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Welcome to the 3Rivers Archer's Den

Archer's Den

Welcome to the Archer's Den. Here you will find a gathering of traditional archery stories, tips and techniques, trophy animals taken with traditional bows, and plenty more. Stay a while and learn something. We hope you enjoy and even submit a trophy of your own, or leave a comment on a post.

Tag Archives: deer hunting

How to Make a Ghillie Suit Fit

The ghillie suit is an excellent addition to the traditional bowhunter’s bag of tricks. The textured camouflage clothing of a ghillie suit is designed to break up your outline to help you blend into your environment. Ghillie suits are also called sniper suits as they are used by military sniper units all over the world.

Wearing a ghillie when bowhunting can offer more opportunities to get you closer to big game and out of the treestand. The challenge for the traditional bowhunter is customizing the ghillie suit to not interfere when you are shooting your bow. Getting your ghillie suit ready for hunting season only requires time and a good pair of scissors. We are using the Rancho Safari Shaggie® longcoat. If you use a different brand of ghillie suit, it may require more trimming.

Ghillie suits are made to travel easilyUnrolling the ghillie suit

Ghillie suits are hot. Adding strips of material, such as jute burlap and cotton, helps to break up an outline, but it also reflects your body heat back on you. So when wearing a ghillie suit you have to take into consideration that it will not be comfortable to walk around in. Many hunters will carry them to where they intend to hunt, then put them on.

Open your ghillie suit up outside Shake your ghillie suit to get loose strips off

When you first get your ghillie it is best to open it up outside in case of any loose material. We recommend giving it a good shake into the wind to force anything not sewn down to come off.

Size your ghillie suit for a close fit. Not loose. Ghillie suit cinch straps keep it closer to your body

Cinch down all straps on your ghillie suit for maximum mobility Ghillie suits use velcro straps to keep them in place

When first fitting a ghillie suit be aware of all straps, ties, and Velcro® strips. You want your suit to fit tight against you so as not to be cumbersome, get in the way when shooting, or get snagged on brush. The Shaggie longcoat has a waist level cinch cord, zippered front, forearm straps, and a Velcro® collar strip.

Ghillie suit sized and adjusted

Now with the ghillie suit situated, do some walking around. Try some stretches, stalking (crouched slow walking), and just anything to confirm the ghillie fits properly to your body.

The Shaggie Cat-Guard Arm Guard is a great accessory for the ghillie suit

One great accessory to have is an extra long armguard. Rancho Safari offers the Cat-Guard Armguard and fits nicely on most arms and is made to bend with your arm for great comfort.

TECH TIP: When putting on your armguard, turn your arm so your palm faces up and the straps point downward. This will get more of the camo strips to the outside of your arm and away from the bow string.

Watch for ghillie suit threads getting in the way of the bow string Ghillie suits normally catch the bow string in the chest area

Now, it is time to practice shooting your bow and arrow with a ghillie suit on. This is best done with a friend to watch where the ghillie suit is interfering with the bow string. You can do this step alone, either by setting up a camera to record yourself, or by pulling to full draw and holding while inspecting. Pay close attention to your upper chest nearest to the bow. Depending upon your form, this is the area that will require the most trimming.

Use scissors to trim your ghillie suit Cut all ghillie suit fabric that will interfer with the bow string

Using a pair of good scissors, trim down any strip that comes in contact with the bow string when at full draw. How much that will be cut is up to you, but you don’t want to miss the shot of a lifetime, or wound an animal, because your bow string got caught on a strand. This process can be quick, or it can take an hour(s). It really depends on how much the string is being interfered with and how many different shooting positions you are trimming for.

The ghillie suit carrying strap can do more than carry the suit Using the ghillie suit carry strap for keeping the chest area tight to the body

TECH TIP: Wear a chest guard, or the included carry strap, to cinch down material across your chest.

Trim the ghillie suit boonie hat Be sure to shoot with the ghillie suit boonie hat on during practice

Most ghillie suits will include something for your head; a facemask and/or a hat. These help break up your outline, and may require trimming as well to make sure they do not interfere with your anchor.

The Shaggie longcoat comes with a boonie hat. It is best to trim all that you can in front of your face so as not to have any strands in your peripheral vision that may distract you during the shot.

Wear the ghillie suit boonie hat behind the left ear for a right handed archer Wear the ghillie suit boonie hat in front of the right ear for the right handed archer

TECH TIP: For the right handed shooter, put the straps of the boonie hat behind your LEFT ear and in front of your RIGHT ear. This will help keep the hat in place when you go to draw your bow.

Practive shooting your bow and arrow with your ghillie suit on Practice different shooting stances while wearing your ghillie suit

With all of your trimming done it is time to practice, practice, practice. Shoot your bow with your ghillie suit on any chance you get. You want to be 100% comfortable shooting with it on by the time you are using it during a hunt. Be sure to shoot standing, sitting, kneeling, and any and all positions you can safely shoot a bow from. Always be willing to trim unneeded pieces to make sure your shot is not interfered with.

Bowhunting with a ghillie suit is an exciting undertaking. Once you get your ghillie suit fitted to your body and shooting style you will be on your way to an exciting new chapter in your hunting career. Best of luck, and be sure to share with us your hunting successes at our online trophy room here.

By: Johnathan Karch

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How to Layer Hunting Clothes for All-Day Comfort

When you layer hunting clothes you control your core temperature in any weather

This story has been re-published with the permission of Core4Element. The link to the original story is no longer available.

One of the most important things a hunter must consider before going out into the field is choosing the best hunting clothing for the conditions. But even the best gear is useless without knowing the best way to wear it. The Core4Element line of hunting clothes is designed to be used as a system of three layers: a base layer, a mid-layer, and an outer layer. Dressing in layers like this allows you to control your core temperature in any weather, which helps you stay focused on the hunt instead of your clothes.

Layering allows you to prepare for all weather extremes, but there is a right way to do it. The first thing you need to keep in mind when creating your layering system is to abandon the thought of wearing cotton on your hunt. Cotton is a light fabric, yes, but it also traps moisture and chafes after wearing it for a long time. These are not ideal conditions for anyone, especially hunters competing with the elements for long periods of time.

Merino Wool Base Layers

Begin your layering system with a base layer. This layer will have direct contact with your skin, so you’ll want to choose something relatively lightweight, breathable and comfortable against your skin. At Core4, we create our base layers with 100% Merino wool, which is soft to the touch, anti-microbial, and has moisture wicking capabilities. Base layers should fit snuggly to make the most use of the wicking technology and allow for other layers to be put on top without bunching up. Depending on the climate of your preferred hunting area, you may want to consider heavier (thicker) or lighter base layers. Since base layers are pretty much impossible to remove once you’re out in the field, do your best to anticipate the weather conditions of your hunting grounds so you can choose the appropriate weight.

