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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: ground 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


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.

Tales From the Rut: Spur of The Moment Bowhunting Success

By Patrick Kelly

This story has been republished with the permission of Patrick Kelly, who, at the time of writing this article, was preparing to go on a bear hunt.

I was planning on leaving for my bear hunt early Friday (June 12) morning, but I decided to leave Thursday (June 11) instead, so I could make a stop on the way. I cleared it with my hunting partner, and got off of work around 7:30 p.m. on the 11th, and headed home. After dosing a sick horse with some medicine, I decided to go grab a battery from a light by a feeder, so that I could charge it and put it out tomorrow morning before I left, so that, hopefully, it would last through my bear trip.

“No sense in not taking a bow,” I thought to myself. So, I grabbed my Silvertip recurve, and one arrow tipped with a 175 VPA 3-blade broadhead and a lit nock and began the 1/2 mile walk to the feeder.

I got there around 8:30 p.m. and, wouldn’t you know it, there was a hog under the feeder who spotted me and took off – with a raccoon hot on his heels.

“Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I thought.

I decided to back off into a small cluster of trees around 90 yards from the feeder and see what happened in the short time until dark. I promised my wife that I would head home by 9:45 p.m. to eat the steak she was cooking.

A little before 9:30 p.m. came around, and I was just getting ready to head out, and I saw a hog sneak out of the drainage to my east and make it’s way to the feeder. I figured it to be around 100 pounds or so.

I was wearing very faded jeans that seemed to glow in the low light, so waited a few minutes for it to get a little darker to make my move. I slowly moved to the west to put the light (a slow glow light, which was already in position) between me and him, and then headed toward the feeder.

The stalk was a little complicated, because between me putting on some weight and my jeans having shrunk some, they actually were squeaking when I walked, and the wind was dead still. I was also wearing a pair of hard sole Wellingtons and the ground had dried out considerable in the last two weeks in which we haven’t had any rain. I actually covered the distances sidestepping as quietly as I could, while holding my pants to keep from squeaking, all the while bearing in mind that a light wind could swirl at any minute and bust me.

I quickly covered the distance, and as I approached the light, I could see the hog, which now looked more like 175 pounds, under the feeder, and a raccoon feeding between him and the light. The light is not even 10 yards from the feeder.

Just before I made it to the light, the raccoon heard my slight noise, which the hog didn’t hear with his corn munching, and stood on it’s hind legs. He couldn’t smell me, and the light was blinding him, but he knew something wasn’t right. He decided to head for the drainage, and I moved a couple steps closer to the light, now only around 8-10 yards from the hog.

I could see him bending at the knees to get under the feeder, and I could see his front leg clearly, but waited a few moments to see if I would get a better shot. He was facing to my right, and he decided to back up to my left and step just away from the feeder. When I saw his front leg clear the feeder, I quickly came to draw and release. The nock lit up, but the hog took off toward the west (my left), banging the arrow off of the feeder legs and breaking the nock. I heard him circle into the brush toward the south and it sounded like thrashing. I thought that he probably was dead, but I texted my wife to tell her I was on my way to get flashlight, and that I had shot a 150-175 pound hog.

I headed home, ate some steak, and went back out with my wife and the dog to make a quick track and get started. Poor blood on the dry ground, but the dog found the hog in a couple of minutes, and I was pleasantly surprised with my very quick glance that the hog would go 225 pounds. I marked the spot, drove my wife back to the house, headed in to town to pick up a couple bags of ice, then came back to start the field dressing. When I got a good look, I was very happy. I didn’t weigh him, but I am sure that he would go 275 pounds. What a chore it was getting him into the truck. I really had to be creative.

I double lunged him, and he went around 50 or 60 yards, but no more. The arrow stopped on the far side of the shield and broke off when he dropped. Dropping this hog off at the butcher for my mother-in-law, but I’m going to really be needing another freezer if my luck holds up on this bear hunt.

