Porcupine Mountains: Take Two!

Lake of the Clouds | Ontonagon, MI

What Deer See

Whitetail Deer Vision vs. Hunter Vision

Lake Superior | Ontonagon, MI

Take me to the outdoors!

The Best Survival Weapon!

Which gun provides the most longevity for survival preparation?

Traditions Buckstalker

Black Powder Hunting Rifle Review


Feb 2, 2015

Hunting the Wind for White-tailed Deer: Seven Tips to Smelling Silent

Most hunters will only be successful a small percentage of the time if they ignore the direction of the wind. As a hunter, it is essential to know what direction the wind is blowing. White-tailed deer, coyote, fox, elk, especially bear and even birds can easily detect a hunter’s scent, especially when they are downwind.

Detecting human scent, bucks flee!
Detecting human scent, bucks flee!
The following blog post contains techniques on how to avoid being detected by the game animals you are hunting. While this blog post is applicable to all game animals, I will be focusing on white-tailed deer in particular.

1. Hunt the wind! Determining the direction of the wind is the first thing you should do in the morning before you begin hunting. You want to be sure that you can hunt in your spot without the wind blowing your scent towards the animals you are hunting.

If you pay close attention, many times you will notice that the wind is moving in a distinct direction. If you cannot easily determine the direction of the wind, there are other means of figuring out what direction the wind is blowing. For example, I usually carry a small feather with me, tethered to my bow by a thread. Or, if it is cold enough, simply watch what direction your breath moves through the air. Lastly, simply checking the weather channel will provide you with what direction the wind will be traveling.
Figure A. Upwind (Windward) vs. Downwind (Leeward)
Now that you know how to determine the direction of the wind, use it to your advantage! Travel to your hunting spot from a direction that allows you to approach it from a downwind (leeward) direction. In other words, walk to your hunting spot so that the wind is blowing your scent away from the location you will be hunting. For example, assuming you are walking bearing towards your hunting spot this usually means the wind should be blowing into your face or pass one of your sides but definitely NOT onto your back towards your spot.

Think of the wind as a spray gun pushing the scent away from your body. If you walk the side of a field and allow your scent to be blown across it as you go. The whole field will be filled with your scent and animals may easily detect your presence and become startled.

With the wind they go, with nothing to see or show.
~ Hunter Proverb

Even in conditions where there’s no wind, your scent permeates the air around you. Your scent may not travel in one particular direction but it will still infiltrate the air around your location. Second by second, the amount of scent you leave behind increases, making your precise location more and more detectable from further distances. While hunting, this type of scenario may be worse than if there was a slight breeze.

Without any wind, your precise location becomes very apparent to white-tailed deer and they can quickly and easily detect your location by simply sniffing the air. In contrast, a slight wind in one direction will push your scent away. Even though a white-tailed deer downwind from you will still be able to detect your scent, a white-tailed deer upwind of you will find it more difficult to smell you and will be less likely to locate you. This can and should be used to your advantage.

The night before or the morning of, I always look up the weather online or listen for a forecast on the radio before I go hunting. Wind direction is about as basic as most weather predictions and usually the local forecast is relatively accurate. My handheld Midland GMRS/FRS radio picks up the local weather service channels and they are usually the most accurate forecasts.

When you are scouting prior to the hunting season and looking for hunting spots, bring a compass so you know which direction your hunting spots are oriented in relation to the direction you will be traveling from. Before you head to your spot, you should check the direction of the wind so that you will know what direction you should approach it from. You can park your vehicle in a different spot if need be. Most of my hunting spots have at least two different access points to them and different parking locations so I can best hunt the wind and use it to my advantage!

Keep in mind, judging approximate wind direction is an art in of itself. I use any means available to give a best guess estimate. No method is perfect but a good estimation comes with an increased chance of seeing white-tailed deer.

Sometimes watching the weather channel is better than using a feather and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes you can easily misjudge the overall direction of the wind by using a feather. On the other hand, wind direction can change throughout the day. Not to mention, the weather channel does not account your precise location in terms of wind direction. Will you be on a hill, next to trees or in a valley? There are drafts everywhere, especially when the wind strikes a stationary surface. Use your best judgment! Your judgment will get better over time and you will learn by experience which conditions white-tailed deer are more likely to pick up your scent and when they won’t.

2. Reduce and suppress your scent. Although, it can seem daunting to try and remove your scent, something that you yourself cannot completely detect most of the time (unless it’s been a few days between showers), scent removal does indeed lower your profile and makes it harder for white-tailed deer to detect you.

Many hunters do not make any effort to reduce their scents and leave it all up to hunting the wind because they feel it is a lost cause or a waste of time. For these hunters, I use the “Waste Basket” analogy. For the most part, unless trash is overflowing from the waste basket in your kitchen, you don’t notice the smell of the garbage from another part of your house. The only time you start to notice the smell is when you get within three or four feet of the waste basket.

Now, a dumpster. Even from 40 feet away, the smell of a dumpster is pretty distinct: a faint, lingering aura of rancid-ness and unique compilation of decaying gar-bage. The closer you get to the dumpster, the stronger its odors become, permeating the air surrounding it. Walking by the dumpster, you may walk a bit more hastily and hold your breath until you’re past it.

Finally, imagine you’re driving down a county highway, 55 mph, on a mid-summer afternoon. Even with the windows rolled up and the AC on, you start to notice a horrendous odor infiltrating your car. You glance around and see nothing but corn fields and alfalfa slightly swaying. Then, a couple seconds later, you pass a muddy pasture of grazing cows. Even though you’re probably a few hundred yards away, you can still smell the cow pies.

Stink like the waste basket! Even though a hunter will never be able to completely remove his scent, it is still in his best interest to try and stink less like the cow pasture or the dumpster and a little more or less like the waste basket.

I can smell someone smoking a cigarette upwind of me from over 100 yards away. Imagine how far away a white-tailed deer can smell that cigarette. When you smoke a cigarette, wear smelly/dirty clothes or are perspiring alcohol, you stink like the cow pasture. Now, if you’ve washed your hunting clothes in scent removal laundry detergent, keep your hunting gear in scent-free containers, a white-tailed deer may still be able to smell your deodorant or the bacon and eggs your wife made you for breakfast, but your chances are still pretty good of smelling more like a waste basket.