Versatile Mid-Layers

Mid-layer hunting clothes allow for a little more versatility than base layers because you can either wear one or several, depending on your comfort level. Mid-layers tend to be looser than base layers, but they do not need to be baggy by any means. The mid-layers are where you really control the body temperature. Adding multiple mid-weight layers for colder temperatures will better protect your from the cold than a heavy, bulky outer layer. Core4Element hunting apparel is tailored to an “athletic fit” to maintain contact with the base layer in order to optimize wicking capabilities. This will keep you warm while still being moisture and odor free. Mid-layers typically have special features to provide maximum comfort and breathability. Core4Element mid-layers often have underarm zippered vents and extra long front zippers for superior ventilation on all-day hunts. Layer the Mid Mountain Vest over the Selway Zip for extra warmth or use the Pivot Shirt as your mid-layer on warmer hunting days.

Protective Outer Layers

The outer layer of a system is going to be the most important layer in terms of protecting against the elements. Whether hunting in rain, wind or snow, Core4 has the high-performance, high-quality gear you need for creating the best final layer to your system. The key to the most effective outer layer is durability. Your pants and jacket need to be able to stand up against tree branches, rocks and whatever else you may encounter in the woods or backcountry. All of our pants and jackets are treated with Durable Water Repellent (DWR) to provide maximum protection against the elements. This is exactly what you want in an outer layer. Pay attention to the weights of the pants and jackets, as some are made for colder conditions than others. Pay close attention to the moisture in the weather. An outer layer protected by a DWR treatment will keep the rain and snow out for a while but if heavy rain or wet snow is in your future you’ll want a fully waterproof outer layer like the C4E Torrent jacket and pants. Torrent is waterproof, breathable, and just as important on the hunt, quiet.

When building your layering system, be sure not to neglect your head, hands and feet. Core4 offers Merino wool or synthetic options to keep you as comfortable as possible on your hunt. Be sure to keep your head covered on bitter hunts, as heat leaves most quickly through the head. Keep extra pairs of wool socks in your pack in case your boots do not protect your feet from water, as they should. Nothing ruins a hunt faster than suffering from soggy socks. Choose a pair of gloves that provides warmth, grip and mobility.

Layering is one of the smartest choices you can make on a hunt. Using the right method, you won’t have to worry about your clothing and comfort for the rest of your hunt, and that’s how it should be. Stay dry, warm and odor free when hunting with the Core4Element layering system. Ready to turn your hunting clothing into a system of specialized gear? Build your system now.

DIY Traditional Archery Targets

Yellow Jacket Supreme 3 Field Point Archery Target

For the traditional archer, high quality archery targets are awesome, but they can get expensive quick. Personally, I love my Yellow Jacket Supreme, but there are many people who love traditional archery because of the DIY aspect, which seems to accompany the sport. It’s for those reasons that I’ve decided to do a DIY traditional archery target blog.

Note: These DIY projects are meant as traditional archery targets; although they may work, they are not meant for compound or crossbow shooters.

All supplies are not created equal, for this reason I recommend taking a few practice shots at close range at half draw to make sure the target is stopping your arrows. Slowly increase your draw until you’re at full draw at close range. If the target is still doing its job, then feel free to enjoy your new DIY traditional archery target.

The Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch

Difficulty level: 1/10

Cost: Less than $15

Time: About 5 minutes

Morrell Polypropylene Target FacesThe name of the game for this project is “Cheap.” We’re keeping costs down while maintaining functionality. For this project you’ll need a Polypropylene Target Face and a bag of tightly packed mulch or peat moss from your local hardware store. You want the bag of mulch or moss to be at least 12” thick and VERY TIGHTLY PACKED. I prefer moss because it’s less likely to mess-up your arrows. This target is great because any mess that’s created will benefit your lawn, so there’s really no impact on the environment when the target starts to fall apart.

After you’ve got your supplies, simply affix your burlap target face onto the front of the bag of mulch or moss (unopened). You’re done. What’s bad about this target? It’s not going to stand the test of time. So, although it is cheap and easy to make, be prepare for it to break down quickly.

For a more lasting target, you might consider putting your mulch or moss inside of the U-Fill It bag target or, for an even better (self-healing) target, put your bag of moss inside of the Replacement Cover for the Yellow Jacket Supreme. You’ve just made a long-term, outdoor target that is good for your lawn for less than $25.

The Saran Wrap Filled Box

Difficulty level: 1/10

Cost: Less than $10

Time: About 10 minutes

Peel & Stick RealGame® Target Face

If you saw the Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch and thought that the price was still a bit much, then this is the project for you. You’ll need an empty box, a bunch of used plastic wrap (enough to fill the box), some duct tape, and a Peel and Stick Target Face.

Note: If you ask a local business (try a superstore or hardware store) you might be able to get the box and plastic wrap for free, which would really keep the cost down. You could also try factories, as they have a ton of excess plastic wrap from shipments.

The bigger the box, the bigger the target – however, the bigger the box, the more plastic wrap you’ll need.

After you have all of your supplies, stuff the box with the plastic wrap. Stuff it in until it’s impossible to fill it anymore. Just like the Dressed-Up Bag of Mulch, you want this target very tightly packed. After you’re sure it’s packed, close it up and tape it shut with the duct tape. Finally, stick your target face on the box and voila – you’re done.

This project is not only easy, but it can be nearly free for those traditional archers who can easily come by the supplies. However, cardboard will not hold up in the rain (or in any wet conditions) and it will break down quickly if you use it often (as it is not self-healing).

The Compressed Carpet Target

Difficulty level: 3/10

Cost: Less than $50

Time: About 2 hours

Whitetail Deer Paper Archery Target

If you’re a bit more adventurous and you’re not afraid to spend a few extra bucks then this is the target for you. For this project you’ll need to visit your local hardware store and pick up a pressure treated 2x12x8 (should be about $12), four 36” x 5/8” standard threaded rods (about $6 each), eight 5/8” x 1-3/4” zinc-plated standard flat washers (less than $0.20 each), and eight 5/8”- 11 zinc-plated standard hex nuts (less than $0.20 each). You’ll also need a decent target face and some target face pins. Finally, you’re going to need a whole lot of scrap carpet. This is really the biggest variable in price for this whole project. If you’ve got the scrap laying around then you’re going to save yourself a lot of money. However, if you have to buy it, try and find the extra carpet from you local big-box hardware store, you should be able to buy a lot of it for not a lot of money.

For tools, it would be best if you had at least two pipe clamps or some ratchet straps, but if not, then your elbow grease will have to do. You will also need a knife, saw, measuring tape, drill with a 5/8” drill bit, and a 5/8” wrench.

You’ll want to cut your 2x12x8 in half, which will give you two 2x12x4s. Drill a hole in each of the four corners of both boards. You’ll want to make sure each hole is 1” away from the end and side of the board. After you’ve threaded one side of each of your standard rods with a washer and hex nut push each rod through one of the holes on one of your boards (use your measuring tape to make sure the same amount of rod is sticking through each nut).