Harvesting a Hog with Hope

This story has been republished with the permission of Randy Madden. Randy was shooting “Hope,” one of two bows made by Bob Sarrels of Sarrels Archery. The bows, Hope and Faith, are identical mirrors of each other – one is right handed and one is left handed. They were made with the express purpose of being donated to raise money for Trad Gang’s annual St. Jude Children’s Hospital auction. Every year, Trad Gang members donate and auction off hundreds of items, worth tens of thousands of dollars – 100% of the money raised goes directly to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. After the bows were made, they were passed around the community for more than a year to drum up interest. While he had her, Randy was able to harvest a prize.

By Randy Madden

I was recently asked if Hope had a new story to tell, and as a matter of fact she does! But I better tell the story, so she doesn’t tell everyone about how fast my heart was beating and how bad I was shaking and how I almost messed the whole thing up!

After gathering with some friends last week I almost decided not to hunt, but my wife said I should go because I only have Hope for a few more days. So, I headed out the door around 6:20 that evening. I climbed up in the same stand that I used in a previously unsuccessful hunt around 6:40 p.m.

My feeder had already gone off, but I wasn’t worried about it. The trail cam pics show that the hogs usually don’t come by until right at dark or a little after. With a storm front approaching my hopes that something would move a little early was high. I didn’t hang my feeder light because these hogs have been hunted and usually won’t commit to the feeder if anything is out of the norm.

So, I sat and enjoined the cool breeze, which was perfect most of the time with an occasional errant swirl. I watched the doves, cardinals, blue jays, and squirrels take turns running each other away to take their turn at the free golden bounty. I sat there just enjoying the evening, contemplating what to do about the coons that seem to get the most of what is meant for the hogs. As the light started to fade I texted my wife and told her that if something didn’t come in soon I would be coming home earlier than normal as I was concerned of shooting something late with the storms coming. As last light came I was mentally getting ready to start packing up. I say mentally because I have to make myself quit or I would have stayed until I got wet.

Then I heard the slightest noise to my left and not very far away. I thought “Oh great, another dang bait stealing coon”.

Next thing I know I see a hog step out on the trail to my left at 5 yards. This sucker snuck to within 5 yards of me and I never knew he was there! Always amazes me how quiet they can be when they have to.

Anyway, I was already standing because I was about to pack it in so I eased Hope off the hook she was hanging on and got ready. I couldn’t shoot because of a few limbs from the cedar tree I was in but all he had to do was take two steps and he was mine. Well, he just stood there staring at my feeder and smelling the wind for a min which seemed like forever then he turned and headed back the way he came! Crap!! I thought he was gone.

After another minute long eternity, he comes out at 15 yards to the left of my feeder and I guess he was convinced all was safe because he walked straight in and started eating. It also amazes me how they can always be broadside to everything except you! I watch him eat for a few minutes and every time he moves, he always stops head on. One time he turns broadside and I start to draw and he starts walking to the opposite side of the feeder and I almost let one fly, but it didn’t feel right, so I let down. This goes on for several minutes and all I can do is pray the wind holds.

He finally walks back to the left side of the feeder and I know he’s going to have to turn around to face the feeder to eat so I put some tension on the string. Sure enough he turns to face the feeder and stops broadside. He’s about 9 yards, head down, wind is in my favor, and I start to draw. I honestly do not remember coming to full draw. All I see is the soft spot above his elbow and the next thing I know the woods erupt with a loud grunt and string is coming out of my tracker so fast I was scared it was going to break off.

After what seemed like forever it starts to slow down, then it’s slowly but steadily coming out. Then it stops. Then it starts going slow again. Then it stops again. Then it goes slow again. The next time it stops it doesn’t move. I keep thinking the worst like maybe the arrow pulled out, so I give him a few more minutes and I call my wife and ask her to bring my spotlight. After she arrives we start the tracking job. We slowly follow the string while constantly searching ahead as far as we can see. All I can say is thank God for my string tracker. Due to the downhill angle and the lack of penetration (only got about 6-7” of penetration, and only got one lung, but my Grizzly broadhead did its job) I only found eight drops of blood in about 250 yards. At the end of the string, I was ecstatic! He was much bigger than I thought, he weighed 272 lbs.

