The release is activated by the contraction of the shooter’s back which creates an expansion motion.  The shooter, almost as if pushing with their bow hand and pulling with their release hand, continues to draw through the shot, applying back tension.  As the elbow of the shooter’s draw arm moves behind his or her shoulder, the rotation achieved through this motion activates the hinge release as it moves with the shooters hand.  The rotation should not come from the shooters wrist, but instead, the actual “hinging” should come from the contraction of his or her back.  Archer’s who choose a hinge release and begin to rotate the release with their hand become susceptible to the same kind of anticipated shots and target panic symptoms that can plague shooter’s who punch index finger or thumb trigger releases.  The “trigger”, so to speak, has just moved from the release to their wrist.  Hinge releases that are utilized correctly provide an archer with a surprise release and incredibly accurate results.

Hinge style releases can be more susceptible to misfire than some of their counterparts.  However, when a hinge is adjusted and used correctly, it is a very safe release aid option.  Some manufacturers are developing “safeties” for hinge releases.  This way, if the shooter’s draw or form is a bit off and the release is not positioned correctly during the draw cycle, a misfire doesn’t occur.  The precise form and consistency that many hinge releases require make them a less popular option for many hunters.  Hunter’s often find themselves drawing in awkward positions and shooting at awkward angles.  Coupled with the lack of an actual “trigger”, less hunters utilize hinge releases and they are far more prevalent in target competition.  Still, some archer’s successfully hunt with a hinge style release aid and are incredibly successful in doing so.

-Tension Activated- Tension activated releases operate just how you would guess.  When enough tension is applied to the release mechanism, the release will fire.  Tension activated releases are a fantastic way to combat target panic.  Because, like a hinge, there is no trigger on the release and an archer just keeps applying back tension until the shot is activated.  This eliminates the hand-eye-brain coordination that needs to take place with many trigger style releases.  With a trigger release, the shooter’s eye sees that the pin is on target, sends a message to the brain and the brain tells the shooter’s finger to engage the release.  Overtime, this sequence leads to the aforementioned and dreaded shot anticipation.  By nature of its design, a tension activated release eliminates one of those steps and allows the shooter to float the pin around the bulls-eye, or vital area, while they continue to apply tension until the release activates.  Many tension activated release aids can be adjusted so that the shooter must apply significant force before they will fire.  Other manufacturers have tension activated release aids that can be turned to “training mode” and will not fire.  This forces an archer who is dealing with target panic to practice their shot sequence, including their expansion motion, without being able to anticipate a shot, because there is no shot. 

Most tension activated releases use a lever that must be depressed by the archer during the draw cycle.  Once over the peak of the draw cycle, and holding at full draw, the shooter can release the lever.  The tension activated release must be set to slightly more than the bow’s holding weight.  As back tension is applied, the additional pounds of pull activates the release.  To let the bow down from full draw, the safety lever must again be engaged so that the bow does not misfire. 

Tension activated releases are popular and effective training tools, but their adjustability makes them a very popular choice with many target archers.  Although, technically speaking, it is possible to “punch” the trigger on a tension activated release by abruptly pulling through the shot, this style of release is thought by many to be one of the most helpful ways to curb target panic symptoms. As with hinge style release aids, the lack of an actual trigger on a tension activated release keeps them out of many hunters’ hands. 

Conclusion

               So how does an archer choose the right release?  Everyone’s situation is different and unique.  The best approach is one that is based around understanding the use and application for the release, i.e. the type of hunting or shooting, and the specific problems, if any, each individual archer is personally facing.  Understanding the way each style of release works, and how to properly employ its use is key, but that knowledge has to accompany a certain amount of honest self-reflection and introspection on the part of the archer in order to have maximum effectiveness. 


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Antler Restrictions: Fact and Fiction- Part 2

 This is a continuation of the APR blog series.  Read Part 1 of this blog series on the APR discussion where we discuss arguments against APR.

Pro-APR Argument #1: Herd sex ratios are dangerously out-of-balance

So far, if you’ve taken the time to read Part 1, you may think that this blog series is an attempt to disassemble the arguments against APR. But, there are plenty of fallacies those of us who would cast a “yes” vote for APR too often lean upon when presenting a pro-APR argument. Let’s start where we left off in Part 1. I’ve heard people talk about out-of-whack buck to doe ratios as evidence of the necessity of APRs. So often they cite observed ratios of twenty or more does to one buck. A lot of times, when you dive into the conversation, you find these ratios are based on individual observation while afield, and that they are counting every bald deer they see, not just the sexually mature adult does. There are a lot of button bucks getting counted as does in these ratio discussions, and no room is left for the reclusive nature of bucks, especially mature ones. In nature, it is incredibly difficult for herds to get much outside of a 1:5 buck to doe ratio. If a herd was truly at the point of having one buck to five or more does, it would likely be evidence of other problems. Likely some factors in the area are leading to poor fawn recruitment. It could be a result of high fawn predation, which itself could be a result of over population and over browsing of fawning cover. Over population could also adversely affect winter food sources and cause does to enter the spring and summer fawning season in sub-par health. A biologist would likely have other ideas on possible diagnosis, but a healthy herd which is recruiting nearly one fawn to every adult doe, will rarely experience herd ratios much worse than 1:3.