Now, you will want to cut your carpet in 12”x3’ 10” sections (you’re not cutting them 4’ long because your holes are 1” deep on both sides, which effectively makes your target 2” smaller). After you’ve cut your carpet, start stacking it on top of the board that has the rods threaded through it. Stack it as high as you can – ideally until it’s almost at the top of your rods.

Next, you’re going to put your second board on top of your pile of carpet. Thread the screws through the holes you drilled earlier. Put on the washer and the hex nut – make sure the hex nuts are all finger tight. Gently lay the target on its side and pack it down with your feet to make sure the carpet on one side of the target is flush. Stand the target back up and tighten the boards down with your pipe clamps or ratchet straps. Get them as tight as you can and then re-tighten your hex nuts. If you don’t have pipe clamps or ratchet straps, then you’ll have to tighten the hex nuts with your wrench as much as you can. If needed, you can sit on the target, or apply pressure with your knee to aid in compressing the carpet. After you’ve gotten the hex nuts as tight as they’ll get, use your measuring tape to make sure an equal amount of the rod is coming out of each hole.

Now you’re ready to apply your target face and send some arrows down range. This target is great for those traditional archers who want a target that will last a long time and are determined to make their target themselves.

Clear as mud, right? If you’re having trouble visualizing it, then the below video might help

The Sandbox Archery Target (great for broadheads)

Difficulty level: 5/10

Cost: From $110 (if you use only plywood instead of 2x6s) to $150 (if you use 2x6s)

Time: About 4 hours

Rinehart Woodland Series 3D Targets

So, you want a high-quality target, something that’s going to last a long time AND you want to be able to shoot broadheads into it, but you still want to build it your self –because you’re a masochist.

Although I’m not a masochist, I do love DIY projects and this is one that I think just about anyone can do. What makes it cool is the fact that you can shoot just about anything into it. Yes, that means you can shoot this target with broadheads. However, this is a sand target, which means it can make your broadheads blunt – no problem if you have a few that are for practice anyway or if you know how to sharpen them.

For this project you’ll need a saw, measuring tape, and a drill. You’ll also need to visit your local hardware store and buy six 2x6x8s (about $6 each), one 5 lb. box of 3” screws (about $23), two 4x4x8s (about $10 each), one sheet of 3/4″ pressure treated plywood (about $35), 10 50 lb. bags of all purpose sand (about $3 each).

As this build is a bit more complicated, I’ve made a graphic (above) to help out.

First, cut a 4’x2’ section out of your piece of plywood – this will act as the floor for your new Sandbox Archery Target. If you want to keep costs down, you can cut your plywood into four 4’x2’ sections and use it for the floor and three walls – otherwise, use the remainder of your plywood as a backstop behind your target.

Then, cut one of your 4x4x8s into four sections and screw them onto the bottom of your 4’x2’ piece of plywood 1’ apart from each other. Cut your other 4x4x8 in half and attach it to the other side of your plywood (as shown above).

Next, cut four of your 2x6x8s in half. Cut your remaining two 2x6x8s into four 2’ sections.

If it were me, at this point I would cut two holes in the ply wood, so that you could slide a 2x6x2 down into it – helping hold the sand. Affix the 2x6s together as shown above. Next, simply fill with sand and get shooting.

A good idea would be to staple a rugged outdoor target face to the front of your new Sandbox Archery Target, so you have something to shoot at.

The below video shows what a Sandbox Archery Target should look like after it’s completed:

DIY 3D Style Target

Difficulty level: 8/10

Cost: Less than $20

Time: A weekend

That’s right; I’ve saved the best for last – a DIY 3D style target for less than $20. However, this one is the most time consuming and can be the most technically difficult. Expect this project to take at least one full day if not a weekend. If you value your time, you might want to stick to a traditional 3D archery target. However, if your times not worth that much, or your pretty budget conscious and don’t mind tedious work, this is the project for you.

You’re going to need a sheet of plywood (about $15, but if you want to go all-out get pressure treated plywood for $35), a pencil, tracing paper, a ruler, a computer with a printer, and a jigsaw (if you want it to look a bit more lifelike, then get some paint as well). An old school projector would also be a huge help with this.

First, find a picture of an animal that you would like to turn into a 3D target online. Print the picture, make  sure that it will fit in a 4”x8” box (if you don’t have a printer, use the tracing paper to trace the image one the screen – don’t press too hard, you don’t want to puncture your monitor). Next, use your ruler (or measuring tape) to measure out a 4”x8” box on your tracing paper. Next, make 1” squares in that box, making a grid pattern. Next, lay that tracing paper on top of the picture you printed out earlier. Trace the outline of the animal onto the paper. If you have an old school overhead projector, now would be the time to put your outlined image onto it and project it onto your plywood. If you don’t have a projector, then lightly (using pencil) draw your grid pattern (except instead of 1”x1” squares they will be 1’x1’ squares) onto your plywood and transfer the image onto the plywood that way. After you’ve traced your image onto the plywood it’s time to cut it out using your jigsaw.

Be sure to cut out the vital area of your new target. Place a box target behind the vital area of your target and you’re good to go!

If you opted to buy paint, now would be a good time to paint the target to your liking.

Here is a video that might help explain it:

 For even more great DIY ideas and toturials, check out the book “Bow Accessories” by Volkmar Hubschmann.

By Jason D. Mills

Introduction to 3D Archery

What is 3D archery? Generally, when an archer talks about 3D, they’re referring to shooting at three-dimensional life-like targets – normally made from foam and situated in such a way as to simulate a true-to-life hunting experience. At its inception, 3D was focused mainly on hunting practice, as such most of the targets were shaped like game animals, but 3D quickly evolved into a sport of its own, with rules, scoring, and a nearly limitless cornucopia of targets.

What is 3D archery? Generally, when an archer talks about 3D, they’re referring to shooting at three-dimensional life-like targets – normally made from foam and situated in such a way as to simulate a true-to-life hunting experience. At its inception, 3D was focused mainly on hunting practice, as such most of the targets were shaped like game animals, but 3D quickly evolved into a sport of its own, with rules, scoring, and a nearly limitless cornucopia of targets.

3D archery can be a family affair.
3D archery can make for a fun family outing.

As such, 3D is a great way to get ready for an upcoming hunt, or to just have some fun. It can be practiced alone, with friends, or family. In fact, it’s common for young children to participate in 3D. It’s a great way to experience the outdoors (if shooting at an outdoor range) and gain experience in shooting your bow in a realistic situation.

Before you head out to the range, there is some basic equipment you should bring with you. That said, there’s no special 3D bow that you’ll need; just shoot the bow you’re most comfortable with or the bow you plan to hunt with. You should used field points (don’t shoot broadheads at 3D targets!), it’s a good idea to have a pair of sunglasses handy, some sunscreen, an arrow removal tool (just in case you hit a tree, a cheap arrow puller and target arrow release fluid are good ideas too), a decent quiver, a towel for your hands and gear, and some arrows. Many outdoor shoots can be a mile or more in length, so it’s a good idea to bring something to snack on as well as some bottled water, but please don’t litter.

