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Showing posts with label Hunting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hunting. Show all posts

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.

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.

 ← More On Hunting →

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 →

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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 →

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The Kill Shot: Hunting Wisconsin White-tailed Deer (Part 3 of 3)

In this video, I take you bow hunting with me, building on the scouting and hunting techniques we learned from the first two videos. Watch as the Lumenok gives a clear view in slow motion of my arrow finding its target!

Be sure to watch the rest of the Hunting Wisconsin Whitetail Deer series, "Part 1: Scouting" and "Part 2: Bow Hunting Season" to learn more about hunting Wisconsin whitetail deer! 

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Jan 17, 2013

What Deer See - Whitetail vs. Hunter

What Deer See!
What Deer See!
By Isa C.

Ever wonder what white-tailed deer see? Many times hunters overlook critical aspects such as deer vision, causing them to be ill-prepared and ineffective hunters. Additionally, the studies regarding deer vision in relation to deer hunting get mentioned in popular hunter culture but rarely is there a decent explanation citing facts and, more importantly, not related to some sort of consumer marketing.

First, in order to understand deer vision, we need to start with the basics. The visible light spectrum consists of a frequency range approximately 380nm to 750nm. This frequency range can be broken up into smaller sections. These sections of light frequency appear differently to our eyes. Furthermore, there are different types of sensory cells in our eyes capable of perceiving different frequencies. As a result, we are able to differentiate these frequencies as multiple colors. The colors of the visible light spectrum are violet, blue, green, yellow, orange and red (Figure 1-A).

Humans as well as deer have two major types of photoreceptor cells in the retina of their eyes called cone cells and rod cells.
Figure 1-A. Human Visible Light Spectrum

Cone cells are responsible for color vision and are most effective in well lit conditions. Rod cells are more effective in low light conditions and, for the most part, don't allow for color vision. This is why discerning colors can be difficult when it gets dark, even if you can still see an object.

Most humans have trichromatic vision, which means we have three different types of cone cells functioning in our eyes. Each type of human cone cell is sensitive to either a red, blue or green part of the color spectrum, giving us the ability to perceive what we know as full color. With the exception of colorblind individuals, most of us can see the full visible light spectrum accurately (Figure 1-A). This is where the similarities between humans and deer become few and the differences many.

Aug 2, 2012

How to Get the Smell Off Rubber Boots

Another helpful hint for hunting!

By Isa C

Rubber Hunting Boots Air Drying After Wash.
Rubber boots need to be washed before use!
The Scenario: You just bought a new pair of rubber hunting boots and you notice the factory's new fumes permeating the air around them If you're like me, your next thought would go something like this . . . "I thought rubber boots were supposed to prevent my scent from being all over everything but these boots smell like I just walked through a chemical dump site. How is this NOT going to scare a deer away?" 

I'm sure it's safe to assume that if your rubber boots smell like a chemical factory right out of the box, the deer can probably smell them too.

At one point in time, I had a pair of Northerner rubber boots that were odorless. I found them in a pile of junk on the side of the road; what luck. They fit well and they literally smelled like nothing. I never thought anything of having an odorless pair of boots until I finally lost them (They were stolen.) and found myself purchasing a new pair (on sale) at the local Farm & Fleet. Had I been more prepared and on the ball, I would have sniffed the new boots before purchasing them. If I would've done that, I probably wouldn't have purchased the new boots because of its excessive new chemical stench. Afterwards, in a state of turmoil, I decided to go back to the store to see if any of the other rubber boots had the same odor. What I found was that almost every pair of rubber boots or item on the shelf smelled of factory chemicals.

Now, I know many o' hunters who went hunting with a new pair of rubber boots on their feet and never once considered whether they smelled or not. General conventional knowledge dictates that "rubber boots are good for hunting" and that's usually the end thought most hunters have.

As for the new boots I purchased, they came with a big stinkin' problem. How the hell could I expect the deer not to smell my boots?