3. Go where the wind takes you! If the wind direction is not in your favor or other conditions (e.g., rain and temperature) become adverse, be willing to relocate. It's foolish to keep hunting in the same spot if you no longer have an advantage. Don’t stop hunting but, perhaps, consider other options. Be willing to move to a more strategic spot, one that may be more advantageous to you (e.g., the other side of a field or even a different area all together).

White-tailed deer detects scent and becomes wary!
White-tailed deer detects scent and
becomes wary!
Just a little after sunrise, I silently waited as rays of sunlight pierced the horizon, warming the nearby trees. A slight fog rested over the valley I had snuck into an hour earlier. With a small subdivision to my back, I patiently waited, lifting my binoculars every now and then in the direction I could expect a white-tailed deer to walk pass. It was opening morning of bow hunting season and all I had to do was be patient and sit quietly and still until a deer was in range. As the sun started to rise overhead, a steady breeze began blowing at my back. I could feel the warm breeze whisking my scent off the back of my ears, neck and hands. No doubt my scent was spreading throughout the field in front of me. My heart began to smolder, disappoint etched in my face. I knew my chances of getting a deer this morning were pretty low, considering the wind was not in my favor. Sighing, I considered Plan B. My other hunting spot was a mere 30 minute drive away but it would be late morning/early afternoon by the time I got there. With resignation, I gathered my gear and made for the truck, hastily leaving my warm sunlit but breezy valley for another morning.

There is no point in being stubborn. If you know white-tailed deer show up from a certain direction around a certain time and the wind is blowing your scent right to them, you might as well wait until the conditions change in your favor. I'll admit, it took many years to get around my stubbornness and realize that I was much better off relocating, even if it was only 100 yards away from my original spot.

4. Walk in from a good direction that does not cross the path of the white-tailed deer you are hunting. This is an easily overlooked mistake made by many hunters. White-tailed deer can pick up your scent almost immediately as they are walking over your path. Furthermore, your scent can linger in the surrounding area, alarming white-tailed deer for days after you’ve been there.

Good scouting can take care of this issue. When you go scouting for white-tailed deer, keep track of which direction the white-tailed deer are traveling in relation to where your hunting spot is. This will require that you follow footprints and even spend some mornings sitting and simply watching the white-tailed deer’s movements before the hunting season begins. This way you will know how to get to your spot without crossing their paths. It’s also worth mentioning that this is also why you should NOT travel on a white-tailed deer trail you are hunting. If a white-tailed deer picks up your scent, he may switch where he roams and you won’t likely see him again.

5. Use a tree stand. I know it’s cliché but nothing seems to give a hunter a better advantage than using a tree stand. Tree stands give you three basic advantages while hunting.
  1. You are out of the deer’s line of sight.
  2. You can see much further, giving you more time and better shot placement.
  3. Probably the most overlooked advantage of a tree stand is that being up in a tree seems to dissipate your scent, making it harder for a deer to smell you. If you’re in a tree stand, more often than not, a white-tailed deer will approach closer to your location and be less leery.
A tree stand stifles your scent because less of your scent particulates are reaching the ground and the scent that does reach the ground travels a greater distance from you by the time it can be detected by a deer. This dissipates your scent into a greater mass of air and inevitably throws a deer’s ability to detect your scent (and location) off by quite a bit. In contrast, many times while using hunting ground blinds, I’ve had deer wheeze at me long before they approached within shooting range and usually before I get a chance to see them. It’s because they picked up my scent and knew approximately where I was. This is much less likely to happen while hunting from a tree stand.

6. Use natural barriers. Hills, trees, valleys and land formations can create barriers and reduce the distance and amount your scent travels. These types of physical land features are good for concealing yourself as well as gaining vantage points to spotting white-tailed deer.

Bowhunting the crest or side of a hill
Figure B. Bowhunting the crest or upwind and side or downwind direction of a hill.
For example, approaching leeward (into the wind) to a hill and setting up your hunting area to overlook the upwind direction or on top of the hill's crest (Position 1.) can be as advantageous as being up in a tree stand. You’ll be able to see further and being up on a hill, your scent will get dissipated the same as if you were in a tree stand.

When the wind is blowing in a steady direction, you can even hunt the leeward side of a hill with the hill to your back and the ridge/crest above you (Position 2.). When you sit on the bottom on the hill with it to your back, as the wind blows over the crest or ridge of the hill, you will be out of the wind. A white-tailed deer may approach you unknowingly. This area of the hill should remain relatively calm from wind and can throw a white-tailed deer off from detecting your scent. Ultimately, your scent is not being pushed into the wind with all the other scents in the area.

Another land mark to consider hunting is small ditches or low areas. Your scent tends to fall down with gravity and linger in the bottom of these low areas. A ditch can actually trap and prevent your scent from traveling. It also keeps your body out of the path of any drafts or wind that would push your scent around. Keep in mind the tricky part of hunting from a ditch is really setting up a shot from a low vantage point without being seen by a deer.

Sometimes valleys, degrades in the land or dense woods can allow wind to pass far overhead and create large areas of forest relatively calm and free of wind. White-tailed deer may stay active in these areas even when the wind is blowing elsewhere.

7. Bad wind = Quality Downtime. Wind dictates how far, fast, which direction and where your scent spreads. Sporadic or heavy wind can make detecting your scent very difficult. It also makes distracting noises and causes foliage to move, making it more difficult for white-tailed deer to detect predator movement. Heavy winds, usually greater than 12-15mph, will slow if not stop most white-tailed deer movement. They become too leery to travel or move as they may inadvertently travel too close to or expose themselves to predators.