Six arrows should be plenty, but feel free to carry as many as you need. There are many archers who will bring an extra dozen and leave it in their vehicle just in case they need them. If you plan on shooting for score, you’ll want to bring something to write with and on (sometimes that’s not needed, but it’s better to be safe than sorry). Misses do happen and arrows will be lost (arrows are a lot easier to find with lighted nocks). When you do miss the target, don’t take too much time looking for the lost arrow, as it will slow down the whole event.

Most ranges will charge a small fee for shooting, whether you’re competing or not. This money covers normal wear and tear on the targets and on the range.

On how 3D is scored; typically, the high score shots will be in the vital section of the animal you’re shooting at. There are two primary scoring formats used: ASA and IBO. The ASA, or the Archery Shooters Association, uses 14-12-10-8-5-0 scoring areas. The IBO, or the International Bowhunting Organization, uses 11- 10-8-5-0 scoring areas.

When shooting for score, one arrow is shot at each target; the score is determined by where the arrow enters the target. Below is an example of what the ASA and IBO scoring rings look like.

ASA IBO 3D Scoring
(I can hear you asking, “why is the 14 score in such a weird spot?” While it’s true, you wouldn’t want to shoot a deer there in a real world situation it has to do with risk and reward for those trying to get the highest score possible. The ring is pretty small, and if the shooter misses in any direction they’ll end up with either an 8 or a 5.)

However, this scoring system does pose a problem in some situations. What if the animal is at an angle facing away from the shooter? Under normal circumstances a hunter would shoot the deer so that their arrow would hit midway between the front and rear legs, which would be a lethal, clean harvest. Despite being the most lethal shot in a real-world application, this shot would result in a score of 5 at a 3D shoot. Instead, the archer would need to aim as if they were trying to pass through the outer shoulder, which would result in a much higher score. Further, some targets will have multiple scoring areas marked. In which case, just ask which one is being shot at – if you’re shooting alone just use your best judgment.

Now, what happens if your arrow is on the 10 and the 12 mark? In most situations you get the higher score, if your arrow is touching it, then that’s your score. If you can’t see the scoring rings from the shooting stake, just aim for what would be the most natural lethal area. Some shooters opt to bring a good set of binoculars, but if you choose to bring binoculars remember to be courteous of other shooters and not take too long. There are also some archers who will bring reference cards of each target, so they know where to aim for the highest score.

Although many 3D courses are set outdoors, there are just as many indoor 3D ranges, which is nice when the weather gets too nasty for outdoor shooting. Most shoots will have between 20 and 30 targets arranged at different distances and positions. Usually traditional shooters will have a maximum distance stake at around 30 yards, but not always. If you’re participating in a tournament there will normally be club rules that you’ll have to obey in order to qualify (it might be a multiple day shoot or there might be different classes). During outdoor shoots be prepared to shoot off of elevated platforms, down hillsides and through brush. Some areas might be highly wooded and other areas might be in wide-open fields. Most targets will not have any indicator of what the distance to the target is, which gives the instinctive shooter a real advantage.

Indoor 3D Range

Indoor 3D ranges usually have a single line where all archers shoot from. Generally, archers are grouped by class and skill level. Targets can be as close as 2 yards or as far as 50 yards, normally distance is only limited by the venue.

Outdoor 3D range

Outdoor ranges, in my opinion, can be a lot more fun as they are usually a walk-through course (just like mini-golf). Normally, there will be three or four archers per lane – your group will finish one target and then move on to the next. Be aware if you or your group is moving slowly – it’s courteous to let faster archers pass you. Each class and skill level will have a designated stake to shoot from – most shoots are operated via the honor system, so no cheating. The shooter is normally required to touch the stake with at least one part of their body (i.e. foot or a knee) when shooting.

Obey the rules

Although each club will have its own rules and restrictions, here are some basics to remember:

  1. Although archery is generally a safe sport, it can be dangerous, so stay smart and stay safe. Know what you’re shooting at. Know what’s behind your target. Make sure there are no children about to dart out in front of you or behind your target. Be aware of other shooters at all times.
  2. Try not to talk or be disruptive while others are shooting. If you’ve brought children, make sure they’re not making too much of a ruckus.
  3. Take your time, but don’t stall other shooters. Some people like to really take their time, others love to move quickly – be courteous either way. If you’re a slower shooter, then let the faster archers “shoot through.”
  4. Avoid foul language. These are often family activities and no one wants their children exposed to that.
  5. Feel free to bring something to snack on and some water to drink (in fact, I’d encourage it), but don’t litter.
  6. When you miss a target, don’t take all day looking for it, as it will slow down the entire event. Misses will happen (so be prepared) and arrows will be lost.
  7. You might want to bring a ‘throw away’ arrow for novelty targets, such as steel or iron elks.
  8. Have fun!

By Jason D. Mills

A Rite of Passage

The rack may not be significant, but the experience of the saga to kill a deer with my bow and the venison for my family most surely is. The bow is a Border Black Douglas 58#@28". Arrows were Axis with a Grizzly Head. 680gr total weight. It's the first kill for this bow. The shot went in as pictured and came out about 6" lower on the opposite side. Got one lung and the liver. He only went maybe 70 meters. The grizzly heads, adapters, feathers, inserts, and some various other bow accessories used were purchased from 3Rivers Archery.
Clinton Miller with his first deer harvest with a traditional bow. He said, “the rack may not be significant, but the experience of the saga to kill a deer with my bow and the venison for my family most surely is. The bow is a Border Black Douglas 58#@28″. Arrows were Axis with a Grizzly Head. 680gr total weight.”

Clinton Miller lives in the hills south of Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia, where it is currently deer season. This article has been re-published here with permission of Clinton Miller. “It’s the first kill for this bow. The shot went in as pictured and came out about 6” lower on the opposite side. Got one lung and the liver. He only went maybe 70 meters. The Axis arrows, grizzly heads, adapters, feathers, inserts, and some various other bow accessories used were purchased from 3Rivers Archery.”

By Clinton Miller

A long time goal was achieved last weekend. For quite a few years I have been trying to take a deer, any deer with a bow. I have been unfortunate to have lost some and until now I haven’t been able to seal the deal. It felt like there was some sort of protective force field around every deer I shot at.

An example of a fallow deer buck
An example of a fallow buck

Well March and April for us is what September and October is for you guys and the fallow deer that I have access to do their thing in these months. I vowed to myself to make 2015 ‘the year of the deer’ and I’ve put in a day every second weekend since February at the property hoping to put to bed this deer hoodoo I had going.