So, I started my own little experiment called, "How the hell do you get the smell off rubber boots?" I started with my basic odor removal process I use on much of my hunting equipment: distilled white vinegar, regular dish soap and, of course, baking soda. These three key "ingredients" have proven quite effective in the past; however, they were not able to remove the stench from the new rubber boots.

My next step was to try something a bit stronger. So, I upgraded to rubbing alcohol, which proved to be a total waste of time and resources. I didn't want to keep dousing my boots with stronger chemicals. I was stumped. Then, I remembered my old Northerner rubber boots and had a brainstorm. Perhaps, if I weather the boots, it would help reduce the factory smell. So, I placed them outside underneath a deck, exposing them to rain, cold, heat, leaves, dirt and nature's other gifts. About a month later, I pulled them out only to find the smell still strong and lingering. Yet, another fail. How was I ever going to remove the chemical odor form my boots?

The Solution: Finally, after much turmoil and even more buyer’s remorse, I stood defeated. I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to get the chemical odor out of my rubber boots. So, I took them, soaking wet  after a long rain, and hung them out on the clothes line to dry in the sun. I forgot about them for a couple of sunshine filled days before finally bringing them inside (before the dog made a new chew toy out of them). I picked up the boots and could not smell any trace of an odor. It finally happened! I had to sniff test. I checked and sniffed and sniffed and still, no odor! Then, it dawned on me. The only thing I had done was to leave them out in full sunlight for a few days.

The sun is well known for its ability to deteriorate plastics and synthetic materials, fade inks, break down and decompose many things. And, yes, it worked on my boots. Placing my boots in the hot summer sun for a few days proved to be the most effective method of removing its factory chemical odor. I tested my new found method on other rubberized/nylon packs I had and it proved to be just as effective as before. Lesson learned! A simple wash will remove some of the factory chemical smell from your rubber boots (or gear) but  the sun still needs to do the rest. So, make sure to lay your boots outside in the sun, let the sun heat those babies up for a few days, maybe turn them over, and you should be all set to go.

My Theory: Sunlight naturally breaks down materials. Now, it may wear a little on your boots but no more than you walking in them or leaving them outside all day. Not to mention, most of the residual smell is probably not the solid rubber so much as the chemicals and left over residual particles of rubber and other chemicals lingering on your boots after they hopped off the machine in the factory. The sun breaks these residual particles down just like the rubber on your boots. Keep in mind, the rubber on your boots will last an incredibly long time but the residual particles or cause of the odor does not.

Another Suggestion: Keep the boots outside and away from other odors once they are clean and odor-free. When placing them in your vehicle, I recommend putting them in a deodorized bin or on top of pine tree branches/leaves in the trunk. This should help minimize them coming into contact with other odors not found at your hunting spot. Do not put them before you leave your house and then stop at a gas station on the way to your hunting spot. You might as well just leave a gasoline trail to your spot.

Worth Mentioning: Sunlight also kills germs and may even sterilize odor-causing bacteria (just like freezing them in a plastic bag in your freezer will do). In essence, sunlight effectively kills the bacteria, which works great for removing stinky foot odor, assuming that you don't re-introduce the smell again afterwards. However, this may be hard not to do, especially for non-breathable type rubber boots that are used for walking through marshes or farm fields.

May 30, 2012

Wisconsin Deer Hunt: 2012 Forecast

By Jake Lee

Two Whitetail Deer - Southeastern Wisconsin
Two Whitetail Deer - Southeastern Wisconsin
It might be a little early to start making predictions regarding Wisconsin's 2012 white-tailed deer hunt but I'm so excited! I just had to write post about it. I've been thinking a lot about nature, deer and wildlife in general because I love the outdoors. I realized the other week that I've been seeing tons and tons of deer. Actually, I've been seeing an unusually large amount of deer this year. So, I'm going to go out on a limb and propose a theory as well as make a few hypotheses about the 2012 Wisconsin Deer Hunt.