If you can't figure out what direction the wind is moving, you might as well keep hunting. Use windy days for hunting as well as scouting future hunting spots and locations. Hunting in a 20 mph wind is actually a solid prospect if you know approximate locations of where white-tailed deer tend to take cover and, of course, have the prowess to move through the woods undetected. Many times white-tailed deer will be alarmed when they smell your scent but they may also have a hard time locating you because of sporadic air movement. This has worked to my advantage many times. Even if the wind is unpredictable, after you start hunting, many times, the wind will pick up or settle down with the beginning of a sunrise or sunset.

It should go without saying that it is probably not a good idea to stalk your best hunting stands or blinds on windy days. You don’t want to lose any advantage you have at these locations by scaring white-tailed deer off. Use the time to discover new locations and spots. And if you are lucky, you might just step on a nice white-tailed deer that may have been hiding during the day.


Johnson, G. (2003). Tracking Dog: Theory & Methods (5th ed.). Mechanicsburg, PA: Barkleigh Productions.

Oct 2, 2014

DIY - Homemade Parkerizing Solution - How To Etch a Knife

In this video I share my homemade parkerizing recipe, which will put a dark manganese phosphate coating onto steel, providing a protective metal finish. It is similar to solutions sold by some major sporting goods retailers for a fraction of the price.

Parkerizing is very much like rusting a piece of metal except that the acidic corrosion process, if done correctly, leaves a more durable phosphate coating/layer on the steel that can be impregnated with oil. The oil will then protect the steel from rust and other types of corrosion. This is the intended purpose of the parkerizing process.

Safety first. Use rubber gloves and safety glasses in a well ventilated area when handling chemicals. Although phosphoric acid may be considered mild compared to other acids, it can still burn your skin, eyes, lungs and clothing. It will also stain your skin yellow and strip off a layer of most metal surfaces it comes in contact with. Use caution and be sure to never bring any of your ingredients to a full boil.

Parkerizing can get messy, if you can do the process outside, you will be better off.

Results may vary depending on preparation, solution, steel, ingredients and many other factors. We recommend testing for desirable results on a non-precious item first. Practice makes perfect.

Parkerizing can be re-done but the changes are permanent. Although parkerizing is an effective way to coat firearms, knives and other steel parts, it may change the function of such steel parts. Parkerizing strips off a layer of metal from the steel parts and turns it into a phosphate coating. This changes the actual physical size and/or dimensions as well as the texture and chemical structure of the outer layer of the steel parts. Additionally, parkerizing may ruin springs, fine threads and factory tolerances on steel parts. Heed this warning before you start parkerizing anything expensive or anything that cannot be replaced.

Sandblasting will also take a small layer of metal from steel parts and cannot be undone. Don't bead-blast your metal parts. This dings metal and will leave a noticeable texture (unless you prefer that). Black aluminum oxide abrasive is really cheap and works great. I used a homemade blasting cabinet with a $15 sprayer from Harbor Freight. Be sure to take all safety precautions as getting sandblasting dust in the air is hell in a hand basket and can cause disease in the lungs if inhaled.

Distilled Water (several gallons): Use only distilled water for impurities in tap water can cause staining on your parts and inhibit the chemical reaction.

Klean Strip Phosphoric Prep & Etch (1 gallon): Phosphoric acid is the active ingredient in parkerizing. Prep & Etch contains enough phosphoric acid to create an effective parkerizing solution. Prep & Etch itself is typically used to etch metal prior to priming/painting. Concentrated phosphoric acid can also be substituted.

000 or 0000 Steel Wool Pad (1): Steel wool comes oiled from the factory to prevent it from rusting. Before using the pad, you will need to degrease it by washing off the oil with dish soap or other cleaners (i.e., acetone and lacquer thinner). I prefer dish soap.

Manganese Dioxide from (2) D-Cell Alkaline Batteries: You will need to retrieve manganese dioxide or "the black stuff" out of two D-cell alkaline batteries, which should be enough for one batch (about 2 gallons) of parkerizing solution. You will need to use a hack saw to cut through the outer metallic case of the batteries. Then, separate the manganese dioxide from the white inner core.

Stainless Steel Pots or Containers: Use only stainless steel containers to heat up the parkerizing solution because stainless steel will not corrode from the acid in the solution. Aluminum, steel, cast iron and copper will corrode from phosphoric acid and you risk running a leak and/or destroying your pots or containers. Don't let your wife catch you using her stainless steel pots and pans. She will not be happy about  it! 

Gun Oil: Gun oils that contain PTFE (Teflon) work well and provide long lasting protection on a parkerized surface. But, in all honesty, any oil that will effectively displace water should work to prevent rusting. You will want to make sure that the oil (most common is gun oil) you use has molecules that are small enough to soak into the parkerizing surface.

Surface Preparation
You will need to remove all dirt, grease and oil from the surface of your steel/parts. Lacquer thinner and a rag works great.

You will need to get your steel down to bare metal for the parkerizing solution to work properly and uniformly. The easiest and best way to do this is to sandblast your parts with black aluminum oxide abrasive. This will create a smooth, even and bare metal finish. Additionally, sandblasting will remove any remaining residue from the surface of the steel, leaving it very clean for the parkerizing bath. An alternative method involves sanding the metal surfaces by hand with sandpaper. However, getting a smooth, even finish using this method can be very difficult.

Keep in mind that once steel has been sandblasted it may flash, rust or corrode from moisture in the air within minutes. Therefore, it is recommended that you have the parkerizing solution ready so that your steel parts can be placed in it immediately after they are sandblasted.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, do not touch your metal parts with your hands/fingers or anything else after sandblasting. Only handle them with a clean, dry piece of cloth. Your fingers have salts on them that will corrode the bare steel after you've touched it.

Mixing the Parkerizing Solution
To create the parkerizing solution, you will need to mix 1-2 cups of Klean Strip Phosphoric Prep & Etch per gallon of distilled water used.  Then, add 1-2 D-cell batteries worth of manganese dioxide per gallon of solution. The amount of amount of solution will depend on how much water is needed to completely submerge your parts.

Once mixed you may begin heating the solution over the stove.  Slowly heat the solution until it gets to about 180°F. Use a candy thermometer to maintain the temperature of the solution between 180° to190°F. Do not boil the solution.