Pro-APR Argument #2: Unbalanced sex ratios, and high buck exploitation, create a biological problem for the deer herd

Think about it this way: a local herd consisting of 2 adult bucks and 6 adult does, which is recruiting fawns at a rate of one fawn per adult doe, will statistically have 3 doe fawns and 3 button bucks in the herd. If both adult bucks are killed in hunting season and no antlerless deer are taken, the following year the three button bucks will be yearlings ready to breed, as will the doe fawns. There are now 3 adult bucks and 9 adult does. The herd size has increased, but the sex ratio has remained the same. Obviously this is a simplified illustration, but it shows how nature is able to keep herself in check and how whitetail Deer can survive and populations grow and thrive even with high buck exploitation rates. It is easy to see how low fawn recruitment is a very concerning factor if you are at all conscious of buck to doe ratios and at all worried about buck harvest opportunities! Shutting down doe season, as my family member suggested, would quickly risk over population in many areas and lead to habitat loss. As mentioned, the relationship of habitat loss to falling fawn recruitment rates leads to adverse buck to doe ratios and actually provides credence to the pro- APR argument. Additionally, shutting down antlerless seasons, in the vast majority of areas in PA, is not sound management and it’s likely that it will never happen, so it’s not even a principle or argument that is conducive to productive conversation. Metro areas with no hunting eventually have to utilize sharpshooters and [ineffective] sterilization ( the latter because of anti-hunting pressure) due to excessive populations reaching density estimates of hundreds of deer per square mile. The over population becomes a public safety/nuisance concern and a herd health problem. Vehicular collisions, residential property damage and deer disease control all become critical issues in these areas. Look at what is currently happening within the city limits of Ann Arbor, Michigan, for a case study. Some northern cities sometimes experience high winter kill, because of the lack of food sources in these areas. When this occurred on Long Island, some residents illegally supplemented the local herd and unintentionally caused mortality due to contaminated corn and/or digestive issues within deer who were unaccustomed to eating grain.

Still, it’s important to acknowledge the highly successful and efficient management tool of hunter harvest and its ability to, in some cases, reduce the herd beyond a healthy number. Game commissions and DNRs have the responsibility, especially to the public land hunter, to keep a finger on the pulse of the State’s herd density. I recently listened to a podcast where the founder of QDMA, Joe Hamilton, acknowledged that in some areas doe harvest went too far and a re-evaluation of harvest goals was needed. The private land owner has a little more control over the local herd residing on their own land, but generally speaking it is important for hunters to understand that the responsibility of firing a bullet or loosing an arrow lies with each of us individually. That isn’t to propose limitless bags or overly liberal doe tag allocation, but, at the same time, it is curious that many of the most vocal hunters who would like the game commission to severely limit or reduce doe season, (and thus eliminate that harvest opportunity for other hunters), are in turn upset that the Game Commission has [perceivably] limited their buck harvest potential.

The above being said, it is important to cede that the further away from a 1:1 ratio the herd finds itself, stress can and will increase. A longer, but less intense rut will often result, leading to bucks servicing more does than they might otherwise if the herd dynamics were more balanced. This can affect the condition in which Bucks enter winter, and can be detrimental to the younger individuals in the population. Bucks entering Winter in a poorer condition will often enter Spring nutritionally deficient and the following year’s antler growth can therefore become affected. Body weights are also affected by unbalanced sex ratios and overpopulated herds, so the meat hunter should care about herd balance as well.

Pro-APR Argument #3: Hunter satisfaction and enjoyment is diminished by out-of-balance sex ratios

Sex ratios that reach a point that is biologically out-of-balance do adversely effect hunter experience given the aforementioned less-intense rut. A herd with poor age structure will also not display as much of the stereotypical buck activity and sign that hunters can use to increase their opportunities in the woods. Again, (anecdotally), the New York property we hunt has very few rubs and scrapes in or around bedding areas, field edges or travel corridors. The age structure is generally very young on this property, despite our efforts to practice what QDM we can manage. The Pennsylvania property we hunt, within the same Twin Tiers region, regularly displays significantly more (and larger) rubs and is riddled with scrapes by October’s end. The age structure there, while not equivalent to some Midwestern destinations, is significantly better than neighboring New York, and the increased hunting opportunities because of it are noticeable.  At the same time, the kind of rutting activity and daylight movement that may be visible in parts of the Midwest, are still not experienced to the same degree in Pennsylvania.  APRs haven’t totally changed that reality.

High population densities coupled with unbalanced sex ratios can also make properties more difficult to hunt, as bucks move away from the social pressure of doe groups within preferred bedding.  Access to stands within the property becomes difficult. Getting to and from a stand without bumping non-target antlerless deer can become nearly impossible and keeping the pressure minimal on an over populated parcel is extraordinarily difficult. Higher densities of deer is not equivalently valuable to higher densities of target animals, and as such, conflating the two ideas is again, misguided. One must only evaluate the herd populations of Kansas and Pennsylvania to understand that high overall deer numbers is not absolutely correlative to buck harvest opportunity, especially mature buck harvest at that. A credible argument can be made that the above factors lead to diminished hunter opportunity and experience.  However, what it doesn’t equate to is APRs being biologically necessary for the sustainability of huntable populations of Whitetail deer. In the interest of constructive and objective conversation, the two concepts should not be conflated.