The property is relatively new to me so I started going out there in February to get to know the place and to scout for deer. On the 1st trip, I spotted some does in their beds and made a stalk to about 20 yards but was foiled by a tree that was just behind the crease of the doe I shot at. Yep, dead centered the tree. Remember that force field I told you about …

Fast forward a few trips and the end of March rolls in. This time I was hoping that by now they should be responding to the rattle of a pair of antlers. Up until then they haven’t been.

I arrived at the place by mid afternoon and planned on an afternoon hunt, stay the night, a morning hunt and be back home by lunch the next day.

I checked the wind and accordingly, made plans to circle wide and come in behind the area I wanted to hunt, which is a trail with scrapes I found the week before. The idea was to setup in sight of the scrapes and rattle hoping to deceive a buck into thinking a rival was on his turf and coax him into range.

A little way into the walk I dropped into a rocky little creek, dotted with small rock holes full of water from recent storms. It was a beautiful little locale. A small cascade, surrounded by steep sided walls of rock. I thought to myself, “This is a nice little spot.”

I was standing in the creek bed enjoying being there when I looked up stream and saw a white figure walking down into the creek. My first thoughts were that it was a Billy goat and I casually lifted the binos to check him out. I had no intention of shooting a goat this trip so I was just going to watch him do his thing.

However the binos revealed a white buck. PANIC mode! Get out of the creek before he sees me. Hurry up and find a spot to setup for a rattle. Get the pack off and get the antlers, quick, hurry.

There were two ways that he might come in to the rattle, if he did at all. Down the creek or from above on the creek bank. I wasn’t sure where he was so I was watching both areas as I started rattling. Sure enough he must have been still in the creek bed because after only a few light rattles I saw his antlers coming down the creek. Now that I knew which way he was coming I knelt down and got into a more concealed position. As I did I drove the barbed spikes of a tiger pear cactus into my shin. What a time to do that. Here I was trying to get into a comfortable position with a tiger pear hanging off me.

The buck kept coming and revealed himself broadside at around 13 meters (roughly 14 yards). His chest seemed to fill my field of view. It looked so big that I remember thinking I can’t miss this, I must have been so focused.

As soon as he stepped out I drew and released. As I was drawing he turned his head and looked at me. It was too late though, the arrow was about to hit and seal his fate.

The instant it hit him I knew it was a good shot and thought for sure I’d just killed my first deer with a bow. He crashed off in the direction he came from and not wanting to push him I turned my attention to extracting the tiger pear from my leg. These things have 1.5″ spines that must have microscopic barbs because they are a right pain in the butt to get out. They will hang on, pulling a big fold of skin with them when you attempt to pull them out. They freakin’ hurt too. A couple of them went in 3/8″.

By the time I sorted that out it was time to take up the trail. At the site of the hit there was a good splash of blood on the rocks but it soon deteriorated to just drops then further to having to follow his tracks. I found the arrow and there was blood on it, the dark red type, not as reassuring as the bright pink stuff. Though there were a few little bubbles amongst it, indicating some lung damage.

Continuing to follow his tracks I seemed to lose them after about 40 meters. Puzzled to where he might have gone I went ahead a little too where I thought he may have gone.

I remember looking at the ground wondering where he could have gone and then looking up to my left over the other side of the creek and bingo, there he was, a pale figure lying in a small gully that runs into the creek.

“How did you get over there,” I thought. I backtracked a little more and soon found the spot where he entered the creek and crossed over and joined a trail leading right to where he was. It pays to look for the trail even if you have found the animal as you will most likely learn a valuable lesson about the situation.

The first emotion that hit me was that of relief. I finally proved to myself that it is actually possible to kill a deer with a trad bow. They aren’t an immortal creature after all.

It’s hard to describe the emotions felt, but you all know what I mean. A mix of sadness, deep respect, gratitude, contentment, sorrow, relief and more I don’t understand.

I sat with him for a moment and laid my hand on his fur thankful for this moment and I silently said to him that I will carry out every bit of meat. I would feel like I didn’t fully respect his life and the fact that I ended it if I didn’t.

I took some photos then started the task of field dressing him for packing out.

It was getting on and darkness, I knew, would beat me. I got a lot of it done before I needed my torch, just as well too, because the batteries went flat after about 15 minutes, leaving me trying to dress my first archery deer in the dark. It was time to use something I’ve been carrying for years in my little first aid kit; I finally got to use the most traveled light stick in Australia.

It was a whole lot brighter than I thought it would be and made the job heaps easier. After about an hour I had it all packed up on the kifaru spike camp ready for the haul back the Ute. I reckon it would have weighed easily 50kgs, (100lbs). I left the skin and ribs there for the night and went back in the morning for a second load.

The pack out was tiring but rewarding. Under the light of a half moon, thank goodness.

I remember thinking as I was walking out, that this is how it should be and how I wanted it to be. Working hard, earning the venison. I didn’t want the first to be any other way.

9 Outdoorsmen Infographics You Will Love

You don’t have to be a hunter to love the outdoors, but it’s a safe bet that if you’re a hunter you are probably passionate about the habitat in which you hunt. Here are nine outdoorsmen infographics from around the web that the traditional archer and the outdoorsman alike might enjoy.

1. Wild Game Nutritional Guide from https://www.wideopenspaces.com/

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Wild Game Nutritional Gude

2. How Wildlife is Striving Because of Guns and Hunting from www.nssf.org

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How Wildlife is Striving Because of Guns and Hunting

3. The United States of Turkey from www.cabelas.com
(Note: This infographic has mislabeled Mississippi as Alabama)

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

4. How to Fillet a Fish from www.heatherdiane.com

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How to Fillet a Fish

5. The All-In-One Mushroom Guide from www.wholefoodsmarket.com
(Note: Please exercise caution when foraging for wild mushrooms, this graphic looks as though it was designed to be used with mushrooms from the grocery store)

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

6. Nine Things NOT To Do While Camping from www.adventure-journal.com

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Nine Things NOT To Do While Camping

7. Small-Pond Fishing Tips from www.fix.com

Outdoorsmen Infographics - Small-Pond Fishing Tips

8. North America vs. Africa Animals from www.huntersafrica.co.za

Sorry, this image is no longer available.

9. How to Remove a Fish Hook from www.dinga.au/blog

Outdoorsmen Infographics - How to Remove a Fish Hook

By Jason D. Mills

How to Clean, Whiten, and Mount a Whitetail Deer Skull

Skull Hooker
From the field to the wall; you’ll love bleaching and mounting your own trophy.

 

By Jason D. Mills and Art Myers

During hunting season, there are three great days for every successful hunter: the day you get your tag, the day you fill your tag, and the day you hang your new trophy. However, shoulder mounts are expensive, costing anywhere from $400-500, and aren’t necessarily suited for every deer. This DIY should take between 1-3 hours of labor throughout the course of 1-2 days.