Once the solution gets to about 180°F, drop the degreased pad of steel wool into the parkerizing solution and allow it to begin dissolving. This primes the solution for your metal parts. Maintain the temperature of the solution at around 180-190°F.

Adding Your Metal Parts to the Parkerizing Solution
Once the steel wool is most of the way dissolved, add your steel parts. Maintain the temperature and allow your parts to begin the transformation. You should see bubbles where your parts are laying in the solution. The phosphoric acid will literally corrode your steel while mixing with the manganese dioxide to form a dark phosphate layer/coating over the steel. This is the parkerizing process. It is very similar to rusting but, if done correctly, will be beneficial to your metal.

You should check your steel parts every few minutes to see how far along it is in the parkerizing process. Eventually the parts should begin to bubble less as the parkerizing layer actually inhibits further corrosion from the acidic solution.

Parkerizing tray, solution and boiling water pot on stove.
Parkerizing tray, solution and boiling water pot on stove.
You may need to remove your parts to clean off the dark surface created by the process and then re-dip the parts in the parkerizing bath to continue the parkerizing process. The longer and more frequent you dip your parts, the darker and thicker the coating on them will become. However, it is important to understand that you are also stripping more metal off the surface of your parts.

Warning: Do not leave your steel parts in the parkerizing solution unattended for extended periods of time as the acid will literally eat away at them until your steel is destroyed. This is the part where you have to use some common sense. The longer the steel parts sit in the parkerizing solution, the more steel will be removed.

Remove, Clean and Hose Down Your Steel Parts With Oil!
Once you are content with the parkerizing layer formed on your steel parts, you will need to remove them from the parkerizing bath and neutralize the parkerizing solution. To do this, I simply washed my steel parts in a pot of boiling water for a minute or so. This should remove most of the phosphoric acid as well as keep the parts hot.

Remove your steel parts from the boiling water. They should air dry within seconds. Once dry, you will want to immediately submerge your parts in a quality water displacing oil. I highly recommend using a quality gun oil that has PTFE in it.

Let your parts soak in the oil for several days. You need to give your newly parkerized parts time to soak up the oil. Once the oil is absorbed into the newly porous surface of your steel parts, the parkerization process is complete! Be sure to regularly oil the steel parts you just parkerized and you should be able enjoy a long lasting, durable protective coating on your knife, gun or other steel parts.
Please share pictures of your parkerized goods in the comments section.

You may get several uses out of your parkerizing solution. When done dispose of leftover parkerizing solutions properly. Do not just dump it down the drain or toss it in the trash. You may neutralize your solution with baking soda but keep in mind your going to get a foaming reaction so doing it slowly in a large open bucket is probably best. 

Sep 11, 2014

AMD-65 Profile Affordable Survival, SHTF or Bug-Out Rifle

AMD-65 (AK-47 Variant type rifle)
AMD-65 (AK-47 Variant type rifle)
Rifle: AMD-65 7.62x39
Barrel: Chrome-lined Muzzle including barrel and permanently attached break extends 16.25" barrel extends only 14"
Receiver: FEG  Made in Hungary
Handgaurd: UTG MTU010 Quad Rail
Grip: Magpul MOE AK pistol and fore-grip
Muzzle break: Custom order from member of a firearms forum
Magazine Release: TAK Latch (ambidextrous)
Cheek Rest: Customized added by me onto side folding stock. This was necessary because the side folding stock on an AMD-65 just doesn't give a good cheek weld. Was cut from steel tubing and mounted using stainless steel pop rivets.
Worthy Mention: I pinned some East German military surplus night sights on it. They are basically glow-in-the-dark sights that can be put on and off when needed. 

Intended Use/Purpose: This is a relatively inexpensive rifle for SHTF, Home defense, Bug-Out, Survival or WROL type scenarios. It is reliable, shouldn't break the bank and fun to shoot.

The overall cost when purchased was around $900. It is worth mentioning that some of the accessories added to this setup are unnecessary for a functioning reliable rifle, although they do make it nicer.  Unfortunately, the prices are trending upwards on rifles like these and with today's market, even shortly after this rifle was put together, costs will probably be significantly higher.  

It may also be used for hunting medium to small sized game such as white-tailed deer. For this you would need expanding type bullets. I use Hornady 123Gr SST and have taken two white-tailed does with excellent performance. Both deer were shot in the vital area from 40-60 yards and fell shortly after the shots. Stopping power is more than adequate with a well placed shot. Though one deer did require a second shot to dispatch. I would caution against using this rifle on larger game. For white-tailed deer sized game and smaller it should work just fine at reasonable distances, which brings me to the next point.

Accuracy: Accuracy on the AMD-65 leaves a bit to be desired. Though it is worth mentioning that if used for it's original military designed purpose it works just fine. Engaging targets past 150 yards would be difficult at best. You can expect about 5-6" MOA shooting from and upright position. From a rest 4" MOA was the best I was able to accomplish once or twice out of about 1,000 rounds... which is more than adequate to make the firearm useful but definitely not a tack driver. Considering most white-tailed deer shots in Wisconsin are shorter than further away it's not a huge loss to use an AMD-65 while hunting.

Reliability: 99% no failure to fires in over a 1,000 rounds of surplus steel cased wolf ammunition and 19 rounds of Hornady SST ammunition. We had one or two failure to fires, more than likely because of the cheaper ammunition we were using and was nothing out of the ordinary not attributed to the overall function of the rifle.

AMD-65 Side Folding Stock!
AMD-65 Side Folding Stock!
AMD-65 Rifle
AMD-65 Rifle
(Bulgarian AK-47 Variant)

AMD-65 UTG Quad Rail
UTG MTU010 Quad Rail & MOE Grip

AMD-65 Magpul MOE Grip
Magpul MOE AK Pistol Grip & TAK Latch Magazine Release

AMD-65 Custom Cheek Rest
DIY Custom Cheek Rest

AMD-65 Muzzle Break Custom
Pinned and Welded Custom Muzzle Break

Sep 1, 2014

Deer Spotting: Pre-season Scouting for White-tailed Deer (Part 1 of 3)

Every year, before the bow hunting season even starts, we go deer spotting. Deer spotting is an essential step in macro-scouting for white-tailed deer.  It allows you to find the deer before the season begins and to pick a good hunting spot for opening day. It will also greatly increase your chances of getting a deer early in the hunting season.