The presence of APRs also doesn’t automatically lead to increased success on mature Deer. More target animals creates a better environment to connect on a nice deer, but I can assure you, killing a three and half year old, or older, deer in Pennsylvania is still incredibly challenging. In most areas, A 2.5 year buck is in the top 25% or better of the local buck population. Because some yearlings are guaranteed to survive every year, due to being protected by APR, and some other yearlings that meet the antler criteria will get through by mere chance, there is certainly an increased number of 2.5 year olds to hunt in Pennsylvania. These deer are a year older and a year wiser and perhaps have increased their survival acumen, providing them with better chances to reach 3.5. However, in most areas, PA’s gun 2 week gun season and 900,000 license holders serve to eliminate many bucks in their second year of antler growth. The age structure in PA after APR is unarguably better, but it is no where close to that of lower hunter density states like Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma or Arkansas. I remember thinking that APR was going to all but ensure wall-mounter bucks would be running all over our hunting areas in PA and thinking that hunting was about to get significantly easier in the Keystone State. Reality was something entirely different.

Pro-APR Argument #4: I can’t practice QDM without APR because my neighbor shoots small bucks

My ‘favorite’ argument for APR is the suggestion that APR is necessary because a landowner can’t successfully practice QDM on their property because of their neighbors’ buck harvest. I’ve been guilty of this train of thought more times than I would like to admit. I’ll defend myself in the sense that these thoughts occurred mostly when my hunting experience was unfortunately based in more competitive spirit. I thought that my neighbors’ practice of shooting small bucks was the whole reason I couldn’t connect on the type of deer I sought to shoot. I didn’t know enough to accurately evaluate my own hunting approach. I failed to see my shortcomings within my process and how I was hunting the deer in my area incorrectly. I look back now and feel fortunate to have killed the deer I did during that time. When I was frustrated about not seeing deer or target bucks, I didn’t realize I wasn’t hunting their bedding areas or correctly evaluating mid season shifts in food sources or even at the most basic level managing the amount of hunting pressure I was putting on certain areas. Ironically, I suspect that most of those lamenting the introduction of APR because they can’t find a buck to shoot, are guilty of some of the same mistakes and are simply unwilling to put in the work it takes to identify buck bedding areas and low impact exit and entrance routes to stand sites.

The truth is, my neighbors do have some impact on my hunting opportunity, and as I mentioned, the buck exploitation around the New York property we hunt certainly has affected the age structure in comparison to the neighboring PA ground. But, we are still able to have a few animals on the property that meet our criteria each year, and since managing the hunting pressure we put on the property and allowing the property to act as a sink during gun season, we have been able to protect a handful of bucks each season and allow them to live to another year of maturity. This year we pursued the first known 4.5 year old deer we have had on the property and came just fifteen yards short of a shot opportunity in archery season. If hunting that age class is possible in a high hunter density area of western New York, it is possible anywhere. Furthermore, public land hunters have perhaps the most to gain from APRs, as they have no control over hunting pressure, but ironically it seems to be the private land owners who are the most vocal in support of APR. As I progress in my life and my hunting experience, I have found myself feeling happy for a fellow hunter’s filled tag, regardless of whether or not I would shoot the deer they chose to take. If it is a legal and ethical harvest, far be it for me to say when the trigger should be pulled. If they have put down a giant, either by luck or hard work, I am also happy for them. Everyone should hunt and harvest to their prerogative, within the laws and regulations provided.

That being said, I was listening to a podcast where the speaker described a situation where a hunter on a shared piece of private ground had killed an immature buck. The person on the podcast expressed their displeasure with the hunter’s choice to kill that type of buck. The conversation went something along lines of “Why did you shoot that?”. On this property there was one deer that was of older age class frequenting the parcel and I’ll make the assumption that the hunter who was offering the criticisms felt there would be more target animals if those sharing the property would just stop shooting small bucks. I find this to be a misconception on multiple fronts. First, it accounts little for the social pressure of increased populations and how mature bucks often disperse to more remote bedding and core areas away from other deer. Your private parcel has a limited number of bedding areas on it. Unless you own thousands of acres, the number of mature deer you will realistically hold on a small parcel is limited. That’s not to say you won’t find mature Deer using your parcel randomly or infrequently, but the number of home-body bucks you can enjoy hunting from opening day to season’s close is going to be restricted to some degree. Northeastern hunters need to have realistic expectations when it comes to management and ostracizing another hunter over their harvest decision is, in my opinion, an un-constructive and alienating way to approach a conversation about APR or QDM.