Therefore, I had to recruit my brother to help with the drag. We had to drag him about 150 yards to get close enough to load him in my truck. That was tough. As I pulled into my driveway it started to rain. For once everything went right. But that’s why we do what we do. All the times we fail are washed away by each success!

Definitely my best hog with any bow to date thanks to Hope.

Hope, 54#@28″, Grizzly 175 grain Instincts on D/F shafts, string tracker from Chad Orde.

You can purchase Hope, Faith, and hundreds of other items at Trad Gang’s annual St. Jude Children’s Hospital auction – 100% of the proceeds are donated to St. Jude.

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.

Spring Gobbler Hunting for Beginners

Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.
Jared Grewing displays the turkey he took with his Great Plains Long Curve and Zwickey Broadhead, 2013.

For the spring season, if you want to bag a turkey, you’re going have to scout, scout, and then scout some more. Expect this to take a good bit of time and effort. You’re scouting to find where the turkeys are roosting and where they feed or strut in the morning. Usually, they’ll keep to the same patterns in good weather.

When you’re scouting, you’re looking and listening for where the birds are, where are the hens going after they pitch down, what are the Toms doing, which Toms run together and where do they feed.

Go out at dusk the evening before your hunt and listen to where they are gobbling at sunset, use a call to get e response gobble letting you pin the roost tree. When you call and finally do get a gobble in response, do not keep calling.

Dusk Hunt

Turkeys do not call as much as you think. Yes, there are times when a hen will just crank away, but not all the time, in fact, she only does that in specific situations. Until you know why she’s doing that, your best tools are patience and knowing your land.

Get there about an hour before sunrise the next morning and set up your decoys in a spot about 100 yards away from the roost tree. You want to be roughly 15 yards from your decoys (or whatever distance you feel comfortable taking that shot), positioned so your back is against a tree or some brush. Remember to stay still; you don’t want all the work you’ve put in to go to waste just because you can’t sit still. That said, look at where you’re going to sit before you put your butt down on an ant hill.

Five minutes to light, make a tree yelp – resist the temptation to continue calling. Wait for about 10 minutes and see if the birds fly to your setup from the roost. When the turkeys fly down and head to your decoy, it’s time to bag your bird. If you have a bird come in, you wait until he is in full strut. As soon as he turns around and his fan is blocking all view of you, get in position and get ready to draw back on that bird as soon as he turns around again. This may take 5 minutes or an hour, be prepared to be able to hold your bow in an odd or uncomfortable position for a very long time.

However, if you don’t hear anything for another 10 minutes, make a couple more yelps.

Turkey Hunt

If they fly down, but not to you, try a few more periodic calls, but it’s probably not going to work out. If they flew down, but you’re not sure where they went and you’re not getting responses to calls stay where you’re at for at least an hour. About 80% of the time this won’t work; you, however, are hoping it’s the 20% that does work.

If, after an hour, you’re still coming up short it’s time to start hiking your hunting area. Remember, if you’re on public land it’s a good idea (and in many states it’s the law) to wear some orange while hiking; just remember to put it away when you find your next spot. Periodically you’ll want to stop and call to see if you can strike a gobble. If you don’t hear anything then keep moving. If you get a response, it’s time to quickly setup again (just like at the beginning of your hunt). After you get settled in, call again and listen to see if the Tom is coming your way.

If you think that everything is going well and the birds are getting close and then they go silent, be ready for them to show up in stealth mode. If, however, you’re pretty sure they’re gone wait 20 minutes after the last time you called before you either call again or leave. There is nothing more heartbreaking than thinking you’re done for the day, standing up and hearing the familiar sound of a turkey taking flight.

Remember, turkeys have nowhere to be and all day to get there. The hunting shows on TV cut hours of waiting to fit into their 30 minute show. Be patient and most importantly, have fun.

For some great shot placement tips, check out this video on turkey anatomy and proper arrow placement from Hoyt. It’s geared toward compound shooters, but the skills are pretty easily transferable to traditional archery.