In this video we take you along as we scout out this year's hunting spots three weeks before the Wisconsin bow hunting season begins. The best time of day to go scouting is in the evening, roughly an hour or so before sunset. The deer will be hungry and eager to head to nearby farm fields to browse for food.

Deer spotting is just one of many things (more videos to come) we do to prepare for the bow hunting season every year. How do you prepare for opening day?

Aug 19, 2014

How to Make a 2-Point Tactical Sling - DIY

A 2-Point Tactical Sling is a staple for a fast, efficient and effective hunting rifle set-up. In this video I show you how to make a 2-Point Tactical Sling. A list of materials along with specific dimensions and a diagram of how the sling is put together are provided below. Let's get started!

The 2-Point Tactical Sling will accommodate most rifles, is quickly adjustable and costs less than $10 to fabricate. For these reasons, it is a great addition to any hunter's collection.

2-Point Tactical Sling Diagram
2-Point Tactical Sling Diagram
Materials Needed:

1. Nylon Strapping (84 inches of 1.5 inch wide 17337 nylon strapping): It is very important to use nylon strapping on the sliding portion of a 2-Point tactical sling. Polyester tends to be softer, more plyable and folds and/or jams in the glider/slider when adjusting. Nylon should be stiffer than polyester straps and will easily slide without jamming or yawing making for quick reliable adjusting. For the rest of the sling, you may use polyester strapping as it will be durable, resistant to rot and sunlight, softer and is typically just as if not more available. But...

To make things simple we would suggest just using 1.5" MIL-W-17337 Nylon webbing. MIL-W-17337 should be around .038 – .050" thick, just thin enough to slide through the glider/slider but stiff enough to not jam. It can also be used on the rear portion of the sling as well. Tensile strength should be around 1,800 Ibs so realistically way stronger than it needs to be for a rifle sling.

2. Quality Composite 1.5" Glider or Slider (1): Don't cheap out on the glider as it is probably the weakest part of the whole sling but also the part that will see the most mechanical use. I recommend a thick hard plastic glider. 

3. H&K Quick Detach (1): I prefer the Heckler & Koch style quick detach but you may use any type of quick detach that you prefer. You can even substitute the detach with para-chord but keep in mind that anything attached to the barrel of your rifle must be able to withstand the heat of the barrel. For this reason, I prefer a strong steel quick detach mechanism. If you have an AR there are a lot of options that clamp right onto the rails or whatever setup you may have.

4. Tri-glider (1 glider that is 1.5 inches): Composite or polymer gliders are the standard but if you can find stainless steel they are the bestThe one I use is also round metal versus flat which helps the strap slide back and forth through it.

You will also need Various Tri-gliders: Since buttstocks come in a variety of configurations, you will have to figure out how which method is best for attaching the rear end of your 2-Point Tactical Sling to your specific buttstock. You can use para-chord, 1" nylon straps, ALICE pack shoulder straps or any other quick detach mechanisms.

5. Sewing Machine: Don't make your wife, mom or girlfriend sew your sling for you. Sewing is manly, handy to know and relatively easy to do. Remember, perfection is not the goal here. Functionality is what's important. As you can see in the video, the stitches I make are less than perfect but are durable and, most importantly, they get the job done. I would recommend borrowing a sewing machine from a family member or friend if you don't own one, especially if you don't plan on sewing a lot.

6. Dual Duty Heavy Polyester Thread: This is strong multipurpose thread that is resilient to rot and UV radiation. It creates strong, durable seams with greater resiliency. I purchased mine at Jo-Ann Fabrics but you can also purchase it at Michaels or WalMart. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Michaels will have greater color selections and they usually have 40% or 50% off coupons (online).

Apr 24, 2014

Micro-Scouting: Hunting White-tailed Deer


1. the activity of gathering information about game animals in a small area.
    "Micro-scouting is necessary preparation for locating good hunting spots."

1. the act (or process) of looking for signs of animals in a small area, field, or trail.
    "He micro-scouted for deer in a small patch of trees."

Doe and Yearling White-tailed Deer Concealed in the Forest.
Doe and Yearling White-tailed Deer Concealed in the Forest.
The ultimate goal of scouting is to set up your golden opportunity: a well-placed shot at your game. Micro-scouting is how you figure out how to get close enough to your game to get the perfect shot. Most game animals, especially white-tailed deer, will leave unique and noticeable signs of their daily behavior, including feeding patterns, movement, and even population density. Micro-scouting involves literally following their trail and finding these pieces of evidence that the animal you are hunting has left behind. For this reason, every hunter should spend time micro-scouting before and during the hunting season. In general, the more time you spend scouting, the better and more confident you’ll become at picking quality hunting locations. Scouting will also motivate you to get outdoors, enjoy nature, appreciate your natural environment, exercise, and learn about the animals you love to hunt.

We've come up with three basic steps for micro-scouting that every hunter should be doing. While micro-scouting applies to almost all types of hunting, it is especially useful when hunting white-tailed deer. The rest of the post will focus specifically on micro-scouting white-tailed deer.

1. Tracking – Begin the micro-scouting process in areas you macro-scouted and spotted significant amounts of white-tailed deer activity. Literally hike to the location(s) where you saw the deer. Start with tracking their movement through fields, paying close attention to signs which includes tracks, trails, scat (droppings), habitat, beds, and feasible food sources.

Read about Macro-Scouting First →

White-tailed Deer Tracks In the Mud
White-tailed Deer Tracks In the Mud
When you see a set of tracks, look for multiple sets and try to approximate the age of the tracks. If the tracks are old, check for newer ones. You may need to canvas a larger area. It’s important to differentiate between new versus old tracks and find regularly used trails versus trails used only a few times.