Counter to the statements made on the podcast, when I personally am hunting a private parcel that is shared with hunters who do not hold the same management mentality as I do, I am glad when they shoot a buck that I would not.  In a one buck state such as Pennsylvania, their harvest of an immature deer means two things: 1. They won’t be able to fill their buck tag, either by luck or woodsmanship, on a larger deer that I am hunting, and 2. After their buck tag is filled they will likely not be in the woods adding additional hunting pressure to the parcel. In my opinion, taking a yearling, or two, from a property has little overall impact on the hunting opportunities of subsequent seasons, and I would gladly trade that for the positive impacts on my current season. If there are hunters who are consistently killing good deer on public lands, a yearling harvest on a shared private parcel or neighboring property should be very low on your list of concerns.

Conclusion

So, as we can see, if we objectively evaluate the discussion, there are a lot of false premises, and incorrect information coming at us from both sides of the argument. My personal opinion of Antler Point Restrictions is that they have been proven to be an effective management tool in the areas where they have been implemented. While I am generally in favor of less regulations coming from governing bodies, I think Antler Point Restrictions fall in a unique place. As I see them, they are a practical and easily implemented way to increase the opportunity for a large and diverse set of hunters without diminishing opportunity for others who hold different goals. The meat hunters have essentially experienced no statistical reduction in buck harvest opportunity, and opportunities to shoot antlerless deer remain plentiful enough across the state. The APR regulation provides protection for a certain number of yearling bucks and inevitably some other deer, which may not be quickly identified as legal, happen to get through as well. This protection provides opportunities at an older age class of deer for those who wish to be more selective. Many of the opportunities these more selective hunters in Pennsylvania now enjoy would be much more difficult to obtain without the regulation in place. Public lands, especially, have seen a marked difference in herd age structure. I believe the single largest challenge facing APR and hunting in general is social media. Social platforms have an uncanny ability to shift the hunting narrative to one of trophy hunting only, where hunters feel the need make unfortunate posts that include excuses for shooting a small buck, or even excuses for a phenomenal deer that simply doesn’t meet the TV definition of a “shooter”. Because of this, some hunters end up opposing APR because they conflate it with simple trophy hunting, and other hunters will support APR because they believe it will automatically equate to TV caliber animals on their wall. Both of these narratives obfuscate the truth of APR’s value. The reality of APR’s strength lies in its ability to be something in between these two extremes; something with reasonable, realistic and tangible benefits to all hunters within the State that implements it.

By Reuben Dourte


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Antler Restrictions: Fact and Fiction- Part 1

Antler Point Restrictions. The phrase elicits debate immediately. It seems as though emotions on both sides quickly get super charged and it leads to the kind of infighting amongst sportsmen that isn’t conducive to civilized conversation, nor to finding any middle ground. Perhaps there are plenty of ways that goals between the two camps aren’t congruent, but I would contend that there is a reasonable discussion to be had as to whether or not APR is necessary, as well as if it is beneficial, or, counter productive.

Pennsylvania is, in many ways, the poster child for APR. I remember when it was implemented. I also remember the conversations among sportsmen about whether it would actually benefit the herd, or even the general hunting experience in the State.

Arguments About APR

The arguments against it typically went something like the following: Pennsylvania doesn’t have the genetics to grow true trophy class deer; high grading will occur and inferior bucks will be breeding more does as the genetically superior bucks will be harvested, leaving only those remaining inferior deer to propagate; opportunity will be reduced because hunters won’t be able to shoot most of the bucks they see, and kids won’t want to hunt anymore because of it; there is no biological benefit to APR; I hunt for meat, not horns; they are ruining the hunting heritage of the state.

The last argument is purely emotional and subjective, so there is little argument for, or against, it. You either believe this or you don’t. It’s safe to say that most people who were in favor of APR, didn’t see point restrictions as a way to eliminate hunting as we know it, but instead to evolve it in the 21st century. The arguments they offered in favor of APR were usually something along the lines of: buck to doe ratios in the state are severely out of balance, in some areas as high as 1 buck to 20 does; the unbalanced sex ratios create a biological problem for the whitetail deer herd; hunter experience is diminished by a poor age structure and out-of-balance sex ratios; my neighbor shoots all the bucks I pass up and we can’t practice QDM effectively unless APR is implemented; I want to see and shoot more ‘big’ bucks.

The last argument is also emotional and subjective, so there is little argument for or against it. But, what if I told you that both sides of the debate introduced valid points that should be considered, as well as false or emotional ones that should be ignored?

It’s somewhat surprising to me that more than a decade after implementation we can still be discussing this topic, especially when a large majority of Keystone hunters now agree that antler point restrictions are a good thing for the State’s whitetail population. But, it’s true that some people are still very heated about the idea of the State prohibiting the harvest of certain bucks. I know this because just recently I found myself accosted by a family member who was very heated about antler point restrictions and the harvest opportunity they had recently cost him. He was pretty upset and started in on me for being a ‘trophy hunter’. Interestingly, if you saw my basement wall, you would probably agree that most hunters, especially those in the Midwest, wouldn’t call me that. So, I suppose a lot of the conversation comes down to perception and individual hunters’ mentalities or experiences. I tried to explain that I’m not a trophy hunter, and really not a vocal proponent or opponent to APR. (However, in the interest of transparency, I do think APRs have generally worked in PA, and I have a sister state in NY to compare the progress to. Every year I hunt very similar ground in both states and, though anecdotal, I can see the stark contrast between the two management plans.) My family member ended the conversation by proposing the idea that doe season should be totally shut down for a year or two in order to allow for the does to raise more bucks to shoot. He followed that statement up by informing me that he shot two button bucks this year.  All of that being said, let’s try to tease this discussion apart just a bit.