If you can’t begin the cleaning and whitening process immediately, you’ll want to store the head in a freezer – this will stop any staining. Take the head out of the freezer about 24-hours before starting the cleaning and whitening process to give the meat plenty of time to thaw.

You’ll need

  1. A sharp knife
  2. A high-pressure garden hose with adjustable nozzle
  3. Outdoor propane cooker (with a regulator)
  4. A large pot
  5. Needle-nose pliers
  6. Turkey baster with a bulb
  7. Large container to place to skull in
  8. Rubber gloves
  9. Eye protection
  10. Apron to wear while washing
  11. Bottle of 40 volume peroxide
  12. Oxiclean
  13. Borax (used in removing smaller, more stubborn pieces of meat that’s stuck to the skull)
    (You also have the option of using our Skull Bleaching Kit

Pro-Tip: Never use bleach when whitening a skull as it could cause serious, irreversible damage to your trophy

Fill a large pot of water; it should be big enough to completely submerge the deer’s skull

Pro-Tip: Don’t get to much water covering the antlers because it may discolor them

Add one scoop of Oxiclean into the water, this will act as a degreaser

De-flesh the skull; you want to clean off the head as best as possible, removing all excess meat

Pro-Tip: Once the water has started to boil turn the burner down just enough so that it does not overflow

Once you’ve cleaned the skull as best as you can, place it into your pot of boiling water. Ensure the water covers all the meat on the back of the skull. The water should be about 1/2″ above the base of the antlers.

Pro-Tip: Keep an eye on the skull through the whole boiling process to make sure it stays submerged. If not any meat on top will be very difficult to remove later on

Leave the skull in the boiling water for about 30 minutes

Pro-Tip: Do not get antlers to hot. Most antlers will rest on the edge of the pot, which can scorch them

Pro-Tip: You’ll know it’s the perfect time to pull the head out of your boiling water when the flesh on the skull cap just begins to split

Remove skull and begin spraying it with a high-pressure garden hose .If the tissue can be easily removed you can start pulling it off with pliers. Once the skull starts to cool down the tissue and fat will start Harding up. If this happens place it back in the water and wait half an hour before removing more.

Pro-Tip: Anytime you will be handling the skull after it has been in the pot wear gloves. Bone can be very hot and holds heat well

Be sure not to get to close to the nasal cavity, as high pressure water can blow right through it.

Once all tissue is easily coming off you can remove the lower jaw bone. The lower jaw is typically easily removed by spreading the mouth open as long as the tissue and mussel have had plenty of time to soak.

Pro-Tip: Although there is some debate on whether or not to remove the nasal cartilage, it’s near impossible to completely clean the skull with it in tact. That said, before beginning the washing process you will want to use a pair of needle-nose pliers or forceps to remove the nasal cartilage.

After you’ve removed 70-80% of the meat from the skull re-submerge it into your boiling water and leave it for another 20-30 minutes

Pro-Tip: On deer there will be two nasal covers that will need to come off while boiling so you can clean all membrane from the nasal cavity. If any teeth or any other bones fall off during the cleaning process do not get worried. All pieces will need to be cleaned and can be glued back on later. Also a lot of times the lower jaw will split in two half’s which can be glued back together if it is to be used with the finished skull.

Pro-Tip: Do no rush the removal of the lower jaw. If it does not want to dislocate soak it longer.

One the jaw has been removed now it is time to remove the brain matter. I prefer to take a piece of copper wire about 10 to 12 inches long and make a J hook on the end I will be inserting into the skull. The J hook will help grab on to brain mater and pull it out.

Pro-Tip: The Borax will aid in tedious tissue removal. Sometimes the tissue is greasy and neither pliers nor your bare fingers can grab it. Add a little Borax and you will be able to grab right on to it.

Wash off the remaining meat (including any meat you might have missed in the nasal cavities and brain)

Repeat all processes until you are sure that all tissue has been removed. If it has, you now can dry all pieces off and wait about a day to glue any teeth or bones back on. Make sure that you have removed all tissue from the skull. The last thing you will want is to find out that you missed some after it has been hanging in the house.

Allow the skull to dry completely

Pro-Tip: Although you don’t have to, it’s not a bad idea to wait a full 24-hours

Put on your gloves and eye protection, you’re about to start working with the 40 volume peroxide – you do not want to get this stuff on your skin. It will burn you. In fact, it’s a good idea to keep your apron on as well as a long sleeve shirt, just in case.

Set the skull into your plastic container

Pro-Tip: Shrink wrap the base of the antlers to protect them during the bleaching process. Silicone tape works well too; just avoid any tape with adhesive

Pour about 1/2 a cup of the 40 volume peroxide into your plastic cup

Draw the peroxide into the baster

Pro-Tip: Do not get any of the peroxide onto the antlers, as it will turn them white as well

Using the baster, completely coat the skull in peroxide

You can apply as many as four applications, but you will probably only need two

Pro-Tip: Use the baster to draw up the peroxide that drips into your plastic container and reuse the peroxide – this will save you some money

Allow time for the skull to completely dry

Pro-Tip: Putting your skull in the sun will not only help it dry, it will also assist in the bleaching process

To hang your European skull mount

Skull Hooker's Little Hooker
Skull Hooker’s Little Hooker

Take your Little Hooker out of its box

Pro-Tip: When it comes to European skull mounts, Skull Hooker’s Big and Little Hookers are really some of the best products out there. They’re cheap, require no drilling into the skull, hang securely, have full adjustability, and are exceedingly easy to install.

Locate a stud in the wall where you want to hang your new mount

Hang the plate vertically on the stud

Assemble the arm with the prong attachment

Put the arm onto the wall plate

Slide the resting arm into the back main, natural opening in the skull (the spinal cord cavity)

Straighten or angle your new European wall mount to your liking

 

Skull Hooker's Skull Cap in Use
Skull Hooker’s Skull Cap in Use with the Bone Bracket

If you only whitened the trimmings, instead of using the Little Hooker, you’ll want to use the Bone Bracket with Skull Hooker’s Skull Cap.

Who Are The Best Bowhunters in the Country?

By Dr. Dave Samuel

Dr. Dave” spent 30 years as a professor of wildlife management at West Virginia University. He is now in his 43rd year as the Conservation Editor of Bowhunter Magazine, where his KnowHunting column still appears. Much of his teaching and writing has centered on white-tailed deer.

This article has been re-published here with permission of Dr. Dave.

Sometime in the 1960’s I joined the Professional Bowhunters Society.  And sometime in the 1970’s, via that organizations publications, I was exposed to Gene and Barry Wensel.  Identical twins who shot recurve bows and took monster bucks in Montana.

In 1981, Gene Wensel published “Bowhunting Rutting Whitetails,” and I learned more about hunting big bucks in two nights reading than the previous twenty years bowhunting. I just pulled my ragged, well-worn copy from the shelf and inside the front cover, it reads, “Good hunting Dave—Hope to meet you someday soon. Gene Wensel, 10/10/81.” I’m not sure when we finally did meet, but over the 33 years since that time, I’ve become friends with Gene and Barry.