Next, begin looking for other signs. Inevitably, you are looking for high-traffic areas. When you find high traffic areas, you will notice significant alteration of the surrounding environment. For example, white-tailed deer tend to leave numerous tracks, scat, trails, beds, scrapes/rubs, and even antlers behind. Any area where you find all of these signs in abundance is likely to be an excellent location to hunt white-tailed deer.

Remember to not get over-excited over the first sign of deer activity. If you only see one set of tracks, scat, or other sign, the deer traffic in that area may only be sporadic. Check for trails and more prints nearby. If a deer has been through an area once the entire year, you may find a single set of tracks and even a bed but may never see the animal again for months. Don't waste time in an area where you cannot verify heavy deer traffic.

2. Canvas the Area – To hunt successfully, you need insights as to what time of year, season, and day the deer will be at specific hunting locations. The best way to do this is to broaden your search by canvassing the area. This will help you figure out which directions they are coming from, why they are in specific areas, and what times of day you can expect to see them.

For example, if you find a deer trail that is located between a nearby farm field and an adjacent section of woods, obviously, you've found a trail between their sleeping and eating areas. Not only is this the best type of trail for the early season, it may also become a low activity area later in the season. This may happen for numerous reasons but two basic reasons come to mind.

a. Shortly after the field (food) is harvested in the fall, there will be less food and less cover for white-tailed deer. Activity may dwindle shortly afterwards. Stalking and watching deer in ghillie suit with Nikon binoculars. Stalking and watching white-tailed deer with ghillie suit and binoculars.

Stalking & watching deer with ghillie suite & Nikon binoculars
Stalking & watching white-tailed deer with ghillie suit and binoculars.
b. Later in the fall, the rut will begin. White-tailed deer priorities will shift from eating to breeding. Although they will maintain certain eating habits, they will spend much more time searching and chasing their mates. So, a location like this will work well as an early season spot but, later in the season, you will need to re-evaluate your hunting location and/or continue tracking and following the herd.

3. Stalking & Watching – Bow hunting requires close proximity to your game. Animals like white-tailed deer can be difficult to get within range of a bow and arrow. Stalking and watching them will give you clues as to where you will be able to see and make a clear shot.

Sit and wait just like you are hunting. Watch and study the deer that come by. From this, you will learn how to be quiet, hold still, and move without alarming them. Most importantly, watching will teach you a great deal about the deer (or any type of game animals) you are hunting. You will also understand why, when, and how the deer are moving through.

For example, not all deer trails are created equal. Some are used for moving between feeding grounds while others are used for escaping predators. The only way to know which type of trail you’re looking at is to sit and watch. If the deer are walking too far from your spot, change your location. These specific details and habits of deer are only known through micro-scouting.

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Macro-scouting whitetail deer in southern Wisconsin.
Micro-scouting whitetail deer in a soybean field.

Apr 12, 2014

Macro-scouting: Hunting White-tailed Deer


1. the activity of gathering information about game animals in a large area.
    "Macro-scouting is necessary preparation for a good hunting season."

1. the act (or process) of looking for signs of animals in state, county, and regional locations.
    "He macro-scouted for deer in early fall."

Deer-spotting White-tailed deer in Soybean Field (Wisconsin).
Figure A. Deer-spotting White-tailed deer in Soybean Field (Wisconsin).
Macro-scouting consists of searching, scouting, and observing large areas of land with the use of vehicles, binoculars, and maps in search of game animals. It is the first step in successful hunting and one of the best methods of finding white-tailed deer. Macro-scouting is an essential part of every good hunt and increases the likelihood of a successful hunting season.

We've spent countless hours macro-scouting before hunting and have come to two definite conclusions.

a. Certain types of geographic differences play a big role in where deer concentrate. There is a bigger picture to take into account when looking for a good place to hunt, including a larger area of land as well as its geographic and environmental features. We've dubbed the term “macro-scouting” for finding these features and locations.

b. Typically, for every deer hunting season, a hunter should have at least five to six different hunting spots (more if possible). You will constantly need to find new hunting locations. For this reason, macro-scouting is perhaps one of the most essential aspects of deer hunting. Macro-scouting consists of many different ways of finding good hunting locations. The following are just a few.

1. Word of Mouth. Now, this may seem like a no-brainer but people tend to talk about their hunting exploits and even brag about big bucks they've seen, where they've seen them, and how many other deer they've seen in the area. This is probably the easiest way for someone new to hunting to find a decent location. However, there are some disadvantages to hunting where other hunters frequent.

When using word of mouth, you must be careful because of what we call the "fishing hole phenomenon." That is once someone hunts a location or even talks about it you will see an increase of hunters in that area. Funny how that works! This is similar to what you see when someone is fishing in a boat in one area of a lake. All of a sudden, you see three more boats parked next to the first boat. Hunters get excited, feel the angst of possibly “missing out,” and do the same thing. They literally want to shoot your deer or catch your fish rather than spending time finding one on their own. It's important to not get caught up in the competition.

Secondly, usually trophy bucks are rare and once it's bagged and bragged, your chances of finding an excellent spot in the same place may dwindle. Following other hunters’ advice means you will always be a season behind the braggers, which doesn't get you nearly as far as you might hope. Take heed to what others tell you and don't rule out the area, maybe just use word of mouth as a starting point. This brings us to another important method of macro-scouting.

Google map search Necedah, WI to search for hunting land.
Figure B. Google satellite view of hunting land (Necedah, WI).
2. Open Up a Map and start looking for where you think the deer might be in terms of state, county, sections of a county, and habitats. Most of the time, macro-scouting consists of locating counties or large areas in your state or province that might have a bigger deer population and/or that could allow for extensive hunting opportunities.

Many times we basically open up a web browser or Google Earth window and search known wildlife areas, like the map (right) in Figure B. Use maps to select areas that you may be searching while macro-scouting from your vehicle. We avidly read maps and make a point to look for inconsistencies in different maps of the same area. When doing this, we find the search can be just as interesting as the hunt.

You will find some locations may be next to each other or a great distance apart. It all depends on what locations are plausible to be hunting in terms of distance, time, and budget. Do the math and consider which the best options for you are. Then, slowly narrow down what spots you would like to frequent and others that you want to try. Most of this can be started with maps (Google, DNR, or state maps), previous hunting experiences, and macro-scouting.