By Jason D. Mills

3Rivers’ Pre-Season Turkey Tips

Fred Eichler Turkey Hunt May 2011 065
Fred Eichler shows off his Tom from a successful Turkey Hunt in May 2011

The days are getting longer and the air is getting warmer, which can mean only one thing – turkey season is almost here. Getting a trophy tom with a shotgun can be hard, but when you decide to do it with your bow, especially a recurve or longbow, it can be considerably more difficult. The last thing you want to do is to be caught unprepared on opening day – making an already challenging hunt nearly impossible, but don’t worry 3Rivers Archery has your back.

There are a few things to consider before venturing out into the woods this season, and the best time to start thinking about them is in the weeks prior to opening day.

Where are you hunting?

Many bowhunters will likely already have their hunting area secured. If you fall into that category, now would be a good time to start scouting – you should become intimately familiar with your territory. If you’re still not sure where you’re going to be hunting this season, the advice is the same; don’t wait for opening day to find out where the birds are roosting and feeding.

Will you be hunting from a blind or ‘running and gunning?’

Many archers find it easier to hunt from a blind because it can conceal the extra movement of drawing a bow. When hunting with a shotgun it’s easy to simply get set-up, put the gun on you knee and wait for a bird to get within range. With a bow, however, it’s never that simple. If you do decide to ‘run-and-gun’ consider using a bow sock in conjunction with some bow camo and a ghillie suit. Although this won’t hide your movements completely, it will soften them and it can be much more effective at concealing the human form than camouflage alone.

Is your blind ready to go?

A good ground blind is invaluable to the bowhunter when he is matching wits with a seasoned tom. Turkeys have some of the sharpest eyes in the woods, and your trophy tom has been hunted before, so he’s already weary of even the slightest movements. You can’t hold your bow at full draw for too long and drawing takes a lot of movement, so what do you do? You get a ground blind. There are many different kinds of blinds from single panels to large pop-up blinds and even the high-tech GhostBlind®. Which one is the right one for you? That depends on preference, hunting style, and budget, but I love the GhostBlind®. It works just about anywhere and can be moved easily and setup quickly.

Are your decoys ready to go?

Most hunters can get the old longbeards within 50 or so yards, but arguably the most difficult part of luring a tom within shooting range are those last few yards. A good decoy can be the difference between success or failure this season. That said, it’s hard to find a reason to not recommend the Miss Purr-Fect Hen. It just works. The Miss Purr-Fect weighs about as much as a bottle of water and features perfect pose technology, allowing for detailed adjustable neck/head positioning.

Do you have a good hunting seat?

Whether you will be sitting at the base of a tree or in a ground blind this season, it is important to think about comfort. If you can’t sit still then you might as well not go out at all, because a turkey will see your movement and your hunt will be over. If you’re going to be sitting on the ground, then at least make sure your back is comfortable with some lumbar support. Or, if you’re going to be hunting from a blind you might want to check out the Chama Swivel Hunting Chair.

Is your camo right for the season?

You’re going to need to get your bird within your kill zone, and for most traditional bowhunters that means 20 yards or less. This means the detail of your camouflage is critical. The wild turkey’s ability to pick up movement is truly impressive, so you need to make sure you’re camo is on point. The new Core4Element Realtree Xtra® Camo line by Easton is impressive and has been designed for early season hunting.

Do you have the appropriate broadheads?

What’s the best broadhead for hunting turkey? The one that flies the straightest and gets the job done. The vital area on a turkey is roughly the size of a fist; that said, the best broad head is the one you can shoot confidently into that small of an area time and time again. You do not want to be second guessing how an arrow will fly or your ability to hit a tom when he is at 20 yards.

However, it’s best to avoid a pass though with turkey, because if they can run or fly after the shot, they usually will, which won’t leave a blood trail or, if it does, it won’t be a good one. If you can, try and place your arrow so it penetrates at least one wing, both would be better, while also hitting the vitals. Another good way to avoid a pass through is to add a Zwickey Scorpios Broadhead Stopper to your broadhead.