In my opinion, these two fine bowhunters are the sharpest minds in bowhunting. Although they’ve hunted other species, and done quite well, the Wensels are whitetail bowhunters extraordinaire. When I read “Bowhunting Rutting Whitetails,” I realized that Gene and Barry think about whitetails at an entirely higher level than most of us. There is a level of knowledge that allows one to take younger bucks often. Then there is a level of knowledge that allows a bowhunter to take mature 2-4 year-old bucks fairly often. Then there is a level of knowledge that allows a bowhunter to take Boone and Crockett bucks once in a while. Then there is the Wensels. They are out there all the time, studying, scouting, learning about the biggest of all bucks. They commonly pass up bucks that most of us would call bucks-of-a-lifetime. Like I said, Gene and Barry think about whitetails at a level far beyond what most of us can even imagine.

In that first book Gene talked about scrapes, pointing out things that wildlife researchers didn’t learn for another twenty years.  Six years later Gene wrote another classic titled “One Man’s Whitetails,” and by then all bowhunters knew that these brothers were way ahead of their time.  Yes, it was a long time ago, but the Wensels were learning things that deer biologists would not confirm with real data for many years. As a wildlife professor who knew a little about deer, every time I walked away from a discussion with Barry or Gene, I just shook my head in amazement. We all walk through deer woods, but when these guys do, they observe a lot more than the rest of us. A lot more.

Six years later Gene wrote another classic titled “One Man’s Whitetails,” and by then all bowhunters knew that these brothers were way ahead of their time. As their website Brothers of the Bow states, when Gene wrote this book, “There were no videos, DVDs or television shows about deer hunting in those days. Specialty magazines were non-existent. One could count on one hand the number of hunting magazines on newsstands. Many books were so old they offered little more than ancient history and market hunting techniques. No one raised deer in those days. A live Boone & Crockett whitetail had never been photographed. Camo was mostly military. Things like food plot seeds, compound bows, carbon gear and trail cameras were unavailable.”

The Wensels had knowledge, shot recurves as if they were born with them in their hands, set ethical standards that many emulated (and a few fools ignored), and passed on that knowledge to thousands of us. Yes, and they did it with a great, sometimes a bit weird, sense of humor that carries on to today. An example of that humor can be seen on the inside front cover of one of Genes later books, “Come November.” My copy was loaned to a friend (and I don’t know who that was) and I never got it back, but I remember the inscription inside the front cover. “To my good friend Dr. Dave. The only guy I know who has a twin brother uglier than mine.” (Yes, I have a twin brother. There’s a scary thought for you). And while we are on books, Barry came out with a wonderful book in 2009 entitled “Once Upon A Tine.”   It too is a gem.

Over the years these brothers gathered a lot of outstanding videos of free ranging deer and other species. Around 2009 (I’m not sure of the exact date, but this is close), the Wensels got together with three other brother/friends, Mike, Mark and David Mitten from Illinoi, guys who also had tons of video, and they produced a video titled “Primal Dreams.” In my mind this is the finest hunting video ever made. Two hours long with breathtaking scenery and incredible footage of animals in their natural habitat. Interesting is the fact that there are no kill shots in the film and few dead animals as well. But this video, more than anything ever produced, lets the non-hunter know what hunting is really about. As their website states, “For those who hunt, it stirs the instinctual primal need we feel to hunt. For non-hunters, after soaking in the experiences, they say, Wow, NOW I get it! Now, I understand why you hunt, and I’m OK with it.”

These two sets of brothers wrote the script, edited the film, narrated the film, put the music together and produced an award-winning video that every hunter, every bowhunter, should watch. It earned three Telly awards for cinematography/video, editing, and use of music. And when you’ve seen it, and your wife and kids have seen it, and your neighbors too, then you need to give it to your kids teachers and then to the local library. It is that good. Actually, it is better than that.

A few years later they came out with a second video, “Essential Encounters.” If you ever wanted to show friends, family, neighbors, why you hunt, these videos do just that, and better than anything that has ever been produced. Yes, give them as Christmas gifts to your hunting and non-hunting friends.

A few years ago I took five of my friends to Barry’s Trophy Whitetail Boot Camp in Iowa.  It was the best 2-1/2 days of learning about deer hunting that I’ve ever spent. Barry walks you into his woods, to his stands, and teaches you exactly why that stand is where it is. I thought I knew how to get to my stand, but I didn’t. I thought I knew how to set a stand relative to wind, but I did not. Barry explains the terrain, the approach, the wind, and a lot of other variables, some of which I’d never thought of. You can watch all the videos and read all the books and watch all the TV shows on deer, but getting in the woods with Barry Wensel will teach you more than all those things put together.

The Wensels live whitetails and in my opinion are the best, most ethical, whitetail bowhunters in the country.  Ethical hunting, the values of hunting, why those things are so important, is in the blood of Barry and Gene Wensel.

2014 Sportsman Choice Awards Announced at SHOT Show

Find this story as it was originally posted on the Sportsman Channel.

"Fred Bear: Father of Bowhunting," won a sportsman Choice award Jan. 21 for Best Special Program Show.
“Fred Bear: Father of Bowhunting,” won a sportsman Choice award Jan. 21 for Best Special Program Show.

NEW BERLIN, WI (January 22, 2015) – Sportsman Channel revealed its 2014 Sportsman Choice Awards winners at the network’s viewer choice awards event Wed., Jan. 21. The winners were announced during Sportsman Channel’s annual awards presentation at Rain Nightclub in the Palms Hotel Casino Resort during the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas.

The collective voice of American sportsmen and women from coast to coast was heard as more than 293,000 votes were cast in 11 different categories, setting an all-time record for Sportsman Choice Award viewer voting.

“2014 was a significant year for the network’s growth and its exceptional producers,” said Marc Fein, executive vice president of programming and production. “There was a good mix of first-time and returning winners and that really speaks to the depth of our talent and where the network is heading. All of the winners and finalists should be proud of their accomplishments.”