Truck parked to get out and take a photo seen below.
Truck parked to get out and take photo in Figure A above.
3. Deer Spotting! Cruise around and look for deer (best done in the mornings or evenings). It's that simple. This is probably one of the most fun parts of hunting. We enjoy the opportunity to cruise around in our truck while listening to music, ready with a camera and a pair of binoculars. You're basically checking plausible deer habitats and watching for deer while you are driving these areas. This also gives you the opportunity to take photographs of wildlife as well.

Later on, you're going to try and pattern the deer. So, make note of where you see the deer, what they were eating, how many there were, which way they went, and what times of day they were active. After taking note of the deer you see, continue macro-scouting the area. Go back later that day or the next day to scout in closer detail. This is called micro-scouting!

Hint: Keep in mind you should be careful not to disturb game animals too much. Typically, before the hunting season, waterfowl, small game, and deer are pretty relaxed but if you scare them away, they may change their patterns.

4. Scouting for white-tailed deer is not quick or easy but it is rewarding. It takes a long time and should be done all year round. In its most basic form, you are trying to spot and pattern the animals.

Streams, lakes, roads, hills and even hedge lines can all bottleneck deer traffic into a specific trail or area. It would be almost impossible to see or know this information from the road or by looking at a map. For this reason, it is necessary to get out into the field and begin the micro-scouting process. For more on macro-scouting and micro-scouting, check our Scouting: Hunting Wisconsin White-tailed Deer Video.

Mar 17, 2014

Traditions Buckstalker Review - Muzzleloader Hunting Rifle

Target Shooting the Traditions Buckstalker
Target Shooting the Traditions Buckstalker
The Traditions Buckstalker is an excellent black-powder rifle for hunting medium to large game. Accuracy, knockdown power, and an extended hunting season are all benefits this firearm offers for the budget minded hunter, especially in areas where high-powered rifles are restricted. With a MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) of $218, it’s a hard deal to beat. Just add a scope and you have a rifle that can easily take white-tailed deer within the 150 yard range. So, let’s get started right off the bat with some pros versus cons and then I'll give you some tips & tricks on my system of hunting with the Traditions Buckstalker.

Crack open design for cleaning, breech plug removal and inserting primers.
Crack open design for cleaning, breech plug removal and inserting primers.
1. Practical - The Buckstalker uses a proven breach crack-open design similar to the majority of other muzzleloaders on the market. It has a threaded breach plug that screws in/out for cleaning. This allows for a pretty standard mode of operation. The breech plug is made of stainless steel and accepts shotgun primers. The rifle comes tapped for mounting a scope from the factory, no gunsmith required. All you need to do is purchase the correct scope mounts (approx. $9).

2. Simple & Reliable - The barrel is thick and has a nice blued finish. The barrel rifling is visually outstanding (brand new from the factory) and can be easily inspected by simply removing the breech plug. As long as the firearm is kept clean and coated with appropriate products (I use bore butter.), it should function and last quite well. You will get plenty of practice cleaning the Buckstalker as frequent barrel cleanings are recommended :)

3. Accurate - On its clean shots, the Buckstalker is capable of considerable accuracy. I’ve experienced three shot groupings of two inches at 100 yards (2" MOA). This was with a thorough cleaning between each shot and quality bullets. The trigger weight is ready to shoot right out of the box. The pull was light enough that alterations for better accuracy weren’t really necessary. Again, no gunsmith required. It also has a standard push-button type safety.

4. Knock Down Power - I’d go as far to say that my Buckstalker will more reliably knockdown deer than any of my 7.62mm rifles. Yeah, that’s right! Nothing compares to the raw knockdown power of a .50-Caliber bullet, similar to that of a 12 gauge slug. That is pretty good considering the Buckstalker is more accurate and pleasant to shoot than any 12 gauge I’ve ever gotten my hands on. I’ve shot several deer with a Traditions Buckstalker and have never had one run more than a few yards. I cannot say the same for any of my other modern rifles. For this reason alone, the Buckstalker deserves at least an 8/10 on the "boom-stick" scale.

Shooting Traditions Buckstalker at Multiple Ranges
Shooting Traditions Buckstalker at Multiple Ranges
1. The factory iron sights are plastic so the rear sight can get jammed or wedged frontwards/rearwards even if it’s tightened. Admittedly both stay well aligned regardless of how many times they’ve been whacked in either direction. After dragging the barrel over tall grass and foliage, the front fiber optic bead cracked off the site post, which can be expected. Although the front fiber optic bead cracked, I can still use the front post with accuracy.

Traditions Buck Stalker .50 Caliber Muzzleloader Rifle - A Budget Hunters Dream!
Steel iron sites would’ve been better. Better yet, if they offered a rear peep site, In either case I may not have put a scope on my rifle to begin with. This is undoubtedly Traditions’ method of keeping costs down. Because I use the scope almost exclusively, even at close ranges, this is not a deal-breaker. I have yet to miss the front fiber optic piece that cracked off nor have I replaced it. Recently, I removed the sights altogether and installed a lower profile scope mount. (Just a scope for aiming now!) It gives the firearm a lower profile and prevents the barrel from catching on foliage while walking around in the woods.

Dirty Cleaning Patches - Fouling From 1 Shot
2. Fouling The firearm suffers from significant fouling every shot. I debated whether or not it was fair to mention fouling in a review on a muzzleloader since fouling is an inherent problem for all firearms using black powder. For this reason, I do not fault the Traditions Buckstalker but it is still worth mentioning for individuals considering purchasing or using the Traditions Buckstalker or any muzzleloader for the first time.

Factoid!  During the Civil War black powder muskets and rifles were made with atypical larger bore diameters in order to address the issue of barrel fouling on the battle field. For this reason, accuracy suffered. Today’s modern muzzleloading firearms are still prone to the same issue. In modern muzzleloaders, the bores are appropriately sized for accuracy versus repeated fire. As soon as the barrel is fouled (usually one shot!) accuracy begins to decline.