Anit-APR Argument #1: This area can’t grow trophy deer, and I hunt for meat, not horns, anyway

The idea that PA can’t grow a trophy class of deer is quite simply misguided. The idea that the genetics and soil types are inferior to that of the storied Midwestern states, and therefore trying to increase age structure and maximize potential is nothing but a fool’s errand, is disingenuous. Why? Because this argument is a half-truth, and is largely coming from the same hunters who want to be able to shoot a fork horn and are upset that they can’t. While it may be true that the corn fields of Iowa or the rich soils of Buffalo County may be superior habitat for Boone and Crockett deer, nearly every part of the Northeast has the potential to grow Deer that reach the Pope and Young threshold of 125”. This is a trophy anywhere in my book, but in the Northeast, it’s a stud. If anyone tells you differently, they haven’t hunted long enough, in my opinion. It wasn’t too long ago that a 110” buck or higher was considered the buck of a lifetime around these parts and if you shot one, not only would everyone in town know about it, people would tell you that you might as well quit hunting because you’ll never shoot one bigger. The overlying point here is that I very much doubt that the anti-APR hunters, who would like to have the opportunity to shoot the first buck they see, would fail to classify a 125” whitetail in the trophy category. Because of APR there are more of these deer available to hunt and kill in the State of Pennsylvania than ever before. So, it’s safe to say that the assertion that PA can’t produce a ‘trophy’ class of deer, within the ‘average’ hunter’s definition, is false. I also doubt that the majority of meat hunting hunters would pose for a picture with a 120” buck with the tail end of deer toward the camera, in order to adequately show off those substantial hams for which they shot the deer, of course. So again, it’s safe to say that, to varying degrees, antlers do matter to just about everyone.  This doesn’t even address the fact that since APR implementation Pennsylvania has increased its Boone and Crockett entries exponentially and State records have been broken and re-broken. In 2016 the non-typical archery record was broken with a deer measuring 228 6/8”, and this season the typical archery record was set by a State Land buck with a net score of 185 4/8” (grossing in the 190’s). These deer aren’t trophies for Pa, they are trophies anywhere across the Whitetail’s range.

Anti-APR Argument #2: APR will cause High-Grading to occur

This influx of record book entries, along with the anecdotal evidence that is the significantly different look of social media feeds in recent years, seems to fly in the face of any high-grading argument which some anti-APR hunters choose to make. The record books tell us that big deer are falling in PA with more regularity and Facebook photos, forum threads and local big buck contests seem to be evidencing this annually as well. Biologically, and genetically, high-grading within an ungulate species that breeds as whitetails do is a misnomer and a straw man argument. Deer do not have harems as elk do, and the idea of a dominant “breeder buck”  servicing the majority of the does in an area has been debunked. With radio telemetry studies we can determine how deer move during the rut  and we also know that bucks breed one doe at a time. A buck may speed 48 hours breeding one doe repetitively until she is through her breeding cycle and then he will break away and find another. While this buck is bedded in thick cover with a hot doe, other does in the area are also coming into heat. In populations with unbalanced age structures (anything greater than 1:1 really), most bucks will participate in the breeding season. There are enough does that even that ‘inferior’ spike will be getting some action in November when that mature ‘breeder buck’ is hunkered down with his current doe. The high-grading argument has its flaws in genetics as well, mainly due to the fact that the doe contributes half of the genetic material that is within the next generation of buck fawns. Some captive deer breeders will tell you that the most inheritable antler traits are passed through the maternal side of the deer’s pedigree, leading them to believe the buck’s mother has more to do with antler potential than its sire. Since we can’t harvest does on the basis of their antler potential, it becomes nearly impossible to positively or negatively alter the genetics of the deer herd through hunter harvest. Just ask any of the renowned biologists who are part of the QDMA. This is also why the idea of shooting “cull bucks” from a wild Deer herd to improve antler size is foolish and misguided. Lastly, the high-grading argument doesn’t account for later born fawns, poor growing seasons, or a buck which was born to a first time mother. A buck that is younger when it is growing its first set of antlers may be behind in body size when comparing it to other deer in the same fawn crop. He may display smaller antlers for the sole reason that he is still catching up to his peers. Additionally, a harsh Winter which causes deer to enter Spring under nourished, or a poor growing season and dry summer during critical antler development times can also stifle antler growth, even with mature deer. Lastly, every Fall, some doe fawns reach sexual maturity before their first birthday and are bred. These does may not have access to the best food sources as do matriarchal does, and may not produce as much milk because they are still growing themselves after fawning. This can cause a buck fawn born to one of these does to start life behind other deer in the local herd. Those things have nothing to do with the antler genetics or the maximum antler potential within that deer’s DNA.