Have you practiced shooting enough to be confident?

DuraMesh Turkey Target Face
DuraMesh Turkey Target Face

As with all things, the key to successful traditional bowhunting is practice. In the military they have a saying, train like you fight. It would be a good idea to find an area where you can practice shooting, which will closely replicate your actual hunting conditions. It’s also a good idea to get a decent target for practice. I love practicing with a good 3D target, but not every hunter can afford that. The next best option is to get a high-quality lifelike paper target.

Have you purchased your hunting license?

This one seems like such a no-brainer, but it never fails – someone will forget or put it off too long. So, do it now, well not right now, but as soon as you’re done reading this article.

Finally, how are you going to display that big longbeard once you bag him?

Arrowhead Plaque
Turkey beard and tail feathers pictured with an Arrowhead Plaque

Because you will get him, if not this year then maybe next year, but it will happen. I suggest mounting the tail feathers and longbeard yourself. It’s a good DIY project and is much more satisfying to point at your trophy and say you did everything. Try mounting it on our Arrowhead plaque to show off your pride as a traditional bowhunter.

In closing, I hope this helped. If you think of anything that I might have forgotten, please leave a comment and let me know. Remember to stay safe in the woods this season and as always, good luck and shoot straight. Be sure to share your tom with us and we’ll add it to our Trophy Room.

By Jason D. Mills

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.

October Hunting Tips

Film canisters filled with cotton balls socked in deer scents

By Dave Echterling and James McKenzie

October is a favorite time of year for most bowhunters. In addition to hunting, many of us spend every spare second in the woods looking for rubs, scrapes, and general signs. There is nothing better than a fall afternoon in the woods.

Deer hunting is an ever changing challenge. Just because one spot was good last year does not necessarily mean that it will be a productive area the next. Remember, deer patterns can change rapidly. Just as soon as we think we have them figured out, hunting pressure can cause deer habits to change very quickly. Early gun seasons before bow season and youth firearm seasons can contribute to this change in deer habits. So it’s important to keep your options open, be observant, and not get complacent.

Let the wind dictate your stand choice for a morning or evening hunt. Always be on the downwind side of travel routes. Never risk sitting in a stand with a questionable wind. If the wind is wrong wait for more favorable conditions. On days with unfavorable wind conditions, you might want to find a new stand location or set up a ground blind. Fence rows can be ideal locations for ground blinds, as they are frequent travel paths for deer. Even a perch in between the branches of a downed tree can work well in a pinch. Always be on the lookout for new stand locations. As deer habits change do not be afraid to adjust with them.

Another thing you might consider is to not use a cover scent. A Hunter’s Hack that some have found works very well, is to carry three film canisters, each having a cotton ball in them soaked with doe urine. Place each one about ten yards from the tree, always in a shooting lane because there is a probability that a deer will stop and smell one or two. This will hold their attention and possibly allow you to get a shot off. It is also something new, and deer, being curious animals, will tend to check it out. When you leave the woods take the canisters with you. You may find this is a lot better than placing scent on the ground and leaving it, or using it as a cover scent. Even if it does cover your scent you still have a smell and deer will stop to investigate rather than fleeing.

It is good practice to always carry a blunt tip. When you get ready to leave your tree stand, pick a leaf to shoot at. This keeps you in tune, provides confidence, and improves your shooting from an elevated position.

If it’s a rainy day with a swirling wind try hunting from the ground and spend some time stalking. The woods is noisy during a rain shower and deer tend to typically take cover at these times. The noise also helps drown out any sounds you make. Cornfields are also great during windy and rainy weather. You just need to slowly move from row to row looking both ways one row at a time. Always use this time for a little scouting too. See where the deer are moving and if patterns are changing. You might even take the opportunity to still hunt on the way to your stand locations. You never know what you might encounter. The important thing is to not limit yourself.

As deer season progresses toward the rut, the ability to be flexible and think outside of the box can make or break your hunt. But whatever your preference, the most important thing is that you get out in the woods, enjoy nature, and experience the hunt.

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