 The winners are listed with the finalist below each category in alphabetical order:

 

Best Hunting Show – Big Game:

Pigman: The Series – WINNER
Hosted by Brian “Pigman” Quaca, Produced by Track Ten Productions
Midwest Whitetail with Bill Winke, North American Whitetail, Realtree’s Monster Bucks and The Western Hunter

 

Best Hunting Show – Small Game:
Predator Nation – WINNER
Hosted by Fred Eichler, Produced by Blue Roots Productions
Avian-X, Dead Dog Walkin’, Heli-Hunter presented by Fusion and Predator Quest

 

Best Shooting Show:
Guns & Ammo – WINNER
Hosted by Craig Boddington and Kyle Lamb, Produced by IMO Productions
Guns & Gear, Hot Shots, NRANews Cam & Co. and Ruger Inside and Out

 

Best Fishing Show:
In-Fisherman – WINNER
Hosted by Doug Stange, Produced by IMO Production
Addictive Fishing, Alaska’s Fishing Paradise, Extreme Angler TV and Louisiana Outdoor Adventures

 

Best Full Draw Show – Bowhunting:
Relentless Pursuit – WINNER
Hosted by Tim Wells, Produced by World Hunting Group Productions
Bowhunter TV, Easton Bowhunting, Major League Bowhunter and Outback Outdoors

 

Best Educational – Instructional Show:
Midwest Whitetail with Bill Winke – WINNER
Hosted by Bill Winke, Produced by Midwest Whitetail Productions
Bowhunter TV, Conquest 200, Major League Bowhunter and MeatEater

 

Best Special Program Show:
Fred Bear: Father of Bowhunting – WINNER
Produced by Bear Archery and Rusted Rooster
Buck Knives – Edge of a Legend, Hog Dawgs, Iditarod and Murph the Protector

 

Best Variety Show:
MeatEater – WINNER
Hosted by Steven Rinella, Produced by Zero Point Zero Production
Brotherhood Outdoors, Gun It with Benny Spies, Meet the McMillans and The Outfitters Built by Ford F-Series

 

Best New Series:
NRA Life of Duty – WINNER
Produced by Ackerman McQueen
Amazing America with Sarah Palin, Heli-Hunter presented by Fusion, Mathews Dominant Bucks and
Winchester Deadly Passion

 

Shot of the Year:
Larysa Unleashed, Fast Reflex Doe – WINNER
Hosted and Produced by Larysa Switlyk
Brad Farris Game Plan, Long Range Pursuit, Pigman: The Series and Relentless Pursuit

 

Best Overall Host(s):
Brian “Pigman” Quaca – WINNER
Host of Pigman: The Series, Produced by Track Ten Productions
Benny Spies, Bill Winke, Jana Waller and Tim Wells

 

Best Overall Production:
MeatEater – WINNER
Hosted by Steven Rinella, Produced by Zero Point Zero Production
Dropped: Project Alaska 2.0, Into High Country, Saving Private K-9 and YoungWild

 

Best Commercial:
Yeti Coolers – WINNER
Produced by Arctos Collective/Jeff Simpson
Buck Knives, Bushnell – TrophyCam Wireless, Danner and Duluth Trading Company

 

Best Show Intro:
The Western Hunter – WINNER
Hosted by Nate Simmons, Ryan Hatfield and Chris Denham, Produced by Alpha Motion
Gun It with Benny Spies, Hallowed Ground Outdoors, Pigman: The Series and YoungWild

What to Pack into Your Tree Stand

What to Pack when Bowhunting from a tree stand
What to bring with when hunting from your tree stand

By: Dean VanderHorst

Let’s face it, if you’re tree stand hunting whitetails in the Midwest you’re most likely just a short hike from your vehicle or house. Most of us are. If you forget a flashlight or heaven forbid your knife it is just a short walk away. I grew up in southern Michigan bowhunting whitetails at an early age just a ten minute walk out my back door to my stand and most of the time I would have only my knife and bow. Every time I trudged back to the house however for a flashlight left an impression on me to be prepared and think ahead.

Every hunt begins with optimism and being armed with a few items in a prepared fanny pack or backpack is a great way to begin any hunt weather you are in the back 40 acres, down the road, or packing your stand into a dark cedar swamp for an evening bow hunt. Having the items prepared a head of time insures that you have all your gear and that you can be focused on your hunt and not be thinking of what you might have forgotten or should have taken. I find myself thinking of heading to a tree stand at every chance through October and November and by having all of my gear in one place ensures confidence that if I take off and climb up my stand I’ll be prepared for the hunt.

First I use a fanny pack primarily for one reason, it is small. Less space forces me to plan smart and keeps my pack lightweight. I’ve seen a lot of guys over the year use large backpacks or monster fanny packs just for tree stand hunting and put more stuff in there than is necessary just because they have the room. I prefer to keep it small, light and simple. My list includes necessities and some items of convenience developed over time so you have to weigh what is important to you and space constraints.

Here is my List:

  1. License. Don’t leave home without it.
  2. Fanny Pack or small backpack. I like Badlands for their durability, quietness, and comfort.
  3. Knife. Your favorite will do. I have had a Kershaw Alaskan blade trader for years. It has a saw blade as well as a knife blade so it is versatile and compact.
  4. Compass or GPS. Always good to keep your bearings even when you “know” where you are. The GPS has the advantage of marking way points during tracking also.
  5. Headlight. I prefer headlights over flashlights because if you have to track or dress a deer after dark it is much easier to do if you’re not holding a light too.
  6. Wind dust. Always know which way the wind is blowing.
  7. Knife sharpener. A small 3Rivers CC sharpener is great to have handy.
  8. Camo mask or paint. Staying concealed requires head to toe coverage.
  9. Bow hook, pull up rope, and 2nd chance arrow clip. Small items but when you have several stands they can easily be forgotten to be placed ahead of time so it is convenient to have a spare or if you grab your climber tree stand to head to a new spot for a night.
  10. Chemical hand warmer and toe warmer. One pack of each. Clearly not a necessity but I put them in my pack early in the season so they will be there so later in the season and often use them on a morning I was not expecting.
  11. Camera and camera clip. I never used to carry one but when I started hunting with my kids it has been a must to record the moments. Small is the key. I have a small point and shoot digital camera with a clip mount that will hold anywhere for a great picture to save the memories.
  12. Binoculars. A small pocket set of binos for stand hunting are invaluable.
  13. Phone. Think that is a given anymore.
  14. Small baggy of wet wipes. A one quart freezer bag with a couple wet wipes in it is convenient for clean up after dressing a deer.
  15. Armguard and glove/tab. Sounds so simple but I keep them in my fanny pack for a reason; and yes I’ve made it to my tree stand without them before so now I keep them in my pack so not to be forgotten.
  16. Hand pruners. Trim those little branches that pop up in lanes, walking into stand sets or trimming out for taking photos.
  17. Brunton Inspire™ battery pack. This is not a necessity either but I won’t be caught without one in my pack. They are about the size of your cell phone and can recharge your phone, headlamp, and camera. Very simple and eliminates the need to carry extra batteries.
  18. Game calls. Not necessities but if you’re taking them, get them in there.
  19. Marking tape. A roll of about 10’ to use when tracking a blood trail. Be sure to take it down after being used.

All of these items kept ready in one spot will help anytime you get time to sneak off to your hunting stand this season. I keep mine in my truck all season with my safety harness so all I have to remember is my bow and quiver and I’m ready to go. Any successful hunt starts with good planning. Stay safe, shoot straight and make some memories in the wood this fall.

Author with a fine Whitetailed Doe
Author with a beautiful doe whitetail deer

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