Anti-APR Argument #3: APR will reduce hunter opportunities

Hunter opportunity, if reduced solely to buck harvest, has not sustained any significant decreases in the state of Pennsylvania. Statistically speaking, hunter buck harvest has remained consistent based on a percentage of licensed hunters across the state, so the argument of diminished opportunity really falls quite flat. Many of the people I know, myself included, who haven’t filled a buck tag this year, could have if they would have chosen to shot any legal buck. But, because of APR, many hunters have seen what another year of age can do, and they choose to self regulate beyond the APR standards. Even with this self regulation and the mentality of higher antler criteria that has been making progress within the hunting ranks, statistical harvest success rates have remained consistent. What we have seen, however, is that for the first time in modern hunting history, PA has begun to harvest more (59% in 2016) 2.5 year old or older bucks than yearling bucks. The majority of the statewide buck harvest comprised of yearlings used to push near 80% annually. On the contrary, some 60% of New York’s harvest is still made up of yearling bucks, the highest ratio in the nation. Youth hunters in Pennsylvania are allowed to shoot a buck with antlers over 3” in length, and since they can shoot deer that are otherwise “protected”, one would have to argue that the youth opportunities have increased in the State. Like every State, PA faces hunter recruitment and attrition issues, but it is hard to correlate that with a lack of youth opportunity. Likely, there are other, more significant roadblocks to entry for the next generation. Sports and electronics present bigger threats to the perpetuation of hunting within the next generation than do APRs.

Anti-APR Argument #4: APRs are not biologically necessary.

The best argument offered by the anti-APR crowd is that Antler Point Restrictions are not biologically necessary. This I (cautiously) agree with. I say cautiously because the discussion is more nuanced, but as a whole, sustaining a huntable population of Whitetail deer does not require APR.  If an area is recruiting fawns back into the herd at a high rate, buck fawns will be present the following year as sexually mature yearling bucks, and can breed the does to produce the next generation. Even if there is near 100% exploitation of the buck population, as long as there is high fawn recruitment, the deer herd will be able to regenerate from year to year. Of course, this doesn’t account for the social effects this may have on the herd, the physiological effects on the bucks, or the effects on hunter experience, but we will get into that in a bit.

Part 2 of this blog series will discuss common arguments often offered by those in favor of APRs.

By Reuben Dourte


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Lessons From Tragedy

Category : Miscellaneous

*Feature Image Credit: Tree Thrasher Facebook Page

I met Todd Pringnitz about 4 to 5 years ago at the Great American Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA.  That was when he was still involved with Wicked Tree Gear, a company he founded that made high end tree trimming saws for hunters.  Todd wouldn’t have remembered me; as, since that time, he’s undoubtedly met thousands and thousands of other hunters at trade shows and our short five-to-ten minute conversation carried no more or less significance than the next, or the next.  What I can say about that interaction with Todd is that I found him to be very much the same guy you see on camera when you watch any of the video content he has produced over the years; an energetic, exceedingly positive guy who appeared filled with genuine excitement for life.  Todd was a Michigan native from the Grand Rapids area, (a high hunter density area I too lived in for 5 years), but he followed a dream and moved to the storied big buck area of SE Iowa.  Todd bought a 63 acre chunk bordering the Snake River and used his engineering background to continue to manufacturer and innovate in the hunting space while he manicured his small property into a piece of land capable of producing mature, Boone and Crockett caliber animals, year after year.  By all means, Todd was living the American Dream, and every hunter’s dream, simultaneously.  But, in the early morning hours of February 25, 2019, Todd Pringnitz passed away as a result of injuries sustained in what can only be described as a horribly tragic ATV accident.

              As I mentioned, I didn’t know Todd on a personal level, although there are many people who did, and they would be much better equipped to provide more insight into Todd’s life, accomplishments and who Todd Pringnitz was.  The reason that I decided to write about this tragedy is because all day my mind has drifted back to this incident.  I’ve been thinking about Todd’s wife, and his 2 month old son.  My youngest son is also approaching the 2 month mark and so, resultantly, this tragedy caused me to contemplate and reflect perhaps a little more than it might have otherwise.  I can’t imagine what his wife, family and close friends are feeling right now.  More than likely, life is probably a bit of a blur right now for them, and that may not change for a while.  Healing takes time. Its true.  But, there are also lessons to be taken from tragedies, and in doing so, I believe they help the tragedy, itself, seem less in vain.

Todd Pringnitz was a young guy.  That day he left his home and got on the four-wheeler, I’m sure was just another typical day for him.  Yes, it sounds cliché, but the one lesson we can take from this is that we never know when it is our time.  More importantly, however, because we don’t know when it is our time, its exceedingly important to treasure every minute we have with the ones we love.  Make sure you don’t leave home angry; don’t let the sun go down on your anger; hug your kids every chance you get, even if it annoys them.  Engage with your children, and your spouse- they will remember those interactions and quality time, if your time here is cut short, far more than the amount of money you made or the title you held at your job.  Put down the phone and actually talk to people.  Keep life in perspective: that thing you are upset about, would it still be important to you if the other person was gone tomorrow?  And I don’t mention these things as lessons for us all to bear in mind because I believe Todd Prignitz didn’t do them.  Precisely the opposite, in fact.  Nevertheless, Todd’s untimely passing highlights that we all must make vigilant efforts to conduct ourselves and interact in positive ways, because none of us have a crystal ball. Furthermore, don’t procrastinate, don’t assume a damaged relationship will get better solely with time.  Don’t ever wait to tell your children what they mean to you.  We never know when our window of opportunity will close.