Muzzleloading Accessories
Muzzleloading Accessories
Tips & Tricks:
Bore Butter & Thompson Center Cleaner
Bore Butter & Thompson Center Cleaner
Cleaning - Even after one shot, most of the breech area, barrel, plug threads and firing pin plate will contain significant fouling. As far as the barrel is concerned, you can usually expect one excellent shot from a thoroughly clean rifle. The following rounds will begin to incrementally suffer in accuracy if the barrel is not thoroughly cleaned after each round. With the Buckstalker, you may still accomplish decent accuracy into the third round by swabbing the barrel with a wet patch between re-loading. When doing this, the second and third rounds should shoot accurate enough to make fatal hits on a white-tailed deer center mass out to 100 yards. Unfortunately, after three rounds, the barrel will need to be thoroughly cleaned with the breech plug removed.

To prevent gaseous expanding particles from jamming the threads during firing, the breech plug threads need to be coated with some sort of grease. Also, the breech plug will need to be removed, thoroughly cleaned, and lubed every three to five rounds without exception. Otherwise, removing the breech plug may be very difficult. I used to use a special purpose grease for lubing the breech plug but have since switched to using bore butter with moderate success. Bore butter is cheaper too!

Gorilla Grease for Breach Plug Threads
Gorilla Grease for Breech Plug Threads
Loads - With the Buckstalker, I use 100 grains of Pyrodex in the granular form. I like it better than the nuggets (personal preference). You can precisely adjust the amount of black powder you are using to optimize recoil and accuracy. One hundred grain loads seems to be my Buckstalker’s sweet spot. I store the Pyrodex in plastic, air tight beakers as shown in Figure A. They keep the powder dry and I can carry several pre-measured loads with me along with bullets, primers, and cleaning patches while hunting.

Let’s be honest though. Reloading in any decent amount of time requires American Civil War era practice. I could probably perform a single reload in a two minutes including running a wet patch after my first shot. So, when hunting, you will need to be thinking along the lines of . . . one shot, one deer!

Black Powder 100 gr. loads stored in air tight beakers.
Figure A. 100 grain loads of black powder stored in air tight beakers.
Using 265 grain Powerbelt slugs is a given. The rifle is designed to take a sabot, Powerbelt, or other hybrid type bullet. The Buckstalker barrel rifling has a 1:28 rate of twist. 

Therefore, it’s worth mentioning that you can actually load a .50 caliber patch and ball into the firearm but this is a bad idea. Although it can be done, it takes an ape to push it down. You will more than likely bend or break your loading rod (We had to try!). More importantly, the lead balls will fly sporadically because the patch will not catch the rifling as the rate of twist is too aggressive for a patch and ball. You need the plastic lip or sabot jacket offered by a more modern round to achieve desirable and safe shooting results.

Shooting - Relying on the gun’s first shot accuracy, I typically aim for the neck. The bullets themselves are large, heavy and at close ranges you can expect the bullet to fly clean through meat and other tissue. You will not likely achieve the high velocities of a modern high-powered rifle but you should have no problem killing a deer. Remember, high-powered rifles rely on wounding channel, proper penetration, expansion and fragmentation of the bullet to accomplish fatal tissue damage. With the .50-Caliber round of the Traditions Buckstalker, you are relying mostly on the wide wounding channel the bullet produces as it passes through.

.50 Caliber Muzzleloading Bullets
.50 Caliber Muzzleloading Bullets
When hit with your bullet, the target is going to have a half inch hole punched in it. Over-penetration becomes a non-issue because the bullet itself is already large enough to create a fatal wounding channel without expansion or fragmentation. But it's also worth mentioning that with the higher velocities of a this modern muzzleloader, the bullet usually fragments or expands anyways. Because of this, performance at modest ranges is outstanding!

Things to consider!
Stainless Steel - With all the fouling and required cleaning, some amount of corrosion is almost guaranteed. The stainless steel version should help prevent much of that and is still moderately priced.

Scoped - You can find deals with 3x9 scopes already installed on these rifles. Although I’d venture to say that I prefer a low zoom scope (like 1x5) on this type of firearm because it's not typically purchased for long range shooting. A 3x9 scope should still work quite well.

Final Thoughts:
Traditions Buckstalker .50 Caliber Blackpowder Rifle
Traditions Buckstalker & Barska Shotgun Scope
I’ve shot three white-tailed deer directly in the neck and spine with my Traditions Buckstalker. The bullets passed right through and completely shattered the vertebrae as well as leaving massive exit wounding channels (tennis ball sized) through the neck. The deer literally fell dead in their tracks! This is an excellent advantage when hunting in areas that don't allow the use of high-powered rifles. In Wisconsin, due to line of site, heavy trees and brush, the Traditions Buckstalker proves to be tactically sound. This puts it at the top of the list in terms of effective shooting during drives, in a tree-stand, or even waiting point at the edge of a field with some yardage to cover. Overall, I would highly recommend the Traditions Buckstalker .50 Caliber Muzzleloader Rifle!

What are your questions, comments, or experiences with the Buckstalker? Please share or comment in the comments box below.
Traditions Buckstalker On Display At Retail Store
Traditions Buckstalker On Display At Retail Store

Mar 7, 2014

Scouting: Hunting Wisconsin White-tailed Deer (Part 1 of 3)

(1, 2, 3) next →

In this video, we go over the first steps of hunting whitetail deer in Wisconsin, including some basic methods of finding deer, locating them in a broad area (macro-scouting) and narrowing our search to specific areas (micro-scouting). Finally, we end with some tips and strategies for setting up hunting spots.

Be sure to watch the next video Part 2: Bowhunting Season →

Watch it on Youtube.com

Bowhunting Season: Hunting Wisconsin White-tailed Deer (Part 2 of 3)

In this video, we go bow hunting on opening day in Wisconsin! We build on our scouting skills from the first video by trying to call in a buck. Throw in some amazing scenic views while we are hunting and life doesn't get any better than this!

Be sure to check out the next video Part 3: The Kill Shot →

Watch it on Youtube.com