I believe the second lesson we can take away from Todd’s passing is to live your own life and live it to the fullest.  Todd was a Michigan guy who wanted to kill giant whitetails in Iowa, and was just crazy enough to think he could make it in the outdoor industry, to boot.  Todd founded several companies and helped with product innovations for others.  Todd never appeared to be the kind of guy who was overly swayed by naysayers and critics.  He had his own style, he was chasing his own dreams, and he was committed to doing that.  He was on a path that he chose and he chose it deliberately.  He took risks, he bet on himself.  I’m sure those career moves and entrepreneurial endeavors came with a certain amount of angst, but ultimately what seemed to prevail most with Todd Prignitz was a high amount of enthusiasm and the love for life that eludes far too many people nowadays.

Third, when tragedies happen, its far less tragic for the person involved than it is for their family.  Todd’s son will grow up without his biological father, and his wife lost her partner in life.  Regardless of what you may believe about the afterlife, Todd is no longer suffering, but the heart ache and challenges ahead for his family are still very real.  We pursue an outdoor lifestyle that comes with risks.  Most times, we can calculate and mitigate those risks.  Some types of hunting and outdoor activity come with more inherent risk factors than others.  I don’t know all of the details of Todd’s ATV accident, but we do know that he sustained a serious head injury and underwent some form of brain surgery.  Was Todd wearing a helmet when he wrecked on the ATV?  I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter.  This is not a criticism of Todd.  What it is, is a reminder that almost everyone has people back home that need them to make it back home.  When we venture into the woods, it’s our obligation to our loved ones to take those precautions that are within our control so that we do make it back home to those who need us the most.  The use of safety harnesses, lifelines, general firearm precautions, helmets, tractor roll bars, etc. etc. should all become non-negotiables when we venture afield.

              Lastly, as I scrolled through the comments left on Todd’s various Facebook pages, I was captivated by one commenter who said something along the lines that their heart breaks for Todd’s wife and son, but his son will be able to grow up and watch hours and hours of his dad doing what he loved to do- hunting big bucks.  This struck a cord with me because when I started to casually take a video camera afield with me, my motivation really was never to produce videos for anyone but my children, and myself.  I hope that one day they will enjoy watching those videos with me, or enjoy reading some of my ramblings on this blog.  I hope all of it will give them insight into who I am as a person, and then ultimately motivate them to be better than me.  Todd Pringnitz has produced countless hours of footage both shed hunting and archery hunting his small piece of property in Iowa.  To his family, these are more than just hunting videos now.  They are a portal back in time.  They are a way to hear Todd’s voice and see his excitement, and relive moments that were important and significant to him.  His son will hear stories about his father, but he will also be able to see his father and hear his father’s voice, and have insight into his father’s hobbies, passions and business pursuits.  What an invaluable gift and blessing that video footage becomes.

A father, husband, son, taken before their time is always a horrific tragedy.  There is no other way to describe it.  There isn’t any way to make it less horrible and its hard to fathom the emotional toll it must place on those closest to the deceased.  But, in some way, it seems that using that person’s life to inspire careful self-reflection, and as a vessel to receive valuable life lessons, is one of the best ways to honor those who are taken from this world far too soon; and that is what compelled me to take to the keyboard today.  RIP Todd Pringnitz.

If you feel compelled to donate to the GoFundMe account established to help Todd’s wife, Katie, and young son, Baker, please follow this link: https://www.gofundme.com/funds-to-support-todd-pringnitz

By Reuben Dourte


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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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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.


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Quit Caffeine and Thank Me Later

Category : Miscellaneous

I certainly hope this is the least technical and most hypocritical article I will ever “have” to write.  I say least technical because it can be simply summed up with “quit caffeine”; I say most hypocritical because I am addicted to caffeine and I’m about to tell you to quit caffeine.  Now that we have that out of the way, seriously, quit caffeine for hunting season.  Whether its a daily cup of light roast, or its a big gulp energy drink, you’ll do yourself a favor by cutting it out before hunting season and here is why:

1. You’re going to have withdraws: Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug, and it is addictive.  If you can’t get your daily dose before you head to your treestand in November, you very well may end up sitting there trying to figure out if your nagging headache is due to lack of sleep, dehydration, caffeine withdraw or all of the above.  You’re probably hunting to get away from life’s headaches, so its a good idea to quit caffeine well before season starts.

2. Caffeine makes you go:  Along with being a stimulant and increasing heart rate, caffeine increases other bodily functions as well.  Caffeine has some diuretic effects and although I’m not really concerned with the scent left behind after taking a leak in the woods, having to go No. 1 numerous times within the first couple hours of daylight gets pretty annoying.  Even worse, depending how that large cup of coffee hits you, it might send you down the tree to take care of other business.  Who wants to be caught, quite literally, with their pants down when a big buck comes strolling in? So, it’s a good idea to quit caffeine before hunting season starts.

3. Caffeine pumps you up: Caffeine might provide a great boost of energy to help you function early on Monday morning at your monotonous job, but if you need caffeine to get yourself going before a hunt, your doing something wrong.  The days which I get up early to hunt are literally the only times during the whole year that I can function as a ‘morning person’.  Now, I’ll also admit that I don’t love walking into the timber in the pitch dark during a new-moon phase and my heart rate is usually a little heightened to begin with.  Who of us hasn’t about jumped out of our skin when a varmit makes a racket in the leaves just ahead of us in the dark?  Side effects of caffeine include a raised heart rate and jitters; afterall, it is a stimulant.  Getting yourself buzzed up on caffeine makes those morning walks to the treestand worse. Do yourself a favor, quit caffeine before hunting season starts.

4. Caffeine makes you sweat: First comes that quickened heart rate and soon after comes the sweats.  For some reason I always seem to sweat more in the morning heading to my stand than in the evening heading out of my stand.  That natural adrenaline rush is enhanced by the caffeine and the sweats start quicker.  As mentioned, caffeine is a drug that stimulates your central nervous system; it raises your heart rate, your blood pressure and activates your sweat glands.  Add in the temperature boost you experience from ingesting caffeine and you can all but count on sweating on the way to your stand. Sweat stinks, sweat makes you cold after you stop moving.  Sweat is bad for deer hunting…

So, like I was saying, quit caffeine before hunting season. You can thank me later.

-Reuben Dourte


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Testing Garment Noise of Technical Hunting Aparrel

I conducted a casual testing of several pieces of techincal layering apparell from a few different manufacturers to determine if significant differences were noticeable in terms of face fabric noise.  Below is a video showing the test and the results.

 


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Product Review: Tru Glo HyperStrike

Category : Miscellaneous

TruGlo HyperStrike Review

Spending some time with the TruGlo Hyperstrike bow sight has given me appreciation for the finish, design and functionality of this economical bowsight.  Aside from the great price point, this feature-rich sight offers plenty of other aspects to appreciate such as 2nd and 3rd axis leveling, multiple site radius mounting positions, micro adjust and a three stage sight light. Let’s break it down:

Construction:

The site is constructed from a lightweight carbon-aluminum composite, making it both light weight and durable.  This site is rugged enough to take a beating while light enough so as to not affect the balance of your bow as much as some other sights in its class.  A bowhunter who prefers accessories that don’t add significant amounts of mass weight will appreciate the design and construction of this sight. The sight bracket is coated, so it creates less noise if it comes into contact with other metal accessories.

Features:

DDP-

One of the best features on this site is the decreasing diameter pins.  The last 2 pins are .010 diameter fiber optic. This is especially helpful for those long distance shots when larger diameter pins can block too much of the target to allow for pin-point accuracy.  

3 Stage Sight Light-

The 3 stage sight light is a nice added feature.  Often sight lights make pins too bright and create a halo effect around the fiber optic.  This adjustable sight light avoids these problems and provides the shooter with more options to match the shooting conditions he or she is in.  The sight is marked for all three stages, it is easy to use and conveniently located. Of course the negative of a sight light is that in some states it may need to be removed and hunters should be aware of the regulations for the area in which they are hunting.

Micro Adjust Windage and Elevation-

Micro adjustability is one of the most important features on a bow sight.  Fine tuning is made so much easier when a sight has this feature and the Hyperstrike has wingnut style knobs to allow for quick adjustments at the range without the use of an allen wrench.  These can be tightened down with a wrench after sighting in to make the sight rock-solid. The micro adjust dials have a great, quality feel and the hashmarks on the windage dovetail bracket make precision simple.  These same marks would be helpful on the elevation adjustment, which is not marked, but the pin channels are marked in this way to aid in minute adjustments.

Maxamount Bracket-

The three position Maxamount bracket allows for three sight diameter options.  The sight housing is generous at 1.9” and is highlighted by a glow in the dark 

shooters ring for consistency in low light situations.  Matching the sight housing with a large aperture peep sight is no problem and is another reason why this site is a great option for the bowhunter.  The site level is positioned inside of the housing, allowing for easier peripheral monitoring. The Hyperstrike comes with the Sight Line option, which helps archers to see any small imperfections in form that is leading to torquing their bow.

Price:

The 5 Pin Hyperstrike in black comes with a suggested retail price of $121.00.  The Hyperstrike with sight line option retails at $148.00. Considering the amount of features packed into this sight, the price is certainly fair.  

Conclusion

The TruGlo Hyperstrike is a great sight that outperformed both my expectations and its price tag.  It offers many features which more expensive sights fail to include. It is designed with bowhunters in mind and leaves little on the table in terms of performance.  It proves to be a great choice for beginning and experienced hunters, alike, and should be on the short-list of any archer looking for a quality, durable, lightweight, multi-pin bowsight.